Pressure

Pressure

by Betsy Reavley

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Overview

When the submarine departed, none of the ten people on board knew it would turn into a nightmare.

Trapped on the sunken vessel and unable to escape, one of them is discovered dead. The tension escalates as the survivors realise there is a murderer among them, who is preparing to strike again and again…

With mounting desperation, people begin to turn on each other. While they struggle to identify who is responsible, each must contend with their own past and the secrets they are hiding.

But who is who? And which of them will be next to die?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781912604258
Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Publication date: 04/23/2018
Pages: 222
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.51(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

CHILD

'You always were a little shit.' Her hot breath, which reeked of coffee, was too close to my face for comfort. 'You're an embarrassment.'

I think I winced before her balled up fist made contact with the side of my head. I knew it was coming even before she had made the decision. That look in her eyes warned me. It was the same look every single time.

'I'm sorry,' I whimpered, my ears ringing from the impact of her thump.

'You are disgusting.' A flicker of spittle left her mouth and landed on my face in a fine spray.

As I remained cowering on the ground, she proceeded to tear the urine-stained sheets off of my bed like a wild animal attacking its prey. The side of my head felt swollen and I was finding it difficult to hear out of the ear she had walloped.

Seconds later she'd wrapped the wet sheets around me and proceeded to drag me down the stairs, the smell of my own urine clogging my nostrils, making it difficult to breathe.

'Get in there!' she screamed as I heard the cellar door open with a creak. Moments later I felt her foot connect with my back and I was tumbling down more stairs, still wrapped in the damp, foul-smelling sheet.

'Now, you can think about what you've done,' she panted from somewhere above before slamming the door closed.

I listened as the key was turned, knowing I was locked in the darkness, alone, until she decided otherwise.

At nine years old I knew I shouldn't be wetting the bed. I knew it was disgusting and abnormal but I couldn't help it. My dreams were so terrifying I couldn't stop ithappening.

Once in a while I would wake in the night, dripping with sweat and lying in my own wee. On those occasions I'd remove the sheets, put them in the bottom of my laundry basket and sneak onto the landing to fetch some fresh ones so she would never know.

But unfortunately I didn't always wake. Sometimes I would sleep right through, tossing and turning, a prisoner to my own imagination. And then the birds would start to sing and the sunshine would creep through the curtains. On mornings like that I wished I wasn't alive. I knew Mummy would soon appear and discover my dirty accident and there was nothing I could do about it.

CHAPTER 2

THE PICA EXPLORER

Day one. Hour 00:05.

You have never known real darkness until you have been deep underwater. It is not like the blackness you experience when you stand in a field in the dark. It is much more alive than that. The darkness behaves like a cloak that wraps itself around everything and you can almost feel it crawling on your skin.

There is a strange silence from those of us in the control room. Nobody screams. We remain in the brooding darkness with only the sound of our breathing reminding us that we are still alive.

'The backup power will kick in.' Patrick, the captain, speaks with faux confidence. 'This machine is built to withstand the depths.'

No one responds. We just stay still knowing that we are sinking further and further below the surface and into the dark water.

I can feel the pressure building all around us and my heart, which thumps violently in my chest, threatens to explode at any moment.

I hear the squeak from the castors on Patrick's chair but can still see nothing.

'When will the lights come back on?' Susie's quiet, almost childlike, voice cuts through the blackness.

'Any moment.' Patrick clears his throat just as blue light fills the space.

'Frank!' I rush to the door and call for him. 'How far down can we go?' I turn and ask a moment before Frank appears.

'What the fuck is going on?' Frank stands tall looking down on us.

'We will land on the ocean floor soon enough.' Patrick speaks with authority.

'How soon?' Susie's voice has risen an octave higher.

'We won't sink deeper than a couple of hundred metres,' Fiona says and then clears her throat.

'What about the pressure?' Susie squeaks again.

'Stop whining, Susie,' Frank barks. 'I demand someone tells me what is going on?'

'The sub has lost power and we are descending.' Patrick still fiddles with the dials on the panel hoping to fix the problem.

'But we will all be crushed.' We all hear the tears in Susie's voice.

'No, we won't,' Fiona says calmly. 'The ocean floor is not that deep here. There is no danger of us sinking to the crush depth.'

'The backup power has kicked in.' Patrick turns to Frank gesturing to the bluelight.

'Then we can start climbing back up to the surface?' Susie's wide eyes look hopefully at Fiona.

'I'm afraid not. The backup power only feeds the air and lighting.' Fiona throws a look at Patrick.

'How long will it last?' Frank suddenly doesn't seem so sure of himself.

'Well, we've never had to rely on it before ...' Patrick returns to the control panel and begins flicking switches and dials again.

'But they heard our call, didn't they?' My throat feels dry as the words force themselves out.

No one responds, instead we all find ourselves gazing out of the front window at the wondrous underwater world we are now a part of. Still the submarine is drifting downwards, and above us the light from the sky is fading further and further away.

'I'm going for a piss.' Frank pushes his way past Susie and through the narrow doorway that leads to the living quarters in the sub, looking for any excuse to leave the room.

I mouth the word 'arsehole' to Susie and wink, getting her to smile if only temporarily.

'So what do we do?' Fiona turns to Patrick hoping for a simple explanation. But underneath she knows that the captain is as lost as the rest of us.

'Well, we need to go into the engine room.' Patrick is stoic as he stands up in the confined space, careful not to bang his head on the low ceiling.

He is a tall gangly man and every bit the quintessential scientist. His mousey brown hair is too long and always scruffy, as is his beard that has many grey hairs interspersed with the ginger ones.

'I'll come with you.' Fiona follows him out, leaving just Susie and me alone.

'This is serious, isn't it.' She looks out into the vast expanse of ocean, which consumes us.

'Yes. Yes, it is.' I put my hand on her shoulder and try to ignore the repetitive thump in my chest that is making it difficult to breathe.

CHAPTER 3

ZARA

When I got the call I nearly fell off my seat. I'd been dreaming an opportunity like this would come along at some point in my career.

'Yes, yes, absolutely. I'd be honoured.' I had to put my hand over my mouth to stop an excited squeal from escaping down the phone. 'I will be there. Thank you so much for this chance. You won't regret it.'

Putting the phone down, I then proceeded to do a happy dance around my small London apartment.

I'd been living in Dalston for four years, scraping a living as an assistant director on a very low budget television show, which was only shown late at night on a poxy satellite channel that no one had ever heard of.

Cops and Robbers was a programme that followed police officers around the dingy parts of London, as they arrested youths and petty criminals. It was aimed at the lowest common denominator but it paid the bills and had been my first break into television. Beggars couldn't be choosers and although I had graduated from The London Film School with a master's in film-making, I had to take work where I could get it.

The course had cost a small fortune and meant I had to work my fingers to the bone, living in a cheap shitty flat in Walthamstow and travelling into the city centre to complete my education.

With famous directors such as Michael Mann and Mike Leigh graduating from LFS, I had dreams of becoming an industry hotshot. But real life doesn't always work out the way you hope it will, and soon after I had completed my course, it became quickly apparent to me that there was no easy path to the big league. So when the chance to work on Cops and Robbers presented itself, I had no choice but to accept the gig. It was a start, I told myself.

I'd known since I was a teenager that I wanted to get into film. Seeing life through a lens fascinated me and there was something especially alluring about moving picture.

When I'd spotted the chance to work with one of the UK's biggest directors on a feature, I'd put myself forward for the role. Knowing my experience was limited, I didn't fancy my chances very highly, but as my boyfriend always said: if you throw enough shit at the wall eventually some of it will stick. So that's what I did. I went for every single job I could and started to get used to the string of rejections that Ireceived.

Frank Holden, of FH House Films, was an industry giant. He was a producer and a director all rolled into one. His production company was responsible for some of the biggest hits to come out of the UK and he had spent much of his career in LA working with Hollywood megastars.

After applying for the job I didn't expect to get a response but when I was called in for a meeting I nearly fainted. It was unheard of for someone of his stature to consider working with a rookie like me.

All became clear when I showed up at his swanky London offices for the meeting.

The film that he had optioned was unlike any film that had ever been made. It was set in an underwater world and was about a crew of scientists who discovered an alien race living in the ocean, unbeknown to the rest of humanity. The film had started life as a graphic novel, which I'd heard Frank had come across. He'd instantly fallen in love with the concept and decided he wanted to turn the comic into a film.

But, at the time, I didn't know that there was a storm brewing in the industry and Frank Holden was on the brink of losing everything. It seems that a number of young actresses had complained about unwarranted attention and advances from Frank, in return for leading roles in his films as well as their silence.

FH House Films was doing its very best to bury the story, but I soon discovered, from an employee of the firm who was very happy to gossip, that a reporter had gotten hold of the story and was threatening to blow the whole thing open. As a result, the company he had built was holding back from allowing Frank his usual large budget on the feature.

So Frank, who was renowned for being stubborn, decided he would go ahead and produce the film with a much lower budget, which meant nobodies like me were invited to meetings. He was a man who answered to no one.

I didn't care about Frank's wandering hands or his reputation for luring young women into bed. All I cared about was the opportunity to work with a genius in the field. My desire to succeed was second to none.

I can now admit that when I walked into the studio for my first meeting, with his personal assistant, I was shaking like a leaf. I wasn't used to the ultra-modern leather sofas, industrial lighting and the luxury of the building. It was so far removed from the flea-infested bedsit that I called home.

While I sat awkwardly perched on the edge of the sofa waiting to be called in, I grew increasingly aware of the sound my trousers made against the leather. In a corner, behind a large glass desk, sat a secretary with super stylish clothing and her dark hair piled high on her head. She wore brown lipstick that made her pale skin look like that of a china doll. I felt ugly and out of place in her world.

'Zara Golding.' The receptionist fixed me with her cold eyes. 'They will see you now.' And she pointed towards a door on the far side of the room.

Getting up from the sofa and wincing, as my trousers again made a farting noise against the leather material, I straightened my navy jacket and made my way towards the door, which swung open just before I reached it.

'Zara, I'm guessing?' A flamboyant American woman dressed headto-toe in black put her hand out and shook mine. 'Won't you come in?' I followed the unknown woman through a brightly lit corridor; her kitten heels clattering on the hardwood floor.

'Frank's just through here. He is super excited to meet you.' I nodded and smiled although I found her statement hard to believe. 'I'm Monica Cherry, Frank's PA,' she explained while leading me into a room with a frosted glass door.

Sitting behind a large desk was Frank. I recognised him instantly. His large frame, small brown eyes and balding head were unmistakable. He didn't smile or say a word. He simply sat looking at me. I didn't know if I should take a seat or speak, or what it was he expected of me.

'Geez, hon, take a seat won't you.' Monica's American drawl echoed around the stark office as she went around the desk and took her seat next to Frank.

I pulled the black leather and steel chair back and sat myself down, being sure to keep my back very straight. You mustn't slouch – the words my mother used to say rang in my ears.

'So.' Monica picked up a shiny tablet that was on the desk in front of her and scanned the page.

'You don't have much experience.' Frank spoke suddenly.

'Erm, no.' I shifted in my chair.

'So what are you doing here?' he asked, still staring without blinking.

Unsure how to answer, I looked to Monica for guidance but her eyes remained focused on the tablet. She was not going to help me.

'Well, I ... I came because I got a call.' I realised too late how lame I sounded.

'Wrong.' Frank leant forward, knitting his chubby fingers together on the desk in front of him. On his right hand little finger he wore a large gold signet ring. 'You came because you want to work in film.'

'Yes, that's right.'

'But you have no experience.'

'I have a little.'

'Cops and Robbers?' he sneered.

I took an instant dislike to the man.

'Yes.'

'You graduated from LFS with distinction,' Monica chipped in, still studying hernotes.

'That's right.'

'So you're smart enough. You have a bit of talent.' Frank sat back in his chair and rubbed his stubbly chin.

I didn't know how or if I should respond to that comment.

'I have always wanted to be in film. It's my passion. I love stories.'

Frank snorted and I felt my cheeks go red. I was a grown woman of thirty yet in his presence I felt like a child.

'Let me tell you a bit about our vision.' Monica finally put her tablet down and addressed me face to face. 'Are you familiar with R.J. Hellman?'

An instant feeling of panic washed over me as I racked my brain trying to place the name.

'He's a little-known graphic novelist,' she continued, unwittingly alleviating my fear. 'His book, Water Warriors, has come to Frank's attention and this is the project we are talking about.'

I had never heard of R.J. Hellman let alone a book called Water Warriors but I thought it best to keep my mouth closed and let them do the talking.

'Water Warriors is a graphic novel about an alien race that lives under the water. Up on the land people have no idea of their existence. Then one day the Water Race is discovered. It really is a wonderful, imaginative story that will translate beautifully to the big screen.'

I nodded, making a mental note to go and get a copy of this bizarre-sounding book as soon as I'd left the office.

'We are going to shoot it all underwater,' Frank interrupted. 'On a submarine. The film is going to be unlike anything anyone has ever seen. No one has attempted to make an underwater film before. I am going to change that.' He folded his arms across his chest and slightly cocked his head to one side, still examining me. I bit my tongue and decided not to mention Das Boot.

'I need an assistant director who will do exactly as I say, no questions asked. I don't want your opinion or your artistic input. I want a skivvy with a good eye.'

'Excuse me'— I adjusted the collar on my shirt as I spoke —'but why, as you say, use someone with no experience for such a ground-breaking film? I'm sorry, but I don't understand.'

A look crossed his face and I felt Monica tense for a second.

'This film is going to be shot entirely underwater in a submarine. It is going to take months of careful planning and I don't want anyone interfering with my artistic ideas about the project. I need a yesman' — he paused and small smile crossed his face — 'or rather, a yes-woman, by my side.'

'I see,' I said, not fully understanding.

Frank and Monica looked at each other for a moment, then a long silencefollowed.

'I would love the opportunity to work on this project.' I was desperate to fill thequiet.

'You and every other graduate on the planet,' Frank spat.

Then there was another uncomfortable silence.

'Right!' Monica clapped her hands together once and stood up. 'Thank you for coming, Ms Golding. We will be in touch.'

And just like that the interview was over.

I left the office feeling none the wiser as to what the film was about, let alone why I had been called in, or if the meeting had gone well. All I knew for certain was that I was pleased to get away from the building and away from Frank Holden.

As I walked through Soho, on my way towards the Tube station, I tried to make sense of the strange manner in which the interview had been conducted.

Certain that I was not in the running for the job, I still wanted to learn more about the graphic novel that had inspired Frank and as I passed Gosh!, the comic shop on Berwick Street, I felt compelled to investigate.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Pressure"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Betsy Reavley.
Excerpted by permission of Bloodhound Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Also by Betsy Reavley,
The Pica Explorer Floor Plan,
Prologue,
1. Child,
2. The Pica Explorer,
3. Zara,
4. The Pica Explorer,
5. Ray,
6. Child,
7. The Pica Explorer,
8. Patrick,
9. The Pica Explorer,
10. Dominique,
11. Child,
12. The Pica Explorer,
13. The Pica Explorer,
14. Anya,
15. The Pica Explorer,
16. Sam,
17. The Pica Explorer,
18. Child,
19. Frank,
20. The Pica Explorer,
21. Child,
22. Fiona,
23. The Pica Explorer,
24. Child,
25. The Pica Explorer,
26. Child,
27. Luke,
28. The Pica Explorer,
29. Child,
30. The Pica Explorer,
31. Child,
32. The Pica Explorer,
33. Susie,
34. Child,
35. The Pica Explorer,
36. Child,
37. The Pica Explorer,
38. Child,
39. The Pica Explorer,
40. Child,
41. The Pica Explorer,
42. The Pica Explorer,
43. The Pica Explorer,
A Note from Bloodhound Books:,
Beneath The Watery Moon,
Carrion,
The Quiet Ones,
The Optician's Wife,
Frailty,
Acknowledgments,

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