Posts Tagged ‘deaf’

35961512

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35961512-silent-fear

Coming soon!

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For lovers of crime-thriller-horror novels with a touch of sci-fi here’s Chapter 6 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 6

The two law enforcement officers looked on as Wandsworth University’s chancellor adjusted his hearing aid. It was one of several little idiosyncrasies Valerie had noticed Ron Fairbrother indulge in every so often on the other side of the large desk he occupied. Another was removing and polishing his fashionable glasses, which he had just finished doing before attacking his hearing aid for the second time in the last five minutes.

Sitting alongside Bennett, Valerie sensed the chief was growing impatient, but he hid it well. She knew him better than most so picked up signs others may miss.

On the desktop between the two parties lay a copy of today’s Daily Mirror newspaper. Its centre spread was devoted to the global flu pandemic, and the main headline screamed “Global death toll soars as Monkey Flu claims more victims!”

Neither Fairbrother nor his two visitors mentioned the H7N7 pandemic, but they didn’t have to: it was always there, in the background, whenever they opened a newspaper, turned on the television, checked social media sites or listened to the radio.

Valerie turned her attention to a spiral-bound set of profiles of all Wandsworth’s students and staff. It was one of three sets Fairbrother had ready and waiting for them upon arrival – Bennett now had the other two – and it was in addition to an electronic copy he’d emailed to the chief thirty minutes earlier. The glossy printouts included head-and-shoulder photographs of everyone involved with the uni – even cleaners, security guards and part-time teachers on call – together with personal details for each.

Fairbrother finished fiddling with his hearing aid, and eyeballed his visitors. “Nothing like this has ever happened here before,” he lamented. “I’m still reeling. I can’t believe such a horrific… thing” – he couldn’t bring himself to use the word murder – “happened right under our noses.”

“We are sparing no resources to solve this crime,” Bennett assured him. “As you know, Detective Superintendent Crowther is spearheading the investigation.”

Valerie noticed the dapper West Indian cocked his head slightly to one side whenever someone spoke, a sign he favoured one ear when listening.

Fairbrother looked at Valerie. “The Chief informs me you are proficient in sign, Detective Crowther,” he said.

Valerie confirmed that by answering in sign language. “Yes, that’s why I’ve been brought in to head this investigation,” she signed.

Responding in like fashion, the chancellor signed, “It’s a relief you’re here. Police efforts to date have been hopeless.” Fairbrother remembered Bennett and reverted to the spoken word. “Sorry, Chief Superintendent. We use sign all day here and it’s easy to forget our manners.”

If he was annoyed, Bennett hid it well. “Are you aware of friction between any of the students?” he asked. “Especially the international students?”

“You must understand, Wandsworth is more than a university,” the chancellor said. “It’s a minority community.” He swivelled ninety degrees in his chair and looked up at the large, framed photograph of Wandsworth’s four hundred and fifty students hanging on the near wall. “There’s a common bond inside the deaf community… it seems to cancel out other differences. They’re accepted for who they are here in Wandsworth. Within this institution, they have a sense of belonging. Outside, beyond these walls, only the strongest of them will cut it.”

Valerie stood and walked over to study the photo up close. She noticed Jamie Lewis. The nuggetty student was hard to miss given he was near the middle of the front row of students. He was smiling directly at the camera. His was an endearing smile. Valerie’s heart went out to his family as she replayed his ghastly death in her mind.

Fairbrother continued, “These students become like family during their time here. You would not believe how tight-knit they are. It’s just such a shame that some outside influence has breached the walls of this sanctuary under cover of darkness and committed the ultimate evil.”

Dismissing the chancellor’s comments as highly speculative, Valerie tapped the glass covering the photo. “That’s a lot of students to keep track of.”

“Yes, and I know every one of them personally. None would ever harm a fellow student. Whoever killed Jamie was an outsider, trust me.”

“We’ll see. For now, every single student, staff member and associate of Wandsworth will be treated as a potential suspect.”

Fairbrother looked at the chief to ascertain whether he agreed with the high-flier female detective who, if he wasn’t mistaken, seemed to be Bennett’s equal in every way except rank.

“Detective Crowther will tread carefully, Chancellor,” the chief said a little too quickly for Valerie’s liking.

The chancellor took that on board and wondered if in fact the career woman standing close by was the subordinate in this relationship. Not for the first time since meeting them he sensed the pair shared some kind of personal history. Looking at Valerie, he asked, “Where do you want to start, Detective Crowther?”

Valerie returned to her chair. “I’d like to start by addressing the students and staff as soon as possible… together.”

Humming to himself, Fairbrother casually referred to a diary planner on the laptop screen in front of him.

Valerie bridled at the lack of urgency the chancellor showed. She felt it was as if she was some trainee teacher who had just requested a meeting concerning the amount of calories being served up in students’ lunches in the cafeteria. “Like now, Chancellor,” she prompted, “as in this morning.” She ignored the sideways glance Bennett flashed her way.

A perturbed Fairbrother looked up from his electronic diary. Shaking his head, he said, “I have a meeting soon with the family of the deceased, and then I have an urgent meeting with the board about the state–”

“The board members will have to wait,” Valerie said in a tone that signalled she’d brook no argument.

The chancellor immediately backed down and nodded. “I could arrange for students and staff to assemble in the assembly hall on the first floor in, say,” – he glanced at his watch – “forty-five minutes.”

“Thank you,” Valerie said. “I also need to requisition a roomy office to serve as my site headquarters whilst I’m here.” She wasn’t asking. She was demanding.

“There is a spare office on the first floor.”

Valerie shook her head. “It needs to be here on the ground floor. I want to be close to your office and to the main exit so I can come and go easily.”

Fairbrother thought for a moment. He glanced at a closed door behind his chair. “There is an office through there I often use as a meeting room. I guess you could have that.”

“Can I see it?” Valerie was already standing.

The chancellor stood and opened the door.

Valerie marched through, took one look around and saw immediately that it would meet her needs. It had lockable filing cabinets and a large desk complete with a high quality printer-scanner and desktop computer. There was a comfy couch, which she could see pulled out into a bed, a well-stocked bookcase, glass coffee table, wall-mounted television set and an expensive fish tank complete with rare and even more expensive-looking tropical fish. There was even a bench and sink with tea and coffee-making facilities, and there was an outer door leading to the corridor. “This will do fine,” she said. “Can this door be locked?” she asked, referring to the connecting door Fairbrother had opened.

“Yes I’ll have my PA provide a key for you.”

Valerie took a final look at the room then resumed sitting next to Bennett who was now studying the framed photo on the wall.

“Four hundred and fifty students actually doesn’t seem that many for a university this size,” the chief observed.

“It’s all about maintaining efficient student-teacher ratios,” Fairbrother explained as he sat down. “That and future-proofing the university.” When he saw Bennett wasn’t following him, he said, “For optimum academic results we have found a ratio of one staff member per ten students works best. Hence the forty-five educators we have on staff.” The chancellor added, “And they’re the best available.”

“Sounds costly,” Valerie said.

“It is,” Fairbrother admitted. “Hence our high fees. Wandsworth is one of the most expensive universities in Britain to attend.” Returning to Bennett’s question, he said, “As for future-proofing the university, our founder Lord Wandsworth wanted to establish a learning institution that would last a hundred years. The only way to do that was to attain and maintain high standards of academic excellence, which I believe we are doing, and to ensure we have the space to accommodate future growth, which we obviously have.”

“I understand,” Bennett said, glancing at the wall clock behind the chancellor’s desk. He saw the morning was already half over. Standing, he said, “Well, I will leave you in Detective Crowther’s good hands. Thank you for your time.”

The two men shook hands. Fairbrother didn’t immediately relinquish his grip. Holding on to the other’s hand firmly, he said, “We are relying on the police to solve this terrible crime quickly, Chief Superintendent.”

Bennett nodded and only then did the chancellor release his grip.

On the way out, Valerie paused in the doorway and looked back at Fairbrother. “What are the board members discussing, by the way?” she asked.

“Whether to cancel this afternoon’s lectures, and tomorrow’s, too… Out of respect for Jamie Lewis and his family,” the chancellor said.

“We’d prefer they don’t,” Valerie said quickly before Bennett could comment. “It will make my job easier if all students and staff are here and accessible.” She turned and strode off down the corridor.

Behind his subordinate’s back, Bennett flashed a look Fairbrother’s way that signalled the board would be well advised to do as suggested. He hurried to catch up to Valerie.

Fairbrother observed the two law enforcement officers with some trepidation as they left his office.

Here endeth sample chapters from Silent Fear. (See recent blogs for earlier chapters). If you want to read more, the novel will be published soon… Watch this space!

 

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

 

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Silent Fear feature film

https://www.stretchproductions.co.nz/silent-fear  

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:  https://www.stretchproductions.co.nz/

To view their news blog go to: https://www.stretchproductions.co.nz/news

For a sneak preview of Silent Fear, the novel, go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35626239-silent-fear

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

 

Happy reading!  – Lance & James

 

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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.

T.B.C.

See recent blogs for earlier chapters.

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

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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

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

 

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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.

T.B.C.

 

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

 

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Silent Fear (A novel inspired by true crimes)… coming soon!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33590532-silent-fear

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