Thanks for all your hard work today, team. It has not gone unnoticed, let us assure you. If we actually were business people of influence, we would totally merge with you. Not in a weird way.
As you’ll recall, we asked for stories of 250 words or less, using this picture:
Much as we wish it weren’t so, we have to choose a winner. Someone has to win the books. There are no coalitions here.
There is a runner-up, though.
RUNNER-UP: Kate Todd
‘Well, that’s it then,” she said. “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you, Ms. Wright.’
Her hand was cool and dry, her handshake as crisp as the starched cuff peeking out of her suit jacket. From my first tentative phone call, she assumed control, using her brutal efficiency to see the deal through. When the money showed up in her account at midday, her involvement ceased.
It was only five past twelve and she was impatient to leave. My hand clasped in hers was the only reason she wasn’t checking her expensive watch. She must have another deal to wrap up today.
My hand was damp, hot. I had flushed, embarrassed to see it shaking when I had reached out to take hers. In my defence, it was the first time I had handed over that much money to a complete stranger. What would she do with her cut? Judging from her neat French manicure and tailored jacket, she didn’t have trouble spending on herself.
The hand I wasn’t gripping slipped into her pocket. I reached out my other hand, noting with satisfaction that at least this one wasn’t shaking. My heart raced as the key landed in my palm.
‘I’m sorry not to stay longer,” she said, retracting her hand and discreetly using her coat to wipe away the sheen my sweaty palm had left. “But I’ve got a house ready to complete in Wandsworth and the South Circular will be a nightmare at this time of day.’
WINNER: Anstey Spraggan
The Kasakstav Switch
I didn’t know people could come back from the dead. Pierre’s dead alright; he blew his brains out in February.
He was waiting in my kitchen when I got home from the show. I’d been playing a working men’s club in Merthyr and the drive home was a nightmare.
‘You pulled it off then?’ Pierre lit a cigarette. He shook his hand rapidly to extinguish the match; the way he always did.
‘What are you doing here, Pierre?’
He moved his flat palm deftly across the kitchen table. A perfect white egg wobbled in the space he left behind. ‘You did my trick, didn’t you?’ He blew on the egg and a budgerigar fluttered over my cooker.
‘You’ve improved,’ I said.
‘Death does that to you.’
Tonight’s crowd – a smattering of local teenagers, numb with boredom, and a hen party from Dolgellau – had gone wild for the Kasakstav Switch. I clocked the talent scout at the back of the hall, saw his amazed face.
‘You can’t use that trick,’ Pierre said. ‘It belongs to someone else. You have to buy it.’
‘How much?’ I asked. I felt a chill of excitement fizz through my clenched teeth.
‘Same price as me.’
He reached out his hand. As our fingers touched, I saw the bright lights, felt the heat radiate from the crowd, heard the tsunami of applause rise out across the theatre.
We shook hands.
Pierre smiled as he vanished.
A red ace, round-cornered, fluttered onto the table. I was magic.
Congratulations Kate and Anstey! And well done everyone – bloody good job.
See you same time next Friday!