View Full Version : Criss Angel vs. The Grinch!
11-27-2011, 12:05 AM
Christmas in Las Vegas is a huge, gaudy affair, with lavish lightfests as bright as Freemont Street in color and show, and giant decorated evergreen trees almost as tall as the luxury hotels and casinos. Garlands of greenery festooned with colorful bulbs and twinkling lights hang from every rail and eave; automated displays of Christmas scenes rival their counterparts at Macy's in New York. It seldom snows in that desert oasis, but the temperatures can drop to freezing at night during the winter months, giving the air a crisp bite people usually associate with the holiday season.
Every hotel in Vegas, from the humblest motor inn to the most luxurious resort, compete for the greatest number of holiday tourists by offering special travel packages and discounts to fill their rooms: free meals, complimentary passes to shows, discounts on rental cars, free gaming chips, or whatever would lure customers to their establisments. Stores pushed their merchandise with huge, in-your-face sales promotions to encourage those tourist to do their holiday shopping in the Entertainment Capital of America. Nightclubs and other venues keep the holiday spirits flowing with live bands and parties. More money passes hands during the last two months of the year in a city that bases its whole economy on the passing of cash from hand to hand, and almost everyone profits. The ringing of cash registers compensates for the lack of sleigh bells in Sin City.
This is not to say that the municipality of Las Vegas is too avaricious not to have a heart. Every year those same hotels, casinos, clubs and venues join forces with various civic groups to raise funds or collect toys, clothes, and food for the city and county's less fortunate citizens. There are fundraisers of every description, hosted by radio stations or by Vegas' celebrities. Donation boxes are set up for anyone to drop in a toy, a coat, a bag of canned goods, or anything to ease the burden of those who suffer most during the Christmas season, especially in a city where Want is keenly felt and Abundance rejoices.
One such notable is Criss Angel, five-time Magician of the Year and leading light in Las Vegas' pantheon of celibrities, renowned for his lavish stage show with Cirque du Soleil and insanely death-defying escapes--"demonstrations", he called them. His collection of customized automobiles and motorcycles were almost legendary, masterpieces of the customizer's art. His legion of fans, the Loyal, practically worshipped him, eagerly awaiting the next episode of his television series, MindFreak, and posting letters, comments, stories, poems and photos of him on the online fanboards. Less well known outside the Loyal community was his charitable work, such as his donations of time and money to the Make-A-Wish foundation for terminally ill children. On one episode of his series, he dressed himself in a Santa suit and magically filled a huge truck with toys to give to underprivileged children at a church-run mission. As much as he loves living la vida buena, he never let it blind him to those in need. Having been born six days before Christmas, no one exemplified the spirit of giving like Criss Angel.
11-27-2011, 12:09 AM
Once upon a time...
Well, actually, it was about three weeks ago, but anyway, Criss Angel, magician extraordinaire, was making arrangements to celebrate his birthday not by receiving gifts, but by giving them. Being the man with everything, so to speak, he had decided the best birthday present would be to give toys to children who would otherwise face a very bleak Christmas. He knew what it was like to have nothing in the way of material goods or even money when he first started out as a magician; now that he had made it to the big time, he felt it was his duty to share his good fortune to those who were less fortunate than he.
While his intentions were entirely honorable, the actual purchasing and delivery of the toys proved to be a work of time. Just ordering several hundred of his new magic kits to be shipped to their designated destinations took several days, even with the help of his assistants, Tom and Eliza. On top of that, there were also the personal appearances: The KLUC toy drive, the Make-A-Wish holiday party, the Nevada Cancer fundraiser, among others. It would be a whirlwind of activity for a man with an already tight performance schedule.
Meanwhile, in a large converted strip-mall store somewhere in the outskirts of Las Vegas, a sunny-faced girl of about twenty or so was making her own preparations for the holidays. Her name was Joy Reese, and a joy she was to her friends and co-workers. She always had a smile on her face and a kind word for everyone. She had just started working the evening shift at Uncle Bernie's Discount Toys to earn money for Christmas and to pay for next semester's expenses at UNLV. The store didn't have much in the way of amenities; it was more like a warehouse, with exposed steel girders supporting the roof, and industrial steel shelving holding the merchandise, but it made up for it in lower prices. And in these economically troubled times, that was the key to Uncle Bernie's success.
Joy was busy setting up the artificial Christmas tree with a pair of co-workers near the entrance of the store while listening to the radio news broadcast over the public address system. The news was troubling: there had been a rash of thefts from various toy donation boxes all around the metropolitan area. Despite the presence of surveillance cameras, security guards and passersby who could have witnessed the thefts, no one had been caught.
"That totally blows!" Jamal, a tall, lanky stock clerk, spat in anger as he adjusted the top of the tree to make it plumb. "Stealing from poor little kids like that--guy should be taken out and shot!"
"They'll find him," Joy said. "Guys like him usually trip up or make a mistake, and that's how they get caught."
Jamal finished adjusting the tree top. "I hope so," he grumbled. "(Bleeper's) ruining the whole holiday for everyone like that."
"Let's let the cops handle him," Sondra, a stout, squat brownette with a pair of wire-rimmed glasses perched on her pudgy nose, said as she rose from her knees after fitting the trunk of the tree in its holder. "We gotta get this tree trimmed by the end of the shift. Boss's orders." She turned to Joy. "Hey, Joy-to-the-world! Did we get the decorations yet?"
"They're in the back," Joy replied. "I'll go get them."
Joy walked back to the storage area to fetch the tree decorations. She felt the same thrill of anticipation she did when she helped decorate the family Christmas tree when she was a little girl. It meant Santa was coming with presents and all sorts of goodies to fill her personalized red quilted Christmas stocking her Grannie made. True, she was too old for Santa Claus, but it was still fun to think about it. She was still a little girl at heart despite the fact that she was a business major in college.
She pushed the heavy swinging door separating the store from the storage area and stepped inside. A new shipment of toys had just arrived; the large boxes made it difficult to move around, let alone find the carton of tree trimmings. In her search for the decorations, she stumbled upon a large carton with the invoice still sealed in its clear plastic envelope. This concerned her; she knew that all invoices went directly to the manager, Bernie Brockton, the "Uncle Bernie" of the store's name. As she studied the invoice closer, she noticed that the address was not for Discount Toys, but for the Toys-R-Us store in North Las Vegas. They had delivered the wrong shipment!
Alarmed, Joy stumbled out of the storage area and went straight to Mr. Bernie's office. Fortunately, Mr. Bernie was just wrapping up a phone call when she arrived at his door. He smiled broadly at her as he hung up the phone. "Joy!" he bellowed jovially. "What can I do for you?"
"I just got back from the storage room," Joy began, "and I noticed the invoice on one of the boxes from the recent shipment. They're supposed to go to the Toys-R-Us store, not here."
A look of concern creased Mr. Bernie's face. "Hmmm, this is serious," he murmured. "Let's go have a look, shall we?"
Joy and Mr. Bernie walked to the storage area, where Joy pointed out the invoice in question. Mr. Bernie studied it for a moment and grunted. "Well, Joy, you did right to point this out to me," he said. "Someone screwed up big time, that's for sure."
"What're you going to do?" Joy asked.
Mr. Bernie rubbed the back of his neck thoughtfully. "Well, I'll have to make a phone call or two to the shipping company who delivered it, and find out what happened to ours." He smiled at Joy. "You really did me a favor pointing this out to me before we unpacked all this," he said with a note of pride in his voice. "It's not only gonna save me a ton of money, but the store this shipment belongs to. Little mistakes like this can cost a business thousands of dollars." He clapped her on the shoulder. "I'm glad you're on our team, Joy. Smart girl like you is an asset to any business."
Joy blushed. "Well, I do my best."
"Well, keep up the good work, and, who knows? You just might end up owning your own business someday." He jerked a calloused thumb toward the swinging utility doors. "Now, you'd best get back to work while I take care of this mess."
Joy smiled her brightest smile to date. "Yes, sir, Mr. Bernie!"
Mr. Bernie left the storage room while Joy located the tree decorations. The box was too heavy for her to carry back to the front of the store, so she used a hand truck to transport it. Still glowing over her boss' high praise, she wheeled the hand truck to where the tree waited for its trimmings. Such a wonderful man, Mr. Bernie! she thought to herself. I think I can learn a lot from this man if I stick to this job long enough! Who knows? Maybe I'll run a toy store just like this one someday! Wouldn't that be fun?
11-27-2011, 05:31 AM
I love toys I'm such a kid at heart. That's the first place I love to go to when I shop the toy department
11-27-2011, 05:49 PM
A week passed. Criss made a $15,000 donation plus a gift package to the KLUC 98.5 FM 12th annual toy drive, filling the giant truck with toys from FAO Schwartz and dozens of his own magic kits. The deejay was so overwhelmed by this generosity that he almost collapsed from emotion.
And Criss kept on going! He later turned up for an appearance on Fox 5’s morning show More and spun a roulette wheel to match a gift to the Nevada Cancer Institute. It hit $250, but instead of just doubling it, he added another $5,000!
“I have been so blessed in my life,” Criss said later. “I never forget my own tough times, and now that I have the Mindfreak TV series and The Strip show, it’s my joy to help others, especially at this time of the year. We’re also reaching our 1,000th show and my birthday at the same time, so it’s great to include everybody in the celebration week and show my thanks this way.”
Joy and the Discount Toys crew watched all this unfolding on the small television in the staff break room. Joy could not help but admire such generosity. "Wow!" she sighed. "What a wonderful person he is, giving all those toys and money to needy children."
"Ah, I think it's all a crock!" growled Tory Bellamy, a skinny Sid Vicious-type whose collection of tattoos stood out in stark relief on his pasty white skin. "Like he really gives a (bleep) about those kids!"
"Why do you say that?" Joy asked. "He's making a lot of kids happy this Christmas, and fifteen grand is nothing to sneeze at."
Tory snorted derisively. "C'mon, Joy, you ain't buyin' that bull(bleep), are you? The guy's giving away a hundred of his own magic kits just to boost his own overblown ego! It's all a big publicity stunt! He ain't doin' it for 'charity', quote unquote, he's doin' it for himself, just so he can look good!"
Joy turned on her skeptical coworker. "Look, Tory, just because you're antisocial doesn't mean you should rag on those who actually care about their fellow human being! Has it ever occurred to you that he's actually being sincere in his efforts to help needy kids?"
"I still say it's bull(bleep)!" Tory argued.
"Okay, fine!" Joy retorted. "Believe whatever you want! Everyone's entitled to their own stupid opinions!"
The two fell silent as the news broadcast yet another looting of a charity donation box, this one sponsored by the Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign. "God!" Joy exclaimed. "Who is this guy, anyway?"
Sondra, who had kept silent while Joy and Tory were arguing, said with a mischevious smile, "Maybe it's the Grinch!"
Everyone laughed a little at Sondra's theory. Just then, Mr. Bernie stepped into the lounge. "So, how's everyone doing here, okay?" he said in his usual jocular manner.
"There's been another toy donation box robbery," Joy told him. "This time, they stole from the Marines."
Mr. Bernie gave a long low whistle. "Hoo-boy! The Marines? Once they find out about this, whoever did it is gonna get his keister kicked from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli!"
"We think it's the Grinch," Sondra said.
"Well, no Grinch is gonna come into this store, nosireebob!" Mr. Bernie said. "And, anyway, that's what I came in to tell you: we're going to be setting up our own toy donation box right outside the store, and I'm gonna need your help in setting it up."
"What about the Grinch?" Sondra asked. "The guy's been going around stealing toys right out of boxes all over the city."
"Not this one!" Mr. Bernie replied smugly. "I got it specially designed so that if this Grinch character does show up, we'll nail his green furry ass right on the spot! It's got an alarm and everything! Speaking of which--Tory, I'm gonna need your electronics expertise in setting it up. You up for it?"
Tory shrugged indifferently as he rose to his feet. "Yeah, sure, whatever," he mumbled.
He followed Mr. Bernie out of the lounge. Joy turned off the television set, and she and Sondra got up from the vinyl couch. "He's certainly in the spirit of things, isn't he?" Sondra said sarcastically. "Just overflowing with holiday cheer. You know, I don't think he's cracked a smile since he's been here."
"I don't think he's cracked a smile ever," Joy said. "Maybe he's had a rough home life or something."
Sondra shrugged. "Eh, whatever." She made a little laugh. "Sometimes I think he's more grinchy than the Grinch himself."
"Well, at least he doesn't go around stealing toys," Joy retorted.
Joy ignored the jibe. "C'mon, let's get back to work. Mr. Bernie needs us to set up his donation box."
The two girls left the lounge, chatting amiably. Around them, work went on as usual: customers lining up at the registers with shopping carts full of toys, the cashiers ringing up the purchases, and stock clerks restocking the shelves with more toys to be taken down again by more customers and stuffed into their carts, and round and round in a neverending cycle of supply and demand.
Meanwhile, at the Luxor Hotel, Chief of Security Lucas "Big Luke" Macaffey, a pit bull of a man with a take-no-prisoners approach to maintaining law and order in the hotel, was in the lobby examining the large donation bin set out for the annual holiday toy drive. He was all too aware of the thefts going on around the city, and he was taking no chances on the hotel's bin being the next target. There would be no thefts of any kind on his watch, or anyone else's watch for that matter. Not only was the bin locked and secured, but it was directly in sight of the overhead surveillance cameras; any suspicious activity would be immediatly detected, and the perpetrator would be dealt with in accordance to the law. Roughly translated, the thief would have to answer to Macaffey himself, a fate worse than death in anyone's opinion.
Satisfied that the bin was tamper-proof, Macaffey left the lobby and headed for the deli for a cup of coffee. The counterperson knew his habits and had his order ready before he even reached the counter: large, black, no sugar. Macaffey took his coffee with a perfunctory nod of thanks and settled himself in a booth to relax. Overhead, the large screen TV broadcast the news of Criss Angel's donation to KLUC's toy drive. Macaffey kept sipping his coffee. Angel was a nice guy, he reflected, not stuck up like a lot of celebrities. Took good care of his mother, too, a definate plus in his book. It was nice that he was sharing the wealth instead of splurging it on customized cars and motorcycles like he usually did. Oh, well.
The story changed to the latest theft from a Toys for Tots donation box somewhere in the suburbs. "Son of a (bleep)," Macaffey muttered, setting down his coffee. Stealing from the Marine Corps? That poor (bleeper's) ass is in a sling for sure! If I ever see him pilfering from that bin outside, I'll nail his sorry ass to the wall! What'd make a guy steal from charities, anyway? No, wait, I know the answer--it's greed, plain, old fashioned greed. Times get harder, people get greedier; they'd steal from their own mothers if they had a chance!
He glanced toward the toy bin, still under the watchful eye of the surveillance cameras. C'mon, you (bleeper)! he mentally challenged the thief. I dare you to even try to take anything out of that bin! You do, and it's your sorry ass on a platter! I guarantee it!
11-28-2011, 05:27 AM
If this story was real there would be a line from Neveda to Canada waiting to kick 'the grinch's' butt
11-28-2011, 07:32 PM
"There!" Mr. Bernie exclaimed triumphantly as the last bolt was tightened on the toy bin. "All finished! I'd like to see our friend, the Grinch, take anything out of that!"
The large red bin standing by the main entrance was a model of security and efficiency. Placed in plain sight, a would-be thief would be apprehended on the spot. Its drop slot was angled outward like a postal box to prevent anyone reaching in and taking anything out. The rear door, camoflaged with skillfully arranged Christmas trees, was secured with a combination lock, of which only Mr. Bernie knew the combination. To top it off, a trip alarm was set inside the bin to alert store personnel of any potential pilfering of the bin's contents. "Safe as a bank vault!" he crowed.
Joy could not help but admire Mr. Bernie's accomplishment. With cunning and ingenuity, he had singlehandedly saved Christmas for hundreds of needy kids. There was no way on earth anyone could steal a single toy from such a sophistcated box. Anyone foolhardy enough to try would be busted on the spot, either by tripping the alarm or being caught by someone on the staff. Yes, sir, the Grinch was as good as foiled with Mr. Bernie's state-of-the-art toy bin!
"Well, we'd best get back to work here," Mr. Bernie said jovially. "We got a store to run, lots of customers to wait on. Let's hustle!"
Joy went back to her designated register, relieving the cashier on duty there. Sondra went back to stocking shelves while Tory packed up the tools and carried them back to the storeroom, grateful only that his shift was coming to an end so he could get out of that two-bit toy store and back into the real world. Joy's register was closest to the bin; she kept one eye on it while she rang up merchandise for the customers lining up before her. A few people dropped a toy or two into it, but nothing suspicious happened. Confident that no Grinch was coming to steal anything, she relaxed her guard while she totaled up each customer's purchases.
The line wound down to the last two customers. A plump woman unloaded her overflowing cart onto the conveyer faster than Joy could slide them over the scanner. The slow procession of toys seemed endless as she scanned them one by one over the electronic eye set in the counter. This lady must have a lot of kids, Joy mused as she rang up the purchases. That, or a lot of grandkids, or nieces and nephews.
Finally, the last toy was scanned, the amount was totalled, the credit card swiped and approved, the receipt was signed, and the bagged toys were set back into the cart to be taken out of the store. Joy drew a deep breath and welcomed the last customer in her line.
The customer, a middle-aged woman with reddish-gold hair tied up in a nylon scarf, emptied her cart, only half full compared to the last one, onto the conveyor. She smiled as she read Joy's name tag. "Joy!" she exclaimed in delight. "What a lovely name! Especially for this time of year!"
"Well, thank you!" Joy replied.
The customer set a large teddy bear onto the belt. "You get any ribbing for it around Christmastime?" she asked.
Joy blushed. "Well, I get called Joy-to-the-world by my coworker a lot."
The customer laughed. "Oh, that's sweet."
The teddy bear went over the scanner. It didn't pick up the bar code at first, so Joy had to swipe it again. "Did you hear about the Las Vegas Grinch?" the customer asked.
The scanner finally picked up the code. "You mean the guy's who's been stealing toys from donation bins?"
"Oh, yes. Terrible, isn't it?" The customer leaned over conspiratorially. "In fact, there was a news bulletin just a few minutes ago when I was in the car. He stole a whole truckload of toys from some radio station that was having a toy drive!"
Joy paused in midswipe. "You're kidding me!"
"It's true! Someone boosted an entire truck filled with donated toys. I don't know how they did it, but it was there one minute, and the next minute it was gone! Sounds like professionals to me!"
Joy recalled the news broadcast regarding Criss Angel's donation to KLUC's toy drive. "Was it KLUC?" she asked.
The customer thought. "I think so," she said hesitantly. "I'm not really sure, but I think it was."
Joy rushed the rest of the toys over the scanner and hit Total. Boy, Criss is really gonna be mad when he hears about this! she thought.
When Criss did hear about it, he wasn't mad--he was furious! "Stolen?!" he exploded when he received the news about KLUC from his manager, Dave Baram. "What the (bleep) do you mean, stolen? How the hell can anyone steal an entire truck right off the lot in broad daylight?"
"First of all," Dave began, "it wasn't broad daylight; it was already dark out when it happened. Everyone had gone home for the day, the truck was locked up--my guess it was an inside job."
"Is there a Lojack on it?"
Dave shook his head. "Afraid not. The truck was marked with KLUC's logo on it, so it shouldn't be too hard to find. The police are on it right now."
"They'd better be," Criss growled, "because it's gonna be somebody's ass when I find him!"
11-29-2011, 04:46 PM
It was nearing closing time at Uncle Bernie's Discount Toys. Joy decided to spend her final break doing a bit of Christmas shopping of her own. With the ten-percent employee discount on top of the already cut-rate prices, she knew she could save a bundle buying toys for her nieces and nephews. Yes, sir, getting a job at Uncle Bernie's was the smartest thing she ever did!
The shelves were half-empty, but there was still enough merchandise for her to pick out suitable gifts: a soft-bodied baby doll for four-year-old Lyssa, complete with layette; a hook-and-ladder fire engine for six-year-old budding firefighter Kyle (she made sure to get batteries for the lights and siren, of course); a junior tool kit for ten-year-old craftsman Taylor; and a Fisher-Price Happy Apple for two-year-old Cole. She didn't bother with buying wrapping paper or bows--Mom had all that in abundance. Her five-minute shopping spree completed, she pushed her cart to the service desk to pay for her purchases and claim her employee discount.
As she wheeled up to the front of the store, her eyes fell upon the donation bin. Her thoughts fell back to the conversation she had with the red-haired customer about the theft of the radio station's toy drive truck being stolen. Her normally sunny demeanor clouded with indignation. How could someone be so callous, so selfish, to rob from those who had so little? Who could be so blind to others' needs? People spent part of their hard-earned dollars to buy those toys for needy kids only to have them stolen by some unscrupulous character! Whoever was responsible had out-Grinched the Grinch in her opinion.
Joy paid for her purchases at the service desk and was delighted to find that she had several dollars more than she thought she would have. Again she looked at the donation bin, secure in its open spot just by the entrance. Well, at least a few kids were going to have a merry Christmas, she thought, thanks to Mr. Bernie.
She was seized suddenly by an impulse to donate a toy herself. She hesitated at first, being a starving college student and all, but it was Christmas after all, she rationalized, and she should do her part to bring some holiday cheer to someone who needed it most. Not only would it be a good deed, it would be good PR for Discount Toys.
Back to the shelves Joy flew like a flash, and returned with the first toy she found on one of the display tables in the main aisle: a plush white teddy bear set in a cardboard display carton and sealed in shrink-wrap. The package had been smashed in at one corner and the shrink-wrap was torn, but it was still in good enough condition to donate. She paid for it using her discount, crossed over to the bin and, with a smile of satisfaction, dropped it in. She hoped that Mr. Bernie was watching her on the store surveillance camera. He would be so proud of her.
Back at the Luxor, Macaffey was winding up his shift for the day with the usual paperwork. He still wrote out his reports by hand as he had ever since he was a guard at the supermax; his typing skills were negligible at best, and he knew practically next to nothing about computers. He left all the technological business to Officer Rollins, a five-year man on the staff who knew how to use a PC so well he could have run Microsoft from his living room if he chose to (asking him if he had broken into the Treasury yet had become a running joke among the security staff), and so let him type up his notes and enter it into the system. Macaffey's job was to enforce law and order, not sit in front of a machine all day.
Macaffey finished up the last report and laid it in the Out bin on his desk for Rollins to pick up. He stretched his beefy limbs and rose to sign out for the day. Aside from someone's kid who had wandered off and ended up in the toy store, it had been a good day for him: quiet, no hassles. Even his back injury, the result of an inmate's attack on him with a piece of lead pipe during a prison riot, had given him no trouble during his shift. No need for a dose of asprin for the trip home. He signed out and headed for the locker room, whistling "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" as he went.
Inside the locker room, he saw Rob Houghton, his second-in-command, getting ready to take his place as top cop for the night. Rob looked up at Macaffey and smiled. "Well, someone's in the holiday spirit!" he said cheerfully.
Macaffey shrugged good-naturedly. "Can't help it," he said. "It's contagious."
"You have a quiet shift?"
"Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse," Macaffey quipped.
Rob laughed, but he could not help being a bit puzzled. Macaffey wasn't usually so jovial, not even when clocking out for the day. He was always so gung-ho about enforcing law and order around the hotel to the point of being militant. Guess it's true what they say about Christmas bringing out the best in people, he thought.
"Well, hope yours is as quiet as mine was," Macaffey said as he pulled on his coat. "Have a good one, Rob."
"Have a nice night, Luke," Rob said, waving good-bye.
Macaffey left the locker room and crossed the lobby to the parking garage. On his way, he saw none other than Criss Angel himself standing by the carport where his prized autos were on display. Of course, that in itself was no surprise: they were his cars, after all. What puzzled him was the glum look on the magician's face. Curious, he walked over to Criss. "Why the long face?" he asked. "Something wrong?"
Criss looked up at Macaffey. "Everything's wrong," he muttered. "You know that guy who's been going around stealing toys from those donation boxes?"
"What about him?"
"Well, it seems he struck again, big time this time around. He made off with the entire KLUC toy truck filled with all the toys that I donated over a week or two ago!"
Macaffey's good humor faded. "That son-of-a-(bleep)!" he hissed.
"I don't know what to do, Big Luke," Criss said helplessly. "I just don't know what to do."
Big Luke laid a hand on Criss' shoulder. "You let the law handle this," he said. "They'll get it back."
Criss's face creased in a sad smile. "Thanks, Big Luke."
"Now, you go do your show or whatever and don't worry about a thing," Macaffey said. "Things will work out okay, just you wait and see."
"I hope so, Luke," Criss sighed. "I hope so."
11-29-2011, 09:39 PM
Criss shouldn't worry whoever is stealing will be caught
11-30-2011, 02:56 PM
The evening darkened into night, then faded into day, and then faded into evening again. Joy was at work, happily stocking toys on the shelves with her co-workers, Tory and Sondra. Aside from the news of the stolen KLUC Toy Drive truck, she could find no reason to be glum. After all, it was close to Christmas. Besides, she was confident that the Grinch, whoever he was, would be caught soon, and all the stolen toys would be returned in time for all the needy boys and girls to get their presents on Christmas morning.
Joy had finished stocking dolls and went to work arranging the teddy bear display at the end of the plush animals aisle. The bears were the same make and model she had put into the donation bin yesterday, sealed in shrink-wrap and sitting in their cardboard trays. She arranged them in a semi-circular fashion so as to be spotted from all angles. Presentation is everything, Mr. Bernie had taught her. The more attractive the display, the better chance of sales. Joy marveled at Mr. Bernie's business acumen. I should just drop out of college and stick with him, she thought as she stacked the teddy bears on the shelves. He's much more knowledgable than my profs when it comes to business.
She picked up another package and noted it was damaged. In fact, it was damaged in the same way as the one she had bought the day before: the shrink-wrap was torn in the same place, and the same corner was crushed in. Could it be a coincidence? she wondered.
At the Luxor hotel, Big Luke Macaffey was leaving for the day. It had been a busy shift for him. For one thing, he and his men had nailed no less than five shoplifters during the afternoon alone, a record to be sure but not unusual for the holidays. Macaffey knew from hard experience that some idiots thought nothing of employing the old five-finger discount when doing their Christmas shopping. Thank God for the eye in the sky--it made his job a whole lot easier.
Tired, irritable, and yearning for a beer, Macaffey climbed into his Land Rover and drove off. Around him, the neon glare of the fabled Strip lighted his way toward North Las Vegas. He turned down a side street where the glow of Christmas lights made a feeble effort to compete with the flickering lights of the Boulevard. As he drove, he happened to glance toward the rear of Uncle Bernie's Discount Toys. Normally, he would have driven by without a second thought, but something in the loading zone caught his eye. It was a large truck, its rear hatch backed into the loading dock as if making a delivery. What really made him sit up and take notice was the lettering on the side of that truck: KLUC 98.5 Annual Toy Drive.
Alarm bells went off in Macaffey's mind. He sped up the driveway and toward the store's rear, determined to solve this mystery. If it was what he thought it was, someone was in for some serious ass-kicking.
Unbeknownst to Macaffey, a sleek black Dodge Viper was tooling down the street just behind him. It was purely coincidental that it was. Criss Angel just happened to be cruising down that same street with a couple of buddies of his: Sully Erna, of the band Godsmack, and the Amazing Johnathan, a rival magician and fellow prankster. Criss was stone cold sober (a DUI would tarnish his career), but his guests were well-lubricated from a few pre-party cocktails from the hotel lounge. Once the threesome found a suitable venue, Criss knew he'd be the one driving them home, unless he himself went over the limit; then he'd have to pour himself and his friends into a cab, leaving the Viper behind with the parking attendants. God forbid it should come to that.
The Viper shook from the vibrations of the powerful woofers thumping out a paint-blistering bass rhythim. Sully, the musician of the group, sang along with whatever was playing on the stereo as best he could. The Amazing Johnathan, for his part, kept sticking his head out the window and shouting "Merry Christmas, everybody! Merry Christmas!", until Criss insisted he pull himself back inside because he was acting like an idiot. "Hey, man," AJ said good-naturedly, "I just wanted to lift everybody's holiday spirits."
"I think you lifted a few holiday spirits too many already, Johnny," Criss retorted.
Sully laughed uproariously at Criss' quip. AJ went back to wishing everyone a merry Christmas. Criss just drove on, keeping his thoughts to himself. As much as he cared about his friends, there were times when he thought they were total dipwads and would like to be rid of them, especially when they were drunk. Note to self, he thought, stay sober all night long.
He glanced toward Uncle Bernie's Discount Toys and noticed a familiar Land Rover pulling up to it. "Hey, that looks like Big Luke's car," he commented.
"Who's Big Luke?" Sully asked.
"You know, Big Luke Macaffey, chief of security, hotel's top cop," Criss explained. "Big guy, used to be a guard at a supermax prison. Show no mercy and take no prisoners, that sort of thing."
"A real hard-ass, huh?" Sully grunted.
"They don't come any harder, I can tell you that." Criss replied.
"So, who the (bleep) cares?" AJ snapped. "He's probably buying presents for his kids."
"I don't think he's married," Criss said.
The Land Rover sped toward the rear of the store. Criss pulled alongside and spotted the KLUC Toy Drive truck backed into the loading zone. Suddenly, the whole scenario began to make sense. "Son of a (bleep)!" Criss exclaimed, swerving into the parking lot. "They got the toys!"
"Who?" AJ demanded. "What toys? Who got the toys?"
"The toys from the toy drive!" Criss replied, charging toward the loading zone. "Those (bleepers) stole those toys!"
Meanwhile, Joy took the damaged teddy bear back to the storage room, determined to clear up its sudden reappearance on the shelves. "I don't know what's going on here," she said to herself, "but I am so going to find out."
She burst through the heavy swinging doors and looked around. Piles and piles of toys were stacked all around her. They were not in shipping cartons, as was usual during a delivery, but were simply piled up at random, making a mountain of toys. To one side, however, she saw a neat stack of black and silver boxes. Upon closer inspection, she saw they were Criss Angel's Platinum Magic Kits, the same ones he had donated to the radio station's toy drive. She took one down and examined the cover. It had been autographed by Criss himself.
Joy hastily put the kit back and dashed out to the loading ramp. She read the KLUC logo on the side of the truck and felt a chill that didn't come from the cold night air. She recalled the Toys-R-Us invoice that she thought was a mistake--they must have been stolen, too! Again, she looked at the KLUC logo. There was no denying it: Uncle Bernie's Discount Toys was a front for stolen merchandise.
But what could she do about it? Well, there was only one thing to do, and that was to report this to the authorities. Shaking with fright, Joy pulled out her cell phone and dialed nine-one-one. She huddled behind the toys so as not to be detected.
"Nine-one-one, what is your emergency?" The insect-like voice of the dispatch operator seemed to echo throughout the dock. Joy cringed, praying no one heard.
"Hello, operator?" she spoke in a hoarse whisper, "You've got to send the police to Uncle Bernie's Discount Toys. This whole thing is a set-up! They're the ones who've been stealing all those toys from the donation bins! They've got the KLUC Toy Drive truck right here! You've got to help me!"
"You say they've got stolen toys at the store?" the operator said.
"Yes!" Joy hissed. "They're all stolen! Please hurry! No one knows I'm back here!"
"All right, ma'am, a unit's on it's way. I would advise you not to leave the store until it arrives."
Joy breathed a heavy sigh of relief. "Thank you."
She shut off her phone and stuffed it back into her pocket. Then she peeked around the pile of stolen toys to see if the coast was clear. Detecting no signs of life, she made a break for the swinging doors. Back inside the store, she stared at the dozens of customers pulling off toys from the shelves and placing them in their carts, unaware of the immensity of their actions. I've got to stop them! she thought wildly. I've got to tell them they're buying stolen toys!
There was a public address system right next to the doors. Joy siezed the microphone and turned it on. "Attention all shoppers!" she cried into the mike. "The toys you are buying are all stolen! I repeat, the toys you are buying are all stolen! Please return everything where you found them! I repeat, they're all st--!"
A heavy hand clamped over Joy's mouth, silencing her. She felt herself being dragged back into the storage area. She struggled to free herself, but the arm around her neck was too powerful to break away from. "Now, we can't have you scaring away our customers, now, can we, Joy?" she heard a familiar, jovial voice hiss in her ear.
Joy wrenched her head around and came face to face with Mr. Bernie himself. "It's bad for business," he added with an oily smile.
He pulled her along to the loading dock and stuffed her into a small delivery truck. "Sorry I have to do this to you, Joy-to-the-world," he said as he slammed the passenger door shut, "but I can't have anyone blowing my cover. You understand, don't you?"
12-02-2011, 10:07 PM
Sondra was finishing loading up the shelves while Tory was knocking down cardboard boxes to be taken to the dumpster outside when the public address system chimed for their attention.
"Attention all shoppers! The toys you are buying are all stolen! I repeat, the toys you are buying are all stolen! Please return everything where you found them! I repeat, they're all st--!"
There was a muffled squeal, then silence. Sondra looked at Tory. "That sounded like Joy," she said.
Tory merely stood there, indifferent as always. Sondra grew impatient. "Don't you get it, Tory?" she cried. "Or are you so thick-headed you don't understand the situation? Joy's in trouble here! She says all these toys are stolen! We're dealing in stolen merchandise!"
No response from Tory; the guy was a slug. Irate, Sondra stormed away from her apathetic co-worker and dashed into the storage area, anxious to rescue Joy from whatever horrible fate she faced. "Joy!" she screamed. "Joy! Where are y--?"
She arrived just in time to see Mr. Bernie shove Joy into the company van and slam the door in her face, then circle around to the driver's side, climb in, slam the door and speed off. Sondra ran after it, but it was too late--the van had sped out of the loading zone and toward the main road at double speed. She could only stand there, screaming Joy's name between sobs of shock and grief.
The boxy Land Rover and the sleek black Viper nearly collided with each other as they screeched to a halt near the loading zone. Both Criss and Macaffey shot out of their respective vehicles and headed for the toy drive truck, where they were greeted by a hysterical Sondra. Macaffey immediatly took charge of the situation. "All right, what happened?" he demanded.
"He took Joy!" Sondra shrieked. "She announced over the intercom that all the toys were stolen, then Mr. Bernie grabbed her and shoved her into the van! You gotta help her!"
Criss grabbed Sondra by the forearms. "Which way did they go?"
Sondra pointed toward the main road. "That way."
Criss bolted back toward the Viper. "You get the cops, Big Luke!" he shouted as he dived back into his car. "I'm going after 'em!"
The Viper sped away in pursuit of the van. Macaffey turned to Sondra. "Come on," he ordered her. "We got a mess to clear up."
In the van, Mr. Bernie sped on, heedless to Joy's sobs of protest. "You lied to me!" she screamed at him. "You lied to everybody! How could you do this to people, stealing toys meant for poor kids? It's Christmas, for God's sake!You're worse than Scrooge and the Grinch combined!"
"Listen, sweetie," Mr. Bernie said, pointing a pudgy finger at her,"it's time you got all those visions of sugarplums outta your head and start livin' in the real world! You wanna know the real meaning of Christmas? It's money, pure and simple! This time of year, everybody who's in retail is raking in the moolah selling crap produced in China or wherever, playing on everybody's guilt to make them buy it, especially parents! They make 'em feel like bad parents if they don't give their kids what they're advertising, so they shell out the extra bucks to make 'em feel good about themselves. No one gives a diddly-damn about charity and giving and all that bull(bleep)! It's all about the Benjamins, sweetheart, it's all about the Benjamins."
Joy could only stare at Mr. Bernie incredulously. "That's sick!" she exclaimed.
Mr. Bernie responded with a smug smile. "That's business, sweetheart!" he retorted.
The Viper streaked through the night like a fleeting shadow. Inside, Criss was explaining to his two friends what Sondra had told him. As the news hit home to them, Sully and the Amazing Johnathan grew sober in an instant.
"So that Uncle Bernie character is the Grinch?" AJ said. "He's the one who's been stealing all the toys from those donation bins?"
"And the guy who boosted the toy truck from KLUC," Criss added. "And, so help me, God, I am so gonna kick his ass when I get him!"
"I'll hold him for you!" Sully chimed in from the rear.
Suddenly, AJ sat bolt upright. "Hey, I think that's him!" he said, pointing ahead.
The Viper's headlights shone on the rear doors of the van. Sure enough, there was the logo for Uncle Bernie's Discount Toys painted prominantly on the back. Criss shifted the Viper into overdrive and floored the gas pedal, speeding up to the right of the van. Once he was parallel to the passenger side, he rolled down the window, leaned on the horn and shouted "Hey! Pull over! Hey! PULL OVER, YOU MOTHER(BLEEPER)! YOU GOT MY TOYS!"
The passenger door window rolled down, and Criss saw the face of a frightened young woman gesticulating wildly. Then she was pulled back into the van, and the window slid shut again. "He's got a girl in there!" AJ exclaimed.
Suddenly, the van began to swerve toward the Viper. Instinctivly, Criss swerved away, narrowly missing being sideswiped. The van swerved back into its lane. Criss cursed under his breath and kept pace, not wanting to lose either his control of the Viper or sight of the van. Again, the van swerved dangerously toward the Viper, then quickly retreated. Criss backed off just enough to prevent a collision. The jerking motions from the second attack caused the van to lose its center of gravity; it began to skid out of control. The three men in the Viper watched as the heavy van swayed crazily all over the road, then tumble sideways into the shoulder with a sickening crash.
Criss pulled over to the shoulder just past the overturned van. Dear God, I hope the girl's all right! he prayed silently as he parked the Viper by a guard rail. Please, God, don't let her be dead!
Sully and AJ followed Criss to the wreck. There was only silence down that stretch of highway, broken only by the wail of police sirens in the distance.
Meanwhile, back at Uncle Bernie's Discount Toys, hundreds of angry shoppers mobbed the service desk demanding refunds. Macaffey was doing what he did best: crowd control caused by crisis. He locked down the entire store, permitting neither entrance nor entry save for the police; he kept the refund line orderly simply by the sound of his foghorn voice, shouting over the din of irate customers without the use of the public address system; he ordered the remaining store staff to load up the stolen toys and pack them into the KLUC truck to be taken away as evidence. Only when the LVMPD arrived did the Luxor's chief of security tone down the volume on his vocal cords.
Detective Jim Meridian approached Macaffey. "A little out of your jurisdiction, huh, Big Luke?" he chided.
"Long story," Macaffey replied drily. "But we got our Grinch, or will be when they get him."
"Good job on the crowd control," Meridian complimented him. "Makes it a lot easier."
Macaffey simply nodded in response; bragging was unprofessional in his opinion. Then, a uniformed police officer stepped forward. "We got news of the van," he said. "It ten-eightied off the main road."
"Anyone hurt?" Meridian asked.
"No word of that yet," the officer replied. "But we got the Grinch at any rate."
"EMS on the way?"
"Yes, sir, they called 'em in."
"Good. Round up any witnesses if you can find 'em."
The officer left. Macaffey let out a huge breath of air. "As (bleeped) off as this mob is," he said, "that son of a (bleep's) gonna wish he was dead."
"What about the girl?" Meridian asked.
Silence and a shrug was the only answer Macaffey could give.
Red, blue and yellow lights flashed all around the accident scene as two of Las Vegas's Bravest pried the passenger door open with the Jaws of Life and pulled out a shaken, weeping Joy. Scared out of her wits, she fell into the first pair of comforting arms she encountered--those belonging to Criss Angel, who embraced her eagerly, relieved she was still alive. "Oh, my God!" she sobbed, "I thought I was gonna die! I thought he was gonna kill me!"
"You're okay, hon," Criss said softly. "It's all over now. It's all over."
"I can't believe he did that!" Joy cried. "I can't believe he was the one who..."
"Stole all those toys?" Criss finished for her.
Joy nodded. "He did it for the money, he said," she sniffled. "He didn't care about needy kids or anyone else for that matter. He said Christmas was all about making money."
"Well, he ain't gonna be making any money where he's going," Criss said. "Except for what he earns making license plates."
The quip made Joy smile a little. Sully came forward, followed by AJ zipping up his fly. "Everything okay here, Criss?" Sully asked.
Criss nodded. "Yeah, everything's okay," he replied. "At least for now."
Two police officers stepped in. One of them tapped Joy on the shoulder. "Ma'am," he said, "we need you to come to the station and file a statement."
Joy nodded wearily and followed the officer, stopping only to smile and wave good-bye to Criss, who waved back. The other officer pulled out his ticket book, ripped out a ticket and handed it to Criss. "What the hell is this for?" Criss demanded.
"We clocked you going one-ten in a fifty-five-mile-an-hour-zone," the second officer told him. "We'll need your license and registration, please."
"But I was going after the guy who--"
"License and registration, please, sir," the officer insisted.
Fretfully, Criss went to fetch the required identification. AJ laughed, gloating over his friend's predicament. "Hee, hee! Criss got busted!" he chortled gleefully.
His schadenfreud was cut short by the officer handing him a ticket of his own. "What's the deal?" AJ asked, bewildered.
"Urinating on a public highway," the officer intoned. "That's a hundred-dollar fine."
The officer returned to his squad car containing Mr. Bernie. Criss had produced his license and registration and showed it to the officer, who ran it though the system, found Criss' record clean (for the time being), and handed the documents back. Then he climbed into the squad car and drove off with a fuming Mr. Bernie in the back seat.
Criss turned to Sully and AJ. "C'mon," he grumbled, "let's go back to the Luxor. I don't feel like partying tonight."
AJ looked at his ticket for public urniation. "Me, neither," he said.
Our top story tonight: the so-called Las Vegas Grinch has finally been apprehended. The man responsible for the theft of thousands of dollars' worth of toys has been identified as Bernard Brockton, aka "Uncle Bernie" of Uncle Bernie's Discount Toys. The store was actually a front for stolen playthings taken from donation bins all across the metropolitan area, including KLUC's toy drive truck. Merchandise had also been hijacked from various delivery trucks from such companies as Toys-R-Us, FAO Schwarz and other toy retailers all over the county.
The scam was uncovered by an employee of the store, twenty-year-old Joy Reese of suburban Las Vegas. Ms. Reese, a business major at UNLV, had discovered the plot when she was stacking teddy bears at the store and found one she had purchased the day before and had placed in the store's own donation bin. From the store's own video surveillance cameras, the donated toys were taken out of the bin and replaced on the shelves to be resold. She was allegedly abducted by Brockton when she tried to warn shoppers of the scam, and was driven several miles down B--Road before the truck lost control and overturned on the shoulder. Neither Brockton nor Ms. Reese were injured. Brockton was taken into custody on charges of fraud and several counts of larceny. No charges have been pressed on Ms. Reese nor the staff of the store.
Meanwhile, thousands of angry shoppers mobbed the store demanding refunds from merchandise purchased at Discount Toys over the past month. All stolen toys will be donated to their respective charities. If you have purchased a toy from Uncle Bernie's since November twenty-fifth, please return it for a full refund.
Criss turned off the television set in his room. Beside him, Hammie flicked his tail in typical feline indifference. Well, Joy's all right, he assured himself, and Uncle Bernie's in jail. I guess this is gonna be a merry Christmas for a lot of kids after all. At least the KLUC truck's back with all the stuff I put into it. I wonder if there's anything on the radio about it.
He reached over and turned on his clock radio, already set to KLUC. What he heard made him laugh. Instead of serious news commentary, he was serenaded by the deep baritone voice of the late Thurl Ravenscroft, famous for being the voice of Tony the Tiger, singing an all too familiar, all too appropriate tune:
You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel.
You're a bad banana
With a greasy black peel.
You're a monster, Mr. Grinch.
Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You've got garlic in your soul.
I wouldn't touch you, with a
thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.
You're a vile one, Mr. Grinch.
You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile.
Given the choice between the two of you
I'd take the seasick crockodile.
You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You're a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk.
The three words that best describe you, are as follows, and I quote:
You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch.
You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a dead tomato splotched
With moldy purple spots,
Your soul is an apalling dump heap overflowing
with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable
Mangled up in tangled up knots.
You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch.
With a nauseaus super-naus.
You're a crooked jerky jockey
And you drive a crooked hoss.
You're a three decker saurkraut and toadstool sandwich
With arsenic sauce!
12-03-2011, 05:46 AM
best christmas story ever !!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)
12-03-2011, 11:22 PM
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