More Old Lacey
An Excerpt from 1957s Lacey Frill and the Quiz Show Scandal by Stoney M. Badess (as Drake A. Hardman)
The camera closed in on Lacey’s face as beads of sweat began to form on her furrowed brow.
“Augustus Klieman Von Rowendreich?” she finally guessed just before the timeout buzzer went off.
“That’s right!” the show’s enthusiastic host announced to the applause of the studio audience—none of whom knew that the stakes for this particular contestant were so much higher than just losing a significant amount of cash.
As focused as she was on each question, she still could not forget what the show's diabolical producers had told her once she had stepped into the soundbooth.
"This booth is airtight you nosy little girl and all it would take to replace the oxygen we're pumping into it with cyanide gas is one simple flip of the switch.. To save yourself a gruesome death, all you have to do is correctly answer every single question Howard asks you in the 30 seconds allotted. And if you even attempt to say a single word about your predicament to the television viewing public who are watching live right this very moment, an armed thug named Roosevelt has orders to kill your photographer friend, Cedric, in the most painful way he can image."
“That puts you just one question away from our grand prize of $76,500!” Howard informed her and everyone watching. “As you know, the $76,500 question is always chosen randomly from our barrel of postcards sent in by our viewers. Your fate, Miss Frill, now depends on the kindness of a stranger. Will your question be impossibly obscure or childishly simple?” he paused as he let the audience ponder this question. “Well, let’s find out! Judy, it’s time to roll out the barrel!”
A voluptuous blond in a very tight evening gown appeared on the stage, rolling an actual barrel towards the booth. When she reached Howard, he lifted up a small door on its side and pulled out a postcard of the Empire State Building.
“Mr. Eugene Wolper from New York, New York,” Howard read from the back of the card, “wants you to answer this question for your $76,500 grand prize: Can you recite pi up to the 20th decimal?”
The crowd simultaneously gasped and laughed at this nearly impossible question. There was no way the pretty redhead in the booth—as lucky as she had been before—was smart enough to get this one right.
“3.14—” Lacey began, knowing that she only had 30 seconds to provide the correct answer. But despite the presence of a figurative Sword of Damocles hovering above her head, she allowed herself the indulgence of a brief remembrance of her time spent with Oliver Fry, the brilliant and handsome dean of mathematics at Oxford University. It had been a lazy Sunday morning and the two of them had found it impossible to leave his large comfortable bed and start the day.
“Shall we attempt to go for the record?” she had suggested seductively as he held her in his arms.
“The spirit,” he smiled at her, “is oh-so-very-willing, but alas the flesh is equally weak. I’m afraid I shall have to spend the next week reviving myself with various tonics to provide you with this kind of entertainment again. In the meantime, why don’t I teach you something useful?”
“How about the first 100 digits of pi?”
“How would that be useful?”
“You never know,” he shrugged. “Someday it might just save your life....”
“—159…5…..89793…238..4…6,” she finished just before the timeout buzzer sounded.
“That’s correct!” Howard exclaimed as the audience cheered with shock and approval for what she had just done.
“Can I get out of here now?” she asked Howard.
“Certainly, Miss Frill,” he smiled at her—the artificial shape of his grin proving to her that he had been fully aware of the danger she had been in the entire time.