02-04-2013, 04:27 PM
Almost a week had gone by since David Abercrombie had presented his design plans for the Grand Imperial to Monique Wesley, and today would be the official unveiling of the giant four foot model before the assembled members of the press to announce its imminant construction. In the giant auditoium of SilverStar Enterprises, the fashionably slim brownette CEO stood beside a silken draped object prominantly displayed in the center of the stage. Monique stood behind a podium, smiling radiantly with flawlessly white teeth at the audience of reporters, photographers and corporate types below her. This was her moment to shine, and she savored every moment of it.
"Ladies and gentlemen," she spoke into the microphone mounted on the podium, "thank you for coming here today to witness this monmumental undertaking, the biggest in the history of Las Vegas! What I am about to show you will set a new gold standard in luxury and comfort for years to come! The largest hotel, resort and casino ever built--the Grand Imperial!"
The silken covering was whisked away by invisible wires, revealing a rectangular tryptich of silvery glass lined with white Italian marble. Tiny lights illuminated the model around the base, miniature fountains trickled in front of its entrance, and an elegantly scrolled sign reading Grand Imperial glowed on top of it. The audience gasped, then applauded while flashbulbs popped, causing the glass model to sparkle.
Monique basked in the glow of adulation from those below her. When the applause died down, she continued with her presentation. "The Grand Imperial will be fifty stories high, with three thousand guest suites with all the amenities," Monique went on enthusiastically. "It will also have over a hundred shops and boutiques, thirty gourmet restaraunts, a full-sized health spa and fitness center, an Olympic-sized pool, a megaplex movie theater, the world's largest casino, the first ever indoor golf course, and even a twenty-four hour daycare center for children seven and under. Yes, the Grand Imperial will cater to all members of the family regardless of age. Now I know there are a lot of skeptics out there wondering why SilverStar is building such a fabulous hotel in such troubled economic times. But I guarnatee that this project will create thousands of new jobs, not only in its construction, but in maintaining it and catering to our guests. With it, the Grand Imperial will generate millions of dollars in tax revenues for the city of Las Vegas and the state of Nevada, and boost tourism in the bargain!"
"Question," a reporter in the front row spoke up. "How much is it going to cost?"
"I'm glad you asked that," Monique said. "The total cost of construction will be two hundred and fifty billion dollars, but with its projected return on the original investment, it will pay for itself in ten years."
"That's pretty optimistic," someone spoke up.
"I have every reason to be optimistic," Monique retorted cheerfully. "The Grand Imperial will be the best thing to happen in Las Vegas since legalized gambling!"
"Where will the Grand Imperial be built?" asked another reporter.
"The Grand Imperial will be located on the border between Las Vegas and North Las Vegas," Monique answered. "This project will revitalize the North Las Vegas community by increasing its property values and ridding it of unsafe structures. As I stated before, it will create thousands of new jobs for the community, stimulating the economy. It's a win-win situation all around!"
Father Stefan snapped off the television in disgust. He had been watching the evening news broadcast featuring the Grand Imperial project with as much resentment as Monique Wesley had optimism. A win-win situation? For whom? he wondered. For Monique Wesley, for SilverStar Enterprises, for those corporate bigwigs, yes, but what about the rest of the community facing the wrecking ball like Holy Trinity Church? What about those poor elderly residents in the Desert Springs Nursing Facility? What about the hundreds of homeowners who lived here, worked here, sent their children to school here? Why should they sacrifice their homes, their businesses and their churches for SilverStar's two hundred and fifty billion dollar Tower of Babel? Where was the "win" in that win-win situation for them?
The phone in the rectory living room rang. Father Stefan picked it up to answer it. "Holy Trinity, Father Stefan speaking."
"Father?" came a female voice on the other end. "This is Dimitra Sarantakos."
"Oh, yes, Dimitra. What can I do for you?"
"It's rather what we can do for you, Father."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Your wife, Mrs. Christoforos, Mrs. Kanakedes, and I were talking in the tea room this afternoon," Dimitra began. "We know all about the trouble the church and the neighborhood is in, and the four of us are banding together to fight this outrage."
Father Stefan was taken aback by this news. "Are you? Well, may God bless your efforts."
"And yours," Dimitra said. "We need you to lead us in protest over this. We need you to talk some sense into these people who want to tear down the church. We need you to call a meeting of every member to come up with a solution for this problem. We will help you in any way we can. Mrs. Kanakedes is drawing up the petition, and I'm trying to arrange the publicity. But we need you to guide us."
"All right, I'll arrange the meeting right after vespers tomorrow. If you can generate enough publicity for our cause, we can't fail. Thank you, Dimitra, and may God bless you."
"Thank you, Father. Good night."
Father hung up the phone. He had to admire the woman's spirit; she was definatly not going down without a fight. Now I know where her son Christopher gets his determination to succeed, he thought. With a mother like that, it's no wonder he made it on top of the entertainment ladder the way he did!
"They're gonna what?!" Criss roared disbelievingly over the phone at his mother.
"It's true," Dimitra said sadly. "This big corporation is going to tear down Holy Trinity Church and the entire neighborhood around it to build a luxury hotel."
Criss leaned back in his office chair, stunned. He had been busy in his office when he received an urgent voicemail from his mother requesting that he contact her immediatly. Fearing the worst, Criss dropped what he was doing and called her. He had feared more bad news about her heart, but the real reason for her summons threw him for a loop. "They can't do that!" he cried. "They can't just take over the whole neighborhood and tear it down! They don't have the right to do that to anyone!"
"Well, it seems they can," Dimitra sighed. "They have this law called 'eminent domain' to convert any property for public use, or at least that is what I heard."
"No way, Ma!" stormed Criss. "No way in hell are they gonna tear down the church or anything else! They're just greedy land grabbers out to make a buck!"
"Then you'll help us?" Dimitra asked hopefully. "You'll help us save the church? We'd all be so grateful if you did."
Criss hesitated for a long moment. He had not planned on getting involved in this business, and he had no idea on what to do. But his mother's voice clutched his heart in a way nothing else could. He knew that she loved Holy Trinity, and Holy Trinity had been good to her. There was no way he could refuse: what Mom wanted, Mom got.
"Okay," he said. "Lemme make a few phone calls and I'll get back to you. What's the name of this company, anyway."
"Oh, dear, I don't remember," Dimitra replied, flustered. "If you call Father Stefan, he'll tell you. He received the letter from them a few days ago."
"Father Stefan. Got it."
"What are you planning on doing, anyway?" Dimitra asked.
"Well, first of all, I'm going to call these robber barons and tell them exactly what they can do with their plans to build a hotel on church property," Criss told her. "And if I can't get through to them, I'll help file a class action suit on everyone's behalf. Don't worry, Ma, I won't let anyone wreck the church."
"You mean we won't let anyone wreck the church," Dimitra corrected.
"We have a petition started to stop them," Dimitra told him. "And Father Stefan is holding a meeting at the church tomorrow evening after vespers. We are banding together to save our church, and the neighborhood around it. We'll fight them no matter what it takes!"
Criss could not help but be impressed. "Boy, Ma, you're really spoiling for a fight here," he said.
"So, would you please come to the meeting tomorrow?" his mother beseeched him. "It's at seven-thirty."
"Tomorrow, seven-thirty at the church," Criss repeated. "Got it."
Criss could almost see his mother smiling. "I'm so glad you're helping us, Christopher."
"Glad to help, Mom. I love you."
"I love you, too, honey."
"I love you more. See you later, then."
"I will. Good-bye."
Criss hung up the phone. Damn! he said to himself. I can't believe that anyone would tear down a church like that. I'd like to find that guy and kick his ass! No way am I going to even let him near that church!
The next evening after vespers, and Holy Trinity was standing room only. Not only the church's original congregation, but those residents and business owners who got wind of the meeting were also in attendance. Little knots of outraged citizens huddled here and there to discuss the upcoming takeover. Neither the proximity of the sacred icons nor even being in a house of worship deterred them from strongly voicing their opinions.
"I've been here for nearly twenty-five years! Who are they to tell me I have to leave?"
"It's criminal! Simply criminal!"
"I can't afford to move! I was lucky to find the place I have now!"
"I sank every dime I had into my shop, and now they want to bulldoze it?"
"They can go to Hell for all I care!"
"Lenny! This is a church! Watch your language!"
"I ain't swearing! I mean it literally!"
Page after page of the petition to save the neighborhood filled with signatures. By the time Father Stefan arrived to begin the meeting, they were almost to the end of the last sheet.
Criss, his mother, Dimitra, his brothers, JD and Costa, and his cousin, George, sat in one corner of the crowded church. "Quite a turnout," George commented. "Must've known you were coming, Criss."
"It's not me," Criss said. "These people's homes and livelihoods are at stake."
"Ladies and gentlemen!" Father Stefan called out from the pulpit. "May I have your attention please!"
The chatter gradually died down int shushes and whispered demands for silence. "Thank you," Father said. "For those who don't know me, I am Father Stefan Mykolos, the priest here at Holy Trinity, and I bid you all welcome. As you are no doubt aware, SilverStar Enterprises is planning to demolish the entire area, including this church, to make room for a mammoth luxury hotel. They offered to buy us all out for a pittance to build a two hundred and fifty million dollar megacomplex resort, all in the name of property values--and profits! When I tried to contact them, all I got was voicemail. When I went there in person to speak to the CEO, Monique Wesley, I was rebuffed. The only answer they want to hear from us is 'yes'."
Murmurs of discontent rippled through the assembled company. Father went on with his speech. "That is why we have been circulating a petition to protest this outrage against us. With enough public support, we can nip this takeover in the bud! No reasonable person would allow such a thing to happen to anyone. It is up to us to stand together and say no to SilverStar!"
Enthusiatic applause echoed throughout the church. Father waived his hands for silence. "Furthurmore," he shouted over the din, "furthermore, we are filing an injunction against SilverStar Enterprises for illegal conversion of property. If necessary, we will also file a class action suit against them. They may have millions of dollars, but we have the numbers, and we have our rights!"
The audience erupted into loud cheers. Again, Father called for order. "We have done all we could on this end," Father said. "Now, it is up to each and every one of you to do your part. Make our cause known! Circulate petitions! Above all, keep the faith! Together, we cannot fail! With God's help, we cannot be defeated!"
Shouts and cheers shook the rafters and rattled the stained glass windows. Suddenly, Criss bounded up to Father Stefan's side, resulting in more, even louder cheers, not ot mention a few squees from the younger female members in the audience. Father looked at him bemusedly. "Hello, Christopher," he said, recovering from this sudden intrusion.
"Hey, Father," Criss said casually.
"Uh, ladies and gentlemen, Criss Angel," Father announced simply.
Criss waited for the thunderous applause to die down, then mounted the pulpit. "Thank you, Father," Criss said, then turned to the crowd. "Um, yesterday, my mother called me with the bad news about the reason we're all here tonight. She asked me if there was anything I could do to help. Well, you know me--I'd do anything for my mom."
There were some chuckles, then Criss continued. "I made a few phone calls to those members of the media I'm still on friendly terms with, and with Father's permission, we can arrange for a press conference here in the church to offer our side of the story. It'll be broadcast on almost every major news channel in the country. Like Father said, we're gonna make our cause known!"
The estatic crowd cheered. Dimitra clasped her hands in gratitiude. Thank You, Lord! she prayed. Thank You for my wonderful son, Christopher! Bless his efforts to save Your House from demolition! Bless us all in our efforts to save this neighborhood! With Your help, we cannot fail!
In her spacious office, Monique Wesley was talking on the phone with her number one attorney, Milton Dewey of Dewey, Scruem and Howe. Dewey had the reputation of being the most ruthless predator on the Nevada State Bar. He would stop at nothing to win a case, even if it meant a few ethical breaches. He could twist, bend, spindle and mutilate any witness's testamony to the point of driving them to a nervous breakdown. No law, no court case, not even the United States Constitution was safe from his scrutiny; it was said that Milton could find a loophole in the Ten Commandments if it served his clients' purposes. It was for this reason that Monique kept him on retainer. Whatever she wanted, she got, and Milton was there to get it for her.
"So you got the eviction papers drawn up, Milton?" Monique asked.
"Drawn up and good to go, Monique," Milton replied in the oily tone he reserved for his biggest-paying clients. "Those bums are as good as gone!"
"Oh, please, Milton," Monique protested. "Don't refer to them as 'bums'. They're my future employees; they'll all be working for me once the hotel is built. Besides, we're paying them to leave, remember?"
"Of course, my dear, of course," Milton demurred. "Anything you say."
"You have the legalities ironed out? Nothing is going to stand in our way in taking over the property?"
"As legal as walking down the street," Milton assured her. "The eminent domain laws are on your side. It's completely air tight! No court in the country can touch this. If they try, we can appeal to the State Supreme Court. We can't lose, Monique. The Grand Imperial is as good as built!"
"Milton, you are a wonder!" Monica gushed. "I don't know what I'd do without you!"
Last edited by Veritas; 02-04-2013 at 04:32 PM.