02-27-2012, 07:37 PM
Eighty-nine year old Rosemary Thorton heard a knock at the door of her hotel room that morning after the car bomb explosion the previous day. She got up and shuffled to answer it, feeling a bit apprehensive. Having lived alone since the death of her husband, Frank, forty years ago, she could never be comfortable answering the door without looking out the window first, but there was no window from which to look out here at the Luxor, only a tiny peephole which was no help to her with her bad eyesight.
Meanwhile, seven-year-old Bethany Silverman sat on the floor, playing with the brown plush toy rabbit she had named MagicBunny. Her father had bought it for her at FAO Schwartz after they had been to the Magic Castle, and a funny magician made all those bunny rabbits appear. She got to pet one of them, and when Daddy took her to the toy store, he had let her pick out one toy, just one, he had insisted, and so that was how MagicBunny was adopted. The next day, both Mommy and Daddy were blown up downstairs, and so she had to stay with Mrs. Thorton, who was really nice, almost a second grandma to her, until the social service people could send her back home to Maryland.
Mrs. Thorton stood close to the door. "Who is it?" she asked the person or persons outside, with a touch of anxiety.
"Hi, it's me, Criss Angel," she heard a seemingly friendly voice on the other side. "Can I come in?"
Mrs. Thorton cracked open the door as far as the security chain would allow, peering out of the room. She saw a man's face smiling at her; he looked familiar, so she undid the chain and allowed him to enter. "Come in," she said. Criss entered the suite, two cameramen in tow, taping everything around them.
"Thank you," Criss said with a little bow. "I'm told that Bethany is here. She doing all right?"
"She's holding up remarkably well, considering." Mrs. Thorton said. "Children are remarkably resilient."
"It's good of you to take her in like you did. They have any luck finding her relatives?"
"I haven't received word about anything, but some of the guests have given money and things for her while she's here," Mrs. Thorton replied. "She's safe here if she is safe anywhere."
The doubt in Mrs. Thorton's voice belied that claim, and Criss sensed it. Since the car bomb attack, many of the Luxor's guests had checked out and left either for other hotels or for home. Only a handful of gamblers played in the Luxor casino, with just a skeleton staff on duty to serve them. It was Nine-Eleven all over again, it seemed. People were simply afraid to stay at the Luxor.
"Bethany, dear," Mrs. Thorton called out to her, "someone is here to see you."
The little girl looked up at her visitor with big brown eyes set in a small round face, framed with thick coils of dark brown hair secured with pink plastic hair clips. Criss bent down to greet her. "Hey, Bethany," he smiled at her reassuringly. "How ya doin', huh? You okay?"
"Uh-huh," Bethany nodded.
"Well that's good." Criss sat down on the floor with her. He tickled her toy rabbit. "Who's your little friend, huh?"
"This is MagicBunny," she answered. "Daddy got him for me when we went to the Magic Club before he..." Her voice trailed off. She didn't burst into sobs, but she bit her lip and lowered her head.
Criss put his arm around her. "Hey, it's okay, sweetheart. You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to." He suddenly brightened. "Wanna see some magic?"
Bethany nodded a bit hesitantly. She had seen a magic show the day before her parents died, and in one of those random connections children often make, associated magic shows with that tragedy. But the man sitting next to her seemed nice, so she agreed.
Criss held up the palm of his hand to show that it was empty. A few dextrous moves of the fingers, and a cherry lollypop, her favorite, materialized. Bethany smiled a little, taking the candy from Criss. Nothing bad happened, she realized. Maybe she could trust this man after all.
"What do you say, Bethany?" Mrs. Thorton prompted.
"Thank you," she uttered shyly, barely above a whisper.
Criss smiled in reply. He got up and sat on the sofa across from Mrs. Thorton. Bethany unwrapped her lollypop, put it in her mouth and continued playing with MagicBunny.
"You know," Mrs. Thorton said after a brief silence. "I've been coming to Las Vegas for years--this is my fifth visit here--and never in all that time had there been any trouble like yesterday, even when the Mob ran the city back in the Forties and Fifties."
"You've seen a lot of changes since then," Criss said for lack of anything else to say.
"Indeed, I have. Las Vegas used to mean girls in skimpy costumes and gambling in the Fifties, cheesy nightclub acts and gambling in the Sixties and Seventies, now big splashy shows and special effects--"
"And gambling," Criss finished for her, laughing. "The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess. You see any of the magic shows here?"
"I've loved magic and magicians ever since I saw Houdini at our hometown theater when I was Bethany's age." the old woman replied.
Criss sat up eagerly. "You saw Harry Houdini?"
"Yes, I did," Mrs Thorton said, nodding. "I was seven years old back in Nineteen Twenty-Six. He did this trick where he was locked in a trunk, then his assistant got up onto it and held up this blanket, and poof! There he was."
"Metamorphosis," said Criss.
"Then he got into this big milk can full of water, all chained up" Mrs. Thorton went on . "I was so scared, I was watching through my fingers all the while." Here she fanned out her fingers in front of her eyes, to Criss' amusement. "Then, all of a sudden, he was out of the can, free as a bird. Of course, I had to go and meet him, so I slipped out the back to where the backstage door was, and I saw the door open, and there he was. He didn't look so tall as he did onstage, and he had this lovely woman with him--I think it was his wife."
"Yeah, it was probably Bess." Criss concurred.
"Anyway, he came up to me, held up his hand, and pulled out a shiny new penny out of my ear! I was surprised, to say the least! He pressed it in my palm, patted my head, and left." Her voice grew sorrowful. "Three months later, he was dead."
Criss did some quick calculating. "So you saw him in July of Nineteen Twenty-Six," he told her. "So what happened to the penny he gave you?"
"I kept it right here, in this locket, ever since." Mrs Thorton held up a silver locket she wore around her withered neck. "I call it my Houdini penny."
"Can I see it?" Criss asked eagerly. "Please?"
Mrs. Thorton removed the locket and handed it to Criss. He pushed the miniscule latch with his thumbnail and opened it.
A single penny lay inside the heart-shaped locket, a bit tarnished but its engraving still legible. Criss could see the year 1926 clearly on the face of the coin. To hold something which had been touched by Harry Houdini in his lifetime gave Criss a surge of psychic energy, cementing the bond between himself and the Master.
With great reluctance, Criss handed the locket back to Mrs. Thorton. As he did so, he noticed something in an ashtray on the side table, something silver and white. Upon closer inspection, he saw what looked like part of a crucifix.
"What's this?" he asked. "If you don't mind my asking."
"Oh, that." Mrs. Thorton sighed. "I was saying the rosary when the bomb went off and we were outside, when some man came along and took it away from me, and smashed it under his boot."
Criss refrained from saying "that sucks", in front of Mrs. Thorton so as not to cause offense. Instead, he scooped up the broken rosary in his hand, knelt down before her, concentrated all his energy upon the beads in his hands, then opened them to reveal the rosary, completely restored.
Mrs. Thorton was amazed at this seeming miracle. Tears of gratitiude fell down her cheeks as she kissed Criss on the brow. "May the Holy Mother intercede for you in your darkest hour," she said.
Criss got up to leave, but he stopped short, went over to Bethany, who was still sitting on the floor, and held up his hand in front of her face. Reaching behind her head, Criss pulled out a quarter, pressed it in the little girl's hand, and gave her a kiss.
"Mrs. Thorton has her Houdini penny," he said to her, "now you have your Criss Angel quarter!"
Good-byes were said, and Criss left the suite with the two cameramen who had remained quietly in the background, yet didn't miss a thing.
As Criss made his way back to the production office, he saw the newscast on the giant screen in the lounge. Johnny Thompson* ran up to him.
"Criss!" he gasped in horror. "You gotta see this! Someone just blew up the Magic Castle!"
Criss' jaw dropped three inches. "What?!" he cried.
He dashed into the lounge. Sure enough, the Magic Castle, the very one he had performed in since his early days in Vegas, was a burning, smoking ruin, portrayed in High-Def on the plasma screen before him. Bleeding, shaking people sat on the curb, traumatized by the horror they had just experienced. Firefighters valiently battled the flames, as smoke billowed through the broken windows, filling the Las Vegas Strip.
Criss sank down onto the nearest chair he could find. My God! he gasped, stunned beyond belief, What the hell is happening here? First the Luxor, now the Magic Castle!
His thoughts turned to his brother, Costa, with half his backside scarred from the broken glass his flesh had caught in the explosion while shielding their mother from the force of the blast and the flying debris it caused. Costa had been walking around the atrium with their mother when the he saw the car charging toward the entrance. He had shouted Ma!! Get down!! GET DOWN!! and leapt in front of her as the car crashed though the main entrance. Glass flew in all directions, jagged pieces tearing into him from neck to shoulders.
He was transferred to the Grand Ballroom, which had been converted into a sort of emergency ward. Mercifully, he had only been lacerated by broken glass, but had been transported to the hospital just in case after the more seriously injured were taken away. Criss remembered the groans, the cries, the wails of agony in the ballroom, both from the victims and their loved ones. Now, the scene was replaying again, this time at the Magic Castle. More injured, more dying, more grieving loved ones, more casualties taken to the hospital, more children left without parents like little Bethany Silverman. How many more did this maniac have to kill before he was satisfied?
Suddenly, it seemed to Criss that fifty-thousand dollars wasn't enough.
In the executive conference room at the Luxor Hotel, Criss Angel sat with some of the biggest names in showbusiness ever assembled under one roof. It was not for entertainment purposes, but for the founding of the Vegas Victims' Fund, specially created to aid the bombing victims and their families with financial assistance with medical and other expenses.
It was not Criss' own idea, but something that arose from the collective desire for these celebrities to do something in the wake of the two bombings. The medical bills would be beyond what many of these people could afford. Many were from out of state, and the vast majority had little if any health insurance. Criss had already posted the reward money, but he still insisted on pitching in by signing the charter for the Fund and making a contribution, the amounts of which were to be kept secret, the donors anonymous. It would be a fund to which anyone could donate any amount, and all donations were tax deductable.
As Criss signed the charter, his thoughts kept going back to little Bethany. She was too young to be fully aware of the horror that had taken place. He hoped that she did not hear of the Magic Castle bombing. She had suffered enough as it was.
Criss raised his pen after he finished signing. This is for you, Bethany. You, and your parents. And I swear to God and all the saints in Heaven, your parents will be avenged!
*This was written in 2007, when Johnny Thompson was still with Criss.
Last edited by Veritas; 02-27-2012 at 07:43 PM.