"And the nominees for this years’ International Best Cellar Award are…"

From his seat in amongst a prestigious audience of wine connoisseurs, award nominees and their cohorts, rented tuxedo stiff and unflattering below the house lights, the winner held his breath between the names as they were read out by a familiar man behind the podium. Gathered as they were to celebrate the best in winery, he had a deuce up his sleeve; determined that this year he would not be the one to lose out on what was his.

Hearing his name for the first time, those in his immediate vicinity turned to him, that surprised eyebrow raise across their prominent faces as if those Botox injections had worn off.

He gave his audience a flustered smile. He would not let them see how desperate he was to win this achievement.

Opening the envelope, hands visibly shaking even from their distant vantage, the vague celebrity chef with the missing daughter lifted out the card; that smile gone from his features.

That’s right. The award secretary had done her job.

The chef on stage went to speak, a bumbling gaggle of inflated air before a surge of static feedback whistled throughout the auditorium. Faces in the audience, turned and spun; on stage, the celebrity chef, hands gripping the podium so tight it moved, looked back behind the curtain for assistance.

The winner so wanted to smile, to break the illusion of knowing nothing, to keep himself from jumping up out of seat and screaming that he had won out over all those stuck up, sycophantic, yes-men; finally, he had the recognition – him – a man who was not a part of their clique or fortunate enough to have been born to parents with their wealth and respected roots.

"I…" followed by a rack of gurgled sobbing.

People were getting up out of their seats, backstage curtains in flux as producers wanted to know what the hold up was.

The card he had asked them to swap, sat inside his jacket pocket; the one in the trembling hands of the celebrity chef up there beneath the stage lights, that card bore not the winners name but only four words.

We. Have. Your. Daughter.

The girl was alive, shackled to a chair in his wine cellar.

The award judge had a card, too. He was next out on stage to take back control of the event. Ripping the card from the shaking celebrity chef and guiding him toward the producers, nobody saw him pocket the card and take out another one before returning to the podium.

"My sincere apologies, ladies and gentleman…" The judges card held the winners name, packaged as it was with a memory card featuring his missing wife, bound and gagged in the same soon-to-be-award-winning wine cellar. In the ninety second footage, a hand removed her gag and she spoke a selection of cracked words that had been whispered into her ear earlier while a knife was held to her throat.

The judge on stage repeated them now, to the audience of his contemporaries: that this year’s award went to him.

Too shocked to applaud, the audience turned open-mouthed as the winner left his seat and headed for the stage steps. Head held up, right arm waving to the crowd as he neared centre stage, a scratch of clapping flitted from the seats like a crackling of dry timber. Approaching and taking the reserved hand of the judge, he clapped his back, leaning in close so he could confirm that his wife would be returned to him within the hour.

As if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, the remaining audience-members took to their feet for a standing ovation in honour of this year International Best Cellar Award.

"Wow! I’d like to thank the judges and everyone involved in making this happen."

Although it was all supposed to be about the wine, everybody knew it was the cellar and what was kept down there that mattered.

"International Best Cellar"
Copyright: © 2010 Mark Robinson

Mark Robinson's previous writing has appeared in: Powder Burn Flash; Unlikely Stories; Static Movement; Blink-ink.com; Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers; Sunk Island Review; Microhorror; Hackwriters; Transmission; Raw Edge; Short Story Library; Txt Lit; Post Card Shorts; Enigma and the Lulu Anthology “Never Hit by Lightning” Edited by Tucker Lieberman & Andrew Tivey.
Forthcoming publications in 2010 include Everyday Fiction, A Thousand Faces, Delivered, and the Lame Goat Press Anthology “The Next Time.”

1 comment:

  1. absolutley fantastic! i love all the little twists that this writer comes up with. well done mark you should be very proud of your writing.