View Full Version : A Matter of Perception
10-22-2012, 09:10 PM
Crystal Rathbone gazed goggle-eyed at the neon wonderland that was the Las Vegas Strip, the constant changing panoply of light and color dancing and flickering before her pale blue eyes. Never in her fifteen years growing up in that one-horse town in southern Nevada had she seen such brilliance, such enticing attractions for entertainments (half of which she could never see because she was underage), and such glamor this side of Hollywood.
But there was only one attraction she wanted to see above all else, and that was Criss Angel, the hottest magician ever to grace the TV screen. She had seen him only on the small screen of her family's nineteen-inch set, with headphones on so as not to wake her parents. They didn't exactly hate Criss Angel, they just couldn't understand what she saw in him, so they simply chalked it off as a schoolgirl crush, puppy love as it was. They simply didn't understand how she truly felt about him. He was her Prince Charming, her Angel of Light bringing joy to her humdrum life. It wasn't a crush (Mr. Sylvester in junior high school--that was a crush), but genuine, adoring, unselfish love, the kind that leads to marriage and a happily ever after. She had scrimped and saved and went without a lot of little luxuries to afford to come here and see him, riding with her friend, Hayley, and chaperoned by her nineteen year old sister, Courtney. Haley was as big a fan of Criss Angel as Crystal, but Courtney was a hard-core skeptic, always cutting Criss down, blowing off his illusions as "camera tricks", grousing all the way to Vegas.
Now she was here, in Las Vegas, and down aways was the big black pyramid where her beloved lived, the Luxor Hotel. She and Hayley sat in the back seat of the car, keeping a sharp eye out for it. With the blinding bright apex and racing lights up the corners, it was not too difficult to spot.
"There it is!" Crystal squealed. "There's the Luxor!"
Hayley squealed in reply, jumping up and down on the seat. Courtney whipped her head around from the driver's seat. "Will you two get a grip?" she snapped. "It's not like we're going to be staying there! We can barely afford the room we got already!"
"But Criss is going to be there!" Hayley pointed out.
"Criss! Criss! Criss!" Courtney sneered. "It's always about Criss, isn't it? If I hear that phoney's name again, I am going to scream!"
"Criss isn't a phoney!" Crystal shot back.
"SHUT UP ABOUT (BLEEPING) CRISS!" Courtney shrieked. "The guy's a (bleeping) phoney and a fraud!"
She swerved around a corner and up the drive of a more modest motel off the Strip, slingshotting into the nearest parking space. She bolted out of the car, grabbing her purse from the front seat. "You two stay here while I check in," she ordered, and marched into the motel office.
Relieved that Courtney was gone for a while, Crystal and Haley pulled out their itinerary for Criss' latest demonstration to take place the next day, poring over the computer printout like generals strategizing for battle. They were going to be front row center even if they had to camp out overnight. It was going to be squeetastic!
Cole Shoope rode his dirt bike across the California state border towards Las Vegas. From his previous trips to Vegas, he had learned to stay off the main highway, stay on the side streets and cut across the desert so as not to be spotted. He was only thirteen, though tall for his age, and if the Highway Patrol caught him, he'd be up (bleep) creek without a canoe, let alone a paddle. But to see Criss Angel, his idol, it was well worth the risk. Criss Angel was the MindFreak, the immortal, the man who could bend and break the laws of nature at his whim. Criss Angel was God.
He had to keep his devotion a secret from his schoolmates, those upright, uptight cliquish All-American snobs at the private school his parents forced him to attend. They wanted him to be a lawyer, like his father and grandfather before him, but the very thought of being cooped up in some office writing legal briefs filled Cole with revulsion. No, his destiny lay with Criss Angel. He dreamed of being his protege, his apprentice, to study at the feet of the Master himself, as Criss studied under the legendary Houdini. His parents dismissed his interest in magic as a passing fad, though his lawyer father rationalized his impromptu performances as a way to develop public speaking skills and to be at ease before groups of people, a benefit for a future attorney. He was way off base as far as Cole was concerned. He just didn't understand--no one did.
Cole stopped before the sign on the desert road: LAS VEGAS 26 mi. He was almost at his destination. Tomorrow he would see his idol in action, performing another death-defying demonstration to prove yet again that he was the greatest magician who ever lived. As if he actually needed proof; his record spoke for itself. But Cole wanted to be there, to see Criss live in person. He had to witness it for himself, to learn from it. It was the only way.
Randy Winterfield, a long standing member of the Gideon society, stood on the corner of one of Vegas' busiest thoroughfares with a large cardboard carton filled with small New Testaments, handing one out to each passerby. Some took them, others turned him down, thinking he was a Jehovah's Witness or something. They didn't know that the Gideons had no affiliation with any particular denomination, but was a separate organization who spread the Gospel by placing Bibles in prisons, hospitals, military bases and hotel rooms. Today, Randy was handing out their pocket sized New Testaments to all who wanted one, smiling and greeting each person he met with "The Lord be with you!" He was doing God's work, and was happy as a clam.
A grungy looking character wearing heavy silver crosses around his neck came forward, a couple of cameramen in his wake. Randy smiled at him. "The Lord be with you!" he said.
Criss Angel stopped in his tracks. "And also with you," he responded in kind.
Randy handed him a New Testament. "We're giving out the Word of God for free today. No charge."
Criss took the small book. "Thank you," he said, looking at the green covered book no bigger than an iPod. "Say, would you like to participate in a little demonstration?"
Randy looked quizzically at Criss, but nodded all the same.
"Now, we never met before, right?" Criss asked him.
"Okay, all you have to do is open this book at random and pick out a chapter and verse," Criss instructed him. "But don't tell me what it is."
Randy did as he was told while Criss turned his back. "Found it," he said.
"Okay, is it...the Book of...Matthew, is it?:
"Is it verse...no, chapter seven, right?"
"Yes, it is."
"Book of Matthew, chapter seven...the first verse."
"Okay, show the camera."
Randy held up the small book in front of the lens, pointing out the verse Criss predicted. Criss shook Randy's hand.
"Have a blessed day," Randy said cheerily.
"Back at you, bro." Criss walked away, sticking the little book in the inside pocket of his leather jacket and thinking no more about it. He had to get to the Magic Castle for his scheduled afternoon performance, and he hated to be late.
Randy stared after Criss, then turned to the cameraman still remaining. "That was incredible!" he exclaimed. "It would have been even more impressive if he said the actual verse. It's 'Judge not, lest ye also be judged'. Still, it was pretty amazing how he did it--I mean, his back was to me all the time."
Mario Mendoza loaded his camera for the afternoon's shooting. He had caught some minor celebs on the Strip and got a few pix, but they weren't anything to write home about, or to the paper, either. He needed some real action--a fight, a celeb couple, someone cheating on their spouse--anything to make it worthwhile. This was Sin City, for crying out loud! Strippers, gamblers, mobsters! The day he was having, it might as well be Mayberry, RFD. Where was the action?
Mario looked around. Nothing. Maybe he should go back to his office, wait until nightfall. Maybe then things would start perking up. The nightlife always bought out the best--or worst, depending on your point of view--in people. Even a photographer for VERVE! magazine could have a slow day.
Wait a minute, hold the phone! There was Criss Angel coming up the street. Mario readied his camera. Wait for it...wait for it...aw, geez! He went into the Magic Castle, alone. No girls, no drunken behavior, nothing! Criss Angel going into the Magic Castle was like a priest going into a church. Big deal! Mario lowered his camera in defeat. He would wait until nightfall after all. No sense wasting his time chasing celebs when they wern't doing anything or with anyone else.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
It was right there, in black and white, plain as day, Hiram Block thought to himself, yet this wicked city continued to indulge the evil practices of that minion of Satan who dwelled in that pagan black pyramid in the heart of it, surrounded by heathen idols of the Pharoah who had been destroyed by the Hand of God Himself with the Seven Plagues. The city had forsaken the One True God for that sorcerer!
There would be a day of reckoning, he told the people. The Lord would smite down the armies of the Anti-Christ and raise up the true believers, casting the rest into eternal damnation. This modern day Babylon was doomed to perdition. Save yourselves, he pleaded. Save your souls! Repent, for the Day of the Lord was at hand!
They would not listen to him, Hiram Block, devoted servant to Christ. His warnings went in one ear and out the other with nothing to block traffic. They were too caught up in their gaming and flesh-peddling to heed him. But he would not give up. He would not succumb to the sin of despair. He would continue spreading the message of the Second Coming as long as there was breath in his body.
But lately, he'd been thinking, maybe it was time for a change of tactics. Words were easily ignored, but actions spoke louder. If he could find a way to rid this wicked city of the source of all its sin, then the road to redemption would be easier to trod. Cut it off at the root and throw it in the fire which there was no quenching.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. The answer had been in front of him all along. He'd been a fool not to recognize it before. True, the Bible forbade killing itself in the Ten Commandments, but when it came to witches, even the Lord made an exception. Yes, for the good of the city, for the good of America, for the greater glory of the Lord, Criss Angel must die.
10-23-2012, 02:24 PM
Crystal, Courtney and Hayley wrestled their luggage into their motel room, a modest two-bed paneled job that hadn't seen any redecorating since Ronald Reagan was President. The heavy purple drapes hung precariously from their rod, the veneer from the desk/dresser/TV stand was chipped off around the corners, the paisley bedspreads were frayed around the edges, and the whole room smelled of commercial disinfectant.
But, any port in a storm was safe harbor. It was the best Crystal and Hayley could do with their limited funds, and Courtney insisted they chip in for gas as well, since they drove here in her car (at the firm request of Hayley's parents, which Courtney grudgingly obliged, but not without protest). It left the pair with very little spending money, and, as they were too young to gamble in the casinos, had to make it stretch as far as possible. But it didn't matter. They were here in Las Vegas! Home of Criss Angel! Squeeeeeee!
Courtney claimed the bed closest to the bathroom, throwing her suitcase onto it. Hell of a way to spend a weekend, she thought, babysitting her kid sister and her friend to see that (bleepbleep) Criss Angel. Just what did they see in that guy, anyway? He wasn't even that good looking. He wore eyeliner and nailpolish--he must be gay. And he wasn't even a real magician--those stunts he pulled had to be camera tricks, or CGI, to fool gullible kids like Crystal and Hayley. She knew it was true. Well, she wasn't going to be taken in by that phoney! Not by a long shot. She was too smart for that.
She was supposed to be the official chaperone on this jaunt, making sure that nothing happened to her sister and her friend, but she was too tired to care when they announced that they were going sightseeing, though the only sight she knew they wanted to see was Criss Angel himself. She waved them off and prepared to take a shower. Maybe later she'd hit the clubs, so the weekend wouldn't be totally wasted. As long as she was here, she might as well make the best of a bad situation.
Meanwhile, Crystal and Hayley made their way down the fabled Vegas Strip. It was broad daylight, but no less magical. They peeked through the windows of the high-end boutiques, watched the Circus Circus parade with real elephants, and of course gushed over anything that had Criss Angel's face on it. It was heaven on earth; all that was missing was the Angel himself.
They rounded a corner where they encountered a young, blond man with wire rimmed glasses, handing out something from a cardboard box. He spotted the two girls and held out a couple of small books. "The Lord be with you," he greeted them cheerily. "We're giving out the Word of God for free, no charge."
Crystal and Hayley took the proffered Word of God and examined them carefully. They were small New Testaments, bound in lime-green vinyl, with gold-stamped lettering stating they were courtesy of the Gideons. Oh, well, they were freebies, so they thanked him and went on their way.
Hayley opened the front cover of her book and idly flipped through the first few pages. The introduction included the most famous passage of all, John 3:16, in twenty different languages. She pointed it out to Crystal, who shrugged indifferently.
"Well, maybe they have it in Greek," Hayley said, flipping the tissue thin pages. "Criss is Greek, you know."
Hayley had a point, Crystal conceded. Every Loyal worth their domain name knew of Criss Angel's Athenian heritage on both sides of his family, but for the life of her, Crystal had never heard or seen anything in the Greek language. Her curiosity piqued, she took up her own book and searched for the same passage.
"There it is!" Hayley squealed, pointing at the page.
Crystal studied the strange lettering. It was the same verse; she knew it by heart since her early days in Sunday School, but trying to make out ABC from Alpha Beta Gamma gave her the sense of knowing what it was like to be illiterate. How was it pronounced, she wondered.
"Would Criss know how to read this?" Hayley asked.
"Well, he was born in a Greek family, so I'm pretty sure he would," Crystal answered with some uncertainity.
They tucked the books into their purses and continued their Las Vegas adventure. They grew hungry as the afternoon passed, but their shoestring budget didn't allow for fancy meals, so they opted for the Golden Arches instead. Once inside, they ordered the most basic meal deal--burger, small fries, small diet drink. The cashier served them their order on a brown plastic tray with a smile, and the search began for a seat. The ones in front were already taken, so they had to venture all the way to the back, but even there seating was limited. In desperation, they approached a spindly teenaged boy sitting alone at a table for four.
"Is it okay that we sit here?" Crystal asked.
"Sure," said the teen, motioning them to sit.
The girls sat down across the teen on the padded vinyl chairs. "Thanks," Hayley said as she separated Crystal's order from her own. "We really appreciate it."
"Not a problem," the boy said. "We Loyals have to stick together."
"How did you know we were Loyals?"
"I saw your CA logo pendants," he replied, "and the same earrings."
"He's very observant, I grant you that," Hayley said to Crystal. She then turned to the boy. "I'm Hayley, and this is Crystal."
"Name's Cole," the boy said, shaking hands with the girls in turn.
"Nice to meet you, Cole," Crystal said.
Cole took a sip of his extra large Coke. "So," he said, swallowing hard. "You here to see the demonstration at the Luxor?"
The girls were startled. "We didn't know there was going to be any demonstration at the Luxor," Hayley said, surprised.
"Oh, yeah, it's gonna be so cool! He's gonna go--" He suddenly stopped short.
"Go on," Hayley pressed.
"Well, I'm gonna let you see for yourselves," Cole told them with a mischievious grin.
"Oh, come on!" Crystal pouted. "You're mean!"
"Yeah," Hayley chimed in. "Tell us what he's gonna do!"
"Nah, nah, nah!" Cole teased. "I don't want to spoil the surprise,"
"Well, can you at least tell us when?" Hayley pressed.
Cole leaned forward conspiratoirally. "Tomorrow, two o'clock, right at the main entrance."
"We'll be there," Crystal promised.
They finished their meal, and Cole treated them both to hot fudge sundaes, not caring if they did wreak havoc on their complexions. The restaraunt became more and more crowded, so they decided to enjoy them outside. The found one of the concrete patio tables available to sit and chat about their idol.
"How long you been a Loyal?" Cole asked the girls.
"Well," Crystal struggled to remember, "I first saw MindFreak on TV back in...what? Two thousand...five, I think. Yeah, when he still had long hair. It was, like, love at first sight, you know?"
"And she sort of dragged me into it," Hayley added. "She told me about MindFreak, but I really wasn't into magic at the time. I come from a family of skeptics; my sister is the worst one. She's always ragging on Criss, saying that it's all camera tricks and that he's a fraud and all that. She just doesn't understand at all."
"You think he's a fraud?" Cole asked her.
"No way! Once I saw him in action--not to mention how cute he was--I was hooked!"
"Has your sister ever seen his show?"
"Only to criticize him, cut him down. She'd be, like, 'It's all camera tricks, it's not real magic, he's faking it, it's fake glass, he's got another one in his hand'," and so on and so on. I have to watch it in secret just so I can have some peace!"
Cole nodded sympathetically. "The kids at school are pretty much the same way; either they never heard of him or they cut him down. Me? I think he's the greatest who ever lived. I wanna be like him, follow in his footsteps, you know? I wanna follow him like he follows Houdini. I (bleeping) worship him, man! He's my idol of idols!"
Crystal was stunned. "Man! You're really hardcore!"
Cole took that as the supreme compliment. "Thank you," he said, grinning from ear to ear. "What about you?"
"Well, we're not that much into his demonstrations, though they're exciting enough!" Crystal replied hastily, for fear of not being considered Loyal enough. "We just think he's hot!"
"Our favorite is the Naked Jail Escape," Hayley told him.
Cole nodded. That particular episode was always the number one favorite among female Loyals. Even with the more intimate parts of his anatomy blurred out, seeing Criss in the buff was still a huge turn on. Women didn't appreciate his craft so much as his swarthy good looks. Pity, he thought. They failed to see the whole picture of Criss Angel; they couldn't get past the surface.
"So, where are you staying?" Crystal asked Cole. "You have a room somewhere?"
"Oh, well, I really don't like hotels and motels--too noisy, not to mention expensive." Not to mention he was only thirteen and didn't have a driver's license. If they found out the truth, not only would they laugh in his face, but he'd be in super big trouble--his parents were gone for the weekend, and he had promised to keep an eye on the house while they were gone. Instead, he had made the long trek from their California border town to Las Vegas on his dirt bike, knowing the risks involved but accepting them if it meant seeing Criss Angel in person. "I bought my camping gear and I'm heading out for the country," he told them with adolescent bravado.
"Wow, you're really brave," Crystal said admiringly. "How old are you, anyway?"
"Sixteen," he lied. "Well, I gotta go now. Gotta set up camp before dark, you know. Nice meeting you."
" 'Bye, Cole!" the girls called out after him as he mounted his dirt bike and rode off.
"Wow," Hayley sighed. "You know, he's kinda cute. Not as cute as Criss, but still!"
"At least he was good enough to tell us about the demonstration tomorrow," Crystal said. "We owe him one for that."
"Hey, it's like he said, we Loyals have to stick together," Hayley reminded her.
Hiram watched as the two young girls left the patio of the McDonalds restaurant, sipping his cup of coffee. He had heard everything those deluded young people had said about Criss Angel, or Criss Devil as he preferrred to call him. That boy confessed to actually worshipping him, making him an idol in clear violation of the Second Commandment! And those two girls lusted openly over him--they had even seen him naked on TV! All the more reason to destroy that minion of Satan once and for all.
In their misguided praise for Criss Devil, they did provide one crucial piece of information--he was going to practice his black magic tomorrow at two for all the world to see at the heathen Luxor. The Lord works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. Hiram had stopped in just for a cup of coffee, that was all, and the Lord directed his feet to these followers of the Evil One himself to help him locate Criss Devil and exterminate him. He now knew where and when--all he needed to figure out was how.
10-24-2012, 11:02 PM
Night fell on the city of Las Vegas. At a time when most of America was winding down for the day, Sin City was just waking up, ready for another night of drinking, dancing, gambling, and partying. The fabled Strip glowed in all its neon glory, beckoning one and all to taste if not indulge in its pleasures. Tourists and citizens alike cast aside their inhibitions along with all the cares of the workaday world, reveling in the endless parade of night clubs, bars, casinos, theaters, and other attractions. Las Vegas, the Entertainment Capital of the World--let us entertain you! it cried out.
One entertainer in particular had just wound up shooting his TV show for the day. Criss Angel was tired, but he didn't want to go back to his suite and sleep. He wanted company, preferably female, have a drink or two and unwind. What good was being in Vegas if you didn't go out and party once in a while?
MindFreak had been shooting in one of the seamier sides of Vegas, where he had done some mentalism and sleight of hand for a few passersby in the neighborhood. They had freaked out, as always, but a lot of their reactions would have to be bleeped out by the editors. As darkness fell, the producers and crew began to grow uneasy: it was not the safest neighborhood to be in after dark, they told him. Gangs prowled the streets, drug dealers plied their trades in the alleys, and there were prostitutes on every corner. Criss watched as the camera crew hurriedly packed their equipment in the big black cases and rushed them up the ramps onto the trucks. He looked around himself. There wasn't any trouble as far as he could see, though that could change in a minute, he knew. Be prepared for anything, expect nothing, his martial arts instructor had taught him.
On a street corner he saw a scantily clad woman in very high heels and very short skirt, almost up to her crotch. She looked young, too young for Criss' taste. He approached cautiously, not wanting to attract too much attention either to himself or the young woman. As he looked closer, he saw just how young she was--she had to be fourteen at the most. The heavy makeup did nothing to make her look older or prettier--it was little more than a clown mask on her small face.
Appalled by the sight of this child, for child she was in his eyes, selling her tender young body on the street for God knew what reason, Criss knew that in good conscience that he could not stand idly by while a girl's youth was wasted on the cold mean streets of Las Vegas. He had to take action, but how?
He suddenly remembered the mission for which he had held a fundraiser that was not too far away: the Sanctuary Shelter for the Homeless, run by Pastor Beaman. Maybe he could help this poor girl. It was her only hope. But he couldn't just throw her in his car and drive her there; the press would have a field day if he was caught with an underage prostitute, even if his intentions were good. He wished he had the number to the shelter, so he could call them and have them pick her up. What to do?
Then, suddenly, as if by Divine intervention, came the solution, in the form of a cruising cab tooling down the street looking for fares. Criss put his fingers into his mouth and gave a traffic-stopping whistle to flag it down. The green and white cab slowed and pulled over to the curb. Criss went over to the girl on the corner. Her smile looked pasted on as she saw him coming; just another john for her to service in her eyes. But he didn't approach her like any other man who wanted to procure her services. No, this one meant business. Criss grabbed the girl by the arm and dragged her, protesting, to the cab. He yanked open the back door and shoved her in. "Hey!" she cried out. "What the (bleep) are you doing?"
Criss slammed the cab door and turned to the driver. "You know where Sanctuary Shelter is?"
"I know where it is," the cab driver replied in a heavy Middle Eastern accent.
Criss handed the driver a fifty. "Take this girl there, and ask for Pastor Beaman," he instructed. "Make sure she gets in there safely. Keep the change."
The driver took the fifty. "All right, I do that," he nodded, and he drove away with the flustered girl in the back seat of his cab. Criss sighed with relief. One less ruined life on the street, he thought. He turned away, but happened to see a paparazzi with his camera. He probably thought I was picking her up, he thought. Joke's on him! Criss greeted him with a one finger salute and went on his way, laughing to himself.
Mario Mendoza, photographer for VERVE!, had waited for this all day. The stars were out, and not the ones in the sky, either. Nighttime was when Vegas was the most alive, and he was out to capture the action. He cruised down the Strip, looking for any signs of a celeb doing something out of character, or something illegal, or something at all for that matter.
He swung by the lesser know part of the Strip and down a side street to circle back--there was a water main break up aways, so he had to detour--and drove cautiously down the unsavoury part of Sin City, where the real vice took place. He kept his eyes forward; to look from side to side would make him look like a tourist, and that would be inviting trouble.
Three large trucks blocked his way in the street. Great! he thought. First a water main break, now this! How the hell do I get out of this? Upon closer inspection, however, he saw just whose trucks they were. The MindFreak murals on the sides were a dead giveaway. Booyeah! Mario pulled over to the side and out came the camera. If Criss was in this hellhole, something had to be up, he figured as he climbed out of his SUV. Camera poised, he stalked his prey for a good shot.
There he was! On that corner--with a prostitute! And not just any prostitute, an underage one! Mario could easily tell just by looking at her. He hid himself behind a building across the street, eyes and ears peeled. Now he's flagging down a cab--very suspicious, indeed. Trying to cover his tracks and his ass by not using his own car, huh? Yeah, right. He's got her by the arm--flash! He's pushing her into the cab--flash! Now he's talking to the driver, handing him money. What's he saying? Something about a homeless shelter? Why the hell would he shack up with a little tart in a homeless shelter? Now the cab's driving away, and Criss is still standing there? What gives?
Mario lowered his camera, missing a great opportunity to take a picture of Criss across the street, giving him the finger. Undaunted, Mario vowed to follow up on this mystery. First, find the cab and the cab driver and pump him for some info. Next, find that shelter and the girl and get the lowdown from her. He was going to get to the bottom of this if it was the last thing he would do.
Darkness was falling, and Cole needed a place to spend the night. He was too young to check into a motel by himself, so he was screwed in that respect. He wished he did have some camping gear as he told Crystal and Hayley, so he could camp out under the stars. He wished he hadn't lied to them like that. He should have thought of a way to talk them into letting him spend the night at either of their houses; it wouldn't have been like he was going to sleep with them, just have a roof over his head for the night. He would have slept in the garage if they had let him. But then, their folks would have reported him, and it would be good bye Criss Angel demonstration and the rest of his social life as well.
Cole cruised around the side streets, noting that his gas gauge was hovering around E. He had to find a place, and soon. This neighborhood looked pretty (bleepy), with empty buildings covered with gang graffitti. Gangstas used white boys like him for target practice, or as a punching bag. He was about to turn around when he saw the sign: Sanctuary Shelter for the Homeless. Well, any port in a storm, as his dad would say. Technically, he was homeless, if only for the night.
He pulled over to the garage where the van was kept. His luck held when he found the side door still open, and he hid his dirt bike inside, taking care to chain the wheels together so it wouldn't be stolen. Then he walked up to the shelter entrance, working on his cover story in his mind.
A large African American matronly type smiled warmly as he entered the lobby. "Hi, honey, " she greeted him sympathetically. "You lost or something?"
Cole lowered his eyes in shame. "Well, I...I ran away from home, see, and, well...I need a place to spend the night, see. Just until morning."
The motherly volunteer put her arm around his shoulder. "Now why did you run away from home?"
Cole thought fast. "Well, I got into a fight with my folks, see, and I ran away." He began to sniffle, wiping his dry eyes. "Now, I'm scared, but it's too dark to go home again. Could I just stay the night here, until morning? Please?"
"Aw, honey, we can call your folks right now, and they can pick you up." The volunteer picked up the phone.
Cole panicked. "No!" he said, clutching her hand and the phone. "I don't want them to know I'm here."
The volunteer lowered the receiver. "Your parents abuse you or something?"
Cole nodded. "Yeah. They got a drinking problem, you know? They both do. I just wanna stay here until they sober up in the morning, and things cool down, okay?"
"Well, all right, honey, you can stay here," the volunteer said. "But first thing in the morning, we call your folks and straighten things out, understand?"
Cole threw his arms around the volunteer. "You're such a nice lady," he gushed. "I promise to be real good, I won't cause any trouble."
"I know you won't," said the volunteer. "Now, let's get you some food. You look like a bag of bones." She led him down a corridor. "Cafeteria's over here. Then we'll get you a bed."
Score! Secretly elated, Cole followed the volunteer to the cafeteria. This was better than he planned. Free food, place to sleep--perfect! He just had to remember to clear out before they tried to contact his mom and dad. If they contacted them, that is. They weren't even home, he remembered. All they'd get was their voicemail. If he got home in time, he could delete it and no one would be the wiser. Either way, he'd get away with it. God, he was brilliant!
10-25-2012, 07:33 PM
Mahmood Musavi drove his cab up the street to the shelter where Criss Angel had directed him. He knew the place well enough, though he had never been inside. It was the only refuge for the homeless beggars wandering the streets of Las Vegas; for many it was the only home they would ever know. It had been an abandoned warehouse converted into a Christian run mission dedicated to relieving the misery of poverty, drug addiction and abuse. It struck Mahmood as curious that there was so much poverty in a country as wealthy as America. When he and his family came here for Syria, he had believed that everyone had a big beautiful house with a car to drive, and they would want for nothing. The reality was that the big beautiful houses belonged only to a few fortunate people, and there was as much want here as there was back in his own country. But he adapted, learned English, and got a job driving a cab. It paid well enough, with tips, to keep body and soul together.
But the tip he received this evening would do more than keep body and soul together, thanks be to God and Criss Angel. Oh, yes, he knew who it was that gave him fifty dollars for an eight-forty fare--he had seen his face on the billboards and television ads often enough. He had even seen him perform on the street once; a girl not much older than the one in the back of his cab had been chosen from the crowd of people and made to float before their very eyes! There were no wires that he saw, nothing that betrayed any trickery on his part. She just hung motionless in the air in a complete trance. That had taken place a few months ago, and it still astonished him.
Of course, as a devout Muslim, he had been taught that such acts of magic were the work of the djinn, or demons. But even the sultans of old had the Magi to not only entertain, but to give counsel in other matters, for they were holy men devoted to knowledge as well as mysticism. Criss Angel would have been in great demand in any royal court for his skills. True, he did not practice "magic", but created illusions to fool people into thinking they had witnessed miracles. And he had fooled them well.
But his kindness to the girl sitting in his cab, well, that was no illusion. Mahmood had become skilled in reading people's faces after seven years of driving a cab; he could tell just by looking that Criss' concern for this unfortunate child was genuine. To give him fifty dollars to deliver her to the Christian mission showed his generosity as well. May God reward his good deed, he thought.
Mahmood pulled up to the entrance of the shelter with practiced ease. He got out of the cab and opened the back door to let the girl out. "Come along," he ordered her impatiently. "I don't have all night."
The frail girl with the overly made up face emerged from the cab slowly, unsure of her new surroundings. Mahmood took her by the arm and pulled her to the front doors of the shelter. He pulled open the glass door and entered with the girl in hand.
The matronly volunteer stared curiously at the pair. "May I help you?" she asked warily.
"I was told to bring this child here to a Pastor Beaman," he explained bluntly. "She is to stay here with him."
The volunteer looked at the sullen girl hiding behind a face full of makeup and sighed inwardly. Another teen prostitute, she thought. Lord knew how many girls the Pastor had rescued from a life on the streets, and yet they kept on coming. "We'll make room for her here," the volunteer told him. "Lord bless you for bringing her here. Uh, how much do we owe you for the fare?" She began to open the cash drawer.
Mahmood held up his hand. "Not one penny," he said. "Her fare has already been paid by the one who sent her here."
The volunteer closed the cash drawer. "Well, Heaven bless whoever it was!" she exclaimed. She then turned to the girl. "Young lady, you should thank God that He sent an angel to look out for you." She turned to Mahmood. "Who sent her here, anyway?"
Mahmood could not help but laugh. "You answer your own question, mum!"
The volunteer looked at Mahmood bemusedly. "What are you talking about?" she demanded.
"You say God sent an angel to help this child," he smiled, chuckling, "and you are right. He sent an Angel--Criss Angel! Hee! Hee! Criss Angel send her here!" And with that, Mahmood walked out of the shelter, laughing at his little joke.
Mario Mendoza waited by the cab where he saw Criss Angel throw the girl in. He had watched as the driver took the girl into the shelter, speak to some lady inside, and leave. Now he was coming back to his cab. Mario waited patiently as the driver, a Middle Eastern type approached. Mario hoped he spoke English well enough, if at all.
Mahmood saw Mario standing by his cab. "Need a ride, Mister?" he asked.
Well, his English was good enough, Mario thought. That was a relief. "I just want to know who it was you drove here," he replied.
"What business is it of yours?" Mahmood snapped.
"I noticed it was Criss Angel who put her in your cab," Mario replied. "You know who he is?"
"Yes, I know, and what business is it of yours?" he repeated irritably. "I got work to do! You need a ride or not?"
"Just answer me this," Mario said patiently. "Why would a big star get involved with a teen prostitute. You know she is a prostitute, don't you?"
"He tell me to take the girl here to the shelter, that's all. He tell me to take her to the Pastor Beaman. Now, you need a ride or not? If you don't, get away from my cab!"
Mahmood slipped back into his cab and sped off, narrowly missing running over Mario's foot by inches. Mario stood there, stewing. Well, he wasn't much help, he thought. Maybe inside the shelter, that lady he was talking to--maybe she could shed some light on this mystery. He turned and went into the shelter. The lady the driver spoke to was still there.
"May I help you?" she said to him.
"Uh, yeah, I need to know about that girl that cabbie just bought in. You know anything about her?"
The volunteer shook her huge head. "No, we don't have a record of her yet," she replied. "I do know that Criss Angel arranged to bring her here. He paid that cab driver himself to bring her here. He's such a good man, that Criss Angel," she sighed wistfully. "You know, he sold two of his fancy sports cars to raise money to build this shelter? Yes, he did! Raised a quarter of a million dollars! And now he rescued that poor child from the streets! He certainly lives up to his last name, that's for sure!"
Mario sighed defeatedly. Here he had what he thought would be a big scoop, a major scandal involving the most famous magician in the world and an underage prostitute, and he turns out to be a Boy Scout! Mario couldn't win for losing.
Randy Winterfield drove his van to the temporary Gideons headquarters in a local motel. He had had a busy day, with that visit from Criss Angel, the magician, being the highlight of his afternoon; he was still freaked out over it. Now all he wanted was a bite to eat and a good night's sleep, for tomorrow would be even busier. The Gideons had arranged for new Bibles to be placed in the suites of the Luxor Hotel and Casino. As large as it was, it would take him all day to deliver them to each suite.
Randy entered his single room, crowded to the ceiling with cartons of Bibles and New Testaments, leaving barely enough room to walk around. He flopped down onto the mattress, exhausted. Lord, thank You for the blessings of the day. May those who read Your Word find salvation and peace. Amen.
Suddenly he shot upright. He had forgotten to make one very important delivery to the Sancutary Shelter for the Homeless, and he had promised he'd make good on it. He got up, grabbed the keys to his van, and shot out of the door. Pastor Beaman was counting on him, and he wasn't going to let him down.
In his dingy home fifty miles from Las Vegas, Hiram Block was reading the same Word of God for his own purposes. The deeper he delved into Scripture, the more convinced that the Lord wanted him to get rid of Criss Devil. He read on, reaching the fifth chapter of St. Matthew:
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into Hell.
And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into Hell.
Hiram pondered on these two verses. He had known them from his earliest boyhood, but now the meaning was clear. Cut off the source of the sin and cast it away, so as not to contaminate the whole. Root it out like a weed on the lawn, or it would grow back.
He set aside his dog-eared Bible and pulled open a small drawer under the lamp table. He reached in and took out a revolver, freshly cleaned and oiled just yesterday. His father, God rest his soul, had bequeathed it to him on his deathbed, instructing him to use it only if he absolutely had to. He had so promised, and now the time had come to fulfill it. Tomorrow, he would cut off the right hand of Satan and cast him into Hell. It would be profitable for him, indeed.
10-26-2012, 12:46 AM
I hate narrow minded people
10-26-2012, 09:53 PM
Criss was tired, hot, sweaty and hungry. He sat in the back of the large black SUV, swigging a bottle of water. His brothers, JD and Costa, his manager, Dave Baram, and his producers rode with him, poring over every last detail of the episode, what to edit, what to keep, what worked, what didn't, and on and on and on, but he was too tired to care at the moment. He just wanted to go home, take a shower, eat and relax. It had been a long day of shooting in the hot Nevada sun; he thought he'd be used to it by now after living five years in the desert, working in temperatures that would have given lesser men heat stroke.
Something his brother, JD, said snapped him out of his drowsy state. He jerked his head to full alert. "What'd you say, bro'?" he said.
"I said, what was with you and that girl?" JD repeated.
Criss was still in a fog. "What girl?" he asked.
"That girl on the street corner. You know, that little streetwalker?"
It finally clicked in Criss sleep-deprived brain. "Oh, yeah! Her! Yeah, I saw this girl turning tricks on the corner there--she couldn't have been more than...what?...fourteen at most. Anyway, I felt sorry for her, and then I remembered that Sanctuary Shelter wasn't too far from here--"
"That homeless shelter you raised money for?" JD inquired.
"Yeah, that's the one. Anyway, I managed to get a cab and told the driver to take her there, ask for Pastor Beaman. So, that's one less teen prostie on the street."
"You're a real Boy Scout, Criss," JD said with a tinge of sarcasm.
"Just hope the press don't get hold of it and blow it out of proportion."
Criss sat up. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that you being seen with a teen prostitute could damage your career," JD pointed out. "There are a lot of people who'd love to see you take a fall, Criss. Even if you stated you were acting out of the goodness of your heart, they'd never go for it. People believe what they want to believe, no matter what. 'My mind is made up, so don't confuse me with the facts', that sort of thing."
"Hey, I didn't get into the cab with her--hell, I barely touched her!" Criss protested. "If they don't believe me, they can call the shelter and see for themselves. I'm innocent here--ask anyone. There was even a paparazzi across the street taking pictures, and even he saw what really happened."
Now it was JD's turn to become alarmed. "A paparazzi? Do you know what that means? He can sell those pictures to some sleazy tabloid, they'd turn it around six ways to Sunday, and you'd have a major scandal on your hands! You're in really hot water here, Criss. You'd better watch your back from now on."
"Relax! Like I said, they can call the shelter and find out the truth for themselves. I helped a little damsel in distress and you're worried about a scandal? I didn't do anything! I am completely innocent." Criss leaned back with an air of self-satisfaction. "It's gonna be cool, JD, don't worry. No one can prove anything against me."
Jim Close, Assistant Editor of VERVE! magazine, sat at his cluttered desk in his cluttered office, reviewing news articles. He was suddenly interrupted by an excited Mario Mendoza bursting through the door, waving some photos over his head triumphantly.
Jim glared at Mario irritably. "Don't you ever knock, Mendoza?"
Mario rapped a few times on the already opened door. Jim rolled his eyes to the ceiling. Mendoza was a damn good photographer, but he could behave like a horse's ass at times. He was the type who lived for getting the goods on anyone whose name was even remotely familiar to Mr. and Mrs. America. Mario hunted scandal like a lion hunted antelope, stealthily, untiringly, unmercifully. When he came into his office like that, it meant he had another kill to his record.
"So, what d'you got this time?" Jim asked him in a bored tone.
Mario slapped down the pictures in triumph. "I caught Criss Angel with a teen prostitute just an hour ago!" he crowed.
Jim studied the pictures. One showed Criss standing next to her, taking her by the arm, the next showed the girl getting into a cab. It looked pretty convincing so far, but something didn't click. For one thing, why would Criss Angel shack up with a girl like her? And take a cab when he had his own fleet, or a limo waiting for him? And why was he just standing there, ramrod straight, while the girl got in? He didn't even look like he was going to get in the cab.
Jim looked up at Mario. He knew that Mendoza had a way of twisting a story around to make someone look bad; he'd been doing it for years. Thank God VERVE! had fact checkers on it's staff, or his ass would be grass as far as the publishers were concerned. Jim was going to grill Mendoza to get the truth out of him if he had to choke him with his own camera shoulder strap!
"Okay, Mendoza," Jim said, staring the photographer squarely in the eye. "Tell me what really happened. If you're not square with me, so help me, I'll..."
"Hey, Jim! Take it easy, willya? I saw Criss Angel on that corner, talking to that girl, he gets a cab and she gets into it."
"Did Criss get into the cab with her?" Jim wanted to know.
"Well, no, but.."
"But what, Mendoza?"
"Well, maybe he sent her on ahead somewhere to meet later, you know? Arranged a little liason somewhere private?"
"Mendoza, we don't publish anything on 'maybe'! We get the facts, understand? I don't see anything here that suggests Criss was going to shack up with some little teen tart on the street corner. I want the truth, Mendoza! What did you see and what did you hear?"
Mario raised his hands in surrender. "Okay, fine. He told the cabbie to take her to some shelter, or something like that. You satisfied?"
"Okay, I'm gonna get someone to check it out. Maybe we can use it after all. But." He pointed a knobby finger at Mario. "You'd better watch your back from now on, Mendoza. If we publish false or misleading information, we'd get our asses hauled into court faster than you can say watch the birdie! We're an entertainment news magazine, not some sleazy yellow tabloid rag! We got standards here! Capisce?"
"Yeah," Mario nodded grudgingly. "I capeesh."
"Good." Jim sat down. "Now, if you really want to cover Criss Angel, he's got a demonstration in front of the Luxor tomorrow afternoon. Get me some pictures of it for an exclusive. And no muckraking! You're a photographer, not a photojournalist."
"Got it," Mario mumbled, cursing under his breath.
"All right, now get out of here!" Jim waved him away and went back to his reviews.
Mario left. Oh, he'd get some pictures all right, no doubt about that. He knew that Criss Angel had rock star status among teenage girls, and they'd be there in droves. If he could catch him in the act of doing something "inappropriate"...
Oh, yeah, Criss, you're going down. And you are going down hard. I can see the headlines now: FALLEN ANGEL. Oh, that would be so sweet! You may be on top of the hill now, but when I get the goods on you, you're gonna be flapping your broken wings in the gutter, and you won't be able to levitate out of it no matter how hard you try, you overblown two-bit party magician. Yeah, I know you for what you really are. You're riding high, but I can bring you low with the right photos. Just you wait and see.
Randy Winterfield drove his van to the service entrance of the Sanctuary Shelter for the Homeless. It was late, he knew, but he had promised to deliver one hundred Bibles to the shelter for the residents. One hundred books may seem a lot at first glance, but with the homeless situation reaching crisis proportions, with more and more people seeking help than the shelter's resources could provide, it wasn't enough. He could only pray that his small offering of the Word would help even one resident turn his or her life around.
He parked by the loading dock, got out of the van, and walked over to the receiving office door. It was locked, so he rang the bell, which echoed loudly inside the storage warehouse. Through the wire mesh reinforced window he saw a familiar face approaching. It was Pastor Beaman himself who opened the door for Randy.
"Hey, Pastor!" Randy greeted him.
"Randy! Good to see you!" The two men happily shook hands. "Come on in!"
Rnady entered the warehouse, stacked with boxes and cans of food, donated clothing, and other necessities. "I got those Bibles you asked for," he told the pastor. "We could only turn out a hundred for now, but we promise to get more in the future. Printing costs have really gone up lately."
"Lord bless you, Randy," the pastor smiled at him. "Whatever you and the Gideons can contribute will be greatly appreciated."
"Thank you, Pastor. You wanna give me a hand with these boxes."
The Pastor pointed to a hand truck standing in the corner. "You can use the dolley over there," he said to him. "One hernia operation's enough for me, thank you."
Randy winced. "Ouch!" he said. He went for the hand truck. "You know, a funny thing happened to me today. I was passing out our pocket New Testaments when I saw that magician, Criss Angel. You know him?"
Pastor Beaman laughed. "Know him? He raised money for this shelter! Sold a couple of his fancy sports cars and a motorcycle at an auction for it--quarter of a million dollars we got!"
Randy was impressed. "Well, the Lord bless him for it. Anyway, he comes up to me, I give him a book, and he tells me to find a verse in it while his back was turned to me. Well, I found Matthew seven-one. And would you believe it, he nailed it spot on! And his back was to me all the time! I don't know how he did it!"
"Well, that's what he does, you know? Besides, there's a trick to it." the pastor said.
"Yeah?" Randy replied as he loaded three big boxes onto the hand truck. "I'd sure like to know what it is!" He wheeled the boxes into the warehouse. "Still, it was pretty scary in a way."
"Ah, he's just into it for the entertainment value," the pastor said dismissivly. "He just makes people think he can do magic. He's really a good God-fearing man--I know him."
"Well, there's a lot of people out there who would disagree with you there, Pastor," Randy countered as he lifted the boxes of Bibles onto a shelf. "I heard a lot of rumors of Criss being in league with the devil. I even saw one site on the Web that claimed that he was the Anti-Christ."
Pastor Beaman sniffed derisivly. "That's a lot of horsehockey!" he exclaimed. "I know Criss Angel better than they do, and I can truthfully say that isn't the case."
"Well, I'm glad you say so, Pastor," Randy replied. "Me? I really don't give it much thought. Anyway the Anti-Christ is going to be a political figure, not an entertainer. And I got more deliveries tomorrow, so--" Randy put the hand truck back in its corner. "I'll see you soon."
"Good to see you again, Randy," the pastor said, shaking his hand in farewell. "Lord bless you."
"Lord bless you, too, Pastor," Randy returned as he got into his van and drove away.
Pastor Beaman turned and walked back to his office. Tomorrow, he would distribute the Bibles as best he could. A hundred wouldn't be enough for all of the residents, he knew, but he'd have to do his best with what he had. He was a past master at making do with little, stretching every dollar to its breaking point to cover expenses. If it hadn't been for Criss Angel, a man who lived up to his name no matter what the naysayers charged against him, this shelter wouldn't even be here.
Criss Angel the Anti-Christ? Horsehockey! There was no solid proof that it was so. People had believed Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and even Ronald Reagan to be the Anti-Christ, but the world went on, with no rapture, no destruction, no anything form Revelations. True, Christians had always been a little freaked out over magic and conjuring, but Criss was a stage magician, no more, no less. He was an entertainer, just as he told Randy. There wasn't a Satanic bone in his body. Why would he sell two expensive sports cars to raise money for a Christian based mission if he was a Satanist? Answer that, you holier-than-thou Pharasees! he said to himself. And didn't he just bring in some poor child off the streets who had been peddling her body for money, paying her fare out of his own pocket like the Good Samaratan? Was that the act of a Satanist? He thought not! Those critics knew what they could do with their false witnessing against Criss Angel! He was a better Christian than they'd ever hope to be! Besides, what had they done for his mission lately? No matter what anyone else said, Pastor Beaman vowed to stand by Criss Angel to the bitter end.
"We're gonna see Criss Angel!" Crystal and Hayley squealed in girlish delight as they burst into the motel room. "We're gonna see Criss Angel!"
Courtney looked away from the large mirror by the TV set. "What are you two all excited about?" she grumbled as she adjusted her earrings.
"Criss Angel is going to do a demonstration in front of the Luxor!" Crystal announced gleefully. "Oh, God! I can hardly wait 'til tomorrow."
"A demonstration of what?" Courtney sneered. "How big a jerk he is? He doesn't have to do it in front of a crowd--he's already proven that."
Hayley looked annoyed at her older sister. "Courtney, what is your major malfunction?" she demanded. "You've been ragging on Criss ever since we got here."
"I'm not 'ragging' on him," Courtney protested as she applied lipstick. "I'm merely pointing out the truth. He's a fraud and a loser. And personally, I think he's gay."
"He's not gay!" Crystal and Hayley chorused angrily.
"Sure he is," Courtney argued. "A guy who wears eyeliner and nail polish, can't commit to a relationship with a girl--he's gay."
"Actors always wear makeup when they're on stage," Hayley pointed out. "And he's been too busy with his shows to commit to a relationship to anyone."
"I still think he's gay."
Hayley was about to protest, but Crystal held up her hand. "Let it go, Haye," she said. "Everyone's entitled to their own stupid, misinformed opinion. We know the truth, and that's all that matters."
Courtney finished making up her face and picked up her evening bag. "Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going out. As long as I'm here, I might as well make the most of it. You two are on your own. I'll be back later. Much later." She sailed out of the room, leaving the scent of Chanel in her wake.
Hayley flopped down on the bed. "God! I don't know what to do about her!" she groaned. "She's always on my case about something. Everything I like, she trashes. And she criticizes everything I do, picking it apart to find the tiniest flaw. She hasn't said a kind word to me ever since I was born, it seems! I mean, what did I do to offend her?"
Crystal sat down by her friend. "You got born after her, is what," she replied. "She was an only child before you came along, getting all the attention and whatever. Then you came along and stole the limelight from her. It's like that with me and my brother, Chad. He was six when I was born, and he made my life a living hell until he went into the Army and got sent to Iraq. Now, I miss him something fierce. Every day Mom waits for a letter from him, or a phone call in the middle of the night from him. When we do get one, it's like a big celebration. Five years ago, he wouldn't have given me the time of day. Now, he asks me how's school going and stuff like that."
"Well, fine for you, Crys," Hayley retorted. "Maybe if Courtney went to Iraq, she'd be nicer to me, you think?"
Crystal giggled. "Well, give it time, Haye," she said. "We all gotta grow up sometime--she's just a late bloomer, that's all. I mean, she's so immature, you know?"
Hayley smiled. "Yeah, maybe you're right," she conceded. "She's gotta grow up sometime."
"So, let's just forget her and concentrate on how we're gonna meet Criss. We gotta get up really early so we can get a good spot. Did you bring your camera?"
Hayley nodded. "Good!" Crystal said. "Now, here's what we do...."
Cole Shoope sat on one of the metal folding chairs in the chapel, listening to the evening devotional service, a requisite for spending the night here at Sanctuary Shelter. His soul writhed with boredom as he allowed the words of the pastor to wash over him like so much surf, with nothing sinking in. He had heard it all before in church, when his parents used to go to church. Instead, he concentrated on trying not to gag from the stench of the bum sitting next to him. Geez! Couldn't they give the guy a shower before coming to church? He stank worse than the gym locker room at school!
But he was stuck here for the night. He began to really wish he had bought camping gear like he told those girls at McDonalds. Then he wouldn't be sitting here, choking on the fumes of some dude's dirty body and clothes. This (bleeper) could burn a hole in the ozone layer!, he thought. Guess that's what I get for lying my way in here.
But then again, this was the very shelter Criss had raised money for with that auction. Cole felt a cosmic bond between himself and this mission he was in. Yes, it was destiny that bought him here. The Spirit of Criss Angel had guided him here so he wouldn't have to sleep on the steet. And tomorrow, Criss himself would appear in person at the Luxor, yet he had no idea what the demonstration was. Would he risk life and limb in some death-defying escape, as he had in the past? Maybe, since he was here in the chapel, he should pray for him. Yeah, that would be a good idea, he thought.
Cole bowed his head, folded his hands and closed his eyes. Dear God, thank You for Criss Angel. Keep him safe when he does his demonstration tomorrow. Don't let anything bad happen to him. Remember, he built this shelter for the poor. You owe it to him to keep him safe. And please, God, when I get home, don't let my parents find out I came here to Vegas on my dirt bike, 'cause if they do, I'm dead! I'll drop some money into the donation box on my way out if You do. Amen.
Hiram Block slowly and painfully knelt by his bedside for his final prayer of the day. It was a habit he had kept since he was knee high to a grasshopper with his mother, God rest her, beside him, teaching him his prayers. It was his favorite childhood memory, one he always recalled with a smile this time of night. Even at sixty-five, though arthritis had stiffened his left knee and he had had hip replacement surgery two years ago, he still humbled himself before the Lord every night in the same manner. He folded his weathered hands and bowed his head.
Heavenly Father, he prayed, I thank Thee for the day Thou hast given me. I ask of Thee to arm me with the sword of righteousness, for tomorrow I go and destroy that minion of Satan, the one who calls himself Criss Angel, but who in fact is really a Devil in disguse, and the Devil hath the power to assume a pleasing shape. My faith in Thee is my shield, my armor. Give me the strength of a thousand men to cast the Evil One into the depths of Hell where he belongs! Free this benighted city from the grip of the Anti-Christ! Let Your power and glory be revealed at last, so that the whoremongers and fleshpeddlers may be driven out as Thou hast driven out the moneychangers from Thy Temple. Guide Thy people who have steered from the straight and narrow path back to Thy bosom. Let me by Thy right hand to deliver justice! Let me bring ruin upon the heads of those who lead Thy children astray with lies and trickery! Let it be all according to Thy will. In Jesus' Name, amen.
10-27-2012, 12:02 AM
great chapters , I really don't like this reporter , can't wait to read more :)
10-27-2012, 12:46 AM
CRISS GAY: If that was true I'd take stock in Prozac because a lot of girls would become depressed (me included)
10-27-2012, 05:42 PM
The sun rose an angry red in the desert sky, shooting streaks of pink and orange through the wisps of clouds. Randy Winterfield could not help but remember the old seaman's adage: Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning. He knew a red sun meant a scorcher of a day, with bad weather following, at least where he came from. Who knew how that old saw applied here in the Southwest.
Randy loaded his van with boxes of Bibles. He had a lot of them to deliver, especially at the Luxor Hotel, and it was best to get an early start so as to beat the worst of the heat. It was six AM, and already it was too hot for comfort. Triple-digit temperatures were not uncommon here in Nevada. He made sure to bring plenty of bottled water, not only for himself, but for any passerby who needed to cool off. Even a cup of cold water given in Jesus' name was rewarded in Heaven, he recalled.
He slammed the rear doors of the van and circled around to the driver's seat. He opened the door, climbed in, and shut it behind him. He breathed a prayer for God's help for the day, and drove to the Luxor, humming a hymn playing on the radio. The sun was still a blood red orb in the sky, reminding him of a kickball in school. Upon arrival, he circled around the back to the service entrance and parked by the sliding doors. Granted clearance from Checkpoint Charlie at the office, he unloaded his Bibles onto a utility cart thoughtfully provided by the hotel, and pushed it into the hotel proper.
Randy stopped at the security office for a pass to enter the rooms, but he was told that because of security reasons, the Bibles were to be distributed by the staff. He was to leave them in the storage room in the back. Randy shrugged in acquiescence. It was all the same to him. So long as the Word of God was spread, it didn't matter who did it. Saved him some work, though.
He wheeled the boxes to the storeroom as directed. On his way down the carpeted hall, who did he see but the same Criss Angel coming back from his workout, his hair still damp from his shower. Randy brightened and stopped pushing the cart.
"The Lord be with you," he greeted Criss.
Criss looked at him, unsure at first, then he remembered that it was the Bible guy he met yesterday who gave him that little green book (what the hell did he do with it, by the way? he wondered). He stopped to greet him in return. "And also with you," he replied. "What are you doing here?"
"I have some new Bibles to pass out in the rooms here in the hotel," Randy explained. "The told me to put them in the storage room back here so they can do it."
"They won't let you pass them out?" Criss asked.
Randy shook his head. "Nah, they said it was for security reasons."
"Oh." Criss shrugged. "Well, I'm sure they'll get them up there soon. Gotta go now, so good luck." He strode away, waving.
"Have a blessed day," Randy called out after him, and returned to pushing his cart.
Bibles in hotel rooms made Criss recall a funny incident from his early days in Vegas, making him smile. He kept it to himself for the moment. He had to prepare for the demonstration this afternoon, and he had to stay focused.
After breakfast, Criss went down to the Production Office for the day's meeting. It was seven AM, seven hours before the demonstration, and already there was a crowd assembling out front, wanting to get a good seat. Despite the best efforts of the staff to keep the entrance clear, the Loyals insisted on staying there until the appearance of The Angel himself. Criss couldn't help but be amazed at the extremes his fans would go to express their devotion to him. He could only hope and pray that it didn't result in disaster for any of them.
In the office, Criss met up with his eldest brother and right hand man, JD, who sat at his desk, going over some papers. As Criss crossed over to meet him, he noticed a familiar green book sitting on his desk. Looking around, he saw those same little green books on several of the desks in the office. That Bible guy was really busy around here, Criss thought.
"Hey, bro'," Criss said. " 'Sup?"
"Oh, hi, Criss," JD said, looking up. "Just the production schedule and all that."
Criss picked up the green New Testament. "You got one too, huh?"
"Hm? Oh, that." JD replied indifferently. "Some guy was passing them around yesterday and handed one to me. Thing's so damn small I can't read it."
Criss opened the tiny book. "What're you talking about? I can read it fine. Maybe you need glasses or something."
"Maybe they need to make them bigger." JD retorted.
Criss set the book aside. Enough about Bibles, it was time to get to work. The demonstration was at two and every moment counted when it came to preparation. The rest of the staff would be here later. Then the real work would start.
Cole Shoope awoke with a start at the morning bell in his room at Sanctuary Shelter. He looked at his watch. Seven o'clock AM. And the demonstration was at two. He had to hustle in order to get a good spot. He hoped that his bike hadn't been stolen, or locked in the garage, or even noticed by the staff. If any of those scenarios came true, he was screwed.
Cole bolted out of his bunk, startling the other three transients with whom he had spent the night and dressed hastily. He had taken the precaution of sleeping with his wallet under his pillow so that his "roommates" wouldn't help themselves to his limited stash of cash. He checked it to see if everything was still there, sighed with relief that it was, then stuffed it into his jeans pocket. He grabbed his keys and jacket and dashed out the door.
"What's his hurry, man?" wondered one of the vagrants on the other bottom bunk.
Cole slipped down the corridors, looking over his shoulder to see if he was being followed. He passed the cafeteria, where the smell of hot food stopped him in his tracks. Well, maybe he'd stay for breakfast, anyway, he thought. It would save money buying something. He slipped into the cafeteria. The morning volunteers were just setting up the steam table when a large, motherly type noticed him.
"Well, you here bright and early!" she said loudly. "You look kinda young to be here."
"Well, I ran away from home yesterday," Cole alibied, "but now I'm ready to go back. Everything's cool now." he added hastily.
"Well, that's good to hear, honey. You want some breakfast before you go?"
Cole brightened. "Sure do!" he exclaimed eagerly.
He grabbed a tray from the stack at the end of the counter and helped himself to some pancakes and sausage set before him by the volunteer. He slid his tray along the rail to pick up some orange juice and milk at the other end when he was stopped by another volunteer, a skinny, almost skeletal figure wearing a perpetual frown. Cole felt a chill go down his spine as he looked at her. She, in turn, practically glared at him almost accusingly. Did she suspect that he had lied his way into the shelter? he wondered fearfully.
"Don't forget to ask the blessing before you eat," she warned him. "That's the rule here."
"Yeah, sure," Cole replied, still shaken. "Okay."
He grabbed his tray and moved as far from Skeletor as possible. He sat down at a table in a far corner of the cafeteria, but he could still feel her eyes upon him, boring into the core of his being, making sure he followed the rule of saying grace before meals. Cole folded his hands together, bowed his head and pretended to pray, stretching it out for what he hoped was a reasonable time period, then dug into his breakfast. No reprisal from Skeletor, thank God.
Other residents trooped into the cafeteria, picking up trays and receiving the same grim reminder from Skeletor the volunteer. Cole wondered if anyone tried to buck the system by not saying grace, and what happened to them. Did they get yelled at? Were they not allowed to eat if they didn't? The mind boggled.
Cole finished his breakfast and quickly left the cafeteria. He had to get out of here in a hurry before he was found out. If he remembered correctly, the main entrance was just around the corner and down the hall. He trotted down the corridor, past the chapel, nearing the reception desk. He saw sunlight streaming through the glass doors. Freedom was almost his! He hid behind a vertical soffit until the receptionist's back was turned, then made a dash for the doors.
"Excuse me, young man?" said the receptionist behind him.
Cole froze in his tracks. Oh, God, what now? Was he busted?
"If you are leaving, you have to sign out in the register," the receptionist told him, holding up a black notebook. "Those are the rules."
Lotta rules in this place, Cole thought. He reluctantly returned to the desk to sign out.
"Just sign your name, the time you're leaving and the time you'll be back," she explained, handing him a pen. Cole took it, found an empty space on the register (some were filled in the same handwriting, he noticed. Maybe some of these people couldn't write), and quickly came up with a fake name to cover his tracks--Carl Shooter. It wasn't the best, but it would do to conceal his identity for the time being. He clocked out at seven-twenty, but left the re-entry time blank. He was definatly not coming back, that was for sure. He handed the book back to the receptionist and turned to leave, but again he was stopped.
"You didn't fill in the return time," she pointed out. "When are you coming back?"
"I'm not!" Cole cried. "And thanks for everything!" And he ran out the door as fast as he could . The next sound the receptionist heard was that of a dirt bike being revved up and buzzing by the building, fading as Cole rode hell-bent-for-leather away from Sanctuary and to the Luxor.
"Haye! Haye, wake up!" Crystal shook her sleeping friend beside her. "Today's the day! We gotta get going!"
"Mom, I don't wanna go to school," Hayley mumbled sleepily.
"Haye! It's me, Crys! Come on already! We gotta get to the demonstration!"
Hayley blinked the sleep from her eyes. "Morning already?"
"Yeah, it's morning already. Come on before Courtney wakes up."
"I'm already awake, dipwad!" came an irritated voice from the other bed.
Oh, Geez! "Sorry, Courtney," Crystal apologized. "I didn't mean to wake you up."
"Well, keep it down, willya?" she grumbled. "I had a late night last night." Courtney dozed off again.
Hayley, meanwhile, was struggling to wake up, yawning and stretching and rubbing her face. She really needed a cup of coffee at that moment. Crystal was in the bathroom already, taking the quickest shower she ever knew, and dressing in her specially selected outfit in record time: fashionably faded jeans, CA t-shirt with matching pendant specially ordered from the Criss Angel website, combat boots with comfortable socks, and black bandana tied around her head. Hayley took more time in getting dressed, however. She wished Crystal would have let her sleep in for at least another hour, but no, she insisted on getting front row seats, even if it meant sitting in front of the Luxor all day. Hayley liked Criss as much as anyone, but Crystal could be so obsessive at times, and it irritated her.
"Come on, Haye!" Crystal pressured her. "We gotta get going!"
"I'm coming already," Hayley told her. "Can we at least get some coffee or something?"
"Sure, sure, let's just get going!" Crystal pulled Hayley along eagerly. "I don't want to miss a thing!"
"It's not until this afternoon, dummo!" Hayley reminded her. "We got plenty of time."
"Not if we want to get a good seat," Crystal argued. "They're probably lining up already."
By eight o'clock, they were lining up already to see the demonstation. Crystal and Hayley succeeded in worming their way up front to the barricade, as close to the stage as possible. A larger than life banner of Criss Angel hung from the steel girders framing the stage. They were so close they could almost feel his touch, though he was not on stage yet.
A frail looking girl stood next to Crystal, staring at a photograph in her hand. Crystal could not help but notice that Criss was in that photo, with a bedridden child next to him. Could it be her? she wondered.
"You must like that picture," Crystal said to break the ice. "You keep looking at it over and over again."
The girl turned to her. "Yeah, it's my favorite. Criss came to the hospital for the Annual Children's Hospital Function when I was in for open heart surgery when I was twelve," she explained. "He came to my room and my mom took this picture of us. He really helped with my recovery."
"Wow, that's awesome!" Crystal exclaimed. "What's your name?"
"Chloe. What's yours?"
"Crystal. And this is my BFF, Hayley."
"Hi," Hayley said, smiling. "Nice to meet you, Chloe."
"You think Criss will remember me?" Chloe asked anxiously. "I mean, it was three years ago when I met him."
Three years ago? Crystal doubted it. But, she looked so frail, and she did have a major operation at the time. She had to say something to cheer her up.
"I'm sure that once he sees that picture, he'll remember you," Crystal said encouragingly.
"Thanks." Chloe went back to her picture gazing. A warm feeling spread inside Crystal. She knew that during his meteoric rise to fame, Criss had taken time to visit sick kids in hospitals to perform magic for them, encourage them to think positive so as to better their chances of recovery. Many terminally ill children requested to see him as a last wish before dying through such organizations as Make-A-Wish, and Criss always came through. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Criss was truly an Angel when it came to sick kids like Chloe. All the more reason she was in love with him.
Cole hid his dirt bike behind some greenery by the Luxor entrance and climbed up a concrete berm for a better view of the stage. He made it! He made it! That was all he could think about as he stared at the huge banner with his idol's face on it. He was here! Today, he was going to see the Master in action! He felt it was worth all the little white lies and deceptions he committed to be here, just for this one moment of triumph. Thank You, God! Thank You for getting me here today. Bless Criss Angel for all he does and what he's gonna do! Amen.
He could not tear his eyes away from the giant banner. Neither could the other Loyals assembled around the stage. For the next six hours, hundreds of adoring eyes gazed worshipfully upon the giant face of The Angel, staring back at them with smoldering looks, arms outstretched, two crudely feathered wings exteneding from his back. They were too entranced to notice another pair of eyes, burning with righteous anger from a withered face, seeking to bring about Divine retribution, a gnarled, calloused hand fingering a loaded pistol in his pocket.
Block bided his time, gauging the distance to the stage where the Anti-Christ would perform his devilish tricks. Hiram Block would not give him the chance. He may be an old man, but his eyesight was still as good as ever. The Lord would do the rest, he reasoned. He would purge Sin City of its greatest source of evil. Only then would he avenge the suicide death of his only son, whom he had tried to raise in the ways of the Lord, but he had strayed from the path of righteousness, succumbing to the Devil's rock and roll music instead, rebelling against all that was holy. He had thrown away the life God had given him with shot of the hellbrew he had been addicted to, over twenty years ago. The Devil had tempted his son, and now the father would have justice. God had willed that Criss Devil would die today, and Hiram Block was His chosen servant to do it.
10-27-2012, 10:45 PM
10-28-2012, 02:54 PM
The red ball sun shrank back to its usual bright self as it rose to its zenith, bringing with it a scorching heat. A storm system moving in from the west blanketed Las Vegas with a heavy layer of humidity, rare for a desert region. The weather forecast called for late afternoon showers or thunderstorms, ending by nightfall or later.
None of this deterred the Loyals from seeing Criss Angel. They would have braved an F5 hurricane just to catch a glimpse of him. The temperatures were high, the humidity was unbearable, but the general atmosphere around the Luxor was festive and upbeat. They took pictures of each other, exchanged email addresses and text message information, gushed over private photgraphs of Criss taken by the few fortunate enough to meet him, hammed it up for those taping the event on their camcorders, kept each others places during bathroom breaks, and generally enjoyed the cameraderie.
Criss, meanwhile, was in the production office lounge area. His brothers, JD and Costa, were with him, as was his cousin, George. It should have been a time to relax and enjoy a little family time, but bad news from home had unsettled the three brothers and their cousin: their mother had caught someone breaking into her house last night. When he first heard about it, Criss felt a surge of anger. This he didn't need, especially on the day of a demonstration. It was almost as bad as when he got the news of her heart surgery the night he did the Quad Drag Escape. Fortunatly, the worst that had happened was just a broken window.
"When did it happen?" Criss asked.
"Around one in the morning," JD answered. "Mom heard glass breaking. She got up, and there was this guy climbing right through the window."
"Did he attack her?" Criss asked with concern.
"No. The minute he saw her, he climbed right back out again. She said there had been a few break-ins around the neighborhood, some jewelry stolen--small stuff."
Costa spoke up, "I wanna take some time off to go back to Mom's house, just to check on her, see if she's all right. Then I wanna see about installing a security system for the house."
Criss nodded. "You do that. You get the best system you can find, and send me the bill, okay? I don't want anything happening to Mom, you got that?"
"Like you have to remind me?" Costa retorted.
Criss pulled out his cell phone and called his mother. "Hey, Mom, what's up?" Pause. "I heard there was a break-in last night--you okay?" Another pause. Criss smiled a little. "That's good. Say, listen, Mom, Costa's gonna come over and have a security system installed, okay?" Pause. "I'll cover the cost, no problem. We just don't want anything bad happening to you, that's all." He nodded. "Yeah, today's the demonstration. I'll be fine, don't worry." He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I know, I know. Listen, I gotta go, all right?" He smiled. "I love you more, 'bye." He flipped off the phone.
"We should have had one installed years ago," JD opined. "Mom's all alone there in New York, us here in Vegas. It's not right."
George suddenly brightened. "Maybe we can set some surveillance cameras from the hotel here and install 'em in the house," he suggested. "I mean, they're always upgrading their equipment--they gotta have some spares."
Everyone laughed at George's idea. "Nice idea, George, but seriously, Mom needs some protection." Criss said.
"I'll take care of it, don't worry," Costa assured him. "The important thing is, Mom is okay for now. It won't happen again, I promise. We got to get through this demonstration; we can't get distracted."
Criss knew his brother was right. It would take all his powers of concentration to perform the feat he had in mind: levitating twenty people chosen at random all at once. It wasn't the most death defying feat he had ever performed, but with Believe premiering soon, he didn't want to risk injury. It would still be a record-breaking feat as far as size and number of people participating.
There was a knock on the door. JD rose to answer it. Outside was a hotel employee who handed something to him and quickly left. JD thanked him and closed the door behind him, walking back to the living room with a black Bible in his hand. He held it up with a sheepish smile.
"From the Gideons," he said. "They were passing them out in all the suites." He set it down on the coffee table and sat down again.
"Hey, weren't they the ones who were passing out those little green Bibles?" George inquired. "Some guy gave me one yesterday."
"I got one, too," JD said.
Criss picked up the Bible on the table and began to chuckle. "I remember a long time ago, when I first came here to Las Vegas, I was staying in this thirty-nine dollar a week hotel room, and I was going through the drawers in the nightstand, and I came across this Bible that was in there. I opened it up, and right on the inside cover was this note. It said, 'If tired of sin, repent; if not, call Carol at 555-1234' or whatever it was." Criss laughed at the memory of it, and everyone laughed along with him.
"So, did you call her?" Costa asked.
"Me?" Criss was indignant. "You'd think I'd call some strange girl who'd leave her number in a Bible? What do you take me for?"
"Besides, the line was busy, right?" JD said with a smug smile.
"No," Criss replied. "It was disconnected."
More laughter. George reached over and picked up the Bible. "Hey, maybe someone left her phone number in this one." He riffled through the pages. "Nope," he said, feigning disappointment. "No numbers. Shoot."
Criss laughed. It was so good to spend this time with his family like this. No work pressures, no itinerary, no setting up equipment--it was almost like old times, before he became famous, when his brothers and cousins were just that, his brothers and cousins instead of members of the MindFreak crew. With them, he was just plain Christopher, little brother and cousin, a member of the family. He vowed he would treasure this moment as long as he lived.
Hiram Block kept his facial features inscrutable as he snaked his way around the crowd of fans unnoticed. To them, he was just an old man in a dirty green shirt passing by, no one of importance. None of them knew of the sacred mission he was about to accomplish.
He found a spot in the back of the audience, just close enough to get a good shot. In the ensuing panic, he could make his escape, with the Lord to protect him, of course. Yes, he was just close enough....
One-fifty-five. Five minutes until the demonstration. Security detail kept the eager throng of fans at bay, while the crew made last-minute sound checks and equipment adjustments. Cameramen trained their lenses to the best angles of sight towards the stage. The audience paid no heed to the distant rumble of thunder in the distance.
Mario Mendoza readied his camera for action. Editor Jim Close had paired him with Hillary Desjarden, VERVE! magazine's entertainment reporter. She was a petite brownette with light brown eyes to match, and she had a no-nonsense approach to journalism. Mario guessed she would have been happier covering the war in Iraq than a Criss Angel demonstration. No sense of humor, that woman. In the years he had known her, he'd never seen her crack a smile.
"Almost showtime," he commented.
"Come on," she grumbled. "Let's get this over with."
They braved the crowds to make it to the press area, showing their badges to the security guard posted out front. Mario kept his eyes on the girls straining against the barricades to be right up front where the action would be. He snapped a picture of them, just for starters.
"Perv," Hillary deadpanned.
"It's just for coverage, okay? Relax." Mario took a few more crowd shots.
"I still think you're a perv," she said. "You always go for the young girls."
"Hey, they're Criss' fans, not mine. Take it up with him."
Hillary nudged Mario. "The show's starting. Get ready."
The MC strode up to the mike. "Ladies and gentlemen...CRISS ANGEL!!" he shouted.
The roar of the crowd was deafening as Criss Angel bounded onto the stage, wearing his leather jacket and jeans tucked into his black combat boots, despite the humid weather, giving him a punk rock biker look. His collection of bling around his neck flashed in the afternoon sun.
Crystal and Hayley could hardly contain themselves. It was him! Live in person! Oh, how they longed to touch him! They were so near, and yet so far! Their shrieks and squeals were lost in the cheers of the audience, but they kept waving at him, competing with all the other female Loyals for his attention.
On his perch, Cole saluted his idol with extended index and little fingers. The Master had arrived! Criss Angel the MindFreak was here! To see him on television was one thing. To see him live in person was pure mind-boggling ecstacy.
All eyes were on Criss Angel, all cameras were trained on him. No one saw the old man in the dirty green shirt pull out a pistol from his pocket and level it straight at the stage.
"ARE YOU READEEEEE?" Criss bellowed out, his arms extended in enthusiasm.
The crowd screamed their answer in the affirmative. For the merest moment, he stood still, reveling in the adoration of his fans. It was that moment that a loud bang was heard. Criss recoiled, crying out in shock and pain. JD, Costa and other crew members rushed to his aid as he fell.
There was the briefest moment of silence, then screams of panic erupted. What had happened? What happened to Criss? In their stunned minds the Loyals equated the bang with Criss' sudden collapse, and panic swept over the crowd as the horrible realization of the truth spread like a brushfire out of control.
"Somebody shot Criss!" came a cry of angush from the crowd.
Mario had been standing in the press area, about to take a picture of Criss upon his point of entry when his camera jammed. Irritably, he wiggled the film spool to loosen it, then raised it for another shot, then clicked the shutter--at the very moment Criss went down.
Mario was stunned for the moment. What the hell just happened?
Hillary was on her cell phone in a heatbeat. "Jim! We got breaking news! Somebody shot Criss Angel! Mario got the pictures!" She hung up. "Jim says to get as many pictures as you can, Mario," she ordered.
Mario didn't move. Hillary shook his shoulder. "Hey, Mario!" she shouted. "Didn't you hear me?"
Mario snapped out of his trance. "What the hell happened?" he said stupidly.
"Come on," Hillary urged. "We got a major story to cover."
Cole sat on the berm, weeping disconsolatly. One minute he had been elated to see his idol, the next his idol was felled by a bullet, sending him crashing to the stage floor, taking all of his momentary happiness with him.
Why? he kept asking himself. Why did they try to kill him? Dear God, why? Why did You let this happen to Criss Angel, of all people? How could you let this happen? Oh, dear God, please don't let Criss die! I'm sorry I lied to everybody to come here! Is that why you let this happen? Because of what I did? God, don't take Criss away because of what I did! Take me instead! I'm the one who deserves to die, not Criss!
For Crystal Rathbone, it was as if the world had been slowed down from 78 rpm to 16. She had been swept up in the enthusiasm of the moment Criss made his grand entrance. She didn't even see him walk up the stage; it was as if he just appeared out of nowhere. He was just there all of a sudden. Then she heard the shot, then she saw Criss' legs buckle under him, his face contorted in pain, then fall to the stage.
Her thoughts slogged through her head as if through molasses. Slowly she began to comprehend the horror she had just witnessed. The terrible words Someone shot Criss! echoed in her skull over and over again. Someone shot Criss Angel! She couldn't believe it. She refused to believe it! It couldn't be true, it just couldn't!
The sirens of the paramedics howled as an ambulance came to take Criss away. Police and security personnel cleared a path for the gurney to wheel Criss away. Crystal could only stare in shock. It was true, then. Someone shot Criss Angel. She heard him cry out in agony, the sound piercing her heart.
She crumpled to the ground and wept. Hayley knelt beside her and wept also.
What the hell happened? Criss wondered as he lay on the stage, his brothers, cousin and crew surrounding him. It had all happened so fast. He had just run on the stage, ready to perform, looking over the hundreds of Loyals cheering him on, then there was a noise, a loud bang like a pistol shot, then pain in his chest. Something was lodged in his chest; he could feel something hard in there, close to his heart.
"Criss!" JD hovered over him anxiously. "You okay?"
Criss nodded. "Yeah, I'm okay," he replied. "Hurts, though. What happened?"
"Someone tried to shoot you," JD told him. "Where'd he get you?"
Criss covered his injury with his hand. "Here."
JD and Costa began to pull his jacket off. Something ripped out of Criss' body, causing him to cry out in anguish. Blood began to flow from his wound. JD grabbed a towel and pressed down on the wound with it as hard as he could to stanch the flow.
"Paramedics are here," someone called out.
Everyone except JD cleared the stage. C'mon, Christopher! JD mentally urged his brother. You gotta pull through, okay? You've survived worse than this! Hell, I've seen you run over by a steamroller and you walked away from it! C'mon, little brother! Think of Mom back in New York! Think of all your fans out there!
The paramedics tightened a tourniquet around Criss' body and lifted him onto the gurney. They wheeled him through a gantlet of the outstretched arms of grieving Loyals, all weeping, wailing, and shouting encouragement to him.
"We love you, Criss!"
"Oh, God! Please don't die, Criss!"
"You rule, Criss! You rule!"
"You gotta get well, Criss! We all love you!"
"Dear God, pleeeeze don't let Criss die! Don't take him away from us!"
He lay there, helpless, as the gurney rolled past the anguished faces of his beloved Loyals. He wanted to reach out to them, hold their hands, speak comfort to them. He did none of those things; he could only gaze at them through pain-filled eyes, growing weaker by the minute. The paramedics lifted him into the waiting ambulance and slammed the doors, cutting him off from his fans.
Alone, save the medics at his side, memories began to flash before his eyes as if in a mental slide projector: his childhood home in East Meadow, Long Island, riding off the roof on his bike; showing off his magic tricks to anyone willing to put up with him; school days filled with tedious boredom; his crew humiliating him by cutting off his CKs, leaving him naked in that jail cell in Pioche; the face of his mother, worried about his welfare while doing his demonstrations.
Mom, he cried out in his mind before falling into oblivion. I love you, Mom.
It was finished. Hiram had bought down the Devil's minion, Criss Devil, with a single shot. Not bad for a sixty-five year old man, even if he did say so himself. The Lord had guided his eye and hand, and together they had laid the evil one low. Mission accomplished. But there was no time to gloat; he had to get out of there fast. When the people started to scream, he turned and began to run, only to plow into a wall of uniformed police officers who pinioned his arms behind his back and handcuffed him. In his struggles he had dropped his pistol. Another officer picked it up carefully so as not to contaminate the fingerprints and laid it on the hood of a police cruiser.
"You have the right to remain silent," and so on and so on. Hiram knew the drill from so many episodes of Dragnet. Didn't matter to him, anyway. Criss Devil was dead and burning in Hell. His dead son was avenged for his self-murder caused by Satan's minions. He had done the Lord's work, and that was what counted.
They shoved him into the back of the cruiser and locked him in, but even this did not faze him. Many Christians had been martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord would justify his actions no matter what they did to him. He was right and they were wrong. When the Babylon that was Las Vegas was purged of all its sinfullness, history would judge him rightly as the man who killed Criss Angel.
10-28-2012, 06:07 PM
Great chapters , I hope criss will be ok , can't wait to read more :)
10-28-2012, 06:31 PM
10-29-2012, 09:59 PM
The offices of VERVE! magazine was ablaze with activity: copy editors typed up what information they had about the shooting, feature layouts were hastily arranged, phones rang incessantly from on-the-field reporters calling in with latest developments, and Jim Close demanding where the hell was Mendoza with those photos.
Mario burst into the office, waving the pictures over his head. "I got the photos, Jim!" he called out over the general din.
Jim grabbed the pictures and flipped through them. "Okay, we got pictures!" he announced, handing them to the layout crew. "Where's Hillary?" he demanded.
"Writing up the story," Mario replied.
Jim charged to Hillary's desk, arriving just in time for her to hand in her finished copy. "Here you go, Jim," she said, holding up her article. Jim took it and skimmed through the article, nodding his approval. He had always liked Hillary's no-nonsense approach to writing. That was why he usually assigned her the more serious assignments, like deaths, disasters and something like what they were going through right now. She cut out the fluff and got to the point. Jim handed the article to a passing copy editor for publishing. The phone rang on someone's desk.
"Jim!" someone called out. "They're holding a press conference at the Luxor about the shooting in an hour!"
"Desjarden! Mendoza!" Jim bellowed. "You two at the Luxor in thirty! Press conference!"
The news of the attempt on Criss Angel's life swept the country, then the world, like a shockwave from an explosion. Every media source, electronic and print, broadcast the event, showing the video coverage of the attack over and over again. CRISS ANGEL SHOOTING IN LAS VEGAS read the caption on CNN as scenes of outraged, grief-stricken fans wept and wailed before the cameras.
Crystal and Hayley sat on the bed of their motel room as they watched the scene they had witnessed first hand replayed over and over again, hammering home the awful truth of the tragedy. They could not stop crying no matter how hard they tried; half a box of discarded Kleenexes lay crumpled at their feet. They had wanted to remain with the Loyals, to keep vigil and to seek answers, but Courtney had heard about the shooting from the TV in the boutique where she had been shopping at the time and came to fetch them, insisting they return to the motel, that there was nothing they could do. She had dragged the two weeping girls into her car and had driven back to their room, where they now sat agonizing over what they had just witnessed.
Hayley pointed at the screen. "Hey, I think that's that girl we met," she said, "what's-her-name...Chloe."
Crystal looked closer. Yes, it was Chloe, with tears streaming down her frail face, holding up her photograph of herself and Criss in the hospital from three years ago when Chloe had open-heart surgery. They couldn't quite make out what she was saying, but it had something to do with Criss' visit to her and the fundraiser where he had performed. Crystal burst into fresh tears, burying her face in Hayley's shoulder. Hayley let her cry for a while, but jerked up suddenly, pointing at the screen again.
"That's him!" she cried. "That's the man who shot him!"
Crystal quickly raised her head. A shot of an old man in handcuffs being led to a waiting police cruiser flashed before their tear-filled eyes. Him? Crystal said to herself, bewildered. That old man was the shooter? He looks like somebody's grandfather.
GUNMAN IN CUSTODY ran the caption on the screen. The newscaster in clipped tones reported that the gunman had been identified as Hiram Block, a semi-retired day laborer with a record of disturbing the peace and being a public nuisance for his ultra-right-wing fundamentalist views. He had been formally charged with assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder, and could face anywhere from ten to twenty years in prison--practically a life sentence for an sixty-five year old man.
"You are soooo dead, mister," Hayley sneered at the image on the screen. "You are sooo (bleeping) dead!"
GUNMAN IN CUSTODY Cole read on the giant plasma TV in the appliance store where customers and Loyals had gathered to hear the latest developments on the shooting. There was some cheering and applause from the Loyal side of the group. Someone behind him commented about the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II back in the early Eighties, but it was just white noise as far as Cole was concerned. The (bleeper) who tried to kill the Master of Illusion had been caught and sent to jail--that was some comfort, at least. He caught the name "Hiram Block" from the broadcast, and that he was a right-wing fundamentalist.
Figures, Cole thought angrily. The religious right had been riding on Criss' ass over his magic and illusions for God knew how long. He himself had seen their websites, filled with lies and twisted logic about Criss Angel, accusing him of being in league with the Devil, even of being the Anti-Christ. Now they had gone too far. In the name of whatever they perceived God to be they had tried to kill Criss Angel. They had crossed the line, and Cole was going to make them pay. Criss Angel would be avenged!
In the quiet of the hospital waiting room, Costa, JD and George sat huddled together, praying for and worrying about Criss. They were no strangers to ERs; Criss had been brought here before when he injured his neck after his Prison Van Escape, when he nearly impaled his feet on those screwdrivers, and other occupational hazards connected with his show. He had always walked away more or less unscathed.
But today, oh, today! This was not an accident caused by mistiming or techincal glitches--this was a deliberate attempt on his life! Someone actually shot their brother and cousin out of pure malice. Who? And why?
"I promised Christopher I'd go to New York to see about Mom," Costa said, breaking the silence. "Now, I'm not so sure. Do I stay here, or go back home? I don't know who needs me more, Ma or Chris?" He looked up suddenly. "Did anyone call Mom about this?"
JD pulled out his phone and hit the number for his mother's house. "Call her right now," he muttered. "She's probably heard about it on the news by now." He waited for an answer from the other end.
"Hello, Ma?" A pause. He turned to his brother and cousin, grimacing. "Yeah, she heard about it." he told them, then he turned back to the phone. "We're in the waiting room right now. We should be hearing about him any minute, okay?" Pause. "Ma, don't cry, okay? Look, Costa's gonna come over to the house and deal with the break-in you had last night." Pause. JD nodded. "Yeah, we're gonna install a new security system for you, so this doesn't happen again, okay?" He handed the phone to Costa. "Mom wants to talk to you."
Costa took the phone and put it to his ear. "Hey, Ma, how's it going?" A long pause. Costa tried to speak, but was constantly interrupted. "Ma, calm down, okay? Christopher is gonna be fine. You want me to come home?" Pause. "Okay, I'll be home as soon as we know anything, okay?" He handed the phone back to JD. "She wants me to stay until we know for sure how he's doing?" he told him.
"Okay, Mom, we'll keep you posted, okay?" JD said quickly. He looked up to see a doctor approaching. "Hey, the doctor's here. Can I put you on hold for a second?" He pressed the Hold key and rose to greet the doctor. "How's Christopher?" he almost begged.
The doctor smiled. "Well, first of all, his wound was much shallower than we thought it would be, but he lost quite a bit of blood so he'll be here overnight. Then you can take him home in the morning, let him recover there."
It was as if a huge weight had rolled off their shoulders. "Can we see him?" JD asked.
"He's still in recovery," the doctor said. "But that is not the astonishing thing."
The three men looked at him in bewilderment. "The bullet wound punctured only a few millimeters into his skin. It would have been fatal if not for the fact that he had this in his jacket pocket." The doctor held up a small green New Testament with a charred hole through the middle of it. "It deflected the bullet when it struck him."
JD, Costa, and George stared at the book in the doctor's hand. "While it didn't completely stop the bullet," he continued, "it did prevent it from penetrating his heart. It just wedged itself into his chest by about an eighth of an inch, just enough to cause bleeding when his jacket was removed, pulling it out."
JD recalled Criss' scream of agony when he pulled off his jacket in an attempt to find the wound, realizing he had ripped the bullet from his chest in the process, making it worse. I should have left it on and let the surgeons take it out, he cursed himself. I made things worse by taking off his jacket like that.
"Hey," George spoke up. "Can we take this with us?"
"Well, the forensics experts are pretty much done with it, so I don't see why not?" The doctor checked his watch. "Your brother should be out of recovery by now," he said. "You can go see him if you wish."
They wished. They followed the doctor down a maze of corridors to Criss' room. On the way, JD's phone beeped, reminding him that his mother was still on hold. Cursing himself for his forgetfullness, he reactivated his phone.
"Hi, Mom. Sorry I kept you waiting like that," he said as he strode down the corridor. "Yeah, good news. He isn't that badly hurt, he's gonna be okay. It's kinda a funny story about it, but he'll be out of the hospital tomorrow." Pause. "We're here. You wanna talk to him?"
The three men entered the sterile confines of the hospital room where Criss lay, an IV drip connected to his arm. "Hey, guys," he said, brightening. "How's it going?"
"The doctor told us what happened," JD said. He held up his phone. "Mom's on the phone. She wants to talk to you."
Criss took the phone from JD. "Hey, Mom, how's it going?" Pause. "Mom, don't cry, okay? I'm gonna be fine. It's you I'm worried about, with that guy breaking into the house and all that."
Criss sighed as his mother berated him over his lack of priorities. "Mom, I'm gonna be okay. It wasn't even serious. Yeah, it could have been, but I had something in my pocket that caught it." Another pause. "No, you don't need to come to Vegas. You stay there, okay? Costa's gonna come there and help you deal with the break-in. I'll be fine. Okay, I love you, Mom. I love you more. 'Bye."
He flipped off the phone and returned it to JD. "She's pretty upset right now," he deadpanned.
"Oh, really?" Costa said sarcastically. "You think?"
George handed Criss the damaged New Testament. "Here's what saved you," he said. "You had it in the right place at the right time."
Criss looked at the book with the bullet hole through it in amazement. "I remember some guy passing them out on the street," he said, "and I did a little mentalist trick with it for the show. I guess I put it in my pocket and forgot about it."
"Lucky accident," JD said.
"Yeah," Criss said. "Really lucky."
"Well, somebody Up There got your back today," George said, pointing to the ceiling.
Criss nodded. "Yeah, I think Somebody did."
10-30-2012, 04:11 AM
Yea his dad :)
10-30-2012, 09:46 AM
Great Chapters , that was lucky , cant wait to read more :)
10-31-2012, 02:43 PM
It took two hours for the police and security personnel to clear the area around the Luxor. Many trudged away, sobbing in each other's arms, while the more obsessed were threatened with pepper spray and handcuffs to persuade them to leave. Tokens of love and devotion were left around the barricades: candles, flowers, posterboard signs, bandanas, banners and other trinkets were tied, taped or laid on the ground beneath the steel fences.
The stage area had been cordoned off with yellow CRIME SCENE DO NOT ENTER tape, reinforced with security guards around the perimeter. Investigators carefully questioned every single member of the crew, from the producers to the lowliest stage hands, about what they were doing and what they saw, if anything. It was there that the leather jacket which Criss had been wearing at the time of the shooting was discovered and taken to the CSI portable lab for analysis.
The bullet, a thirty-eight caliber slug, had entered the left side, just under the pectoral muscle. It had been deflected by the New Testament Criss had put in the pocket of the leather jacket, and was still in there. The bullet extended about a quarter of an inch or so from the point of impact on Criss' body, creating a puncture wound sealed by the bullet itself. When the jacket was removed, the bullet popped out of the wound like a cork from a bottle, causing heavy bleeding. Had Criss not been wearing the jacket, or had the book in his pocket, the bullet most likely would have punctured a lung, or a major artery, if not his heart itself.
The jacket was given to the authorities, the bullet itself handed over to the crime lab for ballistics tests. The investigating officer took the jacket and the book to the hospital where Criss was transported. When the surgeons couldn't find the bullet, the officer showed the doctor the little book that saved Criss' life. The doctor, in turn, handed the book to Criss' brothers and cousin.
Now JD, George, Criss' manager Dave Baram, Luxor CEO Felix Rappaport, and Chief of Security Luke Macaffey stood before a large podium before an even larger press conference in the Grand Ballroom. Cameras flashed as Rappaport took the stand to begin the conference.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the press," he intoned grimly. "Today, at two o'clock Pacific Time, Criss Angel was shot in the chest by a yet to be identified assailant. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where I am happy to say he is in good condition. His injury was minor, and he should be released sometime tomorrow. JD, would you like to say a few words?"
Applause from the press. JD stepped forward.
"Thank you," he said. "First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for their prayers for Criss' recovery and for their support. He's doing very well and will be back tomorrow.
"When we were in the waiting room at the hospital, the doctor told us that Criss' life was saved by a small New Testament he had in his jacket pocket, right here." He held up the small green book with the charred hole in the middle. Cameras flashed. "He got it from a member of the Gideons who was passing them out on the street. He stuck it in his jacket pocket and completely forgot about it. When he was shot, it deflected the bullet just enough to keep it from penetrating any vital organs. We all know Criss has dodged death in the past when he performed his demonstrations, but this one really takes the cake!"
A reporter spoke up from somewhere in the middle of the room. "Do you know who tried to kill Criss?"
"Chief Macaffey has all the information about the assailant," JD replied.
"Where is your brother, Costa?" another asked.
"Costa has returned to New York to be with our mother," JD answered. "Her house had been broken into last night, and he's gone home to deal with it. Nothing was stolen or anything--the thief ran off when he saw she was home."
"She wasn't hurt?"
"No." JD left the podium, then moved aside to allow Chief Macaffey to take over.
"Chief Macaffey, do you know who shot Criss Angel?" asked the reporter.
JD could tell that the no-nonsense chief of security had no experience in public speaking from the way he kept huffing and clearing his throat. "Criss Angel had been shot by a man named Hiram Block," he said with unnecessary loudness. "He was taken into custody and booked on assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder. Either one of those charges is gonna lead to hard time for him. According to his record, he has a history of harassing people on the street with his religious views, and what they call creating a public nuisance. Turns out he's responsible for the vandalism of a couple of clincs reputedly known for performing abortions, and for disrupting a Gay Pride parade. Nothing else is known at this point."
With that, the Chief of Security turned and walked back to his office. Let the PR people handle this, he thought. I've got a job to do.
Crystal hugged Hayley in a mixture of joy and relief. "Criss is going to be all right!" she squealed. "He's gonna be back tomorrow!" She turned to Courtney. "Did you hear that, Courtney? Criss is gonna come back tomorrow! He's gonna be okay!"
"Fine, fine," Courtney deadpanned, not looking up from her book. "Good for him."
Hayley turned on her older sister. "Oh, like you care!" she snapped. "I don't think you'd have given a damn if he had died! You never cared about Criss!"
Courtney finally looked up. "No, I personally don't care for Criss Angel, but I do care when someone gets hurt. I'm glad he's okay, but you two are behaving as if it was the Resurrection or something. He's a human being, just like everyone else, okay? He's gonna pull through, and that's enough. People get shot every day by crooks and maniacs--where's the grief for them, huh? What makes Criss Angel so special?"
Hayley stared at her sister, appalled. "Court? Don't you have any feelings for anyone? I know you're skeptical about Criss' magic--"
"It's not magic, it's illusions," Courtney corrected her sister. "It's all fakery."
"Whatever," Hayley shrugged. "The point is that Criss is human as you said. He has a loving family and lots of people who care for him. But they don't care about him because he's famous--they care about him because he cares about people. When we were at the demonstration, we met this girl, Chloe, who had open heart surgery three years ago. Criss was at the hospital doing some sort of benefit, and he visited her in her room to cheer her up. We saw the picture. Now Criss is the one who's hurt, and Crystal and I care--even if you don't!" She tugged at Crystal's sleeve. "C'mon, Crys," she urged. "Let's go be with people who still have a heart."
The two girls left the motel room. Courtney returned to her book, unconcerned.
As soon as the news of the shooting became common knowledge, the fansites and message boards almost blew up. Loyals everywhere poured their hearts out with love and prayers for Criss' recovery. They swore everlasting devotion to Criss, extending it to his family. Poems, songs and other written works filled the boards. Weepy-faced emoticons punctuated mispelled messages of eternal love. Threads were started to allow for a form of online group therapy for those unable to handle the stress.
Their devotion was counterbalanced with hatred of the gunman, Hiram Block. Many posts were so vitrolic they were deleted by the Moderators, only to crop up again on a new site. One Loyal took a photo of Block and created a banner of him with target lines on his face. It was immediatly deleted.
Yesterday, Randy Winterfield had to approach people to give them the Word of God on the street, with many politely refusing. He had even found a few of the pocket green Testaments in the trash; he had to fish them out and clean them up as best he could so he would have more to distribute. By evening, he had begun to wonder if anyone was even bothering to read them. True, they were so small they were difficult to read, but with printing costs as high as they were, it was the best the Gideons could do.
Today, however, the little green Bibles had suddenly become a hot commodity. Many begged, even demanded, not one but two or three copies of the little green Testaments--"for friends" they told him. They clamored for them, even ripping open the cartons and grabbing them by the handful. Only when someone asked if he was the one who gave Criss Angel his copy, the one that had saved his life, did he understand why he and the books had suddenly become so popular.
"People, please!" he pleaded. "Now I know that the Lord had spared Criss Angel from death because he had one of these in his pocket, but remember--this is the Word of God! It was made to be read, not to be a talisman like his pendants that he wears around his neck! If you are going to take them, then please take the time to read them! They're not meant to be accessories!"
His words fell on deaf ears. Criss' fans wanted those precious green books which had saved him from an assassin's bullet. In time, as word went around that it was Randy who had given Criss the very book that shielded him from certain death did he himself become a minor celebrity. Girls hugged and kissed him. Children thanked him "for saving Criss Angel". He was even forced to pose for pictures with grateful fans holding up the Testaments for the camera.
It took the police to restore order when Randy ran out of books, triggering a near riot on the street. He was never so grateful to God as when he scrambled into his van and drove away. Lord! Give me strength! he prayed as he made a beeline back to his motel room. One thing was for sure, he thought. They were never going to believe this back at headquarters.
Hiram Block. For Cole Shoope, that name would rank among the worst of the worst of humanity, like Hitler or bin Ladin. That name would be reviled for all eternity. True, Hiram had failed in his mission, but the very thought of his attempt to kill the Master filled Cole with righteous anger. If he had his way, he'd get a gun and give that (bleeper) a dose of his own medicine.
Cole sat next to his dirt bike along with a group of Loyals keeping vigil in a lot next to the hospital where Criss was reputed to be. He listened in to their prayers, group-hugged many fellow Loyals, and struggled to share their optimism, but his heart burned with anger. His parents, his school, his friends didn't matter anymore. All that mattered was revenge.
He found a pocket knife in his saddlebag while rummaging around for gas money. It had a six-inch blade when fully extended. It wasn't much, but it didn't take much to kill a person if you aimed for the heart. He would do it at night, so no one would know it was him. Go in, stab the son of a (bleep), and run. Good plan. Now, all he had to do was find Hiram Block and avenge the Master.
10-31-2012, 06:53 PM
I'd hurt the guy if this was real
10-31-2012, 07:17 PM
Great chapter , yep I would hurt this guys too :)
10-31-2012, 11:46 PM
Criss watched the TV news broadcast of his near death experience from the semi-comfort of his hospital bed. He covered his wound with his hand as he saw himself go down, reliving the pain of the bullet's impact all over again. How much more painful would it had been if he had not had that book in his pocket? he wondered. That is, if he had lived to feel anything at all?
The anguished faces of the Loyal tore at his heart, causing more pain than the assassin's gun. Their tears brought tears to his own eyes as they wept openly on national television. He saw a girl with a photograph of himself and herself in a hospital--when was that taken? He couldn't remember, it was so long ago; he had been to so many hospitals and charity events for sick and disabled children that the pale, gaunt faces, many hairless from chemotherapy, all started to look alike to him. But she remembered him, of course. He visited her when she needed hope and encouragement the most. Now, he was the one who was laid up in the hospital.
The local news station was covering the vigil for him not too far from the hospital. Police patrolled the area to keep the peace, but the Loyals were too shocked and grief-stricken to cause any trouble. They lit candles for him, held up their posterboard signs, huddled in prayer circles. Seeing them banded together like this humbled him to the core of his being.
He wanted to send a message to them, telling them that he was all right. He didn't have his cell phone, so he couldn't call anyone. He wasn't allowed to leave the hospital yet because of his injury. And he certainly couldn't invite them all into his hospital room to visit him. If he invited a select few, it would cause rivalry and resentment among them, and that would lead to a riot. What to do?
He summoned the nurse to his room, formulating his plan as he waited for her to arrive. It would be risky, but for the Loyals, it would be worth it. He owed it to them; without them, he was nothing. He felt up to the challenge, mentally if not physically.
The nurse arrived after several minutes' delay. "Are you all right, Mr. Angel?" she asked. "Do you need anything?"
"You saw those people out there in the lot by the hospital?" he asked her.
The nurse nodded. "How could I help it? They've been there all afternoon; they refuse to leave."
"Well, they're there because of me," he told her. "If you can find a way to get me out there so I can talk to them, maybe they'll leave. Just let me speak with them, okay?"
The nurse stood there, unsure as to how to fulfil this strange request. "Just talk to the doctor, or the supervisor, or somebody in charge around here, okay?" he insisted. "They aren't going to leave here until I do, and I'm the only one they'll listen to."
The nurse wavered. "Well, I'll see what I can do," she waffled. "I can't make any promises, though. You are still badly hurt, you know."
"Actually, I'm feeling a lot better now. So, find someone who can get me out of here just long enough to see them, okay?"
The nurse left, a doubtful look on her face. Criss lay back in bed, rehersing in his mind what he would tell the Loyals when he saw them outside. Assuming, of course, he didn't break down and cry in the middle of his speech.
Crystal and Hayley mingled among their fellow Loyals, meeting old friends from the fan boards, making new friends along the way, and admiring the artwork piled up to one side like a shrine. The news of Criss' recovery had lightened the mood somewhat, but the air was still that of a tragedy, a miniature Nine-Eleven. Mini group therapy sessions sprang up here and there as Loyals related their shock and horror of what they had witnessed only a few hours ago. Those who had been fortuante to meet Criss in person recalled their experience in great, if not exaggerated, detail. Others recalled just where they were standing when the shooting occured.
The late afternoon sun mellowed the scenery around them, casting long shadows of whatever stood in it's path. The storms predicted for the day had not arrived yet. Many Loyals, drained from the stresses of the day, began to doze off, lying on sleeping bags, quilts and blankets spread out on the cracked concrete surface. Crystal and Hayley began to debate whether to return to the motel room or not when they were startled by the sight of so many uniformed officers setting up steel barricades around the lot where the Loyals had congregated.
"What's going on?" Crystal asked.
"I dunno," Hayley replied. "I hope we're not in some sort of trouble."
"We didn't do anything wrong," Crystal insisted. "We're just sitting here."
Suddenly, Hayley began jumping excitedly. "Look! Over there! It's Criss!"
Crystal's jaw dropped as two medics and a pair of police officers wheeled a blanket-swadddled Criss in a wheelchair, with an IV bag held aloft by one of the medics, to the Loyals behind the barricades. As the fans caught sight of him, a rousing cheer rose from every throat, accompanied by tears of joy and relief to see The Angel again. An officer gave Criss a bullhorn.
"Hey, how ya doin'?" Criss called out to them.
The crowd roared in the affirmative. Criss choked back his own tears. "I just wanted to come out and say thank you for your support and your prayers for my recovery. As I said before, I have the greatest fans in the world. I thank God every day for all of you."
The fans cheered wildly. Criss lowered the bullhorn to wipe his eyes and swallow the lump in his throat. "Without you, I wouldn't be where I am today--well, you didn't put me in the hospital today, of course. Somebody else did that."
The cheering changed to boos. "I know, but he's in jail now," Criss continued. "But the point is, each and every one of you give me the reason to go on doing what I do, in spite of those who want to stop me. Like I said before, what does not kill me, makes me stronger. I'll be back at the Luxor tomorrow, I promise. So, you can all go home knowing that everything is going to be all right. I appreciate all of you being here, but the police want this area cleared. I don't want anyone here getting hurt, okay?"
Criss dropped the bullhorn onto his lap. The medication they had given him made him drowsy; the mere exertion of speaking exhausted him. He wanted to stay longer, but his makeshift escort overruled him by carting him away back to his room. He barely managed to wave farewell to his fans as he disappeared from view.
Many Loyals wanted to follow him, but were stopped by the police. "You heard him, folks," they barked at them. "Time to go home. Move it! Pack up your stuff and get out of here!"
Slowly, reluctantly, the Loyals gathered their belongings and shuffled off the lot. Hayley turned to a despondent Crystal, holding up her camera.
"It's okay, Crys," she said. "At least we got to see him again. We'll see him again at the Luxor tomorrow. And anyway, I got his picture."
This cheered Crystal a little. Very little. So near, and yet so far. It seemed to be the story of her life.
Cole sat in a tent in a vacant lot with a group of other die-hard Loyals. He didn't dare go back to the shelter again, not after what he pulled to get in there, even if the food was better than the cold-cuts-and-stale-bread sandwiches they had stored in a Coleman ice chest. As Cole and his new friends choked down this meager fare, they began talking about Hiram Block and how much they reviled him, competing with each other as to who could come up with the vilest eptihet to best fit such a fiend.
"That (bleepbleeper) is so gonna get his ass kicked!" said one.
"I hope he rots in Hell," said another. "The lowest, foulest, most stinking part of it."
"You know, I read about Dante's Inferno in school last week," a chubby teen Goth girl spoke up. "He'd be sent to the seventh circle of Hell, in the first ring--that's for violence against one's neighbor. They're plunged into the river of boiling blood--I forgot the name of it, but it sounds like an Eighties' heavy metal band."
"How many circles of Hell are there?" Cole asked.
"I'd send him to the last level myself," a heavily tattooed youth spoke up.
"No, that's reserved for traitors," the chubby girl said.
"Whatever," said the first Loyal. "You think Hiram's out on bond or something?"
"No way!" snapped the tattooed youth. "We're talking attempted murder here! If they let him out, what would stop him from killing Criss again?"
A bony young man with a fashionable goatee and shaved head leaned forward. "You wanna know something?" he spoke up in a conspriatorial tone. "I know where that (bleeper) lives!"
All eyes turned to him. "You (bleeping) us, man?" said the youth disbelivingly.
"Swear to God. When I saw his face on the tube, I knew who it was right away. He's about a block or so from my house. He's always going on about Judgement Day and the Anti-Christ and (bleep) like that. My dad called the cops on him once 'cause he wouldn't shut his pie-hole."
Cole thought about that. He recalled the anti-Criss websites on the Internet accusing Criss Angel of being the Beast foretold in Revelations. Could that have been the reason Block had shot him?
"So, what do we do?" asked the chubby girl.
"I'd like to go there and tear him a new one," Cole replied, pulling out his pocket knife. "Avenge Criss Angel!"
"What if he isn't home? What if he's still in jail?" the girl persisted
"Well," the tattooed youth said, "if we can't take it out on him, we can take it out on his house."
"But what if he is home?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Cole answered her.
Hiram Block was released on a twenty-five-thousand dollar bond, posted by his church through a bail bondsman, on the condition that he cease his accosting people on the street with his religious views. No trial date had been set yet, but he was certain it would be far in the future, probably sometime next year. Hiram was confident that he would either be gone to Glory or the Rapture would occur before then. If not, then the Lord would defend him in court. Either way, time was on his side.
He had been driven home by Sister Barbara from the church, God bless her, as his own car had been impounded and he needed to scrape up three hundred dollars to get it back. Well, the Lord would provide, he figured. Sister Barbara came into the house with him, whipped up some grub, and left for home. Wonderful woman, he said to himself. Good, God-fearing woman, just like his late wife and mother, God rest them both. Brother Wayne was lucky to have her for a wife.
He finished his supper and clicked on the old Zenith television set to see how the world was faring without Criss Devil polluting the airwaves. He didn't have cable, because of all the filth it broadcast (and he couldn't afford it anyway), but he could still get the networks. He tuned in to the six o'clock news on Channel Six and settled back with a glass of iced tea in his hand.
What he saw next made him spew out his beverage all over the television screen. That minion of Satan had not only survived, but was only slightly injured, thanks to a New Testament (of all things!) in his jacket pocket! They held up the pocket edition with a bullet hole for all to see, hailing it a miracle. To Hiram, it was a travesty. The forces of Satan were at work! Criss Devil had skirted God's wrath yet again!
They announced that he would be back at the Luxor tomorrow. Good, he thought. The police had his gun, but there were other ways to skin a cat. Tomorrow, he would finish what he had started. He may have failed before, but he wouldn't make any more mistakes. This time, Criss Devil was going to Hell once and for all.
11-01-2012, 05:58 AM
What nooooo , great chapters , poor criss:( , can't wait to read more :)
11-01-2012, 10:05 PM
CRISS ANGEL SHOT
blared the headlines in the morning edition of the Las Vegas Sun. A large color photo of Criss being wheeled to the ambulance, flanked by hysterical fans reaching out to him, dominated the front page. Copies flew off newstands all over the city in a matter of minutes, purchased by eager Loyals anxious to get the latest word on Criss' condition.
Crystal was too late to buy a paper from the motel sundry shop, but she was lucky to find a discarded copy in the diner, left behind by a previous customer as she and Hayley went there to take advantage of the free breakfast buffet. One corner was damp from lying on a few drops of water, but the photo was left unmarred. Crystal tucked the precious paper under her arm and crossed over to the buffet, a modest affair consisting of a pan of watery scrambled eggs, cold toast, some commercially perpared oatmeal in a steel chafing pot, a tray of prepackaged doughnuts, and plastic tumblers of orange juice. A large coffee urn stood adjacent to the buffet table, with a bowl of creamers and packets of sugar and Splenda in a plastic basket.
Crystal picked up a juice and a doughnut, while Hayley sprung for toast and eggs. They sat down in a corner booth and opened the newspaper on the table in front of them.
"Well, there's nothing new here as far as I can see," Crystal said as she skimmed the article. "Except that the killer was released on twenty-five thousand dollar bail. I can't believe they'd let him go like that! I mean, he's a stone-cold killer!"
"I'm pretty sure that they'll be keeping an eye on him," Hayley said, swallowing a mouthful of eggs. "Besides, they probably took his gun away, and he can't get a new one, 'cause he's out on bail for attemped murder. They'd nail his ass for sure if he tried to."
"That may be so," Crystal conceded, "but what's to stop him from getting away?"
"Haven't you seen Dog, the Bounty Hunter?" Hayley reminded her."They got them here, too, you know. If, of course, he doesn't get himself lynched by a bunch of Loyals." She leaned closer to her friend. "He's a marked man, Crys. If he so much as shows his face on the Strip, he's dead meat. He's, like, Public Enemy Number One as far as the Loyals are concerned."
Meanwhile, at VERVE! magazine headquarters, things had settled down since yesterday. The shooting would be the feature, with Mario's photo of the moment Criss was wounded on the front cover with FALLEN ANGEL in bold lettering. Jim Close was pleased as punch. For the first time, his magazine would beat out People, US and other infotainment publications on a lead story. His staff had worked nonstop since yesterday to get the issue out there before deadline. They had the only photo of Criss actually being shot on stage; Mendoza's timing had been spot on perfect.
To pad it out, Jim made sure that Mendoza's photos of Criss rescuing that little streetwalker were included in a sidebar, milking it for all it was worth. Famous magician saves teen runaway from life on the streets, sends her to the very same homeless shelter that he funded with an auction, only to be shot by a deranged killer--the readers would eat it up! It made the assassination attempt all the more insidious. It wasn't Pulitzer Prize material, but it wasn't sleaze, either. Readers wanted the truth, but they wanted it as sensational as possible. VERVE! gave it to them in spades.
Cole sat in a tent in a vacant lot with a group of other die-hard Loyals. He didn't dare go back to the shelter again, not after what he pulled to get in there, even if the food was better than the cold-cuts-and-stale-bread sandwiches they had stored in a Coleman ice chest. As Cole and his new friends choked down this meager fare, they began talking about Hiram Block and how much they reviled him, competing with each other as to who could come up with the vilest eptihet to best fit such a fiend.
"That (bleepbleeper) is so gonna get his ass kicked!" said one.
"I hope he rots in Hell," said another. "The lowest, foulest, most stinking part of it."
"You know, I read about Dante's Inferno in school last week," a chubby teen Goth girl spoke up. "He'd be sent to the seventh circle of Hell, in the first ring--that's for violence against one's neighbor. They're plunged into the river of boiling blood--I forgot the name of it, but it sounds like an Eighties' heavy metal band."
"How many circles of Hell are there?" Cole asked.
"I'd send him to the last level myself," a heavily tattooed youth spoke up.
"No, that's reserved for traitors," the chubby girl said.
"Whatever," said the first Loyal. "You think Hiram's out on bond or something?"
"No way!" snapped the tattooed youth. "We're talking attempted murder here! If they let him out, what would stop him from killing Criss again?"
A bony young man with a fashionable goatee and shaved head leaned forward. "You wanna know something?" he spoke up in a conspriatorial tone. "I know where that (bleeper) lives!"
All eyes turned to him. "You (bleeping) us, man?" said the youth disbelivingly.
"Swear to God. When I saw his face on the tube, I knew who it was right away. He's about a block or so from my house. He's always going on about Judgement Day and the Anti-Christ and (bleep) like that. My dad called the cops on him once 'cause he wouldn't shut his pie-hole."
Cole thought about that. He recalled the anti-Criss websites on the Internet accusing Criss Angel of being the Beast foretold in Revelations. Could that have been the reason Block had shot him?
"So, what do we do?" asked the chubby girl.
"I'd like to go there and tear him a new one," Cole replied, pulling out his pocket knife. "Avenge Criss Angel!"
"What if he isn't home? What if he's still in jail?" the girl persisted
"Well," the tattooed youth said, "if we can't take it out on him, we can take it out on his house."
"But what if he is home?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Cole answered her.
They had attacked around midnight, stealing away under the cover of darkness to avenge Criss Angel. Cole and his new friends slipped up to Hiram Block's house, armed to the teeth with spraypaint and paper bags of dog feces. With only a streetlight to guide them, they scrawled CA logos and four-letter expletives onto the clapboard house's sides and front. Once the artwork was finished, they set the bags of excrement alight and left them on the front stoop, then fled into the night. Once inside the safety of the pickup truck, they laughed uproariously over their deed.
"Oh, man!" the tattooed man howled with laughter. "Old Man Block's gonna (bleep) a brick when he sees what we did to his house!"
Cole looked back at their handiwork, the smoking feces bags illuminating the front door. This was just a warning, he said to himself. The final revenge would come later. He would see to that.
Hiram Block awoke that morning to a foul stench coming from his living room. He rose, pulled on his ratty bathrobe and opened the front door. The smoldering remains of a paper bag and excrement lay at his feet on the front stoop. He stepped outside to find the perpetrator, only to discover his house covered with graffitti. Outraged, he stormed back into the house and called the police. Assured that they were on their way, Hiram sat down in his easy chair, brooding.
The forces of Satan were at work, he said to himself. They knew he had fired the first round in this holy war and they had responded in kind. They could not penetrate this God-fearing household, so they attacked from the outside. Well, let them try, he thought. This house was a fortress agains the forces of evil. The Devil would not--could not--enter it.
Lord, watch over this house, he prayed. Guard it from the Devil's armies of evil. Send Thine angels to guard it day and night. Together, we shall defeat Criss Devil and his minions. In Jesus' Name, amen.
That same morning, Criss had just finished his hospital breakfast when the doctor came in for a follow-up exam.
"Morning, Criss," the doctor greeted him. "How are you feeling today?"
"A lot better, thanks," Criss replied. "When do I get out of here?"
"Well, let's see. Lift your gown, please."
Criss raised his hospital gown, exposing his entire naked body to the doctor. He couldn't help but smile to himself, knowing there were millions of female Loyals who would have given their eyeteeth to see him in all his glory. They almost had a chance to see him in the flesh when he did his Naked Jail Escape, but he had disappointed them by getting dressed at the last minute. They were even closer in the Fantasy episode, but his lower half had been blurred by the censors. Maybe someday...
The doctor, however, was concerned only with the injury just below the pectoral muscle, searching for any signs of infection or unusual discharges. To him, Criss Angel was just another patient, his toned, chiseled torso just another face in the crowd. He examined the wound closely: no bleeding, no unusual discharges, no discoloration around the sutures. Everything was healing up nicely.
"You feel any pain at all?" the doctor asked. "Any discomfort?"
"None," Criss replied.
The doctor straightened up. "Good. Once I get the paperwork filled out, you should be good to go within the hour. We'll have someone bring up your belongings. Can you arrange transportation home, call a relative or someone to pick you up?"
"No problem." Criss picked up his cell phone and flipped it open.
"Good. Then I'll see you later." The doctor left the room.
"Sure." Criss dialed his brother, JD. He waited for the pickup. "Hey, JD? How's it goin'? I need a ride home from the hospital. Yeah, they're letting me out in an hour." Pause. "Okay, see you then. 'Bye." He flipped his phone off and lay back. It'll be good to get out of here, he thought. He began to wonder what kind of a reception he'd get when he arrived at the Luxor.
11-02-2012, 01:16 AM
If the Loyals could they'd throw a parade for Criss
11-02-2012, 10:05 AM
^ yep we would ^ great Chapters, im glad Criss is ok , cant wait to read more :)
11-02-2012, 03:27 PM
It was almost noon, and hundreds of Loyals had gathered in front of the Luxor to greet Criss when he returned from the hospital. Cameramen mounted their heavy videocameras on their shoulders to document the momentious event for the upcoming episode of MindFreak. Security personnel cordoned off a path leading to the main entrance with the ubiquitous velvet ropes, while uniformed policemen patrolled the perimeters, being extra vigilant for any signs of trouble. If not for the tragic circumstances which led to this homecoming, it would have seemed more like a Loyalfest.
Crystal and Hayley stood in the front of the crowds, right by the front entrance. They had missed their chance before; they were not going to blow it again. This time they were really going to meet Criss Angel! They peered anxiously down the cordoned pathway for any sign of a limo, a Viper, a Lambo, or whatever was carrying The Angel back to them. Even though they were excited to see their idol return home, they couldn't help but notice the large number of uniformed security personnel in the area, almost twice as many as there had been during the demonstration. It didn't upset them; they accepted the fact that after Criss' near fatal shooting no one wanted to see it happen again. It made them feel safe, in a way.
To pass the time, the two read the posterboard "Welcome Home Criss" signs held up by fellow fans, admiring the artwork on them. They waved nad blew kisses at a roving videocamera spanning the crowds for a wide angle shot, shouting their love and devotion for Criss for all to see and hear. The fans began to grow restless as they waited for The Angel to show up. Chants of "Criss! Criss! Criss! Criss!" rose and fell at intervals, recorded by the camera crew. Suddenly, a loud cheer rose as a long black stetch limo pulled up to the curb. The chanting grew louder as it stopped in front of the hotel.
A half hour before, Criss was officially discharged from the hospital, walking out on his own two feet instead of being wheeled out in a wheelchair as the hospital staff insisted. He knew where his ride was--the hotel limo taking up three-quarters of the driveway in front of the exit, JD standing casually next to it. Well, if he was going home, he might as well do it in style, he figured.
The brothers embraced, then climbed into the limo. The hospital staff seemed nonplussed about the whole thing--this was, after all, Las Vegas. Everything, even being discharged from the hospital, was done with class.
Realizing this would be the only private moment he would have as the huge limo tooled down the Strip, Criss took the time to call his mother on his cell phone.
"Hey, Mom, how's it goin'?" Pause. "Yeah, I'm fine, I just got out of the hospital. I'm going back to the Luxor now." Another pause. "Did you get the security system installed? Good. How about the window? Did you get that fixed? Good. Just send me the bill and I'll take care of it."
JD tapped Criss' knee. "Ask if they caught the guy who broke into the house yet." he said.
"Hey, Mom? JD wants to know if they caught the guy who broke into the house yet." He lowered his phone and turned to JD. "She says not yet," he told him, then turned back to the phone. "But you got a good look at him, right? You know what he looks like, don't you?"
He turned back to JD. "They got a profile on him already," he told him. Then, back to his mother. "Look, Mom, I gotta go, we're almost at the Luxor. You take care of yourself, okay. I love you more. 'Bye."
He flipped off his phone. "So the new security system is installed," he told JD. "It'll cover break-ins, fire, or whatever. Mom's safe now, so we don't have to worry."
JD sighed with relief. "Well, that's two close calls we had. You almost getting killed by some maniac, and Mom almost getting robbed by some punk. I'd say you were both lucky."
Criss pondered his brother's words. JD was right. They had been very lucky. If not for the New Testament in his jacket pocket, he'd be riding in a herse as the guest of honor at his own funeral instead of simply going back to his suite at the Luxor in the hotel limo. And if not for his mother's quick arrival to catch that dirtbag breaking into her house--and his turning tail breaking out again--God knew what would have happened.
But maybe it wasn't luck, he thought. Criss had been taught since earliest childhood that everyone had a guardian angel to watch over them and protect them from harm. He recalled George's quip that someone Up There had his back. Perhaps he did have a guardian angel watching over him that day, as did his mother when she encountered that burglar.
Maybe...maybe it was his dad? he thought hesitantly. Criss had always claimed that his father was watching him from Heaven. His presence was as real to him as it had been while John Sarantakos walked the earth. If his father had been watching over him and his mother during the past twenty-four hours, then he had gone above and beyond the call of duty in protecting his nearest and dearest from bodily harm.
He had no time to ponder this mystery furthur. The limo glided up to the Luxor's main entrance. Through the tinted windows Criss could see the throng of fans waiting to greet him. He had wondered what kind of a welcome he would get when he returned, but he didn't expect this!
"He's here! He's here!" eager fans shouted. "CRRIIIIIISSSSSS!"
Crystal hopped up and down excitedly. "Ohmigodohmigodohmigod! He's back! Criss is home!"
Shrieks of ecstacy rent the desert air as Criss Angel climbed out of the limosine and rose to his full height. "How you all doin'?" he called out, to be answered by even louder cheers and screams. Their adulation washed over Criss like soothing jets of water in a hot tub. He met and greeted everyone within arm's reach, shaking hands, hugging, kissing, drying tears from weeping faces, even signing a few autographs. In this manner he progressed to the entrance of the hotel.
Crystal tensed up. He was coming! He was coming her way! "Oh, God!" she shrieked. "Criss! Oh, God! Thank God you're all right! I saw them shoot you!"
Criss came up to Crystal and Hayley, and--miracle of miracles!--actually came in physical contact with them in the form of a brief handshake for both of them. Hayley was so excited she forgot to take a picture of it. Crystal wanted to pull Criss to her and plant a big wet one on his lips, but he pulled away from them and went into the hotel. She stood there, reeling in the afterglow of the encounter. For one fleeting moment, she had been touched by an Angel, and it had been heavenly!
Cole Shoope had craftily dodged the mob outside and made his way into the Luxor itself. There was a gaggle of reporters and photographers waiting for him in the atrium, but that was to be expected. Once Criss ran the gantlet of the media, he could meet one on one with the Master. Time was on his side.
He would approach him, not as a starry-eyed fan such as those outside, but as an acolyte, an apprentice in magic. He would offer him his services in any way possible. He would beg Criss to teach him the ways of the MindFreak, and he would study diligently at his feet. He would strive to prove himself worthy of his tutelage, no matter how long it took.
He looked around to find a better vantage point to see Criss. As he searched he spotted a familiar figure creeping around from the back of the service corridor. Cole studied him carefully, then almost fainted from shock. No! It couldn't be him! It couldn't be!
Up in the surveillance room, the video monitors displayed all the goings on in the hotel and the casino. Extra-careful attention was given to the situation down in the atrium and the main entrance. Things seemed to be pretty much under control outside, and the mini-press conference was quiet and orderly. Nothing to report up front.
But what about the back? A sharp-eyed surveillance monitor caught someone who didn't look like a hotel employee sneaking up the service corridor to the atrium. Someone with a familiar face. The monitor "spotlighted" the trespasser's face and ran a "make" on him in the files. Once the match was made, he immediatly alerted all available personnel to the presence and location of Hiram Block in the service corridor leading to the atrium.
11-02-2012, 04:37 PM
Hi great chapters , I'm glad criss is on the mend , can't wait to read more :)
11-02-2012, 08:37 PM
WTF Why did he come back for
11-03-2012, 12:33 PM
In the atrium of the Luxor Hotel and Casino, the media peppered Criss with questions, questions and more questions; it was all he could do to keep track of who asked what, let alone answer them all. Cameras flashed in his face, almost blinding him, and mirophones were shoved under his chin for statements.
"How are you feeling now, Criss?"
"Better, thanks," Criss replied.
"What happened to that Bible you had in your jacket? You have it with you?"
Criss held up the bullet-punctured book. "Right here," he said, holding it up for the photographers. "Some guy was passing them out on the street and gave me on. I stuck it in my jacket and forgot all about it until then."
"What about the man who shot you, Hiram Block?"
"What about him?"
"Do you feel any anger toward him? What are your feelings about him?"
"I am not a vengeful person by nature," he replied seriously. "I'm gonna let the law handle Mr. Block. I am not seeking revenge against him, but I don't entirely forgive him, either. He could have easily injured or even killed an innocent bystander; he should count himself lucky that I didn't die. They have the death penalty here in Nevada, you know."
"Criss, there's a rumor about you rescuing a teen prostitute. Can you clarify that?"
"Yes. I was shooting an episode of MindFreak, and there was this girl on the streetcorner, turning tricks. She looked to be about fourteen or so, and I felt sorry for her, so I flagged down a cab and sent her to Sanctuary."
"Sanctuary. That's the shelter you started for the homeless?"
"I didn't start Sanctuary, I just raised money for it."
"Is it true that your mother's house was robbed?"
"Her house was broken into, but nothing was stolen. She caught the guy climbing into the window, but he took off when he saw her."
"Well, at least she's all right now, isn't she?"
"She's okay. My brother Costa is with her; we have a new security system installed so this won't happen again."
"Can you tell us of any future plans for the shows, MindFreak or Believe?"
"Just keep watching."
Security took over. "No more questions, folks," they ordered. "Clear on out of here." They shepherded the press out of the atrium. Criss breathed a sigh of relief. Barely an hour out of the hospital and already he had a press conference. He stood there, wavering, his face pale and wan from the ordeal he had endured from the media blitz.
JD stepped forward, holding him steady. "You all right, Criss?"
Criss shook his head violently. "I'll be okay, bro'."
"You'll be okay once you get upstairs and get some rest," JD insisted. "You had enough of playing celebrity for today. You gotta take it easy." He took Criss by the arm and pulled him along to the elevator bank. "God! You're shaking like a leaf! We gotta get you into bed. I'll call room service and have them send you up something to eat."
"You know, JD," Criss retorted. "You'd make someone a good Jewish mother."
"Ha, ha, I forgot how to laugh."
This friendly banter between brothers was interrupted by a loud cry of warning, and a scuffle in the service corridor.
He was right! It was Hiram Block! Cole stood in shock as he stared at the assassin sneaking up the service corridor. The press was leaving the atrium; Criss was exposed to danger! He had to warn him!
Cole dashed up to Criss and JD. "Criss! Criss! Look out! It's him again! He's over there!"
JD stopped Cole in his tracks by siezing him by the shoulders. "Easy now, what are you yelling about?" he demanded.
"Block!" Cole cried. "He's right over there!" He pointed to the service corridor.
JD and Criss turned to where Cole was pointing. There was Hiram Block, heading straight for them. A sudden rush of adrenalin strengthened Criss as he braced for the attack. Hiram charged forward in righteous wrath, a huge butcher knife in his gnarled hand.
"I'll see you in Hell, you (bleeper)!" Cole screamed, lunging forward.
"Anti-Christ is finished!" he shouted, thrusting the knife toward his victim. "Return to Hell, you Dev--uhhh!"
Hiram stopped short, his face contorted in agony, the butcher knife clattering to the floor. He fell forward, clutching his bleeding abdomen where the handle of a pocket knife protruded. He pointed upward toward Criss, JD and Cole.
"God is not mocked!" he rasped. "You will face His judgement for your sins! You will be cast into Hell for all eternity!"
Cole looked at Hiram grimly. "So will you, old man," he replied, secretly wiping the blood on his jeans.
In the stillness of the security office, Criss sat with Cole while the authorities contacted his parents. There was no reason for him to cover up his story--indeed, it would have proven impossible to do so. The "eye in the sky" had caught Cole stabbing Hiram Block in the abdomen with his pocket knife. Block had been transported to the hospital, all hellfire and brimstone. The press had a field day covering it.
At first, Cole had felt vindicated, even heroic, over his deed. He had vowed revenge against Hiram Block, and he had taken it. If not for him, Criss would have been stabbed to death. It was defense, justifiable homicide. Now, as he sat in the security office, the possiblilty of jail time ahead of him, he regressed to a frightened boy. From the look on Criss' face, he could tell that the Master was not pleased with what he had done. Cole began to tremble, tears welling up in his eyes.
"Criss?" he said in a small voice. "You're not mad at me, are you? I don't want you to hate me or anything. I..."
Criss drew a deep breath. "Cole, I don't hate you," he said to him in his most fatherly tone. "I hate what you did. You took the law into your own hands and became judge, jury and executioner. Revenge solves nothing."
"But he tried to kill you!" Cole argued. "Twice!"
"True, he did," Criss conceded. "But he could easily have killed you with that knife. By attacking him, you put your own life in danger. Now you're up on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. You could go to jail for it."
The tears started to fall. Criss put an arm around Cole's shoulder. "Now, if you co-operate with the police, they'll go easy on you, okay? You tell them the truth, and no harm will come to you. Got that?"
Cole nodded. "I wanted to be your apprentice," he sniffled. "I wanted you to teach me how to do magic and illusions and stuff like that. I wanted to learn everything from you. That's why I came here to see you."
Criss thought for a moment. "Then let this be your first lesson," he said. "Every act has its consequenses, you understand? For every action, there's a reaction. Sir Isaac Newton said that. When you ran off to Las Vegas by yourself, you failed to consider your parents' feelings about it. When you stabbed Mr. Block, you didn't think about all the trouble it would cause, did you?"
Cole shook his head no, wiping away his tears.
"And now you are in deep trouble," Criss continued. "But, it's not the end of the world for you. If you work hard, obey the rules, show everyone that you learned from your mistakes, you can still live a normal, productive life. You're still young. In time, this will all be forgotten. In the meantime, you have to face the music. Stay strong, and you'll get through this in one piece."
Cole threw his arms around Criss, sobbing. Criss returned the embrace, taking pity on the boy. This was something he had always feared would happen: a Loyal devoted to the point of obsession, blinded to reason and common sense, acting out on impulse resulting in tragedy. Hollywood was full of lurid tales of stalkers and deranged fans who went to extremes to prove their twisted infatuation for their idols. John Hinkley shot Ronald Reagan to win Jodie Foster's love. Amborse Kappos called Sheryl Crow his "spiritual twin." And so on and so on.
Well, maybe Criss could help save Cole from himself. He was still young enough to learn not to be a slave to one's dreams and fantasies. With the right therapy, perhaps he would mature into a more responsible adult, more in control of his emotions and desires. Kids act impulsively all the time--God knew he did when he was Cole's age. Unfortunatly, many of those impulsive acts led to injury, imprisonment, or even death. It's a wonder I didn't kill myself back then, Criss said to himself.
"Cole," Criss said, lifting the boy's chin. "I want you to understand that you can't let yourself be overruled by your impulses. You have to think before you act, understand? You may think I do the things I do on impusle, but I plan my demonstrations out very carefully to prevent myself from getting killed. And even then, there are things that can go wrong, things I didn't plan on happening. The risks I take are too great to be comprehended. No matter how much I prepare, I could still get killed. I accept the risks and do my best to minimize them. I am telling you this because you need to realize that one quick, thoughtless action can lead to a lifetime of regret."
He drew the boy closer. "Just remember, Cole, no matter what happens, you are still loved by your family. They may seem to be mad as hell at you, but deep down they want to help you. They love you and care about you like no one else on the face of this planet. Sure they're gonna yell at you and punish you for what you did, but that's because they don't want you to get hurt anymore. My own parents did the same to me when I was growing up, and I turned out okay. Maybe not what they hoped, but still."
Criss smiled jovially. Cole smiled back through his tears. "The point is that even though things look bleak for you right now, you'll get through this, hopefully the wiser. I made my share of mistakes, but I benefited from them. I grew to be a better person from them. You will, too." He patted Cole's shoulder. "I gotta get back now. Take care."
He rose to leave. Cole rose with him. "Criss?"
Criss waited for him to respond, which he did with a final, crushing embrace. "I don't care what that crazy old man thinks," he wailed. "You're really an angel to everybody. Thank you, Criss. Thank you for everything."
Criss embraced him back. "You're welcome."
11-03-2012, 03:35 PM
Great chapter , I hope the law go easy on cole , can't wait to read more ;)
11-04-2012, 08:34 PM
"You got everything?" Courtney asked Hayley and Crystal as she closed the lid on her suitcase. "If you forgot anything, we're not coming back for it."
Hayley zipped up her overnight bag. "I'm good," she said. "Ready to go, Crys?"
Crystal tucked her little green New Testament into her purse and shouldered her large overnight bag. She wanted to cry. She had so looked forward to this little vacation here in Las Vegas, anticipating a magical, fun-filled two days of meeting Criss Angel and getting a picture taken with him. She had had starry eyed fantasies of his falling in love with her and being swept off her feet by him. Instead, she had witnessed his near murder by some religious zealot. She and Hayley had spent most of their time grieving with other Loyals, keeping vigil for him. They caught only a glimpse of him when they wheeled him out to greet them. When he came home from the hospital, he had given her only a brief handshake and disappeared into the hotel. He was so near, yet still unattainable.
"Come on," Courtney ordered. "Let's get a move on."
Crystal trudged out of the motel room and to the car. She shoved her bag into the trunk along with Hayley's and Courtney's luggage. Hayley noticed the mournful look on her friend's face.
"You wanna get a drink or something?" she offered. "They have a pop machine in the office."
Crystal wanted to refuse, but realized she was thirsty after all. It was going to be a long drive back home, and Courtney wasn't going to stop for anything. "Okay," she sighed.
They walked the few feet to the motel office. A wave of cold air greeted them as they entered. The small early-model television behind the desk was tuned to the news. Crystal idly watched as Hayley went for drinks.
"This just in. Hiram Block, the man arrested for shooting famed illusionist Criss Angel two days ago, was himself attacked in the lobby of the Luxor hotel early this afternoon. He was stabbed with a six-inch pocket knife by one of Criss Angel's fans."
"You want regular Coke or diet?" Hayley asked.
"Uh, diet, please," Crystal answered absently. "Hey, check this out."
"Hiram Block had entered the hotel through the back and tried to attack Criss again, this time with a butcher knife, as seen on this surveillance tape. He was stopped by thirteen-year-old Cole Shoope, of Nachez, California, who stabbed Block in the abdomen. He is now in custody of the local police on charge of assault with a deadly weapon. Block is reported to be in stable condition. No comment from Criss Angel or his managers."
"Hey, I remember that guy!" Hayley exclaimed. "We met him at the McDonald's, remember?"
Crystal nodded. "Yeah. Did they say he was thirteen? I thought he said he was sixteen."
"Whatever. Guys always tell lies to impress girls. I remember one time when--"
Courtney stuck her head through the office door. "What's the holdup?" she demanded. "C'mon, let's roll!"
The girls followed Courtney to the waiting car. "What do you think will happen to Cole?" Crystal asked her friend.
"Can't say for sure," Hayley replied. "He could end up in Juvie. I mean, that guy was pretty hardcore when it came to Criss Angel."
Mr. and Mrs. Shoope cut their vacation short to claim their son from the LVMPD lockup. They showed them the tape of Cole stabbing Hiram Block, and informed them of the arraignment, the trial, and what sentence Cole could expect to serve if convicted. They also informed them of Cole's rights, what agencies to seek for legal and professional help, and the process of plea barganing. Mr. Shoope, being an attorney, rather testily claimed he already knew the legal system well enough to take the appropriate measures.
"Your son needs more than just legal help, Mr. Shoope," the legal counsel assigned to Cole told him. "He needs the love and support of his family. He needs counseling."
"What he needs," Mr. Shoope retorted, "is discipline."
The Shoopes drove home in silence. Upon arrival, several hours later, Cole was sent to his room while his parents determined his fate. Cole sat on his bed, fearing the worst. After a seeming eternity, his parents entered his room, the expressions on their faces reading like a death sentence.
"Young man, not only have you gone and committed an unspeakable crime, but you disgraced your family and your good name," his father said in a grim, judicial tone. "You've been running wild long enough. Come September, you will be enrolled in military school, and all your Criss Angel junk will be taken out and burned. Plus, we are selling your dirt bike. Is that clear?"
Cole stared incomprehensivly at his father. "You can't do that to me!" he screamed.
"We already have," his father told him. "You are in serious need of discipline. We think it's for the best."
"Best for who?" Cole shot back.
His father ignored him. "It's time for bed, now, young man. Tomorrow, all these posters are coming down. You might as well get used to it--you'll never seen this magician again as long as you live." With that, he left the room. His mother turned to him with a worried look.
"Honey, your father--"
"Is a total jerk!" Cole yelled. "All my life, he wanted me to follow in his footsteps, to be a lawyer just like him! Well, screw that! I'm gonna live my life the way I want to! And if he so much as touches a single poster in my room, so help me, I'll..."
"You'll what?" his mother prompted.
"I'll kick his ass, that's what I'll do! I hate the son of a (bleep)!"
There. It was out. He had said it, right to his mother's horrified face. "You heard me! He has no feeelings for me, just rules, rules, rules! He was always gone somewhere, either on a case, or at the office, or with you on some vacation, leaving me with relatives or some baby-sitter. My only memory of him when I was little was the back of his head! He never came to my Little League games! He never came to any of my school functions! We never did anything together! The only time he ever spoke to me was to lecture me on something! I couldn't talk to him about anything!"
"Oh, you don't really mean that, Cole," his mother protested gently.
"Yeah, that's right!" Cole sneered. "Blow me off just like you always do! I'm just a little kid to you, ain't I?"
"Aren't I, don't use ain't."
"Who the (bleep) cares?!" Cole exploded. "That's the trouble with you! All talk and no listen! You never tried to understand me, you just forced me into a mold I don't fit into! Well, screw Dad, screw military school, and screw you!"
"You're tired, Cole," his mother said. "We'll talk about this in the morning. It's been a long trip for all of us." She gave him a peck on the cheek. "Good night, dear," she said, and walked calmly out of the room.
Cole threw himself on his bed, fighting back tears. God! Didn't they understand? Didn't they understand at all? He didn't want to go to some military school! He'd die first! He'd kill himself first!
The hospital parking valet stood drooling with envy-tinged yearning as the sleek black Lamborghini glided up the drive leading to the Visitor's Entrance. He had parked high-end autos before--this was Las Vegas, after all--but this was the Holy Grail of them all as far as he was concerned. It was all he could do to pull himself together when it halted on a dime and gave nine cents' change in front of the entrance. The gull-wing door flew up, and Criss Angel emerged from the driver's side. He tossed the key to the valet. "Take good care of it, willya?" he told the valet.
"Oh, yes, sir!" The valet slid into the Lambo, savoring the moment. He would park it all right, but he was going to take the long way around.
Meanwhile, Criss entered the hospital and walked up to the main desk. "Hi. I would like to visit Hiram Block, please," he requested politely.
The receptionist checked her records. "Mr. Block is in room 207A," she told him. "Just follow the yellow line and go up to the second floor."
Criss thanked her and walked away. Follow the yellow brick line, he sang to himself. Follow the yellow brick line! Follow follow follow follow follow the yellow brick line! It was absurd, but it eased the tension he felt on the way here. Criss had spent half his life overcoming fear; today he would come face-to-face with the man who had tried to kill him. Everyone thought he was nuts (they always thought he was nuts!), but since Hiram Block was in the hospital, he was too weak to hurt him.
Down the corridor, up the elevator, and down another corridor to 207A. BLOCK, read the name on the plate. This was the place, he thought. Criss peered in the door. The privacy curtains were drawn; Criss went in and looked behind them.
He saw a feeble old man sleeping in bed, a resperator clipped to his nostrils and an IV needle stuck in one bony arm. A dog-eared Bible lay on his lap, opened to the Book of Revelations--his favorite, no doubt, Criss thought. He looked down upon the skeletal figure upon the bed. This was the man who had hated him so much he tried to kill him, this pathetic old man in a threadbare hospital gown, hooked up to an IV and a resperator to keep him alive when half the world wanted him dead. Whatever resentment Criss had harbored melted away at the sight of him. It reminded him of his father in his last days of life, eaten alive by cancer, his life ebbing away with every passing moment, a shell of his former self.
Moved to pity, he sat down on the side of the bed and gently took the old man's hand in his. God, he prayed silently. I know this man tried to kill me, but I ask that You have mercy on him. I don't know what inner demons drove him to murder, but I hope and pray that he's come back to his senses by now. I don't hate him. I don't love him, but I don't hate him. Please, God, make him understand that I am not the Anti-Christ or anything like that. I know You love him as much as You love me. Help him to understand that. Amen.
Hiram stirred awake. "Tommy?" he murmured sleepily.
Tommy? Who's Tommy? Criss wondered. "No, Mr. Block, it's not Tommy. I'm Criss. Criss Angel."
Suddenly awake, Hiram glared at Criss with watery blue eyes. "What...what are you doing here?" he demanded angrily.
"To see you," Criss replied simply. "To talk to you."
"Stay away from me, Devil!" he growled, pointing at Criss. "In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command you to depart!"
"In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ," Criss repeated in a gentler tone, "I come in peace. Look, I know you think I'm the Devil Incarnate, but I'm not. I'm just a man, same as you. I believe in God as strongly as you do, but I balance my faith with reason. You came onto me all hellfire and brimstone, and look where it got you. You're facing the rest of your life in prison, old man! And at your age, that won't be very long."
Criss shifted his weight. "Do you realize that you could have killed an innocent bystander when you took a shot at me? Or a member of my family, or my crew? Do you remember the fifth commandment, thou shalt not kill?"
"The Lord guided my bullet away from any innocent bystanders," Hiram said smugly.
"True, He did. He guided it to the inner pocket of my jacket, where I had this inside it." Criss pulled out the New Testament with the bullet hole in the center and held it up for Hiram to see. "I got this from the Gideons--you heard of them?"
"Course I have." Hiram rasped.
"Well, they gave me this while I was on the street, and I stuck it in my pocket. I had almost forgotten about it until you tried to kill me during my demonstration. It saved my life, Mr. Block. I guess you could say it was a miracle."
Block said nothing, but continued to glare at Criss.
"I thank God every day for it when I look at it," he continued. "And you should, too. Instead of Murder One, you're getting off with attempted murder. You could have faced the death penalty if I had been killed."
"God will vindicate me!" Hiram said with righteous bravado. "You will stand before Him, and face His Judgement! And not even you can escape the Wrath of God! All your fancy magic tricks won't save you!"
"Yeah, well, so will you," Criss retorted. "You're gonna have to answer to all you have done as well. It says in Matthew, 'Judge not, lest you also be judged'. God's gonna hold you up to the same standards you hold for me and everyone else. So, if I were you, I'd lighten up a little."
Block stared at Criss, burning with rage. He wanted to lunge at this minion of Satan, strangle him with his bare hands if he could.
"By the way," Criss said, changing the subject. "Who's Tommy?"
"Yeah, I heard you say 'Tommy?' when you woke up. Who is he?
"Tommy was my son," Hiram answered. "I tried to raise him in the ways of righteousness, but he fell into sin. He done drugs, he done the devil's rock music, he done all kinds of sins. In the end, the Devil tempted him to take the life God gave him, and now he's lost to me forever."
"I'm sorry," Criss murmured sympathetically.
"You should be!" Hiram snapped. "It was the Devil's ways that you follow that drove him away from salvation!"
"First of all, I don't follow the 'Devil's ways' whatever they are," Criss argued. "I'm sorry you lost your son, but killing me won't bring him back. How long ago did he die, anyway?"
"It was twenty years ago. He took too much of that Devil's brew, heroin, and died from it."
"So, it was an overdose, not suicide," Criss pointed out.
"No, no! He killed himself with the Devil's heroin. He killed himself the first time he took it! It was a slow death, but he killed himself!"
"Well, maybe from that perspective, you are right," Criss conceded. "Drug abuse is slow suicide, in a manner of speaking. Didn't you try to help him in any way?"
"I prayed for him."
"But did you reach out to him? Talk to him? Seek professional help for him?"
"I prayed for him. I prayed every day and night for him."
"But you made no effort to help him personally." Criss sighed in frustration. "If you had gotten off your knees for just one day and reached out to him, Tommy would be alive today. They say God helps those who help themselves. I say God helps those who help others as well!"
Criss rose from the bed. "I really feel sorry for you, Mr. Block. I really do. I came here in the spirit of friendship, and you blew me off." He picked up the old Bible and handed it to Hiram. "Here. I think you need to reread this more carefully."
He turned to leave, but about-faced with a smile. "The Lord be with you," he said, and left.
11-05-2012, 05:23 AM
Great chapter., i feel so sorry for cole :( can't wait to read more xx
11-06-2012, 11:07 PM
Las Vegas 26 mi, read the sign on the shoulder of the desert highway. Cole rode his dirt bike down the last stretch of road, his knapsack stuffed with his belongings (a pair of jeans, two CA t-shirts, his posters, drawings, DVDs, and a copy of Criss' book, MindFreak.) on his back. It had been a desperate act to run away from home like that, but the prospect of being shipped off to military school, with its mind-numbing routine and soul-crushing discipline, was too much to bear. He would have rather done time in Juvie than there.
The city limits came into view. Cole should have been elated to have arrived back in Vegas; instead, he felt small, weak, and more alone than ever. How was he going to live by himself? Where would he live? He had been released into his parents' custody after being arrested for stabbing Hiram Block, but now he left that custody of his own free will, and now he was on his own. He had to make sure he would never get caught again. He was in enough trouble as it was.
The dirt bike began to sputter, then it fell silent. Cole checked the gas gauge. Empty, just like his future, he thought bitterly. He walked the last few miles under the burning desert sun, his backpack weighing him down, pushing his dirt bike along the side of the road. He was hot, he was tired, he was thirsty, but he was determined to make it. Criss Angel never gave up, and neither would he.
Criss. He said he would help him in any way he could when he sat with Cole in the security office after he got busted. Yes, the Master would help him as he promised. The overwhelming adoration Cole felt for his idol sustained him throughout the lonely trek through the desert. Criss would take him in, take care of him, teach him magic and illusions. In return, he would serve the Master in every way he could: run his errands, take care of his cat, whatever. It would be the perfect symbiotic relationship.
But first, he had to find him. Las Vegas was a huge metropolis, with over a million people living there, and millions more visiting it every day. Criss was so busy he was never in one place for long, what with his shows, his personal appearances, his social life. Where to look first? The Luxor would be a good place to start, he figured. After all, it was where he lived and produced his TV show. Yes, that was the best place to look. Cole trudged on, pushing his bike more determined than ever. Now he had a plan and a destination.
Mrs. Beaman smiled broadly at the sight of Criss Angel coming into the lobby of Sanctuary, flinging her massive arms around him in a bearhug. "Honey, it's so good to see you again!" she gushed.
"It's good to see you, too, Mrs. Beaman," Criss replied, catching his breath. He liked the pastor's wife well enough, but her hugging could break a man's ribs with one squeeze. He recovered enough to ask about the pastor's whereabouts.
"He's in his office right now," Mrs. Beaman said, "with that little girl you found."
Criss thanked her and headed for the pastor's office. It was easy to locate; it was the only door with framed glass and Pastor Ray Beaman, Director lettered in gold on it. Criss rapped on the glass, and heard the pastor's voice telling him to come in.
Criss entered the office. The pastor rose from his chair behind his desk and shook hands with him. Behind him sat Verona Beaman, his thirtysomething daughter who worked as his secretary and acted as chaperone when female residents came to his office (for "proprietary reasons", he explained, but more to prevent accusations of sexual harrassment and/or assault). In a large vinyl chair sat a frail, pale, skinny girl, staring warily at Criss with large doe-like eyes.
"Criss, this is Tamia," Pastor Beaman said. "Tamia, you remember Criss, here, don't you? The man who sent you here?"
Tamia nodded, still eyeing Criss with suspicion. Criss bent down and smiled at her. "Hello, Tamia," he greeted her in a friendly manner. "How are you doing, huh?"
"Fine," she mumbled. She looked so different without all that makeup. She had an oval face that could be called pretty if not for the dark circles under her eyes and the fear in them. Criss could only imagine what horrors she had experienced in her young life.
He sat down in a chair next to her. Tamia flinched away from him. "Hey," Criss said soothingly. "I'm not going to hurt you or anything. I just want to talk, okay? Has someone in the past hurt you in anyway?"
The doe-eyes hardened. "Yeah," she retorted defensivly. "Everybody. Everybody I loved left me, or wanted to (bleep) with me."
"I'm not here to hurt you, Tamia," Criss assured her. "I just wanted to see how you were doing, that's all. The street's no place to grow up in. When I saw you out there on that street corner, selling yourself, it hurt me deeply. I felt a strong sense of responsibility to reach out and help you. You deserve a better life, Tamia, better than the life on the streets. Matter of fact, it wasn't really living--it was more like existing. You can turn your life around if you want to. Pastor Beaman and the people here in the shelter will help you all they can, but you're the one who has to make it work. It all depends on yourself."
Some of the hardness fell away from Tamia's eyes, but she was still unsure about the man sitting beside her. Criss could tell that she had been burned before with false promises of "a better life". She must have had an extremely rough home life for her to be reduced to prostitution. Had she run away from home? Or been thrown out? The mind boggled.
Criss drew out a small jeweler's box. "Here," he said to her, giving her the box. "I got something for you. Whenever you feel that you want to give up, or you feel alone, or any other negative thoughts go through your mind, I want you to look at this and be reminded that someone in this world cared enough about you to save you."
Tamia opened the box and took out a small CA pendant. Criss took the pendant, unhooked the clasp and placed it around her small neck. "Wear it," he told her, "with all my love."
She sat there, stunned, thin fingers touching the pendant. "What do you say, Tamia?" Pastor Beaman prompted her.
"Uh, thanks," she murmured, still sitting in shock.
"You're welcome," Criss replied. He stunned her even furthur by giving her a peck on the forehead as he rose to leave. The pastor walked with Criss out the door and into the hallway.
"Tamia will be transferred to Magdalene House this afternoon," the pastor told him. "They can deal with a girl like Tamia better than anyone. We're grateful that you took the time to see her before she left."
"Thanks, Pastor," Criss said. "I'm just glad she's gonna be okay."
"She will be," the pastor said, "thanks to her guardian Angel."
Criss smiled, blushing a little. "Well, I know you're busy, and I gotta get back myself, so I'll let you go," he said, shaking the pastor's hand.
"Sure, Criss," the pastor said, returning the handshake. "You take care, okay?"
Criss nodded and turned to leave. As he entered the lobby of the shelter, he was stopped short by a familiar face coming up to him from the rear. It was covered with dirt and sweat, but he knew it immediatly.
Cole had stopped at the first gas station he found, just outside the city limits, crowded with drivers who were more or less in the same predicament he was in--out of gas and out of luck. Ten dollars of gas and a soda later, Cole was back in the saddle again, buzzing his way on his dirt bike to the Luxor--and Criss.
Somewhere he had taken a wrong turn and ended up in the same sleazy neighborhood as before. Following familiar landmarks, Cole rode to the same shelter where he had spent the night before the day of the demonstration. Coincidence? Or the cosmic bond he shared with Criss Angel guiding him? Either way, he had nowhere else to go. He slipped around the back and found that the delivery doors were wide open. Fate was smiling on him! He killed the motor on his bike and wheeled it into the storage area. He secreted it behind some crates of canned goods and slipped into the shelter.
But how was he going to explain himself this time? He had fibbed his way in before; would they take him in again? Should he use the same cover story, or tell the truth? He knew full well what would happen if he chose the latter--they'd call his folks and it was good-bye dreams and hello military school, and no way in hell was that going to happen! No, he'd need another story.
Cole peered inside the lobby. Another volunteer was there, an elderly white woman this time. He'd never seen her before, so it was likely she had never seen him, either. Good. Maybe he could use the same story on her, and no one would know the difference. He approached the desk quietly, almost timidly. The volunteer at the desk was so wrapped up in her copy of VERVE! magazine she failed to notice him. Maybe he could sneak by her...?
A scuffle and muffled voices startled him. In the hallway, Cole saw the large man whom he recognized as Pastor What's-His-Name, the man who ran the shelter, and--Criss Angel! Criss Angel was here in this very place he had stumbled upon! If that wasn't proof of a cosmic bond, what was?
Criss turned away from the pastor and was heading his way. Cole was rooted to the spot, unable to move, speak, or think. The Master approached him and stopped.
"Cole?" Criss said, unsure.
Cole could only nod. Criss stared uncomprehendingly at him. "What are you doing here?" he demanded.
"What's going on?" Pastor Beaman wanted to know as he walked into the lobby. He turned to Criss. "You know this boy?"
Criss told him about Cole's attack on Hiram Block and his subsequent arrest for assault. The pastor looked at Cole with a mixture of pity and severity. Cole could only return the gaze with pleading eyes. "Look, I know I screwed up in the past, and I'm sorry," he babbled. "I admit I lied to get in here last time. I just wanted a place to spend the night until the demonstration. I didn't want to hurt anyone--at least, not here. I stabbed Hiram because he was going to attack Criss. My dad wants to send me away to military school, and to become a lawyer like him. I don't want to be a lawyer! I want to do magic and be an artist, like you, Criss! I want to live my dreams, like you did! So, I ran away from home, for good this time. I know I have to face trial here for assault, but it'll be easier if I'm here. Criss, you gotta help me! You promised you would!" he wailed as tears carved streaks through the grime on his face.
The pastor took Cole by the shoulder. "Come into my office, son," he said, "we'll talk there."
The three of them went into the office. Verona and Tamia were gone, having left to prepare the latter for her transfer to Magdalene House. Pastor Beaman sat behind his desk. Criss took the same chair as before, while Cole sat down in the chair Tamia had previously occupied. The pastor looked at the boy grimly.
"Okay, son," he said. "Now, we want the truth about why you ran away from home."
Cole plunged. "Well, you already know about what I did to Hiram Block," he said. "I mean, it was on the news and all that. So, my folks cut short their vacation and came to pick me up. They didn't say anything to me, just picked me up and drove me home. They wouldn't let me explain or anything, just sent me to my room and said they were going to burn all my Criss Angel drawings and posters and stuff, and take away my dirt bike, and send me to military school. I'd rather die than go there! So, I packed up all my stuff and rode back here."
"Did you try to tell your parents that you didn't want to go to military school?"
"I can't tell my parents anything!" Cole blurted. "They never listen to me, no matter how hard I try. Dad's always going off to work, or trial, or the golf course, or vacations with Mom, and they've always left me behind with relatives or in daycare or some stranger or whatever. They think they know what's good for me, but they don't! When I do good, they hardly notice, but when I screw up, like I did before, then they're all over my face! They just drop me off to wherever I need to be and drive away. They never went to my Little League games, or the art shows at school, or even my middle-school graduation. They don't see me as a person, they see me as a future legal beagle like Dad and Granddad before me."
He turned to Criss. "Remember what you said about having a dream, and if your actions speak louder than words, they'd come true? Well, I have dreams of being a magician like you, of being an artist, not a lawyer. You had a family who believed in you. I don't. They supported your dreams, and they came true. My family wants to crush mine. That's why I ran away. They can take away my posters and drawings, they can take away my dirt bike, but they can't take away my dreams!"
Cole turned to the pastor. "Look, I'm sorry for the little lies I told to get in here, and I'd gladly make a donation to make up for it. I just want you to understand that I want to be free to live my life the way I want it, not the way Dad does."
The pastor remained silent as he pondered Cole's words. Criss drew closer to the troubled boy, drawing a Kleenex from the side table and giving it to him. The flimsy tissue could not hold up to cleaning away the dirt, grime and tears from his face, deteriorating quickly into a handful of soiled pulp.
"Cole," Criss said, "You got yourself into a lot of trouble the first time you ran off to Vegas, and now you're in it even deeper the second time. You can't run away from your problems like this. Running away won't solve anything. Okay, I agree that getting shipped off to military school...stinks--" He caught himself before he said "sucks"; he knew the pastor discountananced such language. "But by running away again and again, you're digging yourself into a deeper hole. Remember what I told you about every action has its consequences? To think before you act?"
"Oh, I thought about it, all right," Cole argued. "I thought about it long and hard. I knew I wanted to be free to live my dreams more than anything, and if I got sent to military school, those dreams would die--and I'd die with them."
"Had you had thoughts of suicide, Cole?" Pastor Beaman asked.
"No, not really," Cole replied. "I'd more like shrivel up and die, like a plant without water. Can't anyone understand that I want to be what I want to be, not what someone else wants me to be? I'm tired of being shoved into a mold I don't fit into! I'm tired of having my real talents ignored and laughed at! I am an artist, not a lawyer--or a soldier!"
"How old are you, Cole?"
"You're still young yet, Cole. You are still finding out who you are and what you want to do with your life. I know you're all blown away by Criss' magic and all that, but the Lord has a special plan for you. Now, you say you are an artist, and have drawings. Can I see some of them?"
Cole brightened. "Sure!" He dug into his knapsack and pulled out some folded sheets of paper. "Here's some of the ones I drew of Criss," he told him proudly.
Pastor Beaman unfolded the pages and examined them, then passed them on to Criss. "Well, you do have a theme going here," he said jovially. "I do see you have been blessed with great talent."
"Thank you," Cole replied politely.
"Yeah," Criss agreed. "These are really good. You take art classes in school?"
"Oh, yeah, but they only let you take it as an elective," Cole explained. "I even entered some of my works in the art shows. One drawing I made of you actually won first prize." His face fell suddenly. "Not that anyone cared or anything."
"I care," Criss said. "You really should expand your talents and study art."
"Yeah, well, tell that to my dad," Cole retorted grumpily. "He says there's no future in it, so I should become a lawyer instead."
"I'd like to have a talk with your father, if I could," Pastor Beaman said to Cole. "The Lord gave you a great talent, and you should use it for His glory."
"He won't listen to you," Cole pointed out. "He's like Hiram Block--he's got a one-track mind."
"Oh, he'll listen to me, all right," the pastor said confidently. "I've dealt with stubborn types before. 'My mind's made up, so don't confuse me with the facts', and all. Well, that crow won't caw here! Just give me your number and I'll handle it."
Cole froze in terror. "I wish you wouldn't. I-I mean, you really have to?"
"Son, my job is to heal, whether it's broken lives, broken hearts or broken families. I promise you, everything's gonna be all right. No harm's gonna come to you. Now, what's your number?"
Cole reluctantly gave the pastor his phone number. "Now, you go get yourself cleaned up--you're filthy as sin sitting there!" the pastor told him. "I'll handle the rest."
Cole rose and left the office, Criss trailing behind him. He looked up to his idol with innocent childlike eyes.
"You really think he's gonna smooth things out with my mom and dad?" he asked.
"He's a minister," Criss said. "It's in his job description. Now, go take a shower. You're wearing half of Nevada."
11-07-2012, 04:56 AM
Let's hope the pastor can. If not plan B send him to Dimitra :)
11-07-2012, 11:03 AM
Great Chapters , i wish Criss was my guardian angel :) Cant wait to read more :)
11-07-2012, 03:30 PM
"Hello. Richard Shoope speaking," came a brusque voice over the line.
"Mr. Shoope, this is Pastor Ray Beaman of Sanctuary Shelter for the Homeless--"
"I don't appreciate solicitations for charity over the phone," Mr. Shoope said in a dismissive tone, "so good-bye!"
"No, no, no, Mr. Shoope. I'm calling about your son, Cole."
"Cole? What about him? Where is he?"
"He's here with me, in Las Vegas. You know he ran away last night, don't you?"
"He what?!" Shoope exploded. "All the way to Vegas? Again?!"
Pastor Beaman could hear Mr. Shoope swearing under his breath. "Yes, he did" he replied calmly. "Seems to me you and he have a communication problem."
"What the hell are you talking about? He's the one with the 'communication problem', not me! He refuses to listen to a single word I tell him!"
"Funny, he says the same thing about you."
"Listen, Pastor, I don't see what business this is of yours. Just send Cole back here and I'll deal with him myself, okay?"
"How? By sending him away to military school? You think that's the way to solve the conflict between yourselves? Just pack him off and get rid of him so he won't interfere with your life?"
A pause at the other end. "Don't even think of hanging up on me, mister!" the pastor said sharply. "Cole told me everything about you and his mother. I thought he was exaggerating, but now I see he was right on the money. You weren't even aware that your son ran away from home until I called. Didn't your wife tell you about it earlier this morning?"
"No one told me about it at all."
"I'd like to speak to your wife, if I may. She must have noticed something about it."
"She left over an hour ago," Mr. Shoope told him. "Shopping or something, I don't know."
"So, neither of you noticed your son was missing this morning." Pastor Beaman drew a deep sigh. "I suggest you go up to our son's room right now and look. I'll wait."
There was a clunk as the receiver was laid down on a table or some other hard surface, then silence. Cole had been right after all, he thought. Definatly a failure to communicate. The man didn't even know where his wife went an hour ago, let alone where his son was that morning. These people needed help.
The receiver picked up again. "I found a note in Cole's bedroom," a more chastened Richard Shoope told the pastor.
"Could you read it to me, please?"
"It says: Dear Mom and Dad. By the time you read this, I will be far away. I know I did some bad things in the past few days, and I am sorry for them, but I don't want to be sent away to military school. I don't want to be a lawyer like you, Dad. I want to do magic, like Criss Angel, and be an artist. Criss says if you have a dream, and your actions speak louder than words, your dreams will come true. I want to live my dreams, not yours.
All my life you tried to force me into a mold that I don't fit into. When you took me to your law office on Take Your Kid to Work Day, I was so bored, I fell asleep, remember? Being a lawyer isn't for me, Dad. Just because you and Granddad were lawyers don't mean I have to become one. I am not you. I am an artist. I love magic. But you never listened to me. You never talked to me, just lectured to me. You never knew I had dreams and feelings of my own.
You two were always going off somewhere without me, whether it was to work, or vacations, or shopping, or whatever. It's like I don't exist sometimes. Well, you won't have to worry about me being in the way anymore. I'm out of your lives for good. I can make it on my own. I always have.
There was another pause. "So, Mr. Shoope," Pastor Beaman spoke. "What does this tell you?"
"He doesn't really mean all this," Mr. Shoope said indifferently. "He's too young to know what he's talking about."
"Oh, really? Seems to me that he does. I spoke to him personally, Mr. Shoope. He's hurting inside. He knows where his real talents lay, and it's not in law. I seen his artwork. He is truly blessed with an artistic skill. In my opinion, I don't think the Lord wants him to be a lawyer--"
"Well, I think He does!" Shoope snapped back.
"What makes you so sure, Mr. Shoope? You read his letter. He fell asleep at your office, he was so bored. No, his talents are best directed elsewhere. You say there's no future in art? Well, God gave him those talents to make a future out of it."
"He'll be broke," Shoope protested. "He'll starve. He'll never be a financial success. At least as an attorney he'll have security."
"Is that what you're worried about, Mr. Shoope? Money? What does it profit a man if he gain the world and lose his soul?"
Yet another long pause. "Well?" the pastor pressed.
"Uh, my wife just walked in the door," Shoope stumbled. "Excuse me."
"Put her on, will you?"
Silence, followed by some muffled conversation. "Hello?" a woman's voice spoke over the phone.
"Mrs. Shoope, this is Pastor Beaman of Sanctuary Shelter. Were you aware that your son ran away from home and came here to Las Vegas this morning?"
"Why, no, I didn't," she stammered. "I just assumed he was sleeping late this morning. He always does during the summer you know. Sometimes he doesn't get up until--"
"Never mind that, Mrs. Shoope," Pastor Beaman interrupted her. "The point is your son is here in Las Vegas, in this very shelter. I suggest that you read the note he left for you and your husband."
Another pause as Mrs. Shoope read the note. "Oh, he can't really mean all this," she said lightly. "I know he was very upset last night, saying a lot of nasty things he really didn't mean."
"Well, it seems he did. I think you and your husband need to wake up and smell the toast burning. I strongly suspect a definate lack of communication between you and your son, Cole. Now, I know you'd hate to come back all the way to Vegas and pick him up, as much as I'd like to meet both of you in person, so allow me to make a suggestion."
Mr. Shoope was back on the line. "What are you saying, Pastor?"
"How long is it until Cole's trial, or hearing, or whatever?" he asked.
"A couple of weeks from today."
"And it's here in Clark County, am I correct?"
"Okay, I would like to keep Cole here until then. It'll save you another trip here, and Cole won't be violating his bond, or whatever. When the time comes, we'll meet you at the courthouse. In the meantime, I can counsel Cole, and you two will be free to iron out your own problems. Agreed?"
"Well, that's very magnanimous of you, Pastor," Mr. Shoope said in a more genial tone. "We agree to your terms."
"Thank you, Mr. Shoope, and Mrs. Shoope. Have a blessed d--."
A click, then the dial tone. Pastor Beaman hung up the phone with a resigned shrug.
Cole could not remember when a shower felt this good. The desert dust sloughed off under the warm currents easily, leaving him refreshed. You're wearing half of Nevada, Criss had joked. Well, maybe not half, he figured, but he had seen a good deal of it when he saw himself in the giant mirror in the shower room. I look like Criss after the Quad Drag Escape, he had laughed to himself.
His clothes were in the laundry, but he had packed extras in his knapsack. He dressed in a CA Affliction T-shirt and his spare pair of jeans. He had to beat the dirt and debris from his shoes before putting them on (he forgot to pack socks) to go to the cafeteria. It was the lunch hour, and the place was half-full. No sign of Skeletor, thank God.
He picked up his lunch--chicken and dumplings with apple cobbler and milk--with the usual admonition to say grace before eating. he began to wonder again what would happen if you didn't say grace here? He decided to find out for himself, so he found a place to sit and began eating. He had barely taken a mouthful when he felt a needle-sharp pricking on his shoulder. He turned around to come face to face with Skeletor herself jabbing him on the shoulder with a bony finger. "You supposed to say the blessing first," she told him menacingly.
Something in the tone of her voice seemed to add "or else". Cole swallowed hard, folded his hands and said the quickest grace he could. Skeletor left him, patrolling the cafeteria for other offenders. Well, one question was answered, anyway: when they tell you to say the blessing before meals, you sure as hell better say it! He couldn't help but wonder if military school would be like this. He hoped against hope that he'd never find out.
Cole nervously ate his lunch. The food was good, no doubt, but the cafeteria was monitored by volunteers everywhere. It was almost like prison, it seemed. That thought made him stop in mid-bite. Prison. Juvie. That was what he would be facing in a couple of weeks if he was convicted. That or military school. Either way, he was screwed. He set down his fork and buried his face in his hands. God, please help me! I'm in more trouble than ever! I don't know what to do! I need a miracle, God! Oh, God, I know I screwed up big time, and I am really, really sorry I did! I promise to be good, God. I really do.
"Cole?" came the pastor's voice from above.
Cole looked up. The pastor sat down. "You okay, son?" he asked with a concern Cole never heard in his life.
"I'm okay, Pastor," he sighed. "It's just that I'm facing time in Juvie in a couple of weeks, or I'm gonna be headed for military school, and I don't want either of them. I've been praying for God to send me a miracle to help me."
"Well, I just got through talking to your folks," the pastor said to him, "and, well, it seems everything you said about them is true. There is definatly a lack of communication in your family. So, I offered to keep you here until your hearing, so they can iron out their issues and we can work on yours. What do you say to that?"
Cole brightened. Stay here in Las Vegas! With Criss Angel nearby! He'd be nuts to turn it down! "Yeah, Pastor, I'd love to stay here!" he blurted happily. "And I'll work really hard around here! I got my dirt bike, so I can run errands, and I can mow the lawn, and--"
"Wait, wait, hold your horses there, son!" the pastor laughed. "I'm happy you're all gung ho about it. We'll talk about it more in my office, okay? You finish up your lunch, then we'll go on from there."
The pastor left. Cole wolfed his lukewarm chicken and dumplings with gusto.
After his lunch break, Criss was on his way back to the theater for Believe rehersals when he was stopped by Felix Rappaport, President and CEO of the Luxor Hotel. Criss smiled broadly; he hadn't seen Felix since his recuperation from his ulcer operation (1). It was a relief to see him in good health again.
"Hey, Felix!" Criss hailed him jovially. "Good to see you again! How are you feeling, okay?"
Felix smiled. "I'm doing fine, Criss, thanks."
"Good. You had me worried there last time, remember?"
"Well, they got me on some medication, and a radical change in diet."
"No more spicy Mexican food, huh?"
"No more much of anything I like," Felix laughed. "But seriously, I need you to come to the security office for a minute, okay?"
"Well, yeah, sure, okay," Criss shrugged. "What's this about?"
Felix sighed. "Well, basically, it's another attempt on your life."
"Oh, God," Criss groaned and followed Felix to the security office. "It's not Hiram again, is it?"
"No, it's someone else. Maybe you can reason with her."
Her? Criss' curiosity was piqued. Why would a woman want to kill him? He had left his share of broken hearts in his wake, granted, but not enough for a woman to become homicidal, right? Right? He entered the security office, where a guard escorted him to one of the "offices", their polite term for holding cells. As he entered the "office", he saw the plainest, saddest, most crushed looking woman he had ever met, dressed in a grey sacklike frock. She stared back at him fearfully through raccoon eyes as she backed into a corner of the room.
"We found her in the atrium with a gun in her hand," the guard told Criss. "She said she was sent to kill you by order of her church. She didn't put up a fight or anything--she just surrendered right there on the spot. We didn't even have to cuff her."
Criss approached the woman in the grey frock. Sackcloth and ashes sprang into his mind as he eyed her clothing, if it could be called that. The Amish dressed better than she did, he thought. She could really use a makeover.
"Hello, there," he said as gently as he could. "I'm not going to hurt you. What's your name?"
"A-Ab-Abigail," she stammered. "Sister Abigail, they call me at church."
"Sister Abigail? Are you a nun?"
"No," she replied, still frightened of him. "I ain't no Catholic. We call each other Brother and Sister in church."
"Oh, I see. So, why do you want to kill me?"
"I din't wanna kill you," she answered, shaking her cadaverous face. "The church told me to. They said, 'Kill the Anti-Christ. Kill Criss Devil, and save your soul'."
"First of all, it's Criss Angel, not Devil," he corrected. "And I am not the Anti-Christ. Do I look like a devil to you? Do you see any horns on my head?" He turned around. "See a pointed tail sticking out of my ass? No? If I took off my shoes, you wouldn't see any cloven hooves. I am a man, just like everyone else. And I'll let you in on a little secret." He stepped closer. "I believe in the same God you do. I pray to Him every chance I get. I pray to Him before all my demonstrations. My faith is a strong as yours."
He held up his cross dangling from his neck. "If I was the devil, I wouldn't be wearing this, now would I? Come closer--don't worry, I won't bite you."
Abigail stepped closer, hesitantly. Criss turned the cross around so the inscription on the back was visible. "You see what this says? It says Believe. And I do believe, as much as you do. Do you still think I am a devil?"
"The church says you're--"
"I don't give a damn what your church says!" Criss exploded. "I'm telling you right now that I am not the devil! You're church is wrong! They lied to you when they told you to kill me! You won't be saving your soul if you murder me--you'll be damning it to Hell! Why did they tell you to kill me, anyway?"
Abigail lowered her head, as if ready to confess a sin. "I...I saw you do your black magic on the street some time ago. With a Bible someone gave you. You picked out a verse right out of thin air. Someone from the church told the preacher about me, and he said I sinned by watching you do your black magic. After Brother Hiram failed to kill you, the preacher told me to do it to redeem my soul. They gave me that gun and drove me here. I ain't no killer, really I ain't! But the preacher told me to."
Criss pondered Abigail's words. Brother Hiram? Hiram Block, his assailant? It had to be; it made perfect sense. It wasn't just one man's vendetta against him, it was a conspiracy hatched by his church. It shouldn't have come as a surprise, though; Criss had been the target of the religious right since he signed his first contract with A&E, if not sooner. Now, at the peak of his fame, they triggered a backlash.
"Abigail?" he said gently. "What is this church you go to?"
"Perfecting Church of Jesus Christ With Signs Ascending," she answered almost proudly, but with a twinge of fear still lingering.
Quite a handle, he thought. "And who is your pastor?"
"Brother Bob Talbot."
"Okay, I'm going to cut you a deal. I won't press charges against you, and try to get the weapon charge dropped as well, if you go back to your church, and tell them the truth about me. Better yet, I'll come over there and tell them myself."
Abigail was aghast. "You outta your mind?! They'll kill you!"
"Hey, I'm not afraid of death. I faced worse in a shark cage in Mexico. If I can face that, I can face anything. But I am going to settle this once and for all, and prove to those zealots that I am not the Anti-Christ or whatever they think I am."
With that, Criss left the room. Abigail could only stare after him in astonishment.
11-07-2012, 05:03 PM
Great chapters , poor. Criss , can't wait to read more :)
11-08-2012, 04:43 AM
Hope Criss has bullet proof vest in his wardrobe
11-08-2012, 06:19 PM
"Are you out of your (bleeping) mind?!"
JD stared incredulously at his youngest brother. Criss merely shrugged. "Hey," he said, "it's the only way I'm going to lay this matter to rest."
"By walking into a whole nest of religious freaks? They'll lynch you for sure!" JD exclaimed.
"Not if I try to reason with them." Criss countered.
"Oh, yeah, right!" JD sniffed. "Like they're gonna listen to you! These people can't be reasoned with, Chris! You saw Hiram Block--he's the worst of the whole lot! You're dealing with fanatics, Christopher--overzealous religious fanatics, like Al Qaida or the Taliban. These are the type of people who go around blowing up abortion clinics--with the doctors still in them!"
"Well, I have to do something to make them stop," Criss said, "or some innocent person is going to get caught in the crossfire and get hurt or, worse, killed. You saw what happened at the demonstration last week, didn't you? One wrong move on someone's part and that bullet could have gone in that person's head, like a stagehand, or a member of the audience. Or Costa. Or you, even." Criss shook his head. "No, I have to face these people on their own turf and prove to them that I am not a threat. I'm going to that church this coming Sunday. You can't stop me, JD. This is something I have to do, for the good of all concerned. I'm tired of all the fear and superstition being generated by this church and its followers. I'm gonna make them see the light of reason if it's the last thing I do."
JD stared at his brother in astonishment. This wasn't some death-defying demonstration to impress an audience Criss was talking about, created from his dreams or his adulation for Houdini, nor was it a gesture of peaceful reconciliation as had been his visit to Hiram Block in the hospital. No, this was an act of defiance against a bunch of fanatics hell-bent on destroying him. JD wondered how they would react the minute they saw him? Most likely they'd gang up on him and beat the living hell out of him, or string him up from the nearest lamppost. Even with all of his martial arts training, he couldn't fight off an angry mob alone. There was only one thing for JD could do to insure his brother's safety. "Okay," he said finally. "If you're going to that crazy church, then I'm going with you."
Now it was Criss' turn to be astonished. "You are? I mean, you will?"
JD shrugged resignedly. "Hey, someone's gotta cover your rear flank. Just make sure you're wearing a bulletproof vest when you go there, okay?"
Sunday came, and services for The Perfecting Church of Jesus Christ With Signs Ascending were in full swing. The crumbling brick storefront church shook to its foundations as the worshippers made a joyful noise unto the Lord as loudly and as jubilantly as it could. It was the first service with Hiram Block in attendance since his hospitalization, a fact celebrated by the congregation with exuberant "amens" and "hallelujahs". Brother Hiram basked in the glory of it all, beaming at his fellow Christians in gratitude for their prayers and support duing his time of trial. It was his moment to shine.
Sister Abigail, however, kept to the shadows, cowering in a far corner of the room. She had failed Brother Bob in killing Criss Angel, and now she faced censure from him and the rest of her fellow congregants. She was a backslider, the lowest a Christian could go as far as her church was concerned. She had lost faith. She was not right with God. She had sinned before Heaven and in His sight, and was not worthy to be called His daughter. The best she could hope for at this point would be for her to cry repentance and try to atone for her sin. Brother Bob could be merciful when he chose to be. If he chose to be.
The jubilation died down after a while; the handful of worshippers settled down onto their rickety wooden folding chairs, facing the podium. Brother Bob Talbot, a bear of a man with a pony-keg belly jutting out six inches in front of him, stood imperiously before them, his blindingly white dress shirt soaked with persperation under the arms and back, his tie loosened, dangling around his neck like a hangman's noose. He held up his beefy arms in benediction. "The Lord be with you!" he exhorted.
The congregation returned with a loud "Amen!"
Brother Bob got right to the point. "Who among you is not right with God? Who among you are weak and backsliding? Speak up! Now is the time to atone for your sins! Now is the time to seek salvation!"
He appeared to be addressing the group, but Sister Abigail felt his eyes on her alone. He knew of the imperfections of her soul. He had ordered he to kill Criss Angel because she had sinned by watching one of his black magic tricks--with Scripture, no less. And she had failed him, imperiling her soul to eternal damnation even furthur. She should have stood up and cried repentance, thrown herself on the mercy of God's judgement, accepted whatever penance they gave her with humility. Instead she sat there, paralyzed with fear, unable to speak a word. From his vantage point, Brother Bob could see her discomfort, and took advantage of it.
"Sister Abigail!" he called out loudly enough to be heard across the street. "I see you wrestling with the Spirit of God over there! Why do you resist the call to salvation? Has your heart hardened against the Lord? You are a backslider and a sinner, woman! Look to your own salvation!"
"Why don't you look to your own, preacher?" came an unfamiliar voice from the back of the church.
The congregation turned with a gasp of horrifed astonishment. There, leaning casually at the door of their church, was Criss Devil himself, dressed in black shirt and slacks, his bling standing in sharp relief on his chest. Brother Bob stared at him with an expression that looked like the initial stage of a heart attack.
Criss casually strolled up the aisle, saying hello to this person and that as he passed, as if they were his fans instead of fanatics. He stepped up to the platform with a smile and took Brother Bob's place at the podium. Brother Bob could only stare at him with a mixture of fear and outrage. Criss turned to the horrified congregation.
"Now, I know a lot of you think that I am the Anti-Christ and all that," he began. "You even sent Sister Abigail over to try to kill me! Little Sister Abigail, who wouldn't harm a fly, contracted to be an assassin by you, Brother Bob! Why? Because she saw one of my demonstrations on the street one day! And Brother Hiram Block, sitting over there, tried to kill me out of his grief for the loss of his son due to his heroin addiction. Am I so vile to you people that you all want me dead? What have I done to offend you? What have I done to offend any of you? I never even knew you people until now! You call yourselves Christians, but you show no Christian charity to me! You have the Ten Commandments posted right outside your door, but you ignored the fifth commandment, Thou Shalt Not Kill!"
Criss stepped away from the podium and faced the congregation squarely on the platform. "Okay, who else wants to take a shot at me?" he challenged. "Huh? Who wants a piece of me? Come on! Bring it! I'm ready! If you hate me so much, why don't you try to take me down? Huh? Huh? Come on! Bring it!"
No one moved. Criss stared at them with disdain. "I didn't think so," he said disgustedly. "You're all such cowards that you send an innocent woman to bump me off, because you don't have the guts to do it yourselves."
"The Devil is not wanted here!" Brother Bob spoke up. "In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you to depart! We abjure you, Satan! We command you to return to the Infernal Depths! Begone! And return no more!"
Criss stood there, arms folded, completely unimpressed.
"Almighty God!" Brother Bob shouted to the ceiling, "Cast out this devilish presence from Thy Holy Temple! Smote him with Thy wrath! Show him Thine power, greater than any on this earth, that he may cower before Thee in terror! Destroy the Anti-Christ!"
Silence followed. Criss glanced around. No lightning bolts, no thunderclaps, not even a tremor. "Well?" he shrugged. "Now what?"
The blood began to rise to Brother Bob's face, turning it beet red. In desperation, he lunged at Criss with his bare hands. Criss' well-honed reflexes came to his rescue as he deflected him with a kick to the shin, tripping Brother Bob in midattack. Criss siezed his assailant's arm and twisted it around his back, immobilizing him as he lay flat on the platform. The worshippers screamed in horror and outrage, seeing their preacher being overtaken by the Anti-Christ. The small church exploded in a riot: some of the younger men in the congregation tackled Criss on the platform, beating and punching him wherever they could make contact. Criss, more powerfully built and more skilled in the martial arts, gave back as good as he got, if not better. His attackers suffered well-placed blows to the abdomen, the elbows, the groin and the chest, leaving them wrthing in agony.
Women screamed, children cried, arms and legs flailed all over the room. Some fled the building altogether, fearing for their lives. Suddenly, a loud pistol shot stopped everyone in their tracks.
"Police!" came a loud authoritative voice from behind. "Everyone back away! Break it up! Get down on the ground!"
The small church was suddenly swarming with police officers, armed to the teeth with nightsticks, thirty-eights, and handcuffs. One pulled a disheveled Criss away from the melee and dragged him out of the church. His clothes were torn, his lip was bleeding, and his bling was missing from around his neck. Two arms embraced him; he looked up to see his brother, JD, holding him up.
"You said you'd guard my rear flank," Criss said accusingly.
"I did," JD replied. "I got the cops, didn't I?"
"Yeah. That girl who wanted to kill you said that her preacher wanted her to do it, and since Block was associated with the same church, they got a warrant for his arrest. Conspiracy to murder."
"First of all," Criss panted, "That girl did not want to kill me, she was ordered to. I promised her I'd drop all charges if she told me where I could find this preacher of hers so I could straighten him out."
JD held a bandana under Criss' bleeding lip. "I don't think he got the message, Criss."
"No, he didn't," Criss conceded. "I guess I blew it in the diplomacy department, but at least no one shot me."
"Thank God," JD muttered. "Come on, let's get you back home, before your diplomacy lands you in the ER."
"Hey, wait a minute!" Criss felt around his neck. "Where's my bling?"
"Never mind your bling, man, let's go!" JD insisted.
"No, wait, I'm going to find it first. They took my Believe cross. I can't leave without that." He headed back into the church, an exasperated JD following him.
Inside was chaos. Wooden chairs lay strewn about like kindling, the podium overturned on the platform, papers and hymmals scattered all over the floor. Brother Bob and some men lay on their stomachs, wrists cuffed behind their backs, the police hovering over them. Criss disregarded them and began searching for his pendants, overturning books, Bibles and chairs, sweeping away papers and other debris. He began to grow frustrated in his search, and was about to ask the police to help when he felt the feather-light touch of a woman's fingers on his neck. He bolted upright and turned to see Sister Abigail holding his jewelry in one trembling hand.
"I-I-I..think these are...are yours?" she stammered nervously.
Criss anger and frustration melted away at the sight of her. He gently took the pendants away from her, smiling softly through his bloody mouth. "Thank you, Sister," he said. "Bless you."
She nodded nervously and darted away. Criss walked out of the building, carrying his bling. The chains were broken on a couple of them, and a few small crosses were missing, but the Believe cross was still intact. That was all that mattered to him. It was his father's memorial cross, with his parents' monogram on the bottom of the base: JDS. He clutched it tightly in his fist. To lose it would be to part with his father's spirit, he felt, though he knew that was nonsense.
JD waved at him to come to the SUV. Criss trotted up to him. "You find your stuff?" JD asked.
Criss held up the bling. "Right here," he answered. "Let's go."
They drove back to the Luxor. The bleeding on Criss' mouth subsided; no need to get stitches, thank God, he thought. He looked at his clothes. A hundred and twenty dollar outfit and it was beyond anything but the ragbag. Well, maybe when his mother came to visit, she could mend it for him. She had always been a whiz with a needle; she had to be, he thought, what with three growing boys and all.
"You doing okay there, Criss?" JD asked.
"I'm good," he replied wearily.
"Well, I hate to say I told you so--"
"Okay, then, let me congratulate you on almost getting yourself killed in there," JD retorted sarcastically. "Face it, little brother, some people you just can't reason with."
"Okay, okay," Criss sighed defeatedly, "point taken. But I gave it my best shot, didn't I?"
"Your best shot? You practically egged them on to go after you! I saw the whole thing! 'Come on! Bring it on!' you said. If that's your idea of diplomacy--"
"Hey, I was calling their bluff!"
"They weren't bluffing, Christopher. They meant business. These people hate you with a purple passion. Don't go pushing your luck with them. You survived two attempts on your life already."
"I don't think we have to worry about them anymore," Criss said, shaking his head. "They all got busted in there; they're on their way to jail. We don't have a thing to worry about anymore."
Famous last words, JD thought ruefully.
11-11-2012, 05:39 PM
That Sunday afternoon, Robert Talbot, aka Brother Bob Talbot, was formally charged with assault and battery, along with those who joined in the beatdown that Sunday. Criss was excused from those same charges on grounds of self-defense, but his sudden interruption of the service led to a charge of disorderly conduct. After careful questioning of the witnesses by the police, however, especially Sister Abigail, who gave a more unbiased account of the fight between Criss and Brother Bob, even that charge was dismissed, to the relief of the MindFreak producers and the Luxor management.
Hiram Block found himself back in jail for bail bond violation and the second attempt on Criss' life, documented by the security tape in the Luxor. There was still the matter of the conspiracy to murder charge pending against Brother Bob, however. Did the preacher order the murder of Criss Angel? the authorities wanted to know. While Sister Abigail had proved to be a trustworthy witness, relating the same story she had told security at the Luxor upon her arrest (the investigating officer later commented that in his opinion the poor woman couldn't tell a lie to save her life), Brother Bob emphatically denied he made such a claim. Sister Abigail had performed the deed of her own free will, he told the investigators. She had been possessed by the Devil to murder Criss, not by his command. But with patience and persistance, the investigators found a few discontented sheep among the fold, disillusioned members who wanted to be free of Brother Bob and his tyrranical rule. The preacher had strong-armed his flock into giving up huge amounts of money "for the Lord", or so he claimed, driving many members into penury. He had performed "miracles" before them, like "psychic healing" and even Criss Angel-type mentalism, "divining" the problems, needs, and hidden secrets of the congregation and blurting them out in front of God and everybody, to the embarrassment of the victims. He tacitly encouraged them to spy on each other and report any wrongdoings to him (confidentially, of course); that was how Sister Abigail got in trouble for watching Criss do his demonstration with the Bible.
Why, asked the investigators, didn't anyone stand up to him? Why didn't they just leave the church altogether if he was such a con artist? Because Brother Bob was too powerful, they replied, physically and spiritually. They didn't know who was for him or against him; if they complained to the wrong person, they'd be singled out for retribution, like Sister Abigail. They worshipped together, but they didn't trust each other. Only when Criss Angel showed up did they break the shackles binding them to Perfecting Church. Brother Bob had shown his true colors that day, they said. And yes, he did order Sister Abigail to shoot Criss Angel. Brother Hiram, on the other hand, acted on his own accord, something to do with his dead son, they said.
News of Criss' "diplomacy" with Perfecting Church barely covered a few column inches in the mainstream press, but the tabloids and gossip columns were all over it like a rash:
CRISS ANGEL DISRUPTS FUNDAMENTALIST CHURCH SERVICE, CLAIMS HE IS NOT THE ANTI-CHRIST
MAGICIAN VS. MINISTER: ILLUSIONIST CRISS ANGEL CHALLENGES CHRISTIAN CHURCH
FUNDAMENTALISTS DENOUNCE CRISS ANGEL AS THE ANTICHRIST, CLAIMS HE ADVOCATES SATANISM
And so on and so on.
Dave Baram, Criss' manager, tossed down the morning editon of the Las Vegas Sun, folded to the editorial section, in front of Criss on his desk. "Looks like you opened up a can of worms," he said to his star client.
Criss picked up the paper. Angel or Devil?, read the title. He skimmed through the article:
We are supposed to live in an age of enlightenment, where science is encouraged to explore and experiment beyond the confines of what we consider "the real world". We believe there is a rational explanation for everything, that we are above the superstitious beliefs of the past. We pride ourselves on our intellectual superiority over our more ignorant forebears.
Yet for all our bravado, those superstitions still exist. Illusionist Criss Angel, whose stunts and illusions defy all rational explanation, has triggered a backlash from those who consider him in league with the devil. Floating over the Luxor? The devil's work! Walking on water? Blasphemy!
Criss Angel is a consummate performer--musician, magician, actor, and a bit of a rogue. But a Satanist?Had he truly sold his soul to the devil to be able to do the astonishing things he has done in the past? And even if he was, how would we deal with him? Hang him? Burn him at the stake? He'd escape unscathed, laughing at his accusers, just as he has always done.
Angel has been singled out as the Anti-Christ on various right-wing websites, with Scripture to back it up. The same could also be said for a lot of famous people who have come and gone--Hitler, for one. The infamous German dictator had come closer to being the Beast than Criss Angel could ever hope to be when it came to charming the masses and bringing about Armageddon. Criss Angel, on the other hand, has no known political leanings, or desire for power, except to be the greatest magician since Houdini. He has charmed thousands of young people, mostly female adolecents, but with the air of a rock star, not as a cult leader.
His stunts and illusions may smack of black magic, but his public services are a matter of record. He has donated thousands of dollars to children's charities, given his time to visit termially ill youngsters, giving them hope and courage to recover, has raised funds for cancer research (his father died of stomach cancer in 1998), and has been given many civic awards for his philanthropies. Satanic? Signs of the Anti-Christ? Doubtful.
However you define Criss Angel, whether as entertainer, heartthrob, philanthropist, con artist, fraud, or the Anti-Christ is a matter of perception. It's said that you can see the truth only as far as the end of your nose, which is farther for some than others.
Criss laid down the paper. The op-ed article didn't tell him anything new as far as he was concerned. No matter how hard he tried to prove that he was really a good guy at heart, he would have more than his share of detractors jumping up and denouncing him for whatever reason they could think of. Sighing, he forced himself to face the cold hard fact that he was not one hundred percent popular. The altercation at the church didn't exactly help his image, either.
"I wish I had handled it better yesterday," he mused aloud. "I should have been more diplomatic instead of going in with guns drawn."
"It wouldn't have made any difference, Criss," Baram said. "They'd still have taken you down. People like them go through life with blinders on their faces, refusing to see the big picture. They can't see the forest for the trees, and all that. In my opinion, you should have left well enough alone and not have gone there in the first place. If you had, none of this would have happened."
Criss drew a deep breath and buried his face in his hands. "It's just that, well, after what Sister Abigail said, I just got so (bleeping bleeped) off about it. I mean, I know there are those who don't like me, but do they have to try to kill me?"
"The world is full of religious fanatics, Criss," Baram told him somberly. "What they lack in reason they make up for in dogma. Look at the Middle East. Look at the Arab-Israeli conflict. Look at Northern Ireland. They all have been at each other's throats for decades, if not centuries."
Criss looked up. "Man, you'd think by now we'd realize we worship the same God and have come to some sort of agreement," he sighed. "I mean, this is the twenty-first century, yet there are those out there who live like it's still the Middle Ages or something. Like, what's wrong with them, anyway?"
Baram leaned closer to Criss. "They're human beings," he replied. "So long as there are human beings, there's gonna be conflict. It's like what that columnist said--you see the truth only as far as the end of your nose. It takes a very special person who can see beyond that point, but I don't know who."
Criss smiled knowingly. "I know SomeOne," he said, pointing towards the ceiling.
Two weeks went by since the Criss Angel shooting and the events surrounding it. The furor over the Perfecting Church altercation died down and was all but forgotten. Life went on in Las Vegas as before, with the gambling, the clubbing, the bar-hopping, the ogling of exotic dancers of both genders, and the endless working behind the scenes of them all.
For Cole Shoope, however, it felt like the end of the world, as he sat in the defendant's chair during his hearing, his father and mother present, the presiding judge going over his files. His only comfort was Pastor Beaman beside him, but he knew the good pastor was helpless to save him. If he was found guilty, he'd go to Juvie. If he was aquitted, he'd be sent home with his parents who would ship him off to military school. Heads I win, tails you lose, he thought.
A knock on the door startled him out of his morose thoughts. The bailiff crossed over to the door and opened it, and in walked Criss Angel. "Sorry I'm late," he said, smiling apologetically. "Did I miss anything?"
Cole's spirits lifted out of the abyss. Criss was here! Thank God! Now he had a fighting chance. He had to resist the impulse to run up and embrace him, as the judge and his father glared at Criss severely, the latter with more menace.
The judge began the proceedings. "Cole Michael Shoope, you are accused of assault with a deadly weapon, attacking Hiram Block in the lobby of the Luxor Hotel. You entered a plea of nolo contendre, or no contest. Do you have anything to add to your defense?"
Cole stood up on shaking knees. "Your Honor, I'd like to say that I did it because Hiram Block was going to attack Criss Angel here with a knife. I tried to warn Criss, but I ended up attacking him instead. I mean Block, not Criss. I don't think of myself as a hero for what I did. I know that killing people is wrong, for whatever reason. Since I've been staying with Pastor Beaman here, I learned that revenge is not the answer. He's been a great help to me in the two weeks I've been with him. I don't want to go to Juvie! I'd do anything to avoid going there. And I don't want to go to military school, like my father wants me to. I"ll do any type of community service you want me to do. You just name it."
"Do you take full responsibility for your actions, young man?" the judge asked Cole.
"Yes, sir, I do," Cole replied. "I really, really do."
"Well, that is very commendable of you," the judge said approvingly. "It shows you have matured since then. Of course, by accepting responsibility for your actions also means accepting the consequences for said actions. Do you agree?"
Cole sighed heavily. "Answer him, Cole," his father ordered.
"For every action," Cole recited, "there is a reaction."
"Pastor Beaman," the judge said, "you have kept the defendant with you for two weeks. Can you tell us about his behavior during that time?"
"Cole's been no trouble at all, Your Honor," the pastor replied. "Just a lonely, neglected boy."
"Now wait just a minute, there!" Mr. Shoope shot up like a rocket from his seat. The judge rapped his gavel, silencing any furthur protests.
"You'll have your chance to speak, Mr. Shoope," the judge intoned. "Please go on, Pastor."
"I spoke to his parents over the phone," the pastor explained, "and I got the impression that there is a lack of real communication between them. He'd been left in the care of others so often that he barely got to know them. They saw him as a future lawyer, like his father. They failed to see his real talents. They didn't even know their son was missing until I contacted them several hours later. When he came to me for help, I could tell he was hurting inside. He's not a violent offender, Your Honor. Sending him off to Juvenile Hall would do more harm than good. So would military school."
"So what are you suggesting, Pastor?" the judge asked.
"Let me take care of him," the pastor suggested. "I know I can help him better than the juvenile justice system or some boot camp."
The judge pondered this for a moment, then turned to Cole's father. "Do you have anything to say, Mr. Shoope?"
Mr. Shoope rose in full attorney mode. "Your Honor, speaking as a lawyer, I know the importance of justice being served. Cole here broke the law. He has been uncontrollable at home, running away on his dirt bike to Las Vegas to see this man--" he pointed to Criss "do his magic tricks. The boy needs boundaries set for him. He needs discipline. I would gladly see him off to military school, but, unfortunatly, the cost is too prohibitive for us right now."
Cole breathed a sigh of relief. One path to hell had been eliminated, anyway.
"But that does not mean that he should be allowed to run wild and break the law. If Juvenile Hall is the only way he's going to learn, then so be it. He's ruined his life because of this man." Again, the accusatory finger pointed at Criss.
"You are speaking as a lawyer, Mr. Shoope," the judge said evenly. "What about as a father?"
"I beg your pardon, Your Honor?"
"Don't you have any feelings toward your son, sir? Or should I say counselor? You come across as more of a prosecutor than as a parent. Have you no compassion for your own son, Mr. Shoope? A normal parent would be pleading for his son, not against him. Your words support the good pastor's testamony of neglect. Mrs. Shoope, do you have anything you would like to say?"
Mrs. Shoope looked around nervously. Her glance fell on Criss Angel, with his radical dress, his punkish hairstyle, and his slouching posture in the chair. She whipped her eyes away from such a figure as he. "Well, I...I have always concurred with my husband about these things," she tremored. "I just want what is best for Cole, of course."
The judge nodded. "Mr. and Mrs. Shoope, can you remember spending any time with your son? In a constructive sense, of course. What I mean to say is, have you taken family vacations together? Had little heart-to-heart talks about whatever problems he may have faced growing up? Did anything at all together as a family?"
The Shoopes looked at each other in bewilderment. "Well, we..." Mrs. Shoope began. "We always took care of Cole; we weren't negligent, as he said." She nodded toward Pastor Beaman. "Whenever my husband and I went anywhere, we made sure that Cole was left with a responsible adult. It was only recently that we allowed him to be left alone when we went on vacation."
"And look what happened!" Mr. Shoope chimed in. "He ran wild, riding all the way to Las Vegas, for God's sake! No discipline, that boy! No discipline at all!"
"Why didn't you take Cole with you on your vacation?" the judge asked.
"Well, it was more of a working vacation, really, " Mr. Shoope said. "But what does all of this have to do with everything? Cole committed a crime, and you are asking us about our weekend getaway?"
"It has more to do with it than you think, Mr. Shoope," the judge replied. "It seems to me that you've been ignoring your son's needs for far too long. In his lonliness, he sought another father figure, in the form of Mr. Angel there, if you want to get Freudian about it. You never talked to your son, you talked through him. You tried to create him in your own image and likeness and failed. If you had taken the time to bond with him, supported his natural talents instead of lording it over him, shown a modicum of love and respect for him as a person, none of us would be here right now. Yes, Cole broke the law when he stabbed Hiram Block, but from reviewing the tape from the hotel surveillance system, he did in effect save Mr. Angel's life. Mr. Angel, do you wish to comment?"
Criss sat up. "Yes, I do, Your Honor," he said. "First of all, I am grateful to Cole for stopping Hiram Block from killing me. He really did save my life. When he was taken into custody after stabbing Hiram, we had a long talk, didn't we, Cole?"
Cole nodded. Criss continued. "When I sat with him in the security office, I didn't see an undisciplined 'wild' kid as Mr. Shoope called him. Nor was he a fanatic like Mr. Block. He was just a scared kid, worried about what was going to happen to him. To send him to Juvenile Hall would be like sending him to graduate school for criminals. Cole has it within him to be a better person, but prison's not going to do it. And from what I heard from his mom and dad, sending him home won't do it, either. Yes, he did commit a crime, but I can tell he's sorry for it. I say, let Pastor Beaman take care of him. I've known him for a few years now, and he's done more for the community than anyone I know."
"The court is well aware of the pastor's admirable record of service, Mr. Angel," the judge told him. "While technically the defendant did assault the victim with a knife, it is to be noted that he did so not out of malicious intent, but in defense of Mr. Angel. The weapon is not listed as illegal, as it is a common pocket knife, but it is deadly all the same. Mr. Block did not die of his injuries, nor were there any long-term effects. Officially I would sentence him to two years in the juvenile reformatory, but as it is already overcrowded enough as it is, such a move would be detrimental. Therefore, I am sentencing Cole Michael Shoope to two years supervised probation under the custody of Pastor Ray Beaman. He will be assigned a probation officer this afternoon, where the details of his probation will be discussed."
Cole almost fainted with relief. He had prayed for a miracle and got one! Thank You, God! I owe You big time!
He turned to Cole. "You are receiving a very lucky break, young man," he said sternly. "If you follow the rules, don't violate your probation in any way, and work with the good pastor here, you can be released within fourteen months or so. If you don't, then you serve the rest of your sentence in Juvenile Hall. Understood?"
"Oh, I do, Your Honor," Cole said happily. "I promise to do everything you said."
"Good." The judge turned to Cole's parents with a steely gaze. "As for you, Mr. and Mrs. Shoope, I recommend you take this time to work on your communication skills. While you haven't been totally negligent of your son's welfare, you have been rather indifferent to him at best. Maybe with his absence from your home you will come to appreciate him. It's indifferent parenting such as yours that kids like Cole end up on the wrong side of a judge's bench. Case dismissed."
A loud bang of the gavel, and all was done. Everyone rose to leave. Cole dashed over to embrace Criss, who embraced him back. "I knew you'd come!" he cried, his voice breaking. "I'd knew you wouldn't let me down."
"I'm just glad that everything worked out for you, Cole," Criss said. "Just remember what I taught you, okay? Work with the pastor and your probation officer, and you'll be cool. Okay?"
"I will," Cole said, drawing an X over his chest. "Cross my heart."
Pastor Beaman stepped up to him. "We gotta meet your probation officer, " he reminded Cole. "But first, shouldn't you say good-bye to your mom and dad?"
Cole looked around the courtroom. His parents were nowhere to be seen.
"The Lord be with you, Brother Hiram," said Brother Bob Talbot.
"And also with you, Brother Bob," Hiram responded from the other side of the glass partition of the Clark County jail.
"They permitted me to bring your Bible here for you," Brother Bob said, holding up Hiram's dog-eared Bible. The guard supervising the visit took the Bible, examined it inside and out for any concealed weapons or other contraband, and, finding none, handed it over to Hiram.
"Bless you, brother," Hiram said to the guard, who responded with a barely perceptable nod.
"Don't feel as though you failed, Brother Hiram," Brother Bob said. "God will prevail."
"You are in our prayers, as always."
"Bless you, brother."
"Together, we shall overcome the forces of evil. I'll see you at the trial."
"Thank you, brother."
A quick prayer, and Brother Bob was gone. Hiram was escorted to his cell, in better spirits now that he had his beloved Bible with him. The worn, dog-eared book had been his only source of companionship since the death of his wife thirty years ago and of his son ten years after. He caressed the cracked, faded leather cover lovingly. As he ran his gnarled fingers over the bindings, he noticed a rectangular outline inside it.
Gingerly, Hiram peeled back the inner lining. It was a piece of paper, sandwiched between the paper lining and the leather cover. He carefully extracted the note and unfolded it. As he read the message it contained, a smile slowly spread across his weathered face.
The Day of Judgement draws near. Anti-Christ is finished.
11-11-2012, 06:56 PM
11-12-2012, 10:09 AM
Grrrr :mad: why can't these people leave alone , Great chapter :) cant wait to read more :)
11-12-2012, 09:44 PM
Summer gave way to autumn, though in the arid climate of Nevada hardly anyone would have noticed. The only hint of summer's end would come in the form of that most anticipated yet most dreaded annual ritual--the first day of school. Store shelves which had once held colorful summer fun-in-the-sun stock such as flip-flops, sunglasses, giant beach towels, sunblock, pool toys and assorted varieties of sugary beverages, now carried somber reminders of the academic term to come: pencils, pens, notebooks, calculators, planners, lunchboxes and other accessories needed for classes. Bright pastel dresses, Bermuda shorts, tube tops, sandals, and beachwear were banished to the clearance aisles, replaced by dress slacks, longer skirts, knee socks, long-sleeved shirts and sensible shoes. Electronic stores upped the ante by pushing electronic tablets, iPods, SmartPhones and laptops as necessary items for academic success. The cash registers rang before the school bells did.
With the prearranged monthly support payments sent to Pastor Beaman by his parents, Cole didn't have to worry about being unprepared as far as supplies were concerned. It was the thought of starting high school in a new city that gave him butterflies; he was a stranger in a strange land, so to speak. He would be attending public school for the first time in his life--no more private academy for him. How different would it be? How would his new classmates treat him? What would they do if they found out he was on probation? Would they despise him? And what about the teachers? He wouldn't be wearing a uniform, but there was still a dress code; how did that work? Cole could not help being nervous, despite the pastor's and Mrs. Beaman's assurances to the contrary.
"You're gonna do just fine, honey," Mrs. Beaman told Cole as they shopped for school shoes at a discount outlet. "Just remember to be yourself, that's all. I know high schoolers can be cliquey and all, but if you don't put on airs or pretend to be someone you're not, people will like you more. To thine own self be true, and no one will play you false."
"Easy for you to say, Mrs. B.," Cole retorted. "You're not on probation for assault like me."
"No one has to know, honey," Mrs. B. said reassuringly. "It's none of their business, anyway." She pulled out a pair of black athletic shoes. "Now, these look comfy," she said. "They look like dress shoes, but they'll get you to classes faster." She laughed at her own little joke.
Cole tried them on. They were "comfy", as Mrs. B. said, and they didn't look too geeky like the dress shoes he used to wear at the acadamy: stiff, patent leather ones that pinched his growing feet, with slippery soles that had him skating up and down the polished wood corridors. He looked at the cart filled with his new school clothes--sports shirts, loose slacks (no jeans allowed), even (wonder of wonders!) a black bomber's jacket for cooler morning temps. True, it was a cheap knockoff, but it was better than those itchy blue blazers he used to wear, and he could finally attach all his CA appliques that he had been storing up for over a year now. As he walked with ease in his new footwear, he started to think that maybe the new school year wouldn't be so bad after all.
Meanwhile, thirty miles north of Las Vegas, Crystal Rathbone and her best friend, Hayley, were taking a more serious approach to back to school shopping, especially when it came to wardrobe. They were entering their junior year of high school, one year short of being seniors, and they were determined to make the best impression among their classmates. Having done their fashion homework more thoroughly than any assignment from classes past, they mapped out the best outlets for the "right" clothes to buy. Then, it was off to the mall.
Flipping through a rack of belted blouses--the latest trend--Crystal examined each one carefully for the best color to bring out her best features. She found an Asian kimono-style top with black and white calligraphy, and a sea-green one that reminded her of Kayala, a member of Criss' surreal Believe family.
Criss. Crystal stopped flipping blouses. Try as she might, she just couldn't forget that horrible day when he was wounded by that maniac Hiram Block. She wanted to remember as he was when she finally met him, although briefly--well and whole, shaking hands with everyone and smiling. But the more graphic image of his assassination attempt kept coming back like an annoying pop-up ad on the Internet, no matter how hard she tried to delete it from her memory. I wonder if it's the same for those who lived through Nine-Eleven, she thought. Probably more so, since it was a national tragedy.
Crystal knew a few of her classmates besides Hayley who were Loyals. Had they been there when it happened, or did they see it on the news? Did any of them take pictures? Crystal shrugged. Well, she'd have to wait and see. She went back to flipping blouses.
Hayley came rushing up to her. "Hey, Crys!" she called out, holding up some glam-camos. "Check out these awesome pants!"
"Cool," Crystal said, though she didn't care much for the military look herself. She rather envied Hayley in a way; she was one of those lucky girls who looked good in anything. Crystal had to be more discriminating; yellow made her look sallow, giant prints dwarfed her slender frame, vertical stripes reduced her to a soda straw, and too tight tops flattened her bosom, even with a bra on. She stuck with greens, earth tones and muted blues and greys, with a touch of red for contrast. She steered clear of anything black. It made her look too Gothic.
They made their purchases and headed for the food court for lunch. They carefully chose veggie wraps with low-fat dressing and flavored bottled water, foregoing any type of dessert--God forbid they should face their classmates with ravaged complexions. As they munched their sandwiches and sipped water, their purchases secured underneath the table, they chatted about the term to come.
"What's your schedule gonna be?" Hayley asked Crystal.
"I got it all planned out," she replied. "I set it up so that my first class is farthest from the hallway where my locker is, and work my way forward so that when I finish my last class, I'm, like, right out the door!"
"There you go!" Hayley cheered. "But just make sure you're not late for your first class, that's all."
"Relax, I'll be fine. What's yours?"
"Mine's more like in a circle. Well, more of a semi-circle, really." She outlined it with her finger. "First, I got Civics in A-Wing, then around to Math One, then all the way to Music, then Biology in B-wing, then double back for lunch, then back to B-Wing for English Lit, then a short run to Gym, then back to A-wing for Psych."
"You need a pair of Nikes for that kind of a trek," Crystal said half-jokingly.
Hayley laughed. "Tell me about it."
"Crystal? Hayley?" came a familiar voice from beside them.
The two girls looked up and brightened. "Danielle!" Hayley squealed. "Long time no see! How's it going?"
The three embraced. Danielle Pourdes was a classmate and fellow Loyal, and the most artistically talented student in school. Her fantastical drawings of surreal landscapes and mythical creatures as well as her sultry sketches of Criss Angel were in great demand for posters, banners and tattoos. She had even been commissioned to design the cover of the previous term's yearbook by the principal herself, with great success and rave reviews.
Danielle sat down with her friends. "So, how was your summer?" she asked.
"Well, it was pretty much the same old same old," Crystal answered drily. "Except..."
Danielle divined what she didn't want to say. "What happened to Criss Angel?" she finished for her. "I know. I saw it on the news. That bratty little brother of mine kept jeering about him being 'my boyfriend' when they were wheeling him to the ambulance. I was, like, 'Someone just shot him! He's, like, gonna die, you know?' And he was, like, 'Good! I hope he does!'. And I just, like, slapped his face so hard I almost spun his head around!"
"Geez!" Hayley sniffed. "What an insensitive brat!"
"So, Mom sent both of us to our rooms," Danielle continued. "Which was fine with me, because I was, like, too depressed to watch anymore. I got the details online. God! How could anyone do such a thing? Personally, I wish that kid who stabbed the (bleeper) who shot him had killed him right there! What's-His-Name...uhhh?"
"Cole Shoope," Hayley filled her in. "You know, we met him before the demonstration."
"You were at the demonstration?" Danielle cried incredulously.
"Yeah, right up front," Hayley replied. "We saw the whole thing."
She went on to relate her and Crystal's meeting with Cole at the McDonald's restaraunt, his passing himself off as sixteen when he was really three years younger, and treating them to sundaes.
"I wonder what happened to him?" Danielle mused aloud.
"I got it on Google," Crystal said. "He got off with two years' probation, and is staying with Pastor Beaman at Sanctuary Shelter for the Homeless--you know, the one Criss held that auction for a few years ago to raise money for?"
"Well, at least he's not in jail for it," Danielle said. "But why is he with Pastor Beaman?"
"Can't say for sure," Crystal replied. "But I'm sure everything's gonna be okay for him from now on."
Her friends nodded. Danielle was struck with a thought. "Hey, if you witnessed it right up front as you said, wouldn't you have to testify at the trial?"
They hadn't thought of that. "I don't know for sure," Crystal replied thoughtfully. "But there were so many others there as well, and they got it on tape, so they can't get everyone to testify."
"Yeah," Hayley laughed, "if they did, it would go on longer than OJ Simpson's trial." She hesitated. "Say, when is the trial, anyway? Anybody know?"
Danielle and Crystal shook their heads. "Too early to tell, I guess," Crystal said.
Daniell clenched her fists, digging her sculpted nails into her palms. "I so want to be there when they put that (bleeper) on trial," she hissed. "I want to be there when those lawyers rake his butt over the coals!"
"Would he get the death penalty?" Hayley asked.
"If Criss had died, he would have," Danielle replied. "But he'll probably get life for attempted murder or something."
"I think they'll have to keep it secret," Crystal opined. "If the date of the trial became public, there's gonna be a lynch mob right outside the courthouse."
"I think they'll be there just to see Criss," Hayley said. "Either way, it's gonna get pretty crowded in that courthouse."
October arrived, and in two weeks, the gala premire of Believe would be presented to the world. Years of planning and preparation would culminate in one singular event, eagerly anticipated by Loyals everywhere. Those who had purchased their tickets months ago congratulated themselves on their prudence and excellent sense of timing, while the more desperate scoured the Internet and eBay for even a single ticket for any price. For female Loyals, it was the equivilent of being invited to Cinderella's Ball--those who were going anticipated dancing with the Prince, while those who couldn't languished by the window in self-pity.
One young Loyal who accepted his fate was riding to school on his dirt bike one early October morning. The few months he had stayed with Pastor Beaman had turned out to be the happiest in his life. Cole found helping the homeless to be surprisingly rewarding; in the past, he had been taught to stay away from "those people" by his parents, that they were diseased, that they should not receive handouts because that would only feed their addictions, whatever they were, and that they were mentally unstable, a danger to themselves and society in general. Only when Cole began to actually work with them, under the pastor's supervision did he realize that "those people" were not some sort of subspecies, but real human beings with real problems. After a month of serving meals, sorting through donated clothing, and wheeling the disabled residents, he began to break under the strain of having seen so much misery to the point where he cried in bed one night. The good pastor had gone into his room to comfort him.
"Don't let it get to you, Cole," he had said. "Just remember, even if you give someone a drink of cold water, you'll be doing more for them than anyone else. You've been a big help to us here, son. Just don't give in to the misery of it all. That's how these people got here in the first place. They gave into the misery of their existance instead of seeking help from God. That's why we're here."
Cole was moved, and not just by the pastor's words. His father had never spoken to him in such a gentle tone, nor had even offered a single word of comfort when he was troubled. It had always been buck up, get off the pity pot, there's no free lunch, deal with it, I'm too busy. He counseled everyone but his own son, it seemed to him.
He rode to school, his dirt bike buzzing like a saw. He was the only kid who rode one to school; that alone made quite an impression on his new classmates. His new school was better than he anticipated: it was more relaxed, more easygoing, not as regimented as the private acadamy had been. His teachers were not as straitlaced, nor the students so cliquish. Best of all, he found fellow Loyals by the score! No longer did he have to live in isolation, but could proclaim his Loyalty openly and without fear. That alone was gratifying.
Along the way he saw a large number of eighteen wheelers parked end-to-end in a field. A quick glance told him it was Criss Angel's production crew. Thrilled, he detoured and parked alongside one of the trucks. Criss' RV had to be here somewhere, he thought. He searched quickly and diligently. Turning a corner, he saw Criss himself, stretched out on a folding chair, a bottle of water in his hand.
Cole checked his watch. He had some time to spare before school. He tiptoed quietly towards Criss. Unfortunatly, it wasn't quietly enough, because Criss saw him coming and turned his head to face him. Cole froze.
"Hey, Cole," Criss greeted him, sitting up in his chair. "What's up, dude?"
"Hi, Criss," Cole managed to get out. "I was just on my way to school and I saw your trucks there, and so I just wanted to say hello." It sounded lame, he knew, but he was so awed to be seeing his idol again it was the best he could do at the moment.
"Pull up a chair," Criss told him. Cole found another folding chair and sat down. "So, how's life been for you? Pastor Beaman treating you okay?"
"Oh, yeah, it's been great," Cole eagerly replied. "I don't feel so alone like I did when I was home with Mom and Dad. I've been helping out at the shelter, going to school, stuff like that."
"How's school been so far?" Criss asked.
"Pretty good. It's not as stiff and formal like my old school. You would not believe how many Loyals go there! In my old school, I had to keep it under cover because it was so snobby and stuff, but now I can relax and be me." Cole smiled sheepishly. "They found out about me being the one who stabbed Hiram Block. There are some hardcore Loyals who said I should have killed him."
"And what did you tell them?"
"I said I was just happy you're still alive and all. I'll admit I was proud of having done it at first, but now I'm not."
"I'm glad to hear it," Criss told him.
"Anyway," Cole sighed ruefully, "since everyone thinks that I saved your life, they think I know you personally; they're hitting me up for favors--tickets for your show, pictures, autographs, stuff like that. While it's nice to be popular, it's kinda getting me down. I mean, how do you stand all the publicity you get?"
"Well, you just have to take it in stride," Criss shrugged. "Fame is fleeting, Cole. You've had your fifteen minutes of fame, and in time you'll be just another face in the crowd. Just hang in there, and don't let it go to your head. When your star fades, it won't hurt as much." Criss shifted in his seat. "So, you keeping out of trouble since you've been on probation?"
"Yeah." Cole stirred uneasily. "Well, I try, anyway."
Criss eyed Cole warily. "Okay, what happened?"
"Well, I was with some of these guys from school, and me and them went to the back of this topless bar. There weren't any windows, but the back door was open, so we sneaked in and saw some of the dancers on stage. It was, like, whoa!"
"Did you get caught?"
"Almost. We saw the manager coming and we ran like hell away from there. It was late in the evening when I should have been back home at the shelter, so I thought I could slip in without anyone seeing me. Well, Pastor B. saw me."
"Busted is right. He was pretty cool about it at first; he let me explain what happened. He actually listened to me, something my dad never did."
"You tell him the truth?"
"I had to. If I lied, then I'd be violating my probation. I told him I got talked into going into that bar and seeing the dancers--I only saw them for a few seconds, I swear! And then I said I was sorry and I wouldn't do it again. And he believed me. He warned me about falling into old habits, or picking up bad ones from my friends, and reminded me that if I did get busted, I'd go to Juvie, and he cared enough about me not to see me go there. He did say he was glad I was so honest with him, though."
"Well, you gotta be careful, Cole," Criss told him sternly. "I don't want to see you go to Juvie, either. I had to take time off of my own schedule to come to your hearing, you know."
"I know," Cole said gratefully. "And I'll never forget it. Never."
"So, no more sneaking into topless bars, okay? Promise?"
"Cross my heart." Cole stood up and reached over to Criss to hug him. "You're still the greatest, Criss."
"And you're late for school," Criss told him. "You'd better get a move on."
Cole dashed away, waving at Criss behind his shoulder. " 'Bye, Criss! See ya!"
Brother Bob Talbot sat in his empty storefront church, seething in righteous anger. Since the Anti-Christ, that devil's minion, Criss Devil, showed up that one Sunday during the worship service, his ministry had crumbled. Half of his flock had defected to other churches, or stopped attending services altogether. One of the faithful few, Brother Hiram, was in jail. That backslider, Abigail Runyon, who no longer deserved to be called Sister, had betrayed him to the police, as Judas betrayed Christ to the Jews.
Oh, his tricks and deceits were many, that Devil! Two months ago, he had watched one of his television shows, where he actually walked on water! Like Jesus Himself did on the Sea of Galilee! It was blasphemy, pure blasphemy! He had almost ripped the set out of the wall and thrown it out the window when he saw it. That Devil actually mimicked Christ, right down to the beard on his face! It was too much!
The next week he had challenged God again by handcuffing himself to a building about to be demolished. Brother Bob prayed that the Lord would crush him underneath all that falling rubble. For a few hopeful moments, it looked as if his prayer had been answered! The Devil was destroyed! Praise the Lord! But his elation had been short lived, as Criss Devil reappeared, covered in concrete dust, but still alive. Was there no end to his diabolical miracles?
Brother Bob brooded over this. From what he saw in the papers, the Believe show was in two weeks. Big opening night, red carpet, the works. A grim determination came over him. Brother Hiram failed, he thought. Sister Abigail failed, too. But Brother Bob Talbot would not fail. He'd be waiting for Criss Devil as anxiously as his followers, but for a different reason. With God's help, that red carpet on opening night was going to get a lot redder.
11-12-2012, 10:45 PM
here we go again
11-13-2012, 06:59 AM
Great chapters , these girls are getting annoying , can't wait to read more :)
11-13-2012, 02:04 PM
Senior Housekeeping Manager Lisa Genaldi sat at her desk, reading through the employment application of the woman sitting in front of her. She had been sent to the Luxor Human Resources department through the Clark County Works program, a subsection of Social Services dedicated to reducing unemployment either by finding jobs or providing training for the homeless, senior citizens or those who just had no luck finding work.
"All right, Abigail," Ms. Genaldi said, setting down the application. "I see you've done some private housekeeping for a 'Brother Bob Talbot'. Could you give me any details about that?"
"Yes'm," Abigail nodded. "Brother Bob's the minister of our church, see, but he din't have no wife, so I done all the housework for him. All the cleanin' an' the scrubbin'--I done it all."
"I see." Ms. Genaldi looked at the application again. "And you had worked for Holiday Inn for a while?"
"Yes'm. It was a very nice place to work. Not like a lot of these motels around here, all shabby lookin' and showing dirty movies on TV. Real nice and friendly like."
"And why did you leave the Holiday Inn?"
Abigail lowered her head. "Well, they wanted me to work on Sundays. Brother Bob tole me I'd be breaking God's commandments if I did, so I had to leave. Went to work for him instead."
"Do you still have any hesitations about working Sundays?" Ms. Genaldi asked. "We do have a flexible schedule here, and we do require some Sundays and holidays?"
"Not any more, ma'am," Abigail answered somberly.
"Good. We'll start you out part-time on a thirty-day trial basis. You'll be working with one of the senior housekeepers during that time. Then, you'll have your own list of rooms to clean. We do inspect our suites before anyone checks in, so make sure you follow the procedure to the letter."
"Yes'm." Abigail agreed. "I can clean, ma'am. I can clean real good."
"I'm sure you can, Abigail," Ms Genaldi said. "Uh, do you like to be called Abigail, or Abby, or what?"
"Abby's fine, ma'am. It's not as stiff as Abigail."
"Fine, Abby, I think we're all set. Report to Housekeeping on the main floor in the service corridor first thing Monday morning at seven AM. Pauline will brief you on cleaning procedures, and where your cart is."
Abby's face broke into the first big smile since she could remember. "Oh, thank'ee, ma'am!" she cried. "I promise to work real hard, no matter what day it is!"
"I'm sure you will, Abby." Ms. Genaldi stopped short, suddenly remembering something. "Oh, I almost forgot. In a couple of weeks, the new Criss Angel show will be opening here at the Luxor. We're practically overbooked, so we're going to be very busy, busier than we've ever been. So, brace yourself for an onslaught."
"Don't worry, Ms. Genaldi," Abby smiled reassuringly. "That's why you got me. I'm here to help in any way I can."
"There you go!" Ms. Genaldi chortled. "That's the spirit I like! Well, we'll see you Monday morning, okay?"
"Yes'm." Abby got up to leave. "I'll be here bright and early. And thank ye again, ma'am."
Ms. Genaldi sat down at her desk again. Abby left, feeling light as an angel. She got the job! Praise the Lord! she thought gleefully. For the first time in her miserable existance, she felt free. She felt alive! God had given her a new lease on life, it seemed, free of Brother Bob's overbearing manner and the prying eyes of her former churchgoers. Her eyes swept around the enormous atrium, the wonder and luxury of it all, with its marbled fountains and endless shops filled with things she had only seen in magazines but could never hope to buy. It was the closest thing to Heaven on this earth for the lonely, sad woman with the heavy dark circles under her pale blue eyes partially veiled under stringy mousy hair.
He gaze fell upon an enormous banner advertising Criss Angel's show, Believe. His dark, sultry gaze seemed sinister, almost devil like, frighting her. Small wonder Brother Bob didn't like him much. But she had met him in person, in the hotel police station. He didn't seem devil like then; he even stated that he had faith in God just like her. But there was so much about him that wasn't too, well, Christian. Real Christians didn't go around floating in the air, or making things appear out of thin air, or read people's minds. It just wasn't done.
Her mind returned to that last Sunday at Perfecting Church, when Criss Angel barged in and called Brother Bob out. It had been rude to say the least, yes, but there was no need to gang up on the poor man. Criss did put up a fight, though. He could have taken on any one of her boy cousins and won, and they were no lightweights, either. He was right about one thing, though: Brother Bob should not have told her to go out and shoot him, just because she saw him on the street. That was just plain wrong.
And he seemed so gentle when she returned all of his necklaces to him. Thank you, he had said, bless you. Nothing devilish there, and his necklaces were all crosses; the devil don't wear Christian crosses, unless they were upside down like the Satanists wore them, and these were right side up. She looked at the banner again. Maybe all that spooky looking stuff was just an act, she thought, like for Hallowe'en, all painted up ghosts and goblins made up to scare people. There was a lot of entertainments that were fakery--special effects, they call them. They just make you believe it's real magic, like the movies to which she had never gone but had caught previews on television.
She caught the time on the digital screen by the main desk. Land's sake! She'd been wool-gathering so long she almost missed her bus! She trotted out the door and headed for the bus station, still elated over her improved lot in life. For a gleeful moment she wished she had a hat so she could whirl around and toss her hat in the air like Mary Tyler Moore on TV. You're going to make it after aaaalllllll!
Costa stuck his head through the door of the Production office. "Hey, everybody," he called out cheerfully. "Any messages for me while I was gone?"
JD, Criss, Banachek, Gerard, and Baram stood up in delighed surprise. "Hey, Costa!" they cried happily, rushing over to greet him and peppering him with questions. "When did you get back? Why didn't you call us? How's Mom? Is she okay? They ever find the guy who broke into her house?"
Costa held up his hands for order. "Whoa! Waitaminute! Waitaminute! One at a time, please!" He picked up a stray bottle of water and settled down on one of the sofas. He drank deeply, wiped his mouth, and sighed, leaning his head back in exhaustion. I just had a long trip, okay? I'm pretty tired right now."
Criss sat across from him, leaning forward. "So, how's Mom?" he asked again.
"Mom's fine, okay?" Costa replied wearily. "We got the new security system installed all right: fire, break-in, carbon monoxide, and she's even got a special Medic Alert bracelet in case she falls or has a heart attack or something."
May God forbid, Criss thought, not a little horrified at the thought of anything bad happening to his beloved mother. One heart scare was one too many as far as he was concerned. "Well, that's good to know, Cos," he said.
"They ever find the thief?" JD asked.
"No, they're still looking for him," Costa answered, a hint of anger in his voice.
"They'll find him, I'm sure," Criss said, feigning optimism. "I mean, it's not like he's a serial killer or anything'; it's just a smash-and-grab, a bee-and-ee, you know."
"Yeah, but when it's your mom who's a victim..."
Baram spoke up. "Well, the important thing is, she's okay. And we're glad you're back, Costa. We got a lot of work to do here."
Costa wrenched himself from the couch, turning to Criss. "I heard that Block tried to take another shot at you, " he said casually.
"More like a knife attack," Criss corrected him.
"What happened to the kid that stabbed him?"
"Well, he got lucky and got probation; he's staying with Pastor Beaman at the shelter. He's doing all right."
"Oh, well, that's good." Costa shrugged.
"Now Felix is really turning it up a few notches as far as security is concerned," Criss informed him. "All the guards have metal detector wands, and the video's practically high-def. And no visitors backstage without a pass, not even family. And from now on, I'll be under constant surveillance, twenty-four-seven."
"Big Brother is watching you," Costa joked.
Criss sniffed, "Big Brother, yeah."
"Let's just hope that there won't be any more attacks on you, okay?"
Criss shook his head. "I don't think anyone's gonna take another pot shot at me any time soon," he said. "It's been pretty quiet around here."
"Yeah," Costa nodded. "Like they say in the movies, it's too quiet."
Criss playfully slapped Costa on the side of the head for his paranoia, laughing.
The preparations for the gala opening night of Believe were in full swing. There was to be a pre-opening cocktail buffet in the Grand Ballroom for the VIPs, then an afterglow party when the show was over. Felix Rappaport had spared no expense when it came to food, drink and decor: large surreal posters of the Cirque performers hung from slender wires along the walls, the tables were covered in boldly colored tablecloths, champaigne glasses stood stacked at one table like a crystal tower. He had even hired some struggling actors and actresses to dress up in the garish mode of the show and entertain the guests. The Luxor had poured one hundred million dollars into this show, and, by God, the audience (and the investors) were going to get their money's worth!
The Chief of Security, Lucas Macaffey, may not have had the expense account of the boss, but he was just as determined to make opening night a success, if for a different reason. It would be an all-hands-on-deck night, every square inch of the hotel under tight surveillance, inside and out. If anyone came in with so much as a sewing needle in his pocket, that (bleeper's) ass was grass. One near fatal shooting was one too many as far as Big Luke was concerned. "Eyes and ears open, lips zipped," he had ordered his security staff. "You're there to patrol, not to party, so keep it professional."
He sat at his desk, going over the roster for the next two weeks, when he heard a faint, meek little voice coming from above. Macaffey looked up. One of the housekeepers stood there, intimidated by his presence. Macaffey softened up a little to put her at ease, but there was something familiar about this woman that he just couldn't put his finger on. It was the eyes that did it, the dark circles under them--that was a clue. "What can I do for you?" he asked in a blunt and friendly manner.
"I-I need a security pass keycard for work," she stammered. "I just started today, and..."
Macaffey mechanically pulled out a keycard form. "Name?"
"Abigail Runyon," she squeaked.
Abigail Runyon. That name definatly rang a bell, Macaffey thought. He scribbled down Abigail Runyon's name, pulled out a keycard from a small file box, slapped a bar code on the back, and handed it to her. "Welcome aboard," he said genially.
"Thank'ee," Abby said, taking the card and dashing out the door. Macaffey paused. Abigail Runyon. The way she said "thank'ee" instead of thank you. The raccoon eyes. Of course! She was the woman who had been arrested carrying a gun into the hotel to kill Criss Angel! And now she was working here? It made no sense! True, she had surrendered on the spot and came quietly, and Criss did drop charges, but still!
He grabbed the phone and punched the extention for Housekeeping. "Is this the Manager?" he said sharply. "This is Security. Did you just hire a Abigail Runyon as a housekeeper?"
"Why, yes, we did," Ms. Genaldi replied, taken aback over the Chief of Security's rough demeanor. "We hired her last Thursday. Why?"
"Do you realize we picked up that same woman a few months ago for carrying a gun to kill Criss Angel?" Macaffey thundered.
Ms. Genaldi stiffened. "We are fully aware of what happened, Chief," she replied testily. "We have her record on file. All charges were dropped, and she is here on probation, like all our other new hires. I assure you, she has no intention to shoot anyone. She's perfectly harmless, I promise you. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do." She hung up.
Macaffey slammed down the phone. Here he was, busting his ass to ensure the safety of all concerned, and Housekeeping hires a would-be assassin! Perfectly harmless, she had said. Has no intention to shoot anyone, she had said. Well, he was going to make damned sure she didn't! He picked up the phone and redialed Housekeeping. This time, he got Ms. Genaldi's voicemail.
"This is Security." Macaffey barked into the phone. "Make sure that Abigail Runyon doesn't come in on opening night. I don't care how you do it, just keep her away from Angel, and everyone else that night! Got it?"
He hung up, satisfied for the moment, but knowing he'd have to be on full alert from now on. Complacency was death, as he well knew from having worked for fifteen years with the most dangerous criminals in the tightest supermax prison in Nevada. Nothing, no one, was going to escape the eye of Big Luke Macaffey--not on his watch.
Night fell. Cole was getting ready for bed when Mrs. B. knocked on his bedroom door for prayers. Cole rather enjoyed this simple bedtime ritual, though he never had any formal religious training; his family had been more of the Christmas-and-Easter type churchgoers. It was a chance to bond with the motherly Mrs. B., talk about things he could never get his own mother to listen to, and share a private moment with her. It gave him a sense of belonging, of being loved.
"You about ready, Cole?" she asked. She always waited until he was fully dressed for bed before coming in.
"I'm good," he replied.
Mrs. B. came in, smiling. Not the patronizing, condescending smile that his mother gave when he tried to communicate with her, but a warm one that told you everything was okay, there was nothing to worry about. A real mom smile. "All your homework done and everything?" she asked.
"All done," he said. Thank God it was all done, he thought. A full chapter of science, three pages of math, and an English essay had drained him. At least he didn't have to study Latin like he did in his old school. That had been a real pain in the you-know-where.
"Good." Mrs. B. sat down in the large chair in the corner of the room. Cole was sleeping in Verona's old room, a rather large one with a huge, cushy chair in the corner with an overhead lamp for reading. Cole never sat in it, preferring to do his reading lying on the bed; he reserved it as "Mrs. B.'s chair". He knelt down at her feet and laid his head on her knees, letting her stroke his stringy brown hair.
"Spoke to your probation officer today, hon," she said casually. "She says you doing just fine so far. You meet with her Wednesday after school, okay?"
Cole nodded. His probation officer was really a nice lady, not the stern police type he had envisioned before he was assigned to her. She was genuinely interested in his making good, and he tried not to disappoint her. Besides, he saw the photos of her own kids on the side of her desk. She was a mom, too. She understood that kids screw up sometimes--some more than others.
"You ready for prayers?" Mrs. B asked.
Cole sat up, folded his hands and closed his eyes, just as he had been taught. He was way past the now-I-lay-me-down-to-sleep phase, preferring to wing it as he went along. Mrs. B. was pleased with that, even if Cole's prayers happened to include Criss Angel along the way. He had been frantic when Criss narrowly escaped being blown up in that hotel in Florida, and gave fervent thanks when he was spared. Criss was a wonderful man, she thought, but why did he have to do these things? His poor mother, she thought, what she must go through, having a son like that!
"Dear Lord," Cole prayed. "Thank You for the blessings of the day. Thanks for getting me through my homework tonight--especially math. I mean, three pages? Anyway, thank You for the second chance You gave me. Help me stay out of trouble so I can stay out of Juvie. Bless Pastor and Mrs. B. They've been like real parents to me."
Then, reluctantly, but knowing Mrs. B. expected it, "Bless my mom and dad back home. Keep them safe, and help them work out their differences. And bless Criss Angel, Lord. Keep him safe in all he does and all he's about to do. Please make sure that his new show is a great success. Keep the crazies away from him--You know, like Hiram Block? Watch over everyone on opening night, Lord, and I pray that everyone has a good time. In Jesus' Name, amen."
Mrs. B. smiled indulgently, kissing Cole on the forehead. "That's good, honey," she praised him. "Just fine. Good night, and see you in the morning."
Cole kissed her back. "Good night, Mom--I mean, Mrs. B." He blushed over his slip of the tongue. Mrs. B., however, understood.
"You miss your folks, don't you, honey?" she cooed.
Cole thought about it. "Well, to tell you the truth...not really," he confessed. "You and the Pastor have been more of a mom and dad to me than them. Mom never sat with me like you're doing right now; she just told me to go to bed and that was it. We only said grace on Thanksgiving, and Dad never even mentioned God, unless he had 'dammit' following after it."
"Well, you just keep praying for them. I'm sure they love you and miss you a whole bunch." She hugged Cole. "Now, you go on to bed. School tomorrow."
"Night, Mrs. B." Cole climbed into bed. Mrs. B. snapped off the light. As he lay in the darkness, he thought about how wrong she was. Cole hardly heard from his parents. The few phone calls he made led only to voicemail, with no returning calls. His letters, both paper and electronic, elicited no replies. Only the monthly support checks gave any hint of their acknowledging his existance. His thoughts fast forwarded to the future. When his probation was over, what then? Would they take him back home? Did he even want to go back home? If he did, would there be a home to go back to?
Cole pondered these thoughts as he lay in bed, his hands behind his head. He was happy here, happier than back in California. Maybe he should just forget his parents and live with the Beamans for the rest of his life. They actually cared about him, unlike his parents. Yeah, just cut his losses and make a whole new life here in Las Vegas. Here he was with people who loved him, and whom he loved in return: Pastor Beaman, Mrs. Beaman, and above all, Criss Angel.
And they worshipped the dragon which they gave power unto the Beast: and they worshipped the Beast, saying, "Who is like unto the Beast? Who is able to make war with him?"
Brother Bob Talbot had read Revelations since his tender years, but now it took on new meaning as he glanced up from his Bible to look at the full-page ad for Criss Angel's Believe show.
And I beheld another Beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
And he exerciseth all the power of the first Beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therin to worship the first Beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.
And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the Beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the Beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
And he had power to give life unto the image of the Beast, that the image of the Beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the Beast should be killed.
Hiram Block had wounded the Beast, Criss Devil, but his wound was healed. Soon, his blasphemies would be trumpeted all over the world. His image was all over Sin City for those who dwelled on the earth to worship. His coming had been foretold in the Word of God two thousand years ago, but no one paid any attention to it. Except for Robert Talbot, that is. He hadn't been fooled, not for one minute by the fraudulent miracles of the Beast.
Believe. A good word in itself, if directed to the Lord, but he noticed that the three letters in the word lie were in boldface. An admission of guilt if there ever was one. Well, the gloves were off! The Day of Judgement was at hand, and he, Robert Andrew Talbot, was going to send Criss Devil to his deserved damnation. He closed his Bible and set it carefully on the desk in his study, then picked up the newspaper with Criss' picture on it. A final glance, then he tore it into pieces, flinging them away in disgust. He went to the gun rack that he had made in wood shop in seventh grade and took down his Winchester rifle. It wasn't the fanciest gun he owned--it was designed for deer hunting--but it had a telescope and a good enough range to do the job from a distance. Once he had his vantage point, the rest would be easy. But there had to be some preparation beforehand.
Opening night. Oh, there'd be an opening night, all right, he thought, but not what anyone expected. He didn't have a ticket or a VIP pass, but he'd be there, just the same. With a single shot, he would usher in the opening night of Armageddon.
11-13-2012, 02:24 PM
What is with this guy , great chapter , can't to read more :)
11-13-2012, 03:09 PM
How in god's name is he going to get a Winchester rifle into the Luxor.
11-13-2012, 09:48 PM
Criss stared at the calendar on his desk with anticipation and trepadition. Three days. Only three days until the premiere of Believe. Five years of planning, developing, negotiating, designing, rehersing, arranging, rearranging, sweating and worrying were behind him now. His magnum opus was ready to be revealed to the world. No longer would people think of Las Vegas magicians as cheesy hucksters doing card tricks in clubs. Believe would raise the bar even higher, creating a sense of wonder and magic in a cold technological world that had lost it. It would be the culmination of a dream, the accomplishment of a lifetime.
So why was he scared (bleep)less?
Okay, a few pre-opening night jitters was normal, he said to himself. He was only human after all. This was a huge undertaking for anyone. Opening night has always been a harrowing experience in the world of theater, and always would be. Once it was over, it would get easier. He had the metaphorical butterflies when he produced MindFreak on Broadway, and he came through it with flying colors. He just had to stay focused, just like he always did before each of his demonstration. He had practiced his illusions for the show with and without the Cirque cast until he could do it in his sleep. The show would be a success, he knew it would be.
Then why did he suddenly have this sense of impending doom?
Criss got on the phone and called the garage to bring up his new Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He had to get away for a while, clear his head, and he certainly couldn't do that in the goldfish bowl of the MindFreak production office. He needed to be alone with his thoughts. He pulled on his fashionably tattered denim jacket and headed out to the garage. A quiet, solitary ride through the Nevada desert would be just the ticket. The wide open spaces of the Southwest was his best if not his only refuge from the constant demands of his career. Out there, he could breathe freely, escaping the pressure and the stress of his chaotic life.
Escaping? Or running away from what frighened him? What did frighten him, anyway? He had no reason to be scared of anything. Oh, sure, he had survived two attempts on his life (he didn't count the one by Sister Abigail because she had been an unwilling pawn) but he bounced back, just like he always did. And didn't he go and see Hiram Block in the hospital? And didn't he show him pity and not resentment? And didn't he face that church which hated him so much in person? Hiram Block was back in jail. So what did he have to fear now?
Down in the garage, his new Harley stretched out before him like a Playboy centerfold, seducing him with its gleaming chrome and wicked black leather seat and saddlebags. He pulled on his helmet, mounted the bike, and gunned the starter with one kick of his booted heel. The motor roared to life like a dragon awakened, and Criss was off and running. The open road beckoned.
Desert to the left of him, desert to the right. Criss remembered how overwhelmed he felt when he first saw the Nevada desert landscape. There was so much space, miles and miles of it as far as he could see. To the younger Criss Angel, fresh from the brick and steel canyons of New York, it was like being on another planet. And the heat was so oppressive he feared he'd be crawling across the sand in tattered clothes, gasping for water, like in so many one-panel cartoons he had seen. Why would anyone want to live here? he had wondered at the time.
Well, now he was living here, and living well, thank you very much. The alien landscape in time became a haven for him from the other concrete jungle of Las Vegas. Out in the desert, one could see the stars up in the sky more clearly than in the light-polluted Entertainment Capital of the World. In the desert, there was a silence so rare it inspired reverence for God and nature.
He pulled over to the side and killed the motor, letting the growl give way to the desert's silence. The setting sun glowed red, orange and pink in the westen sky. An artist's dream, he thought as he lost himself in the colors of the sunset. Who had once said that it was like someone leaving the gates of Heaven ajar? Bruce Springsteen, he thought. Well, it was true. Criss felt that he could soar right up through them before they closed, or at least sneak a peek inside. He chuckled to himself as he wondered what his late father would say when he saw his son snooping around the Pearly Gates.
His father. The pain of ten years' separation tugged at his heartstrings. His father did not live to see his youngest son achieve international acclaim as the greatest magician since Houdini. He had been a struggling performer when John Sarantakos lost his three-year battle with stomach cancer. Every episode of his show was dedicated to his memory, although the credits rolled so fast on the screen hardly anyone noticed the dedication itself. He had honored his father by levitating over the apex of the Luxor. He had planted a tree in Mexico for him. Still, it did not lessen the pain.
Criss leaned back on the seat of his motorcycle, taking a deep cleansing breath. "Dad," he said to the fading sunset, "I wish you were here with me right now. I wish I could see your face again--not the pinched, sickly one when you died, but the strong healthy one of the past--the one that watched me do my tricks and smiled at me when I did good. When I came here, I was scared. I don't know why, but I was scared all of a sudden. I don't know if it was the show coming up, or having been shot at, or what, but I was. I mean, I bust my ass creating illusions and performing demonstrations for everyone to see, and someone tries to kill me. Now my new show is opening in three days. I should be proud and happy, but instead I'm actually frightened. Dad, when you were alive, I came to you for help when I had problems; I could always talk to you about anything, and you always made me feel better."
Criss felt an incredible calm settling over him. Was it his father's spirit reaching out beyond the sunset? Yes, he reasoned, it must be. For one fleeting moment, his father was beside him, comforting his son from the Other Side. He could not hear his father's voice, but he could sense his pride and joy over his youngest son's many accomplishments, and the assurance that his spirit would always be near him, counseling him, guiding him. Then the moment was gone, the gates of Heaven closed as the sunset faded away, leaving only grey twilight in the desert. Criss snapped back into reality, wiping the tears from his eyes.
He looked up at the fading remains of the day. "Thanks, Dad," he whispered. "I feel better now."
Then he started his motorcycle and rode back to Las Vegas.
Pastor Beaman sat in his favorite chair in the living room of the parsonage, reading the letter Cole had just given him. Cole, meanwhile, stood before him, his face expressionless. Mrs. Beaman sat on the sofa opposite her husband, her crocheting lying on her lap, a look of concern on her usually sunny face. "Rob?" she asked her husband, "what is it?"
The pastor stared at the letter. "Dear Cole," he read aloud,
This is to let you know that your mother and I are getting a divorce. We have settled our terms amicably, so there will be no need to go to court. We will be separating effective immediatly. I will be moving to a loft apartment downtown across from the office, while your mother will remain at the house. You will still receive your monthly stipened, care of Pastor Beaman. The only thing we need to settle is where you will be living when you complete the terms of your probation. Do you wish to live with your mother, or with your father? We need to know as soon as possible in order to complete the divorce proceedings. You may either respond in writing or call my office--you have my number. Don't take this too hard; it's all for the best. Dad."
"That's it?" Mrs. Beaman said incredulously. "No 'hello, how are you?', no apologies, no nothin'? He could have broken it to him a little more gently, you know." She picked up her crochet hook and began working furiously. "Man must've been a lawyer for so long he don't know how to write a decent letter to his own son. Read more like a court summons than anythin'."
Pastor Beaman looked up at Cole. "So, how do you feel about all this, son?"
Cole thought about it. "Well, it's a bit of a shock," he replied evenly, "but it's not really a surprise. I mean, they hardly ever spoke to each other at home. They hardly ever spoke to me, except when I got in trouble. I don't know what they did on all those vacations they took."
"You think you got in trouble so that your parents would pay attention to you?" the pastor asked Cole. "That's usually the case when kids feel neglected; they cause trouble, so their folks come running to rescue them. Bad attention is better than no attention at all for some kids."
"I got in trouble last time because I wanted to see Criss Angel," Cole argued. "And I stabbed Hiram Block to try to protect him."
The pastor pondered this. "Well, I'm no shrink," he said, "but I think your infatuation with Criss Angel is sort of a surrogate parent thing. You substituted Criss for your own father, it seems to me."
Cole was taken aback. "Whoa! That's deep, Pastor."
The pastor read the letter again. "Even so, there's still the matter of which of your folks you gonna live with."
Mrs. Beaman muttered something about the lesser of two evils. Her husband ignored her. "You don't have to decide right now, Cole," he said. "It can wait until morning at least."
Cole straightened to his full height before his guardian. "I don't want to live with either one of them, Pastor," he said firmly. "You and Mrs. B. here have been better parents than they ever were. You cared. Even when you were mad at me for sneaking into that topless bar, I knew you cared."
Mrs. B. stopped crocheting. "Topless bar?"
"I'll explain later, Mrs. B." Cole told her. "Anyway, living here with you has been the happiest in my life. For the first time, I feel like I belong somewhere. This has been a real home to me."
He knelt before the pastor. "Please let me keep staying here with you," he pleaded. "I'll get a job somewhere and pay for my own food! I'll do all the work in the shelter--for nothing! Just keep me here with you."
Cole lunged and wrapped his arms around his guardian. "Please, Pastor," he sniffled. "I'll be real good, and I won't cause any more trouble."
Pastor Beaman cradled Cole in his arms. "Now, Cole," he crooned. "You don't have to do any of those things you said. Of course you can stay here. I'll talk to your folks first thing in the AM. We'll work something out."
"Oh, thank you, Pastor!" For the first time, Cole kissed the Pastor on the face. The pastor released him and looked him in the eye.
"Now, I think you got some homework to do, young man," he said with mock sternness. "You'd better get to it."
"I will," Cole nodded happily, and he dashed off to his room. Mrs. Beaman eyed her husband warily.
"What's this about a topless bar?" she pressed.
With an embarrassed grin, he related Cole's little misadventure with his schoolmates. His wife simply sighed in chagrin, and continued with her crocheting in silence. Las Vegas was so full of temptations, she thought, it was no wonder they called it Sin City.
Abby Runyon had finished her shift for the day at the Luxor. She punched out and fetched her sweater from her locker in the housekeeper's closet, waving good-bye to her co-workers as she headed out the door. She followed a series of "landmarks" to find her way out; two weeks on the job, and she still couldn't find her way around. This place was bigger than her hometown of Littleton, Texas, she thought. At least she knew her way around there.
She took a wrong turn (again!) and found herself at the North Parking Garage of the hotel, where she saw the fanciest cars she'd ever seen. Who owned them? she wondered. Well, she wasn't going to go wool-gathering again, no sir! She had a bus to catch. She walked briskly to the exit, where one of the parking guys sat in a little booth. He looked nice enough, so she decided to wait with him until her bus arrived in the next ten or fifteen minutes. It was safer that way, even though the place was lit up like Christmas. She giggled to herself. All of Las Vegas was lit up like Christmas every day. She hated to think how much their electric bill was.
Abby approached the booth. "Hi," she said. "Can I wait here until my bus comes?"
"Sure can," the valet answered with a Southern twang. Abby wondered if he was Texan.
"I'm Abby," she said by way of introduction. "I just started her two weeks ago."
"Pleasure's all mine, Abby," said the valet jovially. "Name's Matt. Matt Behr. I hail from Benson, South Carolina."
So, he wasn't Texan, she thought, but he was definatlty Southern. "I'm from Texas," she told him. "Littleton, Texas. It's about forty miles east of Waco."
Matt seemed impressed. "That so?" he said. "We get a lot of folks from Texas workin' here. Mostly Mexicans, though."
"Oh." Abby searched for another topic of conversation. "How long you been here?"
" 'Bout five years or so," he answered with a shrug. "There's good money parking cars here."
"You ever park those fancy ones over there?" Abby pointed to the row of sports cars cordoned off from the rest of the lot.
"Oh, hell yeah!" he laughed. "Them's Criss Angel's cars."
Abby was flabbergasted. "All of them?"
"Yep, every single one. He takes 'em out every once in a while. He even uses them in his magic, like his Lamborghini over there."
"Where?" she asked, looking around. "I wouldn't know a Lam-bo-geenie if it run me over!"
"It's the low-looking black one, right there," he pointed out. "Anyway, he took it out on the highway in the desert, and he drove it hell bent for leather, then his crew sprayed it with fire extinguishers when he came up close, and poof! Gone, just like that! It was on TV--didn't you see it?"
Abby lowered her head. "No, the church I used to go to forbid it, because Brother Bob said he was the Anti-Christ."
Matt threw his head back and laughed. "Now where in the Sam Hill did he get a fool notion like that?" he asked loudly.
"Well, that's what he said," she replied meekly. "He even...well, he..."
Abby drew a deep breath and told Matt about being ordered to kill Criss last summer, against her will. "I gave up to the police," she told him in her defense, "and Criss dropped the charges, and now they let me work here." She looked nervously at Matt. "You don't think I'm a killer, do you?"
Matt pondered Abby's story, then shook his head. "I don't think you're a killer, Abby," he said. "I am surprised you got a job here, though, especially with Big Luke in charge."
"Big Luke Macaffey," Matt explained. "He's chief of security here, and a real hardass. Used to be a prison guard in the supermax in Central Nevada. If you wanna get along with him, stay the hell out of his way."
"I think I met him, when I got my pass" Abby told him. "Big man, burrcut."
Matt nodded. "That's him all right."
"He called Ms. Genaldi and told her not to let me work on opening night of Criss' show," she told him.
"Well, he's still (bleeped) off about the last time, when that old man shot Criss. Damn near broke his neck bringing him down."
"You know him?"
"He used to go to the church I used to go. He and Brother Bob were two of a kind; they both hated Criss Angel, thinking him he was the devil and all. I don't know who I was scared of most--Brother Bob and Brother Hiram, or Criss Angel."
"Lemme tell you about Criss Angel, here," Matt said, stepping down from his booth. "First of all, Criss ain't the devil or the Anti-Christ, or nothin' like that. He's really a regular guy. A guy who can magic his way up and down and everywhere in between, but still a regular guy. Now, you'd think he'd be puttin' on airs because he's famous and all, but he's done a great deal of charity work, especially for kids. Always goin' off to see some sick kid because it's their last wish or somethin'. And he's always raisin' money for charity, too. Hell, he sold two of his cars over there to raise money for the homeless. And he's real good to his maw, you know? Always buyin' her presents and takin' her out and all. And his maw's a real nice lady--you'd like her. Real sweet and kind and all. Hell, his fans, the Loyals he calls them, they done took her to heart as well. Mama Angel they call her. Fittin' name if there ever was one, you know? Why, when she took sick with a heart ailment, Criss dropped everything and flew home to be with her in the hospital. He did!"
Abby stood in wonder as she heard this side of Criss Angel that she never knew. Charity work? Sick kids? Raising money for the homeless? Good to his mother? From what Matt told her, he lived up more to the Angel side of his name than the Devil one Brother Bob had pinned on him. And to think he ordered her to kill him! Well, not only did she fail, praise God, but Criss had shown Christian charity to her by forgiving her and dropping the charges. The thought moved her to tears.
Dear Jesus, she prayed silently, forgive me my sin of trying to kill Criss Angel, because he's really an angel after all. I know that Brother Bob wanted me to kill him, but I should have said no. I was weak and backsliding. Thank You for sending those police officers to arrest me, because if it weren't for them, Criss would be dead, and I'd be in prison, maybe been executed.
Matt saw her crying. "You okay, Abby?" he asked.
Abby wiped her face. "I'm fine," she said. "It's just that I should have said no to Brother Bob when he ordered me to kill Criss."
"Say, why did he tell you to do that in the first place?" Matt asked.
"Well, someone caught me watching him do magic, and so I was told to kill him to redeem my soul."
Matt gave a long, low whistle. "Honey, you'd better find yourself another church to go to," he told her. "That Brother Bob is a pack of poison for sure!"
"No, I don't go there anymore," she said.
Abby checked her watch. "Land's sake!" she exclaimed, "I gotta catch my bus! Well, nice talking to you, Matt!"
"Same here, Abby." He waved good bye as she ran off to catch the bus pulling up to the stop. Matt returned to his booth. He thought about what Abby told him, about her church and that nut case Brother Bob--and to think that other nut case, Hiram Block, went to the same church as she did! Coincidence? No way. More of a conspiracy was more like it, he thought. Well, Block was in jail, so he was no problem, and the charges against Abby were dropped; besides, she looked like she couldn't hurt a fly.
But what about that Brother Bob? Where was he? If he had ordered Abby to kill Criss because he believed he was the Anti-Christ, what was to stop him from ordering another killing? Or doing it himself? Who the hell was this Brother Bob, anyway? What did he look like? Where did he live? And just how crazy was he? Would he give killing Criss another shot?
The premiere was just around the corner. Would he, or one of his hitmen, be there? If he had a picture of this Brother Bob character, then he'd be able to spot him right off. He made a mental note to ask Abby for one--she must have one somewhere, he figured. Yeah, he thought, good idea. Get a picture of him, and pass it around to the rest of the staff. He was sure that Big Luke would appreciate it as well. Assuming, of course, Brother Bob dared to show his face. One thing was for sure: He was double damned if he was going to let another Hiram Block-type go near Criss Angel.
11-14-2012, 12:14 AM
I think Matt should do that. BTW I sense a love connection between Abby and Matt
11-14-2012, 08:48 AM
^ i sense that too ^ . great chapters :) i hope the premiere goes off with out any drama :) cant wait to read more :)
11-14-2012, 06:44 PM
The premiere of Believe was the hottest topic on every Loyal Community website in existance. There had never been so much gushing, fawning, squeeing, pouting, and tantruming online. First the months, then the weeks, then the days and then the hours were counted down with all the meticulous attention of a rocket launch. Those lucky few who were granted admission to the big event shared their excitement, not to mention their impatience, with all the anticipation of children on Christmas Eve, consoling those who couldn't go with promises of pictures and play-by-play narrations of this show of shows. To them, it was more than a Vegas production--it was the Loyal's answer to Woodstock.
The Luxor hotel was busier than ever in the final week leading up to the premiere, not only with the normal functions of the hotel--accomodating guests, maintaining the facilities, and keeping order--but also with the pre- and post-parties before and after the show. Every suite was booked, every available space occupied. Extra towels, linens, pillows, blankets, and other supplies had been purchased beforehand, so there would be no shortage of anything; like other hotels, the Luxor had to deal with the common problem of guests taking the towels home with them. Even with the hotel name and logo stitched clearly on the hems, they still vanished quicker than a coin in Criss Angel's hand.
Meat and produce trucks shuttled to and from the hotel's loading dock, delivering choice meats, fresh seafood, ripe fruits and vegetables; huge sacks of flour and sugar stacked on pallets like bags of concrete at a construction site; gallons of olive, canola and other cooking oils; cases and cases of wine, champaigne and other liquors, and most important of all in that desert oasis, ice. Bags and bags of cubed, crushed, crystal clear ice were hastily stored in the giant walk-in freezers, safe from the merciless desert heat. The piece de resistance was a four foot tall ice sculpture of two slender Cirque dancers swirling on their long silken ropes, a crystalline masterpiece destined to grace the main table at the cocktail buffet.
The buffet itself was no small affair, either. Pastry chefs pushed their talents to the limit as they painstakingly turned blobs of sugary dough, slices of tender cake, and streams and dots of icing into tiny, delicate works of art. Italian glaces were scooped from four-gallon containers into delicate crystal dessert dishes and whisked into the freezers. On the other side of the kitchen, shrimp by the bucketful were inspected, deveined, slit and arranged as artisically as possible on huge glass bowls--never metal, for that would leave an off taste to the shrimp--filled with red sauce, or made into shrimp appetizers or cocktails. Giant roasts rotated slowly in their ovens, rolls baked to golden brown in the bakery. Everywhere there was chopping, kneading, slicing, dicing, stirring, beating, shouting and, occasionally, cursing as the kitchen staff prepared for the biggest event in the history of the Luxor. It was organized chaos.
None of this mattered much to Abby Runyon as she pushed her housekeeping cart down the hallway. Her job was to keep the rooms clean, and that was what she focused on. And not just clean, either, like Brother Bob's house. It had to be perfect, immaculate--"Grandma clean", as Abby called it. Grandma Runyon had been mighty particular about keeping her house clean, especially on Sundays; she refused to welcome the Lord's day with a dirty house. Talk about having a floor so clean you could eat off it! Yes, that was Grandma Runyon all right. Of course, Grandma Runyon didn't have to worry about a hotel with almost a thousand rooms to take care of.
Abby stopped at one of her assigned rooms and knocked on the door with the master keycard. Keycards were new to her, although they were easy enough to use. They couldn't be duplicated like metal keys at the hardware store, so they were safer, because they were registered in the computer, and the computer knew who had what card, and when it was used last.
There was no answer at the door. Abby knocked again. "Housekeeping," she called out.
No answer. No one there. Abby hated interrupting people (it just wasn't proper), and so was relieved when she entered the empty suite without having to bother anyone. She sized up the condition of the room: bed unmade, towels in the tub in the bathroom, a bit of paper in the wastebasket--nothing unusual. She gathered her supplies and got to work, singing a hymn as she sanitized the bathroom, dusted the furniture, vacuumed, and checked for the "bedsheet card" on the nightstand. The Luxor had a new policy about bedsheets and towels, created out of concern for water conservation and laundry expenses. A card was to be left by the bed on the dresser stating that the sheets and towels were to be left unchanged for another day's stay. No card was spotted, so Abby had the added chore of supplying fresh towels and linens. Some people were fussier than others, she figured.
The room once again cleaned to the Luxor's standards, Abby carefully gathered her supplies and closed the door behind her. As she wheeled her cart to the next suite, she thought she saw a familiar face by the elevators, just a hint of it, gone in a flash. If she didn't know better, she could've sworn it was Brother Bob Talbot.
She peered around the elevator bank. No one. Abby shook her head in disbelief. It wasn't Brother Bob, she thought. Couldn't be. It was someone who looked like him, that's all. With folks coming and going all the time, faces start to look the same, didn't they? And what would he be doing here at the Luxor, anyway?
Abby stopped short. He wanted to kill Criss Angel, is what. But how could he? This place had cameras everywhere; you couldn't scratch your behind without someone watching you. And how could he get up to this floor without a keycard? You needed one just to ride the elevator and get onto your floor; free rides were discouraged for security reasons. And besides, Criss lived at the tippy-top of the Luxor, just under the big light. Everyone knew that. Abby had never been to the Presidential Suite because of her probationary status. And, she guessed, never would, considering her reluctant assassination attempt. Besides, there was a regular housekeeper assigned up there, anyway. That suite was the most heavily guarded of all the suites in the hotel; no one was allowed in without permission, and even then with an escort.
No, it wasn't Brother Bob she saw, she told herself firmly. It was just one of the guests, that was all. Nothing to worry about. Brother Bob was not here. He had never been here. It had been one of the guests going about his own business, and it was none of hers. Just one of the guests. She promptly dismissed the phantom image from her mind and continued on her rounds. No more wool-gathering, she said to herself. She had work to do.
Shoot, that was close, Brother Bob Talbot said to himself as he hid in the open elevator car. That maid almost spotted him. She reminded him of Sister Abigail. No, not "sister", anymore, he reminded himself. She had been a backslider and a sinner, and therefore he had cast her out of the fold. No more thoughts of her; he had bigger fish to fry.
It had taken a lot of cunning on his part to swipe that keycard from that guest like that. Some careless person had set the card onto a bench and forgot it. Figuring the Lord was on his side, Bob snatched it up and slid it into his pocket. He now has access to the upper balconies; now all he needed was a good place to take a clear shot. Not too high, for the Winchester had so much range, but not too low to be spotted by the police.
He traveled up to the third floor. He was about to scout out the view from the balcony when the maid saw him. He ducked back into the elevator just in time. When she left, he cautiously reentered the foyer and mentally mapped out the length of the balcony and where to stand with his Winchester. If he stood by the emergency stairs, he could make a quick getaway after he slew the Anti-Christ. Yes, the third floor would do it.
But there were still the matter of the all the security. How would he get his rifle up to the floor on the night of the premiere? He just couldn't walk in carrying over his shoulder, not in this post Nine-Eleven world. No, he'd have to smuggle it in somehow. But how?
He heard the creak of the housekeeper's cart. The maid was coming back. He ducked again, peering around the corner. Well, glory be, it was Abigail! So now she's working here, huh? A plan formed in the back of Brother Bob's mind. Once again, the Lord had provided.
Whew! That last room was done for the morning. Abby parked her cart in the Housekeeper's office and headed for her lunch break. She couldn't afford to buy anything in the hotel shops and restaraunts, so she bought her own in a zippered vinyl six-pack cooler. She chose to eat outside, next to the garage; it was the only fresh air she got all day while working. The area where she sat overlooked Criss Angel's fleet of cars and motorcycles. She couldn't help but wonder just why he had to have so many cars and motorcycles in the first place. If he wanted to collect something, why couldn't he collect something smaller and simpler, like stamps and coins like Uncle Waylon used to? Be cheaper, too.
As Abby nibbled her bologna sandwich, she tried to guess which one was Criss' favorite. Unfamiliar with the makes and models of high-end sports cars, she just went by color: the wicked looking black one, so black it was almost invisible? Or the big SUV in the corner there? The red one with the stripes looked kinda pretty. So did the convertable over there. Just how many did he own, anyway? She tried to count them all, but always lost count somewhere. Maybe she should ask Matt the parking man in the booth when she saw him again.
A loud growling noise startled her out of her thoughts. She looked around fearfully and saw him, Criss Angel, riding up on a motorcycle the likes of which she had never seen before in all her born days: a mean looking machine with handlebars that stretched out like a Longhorn steer, and a tiny wheel in front that looked way out of proportion to the rest of the bike. She sat there, frozen with terror. Did he see her? Would she get in trouble sitting here eating her lunch? Oh, Lord, please don't let him see me, she prayed.
Her little prayer went unheeded. Criss caught a glimpse of her as he dismounted and removed his helmet. He wasn't offended, just curious. He strode up to her casually. Abby sat on her perch, paralyzed with fear. Criss recognized her immediatly. "Hey," he said, "aren't you the girl who got picked up for...you know..."
"Trying to kill you?" Abby finished for him in a squeaky voice.
Criss nodded. "Yeah, uh, Sister...Sister Abigail. Yeah."
Abby set down her sandwich. "Well, it ain't Sister Abigail no more," she told him, lowering her eyes. "It's Abby. I done left that all behind me. In fact, Brother Bob said I was a backslider, so he all but kicked me out, anyway."
"Sounds like a lucky break to me," Criss said.
"So, anyway, the county found me a job here, of all places, in spite of what I done to you." she explained. "Chief of security don't like me much being around here. Everyone else is mighty nice, though."
"First of all, you didn't do anything to me," Criss pointed out. "I know you didn't want to kill me--that's why I got you off. And don't worry about Chief Macaffey--I'll handle him. You just keep doing your job and everything will be okay."
He pulled himself up on the berm where Abby sat. "So, you like it here at the Luxor?" he asked casually.
"Oh, my, yes," she replied. "Most beautiful place this side of Heaven. Big, too. I swear this place is bigger than my entire home town! I have a hard time finding my way around it!"
"Where is your hometown?"
"Littleton, Texas," she answered.
Criss smiled. "Oh, a Texas girl, huh? How long you been in Vegas?"
"About five years or so. Jobs were scarce, so I came here to work. I used to work at some cheap motels--you know, the kind that show dirty movies on TV?"
Criss nodded knowingly. "Oh, those kind of motels."
"Then I went to work at a Holiday Inn, which was much better," she went on. "I really liked it there, but--"
"Well, I had just joined up with the Perfecting Church, and the Inn wanted me to work on Sundays, and Brother Bob said it was a sin, so I had to quit to save my soul. I went to work for him, instead."
"How did you get mixed up with that guy, anyway?" Criss asked curiously.
"Well, I was too far from home, and some ladies from Perfecting Church came by and invited me to services," she explained. "At first, it was all right, everyone was all friendly and right with God and all that, but then..." Abby hesitated. "But then about a couple of years ago he began turning mean. You should have heard the things he said about you, that you were--"
Criss raised his hand to silence her. "Yeah, I know what he said. Devil, Anti-Christ, the whole bit. I was there, remember?"
"Then, just last night, I was talking to Matt, the parking man in the booth--he's from South Carolina, by the way, real nice--and he told me things about you that were clear on the other side of what Brother Bob said about you. That you took good care of your mama, and bought her things, and you did charities, and visited sick kids and all." Abby wiped her eye. "Well, I got to feeling really bad about coming after you with that gun. I should have told Brother Bob flat out no. But, I guess you could say I was weak and...backsliding. I thank God that they caught me, 'cause if I had killed you, I'd be facing the Lord on Judgement Day with murder on my soul."
She faced him, a smile on her thin face. "You know, you showed real Christian charity by dropping those charges against me. Not many people would do that in real life. I hope someday you'll forgive me."
"Abby," Criss spoke gently. "There is nothing to forgive. You didn't do anything. You were a pawn in this Brother Bob's chess game against me. You were so deep under his thumb that you didn't know how to free yourself from him. Now you are free, so put Brother Bob and that church behind you and get on with your life. There are hundreds of other churches here in Las Vegas for you to go to." He laughed a little. "In fact, this city has more churches per capita than any other in the nation!"
Abby looked at Criss in surprise. "And they call this Sin City?" she exclaimed.
"Ironic, isn't it?" Criss said with a wink. "I gotta go. Catch you later."
He clambered down and trotted off into the hotel. Abby stared after him longingly, her sandwich lying forgotten in her lap.
"The Lord be with you, Brother Hiram."
"And also with you, Brother Bob."
"Rejoice and be glad, for the Day of the Kingdom is at hand."
"Soon, the Beast which had been wounded with the sword, but was healed, will finally fall."
"Praise the Lord. Are you ready?"
"I am ready, with weapons of righteousness at my side."
"I will keep vigil for the Coming of the Lord, with prayer and Scripture."
"Bless you, Brother Hiram. Your freedom will come soon."
"I will wait patiently for the Lord."
"He is coming soon. Keep the faith, and remain steadfast."
"I will. May the Lord shield you from the Anti-Christ."
11-14-2012, 07:16 PM
Oh god Brother Bill is going to use Abby to sneak in his gun. What an :mad:
11-15-2012, 08:35 PM
Criss lay semi-nude on the massage table in the dimly-lit spa in a blissful semi-state of consciousness, submitting to the skillful caresses of Serena, the masseuse. Tonight was the premiere, and his opening night jitters had led him here to relax and unwind. Well, to tell the truth, it was more at the insistance of his brother, JD. He had been turning into a Type-A obsessive in the last forty-eight hours, checking and rechecking the set and equipment, sometimes twelve times in a single day, pestering the stage managers about every little detail and getting upset at them if something was not quite right. His daily workout in the gym didn't help relieve the tension he felt, nor did a round of Tae Kuon Do with his trainer. He grew irritable, snapping at his assistants and storming out of discussions.
"Criss," his brother, JD, had said to him earlier that morning, "if you don't lighten up, Costa and me are gonna toss your ass into the pool and hold you down."
"I'll help!" Cousin George had chimed in from somewhere in the office.
"You've been nervous as a groom since yesterday," JD went on. "Why don't you go to the spa or something? Get a massage, soak in the hot tub--just get the hell out of everyone's hair for a while, willya? You're driving everybody nuts!"
So there he lay, face down on the specially designed table, a padded rim on which to rest his face comfortably and still be able to breathe, a towel modestly covering his buttocks, with Serena kneading and squeezing the tension away from his back and shoulders, mellow jazz playing softly from overhead speakers. He could feel her hands pressing down on him in all the right places, working out the knots in his shoulders, melting away the stress of five years of preparing for tonight's premiere. Tight muscles began to loosen under her firm but gentle hands, working her way up from his calves to his thighs, his lower back to his waist, his shoulders to his neck. JD had been right, he thought. This was just what he needed. He could have lain there forever if he could, no phones, no crowds of people clamoring for him, no work of any description, just drift away. Bye-bye.
He pictured the desert sunset he saw a couple of days ago, the swirls of reds, oranages, pinks and yellows above his head. He felt himself levitate high above the earth, escaping the chaos that had become his life. He soared higher, ever higher, toward the huge golden sun, celestial music echoing in his ears, and a voice calling his name...
"Criss?" Serena called to him quietly, but she may as well have shouted through a bullhorn, for he started suddenly, jerking out of his dreamstate.
"Are you all right?" Serena asked him.
Criss looked around himself. He was back in the massage room; he could still hear the celestial music, but he quickly realized that it came from the speakers in the room. God! What a dream! he thought.
"Your session is over," she broke it to him gently. "You can get up now. How are you feeling?"
Criss rose spaggetti-limbed from the massage table, the towel falling to the floor, exposing his nakedness. "If I was any more relaxed, I'd be a blob of goo," he quipped. "Thanks, Serena."
He dressed himself and left the spa in a mellow mood, the calmest he had been in a month or so. In fact, he was almost drowsy. He thought maybe he should go back up to his suite and sleep it off. Yeah. He'd been busting his hump over this show for years now, with MindFreak on top of that. He'd been more sleep-deprived than a resident intern; he deserved a good, long nap. Let it all go, he thought. Everything was good to go, no need to worry about it any longer. Let everybody do their jobs. He was going to sleep, and sleep well for once. God was in His Heaven, all was right with the world.
Abby Runyon walked briskly towards Brother Bob's house, her bony jaw set in determination. Her ostensive goal was to return his spare housekey which she had used while she served as his personal housekeeper, but she had another issue in mind: she was going to set him straight about Criss Angel, tell him he was way off base about him, that he was not the Anti-Christ or the Devil, or any of that nonsense. He was a decent, upright man, and a better Christian than Brother Bob could ever hope to be. The nerve of that man ordering her to shoot him, or anyone for that matter! Intimidate her, will he? Not on your Nelly, as Mama used to say. She was not going to stand for his abuse any longer. She was mad as hell and she wasn't going to take it anymore! She was going to give him such a big piece of her mind that he'd choke on it!
She stormed up to the front door of the makeshift parsonage, a small bungalow with a six-paneled white door in front, the upper stile and center rail painted in a contrasting brown to form a cross. For a moment her confidence wavered, but she regained her composure and hammered on the door.
"Brother Bob?" she shouted. "It's me, Sister Abby. I know you're in there! Let me in!"
No answer. Could he be afraid of her? Abby quickly dismissed that notion. Brother Bob Talbot feared no man, and especially no woman, either. She was a mouse to him, a weak-willed little mouse who could be scared into doing anything for him, including murder. Well, this mouse was roaring, she thought. If he wasn't going to come out, she was going in. She jammed the spare key into the lock, twisted it and opened the door.
It had been weeks since she had stepped foot in Brother Bob's house, but it was as if she had never left. Everything was the same as it ever was: same hardwood floor she used to run a dustmop over, the same worn out old rugs that kept slipping out of place, the same Last Supper tapestry hanging over the overstuffed sofa, the same overstuffed chair with the same little round lamp table where he read his Bible every day without fail. Same old same old. After having worked in the Luxor Hotel for a few weeks, with its shiny modern furniture and every available convienence--even a few she had never even known existed--she came to the realization that interior design was not one of Brother Bob Talbot's strong suits.
She crossed over to the small bedroom that served as Brother Bob's office. When she had kept house for him, he had explicitly ordered her not to disturb his paperwork on his desk. As usual, she had obeyed, steering clear of his precious desk covered with stacks of paper. No sense dusting in there, she had once half-jokingly said to herself, because all that paper made a good dustcover. She looked in his office. The paper was all still there, but Brother Bob was gone. He didn't seem to be anywhere. Perhaps he went calling on one of the members for something or other; he did that on occasion, calling on sick or troubled members of the church, or those who had skipped services for some reason. Seemed that she had just missed him, that was all.
Maybe it was just as well, she thought. If she had met him in the mood she was in, she'd probably say something she'd regret later. She decided instead to leave the key on the kitchen table with a note explaining everything. She pulled off a sheet from a long notepad that she had once used for shopping lists from the "junk" drawer and began to write.
Am returning my key. Your wrong about Cris Angel. He is a good man and a christian too. Hes not the devil or nothing. Stop tring to kill him. I quit your church for good. Your no christian man, but a devil yourself. Abby.
There. Done and done. Abby set the key on the table alongside the note, picked up her purse and turned to leave, only to come face-to-face with Brother Bob himself, grim as a criminal jury. Abby's heart leapt to her throat.
"Hello, 'Sister' Abigail," he hissed.
Abby backed away in terror. "Wh-what do you want with me? Keep away from me!"
Brother Bob looked down at the note Abby had just written and picked it up. He scanned the crude writing and crumpled it in his massive fist. "Et tu, Abby?" he sneered.
"I don't know what that means," Abby said, gathering her courage, "but it's the gospel truth. Criss Angel isn't anything at all what you said about him. I saw him, talked to him. He's more angel than devil."
Brother Bob shook his head. "You poor, poor misguided child," he said patronizingly. "Can't you see he's led you into his snares? He's deceiving you with his wiles. He's twisted your mind so that--"
"Oh, come off it, Brother Bob!" Abby snapped. "You got your head buried so deep in Revelations you can't see what's real! If you actually sat down and talked to him, you'd know what a decent man he really is!" She pulled herself to her full height, though she barely came up to his chin. "And I ain't no child, neither."
Brother Bob was taken aback at this sudden display of insubordination. Abigail had been so malleable back in the day, almost putty in his hands; he could bend and squeeze her to his will. Now she stood before him, hard as stone, cold, defiant. It made the hairs on the back of his neck bristle like a junkyard dog.
"The Devil is within you, Abigail," he warned her, stepping closer. "He has taken possession of your soul. But I can free you, my child--"
"I ain't no child!" Abby exploded. "And what's more, you get away from me!"
She drew a large carving knife from the caddy on the kitchen counter like a sword out of its sheath and pointed it straight at him. "You take one step closer, Bob Talbot, and so help me God I'll send you to your Maker in so many pieces!"
Brother Bob halted. "Abby," he said placatingly. "Put the knife down now, dear."
"Like hell I will!" She circled the perimeter of the kitchen, the knife in her hand, backing into the living room. "You've made my life miserable since I came here, Talbot! Well, I'm shut of you for good and always! And I ain't gonna let you kill Criss Angel, neither!"
"How did you know about it?" Brother Bob snapped at her. He grabbed Abby's wrists and wrestled with her. The knife clattered to the floor at her feet. "Let me go!" she screamed, struggling to free herself.
"You saw me, didn't you?" he accused her. "You saw me at the hotel, didn't you?"
The truth dawned on Abby. "So, it was you that was there!" she screamed angrily. "You really are gonna kill Criss, ain't you!"
She kicked him squarely in the shin. Brother Bob cried out in pain, releasing her wrists as he grimaced in pain. Abby stood before him, trembling with rage and terror. "I ain't gonna let you do it, Talbot!" she told him sharply. "Even if you did try, they'd nail your sorry butt so fast it'd make your head swim! They got cameras everywhere in that hotel--inside, outside, all around. Them cameras are so sharp, they could count your nose hairs if they wanted! And them security guards are a mean bunch. I heard the chief, Big Luke, he used to be a prison guard--you wanna go messin' with him? They'd have to scrape you off the floor with a spatula if you do!"
Abby retrieved her purse from where she had dropped it. "If I was you, I'd think twice about it," she said. Again, she turned to leave. And again, Brother Bob stood in her way, this time with a revolver, the business end in her face, and again, the purse fell to the floor as she stood before him in terror.
"I can't let you go, Abigail," he told her with menacing calm. "I won't let you stand in my way. Anti-Christ is finished, no matter what you say."
Abby grabbed his gun hand and struggled to push it away from her. Brother Bob fought back with bearlike force. Abby was knocked to the floor, skidding on the living room rug. She scrabbled madly to her feet, tackling the retreating Talbot, clawing him with her nails. Brother Bob slammed her against the wall with such force her head cracked the drywall. Undeterred, Abby made one final lunge at him, wrestling for the gun in his hand. Suddenly there was a huge explosion as the world came to an end, blood spraying the walls and window, then silence.
Cole Shoope puttered around the neighborhood making his grocery flyer deliveries on his dirt bike. He had been working for Sunrise Market every Friday afternoon for a few weeks now. He needed the money, since the pastor couldn't afford to give him an allowance beyond what Dad sent him every month, and with the price of gas going up and up, a five-dollar a week allowance wasn't going to do it, so he landed a job delivering flyers for Sunrise Market once a week after school. It was the dirt bike that clinched the deal for him; the manager believed he'd get more ads out faster with it. But as much as he tried to save his money, the cost of gas ate into his paycheck, and since the pastor insisted quite strongly that he tithe some of it to the church, he had very little left over for his own use.
But it was his first job, he thought. Not some odd job or a household chore assigned to him, but real employment. He had been so estatic about it he practically flew home to tell Pastor and Mrs. B. about it. And they were proud of him, they had said. No one, not even his parents, had ever said that to him before. "If you work hard enough," the pastor said to him, "you could get promoted. Get more money that way."
And Cole did work hard, tossing flyers onto front porches or wherever it was convenient. He wanted to get home fast this particular Friday, for it was the night of Believe. True, he had no ticket, but there was certain to be television coverage, and he didn't want to miss it. He tossed two more flyers; they landed squarely on the front stoops. His aim was getting better, he thought. He was about to toss another one when he was stopped short of a car barrelling out of the driveway of one of the houses, narrowly missing him. Geez! he thought. What's his hurry? Criss Angel doesn't come on until tonight.
He glanced at the house where the car had come from. There was a big brown cross painted on the front. Thoughts of Hiram Block drifted back into his memory. And there were splashes of what looked like red paint on the window.
Red paint? Or blood?
Cole crept up to the large picture window and peered in. The scene he saw was straight out of CSI: NY: There was blood spattered on the walls and on the floor in a crimson puddle. There was an overturned table and some broken pottery on the floor, scattered around the bloody corpse of Abigail Runyon.
11-16-2012, 12:27 AM
OH MY GOD!!!! :eek:
11-16-2012, 04:00 PM
With calm, cool, professional efficiency the CSI team photgraphed the living room, the kitchen, and the body lying on the floor. Blood samples were taken for DNA analysis from the puddle lying underneath Abby's head. The furniture was painstakingly dusted for fingerprints or examined for strands of hair or other incriminating evidence. The .38 shell casing, the most crucial piece of evidence of the crime, was circled and photographed where it lay, then picked up with tweezers and carefully sealed in a plastic baggie labeled with all the necessary information for the ballistics experts to examine. Not one inch of space was overlooked.
Outside the house, cordoned off with yellow police tape, Cole stood by a police cruiser with Investigator Grissom as blue and red lights rotated hypnotically around the area.
"I was delivering flyers for Sunrise Market, and I saw this car come shooting out of the driveway," Cole said, his voice quavering with terror, "and it almost ran me over, you know?"
"You know what kind of car it was?" asked Grissom.
"Well," Cole struggled to remember, "it was an Oldsmobile, 'cause I saw the name on the back of the trunk. Big brown one, a really old model, kinda boxy looking."
"Did you get a good look at the driver?"
"No," Cole replied regretfully. "It all happened so fast. He just peeled out of there, you know?"
"What direction did the driver go?"
Cole pointed down the street. "That way," he said simply.
Grissom noted it down on his pad. "Then what happened?"
"I went up to the house, 'cause I saw some red paint on the window, but it wasn't red paint--it was blood."
"Did you go into the house?"
"No, sir, I just looked through the window. That's when I saw the lady on the floor there."
"You didn't touch the doorknob or anything, did you?"
"No, I just looked through the window, then I got on my dirt bike and went to the first house I could find that had someone home to call the police."
"Do you know what time you saw the body?"
"I can't remember the exact time, but I can tell you that the minute I saw the body, I ran away from there as fast as I could to the house."
"So, you contacted the police the very minute you saw the body."
Cole nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Good." Grissom closed his notepad. "Okay, you're free to go, son. You did good in calling us when you did. Is there a number we can reach you if we have any furthur questions?"
"Do you know where the Sanctuary Shelter for the Homeless is?" Cole asked in reply. "I live there with Pastor Beaman."
Grissom looked curiously at Cole. "You homeless, kid?"
"Me? Oh, no, no," Cole answered lightly. "I'm just his foster son, that's all," It was a good enough explanation as any, he thought. It certainly helped avoid retelling the series of events that landed him in Pastor Beaman's care. He doubted that they would delve too deeply into his record, or at least he hoped not. To his relief, Investigative Officer Grissom seemed satisfied with it.
"Okay, Cole," Grissom said. "We'll take it from here. You'd better get back to the store." He handed Cole a white business card. "If you boss gives you any grief over it, tell him to give me a call, okay?"
"Sure." Cole shoved the card into his jeans pocket and sped away back to the market. God, I hope that's the last time I have to mess with the cops! he said to himself. Even if this time I was only a witness.
Meanwhile, Grissom circled around and entered the house through the back door into the kitchen. More forensics experts were at work, dusting, photographing and gathering evidence. Grissom turned to his fellow investigating officer, Duane Melkin. "Okay, what've we got?" Grissom wanted to know.
"Looks like there was some sort of scuffle in here," Melkin told him. "Knife on the floor there--looks like one tried to murder the other or it was self-defense. We also found this under the table."
Melkin handed Grissom a crumpled piece of shopping list paper. Grissom stretched it out as best he could to read it.
Bro. Bob. Am returning my key. Your wrong about Cris Angel. He is a good man and a christian too. Stop tring to kill him. I quit your church for good. Your no christian man but a devil yourself. Abby.
"So, what do you think?" Melkin asked Grissom.
Grissom pondered the note he read. "I think we'd better alert the Luxor fast," he replied, whipping out his cell phone. "We got a psycho preacher out to kill Criss Angel."
Runyon, Abigail Louise: Age thirty-five, single. Born May 12, 1973, in Littleton, TX. Employed as housekeeper at Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas since October 4, 2008. Had been taken into custody in July, 2008, for carrying a weapon with intent to murder Criss Angel. All charges dropped. Suspect claimed to have been instructed to kill by order of one "Brother" Bob Talbot, minister of Perfecting Church of Jesus Christ with Signs Ascending, of which she had been a member. Job application states suspect had been employed by Talbot to be personal housekeeper since 2005.
"Abby Runyon's dead?"
Luke Macaffey looked quizzically at Grissom from behind his desk in the Luxor security office. Grissom nodded somberly in reply. "How the hell did that happen? And who did it?" Macaffey demanded.
"She was shot in he chest area, right through the aorta. She died instantly. We suspect it was Brother Bob Talbot who did it."
Grissom drew closer to Macaffey. "When you first took Abigail Runyon into custody, did she show any signs of religious fanaticism? Put up any resistance?"
Macaffey shook his head. "Nope. She looked scared to death, actually. She surrendered on the spot--gave up the gun the second I asked her to. Kept going on about this Brother Bob character ordering to kill Criss Angel, and that she really didn't want to do it, and all that other bullplop. Just between you, me and the lamppost, she looked like she couldn't hit the side of a barn. Still, she was carrying a deadly weapon, so we took her in. Angel insisted we drop the charges against her, so we did. Then three months later, she gets hired here as a housekeeper. Bad move in my opinion."
"Who's in charge of housekeeping here?"
"Lisa Genaldi. Her office is down the service corridor. Last one on the right, can't miss it."
"Okay, we'll go talk to her. In the meantime, you'd better keep a sharp eye out for this Brother Bob tonight."
"Like I need you to tell me how to do my job?" Macaffey growled. "We got everybody covering every square inch of this place tonight, and video surveillance to boot. Trust me, this Brother Bob, whoever he is, won't even be able to pick his nose without us knowing it!"
"It's not his nose I'm concerned about," Grissom retorted. "It's Criss Angel's life."
Lisa Genaldi sat in total shock upon hearing the news of Abby's murder from Grissom. Wavering, she pulled out a tissue from a large box of Puffs and wiped her eyes.
"I-I don't understand," she sniffled. "She was such a good worker here, even though she was only here for a couple of weeks. Who would do such a thing?"
"Ms. Genaldi," Grissom began, "were you aware of Abby's previous arrest for carrying a weapon with intent to kill back in July?"
Ms. Genaldi pulled herself together to answer that question. "We screen our applicants very carefully, I assure you, Mr. Grissom," she said defensivly. "Those charges were dropped the same day."
"So, why did you hire a woman who had come into the hotel with a gun, intending to kill a major celebrity like Criss Angel three months prior?"
"First of all, she didn't intend to kill him," Ms. Genaldi countered, "she had been ordered to do so. She told me so herself. And we hired her because the Believe show was opening soon, and we needed more staff. The majority of applicants we screened could barely speak English, let alone be legally allowed to work in the US. She came to us through the Works program, and she was better qualified than most. Her conduct was exemplary, and her work met all the standards we set for cleanliness and comfort. We had no trouble with her at all, none whatsoever."
Grissom noticed the ID badge around Ms. Genaldi's neck. "Was Abigail issued a security badge by the hotel?" he asked.
"All Luxor employees are issued badges, Mr. Grissom," Ms. Genaldi replied. "It's the rule for them to have them on their persons at all times while on duty."
"Are these badges just for ID, or do they serve another purpose?"
"Well, they serve as time cards for punching in and out," she informed him. "And they serve as elevator passes as well, especially for housekeepers and attendants."
"What about keys?" he persisted. "If she was a housekeeper, she'd need keys to get into the rooms, wouldn't she?"
"Our doors are secured with keycards issued by the management," Ms. Genaldi explained. "And all keycards given to our housekeepers are returned at the end of every shift. All housekeeping staff are accountable for every keycard given to them."
"And these keycards also activate the elevators?"
Ms.Genaldi nodded. "It's for the safety of our guests."
Grissom nodded. "Thank you, Ms. Genaldi," he said politely. "If we have any furthur questioning, we'll contact you."
"I am happy to be of service, Mr. Grissom," Ms. Genaldi said, rising. "I hope you find Abby's murderer soon."
"Oh, we will," Grissom said confidently. "Rest assured, we will."
"Probation office, Jennifer Paris speaking."
"Hello, Ms. Paris? It's me, Cole Shoope."
"Oh, hello, Cole. Is everything all right?"
"Listen. I think I witnessed a murder, okay?"
"Witnessed a murder? Are you sure?"
"Well, I saw the body, and the guy driving off in his car."
"Did you contact the police?"
"Yeah, I went to a neighbor's house. She let me use her phone."
"Did you talk to the police when they got there, tell them everything you saw?"
"Yeah, I did the best I could."
"Did they take you in for questioning?"
"No. Just right outside. They asked me a few questions, then they let me go."
"Will they be contacting you in the future?"
"I don't think so. They pretty much got it covered. It was totally CSI over there."
"What were you doing at that particular house?"
"Delivering flyers for Sunrise Market, like I do every Friday."
"I see. Well, homicide is out of my league, but I am glad you reported it to me, as well as the police."
"So, what do I do, Ms. Paris?"
"Just stick with the program like you always have. Keep reporting to me on a regular basis, and we'll get through this fine."
"Okay, Ms. Paris. Later. Oh, by the way--will I have to testify?"
"Probably. But don't worry, your record won't be called into court. The murderer will be on trial, not you."
11-16-2012, 06:16 PM
Love the story :) :)
11-16-2012, 06:28 PM
love the story :) :)
11-17-2012, 12:04 AM
For the hundreds of people lining the entrance to the Luxor's theater for the premire of Believe, it was the night of nights, the event that they had been eagerly anticipating for months, if not years, to witness. Dressed to the nines in the latest designer fashions, or in more Criss Angel punkish styles, they mingled in the enormous atrium, queued up to the lavish cocktail buffet to sample the luscious delicacies, artfully arranged on colorfully draped tables, and posed for photographs. Smiles were everywhere, laughter rippled across the vast ballroom and atrium while a grand piano in the corner supplied soft, relaxing music.
Even though the show hadn't even started yet, for the Luxor's president, Felix Rappaport, it was a personal and professional triumph. Thanks to Criss Angel, the Luxor Hotel had never been more popular. Oh, sure, there had been a few close calls, from crashing buildings to crazed assassins, but that was all in the past. Tonight the one hundred million dollar investment he and the Luxor made would now pay off. Clad in a black tuxedo, shaking hundreds of hands and posing for endless pictures with anyone with a camera, Felix was supremely confident that Criss Angel would not disappoint these people. Nothing was going to mar this--dared he say it?--magical evening, not anything.
For Mario Mendoza, it was just another night on the job for VERVE! magazine. He had been assigned to cover the opening night of Believe with another photographer, Rob Ciborowski. Mario liked Rob, he really did. It's just that he was a more formal photographer, taking portraits instead of action shots, as Mario liked to do. He needed to lighten up a little, he thought. So, more by chance than by mutual agreement, they split up, Mario going for the action, Rob posing his subjects by whatever scenery was handy. While Rob was photographing a very elegant couple by the ice sculpture, Mario went sniffing for anything of interest--a lover's quarrel, a cheating celebrity spouse, drunk and disorderly conduct, anything to spice up the night. True, there had been the murder of the new housekeeper earlier that day. Sad, tragic, yes; a good story for the press, certainly, but the Prez had insisted that everybody who knew about it (and he made sure that few people as possible did) to "keep a lid on it for now". Roughly speaking, it meant no talking to the media. There was too much at stake here, financially and personally, to let a homicide tarnish five years and a hundred million bucks' worth of producing the biggest show in Vegas.
For Chief of Security Lucas Macaffey, however, opening night was like anticipating a prison riot in the exercise yard. He had guards posted in every strategic place he could locate on his chart. The video monitors were fully manned and operating at peak efficiency. Everyone on duty was to be extra vigilant, he ordered emphatically. Eyes and ears open, lips zipped. Remember the last Criss Angel demonstration when he got shot? That's what's gonna happen if they let their guard down for even a moment, he told them. Complacency was death.
Macaffey showed the security staff a photo of "Brother" Bob Talbot that Investigating Officer Grissom had obligingly faxed to him. This man is out to kill Angel, he told them, likely armed and certainly dangerous. "Watch your rooftops, watch your backs," he barked. "Anything suspicious, radio in ASAP. You see this man, draw first if you can. We don't want any casualties."
Brother Bob Talbot stretched his legs until the knees popped. He had been crouched down behind some cartons in a dusty, forgotten corner of a maintenance closet for several hours now. He had succeeded in slipping into the hotel itself, thanks to Sister Abigails keycard that he had found in her purse after he had sent her sinful soul to Hell. She had served the Lord--and Brother Bob--better in death than she had in life. He had to dismantle his Winchester rifle in order to smuggle it into the hotel, disguised in his blue work coveralls, a painter's cap pulled over his eyes to prevent the cameras from spotting him. In the chaos of preparing for the premiere, he had no trouble at all getting in and finding a hiding place, praise the Lord.
The first hour had been spent reassembling the Winchester, slowly and painstakingly. A few "dry" clicks of the hammer, and Brother Bob was satisfied that it was back in working order. He attached the telescope onto the rifle, peering through it for accuracy. He then pulled out two shells from the pocket of his coveralls, holding them up in his palms like an offering. Almighty Father, bless these two simple cartridges, that they may destroy the Anti-Christ tonight. Guide them straight and true into his black heart, so that the people of this modern-day Babylon shall be free of his Godless ways and turn to Thee for salvation. Shield me, O Lord, from the prying eyes of the security cameras and the guards who patrol the building. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.
Then he slowly, almost reverently, loaded the cartridges into the rifle, cocking them into place. Now, he had to get to the third floor. Taking the regular elevators was out of the question; security was too tight. He'd have to take the service elevators instead. He unzipped his coveralls, stuffed his rifle down one leg, zipped up again, and slowly but casually limped out of the closet, his painter's cap firmly over his eyes. So far, so good, he thought.
Over there, the freight elevator. Thank You, Jesus, he prayed silently as he limped stiff-legged to it. He pressed the UP button, but got no response. He pressed again, and again. Then he discovered it was key-operated, shooting down that way up. Undeterred, he decided to go back to Plan A, the service elevators. He limped to the simple sliding door marked Service and used Sister Abigail's keycard to access it. The green light flashed on, allowing him to enter the car. Thank You again, Jesus.
He pressed 3 and waited for the doors to close. Nothing happened. He pressed 3 again. Then he saw the cardslot by the buttons. He slid the card in the slot, pressed 3 again, and this time was successful. Brother Bob was growing irritated by all these newfangled devices just to get into an elevator. They gotta make everything so complicated these days, he thought.
A quick trip up to the third floor, and Brother Bob was on his way to bringing about Armageddon. He limped his way to the balcony and looked down, praising the Lord he had no fear of heights. No sign of Criss Devil anywhere. Well, he was bound to turn up sooner or later to greet his followers. Time was on his side.
Criss sat in silent meditative pose, costumed and made up for the performance, centering his Mind, Body and Spirit for the upcoming performance. Tonight would be the culmination of a dream, the revelation of his deep, innermost self to an audience. Years of preparation, planning and training narrowed down to this one moment. He visualized the role he would play, a Victorian gentleman in a surreal world, surrounded by beings of his own imaginings--and nightmares. He would face them with confidence, dance with them, work with them, overcome them with magic. Yes. He was ready.
11-19-2012, 01:45 PM
Great Chapter , i hope they get to bob before he hurt Criss , Cant wait to read more :)
11-19-2012, 11:15 PM
The audience inside the new Luxor theater buzzed in anticipation of the upcoming show. Every seat was filled; indeed, it was hard to find room to move around, let alone see the stage. Ushers doubling as security patrolled the aisles for any signs of rowdiness, their slender flashlights sending bluish-white beams darting between the seats.
The houselights dimmed. Thunderous applause erupted in the darkened theater as the lush crimson stage curtains parted, revealing the Salvador-Daliesque stage setting. The very nanosecond Criss Angel appeared from stage left, the audience cheered even louder, their applause reverberating through the acoustically perfect auditorium. It took almost two minutes for their bravos to die down so Criss could start the show.
And what a show it was! There weren't enough words in Roget's Thesarus to describe the wonders Criss produced on stage with the Cirque de Soleil troupe. Indeed, there weren't any words in existance to define it. Every movement, every illusion, every contortion on the "webs" was perfectly executed. And Criss himself was in rare form; he was the magician, he was the ringmaster, he was the legend in the making. He was the MindFreak. A waiter tending to the buffet later stated that he could hear the gasps of astonishment and the standing ovation at the end of the performance all the way to the Grand Ballroom.
So near, and yet so far. It was the story of Crystal Rathbone's life, it seemed, when it came to Criss Angel. She sat in the media room of her home, watching the E! broadcast of the premiere of Believe. How she longed to be there, among the glitterati, wining and dining and making chitchat, wearing a designer gown without having to worry about breakouts or her weight or any other afflicitions associated with adolescence. She would have given anything to be there, even her very soul to the Devil himself....
The end of the performance was a blur of deafening roars and applause, endless cellophane-wrapped bouquets of flowers, tears, cheers, and high-fives. Criss Angel had triumphed. He had not only achieved his greatest dream, but had changed the face of magic forever, setting a new gold standard for which all future illusionisnt would strive to meet, if not exceed. He had surpassed even the legendary Siegfried and Roy, his former mentors, though he used no animals as they did; Cirque de Soleil prided themselves on being the first circus troupe not to exploit animals in their performances.
Still feeling the post-performance rush, Criss made the usual round of photo-ops and interviews with the media while still in costume. Yes, he felt great about how it went, and he was confident that all future performances would be just as successful. His performers did exceptionally well, and he was proud of them all for coming through the way they did, and he wanted to thank his mom, his brothers, the rest of his family for their loving support ("Hi, Mom!" he waved at the camera), Felix Rappaport for giving him this opportunity to produce Believe, his staff and managers, his producers, and most of all, the Loyals for standing by him all the way, through thick and thin.
In the thick of the media feeding frenzy, someone had the temerity to bring up Hiram Block, Criss' would-be assassin. Criss brushed it off with the comment, "We'll let the courts deal with Mr. Block," and that was that. No furthur comments, thank you very much, and good night. Criss left the media clamoring for more in his wake as he made his way to the afterglow party in the Grand Ballroom.
Brother Bob Talbot peered again over the balcony on the third floor. He had hidden himself in the service elevator during the performance--the only spot that wasn't covered by video surveillance. It had been quiet during the two-hour show; now they were coming out again, and this time Criss Devil was among them.
Look at them down there, he contemptuously thought, fawning all over him like a god, a pagan idol, dressed in their fancy clothes, feasting and imbibing their wines and liquors. And they worshipped the Beast, saying, Who is like unto the Beast? who is able to make war with him? Brother Bob, that's who, he said to himself. He unzipped his coveralls and drew out his Winchester. No one could see him from above--all eyes were on the Beast himself. He trained his telescope onto Criss' head and waited for the right moment to fire...
Mario Mendoza snapped pictures of Criss schmoozing it up with the partygoers, but he was bored. It was the same Hollywood-type soiree, drinking, gossiping, blah, blah, blah. He glanced around for something more interesting. Nothing on the floor, but on the upper balconies, he saw some fans draping a homemade bedsheet banner with Criss' image airbrushed onto it. Well, it was something different anyway. It was non-celeb, and it was a pretty good work of art. He took a picture of it and scanned the balconies for more. He had just passed the center when something made him do a double-take. There! Up on the third floor! It's...oh, God! A sniper! And his rifle was aimed straight at the crowd below. He had to be gunning for Criss Angel! There was no other possible explanation.
For the first time in his career, concern for a human life took precedence over a photo-op. He shoved, butted, and plowed his way through the mass of humanity in his path to reach Criss.
"Criss!" he shouted. "Get down! We got a sniper! Get down NOW!"
Once again, Medoza's timing was perfect. He had reached Criss just in time and pulled the bewildered illusionist out of the line of fire. His cries of "Sniper!" had drawn attention to the third floor balcony. The would-be assassin still stood there, his gun lowered. Instinct kicked in as Mario lifted his camera and snapped the closest shot he could get with his telephoto lens of the sniper. Then he pulled Criss away as fast as he could. Little did he know it at the time, but he had taken the shot of a lifetime.
"We have an unidentifed person on the third floor on camera three, looks like a maintenance worker. Copy?"
"Copy that. Suspect is on the balcony, looking down."
"Zero-One-Nine, no maintenace worker was called on three."
"Suspect still on balcony. Send up units onto three."
"Suspect is opening his suit. He's got a rifle! Suspect has a rifle!"
"Attention all units! We have a sniper on three! Move in! Move in! Move in!"
"Ten-four! Moving in!"
Wait for it...wait for it...
Brother Bob Talbot zeroed in on Criss Devil. He finally had a clear shot. His finger curled around the trigger, ready to pull. Suddenly there was a commotion down below, a man's finger pointing up at him, pulling Criss Devil out of the way. For a moment, Brother Bob lowered his Winchester, exposing his face under the painter's cap. It was that exact moment that a flash of light burst up in his eyes, temporarily distracting him. Brother Bob tried to refocus, but Criss had vanished. It was sabotage! he thought. The agents of Satan were at work here!
"FREEZE! GET DOWN ON THE GROUND!"
Brother Bob turned and saw himself assaulted on all sides by uniformed guards. They siezed him by the arms, kicked him in the back of the knees, sending him buckling to the floor, and pinioned his hands behind his back, clamping steel cuffs around his wrists. He could barely breathe with all those knees pressing him down on the carpeted floor. Subdued, he was hauled to his feet and dragged back to the service elevator where he had been hiding two hours before.
"Suspect in custody," a guard radioed in. "All clear."
As soon as Criss heard the word "sniper", he looked around wildly. "Sniper?! Where?" he shouted.
He felt his arm being pulled by a photographer. "Get down! Now!" he ordered Criss, pointing up at the balcony.
Criss looked up. To his shock and horror, there really was a sniper up there, rifle drawn and ready to shoot. For a moment he stood there, frozen in time, his gaze narrowed to the business end of the gun trained squarely at him. Then a flash of light bought him back to his senses, and he allowed himself to be pulled away from the spot by someone he didn't see beside him. What's happening? he kept thinking. What's happening?
Screams and gasps of terror rippled through the crowd of partygoers as they caught sight of a man with a rifle on the third floor balcony. Security moved in to control the surging panic; a large crowd like this in a panicked state could result in disaster. The guards moved through the frightened crowd, assuring them that everything was under control. Thankfully, before any tragedy could occur, cheers rose as those looking up witnessed the sniper being tackled by more guards, then all disappeared from view behind the railing, then reemerged again with the sniper being frogmarched away from the balcony. Sighs and murmurs of relief followed in the wake of near disaster.
Big Luke Macaffey was livid. How in the flaming hell did a sniper get into the Luxor on his watch? he demanded furiously. How could that (bleepbleeper) get by under his nose with a rifle, for chrissakes? Who the flaming hell let him slip through? Whoever it was, his ass was grass as far as he was concerned.
He sank his heavy frame onto his chair. Every square inch of this place had been covered. He had made sure of it himself. It was practically vacuumed-sealed from intruders. Before all hell broke loose, his men had nabbed a few gatecrashers in the North Lot, but that was all. Just a few overeager teens who wanted to see Criss Angel. No big deal, but it confirmed that his men were on the ball. Satisfied, he had continued with his patrol. Then word got out that a sniper had been spotted on the third floor by video surveillance. Big Luke exploded, barking orders for all units to apprehend the son of a (bleep) yesterday! He watched on the monitor as four guards took him down without firing a shot. It was a classic takedown, a textbook case, and he was very pleased with that.
But it shouldn't have happened, he thought, drumming his stubby fingers on the desktop. That (bleeper) should not have been up there in the first place. How did he get up there, anyway? Every elevator either needed a keycard or a employee pass to get between floors; even the freight elevator needed a key to operate. There must have been an accomplice, an insider who was working with him. And God (bleep) it, he was going to find out who, no matter whose ass he had to rake over the coals!
The afterglow went on, but the glow had dimmed in the wake of the sniper sighting. Few partook of the buffet, a lighter affair than the pre-performance one, but there were some who took advantage of the bar to settle their nerves with whatever the bartender could mix together. Many left early, too shaken to stay. Criss, however, toughed it out, playing the star by signing autographs, posing for pictures, and giving out consoling hugs to those still traumatized by the near-attack.
Then the press moved in, barking questions while thrusting microphones in his face, demanding statements. Criss was blinded by the constant flash of cameras, forced to shield his eyes with his hands. He wished he had bought his Ray-Bans with him. He fielded their questions to the best of his ability until a pair of security guards came to his rescue and herded the reporters and photographers out of the building.
For the first time since before the performance, Criss was alone, save for the wait staff clearing away the buffet and sweeping the tables of plates and glasses. For a minute he recalled the days of his youth working in his father's cafe. He had been safe with his family back then; no one had threatened him with a gun or anything like that while he bussed tables and washed dishes in the back of the cafe. He had hated it at the time; now, he felt a sense of nostalgia as he watched the staff do the same work he had done more than twenty-five years ago.
The magnificent ice sculpture had melted into an indistinguishable lump in its basin, dripping at points like icicles at spring thaw. The floor was littered with bits of food, shards of a broken glass, and paper cocktail napkins. Only the giant posters hanging from the ceiling reminded him of his earlier triumph.
He turned to see Felix Rappaport, still resplendent in his black tuxedo, standing beside him. Felix's smile was pasted on; Criss could tell just by looking in his eyes that he was as upset and disappointed as he was.
"Turned out to be quite an evening, didn't it?" Felix quipped with a touch of irony in his voice.
Criss nodded. "Yeah," he replied, forcing a smile of his own. "It ended with a real bang--almost."
Felix failed to see the humor in that statement. "The sniper's in custody," he told him unneccessarily. "They're questioning him right now."
"Good," was all Criss could say.
Felix sighed. "I'm really sorry about this, Criss," he said sadly. "I had planned for a perfect evening for the premire and--"
"Ah, don't blame yourself, Felix. It was a perfect evening, in spite of what happened. You did the best you could. And they did nail the guy before he could fire a shot at me, or anyone else for that matter. It's me they want."
"There's this church, Perfection Chruch of something or other, and I've been on their (bleep) list because they think I'm the Anti-Christ or something."
Felix stared incredulously at Criss. "They what?!"
"I don't believe it, either," Criss said, "but there it is. I'm the first to admit, I am not one hundred percent popular with some people. I have my skeptics, my share of detractors, but it comes with the job, you know. It's like an, well, occupational hazard, you know?" Criss laughed a little.
"Yeah, well, this particular 'occupational hazard' as you call it almost ended your life tonight," Felix retorted. "I still don't know how the hell he got in here, let alone with a rifle."
"Well, there's only one way to find out," Criss said. "Ask the guy who did it."
"You really want to come face-to-face with that psycho?"
Criss shrugged. "Hey, I did before with Hiram Block."
"Yeah, but he was laid up in the hospital at the time!"
"So? This guy'll be in cuffs. I'll be fine, really." Criss assured him as he headed for the security office.
"That's what you said before you got shot in the hand with a nail gun," Felix murmured as he followed in Criss' wake.
11-20-2012, 12:34 AM
For once the paparazzi came to the rescue:D
11-20-2012, 11:40 AM
Great Chapter , be careful criss , cant wait to read more :)
11-20-2012, 09:23 PM
Big Luke Macaffey, flanked by a squad of guards and members of Las Vegas' Finest, waited in the security office to receive the sniper caught on the third floor, a grim welcoming committtee if there ever was one. Macaffey's hands itched to punch the (bleeper) square in the face, but years of training and discipline held his rage in check. So there he stood, massive arms folded across his barrel chest, simmering as he watched his men haul the sniper's ass into the office, two escorting the perp, a third carrying the weapon, the fourth in the lead, opening the doors for them. Good teamwork on their part, Macaffey thought approvingly. He made a mental note to award them commendations for bravery.
The main doors flew open and in marched the four guards with the perp, a rather large man, almost as big as Macaffey himself, in blue coveralls and a painter's cap, a pretty lame disguise as far as Macaffey was concerned. The face looked familiar. Yeah, it was him, that Brother Bob character who had been gunning for Criss Angel.
"Okay, hand him over," Macaffey ordered.
The two escorting guards shoved Brother Bob forward towards Macaffey and company, causing him to stumble. The former grabbed Brother Bob by the coveralls and pulled him to his feet so that the two men were face to face.
"Okay, 'Brother'," Macaffey sneered. "We want the truth, and we want it now. One, how did you get in here? Two, how come you wanted to kill Criss Angel? And three, what happened to Abby Runyon?"
Brother Bob remained silent. Back in the supermax, Macaffey would have worked him over until he talked, but since he was among civilians, he was forced to step back and let the police handle it. Macaffey turned to his squad. "You search him?" he asked bluntly.
"We found some extra shells in his pockets," said the guard with the gun. "And we also found this."
He held up a keycard clipped to a long WWJD cord. "We're pretty sure he used this to get in and up to the third floor," tje guard said.
Macaffey took the card and looked at it. It was Abigail Runyon's keycard, the very one he had issued to her on her first day of work. He must have stolen it from her purse or something when he killed her, he figured. His earlier suspicions of her seemed sadly ironic in the wake of her murder. She had been an unwilling pawn in life, and in death she had become an unwitting accomplice. Poor Abby, he thought. For the first time in his hard-assed crimebusting career, he actually felt sorry for someone.
Whatever tender feelings he had for Abby faded quickly. He had a job to do. He turned to the LVMPD. "Okay," he growled. "Take him. He's your headache now."
Brother Bob Talbot was formally handed over to the forces of law and order, with rights given and evidence transferred. He was being marched down the corridor to the waiting van to be taken to the county lockup when he and his uniformed escort met Criss Angel and Felix Rappaport halfway.
Brother Bob had remained sullenly silent throughout his ordeal, but the minute he spotted Criss, he flew into a rage. "Devil!" he shouted, "Anti-Christ! God will defeat you in the end! You shall be cast into Hell and burn for all eternity! The Son of God shall slay the Serpent, the Beast shall be destroyed! You may have fooled everyone else with your false wonders, but you haven't fooled me! I may have failed, but God won't! You are going to die, Criss Devil! You hear me? You are going to die!"
Criss looked bemusedly at the ranting man before him. "You ever thought of switching to decaf?" he asked drily.
Brother Bob Talbot was led away, still ranting and quoting from Revelations. Felix shook his head in disbelief. Criss only smiled. "Hey, if you think he's a wack job," he said, "go on the Internet. They got dozens of sites trashing me and my demonstrations."
Felix put a friendly arm around Criss. "Don't pay any attention to him, Criss. For every detractor you have a hundred fans all backing you up one hundred percent."
"Hey, it's my 'detractors' who keep me going," Criss told him. "The more they trash me, the more famous I become. I don't have to prove anything to my fans, because they know I can do the things I do. It's the skeptics and wack jobs like Brother Bob who give me the real challenges in my career."
"Like getting blown up in a hotel?" Felix retorted. "Or catching a flying nail from a nail gun?"
Criss merely shrugged. "Among other things."
"I don't know about you, Criss," Felix said with a sigh. "You're a great performer, and got talent to burn, but I just don't know about you." He patted Criss' shoulder. "Go on back to your suite and get some sleep. It's been a rough night for all of us."
Morning came, and Criss sat at breakfast in his suite, reading the morning edition of the Las Vegas Sun. While his show had received glowing reviews in the entertainment section, the arrest of Brother Bob Talbot had made front page news:
An alleged sniper was arrested in the Luxor Hotel and Casino last night after the performance of Criss Angel's new production, Believe. The suspect, identified as Robert "Brother Bob" Talbot, 48, was detected on video surveillance on the third floor balcony carrying a Winchetster rifle and taken into custody immediatly. Talbot allegedly targeted Angel, accusing him of being the "Anti-Christ". Talbot is on bail for a previous charge of conspiracy to murder, and first degree murder of Abigail Runyon, an employee of the Luxor. Talbot allegedly used Runyon's employee keycard to enter the hotel and make his way to the third floor of the hotel.
Criss was stunned. Thoughts of Abby sprung up like weeds in his mind. First degree murder of Abigail Runyon! Abby's dead? It can't be! I just spoke to her a few days ago! And that (bleeper) murdered her? Oh, dear Jesus in Heaven! He felt the tears welling up in his eyes. Abby! Why did it have to be you? Why? You were innocent! Why? Dear Jesus in Heaven, why?
The County Coroner sent Abby's body back to Littleton, Texas, for burial in the family plot. Criss witnessed the transfer with his brothers, his cousin George, Felix Rappaport, and Lisa Genaldi in attendance. The police chaplain delivered a perfunctory prayer service before Abby's simple white casket, laden with flowers purchased collectively by the hotel staff, was loaded onto the plane.
Mario Mendoza was also present, photographing the grim event for all posterity. His picture of the sniper had been confiscated by the police for evidence, along with the negatives. That picture could have scored me a Pulitzer, he thought bitterly. Now I don't even have a negative to reproduce it! Of all the rotten luck! He took one last shot at Abby Runyon's casket being loaded on the plane and packed up his gear. He'd covered enough celebrity funerals to know when it was time to go. As he loaded his equipment into his SUV, he felt a tap on his shoulder.
He turned and saw Criss Angel himself standing behind him. "I just want to say thanks for saving my life the night of the premire," he said. "If it hadn't been for you, there would have been bloodshed, mine or someone else's"
Mario shrugged. "Forget it," he replied indifferently. "Just, next time you see me on the street corner, don't flip me the bird, okay?"
"When did I ever flip you off, dude?"
"Remember that little prostie you picked up?"
"Tamia? First of all, I didn't 'pick her up', I sent her to the shelter to rescue her. And second of all--was that you I saw across the street?"
"Yeah, it was me. I thought I really had the goods on you that time, you know?"
Criss smiled mischeviously. "Well, the joke's on you, dude! But I am still grateful you saved my life, and everyone else's."
"Yeah, well, it's not gonna keep me from doing my job." He waggled a warning finger under Criss' nose. "I'm gonna keep my eye on you, Angel. You're gonna screw up someday, and I'm gonna be there to get the pictures! You may be the self-proclaimed King of Las Vegas, but I can dethrone you with just one photo. Whaddya say to that, Mr. Hotshot?"
"I say," Criss replied as he held up his middle finger, "(bleep) you."
11-21-2012, 01:31 AM
11-21-2012, 11:26 PM
Almost a year had passed since what the press called "The Perfecting Church Conspiracy" had been front page news. The furor had gradually died down, especially among the Loyals as they shifted their attention to Criss' latest injuries, whatever new girlfriend he had been seen with, or the latest episode of MindFreak. Criss' production of Believe continued to draw sellouts, with ticket purchases made months if not years in advance. It had been estimated that the Luxor would recoup its investment by 2010 at the latest.
Criss had won his fifth Magician of the Year award for 2009, entering him in the Guinness Book of World Records for such a feat. MindFreak Productions announced that a large coffee-table book about Criss with photos and interviews would be released in December of 2009, quickly becoming the number one item on every Loyal's Christmas list. He had also taped another special hourlong episode for the troops in Iraq, shooting at Fort Pendleton in San Diego, and another live special to raise funds for a children's hospital in danger of closing due to lack of funding. Criss had so many irons in the fire he could hardly see the embers.
Only when he received a summons to appear in the Clark County District Court as a witness did the past come back to haunt him. He was summoned to appear in court on November 12, 2009, at 10:30 AM. But why? he wondered. He really wasn't a "witness", he thought. He was more of a victim, the target of the little conspiracy concocted by Talbot. He felt that he really didn't need to testify; besides, they had Mendoza's photos--that was evidence enough. But the image of Abigail's white casket being lifted into the cargo hold of the commercial airplane destined for Littleton, Texas, floated back into his memory like a wraith. He looked at the summons again, a pang of conscience needling inside his soul.
I'll do it, he said to himself, for Abby.
A jury notice for one Courtney Paige Sollis arrived in the mail one mid-October afternoon, courtesy of the Clark County District Court. Courtney Paige Sollis was less than thrilled when she received it, courtesy of her sister Hayley who had just picked up the mail under the front door mailslot.
"Oh, that is just great!" Courtney groaned. "I have to give up work and my day for studying for mid-terms for this!"
"Well, you do get paid for the time you're there," her mother pointed out.
"Yeah," she sneered, tossing the summons onto the kitchen table, "a lousy twenty bucks. I make more money in tips at the bar in one shift."
"Courtney, it is a civic duty, you know" Mother reminded her. "It's the price you pay for living in a democracy such as ours. I served on a jury once, and I'm proud I did. And just because you got summoned doesn't mean you'll get chosen. They draw numbers, and if yours doesn't come up, you can go home. And even if yours is drawn, they question you to see if you are impartial enough to be seated."
"How long does that take?" Courtney asked.
"As long as it takes," he mother replied. "You just wait until either you are called or everyone is seated for the trial and you can go. The important thing is to show up in the first place. If you skip your jury date, you either pay a fine or go to jail."
Hayley picked up the summons and read it. "Whose trial is it?" she asked.
"No one knows until the jury is selected," Mother explained. "And then the selected jury members are sworn to secrecy, so as not to prejudice the trial. I'm sure it's nothing really serious, like a murder trial or anything like that."
Murder trial? Hayley's memory rewound to the Criss Angel shooting the summer before last. No mention of any trial concerning it had been made anywhere in the press. Could it be...?
Hayley dashed up to her room, retrieved her cell phone from her purse, and speed-dialed Crystal Rathbone. "Hello, Crys? It's me, Haye."
"I know it's you, Haye," Crystal told her. "I got Caller ID."
"Well, anyway, the reason I called is that Courtney got called in for jury duty, see, and I think, but I'm not sure, that it might be the Perfecting Church trial."
"Come again?" Crystal asked, perplexed.
"You know, the guy who shot Criss Angel?" Hayley reminded her. "What's his name? Block?"
Crystal suddenly remembered. "Hiram Block, yeah. You sure Courtney will be on the jury for it?"
"Well, I don't know for sure. Mom says no one will know until they get all the jurors seated. But she did get a summons, and it's for mid-November. You keep close tabs on everything concerning Criss Angel. Do you know when the trial will be?"
"Don't have a clue," Crystal replied. "Sorry."
Hayley sighed in disappointment. "My guess is that they're keeping it a secret because they don't want a big group of Loyals hanging around the courthouse," Crystal reasoned.
"Yeah, probably," Hayley said.
"And, anyway, it might not even be that particular trial," Crystal went on. "It could be some other thing, like someone holding up a liquor store or something. I mean, what are the chances of Courtney being on the jury of Criss Angel's would-be killer?"
"Yeah, maybe you're right," Hayley concurred. "In any case, she's not too happy about it."
"Well, tell her if it is the Criss Angel trial, she can get excused by telling them that her sister is a Loyal," Crystal suggested. "They want an impartial jury, and they won't get one if she's the relative of a Loyal."
"I don't think they're gonna buy that, Crys."
Crystal siezed onto a new thought. "Hey! If she is going to be on the jury, maybe we can get into the courtroom the day of the trial, and maybe get to see Criss!" she exclaimed. "I mean, they have to let us in if your sister's on the jury, right?"
"Well, I can ask," Hayley told her, "but I'm not making any promises."
"Okay, fine," Crystal said. "Talk to you later, 'bye!"
Courtney, aka Juror Number 212, sat in the jam-packed waiting area of the Clark County District Court, burning with impatience and resentment. She had been there for over two hours, and her butt was starting to go numb, but she knew if she got up, she'd lose her seat, and she wasn't going to spend another two hours standing up. Studying was futile, cell phones weren't allowed, her nail file had been confiscated as a "lethal weapon" by security, and what little reading material available was years out of date. The overhead television screen showed some lame-assed G-rated movie with the sound turned down so low she could barely hear it over the din of conversation if she had bothered to listen.
"This really bites!" she muttered. "Can't they understand I got better things to do than sit around with a bunch of strangers?"
"Numbers two hundred to three hundred," the voice over the loudspeaker called out, "please line up at the door. Numbers two hundred to three hundred, please line up at the door."
Finally! Courtney picked up her purse and bookbag and headed for the door, relieved to be moving again. She stood in place as the court clerk called out which numbers were to report to which courtroom. Courtney and her group were assigned Courtroom B-132, just down the west corridor. She and her fellow jurors trudged to the courtroom as if they were prisoners themselves, then directed to the jury bench, which were more like theater seats set to one side, and told to be seated. At least these were more comfortable than the hard plastic chairs in the waiting room, Courtney thought.
The counsels for the defense and prosecution entered the courtroom, as did the defendant, an old man of about sixty or so, his neon orange prison garb barely hanging onto his skeletal frame. What the hell is he in for? Courtney asked herself. What did he do? Cheat on his Social Security or something?
"All rise," commanded the bailiff.
Everyone present respectfully rose to their feet as the Honorable William Brocke entered the courtroom and seated himself on the bench. "Be seated," he intoned.
All sat down again. "The counsel for the prosecution may begin questioning the jury for selection."
Courtney half listened to the counsel's droning about being truthful and impartial and so on and so on. Then the questioning began. No, she had never seen the defendant before, no, she had no prejudices against him, and no, she had no excuse to be dismissed, though God knew she tried to think of one. Then the defense counsel came up for another round. Again no excuses or alibis to weasel out of jury duty. The judge and the lawyers were satisfied. To her chagrin, she found herself chosen as Juror Number Five in what would become one of the hottest trials in the history of Las Vegas.
11-22-2012, 04:58 AM
MindFreak Productions announced that a large coffee-table book about Criss with photos and interviews would be released, quickly becoming the number one item on every Loyal's Christmas list
Now that's a book I would never put down :D
11-22-2012, 05:46 AM
Great chapters m Rachel , I agree with you , I wouldn't off put it down either ;)
11-22-2012, 01:12 PM
The case of State of Nevada v.Hiram Block was scheduled for November 12, 2009. It was declared a "closed session" to avoid a media circus, not to mention a potential riot; all reporters, cameras, and outsiders were banned from the courtroom. Only those who had been legally summoned, or were on the jury, were permitted inside. The trial was not mentioned in the newspapers, or anywhere else for that matter, for fear of creating a mob scene outside the courthouse. From the outside, the Clark County District Court appeared to be business as usual.
Inside, however, a covert operation took place with all the secrecy of a CIA mission. Criss Angel had to be practically smuggled into the courthouse through the back so as not to be spotted by paparazzi or overeager fans. Hiram Block was escorted to his trial under heavy guard, more for his protection than for prevention of escaping. The members of the jury had sworn under solemn oath not to reveal any detail of the trial before and during the proceedings. The only hint of the trial was the simple white lettered sign in its chrome frame standing outside the door of Courtroom B-132: COURT IN SESSION.
Insde the courtroom, there was none of the usual chitchat when people gather for whatever reason they are there, but a tense, almost nervous silence. The jury had assembled in the jury box adjacent to the witness stand, pens and pads of paper at the ready to take notes. A few were idly doodling while wating for the trial to begin.
Juror Number Five, Courtney Sollis, sat next to the duly appointed foreperson of the jury, a portly middleaged matron who had served on a jury two years prior, and so was more familiar witht the system than her fellow jurors. She smelled strongly of Ivory soap and Jergens lotion, reminding her of her late grandmother who had lived in Iowa for so many years. It was comforting in a way, but she wished she was anywhere but in that jury box at that moment. She still recalled the look of agonized disappointment on Hayley's face when she told her she could not attend the trial with her friend, Crystal. Her little sister had stormed out of the kitchen in a huff when Courtney refused to promise to at least get a picture or a photograph of him. "This is a trial, not a concert or something!" Courtney had snapped. It's serious business!"
Her thoughts were interrupted by the bailiff intoning, "All rise. This court is now in session, the Honorable William Brocke presiding."
Everyone rose respectfully. Judge Brocke ascended the bench. "You may be seated," he told all assembled with grave courtesy. He sat down and peered at the docket before him through the lower half of his bifocals.
"The State of Nevada versus Hiram Block," he read. "Mr. Block, you have been charged with two attempts of murder and one count of bail bond violation. How do you plead?"
The counsel for the defense rose to his feet. "My client pleads not guilty, Your Honor," he said, and sat down again.
"The prosecution will make its opening statement."
All ears turned to the prosecutor summarize Block's crimes: his initial attack on Criss Angel during the Luxor demonstration, his second attack in the hotel lobby, halted by Cole Shoope, and his resulting bail violation because of the latter. His accusations against Criss Angel were quoted verbatim, and his past history of disorderly conduct revealed.
In the back, Cole Shoope nodded silently in agreement. That was enough for conviction right there in his opinion. Dad would have enjoyed this, he thought.
The prosecutor finished his statement; now it was the counsel for the defense's turn to make its opening statement. The defense made a heroic effort to get the jury to see that Mr. Block had been indoctrinated by the "cult" of which he had been a member, and was too old and feeble to be sent to a maximum security prison, and so on and so on. But Cole wasn't buying it. The old man's guilty as sin, he thought. Send him up the river already!
After the opening statements were made, the questioning began:
From the sworn testamony of Hiram Block, retired, on November 12, 2009.:
Q: Mr. Block, can you tell us in your own words what you were doing on the day in question?
A: I don't remember too good.
Q: Do you remember being at the Luxor Hotel and Casino?
A: Casino? I don't gamble!
Q: Mr. Block, there are photographs of you being outside the hotel on the day in question, taken by video surveillance. If you saw them, would they help jog your memory?
(Shows photos to defendant).
A: Yeah, that's me all right. I saw that devil-man sitting right over there. (Points to Criss Angel).
A: That man's the Devil himself! Doing all his black magic and turning people away from the Lord. He's the one who should be on trial, not me.
Q: Were you carrying a gun with you at the time.
A: I carry a gun with me all the time. It's my constitutional right. If I see the Anti-Christ, I'm gonna shoot him.
Q: Do you believe Criss Angel is the Anti-Christ?
A: He is the Anti-Christ. He's done all the things in Revelations to prove it.
Q: Such as?
A: He blasphemed the Lord's miracles. He walked on water like Jesus did. He turned people away from God to worship him.
Q: And that led you to try to kill him, right?
A: I couldn't kill him. His devilish powers shielded him.
Q: But you did try to kill him, did you not?
A: I see the Anti-Christ, I'm gonna kill him.
Q: Mr. Block, did you or did you not shoot Criss Angel with this gun? (Holds up Exhibit A).
A: That's my gun.
Q: And did you or did you not shoot Criss Angel with it? Yes or no, Mr. Block.
A: I done told you, I see the Anti-Christ, I'm gonna kill him.
From the sworn testamony of Cole Shoope, student, November 12, 2009:
Q: Where were you on the day in question?
A: You mean the shooting or the attack in the atrium?
Q: The shooting.
A: Oh, okay. I was at the Luxor to see Criss Angel perform his demonstration out front.
Q: And where were you standing, precisely?
A: I was standing on a concrete block so I could see better. I was standing by the right of the stage from where I was.
Q: So that would be stage left.
A: (Pause) Yeah, it would.
Q: Did you see Mr. Block shoot Criss Angel?
A: I heard a shot, a really loud bang, then Criss was like "Aaaaguh" and he went down. Then all hell broke loose, with everyone screaming and crying and all that. But I didn't know it was Hiram Block at the time. I found out on the news who it was later.
Q: And then Mr. Block attacked Mr. Angel again, right?
A: Yeah, right in the atrium. I saw him coming up the back hallway. I even saw the big knife he had in his hand.
Q: You mean this one? (Holds up Exhibit C)
A: Yeah, that's the one.
Q: And you attacked Mr. Block yourself, did you not?
A: Yeah, I did. But I tried to warn Criss first. I yelled 'Criss, look out, it's Block, he's got a knife," or something like that. I don't remember exactly, but I did try to warn him first.
Q: Did you see Mr. Block attack Mr. Angel before you attacked him?
A: Yeah, he had that knife held way up high. He yelled, 'Anti-Christ is finished!', and that's when I...well, I stabbed him.
Q: Are you proud that you stabbed him?
Counsel: Objection, Your Honor! The witness is not the one on trial here. His case had already been settled by juvenile court.
Court: Objection sustained.
A: I will say I am proud to have saved Criss Angel's life. I know that killing people is wrong. Someone should have told Mr. Block that in the first place.
From the sworn testamony of Criss Angel, professional magician, November 12, 2008:
Q: Is Criss Angel your legal name?
A: It is my legal name, yes.
Q: Can you tell the court in your own words what happened on the day in question?
A: I was in front of the Luxor Hotel, about to perform a demonstration of levitating twenty members of the audience, and had just stepped on stage when I felt this stabbing pain in my chest, right here (points to chest), with this huge bang. I fell down, and my brothers, JD and Costa came up to me. JD took off my jacket, but whatever was in my chest was suddenly ripped out of me when he did. They bandaged me up and took me to the hospital.
Q: Did you see the gunman?
A: No, he was too far away. And, anyway, I was too busy screaming back at the Loyals.
Q: The "Loyals"?
A: You could call them my fans, but I call them the Loyal, or Loyals if you will.
Q: I see. To continue, you had been wounded with a .38 caliber pistol. Judging from the distance from where Mr. Block was allegedly standing, it could have been fatal. How can you explain that?
A: Well, I had received a small Bible from someone from the Gideons--you ever hear of them?
Q: Yes. Go on.
A: Well, he was passing out these little green Bibles on the street, and he gave me one, and I stuck it in my jacket pocket, and when Hiram took a shot at me, it deflected the bullet enough to keep it from entering my heart. Here, I'll show it to you.
(Hands book to counselor)
Court: I'd like to see that for myself, if you don't mind.
(Bailiff takes book from counselor and gives it to judge)
Court: Extraordinary. I've heard stories of men whose lives were saved by having a Bible or some other book in their pockets to shield them from bullets. But I've never seen one until now. Thank you, Counselor.
(Returns book to counsel)
Court: You are a very lucky man, Mr. Angel. We know you have a reputation for cheating death, but this in my opinion tops them all. You may proceed, Counselor.
Q: Mr. Angel, can you tell the court in your own words what happened after you were discharged from the hospital?
A: It was chaos. Hundreds of Loyals were there to welcome me back to the Luxor. Then I had to deal with the press inside the lobby. After they left, that's when I heard Cole over there yelling about Hiram trying to attack me. And sure enough there he was, with this huge knife over his head, yelling 'Anti-Christ is finished!' or something like that, and that's when Cole got him.
Q: Had you received any threats from the Perfecting Church prior to these two incidents?
A: None whatsoever. They just happened.
Q: Have you had any similar incidents? Any death threats?
A: There are websites denouncing me as a fraud, or as a Satanist, or even, as Mr. Block says, the Anti-Christ. People are debunking me all the time. It comes with the territory.
Q: Does this bother you at all?
A: Me? No. It bothers me if they attack my family, though. I love and care about my family, especially my mother, and would never want them to come to any harm. They can attack me all they want, but leave my family alone.
The trial wore on, with more questioning and answering, for the better part of the day, with only a forty-five minute recess around one PM. Courtney was getting bored with it all. The only distraction was the video surveillance of the attack in the atrium and the video coverage of the shooting. She had glanced at the photos and passed them on to the other jurors with indifference. God! How she wanted to go home!
After the long, dreary closing statements from both sides, the jury was excused to deliberate the verdict. In a closed room with a dusty ceiling fan valiently circulating the air above their heads, Courtney and the others sat around the table with all the evidence before them.
"All right," the foreperson said, calling for attention. "I know we all want to get out of here and get on with our lives, but just remember, a man's life is in the balance here. We have a sworn duty to provide a fair verdict. As you may well be aware, the law states that the verdict must be unanimous. So, let's begin, shall we? We'll start with you." She pointed to a chubby lady in a pink suit.
"Hello," she said nervously. "My name is Maryanne, and, well, after seeing the movies and all, well, pictures don't lie, do they? I don't think he's a bad man, really, just misguided."
"Come on, lady!" Courtney snapped. "You vote guilty or not?"
"Well, as I said, pictures don't lie, so I'm gonna have to say he's guilty, I'm afraid. I just don't like the idea of sending someone to prison, that's all."
"Why not?" asked a balding corporate type next to Maryanne. "You do the crime, you do the time. Me, I vote guilty. The guy's a bona fide nut job."
"All right," said the foreperson. "We have two votes for guilty. Next?"
The next eight votes were for guilty, each insisting that the video evidence was more than sufficient proof. At last, they came to Courtney.
"Well, you're the last one," the foreperson said. "Everyone else voted guilty, so what's your verdict?"
"He's guilty already," Courtney said irritably. "It's an open and shut case, so let's go."
"So, it's unanimous," the foreperson announced officiously. "Hiram Block is guilty on all counts. Agreed?"
Mumbles of assent. The foreperson knocked on the door and let the bailiff know the jury was ready to reconvene.
"The defendant will please rise for the verdict."
Hiram stood up, supporting himself by leaning against the table. The judge turned to the jury.
"You've reached a verdict?" he asked formally.
The foreperson stood up. "We have, Your Honor," she said, handing the slip of paper to the bailiff, who passed it on to the judge.
"Does the defendant have anything to say before the verdict is read?"
"Only that I am a true servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I submit to His will alone," Block said defiantly.
"Hiram Block, you have been found guilty by a jury of your peers on two counts of attempted murder and violation of your bond. Sentencing will take place in this courtroom one week from today."
Yes! It was all Cole could do from jumping up and down in triumph. We won! Block's going to jail! Loyals two, psychos zip!
"You claim to be a religious man, Mr. Block," the judge continued. "Yet you chose to ignore one of the Ten Commandments, which clearly states, and I quote, Thou shalt not kill. Your fanaticism led to your downfall, Mr. Block. You accused an innocent man of Satanism because of the illusions he performed simply for the sake of entertainment, backing it up with Holy Writ. It's said that the Devil can quote Scripture to suit his purpose, and from what I heard, you do it very well. Case dismissed."
A final bang of the gavel, and everyone got up to leave. Cole dashed up to Criss and gave him a congratualtory hug. "We won!" Cole crowed. "We did it! You really kicked ass up there, Criss!"
"We may have won the battle," Criss said to him, "but we haven't won the war. We gotta face Brother Bob Talbot yet."
11-23-2012, 11:13 PM
A week passed. A sidebar notice in the Local News section of the Sun stated that Hiram Block had been sentenced to a maximum of twenty years in the state prison, practically a life sentence for the sixty-five year old man. Crystal Rathbone caught sight of it one day after school and immediatly posted it on the Loyal Community website. Her fellow Loyals responded with cheers and "smilies", or animated emoticons, but over time the matter fell through the cracks. Hiram Block, the most villified man among Criss Angel's fans, was all but forgotten, a footnote in the life story of Criss Angel the MindFreak. But there was still the trial of the "Luxor Sniper", as the press dubbed Brother Bob Talbot.
During his stay in the Clark County lockup, Talbot had lost his church and his followers, his finances had been devoured by legal fees, and the bank had forclosed on his house and repossessed it to be resold at auction. The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, he reflected philosophically in his cell. Naked came I, naked I shall return. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
Unlike the Block trial, the Talbot trial was videotaped with media present. The tedious process of jury selection over and done with, the trial began:
"Robert Talbot, you stand accused of one count of physical assault, one count of first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to murder, and one count of carrying a concealed weapon with intent to murder. How do you plead?"
The counsel for the defense rose. "My client pleads not guilty, Your Honor."
The counsel for the prosecution had arrived loaded for bear to send Brother Bob Talbot to Death Row. With matter-of-fact clarity he presented the evidence to the jury: the bullet that killed Abigail Runyon, the rifle smuggled into the Luxor, Abby's note to Brother Bob insisting that he "stop tring to kill Cris Angel" and her stolen employee badge, and the Mendoza photo of Talbot on the third floor of the hotel, gun leveled to shoot, his face clearly showing on film. There was also video surveillance of Talbot slipping into the hotel, cap pulled over his face in a futile attempt to disguise himself.
Criss sat in the back of the courtroom, feeling prickling needles of grief for Abby with every presentation of evidence proving her murder by Talbot. The (bleeper) had not only shot her in cold blood, he realized, but had stolen her pass to get into the hotel to kill him. And this man called himself a Christian, who in turn accused him, Criss Angel, of being in league with the Devil?
Criss could not help but reflect on the sorry state of affairs the Christian Church in general had been reduced to in recent years: the televangelist scandals of the Eighties, the Catholic Church sex abuse litigation trials, the polygamist cult in Utah, and now this. Small wonder that church attendance had been declining in the twenty-first century. Back in the Sixties, Time magazine had pronounced God dead. Today, God was still alive, but being usurped by his overzealous, hypocritical clergy and devotees who unequivocally believed they and they alone were the True Church and everyone else was wrong. My God is alive, sorry about yours.
As the counsel for the defense questioned his client, Criss lowered his head to pray. Dear God, forgive Your children for what they did to You and Your Word--twisting and distorting it to their own selfish ends. They have committed crimes beyond number in Your Name, calling upon You to bless their evil deeds. They bear false witness to those who have done no wrong while spouting Scripture from the Bible to back up their lies. They spread their poisonous hatred under the cover of love and salvation. They justify their crimes as doing Your will, whether it is shooting an innocent woman or hijacking a plane to crash into the World Trade Center. They exploit Your Name with kitschy merchandise or scams to rake in millions of dollars from gullible people. They prey upon the young and innocent, concealing their perverted natures under a guise of piety. They resort to scare tactics to spread their toxic faith while ignoring the real issues like homelessness or domestic abuse or things like that. They go around preaching about the end of the world, and how they'll all be beamed up to Heaven while the rest of us suffers war, famine, pestilence and death. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
"The defense calls Criss Angel to the stand."
Criss jerked up in his seat. Already! He rose and stepped forward to the witness stand. The bailiff ordered him to raise his right hand.
"Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you?"
"I do," Criss answered.
"You may be seated."
Criss sat down, bracing himself for the onslaught of questioning the counsel for the defense would sling at him.
From the sworn testamony of Criss Angel, November 19, 2009.
Q: Mr. Angel, if that is your real name...
A: It is my legal name, yes.
Q: Is it true that you disrupted the Sunday service of the Perfecting Church back in July, 2008?
A: Disrupted, interrupted, whatever. I was there.
Q: From what my client tells me, you came in spoiling for a fight, is that correct?
A: I came in to set them straight about me. I am not the Anti-Christ or anything like that.
Q: But you triggered an altercation inside the church.
A: Hey, they triggered the altercation as you call it. They were ganging up on me. I was trying to defend myself.
Prosecution: Objection, Your Honor. This has nothing to do with the charges against the defendant. The witness is not the one on trial here.
Court: Counselor, just what is it that you are trying to prove here?
Defense: I am trying to prove that this man did willingly provoke an altercation in my client's church to prove him innocent of the charge of assault.
Court: Sustained. You may proceed.
Q: Mr. Angel, you are recorded to have said, and I quote, "Bring it on," and other such statements on the day in question. Isn't that proof of provocation?
A: I challenged them to shoot me if they were so hell-bent on killing me. They had sent Abigial Runyon to kill me. Hiram Block had tried to kill me. So, I gave them the opportunity to kill me right then and there. None of them took up my offer.
Q: And that is when the altercation started?
A: No, the altercation started when Brother Bob and some of his guys ganged up on me. I was trying to defend myself, that's all. Okay, I admit I'm no diplomat, but I stand by my words and actions. They can call me a Satanist and the Anti-Christ until they are all blue in the face, but resorting to murder? An innocent woman is dead because of Brother Bob's fanaticism. I faced near assassination four times, twice in a single twenty-four hour period, by him and his so-called church. He has to answer for that.
From the sworn testamony of Investigating Officer Gilbert Grissom, CSI, November 19, 2008:
Q: Officer Grissom, can you tell the court what you discovered on the day of Abigail Runyon's murder?
A: The victim was discovered lying in the living room of the defendant's house, shot through the aorta of the heart with a .38 caliber bullet. She was discovered by a delivery boy, Cole Shoope, around five-forty-five PM. The victim allegedly entered the house with a key she possessed while she had been employed as a housekeeper by the defendant, intending to return it to him. She had left a note for him in the kitchen when the defendant entered. There had been some signs of a struggle; a knife was found on the floor of the kitchen, and a small table in the living room was overturned.
Q: Is this the note the victim wrote? (Gives witness Exhibit C).
A: This is the note, yes. (Reads) "Brother Bob, am returning my key. You're wrong about Criss Angel. He is a good man and a Christian, too. Stop...trying--I think that is the word; it's spelled "tring"--to kill him. I quit your church for good. You're no Christian man but a devil yourself. Abby."
Q: So she was aware that the defendant wanted to kill Criss Angel.
A: Not only aware of it, but the defendant had actually ordered her to kill him a few days after Hiram Block's second attack.
Q: He ordered Abigail Runyon to kill Criss Angel?
A: That is correct.
Q: Did she attempt to do so?
A: According to security records at the Luxor, she surrendered peacefully enough. She had never met Criss Angel, let alone had any desire to kill him. She insisted that the defendant had ordered her to do so to, quote, "save her soul".
Q: Were any charges pressed against Ms. Runyon?
A: They were all dropped by request of Criss Angel himself.
Q: I see. So you conclude that because she refused to kill Mr. Angel that the defendant murdered her.
A: That is my conclusion, yes.
Q: Moving forward to the night of the premire, the defendant was spotted by a photographer and video surveillance on the third floor balcony of the Luxor hotel after the performance. He was quickly apprehended by security and taken into custody. Can you tell the court in your own words how he entered the hotel with a rifle onto the third floor?
A: The defendant disguised himself as a maintenance worker, concealing the weapon inside his coveralls. He had stolen Abigail Runyon's employee pass to gain access to the third floor of the hotel. From video surveillance, he had concealed himself inside a storage facility and made his way up to the balcony. He was spotted by both security and Mario Mendoza, photographer for VERVE! magazine, who was covering the event.
Q: Is this the security pass used?
A: It is.
Q: And this is the photograph Mr. Mendoza took of the defendant at the time?
A: It is.
Q: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, take a good look at this photograph of the defendant taken by fashion photographer Mario Mendoza. (Passes photo to jury). You can clearly see that the defendant was on the balcony at the time of the premiere, armed and ready to shoot, having used his victim's pass to gain access to the balcony...
The jury took only two hours to deliberate the fate of Brother Bob Talbot, but to the man sitting in the defendant's chair, it seemed an eternity. He wasn't looking at time in prison, but the death penalty itself. He was going to face the Ultimate Penalty while that Devil's minion, the Anti-Chirst, walked away free. At least he'd be safe in Heaven while the rest of the sinful world succumbed to God's wrath. Yes, he'd go to the gas chamber, or the gallows, or whatever means they executed criminals in the state of Nevada, but with his head held high, singing God's praises, ready to walk through the Gates of Heaven into eternal bliss. O, Death, where is thy sting? O, Grave, where is thy victory?
"Robert Talbot, you have been found guilty on one count of first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to murder, and one count of carrying a concealed weapon with intent to murder. Sentencing will take place two weeks from today. Case dismissed."
The courtroom quickly emptied. Talbot was escorted to his cell, but as he turned to leave with the guards, he caught sight of Criss in the back of the courtroom. Enraged at the sight of the Anti-Christ witnessing his downfall, he strained against his shackles, snarling at him. "The Anti-Christ will fall, Devil!" he shouted as his escort pulled him away. "God will strike you down! He will cast you into the lowest depths of Hell for your blasphemies! Jesus will emerge triumphant in the end! You will fall, Devil! You will fall!"
The heavy door leading to the lockup swung shut behind him, cutting off his rant. Criss drew a heavy breath and walked casually out of the courtroom. It was over. The Perfecting Church of Jesus Christ with Signs Ascending was no more. Hiram Block was behind bars. Bob Talbot was headed for Death Row. Abigail Runyon had been avenged. No more assassination attempts. No more religious fanatics gunning for him. He could breathe easily now. He was free at last. God was in His Heaven, all was right with the world.
Robert "Brother Bob" Talbot was sentenced to death by lethal injection on November 26th, 2009, at midnight. Due to the incontrovertable evidence against him and the lack of funds to pay legal fees, no appeals were made. The execution date was set for January 10th, 2010. Criss Angel declined the invitation to witness the execution.
On the last night of his life, Bob Talbot consumed his last meal: a Porterhouse steak, a baked potato with sour cream, a Coca-Cola and peach cobbler. He then spent the remaining hours reading the Bible and praying. He declined the services of the prison chaplain, declaring he was already fit to enter Heaven himself. He did request to see Hiram Block, his only remaining friend, one more time, but was disappointed to learn that Block had succumbed to a stroke while in prison three months earlier. "That's all right," Talbot was reported to have said. "We'll meet again in the Hereafter."
At 11:50 PM on January 9th, Talbot was led to the execution chamber. The authorities reported him walking calmly, smiling to himself, humming a hymn. He put up no resistance when strapped to the table. At exactly twelve midnight on January 10th, 2010, Robert Talbot was pronounced dead by the county coroner. His body was given over to the University of Nevada Medical School for research, as no surviving relatives could be located.
Criss had just finished yet another successful performance of Believe, but tonight he did not feel the usual satisfaction. Tonight, a man was about to die. A man who had tried, directly and indirectly, to kill him, but a man all the same. Many people expected him to gloat over it, to be triumphant, having survived four assassination attempts at that maniac's hands. Instead, he felt saddened by it. It was not remorse he felt, nor regret, for there was no cause for either. Just...sadness. Brother Bob Talbot had bought all this onto himself; he alone was accountable for his crimes, in this life and the next. Yet, it was sad all the same.
Criss wished he had been more diplomatic with him that day in the church, as he had tried to be with Hiram Block in the hospital. If only Talbot could have removed the blinders from his eyes for just one minute and had seen Criss Angel for what he really was: a man, such as himself. If only he had been able to correct Talbot's distorted perception of him for just that one moment, then he would have been free to preach as he pleased to this day instead of counting away his remaining hours on Death Row. Perhaps Talbot would have been more amiable towards him. Perhaps, for that one moment, they could have even become friends.
But it was too late for that now. In ten minutes, a man was going to die, by order of the State of Nevada. Staring out at the quiet desert night from bedroom window in his private estate, Serenity, Criss wondered what Talbot's last words would be as he lay strapped to the cruciform table in the execution chamber. Would he curse him, as he did when they led him away after his conviction? Would he quote Scripture, from the book of Revelation? Would he ask forgiveness from Abigail Runyon's family? From his former congregation? Or, even, from Criss himself?
Or would he still be the same holier-than-thou, sanctimonious Bible-thumping (bleeper) that he had always been, pontificating on what he believed was God's will, and no deviation allowed, no interpretation of Scripture but what he said it was? Who knew? Who would ever know? He had turned down the offer to be there when they gave him the juice, ostensibly because of his prior commitments, but in truth because he could not stomach the thought of watching a man being poisoned by the State.
Criss checked his watch. Two minutes to midnight. Talbot had only two minutes to live. No reprieve, no call from the governor, no last-minute stay of execution. Stick the needle into his arm and let it flow. Lethal injection was supposed to be painless, more humane than other methods, but it still did not negate all the trauma beforehand: the waiting, the anxiety, the absolute terror of it all. There was no pain after death; it all came before it.
The second hand ticked away the seconds until the stroke of twelve. It was done. Talbot was dead. Criss wondered if he should pray for Talbot's soul. Well, it couldn't hurt, he figured, though it was probably too little, too late.
Dear Lord, tonight Brother Bob Talbot is coming to face You for his final judgement. Yours is the final call, whether he goes to Heaven or Hell. I bear no grudge against him. I can even say that I forgive him for what he tried to do to me, though I can't say the same for what he did to Abby Runyon. If only he could have seen me as I really am. But our sense of perception only goes as far as our experiences and our knowledge of the world. He perceived me as evil. I saw him as a fanatic. If we had gotten to know each other better, then none of this would have happened. But it's too late now. I can only pray for his soul, wherever it is, to rest in peace.
Criss made the sign of the Cross and went to bed. There was no sense dwelling on the past. Tomorrow was another busy day for him, a tomorrow, unlike Talbot or Block or, sadly, Abigail, he would live to see.
11-24-2012, 02:51 AM
That was a good story I don't think I could watch a man die if I was invited to an execution. My mom can't even watch a fake one on Television
11-24-2012, 04:04 PM
Great story , I really enjoy reading it :)
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