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The model cracked her case open only slightly to look inside before showing it to everyone. When she saw the low dollar-amount, she smiled and threw the case open all the way. The gameshow contestant loudly rejoiced and the crowd screamed in excitement.

Almost immediately, the studio’s lights switched to red. A phone on stage dramatically rang, echoing through the audience, and Howie Mandel stepped over to it to answer.

Placing it to his ear, he greeted the banker. Above the stage, the mysterious banker’s silhouette sat comfortably in his chair, obviously not threatened by how the gameshow was progressing. As Howie listened, the contestant was still cheering with her family, friends, and the rest of the audience about the small case she had just opened, which would no doubt throw the banker’s offer up into the next level.

“Okay,” Howie said, hanging up. He turned to the contestant. “As we go on, it gets tougher. You still have one big case—the big case—on the board, but that also means that just one wrong choice could be really bad. You don’t have any safety nets. If you open the million dollars, you won’t be going home with more than a thousand.”

The contestant, a short girl with long brown hair, waited anxiously for the banker’s offer. She subconsciously rubbed at her “lucky bracelet” that had her name, Sasha, spelled out in different colored beads.

Howie paused and looked at the camera. Tension had been building up inside not only the contestant and her family, but in everyone else in the audience as well, and it was so thick that you could feel it. People sat on the edge of their seats, gripping those in front of them. The game had been intense so far and had taken an unexpected turn a few rounds back when a bad luck streak knocked out the last three big cases beside the million.

“Sasha,” Howie said slowly, “are you ready for the deal?”

The crowd cheered a resounding “yes” and Sasha vigorously nodded her head, speechless.

“Two hundred and thirty-three thousand dollars.”

Again, the crowd yelled mixtures of cheers and shouted “no deal!” While the camera crew panned the frenzied audience, Howie was the only one that noticed a change in his contestant’s facial expression.

When the noise had died down, Howie tried to speak, but he was cut off.

“That’s less than he offered me last time!” Sasha yelled angrily. “That doesn’t make any sense! I got a good case! A great case!” She took a few hesitant steps towards the models that held the cases before breaking out into a run.

“Sasha, the banker,” Howie started. He cut himself short when he noticed Sasha take one of the money cases from the model. They both knew the case didn’t have actual money inside, but just a money value that she could win on the gameshow, but he quickly realized that wasn’t why she took the case when she came charging at him, case raised above her head.

The audience gasped as the disgruntled contestant knocked Howie to the ground with a swift blow to his shiny head. Security guards ran from stage right and shouted for her to stop. The remaining models scattered to get backstage, and got in the way of several guards as Sasha ran in the opposite direction.

She ran out to the backstage hallway, but that didn’t stop the camera crew from following.

Sasha found cover and ducked behind it, clutching the money case tightly to her chest. She didn’t realize the gravity of what she had done until the hurried footsteps of armed guards rushing down the hall made it real. She blinked a few tears out of her eyes and panicked, screeching, “Don’t come any closer!”

The footsteps didn’t stop.

Frantic, she hesitantly added, “I have a gun!”

That stopped them. The guards immediately stopped and stepped back for their own cover.

Realizing how cold the steel case pressed against her chest was, she sat all the way down and put it in her lap. Curiously, she looked inside. Staring back at her, mocking her, was the million dollar label.

A low voice shouted from the guards made Sasha jump. “What do you want?”

She looked down at her case, and then at her surroundings. The hallway was small, but it wasn’t a dead end. There was probably a back entrance to the studio somewhere back here. However, she couldn’t run; the guards would surely overpower her, and now that they thought she had a gun, they’d take no chances.

The case screamed to her, and she nodded back at it. She yelled back to the guards, “I want my million dollars and a limo out of here!”

Silence. Ten seconds passed, then twenty. It felt like an eternity, and when Sasha was about to yell out again, Howie called out from down the hall.
“Sasha, can you hear me?”

She nodded but voiced her thoughts when she realized he couldn’t see her. “We both know you’re in trouble,” he cooed, “and neither one of us want this to end any worse than it is now.” She heard him take another step towards her. “Sasha, I’m going to make you one offer. If you don’t take it, the guards here will escort you to the police. Now, Sasha, my offer is this: twenty-five thousand dollars and a taxi.” He paused, letting the deal sink in.

“Deal, or no deal?”

From back in the studio, the cowering contestant heard the faint roar of cheers and an overpowering roar of people shouting for her to take the deal.

Her husband emerged from the crowd of guards down the hall and called out to her. “Sasha, it’s George. Listen, I know you came here for the million, but twenty-five thousand would be great too! It would even buy us that nice Tesla you liked!”

Howie’s voice emerged again. “Sasha, so I ask you: deal or no deal?”
The hallway’s lights got brighter as people working for the camera crew brought in additional, colored lights.

“Howie, can you hear me?” Sasha had began to sob, not only from the shame of what she had done to his shiny head, but also from knowing she wouldn’t leave with the million dollars.

Until then, Sasha had been turned away from the group of people in a way that they couldn’t see each other. The first person she saw was Howie, who was carrying an opened glass box with a red button inside. She recognized it as the button from the stage that contestants would press when they took the banker’s futile offer.

Howie set it down on the floor in front of her and asked again. “Sasha, deal or no deal?”

She looked at him, and then back at the case in her hands. The roars of the crowd invigorated her. After a moment of thought, she yelled, “Deal!” and slammed an open palm onto the red button.

It took a second for the light-people to switch the hallway’s lights over to blue, but it happened eventually. Sasha’s family rushed through from the guards and the whole group hugged each other and cheered as Howie stepped back to the camera crew, looked the nearest camera in the eye, and said, “We’ll be right back with more Deal or No Deal after this commercial break.”