03-29-2012, 01:45 PM
Saturday morning, seven AM. Criss trotted like a thoroughbred racehorse on the treadmill in his personal gym, pacing his steps to the rhythm of the tune coming through the earbud headphones of his iPod. Light sweat clung to his forehead, the red bandana tied around his brow no longer able to absorb any more moisture. His muscular torso, clad only in a tank shirt, gleamed in the flourescent lighting, his chest heaved with every breath he drew. He checked the timer on the treadmill's handlebar: only five more minutes to go. It didn't do to rush it; he had to maintain a steady pace to avoid injury.
Criss wasn't too keen on working out as a rule, but the physical demands of his art, as he called it, required he be in top form at all times. His muscles had to perform at peak capacity, his reflexes had to at their sharpest--one slip-up, one missed cue could spell his doom. That meant early morning workout sessions in the gym provided for him by the Luxor Hotel whether he enjoyed it or not. Besides, he needed to stay healthy for the sake of the investors of his show; they had laid out one hundred million dollars for it and they expected a return on their investment. A healthy Criss Angel was a productive Criss Angel, and what he produced on stage paid off handsomely for the Luxor and its shareholders.
The treadmill timer went off, signalling the end of the run. Criss hopped off the leathery conveyor belt and reached for a small towel hanging from a rail on the treadmill. He wiped his stubbly face, took a few deep breaths (slowly, so as not to cause dizziness) and headed for the shower room, peeling off his tank shirt, drenched with sweat, as he went. He felt a slight rush of adrenalin course though his veins--post-runner's high, they called it. He always felt it after a run on the treadmill, and it felt good.
As he approached his locker, he noticed a small yellow sticky note attached to the metal door. This wasn't unusual; indeed, he found it annoying. Sometimes his staff left him small memos during his workouts regarding the show or to contact somebody ASAP. He wished they would just leave such messages in his office where he was better able to attend to them instead of invading one of the few truly private places he had in the Luxor. His post-workout rush faded as he pulled the sticky note from the door. "What is it now?" he muttered irritably.
Criss, meet us in the suite at 9:00 AM sharp. Urgent!! JD.
Criss was puzzled. JD? What the hell does he want? He crumpled the note and tossed it aside, then prepared for his shower. If it's so urgent, why does he want to meet me in the suite? Can't he wait until I get to the office? He knows I'll be there this morning. What the hell could be so urgent, anyway? It's only--what? He checked his watch. Seven-ten? If it's so (bleeping) urgent, why wait until nine?
He peeled off his shoes and shorts, wrapped a towel around his waist and headed for the shower stall. Once in the glass-enclosed stall, he whipped off his towel, draped it over the door, turned on the water and let the hot spray soothe away the aches and pains from his workout. He grabbed a bar of soap and lathered himself from head to foot, all the while still wondering what JD wanted that was so important, and why to meet him in his suite, of all places. Normally, JD would have left a message with one of his assistants if it concerned business--
Criss stopped lathering. He froze where he stood. The showering cascade of water continued its course down his naked flesh. Maybe it wasn't business, he thought. Maybe it was something more personal. Is Mom sick again? he worried. Oh, God, I hope not! She already had one heart scare; she doesn't need another.
But the note said to meet him at nine, and it wasn't even seven-thirty yet. If it did concern his mother, JD would have come into the gym personally and told him so instead of leaving a note stating a two-hour delay. It just didn't make sense.
Well, there was only one way to solve this mystery, he thought as he rinsed the lather from his body, turned off the shower and toweled off, and that was to play it by JD rules. Yes, he would be at the suite at nine AM sharp, as directed, and he would demand an explanation about whatever it was his brother wanted. In the meantime, he would catch up on some paperwork in his office. One thing was certain, he said to himself: this had better not be a joke.
When he got to his suite at the appointed time, he discovered nothing amusing. Instead, he found his mother, his brothers JD and Costa, his cousin George, his manager Dave Baram, his consultants Banachek and Gerard, his girlfriend Sandra, and, to his greater surprise, Father Stefan from Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, sitting in the living area of his suite. Bewildered, he looked around. "What's the deal?" he asked. "I didn't schedule a meeting or anything, did I?"
"No, Criss," JD said seriously, "this isn't a meeting. This is an intervention."
Criss was aghast. "An intervention?!" he exclaimed, glancing wildly at the assembled company in his suite. "What the hell--oh, excuse me, Father--I mean, why do I need an intervention? I'm not a drug addict or anything like that!"
"We know you're not, Christopher," Father Stefan said calmly, "and we are all very proud of you for that, but this is just as serious." He stood up and motioned to Criss. "Please, sit down."
Criss was miffed that he should have to take orders inside his own suite, but he reluctantly complied; the grim faces of his family and friends told him he had no choice. He lowered himself onto the sofa between his mother and the priest, stretching his long limbs out before him. "Okay, what's the deal here?" he demanded. "Why are you staging an intervention on me?"
JD leaned forward. "Two years ago, when you did that hotel demolition escape, you promised you would never again do any more death-defying demonstrations," he began. "You promised Mom to her face that you'd stop doing the dangerous stunts like you've done in the past. Since then, you've been walking through a live minefield, nearly flattened by a Hummer, buried alive in snow, sent yourself crashing over a cliff in a desert--"
Criss held up his hand. "I know what I've done, JD," he interrupted. "You don't have to relate my whole career for me."
"Well, the point is that now you want to bury yourself alive in a mineshaft," JD went on, his voice rising.
"And your point is?"
"My point is that it's time we said enough's enough!" JD said sharply. "You can't go on like this, Christopher! You've cheated death so many times, it's not even funny! You've been driving Mom into an early grave from all the worrying she'd done over you! And I can't count how many times you've nearly given me a frickin' heart attack from your crazy stunts! This is it, Chris, this is the end! I can't take it anymore--none of us can! Either you scrap this demonstration, or I quit!"
Criss' jaw dropped to his chest. "JD!" he cried.
"I mean it, Christopher!" JD said adamantly. "You scrap this mineshaft stunt, or I walk!"
"You can't be serious!"
"I was never more serious."
In desperation, Criss turned to his mother. "Mom, do something!" he pleaded.
His mother sighed. "I'm afraid I have to take JD's side on this one, Christopher," she said somberly. "You promised me no more dangerous escapes, but you broke your promise again and again. You said you were not a drug addict, and I thank God for it, but you are addicted to danger, Christopher. You get high when you are close to death--you said so yourself once."
"I never said anything like that!" Criss protested. "What I said was I feel the most alive when I'm close to it."
"You see?" his mother said. "It's an addiction to you!" She took her famous son's face in her soft, withered hands. "I do not want to lose you, Christopher," she said, tears filling her eyes. "Time and time again, I have watched you try to kill yourself for the sake of your 'art'. I can't take it anymore, Christopher Nicholas! I don't want to watch you die again and again and again! A parent should not have to outlive her child!"
The tears fell down her aged, wrinkled face. "Please, for the love of God, Christopher," she beseeched him, "don't do this stunt, or any other dangerous stunt! I can't stand it anymore! When you promised me you would stop after that hotel demolition, I believed you, and I was happy for the first time since you became famous. But you broke that promise more than once." She sighed heavily. "I don't know if I can trust you again after this," she said, her voice cracking with emotion.
Criss put his arm around his weeping mother. "Mom," he said softly, "oh, hey, Mom, don't cry, okay? Everything's gonna be all right. Don't cry, okay?"
"Your mother loves you very much, Christopher," Father Stefan spoke up. "Your whole family does. Now, I know you've made a reputation for death-defying escapes that surpassed anything done before, but it's costing you your family's well-being. It's making your mother ill with worry and anxiety. You should stop to consider their feelings about the things you do. If I were you, I'd cancel whatever harebrained scheme you got planned and go on to something else. Something less life-threatening."
Criss turned to the clergyman sitting next to him. "If I do cancel the mineshaft demonstration, what am I going to do in its place?" he argued.
Father Stefan laid a hand on Criss' knee. "You're an intelligent, creative magician," he said. "You'll think of something."
"Just don't come up with anything that threatens life and limb, okay?" Costa chimed in. "Otherwise, I'm with JD and walking out on you."
"I mean it."
In desperation, Criss turned to his cousin sitting adjacent to him. "George?" he said almost pleadingly.
"Sorry, Chris," George said, "but I'm siding with the majority here. Family comes first, you know."
Criss then turned to his manager. "Dave?"
Dave Baram shrugged. "Nothing I can do, Criss," he said. "I'm just your manager. They dragged me in here for moral support."
The latter leaned forward across the coffee table. "I've been with you for five or six years now, Criss," he said, "and I gotta admit, these demonstrations of yours are starting to wear on me, too. I'll stay and help you plan another demonstration, but this mineshaft idea of yours is way off the hook! I mean, look at your mother there--she's tied herself in knots over you since you lit yourself on fire on her birthday in Season One! Have a little pity for her, willya?"
"You set yourself on fire on your mother's birthday?" Father Stefan echoed disbelivingly.
"I'll explain later, Father," Criss said to him. "Look, guys, Mom, I appreciate what you're trying to do here, okay? But it's just my nature to push my own envelope like this--I do what I do to challenge myself, to see how far I can go. I'm sorry if I've caused you a lot of grief over the years, especially you, Mom, but if I'm not allowed to express myself through my art, I get all depressed and angry--and believe me, you don't want to be around when I get angry!"
"We won't be around when you get angry," JD retorted, "because we won't be around at all! We'll all be heading back to New York, and you'll be on your own with your 'art' as company!" He leaned back in his chair. "Your call, Christopher."
In a last ditch effort to garner sympathy, Criss turned to his girlfriend. "Sandra? Babe? Help me out here!" he pleaded.
Sandra could only lower her eyes in sorrow. Realizing that no one present would rise up to defend him, Criss sank back into the sofa, feeling defeated. "Oh, dear God," he whispered. "I can't believe this is happening to me! I can't believe you'd all just get up and walk out on me like this! I don't know what I'd do without all of you! I thought you were all with me!"
Father Stefan wrapped a paternal arm around Criss' shoulder. "We are with you, Christopher," he said gently. "We all want you to live a long, healthy life, but you're not going to if you persist in risking your life doing these dangerous stunts. One of these days, this 'envelope' you keep pushing is going to land you into an early grave."
He pulled Criss closer to him affectionatly. "God has been good to you, keeping you alive as long as He has, but one day, He's going to withdraw His hand from you and let you fall to your doom. He gave you the life you have--don't play 'chicken' with it by doing these stunts. If you love God, if you love your mother and brothers, give up this stunt you're planning. Think about their feelings for once--about how they worry about you and pray for you to survive all these stunts you do."
He turned Criss' stunned face to him with a single finger. "You don't have to do these stunts anymore, Christopher," he went on, emphasizing every word. "You've already proven yourself to be a great magician. You can do so much more alive than dead. Look at your mother there! She's already lost her husband, your father--think how she would feel about losing her son! Please, we're begging you, cancel this stunt--for her sake, if not for yours."
There was silence in the room as Criss looked at his beloved mother with tears streaming down his eyes, then at his eldest brother, JD, grim as a judge, then at Costa, who nodded; then at his cousin George, who gave him the thumbs up; then at his manager, Dave Baram; then at Gerard and Banachek, the latter telling him to "do it for your mom"; then at Sandra, who had burst into tears herself over Father Stefan's speech. "Cancel it, baby," she rasped. "Please?"
Criss was still for a minute, his demonstration notes still in his hand. Everyone waited to see what he would do next: would he give in, they hoped, or would he be obstinate and go on with the mineshaft demonstration? Criss himself simply sat there, staring at the floor, stunned. His family had supported his every endeavor to make it as a magician, in spirit if not financially, and just when he had planned a demonstration that would surpass everything he had done up to this point, they were just going to give up and leave? He looked up at the stern faces around him. JD's expression was set in stone. Father Stefan looked at him with the patient expectation of all clergymen. His mother dabbed her eyes with a tissue, while Costa simply waited for a response.
Suddenly, in one angry, impulsive movement, Criss tore up his notes and flung them up in the air. "Okay!" he shouted furiously. "You win! I won't do it!"
Everyone cheered. Criss simply fumed. Dimitra flung her arms around her son and embraced him tightly, but for once Criss didn't feel the need to respond. His will had been thwarted and it stung him deeply, yet deep down he knew they were right. He had made a promise to his mother not to do any more dangerous demonstrations and he knew he was duty-bound to keep it, career or no career.
Criss managed to pull himself together, then drew a deep breath to collect his thoughts. "So, what do I do now?" he asked. "I have to do something for the next episode. I mean, I am under contract, you know."
"You'll think of something, Christopher," Father said to him. "I know you will. If you need help, my door is always open to you."
"Thanks, Father." Criss murmured, feigning gratitude but still resentful.
Satisfied, the priest rose from the sofa. "Well, my job is done here," he announced. "I guess I'd best be going now." He leaned down to face Criss again. "Remember your promise, Christopher," he said sternly, pointing an admonishing finger into Criss' sullen face. "I don't want to hear about you risking your life in some crazy stunt, understand?"
Criss nodded wearily, defeated. Father Stefan nodded approvingly and turned to leave. George rose quickly and rushed to his side. "I'll see you out, Father," he offered.
George escorted Father Stefan out of the suite and walked with him to the elevator bank. "Great job you did in there, Father," he said. "You shoulda been here five episodes ago." He laughed a little. "Shoot, you shoulda been here five years ago! It woulda saved us a whole lotta worry with all the crazy things Criss has done! What got me was what you said about God letting him fall to his doom--I mean, that was scary to think about--Sheesh! I mean, I've heard about guardian angels who are supposed to watch over us and all that, but Criss? If I was his guardian angel, I'd hand in my resignation!"
Father Stefan smiled. "Well, it's said that God looks out for fools and babies," he said jovially.
"Which one's Criss?" George quipped.
Father laughed at that. The elevator door slid open, revealing an empty car. "Take care of yourself, George," he said as he stepped into the elevator. "And call me if your cousin gives you any trouble."
"Thanks, Father," George said, waving good-bye, "and don't worry--I'll take care of Criss."
The elevator door slid shut. George returned to the suite. "I'll take care of him, all right," he mumbled to himself, striking his fist into the palm of his hand. "We'll all take care of him real good if he goes back on his word."
He checked his watch: nine-twenty. He had to get to Linehan's gym for the day's training if he wanted to qualify for the next exhibition match coming up at the Mirage. His suspension from the Excalibur match for decking the notorious Las Vegas Flasher still rankled him a little, but he was determined not to let that small humiliation get in his way of victory. In retrospect, bringing down that pervert what's-his-name for exposing his ugly naked carcass to his Aunt Dimitra was almost worth losing a shot at the title. He deserved a broken nose for what he did, and to hell what the boxing officials thought! That (bleeper) broke the law and assaulted a member of his own family, a double offense in George's eyes. (1)
He strode back to Criss' suite to fetch his jacket. The door was left ajar, allowing him entry without having to use a keycard or to knock. Inside the suite he saw his cousin Criss sitting dejectedly on the sofa, the torn remnants of his mine shaft escape notes littering the floor around his feet. Dave, Banachek and Gerard had already left; only Sandra and the family remained. They all looked up the moment he came in.
George picked up his jacket. "Uh, well, I guess I'll be leaving now," he muttered. "I got to get to the gym. See you guys later."
He took time to kiss his Aunt Dimitra good-bye and shake hands with JD. "Thanks for coming, George," JD said with a smile. "I really appreciate it."
George smiled back. "No problem."
He turned to Criss and nudged his depressed cousin on the shoulder. "Hey, Gloomy Gus," he said half-jokingly, "get off the pity pot and get back to work. You got a show to do."
Criss looked up at George. "Doing what?" he retorted crossly. "You guys already scotched my plans for the mine shaft demonstration. What am I going to do now?"
George patted him on the shoulder. "You'll think of something," he replied optimistically. "Just nothing that'll involve losing life and limb, okay?" He pulled on his jacket. "Look, I gotta get to the gym. I'll see you at the next meeting, okay?"
Criss feebly waved good-bye to his cousin, still glum. George took his leave and headed for the elevator bank, promptly dismissing the entire morning's events out of his mind. Ah, he'll get over it, he told himself. The guy's like a rubber ball, always bouncing back. I ain't gonna worry about it. I got other things to think about right now, like qualifying for the next exhibition match.
Down the elevator, through the atrium, and out the door, George made his way to the gym, paying no heed to the guests and staff coming and going in and out of the hotel. He brushed past bell attendants with their brass luggage carts laden with suitcases of every description and walked past the busy reception desk surrounded by newly arrived or just departing guests. He didn't even notice the almost ghostly presence of a frail-looking woman with dirty blonde hair in a pale green shift three or four decades out of fashion creeping silently toward the main dining room for the breakfast buffet, who, unknown to him, had won the Million Dollar Slots just the previous day.
(1) See Risque Business
Last edited by Veritas; 03-29-2012 at 01:55 PM.