A smiling James Mercier walks down the stairs of the studio set, talking a patronising drawl into his microphone as he goes.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to The Golden Shot. The brand new votathon gameshow of 2032.”
The camera pans away from Mercier and shows a wildly cheering audience. Each member of the crowd is stood, clapping hands above coiffured heads and cheering for the immensely popular presenter.
“Now have we got a treat for all you good folks out there. Tonight is the very first program in a series which will change viewing habits forever. Never before has a show like this been broadcast. We will push the boundaries of taste, pull back the curtains of complacency and deliver the evil unto hell.”
A wave of hysterical whooping interrupts Mercier’s spiel exactly where he’d planned it to. At the first hint of a lull, he picks up and starts delivering what he knows will be the defining pronouncement of his career.
“That’s right my good people, you heard me correctly. We WILL deliver unto hell the evil which stalks our wonderful society. Because the righteous people of the British Broadcasting Corporation and our esteemed Justice Minister have combined to give YOU the viewer, power of life and death over some of the country’s most heinous criminals. Murderers, rapists, paedophiles and terrorists will all be brought forward to compete for your votes.”
A hushed incomprehension fills the studio and every one of the fifteen million homes that have tuned in to watch what had, until now, been a top secret game-show.
Mercier turns his back on the audience, as he had again chosen to pause at this point so he could manipulate the crowd and he timed his silence with a digital accuracy. Just when incomprehension threatened to morph into discomfort he quickly wheels round and seals the deal with his right arm punching the air with every full stop.
“I know what you’re thinking. You’re not gonna vote for a murderer. A paedo or a terrorist. Well let me tell you something folks." At this point Mercier gives his best “you can trust me” smile and looks to camera. “These most despicable, most depraved, most reviled dregs of society have all been sentenced to death. And tonight YOU get to choose which one of the will die.”
A woman’s voice rings out clearly from the back row of the studio, reciting the lines Mercier had earlier furnished her with. "Death to killers. Justice for the people."
As predicted, the clamour and outpouring of bile and hatred towards criminals of all ilks nearly blows the microphones apart. If it hadn’t been for Mercier’s insistence that they be turned down at this point, then several would have caused speakers around the studio to fuse.
As a producer of the show Mercier had pulled strings like a crazed puppeteer, until he had the audience filled with ordinary people who had been victims of violent crimes.
Holding his hand above his head he signals for silence and when the decibel level drops sufficiently he reaches into his pocket and withdraws a single golden bullet with a neat red ribbon around it, arranged into a bow.
“This, ladies and gentlemen, is what our contemptible contestants are playing for. One bullet. Delivered from the barrel of a gun directly to the front temporal lobe.”
Mercier sensed his audience was uneasy so he dumbed it down a little. “The winner gets shot between the eyes.”
Another pause for effect.
“The losers are tortured to death. Right here in this very studio. Viewers at home can tune in to channel 187 where they can subscribe to our special ‘Justice Cam’ which will chart every last minute of the chosen miscreant’s life.”
He walks across the stage as the audience around the studio goes wild and every home viewer contacted friends to tell them of the new show with its special Justice Cam. Across the land, pubs emptied, cinemas and shops became deserted as every last citizen made their way to a TV showing The Golden Shot.
Reaching the right hand side of the stage Mercier clicks his fingers and watches as a screen rises from the stage to reveal a large tank full of ferocious looking fish.
“That’s right. They are Piranha and tonight’s loser will be stripped naked, horsewhipped and then lowered into this tank at the rate of one inch a minute until his twisted and valueless life has ended.”
Quickly he stalks to the other side of the stage and when the latest din settles, he roars to the crowd. “Do you want to meet the contestants? Men so despicable our benevolent justice system has decreed they must die.”
Mercier puts his back to the studio audience and shouts into his microphone, “Bring out the bastards.”
Another panel rises from the stage and five men in handcuffs and leg irons are led forward, accompanied by two burly guards apiece.
Mercier, ever the show man, gives each contestant an introduction as they came out.
“First up we have Peter “Mad Dog” Mitchell, rapist and murderer of seventeen known victims. Next we have the Peckham Poisoner, Chris Cleveley.”
As the boos and jeers ring from the crowd, Mercier milks the atmosphere as he introduces contestants three and four until the studio is totally enraptured by his every word. He’d planned this to a tee and the fifth and last competitor is by far the most reviled as he was Lenny “The Lech” Ferguson: a paedophile with over one hundred known victims.
“We’ll be right back after the break with the next installment of The Golden Shot where we’ll find out which of our competitors can stand on a hot surface the longest. Get your phones ready to cast your votes. Remember folks, you decide who dies tonight and who comes back next week.”
The camera fades and some advertorials are shown to the studio audience as stagehands ready the first challenge.
Have you stayed tuned?
Have you voted?
“Yeah, me too.”
Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner, he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. For the past 11 years he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.
An avid fan of crime writing since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of 8, he has been a regular reviewer for the well respected review site Crimesquad.com for over 2 years.
As well as reviewing, Graham has also interviewed such stellar names as David Baldacci, Jeffrey Deaver, Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Matt Hilton, current CWA Chair Peter James, Mark Billingham and many others.
When not working, his time is spent reading, writing and playing gameswith his son. He enjoys socialising and spending time with family and friends.
Check his blog at http://grahamsmithwriter.blogspot.com