Posts Tagged ‘Morcan novels’

THE DOGON INITIATIVE (The Deniables, Book 1)  currently has a 4.8 star rating (out of 5 stars) on Amazon and a 4.6 star rating on Goodreads, showing that reviewers are resonating with this new release novel by New Zealand father-and-son writing team Lance and James Morcan.

Co-authors of the bestselling historical adventures WHITE SPIRIT  and INTO THE AMERICAS, and the thrillers SILENT FEAR and THE ORPHAN TRILOGY, the Morcans say their latest novel and the series it has spawned, or is about to spawn, were inspired by the belief American intelligence contracts foreign mercenaries to undertake clandestine missions abroad.

“They’re known as deniable assets,” Lance explains. “Deniable because, if a mission goes belly up, the agency will deny any knowledge of their existence and no-one’s to their assistance. For obvious reasons, we refer to the assets as the Deniables.”

James say book one in the series shows how the CIA’s New Paradigms Team, a newly-formed humanitarian division of the agency, is tasked with saving Mali’s persecuted Dogon people from genocide.

He continues, “Although fictional, we consider it’s not too unlikely the CIA is pursuing humanitarian goals, and, with that in mind, that’s the basis of the entire series. Each book will focus on the Deniables’ latest mission.”

 

The Dogon Initiative (The Deniables Book 1) by [Morcan, Lance, Morcan, James]

Available now via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NKTD515/

 

Random review excerpts for THE DOGON INITIATIVE  follow:

★★★★★ “Excellent Black Ops Adventure… There is plenty of action as the ‘Deniables’ first must fight to get the Dogon leader back to his former home village, and then fight to keep him alive.” –N. Hall

★★★★ “I found this a fascinating read… Highly recommended by me.. especially to fellow Africans (I’m South African).” –‘Dinx’ 

★★★★★ “This is a tale that pleads to be a film… Highly recommended.” –Grady Harp, Hall of Fame Top 50 Reviewer

★★★★★ “Compelling… A fascinating suspense and adventure.” –P. Blevins

★★★★★ “There are some books that just can’t pull yourself away from with the need to find out what’s going to happen, and this is definitely one of those.” –Todd Simpson

 

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The CIA recruits a team of foreign mercenaries. They are considered ‘deniable assets’ and go by the unlikely but somewhat prophetic name the Deniables. Their first mission is to repatriate one Moussa Diarra, an African exile, from New York back to his Dogon homeland in Mali, West Africa. Unfortunately, there are militant ethnic factions in Mali intent on preventing Moussa’s return and exterminating his people. His fate is in the hands of the Deniables.

That’s the premise of our new release action-thriller The Dogon Initiative (The Deniables, #1).

 

The Dogon Initiative (The Deniables, #1)
New action thriller available on Amazon.

 

For fans of the action-thriller genre, here’s two early chapters from this novel. In them, a newly formed team of young CIA hotshots plan a new initiative only a very select few at the agency even know about.

CHAPTER 3

Next morning, eight thousand miles away at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, USA, a small, select, think tank group of agency personnel brainstormed a new venture.

The four women and three men present were of various ethnicities and came from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Ranging in age from twenty-one to thirty-seven, they were surprisingly young considering the responsibilities and magnitude of the task entrusted to them. All seven dressed casually, looking more like university students than intelligence agents in their dress jeans and casual shirts or T-shirts (and their baseball caps in the case of the two youngest men) and they reclined on beanbags rather than conventional office chairs.

Four of them drank Fair Trade-certified coffee from recycled, environmentally-friendly, reusable, takeaway cups while one of the baseball caps absentmindedly demonstrated his expertise with a yo-yo and the youngest female chewed gum as they bounced ideas off each other.

The vigorous discussion was punctuated with banter, and interjections were frequent. Participants casually referred to the project they were brainstorming as the Dogon Initiative, or, sometimes more colloquially as the Dogon Job; the gum-chewer simply referred to it as the Dog Job, and that vulgarism was starting to catch on amongst her colleagues. Their use of everyday slang and obvious preference for casual dress seemed apt given there was nothing remotely formal or regular about this group of agents.

An outsider looking in might consider they were ad agency workers or software nerds perhaps, but first impressions can be deceiving. They were the CIA’s hotshots, recognized by management as seven of the agency’s most intelligent and unique thinkers. And despite appearances and despite their relative youthfulness, all but the three youngest had operational experience in the field.

Collectively, they made up the total staff of the grandiose-sounding but suitably vague The New Paradigms Team, which officially came under the umbrella of the agency’s Directorate of Science and Technology, but in reality was its own directorate.

It was no coincidence their roomy, well appointed, basement office was off limits to all but a few senior officials whose number included the agency’s director and deputy director. The hotshots were at the cutting edge of something only a handful of others at Langley even knew about it. Something that represented a daring departure from tradition.

The beanbags the think tank members occupied were roughly aligned in a circle on the plush, carpeted floor. In the middle of the circle was a three-foot tall replica of Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza, and it was that which currently commanded the attention of all.

On loan from one of the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC, the realistic, scale model was a spectacular reminder of how magnificent the original pyramid must have looked many thousands of years earlier. Sunlight streaming through ground floor-level windows strategically located just below ceiling level along the full length of one wall reflected off the replica’s gleaming, limestone-colored exterior and off the golden capstone at its very top, making it sparkle. The dazzling effect was such the replica might have been constructed of gold, silver, diamonds and other precious stones.

The model pyramid had special significance for the seven agents seated around it. They’d been tasked with masterminding a bold, new, long-term program within the agency. A program that the Dogon Initiative would be but one part of – albeit an important part.

The so-called Dog Job would herald the commencement of the new approach by American intelligence that the agency’s Cape Town asset, Lotte, had alluded to when pitching to Dean Hawkins in Nigeria the previous day. A more ethical approach that wouldn’t result in the usual blowback the CIA infamously attracted from its enemies around the world and from media watchdogs at home and abroad.

The office door opened and in walked Senior Agent Fred Daley. The suave, fifty-five-year-old closed both eyes as he was momentarily blinded by the brilliant sunlight reflecting off the replica pyramid’s golden capstone.

“For Christ’s sake, kids!” he grumbled, squinting at the assembled through one half-open eye.

One or two of Daley’s junior colleagues had trouble suppressing a smile as the twenty-seven-year agency veteran bypassed the last remaining vacant beanbag to plonk his tall, lanky frame down on the room’s only conventional office chair. It was an innocent action that somehow symbolized the differences between him and them.

Age and seating preferences weren’t the only differences. Daley’s tailored gray suit, starched white shirt, pale blue tie and expensive Italian shoes contrasted noticeably with the casual clothing and footwear favored by his subordinates.

The differences didn’t bother the others, and if they irked him he never let on.

Eying the young hotshots, Daley said, “Okay, I’ve heard back from the Budget Office’s Deputy Director. She insists she needs more details, hard details, if she’s to consider the twenty-five percent budget increase you want for this Mali mission.”

The hotshots collectively groaned.

“Goddamn it,” one of the baseball caps muttered.

“C’mon now,” Daley said as he looked around at the disappointed faces. “You gotta admit this is a speculative project you’ve chosen for a first-up assignment. There’s major risks involved using assets. Especially foreign assets –”

“Deniable assets,” one of the female agents reminded him.

The senior agent waved a dismissive hand. “Whatever… A speculative project using deniable assets who’ve never been contracted by the agency before… And on top of that, there’s a risk the ancient technology or whatever it is you’re hoping the Dogon have retained from the Earth’s ancient past may be nothing but Alex Jones-style conspiracy nonsense.”

Daley paused as if to invite objections. When there were none, he pulled out his smartphone, switched on its Video Recording mode and checked the screen to ensure all seven hotshots were in the camera’s frame.

“So sell it to me one more time,” he said as he began filming. “Convince me how the Dogon and their ancient history or technology can help America and I’ll try to get you the extra twenty-five percent.”

CHAPTER 4

Twenty-three year old Asian-American Tom Cheung, one of the baseball caps, and, at five foot four, the shortest by a country mile of all the assembled, leaned forward on his beanbag and stared directly at Daley over the top of the replica pyramid.

“Classified files both within the agency and other US and foreign intel agencies reveal a great deal of evidence,” Cheung said. “Not proof admittedly, but strong evidence that the Dogon’s advanced astronomical knowledge is very ancient and so predates the French astronomers who first visited them in Mali in 1893.” Cheung paused as he noisily adjusted his position on the beanbag.  “This essentially debunks the popular myth that the Dogon people had no astronomical knowledge to speak of before then… before 1893… and were simply regurgitating the French –”

“Well let’s focus on the lack of proof then,” Daley interrupted. “Why hold faith in Dogon science if we don’t have absolute proof?”

“Because their culture is worth saving regardless!” twenty-eight-year-old Kathy Einhorn, a Jewish woman, said passionately. The six-foot tall Yale graduate added, “Remember, the Dogon are facing the likelihood of cultural extinction in the near future.” She retrieved her smartphone from the pocket of the denim jacket she wore and accessed a specific app.

A large, colourful hologram suddenly appeared, like magic, in the air just above the pyramid.

No-one was surprised. American intelligence had been using holographic technology for decades now – almost as long as the US Military had.

Einhorn’s hologram depicted a map of Mali. She pressed digital icons on her phone’s screen to zoom in so that the holographic map focused on Mali’s central plateau region where the Dogon reside. The map seemed to shimmer in the sunlight.

Cheung closed the blinds and the hologram was immediately enhanced.

 “As we speak, the Dogon are being attacked by militant Muslims and other religious groups… right… there,” Einhorn said as red holographic arrows appeared above half a dozen villages highlighted on the map. “Our sources confirm some factions within the current Mali Government want the Dogon eradicated, too. These poor people are getting slammed from all sides for the very reasons we want to protect them… They hold ancient knowledge.” She looked directly at Daley. “Paradoxically, just as that knowledge is a threat to organized religions and established beliefs, it also could also be crucial to America’s future… and the world’s future, too.”

Still not convinced, Daley remained expressionless as he continued to video proceedings.

“You expect me to believe that any knowledge or wisdom to be found inside the heads of African desert nomads could somehow be crucial to our future?” he asked.

“Hell, yeah!” thirty-year-old transgendered (female to male) think tank member Bryce McNickle said, incensed. Pushing himself to his feet, he said, “We’re talkin’ free energy methodologies, interstellar engineering designs… Possibly even recovered ancient alien technologies” – the handsome transgender gestured to the replica pyramid before them – “not to mention how the pyramids were constructed… And our best scientists working on classified research projects claim all of those theories are quite possible. Thus the secrets the Dogon hold may help us in innumerable ways.”

“Well,” Daley responded, “what evidence do we have that they were aware of the Sirius thing before the French astronomers visited them?” He referred to a mystery that had long puzzled modern-day astronomers.

“A lot, actually,” Cheung said, reinserting himself into the discussion. “For example, many researchers believe the Dogon have work tools and implements whose shape is identical to Canis Major, or the Sirius Constellation. That includes Sirius B, the white dwarf star invisible to the naked eye.”

As Cheung spoke, Einhorn played with her smartphone. Above the replica pyramid in their midst, a new holographic image of a ceremonial Dogon hunting tool appeared with a map of the heavens superimposed behind it. Various points on the hunting tool aligned perfectly with the Sirius Constellation and even appeared to align with the white dwarf star Sirius B her colleague referred to.

 Cheung continued, “Sirius B wasn’t discovered by our civilization’s astronomers until 1862, yet this ceremonial Dogon tool depicting that very dwarf star and its orbit around Sirius A is estimated to have been crafted many hundreds of years before the Nineteenth Century. Furthermore, the Dogon have an ancient ceremony called Sigui that directly mirrors the orbit of Sirius B around Sirius A… and, get this, there are four hundred-year-old Dogon masks still being used in Sigui ceremonial rites. This means the Dogon were at least centuries ahead of Nineteenth Century astronomers.”

“Well, have we or any of our associates reached out to the Dogon themselves to get their opinions on all these mysteries?” Daley asked.

“Yep,” Cheung said. “The Dogon say their astronomical knowledge was passed down in oral tradition and goes back thousands of years.” Before his boss could interject, the young agent quickly added, “I know that doesn’t equate to proof the Dogon knew about a star that’s invisible to the naked eye, but their response to criticisms from academia complicates things as 1893 isn’t that long ago. For example…” He nodded to Einhorn who promptly tapped the screen of her smart phone.

A holographic video of an eldery Dogon man appeared above the pyramid.

Cheung continued, “Here’s a video of a Dogon elder over a hundred years old. One hundred and sixteen I believe he was when this video was filmed last year. Still alive last we heard, which makes him one of the oldest in Africa.” He glanced at his companions and several nodded, confirming the elder was still alive. “And so if you do the math, this man’s parents were born long before 1893. Yet he swears both his parents learnt the stories of Sirius B from their parents… Another piece of crucial evidence that predates the French astronomers’ arrival in Mali by many decades at least.”

“How would you explain that?” Daley asked, adopting a skeptical tone that didn’t necessarily reflect his personal feelings.

Cheung waited for one of his colleagues to answer. When none did, he said, “Well, as Bryce alluded” – he nodded to McNickle – “some would have it the Dogon received knowledge from visitors… Extraterrestrial visitors.”

Daley continued to play Devil’s Advocate.

“So you’re asking me to tell my superiors that ETs came from some distant galaxy, and the only people they decided to visit were a bunch of cliff-dwelling Africans in the middle of nowhere?”

“The Dogon are some of the oldest people around,” Latin American Ricky Santos said, entering the discussion. The thirty-three-year-old Stanford University law graduate continued, “So if the Ancient Aliens Theory is legit… and by the way I’m not necessarily saying any of us believe that ET hypothesis… Then potentially the Dogon might be one of the few peoples left on Earth who can remember the visitations… and recite it via their extensive oral tradition. But others around the planet allude to something very similar.” Santos looked at Daley who was still filming. “Shall I go on?”

The senior agent nodded.

Santos continued, “A good example of what I’m talking about is the Nazca Lines in Peru… They seem to be an attempt to communicate with sky gods. Likewise, Australia’s Aborigines have various sky beings in their oral traditions… So I think asking ‘Why only these people and nobody else?’ isn’t really relevant, especially concerning very ancient peoples like the Dogon. That’s just a hackneyed line mainstreamers use to try to debunk the possibility of such visitations.”

Daley was about to reply, when the youngest of the hotshots, twenty-one-year-old redhead Rachel Nider, the gum-chewer, and, as it happened, the owner of the highest IQ in the building, spoke up. “Many researchers also assume that detailed astronomical knowledge of distant stars invisible to the naked eye would necessitate ETs coming to our planet… Which is kinda a modern perspective and perhaps a by-product of a Hollywood-influenced culture… Like, who’s to say those who built the pyramids and performed other incredible feats of engineering weren’t capable of traveling to Sirius with advanced ancient physical technology created by humans on Earth? Or else something more obscure like exploring the universe using mental techniques… like remote viewing?”

Daley shook his head in frustration. “Can somebody just summarize this for me in a nutshell… and in English, please?”

All eyes turn to anthropologist Mary Catrell, who, at thirty-seven, was the oldest of the think tank members. Headhunted by the CIA only a year earlier, she’d already successfully completed two overseas field assignments, having been fast-tracked into active service by case managers who had quickly identified her unique abilities.

“There are undeniable connections between scientific and cosmological knowledge encoded in the myths of many cultures,” Catrell said. “These cosmo myths spread from Gobekli Tepe to pre-dynastic Egypt and the Shakti cult of India, and then from India into Egypt again in dynastic times and eventually around the world. The Dogon are preserving a lot of myths from Egypt as well as from other sources such as early Buddhism.”

Einhorn interjected, saying, “A good example being the Maori of New Zealand who have the same myths and use much of the same terminology.”

“Exactly,” Catrell agreed. “The Dogon myths and traditions have some authenticity because of parallels in Egypt that involve the same words for the same concepts. We can see this for ourselves in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics painted on the walls of caves in the Dogon’s homeland. As for their ancient knowledge of Sirius B, I agree with Rachel and don’t necessarily think beings came to Earth from there… or from any other planet. After all, the Dogon’s astronomical knowledge is part of a treasure trove of scientific knowledge encoded in myths.”

“A treasure trove of scientific knowledge encoded in myths?” Daley responded, and not without a trace of sarcasm.

Several think tank members shared knowing looks. Their superior liked to pretend he was a hard-ass, but they knew he was a bit of a softy beneath his gruff exterior. Except when he needed to be a hard-ass.

Undeterred, Catrell continued, “The more I look into it, the more convinced I am there was a human civilization that was advanced in engineering and science, but was largely wiped out by the onset of the near-glacial period we call the Younger Dryas, and nearly finished off by the end of that post-Ice Age period about eleven thousand five hundred years ago. Scientists believe a large solar outburst was responsible for the end of the Younger Dryas, remember. Such an event would devastate any advanced technological civilization, be it ancient or modern.”

“Mary’s right,” the other baseball cap said. Twenty-seven-year-old African-American Milton Rucker, who, to the amusement of the others wore his cap back to front, added, “After all, even a smaller climatic event on that scale would probably wipe out our civilization.”

The diminutive Cheung, who sat next to the six foot six inch tall Rucker, leaned over to his taller, older colleague and murmured, “We were wondering when you were gonna wake up.”

Rucker grinned and whispered a rude response only Cheung could hear.

Senior Agent Daley meanwhile continued filming as his young, high-flying, high-IQ colleagues kept bombarding him with information.

 

You have been reading an excerpt from The Dogon Initiative. Available now via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NKTD515/ 

 

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Fast-paced, totally fresh and original, filled with deep and complex characters, The Ninth Orphan (The Orphan Trilogy, #1)  is a controversial, high-octane thriller with an edge.

 

The Ninth Orphan (The Orphan Trilogy Book 1) by [Morcan, James, Lance Morcan]

 

In book one in The Orphan Trilogy, an orphan grows up to become an assassin for a highly secretive organization. When he tries to break free and live a normal life, he is hunted by his mentor and father figure, and by a female orphan he spent his childhood with. On the run, the mysterious man’s life becomes entwined with his beautiful French-African hostage and a shocking past riddled with the darkest of conspiracies is revealed.

See what the critics are saying about this novel:

★★★★★ “The authors manage to weave political intrigue, espionage and eugenics into an exciting fabric of mystery and entertainment. The reader can’t but believe that the novel may not be only a work of fiction.” -I.A. Wilhite, Ph.D.

★★★★★ “What makes The Ninth Orphan stand out from other thrillers is its intelligent handling of its themes. Like Kazuo Ishiguro’s haunting novel, Never Let Me Go, The Ninth Orphan taps into our fascination with the possibilities of genetic selection, and the consequences it may bring. Throw in a pinch of romance and the suggestion of political shadow organizations that may or may not operate in the real world, and you have an exhilarating read that will keep the little grey cells ticking over long after you’ve reached the final page.” -The Flaneur Book Reviews UK

★★★★★ “Moves at the speed of a runaway train” -J.R. Rogers (author of ‘Doomed Spy’)

★★★★ “A Cloak and Dagger Grand Prix” -The Kindle Book Review

★★★★★ “A fantastic spy thriller” -A Made Up Story Book Reviews

★★★★ “This book is fast paced, and I mean fast” -C9C Reviews

★★★★★ “Every twist and turn that you can imagine” -Holy Smoley Book Review

★★★★ “Ranks amongst the best thrillers” -Kindle Book Review UK

★★★★★ “This psychological thriller really kept me on the edge of my seat!” -Susan M. Heim, bestselling author of the ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ series

 

The Ninth Orphan  is available via Amazon as a paperback and Kindle ebook: http://amazon.com/dp/B0056I4FKC/

 

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The countdown continues for the upcoming release of the action-thriller novel THE DOGON INITIATIVE, book one in The Deniables Series, by Lance and James Morcan, authors of The Orphan Trilogy, White Spirit  and Into the Americas.

 

The Dogon Initiative cover

Coming soon… another Morcan novel for thriller fans.

 

In THE DOGON INITIATIVE  the CIA hires foreign mercenaries to right some of the injustices happening around the world. They’re deniable assets, which means no-one’s coming to help if a mission goes pear-shaped. They’re known as the Deniables.

In the opening chapters, the CIA’s Cape Town asset, a woman known as the Handler, explains to the Deniables why they’re been hired. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“My client is especially concerned about events occurring in far flung corners of the globe. Events that are not only against their best interests, but against the interests of Mankind. Events that go unchallenged and unpunished.” Choosing her words carefully, the Handler added, “Some of those events are of the client’s own making and the client takes full responsibility for that. They want to do something about it… starting with the formation of a small taskforce that will act as the head of the spear so to speak.”

A suspicion was beginning to form in Hawkins’ mind. He suspected the so-called client was a foreign intelligence agency. America’s NSA and CIA came to mind, as did Britain’s MI6, Israel’s Mossad, France’s DGSE and South Africa’s SASS.

 

The Kindle ebook version of THE DOGON INITIATIVE  will be released soon.

Here’s an advance viewing of the novel on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42094424-the-dogon-initiative

FILM RIGHTS AVAILABLE.

 

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Advance review copies of our new crime-thriller SILENT FEAR (A novel inspired by true crimes)  are available now for interested book bloggers courtesy of publisher Sterling Gate Books.

 

Silent Fear (A novel inspired by true crimes)

ARCs available now.

 

Scheduled for publication as a Kindle ebook early November, SILENT FEAR  is the latest novel by New Zealand father-and-son writing team Lance & James Morcan, authors of seven other published novels including THE NINTH ORPHAN, WHITE SPIRIT and INTO THE AMERICAS.

The SILENT FEAR  storyline is:

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.

Although a crime-thriller, this novel also has shades of horror and sci-fi as well as romance.

As you can see on the book’s Goodreads page, early advance reviews are excellent: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33590532-silent-fear

Bloggers: We would be happy to email an ARC pdf of SILENT FEAR  to your followers for advance reviews or simply for their reading pleasure. No-obligation to review!

Better still, you may prefer to do this or to set it up so that followers can download the manuscript themselves direct from your site. Over to you.

Incidentally, the paperback version is likely to be available via Amazon late September/early October.

We have also set up a new discussion group on Goodreads to promote the book at: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/237556-silent-world-a-discussion-group

And here’s a YouTube video promoting the book and planned feature film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8bv1vbQxYo

If this ARC offer appeals, contact the authors direct via Morcan Books & Films blog or email SterlingGateBooks@gmail.com    

All enquiries welcome!

 

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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.

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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White Spirit and Into the Americas, the two most recent historical novels by father-and-son writing team Lance & James Morcan, continue to rate highly with reviewers on Amazon.

White Spirit (A novel based on a true story)     Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story)

Novels both based on true stories.

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After 34 customer reviews on Amazon, White Spirit (A novel based on a true story) has an average review rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Here’s what recent reviewers say about this book:

“Penal Colonies in Australia come to life in an outstanding work of Historical Fiction… Two thumbs up for this outstanding work.” –Howard Lipman

“This book does not disappoint. Hard to put down!” –Michelle Smith

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“Truly a mind-grabber.” –BT

To see all the reviews go to: https://www.amazon.com/White-Spirit-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B01LWIRH9J/

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After 151 customer reviews on Amazon, Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story) has an average review rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Here’s what recent reviewers say about this book:

“A solid page-turner… A creative and well-told story about a phenomenal chapter in the exploration of the New World.” –Brian Terhorst

“The action started right at the beginning and never really stopped.” –LindaMP

“This novel is well-written, colorful, and captivating (in more ways than one). –David Workman

“A refreshingly different genre for me. I couldn’t put the book down. Highly recommended.” –Kindle Customer

To see all the reviews go to: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Americas-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B00YJKM51E/

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