View Full Version : Risque Business (WARNING: nudity)
09-04-2011, 10:08 PM
This story contains scenes of nudity and references to same, which may cause uncontrollable squeeing and drooling. Reader discretion is advised.
One. Two. Three. Four. One. Two. Three. Four.
Criss Angel lay on the bench in his gym, exercising his biceps and shoulders. He raised and lowered the weights rhythimically, extending his arms, then drawing them to shoulder level, then raising them over his head, and back down to his chest, inhaling and exhaling with every cycle, thirty in all. His arm muscles tensed and flexed with the exertion. Next he would do ab crunches on the Nautilus, then strenghten his legs on the Stairmaster. It was a grueling regimen he performed every day, but it was the price he paid for his career. Two shows every night, a weekly television series, and live appearances whenever he had the time required him to be on top of his game. That meant daily workouts in the gym despite his personal distaste for it.
He was forty-two, but he still maintained a youthfulness that many mistook for thirty or so. His flesh was smooth and taut--not an milligram of flab could be seen. At an age when many men ballooned to pony-keg dimensions, his abdomen rippled with a six-pack hardness. His reflexes were as sharp as a cat's, a necessity for a magician for whom timing was everything. Some credited his build to his Greek heritage (which wasn't too far off, as the ancient Greeks had practically invented the concept of physical fitness, right up to founding the Olympic games), others to a good set of genes from his parents. A few jealous types claimed it was just plain dumb luck, but Criss knew that for every ounce of muscle he toned to perfection meant hours of lifting weights and running on the treadmill.
The gym in which he exercised had been provided for him by the Luxor Hotel and Resort as part of the package deal for producing his show, Believe. The Luxor had invested one hundred million dollars in his magnum opus, and the Board of Directors wanted their money's worth. If Criss became ill or, more likely, injured, that meant cancelling performances, which in turn meant lost revenue. The bottom line: A healthy star was money in the bank for the investors--the more shows he performed, the higher the profit margin.
Criss set the weights aside and rose from the bench. The biceps and shoulders toned, he next went to work on his abdominal muscles. He straddled a machine designed for this purpose, positioned his arms behind his head, and flexed his stomach muscles repeatedly--One. Two. One. Two. One. Two. Forty crunches in all. The tension he felt meant that it was working: no pain, no gain, as they said in professional bodybuilding. His heart pounded furiously, pumping oxygen-rich red blood cells into his muscles. Criss paced himself, breathing steadily to prevent dizziness. His abs were more for show than anything, presenting a tantilizing picture for the fans. Still, it did not do to neglect any part of his body; the entire machine must work in harmony to produce results.
Criss relaxed, breathing deeply. His tank top and biker shorts were soaked with sweat, and the bandana he wore to keep persperation from dripping into his eyes had turned a darker hue from the dampness of his brow. He longed for the cool refreshment of a shower, but he had his turn on the Stairmaster to get through. He rose slowly to keep the blood from rushing away from his head too quickly, then walked over to the machine and climbed on. He set the timer for twenty-five minutes and pumped his muscular legs up and down. The timed workout left him free to pursue his thoughts.
He reflected on his father, now thirteen years dead, a former Mr. Universe who had succumbed to stomach cancer at just sixty years of age, and even then he had survived three years beyond the expectations of his doctors. It seemed sadly ironic that a man who had stressed good health and exercise should be stricken with cancer as he had been. God, I hope I don't get cancer, he prayed. I got too much I want to do in this life.
He smiled at that last statement. It reminded him of what George Burns once said: "I can't die--I'm booked!" Then there was the old bromide printed on a coffee mug he saw once: "We're put on this earth to accomplish a number of things. I'm so far behind, I'll never die." Well, Criss figured he was right on schedule, but like the late veteran vaudeville actor, he was indeed booked solid. I'd have to live to be a hundred to do all the things I want to do, he figured. I mean, let's be reasonable here!
His mind shifted to the previous afternoon when he was taking a break after taping his show. There was a laptop computer on the desk in front of him, so, for a lark, he decided to check out the fanboards. The Loyal Written Arts forum was always good for diversion, so he logged onto it to see what kind of adventures the Loyals put him through lately. It always amused him how his devoted fans made him suffer more than his share of the thousand natural shocks that flesh was heir to: he'd been in car accidents time without number; he'd fallen almost to his death during demonstrations; he'd been deafened by an explosion; he'd been kidnapped and rendered unconscious; he'd been lynched by white supremacists; he'd even survived an earthquake (he admired that last story; the author had done an incredible amount of research on that one. The part about Costa going through Red Cross training was hilarous, and he was surprised to find out that Nevada really did have a portable hospital). The latest ones had him suffering the same cancer his father had, only to be redeemed by supernatural means; another had him suffering a rare heart disorder but he had been too stubborn to admit it. Hey, if I had something like that, I'd be in the hospital ASAP, he thought. Well, they could all rest easy. In spite of whatever fate befell him in writing, Criss Angel was as healthy as a horse.
The timer on the Starimaster bleeped. Criss drew a deep, satisfied smile and dismounted. A quick shower, and he could begin his day. He pulled off his Nikes, peeled off the soaking tank top and biker shorts, pulled off the bandana, and padded to the shower stall with only a white towel around his waist. There was no one present, but who knew who was lurking behind the corner waiting to take his picture while he was nude?
The warm water caressed his bare flesh like women's fingers. Criss soaped under his reeking armpits and the other disgraceful parts of his anatomy, scrubbing away the strain of his morning workout. Today he would be taping a live show before the Loyal, and he would have his body clean. He turned off the shower, toweled off, and headed back to the dressing cubicle to dress, again modestly covering his loins with the towel. He was not ashamed of his body; indeed, he had appeared naked twice on television, but the editors censored him around the hips in keeping with the FCC regulations. It's just that Criss had very little privacy in his public life, and he felt it was best to keep his "privates", well, private. He had to retain some mystery for the sake of his popularity; exposing too much would destroy the fantasy his fans had built around him.
Criss pulled on his CK briefs, then his fashionably ragged jeans, then his grey Affliction t-shirt, then his jock-socks, then his combat boots. Fully attired, he was ready to face the day--and his fans. How many of them would have wished to be with him in here, he thought with amusement, totally exposed in the flesh. He laughed at the memory of the Naked Jail Escape, when a roomful of female fans came within a hair's breadth of seeing him in all of his natural glory. Wouldn't it have been a treat for them if he had failed! Oh, well, better luck next time, ladies! he gloated. I can show you only so much of me, but who knows? You just might get lucky someday!
09-04-2011, 10:11 PM
Meanwhile, in a small downtown gym somewhere in North Las Vegas, a group of amateur boxers were going through their daily training regimen. A couple of burly men sparred in the ring, while others shadowboxed, rehersing their feints and blows in the large mirror on the far wall. There was no conversation during the training period. The fighters focused solely on their drills in grim silence; banter was reserved only for the locker room.
One boxer in particular, George Strumpolis, pummelled away on the speed bag. The brown leather bulb was a blur from repeated punches, battering from its hook-and-eye like a hummingbird's wing. George was a muscular man, middle-aged, with salt-and-pepper hair he kept under a billed cap to prevent heat stroke from the Nevada sun. His features were thicker and heavier than that of his famous cousin, Christopher, know to the world as Criss Angel. Upon first glance one would think he was a truck driver or day laborer instead of a technician for his cousin's television show, MindFreak. He had been boxing for over a year now, training on his days off and during hiatus. He had built up considerable upper body strength not just from his daily hour in the gym, but from years of lifting heavy equipment for the show.
George had been working for Criss for a few years now, setting up props, assisting in "demonstrations", which was Criss' term for life-threatening stunts, and other technical duties. He made a good living at it, though the stress of watching his younger cousin lock himself in a car trunk and almost drown in a lake, get run over by a steamroller while lying on broken glass, and nearly get blown up in a collapsing hotel was nearly unbearable. Criss was a performer, an artist or so he claimed, but he was still family, and George didn't like the idea of a family member trying to kill himself in the name of art. But, it was his destiny, and George was there to make sure Criss got through his latest stunt in one piece--or pick up the pieces afterward.
Boxing was George's greatest pleasure in life. He had never gone professional, preferring the steady income of his position with MindFreak Productions to the fame and glamor of the pro circuit. Besides, the risk of serious injury would cut any professional career short. Amateur boxing was a good stress reliever; he enjoyed doing something for himself instead of catering to his cousin's outrageous whims. He was good at it, and he knew it: he knew the moves, he had the reflexes, and he had the stamina for it.
And he had a right cross that would stop a truck. Criss had a punching bag game in his suite at the Luxor which digitally registered the force applied to the bag after one blow. To date, George held the highest score, seven-sixty or so, a hundred points more than his cousin. Sore loser that he was, Criss tried and tried to beat him, taking swing after swing on the bag but never quite getting past seven hundred. George couldn't wait to have another go on the machine; after a year's training, he could break eight hundred, he figured.
The trainer's whistle blew. George ended his pummelling with a final blow to the bag and walked over to where his trainer, a barrel-chested old Irishman named Seamus Linehan, a two-time Golden Gloves winner back in his day (though his day was so far back hardly anyone remembered it) who had converted an old garage in North Las Vegas into a boxing gym thirty years ago. His auburn hair had turned white with age, his face had been flattened by too many fists in both the ring and the pub, and he used his oak cane for more than just supporting himself after his last hip replacement. He was a surly old sod with a good set of lungs despite his lifelong habit of cigar smoking, and he wasn't afraid to use them.
"All right, ye mugs!" Seamus bellowed loudly enough to be heard across Lake Meade. "Ye've enough for t'day! But b'fore ye clear outta here, I've got an announcement! There's to be an amateur match in a month's time, in the Excalibur Arena! If ye want to qualify, ye gotta try out on Saturday noontime! Remember, bouts are won by points, not knockouts! The highest score after three rounds goes to the match! If ye want to fight, don't ye go slackin' yer trainin'!" He waved his cane toward the locker room. "Now, git yer arses out of here!"
Seamus hobbled away. George and his fellow boxers filed into the locker room to shower and change. Inside, the attendant, a chubby boy of about twenty or so with his face distorted by Down's syndrome, handed them fresh towels. His name was David Linehan, youngest son Seamus, the only person for whom the crusty old Irishman had a soft spot next to his late wife, Meghann. Despite his tenderness with his disabled son, Seamus never let himself take pity on the boy. He gave him a job as locker room attendant, to mop the floors, scrub the toilets, fold the towels, and clean the shower room. David carried out his duties satisfactorily and without question, seldom speaking but flashing a pudgy smile when someone tipped him a dollar.
George took the towel from David with thanks, stripped off his sweaty gym clothes, wrapped the towel around his hips and headed for the shower room, a large olive-green tiled cube twelve feet square, with six spigots jutting out of the wall like chrome thumbs. He turned on one of the spigots and braced his bare chest against the stinging spray. George didn't mind the lack of privacy; he was used to communal showers since his high-school days. Nor did he particulary care with whom he was showering; you'd seen one naked ass, he thought apathetically, you'd seen them all.
Next to him was a stocky black man named Tobias "Tobe" Lacie. Tobe was a genial type in regular life, but in the ring he was a formidable opponent. Fighters found out early in a bout that punching him was like hitting a brick wall. Tobe could send an opponent to the mat with just a single hammer blow to the face. He would have gone professional, but he had to support his family after his father died, a fact that George could appreciate.
"You tryin' out for the match?" Tobe asked George.
George remained aloof as he soaped himself. "Maybe," he replied noncommittally. "I gotta check my schedule, first."
Tobe smiled through crooked teeth. "How's your cousin doin'?" he asked. "Get himself into any more crazy-assed (bleep) for his show?"
"Not recently," George answered evenly. "We're still in the planning stages for Season Five. Besides, he's got his live show, so he's gotta stay alive for that."
Tobe nodded. "Seriously, man, what's it like working for that dude?"
George rinsed off and turned off the shower. "Lemme put it to you this way," he said, wrapping the towel around his waist, "After a day working with Criss, I come here to relax."
Tobe laughed out loud. George left the shower room, his light olive-complexioned skin glistening in the flourescent light. Poor dude, Tobe thought to himself, gotta do all that crazy-assed (bleep) for that crazy-assed magician cousin of his! Still, the money must be good if he's stuck with it all this time! Hell, I'd do that (bleep) myself for that kind of cash! But, hey, this is Vegas--you gotta expect wierd (bleep) around here! And Criss Angel is as (bleeping) wierd as they come!
09-04-2011, 10:13 PM
"Hey, guys, what's up?" Criss greeted his crew as he walked into the production office. Murmurs of "Good morning" and "Hi" greeted him in return. The group consisted of Criss' two brothers, JD and Costa, his manager, Dave Baram, technical advisors Joaquin Ayela and the hypnotist Gerard. A couple of cameramen were present to record the meeting for future reference and maybe for a behind-the-scenes shot for an upcoming episode of MindFreak.
Criss flopped down on one of the overstuffed chairs in the office, ready to get down to business. These informal meetings worked best for him; when everyone was relaxed, creativity flowed more easily. Though there were times when the horseplay got out of hand or Criss became so frustrated he threw things around the room, the laid-back think-tank produced results better than in any formal executive board room. And formal was just not Criss' style.
"So, what've you guys been up to?" Criss asked.
Gerard smiled, holding up a copy of the morning paper. "We were just reading about your friend, the Amazing Johnathan," he said. "He made the news this morning."
Criss was naturally curious. "What'd he do?"
"Got his ass in trouble," Gerard replied. "Or rather, it was his ass that got him in trouble."
"Meaning he was arrested for indecent exposure last night," Gerard said, smiling.
Criss was astonished. "AJ got arrested for indecent exposure?" he repeated incredulously.
Gerard nodded, still smiling lewdly. "Yeah, it's true. Some guy in the audience was heckling him during his show at the Magic Club last night," he explained. "He got so mad he mooned him."
Criss' jaw dropped. "He mooned the guy?"
"Yep. Right there in front of the whole audience. Got so mad at the (bleep)wad he about-faced, dropped his pants, and...."
Criss doubled over laughing. "Oh, my Gaaahhhhd!" he roared. "That is so...oh, (bleep)!"
"He got busted right after his act," Gerard continued. "Cops came in and hauled his ass to jail."
"With his pants up, I hope," Criss quipped.
"Hey, would you wanna look at AJ's bare ass?"
Criss shuddered at such a horrid thought. "So, what's gonna happen to him, do you know?" he asked.
"Probably fine him or something," JD replied. "I doubt it's gonna lead to serious jail time. Paper says his shows at the Magic Club have been cancelled until furthur notice."
Criss shook his head in disbelief. "Man, even for AJ, this is a new low," he said. "I mean, he's done some pretty crude stuff in his day, but this!"
"Well, what can you expect from a guy who keeps flipping the bird during his act?" JD pointed out. "Personally, I don't know why you stay friends with that (bleeper)."
"Give me a week and I'll tell you," Criss retorted.
Gerard tossed the newspaper aside. "Well, on to other business," he said. "Got any ideas for Season Five?"
Criss looked around the room. "Where's George?" he asked.
"He'll be here," JD said. "He's gone to the training gym this morning."
"Training?" Dave Baram repeated. "What's he training for?"
"George's gotten into amateur boxing lately," JD explained. "Goes to this little gym downtown and works out there."
"Why can't he work out in your gym, Criss?" Dave asked. "It's closer, and probably better equipped."
"What George chooses to do on his own time is his business," Criss stated. "He's welcome to work out in my gym, but if he wants to go downtown, it's his perogative. Besides, he's got a personal trainer there; I can't train him to be a boxer."
As if on cue, George Strumpolis stepped into the room. "Hey, guys," he said genially, "sorry I'm late."
"Ah, the future heavyweight champion of the world has just arrived!" Joaquin announced with mock fanfare.
George was annoyed. "First of all, I'm not a heavyweight anything," he said. "I'm more like middleweight, and it's strictly amateur. I'm not going pro; I just do this because I enjoy it."
He drew Criss aside. "Oh, by the way, I need Saturday off if you don't mind," he said.
Criss shrugged. "Sure, no prob," he answered. "What's the deal?"
"The Excalibur is holding an amateur boxing match next month," George explained. "Tryouts are this Saturday, and I'd really like a shot at this. Whaddya say, huh?"
"Well, okay, George, if that's what you want," Criss told him. "Good luck, okay?"
George smiled and patted his cousin on the shoulder. "Thanks, Criss."
"Okay, let's get down to business here," Dave said, holding up the itinerary. "The Fantasy and Naked Jail Escape episodes pulled in the highest ratings in the series next to the Implosion episode, so anyway you can top those?"
"I'm an illusionist, not a male stripper," Criss insisted.
"Face it, Criss," Gerard said, "the fans want to see more of you than your magic. Every square inch of you, in fact."
"Been there, done that," Criss said. "I can't show any more skin than the FCC will allow, you know that. Even if I did...expose myself again, the editors are just gonna do what they did before in Fantasy and Naked Jail and...you know."
"Block your tackle?"
Everyone laughed at that bit of witticism. "Yeah, that's it," Criss said. "So, why bother? I'm here to perform illusions and escapes, not strip down to my after-shave just for ratings. AJ got his ass in trouble, literally, for mooning his audience. I'm not going to stoop to his level."
"First of all, AJ mooned a heckler, not his audience," Gerard pointed out. "That was impulsive. You stripped for your art in those two episodes--that's different."
"It was for Fantasy I stripped for my art," Criss argued. "In Naked Jail, those guys stripped me against my will, remember? They cut off my briefs with a pair of scissors in that cell, right in front of all those women! And to top it off, they locked all my clothes in another cell! That's art? It was more like a conspiracy!"
The crew laughed at the memory of a naked Criss Angel struggling to escape from his jail cell in two hours, just in time to fetch his clothes and preserve his dignity, to the disappointment of the twenty women assembled there. "Hey, you pulled it off, didn't you?" Gerard said.
"Just barely," Criss replied, "no pun intended."
Dave Baram cleared his throat. "Moving right along," he said, looking at the itinerary.
Suddenly, Criss was struck with a brilliant idea. "Hey, George!" he cried eagerly. "You're taking up amateur boxing! Maybe we can do an episode with sports theme!"
Everyone agreed unanimously. "A sports theme! Great!" JD cheered. Just so long as it doesn't involve you trying to kill yourself, Criss, he added mentally.
"Think you can get us access to your gym, George?" Criss asked. "I'd be great if we could tape the show there."
George was hesitant. "Well, I'll have to clear it with old man Linehan," he hedged. "He's a tough old (bleeper) with a bad temper, so I'm not going to promise you anything."
"What if we paid him?" Criss suggested.
George thought about it. "Well, if you paid him, he might consider it," he replied. "But don't quote me on that--he's still a stubborn old (bleeper)."
"Well, run it up the flagpole with him and see if he'll let us in," Criss said.
"What about your own gym?" JD suggested. "Why can't we use that?"
"We'll get a few shots of me working out," Criss said. "I'll even go topless for the female fans. How about that, Gerard?"
"Might work," Gerard said. Then, with a mischevious grin, added, "How about a shot of you taking a shower after your workout?"
Criss could see where this was going. "Forget it."
"I'm just saying--"
"Shower time is my time, okay, Gerard?" Criss stated. "I mean, what's the deal with nudity all of a sudden?"
"I'm just saying give the fans what they want."
"What they want is my magic, my illusions, my talent," Criss insisted. "Not my naked body."
"You haven't been reading the fanboards lately, have you, Criss?" Costa spoke up for the first time that morning.
Criss dismissed his brother's observation. "Look, we'll just stick with the sports theme for now, okay?" he said, exasperated with Gerard's lascivious attitude. "Write down your ideas and we'll discuss this next time. And no nude shots, got it?"
The crew nodded. Costa remained silent. Since when is Criss against nudity all of a sudden? he wondered. In the mood he's in, how am I going to ask for his help now?
09-04-2011, 10:18 PM
"Hey, AJ, it's me, Criss!"
"Oh, hey, Criss," The Amazing Johnathan grumbled in his cell phone. "Whaddya want?"
"Oh, nothing, just calling to say hello," Criss replied casually. "I read about you in the paper this morning."
"Quite a stunt you pulled there last night," Criss went on. "Dropping trou and showing everybody your best side. Bet that went over well. I just hope you didn't pass gas while you were at it--you would have cleared the whole club."
"(Bleep) you, Criss!" AJ spat. "Who are you to criticize?"
"I'm not criticizing!"
"Yeah? Well, you went bareassed on TV--twice!"
"Yeah, but they didn't show my ass," Criss pointed out. "The censors blurred me around the hips, remember? No one saw a thing."
"Not that there was any 'thing' worth seeing," AJ retorted.
Criss chose to ignore the insult. "So, what are you going to do now?" he asked. "Your shows at the Magic Club got cancelled. Any plans?"
"Don't worry about me," AJ told him. "I'll be just fine."
"I never worried about you, AJ," Criss said. "Listen, I gotta get back to work. Enjoy your time off."
"Go (bleep) yourself, Criss!"
Criss laughed and hung up, savoring the schadenfreud of his rival's embarrassing situation. Barely a heartbeat later, his phone rang. Criss looked at the Caller ID message on the tiny LED screen: Costa, it read. He flipped it open. "Hey, Cos, what's up?" he said.
"Hey, Criss, how are you?" Costa said.
"Good. So, what's up?"
"Well, I need to ask you a favor."
"Sure, no problem. Whaddya need?"
"Well, I am assembling a portfolio of my photographs," Costa began," and I need some pictures of you."
"No big deal," Criss shrugged. "I got a ton of them--help yourself."
"It's not that simple, Criss," Costa told him. "I need some fresh pictures of you."
"You wanna set up a photo shoot?" Criss thought about it. "Well, my schedule's pretty tight right now, but I got Monday evening off. How about then?"
"Monday evening'll be fine," Costa agreed. "Just come over to my place and we'll go from there."
"Sounds good. What kind of photos did you have in mind, anyway? Publicity, portrait?"
Costa plunged, bracing himself for the worst. "Nude."
There was silence on the other end. "Criss?" Costa called out. "You still there?"
"You wanna do nude pictures of me?" Criss spoke incredulously.
"Look, it's not like I'm going to publish them," Costa protested. "It's just for my personal portfolio of art photos. Hardly anyone's gonna see them."
"But why me?"
"Because I'm having a helluva time getting models to pose nude for me, no matter how much I offer to pay them. I'm lucky to get the models I got right now. Besides, let's face it, you got the body for it."
"Well, gee, I'm flattered," Criss replied sarcastically.
"Now don't get snotty about it," Costa warned him. "You've posed partially nude before, remember? And those two shows we talked about at the meeting? You're not going prudish on me, are you? I mean, I thought you were comfortable with your body. Why are you ashamed of it all of a sudden?"
"I'm not ashamed of my body!" Criss protested. "In fact, I'm very comfortable inside my own skin, thank you very much. And to prove it, I'll come over Monday evening and pose for those pictures, and I'll show you who's ashamed of his own body."
"Looking forward to it, little brother," Costa said cheerfully. "See you later."
"Later." Criss flipped off his phone. I'm not a prude! he told himself. I'm quite proud of my body! I had the (bleeps) to strip for the Fantasy episode, didn't I? Costa wants to take pictures of me in the buff? Fine! I'll give him his money's worth, and more!
As time wore on, however, Criss began to get the uneasy feeling that somehow he had been conned. Had Costa played on his pride to get him to consent to the photo shoot? No, he thought, Costa wouldn't stoop so low. It was his own sense of superiority that led him into this arrangement. Well, the damage was done; no point in backing out now. Besides, it was for a private portfolio, not a centerfold spread for Playgirl. Costa had assured him that hardly anyone would see them, and Criss knew that his brother's word was as good as gold, so he didn't have to worry about a Tommy Lee/Pamela Anderson-type scandal broadsiding his career. But who, he couldn't help but wonder, was "hardly anyone"?
George knocked on the dented metal door of Linehan's office. "Seamus?" he called out.
"Door's open." a gruff Irish brogue responded.
George entered the office. Linehan sat at his desk, going over the bills. "Hey, Seamus," he said, "can I talk to you for a minute?"
"A minute's all ye got," Linehan said bluntly. still poring over the bills.
"I came to ask a favor," George began.
"Not a brass penny!" Linehan snapped.
"I'm not asking for money," George said, "I'm asking for the use of your gym for my cousin's TV series."
Linehan looked up, curious. "Ye're what?"
"My cousin, Criss, wants to use your gym to tape an episode of his series, MindFreak," George explained. "We won't get in your way, and nothing's gonna get broken, I promise."
Linehan swiveled around in his spindly office chair. "And what's in it fer me, might I ask?" he demanded.
"We're offering to pay you for the trouble," George told him.
A spark of interest glinted in the old man's eye. "How much?"
George shrugged. "Oh, I dunno. Five grand?"
"Make it ten."
"Seven," George countered.
"Eight. And that's me final offer."
George considered it. "Okay, eight it is."
For the first time since he'd been training in Linehan's gym, George actually saw Seamus smile. "Let me clear it with Criss and I'll get back to you," he said.
"Good," Linehan said, "now git yer arse outta me office. I got work to do."
George closed the metal door quietly behind him. Geez! That old (bleeper) knows how to drive a hard bargain! Must've done some serious horse trading back in Ireland or something.
09-04-2011, 10:21 PM
"So, what'd Seamus say?" Criss asked George at the production meeting the next day.
"He'd said he'd do it," George replied, "for eight grand."
Criss was flabbergasted. "Eight grand!?"
"That's what he said, eight grand. He wanted ten at first, but I had to negotiate my ass off to get it down to eight. You said you were willing to pay him."
"Yeah, but eight thousand dollars for a two-day shoot? That's outrageous!"
"It's his gym, Criss," George reminded him. "He calls the shots. You wanna back out?"
"No, no," Criss said hastily. "It's still a good plan. If he wants eight thousand for it, then...what choice do we have? Like you said, it's his gym."
"Maybe he's got some heavy bills he needs to pay," Costa commented.
George remembered the pile of bills on Linehan's desk when he first broached the subject of using the gym for taping the show. Poor guy must really be in debt to ask for that much, he reasoned. No wonder he's such a crank!
"So when do we start taping?" Dave Baram asked.
"First thing tomorrow morning," Criss told him. "We go to my gym first, get a few shots there, then we go to Linehan's Gym."
"Anything special planned?"
Criss smiled mischeviously. "You'll see," he replied. "I don't want to spoil the surprise."
Later that day, while Criss was performing a matinee show, JD sorted through old photographs of his father to use for the upcoming Sports episode. There was one in particular he was looking for: an ad dating back to the late Fifties of John Sarantakos as Mr. Universe. The last he had seen of it was when Criss used it for his book MindFreak. Criss had sworn up and down that the original had been returned to him after publishing, but for the life of him JD could not find it anywhere. It had to be in that box somewhere, he thought.
In spite of his diligence, JD came across the occasional photo which made him pause and reflect, stirring emotions he had believed he'd overcome after eleven years: Dad and the family on Long Island Sound; Dad sitting with a youthful Chris on the hood of JD's car; Mom and Dad cuddling in the living room; Dad's last birthday party, posing with a long-haired Christopher; Mom and Dad's wedding portrait in black and white, now faded to shades of gray after fifty years. God, Mom looked beautiful back then, he thought.
A large worn Manila envelope lying on the bottom of the box caught JD's attention. Curious, he picked it up and opened it. Inside was a stack of John's Mr. Universe publicity photos, eight-by-ten glossies shot in black and white, their images still crisp after half a century. JD examined each picture one by one, hardly believing the Adonis in the tight black briefs who graced the film and paper he held in his hands had been his own father. Every shot highlighted a physique worthy of the Olympian gods themselves: rippling muscles, broad shoulders, tight, firm abdomen, arms strong enough to lift a horse. He must've worked out like a demon! JD thought. I've never seen Dad look so ripped!
He laid the glossies next to the snapshots of his father in later life, comparing the two. It saddened him deeply as he reflected upon the cruel irony that such a perfect specimen of humanity should have succumbed to cancer at the age of sixty. Sorrowfully, almost reverently, he slipped the glossies back into the worn envelope. He debated with himself whether to show these to Criss and Costa; he knew they had the right to see them, but feared they would only bring back sad memories of their father's passing. In the end, family won out over fear. He had to show them to his brothers; it was up to Criss to decide whether or not they were too personal to use on the show.
JD picked up the envelope and headed for Criss' office. I hope he's got a box of tissues in there, JD said to himself, because once he sees these, he's gonna need them.
09-04-2011, 10:25 PM
The first few segments of the Sports episode went well enough. The camera crew taped Criss' morning workout in his personal gym. They taped him benchpressing, ab crunching and doing bicep curls with weights. They shot close-ups of his legs flexing on the Stairmaster and the treadmill for emphasis. They caught on tape tiny beads of sweat running down his face and muscular shoulders. Within an hour they had all the footage they needed; later, a voice-over of Criss explaining his exercise routine would be added during editing.
True to his promise to Gerard, Criss stripped to the waist for the taping. Clad only in navy blue Spandex bicycle shorts, he grunted and sweated through his fitness regimen, oblivious to the camera crew; he had given them explicit instructions not to disturb him during his workout because he had to stay focused, and they complied.
The illusion Criss performed for the workout segment was something he called the Bottomless Water Bottle. He took a seemingly ordinary plastic water bottle, drank his fill from it, then poured it over his head and body, then drank some more, then poured more into his hand. No matter how much he poured out, the bottle never emptied. There were no cutaway shots, no shifting of camera angles; it was all filmed in one take. At the end of the Bottomless Water Bottle illusion, Criss retired to the locker room, ordering the camera crew to mop up the water on the floor. That little self-centered act insured total privacy while he was showering and dressing.
One disgruntled member of the crew, however, vowed to take revenge. With the aid of a small hand-held camcorder, a cameraman named Kevin slipped into the locker room, crept up to the opaque-glass door of the single shower stall Criss was in, and taped his blurry silhouette as he showered, waiting paitently for just the right moment.
Criss turned off the water and casually emerged from the shower stall. His casualness disappeared when he saw Kevin aiming a camcorder right at his totally exposed naked body. For the merest moment, Criss froze in shock at this intrusion of privacy, then anger galvanized him into action.
"What the (bleep) are you doing?!" he demanded. "Get the (bleep) out of here!"
Kevin scrambled out of the locker room, fearing for his life while at the same time gloating over his small victory. His days as a cameraman for MindFreak were numbered, but at least he could claim he went out with a bang.
Right cross. Block. Left hook. Duck. Uppercut. Slip. Right cut. Jab.
George Strumpolis practiced his boxing moves in the giant mirror on the far wall of Linehan's Gym, under the watchful eye of Seamus Linehan himself. Stay focused, he told himself. Keep your arms up, your chin down, and your eyes on your opponent. Keep your stance no matter what, and above all, keep moving to avoid a blow.
Linehan observed George as he shadowboxed. The Greek shows good form, he thought, and he's got a wicked right arm. He just needs to learn how to use it properly. Punching a heavy bag is fine and good, but using it against a live opponent is another matter altogether.
The old man hobbled over to George and rapped his cane against his trainee's shins for attention. George halted in midfeint and looked at Linehan. He was not resentful of the interruption; it was all part of the training, he reasoned. If Seamus called for your attention, it was wise to give it to him.
"Ye've a good right arm, there, George," Linehan said grudgingly. "But ye need to work on ye're left. I know they say don't let yer right hand know what yer left hand is doin', but in boxing both right and left hands have t'work together." He pointed to the heavy punching bag hanging in the corner. "Go over to the bag and show me yer left hook."
George obeyed. He walked over to the five-foot oblong bag suspended from the ceiling by three heavy chains. He took his stance and delivered the hardest left hook he could, causing the bag to sway on its moorings. Linehan observed it iwth a critical eye. "Ye're delivery's good," he said, "but ye're telegraphing it to yer opponent by screwin' up yer arm before swinging! It's gotta come without notice, lad! Ye gotta feint wi' yer right to distract yer opponent so you can swing with yer left without his knowin' it! Boxin's not all hooks and jabs, y'know! Ye gotta use yer head as well as yer fists! Now, keep workin' on yer left!"
Linehan hobbled away to chew out another boxer who couldn't keep his stance. George shut out the old man's tirade and concentrated on his left hook. Don't screw up your arm, he reminded himself. Feint with your right before striking with your left. He swung his left arm, striking the heavy bag. It didn't go well; he was still screwing up for the punch. He tried again, faking with his right this time. Again, it didn't satisfy him. He went at it again. And again. And again. George was determined to strengthen his left hook so he could qualify for Saturday's tryouts for the Excalibur bout next month, no matter how many times he had to pummel that bag.
In his private studio, Costa was shooting pictures of his latest model, Sola, a slim California-blond woman of twenty-three (he checked her credentials carefully before he took one photo of her to confirm her age) who had no objections to posing nude. Indeed, she offered to pay him for the privilege--she wanted to use them for her modeling career, she said, hopefully to become of of Hugh Hefner's Girls Next Door. Costa had no objection, just so long as he retained the negatives and claimed copyright of them for his portfolio. Sola agreed and stripped down to her California tan.
Costa tried to keep the photos as "artistic" as possible, but Sola gave her poses a more seductive air than he wanted, despite his instructions to the contrary. This wasn't for Playboy, he kept reminding her, so would she please turn down the heat? Sola tried to co-operate, but her natural seductiveness kept getting in the way. It was all Costa could do to keep things professional between them.
Finally the session was over. "That's a wrap!" Costa announced. "You can get dressed now, Sola."
Sola wrapped herself in a thin cotton robe. "That was fun," she said brightly. "We should do it again sometime."
Costa wasn't really sure if he wanted to do it again sometime, at least not with Sola. "You'll have the pictures in about a week or so," he said. "Thanks for your time."
"Thank you for the opportunuty," Sola returned.
She went into a side room to dress. Costa heaved a huge sigh of relief. For the first time he began to wonder if this portfolio was worth the trouble. The naked human body was an ideal subject for photography, granted, but he didn't want to come across as a pornographer. He never claimed there was a fine line between art and smut, but there were gray patches blurring the differences between them. Art, like beauty, was in the eye of the beholder.
Costa checked his itnerary. Criss was his next model Monday evening, according to his schedule. At least he would be a bit more co-operative, or so he hoped. He had no qualms about seeing Criss in the nude; Costa had seen his little brother's bare behind since he was a month old. It was just that Criss was more used to giving orders than taking them; having his plans thwarted irritated him, no matter how sound the reason.
Well, Costa would just have to pull fraternal rank if he had to in order to get Criss to pose as he wanted. He wouln't stoop to playing the Mom card, but a gentle reminder of who was the older brother wouldn't hurt. Criss wasn't a tyrant, but every now and then he had to be put in his place where the family was concerned. It was his way to keep him humble, or at least grounded in reality. Criss may be the star of the show, but in the family circle he was still baby brother Christopher, and Costa was not going to let him forget that.
09-04-2011, 10:28 PM
A boxy white truck led by a large black SUV pulled into the gravelly lot of Linehan's Gym around ten o'clock that morning. Criss looked out the tinted window of the SUV at the squat square building covered with gang graffiti on its cinderblock walls and wondered why his cousin George would come here to train to be a boxer.
Criss got out of the SUV and stood looking at the nondescript building that housed Linehan's Gym. Not very impressive, he thought. Looks more like my warehouse. Well, maybe inside will be better.
He waved to the two member cameramen to follow him (Kevin had been summarily discharged for his indiscreet taping of Criss in the shower, so only a couple remained for the rest of the shoot). He turned to his brother, JD. "You got the check ready?" he asked.
JD held up the cashier's check payable to Seamus Linehan for the amount of eight thousand dollars and no cents. Criss nodded approvingly, took the check and walked across the lot to the gym entrance. He halted and held up his hands. "Wait here," he said. "I gotta clear up some business before we start taping."
Criss walked through the metal door of the gym. The smell of canvas, damp towels and leather mingled with the rank stench of sweat hit him squarely in the face, almost knocking him back. "Ugh! My God in Heaven!" he choked. "How can George stand to work out in here?"
Gagging, he braved the foul atmosphere and made his way into the dimly lit gym. He could hear the sound of padded gloves striking leather, vinyl and human flesh. He saw two boxers, their faces concealed in padded helmets, sparring in the ring. But where was George? He looked around, but saw no sign of him anywhere. He looked again at the two fighters in the ring. Could George be one of them? he wondered.
Criss turned to see his cousin standing in a far corner next to a small office. "Oh, there you are, George," he said, relieved. "I've been looking all over for you."
"Did you bring the money?" George asked. "Linehan's been waiting for it all morning."
Criss held up the check. "Right here. Where's Linehan?"
George nodded toward the small office. "Watch yourself," he warned. "Linehan's a mean old (bleeper), and he's never heard of you, so don't expect a warm reception."
Criss went into the office and rapped on the door. We'll see just how warm he'll be when he gets the money, he thought.
"Door's open!" came the gruff voice from inside.
Criss entered. "Mr. Linehan?" he began cordially, "I'm Criss Angel, George's cousin. First of all, I'd like to thank you for letting us use your gym to tape our show, and--"
"Cut the blathering!" Linehan snapped at him. "Ye've got the money or not?"
"Oh, yeah," Criss replied. "Here you go. Eight thousand dollars, just as we agreed upon."
The old man's demeanor warmed a couple of degrees when he looked at the cashier's check. "Good," he said. "Ye kin film all ye want, but don't ye be gettin' in the way of the boxers--these mugs'll take ye down if ye go botherin' 'em. Me office is off limits, and don't ye go askin' me for an innerview--I got too much work to do around here! And stay out of the shower room! I don't want ye filmin' anyone's bare bums fer yer show! I run a respectable place here!"
"Got it," Criss said, taken aback at such a brusque manner.
Linehan waved him away. Criss beat a hasty retreat. George eyed him smugly as he emerged from the office. "Warned you," he said. "This guy doesn't give a damn if you're a celebrity or not--his gym, his rules."
"So I found out," Criss said.
"You ready to shoot?"
Criss nodded. "I'll get the crew. I just hope they don't pass out from the stink in here."
George smiled. "You'll get used to it," he assured him good-naturedly. "I did."
Criss dashed out of the gym to gulp a few lungfuls of fresh air before going back inside. Noting his distress, JD approached him. "How was it in there?" he asked.
"Did you bring a gas mask?" Criss asked, gasping. "I mean, it's rank in there! Whooooo!"
The two cameramen went into the gym to film Criss' entrance. "Suck it up, Criss," JD said, patting his youngest brother on the back. "You've survived worse than this. Remember, you wanted to tape the show here, so you gotta take the bad with the good."
Criss' breathing returned to normal. "Okay," he said, "I'm good. Let's go."
JD entered the gym first to set up the camera angles for Criss' entrance. Criss adjusted his portable microphone and took his last few breaths of fresh air before reentering the reeking atmosphere of Linehan's Gym. Memo to Linehan, he said to himself, upgrade ventilation.
The signal to enter came. "Good to go, Criss," came JD's voice over the tiny earbud headphone Criss wore.
Criss braced himself and entered the gym, valiently trying to overcome the smell. He faced the camera at the end of the corridor and bravely inhaled the air in the gym. "You heard of Brut?" he said with bravado into the camera. Suddenly he doubled over coughing and wheezing. "This is brutal!" he gagged.
"Aaannnd cut!" JD said. "Good one, Criss."
Criss shook his head. "The things I do for my art," he mused glumly.
09-04-2011, 10:34 PM
JD saw Cousin George working out at the heavy bag in the corner of the gym. "Hey, there's George," he said to Criss. "Come on, let's go see him."
Criss and one of the cameramen walked up to George; the other remained behind to tape footage of the two boxers sparring in the ring. "Hey, George!" Criss called out. "How's it goin'?"
George stopped sharpening his left hook and turned to see his two cousins with a cameraman in tow. "Hey, guys," he panted.
"So, how's training coming along?" Criss asked.
George swept his brow with his forearm. "I'm gettin' there," he replied. "Still working on my left."
Criss noted how heavily George was perspiring, and he became concerned. "Can I get you a bottle of water or something?" he suggested. "You're sweating like a horse!"
George nodded wearily. "Bucket's over there," he said, pointing to a tin pail with a dipper in it.
JD and Criss eyed the water bucket with distaste. "You all got to drink out of that?" Criss said in disgust.
"Yeah, well," George said, shrugging his shoulders, "this place is pretty no-frills, you know. Linehan's on a tight budget."
"Yeah, but still," Criss protested, "you have to keep up with the health codes."
JD turned to Criss. "I'll go to the truck and see if I can find some bottled water," he said.
Criss nodded emphatically. "You do that!" he exclaimed. "That thing's probably swimming with germs!"
JD left to fetch the water. Criss turned to the other cameraman. "Get some footage of the other boxers for a while," he told him. "I wanna talk to George off the record for a while."
The second cameraman nodded and went to tape a boxer at the speed bag. Criss turned back to his cousin. "Look, George," he said, "you're welcome to train in my gym if you want. I can set you up with whatever you need: punching bags, gloves, you name it. I got the weights and all the other equipment, and it's a helluva lot cleaner than this place. I mean, with all due respect to Linehan, this place is a dive, man!"
"I appreciate the offer, Criss," George said, "but Linehan's my official trainer, so it's his place or no place. I know it's a 'dive' as you call it, but it's the only training gym that's closest to me. It's not too bad once you get used to it, really. Besides, I got to get in shape for the tryouts on Saturday, and this is the only place for it."
He returned to working on his left hook. Criss drew a deep sigh and immediatly regretted it; he coughed the foul air of the gym out of his lungs. God! he thought. How can you stand it, George?The air in here will knock you out faster than Mike Tyson!
A loud whistle interrupted the boxers. "All right, ye mugs!" Linehan bellowed. "Change places!" He pointed his cane to the two boxers in the ring. "You two, out! Lacie, you and the Greek into the ring!"
"The Greek?" Criss inquired.
"Uh, he means me," George said. "He keeps forgetting my last name, so I'm either the Greek or just George."
George peeled the Velcro straps of his training gloves with his teeth and pulled them off. "My sparring gloves are over there, Criss," he said. "You wanna go get them for me?"
"Sure." Criss went to get the red vinyl gloves. They were smaller and lighter than he thought they would be. "Are you sure these are yours?" he asked.
"Yeah, that's them."
Criss bought the gloves over while George donned his padded boxer's helmet, a task made more difficult with his hands taped. Criss helped him with his gloves and walked over to him to the ring. George threaded himself between the ropes and took his place in the corner. Criss stood beside him, waiting for the sparring match to begin.
"Hey, Criss!" It was JD, carrying a six-pack of bottled water. "I got the water!" he announced. "It's not very cold, but--"
"It's okay," Criss said. "Just break me one for George over here."
JD pulled out a bottle from the shrinkwrap and handed it to Criss, who in turn handed it to George. "You'll have to open it and give it to me," he said. "I can't hold it with my gloves on."
Criss cracked open the plastic bottle and put it to George's lips. George chugged a few mouthfuls and withdrew, spraying the last of the water to the side. "Okay, I'm good," he said.
George's opponent, Tobe Lacie, had just climbed into the ring, his dark brown skin reflecting the flourescent lighting above like moonlight on water. The two combatants stood and faced each other in the ring. The referee, Linehan's eldest son Sean and champion amateur boxer in his own right, stood between them as he explained the rules: "Three minute rounds, three rounds in a bout. No hitting below the belt, no tripping, no kicking. If you need to call a time out, raise your right arm. Ready? Go!!"
Criss watched his cousin deliver punch after punch, deflect blow after blow his opponent gave him. Soon he was wildly enthusiastic, cheering on George as if he was fighting for the title. "C'mon, George!" he shouted. "Way to go! Yeeeeaaaahhhh!"
George faked a left hook, catching Tobe off guard, then he landed a powerful right cross on him. Tobe reeled from the blow. George came down with his left, hammering Tobe to the mat. The referee interceded, preventing George from finishing off his opponent.
"Back of the head, illegal move," the referee ruled. "That'll cost you three points."
George accepted the ruling grudgingly but without protest. Criss, however, slammed the heel of his hand against the post. "Damn!" he swore.
The opponents retreated to their corners. "You almost nailed him, George!" Criss cried. "What the hell happened?"
"The rules are different for amateur boxers, Criss," George explained. "We win by points, not knockouts. These aren't pros who make it their living. These are guys who have regular jobs, so they have to stay healthy and in one piece to support their families or whatever. If I kill a guy in the ring, I go to prison for manslaughter."
The referee signalled the beginning of Round Two. George and Tobe sparred around and around the ring, searching for the weak spots for where to strike while blocking and ducking each other's punches. Again, George landed a right to Tobe's chest, causing him to lose his balance, then another hook to the side to send him sprawling to the mat. Criss waited for the ref's call, but there was no interference from the official. Tobe struggled to his feet and came back swinging, catching George with a right cut to the head. George retaliated with his newly developed left hook to Tobe's chin. Suddenly the three-minute signal was given, and both men retreated to their corners.
"Good one, George!" Criss exclaimed. "I think you're gonna win this one! You're really kicking that guy's ass!"
"It's just a practice bout, okay?" George panted. "Gimme some more water, willya?"
Criss fed him another swig from the bottle, then mopped his cousin's head with a small white towel. The referee signalled Round Three. "Go get him, George!" Criss cheered encouragingly.
George rose and took his stance. Tobe took his stance as well. Then the final round began at the referee's signal. George led with his left, deflecting Tobe's right cut with his elbow. Tobe delivered a roundhouse to George's left temple, a fatal blow if not for the padded helmet he wore. It knocked George off balance, but he quickly regained it and returned with an uppercut to Tobe's exposed chin. Tobe swore through his mouthpiece and came at George, hammering away like a madman. It was all George could do to block and swerve away from Tobe's flying fists of fury. Through the punishment he received from his angry opponent, George found an opening just above the solar plexus, that part of the body containing the viscera and other vital organs and plowed his fist straight into it. Tobe's mouthpiece shot straight from his jaws from the force of it. He staggered away from George, gasping for air. Concerned for his friend and sparring partner, George signalled for a time out.
Tobe was assisted to his corner by the referee. George hovered over him, worried about the damage he had inflicted. "You okay, dude?" he asked anxiously.
Tobe nodded, still gasping for air. "I'm good," he panted. "I'm good. You just knocked the wind out of me, man!"
The shrill tweeting of Linehan's whistle meant the end of the practice bout. George didn't stick around to hear the official results; they didn't matter any more to him now. Instead, he climbed out of the ring and stood there, unsure of what to do now.
Criss went over to his grieved cousin. "You okay, man?" he asked softly.
"I'm good," George replied. "Just don't use that in the show, okay, Criss?"
"Sure, man," Criss said sympathetically. "I understand."
Later, while George and Tobe were showering and dressing for the street, Criss and his crew packed up the camera equipment in the white truck. "God!" Criss exclaimed. "It's good to be back out in the fresh air again!"
JD agreed. "Maybe with the eight thousand bucks you paid him, Old Man Linehan'll improve the ventilation in there."
"At least install a drinking fountain or something," Criss commented. "Ten guys drinking out of a tin pail? Forget about it!"
"Well, next time you want to do a sports theme for the show," JD said, "pick a fitness center or something. That dump should be condemned by the Board of Health!"
"That place would have to be redecorated before it could be condemned!" Criss joked.
"Hey!" a strange voice called out.
Criss and JD turned to see George and his sparring partner, Tobe Lacie, standing before them. "Whatchoo doin', dissin' Linehan like that?" Tobe demanded.
"We ain't 'dissing' anyone," Criss protested. "We just think that his gym could use some upgrading, that's all."
"Especially the ventilation," JD added. "The air in there could deplete the ozone."
"So, give him some money to do it!" Tobe retorted.
"We just paid him eight thousand dollars to let us tape our show in there!" Criss said.
"Eight thousand?" Tobe echoed in disbelief.
Criss nodded. "Yeah, that's right, eight thousand."
Tobe turned to George. "That right, man?" he asked.
George nodded. "Paid him just before they started taping," he said.
Tobe turned back and looked at the square cinderblock building with gang graffiti scrawled on the walls. "Gonna take more'n that to get this place in shape," he noted somberly.
"Hey, it's a start," George said optimistically.
"You don't know how deep in over his head Linehan is, do you?" Tobe said.
The cousins grew concerned. "That bad, huh?"
"Worse," Tobe grunted. "Place is mortgaged to the hilt. It's all Seamus can do to keep it running the way it is. Can't afford to make repairs, or much else. Building inspector's riding his ass to get it fixed up. Maybe eight grand'll help in some way, I dunno. It sure as hell ain't gonna solve all of his problems."
George remembered his negotiations with Linehan for the price of using the gym to tape Criss' show. "Maybe we should have taken him up for ten grand after all," he mused sadly.
"Well, Seamus ain't no quitter," Tobe said with building confidence. "He'll find a way. Now that he's got that eight grand, things'll be a little easier for him. And if our team wins the match at the Excalibur, it'll be a boost to the old man's ego."
"Isn't there any prize money offered?" Criss asked.
"Not for an amateur bout," George answered, shaking his head. "It's strictly exhibition, publicity for the Excalibur Hotel. You win a medal, that's it."
"Not much of an ego boost," Criss noted glumly.
George shrugged. "Better than nothing."
"Anything we can do to help?" Criss asked. "Anything at all?"
"You already paid 'im eight grand," Tobe said. "That's more than anyone ever did."
"I could give him more."
George shook his head. "Linehan's too proud to ask for a handout," he said. "He says he doesn't take charity from anyone. He either earns the money or wins it."
"Maybe the publicity from the show will boost membership," JD suggested.
Tobe smiled. "Yeah! There you go!"
"It'll be months before this airs, JD," Criss reminded him. "By then, it'll be too late."
"Well," JD replied, still hoping, "anything can happen before then."
"Only if you believe in miracles, man," Tobe said. "Other than that, we're up (bleep) creek."
09-04-2011, 10:40 PM
Back in the editing room, Criss and his film editor reviewed the "rushes" or segments of tape for the Sports episode they had taken so far, commenting and debating on what to use when.
"Okay, that's a good shot right there," Criss said, pointing to a bird's eye scene of himself benchpressing. "We can use that at the beginning. And that one right here, the one of me doing curls--that's a good one. We can fit that in as well."
"How about this one?" the editor asked, pointing to a shot of Criss' sweaty bare shoulders.
"Hmmmm, nah," Criss replied disapprovingly. "I want everyone to see the whole of me, not just the parts."
"How about this shot of you on the treadmill?"
Criss thought about it. "Well, the leg part can stay in for a bit, but focus more on the upper half," he said. "I'm going to be doing some narrating while I'm at it."
"Okay," the editor agreed. "How about these ab crunches? You look like you're really straining there."
"Let them see me strain," Criss insisted. "No pain, no gain. It'll show I'm really working out and not faking it."
"Why would anyone think you're faking it?"
Criss ignored the question. "Next rush."
Linehan's Gym came into view. There was a close-up of Criss in the corridor: (Inhales deeply) "You've heard of Brut?" (coughing and choking) "This is brutal!"
"Oh, that's classic, Criss!" the editor laughed. "Real classic."
The tape played on. "Good shots of the ring, there," the editor commented. "Hey, there's George!"
Criss and the editor watched George punch the heavy bag with his left. "I thought you said he had a good right hook." the editor said, puzzled.
"So?" Criss shrugged. "Now he's working on his left. You gotta box with two hands, you know."
The tape ended abruptly. "Didn't get much in there, did you?"
"Hey, it was only the first day," Criss reminded him. "Besides, that place would make you gag, it stinks so bad in there. We had to get out before we passed out."
The editor smiled. "Sweaty socks? Damp towels? Armpits?"
Criss nodded. "Among other things."
"Okay, let's see what's next."
They watched the monitor closely for the next segment. Suddenly, Criss exploded in outrage. "What the (bleep)?" he roared.
The editor was stunned at first, then embarrassed, then amused. It seemed that former cameraman Kevin had slipped his indiscreet little video of Criss emerging from the shower into the rushes for the show. "Oh, my God," he murmured.
"Who the (bleep) put that in there?"
The editor protested his innocence. "Criss, I swear, I--"
"Get it out of there! NOW!!"
The editor hit the Delete button, erasing the incriminating evidence from the rushes. "Okay, okay," he said placatingly. "It's gone, see?"
Criss' anger simmered down. "Good," he said, regaining his self-control. "I'm so going to kill that (bleeper) when I find him."
"Well, you said you wanted everyone to see the whole of you," the editor reminded him.
Criss shot his editor a dirty look in reply.
Three PM rolled around, and with it came the mail for MindFreak Productions. All fan mail was swiftly transferred to another office to be answered by a team of secretaries hired for just that purpose, while business correspondence was routed to their respective departments: Accounting, Merchandising, Legal, and Production among others. Criss' personal mail, such as cell phone bills, credit card statements and other mundane affairs, were delivered to his private mailbox in his office.
Criss arrived at the production office after going over the rushes with his editor, still sour over the nude scene that has been slipped in without his knowledge. He grabbed his mail for the day and retreated into the sanctity of his office, the scowl on his face giving notice to the staff that he was not to be disturbed.
Cell phone bill; AmEx statement; VISA statement; ad from some wireless network promising to reduce his long-distance plan by thirty percent that he sent sailing into the wastebasket; a postcard from Rose Medical Center--
Rose Medical Center? What the hell do they want? Criss wondered as he flipped over the paperboard card. On the back was a preprinted message with the date and blanks filled in:
Dear Mr. Criss Angel.
Just a reminder that your annual physical is on: Monday, **/**/20**
at: 9:30am X pm__
Please bring a photo ID and insurance card with you on the day of your appointment. We advise you to arrive at least fifteen minutes early to fill out the necessary forms. We look forward to seeing you soon!
The Staff at Rose Medical Center.
To his chagrin, Criss recalled that he had made the appointment for that coming Monday morning, one of his few days off. There was no getting out of it; the annual physical was part of the contract he had made with the Luxor. All medical expenses were covered by the hotel management, including doctor's visits, prescriptions, dental work, and any injuries he suffered doing his demonstrations. Oh, great, he groaned inwardly, I gotta spend my day off in some doctor's office, reading old magazines in the waiting room until it's my turn in the examining room, then go through all those (bleeping) tests they give me every year that don't show anything!
What was worse was that he had promised Costa he would pose nude for him for his portfolio that evening. After what he saw in the editing room earlier that day, he wasn't sure if he wanted to go through with it, but he reminded himself that a promise was a promise, especially when it came to family. I gotta strip for the doctors and nurses in the morning, then I gotta strip for Costa in the evening, he said to himself. I'm going to be (bleeping) naked practically all (bleeping) day! I am so not looking forward to Monday!
09-04-2011, 10:47 PM
MindFreak Productions returned to Linehan's Gym the next morning for the second day of taping. Seamus received Criss and his crew a bit more cordially this time; the eight thousand dollars seemed to have softened the crusty old man somewhat. The rules, however, were the same: no disturbing the fighters, no disturbing him in his office, no entering the shower room. "The tryouts for the Excalibur match're tomorrow," he remined them. "Every man-Jack of these mugs'll be focusin' their energies on makin' it in, so don't ye go interferin' wi' 'em!"
"Got it," Criss agreed.
Linehan hobbled away to his office. Criss scanned around to find George. The stench of sweat and damp had not abated one bit since yesterday, but he and his crew did their level best to acclimate themselves to the reeking atmosphere.
"Did you bring the bottled water, JD?" Criss asked his brother.
"There's a twenty-four pack in the truck," JD told him. "I shoulda bought some filter masks."
"Maybe some Febreze as well?" Criss half-jokingly suggested.
JD shook his head. "It'd take a thirty-gallon drum of that stuff to make this place smell better," he commented.
"More, I'd say," Criss added.
JD nodded, chuckling a little. "See George somewhere around here?" he asked Criss.
Criss scanned the gym. Two boxers sparring in the ring, one tanned and limber, the other black and stocky (Tobe Lacie, perhaps? thought Criss). A blond Teutonic type hammering away on the speed bag. A chubby young man with pudgy features that he recognized as Down's syndrome slowly circling the room, picking up discarded towels and placing them in a wicker basket. Another boxer skipping rope with such rapidity the rope itself blurred into invisibility. Suddenly he spotted George by the large mirror on the far wall, shadowboxing. "Hey! There he is!" Criss said, pointing to the mirror.
"Maybe we shouldn't bother him right now," JD suggested. "Remember what Linehan said about the match tryouts tomorrow?"
"Hey! C'mon!" Criss cajoled. "He's our cousin! He won't mind!"
Before JD could stop him, his impetuous youngest brother strode toward the mirror where his cousin was practicing his moves. "Hey, George!" he called out, "what's up?"
George was jolted out of his stance. He glared irritably at Criss. "Oh, geez, Criss!" he snapped. "You made me lose my concentration!"
Criss was taken aback. "Oh, gee, sorry, George," he apologized. "I-I didn't mean to--"
George waved a heavily gloved hand. "Never mind," he grunted. "Just let me finish my session here, and I'll get back to you."
Criss muttered another apology and turned to leave. As bad luck would have it, he turned in the direction of a glaring Seamus Linehan. "I told ye not t'go disturbin' me fighters!" he barked, aiming the business end of his cane in Criss' chest area. "Move yer arse or I'll toss it outta here!"
Criss guided the cane away from himself. "Watch it, man," he said nervously, "you can poke someone's eye out with that thing."
Linehan lowered his weapon of choice and hobbled toward George. He got his attention by tapping him on the shins with his cane. "Yer sparrin' partner fer the day called in," he informed George. "His wife's havin' a baby, so he can't make it. Ye'll have to cancel yer practice match if'n ye can't find a replacement." With that, he hobbled away again, totally ignoring Criss standing there.
George was crestfallen. "Damn!" he spat. "The tryouts are tomorrow, and I need the practice. Everyone's already paired up--who the hell am I gonna spar with now?"
"I'll spar with you, George," Criss offered helpfully.
George looked up. "You?"
Criss nodded. "Hey, I'm not afraid, and besides, I took martial arts, remember?"
"Martial arts and boxing are two different things, Criss."
"Look, you want to make it to the tryouts tomorrow or not?"
"Well, yeah, but--"
"So, I'm your man!"
George sighed. "Lemme clear it with Seamus, okay?"
Criss agreed. "Wait here," George said, and walked over to Linehan's office. Criss could hear murmurs between George and Seamus behind the dented metal door, then the old man emerged from his office, hobbling faster than Criss had ever seen him. Linehan eyed him carefully. "So, ye wanna spar wi' yer cousin the Greek here, d'ye, boyo?" he said warily.
"I do," Criss replied.
"Git into a pair of trunks and show me what ye got," Linehan ordered.
Criss turned to George. "Trunks?"
"He means boxer's shorts," George explained. "C'mon, I got an extra pair in my locker."
Criss followed his cousin to the locker room, which stank even worse of sweat and dirty clothes. George opened his locker and pulled out a pair of blue EverLast briefs. He tossed them to Criss. "You can change in there," he said, pointing to a booth adjacent to the row of lockers. "You'll have to do it in your stockinged feet, though; I ain't got a spare pair of shoes for you."
Criss stepped into the changing booth with some trepedition--God only knew what he'd find in there, he thought. Mercifully, there were no dead bodies or anything, so he pulled off his bling, his t-shirt, his ragged jeans, and his CK underwear (he wanted to keep them clean for after the sparring match). He then siezed the blue shorts and covered his nudity as hastily as he could. He tightened the drawstrings around his waist (they were a little too big for him, but they weren't too bad), and emerged from the booth. "Well?" he said, shrugging. "How do I look?"
"Like Criss Angel in a pair of boxer's trunks," George deadpanned. He handed him a pair of boxing gloves. "C'mon, let's go."
Criss pulled on the gloves as he followed George out of the locker room. The cameramen aimed their lenses squarely upon the two cousins. JD leaned over to George. "Go easy on him," he murmured. "He's got a live show to do tonight."
Linehan came hobbling up to the cousins. "You!" he barked at Criss. "Over here!"
Criss stepped forward. Linehan appraised his body, naked save for the blue shorts blooming around his hips. The old man raised and squeezed his biceps, thumped his chest, rapped his back with his cane, and lifted his legs with the professional air of a horse trader. Criss was bewildered, almost offended, by this brusque examination; it was as if he was some sort of livestock up for sale or something.
"Ye'll do," Linehan pronounced, satisfied. "Git yer arse into the ring after this bout."
Criss stood there, bemused. George laid a gloved hand on his cousin's shoulder. "Don't take it personally, Criss," he said. "He did the same thing to me, too. It's all part of the game."
The whistle blew, signalling the shift change. "We're up," George said. "Let's go."
Criss climbed into the ring. A padded helmet was shoved onto his head, and he was guided to his corner. He watched as George performed warm-ups: stretching, squatting, rolling his arms. Thinking he should do the same, he followed suit, imitating his more experience cousin's every move. "I'm gonna die," he murmured to himself. "I'm gonna get killed."
He spotted one of the cameramen taping him. He lowered himself to lens range and mouthed the word Help, but it was too late. The referee was signalling the beginning of the practice bout. Criss stood up and faced his cousin, now his opponent, across the mat. They tapped gloves according to custom, and waited for the signal to begin.
"Three minutes to a round, three rounds to a bout," Sean Linehan instructed. "No hitting below the belt, no kicking, no tripping. If you need to call a time out, raise your right hand. Ready? Go!"
Criss had seen George take a swing on the punching bag machine in his suite, but he never dreamed he himself would be on the receiving end of his cousin's infamous right hook. He spent the better part of the first round dodging and ducking the blows that came his way, barely getting one hit into the chest. My God! Criss thought in amazement. This guy's a machine!
Mercifully, Round One ended. Criss staggered to his corner, reeling from the punishment he had just received. George was just getting his second wind when the referee signalled the end. Not so easy, is it, little cousin? he sneered mentally.
JD stood behind Criss in his corner. "You gonna give up now?" he asked.
Criss wheeled around. "Hell, no!" he gasped. "You know me--I ain't no quitter!"
"No, you're just a stubborn (bleeper) who hates losing," JD retorted.
"Damn straight I am!"
Round Two began. Criss took his stance, better prepared this time. He fired a right to George's face, but was deflected by an elbow block. George came at him with a left to the side of the head, knocking him off balance. Angry now, Criss came back swinging, and it was George who had to block and duck the blows, only he had more practice than his impulsive cousin. He bided his time, waiting for Criss to wear himself out, then with a right to the jaw sent him sprawling onto the mat. Criss struggled to his feet, his head spinning.
"You okay, Criss?" George asked.
Criss nodded, exhausted but unwilling to give up. "C'mon," he panted. "It's not over yet."
He staggered to his feet, wavering as he took his stance. He swung at George with the last of his strength, only to fall flat on his face when his cousin stepped aside. "I think he's had enough, George," JD called out.
George and the ref helped Criss up onto his feet. "C'mon, Criss," the former said. "You've had enough for today."
JD led Criss out of the ring. "You'd better take him home, JD," George said. "His clothes are in the locker room."
Criss left the gym feeling disgraced. "How the hell did I let him beat me like that?" he kept asking himself on the way back to the Luxor. "I had years of martial arts training, and I'm just as fit as he is. How the hell did I let him beat me like that?"
"Criss, stop beating yourself up like that, okay?" JD told him firmly. "You're not going to be good at everything you do. You can't win them all. George is just better trained at being a boxer, that's all. Let it go and get some rest for tonight's show, okay?"
Criss sighed. He knew his brother was right. Still, the defeat stung him more deeply than any punch George threw at him. He had always hated losing at anything he tried, whether it was magic, music, martial arts, or any other competition. His competitive spirit had driven him to success in life, but it made defeat that much harder to swallow.
You won this one, George, he said to himself. But I swear to God I'm gonna go for a rematch!
Back at the production office at the Luxor Hotel, Criss' manager, Dave Baram, was going over some paperwork when the chief of hotel security walked in. A sense of foreboding came over Baram--whenever the hotel's top cop showed up, bad news was sure to follow.
"Hey, Macaffey," Baram greeted him with forced joviality. "What can I do for you?"
Macaffey slapped down a flyer. "Be on the lookout for this guy, willya?" he said bluntly. "He's been causing trouble all over Vegas."
"So, who is he?" Baram asked. "A mugger? A serial killer?"
"He's a flasher."
Baram laughed in surprise. "A flasher! You gotta be kidding me!"'
The grim expression on Macaffey's face told him he was not kidding. "Read the flyer," he ordered, "and if you or your staff see him, call us."
He turned on his heel and strode out of the office. Baram read the flyer. A middle-aged man, about five-eleven, dark hair, moustache, bulbous nose, wearing a long raincoat with nothing underneath it had been reported allegedly exposing himself in public around the metropolitan area, mostly targeting older women. If spotted, please report the suspect to the police or hotel security.
Baram tossed the flyer aside. He had more important things to do than worry about some loser who liked showing off his tackle to little old ladies. Let the police handle this one, he thought. That sorry (bleeper) needs to get a life! Hope they find him before he gets his ass kicked by some lady's husband or something. Still, if he does, it's no skin off my nose. He deserves whatever comes his way.
09-04-2011, 10:55 PM
Early morning sunlight shimmered on the placid water of the hotel swimming pool. A gentle desert breeze played against the canvas awnings covering the large cushions beneath them. The pool area was empty, save for the camera crew setting up to tape underwater footage of Criss Angel for his Sports episode of MindFreak. Criss had insisted on shooting this segment early in the morning before any of the guests arrived; he needed the solitude for the moment he would perform his underwater illusion.
The camera crew talked amongst themselves as they worked. "Think Criss is fully recovered from that beating he got from George yesterday?" Tony asked.
"Physically speaking, yeah," Keith replied. "I don't know about his ego, though. Knowing him, he'll be demanding a rematch."
"If he does," Tony said, adjusting a microphone, "I'll put my money on George. Swear to God, that guy could punch a hole in a brick wall!"
"Speaking of George," Keith said as he checked the angle for Camera One," you know he's trying out for the exhibition match at the Excalibur next month?"
"When's he trying out?"
"Today at noon."
Tony nodded. "He'll make it for sure," he said confidently. "With the right hook he's got, he could go pro if he wanted to."
"What, and give up showbusiness?"
Both men laughed. Just then Criss entered the pool area, wearing only a pair of ragged jeans. "Hey, guys," he said in way of greeting. "Everything ready?"
Keith nodded. "Just about ready."
His relaxed demeanor suddenly turned into agitation. "Oh, (bleep)!" he exclaimed, slapping his forehead with the heel of his hand. "I forgot my swimsuit! Gotta go back and get it."
"Hey, no prob," Tony said. "Gerard left it in the dressing area for you. It's in the gym bag."
The tension faded quickly. Criss smiled with relief. "Oh! Okay, thanks!"
He left the cameramen for the dressing area, grateful for Gerard's thoughtfulness. He found the gym bag on the narrow bench in one of the booths, unzipped it--and discovered that his hypnotist consultant's motives had not been entirely altruistic. Instead of his usual shorts, there was a tiny red thong that some people referred to as a banana hammock. Clipped to the waistband (if it could be called that) was a note in Gerard's handwriting: To Criss: A little something for the ladies! Ha! Ha!
Criss dropped the thong in disgust. Very funny, Gerard! Real hilarious! You're about as funny as a crutch! He left the dressing area to go back to his suite. Just remember, Gerard: payback is a (bleep)!
He found his shorts in the drawer of his bedroom dresser and returned to the pool area for taping. Tony and Keith were puzzled. "Didn't Gerard pack your suit in the bag?" Tony asked.
"Wrong one," Criss replied dismissivly. "Let's get started, okay?"
He retired to the dressing area a second time, stripped off his jeans, and returned wearing his shorts, a flesh-toned form-fitting brief that clung to his body in all of the right places, giving the illusion of total nudity. "Cameras rolling?" he called out.
Criss took several deep breaths, dived into the pool and glided along the concrete bottom like a dolphin. He emitted tiny air bubbles from his nostrils as he swam past the underwater camera centered by one wall of the pool. The clarity of the water, illuminated by natural sunlight, allowed for excellent closeups of Criss' body underneath the surface, the play of his muscles with every stroke of his arms and kick of his legs. His aquarium underwater escape (which had almost killed him the first time he tried it) had conditioned his lungs to retain air for up to five minutes at a time, so there was no fear of drowning. After nearly four minutes of swimming for the camera, Criss finally emerged to the surface, his dark hair slicked back from the pool water. "We're good?" he cried.
"Good." Criss climbed out of the pool and toweled himself off. The swim had actually made him feel better. Maybe he should consider swimming as part of his fitness program? "Okay," he said, "now for the demonstration." He turned to his assistants. "Take your positions!" he ordered. Then, to the cameramen, "Are you ready to shoot?"
Tony waved that they were ready to roll the cameras. Two assistants unfolded a sheer white sheet attached at either end with a rod and stretched it out over the width of the pool, holding it up vertically. "Okay, lower the curtain!" Criss directed.
The screen was lowered, revealing nothing unusual behind it. The cameras rolled. "Raise the curtain!" Criss shouted.
Again, the screen was raised. This time, Criss dived into the pool and swam underneath it, disappearing on the other side.
"NOW!!" Criss shouted even louder.
The screen dropped, this time revealing seven bikini-clad models flanking him on both sides. The camera panned the group as the girls cheered and waved and cuddled Criss' half-naked body. Criss himself could only smile. God, I love my job! he said to himself.
09-04-2011, 11:01 PM
George stood under the stinging hot shower, limp with fatigue. He had gone three rounds with Tobe Lacie to qualify for the Excalibur match that afternoon, after going another three with Christian Ruhr, the blond bomber of Austrian descent with the sharpest reflexes George had ever seen. It was all he could do to keep up with Ruhr in the ring. The qualifying bout ended in a draw. His next bout with Lacie was more successful but just as punishing; he scored a couple of points ahead of Tobe, but just barely. Now, it was all over, and George was completely drained of energy, as were his fellow fighters.
"When I get back to the Luxor," he muttered to himself, "I'm going in to the spa for a complete body massage, and I don't care how much it costs."
There were seven boxers trying out for the match (Evan "Woody" Wood had bowed out, having just become a father), but only four were allowed on the team for the finals, and Linehan wanted his four best fighters to represent him. The points were still being tallied by Seamus and his son, Sean while the fighters soothed away their aches and pains with hot showers and medicated ointments. His other son, David, made his slow way around the gym, his dull pudgy face expressionless as he gathered up wet towels into his basket to be laundered in the old Maytag washing machine in the back. The sharp, cool smell of eucalyptus overpowered the rank odor of male sweat and dirty clothes.
George turned off the shower and toweled himself dry. He padded to the locker where he kept his regular clothes and began to dress. As he sat down to pull on his socks, he became aware of a large presence beside him. He turned and saw Tobe Lacie beisde him.
"Damn good fight, man," Tobe said, sitting down beside him.
"Yeah," George grunted, "you, too."
"Think you made it?"
"Probably?" Tobe snorted. "Hell, the way you went after Ruhr, they'd be nuts to turn you down! You're lucky you got a draw with that mother(bleeper)!"
George shrugged. "You?"
"You think you made it?"
"I'd better, or I'm gonna be (bleeped) off like a mother(bleeper)." Tobe began to laugh. "I saw you yesteday, sparring with your cousin Criss. Man, you whooped his ass good there, bro! Nailed him in just two rounds! I mean, (bleep)!"
"More like one and a half," George said. "Thing is, he works out like a demon in his private gym, practices martial arts and all that, but he barely lasted half a bout in the ring. He should have lasted longer than than. I don't get it."
"Because he wore himself out trying to knock you down," Tobe said. "He thinks he knows the moves, but he don't. He ain't had the trainin' you and me got under our belts. That's why he lost. You should tell him not to quit his day job if he wants to stay healthy." He shifted his weight. "How's he doin', anyway?"
"He's fine," George replied. "(Bleeped) off about losing, but he's fine."
Tobe made a dismissive wave of the hand. "Ah, he'll get over it."
"You don't know Criss, do you?"
"Criss is a guy who hates losing anything, no matter what it is," George explained. "He loses, he wants a rematch until he wins. Hell, he's been trying to beat my score on the punching bag machine in his suite ever since he got the damn thing! He's just that competitive."
Tobe chuckled a little. "So you think he's gonna want a rematch with you, huh?"
"He will want a rematch," George said. "And he won't quit until I'm flat out on the mat, unconscious."
The heavy metal door of Linehan's office swung open. Everyone fell silent as Sean Linehan stepped forward, holding a sheet of paper in his hand. "All right, we got the results of the tryouts," he said loudly. "Stand up when I call your name. Browning!"
Browning stood up expectantly, but sank down again when Sean said he was out of the running. "Tough luck, man," Lacie said sympathetically, patting his shoulder.
Ellsworth stood up. "You're in!" Sean said.
Ellsworth pumped his fist in the air. "In your face, Browning!" he sneered.
"Back off, dude," Browning grumbled.
Tobe stood up. "You're in!"
"Way to go, Tobe!" George said, bumping fists with Lacie.
"Orowitz! You're out! Ruhr! You're in!"
Figured he would be, George thought. The guy's like Draco in Rocky Three.
George rose. "You're in!" Sean announced.
George was elated. I made it! he cheered inwardly. I (bleeping) made it!
"Wells! You're out!" Sean said. "That's all, gentlemen! Next Friday is the quarter finals, the next Friday after that is the semis, and the third Friday is the Excalibur bout. Be there!"
He retreated back into the office. George and Tobe highfived each other. "We're in, man!" they cheered. "We're in like Flynn!"
Fifteen year old Davina Uberman skipped happily into Circus Circus with her sixty-two year old grandmother, Midge. It was her first trip to Las Vegas, and she was as excited as any teenager would be to see the sights and experience the pleasures the Entertainment Capital of America had to offer (at least the ones she could legally enjoy, anyway). This afternoon would be spent riding the roller coaster and seeing the acrobats at Circus Circus, then dinner along Fremont. The evening would be the highlight of her visit--seeing Criss Angel's live show, Believe, at the Luxor. How her grandmother got tickets for that show was as astonishing and as mysterious as any of Criss' illusions.
Midge, for her part, was practically a regular around Vegas. This was her ninth or tenth visit here in almost as many years, but her first with her eldest granddaughter. Vegas was just a few hours' drive from her home in Arizona; ever since she retired early from her job as an investment broker back in the Nineties, she'd been making annual trips to Sin City to try her luck in the casinos. On her very first visit to Ceasar's Palace, she won a million dollar jackpot on the slots. Unlike many winners, however, she stowed her windfall with the rest of her investments, increasing their value immensely and allowing her to live the good life in Arizona despite the failing economy. Her professionally tinted hair was stylishly coiffed, strategically concealing the surgical scars from her face lift eight years ago, and her designer clothes, always in style, flattered a less than perfect figure she tried to keep in shape by playing tennis every morning before the desert sun grew too hot. There was no nursing home in Midge Uberman's future, not if she could help it.
Davina was almost sixteen, practically a woman, but her enthusiasm was that of a seven-year-old child. She wanted to see everything, do everything, taste, feel and experience everything. She was thrilled at seeing the elephants, she screamed as she raced down the track on the roller coaster, she gorged on ice cream despite what it would do to her complexion. Let her enjoy herself this once, Midge thought to herself. Childhood is so brief, and hers is coming to an end. Soon, she'll be driving, then graduating high school, then going off to college, then she'll be a working stiff like the rest of us. Let her have this one precious moment of carefree innocence before she's burdened with the responsibilites of adulthood.
She beamed as Davina bounded out of the coaster car and flew into her grandmother's arms. "That was totally awesome!" she exclaimed estatically. "And I didn't even get sick like I thought I would!"
"You got a strong stomach like your father," Midge told her. "Now, let's hurry and get our seats for the show."
Grandmother and granddaughter walked happily down the midway, arm in arm, in total bliss. They did not see the stranger in the black raincoat approaching them casually until it was too late. He was just a few feet away from the Ubermans when he spread open his coat, revealing his revoltingly naked body.
Midge and Davina froze for a moment, shocked into silence, then Davina let out an ear-piercing scream. Instinctively, Midge covered her granddaughter's eyes from the horror she had witnessed with her hands and cried out for security. The man in the raincoat covered himself up again and slunk away, gloating.
"Can you describe the man you saw?" a police officer asked Midge later in the security office."
"Dark hair, all over," Midge said cuddling her traumatized granddaughter. "All over his body, arms, legs. He had a dark mustache as well. All he had on was that raincoat."
"How tall was he?"
"About my height, five-eight or so. He had this little potbelly on him, and he was just plain ugly to look at."
"It was gross!" Davina cried. "That guy was a pervert! Who is he, anyway?"
"Well, we think he's the same guy who's been going around flashing older women around Vegas," the officer replied. "He's racked up several charges of indecent exposure already, but now, since he's exposed himself to a minor, he's just got himself a CSA charge tacked on as well."
"CSA?" Midge asked.
"Criminal Sexual Assault," the officer explained. "Also known as statutory rape. Any obscene act, even being in a hotel room with an unrelated minor without parental consent or knowledge, is a CSA. He's facing serious jail time for this."
"Well, I hope you find him soon!" Midge said indignantly. "That man is a menace to society!"
"We'll find him, ma'am," the officer assured her. "How long will you be staying in Vegas?"
"Until Monday morning."
"If we find him before then, we'll need to get in touch with you so you can identify him. Can you give us your number so we can call you?"
Midge gave the officer her cell phone number. "Thank you, ma'am," he said. "And don't let this incident ruin your stay here in Vegas. This guy's a perv, but he's harmless compared to some of the characters we deal with on a daily basis."
Midge nodded. "Of course." She stood up to leave. "Come on, Davey," she said. "Let's go."
Davina rose to her feet. Midge hugged her as comfortingly as only a grandmother could. "Now, we're not going to let a little thing like a flasher ruin our weekend, are we?" she said encouragingly.
Davina tried to push the sordid image of the flasher out of her mind. "No," she said firmly, more to convince herself than her grandmother. "No, I'm not."
"Of course not," Midge said. "Now, we'll go see Believe and forget all about it."
Yes, Davina thought, they would go see Believe and forget all about it--if she could. She tried to replace the memory of the flasher with an image of Criss Angel's toned, sexy torso, adorned with gleaming pendants, but the image of that creep's ugly, hairy, potbellied body still haunted her. She made a mental note to post her experience on the fanboards as a warning to her fellow Loyals planning to go to Vegas soon. She wished she had had the presence of mind to take a picture of the creep with her camera phone so the police would have something to work with, but the shock had been too great for her.
Well, Gran was right about one thing: she was not going to let that perv ruin her Vegas weekend. The police would find him, with or without her help; she'd seen enough episodes of CSI: New York to know that crime investigation was too sophisticated and scientific these days to let anyone get away with anything. Besides, how hard could it be to find someone wearing a raincoat in Nevada in the middle of summer?
09-04-2011, 11:04 PM
Sunday. The sanctified day of rest for most of the world, and especially for Criss Angel, who took full advantage of it after a grueling week of taping his series and performing live on stage twice a night. Though he had the stamina of a man almost half his age, the need for sleep was just as strong. He might have appeared immortal on stage, performing amazing acts of magic and illusions, but he was still a man of flesh and blood with all the limitations of any other human on Earth.
This particular Sunday Criss slept until after noon, virtually comatose after the week he had gone through. His beloved cat, Hammie, lay curled at the foot of the king-sized bed, dozing contentedly. Outside, the midday sun beat down mercilessly upon the city. Waves of heat shimmered on the pavement below, and every surface burned like a stove, but in the air-conditioned comfort of his suite at the Luxor Hotel, Criss was oblivious to the desert inferno on the other side of the giant tinted windowpane in his bedroom.
Something in his brain kicked on like an internal alarm clock, and his eyes fluttered open. He stretched the stiffness out of his limbs, rubbed his stubbly face, and rose from bed, clad only in a pair of gray CK briefs. Hammie idly watched his owner stumble to the bathroom to tend to certain bodily needs which even the most famous shared with the rest of humanity. The trickling sound of water striking water eminated from the bathroom, then a loud flush, then the sturdier sound of water landing on porcelain tile as Criss showered. He shaved away the five o'clock shadow around his jawline, combed his black hair, brushed his teeth, and pulled on his bathrobe, ready for the day though the day itself was almost half over by now.
He opened the double door of his suite. On the floor was a copy of the Sunday Las Vegas Sun sheathed in plastic wrap. Knowing full well the futility of training Hammie to fetch the paper for him, he scooped it up and carried it to the sofa, fetching a bottle of juice in the small fridge on the way. After tossing aside the bundle of inserts and supplements ("Geez!" he said to himself, "how many trees had to die to make all of this (bleep)?") he settled back with the main body of the newspaper on the sofa.
GM was scaling down after declaring bankruptcy; President Obama was working to restore America's credibility with the rest of the world; Michael Jackson's records were selling at a phenomemal rate since the late singer's death two years ago while his children visited his old home in Gary, Indiana; unemployment was still at an all-time high--pretty much the same old same old, Criss thought as he scanned the paper. He turned to the local news section to get a feel of what was happening in the metropolitan area of Las Vegas. The first article he saw gave him a jolt.
Some local man the press had dubbed the Vegas Flasher had been exposing himself in public for the past two weeks. He mainly targeted older women around fifty or sixty, but yesterday afternoon he had revealed himself in front of a sixty-two year old grandmother and her fifteen-year-old granddaughter at Circus Circus. Exposing himself to the older woman was considered only gross indecency or minor assault, but in front of a minor constituted CSA, a felony offense. Citizens were advised to be on the lookout for this person and to report him to the police if spotted.
Criss read the description of the infamous flasher: middle-aged man, dark hair, heavy dark body hair, small potbelly, bulbous nose, mustache, wearing only a black raincoat. He rolled his eyes in disgust; the guy must either be a pervert or a nutcase--probably both, he reasoned. He turned the page to find something else more worthy of his attention, dismissing the Vegas Flasher from his mind. He was caught up in an article about the mayor's state of the city address when he heard his cell phone go off in his bedroom. Criss tossed the paper aside and rose from the sofa to answer it, hoping it wasn't his manager or producer or anyone else on his crew; this was his day of rest, and he wanted to enjoy it as long as he could. To his relief, it was his brother, JD, calling. He flipped open the phone and answered it. "Hey, JD, what's up?" he said.
"Hey, Criss," he heard JD say jovially, "Did I wake you up?"
"Nah, it's okay," Criss replied drily, "I had to get up to answer the phone anyway."
"Ba-dum-bump!" JD laughed. "Okay, the reason I called is that Mom's coming to Vegas to stay with Costa for a while."
Criss was delighted, but a bit puzzled. He was always delighted when his beloved mother came to Vegas, but usually she came during the winter months, almost never during the summer--the desert heat was too much for a seventy-four year old woman to bear. "That's great, bro," he said cheerfully, "but what's the occasion?"
"Well, it seems the old homestead became infested with red ants," JD explained, "so Mom's gotta retreat for a few weeks while they fumigate the place. The whole house is under a huge tent to gas out the bugs."
"Must be one helluva infestation," Criss commented.
"Damn straight," JD concurred. "I gotta pick her up at the airport tomorrow afternoon. Care to come."
"Hey, I'd love to!" Suddenly, he remembered. "Oh, (bleep), I can't," he groaned apologetically. "I got that physical that's gonna take all day. Sorry."
"Well, hope they don't find anything," JD said optimistically. "Oh, by the way, you hear about George?"
"What about him?"
"He made the quarter finals to the Excalibur fight yesterday."
"All riiiiighhht!" Criss cheered. "Way to go, George!"
"The match is this Friday," JD told him. "I know you're busy, so I'll tape it for you."
"There's just one more thing."
"Someone posted a YouTube video of you in the nude."
Criss was stunned. "Come again?"
"Yeah, someone shot a tape of you coming out of the shower and put it on YouTube. They blocked your privates, though, totally censored, so there's nothing to worry about there. Any idea who put it there?"
"Oh, yeah," Criss replied through gritted teeth. "I know exactly who put it there. And when I find the (bleeper), he's gonna be road pizza!"
09-04-2011, 11:05 PM
OMG!!! Stop the story there would ya'?! Just when I got sucked in... Great cliffhanger!
09-04-2011, 11:09 PM
Monday morning, eight forty-five, Rose Medical Center. Criss sat in a plastic chair in the waiting room with a brown plastic clipboard holding a stack of forms to be filled out for his physical--the same ones he filled out last year, and the year before, and the year before that, ever since he signed the contract with the Luxor. It was a tedious routine, but it was better than reading the three-year-old Family Circle magazine lying next to him on the side table. Criss picked up the pen provided with the clipboard and began to fill in the blanks.
Name, address, city, state, ZIP code, phone number, insurance information, driver's license, number of person to contact in case of an emergency--he scribbled them all in. Why the hell don't they just use what I gave them last time? he wondered. Save a lot of paperwork for both of us. Next came a questionnaire regarding his physical well-being: Did he or his family have a history of any of the diseases or other maladies listed on the form? Criss circled "cancer" due to his father's illness and "heart disease" because of his mother's bypass a few years ago. Was he a smoker? No, he never was and never would be. Did he have a history of alcohol or drug abuse? Again, no, unless being an adrenalin junkie counted. Did he or his family have a history of such mental disorders as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the like? Nah, I just enjoy jumping out of runaway vans and running through collapsing hotels! he joked to himself, but he checked No just the same. If he had checked Yes, it wouldn't have made any difference. If they put him in a straitjacket, he'd just get out of it.
Criss signed the forms, got up from the uncomfortable plastic chair and walked over to the reception window. He gave the clipboard and pen back to the medical assisitant , then returned to his seat to wait for the doctor to see him. Across from him, a black woman sat quietly perusing an issue of The Watchtower, the premier publication of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Something clicked inside his brain when he read the cover of that little magazine: Michael Jackson had been a Jehovah's Witness, he recalled. Did he go door to door passing out those pamphlets like the others in that church early in his life? He couldn't help but laugh at the mental image of the King of Pop knocking on someone's door with a copy of The Watchtower in his hand and telling the person who lived there that Jesus was coming soon and blah, blah, blah. Maybe he autographed them before he handed them out, he thought.
The side door opened, and a medical assistant appeared. "Anita Bloom?" she called out.
The black woman set aside her magazine, conspicuously leaving on the table for others to read, and followed the assistant into the doctor's office. More out of boredom than curiosity, Criss picked it up and browsed through it. The watercolor lithograph cover showed people in various stages of dress, from Muslim women in full chador and hijab to American teens in miniskirts and tube tops. The boldly lettered caption read What Does the Bible Say About MODESTY?
Criss tossed the pamphlet aside. I know what the Bible says about modesty, he said to himself. It says cover your ass or go to Hell, that's what it says! What's the big hangup about the human body, anyway? Adam and Eve were both naked in the Garden of Eden, and they wern't ashamed. The body's not evil--it's the way we treat it! These people need to lighten up a little!
Suddenly he recalled what his brother, JD, said about the YouTube post of him in the shower, and his own shocked reaction. Was he being a hypocrite? No, he told himself. He was upset over the invasion of his privacy than his embarrassment over being naked. Now I know how Tommy Lee felt when he and Pam saw those videos they made go public. I am so going to kill Kevin or whoever posted that tape for this! he vowed.
The side door opened again. "Criss?"
Criss rose and followed the medical assistant to a small examining room. A threadbare hospital gown lay neatly folded on the examining table. "Just change into this gown," the assistant instructed, "and the doctor will be with you shortly." She left quietly, closing the door behind her.
Away went the collection of silvery pendants from around his neck and rings from his fingers. Off came the heavy combat boots. Up and over went the gray Affliction t-shirt. Down went the ragged jeans, followed by the CK briefs. Criss folded his clothes neatly and set them aside, hiding his bling inside them. He then struggled valiently to cover his naked self with the awkwardly designed white hospital gown that left half his body exposed no matter which way he put it on. Exasperated, he stripped it off entirely and tied it around his waist like a cotton loincloth. Then he hopped onto the exam table and tried to relax.
A knock on the door, then Dr. Melinda Shyne appeared. "Hello, Criss," she greeted him cordially. "Nice to see you again."
"Nice to see you, too, Doc," Criss replied.
Dr. Shyne set her clipboard aside, turned, and did a double take when she saw the unorthodox way her patient was wearing the hospital gown. Criss merely shrugged. "What?" he deadpanned. "It works for me."
The good doctor decided not to make a federal case of it; she had a full caseload of patients to see that day and she didn't want to waste time arguing about the proper way of donning a hospital gown. Instead, she merely got down to business. "Okay, fine," she sighed resignedly. "Let's get started, shall we? I need you to sit up for me."
Criss sat up. Dr. Shyne performed the preliminary exam: She took his temperature with a digital thermometer; she wrapped a blood pressure cuff around one bicep and pumped it up, then released it. She laid a stethescope on his broad shoulders, scarred faintly from the hooks impaled into his flesh years ago, to check his lungs, then onto his chest to measure his heartbeat. Criss remained indifferent through it all; it was no big deal, at least so far. It was what came next that unnerved him.
"All right, take off your gown and lie on your back," Dr. Shyne ordered him as she pulled on a pair of latex gloves.
Criss did as he was told. He pulled off his cotton gown from his hips and lay naked on the paper-lined exam table. "Try to relax, okay?" Dr. Shyne said as she carefully probed for any signs of cancer or other unusual growths or lesions on the single part of his anatomy that thousands of female Loyals would have sold their souls to catch a glimpse of. "Have you had any unusual discharges or pain while urinating?" she asked as she felt his genitalia for anything out of the ordinary. "Notice any swelling or anything?"
She's a professional, he reminded himself, fighting his nervousness. It's nothing personal; it's all part of the examination. "No, nothing."
Satisfied that the equipment was in perfect working order, Dr. Shyne ordered Criss off the exam table. "We need to do a prostate exam next," she told him.
Criss blanched. He knew what that meant. "Hope you trimmed your nails," he said.
Dr. Shyne ignored the quip and took out a tiny packet of lubricant. "Okay, assume the position," she ordered him.
Criss bent over double, leaning on the exam table. Dr. Shyne applied the lubricant. "Now, just relax and push against my finger," she instructed him.
Just relax, she says, Criss thought sarcastically. I'm getting cavity searched here and she tells me to relax! She's--OH (BLEEP)!
Criss braced himself against the exam table as Dr. Shyne probed around inside him for any tumors. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, she withdrew. Criss stood upright, relieved the ordeal was over. The doctor peeled off the gloves and recorded the data on the chart. "Well, that part of the exam is over," she said almost cheerfully. "You can get dressed now. We need you to go to the lab and give us some samples of your blood and urine, then you got a stress test in East Wing."
"Fine," Criss said, exhaling heavily. "Later."
Dr. Shyne left. Criss dressed in record time, happy to be getting out of there. A stress test in the East Wing, he said to himself. As if what I went through wasn't stressful enough!
09-04-2011, 11:13 PM
While his famous cousin was enduring his share of indignities at Rose Memorial Clinic, George Strumpolis was going through his own ordeal of pain and suffering as part of his training for the quarter finals coming up Friday. It was his turn in the ring, and his sparring partner was the formidable Christian Ruhr, the Austrian powerhouse with the square jawline and platinum-blond hair. This guy looks like a poster boy for the Hitler Youth, he could not help but think when he first met Ruhr for the first time in the gym over a year ago. Even as time passed, George could never strike up a friendship with him as he did with Tobe and the other boxers; the strapping blond athlete remained aloof, standoffish, though cordial enough not to offend anyone. Guy needs to lighten up a little, be a little more sociable, George thought. He's not going to win any friends with that attitude.
But this was no time for socializing. George was in the ring with Ruhr, dodging blows and returning them with all of his might. The Austrian was relentless, delivering punch after brusing punch while skillfully deflecting George's gloved fists with his arms and elbows. George, however, proved again and again he was every bit Ruhr's equal in the ring: he feinted with his left while pounded Ruhr with his right; he faked an uppercut to deliver a right cut to the chest; he slipped and ducked the nanosecond Ruhr came at him. At the end of the practice bout, Sean Linehan declared Ruhr the winner by a single point, practically a draw but a defeat all the same to George. Still, it did not do to dwell upon his failures; you put on the gloves and went back into the ring, sore but wiser.
"Good fight, Ruhr," George said in the spirit of good sportsmanship.
"Dank you," Ruhr replied with a Mona Lisa smile. "You fight goot, too. We win Friday, yah?"
George nodded. "Yeah, we win Friday."
The two men headed for the showers. Neither man spoke as the stinging hot water soothed away the aches and pains from the bout, but George noticed a ribbon tattoo on Ruhr's right shoulder: Annelise Groten 1918~1989 3875921. He calculated that Annelise Groten had been seventy-one when she died, but who was she to Ruhr? he wondered. And what was the significance of the seven numbers underneath her name? He quickly turned his back when Ruhr finished showering and left him. It didn't do to pry into his personal business; besides, Ruhr would probably break his face if he did.
George finished his shower and padded half-naked to his locker. Across from him, Ruhr sat shirtless on the bench, the mysterious tattoo fully illuminated in the flourescent light. He sat down casually and began to dress. When next he turned to face Ruhr, he was startled to see him smiling--a real smile, not the Mona Lisa one which usually creased his face.
"I see your cousin, Criss," Ruhr said, pronouncing it Criz. "I see his show, yah? He goot mageecian. You work for him, yah?"
"Yeah, I work for him," George replied casually. "So, you saw his live show?"
"Tel-lee-vis-shun," Ruhr replied, enunciating every syllable. "He do crazy stuff, yah?"
"That's an understatement."
Ruhr almost laughed. "I see him in da ring with you. Criz is no boxer, no?"
"No," George conceded, "but he's no weakling, either."
"No, no weekleeng."
George looked at the tattoo on Ruhr's shoulder. "Nice ink you got there," he said casually.
"Ah, yah." Ruhr turned his arm to show it off better. "Is for my grandmama." he pointed at the seven numbers below the name. "This was her number when she was in Dachau. They tattoo it on her arm."
George was stunned. "Your grandmother was in a concentration camp?"
Ruhr nodded sadly. "Took the whole family. Why, she never say. She was the only survivor. Came to America after the war with grandpapa."
"Son of a (bleep)!" George muttered under her breath.
"She keep number on her arm as a lesson," Ruhr went on, tapping the seven digits on his bicep. "Teach everyone about the past, so it does not happen again."
"That's one helluva history lesson," George commented.
Ruhr left the locker room. George remained, lost in thought. Poor guy. When I first met him, I thought he looked like a poster boy for the Hitler Youth. Now I find out his grandmother had survived being in a concentration camp! He shook his head sadly. Mom told me stories about Greece during the war, and I thought we had it rough back then. Now I find out that no one was safe even in Hitler's own homeland! Naziism--that's a helluva legacy to live down.
Costa scanned the YouTube site for the infamous nude video of his brother, Criss, that JD had told him about. It was only eight seconds long, repeating over and over again like an animated avatar on the fansites. YouTube had automatically censored Criss around the hips, concealing his genitals and buttocks, but it was embarrassing all the same. JD had found out that a cameraman named Kevin had taken the video during the Sports epsiode shoot in Criss' gym and had been subsequently fired because of it. Obviously, Kevin had posted it publicly out of pure spite, if not revenge. Well, the damage was done, Costa thought, though he was grateful to YouTube for censoring it the way they did. Criss may have been caught in the shower, but it was Kevin who was really in hot water. Costa hoped that Criss would not cancel tonight's private photo shoot after this.
The office door opened, and JD entered. "Hey, Cos," he said. "What're you doing?"
"Oh, just checking out Criss on YouTube," Costa replied indifferently.
"You mean Kevin's video, don't you?"
Costa nodded. "At least they censored it. Criss know about this?"
JD nodded. "Yeah, and he's plenty (bleeped) off about it."
"Can't say I blame him."
"Look, I gotta pick up Ma at the airport," JD said. "You coming?"
"Nah, I got too much work to do here," Costa said regretfully. "You go on ahead."
JD left the office. Costa logged off YouTube and concentrated on production business. He convinced himself this whole thing would blow over if no one made a big deal about it; the less publicity, the better. He had given the Administrators of the fansites orders to block any reference to the YouTube video to hasten its demise, but he was helpless to erase it from cyberspace altogether. There was nothing Criss or anyone else could do but ride it out and let it fade away over time, like the scandal over his divorce from JoAnn. Criss Angel was not the only famous person to have to suffer public indignity and embarrassment. Exposure was an occupational hazard among celebrities, be it in the form of nude photos, adulterous affairs or criminal behavior. Such was the price of fame, having one's dirty linen aired for public viewing--whether the person involved was wearing it or not.
09-04-2011, 11:19 PM
"United 483 now arriving at Gate 14A."
JD rose from his seat in the waiting area, his spirits high. United 483 was the incoming flight from New York his mother had taken. He checked his watch: ten-forty-five, right on schedule, he was pleased to note. He regretted the fact that neither Costa nor Criss could be with him to greet their mother, Dimitra, when she arrived, but Criss had his physical today and Costa said he was too busy. Well, he'd better not be too busy to take Mom home with him tonight, JD thought irritably, because that's where she's staying while she's here. Normally, Criss would have booked a suite for her at the Luxor, but since this was such short notice there was no time to make a reservation. Besides, Dimitra had always expressed a desire to see Costa's new home. At least it's bug-free, JD joked to himself.
The doors swung open, releasing a stream of passengers relieved to be free from the confining space of the plane. Among them was a petite, fashionably dressed, black-haired elderly woman towing a wheeled carryon bag. JD spotted her and waved. "Hey, Mom!" he called out. "Over here!"
Dimitra saw her eldest son and waved back. "JD!" she cried happily, sailing right into his arms. "So good to see you!"
JD hugged her back. "How was your trip?" he asked.
"Long," Dimitra replied wearily. "Long and tiring. I think I dozed off for a while there."
JD laughed. "Hey, a four-hour flight crossing three time zones--yeah, I'd find it tiring, too."
"So, where are your brothers?" Dimitra asked.
"Well, Criss is at the doctor--"
Dimitra suddenly became alarmed. "The doctor!? What's wrong with him?" she demanded. "Did he get hurt or something?"
"Take it easy, Ma," JD assured her. "Nothing's wrong--he's fine. He's just there for his annual physical, that's all."
"A physical?" The alarm faded. "Oh, well, all right then. That's good to know."
JD was not at all surprised at his mother's anxiety. Her youngest son had been in and out of emergency rooms and hospitals so many times during the course of his career that everyone had lost count. Neck injuries, puncture wounds, burns--it was a wonder Criss wasn't already six feet under, or at least crippled for life. It seemed to JD that his famous brother had more lives than a cat--how many he had left had yet to be determined.
"Costa couldn't make it because he said he was busy," JD continued, "but he's got a room waiting for you at his house."
"Too busy to say hello to his mother?" Dimitra said indignantly.
"Ma, you know he's not like that," JD spoke in his brother's defense. "You can see him tonight, okay?"
"Well, all right, then," Dimitra sniffed.
JD decided to change the subject. "So, how long are they going to fumigate the house?" he asked.
"Three weeks. Two weeks to fumigate, then another to clear the air. I had to take out all my clothes and store them with your Aunt Stella, and Minx, too; empty all the cupboards, and unplug all the appliances, including the refrigerator, so there won't be any sparks to cause a fire."
They approached the luggage carosel to claim Dimitra's baggage. "Geez, just for a bunch of little bitty ants?" JD said.
"They're everywhere! In the kitchen, in the bathroom, in all the bedrooms--all over the place! I have no idea how they got in, but they're huge! Big red ones, crawling all over the floors and walls. I found a few crawling all over me in bed two nights ago--that's when I called the exterminator. Hopefully, they'll be gone when I get back."
Dimitra's suitcase rolled into view. JD grabbed it and pulled it off the carosel. "Gassing them for two weeks? Yeah, they'd better be gone when you get back! How much is this gonna run, anyway?"
"Twelve hundred dollars."
JD was appalled. "Twelve hundred dollars to kill a bunch of ants?" He shook his head in disbelief. "For that kind of money, there'd better not be anything alive when you get back!"
"Well, at least I can spend time with my family while I'm here," Dimitra said. "That is, if none of them are too busy to spend time with me."
"You know we always make time for you, Ma," JD said. "You can watch Criss tape the show, and George's got a boxing match coming up this Friday, so you can go see him there."
"George is in a boxing match?"
"Yeah, he's been taking up boxing for over a year now," JD told her. "He's trying to qualify for this exhibition match at the Excalibur in a few weeks. He's been training like Rocky Balboa for it. We even got a few shots of him at the boxing gym he goes to."
Boxing. Well, that's nice, Dimitra thought. Boxing was a respectable sport; they even had it during the Olympics. And boxers wore padded gloves and helmets, and there were rules to follow, enforced by a referee, so there was no danger of serious injury. Compared to her son Christopher's dangerous demonstrations, George's pursuit of boxing was normal, wholesome and safe. Yes, she would enjoy watching her nephew fight in his match on Friday. It would be a welcome diversion compared to whatever life-threatening stunt her famous son had in mind for his series.
Back at Rose Memorial Medical Center, Criss had nothing in mind for his series, or for his cousin's upcoming bout, or for his mother's recent arrival, or for anything else at the moment except how to get through his physical with what little dignity he had left. After the humiliation of the "preliminary exam" at the latex-gloved hands of Dr. Melinda Shyne, he had been shuttled to the cardiac wing for the ordeal known as the "stress test". There, Criss trotted on a treadmill, stripped to his CKs (he thanked God he didn't have to wear another one of those half-assed hospital gowns again) while a medical assistant observed his vital signs on a computer monitor, picked up by sensor pads attached to his chest and a plastic respirator clamped between his jaws. I feel like a cyborg, Criss said to himself. How the hell long are they going to keep me running like this?
The medical assistant looked up from the monitor. "Are you doing okay, there, Criss?" she asked.
"Uhh-huhh," Criss grunted through the respirator.
"Let me know if you start feeling dizzy or nauseous or anything."
Criss nodded as best he could with the respirator strapped to his head. He wasn't dizzy or nauseous, he was just plain fed up with the whole business and wanted to get out of there. After this was over, he still had to go to the lab to give samples of his urine, blood and whatever other bodily fluid they asked for, another indignity to suffer at Rose Memorial. God, get me through this day, he prayed fervently.
"All right," the medical assistant said. "You can stop now."
Criss stopped running. The assistant removed the sensors from his chest and released him from the respirator. He rubbed his aching jaws as he dismounted from the treadmill. "How'd I do?" he asked.
"Very well," the assistant replied. "BP, 110 over 70. Respiration, 60. Heartbeat, 30. You're still going strong. I've seen men your age almost pass out on the treadmill in half the time. Keep up the good work."
Criss grunted, "Thanks."
"Now you just need to go to the lab for your tests," the assistant reminded him, "and you're all set. Have a good day!"
"Yeah, same to you," Criss mumbled as he pulled on his clothes. Only one more ordeal to go, he told himself, and he was free for another year. He stumbled to the lab area, pausing at a drinking fountain to refresh his mouth and tongue, dried out from the plastic respirator. When he arrived at the lab reception area, he was surprised to see his friend, Sully Erna, sitting in the waiting area, his right hand wrapped in gauze.
"Hey, Sully," Criss called out. "What's up, dude?"
Sully looked up, himself surprised. "Hey, Criss! How's it goin'?" He sheepishly held up his bandaged hand. "Sorry, man, but as you can see..."
Criss sat down beside him, staring at the gauze bindings. "Yeah, like, what the hell happened, man?"
"Beer bottle broke," Sully explained. "Cut my hand open like a mother(bleeper). Came here to get the results of my blood tests, see if there's any infection or something."
"Gee, that's too bad."
"Me? Oh, just the annual checkup," Criss replied airily. "Gotta check my fluids, you know. It's part of my contract with the Luxor--they want to protect their investment, namely me. I just came out of a stress test, and before that, well..."
"What'd they do?"
"Let's just say there's not a part of me that hasn't been poked, prodded, and probed, inside and out," Criss told him.
"Even up your--"
Sully laughed sympathetically. "Hey, dude, I've been there before. Was it a male doctor who, you know..."
"Female," Criss replied. "Dr. Melinda Shyne. Nice lady, good doctor."
"Well, you're lucky," Sully said. "I had some fifty-year-old guy with stubby fingers go prospecting up my ass. Swore I'd never go through that again."
Criss nodded. "Well, like I said, it's part of my contract." He leaned back casually in his seat. "So, what's new with you?" he asked.
"Besides the hand, not much," Sully replied. "Say, did you hear about that Vegas Flasher? The (bleeper) going around opening his trenchcoat to little old ladies around here?"
"I read about him in the Sunday paper yesterday," Criss said. "His last victim was a fifteen-year-old girl with her grandma. That's gonna lead to some serious jail time, exposing himself to a minor. Hope they find him soon."
"Why? He ain't hurtin' nobody."
"You may not think so, but if he's targeting little old ladies, he's probably gonna trigger a heart attack in one of them someday. And if he's going after minors, then he's a child molester--and you know how I feel about child molesters."
"You and me both, pal."
"Before, he was a nuisance," Criss continued. "Now, he's a threat. I'm sure the police will find him soon."
Sully began to laugh. "I keep thinking of Uncle Shermie," he said.
"Who's Uncle Shermie?"
"Oh, he was this character on a switchplate in my first apartment," Sully explained. "My roommate called him Uncle Shermie for some reason--don't think he was a relative or anything. Anyway, it was this cartoon of a flasher printed on a switchplate screwed onto a lightswitch. There was a hole around the groin area where the lightswitch went, so it looked like he--"
Criss held up his hand. "Don't go there!" he said, repelled.
"Anyway, it was pretty funny," Sully said.
A lab technician came into the waiting area. "Mr. Erna?" he called out.
"Gotta go," Sully said. "Catch you later."
Criss waved goodbye. "Later."
He sat back in his chair, emptying his head of all thought save one: it would all be over soon, and he could get his life back to normal again. A few more tests, and he was free. Just hang in there, pal, just hang in there. Forget the Vegas Flasher, Uncle Shermie and all that nonsense. Just hang in there, and it will be all over.
09-04-2011, 11:25 PM
Costa typed in the last of the production notes in the series log file and clicked Enter. There, that was done. He rubbed his weary eyes and reached for the water bottle. Tonight he would be taking more pictures for his portfolio, some of his brother, Criss, and some of a black male model/dancer named Tuburi Zubufu, a native Kenyan with charcoal black skin covering his lithe, limber body and who had no qualms about posing nude.
Costa, however, had some misgivings about tonight's photo session due to the unexpected arrival of his mother from New York. How would she react to his project? Would she be offended? Criss' being there was no problem, of course, but how could he explain Tuburi's presence? He hated to deceive her, but under the circumstances he felt he had no choice; he would simply tell her it's a simple photo shoot without mentioning the nudity, and Tuburi was just another model, and there was no way to reschedule, so would she mind not disturbing him for about two hours, please? He figured she would be too tired from her trip, so she probably wouldn't object.
He heard the door open beside him, and in walked George, flushed from his boxer's training. Costa smiled at his cousin. "Hey, George, how's it going?" he greeted him.
George merely nodded in reply. He sat down on the couch, picked up a stray water bottle on a side table and chugged it down. Costa became concerned. "Something bothering you, George?" he asked.
George laid the plastic bottle on his thigh. "Nothing, really," he said. "Just tired, that's all. Training for the quarter finals on Friday's got me beat."
"Well, don't knock yourself out."
George laughed at the unintended pun. "Knock myself out," he mused. "I'm trying to knock the other guy out, remember?" He grew somber again. "Ruhr nearly knocked me out this morning," he said. "Guy's like a machine, hammering away like that. He's the favorite to make it in to the finals, you know that?"
"Who's Ruhr?" Costa asked.
"Christian Ruhr," George replied. "Austrian guy, a real powerhouse. I've never beaten him in the ring; hell, I'm lucky to tie him. He's gonna make it to the finals, I know he is."
Costa turned to his cousin. "George, you have as much a chance to make it as Ruhr does, or anyone else for that matter. You got the meanest right hook anyone could ask for! Hell, Criss is still trying to beat your record on the punching bag machine!"
"A punching bag machine is one thing," George pointed out. "A guy like Ruhr is another. That arcade game in Criss' room doesn't hit back, you know."
Costa laughed. "The way I've seen you take a swing at that thing, I'm surprised it doesn't! It's a wonder you haven't broken the thing!"
George remained silent. Costa rose, crossed over to the couch and sat down beside him. "Look, George," he said, "you made it this far, so don't go wimping out on us now."
"I'm not wimping out!" George protested. 'I'm just tired, that's all."
"Tell you what," Costa said, "Mom's coming over to my house to stay for a few weeks. Whaddya say you come over for dinner tonight and see her, okay?"
"Why's your mom coming here all of a sudden?"
"Her house is getting fumigated, so she's staying with me until they gas out all the bugs," Costa explained. "I know it's short notice, but, well..."
George thought about it. "Yeah, sure, why not?" he replied. "Be good to see Aunt Dimitra again."
Costa smiled. "Good! Uh, there's just one thing, though. I got a photo shoot in my studio downstairs tonight, and I got a model coming over for it--"
George's eyes lit up. "She single?" he asked expectantly.
"It's a he."
George's face fell. "Oh."
"And anyway, he and I will be working for two hours down there for a project I'm doing," Costa went on, "so we don't want to be disturbed, okay?"
"Oh, yeah, sure," George said. "I understand. I mean, I don't like being disturbed while I'm training, so I know where you're coming from."
"Don't mention it."
Criss emerged from the lab, clutching a was of gauze in the crook of his right arm. He felt drained, literally, physically drained. A tubeful of blood from his arm, a cupful of urine, scrapings from his tongue, and swabs from his mouth had been drawn from him for analysis. After the exhausting run on the treadmill for the stress test, then the ordeal in the lab, his insides felt like sand. Now, it was all over. He was free to go home and get on with his life. First thing I'm going to do, he vowed, is empty the whole fridge of anything that's drinkable, no matter what it is! I'm, like, dying of thirst here!
He spotted Sully Erna in the waiting area. Sully looked up at him. "How'd it go?" he asked.
"Uh, came and went," Criss muttered in reply.
"Came and went?"
"Yeah,'went' as in I had to pee in a bottle."
Sully chuckled. "You poor (bleeper)! So, you doin' okay now?"
"Dude, right now I could drink Lake Meade."
Sully walked over to a vending machine, pulled out a five, slipped it into the slot and purchased a Dasani for Criss and a Coke for himself. He returned with the plastic bottles, handing the Dasani to Criss, who accepted it gratefully. Sully sat down beside him, swigging his Coke in his left hand, his injured right dangling between his knees.
"How's the hand?" Criss asked.
"It's better," Sully replied. "No sign of infection, thank God." He held up his bandaged hand. "Took eight stitches. Still hurts like a mother(bleeper), though. They got me on painkillers, but I gotta be careful with them so's I don't end up overdosing or something. Them (bleepers) are addictive, you know."
Criss nodded. "I know. They say that's how Michael Jackson died--too many prescription drugs."
"Him and a lot of other people."
Criss gulped down the last of his bottled water. "God! I needed that!" he sighed contentedly. "Well, I gotta get going--Mom's coming in from New York to stay with Costa, and I gotta be at his house tonight." He rose from his seat to leave.
Sully didn't question why; he merely waved goodbye. "Say hi to your mom for me, willya?" he said.
"Sure, dude." He patted his friend on the shoulder. "Hope your hand gets better soon."
Criss left the clinic and headed to his car. Halfway there he suddenly remembered the real reason he was going to his brother's house, and he cringed at the thought of having to pose nude for the camera after what he had been through that morning. Maybe I can reschedule it, he thought, or rather hoped. I'm just not in the mood for it anymore. Hell, I've been naked enough for one day!
09-04-2011, 11:29 PM
The broiling Nevada sun tempered itself as it descended toward the horizon. A black late model Range Rover rolled up the curving drive in front of a large mansion just outside of Las Vegas, and came to a halt in front of the main entrance. JD climbed out of the driver's side, circled around, and opened the passenger side door to allow his mother out of the vehicle. Dimitra stretched her limbs, grateful to be standing after such a long ride from the airport. JD fetched the two suitcases from the back seat and carried them to the front door. Dimitra stepped up to the door and pressed the doorbell button.
Through the side windows she could see someone trotting up into the foyer. Costa opened the huge front door and smiled at the sight of his mother standing there. "Hey, Ma," he said. "Good to see you. Come on in."
Dimitra stepped through the doorway. "Thank you, dear," she said, smiling warmly. "And thank you for taking me in on such short notice. I hope it doesn't inconvenience you in any way."
"No, not at all," Costa protested. "You're welcome to stay as long as you want. I got plenty of room here, and you can borrow the Lexus if you wanna go shopping or something."
Dimitra gave her middle son a kiss on the cheek. "That's so sweet of you, Costa. Thank you."
"Uh, hey, Cos?" JD called out from behind as he struggled with his mother's luggage. "You wanna give me a hand here?"
Costa began clapping enthusiastically. JD was not amused. "You know what I mean!" he said irritably. "Get over here and gimme a hand with these bags!"
Costa came to his brother's rescue and picked up a large brown suitcase. "Lighten up a little, willya?" he told JD.
The bags were carried to the guest bedroom on the second floor. Weary from her long trip, Dimitra lay down on the king-sized bed. "So tired," she murmured. "How can someone be tired from sitting in an airplane for four hours?"
"Jet lag," Costa explained. "Crossing three time zones will screw up your body clock. You just lay here and rest, okay?"
Dimitra didn't argue, but closed her eyes and dozed off. Her two sons quietly left the guest room, closing the door behind them. "So, what's on your agenda for tonight?" JD asked Costa.
"I got a photo shoot tonight with Criss and another model," Costa replied casually.
JD was intrigued. "Criss is posing for you with a model? Hmmmmm. What's her name?"
"It's a he, his name's Tuburi Zubufu, and he's not posing with Criss," Costa informed him. "It's two separate shoots."
"Mind if I hang around?"
"Well, if you like looking at nude bodies..."
JD started. "Nude?"
"Yeah, nude. As in naked, bare, in the buff..."
"You talked Criss into posing nude for you?" JD was incredulous.
"It's just for a private portfolio."
JD began to laugh. "Oh, God! This I've got to see!"
Dimitra, thankfully, declined dinner that evening, saying she ate already on the plane and preferred to turn in early, sparing Costa the embarrassment of having to explain his plans for the photo shoot in his downstairs studio. Tubufu showed up at exactly seven PM, fresh from rehersal for a Vegas show at Caesar's Palace and raring to go. Criss showed up twenty minutes later, still feeling grouchy over his physical that morning, still hoping he could get out of the promised photo shoot for the evening. Finding JD at the house surprised him at first; then he remembered that his mother was here to stay with Costa for a few weeks. Maybe with her here, Cos will have to cancel the shoot, he thought.
That hope died when JD informed him that his model, Tuburi, was down in the studio, posing for Costa, and that he, Criss, was next. "Come on, man!" Criss pleaded. "I just got back from a physical. I've already stripped down for every doctor in the clinic! Maybe some other time, okay?"
From the sadistic smile on his older brother's face, he could tell there was no backing out of it. Whether he felt like it or not, JD told him, Criss Angel was going to pose nude for the camera. Poor Criss was shepherded down to the lower level where the photo session was taking place. JD led his hapless brother into a side room to undress. "In," he ordered.
Criss stared into his elder brother's gloating eyes. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?" he asked.
JD shoved Criss into the dressing room, or in this case the undressing room, and slammed the door. In the tiny, dark closet, Criss cursed his fate. God! How did I get myself into this? Why did I let Costa talk me into doing this?
Resignedly, Criss undressed for the shoot. A thin cotton robe hung from a hook behind the door. He pulled it over his naked body and peeked out of the dressing room. On the other side of the room, a naked Tuburi was stretching, writhing, twisting and squatting gracefully in front of the silvery grey backdrop, his sinewy muscles flexing and relaxing with every move. Flashes of light from the camera punctuated every pose his graceful dancer's body made.
Criss emerged from the dressing room, fascinated. Never before in his life had he ever seen such a perfectly developed human form! The taut muscles, the finely turned limbs, the firm, lean torso--how could one person achieve such perfection? The charcoal blackness of his skin emphasized the structure of his splended frame, highlighted by the overhead lights and the light backdrop. His every move seemed to flow like water, the sweat from his dark flesh seemed to shimmer in the light. Criss could not help but wonder if he had been born with such a body, or if he had to work on it to achieve such physical perfection. Probably both, he conceded. Whatever the case, Tuburi Zubufu was without a doubt the most beautiful human being he had ever seen. Had he lived in the days of the ancient Greeks, sculptors would have carved his form out of marble or molded it out of clay. Artists would have immortalized him in mosiac tile, porcelain urns, or frescoes in some wealthy patron's villa. Songs and poems would have been written about him. He would have been hailed as a demigod, a son of Zeus, a living diety walking on the earth. Women would have desired such a body for themselves, and not a few men, too...
Criss' reverie came to a screeching halt. Wait a minute! Am I falling in love with this guy? Okay, he's got a great body, granted, but I'm not gay for him! That last prostate exam I had proved that already! No, I'm not in love with him, I can't be in love with him! I'm a straight arrow! I love women, and only women!
He continued watching Tuburi pose. He's beautiful, but not in a sexual sense--at least as far as I'm concerned. I appreciate his body only in an artistic sense, like Costa does. Yeah, that's it! I admire him like I'd admire Michaelangelo's David. No sex involved at all, just pure physical beauty. It's aesthetics, not sexual desire.
"Okay, that's a wrap," Costa announced. "Thanks, Tuburi, you've been great."
Tuburi stopped posing and stood up straight, smiling at Costa. "No problem, man," he replied in his heavy Kenyan accent.
Upon hearing those words spoken by Tuburi the spell he had on Criss was broken, and the slim African ceased to be a demigod and became human again before his eyes. Tuburi donned the thin cotton robe lying on a chair and disappeared into another dressing room. Costa turned around to see his brother, Criss. "You ready, Criss?" he asked.
Criss was flustered. "Uh, gee, Cos," he stammered. "I dunno, uh, see, I just had a physical today and..."
Suddenly, JD appeared out of nowhere and shoved his recalcitrant brother into the spotlight. "He's ready," he told Costa.
You are so (bleeping) dead, JD! Criss cursed under his breath. I am so gonna (bleeping) kill you for this!
"Okay, Criss," Costa said. "You can take off the robe now."
Lord, get me through this, Criss prayed. The white cotton robe fell to the floor, revealing his total nakedness. Criss' face flushed beet red, and he covered his manhood with his hands. Costa became frustrated. "What the hell's the matter with you all of a sudden?" he demanded. "You were naked for two episodes of your show, and now you're acting all prudish on me? Relax, willya?"
"C'mon, give me a break here," Criss pleaded. "I just had a complete physical where I had to take off my clothes for several doctors already! I mean, how'd you feel if you just had some lady doctor stick a finger up your ass for a prostate exam, among other things?"
"I'm not here to examine you, Criss," Costa argued. "I'm here to take your picture. Now, come on, work with me! You promised, remember?"
Criss' hands dropped helplessly to his side. "So what do you want me to do?" he asked, sighing.
Costa guided his reluctant model through the various poses he wanted. "Lift your arm up over your head and turn to the side. Good. Now, turn around, bring your left leg back like you're walking. A little to the right. Good. Good. Now, give me a dancer's pose. No, no, no! I said 'dancer' not 'marcher'! Let it flow! That's better. Good. Now, kneel down on one knee and give me a profile. That's good. Now, just a casual sitting pose with your arm on your knee. Relax, willya? Okay, good."
Sweat dripped from Criss' bare skin under the hot lights as he posed. He was still a bit dehydrated from the stress test in the cardiac unit and from the blood sample taken from him in the lab. I'm gonna have an all-over tan when I'm done here! he said to himself, if I don't pass out first. He looked up at Costa. "Could I have some water, please?" he begged.
Costa bought Criss a bottle of water. "Here," he said. "Take a break. You don't look well."
Criss dragged himself away from the hot lights and collapsed in a chair, his sweaty flesh soaking the canvas back and seat. He cracked open the bottle of water and sipped it slowly, fearing he would cramp up if he drank cold water too fast. He felt a hand on his bare shoulder. Looking up, he saw Tuburi Zubufu looking down upon him with concern. "You okay, man?" he asked.
"I'm good," Criss replied. "They took a blood test on me today, and I guess I'm still feeling it."
"You rest here," Tuburi told him, massaging his shoulder. "You be okay."
He left Criss in the chair and headed for the stairs, clad in jeans and a plain white t-shirt. Criss watched as climbed the steps up to the main level of the house. His movements were still graceful, but they did not have the same impact upon him when he was posing for the camera. Clothed, he was no different from any other person on the street; only when he was naked did he reveal his true beauty.
Criss looked down upon his own naked body, dripping with sweat. A tiny puncture wound where the nurse had taken the blood sample still lay on the crook of his right arm, stained with antiseptic all around it. He mentally pictured the scars on his back from being impaled with steel hooks to dangle over the desert from a helicopter. He lifted one foot and examined the sole; a small scar resulting from walking barefoot on heavy twelve-inch screwdrivers creased it in the middle. His right hand still bore the marks of the failed nail gun demonstration he had performed last year. Tuburi had no scars, or none that he had noticed. Tuburi was flawless. Tuburi was perfect. And Criss envied him.
He had always been proud of his own body, but during the past decade he had pushed it beyond all human endurance, whether it was his fitness regimen or his demonstrations, and had suffered for it. He toned his muscles to an athlete's standards, only to crush it beneath a steamroller lying on broken glass. He ran five miles a day on the treadmill just so he could escape a collapsing hotel in Florida, emerging from the rubble covered in concrete dust, coughing and wheezing. He sharpened his reflexes with tae kuan do and jujitsu, only to nearly break his neck jumping out of a prison van loaded with explosives as it careened off a cliff. In his moment of weakness, Criss felt remorse over how he had been risking his life, his health and his God-given body for the sake of his art. Tears welled up in his eyes as he caressed his damp flesh.
Thank You, God, he prayed. Thank You for blessing me with good health and a strong body. I know I've used it and abused it over the years, but You've always come through for me, healing my injuries and giving me the strength to go on. I know we all can't have perfect bodies like Tuburi, but I'm grateful for the one You gave me. When I look upon this body, unclothed, even though it bears the scars of past demonstrations, I feel no shame, no revulsion, for are we not created in Your image? Me, Tuburi, Costa, JD, Mom, Sully, even that wack job going around flashing himself around Vegas--we're all reflections of You. Keep me in good health, and watch over me as You always have. Amen.
"Criss?" It was Costa, kneeling down beside him. "You okay, bro?"
Criss wiped away his tears. "Yeah, I'm good," he said.
"You wanna go on with the shoot?" Costa asked. "I mean, if you're not feeling well..."
Criss stood up, firm and tall, in all of his naked glory. "Let's finish this," he said confidently. "I've got nothing to be ashamed of."
09-04-2011, 11:33 PM
The next four days passed uneventfully enough, save for the nude video of Criss on YouTube. The most embarrassing eight seconds of Criss' career had become one of the most requested topic on that site for the past week. Criss' manager, Dave Baram, went on the warpath against Kevin, the former cameraman who had taped his star client in the shower and subsequently posted it on the Web for all to see. Baram found Kevin's address, went to his apartment in North Las Vegas, and put the fear of God into him by threatening legal action on the grounds of invasion of privacy, unauthorized use of film footage from a copyrighted series, and emotional damages on Criss' behalf. He would also make sure he never got another job as a cameraman again by reporting him to the union for his actions.
Kevin, broke from his loss of income and about to be evicted from his apartment for lack of rent, insisted it had just been a joke. He meant no harm from posting that videotape of Criss in the shower, honest to God he didn't. He liked Criss, really he did; he was willing to apolgize if it meant getting his job back. There was no need to go to court over it. Besides, it was too late, anyway--the tape was now the property of YouTube, and there was no way of retracting it. Couldn't he give him a break?
Baram wasn't about to give Kevin any sort of break. He had violated the trust placed in him by MindFreak Productions, he said, and the union was going to hear about it. "You'll be lucky to be taping wedding videos after this!" he snapped as he stormed out of the apartment. "I don't know what the hell you were thinking, if you were thinking at all, but after what you pulled, you'll never work in television again!"
"Hey, I said I was sorry!" Kevin shouted after Baram.
"Sorry won't cut it, kid!" Baram shot back. "You're through!" The stairwell door echoed through the empty corridor as it slammed shut, then silence.
Sitting at his desk in his personal office, Criss reflexively snatched up his cell phone the second he heard the ringtone play. "Hello?" he said.
"Hey, hey, hey, Criss!" came an irritatingly jolly voice from the other end. "Guess who this is?"
"Very funny. It's the Amazing Johnathan!"
"What do you want, AJ?" Criss droned.
"Oh, nothing, just calling to say hello," AJ said, "and to tell you I saw that bareassed video of you on YouTube!"
Criss grimaced. "So, what about it?" he said casually.
"Well, it seems you got all high and mighty about my mooning that mother(bleeper) two weeks ago," AJ went on, "now it's your best side that's showing! How's it feel to be exposed on camera, huh?"
"I didn't get 'high and mighty' about it," Criss argued. "And I wasn't the one who posted that video--someone on my crew did, and I fired him for it. And anyway, YouTube censored it, so there's really nothing worth seeing."
"You're telling me, Houdini with the little weenie!"
"At least I didn't do it on stage like you did!" Criss pointed out. "You're a (bleep)hole, AJ! Always have been, always will."
He flipped off his phone and shoved it in his pocket. "God!" he breathed. "Sometimes I wonder why I ever talk to that (bleeper)."
"Talk to what (bleeper)?"
Criss looked up and saw Costa standing in the doorway. "Oh, hi, Cos," he said glumly. "I was just talking to AJ, that's all. He saw the video."
"You know, the one of me on YouTube."
"The shower one?"
"Yeah, the shower one. He's getting back at me for ragging him about his mooning his audience."
"Ah, let it go, bro," Costa said, smiling. "Once the novelty's worn off, they'll forget all about it. Besides, they didn't show much, did they?"
Costa set down a large envelope. "Anyway, your pictures are in," he said. "Care to look at them?"
Criss opened the envelope and examined the photos Costa had taken. "Man," he gasped, "I have to admit these are really good!" He put them back in the envelope. "Personally, I'd like to see the ones you took of Tuburi."
"Swing by the house sometime, and I'll show you," Costa said. "Oh, speaking of swinging--you going to George's boxing match at the Excalibur?"
Criss showed his disappointment. "No, I can't," he said regretfully, "I got to do a live show tonight."
"It's on at five," Costa told him. "You'll be back in plenty of time to do your show."
Criss did some quick mental calculation. "Well, if it doesn't go into extra rounds, I'll go," he said. "I'd love to see George in action."
Costa brightened. "Great!" he said happily. "Mom's going, and so's JD--we can make it a family affair!" Suddenly he grew somber. "Speaking of family," he said, "did JD give you an envelope of Dad's pictures?"
"Just a minute." Criss pulled open a file drawer and removed a worn Manila envelope. "This it?"
Costa opened the envelope and took out the photo stills of his father's Mr. Universe days. "Yeah, these are the ones," he said, holding back his emotions. "Even though I didn't take these, of course, I'd still like to put them in my collection, if you don't mind."
"Sure, Cos," Criss agreed. "No problem. I already have them downloaded into the files, so they're yours to keep if you want."
Costa smiled. "Thanks." "Just take good care of them, willya?"
"You know I will."
Costa replaced the photos back into the envelope. "Thirteen years," he mused sadly. "Thirteen years and I still get choked up when I see his pictures. Tell you the truth, I didn't even know these existed."
"Me neither," Criss said. "It was a surprise for me, too. I almost cried like a baby when JD showed them to me." "You using them on your show?"
"Damn right I am! I want the world to see what kind of man Dad had been before the cancer took him away! I want them to see the real John Sarantakos, not the invalid he was before he died! I want--" Criss' throat constricted before he could finish his sentence. His eyes brimmed with tears over the memory of his late father; he bit his lip to keep from crying out loud.
Costa reached over and embraced him. "It's okay, Criss," he said soothingly. "I know why you want to show them."
Criss brushed away the tears and pulled himself together. "Right," he said, clearing his throat. "Now, c'mon, we got a boxing match to get ready for!" The two brothers left the office, shoulder to shoulder and smiling, looking forward to their cousin's match. The two envelopes containg Criss' and John's photographs lay on the desk, forgotten.
09-05-2011, 01:03 PM
The Loyal Community > General Discussion > Cousin George is boxing at Excalibur!!
LoyalDevina: Cousin George is going to be boxing at the Excalibur on July ** Friday! There's going to be 4 nights of boxing to qualify for the finals. tickets are 30 dollars for each night. GO GEORGE!!!
Greekgoddess: I didn't know George was a boxer
KrisLee: YAY GEORGE! GO 'HEAD WIT' YER BAD SELF!!
OU812: I am SOOO THERE!
BlueSkye: How long had george been a boxer?
RUReady15: I wonder if Criss ever boxed with George? You know just for fun
LoyalCaitlin: I hope Criss is there he has to be because its his cousin whose fighting that night
FIGHT NIGHT AT THE EXCALBUR!!
Amateur Boxing Association Exhibition Match:
July **, July **, Aug **, Aug **
TICKETS: $30 ($20 12 and under)
First Match: Draveling v. Ellsworth
Second Match: Theodoros v. Strumpolis
Third Match: Meyer v. Lacie
Fourth Match: Clement v. Ruhr ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Criss felt a little strange being a spectator instead of a performer that afternoon at the Excalibur. He, his brothers, and their mother had been granted free ringside passes to the boxing match, but it still felt a little strange to him. He was so accustomed to being the star that to watch someone else perform felt alien to him. On the other side of the stage he was a nonentity, just another member of the audience.
The last time he was in the arena was for the Quad Drag Escape demonstration. George had been his assistant then, driving the quadrocycle around the dirt-floored arena with himself tied to the end of it, struggling to escape the ropes binding him (He remembered how he struck his head on the wall at one turn; thankfully, he had been wearing a helmet). The audience had cheered wildly as he freed himself from the ropes, but he didn't stick around for the applause; he had quickly left the arena to catch a red-eye flight to New York to be with his mother for her emergency heart operation.
Tonight, it was George who was in the spotlight, while his famous cousin would sit among the spectators. Criss mingled with the other fans in the lobby, taking time to sign a few autographs and pose for photos, alleviating the uneasiness. Word on the fanboards had it that Cousin George would be in the Excalibur match, and the Loyals had turned out in force to cheer him on. Many proudly showed Criss the posterboard signs they had made for the occasion. Pleased that his Loyal fans would extend their devotion to his cousin, he personally held them up for the cameras and autographed them with a black magic marker.
"Now I know George will win tonight!" he crowed.
There were more autographs, more pictures, more hugs, and more good wishes for George. In the middle of it all, Criss suddenly became concerned about his mother; he looked around but didn't see her anywhere. He spotted his brother, JD, nearby. "Hey, JD, where's Mom?" he called out.
JD scanned the lobby. "It's okay," he called back. "I see her--she's by the bar!"
By the bar? Puzzled, Criss walked over to the lobby bar. His mother was not a heavy drinker, so why would she be hanging out at the bar? he wondered. Upon approaching, however, he saw the reason--in the familiar form of a former mobster dressed in a tailored suit, holding a Manhattan in one gnarled hand and his mother's arm in the other.
Criss laughed in surprise. "Springs!" he cried. "Hey, good to see you again, old man!"
Danny Springer held up his drink in greeting. "How ya doin', Angel?" he rasped. "Nice to see you again. And yer ma, too."
"So, what brings you here?" Criss asked.
"Same as everybody," Springs replied. "Here to see the match. Ain't seen a live fight in years, and the price was right, so I thought what the eff, y'know? So I come here, and damn if I didn't run into yer mother here! Ain't life a crock?"
He sidled up closer to Dimitra. "Didi here tells me yer cousin George is in the second match tonight," he said.
Springs took a swig of his Manhattan and frowned. "The drinks aren't as good as they are in the Luxor," he said disapprovingly. "They're all right, but they ain't as good. Oh, well. C'mon, Didi, let's get our seats."
"You don't mind if Danny sits with us, do you, Christopher?" Dimitra asked.
"No problem, Ma," Criss said, shrugging.
The arena doors opened, and the audience filed inside to take their seats. Criss could see the ropes encircling the square ring in the arena. He allowed his mother and Springs into the front row first, then sat down in a seat three down from the aisle, next to his brother, JD. If he had known who would be taking the seat on the other side, he would have sat farther down, for as bad luck would have it, some fat slob carrying an armful of nachos and cheese with a half-gallon of soda plunked his huge posterior in the second chair from the aisle. "Boy, I'm glad this place has tables!" he bellowed to Criss. "Makes it a whole lot easier!"
Criss groaned inwardly. The slob gave his reluctant seatmate a closer look and recognized him immediatly. "Hey! I know you!" he bellowed again. "You're Criss Angel! Yeah!" He extended one cheesy hand toward him. "Name's Benny Worth! You remember my sister, Casey, don't you?"
"Nice to meet you," Criss murmured, reluctantly shaking the sticky hand. "And, yeah, I remember Casey."
Benny shoved a handful of nachos into his mouth. "She still likes you, man!" he mumbled through mashed corn meal. "You think of going out with her sometime?"
"She's busy, and I'm busy, okay?" Criss told him impatiently. "She's got her work, and I got mine!"
Benny swallowed. "Oh, I get it," he said. "You'd rather go out with those Playboy bunnies like Holly Madison! Oh, sure, I understand! Can't blame you though. So, whaddya do, let 'em tie you up? Or do you tie 'em down?"
"Will you just back off?" Criss snarled.
"Hey, c'mon, dude!" Benny chortled. "We all know what you're into! All those handcuffs, ropes and (bleep) you get yourself in for your show--you gotta be into the bee-and-dee scene! It's pure Freudian! Go figure!"
"I never mix business with pleasure," Criss told him.
Benny snorted. JD nudged Criss. "There's a seat on the other end," he said, pointing down the row. "You wanna move?"
Criss shot up without a word and threaded his way down the row to the empty seat next to Springs, relieved to be away from the vulgar banter of Benny Worth. Benny simply shrugged and went on shoveling nachos and cheese into his mouth. Criss sat down with a heavy sigh. Geez! he thought. With a brother like that, it's no wonder Casey prefers to be a live-in caregiver!
The lights dimmed, signalling the beginning of the match. Spotlights shone down on the boxing ring, its mat blinding white in the limelight. A tuxedoed MC climbed into the ring, clutching a radio-controlled microphone.
"Ladeeeez aaaaannnd gentlemennnn!" he bellowed into the microphone. "Welcome to the quarter-finals of the Amateur Boxing Association Exhibiton Match!"
09-05-2011, 01:06 PM
"There will be four rounds, lasting three minutes each," the MC said, enunciating every syllable. "For the first qualifying round, we have, at two hundred and fifteen pounds, Tom Draveling!"
Draveling held up his hands, hailing the crowd. The MC continued, "And his opponent, at two hundred twenty pounds, Glen Ellsworth!"
Ellsworth waved to the audience indifferently, obviously wanting to get down to business. The fighters warmed up by stretching, shadowboxing, and twisting their necks and limbs while the referee took over for the MC. The ref summoned the two boxers to center ring; they tapped gloves as a token of respect. "Round One," the ref said.
The bell clanged, and Ellsworth and Draveling exchanged blows under the observant eyes of the judges. After four rounds, Draveling was ruled the winner, eligible to go on to the next stage. Ellsworth staggered out of the arena, bruised and battered.
"Damn good fight there, kid," Springs said. "That Draveling's got a good arm."
"Wait until you see George," Criss countered.
The MC reentered the ring. "For the second qualifying round, we have, at two hundred eighteen pounds, George Strumpolis!"
The Loyals in the arena went wild, screaming and chanting George's name and holding up their posterboard signs over their heads. George waved to Criss' fans, now his fans for tonight, as he climbed into the ring. Springs was astonished at the crowd's reaction. "You'd think he was the heavyweight champion of the world with that kind of reception," he commented.
"And his opponent," the MC shouted into the microphone, "at two hundred twenty two pounds, Greg Theodoros!"
The Loyals booed loudly, drowning out the cheers from the rest of the audience. Theodoros climbed into the ring, ignoring the animosity of the Loyals, and waved his gloved hand over his head. "Theodoros," said Springs to Criss. "Sounds like another Greek to me."
"Just a coincidence," Criss said drily.
George and Theodoros tapped gloves respectfully, took their stances, then waited for the bell. A pause, no longer than a heartbeat, then KLAAAANNNGG! The match was on. Theodoros came at George with his left. George blocked it with his right elbow and hopped away. Theodoros came in swinging, but George socked him in the chest with his powerful right hook. Theodoros was unbalanced but came back with a devastating right cut to George's head. George reeled from the blow. The Loyals screamed for him to rally. He regained his composure long enough to receive a numbing blow to the chest, payback for the one he gave Theodoros. The Loyals cried out to their champion to come back.
Furious now, George went on the offensive, hammering Theodoros wherever he could connect. The Loyals went ballistic at this powerful display of brute force from their idol's cousin. They cheered, they whooped, they screamed for more. Finally, the bell rang, signallng the end of the first round. Both fighters retreated to their corners, exhausted. Impulsively, Criss hopped the counter and ran to his cousin's side, heedless of his mother's cries for him to come back. Those Loyals who saw him cheered; some took pictures of him at George's corner.
Seamus Linehan stood second for George, waiting with a bottle of water and a towel. "Good goin', Georgie," he said, handing his fighter a towel and water. "Remember to pace yerself; ye don't wanta be wearin' yerself out before the final round."
George nodded, panting. Criss trotted up to his cousin's corner. "George!" he shouted. "George!"
He took George's arm, damp with sweat. "I'm here for you, George," he said encouragingly. "You can do it! We're all here for you!"
George looked down at Criss and smiled through his padded helmet. "Thanks, Criss," he said. "But you'd better get back now. The second round's gonna begin any minute."
"I'm with you, George!" Criss cried. "I'm with you all the way!"
Linehan clapped a heavy hand on Criss' shoulder. "Ye heard the man!" he snapped. "Off wit' ye!"
With that, he shoved Criss aside, away from George's corner. The Loyals screamed for him as a security guard escorted him back to his seat. Criss made a feeble wave and sat down by Springs. His mother scowled at him from the next seat over. This was George's night, not his, she reminded him. Before Criss could protest, the bell rang for Round Two.
The second round was much like the first; both fighters pummeling each other into submission. When George nearly went down, the Loyals cried hysterically. When Theodoros went down, they cheered wildly. Neither man, however, yielded to the other; they stopped only when the bell rang, ending the round.
Criss wanted to rejoin his cousin, but a warning look from his mother kept him in his seat. "Relax," Springs said. "He's fine. He's got one helluva right arm there, your cousin! I wager he'll win in the third."
"It ain't over 'til it's over," Criss stated. "We still got two more rounds to go."
Round Three began. Despite exhaustion, George and Theodoros went at it as if it was only the first round. Theodoros came at George with his right. George skipped away, feinted with his right and delivered a hard left to Theodoros's jaw. Theodoros went spinning, but came back with a blow of his own to George's head. George doubled over, his head throbbing. Suddenly, he felt a crushing weight come crashing down on the back of his neck, sending him plummeting to the mat. The crowd was stunned for a moment. The Loyals screamed frantically for George to get up again. The ref blew the whistle. "Illegal move, minus three points," he informed the crowd.
The bell rang, ending Round Three. George was escorted to his corner by Linehan. Again, Criss wanted to rush to George's side, but this time Springs stopped him. "It's all part of boxing, Angel," he reminded him. "He's gotta take his punches like the rest of 'em. There ain't nothin' you can do about it but sit tight until the final bell."
Criss sat helplessly, watching Linehan revive his cousin with a bottle of water. "C'mon, George!" he cried out. "You gotta pull through for this one! Do it for the family! You can do it, George! We're all pulling for you!"
The bell for Round Four clanged. George stood up from his corner and stepped up to Theodoros, his game face firmly on. Before Theodoros could take a stance, George hammered him with his fiercest right cut. He didn't give his opponent time to block or slip away, but kept punishing him for his near fatal blow to the back of his neck. Criss, Springs, JD and the Loyals cheered him on as George pounded Theodoros into the mat.
"Go George! Go George!"
"Kick his ass, George!"
"Come on, George!"
The final bell sounded. George withdrew. Theodoros stood there in the ring, swaying like a reed, panting. The cheering died down as the MC came into the ring with the judges' results. "The winnah, with twenty-eight points...George Strumpoliiiiiis!!"
Criss sprang out of his seat, yelling like a maniac. The Loyals screamed as if Cousin George had won the heavyweight title. Even Dimitra stood and applauded her nephew's victory. George held up his gloved hands, savoring the accolades. Even sourpuss Seamus Linehan broke out in a wide Irish grin for the Greek's win over his rival's team. It was a glorious moment for them all.
"There will be a fifteen-minute break," the MC announced, "until the next qualifying round."
The seats emptied quickly. Criss, JD, Dimitra and Springs left the arena to go into the lobby. "I knew George would win!" Criss crowed. "I knew he would! With a right hook like his, he couldn't lose!" He stopped suddenly. "You think we can go backstage and see him?" he asked eagerly.
Springs shook his head. "Not after a fight," he said. "He's gotta shower, get a rubdown. He won't be available for a while yet."
Criss thought about that. "Yeah, maybe you're right," he conceded. He checked his watch. "Well, I gotta go now," he said. "I'll see you guys later."
"Wait a minute," Springs said. "You ain't stayin' for the rest of the match?"
"Sorry, but I got a live show to do tonight," Criss explained. "I could only stay long enough to see George." He gave his mother a peck on the cheek. "Later, Mom," he said quickly. "Love ya."
"I love you, too, Christopher," she said.
"I love you more."
Criss ducked out of the lobby before he could be mobbed by the Loyals again. He had to make it back to the Luxor in time for his live show, and there was no time for more autographs or pictures. Springs could only shake his head in dismay.
"He's gonna miss a helluva fight," he said regretfully.
"Well, at least he stayed long enough to see George," Dimitra said. "That's the important thing."
"You stayin' for the rest of the match, Didi?"
Dimitra thought about it. "Well, I am rather tired," she said. "Now that I've seen George's fight, there's really no need for me to stay any longer. I think I'll just go home now."
"Well, I for one am staying," Springs insisted. "I paid good money to see this fight, and I want my money's worth." He turned to JD. "You drivin' your ma back home?"
JD nodded. "We've all had a long day of it," he said. "Nice seein' you again, Springs."
Springs gave Dimitra a hug. "You take care now, Didi," he said. "Come over to my place for dinner sometime, okay?"
Dimitra gave Springs a kiss on the cheek. "I look forward to seeing you again, Danny," she said, smiling. "Good night."
JD and his mother left the Excalibur. "You really like that guy, don't you?" JD said.
"Yes, JD, I do," Dimitra said. "I like him very much." She looked at her eldest son warily. "You have no objection about that, do you?"
"No. Why should I?"
"Because I went through a lot of trouble with Christopher about it when we first met," Dimitra replied. "He became very overprotective of me when Danny and I first went out together. I had to sit him down and explain to him that Danny is not taking his father's place in my life, that we're just friends. I hope you're not feeling the same way he did."
"Mom, I assure you, I have no objections about you seeing Danny Springer," JD protested. "He's a nice guy, really he is! So what if he was in the mob--if he's good to you, he makes you happy, I see no problem with it."
"Good. So long as you understand."
"Okay, then, let's go home and forget about it."
(to be continued)
09-05-2011, 01:12 PM
"Good goin', Georgie!" Linehan said as he rubbed down George's aching limbs. "Ye're a credit to this old sod! Ye heard 'em out there, cheerin' fer ye! Ye really got 'em out of their seats! Now ye're in the semi-finals in two weeks' time! By all the saints in Heaven, I'll make a champion out of ye yet!"
"Thanks, Seamus," George mumbled. "But they're more Criss' fans than mine. They're just there because I'm his cousin and I work for him."
"So they're your fans by way of yer cousin, ye're sayin'?"
"Guilt by association is more like it."
Seamus chuckled as he applied more liniment to George's bare shoulders. "How'd the other guys do, by the way?" George asked.
"Well, Ellsworth is out, of course," Linehan replied, "Lacie and you are tied, and Ruhr's come up first place. Ye've got plenty of time to train, Greek! Make the most of it--don't go slackin' off after this!"
"No one's ever accused me of slacking anything, Seamus."
"I know, lad, I know."
Linehan slapped George's rump in rough affection. "Off wi' ye now, Greek!" he said jovially. "Rest up tonight--ye've deserved it!"
George got off the massage table and got dressed. "And tell that famous cousin of yers to keep in his seat next time!" Linehan bellowed. "I don't go grantin' privileges to no one! If he's not part of the team, he doesn't go near the ring!"
"Understood," George said, pulling his muscle shirt over his head.
Outside in the Excalibur parking garage, JD was cursing himself for not using valet parking as he searched the whole structure for his Range Rover. His mother was waiting for him by the West Entrance for him to pick her up, and he had promised he would be there in five minutes. Now, ten minutes had gone by, and he still hadn't found his car. "I must be going senile," he grumbled.
He had scoured the first level, then the second, then the third, and now he was on the fourth. "I know I parked by the elevators," he muttered. "It's gotta be here somewhere!"
He halted in his tracks and tried to retrace his route when they first arrived. I came in from the South entrance, then we circled up a few levels, then I passed a red sign pointing to the elevators, then I turned down a level, and--
JD turned a corner to where the ramp led downward. There! In that second spot by the berm was his Range Rover! Heaving a sigh of relief, he trotted down to his car and started it up. "I just hope I don't forget where Mom is," he said to himself. "South Entrance, yeah."
The Range Rover spiraled down the ramp to the exit. Just as he approached the parking toll booth, he spotted his cousin George. JD brightened at the sight of him and honked his horn to attract his attention. The car horn echoed loudly throughout the structure, startling George, the parking attendants and anyone else within earshot.
"Hey, George!" JD called out. "Over here!"
George spotted his cousin's Rover and trotted up to see him. "Hey, JD!" he cried out happily. "Good to see you!"
JD braked and leaned out the window. "Hey, George," he repeated. "Congrats on winning the match tonight!"
"Ah, it was just the quarter finals," George replied modestly. "I go to the semis in two weeks."
"I gotta pick up Mom at the entrance. Give you a lift?"
George climbed into the Rover. JD drove to the toll booth, paid the fee, and pulled out of the parking garage. "Mom's by the South Entrance," he told George. "You know, her friend Springs was with her tonight."
"The former mobster?"
"Those two are getting pretty tight lately."
"Well, it's more for companionship than anything. The old man's, like, eighty-seven."
"Well, with modern medical science, even an eighty-seven year old man can get it on these days."
JD laughed. "Dude, all the modern medical science in the world couldn't get Springs back in action!"
George laughed, too. "Hey, I see your mom over there," he said.
She had stood there by the South Entrance of the Excalibur, waiting patiently for her son JD to pick her up. It had been a wonderful evening, seeing Danny again and watching her nephew win his first boxing match. She couldn't wait to tell her sisters all about it, especially George's mother, Molina. She would be so proud of him.
But first, she had to get back to Costa's house. JD had promised to be here in five minutes, and now he was five minutes late. Oh, well, it was so crowded in there, he probably couldn't find the car. Heaven knew how many times she had forgotten where she parked her own car whenever she went shopping. It was so easy to get lost in these places; JD would be here soon, she told herself.
A strange man walked toward her casually. At first, Dimitra thought it odd that he would be wearing a raincoat when there was no sign of rain, but that was his business, she reasoned, and gave him no more thought. She continued to look out for her son's Range Rover. The stranger in the black raincoat strolled along, staring straight ahead.
She never saw the headlights of the Range Rover approaching, nor heard the horn. The strange man opened his black raincoat wide enough to block the Rover from her vantage point, revealing his hairy, potbellied, naked body to her. Dimitra shrieked aloud at the sight of the flasher's repugnant form, framed in black. Satisifed, the flasher covered himself and ran back the way he came.
The Rover circled to the South Entrance. "I see your mom over there," George said, pointing to the glass-enclosed foyer. "Hey, who's that guy with her? What the--? Did that son of a (bleep) just flash her?!"
JD slammed on the brakes and bolted out of the Rover, boiling with rage. George followed, kicking open the passenger door enough to rip it from its hinges. Dimitra simply stood there in a state of shock. The flasher trotted away, thrilled to the core. Unfortunatly for him, he ran toward an angry JD and George who were rushing to Dimitra's rescue.
The flasher never knew what, or who, hit him. He only felt the excruciating pain of George's fist squarely in his face, then the feeling of weightlessness as he went sailing several feet in the air. He landed flat on his back on the concrete, his raincoat open, revealing his potbellied body for all to see, his face a bloody mess, unconscious.
JD rushed up to his mother's side. "You okay, Mom?" he asked anxiously.
Dimitra regained her bearings. "I'm fine, honey," she said. "It's just that...that man over there..."
"It's okay, Mom," JD said, hugging her. "It's just some flasher, that's all. He didn't hurt you, did he?"
Dimitra shook her head. "No," she said. "It was just a shock, that's all."
George, JD and Dimitra walked over to the prone form of the flasher. "God, what an ugly (bleeper)!" George commented.
JD glanced at the flasher, then looked away, cringing at the sight of the hideous body lying at his feet. "Oh, God!" he wailed. "I think I'm blind!"
09-05-2011, 01:15 PM
The evening progressed into night, then into the morning of a new day. The morning edition of every paper in Nevada cheerfully announced the capture of the Vegas Flasher on its front page:
CRISS ANGEL'S COUSIN LANDS VEGAS FLASHER AT EXCALIBUR
BOXER SENDS FLASHER DOWN FOR THE COUNT
VEGAS FLASHER IN CUSTODY
MAN ACCUSED OF SIXTEEN COUNTS OF INDECENT EXPOSURE
The columns varied in length, but the story was the same: Criss Angel's cousin, George Strumpolis, was competing in an amateur boxing competiton at the Excalibur. His cousins, including Criss, and his aunt, Mrs. Sarantakos, were in attendance. They all left after George won the quarterfinals, Criss to do his live show, Mrs. Sarantakos to return to her son Costa's house. Her eldest son, JD Saranatakos, was driving up from the parking garage with George in the passenger seat to pick her up at the South Entrance of the Excalibur. They witnessed the Vegas Flasher reveal himself to Mrs. Sarantakos, got out of the car, and ran toward the suspect. George Strumpolis struck the suspect in the face, breaking his nose in three place. He was taken to the hospital for emergency treatment, then taken into police custody. Strumpolis was also taken into custody for physical assault, but was released. No charges were pending at this time, it was stated.
The Loyal Community > General Discussion > GEORGE WINS MATCH & NAILS VEGAS FLASHER!!!
KrisLee: I was at the Excalibur to see Cousin George fight in the amateur match on Friday. He WON!!! Now he's going to the semi-finals!! But the real action took place outside the ring. That creepy Vegas flasher who's been going aorund opening his coat to older women actually came up to Dimitra who was there to see George too and FLASHED HER!!! George and JD saw the whole thing and George came up and PUNCHED the creep right in the face!! The news said he broke the guys nose in three places.
Greekgoddess: george is a hero!!!! but that who flashed Mama Angel
[B]LoyalDavina: I am SOOOO GLAD George decked that . I still can't get that memory out of my mind no matter how many pictures of Criss I look at.
RoseRed13: way to go George!! you kick his ass good!
RUReady15: how dare that guy flash Dimitra! Was Criss there? If he was, he probably would have that creep good!!
KrisLee: Criss was doing a live show that night. I doubt that he was there. If he was I would have hated to have been there
LoyalDavina: I would have loved to have been there!! Criss would have so kicked that pervs ass!
rachel02181: thank god criss wasnt there god know what he would have done
JD, Costa and George sat on the sofas in the production office, enjoying a morning cup of coffee when Criss stormed in, a copy of the Las Vegas Sun clamped in his fist. The three men were startled; they seldom if ever saw Criss so angry about anything. "Hey, Criss, what's the deal?" Costa asked, bewildered.
Criss slammed down the paper on the glass-topped table in front of them. "This is the deal!" he thundered. "Mom got flashed last night and no one thought to tell me about it! I had to read about it in the paper this morning!"
"Criss, you were doing your live show last night," JD explained calmly. "We very well couldn't interrupt you with news like this. We were going to tell you, really we were."
"How's Mom holding up?" Criss asked.
"She's fine," JD replied. "It just embarrassed her, that's all. She got over it."
"So who was this guy, anyway?"
"I didn't stick around long enough to ask his name. Besides, the way George busted his face, I doubt he'd be willing to talk, anyway."
Criss reached over and grasped his cousin's hand, his anger receding. "Thanks, George," he said gratefully, "I owe you big time for this. We all do."
"No problem," George replied, shrugging. "You'd have done the same for me if it had been my mom, right?"
"Damn right I would have!" Criss laughed a little. "Guess those boxing lessons finally came in handy, didn't they?"
George shrugged again. JD took another sip of coffee. "If George hadn't KO'd him like he did," he said, "I would have."
"I probably would have killed the guy myself," Criss commented.
"Well, he won't be showing off his whatsis anymore, and that's the important thing," Costa said.
Criss snickered. "'Whatsis'?"
"You know what I mean."
"C'mon, Cos, we're all adults here," Criss cajoled. "You don't have to be so prudish about it. It's his (bleep)! Wang, dong, weenie, Mr. Happy, Mr. Jim and the twins, frank and beans--whatever."
"This from a man who didn't want to pose nude for my photos!" Costa shot back.
George was intrigued. "You took nude photos of Criss?"
"Yeah, last Monday."
"Where are they? I just gotta see them!"
Costa hesitated, trying to remember. "Come to think of it," he mused, "what the hell did I do with them?"
"You showed them to me in my office, remember?" Criss told him, "along with those photos of Dad."
Costa snapped his fingers, suddenly recalling that meeting. "Oh, yeah, that's right!" he said.
Criss rose. "I'll go get them," he said, and headed for his office.
"So, what the hell did you want to take pictures of Criss in the nude?" George asked.
"Just for a personal portfolio I was working on," Costa explaned. "It's so hard to find people willing to pose nude, and since Criss stripped for a couple of episodes, I figured he would be perfect."
George laughed at the irony of that statement. "Here in Las Vegas, where there are strip shows on every corner, male and female, and you can't find nude models? What a joke!"
"I found a few," Costa said. "Girl named Sola; a dancer from Kenya, Turburi Zubufu; German guy, Christian Ruhr--"
George sat up. "Ruhr? Blond, Austrian, shovel-jawed?"
"You know him?"
"Know him?" George gave a laugh in surprise. "Hell, that guy's on my boxing team! Finished first in the quarterfinals! And you say he posed nude for you?"
George shook his head in disbelief. "Well, now I know what he does for a living!"
"Well, you must have seen him naked in the shower," Costa pointed out.
"Look, I don't give a fart in a high wind what those guys look like in the shower!" George stated loudly. "Hell, I barely notice if they're dressed or not! You've seen naked ass, you've seen them all!"
Criss returned from his office, empty-handed. "Cos," he said, "are you sure you didn't pick up those photos already?"
"No," Costa replied, "why?"
"Because they're not on the desk," Criss told him. "They're not anywhere. I looked in all the file drawers, I looked on the floor--they're gone! Do you know who took them?"
Costa, JD and George looked at each other, bewildered.
09-05-2011, 01:18 PM
"Okay, okay, let's not panic here," Criss said, trying to keep himself calm. "Cos, you're sure you left them on my desk yesterday?"
"I'm positive," Costa insisted. "That was the last place I saw them. I gave them to you with those pictures of Dad. I laid them right on your desk."
"Maybe one of the office staff took them," JD suggested.
Criss shook his head. "No, no, no, they couldn't have. No one's allowed in my office unless I tell them to, and I didn't tell anyone to go in."
"Was the door locked when you left?"
"I never lock my door, you know that!"
"Then there's only one explanation," JD said. "Someone broke into your office and stole them."
Criss sank into the sofa. "Oh, that's just great!" he groaned. "There's an envelope full of nude pictures of me out there somewhere, and I'll bet anything they're gonna end up on the Web! It's the YouTube thing all over again, only worse!"
"They also took those photos of Dad as well," Costa reminded him.
Criss groaned again. "Oh, God, that's even worse!" he wailed. "The ones you took of me, yeah, those can be replaced, but those picutres of Dad--no one can replace them!"
He shot up from his seat. "Look, I don't care about the ones about me," he said, "but we gotta get Dad's back--if only for Mom's sake. I mean, she'd want those photos more than anything, right?"
JD sat back in his chair, his fingers steepled on his lips as he silently analyzed the situation. "Okay," he said finally, "the first thing we do is go up to the security office and see if they have any videotaping of someone going into your office. If we spot someone carrying two big envelopes, we got our man!"
"Or woman," Costa added. "There's a lot of female fans out there who'd love to see you in the buff, Criss."
"Whatever!" Criss snapped. "Let's just go and check out the eye in the sky and see what they got. Meantime, I'm going to report this to security. Someone breaks into my office and steals my stuff--they are so gonna get their ass kicked!"
While Criss and Costa went to the video surveillance office, JD and George scoured the entire Production Office for the missing photos. When nothing could be found, they questioned the office staff about what they knew, which, it turned out, was practically nothing.
"Are you sure you didn't see anyone go into Criss' office?" JD demanded.
"No one," Jennifer, one of the assistants, replied. "Just Criss and Costa later on."
"How about you, Aimee?"
"I was on mail duty that day; I didn't see anyone."
JD sighed in frustration. "Let's see what the tape has to say, okay?" George said. "We'll get those pictures back."
"Okay, so you say someone broke into your office and stole some photographs from you desk," Chief of Security Macaffey said gruffly. "What do they look like?"
"Eight by ten black and white glossies in Manila envelopes," Costa explained. "One envelope had pictures of our dad, the other had ones of Criss."
"And you discovered them gone when?"
"Ten minutes ago."
"And they were in the office since...?"
"Anything incriminating in them?"
Criss and Costa exchanged nervous glances. "The ones of our dad are about forty years old," Criss told him, "so they have more sentimental value than anything."
Macaffey nodded sympathetically. "I understand."
"The ones of me, well...they were for a private project Costa here's working on."
"Okay, we'll be on the lookout for 'em," Macaffey said confidentally. "We'll have the video guys go over the surveillance tapes from yesterday to see if we got anything."
"Thanks, Macaffey," Criss said gratefully.
Criss and Costa left. "I'm gonna scan the Web to see if anyone downloaded them yet," Costa said. "If we do find the culprit, we can have him arrested for theft and unauthorized use of material."
"Yeah, you do that," Criss said. "Meanwhile, I'm gonna keep looking for those photos. Maybe they'll turn up somewhere around here."
"Wishful thinking," Costa mumbled. "Look, I'm sorry I got you into this, Criss."
"Cos, there's nothing to be sorry about."
"No, no, no, I should have taken those photos with me in the first place. It was my personal project, and now someone's gone and turned it into a cyber-peepshow!"
Criss laid a hand on Costa's shoulder. "Look, Cos, what's done is done. Really, I don't care about the ones about me anymore, though I would be embarrassed if they did get on the Web. You can replace those. I just want the ones of Dad back at least. Those mean more to me than all the pictures of me in the world." He patted his shoulder. "Now, come on, let's see what the eye in the sky saw yesterday."
09-05-2011, 01:25 PM
The grainy images of the video surveillance tape from the past twenty-four hours played on the computer monitor before the watchful eyes of Macaffey and Jace Evanovich, one of the supervisors of the video surveillance room. The cameras had been trained on the entrance of the MindFreak production office from both sides of the corridor. For the first twelve hours of the tape, only office staff and Criss himself had been observed entering or exiting the office. The only sign of the missing envelopes had been in Costa's hands when he went into the office. "At least we know what to look for," Evanovich said.
They fast forwarded the tape when there was no action, stopping only when someone was spotted at the door. They saw Criss and Costa leave together around one PM, both men empty handed. Evanovich fast forwarded the tape again.
"Hey, hold it! Hold it!" Macaffey said quickly. "Back that up a bit."
Evanovich rewound the tape to the point where an unidentified man was going into the office. Through the large windows, they could see him heading in the direction of Criss' private office. The office staff paid no notice; obviously he must be known to them, or else they were to busy to notice, Macaffey reasoned. One minute later, the man reappeared leaving the office, the envelopes clearly in his hand.
"Freeze that!" Macaffey ordered.
The tape stopped. The mysterious man leaving the office was caught in the corridor in mid-stride. "Get a close-up on his face," Macaffey told the supervisor.
Evanovich zoomed in on the man's face. "Can you get a make on him?" Macaffey asked.
Evanovich "spotlighted" the face on the screen and downloaded it into the security files to find a match. The computer scanned the image, searching its database for identification. After a few moment's delay, the response came: no match.
"Well, he doesn't have a rap sheet, anyway," Macaffey murmured. "Check the HR file, see if he's an employee anywhere in the hotel."
Evanovich nodded. "Right."
Again the image was downloaded into the system. Again, the same negative response. "So he's not a career criminal, and he doesn't work for the hotel," Macaffey said thoughfully. "Check the card system, see if there's a photo ID on him."
Evanovich downloaded the image into the ID card system specially reserved for camera crews, stage hands, performers and anyone else involved in the entertainment sector of the Luxor. Criss was adamant about his staff having them for the sake of his own security, both personal and professional, as well as for the general safety of all concerned. No one outside the MindFreak company was permitted access backstage of the theater nor on the set of the series without one, so as to protect Criss' illusions as well as himself from overzealous fans or the snooping press. The cards were more than a security measure: they were his insurance policy against betrayal of his secrets.
The system scanned its files for a few seconds, then stopped at one particular file. Macaffey smiled triumphantly. "I think we got our man!" he said, relishing every word he spoke. "Get a printout of that file--I'm gonna show Angel to see if he knows who it is."
Criss sat dejectedly on the sofa, worrying about the PR fallout that would result if (or when) those photos of him were made public. While he had claimed he was unconcerned about them, deep down he knew they would cause a great deal of personal embarrassment. How would everyone react if they saw him in the nude? Granted, a lot of female fans would drool over them, but what about his younger fans, the kids he loved to entertain? Criss had always tried to tailor many of his illusions so children could enjoy them as much as adults did. Would their parents boycott his shows if they learned about Criss Angel being photographed in the nude? Many people were extremely sensitive when it came to the naked human body to the point of being horrified at the sight of it, going to great lengths to shield impressionable children from the sight of bare skin. They feared society was doomed unless everyone covered their wee-wees, and were not hesitant to speak out in the name of public decency. Personally, Criss thought such prudery ridiculous if not outrageous, but these same prim and proper citizens were also paying customers to the Luxor and the other hotels and casinos in Vegas. The missing photos would simply give them more ammunition in their fight against naked flesh.
Worse, the precious photos of his father from his bodybuilding days had also been stolen. He knew his mother would be especially grieved at the loss of those irreplacable eight-by-tens from forty years ago. It would be a slap in the collective face of his family if those photos were published without his permission. If only he had had the foresight to lock them away in his file drawer before going to the match...
Criss bolted upright. Of course! The files! Those photos weren't completely lost after all--he had downloaded them into his PC after he got them from JD over a week ago to use for his show. If the originals were lost forever, he could reproduce them from his computer files. And if anyone tried to download them on any website, he could easily prove that they were his property and could press criminal charges against whoever stole them.
His relief was short-lived when he realized he didn't have copies of Costa's photos to prove theft of them. Costa would, though, he reasoned; he must have the negatives in his studio--there was that ray of hope. But the nagging thought of his naked body soaring through cyberspace for anyone and everyone to see still rankled him. Dear God, he groaned inwardly, isn't there such a thing as privacy anymore?
As if to answer that query, Chief of Security Macaffey burst into the production office unannounced. Criss broke from his miserable reverie to look up at him. Macaffey held up a computer printout. "I think we got your photo thief!" he crowed, triumphantly handing the printout to Criss, who took it eagerly. "I think it's one of your own," Macaffey added.
Criss studied the printout. "Yeah, it is," he confirmed. "That's the guy who does the editing."
"So, where is he?" Macaffey not so much asked as demanded.
"Editing room's this way," Criss said, beckoning the chief of security to follow. "Come on."
09-05-2011, 01:27 PM
Manny looked up from his monitor, startled to see Criss with the head of security with him in the editing room. "What's the deal?" he asked nervously.
"Did you take a couple of envelopes containing photographs of me and Dad from my office?" Criss demanded.
"A couple of...oh, yeah!" Manny suddenly remembered. "You wanted me to add some pictures of your dad in the show, but you never gave them to me, so I went to your office to see you about them. But you weren't there, and your office door was open, and I saw the envelopes, so I took the liberty of taking them myself. I meant to return them to you after I was finished."
"Only one of the envelopes contained pictures of Dad," Criss told him. "The other ones were me."
"Yeah, the nudies."
"I saw them," Manny admitted. "I wasn't sure if you wanted to include those, so I pretty much left them alone."
"Thanks," Criss said. "Now where are they?"
Manny rose from his seat. "Gimme a minute here, willya?"
He sifted through the pile of files and envelopes, reading each carefully. After tossing aside half of one stack he triumphantly held up the worn envelope. "I found them!" he cried triumphantly, and handed it to Criss.
Criss took the envelope, opened it, and withdrew the precious glossies of his father in his prime. Macaffey could not help but be impressed. "That's your dad?!" he said, amazed.
"Yeah, that's my dad," Criss affirmed sadly. "He used to pose for bodybuilding magazines forty years ago. He was a real fitness buff back in the day."
"So what happened to him?" Macaffey asked. "If you don't mind my asking."
"He died thirteen years ago," Criss replied. "Stomach cancer. He was only sixty when he passed away."
Macaffey shook his head sympathetically. "Pity. My old man lived to be almost eighty before he bit the big one. One day he was alive and kicking, next morning--bam! Coronary, two AM." He sighed resignedly. "Well, that's life for you, I guess."
Criss turned back to Manny. "What about the other envelope? Where is it?"
Manny turned back to his stacks. "It's gotta be here somewhere," he muttered. "I know I put it with your dad's." He shifted, tossed, and sorted out the piles of envelopes, folders and other clutter. "I'm sure it was right here. I know it is."
Criss handed the old Manila envelope to Macaffey and joined in the search. Envelope after envelope, folder after folder was carefully examined and discarded. Manny's desk was practically cleared off when they gave up the search. "I don't know what happened, Criss," he said. "I swear those pictures of you were right on top of the ones of your dad."
"Who else was in your office?" Macaffey barked.
"No one," Manny replied. "The only other person who comes in here is the cleaning person to empty the trash, but they're pretty trustworthy, so I doubt..."
Criss looked at Macaffey. "Check the maintenance staff," he ordered the chief. "See if anyone took it."
Macaffey nodded, handed Criss the envelope, and strode out of the room. "Keep looking for that envelope," he told Manny. "That cleaning lady or whoever may not be as trustworthy as you think."
09-05-2011, 01:29 PM
A stout, middle-aged woman named June stood bewildered before the formidable figure of Chief of Security Macaffey. She was crisply dressed in the regulation housekeeper's uniform of the Luxor Hotel and Resort, but her hair was disheveled after a long shift. When Macaffey informed her about the theft in the editing room and demanded to know if she had taken the photographs, she vehemently denied any knowledge about it.
"Go ahead!" she said defiantly. "Seach my locker! Search my cart! Search the whole damn office if you want to! You aren't going to find anything, because I didn't take anything from anywhere! Besides, I didn't even work last night! If anyone stole those pictures, it was whoever was on duty that night!"
"You know who was on duty last night?" Macaffey asked.
"Schedule's on the wall over there," June said, pointing to the bulletin board.
Macaffey scanned the abbreviated heiroglyphics on the crudely printed schedule on the bulletin board. "Where's the editing room?"
June came over and pointed it out for him on the form. "There."
"D. Kemmings," Macaffey read. "Who's that?"
"Danise," June told him. "But she's been here for years; she wouldn't take anything."
"Get her over here now," Macaffey ordered.
Danise Kemmings was summoned. The slender black woman with the tight bun arrived after a few minute's delay. "What's going on here?" she asked.
"Did you take out the trash in the MindFreak Productions office last night?" Macaffey demanded bluntly.
"Not last night," Danise replied. "More like around five-thirty in the afternoon. Why?"
"Because there are some photographs of Criss Angel here missing from that office," Macaffey said. "You were the only one who was in that office besides the editor. Care to explain?"
"Mister, I swear to God I didn't take anything besides the trash out of that office!" Danise protested.
"Did you see anyone take anything out of that office?"
"No." Suddenly, Danise halted, as if recalling something. "I did see someone around that office, though, just as I was coming in," she said quickly.
"What'd he look like?"
"Well, it's hard to get a description, because his face was covered with something white," Danise told him. "He wore a black jacket, like a biker's jacket, and dark pants. He was all hunched over, like this." She bowed her shoulders and clenched her arms about her.
"We'll check the tape from surveillance," Macaffey said. "Maybe they got your hunchback. In the meantime, we would like to search your locker for the photographs, just in case. Do we have your permission?"
Danise heaved a huge sigh. "Okay, but you're not going to find anything," she said.
"That's for us to find out," Macaffey said brusquely. "You can go now."
Danise turned to leave, but she spun back around. "Hey, if you find my spare set of keys, let me know," she quipped.
Criss turned to Macaffey. "Listen, I gotta get back," he said. "Good luck finding those photographs."
"We'll find 'em," he said. "If that hunchback took the main corridor, they got 'im on tape."
Criss sighed in frustration. "This is starting to turn into a wild goose chase," he said.
Macaffey nodded grimly. "Yeah, and when we find that guy who stole those pictures, his 'goose' is cooked!"
09-05-2011, 01:33 PM
"So JD asks if I want a lift, and I'm like, sure, what the hell, y'know?" George spoke into the videocamera trained on him. "So I get in the Rover, and we drive around to pick up my aunt, and there's this guy comin' up to her. And all of a sudden he opens up his coat and...!" He mimicked opening an imaginary raincoat. "Hey, hey, showtime! I'm, like, did that guy just flash her? So me and JD get out of the car and we run like hell toward that (bleeper), and he's running towards us. I just went BAM!" George smashed his right fist into his left palm for emphasis. "Right in the face! Broke the (bleeper's) nose in three places! Next thing you know, he's flat on the sidewalk, and his coat was completely open, and he was totally naked--God, he was an ugly (bleeper)! JD's, like, Oh, my God, I'm blind!"
"Did they press charges?" one of the producers asked from out of camera range.
"Against the flasher? Yeah, sixteen counts of indecent exposure--one of them against a minor."
"No, I meant any charges against you."
"Who, me?" George shook his head. "Nah, at least not for now. I could face battery charges, but I think I can get them to mitigate 'em, since it was in self-defense in a way. I could plead no contest--I mean, I'm certainly not guilty of anything. That (bleeper) had no right to do that to my aunt! I mean, what if she had a heart attack or something? That (bleeper) could be facing manslaughter charges if she did!"
"Anything else you want to add?"
George thought about it. "Nah, nothing I can think of. I just hope they find those pictures of Criss that got stolen out of his office."
"Okay," the producer said. "And cut."
George took a swig of bottled water. "How was that?" he asked.
"Good, George," the producer said. "Real good."
There was a click of a door being opened. All heads swiveled to see Criss enter the room. "Well, I got good news and I got bad news," he said. "The good news is we found Dad's photos; turned out Manny took them for editing."
"And what's the bad news?" George asked.
"The ones of me are still missing. Turns out someone made off with them--took them right out of the editing studio."
"Macaffey's on the trail for them," Criss went on. "One of the cleaning ladies saw a guy in a white mask leave the studio. Surveillance is checking the tape right now."
"Think it's anyone we know?"
"Maybe," Criss replied. "Maybe not."
Back in video surveillance, Macaffey reviewed the tape from the editing studio entrance, trying to find the white-masked culprit who stole the envelope of photographs. At least there was a more definate time frame; the maid had said around five-thirty PM yesterday. Evanovich fast-forwarded the tape to that time period. Sure enough, there was a dark figure lurking about the editing studio, his face a white blur.
"Okay, freeze that," Macaffey ordered. "Zoom in on the face."
Evanovich stopped the tape and drew the figure in for a close-up. Though the image was just a grainy profile, there were a few distingushing features identifiable.
"See if you can get a sharper image," Macaffey said.
"This is the best I can get," Evanovich told him. "Want me to run it through the files?"
Evanovich downloaded the image and entered it into the system, but due to the white splotch on the man's face, no identification was possible. Macaffey swore under his breath. "Keep that on file," he ordered. "We'll need it later."
The image was saved. Macaffey strode out of the office, cursing the thief. He had always prided himself on running the tightest ship in the city: three-hundred-sixty degree surveillance, twenty-four-seven, with manned security at all entrances from the atrium to the loading docks. Now some two-bit thief goes and steals a bunch of pictures right from under his nose! Well, he was going to get those pictures back one way or another! And when he did, God help the poor (bleeper) who stole them!
He burst into the security office in a sour mood. Those unfortunate to be in his path cleared the area as if escaping an upcoming storm. Only Redding, a veteran guard, had the courage to approach him.
"It's about the Criss Angel pictures, right?" he hedged.
"Damn right it is!" Macaffey growled. "To think that something like this happened on my watch! If I can't stop one little theft like this--"
Redding handed Macaffey a piece of paper. "Maybe this will give you a lead," he said.
Macaffey took the paper and read the pasted letters upon it:
Pay $1,000,000 Or The pictures Go Online ! Dropoff the MONEY @ THE PLAY GROUND @ Sunset Park @ NOON TOMORROW I'll BE WAIT ing
09-05-2011, 01:35 PM
"Where the hell did you find this?" Macaffey demanded.
"I found it taped on the door of MindFreak Productions," Redding replied. "Pulled it off while you were out. You know anything about it?"
"Oh, I know about it all right," Macaffey growled. "Some SOB in a white mask went into the editing office and swiped two envelopes of photos of Criss Angel and his dad. We got the ones of his dad back."
"So, obviously, he still has the ones of Criss."
"Brilliant deduction, Redding."
"So where do we go from here?"
"First, we go to Angel and show him this note," Macaffey said. "Then, we go from there to Sunset Park and meet this (bleeper), get the pictures back, and bust his ass for burglary. Meantime, get the CSI geeks here to take fingerprints on the door or whatever--we'll need the evidence."
"I kinda wonder what these pictures are," Redding mused. "Criss Angel naked, maybe? Probably with some Playboy centerfolds? They must be pretty incriminating if this guy wants a million bucks for 'em."
"For a million bucks," Macaffey said, "you don't blackmail someone over family snapshots."
Criss looked up at his brother, Costa. "Hey, Cos, what's up?"
Costa sat down on the sofa beside him. "First of all, I'm sorry I got you into this mess with those photos," he said glumly. "If I had just remembered to take them with me when I left--"
Criss held up his hand to silence him. "Cos, don't beat yourself up over it, okay?" he said. "What's done is done. We'll get those pictures back one way or another. They got the thief on tape, I know they do. They'll find him, and the pictures."
"But what if they're made public?" Costa argued. "What if someone posts them online? It's gonna be Tommy Lee-Pamela Anderson all over again!"
Criss shrugged. "We'll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it, that's all," he replied. "We'll tell the truth, say they had been yours, that they had been stolen, and let the public deal with it in their own way. I'll insist they were for private purposes only--"
"That's what Tommy and Pamela claimed," Costa interrupted. "Fat lot of good it did them."
"So, if they aren't located in twenty-four hours, I'll hold a press conference and tell them myself."
"In twenty-four hours, your naked ass is gonna be all over the Web."
"Look, let me handle the PR," Criss said. "You just help find those pictures."
Macaffey's abrupt, unnanounced arrival startled the two brothers. "I got something you should see," he said bluntly, handing him the note Redding had given him.
Criss took the note and read it. "It says, 'Pay one million dollars or the pictures go online. Drop off the money at Sunset Park at noon tomorrow. I'll be waiting'." He handed the note back to Macaffey. "Where was this?"
"Right on the door there," he replied, pointing to the office door through which he came. "Must've left it when we were going to the editing office."
"Tomorrow noon at Sunset Park," Criss mumbled thoughtfully. "Okay, if that's the way he wants it, then we'll play by his rules."
Macaffey was taken aback. "You're not planning on paying this guy a million bucks, now, are you?"
Criss grinned mysteriously. "Let's just say I'm planning my latest, greatest illusion yet.
09-05-2011, 01:37 PM
Evening fell on Las Vegas. The neon glare of the fables Strip could still be seen in Costa's rearview mirror as he drove home in his Land Rover. Overhead lights, insulated cases of film and other camera equipment rattled in the back of the truck-like vehicle as he turned up the drive of his home. The lights were on inside, meaning his mother, Dimitra, was waiting up for him. Costa smiled at that--no doubt she'd have dinner waiting for him as well. He was in his mid-forties, living on his own as a successful photographer and technical assistant to his brother Criss, and his mother still doted on him like a little boy. Once a mom, always a mom, I guess, he surmised.
He stopped the Rover in front of the house and climbed out. The minute he entered the foyer of the huge mansion he knew his suspicions were correct: the aroma of familiar foods wafted from the kitchen, triggering memories of his Long Island childhood.
"Mom?" he called out. "I'm home."
Dimitra emerged from the kitchen. "Hi, honey," she crooned. "Dinner will be ready in a moment. You have just enough time to wash up."
Costa nodded, smiling. Just like old times, he reflected. Dinner's ready, you have just enough time to wash up! And don't just wet your hands and wipe them on the towel--use soap! Three boys crowded around the bathroom basin, splashing each other, squirting the bar of soap from one hand to the other, baby brother Christopher not quite tall enough to reach the spigot so he needed a boost from one of his older brothers or had to stand on the toilet seat, then fumbling with the giant towel on the rack to dry off, then the mad dash to the table where their parents waited. Life had been so simple then, he mused. When did it get so complicated?
He went into the half-bathroom next to his office and washed his hands vigorously, as if prepping for surgery. Years ago, when he used to work in one of the family-owned cafes, his father had taught him how and when to wash his hands in the professional manner of all restaraunt employees: scrub thoroughly up to mid-forearm, making sure to get under the nails, then rinse. The hands were the biggest conduit of germs and bacteria, Dad had emphasized over and over again. Remember, he had said, no one wants to eat your germs!
Once his hands were immaculatly clean, Costa headed for the dining room where his mother had laid out dinner for two: stuffed tomatos with ground lamb and spices, pastitisio, and bread. Two long-stemmed wine glasses were filled with red wine--a long way from the standard family fare of meat and milk, he noted with some amusement. "Looks good, Mom," he said.
They sat down at the table, said a brief word of grace, and began eating. "So," Dimitra said, smiling, "how was your day?"
"It went all right," Costa replied. "Until someone broke into the editing office and stole some photos I gave to Criss."
"What sort of photos?"
"Well, there were some of Dad back in his bodybuilding days that JD found, and some of Criss," Costa replied casually. "We got the ones of Dad back, though," he added hastily.
"Well, that's good," Dimitra said with some relief. "I'm sure the ones of Christopher will turn up soon."
God, I hope they do! "Macaffey's on the trail for them right now. He's plenty ticked off about a break-in happening on his watch, even if it is just a bunch of pictures. You know how gung-ho that guy can be about security."
"I'm sure he'll find them," Dimitra said confidently. "What kind of photos were they anyway?"
That was the question Costa had dreaded to hear. "Just some eight-by-tens I took, that's all," he answered drily. Of him in the nude, that is.
"Do they have any idea who took them?"
"They probably got him on tape. All they have to do is run his face through the system and see if he's got a criminal record. If he doesn't, at least they got a profile on him."
Dimitra sipped her wine. "Probably one of his fans," she sighed. "They can be so...obsessive at times! They go to ridiculous lengths to meet him, or get a picture of him or something. I'm surprised he hasn't fallen victim to a stalker yet."
"Believe me, Ma," Costa said, "A stalker is the least of Criss' worries right now."
"What do you mean by that?"
Costa hesitated, realizing he might have overplayed his hand. "Oh, nothing, nothing at all," he replied airily.
Dimitra was not so easily placated. "It's something, all right."
"Mom, all I'm saying is that Criss can handle a stalker, so don't worry about it."
"I'm not talking about stalkers, Costa," Dimitra persisited. "It's something else. Does it have anything to do with those stolen pictures?"
Costa set down his knife and fork. She had him dead to rights, and he knew it; there was nothing for him to do but come clean. "Okay," he sighed. "Those photos of Criss I took? Well, he's posing...nude."
Dimitra was aghast. "Nude!"
"It's just for a personal portfolio I'm working on!" Costa hastily explained. "They weren't meant to be published or anything! They were for my own personal collection! I just took them to Criss' office to show him, and I accidentally left them there. The editor took them with the photos of Dad, but he never used them, I swear! Then they were stolen from the editing studio--we don't know who has them now! And if we don't find them soon, everybody in the whole world will probably be seeing him uncut and uncensored!"
"This could turn into a scandal!" Dimitra cried. "This could ruin Christopher's career! This could bring shame upon our family!"
"Okay, Mom, okay, don't panic" Costa said placatingly. "Like I said, Macaffey's on the trail for them. Knowing him, he'll hunt that guy down to the ends of the earth to get those photos back. It's his reputation on the line as far as he's concerned."
"It's more like Christopher's that's on the line here," Dimitra retorted. "if they don't find those pictures soon, God only knows what will happen next!"
09-05-2011, 01:41 PM
Macaffey looked at Criss warily. "So how do you plan to do this?" he asked.
"First, we find a place in the park where we can rendezvous with the thief," Criss told him. "Somewhere open enough for him to find me, yet have someplace for you guys to hide until he arrives. The minute he hands over the photos, and I give him the money, BAM! You nail him!"
"Sounds pretty standard so far," Macaffey said. "But you're not really gonna be carrying around a million bucks, are you?"
Criss grinned. "Leave that to me," he said, nodding. "Just get some backup to bring this (bleep)hole down when the time comes. I'll do the rest."
Macaffey heaved a deep breath. "I sure hope you know what the hell you're doing, Angel."
"Oh, believe me," Criss said confidently, "I do."
The midday sun beat down mercilessly upon Sunset Park. Waves of reflected heat shimmered up from the pavements, forcing parkgoers to seek the shade of the trees or the covered picnic pavilions. Under one such pavilion sat Criss Angel, a nondescript black briefcase lying on the picnic table in front of him. He was the sole occupant, but he was far from alone: a small videocamera strategically positioned to one of the support posts was trained upon him and the table with the briefcase, relaying his image to the police van parked behind the concession stand. Inside the van, two police officers watched the monitor carefully, waiting for someone to arrive.
"What time is it?" asked one of the officers.
"Almost noon," replied the other. "He should be here any minute now."
"He'd better," the first officer grumbled. "We've been waiting for fifteen minutes now, and so far all we've seen is Angel sitting there."
"C'mon, you've been on longer stakeouts than this!"
"Yeah, for drug dealers" the first officer retorted. "This is just for a bunch of his photographs!" He pointed at the monitor showing Criss waiting patiently at the picnic table.
"I bet they're pretty racy if he wants them back so bad," the second officer quipped.
"Whatever. Just keep watching the screen."
Suddenly, the second officer became excited. "Holditholditholdit! Right there, you see?"
The first officer looked closer. Sure enough, someone in dark clothes and a white facemask appeared on the screen. "Okay, zoom in closer," he said.
The image of Criss and the newcomer grew larger on the monitor. There was some discussion between them at first, then the mysterious stranger held up what looked like a large envelope. Criss tried to grab it, but the other man whisked it away, obviously demanding his money first. With a look of chagrin on his face, Criss opened up the briefcase, revealing what appeared to be hundred dollar bills. The man hesitated at first, then dropped the envelope, grabbed the briefcase and made off with it.
The two police officers in the van sprang into action. "Okay, let's move!" the first officer barked.
09-05-2011, 01:44 PM
In spite of the fact that he was part of a sting operation, Criss felt calm and serene. He sat alone at the picnic table under the pavilion, a plain black briefcase in front of him. To his left, a small videocamera attached to a post was trained on him, recording his image and every move, though for the past fifteen minutes or so he hadn't moved a muscle. He knew the police van was not too far away; once they had the guy with the photos in their sights, they would swoop down and nail his ass good.
He wished his "contact" would hurry up and get here, but at the same time he savored the moments alone. Solitude out of doors had become a luxury Criss seldom enjoyed; even on his rare vacations to Mexico there was always some snooping photographer hiding somewhere in the distance snapping pictures of him and whatever girl he happened to be with at the time. Today, however, there were no cameras (save for the one overhead), no nosy reporters demanding interviews, no overzealous fans clamoring for his attention. There was just the warm desert breeze playing on his skin, the fresh air filling his lungs, and the stillness of the park setting around him. It was a good place to meditate, to clear his troubled mind. Unfortunatly, he was here on business, so he had to stay focused.
From the corner of his eye he spied a lone figure approaching the pavilion, not so much walking as scurrying like a huge black beetle in his dark clothes with something white across his face. Criss rose cautiously--this had to be his contact, he figured. The beetle-man halted before Criss, staring at him as if to confirm his identity. Criss did the same, noting that the white thing over the man's face was an ordinary white paper filter mask, the kind available at any hardware store.
The beetle-man stepped forward. "You got the money?" he spoke in a muffled voice.
"You got the pictures?" Criss asked warily.
"I got the pictures," the beetle-man replied, holding up a large Manila envelope. "Right here in my hand."
Criss reached over to take the envelope, but the beetle-man yanked it away. "Ah, ah, ah!" the beetle-man admonshed tauntingly.
"Show me the money, and then I'll show you the pictures."
Chagrined, Criss opened the briefcase, revealing neatly stacked one hundred dollar bills. "One million dollars," he said, "just like you told me. Now hand over the pictures."
The beetle-man's eyes fairly popped out of his head when he saw all that money in the briefcase. He dropped the envelope, siezed the briefcase and tucked it under his arm. "So long, sucker!" he cried out as he dashed off with his windfall.
Criss bent down, picked up the envelope and examined it. It was the same one Costa had used--that was a good sign. He opened it up and removed the contents. Upon closer scrutiny, however, Criss realized he had been duped. Instead of the photos Costa had taken, he discovered they were cheap publicity stills from the original Star Wars movie. Outaged at this deception, Criss took off running after the creep. He is so (bleeping) dead! he said to himself. When I find that (bleeper), I'm gonna kick his ass from here to Mexico! I'll shove those pictures straight up his--!
To his relief, the police van had cut the beetle-man off at the corner. The thief skidded to a halt at the sight of it, then retreated the other way, only to collide into Criss. With a loud oof! the beetle-man slammed headlong into Criss' body, sending him sprawling backward onto the ground, the briefcase tumbling from under him. Before Criss could vent his spleen on the thief who deceived him, the two police officers had flipped the fugitive over, pinioned his arms behind him, slapped the cuffs onto his wrists, then hoisted him upright--all with practiced efficiency, as Criss noted with admiration.
"Get that thing off his face!" the first officer barked.
The second officer obeyed, whipping the filter mask away with a single yank. The beetle-man doubled over, howling in pain. When he straightend up again, both Criss and the two police officers saw the gauze bandage taped over his nose.
"So what happened to you?" the second officer asked.
"Ask him!" the beetle-man spat, nodding toward Criss. "His (bleep)hole cousin did this to me!"
09-05-2011, 01:49 PM
Criss stared in shock at the struggling figure before him. "You?!?" he gasped. "It was you all the time?! You stole those photos from the editing studio to blackmail me?"
"Blackmail? No." the flasher spat. "Kevin's the one who put me up to this! He promised me fifty-fifty if I got those pictures from you! I just wanted payback for what that big lug of a cousin of yours did to me!"
"Who's Kevin?" Criss demanded.
"You know who Kevin is," the flasher retorted. "He used to work for you, remember? You fired him, remember?"
Criss remembered all right, and his anger turned up a few notches. "So you and him were in it together, weren't you?"
The first officer hauled the flasher away to the van. "C'mon," he said impatiently, "we can discuss this at the station."
"Wait!" the flasher cried out. "What about my money? You still owe me one million bucks, Angel!"
Criss picked up the briefcase. "What money?" he asked, smiling as he opened the case to reveal nothing inside.
Both the flasher and the two officers stared at the empty briefcase, dumbfounded.
Sergeant Dolan, LVMPD, strode into the debriefing room where the two stakeout police officers waited for him. "Okay, what've we got?" he droned.
"Name's Zubrowski," the first officer said, handing the sergeant a file folder. "Alvin Dudley Zubrowski, aka the Vegas Flasher. Out on bail for sixteen counts of indecent exposure, one count of CSA against a minor; now he's in for bee-and-ee and petty theft, plus extortion. Broke into the editing studio for MindFreak Productions at the Luxor and stole an envelope containing photographs of Criss Angel--wanted one million dollars for them, so we arranged to rendezvous with him at Sunset Park. Alvin gave him fake pictures; Angel gave him a briefcase full of cash, but then made it disappear. Damndest thing I ever saw."
Dolan grunted. "So where is this guy?"
"You mean Angel or Alvin?"
"Room Three. Angel's in with Meridian. Seems they're on familiar terms."
"Okay, I'll take care of our friend the Vegas Flasher. Good job, guys."
Dolan left the debriefing room and headed for Room Three. The other officers left for the break room for a much needed cup of coffee.
Detective Jim Meridian sat behind his desk, staring at Criss. "Quite a stunt you pulled this afternoon, Angel," he said with grudging respect. "I suppose I must thank you for bringing down the Vegas Flasher for the second time in a week."
"I didn't bring down the Flasher the first time," Criss protested. "That was my cousin, George. He was coming out from his boxing match at the Excalibur with my brother, JD, and he was the one who floored him. I mean, the guy flashed my mother, for God's sake! I would have done the same if I'd been there, but I had to leave early to do the evening show." He leaned closer. "Who the hell is this guy, anyway?"
Meridian picked up a photostat of the Flasher's file. "Name's Alvin Zubrowski," he read.
Criss suppressed the urge to laugh. Alvin Zubrowski? Geez, with a name like that, he probably got his ass kicked all through high school! He pictured a wimpy little nerdlike teenage Alvin with tortoise-shell glasses taped at the bridge, wearing a white dress shirt with a bow tie and plaid trousers coming up above his ankles, revealing white socks under black orthopedic shoes, being jeered at by the school jocks in the hallway. It was an amusing scenario, though Criss admitted he could be wrong about him.
"Forty-nine years old, unemployed, divorced twice, lives outside Las Vegas" Meridian continued. "Has a history of exhibitionism on his record: cost him three jobs and both his marriages. He usually targets women over forty, but one of his victims had her fifteen-year-old granddaughter with her at the time, so now he's facing up to fifteen to twenty years behind bars."
"In other words," Criss said, "a total loser."
Meridian set down the photostat and got down to business. "Okay, Angel, what happened at the park this afternoon?" he asked.
Criss related the theft of the photos, the meeting at the park, the flasher's deception with the Star Wars photos, his pursuit, and the capture. Meridian nodded in understanding: it was all pretty plausible so far. "My guys tell me you made a million dollars disappear from the briefcase you had," he said. "Care to explain that little trick?"
"You know a good magician never reveals his secrets," Criss reminded him.
"If that magician was smart, he'd tell how he did it or face a charge of noncompliance," Meridian retorted.
Realizing the veteran detective had a valid point, Criss produced the briefcase and opened it up before a grim-faced Meridian on his desk. "You see it's empty," he said.
"I get it, it's empty," Meridian muttered impatiently.
Criss closed it again, spun it around on the desktop, then opened it up again. Inside were the same neat stacks of hundred dollar bills. "And there you are," he said with a hint of triumph.
Meridian eyed him warily. "So what's the trick?"
"Swear you won't tell anyone? I mean, I can't go around producing a million dollars on demand every day, you know."
"Fine, I'll keep your little secret," Meridian snapped. "Just tell me how you did it for chrissakes!"
The detective could not help but be impressed as Criss showed him the mechanics of the illusion, as he called it. "Pretty good," Meridian said. "Next time we need a million dollars delivered to another blackmailer, we'll call you."
Criss set the briefcase aside. "Now, tell me about Kevin," Meridian said.
"Kevin was a cameraman I fired because he taped me taking a shower in my personal gym," Criss explained. "He posted that tape on YouTube just to spite me."
"You take legal action?"
"You sure it was Alvin and not Kevin who stole those photos?"
"Beats me," Criss replied, shrugging. "You'll have to ask Alvin--or Kevin."
09-05-2011, 01:52 PM
Another training session ended, and George was showering away the morning's workout with his boxing team. Beside him, Tobe Lacie was scrubbing his forearms with a huge bar of green soap. Christian Ruhr stood stolidly across them, letting the stinging spray ease his aching shoulders. Conversation was kept to a bare minimum as the team showered, though Tobe couldn't resist speaking up.
"Hey George," Tobe said, smiling a little. "I heard about you nailin' the Vegas Flasher outside the Excalibur after the quarterfinals."
"Yeah, so?" George replied indifferently.
"So who was that mother(bleeper), anyway, goin' around flashin' little old ladies like that?"
"I didn't stop to ask his name," George retorted. "(Bleeper) flashes my aunt, I take action."
Tobe was appalled. "He flashed your aunt?"
"Yeah, he flashed my aunt, right out there in front of the Excalibur." George turned off the shower and retrieved his towel. "JD and me were going to pick her up at the entrance, and we see this guy in a black raincoat coming up to her and..." He mimicked opening a raincoat. "Surprise! We're (bleeped), so we go runnin' after him, and that's when I punch him. God, he was an ugly (bleeper)!"
"He hurt bad?"
George wrapped the towel around his waist. "Broke his nose in three places."
"(Bleep), man, I'd 'a done the same thing if it'd been my aunt. If it'd been my mama, then, (bleep), I'd 'a killed the mother(bleeper)! Break that (bleeper's) face in so bad, he'd wouldn't have a face left! They take him to jail?"
"Oh, yeah, they took him to jail."
Tobe laughed, gloating over the Flasher's fate. "Man, he won't wanna go flashin' his ass in there!"
"Wouldn't make any difference if he did," George said drily. "I mean, who'd wanna look at his ugly ass?"
Back at police HQ, Alvin Zubrowski, the infamous Vegas Flasher, sat sullenly in the interrogation room with Sergeant Doyle, his reddened face contrasting sharply with the white gauze taped over his broken nose. Doyle looked down on Alvin as if he was a cockroach under the sink. "Okay, Zubrowski," Doyle growled, "where's the Angel photos you took? Huh?"
"I didn't take no photos of no one," Alvin growled back.
"Like hell you didn't!" Doyle snapped. "We got video surveillance tapes from the Luxor showing it was you who broke into the editing office and coming out with the envelope! That envelope you used in your little switcheroo was the original envelope those photos were in! We also got the note taped onto the production office door, and it's got your fingerprints on it! That and your accomplice, whom we're bringing in right now!"
He lowered himself to Alvin's eye level. "So, you wanna do this the easy way, or the hard way? You wanna come clean, tell me where the photos are, or do I have to get tough? You're already in a (bleep)load of trouble, Alvin--don't go lookin' for more."
Alvin remained silent. "I won't talk without my lawyer!" he said defiantly.
Doyle stared at Alvin disdainfully. "'My lawyer'," he sneered. "Every crook and bum that comes in here always plays that same tune: I want my lawyer! I won't talk without my lawyer! I won't answer any questions without my lawyer! Well, you ain't got a lawyer, Zubrowski! You practically waived your right to a lawyer when we busted you again! And even if you did, you'd still be screwed! We got enough evidence against you to send you up for twenty or thirty years! At your age, that's practically a life sentence! Now, are you gonna co-operate with me or not?"
"Kevin's the one with the pictures," Alvin said. "Ask him."
Doyle rose. "Okay, fine, we'll ask Kevin," he said. "but you're not getting off scot-free, Zubrowski. You're up (bleep) creek without a canoe, let alone a paddle! Like Yogi Berra said, it ain't over 'til it's over!"
Kevin was jolted out of bed by a loud pounding on the door of his apartment. He was jolted even more when he heard the words "Open up! Police!" shouted from the other side. Panicked, he searched for an exit, but it was impossible--his was a third-floor apartment, and the windows were practically corroded shut from years of wind, rain and negligence. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
The pounding became even louder and more persistant. Kevin had no choice but to answer the door. With fear gripping his stomach, he opened the door and saw two police officers standing before him. "Why didn't you answer the first time?" one of them demanded impatiently.
"Uh, I-I had to get dressed," Kevin alibied nervously. "I was in bed, sleeping."
The officer held up an official looking document. "We have a search warrant," he said officiously, "as well as a warrant for your arrest for possession of stolen property."
"Stolen property?" Kevin was flabbergasted. "I didn't steal nothin'!"
"That's for us to determine," the officer retorted, pushing Kevin aside. He turned to his partner. "You take the bedroom, I'll search the computer desk."
The partner went into the bedroom while the officer began sifting through the piles of papers and other clutter on the computer desk. Kevin made an attempt to stop him. "Hey, that's my stuff!" he protested.
The officer whirled around angrily. "You stay where you are!" he barked, "or I'm gonna charge you with impeding an investigation!"
"Investigation of what?"
"Stolen photos from MindFreak Productions."
Kevin felt his bowels turn to water. "I ain't got no photos from MindFreak Productions!" he insisted. "I haven't been there since..."
"Well, I got fired," Kevin explained feebly. "But it was wrongful termination, I can tell you!"
The officer resumed his search. "Not from what we heard," he said.
He pulled out a white mailing envelope from the stack on the desk and opened it. "Crane!" he shouted. "I think we found what we're looking for!"
Officer Crane came out of the bedroom. "What've you got?" he asked.
The officer handed the envelope to his partner. "Take a look for yourself."
Crane glanced at the photos. "Whooeeee!" he exclaimed, "no wonder Angel wanted 'em back so bad! We're talkin' Playgirl centerfold material here!"
The officer snatched the photos back and stuffed them in the envelope. "Never mind," he muttered. "Just cuff the guy and let's get out of here."
Crane approached Kevin with the handcuffs. Kevin bolted, but Crane was too quick for him: he grabbed Kevin by the shoulder, kicked him in the back of the knee to bring him down, pinioned his arms behind his back and secured his wrists with the cuffs. "You have the right to remain silent," Crane recited. "Anything you say can and will be held against you. You have the right to an attorney; if you can't afford one, one will be provided before questioning. Any questions?"
"I get it, Joe Friday," Kevin snarled. "I get it."
Kevin was hauled away to police headquarters. Though he was obviously upset over being taken into custody, he could still relish one triumph over his former employer, Criss Angel. The police may have the original photos, but he still got his revenge, and there was nothing anyone could do to reverse the mischief he had done.
09-05-2011, 01:56 PM
The phone in Detective Meridian's office rang. Meridian snatched up the receiver on pure reflex, disregarding Criss sitting before him. "Meridian here," he spoke in a clipped tone.
There was a long pause as the detective listened to what the other party had to say. "You did?" he said, his eyebrows raising with interest. "Good job, Dolan. Thanks."
Meridian hung up. A rare grin creased his face. "Good news, Angel," he said. "They found your photographs."
It was as if a huge boulder rolled off Criss' shoulders. "Oh, thank God!" he exclaimed, heaving a huge sigh of relief. "So, when do I get them back?"
"Well, we need to hold on to them for evidence against Alvin and his partner, Kevin," Meridian told him. "But don't worry, they'll be safe from prying eyes in the locker. From what Sergeant Dolan told me, they're pretty racy."
"They're not 'racy'," Criss protested. "I did them for my brother, Costa, as a personal project he was working on. They were solely for artistic reasons."
Meridian remained characteristically skeptical. "Artistic, huh?"
Criss was offended by the detective's tone. "It wasn't porno, if that's what you're thinking. There were no girls involved. It was just me. If you don't believe me, go down and look at them yourself!"
Meridian thought it over. "Okay, Angel," he said. "I might just do that. In the meantime, we need you to go down to Room Three. They got the guy who had the photos in his apartment."
"No, not Alvin. His name's Kevin Smythe. He says he used to work for you, but you fired him."
Criss nodded grimly. "Yeah, I know who he is. He was the mother(bleeper) who taped me taking a shower after my workout and posted it on YouTube." He rose to leave. "Thanks, Meridian," he said, shaking the detective's hand. "I owe you one. Now, if you'll excuse me, I got some personal business to attend to."
Down in Room Three, Criss' former cameraman sat at the plain wooden table, his face defiantly blank. He did not look up at Sergeant Dolan hovering over him, but stared sullenly into space, completely indifferent to the lawman's presence. Dolan, however, wasn't buying this tough-guy attitude; he knew from experience that many perps put on a show of machismo when they first landed on his doorstep, only to crack like eggs dropped on the sidewalk when presented with the full force of the law. I give him five minutes, he wagered with himself.
Dolan sat down before Kevin, staring him down across the table. "Okay, Smythe," he said. "We can do this the easy way or the hard way. You can either 'fess up right now, tell me all about the photos we found in your apartment, or I can make life very difficult for you. Your call."
"I don't know nothin' about no photos," Kevin snarled.
Dolan slapped down Costa's eight-by-tens of Criss in the nude. "Maybe these will refresh your memory," he said.
Kevin gave the photos a cursory glance. "What, you think I'm gay or something?"
Dolan leaned forward. "Don't get smart with me, Smythe," he growled. "My boys found these in your apartment--with you present! Now, are you gonna tell me how these got there or not?"
Kevin looked at the stack of photos again. "I didn't take them," he said. "I was nowhere near--"
"No where near where?" Dolan pressed.
Kevin thought fast. "Nowhere near...where they were. I never saw them before in my life."
One minute gone. "Look, I ain't got time for games here, Smythe. Either you come clean or--"
A knock interrupted Dolan's threat. "Don't move from that chair!" he ordered Kevin as he rose from his own seat to answer the door. Kevin swiveled his head around to see who had come to his rescue, hoping it was his appointed lawyer. His hopes were dashed when he saw the figure of his former employer standing in the doorway.
Dolan was underwhelmed before the presence of the famous illusionist. "You Criss Angel?" he deadpanned.
"Yeah, I'm Criss Angel."
The sergeant motioned him to enter. Kevin's bravado shriveled like a dried prune. Criss sat down in the chair across from his ex-cameraman, keeping his anger well in check. Dolan slid the photos like a deck of cards across the table. "Can you identify these pictures?" he asked officiously.
Criss picked them up and flipped through them, not so much looking at them as counting to see if they were all there. "Yep, these are mine," he confirmed. "Where'd you get them?"
"You asking me or Smythe, here?"
"Whoever has the right answer."
Dolan watched the color of Kevin's face drain of all color. Two minutes gone. "You gonna tell 'im," Dolan asked Kevin, "or do I have to?"
Kevin remained silent. "We found them in Smythe's apartment," Dolan told Criss. "His prints were on the envelope and the photos, same with Zubrowski's."
Criss thought for a moment. "Could you leave us alone for a few minutes, Sergeant?" he asked. "I wanna talk to this guy."
Dolan reluctantly agreed. "You got three minutes alone," he said. And you got three minutes left, Smythe, he added mentally as he walked out of the room.
Criss turned to Kevin. "Okay, Kev," he said, "what's the deal?" He tapped the stack of photos. "I know you didn't steal these--Alvin did--but you were in on it. Why? What reason did you have to try to blackmail me? Was it because I fired you for that little videotape you made of me and posted on YouTube?"
Kevin turned his head to check if they were being watched. "You really want to know?" he asked conspiratorially.
"Yes, I really want to know," Criss sneered back.
"In a way, yeah, it was payback for me," he said casually. "The blackmail was Alvin's idea. He wanted to get back at you for what Cousin George did to him. Him and me hooked up in a coffee shop one day after he got out of the hospital or whatever. I knew who he was right off because of the bandage on his nose. We got to talking, and it was his idea for me to get something on you. I was, like, hey, man, if you wanna get something on Criss Angel, do it yourself. So, he snooped around, you know, and he was the one who took those pictures from the editing room. I was nowhere near it."
"How did he know where the editing room was?" Criss asked. "Did you tell him?"
Kevin remained aloof. "I gave him a basic layout of the production office," he replied. "Kinda offhand, you would say."
"So you were an accomplice."
"Hey, I just told him about what happened to me, that's all," Kevin protested. "He's the one who acted on it."
"That still makes you an accomplice."
"Hey, man, I'm innocent! It was all Alvin."
"The photos were in your apartment," Criss reminded him. "Was that 'all Alvin' too?"
Kevin hesitated. "He planted them in there," he said quickly. "He's trying to frame me!"
"Don't whiz on my leg and tell me it's raining!" Criss snarled. "They found your prints on them! What'd you do with them after Alvin gave them to you, huh?"
"What difference does it make? You got them back!"
Criss pressed harder. "What did you do, Kevin?"
"Nothin', I swear--"
Criss grabbed Kevin's shirt and pulled him closer. "You don't go stealing pictures without reason, Smythe!" he snapped. "They said they were on your computer desk. You downloaded them, didn't you?"
Kevin smirked. "So what if I did?"
"Because if you did, I'm gonna kick your (bleeping) ass so hard--"
"Go ahead. It wouldn't make any difference, anyway. I posted it on every fansite that's got your name on it, and a few others, besides. You ever hear of xferret.com?"
"What is it?"
"It's a free online porno site, available to anyone who logs on. No ID, nothing. One click of the mouse, and eveyone will see your naked ass in all its glory! Think of it--Criss Angel, porn star! Could be a whole new career for you."
Criss tightened his grip. "You lying son of a--"
"Hey, you're the liar! You faked the briefcase full of money, remember?"
Criss flung Kevin back into his chair. "You are so (bleeping) dead, Smythe!" he growled. "You are so totally (bleeping) dead!"
He flung open the door. "Sergeant!" he shouted. "Get in here!"
Dolan strolled into the room. "No need to shout, son," he said casually. "I heard the whole thing from outside." He glanced at the clock on the wall. Five minutes, just like I thought. Still, I wish I'd been the one to make him confess. Oh, well.
He pulled Kevin up from his seat. "C'mon," he said gruffly. "You're coming with me."
Kevin still kept a triumphant smile on his face as Dolan hauled him away. "Doesn't make any difference what happens to me!" he jeered. "Everbody in the whole world is gonna see your (bleep)! It's all over, Angel! You're career is ruined! Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha!"
"Like hell it is!" Criss shot back. "You just wait, Smythe! After I get through with you, we'll see whose career is ruined!"
09-05-2011, 01:58 PM
"Yeah, Criss, what's up?"
"Well, I got good news and I got bad news."
"What's the good news?"
"We found the photos, or rather the police did. They were in Kevin Smythe's apartment."
"Kevin? The cameraman you fired?"
"Did they arrest him?"
"Oh, yeah, they busted him good. Him and the Vegas Flasher were in on it together."
"So what's the bad news?"
"Kevin posted them on every fanboard in the country. Plus on this two-bit porno site called xferret.com."
"Oh, geez! What are we gonna do now?"
"Well, nothing's been made public about them yet, so maybe we still have time to do some damage control."
"Okay, I'll contact the fansites and tell them to delete those photos from the boards. I can't do anything about 'xferret' or whatever the hell it's called. You're gonna have to talk to Dave about that."
"Thanks, Cos. I owe you big time."
"Hey, they're my photos, you know. They stole them from me and posted them without my permission. That's an infringement on both our rights."
"I'm really sorry I got you into this mess, Criss. I shoulda asked someone else to pose for me instead of you."
"Hey, no prob, Cos! I wanted to do it. You've done so much for me, I owed it to you. It wasn't your fault some (bleep)hole broke in and stole them."
"Don't worry, everything's gonna work out okay."
"I know. Talk to you later."
"Dave Baram here."
"Houston, we have a problem."
"Yeah, me. Listen, a few weeks ago Costa took some nude pictures of me for a personal project he was working on but they got stolen by that cameraman I fired for taping me in the shower and now they're all over the Web."
"Wait, whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down there, slow down! What's this about nude photos?"
"Yeah, nude photos of me that Costa took."
"And you say they got stolen?"
"Yeah, by that guy I fired for taping me in the shower. He and the Vegas Flasher were both in on it to blackmail me for a million dollars."
"Did you get them back?"
"The police found them in Kevin's apartment."
"The cameraman! Remember?"
"But that (bleep)hole went ahead and posted them all over the Web, including this porno site called xferret.com. Costa's gonna try to delete them from the fanboards, but I need you to do some damage control."
"Look, I know it's a tall order, but I'm depending on you, Dave. It's not just for me, it's for Costa as well. He was doing it for a personal art project, and now his work's been splashed all over cyberspace on some cheap porno site!"
There was a long pause on Dave's end. "Okay, I"ll see what I can do."
"Thanks, Dave, I so totally owe you."
"Hey, I live to serve."
"Talk to you later."
George entered the production office to see Costa with his face buried in his hands. "Did I miss something?" he asked.
Costa looked up. "You know those photos I took of Criss?"
"Yeah, the nudies."
"What about 'em?"
"Well, it seems the Vegas Flasher and our ex-cameraman Kevin got together and pulled a little scheme to blackmail Criss out of one million dollars. The Flasher was the one who broke into the editing studio and stole the envelope containing Criss' pictures, and Kevin posted them all over the Internet, from the fanboards to online porno sites."
"I just got through contacting the fansites, and I ordered those photos deleted ASAP. But there's nothing I can do about the porn sites." Costa got up and began pacing around. "All I wanted was to create a personal portfolio of my work, that's all! I worked hard on those photos, getting them just right, and now some (bleep)hole goes and turns them into smut!"
"It ain't your fault, Cos."
"I know, I know, but still I wish I had remembered to take those photos with me at the time. Now everyone's gonna see Criss totally...uncensored."
George smiled a little. "You know, I wouldn't get too worked up about the porno sites," he said.
Costa whirled around to face his cousin. "What do you mean don't get 'too worked up about the porno sites'? This is my work and Criss' reputation we're talking about here! Do you know how many people log onto those sites?"
"Yeah, but how many are willing to admit it?"
"They can download those photos and send them somewhere else," Costa pointed out. "You know, like the tabloids."
"A lot of these sites are self-censoring, like Yuku and others," George argued. "If they allow kids under eighteen on them, they're not going to show much."
Costa sat down helplessly. George clapped a hand on his worried cousin's shoulder. "Look, I know things look bleak now," he said, "but it'll all blow over. Sure, there's gonna be some embarrassment on Criss' part, and ours, too, but hey, we've weathered worse than this, haven't we?"
Costa turned and looked up at George. "No, George," he said grimly. "We haven't. If we don't do something, this could destroy Criss' career, which means we'll all be out of work. We're talking major scandal here!"
George sat down beside Costa. "Listen, I've seen my share of scandals in my day: Watergate, the PTL, ENRON, OJ, Monica Lewinsky, you name it. And if there's anything I learned is that if you're faced with something that is potentially destroying, the thing to do is to come clean with it before anyone else does. Tell it all, tell it early and tell it yourself. That's the only way to save face."
"You think that'll work?"
George shrugged. "Hey, it worked for Bill Clinton."
09-05-2011, 02:02 PM
In a small room somewhere in the MindFreak Productions office, Criss, Costa, JD, George and Dave Baram sat around a table wondering how to handle the photo scandal facing them, and the potential fallout that would result once it was made public.
"George says to come clean and tell the public like it is, " Dave said. "I'm all for handling this discreetly and quietly, no media. We press charges against Kevin Smythe and that flasher, what's-his-name..."
"Alvin Zubrowski," Criss told him.
George bemusedly mouthed the name to himself. Geez! he thought, with a name like that, no wonder he's a wierdo!
"Alvin Zubrowski," Dave repeated, "and we sue those sites for posting illegal material, or at least get an injunction against them."
"You'd be fighting a losing battle, Dave," Costa said. "Those sites have the First Amendement on their side. It'd take years to go through the system. In the meantime, it'd go public, and then everyone and their Aunt Harriet would be going on line to find those photos ,wherever they are. Discreetly and quietly isn't going to work here."
"You banned them from the fansites, didn't you?" Dave asked hopefully.
"The official fansites," Costa pointed out. "The unofficial ones are a different matter. I sent them emails about it, but they're pretty independent; they might just post them anyway."
"If they allow kids to log on to them," Criss spoke up, "they'd do well not to post them. If they did, they'd be shut down for showing 'inapproprate' or 'adult' material to minors."
"So what do we do?" Costa asked. "I mean, this is your reputation on the line here, Criss."
Criss thought about it. "I say," he began, "we go with George's idea--come clean about it before it's too late. If we do it right, we might come out of this in one piece."
"And if we do it wrong?" Dave wanted to know.
Criss smiled and shrugged. "How can we go wrong with the truth?"
CRISS ANGEL NUDE PHOTOS STOLEN
Several nude photographs of famed illusionist Criss Angel were reportedly stolen from his office in Las Vegas, NV, then illegally posted on the Internet. They were allegedly stolen by the man known as the Vegas Flasher from Criss' office at the Luxor Hotel, then tried to blackmail the star for one million dollars. A former cameraman is accused of posting them on various fan sites and adult sites as well. Both men are currently in police custody. The photographs were taken by his brother, Costa Sarantakos, as part of a personal portfolio collection and not meant for public display. Action has been taken by management to ban these photos from the fansites, as there are many of Criss' fans under the age of eighteen.
Criss Angel, Illusionist: "Needless to say, I am deeply embarrassed about all this. I posed for those pictures for my brother, Costa, who is an excellent photographer in his own right, as part of his personal project. I had no intention whatsoever to make those photos public in any way.
"I had fired that cameraman because he videotaped me while I was taking a shower after my workout when we were taping an episode of MindFreak, then he posted it on YouTube. There wasn't much to see, but it was still personally embarrassing to me, and inexcusable for him. It was very immature of him to do such a thing, just as stealing those pictures were. We got the original photos back, but by then it was too late--they were already on the Web.
"I'm telling you all this because I want to apologize in advance if you happen to see them somewhere and they offend you. These photos were posted without my knowledge or consent: I want to make that perfectly clear right here and now. I'm proud of my body, yes. I thank God for it, but I don't go showing it off in public like the Vegas Flasher did. He flashed my mother, by the way--that was why my cousin George busted him in the face like that. I would have done the same if I'd been there.
"Anyway, we have contacted all the fansites linked to my name and informed them about the photos. They've been given explicit instructions to delete them if they show up. As for the porn sites, well...if you're so depraved to actually log onto those sites, then I feel sorry for you. Get a life! Find a real person to make out with instead of wasting time and energy viewing someone else's perverted fantasies! The human body is God's mastepiece, not an object to use and abuse for some sick, twisted idea of sexual gratification."
(On the Naked Jail Escape and Fantasy episodes where Criss was nude on television): "The Naked Jail Escape was, well, unexpected. My crew pulled a prank on me by cutting off my briefs and locking my clothes in another cell. The editors did blur out my...private parts, you know. The Fantasy episode was a bit R-rated, I admit, but again, the editors censored out the more intimate parts of eveyone's bodies. As I said, I am proud of my body, but I know the limits the FCC has issued against nudity, and all my swearing's been bleeped out in the editing room, and I'm proud to say I've never whipped it out in public for any reason. And I never will."
09-05-2011, 02:05 PM
The Loyal Community > General Discussion > CRISS NUDE PICTURES STOLEN!!
KrisLee: Criss made a statement concerning some personal nuded photos of his that were stolen from his office. Some broke in, stole his pictures (made by Costa BTW) and posted them on some porno site and the other sites too! I can't believe anyone wouyld go so far as to do such a thing. Criss says a former cameraman stole them to get back at him for firing him--how immature is that?!?
Greekgoddess: Nude photos of Criss??? I WANNA SEE THEM!!!!!
LoyalCaitlin: What an ___________ (fill in the blank) to do that to Criss. If he did things like that when he worked for him its no wonder Criss fired him!!
RoseRed13: as much as I would like to see Criss in the nude that guy had no right to post them online like that--it's an invasion of privacy
OU812: don't hate me for this but i went on one of those porn sites (don't ask which one PLEASE) and found those pictures Criss was talking about. i cant' post them here of course but they are really not that bad nothing obseence abot them. Costas a good photographer I'll tell you that.
BlueSkye: I wanna see Criss nakie!!
AdministratorStu: Sorry but we got direct orders not to post those photos. This forum is open to everyone thirteen or older, so we got to keep it clean.
BlueSkye: I don't care *pouts* I wanna see Criss in his birhtday suit!! and I am going to search the whole web to find it!!
Veritas: I admire Criss for coming forward and making his statement like he did. This way he avoided a lot of flack from the media, not to mention defusing what would have been a potentially career-destroying scandal. I also agree with him about the porno sites--only losers log onto them! (OU812 excepted, of course) That cameraman broke the law and violated Criss' privacy. He could--and should--be sued.
"Hi, this is Criss Angel. Sorry I can't take your call right now, but if you leave your name, number, and a brief message, I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks, and have a good day."
"Hey, Criss, this is Sully. Heard about your naked photo scandal. Who the (bleep) was that guy who ripped them off from you, anyway? I mean, geez, what an (bleep)hole! Anyway, sorry you got yourself into this mess. Hope everything works out okay for you. I'm here for you in case you need me."
"Criss, this is Dave. Well, so far so good. Been getting some positive reviews about your press statement. Let's hope our luck holds out. Call me when you get this message. Have a good day."
"Heyyyyy, Criss! This is The Amazing Johnathan!! I checked out those dirty pictures of you on xferret.com, and man, you looked so gay in them! Didn't know you were into that sort of thing! Did the Luxor suspend you for showing your best side on the Web? They should! They suspended me for indecent exposure--what goes around comes around, you know. Have to grant you, though, your brother takes some damn good photos! Is he a professional pornographer or something? Just kidding, just kidding! Gotta go now, so enjoy your new career as a porno star!"
"Criss, this is Manny from Editing. I just want to apologize for my role in this whole mess. I should have cleared it with you before going into your office for those photos instead of just walking in and taking them like that. Guess I should have locked the door before I left the editing studio as well. I really feel bad about all this. If you want me to hand in my resignation, then I will. But I will stand by you all the way on this. I won't let this ruin your career. Gimme a call when you get this, okay?"
"Christopher, this is Mom. We need to talk about these pictures Costa took of you. I know it's not your fault, but I want to hear what you have to say for yourself about this. Call me back as soon as you can. I love you, good-bye."
"Angel, this is Detective Meridian of the LVMPD. First of all, thanks for getting Smythe to confess to his part in the photo theft. Second, give me a call ASAP about your cousin George. Alvin Zubrowski's formally pressing battery charges against him for breaking his nose in front of the Excalibur. Considering his record, I think we can mitigate the damages. Call back soon, and have a good day."
09-05-2011, 02:08 PM
No sooner did George Strumpolis walk into Linehan's Gym for his morning workout than he received a summons from his trainer to see him in his office. He felt his stomach turn into a lead weight--he knew the news wouldn't be good. Bracing himself for an Irish hurricane, George trod glumly to Seamus' office. He didn't bother to knock on the dented metal door because Linehan sat waiting for him in his old wooden office chair. The old man said nothing, but beckoned him inside with a wave of his hand.
George stepped inside. "You wanted to see me, Seamus?" he said evenly.
"Aye, I did," Seamus replied. "Shut th' door behind ye, will ye?"
The door closed, securing their privacy. "I got word about ye from the officials from the match," Linehan said. "They heard about yer little 'altercation' outside the Excalibur after the quarterfinals."
"So has everybody else," George retorted. "I mean, it was in all the papers, you know."
Seamus nodded. "Personally, I don't blame ye for breakin' that wanker's snoot for what he did to yer auntie," he went on. "Goin' around floggin' his willy in public like that--heh! I'd 've done the same meself! But it's still assault and battery, Georgie, and the officials don't like that one bit. They wanna keep things clean, y'know. So, they sent word to me that yer suspended from the match."
George stared incredulously at his trainer. "I'm suspended?"
"Only fer the match" Linehan reminded him. "Not from boxing itself: yer still in pretty good standing if ye don't get jail time fer it."
George buried his face in his hands. "Oh, jeez! And I was so close to making it!"
"Ah, don't ye be gettin' upset about it, Greek: it's only an exhibition match. It don't mean nothin'."
"Still, it was my first match ever!"
Seamus patted George on the shoulder. "They'll be other matches, Georgie," he said with uncharacteristic sympathy. "Just save that right hook of yers fer th' ring from now on, got it?"
George nodded. "Now, ye go about yer trainin' like usual," Seamus ordered him. "An' don't ye go wallowin' in self-pity, y'hear? It ain't fittin' fer a fighter!"
He slapped George on the shoulder to send him on his way. George left the office, cursing under his breath. Those sons of (bleeps)! They had no right to suspend me from the match like that! I did the world a favor by decking that (bleeper) and this is how they treat me? God!
Tobe Lacie stood beside the row of olive colored lockers. "Heard about your suspension," he said quietly. "Tough break, man. Wish I could help, but..."
"I'll be all right," George told him unconvincingly.
"At least that mother(bleeper)'s back in jail now," Tobe went on. "I read about your cousin Criss gettin' some naked pictures of him stolen and put on the 'Net. Man, I mean your whole family's going through some crazy-assed (bleep) right now."
"Really?" George retorted sarcastically. "You think?"
"Hey, man, you'll survive."
"Oh, yeah, I know I will."
"I know you will."
George's cell phone rang. "Hello?" he answered.
There was a long pause. Tobe waited patiently while George listened to the other party and watched as his face turned grim. "Okay, I'll be right down," he said.
He got up and turned to leave. "Hey, man where you goin'?" Tobe asked.
"I gotta go downtown," George replied. "I got an ever bigger fight on my hands now."
09-05-2011, 02:12 PM
At the county courthouse, Criss waited in the lobby for George to arrive. He cursed the irony of the situation in which his cousin had landed. Assault and battery, my ass! he said to himself. They should give George a medal for nailing that (bleeper)! He's the hero in all this, not the villian! Meridian said they could mitigate the damages. God, I hope so, for George's sake.
He halted that train of thought when he saw George enter the lobby. He rose to greet him. "Hey, George," he said, extending his arm for a shoulder hug. "How's it goin'?"
"Okay, I guess," George deadpanned. "I got suspended from the Excalibur match."
Criss' jaw dropped. "You what?"
"The officials of the match heard about what I did to the Vegas Flasher, so they kicked me out," George explained. "I'm not off the team, though; Linehan's pretty much on my side about this."
"Oh, jeez, George, I'm so sorry," Criss moaned sympathetically. "I know how much it meant to you."
"There'll be other matches," George said, trying to cheer up his cousin and himself. "Right now, we got bigger fish to fry--I'm facing assault and battery charges, remember?"
"I talked to Detective Meridian," Criss said, "and he says maybe they can mitigate the damages because you were trying to protect Mom. I'll even post your bail if I have to, but I am going to make damn sure you don't go to jail over this! Kevin and the Flasher's in deeper (bleep) than you are. As far as I'm concerned, you're a hero for taking that (bleeper) down like that."
"Hey, that's what family's for, right?"
George smiled for the first time that day. "Right!"
Criss motioned for him to follow. "Plea bargain's ready to begin," he said, leading him toward the elevator bank. "We got a real fight on our hands, so be prepared."
George cracked his knuckles in anticipation. "Believe me, Criss," he said, "I'm ready."
The plea bargain session followed the Bill of Rights standards to the very letter: the accused faced his accuser, the evidence was presented for examination, and attorneys for both parties were present. The magistrate for the county presided over the session as legal representative for the City of Las Vegas. Sergeant Dolan was also present to keep the peace. On the table lay photo stills taken from the surveillance cameras around the South Entrance that evening. A television set with an early model VCR stood on a tall stand in one corner of the room.
No one spoke at first. Alvin Zubrowski glowered at George through the gauze taped over his broken nose. George stared daggers at the ugly little man, still angry over his sordid little act against his elderly aunt Dimitra. Criss also stared grimly at the notorious Flasher; the man sitting opposite him had committed a crime against his mother, and he was determined that he should pay dearly for it.
The magistrate stood up to begin the proceedings. "Good morning," he said. "I am the magistrate for Clark County, and we're here to begin plea bargaining for..." He checked his file for the name of the defendant. "George Strump-o-liss, is that correct?"
George nodded. The magistrate continued. "Mr. Strumpolis," he said, "you've been charged with battery against Alvin Zoo-brow-skee--is that correct? How do you plead in this case?"
"Okay, I admit I punched the guy," George confessed without hesitation, "but you gotta understand that this guy flashed my aunt and his mother." He jerked his thumb toward Criss. "It was a defensive move. He's the one who broke the law, not me! And he's also the one who stole those photographs of Criss from the editing office, then tried to blackmail him out of a million dollars for 'em!"
"That doesn't excuse you for hitting like that!" Alvin shot back. "You broke my nose in four places! You have to answer for that!"
"Three places," Criss corrected him.
"Who the (bleep) cares?!" Alvin exploded. "That (bleeper) put me in the hospital!"
"You'd better control yourself, Alvin," Sergeant Dolan warned him, "or you could be adding contempt to the list of charges you racked up already."
"Shall we review the surveillance tape taken from the South Entrance of the Excalibur the night of the match?" the magistrate suggested.
"You do that," Alvin snarled. "Let everyone here see what that (bleeper) over there did to me."
George shrugged. "Yeah, what the hell? Go ahead."
The magistrate slid the videocassette into the VCR. On the screen, a bird's-eye view of the South Entrance appeared in grainy black-and-white. The lone figure of a woman pacing back and forth came into focus in the middle of the screen. Criss recognized her immediatly. "That's my mom!" he exclaimed. "My mom, his aunt Dimitra," he clarified for the record.
"We get it, Criss," George said irritably.
Suddenly, a dark figure emerged from the lower left hand corner of the screen. It walked in front of Dimitra, then spread its coat open like a pair of black wings, revealing the form of a naked man, fully tumescent. Dimitra recoiled in fear, stepping away from the flasher in horror.
Criss cringed in disgust, fighting back the urge to vomit. "Oh, my God!" he gasped. "I can't believe he did that!"
The flasher retreated, covering himself again. George and JD entered the picture, with the former in the lead. Everyone watched as the flasher halted before the two men for a moment, then as George threw the most powerful right hook anyone had ever seen squarely into the flasher's face, sending him sailing several feet into the air. Criss resisted the impulse to high-five George while the magistrate and Sergeant Doyle were present, but he did lean discreetly over to his cousin, murmuring, "Way to go, George!"
The tape wound to its end. The magistrate stopped the machine and turned to the parties present. "Does the counsel for the prosecution have anything to say on his client's behalf?" he asked.
The counsel for the prosecution stood to speak. "My client, Alvin Zubrowski, suffers a compulsive disorder causing episodes of exhibitionism," he explained. "He cannot control his actions. He has lost three jobs and both his marriages because of it."
Oh, cry me a river! George groaned to himself.
"The attack on my client, therefore, was unwarranted and unprovoked," the counselor said. "We demand either monetary damages or time served in prison for the defendant, preferably both. No other conditions will suffice for the pain and suffering my client had endured at the hands of this man." He pointed at George for emphasis.
"(Bleep) you!" George muttered under his breath.
"Does the counsel for the defense have anything to say on the behalf of his client?" the magistrate asked.
"I do," the defense said, rising indignantly. "The prosecution claims pain and suffering on the part of his client. What about the trauma of his aunt, Dimitra Sarantakos, after witnessing such a vulgar act? What about Davina Uberman, just fifteen years old when she was subjected to Mr. Zubrowski's 'compulsive disorder'? Mr. Zubrowski has sixteen counts of indecent exposure against him already! Plus the fact that he had allegedly stolen some photographs of Criss Angel from an editing studio, then blackmailing him for one million dollars--does that also fall under 'compulsive disorder'? From what we've seen in the videotape, Mr. Zubrowski's act had been premeditated, not compulsive. Mr. Strumpolis claims the blow he delivered had been provoked by the act of exhibitionism performed against his aunt, a defensive measure against a criminal sexual assault against a family member. To put him in jail for defending a member of his family against a sexual deviant such as Mr. Zubrowski is unjust and unfair. If my client pleads anything, it is no contest by reason of defense."
The defense sat down. "Does the defendant have anything to say on his behalf?" the magistrate asked.
"Yeah, I do," George said, rising. "Normally, I don't go around punching guys, at least not outside the boxing ring. Yeah, I busted Alvin's face here, but I felt I had good reason--he exposed his ugly ass in front of my seventy-four-year-old Aunt Dimitra! As you said, he's done this before, once in front of a minor, and the city's been looking for him ever since. He also stole a bunch of nude photos of my cousin, Criss, here, and tried to blackmail him over it! I don't go for the 'compulsive' bit--he knew what the hell he was doing! Same with all the other women he showed himself off to! And now he's giving us a sob story about how much he's suffered! He's the one who should go to jail, not me! Hell, I got suspended from the Excalibur match for bringing him down--that's punishment enough in my opinion! I don't need any more grief in my life."
George sat down again, drained. Criss put a comforting arm around his cousin's shoulder. The magistrate stood up and faced the assembled parties in the room. "I see that both parties are so firm in their convictions," he said, "that no compromise can be reached here."
He turned to Alvin. "Mr. Zubrowski," he spoke grimly. "Your egregious acts have already proven your guilt in this matter. You showed yourself to be irresponsible in your actions, compulsions notwithstanding. From the evidence shown in the videotape, you revealed, in more ways than one, your immaturity and your disregard for common decency and morality. You have no less than sixteen counts of indecent exposure, one against a minor--that alone will weigh heavily against you. You're injury is small compared to the ones you have inflicted against your victims. Therefore, you do not deserve any sort of compensation from anyone."
Alvin sputtered angrily. The magistrate then turned to George. "Mr. Strumpolis," he began. "First, let me say that you do have an incredible right hook. You've must have trained for years developing it."
George laughed a little, shrugging modestly. The magistrate continued. "The plea of no contest is accepted, under the provision of defense. There will be no need to go to trial over this matter. You will, however, be subjected to a fine of one thousand dollars for battery. While you are justified in your indignation against the crime committed against your aunt, physical violence is never in order. You'd be advised to restrain your boxing talents for competitions. Do you agree to the terms?"
"I agree," George said evenly.
"This case is dismissed," the magistrate said, tapping his gavel.
Alvin was livid. "Wait just a minute here!" he protested. "What about me? What the (bleep) do I get out of this? How come he walks away scot-free when I'm suffering pain and agony? I'm the one with the busted nose here!"
George turned to Alvin. "That's not all you're gonna be suffering," he said ominously. "Wait until you go on trial--then you're really gonna suffer!"
09-05-2011, 02:15 PM
A week had passed since George's plea bargain session. Criss magnanimously paid the thousand-dollar fine, claiming he owed his cousin a favor for punching the flasher who had threatened his mother. There was, however, no way to reinstate George back into the Excalibur match, despite the magistrate's ruling. Undaunted, George resumed his boxing training under Seamus Linehan, eagerly awaitng the next amateur match. "And it won't be no exhibition match, either!" he announced defiantly. "I'm going for the gold this time!"
Thanks in part to Criss' preemptive strike against Kevin Smythe and Alvin Zubrowski, the naked photo scandal all but fizzled in the eyes of the public. To furthur defuse the situation, Criss deliberatly showed edited versions of the photographs on Larry King Live, to the delight of the female Loyals and the consternation of the morally righteous.
Criss: "Here's the first one of me from the back."
(cut to photo of Criss Angel's naked backside shown from the hips down, with a faint hint of buttcrack)
LK: "Actually, that's not too bad. In fact, it's rather good. And you say your brother took this?"
Criss: "Yeah, he took all of them."
(cut to photo of Criss side profile, leaning on one arm against wall, one leg forward to block private parts)
Criss: "Here's the next one. You can see how tired I was; I just got back from a physical that afternoon."
LK: "You had a physical that same day?"
Criss: "Yeah, I had to strip for the doctors in the morning and for these photos that night." (laughs)
LK: "Quite a day you had."
(cut to photo of Criss sitting, arms and legs folded in front of him)
Criss: "This looks like an earlier photo of me, but it's not, really."
LK: "So, how many photos were there altogether?"
Criss: "About ten."
LK: "And they were stolen how?"
Criss: "Right out of the editing office. They got mixed up with some photos of my dad I wanted to use in an episode of MindFreak. The ones of Dad were left behind, thank God--I don't know what I'd do if they were lost. I don't care about the ones about me, but the ones of Dad are irreplacable."
LK: "Do you have them here with you? The ones of your dad?"
Criss: "No, sorry."
The reviews were mixed: while many praised Criss for his forthrightness in coming forward before the whole thing exploded into a major scandal, others admonished if not condemned him for posing nude in the first place, in spite of his insistance that the photos were the private property of his photographer brother, Costa.
"I'm not ashamed of my body," Criss stated. "But I don't believe in exposing it to an unwilling public like the Vegas Flasher. Besides, the FCC would have my head on a platter if I didn't censor out any 'sensitive' material. I try to respect people's feelings about these things, but as an artist, I choose to decide how to portray myself. And of course, I would never, ever, expose myself to children--that is child sexual abuse, and I would never, ever, abuse a child in any way. My show's on after ten PM, well after the so-called 'family hour', and I'm sure a lot of parents out there are careful about what their children watch on TV. The reason I'm here tonight is to prove to everyone that the photos are in no way pornographic, at least in my opinion, but are an example of the artistry of my brother, Costa. If they do offend you in any way, I apologize in advance."
The Loyal Community > Loyal Photos > Criss nude pix on Larry King
OU812: Criss was on Larry King live last night, and he showed THE PICTURES!!!!
(shows images of photos following)
RoseRed13: omg those are so shmexy!!
KrisLee: OMG!! *melts into a lustpuddle and dies*
Greekgoddess: omg those are so HOT!!
rachel1289: SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEE!
BlueSkye: Wait a minute--they didn't show ALL of him, just the top half!1 They are no differnet that any other picutre of him I feel ripped off!!
LoyalCaitlin: I don't feel ripped off. I think they're hawt!! I got myself a new screen saver!
KrisLee: Some people don't think so. They think everyone should be all covered up when on TV. Maybe so, but the body isn't a dirty thing. Like Criss said, he's not ashamed of his body, but he doesn't flaunt it. Well, maybe a little bit...:wink
Veritas: I can't understand what the fuss is all about. I think they are quite tastefully done. Costa is an excellent photographer, and I'd like to see more of his work.
RoseRed13: Who cares what some people think I wanna see more Criss!!
Alvin Zubrowski, meanwhile, had returned to the city lockup to await his trial for indecent exposure, criminal sexual assault against a minor, and burglary. His attorney had informed him that despite his criminal record, he could still sue George Strumpolis personally for wrongful injury. With that ray of hope, Alvin bided his time until he could face his attacker in court, one on one.
09-05-2011, 02:20 PM
Monday morning arrived. Like thousands of other working Americans, Criss headed to his office to do his share of pencil-pushing, spreadsheet-scanning, computer monitor-staring and other mundane white-collar tasks. Most of it was tedious routine, but occasionally small emergencies arose, little fires that had to be put out before they flared into major disasters. Being in charge of the entire company, it was his job to tend to them if he could not delegate others to do them for him. It was times like these that the glamor of showbusiness faded into cold reality; these were days when work was work.
As he approached the Production Office, he noticed something taped onto the glass door. Curious, but not too concerned, he pulled it off and took it with him into the office. It was probably a notice from security, or a memo from the hotel about some minor policy change, or a personal note from one of his staff. Nothing to worry about.
Criss tossed the note onto his desk and reached for his phone to check his voicemail. There were five messages recorded that morning, not too bad considering the demands on his time:
"Hey Criss, this is Dave. Great job you did on Larry King, but did you really have to show those pictures? I know they edited them, but still I wish you'd have let sleeping dogs lie. Gimme a call when you get this."
"Criss, this is Mike. Production meeting at nine AM tomorrow. Don't be late. Have a good one."
"Hey, Criss, this is Manny in Editing. I downloaded those pictures of your dad for the Sports episode. I can show them to you at the meeting tomorrow. See you then. Oh, by the way, did you get those nudie photos of yours back yet? Just asking."
"Christopher, it's Mom. I'd like to see you before I go home next weekend. Call me at your brother's house. I love you, goodbye."
"Hey, Criss, it's George. That (bleeper) Alvin what's-his-name just filed a wrongful injury lawsuit against me! I need your help like right now! Call me when you get this message."
Criss stiffened in shock. "That (bleep)hole's suing George?" he said aloud in disbelief.
He snatched the receiver and punched George's phone number. "We should be suing him instead! He's the one who's the offender, not George!" he fumed.
Criss drummed his fingers on the desk impatiently while he waited for his cousin to pick up. "The (bleeping) nerve of that guy!" he muttered angrily. "Goes around flashing Mom and--"
"Hello, George? Criss."
"Oh, hey, Criss."
"Hey. Yeah, I got your message. Look, don't worry about Alvin the flasher, okay? He ain't got a leg to stand on. He's in too deep to go suing you for anything. If we have to, we can countersue on Mom's behalf for emotional damage or something. Either way, Alvin's going down!"
"No prob. Later."
Criss hung up the phone, confident that the matter had been all but settled. He returned his mother's call, arranging for lunch on Friday noontime, then called Dave to explain his motives on Larry King (Sorry, Dave, but family comes first, he said to himself) then to confirm the time for tomorrow's production meeting. He looked forward to seeing what Manny had done to his dad's pictures; he was confident he had done them justice.
Once he had taken care of his voicemail, Criss started on his written correspondence. He drew a stack of letters toward himself with the notice he had found on the office door when he came in. He casually opened it up, expecting some sort of bureaucratic formality from hotel management. What he actually found surprised him:
THE BODY AS THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD!!
Do you not know that the body is the temple of the HOLY SPIRIT?? To defile the flesh is to defile the LORD!! Do you not know that your body is a member of CHRIST? (1 Cor. 6:15). We were ALL MADE in the IMAGE and LIKENESS of GOD!! Why do you dishonor him by filthy acts and nakedness? GOD should be glorified, not the flesh!! The body is the temple of the HOLY SPIRIT within you, which you have from GOD! (1 Cor. 6:19). We were all conceived in sin in our mother's wombs, and born into this sinful world stained with the ORIGINAL SIN, but THE BLOOD OF JESUS has washed away all original sin!! For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify GOD in your body!! Be modest in your apparel, cover your shameful nakedness, and shun the fleshmongers who use the body for pleasure and profit! The body is meant not for fornication, but for the LORD, and the LORD for the body (1 Cor. 6:13).
Criss tossed this self-righteous diatribe into the wastebasket without bothering to read the rest of it. While he agreed that the body was a temple, metaphorically speaking, there was no need to treat it like it was something to be ashamed of. As for the part of being "conceived in sin", well, he didn't feel his conception was sinful in the least; if anything, he felt his parents had conceived him in love, not sin. Sometime in early 1967 his mother and father made love, and from his perspective he was the love they made, emerging nine months later from where he had grown to fruitition under his mother's heart. What was so evil about that?
He promptly dismissed the message from his mind. He had other, more pressing matters to attend to besides some overzealous nutcase's religious claptrap--George's wrongful injury case for one thing. This guy should have given that sermon to Alvin instead of me, he thought. He's the one who's been defiling the flesh, not me!
09-05-2011, 02:22 PM
It was a very quiet family dinner at the home of Costa Saranatakos that Friday evening. There was little if any conversation, and the usual brotherly banter was missing. Everyone was too emotionally drained from the events from the past two weeks to make an effort to speak. Only when dinner was finished did the family review what had happened to them.
"The Flasher's trial is two months from today," Dimitra announced to her sons and nephew, George. "I've been called in as a witness, so I will need to make arrangements for then."
"You're welcome to stay as long as you want, Mom," Costa offered. "You don't have to go home to New York and then jet back here for the trial."
"I know, honey," Dimitra said, "and I thank you, but I have to be there when they take down the fumigating tent from the house, then I have to clean everything up."
"Need help?" George offered. "I can come with you, help around the house, then go see Ma and the family."
Dimitra smiled. "That would be nice, George, thank you."
There was an awkward silence. In an effort to ease the tension, Costa offered to serve coffee, but everyone politely refused. Unable to stand it anymore, Criss turned to his mother and blurted "You still mad about the pictures, aren't you?"
Dimitra shook her head. "Mad? No, why should I be mad? Costa explained everything to me beforehand. I am angry about that man who stole them and put them on the computer, but I am not mad at you. Still, I wish you had been more...discreet about the way you handled it."
"What do you mean, 'discreet'?"
"I mean by not showing them on Larry King, that's all. It's good you came forward and told your side before it turned into a scandal, but you should have kept those photos locked away instead of showing them on television."
"I did that because I was being blackmailed," Criss argued. "Besides, people had probably seen them before I went on Larry King. And I've been nude on TV before: on the Fantasy episode and the Jail Escape. Why should you get all upset about it? I mean, it's my body and I'm proud of it. I don't go around flashing it like Alvin Zubrowski, granted, but I don't feel I should be ashamed of it, either. You've seen me naked, right? Why get all bugged about it?"
She smiled and took her famous son's face into her soft, withered hands. "Because I did not raise my son to be a centerfold," she said.
Criss could not help but laugh at that. He kissed her hands and laid them on her lap. "You know I wouldn't do anything to embarrass you," he assured her. "Okay, maybe I did in the past, but I would never do anything to bring shame upon you or the family."
"So, no more nude pictures?"
Criss smiled. "No more nude pictures," he vowed. "At least nothing that will end up on the Web. I mean, I can't help it if someone sneaks in and snaps a picture of me when I'm in the shower or something. It's the price of fame."
"So, lock the bathroom door next time."
"Oh, gee," Criss replied with a hint of sarcasm, "why didn't I think of that before? There's no door to lock in the gym locker room, Mom--it's completely open."
"You should get one installed, then." Dimitra suggested.
Criss sighed. Costa leaned over to Criss. "Maybe you should," he concurred. "After what happened with Kevin, anyone can sneak in and take a picture of you without your clothes on."
Criss pondered the matter. "I'll talk to Felix about it," he said. "Maybe we can arrange something."
Dimitra nodded in approval. "Good. Then that's all settled. As far as I'm concerned, the matter is over and done with."
"I hope so, Mom," Criss said, concealing his doubt, "I really hope so."
George spoke up. "Look, Criss, you're not the only celebrity who has a bunch of dirty pictures made public," he said.
"They're not 'dirty pictures'!" Costa protested. "They were for a private portfolio I was working on. They were very tastefully and carefully made! You wanna see?"
He got up to fetch his portfolio, but his mother held up her hands to stop him. "Please, Costa," she said pleadingly. "We've had enough about nude pictures and all that. I am sure you made some very beautiful photos, but let's drop the matter. Please?"
Costa sat down again. "Okay," he concurred, "but they're not 'dirty' or anything. I'm not a pornographer."
"We know you aren't, Cos," Criss said. "Nudity is like beauty: it's in the eye of the beholder. Some people will see it as art, others as an abomination. You know, I got this tract from some religious zealot who claims the body is a temple of the Lord, and we were all conceived in original sin and all that. Well, I agree with the temple part, but the body is not sinful. Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden, and they didn't care until they ate the apple and got kicked out. I"m all for dressing modestly, if it prevents people like Alvin Zubrowski from traumatizing women and kids by exposing himself in public, but not to the point of being ashamed of our God-given bodies. If we became more comfortable in our own skins, maybe we can become more comfortable with others' skins as well."
"That's a very beautiful speech, Christopher," Dimitra said. "As you said, the body is a temple of God. And you must tend to that 'temple' of yours, keep it healthy and in perfect shape, for God gave it to you to use, not abuse. I don't mean drugs or alcohol--I know you don't do anything like that, and I am proud of you for it--I mean the stunts you do on your show. You've been burned, impaled, gashed and Lord knows what else you've done to yourself over the years! Someday you are going to kill yourself doing them, or injure yourself permanantly."
She stroked Criss' face tenderly "Don't destroy the 'temple' of your body for the sake of your art, Christopher," she said softly. "God has a better use for it."
Impulsively, Criss reached over and embraced his beloved mother. "I love you, Mom," he murmured.
"I love you, too, honey," Dimitra murmured back.
"I love you more."
Mother and son released each other. "I have to go now," Criss reminded her. "I got a live show tonight."
Criss rose to leave. "Thanks for dinner, Cos," he said. "It was great."
Dimitra rose with him. "You have a good show tonight, honey," she said. "But promise me one thing before you go."
"From now on, when you have your picture taken," she admonished, "you keep your clothes on."
09-05-2011, 02:26 PM
Despite their collaboration in the case of the Criss Angel photos, it was Alvin who was saddled with most of the blame. On top of his previous charges of indecent exposure and CSA against a minor, he was also charged with burglary, blackmail and conspiracy. Kevin was simply charged with conspiracy and possession of stolen goods. His union had summarily expelled him from their ranks for his actions with no compensation. Out of work and out of money, Kevin was reduced to living with his parents somewhere in Reno and working for minimum wage at a local fast-food joint.
Criss did not litigate against Kevin once he learned of his reduced circumstances. Suing a poor person was unjust and unreasonable, he told his manager Dave Baram; he felt losing a lucrative position as a cameraman was punishment enough for Kevin. Besides, suing him would not delete the photos on the Web, he said. What was done was done, and there was nothing he nor anyone else could do about it but get on with their lives as best they could.
Criss' public statement about the nude photos on Larry King Live made for bawdy late-night humor on cable television, but the novelty wore off quickly, as all celebrity scandals do. The photos themselves were still on the Web, but only the most die-hard, obsessive Loyals sought them out, even going so far as to log onto xferret.com to see them. The infamous adult site was denounced by righteously indignant Loyals, outraged that images of their beloved idol was shamelessly exhibited in such a manner on such a sordid forum, but secretly they could not help but be tittillated by the thought of a completely nude Criss Angel, uncut, uncensored and unedited. Those who tried to post downloaded images from the site on the fanboards, however, were quickly reprimanded by moderators and the images quickly deleted.
There was still the matter of the wrongful injury suit against George Strumpolis, however. Alvin was demanding one million dollars, far in excess for just a broken nose. George didn't want to settle for any amount, given the circumstances of why he punched Alvin in the first place, but he didn't feel like going to court, either. His attorney, on the other hand, had a better strategy: "Go through with the case in court," he advised. "With all the charges against Zubrowski, including flashing himself in front of your aunt, we'll have a chance to humiliate him all over again, like we did during the plea bargain. True, you might have to pay some sort of damages, but it'll be far less than what he's asking. If we're lucky, you could get off without shelling out a dime."
"Is there any way we can countersue against Alvin for traumatizing my Aunt Dimitra?" George asked.
"I'll see what I can do," his lawyer promised. "Either way, Zubrowski's dead meat as far as the legal system is concerned. Exposing himself to a minor alone is really gonna send him up the river--we can use that against him, too. With the right spin, you'll come out of this smelling like a rose. So, do we have a deal?"
"We have a deal," George agreed, and the case of Zubrowski v. Strumpolis was scheduled for the end of September in the Clark County Circuit Court.
It is said that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Unfortunatly for Criss Angel, what happens to him in Vegas makes its way all over the world via the World Wide Web, and Cousin George's wrongful injury suit was no exception; a tiny press leak from somewhere deep in the recesses of MindFreak Productions made its way into cyberspace, causing a flood of outraged responses from Loyals everywhere:
The Loyal Community > General Discussion > Cousin George IS GETTING SUED!!
Veritas: George Stumpolis is being sued by Alvin Zubrowski, aka the Vegas Flasher, for wrongful injury. George broke Alvin's nose when he flashed Dimitra at the Exclaibur after the quarterfinals of the boxing match held there. Zubrowski is demanding one million dollars in damages for his injury, emotional damage, and criminal assault. George wants to countersue Alvin for his attack on his aunt Dimitra. George got suspended from the boxing match for his assault on Zubrowski, adding insult to injury, so to speak. They didn't say when the case will be heard.
KrisLee: If Alvin wants to keep his nose on his face, he'd better back off!!
OU812: What a lot of nerve that has to sue George!! If that did that to my mom or anyone I love, I would have done the same thing!!
rachel1219: George will win he has to he's a hero to finally cpature thast flasher the police were looking for that guy, remember?
Greekgoddess: No way will Alvin Z win this one!
BlueSkye: I agree george is in the right here alvin's going down
vampireloyal: we are with you Cousin George!! We're with you all the way!!!
LoyalCaitlin: Does anyone know when the trial will be? I wanna be there when it happens.
ModeratorStu: The trial is a closed session, so no one will be allowed inside.
Veritas: I'll say this, though--closed or not, it's gonna be a media circus!
09-05-2011, 02:29 PM
The case of Zubrowski v. Strumpolis proved to be more of a sideshow than a media circus when it came to court. The videotape from the Excalibur after the boxing match was shown to judge, counsel, and parties alike, along with those in the galleries awaiting their turn for His Honor to hear their cases next. Those few people present struggled valiently to keep their nervous embarrassment in check to preserve the dignity of the court, but a few giggles and chuckles escaped anyway, earning an admonishing rap of the gavel from the bench.
Alvin sat glumly in his seat while his attorney pleaded his case. His nose was still bandaged even though it had completely healed, a feeble effort to gain sympathy from the court. Despite his attorney's best efforts to curry favor for Alvin by pleading partial insanity due to his "uncontrollable compulsion" to expose himself, the judge did not look too kindly on the notorious Vegas Flasher. He was not amused by Alvin's antics on the screen, nor was he taken in by the bandage on his nose. Nor was he sympathetic to his attorney's pleas for clemency; the judge called Alvin's behavior "egregious", "inexcusable", and "an outrage against public decency".
His Honor listened gravely as George's attorney reminded the court that Alvin was already charged with sixteen counts of indecent exposure, and that one of his victims had been a fifteen-year-old girl who had been with her grandmother. His last victim, Dimitra Sarantakos (he enunciated every syllable carefully), age seventy-four, was his client's aunt who had been staying in Las Vegas with her son for a couple of weeks, and had attended her nephew's boxing match that evening. When his client saw Zubrowski expose himself to the elderly woman, he did what any other man would have done under the circumstances: he took action. What Zubrowski had done was a criminal sexual act, and his client defended his aunt from his assault. Yes, Zubrowski sustained a broken nose from it--his client was an amateur boxer, after all--but in the end, he had been on the police wanted list for weeks, and he had been arrested and taken into custody that evening. If George Strumpolis had not taken action when he did, the Flasher would still be at large, the attorney claimed. Why should a person who defended his aged relative be forced to pay for his heroism?
George defended his action against Alvin on the witness stand with all the vigor of a boxer in the ring. "That guy flashed my aunt!" he stormed. "Nobody does that to my aunt, or any other relative I got! What if he'd given her a heart attack? She had surgery a few years back, you know--she's lucky she didn't have a relapse! It's a wonder he didn't kill her, flashing that ugly body of his! He's lucky he got off with just a broken nose! If the cops hadn't shown up when they did, I probably would have broken his neck, too! I'll be glad when he goes to jail for those sixteen counts of indecent exposure--pervs like him should be locked up!"
Alvin's pleas for clemency and recompense were piteous to the point of nausea. "I can't help it!" he wailed. "I can't control what I do! I didn't hurt no one, really! But that (bleeper) over there--" he pointed at George "--broke my nose! I'm disfigured for life because of what he did to me! It wasn't defense of any kind--it was assault and battery, I tell ya! I'm an American citizen, ain't I? Don't I have rights, too? I've been suffering ever since that (bleeper) attacked me! I got mental problems, Yer Honor! Why should I be penalized over something I can't control?"
George rolled his eyes. Oh, cry me a (bleeping) river! he groaned inwardly.
After this shining example of well-reasoned legal defense, the judge rendered his verdict: No judgement against the defendant, plaintiff charged with court costs. George was, however, given a formal warning to restrain his anger in the future, and, like the magistrate at the plea bargaining, advised to confine his boxing skills inside the ring from now on. "I can see you are not a violent man by nature, Mr. Strumpolis," His Honor said, "and your defense of your elderly aunt is in itself justified. You could have simply restrained Mr. Zubrowski until the police arrived instead of striking him. Let us hope this will prove to be an isolated case."
George smiled, thanked the judge politely, and sat down. He wanted to leave, but the court had not been officially dismissed, so he waited patiently until the judge gave his final statement to the plaintiff. Upon later reflection, he was glad he did.
"Mr. Zubrowski," His Honor intoned with a voice like doom itself. "In light of the charges against you already, you deserve no compensation whatsoever."
The judge leaned forward from the bench, his face livid. "It's bad enough you've caused such outrage in the city with your sordid antics," he thundered. "Now you have the temerity to come before the court and claim you have 'no control' over your actions! In my opinion, you were fully aware and fully responsible for your behavior. You chose to expose yourself to Mr. Strumpolis's elderly aunt, just as you chose to expose yourself to a minor child and over a dozen other women as well. Your only 'mental problem' is immaturity, Mr. Zubrowski--immaturity and lack of self-control. I cannot judge you for your other crimes here in this courtroom, of course--one of my collegues will have the honor of doing that--but I do roundly condemn your past actions. Yes, Mr. Strumpolis did break your nose that night: I do not justify violence, but I do justify defense of a relative. And as for your claim of 'pain and suffering', well, think of the emotional suffering you caused your victims by traumatizing them the way you did, especially in the case of that fifteen-year-old girl to whom you chose to expose yourself. And you claim you deserve recompense? It's society who should be compensated by you, Mr. Zubrowski, for the shame and outrage you committed against it! Think upon that when you go to trial for your crimes."
The judge bought down the gavel with a bang as loud as a pistol-shot. "This case is dismissed!" he announced.
George rose to leave. He fought the urge to flip Alvin the bird, being in a courtroom and all; he simply turned to his lawyer. "Way to go, Tom," he said, shaking the attorney's hand gleefully. "You really delivered like you promised."
Tom shrugged modestly. "Hey, I do what I can to come through for my clients," he said. "Besides, with Alvin's record, even a lawyer fresh out of law school would have won this one."
"You think Alvin will appeal?"
"Him?" Tom scoffed. "After paying court costs, Alvin Zubrowski's case is dead in the water! His next stop is state prison."
George gloated at the thought of Alvin behind bars. "I'd hate to think what will happen if he tries to flash anybody in prison," he mused.
His attorney held up his hand, appalled. "Please, George," he said, blanching, "let's not go there!"
09-05-2011, 02:31 PM
Six months in jail. That was all Kevin Smythe got for conspiracy and possession of stolen goods. During his arrangment hearing, he realized the odds were stacked against him due to the evidence presented to the court, so he had plea bargained for six months in exchange for a guilty plea, and to testify against Alvin Zubrowski. It was better than the two-year stretch he was facing if he had pleaded not guilty, he reasoned. He wasn't looking forward to spending time in jail, of course, but he could easily blow off a six-month sentence, no problem, especially when he became eligible for parole in eight weeks. In spite of his loss of freedom, Kevin still felt vindicated: The photos he had posted were still online for everybody to see, guaranteed to embarrass Criss Angel forever. In spite of everything, he got his revenge.
He would not have felt so smug had he known that in the wake of the photo scandal, the FCC was cracking down on the World Wide Web to "monitor" (read: censor) any photographs showing full frontal nudity on their sites, especially ones frequented by the eighteen and younger crowd. YouTube, Yuku, and other websites were required by federal law to delete any "inappropriate" material from their boards if minors logged onto them on a regular basis, or at least blur or pixel out any sexual organs or naked breasts. Adult sites such as xferret.com were required to toughen their log-in procedures to prevent anyone under twenty-one from downloading their material. Kevin would also have been disappointed to learn that due to the overwhelming number of amateur submissions to xferret every day, the Criss Angel photos were all but lost forever in the deep depths of cyberspace...
When Criss heard the news about Kevin's sentencing, he was both relieved and aggravated: relieved that he had been spared the indignity of testifying, aggravated that the sentence was so light for someone who had nearly ruined his career. He had been in the gym for his daily workout, watching the television bracketed onto the ceiling while he sweated away on the treadmill, when he caught the one-minute report about it. The stew of emotions he felt about it faded as quickly as the segment on the news. Kevin was smart to plead guilty, he thought as he trotted away on the treadmill. Guess he finally decided to grow up after all. I'd still like to kill him, though. At least it didn't blow up into a national scandal like the Tommy Lee/Pamela Anderson videotapes, a fact for which he thanked God in deepest gratitude.
Another thing for which Criss could thank his Maker was that he didn't have to testify at Alvin Zubrowski's trial for indecent exposure. Unfortunatly, his beloved mother did, as well as his brother, JD and his cousin, George. As much as Criss wanted to be there, if only to lend moral support, his other commitments prevented him from going to court that day. Costa promised he would be there on the day of the trial to assist in any way he could. Besides, it was his photographs Alvin had stolen from the editing studio, he claimed; he had to be there to identify them before the jury.
"If you were there, Criss," JD had said when he received the summons to appear in court for the case of The State of Nevada v. Zubrowski, "you'd have the press down there so fast, it'd be chaos."
Criss, for once, decided to exercise prudence and discretion by not even commenting on the trial, let alone showing up in court. He'd been embarrassed enough by that pervert Alvin, who not only committed the unforgivable sin of exposing his repulsively naked body to his dear, sweet mother, but had also conspired to ruin his career by stealing Costa's photographs from the editing room and having them posted on the Web. To go to the trial would only add fuel to the fire that he had struggled to put out two months ago.
09-05-2011, 02:39 PM
Criss Angel: MindFreak Wed. Oct. **, 10:00 PM EST. A&E
Sports: Criss goes one on one with his cousin in the boxing ring, works out and works magic in the gym.
Opening seqence: "I've always stressed Mind, Body and Spirit working together in harmony. Today, I show the power of the Body, as I allow you inside my personal gym...
(cut to shot of Criss benchpressing)
"...take on my cousin, George, in the boxing ring..."
(cut to segment of Criss and George sparring in the ring)
"...and defy the laws of physics by passing through a solid concrete wall...in front of a live audience."
(cut to segment of Criss in gym) "You heard of Brut? (coughs) This is brutal!"
(cue MindFreak opening sequence, then cut to Criss in darkened studio)
Criss: "I have to confess, I hate working out, but with doing both a live show and a TV series, plus all the demonstrations I do, I have to be in top form."
(cut to menage of Criss' past demonstrations)
"To do the things I do, I have to train my body like an athlete, which means every morning I go to my personal gym and do an hour's workout."
(cut to Criss on the treadmill, shirtless and sweating)
"I do forty-five minutes of cardio, then another with weights..."
(cut to Criss benchpressing)
"...every muscle in my body gets a workout, from head to toe."
(cut to Criss on treadmill, panning slowly from head down to feet)
"It's exhausting, but in the end, it's worth it."
(cut to Criss on abdominal machine, crunching his abs) "AAARRRRGGGHH!"
JD: "Christopher's always been a bundle of energy since the day he learned to walk. Our family's always been active, whether it was throwing a football around in the backyard, or Little League, or whatever, but Chris was like non-stop. Whenever he wasn't pestering everyone to show off his latest magic trick, he was doing something completely crazy like ride his bike off the roof of the house and land in the bushes. He was nuts as a kid, and it only got worse when he got older. When people ask why he does the things he does, I tell them he'd been that way since he was a kid."
Criss: "My dad had always been an athlete..."
(cut to photograph of John Sarantakos from the past posing in trunks)
"...two-time Golden Gloves winner, Mr. Universe--he did it all, it seems. He wanted us to be the same way: healthy and physically fit."
(cut to family photo of three Sarantakos brothers ca. 1970s)
"We were never plunked down in front of the television set just to get us out of the way, but we were encouraged to go outside and play, get some exercise and fresh air."
(cut to Criss in darkened studio) "Sometimes I think he wanted us to make it to the Olympics, the way he stressed physical fitness and good health."
(cut to Criss' personal gym, where Criss performs illusion with a bottle of water).
(voiceover) "Next, Criss goes into the boxing ring..."
(cut to Criss in ring, sparring with cousin George, ending with his mouthing "help" into the camera)
"...then melts into solid concrete."
(cut to Criss concealing himself behind a tarp)
Criss: (whispers) "Are you ready?"
(Opening sequence to second part of MindFreak; cut to darkened studio)
Criss: "My cousin, George, has been taking up amateur boxing..."
(cut to menage of George sparring in the ring)
"...so I decided to go over to the gym and pay him a visit."
(cut to interior of Linehan's Gym, where Criss is standing in the foyer. Sounds of gloves striking punching bags and opponents)
Criss: (inhales deeply) "You heard of Brut?" (coughs and chokes) "This is brutal!" (walks over to George) "Hey, George, how's it going?"
George: "I'm good."
Criss: "George's sparring partner couldn't make it, and he needed the practice for the match at the Excalibur, so out of the goodness of my heart, I volunteered to be his sparring partner for the day."
(cut to Criss emerging out of locker room wearing boxing shorts and stockings) "So, how do I look?"
George: "Like Criss Angel in a pair of boxing shorts."
(Criss and George enter the gym, where Seamus Linehan is waiting)
George: "Well, what do you think?"
(Linehan inspects Criss by lifitng his arms, tapping his back with his cane, etc.)
Linehan: "Ye'll do. Yer up when this bout is over."
(cut to boxers in ring sparring, then cut back to Criss)
Criss: "I'm gonna die. I'm gonna get killed."
(Sparring session ends, Criss and George enter ring. Criss turns to camera and mouths "help", then turns to George. Referee explains rules, then give signal to begin round one. Criss and George spar, George flattens Criss. In round two, Criss comes back swinging, but wears himself out and is down for the count. He is hauled off by JD and George.)
George: "I think Criss has had enough for today."
(cut to Criss in darkened studio)
Criss: "That had to be the most...humiliating experience of my life, getting beaten up by George like that. Everyone knows how competitive I am, and how much I hate losing. I really thought I could take on George in the ring--after all, I had years of martial arts training."
JD: "I think Criss underestimated George, especially his right hook--I mean, that guy could bust through a brick wall with that arm of his!"
(cut to George taking a swing on the speed ball in the gym, sending it swinging as if to break off its hook)
George: "He's mad, I know he is. But, hey, I gotta tell ya, it felt good taking him down like that. Not so easy, was it, Criss? Huh? Huh?"
Criss: "You wait, George. We're gonna have a rematch. And I am going to kick your sorry ass all the way back to New York!"
(voiceover) "Next, can Criss walk through a solid cement wall?"
Criss: (whispers) "Are you ready?"
(Opening sequence to third part of MindFreak; cut to Criss in darkened studio)
Criss: "The laws of physics state that a solid cannot pass through a solid. I'm here to dispel that law...by passing through a solid, five-foot thick concrete wall."
(cut to shot of cheering fans outside, then to concrete wall five feet thick, seven feet high, ten feet wide)
Criss: "Okay, I need some volunteers from the audience to examine the wall here."
(cut to shot of some people walking up to the wall)
Criss: "You can see it's solid, totally solid. No trap doors, no cracks, nothing--just solid."
(Everyone agrees; Criss positions himself against one side of the wall)
Criss: "Raise the curtain!"
(Tarp goes up, concealing wall and Criss, his hands above the top edge of tarp)
(Hands vanish and appear on other side of wall; Tarp goes down, revealing Criss on other side; audience cheers)
(cue Mindfreak theme; camera pans audience for reaction; select persons give their views on illusion; cue credits; cut to scene of shirtless Criss working out on heavy bag, grunting with every blow)
Criss: "Uh! Uh!" (dances around bag) "C'mon, George! Think you're tougher than me? Uh! Uh! You're going down! Uh! Uh! Uh!"
(fade to black)
09-05-2011, 02:42 PM
Vertias, I just want to tell you, I started reading this last night thanks to Loyal OC ;) and I have to say you write REALLY well!! I love the detail you put into description! I feel inspired by it!! :)
09-05-2011, 02:43 PM
The Loyal Community > Loyal Written Art > Sports Episode
rachel1289: Saw the Sports episode last night--the walking through the wall illusion was amazing!!! lol at Criss in the boxing ring with cousin George. and the gym scenes were hot hot hot!! __________________________________________________ ________________________
KrisLee: I agree. Criss was sweating so much I thought he'd dehydrate. Heck, I almost dehydrated myself watching him I almost cried when I saw those photos of his dad from his bodybuilding days. It's sad that such a strong man died of cancer like that.
Greekgoddess: Daddy Angel was a hunk now I know where Criss gets it
angelkiss23: If this doesn't inspire people to get some exercise I don't know what will.
BlueSkye: loved the sports eppie, my favorite scenes were in the gym watching Criss work out. Sweat is so shmexy!! Was that where that cameraman took that video of Criss in the shower?
rachel1289: ^^ probably. don't know what happened to that after that
KrisLee: He probably got fired for it.
RoseRed13: It would have been so cool if they did tape Criss taking a shower I would have loved to have seen it. Better yet I would have loved to have been there __________________________________________________ ________________________
BlueSkye: I would have loved to have been in the shower with Criss........uh, Skye, could you hand me the soap, please?
Greekgoddess: In your dreams!
The water from the shower hissed and spattered on porcelain tile and naked flesh. Criss rubbed himself from face to feet with a large bar of soap, coating his skin with a layer of white lather, then ducked under the stream to rinse off. Rivulets of soap and water cascaded down his torso, over his hips, down his legs and puddled at his feet to be washed away down the drain, carrying away the sweat generated from his daily workout. He had no time for luxuriating under the spray of warm water: he had a tight schedule, as usual, which limited his bathing time to three-minute "Navy showers", as one of his crewmembers called them: wet down, soap up, rinse off, get out.
Criss turned off the water, grabbed his towel, and was about to open the glass shower door when, suddenly, an eerie feeling of deja vu came over him. Somehow, the feeling that someone outside was waiting with a camera had crept over him. It was silly, but he just could not help feeling that he was being watched. As a precaution, he wrapped his towel around his waist and carefully stepped out of the shower stall, looking around for any sign of a camcorder.
Feeling a bit foolish, Criss dried himself with the towel and headed for the booth to dress for the day. Maybe I should take Mom's advice and have that door installed, he thought. And put a lock on it as well. You know, just in case.
He pulled on his CK briefs, his frayed jeans, his grey t-shirt, his jock socks and combat boots, and tied a black and white bandana around his head. Decently dressed, he headed for his suite to meet with his producers and consultants for the next episode of his show. He had some great ideas for new demonstrations, though he knew his brothers would object--
Wait a minute, he thought. JD and Costa would not be in the meeting today. Nor would George, for that matter. Today was the trial of the Vegas Flasher, and all three of them had to testify against him. Come to think of it, his mother would be there, too, as one of the victims. He would be a bit short-handed today, but if it meant getting that pervert off the streets, it would be worth it.
Too bad I can't be there to see them rake old Alvin over the coals, he thought regretfully, but I got more important things to do. Maybe later I can catch it on the news or something. It's no big deal.
09-05-2011, 02:46 PM
Seldom was a courtroom filled to capacity as was Courtroom 3A in the Clark County District Courthouse that morning. Twelve jurors, a mix of ordinary citizens roped into performing their civil duty for twenty-five dollars a day, sat alongside the far wall, adjacent to the witness stand. The counsel for the prosecution sat in her assigned place, reviewing her notes about the case on her portable laptop. The counsel for the defense sat opposite, waiting for his client to arrive from the lockup. The bailiff stood attentively by the chamber door, ready to announce the judge's appearance and ascension to the bench.
The gallery was practically standing room only, with more women than men crowding the padded benches behind the low partition separating them from the bench. Conversation, what little there was, remained muted, reduced to low murmurs and whispers among the women called to testify against the defendant. Dimitra Sarantakos sat among them, flanked by her two elder sons, JD and Costa. She wore a modest blue dress with a white lacy collar with low-heeled black shoes, and she clutched her black leather handbag nervously, as if afraid someone would snatch it from her grasp. Sensing her anxiety, JD caressed his mother's shoulder comfortingly.
"You're gonna be okay, Mom," he murmured. "He can't hurt you. He's just a flasher. It's not like he's a serial rapist."
Dimitra tried bravely to smile. "I know, honey," she said. "But I've never been in court before, and I've never testified against anyone. Besides, I still don't like to see that man again."
"Trust me, Ma," JD assured her, smiling. "After this is over, no one is ever gonna see this guy again."
As if to refute those words, the defendant, Alvin Zubrowski, arrived, dressed in prison orange accessorized by a pair of regulation handcuffs on his wrists, escorted by a single officer to the defendant's chair. His bandage was gone, but the restorative surgery on his nose did little to improve his looks: his once bulbous nose had shrunk, and there was a slight but noticeable scar across the bridge. No one spoke when he took his place beside his attorney.
"All rise," the bailliff called out.
Everyone present stood as the Honorable Jerome Schwarz stepped up to the bench. He was a rather handsome man, about early fifties, with salt-and-pepper hair that accented his good looks and went peculiarly well with his black judge's robe. His face, however, remained professionally grim as he read the file of the case before him.
"State of Nevada v. Alvin Zubrowski," he read. "Are all parties present?"
Both parties confirmed their presence in the courtroom. "Will the defendant please rise?" Judge Schwarz requested.
Alvin struggled to his feet. "Mr. Zubrowski," the judge began, "you have been accused of sixteen counts of indecent exposure, one count of third-degree criminal sexual assault against a minor, one count of conspiracy to defame, and one count of burglary. How do you plead?"
"Not guilty," Alvin replied.
"You may be seated."
Alvin sat down. The counsel for the prosecution made her opening statement, presenting to the court the list of the notorious Vegas Flasher's crimes: exposing himself to no less than sixteen elderly women over a six-week period, including a sixty-year-old grandmother in the presence of her fifteen-year-old granddaughter on Fremont Street; theft of personal photographs of famous illusionist Criss Angel to hold for a one-million dollar ransom, then passed onto a co-conspirator to post on the Internet. The defendant had lost three jobs due to his reprobate behavior, and had been divorced twice for the same reason. A psychological examination revealed no sign of mental disorder: Alvin Zubrowski was fully responsible and fully accountable for his actions.
The counsel for the defense rose to give his opening statement. Alvin Zubrowski had an uncontrollable compulsion to exhibitionism, he claimed. He had tried unsucessfully in the past to rein him his impulses, even going so far as to seek treatment, but with no results. He had no real intention to expose himself in front of a minor--indeed, he had no desire for younger women at all. As for the conspiracy charges, they were totally false: Alvin had nothing against Criss Angel whatsoever, he stated--it was Kevin Smythe who wanted revenge against the star for firing him. He was the one who posted the photos online, not Alvin. His client needed therapy, not incarceration, he pleaded. Why punish a man for something over which he had no control?
The defense closed his opening statement. Then the trial began. Throughout the day-long trial, ten out of the sixteen women who were brave enough to come forward, Dimitra included, told their tale of their traumatizing encounter with the notorious Flasher:
"I was just standing there, talking on my cell phone to my husband, when that man over there came up to me, opened his coat and showed me his naked body. I nearly dropped my phone onto the sidewalk! I told Grant--that's my husband--about it, and he told me to call the police."
"I was on my way to my car in the parking garage after work when I saw him. He just spread his coat open like bat wings, and I saw his hoo-ha sticking right out at me! I wanted to punch him one, but he ran off. I reported him to security."
"I was with my granddaughter on Fremont Street when he came right up to us, opened his coat up and ta-dah! Showed off all his naked glory! I covered Davey's eyes when he did that."
"Grandma and me were on Fremont Street. I just got off the roller coaster, and we were going to get seats for the Criss Angel show when that creep over there flashed us! Grandma called the cops on him. When I got home, I posted a message to all the Loyals to watch out for this guy. I'm glad George broke his nose the way he did--he deserved it!"
"He just flashed at me, right there in front of God and everybody! Thank God my kids were at home at the time."
Finally, it was Dimitra's turn. "I was waiting for my son to pick me up after my nephew's boxing match outside the Excalibur. That man over there came up to me wearing a raincoat. I thought, what, there's no rain. Then he opened it up, and he was naked underneath. I scream, he run away, and my nephew, George, hit him in the face."
Alvin sat in his chair, squirming. He cast furtive sidelong glances at the older women taking their turn on the stand, biting his lower lip. He wanted to do it. Oh, God, how he wanted to do it! But his hands were cuffed, and there was a guard beside him. But maybe he could get away with it if he was careful. If he was lucky, no one would notice. He casually, unobrtrusively, looked around the courtroom: all eyes were on the witness stand, all ears trained on whomever was testifying--good. Then he slowly and discreetly slipped his cuffed hands into his orange prison trousers and...
An eagle-eyed juror spotted what Alvin was doing under the table. Flustered, then outraged, he stood up and shouted, "Hey! That guy's playing with himself over there!"
Chaos erupted as the guard grabbed Alvin by the arm with one hand and tried to pull up his trousers with the other. On the stand, Dimitra looked away, flushed with horror and embarrassment. There were nervous squeals and shouts of outrage from all parts of the room. Judge Schwarz angrily hammered for order in the court. In the gallery, George had to fight the impulse to punch the pervert in the face again; besides, there were too many cops around for him to do so. Alvin was quickly removed from the courtroom, the escorting guard hauling him off by the waistband of his pants and the scruff of his neck. It took another minute for peace to be restored in the courtroom. Judge Schwarz regained his composure and recessed the trial for thirty minutes.
"God!" JD exclaimed later as he lunched with his family in a small cafe on the mezzanine. "I can't believe that guy would just whip it out right there in the courtroom! I mean, is that guy a wack job or what?"
"He's sick!" Costa chimed in. "He's totally sick!"
"He ain't sick," George argued as he munched on his sandwich, "he's twisted. He loves doing what he does because it gets him off. It's a thrill for him. He's a degenerate."
"One thing's for certain," JD said. "After what he pulled in the courtroom today, he's gonna get sent up for sure. I'd bet anything the jury's already reached a verdict before this break is over."
Costa smiled sheepishly. "Well," he said, shrugging, "it would save a lot of time if they did."
09-05-2011, 04:53 PM
Criss and his crew were taking a break from the planning meeting, chowing down on takeout Asian food from styrofoam containers in his hotel suite, when the hotel phone rang. Criss swallowed his mouthful of lo mein noodles and answered it. "Hello?" he said.
There was a moment's pause, then suddenly he brightened. "Sully!" he crowed. "How's it goin'? How's the hand? Great! Yeah, sure, come on up--we got plenty of lo mein to go around! Okay, later, 'bye."
He hung up the phone. "Sully's coming up," he said simply.
"What's that about his hand?" someone asked from across the room.
"Oh, he just cut it open with a broken beer bottle, that's all," Criss explained drily. "I caught up with him when I was at the doctor's office for my physical a few months back. I forgot how many stitches it took, but it looked pretty bad." He suddenly grew concerned, almost worried.
"I'm sure he's fine," Joaquin Ayela said confidently.
Criss nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I'm sure he is," he agreed. "He sounded okay, so I guess everything's all right."
The crew resumed their lunch. A knock on the door interrupted them for the second time. Criss set aside his container and rose to answer it. Sully Erna, drummer for Godsmack and best friend, stood in the doorway with a huge smile on his face. The two greeted each other with fist bumps and shoulder hugs as Sully entered the suite. The crew merely waved and grunted hello through mouthfuls of lo mein and kept on eating.
Sully sat down next to Criss on the nearest available sofa. "So, how's it goin'?" he asked.
"Good," Criss replied. "How's your hand?"
Sully raised it and flexed his fingers. "Doin' good," he replied. "Nothing major, just some lacerations, that's all. It's not like it's gonna end my career or nothin'."
"Well, that's good," Criss said, relieved. "So, what brings you here?"
"Oh, nothin'," Sully said indifferently, "just wanted to stop by and say hello."
Both men laughed. "Say, by the way," Sully went on. "Isn't the Vegas Flasher going on trial soon? 'Cause that's what I really wanna know; I heard he flashed your mom and your cousin George busted his face."
"Well, today's the trial," Criss informed him. "Mom, JD, Costa, George--they're all there now."
"Oh, geez!" Sully groaned in disappointment. "God! I wish I'd known that earlier! I coulda gone there myself instead of coming here!"
"You wouldn't have been able to get in the courtroom, anyway," Criss told him. "It's a closed session--no visitors, no cameras, nothing."
Sully shrugged in resignation. "Oh, well." He turned to Criss. "Any word?"
"About the trial? None yet. Don't know how long it's gonna take: I mean this guy's got sixteen counts against him, plus stealing those photographs from the editing room--"
Sully held up his hand. "Wait, whoa, wait a minute. You mean the Flasher was the one who stole those pictures?"
Criss nodded. Sully was perplexed. "I thought it was that cameraman you fired." he said.
"Alvin the Flasher stole the photos, and Kevin was the one who posted them on the Web," Criss explained. "They were in it together, Kevin for me firing him, Alvin for George breaking his nose."
Sully nodded in understanding. "So, did they press charges against George?" he asked.
"George pleaded no contest by reason of defense," Criss replied. "They fined him a thousand dollars and let him off with a warning. What really (bleeped) him off was that he got suspended from the Excalibur match for it."
"They suspended him?" Sully shook his head. "Oh, geez! What a tough break for George! I mean, all those months of training just to get kicked out of the match--"
"It was just an exhibition match," Criss said. "He can compete in future matches if he wants."
"Well, that's good," Sully said. "In my opinion, George did a public service nailin' that pervert the way he did. I mean, if that (bleeper) did that to my wife, or, God forbid, my girls, I'd 've done the same thing or worse. Some guy goin' around, showing off his...you know..."
"Shortcomings," Criss finished for him.
Sully laughed out loud. "Shortcomings! Yeah! That's a good one! Anyway, what makes a guy do that, anyway?"
"It's a turn-on, I guess," Criss theorized. "It gets him off. It's sort of a thrill for him, I guess." He mimicked opening a coat. "Yoo-hoo! Hey, look at what I got here!" He fell back in his seat, laughing.
"Women don't do things like that, do they?" Joaquin inquried. "I mean, it's a man thing, isn't it, showing off his machismo? Women are too modest by nature to do anything like that, right?"
Sully looked at Joaquin. "You've never been to a Godsmack concert, have you?" he said. "I mean, we're up on stage, big crowd down in the mosh pit, everybody's goin' crazy, and some girl gets up on someone's shoulders, lifts up her tank top--hel-lo!" He flicked his t-shirt up for emphasis.
"That happen a lot?" Joaquin asked.
Sully nodded seriously. "A lot! I mean, every show we've done, we get a free 'show' of our own from the audience."
"Ever been flashed off stage?" Criss asked.
"No, not really. If they did, I'm usually too tired or too wasted to notice. You get kinda jaded when you've been touring too long."
Criss nodded in sympathy and understanding. "I suppose," he said for lack of anything else to say.
His cell phone went off in his pocket. Criss excused himself to answer it. Meanwhile, Sully decided to help himself to some lo mein noodles. Criss read the LED screen to see who was calling him: JD, it read. "Hey, it's my brother," he said eagerly as he pressed the Answer button. "Hey, JD, whassup?"
There was a long pause as Criss listened to whatever his brother had to say, grunting only "uh-huh" now and then. Then, suddenly, his eyes widened in shock. "He did what?" he roared.
"What'd he do?" Sully demanded. "Who did what?"
Criss waved for silence. "So what happened then?" he asked JD.
He listened carefully, then said, "Okay, I'll see you later, then. Tell Mom hi for me, okay? 'Bye."
He flipped off his phone, still stunned. "What happened, dude?" Sully persisited. "Who did what?"
Criss lowered the phone. "Mom was on the stand, testifying," he began. "Someone on the jury saw that pervert whip it out right there in the courtroom. They had to stop the whole trial and carry him back to jail."
Sully was aghast. So was the rest of the crew. "He just flashed everyone right there in the courtroom?" Sully echoed.
Criss nodded. "He did it right under the table," he said. "And he was in handcuffs to boot!"
"Look likes this guy's gonna be facing a loooooong stretch behind bars," someone in the back commented.
"Yeah," Criss concurred. "After a very loooooong trial."
09-05-2011, 04:56 PM
Court reconvened as scheduled, with Alvin harnessed in a handcuff belt around his waist to prevent any more mischief on his part. Having practically established his guilt about indecent exposure, the prosecutor moved onto the charges of burglary and conspiracy.
"The prosecution calls Costa Sarantakos to the stand."
Costa rose and walked over to the witness stand. He took the oath and sat down. "Now, Mr. Sarantakos," the prosecutor said, handing him a large envelope marked Exhibit A, "can you identify these photos?"
Costa took out the photos and examined them. "Yes, these are mine" he confirmed. "They were for a private portfolio I was making. My brother, Criss, consented to pose for me on the understanding they were not to be revealed to the public."
He slid the photos back into the envelope and handed them back to the prosecutor. "When did you last see these pictures before they were discovered to be missing?" she asked.
"In Criss' office in the Luxor," Costa answered. "They were right on the desk, along with some photos of our dad."
"Did anyone on the staff see Alvin take the photos from the office?"
"No. At first, it was Manny the editor who took them to put in the Sports episode. They were on his desk in the editing studio at first. We got the ones of Dad back okay, but the ones of Criss had been stolen."
"When did you report them missing?"
"Within a minute. We called security--they caught the guy on tape."
"Did you see the tape?"
"And you saw the face of the person who stole the photos?"
"Is he here in this courtroom now?"
"Yes, he is." Costa pointed to Alvin. "Right there in the prison orange jumpsuit."
"The prosecution calls Kevin Smythe to the stand."
Back in the gallery, Costa showed admirable self-control when the man who had turned his personal art project into a national scandal stepped up to the witness stand. He was still bitter over Kevin's trechery, just as he was over Alvin's theft. Even if he did choose to sue Kevin over the illegal use of the photos, it was already too late to undo the damage: Criss' pictures were still out there, floating around in cyberspace. The fact that Kevin would be serving six months did little to salve the personal injury he felt.
On the stand, Kevin related the whole conspiracy to the court--or, at least, his version of it. It was all Alvin's plan, he claimed: he alone carried out the theft, the idea to blackmail him was his alone, and he was the one who posted the note on the production office door. He, Kevin, was just an innocent, unwitting accomplice, only going along out of sheer desperation for money. He also claimed Alvin had left the photos in the apartment for the police to find, setting him up for a fall. Alvin was the mastermind, he insisted, while he was just the fall guy.
The prosecutor zeroed in on Kevin. "Weren't you the one who took those photos and downloaded them onto the adult themed site known as xferret.com?" she asked. "Or was that Alvin, too?"
Kevin hesitated, then blurted out, "I plead the Fifth Amendment!"
The prosecutor was about to demand an answer, but thought better of it. Kevin had already been convicted in his part of the conspiracy, so it made no sense to press the issue furthur. Besides, he had agreed to testify against his co-conspirator in exchange for a lighter sentence. "So you claim Mr. Zubrowski masterminded the whole conspiracy against Criss Angel?" she asked.
"That's true!" Kevin cried. "He did it all. I just had the photos in my apartment."
The prosecutor brought the envelope, marked Exhibit A, to Kevin. "Are these the photos you had in your apartment?" she asked, handing the envelope to him.
Kevin opened up the envelope and looked at the photos. "Yeah, these are them," he confirmed.
"Did Alvin confess to you that he stole them from the editing office?"
"Confess?" Kevin laughed. "Hell, he was braggin' about it! He went on and on about how he was gonna make a million dollars out of 'em, and if Criss didn't cough up the cash, he was gonna have me put 'em online."
"And what would you have gained from it?"
"He promised me half the money if he did it. But he weasled out on me, and left me holding the bag--I mean, the pictures."
"How did he 'weasel out' on you"
"He never showed up. I assumed he took the money and ran. Didn't know he got arrested until I got busted myself."
Kevin was dismissed. The next fifteen minutes of the trial was devoted to showing the surveillance and police tapes of the posting of the letter on the office door, the theft from the editing studio, and the rendezvous between Criss and Alvin in the park. Computer enhancement clarified the images, revealing beyond a shadow of a doubt that Alvin was guilty of the theft and the conspiracy to ruin Criss Angel. With those images fresh in their minds, the jury was sequestered after closing statements from both sides.
"How long do you think they'll take to reach a verdict?" JD asked Costa.
Costa snorted. "Hell, I'd find that (bleeper) guilty in a heartbeat."
"But you're not part of an impartial jury," JD pointed out.
"Impartial or not, I'd still find him guilty in a heartbeat."
"I'd give them an hour at least," JD said. "You?"
"Hell, less than an hour."
Costa took the bait. "How much?"
"Fifty bucks says they'll be out in one hour or more."
"Why so long?"
"Well, you have to take into consideration of a holdout."
"Nah, there won't be a holdout," Costa said doubtfully. "They got all the evidence in there with them. It's an open and shut case."
"Hey, you never know what'll happen in there." JD held out his hand. "So, you wann bet on it?"
Costa deliberated the odds, then took his brother's hand. "Deal!" he said finally.
JD looked at his watch. "Okay, it's a quarter to three now," he said, "so we got until a quarter to four."
"Quarter to four--got it."
Both men settled back to wait for the results. Costa smiled, then leaned his head sideways to JD. "I bet they find him guilty in five or ten minutes, then spend the rest of their time in there looking at Criss' pictures," he said.
JD laughed at that thought, then playfully nudged his brother in the ribs.
09-05-2011, 05:00 PM
"Security. Macaffey here."
"Macaffey? It's me."
"Oh, good afternoon, Mr. Rappaport. What can I do for you?"
"Well, word from the security staff grapevine is that you've been beefing things up lately."
"Oh, yes, sir!" Macaffey said proudly. "After that little burglary in the editing studio, I'm making sure it doesn't happen again!"
"Macaffey, I appreciate your diligence in this matter, but, really, you need to lighten up a bit. Posting guards at every corner is carrying things a bit too far in my opinion: you're taking away manpower where it's really needed. We've got video surveillance everywhere; there's no need for armed guards patrolling every corner of the Luxor."
"I just don't want any more break-ins, sir, that's all. Even if it was just a bunch of nudie photos, it's still personal property, and I want this to be the safest, most secure hotel in the city."
"I know you do, Jim, but this is a hotel, not a supermax prison. I know you spent years dealing with hardened criminals on your previous job, but the people who stay here are guests, not convicts. And the staff are all vetted for criminal records before hiring. I assure you, the Luxor is fully secure as it is. I know you're still (bleeped) off about the photos being stolen on your watch, but when you got hundreds of people coming and going, some sort of theft is going to take place, whether it's towels, robes, or photos. So, call off your dogs and follow procedure, okay?"
"Yes, sir, Mr. Rappaport."
"Good. You're doing splendidly, but tone it down a bit, willya?"
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
Macaffey hung up the phone and sighed heavily. Tone it down, the boss said. Lighten up, the boss said. This is a hotel, not a supermax prison, the boss said. He glanced out the window of the security office facing the atrium. Outside, guests strolled around the colorful carpet, wheeling or carrying their luggage to and from their rooms. Ordinary citizens whom he had sworn to protect, he thought. Not a criminal in the bunch.
His prison guard instincts kicked in. Complacency was death, he reminded himself; how did he know there were no crimimals out there? Appearances can be deceiving--some innocent-looking tourist could be plotting a heist for all he knew. Who knew what was in those suitcases?
Macaffey shook his head. Fifteen years corralling convicts had made him paranoid. During that time, his basic sense of trust had eroded little by little until he suspected everyone and everything as a potential threat. The boss was right, he admitted. The Luxor had the best surveillance technology money could buy, better than back at the supermax (he recalled the twinge of envy when he was shown the video surveillance room for the first time, feeling they should have had something like it back at the prison). Why should he go and pull his men away from their usual posts? Besides, it had been just a bunch of nudie pictures, not the crown jewels of England.
He got on the intercom and ordered his men back to their usual positions. Let the eye in the sky take care of the nooks and crannies, he thought. His men were needed on the floor.
Thirteen minutes to four. JD and Costa synchronized their watches for the countdown while their mother whiled away the time with a paperback novel. Behind them, their cousin George sat idly cleaning his fingernails. The next two minutes would determine the winner of the fifty-dollar jury bet. JD was confident, but Costa was still hopeful.
Fifteen seconds passed, and no sign of reconvening. "Looks like I'm gonna win," JD said.
"We still got a minute and forty-five seconds left," Costa reminded him.
"You're really going down to the wire on this one, aren't you?"
"It's still less than an hour."
"Whatever makes you happy, bro, but I'm still gonna win this one."
"Don't be too sure about that--there's still a minute and a half left."
George leaned forward from the seat behind them. "What are you guys talking about?" he asked.
"Oh, we just made a bet to see how long it takes the jury to reach a verdict," JD explained. "Cos says less than an hour, I say longer. We got fifty bucks riding on it."
"You think they'll aquit him?" George asked.
"(Bleep) no! He's guilty as hell, you know that! Especially for what he pulled earlier."
"What'd he pull earlier?"
"His (bleep), remember?"
"Oh, oh, yeah. So, how long has it been, anyway?"
Costa checked his watch. "Fifty-eight minutes and forty-five seconds."
JD chuckled. "Hope springs eternal, I guess," he quipped.
There was silence in the courtroom for the space of a few heartbeats, then the jury room door swung open and the jurors filed into the box to take their seats. Costa checked his watch again. "Made it with a minute and eight seconds to spare," he said triumphantly. He turned to JD and held out his hand.
Disappointed, JD fished out his billfold and withdrew two twenties and a ten. He slapped the bills into his brother's waiting hand. "Here," he said. "Last time I make a bet with you."
Costa gloated as he stuffed his winnings into his pocket. He had no time to savor his victory because the judge had just entered the courtroom. Everyone rose at the command of the bailiff, then sat down again. The Honorable Jerome Schwarz turned to the jury box. "Has the jury reached a verdict?" he intoned.
The foreperson, an elderly woman with white hair cut in a pageboy, stood up slowly. "We have, Your Honor," she quavered, holding out a folded piece of paper.
The bailiff took the paper from the foreperson and passed it to the judge. "Will the defendant please rise?" he ordered. Then he asked, "Does the defendant have anything to say before the verdict is delivered?"
Alvin stood there, wavering. "I-I-I don't know what to say," he stammered. "I din't mean no harm to no one, really. I don't wanna go to jail or nothin'! You can put me in a bughouse ward if you want, but please, no jail!"
Judge Schwarz was totally unmoved by Alvin's pleas. He unfolded the paper and read the contents aloud: "Alvin Zubrowski, you have been found guilty on sixteen counts of indecent exposure, one count of criminal sexual conduct on a minor, one count of burglary, and one count of conspiracy. While you claim you didn't harm anyone, you have in fact caused greater harm than you think. Not only have you traumatized those to whom you had exposed yourself, but you had also sought the ruination of a major celebrity out of personal resentment. You are not a hardened criminal, Mr. Zubrowski, but you are a reprobate. I don't know what impulses drove you to these acts, but I can only hope in time you can overcome them. If you had restricted yourself to older women, I would have simply recommended compulsory therapy. However, since you also exposed yourself to a minor, plus your theft of the photographs to defame the cousin of the man who broke your nose for your crime against his aunt, plus your outrageous conduct in this courtroom, your behavior has crossed the line. Therefore, the court sentences you to ten to fifteen years in the Nevada State Prison, plus three hundred hours of community service." The gavel came down with a bang. "Case dismissed."
Alvin seemed to wither upon hearing his sentence. "No! No!" he pleaded as the guards hauled him away. "I can't go to prison! I can't! They'll kill me there! I'll do anything, anything at all! Pleeeeeze!I don't want to go to prisooooooonnn!"
Two uniformed guards hauled the flailing, wailing prisoner out of the courtroom. From the gallery, George could not resist one more dig. "Hey, Alvin!" he cried out. "Don't drop the soap!"
Dimitra was perplexed. "What do you mean by that?" she asked.
"Oh, nothing, nothing," George replied quickly. "Just a joke, that's all."
His aunt disregarded her nephew's puzzling humor and picked up her purse to leave. "That vulgar man," she muttered indignantly. "After what he did, he deserves to be sent to prison!"
The family filed out of the courtroom with the others, murmuring and commenting on the trial, everyone satisfied over the verdict. "Hey, I'm hungry!" George announced. "How about some dinner?"
"It's only four o'clock in the afternoon," Dimitra observed.
George shrugged. "So?"
"Wanna go out for pizza?" JD suggested. "It's on Costa."
09-05-2011, 05:09 PM
Man Convicted of 16 Counts of Indecent Exposure
Alvin Zubrowski, aka the Vegas Flasher, was convicted yesterday
on 16 counts of indecent exposure, one count of criminal sexual
conduct against a minor, burglary and conspiracy charges.
Zubrowski, 48, had reportedly exposed himself to sixteen women
over a six-week period around the metropolitan area. He was
arrested in front of the Excalibur, released on bail, then broke
into and office and stole some photographs of illusionist Criss
Angel to force the star to pay one million dollars. He was
subsequently rearrested and kept in custody until his trial.
During court proceedings, Zubrowski had been spotted
exposing himself under the table by a member of the jury.
He was removed from the courtroom immediatly while
a thirty-minute recess was declared.
The court sentenced Zubrowski to ten to fifteen years
imprisonment, plus three hundred hours of community
Criss set down the newspaper. "Well, that's that," he mumbled to himself. He laughed silently. "What an (bleep)hole, whipping it out in the courtroom like that!" he said to himself as he tossed the newspaper aside.
Putting the Vegas Flasher out of his mind for good, he rose from the sofa and headed for his bedroom to dress for the day. Though he had a large wardrobe, his outfit of choice was the ragged-jeans-and-t-shirt ensemble, his bling was just his Believe cross. Today, he'd be rehersing for the new episode of MindFreak, involving levitating an entire audience, and so he kept it simple. No more dangerous demonstrations, he had promised his mother and brothers--at least for now.
His mother had decided to stay with Costa for the winter, sparing him the expense of booking a suite for her. As much as he enjoyed his mother's company, he wholeheartedly agreed with her choice of lodging; she'd have more privacy at Costa's house. Being at the Luxor made her vulnerable to overzealous fans who wanted the honor of being with Mama Angel. He marveled that the strain didn't affect her health, especially at her age. At Costa's house, she'd be in a more relaxed atmosphere, with more privacy. Yes, it was all for the best.
Dressed and ready for the street, Criss went down to the lobby and headed for the Production Office. He felt serene, almost lightheaded. The stresses and strains of the past few months--the missing nude photos, the blackmail, the YouTube video of him in the shower, the Flasher accosting his mother, his cousin's wrongful injury suit and suspension from the Excalibur match--were all behind him now. Alvin and Kevin were behind bars where they belonged, and Costa got his pictures back (he hoped; he wasn't sure, so he made a mental note to ask him), George had been reinstated in amateur boxing and was now training for the next match, and his little press conference had defused what would have been an embarrassing scandal. He was quite proud of the way he had handled the situation; it saved face as well as his career. Many people respected him for it, despite the lewd comments from various comedians on late night talk shows. Oh, well, it wasn't the first time he'd been exposed on TV.
Well, that was history as far as he was concerned. Everything was going to be all right now, he assured himself. God was in His heaven and all was right with the world. Life goes on, he thought philosophically. He strode to the Production Office with a song in his heart and a spring in his step. The spring and song, however, wavered when he spotted another note taped to the office door. What is it this time? he wondered irritably. It'd better be from the fire marshal or something, because I'm getting fed up with this!
He yanked the note from the door and read it. To his relief, it was from the fire marshal, announcing an annual fire safety inspection sometime next week. Criss shrugged, crumpled the note and went into the office, his good humor restored.
The staff already on duty bid him good morning. His assistant, Jennifer, handed him his daily correspondence as he passed. Criss took the stack of papers and envelopes and retreated to his office. Among the usual invoices, insurance statements, memos and other communiques dealing with his show, a very familiar large Manila envelope stood out. Curious, he tossed everything else aside and opened it.
Sure enough, the envelope contained the controversial photographs Costa had taken of him. But why were they sent to him? They were Costa's photos--why weren't they sent to his house instead of the Production Office? He checked the return address on the envelope: James Meridian, LVMPD. Detective Meridian had obviously decided it was easier to mail them to the Luxor since he didn't know where his brother lived. Made perfect sense.
He sifted through the photos one more time. If I had known how much trouble I'd get into, I'd never have consented to pose for these, he said to himself as he examined the eight-by-ten black and white glossies. God! What is it about nudity that gets people so bugged, anyway? Who was it that said we're all naked under our clothes? Steve Martin, I think. Or was it Tim Allen? No, he said don't stand close to a naked man--that was the title of his book, I think. Anyway, it makes perfect sense--under our clothes, we're all the same naked human beings.
A sheet of note paper caught his eye. He withdrew it from the stack of photos and read it:
Criss can I have copies of these? You are so HOT! Love, Helen. PS I was on the jury BTW. We loved looking at these while we were in the jury room!
The note ended with an address and a smiley face.
Criss' head dropped in exasperation. With a sinking heart, he realized that whether he liked it or not, the nude photos were going to be very popular for years to come. Ten, twenty, even thirty years from now, someone was going to download them from somewhere to ogle and drool over. Even when he was finally dead and buried, they would still exist in cyberspace for everyone to see. Would they show them at his funeral? He hoped not. He prayed not. His life was colorful enough without the indignity of showing off in his birthday clothes.
But then, maybe by that time people would be more relaxed about nudity. It was a pipe dream, but morals and attitudes change over time, he realized. Maybe when he was gone from this life, someone would find these photos and appreciate them for the artistic value his brother Costa had placed upon them instead of condemning then as pornography. Maybe, just maybe, someday people would celebrate the human body as the ancient Greeks did instead of the early Christian fathers who denigrated the flesh as sinful. Or there could be such a moral backlash that everyone would be required to cover their bodies like Muslims, from head to toe. In twenty or thirty years, anything was possible--either society would be more accepting of nudity to the point of complacency, or so ridgidly moral that anything even hinting of bare flesh, including the pictures, would be tracked down and destroyed.
Whatever the outcome, the entire episode had given Criss food for thought about his attitude toward nudity. His ancient ancestors had glorified the flesh, but the later ones repudiated it. Shame had become ingrained into everyone's consciousness since the days of St. Augustine. Over the centuries, however, the issue turned less toward revulsion and more toward privacy and respect. Sex itself went from an orgiastic celebration of fertility from its pagan days and had transformed into a sacrament between officially married couples, restricted to the bedroom, away from prying eyes; no one liked to have their most intimate moments displayed in public, especially in front of innocent children.
That must be the main reason why society kept it covered: to keep from corrupting and traumatizing children. The pixeling and blurring out of bare behinds and genitals, the "parental discretion is advised" disclaimers on television, the FCC regulation restricting "adult" fare to after ten PM--it was all for the sake of protecting kids from seeing the human body unclothed in the name of decency and morality. As for privacy, well, there was practically none these days, not with reality TV dominating the airwaves. Everything was laid bare in more ways than one. As for protecting children from the trauma of nudity, that was a joke; kids these days were so technologically savvy that they could find ways to get around if not totally ignore the restrictions placed upon them. Criss would have wagered his next royalty check that some preteen Loyal had already downloaded those photos from xferret and filed them away for personal enjoyment.
Criss read Helen's note again, then tossed it in the wastebasket. He put the photos back in the envelope and forwarded them to Costa's inbox. No, he decided, he would not honor her request. Attitudes and morals may change over the years, but privacy was still a constant, especially his own. The photos were for his brother's portfolio, not for his fans.
Sorry, Helen, but I'm going to have to turn down your request. There's only so much of me I allow the Loyals and the public to see. My body's a temple, not a brothel--it's mine and mine alone. I have a right to privacy as much as you do. You're just going to have to respect that.
In a small suburban neighborhood somewhere in the heartland of America, twelve-year-old Krissy sat at the family PC. Both her parents were working but would be home soon, and her younger sister was playing in the basement with friends, so she could work undisturbed for the next hour. It wasn't much time, but it was all she needed.
With luck and cunning, she logged onto xferret.com, circumvented the security system by lying about her age, and keyworded Criss Angel. In a flash, the link to her idol appeared on the monitor. She clicked onto a link titled Nude Photos of Criss Angel and sat back to enjoy the show, savoring picture after lucious picture of the MindFreak in all his naked glory. Oh, God, he's so hot! she thought to herself.
She was not allowed to print them out, of course, but she did save them by inserting a small flash drive into the computer and transferring them into the memory, preserving them forever. If she had saved them in her Favorites file, her parents would find them during one of their periodic inspections to monitor their children's use of the Internet, and that would mean major big-time trouble.
After the photos were safely in her flash drive, she took the added precaution of deleting any record of her ever having been on xferret. Then she took the flash drive, hooked it onto her keychain with her housekey, her locker key, and her CA logo keyfob, and stuffed it into the pocket of her jeans, smiling to herself. Let her mom and dad think she was an innocent, wholesome little girl. They would never know the secret she kept in the little green flashdrive dangling from her keychain. Criss' sexy, naked body was hers to enjoy, over and over again, forever and ever and ever...
09-14-2011, 04:20 AM
After reading this I need a cold shower. One of my favorites :)
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