01-26-2013, 01:07 AM
11:00 am to 12:00 pm:
The aerialists twirled and stretched their lean, limber bodies on their silken ropes as Criss levitated above their heads. Earlier that morning it had been just another rehersal. Now, with Criss onstage, it became more magical, more surreal. They ceased to be a dance troupe, to be mere mortals, but beings of a fantasy world--Criss' fantasy world. The real world, with all its problems about how they were going to make the next rent payment, or the dental appointment next week, of if they remembered to feed the dog before they left, or the phone call from Mom asking when they were going to get a real job simply vanished with a wave of an arm. It was bliss, it was pure, rapturous joy.
Lyn could only stare at Criss floating above her like his namesake spiritual being. She had to take a pose of exaggerated awe, with outstretched arms toward him, but the awe she felt inside was genuine enough. She had seen episode after episode of MindFreak, yet her admiration for him never waned. Now, here her was, in person, and she was part of his act. No, not "act", that diminished it--the experience that was Criss Angel's Believe. It was a privilege to be on the same stage as Criss Angel, to be part of the unique experience only he could bring.
Criss floated down gracefully to the stage floor, ankles crossed to ease the impact on landing. He seemed to curtsey as his feet touched the wooden floor of the stage, standing still as if he could hear the roar of the crowd. The aerialists slid smoothly down their silken "webs", touching the floor as one.
"Perfect!" cried out the choreographer, jolting Lyn and the rest of the troupe back into reality. "Criss! You were great! You were better than great! All of you! You did just great! Remember to focus on the timing, and don't get distracted. Okay, we're gonna take a break now--be back in thirty!"
Lyn picked herself up from the floor. Her coffee jones was kicking into high gear. Her fellow dancers seemed to sense this, and began to jeer,"JAAVAAA!"
"Lyn's gotta have her jaaaavaaaa!" someone called out behind her.
"Hey, Lyn!" another called out to her. "Save some for the rest of us, willya?"
Lyn pulled out her Thermos. "Don't sweat it! I bought my own." She unscrewed the cap which doubled as a cup, lifted the pour spout and poured out the morning's coffee, still hot and strong since early that morning. The rush of caffeine was pure ecstacy as she drank her magic elixir from the steel Thermos cup.
One female dancer looked at her in chagrin. "Girl, all that coffee is going to rot your gut!" she said.
"Hey, I've been drinking it for years," Lyn countered. "I'm doing fine. It's better than doing drugs, that's for sure!"
While the troupe relaxed, Criss walked out of the theater to visit his mother in her suite; it would be the only chance he would get to see her all day. He'd swing by the production office to see how things were going, then he'd check in with the hotel office to see if there was any word on Felix Rappaport. Again he hoped it wasn't anything too serious. Maybe later he could visit him in the hospital if they'd let him, assuming the worst hadn't happened.
Once out in the atrium, Criss was delighted to see his mother there; it saved him a trip up the elevator, anyway. He was also a bit surprised to see the same little girl in the faded blue dress he saw yesterday standing next to her, holding her hand. This merited an investigation, so Criss waked over to them.
"Hey, Mom, how's it going?" he greeted her in the usual manner.
"Ah, Christopher, how are you?" Mother and son embraced as Maury looked on with envy-tinged yearning. Criss released his mother and looked down at her. "Hey, sweetheart, how ya doin'? Huh?"
"This is Maury," Dimitra told him. "I found her last night here when I went to get some pills. She was carrying your cat."
"How did you get hold of my cat?" Criss asked.
"I found him in the elevator, and we went down to look for you," Maury explained. "I didn't know he was yours."
Criss did a quick memory search and recalled the security tape of Athene Christopolous tossing Hammie out the door. He must have gotten stuck in the elevator when she found him, he thought.
"Now, we have a bigger problem," Dimitra said.
"What's that?" Criss asked.
"Her mother must have been drunk or something, but she cast the poor child out, saying she never wanted to see her again."
"Whaaaaaat?" Criss was appalled. "Man, someone's gotta talk some sense into that woman!" He bent down to Maury's level. "Don't worry, honey, we're gonna straighten this all out. Your mom didn't mean to say all those things she said. She...wasn't feeling well."
"Yes, she did," Maury argued, bursting into tears. "She's always sick with migraines. They never cared about me, they only care about the big bag of money they found! I want to stay with you and Mrs. Angel! I want you to be my real dad!"
"Maury, honey," Criss said softly, trying to placate the child. "I can't be your real dad. Your own dad is your real dad. He may not be perfect, but he's still your dad. Same with your mom. I bet she's really sorry for what she said to you earlier. You're worth more than all the money in the world to them. No bag of money can take the place of a daughter."
Bag of money?
Criss stopped suddenly. The money in the hotel safe! It had been stolen last night, and Maury's mom and dad have it! Were her parents the robbers? Or, if not, how did they get hold of it?
Criss stood up. "Come on," he ordered. "We gotta go to the security office."
Tom Yancy reviewed the last few segments of security tape. He had followed Packard through the Accounting Office into the atrium. He watched as Packard manouvred to a luggage cart loaded with suitcases, and discreetly drop the shoulder bag onto it, then walk away. Later, a hotel employee wheeled the luggage cart to an elevator, unaware of the extra bag it carried. That was all that Yancy needed. Now, it was just a question of whose luggage it was that was carted up by the employee.
Macaffey came in. "Good news, Yancy!" he crowed triumphantly. "We got the bag!"
"Great," Yancy said. "And I got the guy who took it."
He rewound the tape in the machine. "You see here," he said, pointing at the screen with his pen, "Packard was in the Accounting Office--must have taken a wrong turn or something--and then all of a sudden, he's in the lobby. Now, here he is, by that luggage rack, see, and he drops the bag onto it. Now, here comes a bellhop, takes the rack to the elevator with the bag still on it to whatever room he's supposed to."
"So that's how Brighton got the bag," Macaffey said. "Special delivery."
"When did Brighton check in?" Yancy asked.
"We'll check at the desk. But there's something else."
"It seems last night Brighton's kid was found down in the atrium--said her folks were fighting about a 'big bag of money' as she put it. Underwood put it all in his report."
"You got the report?"
"We got it all right. According to Underwood, when he took the kid back up to her folks' room, she told him that her dad won a lot of money in the casino and bought it back in a big black bag. When they got to the room, however, the dad said he'd lost money, instead."
Yancy thought about it. "What room are they in, do you know?"
"I'll look on the report."
"Good. Call the wife, if you can get hold of her. Don't let on about the money, just tell her she needs to come down and deal with her husband. Don't say why, tell her it's pesonal."
"Got it." Macaffey left the video room. As he entered the main foyer, he spotted Criss Angel, the Queen Mother, and a skinny little girl entering. What now? he groaned inwardly.
"Hey, Big Luke," Criss hailed the chief of security. "Felix told me you had a robbery last night."
"Yeah, and we found out who did it," Macaffey retorted. "And got the money back to boot."
"Really?" Criss shrugged. "Well, it's just that little Maury here said her dad got a big bag of money last night and--"
Macaffey held up a massive hand. "Hold the phone!" He bent down to face Maury. "Is your name Brighton, little girl?"
Maury nodded. "Maury Brighton."
"Okay, Maury, why don't you sit over here and tell me everything you know about that big bag of money, okay?" Macaffey guided Maury to a chair by his desk. Dimitra and Criss sat on two plastic chairs by the wall.
Macaffey picked up Underwood's report about Maury and skimmed through it. "Now, Officer Underwood said you were in the atrium last night. Can you tell me why you were down there so late? And, remember, if you don't tell the truth, you and your parents are going to be in a whole lot of trouble."
"Mom and Dad were fighting about the big bag of money Dad bought back from the casino." Maury explained plainly. "When they fight about money, it gets really bad, so I left. They're always fighting about something, but money is the worst."
"Okay. Did your dad say how he got the money?"
"He said he won it in the casino."
"Mmm-hmm. And when Officer Underwood took you back to your hotel room, what happened then?"
"I gave Mrs. Angel Hammie back. I found him in the elevator and wanted to find Criss. I didn't know Hammie was Criss' cat, honest!"
"Okay. The cat doesn't really matter," Macaffey assured her. "What did your dad say to the guard about the money?"
"I don't remember that part," Maury said, shaking her head. "But Dad said not to talk about it to anyone, it was our secret."
Macaffey nodded knowingly. "What about your mom? Did she say anything about the money, to return it to its rightful owner, or anything like that?"
"No, she said something about Daddy having to share it with Mommy."
Again, a knowing nod. It all fell into place: Packard steals the money from the safe, Brighton finds it and decides to keep it for himself, the wife is an accomplice. Cut and dry. "So, what are you doing here now all by yourself?" Macaffey asked.
"I'm not by myself," Maury told him. "I'm with Mrs. Angel here. She let me spend the night in her room next door."
Macaffey looked up at Dimitra. "Ma'am?"
Dimitra told Macaffey about finding Maury with Hammie, then finding her again in the hallway, what Maury said about her uncaring parents, and letting her stay in her suite until morning, then her hostile encounter with Mrs. Brighton, who totally rejected her child in a fit of rage. She had just taken her to breakfast and was on her way back up to her suite when she met up with Christopher.
Criss wore an expression of complete shock at hearing what his mother told Macaffey. He remembered Maury's dad in the casino, annoyed because he had been interrupted by so mundane an issue as his daughter wanting to be fed. And now her poor excuse of a mother throws her out? It was worse than he thought, poor kid.
Dear Lord, thank You for my beautiful, wonderful, sweet mother, who loved us and cared so deeply for us, she put our needs before her own. It's been almost fifty years, but she still has enough maternal love within her to take in a child who had not been so blessed as we had been. And thank You for our wonderful father, who provided us with all our needs, physical, emotional and spiritual as well. I'm only sorry that poor Maury Brighton here hadn't been as fortunate as we had been.
Whyte stuck his head through the door. "We just got hold of Mrs. Brighton," he said. "She says she'll be down in a few minutes."
"Good," Macaffey grunted.
"You gonna question them both at the same time, or what?"
"From what the kid here tells me," Macaffey said, "it would be like putting two junkyard dogs in the same kennel. Keep them separate for now. In the meantime, bring in Grissom."
Whyte disappeared from view. Macaffey turned to Dimitra. "You think you can baby-sit the kid a while longer?" he asked. "Just until we can iron this out? We want to keep her out of the line of fire, if you know what I mean."
"Of course," Dimitra agreed. "Come along, darling."
"Yeah," Criss said. "I gotta be going, too. Later." He left without another word.
Dimitra guided Maury out the door of the security office. Maury looked up at her unofficial guardian with smiling eyes. "Can I play with Hammie now?" she asked eagerly.
Irene Brighton got the call well after eleven. Still reeling from her last migraine, she answered the phone with an irritable "What!?" Her mood did not improve when she was informed that her husband was in the security office, but didn't tell her why. Slamming down the receiver, she pulled on the first thing she saw, the same outfit she wore on the plane, and headed for the security office. What the hell did Gary pull now? she wondered angrily. If he thinks he can pin anything on me, well, he's got another thing coming!
Irate, she stormed into the security office, demanding to know what was going on. Officer Whyte calmly explained to her that her husband had been taken into custody because he picked up the wrong bag on his way out, that's all, and she was needed to identify it, and would she follow him, please?
Irene was livid. "Wrong bag? On his way out? Where the hell was he going, anyway?"
Probably away from you, you mad-dog (bleep), Whyte thought to himself. "Just come this way, ma'am."
Irene followed Whyte into the office. Macaffey met her halfway, but before he could get a word out, she vented her spleen before anyone within earshot about her no-good louse of a husband running off like that and where was he so she could give him a piece of her mind. As Macaffey and Grissom listened to the angry woman's tirade, a plan began to form in the latter's mind.
"Is there audio-visual in that office?" he asked Macaffey.
"I got an idea. I don't think we need to question these two at all."
Macaffey nodded and motioned for Whyte to take Irene into the office. He closed the door behind him while Grissom pulled out his cell phone and pushed a single button on the keypad, then held it up to his ear.
"Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department." came a staticky voice over the tiny receiver.
"We need a warrant against one Steve Packard. Works here at the Luxor fixing slot machines. We caught him on tape robbing the hotel safe last night around midnight and one AM."
"Also, we may be pressing charges against a couple here, Gary and Irene Brighton, attempted theft. Wife is an alleged accomplice."
"Got it. We're on our way. Where are they now, in the security office?"
"The Brightons are, but Packard's still on the loose. He could be in the hotel repair shop. If he is, we'll hold him until you get here."
Meanwhile, in the quieter atmosphere of the Human Resources office, Tracey Cullen was filling out a job application for her future career at the Luxor. It was three pages long and worse than any exam she had ever taken at school; every detail of her life had to be written down on the form, truthful to the best of her knowledge and belief, on penalty of perjury. But if it meant a steady paycheck and seeing Criss Angel, she'd fill out three hundred pages of forms if they wanted to. She had to get a job here, she just had to!
The last page. Finally! All it needed was her signature and today's date, and she was done! She signed and dated the form, then handed the application to the receptionist. Her hand felt cramped from all the writing. She wished she could have done it online. It would have saved her a trip and would have been neater as well. But, it was over, and all she had to do was wait.
The receptionist thanked her and said if there were any openings, they'd call her. That was it. With nowhere else to go, Tracey decided to browse the shops. Who knew? Maybe they were hiring in there. Tracey's hopes rose like a rocket. Maybe they were hiring in the MindFreak shop! Yeah, then she'd be closer to Criss than ever! She'd fit in like a glove there!
Tracey looked up the MindFreak Outlet Store on the wall directory and all but sprinted there. She spotted a clerk at the cashier's counter and asked if there were any jobs available. To her disappointment, the clerk said no. Her hopes dashed, Tracey trudged out of the shop. Not knowing where she was going, much less caring, she found herself in front of the Production office. A tiny quiver of hope stirred within her. Maybe here...?
The door was locked, but Tracey saw a woman get up from her desk and walk towards the door. This was her chance, she thought. This would be better than some shop job. She'd actually be part of the show!
The woman opened the door. "Excuse me," Tracey said, "but I'd like to--"
"Sorry, Criss isn't here," the woman said. "No visitors allowed in the office."
The woman brushed past Tracey and briskly walked on. Tracey was miffed. Damn snob! she thought. Just because she works for Criss Angel doesn't give her the right to be rude! She saw the door about to close again; Tracey grabbed it before it locked again and entered the office. There was another woman sitting in front of a computer, typing away at something. She looked up at Tracey. Ashley, read the name on the plate sitting on her desk.
"May I help you with something?" she asked.
Well, this one was a little more polite than the other one, Tracey thought. "Hi, I'm looking for a job around here," she said. "You have anything available?"
Ashley thought about it as she sized up Tracey. She looked too young to do much of anything, she thought. But, maybe...?
"I think we have an opening in the mail room," she said. "I don't know for sure, but if you leave your name and number, I'll let you know this afternoon." She handed Tracey a pen and sticky notepad.
Hope surged again. Tracey scribbled down her name and phone number on the pad and returned it to the woman at the computer. "Thanks so much," she said. "I really look forward to hearing from you."
"My pleasure," Ashley said, returning to her YouTube account to finish downloading the security tape of Athene Christopolous' little break-in and Dimitra's spanking her bare ass.
While all this was going on, Criss had escorted his mother and Maury back to the suite. "You gonna be okay, now?" he asked.
Dimitra smiled. "We'll be fine. Maybe this whole thing will teach the Brightons how to be better parents."
"Yeah, maybe it will," Criss replied distantly. And maybe the moon will fall out of the sky.
"Lynn and Dima will be here this afternoon," Dimitra informed him. "You come by and see them, yes?"
"Sure I will." He looked down at Maury. "Don't worry, everything's gonna be okay. You got the best with my mom here."
"I know," Maury said, nodding. "I wish I could live with you and Mrs. Angel instead of..." Her voice trailed off.
Criss knelt down in front of Maury. "Look, Maury, I know your folks aren't the greatest parents in the world, but they're still your mom and dad. Maybe the security people will straighten them out, just like Mom said."
He saw the doubt on the child's face. It was no use putting a positive spin on it, he realized--Maury didn't deserve to have parents like the Brightons. They wouldn't even take the time to feed her. Hell, they were practically thieves. Criss embraced Maury with a heavy heart, though not as heavy as Maury's, he thought.
"We'll work something out," he said. "I promise."