02-29-2012, 10:04 PM
For the past week, Las Vegas had been afraid. Now it was outraged. By seven AM Friday morning, dozens of concerned citizens marched in protest against the reign of terror at City Hall, carrying picket signs demanding the mayor to stop the bombings and the killings. Many of the protesters were Criss Angel fans, the Loyal as they called themselves. They showed their support for the protesters and their concern for the victims, but did not stay long as they had to be back at the Luxor for the ten AM press conference.
All regularly scheduled programming on local television was preempted for the event. Every local and cable news network were present inside the Luxor's Grand Ballroom, as were the print media and infotainment networks. It was the single largest press conference outside the White House in journalism history to date.
Felix Rappaprort, CEO and President of Luxor Hotel and Casino, gave the opening statement to the press:
"Ladies and gentlemen of the press, on behalf of myself and the Luxor, I'd like to welcome you all here today. As you are no doubt aware, Las Vegas has been terrorized by a series of mysterious bombings, the first of which took place in this very hotel. Three people were killed in that disaster: one of them an employee of the Luxor, and two guests. The second attack took place the very next day at the Magic Castle, where over a dozen people were badly injured. The third attack was in the desert, about fifty miles from the city, but only one victim was harmed. That victim was our own Criss Angel."
Cameras flashed as Rappaport spoke. "We have received word from the hospital that Criss Angel has emerged from his coma last night." he went on. "He is still listed in critical condition. He had received multiple minor fractures in his ribs, a fractured wrist, first and second degree flash burns around his face and neck, and sustained serious internal injuries, and injuries in both eyes. He has also suffered a concussion, but no sign of head trauma as yet."
Rappaport paused in his speech, overcome with emotion over the tragedy which befell his biggest star. He composed himself and continued: "We know that Criss has survived things that would have killed an ordinary man. He's been buried alive, run over by a steamroller, sealed in concrete, nearly run through a woodchipper, almost gored by an angry bull, and numerous other stunts, and he survived them all. This, however, was unexpected. He could not have been prepared for this. We can only pray for his recovery.
"After the first bombing, Criss Angel offered a fifty-thousand dollar reward for the capture of the Vegas Bomber. Let it be known that the reward has been officially doubled to one hundred thousand dollars as of today. Are there any questions?"
A cacophany of calls for attention from the assembled media broke out. "Mr. Rappaport! I have a question! Question! Mr. Rappaport, please answer this question!"
Rappaport singled out a reporter from CNN. "Are there any new developments in the Bomber case? Any leads at all?" the reporter asked.
"None, I'm afraid. The police, however are searching diligently for him. We have posted an emergency one-eight-hundred number to call in case someone does spot the Bomber."
"Mr. Rappaport," a reporter from E! News spoke up above the rest, "is there any hope of Criss' full recovery?"
"At this point, it is too early to tell. But Criss is a very strong man, and his will to survive is more powerful than anyone I know."
"How is his family doing in the wake of this tragedy?" inquired another reporter.
Rappaport looked behind him from the podium, made some sort of conversation with someone in the back, nodded, and turned back to the press. "We have a representative of Criss' family here to make a statement on their behalf: Criss' brother, JD Sarantakos."
JD stepped up to the podium amid a round of polite applause. He looked weary, not having slept the entire night. He drew a deep breath and launched into his prepared statement:
"First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for their love and support during this time of crisis for myself and my family. We have received many, many heartfelt good wishes and prayers from friends, fans and others.
"Last Wednesday, I insisted that Criss cancel the desert valley demonstration for his own safety and that of his fans after what happened in the Luxor and the Magic Club. Criss insisted on doing that demonstration, in spite of the recent bomb attacks. He didn't want to let down his fans, he said.
"We had taken every conceivable security measure to insure that nothing would happen to Criss or anyone else. Unfortunatly, the Vegas Bomber slipped through the cracks and got him just the same. He was airlifted to the nearest hospital. My mother, my brother, Costa, who had been injured himself in the Luxor bombing on Monday, and I kept an all night vigil at his bedside.
"Whoever this maniac is, he nearly cost me two brothers. One is scarred for life, the other near death. We have doubled the reward that Criss originally offered for his capture. I am pleading with you, the media and everyone within the sound of my voice, to find this murderer before he strikes again. I ask this as a family member of one of his victims, and for the other families of those who were injured in the previous attacks. Thank you."
JD left the podium, his eyes filled with tears. He couldn't go on. It was all he could do to get through it in the first place. He had given hundreds of interviews in the past, but they were ususally one-on-one, never in a room full of reporters. He was not going back, no matter how much they clamored for him. He was going to rejoin his family at the hospital. His youngest brother needed him.
In the quiet, secluded room at the L--- Hospital, Criss lay motionless on the bed, his head bandaged in layers of gauze. His mother, Dimitra, sat beside him, as she had since yesterday. Her older sons insisted she go back to the hotel and sleep, but she had refused. It was bad enough that she had lost her husband a decade ago; now she faced the loss of her youngest son.
The motionless figure began to stir. Dimitra leaned forward expectantly. "Christopher?" she called softly to him. "Christopher, darling, are you awake?"
"Maaa?" her son murmured weakly. "Ma? Is that you?"
Dimitra's heart leapt. Her son was alive! "Yes, darling, I'm here."
"Ma? I can't see you. It's too dark in here."
Dimitra held his hand. "I'm right here, sweetheart. Your eyes have been injured. They're covered in bandages. That's why you can't see."
Criss raised his hand to feel his head. He touched gauze over his head and eyes, under his chin, and felt something hard around his arm. He groped for his mother's hand with his free hand. "I can't see," he murmured. "Ma? What happened?"
"It was the Vegas Bomber," she answered. "He tried to kill you."
Criss gripped his mother's hand in desperation. "Ma, I'm scared. I don't want to go blind."
Dimitra shushed him. "Hush, darling. Try to go to sleep."
"Oh, God, please, don't let me go blind" Criss whimpered. "Please, God, I don't want to go blind."
His mother stroked his hand. "Now, Christopher," she said with gentle firmness, "you had one of the best eye surgeons operate on you. In a few days, they say you'll have another one. It's all in God's hands now, understand? So, don't be afraid. You are in God's hands."
In an effort to soothe her injured son, she sang a little Greek lullaby she used to sing to her sons in their infancy. Criss grasped her hand firmly, as if he refused to let her go. He could not see her face, that soft, gentle, beautiful face, a little withered with age, but the sound of her familiar Greek accented voice conjured up a mental image of her in his mind. He clung to that image as tightly as he clutched her hand. The memory of her face was a ray of light in his dark prison. He drifted off to sleep, carried away by her singing.
"Gooood morning, Sin City! This is Artie Creed on KLOL morning radio! Our topic for this Friday morning is, of course, the Las Vegas Bomber who has struck once again, this time in the desert where the MindFreak Criss Angel was doing one of his stunts. It's reported that a pipe bomb was thrown at him when he was riding his motorcycle for his fans. He is critically injured, with first and second degree flash burns on his face and neck, and he's been blinded by the explosion. It's uncertain whether the MindFreaker will resume his career if he doesn't get his sight back. The lines are now open, and we got our first caller. Hello, you're on the air."
"Did you receive any word about the Bomber? Did they catch him yet?"
"So far, we have not gotten anything from the newsroom, but we will report any late breaking developments. Hello, you're on the air."
"Do you really think Criss' career is over?"
"Do I think Criss' career is over? I'm not going to lay any bets on it, if that's what you mean. Even if it is, he's got too much money to worry about it. Hello, you're on the air."
"Yeah, like you really care about Criss Angel! You've been ragging him since he got here to Vegas!"
"Hey, dude! I'm just reporting the news. I got nothing personal against him--I just think he's an overgrown mama's boy who likes to show off, that's all. Next caller, please."
"Do you think Criss will go blind?"
"He's been blinded already! Didn't you pay attention earlier?"
"I meant permanantly!"
"Let me put it this way: If worse comes to worst, he'd better trade in his kittycat for a seeing eye dog. Next caller, you're on the air."
In the phone room of KLOL, phone operator Heather Kotlarcyzk started at the sight of the switchboard exploding into life. She sighed heavily--she knew from years of experience working the morning shift at KLOL that whenever the phones lit up all at once it meant that Artie Creed had put his foot in his mouth again, and it was up to her to defuse the situation one caller at a time. With another deep, exasperated sigh, she connected the first caller. "KLOL, may I help you?" she answered mechanically.
"You tell that (bleeper) Artie Creed he can (bleep) off! He's got no right to trash Criss Angel like that! Especially now since he's in the hospital!"
Another heavy sigh. Artie was targeting Criss Angel again. It was going to be a long morning, Heather thought as she connected caller after outraged caller.
While Las Vegas spent the better part of the day recovering from the latest attack by the Vegas Bomber, two thousand miles and two time zones away in Hawai'i, Duane Chapman, known to the public as Dog the Bounty Hunter, was just beginning his day. Beth, his wife and partner of over a decade, was already up, getting the younger Chapmans ready for school. The television was on, but in the morning rush, it was just white noise in the background.
Chapman pulled on his black leather boots over his jeans and donned a cutoff vest showing off his muscular torso developed through years of tackling fugitives. Dressed for the day, he headed for the kitchen.
In spite of the television noise, the kitchen was unusually quiet. No squabbling, no clatter of cereal bowls, no shouts of "Hurry up! You'll be late for school!" from Beth. Duane strode in to investigate.
He was met by two sobbing daughters throwing their arms around him. He looked up at Beth in bewilderment, and noticed that she was also in tears. "What the hell is going on?" he demanded.
Beth wiped her face with the back of her hand. "The Las Vegas Bomber almost killed Criss Angel," she said.
Chapaman stood there, clasping a small blond head in each hand, totally stunned. "Almost ki--?"
Beth turned up the volumne of the small television set in the kitchen. Chapman felt his rage beginning to boil as the newscaster described the desert valley attack on his friend, Criss Angel. He was in critical condition, he heard, seriously injured by a pipe bomb.
"Daddy?" his youngest daughter pleaded, "Are you going to catch the man who hurt Criss?"
He looked down at his child, so much like Beth in many ways: same blond hair and blue eyes. "When Daddy gets the call," he said to her, "we'll go find him. Meanwhile, we're gonna say a prayer for Criss, okay, honey?"
The little girl nodded. Duane gathered his brood around him in a prayer circle. "Lord, we pray that You bless Criss Angel and heal him of his injuries. Give him strength and give him health. We ask for Your help in finding the Vegas Bomber and bring him to justice. In Jesus' Name, Amen."
"Amen," the family echoed.
The prayer circle broke up, the children were sent to school, and Duane and Beth headed for the Da Kine Bail Bonds office. Duane's eldest boys, Duane Lee and Leland, would be waiting for them, ready to pursue the latest fugitive who had jumped bail. Normally, the Dog would be straining at the leash to begin the hunt for local drug dealers, addicts, thieves and spouse abusers, but his thoughts kept going back to the Vegas Bomber and his attack on his dear friend Criss Angel. They'll capture him, he convinced himself as he drove to the small storefront office he and Beth worked out of. Swear to God, they will capture that (bleeper) and bring him to justice! I don't care who does it--I want that (bleeper) brought down!
Deep down, however, Duane did care who bought down that (bleeper). In his heart, he wished that the honor of capturing the Vegas Bomber would be his, and his alone.