01-24-2013, 01:11 AM
9:00 am to 10:00 am:
The cast of Believe was already into an hour of dance rehersal and no sign of Criss. The choreographer was growing impatient. What could be keeping him? she wondered. Just because he was a big-name celebrity and this was his show didn't mean he should keep everyone waiting. Today they would be rehersing the levitation act with the aerialists, the trickiest part of the show. What happened? Did he lose his nerve or something?
She watched the dancers on the stage, pleased with their progress. Months of practice and the show was finally getting into its final shape. Still, there was much to be done before opening night. It had to be perfect, right down to the last detail, or it would fail. In the cutthroat business of Las Vegas entertainment, failure was not an option.
The choreographer heard the heavy theater doors clang open, then thud shut again. It had to be Criss--finally! she thought. She halted the dancers in mid-routine and waited for the star of the show to appear.
Criss strode onstage. "Sorry I'm late," he apologized, "but we had an emergency in the offices. Felix Rappaport had to be rushed to the hospital this morning."
Murmurs of worried concern rippled through the troupe. "Is he all right?" Lyn Sheppard asked anxiously.
"He'll be fine, I'm sure," Criss replied with some confidence. "They're the same people who took care of me when I got hurt, so he's in good hands."
Lyn wanted to know exactly what was wrong with the CEO, but the choreographer clapped her hands for order. "All right!" she shouted. "Places, everybody! Aerialists! Take your positions! Criss! Center stage! This is the most risky part of the show, so focus, people! All right, Criss! Five! Six! Seven! Eight!"
The aerialists took flight on their satiny "webs" as Criss preened mystically before his audience, his graceful movements promising something amazing. As much as he tried to focus, the image of Felix coughing up his own blood in his office stayed fixed in his mind. What was wrong with him? he couldn't help but wonder. He hoped it wasn't anything life threatening. But he had to focus on the show. Felix was counting on him. Believe was Criss' creation, but the Luxor was bankrolling it.
Felix, he said to himself, but directed at his friend, this is for you.
Tracey Cullen arrived at the Luxor, full of hope and optimism. Today, she would land a job here at the big black pyramid--she was certain of it. Though she was only sixteen-going-on-seventeen, she was confident that she would soon be employed in some capacity, even if it was the lowest, dirtiest job there. She had to get a job here; she needed to pay her share of the rent of the apartment she shared with her best friend Nessa, five years her senior. Her parents thought her a bad influence on Tracey because of Nessa's punk-Goth style of dress and behavior, the very qualities Tracey admired most. Her outright rebellion led to her emancipation from her parents a few months ago; she was now her own person, free at last from family pressure to be "a proper young lady".
But that freedom came at a cost. She had no high-school diploma, no source of income, no place to live and no one to rely on except Nessa. Tracey struggled with odd jobs here and there, now and then, but it wasn't cutting it. Then, one day, as she was taking the bus back to Nessa's apartment, she passed the magnificent Luxor Hotel. Knowing Criss Angel, her idol and love of her life, lived there, she determined to find work there. It would pay the rent, and--who knew?--maybe get her closer to her Angel.
She had toned down her Goth look for a more "professional" apperarance to have better success in finding employment, wearing a white top and beige slacks sans piercings and other jewelry. No one took notice when she entered the huge atrium. Tracey could not help but stare in wonder. She had heard that the Luxor had the biggest indoor atrium in the world, but she had never believed it could be this large! It was bigger than the entire apartment building she lived in!
Tracey wandered around the huge atrium. Where was the employement office? she wondered. She walked up to the main desk and waited while the receptionist finished checking in an elderly couple and handing them their room keys. The old man must have been deaf as a post, because he kept asking the receptionist to repeat everything she said. Tracey realized this was going to be a while, so she looked idly around, hoping to find the employment office.
Her eyes fell on a large suitcase by a potted plant. No one was nearby. Maybe someone had forgotten it? That was dangerous, as she well knew. She once forgot her purse in a restaraunt back home, and when she went to fetch it, she saw some guy run off with it. He was never caught, and Tracey never forgot it. From that moment on, she made sure her bag was with her at all times.
She walked over to the suitcase, thinking she could find the owner if there was a name tag on it. Sure enough, there was one, right on the handle, from the airport. And there was a black bag beside it as well, but no tag. Carry-on, she thought. She read the tag: Brighton, Gary. But Brighton, Gary was nowhere in sight.
Tracey spied a blue-jacketed official looking person standing nearby. He would know what to do, she thought. She walked up to him and said, "Excuse me, sir."
The blue-jacketed guard looked at her expectantly. "Yes, ma'am?"
"Someone left their luggage by that big plant over there," she said, pointing to the potted plant in the corner of the waiting area.
The guard said nothing, but walked over to where Tracey pointed. Yes, there was the suitcase, and no one nearby, with a black shoulder bag. Good set up for theft, he thought. He picked up the bag and the suitcase. "Thank you, young lady," he said. "We'll take these to the security office for safekeeping."
"Sure, no problem," Tracey said. "Oh, and by the way, where's the employment office?"
"Employment office?" The guard looked bewildered at first. "Oh, you mean Human Resources. That's just down that corridor to your right."
"Thanks a lot." Tracey said, waving goodbye as she headed down the corridor. The guard smiled and carried the bags to the security office, thinking no more of it. He did his job, that was all there was to it.
Dimitra cradled Maury as she cried in her arms. She shushed the sobbing child, patted her head, sang the same little lullabies she had sung to her sons when they were infants, but Maury was disconsolate. She had been cast away by the parents who had raised her, with no one to turn to for help except for Dimitra herself.
That wretched woman! she thought bitterly. What kind of a mother would cast out a poor, defenseless child like that? Was she drunk or somethng? And what about her father? Where is he? Maybe he can talk some sense into her. If only I could find him.
She felt Maury's bony arms around her neck. Poor child must be starved! Let's see...I think they have a buffet downstairs. I can at least make sure she gets something to eat. Yes, she'll feel better with some food in her stomach.
Dimitra dried Maury's eyes with a tissue. "Now, darling, everything is going to be all right," she assured the little girl. "We'll go downstairs and get some breakfast, hmmm? They have all kinds of good things to eat down there, you'll love it. Now, go wash your face and we'll go get some breakfast, all right?"
Maury nodded tearfully. She walked to the bathroom and wiped her face with a damp washcloth. Maybe it would be all right as Mrs. Angel said, she thought. Maybe now Criss and Mrs. Angel would have to take her in now since her mother didn't want her anymore. Besides, where could she go? She was in a strange city, hundreds of miles from home. Who else could take care of her?
Refreshed, Maury and Dimitra left the suite and made their way to the breakfast buffet in the main dining room. While in the elevator, Maury tried to cheer herself up by telling Mrs. Angel about finding Hammie in the elevator last night, and how they were going to find Criss, but she didn't know that Hammie was his cat, and how she always wanted a cat, but her mother didn't like them.
"How did Hammie get into the elevator in the first place?" she asked Dimitra.
Dimitra hesitated. She couldn't very well tell a child about some strange woman breaking into her son's suite, stripping off her clothes and climbing into his bed. It would not do at all. She waffled a bit before answering.
"Oh, he probably slipped out when Christopher left for the evening," she replied airily. "Cats do that, you know."
The elevator door slid open, and they stepped out of the car into the atrium. Chrome-framed signs directed them to the buffet room. Maury looked around the giant dining room with childlike wonder. It was so pretty in there, like a palace fit for royalty. She felt intimidated at first, a poor girl in a faded blue dress surrounded by so much abundance. She never experienced such luxury in her short life, and had never been this close to so much food outside the supermarket back home. And it was all hers for the taking! Maury was so overwhelmed by the vast array of dishes she didn't know where to start first.
Dimitra helped her with her plate, filling it with eggs, bacon and toast, and got her a glass of orange juice. As she did so, Maury noticed that the people who worked there knew her by name. So did a lot of other people getting food at the buffet. It seemed everyone knew and liked Mrs. Angel, and who could blame them? She was the nicest lady in the world. Maury felt lucky to know her.
Maury ate her breakfast ravenously. Her breakfast at home usually consisted of stale cornflakes and milk that she fixed herself. She never had a cooked breakfast before. Maybe she'd be allowed seconds?
Mrs. Angel was talking to some man that had just come in. Not wanting to interrupt, she took her plate and went back into the buffet line to wait her turn. As she stood, she drank in the sights: the snow-white linen tables, the white jacketed waiters and waitresses bringing in food and taking out dirty dishes, the man in the tall white hat carving a huge ham under orange lights, the murmurs of grown-up conversation sprinkled with laughter--it was heaven on earth for a little girl who could not recall a single mealtime without parental strife.
"Excuse me," a polite voice spoke above her head.
Maury looked up. A white-jacketed server looked down at her in a friendly manner. "Is that your plate you're using?" he asked.
Maury nodded. "Well, you can't use the same plate twice. Health laws, you know. You have to use a clean plate every time."
"Oh." Maury responded as she surrendered her dirty plate. She didn't know that she had to use a clean plate every time. They were very clean here, she realized. It was cleaner than home--much cleaner, she thought. Back home, Mom just threw things in the closet or cupboards and went to lie down. She wondered what the health laws were like where she lived.
Maury was nearing the buffet table when she spotted a familiar figure wolfing down a pile of food on his plate. Was it...? Yes, it was! "Dad!" she called out, breaking from the line to greet her father.
Gary Brighton took his face out of his food and looked up. To his surprise and chagrin, there was Maury running up to meet him. He hoped Irene wasn't with her; it would blow his plans for escape. Maury ran up to his side, looking at him expectantly.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded. "Is your mother here with you?"
"Nope," she replied. "She threw me out. She said she didn't want me in her life anymore, so I've been staying with Mrs. Angel next door."
Gary thought fast. The good news was that Irene was still in the suite. The bad news was that he was now stuck with the kid, and that would really cramp his style.
Or would it? The kid said she was staying with some lady named Angel next door to them, God bless her. Maybe he could still make good his escape if he played it cagey enough. He leaned forward toward Maury.
"Okay, sweetheart," he crooned. "You stay with Mrs. Angel for a while longer while Daddy straightens this all out with Mommy. Your Mommy gets sick a lot, and says a lot of things she doesn't really mean, you know? The pills she takes makes her a little crazy. Daddy's gonna go back and talk some sense into Mommy. Now, you go back to the nice Mrs. Angel and stay with her, okay?"
Maury nodded. "Okay, Dad," she said.
Maury skipped back to the buffet line, remembering to take a clean plate with her, just as the man in the white jacket said. Gary downed the last of his coffee and made a quick exit. He had to get out of here, fast.
Dimitra smiled when she saw her eldest son, JD, approaching, and reached out to embrace him. JD, in turn, embraced her back.
"How's it going, Ma?" JD asked.
"Oh, dear, how do I begin?" Dimitra laughed. "It's been quite a night, and this morning!"
JD listened to his mother give a Reader's Digest version of the events of the past six or seven hours: discovering Maury in the lobby with Hammie, chasing "that horrid woman" out of Criss' suite, then her encounter with Maury's mother and her total rejection of her daughter and how she became her unofficial guardian. JD could only shake his head, amused and bemused.
"Wow!" he said, chuckling. "You had quite a night there, Ma."
"I know," she nodded wearily. "But now, what am I going to do with poor Maury. I can't keep her with me, but to take her back to that mother of hers...I just can't do it."
"Look, Lynn and Dima's gonna be here this afternoon," JD told her. "Maybe by then the situation will have resolved itself. If not, we'll call Child Neglect, okay?" He gave her a peck on the cheek. "I gotta go to work. Later."
"All right, dear." Dimitra gave JD a quick hug and let him go back to the office. Maybe the situation will have resolved itself by this afternoon, she thought. She'd hate to have to call the authorities, but if worse came to worst, there would be no choice.
Meanwhile, the CSI team were still analyzing the security tapes from the safe robbery. The more blind spots Yancy and Grissom found, the angrier Macaffey grew. By the time they found them all, the Luxor's chief of security was fit to be tied.
"I don't give a (bleep) how much it's gonna cost the hotel!" he thundered. "We're gonna upgrade that security system! Three hundred and sixty degree coverage, that's what's it's gonna be! The Prez is really gonna (bleep) a brick when he sees this!"
"You know where this Steve Packard lives?" Grissom asked Macaffey.
"Check Personnel," he replied. "They got his info on file."
Thumping and bumping drew Macaffey's attention away from the monitors. He saw Harry Whyte lugging someone's suitcase and a black shoulder bag into the office. "What d'ya got there, Harry?" he asked.
"Someone left these in the waiting area," Harry answered. "Girl reported it."
Macaffey strode over to Harry and the luggage. "Okay, let's see what we got here," he mumbled. He read the luggage tag on the suitcase. "Gary Brighton. Call the desk on that one. What about the other bag?"
Whyte dropped the shoulder bag onto the floor. The flap was not securely buckled, and Macaffey could see a hint of green inside the bag as it fell. He snatched it up and fumbled it open.
"Hey, Grissom!" he called out. "Hey, everybody! Come here for a second, willya?"
The CSI team and the other guards in the office gathered around the open bag. "My God!" Yancy exclaimed. "It's the money! It's gotta be the money from the safe!"
"Who is this guy?" Macaffey demanded. "I want his ass in here yesterday!"
"Now hold on a minute, there, Chief," Grissom said. "We know Packard stole the money, so he probably set it there to hide it. We got no proof that Mr. Brighton stole it. Don't jump to conclusions here."
Macaffey drew a deep breath. "Yeah, maybe you're right," he conceded. "It could be a set up. But find Mr. Brighton and tell him we got his suitcase anyway," he ordered Whyte. "If it is a set up, he won't mention the black bag, he'll just want his suitcase."
"Got it," Whyte said, and marched out to carry out his orders. Macaffey let out a huge sigh of relief. His ass was finally out of the sling. He got the money back, just as he had promised the boss. All they had to do was bust Packard, and everything would be just fine. But there were going to be changes around here, he vowed. Major changes. This wasn't going to happen again.