01-22-2013, 03:43 PM
8:00 am to 9:00 am:
The heavy steel doors of the Clark County Detention Center slowly opened, squealing on their worn metal tracks. Two police officers escorted a handcuffed Vic into the Processing office. Vic could hear the deep metallic kuhchung! as those same doors closed behind him, the sound of no turning back. This, he thought with resentment, was going to be his home until his trial. He couldn't come up with the bail money, not even a downpayment to the bondsman, so there he was in the county lockup on charges of assault with a deady weapon and petty theft. At least they didn't find the money, he consoled himself again and again.
(Bleeping) Packard! he cursed inwardly. If he hadn't chickened out like that, I'd be rich and free, living it up in Mexico, instead of being stuck in this dump! That (bleeper) is probably on his way to the border right now, with all that money, while I'm rotting away in here! Man, if I ever get out of here, I'm gonna hunt down that (bleep's) sorry ass and put him in the ground!
Vic and his uniformed escorts stopped at the Processing Office window, a three-quarter inch thick clear barrier with a single round steel vent to allow audible speech set in the center. The Processing Officer, a rotund woman in the standard khaki colored uniform of the Clark County Sherriff's Department, sat grimly on the other side, fingers poised over the computer keyboard. "Name?" she droned officiously.
"DeAngelo, Victor," said the senior of the two officers.
Vic stood there silently as his personal information and charges against him were typed into the computer databank. The handcuffs chafed his wrists, and he needed to take a leak. C'mon man, let's get a move on! he thought irritably.
After Processing, Vic was moved into the "examing room" to be searched. His clothes were removed and impounded, orange scrubs given to him in their stead. He was body searched for hidden drugs or weapons, and handed a vial for him to "fill" for drug testing. Well, at least he finally got to relieve himself, he thought, even if he had to fill it in front of the officers.
From the "examining room" came "orientation". Vic sat with a large group of other offenders on steel folding chairs lined up against a wall as another uniformed officer barked out the rules and regulations of the lockup: rising at six AM, morning shower for those who were assigned showers for that day, cell cleanup for those who weren't, breakfast at six-thirty in the mess hall, assigned work detail, recreation hours, one phone call per week per inmate, smoking in designated areas only, no fighting, no gang signs, lights out at nine PM, no communication after lights out, and so on. Vic let it all flow in one ear and out the other with nothing to block traffic, distracting himself with the myriad of gang tattoos on the flesh of the majority of his fellow inmates. From the bored looks on their faces, he could tell that this wasn't their first visit here.
Vic was herded along with the others, single file, to their cells, mere eight-by-eight foot closets with two bunks bolted to one wall and a steel sink-and-toilet combo by the door. His new roommate was a scarred veteran of the streets, a foot soldier in one of Vegas' lesser known gangs from his earliest youth. His real name was Emmanuel Odding, but he answered to OddMan or simply Odd. But there was nothing odd about his attitude toward Vic; it was quite obvious that he didn't care for him being in the same cell with him. For Vic, the feeling was mutual. It was going to be a long stay for both of them.
Felix Rappaport still felt a bit nauseous as he suited up for the day. Maybe he just needed a bit of breakfast, he thought. Last night's attack was a bad one. Keep it light today, lay off the booze, and he'd be okay. Just some fresh fruit and a bit of cereal would do the trick. Always had in the past. Everyone on the Board of Directors drank coffee and got fat, while he, the CEO, ate breakfast and stayed healthy. Go figure, he thought facetiously.
After his "light" breakfast, Felix headed for his executive suite in the Luxor. Whatever had been bothering him had gone away. Maybe it was a fluke, he thought. Something he ate that disagreed with him. He was going to have to watch it from now in, he warned himself--he wasn't getting any younger. He had reached the age where he had to read the labels on everything he bought for sodium, sugar or fats; gone were the days when he had the metabolism of a blast furnace, when he could eat and eat and not gain an ounce. Circle of life and all that.
He had barely reached his office when he was hit by a double whammy. It seemed Athene Christopolous, the Omicron heiress staying at the Luxor, had decided to spend the night in Criss Angel's suite--without his permission. Two guards, with Criss' mother accompanying them, had found her sleeping in his bed, completely nude, and had taken her into custody. Needless to say, Criss was very upset about it. That was the good news. The bad news was that the hotel safe had been robbed last night, he was informed by security staff. Nearly half a million dollars vanished without a trace.
Felix felt his gut rumbling like a volcano about to erupt. A spoiled heiress he could handle, but half a million dollars gone, just like that? The word "embezzlement" quickly came to mind; it had to be an inside job. Fighting off the pain in his stomach, he called security, demanding what the hell happened last night. About the money, he meant.
Chief Macaffey assured him that the CSI was on the case; they were going over the secruity tapes this very minute. They were doing everything they could to gather evidence to catch the thief, and that he couldn't have gone too far, and so on and so on. Felix wasn't appeased. This wasn't a case of a missing billfold, this was half a million dollars belonging to the hotel, money he himself was responsible for. This was grand larceny, and he wasn't going to stand for it.
"Look, Macaffey!" Felix thundered, his burning gut about to explode, "I want that money back in that safe in twenty-four hours or it's your head on a platter! Got that?"
"Got it, Mr. Rappaport," Macaffey acknowledged. He couldn't blame the boss for getting all (bleeped) off about it--hell, he was just as (bleeped) off about it himself. Half a million dollars stolen on his watch. It was intolerable, not to mention inconceivable.
Felix slammed down the receiver. The pain was worse now, even more than last night. It didn't improve when he received word that Criss Angel was waiting to see him outside his office. "Send him in," he groaned.
Criss walked into the office, concealing his indignation for the time being. After all, Felix Rappaport was technically his employer and really a good friend. No sense biting his head off over something that wasn't his fault. "Hey, Felix," Criss said.
Felix looked up, grimacing in pain. Criss' anger over Athene turned to concern for his friend. "Felix? You okay?"
"I'll be fine," Felix replied, clutching his abdomen. "Just a bit of gas, that's all." He straightened up in his upholstered chair. "Look, I know you're upset about Athene Chrostopolous in your room last night--"
"Damn right I am," Criss retorted. "How the hell did she get into my suite in the first place?"
"I'm sure I don't know, but I'm going to find out. Right now, we got an even bigger problem."
"Half a million dollars was stolen from the safe last night," Felix gasped out, the pain in his stomach worsening by the second.
Criss stood there, not knowing what to do or say. Here was his friend in pain, and the hotel money stolen to boot. Something in his mind clicked in place, making him realize that a man's life was more important than money. Let the cops handle the theft--that was their job. Felix needed help.
Suddenly , Felix began coughing violently. He covered his mouth with his hand, but was unsuccessful in keeping the blood he regurgitated from streaming out between his fingers. Alarmed, Criss snatched the office phone and pressed the Emergency button.
"Nine-One-One, what is your emegency?" the operator responded mechanically.
"We have a man here coughing up blood," Criss told the operator. "Executive office, Luxor Hotel and Casino. Send help, now!"
Meanwhile, the CSI team was going over the security tapes of the previous night, looking for clues as to the identitiy of the robber. The corridors leading to the Accounting office showed nothing unusual, except for that two minute glitch after midnight. Not even a hint of a break-in. It was as if the perp made himself invisible to the camera. The forensics experts could not find any footprints nor fingerprints, except for the cashier's, and the video proved her innocence.
Investigator Tom Yancy, videographer expert, watched the surveillance tape with a practiced eye, searching every nanosecond of tape for any hint of the perp, however minuscule. As he scanned the tape, a theory or at least a hypothesis began to shape in his mind. Rewinding the tape and playing it back again, his theory proved correct.
"Over here," he called to the others.
The rest of the crew, along with Macaffey and other security officers, gathered around the monitor. Yancy rewound the tape again.
"Okay," he said. "The camera is pointed here, and then it goes around here. But when it's pointed in one direction, it creates a blind spot on the other side...here." He pointed at the screen with the tip of his pen. "The perp must have known this, so he kept in the blind spot to get to the office. Where are the other tapes?"
The rest of the tapes were bought in and inserted into the VCR. Yancy scanned them as he did the first. "Okay, see? There's another blind spot, and another right there. The perp must have timed them just right in order to get to the safe."
"Damn!" Macaffey swore under his breath. "That is one clever (bleepbleeper)."
"What about the vault itself?" Inspector Grissom asked. "That camera was trained right on it."
"You sent an electrician to check it out, didn't you, Macaffey?" Yancy asked.
"The night shift sent him out as soon as we lost visual," Macaffey told him. "He said there was nothing wrong."
"Were the wires exposed?" Grissom asked.
Macaffey thought about it, then remembered. "They had been doing some rewiring in that part of the office, as a matter of fact," he said. "They must have forgotten to seal it up."
"So, the perp must have disconnected the camera wires, robbed the safe, then reconnected it when he was done." Grissom said.
CSI Investigator Lise Howard spoke up from the other monitor. "Over here. I got something."
Grissom, Yancy, and the others transferred to the second monitor. "Here, in the main office. I got someone."
The grainy image of a workman carrying a shoulder bag walking around the office and then leaving played before them on the screen. Macaffey snapped to full alert. "Hey, I know that guy!" he exclaimed. "That's Steve Packard, the slot machine repairman. What the hell is he doing there?"
"My guess is that he was there to rob the safe," Yancy opinioniated. "Rewind for a second, willya?"
The tape reversed itself, then progressed normally. "And...freeze!"
The tape stopped, freezing the image of Steve Packard in mid-escape. "See that, right there?" Yancy pointed to Steve's feet with his pen. "He's wearing hospital slippers." He turned to Macaffey. "Does your repairman always wear those on the job?"
"Not that I know of," Macaffey replied. "and he don't work nights, either."
Maury woke up in the big bed to sunshine and silence. There was no screaming or fighting to make her hide her head under her pillow, no television blaring to drown out the angry words, no wishing to become invisible when her mother came to get her out of bed (when she wasn't having one of her migraines, that is), just blissful silence and the luxury of the big comfy bed. It wasn't just the beginning of a new day for Maury, but the beginning of a new life with her real family.
She clambered out of bed and trotted to the door. Opening it, she saw Mrs. Angel on the sofa, reading a book. Maury walked over to her, partly to give her a good-morning hug, and partly to find out what she was reading. The book, it turned out, was one of those big grown-up paperback novels with very small print and not very interesting to her, but that didn't matter. She stretched out her bony arms and hugged Mrs. Angel. By instinct, she expected to be pushed away. To her joy, Mrs. Angel actually put down her book and hugged her back.
"Good morning, darling," Mrs. Angel said to her.
"Morning, Mrs. Angel." Maury answered back, smiling.
"Well, we'd better see about taking you back to your parents," Mrs. Angel said. "This running away isn't very good, you know."
The smile faded from Maury's face. "But, I want to stay with you," she protested. "I want you for my real Grandma and Criss to be my real dad."
Dimitra sighed and sat Maury down beside her. "Now, Maury," she said sternly. "You know I'm not your real grandmother, and Christopher is not your real daddy, and pretending won't make it so. I don't know anything about your real parents, but you belong to them, not to me."
"But I thought you cared about me!" Maury wailed.
"I do, darling," Dimitra said to her. "I really do. And I want to do what is right for you. Right now, we have to take you back to your mother and father." She lifted Maury's face in one hand. "If there is any more trouble between you, I am right next door, all right? Now, get dressed."
Maury nodded sadly. She knew it was too good to be true. She was going back to that lion's den that was her parents' hotel room to endure more misery, deprived of the heaven with Mrs. Angel of which she enjoyed only a taste. Nothing good ever happened to her. She seemed doomed to a lifetime of sorrow with the two people she hated most.
She pulled on her faded blue dress and packed her things, then slowly walked out of the bedroom like a condemned prisoner. All of Mrs. Angel's reassurances did nothing to make her feel better. If only she knew the truth about those people she called her parents...
Out the door, down the hallway and they were standing at room 1279. Dimitra knocked on the door gently. "Mrs. Brighton?" she called out.
A shrill "What?" came out in reply. Dimitra was startled. Maury clung to her guardian's legs, terrified. Dimitra patted the trembling child's shoulders.
"I have your little girl with me," Dimitra said, trying to remain calm.
The door flew open, revealing a witchlike figure in a pink chenille robe and disheveled hair. Maury cowered behind Dimitra, unable to face the horror standing before her. Dimitra could only stare in disbelief. This is that poor child's mother? she thought. No wonder she ran away twice in one night!
"Who the (bleep) are you?" she growled, glaring at Dimitra with painkiller-glazed eyes.
Dimitra was shocked, then indignant. No one had ever addressed her in so vulgar a manner, not even before her Christopher became famous and moved here to the Luxor. Good grief! Didn't this woman have any sense of civility?
Maury's mother looked down at her terrified daughter. She grabbed a bony arm, dragging the child before her. "You go running off again?" she demanded loudly. "Huh? Did you? Answer me!"
"Mrs. Brighton--" Dimitra began to protest.
"You keep the (bleep) out of this!" Mrs. Brighton snapped at her. "This ain't any of your business!"
One look at the horror on Maury's pale face, tears streaming down her huge sunken eyes, and Dimitra realized that yes, it was her business. No child should have to endure such abuse in her opinion.
Suddenly, Irene Brighton began shaking Maury violently. "How many times have I told you not to run off like that? Huh? Answer me!"
"I'm sorry," Maury sobbed.
"Yeah, well I'm sorry, too!" her mother shouted. "I'm sorry I ever had you! You've been a pain in the ass for me ever since you were born!"
Dimitra was aghast. "Mrs. Brighton!"
"You don't wanna stay here?" she shrieked. "Fine!" She threw the sobbing child at Dimitra. "You can stay with her if you want! Just get out of my life! We got enough money to start over without some snot-nosed kid hanging around our necks!"
The door slammed shut in their faces. Dimitra took Maury by the hand and led her back to her suite. Oh, Lord, she prayed, what am I going to do with this child?
Security guards pushed the crowd of people back to clear the way for the paramedics wheeling Felix Rappaport on a gurney to the ambulance waiting outside. The CEO lay semiconscious on the gurney, a respirator clipped into his nostrils, an IV bag dangling from a hook above his head. Criss held his hand all the way, murmuring words of encouragement. "You're gonna be okay, Felix," he said. "These guys pulled me through lots of times, haven't you?"
The paramedics smiled at the joke, but remained focused on their victim on the gurney. The doors opened automatically, allowing them to wheel Felix to the back of the ambulance unimpeded. He was lifted into the ambulance, the doors shut and secured, then with a wail of sirens, Felix Rappaport was transported to the hospital. Dear Jesus, Criss prayed silently, be with Felix right now. Make him well again. It's all in Your hands. Amen.
"Criss!" It was JD, running up to him. "What happened?"
"I dunno, man," he shrugged. "I was in his office, and he started coughing up blood all of a sudden. I dialed nine-one-one and they came to take him to the hospital."
JD sighed. He couldn't help but share Criss' concern. Felix Rappaport wasn't just their employer, he was a family friend as well. He had done so much for the Sarantakos' family while they were in Vegas, and he had been especially gracious to their mother. Now he was terribly sick, almost dying. JD, too, breathed a prayer for Felix's recovery.
The ambulance vanished from view. There was no sense standing around anymore. "C'mon, man, let's go," Criss said to his brother.
JD nodded. "Yeah, I gotta go see Ma first, okay?"
"Sure," Criss replied absently. He had to go to the Believe rehersal himself. He was already forty-five minutes late, yet after what happened to Felix, it didn't seem to matter much.
Gary Brighton awoke with a start. He pulled the newspaper away from his face and looked around. There were people milling everywhere in the atrium. He saw an ambulance by the main entrance. Some poor guy must've had a heart attack, he thought. His stomach growled. He checked his watch. Holy Geez! It was almost nine o'clock! He had overslept. Well, it wasn't the end of the world. Irene would probably sleep until noon at the latest; she took enough painkillers to put the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in a coma. The buffet would be in full swing, so he'd just grab a quick bite and head for the bus station.
He looked at the bag of money, stashed behind the plant. If he took it with him, he'd get nailed for sure. If he left it here, it'd get stolen for sure. If he checked it with the desk, he may as well surrender himself to the police. Gary looked around for an answer.
There. His suitcase. He discreetly positioned it by the potted plant, concealing the bag from view. He wouldn't be gone long, no one would notice, then he'd be on his way. He was good to go. His stomach rumbled again. Okay, okay, pal! he said silently to his belly. Let's get some breakfast already. He headed for the buffet in the big dining room, his mouth watering. Yeah, it'll be good to have a decent meal for a change, instead of the crap Irene ususally serves up. Oh, man! Am I going to enjoy this!