Sneak preview: Chapter 4 from our soon-to-be-released Silent Fear (A novel inspired by true crimes)

Posted: July 25, 2017 in SILENT FEAR novel
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For lovers of crime-thriller-horror novels with a touch of sci-fi here’s Chapter 4 from the upcoming novel Silent Fear — co-authored by the writers of The Orphan Trilogy, Into the Americas and White Spirit.

First, here’s the storyline in brief:

Detective Valerie Crowther is assigned to investigate the murder of a student at a university for the deaf in London. The murder investigation coincides with a deadly flu virus outbreak, resulting in the university being quarantined from the outside world. When more deaf students are murdered, it’s clearly the work of a serial killer. The stakes rise when Valerie becomes the killer’s next target and the deadly virus claims more lives.

 

Silent Fear – Chapter 4

“It’s a nasty business this, Detective Crowther,” the young cop said as the lift stopped at the fourth floor. They had the lift to themselves now, their fellow commuters having deserted them on the floors below.

“Yes it is, Constable,” Valerie agreed, “and it’s Detective Superintendent Crowther.” She usually went by Detective, especially amongst her peers and colleagues, but she liked to keep junior cops in their place whenever the opportunity presented itself.

“Sorry…ah…Detective Superintendent, Ma’am,” the cop corrected himself as the lift doors opened. He’d seen Valerie around New Scotland Yard and he’d heard she could be difficult – a stickler for the rules one colleague had said – and he silently rebuked himself for addressing her incorrectly.

“I can find my way from here thank you, Constable,” Valerie said, stepping out of the lift. She flashed a disarming smile his way before striding off purposefully down the long corridor.

The young cop watched the raven-haired detective admiringly until she disappeared from his line of sight.

Valerie had no problem finding the crime scene. It was hard to miss: Jamie Lewis’s room was cordoned off halfway down the long corridor, a security guard kept worried students at bay while just behind him uniformed police personnel could be seen coming and going. The students were all males, which wasn’t surprising given this floor accommodated the resident male students’ quarters and was off-limits to female students. Naturally enough, the same rule applied in reverse in the resident female students’ quarters on the floor above. Like all rules, they were made to be broken sometimes.

As she walked along the corridor, Valerie noticed the distinctive smell of smoke and lighter fluid still lingered in the atmosphere. It grew stronger as she neared the crime scene.

A makeshift curtain in the form of a strategically-placed blanket hid the room’s interior from prying eyes, which was just as well as the body hadn’t yet been removed. The charred remains of the victim was the first thing Valerie saw when she pulled the blanket aside and entered the room.

Although the image on her iPad had prepared her in advance, and she’d seen many murder victims before this one, seeing Jamie Lewis in the flesh was still a shock. As you’d expect of someone who had been burnt alive, most of his clothing had been incinerated, any remaining skin was blackened and his mouth was wide open as if he was screaming. A scorched eyeball dangled from his left eye socket, and his right cheek hung from his face like the charred wing of a barbequed chicken.

Dear Lord I hope you weren’t conscious when they did this to you.

Jamie lay on his back close to the charred remains of the wooden desk he’d been sitting at. The carpet in the immediate vicinity had been burnt away by the fire, and the laptop he’d been using had been reduced to molten metal and plastic, but that was the extent of the fire damage. Smoke damage was something else: the walls and ceiling had been blackened by smoke before the fire had burnt out.

Returning her attention to Jamie, Valerie’s first thought was this was someone’s son. Her second thought was she was being observed by others and she needed to remain professional. Those others were two forensic detectives who had all but completed their inspection of the deceased and the fire-damaged room. She recognised them immediately despite the disposable coveralls and face masks they wore.

Charlie Hodgson and Mike Peters had been here, under sufferance, since dawn. Under sufferance because they’d both had a late night and they’d missed breakfast.

Valerie acknowledged the pair with a brusque nod and they responded in kind. Both parties had had previous dealings with the other, and neither party was interested in exchanging pleasantries. That suited Valerie just fine, and she immediately went to work. She started by inspecting the victim more closely.

Behind her back, Hodgson, the older of the two forensic detectives, glanced at Peters and raised his eyes toward the ceiling.

“I take it no-one has touched the body?” Valerie asked, studying the nasty head wound Jamie suffered as a result of being struck by a hammer.

“Correct,” Peters confirmed.

“Good.” Valerie noticed wires protruding from a small circular hole in the ceiling where she assumed the smoke alarm once was. Looking around, her eyes settled on what appeared to be the remains of the smoke alarm on the floor nearby. “So our perp removed alarm before torching the victim?”

“Yeah, whoever killed our boy made sure he left us with naught,” Hodgson said.

“And if that isn’t challenging enough,” Peters volunteered, “we have a building full of deaf dumbies to contend with.”

Offended, Valerie looked at Peters critically. She knew him well enough to know he was trying to wind her up. “Any security camera footage?” she asked.

“Na, Murphy’s Law,” Peters said. “The building’s security cameras malfunctioned last night.”

“Malfunctioned everywhere or just this floor?”

“Just this floor.”

“Inside job,” Hodgson said with a certainty that a sceptical Valerie didn’t share.

“We need to get those cameras checked out,” she said.

“A techie’s already on his way,” Hodgson advised.

Returning her attention to the victim, she asked, “Okay, so what can you tell me?”

Deferring to his older partner, Peters let Hodgson do all the talking. Over the next few minutes, Hodgson summed up the results of their investigation while Valerie recorded his summation on a DVR, or digital voice recorder, she’d brought along in her briefcase. She interrupted occasionally to ask questions.

Hodgson’s summation was professional enough, but it was delivered in bored fashion with little enthusiasm. A twenty-year veteran, he’d done it all and seen it all, and he wasn’t thrilled about having to account to some hotshot female detective even if she was considered a rising star in the Met.

When Hodgson finished, Valerie switched off the DVR. She’d sensed the resentment in the other’s voice and manner, but said nothing. Something had caught her attention. Something about the victim’s ears. “Did you check his ears?” she asked.

“His inner ears?” Hodgson asked.

Valerie nodded.

“No that’ll be done during the autopsy.”

Valerie held out her hand to Peters who happened to be closer. “Torch and tweezers,” she said. When the younger man didn’t react quickly enough, she repeated herself and snapped her fingers twice to reinforce the urgency.

Peters hurried over to an open toolkit from which he selected a pen-torch and a pair of tweezers. These he handed to Valerie, and she immediately shone the torch in the victim’s left ear.

Expertly wielding the tweezers, she slowly extracted a blue substance from the ear canal. It was a minute extract. Then she held it to her nose and smelled it. “Candle wax?” she asked, looking up at her colleagues.

Hodgson walked over, studied the substance and eventually shook his head. This was something he’d never struck before. Peters sniffed the substance and was equally perplexed.

A movement behind the makeshift curtain in the doorway announced the arrival of Chief Superintendent Mark Bennett. A broad-shouldered man with a beefy six-foot-five-inch frame, his imposing presence made the small room seem even smaller. How long he’d been there was anyone’s guess. “Team,” he said by way of acknowledgement, his keen blue eyes sweeping over the three of them and taking in the crime scene in one brief moment.

“Chief,” Hodgson and Peters said in unison.

Valerie hadn’t been expecting to see the chief at the crime scene. She’d been led to believe this would be her show. Hiding her surprise, she stood up and addressed the forensic detectives. “If you’ve finished here you can get the body to the morgue… He’s been here long enough.”

The pair both nodded.

Looking on, Bennett had to conceal a smile. The expressions on the faces of the forensic guys reminded him of two naughty schoolboys answering to their teacher.

Valerie added, “Don’t forget to send me the analysis on that possible ear wax as soon as the autopsy’s done.”

“I’m overseeing this case so you’ll need to send the results to me, too,” Bennett said. He began backing out of the room and indicated to Valerie she should follow.

Valerie bit her tongue and followed the chief out into the corridor.

Alone now, the forensic detectives looked knowingly at each other as a tense discussion carried to them from the corridor.

They heard a perturbed Valerie ask, “What are you doing here?”

Bennett was heard assuring her, “It’ll only take a few minutes.”

The voices grew faint as the pair retreated down the corridor, but it was clear they were arguing. The last comment they could decipher was when Valerie said, “Thought I made it clear not to treat me like a bloody rookie!”

Peters turned to his older companion. “Did she say what I thought she fuckin’ said?”

Hodgson nodded.

“What a ball-buster!” Peters muttered.

“CODA.”

“What?”

“Child of a deaf adult,” Hodgson said as if that explained everything.

“Oh,” Peters said. He didn’t think to ask how his colleague knew Valerie was a CODA.

T.B.C.

See recent blogs for earlier chapters

Inline image 1

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35626239-silent-fear

 

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