“Well, ladies and gentlemen, what a wild ride it’s been tonight. Don, have you ever seen such fights in all your life?”
“No, Howard. I must say this marks a first for me. We’ve long suspected that Team Minion were throwing their fights, but that’s certainly not been the case tonight.” Don winked at the camera then turned to his fellow announcer.
“No indeed. I think this is the first time any representative from that team has won a match let alone all of them. To what do you attribute the turnaround in their fortunes?”
Don tapped his pen against his notes before he removed his glasses and stared down the camera’s lens. “I’ve no idea Howard, but our cub reporter, Rudy Sanchez, has managed to corral Team Minion’s coach, Demond Galindo. Rudy, over to you.”
Rudy Sanchez moved closer to Demond and spoke to the camera when prompted. “Thanks, Don. Coach Galindo, everyone is raving about the turnabout Team Minion pulled off tonight. Eight matches, eight knockouts and eight wins. Only one penalty point, and that was when Lilith Muenster did a backbend to duck a punch but dropped below her opponent’s belt. Beautiful a move as it was, it cost Team Minion its only penalty point of the night. How on Earth did you manage such remarkable and swift changes in your fighters?”
Demond gave a half smile at the camera then turned his attention to Rudy. “The team has always had the raw talent to win, we just needed to find the right incentives to overcome a few rough edges.” He unleashed the full force of his smile.
“And what were those incentives, Coach?”
“You ever heard the term, ‘kill ’em with kindness’?”
Dubious grooves furrowed Rudy’s brow. “I have.”
“It makes a very effective training method as well, especially when dealing with individuals who thrive on violence, chaos and excruciating pain.”
“I’m not quite following you, Coach. Give us an example, if you would.” Rudy thrust the microphone closer to Demond’s mouth.
“Care Bears, viral videos of cats and babies, and Justin Beaver , pop singing star and teen idol– what do they all have in common?”
Rudy mugged for the camera and said, “They’re all sickeningly sweet and cute?”
“Exactly.” Demond grinned first at Rudy then at his audience. “Oh, and we let our fighters roast and eat their defeated opponents when their matches are over. The big guy gets the souls of the vanquished, of course, as per the terms of their Ever-after contracts.” With a loud guffaw, Demond gave the dumbfounded Rudy a mighty slap on the back. “Just kidding. No one has the patience to cook these days when raw is just as tasty.” He saluted the camera then strolled off to join his team.
Rudy turned back to the camera as his nervous laugh trailed off. “So there you have it folks. Nothing like a little added incentive to motivate and inspire. Unusual? Perhaps…but then desperate times call for desperate measures. Now back to you Don and Howard.”
The camera caught the two men off guard, their jaws hanging low.
“Uh…right. Thanks for the inside scoop there, Rudy. That Demond is such a jokerster isn’t he, Howard?”
Howard nodded slowly, his lips pursed, brows knitted. “Yes, indeed.”
Jonas Sutphin drew the short straw of editing the night’s matches. It was a thankless job because the AM recap show drew few viewers and had hovered on the edge of cancellation for the past six weeks. Not exactly compelling resume fodder.
He watched and made editing notes on Team Minion fights for a short feature spotlighting the team’s miraculous reversal of fortune. A flash caught his attention during Judas Iscariotta’s fight and he groaned, fearing the footage spoiled by audience flash photography.
“Let’s see if we can just erase you out here,” he muttered to himself as he paused the footage. “Hmm, never seen anything like…” He advanced the footage frame by frame, eyes growing wider with every fifth frame. One minute into the footage, he telephoned his producer.
“Hey Marv, you need to come down here and see this. It’s the boxing footage. You are not going to believe your eyes. No. I have to show you. Okay, see you in five.” Jonas disconnected and resumed advancing the frames, making notations of frame numbers and the other idiosyncrasies he observed.
Ten minutes later, his producer strolled in, a danish in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other. “What’s up,” he said, his mouth full of pastry.
Jonas rewound the footage and motioned for Marvin to have a seat next to him. Marvin extended his danish in invitation but Jonas shook his head.
“So, I was editing the Team Minion footage for a short montage when this,” he pointed to the flash that had first distracted him from his routine, “caught my attention.”
Marvin shrugged, another huge bite filling his mouth. “So, it’s just somebody’s flash going off. You can erase it out can’t you?”
“Yeah, that’s what I started to do but when I stopped the film, look what I found.” Jonas halted the footage at the frame prior to the first anomaly and pointed. “Doesn’t look like a flash does it?”
“What the hell is that?” Marvin discarded the half-eaten danish on the desk and leaned in for a closer inspection. “Is that a foot?”
“Check out the next frame.” Jonas clicked the machine’s frame advance button a single time.
“Nothing. I see nothing now. So it’s a flaw in the film, so what.” Marvin crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.
Jonas held up one finger then turned back to his editing console. “Now here’s the footage five frames later.” He leaned back to allow Marvin greater access.
“There it is again, a foot right in the gut.” He directed his quizzical look at Jonas. “How the hell could anyone move that fast? That’s two different feet only five frames apart and illegal as hell.”
“It gets even better. Look at this,” Jonas said as he advanced ten more frames. With his pencil, he tapped the lower corner of the screen. “Here. See this? Who’s this guy? Wait. If that’s not clear, let me advance another five frames.”
He did so and Marvin jumped in his seat. “What the… You should have warned me. How the hell did that guy get his entire face in the camera shot and nobody saw him? Are you messing with me, Jonas? Am I being punk’d?” Marvin spun his chair to do a three-sixty scan of the room.
Jonas turned a grave face to Marvin. “I swear to God. This is untouched footage. I downloaded it from the camera myself.”
Marvin rolled his chair even closer, pushing Jonas to the side. He tapped on the frozen close-up image of a man’s face, its features stretched into a malevolent smirk. “Isn’t that the team owner, Lucius Dark?”
In unison, the pair exclaimed, “Well, I’ll be damned.”
The overhead lights flickered then gave out completely.
The janitor switched off the floor polisher too late to hear the screams within the editing room, but he did hear a man’s voice growl, “Mmm, danish. Enjoy your dessert, my children.”
Howard pressed his earpiece more tightly to his head as he listened to his producer. His hand clenched then snapped his pencil in half. “I’m sorry to report that due to…technical difficulties, we won’t be able to present our montage on the Team Minion fights.”
“We’ll have the rest of the exciting coverage for you, however, after this short break.” Don concluded the break announcement with his signature wink before the camera faded to black.