View Full Version : And Her Children Shall Rise...
11-29-2012, 12:56 AM
Author's Note: I usually come up with a Christmas story around this time, but I'm suffering writer's block right now. I decided to repost this one instead for the holidays. Merry Christmas, one and all!
She floated through the misty landscape, a delicate white flower adrift in space and time. Her pale, bare feet could not step onto terra firma, her slender hands could not grasp anything tangible, yet she was not afraid.
In the distance she saw a shape forming in front of her. She drifted closer. The shape was a man. The shape was her husband.
"John." She spoke his name in a whisper.
"Didi." Though close enough, he seemed to echo from a distance.
She approached him with open arms, as did he. How she missed his touch, his strong hands caressing her! Ten long years, almost an eternity, had they been apart. Now they embraced again, husband and wife, man and woman, together as one.
He pressed her down, down...down onto a stinking mattress in a shabby bedroom of an abandoned house. A grubby hand siezed her, the edge of a knife at her throat. She looked up and saw not the face of her beloved husband, but the Vegas Bomber, the man who abducted her and held her prisoner!
"I can do anything I want with you!" he hissed, leering into her face. " Anything at all!"
Dimitra woke with a start, breathing hard, her heart pounding in her chest, clutching the blankets around her. She found herself in he own bed, in her own room, in her own house in Long Island, New York. She gave a ragged sigh. It had all been a bad dream. Four weeks, she counted. A whole month. A whole month had gone by since the Vegas Bomber had met his firey end in the back of a police van, after she escaped from that locked room with the help of God, her son, Christopher, and her Guardian Angel to protect her. A whole month, and the nightmares continued, even after her sprained ankle had healed and her sons saw her off safely back to New York, with Costa to look after her. After an entire month of freedom, he still held her prisoner.
She curled up under the covers and began to cry.
Criss Angel sighed as his cell phone went off in his pocket. Who was it this time? he wondered. Producers, editors, reporters, photgraphers, management, fans--it seemed the whole world made demands on his time. Such was the price of fame, he thought. Still, he wished for just a few moments for himself, get his thoughts together, or just dream.
He pulled out the phone and flipped it open. Costa, the tiny screen read. Well, at least it was family. "Hey, Costa, what's up?"
"Hi, Criss," his brother responded on the other end. "Thought you'd like to know about Mom."
"Sure." Criss always wanted to know about Mom, especially about her welfare. The kidnapping had shaken her so badly she was afraid to be alone. She forsook her own suite at the Luxor to spend a night or two with Criss in his own. That was why Costa volunteered to fly with her to New York. "How is she doing?"
"Well, for the past few weeks, she'd been acting pretty weird."
"Weird?" Criss was bewildered. "Whaddya mean, 'weird'?"
"Well, she wouldn't leave the house for the first week or two since she got home. She'd lock the doors and double check the home security system. Some days she wouldn't even get out of bed. I'd ask her what was wrong, and she'd snap at me. Once I came in to check on her, and I found her hiding behind a chair."
Criss stood in stunned silence. This wasn't his mother at all. What had turned this sweet, beautiful woman into a cowering wreck?
"Did you do anything for her? Take her to a doctor or something?"
"I did manage to get her to a doctor," Costa admitted. "He said she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She is still living in fear from the kidnapping. She says it still gives her nightmares."
Criss mentally damned the Vegas Bomber for the damage he inflicted upon his beloved mother. It was bad enough that both he and Costa were injured from his attacks--hell, he nearly lost his career because of him--but to make his mother suffer like that, even beyond the grave (if he had one) was unbearable. (1)
"What did the doctor say to do to help her?" he inquired.
"Well, he said she should 'go outside of herself'. You know, take up an activity, do some volunteer work. Do something to get her life back to normal. In the meantime, we're to give her all the love and support we can give, and to be patient in the meantime."
Do volunteer work. Go outside of herself. That sounded like good advice. It would at least get her out of the house. As for love and support, she already had plenty of that. Not only from her own family, but on the Loyal Community website.
When word of Dimitra's abduction got out, the Loyal websites everywhere almost blew up. If their outrage for the Bomber's attack on Criss himself inflamed the Loyals' outrage, then the kidnappping of their beloved Mother Angel added fuel the fire. Prayers for her safe return stood side by side with vitrolic threats against the Bomber. Loyals competed with each other as to who could come up with the most vindictive epithets. Many had to be deleted. Others wept cybertears on line for Dimitra's plight. So much love and support for her and her family filled page after page of Criss Angel websites all around the world, it would have qualified for the Nobel Peace Prize. Dimitra would have all the love and support she needed to recover.
"Well, she's got mine already," Criss told his brother. "Is she there? Can I talk to her?"
"Yeah, she's right here." A pause while the phone was passed. Then, "Hello, Christopher."
"Hi, Mom, how ya doin'?" He tried to sound upbeat. "You feeling okay?"
"I'm fine." She tried to sound upbeat, too. "Are you all right?"
"I'm doing all right, it's you I'm worried about."
"Yeah, Costa's been telling me you've been having bad dreams and being scared and all."
"Oh, that." She seemed to drift. "I'm sorry for all that. I just..."
"Mom. it's gonna be okay. You just need to start living again. Go out and do some volunteer work like the doctor said. You don't have to be afraid anymore. The Bomber is dead. He can't hurt you anymore. You're safe."
"Well, I...I don't know..."
"You can do it, Mom, I know you can. You were always there for me, supporting all I did, even if it worried you half to death. You gave me the confidence I needed to succeed. You just need to find it in yourself."
He heard a sniffle over the line. "Mom, don't cry. No more tears, okay? Just find something you want to do and just do it, okay? Don't let your fears get in the way. Always remember, we all love you."
"I love you, Chris." she quavered.
"I love you more," he replied.
During lunch, Criss' cousin, George Strumpolis, was telling his cousins about his fiancee's sister's parole hearing.
"Not only did she ask for a cell with a private bathroom," he laughed, "but she even asked if there was a hair salon in there!"
Everyone doubled over laughing. Talk about being unclear of the concept! Ever since Bianca Honi had been sentenced to two years for petty theft, she had been totally incapable of adjusting to prison life. Accustomed to salons, day spas and health clubs, she was a fish out of water among the prison population. Indeed, the other prisoners made this little "fish" feel very unwelcome on their turf. Mass produced, inferior meals, one shower a week, a cramped cell shared no bigger than a walk-in closet, grueling work details--it was hell on earth for a pampered princess such as Bianca.
"And get this," he continued, his cousins all ears. "She even went to the warden and asked for a weekend pass to attend the wedding!" (2)
"You've got to be kidding me!" Criss shook his head in disbelief, laughing.
"Swear to God!" George raised his hand to affirm the truth. "She really did! Warden turned her down flat, of course."
"Oh, man!" JD rubbed his face to compose himself. "So, did she make parole?"
"Hell, no! The parole board said she hadn't been 'rehabilitated' enough. Anyway, I'm glad she's still in there. She'd have ruined the whole wedding."
Criss and JD nodded in agreement. Bianca had been a self-centered narcissist who abused her sister, Angela, George's fiancee', phyically and emotionally. Maybe a stint in prison would make her a better person, they had reasoned. Maybe not.
"So," JD spoke up, changing the subject. "When is the wedding again?"
"Last week in June," George answered. "You got the invitation, didn't you?"
"Yeah, but it slipped my mind for a moment." JD smiled apolgetically. Then he sighed. "Hope Mom will be okay for the trip."
"What's wrong with your mom?" George became concerned.
"Well, ever since that kidnapping by the Bomber, she's been going through post-traumatic stress disorder." JD explained. "She's been living in fear and acting kinda strange--hiding behind furniture, things like that."
"Gee, that's too bad," George sympathized. "Hope she gets over it before the wedding. I don't want her to miss it."
"The doctor said she should go outside of herself and do some volunteer work to help get her back in the swing of things." Criss added.
"What kind of volunteer work did they suggest?"
"They didn't suggest anything," Criss replied. "Just get out of the house and start living."
"Hmmmm. I wonder what kind of volunteer work your mom could do?" George mused.
"Oh, I dunno, uh, maybe help with the homeless," Criss suggested. "After all, that's what Angie does."
"Or the Red Cross," JD offered. "She's seen you get hurt enough to learn all the first aid she needs."
"Yeah, ha, ha, I forgot how to laugh," Criss sneered. "Maybe work with kids?"
"How about Habitats for Humanity?" George spoke up.
"Oh, yeah, right!" Criss sneered again. "My mother in a hard hat and tool belt hammering two-by-fours? I don't think so!"
"Look, whatever she chooses, it'll help her to help others," JD said with all finality. "She's doing this more for herself than for anybody else."
"Yeah, JD is right," Criss concurred. "It'll be good for her to go out and do something worthwhile, help her forget all the hell she'd been through." And he'd feel better, too, he thought. Whatever made his mother happy was all right by him. The question remained: What kind of volunteer work would best be suited for Dimitra?
(1) See "Avenging Angel"
(2) See "The Cave of Sorrow"
11-29-2012, 10:30 PM
"Gooooood Morning, Sin City! This is Artie Creed on KLOL, Las Vegas, bringing you the show that tells you where it's at!"
Artie Creed was the Southwest's least liked yet most listened to disc jockey, an opinionated loudmouth with a chronic case of foot-in-mouth disease, for whom freedom of speech was not a right but a continuous obligation. His take-no-prisoners approach to broadcasting had earned him the ire of many of Las Vegas' notables, as well as the listening public in general. One of his favorite targets for his venomous barbs was Criss Angel, whom he derided as a fraud, a phoney, and a mama's boy. Criss's fans, the Loyals, found him irritating at best, like a case of poison ivy. Creed's most recent gabfest had included a quip about Criss' near-fatal murder attempt by the Vegas Bomber. While it seemed Creed had shown a modicum of sympathy for Criss' welfare, he reverted to character and stated that "Criss may have to trade his kittycat for a seeing-eye dog!"
That had lit up the station's phone lines like the Vegas Strip at midnight. Dozens of angry Loyals vented their wrath over the airwaves, but were always cut short by Creed. He only took calls from those who agreed with him. Dissent was screened out. Still, this did not deter the Loyals--they made their case known on the KLOL website, as well as all the other websites dedicated to Criss Angel. The management had pleaded with Creed to "tone it down". Creed was unrepentant, as usual. He cited the First Amendment, which to him was the equivalent of the First Commandment. He had the power of the airwaves, and he would wield it at his whim.
Artie took another sip of coffee from his jumbo-sized mug. "In the world of entertainment, it seems David Copperfield showed a girl in the Bahamas his magic wand and what he could do with it. If he wants to keep performing, he'd better disappear and soon!"
The recent flak about David Copperfield's sexual assault accusation on the Bahamas had been too good for Artie to pass up. Copperfield claimed he had cancelled his shows because he had not been paid, he stated. Or was it? Creed posed that question to his listeners. The phone line lit up. "Hello, you're on the air!" Creed crowed.
"Listen, Creed," the voice on the other end said. "I say David Copperfield is innocent. If that girl was raped by him, why did she wait until she was in the US to report it?"
"I'd say, I don't care what you say." Creed hung up. "Next caller. Hello, you're on the air."
"Yeah, what the hell have you got against celebrities, anyway? They're people, like you and me, you know?"
"Maybe they're like you, but not like me--a bunch of morons!" Another hang-up. "Next caller, you're on the air!"
"You know, Creed, on of these days, you are really going to--"
"Next caller! You're on the air!"
"Hey, Costa," Criss greeted his brother in New York over the phone during a rare break from taping MindFreak. "How's Mom been doing? Is she still acting, you know, weird?"
"No, the weirdness is gone," Costa answered. "I got her into counseling. She's still in a bit of a shell, though. Not very sociable."
"You think she'll be okay in time for George's wedding?"
"The counselor says she's making good progress. It was a one time thing, so it'll be easier to overcome. Aunt Popi and Aunt Stella are staying with her in the meantime."
Criss was relieved. He was confident his mother would be all right. His aunts would give her all the support she needed. Maybe get her out of the house, take her to a movie or something. The wedding wasn't until late June, so it would give her plenty of time to heal.
But the wedding was in Vegas, the scene of the crime. Would returning to Las Vegas trigger a relapse? The bomb damage in the Atrium had been repaired so well it was as if it hadn't even been hit. The sites of the Bomber's last two attacks on Ubeck street had been leveled and repaved. His hideout was a vacant lot. Every sign of the Vegas Bomber had been erased; nothing remained to remind anyone of the horror back in February. The Board of Directors had launched a promotional advertising blitz to try to lure tourists back to the city, that Las Vegas was still the place to go for fun, entertainment and gambling. They had to make up for all the revenue lost because of the Bomber's attacks had driven away so many paying customers. Criss himself had starred in these ads, doing his best sleight of hand and turning on the personal charm which had melted so many female hearts. Yet, scars remained in the city's psyche. Dozens of people walked the Strip, traumatized by what they had experienced. Some avoided the Magic Castle after witnessing its near demolition. A few still could not turn the ignition of their cars without trepedition, fearing it might detonate a car bomb. Las Vegas could not exorcise the ghost of the Bomber from its collective soul.
"Is Mom there?" Criss asked.
"No, she and Aunt Popi went shopping. They'll be back in an hour or so."
Shopping. That was a good sign. It meant Mom was getting out and rejoining the rest of the world. Criss smiled. "Just tell her I called, and tell her I love her, okay? I want to see her at the wedding."
"Sure," Costa agreed. " 'Bye."
A pounding on the RV door brought him back to reality. "Criss, we're ready to start shooting."
"Okay, I'm coming!" Criss yelled as he rose and stepped out of the RV, ready to perform.
Calliope and Dimitra returned home, laden with shopping bags from an assortment of department stores. Costa offered to help carry them in with a derisive laugh. "Geez, Ma, what'd you do, buy out the whole mall or something?"
"Blame your Aunt Popi," she retorted. "Once she starts, she doesn't stop."
The bags were set on the dining room table. Dimitra collapsed onto the sofa. "My feet hurt so bad. Why did you drag me all over the place?" She looked accusingly at Calliope.
"You needed to get out," she replied simply, "I take you out."
Dimitra glanced at the mountain of shopping bags on the table. "Too much stuff," she said, shaking her head. "Too much stuff."
Stella entered the room. "You're back," she smiled. "Good! I have something to tell you, Didi."
Dimitra looked up. "What?" she asked tiredly.
"You know they said you should do some volunteer work."
"They suggested I do volunteer work, yes."
"Well, I found an ad in the paper today." Stella produced the classifieds. "It says here there's a home for foster children who need someone to look after them. It's not too far from here, and you'd be perfect for the job."
Caring for foster children? Dimitra pondered. True, she had plenty of experience, mothering three sons, but caring for children she knew nothing about would be a challenge. She was not that young anymore; it took a lot of stamina to care for even one child, let alone a whole group. Yet, time hung so heavily on her hands now that her own boys were grown. She spent most of her time worrying about Chris doing his dangerous "demonstrations". And the doctor said she needed to go outside of herself.
"Mom, I think it's a great idea." Costa said. "You're a great mother, and these kids need you. You'd be the best thing that ever happened to them."
"Dima, darling," Popi curled her arm around her. "You can't spend the rest of your life cooped up in this house. I know you went through a terrible ordeal, but now it is time to live again. Helping these children will help you."
Dimitra looked up at her sisters and her son. "Let me think about it," she said. "I'll give you an answer in the morning."
11-30-2012, 12:20 AM
"How about Habitats for Humanity?" George spoke up.
"Oh, yeah, right!" Criss sneered again. "My mother in a hard hat and tool belt hammering two-by-fours? I don't think so!"
Honestly I can see Dimitra do that
11-30-2012, 08:40 PM
Dimitra stood on the stoop of the large manor-like house, clutching her handbag nervously. It took a great deal of courage on her part to come here. When she answered the ad for a volunteer to aid foster children, she had a few misgivings. The gentleman on the phone, a Mr. Webber, had seemed nice enough, and she agreed to come in for an interview.
From what she gathered from her conversation with Mr. Webber, there were fourteen children, ranging in age from two to twelve. They were wards of the state, he explained, until they were either adopted or turned eighteen. To hire someone would mean cutting into their benefits, and the monthly stipend was stretched to the breaking point already. They needed a loving, maternal figure in their lives to nurture them.
Dimitra felt overwhelmed at the prospect of caring for so many kids. Fourteen children! Would she be able to handle them all? Raising three boys was strenuous enough, especially Christopher, who had been a handful by himself, but she had been their mother: she had raised them from birth. These children would be strangers to her, and she to them. What if they had been abused? Neglected? What if they were disabled? How would she care for them?
She was torn between going in and running away. She suddenly felt the urge to turn around, go back home and hide.
Hide? she scolded herself. Run away and hide behind the furniture like a mouse, like you did before? Costa thought you had gone mad when he found you like that! What is the matter with you? You made a promise to Mr. Webber and you are going to keep it! Those children need you! What, are you going to stand there all day? Move it!
Dimitra took a deep breath, rang the doorbell, and waited. There. She did it. She took the first step. She heard heavy footsteps growing louder as they approached. The heavy door opened, and a pudgy, sweaty fellow in a grey suit greeted her. "You must be Mrs....I forgot your name again." he stumbled, his baggy jowls quivering like a turkey's wattle.
"Sarantakos," Dimitra reminded him. "But you may call me Dimitra."
"Dimitra," he repeated. "I'm Mr. Webber. Please come in."
Dimitra stepped into the spacious foyer. Though large and rather elegant after a fashion, there were signs of neglect everywhere. Dust coated every horizontal surface. The windows were grey with dirt. The threadbare carpets were in dire need of a vacuum cleaner. She thought it disgraceful to keep a house like this with children around.
She followed Mr. Webber into his office, almost a landfill with papers and books piled floor to ceiling. It was a wonder he got any work done, she thought.
"All right, Dimitra," Mr. Webber settled himself into a huge, worn leather chair behind the paper laden desk. "You will be responsible for the care, feeding and education of fourteen foster children, Monday through Saturday, seven AM through six PM." He leaned back, the chair creaking under his weight. "We're under a very tight budget here, so no extravagances. Understand?"
"Yes, sir," Dimitra nodded. Oh, she knew about tight budgets, all right. Being married to a self-employed cafe owner, raising three boys of her own, things got tight when business slumped at times. Not to mention there was her childhood in war-torn Greece, which pained her even after sixty years living in America.
"These kids have a lot of problems, coming from broken homes. You think you can handle it?"
"I will do my best, Mr. Webber," she replied as confidently as she could.
"Good." Mr. Webber wrenched himself from his chair. "I'll introduce you to the children."
Dimitra followed the sweating man to a large dormitory-like room. As he opened the double doors, a foul stench hit Dimitra squarely in the face. She looked around the room. A dozen filthy beds and a large crib lined up in two rows lengthwise, covered in thin blankets. A group of scrawny, ragged children huddled together fearfully, suspicious of this stranger among them. Dimitra was appalled at the sight of them. Didn't this man know how to take care of these poor children?
"Okay, line up," Mr. Webber ordered.
The children shuffled hesitantly into formation, still casting a wary eye on Dimitra.
Mr. Webber walked up to a brown-haired, gawkish girl of about twelve or so. "This is Heather, our oldest. She does a good job watching over the littler ones. Don't you, sweetheart?"
"Yes, Mr. Webber," Heather replied politely.
"Heather, this is Mrs.--"
"Sarantakos" Dimitra prompted.
"Sarantakos. She'll be our new caregiver for you and the others."
"Hello, Heather," Dimitra smiled, extending her hand. Heather took it rather hesitantly.
"And this is our oldest boy, Roland." He laid his hand on a gangly black youth.
"Hi," Roland said. "I can't say your name. Can I call you Mrs. S.?"
Dimitra smiled at him. "Of course you can," she said.
"And this is Buddy." Buddy just made a feeble wave.
"This is China. Come, come, dear, meet your new caregiver."
China didn't want to meet her new caregiver. She just glared at Dimitra with a hatred beyond her years. Dimitra realized she would have to be more patient with this one.
Mr, Webber stepped up to a red-haired, freckle-faced boy, who reminded Dimitra of Huckleberry Finn. "This is Buck."
"Hello, Buck. It is nice to meet you."
"Hi," Buck said. "You look like a grandma. Are you a grandma?"
"Why, yes, I am," Dimitra replied proudly. "I have a granddaughter who's about eighteen or so."
"And this is Brandy...Aaron...Austin--they're brothers, by the way--Jamal...Derek...Tanvi...Chris..."
"Chris? I have a son named Chris!" Dimitra said, delighted at the coincidence.
"You do?" the little boy said curiously. "Is he here?"
"No, dear, he lives far away in Las Vegas."
"And over here," Mr. Webber walked over to the crib. "We have Kira--she's about four. And our youngest, Mia."
Dimitra stared in horror at little Mia. Nearly her entire left side was badly burned, up to her neck and a part of her tiny face. Upon closer inspection, she discovered that Mia's left hand was only a stump. The baby stared back at Dimitra with large, soulful eyes. She was clad only in a disposable diaper. She was two years old, but looked less than one. She looked like...like...
She looks like a victim of the Vegas Bomber!
Dimitra recoiled at the thought. She came here to forget that nightmare. It was something else that injured this poor baby, she told herself. It must have happened before then.
"Well, I'll leave you to get aquainted with your new charges," Mr. Webber said jovially. "They're your responsibility now."
He left the dormitory, sweating and panting like a huge dog. Dimitra looked sorrowfully at these poor pitiful young ones.
Dear Lord, she prayed silently, give me the strength and the resources to help these children, for their lives are wretched, and their souls are troubled. I give them to You to heal and make whole again. Amen .
Raul Alvarez strung heavy electrical cable through the holes drilled in the two-by-fours of the housing framework. It was mid-morning. His apprenticship was going well. He enjoyed his work and the people he worked with. If everything went as good as it was going right now, he'd have his electrician's license in a year or so. He was a gifted electrician, his supervisors said. His mother bragged about him at church, proud that her son had followed an honest trade instead of falling into gang life like so many of his peers. But he had an even bigger reputation to live up to. He was a member of Team Angel, one of the group of five who nailed the Vegas Bomber and put him behind bars. Or at least the first time, they did. The (bleeper) escaped jail and ended up blowing himself up instead.(3). Oh, well, it was as his Tio' Alberto said: It saved the taxpayers' money that way. No expensive trial, no stay in prison at the public's expense. He would have been executed, anyway, but only after a long appeals process which would have taken years. His suicide was quicker and cheaper in the long run.
He still hooked up with Brent on occasion, and was currently dating Amber. He rememberd how hot she looked in the limo when they went to see Criss Angel in the hospital. That sexy red dress--RRROWWWWLL!
Someone had tuned into KLOL on the dusty, battered radio perched on a sawhorse on the second level. Artie Creed was his usual, obnoxious self, skewering anyone who blundered their way into media attention, be they celebrites or ordinary citizens who had fame thrust upon them by act or circumstance. Raul thought Creed a pain in the ass. All he did was trash people's reputations. At least, with the construction noise around him, he could drown out his specious claptrap until Creed decided to actually play some music like he was supposed to.
Raul continued threading electical wire through the frame. Over the screech of a power saw, he could not hear Creed's latest blather about Criss Angel and his latest demonstration--or, rather, repeat demonstration, for he would once again attempt the motorcycle stunt he had tried to perform when the Bomber attacked.
Meanwhile, at KLOL, Artie was in rare form, burning the airwaves with his incendiary views regarding Criss Angel.
"In another attempt to prove his overinflated ego, Criss Angel will once again try to jump his motorcycle and make it disappear. Someone should tell that Evel Kneval wannabe to make himself disappear--permanantly! He states that it's to show the public that he is not afraid of the Vegas Bomber. I say he just wants to show off! I mean, how many stunts does this loser have to do before he wakes up and smells the toast burning? He's like a little kid, you know? 'Hey, Mom! Lookit me! No hands!' No brains, either. Do yourselves a favor, people. Stay home and do your laundry or something. Don't pay any attention to this overgrown child, Criss Angel. He'll get tired and go away, and we'll all be happy."
The phone line in the studio lit up. "Hello, you're on the air."
"You know what I think?" the caller on the other end said.
"Not really," Artie retorted, hanging up. "Hello, you're on the air,"
"Maybe Criss Angel should make you disappear--permanantly!" the second caller snarled.
"Hey, I'm just doing my job here. You can't handle the truth, tough luck!" He hung up. He wanted to use something stronger, but the jerkwads of the FCC wouldn't let him. Regulations, they said. Well, to hell with them! He was Artie Creed, champion of truth and free speech. He had the power of the airwaves, and he would say what he damned well pleased, FCC or no.
Johnny Thompson, Criss' MindFreak consultant and dear friend, stepped into the production office, where he was surprised to see Criss listening to the Artie Creed show on KLOL. He'd never heard Creed say anything positive about Criss, or anyone else for that matter. And here was Criss, listening to Creed's trashing of him and not even flinching.
"How can you listen to that crap?" Johnny asked, appalled.
"Hey," Criss smiled. "The more he trashes me, the better publicity I get! He's been my best PR man! It's reverse psychology, you know? He can say anything he wants about me until he's blue in the face! I still come out ahead!"
Johnny sighed. That may all be very well and good now, but he knew that someday Creed would cross a line somewhere, and then all unholy hell would break loose. Creed was notorious for fanning rumors, true or not. Yes, one of these days, Creed would go too far, if he hadn't gone too far already, and then there would be hell to pay.
(3) See "Avenging Angel"
11-30-2012, 09:56 PM
Criss always knows how to see the bright side of things
12-01-2012, 03:49 PM
They stared at the strange lady before them, these pitiful waifs in Mr. Webber's care. As soon as their guardian left the room, they broke ranks and huddled back together as before, muttering among themselves.
"She looks nice."
"I hope she doesn't beat us like the last one."
"She talks funny. Where she from?"
"She's kinda old. Think she'll have a heart attack and die?"
"Well, I'm just asking!"
"I hope she cooks better than the last one. I'm hungry!"
Dimitra, for her part, sized up her new charges, realizing she had her work cut out for her. For one thing, they all needed baths, clean clothes, and fresh bedding. There was plenty of space in this house; why did Mr. Webber not separate the boys from the girls in regards to sleeping arrangments? Fourteen children crammed together in one room? It was unhealthy, not to mention improper, especially with the older children. The eldest girl, Heather, was beginning to blossom into womanhood. Roland, the oldest boy, would soon become a man in time. Sharing the same room together at such a sensitve time in their lives was not wise, to say the least. And the younger children were exposed to all kinds of germs in such crowded conditions. There had to be some changes made for their sake, and the first was cleanliness.
"All right, darlings," Dimitra announced. "First, you are all going to take a bath. Then, we'll find some clean clothes for you. Now, where is the bathroom?"
Heather pointed out the doors. "Down the hall to your left," she explained simply.
"Thank you, dear." Dimitra said, and headed for the bathroom where Heather directed. When she got there, she almost fainted from shock. The bathroom was the most squalid mess she ever had the misfortune to see. Walls were grimy and scaly, rust streaked the porcelain, the toilet leaked, and the bathtub beggared description. It should have been condemmed by the Board of Health, she thought. The children would come out of there even dirtier than they went in!
She searched the tiny cabinet for any cleaning materials, and found none. She sighed. Cleanliness was next to Godliness, she had been told, but in this house, cleanliness was next to impossible.
Costa rang up Criss that evening, mid afternoon Las Vegas time. Criss answered after the fourth or fifth ring.
"Hey, Costa, whassup?"
"Just wanted to let you know that Mom's found a volunteer job taking care of foster kids." Costa informed him. "Fourteen of them."
"Hey! That's great!" Criss cheered. "So, what's she doing?"
"Everything," Costa replied. "She says that place is a dump, and those kids are really in bad shape."
"Gee, that's too bad. But I know Mom will set things right. You'll see."
"God, I hope so. Well, I gotta go. Later."
"Yeah, later." Criss flipped his phone off. So his mother was taking care of foster kids, he mused. What a wonderful woman she was! Forty-plus years of raising kids, and she still had room enough in her heart of hearts to reach out to children who needed love and nurturing. He knew they would benefit greatly from her tender loving care. She would be the best thing to come into their little lives. And they would be the best thing for her as well. By caring for them, they in turn would heal her of the trauma she had suffered at the hands of the Vegas Bomber, may he rot in Hell, and give her a new lease on life. It was win-win all around.
Sixteen hundred dollars. That was her entire budget. Sixteen hundred dollars to clothe, feed and care for fourteen children for and entire month. Not to mention maintain the house, pay the utilities and other necessities too numerous to mention. No wonder Mr. Webber said "no extravangances." What extravagances was he talking about? Was food an extravagance? Decent clothes, were they an extravagance? But, Mr. Webber insisted that was all he got for them. There had been budget cuts in the social services division, and sixteen hundred was the best he could do, no matter how he tried to negotiate.
Dimitra sighed. She was going to need help here. The house was a filthy mess, as were the children themselves, and there was hardly any fresh food for them. It was time to call in reinforcements.
She could call Stella, Popi, Costa, the church--anyone who was available to lend a hand. She could get clothes at the Salvation Army, GoodWill, and St. Vincent de Paul's. She could go to Costco for bulk food and cleaning supplies. She could scour flea markets and yard sales for bedding and other supplies. She could even appeal to Christopher for money, if she had to. She knew he would be glad to help. He had donated time and money for disadvantaged children before; she was sure he would come up with something to help these poor little ones. One way or another, she was going to rescue these poor children from the squalor in their lives.
First thing she did when she returned home that day, she made a few phone calls. Stella and Popi agreed to come over and clean the house. Costa would move some furniture into another room to create separate quarters for the girls and a nursery for the two youngest. Then she called Christopher, explaining the situation and asking for any type of financial assistance. Of course, he came through, wiring four thousand dollars to her, "for starters", he told her.
The next day, Dimitra organized the older children into cleaning crews to help. She did the laundry at a local laundromat (the washer and dryer at the house were inoperable) and make sure the children had decent clothes and clean bedding. Those tissue-thin blankets were out--GoodWill provided better ones. It was be a lot of work, but in the end, it was worth it.
Next, she had some serious shopping to do. Cleaning supplies, food, and other necessities were on her list, and there was no time to waste. She'd get that house in order and those kids in shape if she had to pay for everything out of her own pocket!
As it turned out, that's exactly what she had to do. In fact, despite her careful bargain hunting, thrift store purchases, and dollar stretching at the supermarket, she spent a near fortune of her own money for everything she needed to help the children. Clothing, except for what was donated, came to about two or three hundred dollars. Underwear had to be purchased new, for health laws prohibited the sale of secondhand underclothing, from Kira's training pants to Heather's first bra. Shoes took out the biggest chunk of the clothing budget, even if they were purchased at the Salvation Army store. Dimitra pulled out her sewing basket and made any necessary alterations herself; she spent long hours lowering hems, stiching up rips, attaching buttons and fixing zippers.
Food was the next item. Years of working in the restaraunt business with her husband gave her an eye for quality food at a good price, but food prices had shot up since then, and a week's groceries which had cost thirty dollars in the past now cost almost a hundred. Milk alone was three dollars a gallon. Fourteen growing children with healthy appetites would go through a lot of food in just one day. The monthly stipend barely covered two weeks' worth. Again, she made up for it out of her own pocket, even raiding her own kitchen for foodstuffs. Maybe she could start a vegetable garden in the back yard. The children would enjoy it, and they would have fresh vegetables to eat. It was an idea worth talking to Mr. Webber about.
Then there were the other expenses: Cleaning supplies, diapers for Mia, medical and first aid supplies, things for school. How could sixteen hundred cover all that? She couldn't keep spending all her own money forever. She'd go broke. Even with Christopher's help, she'd still wouldn't have enough to keep up with the demands of raising these kids. There had to be a better way.
She heard her mother's voice echoing from beyond the grave. No matter how bleak things are right now, the Lord will provide. You must have faith, Didi. The Lord will provide for our needs. Those same words got her family through the Depression, the Nazi Occupation of Greece, their migration to America, and the first few years in their adopted country. They got her through the first years of her marriage to John Sarantakos, when they were a struggling young couple trying to make it in the restauarant business, then when they became parents for the first time, then a second time, and finally a third. They sustained her through every conceivable hardship, from near bankruptcy to medical emergencies to John's death from cancer. And even through the inconceivable, like Christopher's so-called "demonstrations' and the Vegas Bomber attacks. You must have faith. The Lord will provide.
12-01-2012, 07:42 PM
Dimitra should get saint hood for this
12-02-2012, 07:48 PM
Brenda Creed flipped through her collection of sheet music for an appropriate piece to which to practice her violin. What was she in the mood for? The Meditation theme from Thais? No, she did that yesterday. Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings? Too depressing; it always made her cry. Ah! Here was one--The Partita in D Minor for unaccompaied violin by Bach. She hadn't played that one in a while. It would cheer her up, divert her from the lonliness and frustration in her life.
She set up the sheets on the music stand, sat down on her stool, and began to play. Her fingers danced across the fret of her beloved violin, her greatest if not her only joy in life. The Partita resounded throughout the house, clear and sweet and beautiful. Whenever she played, her spirits soared, free of the misery Artie inflicted upon her with his snide remarks and cutting sarcasm. True, he never physically abused her, but his tongue was just as brusing as a fist.
Brenda had met Artie at Washington State where she had been studying music and he was a communications major, working at the campus radio station. When she first met him, she thought him witty if not downright hilarious. He, in turn, fell hopelessly in lust for her, with her silky blonde hair, ample bosom, and tight little tushie, as he put it. After graduation, Brenda had a shot at making the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, with Gerard Schwarz conducting and composer Alan Hovhaness providing the most moving scores she had ever known. Artie, however, pleaded undying love for her and proposed marriage. Her mother persuaded her to give up the opportunity at the SSO, saying that a violin was no substitute for a husband. Artie was a good man, she said, and would take good care of her. Bowing to parental pressure, Brenda consented. They were married a year after graduation.
As time went on, however, she realized her mistake. Artie went from witty to sarcastic to downright insulting toward her and to anyone within earshot. He thought himself a tonic, but to Brenda he was a pill, and a bitter one at that. They had no friends, virtually no social life to speak of. Her violin proved to be better company after all. If she could go back in time, she'd dump Artie and join the Symphony in spite of her mother's insistance. But, the damage was done, and now she played alone, always alone.
She fumbled a few sixteenth-notes in her musings about her life. She sighed and turned back to the first page. Focus, she told herself. Don't get distracted. Concentrate.
She took up her bow and began again, checking the clock. If Artie didn't stop at a bar, he would be home in about an hour. She had to stop practice before he arrived to avoid a scene, or at least his insults about her playing. If you'd work more on the house and less on that damn violin, this place woudn't be such a pigsty! Why waste your time practicing? It's not like you have that much talent, anyway!
She shut Artie out of her head and kept practicing. Her violin was all she had now. She was talented! She would show Artie that she still had worth as an artist and a human being. Her music was her freedom, her very reason for living, and no one, not even Artie Creed, was going to take it away from her.
A week and a half had gone by since Dimitra took on the challenge of caring for Mr. Webber's foster children. With the help of God and her family, as well as the children themselves, they had made tremendous progress. A large room next to the dormitory was emptied and scrubbed out to create a separate dorm for the girls, who were all too happy to have a place away from the "icky" boys, who themselves were relieved to be free of the "icky" girls.
St. Vincent de Paul donated fresh bedding for the children, even a small one for Kira. Kira was all over her new "big girl' bed like a playful puppy, scrambling, hopping and diving under the fresh blankets. The ragged clothes were discarded, and they all had "new" shoes that didn't pinch their growing feet. There were even winter coats for them.
The bathroom had been sanitized for the first time in months, it seemed. Now the children could bathe without fear of cross-contamination. The older children had no qualms about regular bathing, but the younger ones needed a little more persuading. The two youngest boys had a screaming aversion to soap, and Dimitra had a battle royal to get them into the tub. Having raised three boys of her own, she had plenty of experience to draw upon.
Heather was her aide-de-camp with the younger children. Dimitra didn't know how she could have functioned without her. She was like a second mother to them despite her tender years. Tall for her age, she was practically an adult, yet there was so much she did not know concerning her changing body. It was all Dimitra could do to calm her down when she got her first menses, carefully explaining to her about the process taking place inside her, and congratulating her on becoming a woman. She made sure Heather had all the necessary supplies for this time of the month.
Roland was still a child in many ways. Playing basketball, he was poetry in motion, but when it came to performing basic chores, or even coming down the stairs, he was awkward and stumbling, tripping over his growing feet, almost a man's size. He was always hungry; Dimitra had to constantly remind him that the others had to eat too, and not be so greedy. But her could not help it. No matter how much he ate, his stomach always demanded more.
Buddy, Buck and Jamal were thick as thieves, always plotting some sort of mischief. Little Chris tried to tag along, but was always told that he was "too little". Aaron and Austin, the two brothers, were practically joined at the hip, they were so close. Derek was the ray of sunshine in the house. His smile could brighten a room in a blackout. Brandy was helpful enough, more out of fear of punishment than anything. When Dimitra was moving the girl's things into their new room, she found some bits of food and some coins among Brandy's things. She discovered that Brandy's mother had been convicted of shoplifitng and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. In other words, she practically taught Brandy to steal. Dimitra made a mental note to keep an eye on her, and to lock up her purse when she was here.
China was still a hard sell. Angry, withdrawn, she scowled at Dimitra whenever she crossed her path. She trusted no one, not even Heather. Dimitra looked beyond the hardness of China's eyes and saw the pain of an abandoned child in them. She would have to make a special effort to reach out to her. It would take time, but with God's help, Dimitra knew she would win China over.
Tanvi was a dark beauty. She had lost her family in a house fire, rescued by a fire fighter. She used words which made no sense to Dimitra, as if she spoke another language altogether. Her hair was a jet black and her teeth were a dentist's dream, so straight and white they were. It was a joy to see her smile.
Kira, only four, was still a baby in many ways. She had recieved little in the way of toilet training, and was so affection-starved she clung to Dimitra like a monkey. Dimitra had to pry her away so she could get some work done. And Baby Mia, the youngest, was in the worst shape of all. Burned, maimed, and missing her left hand, she just sat there, staring with those big brown eyes. She was not responsive to any type of stimulation. Dimitra wondered if Mia was brain-damaged as well. So much suffering for one tiny baby, she thought. She did not even try to talk. She put whatever was given her into her mouth, regardless of what it was. Every time Dimitra looked at her, she kept thinking of Christopher back in the hospital, his neck and face burned, though not as severely, his eyes bound in gauze, blinded by the blast of the Vegas Bomber's pipe bomb.
No, she told herself. She was here to forget all that. Christopher fully recoverd, God be praised, and now these children needed to recover from the traumas of their own lives. She would see to that. And they would heal her as well from her own trauma.
12-03-2012, 12:26 AM
This story makes me smile :)
12-03-2012, 06:58 PM
Hundreds gathered in the desert valley where, less than four months before, Criss Angel was about to perform a motorcycle demonstration when the Vegas Bomber struck, almost killing him. The Loyals among the crowd spoke of their shock and grief of that day, pointing to where they stood and what they saw. Many shed tears as they related their stories, their emotions welling up as fresh as the day of the attack. Others vented their outrage at the Bomber, damning him to the lowest, foulest depths of Hell. Yet there were those who had moved on, who had given themselves closure, looking forward, not backward. They were here to see Criss Angel perform his demonstration, not repeat history. To these confident souls, a lot of water had gone under the bridge since then.
Criss himself felt the same way, as he prepared mind, body and spirit for this latest stunt. He had a lot more to overcome than his beloved Loyals, as this affected him more personally. Once bitten, twice shy did not apply to him. Yet there was a lingering sense of foreboding, a residual fear still clinging to the darkest corner of his soul. It was for this reason that he wanted to do this demonstration. Indeed, had to do it, to lay the demon of the past to rest once and for all. Not only did he have to overcome whatever fears he still had since the attack for his own sake, but for the sake of the Loyals as well. A man had to look at himself in the mirror, and he had to look at the Loyals as well. If he didn't do this, he thought, he would lose whatever respect the Loyals had for him, and what he had for himself. Once completed, the ghost of the Vegas Bomber would be exorcised once and for all.
The signal came that all was ready. Criss knelt down for a final prayer. He always prayed silently, as he believed that whatever was between man and God was personal, and being in the public eye so much, very little in his life was kept personal. He quickly blessed himself, rose and strode to his motorcycle (a different one, as the first was demolished beyond repair). He mounted it, kicked the starter, and rode to greet the cheering crowd. The Angel was back! Nothing could stop him now!
Meanwhile, back in New York, Dimitra treated her young charges to a trip to a local playground. It was a warm, sunny day in mid-June, and they needed to get away from that stifiling old house. It would be a great opportunity for them to meet others their age, as well as get some fresh air and exercise.
She herded the children to the playground, admonishing them to stay together and not wander off; she didn't want to lose any of them. It was a short walk, but children being what they are, there was always the danger of one or two going astray, running into oncoming traffic in the street, or just turning up missing somehow. Mercifully, they all arrived safely, every one present and accounted for. Once on the playground, they all cut loose, screaming for joy and stampeding for the swings, slides and jungle gyms. Even little China showed some enthusiasm, brushing off the chip on her shoulder long enough to climb a wooden platform and slide down a yellow plastic spiral tunnel.
Dimitra sat down, relieved of her burden. Even with help, tending to the needs of fourteen children was exhausting, especially at her age. She had spent almost a thousand dollars of her own money on top of the monthy stipend given to her by Mr. Webber and the four thousand given to her by her son, Christopher. The other day she had gone into Mr. Webber's office and demanded why things had gotten so bad for the children. He explained to her that the last volunteer had let things slide and even physically abused them. He threw her out on her ear, of course, and it was a mercy Dimitra had shown up. He promised he would reimburse her for her expenses, and was deeply grateful she had gone above and beyond the call of duty for these kids. He only wished he could hire her full time, but finances being what they are and all...
Dimitra was glad to help, she had said. The care for all those children had been a great boon to her as well. She found herself telling Mr. Webber about her kidnapping ordeal, and of her escape. She even told him about her son, Christopher, being a victim as well while performing as Criss Angel, and his generous donation of four thousand dollars for the children.
Mr. Webber's eyebrows rose to his sweaty forehead. "Your son is Criss Angel, the magician?" he asked incredulously.
"Yes, he is," Dimitra smiled proudly. "But to me, he is my Christopher, my little boy." She gave a little laugh when she said that.
Mr. Webber humphed, impressed. "Very interesting," he mumbled.
Now, here she sat on the playground bench, watching her charges run and play with children who were fortunate to have families of their own. Roland was going one-on-one with another youth at the basketball court some yards away. Heather allowed herself to swing on the swings, relieving herself of her self-imposed adult responsibilites for the first time. The others had scattered like chickens, now on the swings, now on the slide, now climbing the jungle gym, and back again. Baby Mia sat in her carrier beside Dimitra, staring dully into space, oblivious to the action.
As she oversaw the children at their play, she noticed Tanvi approaching a Muslim woman, covered head to toe in a blue hijab and chador. "Mama?" Tanvi said to the strange woman.
Dimitra rose and trotted over to Tanvi, pulling her back. "No, dear, she's not your mama," she explained as gently as she could to the little girl. She turned to the woman in the hijab. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "She didn't mean it. She is a foster child in my care."
"I see," the Muslim woman said as she studied Tanvi carefully. "Where is her mother, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Her whole family was killed in a house fire." Dimitra explained. "She is the only survivor."
Tanvi said something incomprehensible to Dimitra, but for the Muslim woman, it spoke volumes. "Do you know this child speaks Arabic?" she asked.
"I wondered what she was saying," Dimitra replied, surprised at this revelation. Then a thought struck her. "Do you think you could help? The foster home where she lives is crowded with thirteen other children, and it is a struggle to keep them fed and cared for. If you can find her relatives, or someone who would be willing to take her in, it would be a great relief to all of us."
The Muslim woman thought for a minute. "I can contact Islamic Social Services, and see what they can do," she suggested. "I am sure they can find a way to help this child, God willing."
"Oh, thank you!" Dimitra was grateful beyond words for this woman's help. "Thank you so much, uh..."
"Musavi. Nurieh Musavi. And over there is my husband, Mahmood." She pointed to a bearded man in more conventional clothes approaching. Mrs. Musavi rose and explained everything to her husband in Arabic. His face expressed interest, then concern, then assent with a nod of his head. Mrs. Musavi turned back to Dimitra. "We will contact ISS and the Imam of our mosque," she told her. "God willing, we will be able to help this child find a proper home."
"May God bless you all!" Dimitra clasped her hands in delight and gratitiude. "If I can help at least one of these poor children, I am glad to do so."
"And may God bless you, Mrs..."
"Sarantakos. Dimitra Sarantakos."
"Ah! Greek, are you?" Mahmood Musavi smiled. "Lovely country, Greece. So rich and full of history."
"Why, thank you, Mr. Musavi." Dimitra was flattered. Such a wonderful man! Such wonderful people to reach out to help a homeless child! And to think there were those who thought Muslims were all terrorists! She prudently kept that thought to herself. She did not want to offend the Musavis in any way, not when they offered to help Tanvi. She gave them the address of the foster home and the phone number where she could be reached. They bowed and left with their two sons who had been at the playground as well. She wished them luck and hoped for the best.
Dear Lord, she prayed, thank You for this encounter with the Musavis. Give them success in finding a family for little Tanvi. May the children You placed in my care all find loving, caring families of their own. Amen.
The preparations for George and Angela's wedding were in full swing. Molina, George's mother, had flown in from New York early to help out any way she could. It was sad that Angela had no family of her own, she had said, save for that sister of hers in prison. George had told her about Bianca--such a selfish, greedy woman to do such things to her own sister, just to get her money! Molina was glad Bianca was behind bars. Such a woman would ruin everything.
Angela, on the other hand, was as good as her name, a perfect angel of a girl who taught school and helped the homeless. Molina had liked her from the moment she met her, last October at dinner before the big charity auction (4). She was so shy and sweet. She would be a welcome addition to the Strumpolis family.
Molina rode in a cab to the Luxor to meet George and Angela from the airport. She so looked forward to the wedding. It was going to be beautiful. She wished it had been in New York, but since George worked for his cousin, Christopher, or Criss, as he wanted to be known, and Angela taught school here, it had to be held in Las Vegas. She had put her foot down when it came to the location of the wedding. No outrageous Vegas style weddings for her family, with Elvis impersonators officiating, or such nonsense like that! She had made her position quite clear: "You were born in the Church, you will marry in the Church, you will die in the Church," she had insisted. Case closed. George had simply smiled sheepishly; Christopher muttered something about two down and one to go.
The reception could be anywhere they wanted, however; she was more flexible about that. Criss offered the Grand Ballroom at the Luxor--expensive, but convenient. No long distance traveling required, and she knew where it was.
The cab pulled up to the Luxor main entrance. George was there, waiting. Angela was missing, this being her day at the shelter. George came up and gave his mom a big hug as the cab driver pulled out Molina's luggage. "How ya doin', Ma?" George greeted her jovially.
"Oh, I am so happy to be here!" she gushed. "Where is Angela? I want to see my daughter-in-law!"
"She's at the shelter today," George answered. "Say! How'd you like to come with me when I pick her up? You can see the shelter for yourself."
Molina had heard about Sanctuary secondhand, knowing her famous nephew had sold his cars to raise money for it, God bless him, but she had never seen it. "All right! I would love to!" she answered.
"Great! Then we can all go out for dinner." George escorted his mother into the hotel, with an attendant wheeling her bags on a brass luggage cart behind them. Molina checked into her room at the desk and made her way toward the elevators. It had been a long trip, and she was tired. She wanted to rest a bit before going to the shelter.
"How's Aunt Dimitra?" George asked. "Criss says she's doing volunteer work with orphans or something."
"That's right, she is," Molina confirmed. "She works at this foster home with fourteen children in it. It was so filthy she had to call me, Popi and Costa for help." She shook her head at the memory of the sordid conditions of that house. "It would disgust you to have seen it. I can't even begin to describe it, it was so horrible."
"Well, I'm sure Aunt Dima's got it under control by now." George nodded confidently. "Those kids got a great person to care for them."
"And she spent a near fortune out of her own pocket to feed them and clothe them," Molina continued. "She says the state gives her only sixteen hundred a month for all of their needs."
"Sixteen hundred a month for fourteen kids?" George echoed as he tried to do the math. That amounted to about one hundred and fourteen dollars per kid per month. No way. You couldn't take care of a dog on that kind of income these days. Somthing was defianatly wrong with this picture.
"You think Aunt Dima will make it to the wedding?" George asked.
"Of course she will!" Molina assured him. "She would not miss it for the world."
"Please, Mr. Webber," Dimitra pleaded. "This is my nephew's wedding. I need time off to attend it. It's all the way in Las Vegas, and I need time to get there. I promised I would be there, and I haven't seen my sons in months."
"And who is going to take care of the children?" Mr. Webber wanted to know. "I need you here, Dimitra. The children need you here."
"I don't know." Dimitra searched her brain for an answer. "I'll find someone to cover for me. I promise."
"You'd better," Mr. Webber said. "You just can't take off and leave these kids unattended."
"I would never do that," Dimitra protested. "I love those children, and would never do anything to harm them."
"All right, if you can find a substitute, I'll let you go to the wedding." Mr. Webber conceded.
"Thank you, sir! I won't be long, just for a few days."
"Fine," Mr. Webber muttered absently. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have work to do."
Dimitra left the office, careful not to trip over anything on the floor in the cluttered office. She had to find a substitute, and fast. Maybe some of the nuns at the church could help? It was worth a try. One thing was for sure. She was not going to miss George's wedding for anything, not for anything! But she could not leave these children unsupervised. It was as she told Mr. Webber: she loved them and would not harm them for anything. She would only be gone a few days.
But a lot could happen in those few days--a fire, an illness, anything. She could be held for neglect if anything happened while she was gone. No. She would find someone responsible enough to cover for her. She had her own family to think of as well. Besides, she missed her own children. She was a mother first, even if her own sons were grown up men, she still felt maternal instincts for them. Anyway, a little time off from her duties would be refreshing. She'd worked so hard these past few weeks and was tired. She needed a break.
She called the convent when she got home. To her joy and relief, the Reverend Mother agreed to send a couple of sisters to tend to the children while she was gone. Now she could go to the wedding with a clear conscience. Everything would work out fine. There was nothing to worry about. For the first time in weeks, Dimitra relaxed, confident that there would be no trouble.
(4) See "The Cave of Sorrow".
12-05-2012, 09:51 PM
The MindFreak crew gathered around Criss, congratulating him on his successful demonstration. Criss smiled and high-fived his crew despite his near exhaustion. Everything had gone exactly as planned, just like clockwork. He could not remember the last time he had heard such enthusiastic cheering. The crowd practically screamed when he emerged from his motorcycle disappearing act. If security had not been as diligent as it had been, there would have been a stampede into the valley. As for Criss himself, he was glad he made it out in one piece this time. There had been no pipe bombs, no attacks, no trouble of any kind. He had finally driven the ghost of the Vegas Bomber out of his psyche for good and always. What lingering fear had remained had been overcome. He was fully healed.
To the multitude of Loyals outside, it was more than a MindFreak demonstration, it was a triumph over death itself. The horror they had witnessed barely four months ago was all but forgotten. Criss' triumphant return after so much personal and professional tragedy was like experiencing a resurrection from the dead. Criss would rule forever! they believed. He was the MindFreak! He was invincible! He was immortal!
Meanwhile, the invincible, immortal Criss Angel sat in the RV, his head slumped to his knees, breathing hard and perspiring heavily. The rush of adrenalin was receding, leaving him drained of all energy. George, his cousin, handed him a bottle of spring water. Criss accepted it with a grateful nod, sipping carefully. He knew from experience that chugging cold water after heavy exertion led to severe cramping of the stomach muscles. He savored each sip, letting the water douse his thrist like a flame.
"You gonna be okay?" George asked.
Criss nodded, still taking his time with the water.
"You'd better be okay," George chided him good-naturedly. "After all, you're one of my groomsmen, right?"
Criss smiled. He had been honored to be asked to be George's best man at his wedding. After all, George had explained to him, he was the one who bought Angie and him together in the first place. However, that honor had been rescinded by his Aunt Molina and the Church due to his divorce. A compromise had been struck by allowing him to be a groomsman; JD would serve as best man, instead. Bowing to pressure, Criss acquiesd. Still, it was a pleasure to be a member of George's wedding party, in whatever capacity he served.
Through his exhaustion, Criss felt a glow of pride, a sense of accomplishment, and not from the successful completion of the demonstration. He had bought two lonely people together, they had fallen in love and were getting married. That, in his mind, was true magic.
He was bought up short by a thought. "Hey, when is Mom coming in?"
"She said she'd be here a couple of days before the wedding," JD informed him. "Then she's gotta leave right after."
"What's the deal?" Criss was puzzled. "Didn't she want to stay a little longer?"
"She says she's gotta go back to the foster home and the kids. It was all she could do to get time off for the wedding."
Criss thought about that. He was proud of his mother taking on such a challenge of caring for these poor kids, but he was also worried that she was spreading herself too thin. Costa said she spent her own money on them because the welfare office sent only sixteen hundred a month for all of them. She was working herself to a frazzle, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and caring for fourteen kids, each with special needs of their own. She already had one heart scare, and at her age the stress would do her in.
Criss vowed to make absolutely sure his mother got the rest she needed while she was here in Vegas. No work, no worries, just pure relaxation. She would have a good time at the wedding. He'd make sure of that.
The sisters from the convent arrived just as Dimitra was giving her final instructions to the children. "Now, I want all of you to be on your best behavior while I am gone," she told them firmly. "Mind the sisters, do your schoolwork and your chores as you were assigned, and keep your regular bedtime. I'll be back in a few days. If you are good, I'll bring you all a treat. Understand?"
The children nodded assent. There was a knock at the door. Dimitra went to answer it. Two middle aged women in grey veils and simple grey dresses stood on the stoop.
"Come in, sisters!" Dimitra welcomed them warmly. "All right, everyone, this is Sister Eleanor and Sister Dorothy. They will be your caregivers while I am gone."
"Hello, children," Sister Eleanor smiled at them. The children merely stared at the strangely dressed women before them. They had never seen nuns before, and wern't sure what to make of them.
"Well, I'm off now," Dimitra said, picking up her suitcase. "I'm sure everything will be all right."
"Don't worry about a thing, dear," Sister Dorothy assured her. "We will make sure these children will be properly cared for. You go and enjoy yourself at the wedding."
"Thank you, Sister." Dimitra made for the front door, but felt herself being anchored down by a howling Kira clinging to her leg.
"NOOOOOOOO!" Kira wailed, clutching Dimitra for dear life. "NOOOOOOOOO!"
Dimitra set down her luggage and pried Kira from her leg. "Now, Kira," she spoke firmly to the hysterical child. "You stop that crying this instant! I'll only be gone for a short while. If you are a good girl, I'll bring you a treat. All right?"
Kira flung her little arms around Dimitra's neck. "Kira, I can't take you with me," Dimitra said. "Now, be a good girl and let go."
Heather stepped forward and relieved her of Kira. The tiny girl wailed piteously, stretching out her tiny arms to Dimitra.
"Maaaaamaaaaaaaaa!" Kira cried. "Maaaaamaaaaaa!"
"Just go," Sister Dorothy told Dimitra. "We'll handle Kira and the rest."
Dimitra was all but pushed out the door by the nuns. She felt guilty as she rode away in the cab to the airport. It was like being a new mother all over again. When JD was born, she could not bear to leave him behind, even with a relative to watch him. She had been so full of anxiety and guilt, it was a wonder she had any type of social life at all. When Costa and Christopher arrived, the anxiety was there, but less of it as she became more experienced. Now, as she sat in the back of the cab, she felt the same way with Kira. She was not even her own child, but the guilt feeling of abandonment was the same.
Artie Creed walked into the manager's office after his show was completed for the day. He had received a message marked "urgent!!" and to see Morty Bernhard ASAP. What the hell did Morty want now? Artie thought irritably.
Morty Bernhard, the station's manager, sat at his desk with a grim expression on his face. "Sit down, Artie," he ordered.
Artie sat down in one of the vinyl chairs across from Morty's desk, aloof and unconcerned. "Okay, Morty, what's the deal?"
Morty held up a sheaf of papers aloft, then threw them down in front of Artie. "This is the deal," he replied. "These are complaints from listeners about your show, Artie. Your last crack about Criss Angel really set people off."
"Hey, you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen," Artie shrugged. "It's not my fault the guy's thin-skinned."
Morty picked up a page from the desk. "Yesterday morning, you said, and I quote, 'When is Criss Angel going to get his mommy's you-know-what out of his mouth and become a man instead of an overgrown mama's boy?' " Morty flung the page away. "Do you know how many angry calls we got over that one? We lost our account with the Luxor because of it! You're costing us money, Creed! I should fire you right now."
"You do that," Creed countered, "and I'll sue you for the remainder of my contract! I'm the only deejay keeping this podunk station on the air! Without me, KLOL would be under in a minute!"
"You got a lot of chutzpah, Creed." Morty growled. "Just keep in mind, I pay your salary. I'm giving you one more chance to clean up your act, against my better judgement, I'll admit. Just play the music on the list and keep your opinions to yourself from now on, and maybe you'll keep your job. But," Morty leaned forward, glaring at Artie straight in his bespectacled face. "Screw up one more time, if I get one more complaint like this about you, you are out on your ass! And I'll have the FCC revoke your license! You got that?"
Artie stormed out of the manager's office in a rage, slamming the door behind him. Morty woudn't have the wontons to fire him, he knew. He was the one who gave KLOL its personality. So what if a few empty-headed Criss Angel fans got their panties in a twist over what he said! He saw Criss for what he was--a fraud and a show-off who still ran to his mommy to change his diaper. No one--not Morty, not the FCC, not the so-called Loyals, no one!--told Artie Creed what to do or say on the air! He had the power of the airwaves, and the backing of the First Amendment to do as he pleased.
12-06-2012, 05:39 AM
'When is Criss Angel going to get his mommy's you-know-what out of his mouth and become a man instead of an overgrown mama's boy?'
If that was a real can we say lawsuit for demantion of character
12-06-2012, 07:04 PM
I think you mean "defamation". And a lawsuit would only make things worse.
12-06-2012, 07:17 PM
"Good morning, Mrs. D." Matt Behr, the parking attendant, drawled with his characteristic Southern charm. "Good to see you back again."
"Thank you," Dimitra replied. Two other attendants pulled out her suitcase and set it on the trolley. The automatic doors slid noiselessly open for her as she entered the atrium. It amazed her to see the Luxor so perfectly restored. She clearly remembered the damage from the car bomb four months ago--shattered glass, charred plants, total chaos. But she resolved to put all that behind her. Her nephew was getting married and she would allow no bad memories to spoil the occasion.
She checked into her room and settled down for a nap. Strange that no one was in the atrium to greet her. Christopher was always there whenever she arrived in Las Vegas. Today there was no sign of him. Oh, well, he was probably busy with other things, like his show. He would turn up eventually. As she lay on the bed, she was startled by some movement beside her. The bed had been perfectly flat when she first entered, but now there was a huge lump forming under the coverlet. She pulled it away, revealing her famous son.
"Hi, Mom!" Criss smiled mischieviously.
"Oh, you...!" She reached out to embrace him, and he to her. Dimitra loved her son dearly, no question about it, but there were times when he could be so exasperating, she wanted to throttle him. Jumping off the roof of the house when he was a boy, setting the brand new carpeting on fire while she and her husband were in Greece, his menagerie of pets, his death-defying demonstrations--it was not easy being the mother of a magician, especially one as extraordinarily talented and insanly daring as her Christopher.
"How was the trip?" Criss asked, rising from the bed.
"Fine," she replied. "But I am so tired, I need a nap."
"Sure," Criss smiled understandingly. "You get some rest. Those foster kids must have really worn you out."
His mother nodded, kicking off her shoes and lying down on the king-sized bed. "They need so much, yet there is so little I can do." she sighed.
Criss sat beside her, lowering his face towards hers. "You've done more for those kids than anyone else." he said. "You knocked yourself out for them. You're the best mom any kid could wish for." He gave her a kiss on the forehead. "Now, you get some rest. I don't want you falling asleep during the wedding."
Dimitra laughed a little. "Good night, darling. I love you." She gave him a final hug.
Criss hugged her back. "I love you more," he said.
Dimitra drifted off to sleep as Criss exited the room, carefully closing the door behind him. Poor Mom, she's really exhausted. All those kids! he thought. At least Aunt Stella and Aunt Popi were there to help. Costa, too. No way could she have done it alone.
Criss made his way to the MindFreak office, to meet up with his brothers. Costa had arrived a week earlier from New York to help out with the demonstration. Criss was thankful his brother had gone home to be with Mom during that difficult period of recovery from the kidnapping trauma. Thanks to him, their mother had made tremendous progress in overcoming her PSTD.
When he stepped into the office, however, he found both brothers in front of a computer monitor, looking angry at something.
"Hey, guys," he greeted them cautiously. "What's going on?"
"You heard Artie Creed lately?" JD looked up from the monitor. "He's really hitting below the belt this time!"
"Artie Creed can go to Hell!" Criss said dismissivly. "Everyone knows what a dipwad he is!"
"Yeah? Well, this time he's dissing Mom!" JD turned on the monitor.
Mom?! Criss stared at the monitor with the KLOL website on it. He didn't catch the whole broadcast, but the words "...needs to get his mommy's (thing) out of his mouth and become a man," incensed him. He had put up with Artie's ragging for years now, ignoring it, brushing it off, even laughing about how it boosted his ratings. But now Creed had crossed a line. No one, but no one, dissed his mother! For the first time, he wanted to kick Artie Creed's ass.
He planted himself into a desk chair, fuming. "When was this made?" he demanded.
"Yesterday morning," Costa answered. "It's all over the Internet. In fact, I got word from Felix that he's withdrawn advertising from the station in protest."
Criss smiled. Good old Felix Rappaport! The CEO of the Luxor Hotel and Casino had risen to his star client's defense by striking them where they lived, in the pocketbook. No where else on this Earth did money speak louder than in Las Vegas. Still, Criss felt a need for some personal payback, for his mother's sake.
He logged onto the 'Net himself on the nearest terminal. He was going to find Artie Creed and tell him just exactly what he thought of his broadcast, and he was going to do it in person. If he called the station, he'd be cut off, and any e-mail would be deleted. No, this was going to be person-to-person, one-on-one, mano-a-mano. He found the information he was looking for, printed it out, and snatched the sheet of paper from the printer.
"Excuse me," he said. "I'm going to pay a little visit to a certain radio personality."
Brenda Creed struggled through a particularly difficult piece. Lots of sixteenth-notes, virtually no rests in between. She focused all her attention on the score in front of her, not noticing that Artie had just entered the room.
Artie was ticked off big time. He'd just been chewed out by his boss and now there was Brenda, sawing away on that stupid violin! Like she cared at all about him! Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle! That was all she did anymore! No cooking, no cleaning, nothing!
He seized the instrument by the fret out of Brenda's hands and smashed it aganst the brick hearth, splintering it into pieces.
"Artieeeee!" Brenda shrieked at him. "You stupid idiot! What have you done?!"
Brenda collapsed to the floor, sobbing over her lost instument. "I hate you!!" she screamed through her tears. "I had that violin ever since I was a kid!"
"It's time to grow up, Brenda." Artie sneered. "And put away childish things. Look at it this way--you and I can make beautiful music together in the bedroom, like a wife should do for her husband."
Brenda ran sobbing into the bedroom, slamming the door behind her. Artie could still hear her loud wails from the hallway. "It's just a freaking violin, for chrissake!" Artie protested, pounding on the door. He tried to open it, but it wouldn't budge. She must have wedged a chair under the knob. "Fine!" he shouted. "Be a crybaby if you want! I'm out of here!"
Artie stormed out of the house and sped off in his car. He knew where he could find a real woman to tend to his needs.
No sooner did Artie leave than Criss arrived at the Creed residence. He strode up to the front door as angrily as Artie had left it.
"Open up, Creed!" Criss hammered on the door and rang the bell at the same time. "I know you're in there!"
Brenda recovered from her rage and grief long enough to look out the window to see who was at the door. She was surprised to see Criss Angel, of all people, standing there. She pulled herself together and went to answer the door.
Criss almost lunged through the entrance in his fury, but was stopped short of the sight of a rather attractive woman in the way.
"Where's Creed?" he demanded. "I want to talk to him."
"You're the only one who does," she replied bitterly, "because I'm not speaking to him! He just left."
"Who are you, anyway?" Criss inquired.
"I'm his wife, Brenda." she admitted almost ashamedly.
Artie has a wife?! Criss was incredulous. Geez, the poor girl! He could tell she had been crying. That shouldn't be a surprise, considering.
"Would you like to come in?" Brenda opened the door wider.
Criss stepped inside, thanking her. He looked around the spacious living room. The decor was tasteful but expensive, a sort of if-you-got-it-flaunt-it kind of style. He did notice the overturned music stand, and the ruins of a violin by the hearth. "Whose is that" he asked.
"Mine," Brenda replied, choking back tears. "It was my only pleasure in life to play, and today...Artie smashed it!"
Pity welled up in Criss' heart. It was bad enough to be married to that jerk, but to destroy her greatest pleasure was downright criminal. To have one's dreams crushed was unbearable to him. He put a comforting arm around Brenda.
Brenda was startled. For the first time in the five years she had been married to Artie, she felt a tender, caring touch. Her husband had used her as a verbal punching bag, a sounding board for his latest insults. Now, here was a man who actually cared about her, cared enough to comfort her in her grief. His touch was, to use such a hackneyed phrase, magical.
Impulsively, she threw her arms around him. She wanted more and more of that magical feeling of tenderness. She was starved for affection, no matter who it was. Five years of her life was wasted on Artie and his needs. She gave up a promising career in the Symphony for that ungrateful wretch! And all she had to show for it was a violin as shattered as her dreams.
Criss did his best to console her. He wondered how this beautiful, talented woman could marry such a worthless so-and-so like Artie Creed. She deserved better. He stroked her hair, caressed her shoulders, even kissed her neck. Artie wasn't worthy of this woman.
They disengaged and sat down on the sofa. Brenda launched into her story of their meeting, their courtship, her sacrificing of her chance to play for the Seattle Symphony to marry him, and her misery following it. Criss told her of the crack Artie had made about his mother, and how she already had suffered so much in the past.
Brenda sighed. It was so like Artie to go for the jugular like that. He was always getting on Criss' case for some reason or another. She had no idea why. The man sitting before her was nothing like Artie said. He was no mama's boy, no egotisitcal showoff, no fraud. Indeed, she could sense his feelings were genuine.
"I'm sorry about that," she said. "Artie can be so...so..."
"Asinine?" Criss prompted. "You don't need to apologize, Brenda. He does."
"He won't," she sighed, "He never does. He's the kind of man who'd rather be right than sorry."
"You know when he'll be home?"
"I don't know," Brenda shrugged, "and personally, I don't care! He can go to Hell as far as I'm concerned."
"You thinking about leaving him?"
"I've thought about it for a long time now," she confessed. "But I have nowhere to go." She looked up at him. "You're a magician, right?"
"Well, yeah, it's in my job description," Criss replied with a smile.
"Then, make me disappear!" she pleaded. "Send me back in time when Artie proposed so I can say no, and go on to play for the Symphony, no matter what my mother said. Then, I'll be happy again. Transport me by magic to some place far away so I can reclaim my life. Take me with you! Please, Criss, take me with you!"
She clung to him in desperation. Attractive as she was to him, he still had reservatons about having an affair with another man's wife, even if it was Artie Creed's. His strict religious upbringing prohibited it. But then, he'd done a lot of things that his strict religious upbringing prohibited anyway. And she was pretty hot.
He gazed into Brenda's big sky-blue eyes. It was as if he could dive into them like pristine pools of water. Artie did not deserve this treasure of a woman, he thought. She had given up her own dreams for that dipwad. Well, we all make bad choices in life, he reflected. God knew he made a lot of them himself, too numerous to mention. Maybe he could help salvage hers.
Brenda, in turn, lost herself in Criss' eyes, those beautiful hazel eyes which, she recalled, had been nearly destroyed by that maniac who blew up the Luxor and the Magic Castle. To see them, and for them to see her, was proof that there really was a God. She wanted him like she wanted no other man in her life. To hell with Artie! She wanted Criss.
The wedding was beautiful. Dimitra watched, misty-eyed as her sons walked down the aisle in their black tuxedos with the bridesmaids, JD escorting the maid of honor, Costa and Christopher as groomsmen with the bridesmaids. Angela was a vision of lovliness in her Vera Wang gown, escorted by one of the senior teachers from the school where she taught, her father having died long ago. She could see George beaming with pride at the sight of his bride approaching. Dimitra recalled her first meeting with Angela: she had seemed so plain, so thin when she first met her nephew's intended. Now she was a princess, a very princess, walking up the nave of the church to meet her prince.
Molina could not stop blubbering throughout the service. She went through nearly an entire packet of tissues, and ruined her makeup in the bargain. As the priest gave the couple his final blessing, Molina broke down completely. It was usually the mother of the bride who was traditionally the most tearful. but Molina was entitled to a few tears as mother of the groom.
The reception was as lavish as Las Vegas could make it. The wedding cake itself nearly reached the ceiling. The dinner, five courses in all, was so sumptuous Dimitra despaired fitting into her clothes ever again. And, of course, Christopher could not resist doing a little magic on the side. It was George and Angela's wedding, but Christopher always had to be the center of attention.
It had been a fairy-tale ending to a year of tragedy. The horrors of the past were just that--past. For the first time in months, Dimitra could relax and enjoy herself. It was a pity she could not stay longer, but she had a responsibility to the foster children back at the home.
Criss watched curiously as his mother packed away a dozen pieces of boxed wedding cake. "Mom," he asked, "what're you doing?"
"I'm taking some cake home for the children at the foster home," she answered simply. "I told them if they behaved, I would bring them a treat."
Well, that made sense. Criss just hoped she'd be able to get all that cake through airport security. There were rules about transporting food on commercial airlines. It was nice of her, though, to bring those kids something special, even if it was leftover wedding cake. It just went to prove what a wonderful woman his mother was.
Artie Creed came home in the wee hours of the morning, mellowed out from his "date" with a couple of Vegas hookers. He had just enough time to grab a few hours sleep, shower, and head to the station for the morning show. He may have stirred up a few hornet's nests in his time, but he had never been late. He owed his listeners that much, at least.
The house was pitch black when he pulled up in the driveway; not even the porch light was on. He stumbled to the front door, and noticed a white rectangle taped to it. He pulled it off and saw his name on it, in what looked like Brenda's handwriting. He fumbled for his housekey and went into the house. Switching on the light, he unfolded the note and read the contents:
Dear Artie: I don't know why I am calling you "dear", because there is nothing endearing about you. I wasted five years of my life, sacrificing my hopes and dreams for you, you ungrateful a**hole! You trashed them like you trashed my violin, my only pleasure in life. When you talked me into marrying you, you said no one could love me more than you. If you call your abuse of me "love", then I don't want it. I deserve better.
I am filing for divorce and going back to Seattle to reclaim my life. If you want to contact me, you can call my lawyer. Her number is at the bottom. I do have talent, Artie. I have more talent than you will ever have.
Good-bye and go to Hell!
Artie crumpled the note and threw it on the floor. Ungrateful b***h! he thought. He strode to the mini-bar and poured himself a strong one. After all I did for her! I gave her a nice home, nice clothes, great sex, and the b***h dumps me! He downed his drink in one manly gulp. Where'd she be without me? Ah, who needs her anyway?
Deep down inside, Artie knew he did.
It was Dimitra's first day back at the home from her Vegas trip. She walked up to the front door of Mr. Webber's house, clutching the plastic bag full of boxed wedding cake for the children. She hoped they had minded the sisters and kept a reasonable degree of order.
Well, the house was still standing, she joked to herself. It was the same quip her husband used when they left the boys alone for an evening. Well, the house is still standing, I guess they went to bed! She could not help but recall the time Christopher had set the new carpet on fire while they were in Greece. It was a wonder he didn't burn the house down! She devoutly hoped there were no similar catastrophes in the home.
Buck was looking out the window when he saw Dimitra coming. "She's here!" he announced. "Mrs. S. is back!"
He ran to tell the others the good news. They all ran downstairs to greet her, remembering her promise for a treat. It was all the nuns could do to restore order. "All right! Settle down!" Sister Dorothy commanded them, clapping her hands for attention. I know your are happy to see Mrs. Sarantakos again, but there is no need to act like a bunch of wild animals."
Dimitra entered the large foyer to a tumultuous welcome. She was almost smothered by all the hugs and kisses. Not even the Loyals, Criss' fans, showed such devotion to her. Not even her own sons, for that matter.
"All right, everyone!" she gasped. "Let an old lady get her breath! Dear me! You think I'd been gone for years!"
Most of them backed off, allowing her to go over to the nuns. "How was everything?" she asked.
"Well," Sister Eleanor began hesitantly. "We had a little trouble at first, but then things started to go a bit more smoothly."
"We received a call from Islamic Social Services," Sister Dorothy informed her, "regarding one of the children."
"Ah, yes," Dimitra suddenly remembered. "I had spoken to a couple who offered to call them to help find a family for Tanvi."
"They said they'd be here tomorrow." Sister Dorothy said, though she seemed less than enthusiastic than Dimitra was.
"That is wonderful! I'll make sure Tanvi is ready for them." Dimitra smiled.
"But, Dimitra, why an Islamic organization?" Sister Dorothy inquired suspiciously.
"Because Tanvi was raised in a Muslim home, and she speaks Arabic. She belongs with her own kind."
"But, wouldn't Tanvi be better off in a more...Christian environment?" Sister Eleanor spoke up.
"Sisters," Dimitra replied patiently. "We all want what is best for these children. And I do not want to rob Tanvi of her heritage. No, Sister, Tanvi would be worse off if she was denied the right to learn the religion of her family. The Musavis were very generous to offer to help her. If leaving foster care to live with a real family means being raised Muslim, then so be it. Tanvi is very fortuante to receive this assistance. I just wish the others would be so lucky as well. Now, is there anything else I should be aware of?"
"Well, the baby is sick." Sister Dorothy told her.
"Sick!" Dimitra was alarmed. "How badly?"
"She was running a temperature, so we took her to the doctor." Sister Dorothy replied. "She had developed some sort of infection, so she is in the children's hospital."
A wave of guilt swept over Dimitra. "Now, dear," Sister Eleanor consoled her. "Don't blame yourself. No one saw this coming. It happened yesterday. We took care of it. Everything's under control. I'm sure it's minor. Children come down with all sorts of diseases. She's in our prayers."
"Thank you, Sisters," Dimitra said. "Still, I can't help but feel a bit guilty about leaving for Las Vegas and--"
"Don't," Sister Dorothy ordered her. "As Sister Eleanor said, no one saw this coming. These things happen. She's in God's hands now. We'll pray for you and these children."
They bid her good-bye and left. Dimitra sighed. Poor little Mia. She suffered so much in her very short life, and now this. She hoped it was minor, as Sister Eleanor said.
She felt a tug on her jacket. "Did you bring us a treat like you said?" Buck asked. "We were good."
Dimitra smiled. "Yes, I bought you all a treat. You shall have it after dinner. Now, everyone, let's see how well you did while I was gone."
12-07-2012, 09:11 PM
Brenda sat in the airport terminal, waiting for her flight back to Seattle. Her thoughts kept turning back to Criss Angel, and her conversation with him at home. Correction: Artie's home. It was no longer hers. Home was Seattle, Washington, where her family was.
She remembered how she felt when Criss was near her. He made her feel so alive within, stirring desires that had lain dormant since her marriage to Artie deteriorated. If she had married Criss instead of that jerk Artie, it would have been paradise.
Or would it? Criss was always in demand in Las Vegas. He had thousands of female fans who would have sold their souls to be where she was at that moment. He probably wouldn't have time for her. As much as she loved him, it still meant not living her own life. She never knew what it was like to be truly independent. She never earned her own income, or had her own home. She had dreamed of playing in a symphony orchestra, but that was dashed by her mistake with Artie. She needed to find out what she wanted in life, on her own.
"You really have to go back to Seattle?" Criss had asked her before she left.
"Yes," Brenda replied as confidently as she could. "I need to reclaim my life. I need to sort out my own priorities, and be my own person. I'm through sacrificing my dreams for someone else's. I need to practice solo before I play a duet."
Criss laughed a little at the metaphor. "Okay, I understand." He gave her a kiss on her neck. "I've always said if you have a dream, and your actions speak louder than words, your dreams will come true. My dad taught me that."
"Your dad sounds like a wonderful man," Brenda said. "I'd like to meet him sometime."
Criss sighed mournfully. "My dad died almost ten years ago."
"Oh, I am so sorry," Brenda said. "I didn't know."
"It's okay," Criss replied. "Good luck in realizing your dreams," he smiled back. They embraced each other for one final time. She wanted to make love to him, but realized it was not to be. He had his life, and she needed to find hers.
Dimitra spent the better part of the morning sifting through Mr.Webber's paperwork, trying to find information about Tanvi for the ISS worker. Mr. Webber was away at work. The number of files were staggering. It was like moving a mountain with her bare hands. Medical records, school records, his personal business records, tax forms, vouchers she had used to purchase necessities, all had to be sorted out. Didn't this man ever think of using a filing cabinet? she thought.
She located the social service records of all the children here and there in the piles of folders and papers; she assembled them in one stack to be read later. Vouchers went into another stack, the check stubs from the monthly stipends went into yet another. Little by little, order was emerging from chaos. Mr. Webber would be so pleased, or at least relieved. She still wondered how he ever got any work done with his desk buried in all that paper.
The children's records were sorted and filed, the vouchers were stored in file boxes; she left his personal records for him to handle, not wanting to pry into his business. Now she picked up the stipend check stubs to file away. As she tapped them on the top of the desk to settle them neatly, her eye caught the amount of one of the checks printed on the stub. She looked closer, her eyes widening in surprise.
She had been struggling with sixteen hundred dollars a month, but the check stub stated three times that amount, forty-eight hundred dollars in fact. What happened to the remaining thirty-two hundred? she wondered. This wasn't right. She pulled out the ledger Mr. Webber used to keep track of the children's expenses and scanned the columns. She had done enough bookeeping for her husband's cafe' to decipher credits and debits. She took up the voucher box and sifted through them, trying to match the figures. They had been recorded meticulously, of course, but only added up to sixteen hundred dollars. No mention of the remainder was given. Where was the rest of the money?
Dimitra sat back, her anger rising within her. It dawned on her that Mr. Webber was extorting that money, stealing it from the children. And they were suffering for it--Baby Mia was in serious condition in the hospital with some sort of infection, fighting for her tiny life, and this man, this monster, was robbing her of badly needed medical care. She recalled the filthy conditions she first found this house in. She remembered the shabby clothes the children had on. The image of Mia's big, dark eyes staring incomprehensivly at her floated before her. She had spent a near fortune of her own money, and that of her son, Christopher's, bless him, to save these poor children, while that greedy Mr. Webber robbed the state, the county and his charges for his own selfish ends.
Outraged, Dimitra picked up the phone, and called the Child Welfare department of Social Services to report her discovery. The ISS, thankfully, would soon be here to rescue Tanvi. At least one child would be saved from this hellhole.
As if on cue, the doorbell rang. Dimitra rushed to answer it. It was the worker from the Islamic Social Services, a middle-aged woman in a white hijab. And not a moment too soon, Dimitra thought. She welcomed the case worker, Mrs. Hassan, into the house, and excused herself to fetch Tanvi. Meanwhile, the other twelve foster children crouched behind the railing on the second floor, wondering who this new stranger was. Was she another nun?
Tanvi came down the stairs, pretty as a picture in a white dress (washed and ironed by Dimitra for the occasion), and her jet black hair tied up in two pink ribbons that had been saved from the wedding cake boxes Dimitra bought with her. It had amused her to see the girls more interested in the ribbons than the cake they had bound. She had carefully ironed them flat, and gave two to each girl, the boys openly disdaining the "girly" pink ribbons, preferring to devour the cake instead. Boys would be boys, she well knew, having raised three of them herself.
Tanvi looked up at Mrs. Hassan. "Mama?" she said.
It seemed to Dimitra that Tanvi associated any woman in Muslim dress with her mother. She probably remembered her mother's veil better than her face. Poor child, she thought. At least she had some memory of her mama.
"No, Tanvi, I'm Mrs. Hassan. Here is your Mama and Papa." She guided the little girl to a couple Dimitra did not see before. The couple, a younger looking woman in a dark blue hijab and chador, and a tall, dark man in a more stylish goatee with a Muslim cap on his head looked down at Tanvi. The woman squatted down to Tanvi's level.
"Mama?" Tanvi said again.
The young woman burst into tears. "Yes, darling. I am your Mama." She eagerly embraced her.
Dimitra could not help being moved. She wiped her eyes and turned to Mrs. Hassan. "Thank you so much for your help."
"Thank you for finding Tanvi," Mrs. Hassan replied. "The Abbas have two sons and wished for a third child, but God had willed they have no more births. We told them about Tanvi, and they chose to adopt her."
Mr. Abbas picked up Tanvi in his arms. He spoke a few words of Arabic, which she seemed to understand by wrapping her little arms around his neck.
Mrs. Abbas stepped forward to Dimitra. "Thank you for finding us a daughter," she said, choking back tears of joy. "Truly, this is the hand of God at work, for He has fulfilled our desires and Tanvi's. Inshallah!"
Dimitra did not know what that word meant, but she was happy that Tanvi had a family of her own now. Mrs. Abbas was right. This was the hand of God at work.
"Well, we must be leaving," Mrs. Hassan said. "Again, we thank you, Mrs. Sarantakos."
"Yes," Mr. Abbas said. "We thank you for everything."
"You are most welcome," Dimitra replied. She came over to Tanvi, still in Mr. Abbas' arms. "Good bye, darling. Be a good girl, now." She kissed Tanvi, and gave her a final hug.
" 'Bye!" Tanvi said, waving. She looked up at her foster brothers and sisters on the second floor, and waved good bye to them.
" 'Bye, Tanvi!" they shouted from above. "G' bye!"
Tanvi left with her new parents, smiles all around. Dimitra sighed heavily. There had been at least one happy ending to all this. But there was still the matter of the missing stipend money. She resolved to speak to Mr. Webber about it as soon as possible. And it was not going to be a very pleasant talk either.
12-07-2012, 09:53 PM
WHAT AN :mad: TO ROB FROM THESE KIDS!
12-08-2012, 02:46 PM
Criss was so preoccupied with the new Cirque show, the taping of the new season of MindFreak, he hardly thought of his mother back in New York. Not that he forgot about her completely. She was his rock, his anchor. It was she who molded him into the man he was today. But she was busy with the foster kids in her care, and he had his career. He would find time to talk to her, if she could get a free moment from all those kids. Maybe he could send her an e-mail.
Costa had joked that she took the foster care job so she would have something else to worry about besides him. While it grieved Criss to cause his dear mother so much worry when he did his demonstrations, it was the life he chose, his destiny to fulfill. He was Criss Angel, the MindFreak, the master illusionist and escape artist. He was the heir to the legacy of Houdini. He was the best in the world. Yet the image of his poor, frail mother standing behind security barricades, tissue in hand, wiping away tears as he risked his life over and over again, needled his conscience. He loved her dearly, honored her as the Bible commanded, would have laid down his life for her. When she had been kidnapped by the Vegas Bomber, it was as if his heart had been ripped out of his chest. He would have torn up the entire state of Nevada to find her. Her safe return was like recovering a part of himself. She was his greatest treasure, more valuable than gold, more precious than rubies.
The minute he got a break, he called her up on his cell phone. All he got was voicemail. Disappointed, he left her a message of love and devotion. He also asked if she needed any money for the kids. They needed her more than Criss or his brothers did. Dimitra's sons were grown men now. These foster kids were still too young to fend for themselves and needed all the help they could get, and Criss would be there to help in any way he could.
Meanwhile, he had more pressing business to attend.
Criss found the number to KLOL through the Internet directory and called the station. A sugary female voice answered, "Hello, KLOL, this is Heather, may I help you?"
In a firm but polite tone of voice, Criss replied, "Hello, this is Criss Angel. Put me through to Artie Creed, will you, please?"
There was a brief pause, followed by a hasty, "One moment, please." Staticky music played while Criss waited paitently, then a clicking noise while the call was being transferred.
"Hello, you're on the air!"
"Hey, Artie, this is Criss Angel."
Artie Creed was surprised. He had made Criss Angel a target for his criticism in the past, but this was the first time he had ever responded. This was going to be a treat! "Hey, Criss! How's it going?" Artie greeted him cheerily as he poised for the kill.
"Everything was going just fine, until you made that crack about my mother," Criss retorted. "You've dissed me a lot in the past, but you just boosted my ratings. I can ignore anything you say about me--I've heard worse. But then you go dissing my mom. You crossed a line, Artie. You really went too far this time."
"Oh, yeah," Artie challenged. "And just what are you going to do about it, mama's boy? I told the truth about you--"
"Truth?!" Criss snapped. "You wouldn't know the truth if it fell from the sky, sat on your face and wiggled!"
"Oooooooohhh!" Artie gasped. "Playing blue here, aren't we, mama's boy?"
"Listen, Creed," Criss threatened. "You go dissing my mother, or any other member of my family, and I swear to Almighty God, I will make you disappear--permanantly! It's no wonder your wife dumped you! You're the biggest slimeball on the radio! She was too good for you! She deserved better!" He hung up before Artie could respond.
Artie was stunned. How the hell did Criss know about Brenda? Unless Brenda had been sleeping around with him. That had to be it! That goddammed Criss! They'd been having an affair behind his back all this time! Well, payback is a b***h, Artie thought nastily. He'd find a way to bring this Angel down to earth, and show the world what a fraud and a cheat he really was.
Raul Alvarez was sitting on a sawhorse, splicing electrical wire, the dusty portable radio tuned to KLOL. He had been half-listening to Artie Creed, waiting for him to start playing some music. Frustrated and bored with Creed's yakking, he reached over to change the station when he heard the voice of Criss Angel on the radio. He turned up the volume to hear better over the construction noise.
"Oh, yeah, and what are you going to do about it, mama's boy? I told the truth about you..."
"Truth?! You wouldn't know the truth if it fell from the sky, sat on your face, and wiggled!"
"Whoa! Good one, Criss!" Raul cheered.
"Listen, Creed! If you go dissing my mother, or any other member of my family, I swear to Almighty God I will make you disappear--permanantly! It's no wonder your wife dumped your ass! You're the biggest slimeball on the radio! She was too good for you! She deserved better!"
Raul was astonished. He didn't know Artie had a wife, let alone that she dumped him. But, man! Did Criss kick Artie Creed's ass or what? It was time that loudmouthed son of a b***h was taken down a peg or two. The Latino community practically boycotted KLOL for Artie's remarks about them when he stated on the air that all they were good for was the grunge jobs no white person would deign to perform. Yet for all their protests, petitions and phone calls to the station, Artie Creed remained on the air. Not a single person of Mexican or South American descent would be caught dead listening to KLOL. But none stood up to him like Criss Angel--none challenged his authority, if what he had could be called "authority". And Criss was a bigger celebrity than Creed. There wasn't a thing Creed could do about it. Not a damned thing!
Dimitra waved the sheaf of check stubs in Mr. Webber's face. "You lied to me!" she accused him. "The state sent three times more money than you said they did! Where is the rest of it? What have you done with the rest of that money?"
"I...I don't know what you are talking about," Mr. Webber stammered, sweating more profusely than usual.
"I am talking about thirty two thousand dollars missing from the stipend checks!" she stormed. "I am talking about depriving these poor children the means to have basic care! I am talking about theft!"
"Are you insinuating that I have been misappropriating funds?" Mr. Webber countered.
"I am not 'insinuating' anything! I am certain you have been stealing money from the state!" Dimitra said angrily.
"And how are you going to prove that?" Mr. Webber returned the charge.
"I have already reported you to Social Services. I have proof enough of the neglect of these children and your theft!" Dimitra threw down the stubs. "They will revoke your license and send these children to proper homes! And, God willing, you will go to jail!"
She stormed out of the house, completely livid. To think she had spent a fortune of her own money, and borrowed from Christopher as well, only to find out that Mr. Webber was an embezzeler! How could she have been so blind? How could he have been so heartless? Could things get any worse than this?
12-09-2012, 12:42 PM
loving the story , those poor kids , cant wait to read more :)
12-09-2012, 06:39 PM
"Now, Mrs. Sarantakos," Mr. Carlyle, director of the County Social Services Child Welfare division, said as he opened the files of the foster children in Mr. Webber's custody, "You claim that Mr. Harold Webber has been misappropriating funds from the monthly stipends allocated to the fourteen foster children currently residing with him, is that true?"
"Yes, it is." Dimitra nodded. "He gave me only sixteen hundred dollars when those checks were for three times that much."
"It says here you spent nealy two thousand dollars above that amount." Mr. Carlyle pointed at the figures in the ledger. "If he had misappropriated thirty-two thousand dollars, where did the extra money come from?"
"From me," she replied. "and from my son, Christopher."
"I see." Mr. Carlyle read through the ledger. "Do you have any records of your expenditures?"
"Right here." Dimitra handed him an envelope full of cancelled personal checks, credit card statements, and receipts. Mr. Carlyle opened the envelope and compared its contents with the figures in the ledger as Dimitra waited patiently.
The director rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "From what I see here," he said finally, "these are grounds for an investigation. We'll have to contact Mr. Webber and go through his financial records. If they prove to be as you say, he will be facing extortion and child neglect charges. Speaking of which," he continued, "you reported that when you first arrived at Mr. Webber's house, you noticed unsanitary conditions in the house and the children appeared to be neglected and abused. Is that correct?"
"Neglected, yes," Dimitra replied. "I was not so sure about abuse. I did hear one of the boys say something about the last caretaker who beat them." she suddenly recalled. "That is, I assume it was the last volunteer caretaker who was there."
"Did you report these conditions to Social Services, or Child Neglect at the time?"
"No," Dimitra sighed, "I wish I had. They were in such a terrible state. But I was confident I could turn things around. I had thought the last caretaker had been responsible for all that. I am so sorry."
"I see," Mr. Carlyle nodded. "Well, we can't fault you for doing what you did for these children. You did your best. However, we will have to conduct an investigation into this matter, and you may be subpoenaed to testify. I only ask for your full cooperation."
"You have that and more, sir." Dimitra told him. "I so want to help these poor children before it is too late. The baby, Mia, is in the hospital for some sort of infection. They say she may not survive." Dimitra burst into tears. "The doctors say they are doing everything they can for her. I was away in Las Vegas for my nephew's wedding, but only for a few days, I assure you." Dimitra was suddenly on the defensive. "I called a couple of sister nuns to care for them while I was gone. I would not leave them alone."
"We'll make a note of that," Mr. Carlyle informed her. "Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Mrs. Sarantakos."
Dimitra rose from her seat. "Thank you for all your help. And for all the children as well."
Meanwhile, at KLOL, Artie Creed was in rare form that morning, trashing everyone and everything which crossed his path. To hell with Morty Bernhard! To hell with the FCC! To hell with everybody! All that mattered was Artie Creed. During the rare times when he actually played some music, he scanned the Web for something to pin on Criss Angel: a DUI, a drug bust, assault and battery, a temper tantrum in a public place--anything to get back at that b**t**d for sleeping with his wife! He was a celebrity, for chrissakes! There had to be something he could nail him with!
He Googled Criss Angel and scanned the list. A lot of it Artie had already covered; no sense broadcasting old news. There was nothing posted recently that even hinted of scandal. Not even a rumor. Geez! The guy was a saint all of a sudden! It was all charities and benefits and TV and movie promos. And Artie couldn't just make something up out of the blue. Those tightasses from the FCC would can him. There had to be something...
As if by Divine intervention, the phone rang. Artie answered it; he was not on the air as there was a song playing at the time, so he had almost complete privacy. "Hello, this is Artie Creed."
"Mr. Creed," a heavy, panting voice spoke from the other end. "I have a news tip for you."
Artie was all ears. "Yes, and who is this speaking?"
"I'd prefer to remain anonymous," the heavy voice gasped. Artie was concerned that this guy might keel over from a heart attack or something. From the deepness in his voice, he sounded overweight.
"I understand," Artie told him. "So, what's the scoop?"
"There is a home for foster children here in Long Island, New York, where a Mrs. Sarantakos has been a volunteer caretaker."
Artie was on full alert. That was Criss Angel's precious mother! Oh, God! He hoped it was something good!
"It seems there is several thousand dollars missing from the funds the county allocated for the children's care, and recently, Mrs. Sarantakos went to Las Vegas, leaving the children unattended."
Whoa! This was too good to be true! Mommy Angel an embezzeler! The Fates had smiled on Artie Creed at last! He kept his composure, trying to retain an air of professionalism. "I see," he replied seriously, concealing his elation. "Is there anything else you can tell me?"
"There is an investigation in process by the county. That is all I can say, as I do not want to prejudice the case."
"Oh, I understand," Artie said. "Thank you so much for the tip." He hung up and stood up, pumping air. Yes! He had Criss Angel by the short hairs now! Oooooh! This was going to be some serious payback!
The tune on the radio had ended. Artie switched on his microphone and sat down. "Good morning, Sin City! This is Artie Creed on KLOL. We have a breaking news flash!"
"Hey, Raul!" a carpenter named Craig shouted over the power saws at the job site. "Creed's trashing Criss Angel again!"
"Yeah, so?" Raul shrugged. Creed was always trashing Criss Angel. Raul wished he hadn't bragged so much about his role in the capture of the Vegas Bomber. His coworkers acted as if he had a crush on him. Craig turned the volume louder.
"Criss Angel's mother, Dimitra Sarantakos, was arrested on charges of fraud and embezzlement from the foster home where she allegedly was a volunteer. It was reported that thirty thousand dollars was missing from county funds, and that Mrs. Sarantakos had abandoned her charges to go to Las Vegas..."
"That's a lie!" Raul exploded in outrage. "That is a bald-faced lie from the depths of Hell!"
He kicked the sawhorse on which the radio rested, toppling it over. "Hey, dude!" another carpenter shouted at him. "That's my radio, there!"
Raul whipped out his cell phone. There was only one person he knew who could refute the lies Artie told.
"Hello, Amber?" Raul said. "This is an emergency. It concerns Criss and his mother."
"Guys," Costa spoke to those gathered in the MindFreak office. "I think you'd better hear this." He turned up the volume on the computer where KLOL was webcasting. Criss, JD, Johnny Thompson, Gerard, Bro, and the rest of the crew crowded around the computer terminal.
"So, Criss is going to be visiting Mommy in the slammer for depriving poor little orphans for a trip to Las Vegas, boo hoo! Guess his mother is not the saint he made her out to be! No wonder her son turned out to be such a jerkwad, having a mom like that to raise him!"
"What the hell is he talking about?" JD demanded.
"He says Mom got arrested for stealing money from the foster kids she was taking care of," Costa explained. "He says she abandoned them to go to Vegas."
"That is bull!" Criss thundered. "That is the biggest load of crap I ever heard!" He punched the desk as if to make a hole in it. "She never, ever, stole anything in her life! And she didn't abandon those kids! She called a couple of nuns to take care of them while she was gone! I gave her money to take care of those kids! She spent a fortune out of her own pocket for them!"
"I'm going to call Aunt Stella," Costa said. "Maybe she can clear things up."
"You do that!" Criss said to him, still fuming. "I'm going to call Creed and straighten him out. No! Better yet! I'm going to the radio station and face him in person!"
He bolted out of the office. "Keep me posted on what Aunt Stella says," he ordered. "She has to know the truth. If Mom has been arrested, I'll post her bail!"
"Hello! You're on the air!" Artie said cheerfully.
"Hello! You're full of it, Creed!" a youthful voice mocked him, hanging up before Artie could reply.
Artie ignored the remark. "Hello, you're on the air!"
"You are such a liar, Artie! This time you have gone too far!"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Creed replied drily. He had heard that phrase so many times it had lost all meaning. He hung up. "Hello, you're on the air!"
"Artie, look out your window, if you have one," an unusually calm voice instructed him.
"And I'm looking for what?" he retorted, crossing over to the large plate-glass window and pulling up the blinds, still holding the phone to his ear. He looked out, then left, then right. Nothing so far as he could see. Then he looked down.
There was a mob under his window in front of the station. The window was tempered glass, a quarter inch thick to provide soundproofing, but he could hear the angry shouts over the receiver as well as he could see the fists in the air shaking in his general direction.
"We're coming to get you, Artie!" the caller threatened. "Do you know who we are? We are the Loyals! And we are going to stop you from spreading any more lies about Criss and Dimitra! You lied, Artie! Dimitra is innocent! She'd never steal anything from anyone! And I know for a fact that Dimitra was here for Cousin George's wedding! There was no embezzlement!"
"Well, that is where you are wrong!" Artie argued. "I received a tip from a reliable source that confirms my story. So why don't all of you little Loyals go home and get a real life! Leave the news to the professionals."
Artie hung up with a smug smile on his face. That smile, however, was wiped right off when he heard hammering on the studio door. He turned to see a bunch of angry Loyals ready to break into the studio. One held up a hangman's noose. Alarmed, Artie called security. Then he turned to his listeners. "Ladies and gentlemen," he spoke into the microphone. "We're experiencing technical difficulties, so please stay tuned."
He fumbled another CD into the player and turned it on. Turning off the mike, he faced the crowd, making hapless gestures. What? he mouthed to them. What'd I do?
The Loyals continued their siege of the studio. To Artie's relief, the police arrived to take them away. The Loyals refused to budge. There were a few who made a rude gesture or two through the window at him. The hangman's noose swung menacingly.
Then a black sports car, an expensive job from what he could see, had pulled up to the station. The police and security guards held the crowds back. The car's door spread open like a bird's wing. Artie watched as the crowd cheered when Criss Angel emerged from underneath the gull-wing door.
So, loverboy is here! Artie thought to himself. Here to defend his mommy. Well, I'm ready for him!
12-09-2012, 10:29 PM
let's get reaaaaaaaaaaaaady to rummmmmmmmmmmmble!!!!!!!!
12-10-2012, 09:54 PM
The telephone rang in Stella Strumpolis' house. Stella picked up the receiver after the second ring. "Hello?' she said.
"Aunt Stella, this is Costa."
"Oh, hello, Costa! How are you?"
"I'm fine. Listen, we've got Artie Creed saying Mom got arrested."
Anut Stella laughed in surprise. "Arrested? For what? And who is Artie Creed?"
"Some loudmouth deejay on the radio," Costa explained. "Anyway, he's spreading the word that Mom stole money from the foster home and got arrested for it. You know anything about it?"
"No, nothing." Stella replied, perplexed. She had helped Dimitra with the foster home from day one, and she'd never do anything like that, not in a million years. "I could call her and find out what happened."
"You do that," Costa said. "Let me know what you find out."
"All right," Stella said. "I'll talk to you later."
"Yeah, 'bye." Costa flipped off his phone.
"Arrested?!" Dimitra was aghast. "Who said such a thing about me?"
Stella had phoned Dimitra at the foster home as soon as Costa had hung up and told her about Artie Creed's accusations over the radio. Dimitra could hardly believe her ears. Mr. Webber had stolen the money, not her. And she had not been arrested for anything.
"Well, he is lying!" Dimitra huffed. "I did not steal anything from the home. It was Mr. Webber. He embezzled funds from the county. I reported it to Social Services."
"Well, you'd better call Costa and tell him that," Stella said to her. "This man is trying to ruin you, and this could ruin Christopher as well."
"I will," Dimitra resolved. "Thank you, Stella." She hung up the phone and activated the speed dial for Costa. In her haste, she dialed Criss' number instead.
Criss had emerged from the black Lambo to face a mob of cheering, chanting Loyals. He could see the posterboard signs they held aloft proclaiming Dimitra's innocence. They were on his side, he thought. They know the truth.
Station security and local police struggled to keep the surging crowd at bay. It was like trying to hold back a tsunami. Criss greeted as many Loyals as he could reach while pressing on into the station building. But no sooner did he pass through the main entrance than he was overwhelmed by the media gathered in the lobby, barking questions, thrusting microphones into his face, nearly blinding him with flashbulbs as they photographed him. He waved his arms to restore some semblance of order.
"I just want to say that Artie Creed is a liar!" he shouted over the din. "My mother is not a thief! She's innocent! She never stole anything in her life! In fact, she spent a fortune of her own personal money to help those kids! I even helped her out with my own money as well! If she had been arrested, I would have heard of it by now! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some personal business to attend!"
The media were not satisfied. They wanted more, and they kept on pressing Criss for it. Somehow he survived the gantlet of reporters and photographers and slipped into an elevator, fending them off until the doors slid shut in their faces. Criss breathed a sigh of relief, glad to be alone, if only for a few seconds. He needed to conserve energy when he met Artie Creed. He leaned against a wall in the elevator car, collecting his thoughts. He had warned Creed about dissing his mother before this, and now he was going to pay big time. He was glad Brenda had left him when she did. It served him right.
He recalled his last words to Creed. He had mentioned Brenda leaving him, saying she was too good for him. Artie Creed did not even know that Criss had been to Artie's house and spoke with her. Did Brenda tell Artie about him when she left? Had Criss overplayed his hand when he told Artie about his knowledge of Brenda's departure? Well, the damage had been done. He'd just have to make the best of it. Artie knew that Criss knew Brenda had left him.
The elevators slid open. As Criss stepped out, his cell phone rang. He quickly pulled it out and asnwered it. "Hello?"
"Christopher?" It was his mother. "Oh, I meant to call Costa. Well, since I got you, I have something to tell you."
"Sure, Mom, what is it?" No matter how pissed off he was at Artie Creed at the moment, his mother came first.
"This Mr. Creed," she began, "he says I had been arrested for stealing money from the foster home."
"I know that," Criss said. "That's why I'm here at the station. Mom, tell me--what really happened?"
"I did not steal any money, first of all--"
"Yeah, I know that."
"It was Mr. Webber's fault. He had been embezzling county funds from Social Services. I saw the check stubs. They were three times what he said they were."
"Did you get arrested?" Criss asked.
"No," she replied. Criss smiled with relief. "I went to Social Services and filed a complaint. I do not know how Mr. Creed knows about this, but you can tell him the truth now. Mr. Webber is in trouble, not me."
"Oh, I'll tell him all right!" Criss nodded. "Gotta go, love ya, good-bye!" He hung up. So his mother really was innocent! She had blown the whistle on this Mr. Webber for his theft. But how did Creed find out about it? Someone was setting her up. But who?
Morty Bernhard was pacing up and down his office like a caged panther before feeding time. He was fuming over Creed's latest and, as he saw it, worst episode ever. Not only did Creed piss off the public again, there was a lynch mob outside the station! Hell! They had even stormed the studio! He swore by all that was holy and sacred he was going to hand Creed his nuts on a platter for this! Bernhard didn't need this aggravation. He had an ulcer the size of the Grand Canyon because of Creed. The station was losing advertising dollars because of Creed. The Latino Anti-Defamation League, the National Organization for Women, and the FCC were riding on his ass because of Creed. The whole damn station was in the red, and facing loss of it's licensing, all because of Creed! He knew Criss Angel could file a defamation suit against KLOL. If Berhard was lucky, maybe he could be talked into a settlement. If only he had fired him when he had the chance!
His assistant buzzed him on his phone. "Yeah, Shiela, what is it?" he answered, momentarily concealing his agitation.
"The two applicants for the internship position have arrived," Shiela told him. "Shall I send them in?"
Morty sighed. He'd forgotten about the intern position interviews in the heat of this current crisis. "Tell them to wait. I got bigger fish to fry." he ordered.
"All right," Shiela said. Morty hung up the phone. Where the hell was Creed? he wondered. He'd better get his sorry self into this office in the next minute or he was going after him.
Shiela buzzed again. "Criss Angel is here to see you, Mr. Bernhard."
Morty felt his ulcer eating away more of his gut. "Send him in," he groaned, reaching into his desk drawer for his medication.
He managed to down a couple of pills with the help of a cup of lukewarm coffee before Criss barged into the office, furious. Morty Bernhard tried to placate the star magician. "Look, Criss..." he began, almost pleadingly.
"No! You look!" Criss shot back. "Creed lied about my mother! She didn't steal that money, the man who ran the home did! She was the one who reported it to the authorities! And she had never been arrested! Either you get Artie Creed off the air or I will! Even if I have to sue you!"
Morty sighed. "Look, Criss, I'm as upset about this as you are--"
"Upset?!" Criss exploded. "You're damn right I'm upset! I was able to look the other way when he dissed me, but now he's attacking my family! He's crossed the line this time, and I want him out! Where the hell is he, anyway?"
"I sent for him a few minutes ago," Morty told him. "He should be here by now. Would you like a cup of coffee or something?"
Criss took a seat. "No, thanks," he muttered through gritted teeth. "I just want Artie Creed."
At that moment, the figure of the infamous shock jock materialized at the office door. Criss shot up from his seat and lunged at him. "You lying son of a--!" he screamed at Creed, grabbing him by the shirt. "I'll kill you for what you said about my mother!"
"You and what troop of Boy Scouts?" Creed retorted sarcastically.
Criss slammed Creed against a wall. "You think I'm BS-ing, right? Huh? You think I'm just blowing smoke in your face? Well, lemme tell you something, Creed! My mom was never arrested for anything! She was the one who reported the theft by the man who ran the place! In fact, she spent her own money--and mine--on those kids! I don't know how or where you got that story, but I'm telling you right now it was all a pack of lies!"
"I got that story from a reliable source," Creed argued.
Now it was Criss's turn to be sarcastic. "Oh? Who? Elvis? Your 'reliable source' is full of it, Creed. I just got through talking with my mother, and she told me the truth about the whole thing."
Morty tried to pry the two men apart. "Okay, okay, that's enough. Creed, you sit over there." He pointed to a chair on his left. "Look, Criss, we're sorry about all this. On behalf of the station, I'd like to apologize--"
"Oh, geez, Morty!" Creed spoke up. "Sucking up to him like that! I had a tip over the phone about his mother. Of course she's gonna deny it!"
"You shut the hell up, Creed!" Morty snapped. "You're in enough trouble as it is!"
"Not as much as Criss, here," Creed sneered. "You knew about my wife, Brenda, didn't you, mama's boy? You knew she left me. What's going on between you two, anyway? You sleeping together, or what?"
Criss remained silent. To make any type of reaction would be to show guilt. He had to remain calm, as much as he wanted to kill him. Morty, however, was livid. "You just don't let up, do you, Creed?" he growled. "You just don't quit!"
He strode over to the window and yanked open the blinds. "Look at them down there!" He pointed to the mob of Loyals in the street, still protesting. "You really done it this time, Creed! I warned you and warned you, but you just don't listen! We've got advertisers pulling out left and right! The station is practically bankrupt! Not that you give a damn--you never gave a damn for anyone in your life! Well, this is it, Charlie! You have had it! I'm having your license revoked! I want you out of this building yesterday!"
"I can sue you for the remainder of my contract, Bernhard." Creed countered. "You know how much that will be?"
"Your contract?" Morty jerked open a drawer in his file cabinet and fished out some papers. He waved them in Artie's face. "Here's your contract, Creed!"
He switched on a paper shredder by his desk and fed Creed's contract into the hopper. The metal teeth of the shredder chewed the contract to packing material. "Your contract is cancelled," Morty said, "and so are you! You're fired!"
Artie glared at Criss, as if his recent misfortune was his fault. "This isn't over, Angel! I know you've been sleeping with my wife!"
"Prove it," Criss challenged.
"I don't have to prove it!" Creed retorted. "I know you have."
"Like you knew my mom had been 'arrested' for theft?"
"I can sue you for alienation of affection, not to mention adultery! You've been guilty of that before, remember?"
That was hitting below the belt, in more ways than one, but Criss was not down for the count yet. "Why accuse me of alienation of affection?" he shrugged. "You did that on your own. I went to your house to see you, and I found Brenda crying. Crying because you smashed her violin. She gave up her dreams of playing in the Symphony for you, Artie. Bad mistake on her part--she should have dumped your ass a long time ago. But I did not sleep with your wife."
Criss rose from his seat and began pacing the room slowly. "Now, we can do one of two things to rectify this situation," he said with the air of a prosecuting lawyer. "I can either bring a defamation suit against the station, charge you with libel, wrongful accusation. harassment--take your pick. We can drag this through the whole legal process, perhaps taking weeks, even months, costing thousands of dollars for both of us. Or..." he leaned down, face-to-face with Creed, smiling smugly. "Or, you can apologize."
12-11-2012, 06:14 AM
Station security and local police struggled to keep the surging crowd at bay.
You may need a swat team for Criss's fans;)
12-11-2012, 06:03 PM
"Apologize?!" Artie Creed was flabbergasted. Never in his years in radio did he ever apologize for anything to anyone, no matter how offensive his remarks had been perceived by the listening public. Now this overblown celebrity mama's boy wanted him to apologize? For the first time in his controversial career, Creed was speechless.
"Yeah, that's right," Criss nodded. "You are going on the air, and you are going to say that you are sorry you lied about my mother. That's all you have to do. And if you don't, well, I hope you have a good lawyer, because you are going to need one."
"Oh, I got one all right!" Creed shot back. "You sue me, and I'll countersue you for every dime you got!"
Morty came between the two men. "All right, that's enough!" he snapped like a father breaking up a fight between two siblings. "Listen, Artie. I don't know how you came up with this story about Criss Angel's mother, but--"
"I didn't 'come up' with it!" Creed argued. "I told you I got a tip on the phone. It's all on tape. I'll prove it."
Criss and Morty looked at each other, then at Creed. "Okay," Criss challenged. "Prove it. But whoever it is, is lying."
"Fine! Believe what you like," Artie said, "but I'm sticking with my source." He stormed out of the manager's office, with his boss and the star magician following in his footsteps, still skeptical. Even if this "source" was as reliable as Creed said, Criss knew that it was all a pack of lies. He had his mother's word on that, and she was more reliable than any source of news Creed ever had.
They entered the deserted studio. Morty switched off the broadcasting mike for privacy--he didn't want another scene like this morning. Artie rewound the phone tape, playing and replaying it to find the beginning of the conversation he had with the mysterious caller. "Okay," he said, "here it is."
Morty and Criss listened to the heavy, breathless man gasping out his story of Dimitra's alleged theft of the foster care money, embezzling it for a trip to Las Vegas and abandoning the children in her care. When the tape ended, Artie sat smugly in his chair, his arms crossed over his skinny chest, daring either man to challenge his authority.
"Who was that guy?" Morty demanded.
"Didn't say," Artie replied, still smug. "He wanted to remain anonymous so he wouldn't prejudice the case."
"How could he be a 'reliable source' if you don't know who the hell he is?" Criss argued.
"Well, he must know about it enough to report it," Artie countered. "He probably caught her in the act. Ever think of that, mama's boy?"
"Did it ever occur to you that he could have made the whole thing up?" Criss shot back. "Ever think of that
"Prove it," Artie sneered. "Prove to me the guy lied. Go on! Prove it!"
"All right!" Criss reached for the station phone. "I'll prove it. Just rewind that tape. I'll give you all the proof you need."
Artie switched on the broadcasting mike. "Hello, Sin City, this is Artie Creed back on the air, with special guest Criss Angel."
Morty was alarmed. "Creed! What the hell are you doing?" He covered the mike as he spoke.
"Hey, if I'm going to prove this mama's boy a fraud, I'm doing it live!"
"Hey, everybody! Artie Creed's back on! And he's got Criss on, too!"
The Loyals gathered around like kids about to watch a fight in a schoolyard, with Criss the odds-on favorite to win. No one dared even to breathe, let alone talk, for fear of missing something important.
"Earlier, I reported that Criss Angel's mother had been arrested for embezzeling funds from the foster home where she was a volunteer for a trip to Vegas. I received a phone tip from an anonymous caller, who must have witnessed the crime, and now Criss Angel himself is here to deny it all."
"I am not 'denying', Artie. I am telling everyone out there the real truth! My mother is innocent. And that phone tip was a load of bullsh*t!"
"You're not allowed to say that on the radio, Criss."
"You've used worse, Creed! And you've gotten away with it! Anyway, here is the one person who can tell you what really happened. Hello, Mom?"
The Loyals were estatic! Dimitra was on the air! They shushed each other to listen in.
"Hello, Christopher," Dimitra said.
"Hello, Mrs. Sardonicus," Artie said.
"That's Sarantakos, dipwad!" Criss snapped.
Artie brushed him off. "Whatever. Anyway, this is Artie Creed. I--"
"You were the one who accused me of theft!" Dimitra said angrily. "You lied to everyone about me! You said I had been arrested!"
"I was never arrested for anything! I reported that theft to the authorities. It was Mr. Webber who stole those funds!"
"But I have a--"
"He is the one who should be arrested! And I did not leave those children alone! When I went to Las Vegas, for my nephew's wedding, by the way, I left them in the care of a couple of nuns from the convent! Who told you these lies? How dare you say those things about me!"
The Loyals outside cheered her on. Mother Angel was really kicking Creed's ass big time!
"Ma'am, we have it all on tape here," Artie said. "Listen to it, and see if it proves you innocent or guilty."
Everyone fell silent as Creed played the tape over the air. There were mutterings of disbelief and denial among the Loyals. No way this was true, they thought. This guy was BSing!
When the tape wound to its end, Artie said, "Do you know who that was? Any idea?"
"Yes, I know who that is," Dimitra replied . "That is Mr. Webber, the guardian of the foster children I cared for."
"Well, he should know if you stole any money now, right? If you worked for him, and he reported that theft, that makes you guilty, right?"
"If Mom did steal that money, why did Mr. Webber tell you instead of the authorities?" Criss pointed out. "What could you have done?"
"Told the truth," Artie replied simply.
"It's because he's setting her up! He's making her the fall guy in this. He's covering his back and pinning it all on Mom."
Artie rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on, Criss. Just because she's your mommy and all doesn't prove her innocent."
"It's not because she's my mother, and I'll thank you to speak more respectfully about her, but she is innocent. You said she had been arrested, when it was clear she was not. There was no mention of any arrest. She reported it to Social Services. If she had been guilty, they would have busted her right then and there."
"What do you say we call these Social Services people and see if they can confirm it?"
"Okay, we will!" Criss agreed. He turned back to the phone. "Mom? You got the number for Social Services there?"
"Yes, right here," Dimitra said, and told him the numbers as Criss wrote them down.
Artie leaned toward the mike. "We'll be right back after these messages."
As Dimitra waited for Criss to contact Social Services, another call came through to her via call waiting. She put the station on hold and answered, "Hello? Yes, this is Mrs. Sarantakos. Yes. Oh. Oh. dear. No, she was a ward of the state and had been in foster care. I'll be there as soon as I can. Thank you."
Dimitra sadly pushed a button, ending the call, and switched back to KLOL. No response yet. She sighed heavily. From the call she had just received, now there was another crime for which Mr. Webber was guilty.
"County Social Services. May I help you?" a woman's voice answered mechanically.
"Yes," Artie said with uncharacteristic courtesy, "we are investigating a case of some foster children being neglected by their caregiver hired by their guardian. They were abandoned and--"
Criss ripped the phone from Artie's hand and put it to his own ear. "Listen. We need to know everything you can tell us about a Mr. Webber, who had fourteen children in his care and was pocketing the funds. He was the one neglecting them, not their caregiver." Criss shot an angry look at Creed. Trust him to distort the truth, he thought.
"Mr. Harold Webber, of Long Island?"
"Yes, him. Do you know anything about him, what happened to the kids?"
"Well, the authorities are investigating his financial records, and he is being charged with child neglect, fraud and misuse of funds. In fact, it says here there is a warrant for his arrest."
"Has anyone been arrested? And who reported the crime?"
"No arrests that I know of, sir. There is only that one warrant. And the person who reported it is an Mrs. Sa-ran-ta-kos, I believe it is. She was the volunteer caregiver to the children at the time. She had been very co-operative with the Child Neglect officers and Social Services generally."
Cheers rose from the Loyals listening to the broadcast. At last! Confirmation of Dimitra's innocence! Artie Creed was toast!
"Thank you," Criss said. "You have been very helpful." He disconneted the line and switched back to his mother. "Hey, Mom! Did you hear all that?"
"Yes, I did. Thank you." she replied simply. To Criss, she sounded tired. "Now, put Mr. Creed back on. I want to talk to him."
Gloating, Criss handed the phone to Creed. "It's Mom," he said, smiling smugly. "She wants to talk to you."
The Loyals outside almost shuddered in anticipation. They just could not wait to hear what Dimitra had to say to Artie Creed! It was payback time! they thought. If he could dish it out, he could take it. They all knew that Dimitra was going to give Creed an earful, and Dimitra did not disappoint them.
"Mr. Creed?" Dimitra said, her voice trembling with anger, "I don't know why you came up with those lies about me. What are you trying to do? Ruin me? Ruin Chris? Well, now you have been proven a liar! Does being on the radio give you the right to ruin people's lives? Answer me!"
"Listen, lady," Artie said, "I was misinformed, okay? I just got this tip on the phone and reported it."
"You did not answer my question."
"Hey, I call them as I see them. You ever hear of the First Amendment?"
"Did you ever hear of the Seventh Commandment?" Dimitra shot back. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, remember? And you have broken it over and over again! You had a duty as a radio announcer to tell the truth--"
"I did tell the truth!"
"Whose truth? Yours? You used the radio only to hurt people! And now you have been caught in an outright lie! May you never work in radio again! May the public never hear your voice ever again! May God silence you forever!"
A chill went down Criss' spine as he heard those words spoken by his usually gentle mother. Thousands of years of Hellenic culture hardwired into his psyche told him that there was nothing more feared by the Greeks than a mother's curse. She could call down the wrath of God on a person's head if she had good reason. Artie Creed was doomed.
Artie, however, was nonplussed. To him, her cursing was nothing more than the rant of an old woman. Why should he be afraid of that old bag? He was still Artie Creed! He could land any spot on any radio station anywhere in the country! He would never be silenced, not in a million years. To hell with her! He was glad to be leaving this podunk station; it gave him an opportunity to move on to fresh woods and pastures new. As always, Artie couldn't resist getting in the last word. "Yeah, like that's going to happen." He hung up on Dimitra, leaving Criss outraged.
"This is Artie Creed signing off on KLOL, and this is my last broadcast on this station!"
He stormed out of the studio, giving Morty and Criss the middle finger. Criss stuck his head out of the door and loudly suggested that Creed perform a certain anatomical impossibility. Morty headed back to his office, where Shiela waited in the reception area.
Morty barged in. "Who the hell are they?" he demanded, pointing at the two lovely young girls sitting patiently on the vinyl bench.
"They're here for the intern position, sir," Shiela told him. "They've been waiting for over an hour."
"Okay! You're hired! Both of you!" Morty barked. "First thing tomorrow, six-thirty AM, you two are the new morning show on KLOL. And I don't want any trouble! I got an ulcer eating me up alive because of the last guy." He took refuge in his office.
The two girls, now the new KLOL morning show jocks, stared at each other in disbelief.
The second deejay, a more amiable type, had taken over after Artie left. Criss left as well. Creed never did apolgize for what he said about his mother. He hated the thought of a lawsuit, though. The manager, Morty Bernhard, said the station was so deep in the red it was almost bankrupt. But one thing had been accomplished: Creed was history. Criss couldn't think of any radio station desperate enough, or stupid enough, to hire him. He was poison to the broadcasting arts. His mother's curse would come true. That was payback enough. Creed would be lucky if Artie got a job delivering the farm report.
He called his mother again in a private space in the corridor next to the lobby, still crowded with reporters. "Hey, Mom, how's it going?"
"I am all right. Where is Mr. Creed? He hung up on me."
"He's history, Mom. He's outta here. You won't be hearing from him again."
"Good." She sounded depressed.
"Mom? You okay? You sound kinda down."
"I received a call from the children's hospital where Baby Mia was."
Criss remembered his mother telling him about Mia. She had suffered the worst of all the foster kids, with a burned body and missing left hand, then coming down with an infection. In that filthy house, it was a wonder they all did not succumb to illness. "Is she okay?" he asked.
"She is more than 'okay' now" Dimitra said softly. "She is with God."
Criss stood there in shock. Poor Baby Mia, barely two years old and her life was taken from her just like that. He could not help shedding a tear for her. With no family, someone had to mourn for her.
"I'm sorry, Mom" he said. "I really am. Do you need my help with anything? Anything at all?"
"I want to claim her body and give it a proper burial" Dimitra told him. "You can help with the expenses. Nothing too lavish, keep it very simple."
Criss nodded. "Sure, Mom. I love you."
"I love you, too."
"I love you more."
Criss hung up, then braced himself for the onslaught of reporters and photographers for an unofficial press conference. He had plenty to tell them.
Criss wished he had bought his shades to protect his eyes from the flashbulbs of the cameras as he gave his statement to the press in the KLOL lobby. They practically blinded him. Ever since the Vegas Bomber threw that pipe bomb at him during his motorcycle demonstration and damaged his eyes, he had been very careful about protecting his vision. Geez! Didn't they have enough pictures of him already?
"I just want to clear a few things up for the press," he said over the clicking of shutters. "My mother, Dimitra Sarantakos, is innocent of all charges. There is a warrant out for the arrest of Mr. Webber, the head of that foster home where she worked. He is the sole guilty party in this case. My mother was the one who reported it to the Social Services authorities. They have it on record. She is the hero of all this, not the villian.
"I also received word that one of the children in Mr. Webber's care, Baby Mia, was hospitalized for an infection. She had already suffered severe burns on her left side, to the point where she lost her hand. Today, Mia died in the Children's Hospital in Long Island. Among Webber's other crimes, this one is the worst. This is negligent homicide, if not second degree murder. To cause the death of an innocent child, even indirectly, is by far the most heinous crime anyone can ever commit.
"As for Artie Creed, he has been fired from KLOL. He never apologized for any of his remarks concerning my mother. He had ragged me in the past, but they never stung as badly as those directed toward my mother. No one disses my family, especially my Mom! We all love her, and the Loyals love her as their own mother. There was no excuse for Creed to accuse her of anything.
"The so-called 'tip' Artie received was from Mr. Webber himself. There is a warrant out for his arrest. This case is being looked into by the county. As for the children themselves, well, we can only pray for them. I don't know what happened to them, but I hope that whatever home they find themselves in, it will be a hell of a lot better than the last one. Thank you."
Criss stepped away from the media, rubbing his eyes. He made a mental note to keep his shades with him at all times. He couldn't take the glare of the flashbulbs anymore. He stepped outside to the tumultuous cheering of his Loyals. Many tried to hug him, but security fought hard to hold them back. He waved, climbed into the cool darkness of his Lambo, and drove back to the Luxor.
He should have been gloating over Creed's fall from grace, if grace it could be called. Creed had been a splinter in Criss' side ever since he made a name for himself in Las Vegas. Hell! He barely showed any sympathy at all when the Bomber attacked Criss, blinding and burning him. Now he was history. Yet, he felt no triumph. Instead, his thoughts turned to Baby Mia. She did not deserve to die like that. She did not deserve to die at all. How she got burned and lost her hand would remain a mystery to him; maybe he did not even want to know. She had suffered so much in her two years on this earth. He began singing a little song he composed for the birth of his niece, Little Dimitra:
Tiny Angel from Heaven come down.
So great a mystery, deep, profound
In one so small. How came you to be,
Precious gift entrusted to me?
Hope is restored within me.
Joy wells up inside me.
Tiny Angel from Heaven come down.
Tiny Angel from Heaven come down.
The Heavens smile, and surround
You with golden light
To dispel the shadows of the night.
No evil shall ever touch you.
No harm shall ever come near you.
Tiny Angel from Heaven come down.*
No one surrounded Mia with golden light, he thought bitterly. She had been surrounded instead by the fires of Hell itself, maiming her tiny body. Dear God! He remembered the flash of pain he had felt when that pipe bomb exploded in front of him. It must have been so much worse for a two year old, her tender infant flesh torn and seared by the cruel flames. And then, to suffer such neglect by Webber! Mom's help came too little, too late. She had confided in him when she asked for money that Mia was probably brain damaged as well. He wondered, what kind of a God allowed a baby to suffer like that? For what purpose did it serve?
Criss stopped at a red light at some intersection. In the privacy of the Lambo with its tinted windows, he bowed his head and said a prayer for Mia's soul and the souls of the other foster children as well. He wished he had taken the time to learn their names.
Dear Jesus, You once said "Suffer the children to come unto Me, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." Well, these children have suffered greatly. You took one already into Your kingdom. Why did You let these poor kids suffer such neglect and abuse? You are supposed to be the Good Shepherd, yet these tender lambs were left to be devoured by the wolves of an uncaring social system and a greedy guardian. Why? Why did You let this happen? How could You have let these children go through hell if theirs is supposed to be the kingdom of Heaven?
Barely a day had passed since Dimitra's telephone confrontation with Artie Creed. County Social Services moved swiftly, informing Dimitra that agents from Child Neglect would be arriving first thing in the morning to retrieve the remaining children from Mr. Webber's house, and for her to be there with them when they did. Dimitra had merely said yes, she would, and hung up the phone. Now, on the morning of the next day, she sat in the shabby living room, waiting for the CNS agents. She was tired, her eyes were red from weeping over the death of Baby Mia, and she nearly nodded off a couple of times on the worn out sofa.
It was over, it was all over, her mind kept repeating over and over again. Her work with these children was finished. She had struggled to feed and clothe them to the best of her ability with what limited resources she had, only to be betrayed by Webber and slandered by Artie Creed. Now, it was all over, nothing left for her but an empty void she didn't know how to fill...
Dimitra started at the sound of a heavy pounding on the door of the foster home. She pulled it open to reveal two very severe looking women in business attire. They each flashed a badge encased in leather. "Mrs. Sarantakos?" the taller of the two spoke in a deep contralto. "We're here from the Child Neglect division of Social Services. We are here to remove the children from this house."
"Come in," Dimitra said, opening the door wider to allow the two officers access. "I'll go get them. They're upstairs."
The Child Neglect officers stepped in without a word, taking note of every detail of the house, scanning for any signs of code violations or neglect. Dimitra went upstairs to fetch the children. She had prepared them earlier for this. She had told them the whole truth about Mr. Webber and his crime against the county and against them, his charges. Her only hope was that they would find better homes with people who truly loved them. Though she had known them for only a few months, she loved them all as dearly as her own. Now, with their few belongings stuffed into plastic grocery bags, they stood in silent resignation to whatever Fate had in store for them. The two youngest. Chris and Kira, merely stared uncomprehendingly at her. Dimitra reached out to each of them for a final farewell.
"Good-bye, Heather" she said. "You have been such a big help to me."
"Good-bye, Mrs. S." Heather hugged her back.
"Roland, you get any taller and your head will be scraping the ceiling." She tried to laugh. It was a lame joke, but any sort of comic relief was better than none in this situation.
"I love you, Mrs. S." Roland said, wrapping his gangly arms around her,
"Aaron, Austin," she said to the two brothers. "You be good boys now. You are very lucky to have each other." She hugged them both.
She knelt down to Buck next. "Mrs. S." Buck said, "do you think the next family I get will let me have a dog?"
Dimitra smiled. Buck had been going on about having dog of his own for quite some time. "You will have your own dog someday, darling," she answered, hugging him.
"Buddy...Jamal..." she hugged each boy in turn. "Brandy? Now remember what I told you about stealing, all right?"
Brandy nodded, clutching her bag of clothes. Dimitra wondered if she should search it for any contraband, just in case. She came to Derek next.
"Don't take any wooden nickels!" Derek piped up before Dimitra could say anything, his big smile lighting up the room as usual. Dimitra wondered where he got that peculiar phrase. Still, she hugged him as she did the others. As she rose, she noticed China in a far corner, the chip on her shoulder firmly in place, glaring sideways at Dimitra with burning hatred.
Dimitra took a deep breath and stepped forward. Getting through to China had been like defusing a time bomb every time she spoke to her. The pain of rejection and neglect had taken its toll on her psyche at the tender age of ten. Another move to yet another foster home embittered her even more deeply.
"China," Dimitra began. "I know this is hard for you. It is hard for me as well. I know how you feel about this"
"No. you don"t!" China snapped. "You don't know nothin'! You say you do, but you don't know nothin'!" She burst into angry tears. "People say they care, then they get rid of me! Everyone I love leaves me! Nobody cares at all!"
Dimitra knelt down beside her. "I do care, darling. That is why I called the authorities. Do you want to spend the rest of your life living in a filthy house with a man who is spending the money given to him by the government on himself instead of you? You deserve better than that, China. You deserve a real family who loves and cares about you. And the Social Services people will find them for you."
"No, they won't," China grumbled. "I'll just be stuck in some other place like this one."
Dimitra slumped in despair. It grieved her that this child, who had her whole life ahead of her, should have given up hope of a better future. Still, she was not giving up on China. She had to make one final effort to break through the wall she had built around her and touch the wounded child inside.
"China, no matter where life takes you, always keep in mind I will always love you. We may be miles apart, but you will always be in my heart. You and all the others. You have been hurt in the past, but you will have a better future if you just believe."
Dimitra reached out to embrace China, but the little girl stiffened at her touch. She was not used to any sort of affection, no matter how much she longed for it deep down inside. Dimitra finally backed away. She would pray extra hard for China as she would for the other children.
She turned to little Chris, so unlike her own Christopher, who had been a bundle of energy with his daring, his passions, his love of life, whereas this one was shy, pathetically grateful for any sign of affection which came his way. To him, any sort of life was better than dying. He was too young to comprehend the change about to take place.
Dimitra picked up Kira and herded the children downstairs for the last time. Heather somehow managed to persuade China to come out of her corner and follow the others. They trooped silently into the main room where the two officers were waiting.
"I am sorry for the delay," Dimitra apologized to them. "Here they are. Ready to go."
"I see only twelve. There were supposed to be fourteen. Where are the other two?" the tall officer demanded.
"Tanvi was taken by Islamic Social Services, and Baby Mia was taken to the hospital for some sort of infection." Dimitra explained.
The second officer made a note in her record book. "Well call Islamic Social Services and the hospital to confirm that," she said.
"I can give you their numbers," Dimitra offered helpfully.
"Thank you, but we have them already," the second officer said as she put away her notebook. She turned to the children. "Well, children, it's time to go. The van is waiting. There's nothing to be afraid of, you're going to be transferred to better homes."
"That's what you said last time!" China snarled.
The officer ignored the remark. She had dealt with problem cases before. This one was no different. "All right, let's get going. We haven't got all day."
They all marched out of the house to the waiting van, carrying their plastic bags. Where would they go this time? they wondered. Dimitra handed Kira to the tall officer. The tiny girl began to wail as she was carried into the van and strapped into a regulation child safety seat. Her cries of "Mama! Mama!" tore at Dimitra's heart. But there was nothing she could do but stand helplessly by as the van filled with the children she had grown to love drove away, their faces staring out at her through the windows.
May the Lord bless and keep each of you in His heart, and may you all find the love you need and deserve. May you find families who will love and cherish you as their own. May your futures be bright and full of hope. And may all the troubles you have suffered fade into memory.
*This is not a Criss Angel song, but one of my own composition.
12-11-2012, 07:02 PM
Great Chapters , cant wait to read more :)
12-11-2012, 07:56 PM
That chapter tore at my heart strings
12-11-2012, 10:18 PM
Mr. Carlyle, the Social Services director, sat in his office with Investigator Melanie Reisler, going over Harold Webber's financial records and the discrepancies found therein. Reisler was a specialist dealing in white-collar crimes: computer fraud, identity theft, tax evasion, and, of course, embezzlement. She had been assigned to the Webber case just hours after the crime was reported by Social Services. If anyone could sniff out financial fraud, it was she. She had been studying accounting in college when a dishonest clerk in her father's hardware store dipped into the till a few times too many and sent him straight into bankruptcy. The clerk had skipped town and was never caught. She switched to law enforcement, but her accounting skills were not wasted. Reisler had investigated everything from petty larceny in mom-and-pop stores to Enron. She was LIPD's best financial fraud officer.
Now she was here in the Social Services office, looking into what was on the surface a rather routine embezzlement case, but what made her skin crawl was that these were foster care funds, meant to pay for children's food, clothes, medical care and other needs. This guy was robbing orphans, for chrissake! How low can you get?
Reisler and Carlyle poured over the ledger, compared them to the vouchers, and sorted out the check stubs. From what they found from the bank records, Webber had simply cashed the checks at the bank into his own personal account, withdrawing only a third of the money to be placed into a separate account for foster care, pocketing the rest. There were falsified documents as to what the money had been spent upon. A comparison to Dimitra's financial records, given freely, revealed that she had spent not only two thousand dollars of her personal money upon them, but had also received a wire transfer of nearly four thousand dollars from her famous son, Christopher, aka Criss Angel. She had spent it mostly on medical bills, especially on the baby, Mia. No sign of theft on her part. She was clear as glass.
Webber, however, was a different story. He had been spending money like a drunken sailor, trying to impress high-end clients for their business. It was all show, Reisler discovered. Webber was virtually drowning in red ink. What was worse, as Reisler had heard, he tried to pin it all on the caregiver, Mrs. Sarantakos, by calling shock jock Artie Creed and having it broadcast on the radio. It had caused such an outrage the studio was besieged by angry Criss Angel fans.
Reisler was no devotee of the Cult of Personality. Let the infotainment people take care of that, she thought. Her job was to crunch the numbers to see what added up. And from the look of it, it was adding up to a very long prison sentence for Harold Webber. The question was, where was he?
Harold Webber was on his way to Mexico, with what cash he could pilfer from company coffers and the stipend checks. He wiped his sweaty brow as he drove to the airport in New Jersey. He had to avoid New York, just in case his little scheme backfired. Besides, he got a better deal in Jersey on airfare. He should have destroyed those records, he cursed himself. But it would take time to sift through them all, and by the time they were finished, he'd be out of the country, living it up, while that little Greek lady would be taking the rap. And Mexico still had anti-extradition laws.
But there was still that long drive to Jersey, and an even longer wait for the flight. He could not breathe easily until he was on that plane to Mexico City. He just had to play it cool until then, arouse no suspicions on anyone's part. He sped along the freeway to the New Jersey Turnpike, only to see red and blue flashing lights in his rear view mirror. He had a momentary panic attack, but composed himself. No one knew anything, he reminded himself. He pulled over to the shoulder, setting his flabby features to a more serene expression. The patrolman approached his car and bent down to Webber's level.
"Good afternoon, Officer." Webber greeted the cop jovially. "Is there something wrong?"
"Yes, sir, you were going about fifteen miles over the speed limit. I need to see your driver's license and registration, and proof of insurance."
"Oh, dear," Webber said, flustered. "Well, I am so sorry about that." He fumbled in his wallet for his license. "I was in such a hurry to get to the airport, I didn't know how fast I was going," he said apologetically.
He fished out his car paperwork from the glove compartment and handed it to the patrolman with his license. "Here you are, my good man. I trust you will find everything is in order."
"Thank you, sir," the patrolman said as he took the card and papers and returned to his cruiser. The driver seemed a little nervous, he thought, but that was normal for anyone being pulled over--no one wanted a ticket. But he was sweating more than the usual person. A bit suspicious, but nothing to go on. The license number and registration was recorded into the cruiser's vehicle retrieval system via a built-in computer terminal. The information flashed onto the monitor.
Webber, Harold Arthur. Birthdate: 10-12-47. Owner of 2005 Lincoln Continental, black. License plate number: BFD 690, New York. Warrants Pending: Fraud, embezzlement, child neglect and abuse.
The patrolman got out of the cruiser and walked toward Webber. "Mr. Webber?"
Webber still tried to play it cool. "Yes?"
"Step out of the car please. There is a warrant out for your arrest. I'm afraid you will have to come with me."
Artie Creed drained the last of his third Scotch and soda of the afternoon and pondered his next move. He could file a wrongful discharge suit against the station, but it wouldn't be worth the effort. KLOL had been bleeding red ink for years now. Why beat a dead horse? He could find better stations to work for, LA for instance. That was where it was happening. Or he could go back to Washington State, to Seattle, where he started. It still had a thriving music scene, and, as he was familiar with the area, he'd score a job at one of the major stations.
Seattle. Home. Where he got his feet wet in the broadcasting business, made a name for himself, met and married Brenda--no, that ship had sailed. Brenda was history to him, the ungrateful little--. Seattle was out. No sense trying to recapture the past. He had to look forward to the future. He had to put out feelers for new radio spots. He'd leave Sin City behind and start a new life somewhere else. Surely there was a place for him in this great country of his.
He heard the mail drop flap clatter as the morning post arrived. He rose to retrieve it. Phone bill, water bill, ad, ad, credit card statement, something from the FCC--
The FCC! He dropped the rest of his mail and ripped the envelope open. He quickly unfolded the tri-folded page:
Dear Mr. Creed:
This letter is to inform you that in light of your past and recent violations of FCC protocol and regulaions, your broadcasting license has been revoked, effective immediatly. This decision has been based on the following:
a) Persistant use of vulgar, obscene and abusive language on the air.
b) Falsification of data and non-verification of news sources.
c) Defamation of character.
d) Lack of respect and courtesy to the public.
Due to the seriousness of these charges, and the number of past complaints about your conduct, this decision is final; there will be no consideration for reversal.
David C. Bargerman,
Federal Communicaions Commission.
Artie stared at the letter clutched in his hand. They revoked his license! How could they do that to him? They said there was no way he could appeal; they said it was final. Over. Done with. Kaput.
He sank down on the couch. They destroyed his career. Artie Creed, king of the airwaves, dethroned by the powers-that-be. He could never find work in radio again. There was only one thing to do.
Artie got up and mixed himself another Scotch and soda.
12-14-2012, 02:54 AM
By now, the Long Island foster home scandal had made national news. It had everything in it--poor, starving kids, a heartless guardian who stole their money, a little old lady who blew the whistle and got framed, and a big name celebrity to boot. That the little old lady was the mother of the big name celebrity made the story even jucier. The Cult of Personality milked it for all it was worth.
The Loyals stood by their beloved Mother Angel, burning up the Web with shout-outs, prayers and protestaions of Dimitra's innocence. How dared Harold Webber accuse Dimitra of such a thing? It was inconceivable that she would, or even could, commit such a crime? He was lying through his teeth! And those poor children! They had been blessed with Mama Angel's care (you just had to look at her three sons as proof of that), and her Angel of a son helped with finances, but that greedy man who was supposed to take care of them took the money and ran. What happened to them? they wondered.
Criss' press statement at KLOL had been posted on the Internet; it was greeted with both cheers and tears. Artie Creed had been thrown out on his ass! Hooray and good riddance to bad rubbish! He got what he deserved, and deserved what he got. Many replayed Dimitra's last words to him: May you never work in radio again! May God silence you forever! And now the prophecy had come to pass. The Loyal Community rejoiced that Creed would never diss Criss again.
On the other hand, Baby Mia's death triggered an outpouring of grief. There was even a thread on the Loyal Community Website dedicated to her memory. One sharp-eared Loyal found "Tiny Angel" on an early Criss Angel CD and reprinted the lyrics. Banners were created with Criss cradling a cherubic infant with the caption "Guardian Angel". Baby Mia received more love and affection in death than she ever had in life.
Her funeral, however, was attended by only Dimitra, Stella Strumpolis and the priest conducting the service. She was interred in a tiny white casket, paid for by Criss, in the same cemetery his father was buried.
The foster care scandal trial took place in mid-December. Harold Webber was formally charged with fourteen counts of child neglect and abuse, several counts of embezzlement, one count of fraud, and one count of negligent manslaughter. He faced ten to fifteen years in prison, with a maximum of twenty years if convicted of manslaughter. Despite the confidentiality of the location of the trial, a large group of Loyals gathered outside the courthouse, braving the elements to catch a glimpse of Dimitra or, they hoped, Criss himself. And wherever the Loyals gathered, the media were sure to follow, ready to catch a statement or snap a picture.
Dimitra sat on the prosecutor's side of the courtroom, dressed simply and conservativly. Harold Webber sat in the defendant's chair on the other side, sweating profusely. That man never seemed to stop perspiring, Dimitra thought. He was damp with sweat, even out in the twenty degree weather. Now, in the courtroom, he was like a human Niagara Falls.
The jury filed in and took their seats in the fourteen seat juror's box. The trial was about to begin.
"All rise!" the bailiff announced. "This court is now in session, the Honorable William Barris presiding."
Everyone rose as ordered. The Honorable William Barris, the judge for the County Court, a man of integrity and more years in the legal profession than many attorneys of the State Bar had been alive on this planet, took his seat on the bench, overlooking the courtroom. "Be seated." he commanded.
"The case of the State of New York vs. Harold Webber." Judge Barris read from the docket. "Mr. Webber, you have been charged with child neglect, fraud, misappropration of public funds and negligent manslaughter. How do you plead?"
"Not guilty," Mr. Webber replied, still sweating heavily.
"The counsel for the prosecution will make its opening statement."
"Thank you, Your Honor," the prosecuting attorney said. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this man, Harold Webber, has extorted funds from the county which was intended for the care of fourteen children in foster care for his own selfish needs. It had left these unfortunate young ones without even the most basic necessities, even to the point where the youngest of the group, no more than two years old and who had suffered third-degree burns resulting in the amputation of her left hand, had succumbed to a serious infection resulting in her death. The children were housed in squalid conditions, with inadequate food, insufficient clothing and no medical care. If not for the selfless devotion of Mrs. Sarantakos, who went above and beyond the call of duty to provide for the needs of these children, even purchasing supplies out of her own pocket, these children would have met a similar fate.
"A society is judged by how it cares for its indigant. If we are judged as a society by the way these children have been treated, then we should hang our heads in shame. Let us make an example of Mr. Webber, and show the nation that we do care for these, the least fortuante among us."
"Thank you, Counselor." Judge Barris said. "The court will now hear the opening statement for the defense."
Webber's lawyer rose. "Thank you, Your Honor. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my client is accused of the neglect of his young foster children, even the unfortuante death of one of them. I intend to prove that there were circumstances beyond his control. For example, the previous caretaker was extremely negligent, even abusive. She was responsible for the conditions of the home, the bad food and the filthy conditions there. Mr. Webber dismissed her immediatly, replacing her with the more competant Mrs. Sarantakos, who worked hard to undo the damage. Does that sound like neglect to you?
"Nor is Mr. Webber responsible for the death of Mia Doe. Her death was from an infection which even the best doctors were unable to cure. It was beyond his control. As for the money, he worked with what he had, which was precious little enough. Mrs. Sarantakos, however, did leave for Las Vegas for a few days while still employed by Mr. Webber. There are allegations of embezzlement on her part--"
"Objection, Your Honor!" shouted the prosecutor. "There has been no proof that Mrs. Sarantakos stole anything from the defendant. She had already been cleared of that!"
"Objection sustained. Counselor, please remember that it is Mr. Webber on trial here, and not Mrs. Sarantakos."
"As I was saying," the defense continued, "it is my intention to prove my client is innocent of these charges. He is a respected businessman who took in not one, but fourteen children who would not have had a home into his care."
"Thank you, Counselor. You may call your first witness." Judge Barris said.
"The defense calls in Mr. Harold Webber."
Mr. Harold Webber heaved himself from his chair and took the stand. "Mr. Webber," the bailiff intoned, "do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you?"
"You may be seated."
Webber sat down. "Now, Mr. Webber," the defense attorney began, "Please tell the court what happened to the funds you received from the county."
"What little they sent me, I spent on the kids, I swear!" Webber answered. "I loved them as my own."
"Were all expenses recorded?"
"Yes, in my ledger, every cent. See for yourself."
The ledger, labeled Exhibit A, was brought forward. "This is the ledger you used to record the foster care expenses?"
"Yes, that's the one."
"How much were you allotted per month, total?"
"Sixteen hundred dollars." Webber pointed to the ledger. "It's all in there. No falsification on my part, I assure you."
The defense attorney opened the ledger. "Let the record show that Mr. Webber recorded receiving sixteen hundred dollars every month for the care of his foster children." He showed the book to the jury, then placed it back on the table.
"And as for the charges of neglect and abuse, can you shed some light on that?"
"That was not me!" Webber protested. "The previous caretaker was at fault there. She was the negligent and abusive one, not I. I had dismissed her immediatly."
"When did Mrs. Sarantakos come into your employ?"
"Around the end of April, I believe."
"How was her performance as caretaker of the children?"
"Well, it was excellent all around. She really cleaned up the place, going above and beyond, at least at first she did."
" 'At first'? You mean she became less competant as time went on?"
"Oh, no. I mean she did leave for Las Vegas for a week or so, leaving the children unattended."
Dimitra was shocked. How dared he say that? He knew perfectly well she did not leave those children unattended! She kept quiet for the time being, knowing her chance would come to refute his testemony.
"Did she return?"
"Any suspicious behavior?"
"Well, she had invaded my office to read my personal records. And that was when the money was found missing."
"How and when did you discover funds were missing?"
"I checked my bank statement as always, and there was about thirty-two thousand dollars missing around the end of June, the same time Mrs. Sarantakos had been in Las Vegas."
Dimitra kept her rage in check. Despite the fact that she had been cleared of any theft charges, Mr. Webber was still trying to pin the blame on her. How could he betray her like that? She who had cared for the children he had been entrusted as guardian by the county, she who had spent thousands of dollars not only of her own money but that of her son's as well--how could he stab her in the back like this? She had been proven innocent already.
The defense rested. Now it was the prosecutor's turn. He had his game face on, ready to grill the defendant without mercy. The prosecuting attorney had shown up at court loaded for bear: check stubs, bank statements, deposit slips, receipts--every available scrap of paper had been carefully collected and recorded for testemony. He strode confidently to the witness stand, staring Webber squarely in his sweaty face.
"Mr. Webber, you claim to have received only sixteen hundred dollars a month for fourteen foster children, is that correct?"
"That's right, it's in the ledger."
"Oh, it's in the ledger. Well, according to your bank records, you were actually receiving forty-two hundred a month. That's three times what you claimed to have been receiving."
"Well, there were taxes, of course, you know."
"Taxes? Mr. Webber, there are no taxes of any type withheld from county foster care funds. Surely you know that!" He leaned closer. "What did happen to the extra thirty-two thousand dollars per month you received, Mr. Webber?"
Webber was silent, damp with sweat. "Answer the question, please, Mr. Webber." the prosecutor pressed.
"It was her!" He pointed at Dimitra. "She stole those funds to go to Las Vegas! She must have lost it all gambling or something!"
"You are lying!!" Dimitra shouted, shooting up from her seat. "You yourself stole that money and you know it!"
The judge pounded his gavel. "Order! Order in the court!" When the dust settled, the judge told the prosecutor to proceed with the questioning.
The prosecutor produced a handful of paper slips. "Do you know what these are, Mr. Webber?"
"Deposit slips from the bank," he replied.
"Exactly. They are deposit slips from your bank accounts." He turned to the jury. "These deposit slips show that Mr. Webber had cashed the monthly stipend checks, totalling forty-two hundred dollars, dividing the amount into two separate accounts, one for himself and one for the foster children. Thirty-two thousand went into his own personal account, but only sixteen hundred went into the other for the foster home. Furthurmore, there is no evidence that Mrs. Sarantakos made any type of withdrawl from the bank. She had filled out vouchers and handed them to Mr. Webber for any money needed. All financial transactions were handled by Mr. Webber himself."
Webber was silent, sweat pouring from his face, his armpits two dark, damp patches growing bigger by the minute. Dimitra sat calm and serene, confident of vindication. After more interminable questioning by the prosecution, Mr. Webber was dismissed. Mopping his brow with an already damp kerchief, he returned to his seat.
"The court calls Dimitra Sarantakos to the stand."
Dimitra rose and walked over to the witness stand. She raised her right hand as instructed by the bailiff.
"Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you?"
"Please be seated."
Dimitra sat down, bracing herself for the onslaught to come. She knew the truth was on her side, but she was still a bit nervous. Her eyes stared past the two counselors to the main doors of the courtroom. One door pushed its way forward, and to Dimitra's surprise, Criss himself emerged from behind it. He slipped into the courtroom unobtrusively, gave her a reassuring smile, and took a seat in the back of the courtroom. It was going to be all right now. Her Angel had arrived.
"Mrs. Sarantakos, can you describe in your own words what the conditions of the foster home were when you first arrived?"
"Filthy dirty," she replied with a tone of disgust. "There was a foul stench everywhere, and the children were all together in one room, boys and girls. The two youngest were in a single crib together. They were in rags, and the beds were not fit for dogs, let alone children. The bathroom was so filthy we could not use it."
"Did you report these conditions to Social Services?"
"Not at the time, no, though I should have. I tried to set things right myself. I did have help from my son, Costa , and my two sisters, Calliope and Stella. I had the help of the church, and GoodWill. I also purchased anything that had not been donated."
"Such as what?"
"Food, of course, and medicines, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and any necessary medical care."
"How could you afford all that on sixteen hundred a month?"
"I couldn't. I used my own money, and the money my son, Christopher, sent to me."
"How much of your own money and your son's did you spend?"
"Two thousand of my own, and four thousand of my son's."
"I see. But you never withdrew any funds from Mr. Webber's foster care account?"
"No. I had to fill out a voucher for any of that money. I never set foot in Mr. Webber's bank, let alone take money from it."
"Now, Mr. Webber said you went to Las Vegas in late June, is that correct?"
"Yes, it was for my nephew's wedding. And I was there only for a few days, not a week or two as Mr. Webber said."
"Did you leave the children unattended, as Mr. Webber claimed?"
"Absolutly not! I called the convent and requested the help of the sisters there. Sister Dorothy and Sister Eleanor came and tended to the children while I was gone. In fact, I had asked Mr. Webber for time off to attend the wedding, and he gave his consent, if I found someone to cover for me, which I did."
"When you left for Las Vegas, were you aware that the youngest child, Mia Doe, was ill?"
"When I left, she was fine. She was eating well, and actually seemed to be improving in many ways. She tried to talk a little; when I arrived, she did not make a sound, let alone say a word. She was even smiling before I left for the wedding."
"So her condition deteriorated after you left?"
"Yes. The sisters took her to the hospital immediatly."
"What was Mr. Webber's reaction to Mia's condition, do you remember?"
"He seemed almost indifferent to it. In fact, he was more concerned with finances than with her health."
"Thank you, Mrs. Sarantakos. Counselor, your witness."
The prosecutor returned to his seat. The defense rose, but for some reason, did not approach the witness stand.
"No furthur questions, Your Honor." he said, and sat down again.
"What the hell are you doing, giving up like that?" Webber hissed. "I'm looking at twenty years here."
"He's got all the paperwork on you, Webber." his lawyer replied. "Face it, you are screwed. There is too much against you. Besides, you haven't paid my fees in months. You can either plead guilty or let the jury decide. I wash my hands of you."
"Your Honor," the foreman of the jury spoke up. "We would like to withdraw to deliberate the case."
"Granted," the judge said. "The jury will now withdraw to decide the verdict." He banged his gavel once, and retired to his chambers.
Dimitra rose and crossed over to the back of the courtroom where Criss waited. "I didn't know you were in New York," she said.
"Hey," he smiled, hugging her. "I figured you needed a little moral support. And, besides, you know I like helping disadvantaged kids." And stick it to Artie Creed as well, he added mentally. Also to prove to the world what a monster Webber really is!
12-14-2012, 03:50 PM
Harold Webber couldn't believe it. Here he was, on trial for his life, and his attorney takes a dive wtihout cross-examining Dimitra! He just quit, right then and there! No furthur questions, Your Honor. What the hell was he thinking? Webber turned to his lawyer.
"How could you just throw in the towel like that?'' he demanded. "I'm looking at twenty years here! What the hell am I paying you for, anyway?"
"You haven't paid me anything in months, Hal." his attorney replied. "I've been covering your fat ass without so much as a single dime from you for years now. Besides, that evidence is incontrovertable against you. I've got kids of my own, you know, and you've been screwing these kids, and others, for too long."
"You swore an oath that you'd defend your client regardless of guilt or innocence, remember?"
"Not if he hasn't paid me."
"You are a crook, Abercrombie. You are a thieving crook!"
Abercrombie just shrugged. "Takes one to know one, Hal."
The Honorable William Barris stepped up to the bench as all in the courtroom rose respectfully. He ordered them to be seated, then turned to the jury, who had just reconvened to deliver the verdict. The foreperson handed the bailiff a slip of paper containing Webber's fate. The bailiff handed the slip to the judge, who read it to himself for a moment, then to the court.
"Harold Webber, please rise for the verdict." the judge intoned.
Webber rose on shaky feet, sweating heavily. He braced himself on the table to keep from falling.
"Harold Webber, you have been found guilty on all counts by a jury of your peers. Do you have anything to say before sentencing?"
Harold Webber's mouth flapped open like a landed fish as he struggled to speak. "I...I don't know what to say. I...I'm in shock."
"Try saying you're sorry!" Criss shouted from the rear. His mother tried to hush him.
The judge rapped his gavel in disapproval of this outburst. "If the defendant has nothing to say, then sentencing will proceed. Mr. Webber, exploitation of innocent children for personal profit is reprehensible. Indeed, your avarice had cost the life of a helpless infant. Was that tiny life worth thrity-two thousand dollars a month? The way you made those children live in such squalid conditions was an outrage to human decency and morality. It was no wonder your own defense counsel abandoned you. And then you tried to pin the blame on the one person who provided more care and nurturing to those unfortunate children in one day than you ever did during the tenure of your guardianship, who went above and beyond the call of duty to supply even their basic needs out of her own funds. She did all that with no compensation from you, but of her own free will."
Criss squeezed his mother's shoulder affectionatly. The judge continued. "If any good can come of this, it will be a more rigorous screening of potential foster care parents and tighter control of living conditions for them. Also, more accountability for funding spent. It is my fervent hope that the lasting damage you inflicted upon those children who were unfortunate enough to be under your supervision will be minimal, and they will find better families with whom they can live.
"Harold Webber, this court sentences you to a minimum of fifteen years in state prison, not to exceed twenty years. It is a small price to pay, as you have sentenced a dozen children to a lifetime of psychological trauma. Also, you are to pay compensation to Mrs. Sarantakos, totalling six thousand dollars, plus court costs. This sentence will take effect the first of December. Meanwhile you will be held in the County Detention Center. Case dismissed."
A final rap of the gavel, and all was done. The jury filed out, relieved their term of service was mercifully brief. Criss helped his mother into her winter coat. "I thought I taught you better manners than that," she chided him.
"What?" Criss shrugged. "He should have apologized to you."
"All the same, you should have shown more restraint."
The left the courtroom together. The media pounced upon the star magician and his mother for statements. Criss waved them off. It was a struggle to get to the car. Dimitra just wanted to go home and take a nap. She was relieved it was over. She had been proven innocent, and Mr. Webber was going to prison where he belonged. Still, she had worries over the children. What would be their fate? She could only pray for them.
Christmas Day was a particularly joyful occasion that year at the Sarantakos house. Not only did it welcome the newest member of the family, Cousin George's new wife, Angela, but that it was the Christmas both Criss and Dimitra almost didn't see, in more ways than one. But this was not a time to bring up the horrors of the past, but to celebrate the present and look confidently toward the future. Not only that, a new season of MindFreak was in the works. There was also rumors of another Phenomenon in October of the New Year.
There were gifts galore, food aplenty, and lots of hugs and kisses all around, with a few tears of joy and gratitiude. Angela had never had such a happier holiday as this one; her Christmases past had been suffering the criticisms of her overbearing sister, Bianca, or at the shelter, where she was appreciated more, if only as someone's meal ticket. Now, she was part of a real family, who loved and accepted her as one of their own, even if she wasn't Greek.
As the holiday euphoria simmered down, Criss noticed his mother staring tearfully out the window. He approached with concern. "Mom? You okay?" he asked gently.
Dimitra looked up at her son. "I'll be fine," she replied, smiling bravely. "I was just thinking of the children I cared for last summer. Where are they now? Are they happy? Are they well? I'm afraid I'll never see them again."
"Mom, you gave those kids the best care they ever got up to that point. I'm sure Social Services will find better homes for them all."
He was momentarily distracted by a knock on the front door, but Angela rushed to answer it. He turned back to his mother. "Have you thought of doing more volunteer work?" he asked.
His mother shook her head. "No, I'm too tired," she said. "Maybe someday."
Criss hedged a little before speaking. "Did it help you to forget...you know, what happened in Vegas?"
"You mean the Bomber, the man who kidnapped me? It haunts me still, but not as much as before. At least I don't hide behind the furniture anymore." She gave a depreciating little laugh.
"Auntie?" Angela called. "You have company."
Dimitra made her way to the front door, wondering who could be calling on her. Angela opened the front door wide enough for her to see. Dimitra's eyes and mouth opened wide as well when she saw Heather, Roland, Buddy, China, Buck, Aaron, Austin, Brandy, Jamal, Derek, Chris and little Kira standing outside, wearing the winter gear Dimitra had bought for them from GoodWill. Roland held a large beribboned box in his gangly arms. "Merry Christmas, Mrs. S.!" they chorused.
Dimitra could hardly believe her eyes. She had just been thinking about them and here they were! She looked at her own son, Christopher, wondering what sort of magic he had used to conjure up this miracle. She quickly invited them all in to get out of the cold, for Heaven's sake, and called the rest of the family to meet them.
It was mass confusion introducing so many to so many others, but it didn't matter. Cookies were brought in for the kids. They practically ate the plate; such a treat was so rare in their lives. Roland handed Dimitra the gift box. "This is for you, Mrs. S.. from all of us." he said.
"Oh! Thank you, Roland," Dimitra gushed as she untied the ribbon, pulled off the lid, and removed the tissue paper inside. Her eyes grew large as she lifted a large porcelain statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Infant Jesus.
"We got that 'cause you was like a mom to us," Derek explained. "You like it?"
"Oh! Darlings! It's beautiful!" She wiped away tears of joy, embracing her former charges for the third time that day. Even China was more receptive than usual. "I'll think of all of you every time I look at it." she sniffled.
All her children, biological and foster, gathered around her. More valuable than rubies, they knew she strove to do good and not evil in her life. She stretched out her hands to the poor and needy, clothed in strength and honor, opening her mouth with wisdom, her tongue the law of kindness. Her children shall rise and call her blessed, and shall rejoice in the time to come.
12-14-2012, 06:40 PM
awwwwwwwwwwww wonderful story :) :) :)
12-14-2012, 10:59 PM
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww great story :)
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