01-09-2013, 11:13 PM
5:00 pm to 6:00 pm:
Steve Packard's cell phone went off in his pocket. He pulled it out and flipped it open.
"Yeah, what is it?"
"Everything ready for tonight?"
"Yeah, no problem."
"Good. I'll have the van ready around two."
"You working late tonight?"
"No, I'm going home after this shift."
"Yeah, bye." Steve flipped off his phone. He gave his to-do list one last look. Everything was kosher as far as he was concerned. No last minute repairs of any description. He clocked out and went to his car. He needed to go home and get some rest--tonight was going to be a busy night.
The parking valets sprang into action when they saw the long black limo glide to a graceful stop in front of the Luxor. One valet crossed over and opened the passenger door, breaking into a big smile when he saw who was inside. "Welcome back, Mrs. D.," he greeted Dimitra cheerily. "Nice to see you again."
He extended his arm to help her out. Dimitra took it with a smile of thanks and stepped out of the limo. Meanwhile, two other valets and the driver wrestled with her luggage, piling it onto a polished brass baggage cart. JD was all but ignored, but he didn't mind. In fact, it amused him how the hotel staff fell all over themselves whenever his mom showed up. Of all the celebrities and other VIPs who came here, Dimitra Sarantakos was a staff favorite, and not just because of the generous tips Criss doled out to ensure her comfort. She was the sweetest, kindest, most wonderful lady ever to grace the Luxor; she never made any outrageous demands, she never raised her voice in complaint, and she always said "please" and "thank you" with a sincerity that was all but extinct in the twenty-first century. To the younger staff members, it was like having their own grandmother coming to visit.
Dimitra, for her part, was still bemused about all the fussing and fawning over her whenever she stayed at the Luxor. Even after five years since her son, Christopher, signed that ten-year contract with the Luxor, she was still unaccustomed to such overwhelming luxury. She had too many memories of hardship and privation to succumb to avarice and pride. Her childhood in war-torn Greece had been marked with fear and hunger; her family's emigration to America had been difficult if not terrifying. True happiness came at last when she met and married John Sarantakos and gave birth to three beautiful sons, John, Jr., whom everyone called JD, then Costa, and finally, Christopher.
They never overindulged their sons, but, like all first- and second-generation Americans, instilled in them a stern work ethic and a sense of responsibility at a young age, both of which they all carried to adulthood. It would be her youngest, however, who would carry them to the extreme as he climbed the ladder of fame and fortune, and in turn overindulged his mother. Criss showered her with gifts of jewelry and fashionable clothes, reserved the best suites the Luxor had to offer, and treated her to meals at five-star restaraunts that cost the equivilant of a week's worth of groceries for a family of four.
And there he stood, her youngest son, shabbily dressed as usual with his torn jeans, grey t-shirt, and his collection of medallions around his neck, waiting in the giant atrum for her to arrive. He walked over to her, arms outstretched to embrace her.
"Mom!" Criss exclaimed as he wrapped his muscular arms around her slight form. "How ya doin'? Okay?"
"I'm fine," she replied. "Just a little tired from the trip, that's all."
"Well, we'll get you settled in your room, then you can rest up for dinner, okay? Andamo's sound okay to you?"
"Fine." It didn't matter which restaraunt Criss took her. They were all very nice as far as she was concerned. Very expensive, but very nice all the same.
JD, meanwhile, had taken care of the check-in arrangements and was now walking towards his mother with her hotel keycard. "Here you go, Ma," he said, handing the small plastic rectangle to her.
Dimitra read the room number. 1280. Usually she had a room booked near or just below Criss' suite, and now she was on the twelfth floor? Why so far away? she wondered.
"Something wrong, Mom?" Criss asked.
"Oh, nothing, darling," she replied airily. "Nothing at all."
Criss caught a glimpse of the room number on the card. "1280? Why is she all the way down there?" he asked JD.
"Well, it seems that Athene Christopolous and her entourage has the upper floor below yours fully booked," JD explained. "and this being the busy season, this was the best I could get."
Criss looked irritated. "Oh, don't worry about it, darling," Dimitra told him. "All the rooms here are nice. It makes no difference where I stay, so long as I am with my family."
Meanwhile, in the Luxor casino, Gary Brighton wasn't thinking about his family at the moment, focusing instead only on the numbers on the roulette table where he had placed his markers. The large wheel spun with stately grace in the center of the table as the small white marble rolled along the circumferance in the opposite direction. Gary crossed his fingers for luck. Win! Win! Win! he chanted to himself.
"Twenty-three black," the dealer called out.
Gary slumped in defeat. Son of a (bleep)! I was this close! Just this close to winning!
Undeterred, he lay another fifty on several more numbers and waited for the little white ball to land on its mark.
Again the bitter agony of defeat. Okay, one more shot, then I'm out of here. He laid a hundred this time. He had to win. He just had to.
"Twenty nine black."
Two hundred gone already. Maybe he'd have more luck at the slots.
Rehersal wrapped up for the day around six. The cast of Believe were in their locker rooms, changing into their street clothes. Stacy Hausman sat next to Lyn Sheppard on a bench, pulling on her stockings.
"Doing anything tonight?" Stacy asked Lyn.
Lyn laughed. "You asking me out on a date or something?"
"Ha, ha. Anyway, you doing anything tonight?"
"I dunno. Why?"
"Wanna go to Body English tonight? They got a really good band over there--Filibuster. You can burn off all that extra caffeine there."
Lyn thought about it. It did sound enticing, and it certainly beat an evening at home with her menagerie of pets; though she loved them all dearly, she needed the company of people as well. "Sounds good," she said. "Meet you there around eight or so?"
"Sounds like a plan," Stacy agreed.
Athene Christopolous lay on the huge, sumptuous bed, her dark eyes covered with a soft sleep mask to allow the skin tighteners and lotions to work. She hated growing older. It took a great deal of evading and misinforming to keep her real age a secret, not to mention the thousands of dollars she spent on spas and salons to keep herself looking young and beautiful. She had not yet reached the point of cosmetic surgery, but she had a list of the best surgeons on file, just in case. Meanwhile she kept a rigorous program of fitness and skin care: she had a standing reservation at La Costa, she bought her own hair stylist who knew every strand and follicle by heart, and avoided cigarettes like the plague (nicotine stains under the nails were so disgusting, not to mention the smell on the clothes). She drank only spring water; she hadn't touched tap water in years. Her diet consisted of organically grown fruits and vegetables and sushi, or micro meals in fashionable restaraunts with names that took longer to pronounce than it did to eat them.
The Tylenol Crito had bought finally kicked in. Pain free, she now concentrated on her quarry, the man who lived upstairs just above her. She had done her homework before coming to the Luxor; from scanning the entertainment pages and by indirect inquiry, she learned of his habits and where he liked to go in the evenings. It would not do to seem overanxious, though. She would do it in a roundabout way, subtly make herself known to him. Pursue him in such a way that her didn't even know he was being pursued. Athene was a past master at this. It wasn't the kill, she thought, it was the thrill of the chase. When it was all over, Criss would never know what hit him.
But first, she had to find her prey. She sat up, removed the sleep mask, and drew out her laptop case. No one, not even her faithful assistant, Crito, was permitted to even lay a fingernail on her laptop. She guarded it jealously, for therin lay such intimate information about her the tabloids would have sold their souls to the Devil to aquire. It had a voice-activated combination lock which only she alone knew, with a series of passwords that rivaled the CIA in complexity. She never opened it in the presence of others; it was her life encased in silicon, and no one on the face of the planet was allowed to read it.
Athene spoke into the microscopic microphone on the edge of the laptop case. "Clio1, Erato2, Thalia3, Urania4."
The case latches flew open. She opened the laptop computer with the care of a jeweler lifting the cover of a velvet-lined box containing a priceless necklace. It was wireless, so there was no need to plug into the computer line. She switched on the laptop and waited for it to boot up. It took only a fraction of a second, which pleased Athene. She entered her secret password into the computer: Pandora.
Welcome, Athene, the words on the screen read. She fingered the mousepad to locate her file on Criss Angel and clicked "enter". The file flashed onto the screen. There, the list of clubs in Las Vegas he liked to frequent. Which one should she choose?
Body English. Hmmmm. That looked promising. She would start her search there. If he wasn't there, well, there were the others. She could be patient if she wanted to be, but she was determined to get her Angel into her arms (and her bedroom) if it was the last thing she would do.
She pulled out her cellphone. "Crito," she said. "Arrange transportation for me tonight. I am going to the Body English club." She quickly hung up. The hunt begins, she thought.