02-08-2013, 05:03 PM
After a sleepless night, Criss couldn't take it anymore. He flung aside the covers and pulled on the clothes he had tossed aside yesterday. He found his lockpicking tools and shoved them in his jeans pocket. Within minutes he was speeding toward North Las Vegas to Holy Trinity. He had to get his mother back, church or no church.
The church bell was ringing for early morning Mass by the time Criss arrived. He parked his Lambo by the curbside and stepped out into the churchyard campsite full of sleeping Loyals and protesters, taking care not to trip over anyone. He found the tree-tent where his mother was living, quietly lifted the flap so as not to wake her or the Loyals, and peered inside.
It was a touching scene. A few dozen Loyals huddled together in a semicircle around his mother's chair like sleeping sentinels around a the throne of a queen, protecting her from whatever harm may come. The battery-operated heater was still generating a few thermal units of heat, barely enough for a few square feet of space. Ice chests and styrofoam coolers were stacked by the opening flap, the only furniture in the tent save for Dimitra's chair.
Gingerly, Criss tiptoed into the tent and over the sleeping Loyals to his mother's side, carefully placing his foot wherever he could find space. He was almost there when he miscalculated his last step and landed on someone's hand. That someone yelped in pain, waking everyone inside. Criss cried out in surprise, lost his balance, and went tumbling face down onto a pile of bodies on the ground. There were more squeals and groans as the drowsy occupants were jolted out of sleep from all the commotion. Criss looked down and found himself on top of a very attractive and delightfully surprised female Loyal, who in turn was looking up at him, hardly believing this outrageous good fortune that had just befallen her. Criss, for his part, was deeply embarrassed.
Dimitra blinked the sleep from her eyes and blinked some more when she saw her son sprawled at her feet. "Christopher?" she said, bewildered. "What are you doing--?"
"Mom," Criss said nervously, "this isn't what it looks like, okay?"
He struggled to rise from his compromising position, to the disappointment of his female landing pad, and finally succeeded in reaching his mother's side. "I came to see how you were doing, that's all," he said. "To see if you were ready to come home yet."
"I told you, I've made up my mind," Dimitra said firmly. "Until I get word that the church will be spared, I will not leave this spot. I'm doing just fine here. We're all fine here, aren't we?" she asked the Loyals.
"Oh, yeah, Criss, we're okay," Kris Lee agreed. "Your mom's been telling us stories about you and your family, and about the Miracle Tree, and not to give up hope, and stuff like that. We had a lot of fun last night; it was like a sleepover, or summer camp or something like that."
Criss looked at Kris Lee. "Well, I'm glad you all had such a good time, because I've been worrying myself sick over my mother being out here in the cold. I didn't sleep a wink last night!" He turned to his mother. "Mom, for the last time, please come back to the hotel," he pleaded. "If you want me to save the church for you, I will. I'll even go to SilverStar and stop them myself if I have to, but please come home!"
Dimitra took her son's face into her soft, withered hands. "Will you?" she asked. "Will you go to them and stop them from tearing down the church?"
"I will, Mom," Criss said determinedly. "I promise. I swear to God--"
Dimitra put her fingertips on Criss's lips to silence him. "Now you know how your father felt about swearing like that, remember?"
Criss gave his mother's fingertips a quick kiss and brushed them aside. "Okay, okay, I won't swear to God, but I will go to whoever's in charge there and straighten them out. Anything to make you happy."
Dimitra kissed Criss's forehead. "Thank you, Christopher," she said gratefully. "God be with you."
Cheers broke out as Criss rose to leave. The Loyals shouted encouragement to him as he made his way through the crowded tent.
"You go, Criss!"
"Way to go, Criss! You rock!"
"Yeah, tell 'em what they can do with their hotel!"
"We'll take care of your mom, we promise!"
"Go kick their asses, Criss!"
Criss drew a sigh of relief once outside the tent. It was good to be out in the fresh air again. Now all he had to do was find SilverStar and whomever was in charge to get them to stop the demolition. If they would listen to him, that is.
"Yes, Ruth, what is it?"
"A Mr. Criss Angel to see you, ma'am."
Criss Angel? The magician? Monique was perplexed. Why would a big-name celebrity be coming to see her? It was far too premature to be booking acts for the Grand Imperial; the site hadn't even been leveled yet. To make an investment in the Grand Imperial, perhaps? But that went through her stockbroker, not her directly. Well, there was only one way to solve this mystery.
"Send him in, please," she ordered.
"Yes, Ms. Wesley."
A delay of only a few seconds, and there stood Criss Angel at the door. He was handsomer than his pictures, Monique thought. This should prove to be a very interesting meeting indeed.
"Come in, Mr. Angel," Monique purred. "Or may I call you Criss?"
"Whatever," Criss grimly replied as he strode into the spacious office. "We need to talk."
He certainly didn't waste time on pleasantries, Monique said to herself. "About what?" she asked innocently.
"About you and your plan to destroy an entire neighborhood for your hotel," Criss answered. "Including Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church."
"Oh, that," Monique deadpanned.
"Yeah, that," Criss growled. "You may not know it, but there are hundreds of people who are dead set against this whole thing. They have homes there, businesses, churches, schools. They're out there now, protesting your eviction order."
"Well, it's not going to do them a bit of good," Monique said. "The order's final, and that's that. They have three weeks to move, or we force them out."
Criss stared at Monique incredulously. "How can you sleep at night, knowing you're putting thousands of people out on the street?"
"I'm not 'putting them out on the street' as you say," Monique protested. "I'm paying them to move. I even offered ten thousand dollars for that church you mentioned. I mean, how many Greek Orthodox people are there here in Las Vegas, anyway?"
"I'm Greek Orthodox!" Criss exclaimed. "And so is my mother, who, by the way, has chained herself to a tree in front of it and won't move until you call the whole thing off!"
"We can have her arrested, you know," Monique informed him.
Criss glared at Monique. "Don't you even think about putting my mother in jail!" he hissed.
Monique shrugged a bony shoulder. "Well, get her away from that tree, and we won't."
"Listen, lady!" Criss growled as he drew himself near. "If you so much as lay a fingernail on my mom, I'm gonna sue your ass for every dime you got! That church means a lot to her and that neighborhood! I'll be double-damned if I'm gonna see it torn down! You know, you're up to your skinny ass in class action suits over this; in fact, I just filed for an injunction against you to save the church! If I were you, I'd back off!"
Monique glared at Criss from behind her desk. "Do your damndest, Angel!" she challenged. "Do your absolute damndest! I'll fight you and your sainted mother all the way to the Supreme Court if I have to, but that church and the whole area is going to be leveled in three weeks! What do you have to say to that, Mr. Hotshot Magician?"
Criss glared back at Monique. "I say, I'll see you in court."