12-09-2012, 06:39 PM
"Now, Mrs. Sarantakos," Mr. Carlyle, director of the County Social Services Child Welfare division, said as he opened the files of the foster children in Mr. Webber's custody, "You claim that Mr. Harold Webber has been misappropriating funds from the monthly stipends allocated to the fourteen foster children currently residing with him, is that true?"
"Yes, it is." Dimitra nodded. "He gave me only sixteen hundred dollars when those checks were for three times that much."
"It says here you spent nealy two thousand dollars above that amount." Mr. Carlyle pointed at the figures in the ledger. "If he had misappropriated thirty-two thousand dollars, where did the extra money come from?"
"From me," she replied. "and from my son, Christopher."
"I see." Mr. Carlyle read through the ledger. "Do you have any records of your expenditures?"
"Right here." Dimitra handed him an envelope full of cancelled personal checks, credit card statements, and receipts. Mr. Carlyle opened the envelope and compared its contents with the figures in the ledger as Dimitra waited patiently.
The director rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "From what I see here," he said finally, "these are grounds for an investigation. We'll have to contact Mr. Webber and go through his financial records. If they prove to be as you say, he will be facing extortion and child neglect charges. Speaking of which," he continued, "you reported that when you first arrived at Mr. Webber's house, you noticed unsanitary conditions in the house and the children appeared to be neglected and abused. Is that correct?"
"Neglected, yes," Dimitra replied. "I was not so sure about abuse. I did hear one of the boys say something about the last caretaker who beat them." she suddenly recalled. "That is, I assume it was the last volunteer caretaker who was there."
"Did you report these conditions to Social Services, or Child Neglect at the time?"
"No," Dimitra sighed, "I wish I had. They were in such a terrible state. But I was confident I could turn things around. I had thought the last caretaker had been responsible for all that. I am so sorry."
"I see," Mr. Carlyle nodded. "Well, we can't fault you for doing what you did for these children. You did your best. However, we will have to conduct an investigation into this matter, and you may be subpoenaed to testify. I only ask for your full cooperation."
"You have that and more, sir." Dimitra told him. "I so want to help these poor children before it is too late. The baby, Mia, is in the hospital for some sort of infection. They say she may not survive." Dimitra burst into tears. "The doctors say they are doing everything they can for her. I was away in Las Vegas for my nephew's wedding, but only for a few days, I assure you." Dimitra was suddenly on the defensive. "I called a couple of sister nuns to care for them while I was gone. I would not leave them alone."
"We'll make a note of that," Mr. Carlyle informed her. "Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Mrs. Sarantakos."
Dimitra rose from her seat. "Thank you for all your help. And for all the children as well."
Meanwhile, at KLOL, Artie Creed was in rare form that morning, trashing everyone and everything which crossed his path. To hell with Morty Bernhard! To hell with the FCC! To hell with everybody! All that mattered was Artie Creed. During the rare times when he actually played some music, he scanned the Web for something to pin on Criss Angel: a DUI, a drug bust, assault and battery, a temper tantrum in a public place--anything to get back at that b**t**d for sleeping with his wife! He was a celebrity, for chrissakes! There had to be something he could nail him with!
He Googled Criss Angel and scanned the list. A lot of it Artie had already covered; no sense broadcasting old news. There was nothing posted recently that even hinted of scandal. Not even a rumor. Geez! The guy was a saint all of a sudden! It was all charities and benefits and TV and movie promos. And Artie couldn't just make something up out of the blue. Those tightasses from the FCC would can him. There had to be something...
As if by Divine intervention, the phone rang. Artie answered it; he was not on the air as there was a song playing at the time, so he had almost complete privacy. "Hello, this is Artie Creed."
"Mr. Creed," a heavy, panting voice spoke from the other end. "I have a news tip for you."
Artie was all ears. "Yes, and who is this speaking?"
"I'd prefer to remain anonymous," the heavy voice gasped. Artie was concerned that this guy might keel over from a heart attack or something. From the deepness in his voice, he sounded overweight.
"I understand," Artie told him. "So, what's the scoop?"
"There is a home for foster children here in Long Island, New York, where a Mrs. Sarantakos has been a volunteer caretaker."
Artie was on full alert. That was Criss Angel's precious mother! Oh, God! He hoped it was something good!
"It seems there is several thousand dollars missing from the funds the county allocated for the children's care, and recently, Mrs. Sarantakos went to Las Vegas, leaving the children unattended."
Whoa! This was too good to be true! Mommy Angel an embezzeler! The Fates had smiled on Artie Creed at last! He kept his composure, trying to retain an air of professionalism. "I see," he replied seriously, concealing his elation. "Is there anything else you can tell me?"
"There is an investigation in process by the county. That is all I can say, as I do not want to prejudice the case."
"Oh, I understand," Artie said. "Thank you so much for the tip." He hung up and stood up, pumping air. Yes! He had Criss Angel by the short hairs now! Oooooh! This was going to be some serious payback!
The tune on the radio had ended. Artie switched on his microphone and sat down. "Good morning, Sin City! This is Artie Creed on KLOL. We have a breaking news flash!"
"Hey, Raul!" a carpenter named Craig shouted over the power saws at the job site. "Creed's trashing Criss Angel again!"
"Yeah, so?" Raul shrugged. Creed was always trashing Criss Angel. Raul wished he hadn't bragged so much about his role in the capture of the Vegas Bomber. His coworkers acted as if he had a crush on him. Craig turned the volume louder.
"Criss Angel's mother, Dimitra Sarantakos, was arrested on charges of fraud and embezzlement from the foster home where she allegedly was a volunteer. It was reported that thirty thousand dollars was missing from county funds, and that Mrs. Sarantakos had abandoned her charges to go to Las Vegas..."
"That's a lie!" Raul exploded in outrage. "That is a bald-faced lie from the depths of Hell!"
He kicked the sawhorse on which the radio rested, toppling it over. "Hey, dude!" another carpenter shouted at him. "That's my radio, there!"
Raul whipped out his cell phone. There was only one person he knew who could refute the lies Artie told.
"Hello, Amber?" Raul said. "This is an emergency. It concerns Criss and his mother."
"Guys," Costa spoke to those gathered in the MindFreak office. "I think you'd better hear this." He turned up the volume on the computer where KLOL was webcasting. Criss, JD, Johnny Thompson, Gerard, Bro, and the rest of the crew crowded around the computer terminal.
"So, Criss is going to be visiting Mommy in the slammer for depriving poor little orphans for a trip to Las Vegas, boo hoo! Guess his mother is not the saint he made her out to be! No wonder her son turned out to be such a jerkwad, having a mom like that to raise him!"
"What the hell is he talking about?" JD demanded.
"He says Mom got arrested for stealing money from the foster kids she was taking care of," Costa explained. "He says she abandoned them to go to Vegas."
"That is bull!" Criss thundered. "That is the biggest load of crap I ever heard!" He punched the desk as if to make a hole in it. "She never, ever, stole anything in her life! And she didn't abandon those kids! She called a couple of nuns to take care of them while she was gone! I gave her money to take care of those kids! She spent a fortune out of her own pocket for them!"
"I'm going to call Aunt Stella," Costa said. "Maybe she can clear things up."
"You do that!" Criss said to him, still fuming. "I'm going to call Creed and straighten him out. No! Better yet! I'm going to the radio station and face him in person!"
He bolted out of the office. "Keep me posted on what Aunt Stella says," he ordered. "She has to know the truth. If Mom has been arrested, I'll post her bail!"
"Hello! You're on the air!" Artie said cheerfully.
"Hello! You're full of it, Creed!" a youthful voice mocked him, hanging up before Artie could reply.
Artie ignored the remark. "Hello, you're on the air!"
"You are such a liar, Artie! This time you have gone too far!"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Creed replied drily. He had heard that phrase so many times it had lost all meaning. He hung up. "Hello, you're on the air!"
"Artie, look out your window, if you have one," an unusually calm voice instructed him.
"And I'm looking for what?" he retorted, crossing over to the large plate-glass window and pulling up the blinds, still holding the phone to his ear. He looked out, then left, then right. Nothing so far as he could see. Then he looked down.
There was a mob under his window in front of the station. The window was tempered glass, a quarter inch thick to provide soundproofing, but he could hear the angry shouts over the receiver as well as he could see the fists in the air shaking in his general direction.
"We're coming to get you, Artie!" the caller threatened. "Do you know who we are? We are the Loyals! And we are going to stop you from spreading any more lies about Criss and Dimitra! You lied, Artie! Dimitra is innocent! She'd never steal anything from anyone! And I know for a fact that Dimitra was here for Cousin George's wedding! There was no embezzlement!"
"Well, that is where you are wrong!" Artie argued. "I received a tip from a reliable source that confirms my story. So why don't all of you little Loyals go home and get a real life! Leave the news to the professionals."
Artie hung up with a smug smile on his face. That smile, however, was wiped right off when he heard hammering on the studio door. He turned to see a bunch of angry Loyals ready to break into the studio. One held up a hangman's noose. Alarmed, Artie called security. Then he turned to his listeners. "Ladies and gentlemen," he spoke into the microphone. "We're experiencing technical difficulties, so please stay tuned."
He fumbled another CD into the player and turned it on. Turning off the mike, he faced the crowd, making hapless gestures. What? he mouthed to them. What'd I do?
The Loyals continued their siege of the studio. To Artie's relief, the police arrived to take them away. The Loyals refused to budge. There were a few who made a rude gesture or two through the window at him. The hangman's noose swung menacingly.
Then a black sports car, an expensive job from what he could see, had pulled up to the station. The police and security guards held the crowds back. The car's door spread open like a bird's wing. Artie watched as the crowd cheered when Criss Angel emerged from underneath the gull-wing door.
So, loverboy is here! Artie thought to himself. Here to defend his mommy. Well, I'm ready for him!