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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
01-30-2012, 01:55 AM
"Died?" Casey was stunned. "How? When?"
"This afternoon," Sharon answered. "How, I don't know yet."
The two of them were in Sharon's bedroom. Casey had just come home from nursing school when she was summoned by her mother to "talk". From the grim expression on her face, Casey could tell the news wasn't good. There was no outpouring of grief after she heard the news of her father's death, not even a tear, just the feeling that things had changed and she would have to deal with it somehow. If she felt any sympathy for her father, it was more out of pity than devotion.
"I have to see Benny tomorrow," Sharon continued. "We need to make arrangements for the funeral. You think you can cover the expenses from your inheritance? It's not going to be anything elaborate, just a basic burial."
"Sure, Mom," Casey replied, shrugging her shoulders, "no problem."
"Good." Sharon laid her hands on Casey's shoulders. "Don't get too upset over this," she told her daughter. "Your father wasted his life drowning in self-pity, even before the accident in the stockyards. He went from being a man to being a blob in front of the TV screen, refusing to do anything with his life. I married him simply because I was pressured into it; I sacrificed going to business school just so I could satisfy my mother's outmoded beliefs about marriage and family. You're smart, Casey, you got a life ahead of you. Whatever you do, don't throw it away just because someone sweet-talks you into marrying him--no guy is worth it."
Casey embraced her mother tenderly. "I promise," she said.
I am not looking forward to this, Criss repeated to himself as he drove his Rolls Royce to Springs' house Monday evening. I am so not looking forward to this.
His mother, Dimitra, had made the arrangements for dinner that evening at the Springer residence. Criss had been forced to postpone his meeting with Sully Erna regarding the new Godsmack album, offering no alibi but the truth. Sully's Mafia jokes ("I'll just tell everyone you went to see your Godfather!" he had quipped) failed to improve his mood. He had hoped that JD and Costa would side with him and refuse to go, but they showed themselves amiable to their mother's wishes. To add insult to injury, Criss had been designated the family chauffeur for the evening, which meant he had to remain sober enough to drive home--another disappointment, since he could have used a few drinks to help him get through the ordeal.
"Turn right over here," Costa, the unofficial navigator, told Criss.
Criss swerved to the right, barely clipping the curb with the large vehicle and sending his mother and brothers sliding in their seats. "Take it easy, willya?" JD snapped. "This ain't your Lambo, you know!"
Criss muttered some semblance of an apology and drove on through town, his eyes focused on the road ahead of him. Behind him, a flustered Dimitra smoothed out her dress and primped her hairdo. I just can't understand what's gotten into Christopher lately, she thought. He's been so disagreeable ever since I met Danny. I hope this evening he'll snap out of it.
The more affluent section of Las Vegas came into view, its mansions soaring like the mountains that had once dominated the landscape. "There's the street right over there," Costa directed. "Just hook a left over here."
"I know where I'm going, Cos," Criss growled. "I got the address right here."
"Well, excuse me," Costa retorted sarcastically.
Dimitra's maternal instincts kicked in. "Now, stop it, both of you!" she snapped. "I don't want any unpleasantness tonight. We're guests at Mr. Springer's home, and I expect you to behave like mature adults!" She leaned over to the driver's seat. "And that goes especially for you, Christopher! I don't know what your problem is with Danny, but I expect you to be cordial to him tonight!"
"Yes, ma'am," Criss said, a bit taken aback at this sudden outburst from his mother.
"Good. We're going to have a lovely time tonight, so let's just relax and enjoy the evening, shall we?"
Dimitra's admonishment met with a resounding silence. Criss drove, Costa looked out the window, JD idly cleaned his fingernails. Satisfied that she had made her point, Dimitra settled back in her seat.
God, what an evening this is going to be! Criss thought. I am so not looking forward to this!
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
01-30-2012, 08:38 PM
Sharon beamed with pride over the elegantly set table in the main dining room. Polished sterling silver flanked gleaming white English china, accented with delicate crystal stemmed glassware, all set on blinding white linen. Fresh flowers crowned the tabletop, two lighted tapers set among them. It had taken her a whole hour to arrange all this for Mr. Springer's dinner party, making sure everything was perfect. True, she wasn't invited, only serving, but it didn't matter--she was as proud of it as if she herself was hostessing the event. She had always wanted to have a nice dinner party like this when she was married, but Phil's plebian tastes didn't mesh with her own; even on Thanksgiving he and Benny ate in front of the television set, scarfing down turkey and stuffing from TV trays, leaving Casey and herself to eat in the tiny kitchen with the roar of the crowd in the background.
Sharon went into the kitchen to check on the roast. The guests were due any minute now, and she wanted all the food to come out evenly, no delays--God forbid the meat should be underdone and the vegetables overcooked, or vice versa. Even though it was a plain all-American meal of rump roast, broiled potatoes, steamed vegetables and white rolls ("Nothing fancy-schmancy, okay?" Mr. Springer had instructed, "We ain't expectin' the President of the United States here."), she was determined to make it the best dinner ever.
The roast was done according to the meat thermometer. Sharon took the heavy pan out of the oven, removed the roast and set it aside to "rest", and drained the drippings to make gravy. Thirty-five years of neglected culinary skills had come rushing back to her in one evening, and she was making the most of it.
This was the kind of meal she had been taught by her mother would appeal to her husband. The reality was that Sharon couldn't even get Phil to the table, let alone prepare a feast fit for a king. When he had been working, he'd head straight for the TV, beer in hand, claiming he'd "grab something later". She used to plead with him to come join her and, later, the kids, for dinner, but he responded by whining how hard he had worked that day and couldn't he just for once relax? In the end, Sharon gave up trying, resorting to canned soups and stews and other convenience foods. After Phil's accident, Sharon simply dished out whatever was available and served it to him and Benny, his constant companion and fellow couch potato. This would have gone on indefinatly had not Casey inherited that money from Mr. Piccucci. After that, Sharon had found the will to leave that blob of a husband and shiftless loser of a son and move on.
Casey had another evening class, so Sharon was on her own tonight. She could have used the help, but education took higher priority over entertaining, she had insisted to her daughter. She'd manage, no problem, she said. So Casey left for class, and Sharon was in the kitchen, happily preparing Mr. Springer's dinner party. Not only was it a chance to show off her talents in the kitchen, but tonight the mystery lady of whom Mr. Springer had become so fond would finally be revealed. She had never learned the woman's name; all she knew was that the "lady friend" had three grown sons--not all that surprising given their advanced ages--who were coming with her tonight. Whoever she was, Sharon was determined to make the best impression she could, even if it wasn't her party in the first place. She even wore a starched uniform for the occasion. Tonight, everything counted.
The Rolls glided up the curving driveway and came to a halt in front of the main entrance. Criss drew a deep breath to clear his mind. "Here we are," he deadpanned.
Something in the tone of his voice seemed to add "Let's get this over with." He got out of the car, circled around, and opened the rear passenger door to escort his mother out. It was the classy thing to do, considering the circumstances. Dimitra slid out of the car and allowed Criss to take her arm. JD and Costa followed close behind.
"Quite a place here," JD commented.
Costa nodded. "I guess crime does pay after all," he quipped.
JD smirked. Criss rang the doorbell and stepped back a little. Dimitra, sensing his resentment, gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. Criss returned the grasp a bit too firmly than normal. Lord, let everything go all right tonight, she prayed.
The door opened, revealing a uniformed housekeeper. "Good evening," she said warmly. "Come right in. Mr. Springer will be down shortly."
The family entered the mansion, their footsteps echoing in the giant foyer. "Have a seat in the front parlor," the housekeeper said. "And help yourself to the bar--Mr. Springer set out the drinks for you."
Dimitra thanked the woman and entered the parlor. Criss lingered behind and silently signalled the housekeeper. "Uh, excuse me," he whispered. "Is Casey Worth here?"
"Oh, no," the housekeeper said. "She's at nursing school tonight. Are you a friend of hers?"
"Well," Criss hedged. "More of an aquaintance, really. It's a long story."
The housekeeper nodded and returned to the kitchen. Criss could not help but notice the resemblance to her and what he remembered of Casey's face. In fact, she seemed an older version of Casey. Could the housekeeper be her mother, perhaps?
Criss didn't dwell too long on that thought; he had more important business to attend to. He returned to the front parlor and headed straight for the bar for a bit of liquid courage. He mixed himself a Martini and drained it in one gulp. If he was going to face Springs, he needed to be prepared.
Everyone turned to face Springs as he stood in the entryway, dressed to the nines in a white dinner jacket, black bow tie, and black trousers creased sharply enough to slice cheese. A red carnation was set in his lapel, giving Criss the impression that he looked like a bridegroom, an image that made his skin crawl.
"Welcome to my humble home!" Springs said magnanimously. "Glad you could make it!"
Dimitra walked up to Springs and embraced him. "Hello, Danny," she said warmly. "These are my sons," she said. "This is JD, the eldest..."
JD and Springs shook hands. "Nice to meet you, Danny," he said cordially.
"...and this is Costa,"
Another handshake. "And I think you know Christopher already," she said, casting a discreet but very insistant warning glance upon her youngest son.
"Hey, Angel," Springs said, pumping Criss' arm. "Long time, no see."
"Hey, Springs," Criss said, suppressing his emotions for his mother's sake.
Springs headed for the bar to mix himself a Manhattan. "Quite a family you got there, Didi," he said, holding up his glass. He turned to the brothers. "I had a son once. Bryan, born in 'forty-nine. He'd be sixty this year if he hadn't gotten himself drafted and sent to 'Nam. He was just nineteen when he got himself killed. Stepped on a land mine, they said--blew him all to hell."
Criss couldn't help but feel a bit of pity for Springs. Losing his only son like that must've been hard on the old man, he thought. For the first time, he saw a side of the old gangster he never noticed before: a vulnerable side, a human side, a side that actually felt grief over the death of a human being, even if it was his son.
"Bryan's gone, my exes are gone, The Guys are gone," Springs went on, drinking his Manhattan. "It's just me now. Well, me, Sharon and Cassie."
"It's Casey, Springs," Criss corrected him.
Sharon appeared in the room. "Dinner's ready," she announced cheerfully.
At the mention of dinner, Springs brightened. "Okay, who's ready for chow?" he said jovially. "I'm starved!"
He gallantly extended his arm to Dimitra, who took it with a blushing face. The family followed him into the dining room. The moment of pity vanished, and Criss was left with the same maelstrom of emotions he felt earlier. Let's just get dinner over with, he thought. The sooner this is over, the sooner we can get out of here. Just don't blow it, for Mom's sake.
While Springs and the Sarantakos family were sitting down to a fine dinner of roast beef and vegetables in the comfort of the Springer mansion, Pamela Piccucci was staring glumly at the fare served in the women's lockup of the Clark County Jail: a bologna sandwich on dry white bread, a small scoop of greasy macaroni and cheese, a puddle of watery applesauce, and a half pint of milk. A cellophane wrapped plastic spoon lay in the groove beside this glorious repast, the only eating utensil allowed in the jail. With all the money we shell out in taxes, she grumbled to herself, you'd think they'd serve better food here!
She turned to the server, a fellow inmate, behind the counter, an obese woman of undetermined age with her frizzy bleached hair bunched in a wispy hairnet who was working the dinner shift as part of her work detail. "Is there any way I can get a salad around here?" she asked. "I mean, is this all you have? It's not very healthy."
Derisive laughter echoed behind Pamela' back from the other prisoners. The inmate server looked at her casually. "Well, you got a choice," she rasped loudly. "Eat it or starve."
More mocking laughter from the other prisoners. Pamela slunk away from the counter with her tray. She still could not believe that just a few days ago she'd been living in style with Nigel Sweeps in Honolulu, dining on the best cuisine his personal chef could create (and oh, what he could create!), and lounging by his poolside, being waited on hand and foot by his household staff. She'd be there still if not for that cretin "Dog" Chapman and those ruffians he called his family bursting in like that and hauling her away like a common criminal. Now here she was, clad in prison orange, surrounded by females who were barely a few degrees removed from animals, forced to eat this...slop. She had made a simple, civilized request for better food, only to be humiliated to the core by those selfsame female animals who deserved to be here more than she did. The unjustness of it all made Pamela want to weep.
When the Chapmans took her away, she had shouted for Marten to call Nigel in France to come to her aid. She trusted Marten; she knew he'd never let her down. She was sure that he had called Nigel and given him the bad news, and that Nigel was now winging his way homeward to rescue her. I just have to be patient, she reminded herself firmly, fighting down feelings of hopelessness and despair. It's going to take time, but I know Nigel will come through for me. Soon I'll be flying back to Honolulu and eating those marvelous dishes the chef makes. I just have to hang in there, that's all.
Pamela nibbled on her sandwich, grimacing at the rough texture of the mass-produced bread which grated her tongue like sandpaper. The applesauce was more like apple soup, but it was the only thing that tasted good. She did not dare touch the mac-and-cheese--God knew what some psychopath working in the kitchen had put in it. Nigel, please hurry, she prayed. I can't live like this much longer!
"You gonna eat that?"
Pamela froze, too afraid to turn around to see who was speaking. A sharp nudge in her arm jolted her out of her paralysis. "I said, you gonna eat that?" the gravelly voice repeated.
She turned to see a stout woman scowling at her with a face hardened by years of misfortune. Pamela's mind tried to register the woman's request. "Oh-oh-oh," she stammered. "You mean this?" She pointed at the mound of yellow macaroni on her tray.
"Yeah, that," the stout woman said. "You gonna eat it or not? If you don't, I will."
It wasn't a suggestion, it was a demand. "Oh, no," Pamela said nervously, "you can have it if you want." She pushed the tray to her new companion. The stout woman grunted her thanks and dug into the macaroni and cheese with gusto. Pamela burst into tears. Oh, God, Nigel! Please hurry! Get me out of this hellhole! Get me out of here before I starve to death--if these people don't kill me first!
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
02-01-2012, 04:04 PM
It had been months since Criss had been served a meal family-style, with all the food in bowls for self-serving; he had become too accustomed to restaraunt and room service since he had been living in Las Vegas. In a way it was a welcome change--it bought back memories of his childhood back in Long Island, New York. It would have been an even more pleasant family meal if not for the fact that it was Springs and not his father who was sitting next to his mother.
Dinner was being served in the "small" dining room, a twenty-foot square area with a small hexagonal table covered with a white tablecloth that Criss guessed was also used as a poker table. Five place settings were meticulously set, with a modest floral centerpiece in the middle of it all. Dimitra could not get over how "lovely" it all was, and even Criss had to admit it was pretty impressive. Springs gallantly pulled out a chair for Dimitra, then sat down next to her. Almost defensively, Criss took the other chair next to Springs. JD and Costa took their seats without demur.
Sharon entered the room, removed the centerpiece and set it aside on the sideboard, then went back into the kitchen to fetch dinner. First came a basket of rolls, then the two covered dishes of potatoes and vegetables, then the piece de resistance, the large roast simmering on a silver salver, flanked by a large fork and carving knife, which she set in front of Springs. "You really outdone yourself there, sweetheart," Springs said jovially.
Sharon smiled and disappeared into the kitchen. Springs stood up to carve. The carving knife he used conjured up images of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho in Criss' mind. The way Springs carved seemed to confirm those images--he lunged into the meat and sawed away, with no finesse at all. He quickly dismissed such gruesome images as he passed his plate for a slice of beef. Dimitra, sitting opposite him, didn't seem fazed at all, but thanked him graciously as she received a choice portion of roast.
"So, Springs," Costa said casually, "I hear you got a book coming out."
"Yep, that's right," Springs said, sitting down after slicing up the meat, "sometime next year, they say. The Guys of Glitter Gulch, it's called. It's all about me and The Guys and how we made it big here in Vegas. Hell, we practically helped build Vegas!" He took a mouthful of beef. "We made it what it is today!" he bragged.
"What about all the others?" Costa inquried. "You know, Bugsy Siegel and all of them?"
"Oh, yeah, they were there," Springs conceded. "I remember when Bugsy built the Flamingo--God! What a fiasco that turned out to be!" He shook his head. "Y'know, Bugsy got taken by the construction crew building the joint. They'd get some palm trees, say, and then tell him that they were no good or something, so he'd have to buy new ones, and then they'd take the same trees and say they were the new ones, so Bugsy kept paying for the same damn trees over and over again! Bugs was a good enforcer, but he was a lousy businessman. In the end, the Flamingo cost over two million plus--I can't work it out in today's money, but it was a helluva lot more back then. The Syndicate got fed up with Bugsy pouring all their cash into the Flamingo and not gettin' anything out of it, so they bumped him off and took over."
"You ever meet Bugsy Siegel?" JD asked.
"Once," Springs replied, "and once is enough. It was in the Flamingo, and Bugs was there wearing a dame on each arm--he was married, by the way, not that it ever stopped him from having a good time. Some chiseler was in dutch with one of the croupiers at the craps table, raking up the chips using loaded dice. Bugsy got wise to them both, see, and both of 'em were 'escorted' out of the Flamingo. Next thing you know, the two of them are being hauled off to the hospital. Bugs went on with his dames like nothin' happened. That's when I learned that Bugsy was one guy you didn't want to be on the bad side of. I swear the guy was bordeline psychopathic. That's how he got the name Bugsy, though you didn't want to call him that to his face--he hated being called Bugsy, and he let you know it."
"Sounds like a fun guy," Criss murmured under his breath.
"What about you?" Costa asked. "What was your role in The Guys of Glitter Gulch?"
"Me?" Springs shrugged. "I was the collection agent, you could say. My job was to collect the 'insurance' from the casinos and other places like that."
"You mean protection money, don't you?" Criss said accusingly.
"Look, kid," Springs said, leaning toward Criss. "Back then, everyone had their hands in everyone else's pockets. If you had the goods on anyone, you had an edge. Everything was run by the mob, owned by the mob, and protected by the mob. If you wanted to stay in business, you paid up. Even we had to pay the Syndicate just so we could stay in business. The only thing that kept our kneecaps intact was Blusey's bookkeeping skills. He knew all the loopholes, all the ins and outs of the tax system. Not only did he make us rich, but a lot of other guys as well. Thanks to Blusey, the Syndicate needed us more than we needed them."
"When did it all stop?" Costa asked. "When did all the extortion, the killing and the corruption end?"
"I got news for you, bright boy," Springs said, waving his fork at him. "It ain't never stopped. Where there's money to be made, there's gonna be blood--the more money, the more blood. It's still going on to this day, though you'd never know it. Silence has always been golden in the rackets--you keep your lip zipped, you stay healthy. Look at me--I'm eighty-six, and I outlived just about everyone in the Syndicate, so you know how silent I've been all these years."
"Until you wrote your book," Criss said.
"Hey, I figure no one's gonna whack me if I talk now," Springs laughed. "Everyone I wrote about is dead and buried. Who's gonna care, huh?"
Springs took a swig of his dinner wine. "And I'll tell you something else," he said. "I got a call from the History Channel not too long ago. They want to interview me about The Guys for some series they're doin'. They ain't never heard of The Guys until the Piccucci Affair, and now they're all over me like a cheap suit about it! How about that, huh?"
"Sounds interesting," JD spoke for the first time that evening.
"Speaking of the Piccucci Affair," Criss said, suddenly remembering, "any word about Pamela?"
"Pamela?" Dimitra asked, puzzled.
"Pamela Piccucci," Springs said. "She's the dame who bumped off Junior and Tina, remember?"
"No, I'm afraid I don't," Dimitra replied.
Criss and Springs stepped over each other trying to relate the whole sordid affair, starting with the will, then the threats Casey had received, then the standoff in the service corridor. "Your son here jumped her when the cops showed up," Springs said. "Knocked the gun right out of her hand. Saved my life, and that little girl--what was her name?" He turned to Criss.
"Yeah, her. Blocked her with his own body. You should be proud of him, Didi."
"I am proud of him," Dimitra said.
Criss shrugged modestly. "Anyway," Springs continued, "I heard they nailed her in Honolulu, bought her back to Vegas. She'd been there for six months, shacked up with some Canadian billionaire."
"Who took her down?" Criss asked. "Police?"
"Nah, some big brusier called 'Dog'," Springs said. "Big guy, long blond hair. Should be throwing drunks out of bars."
Way to go, Dog! Criss cheered inwardly.
"Anyway, I was the first to spot her," Springs went on. "I was fiddling around on the computer, y'know--"
"You go on the Web?" Criss was surprised.
"Sometimes. I even got one of those websites about The Guys. Heather helped me set it up--smart girl. Anyway, I see her picture on the screen with that Canucky rich guy, and I tip off Detective Meridian about it. The rest is history."
"I thought silence was golden in the mob," JD said.
"Yeah, well, I did it for Junior, y'know. She was his wife, and she bumped him off by blowing him up in his car so she could get her meathooks into Mick's estate. She's just as bad as Tina was, God rot her soul. Now she's back in jail where she belongs; everyone is gone, and Cassie got her share of the estate; the rest went to the kids."
"Well, I'm glad Casey got something out of it," Criss said, correcting Springs' mistake yet again.
"You did the right thing, Danny," Dimitra said, laying a hand on Springs' arm. "I'm glad you called the police about that awful woman."
"Well, like I said," Springs said, "I did it for Junior."
"Are you being called to testify?" Costa asked.
"Me?" Springs shook his head. "Nah, I didn't get the word. Cassie did, though. Poor kid, gettin' mixed up in this whole mess like this."
"I got summoned, too," Criss told him.
"Yeah. December seventeenth. That's the trial date. I just hope it doesn't drag on like the OJ Simpson trial."
"Nah, it won't," Springs said, shaking his head, "They got it all on tape, remember? They got enough evidence to send her up the river for good. It'll be over by lunch, dinner at the latest."
"Speaking of dinner," Dimitra chimed in, "this was a very good one. Thank you for inviting us."
Springs patted Dimitra's hand. "My pleasure, Didi," he said. "Always a pleasure to entertain a lovely lady like you."
Criss froze for a moment. Was Springs simply flattering her, or was it deeper than that? He's eighty-six years old, the rational side of his brain told him. It's not like he's trying to seduce her. He just wants companionship. Let him alone, willya?
But what if it is something deeper? the emotional side argued. What if he wants more than just "companionship"? I have no objection to Mom having friends. I just don't want her to get hurt by this guy, that's all.
His mother's voice came between the two sides. What kind of "hurt" are you talking about, Christopher?
What kind of "hurt" indeed? Was he being too defensive, too overprotective? His family had always been close-knit, but they weren't La Cosa Nostra, closing ranks upon any hint of intrusion. Why the hell couldn't he bring himself to trust Springs?
Because of Dad, he finally admitted to himself. I don't want Springs to replace Dad in Mom's affections, even if he has been dead for eleven years.
Again, his mother's voice echoed in his mind. No one can replace your father. He'll always be the love of my life. Nothing can change that.
Okay, Criss determined, I'll give Springs the benefit of the doubt. If Mom wants to be friends--just friends--with him, then that's okay by me. He laughed inwardly. Hell, the old fart's pushing ninety! What kind of romance could he make? And Mom's seventy-four, way past menopause! Her idea of a romantic evening is watching a movie! Maybe this'll work out after all.
His resolve faded before paranoia. Still, I don't want her to get hurt in any way. I just want her to be happy, that's all. I have her happiness in mind, always. But if Springs destroys that happiness in anyway, then I am so going to go Bugsy Siegel on his eighty-six year old ass!
"You okay, Criss?"
Criss jumped back into the present at the sound of JD's voice. "Oh, yeah, I'm fine, JD," he insisted. "Really I am."
"Springs just asked if you wanted another drink from the bar."
Criss shook his head. "Oh, no. No thank you. I'm driving."
Springs rose from his seat and invited his guests back into the living room. Sharon appeared to clear the table. Criss rose and followed his host into the living room, sticking close to his mother. Well, I managed to get through dinner all right, he thought. Now to get through the rest of the evening. Just play it cool, Criss, and you'll get through just fine.
Criss began to relax in the parlor with his family while their host mixed himself an after-dinner cocktail. So far, so good, he thought: Springs hadn't made any moves on his mother during dinner (save for that little hand holding episode, but in retrospect, that had been no big deal). Dimitra settled into a large, overstuffed armchair with a cup of coffee--a good move, Criss thought. Springs wouldn't be sitting next to her. He sat alone in the loveseat, while his brothers sat side by side on the sofa, savoring the afterglow of such a good meal. Even Criss had to admit that the dinner served tonight was top rate. Of course, Casey's mom, Sharon, had prepared it, not Springs himself, but Springs knew how to host a party, that was for sure. He made a mental note to give Sharon his compliments, and maybe see Casey herself. Not that he had a thing for her; he just wanted to say hello and get her take about the trial next month.
Springs returned with his drink and sat down in a large leather easy chair, his favorite spot in the house. Criss could see paperback books of crossword puzzles stacked underneath the side table beside him. He recalled with a twinge of sadness how his mother used to bring his father those same puzzle books while he was recuperating in the hospital from stomach cancer. He could not remember his father ever doing any of them, though. John Sarantakos had been more into physical activities than mental ones--sitting around doing crossword puzzles bored him silly, even if he was laid up in bed for weeks at a time during his illness.
"So, tell me about yourselves," Springs said casually. "I know what you do already, Angel, but what about you two?" He pointed his glass at JD and Costa.
"Chiefly, we work for Criss," JD replied, nodding his head at his famous brother. "Production, setups, planning new episodes and demonstrations--"
"And trying to talk him out of it," Costa chimed in.
"And trying to talk him out of it," JD echoed, chuckling a little. "See all this grey hair I got? I blame him for it."
"Ah, c'mon," Criss moaned.
"No, really," JD insisted. "This is a guy who impaled himself with hooks and got hoisted by helicopter over the desert, nearly ran himself into a wood chipper, almost got blown up in a van, a car, and a hotel that was being demolished--"
"JD," Criss interrupted, "you don't have to relate my whole career."
"Well, anyway," JD went on, "Criss here's been trying to kill himself by any means necessary, all for the sake of entertainment. In fact, his idea of a birthday gift for Mom was turning himself into a human torch!"
"A human torch?" Springs repeated, puzzled.
"Yeah, it was Mom's seventieth birthday," JD explained. "And Criss here got the, quote, bright idea, end quote, to light himself on fire in honor of the occasion. He did it, too, right there on Fremont Street."
"How did you feel about all this?" Springs asked Dimitra.
"I was not happy at all," Dimitra replied grimly. "I was screaming 'Put him out! Put him out!', but he just walked around with his whole backside on fire, then he fell down, and then his assistants finally came along with fire extingushers, and all of a sudden he just disappears--all that was left were his clothes! It turned out that the assistant who put him out was Christopher himself. Everyone thought it was a wonderful trick, but I was very upset about it."
Springs turned to Criss. "You got some pretty odd ideas when it comes to birthdays, Angel," he commented. "Y'know, you're supposed to light the candles on the cake, not yourself."
Criss could only nod feebly, a sheepish grin on his face. "Well, you get the idea about what he puts us through," JD said. "Don't think he's come out in one piece every time he does something dangerous--he's been in the ER so many times, he's on a first-name basis with the hospital staff!"
"C'mon, JD, I haven't been there that many times," Criss protested. "Only...what?..." He tried to calculate on his fingers how many times he'd been taken to the emergency room after a stunt gone wrong. "Three, four times?" he guessed.
"More than that, Criss," JD argued. "A lot more than that. If it wasn't for the Luxor paying for his health insurance, we'd be over our heads in medical bills."
"I'm fine, really," Criss insisted.
"You are, maybe, but you turned us into nervous wrecks over the years." JD turned to Springs. "I can't tell you how many times he's made Mom cry when he's doing some crazy-assed stunt--sorry, Ma--only to turn up all of a sudden expecting us to applaud him! There were times I wanted to wring his neck!"
"So why work for him?" Springs asked.
"Why?" JD pondered the question. "Because we're family, I guess. I mean, Criss maybe a famous magician and all that, but to us, he's still baby brother, and we gotta watch out for him. That's the way our family's always been, looking out for each other, though it seems we look out for Criss more than he looks out for us."
Criss almost jumped out of his seat. "That's not true!" he cried. "I've always looked out for my family, and you know it! When Mom had that heart surgery, I was on the first redeye to New York! When Dad was sick, I put my career on hold to take care of him!"
"Christopher, calm down," his mother admonshed. "There's no need to carry on so."
"Don't go telling me I don't look out for my family!" Criss ranted. "If anything goes wrong, I'm there! If someone hurts Mom--or you guys--he's gonna regret it for the rest of his life!"
"Someone like me, perhaps?" Springs said.
Criss fell into an awkward silence. "Yeah, I know all about it, Angel," Springs went on, setting down his glass. "Your mother told me about how you felt about me'n her gettin' cozy. I show her a good time, you think I'm hot for her. Geez-Louise, you're acting like she's a teenager and you're her dad worrying about her goin' on a first date! Well, lemme tell you something--your ma's a sweet lady, and I wouldn't hurt her for the world. We're just friends, okay? So, if I were you, I'd loosen those tight family bonds a bit and let us enjoy each other's company. We ain't got no funny stuff between us. Hell, at my age, I ain't got no funny stuff left in me!"
Criss fell back in the loveseat, sullen. Dimitra turned to Springs. "You have to excuse my son, Danny," she said apolgetically. "Ever since their father died, all three of them became my guardians, so to speak. It was hardest on Christopher, because he's the youngest."
"Yeah, I know, I know," Springs nodded sadly. "Hell, you're lucky to have 'em. Me? I ain't got no one to take care of me except the mother-daughter team I hired. Hell, Cassie and Sharon's the only 'family' I got now. Ma, Pop, both brothers, my two exes, my son, Bryan--I tell you about him?"
"They're all gone," Springs went on. "I outlived my whole family. Hell, I outlived almost all of Las Vegas! The Guys, the Rat Pack, the Syndicate-most of 'em, anyway. And Liberace, Carol Channing, Harry Blackstone, Jr.--you know him, dontcha, Angel?"
Criss nodded. Harry Blackstone, Jr., was practically a household name when he was a child, the premiere magician of his age, carrying on his father's legacy from the days of vaudeville.
"Hell, I even outlived Elvis Presley, if you can believe it!" Springs exclaimed. "I mean, geez-Louise! It's like I'm immortal or something! Well, lemme tell ya--living forever's no joyride if everyone you know are dropping like flies! I've been scanning the obits every morning to see if anyone else I know's gone belly-up on me. Just last week, I counted three good friends of mine who're pushing up daisies as we speak. And I keep askin' myself, when's my number gonna turn up? Not that I'm dreading it--quite the opposite, in fact."
"Danny, don't talk that way," Dimitra pleaded.
"Nah, nah, nah, don't gimme that 'life's a gift' crapola," Springs grumbled. "The novelty wore off about ten, fifteen years ago. Sometimes I think they shoulda given that stomach transplant to someone else, someone younger, someone who still had something to live for, y'know? Why the hell should they prolong my life? I had a good run; now it's time to pack it in. What's left for me, anyway?"
Dimitra reached up and took Springs' hand. "I'm here, Danny," she said tenderly. "I'm here for you."
Springs squeezed Dimitra's hand affectionatly. For once, Criss felt no objection. He knew Springs was a lonely old man, but he had no idea just how lonely he really was. Here was a man who had survived everyone he knew, from his former gang members to his only son, God rest him. His whole generation was passing away, one by one, fading into history like the era in which he had thrived. For the first time, Criss could see just how much the old man needed his mother, and how much she needed him. Who was he to stand in their way? He rose from the loveseat and crossed over to Springs. "We're all here for you, Springs," he said, extending his hand. "No hard feelings?"
Springs grasped Criss' hand. "Ah, hell," he said, shrugging. "I ain't one to hold a grudge."
Criss smiled. "Me, neither."
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
02-02-2012, 03:44 PM
The kitchen door opened as Sharon was loading the dishes into the dishwasher. Casey stepped in, clutching an armload of textbooks. "Hi, Mom, I'm home," she said cheerfully. "How was the dinner party?"
Sharon looked up at her daughter, not a little proud of her in her student nurse's uniform. "Hi, hon. Dinner was great. Got some leftover roast beef and potatoes over there, still warm--help yourself."
Casey set down her books, picked up a clean plate from the cupboard and dished out some of the beef and potatoes. "Looks good, Ma," she said. "How come you never cooked like this at home?"
Her mother sighed ruefully. "Well, your father was the type who'd rather eat in front of the TV than at the table," she replied. "Your grandmother spent a lifetime teaching me how to cook, but it just wasn't worth the effort anymore, so I gave up." She stopped stacking dishes. "I gave up on a lot of things when I married your father," she mused sadly. "Business college, a career, independence." She turned to Casey with a tear in her eye. "You're the only good thing that came out of my marriage, you know that?"
"Mama, stop that," Casey moaned.
"No, no, it's true," Sharon insisted, wiping her eyes with her dishtowel. "I would have given up on life itself if it wasn't for you. Benny was as big an underachiever as his father, no matter how much I pushed him, but you--you were different. You had the smarts, and you had the talent. Even when you were our only source of income, I knew you were destined for bigger things, that someday you'd succeed where I didn't. You were my last, best hope in my life to do something right."
"Ma, please!" Casey hugged her mother affectionatly. "Don't sell yourself short. You were the one who held the family together. You supported us more than I ever did. I just bought home the bacon--you were the one who fried it up and made it last until my next paycheck."
Sharon smiled through her tears at such a touching metaphor. Casey looked at her mother. "Do you miss Dad at all?" she asked.
"In all honesty," Sharon replied, "no, not at all. In fact, when I heard that he died, I felt...liberated. You may be too young to remember the Iranian hostage crisis, but I felt like those former hostages when they stepped off that plane after four hundred and forty-four days of being imprisoned by the Ayatollah Khomeni. When your father died, my life began. He was your father, yes, but he wasn't a very good husband. He was more like an overgrown infant, always whining when things didn't go his way, and demanding to be waited upon hand and foot."
"So why didn't you leave him sooner?" Casey asked.
"Because of the way I was brought up," Sharon replied. "I was taught practically from birth that marriage is forever, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, 'til death do us part. And then there were you two. If I had divorced you father, I'd have been forced to support you as a single parent, and there aren't too many paying jobs for someone with no experience. I counted on Phil for support for you and your brother--that's why I stayed."
There was a awkward silence as Sharon returned to filling the dishwasher. "Need help?" Casey asked.
"No, no, it's okay," Sharon said, bravely fighting back tears. "You get something to eat. You've had a long evening at classes. I can finish up in here."
Casey picked up her plate of food. "By the way," she said curiously, "who was the mystery woman Mr. Springer is interested in?"
"Well, you know that magician, Criss Angel?"
Casey's curiosity took a bewildering turn. "We've met." she replied casually.
"Well, the mystery woman happens to be his mother."
Casey almost dropped her plate in surprise. "Mr. Springer is dating Criss Angel's mother!?"
"Well, not exactly 'dating'," Sharon said. "She's just a 'lady friend', or so he says."
"I wonder how Criss feels about all this," Casey mused.
"Ask him yourself," Sharon retorted. "He's in the living room right now. His brothers are in there, too."
He's here!? Casey reeled from the shock. My God! What do I do? Do I dare go see him? I can't just barge in there and see him! Mr. Springer will get upset at me! Do I even want to see him? Does he even want to see me?
Casey sat at the tiny kitchen table, stewing in her own emotions, her dinner untouched before her. How do I handle this? I can't see him right now, that's obvious. Should I wait until they leave the house? No, the kitchen's too far from the front door. Should I wait for him by the driveway, just hide in the bushes and wait until Mr. Springer leaves? No way! He'd think I'm a stalker! Well, maybe not a stalker, but he might get the wrong idea about me. I mean, it's not like I have a crush on him! I mean, I like him, but I'm not in love with him, and I know for a fact he's not in love with me. He's just a friend, that's all. Not even that--he's an aquaintance. That's it! He's an aquaintance! We were just two people who got thrown together in a set of extraordinary circumstances.
She smiled at that. A set of extraordinary circumstances. That was a good way of putting it, if you called a fake bomb threat and nearly getting killed in a hostage standoff a set of extraordinary circumstances. Like six degrees of separation; that would make a good title for a romantic comedy, she thought. The humor of it eased the tension she felt about Criss. No, she decided, now would not be a good time to see him. Maybe when she took Mr. Springer to the Luxor for an afternoon of gambling she would see him again. Confident in her decision, she ate her lukewarm dinner in peace.
After dinner, she gathered her books and quietly made her way to her room, not wanting to disturb Mr. Springer's guests. She couldn't resist a quick sideways glance into the front parlor to see who was in there, though. Mr. Springer was there, next to the bar, of course. Two other men sat on the sofa; they must be Criss' brothers, she reasoned. A dark-haired older woman sat in the big chair next to Mr. Springer, obviously Criss' mother. What was her name? she wondered. She couldn't see Criss anywhere. I wonder where he disappeared to? she asked herself. She giggled a little at the unintentional pun she had just made. Disappeared to--little joke there. Disappeared--poof! Just like that!
Casey turned away and was about to head upstairs when she bumped into something tall. She looked up, startled, to see a very familiar face smiling at her.
"Hi, Casey," Criss said. "Nice running into you again."
"Oh, Criss!" Casey panted, recovering from the shock. "I'm so sorry, I didn't see you there."
"How could you miss me?" Criss laughed. "I'm head and shoulders taller than you."
"I know," Casey said, shifting her textbooks in her arms. "I was just...preoccupied, that's all."
"Well, I just got back from class, see, and, well..." Casey trailed off, lowering her head somberly. Criss sensed something was wrong. "Well, what?" he asked.
"Well," Casey hesitated, not sure if she should tell him at first, but she finally plunged into it. "My dad died a few days ago," she said softly.
"Oh, Casey, I'm so sorry," Criss said sympathetically. "How'd it happen?"
Casey took a deep breath. "It just happened, that's all," she replied. "Benny came home one day from the Book Nook and found Dad in his wheelchair, dead. Heart failure, they said. He never got any exercise, and he ate too much junk food sitting in front of the TV day after day, so it was bound to happen sooner or later."
Criss laid a hand on her shoulder. "Gee, that's too bad."
"Don't get too upset over it," Casey said. "He bought it upon himself. He really wasn't much of a dad to begin with. Oh, sure, he provided for us, but we never did things together, like going to the playground and things like that--none of the 'daddy' things other fathers' do, you know? He spent more time in front of the tube than with his family, even before the accident that crippled him. I never realized what a total stranger he was to me until he died."
Memories of Criss' own father, dead for eleven years now, came floating back to him. He recalled the boating trips on the Long Island Sound, the afternoons at the shooting range, the hours spent under the hood of his older brothers' cars, the family get-togethers. He remembered the days working in his father's cafe, bussing tables and washing dishes. Every minute he had spent with his father, no matter how trivial or tedious they had been, had been in retrospect quality time, from the moment he could first recall his father's face to the final breath when he died lying in Criss' arms. To hear Casey tell of her father's neglect and indifference of his children, he concluded that there was no comparison between them; the two were polar opposites in his opinion.
"So, what are you going to do now?" Criss asked.
Casey smiled and shrugged. "Go upstairs and do my pharm homework," she said.
"Farm? You studying agriculture?"
Casey giggled. "No, silly! Pharmacology. It's part of my nurse's training."
"Oh, pharm!" Criss suddenly understood and laughed at his misunderstanding. "Okay, I get it."
He turned to leave. "Nice running into you again," he said.
Casey smiled, blushing. "I ran into you, remember? Like last time on Fremont Street?"
Criss feigned astonishment. "Wow! Deja vu all over again!"
"Good night, Criss."
"Good night, Casey."
They parted ways. Well, at least I didn't smear an ice-cream cone all over him this time. she thought. That's a relief!
The evening drew to a close, and Springs bid his guests good night. He cordially shook hands with the three Sarantakos brothers and gave Dimitra's hand a flamboyant kiss like an eighteenth-century nobleman. Criss rolled his eyes in disdain over such an overdramatic gesture; his brothers were simply amused. Dimitra giggled like a schoolgirl, blushing. Once they were in the car, however, her demeanor changed.
"What was that all about, JD?" she demanded.
"What was what?" JD asked, bemused.
"That little outburst you had after dinner," Dimitra replied, "going on about Christopher's career and all that. You had no right to bring up personal family business like that. Danny just wanted to know what you did for a living, that's all, but then you had to lash out like that, starting a fight with your brother in his house. I had expected an angry outburst from Christopher tonight, but not from you."
"Sorry, Ma," JD said drily, "but it just came out that way. Must've had a few drinks."
"That's no excuse."
"Well, it's over, okay? Let's just put it behind us and go home." JD settled back in his seat and fell silent.
Dimitra said nothing more, but her mood didn't soften one bit. She was still put out with JD's shameful behavior that evening. She had feared her youngest son would do or say something to antagonize Danny due to his resentment of his friendship with her, but instead it had been her eldest, the one she had counted on to keep the peace, who had acted out in anger, though not at Danny himself. Thankfully, Danny had been gracious enough to overlook the incident, defusing the tension with his charm and his tale of woe concerning his only son who had been killed in Vietnam forty years ago. Christopher had taken it to heart, it seemed, because he had risen up and made peace with Danny right then and there, a concilitory gesture that had filled her with pride and delight.
The Rolls Royce pulled up to the parking valet kiosk at the Luxor Hotel. Criss let his mother out of the car as he did when they arrived at Springs' house, then he tossed the keys to the valet for him to park it. JD and Costa waited for their own vehicles at the kiosk while Criss escorted his mother inside. Dimitra gave Criss an affectionate shoulder hug. "I am very proud of you, making up with Danny like that," she said.
"Making up?" Criss was perplexed. "I never had a fight with him, at least not personally."
"But you were angry with him," his mother pointed out.
"Well, yeah, but I didn't hate the guy," Criss argued. "I just wasn't sure of his motives at first, that's all. I was worried about you more than him."
Dimitra smiled a little. "Well, I hope you see you have nothing to worry about. Danny may have had a criminal past, but he's put it all behind him now. He's a good, decent man, and a good friend. You should know--you're the one who met him before I did."
Criss halted in his tracks. "Say, Ma," he said thoughtfully, "tell me--what did you think of Springs when he first told you he had been a mobster?"
"Me?" Dimitra thought it over. "Well, I admit I was a bit...uneasy at first." She laughed nervously. "I mean, it's not every day you meet someone who's been a member of the Mafia."
"Springs wasn't with the Mafia, Mom," Criss told her. "The Guys of Glitter Gulch were completely independent, aside from their connection to the Syndicate."
"Aren't they the same thing?" Dimitra asked.
"Not really. The Mafia were Sicilian-based, related by blood or nationality, working mostly in the East, like New York--La Cosa Nostra, and all that.. The Syndicate were more, well...businesslike, more like a corporation than a gang."
"The Guys of Glitter Gulch were on the fringes, really," Criss went on. "They did well for themselves, obviously, but Springs' said they had to pay protection money to the Syndicate to stay in business. It's all hierarchy: the higher up you were, the more power you had, the bigger your take. Given all the violence in organized crime, what with the drive-by shootings, the bombings and all that, it's a wonder Springs' lived as long as he did."
"Well, maybe it was because, deep down, Danny was a good man at heart," Dimitra said.
Criss looked doubtful. "I dunno, Ma," he said, shaking his head. "Like Mae West said, goodness had nothing to do with it."
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
02-05-2012, 04:01 PM
Phil Worth's funeral was brief, a mere twenty minutes long. Only his surviving family and a few former co-workers from the stockyards attended the service at the Vermuellan Funeral Home on State Street. There were the usual platitudes and saccharine-sweet purple prose meant to offer solace to the bereaved, but to Phil's widow, Sharon, it was all a load of crap. Oh, sure, there were the few remaining friends who told her what a great guy Phil had been, and how much they'd miss him, yada, yada, yada, but they were all wasting their breath with their sympathy in her opinion. Why should they care whether he lived or died? Why should she, for that matter? Phil hadn't done anything with his life except gripe, whine and complain about the unfairness of life, all but ignoring his family's needs for attention, degenerating into a huge lump of flesh in a wheelchair after the accident crippled him for life.
Even though Casey could easily afford to cover the cost, Sharon kept it to the barest minimum: the casket Phil's body lay in was the least expensive in Vermuellan's showroom, an unadorned steel chest lined in white satin. The suit he wore had also been provided by the home--none of Phil's regular clothes would fit him, not after ten years of chugging beers in front of the TV. No flowers adorned his casket, nor were there any photos of him displayed. Nor was there a special luncheon arranged after the service. Phil already had a crypt reserved for him in a mausoleum where the rest of his family was buried, sparing her the added expense of a burial plot. The total cost came to about four thousand dollars and change, about two thousand less than the average funeral package Vermuellen offered.
Even though Sharon and Phil had been divorced for a few months prior to his death, she still received the complimentary memoral Bible from the funeral director after the internment ceremony as a courtesy. Sharon thanked the director graciously, took the Bible home in its gift box, and stored it away unopened in her closet.
After the formalities of Phil's internment had ended, it was time to settle a more practical matter. Sharon offered to transfer ownership of the little brown and brick house to Benny; now that he had a job and could support himself, she reasoned, he could afford to have a place of his own. The house was practically paid for, she said, only ten more mortgage payments to go, and the property taxes weren't too bad. All he had to cover were the utilities, the trash collection fees, and whatever expenses were needed to keep up the house. If he cut back on his trips to the bars and clubs, among other things, and saved his money, he'd do well for himself.
Benny was outraged. "What the (bleep) are you tryin' to do?" he exploded. "You two got all this money, and you're living it up in some rich old fart's mansion, and you wanna stick me with that (bleep)hole of a house, and expect me to pay for it myself?! (Bleep) that, lady! I'm movin' in with you!"
"Don't you call me 'lady', Benjamin!" Sharon snarled at her son. "I'm your mother! And you are not moving into Mr. Springer's house, either! And we aren't 'living it up' there, we work there, we're his employees, and I'm not going to have you lying around his house, watching TV all day at his expense! It's time you grew up, Benjamin, and that time is now! No more free rides, no more 'loanskis', no more sponging off your family! I thought I made that very clear when I moved out, remember?"
Benny stared blankly at his mother, irritating her more. "Obviously, you don't," Sharon said. "All those years sitting in front of the tube must have turned your brain into mush. Well, let me refresh your memory: you're thirty-three years old. You've never held a job in your life until now, and then only because you were ordered by the court to find one. You've wasted the best years of your life vegging out in front of the tube with your father. You've never met a girl who wasn't swinging from a pole naked in a club. You've never made the slightest effort to improve your life in any way. You're a parasite, leeching from your family and friends. And you expect me to allow you to live in our employer's house, free of charge? Ha!"
Sharon rose from the battered kitchen chair where she had eaten all her meals alone for ten years and leaned closer, right into Benny's face. "Get this into whatever it is you have for brains, Peter Pan," she growled. "Life is work! Your father worked, I worked, Casey worked, but you never did. The economy may be down the tubes, but there are still people out there earning a living, and they are proud of it--not just for the money it brings, but the sense of self-satisfaction they get from doing it. You want something, you have to work for it. It's what made America great. It's slugs like you who bring this country down by sponging off hardworking people like us! Now, I don't mind my tax money going to help people who need it when they got dealt a bad hand, but I get pretty (bleeped) off at those who think the govenment owes them a living--people like you, Benny, people who don't have the gumption to get off their asses and find work. Do you want to end up like your father, dying from too much beer and junk food and too little exercise, if any? Do you?"
Still the blank stare. Sharon rose in disgust. "I feel like I'm talking to a brick wall here!" She turned away from the dull lump sitting at the kitchen table. "From now on, Benny, you're on your own!" she snapped, grabbing her purse with one hand and her daughter's arm with the other. "C'mon, Casey, we're leaving."
The only sound that followed was the slamming of the front door, then silence. "(Bleep) you, (bleep)!" Benny shouted out the minute he found his voice. "(Bleep) you both!"
He rose to get a beer from the fridge. "(Bleeping bleeps)!" he muttered. "Got all that money and won't give me a dime of it! Well, (bleep) them!"
Benny cracked open the can of beer and chugged it down without stopping for breath, then angrily flung the flimsy aluminum container against a wall. "They think they're so (bleeping) smart, just because they work for that decrepit old fart in his (bleeping) mansion!" he groused. "They got all that money, and they don't do nothin' with it! What the hell are they savin' it for, anyway? I'm family, I got as much right to it as they do! I should just go up there and make them gimme my share of the (bleeping) pie! Yeah, that's what I should do! They ain't got no right to hold out on me like this! I'm still family, right? Right?"
He got up for another can of beer. "Yeah, I'm gonna go to that mansion, go in, and make them let me live there! I ain't gonna let a couple of (bleepsie)assed (bleeps) make a (bleepsie) out of me! Uh, uh, baby, no way in (bleeping) hell! I got as much right to live in that mansion as they do! Hell, I'm family!"
Benny sat down in front of the television with his second can of beer. It was kind of lonely without Dad around, but TV filled the void in the only way it could, visually and aurally. "Yeah, I'm gonna go to that old fart's house and demand that I should live there, too!" he vowed. "You just wait, Ma, you just wait and see."
He tuned into one of his favorite shows: Maximum Exposure, a testosterone-fueled celebration of mayhem and destruction with smarmy commentary from the announcer. Benny settled back with his beer, his anger fading as he watched some poor jerk on a snowboard go crashing into some trees below.
Autumn faded, and December arrived with its happy anticipation of the holiday season to come. Normally, Criss would be looking forward to his birthday on the nineteenth of that month, but the gray spectre of the Piccucci trial clouded over any joy it would have brought. Worse, there had been a news leak about when and where the trial was to be held, and Criss knew from experience that a media circus would result, with himself in the center ring. He couldn't excuse himself from it like he could other commitments; this was a legal duty, one which his attendance was mandatory. He would have to make arrangements to enter the courthouse unobtrusively, even if it meant sneaking in through the back door. The more he disassociated himself from the trial, the better; he didn't want to be linked to the Piccuccis in any way, shape or form.
He hadn't even been directly involved in the first place, come to think of it. He had never heard of the Piccuccis until that phony bomb scare. He had just been an innocent bystander when this whole thing happened, and he had tried to downplay his small act of heroism when he tackled Pamela Piccucci in the service corridor, but his celebrity status had worked against him, catapulting him onto center stage in this crime drama, making him the hero in spite of the contrary. When pressed to give a statement about the trial, Criss would mutter "No comment", and go on his way. Unfortunatly, this evasive measure only whetted the media's appetite--cover-ups and conspiracies made good copy. Soon, Criss began to dread the sight of a camera or a microphone thrust in his face whenever he appeared in public. As a result, the famous illusionist became more reclusive, avoiding any contact with the media. He hoped that when the trial was over things would get back to normal.
He gave his performances, distracting himself with work. He still made time for the few fans who spotted him in the Luxor atrium, posing for pictures and signing autographs. To his relief, they were too awestruck being in his presence to ask about the trial. As a precaution, however, he sent a memo to the official fanboards that no mention of the Piccucci trial was to be made online; if asked, they were to delete it or send a "no comment" message to the senders. He knew the majority of the Loyals would respect his privacy in this matter, just like in other matters concerining his private life.
The small minority, however, the lunatic fringe who wanted to know every little detail of his life, were another matter. Every celebrity had dealt with these obsessive types in the course of their career, sometimes to the point of tragedy. If Criss Angel was involved in a murder trial, then they wanted all the dirt, and they wanted it now. Evasive answers only fanned the flames of their passion, just like with the media. No one would be satisfied until it was over.
And when it was over, what then? Would he be able to put the whole sordid affair behind him, or would they still be demanding his take on it? The media could milk any crime, any scandal, any indescretion on any celebrity's part for all it was worth until the next big shocker came along. This trial was a tabloid writer's dream: money, murder, adultery, the mob, a gorgeous wife, and of course a hot celebrity magician thrown into the mix. Definatly movie-of-the-week material. Criss could do nothing except hope that the whole thing would blow over and the Piccucci Affair would fade into the annals of history. Unfortunatly, he still had to deal with the present, as he was about to find out.
He was in his office, poring over the reviews of Believe, his magnum opus with Cirque de Soleil. Things had picked up lately--the shows were selling out, and people lined up to get tickets. The reviews were mixed: many were positive, but there were a few who dismissed it as an overblown magic show. Well, there was no pleasing everyone, he thought. Hell, even Houdini had his detractors. The important thing was that Believe was selling out night after night--why should he care about the opinion of a few tight-assed critics?
There was a knock on the door. "Come in," Criss called out, still perusing the reviews.
Costa entered. Criss looked up at his brother and smiled. "Hey, Cos, whassup?" he greeted him.
Costa didn't smile back, just held up a magazine. "I got something here I think you should see," he said, handing it to Criss.
Criss opened the magazine. He noticed with distaste that it was Celebnooz, one of the sleaziest gossip rags in the trade. Time and again Criss' name and photos had been splashed across its pages with whatever rumors circulating about him at that particular moment trumpeted loudly in lurid headlines. Like other rational, thinking beings, he dismissed the tabloid as trash, unworthy of attention. Why his brother would bring him a copy puzzled him; he knew Costa was too intelligent for such drivel. "So, what's the deal?" he asked.
"Read this," he said, pointing it out to him.
Criss looked at the garishly printed page before him. What he saw made his blood boil and his jaw drop into his lap. It had nothing to do with the Piccucci Affair, but to him, it was just as devastating:
CRISS ANGEL'S MOM DATING MOBSTER!
read the headline. Below it was a photo of Springs and Dimitra walking side by side, hardly touching each other, in what looked like a restaraunt. From the way she was dressed, Criss could tell that the photo had been taken after their first dinner date together. "What the (bleep)?!" he exclaimed, glaring at the picture.
"I'm just as (bleeped) off as you are," Costa said. "I don't know how it happened, but there it is."
Criss threw down the magazine in outrage. "Those mother(bleepers)!" he snarled. "Those (bleeping bleepers)! God Almighty! I can't believe they did this!"
"Hey, it's what they do," Costa reminded him. "It's their stock and trade to spread rumors, no matter what or who's involved. It's part and parcel of being a celebrity, you know that."
"About celebrities, yeah, okay, I can handle it," Criss conceded. "But about Mom? Geez! This is hitting below the belt, man! No one trashes my mother, and I don't give a (bleep) who's doing it! So help me, God, I'm gonna sue their asses for this!"
Costa grabbed Criss by the shoulders in an effort to calm him down. "Criss, if you take any kind of legal action against them, it's gonna make a bad situation worse; you'll only be spreading the story farther if you make it public. You'll only be playing into their hands by making a big deal about it. My advice is to do what you've always done with this rag--ignore it. Everyone knows Celebnooz is nothing but a pack of lies. I mean, who reads this (bleep) anyway? Hell, you've been trashed yourself in this, and no one's called you out over it, and I doubt anyone's gonna call you out on this one. Take my advice, Criss, and don't do anything about it. I promise you, nothing's gonna come out of it."
Criss looked at his brother. "You think so, huh?" he said.
"I know so."
"Well, I hope you're right, Cos," he said, keeping his anger in check, "because if something does come out of it, someone's gonna be sorry he ever snapped that picture. No one--but no one!--slanders Mom like that! No one! Got that?"
Join Date: Aug 2011
02-05-2012, 10:00 PM
I would love to know what Criss would think if this was real
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
02-06-2012, 03:21 AM
As the day of the Piccucci trial drew nearer, Las Vegas seemed to be swept up with mobster fever. Clubs threw parties with a Twenties/Thirties theme. Party guests dressed in costumes of the period: double-breasted pinstriped suits, two-toned shoes, flapper dresses with cloche hats, all accessorized with hip flasks, fake tommy guns and "heaters" (pistols). Bars turned into Prohibition-era speakeasies, complete with secret passwords and fake police raids to add to the drama. DVDs of Casino, Goodfellas, all three Godfather movies, and other gangster films flew off the shelves.
Television networks aired any episodes from CSI Miami, NY, or Las Vegas dealing with organized crime. The History Channel held a "Mob Rule Week", showing marathon reruns of Mobsters, Godfathers, The Mafia, and other series. Turner Classics ran every gangster film in their library starring James Cagney, Peter Lorre, Humphrey Bogart, and Edward G. Robinson. Frontline, 48 Hrs., and other news documentary channels aired interviews with Donnie Brasco and Joe Valachi, the two men who fingered the Mafia and lived to tell about it.
It was during this time that Springs' interview was aired for the first time on History Channel. Practically overnight, the former small-time gangster became a celebrity, no longer a relic of a bygone era but a living legend who had actually known the rich and infamous from the golden era of Vegas. He posed for pictures; he answered questions about his past, clearing up misconceptions about the Syndicate; he met the decendents of those who had worked in the original Glitter Gulch casinos, who showed him photographs and asked him if he recalled anyone in them, which he seldom did--sixty years at most had passed when they had been taken, and names and faces had faded from his memory. He even posed with the Mayor Goodman and the Las Vegas Historical Society for a feature article for the Sunday paper--all the more poignant, since Goodman had been called "The Mouthpiece of the Mob" when he was a defense attorney back in the Seventies, defending gangsters like "Lefty" Rosenthal and others. By the end of the week, the forgotten hoodlum had become as famous as Bugsey Siegel himself. Some viewed him as a criminal, others as a sort of anti-hero, like Dillenger or Bonnie and Clyde. It didn't matter to him--Springs was riding high, and he was enjoying his moment in the spotlight.
That is, until someone made the Celebnooz article about Springs' supposed "involvement" with Criss Angel's mother public knowledge.
Ironically, it started with a post on the fanboards from an indignant Loyal who spotted the article in that particular tabloid. He/she was upset about "that trashy piece of crap" turning beloved Mama Angel into a gun moll. How dared they slander Dimitra like that? How could they do such a thing? and so on and so on. The post itself would have faded into cyberobscurity had the poster not reproduced the actual article on the site.
Other outraged Loyals fired off their defense of Criss' mother, spreading the flames to other fansites. Soon, other entertainement sites picked up on the story, complete with the controversial photograph. The webs transferred to print, and in less than a week, the National Enqurirer, the Star, US, People, and Entertainment Weekly had picked up on it. Criss Angel's mother involved with a mobster with ties to the Syndicate was just too juicy to ignore.
The girls sat in Alicia's bedroom. Snow had piled up outside, cancelling school for the day. Mom was at work, and Kyle had made a rare foray outside, sliding down the snow-covered slopes by the railroad tracks on giant inner tubes, so they could talk undisturbed. They had just read the article about Dimitra and Danny "Springs" Springer in the entertainment section of the local newspaper, the only source of outside information allowed in the Rose household.
"Do you think it's true?" MA asked. "I mean, you met the guy when you were in Vegas last year, right?"
"Well, I met him," Alicia said, "but I really didn't get to know him. He was just there in the hallway, you know? I didn't know who he was then. I was too scared that Pamela was going to shoot me at the time. He was just an old man in the hallway who got in the way. Tell you the truth, he didn't look like he could hurt anyone--he walked like he was crippled or something, limping and shuffling like that. And besides, I don't think Dimitra was even there at the time."
"But do you think it's true?" MA persisted.
"That Dimitra's going out with him?" Alicia shrugged helplessly. "Well, maybe they're not going out as in 'going out', but going out like 'hanging out'. I mean, how old is Dimitra, anyway?"
"Seventy-four," MA answered.
"And this guy is...what?..." Alicia scanned the article. "Eighty-six. Hmph! I don't know how romantic you can get at that age."
"So you're saying they're just friends?"
"At that age?" Alicia sniffed. "What else could you be?"
"But what if they're not friends at all?" MA suggested. "Maybe they were just walking side by side without knowing it, and some paparazzi took their picture and blew the whole thing out of proportion? They'd do that, you know."
"If that's true, then Dimitra and Criss could sue the magazine for...what do you call it?"
"I think it's slander, but it's the same thing, so, yeah, that's it."
"Even if it was true," MA said, "I'd still sue if I was Criss."
"I'LL SUE THEM!!"
Criss furiously pitched the magazine he had been reading across the suite, sending his cat Hammie scurrying for cover. "So help me, God, I'm gonna sue those mother(bleepers)!" he ranted.
"Criss, take it easy--" his brother, Costa, tried to calm him.
"Take it easy? Take it easy?!" Criss turned on Costa like a snarling animal. "'Nothing's gonna come out of this,' you said! 'Just ignore it', you said! 'Nobody reads that crap, anyway,' you said! Well, look what the (bleep) happened! They turned Mom into a mobster's floozy, and all because of that one photo!" He threw himself on the sofa. "Jeeezuskhrist!"
"Hey, you think I'm not upset over this?" Costa said defensively. "I'm as (bleeped) off about it as you are."
Criss sat on the sofa, fuming. "How the hell did it get out, anyway? Who let it leak out?"
"Criss, it could have been anyone," Costa said.
"No," Criss argued. "It was Celebnooz. They got their own website, remember?"
"Anyone with a PC could have spread it around," Costa pointed out.
"I still hold them responsible."
"You know what I think?"
"No," Criss retorted.
Costa ignored his brother's rude remark. "I think we should find Mom and sound her out about all this. She may want to just ignore it."
"What about Springs?"
"We'll talk to him later. Right now, we got some damage control to do, and it starts with Mom."
"Do you think she's read it already?" Criss asked, fearing the worst.
"If she hasn't," Costa replied, "we'll break it to her gently. This is gonna really upset her, so let's approach this with kid gloves."
As it turned out, Dimitra had read the article, from the very issue of Celebnooz that Criss had discarded. She had discovered it in his office when she went to see him last week, and had found it lying on the floor. Instinctively, she picked it up to toss it in the wastebasket, mentally admonishing her youngest son about his lack of housekeeping skills as she did so, but the image of her with Danny caught her eye. She was shocked to discover that someone had taken a picture of them as they were coming out of Andamo's restaraunt, and had blown their friendly little dinner engagement completely out of proportion. Now she sat in Criss' suite, shaken to the core. Costa and Criss sat beside her, trying to comfort her as best they could while keeping their own anger in check. Their eldest brother, JD, had been summoned earlier to help defuse the situation, but had not yet arrived.
"It was just dinner, that was all," Dimitra murmured, still in shock. "Nothing happened between us. It was just dinner."
"We know that, Ma," Criss said. "We know you and Danny didn't do anything wrong. It's just the tabloids were there, snooping around for a scoop. I've been a victim myself, you know. The more famous you are, the bigger the target you become. Like Costa said, it's what they do."
"Can't you do something about this, Christopher?" Dimitra pleaded. "Tell them the truth, make them stop all this? They'll listen to you."
Costa shook his head. "No good, Ma," he said. "He has no more power over the press than you do. If we deny it, they'll scream cover up and make us look even more guilty. If we insist they stop, they'll just do it more. They're like dogs with a chunk of meat between them--once they sink their teeth into it, they won't let go until it's been devoured. The only way we could get back at them is if we could prove that what they said was a total lie, except that there's the smallest grain of truth in it--you have been seen with Springs, and you were friends with him, so it's our word against theirs. All we can do is wait until the storm blows over."
"That's what you told me last time, Cos," Criss shot back, "and look what happened--it got worse! No, we gotta fight this thing head-on!"
"How do you propose to do that, Christopher?" Dimitra asked calmly.
Silence was the only answer Criss had to give.
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
02-07-2012, 03:48 PM
If Pamela Piccucci had heard about Springs and Dimitra Sarantakos, she probably would have laughed or at least sneered at the octogenarian former mobster dating Criss Angel's seventy-four year old mother. The Clark County lockup, however, did not allow any newspapers, magazines or any other form of outside contact save for letters from family, and those were scanned for content by the guards. She was completely cut off from the world where she was; the only person who came to see her was her defense attorney who had been moving heaven and earth to avoid the death penalty for her.
Three weeks had passed since her rearrest and there was still no word from Nigel. Hope gave way to despair with each passing day without hearing from him. By the middle of the third week of her captivity, she began to realize that Nigel had given up on her, just like everyone else. Boy, Pam, she said to herself, you really know how to pick 'em!
She rubbed her face with her hands as she sat in her seven-foot-square cell, dressed in the garish orange scrubs with CLARK COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY stenciled on the back of her shirt. Her makeup had long since been scoured off, and her once carefully coiffed hair now hung in shaggy brown strands. There were no mirrors, not even in the bathrooms, for her to use to fix herself up. As time passed, she had forgotten what she looked like, or rather what she used to look like. She could only look at her hands, those once petal-soft hands with the perfectly manicured nails that shone pearly pink from buffing and polishing. The hands she saw now were coarse and raw from three weeks of washing with commercial soap and calloused from the wooden handles of the broom which she pushed as part of her work detail assigned to her by the supervisor. They were the hands of an old crone, not an heiress. She could only wonder if her face showed the same ravages of time as her hands did.
Her waistline had broadened, due to the heavily carb-laden diet of the lockup and the lack of exercise. Apart from mealtimes in the cafeteria and the ninety-minute work detail, she was confined in her cell like everyone else--more so, since she was considered a "flight risk". She had tried to do some calisthenics in her cell, but it was too narrow to do anything besides run in place and touch her toes. As her despair deepened, she gave up on even these simple exercises and began to look as dumpy as her fellow inmates.
God! How she wanted out of here! To see the sky, to feel the sun on her face, to breathe the fresh air, she would have sold her soul to the devil! Every day dragged with leaden feet in this hellhole until Pamela didn't even know what day it was anymore. She looked around her cell. No art, no color, no light except for the tiny window which allowed only a few threads of morning sunlight for only a few hours, just a seven foot square hole in the wall that was smaller than her wardrobe at her home in Vegas, with a shelf attached to one wall serving as a bed. The walls seemed to close in on her, suffocating her, threatening to crush her.
Suddenly, Pamela clutched her chest and began gasping for breath. The walls were closing in on her! She had to get out of here! She needed air! Frantically, she clawed at the steel-reinforced door of her cell, trying to open it. There was no handle on the inside, but there was a small opening where prisoners held out their hands to be cuffed or uncuffed. She lowered herself to the floor and positioned herself by the opening. "Help me!" she screamed. "I got to get out of here! I can't breathe! Help me, please! Get me out of heeeeeeeeerrrrrrre!"
The only response were the jeering catcalls from her fellow inmates. "Here, fishy, fishy! Here, fishy! Fishy! Fishy! Here, fishy!"
Pamela shriveled up into a ball and sobbed uncontrollably.
It had been a very quiet trip to Las Vegas for Alicia and Nancy Rose. Mother and daughter barely spoke to each other except when it was necessary. There was no animosity between them, no anger or resentment, just the grim, businesslike attitude of a parent escorting her child to court. Alicia felt a bit intimidated by her normally chatty mother's dour silence during the car ride to the airport, then during the wait in the terminal, then the flight. She had said nothing to her except the usual "Have you got everything?" "Do you have your papers?" and "Don't forget your schoolbooks; you can do your homework on the plane." From her mother's attitude, one would have thought Alicia herself was being tried instead of Pamela Piccucci.
Alicia had secreted MA's drawing in her backpack, along with the specially selected birthday card for Criss. How she was going to present it to him without her mother's interference was going to be a problem. She had no idea of the layout of the Clark County District Courthouse, or how many people were going to be in there. She figured if she could somehow separate herself from her mother, lose herself in the crowd, then work her way toward Criss, she'd have just enough time to hand him his present. If she was lucky, there would be time for a quick kiss. Other than that, she would just have to play it by ear, wait for her opportunity, then make her move. It was risky, but for Criss, it would be worth it.
Nancy Rose had located reasonably affordable accomodations close to the courthouse, a double room in a small, independently owned motel. Alicia had secretly longed for the Luxor, but knew her mother could neither afford nor did not desire to stay there; her moratorium against "that Criss Angel person" was still in full effect, more so since they arrived. She was not allowed to go sightseeing or shopping, as they were in a strange city as her mother put it, even though the motel provided a map of downtown Las Vegas highlighting all the shops, restaraunts, clubs and casinos. Homework was the only activity permitted during their stay (she had been given her assignments ahead of schedule during her two-day stay for the trial so she would not have to make up her work upon her return), making her feel more and more like a prisoner instead of a witness.
So there was Alicia, dutifully studying at the writing desk in the small motel room while her mother reclined on one of the double beds, reading a paperback novel. She longed to be free, to go out and find Criss, but she was stuck with her mother in this cheap motel room laboring over her math homework. All she could do was bide her time until tomorrow, when she would go to the courthouse and testify against Pamela Piccucci, and hopefully she would see him there.
She had finished her studying by six-thirty that evening, though her body was telling her that it was eight-thirty in the evening. She vaguely recalled that Las Vegas was on Pacific time, while Iowa was on Central, a two-hour difference in time zones. She was a bit hesitant to say anything about it to her mother; her present mood hadn't eased since their arrival. Still, she decided to risk it.
"I'm done with my homework, Mother," she said quietly and politely. "When are we going to have dinner? I'm getting kinda hungry."
Nancy looked up from her book. "What time is it?" she asked.
Nancy looked at her watch. "I got eight-thirty," she said, somewhat surprised.
"Las Vegas is two hours behind us," Alicia explained. "They're on Pacific time."
Suddenly, her mother remembered. "Oh, that's right" she said, adjusting her watch. "Well, come on, let's go down and get something to eat."
Alicia could tell by the tone of her mother's voice that she begrudged her daughter's request for food. "Mom, if you don't want to go, just say so," she said.
"Well, of course I want to go," her mother protested. "You said you were hungry, didn't you?"
"Well, yeah, but the way you're acting it's like you resent it," Alicia argued. "In fact, it's like you resent taking me here to Vegas. If you didn't want to go, why didn't you arrange for someone else to take me?"
Nancy stood there, unsure of how to answer.
"Ever since we left Marvinville, you made me feel like I'm the one who's the prisoner here," Alicia continued. "You've barely said a word to me since we got in the car. Now that we're here, I can't go anywhere, I can't do anything. This is Las Vegas, Mom, the Entertainment Capital of the World! If we're going to stay here, at least let's have a little fun, okay?"
"We're not here to have fun, Alicia," her mother said, "we're here because you witnessed a murder and you're testifying tomorrow."
"So? We can still have a good time while were here, can't we?"
"I'm not going to let you run around in a strange city all by yourself--"
"So, you can come with me--"
"I have no desire to go sightseeing tonight," Nancy said. "This isn't a vacation, Alicia, this is serious."
Alicia sighed in exasperation. "Geez, Mom, lighten up a little, willya? You've been acting like a prison warden since we left. I'm just saying that since we're here, let's make the most of it. Why can't you just relax and enjoy yourself for a change?"
"Because I have a responsibility toward you, that's why," her mother replied. "Just remember, you ran away from home, made me worried sick about you, and you ended up witnessing a murder to boot! And you think I'm going to let you take a holiday after all that?"
"I said you could come with me."
"The only place you're going with me is to the courthouse tomorrow," her mother retorted. "The sooner this business is behind us, the better we'll all feel. In the meantime, we'll just go down to the diner and get something to eat."
Alicia burst into tears. "Forget it," she said, throwing herself onto the other double bed. "I'm not hungry anymore."
"Just forget it!"
She buried her face into the stiff linen pillowcase, smothering her sobs. Nancy sighed. Somewhere along the way the lines of communication had broken down between them, she thought. Where did it all go wrong?
Oh, she knew where it went wrong: with that Criss Angel person. Ever since Alicia discovered that man and his TV show, she had gone from a sweet little girl to a rebellious teenager. It was all his fault she was this way. Nancy had tried to break her daughter's obsession with him, but it seemed the damage had been done. She had hoped that her new friend, Mary Ann, that fine, wholesome girl who belonged to the Altar Society and the Youth League, would steer her away from this dangerous obsession, but without success.
Alicia continued to weep silently in her pillow. Nancy began to feel a bit of pity for her. Maybe it's a phase, she thought. Children go through phases growing up. I'm sure she'll grow out of this one in time. Adolescence is never an easy time for any child. True, she almost got herself killed by this obsession of hers, but maybe she's learned her lesson from her experiences.
She sat down on the bed beside Alicia. "Look, it's been a long trip," she said, trying to comfort her sobbing daughter. "We're both under a lot of stress, and we're both going through jet-lag, so why don't we just go out for a bite to eat and call it a night." A burst of magnaminity came forth. "We'll even have some ice-cream if you want," she said cheerfully.
Alica turned over to face her mother with tear-streaked eyes. "That's your solution to everything, isn't it?" she rasped. "When you can't handle the truth, you bury it in a dish of ice-cream. Sometimes I'm not really sure what decade you think you're living in."
Nancy was taken aback at these words from her daughter. "You don't understand," Alicia went on bitterly. "You just don't understand at all. You never have, and you probably never will. It's like you're living on another planet, you know? I've never been able to open up to you because you seem to be living in the past and you can't relate to what's really going on in this century. You condemn everything I love because it doesn't fit into what you think the world should be. I'm not you, Mom, I'm me! I love Criss Angel, you hate him--fine! At least respect me for my choices in life."
"It's fine to respect other people's choices in life," Nancy conceded, "but if those choices are life threatening, then it's my duty as a parent to steer you away from them."
"Criss Angel is not life threatening, Mother!" Alicia snapped. "He's the man who saved my life, remember? I hope that when you meet him tomorrow, you'll see that he's not the horrible monster you think he is!"
"Yes, tomorrow, at the trial! He has to be there, because he's the one who apprehended Pamela Piccucci! He's the one who kicked the gun out of her hand!"
"If he's there tomorrow," Nancy said. "I'd like to meet him."
Now it was Alicia's turn to be surprised. "You would?"
"Yes, I would," Nancy replied. "In fact, I'd like to have a few words with him myself."
A sense of foreboding crept over Alicia. "In the meantime," Nancy continued, "I don't want you going near that man if he is there, at least not until I've had a chance to speak with him. Now, let's have some supper and turn in. We've got a busy day ahead of us tomorrow."
Alicia trudged behind her mother to the diner. In a moment of clarity, she realized she had overplayed her hand with that last outburst, and now her mother would practically shackle her to her side in the courthouse. How was she going to give Criss his birthday present now?
The Honorable Judge Hendershot had given explicit orders that the trial of Pamela Piccucci was to be "closed": no cameras, reporters, or anyone else not summoned by the court to appear was allowed in the courtroom for the duration of the trial. The last thing he wanted was a media circus, he said.
Unfortunatly, a media circus was what the Piccucci trial was turning into. The day of the trial had not even dawned when camera crews, reporters, news photographers, and the reviled paparazzi laid siege upon the Clark County District Courthouse. To add to the general mayhem, stalwart Loyals crowded the entrance to catch a glimpse of their idol, convinced he would be summoned to testify. After all, Criss was the one who apprehended Pamela Piccucci with that karate kick, so he had to be there, they reasoned. Besides, his birthday was two days away, and no Loyal worth his or her circle-A pendant was going to let it go unobserved, even if it was in a courthouse.
It was chilly during those early hours of that December morning. The fans huddled in blankets, braving the elements, waiting patiently for the appearance of The Angel himself. They whiled away the time taking pictures of each other, videotaping birthday messages to Criss, chatting and schmoozing as if it was a Loyalfest. Meanwhile, the media were setting up their equipment, making sound checks and whatever other checks had to be made to broadcast the trial to the world at large. They, too, wanted to see Criss, to interview him, get his opinion about the trial, and to try and get a statement regarding his mother dating a mobster.
In his hotel suite, Criss dressed as conservatively as his wardrobe would allow: a black suit, white shirt, dress shoes instead of his usual boots. It was the same outfit he had worn for Easter services at Holy Trinity. He still looked suavely fashionable, even without his trademark bling dangling from his neck, but today it didn't matter. The summons he had received back in October lay on the table; he needed it to get into the courtroom. He was still upset over the Celebnooz article concerning his mother and Springs, and wished he was going to court to sue them for defamation, if not libel, but he had to put that on the back burner for now. This morning, he had other fish to fry.
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
02-08-2012, 05:33 PM
Springs stared unbelivingly at the mob scene outside the courthouse from the inside of his Mercedes. Almost a hundred blanket-wrapped onlookers held up placards with WE LUV U CRISS and other protestations of love and devotion for their idol. News vans lined the street, their crews carrying and setting up the most sophisticated audio-visual equipment the old mobster had ever seen. All around the perimeter, uniformed police officers struggled to keep order, herding the crowd behind wooden barricades cordoning off the main entrance.
"Geez-Louise!" Springs exclaimed. "I ain't seen a crowd like that since the Rosenberg trial back in the Fifties!"
He hadn't been officially subpoenaed for the trial, but he was just as eager to see justice done as anyone else. With the help of Detective Meridian and the district attorney, he managed to get a ringside seat in the courtroom for the trial. Besides, he had to drive Casey Worth, his caregiver, to the trial anyway; she was in the middle of this whole mess, poor kid, he recalled sympathetically. Casey sat beside him in the passenger seat, just as awestruck by the publicity of the trial as her employer.
Springs steered his car into the courthouse parking lot, noting with interest and a little amusement that valet parking was available. Well, it beat circling around trying to find a parking space, and trying to remember where it was later on, so he decided to take advantage of it. He pulled up to the drive, handed his keys to the casually dressed attendant, and he and Casey made their way into the courthouse.
"Geez!" he muttered, impressed. "Even the government's showing some class!"
The media outside the courthouse recognized the former gangster (and rumored love interest of Criss Angel's mother) and began snapping pictures of him. Reporters surged up to him, microphones in hand, barking questions and demanding statements. Springs tried to wave them off, Casey pleaded with them to let him be, but the press refused to retreat. The Clark County Sheriff's Department came to the old man's rescue and cleared a path for him and Casey to get through.
"Geez-Louise!" Springs panted. "Not even Capone got that kind of reception!"
The Loyals remained behind the barricades, anxiously awaiting the arrival of their idol. How would they know he was here? they wondered. Would he come in one of his customized cars? Or in a limo? Or maybe on one of his motorcycles? Or maybe he'd suddenly appear by magic? In the end it really didn't matter: Criss Angel could arrive riding on a donkey and they'd still be happy to see him. They just wanted to see him, touch him, hear his voice, snap a picture of him even with a cameraphone, and, of course, wish him a happy birthday with gifts and cards. He was the star of the show, the hero of the drama that was to unfold in the courtroom that day, their idol, their Angel. He was their everything.
The Loyals were so wrapped up with expectation as tightly as their blankets and sleeping bags, they paid no heed to the cab pulling up to the curb, nor to the three young people getting out of it. The three surviving Piccucci children, Andrew, Matt and Heather, made their way into the courthouse undisturbed and unnoticed. No one seemed to care about the burden of sorrow and shame the two boys felt about their mother being tried for their father's murder. Heather Piccucci, Mick's daughter by Tina LaRue, had agreed to chaperone the two boys to the trial. There was no animosity between them; indeed, they barely knew each other except by name. They had received their share of the estate and had moved on with their lives, the boys in California, Heather in Las Vegas.
Next to arrive was Detective Jim Meridian. A few reporters ran up to him for a statement, but all he gave them was a curt "No comment", and went into the courthouse. He knew from long experience that blabbing to the press about the details of a trial, any trial, was prejudicial to the case. He'd worked long and hard for this moment, and he wasn't going to blow it.
Another cab pulled up to the curb. Alicia Rose and her mother, Nancy, stepped out on the curb. Alicia strained to see anyone she knew among the Loyals, but her mother kept pulling her along, anxious to get this business over with. Alicia clutched a large handbag that she insisted carried "just a couple of books in case things got boring", as she told her mother. She even showed them to her: a copy of The Song of Bernadette for her English class, and a small paperback teen novel she had picked up at the drugstore before the flight. Nancy approved her daughter's choice of reading material and didn't say anything more about it. What Alicia didn't reveal was that the bag also contained the very special birthday present with the very special birthday card for Criss Angel, which she was determined to give to him one way or another.
Soon, a plain, nondescript blue Cadillac glided up the street. It tried to swing around unobtrusively to the back, but it was too late; both the media and the screming hoard of Loyals saw who was inside, and the Caddy was suddenly surrounded by estatic fans and pushy reporters. It took half the police force on duty there to clear away the pile of humanity so as to let its occupant out of the car. Criss Angel sighed heavily. "So much for anonyminity," he grumbled.
Bracing himself for an onslaught, he emerged from the Caddy, two police officers flanking him on both sides. Squeals and shrieks shook the midmorning air as the Loyals hailed their idol with undying devotion. Criss waved at them, shook a few hands, begged off signing autographs because of the trial, all the while fending off the persisitant press and their incessant interrogations.
"Criss, is it true your mother's dating a mobster?" a reporter demanded.
"He's not a mobster, and they're just friends, so leave them alone," Criss snapped.
"Criss, do you approve of your mother being associated with a member of the Guys--"
"They're just friends, okay?"
"What about the trial, Criss? Do you think Pamela Piccucci will get the death penalty?"
"That's for the court to decide, not me."
"Are you for or against the death penalty?"
Criss was escorted to the courtroom on the second level of the building. The parties involved were all waiting outside in the hallway: Casey Worth, Springs, the Roses, the Piccucci children, and Detective Meridian. Alicia's heart stopped when she saw him. "Criss!" she gasped, brightening.
She was about to dash into his arms when her mother halted her with an extended arm and a disapproving look. Alicia glared angrily at her. "You remain right where you are, young lady." Nancy ordered. "And as for you," she said, zeroing in on a bemused Criss, "I want to have a talk with you--privately."
"About what?" Criss asked, still bewildered.
Nancy Rose drew him aside into the elevator bank. She looked up at his face six inches away from her own and cut to the chase. "I don't know who you are, mister, but ever since my daughter's seen you on television she's been rebellious and arguementative, talking back to her elders, stealing money and sneaking around behind my back. Before she met you, she was such a sweet little girl, not an ounce of trouble from her. Now, she's turned into a...a punk! It's getting so I can't control her anymore! It was because of you she ran away from home, all the way from Iowa! She's turned against her family, her friends, and her church--and it's all your fault! If I had my way, I'd sue you for it!"
"On what grounds?" Criss wanted to know.
"Well..." Nancy thought about it. "Alienation of affection, for one thing."
Criss snorted in derision. "That's for married couples!" he exclaimed, laughing.
"Well, all right, maybe I can't sue you on those grounds," Nancy conceded, "but I can lead a boycott against you and your shows! I got the whole Catholic Church on my side, and once they know of your misleading ways, you'll be out of a job!"
"Go ahead," Criss challenged. "I've had religious groups riding my ass for years now, and all they've done was generate more publicity for me. The more they try to make me look bad, the more they make me look good. You know what they say: any publicity is good publicity."
"Now, see here, Mister Angel--"
"No, you see here, Mrs. Rose," Criss interrupted. "I didn't make Alicia run away--she chose to do that herself. It was all her idea to run away to Vegas like she did. I was just hosting a big Loyalfest for all my fans, that's all. I didn't even know who she was until Tina LaRue got murdered and she witnessed it in the ladies room. You accuse me of being a bad influence on your daughter? Well, let me tell you there are worse influences on kids than me, some even in your own community if you look carefully enough."
"Our community is a shining example of civic pride and public morals," Nancy retorted loftily.
"Well, maybe you should take a closer look at this 'shining example' of yours," Criss suggested, "and you might just discover some tarnish on it. It's easy to create an illusion of public morality and civic pride, as you so proudly said--and believe me, I know about illusions. The only difference is I'm the only one willing to admit creating them."
"Are you saying that my friends and neighbors are all perverts or something?" Nancy accused him.
"No, I'm saying that you're naive to think that your community is so morally righteous that it's immune to crime," Criss told her. "No one's perfect, Mrs. Rose. Not me, not you, not Alicia--no one. That's why we're here in this courtroom today, to testify against an imperfect woman who murdered her husband and another woman because she got so greedy for her father-in-law's money. You think I'm a threat to public morals? Wait untl you see what's in that courtroom--then decide."
"All the same," Nancy said, refusing to back down, "I don't want you near my daughter ever again! If I see so much as your name in the paper, I'll burn it in the incinerator! If Alicia even mentions your name in my house, I'll wash her mouth out with soap! I am going to purge you from our lives if it's the last thing I'll do!"
Criss leaned against a wall. "You said in the beginning that you didn't know who I was, right? Well, maybe it's time you did."
With that, he told Nancy Rose the story of his life: he had had a strict Greek Orthodox upbringing by his Greek immigrant mother and bodybuilder father, who had instilled in him the ethics of hard work and persistance. Yes, he went through a rebellious phase in his early teens, but what adolescent didn't? He had worked in his father's restaraunt, started a music business with his brothers, and had been a role model student in school. He had put his career on hold when his father was stricken with cancer. He had done street magic, first in New York, then in Las Vegas. He had worked hard to get where he was today, and had never been in trouble with the law (at least not seriously). He was not a devil worshipper as some right-wing Christians claimed he was, nor did he mislead kids into immorality. He was an artist and an entertainer, nothing more. If he was guilty of anything, it was being too good at what he did.
"If you keep forbidding Alicia to have anything to do with me, she's just going to do it more," Criss pointed out. "The more you forbid her, the more appealing it becomes. You were a teenager once, Mrs. Rose. Didn't you have some sort of obsession in your life? Didn't you want to rebel against your parents' authority?"
"I was a perfectly normal, wholelsome young girl in my day," Nancy informed him. "My life centered around church and school, and family, of course."
"Boy," Criss said, "your life must have been boring as hell."
A giggle came from behind. Nancy and Criss turned to see Alicia standing there, her hand clapped over her mouth. "I thought I told you to stay where you were!" Nancy snapped at her daughter.
"Take it easy, Mrs. Rose," Criss admonished. "Alicia, come over here for a sec, willya?"
Alicia happily complied. Criss laid a hand on her shoulder. "Tell your mother about what happened in the service corridor after the murder," he said.
"Pamela Piccucci had a gun to my head," Alica began, "and when she saw Mr. Springs, she pointed it at him. Criss was there, and he pulled me behind him, like this." She demonstrated how Criss had shielded himself with his body. "Then he kicked the gun out of Pamela's hand and tackled her. He saved my life, Mom. How can you condemn him for that?"
Criss smiled. "You see? I'm not a pervert. I'm not the evil monster you think I am. I'm a man, just like every other man on this planet. I care about Alicia, really I do. I don't approve of her running away from home any more than you do, and I made sure she got home safe. In fact, I paid for her trip home. Ask Detective Meridian, he'll tell you."
Nancy stood there, unsure of what to make of this but refusing to back down. The rumbling sound of the courtroom doors startled her out of her reverie. "It's time, Mrs. Rose," Criss said. "Let's go."
Nancy turned to go. Criss followed, but Alicia stopped him. "Wait," she said, and pulled out the very special birthday present with the very special card and handed it to him. "Happy birthday," she whispered, choking back tears.
Criss took the gift. "Thank you, Alicia," he whispered back, and kissed her on the forehead.
"C'mon, Angel!" Springs called out. "We ain't got all day! Get a move on!"
Criss and Alicia entered the somber atmosphere of the courtroom together. Alicia no longer cared about the trial. All that mattered was that Criss got his present and she got a kiss in return. That one little kiss sent her soaring to heaven on angel's wings. It was bliss.
The bailiff's voice announcing the arrival of the Honorable Judge Hendershot bought her crashing back to earth, reminding her of the grim reason why she and Criss were there in the first place.
Join Date: Aug 2011
02-08-2012, 07:22 PM
As the fresh prince said: PARENTS JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND
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