The Moon Stealers and the Quest for the Silver Bough

The Yorkshire town of Parsley Bottom has a problem…

Peter Crisp, a boy with an unusual gift of being able to see things that others cannot, goes missing after spending the night in a graveyard. Two of Peter's school friends, join forces with a Knight of King Arthur to attempt to find him but come across some mysterious engravings which propel them on an adventure beyond their imagination.

Meanwhile MI6 operative Steven Knight is sent from London to investigate a meteor landing site, but Steven is advised by his own boss not to trust the puppeteers that hold the strings to his investigation. Within the core of the meteor is an alien bacteria that evolves at an alarming rate that not only puts Steven's life at risk, but the entire human race.

By unravelling ancient codes and riddles the children journey within the bowels of Edinburgh Castle as they attempt to find the key to Peter’s disappearance. The children not only need to save Peter, they need to save the world while they’re at

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20. The Pathology Report

Steven and Georgia sat together at a wooden table inside The Fox and Hound tucking into bacon and eggs.

Yesterday, after discovering that the box of meteorites was missing, Steven had driven them back to the pub. Georgia was still feeling shaken and had said that she hadn’t wanted to be left on her own, so she stayed in Steven’s room. As soon as her head hit the pillow, she had gone straight to sleep leaving Steven sitting quietly at his desk writing down some notes about his first day in Parsley Bottom. He then accessed the secure MI6 internet site via the many coded log in pages and drafted an email to Sir Adam. He mentioned Mr McRae’s box of Meteorites that had been stolen, concluding that there was no reason to suspect anything more than an opportunistic car thief. He also wrote about the other meteorites that they had found in the woodland which were now safely stored inside his room as well as including Doctor Carter’s concerns over the apparent appearance of acid burns on the flesh of the arm in the river. He concluded by highlighting the similarities between what he had heard from Doctor Carter to what had been said in the meeting about the flesh-eating bacteria. Steven suggested that Sir Adam contact Harrogate Mortuary to get the Pathology report done as soon as possible. He then clicked send and decided to catch up on some sleep, so made up a bed on the settee with some extra pillows and sheets he found in the wardrobe.

This morning his back was stiff and achy after spending seven hours lying down with his feet propped up on the arm of the settee, but eating the breakfast was starting to make him feel better, especially as it was washed down with strong black coffee. Georgia also seemed to be feeling better and was already eating her second helping of bacon which she had placed inside a soft bread roll together with a splash of tomato sauce.

‘Morning, Sergeant Allen,’ said the landlord who doubled up as a waiter this morning. He was talking to the tall and now familiar figure of the Police Officer as he walked into the pub with a brown cardboard folder tucked beneath his arm.

‘Coffee please, Graham,’ he replied as he pulled a chair up to Steven’s table. ‘Do you mind if I join you?’, he politely asked Georgia, who shook her head.

‘Mr Knight, you obviously know some very well connected people. I had a phone call from Doctor Carter last night; unknowingly he had been assigned two other pathologists to assist him with the examination. By all accounts they had been sent from London, colleagues of yours, I would presume.’

He paused, waiting for Steven to respond, but as he didn’t know anything about what Sir Adam had organised he continued to eat his breakfast.

Sergeant Allen held out the folder for Steven to take. ‘Obviously it’s not complete yet. We are still searching the river but this report will give you a lot more information about the arm we found yesterday. We’ve also identified who it belongs to: Bob King, an unmarried security guard who does the night-shift at the Paper factory further up river from where the arm was found. He failed to arrive for work last night and there are signs of a struggle next to the river edge at the back of the factory.’

Georgia was quiet again, but at least this time she wasn’t shaking.

Steven opened the report and started to skim through it to the area he was interested in while Sergeant Allen sipped his coffee.

 

“Outer skin swabbed, paying particular attention to the areas underneath the folds of the skin on the palm of the hand which appear to hold an as yet unidentified substance. Clothing fabric was removed and taken for further analysis. Sections of the skin appear to have been melted away, more where the fabric from the shirt-sleeve had not been protecting it. The edge of each hole was raised and uneven. No obvious sign of bites or teeth-marks. General pH tests indicate an overly acidic nature to each wound. Overall skin colour is pale with patches of brown discolouration. Skin slightly swollen. Inside each wound the layers of skin had been dissolved away to expose the muscles beneath, some of which, from the pitted appearance, have also begun to dissolve. Wounds all at varying depths. Muscles are in a state of early decomposition which appears to be too quick for the approximate length of time the arm had been in the water. Apart from water, the wounds ooze a smelly, yellow liquid. Bone exposed on two knuckles, also degrading.”

 

‘How long before the results of the samples come back?’, asked Steven who was wondering if Mr King’s body had become infected by the alien bacteria whilst in the water, or more worryingly before it even entered the water.

‘It could be a week if we’re lucky. It depends on what they’re looking for. Maybe you should ask your colleagues. All samples that had been collected, together with the arm itself, have been commandeered by MI6 and taken away.’

‘Have you found the rest of Mr King’s body?’

‘Not yet. We did find his wristwatch in the river near the factory and several torn bits of clothing have turned up at various places further downstream. We were able to identify them from the name badge attached to one of them.’

As Steven and Sergeant Allen were talking, Georgia noticed that the landlord was pointing in their direction; he seemed to be telling a man that stood next to him who they were. The man was elderly and short with a balding head and he wore an old knitted jumper with threads and holes in various places. He walked towards the table and stood slightly away from them, almost not wanting to be impolite and disturb their conversation.

Steven became aware of the man standing there, as did Sergeant Allen who stopped talking and turned in his direction.

‘Morning, everyone,’ he said to the three of them. 'Sorry to interrupt your breakfast,’ he apologised to Georgia in his gentle Scottish accent as she bit into her bacon roll.

Steven stood politely as he recognised who the man was.

‘Mr McRae, how nice to see you again,’ he said.

‘Mr Knight, glad you are still here. I don’t know if I’m doing right by coming to you or not, but I thought you may want to see something else that I found.’

‘More meteorites?’, asked Steven excitedly, thinking that he could replace the ones that had been stolen, before looking nervously at Sergeant Allen, knowing that he had given away some information about the investigation he was undertaking, but his full attention seemed to be on Mr McRae and the black bin liner that was hanging by his side. From the way it hung, it was obviously heavy.

‘No. Not meteorites, something else. It might be better if we go outside so that I can show you.’

Curiosity got the better of them all as they filed out behind Mr McRae and stood on the grass in front of the pub. He placed the black sack on the ground and picked at the knot. They all crowded around the bag silently waiting for the knot to untangle and the contents to be revealed. Once the bag was untied, he pulled the side of the bag up and something slid out onto the grass.

There was an overpowering smell of decay and compost from what appeared to be a pile of cut grass and brown leaves in front of them. But there was more to it than just a loose pile of garden cuttings. Whatever Mr McRae was showing them was solid and had form and shape beneath.

‘What is it?’, asked Sergeant Allen disappointedly.

‘I was turning my compost last night and I found that,’ he pointed at the mess on the grass. ‘I didn’t know it was there until it was too late and I saw one of the prongs on my garden fork sticking through it. It’s some sort of animal I think.’

Steven knelt down and was now taking a good look at Mr McRae’s deposit. ‘Have we got any gloves in the field kit?’, he asked Georgia who nodded and walked across the grass to the car, opened the boot and took a pair of latex examination gloves from the fabric bag she had been using in the woodland yesterday.

Steven slipped them onto his hands and started to remove grass and leaves from whatever was in front of him. It felt firm and cold under his hand and he was slowly revealing what looked like a blackened skin. He started to smooth some of the skin out and untangle the mass. As he lifted one of the blackened flaps of skin Steven suddenly jumped backwards with a sharp intake of breath.

‘What is it?’ asked Georgia who couldn’t see what Steven was looking at.

‘It,’ he stuttered. His breathing was shaky, ‘It… it looks like an eye.’

‘What do you mean?’, said Sergeant Allen as he too crouched down next to Steven.

‘It looks like whatever this is has an eye,’ Steven replied, ‘and only one.’

He reached forward once again and lifted the flap of skin to reveal a single round milky white eye which was about the size of a golf ball with no central pupil.

Georgia cupped her hand to her mouth as she let out a small gasp.

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