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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17. The Theft

It felt like they had been sat on the river bank for the whole day, but it was in fact only about 10 minutes before they heard the siren of a police car and saw two policemen walked towards them. Georgia was glad that Steven had sat down next to her; her body desperately needed the reassurance of human contact and she found it comforting to feel his arm around her shoulders. Steven had become aware of a cold chill in his body, knowing that the dead person’s hand was in the water just feet away from them. The shaking in Georgia’s body had slowly stopped as she took more and more gulps of air and calmed herself down.

Steven stood up and walked over to meet the policemen and began explaining what had happened. From where she was, Georgia couldn’t hear clearly what they were saying, but she noticed that they would occasionally turn and look at her or towards the hand in the water before continuing to talk. Other police officers began to arrive, some inspected the bullrushes whilst others sectioned off the area with yellow plastic tape and wrapped it from one tree trunk to another to prevent people wandering off the footpath to see what was happening.

Down by the river Steven could see other men putting on diving suits and walking into the water. An older man had now arrived and seemed to be directing some of the police officers around the arm, then instructed them to bring it out of the water.

Steven and the policeman he had been talking to walked up towards Georgia.

‘So you actually found the hand?’, asked the Sergeant. Georgia stood up and nodded.

‘I thought it was some clothes at first and tried hooking them out but then that, the hand. I must have dislodged it,’ Georgia looked pale.

After taking some photographs, the officers slowly lifted the hand out of the water, dragging a ripped shirt behind it but without the body attached. Paper sheeting was then laid out on the grass and the arm was placed carefully on top of it. The older man then put on a pair of latex gloves and gently examined the hand, turning it over and lifting the shirt sleeve up.

Another policeman brought the metal detector that Steven had placed on the floor when Georgia called for him over for Sergeant Allen to see then whispered something into his ear.

‘Is this yours?’, Sergeant Allen asked.

‘Yes, we had been looking in the woods for treasure,’ Steven lied. He didn’t know if he should tell the Sergeant the truth or not, but as soon as he said the word treasure he wished he hadn’t. It wasn’t a very good lie but he wasn’t sure whether his superiors at MI6 would allow Steven to talk to the Police. Steven remembered what Seward had said in the white room that the information was “top secret and to be protected at all costs.”

‘Did you find any treasure?’, asked Sergeant Allen sarcastically, who had not believed a word that Steven had said.

‘No,’ he replied shaking his head.

‘What about the water samples you took?’

Steven hesitated for a moment, unsure what to say without making himself look suspicious; they had obviously looked inside the fabric bag and found the specimen tubes that Georgia had been filling. He decided to say what he could but without giving away any information.

‘I need to speak to you in total confidence,’ he said to Sergeant Allen in a whisper, who now looked confused. ‘My name is Steven Knight and I work for MI6 in London.’ Steven took his wallet from his inside jacket pocket and slid out his identity card for Sergeant Allen to look at.

‘MI6? Why?’ stuttered Sergeant Allen, ‘What would you be doing here? Is this about Peter Crisp?’ He handed the card back to Steven.

‘I’m afraid I don’t have clearance to tell you why I’m here; all I can say is that myself and my colleague are doing some field research in this area which we will need to continue doing for a few days and I need your total cooperation and discretion,’ Steven said in his most authoritative voice. ‘Who’s Peter Crisp?’, he added.

‘He’s a local boy. Went missing last night,’ replied Sergeant Allen cautiously. ‘That could be him,’ he nodded towards the river and the hand that was now being carefully placed in a refrigerator box and packed with ice ready to be taken back to the Harrogate General Hospital for examination. ‘He was reported missing this morning and hasn’t been seen since. What do you mean by field research?’

‘I’m afraid I’m not allowed to say.’

‘You expect me to let you walk all over town without telling me what you are up to?’, replied Sergeant Allen who clearly didn’t like the thought of MI6 in Parsley Bottom.

‘I expect you to cooperate with anything I ask, Sergeant Allen,’ Steven replied once again trying to appear confident and authoritative. ‘My superiors would be most unhappy to hear of any aggression or opposition from the local police force towards me and my field research.’

Although Sergeant Allen remained silent, he held back his displeasure at being pushed around by government officials from London.

The older man who had been examining the arm by the river walked up the bank towards Sergeant Allen. He was short with a full beard and spectacles that he seemed to prefer to peer over the top of rather than look through the lens.

‘Mr Knight, this is Doctor Carter, the Home Office Pathologist from Harrogate,’ said Sergeant Allen introducing Steven to the older man, trying to appear cooperative.

‘If I could have a word please, Sergeant,’ asked the Pathologist, not wanting to talk in front of Steven.

‘You can speak in front of Mr Knight. What have you found?’

‘Very well. So far all we have is the left arm of a male, which is slightly swollen from being in the water but from the size of it I would say it looks too large to be the boy’s and more likely to be that of a man, possibly over 40 years old. No identifying marks or jewellery. Some patches of hair so I should be able to get some DNA samples from them. There is quite a bit of dirt packed under the fingernails, some of which are broken consistent with clawing at the ground.’

‘Is that all you’ve got?’, asked Sergeant Allen.

‘At the moment, yes. Once I’ve examined it more closely I will be able to tell you more,’ there was a troubled look on the Pathologist's face. ‘Although, there is something strange. It looks like patches of the skin have been melted, almost like it’s been dissolved in acid. The flesh below the skin looks like it’s been eaten away but there are no teeth marks that I can see. Sometimes fish nibble away at flesh if it's been in the water long enough to make it soft. But this looks like it may have only been in the water for a day, if that.’

Steven listened with great interest, remembering what Coldred had said about how the alien bacteria was acting in the same way as flesh-eating bacteria. This could be relevant to Stevens’s enquiries after all, especially as Sir Adam had said that they had already found traces of the bacteria in the river water.

‘What about the crime scene, have the Underwater Search Team found anything else?’, asked Sergeant Allen.

‘Not yet. The divers are going along the river as well as both sides of the banks, but so far no sign of any other body parts. Because of the water current it’s likely that the arm was washed down river from somewhere further up and the wet shirt got tangled on the bullrushes.’

‘What do we have further upriver? The church, a few cottages and fields?’, thought Sergeant Allen aloud.

‘It depends on how far upriver you go. There is the industrial area towards the outskirts of town, then farm lands and moors beyond that.’

‘Where is the arm being taken?’, asked Steven interrupting the two men.

Doctor Carter looked at Sergeant Allen for confirmation that he should answer, not knowing who Steven was or what authority he had to ask questions. Sergeant Allen frowned but reluctantly nodded his head for the Pathologist to answer.

‘It’s being taken to Harrogate General Hospital Mortuary where I will examine it more closely together with the Forensic Scientists. The Police station in Parsley Bottom is too small to handle things like this,’ replied Doctor Carter, still cautious about Steven and his reasons for being there.

‘I would like to see the report when it’s complete if that’s alright with you both. I will get my Commander to clear it at your headquarters in Harrogate. It could speed things up for you in identifying whose arm it is and may help you find that boy.’ Steven tried to sound like he was helping the Sergeant, but really he wanted to see the report himself.

‘So it may also be something to do with your field research then?’ asked Sergeant Allen sarcastically.

‘Possibly, but I’m not entirely sure,’ replied Steven.

‘I will leave the divers to keep looking around the scene whilst I go over to Harrogate with the arm. If they find anything else, please arrange to have it sent over to me immediately.’ Doctor Carter walked back towards the river and discussed something else with some of the divers, directing them to search in other parts of the river before walking off in the direction of the car park with the chilled evidence box being carried by one of the policemen.

‘Please can we go?’, Georgia asked the Sergeant with a pleading look in her eyes.

‘I suppose so, but I will need the name of your Commanding officer as well as the address of where you are staying.’

‘Thank you,’ Steven replied with a smile on his face. He didn’t want to make an enemy of the local police force. ‘I’m staying at the Fox and Hound if you need me for anything else and don’t forget that I will need a copy of the Pathologist’s report when you have it.’

Sergeant Allen picked up the metal detector and fabric bag containing the water samples and held them up for Steven to take, then escorted them towards the car park that was now overrun with police cars.

‘Are you alright?’, Steven asked Georgia, knowing she was still shocked by her discovery. ‘I’ll drive you home if you want.’

Georgia passed the keys to Steven who put the metal detector and the sample bag into the boot of the car. As he walked her round to the passenger door to open it for Georgia, he noticed that it appeared to be open slightly. For a few seconds he thought he hadn’t closed it properly when he had got out of the car, but when he saw the gap on the seat where he had put Mr McRae’s box of meteorites, he realised that the car had been broken into and the meteorites had been stolen.

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