01-19-2013, 04:12 PM
5:00 am to 6:00 am:
Criss was dreaming of his father.
It had been ten years since his father succumbed to cancer at the age of sixty, but in his dream he was still alive and well. He was sitting in his favorite chair in the living room of their home in East Meadow, Long Island, New York. Criss was sitting opposite him, telling him about his new show in Las Vegas. His father nodded approvingly, but did not smile. He seemed concerned about something, sensed trouble ahead for Criss. His face loomed closer towards him, like a movie close-up.
"You must always be on your guard, Christopher," his father said to him in his dream. "The higher you rise, the greater will be your fall. Many have helped you up, but it takes only one person to bring you down. Only those who are there to catch you are your true friends." Then the image receded into a misty void. Criss reached out for him, calling out "Dad! Dad! Come back!"
"Dad!" Criss blurted out as he was jolted back into the real world by the loud electronic buzzing of the alarm clock. Remembering where he was, he reached over and shut off the annoying device, then rose from the bed. He looked down at himself and was surprised to find that he was still wearing his clothes from last night. Geez! Didn't even bother to undress, just crashed as soon as he got home. He rubbed his face, trying to stimulate circulation, and scuffed the skin on his palms against his five o'clock shadow. A quick shower and shave would make him human again, he thought.
As the warm water of the shower cascaded down his firm, toned body, Criss reflected on his dream. What was his father trying to tell him? Was he setting himself up for a fall? Had he become so proud that he disregarded signs of his own ruin? What were these signs, anyway? He had his share of detractors throughout the course of his career, from critics accusing him of fraud to right-wing extremists denouncing him as the spawn of the Devil. Yet he always came out on top, brushing them all aside like dust, seeing them for what they really were, jealous types and crackpots. No matter how much mud they flung at him, Criss Angel remained unstained.
Yet his father's message needled him. Many have helped you up, but one person can bring you down. That was true enough. President Clinton had been brought down by Monica Lewinski, Jessica Hahn brought down Jim Bakker and the PTL, and even David Copperfield had fallen from grace because of that rape scandal in the Bahamas or somewhere. Criss would be the first to admit he wasn't perfect, but at least he had no sex scandal to his name, or any other scandal for that matter. He was no Boy Scout, but he wasn't that depraved, either. At least, he hoped not.
Criss stepped out of the shower and toweled himself off. He took a can of shaving cream and squirted a handful of white foam onto his hand, then carefully spread it over his jaws and neck. He carefully drew the safety razor over his face, rinsing it as he went. Again, his father's warning came back to mind. The higher you rise, the greater will be your fall. Only those who catch you are your true friends. Yeah, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Criss was the biggest star in Vegas right now. His fall, when and if it came, would be like base jumping off the Grand Canyon without a parachute--bouncing off the rocks, left broken and bleeding, wondering who would catch him as he fell.
Who would catch him? Who were his true friends? Aquaintances were a dime a dozen in this business, but true friends were as rare as Nevada rain in summer. Who could he really count on when the chips were down? They couldn't all be fair-weather friends, could they?
Criss finished shaving and wiped his face with a towel. He looked more like himself now. He had to dress and head for the gym. It was his fitness day, and he wanted to start early before rehersal. He had a vigorous exercise program to keep himself in shape. His career demanded it. There was no way he could perform the extreme demonstrations for which he was so famous if he let his body go flabby. At an age when men approach the metallic stage in life (gold teeth, silver hair and lead bottom), Criss had the physique and metabolism of a twenty-five-year old. Barring catastrophe, he could live to his nineties and still be as active as he was now. God forbid he should suffer the same fate as his beloved father, dying at sixty from cancer.
His father. Again, the memory of his dream came floating back. It had been so vivid that Criss still remembered every detail, every word spoken. It was as if his father was still advising him, guiding him, warning him against danger from beyond the grave. The ancients believed dreams to be messages from God. Was the Heavenly Father speaking to him in the guise of his earthly one?
Criss shook his head to clear such thoughts out of it. This was getting a little too deep, he thought, and he had too much to think about already. He had to get on with his own life, here in the real world. It was just a dream, that was all. Just a dream.
Gary Brighton had a dream, too--a dream of a life free of that (bleep) of a wife, Irene, free of that dead-end job he had worked at for almost eleven years, free to live the high life he felt he deserved. All he needed was that bag of money hidden in the kitchenette cabinet. It would be easy, he thought. Just take the money and run, leave it all behind, start a new life. All it took was nerve.
He got up and stepped quietly to the other bedroom where Irene slept. She was dead to the world as far as he could see. Those painkillers she took for her migraine headaches could knock her out cold; nothing short of a pistol shot could wake her in that state. He returned to his room and dressed quietly but in haste. He packed his belongings in his one suitcase (Irene had insisted on bringing her entire summer wardrobe with her, forcing him to pay extra in baggage handling fees). Then he headed for the kitchenette to retrieve the money bag.
He opened the cabinet and took out the bag. He secured the straps on the flap, resisting the urge to take it out and count the money inside. Plenty of time for that later, he figured. He bought his suitcase out to the living room of the suite and slung the bag of money over his shoulder. Taking care not to trip again, he tiptoed quietly to the door, pulled it open, stepped into the hallway, and gently closed it again, making no noise. He drew a deep breath. Free at last! He strode to the elevator bank to head to the atrium. He'd get a cab to take him to the bus station--if he went to the airport, that bag of cash would be revealed in the scanner, and he'd be nailed for sure. No one would suspect him at the Greyhound depot. It was probably cheaper, anyway.
Vic searched diligently for the money Steve had dropped. Where the hell was it? Not in the corridors, not in the parking lot, not anywhere. Could it still be in the accounting office? Probably that or they found it and returned it to the safe. If that was the case, then he'd have to start over again. Or maybe Steve was still yanking his chain, hiding it somewhere so he could retrieve it later. Yeah, that must be it. Well, Vic was just going to have to teach Steve a lesson in honesty with the help of that crowbar he kept in the van. No one held out on Victor DeAngelo.
He heard someone coming down the corridor. Some tourist type with a big suitcase and travel bag, making his way to the parking garage. But that travel bag looked somewhat familiar to him. Too familiar. Vic pulled out his knife and pressed his body against the wall, concealing himself from view. As soon as the tourist with the bag passed him by, Vic sprang into action, seizing his victim by the neck in a headlock and holding the tip of his knife at his throat. The man gasped, struggling to free himself.
"Just hand over the bag, buddy," Vic said calmly, "and you won't get hurt."
The shoulder bag slid to the floor. Vic released his victim, grabbed the bag and ran out the door. Once in the van, he threw the bag onto the passenger seat and, gloating over his victory, tore it open to see his newfound wealth. Instead, he found boxer shorts, a toilet kit, undershirts, and other common items. He had grabbed the wrong bag! Vic railed at the Diety for his error.
A hammering on the van door interrupted his tirade. Vic found himself surrounded by security guards with guns drawn and aimed right at him.
"Get out of the van!" they shouted at him. "Get out of the van, now!"
Defeated, Vic opened the van door and stepped out. He was pulled to the concrete, his arms pinioned behind him as handcuffs clenched his wrists. His rights were read to him, but all Vic could think about was how much he wanted to get back at Steve Packard. Maybe he could plea bargain his way out. After all, Steve was the one who actually stole the money in the first place. He had nothing to do with it. The return of the hotel money would be worth more than some poor (bleeper's) luggage.
In the atrium, Gary Brighton felt his stomach sending him signals that it was feeding time. It was early, he thought. Plenty of time to get some breakfast before heading out. He checked the hotel directory to see what restaraunts were open at this hour. The big-name restaraunts were all closed, but there was an early-bird buffet at six AM. He'd have to wait until then. Oh, well, he'd just get a paper and wait until six. No problem. He walked over to the sundry shop and bought a copy of the Sun. He stowed his luggage behind a large potted tree and settled down to read. Irene wouldn't be up for hours yet--he'd be long gone by then. And no one would be the wiser.
Gary opened the paper to the sports section, the only part worth reading without getting too depressed. He was halfway through the feature article about Tiger Woods' latest victory when he began to yawn. It was still too early, he hadn't had any coffee yet, and he hadn't had much sleep, having been up fighting with Irene and the kid running off like that. Hardly anyone knew he was sitting there by that big tree in the lobby. A quick nap wouldn't hurt, he figured. He leaned back, covering his face with the paper, and dozed off.
Around him, the hotel staff was changing from night to morning shift, preparing for another day. In the kitchen, chefs and their assistants prepped for the morning breakfast buffet and for special room service orders. Clean linen, freshly folded, was shipped up to the housekeeping rooms on each floor for the maids to change the beds. The cashiers in the casinos tallied the night's receipts and sealed up the cash in bank bags to be sent to the Accounting Office to be counted and sorted by machine, then bundled up for the morning bank pickup. Up in the security office, the graveyard shift turned in their reports to the supervisors before the official changing of the guard. All this went on quietly and efficiently while the guests slept in their suites. As far as everyone inside the big black pyramid was concerned, it was the beginning of just another day.