In Competition No. 2716 you were invited to supply the gripping final 150 words of the first instalment of a serial thriller.
Charles Reade, now mostly forgotten but ranked with Dickens in his day, summed up the art of the cliffhanger thus: ‘Make ’em cry, make ’em laugh, make ’em wait — exactly in that order.’ The best of a magnificently overwrought entry that elicited the odd wry smile though no tears from this flinty-hearted judge are printed below and earn their authors £25 each. Alan Millard pockets the bonus fiver.
Assured of a handsome income despite the dubious outcome, I relished the Franco Deutsch challenge to salvage the foundering eurozone, sadly torpedoed and sinking fast.
Pietro, who claimed to know Papandreou, had planned our rendezvous, undercover, though actually under a roofless relic. Primed for action but grossly obese, I gasped for breath atop the Acropolis, rechecked the cryptic, encrypted message I should have swallowed, and spotted our venue which turned out to be the Parthenon’s front, middle column. Counting eight, but expecting nine, admittedly muddled, I mused upon which was the middle. Had Pietro, I wondered, sheepishly, fleeced me? Or was I, just like the Greeks, losing my marbles?
Suddenly, springing from nowhere, Pietro appeared, pointing a pistol. ‘Aha!’ he cried. ‘My friend, you are snookered!’ But was I, or had I the balls to pot the blackguard? The cue was poised, but would he, or could he, be pocketed?
And it was at this precise moment that the food began to froth. He had been so intent on ensuring that the door was barred and bolted, and the detonator precisely primed, that he had forgotten the meal he had left simmering surreptitiously on the stove. It was the oxytocin still racing round his system: it had robbed him of his normal composure.