Tuesday Sampler: Sink or Swim by Stacy Juba
April 19, 2016
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Tuesday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Sink or Swim, mystery and suspense from Stacy Juba.
As one reviewer said: With Sink or Swim, Stacy Juba takes a look at our reality TV craze. Whether you enjoy reality shows or not, it’s hard to miss the famous and the infamous that these shows create. Sink or Swim takes us behind the scenes and shows us what happens after the cameras have stopped filming.
Personal trainer Cassidy Novak garners popularity and fame while starring in a hit reality show. She catches the attention of an obsessive stalker that turns her well-ordered life topsy-turvy.
As Cassidy’s competitors disappear in a string of murders, she teams up with Zach Gallagher, the photographer tasked to record her personal moments for a local newspaper. Is Zach trustworthy? He shadows her as easily as the stalker.
Cassidy hates the bizarre rules in this guessing game, but when her stalker forces a showdown, she plays to win.
Cassidy Novak stared into the seething water. It couldn’t end this way.
Gray waves buffeted against the 179-foot schooner and fog billowed through the spiderweb of rigging that snarled skyward. Heavy white sails furled, the Atlantic Devil’s triple masts lumbered in formation like dead trees.
Gabriel stalked from the bow to mid-ship, his black turtleneck and slacks contrasting with his pale face. Cassidy’s pulse hammered in her throat as she searched his sober expression.
His full lips curled into what would have been a grin for most people. For Gabriel, the Grim Reaper, it mimicked a sneer.
He withdrew a saber from the metal sheath belted at his waist and gripped the hilt beneath the curve of the scoop-shaped hand-guard. Above the main mast, the black and white skull and crossbones flag thrashed in a wind dance.
Cassidy glanced at Reggie, the last surviving competitor besides herself. He rubbed the back of his shaved head and connected his fingers behind his neck. Her own posture locked tight. One of them would go home a millionaire.
The other … she wouldn’t reflect on that.
After three months isolated from society on the new reality show Sink or Swim, Cassidy wanted that prize money and the fame that accompanied it. Hope fortified her very bones. Maybe her days of scrambling to pay off debts and working a lousy job were over.
It’s yours. It has to be.
Just then, Gabriel caught her eye and gestured over his shoulder. Cassidy followed his index finger toward the gangway. To the plank.
Cassidy’s daredevil smile, practiced in the mirror before setting sail, faded like mist.
Her clever comebacks, which she’d imagined quoted at the water coolers of America, were not heard.
Her cascading red hair that she’d tossed like a drama queen – an invention strictly for TV – went taut around her finger.
She’d lost. The overall point tallies had come in, and she’d lost. Her dreams weren’t coming true after all.
“Game over. You lose. Close call though, Reggie beat you by five points.” Gabriel dragged her across the deck by the arm and pushed her up onto the wooden board that projected over the water.
Cassidy winced, emptiness invading her body like a physical hurt. Five points. If only she hadn’t screwed up furling and unfurling sails during the first episode, or if she’d done a better job mopping the deck that time she had a cold. After all Cassidy had been through, two simple mistakes cost her the game.
She’d been five points away from a new life.
Under the show’s set-up, twelve contestants had competed in four teams. The crew awarded marks based on skill and neatness, with team members pooling their numbers to win privileges like movie nights or dinners in the officers’ mess. Every Monday, a low-scoring contestant walked the plank and went home on a rendezvous ship. Cassidy had lasted until the final cut.
Gabriel’s sword blade brushed her back. Not only were her dreams drowning, she was about to undergo torture. The humiliating kind.
Her breath rasping, she eyed the twenty-foot drop. The end of the plank seemed miles away, though it was only ten feet. Trying not to look down, Cassidy inched forward. At the verge, she halted and willed her gaze toward the dark cold water below.
Gabriel stepped up behind her and touched the cold sharp steel to the nape of her neck. “Time to sink or swim.”
Don’t show emotion. You’ve got to lose with dignity. Cassidy said a silent prayer, folded her arms across her chest and vaulted off the plank.