11-03-2012, 12:33 PM
In the atrium of the Luxor Hotel and Casino, the media peppered Criss with questions, questions and more questions; it was all he could do to keep track of who asked what, let alone answer them all. Cameras flashed in his face, almost blinding him, and mirophones were shoved under his chin for statements.
"How are you feeling now, Criss?"
"Better, thanks," Criss replied.
"What happened to that Bible you had in your jacket? You have it with you?"
Criss held up the bullet-punctured book. "Right here," he said, holding it up for the photographers. "Some guy was passing them out on the street and gave me on. I stuck it in my jacket and forgot all about it until then."
"What about the man who shot you, Hiram Block?"
"What about him?"
"Do you feel any anger toward him? What are your feelings about him?"
"I am not a vengeful person by nature," he replied seriously. "I'm gonna let the law handle Mr. Block. I am not seeking revenge against him, but I don't entirely forgive him, either. He could have easily injured or even killed an innocent bystander; he should count himself lucky that I didn't die. They have the death penalty here in Nevada, you know."
"Criss, there's a rumor about you rescuing a teen prostitute. Can you clarify that?"
"Yes. I was shooting an episode of MindFreak, and there was this girl on the streetcorner, turning tricks. She looked to be about fourteen or so, and I felt sorry for her, so I flagged down a cab and sent her to Sanctuary."
"Sanctuary. That's the shelter you started for the homeless?"
"I didn't start Sanctuary, I just raised money for it."
"Is it true that your mother's house was robbed?"
"Her house was broken into, but nothing was stolen. She caught the guy climbing into the window, but he took off when he saw her."
"Well, at least she's all right now, isn't she?"
"She's okay. My brother Costa is with her; we have a new security system installed so this won't happen again."
"Can you tell us of any future plans for the shows, MindFreak or Believe?"
"Just keep watching."
Security took over. "No more questions, folks," they ordered. "Clear on out of here." They shepherded the press out of the atrium. Criss breathed a sigh of relief. Barely an hour out of the hospital and already he had a press conference. He stood there, wavering, his face pale and wan from the ordeal he had endured from the media blitz.
JD stepped forward, holding him steady. "You all right, Criss?"
Criss shook his head violently. "I'll be okay, bro'."
"You'll be okay once you get upstairs and get some rest," JD insisted. "You had enough of playing celebrity for today. You gotta take it easy." He took Criss by the arm and pulled him along to the elevator bank. "God! You're shaking like a leaf! We gotta get you into bed. I'll call room service and have them send you up something to eat."
"You know, JD," Criss retorted. "You'd make someone a good Jewish mother."
"Ha, ha, I forgot how to laugh."
This friendly banter between brothers was interrupted by a loud cry of warning, and a scuffle in the service corridor.
He was right! It was Hiram Block! Cole stood in shock as he stared at the assassin sneaking up the service corridor. The press was leaving the atrium; Criss was exposed to danger! He had to warn him!
Cole dashed up to Criss and JD. "Criss! Criss! Look out! It's him again! He's over there!"
JD stopped Cole in his tracks by siezing him by the shoulders. "Easy now, what are you yelling about?" he demanded.
"Block!" Cole cried. "He's right over there!" He pointed to the service corridor.
JD and Criss turned to where Cole was pointing. There was Hiram Block, heading straight for them. A sudden rush of adrenalin strengthened Criss as he braced for the attack. Hiram charged forward in righteous wrath, a huge butcher knife in his gnarled hand.
"I'll see you in Hell, you (bleeper)!" Cole screamed, lunging forward.
"Anti-Christ is finished!" he shouted, thrusting the knife toward his victim. "Return to Hell, you Dev--uhhh!"
Hiram stopped short, his face contorted in agony, the butcher knife clattering to the floor. He fell forward, clutching his bleeding abdomen where the handle of a pocket knife protruded. He pointed upward toward Criss, JD and Cole.
"God is not mocked!" he rasped. "You will face His judgement for your sins! You will be cast into Hell for all eternity!"
Cole looked at Hiram grimly. "So will you, old man," he replied, secretly wiping the blood on his jeans.
In the stillness of the security office, Criss sat with Cole while the authorities contacted his parents. There was no reason for him to cover up his story--indeed, it would have proven impossible to do so. The "eye in the sky" had caught Cole stabbing Hiram Block in the abdomen with his pocket knife. Block had been transported to the hospital, all hellfire and brimstone. The press had a field day covering it.
At first, Cole had felt vindicated, even heroic, over his deed. He had vowed revenge against Hiram Block, and he had taken it. If not for him, Criss would have been stabbed to death. It was defense, justifiable homicide. Now, as he sat in the security office, the possiblilty of jail time ahead of him, he regressed to a frightened boy. From the look on Criss' face, he could tell that the Master was not pleased with what he had done. Cole began to tremble, tears welling up in his eyes.
"Criss?" he said in a small voice. "You're not mad at me, are you? I don't want you to hate me or anything. I..."
Criss drew a deep breath. "Cole, I don't hate you," he said to him in his most fatherly tone. "I hate what you did. You took the law into your own hands and became judge, jury and executioner. Revenge solves nothing."
"But he tried to kill you!" Cole argued. "Twice!"
"True, he did," Criss conceded. "But he could easily have killed you with that knife. By attacking him, you put your own life in danger. Now you're up on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. You could go to jail for it."
The tears started to fall. Criss put an arm around Cole's shoulder. "Now, if you co-operate with the police, they'll go easy on you, okay? You tell them the truth, and no harm will come to you. Got that?"
Cole nodded. "I wanted to be your apprentice," he sniffled. "I wanted you to teach me how to do magic and illusions and stuff like that. I wanted to learn everything from you. That's why I came here to see you."
Criss thought for a moment. "Then let this be your first lesson," he said. "Every act has its consequenses, you understand? For every action, there's a reaction. Sir Isaac Newton said that. When you ran off to Las Vegas by yourself, you failed to consider your parents' feelings about it. When you stabbed Mr. Block, you didn't think about all the trouble it would cause, did you?"
Cole shook his head no, wiping away his tears.
"And now you are in deep trouble," Criss continued. "But, it's not the end of the world for you. If you work hard, obey the rules, show everyone that you learned from your mistakes, you can still live a normal, productive life. You're still young. In time, this will all be forgotten. In the meantime, you have to face the music. Stay strong, and you'll get through this in one piece."
Cole threw his arms around Criss, sobbing. Criss returned the embrace, taking pity on the boy. This was something he had always feared would happen: a Loyal devoted to the point of obsession, blinded to reason and common sense, acting out on impulse resulting in tragedy. Hollywood was full of lurid tales of stalkers and deranged fans who went to extremes to prove their twisted infatuation for their idols. John Hinkley shot Ronald Reagan to win Jodie Foster's love. Amborse Kappos called Sheryl Crow his "spiritual twin." And so on and so on.
Well, maybe Criss could help save Cole from himself. He was still young enough to learn not to be a slave to one's dreams and fantasies. With the right therapy, perhaps he would mature into a more responsible adult, more in control of his emotions and desires. Kids act impulsively all the time--God knew he did when he was Cole's age. Unfortunatly, many of those impulsive acts led to injury, imprisonment, or even death. It's a wonder I didn't kill myself back then, Criss said to himself.
"Cole," Criss said, lifting the boy's chin. "I want you to understand that you can't let yourself be overruled by your impulses. You have to think before you act, understand? You may think I do the things I do on impusle, but I plan my demonstrations out very carefully to prevent myself from getting killed. And even then, there are things that can go wrong, things I didn't plan on happening. The risks I take are too great to be comprehended. No matter how much I prepare, I could still get killed. I accept the risks and do my best to minimize them. I am telling you this because you need to realize that one quick, thoughtless action can lead to a lifetime of regret."
He drew the boy closer. "Just remember, Cole, no matter what happens, you are still loved by your family. They may seem to be mad as hell at you, but deep down they want to help you. They love you and care about you like no one else on the face of this planet. Sure they're gonna yell at you and punish you for what you did, but that's because they don't want you to get hurt anymore. My own parents did the same to me when I was growing up, and I turned out okay. Maybe not what they hoped, but still."
Criss smiled jovially. Cole smiled back through his tears. "The point is that even though things look bleak for you right now, you'll get through this, hopefully the wiser. I made my share of mistakes, but I benefited from them. I grew to be a better person from them. You will, too." He patted Cole's shoulder. "I gotta get back now. Take care."
He rose to leave. Cole rose with him. "Criss?"
Criss waited for him to respond, which he did with a final, crushing embrace. "I don't care what that crazy old man thinks," he wailed. "You're really an angel to everybody. Thank you, Criss. Thank you for everything."
Criss embraced him back. "You're welcome."