Another weekend, another late submission to Linda G Hill’s…..Hey, wait a minute, it’s still Saturday, I’m actually on time for Stream of Consciousness Saturday for a change.
Right, best get on with it then, this week’s prompt was:
““enthuse.” Add a prefix or suffix to it or leave it as it is and go to town with it!”
The good thing about being left in charge, decided Bradley Crane, was that you got to make a lot of important decisions.
The problem was, the bad thing about being left in charge, was that you got to make a lot of important decisions.
Important decisions were all very well, as long as their importance only went as far as which caterers to send out on location, or what promotional material should go to a meet-and-greet with the network’s star du jour, or even which of the tabloid press to invite to “exclusive” news conferences, but this, Bradley was sure, was way above his pay grade.
He tried, with minimal success, to suppress the rising tide of panic and focus on what Eugene, the eager young man from Project Development, was becoming so animated about, aware that he should probably be showing some enthusiasm for whatever Eugene was telling him, but unable to escape the feeling that this kind of thing was usually decided by somebody a lot higher up the food chain than where he, albeit temporarily, found himself.
“So we have the option to get in on the franchise of Crime On Camera,” Eugene could hardly contain his excitement, “but they need to know by this afternoon at the latest, otherwise we’re going to lose out to the competition and trust me, you want this show. Mr Grainger will thank you for it, you wait and see.”
And that was the crux of the matter: would the all-powerful network boss thank him, or would it mean the end of his career altogether?
Bradley shuddered as he recalled the text he’d received from his boss and mentor, Farnham Grainger III, just before he left on a six month tour terrorizing the management of the network’s affiliates out west;
“I have every faith in you Crane. I know the reigns of my empire are in safe hands, this is your chance to make your mark, don’t waste it.”
Well, he thought, this is what he meant, something daring and cutting edge. Something the other local stations were sniffing around, like sharks at the scent of blood.
Could this be the opportunity he needed to mark himself out as the kind of go-getting, ambitious risk taker the bigger networks wanted, even the nationals?
He made an executive decision.
“Ok, go and make them an offer, see what they have to say.”
“Really?” Eugene looked like he may just burst, right there on the spot, “You mean it, we can commission Crime On Camera for a pilot?”
“Yes,” Bradley felt light headed now, almost giddy, “see what they say about doing a whole season for us, since you’re there. Strike while the iron’s hot, isn’t that what they say?”
“Yes sir!” said Eugene, practically running from the office, already punching the speed dial on his phone as the door closed behind him.
Acting Network Chief Crane then did something he had never done thus far in his glittering career in the world of television, he poured himself a stiff drink during office hours, then threw the whole thing back in one gulp, coughing as the spirit burned its way down his throat and noticing the slight tremor in his hand, the tumbler chattering as he placed it on the tray.
Bradley turned and gazed out at the sprawling downtown streets below him, wondering what the great Mr Grainger was going to say when he found out that he’d commissioned a show which used scanners to listen in on police radios. Then they would send camera crews, on standby all over the country, racing to capture footage of crimes in progress and broadcast the highlights every week for the entertainment of a nation of schadenfreude-hungry couch potatoes.
“It’ll be fine,” he said to his worried-looking reflection in the window, “it’s going to be a smash hit, just you wait and see.”
Now he was getting used to the idea, Bradley was becoming genuinely enthusiastic about the fearless initiative he had shown in making his snap decision and spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the glow of his own self-importance.
So when the phone call came, just before he left the office, confirming that the network had indeed secured rights to Crime On Camera, it was the cherry on top of a gigantic cream cake of a day.
“Ok people, settle down, we have a busy day, let’s get this done quickly please.” Bradley Crane looked around the conference table at his production team until he had their full attention, “Thank you. Now as you all know, our new special, Crime On Camera Live, goes out tonight and if the first half of the highlights season is anything to go by it’s going to be a ratings winner, so I want everyone ready for the studio discussion afterwards and the analysis show after the news at eleven.” He took one more look at the faces around the table, “Any questions?” he nodded, “Ok. Thank you everyone, have a good show.”
He watched them file out of the wood-paneled room until he was alone, then took out his phone and once more read the message that had arrived from his absent boss that morning;
“Good luck with the live special tonight, looks like your gamble paid off.”
He couldn’t help feeling a thrill of exonerative satisfaction.
He remembered the decidedly unfriendly call he’d had from Grainger a few weeks ago, after Bradley had informed him of his impulsive acquisition, and realising that his gamble had paid off, the show was a roaring success and the studio-based shows he had hastily organised to cash in on the extraordinary viewing figures were also getting good numbers in the ratings.
As a result, he had won Grainger around and it seemed as if this could well be his ticket to bigger and better things.
That evening he watched the lights of the city passing by through the black mirror of his office window, sipping a well-earned single malt and congratulating himself on the steadiness of his hands, turning as he recognised the now-familiar tones of the Crime On Camera theme tune coming from the television on the wall opposite his desk.
The presenter, a lantern-jawed ex-cop called Travis, was clearly in a state of some excitement, even as the opening credits faded out. He was talking fast and holding his earpiece in the manner of anchormen everywhere who want you to know they’re getting vital information only available to them.
“Ladies and gentlemen I can tell you that we already have a situation in progress, it looks like a car theft gone bad, the carjacker was caught in the act and instead of fleeing, he took the owner of the vehicle hostage and has now been cornered by police in an armed standoff.” He appeared to listen for a few seconds, then said, “Let’s go live to Atlanta and the team in the field, led by Austin Monroe. Over to you Austin…”
Travis turned to a monitor and the picture cut to the scene in Atlanta, red and blue lights strobing across the screen as the camera zoomed in on the black saloon, surrounded by black and white police cruisers, all with officers with guns drawn and trained on the two figures just visible in the front seat.
Austin Monroe’s dramatic voiceover informed viewers that a so far unidentified businessman had been taken hostage by an armed man who had been threatening to kill his captive unless the police let him walk on the carjacking charge.
The camera crew moved closer to the brightly-lit tableau, moving through the barricade of police vehicles until they could get a clear shot of the pair who were caught in the glare of dozens of headlights, the masked gunman with his arm around the neck of his unwilling companion, the barrel of a revolver shoved hard against his temple, the terrified man obviously in considerable discomfort.
Bradley Crane watched as the shot closed on the face of man in the passenger seat and his heart jumped in his chest.
“That’s not..?..It can’t be..!”, he strode across the room and stood right in front of the plasma screen, squinting at the image as the camera focussed and then…
“Oh my God, it is!”
The gaunt, white face of the man with a trickle of dried blood at the corner of his mouth, in the front of the badly damaged car with a gun crazed lunatic, was that of Farnham Grainger III himself!
Bradley couldn’t drag his eyes from the screen and he only remembered to breathe because he felt himself becoming light headed again. This really was fantastic television.
Suddenly there was movement from the car and the voice of the carjacker could be heard shouting angrily;
“What’s that TV camera doing there? I told you no pictures!”
He could be seen tightening his grip on Grainger, while the police marksmen took aim at the car’s windshield and waited for the order to fire.
“Get that camera away, I’m warning you…”
Bradley held his breath once more, willing the cameraman to keep filming, as Austin Monroe’s voice rose to an almost hysterical volume, having finally realised whose kidnap he was actually filming.
Then it happened. Something about the situation pushed the gunman over the edge and he finally cracked.
“I told you I was serious, now you’ll be sorry!”
There was the sudden, shocking sound of shots, two from the car in quick succession, followed by a hail of gunfire from the assembled law-enforcers and then silence.
“I’d just like to say that we at the network are all deeply saddened and shocked by the events in Atlanta last week, our thoughts are with the Grainger family and we ask that you please respect their privacy at this difficult time.”
On the TV screen, Bradley turned from the clamouring reporters, hurried down the steps and climbed into the waiting limo, which drove away as the shot cut back to the studio;
“That was Bradley Crane, the man widely tipped to be the new Head of Network at WKZT, giving his reaction to the tragic events of last week…”
In the back of the limo, Bradley switched off the TV, sipped his whiskey and smiled.
This week’s story is dedicated to the memory of Linda Rowe.