12-02-2011, 10:07 PM
Sondra was finishing loading up the shelves while Tory was knocking down cardboard boxes to be taken to the dumpster outside when the public address system chimed for their attention.
"Attention all shoppers! The toys you are buying are all stolen! I repeat, the toys you are buying are all stolen! Please return everything where you found them! I repeat, they're all st--!"
There was a muffled squeal, then silence. Sondra looked at Tory. "That sounded like Joy," she said.
Tory merely stood there, indifferent as always. Sondra grew impatient. "Don't you get it, Tory?" she cried. "Or are you so thick-headed you don't understand the situation? Joy's in trouble here! She says all these toys are stolen! We're dealing in stolen merchandise!"
No response from Tory; the guy was a slug. Irate, Sondra stormed away from her apathetic co-worker and dashed into the storage area, anxious to rescue Joy from whatever horrible fate she faced. "Joy!" she screamed. "Joy! Where are y--?"
She arrived just in time to see Mr. Bernie shove Joy into the company van and slam the door in her face, then circle around to the driver's side, climb in, slam the door and speed off. Sondra ran after it, but it was too late--the van had sped out of the loading zone and toward the main road at double speed. She could only stand there, screaming Joy's name between sobs of shock and grief.
The boxy Land Rover and the sleek black Viper nearly collided with each other as they screeched to a halt near the loading zone. Both Criss and Macaffey shot out of their respective vehicles and headed for the toy drive truck, where they were greeted by a hysterical Sondra. Macaffey immediatly took charge of the situation. "All right, what happened?" he demanded.
"He took Joy!" Sondra shrieked. "She announced over the intercom that all the toys were stolen, then Mr. Bernie grabbed her and shoved her into the van! You gotta help her!"
Criss grabbed Sondra by the forearms. "Which way did they go?"
Sondra pointed toward the main road. "That way."
Criss bolted back toward the Viper. "You get the cops, Big Luke!" he shouted as he dived back into his car. "I'm going after 'em!"
The Viper sped away in pursuit of the van. Macaffey turned to Sondra. "Come on," he ordered her. "We got a mess to clear up."
In the van, Mr. Bernie sped on, heedless to Joy's sobs of protest. "You lied to me!" she screamed at him. "You lied to everybody! How could you do this to people, stealing toys meant for poor kids? It's Christmas, for God's sake!You're worse than Scrooge and the Grinch combined!"
"Listen, sweetie," Mr. Bernie said, pointing a pudgy finger at her,"it's time you got all those visions of sugarplums outta your head and start livin' in the real world! You wanna know the real meaning of Christmas? It's money, pure and simple! This time of year, everybody who's in retail is raking in the moolah selling crap produced in China or wherever, playing on everybody's guilt to make them buy it, especially parents! They make 'em feel like bad parents if they don't give their kids what they're advertising, so they shell out the extra bucks to make 'em feel good about themselves. No one gives a diddly-damn about charity and giving and all that bull(bleep)! It's all about the Benjamins, sweetheart, it's all about the Benjamins."
Joy could only stare at Mr. Bernie incredulously. "That's sick!" she exclaimed.
Mr. Bernie responded with a smug smile. "That's business, sweetheart!" he retorted.
The Viper streaked through the night like a fleeting shadow. Inside, Criss was explaining to his two friends what Sondra had told him. As the news hit home to them, Sully and the Amazing Johnathan grew sober in an instant.
"So that Uncle Bernie character is the Grinch?" AJ said. "He's the one who's been stealing all the toys from those donation bins?"
"And the guy who boosted the toy truck from KLUC," Criss added. "And, so help me, God, I am so gonna kick his ass when I get him!"
"I'll hold him for you!" Sully chimed in from the rear.
Suddenly, AJ sat bolt upright. "Hey, I think that's him!" he said, pointing ahead.
The Viper's headlights shone on the rear doors of the van. Sure enough, there was the logo for Uncle Bernie's Discount Toys painted prominantly on the back. Criss shifted the Viper into overdrive and floored the gas pedal, speeding up to the right of the van. Once he was parallel to the passenger side, he rolled down the window, leaned on the horn and shouted "Hey! Pull over! Hey! PULL OVER, YOU MOTHER(BLEEPER)! YOU GOT MY TOYS!"
The passenger door window rolled down, and Criss saw the face of a frightened young woman gesticulating wildly. Then she was pulled back into the van, and the window slid shut again. "He's got a girl in there!" AJ exclaimed.
Suddenly, the van began to swerve toward the Viper. Instinctivly, Criss swerved away, narrowly missing being sideswiped. The van swerved back into its lane. Criss cursed under his breath and kept pace, not wanting to lose either his control of the Viper or sight of the van. Again, the van swerved dangerously toward the Viper, then quickly retreated. Criss backed off just enough to prevent a collision. The jerking motions from the second attack caused the van to lose its center of gravity; it began to skid out of control. The three men in the Viper watched as the heavy van swayed crazily all over the road, then tumble sideways into the shoulder with a sickening crash.
Criss pulled over to the shoulder just past the overturned van. Dear God, I hope the girl's all right! he prayed silently as he parked the Viper by a guard rail. Please, God, don't let her be dead!
Sully and AJ followed Criss to the wreck. There was only silence down that stretch of highway, broken only by the wail of police sirens in the distance.
Meanwhile, back at Uncle Bernie's Discount Toys, hundreds of angry shoppers mobbed the service desk demanding refunds. Macaffey was doing what he did best: crowd control caused by crisis. He locked down the entire store, permitting neither entrance nor entry save for the police; he kept the refund line orderly simply by the sound of his foghorn voice, shouting over the din of irate customers without the use of the public address system; he ordered the remaining store staff to load up the stolen toys and pack them into the KLUC truck to be taken away as evidence. Only when the LVMPD arrived did the Luxor's chief of security tone down the volume on his vocal cords.
Detective Jim Meridian approached Macaffey. "A little out of your jurisdiction, huh, Big Luke?" he chided.
"Long story," Macaffey replied drily. "But we got our Grinch, or will be when they get him."
"Good job on the crowd control," Meridian complimented him. "Makes it a lot easier."
Macaffey simply nodded in response; bragging was unprofessional in his opinion. Then, a uniformed police officer stepped forward. "We got news of the van," he said. "It ten-eightied off the main road."
"Anyone hurt?" Meridian asked.
"No word of that yet," the officer replied. "But we got the Grinch at any rate."
"EMS on the way?"
"Yes, sir, they called 'em in."
"Good. Round up any witnesses if you can find 'em."
The officer left. Macaffey let out a huge breath of air. "As (bleeped) off as this mob is," he said, "that son of a (bleep's) gonna wish he was dead."
"What about the girl?" Meridian asked.
Silence and a shrug was the only answer Macaffey could give.
Red, blue and yellow lights flashed all around the accident scene as two of Las Vegas's Bravest pried the passenger door open with the Jaws of Life and pulled out a shaken, weeping Joy. Scared out of her wits, she fell into the first pair of comforting arms she encountered--those belonging to Criss Angel, who embraced her eagerly, relieved she was still alive. "Oh, my God!" she sobbed, "I thought I was gonna die! I thought he was gonna kill me!"
"You're okay, hon," Criss said softly. "It's all over now. It's all over."
"I can't believe he did that!" Joy cried. "I can't believe he was the one who..."
"Stole all those toys?" Criss finished for her.
Joy nodded. "He did it for the money, he said," she sniffled. "He didn't care about needy kids or anyone else for that matter. He said Christmas was all about making money."
"Well, he ain't gonna be making any money where he's going," Criss said. "Except for what he earns making license plates."
The quip made Joy smile a little. Sully came forward, followed by AJ zipping up his fly. "Everything okay here, Criss?" Sully asked.
Criss nodded. "Yeah, everything's okay," he replied. "At least for now."
Two police officers stepped in. One of them tapped Joy on the shoulder. "Ma'am," he said, "we need you to come to the station and file a statement."
Joy nodded wearily and followed the officer, stopping only to smile and wave good-bye to Criss, who waved back. The other officer pulled out his ticket book, ripped out a ticket and handed it to Criss. "What the hell is this for?" Criss demanded.
"We clocked you going one-ten in a fifty-five-mile-an-hour-zone," the second officer told him. "We'll need your license and registration, please."
"But I was going after the guy who--"
"License and registration, please, sir," the officer insisted.
Fretfully, Criss went to fetch the required identification. AJ laughed, gloating over his friend's predicament. "Hee, hee! Criss got busted!" he chortled gleefully.
His schadenfreud was cut short by the officer handing him a ticket of his own. "What's the deal?" AJ asked, bewildered.
"Urinating on a public highway," the officer intoned. "That's a hundred-dollar fine."
The officer returned to his squad car containing Mr. Bernie. Criss had produced his license and registration and showed it to the officer, who ran it though the system, found Criss' record clean (for the time being), and handed the documents back. Then he climbed into the squad car and drove off with a fuming Mr. Bernie in the back seat.
Criss turned to Sully and AJ. "C'mon," he grumbled, "let's go back to the Luxor. I don't feel like partying tonight."
AJ looked at his ticket for public urniation. "Me, neither," he said.
Our top story tonight: the so-called Las Vegas Grinch has finally been apprehended. The man responsible for the theft of thousands of dollars' worth of toys has been identified as Bernard Brockton, aka "Uncle Bernie" of Uncle Bernie's Discount Toys. The store was actually a front for stolen playthings taken from donation bins all across the metropolitan area, including KLUC's toy drive truck. Merchandise had also been hijacked from various delivery trucks from such companies as Toys-R-Us, FAO Schwarz and other toy retailers all over the county.
The scam was uncovered by an employee of the store, twenty-year-old Joy Reese of suburban Las Vegas. Ms. Reese, a business major at UNLV, had discovered the plot when she was stacking teddy bears at the store and found one she had purchased the day before and had placed in the store's own donation bin. From the store's own video surveillance cameras, the donated toys were taken out of the bin and replaced on the shelves to be resold. She was allegedly abducted by Brockton when she tried to warn shoppers of the scam, and was driven several miles down B--Road before the truck lost control and overturned on the shoulder. Neither Brockton nor Ms. Reese were injured. Brockton was taken into custody on charges of fraud and several counts of larceny. No charges have been pressed on Ms. Reese nor the staff of the store.
Meanwhile, thousands of angry shoppers mobbed the store demanding refunds from merchandise purchased at Discount Toys over the past month. All stolen toys will be donated to their respective charities. If you have purchased a toy from Uncle Bernie's since November twenty-fifth, please return it for a full refund.
Criss turned off the television set in his room. Beside him, Hammie flicked his tail in typical feline indifference. Well, Joy's all right, he assured himself, and Uncle Bernie's in jail. I guess this is gonna be a merry Christmas for a lot of kids after all. At least the KLUC truck's back with all the stuff I put into it. I wonder if there's anything on the radio about it.
He reached over and turned on his clock radio, already set to KLUC. What he heard made him laugh. Instead of serious news commentary, he was serenaded by the deep baritone voice of the late Thurl Ravenscroft, famous for being the voice of Tony the Tiger, singing an all too familiar, all too appropriate tune:
You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel.
You're a bad banana
With a greasy black peel.
You're a monster, Mr. Grinch.
Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You've got garlic in your soul.
I wouldn't touch you, with a
thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.
You're a vile one, Mr. Grinch.
You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile.
Given the choice between the two of you
I'd take the seasick crockodile.
You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You're a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk.
The three words that best describe you, are as follows, and I quote:
You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch.
You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a dead tomato splotched
With moldy purple spots,
Your soul is an apalling dump heap overflowing
with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable
Mangled up in tangled up knots.
You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch.
With a nauseaus super-naus.
You're a crooked jerky jockey
And you drive a crooked hoss.
You're a three decker saurkraut and toadstool sandwich
With arsenic sauce!