01-29-2013, 06:02 PM
2:00 pm to 3:00 pm:
"Hello?" Felix groggily answered on his cell phone.
"Hey, Felix," Criss' voice came from the other end. "How ya doin'?"
"Hey, Criss, I'm okay. The docs say I'll be out in a week. How's everything in the hotel?"
"Fine. That money that got stolen last night's safe in the bank, and the guy who robbed you is in jail. Typical Hollywood B-movie ending."
Felix smiled a little; he was still too weak to laugh. "How's the show coming along?"
"Show's great, coming along fine. Look, don't worry about a thing, okay? Just get better soon. We're all praying for you."
"Thanks, Criss. See you in a week."
Macaffey watched as the electricians reattached the overhead cameras to the ceiling of the Accounting Office. It had been so simple, no major expense required (which pleased the beancounters among the Board of Directors), just some refocusing and magnifying around the blind spots. The door leading to the safe was now on visual, and the combination lock was upgraded with a thumbprint digital scanner programmed to read the prints of only those with approved access to the safe. Master keycards would no longer allow access to the office or the safe. Only those who worked directly with cash, such as accountants and cashiers would be permitted, and even they were subject to the greatest scrutiny.
Macaffey called the surveillance room. "How's visual on Twenty-Seven?"
"Good," came the answer. "Better than ever. You're coming in clear. If you could move to the corridor on the right, we can check for any blind spots."
Macaffey stepped to the right corridor, one of the blind spots the camera crew uncovered during the investigation. "Okay, how's that?"
"We got you on visual, no problem. Looking good."
"Roger that." Yeah, they were looking good now. Still, he wished it had been better in the first place. Why hadn't these blind spots been discovered before? If they had been covered as they should have been, Packard would have been busted within five minutes instead of a couple of hours ago. It was inexcusable that a lousy repairman could just walk in like that and help himself to half a million dollars of hotel money--especially on his watch.
Macaffey made his way out of the Accounting Office and to his own. Well, it wouldn't happen again, that was for sure. Fifteen years of guarding gangsters and murderers in one of the nation's supermax prisons taught him that no matter how digilant you were, someone would find a way to beat the system. Mechanical errors were easy: find it, fix it, forget it. But no matter how technologically sophisticated your surveillance equipment was, human error would always worm its way through. It took only a split-second to miss something on the monitor only to be discovered later with the hindsight of videotape. A guard couldn't look in front and in back of him at the same time; he could be dealing with one crisis while an even bigger one was taking place. His men were tough, disciplined and well-trained, but they were still human, and criminals knew that. They could be distracted, they could be conned, they could be overtaken with weapons, they could even be offered bribes, but they could overcome all that and more with the help from the eye in the sky. His men weren't perfect, but they were the best he had.
Macaffey sighed. Well, live and learn, he thought. It was like his what his Dad told him years ago: If you're not making mistakes, you aren't doing anything. It was good advice, God rest the old man's soul. From the small errors he made, he became a better guard, both in the prison and here in the hotel. Still, he wished he had had some of the high-tech surveillance they had now in the hotel installed in the prison when he first worked there fifteen years ago. It would have made his job a lot easier. Oh, well. Life goes on.
Ah, well, Athene Christopolous thought to herself as she boarded her plane for LA, life goes on. It was Criss Angel's loss, not hers. There were plenty of young men who would love to be seen with her. So many up-and-coming young actors with muscular young bodies and devilishly good looks to choose from. What was one vulgar, uncouth magician compared to them? Chalk it up as a mistake and get on with life. He wasn't worth losing sleep over.
High in the sky over Nevada, Athene took out her laptop and logged in. She wanted to see how her little smear campaign against Criss was coming along. In the op-ed page of Celebnooz.com, there were no responses. Well, it was early yet; she had only posted last night. All in good time, she thought.
As she scrolled down the page, her name caught her eye alongside a YouTube thread: MAMA ANGEL SPANKS ATHENE! Shocked, she clicked on the site. There, on the Internet for all the world to see, was the security tape from her break-in and her humiliation from Criss' mother. Athene watched in horror as her naked body was shown in black and white, uncensored and unedited, her bare behind getting slapped sharply by that old witch, Criss's mother, Dimitra.
Athena screamed all the way to LA.
Lyn Sheppard and her friend, Stacy, were on their afternoon break from rehersal. Lyn sipped her third cup of coffee of the day while Stacy stuck to bottled water as they lounged on the ratty sofa in the green room.
"Still thinking of last night?" Lyn asked Stacy.
Stacy nodded dreamily. "Mm-hmm. God, I wish we could do that again. With Criss, I mean."
"Hey, you don't want to be mixing business with pleasure, do you?"
"With Criss Angel, what's the difference?"
Both women laughed. They were still giggling like schoolgirls even when they were called back to rehersal, to the bemusement of the rest of the cast.
It was the Filbuster's first rehersal with Rick Martin, their new drummer. To Lolly and Pierce's surprise and delight, Rick was not only a talented drummer, but a quick study--he had the drum parts down after a single reading! Not only that, he had a few original songs he had written himself that were sheer masterpieces. Between the three of them, they had enough material for a new CD. This guy istoo good to be true, Lolly thought.
Yeah, she reflected somberly. Too good. Even without Filibuster's high turnover rate with drummers, it was a distinct possibility that a guy this talented could go solo and be successful in his own right. Was Rick using them as a stepping stone to his own fame and fortune?
Lolly shook her head. No, it couldn't be true. Rick had been a waiter before this--he wanted to be in a band so bad and the opportunity came up when Jason became suddenly unavailable, so he took advantage of it. It was a lucky break for both Filibuster and for Rick Martin. Maybe it was fate, or good karma, or divine intervention that Rick came into the band when he did. Why question good fortune?
"Okay!" Rick called out, holding his sticks aloft. "One, two, three, four!"
The band crashed into their number, perfectly timed, perfectly performed. No doubt about it, Lolly thought as she thumped on her bass guitar, they clicked!
"MindFreak Productions, may I help you?"
"Hi, this is the manager from Body English. Could you send Criss over to pick up his car sometime? He left it here last night."
"He left his car there? How did he get home?"
"Someone drove him home because he thought he was too drunk to drive. We've been keeping an eye on it since. This thing's too expensive to keep here, so could you either call a wrecker or have him come over and pick it up?"
"I'll give him the message."
"Thank you. Good-bye."
"So, what are you in for?" Gary Brighton asked his cellmate.
"Grand larceny and bee-and-ee." Steve replied drily. "You?"
"Possession of stolen property. I...found this bag of money, see..."
Steve shot bolt upright. "Bag of money?" he echoed. "Where? How much?"
"Well, it fell off a baggage rack in the elevator, and I took it back to my hotel room. I dunno how much was in it, but it was a helluva bundle. Close to a million, I'd say."
"What'd you do with it?"
"I...misplaced it somewhere, and security pinned it on me 'cause it was next to my suitcase."
"You mean you were trying to take the money and run, you mean."
"Hey, I found it and now the hotel's got it back, okay? So, just drop it! I got pinned for it, and now I'm going to jail for it while the (bleeper) who really stole it is still on the lam!"
Steve could not help but smile. "You want in on a little secret?"
"Like what?" Gary grumbled irritably.
"I'm the (bleeper) who stole it."
Gary rose out of his bunk and faced Steve, astonished and outraged. "You?!"
Steve nodded. "Yeah, me."
"You son of a (bleep)!" Gary exploded. "You set me up! You framed me, you (bleeper)!"
"No, no, no, I didn't set anyone up," Steve protested. "I just set it on the cart because security was crawling around, then it disappeared. I didn't even know you until now. You set yourself up when you found that money and kept it for yourself. What were you going to do with it, huh? Run off to Mexico or something?"
"I oughta kick your sorry ass, you (bleeper)! Because of you, I'm getting sent up the river, along with my wife!"
"Ohhhhhh!" Steve purred. "Wifey's involved too, huh?"
Gary wanted to strangle his cellmate, but realized it would be futile. No matterh what he did, it wouldn't change things. "Ah, can it!" he snarled.
He slumped down onto his bunk again. "If she had gotten her hooks into that dough, she'd have blown the whole bundle in a day. Then where'd I be? Stuck in the same dead-end job with a (bleep) of a wife and a snot-nosed kid, that's what!"
"She get busted, too?" Steve asked.
"Yeah, she got busted, too. Cops heard and recorded everything we said while we were in custody, so she can't file for innocent spouse relief. She's going up, just like me."
"What about your kid?"
"Ah, I couldn't tell you," Gary shook his head. "She'll be fine, I guess."
She was fine, indeed. In fact, Maury Brighton couldn't be better off. The Clark County Social Services office, Child Neglect division, were all too happy to grant JD and Lynn temporary custody of her "until furthur notice" as they put it. It spared them the tedious wading through lists of potential homes and endless contacts and screenings of families. Criss gave JD the rest of the afternoon off for him and Lynn to fill out the paperwork and arrange the amount of the monthly foster care stipends. Not that the Sarantakos actually needed it, of course. JD's income working for Criss was more than sufficent to raise another child, and Criss himself volunteered his support to help Maury. The poor child had nothing, not even a decent dress to wear, and no niece of Criss Angel's, foster or otherwise, was going to go about in rags starving to death.
While JD and Lynn negotiated the terms of Maury's foster care, Dimitra took her new foster granddaughter out shopping for a much needed new wardrobe. Dima accompanied them, pointing out what was hot and what was not when it came to fashion: The punk-rock look was out, she said, but glam-rock was very in, especially pink. California surfer colors were really hot, especially Crocs shoes. L. L. Bean was good, but kinda pricy, as was Abercrombie and Fitch. Gap Kids was so out! she said, so stay away from there. Her grandmother, however, completely ignored her, choosing to stick with the basics. It was good enough for her sons when they were growing up, it was good enough for Maury. Indeed, it was better than whatever came Maury's way, and that was little enough as it was. The clothing allowance Criss had given her was generous enough, but Dimitra still kept an eye out for bargains. Old habits died hard, especially when it came to spending money.
Maury was overwhelmed by the huge selection of clothes in the store where Dimitra had taken her. She honestly didn't know where to start. Dimitra held up some nice summer dresses in front of Maury's skinny body to see how they would look on her. She was lucky enough to find some cooler weather clothes on the clearance rack that would fit her as well. Then it was on to the shoe department. Dima found some Skechers sneakers for her, while Dimitra had her try on a pair of black Mary Janes, "for church", as she explained. Maury didn't argue with any of the choices made for her; it was the first time she had anything new to call her own. It was a thrill just to be there in the store, let alone have anyone buy anything for her.
Outerwear was next, as desert nights could be so cold. Maury skipped along with her new grandmother and foster sister, happy as a lark. Her misery was past; she had a new family now, and not just any family, either. Though she had wished for Criss Angel to be her daddy, he became the next best thing instead: her uncle. And Mrs. Angel was her grandmother, just as she had wished. Now she was getting new clothes and everything. For the first time in her short life, Maury Brighton had a reason to smile, and it felt good.
And how was your day?