12-05-2012, 09:51 PM
The MindFreak crew gathered around Criss, congratulating him on his successful demonstration. Criss smiled and high-fived his crew despite his near exhaustion. Everything had gone exactly as planned, just like clockwork. He could not remember the last time he had heard such enthusiastic cheering. The crowd practically screamed when he emerged from his motorcycle disappearing act. If security had not been as diligent as it had been, there would have been a stampede into the valley. As for Criss himself, he was glad he made it out in one piece this time. There had been no pipe bombs, no attacks, no trouble of any kind. He had finally driven the ghost of the Vegas Bomber out of his psyche for good and always. What lingering fear had remained had been overcome. He was fully healed.
To the multitude of Loyals outside, it was more than a MindFreak demonstration, it was a triumph over death itself. The horror they had witnessed barely four months ago was all but forgotten. Criss' triumphant return after so much personal and professional tragedy was like experiencing a resurrection from the dead. Criss would rule forever! they believed. He was the MindFreak! He was invincible! He was immortal!
Meanwhile, the invincible, immortal Criss Angel sat in the RV, his head slumped to his knees, breathing hard and perspiring heavily. The rush of adrenalin was receding, leaving him drained of all energy. George, his cousin, handed him a bottle of spring water. Criss accepted it with a grateful nod, sipping carefully. He knew from experience that chugging cold water after heavy exertion led to severe cramping of the stomach muscles. He savored each sip, letting the water douse his thrist like a flame.
"You gonna be okay?" George asked.
Criss nodded, still taking his time with the water.
"You'd better be okay," George chided him good-naturedly. "After all, you're one of my groomsmen, right?"
Criss smiled. He had been honored to be asked to be George's best man at his wedding. After all, George had explained to him, he was the one who bought Angie and him together in the first place. However, that honor had been rescinded by his Aunt Molina and the Church due to his divorce. A compromise had been struck by allowing him to be a groomsman; JD would serve as best man, instead. Bowing to pressure, Criss acquiesd. Still, it was a pleasure to be a member of George's wedding party, in whatever capacity he served.
Through his exhaustion, Criss felt a glow of pride, a sense of accomplishment, and not from the successful completion of the demonstration. He had bought two lonely people together, they had fallen in love and were getting married. That, in his mind, was true magic.
He was bought up short by a thought. "Hey, when is Mom coming in?"
"She said she'd be here a couple of days before the wedding," JD informed him. "Then she's gotta leave right after."
"What's the deal?" Criss was puzzled. "Didn't she want to stay a little longer?"
"She says she's gotta go back to the foster home and the kids. It was all she could do to get time off for the wedding."
Criss thought about that. He was proud of his mother taking on such a challenge of caring for these poor kids, but he was also worried that she was spreading herself too thin. Costa said she spent her own money on them because the welfare office sent only sixteen hundred a month for all of them. She was working herself to a frazzle, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and caring for fourteen kids, each with special needs of their own. She already had one heart scare, and at her age the stress would do her in.
Criss vowed to make absolutely sure his mother got the rest she needed while she was here in Vegas. No work, no worries, just pure relaxation. She would have a good time at the wedding. He'd make sure of that.
The sisters from the convent arrived just as Dimitra was giving her final instructions to the children. "Now, I want all of you to be on your best behavior while I am gone," she told them firmly. "Mind the sisters, do your schoolwork and your chores as you were assigned, and keep your regular bedtime. I'll be back in a few days. If you are good, I'll bring you all a treat. Understand?"
The children nodded assent. There was a knock at the door. Dimitra went to answer it. Two middle aged women in grey veils and simple grey dresses stood on the stoop.
"Come in, sisters!" Dimitra welcomed them warmly. "All right, everyone, this is Sister Eleanor and Sister Dorothy. They will be your caregivers while I am gone."
"Hello, children," Sister Eleanor smiled at them. The children merely stared at the strangely dressed women before them. They had never seen nuns before, and wern't sure what to make of them.
"Well, I'm off now," Dimitra said, picking up her suitcase. "I'm sure everything will be all right."
"Don't worry about a thing, dear," Sister Dorothy assured her. "We will make sure these children will be properly cared for. You go and enjoy yourself at the wedding."
"Thank you, Sister." Dimitra made for the front door, but felt herself being anchored down by a howling Kira clinging to her leg.
"NOOOOOOOO!" Kira wailed, clutching Dimitra for dear life. "NOOOOOOOOO!"
Dimitra set down her luggage and pried Kira from her leg. "Now, Kira," she spoke firmly to the hysterical child. "You stop that crying this instant! I'll only be gone for a short while. If you are a good girl, I'll bring you a treat. All right?"
Kira flung her little arms around Dimitra's neck. "Kira, I can't take you with me," Dimitra said. "Now, be a good girl and let go."
Heather stepped forward and relieved her of Kira. The tiny girl wailed piteously, stretching out her tiny arms to Dimitra.
"Maaaaamaaaaaaaaa!" Kira cried. "Maaaaamaaaaaa!"
"Just go," Sister Dorothy told Dimitra. "We'll handle Kira and the rest."
Dimitra was all but pushed out the door by the nuns. She felt guilty as she rode away in the cab to the airport. It was like being a new mother all over again. When JD was born, she could not bear to leave him behind, even with a relative to watch him. She had been so full of anxiety and guilt, it was a wonder she had any type of social life at all. When Costa and Christopher arrived, the anxiety was there, but less of it as she became more experienced. Now, as she sat in the back of the cab, she felt the same way with Kira. She was not even her own child, but the guilt feeling of abandonment was the same.
Artie Creed walked into the manager's office after his show was completed for the day. He had received a message marked "urgent!!" and to see Morty Bernhard ASAP. What the hell did Morty want now? Artie thought irritably.
Morty Bernhard, the station's manager, sat at his desk with a grim expression on his face. "Sit down, Artie," he ordered.
Artie sat down in one of the vinyl chairs across from Morty's desk, aloof and unconcerned. "Okay, Morty, what's the deal?"
Morty held up a sheaf of papers aloft, then threw them down in front of Artie. "This is the deal," he replied. "These are complaints from listeners about your show, Artie. Your last crack about Criss Angel really set people off."
"Hey, you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen," Artie shrugged. "It's not my fault the guy's thin-skinned."
Morty picked up a page from the desk. "Yesterday morning, you said, and I quote, 'When is Criss Angel going to get his mommy's you-know-what out of his mouth and become a man instead of an overgrown mama's boy?' " Morty flung the page away. "Do you know how many angry calls we got over that one? We lost our account with the Luxor because of it! You're costing us money, Creed! I should fire you right now."
"You do that," Creed countered, "and I'll sue you for the remainder of my contract! I'm the only deejay keeping this podunk station on the air! Without me, KLOL would be under in a minute!"
"You got a lot of chutzpah, Creed." Morty growled. "Just keep in mind, I pay your salary. I'm giving you one more chance to clean up your act, against my better judgement, I'll admit. Just play the music on the list and keep your opinions to yourself from now on, and maybe you'll keep your job. But," Morty leaned forward, glaring at Artie straight in his bespectacled face. "Screw up one more time, if I get one more complaint like this about you, you are out on your ass! And I'll have the FCC revoke your license! You got that?"
Artie stormed out of the manager's office in a rage, slamming the door behind him. Morty woudn't have the wontons to fire him, he knew. He was the one who gave KLOL its personality. So what if a few empty-headed Criss Angel fans got their panties in a twist over what he said! He saw Criss for what he was--a fraud and a show-off who still ran to his mommy to change his diaper. No one--not Morty, not the FCC, not the so-called Loyals, no one!--told Artie Creed what to do or say on the air! He had the power of the airwaves, and the backing of the First Amendment to do as he pleased.