10-27-2012, 05:42 PM
The sun rose an angry red in the desert sky, shooting streaks of pink and orange through the wisps of clouds. Randy Winterfield could not help but remember the old seaman's adage: Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning. He knew a red sun meant a scorcher of a day, with bad weather following, at least where he came from. Who knew how that old saw applied here in the Southwest.
Randy loaded his van with boxes of Bibles. He had a lot of them to deliver, especially at the Luxor Hotel, and it was best to get an early start so as to beat the worst of the heat. It was six AM, and already it was too hot for comfort. Triple-digit temperatures were not uncommon here in Nevada. He made sure to bring plenty of bottled water, not only for himself, but for any passerby who needed to cool off. Even a cup of cold water given in Jesus' name was rewarded in Heaven, he recalled.
He slammed the rear doors of the van and circled around to the driver's seat. He opened the door, climbed in, and shut it behind him. He breathed a prayer for God's help for the day, and drove to the Luxor, humming a hymn playing on the radio. The sun was still a blood red orb in the sky, reminding him of a kickball in school. Upon arrival, he circled around the back to the service entrance and parked by the sliding doors. Granted clearance from Checkpoint Charlie at the office, he unloaded his Bibles onto a utility cart thoughtfully provided by the hotel, and pushed it into the hotel proper.
Randy stopped at the security office for a pass to enter the rooms, but he was told that because of security reasons, the Bibles were to be distributed by the staff. He was to leave them in the storage room in the back. Randy shrugged in acquiescence. It was all the same to him. So long as the Word of God was spread, it didn't matter who did it. Saved him some work, though.
He wheeled the boxes to the storeroom as directed. On his way down the carpeted hall, who did he see but the same Criss Angel coming back from his workout, his hair still damp from his shower. Randy brightened and stopped pushing the cart.
"The Lord be with you," he greeted Criss.
Criss looked at him, unsure at first, then he remembered that it was the Bible guy he met yesterday who gave him that little green book (what the hell did he do with it, by the way? he wondered). He stopped to greet him in return. "And also with you," he replied. "What are you doing here?"
"I have some new Bibles to pass out in the rooms here in the hotel," Randy explained. "The told me to put them in the storage room back here so they can do it."
"They won't let you pass them out?" Criss asked.
Randy shook his head. "Nah, they said it was for security reasons."
"Oh." Criss shrugged. "Well, I'm sure they'll get them up there soon. Gotta go now, so good luck." He strode away, waving.
"Have a blessed day," Randy called out after him, and returned to pushing his cart.
Bibles in hotel rooms made Criss recall a funny incident from his early days in Vegas, making him smile. He kept it to himself for the moment. He had to prepare for the demonstration this afternoon, and he had to stay focused.
After breakfast, Criss went down to the Production Office for the day's meeting. It was seven AM, seven hours before the demonstration, and already there was a crowd assembling out front, wanting to get a good seat. Despite the best efforts of the staff to keep the entrance clear, the Loyals insisted on staying there until the appearance of The Angel himself. Criss couldn't help but be amazed at the extremes his fans would go to express their devotion to him. He could only hope and pray that it didn't result in disaster for any of them.
In the office, Criss met up with his eldest brother and right hand man, JD, who sat at his desk, going over some papers. As Criss crossed over to meet him, he noticed a familiar green book sitting on his desk. Looking around, he saw those same little green books on several of the desks in the office. That Bible guy was really busy around here, Criss thought.
"Hey, bro'," Criss said. " 'Sup?"
"Oh, hi, Criss," JD said, looking up. "Just the production schedule and all that."
Criss picked up the green New Testament. "You got one too, huh?"
"Hm? Oh, that." JD replied indifferently. "Some guy was passing them around yesterday and handed one to me. Thing's so damn small I can't read it."
Criss opened the tiny book. "What're you talking about? I can read it fine. Maybe you need glasses or something."
"Maybe they need to make them bigger." JD retorted.
Criss set the book aside. Enough about Bibles, it was time to get to work. The demonstration was at two and every moment counted when it came to preparation. The rest of the staff would be here later. Then the real work would start.
Cole Shoope awoke with a start at the morning bell in his room at Sanctuary Shelter. He looked at his watch. Seven o'clock AM. And the demonstration was at two. He had to hustle in order to get a good spot. He hoped that his bike hadn't been stolen, or locked in the garage, or even noticed by the staff. If any of those scenarios came true, he was screwed.
Cole bolted out of his bunk, startling the other three transients with whom he had spent the night and dressed hastily. He had taken the precaution of sleeping with his wallet under his pillow so that his "roommates" wouldn't help themselves to his limited stash of cash. He checked it to see if everything was still there, sighed with relief that it was, then stuffed it into his jeans pocket. He grabbed his keys and jacket and dashed out the door.
"What's his hurry, man?" wondered one of the vagrants on the other bottom bunk.
Cole slipped down the corridors, looking over his shoulder to see if he was being followed. He passed the cafeteria, where the smell of hot food stopped him in his tracks. Well, maybe he'd stay for breakfast, anyway, he thought. It would save money buying something. He slipped into the cafeteria. The morning volunteers were just setting up the steam table when a large, motherly type noticed him.
"Well, you here bright and early!" she said loudly. "You look kinda young to be here."
"Well, I ran away from home yesterday," Cole alibied, "but now I'm ready to go back. Everything's cool now." he added hastily.
"Well, that's good to hear, honey. You want some breakfast before you go?"
Cole brightened. "Sure do!" he exclaimed eagerly.
He grabbed a tray from the stack at the end of the counter and helped himself to some pancakes and sausage set before him by the volunteer. He slid his tray along the rail to pick up some orange juice and milk at the other end when he was stopped by another volunteer, a skinny, almost skeletal figure wearing a perpetual frown. Cole felt a chill go down his spine as he looked at her. She, in turn, practically glared at him almost accusingly. Did she suspect that he had lied his way into the shelter? he wondered fearfully.
"Don't forget to ask the blessing before you eat," she warned him. "That's the rule here."
"Yeah, sure," Cole replied, still shaken. "Okay."
He grabbed his tray and moved as far from Skeletor as possible. He sat down at a table in a far corner of the cafeteria, but he could still feel her eyes upon him, boring into the core of his being, making sure he followed the rule of saying grace before meals. Cole folded his hands together, bowed his head and pretended to pray, stretching it out for what he hoped was a reasonable time period, then dug into his breakfast. No reprisal from Skeletor, thank God.
Other residents trooped into the cafeteria, picking up trays and receiving the same grim reminder from Skeletor the volunteer. Cole wondered if anyone tried to buck the system by not saying grace, and what happened to them. Did they get yelled at? Were they not allowed to eat if they didn't? The mind boggled.
Cole finished his breakfast and quickly left the cafeteria. He had to get out of here in a hurry before he was found out. If he remembered correctly, the main entrance was just around the corner and down the hall. He trotted down the corridor, past the chapel, nearing the reception desk. He saw sunlight streaming through the glass doors. Freedom was almost his! He hid behind a vertical soffit until the receptionist's back was turned, then made a dash for the doors.
"Excuse me, young man?" said the receptionist behind him.
Cole froze in his tracks. Oh, God, what now? Was he busted?
"If you are leaving, you have to sign out in the register," the receptionist told him, holding up a black notebook. "Those are the rules."
Lotta rules in this place, Cole thought. He reluctantly returned to the desk to sign out.
"Just sign your name, the time you're leaving and the time you'll be back," she explained, handing him a pen. Cole took it, found an empty space on the register (some were filled in the same handwriting, he noticed. Maybe some of these people couldn't write), and quickly came up with a fake name to cover his tracks--Carl Shooter. It wasn't the best, but it would do to conceal his identity for the time being. He clocked out at seven-twenty, but left the re-entry time blank. He was definatly not coming back, that was for sure. He handed the book back to the receptionist and turned to leave, but again he was stopped.
"You didn't fill in the return time," she pointed out. "When are you coming back?"
"I'm not!" Cole cried. "And thanks for everything!" And he ran out the door as fast as he could . The next sound the receptionist heard was that of a dirt bike being revved up and buzzing by the building, fading as Cole rode hell-bent-for-leather away from Sanctuary and to the Luxor.
"Haye! Haye, wake up!" Crystal shook her sleeping friend beside her. "Today's the day! We gotta get going!"
"Mom, I don't wanna go to school," Hayley mumbled sleepily.
"Haye! It's me, Crys! Come on already! We gotta get to the demonstration!"
Hayley blinked the sleep from her eyes. "Morning already?"
"Yeah, it's morning already. Come on before Courtney wakes up."
"I'm already awake, dipwad!" came an irritated voice from the other bed.
Oh, Geez! "Sorry, Courtney," Crystal apologized. "I didn't mean to wake you up."
"Well, keep it down, willya?" she grumbled. "I had a late night last night." Courtney dozed off again.
Hayley, meanwhile, was struggling to wake up, yawning and stretching and rubbing her face. She really needed a cup of coffee at that moment. Crystal was in the bathroom already, taking the quickest shower she ever knew, and dressing in her specially selected outfit in record time: fashionably faded jeans, CA t-shirt with matching pendant specially ordered from the Criss Angel website, combat boots with comfortable socks, and black bandana tied around her head. Hayley took more time in getting dressed, however. She wished Crystal would have let her sleep in for at least another hour, but no, she insisted on getting front row seats, even if it meant sitting in front of the Luxor all day. Hayley liked Criss as much as anyone, but Crystal could be so obsessive at times, and it irritated her.
"Come on, Haye!" Crystal pressured her. "We gotta get going!"
"I'm coming already," Hayley told her. "Can we at least get some coffee or something?"
"Sure, sure, let's just get going!" Crystal pulled Hayley along eagerly. "I don't want to miss a thing!"
"It's not until this afternoon, dummo!" Hayley reminded her. "We got plenty of time."
"Not if we want to get a good seat," Crystal argued. "They're probably lining up already."
By eight o'clock, they were lining up already to see the demonstation. Crystal and Hayley succeeded in worming their way up front to the barricade, as close to the stage as possible. A larger than life banner of Criss Angel hung from the steel girders framing the stage. They were so close they could almost feel his touch, though he was not on stage yet.
A frail looking girl stood next to Crystal, staring at a photograph in her hand. Crystal could not help but notice that Criss was in that photo, with a bedridden child next to him. Could it be her? she wondered.
"You must like that picture," Crystal said to break the ice. "You keep looking at it over and over again."
The girl turned to her. "Yeah, it's my favorite. Criss came to the hospital for the Annual Children's Hospital Function when I was in for open heart surgery when I was twelve," she explained. "He came to my room and my mom took this picture of us. He really helped with my recovery."
"Wow, that's awesome!" Crystal exclaimed. "What's your name?"
"Chloe. What's yours?"
"Crystal. And this is my BFF, Hayley."
"Hi," Hayley said, smiling. "Nice to meet you, Chloe."
"You think Criss will remember me?" Chloe asked anxiously. "I mean, it was three years ago when I met him."
Three years ago? Crystal doubted it. But, she looked so frail, and she did have a major operation at the time. She had to say something to cheer her up.
"I'm sure that once he sees that picture, he'll remember you," Crystal said encouragingly.
"Thanks." Chloe went back to her picture gazing. A warm feeling spread inside Crystal. She knew that during his meteoric rise to fame, Criss had taken time to visit sick kids in hospitals to perform magic for them, encourage them to think positive so as to better their chances of recovery. Many terminally ill children requested to see him as a last wish before dying through such organizations as Make-A-Wish, and Criss always came through. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Criss was truly an Angel when it came to sick kids like Chloe. All the more reason she was in love with him.
Cole hid his dirt bike behind some greenery by the Luxor entrance and climbed up a concrete berm for a better view of the stage. He made it! He made it! That was all he could think about as he stared at the huge banner with his idol's face on it. He was here! Today, he was going to see the Master in action! He felt it was worth all the little white lies and deceptions he committed to be here, just for this one moment of triumph. Thank You, God! Thank You for getting me here today. Bless Criss Angel for all he does and what he's gonna do! Amen.
He could not tear his eyes away from the giant banner. Neither could the other Loyals assembled around the stage. For the next six hours, hundreds of adoring eyes gazed worshipfully upon the giant face of The Angel, staring back at them with smoldering looks, arms outstretched, two crudely feathered wings exteneding from his back. They were too entranced to notice another pair of eyes, burning with righteous anger from a withered face, seeking to bring about Divine retribution, a gnarled, calloused hand fingering a loaded pistol in his pocket.
Block bided his time, gauging the distance to the stage where the Anti-Christ would perform his devilish tricks. Hiram Block would not give him the chance. He may be an old man, but his eyesight was still as good as ever. The Lord would do the rest, he reasoned. He would purge Sin City of its greatest source of evil. Only then would he avenge the suicide death of his only son, whom he had tried to raise in the ways of the Lord, but he had strayed from the path of righteousness, succumbing to the Devil's rock and roll music instead, rebelling against all that was holy. He had thrown away the life God had given him with shot of the hellbrew he had been addicted to, over twenty years ago. The Devil had tempted his son, and now the father would have justice. God had willed that Criss Devil would die today, and Hiram Block was His chosen servant to do it.