View Full Version : The Miracle Tree
01-31-2013, 05:50 PM
"No person shall be...deprived of life, liberty or property,
without due process of law;
nor shall private property be taken for
public use, without just compensation."
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
"You wanna run all the people out.
This what your're all about.
Treat poor people just like trash.
Turn around and make big cash."
Open letter (to a Landlord) by Living Color.
Sunday morning, five AM. Father Stefan Mykolos, pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in North Las Vegas, stood before the icon of the Theotokos, the Holy Virgin Mary, his hands upraised in prayer. It would be the only private moment he would have all day before the cycle of Masses and other obligations the Sabbath required to keep holy. He was a tall man with carefully groomed jet black hair and a beard to match. His olive complexion revealed his Mediterranean heritage as did his speech, impeccable English with a hint of a Greek accent. His heavy-rimmed eyeglasses gave him a scholarly look, more like a university professor than a priest. His sermons were clear, concise and well-rehearsed, flowing easily from script to speech.
"Tenderness springs forth from you, O Theotokos," he prayed, "make us worthy of compassion. Look upon sinful people, reveal your power for ever as we hope in you and cry aloud: Hail! as did the Archangel Gabriel, Chief Captain of the Bodiless Powers. Amen."
Father Stefan blessed himself and went to prepare for early morning Mass. In the sacristy, two sleepy-eyed altar boys yawned as they donned their surplices. Father could not help but smile at the memory of his own days as an altar boy: rousted out of bed before dawn, a splash of cold water in the face, then the long walk to the church to serve at Mass, then back home for a quick breakfast and off to school. To this day he never slept past quarter to five in the morning, even when he had fractured his foot after falling down the basement stairs in the rectory twelve years ago and had to be laid up for a couple of weeks to recover. He had refused the prescribed painkillers the doctors recommended, preferring to rely on faith alone. No one doubted his sincerity about his divine calling--Father Stefan lived, ate, slept and breathed his faith in God and the Church. He was the first to be called upon when there was any sort of crisis, be it domestic, spiritual, or practical. From baptism to last rites, Father Stefan had served his parishioners for nearly the quarter of a century since he had been placed there by the Archbishop when he was fresh out of seminary. Holy Trinity was not only his church, it was his home, and he loved it dearly.
While Father Stefan readied himself and his acolytes for the early morning Mass, the rest of Sin City was recovering from the previous night's debauchery of drinking, gambling and clubbing. One partygoer in particular was sound asleep in his luxury suite at the Luxor Hotel and Casino after having crawled back from LAX two or three hours ago. Criss Angel, Las Vegas's hottest new star and the Luxor's biggest attraction, lay sprawled on the king-sized bed where he had crashed, half undressed and dead to the world. His fashionably torn jeans, grey Affliction t-shirt and weathered denim jacket lay in a heap on the floor. Hammie, Criss's beloved cat, lay curled on the coverlet between his splayed legs.
It had been a wild night for Criss at LAX. But then, that was how he liked it. He reveled in the rock-star lifestyle that his fame as the greatest magician since Houdini had bought him. He had hot cars and even hotter women, VIP status at every club in Vegas, a fortune in diamond jewelry that he wore prominantly on his fingers and around his neck, and his suite was filled with huge, state of the art electronic games and other expensive toys. He had risked his life performing insanely dangerous illusions and escapes--"demonstrations", he called them--to earn the money to buy all of his cars, jewelry and other things he wanted, but to him, it was all worth it. He was on the top of the entertainment world, riding high on fame and fortune.
But with this ride came a heavy price, and Criss knew it. The possibility of a demonstration going wrong in a way that would result in his death hung over his head like the sword of Damocles. A missed cue, a broken piece of equipment, a miscalulation of timing--anything could send him to an early grave no matter how small in itself it was. He accepted his own death with philosophical calm, just as he had accepted his father's death before him ten years ago. It was the knowledge of leaving his family behind to mourn for him that had needled his conscience, his mother especially. She worried herself sick over him; every demonstration he performed filled her with anxiety, often reducing her to tears, nearly driving her to a nervous breakdown. The reality of his mother's welfare hit home when his manager, Dave Baram, informed him of her emergency heart surgery two years ago. Criss had been so grief-stricken he fled home to New York to be at her side. It was because of her that he had sworn off all the death-defying stunts that had made his career, concentrating on his live show instead.
Even though he gave up the dangerous stunts he had once performed, he did not give up on the lifestyle that came with it. He still went to the clubs on his nights off from performing his live shows, living the good life with the Beautiful People and other members of the Cult of Personality. Now, on this early Sunday morning, he was sleeping off the night's festivities with the rest of the city, taking full advantage of the prescribed Day of Rest.
Suddenly, he was jolted awake by his alarm clock on his nightstand. Criss swore in his pillow, groped around for the offending device and fumbled with the shut-off button to silence it. He was too groggy to remember why he had set it so early in the first place, much less care. He dropped the alarm clock back onto the nightstand and went back to sleep. It was Sunday morning, the only one where he was allowed to sleep in, and sleep in he would. It was his Day of Rest after all.
One floor below Criss's suite, his beloved mother, Dimitra, was still running on New York time; the clock read five AM, but her body told her it was eight. Unable to sleep any longer, Dimitra rose and read the book she had bought with her on the plane to Las Vegas. The hotel's early morning breakfast buffet would not open until at least eight AM at the earliest, and Mass was at nine-thirty, so she had plenty of time until then. These days people seldom if ever fasted before Mass as they did in the old days, and with her advancing age, not to mention her heart scare a few years ago, the health reasons for not fasting were justified.
She was delightfully surprised that she had found Holy Trinity Chruch in North Las Vegas; she wasn't sure that there had been any Greek Orthodox Churches so far west in America, let alone in Las Vegas of all places. From the first day she attended services there, not only did it offer spiritual comfort but also a chance to socialize with people her own age who had immigrated from Greece or were of Greek descent. In the Luxor Hotel, surrounded by her famous son's adoring fans and the MindFreak television crew, she could not help but feel a bit alienated; the world of fame, fortune and luxury was still strange to her. People she didn't know addressed her by name, even posed with her for pictures. She greeted them all graciously, endearing herself to them, but deep down she yearned for the company of her own generation, her fellow countrymen with whom she had more in common than those whom her son called the Loyals. It was in Holy Trinity that she found it. There, she could put aside her "Mama Angel" reputation and just be Dimitra Sarantakos of New York, chatting with the other parishioners and worshipping God in peace. No cameras, no demanding fans, just blend in with the crowd and relax.
Like any good churchgoing mother, Dimitra had tried to persuade her sons to accompany her to Mass at Holy Trinity. Her eldest son, JD, attended with his wife and daughter, Little Dimitra, but rather sporadically, depending on the production schedule. Costa, her second son, also made rare appearances at Mass for the same reason. And her youngest, most famous son of all, Christopher, spent too much time at the nightclubs and the bars to even get out of bed, let alone for Mass. He was probably asleep at this very moment. The Sarantakos family had deep spiritual roots, and Christopher even prayed before his demonstrations, but ever since he hit the big time, churchgoing was all but a thing of the past. It was up to Dimitra herself to pray for her sons' spiritual well-being. Maybe next Sunday she would have better luck herding her brood to Mass.
David Abercrombie rubbed his eyes in an effort to stay awake. He checked his watch and was shocked to discover it was five AM. He had worked the entire night and into Sunday morning. The pot of coffee he had been living on was nine-tenths empty and the caffeine had worn off. His bladder threatened to explode like an overfilled water balloon, so he rose from his design table to use the bathroom. Once relieved of the pot of coffee he had drunk throughout the night, he caught his reflection in the bathroom mirror. His face was haggard, dark circles ringed his eyes, and he was in dire need of a shave.
Why was he knocking himself out like this? he asked himself. Oh, yeah, he remembered, the design plans for the Grand Imperial Hotel, Resort and Casino which the owner, Monique Wesley, wanted on her desk first thing Monday morning, completed and ready to build. As if Las Vegas needed any more luxury hotels, resorts and casinos as it was, he thought with a tinge of bitterness bred from his exhaustion. The way the economy was, tourism in Vegas was way down; a lot of the existing hotels were bleeding red ink from lack of guests who could afford to stay in them, even with online discounts.
David returned to his table and stared at the design plans for the Grand Imperial, a fifty-story monstrosity of glass and steel and Italian white marble which would boast an Olympic sized swimming pool, a complete health spa and gym, a "collection" of exclusive shops and boutiques, a megaplex movie theater with stadium seating, a garden atrium of exotic plants, a day care center for guests who wanted to ditch their children for the day, and a twenty-four hour surveillance system with Hi-Def cameras so sophisticated it surpassed even National Security standards. It would be the most expensive hotel to build, nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars. And what was worse was that it was to be built over an existing neighborhood in North Las Vegas, and who cared what happened to the residents who already lived there?
Monique had assured him that by building the Grand Imperial that she was providing jobs for the local economy and was revitalizing the North Las Vegas neighborhood by improving it with a luxury hotel. It would increase property values, she had said, which meant more tax revenue for both the city of Las Vegas and the state of Nevada. So what if it meant tearing down a few crummy houses and buildings? The Grand Imperial was just the thing to jump-start the state's sagging economy. It was out with the old and in with the new. You couldn't stop progress, she had told him.
As enthusiastic as Monique sounded, David had his misgivings, especially when he went over the map of the designated area. Those few crummy houses and buildings she had referred to so disparagingly consisted of nearly two thousand homes, one hundred and fifty businesses, a dozen churches, a school and couple of nursing homes. The oldest church, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox, was seventy-five years old--it was practically a historic landmark! And Monique Wesley was going to tear it down for a hotel?
Exhaustion and despair drove David out of his office and into his bedroom. He planned to spend all day Sunday in bed. Tomorrow, he would deal with Monique. Maybe he could talk her out of tearing down half of North Las Vegas for her fantasy hotel and relocate somewhere else.
Yeah, he thought skeptically, and maybe the moon will fall out of the sky!
02-01-2013, 04:59 AM
I remember this one but I won't reveal the ending.
02-01-2013, 03:05 PM
Thank you. Seems you and I are the only ones on this thread.
02-01-2013, 03:18 PM
Criss was awakened by a small pink nose nudging his ear accompanied by the sound of purring. He turned over, sniffling and snorting, staring groggily at his cat, Hammie, who in turn stared directly into his owner's face. Criss knew from experience that whenever Hammie stared him down like that, it meant feeding time.
Criss rolled over and buried his face in his pillow. "Not now, Hammie," he mumbled drowsily. "I'm too tired."
Again the purring and the nudging in his ear. Criss brushed his cat away and tried to go back to sleep. Hammie refused to be ignored; he was hungry and he wanted to be fed. Since the usual nudging and purring had failed, he tried a more direct approach by positioning himself right next to Criss's ear and giving him a single miaw directly into it.
That did the trick. Criss flinched at the sound of his cat's vocal demand for food. Realizing that he had no choice in the matter, Criss forced himself out of bed and padded to the cupboard where he kept Hammie's supply of cat food, wearing only his CK shorts and a bleary-eyed expression on his face. Hammie trotted alongside him expectantly. Criss grabbed the first can of cat food he found and fumbled around in the utility drawer for the can opener.
"Son of a (bleep)," he cursed under his breath as he sifted through the contents of the drawer. "Where the (bleep) is that (bleeping) can opener?"
Hammie miawed again. "Will you wait just a (bleeping) minute?" Criss snapped irritably. "I'm hurrying as fast as I can!"
The can opener was not in the drawer. In a fit of anger Criss slammed the drawer shut. It was then that he discovered that the can had a pull-top ring to open it. Criss siezed the can and wrenched the top open with one ferocious yank on the ring, then laid the can down in front of Hammie, not even bothering to empty it into a dish. Hammie tucked into his breakfast eagerly, oblivious to his owner's foul mood.
Criss padded back to bed, but no sooner did he step into the bedroom than he felt the overwhelming need to answer Nature's call regarding the three or four drink specials he had consumed at LAX the night before. He stumbled into the bathroom, positioned himself over the toilet and relieved himself. With that bit of personal business completed, he padded back into the bedroom to seek sweet repose once again in the comfort of his king-sized bed. He flopped down onto the mattress with a relieved grunt and tried to go back to sleep.
Then his cell phone rang. With an angry moan Criss siezed the accursed device and flipped it open, wondering irritably who in the world would have the nerve to call him so early on Sunday morning when he was trying to catch up on his sleep. "Hello?" he growled.
"Good morning, Christopher," he heard his mother's voice in his ear. "Did I wake you up?"
"Oh, hi, Mom," he mumbled hoarsly. "No, I...I had to feed Hammie, and...what's up?"
"Well, I am getting ready for Mass at Holy Trinity," Dimitra told him. "You want to come with me? It would be nice if you did."
Yeah, it would be nice if he did if he wasn't so dog-tired, he thought. "Uh, not right now, Mom," he said, forcing himself to be as gracious as he could. "I really need to catch up on my sleep, you know. I had a, uh, busy week."
Dimitra was not buying this lame excuse. "More like a late night at the club again," she retorted.
Criss smiled for the first time that morning; he could fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but he couldn't fool his mother. "Well, unless you want me falling asleep during the service..." he said.
"Never mind," Dimitra said, conceding defeat. "You go back to sleep. I'll meet you for dinner later."
Criss sighed with relief, glad he was off the hook. "Thanks, Mom. Say hi to Father Stefan for me, willya?"
"I will," Dimitra agreed, though Criss could sense that she would have preferred him saying hi to Father Stefan in person.
"I love you, Mom," Criss said.
"I love you, too, honey," Dimitra returned.
"I love you more. 'Bye."
Criss flipped off his phone and flopped back onto the mattress. Soon he was drifting off to sleep again, still clutching the cell phone in his hand.
The Mass had ended, and the congregation was filing out the door. Dimitra, modestly but stylishly dressed in a navy-blue dress suit and wide-brimmed hat, chatted pleasantly with the two other elderly women by her side, a Mrs. Kanakedes, a widow of twelve years, and a Mrs. Christoforos, whose husband was confined to the Desert Springs Nursing Facility not too far from the church.
"So good to have you back here, Dima," said Mrs. Kanakedes. "How long will you be staying here this time?"
"Probably until spring," Dimitra replied with a hint of resignation. "The winters in New York, they're really starting to bother me more than ever. I can't take the cold anymore."
"Nikolos was like that," Mrs. Christoforos told her. "We moved here to the Southwest after he retired because the winters in the Midwest aggravated his arthritis so badly he couldn't even walk. We planned to go to Florida, but it's too expensive down there, not to mention all the hurricanes they've been having."
"So true," Dimitra agreed. "Besides, all three of my sons are here in Las Vegas. Costa just bought himself a new house, a very large one, and very beautiful. My granddaughter goes to school here, so I have my immediate family at least."
"I don't see your family that often," Mrs. Kanakedes said. "You would think at least your son the famous magician would take the time to come to Mass."
"He would, if he wasn't so tired all the time," Dimitra said half-apologetically, half-defensively. "He's been here a few times in the past, so don't worry about him."
"A 'few times' is not sufficent, Dimitra," Mrs. Kanakedes retorted primly. "And you should be worried about him."
"Oh, I worry about him," Dimitra told her. "I worry about him a great deal. If you ever witnessed one of his stunts, you'd understand how much I worry about him."
By now the threesome had approached the vestibule of the church where Father Stefan waited to greet them. The good father greeted each of them in turn, first Mrs. Kanakedes, then Mrs. Christoforos, then Dimitra.
"Welcome back, Dimitra," Father Stefan said warmly.
"Thank you, Father." Dimitra placed a faux kiss on his cheek.
"And how are doing?" Father asked.
"Very well, Father, thank you."
"Are you alone today, or did you bring any of your family members with you?"
"I am afraid I am by myself today, Father," Dimitra sighed. "Maybe next time."
"Well, they'll be in my prayers," Father assured her. "Especially Christopher. He's not planning any more death-defying stunts, is he?"
"No, Father, thank God he's not," Dimitra replied. "He promised me no more dangerous stunts after that building implosion in Florida."
"Good. Tell him I'd like to see him again sometime."
"I'll tell him," Dimitra promised. "As soon as he wakes up, that is. He works so hard he doesn't get much sleep. For him, the Day of Rest is just that--a day of rest."
"Well, may God watch over him," Father said. "And you."
"Thank you, Father."
Dimitra walked out of the vestibule and down the stone steps of the church. Such a wonderful man, Father Stefan, she thought. It was a long drive from the Luxor, but the spiritual comfort she found there, not to mention the cameraderie of people her own age, made the trip worthwhile. She found her rental car and drove back to the hotel, not even minding the slow after-church traffic inching its way up the street. Dimitra had heard that Las Vegas had the highest number of houses of worship per capita in the nation, an ironic distinction for the municipality people referred to as Sin City. Perhaps it was because people needed to seek redemption for gambling too much, she thought, but in reality it was the fact that Vegas was also the elopement capital of the nation due to the easy marriage laws. Whatever. The only thing that mattered was that Holy Trinity was there to serve her and her family's spiritual needs while they resided in Vegas. The stillness of the atmosphere, the icons softly lit with votive candles, the scent of purifying incense, and above all the silence--it was an oasis of peace and comfort, a refuge from the gaudy neon world of casinos, luxury hotels, theaters, clubs, bars and other attractions the fabled Strip offered.
Thank you, Lord, for guiding me to Holy Trinity Church here in Las Vegas, Dimitra prayed gratefully. May it continue to provide spiritual comfort for all Your children for years to come. Bless Father Stefan and help him in his holy work. Amen.
Father Stefan stared at the letter in his hand in total shock and disbelief. Normally he would never deal with mundane business matters on the Sabbath, preferring to leave it for Monday, but as he was clearing his desk of clutter he came across this particular letter. Not remembering from whom or when he received it, he opened it simply out of curiosity. The letter inside stunned him as he read it.
Dear Father Mykolos:
We have contracted with Harlan and Harlan to build the new Grand Imperial Hotel and Resort in North Las Vegas in an effort to revitalize the area and create new employment for hundreds of residents. We have chosen this site because of its prime location to Las Vegas's metropolitan area. We offer you $10,000 for the church property and all title to it. If you refuse, we can claim the property under eminent domain laws.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at 579-555-6063
Monique Wesley, CEO,
Ten thousand dollars for his church just so some corporate bigwig could build a hotel on it? It was an outrage! Holy Trinity Church was priceless! All the money in the world could not persuade Father Stefan to sell it! And what was this nonsense about "eminent domain laws"? God Himself had "eminent domain" over this church and its surrounding parish for the past seventy-five years! Who was this person to tell him to give it up?
Oh, he would contact this Monique Wesley, CEO, SilverStar Enterprises all right, and give her a piece of his mind big enough for her to choke on it! If he had to, he would appeal to the Bishop of the diocese, the Archbishop, and even the Metropolitan himself for support. No one, but no one was going to destroy Holy Trinity Church for anything, not for anything!
But, Father realized as his righteous fury simmered down, that would have to wait until tomorrow. Today was still the Sabbath, and no secular business could be conducted on it. This crisis would have to wait; he still had his duties to perform. It would be best to keep quiet about this, he decided; he didn't want to alarm his congregation. For now, this was his problem to deal with alone.
Almighty God, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, he prayed, come to my help and deliver me from this difficulty that besets me. I believe Lord, that all trials of life are under Your care and that all things work for the good of those who love You. Take away from me fear, anxiety and distress. Help me to face and endure my difficulty with faith, courage and wisdom. Grant that this trial may bring me closer to You for You are my rock and refuge, my comfort and hope, my delight and joy. I trust in Your love and compassion. Blessed is Your name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
He set the letter aside and prepared for the High Mass, confident that this whole ridiculous business would be resolved by tomorrow. Tearing down a church for a luxury hotel would cause such a public outcry that SilverStar Enterprises, whatever that was, would immediatly back off to avoid negative publicity. And Holy Trinity was still an active church; it wasn't like it was in dire financial straits. No, they'd have to build their Tower of Babylon somewhere else. Holy Trinity was here to stay, and no one on earth could change that.
02-02-2013, 03:11 PM
Sunday, the sanctified Day of Rest, gave way to Monday, the dreaded Day of Work. For the millions of Las Vegas's ordinary citizens, it was back to the nine-to-five routine. Almost a thousand of those citizens reported for duty at SilverStar Enterprises, ready to repeat the endless cycle of tedious routine, sitting in their cubicles in front of their PCs crunching numbers and going over spreadsheets.
Monique Wesley, CEO and queen bee of this hive of corporate industry, sat at her glass-topped desk in her spacious office, her phone headset firmly in her ear, going over the design plans David Abercrombie had just given her. She scanned the huge sheets carefully, examining every detail of the Grand Imperial Hotel while Abercrombie sat across from her with his stomach in knots from trying to interpret Ms. Wesley's "hmmm's" and "mmm-hmmm's" as positive or negative feedback. After a near eternity of all this, she finally looked up at him.
"It's perfect!" she exclaimed. "Dave, you did everything I asked and then some! You are an absolute genius!"
"Thank you, Ms. Wesley," Abercrombie muttered. Then he swallowed hard and plunged, "There's just one thing that bothers me, though."
"What's that?" Monique asked as she carefully rolled up the plans.
"The fact that you're going to be demolishing an entire community to build it," Abercrombie said. "What about those poor people whose homes you're going to level? What about all those small businesses? Don't you have any consideration for them at all?"
"Dave, don't worry about it," Monique said reassuringly. "It's not like they're going to be tossed out on the street just like that. They're being compensated--five hundred dollars a house. Good grief, Dave, you make me out like I'm some sort of ogre!"
"Five hundred dollars for a house?" Abercrombie echoed incredulously. "What the hell can you do with five hundred dollars? You can't buy a closet for that kind of money! These are people's homes and livelihoods we're talking about!"
"Dave, I'm providing homes and livelihoods with the Grand Imperial," Monique argued. "Better than those little mom-and-pop shops they have over there. I'm providing a better source of income for hundreds of people while at the same time improving the property values in the area. If you saw how disgraceful that area really is, you'd agree with me."
"I don't agree with throwing people out of their homes just because you want to 'improve property values'!" Abercrombie shot back. "If you really want to improve the property values, rebuild the neighborhood, don't tear it down! People have a right to live where they want, or at least where they can afford to."
"Rebuild?" Monique sniffed derisively. "Rebuild a slum? Those 'homes and livelihoods' that you're so passionatly concerned about are crumbling ruins! It would cost more money to rebuild them than to tear them down! And the people who live in those neighborhoods are living in misery! Those buildings are vermin-infested hellholes! Gangs run wild in the streets--you can't walk down to the corner store without being mugged! I'm doing them a favor by buying them out, Dave. I'm giving them a fresh start in life."
"What kind of 'fresh start' can you get with five hundred dollars?" Abercrombie wanted to know.
Monique sidled up beside him. "Dave," she cooed. "I assure you, it's all for the best. Everything's going to work out, you'll see. Trust me, they'll be all too happy to accept my offer. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do."
Realizing that it was useless to argue any furthur, Abercrombie strode out of the office. Dear God, why did I get myself mixed up with that woman? I feel like an accomplice to a murder! I should have turned her commission down the minute she told me about tearing down half of North Las Vegas to build her dream castle! But noooooo, the profit margin overruled me!
Abercrombie stood by the elevator waiting to go down. Monique's words still burned in his ears: I'm doing them a favor by buying them out! I'm improving property values! Good grief, Dave, you make me out like I'm some sort of ogre!
Yeah, Monique, he said to himself, you are an ogre! Maybe I should start calling you Shrek. It'd be better than a lot of other names I can think of for you!
There were times in Criss Angel's career when he could be free to create new illusions to amaze audiences, to let his fertile imagination soar to new heights, to improve on old ideas and revise new ones. Once he was inspired, there was no stopping him. He had the soul of an artist and the daring of an adventurer, a combination many found dangerous if not lethal. Then there were times when work was work, the tedious tasks of handling finance, insurance, payroll for his staff and other expenses; ordering, shipping and receiving new merchandise for the outlet store and supplies for the warehouse where he kept all his props; production schedules, shooting schedules, location scouting schedules, and live show schedules; production meetings, design meetings, and other demands on his time. It all kept him buried up to his CA logo in paperwork, even with an office full of assistants.
This particular Monday was no different. Criss sat at his desk in his personal office going over the week's expense report and other business matters, keeping an eye on his diamond-studded watch to make sure he would not be late for the day's production meeting. He did not begrudge the time spent on paperwork; he had learned through his experience with founding and running Monster Music back in Long Island, New York, during his youth that this was all part of running a business. Keep an eye on the bottom line, manage your finances carefully, pay your bills on time, and don't let anything slide--that was what his father, God rest him, had taught his three sons since they were old enough to work in his cafe. They were lessons Criss had learned well, too well when he considered the moutain of paper he had to wade through this morning.
His cell phone rang in his pocket. Criss pulled it out and looked on the small screen to identify the caller. JD, it read. His brother and right-hand man when it came to running MindFreak Productions was calling. He flipped it open. "Hey, JD, what's up?" he greeted him.
"Hey, Christopher," JD returned. "Just calling to tell you that Gerard can't make it to the meeting today. His mom's had a heart attack and they had to take her to the hospital last night."
Criss was stunned. "Oh, okay, no problem," he said hastily, a feeling of deja-vu coming over him. "Tell him to take as much time off as he needs."
"Sure thing, bro'."
"Okay, 'bye." Criss flipped off his phone and sat motionless in his office chair. The deja-vu he felt blossomed into total recall: He had been at the Sunflower Market, and had done a demonstration for an engaged couple by making the bride-to-be's ring disappear and reappear in a loaf of bread. No sooner had they left when Banachek came up to him and laid his hands gently on Criss's shoulders. Criss, we just got word from your brother, JD. Your mother has to go to the hospital for emergency heart surgery.
He remembered the shock he felt when he heard those words. Suddenly, everything he had worked for seemed unimportant. His mother was sick, possibly dying. His first instinct was to run to her side, but he had to do that Quad Drag Escape at the Excalibur that evening and there was no way out of it. He had made emergency reservations for a seven-thirty red-eye flight to New York right after the performance, did the demonstration and rushed to the airport right after. Mercifully, Dimitra came out of her operation sucessfully, but the thought of losing his beloved mother still haunted him.
Impulsively, Criss called his mother's cell number. "Hey, Mom, how ya doin'?" he greeted her.
"I'm fine, honey," Dimitra replied. "What do you want?"
"Oh, I just, well..." Criss struggled to find a plausible excuse. "I just wanted to see if you wanted to join me for lunch later." Yeah, that would work. A quick lunch and off to the production meeting. No problem.
"Well, I'd like to," Dimitra said, "but I have a lunch date with some friends from the church this afternoon."
Criss was puzzled. All of his mother's church friends were back in Long Island. How could she be meeting them here in Vegas? "Friends?" he repeated bemusedly.
"Yes, I have some new friends from Holy Trinity," his mother clarified for him. "We're having lunch together around one o'clock. Sorry to disappoint you."
"No, no, it's okay, Mom," Criss assured her. "I'm happy you got to make some new friends here in Vegas. It's just that...Gerard's mother had a heart attack last night and--"
"Oh!" Dimitra exclaimed. "Oh, dear! Well, we will all pray for her recovery."
"I'm sure she'll appreciate it, Mom," Criss said. "You go and have a good time with your new friends. I got too much to do here, anyway. Love you."
"I love you, too, Christopher."
"I love you more. 'Bye."
Criss hung up. So his mother has some new friends here in Vegas, he thought. Well, that was good. She always enjoyed going to Holy Trinity when she was here, and no doubt she got to know everyone there. It was good for her to get out and have a social life of her own, especially since Dad died and she was pretty much alone. As much as he loved her, he couldn't keep his mother company all the time, not with his schedule. With friends her own age, she could relax and enjoy herself in ways he could not provide. Holy Trinity was the best thing for his mother's well being since he didn't know what. The memory of her heart surgery faded away and he returned to his work with renewed spirit. His mother was healthy and happy, and that was all that mattered.
And Dimitra was indeed happy, sitting in the small tea room run by a member of the church for elderly parishioners to socialize, with Mrs. Kanakedes, Mrs. Christoforos, and Mrs. Mykolos, Father Stefan's wife, for company. They nibbled on whole-grain rolls with low-fat spread (for health reasons), and sipped the wonderful herbal teas which made the tea room so popular.
"And how is your husband, Nikolos?" Dimitra asked Mrs. Christoforos.
"Stable," Mrs. Christoforos replied. "The medical term for pretty much the same. The nursing home is giving him very good care, though I wish I could have him home where he belongs."
"It would be too much of a burden on you, Helena," Mrs. Kanakedes said. "Not with his condition."
"Still, I am his wife, and it is my duty to care for my husband," Mrs. Christoforos insisted.
"Not when your husband's condition is so severe that he needs specialized care," Mrs. Kanakedes argued.
"He's in our prayers, Helena," Mrs. Mykolos assured her. "You may not be able to provide the kind of care he needs, but you can make his time on earth as comfortable as you can. Just being by his side is enough. Desert Springs is a very good facility. My husband goes there every week to visit the residents and tend to their spiritual needs, and he says there was nothing there to complain about."
"I know it is," Mrs. Christoforos agreed, "but, well, I miss my Nikolos. I want him home by my side as he had been before that stroke crippled him. It's like I'm practically a widow without him at home."
"You have the church to offer you comfort and company, Helena," Mrs. Mykolos told her reassuringly. "We'll always be there for you."
That last sentence made her pause, as if she suddenly remembered something. Her hesitation went unnoticed by the other three women at the table.
"She's right, Helena," Mrs. Kanakedes agreed wholeheartedly. "You will always have the church to fall back on when things get rough. No matter what happens, it will always be there for you."
"Of course it will," Dimitra chimed in. "You are very lucky to have such a fine church with such a wonderful priest serving the community. I am so glad to have found it when I did. It makes my visits to Las Vegas so much more enjoyable--not that they weren't before, mind you, but it's been so good for me and my family. If it hadn't been for Father Stefan, my husband's cousin Aliziveta would still be wandering around Las Vegas, poor woman" (1)
"And how is Aliziveta doing?" Mrs. Christoforos asked.
"Oh, very well," Dimitra answered. "Mrs. Theodoros is receiving wonderful care from her. Who knows? Maybe she'll come back here and work at Desert Springs someday."
"That would be nice," said Mrs. Mykolos, "if it's still around."
The three women stared at their pastor's wife. "What do you mean by that, Cassandra?" Mrs. Christoforos asked.
Mrs. Mykolos was flustered. "I'm sorry, I did not mean to let it slip out like that." she apologized.
"Let what slip out?" Mrs. Kanakedes persisted.
Mrs. Mykolos sighed heavily. "Please don't go spreading this around, but we received this letter from some firm who wants to offer us ten thousand dollars to sell the church."
"Sell the church!" Dimitra, Mrs. Kanakedes and Mrs. Christoforos were aghast.
"Yes," Mrs. Mykolos nodded. "It seems that this firm wants to buy up all the property and tear it all down to build some big luxury hotel."
"They can't do that!" Dimitra exclaimed. "They have no right to do that!"
"It seems they can," Mrs. Mykolos told her. "They are claiming it under something called 'eminent domain'. Stefan is trying to talk them out of it, of course. But it's not just the church, it's the school, the stores, all the houses, even the nursing home Nikolos is in."
"May God forbid!" Mrs. Christoforos cried. "Who could be so heartless as to do that?"
"The owner of the firm," Mrs. Mykolos replied simply. "We have thirty days to comply."
Mrs. Christoforos began to cry. "What can we do?" she sobbed. "Is there no way to stop them?"
Dimitra laid a hand on her shoulder to comfort her. "We will find a way," she told her. "There are laws to protect us from this and we are going to find them! Mrs. Mykolos," she said, turning to the priest's wife. "You said your nephew was a lawyer. Can't he find a way to stop them from destroying the church?"
"He's not a lawyer, he's a paralegal," Mrs. Mykolos replied. "He's not allowed to practice law."
"Call him anyway," Dimitra ordered her. "In the meantime, we can't give into despair. We have to band together to stop these people from taking away what is rightfully ours! We can either sit here crying in our cups of tea, or we can band together and fight! Are you with me?"
The three women clutched their hands together in a knot of defiance on the small damask-covered table. "Good," said Dimitra. "Can you get Father Stefan to call a meeting in the church about this?"
"I can," Mrs. Mykolos said. "If he's not planning one already."
"All right. We need to make this known to everyone. The more people who join us, the stronger we are! If we all stick together we can save the church and the neighborhood around it!"
"Maybe we should circulate a petition," Mrs. Kanakedes suggested.
"Yes, yes, that's a good idea!" Dimitra agreed. "You draw up the petition, Mrs. Mykolos will work with Father Stefan on the meeting, and Mrs. Christoforos will get hold of everyone who wants to get involved."
"What about you, Dimitra?" Mrs. Mykolos asked.
"Myself?" Dimitra adjusted her glasses thoughtfully. "I'm going to take this nationwide, let the whole country know about this outrage against us."
Mrs. Mykolos was puzzled. "How are you going to do that?"
Dimitra smiled. "What good is being the mother of a famous magician if you can't use the publicity to your advantage?"
(1) See None So Blind
02-04-2013, 04:27 PM
Almost a week had gone by since David Abercrombie had presented his design plans for the Grand Imperial to Monique Wesley, and today would be the official unveiling of the giant four foot model before the assembled members of the press to announce its imminant construction. In the giant auditoium of SilverStar Enterprises, the fashionably slim brownette CEO stood beside a silken draped object prominantly displayed in the center of the stage. Monique stood behind a podium, smiling radiantly with flawlessly white teeth at the audience of reporters, photographers and corporate types below her. This was her moment to shine, and she savored every moment of it.
"Ladies and gentlemen," she spoke into the microphone mounted on the podium, "thank you for coming here today to witness this monmumental undertaking, the biggest in the history of Las Vegas! What I am about to show you will set a new gold standard in luxury and comfort for years to come! The largest hotel, resort and casino ever built--the Grand Imperial!"
The silken covering was whisked away by invisible wires, revealing a rectangular tryptich of silvery glass lined with white Italian marble. Tiny lights illuminated the model around the base, miniature fountains trickled in front of its entrance, and an elegantly scrolled sign reading Grand Imperial glowed on top of it. The audience gasped, then applauded while flashbulbs popped, causing the glass model to sparkle.
Monique basked in the glow of adulation from those below her. When the applause died down, she continued with her presentation. "The Grand Imperial will be fifty stories high, with three thousand guest suites with all the amenities," Monique went on enthusiastically. "It will also have over a hundred shops and boutiques, thirty gourmet restaraunts, a full-sized health spa and fitness center, an Olympic-sized pool, a megaplex movie theater, the world's largest casino, the first ever indoor golf course, and even a twenty-four hour daycare center for children seven and under. Yes, the Grand Imperial will cater to all members of the family regardless of age. Now I know there are a lot of skeptics out there wondering why SilverStar is building such a fabulous hotel in such troubled economic times. But I guarnatee that this project will create thousands of new jobs, not only in its construction, but in maintaining it and catering to our guests. With it, the Grand Imperial will generate millions of dollars in tax revenues for the city of Las Vegas and the state of Nevada, and boost tourism in the bargain!"
"Question," a reporter in the front row spoke up. "How much is it going to cost?"
"I'm glad you asked that," Monique said. "The total cost of construction will be two hundred and fifty billion dollars, but with its projected return on the original investment, it will pay for itself in ten years."
"That's pretty optimistic," someone spoke up.
"I have every reason to be optimistic," Monique retorted cheerfully. "The Grand Imperial will be the best thing to happen in Las Vegas since legalized gambling!"
"Where will the Grand Imperial be built?" asked another reporter.
"The Grand Imperial will be located on the border between Las Vegas and North Las Vegas," Monique answered. "This project will revitalize the North Las Vegas community by increasing its property values and ridding it of unsafe structures. As I stated before, it will create thousands of new jobs for the community, stimulating the economy. It's a win-win situation all around!"
Father Stefan snapped off the television in disgust. He had been watching the evening news broadcast featuring the Grand Imperial project with as much resentment as Monique Wesley had optimism. A win-win situation? For whom? he wondered. For Monique Wesley, for SilverStar Enterprises, for those corporate bigwigs, yes, but what about the rest of the community facing the wrecking ball like Holy Trinity Church? What about those poor elderly residents in the Desert Springs Nursing Facility? What about the hundreds of homeowners who lived here, worked here, sent their children to school here? Why should they sacrifice their homes, their businesses and their churches for SilverStar's two hundred and fifty billion dollar Tower of Babel? Where was the "win" in that win-win situation for them?
The phone in the rectory living room rang. Father Stefan picked it up to answer it. "Holy Trinity, Father Stefan speaking."
"Father?" came a female voice on the other end. "This is Dimitra Sarantakos."
"Oh, yes, Dimitra. What can I do for you?"
"It's rather what we can do for you, Father."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Your wife, Mrs. Christoforos, Mrs. Kanakedes, and I were talking in the tea room this afternoon," Dimitra began. "We know all about the trouble the church and the neighborhood is in, and the four of us are banding together to fight this outrage."
Father Stefan was taken aback by this news. "Are you? Well, may God bless your efforts."
"And yours," Dimitra said. "We need you to lead us in protest over this. We need you to talk some sense into these people who want to tear down the church. We need you to call a meeting of every member to come up with a solution for this problem. We will help you in any way we can. Mrs. Kanakedes is drawing up the petition, and I'm trying to arrange the publicity. But we need you to guide us."
"All right, I'll arrange the meeting right after vespers tomorrow. If you can generate enough publicity for our cause, we can't fail. Thank you, Dimitra, and may God bless you."
"Thank you, Father. Good night."
Father hung up the phone. He had to admire the woman's spirit; she was definatly not going down without a fight. Now I know where her son Christopher gets his determination to succeed, he thought. With a mother like that, it's no wonder he made it on top of the entertainment ladder the way he did!
"They're gonna what?!" Criss roared disbelievingly over the phone at his mother.
"It's true," Dimitra said sadly. "This big corporation is going to tear down Holy Trinity Church and the entire neighborhood around it to build a luxury hotel."
Criss leaned back in his office chair, stunned. He had been busy in his office when he received an urgent voicemail from his mother requesting that he contact her immediatly. Fearing the worst, Criss dropped what he was doing and called her. He had feared more bad news about her heart, but the real reason for her summons threw him for a loop. "They can't do that!" he cried. "They can't just take over the whole neighborhood and tear it down! They don't have the right to do that to anyone!"
"Well, it seems they can," Dimitra sighed. "They have this law called 'eminent domain' to convert any property for public use, or at least that is what I heard."
"No way, Ma!" stormed Criss. "No way in hell are they gonna tear down the church or anything else! They're just greedy land grabbers out to make a buck!"
"Then you'll help us?" Dimitra asked hopefully. "You'll help us save the church? We'd all be so grateful if you did."
Criss hesitated for a long moment. He had not planned on getting involved in this business, and he had no idea on what to do. But his mother's voice clutched his heart in a way nothing else could. He knew that she loved Holy Trinity, and Holy Trinity had been good to her. There was no way he could refuse: what Mom wanted, Mom got.
"Okay," he said. "Lemme make a few phone calls and I'll get back to you. What's the name of this company, anyway."
"Oh, dear, I don't remember," Dimitra replied, flustered. "If you call Father Stefan, he'll tell you. He received the letter from them a few days ago."
"Father Stefan. Got it."
"What are you planning on doing, anyway?" Dimitra asked.
"Well, first of all, I'm going to call these robber barons and tell them exactly what they can do with their plans to build a hotel on church property," Criss told her. "And if I can't get through to them, I'll help file a class action suit on everyone's behalf. Don't worry, Ma, I won't let anyone wreck the church."
"You mean we won't let anyone wreck the church," Dimitra corrected.
"We have a petition started to stop them," Dimitra told him. "And Father Stefan is holding a meeting at the church tomorrow evening after vespers. We are banding together to save our church, and the neighborhood around it. We'll fight them no matter what it takes!"
Criss could not help but be impressed. "Boy, Ma, you're really spoiling for a fight here," he said.
"So, would you please come to the meeting tomorrow?" his mother beseeched him. "It's at seven-thirty."
"Tomorrow, seven-thirty at the church," Criss repeated. "Got it."
Criss could almost see his mother smiling. "I'm so glad you're helping us, Christopher."
"Glad to help, Mom. I love you."
"I love you, too, honey."
"I love you more. See you later, then."
"I will. Good-bye."
Criss hung up the phone. Damn! he said to himself. I can't believe that anyone would tear down a church like that. I'd like to find that guy and kick his ass! No way am I going to even let him near that church!
The next evening after vespers, and Holy Trinity was standing room only. Not only the church's original congregation, but those residents and business owners who got wind of the meeting were also in attendance. Little knots of outraged citizens huddled here and there to discuss the upcoming takeover. Neither the proximity of the sacred icons nor even being in a house of worship deterred them from strongly voicing their opinions.
"I've been here for nearly twenty-five years! Who are they to tell me I have to leave?"
"It's criminal! Simply criminal!"
"I can't afford to move! I was lucky to find the place I have now!"
"I sank every dime I had into my shop, and now they want to bulldoze it?"
"They can go to Hell for all I care!"
"Lenny! This is a church! Watch your language!"
"I ain't swearing! I mean it literally!"
Page after page of the petition to save the neighborhood filled with signatures. By the time Father Stefan arrived to begin the meeting, they were almost to the end of the last sheet.
Criss, his mother, Dimitra, his brothers, JD and Costa, and his cousin, George, sat in one corner of the crowded church. "Quite a turnout," George commented. "Must've known you were coming, Criss."
"It's not me," Criss said. "These people's homes and livelihoods are at stake."
"Ladies and gentlemen!" Father Stefan called out from the pulpit. "May I have your attention please!"
The chatter gradually died down int shushes and whispered demands for silence. "Thank you," Father said. "For those who don't know me, I am Father Stefan Mykolos, the priest here at Holy Trinity, and I bid you all welcome. As you are no doubt aware, SilverStar Enterprises is planning to demolish the entire area, including this church, to make room for a mammoth luxury hotel. They offered to buy us all out for a pittance to build a two hundred and fifty million dollar megacomplex resort, all in the name of property values--and profits! When I tried to contact them, all I got was voicemail. When I went there in person to speak to the CEO, Monique Wesley, I was rebuffed. The only answer they want to hear from us is 'yes'."
Murmurs of discontent rippled through the assembled company. Father went on with his speech. "That is why we have been circulating a petition to protest this outrage against us. With enough public support, we can nip this takeover in the bud! No reasonable person would allow such a thing to happen to anyone. It is up to us to stand together and say no to SilverStar!"
Enthusiatic applause echoed throughout the church. Father waived his hands for silence. "Furthurmore," he shouted over the din, "furthermore, we are filing an injunction against SilverStar Enterprises for illegal conversion of property. If necessary, we will also file a class action suit against them. They may have millions of dollars, but we have the numbers, and we have our rights!"
The audience erupted into loud cheers. Again, Father called for order. "We have done all we could on this end," Father said. "Now, it is up to each and every one of you to do your part. Make our cause known! Circulate petitions! Above all, keep the faith! Together, we cannot fail! With God's help, we cannot be defeated!"
Shouts and cheers shook the rafters and rattled the stained glass windows. Suddenly, Criss bounded up to Father Stefan's side, resulting in more, even louder cheers, not ot mention a few squees from the younger female members in the audience. Father looked at him bemusedly. "Hello, Christopher," he said, recovering from this sudden intrusion.
"Hey, Father," Criss said casually.
"Uh, ladies and gentlemen, Criss Angel," Father announced simply.
Criss waited for the thunderous applause to die down, then mounted the pulpit. "Thank you, Father," Criss said, then turned to the crowd. "Um, yesterday, my mother called me with the bad news about the reason we're all here tonight. She asked me if there was anything I could do to help. Well, you know me--I'd do anything for my mom."
There were some chuckles, then Criss continued. "I made a few phone calls to those members of the media I'm still on friendly terms with, and with Father's permission, we can arrange for a press conference here in the church to offer our side of the story. It'll be broadcast on almost every major news channel in the country. Like Father said, we're gonna make our cause known!"
The estatic crowd cheered. Dimitra clasped her hands in gratitiude. Thank You, Lord! she prayed. Thank You for my wonderful son, Christopher! Bless his efforts to save Your House from demolition! Bless us all in our efforts to save this neighborhood! With Your help, we cannot fail!
In her spacious office, Monique Wesley was talking on the phone with her number one attorney, Milton Dewey of Dewey, Scruem and Howe. Dewey had the reputation of being the most ruthless predator on the Nevada State Bar. He would stop at nothing to win a case, even if it meant a few ethical breaches. He could twist, bend, spindle and mutilate any witness's testamony to the point of driving them to a nervous breakdown. No law, no court case, not even the United States Constitution was safe from his scrutiny; it was said that Milton could find a loophole in the Ten Commandments if it served his clients' purposes. It was for this reason that Monique kept him on retainer. Whatever she wanted, she got, and Milton was there to get it for her.
"So you got the eviction papers drawn up, Milton?" Monique asked.
"Drawn up and good to go, Monique," Milton replied in the oily tone he reserved for his biggest-paying clients. "Those bums are as good as gone!"
"Oh, please, Milton," Monique protested. "Don't refer to them as 'bums'. They're my future employees; they'll all be working for me once the hotel is built. Besides, we're paying them to leave, remember?"
"Of course, my dear, of course," Milton demurred. "Anything you say."
"You have the legalities ironed out? Nothing is going to stand in our way in taking over the property?"
"As legal as walking down the street," Milton assured her. "The eminent domain laws are on your side. It's completely air tight! No court in the country can touch this. If they try, we can appeal to the State Supreme Court. We can't lose, Monique. The Grand Imperial is as good as built!"
"Milton, you are a wonder!" Monica gushed. "I don't know what I'd do without you!"
02-06-2013, 09:06 PM
By morning of the next day, the city of Las Vegas had heard, read, or seen on television the news of the Grand Imperial project, and the reaction was less than favorable among the general public. A quarter of a trillion dollars to build another luxury hotel in a city full of luxury hotels, tearing down an entire neighborhood to boot? It was madness, they thought, an outrage, especially in these economically troubled times. Tourism was at an all time low; who could afford to stay even one night in such a place? The Grand Imperial would turn out to be a grand disaster, a public relations fiasco, a white elephant in the middle of the desert.
Criss read the morning edition of the Sun in his suite after breakfast that day. In the Op-Ed column a sidebar article entitled "How to Spend $250M", by Susan Akins, caught his eye.
Yesterday, SilverStar CEO Monique Wesley proudly announced the construction of the fifty-story Grand Imperial Hotel and Resort due sometime next month or so, with indoor golfing, swimming and all the amenities, all at the grand cost of $250,000,000,000. She claims it will provide jobs and improve property values in North Las Vegas, and is a "win-win all around."
A quarter of a trillion dollars to build some fancypants hotel in Las Vegas which has about fifty of them already, when there are hundreds of families who have lost, are losing or will lose their homes, who have no health insurance, who can barely afford to feed their children? What was she thinking?
How is spending $250B building a hotel going to help "improve property values"? She'll be displacing thousands of residents and business owners from their homes and businesses to build this modern day Tower of Babel. For whom is she improving it for? She is only deluding herself if she believes she's doing everyone a favor by tearing down houses, churches, and businesses and creating this monstrosity. There are better ways of spending that kind of money. Think of it! $250,000,000,000 could:
*Provide medical care for thousands of families without health insurance.
*Pay tuition for hundreds of college students for four full years.
*Rebuild hundreds of neighborhoods, houses, streets, and businesses.
*Create housing for hundreds of low-income families.
The list goes on. If Ms. Wesley is as civic minded as she pretends to be, she'd do well to invest in people, not property values.
Criss set down the paper. Akins had a point, he thought. If only this Ms. Wesley would read it herself--then maybe she'd change her mind about tearing down Holy Trinity.
In truth, Ms. Wesley had no intention of reading Susan Akins's article or changing her mind about tearing down Holy Trinity. By midafternoon, the word was out to the community she planned to take over--give up your property, take the money and go, or be forced out by the authorities. Resistance was futile. Thirty days was the deadline.
Father Stefan read the letter over and over again, his heart sinking deeper into his stomach. The unofficial Holy Trinity Rescue committee, consisting of Dimitra Sarantakos, Mrs. Christoforos, Mrs. Kanakedes, and the Mykoloses, sat in utter shock.
"They really mean it," Father Stefan said. "They are going to take over the church and demolish it."
"They have no legal right to do so!" Dimitra stormed. "We can take them to court and sue them!"
The others agreed. Father looked at Dimitra. "How? We can't afford a lawyer." he said.
"Christopher said he would help," Dimitra promised him. "I am counting on him to do that. Have no fear, Father, we are going to fight this thing!"
Mrs. Kanakedes smiled a little. "You know," she said, "you remind me of my daughter when she was in college. She was always protesting something, whether it was the war, or the environment, or women's rights, or whatever. I remember when she and some of her friends chained themselves to a tree to keep it from being cut down."
Dimitra sat still, lost in thought. "You know," she said as she pondered Mrs. Kanakedes's words, "you've given me an idea."
While Las Vegas went through its daily routine of gambling, drinking and attending shows, North Las Vegas was in an uproar over Monique Wesley's ultimatum. People stormed, swore, cried, prayed and threatened every conceivable legal action against SilverStar, and a few illegal ones as well. It was clear that the designated neighborhoods were not going down without a fight. "That (bleep) knows what she can do with her plans!" grumbled one malcontent to the press.
Almost every attorney in the Nevada State Bar had been contacted concerning the most hostile takeover in history; lawsuits by the dozens were filed by residents and business owners alike. Holy Trinity and other area churches held prayer meetings and special services to beseech the Almighty for Divine intervention. Crudely painted signs defiying the evacuation order could be seen in every window and on every lawn from every shop, gas station, private residence, and even from abandoned buildings.
HELL NO WE WONT GO!!
NOT IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD!
SILVERSTAR GO AWAY WE'RE HERE TO STAY!
SAY NO TO THE HOTEL!
(BLEEP) YOU SILVERSTAR!
THIS IS MY HOME AND I'M NOT GOING ANYWHERE!
KEEP YOUR 500$ IM STAYING PUT!
SAVE OUR HOMES! SAVE OUR BUSINESSES!
Some citizens banded together in a loose confederation called the Coalition Opposing the SilverStar Takeover (COST) to formally protest the Grand Imperial project at City Hall. Every petition that had been circulated, including the Holy Trinity one, was officially presented to the mayor that very Friday afternoon. The honorable mayor promised to do everything within his power to halt the SilverStar project and save their neighborhoods. It was an outrage, he said, that his constitiuents should be forced out by some corporate bigwig to build a hotel on their properties. The people had more rights than some CEO with a big bank account. Once they realize they can't push around ordinary citizens, they'll back off. Cheered by this vote of confidence from the mayor, the COST members returned to their homes and businesses.
Their hopes were built on sand. Through some legal finagling by Morton Dewey and some clever reinterpretation of the eminent domain laws and the Fifth Amendment, the ultimatum was upheld. Monique Wesley was not going to budge an inch. Everyone in the area now had twenty-six days to comply or be forcibly evicted. The Grand Imperial was going to be built on schedule, whether they liked it or not.
In a large, graffitti covered building somewhere in the desert, George led his Aunt Dimitra and Father Stefan around to where Criss kept his chains, ropes, locks and shackles for his escapes. He pulled out a wooden crate from a lower shelf and opened it. "Okay, here you go," he said. "I'll get the keys from the lockbox. Otherwise, you'll have to call Christopher to pick them open for you."
George looked at his aunt. "I hope you know what you're doing, Aunt Dima," he said. "Criss is gonna kill me if he finds out."
"I'll deal with Christopher, George," Dimitra told him. "You just get those keys and load up those chains."
George left to fetch the keys from the lockbox. Father Stefan examined the heavy lengths of chain. It would take a sturdy pair of bolt cutters to break through these, he thought. Christopher knew quality, that was for sure. It was a wonder the guy was able to get out of them; no mortal man could ever escape these shackles.
George returned with the keys and a hand truck to haul the box of chains to Father's minivan. Once the chains were loaded on board, George gave the priest the keys. "Every one is tagged with the serial number to the lock it goes to," he explained. "Don't lose any of them, okay? Otherwise we'd have to replace them."
"We'll take good care of them, George," Father Stefan promised. "Thank you for your help."
"No problem, Father," George replied. "I just hope Criss doesn't, well, you know, go ballistic over it. I work for the guy, remember?"
"We'll handle Criss, George," Father assured him. "It's for a good cause. He'll understand."
"Okay, but don't tell anyone about this place or where it is," George said. "It's supposed to be secret."
"You have my word."
"Thanks. And good luck."
"Bless you, George."
George watched as Father Stefan and his Aunt Dimitra drove away with the chains back to the church. He knew that they desperatly wanted to save the church, but he had some misgivings over their preferred method of doing it. How long would they be out there? A day? A week? A month? The way cases dragged themselves through the legal system, it could be years before there was a resolution. No way could his seventy-three year old aunt endure the elements for that long.
Should he call Criss? Naturally, he would be concerned about his mother's welfare, but to find out about the chains would probably set him off, even get George fired for breaking into his warehouse and taking his personal property. Father and Aunt Dima promised to handle him, but they never worked for the guy. He could get very tempermental if things didn't go the way he planned. If he found out on the news, say, he'd really fly off the handle. No, it was better to come clean early before the media blitz. Maybe Criss could talk his mother out of it. He hoped against hope as he dialed Criss's number on his cell phone.
"Hello, Chris? It's George," he said. "Look, there's something you need to know about your mom..."
"Mom?" Criss echoed. "What about Mom?"
"Well, she and Father Stefan are planning some sort of protest at Holy Trinity Church, see--" George began to explain.
"I know," Criss interrupted. "I was at the meeting last week."
"Well, let's just say it involves...chaining themselves around it."
Criss was dumbfounded. "They wha...?"
"Yeah, that's right," George confirmed. "They and a lot of other protesters are gonna chain themselves around the church so they can't tear it down. In fact," he continued sheepishly, "your mother asked me to go into the warehouse for the chains."
Silence on the other end. George could sense the tension building up inside his cousin, ready to explode at any minute; he braced himself for the worst. "Look, Criss," he said, trying to defuse the situation, "I know how you feel about this--"
"Is Mom at the church now?" Criss demanded.
"Yeah, she left with Father Stefan," George replied, still waiting for the storm to hit.
"Okay, I'm on my way!"
Criss hung up quickly, leaving a bewildered and relieved George standing there in front of the warehouse, staring at his cell phone. At least he never mentioned the chains, he thought.
Dimitra sat on a camp stool in the shade of a large tree in the front yard of Holy Trinity, calmly and serenely doing needlework, a heavy steel chain wrapped around her waist and secured to a tree. Beside her, other protesters sat around the base of the tree, reading, texting messages, talking on their cell phones or to the other protesters around them. Everyone was generally having a good time. Others sat on the front steps with picket signs or positioned themselves around the perimeter of the building. Those who were not tied or chained to any part of the church property hung huge signs on the wrought iron fence, stating their defiance to SilverStar's ultimatum, or marched up and down the sidewalk with picket signs, chanting "Save Our Church!".
The protest did not go unnoticed by the media. Within the first ninety minutes hoards of television camera crews and reporters descended onto the scene like sharks on a feeding frenzy, shoving camera lenses and microphones into the protesters' faces and barking questions. The protesters were all to happy to welcome them.
"No one has the right to take away our church, or anyone else's property!" stormed one angry parishioner into a Fox Network microphone. "We're not going to let ourselves be bullied by some big corporation! We have rights, too!"
"If SilverStar wants to build something, why don't they rebuild what's here instead of tearing it all down?" demanded another.
"Down with SilverStar! Down with SilverStar!" chanted a young woman, her small fist defiantly in the air.
A CNN reporter managed to get hold of Father Stefan for a quick interview. "Father Stefan," she asked, "can you give us your views on the threat to your church?"
"My views are quite obvious," he patiently replied. "It's an outrage against God and His people. Holy Trinity has stood here for seventy-five years, and it has served this community better than some overpriced hotel ever will."
"SilverStar is claiming it under the eminent domain laws," the reporter continued. "Do you think it has a valid claim?"
"Let me tell you that God Himself has eminent domain over this church, and no one else," Father stated firmly. "If SilverStar persists in this grandiose project, then disaster will fall upon them for desecrating holy ground."
He pointed to the small churchyard cemetary about a hundred yards away from the church building. "Over there," he said, "are those who have passed on before us. They sleep in peace until the Day of Judgement. Would they dare disturb them? That is consecrated ground, and I will not see it bulldozed for some luxury palace!"
"I see you're not chained up like the others, Father," the reporter commented.
"No, I have to be free to tend to my duties," Father explained. "The Church comes first, you know. I have to be on call in case of an emergency."
"Thank you, Father Stefan," the reporter said. "This is CNN, Las Vegas."
"Save our church! Save our church!" chanted the picketing protesters on the sidewalk, occasionally breaking into cheers at the sound of the occasional driver honking the horn to show support as they drove past. One car in particualar, a shiny black Lamboghini, peeled up the street and swerved into the church parking lot, sending gravel, dust and pedestrians flying in its wake.
A protester sitting beside Dimitra nearly jumped out of his seat. "Who the devil is that?" he demanded, shaken by the sudden appearance of such an flashy vehicle.
Dimitra sighed. "That," she replied, ''would be my son, Christopher."
The black Lambo's door flew open, and out popped Criss. Cheers and whistles greeted him as he emerged, but he was not in the mood to play celebrity at the moment. Instead, he bolted across the lot to the tree where his mother was sitting. Dimitra was nonplussed at her famous son's appearance; her soft, withered features were set in a sterner countenance than Criss expected.
"Mom!" he shouted as he ran to her side, the cameras trailing behind him.
"You could have driven a little more carefully, you know," she scolded him. "You could have run someone over, driving like that."
Criss ignored his mother's admonition. "Mom, what are you doing here?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Dimitra retorted. "We are taking a stand against those who will destroy this church!"
"By chaining yourself to a tree?"
"Yes, by chaining myself to a tree," Dimitra snapped as she returned to her needlework. "We are not moving until they relent. I've come to accept this church as my second spirtual home, and I am not going to see it ruined!"
"Look, Ma," Criss said with all the patience he could muster, "I called some law firm and they're moving heaven and earth to save it. We're gonna sue SilverStar for an injunction or whatever. You don't have to do this!"
"Lawsuits take time, Christopher," Dimitra pointed out. "We don't have that kind of time. We only have twenty-six days left."
"But what about the petitions? Didn't they help?"
"We gave the mayor the petitions, and the courts refused them. They're claiming eminent domain under the Fifth Amendment for public use."
"Well, if I remember my high-school civics class, that's for building highways and parks, not hotels!" Criss argued. "Look, Mom, I promise you the law firm I called are gonna do everything in it's power to stop this whole thing. This whole chaining yourself to a tree is going to get you arrested!"
"Then I'll go to jail, then," Dimitra said firmly. "But I am not moving from this spot until they call off the demolition!"
"Christopher!" Dimitra spoke in that all too familiar authoritative voice that brooked no arguement from any of her sons. "I'm staying and that is final!"
Criss sighed heavily. Dimitra returned to her needlework. He turned and looked straight into the cameras behind him. "She ain't gonna move," he said simply.
02-07-2013, 06:28 PM
Now we know where Criss got his stuborness from :)
02-07-2013, 06:32 PM
Our top story this evening: Members of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church staged a massive protest against the proposed destruction of their church and the surrounding neighborhood by SilverStar Enterprises, Inc. Many have chained themselves to the iron fence surrounding the seventy-five year old house of worship in defiance to the eviction order served to them last week. SilverStar is claiming the property under the eminent domain laws in the state of Nevada. Father Stefan Mykolos had this to say:
Fr. Stefan Mykolos: "Let me tell you that God Himself has eminent domain over this church, and no one else! If SilverStar persists in this grandiose project, then disaster will fall upon them for desecrating holy ground!"
One protester in particular is Dimitra Sarantakos, the mother of famous illusionist, Criss Angel, and who spearheaded the movement. She chained herself to a large tree in the middle of the churchyard and refused to leave, even when her famous son pleaded with her to come back.
CA:"Look, Ma, this whole chaining yourself to a tree is just gonna get you arrested!"
DS:"Then I'll go to jail then! I am not leaving until they call off the demolition!"
In spite of all his efforts, Criss finally gave up.
CA:"She ain't gonna move."
When asked about the reason she got involved, she had this to say:
Dimitra Sarantakos: "This church has become a second spritual home for me ever since I've been coming here to Las Vegas. I love the people here, and I won't stand by and watch this beautiful building be torn down."
Night fell, and with it came bone-numbing cold. The Holy Trinity protesters huddled together for warmth, stubbornly refusing to leave their posts, save for bathroom breaks inside the church. Father Stefan bought cups of hot tea to ward off the chill, along with a few blankets for the more vulnerable members of his flock chained to the fence and the tree in the yard. The picketers were forced into retreat, too hoarse to continue chanting and too footsore to go on marching. Dimitra set aside her needlework, her fingers too numb to sew anymore. The cup of tea Father Stefan had bought her was beginning to wear off inside her system.
"I wish I had bought a jacket or something," she said to herself. "It's too cold out here."
She blew on her fingers to warm them. "Dear Lord," she prayed, "please help me get warm again."
Maybe Christopher was right, she thought. Maybe this was a bad idea. If she had been twenty or thirty years younger she could have tolerated it a bit longer, but at seventy-three she was too vulnerable to whatever Nature chose to offer in terms of weather. She cast a glance at the dimly lit church beside her, the church she had come to love in the few short years she had been coming to Las Vegas. "I can't give up, Lord, I just can't," she sniffled. "But I am so cold, and so hungry. Dear Lord, send help to me. To all of us."
She was startled out of her misery by the blaring of car horns and the glare of headlights. Dimitra was astonished to see a veritable convoy of SUVs, coupes, minivans, and family cars making a beeline into the parking lot. The convoy parked haphazardly wherever they could find space. Soon people from all walks of life were spilling out of the vehicles, whooping and hollering like partygoers on New Year's Eve.
"Hey, Mama D!"
"Hi, Dimitra! We're here to help!"
"Hi, Mama Angel! We love you!"
Dimitra watched the rushing river of humanity coming straight for her. Who were these people? she wondered in her bewilderment. "My goodness!" she exclaimed. "What's all this!"
"We saw the news on TV about the protest you started," a stocky bearded man explained, "and we, the Loyals, have come to your aid!" He turned to the crowd. "Come on, everybody! Start unpacking!" he shouted.
Tents, canvas chairs, Coleman ice chests, blankets, and sleeping bags were all pulled out of trunks and back seats and set up in every available square foot of yard space. One tent was pitched around the tree where Dimitra sat, and no sooner was the last spike driven into the gorund than it was filled with die-hard Loyals. A small battery-powered heater was carefully set in the middle of the tent inside a metal basin to prevent fire.
"You hungry?" a slim young Loyal girl with a CA tattoo on her neck asked Dimitra. "We got some sandwiches."
"That would be nice, thank you," said Dimitra gratefully. Indeed it was, for all Dimitra had since the protest started was Father Stefan's tea, and she was starved. Cellophane-wrapped sandwiches were tossed around to everyone inside the tent like softballs. The tattooed girl, who introduced herself as Kris Lee, handed Dimitra a chicken-salad sandwich and a bottle of Dasani. Dimitra thanked her politely and unwrapped her sandwich.
"I had prayed for a miracle," she said to herself, "and the Lord answered a thousand times over."
Dimitra nibbled on her sandwich and drank her water along with the tentful of Loyals. She wondered if Christopher had put them up to this. But no, that was not possible. They had acted on their own, banding together to support her cause. Heaven bless them all, she thought.
"So, Dimitra," Kris Lee tried to speak through the bread and chicken salad in her mouth.
"Don't talk with your mouth full, dear," Dimitra admonished her instinctively.
"Oh, sorry." Kris Lee swallowed hard and started over again. "Anyway, how long do you plan on staying chained up here?"
"Until they decide not to tear down the church," Dimitra replied. "You know that."
"Are those Criss's chains?" a boy sitting beside her asked.
"Of course they are," Dimitra answered. "We got them from his warehouse."
"Did he get mad about you taking his stuff?" the boy asked.
"He was more concerned about me than about his chains."
"We saw Criss on the news," Kris Lee said. "He seemed pretty upset over you being here."
"He worries about me. But not as much as I worry about him, of course."
"Well, that's 'cause he loves you so much." Kris Lee leaned her head on Dimitra's knee.
Dimitra patted Kris Lee's hair. "I love him too, dear."
"What's Criss doing to help?" another Loyal from somewhere in the back called out.
"He's contacted some law firm to see if we can file for an injunction to stop the demolition. He's been very supportive about all this. He knows how much this church means to me and everyone who lives here. No one is going to destroy it for any reason."
"God," a middleaged woman sitting by a vinyl wall of the tent growled. "It's Poletown all over again!"
The bearded man who had first greeted Dimitra looked at her. "Poletown?"
"I don't know if you remember this," the woman began, "but twenty five years ago an entire community in Hamtramck, Michigan was leveled for a GM- Cadillac plant. Over a thousand homes and a dozen churches, including the oldest Catholic church in the area--I forget the name, but anyway, they fought like hell to save it, but the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in favor of GM. A whole neighborhood, gone, just like that. Then the plant went belly-up a few years later. They used the same tactics for what they're using now: eminent domain laws and all that."
"So they can tear down the church to build a hotel?" Kris Lee asked fearfully.
"Not any more," the woman replied. "The courts overruled eminent domain, and they can't take over private property like that again. At least, not in Michigan. I don't know how it works here in Nevada."
"Why'd they call it Poletown?" the boy next to Dimitra asked.
"Hamtramck has one of the largest populations of Polish Americans in the country," the woman answered, "so everyone called it Poletown. Detroit's got Corktown for the Irish, Greektown--"
"Greektown!" Kris Lee exclaimed. "I'd like to see that!"
"Anyway," said the middleaged woman, "the courts won't let them tear down the church here. Not after what happened in Poletown."
"I hope you're right, lady," Kris Lee said. "We all hope you're right."
02-07-2013, 06:42 PM
"Mom's doing what?!" JD roared.
"It's true," Criss told him. "Didn't you see it on the news this evening?"
"I was too busy working to watch anything! Why the hell would she pull such a crazy stunt?"
"Because she loves that church and she wants to save it from the wrecking ball," Criss replied patiently. "That's why the hell she would pull such a crazy stunt!"
JD glared at Criss accusingly. "And you didn't try to talk her out of it?"
"I did try to talk her out of it, earlier this afternoon."
"She wouldn't budge."
JD buried his face in his hands. "We can't leave her out there all night," he said through gritted teeth. "She'll freeze to death in this weather." He shot up from his chair, slamming the palms of his hands on the desktop. "We're gonna get hold of Costa," he growled, "and the three of us are going to bring her home if we have to drag her by the feet! There is no way in hell I'm going to stand by and let my mother freeze to death in that churchyard!"
"Hey, bro," said Criss, "she's my mother too, you know. And I doubt that you can talk her out of it any more than I can."
JD glared at Criss. "Oh, no? Watch me."
In due time JD's Range Rover was making its way toward Holy Trinity Church with three worried brothers inside. The second brother, Costa, had seen the news broadcast about the protest and had been no less shocked than either JD or Criss. The minute JD had contacted him that evening, insisting he come with him to rescue their mother, he had gone to his own car and retrieved a woolen blanket he had stored in the trunk for picnics and other outdoor activities and climbed into the Rover with his brothers. So, off they went, with JD fuming at the wheel, Criss worrying in the passenger seat and Costa navigating from the rear.
"Turn left over here," Costa told JD.
"I know I turn left over here!" JD snapped as he swerved into the left turn lane.
"Okay, okay," Costa said placatingly. "Don't bite my head off."
"God, I hope Mom's okay," Criss muttered.
"She will be once we get her home," said JD. "Can you pick the lock or something to free her?"
"I think she's got the key already," Criss told him.
"How do you know?"
"'Cause those chains...well, they came from the warehouse," Criss answered.
JD almost slammed on the brakes in midturn. "You gave her those chains to tie herself up to that tree?!" he exploded.
"No, it wasn't me," Criss argued defensivly, "it was George."
"Yeah, George. Mom talked him into letting her and Father Stefan into the warehouse to get some chains and locks for the protest movement," Criss explained.
"You're not mad at George for breaking into the warehouse and giving Mom those chains?" Costa asked.
"Look, that doesn't matter anymore," Criss said. "What matters is that we make sure that Mom's all right. I'll deal with George later."
The brothers rode down the side street where the church was located. "There it is," Costa pointed out, "right over there."
"I can see it, Cos, I can see it," JD replied irritably as he pulled over to the side. "Geez, lookit all these people. This thing's really gotten out of hand."
"That's funny," Criss said, looking around the makeshift campsite, "I don't remember it being this crowded when I was here last time."
JD killed the engine and charged out of the Rover. "C'mon, let's look for Mom. She's gotta be here somewhere."
"She's by the tree out front," Criss told him.
Costa gathered the blanket and followed his brothers to the tree. Criss was even more surprised when he saw the tent pitched around the trunk, with a faint glow coming from inside. He could hear his mother's voice through the vinyl flap, calm and casual, but who was she talking to, he wondered.
In the dim glow of the heater, the Loyals sat attentively to listen to Dimitra as she spoke to them, telling them stories from Criss's past and of her own without delving too deeply into her wartime childhood years that were too painful for her to remember.
"I had very little when I came to America with my family," she said, "but one thing we had was hope--hope for a better life. It was difficult adjusting to a whole new country, learning a whole new language, but we had hope, and we had each other. That is why our family is so close to each other: we needed each other to survive, to live. We depended on each other to see ourselves through the difficult times we faced living in Greece during the war and here in America. When things became too much to bear, my mother told me the story of the Miracle Tree."
"What's the Miracle Tree?" Kris Lee asked.
"Is that the one you wrote in your book?" asked the boy beside her. "The one about the king and the shepherd boy?"
"Yes, that's the one," Dimitra replied. "The shepherd boy longed for freedom from the Ottoman Turks who ruled over Greece for four hundred years. The governor over the province stuck his staff in the ground and said 'If that staff grows into a tree, then your land and people shall be free!'. And the next day, the wooden staff grew branches and leaves, giving hope to the people of Greece. Finally, the Ottomans were overthrown. So, whenever things seem hopeless, remember, there is hope. You just have to believe."
"We believe, Dimitra!" shouted the Loyals. "We believe!"
"Good," she said. "Now, it's getting late, so we'd all better turn in for the night."
"Good idea," came a gruff voice from the tent's opening.
The Loyals turned as one to see who had spoken and were astonished to see JD himself standing there. "How about you coming home instead of sitting here freezing to death?" he demanded as he picked his way through the crowded tent to reach his mother.
"First of all, I am not freezing to death," Dimitra informed him, "and second of all, I am not leaving this place until I they call off the demolition."
"You're not really going to sit in that chair, chained to a tree all night, are you?"
"Yes, JD, I am, and there is nothing you can do about it."
"Looks like your ma's made up her mind," the boy beside her piped up.
"You keep out of this!" JD snapped at him. He turned to his mother again. "Sorry, Mom, I know how much this church means to you, but you gotta come home with us. This is nuts, sitting here chained up like a dog to a tree. Now, c'mon, where's the key?"
"I am not moving, and that is final!" Dimitra insisted angrily. "Plead all you want, but my mind is made up!"
"Criss! Costa!" JD shouted. "Get over here!"
The two brothers made their way through the mass of adoring Loyals. Criss shook a few hands while insisitng that family came first for the moment, but Costa was more singleminded in his goal. He threw the blanket around his mother's shoulders to warm her.
"You don't have to stay here anymore, Mom," Criss said tenderly as he approached his mother. "The lawyers filed for an injunction against SilverStar and we got a class action suit against them. Once they serve it, they won't be able to do anything."
"How long will it take to serve it?" Dimitra asked.
"They said a week at most." Criss answered.
"Then I'll stay here until they serve it."
"Mom, please," Costa pleaded, "you've made your point, so let's all just go home, okay? We're worried about you being here out in the cold all night. You can't last a week like this! What if your heart starts giving you trouble again? Who's gonna help you?"
"My heart is fine," Dimitra told him firmly, "and I am not going to freeze to death. I have my new friends here, and I have the Church to support me. Now, stop worrying and go home. I'll be fine."
Criss looked sadly at his mother. "You sure you won't change your mind?"
"I am sure," Dimitra said. She waved them away. "Now, go! I'll see you in the morning."
Kris Lee looked up at Criss. "We'll take care of her, Criss, don't worry," she assured him. "If anything goes wrong, we'll call you."
Criss fished out his billfold and drew out a twenty. "Here," he said, "make sure she gets a hot meal tonight and breakfast tomorrow. Can I trust you to do that?"
"I swear to God I will," Kris Lee said confidently. "We'll all take good care of Mama D."
"Thank you." Criss hugged his mother as if for the last time. "Take care, Mama," he said, his voice breaking with emotion. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Christopher," Dimitra replied.
"I love you more," Criss choked as he kissed her on the cheek, then sadly, reluctantly turned away. The Loyals stood up as one and surrounded him and his brothers with hugs, kisses and promises to take care of his mother. Their reassurances were comforting but unsuccessful in restoring Criss's confidence concerning his mother's welfare. JD tried once again to talk her into coming home with him, but he, too, was forced to admit defeat. Frustrated, he left with his brothers, leaving his mother at her post.
"God, I hope she makes it through the night," Costa sighed. "I've never seen Mom so stubborn about anything."
"Criss," JD said, "you call those lawyers and tell them to get that injunction served yesterday! Understand?"
"They just filed it this afternoon," Criss told him.
"I don't give a damn when they filed it!" JD snapped. "Tell them to serve it ASAP so Mom will give up this crazy protest and come home!"
"A lot you know about the legal system," Criss mumbled.
02-07-2013, 07:10 PM
I thought JD was about to throw Criss out the car while still in motion when he heard where Dimitra got those chains
02-08-2013, 05:03 PM
After a sleepless night, Criss couldn't take it anymore. He flung aside the covers and pulled on the clothes he had tossed aside yesterday. He found his lockpicking tools and shoved them in his jeans pocket. Within minutes he was speeding toward North Las Vegas to Holy Trinity. He had to get his mother back, church or no church.
The church bell was ringing for early morning Mass by the time Criss arrived. He parked his Lambo by the curbside and stepped out into the churchyard campsite full of sleeping Loyals and protesters, taking care not to trip over anyone. He found the tree-tent where his mother was living, quietly lifted the flap so as not to wake her or the Loyals, and peered inside.
It was a touching scene. A few dozen Loyals huddled together in a semicircle around his mother's chair like sleeping sentinels around a the throne of a queen, protecting her from whatever harm may come. The battery-operated heater was still generating a few thermal units of heat, barely enough for a few square feet of space. Ice chests and styrofoam coolers were stacked by the opening flap, the only furniture in the tent save for Dimitra's chair.
Gingerly, Criss tiptoed into the tent and over the sleeping Loyals to his mother's side, carefully placing his foot wherever he could find space. He was almost there when he miscalculated his last step and landed on someone's hand. That someone yelped in pain, waking everyone inside. Criss cried out in surprise, lost his balance, and went tumbling face down onto a pile of bodies on the ground. There were more squeals and groans as the drowsy occupants were jolted out of sleep from all the commotion. Criss looked down and found himself on top of a very attractive and delightfully surprised female Loyal, who in turn was looking up at him, hardly believing this outrageous good fortune that had just befallen her. Criss, for his part, was deeply embarrassed.
Dimitra blinked the sleep from her eyes and blinked some more when she saw her son sprawled at her feet. "Christopher?" she said, bewildered. "What are you doing--?"
"Mom," Criss said nervously, "this isn't what it looks like, okay?"
He struggled to rise from his compromising position, to the disappointment of his female landing pad, and finally succeeded in reaching his mother's side. "I came to see how you were doing, that's all," he said. "To see if you were ready to come home yet."
"I told you, I've made up my mind," Dimitra said firmly. "Until I get word that the church will be spared, I will not leave this spot. I'm doing just fine here. We're all fine here, aren't we?" she asked the Loyals.
"Oh, yeah, Criss, we're okay," Kris Lee agreed. "Your mom's been telling us stories about you and your family, and about the Miracle Tree, and not to give up hope, and stuff like that. We had a lot of fun last night; it was like a sleepover, or summer camp or something like that."
Criss looked at Kris Lee. "Well, I'm glad you all had such a good time, because I've been worrying myself sick over my mother being out here in the cold. I didn't sleep a wink last night!" He turned to his mother. "Mom, for the last time, please come back to the hotel," he pleaded. "If you want me to save the church for you, I will. I'll even go to SilverStar and stop them myself if I have to, but please come home!"
Dimitra took her son's face into her soft, withered hands. "Will you?" she asked. "Will you go to them and stop them from tearing down the church?"
"I will, Mom," Criss said determinedly. "I promise. I swear to God--"
Dimitra put her fingertips on Criss's lips to silence him. "Now you know how your father felt about swearing like that, remember?"
Criss gave his mother's fingertips a quick kiss and brushed them aside. "Okay, okay, I won't swear to God, but I will go to whoever's in charge there and straighten them out. Anything to make you happy."
Dimitra kissed Criss's forehead. "Thank you, Christopher," she said gratefully. "God be with you."
Cheers broke out as Criss rose to leave. The Loyals shouted encouragement to him as he made his way through the crowded tent.
"You go, Criss!"
"Way to go, Criss! You rock!"
"Yeah, tell 'em what they can do with their hotel!"
"We'll take care of your mom, we promise!"
"Go kick their asses, Criss!"
Criss drew a sigh of relief once outside the tent. It was good to be out in the fresh air again. Now all he had to do was find SilverStar and whomever was in charge to get them to stop the demolition. If they would listen to him, that is.
"Yes, Ruth, what is it?"
"A Mr. Criss Angel to see you, ma'am."
Criss Angel? The magician? Monique was perplexed. Why would a big-name celebrity be coming to see her? It was far too premature to be booking acts for the Grand Imperial; the site hadn't even been leveled yet. To make an investment in the Grand Imperial, perhaps? But that went through her stockbroker, not her directly. Well, there was only one way to solve this mystery.
"Send him in, please," she ordered.
"Yes, Ms. Wesley."
A delay of only a few seconds, and there stood Criss Angel at the door. He was handsomer than his pictures, Monique thought. This should prove to be a very interesting meeting indeed.
"Come in, Mr. Angel," Monique purred. "Or may I call you Criss?"
"Whatever," Criss grimly replied as he strode into the spacious office. "We need to talk."
He certainly didn't waste time on pleasantries, Monique said to herself. "About what?" she asked innocently.
"About you and your plan to destroy an entire neighborhood for your hotel," Criss answered. "Including Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church."
"Oh, that," Monique deadpanned.
"Yeah, that," Criss growled. "You may not know it, but there are hundreds of people who are dead set against this whole thing. They have homes there, businesses, churches, schools. They're out there now, protesting your eviction order."
"Well, it's not going to do them a bit of good," Monique said. "The order's final, and that's that. They have three weeks to move, or we force them out."
Criss stared at Monique incredulously. "How can you sleep at night, knowing you're putting thousands of people out on the street?"
"I'm not 'putting them out on the street' as you say," Monique protested. "I'm paying them to move. I even offered ten thousand dollars for that church you mentioned. I mean, how many Greek Orthodox people are there here in Las Vegas, anyway?"
"I'm Greek Orthodox!" Criss exclaimed. "And so is my mother, who, by the way, has chained herself to a tree in front of it and won't move until you call the whole thing off!"
"We can have her arrested, you know," Monique informed him.
Criss glared at Monique. "Don't you even think about putting my mother in jail!" he hissed.
Monique shrugged a bony shoulder. "Well, get her away from that tree, and we won't."
"Listen, lady!" Criss growled as he drew himself near. "If you so much as lay a fingernail on my mom, I'm gonna sue your ass for every dime you got! That church means a lot to her and that neighborhood! I'll be double-damned if I'm gonna see it torn down! You know, you're up to your skinny ass in class action suits over this; in fact, I just filed for an injunction against you to save the church! If I were you, I'd back off!"
Monique glared at Criss from behind her desk. "Do your damndest, Angel!" she challenged. "Do your absolute damndest! I'll fight you and your sainted mother all the way to the Supreme Court if I have to, but that church and the whole area is going to be leveled in three weeks! What do you have to say to that, Mr. Hotshot Magician?"
Criss glared back at Monique. "I say, I'll see you in court."
02-09-2013, 03:18 AM
what a *itch:eek:
02-09-2013, 04:11 PM
Kris Lee hoisted her backpack onto her skinny shoulders. "Sorry I can't stay, Mama D," she said, "but I got to get to class." She stooped down and gave the old woman a kiss on the cheek. "I'll be back this afternoon."
"Have a good day, honey," Dimitra said, smiling.
Kris Lee left the tent for school. Many of the other Loyals had left for school or work that morning, leaving Dimitra pretty much alone again in the tent. In a way, it was a relief; too many people in one confined space made it too stifling inside. She smiled to herself, pleased that she had so much support in her cause to save Holy Trinity Church from demolition. If only that injunction would be served--then she could return to the comfort of her suite in the Luxor. A nice hot bath would feel good right about now, but she was on a mission, and nothing could dissuade her from it.
Father Stefan poked his head inside the tent. "Good morning, Dimitra," he greeted her. "How are you this morning?"
"Good morning, Father," Dimitra returned. "I'm doing fine, thank you."
"I see you generated more support for your protest movement," Father commented.
"Our protest movement," Dimitra corrected. "We're all in this together."
"Of course." Father sat down beside Dimitra. "Can I get you anything? Tea? Breakfast?"
"Well," Dimitra began hesitantly. "I do need to use the ladies' room. Could you save my place?"
Father smiled. "Of course I will." He pulled the key from his trousers pocket and unlocked the padlock resting on her hip. "There you go."
Dimitra stretched her limbs, grateful to be standing again. "I'll be right back, Father," she said.
Father nodded and sat down in Dimitra's chair. Dimitra walked into the church and headed for the ladies' room. Once she had finished her personal business and tided herself up a little, she made her way outside to resume her post. No sooner did she step outside the giant wooden doors than she came face to face with two members of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
"Dimitra Sarantakos?" one of the officers asked grimly.
"Yes?" she responded, bewildered.
"We have a warrant for your arrest for trespassing on private property," the officer said. "You'll have to come with us, please."
"But this is my church!" Dimitra protested. "I have every right to be here! Ask Father Stefan--he's right in the tent over there!"
"Father Stefan is also being taken into custody," the officer explained. "Please, Ma'am, come with us peacefully, or we'll have to put you in handcuffs."
"Who put you up to this?" Dimitra demanded. "Who issued that warrant?"
"This property belongs to SilverStar Enterprises," the officer answered, "and the court issued the warrant." He took Dimitra by the arm and pulled her to the waiting police cruiser. "You have the right to remain silent. If you choose to waive that right, anything you say can and will be held against you..."
Criss, George, JD, Costa, and the rest of the MindFreak crew had gathered in Criss's suite for the nine AM production meeting. There was none of the usual banter or horseplay that morning; Criss and his brothers were still concerned about their mother chained to a tree outside Holy Trinity Church. Try as they might, none of them could focus on planning the next episode of the show, so worried were they about Dimitra.
George turned to Criss. "You ain't still mad about me taking those chains from the warehouse, are you?"
Criss hesitated, then shook his head no. "That doesn't matter any more," he replied. "I'm glad you were up front about it at the beginning, though. If I'd found out after the fact, I probably would have, well, you know..."
"Kicked my ass?"
Criss smiled. "Yeah, probably."
"Any word on the injunction?" JD asked.
"Oh, yeah, they filed it all right," Criss answered, brightening. "In fact, they told me it's gonna be served first thing tomorrow. They said SilverStar has no legal claim whatsoever to any of that property. And we got another card up our sleeve as well."
"Like what?" JD wanted to know.
Criss leaned forward. "Holy Trinity Church is seventy five years old, right? Well, that practically makes it a historical landmark, 'cause it's one of the oldest churches in Las Vegas. And the law says you can't tear down a historical landmark."
"Doesn't it have to be a hundred years old to be a historical landmark?" Costa asked.
"Hey, what's twenty five years?" Criss replied, shrugging. "The point is that being as old as it is and still functioning, they can't tear it down. And if they can't tear down the church, they can't tear down the rest of the neighborhood either. We win."
"Great," JD said. "Now go and tell Mom that so we can bring her back home."
"I'll see her after the production meeting," Criss said. "I promise."
The meeting slogged on: ideas were suggested, refined, discarded, sketches made for future demonstrations, then scribbled out and resketched. This whole tedious process was interrupted by the sound of Criss's cell phone in his pocket. Everything was put on hold as he pulled it out to answer it.
"Hello?" A pause, then Criss brightened. "It's Mom!" he told everyone in the room.
"Is she giving up?" JD asked eagerly. "She want to come home?"
Criss waved for silence. "Yeah, Mom, what's up?" he asked casually.
The entire company watched as a look of horrified outrage spread across Criss's face. "Arrested!?" he exploded. "You got arrested? For what?!"
"Mom got arrested?" Costa echoed. "What for?"
Criss's jaw dropped to his chest. "Trespassing on private property? Whose private property?" he demanded.
The answer made him even more furious. "They have no claim to the church, and they know it!" he stormed. "Look, where are you right now?" A pause. "Okay, I'll be down there in a few minutes. How much is your bail?" Another pause. Criss calmed down a bit. "Okay, no problem, I'll be by to pick you up. Just sit tight, okay. Love you. Love you more. 'Bye."
Criss flipped off the phone, cursing under his breath. "Damn that (bleep)! I told her if she so much as laid a fingernail on Mom, I'd sue her ass big time!" He rose from his seat. "Come on, guys," he said, "we gotta pick up Mom from the lockup." He turned to the production crew. "We'll be back later, okay?" he told them.
"Sure," Dave Baram said understandingly. "We'll be here when you get back."
"Thanks, Dave." Criss turned to his brothers. "Come on, guys, we gotta spring Mom."
The three brothers left the suite, Criss muttering a steady stream of profanities directed at SilverStar's CEO all along the way. He couldn't wait until that injunction was served to that self-centered (bleep)! He made a mental note to call that same law firm again later that day. Monique Wesley had a slew of class action suits against her already; now she'd be facing wrongful arrest charges on top of that. The Clark County District Court is going to have a full docket from this one case alone after this, he thought.
02-09-2013, 05:12 PM
You got that right
02-10-2013, 02:27 PM
Our top story: The mother of famous illusionist Criss Angel was arrested this morning on charges of criminal trespass on private property. Dimtra Sarantakos had been staging a two-day sit-in protest against the proposed demolition of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church by SilverStar Enterprises. She had chained herself to a tree outside the church, refusing to leave until the church was spared. Father Stefan Mykolos, the priest of Holy Trinity, was also arrested. Both were released without bail by the authorities.
Criss Angel, Illusionist: "I can't tell you how I really feel about this--at least not on national television. But I am very, very angry over my mother going to jail for something she stood up for. I've filed for an injunction against the demolition of the church, and I plan to sue SilverStar for having my mother arrested. I had warned Monique Wesley that if she laid a finger on my mom, I'd haul her ass into court about it!"
SilverStar Enterprises had announced in a formal press conference that it would build a multi-million dollar hotel and resort in North Las Vegas to improve property values and bring much-needed employment in the area. The cost to the residents would be even higher, as they had been served thirty day eviction notices and five hundred dollars to evacuate the area, or be forced out by police. Holy Trinity was offered ten thousand to give up the church property. SilverStar claims it under the Nevada eminent domain laws and the Fifth Amendment, stating taking over private property for public use.
Father Stefan Mykolos: "SilverStar has no claim to the church or it's property. They claim eminent domain, but God has eminent domain over His church, and has had it for seventy-five years."
Several class action suits has been filed against SilverStar by North Las Vegas residents affected by the proposed project. SilverStar's CEO, Monique Wesley, had this to say:
Monique Wesley, CEO, SilverStar Enterprises, Inc.: "I'm trying to bring employment to these people! I'm trying to improve the property values in Las Vegas! I'm offiering a better life for everyone with the Grand Imperial project! That area is a slum! Do they want to spend the rest of their lives living in a crime-infested ghetto? I'm doing them a favor here! They should be thanking me, not suing me!"
Father Stefan Mykolos: "She's deluding herself if she thinks she's doing us a favor. She'll be doing more harm than good if she destroys this neighborhood. If she really wants to improve our lives, she should be restoring this area, not demolishing it."
We'll have updates on this story as it develops.
Kris Lee walked away from the giant-screen television in the student lounge. "My God!" she whispered to herself. "They arrested Mama D! I can't believe they'd do such a thing! Why did I leave her this morning? I promised Criss I'd look after her! What am I going to do?"
In her despair came a moment of clarity, and in that moment Kris Lee saw her duty as clear. She grabbed her backpack of books and headed for the computer lab. Luckily, there was an available terminal when she arrived. She quickly sat down, logged in and clicked onto the Loyal Community Message Board.
The Loyal Community > General Discussion Criss Angel and Mindfreak Series > DIMITRA ARRESTED!!
LuvUCriss: Dimitra was ARRESTED TODAY! They put her in jail becaouse she was protesting the destruction of a Greek othodox Church by some coproration! It was aon the news today! I got to share her protest here in LV and we stayed in a tent around tyhe tree she was chained up to. Criss went and got her out of jail, along with the priest of the church. Calling all Loyals to stand up and defend Mama D!
A quick click of the "Post" button, and the message was on it's way. "There," Kris Lee said, sighing with relief. "I've done my part."
She logged off quickly and left for her next class, wondering with a mixture of fear and apprehension over the general reaction her post would make from her fellow Loyals. Whatever it would be, she knew it would be explosive.
And explosive it was. Loyals by the hundreds expressed their outrage over the scandalous details of Dimitra's arrest on every fan board on the Web.
angelkiss23: Those :censored. How could they DO such a thing? I hope Criss kicks their asses from here to California!
CrissLee: Holy ****take! Someone's gonna pay BIG for this!
Magile: WE LUV U MAMA ANGEL! WE'RE WITH YOU ALL THE WAY!
vampprincess: I read this on the news, and i FREAKED! How DARE they do such a thing!! Dimitra is innocent! They had no right to arrest her like that!
FreakUOut: Did Criss pay her bail? How much was it?
LuvUCriss: ^^Dimitra was released wtthout bond. Thye just let her go.
LoyalCat13: I am soooooo :mad: I was like :eek: when I saw the news on tv. I wanna go to who was responsible and
As angry as the Loyals were about Dimitra's arrest, their reaction was nothing compared to Monique Wesley's when the injunction against the proposed demolition was served to her the next morning. The court summons handed to her from the residents of North Las Vegas was like a can of gasoline poured on a bonfire. The executive staff at SilverStar had witnessed many of their CEO's angry outbursts when she didn't get her way, but they had never seen one this bad. It was the Hurricane Katrina of tantrums.
"AN INJUNCTION?!" they heard her scream.. "THEY'RE SERVING ME AN INJUNCTION?! THOSE (BLEEPERS)! HOW DARE THEY FILE AN INJUNCTION AGAINST ME! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!"
She snatched the phone handset from its cradle. "Ruth! Get me my lawyer!" she ordered. "If those (bleepers) want to sue me, fine! I can countersue against them! I'll get that property by fair means or foul!"
Later that morning, Father Stefan was receiving a different kind of surprise. The postal carrier brought an entire plastic post office bin full of letters addressed to Holy Trinity Church. Overwhelmed, Father Stefan carried the bin into his office and stacked the colorful envelopes onto his desk in his office. He had enough presence of mind to return the bin to the postal carrier, however, but the amount of mail staggered him. They weren't bills, thank God, but letters. Hundreds of letters, many decorated with hearts and CA logos on the envelopes. Now I know what Criss Angel has to go through, he thought.
He opened the first one he laid his hand upon, a pink envelope from Seattle, Washington. When he unfolded the letter, something fluttered to the floor. Father Stefan picked it up and looked at it. It was a check for fifty dollars. He set the check aside and read the letter:
I am sending you my support for saving your church. I wish it could be more, but this is all I can afford right now. I saw Dimitra's protest on tv and wanted to send you something to help save your church. We all love Dimitra like our own mother, and if this church means so much to her, then it means so much to us loyals. We are with you all the way.
Father Stefan carefully laid the letter aside and picked up another, this one from Detroit, Michigan:
Your story touched me in a personal way. My family was evicted from our home in Hamtramck by General Motors because they wanted to build a plant there. They tore down our church, Immaculate Conception, and my grandmother told me she cried when they did that. Our whole neighborhood is gone, and the plant was closed a few years later. Poletown was wasted for nothing. I hope and pray that your neighborhood does not go the way of Poletown. Keep the faith!
Letter after letter raised Father Stefan's spirits. Many of them had checks inside "to support your fight" some said, "for Dimitra and Criss" said others. A full hour went by and barely a dent was made in the stack of mail, yet Father kept on reading. Only the chiming of the office clock reminded him of his duties. Father set aside the last letter he had been reading and rushed to the icon of the Blessed Virgin.
"Gracious Mother of God!" he prayed. "Thank you for this outpouring of support! Through your intercession we have achieved a miracle! Continue to pray for us, your devoted children, and prevent our church from destruction! Amen!"
02-10-2013, 04:42 PM
way to go loyals
02-11-2013, 08:29 PM
Dimitra sat silently in a chair in Criss's suite, surrounded by her three sons and the MindFreak crew. She did not even so much as raise her head to meet their collective gaze, but stared sadly into space. She had failed her cause. Her two-day protest outside the church had been in vain. All that work of meetings, petition drives and protests had been all for nothing. SilverStar had won. Holy Trinity was doomed.
"Mom?" Criss whispered gently. "Can I get you anything? Cup of tea? A beer, maybe?"
She shook her head no, still staring into space. Her fighting spirit had been crushed within her, leaving her feeling like a helpless old woman without a reason to go on. She sat there, wavering, then the tears began to fall. She covered her face with her hands and began to weep openly, unable to contain her sorrow anymore.
Criss put his arm around her shoulder to comfort her. "Mom, it's okay," he crooned. "Don't cry. Mom, please, don't cry. Everything's going to be all right."
"No," Dimitra sniffled. "It's not 'all right' as you say. We lost, Christopher. We lost the fight for the church. It's all over now."
"No, Mom," Criss argued. "It's not over until it's over. They served that injunction this morning. We can still save the church."
He swung around to face her directly. "Mom, listen," he said firmly. "You did the best you could to save Holy Trinity. You stuck to your guns and stood up for what you believed in, you and Father Stefan. Maybe chaining yourself to a tree wasn't the greatest idea, but it did generate a lot of publicity for it. People out there are really POed over this, and it was all because of you. Now I know you're tired and probably hungry, so let's get something to eat and you can go back to your room, take a shower or something, and just relax, okay?"
Dimitra nodded wearily. Criss helped her up from the chair and handed her over to Costa, who took her out of the suite and back to her room. Dave shook his head sadly after the door closed behind them. "Poor woman," he said pityingly. "She really wanted to save that church."
"Well, I'm still counting on the injunction," Criss said. "And I'm gonna sue SilverStar for getting her arrested like that."
"I can't believe someone could just take over a whole neighborhood, just like that," JD said. "That's criminal."
Suddenly, Criss's cell phone went off. He pulled it out and answered it. "Hello?"
"Hey, Criss, it's me, Sully."
"Hey, Sully, what's up?" Criss replied casually.
"What's up? Dude, you'd better turn on the TV and find out what's up!"
Criss was puzzled. "Why? What's going on?"
"All hell's breaking loose in North Las Vegas, that's what's going on!" Sully exclaimed over the phone. "I just barely blew by there and nearly got hit by a chunk of concrete!"
Criss turned away from his phone conversation. "Hey, Dave, turn on the news, willya?"
Dave reached for the remote and turned on the giant screen TV. Criss and company watched in horrified amazement as hundreds of people marched in front of SilverStar Enterprises, carrying signs protesting against the demolition. It was an impressive turnout, but what really chilled Criss was that many of the protesters were Loyals, angry over Dimitra's arrest. The LVMPD had turned out in force to prevent any rioting, armed with batons and tear gas grenades.
"My God!" Criss whispered. "Sully was right! All hell is breaking loose!"
"It's just not fair," Dimitra sobbed into Costa's shoulder as she sat on the bed in her hotel suite. "It's just not fair!"
"Mom, everything's gonna be all right," Costa assured her as best he could. "You did everything you could to save the church."
"I just don't understand how they could just take over like that," she sniffled. "This is America! Things like this don't happen here in America! At least, they are not supposed to."
"Mom, no one's gonna take over the church, okay? Criss has an injunction against them, and we got a class action suit against them as well."
"Then why was I arrested for trespassing? How could they arrest me if it is not their property?"
"Look, Mom, just get some rest, okay? You're tired. You'll feel better after you've had a nap."
Dimitra looked at Costa sharply. "Why are you treating me like a child?" she demanded. "Who's the parent here? I don't need a nap, I need a way to save the church! You think I'm some old woman who has to be looked after by everyone? I can take care of myself!"
"Don't 'Mom, please' me!" she snapped as she rose to her feet. "I'm going back to the church and see Father Stefan. At least I can pray for a miracle there. As long as I draw breath, that church will stand!"
Realizing there was no dissuading her, Costa offered her a lift. He was relieved when she agreed, and soon both were off to Holy Trinity to make a final stand against SilverStar.
Monique Wesley looked out the window of her office down at the mob of angry protesters outside her building. "Who are those people?" she asked irritably from no one in particular. "What are they doing down there?"
She managed to catch a glimpse of a picket sign or two denouncing her as a money-grubbing land-grabber that cared more for profits than people, a modern-day Marie Antoinette who told them "Let them eat cake". Enraged, she grabbed the phone and punched the button to summon security. "I want those people away from here NOW!" she demanded. "Clear the whole area! Use tear gas if you have to! Just get rid of them!"
She slammed down the headset and leaned on her desk. Ingrates! she thought. Here she was spending a king's ransom to better their lives and they turn on her like that! How could they treat her so badly after all she did for them? Stupid, selfish ingrates!
The phone buzzed. Monique answered it. "Yes, Ruth, what is it?"
"A gentleman from the District Court is here to see you, Ms. Wesley," Ruth told her in that deferential tone all secretaries use when addressing their bosses.
Monique sighed. Another process server. She'd been hauled into court so many times in the past she could have become a lawyer herself. "Send him in," she said resignedly.
"Yes, Ms. Wesley," Ruth said, then hung up. After a minute's delay, a stocky, grey-haired man with a badge in a leather case slung around his neck handed Monique a summons to appear in court thirty days hence. Monique took the papers and read the name and address in the plaintiff's box. To her surprise and outrage, the plaintiff was none other than Criss Angel himself, suing her for "wrongful arrest under false pretenses" on behalf of his mother. For Monique Wesley, this was the last straw.
She called Milton Dewey and left a message for him on his voicemail detailing the summons. With a feeling of relief, if not vindication, she hung up the phone. Milton knew what to do, she thought confidentally. He was the best in the business. She'd teach Mr. Hotshot Magician who was boss here in Las Vegas and show him just how fast she could make his money disappear.
02-11-2013, 10:05 PM
WHAT A :mad:
02-12-2013, 06:14 PM
"HEY HEY! HO HO! SILVERSTAR HAS GOT TO GO! HEY HEY! HO HO! SILVERSTAR HAS GOT TO GO!" chanted the mob as the marched around the steel and glass skyscraper that served as SilverStar Enterprises's main headquarters. Television news crews lined the street with cameras trained squarely on the protesters while reporters tried to collar anyone willing to give a statement for "on the spot" coverage. Some were happy to oblige, while others simply held up their picket signs to the camera crew.
"I've lived here, worked here and raised my family here," one angry man spat into the microphone. "I ain't gonna let some big fat cat corporation take away everything I worked for! I'm a taxpayer and I know my rights!"
By midafternoon, the SilverStar controversy was national news. Comparisons were made to the Poletown demolition by GM-Cadillac in Hamtramck, Michigan twenty-five years ago on CNN and other news networks. Those who had lived in the area and had been evicted offered sympathy and support to North Las Vegas, parallelling their own plight with their neighbors to the west.
E!News and other entertainment channels made Dimitra's arrest their top story. Criss's brief statement outside the police lockup where he had picked up his mother and Father Stefan was prominently featured. Father Stefan was all but ignored, at least by the networks. They Loyals, however, had made him part of the Angel family, adopting him as their own surrogate spiritual father, offering shout-outs on the boards and even including him in their stories in the Loyal Written Art sections. Father Stefan, of course, was totally unaware of this singular honor, but was grateful for the cards, letters and checks sent in by supportive Loyals for his church. They gave him hope, these fans of Criss Angel, in a time when hope was sorely needed.
A knock on the church office door bought Father Stefan back to reality. He rose from his desk and opened it. Dimitra stood there expectantly, while her son Costa stood a respectful distance behind her. Father smiled at her, beckoning her to enter. Dimitra thanked him and stepped into the office. Costa remained outside, preferring to wait for his mother to finish whatever business she had with the priest and drive her back to the hotel.
Dimitra could not help but stare at the pile of cards and letters on the desk. "My goodness," she said in mild surprise. "What's all this?"
"From your son's fans," Father replied. "They heard about your protest outside the church and sent in their support. Look!" he exclaimed, holding up a sheaf of checks. "They even sent in donations! I've counted over two thousand dollars so far. Thanks to you and Christopher, we gained a great deal of support for our cause!"
Dimitra was almost giddy with relief. "Oh, dear Lord!" she said, quavering. "I had no idea! This is wonderful! I came here to pray for a miracle, and God sent us one already!"
"The Lord would not forsake His church," Father Stefan said. "This is a sign that we will win this battle, Dimitra. We won't lose faith, but keep fighting for our right to exist! God is on our side."
"Amen, Father," Dimitra agreed. "Amen."
Unbeknownst to Father Stefan and Dimitra, Monique Wesley was struggling to bring about miracles of her own with the help of her lawyer, Milton Dewey. Milton shuffled papers while Monique paced around nervously like a caged panther.
"Do you know how many millions I stand to lose if I don't get this hotel built, Milton?" she asked him for the dozenth time that day. "I'm up to my ass in lawsuits, and I've got an injunction against my building anything in North Las Vegas! How the hell am I going to get out of this one? You got to help me, Milt! You're my last, best hope! You've come through for me before! Can't you do it again?"
"I'm trying!" Milton cried as he flipped through his papers in his briefcase. "I'm trying as best as I can! I got some notes here somewhere--just let me look!"
"Well, look faster!" Monique snapped. "I got people out there who want to string me up from the nearest lamppost!"
"Wait a minute!" Milton snatched up a sheet of paper and read it, then tossed it aside. "No, we tried that already," he said with a tone of disappointment. "Maybe...no, that won't work, either. And we tried that already." He closed his briefcase in defeat. "I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do. They're going through the Court of Appeals over those petitions they turned down before, and it's more than likely they'll overturn the ruling. Face it, Monique, you are screwed. Our backs are up against the wall and there's no way out except to fight it out in court."
"Then that's exactly what I'll do," Monique said determinedly. "I've been called a lot of things in my life, but never a quitter! I'll fight them all in court, every single one of them! And you're gonna be by my side, Milton! We'll rake their asses over the coals until there's nothing left of them! The Grand Imperial is going to be built no matter who I have to fight!"
Kris Lee parked her hatchback in the Holy Trinity Church parking lot, surprised and concerned that no one was out there protesting. Did they get arrested like Dimitra did? she wondered. She hoped not. She got out of her car and trotted up to the side entrance of the church. Ever since she had heard of Dimitra's arrest she had felt guilty about leaving her behind when she went to class. She had promised Criss she would look after her, and she was going to keep that promise.
Kris Lee pulled open the heavy wooden door and stepped inside the dimly lit church, its golden icons and murals eerily aglow with the light of dozens of votive candles. She had passed Holy Trinity dozens of times on her way to classes, but this was the first time she had ever been inside. She didn't see Dimitra in the church proper, so she passed the altar and went through another side door into a hallway. To one side, she could see light eminating from a doorway. That must be the church office, she figured.
She walked briskly to the door. In the silence of the church she could easily hear voices from inside the office. One voice she recognized as Dimitra's; the other was a man's voice. The priest, perhaps? The voices sounded happy, almost jubilant, so Kris Lee assumed that it was safe to go inside. She rapped gently on the door, not wanting to startle either one of them.
"Come in," said the man's voice.
Kris Lee entered the office. There was Dimitra, her hands full of mail. Next to her was the priest, Father Stefan, his hands also filled with letters. They smiled at her the minute they looked at her. "Well, hello there!" Dimitra greeted her warmly. "Good to see you again!"
"It's nice to see you, too, Dimitra," Kris Lee responded politely. "I heard you got arrested after I left. I had promised Criss I would take care of you during your protest, and I've been so worried about you. I felt so guilty about abandoning you like that. I should have stayed with you."
"Now, honey, you shouldn't feel guilty about anything," Dimitra assured her. "Father Stefan and I got through it all right. Didn't we, Father?"
"We did," Father said, nodding. "And they let us go without bail, provided we show up for court next month. I don't think anything will come from it, though."
"Are you kidding, Father?" Kris Lee said. "I've been on the fan boards on the 'Net, and everyone is really--" She was about to say (bleeped) off, but she caught herself just in time: there were certain words and phrases one did not use in front of the clergy. "--really upset over what happened to Dimitra. You wouldn't believe the responses they gave over it!"
"I can," Father said, and showed her the pile of letters on the desk. "In fact, we got quite a few responses, didn't we, Dimitra?"
"Oh, yes, indeed we did," Dimitra agreed.
Kris Lee stared at the mountain of cards and letters on the desk. "Many sent in donations as well," Father continued. "Over two thousand dollars from when I last counted. I don't know how they found out about it, but we are grateful for their support."
"Hey, Father," Kris Lee responded. "Dimitra's like our mother, too. We Loyals are always keeping our eyes and ears open for any little news concerning Criss or his family. If anything happens, word gets around fast on the fanboards and everywhere else. Like I said, the Web's full of news about Dimitra's arrest, and they are behind her one hundred and ten percent."
"Well, you go on those fanboards," Father told her, "and tell them I thank them for their support."
"Will do, Father," Kris Lee said cheerily. "You betcha!"
Another tap on the door. Kris Lee opened it and was surprised to see Costa standing there. She was too dumbfounded to speak, let alone move to let him in. Costa was a bit startled to see this strange girl standing there, but he brushed it off with a quick "Oh, hi," and looked over her head toward his mother. "Mom, you ready to go?" he asked casually.
"In a minute," Dimitra replied.
Costa left to bring the car around. Dimitra stacked the letters she had been holding and placed them on the desk. "I have to go now, Father," she said. "Costa needs to get back to work, and he wants to keep an eye on me. All three of my sons are still upset over my demonstration. They worry about me so much they treat me like a child, telling me I need to eat or take a nap or whatever! It's irritating! I'm their mother, not the other way around!"
"Well, that's because they love you so much, Dimitra," Kris Lee said. "They don't want you to get sick, or get hurt, or anything. They just want to take care of you, just like you took care of them in the past."
"Still, it's irritating," Dimitra argued. "I can take care of myself very well, thank you. I'm not that infirm--yet."
"Well, you should thank God you have three loving sons to care for you in case something does happen to you," Father Stefan told Dimitra. "You are a very fortunate woman to have them."
"I do, Father," Dimitra said. "I do, indeed, but still..."
A car horn blared from outside. Dimitra sighed. "That must be Costa," she said. "Well, good-bye, Father."
"Good-bye, Dimitra. And thank you for all your help."
Dimitra kissed Kris Lee. "Good-bye, honey," she said. "And thank you for generating all the support from the Loyals."
Kris Lee kissed her in return. "Anything for you, Mama D," she said. "Anything at all."
Milton Dewey sat in his corner office of Dewey, Scruem and Howe, poring over pages and pages of property law in the state of Nevada, trying to find even the smallest loophole for Monique Wesley to take over North Las Vegas to build the Grand Imperial. Monique was his best-paying client, if not his only one to date; many of his former clients had bailed on him because they didn't like his underhanded methods of getting results. There had been rumors via the legal grapevine that he would be facing disbarment for his unethcial practices, but Milton dismissed them as just that--rumors. After he and Monique won this case, he thought, he would be come out of it smelling like a rose and rich enough to retire to Catalina or some other tropical paradise. Screw the Nevada State Bar, he was going to win this case if it killed him!
But first, he had to find something to back up his client's claim. Nevada law wasn't helping, so he turned to the other forty-nine states. He looked under eminent domain, conversion law, public use. Then, just as he was about to give up, he hit paydirt in the form of a twenty-five year old court case. Elated, Milton copied it down for reference. "Milton, old boy," he said to himself. "You've done it again! We've got them by the short hairs now!"
02-12-2013, 06:28 PM
I've got some words to describe Monquie but I'd be kicked off the site if I did :o
02-13-2013, 05:42 PM
The weeks went by without furthur incident in North Las Vegas. There was hardly any mention of the proposed demolition in the press or on television during that period. People went about their daily routine as if no threat had been made against their homes or businesses. Father Stefan performed the Mass at the usual times before his congregation undisturbed. The tension of the past month faded; everyone began to relax. Only on the day set for Dimitra's arraingnment did the animosity against SilverStar raise its ugly head once more.
The actual date of the hearing was kept from the press to prevent overzealous Loyals from creating a disturbance around the courthouse, but somehow the information leaked out. Dimitra and Father Stefan found themselves greeted by a band of overly supportive Loyals carrying signs protesting their love for Dimitra and Criss. The minute they spotted Mama Angel and the priest, they burst into cheers, waving their signs high in the air.
"We love you, Dimitra!"
"We won't let them put you in jail!"
"Where's Criss? Isn't he with you?"
"You go, Mama Angel!"
It took four members of the Clark County Sheriff's department to escort the two to their assigned courtroom. Criss, for his part, had to be smuggled into the building through the loading dock for safety's sake. As much as he loved his fans, he realized that there was a time to play celebrity and a time for serious business, and his mother's trial was very serious business indeed. The Clark County Circuit Court seemed to agree with him: it was a closed session, no visitors allowed, and no press was permitted.
Criss sat next to his mother, noting with surprise how serene she was. He had expected her to be shaking like a leaf with nervousness, but there she was, cool as a cucumber, staring calmly at the judge's bench. She had displayed more anxiety whenever he performed one of his demonstrations, often bursting into tears whenever it seemed he had been killed, but now she was in the hot seat herself, and she didn't even flinch. Perhaps it was her conviction that she was in the right, that justice would prevail and she would be vindicated in the end.
"All rise!" intoned the bailiff.
Everyone in the courtroom stood up respectfully for the Honorable Judge Lindsey Gigamoro, a slim blond woman who looked more like a law student than a judge. She commanded everyone to be seated and sat down herself, her shoulders barely rising above the bench.
"The People vs. Stefan Mykolos and Dimitra Sarantakos," she read from the docket, enunciating every syllable of the defendants' names. "Am I pronouncing that correctly?" she asked the defense counsel.
"That is correct, Your Honor," the lawyer replied.
"Good. Are the defendants present?"
Father Stefan and Dimitra stepped forward, heads high in confidence. "We are here, Your Honor," Father Stefan said.
"Raise your right hands."
Father and Dimitra did as they were told. "Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you?" the judge intoned.
"I do," they replied.
"Good. The two of you have been charged with 'criminal trespass on private property'. How do you plead?"
"Not guilty, Your Honor," Father Stefan replied.
"And you, Mrs. Sarantakos?"
"Not guilty," Dimitra answered.
The judge read the docket again. "It says here that you were both arrested at Holy Trinity Church a month ago. Mrs. Sarantakos had chained herself to a tree on the property." She turned to Dimitra. "Can you explain why you did that?"
"I was protesting the demolition of Holy Trinity by SilverStar Enterprises," Dimitra answered. "When I was arrested, they said it was owned by SilverStar."
"What was owned by SilverStar?"
"Why, the church property, of course."
"I see. And you, Mr. Mykolos?"
"Father Mykolos, Your Honor," Father Stefan corrected her.
"I'm sorry. Father Mykolos, what is your connection to Mrs. Sarantakos?"
"She attends my church whenever she is in Las Vegas. She has worked hard to help save it from destruction, as did the other members of my congregation. I admit that chaining herself to the tree was a bit extreme, but it did generate a lot of publicity for the cause."
"And SilverStar claims it owns the property?"
"They say they do, but they have no legal claim to it. I did not sell it to them, nor did I take them up on their offer to pay ten thousand dollars for it. They ordered our eviction, just like all the others in the area. They want to destroy the entire neighborhood just to build some big luxury hotel."
"So they charged you with trespassing on your own property?" Judge Gigamoro said incredulously. "Have you filed any appeals?"
"Your Honor," the defense spoke up, "an injunction was served against SilverStar prohibiting them from any action against the church three weeks ago. There are also a series of class action suits against SilverStar filed by the residents of North Las Vegas as well."
"Well, if SilverStar has no legal title to the property, then there's no reason to press charges against the defendants," the judge concluded. "This case is dismissed for lack of evidence. Dismissed."
A bang of the gavel, and it was all over. Criss rushed up to embrace his mother. "I knew they couldn't make it stick, Mom!" he said happily. "I just knew it!"
Criss, Dimitra and Father Stefan left the courtroom in high spirits. In his exultation, Criss took the main entrance out of the courthouse, not realizing that the same mob of Loyals who had greeted Dimitra and Father Stefan earlier were still there despite the best efforts of the authorities to chase them away. Only when they were all over him, squeeling and groping, did he notice their presence. Father Stefan could only stand by, laughing helplessly at Criss's plight. He didn't envy Criss's celebrity one bit; in fact, he couldn't help but pity him. Poor man, he thought, hardly a moment to himself.
"So what happened?" the Loyals demanded.
Criss waved his arms to call for order. "It's okay, everyone!" he shouted over the din. "Mom and Father Stefan here were aquitted. They dropped the charges, so no one's going to jail, okay? So, we're all gonna go home and take it easy. Thanks for your support, and God bless you."
The Loyals cheered at the good news. Criss, Dimitra and Father Stefan were hurried out of the courthouse before more pandemonium could break out. Father Stefan breathed a sigh of relief.
"You have to put up with that every day?" he asked Criss incredulously.
"No, not every day," Criss replied. "Just when I go out in public."
02-14-2013, 05:18 AM
so true so true
02-14-2013, 03:36 PM
Meanwhile, at SilverStar Enterprises, Milton Dewey had arrived at Monique Wesley's office, beaming like the midday sun.
"I said I'd come through for you, didn't I?" Milton crowed. "I got just what you need to take over that property."
"So?" Monique said impatiently, "what is it?"
Milton laid down his paperwork on the desk in front of Monique. "Twenty-five years ago, GM-Cadillac took over half of Hamtramck, Michigan to build their plant," he told her, "and the state supreme court upheld it!"
"What's that got to do with us?" Monique asked.
"Don't you get it? They claimed public use under the eminent domain laws, just like we're doing!" Milton said. "If they can do it, then there's no stopping us. We just stick to our guns, and we can't fail! That whole area is a slum--you said so yourself! This case justifies it!"
"Okay, Milt," Monique said, satisfied for the moment,"we'll play that card when we have to. Just be there in the courtroom, ready to fight this thing out."
"Oh, don't worry, Monique," Milton said, smiling his oily smile. "I will be loaded for bear on this one."
The day came, and both parties with legal counsel on their sides were present in the courtroom. So were the media: cameras flashed as each of the major players in the six-week-old drama waked through the glass doors of the Clark County District Courthouse. Monique Wesley was dressed in her "power suit", a black businesslike ensemble equivilent to a man's three-piece suit only without the tie. Milton Dewey was also suited up in black, with a diamond pin on his black silk tie.
Their opponents, represented by Father Stefan, Dimitra Sarantakos, and the founding members of COST, were also conservatively dressed. Father Stefan insisted on wearing a full cassock to court, in keeping with the dignity of the church as he put it. Dimitra simply wore her best blue dress, her black hair pinned up in a small bouffant. Her Armani sunglasses protected her eyes from the flashbulbs.
Of all the members of the parties involved, it was Criss himself who drew the most media attention. He had toned down his punkish look for a conservative (for him) black shirt and slacks with only a single cross around his neck. He fielded the reporters' questions while his mother slipped into the courtroom undisturbed. It was almost time for the trial to begin when he finally broke free from the feeding frenzy of the media with the help of the Clark County Sheriff's Department. Criss finally entered the courtroom and sat down next to his mother nearest the bench.
"Are you all right, honey?" Dimitra asked her son.
"I'm fine, Ma," Criss replied. "I'm used to it."
"All rise!" the bailiff intoned. "This court is now in session."
Everyone in the courtroom stood up while the judge ascended to the bench. The command for everyone to be seated was given, and the trial began. "The Citizens of North Las Vegas vs. SilverStar Enterprises," the judge read from the docket. "Is the counsel for the plaintiffs ready to make the opening statement?"
"I am, Your Honor," Edward Bradwin, the attorney for the plaintiffs, replied courteously as he rose from his chair. "On November **, 20**, SilverStar Enterprises announced the construction of the Grand Imperial Hotel, Resort and Casino on a twelve square mile site in North Las Vegas--a site that is still populated, with homes, businesses, schools and churches. The defendents offered buyouts to the residents and business owners, ranging from five hundred to ten thousand dollars to evacuate the area for demolition. When they refused, the plaintiffs were served eviction notices, giving them thirty days to leave their homes, businesses, churches, and schools. The plaintiffs claimed 'eminent domain', under the Fifth Amendment regarding public use for private property.
"Now, in the strictest sense, the Fifth Amendment can claim property for public use such as freeways and other uses. For a private corporation to sieze private property to build a luxury hotel in a city full of luxury hotels is downright criminal. These are people's homes we are talking about, ladies and gentlemen, their places of business, their houses of worship, the schools where they send their children. The age of the robber baron has long ended. Let's put people in front of profits."
The plaintiff's side rested. Now it was the counsel for the defense's turn to make an opening statement. Milton Dewey rose from his seat and faced the court with typical bravado. "Ladies and gentlemen," he bellowed pompously. "My client, SilverStar Enterprises, is not the 'robber baron' my opponent makes it out to be. SilverStar always had the public in mind when launching this project. The area in dispute is a rotting slum, full of gangs and drug dealers. The only 'business' going on over there is the illicit kind. By building the Grand Imperial, SilverStar intends to not only cut down on crime, but to provide gainful employment, and to raise the property values as well. They don't intend to throw anyone out in the street--God forbid!--but to give them the means to start a better life. They offered money for their shabby, rotting dwellings, those ruins they call their 'businesses'. By demolishing those crumbling, filthy slums, SilverStar is making North Las Vegas a better place to live, to work! People should be thanking SilverStar, not persecuting them!"
Criss sat slumped in his seat, listening to Dewey's claptrap, his stomach barrelrolling inside him. That's the biggest load of BS I ever heard in my life! he said to himself. If Monique Wesley thinks she's doing everyone a favor by tearing down people's homes, she's deluding herself!
Dewey eventually stopped blathering and sat down again. The first witness to take the stand was Monique Wesley, CEO of SilverStar Enterprises. Criss tuned out immediatly--he knew she would reiterate what Dewey had said in his opening statement, and then some, and her testamony proved he was right. Only when Bradwin approached the stand did he take interest.
"Ms. Wesley," Bradwin began. "What gives you the right to take over people's private property to build your hotel?"
"I claim it under the eminent domain laws of this state," she answered.
"Did you read those 'eminent domain' laws carefully enough?"
"I did. I followed all legal procedures to evacuate the area."
"You followed all 'legal procedures'?"
"Well, Ms. Wesley, it seems to me that you did follow all legal procedures except one," Bradwin said, "concerning the fact that you had to be the legal owner of the area in dispute before you could issue eviction notices. Do you have legal title to any part of that area? Do you have documentary proof of ownership?"
"I claim the right under the Fifth Amendment, which states that no private property can be taken for public use without just compensation. I offered compensation to everyone concerned."
"Five hundred dollars is hardly 'just compensation', Ms. Wesley." Bradwin responded. "And you didn't 'offer' it, you forced it upon them. And 'public use' does not mean building a luxury hotel, Ms. Wesley. Your corporation is not the US Government."
After more arguing, Monique was dismissed. Father Stefan Mykolos was called to the stand. Being a clergyman, he could not swear on the Bible to tell the truth, but simply affimed to do so. Once seated, Mr. Bradwin asked him to relate in his own words what happened during the month of November when he got the notice to give up his church. Father related everything he could remember--the letter offering ten thousand dollars for the church and property, the eviction notice, the protest movement resulting in his and Dimitra's arrest, and the injunction filed against SilverStar. Then, it was Dewey's turn to cross-examine the priest.
"Father Mykolos," Dewey began, "is it true that you and Mrs. Sarantakos was arrested for criminal trespass on private property?"
"That 'private property' was my church!" Father argued. "And Mrs. Sarantakos had my permission to be on it, just like all my other parishioners. We were both aquitted for lack of evidence."
"But SilverStar had claim onto it under the eminent domain law."
"God Himself has eminent domain over His Church and no one else!" Father shot back, to great applause.
The judge gaveled for order. Milton Dewey continued. "Father Mykolos, if you insist on claiming that property as your own, I suggest you look furthur in the law books. Are you familiar with Poletown vs. GM-Cadillac?"
"I am not an attorney, counselor," Father reminded him. "I uphold God's law only."
Dewey turned pompously to the court in general. "Ladies and gentlemen, GM-Cadillac built their plant in Hamtramck, Michgan twenty five years ago under the same eminent domain laws we now dispute. The plaintiffs appealed, but the State Supreme Court upheld GM's claim. Yes, some houses and churches were torn down, but it was all for the best in the end. The area prospered for years after that. Could we not do the same for North Las Vegas?"
"I do remember that case," Father spoke up. "And that plant 'prospered' for only a few years until it closed down! It was a waste of money and resources, not to mention the destruction of several churches and over a thousand homes! The state sold them out, counselor, and I am not going to stand by and watch my community be sold out like Hamtramck!"
Loud applause erupted in the courtroom at Father's brave speech. Again the gavel came down to restore order. Dimitra beamed at Father Stefan on the stand. How brave he is! His faith alone could win over any legal precedent in the world! she thought.
The trial dragged on, with SilverStar losing ground with every passing hour. The Poletown case was dragged forward again and again, only to be shot down in flames. Monique kept insisting that she had every legal right to take over North Las Vegas, while witness after witness defended home and business there. Criss found himself praying for the end of this whole thing just so he could go back home and get some work done.
Finally, the closing statements were made, to Criss's relief, then the court was recessed for thirty minutes for deliberation. Everyone rose and filed out of the courtroom, the judge to his chambers, everyone else to find a place to eat. In the crowd, Criss found himself face to face with Monique. "I wish you were a man for about five minutes," he said to her.
Monique looked at Criss almost seductivly. "Why?" she purred. "You prefer men?"
"No," Criss replied, "so that I could punch your lights out for what you did to my mother, having her arrested like that! Not to mention the BS about you being all civic minded in tearing down an entire neighborhood to build your hotel! You're not doing this for the community, you're doing it for your own ego! You're nothing but a self-centered, greedy (bleep), you know that? I'm still coming after you for having Mom arrested. I'll sue your ass for whatever you got left after this suit!"
"How do you know you're going to win?" Monique asked smugly.
"Oh, we'll win, all right," Criss retorted. "And let me warn you, Ms. CEO, that if, God forbid, we lose this round, I'll fight you all the way to the (bleeping) Supreme Court if I have to! And I fight to win, no matter what it takes!"
"Well, so do I, Mr. Hotshot Magician," Monique shot back. "So do I."
02-15-2013, 06:11 PM
"All rise," intoned the bailiff as court reconviened and the judge ascended to the bench. Everyone stood up and sat down again at the judge's command, the air in the courtroom heavy with anticipation aver the verdict. No one dared breathe, let alone speak.
"After careful deliberation and examination of the facts of this case," His Honor began, "the court has reached a verdict."
Silence. The judge turned to Monique Wesley. "Ms. Wesley, you stated that your proposed plan to build a luxury hotel in North Las Vegas was for the benefit of all concerned, providing employment and raising property values in the area. However good your intentions were, your deluded logic and your misinterpretation of the Fifth Amendment regarding public use would do more harm than good to the people of North Las Vegas. The Poletown case Mr. Dewey quoted is proof of that. Thousands lost their homes, churches, schools and businesses in the name of corporate greed, and it was all in vain. I do not intend to repeat that mistake. Therefore, the court rules in favor of the People of North Las Vegas."
Monique's jaw dropped. Cheers erupted in the courtroom. Criss reached over and hugged his mother. "We won, Mom!" he crowed. "We won!"
The judge hammered the gavel for order. "Furthurmore," he continued when the jubilation died down, "it is the decision of this court that you pay ten-point-five million dollars to the community of North Las Vegas, to be used for public works and services. If you are as civic minded as you claim to be, you should have no qualms about paying that amount. I'm confident that the money will do more to increase property values than a luxury hotel ever would." He brought down the gavel with a loud bang. "Case dismissed."
The courtroom emptied as quickly as school let out for summer recess. Criss was so elated that he didn't mind when the media charged forward for his statement, but happily related the case and the verdict in the city's favor.
"The system works!" he exclaimed to the press. "Justice has triumphed, and we showed that just because you have a billion dollars it doesn't give you the right to push people around. The church is safe, the city of North Las Vegas is safe--everything is cool!"
"What about your own suit against SilverStar?" one reporter asked.
"What about it?"
"Do you think you'll win this one, too?"
"I know I will," Criss replied. "Monique had no right to go and arrest my mother like that! It was a false arrest, and she knows it!"
Tired of waiting for her famous son to finish his press conference, Dimitra made her way through the crowd of reporters and cameramen. It was a mistake on her part, because then the media began pressing her on all sides for a statement and a quick photo with Criss.
"Mrs. Sarantakos, how did it feel to be arrested?"
"Do you have any resentment toward SilverStar?"
"Is it true you chained yourself to a tree to protest the demolition of Holy Trinity Church?"
"Can you give us your viewpoint on the trial today?"
Criss charged to the rescue. "Please, everybody," he pleaded. "Don't crowd my mother, okay? You want a statement, you talk to me."
Criss pushed and dodged his way through the mob of reporters and photographers, clutching his mother close to his body like a precious parcel. As soon as they were clear, Father Stefan took over and quickly escorted Dimitra into his own car. The officers from the Sheriff's Department kept the press at bay while Criss made a quick getaway in his Viper. The media feeding frenzy did nothing to diminish his sense of victory over the case. True, Monique could appeal the decision, but he figured with public opinion against her it would be like beating a dead horse. No way would SilverStar triumph against him. It was all over, so now he could relax.
But, he recalled, there was still that personal suit. Well, so what? As far as he was concerned, it was just a formality. Go in, win the suit, get a judgement, and get on with his life. It wasn't the money that concerned him--he had plenty of that. He wanted to punish Monique, hurt her where she lived, right in the pocketbook. Monique had no right to arrest Mom like that, and he was going to make damn sure that Ms. CEO didn't get away with it. No one did that to his mother, no one!
That very Sunday, Father Stefan celebrated the church's victory with a special Mass. The altar was flanked with huge floral arrangements and lighted with white tapers. The marble floor shone with mirror brightness, and the monstrance above the altar gleamed like the rising sun. Not only the regular parishioners but those of the Greek Orthodox faith who came to Las Vegas as tourists also attended, having heard of the SilverStar controversy and court victory on the news. Everyone milled around outside, chatting in English and Greek, getting aquainted and reaquainted with each other while waiting for Mass to begin. The atmosphere was as joyous as Easter.
Among the general throng were two young women trying to blend in, but secretly hoping to catch a glimpse of their idol, Criss Angel. They had dressed as conservatively as they could, in simple, modest "church" dresses and wide-brimmed hats (they had heard that Greek Orthodox women were supposed to cover their heads during Mass), but they still looked flashy compared to the rest of the congregation. To their relief, few took notice.
"Do you think he'll come?" Candi asked Kris Lee.
"He's got to," Kris Lee insisted. "I know Dimitra will be here at least. She wouldn't miss this for the world."
"Oh, God, it would be so cool if he did!" squealed Candi.
"I know, I know, but play it cool," Kris Lee told her friend. "This is a church, not a Loyalfest."
Candi pointed to a large Range Rover pulling up into the lot. "Do you think that's him?" she asked eagerly.
"It could be anyone," Kris Lee said, shrugging. "Let's go see."
They trotted to the parking lot with mincing steps so as not to topple over their high heels, then hid themselves behind a wall and peered around the corner to see who just drove up. "Oh, God, let it be Criss!" Candi prayed.
The driver's side of the Rover swung open, and a black suited man who looked familiar to Kris Lee and Candi emerged from inside. He crossed over to the passenger side and let out a blond-haired woman, then opened the back door for his other passengers. Only when he began to walk toward the church did the two recognize the driver.
"Ohmigawd!" Kris Lee gasped. "It's JD! And he's got his wife with him!"
"I see Dimitra!" Candi squealed. "And--it's Criss! He's here!"
Candi hid herself behind the wall like a starry-eyed schoolgirl seeing her crush. "Ohmigodohmigodohmigod! What do I do? What do I say? I am, like, so nervous!"
"Now, just calm down, Candi," Kris Lee told her. "Just let me do the talking and everything will be fine."
"Why do you have to do the talking?"
"Because I know Dimitra and she knows me, okay?"
"Just because you met her during that one day of protest--"
"Look, let's not fight, okay? This is very important for Criss's family and--wait! Here they come!"
Candi and Kris Lee fell silent, tensing up for the big encounter with Criss and his family. They watched in anticipation as they walked up to the church, and then watched in disappointment as they detoured toward a group whom they seemed to be on familiar terms. They stood helplessly as Criss and his family hugged and greeted the strangers, chatting amiably.
"Okay, what do we do now?" Candi asked Kris Lee.
"Just act natural and move in," Kris Lee told her.
They strolled casually among the people, nodding and smiling politely, doing their best to be inconspicuous. They strategically positioned themselves by the same tree where Dimitra had chained herself in protest, close enough to hear the conversation but far enough not to be noticed.
"Thank you for all your help, Dima," an elderly woman said gratefully. "If not for you, the church would be gone."
"Oh, I didn't do it alone," Dimitra protested. "I had plenty of help, from God and my family."
"You are very lucky to have such a supportive family, Dima." the old woman said. Then she turned to JD, Costa and Criss. "It was good of you to help your mother save the church."
JD looked sheepishly at her. "Well, actually, we tried to get her to come back to the hotel more than anything," he said. "We were more worried about her than the church. The only way we could get her home was to file that injunction."
Criss nodded in agreement. "I couldn't sleep that night, worrying about Mom out there in the cold. If it weren't for the Loyals keeping her company, I'd have picked the locks and dragged her back."
"Loyals?" The elderly woman was perplexed.
"That's what Criss calls his fans," Costa explained. "Anyway, Mom was determined to stay on until she got arrested. Now Criss is filing a suit against SilverStar on Mom's behalf."
The elderly woman sighed. "Lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits! Why does everyone have to sue everybody? The only ones who get rich are the lawyers, and it costs more than what you get out of it, what with all the legal fees and all that. Why do you want to sue them anyway, Christopher? You already have so much money yourself."
"It's not the money," Criss insisted. "It's the principle of the thing. I want to get the message across to Monique Wesley that she can't bully people around just because she's the CEO of some big corporation, and the only way to do that is to hit her where she lives--right in the bank account. She had no right to get my mother arrested like that, no right whatsoever! If she wasn't a woman I'd go right up to her and kick her right in the--"
"Christopher!" Dimitra was appalled.
"I know, Mom, i know," Criss placated her. "Still, she's nothing but a greedy, land-grabbing...witch! You know she is! It's time someone put her in her place, and that someone's gonna be me! If hauling her into court is the only way to teach her a lesson, then so be it! She may have tried to intimidate everyone else around her, but not me! I hope she rots in Hell!"
Kris Lee and Candi burst into applause. "Yay! You go, Criss! Whoooo!"
Criss and company turned toward the two girls standing by the tree. The girls stopped clapping and stood there, embarrassed. There was a moment of awkward silence, broken by the sound of Dimitra clearing her throat. "Ahem, well, we'd better be getting inside," she said. "We don't want to be late for Mass."
Everyone began trudging across the lawn toward the church, save for Criss and the two girls. Criss looked at the flustered pair standing by the tree where his mother had chained herself six weeks ago. A smile crept over his face as he approached them. "Hi," he said casually.
"Hi," Kris Lee managed to get out, while Candi simply stood there, too awestruck to speak.
Criss looked at Kris Lee. "I think I've seen you somewhere," he said, unsure.
"I was here with your mother," Kris Lee reminded him. "You gave me some money to buy her something to eat, remember?"
"Oh, yeah," Criss said, suddenly recalling the moment. "And did you?"
"Did I what?"
"Buy Mom something to eat?"
"Well, we really didn't have to," Kris Lee told him. "The other Loyals had bought so much food with them I didn't have to buy anything. I kept your money, though," she added hastily. "I still have it with me. Do you want it back?"
"Keep it," Criss said, shrugging. "Or better yet, drop it in the poor box or something, put it to good use. I don't need it."
"I was there, too, Criss," Candi spoke up. "I was in the tent near Dimitra, too. You tripped over me that night and landed on that girl, remember?"
Criss laughed a little. "Oh, yeah, that was pretty embarrassing."
"Not to that girl you landed on," Kris Lee quipped.
"Yeah, I'm sure."
The church bell tolled from above. "Uh, oh, service is starting," he said. "Gotta go."
"Can we come with you?" Candi begged. "Please?"
Criss thought it over. "Well, okay, but you gotta promise to behave yourselves. This is church, not a nightclub."
"Oh, we promise," the girls said.
Criss slung an arm around each of them. "Okay, let's go."
The three stode up the lawn to the church entrance, where JD, Costa and Dimitra waited for him. JD glared at Criss and the two girls. "Just once," he groaned, "just once, would you please check your ego at the door and be like normal people?"
Criss looked at his elder brother bemusedly. "What?" he shrugged. "I just invited a couple of our supporters who helped save the church, that's all. Mom? Is it okay if they sit with us?"
JD rolled his eyes. Dimitra eyed the two girls flanking Criss on both sides. "All right, but I want you two to be on your best behavior. No flirting or any other funny business, understood?"
"Understood," the girls chorused.
"All right then." Dimitra turned and enterd the church, her sons, Kris Lee and Candi following. The girls stared in awe at the interior of the church, with its gilded frescoes glowing from the soft light of the wax tapers, the banks of flowers around the altar and the golden altarpieces gleaming in front. Clinging to Criss's side, Kris Lee began to wonder what it would be like to get married here. The thought sent her into a strange, blissful fantasy.
Criss up front in a white dinner jacket and black bow tie, standing next to the priest. And I'm floating down the aisle in fluffy white satin and lace, carrying a huge bouquet of white roses. Standing in front of the priest, saying our vows. Criss slipping the ring on my finger, promising to love and cherish me, forsaking all others, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, for better for worse, until death do us part. Me promising the same, with all my heart. Criss pressing his lips against mine, sealing our bond. Oh, God! It's bliss, it's heaven, it's--
--rudely shattered by Candi tugging on her arm. "Over here," she whispered, steering Kris Lee into position next to her.
For a moment, Kris Lee wanted to strangle Candi for ruining her wedding, but after reality sank in she brushed it off. She looked around. It turned out that Dimitra had manouvered herself between her son and his two female escorts and was now standing between them and their idol; she seemed determined to enforce the no flirting rule to the letter. She tried to catch a discreet sideways glance at Criss, but was unsuccessful. Disappointed, Kris Lee watched as the processional made its slow, dignified way up the aisle to the altar. Well, she'd have to wait until the service was over. Maybe later she'd get some pictures with her camera phone, just to prove that she had been there; meanwhile, she'd have to get through the Mass without embarrassing herself, or Criss and his family. It was just like what her father had said: life was what happens when you make other plans.
02-18-2013, 03:21 PM
While Criss and his family were attending Mass, Dave Baran, Criss's manager, was enjoying his own Sunday morning ritual with a cup of coffee and the morning paper on the veranda. He had just finished skimming over articles dealing with world events, scanned the local section, tossed aside the food pages and the classifieds, checked the box scores in sports, and finally settled down with the entertainment section. It was not for idle curiosity about the Cult of Personality that he read it, but to check for any reviews about his star client's shows or any other information he felt he should be concerned about. If there were any rumors circulating, Dave wanted to be sure to catch them and squelch them if they were too damaging to Criss's career.
There was the usual Hollywood gossip in the Names and Faces column: who was seen with whom, whose relationship was going strong or on the rocks, births, deaths, and arrests for DUI or some other offense. Just another day in Tinseltown, Dave thought. He was about to turn the page when Criss's name and photo caught his eye. Instinctivly, Dave zeroed in on it. He read the few lines connected with the grainy inch-square picture of Criss Angel inserted between them.
Charged: Illusionist Criss Angel, with assault by SilverStar CEO Monique Wesley. Wesley claimed that Angel allegedly threatened to "punch her lights out" after his mother Dimitra's hearing at Clark County District Court. Mother Angel was protesting the proposed demolition of North Las Vegas's Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church by SilverStar to make way for the new Grand Imperial Hotel, and had been arrested for criminal trespass on private property along with the priest, Father Stefan Mykolos. Charges were dropped for lack of evidence. Angel is suing SilverStar for false arrest and harrassment on his mother's behalf.
Dave read the paragraph over and over again. This could be bad, he thought. This could get really bad. Personally, he didn't blame Criss for his anger over what SilverStar did to his mother, but to threaten bodily harm, especially to a woman, could tarnish his image. Criss had been riding high for the past several years; something like this could bring him low.
He had to call Criss. He had to set the record straight, for both their sakes. Once he got the real story, Dave could undo the damage and save Criss's career--and his own. Dave reflexivly pulled out his cell phone and was about to press the speed-dial number reserved for Criss when he suddenly recalled that he was in church that morning for that special service at Holy Trinity. He had probably turned it off. Dave swore under his breath and put the phone away. He would call Criss this afternoon, when he was free of family obligations. Meanwhile, he would have to wait.
"The Mass is ended. Go in peace." Father Stefan told his congregation.
"Thanks be to God," the congregation responded in unison.
Father Stefan, the sacristan and the altar boys receded to the vestibule of the church with the same slow dignity as they came in. There were murmurs and scuffles as everyone gathered their belongings as they prepared to leave. Kris Lee struggled to reach Criss's side again, a difficult feat with the crush of bodies all around. She felt like a trout swimming upstream, fighting a current of people to reach her goal. Just when she felt as though she would be swept away, she found Criss at last, joining the flow down the aisle. With one desperate lunge Kris Lee hooked his arm and drew herself close to him. She had made it at last.
Criss was startled. "Hey, you all right?"
Kris Lee nodded. "I'm fine, Criss, really I am," she breathed. Now that I'm with you.
They joined the slow flow of bodies making their way out the doors of the church. Kris Lee took the time to take a few pictures of the church with her camera phone. She would have to wait until she was outside to take any pictures of Criss and his family; it was too dimly lit, not to mention too crowded to take pictures inside the church.
Candi, meanwhile, had succeeded in latching onto Criss's other arm and walked beside him, to Dimitra's chagrin. She had understood very little of the Greek Mass and had been separated from her idol by his mother throughout the service, but just being in the same room with Criss Angel, sharing something so very personal to him, had been the rarest of privileges for her, a singular honor that no other Loyal (save for Kris Lee, of course) would ever enjoy. It was as close to Heaven as she would ever get in this life.
They inched their way toward the vestibule; Kris Lee could see the bright Nevada sunshine just up ahead, beckoning like the Pearly Gates themselves. She knew Father Stefan would be waiting there; maybe he would consent to a group photo with Criss and Dimitra? She couldn't see why not. She stood in the doorway leading to the vestibule with Criss, waiting impatiently while some stout, middleaged matron insisted on bending the good priest's ear about something she could not quite make out. Father Stefan listened patiently, or appeared to, anyway; Kris Lee could sense that he thought this woman was quite a bore himself. Finally, the old chatterbox took her leave. Kris Lee let Criss take the lead; it was his church and his family, after all, and she didn't want to come across as pushy.
"Christopher," Father Stefan greeted him warmly. "So glad to see you."
"Morning, Father," Criss said politely. "Congratulations on saving the church."
"I should be congratulating you," Father insisted. "Or rather, your mother; she spearheaded the whole campaign. Where is she, anyway?"
Dimitra emerged from the crowd. "Right here, Father," she called out.
Father Stefan smiled and reached out to her. "Welcome, Dimitra. God bless you."
"And you, too, Father," Dimitra responded. "You remember my sons, JD and Costa."
The two shook hands with Father Stefan. "Nice to meet you, Father," JD said politely.
"So glad you all could make it," Father said, still smiling. "We all owe your mother a debt of gratitude for saving the church. She's very strong in spirit. You should be proud of her."
"Always have been, Father," Criss said proudly. "In fact, I wouldn't be where I am today if not for her--and Dad, God rest his soul."
Father nodded. "Of course."
Kris Lee stepped forward. "Excuse me, Father," she said respectfully, "but would you mind posing for a picture with Criss and Dimitra for me?"
Father Stefan searched for a camera but found none. "With what?" he asked.
Kris Lee held up her camera phone. "With this," she answered. "It's all I got, really."
Criss shrugged. "It's okay by me," he said. "Mom?"
"Well," Dimitra replied thoughtfully, "one picture can't hurt."
Criss posed on one side of Father Stefan while Dimitra took the other side. Kris Lee carefully aimed her camera phone at the threesome, adjusting it to make sure she got everyone within range, and pressed the "save" button. "Thanks," she said.
"Well, we'd best be on our way," Dimitra said. "Good bye, Father."
"Yeah, nice meeting you, Father," JD said, giving the priest a final handshake.
"So long, Father," Criss said, shaking hands. "And thanks for taking car of Mom."
"You are welcome," Father replied. "And don't be shy about coming back, either, Christopher. Don't let your fame prevent you from attending Mass; we're always open for you."
"Thanks, Father." Criss waved goodbye. "So long."
Father waved goodbye and turned to the next couple waiting to greet him. Criss, Kris Lee and Candi trotted down the steps back down onto the lawn, stopping by the tree.
"Well, I guess this is where we part ways, ladies," he said. "I have to join Mom and the rest of the family. Thanks for joining us."
Candi pouted. Kris Lee sighed with disappointment. "Will we ever see you again?" she almost pleaded.
Criss looked at her mysteriously. "You never know when or where I'll appear," he replied evasively. "You just have to...believe."
He turned and walked away, leaving the two girls by the tree. They watched as Criss rejoined his family and disappeared into the crowd. Candi turned to Kris Lee. "You got the picture?" she asked.
Kris Lee held up her phone. "Right here," she said proudly. "C'mon, we gotta download this on the boards. No one's gonna believe we went to church with Criss Angel!"
"Boy," Criss sighed wearily as he and the family rode in the car to Costa's house, "I'm glad that it's all over."
Dimitra looked at Criss, aghast. "Christopher! How can you say that?"
Criss looked up. "What?"
"I thought you wanted to go to Mass," Dimitra said, her feelings hurt. "Is it such a chore for you to take an hour of your precious time to attend church?"
Criss sat up. "Oh, no, Mom, no offense," he protested. "I meant that I'm glad that this whole controversy dealing with SilverStar is finally over. This whole thing was such a drain on all of us, especially you; like Father said, you spearheaded this whole protest, and now we can all stop worrying and relax."
Dimitra nodded, still not convinced. "I see," she replied skeptically.
"No, really, I swear," Criss insisted. "This Mass was a celebration of the church's victory over SilverStar. It was a victory celebration for you and all those who protested alongside you, and I would not have missed it for the world. You earned it."
Dimitra nodded again, giving Criss the benefit of the doubt, and let the matter drop. Soon they would be at Costa's new home for a nice family dinner and she could enjoy being with her children and grandchild without the intrusion of television cameras or photographers. As Christopher had said, they could all stop worrying and relax.
The family rode in peaceful silence, occasionally taking in the view of the passing landscape. It was a rare, quiet moment for them all, away from the glare of lights and the intrusive lenses of camcorders. For that one day, they could be just like every other family in America--Mom, three sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. It was a welcome relief for them all.
Criss heard his cell phone go off in his pocket. Annoyed, he pulled it out to see who was calling. The tiny screen read DAVE B. What the hell did he want now? Criss wondered irritably. He punched "answer" and put the phone to his ear. "Yeah, Dave, whaddya want?"
"Criss, we got trouble," Dave said.
Criss sighed in frustration. "Can't it wait?"
"Criss, SilverStar's CEO is charging you with assault!" Dave told him. "It's all in today's paper!"
Criss was puzzled. "Assault? Whaddya mean, assault? I didn't lay a hand on her!"
"You threatened to 'punch her lights out', or so it said in the paper," Dave said.
"I didn't say that!" Criss insisted. "She's lying! When was this, anyway?"
Dave paused while he read the article again. "It says it was the day of your mother's hearing," he told him. "after she was aquitted."
Criss searched his memory of his encounter with Monique that fateful day. Something clicked inside his head like a YouTube video and the scene replayed before his mind's eye:
I wish you were a man for about five minutes.
Why? You prefer men?
No, so I could punch your lights out! You had no right to have my mother arrested like that!
Oh, Jesus, Criss groaned inwardly. "Look, Dave, what I said was I wished she was a man for five minutes so I could punch her lights out," he explained. "I wouldn't hurt a woman, no matter how much I hated her! I know I was really (bleeped) off at the time, but I'd never hit her, honest to God! I was quoted out of context!"
Criss could hear Dave sighing over the phone. "You know, Criss, this could seriously hurt your career," he said seriously. "I got to do a lot of damage control because of this. Monique Wesley's more powerful than you think; she could ruin you, personally if not financially. Now, if what you told me is true, I'll do my best to smooth things over, but for the time being, don't say anything to the press about this. I don't want you making things worse."
"It's Monique who's making things worse," Criss argued. "She's the one who started this whole mess! It's her fault, not mine! If she expects me to apologize for what I said, she's got a long wait ahead of her!"
"All the same, Criss, just lay low about all this," Dave pleaded. "I don't want this to become a full-blown scandal, not at this stage in your career. You just opened Believe, and your show's doing great in the ratings. Don't do anything to blow it, okay?"
"I'm not going to blow it, Dave," Criss insisted. "And don't worry about Monique Wesley--I'll handle her myself when we get to court."
"Still, in the meantime, just keep quiet about this," Dave begged. "Don't make it worse than it already is."
"Dave, relax," Criss said. "It's all gonna blow over soon. Just tell them what I told you and everything will be fine. If it will make you feel better, I won't talk about it to the press, okay?
Criss could hear Dave sighing with relief. "Thanks, Criss. Talk to you later."
Criss flipped off his phone. Costa turned to him. "What was all that about?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing," Criss replied.
"Sounded like something to me," Costa persisted.
"Look, I'll explain everything when we get to your house, okay? It's too complicated to go over here."
Costa said nothing more but settled back in his seat. From what he had gathered through Criss's one-sided conversation with Dave Baran, Little Brother was unaware that he had put his foot so far in his mouth he was choking on it. He only hoped that he could save him in time.
02-18-2013, 10:59 PM
Little Brother was unaware that he had put his foot so far in his mouth he was choking on it.
Interesting way of putting it Vertias
02-18-2013, 11:54 PM
The Loyal Community > General Discussion > We went to church with Criss...
Candigirl: Last Sunday me and my bff Kris Lee went to Holy Trinity Church (the one they werre going ot tear down) to mass and we saw Criss and his mother and brothers. We met Criss at the tree where mama Angel chained herself up to protest, and he let us sit with him--stand really cause we stood for most of the time we were there. Anyway, mama Angel kept us apart cause she didn'[t want us fl;irting with him during church. Kris Lee got some pix on her cell phone. It was really awesome, and the flowers were so pretty Kris Lee said it was like a wedding.
Magile: AWESOME PIX! and they were gonna tear it down? No wonder Mama Angel fought so hard to save it!
RUReady15: I wish it was MY wedding for real!
vampprincess: Im not really into church, but i am happy for Dimitra that she saved it. It really means a lot to her, so we should give her our support.
Greekgoddess: ^^ Amen. Go Dimitra!
The Loyal Community > General Discussion > Criss charged with assault?__________________________________________ _____________________
LoyalCat: I read in the paper that Criss was charged with assault by the CEO of SilverStar Enterprises for saying he'd punch her lights out because she got his mother arrested because she was protesting the destruction of that church she liked. It was just after the tiral and Criss and Monique Wesley were talking and Criss said he'd like to punch her lights out for it. Now he's being charged with assault. He just said he was going to, he didn't really do it.
Greekgoddess: He didn't say he was going to punch her lights out, he said he wished she was a man so he could. Criss would never NEVER hit a woman!
vampprincess: I know he didn't mean it that way, but still he should be careful what he says. He could get into a lot of troble this way.
KrisLee: I'd punch her lights out for Criss! NO ONE messes with Mama Dimitra and gets a Way with it!
Magile: I agree with greekgoddess--Criss would never hit a woman. His mother raised him to respect women, i knwo she did. We're with Criss all the way.,
The board of directors for SilverStar Enterprises sat around the large glass-covered table in the executive meeting room, staring at their slim, dark-haired CEO in the oversized leather chair, grim as a criminal jury. Monique stared back, refusing to be intimidated by these overpaid corporate types in their Brooks Brothers' suits and thinning hairlines. She had fought for years to get to their level, hammering away at the glass ceiling until she finally broke through and made her way to the top. She did not let them cow her into submission then, and double damn if she'd let them now.
Edgar Craczhbarten, Chief Executive in charge of something or other that Monique could not recall at the moment, spoke up first. "Ever since that Grand Imperial debacle, we've been losing a lot of clients, not to mention shares in the stock market. No one wants anything to do with a company that had threatened to turn out ordinary citizens onto the streets to build a hotel! This whole business has given this company a black eye--it'll be years before we can restore our reputation!"
"SilverStar has excellent prospects!" Monique protested. "If we all pull together, we can put this whole thing behind us. We can start a new project somewhere else! Hell, I'll even throw a charity ball if it'll help us! I got plans, gentlemen, plans that'll put us on top again!"
Craczhbarten adjusted his eyeglasses. "All your grandiose plans will not help matters; we think you've done enough damage, Monique. Therefore, we, the board of directors, are calling for your resignation as CEO of SilverStar Enterprises."
Monique stared dumbfounded at the assembled board. "You can't do this to me!"
"We can," Craczhbarten said calmly, "and we have. You can resign effective noon tomorrow, or we can vote you out. You'll save more face if you choose the former."
Monique could only sit there, her mouth hanging open in shock. All those years of struggling, working from dawn to dusk and then some, negotiating contracts until she was hoarse, oozing charm for perfect strangers to earn their business, going above and beyond the call of duty (not to mention the law) to cut deals with the movers and shakers of Corporate America--gone, just like that, and all because of one little mistake.
Criss Angel. It was all his fault, she reasoned. He dragged her name through the mud because his precious mother couldn't mind her own business. If she had just stayed home or wherever and stuck to playing bingo or whatever she did to occupy her time and let her, Monique, get on with the Grand Imperial project, none of this would have happened. Now here she was, her head on the chopping block, because of some busybody old lady who took it upon herself to fight progress. The hell of it was, she had won in court.
Well, she may have had won the battle, Monique thought, but she hadn't won the war. If she couldn't build the Grand Imperial, she would destroy her famous son's career as badly as he had destroyed hers--if not worse. When she got through with Mr. Hotshot Magician, he'll be lucky if he got to perform at kiddie birthday parties. Oh, yes, she was going to rake him over the coals over this one! And she was going to rake him good!
Milton Dewey stared at the letter from the Nevada State Bar, unable to comprehend what he had just read. The Ethics Committee had summoned him for a hearing regarding "breaches in conduct and other questionable practices" on his part. Simply put, they were demanding an audience with him for his shady deals and exploitative use of the law for his own benefit, especially about the SilverStar case. He had pushed the envelope so far on that one with the loopholes in the eminent domain law and the Fifth Amendment regarding public use that the envelope had fallen off a cliff. The Poletown case, his ace in the hole during the trial, had backfired, giving property owners a precedent to protect their interests from government and corporate takeovers; never again could any organization force anyone out of any home, office or other property for any reason.
The loopholes Dewey could explain away, and he had done some things for other clients that may have seemed unethical but got the job done, but he was up (bleep) creek about SilverStar. This wasn't a simple case of misconduct for which he could be repremanded. He had twisted that sacred document, the American Constitution, for his own and his client's purposes to get those people out of North Las Vegas so as to build the Grand Imperial Hotel on their property--sheer heresy to the powers-that-be in the NSB. This and other cases he had won by his distorted use of the law could lead to his disbarment. The loopholes he had exploited with such impunity had turned into a noose that was slowly tightening around his neck.
In the meantime, Dewey was suspended from practicing law until the hearing, which meant he couldn't represent Monique Wesley in her case against Criss Angel coming up. No other attorney in the firm would even consider taking his place in court that day; they wanted nothing to do with that train wreck, as one of his collegues put it. "You made your bed," he had told Dewey, "now you sleep in it!"
Dewey crumpled the letter and tossed it in the wastebasket. To hell with them, he thought. He'd been in tight spots before, and he always came up smelling like a rose. Yeah, he'd go before that Ethics Committee, and he'd turn on the old Dewey charm for them, sweet-talking them until they were putty in his hands like so many jurors before him. He may be down, but he was not out, not yet anyway.
But what about Monique's suit? The Bar had suspended him from practice until the Ethics Committee hearing. Well, so what? Who's to know? As far as the world at large was concerned, he was still a practicing attorney, and the trial was day after tomorrow. The letter could have been lost in transit, or mixed up with the interoffice mail or some other mishap. Happens all the time, right? It was too soon for the judge to become aware of the suspension, so he could still represent his star client, rake in the fees, and face the Ethics Committee with a smile on his face, several thousand dollars richer and no one the wiser. It was a gamble, but then, Las Vegas was founded on legalized gambling. For his client, it was a risk he was willing to take.
In the entertainment news, illusionist Criss Angel is being charged with assault by SilverStar CEO Monique Wesley for allegedly threatening bodily harm against her.
After his mother's arraingment hearing for criminal trespass in which she was aquitted for lack of evidence, the star of the "MindFreak" television series was reported to have said he would "like to punch her lights out". According to Criss's manager, Dave Baram, what he actually said was:"I wish you were a man for about five minutes...so I can punch your lights out for what you did to my mother, having her arrested like that! Not to mention all the BS about you tearing down an entire neighborhood to build your hotel. You are not doing this for the community, your doing it for your own ego! You are nothing but a self-centered (bleep).., and I'll sue you for whatever is left over from this suit."
Criss is suing SilverStar and Monique Wesley for false arrest and harassment on behalf of his mother. Neither party could be reached for furthur comment.
The Clark County District Court was quieter than usual the day of the suit, due to the heightened security measures taken for such a high-profile case as Angel v. Wesley. No media were permitted in the courthouse or anywhere near it. Only those who were directly involved in the case were permitted entry into the courtroom. A guard stood outside to prevent any intrusion during the proceedings. Security and silence were the order of the day.
Monique Wesley examined her shapely nails while Milton Dewey fumbled through his briefcase for his papers and his notes, while Criss's attorney sat calmly at the table next to his famous client, ready for his statement before the judge. The two parties neither spoke nor even looked at each other, but their thoughts were daggers aimed against one another.
That (bleep) thinks she can get away with lying about me about assaulting her? (Bleep) her! She's the guilty one! She had my mother arrested on trumped-up charges and she's accusing me of assault? She assaulted Mom! She had no right to do that to my Mom! She is so going down, and not in a good way, either!
So Mr. Hotshot Magician thinks he can thwart me, can he?Well, he'd better think again! Once I get on that witness stand, I'll tell the whole damn court of how he threatened to punch my lights out--he'll get no sympathy from anyone for that. Big, bad Criss Angel beating up a poor, defenseless woman! Boo hoo! The press will crucify him! Oh, yes, Crissie, you are so going down, and down hard!
"All rise," intoned the bailiff. "This court is now in session."
Everyone rose respectfully as the Honorable Cassandra Jewel stepped up to the bench. "Be seated," she commanded.
There was a rustle as the courtroom settled down again. Judge Jewel glanced at the docket for the first case. "Criss Angel vs. Monica Wesley," she read aloud. "Are both parties present?"
"We are, Your Honor," Criss's attorney replied.
"We are, Your Honor," Milton Dewey also replied.
"The plaintiff is charging the defendant with false arrest and harrassment on the behalf of his mother, Mrs. Dimitra Sarantakos," the judge stated. "The defendant, however, is countersuing on grounds of assault. Is that correct?"
"It is, Your Honor," Dewey affirmed. "The plaintiff threatened--"
"You'll get your chance, Counselor," Judge Jewel interrupted. "The counsel for the plaintiff will now state his case."
"Your Honor, on October **, 20**, the defendant issued eviction orders to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in an effort to aquire the property to build a luxury hotel. The defendant had no legal ownership to the property whatsoever, and so my client's mother, Mrs. Sarantakos, staged a protest along with other members of the church. She chained herself to a large tree out front and vowed to stay there until the eviction order was rescinded. On the second day of the protest, police came and arrested Mrs. Sarantakos and Father Stefan Mykolos for criminal trespass on orders from SilverStar Enterprises, the defendant's corporation of which she had been CEO."
Had been CEO? This revelation surprised Criss. What? She wasn't anymore? What happened?
"The plaintiff is now suing Ms. Wesley for false arrest and harrassment on his mother's behalf, in the amount of one-point-five million dollars, including court costs, legal fees, and other damages."
The attorney sat down next to Criss. Monique glowered at the two of them. One and a half million dollars? It'll be a cold day in Hell when you get a dime from me, Criss! No way am I going to let you win!
"The counsel for the defense will now state his case," Judge Jewel droned officiously.
Milton Dewey rose pompously and swept the courtroom with an imperious glance. "Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the court, my client, Monique Wesley, was threatened with bodily harm by the plaintiff, known as Criss Angel, if that is his legal name. On November **, 20**, after the arraingment hearing concerning his mother and Father Mykolos, he did so threaten to, quote, 'punch your lights out', end quote."
He pointed an accusing finger at Criss. "This man threatened to strike a woman, Your Honor!" he shouted dramatically. "This man--this brute of a man!--verbally assaulted a defenseless woman, causing her to fear for her personal safety! In a court of law, yet!"
"Your Honor, I object!" Criss's attorney spoke up angrily. "My client had in no way caused the defendant any harm or fear for anyone's personal safety! The defense is exaggerating the facts!"
"Objection sustained," the judge ruled. "Counselor, please refrain from being overdramatic and just state your case."
Dewey drew a deep breath and returned to the fray. "Your Honor, all we ask is that justice be served. Being a celebrity is no excuse to attack a woman for whatever reason, and we wish to make an example of Criss Angel, who, by the way, is no angel at all but a brute of a man who would stoop to beating a woman for no reason. Therefore, we ask for ten million in punitive damages, plus court costs and legal fees. We are confident that the court will find this reasonable."
Ten million dollars?! Criss stared at Dewey, aghast at the man's audacity. That's bull(bleep)! I'm not paying one cent to that (bleeper)! He can go to Hell for all I care! Monique, too!
''The defense calles Criss Angel to the stand," Dewey announced with a certain brutal relish.
Criss stood up and casually strode to the witness stand, unintimidated by Dewey's overconfident stance and snide expression. He took the oath and sat down, bracing himself for the verbal onslaught he knew was coming. It was just like jujitsu, he thought: Find your center of gravity, his martial arts trainer had taught him, and use your opponent's strength against him.
Milton Dewey strode slowly to the stand in an effort to prolong the agony. Criss was unimpressed, refusing to fall for such a tactic. He sat in the witness stand, arms crossed, a bored expression on his face while Dewey paced around him like a panther about to spring on its prey.
"Mr. Angel, if that is your name," Dewey began.
"It is," Criss replied.
"Is it true that you said you were going to punch my client's lights out, as you so crudely put it, on the day in question?"
"No." Criss replied firmly.
"You realize you are under oath, Mr. Angel."
"I am, and I am telling the truth. I did not say I was going to punch her lights out. I was quoted out of context."
"Oh, you were quoted out of context, Mr. Angel," Dewey sneered. "And what, pray tell, did you actually say? Hmmm?"
You sanctimonious (bleep)! "What I said was I wished she was a man for about five minutes so that I could punch her lights out," Criss explained defensively. "I would--"
"You heard him, ladies and gentlemen!" Dewey crowed. "He admits it! The plaintiff actually admits to--"
"Objection, Your Honor!" Criss's attorney spoke up again. "My client's statement was not a direct threat! It was an idle wish made in a moment of anger."
"Oh, an 'idle wish' is it?" Milton sneered again. "A wish to do bodily harm to a woman?"
The judge bought down the gavel with the force of a jackhammer. "Order! Order in this court!" She turned to Dewey. "Counselor, you have been warned against being overdramatic! The plaintiff will continue with his testamony uninterrupted."
Criss looked up at the judge. "Thank you, Your Honor," he said respectfully. "As I said before, I didn't threaten to attack Monique Wesley physically. I just wished she was a man for a few minutes so I could punch her lights out. I would never strike a woman, no matter how much I hated her. This woman is responsible for my mother being arrested on trumped-up charges of criminal trespass. She had no right to have her arrested like that! Even though I can't stand being in the same room as her, I would never, ever injure her in any way--at least not physically. I prefer to hit her where she lives--right in the bank account. That would do more damage than a fist in my opinion."
"But you were angry enough to do it, weren't you?" Dewey countered.
"Do what? Sue her? I'm doing that right now."
"I meant physically strike her. That was your intention at the time, wasn't it?"
"My intention is to make sure she never bullies anyone into giving up their property," Criss insisted. "And to keep her from harrassing my mother or anyone else who happens to disagree with her. She's done more damage than I ever did."
"But you did have the desire to strike her, didn't you?" Dewey badgered. "You intended to strike her and hid your intentions under a veiled threat, didn't you? You verbally assaulted my client, didn't you?"
Criss held his anger in check. He could see where this was going--Dewey was trying to goad him into an outburst, setting him up for a fall right there in the courtroom. Well, he wasn't going to play that game. He again remembered his martial arts training: use your opponent's anger against him.
Criss sat calmly in the stand, watching Dewey snarl and gnash his teeth to get him to fight back, waiting for an opening to strike back where it would do the most damage. Once Dewey saw that he couldn't intimidate him with his barrage of accusations, he backed off for a moment.
It was then that Criss struck. "You haven't proven anything, Counselor," he said. "All you did was twist everything I said around to suit your purposes. I know you're trying to get me to admit to something I didn't do, but it's not going to work. I said I wished Monique was a man so I could take her on equally, not that I would take her on period. That's my story, and I'm sticking with it."
Dewey slumped, exhausted. Criss was dismissed from the stand. "The counsel for the plaintiff calls Monique Wesley to the stand," Criss's attorney said.
02-20-2013, 12:57 AM
Monique rose from her seat and stepped daintily to the witness stand. The attorney for the plaintiff administered the oath and asked her to be seated. The attorney stepped up to the stand without the Milton Dewey theatrics and got to the point.
"Ms. Wesley, did you order the arrest of Mrs. Sarantakos and Father Mykolos on October **, 20**?"
"I did," she replied.
"On whose authority did you have them arrested?"
"Mine, of course. They were trespassing on private property."
"Do you have clear legal title to that property? When did you purchase it?"
"I offered ten thousand dollars for it, and I claimed it under the eminent domain law of this state, and the Fifth Amendement regarding public use."
"But you had no documentation of ownership at the time."
"At the time, no."
"So Father Mykolos was still the legal owner of the property at the time of the arrest."
"I had ordered his eviction within thirty days of the original notice. As I stated before, I claimed it under the eminent domain laws."
"That does not answer the question, Ms. Wesley. Was Father Mykolos still the legal owner of the property?"
Monique drew a deep breath. "For the time being."
"Could you be more specific?"
"It's just as I said: for the time being that he resided there until the thirty days were expired."
The attorney picked up a file from his table. "From the last suit regarding this case, it was ruled that you had no legal claim to any property in North Las Vegas whatsoever. You tried to use the Fifth Amendement and the eminent domain laws to unlawfully sieze property from private owners for your own purposes. Your attorney even tried to invoke Poletown vs. GM-Cadillac to defend your actions. Yet the judge overruled it, and you were ordered to pay restitution to the residents of North Las Vegas. Is that true, Ms. Wesley?"
"Unfortunatly, yes," she replied, "but we are appealing it."
"I see. But for the time being, as you put it, you had Mrs. Sarantakos and Father Mykolos arrested under false pretenses--"
"They were not false pretenses!"
"--even though Father Mykolos was still the legal owner of the property and had given Mrs. Sarantakos permission to stage a protest on said property." He set the file down in disgust. "Ms. Wesley, being the CEO of a major corporation does not give you the right to strongarm anyone into giving you their land, no matter what the law may say--or what you think it says. Your avarice has given you nothing but a bad reputation, even worse than the late Leona Helmsley. Your own board of directors have ousted you from your position at SilverStar Enterprises--"
Criss sat up, startled at this news. Ousted? The board of directors had kicked her out of the corporation? This was heavy news, yet he could not help but savor the feeling of schadenfreud over Monique's fall from grace. It served her right, he thought. She got what she deserved for all the misery she had caused him, his mother, the church, and the entire community of North Las Vegas. It was poetic justice.
"--though it will be years, if not decades, for it to rebuild the integrity it once had before you took over as CEO. On top of all that, you are suing my client for a remark he made to you which you twisted into an assault charge."
"He threatened to punch me! That is not a 'remark', Counselor, that is a threat!"
"My client said he 'wished you were a man for about five minutes', Ms. Wesley."
"He said he wanted to punch my lights out, Counselor! That was assault!"
"If you were a man, Ms. Wesley, not as a woman."
"What difference does it make? It's still an assault!"
"Did you see Mr. Angel make any move to strike you, Ms. Wesley? Did he raise his fist against you?"
"He threatened to punch me," Monique insisted. "That was all it took."
"But he made no move physically? Remember, Ms. Wesley, you are under oath."
"Not at that moment," Monique replied, but added hastily, "but he was ready to, I could tell."
"Did you see Mr. Angel make a fist?"
"I saw the anger in his eyes only. It was as threatening as a fist."
"But no physical movement toward you."
"Not at that moment. I was lucky to escape with my life."
Criss rolled his eyes. Oh, boy, the BS just keeps getting deeper and deeper. She just won't quit, will she?
"You may leave the stand, Ms. Wesley."
Monique rose and tripped daintily to her seat next to Milton Dewey. The attorney was about to call Criss back to the stand when a uniformed guard slipped into the courtroom and handed a message to the bailiff, who in turn handed it to Judge Jewel, who unfolded it and read the content of the sheet. The Honorable Judge Jewel rose from the bench.
"This court is recessed for fifteen minutes," she announced, bringing down her gavel with a bang.
Criss looked at his attorney, bewildered. "What's the deal?" he asked.
His lawyer shrugged. "Can't say," he replied. "This has never happened before, at least in my experience. Must be some sort of emergency. We won't know until court reconvenes."
"Well, I'm gonna grab a bite to eat," Criss said. "I'm sure it's no big deal if it's only for fifteen minutes."
"If it interrupts court proceedings," his lawyer told him, "it is a big deal."
"You said you were gonna nail him," Monique hissed in Dewey's ear. "You said you were gonna force him to admit to assault. You questioned him for a full fifteen minutes and he didn't even break a sweat. What's the matter with you?"
"Monique, honey, don't sweat it!" Dewey assured her. "Just because he won the first round doesn't mean he won the fight. I"ve cracked tougher nuts than this one. So relax, this case is in the bag!"
"It'd better be," Monique said through gritted teeth, "because this is one case I can't afford to lose. If we blow this, we're both in the soup."
"We're not gonna blow it," Dewey insisted. "Round two will be a TKO, and Criss Angel will be flat on the mat. And you and I will be ten million dollars richer. Trust me, everything will be all right."
Meanwhile, Criss was in the small sundry shop on the lower level of the courthouse, buying a sandwich. The slim brownette cashier recognized him and doubled over squeeing in ecstacy. "Ohmigod! It's you! It's really you!"
"Uh, yeah, it's me," Criss said, "or at least I think it's me. It was when I last checked. Hold on just a minute."
Criss glanced in the large security mirror overhead. "Yep, it's me all right. How ya doin'?"
The cashier and two other customers laughed at Criss's little joke. One customer, a burly maintenance worker in faded grey coveralls, set down his two-liter bottle of Diet Coke and turned to him. "Hey, Criss, how about some magic?"
"You wanna see some magic?"
"Yeah, I wanna see some magic. Go for it."
Criss whipped out a bandana and held it up. "This bandana has special properties," he said. "You can buy it at the MindFreak Store for three million dollars." He held up the bandana in front of the glass case filled with doughnuts and other pastries. "Now, watch."
He slipped his hand under the bandana and through the glass panel. The cashier, the worker, and the other customer, a dreadlocked Jamaican type, looked on in amazement as Criss pulled away the bandana to reveal his arm halfway into the case right through the glass. Criss picked up a strawberry danish from the shelf, concealed his arm with the bandana and withdrew it from the case, pastry and all.
"You like danish?" he asked the worker.
"Yeah, I like danish," the worker replied, taking the pastry from Criss's hand. "You're damn good, you know that?"
"Yeah, I know it," Criss replied casually. He picked up his sandwich (free of charge on the cashier's insistance) and left the shop, leaving the three amazed at what they had just witnessed.
"Hey, you got security tape in this shop, mon?" the Jamaican asked.
"Yeah, we do," the cashier replied.
"If you send that tape in to TV, they pay you money for it, you know?"
"No way," the cashier said, shaking her head, "I'm keeping it for myself!"
Court reconviened in the time it took Criss to scarf down his sandwich. Again the order to rise as the judge entered the courtroom, and the order to be seated. The Honorable Cassandra Jewel adjusted her glasses and stared directly at the two parties before her.
"Will the counsel for the defendant please rise?" she commanded.
Dewey rose from his seat, not knowing what to make of this. The judge stared at him severely.
"Mr. Dewey, it has come to my attention that you had been suspended from practice by the Ethics Committee of the State Bar until your hearing," she said. "That suspension took effect two days ago, yet here you are representing your client. Explain, please."
Dewey swallowed hard. "Your Honor, I had no knowledge of any action taken by any committee of the State Bar," he said. "This is as much a surprise to me as it is for you."
Yeah, like hell it is! Criss thought.
"I assure you, Your Honor, my intentions here are purely honorable," Dewey insisted.
"From what I know of your record, Mr. Dewey, your intentions have always been far from 'honorable'," Judge Jewel said. "For years you have twisted and distorted the law, and manipulated the legal system for your own purposes. Your ulterior motive was to win huge cash settlements for your well-heeled clients, regardless of the evidence or the facts. The law is designed to preserve order and to redress grievances, not to be used as a hustle. Even now you have flaunted the decision of the Bar to gain an outrageous ten million dollar settlement for a seemingly harmless quote from the plaintiff, Mr. Angel. What Mr. Angel had said may have been construed by you as an assault, but no direct threat was made to your client, either verbally or physically. He had been quoted as saying he wished you 'were a man so he could punch your lights out,' not 'I'm going to punch your lights out'. Therefore, the assault charge is dropped."
Criss sighed with relief. He had just dodged the bullet that would have tainted his career. God and luck were on his side, he thought.
"Furthurmore," the judge went on, "since you represented a client on suspension of your practice, the court has decided to rule in favor of the plaintiff, Criss Angel, by default, for the total of one and a half million dollars to be paid to his mother, Mrs. Sarantakos, plus court costs."
Yes! Criss clenched his fists with glee. The system works!
"I hope this will serve as an example for those who use the legal system for their own enrichment," Judge Jewel concluded. "Case dismissed."
The gavel came down with a bang. Dewey's mouth flopped open and shut like a landed trout. Monique did a slow burn, glaring at her lawyer, then at a smugly grinning Criss. The latter rose from his seat and crossed over to the former CEO.
"I hope this will serve as a lesson to you for having my mother arrested," he sneered in her face. "No one harasses my mother or anyone else in my family, got it?"
Monique stared daggers at Criss. "I'll expect your settlement check first thing in the morning, Monique," he said, twisting the knife.
"You won't get (bleep) from me, you (bleeper)." Monique retorted defiantly. "You may have won the battle, but you haven't won the war! Just you wait, Angel--I may be down now, but I am far from out! You'll see! I'll be back on top before you know it!"
"From what a lot of guys told me, you were on top a lot during your career," Criss quipped. "And on the bottom, too, on occasion. Was that how you got to be CEO?"
Monique slapped Criss across the cheek and stormed out of the courtroom. "Was that supposed to hurt?" he called out after her. "I can sue you for battery, you know."
He rubbed the tingling sensation on his face with his hand and turned to Milton Dewey. "So, long, Milt," he said jovially. "Good luck with the Ethics Committee--you're gonna need it!"
02-20-2013, 01:57 AM
That's Criss for yea
02-20-2013, 06:28 PM
The normally serene, quiet atmosphere of Holy Trinity Church had given way to the sound of hammers, power saws and electric drills as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and tilers plied their trade inside the seventy-five year old church, making much needed repairs and other improvements, all paid for by the court settlement from SilverStar. Radiant floor heating replaced the noisy steam radiator system; the last of the asbestos insulation was removed and liquid foam insulation was sprayed under the eaves and the roof; the frayed cloth-covered wiring was stripped out and new, safer electrical wires were strung in the walls, complete with a new circuit breaker box; even the damp, musty basement received an extreme makeover, creating new space for church social gatherings and other functions in comfort and style. The icons and frescoes were painstakingly restored to their former glory, cleaned of decades of soot and smoke from thousands of candles and burning incense until they shone like visions of Heaven itself.
Father Mykolos used the renovation period to organize his books, files and other items in his office, a task he had been putting off for so many years no matter how many times he promised himself he'd get around to it. It took the better part of a whole day just to sort through his filing cabinet: sermons, bills, attendance records, accounting sheets, itneraries for Holy Days, requests for Masses, expense accounts, tax forms, letters and other correspondence, all had to be sorted out, filed or discarded. His small wastebasket proved to be insufficent for the amount of discarded paper, so he had to resort to using the large trash bin in the men's room.
After his third trip emptying the wastebasket, Father Mykolos returned to his office and resumed the paper shuffling. By now he was on the more recent stuff. Bills were sorted and filed, expense reports sorted and filed, more obsolete correspondence tossed in the wastebasket. He reached down to pick up the next sheet of paper and read it to determine its fate:
Dear Father Mykolos,
We have contacted Harlan and Harlan to build the Grand Imperial Hotel in North Las Vegas...
With a faint feeling of satisfaction Father Mykolos tossed the letter into the wastebasket. He had nothing to fear from SilverStar or any other corproation now. The church was safe, thanks be to God. It would endure until the Day when all would be called before the Lord for final judgement.
Father looked out the window of his office onto the front yard. The tree where Dimitra Sarantakos had chained herself stood like a sentinel before the gates, its leafy boughs spread over the whole area all the way to the roof as if shielding it from harm. It had been half as tall when he had assumed his duties twenty years ago, and it grew so quickly in the desert oasis that was Las Vegas. It would be there still, its roots as deep as the Church itself and reaching higher and higher to Heaven, tall, defiant, steadfast, like the Miracle Tree in the story he had heard as a boy, the tree that had sprouted from a wooden staff spitefully stuck into the ground by a Turkish governor in scorn of a shepherd boy's desire for freedom. Yes, the Miracle Tree still lived and grew right here in North Las Vegas, an enduring symbol of hope in a time when all seemed hopeless.
Father returned to his organizing with a light heart and renewed spirit. He just missed seeing two familiar figures outside, cameras in hand, taking pictures of the church and the tree, the same two figures who had attended the thanksgiving service three weeks ago and had taken his picture with Criss Angel and his mother with their camera phones, and who could not resist getting better photos of Holy Trinity and Dimitra's tree, as they called it. After the photo shoot, they slipped through the gates and left a small bouquet of wildflowers with a note attached: To our Mama Angel, we luv u, keep the faith. Luv, Kris Lee and Candi.
Monique Wesley sat in her luxury home in the tonier part of Las Vegas, next to the Baja Golf Course where she used to spend many a pleasant afternoon shooting all eighteen holes and entertaining potential clients. Today she didn't feel like golfing. She had lost her position as CEO of SilverStar Enterprises, she had lost not one but two lawsuits over the Grand Imperial project, along with all the investors demanding their money back, and worst of all, she had lost face in the corporate world for her plan to evict thousands of people from their homes, schools, churches, and businesses without any concern for their welfare. Her rationalization of improving property values had fallen through the cracks with the public. She was villified in the press, unceremoniously crowned the new Queen of Mean, dethroning that other hotel magnate, the late Leona Helmsley.
And it was all because of Criss Angel, she told herself. Criss Angel and that sainted mother of his. They were to blame for her downfall. That her lawyer, that overpaid ambulance chaser Milton Dewey, had been suspended from practicing law just when she needed him most, added insult to injury. How much worse could it get? she wondered.
The answer came over her cellphone. She whipped it out to answer it. "Monique Wesley here," she snapped impatiently.
"Hello, Monique," Edward Craczbarten said. "I called you about the board's decision regarding your...resignation."
"First of all, Ed, I didn't 'resign' anything," Monique retorted. "As far as I am concerned, I'm still the CEO. As for the board's decision, it'd better be that you came to your senses and agreed to keep me on."
"Actually, no," Craczbarten said calmly. "The board has formally elected me CEO of SilverStar Enterprises, removing you completely. However, you will be granted a generous severance package of about one and an half million dollars total."
"One and a half million?!" Monique exploded. "That's chicken feed! That's bull(bleep)! I want my usual annual salary and nothing less! You got a lot of gall to hand me a deal like that!"
"Unfortunatly, that is all we can offer, after the lawsuits and other settlements with our former investors," Craczbarten said. "You have nearly bankrupted this company with your wild schemes and unethical practices, Monique. One and a half million--take it or leave it. It's the last money you will ever receive in your lifetime, unless you can find some other employment. With your record, I doubt you'll be able to find a position as an office clerk. So, if I were you, I'd take it, and I'd make it stretch as long as possible. It may be your only income from now on."
Monique was flabbergasted. "Think about it," Craczbarten said. "We'll be waiting for your answer."
He hung up before Monique could respond. Monique sat there in total shock. One and a half million severance for all the years of service as CEO of that overblown real estate office? The nerve of those (bleepers)! The sheer, unmitigated gall! No way was she going to back down! She was Monique Wesley, the woman who had the smarts to run a corporation and the audacity to take risks. She had had her share of failures, but she also had had her successes.
Oh, she would take that one and a half million all right, she decided. She would use it as seed money to start her own company, be her own boss whom no one could vote out. She would rise from the ashes, more powerful than ever, and when that day came, look out world, because she was going to get down to some serious ass-kicking!
And the first ass she would kick belonged to Criss Angel for all he had done to her.
Back at the Luxor Hotel, Criss was helping his mother pack her things in preparation for her return to New York. It would be the last day they would have together until the next visit, and Criss wanted to take advantage of every moment. He had asked her to stay on, but she refused. Not that she didn't enjoy her visit with her sons and her new friends at Holy Trinity; she just wanted to go back to familiar surroundings and see familiar faces again.
True, it hadn't been the most relaxing vacation Dimitra had taken, what with the threat of demolishing Holy Trinity, her overnight protest movement and her stay in the city lockup, but it had been an adventurous one. From the serene calm on his mother's face, Criss could tell that the whole episode had been worth it for her. He couldn't help but feel a renewed source of admiration for her, standing up to a major corporation in spite of the risk to her own personal safety for what she believed in. He had seen a side of her he had never noticed before, or failed to notice; behind the sweet, seemingly frail maternal figure was a will of iron, a spirit some would call stubborn but in reality was the integrity to stand up for what was right, no matter what the consequences. She was Greek, she was a mother, and she was a survivor--how else could she have gotten through the hell that was the Second World War, the trauma of immigrating to a whole new country, and the death of her beloved husband? If she could face all that, she could certainly face the likes of Monique Wesley. She could have faced down the Devil himself had he the temerity to appear before her. Indeed, she would have sent him crawling back to Hell with his forked tail between his legs.
Criss closed the suitcase full of Dimitra's best clothes and turned to look at her. His mother had just bought her toilet kit and was about to insert it into her carry-on when she noticed Criss staring at her, smiling.
"What are you thinking about, Christopher?" she asked, suspicious of any mischief on his part.
"About how wonderful you are," he replied, reaching out to embrace her, "and about how proud of you I am."
Dimitra gave a little laugh as Criss wrapped his muscular arms around her. "And I'm proud of you, too, honey," she said, embracing him back. "You know, before all this happened, I was worried that you were becoming spoiled by success, forgetting everything your father and I taught you."
Criss looked down at her. "No way!" he protested. "I'd never forget what you taught me--it's hardwired into my brain!"
"I know," Dimitra said. "You proved it by your support of the church. You came through just when it needed you. Without your support, it would be an empty lot."
"Without your spearheading the whole thing," Criss returned, "I would have spent all that money on another sports car or something. I did it because I knew it meant a lot to you--and, I have to admit, to stick it to Monique Wesley and SilverStar. I mean, the nerve of that--"
"Christopher." Dimitra silenced him with her fingertips over his mouth. "I have no malice against Monique Wesley. I am sure she has learned her lesson by now. Even if she never pays me that money I won in court, it would not matter. I have everything I need right here: my church, my home here and in New York, my health, God willing. And above all, my family, especially my sons, whom I am very proud of myself. I don't need anything more than that."
She patted her son on the rump. "Now, I have a plane to catch," she reminded him, releasing herself from Criss's grip. "Is the limo here?"
"Should be down waiting for you," Criss answered, giving her a final squeeze. "Your flight won't leave for another hour or so."
"I still want to be on time," Dimitra insisted. "I don't want to miss my flight. You know how I like to be on time."
Yeah, Criss knew how she liked to be on time, and he was not going to argue the point, either. He knew better than that: what Mom wanted, Mom got, and no questions asked, whether it was dinner reservations or saving the church. She was Greek, she was his mother, and he was proud of her.
02-20-2013, 07:24 PM
That was a good story Vertias :)
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