02-02-2013, 03:11 PM
Sunday, the sanctified Day of Rest, gave way to Monday, the dreaded Day of Work. For the millions of Las Vegas's ordinary citizens, it was back to the nine-to-five routine. Almost a thousand of those citizens reported for duty at SilverStar Enterprises, ready to repeat the endless cycle of tedious routine, sitting in their cubicles in front of their PCs crunching numbers and going over spreadsheets.
Monique Wesley, CEO and queen bee of this hive of corporate industry, sat at her glass-topped desk in her spacious office, her phone headset firmly in her ear, going over the design plans David Abercrombie had just given her. She scanned the huge sheets carefully, examining every detail of the Grand Imperial Hotel while Abercrombie sat across from her with his stomach in knots from trying to interpret Ms. Wesley's "hmmm's" and "mmm-hmmm's" as positive or negative feedback. After a near eternity of all this, she finally looked up at him.
"It's perfect!" she exclaimed. "Dave, you did everything I asked and then some! You are an absolute genius!"
"Thank you, Ms. Wesley," Abercrombie muttered. Then he swallowed hard and plunged, "There's just one thing that bothers me, though."
"What's that?" Monique asked as she carefully rolled up the plans.
"The fact that you're going to be demolishing an entire community to build it," Abercrombie said. "What about those poor people whose homes you're going to level? What about all those small businesses? Don't you have any consideration for them at all?"
"Dave, don't worry about it," Monique said reassuringly. "It's not like they're going to be tossed out on the street just like that. They're being compensated--five hundred dollars a house. Good grief, Dave, you make me out like I'm some sort of ogre!"
"Five hundred dollars for a house?" Abercrombie echoed incredulously. "What the hell can you do with five hundred dollars? You can't buy a closet for that kind of money! These are people's homes and livelihoods we're talking about!"
"Dave, I'm providing homes and livelihoods with the Grand Imperial," Monique argued. "Better than those little mom-and-pop shops they have over there. I'm providing a better source of income for hundreds of people while at the same time improving the property values in the area. If you saw how disgraceful that area really is, you'd agree with me."
"I don't agree with throwing people out of their homes just because you want to 'improve property values'!" Abercrombie shot back. "If you really want to improve the property values, rebuild the neighborhood, don't tear it down! People have a right to live where they want, or at least where they can afford to."
"Rebuild?" Monique sniffed derisively. "Rebuild a slum? Those 'homes and livelihoods' that you're so passionatly concerned about are crumbling ruins! It would cost more money to rebuild them than to tear them down! And the people who live in those neighborhoods are living in misery! Those buildings are vermin-infested hellholes! Gangs run wild in the streets--you can't walk down to the corner store without being mugged! I'm doing them a favor by buying them out, Dave. I'm giving them a fresh start in life."
"What kind of 'fresh start' can you get with five hundred dollars?" Abercrombie wanted to know.
Monique sidled up beside him. "Dave," she cooed. "I assure you, it's all for the best. Everything's going to work out, you'll see. Trust me, they'll be all too happy to accept my offer. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do."
Realizing that it was useless to argue any furthur, Abercrombie strode out of the office. Dear God, why did I get myself mixed up with that woman? I feel like an accomplice to a murder! I should have turned her commission down the minute she told me about tearing down half of North Las Vegas to build her dream castle! But noooooo, the profit margin overruled me!
Abercrombie stood by the elevator waiting to go down. Monique's words still burned in his ears: I'm doing them a favor by buying them out! I'm improving property values! Good grief, Dave, you make me out like I'm some sort of ogre!
Yeah, Monique, he said to himself, you are an ogre! Maybe I should start calling you Shrek. It'd be better than a lot of other names I can think of for you!
There were times in Criss Angel's career when he could be free to create new illusions to amaze audiences, to let his fertile imagination soar to new heights, to improve on old ideas and revise new ones. Once he was inspired, there was no stopping him. He had the soul of an artist and the daring of an adventurer, a combination many found dangerous if not lethal. Then there were times when work was work, the tedious tasks of handling finance, insurance, payroll for his staff and other expenses; ordering, shipping and receiving new merchandise for the outlet store and supplies for the warehouse where he kept all his props; production schedules, shooting schedules, location scouting schedules, and live show schedules; production meetings, design meetings, and other demands on his time. It all kept him buried up to his CA logo in paperwork, even with an office full of assistants.
This particular Monday was no different. Criss sat at his desk in his personal office going over the week's expense report and other business matters, keeping an eye on his diamond-studded watch to make sure he would not be late for the day's production meeting. He did not begrudge the time spent on paperwork; he had learned through his experience with founding and running Monster Music back in Long Island, New York, during his youth that this was all part of running a business. Keep an eye on the bottom line, manage your finances carefully, pay your bills on time, and don't let anything slide--that was what his father, God rest him, had taught his three sons since they were old enough to work in his cafe. They were lessons Criss had learned well, too well when he considered the moutain of paper he had to wade through this morning.
His cell phone rang in his pocket. Criss pulled it out and looked on the small screen to identify the caller. JD, it read. His brother and right-hand man when it came to running MindFreak Productions was calling. He flipped it open. "Hey, JD, what's up?" he greeted him.
"Hey, Christopher," JD returned. "Just calling to tell you that Gerard can't make it to the meeting today. His mom's had a heart attack and they had to take her to the hospital last night."
Criss was stunned. "Oh, okay, no problem," he said hastily, a feeling of deja-vu coming over him. "Tell him to take as much time off as he needs."
"Sure thing, bro'."
"Okay, 'bye." Criss flipped off his phone and sat motionless in his office chair. The deja-vu he felt blossomed into total recall: He had been at the Sunflower Market, and had done a demonstration for an engaged couple by making the bride-to-be's ring disappear and reappear in a loaf of bread. No sooner had they left when Banachek came up to him and laid his hands gently on Criss's shoulders. Criss, we just got word from your brother, JD. Your mother has to go to the hospital for emergency heart surgery.
He remembered the shock he felt when he heard those words. Suddenly, everything he had worked for seemed unimportant. His mother was sick, possibly dying. His first instinct was to run to her side, but he had to do that Quad Drag Escape at the Excalibur that evening and there was no way out of it. He had made emergency reservations for a seven-thirty red-eye flight to New York right after the performance, did the demonstration and rushed to the airport right after. Mercifully, Dimitra came out of her operation sucessfully, but the thought of losing his beloved mother still haunted him.
Impulsively, Criss called his mother's cell number. "Hey, Mom, how ya doin'?" he greeted her.
"I'm fine, honey," Dimitra replied. "What do you want?"
"Oh, I just, well..." Criss struggled to find a plausible excuse. "I just wanted to see if you wanted to join me for lunch later." Yeah, that would work. A quick lunch and off to the production meeting. No problem.
"Well, I'd like to," Dimitra said, "but I have a lunch date with some friends from the church this afternoon."
Criss was puzzled. All of his mother's church friends were back in Long Island. How could she be meeting them here in Vegas? "Friends?" he repeated bemusedly.
"Yes, I have some new friends from Holy Trinity," his mother clarified for him. "We're having lunch together around one o'clock. Sorry to disappoint you."
"No, no, it's okay, Mom," Criss assured her. "I'm happy you got to make some new friends here in Vegas. It's just that...Gerard's mother had a heart attack last night and--"
"Oh!" Dimitra exclaimed. "Oh, dear! Well, we will all pray for her recovery."
"I'm sure she'll appreciate it, Mom," Criss said. "You go and have a good time with your new friends. I got too much to do here, anyway. Love you."
"I love you, too, Christopher."
"I love you more. 'Bye."
Criss hung up. So his mother has some new friends here in Vegas, he thought. Well, that was good. She always enjoyed going to Holy Trinity when she was here, and no doubt she got to know everyone there. It was good for her to get out and have a social life of her own, especially since Dad died and she was pretty much alone. As much as he loved her, he couldn't keep his mother company all the time, not with his schedule. With friends her own age, she could relax and enjoy herself in ways he could not provide. Holy Trinity was the best thing for his mother's well being since he didn't know what. The memory of her heart surgery faded away and he returned to his work with renewed spirit. His mother was healthy and happy, and that was all that mattered.
And Dimitra was indeed happy, sitting in the small tea room run by a member of the church for elderly parishioners to socialize, with Mrs. Kanakedes, Mrs. Christoforos, and Mrs. Mykolos, Father Stefan's wife, for company. They nibbled on whole-grain rolls with low-fat spread (for health reasons), and sipped the wonderful herbal teas which made the tea room so popular.
"And how is your husband, Nikolos?" Dimitra asked Mrs. Christoforos.
"Stable," Mrs. Christoforos replied. "The medical term for pretty much the same. The nursing home is giving him very good care, though I wish I could have him home where he belongs."
"It would be too much of a burden on you, Helena," Mrs. Kanakedes said. "Not with his condition."
"Still, I am his wife, and it is my duty to care for my husband," Mrs. Christoforos insisted.
"Not when your husband's condition is so severe that he needs specialized care," Mrs. Kanakedes argued.
"He's in our prayers, Helena," Mrs. Mykolos assured her. "You may not be able to provide the kind of care he needs, but you can make his time on earth as comfortable as you can. Just being by his side is enough. Desert Springs is a very good facility. My husband goes there every week to visit the residents and tend to their spiritual needs, and he says there was nothing there to complain about."
"I know it is," Mrs. Christoforos agreed, "but, well, I miss my Nikolos. I want him home by my side as he had been before that stroke crippled him. It's like I'm practically a widow without him at home."
"You have the church to offer you comfort and company, Helena," Mrs. Mykolos told her reassuringly. "We'll always be there for you."
That last sentence made her pause, as if she suddenly remembered something. Her hesitation went unnoticed by the other three women at the table.
"She's right, Helena," Mrs. Kanakedes agreed wholeheartedly. "You will always have the church to fall back on when things get rough. No matter what happens, it will always be there for you."
"Of course it will," Dimitra chimed in. "You are very lucky to have such a fine church with such a wonderful priest serving the community. I am so glad to have found it when I did. It makes my visits to Las Vegas so much more enjoyable--not that they weren't before, mind you, but it's been so good for me and my family. If it hadn't been for Father Stefan, my husband's cousin Aliziveta would still be wandering around Las Vegas, poor woman" (1)
"And how is Aliziveta doing?" Mrs. Christoforos asked.
"Oh, very well," Dimitra answered. "Mrs. Theodoros is receiving wonderful care from her. Who knows? Maybe she'll come back here and work at Desert Springs someday."
"That would be nice," said Mrs. Mykolos, "if it's still around."
The three women stared at their pastor's wife. "What do you mean by that, Cassandra?" Mrs. Christoforos asked.
Mrs. Mykolos was flustered. "I'm sorry, I did not mean to let it slip out like that." she apologized.
"Let what slip out?" Mrs. Kanakedes persisted.
Mrs. Mykolos sighed heavily. "Please don't go spreading this around, but we received this letter from some firm who wants to offer us ten thousand dollars to sell the church."
"Sell the church!" Dimitra, Mrs. Kanakedes and Mrs. Christoforos were aghast.
"Yes," Mrs. Mykolos nodded. "It seems that this firm wants to buy up all the property and tear it all down to build some big luxury hotel."
"They can't do that!" Dimitra exclaimed. "They have no right to do that!"
"It seems they can," Mrs. Mykolos told her. "They are claiming it under something called 'eminent domain'. Stefan is trying to talk them out of it, of course. But it's not just the church, it's the school, the stores, all the houses, even the nursing home Nikolos is in."
"May God forbid!" Mrs. Christoforos cried. "Who could be so heartless as to do that?"
"The owner of the firm," Mrs. Mykolos replied simply. "We have thirty days to comply."
Mrs. Christoforos began to cry. "What can we do?" she sobbed. "Is there no way to stop them?"
Dimitra laid a hand on her shoulder to comfort her. "We will find a way," she told her. "There are laws to protect us from this and we are going to find them! Mrs. Mykolos," she said, turning to the priest's wife. "You said your nephew was a lawyer. Can't he find a way to stop them from destroying the church?"
"He's not a lawyer, he's a paralegal," Mrs. Mykolos replied. "He's not allowed to practice law."
"Call him anyway," Dimitra ordered her. "In the meantime, we can't give into despair. We have to band together to stop these people from taking away what is rightfully ours! We can either sit here crying in our cups of tea, or we can band together and fight! Are you with me?"
The three women clutched their hands together in a knot of defiance on the small damask-covered table. "Good," said Dimitra. "Can you get Father Stefan to call a meeting in the church about this?"
"I can," Mrs. Mykolos said. "If he's not planning one already."
"All right. We need to make this known to everyone. The more people who join us, the stronger we are! If we all stick together we can save the church and the neighborhood around it!"
"Maybe we should circulate a petition," Mrs. Kanakedes suggested.
"Yes, yes, that's a good idea!" Dimitra agreed. "You draw up the petition, Mrs. Mykolos will work with Father Stefan on the meeting, and Mrs. Christoforos will get hold of everyone who wants to get involved."
"What about you, Dimitra?" Mrs. Mykolos asked.
"Myself?" Dimitra adjusted her glasses thoughtfully. "I'm going to take this nationwide, let the whole country know about this outrage against us."
Mrs. Mykolos was puzzled. "How are you going to do that?"
Dimitra smiled. "What good is being the mother of a famous magician if you can't use the publicity to your advantage?"
(1) See None So Blind
Last edited by Veritas; 02-04-2013 at 04:02 PM.