by David Cook
Frank’s heart thudded against his ribcage. So far, he’d answered questions about F1, Italian archaeology and Charlie Chaplin – his three favourite subjects. He was so close to that prize.
‘The next question,’ said the host, fingers steepled, ‘is this: what is your mother’s maiden name?’
Frank’s brow furrowed. ‘Sorry?’ he said.
‘Your mother’s maiden name.’
‘Well… it’s Eggington,’ said Frank. ‘But I don’t see—’
‘Correct!’ yelped the host. ‘You’re two questions away from the jackpot!’
Frank looked around, confused. ‘Was that one of the questions?’
The host nodded wildly as the audience applauded. ‘And the next one, to get just one step from the jackpot, is…’ – dramatic pause – ‘what was the name of your first pet?’
Frank looked even more confused. These sounded like the security questions he got when he phoned the bank. He voiced this opinion to the host. ‘Do they?’ he said, hooting like an excited barn owl. ‘Goodness me.’ He leaned closer, licking his lips. ‘But what’s the answer, Frank?’
‘Well, it’s Betsy Foo-Foo,’ said Frank. Even at five he’d thought it a bloody stupid name for a stick insect. ‘But—’
‘That’s right!’ squawked the host. ‘You’re one question away from two million pounds!’
The audience gasped. TWO MILLION POUNDS, thought Frank. The number clanged around his head, drowning out the little nagging voice saying, hang on a minute.
‘The final question,’ intoned the host, ‘Is this: What… is the long number on your bank card?’
Really Frank, hang on a minute.
TWO MILLION POUNDS, FRANK.
The louder voice won. ‘Three-two-three-five-seven-oh-four-oh-nine-nine-two-one-six,’ he said, the numbers tumbling from his mouth in a rush.
The host shifted in his seat. ‘Frank,’ he said. ‘To scoop the jackpot on this, the first ever edition of this, The Big Brash Cash Dash, that answer needs to be correct.’
Another dramatic pause. Frank felt his fists clench and his nails cut into his palm. The first thing he’d buy if he won would be some decent nail scissors.
‘THE RIGHT ANSWER!’
Hysterical whooping from the audience. The host barrelled out of his seat and embraced Frank. ‘So, so, well done,’ he said. ‘Congratulations!’ Streamers fell from the rafters, and a giant novelty cheque was thrust into Frank’s hands.
TWO MILLION POUNDS. He couldn’t believe it.
He couldn’t believe it. He’d cashed the cheque the next morning and spent the rest of the day planning what he’d do with all that money, after he’d bought some nail scissors. And then the bank had phoned. The cheque had bounced. Worse, his account had been cleaned out. He was broke. A scam, they’d told him.
‘A scam?’ he’d said. ‘But there was a television studio. An audience. A host. Streamers. How could all that be a scam?’
‘Scams nowadays are very sophisticated, sir,’ the phone voice had said.
Now it was evening, and he was staring morosely at his computer screen. He’d called his sister, who’d sent him some money via bank transfer on the condition that he didn’t do anything ‘so bloody stupid’ again. That didn’t make him feel any better. He checked his emails. There was one new one. He opened it.
‘Dear friend,’ it began. ‘My name is Prince Khwazeem of Somnambula. I have three million pounds to give to you before I die, which the doctors tell me will be soon. Please send your bank details and I will deposit the money into your account. If you do not respond immediately, it may be too late and my enemies will take all my money.’
Frank’s heart jolted. The Prince of Somnambula. THREE MILLION POUNDS. He began to sweat with excitement. Goodness, he had better act fast.
Really Frank, not agai… the little voice began, but he was already typing out his reply.
David Cook‘s stories have been published in the National Flash Fiction Anthology, Stories For Homes Vol 2, Ellipsis Zine, Flash Fiction Magazine and more. He lives in Bridgend. If you have two million pounds to offer him, please do.