ANGEL UNAWARE: A Crissmas Story -
12-15-2011, 06:41 PM
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware...
Six AM Pacific Standard Time in Las Vegas, Nevada. A bone-chilling forty degrees, still pitch-dark save for the glow of neon from the Strip. The apex light of the Luxor pierced the winter night like Luke Skywalker's light-sabre, shooting high into the stratosphere at nearly eight hundred candlewatts. Daylight was still two hours away, but for the revelers and gamblers who had stayed up until the wee hours to debauch themselves in the pleasures Sin City had to offer, it was time to go back home or whatever hotel in which they were staying to sleep it off. For those who preferred the comfort of a warm bed and the pleasure of a good night's sleep, it was the beginning of a new day.
One of those in the latter group had just awakened in his luxury suite in the Luxor Hotel and Resort to the incessant beep of the small alarm clock on the nightstand. An arm snaked out from under the heavy down comforter, the hand attached to it shut off the alarm, and a bleary-eyed Criss Angel pried himself from the warm coccoon of the king-sized bed, yawning and coughing. He stretched his stiffened limbs to get the blood circulating in his system, then stumbled to the bathroom, clad only in his CK briefs. Every muscle in his body ached from the exertion from last night's performance of Believe, his live show starring Cirque de Soleil that he had spent fifteen years creating, developing and refining to see it come to life. It was his magnum opus, the culmination of a lifetime's experience. But, as he stumbled stiffly to the bathroom to shower, performing two shows a night took its toll on his physical well-being, even though he kept a rigorous fitness program to stay in shape.
Criss stripped off his briefs and cast them aside. Naked, he stepped into the shower, turned on the shower and let the hot water massage his aching back and shoulders. The sharp stream pounded against his flesh, easing away the stiffness, while the warmth soothed him as he leaned on one arm against the marble-tiled wall. This would be the only quiet moment he would have all day; after this, he would be subject to the itinerary set out for him by his manager, Dave Baram: production meetings, rehersals, casting calls, photo shoots; taping of his show, MindFreak; meet-and-greets with his fans, the Loyal; planning meetings, interviews with the press, and all the other chores and duties required of his time and talents. He did not resent it, at least not a great deal. It was the life he had chosen for the sake of his art, and he was too disciplined to play prima donna and cast it all aside just because he didn't feel like working that day. He didn't become a five-time Magician of the Year winner by shirking his responsibilities. He was a professional, and made damn sure everyone knew it.
Reinvigorated, he turned off the shower, toweled himself dry, then padded back to the bedroom to dress. Outside, it was still dark, though a hint of dawn's early light could be seen in the east. Criss flipped through the long rack of clothes hanging to one side of the bedroom and settled on his usual outfit of tattered jeans and long-sleeved muscle shirt. He had always been a casual dresser, disdaining the tie and tails ensemble of magicians past, preferring denim and leather accented with a generous amount of heavy pendants and diamond rings, the style of the times. Some of the pendants he wore cost as much as thirty thousand dollars, almost as much as his late father's yearly income from his restaraunt business. Such expensive jewelry made a stark contrast against the background of his ragged apparel, but it was a style all his own.
As he pulled on his clothes, a soft miaw caught his attention. He looked down and saw his cat looking up expectantly at him. Criss smiled down at the grey and white tabby he loved dearly. "In a minute, Hammie," he said. "I'll get your breakfast as soon as I'm dressed."
He finished lacing up his combat boots and headed for the small kitchen space of the suite, consisting of two counters, one serving as a bar, the other hosting the small sink and fridge. Criss opened a cupboard and took out a can of cat food. He opened the can, dumped the contents into Hammie's usual food dish, then tossed the empty can away in the trash. He refilled the kitty water dispenser with fresh water, then went to the tiny fridge for a breakfast shake. He had no time for a sit-down meal--he had a lot of work to do today, starting with that pile of paperwork in his office, and the sooner he got started, the better.
He downed the breakfast shake, tossed the container in the trash, then grabbed his fashionably shabby denim jacket and headed out of the suite to his office on the main floor of the hotel. He checked his large, diamond-studded watch: six-twenty-seven AM, a late hour compared to his father's four AM schedule, but still early enough to get some work done. Whoever thought that being a celebrity meant rock and rolling all night and partying every day was sadly mistaken. Long hours of stress and strain trying to produce a successful--and profitable--show was more closer to the truth. And Criss Angel, Las Vegas' most famous illusionist, was living proof of that.
The hotel lobby was empty, save for the receptionist at the front desk who smiled at him as he passed. Everybody was either still asleep, just beginning to wake up, or crawling home to bed after whooping it up all night. Criss strode toward the giant black pyramid through one of the corridors connecting the tower where he lived. It was better than going outside in the cold, and safer, too: no risk of overzealous fans ganging up on him inside. As much as Criss loved his fans, they could be a nuisance at best, or a threat at worst. He knew there were obsessive types who stalked celebrities, love-struck predators who would stop at nothing to possess their heart's desire by any means necessary--even murder. It was a tragic side effect of the Cult of Personality, one he took great pains to guard against.
No stalkers or fans accosted him that morning, however, as he made his way to his office. The only sounds he heard came from the security office during Chief of Security Lucas Macaffey's morning briefing. Criss couldn't make out the details, but he knew it was the usual show-no-mercy-and-take-no-prisoners spiel he gave to the men and women under his command. He ran a tight ship, he reminded everyone again and again, and God help the guard caught slacking on duty.
"Big Luke" Macaffey had the voice of a foghorn at full volume, and he wasn't afraid to use it. A former supermax prison guard, Macaffey semi-retired to the less stressful post of the hotel's top cop after a back injury from a prison riot sidelined him. Felix Rappaport, the Luxor's CEO and President, wasn't particularly fond of his heavy-handed tactics, but he did appreciate Macaffey's efforts to insure the safety and security of the guests and staff of the hotel, casino, and the resort in general. During Big Luke's tenure, there hadn't been a single robbery or burglary in the entire hotel, a record of which Macaffey prided himself. Still, Criss wished he would lighten up a little--this was a hotel, not an army base; people come here to relax and have fun, not be drilled into submission. If only he would be less rigid and more human...
Criss approached the Production Office entrance. No one had shown up yet; it would be another hour and a half before the regular staff arrived. He unlocked the door, switched on the lights and stepped inside. On his executive assistant's desk was a large Manila envelope addressed to him, stamped with the approval from the postal inspectors who had run it through the X-ray machine in the mail room to detect any letter bombs, anthrax spores, or other bugaboos created in the post Nine-Eleven world in which he now lived. He picked it up and carried it to his desk, tossing it onto the pile of correspondence waiting for him that morning. He knew what it was already, so there was no real eagerness on his part to tear into it.
A quick cup of coffee later, Criss sat down and opened the envelope. It was a screenplay of a holiday made-for-TV movie he had promised some Hollywood producer he would consider appearing in if his already full schedule would accomodate it. Angel Unaware read the title on the cover. Criss smiled to himself. Talk about typecasting, he joked inwardly. He opened the script and read the summary of the plot on the first page: a spoiled, self-centered heiress planning a huge Christmas party for the cream of society runs across a homeless bum (played by Criss) who is really an angel in disguise; through magic, he shows her the error of her selfish ways and makes her more charitable toward the poor and homeless. Trite, rather cliche, but kinda fun to read anyway, he thought. Better than rehashing Scrooge or any other of the usual Christmas characters.
From skimming over the script, he found his role rather small, just a few appearances in the first few scenes, then brief dialogue with the main character. A few days' shooting, then he was done, according to the producer. Maybe he could squeeze it in somehow. Might be fun. He had some acting experience under his belt already with his CSI: New York episode starring himself as Luke Blade, a psychopathic magician who murdered his two assistants in imitation of his magic acts, so it wasn't as if they weren't throwing him in front of the camera untutored. MindFreak season number five was over and done with, and he knew the Loyals wanted to see more of him, so this would be his Christmas present to his fans. The more he thought of it, the more he liked the idea of doing the movie. By the time he finished reading the script, he had made up his mind to call Dave and tell him to schedule time for filming.
Criss set aside the script and tackled the rest of his paperwork, mostly tedious routine: insurance claims, statements, invoices, permit forms, and the like. The movie could wait, he figured. For now, he had to take care of today's business. Success bought responsibility, and Criss never shirked responsibility, no matter what form it took.