11-23-2012, 11:13 PM
A week passed. A sidebar notice in the Local News section of the Sun stated that Hiram Block had been sentenced to a maximum of twenty years in the state prison, practically a life sentence for the sixty-five year old man. Crystal Rathbone caught sight of it one day after school and immediatly posted it on the Loyal Community website. Her fellow Loyals responded with cheers and "smilies", or animated emoticons, but over time the matter fell through the cracks. Hiram Block, the most villified man among Criss Angel's fans, was all but forgotten, a footnote in the life story of Criss Angel the MindFreak. But there was still the trial of the "Luxor Sniper", as the press dubbed Brother Bob Talbot.
During his stay in the Clark County lockup, Talbot had lost his church and his followers, his finances had been devoured by legal fees, and the bank had forclosed on his house and repossessed it to be resold at auction. The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, he reflected philosophically in his cell. Naked came I, naked I shall return. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
Unlike the Block trial, the Talbot trial was videotaped with media present. The tedious process of jury selection over and done with, the trial began:
"Robert Talbot, you stand accused of one count of physical assault, one count of first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to murder, and one count of carrying a concealed weapon with intent to murder. How do you plead?"
The counsel for the defense rose. "My client pleads not guilty, Your Honor."
The counsel for the prosecution had arrived loaded for bear to send Brother Bob Talbot to Death Row. With matter-of-fact clarity he presented the evidence to the jury: the bullet that killed Abigail Runyon, the rifle smuggled into the Luxor, Abby's note to Brother Bob insisting that he "stop tring to kill Cris Angel" and her stolen employee badge, and the Mendoza photo of Talbot on the third floor of the hotel, gun leveled to shoot, his face clearly showing on film. There was also video surveillance of Talbot slipping into the hotel, cap pulled over his face in a futile attempt to disguise himself.
Criss sat in the back of the courtroom, feeling prickling needles of grief for Abby with every presentation of evidence proving her murder by Talbot. The (bleeper) had not only shot her in cold blood, he realized, but had stolen her pass to get into the hotel to kill him. And this man called himself a Christian, who in turn accused him, Criss Angel, of being in league with the Devil?
Criss could not help but reflect on the sorry state of affairs the Christian Church in general had been reduced to in recent years: the televangelist scandals of the Eighties, the Catholic Church sex abuse litigation trials, the polygamist cult in Utah, and now this. Small wonder that church attendance had been declining in the twenty-first century. Back in the Sixties, Time magazine had pronounced God dead. Today, God was still alive, but being usurped by his overzealous, hypocritical clergy and devotees who unequivocally believed they and they alone were the True Church and everyone else was wrong. My God is alive, sorry about yours.
As the counsel for the defense questioned his client, Criss lowered his head to pray. Dear God, forgive Your children for what they did to You and Your Word--twisting and distorting it to their own selfish ends. They have committed crimes beyond number in Your Name, calling upon You to bless their evil deeds. They bear false witness to those who have done no wrong while spouting Scripture from the Bible to back up their lies. They spread their poisonous hatred under the cover of love and salvation. They justify their crimes as doing Your will, whether it is shooting an innocent woman or hijacking a plane to crash into the World Trade Center. They exploit Your Name with kitschy merchandise or scams to rake in millions of dollars from gullible people. They prey upon the young and innocent, concealing their perverted natures under a guise of piety. They resort to scare tactics to spread their toxic faith while ignoring the real issues like homelessness or domestic abuse or things like that. They go around preaching about the end of the world, and how they'll all be beamed up to Heaven while the rest of us suffers war, famine, pestilence and death. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
"The defense calls Criss Angel to the stand."
Criss jerked up in his seat. Already! He rose and stepped forward to the witness stand. The bailiff ordered him to raise his right hand.
"Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you?"
"I do," Criss answered.
"You may be seated."
Criss sat down, bracing himself for the onslaught of questioning the counsel for the defense would sling at him.
From the sworn testamony of Criss Angel, November 19, 2009.
Q: Mr. Angel, if that is your real name...
A: It is my legal name, yes.
Q: Is it true that you disrupted the Sunday service of the Perfecting Church back in July, 2008?
A: Disrupted, interrupted, whatever. I was there.
Q: From what my client tells me, you came in spoiling for a fight, is that correct?
A: I came in to set them straight about me. I am not the Anti-Christ or anything like that.
Q: But you triggered an altercation inside the church.
A: Hey, they triggered the altercation as you call it. They were ganging up on me. I was trying to defend myself.
Prosecution: Objection, Your Honor. This has nothing to do with the charges against the defendant. The witness is not the one on trial here.
Court: Counselor, just what is it that you are trying to prove here?
Defense: I am trying to prove that this man did willingly provoke an altercation in my client's church to prove him innocent of the charge of assault.
Court: Sustained. You may proceed.
Q: Mr. Angel, you are recorded to have said, and I quote, "Bring it on," and other such statements on the day in question. Isn't that proof of provocation?
A: I challenged them to shoot me if they were so hell-bent on killing me. They had sent Abigial Runyon to kill me. Hiram Block had tried to kill me. So, I gave them the opportunity to kill me right then and there. None of them took up my offer.
Q: And that is when the altercation started?
A: No, the altercation started when Brother Bob and some of his guys ganged up on me. I was trying to defend myself, that's all. Okay, I admit I'm no diplomat, but I stand by my words and actions. They can call me a Satanist and the Anti-Christ until they are all blue in the face, but resorting to murder? An innocent woman is dead because of Brother Bob's fanaticism. I faced near assassination four times, twice in a single twenty-four hour period, by him and his so-called church. He has to answer for that.
From the sworn testamony of Investigating Officer Gilbert Grissom, CSI, November 19, 2008:
Q: Officer Grissom, can you tell the court what you discovered on the day of Abigail Runyon's murder?
A: The victim was discovered lying in the living room of the defendant's house, shot through the aorta of the heart with a .38 caliber bullet. She was discovered by a delivery boy, Cole Shoope, around five-forty-five PM. The victim allegedly entered the house with a key she possessed while she had been employed as a housekeeper by the defendant, intending to return it to him. She had left a note for him in the kitchen when the defendant entered. There had been some signs of a struggle; a knife was found on the floor of the kitchen, and a small table in the living room was overturned.
Q: Is this the note the victim wrote? (Gives witness Exhibit C).
A: This is the note, yes. (Reads) "Brother Bob, am returning my key. You're wrong about Criss Angel. He is a good man and a Christian, too. Stop...trying--I think that is the word; it's spelled "tring"--to kill him. I quit your church for good. You're no Christian man but a devil yourself. Abby."
Q: So she was aware that the defendant wanted to kill Criss Angel.
A: Not only aware of it, but the defendant had actually ordered her to kill him a few days after Hiram Block's second attack.
Q: He ordered Abigail Runyon to kill Criss Angel?
A: That is correct.
Q: Did she attempt to do so?
A: According to security records at the Luxor, she surrendered peacefully enough. She had never met Criss Angel, let alone had any desire to kill him. She insisted that the defendant had ordered her to do so to, quote, "save her soul".
Q: Were any charges pressed against Ms. Runyon?
A: They were all dropped by request of Criss Angel himself.
Q: I see. So you conclude that because she refused to kill Mr. Angel that the defendant murdered her.
A: That is my conclusion, yes.
Q: Moving forward to the night of the premire, the defendant was spotted by a photographer and video surveillance on the third floor balcony of the Luxor hotel after the performance. He was quickly apprehended by security and taken into custody. Can you tell the court in your own words how he entered the hotel with a rifle onto the third floor?
A: The defendant disguised himself as a maintenance worker, concealing the weapon inside his coveralls. He had stolen Abigail Runyon's employee pass to gain access to the third floor of the hotel. From video surveillance, he had concealed himself inside a storage facility and made his way up to the balcony. He was spotted by both security and Mario Mendoza, photographer for VERVE! magazine, who was covering the event.
Q: Is this the security pass used?
A: It is.
Q: And this is the photograph Mr. Mendoza took of the defendant at the time?
A: It is.
Q: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, take a good look at this photograph of the defendant taken by fashion photographer Mario Mendoza. (Passes photo to jury). You can clearly see that the defendant was on the balcony at the time of the premiere, armed and ready to shoot, having used his victim's pass to gain access to the balcony...
The jury took only two hours to deliberate the fate of Brother Bob Talbot, but to the man sitting in the defendant's chair, it seemed an eternity. He wasn't looking at time in prison, but the death penalty itself. He was going to face the Ultimate Penalty while that Devil's minion, the Anti-Chirst, walked away free. At least he'd be safe in Heaven while the rest of the sinful world succumbed to God's wrath. Yes, he'd go to the gas chamber, or the gallows, or whatever means they executed criminals in the state of Nevada, but with his head held high, singing God's praises, ready to walk through the Gates of Heaven into eternal bliss. O, Death, where is thy sting? O, Grave, where is thy victory?
"Robert Talbot, you have been found guilty on one count of first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to murder, and one count of carrying a concealed weapon with intent to murder. Sentencing will take place two weeks from today. Case dismissed."
The courtroom quickly emptied. Talbot was escorted to his cell, but as he turned to leave with the guards, he caught sight of Criss in the back of the courtroom. Enraged at the sight of the Anti-Christ witnessing his downfall, he strained against his shackles, snarling at him. "The Anti-Christ will fall, Devil!" he shouted as his escort pulled him away. "God will strike you down! He will cast you into the lowest depths of Hell for your blasphemies! Jesus will emerge triumphant in the end! You will fall, Devil! You will fall!"
The heavy door leading to the lockup swung shut behind him, cutting off his rant. Criss drew a heavy breath and walked casually out of the courtroom. It was over. The Perfecting Church of Jesus Christ with Signs Ascending was no more. Hiram Block was behind bars. Bob Talbot was headed for Death Row. Abigail Runyon had been avenged. No more assassination attempts. No more religious fanatics gunning for him. He could breathe easily now. He was free at last. God was in His Heaven, all was right with the world.
Robert "Brother Bob" Talbot was sentenced to death by lethal injection on November 26th, 2009, at midnight. Due to the incontrovertable evidence against him and the lack of funds to pay legal fees, no appeals were made. The execution date was set for January 10th, 2010. Criss Angel declined the invitation to witness the execution.
On the last night of his life, Bob Talbot consumed his last meal: a Porterhouse steak, a baked potato with sour cream, a Coca-Cola and peach cobbler. He then spent the remaining hours reading the Bible and praying. He declined the services of the prison chaplain, declaring he was already fit to enter Heaven himself. He did request to see Hiram Block, his only remaining friend, one more time, but was disappointed to learn that Block had succumbed to a stroke while in prison three months earlier. "That's all right," Talbot was reported to have said. "We'll meet again in the Hereafter."
At 11:50 PM on January 9th, Talbot was led to the execution chamber. The authorities reported him walking calmly, smiling to himself, humming a hymn. He put up no resistance when strapped to the table. At exactly twelve midnight on January 10th, 2010, Robert Talbot was pronounced dead by the county coroner. His body was given over to the University of Nevada Medical School for research, as no surviving relatives could be located.
Criss had just finished yet another successful performance of Believe, but tonight he did not feel the usual satisfaction. Tonight, a man was about to die. A man who had tried, directly and indirectly, to kill him, but a man all the same. Many people expected him to gloat over it, to be triumphant, having survived four assassination attempts at that maniac's hands. Instead, he felt saddened by it. It was not remorse he felt, nor regret, for there was no cause for either. Just...sadness. Brother Bob Talbot had bought all this onto himself; he alone was accountable for his crimes, in this life and the next. Yet, it was sad all the same.
Criss wished he had been more diplomatic with him that day in the church, as he had tried to be with Hiram Block in the hospital. If only Talbot could have removed the blinders from his eyes for just one minute and had seen Criss Angel for what he really was: a man, such as himself. If only he had been able to correct Talbot's distorted perception of him for just that one moment, then he would have been free to preach as he pleased to this day instead of counting away his remaining hours on Death Row. Perhaps Talbot would have been more amiable towards him. Perhaps, for that one moment, they could have even become friends.
But it was too late for that now. In ten minutes, a man was going to die, by order of the State of Nevada. Staring out at the quiet desert night from bedroom window in his private estate, Serenity, Criss wondered what Talbot's last words would be as he lay strapped to the cruciform table in the execution chamber. Would he curse him, as he did when they led him away after his conviction? Would he quote Scripture, from the book of Revelation? Would he ask forgiveness from Abigail Runyon's family? From his former congregation? Or, even, from Criss himself?
Or would he still be the same holier-than-thou, sanctimonious Bible-thumping (bleeper) that he had always been, pontificating on what he believed was God's will, and no deviation allowed, no interpretation of Scripture but what he said it was? Who knew? Who would ever know? He had turned down the offer to be there when they gave him the juice, ostensibly because of his prior commitments, but in truth because he could not stomach the thought of watching a man being poisoned by the State.
Criss checked his watch. Two minutes to midnight. Talbot had only two minutes to live. No reprieve, no call from the governor, no last-minute stay of execution. Stick the needle into his arm and let it flow. Lethal injection was supposed to be painless, more humane than other methods, but it still did not negate all the trauma beforehand: the waiting, the anxiety, the absolute terror of it all. There was no pain after death; it all came before it.
The second hand ticked away the seconds until the stroke of twelve. It was done. Talbot was dead. Criss wondered if he should pray for Talbot's soul. Well, it couldn't hurt, he figured, though it was probably too little, too late.
Dear Lord, tonight Brother Bob Talbot is coming to face You for his final judgement. Yours is the final call, whether he goes to Heaven or Hell. I bear no grudge against him. I can even say that I forgive him for what he tried to do to me, though I can't say the same for what he did to Abby Runyon. If only he could have seen me as I really am. But our sense of perception only goes as far as our experiences and our knowledge of the world. He perceived me as evil. I saw him as a fanatic. If we had gotten to know each other better, then none of this would have happened. But it's too late now. I can only pray for his soul, wherever it is, to rest in peace.
Criss made the sign of the Cross and went to bed. There was no sense dwelling on the past. Tomorrow was another busy day for him, a tomorrow, unlike Talbot or Block or, sadly, Abigail, he would live to see.
Last edited by Veritas; 11-23-2012 at 11:24 PM.