11-01-2012, 10:05 PM
CRISS ANGEL SHOT
blared the headlines in the morning edition of the Las Vegas Sun. A large color photo of Criss being wheeled to the ambulance, flanked by hysterical fans reaching out to him, dominated the front page. Copies flew off newstands all over the city in a matter of minutes, purchased by eager Loyals anxious to get the latest word on Criss' condition.
Crystal was too late to buy a paper from the motel sundry shop, but she was lucky to find a discarded copy in the diner, left behind by a previous customer as she and Hayley went there to take advantage of the free breakfast buffet. One corner was damp from lying on a few drops of water, but the photo was left unmarred. Crystal tucked the precious paper under her arm and crossed over to the buffet, a modest affair consisting of a pan of watery scrambled eggs, cold toast, some commercially perpared oatmeal in a steel chafing pot, a tray of prepackaged doughnuts, and plastic tumblers of orange juice. A large coffee urn stood adjacent to the buffet table, with a bowl of creamers and packets of sugar and Splenda in a plastic basket.
Crystal picked up a juice and a doughnut, while Hayley sprung for toast and eggs. They sat down in a corner booth and opened the newspaper on the table in front of them.
"Well, there's nothing new here as far as I can see," Crystal said as she skimmed the article. "Except that the killer was released on twenty-five thousand dollar bail. I can't believe they'd let him go like that! I mean, he's a stone-cold killer!"
"I'm pretty sure that they'll be keeping an eye on him," Hayley said, swallowing a mouthful of eggs. "Besides, they probably took his gun away, and he can't get a new one, 'cause he's out on bail for attemped murder. They'd nail his ass for sure if he tried to."
"That may be so," Crystal conceded, "but what's to stop him from getting away?"
"Haven't you seen Dog, the Bounty Hunter?" Hayley reminded her."They got them here, too, you know. If, of course, he doesn't get himself lynched by a bunch of Loyals." She leaned closer to her friend. "He's a marked man, Crys. If he so much as shows his face on the Strip, he's dead meat. He's, like, Public Enemy Number One as far as the Loyals are concerned."
Meanwhile, at VERVE! magazine headquarters, things had settled down since yesterday. The shooting would be the feature, with Mario's photo of the moment Criss was wounded on the front cover with FALLEN ANGEL in bold lettering. Jim Close was pleased as punch. For the first time, his magazine would beat out People, US and other infotainment publications on a lead story. His staff had worked nonstop since yesterday to get the issue out there before deadline. They had the only photo of Criss actually being shot on stage; Mendoza's timing had been spot on perfect.
To pad it out, Jim made sure that Mendoza's photos of Criss rescuing that little streetwalker were included in a sidebar, milking it for all it was worth. Famous magician saves teen runaway from life on the streets, sends her to the very same homeless shelter that he funded with an auction, only to be shot by a deranged killer--the readers would eat it up! It made the assassination attempt all the more insidious. It wasn't Pulitzer Prize material, but it wasn't sleaze, either. Readers wanted the truth, but they wanted it as sensational as possible. VERVE! gave it to them in spades.
Cole sat in a tent in a vacant lot with a group of other die-hard Loyals. He didn't dare go back to the shelter again, not after what he pulled to get in there, even if the food was better than the cold-cuts-and-stale-bread sandwiches they had stored in a Coleman ice chest. As Cole and his new friends choked down this meager fare, they began talking about Hiram Block and how much they reviled him, competing with each other as to who could come up with the vilest eptihet to best fit such a fiend.
"That (bleepbleeper) is so gonna get his ass kicked!" said one.
"I hope he rots in Hell," said another. "The lowest, foulest, most stinking part of it."
"You know, I read about Dante's Inferno in school last week," a chubby teen Goth girl spoke up. "He'd be sent to the seventh circle of Hell, in the first ring--that's for violence against one's neighbor. They're plunged into the river of boiling blood--I forgot the name of it, but it sounds like an Eighties' heavy metal band."
"How many circles of Hell are there?" Cole asked.
"I'd send him to the last level myself," a heavily tattooed youth spoke up.
"No, that's reserved for traitors," the chubby girl said.
"Whatever," said the first Loyal. "You think Hiram's out on bond or something?"
"No way!" snapped the tattooed youth. "We're talking attempted murder here! If they let him out, what would stop him from killing Criss again?"
A bony young man with a fashionable goatee and shaved head leaned forward. "You wanna know something?" he spoke up in a conspriatorial tone. "I know where that (bleeper) lives!"
All eyes turned to him. "You (bleeping) us, man?" said the youth disbelivingly.
"Swear to God. When I saw his face on the tube, I knew who it was right away. He's about a block or so from my house. He's always going on about Judgement Day and the Anti-Christ and (bleep) like that. My dad called the cops on him once 'cause he wouldn't shut his pie-hole."
Cole thought about that. He recalled the anti-Criss websites on the Internet accusing Criss Angel of being the Beast foretold in Revelations. Could that have been the reason Block had shot him?
"So, what do we do?" asked the chubby girl.
"I'd like to go there and tear him a new one," Cole replied, pulling out his pocket knife. "Avenge Criss Angel!"
"What if he isn't home? What if he's still in jail?" the girl persisted
"Well," the tattooed youth said, "if we can't take it out on him, we can take it out on his house."
"But what if he is home?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Cole answered her.
They had attacked around midnight, stealing away under the cover of darkness to avenge Criss Angel. Cole and his new friends slipped up to Hiram Block's house, armed to the teeth with spraypaint and paper bags of dog feces. With only a streetlight to guide them, they scrawled CA logos and four-letter expletives onto the clapboard house's sides and front. Once the artwork was finished, they set the bags of excrement alight and left them on the front stoop, then fled into the night. Once inside the safety of the pickup truck, they laughed uproariously over their deed.
"Oh, man!" the tattooed man howled with laughter. "Old Man Block's gonna (bleep) a brick when he sees what we did to his house!"
Cole looked back at their handiwork, the smoking feces bags illuminating the front door. This was just a warning, he said to himself. The final revenge would come later. He would see to that.
Hiram Block awoke that morning to a foul stench coming from his living room. He rose, pulled on his ratty bathrobe and opened the front door. The smoldering remains of a paper bag and excrement lay at his feet on the front stoop. He stepped outside to find the perpetrator, only to discover his house covered with graffitti. Outraged, he stormed back into the house and called the police. Assured that they were on their way, Hiram sat down in his easy chair, brooding.
The forces of Satan were at work, he said to himself. They knew he had fired the first round in this holy war and they had responded in kind. They could not penetrate this God-fearing household, so they attacked from the outside. Well, let them try, he thought. This house was a fortress agains the forces of evil. The Devil would not--could not--enter it.
Lord, watch over this house, he prayed. Guard it from the Devil's armies of evil. Send Thine angels to guard it day and night. Together, we shall defeat Criss Devil and his minions. In Jesus' Name, amen.
That same morning, Criss had just finished his hospital breakfast when the doctor came in for a follow-up exam.
"Morning, Criss," the doctor greeted him. "How are you feeling today?"
"A lot better, thanks," Criss replied. "When do I get out of here?"
"Well, let's see. Lift your gown, please."
Criss raised his hospital gown, exposing his entire naked body to the doctor. He couldn't help but smile to himself, knowing there were millions of female Loyals who would have given their eyeteeth to see him in all his glory. They almost had a chance to see him in the flesh when he did his Naked Jail Escape, but he had disappointed them by getting dressed at the last minute. They were even closer in the Fantasy episode, but his lower half had been blurred by the censors. Maybe someday...
The doctor, however, was concerned only with the injury just below the pectoral muscle, searching for any signs of infection or unusual discharges. To him, Criss Angel was just another patient, his toned, chiseled torso just another face in the crowd. He examined the wound closely: no bleeding, no unusual discharges, no discoloration around the sutures. Everything was healing up nicely.
"You feel any pain at all?" the doctor asked. "Any discomfort?"
"None," Criss replied.
The doctor straightened up. "Good. Once I get the paperwork filled out, you should be good to go within the hour. We'll have someone bring up your belongings. Can you arrange transportation home, call a relative or someone to pick you up?"
"No problem." Criss picked up his cell phone and flipped it open.
"Good. Then I'll see you later." The doctor left the room.
"Sure." Criss dialed his brother, JD. He waited for the pickup. "Hey, JD? How's it goin'? I need a ride home from the hospital. Yeah, they're letting me out in an hour." Pause. "Okay, see you then. 'Bye." He flipped his phone off and lay back. It'll be good to get out of here, he thought. He began to wonder what kind of a reception he'd get when he arrived at the Luxor.