02-28-2012, 05:20 PM
Chapter Five: The Family Man
For all of Luke Blade's fame, there was still the sadness, the insecurity and the pain of lonliness deep inside his tortured soul. The feelings of abandonment had never left him, the trauma of his abuse at the hands of the priests and nuns at St, Mary's continued to haunt him. Shuttling in and out of foster homes and instutions augmented his sense of unworthiness and rejection. His only solace was in the applause he received from his audiences and the adulation from his fans. But Luke wanted more. He wanted to belong to a special someone. He wanted to be loved, cherished and comforted. He wanted a family.
He had created imaginary friends as a child, but he yearned for actual physical contact with a real human being. His teenage lover in the psychiatric hospital had just used him for her own pleasure. Luke also suffered night terrors, often waking up screaming. He hated sleeping alone, often taking in groupies just for the security of their company. He often slept with the female members of his crew, though often at times never engaging in any sexual activity but just to keep away the boogymen his tortured mind created while he slept.
The theatrical crew who worked for him found themselves drawn into a cabal of secrecy, understandable for a magician, but for Luke Blade, it went even deeper. He began referring to them as "the Family", laying down unwritten but rigidly enforced rules for their conduct: They were required to show unquestioning loyalty to him and to the rest of the Family. Leaving the Family was betrayal. Luke, in turn, was protective of his Family to the point of obsession. He would defend them to the death, and he wanted the Family to do the same for him.
There was no messianic type dominance as in the case of Charles Manson. Luke was not out to start a cult following. He was simply a psychologically scarred young man who clung to those close to him, fearing rejection and abandonment. He was still prone to outbursts of anger, unaware of the consequences of his actions at times, but there were periods where Luke was the soul of generosity, showering gifts upon the members of his Family at Christmastime, comforting them when they had troubles of their own, and even playing games with them.
There is video footage of Luke with some of the male members of the Family, playing beer pong, a game that was starting to become popular among college students. Cups of beer were lined up on either end of a ping-pong table, and each player batted the ball as in a regular game. If the ball landed in a cup of beer, the person whose side it was on had to drink it. Whoever was left standing was the winner. The videotape showed Luke and his buddies getting slowly hammered as the game progressed. "I can't remember," a former member of the Family, who wished to remain anonymous, stated. "We were all pretty smashed, One minute I'm playing ping-pong, the next I'm in the bathroom blowing chow! Luke says he won, but he was always prone to exaggeration. We had a lot of good times in the beginning."
One of those good times was a ski trip to Colorado. Luke, of course, had never been skiing in his life, but a couple of Family members who were expert skiiers gave him a few lessons. Luke took a few tumbles and landed on his face, but soon got the hang of it. "He thought he was ready for the Olympics after a couple of runs down the bunny hill," one of them said. Luke was laughing throughout the trip. "I never had so much fun in my life!" he said later.
Yet for all the fun, the pressure of work was still there. As much as he loved and cared for his Family, they were technically his employees. They worked for him. They also had lives of their own, something which Luke had to be reminded over and over again. When a Family member suffered the loss of her mother and requested time off to go to the funeral, Luke's first reaction was "What about me?" His personal nurse had to take him aside and carefully explain the situration to him. The woman was allowed to go to the funeral, with the instruction from Luke to "hurry back, we need you."
Luke was not completely heartless, just unaware of other peoples' feelings. He never developed a sense of empathy for anyone, but remained in an infantile state of dependancy and self-centeredness. Luke was, deep down inside, a helpless, wounded child, begging for someone to care for him, crying for his mother to come back to him. His insecurity shielded him from seeing the pain of others; he only felt his own. He lashed out at anyone whom he perceived as having betrayed him for any reason, even for going on dates with each other or "outsiders".
His personal nurse, Victoria Soames, was the only one in the Family who could control Luke's rages. The oldest member of the Family (she was thirty five when she was hired), Soames was an RN with twelve years' experience dealing with violent patients in the emergency room of an inner city hospital, usually gang members who had been in a turf war, or drunks hauled in after being floored in a bar brawl. At least Luke was unarmed and ususally sober when he flew off the handle, but she had the patience of a saint when it came to defusing Luke's temper tantrums. She was truly and angel of mercy as far as the Family was concerned. "Nursie" Soames became the mother figure in the Family, doing everything from treating Luke's injuries after doing stunts to giving flu shots to dispensing everything from asprin to condoms. Hers was the shoulder to cry on; the Family came to her for emotional support as well as medical treatment. It was she who taught Luke about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, showing him the proper use of a condom, and warning him about the prostitutes who were constantly vying for his attention. Luke heeded her warnings and ordered security to arrest any prostitutes who showed up on the set or weaseled her way toward him. The local police officers in whatever city Luke was performing in were all to happy to co-operate.
Another devoted Family member was Benjamin "Benny" Weeks, a technician and supervisor who became Luke's second in command, and closest friend. Benny Weeks was devoted to Luke to the point where rumors circulated that he had homoerotic feelings for him. When Weeks married Andrea Packard in 2003, Luke served as best man. Andrea was in charge of wardrobe in the Family ( "She kept me in stitches!" Luke quipped). She was not as devoted to Luke as her husband; in fact, she claimed to have stayed with the Family more out of fear than anything.
His first personal assistant, Tanika Verrell, or TiVi as she was known, stayed only two years. She later claimed that she was so scared to stay with Luke Blade another minute, and promptly quit. Luke was outraged at what he saw as an act of treason. The truth was that Verrell couldn't take any more of Luke's erratic behavior. She didn't know when he was in a good mood or a bad one, and it kept her walking on eggshells to the point where she felt she was heading for a nervous breakdown. The rest of the Family felt the same tension. Only when Vienna Hyatt was hired did things return to some semblance of normalcy. The lovely, blond-haired Vienna stirred feelings inside of Luke that he had never known before. It could have been love, or simply the desire to possess her, but his past experiences left him unable to sustain any long term relationships with any woman; he could not bring himself to trust anyone, for fear of abandonment and betrayal.
One of the few he did trust was Rebecca "Beckie" Winslow, a marginally mentally handicapped woman who was barely nineteen when she was "adopted" into the Family; Luke affectionatly called her the "baby" of the Family. Beckie was the maid-of-all-work, the Girl Friday who did the laundry, fetched coffee and everything else she could carry, cleaned the RVs, and handed Luke bottled water after every show (cooled, not chilled, to prevent abdominal cramps). Beckie loved three things in her life: Luke, daffodils, and the band U2 (she knew the music and lyrics to every song the band recorded. Her personal diaries were "letters" to Bono). She adored Luke like a big brother, always hugging him and pouting when he chided her. Luke was always amused at her smug little nods whenever she completed some task. Of all the members of the Family, Beckie was the one who would show the most loyalty when everything came crashing down.
Family members came and went, with varying degress of loyalty. Some took Luke's idiosyncracies in stride, some couldn't cope with him. There was one instance, however, when a Family member took advantage of Luke's defensiveness.
Tami Lee, a stage assistant, had a boyfriend with whom she wanted to break up. The young man in question was the type who could not take "no" for an answer. He kept showing up at rehearsals, disrupting the acts. He left long-winded messages on her cell phone. As much as Tami Lee kept trying to avoid him, he kept popping up like a bad case of acne.
Fed up with this persistant suitor, Tami turned to Luke. This man was stalking her, she told him. He wanted her all to himself, demanding that she leave the Family for him. If she didn't, he would cause her bodily harm. She pleaded for Luke to help her, she feared for her life, he was her last, best hope to be free of this creep. Of course, much of this was exaggerated, but Luke swallowed it hook, line and sinker on dry land. Outraged at this threat to a member of his Family, he took action.
The next time Tami's ex-boyfriend showed up at rehearsal, Luke was ready, with Benny and another man from the Family at his side. They dragged him to the back of the warehouse-cum-theater and "roughed him up a little". The ex-boyfriend landed in the hospital with a broken collarbone and three cracked ribs, plus a bloody nose and two black eyes. No charges were pressed, as he had probably been terrorized into silence. Tami never saw or heard from him again. Mission accomplished.
With the support of his Family, Luke rose to national, then international fame. He achieved rock-star status with his dark, almost menacing gaze and slick moves on stage. Aside from magic, Luke began dabbling in music, writing songs which he later recorded on a CD entitled Mind, Body, Spirit. The pyramid logo on the liner was designed by Luke himself. The music is mostly electronic synthesizer, designed to hypnotize the listener to an altered state of consciousness. There is a hint of sadness in some of the pieces, such as "Gone Away" and "Dark Night of the Soul", the latter taken from a work by St. John the Divine. While Luke had no inclination toward organized religion (his stint at St, Mary's turned him away from the church for good), he still had some sense of the spirtual, having studied the Far Eastern mystics while serving his apprenticeship with Bill Whitmore. He believed in otherworldly things such as ghosts, spirits and witches as well as angels and devils. There was no formal worship, but his inability to distinguish fantasy from reality kept these beliefs alive. Luke was treading a razor's edge between sanity and delusion.