Crash Bang Money

By Neil Vogler

It was Nigel Ember’s job to watch the video clips that came in for Crash Bang Funny!, Cheery TV’s flagship comedy programme featuring everyday people falling over, getting hit in the face, or smashing into things. He’d been doing the job for five years, much longer than he’d ever intended. But then, he’d never expected CBF to last as long as it had, either. It seemed the public’s appetite for watching people hurt themselves never ran out.

In truth, sifting through the clips had become a chore, and Nigel found he never laughed out loud at the antics on display anymore; in fact, these days he barely cracked a smile. Once upon a time he had liked to think there was a limit to human stupidity, but the clips pouring in every day appeared to prove otherwise. If there was one thing people were exceptionally good at, it was making fools of themselves on camera, and then realising they could sell their footage to the likes of CBF and make an easy two hundred pounds.

Yes. These days, Nigel thought he’d seen it all before.

But then he’d received the video featuring the show’s presenter, Henry Herbert. The clip had Herbert, in unmistakable high-definition, beheading a man in some cellar somewhere with a samurai sword, and grinning about it. There was no accompanying message.

Herbert was a multi-millionaire, unpleasant and slothful in real life - with a quick temper and a vicious tongue - but beloved by the general public who tuned in in their millions to hear his sarcastic commentary over the clips in CBF. Never mind that his clever quips were actually written by Nigel and the rest of the team. All anyone cared about was hilarious Herbert and his cheeky one-liners.

Now it looked like Herbert was a killer.

Nigel knew which side his bread was buttered. After getting over the initial shock, he decided to bury the clip. CBF wasn’t great work, but at least it was work. For the good of the show, and for the continuing good of his bank balance and career, he resolved to delete the clip and never utter a word or think about what he had seen again.

There was something else, as well; the years of watching thousands of human beings trip over and hurt themselves in endless ways had made him hard. In the same way that he no longer laughed out loud, he no longer felt empathy for the people he saw, not even the poor children falling from great heights or ploughing into walls whilst on their bicycles. The job had inured him to seeing people getting hurt. He had become empathetically numb.

Yet, as he was about to press delete, something happened. A voice said: This is our chance, Nigel.

A dark, beautiful word formed in Nigel’s mind:

Blackmail.

 

* * *

 

Henry Herbert’s private office had a fantastic view of central London and was as luxurious as any company director’s. Henry himself sat behind a huge desk knocking back hits from a glass full of expensive brandy. It was only 1.34PM.

‘Nige,’ Henry said, smiling his wide, fake, TV man’s smile. Without his make-up, he looked bald and ghoulish. ‘You got some new input for me? You want to workshop some jokes for Saturday’s episode?’

Inside Nigel, a cold and persuasive voice said, Do it. Stick the knife in now. Take what you’re owed, Nigel.

So, keeping his nerves under control, Nigel carefully articulated what he had seen, and what he wanted from Herbert in order to keep quiet about it.

 

* * *

 

‘A million pounds?’ growled Henry. His fabricated smile had vanished. Instead he looked a little green around the gills.

‘I admire ambition, Nige,’ he said after a few moments digesting Nigel’s demands. ‘This is a cut-throat industry. I thought I knew what you were capable of, but I’ll admit, I never thought you’d have the balls to pull off something like this.’

Nigel felt a warm, sickly feeling of anticipation stirring in his gut. He was going to be rich.

Henry Herbert came over to him, improbably pulling a chequebook out of his pocket, as if he did this kind of thing all the time.

‘There are ways to do this that won’t make it seem so obvious,’ Henry said. ‘We’ll say I’ve paid you to develop and write a film series for me or something ...’

Nigel was about to offer some ideas on this when, using the hand that wasn’t holding the chequebook, Henry bludgeoned him over the head with one of his heavier TV award statuettes.

 

* * *

 

Nigel snapped awake to find he was being doused liberally with petrol. The smell was overpowering, and he gasped and spluttered. He quickly ascertained he was inside some kind of dank cellar with stone walls and one naked bulb buzzing overhead. Worse still, he’d been handcuffed to an enormous thick chain that was fixed to the ceiling.

Henry, having put the petrol can down, was over in the corner fiddling with something: a high-end video camera.

‘Nige, feel free to scream,’ Henry said, his back to his victim. ‘My little group of enthusiasts like that.’ He gave a quick laugh. ‘They want their money’s worth. Believe me, they pay much, much more than two hundred quid for these clips ...’

Nigel, panicked, realised something as he flailed wildly on the chain: the petrol had made his skin very slippery.

In his struggle, one of his hands slid easily out of the handcuffs.

‘Bloody thing,’ cursed Henry, still tweaking his camera. ‘It’s new.’

The recording light finally came on.

 

* * *

 

As his torturer came forward with a Zippo lighter, Nigel managed to punch Henry square in the face and wriggle his other hand free seconds later.

The ensuing struggle between the two men was brutal, but Nigel was younger, leaner, faster, and sober. He managed to ensnare Henry’s head in the thick chain.

Moments later, the TV host had been successfully strangled.

Nigel collapsed to his knees, disbelieving, exhausted, petrol-soaked. He thought he was going to cry.

Then, suddenly, without warning, he began to laugh hysterically.

Much later, when his insane laughter finally subsided, a rogue thought occurred to him:

How much would someone be prepared to pay for a video clip featuring the death of Henry Herbert?

If you enjoyed Crash Bang Money you can buy the e-book of Flash Fiction Fest 2013 "Deadly Sins" for Kindle, iBooks or Google Play.

Other Stories from Tuesday 19th November

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