09-04-2011, 10:47 PM
MindFreak Productions returned to Linehan's Gym the next morning for the second day of taping. Seamus received Criss and his crew a bit more cordially this time; the eight thousand dollars seemed to have softened the crusty old man somewhat. The rules, however, were the same: no disturbing the fighters, no disturbing him in his office, no entering the shower room. "The tryouts for the Excalibur match're tomorrow," he remined them. "Every man-Jack of these mugs'll be focusin' their energies on makin' it in, so don't ye go interferin' wi' 'em!"
"Got it," Criss agreed.
Linehan hobbled away to his office. Criss scanned around to find George. The stench of sweat and damp had not abated one bit since yesterday, but he and his crew did their level best to acclimate themselves to the reeking atmosphere.
"Did you bring the bottled water, JD?" Criss asked his brother.
"There's a twenty-four pack in the truck," JD told him. "I shoulda bought some filter masks."
"Maybe some Febreze as well?" Criss half-jokingly suggested.
JD shook his head. "It'd take a thirty-gallon drum of that stuff to make this place smell better," he commented.
"More, I'd say," Criss added.
JD nodded, chuckling a little. "See George somewhere around here?" he asked Criss.
Criss scanned the gym. Two boxers sparring in the ring, one tanned and limber, the other black and stocky (Tobe Lacie, perhaps? thought Criss). A blond Teutonic type hammering away on the speed bag. A chubby young man with pudgy features that he recognized as Down's syndrome slowly circling the room, picking up discarded towels and placing them in a wicker basket. Another boxer skipping rope with such rapidity the rope itself blurred into invisibility. Suddenly he spotted George by the large mirror on the far wall, shadowboxing. "Hey! There he is!" Criss said, pointing to the mirror.
"Maybe we shouldn't bother him right now," JD suggested. "Remember what Linehan said about the match tryouts tomorrow?"
"Hey! C'mon!" Criss cajoled. "He's our cousin! He won't mind!"
Before JD could stop him, his impetuous youngest brother strode toward the mirror where his cousin was practicing his moves. "Hey, George!" he called out, "what's up?"
George was jolted out of his stance. He glared irritably at Criss. "Oh, geez, Criss!" he snapped. "You made me lose my concentration!"
Criss was taken aback. "Oh, gee, sorry, George," he apologized. "I-I didn't mean to--"
George waved a heavily gloved hand. "Never mind," he grunted. "Just let me finish my session here, and I'll get back to you."
Criss muttered another apology and turned to leave. As bad luck would have it, he turned in the direction of a glaring Seamus Linehan. "I told ye not t'go disturbin' me fighters!" he barked, aiming the business end of his cane in Criss' chest area. "Move yer arse or I'll toss it outta here!"
Criss guided the cane away from himself. "Watch it, man," he said nervously, "you can poke someone's eye out with that thing."
Linehan lowered his weapon of choice and hobbled toward George. He got his attention by tapping him on the shins with his cane. "Yer sparrin' partner fer the day called in," he informed George. "His wife's havin' a baby, so he can't make it. Ye'll have to cancel yer practice match if'n ye can't find a replacement." With that, he hobbled away again, totally ignoring Criss standing there.
George was crestfallen. "Damn!" he spat. "The tryouts are tomorrow, and I need the practice. Everyone's already paired up--who the hell am I gonna spar with now?"
"I'll spar with you, George," Criss offered helpfully.
George looked up. "You?"
Criss nodded. "Hey, I'm not afraid, and besides, I took martial arts, remember?"
"Martial arts and boxing are two different things, Criss."
"Look, you want to make it to the tryouts tomorrow or not?"
"Well, yeah, but--"
"So, I'm your man!"
George sighed. "Lemme clear it with Seamus, okay?"
Criss agreed. "Wait here," George said, and walked over to Linehan's office. Criss could hear murmurs between George and Seamus behind the dented metal door, then the old man emerged from his office, hobbling faster than Criss had ever seen him. Linehan eyed him carefully. "So, ye wanna spar wi' yer cousin the Greek here, d'ye, boyo?" he said warily.
"I do," Criss replied.
"Git into a pair of trunks and show me what ye got," Linehan ordered.
Criss turned to George. "Trunks?"
"He means boxer's shorts," George explained. "C'mon, I got an extra pair in my locker."
Criss followed his cousin to the locker room, which stank even worse of sweat and dirty clothes. George opened his locker and pulled out a pair of blue EverLast briefs. He tossed them to Criss. "You can change in there," he said, pointing to a booth adjacent to the row of lockers. "You'll have to do it in your stockinged feet, though; I ain't got a spare pair of shoes for you."
Criss stepped into the changing booth with some trepedition--God only knew what he'd find in there, he thought. Mercifully, there were no dead bodies or anything, so he pulled off his bling, his t-shirt, his ragged jeans, and his CK underwear (he wanted to keep them clean for after the sparring match). He then siezed the blue shorts and covered his nudity as hastily as he could. He tightened the drawstrings around his waist (they were a little too big for him, but they weren't too bad), and emerged from the booth. "Well?" he said, shrugging. "How do I look?"
"Like Criss Angel in a pair of boxer's trunks," George deadpanned. He handed him a pair of boxing gloves. "C'mon, let's go."
Criss pulled on the gloves as he followed George out of the locker room. The cameramen aimed their lenses squarely upon the two cousins. JD leaned over to George. "Go easy on him," he murmured. "He's got a live show to do tonight."
Linehan came hobbling up to the cousins. "You!" he barked at Criss. "Over here!"
Criss stepped forward. Linehan appraised his body, naked save for the blue shorts blooming around his hips. The old man raised and squeezed his biceps, thumped his chest, rapped his back with his cane, and lifted his legs with the professional air of a horse trader. Criss was bewildered, almost offended, by this brusque examination; it was as if he was some sort of livestock up for sale or something.
"Ye'll do," Linehan pronounced, satisfied. "Git yer arse into the ring after this bout."
Criss stood there, bemused. George laid a gloved hand on his cousin's shoulder. "Don't take it personally, Criss," he said. "He did the same thing to me, too. It's all part of the game."
The whistle blew, signalling the shift change. "We're up," George said. "Let's go."
Criss climbed into the ring. A padded helmet was shoved onto his head, and he was guided to his corner. He watched as George performed warm-ups: stretching, squatting, rolling his arms. Thinking he should do the same, he followed suit, imitating his more experience cousin's every move. "I'm gonna die," he murmured to himself. "I'm gonna get killed."
He spotted one of the cameramen taping him. He lowered himself to lens range and mouthed the word Help, but it was too late. The referee was signalling the beginning of the practice bout. Criss stood up and faced his cousin, now his opponent, across the mat. They tapped gloves according to custom, and waited for the signal to begin.
"Three minutes to a round, three rounds to a bout," Sean Linehan instructed. "No hitting below the belt, no kicking, no tripping. If you need to call a time out, raise your right hand. Ready? Go!"
Criss had seen George take a swing on the punching bag machine in his suite, but he never dreamed he himself would be on the receiving end of his cousin's infamous right hook. He spent the better part of the first round dodging and ducking the blows that came his way, barely getting one hit into the chest. My God! Criss thought in amazement. This guy's a machine!
Mercifully, Round One ended. Criss staggered to his corner, reeling from the punishment he had just received. George was just getting his second wind when the referee signalled the end. Not so easy, is it, little cousin? he sneered mentally.
JD stood behind Criss in his corner. "You gonna give up now?" he asked.
Criss wheeled around. "Hell, no!" he gasped. "You know me--I ain't no quitter!"
"No, you're just a stubborn (bleeper) who hates losing," JD retorted.
"Damn straight I am!"
Round Two began. Criss took his stance, better prepared this time. He fired a right to George's face, but was deflected by an elbow block. George came at him with a left to the side of the head, knocking him off balance. Angry now, Criss came back swinging, and it was George who had to block and duck the blows, only he had more practice than his impulsive cousin. He bided his time, waiting for Criss to wear himself out, then with a right to the jaw sent him sprawling onto the mat. Criss struggled to his feet, his head spinning.
"You okay, Criss?" George asked.
Criss nodded, exhausted but unwilling to give up. "C'mon," he panted. "It's not over yet."
He staggered to his feet, wavering as he took his stance. He swung at George with the last of his strength, only to fall flat on his face when his cousin stepped aside. "I think he's had enough, George," JD called out.
George and the ref helped Criss up onto his feet. "C'mon, Criss," the former said. "You've had enough for today."
JD led Criss out of the ring. "You'd better take him home, JD," George said. "His clothes are in the locker room."
Criss left the gym feeling disgraced. "How the hell did I let him beat me like that?" he kept asking himself on the way back to the Luxor. "I had years of martial arts training, and I'm just as fit as he is. How the hell did I let him beat me like that?"
"Criss, stop beating yourself up like that, okay?" JD told him firmly. "You're not going to be good at everything you do. You can't win them all. George is just better trained at being a boxer, that's all. Let it go and get some rest for tonight's show, okay?"
Criss sighed. He knew his brother was right. Still, the defeat stung him more deeply than any punch George threw at him. He had always hated losing at anything he tried, whether it was magic, music, martial arts, or any other competition. His competitive spirit had driven him to success in life, but it made defeat that much harder to swallow.
You won this one, George, he said to himself. But I swear to God I'm gonna go for a rematch!
Back at the production office at the Luxor Hotel, Criss' manager, Dave Baram, was going over some paperwork when the chief of hotel security walked in. A sense of foreboding came over Baram--whenever the hotel's top cop showed up, bad news was sure to follow.
"Hey, Macaffey," Baram greeted him with forced joviality. "What can I do for you?"
Macaffey slapped down a flyer. "Be on the lookout for this guy, willya?" he said bluntly. "He's been causing trouble all over Vegas."
"So, who is he?" Baram asked. "A mugger? A serial killer?"
"He's a flasher."
Baram laughed in surprise. "A flasher! You gotta be kidding me!"'
The grim expression on Macaffey's face told him he was not kidding. "Read the flyer," he ordered, "and if you or your staff see him, call us."
He turned on his heel and strode out of the office. Baram read the flyer. A middle-aged man, about five-eleven, dark hair, moustache, bulbous nose, wearing a long raincoat with nothing underneath it had been reported allegedly exposing himself in public around the metropolitan area, mostly targeting older women. If spotted, please report the suspect to the police or hotel security.
Baram tossed the flyer aside. He had more important things to do than worry about some loser who liked showing off his tackle to little old ladies. Let the police handle this one, he thought. That sorry (bleeper) needs to get a life! Hope they find him before he gets his ass kicked by some lady's husband or something. Still, if he does, it's no skin off my nose. He deserves whatever comes his way.