01-13-2012, 05:28 PM
A week had passed since the infamous Piccucci Affair ended with the probate hearing dividing up the estate. M. Soul, the stuttering rapper, had purchased Mick Piccucci's home for around two and a half million dollars. The antique furniture, the paintings, and Mick's other personal possessions were packed and carted away to Sotheby's in Beverly Hills, California, while the six automobiles were transported to a secure warehouse somewhere in Las Vegas, all to be auctioned and the money distributed to Springs and the four Piccucci heirs, after taxes.
Mick's liquid assests--stocks, bonds, securities, and other funds--were assessed by the IRS. It turned out that Mick had secreted a lot of his ill-gotten gains in offshore tax shelters, European gold bullion, and of course the usual Swiss bank account, bringing the total of his estate to over ten million dollars gross. A thorough examination of the former gangster's tax records revealed that he had exploited every loophole in the book to keep his money from falling into Federal hands--Rob Bluseman had done his job well, it seemed. Still, it did not stop the Feds from claiming what was rightfully and legally theirs; over a quarter of the estate was garnished for property, federal, state, local and inheritance taxes. Mick Piccucci had tried to cheat the system and had lost.
All of this didn't bother Casey Worth in the least. Secure in her new job as live-in caregiver, she went about her duties as if she had never even been mentioned in the will. She fixed Mr. Springer's meals, monitored his medications, ran his errands, tidied up the house, and bought him the daily paper every morning turned to the crossword puzzle. Springs' new stomach was working out just fine, so long as he cut back on the Manhattans he loved so much. He even enjoyed that longed-for Porterhouse steak after the last follow-up visit to the doctor. "If I'm gonna live this long," he had said, "I'm gonna enjoy it to the hilt."
Springs had consented to allow Casey's mother, Sharon, to live in the mansion for a while "so long as she don't mooch offa me," he had insisted. Casey promised that her mother was no mooch, but was more than willing to help with the housework--a five bedroom mansion was too much for one person to maintain, she had pointed out. Springs had merely nodded and went back to his crossword puzzle. Sharon arrived on Monday morning; by Monday afternoon she was hard at work cleaning the master bathroom which had been reeking of the old man's past bodily functions. The new fuel tank may have been in perfect working order, but the exhaust system left much to be desired.
Her mother's assistance allowed Casey a little extra time each evening to attend certification classes at a local community college. Mr. Springer didn't have a computer, so she couldn't take online courses, but her experience helped her a great deal in her studies. With the money she had saved from not supporting her father and brother, she could afford to pay her own tuition. When the inheritance came through, she would help her mother find a place of her own while putting aside some cash for her own housing situation should Mr. Springer pass away. A mansion was nice, but it was too big for a blue-collar girl like Casey--she would have been happy living in a broom closet so long as she didn't have to share it with anyone.
Sharon, for her part, was happy as a clam. Even though she was the unofficial maid-of-all-work at the Springer residence, she felt like she was finally living like decent people. She had quit her job at the liquor store (to the total indifference of the owner), and had settled in her new routine like a duck to water. Aside from the formality of filing for divorce, she hadn't given Phil a second thought since she had been living here. What few twinges of maternal affection for her son she had felt soon faded when she vividly recalled his laziness, his slovenly ways, his pilfering of her purse. He was a good-for-nothing, and so she wanted nothing to do with him anymore. Instead, she focused on her daughter, Casey, beaming with pride as she studied for her certificate. Maybe, after Casey got the inheritance, she herself could take some college courses, just like she had always wanted. After nearly fifty years, Sharon felt as though she was just beginning to live.
"Things look swell, things look great," she sang as she scrubbed the toilet in the master bathroom. "Gonna have the whole world on a plate. Everything is coming up roses!"
Benny Worth stared at his father in disbelief. "You wanna sue Casey?"
"Damn straight, I do!" Phil snapped. "She's been holding out on us with that inheritance she got from that old man. When they read the will, she never said a word to anyone about it execpt your mother. She cheated us, Ben--she cheated her own dad and brother! Damn if I'm gonna let her get away with it!"
"How much are we gonna sue her for?" Benny asked.
"If I had my own way, I'd get the whole bundle," Phil answered. "But we can sue her for support, at least. She ain't got no right to keep all that dough for herself while her poor crippled dad is sitting in this (bleeping) wheelchair barely making it on disability. It's just plain immoral."
"Ain't lawyers kinda expensive?" Benny asked a bit tenatively.
"Once we get our share, we'll pay him later," Phil replied. "They got legal assistance for people who can't afford it. There's a fancy Latin name for it, but anyway, we'll get one who'll work for free, or at least when we win the suit."
"You really think we'll win?"
"Of course we will! If I know Casey, she'll want to avoid a lawsuit altogether. We might even settle this out of court and avoid having to get a lawyer in the first place. If she's smart as her mother thinks she is, she'll do the smart thing and pony up the dough without having to drag it into court."
Benny's television-dulled mind pondered this. "Funny," he said. "The dad suing the daughter for support. It's usually the other way around, ain't it?"
"Yeah, whatever," Phil mumbled. "Now go get the phone book, we gotta find a lawyer and file that suit. The sooner we take care of this, the sooner we'll be rollin' in dough."
It was Sunday, Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday. Due to his performance schedule, Criss could not attend the midnight vigil at Holy Trinity Church, but he dutifully attended the eleven-thirty liturgy service come daytime. He had promised his mother he would attend Mass in keeping with his Paschal duty. Dimitra Sarantakos was living in New York, but he still sensed her presence in Las Vegas; he knew she would be calling him to ask if he had gone to church that morning, and he wouldn't think of lying to her. Besides, Dimitra had fought tooth and nail trying to save Holy Trinity from the wrecking ball; it had become the family's place of worship when everyone was in Vegas. Besides, he had promised to give her regards to Father Stefan.
Conservatively dressed in a black suit sans bling, he had entered the huge Byzantine church virutually unnoticed by the rest of the congregation-- rather refreshing for someone who couldn't turn around without someone flashing a camera in his face or demanding an autograph. When the liturgy was over, he blended in with the crowd of congregants as they shuffled out of the huge doors. Father Stefan stood in his accustomed spot in the vestibule, shaking hands with everyone who passed him by. Criss patiently waited his turn, then stepped up to the priest.
"Christos Anesti, Father," Criss greeted him respectfully.
"Alyekos Anesti, Christopher," Father Stefan returned in kind. "I'm glad you came today."
"My mother sends her regards," Criss said.
"Thank you, and I send her mine. I look forward to her next visit."
"I do, too, Father. Ka'lo Pascha'."
"Ka'lo Pascha', Christopher."
Criss trotted down the steps of the church and toward the parking lot. It was easy to spot his ride among the dozens of cars parked; his was the only jet-black Viper in the lot. And who should be standing there, perched casually on the hood with a smirk on his face, but his old friend, Sully Erna from Godsmack. Criss was startled, then surprised, then annoyed that Sully should treat his car like a park bench or something. "Get your ass offa my car, Sully," he ordered.
"Hey, is that any way to talk in church?" Sully admonished him, leaping off the hood.
"I'm not in church anymore," Criss reminded him. "What're you doing here, anyway?"
"Weeeellll," Sully drawled, "I saw on the calendar that it was Greek Easter Sunday, and with you being Greek and all, I figured you'd be here, so I came over. Turned out I was right."
"Okay, you were right," Criss retorted, "so, what do you want?"
"Hey, dude, I just wanted to say Happy Easter and all that," Sully replied. "So, do you get another Easter basket since you celebrate two Easters? That's a lot of chocolate Easter bunnies."
"No, I don't get two Easter baskets," Criss replied irritably. "And we didn't celebrate two Easters either--just this one. We just had a big lamb dinner with the family, that's all."
"Bummer," Sully said pityingly. "No chocolate Easter bunnies."
"I survived. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to get home if you don't mind. I'm starving and I need some lunch."
"You know, you're awful cranky when you're hungry. I should have bought you a chocolate Easter bunny."
"Enough of the chocolate Easter bunnies already!" Criss exploded. "What is with you and chocolate Easter bunnies all of a sudden?"
"Hey, it's what I grew up with," Sully replied. "But before you go, there's something I wanna give you."
"It'd better not be a chocolate Easter bunny."
"It's not a chocolate Easter bunny," Sully said as he fished out a piece of paper out of his pocket. "It's a car auction coming up this Thursday. Interested?"
"What kind of car auction?" Criss asked.
"Some dead mobster's got a bunch of cars they're trying to sell off," Sully explained, handing Criss the paper. "Sports cars, the kind you like."
Criss read the paper Sully had given him. It was a printout of an Internet ad for an auction being held in the Aladdin hotel on Thursday around noon. The cars offered had belonged to Michael Piccucci, deceased. They were classic cars from the Fifties and Sixties, practically in mint condition--a great temptation, but after his experience with the Piccucci family feud over the estate, Criss was hesitant. He wasn't sure if he wanted to have any reminder of that sordid affair.
He folded the paper and stuck it in his pocket. "Thanks," he said, "I'll think about it."
"Think fast," Sully told him. "Jay Leno might just beat you to them all."
Criss smiled. Sully trotted away. "Happy Greek Easter!" he called out.
"Yeah, Ka'lo Pascha', Sully!" Criss called out after him.
He watched as Sully got on his motorcycle and drove off. Criss wanted to give him the finger, but he was still in the church parking lot, and that would have created a bad impression. Instead, he got into his Viper and drove back to the Luxor. Sully Erna was a good guy, he reflected, but he could be a pain in the ass sometimes. Nice of him to tell him about the auction, though.
The auction. Did he really want to go there? As much as Criss loved cars, the faster the better, he wasn't sure if he wanted one from Mick Piccucci. Not because he had been a gangster, but because of his unwitting--and unwilling--involvement in the notorious Piccucci affair. Many still hailed him a hero for tackling Pamela in the service corridor, but that was more reflex than courage. He wanted nothing more to do with that family of psychos who would kill for money.
But, still, what kind of cars did Mick have, anyway? Well, it wouldn't hurt to look, he figured as he drove down the Strip. He'd check out what was going under the hammer, and if there was nothing that interested him, then fine, he'd leave it at that. If there was, then he'd place a bid or two, then take it to Count's Custom Cars and pimp it out if he got it. If he was outbid, well, he wasn't going to lose any sleep over it. He had enough cars and motorcycles to open his own dealership. He doubted if there was anything there he didn't already have. Still, Sully had made a special trip to tell him about it, so he could at least check into it. Criss wondered if Sully knew about the Piccucci Affair and his getting mixed up in it. Probably did, but at least he had the courtesy not to bring it up.
Criss drove up to the Luxor, handed the valet the keys to the Viper, got out of the car, went into the hotel, up to his suite and into his bedroom. He stripped off his Sunday best, tossed his clothes onto a chair, then flopped down on his bed, naked except for his briefs. All he wanted to do on this Easter Sunday was catch up on his sleep, putting Sully, the Piccuccis, and sports cars out of his mind. Tomorrow would bring its own stresses; this was his day of rest, and he was going to take full advantage of it.