01-20-2013, 09:49 PM
No, I never did. Why?
6:00 am to 7:00 am:
While the hundreds of other guests in the Luxor slumbered on, Criss was in the gym, pumping iron. His fitness routine called for forty-five minutes of cardio a day when he was not performing--that alone was ninety minutes worth in itself. His father before him had been a former Mr. Universe, a veritable Adonis, unconsciously passing on the Athenian tradition of health and fitness to his sons. Clad only in white shorts, his light olive skin glistening with sweat, Criss could have passed for an ancient Olympian athlete in the arena rather than a stage performer in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The gym in which he exercised had been specially built for him by the Luxor Hotel. It was not so much a perk as an investment to keep him fit and healthy--and the profits flowing into their coffers. Criss Angel's name drew more people into the Luxor than all the millions of dollars spent in advertising, and they wanted to keep that name with them for as long as possible. A small gym was worth the time and effort to build and maintain if it kept the money rolling in.
And, my, how the money rolled in! The Luxor Hotel and Casino had never been more popular since Criss had signed his now famous ten-year contract with them to tape his show MindFreak, and the upcoming Cirque show Believe. Everybody wanted to see Criss, touch Criss, take pictures of Criss, experience Criss' special brand of magic. Hundreds of girls (and women) wanted to sleep with Criss--their personal photos, letters and e-mails would have kept the soft-porn industry in business for the next millenium. To them, Criss was a one-man Chippendale revue who did magic on the side. Elvis in his heyday couldn't hold a candle to him. But then, Elvis never stripped to the waist and allowed himself to be run over by a steamroller while lying on broken glass, either.
Criss set down the weights and walked over to the treadmill for his twenty-five minute run. Jogging outdoors was out--the Nevada desert sun reached triple digits before noon. People died from such heat, especially the elderly. Criss would have been risking heat stroke, if not dehydration, if he ran outside. No, it was better to run inside the gym in air-conditioned comfort. He programmed the treadmill for his usual speed and time and began trotting on the rubberized strip rotating under his feet. For this brief twenty-five minute period, he could forget he was a star and be a man of flesh and blood, emptying his mind of all stressful thoughts and distractions. He felt his heart pounding in his chest, his lungs expanding and expelling air, his blood coursing through his veins, his muscles flexing and straining as he ran. Sweat beaded his brow, clinging to the fringes of his hair.
He felt pain as other men do, but he did not shy away from it. He accepted pain; it was proof that he was alive. Pain was part of life, giving balance to it, for how could one know true pleasure without knowing pain? Too much pleasure made one jaded. Too much pain made one bitter. Life was sour as well as sweet. One had to experience sadness in order to appreciate happiness. Criss himself had his share of sadness in his life: his father's death, his uncle's tragic drowning, his relationship that went sour, his mother's heart scare two years ago. The sadness kept his life in balance. There would be sadness in the future, he realized. His beloved mother would die someday, something could happen to either one of his brothers, or he himself could face disease or injury. He would need all his inner strength to face it head-on, so he could overcome it. Never let it be said that Criss Angel turned down a challenge, he thought to himself as he ran on the treadmill, no matter how daunting--or how personal.
Dawn was breaking over the Las Vegas valley. The garish neon signs that were Sin City's trademark flickered off for the day. Night owls headed home while the early birds took wing for their day jobs. Las Vegas was a twenty-four-seven city like other major metropolitan centers; it never slept, never shut down, but kept on going.
One part of the city that had to keep going no matter what happened day or night was the Las Vegas Municipal Police Department, which had just received a call from the Luxor that a mugger had been arrested on the premises. Security held him in custody. A cruiser with two officers were promptly dispatched to bring in the perpetrator to be formally charged with theft and assault with a deadly weapon. This was all too common in a city where the main economy was money itself--thieves, pickpockets and muggers crawled like vermin around the strip, all too ready to relieve decent citizens of their money and valuables, at gun or knifepoint if need be. This was one of the reasons that Las Vegas was number one in surveillance technology, one picture being worth a thousand words--especially in a court of law.
The police cruiser glided around the back. The officers marched up to the security office entrance, specially reserved for the transfer of suspects without alarming the general public. So many cheaters, thieves and other lowlifes had passed through the Luxor's Point of No Return that the police and security personnel were on a first-name basis with each other.
"Hey, Jerry," said one of the police officers.
"Hey," Jerry greeted him back.
"I thought you were off duty by now."
"Yeah, but I gotta check up on something else first."
"So, who is it today?"
"Victor DeAngelo, thirty-seven, unemployed, busted for assault with a deadly weapon and attempted theft," Jerry told him as he escorted the officers to the security office. "The usual."
The officer nodded. The usual. "Anyone get hurt?"
Jerry shook his head. "He just grabbed the old man's bag and ran into his van. We busted him in the back lot."
Jerry opened the door to the security office and led the police to one of the "offices" where Vic was incarcerated. "Okay, DeAngelo," he called out. "Time to go."
Vic sat there with a defiant look on his face. If he wasn't handcuffed, he'd give them the finger. The two officers flanked him on either side.
"Okay, you have the right to remain silent; if you choose to waive that right, anything can and will be held against you in a court of law..."
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Vic knew the drill. He'd seen enough episodes of Dragnet to have the Miranda rights down pat. Just get him the damn lawyer and get him out of here.
"You understand what we just told you?" the officer asked.
Vic grunted assent. He was hauled up by the forearms and dragged to the waiting cruiser, where he was crumpled into the back seat and sealed in. At least they never found the money. Let Steve take the rap for that. He washed his hands of the whole robbery. If he wasn't linked to it, he'd just get five years at most. If questioned, he could plausibly deny it. After all, Steve did it all by himself, didn't he?
Back in the security office, Jerry Rand was going over the night's security tapes, especially Camera Twenty-Seven which had blanked out for a few minutes. The electrician had reported nothing out of the ordinary where the wiring was concerned. The before and after pictures looked the same. What had happened?
The others, meanwhile, were still hooting and howling over Athene Christopolous' naked rear end getting spanked by Criss Angel's mom. They played that one segment over and over again, catching every little detail.
"Okay, right there. Aaaaannnndd...whack!"
"Ooooohhh, that's gonna leave a mark!"
"Think she liked it? I bet she liked it."
"She probably liked it better if it was Criss Angel doin' it."
"You think his mom ever smacked his ass like that when he was a kid?"
"Hmm, probably. If he was my kid, I'd probably have taken him over my knee a few times myself."
Laughter all around.
"All right!" Jerry bellowed. "Break it up, it's time to go to work, gentlemen!"
The knot of men dispersed reluctantly. Jerry rewound the tape to the beginning and removed it form the machine. He stored it in its specially labeled case and dropped it in the tape bin for storage. Then he slid a fresh videocassette into the recorder for the day's events. Fun and games were over. It was time to get back to work.
Steve Packard wanted to run. He wanted to get away from Vegas, money or no money. He had put his ass on the line for Vic, and now all he could expect in return was a pair of broken kneecaps. Vic was never going to find that money no matter how hard he looked. It went up with somebody's luggage, and with the hundreds of rooms in the Luxor, the odds of finding it were worse than winning at blackjack.
But whoever had it would either be framed for the theft or would have returned it by now. Steve had kept out of camera range as best he could, or bluffed his way around them. So long as they got their money back, he was in the clear. It was with Vic that Steve was up (bleep) creek without a canoe, let alone a paddle. He dodged a major bullet last night when his angry partner came over to his flat and used his head as a battering ram. Once Vic found out there was no money to be found, Steve was dead meat.
He could head for LA, maybe. Or up north to Colorado, or Washington State. Maybe even to Mexico. Anywhere was better than sweating it out here. If he wanted to live another day, he had to run.
Steve grabbed his battered Samsonite suitcase and stuffed it with his meager belongings: three work shirts, three pairs of work pants, his one "good" white shirt with the telltale ring around the collar, his jeans, his CDs, a few changes of underwear, his toiletries from the tiny bathroom, and a few favorite porno mags. His tools and other possessions were already in his car. He'd swing by the bank and get his money out of his account, assuming he wasn't overdrawn again. Then he'd head for Anywhere, USA and put Vic, Vegas and his past behind him. Maybe one of his former girlfriends would be willing to take him in for a while. Yeah, and maybe the moon would fall out of the sky.
He slammed down the lid of the suitcase and snapped it shut. There, he was good to go. He remembered having a few bucks on him, enough for gas. Maybe later he could--
A loud, shrill beeping pierced the morning stillness. Steve almost jumped out of his skin. Collecting himself, he shut the thing off and looked at the tiny LED screen. LUXOR, it read. That meant another repair job. It also meant returning to the scene of the crime.
Okay, he said sternly to himself. Remember the plan. Someone else has the cash. No one saw you take it. You didn't leave any evidence, not even a fingerprint. Keep cool, do your job, don't say nothing to no one. Then you can disappear. A small ray of hope shone through the darkness. This way, you can claim your last paycheck and have more travel money. Yeah. There you go! Besides, if you don't show up, they will become suspicious. Just grab your gear, stow it in the trunk, go to work and act like it's any other day. Once it's done, you're out of there. Don't freak out like you did before. Play it cool.
It was two hours before the morning bank pickup, and Katie Lazlo, a chubby, bespectacled woman with grey and brown streaked black hair was making her way to the safe with the night's receipts. She slid her security card into the door slot and waited for the green light to come on, allowing her to enter. The tiny green nub glowed like a fairy light, welcoming her into the vault.
She entered the room, walked over to the safe, punched in the combination and opened the safe. To her surprise, the safe was empty. That was odd. The morning pickup wasn't until nine o'clock. Had the contents been transferred somewhere else?
Katie stowed the night's receipts in the safe and closed the door. She had to talk to Mr. Guiffria, the accounts manager, about this. She left the vault, closing the door behind her according to standard procedure, and walked to Mr. Guiffria's office. Upon arrival, she saw that his door was open, and he was not on the phone. Good. She knocked softly on the door frame so as not to startle him. He had a heart attack a couple of months ago and didn't want to give him another one, poor man.
"Mr. Guiffria?" she called out.
The manager looked up from his spreadsheet. "Yes, Katie, come in."
Katie entered. "I was taking the night's receipts to the safe, and when I got there, the safe was empty," she explained. "Do you know anything about it?"
Mr. Guiffria looked alarmed. "Empty?" he echoed. "How could that be?"
"I don't know, sir," Katie replied, shrugging her shoulders. "Were the contents of the safe transferrred or something?"
"There was no transfer of anything to my knowledge," Mr. Guiffria told her. "Everything was accounted for when I left last night."
Katie felt a chill creeping through her bowels. "Well, I...I found it empty just a few minutes ago."
Mr. Guiffria quickly picked up the phone. "Security? I want to report a robbery."