03-25-2012, 02:09 PM
"It's gonna be awesome, guys!" Criss said enthusiastically to his production crew at the afternoon planning meeting. "It's gonna be bigger than anything I've ever done!"
Criss' brothers, JD and Costa, leaned toward each other. "Translation," JD murmured. "It's gonna be suicidal."
Costa nodded in agreement. "Is the insurance paid up?" he asked.
JD only made a little shrug and turned his attention back to Criss, who was outlining the details of his new demonstration. "I found this old abandoned mine, see, and what I'm gonna do is race through the whole length of it, chained and handcuffed, in a mine car right down the track before the whole thing caves in."
"Told you," JD murmured again to Costa.
"Of course we can't blow it up completely," Criss added.
Costa leaned to JD. "Well, that's a relief," he whispered.
"The mine itself is probably a historical site or something," Criss went on, "so, we're gonna have to rig up some rocks and set them off to cause a cave-in. So, whaddya think, guys?" He waited expectantly for a positive response, but received only stony silence.
JD stared straight at Criss, his expression grim. "I think you're nuts," he commented.
"Besides that, I mean," Criss retorted.
JD rose to his feet. "Aren't you forgetting something?" he asked.
Criss was bewildered. "Forgetting what?"
"The promise you made to Mom back in Florida, that's what!" JD shot back.
Criss stood there dumbly, trying to recollect whatever he had promised his mother in Florida but not daring to say anything for fear of looking ridiculous. Exasperated, JD stepped forward and faced him down. "You promised Mom that, after that hotel implosion escape, you would not do any more life-threatening demonstrations!" he reminded him. "And now, here you are planning to escape from a mine shaft that's gonna blow up with you inside! What the hell is the matter with you, Christopher? Don't you care about Mom's feelings?"
"Of course I care about Mom's feelings!" Criss shot back defensively. "I care about Mom, period! But this isn't like the hotel demonstration. I'll be outta there before it caves in, I guarantee it. You know me--I always have a backup plan. Everything's gonna work out just fine, I promise. Besides, Mom doesn't have to know about it, does she?"
JD remained unconvinced. "She has ways of finding out, little brother," he told him. "She's a mom, remember? And when she gets wind of what you're up to, she's gonna be pretty upset about it."
"So, we keep a lid on it until the day of the demonstration," Criss said. "That way, we spare her feelings, and she won't worry so much."
"She's still gonna worry, Christopher, and I don't like deceiving her this way. If she finds out you lied to her, she's gonna be really (bleeped) off at you."
"We're not lying, JD, we're just...sparing her feelings about this" Criss said. "Now, are you guys with me on this or not?"
JD looked at Costa, then around the room at the rest of the crew. "Can you give us time to think about it, at least?" he requested.
Criss considered it. "Well, okay," he aquiesed. "Think about it, sleep on it, then we'll go on from there tomorrow morning."
For the first time during the meeting, JD smiled. "Fine," he said, "we'll let you know first thing in the morning."
The two brothers shook hands. "Well, if that's all we got, then I guess the meeting's over," Criss said genially. "Everyone can go now, but be here first thing tomorrow morning, same time, same place, same channel."
The crew rose to leave. Costa swept up to JD's side and walked out the door with him to the elevator bank. "What was that all about?" he demanded in a hoarse whisper.
JD held up a placating hand. "Don't sweat it, Cos," he muttered. "I'm just buying some time, that's all."
"Time for what?"
The elevator door opened, and the two brothers stepped inside. JD leaned closer to Costa. "Look, I got a plan to keep Christopher from doing this whole crazy mine shaft stunt, but I need your help."
Costa grinned. "You can count on me."
"Now, here's what we do..." JD began
The elevator door slid shut, concealing the pair inside and cutting off their conversation to the outside world.
Angela Honi examined her thin face in the bathroom mirror, searching for bruises or broken bones where Bianca had struck her. No damage that she could see, only a red splotch where Bianca's hand had landed. It would clear up in a few hours, she told herself. If only she had remembered to pick up that blue suit from the dry cleaners, she admonished herself. Then none of this would have happened.
Her blue eyes were reddened and swollen from weeping. She was always weeping, it seemed to her, and Bianca was always the cause. She was the bully, the tormentor, the blackmailer, the inquisitor, the source of all sorrow and fear. She knew Angela's weaknesses and exploited them at every turn: sellling her diary to her schoolmates, making her an object of scorn and riducule during her school days; extorting what little money came her way, whether it be allowance, gift money, or earnings (Angela had set up a separate savings fund to keep some of her teacher's salary away from Bianca's greedy hands); making her a scapegoat for everything that went wrong, even when she was nowhere near the scene of the crime; manipulating their parents into getting what she wanted; ridiculing her interests; even destroying her cherished pink and white teddy bear, a crime Angela vividly recalled to this day. Bianca symbolized everything that was evil in Angela's life, the wicked witch who blighted what should have been a happy childhood.
Now, as Angela approached her thirtieth birthday, Bianca was targeting her trust fund. Having nearly depleted her own with her extravagant living, she sought to claim her sister's as well. But Angela needed that trust fund more than her sister did: with it, she could pay off her student loans, set up a small retirement fund, and maybe get a place of her own, away from her overbearing sibling. So far she had been able to resist, but how long would she last? Bianca could not kill her, of course; according to the terms of the fund, if murder was confirmed, the fund would go to charity instead of the next-of-kin. Mr. Strang, Father's banker friend and trustee of the fund, was her only defense against Bianca's avaricious ambitions. He alone guarded the money due to her, and he alone knew the laws governing it. He would not let Bianca get hold of that money no matter how hard she tried. It was Angela's only hope for a better life.
Angela left the bathroom and walked slowly into the small bedroom. It was not as sumptuous as Bianca's, but she didn't care. She had a room to herself, with a bed to sleep in--that, in itself, was a blessing. She picked up her school satchel, sat down on the bed, and pulled out her lesson plan notes. Maybe she could get some work done; it would take her mind off her troubles. It usually did.
She noticed how quiet it was in the suite. That, too, was gratifying; there was no noise from Bianca's hours-long phone conversations, or the television turned up so loud it was unbearable, or the neighbor's dog barking incessantly at everything that moved, or other such distractions she endured at the house. Maybe with Bianca out indulging in all the hotel's amenities, she could enjoy a bit of peace and quiet enough to get caught up on her lesson plans. That way, it wouldn't be a total waste of time here at the Luxor.
Angela's greatest if not her only pleasure in life was her work. She loved children, but especially the younger ones--fresh, bright, eager young minds that had not been dulled by the routine of the school system. Their innocence amused and delighted her, their inquisitiveness thrilled her. Granted, a classroom of six- and seven-year-olds could be trying at times, but the rewards compensated for the frustration of keeping order. The smile of delight on a little girl's face after adding three plus five by herself, the sense of accomplishment in a boy who had just mastered reading a difficult word, the gift of a bouquet of bright yellow dandelions in the spring, all made her life worthwhile. In the classroom, Angela could put Bianca's torments out of her mind and lose herself in the wonders of a child's world, a world that her sister had darkened with her presence when she was a child herself.
Now, in the opulent isolation of the hotel suite, Angela wished she could be with her young students again. Unfortunatly, school was closed this particular Friday due to some administrative function. Worse, she was stuck with Bianca for the next three days in this gilded cage, subject to endless abuse and derision until Sunday night when the free weekend getaway was over and they went back to the house (for some reason, Angela never referred to it as home, just "the house"), and life went back to normal, if being ordered about and screamed at could be considered normal.
She set aside her depressing thoughts and returned to her lesson plans, salving her pain and humiliation with work. The plans were due Monday at the latest, and she wanted them to be perfect. Maybe Bianca would be gone long enough for her to finish them. Maybe.
While Angela Honi struggled with her lesson plans and the misery of her life with her sister, Bianca, Criss was going over his plans for his mine-shaft demonstration. Using the mine itself presented no problem; there had been no word about it being of any historical interest. Indeed, the Nevada State Historical Society had never even heard of that particular mine before. The whole area was riddled with abandoned mines, they had told him, but most had yielded nothing but poverty and heartache for the miners who had worked them. A few, a very few, had contained any gold or silver ore, and tiny amounts of it at that. For Criss, that meant he could trigger as big a cave-in as he wanted, provided he had the proper permits.
With that obstacle out of the way, the next step would be the actual set-up of the demonstration itself. He would have to go to the mine, take measurements, calculate the time he needed to get in and out of the shaft, get a mine car if he couldn't find one in the mine itself, mark the places to insert the charges to cause the cave-in, and, of course, figure out where to place the cameras for the best angles. It would be weeks if not months for him to get everything the way he wanted it. Few people realized the time and effort it took for Criss to perform his demonstrations, especially on a grand scale as this one. Six months to a year of planning, arranging and rehersing equaled one five-minute demonstration shown on TV. In the end, however, it was worth it.
Criss resented his brothers' reluctance to see his art the way he did. While he grudgingly appreciated their concern for his welfare, he wished they could see the grand scheme of things when it came to his demonstration. True, sometimes things did go wrong, such as that stunt where he tried to catch a carpenter's nail shot from a pneumatic nail gun and ended up in the ER, or the prison van he had leapt out from and landed wrong, injuring his neck, or the aquarium escape where he nearly drowned trying to get out of a cage submerged in a shark tank and became ill from ingesting contaminated water, but those were the exceptions. He had been successful when everyone feared he had been killed, emerging unscathed (more or less) and triumphant. This latest demonstration would top them all, he vowed, and he would prove to the world that he was indeed successor to the late, great Harry Houdini, master of escapology and illusion.
For all this bravado, however, a tiny voice kept creeping around in the back of his mind, small but persistant, demanding to be heard. What about Mom? it said. What about your promise?
Well, what about it? While he didn't like hurting his mother, this demonstration was too good to pass up. Besides, she didn't have to know anything about it, at least not for now. She didn't have to be there when it was going on, and after taping and editing, it would be months before it aired. By then she would be better prepared, mentally and physically, to see it. It was better this way, he reasoned. By keeping it secret, he spared his mother a lot of unnecessary anguish. Ignorance was truly bliss in this case. What she didn't know would not hurt her.
Last edited by Veritas; 03-25-2012 at 02:14 PM.