11-04-2012, 08:34 PM
"You got everything?" Courtney asked Hayley and Crystal as she closed the lid on her suitcase. "If you forgot anything, we're not coming back for it."
Hayley zipped up her overnight bag. "I'm good," she said. "Ready to go, Crys?"
Crystal tucked her little green New Testament into her purse and shouldered her large overnight bag. She wanted to cry. She had so looked forward to this little vacation here in Las Vegas, anticipating a magical, fun-filled two days of meeting Criss Angel and getting a picture taken with him. She had had starry eyed fantasies of his falling in love with her and being swept off her feet by him. Instead, she had witnessed his near murder by some religious zealot. She and Hayley had spent most of their time grieving with other Loyals, keeping vigil for him. They caught only a glimpse of him when they wheeled him out to greet them. When he came home from the hospital, he had given her only a brief handshake and disappeared into the hotel. He was so near, yet still unattainable.
"Come on," Courtney ordered. "Let's get a move on."
Crystal trudged out of the motel room and to the car. She shoved her bag into the trunk along with Hayley's and Courtney's luggage. Hayley noticed the mournful look on her friend's face.
"You wanna get a drink or something?" she offered. "They have a pop machine in the office."
Crystal wanted to refuse, but realized she was thirsty after all. It was going to be a long drive back home, and Courtney wasn't going to stop for anything. "Okay," she sighed.
They walked the few feet to the motel office. A wave of cold air greeted them as they entered. The small early-model television behind the desk was tuned to the news. Crystal idly watched as Hayley went for drinks.
"This just in. Hiram Block, the man arrested for shooting famed illusionist Criss Angel two days ago, was himself attacked in the lobby of the Luxor hotel early this afternoon. He was stabbed with a six-inch pocket knife by one of Criss Angel's fans."
"You want regular Coke or diet?" Hayley asked.
"Uh, diet, please," Crystal answered absently. "Hey, check this out."
"Hiram Block had entered the hotel through the back and tried to attack Criss again, this time with a butcher knife, as seen on this surveillance tape. He was stopped by thirteen-year-old Cole Shoope, of Nachez, California, who stabbed Block in the abdomen. He is now in custody of the local police on charge of assault with a deadly weapon. Block is reported to be in stable condition. No comment from Criss Angel or his managers."
"Hey, I remember that guy!" Hayley exclaimed. "We met him at the McDonald's, remember?"
Crystal nodded. "Yeah. Did they say he was thirteen? I thought he said he was sixteen."
"Whatever. Guys always tell lies to impress girls. I remember one time when--"
Courtney stuck her head through the office door. "What's the holdup?" she demanded. "C'mon, let's roll!"
The girls followed Courtney to the waiting car. "What do you think will happen to Cole?" Crystal asked her friend.
"Can't say for sure," Hayley replied. "He could end up in Juvie. I mean, that guy was pretty hardcore when it came to Criss Angel."
Mr. and Mrs. Shoope cut their vacation short to claim their son from the LVMPD lockup. They showed them the tape of Cole stabbing Hiram Block, and informed them of the arraignment, the trial, and what sentence Cole could expect to serve if convicted. They also informed them of Cole's rights, what agencies to seek for legal and professional help, and the process of plea barganing. Mr. Shoope, being an attorney, rather testily claimed he already knew the legal system well enough to take the appropriate measures.
"Your son needs more than just legal help, Mr. Shoope," the legal counsel assigned to Cole told him. "He needs the love and support of his family. He needs counseling."
"What he needs," Mr. Shoope retorted, "is discipline."
The Shoopes drove home in silence. Upon arrival, several hours later, Cole was sent to his room while his parents determined his fate. Cole sat on his bed, fearing the worst. After a seeming eternity, his parents entered his room, the expressions on their faces reading like a death sentence.
"Young man, not only have you gone and committed an unspeakable crime, but you disgraced your family and your good name," his father said in a grim, judicial tone. "You've been running wild long enough. Come September, you will be enrolled in military school, and all your Criss Angel junk will be taken out and burned. Plus, we are selling your dirt bike. Is that clear?"
Cole stared incomprehensivly at his father. "You can't do that to me!" he screamed.
"We already have," his father told him. "You are in serious need of discipline. We think it's for the best."
"Best for who?" Cole shot back.
His father ignored him. "It's time for bed, now, young man. Tomorrow, all these posters are coming down. You might as well get used to it--you'll never seen this magician again as long as you live." With that, he left the room. His mother turned to him with a worried look.
"Honey, your father--"
"Is a total jerk!" Cole yelled. "All my life, he wanted me to follow in his footsteps, to be a lawyer just like him! Well, screw that! I'm gonna live my life the way I want to! And if he so much as touches a single poster in my room, so help me, I'll..."
"You'll what?" his mother prompted.
"I'll kick his ass, that's what I'll do! I hate the son of a (bleep)!"
There. It was out. He had said it, right to his mother's horrified face. "You heard me! He has no feeelings for me, just rules, rules, rules! He was always gone somewhere, either on a case, or at the office, or with you on some vacation, leaving me with relatives or some baby-sitter. My only memory of him when I was little was the back of his head! He never came to my Little League games! He never came to any of my school functions! We never did anything together! The only time he ever spoke to me was to lecture me on something! I couldn't talk to him about anything!"
"Oh, you don't really mean that, Cole," his mother protested gently.
"Yeah, that's right!" Cole sneered. "Blow me off just like you always do! I'm just a little kid to you, ain't I?"
"Aren't I, don't use ain't."
"Who the (bleep) cares?!" Cole exploded. "That's the trouble with you! All talk and no listen! You never tried to understand me, you just forced me into a mold I don't fit into! Well, screw Dad, screw military school, and screw you!"
"You're tired, Cole," his mother said. "We'll talk about this in the morning. It's been a long trip for all of us." She gave him a peck on the cheek. "Good night, dear," she said, and walked calmly out of the room.
Cole threw himself on his bed, fighting back tears. God! Didn't they understand? Didn't they understand at all? He didn't want to go to some military school! He'd die first! He'd kill himself first!
The hospital parking valet stood drooling with envy-tinged yearning as the sleek black Lamborghini glided up the drive leading to the Visitor's Entrance. He had parked high-end autos before--this was Las Vegas, after all--but this was the Holy Grail of them all as far as he was concerned. It was all he could do to pull himself together when it halted on a dime and gave nine cents' change in front of the entrance. The gull-wing door flew up, and Criss Angel emerged from the driver's side. He tossed the key to the valet. "Take good care of it, willya?" he told the valet.
"Oh, yes, sir!" The valet slid into the Lambo, savoring the moment. He would park it all right, but he was going to take the long way around.
Meanwhile, Criss entered the hospital and walked up to the main desk. "Hi. I would like to visit Hiram Block, please," he requested politely.
The receptionist checked her records. "Mr. Block is in room 207A," she told him. "Just follow the yellow line and go up to the second floor."
Criss thanked her and walked away. Follow the yellow brick line, he sang to himself. Follow the yellow brick line! Follow follow follow follow follow the yellow brick line! It was absurd, but it eased the tension he felt on the way here. Criss had spent half his life overcoming fear; today he would come face-to-face with the man who had tried to kill him. Everyone thought he was nuts (they always thought he was nuts!), but since Hiram Block was in the hospital, he was too weak to hurt him.
Down the corridor, up the elevator, and down another corridor to 207A. BLOCK, read the name on the plate. This was the place, he thought. Criss peered in the door. The privacy curtains were drawn; Criss went in and looked behind them.
He saw a feeble old man sleeping in bed, a resperator clipped to his nostrils and an IV needle stuck in one bony arm. A dog-eared Bible lay on his lap, opened to the Book of Revelations--his favorite, no doubt, Criss thought. He looked down upon the skeletal figure upon the bed. This was the man who had hated him so much he tried to kill him, this pathetic old man in a threadbare hospital gown, hooked up to an IV and a resperator to keep him alive when half the world wanted him dead. Whatever resentment Criss had harbored melted away at the sight of him. It reminded him of his father in his last days of life, eaten alive by cancer, his life ebbing away with every passing moment, a shell of his former self.
Moved to pity, he sat down on the side of the bed and gently took the old man's hand in his. God, he prayed silently. I know this man tried to kill me, but I ask that You have mercy on him. I don't know what inner demons drove him to murder, but I hope and pray that he's come back to his senses by now. I don't hate him. I don't love him, but I don't hate him. Please, God, make him understand that I am not the Anti-Christ or anything like that. I know You love him as much as You love me. Help him to understand that. Amen.
Hiram stirred awake. "Tommy?" he murmured sleepily.
Tommy? Who's Tommy? Criss wondered. "No, Mr. Block, it's not Tommy. I'm Criss. Criss Angel."
Suddenly awake, Hiram glared at Criss with watery blue eyes. "What...what are you doing here?" he demanded angrily.
"To see you," Criss replied simply. "To talk to you."
"Stay away from me, Devil!" he growled, pointing at Criss. "In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command you to depart!"
"In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ," Criss repeated in a gentler tone, "I come in peace. Look, I know you think I'm the Devil Incarnate, but I'm not. I'm just a man, same as you. I believe in God as strongly as you do, but I balance my faith with reason. You came onto me all hellfire and brimstone, and look where it got you. You're facing the rest of your life in prison, old man! And at your age, that won't be very long."
Criss shifted his weight. "Do you realize that you could have killed an innocent bystander when you took a shot at me? Or a member of my family, or my crew? Do you remember the fifth commandment, thou shalt not kill?"
"The Lord guided my bullet away from any innocent bystanders," Hiram said smugly.
"True, He did. He guided it to the inner pocket of my jacket, where I had this inside it." Criss pulled out the New Testament with the bullet hole in the center and held it up for Hiram to see. "I got this from the Gideons--you heard of them?"
"Course I have." Hiram rasped.
"Well, they gave me this while I was on the street, and I stuck it in my pocket. I had almost forgotten about it until you tried to kill me during my demonstration. It saved my life, Mr. Block. I guess you could say it was a miracle."
Block said nothing, but continued to glare at Criss.
"I thank God every day for it when I look at it," he continued. "And you should, too. Instead of Murder One, you're getting off with attempted murder. You could have faced the death penalty if I had been killed."
"God will vindicate me!" Hiram said with righteous bravado. "You will stand before Him, and face His Judgement! And not even you can escape the Wrath of God! All your fancy magic tricks won't save you!"
"Yeah, well, so will you," Criss retorted. "You're gonna have to answer to all you have done as well. It says in Matthew, 'Judge not, lest you also be judged'. God's gonna hold you up to the same standards you hold for me and everyone else. So, if I were you, I'd lighten up a little."
Block stared at Criss, burning with rage. He wanted to lunge at this minion of Satan, strangle him with his bare hands if he could.
"By the way," Criss said, changing the subject. "Who's Tommy?"
"Yeah, I heard you say 'Tommy?' when you woke up. Who is he?
"Tommy was my son," Hiram answered. "I tried to raise him in the ways of righteousness, but he fell into sin. He done drugs, he done the devil's rock music, he done all kinds of sins. In the end, the Devil tempted him to take the life God gave him, and now he's lost to me forever."
"I'm sorry," Criss murmured sympathetically.
"You should be!" Hiram snapped. "It was the Devil's ways that you follow that drove him away from salvation!"
"First of all, I don't follow the 'Devil's ways' whatever they are," Criss argued. "I'm sorry you lost your son, but killing me won't bring him back. How long ago did he die, anyway?"
"It was twenty years ago. He took too much of that Devil's brew, heroin, and died from it."
"So, it was an overdose, not suicide," Criss pointed out.
"No, no! He killed himself with the Devil's heroin. He killed himself the first time he took it! It was a slow death, but he killed himself!"
"Well, maybe from that perspective, you are right," Criss conceded. "Drug abuse is slow suicide, in a manner of speaking. Didn't you try to help him in any way?"
"I prayed for him."
"But did you reach out to him? Talk to him? Seek professional help for him?"
"I prayed for him. I prayed every day and night for him."
"But you made no effort to help him personally." Criss sighed in frustration. "If you had gotten off your knees for just one day and reached out to him, Tommy would be alive today. They say God helps those who help themselves. I say God helps those who help others as well!"
Criss rose from the bed. "I really feel sorry for you, Mr. Block. I really do. I came here in the spirit of friendship, and you blew me off." He picked up the old Bible and handed it to Hiram. "Here. I think you need to reread this more carefully."
He turned to leave, but about-faced with a smile. "The Lord be with you," he said, and left.