"Well, it's a wrap," said Bob Mastercran as the final show ended on his failed experiment of a TV channel. He'd planned to make the last show a big one but then what was the point? He knew the score: no bugger was watching. He had to be the host himself because he'd fired as many of his staff as were superfluous (e.g. hosts) yesterday. He knew he wasn't very good but so what?
Now he'd concentrate more on his soft drinks industry which seemed to be taking off. It'd never struck him but his surname sounded so like "Mastercraft" and "Masterfoods" that simply putting that name on a fizzy drink made people think they were getting something bigger and more trustworthy than they actually were. The result was it really was getting bigger (if not necessarily more trustworthy).
No, the TV thing had been a mistake. Some nutty rich woman wanted to buy it from him - she was welcome to it. She'd sounded odd on the 'phone. She seemed to pronounce every syllable and never seemed to make contractions like "I've" or "he's" or anything like that. However she was rich - she could pronounce away to her heart's content on this television station. Maybe she'd be more successful than he'd been but he doubted it.
An hour later he pulled up outside the coffee bar where he'd arranged to meet Miss Pleasance, TVUK Channel 31's future owner. He was twenty minutes early - that should make a good impression. Sitting at one of the tables was the ugliest, the worst-dressed and the most miserable-looking person he'd ever seen in his life. He made sure to sit at another table He didn't want Miss Pleasance to think this creature had anything to do with him - it might cramp his style.
He lit a cigarette. A waitress came up and told him there was a smoking ban in England. He told her to shove it, gave her some money and carried on smoking.
His mobile rang.
"Yes?" snapped Bob.
"I am sitting at the table by the window. Where are you?" she asked in her slow, humourless, over-enunciated way.
He put the 'phone down with horror and wandered over to the table by the window. It couldn't be, could it...? Yes, it was. Well, whatever, he wasn't going to waste any time thinking about it.
"Miss Pleasance? Hi. I'm Bob."
"Yes, Robert, I know," she said, looking drearily at him. He hoped this session wasn't going to last long. There was something really oppressive about her.
"I'm just going to get a drink," he said, the cigarette still in his hand. "D'you want anything?"
"I want a fruit smoothie. No, I don't want a fruit smoothie. Get me a cup of coffee. And stop smoking, I don't like it."
Well, she'd used a contraction a couple of times - that made her sound a bit human, at least... but nobody told Bob to stop smoking. And what happened to "Please"?
Bob couldn't be bothered to argue. He extinguished his cigarette and bought two coffees, which he brought back to the table. Not a word of thanks... obviously not a word of thanks. What would you expect from this extarordinary woman?
"So, TVUK Channel 31, ay? Well, well, well... I can't think of a better person to take it over..."
"I have all the money," said Bella, handing him a little red suitcase.
His eyes widened when he looked inside. It was more than he had asked for. He had to check himself. People in the coffee bar were starting to stare. He brought himself back down to Earth and snapped it shut.
"Erm, right, well - thank you. I'll take you to the studio tomorrow and show you around..."
"But I want to see it today, Robert - I want to start producing shows tomorrow morning at 9 o' clock."
She really doesn't have a clue, he thought. Fair enough. He'd take her there.
At 9 o' clock the next morning "Bella's Morning Discussion" opened. There was a curious audience of 251 people at home watching it. It was so badly put together (the host and all the staff having been persuaded mere hours ago with large sums of cash to do it) that most of the 251 viewers vowed never to watch this dreadful channel again.
Many of the viewers flicked over to terrestrial TV. The news was just starting. The curious story dominating the airwaves that morning was of the untimely death of Bob Mastercran. Apparently he'd become so depressed at having to sell some of his failing business empire that he'd drowned himself in a vat of his own fizzy drink. Everyone had looked for a note but could find none. All he'd left was an empty little red suitcase.