Posts Tagged ‘ASL’

Silent Fear feature film  

Welcome to Stretch Productions’ website page devoted to advertising our upcoming feature film Silent Fear and the novel it was adapted from, Silent Fear (A novel inspired by true crimes).

Brent Macpherson is the man behind Stretch Productions. He’s one of the world’s leading Deaf storytellers working in film, television and other creative mediums, and his passion for bringing to life stories about diverse people, including those in his own Deaf community, is acknowledged and appreciated worldwide.

Brent’s a logical fit for Silent Fear  (the book and the film) because our lead character, Detective Valerie Crowther, is a CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult) who is proficient in British Sign Language (BSL) and who finds herself interned in a London university for the Deaf. Brent is our Deaf consultant on both the upcoming book and film versions, and is Co-producer on the film.

Brent Macpherson on location at yet another exotic film site.

As newcomers to the Deaf community and the daily challenges members of this community face, we, the authors and screenwriters, value the guidance Brent has given in helping develop what readers and cinema-goers will discover is a unique, powerful and moving story.

Stretch Productions has a solid track record of producing high-quality video for and about diverse people. “We focus on diversity — investigating, documenting, and celebrating diversity in all its many forms,” says Brent. “We work with individuals and different races, nationalities, and ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, ages and genders. And we work respectfully to tell stories that need and want to be told.”

To view Stretch Productions’ website go to:

To view their news blog go to:

For a sneak preview of Silent Fear, the novel, go to:

(To read sample chapters from the novel see recent blogs posted on this site).


Happy reading!  – Lance & James



For lovers of crime-thriller-horror novels with a touch of sci-fi here’s Chapter 5 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 5

In the corridor, Valerie and her superior stood side by side, in total silence, waiting for a lift to arrive. The lift doors finally opened and Bennett allowed his subordinate to enter and then followed her inside. The chief hit the Ground Floor button. Before the doors could close, a male student joined them.

“Beat it,” Bennett ordered. “This lift’s full.”

When the student didn’t respond, the chief appeared ready to physically eject him.

Valerie intervened, tapping the student on the shoulder. When she had his attention, she advised him via sign language the lift was required for police business. The student looked annoyed, but exited the lift without argument.

When the lift doors closed, silence prevailed once more.

“Where are we going?” Valerie asked.

“You’ll see soon enough Val…ah…Detective Crowther.”

Valerie took the hint and shut up. The only sound was the hum of the lift descending. As it bypassed the third floor, she caught Bennett observing her in the shiny mirror surface of the lift’s interior. He quickly looked away. Surreptitiously observing him, Valerie thought he’d put on a few extra kilos in recent months. But he carried himself well. His height and build enabled him to hide the extra weight better than most, and he was in pretty good shape for someone his age.

How old are you again? Forty-eight? Forty-nine?

Looking at him now, she could understand why the single girls at New Scotland Yard vied for his attention – and why some of the married girls did, too. Ruggedly handsome, his greying short-back-and-sides haircut was a little too severe for her liking, but she had to admit he still passed muster.

Out of the blue, Bennett said, “I’m going to introduce you to Wandsworth’s chancellor.”

Valerie didn’t respond.

“You’ll like him, he’s a real hoot,” the chief added.

The lift lurched as it arrived at its ground floor destination. Bennett pushed a button, preventing the doors from opening. He turned to Valerie. “We can talk better in here,” he explained. “Okay, fill me in on what you know.”

“Is that an order, Chief?” The look on his face left her in no doubt it was. Putting personal feelings aside, Valerie proceeded to relate everything she’d observed and everything the forensic guys had told her. Her delivery was impersonal, unembellished and totally professional. “Victim’s name, Jamie Lewis. Age, twenty-one. Likely cause of death, burns. Time–”

“Are you saying he was alive when he was set alight?” Bennett interjected.

“Most likely. He received a violent blow to the head prior to being set alight, but it’s unlikely it was delivered with sufficient force to kill him. The autopsy will no doubt confirm that, and it will confirm whether the residue found in his ears is wax.”

Bennett motioned to Valerie to continue.

“Time of death, between ten and midnight last night. Highly combustible accelerant used. Burned hot and fast, but the fire burnt itself out before it could spread. The perp disabled the smoke alarm hence no alarm being sounded. No witnesses, no suspects.”

“Security camera footage?”

Valerie shook her head. “All the fourth floor’s cameras conveniently malfunctioned.”

“Inside job, you think?”

“Maybe.” Valerie still wasn’t convinced about that, and she refused to allow herself to fall into the trap of making any assumptions.

“Murder-arson, eh? The perfect crime.” Bennett looked at her. “Anything else?”

“Conjecture only.”

“Give it to me.”

“The wax residue indicates candles were placed in each ear, which possibly points to a hate crime against the deaf or else some kind of bizarre ritual.”

Bennett considered that. “Or maybe that’s what the perp wants us to think.”

“Exactly.” Valerie punched the Open Door button.

The lift doors opened and Valerie followed Bennett to the chancellor’s office beyond reception.

The ground floor was noticeably busier now. In addition to students and staff members coming and going between lectures, Valerie noticed a number of outsiders, including cleaners and visiting tradespeople.

“I’ve asked the chancellor to provide names and contact details of everyone who visited the building in the past twenty-four hours,” Bennett said as if reading his subordinate’s mind.


See recent blogs for earlier chapters.

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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.



“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.


See recent blogs for earlier chapters

Inline image 1



For lovers of crime-thriller-horror novels with a touch of sci-fi here’s Chapter 3 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 3

If London’s streets were any quieter than usual, Valerie didn’t notice. The early morning rush hour seemed as chaotic as ever with eternal traffic jams and streets clogged with people driving, cycling and walking to work. Their summery attire signalled another hot day was on the way.

Valerie was in work mode now. Behind the wheel of her police car she was no longer plain  Valerie Crowther, divorcee and only child. She was First Class Detective Superintendent Crowther, of the Metropolitan Police, or the Met, as most refer to it. And no ordinary detective superintendent either: she was one of the few detectives on any of Britain’s police branches fluent in British Sign Language, or BSL as it’s commonly known. As a CODA, or Child of a Deaf Adult, she had a big advantage over most others in the force who were called on to investigate crimes involving the deaf and hard of hearing. It was an advantage she’d been quick to use as and when required, and as a result her specialised services were in quite frequent demand.

Pulling up at a set of traffic lights on the Brompton Road section of the A4, the detective became aware she was under observation from the male driver of a late model Jaguar who had stopped alongside her. She didn’t let on she knew she was being observed.

Valerie was used to being an object of attention. Tall and lithe with jet black hair, striking violet eyes and pale, porcelain-like skin, she had a natural beauty that allowed her the luxury of using the barest essentials when it came to cosmetics. This suited her profession, and she’d often go makeup-free, or as close to, in order to avoid accidentally contaminating the crime scenes she regularly visited. An added bonus was the practice allowed her to sleep in an extra fifteen minutes before arising – something her female colleagues envied.

Just before the lights turned green, she looked to her right and fastened her striking violet eyes on the Jag’s driver who turned out to be a pompous-looking, middle-aged, pinstripe-suited gent. When the lights changed she accelerated away. Glancing in her rear-vision mirror, she smiled to herself when she saw the driver trying to restart his car, which had apparently stalled on take-off.

Despite her good looks, Valerie was only mildly aware of her attraction to members of the opposite sex. It was something she rarely dwelled on. She considered there were more important things in life, such as making a success of her career, paying the bills and looking after her mother. Besides, her looks hadn’t always helped her. Whilst training to become a detective, and even when starting out as a newly qualified detective constable, she felt her appearance was more a hindrance than a help, especially with her fellow detectives. Even as recently as a decade ago, the force was very much a man’s world; females were a second class minority on the force, and pretty females were considered fair game by the dominant males. Still she survived, and, it’s fair to say, she thrived. Her seniority and her reputation were a testament to that.

The detective was well aware her rapid rise within the force still rankled with some of her colleagues. She’d deliberately cultivated a no-nonsense – some would say intimidating – persona, but if that upset anyone that was their problem. As the only child of a deaf adult she’d had to grow up quickly, interpreting for Edith and taking on responsibilities at a very young age. Being a CODA had made her fiercely protective of her mother, and had also moulded her personality to suit taking on responsibilities beyond her years.

As she became caught up in a queue of traffic further west along the A4 at Cromwell Road, Valerie reached out and switched on the iPad she’d left next to her on the front passenger seat. Jamie Lewis’s gory image reappeared on screen. As the only available detective proficient in sign language, she was the logical choice to head the investigation into the student’s murder. She glanced at the image once more then turned the iPad over, and, as the traffic began moving once more, she switched on the car radio. On air, a female talkback host was discussing the headline news of the moment with a male caller.

“Monkey Flu should be called Malaysian Flu because scientists now know it originated there,” the talkback host said.

“Right,” the caller agreed. “I believe the confusion arose because monkeys in a Malaysian zoo exhibited similar symptoms to the first humans who contracted the virus.” The caller continued, “The connection with monkeys has since been disproven, but the name stuck. In fact it originated in horses and birds then crossed over to humans.”

“Yes, that’s correct,” the talkback host said, “and I just want to repeat for our listeners an official statement issued by the World Health Organisation on this matter… ‘H7N7 is a subtype of equine Influenza A virus – a genus of Orthomyxovirus, which is the virus responsible for causing influenza.’ The organisation goes on to say that H7N7 is comprised of the surface proteins Hemagglutinin 7 and Neuraminidase 7… whatever all that means.”

The host switched to a female caller.

“This particular equine-avian strain of H7N7 is a complete mystery,” the well-spoken caller said. “H7N7 hasn’t been observed in horses since the 1970’s and epidemiologists are still uncertain about its sudden reappearance.” She spoke authoritatively and sounded like she knew what she was talking about.

Valerie turned the volume up.

“It was observed by scientists in poultry earlier this year, but not in horses for over forty-five years,” the woman said. “This means humans have not been exposed to this lineage of influenza since the Seventies. Therefore this particular strain hasn’t been included in any human vaccines, and the likelihood of acquired immunity is minimal.”

Valerie hadn’t caught the caller’s name, but thought she could be a scientist or a medical researcher. At the very least she sounded professional.

The caller continued, “Let’s hope our nation’s closed borders policy prevents any infected cases here in Britain because this unusual panzoonotic disease has the potential to become the worst pandemic humanity has ever faced. And it’s all because the scientific community did not suspect its reappearance.” She sounded impassioned. “None of us in the research sector were prepared for this strain of H7N7.”

“Why is that exactly?” the talkback host asked in a tone that almost sounded accusatory.

“Well, most of us believed it had long since become extinct. Although we know how to defend against influenza, this particular strain appears to have the ability to alter the surface proteins at a faster rate than we can create antibodies for it.”

Introducing another caller, the host said, “We now have Rick from Bristol on the line. He informs us he has a conspiracy theory about the Monkey Flu”.

Rick from Bristol coughed and spluttered into the phone before finally talking. “Firstly, let me say that I’m not a tinfoil hat-wearing bastard,” he assured listeners.

“Please remember you are on air, Rick,” the host cautioned.

Undeterred, Rick from Bristol continued, “I do my research and I always keep an open mind. And after doing my research I can only conclude one thing… The elite want to reduce global population!” Still spluttering, he said, “The planet is overpopulated and this virus is their way of getting rid of half of us! I mean, think about it… In 2016, the World Organisation for Animal Health stated they believed the equine, meaning horse, strain of H7N7 was officially extinct… Now remember, all viral strains are kept in storage, so if a long-forgotten, forty-five year old strain all of a sudden reappears in the population like this, we must question how that’s possible? Has it occurred organically in nature? Or was it leaked from some secret scientific laboratory somewhere?”

Valerie turned the radio off as she left the A4 to drive into the quieter streets of South Kensington. She’d heard enough from Rick from Bristol for one day.

It wasn’t long before Wandsworth University came into view. Though she had driven past it often enough she’d never had reason to visit it. Its size never failed to impress her, and she was looking forward to finally seeing what secrets it contained within its walls.

As she drew closer to the front entrance, she had to weave between stationary police cars, crime scene tape, clusters of curious onlookers, concerned students and jostling reporters. The murder of a deaf student was obviously big news.

More than once Valerie had to show her badge to law enforcement officers. They waved her through.

Finally, she found a spare parking space. Only as she turned off the ignition did she notice the ever-stern Lord Wandsworth looking down at her. The thought passed through her mind that he didn’t look at all pleased by the latest turn of events. Or perhaps the old boy doesn’t like the look of me, she wondered.

Climbing from the car, she mentally prepared herself for the inevitable onslaught of questions. The reporters and photographers had noticed her arrival and were converging on her.

Valerie avoided the media representatives with a curt “No comment” as she almost sprinted up the steps toward the entrance. Two burly, uniformed security men prevented her pursuers from following her through the front doors.

Inside, in the relative safety of the foyer, the first thing she noticed was the temperature was cooler. Despite the early hour, the building’s air-conditioning had already been turned on to combat the high temperatures forecast.

Valerie took stock of her surroundings. Wandsworth University was everything she’d expected and more. Its vastness and plushness couldn’t fail to impress. The expensive furnishings and fittings were obvious clues to the institution’s profitability, and all around students and staff members were going about their everyday business, albeit with an extra urgency given the tragedy that occurred overnight.

Directly ahead of her, two receptionists had their hands full trying to cope with a dozen or so people who all seemed to be talking or signing at once. Long corridors to the left and right of reception gave access to numerous ground floor facilities. Signs pointed to the chancellor’s office, a conference room, meeting rooms, communications room, a communal café, gymnasium and indoor swimming pool. A swing door opened at the far end of the west wing corridor to reveal a full-size indoor pool.

Every room, she noted, was illuminated by expensive lighting, which was so startling it bordered on spectacular. She guessed this was as much to accommodate students who used sign language to communicate as it was to highlight the plush furnishings and show them off to the best effect.

Still more signs advertising various facilities on this and other floors caught her eye. They included Lipspeaker UK lip-speaking support, Signworld Online BSL teaching materials, Definitely Theatre UK, Red Dot online video interpreting, Ai-Live captions and transcripts, Deaf Umbrella sign language interpreting, SignVideo online interpreting, 121 Captions speech-to-text services, Phonak hearing acoustics, RAD financial advice for Deaf people and Bellman hearing loss solutions to name but a few. The commercial overtones weren’t lost on her. She could well imagine corporate sponsorship contributed significantly to Wandsworth’s coffers.

Deaf students signed to each other as they walked by, and Valerie quickly established they were discussing the murder.

A group of male students walked past. One of them directed a wolf whistle Valerie’s way. The detective observed them signing lewdly to each other. She fluently signed back to them, suggesting they mind their manners.

Surprised the detective knew sign language, the students averted their eyes and sheepishly continued on their way.

Valerie spotted the lift doors and headed for them. En route, she was approached by a young, pimply student who had observed her arrival and somehow guessed she was something to do with law enforcement. In speech so garbled it all but hid his Devon accent, he asked, “Do yo-u… knoww who… who da kil-ler is yet, Ma’am?” He couldn’t hide his surprise when Valerie replied in flawless sign language, informing him her investigation hadn’t even begun yet. He seemed satisfied with the answer and wandered off.

Valerie would learn later the lad she had just interacted with was one Dale Freemantle, a first-year student at Wandsworth who, in addition to his speech impairment, was hard of hearing. She’d have good reason to remember his name.

One of four lift doors opened nearby and its sole occupant, a young, uniformed cop, caught Valerie’s eye. He’d been told to watch out for her. He motioned her over, and she hurried to join him in the lift.

Before the lift doors closed, they were joined by half a dozen students and staff members.


At that very moment, in the nurse’s station adjoining the sick bay two floors above, resident nurse Jean Simons took the temperature of a somewhat flushed Carol Ashmore, another first-year student. Carol, a twenty-year old freckled redhead from Cambridge, had been feeling poorly all night. She coughed and sniffled as the matronly nurse removed the thermometer and checked it.

Concerned, Nurse Simons adjusted her surgical mask as she conversed with Carol in sign. “It’s probably only a common cold, but I’d better take a swab.”

A worried Carol could only look on as the nurse donned protective gloves and proceeded to give her a nasal swab.

After swabbing the patient, Nurse Simons transferred the swab to a viral container, which she placed in a biohazard bag together with a requisition form. The nurse then removed her gloves and signed to Carol that she would forward the swab to the nearest public health laboratory.


See recent blogs for earlier chapters

Inline image 1


For lovers of crime-thriller-horror novels with a touch of sci-fi here’s Chapter 2 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 2

Valerie Crowther feigned exasperation as she allowed her deaf mother to brush a stray hair from the shoulder of her casual blazer in the dining room of the central London apartment they shared. “Don’t fuss so, mother,” Valerie communicated via sign language. She used one hand only. Her other hand was otherwise occupied, balancing an early morning cup of tea, which she valiantly tried to drink without spilling.

“Don’t complain,” her mother signed back.

It was a ritual they went through whenever Valerie was about to leave for work regardless of which shift she’d drawn. This was one of several comfortable routines they’d fallen into in the three years since Edith had sold her rural Oxfordshire home and relocated to live with her daughter.

The living arrangement suited both women. It suited Edith because she’d missed her daughter ever since her Val left home as a twenty-one-year-old to pursue a career in law enforcement, and it suited Valerie because her apartment had suddenly seemed empty after she separated from her husband of seven years. The old seven-year-itch syndrome – that was the reason she offered to anyone who asked why her marriage failed. Exactly whose itch it was she only ever divulged to her closest confidants.

“I must fly,” Valerie signed, draining her cup and picking up her iPad, briefcase and a bundle of documents. She cursed when she dropped her iPad on the carpet. Her mother stooped to pick it up, but recoiled when she saw the gory image of a badly burnt, very dead Jamie Lewis on the screen. Barely recognisable as a human being, his face was grotesquely contorted into a frozen grin.

Only now did Valerie remember she left the iPad on after receiving the call from her superior. The call came just before breakfast. It turned out the student’s body had been discovered only a short time earlier by a friend. The two students had scheduled an early morning run the previous evening. She quickly picked the iPad up and switched off the screen.

Valerie offered no explanation for the gruesome image to her mother, and Edith pretended she hadn’t seen it.

At length, Edith signed, “Be careful, my dear.” She worried so for her daughter’s wellbeing as she was ever-mindful of the dangers of her chosen profession, but for her sake she always tried to remain bright and breezy.

“I will,” Valerie signed with some difficulty as her hands were now rather full. She noticed her mother had become distracted. The older woman was looking at a framed photograph of her late husband, which occupied pride of place on the dining room mantelpiece.

Edith turned back to her daughter and signed, “Your father would be very proud of you.”

Valerie glanced at the photo and the father she’d never known, or couldn’t remember at least. A smiling, handsome-looking, thirty-five-year-old Doug Crowther stared back at her. His was an image his daughter and only child often studied. It was coming up thirty-two years since the heart attack that had so cruelly and unexpectedly taken him from them. She was only two at the time.

Edith smiled and signed, “You are a chip off the old block, my dear.” Her eyes glistened with emotion.

Valerie didn’t share her mother’s sentimentality where the Late Doug Crowther was concerned. She’d never known him. She’d never known what it was like to have a father so never allowed herself the luxury of dwelling on something she’d never had, or couldn’t remember at least. Not in her childhood, not now, not ever.

Valerie quickly signed, “Don’t forget your pills, mother.” She turned to leave, then, remembering the radio was still on in the kitchen, she hurried through to turn it off. It was of no use to Edith. Before switching it off, she caught the tail-end of a news report.

“Monkey Flu is believed to be considerably more virulent than the recent Ebola virus strain that broke out in Sudan earlier this year,” the newsreader said. “Meanwhile, a World Health Organisation spokesperson said today the search continues to develop an effective vaccine to combat this new flu strain, which is also known by the scientific classification, H7N7. Experts say–” Valerie switched the radio off, waved goodbye to her mother and then hurried out the door.

A minute later, from the dining room window, a wistful Edith watched her daughter drive off in an unmarked police car. Everything about Valerie filled her with pride. She looked back at her dear departed husband as it occurred to her that in the photo Doug was barely a year older than their thirty-four-year-old daughter. How she wished he was around to see their Val today.

Remembering her pills, Edith walked through to the bathroom, selected four colourful tablets – two from two different bottles – and downed them with a glass of water. It was a ritual she performed twice daily.



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