01-16-2013, 05:33 PM
1:00 am to 2:00 am:
Steve sat in the repair room, gathering his wits. He cursed himself for losing all that money in a moment of blind panic, dropping it onto that luggage rack and leaving it there, and now it was gone. To look for it would draw suspicion; he already had one close call with Jerry from security. How the hell was he going to explain this to Vic? Hey, Vic, a funny thing happened on the way to the exit. I set the bag on a luggage rack and the bellhop took it! Oh, yeah, Vic was really gonna get a big laugh out of that, for sure--if he didn't break his kneecaps with a baseball bat first.
If the bag was on the luggage rack, then whosever's luggage was that must be in that person's room. But what was Steve going to do, go up to that person's room, knock on the door and ask for it? Hi, my name's Steve. I do believe you have a bag that belongs to me--black leather, shoulder strap, has two million dollars in it? You do? Oh, gee, thanks! Yeah, like that was going to happen. He'd get busted for sure. Whoever had it probably found it by now and was whooping it up over their newfound riches, or was returning it out of some Boy Scout sense of honor. Either way, Steve Packard was screwed.
Or was he?
By morning, the cash would be reported missing. If whatever good luck Steve still possessed held, the cash would be traced to the person whose luggage had been delivered. He had kept in the camera blind spots, so no one knew it was he who stole the money. He could walk out of here clean, and that poor sucker would be left holding the bag. They wouldn't find any of his fingerprints because he had worn gloves; the only prints they'd find would be on the guy who picked up the bag.
But what if that poor sucker decided to come clean himself, do the right thing and return it all to the hotel? Well, he was still undetected, and the hotel would get its money back, safe and sound, and no charges would be pressed. The last thing the Luxor brass wanted was a breach of security to be made public; it was supposed to be impenetrable, especially where its cash reserves are concerned. No one wanted to stay in a hotel where the money's not safe. It'd all be returned, and the whole affair kept hush-hush, no questions asked. In the meantime, he'd keep behind the scenes, doing his job repairing slot machines in the shop, totally beneath suspicion.
But what to tell Vic? He bloody well couldn't tell him he lost it. He'd be crippled for life, assuming Vic let him live. Not even a little white lie, such as saying they had changed the combination would placate him. Suddenly, a workable scenario played in his mind: he would dash over to the van, panicked, out of breath, saying that security had spotted him, that they were hot on his heels, there was no time to save him, but go! Save yourself, he'd tell him. Knowing Vic, he wouldn't hesitate to save his own skin. Yeah, that might work.
That would solve one problem. The money was the other. If only he knew who had it...
I'm rich! I'm so bloody, stinking rich! At last, things are going my way! Twenty-five hundred at the casino, and now a fortune falls at my feet! Gary Brighton, you must be living right!
Gary was walking on air all the way up to his hotel room. He playfully tapped out a drumbeat along the walls of the corridor, humming to himself. He couldn't remember a time when he felt this good, at least not when he was sober. Only when he stopped at the door of his suite did reality come back to haunt him. He stood there, undecided.
What the hell do I tell Irene? That greedy, selfish (bleep) would blow the whole wad! I gotta be careful! I gotta hide this somewhere where she'll never find it. But where?
He slid his keycard in the slot and entered. The whole suite was dark. He could make out Maury's sleeping form on the sofa. No sign of Irene anywhere. His luck still held, he thought. He slipped in, quietly closed the door, and allowed his night vision to adjust to the shadows of the room. Once he got his bearings, he looked around for a suitable place to hide the money. Forget the bedroom. The bathroom was no good, either. Under the sofa was too obvious. There had to be someplace...
Hold the phone! There was a little kitchenette just off to the side there. That would be the last place Irene would look for anything. Irene hated to cook, and when she did attempt to make a meal, it was a disaster; the only thing she knew how to make for dinner was reservations. She'd never find it there.
Gary tiptoed carefully to the kitchennette. He was halfway there when his luck ran out. He tripped over the leg of a side table and went crashing down onto the floor. A lamp tumbled on top of him, conking him on the head. Gary let out a few choice words for the Luxor's arrangement of its furniture as he untangled his legs. All of a sudden he was blinded by the light, turned on by a startled, angry Irene. Gary winced at the sudden brightness.
"Gary!" Irene cried out, storming up to him. "What the hell is the matter with you? Do you have any idea wh--?"
She stopped in mid-nag at the sight of wads of cash spewed all over the floor. Maury, startled awake by all the commotion, peeked over the sofa arm at her father lying on the floor with a lot of money. Both mother and daughter stared in amazement at this windfall. Gary groaned in pain and disappointment over his discovery. "Gee, Daddy," Maury said, wide-eyed. "Did you win all that?"
Daddy thought fast. "Uh, yeah. Yeah, I sure did, sweetheart," he answered, playing to the hilt. "Daddy won all this money tonight." He faced Irene with a threatening look on his face. "Yeah, it all belongs to Daddy, doesn't it, Mommy?"
Irene was not intimidated in the least. She faced him squarely, steeling herself for a fight. "It may belong to 'Daddy'," she retorted through gritted teeth, "but he still has to share it with 'Mommy', no matter what."
Gary struggled to his feet. "Oh, really?" he sneered.
"Yes, really," Irene snapped. "Aren't you forgetting something? For richer, for poorer, and all that? I stuck with you 'for poorer', now comes the 'richer' part of the deal! You got a family to consider, remember?"
"Oh, like you care!" Gary shot back. "You couldn't even take time to feed our kid today! I had some security guard call me out because she was out there, starving to death!"
"I had a migraine headache!"
"Ah, you and your migraines! You're (bleep)-poor excuse for a mother, you know that?"
"That's right, Gary," Irene challenged. "Bring it on!"
Maury could tell that another fight was brewing. She knew from firsthand experience that when her parents fought about money, it would be the equivilent of an F-5 hurricane, and she had to take shelter fast. But where could she go? If she was at home, she could have gone to her room, or down the basement, or even under the big pine tree, her favorite spot in the whole world, and waited for the all clear. But she was here in Las Vegas, no room or tree anywhere.
She slipped out of the suite unnoticed as her parents battled it out, closing the door behind her softly. It was quiet in the hall. That was the nice thing about this hotel, she thought. It was nice and quiet. Maury trotted to the elevator bank and pushed DOWN. Maybe she could find her "real" daddy, Criss Angel.
The elevator in front of her opened. To Maury's surprise, there was a cat in there, a pretty one, white with black, brown and gold speckles. It looked at her, just as surprised as she was. For the first time since she could remember, Maury felt a smile spread across her thin face. She always wanted a cat of her own, but her mother always said no.
"Hello, kittycat!" she said, kneeling down and stroking the animal's soft fur. "What's your name?"
Kittycat didn't respond in words, but accepted the child's caresses willingly.
"Wanna go downstairs and look for Criss Angel?" she asked the cat. "You do? Okay, let's go look for him."
Maury picked up the cat and pressed the button for the main floor. "He's really nice, you know," she went on. "I think you'd like him!"
Dimitra awoke with a start. She looked at the clock on the bedside. One-thirty AM. She did a quick mental calculation: it was four-thirty AM New York time. She has always been an early riser; over the years she had risen before the sun rose, even in summertime, to fix breakfast for her husband before he went to open his cafes, then for her sons before they went to school. The three-hour time difference had thrown her out of kilter.
Well, there was no use going back to sleep now. She rose and turned on the bedlight, then fished around for that novel she had been reading on the plane. She pulled out her small toilet kit, a clear plastic zippered bag, to ease her search. She found the novel, but upon replacing the bag, she discovered that through some oversight she had forgotten her Omega-3 pills.
Dimitra was concerned. Since her heart operation, the doctor recommended Omega-3 to maintain good cardiovascular health. She didn't want another heart scare like the one two or three years ago. She sighed heavily. Dima, you're getting forgetful in your old age!
Well, since she was wide awake, she might as well go down and get some more. The pharmacy was closed, but there was a small sundry shop in the lobby. Maybe they had some. Normally she would have been uneasy about going out at this time of night, but she was safe here at the Luxor. Safe as Heaven, her Christopher had told her on her first visit, and almost as beautiful. Indeed the Luxor Hotel was beautiful, so she could forgive that bit of blasphemy on his part.
Dimitra dressed and picked up her purse. Making doubly sure she had her keycard, she stepped out of the door, walked to the elevator banks, and rode down to the atrium. Now, where was that shop again? She'd been there before. Ah, Dima! You are getting old! Maybe you should take those vitamins that improve your memory as well!
As she walked around the atrium, she noticed a little girl in a thin nightdress, barefoot, holding a cat that looked a lot like Hammie. Wait! It was Hammie! It had to be! Hammie was the only cat in the entire hotel. How did that little girl get hold of him?
Dimitra walked up to the child. Her face, arms and legs were almost as thin as her nightie. Too thin, conjuring up memories of the war years back in Greece. No, she told herself. No remembering. It was sixty years ago, it is all in the past. It was a different time then.
She stooped over to speak to the little girl. "Hello, darling," she greeted the child. "Are you lost or something?"
"No," she said. "Kittycat and me are looking for Criss Angel. We wanna see him."
Dimitra sighed inwardly. Such was the fame of her youngest son. "Where's your mother?" she asked. "Does she know you're out here? She must be very worried about you."
The little girl's face fell. "Mom and Dad are fighting over a big bag of money he won in the casino."
"Oh, dear!" Dimitra murmured. It must have been a terrible fight to force a young child out of the room like that, she thought. Now what should she do?
"Excuse me, ma'am?" a man's voice spoke up firmly but politely.
Dimitra rose. A security guard stood there. She knew his face--indeed, she knew most of the staff either by name or face in the years she had been coming to the Luxor. The entire staff, on the other hand, knew her almost as well as her own family, thanks to Criss Angel's television show.
"Is there a problem here?" the guard asked.
Help at last. "Yes, this little girl wandered off from her hotel room, and it seems she found my son's cat as well. Could you help us, please?"
"My pleasure, ma'am." The guard stooped down to the child's eye level. "What's your name, sweetheart?"
"Well, Maury Brighton, what are you doing down here? Don't you know it's past your bedtime?"
"Well, Mom and Dad are fighting again," Maury explained, "over Dad winning a big bag of money."
The guard nodded. "Oh, I see. You know what room you're in?"
"Well, I think maybe they've patched things up by now, so let's get you back, okay?"
Maury doubted it, but she nodded anyway. She looked up at Dimitra. "Is this your kittycat?" she asked her, a twinge of sadness in her voice.
Dimitra scooped up the cat, smiling. "This is Christopher's cat," she replied.
Maury's eyes widened. "You mean, Criss Angel's cat?"
"Yes, it's Criss Angel's cat. His name's Hammie. Now, you'd better get back to your room before your parents get worried about you."
"Come on, sweetheart," the guard said. "Let's go."
"Good-bye, Hammie," Maury called out as she followed the guard. "Good-bye, Mrs. Angel."
"Good-bye," Dimtra said, waving. "Good night, Maury, take care."
Maury gave Dimitra a feeble wave in reply as she was led away by the guard to her parent's suite. Satisfied over her good deed, Dimitra turned to the business of returning Hammie back to her son's suite.
"Now how did you get out, Hammie?" she asked the cat. "Hmmm? Did Christopher let you out? Or did you escape? Well, we'd better get you back. He'll be very upset if he sees you running around like this."
She carried Hammie to the elevators. Then she realized she didn't have a special pass to get to Criss' suite. Oh, dear. Well, she was well known enough to convince the security guards to let her up, just to return his cat. In fact, two were approaching her now.
Dagmar and Royce saw her, the Queen Mother, standing by the elevators, Criss' cat in her arms. That was a great suspicion: usually Hammie remained in the Top Suite, coming down only with Criss himself. It must have something to do with the break-in.
"Good evening, Mrs. D.," Royce greeted her politely.
"Good evening," Mrs. D. responded. "Could you help me get Hammie back up to Chris' suite? I don't know how he got out."
"Yes, ma'am," Royce agreed.
Dagmar, however, got to the point. "There was a break-in in the Top Suite, ma'am," he told her. "That's probably how the cat got out."
A break-in! "Oh, dear," Dimitra said fearfully. "Oh, dear Lord!"
"We're going up to investigate, ma'am," Dagmar said. "You think you could see if anything was stolen?"
"Well, I'll...I'll try."
"Don't worry, Mrs. D.," Royce assured her. "We won't let anything happen to you."
Up to the Top Suite they went. Dagmar accessed the door and entered first, telling Dimitra to stay put just in case. Casing the room, he saw nothing amiss. He waved his partner inside. Royce entered, searching for any signs of theft or damage, but found nothing amiss.
"Okay, Mrs. D.," Royce said. "You can come in, now."
Dimitra entered the suite, clutching Hammie fearfully. She looked around her son's suite. Nothing seemed to be missing--his awards were lined up behind the sofa, as usual. Nothing was broken as far as she could see. Maybe the bedroom...?
She crossed over to the bedroom and opened the door. If the door was closed, it meant Christopher was in there, and she didn't want to disturb him. She peeked inside with a mother's careful eye, checking on her sleeping son to see if he was all right.
There was someone sleeping in bed, but it was not Christopher. She flicked on the light and dropped Hammie in shock. She saw the naked figure of Athene Christopolous in her son's bed. The naked woman stirred, turned over, then bolted upright, clutching the bedclothes in front of her.
Dimitra's shock turned to outrage. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN HERE?!" she shrieked. "GET OUT! GET OUT OF HERE AT ONCE!"
Dagmar and Royce bolted to the bedroom. Dimitra flung away the covers, exposing Athene's nude body for the two guards to see, then started scooping up her clothes to fling at her. "OUT!" she screamed angrily. "OUT! GET OUT!"
Athene received a faceful of silk and leather. She bundled her clothes in front of her--no time to put them on--and ran out of the bedroom as fast as she could, but not fast enough to avoid a painful smack! on her bare behind from an outraged Dimitra. Athene yelped, whirling around to face her attacker. "How dare you!" she snarled.
Dagmar and Royce looked at each other knowingly. Each had a decade of service keeping the peace here at the Luxor, and just when they thought they had seen everything, here was the famous Athene Christopolous in Criss' suite. Never a dull moment around here.
Dagmar returned to the business at hand. "Ma'am, you'll have to come with us."
"But I was invited by Criss himself," she explained. "He arranged for me to be here."
Royce could tell by the expression on Mrs. D.'s face that Athene was lying through her pearly white teeth. Dags wasn't buying it, either. Royce took Athene by the arm and pulled her to the door.
"Come along, ma'am," he said in that firmly polite tone of all security personnel.
"No! I won't!" Athene stormed. "I'm not going, and that's final!"
Her words ended in another shriek of pain caused by the back of Dimitra's hand on her ass. The force of the blow propelled her towards the door. Clutching her bundle of clothes, Athene was forcibly escorted out of the suite. As the door opened for her, she glared at Dimtra one last time.
"This is all your fault, you old crone!" she snapped as she stumbled out of the hallway, only to receive another spank from an enraged Dimitra, in full view of the eye in the sky. She watched as Dagmar and Royce frogmarched the naked and disgraced heiress to the elevator.
Lost children, runaway cats, strange women in my son's bed--what a night! Dimitra thought. And she never got her Omega-3, either.