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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
12-10-2012, 09:54 PM
The telephone rang in Stella Strumpolis' house. Stella picked up the receiver after the second ring. "Hello?' she said.
"Aunt Stella, this is Costa."
"Oh, hello, Costa! How are you?"
"I'm fine. Listen, we've got Artie Creed saying Mom got arrested."
Anut Stella laughed in surprise. "Arrested? For what? And who is Artie Creed?"
"Some loudmouth deejay on the radio," Costa explained. "Anyway, he's spreading the word that Mom stole money from the foster home and got arrested for it. You know anything about it?"
"No, nothing." Stella replied, perplexed. She had helped Dimitra with the foster home from day one, and she'd never do anything like that, not in a million years. "I could call her and find out what happened."
"You do that," Costa said. "Let me know what you find out."
"All right," Stella said. "I'll talk to you later."
"Yeah, 'bye." Costa flipped off his phone.
"Arrested?!" Dimitra was aghast. "Who said such a thing about me?"
Stella had phoned Dimitra at the foster home as soon as Costa had hung up and told her about Artie Creed's accusations over the radio. Dimitra could hardly believe her ears. Mr. Webber had stolen the money, not her. And she had not been arrested for anything.
"Well, he is lying!" Dimitra huffed. "I did not steal anything from the home. It was Mr. Webber. He embezzled funds from the county. I reported it to Social Services."
"Well, you'd better call Costa and tell him that," Stella said to her. "This man is trying to ruin you, and this could ruin Christopher as well."
"I will," Dimitra resolved. "Thank you, Stella." She hung up the phone and activated the speed dial for Costa. In her haste, she dialed Criss' number instead.
Criss had emerged from the black Lambo to face a mob of cheering, chanting Loyals. He could see the posterboard signs they held aloft proclaiming Dimitra's innocence. They were on his side, he thought. They know the truth.
Station security and local police struggled to keep the surging crowd at bay. It was like trying to hold back a tsunami. Criss greeted as many Loyals as he could reach while pressing on into the station building. But no sooner did he pass through the main entrance than he was overwhelmed by the media gathered in the lobby, barking questions, thrusting microphones into his face, nearly blinding him with flashbulbs as they photographed him. He waved his arms to restore some semblance of order.
"I just want to say that Artie Creed is a liar!" he shouted over the din. "My mother is not a thief! She's innocent! She never stole anything in her life! In fact, she spent a fortune of her own personal money to help those kids! I even helped her out with my own money as well! If she had been arrested, I would have heard of it by now! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some personal business to attend!"
The media were not satisfied. They wanted more, and they kept on pressing Criss for it. Somehow he survived the gantlet of reporters and photographers and slipped into an elevator, fending them off until the doors slid shut in their faces. Criss breathed a sigh of relief, glad to be alone, if only for a few seconds. He needed to conserve energy when he met Artie Creed. He leaned against a wall in the elevator car, collecting his thoughts. He had warned Creed about dissing his mother before this, and now he was going to pay big time. He was glad Brenda had left him when she did. It served him right.
He recalled his last words to Creed. He had mentioned Brenda leaving him, saying she was too good for him. Artie Creed did not even know that Criss had been to Artie's house and spoke with her. Did Brenda tell Artie about him when she left? Had Criss overplayed his hand when he told Artie about his knowledge of Brenda's departure? Well, the damage had been done. He'd just have to make the best of it. Artie knew that Criss knew Brenda had left him.
The elevators slid open. As Criss stepped out, his cell phone rang. He quickly pulled it out and asnwered it. "Hello?"
"Christopher?" It was his mother. "Oh, I meant to call Costa. Well, since I got you, I have something to tell you."
"Sure, Mom, what is it?" No matter how pissed off he was at Artie Creed at the moment, his mother came first.
"This Mr. Creed," she began, "he says I had been arrested for stealing money from the foster home."
"I know that," Criss said. "That's why I'm here at the station. Mom, tell me--what really happened?"
"I did not steal any money, first of all--"
"Yeah, I know that."
"It was Mr. Webber's fault. He had been embezzling county funds from Social Services. I saw the check stubs. They were three times what he said they were."
"Did you get arrested?" Criss asked.
"No," she replied. Criss smiled with relief. "I went to Social Services and filed a complaint. I do not know how Mr. Creed knows about this, but you can tell him the truth now. Mr. Webber is in trouble, not me."
"Oh, I'll tell him all right!" Criss nodded. "Gotta go, love ya, good-bye!" He hung up. So his mother really was innocent! She had blown the whistle on this Mr. Webber for his theft. But how did Creed find out about it? Someone was setting her up. But who?
Morty Bernhard was pacing up and down his office like a caged panther before feeding time. He was fuming over Creed's latest and, as he saw it, worst episode ever. Not only did Creed piss off the public again, there was a lynch mob outside the station! Hell! They had even stormed the studio! He swore by all that was holy and sacred he was going to hand Creed his nuts on a platter for this! Bernhard didn't need this aggravation. He had an ulcer the size of the Grand Canyon because of Creed. The station was losing advertising dollars because of Creed. The Latino Anti-Defamation League, the National Organization for Women, and the FCC were riding on his ass because of Creed. The whole damn station was in the red, and facing loss of it's licensing, all because of Creed! He knew Criss Angel could file a defamation suit against KLOL. If Berhard was lucky, maybe he could be talked into a settlement. If only he had fired him when he had the chance!
His assistant buzzed him on his phone. "Yeah, Shiela, what is it?" he answered, momentarily concealing his agitation.
"The two applicants for the internship position have arrived," Shiela told him. "Shall I send them in?"
Morty sighed. He'd forgotten about the intern position interviews in the heat of this current crisis. "Tell them to wait. I got bigger fish to fry." he ordered.
"All right," Shiela said. Morty hung up the phone. Where the hell was Creed? he wondered. He'd better get his sorry self into this office in the next minute or he was going after him.
Shiela buzzed again. "Criss Angel is here to see you, Mr. Bernhard."
Morty felt his ulcer eating away more of his gut. "Send him in," he groaned, reaching into his desk drawer for his medication.
He managed to down a couple of pills with the help of a cup of lukewarm coffee before Criss barged into the office, furious. Morty Bernhard tried to placate the star magician. "Look, Criss..." he began, almost pleadingly.
"No! You look!" Criss shot back. "Creed lied about my mother! She didn't steal that money, the man who ran the home did! She was the one who reported it to the authorities! And she had never been arrested! Either you get Artie Creed off the air or I will! Even if I have to sue you!"
Morty sighed. "Look, Criss, I'm as upset about this as you are--"
"Upset?!" Criss exploded. "You're damn right I'm upset! I was able to look the other way when he dissed me, but now he's attacking my family! He's crossed the line this time, and I want him out! Where the hell is he, anyway?"
"I sent for him a few minutes ago," Morty told him. "He should be here by now. Would you like a cup of coffee or something?"
Criss took a seat. "No, thanks," he muttered through gritted teeth. "I just want Artie Creed."
At that moment, the figure of the infamous shock jock materialized at the office door. Criss shot up from his seat and lunged at him. "You lying son of a--!" he screamed at Creed, grabbing him by the shirt. "I'll kill you for what you said about my mother!"
"You and what troop of Boy Scouts?" Creed retorted sarcastically.
Criss slammed Creed against a wall. "You think I'm BS-ing, right? Huh? You think I'm just blowing smoke in your face? Well, lemme tell you something, Creed! My mom was never arrested for anything! She was the one who reported the theft by the man who ran the place! In fact, she spent her own money--and mine--on those kids! I don't know how or where you got that story, but I'm telling you right now it was all a pack of lies!"
"I got that story from a reliable source," Creed argued.
Now it was Criss's turn to be sarcastic. "Oh? Who? Elvis? Your 'reliable source' is full of it, Creed. I just got through talking with my mother, and she told me the truth about the whole thing."
Morty tried to pry the two men apart. "Okay, okay, that's enough. Creed, you sit over there." He pointed to a chair on his left. "Look, Criss, we're sorry about all this. On behalf of the station, I'd like to apologize--"
"Oh, geez, Morty!" Creed spoke up. "Sucking up to him like that! I had a tip over the phone about his mother. Of course she's gonna deny it!"
"You shut the hell up, Creed!" Morty snapped. "You're in enough trouble as it is!"
"Not as much as Criss, here," Creed sneered. "You knew about my wife, Brenda, didn't you, mama's boy? You knew she left me. What's going on between you two, anyway? You sleeping together, or what?"
Criss remained silent. To make any type of reaction would be to show guilt. He had to remain calm, as much as he wanted to kill him. Morty, however, was livid. "You just don't let up, do you, Creed?" he growled. "You just don't quit!"
He strode over to the window and yanked open the blinds. "Look at them down there!" He pointed to the mob of Loyals in the street, still protesting. "You really done it this time, Creed! I warned you and warned you, but you just don't listen! We've got advertisers pulling out left and right! The station is practically bankrupt! Not that you give a damn--you never gave a damn for anyone in your life! Well, this is it, Charlie! You have had it! I'm having your license revoked! I want you out of this building yesterday!"
"I can sue you for the remainder of my contract, Bernhard." Creed countered. "You know how much that will be?"
"Your contract?" Morty jerked open a drawer in his file cabinet and fished out some papers. He waved them in Artie's face. "Here's your contract, Creed!"
He switched on a paper shredder by his desk and fed Creed's contract into the hopper. The metal teeth of the shredder chewed the contract to packing material. "Your contract is cancelled," Morty said, "and so are you! You're fired!"
Artie glared at Criss, as if his recent misfortune was his fault. "This isn't over, Angel! I know you've been sleeping with my wife!"
"Prove it," Criss challenged.
"I don't have to prove it!" Creed retorted. "I know you have."
"Like you knew my mom had been 'arrested' for theft?"
"I can sue you for alienation of affection, not to mention adultery! You've been guilty of that before, remember?"
That was hitting below the belt, in more ways than one, but Criss was not down for the count yet. "Why accuse me of alienation of affection?" he shrugged. "You did that on your own. I went to your house to see you, and I found Brenda crying. Crying because you smashed her violin. She gave up her dreams of playing in the Symphony for you, Artie. Bad mistake on her part--she should have dumped your ass a long time ago. But I did not sleep with your wife."
Criss rose from his seat and began pacing the room slowly. "Now, we can do one of two things to rectify this situation," he said with the air of a prosecuting lawyer. "I can either bring a defamation suit against the station, charge you with libel, wrongful accusation. harassment--take your pick. We can drag this through the whole legal process, perhaps taking weeks, even months, costing thousands of dollars for both of us. Or..." he leaned down, face-to-face with Creed, smiling smugly. "Or, you can apologize."
Last edited by Veritas; 12-10-2012 at 09:56 PM.
Join Date: Aug 2011
12-11-2012, 06:14 AM
Station security and local police struggled to keep the surging crowd at bay.
You may need a swat team for Criss's fans
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
12-11-2012, 06:03 PM
"Apologize?!" Artie Creed was flabbergasted. Never in his years in radio did he ever apologize for anything to anyone, no matter how offensive his remarks had been perceived by the listening public. Now this overblown celebrity mama's boy wanted him to apologize? For the first time in his controversial career, Creed was speechless.
"Yeah, that's right," Criss nodded. "You are going on the air, and you are going to say that you are sorry you lied about my mother. That's all you have to do. And if you don't, well, I hope you have a good lawyer, because you are going to need one."
"Oh, I got one all right!" Creed shot back. "You sue me, and I'll countersue you for every dime you got!"
Morty came between the two men. "All right, that's enough!" he snapped like a father breaking up a fight between two siblings. "Listen, Artie. I don't know how you came up with this story about Criss Angel's mother, but--"
"I didn't 'come up' with it!" Creed argued. "I told you I got a tip on the phone. It's all on tape. I'll prove it."
Criss and Morty looked at each other, then at Creed. "Okay," Criss challenged. "Prove it. But whoever it is, is lying."
"Fine! Believe what you like," Artie said, "but I'm sticking with my source." He stormed out of the manager's office, with his boss and the star magician following in his footsteps, still skeptical. Even if this "source" was as reliable as Creed said, Criss knew that it was all a pack of lies. He had his mother's word on that, and she was more reliable than any source of news Creed ever had.
They entered the deserted studio. Morty switched off the broadcasting mike for privacy--he didn't want another scene like this morning. Artie rewound the phone tape, playing and replaying it to find the beginning of the conversation he had with the mysterious caller. "Okay," he said, "here it is."
Morty and Criss listened to the heavy, breathless man gasping out his story of Dimitra's alleged theft of the foster care money, embezzling it for a trip to Las Vegas and abandoning the children in her care. When the tape ended, Artie sat smugly in his chair, his arms crossed over his skinny chest, daring either man to challenge his authority.
"Who was that guy?" Morty demanded.
"Didn't say," Artie replied, still smug. "He wanted to remain anonymous so he wouldn't prejudice the case."
"How could he be a 'reliable source' if you don't know who the hell he is?" Criss argued.
"Well, he must know about it enough to report it," Artie countered. "He probably caught her in the act. Ever think of that, mama's boy?"
"Did it ever occur to you that he could have made the whole thing up?" Criss shot back. "Ever think of that
"Prove it," Artie sneered. "Prove to me the guy lied. Go on! Prove it!"
"All right!" Criss reached for the station phone. "I'll prove it. Just rewind that tape. I'll give you all the proof you need."
Artie switched on the broadcasting mike. "Hello, Sin City, this is Artie Creed back on the air, with special guest Criss Angel."
Morty was alarmed. "Creed! What the hell are you doing?" He covered the mike as he spoke.
"Hey, if I'm going to prove this mama's boy a fraud, I'm doing it live!"
"Hey, everybody! Artie Creed's back on! And he's got Criss on, too!"
The Loyals gathered around like kids about to watch a fight in a schoolyard, with Criss the odds-on favorite to win. No one dared even to breathe, let alone talk, for fear of missing something important.
"Earlier, I reported that Criss Angel's mother had been arrested for embezzeling funds from the foster home where she was a volunteer for a trip to Vegas. I received a phone tip from an anonymous caller, who must have witnessed the crime, and now Criss Angel himself is here to deny it all."
"I am not 'denying', Artie. I am telling everyone out there the real truth! My mother is innocent. And that phone tip was a load of bullsh*t!"
"You're not allowed to say that on the radio, Criss."
"You've used worse, Creed! And you've gotten away with it! Anyway, here is the one person who can tell you what really happened. Hello, Mom?"
The Loyals were estatic! Dimitra was on the air! They shushed each other to listen in.
"Hello, Christopher," Dimitra said.
"Hello, Mrs. Sardonicus," Artie said.
"That's Sarantakos, dipwad!" Criss snapped.
Artie brushed him off. "Whatever. Anyway, this is Artie Creed. I--"
"You were the one who accused me of theft!" Dimitra said angrily. "You lied to everyone about me! You said I had been arrested!"
"I was never arrested for anything! I reported that theft to the authorities. It was Mr. Webber who stole those funds!"
"But I have a--"
"He is the one who should be arrested! And I did not leave those children alone! When I went to Las Vegas, for my nephew's wedding, by the way, I left them in the care of a couple of nuns from the convent! Who told you these lies? How dare you say those things about me!"
The Loyals outside cheered her on. Mother Angel was really kicking Creed's ass big time!
"Ma'am, we have it all on tape here," Artie said. "Listen to it, and see if it proves you innocent or guilty."
Everyone fell silent as Creed played the tape over the air. There were mutterings of disbelief and denial among the Loyals. No way this was true, they thought. This guy was BSing!
When the tape wound to its end, Artie said, "Do you know who that was? Any idea?"
"Yes, I know who that is," Dimitra replied . "That is Mr. Webber, the guardian of the foster children I cared for."
"Well, he should know if you stole any money now, right? If you worked for him, and he reported that theft, that makes you guilty, right?"
"If Mom did steal that money, why did Mr. Webber tell you instead of the authorities?" Criss pointed out. "What could you have done?"
"Told the truth," Artie replied simply.
"It's because he's setting her up! He's making her the fall guy in this. He's covering his back and pinning it all on Mom."
Artie rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on, Criss. Just because she's your mommy and all doesn't prove her innocent."
"It's not because she's my mother, and I'll thank you to speak more respectfully about her, but she is innocent. You said she had been arrested, when it was clear she was not. There was no mention of any arrest. She reported it to Social Services. If she had been guilty, they would have busted her right then and there."
"What do you say we call these Social Services people and see if they can confirm it?"
"Okay, we will!" Criss agreed. He turned back to the phone. "Mom? You got the number for Social Services there?"
"Yes, right here," Dimitra said, and told him the numbers as Criss wrote them down.
Artie leaned toward the mike. "We'll be right back after these messages."
As Dimitra waited for Criss to contact Social Services, another call came through to her via call waiting. She put the station on hold and answered, "Hello? Yes, this is Mrs. Sarantakos. Yes. Oh. Oh. dear. No, she was a ward of the state and had been in foster care. I'll be there as soon as I can. Thank you."
Dimitra sadly pushed a button, ending the call, and switched back to KLOL. No response yet. She sighed heavily. From the call she had just received, now there was another crime for which Mr. Webber was guilty.
"County Social Services. May I help you?" a woman's voice answered mechanically.
"Yes," Artie said with uncharacteristic courtesy, "we are investigating a case of some foster children being neglected by their caregiver hired by their guardian. They were abandoned and--"
Criss ripped the phone from Artie's hand and put it to his own ear. "Listen. We need to know everything you can tell us about a Mr. Webber, who had fourteen children in his care and was pocketing the funds. He was the one neglecting them, not their caregiver." Criss shot an angry look at Creed. Trust him to distort the truth, he thought.
"Mr. Harold Webber, of Long Island?"
"Yes, him. Do you know anything about him, what happened to the kids?"
"Well, the authorities are investigating his financial records, and he is being charged with child neglect, fraud and misuse of funds. In fact, it says here there is a warrant for his arrest."
"Has anyone been arrested? And who reported the crime?"
"No arrests that I know of, sir. There is only that one warrant. And the person who reported it is an Mrs. Sa-ran-ta-kos, I believe it is. She was the volunteer caregiver to the children at the time. She had been very co-operative with the Child Neglect officers and Social Services generally."
Cheers rose from the Loyals listening to the broadcast. At last! Confirmation of Dimitra's innocence! Artie Creed was toast!
"Thank you," Criss said. "You have been very helpful." He disconneted the line and switched back to his mother. "Hey, Mom! Did you hear all that?"
"Yes, I did. Thank you." she replied simply. To Criss, she sounded tired. "Now, put Mr. Creed back on. I want to talk to him."
Gloating, Criss handed the phone to Creed. "It's Mom," he said, smiling smugly. "She wants to talk to you."
The Loyals outside almost shuddered in anticipation. They just could not wait to hear what Dimitra had to say to Artie Creed! It was payback time! they thought. If he could dish it out, he could take it. They all knew that Dimitra was going to give Creed an earful, and Dimitra did not disappoint them.
"Mr. Creed?" Dimitra said, her voice trembling with anger, "I don't know why you came up with those lies about me. What are you trying to do? Ruin me? Ruin Chris? Well, now you have been proven a liar! Does being on the radio give you the right to ruin people's lives? Answer me!"
"Listen, lady," Artie said, "I was misinformed, okay? I just got this tip on the phone and reported it."
"You did not answer my question."
"Hey, I call them as I see them. You ever hear of the First Amendment?"
"Did you ever hear of the Seventh Commandment?" Dimitra shot back. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, remember? And you have broken it over and over again! You had a duty as a radio announcer to tell the truth--"
"I did tell the truth!"
"Whose truth? Yours? You used the radio only to hurt people! And now you have been caught in an outright lie! May you never work in radio again! May the public never hear your voice ever again! May God silence you forever!"
A chill went down Criss' spine as he heard those words spoken by his usually gentle mother. Thousands of years of Hellenic culture hardwired into his psyche told him that there was nothing more feared by the Greeks than a mother's curse. She could call down the wrath of God on a person's head if she had good reason. Artie Creed was doomed.
Artie, however, was nonplussed. To him, her cursing was nothing more than the rant of an old woman. Why should he be afraid of that old bag? He was still Artie Creed! He could land any spot on any radio station anywhere in the country! He would never be silenced, not in a million years. To hell with her! He was glad to be leaving this podunk station; it gave him an opportunity to move on to fresh woods and pastures new. As always, Artie couldn't resist getting in the last word. "Yeah, like that's going to happen." He hung up on Dimitra, leaving Criss outraged.
"This is Artie Creed signing off on KLOL, and this is my last broadcast on this station!"
He stormed out of the studio, giving Morty and Criss the middle finger. Criss stuck his head out of the door and loudly suggested that Creed perform a certain anatomical impossibility. Morty headed back to his office, where Shiela waited in the reception area.
Morty barged in. "Who the hell are they?" he demanded, pointing at the two lovely young girls sitting patiently on the vinyl bench.
"They're here for the intern position, sir," Shiela told him. "They've been waiting for over an hour."
"Okay! You're hired! Both of you!" Morty barked. "First thing tomorrow, six-thirty AM, you two are the new morning show on KLOL. And I don't want any trouble! I got an ulcer eating me up alive because of the last guy." He took refuge in his office.
The two girls, now the new KLOL morning show jocks, stared at each other in disbelief.
The second deejay, a more amiable type, had taken over after Artie left. Criss left as well. Creed never did apolgize for what he said about his mother. He hated the thought of a lawsuit, though. The manager, Morty Bernhard, said the station was so deep in the red it was almost bankrupt. But one thing had been accomplished: Creed was history. Criss couldn't think of any radio station desperate enough, or stupid enough, to hire him. He was poison to the broadcasting arts. His mother's curse would come true. That was payback enough. Creed would be lucky if Artie got a job delivering the farm report.
He called his mother again in a private space in the corridor next to the lobby, still crowded with reporters. "Hey, Mom, how's it going?"
"I am all right. Where is Mr. Creed? He hung up on me."
"He's history, Mom. He's outta here. You won't be hearing from him again."
"Good." She sounded depressed.
"Mom? You okay? You sound kinda down."
"I received a call from the children's hospital where Baby Mia was."
Criss remembered his mother telling him about Mia. She had suffered the worst of all the foster kids, with a burned body and missing left hand, then coming down with an infection. In that filthy house, it was a wonder they all did not succumb to illness. "Is she okay?" he asked.
"She is more than 'okay' now" Dimitra said softly. "She is with God."
Criss stood there in shock. Poor Baby Mia, barely two years old and her life was taken from her just like that. He could not help shedding a tear for her. With no family, someone had to mourn for her.
"I'm sorry, Mom" he said. "I really am. Do you need my help with anything? Anything at all?"
"I want to claim her body and give it a proper burial" Dimitra told him. "You can help with the expenses. Nothing too lavish, keep it very simple."
Criss nodded. "Sure, Mom. I love you."
"I love you, too."
"I love you more."
Criss hung up, then braced himself for the onslaught of reporters and photographers for an unofficial press conference. He had plenty to tell them.
Criss wished he had bought his shades to protect his eyes from the flashbulbs of the cameras as he gave his statement to the press in the KLOL lobby. They practically blinded him. Ever since the Vegas Bomber threw that pipe bomb at him during his motorcycle demonstration and damaged his eyes, he had been very careful about protecting his vision. Geez! Didn't they have enough pictures of him already?
"I just want to clear a few things up for the press," he said over the clicking of shutters. "My mother, Dimitra Sarantakos, is innocent of all charges. There is a warrant out for the arrest of Mr. Webber, the head of that foster home where she worked. He is the sole guilty party in this case. My mother was the one who reported it to the Social Services authorities. They have it on record. She is the hero of all this, not the villian.
"I also received word that one of the children in Mr. Webber's care, Baby Mia, was hospitalized for an infection. She had already suffered severe burns on her left side, to the point where she lost her hand. Today, Mia died in the Children's Hospital in Long Island. Among Webber's other crimes, this one is the worst. This is negligent homicide, if not second degree murder. To cause the death of an innocent child, even indirectly, is by far the most heinous crime anyone can ever commit.
"As for Artie Creed, he has been fired from KLOL. He never apologized for any of his remarks concerning my mother. He had ragged me in the past, but they never stung as badly as those directed toward my mother. No one disses my family, especially my Mom! We all love her, and the Loyals love her as their own mother. There was no excuse for Creed to accuse her of anything.
"The so-called 'tip' Artie received was from Mr. Webber himself. There is a warrant out for his arrest. This case is being looked into by the county. As for the children themselves, well, we can only pray for them. I don't know what happened to them, but I hope that whatever home they find themselves in, it will be a hell of a lot better than the last one. Thank you."
Criss stepped away from the media, rubbing his eyes. He made a mental note to keep his shades with him at all times. He couldn't take the glare of the flashbulbs anymore. He stepped outside to the tumultuous cheering of his Loyals. Many tried to hug him, but security fought hard to hold them back. He waved, climbed into the cool darkness of his Lambo, and drove back to the Luxor.
He should have been gloating over Creed's fall from grace, if grace it could be called. Creed had been a splinter in Criss' side ever since he made a name for himself in Las Vegas. Hell! He barely showed any sympathy at all when the Bomber attacked Criss, blinding and burning him. Now he was history. Yet, he felt no triumph. Instead, his thoughts turned to Baby Mia. She did not deserve to die like that. She did not deserve to die at all. How she got burned and lost her hand would remain a mystery to him; maybe he did not even want to know. She had suffered so much in her two years on this earth. He began singing a little song he composed for the birth of his niece, Little Dimitra:
Tiny Angel from Heaven come down.
So great a mystery, deep, profound
In one so small. How came you to be,
Precious gift entrusted to me?
Hope is restored within me.
Joy wells up inside me.
Tiny Angel from Heaven come down.
Tiny Angel from Heaven come down.
The Heavens smile, and surround
You with golden light
To dispel the shadows of the night.
No evil shall ever touch you.
No harm shall ever come near you.
Tiny Angel from Heaven come down.*
No one surrounded Mia with golden light, he thought bitterly. She had been surrounded instead by the fires of Hell itself, maiming her tiny body. Dear God! He remembered the flash of pain he had felt when that pipe bomb exploded in front of him. It must have been so much worse for a two year old, her tender infant flesh torn and seared by the cruel flames. And then, to suffer such neglect by Webber! Mom's help came too little, too late. She had confided in him when she asked for money that Mia was probably brain damaged as well. He wondered, what kind of a God allowed a baby to suffer like that? For what purpose did it serve?
Criss stopped at a red light at some intersection. In the privacy of the Lambo with its tinted windows, he bowed his head and said a prayer for Mia's soul and the souls of the other foster children as well. He wished he had taken the time to learn their names.
Dear Jesus, You once said "Suffer the children to come unto Me, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." Well, these children have suffered greatly. You took one already into Your kingdom. Why did You let these poor kids suffer such neglect and abuse? You are supposed to be the Good Shepherd, yet these tender lambs were left to be devoured by the wolves of an uncaring social system and a greedy guardian. Why? Why did You let this happen? How could You have let these children go through hell if theirs is supposed to be the kingdom of Heaven?
Barely a day had passed since Dimitra's telephone confrontation with Artie Creed. County Social Services moved swiftly, informing Dimitra that agents from Child Neglect would be arriving first thing in the morning to retrieve the remaining children from Mr. Webber's house, and for her to be there with them when they did. Dimitra had merely said yes, she would, and hung up the phone. Now, on the morning of the next day, she sat in the shabby living room, waiting for the CNS agents. She was tired, her eyes were red from weeping over the death of Baby Mia, and she nearly nodded off a couple of times on the worn out sofa.
It was over, it was all over, her mind kept repeating over and over again. Her work with these children was finished. She had struggled to feed and clothe them to the best of her ability with what limited resources she had, only to be betrayed by Webber and slandered by Artie Creed. Now, it was all over, nothing left for her but an empty void she didn't know how to fill...
Dimitra started at the sound of a heavy pounding on the door of the foster home. She pulled it open to reveal two very severe looking women in business attire. They each flashed a badge encased in leather. "Mrs. Sarantakos?" the taller of the two spoke in a deep contralto. "We're here from the Child Neglect division of Social Services. We are here to remove the children from this house."
"Come in," Dimitra said, opening the door wider to allow the two officers access. "I'll go get them. They're upstairs."
The Child Neglect officers stepped in without a word, taking note of every detail of the house, scanning for any signs of code violations or neglect. Dimitra went upstairs to fetch the children. She had prepared them earlier for this. She had told them the whole truth about Mr. Webber and his crime against the county and against them, his charges. Her only hope was that they would find better homes with people who truly loved them. Though she had known them for only a few months, she loved them all as dearly as her own. Now, with their few belongings stuffed into plastic grocery bags, they stood in silent resignation to whatever Fate had in store for them. The two youngest. Chris and Kira, merely stared uncomprehendingly at her. Dimitra reached out to each of them for a final farewell.
"Good-bye, Heather" she said. "You have been such a big help to me."
"Good-bye, Mrs. S." Heather hugged her back.
"Roland, you get any taller and your head will be scraping the ceiling." She tried to laugh. It was a lame joke, but any sort of comic relief was better than none in this situation.
"I love you, Mrs. S." Roland said, wrapping his gangly arms around her,
"Aaron, Austin," she said to the two brothers. "You be good boys now. You are very lucky to have each other." She hugged them both.
She knelt down to Buck next. "Mrs. S." Buck said, "do you think the next family I get will let me have a dog?"
Dimitra smiled. Buck had been going on about having dog of his own for quite some time. "You will have your own dog someday, darling," she answered, hugging him.
"Buddy...Jamal..." she hugged each boy in turn. "Brandy? Now remember what I told you about stealing, all right?"
Brandy nodded, clutching her bag of clothes. Dimitra wondered if she should search it for any contraband, just in case. She came to Derek next.
"Don't take any wooden nickels!" Derek piped up before Dimitra could say anything, his big smile lighting up the room as usual. Dimitra wondered where he got that peculiar phrase. Still, she hugged him as she did the others. As she rose, she noticed China in a far corner, the chip on her shoulder firmly in place, glaring sideways at Dimitra with burning hatred.
Dimitra took a deep breath and stepped forward. Getting through to China had been like defusing a time bomb every time she spoke to her. The pain of rejection and neglect had taken its toll on her psyche at the tender age of ten. Another move to yet another foster home embittered her even more deeply.
"China," Dimitra began. "I know this is hard for you. It is hard for me as well. I know how you feel about this"
"No. you don"t!" China snapped. "You don't know nothin'! You say you do, but you don't know nothin'!" She burst into angry tears. "People say they care, then they get rid of me! Everyone I love leaves me! Nobody cares at all!"
Dimitra knelt down beside her. "I do care, darling. That is why I called the authorities. Do you want to spend the rest of your life living in a filthy house with a man who is spending the money given to him by the government on himself instead of you? You deserve better than that, China. You deserve a real family who loves and cares about you. And the Social Services people will find them for you."
"No, they won't," China grumbled. "I'll just be stuck in some other place like this one."
Dimitra slumped in despair. It grieved her that this child, who had her whole life ahead of her, should have given up hope of a better future. Still, she was not giving up on China. She had to make one final effort to break through the wall she had built around her and touch the wounded child inside.
"China, no matter where life takes you, always keep in mind I will always love you. We may be miles apart, but you will always be in my heart. You and all the others. You have been hurt in the past, but you will have a better future if you just believe."
Dimitra reached out to embrace China, but the little girl stiffened at her touch. She was not used to any sort of affection, no matter how much she longed for it deep down inside. Dimitra finally backed away. She would pray extra hard for China as she would for the other children.
She turned to little Chris, so unlike her own Christopher, who had been a bundle of energy with his daring, his passions, his love of life, whereas this one was shy, pathetically grateful for any sign of affection which came his way. To him, any sort of life was better than dying. He was too young to comprehend the change about to take place.
Dimitra picked up Kira and herded the children downstairs for the last time. Heather somehow managed to persuade China to come out of her corner and follow the others. They trooped silently into the main room where the two officers were waiting.
"I am sorry for the delay," Dimitra apologized to them. "Here they are. Ready to go."
"I see only twelve. There were supposed to be fourteen. Where are the other two?" the tall officer demanded.
"Tanvi was taken by Islamic Social Services, and Baby Mia was taken to the hospital for some sort of infection." Dimitra explained.
The second officer made a note in her record book. "Well call Islamic Social Services and the hospital to confirm that," she said.
"I can give you their numbers," Dimitra offered helpfully.
"Thank you, but we have them already," the second officer said as she put away her notebook. She turned to the children. "Well, children, it's time to go. The van is waiting. There's nothing to be afraid of, you're going to be transferred to better homes."
"That's what you said last time!" China snarled.
The officer ignored the remark. She had dealt with problem cases before. This one was no different. "All right, let's get going. We haven't got all day."
They all marched out of the house to the waiting van, carrying their plastic bags. Where would they go this time? they wondered. Dimitra handed Kira to the tall officer. The tiny girl began to wail as she was carried into the van and strapped into a regulation child safety seat. Her cries of "Mama! Mama!" tore at Dimitra's heart. But there was nothing she could do but stand helplessly by as the van filled with the children she had grown to love drove away, their faces staring out at her through the windows.
May the Lord bless and keep each of you in His heart, and may you all find the love you need and deserve. May you find families who will love and cherish you as their own. May your futures be bright and full of hope. And may all the troubles you have suffered fade into memory.
*This is not a Criss Angel song, but one of my own composition.
Last edited by Veritas; 12-11-2012 at 06:49 PM.
Join Date: Jan 2012
12-11-2012, 07:02 PM
Great Chapters , cant wait to read more
Join Date: Aug 2011
12-11-2012, 07:56 PM
That chapter tore at my heart strings
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
12-11-2012, 10:18 PM
Mr. Carlyle, the Social Services director, sat in his office with Investigator Melanie Reisler, going over Harold Webber's financial records and the discrepancies found therein. Reisler was a specialist dealing in white-collar crimes: computer fraud, identity theft, tax evasion, and, of course, embezzlement. She had been assigned to the Webber case just hours after the crime was reported by Social Services. If anyone could sniff out financial fraud, it was she. She had been studying accounting in college when a dishonest clerk in her father's hardware store dipped into the till a few times too many and sent him straight into bankruptcy. The clerk had skipped town and was never caught. She switched to law enforcement, but her accounting skills were not wasted. Reisler had investigated everything from petty larceny in mom-and-pop stores to Enron. She was LIPD's best financial fraud officer.
Now she was here in the Social Services office, looking into what was on the surface a rather routine embezzlement case, but what made her skin crawl was that these were foster care funds, meant to pay for children's food, clothes, medical care and other needs. This guy was robbing orphans, for chrissake! How low can you get?
Reisler and Carlyle poured over the ledger, compared them to the vouchers, and sorted out the check stubs. From what they found from the bank records, Webber had simply cashed the checks at the bank into his own personal account, withdrawing only a third of the money to be placed into a separate account for foster care, pocketing the rest. There were falsified documents as to what the money had been spent upon. A comparison to Dimitra's financial records, given freely, revealed that she had spent not only two thousand dollars of her personal money upon them, but had also received a wire transfer of nearly four thousand dollars from her famous son, Christopher, aka Criss Angel. She had spent it mostly on medical bills, especially on the baby, Mia. No sign of theft on her part. She was clear as glass.
Webber, however, was a different story. He had been spending money like a drunken sailor, trying to impress high-end clients for their business. It was all show, Reisler discovered. Webber was virtually drowning in red ink. What was worse, as Reisler had heard, he tried to pin it all on the caregiver, Mrs. Sarantakos, by calling shock jock Artie Creed and having it broadcast on the radio. It had caused such an outrage the studio was besieged by angry Criss Angel fans.
Reisler was no devotee of the Cult of Personality. Let the infotainment people take care of that, she thought. Her job was to crunch the numbers to see what added up. And from the look of it, it was adding up to a very long prison sentence for Harold Webber. The question was, where was he?
Harold Webber was on his way to Mexico, with what cash he could pilfer from company coffers and the stipend checks. He wiped his sweaty brow as he drove to the airport in New Jersey. He had to avoid New York, just in case his little scheme backfired. Besides, he got a better deal in Jersey on airfare. He should have destroyed those records, he cursed himself. But it would take time to sift through them all, and by the time they were finished, he'd be out of the country, living it up, while that little Greek lady would be taking the rap. And Mexico still had anti-extradition laws.
But there was still that long drive to Jersey, and an even longer wait for the flight. He could not breathe easily until he was on that plane to Mexico City. He just had to play it cool until then, arouse no suspicions on anyone's part. He sped along the freeway to the New Jersey Turnpike, only to see red and blue flashing lights in his rear view mirror. He had a momentary panic attack, but composed himself. No one knew anything, he reminded himself. He pulled over to the shoulder, setting his flabby features to a more serene expression. The patrolman approached his car and bent down to Webber's level.
"Good afternoon, Officer." Webber greeted the cop jovially. "Is there something wrong?"
"Yes, sir, you were going about fifteen miles over the speed limit. I need to see your driver's license and registration, and proof of insurance."
"Oh, dear," Webber said, flustered. "Well, I am so sorry about that." He fumbled in his wallet for his license. "I was in such a hurry to get to the airport, I didn't know how fast I was going," he said apologetically.
He fished out his car paperwork from the glove compartment and handed it to the patrolman with his license. "Here you are, my good man. I trust you will find everything is in order."
"Thank you, sir," the patrolman said as he took the card and papers and returned to his cruiser. The driver seemed a little nervous, he thought, but that was normal for anyone being pulled over--no one wanted a ticket. But he was sweating more than the usual person. A bit suspicious, but nothing to go on. The license number and registration was recorded into the cruiser's vehicle retrieval system via a built-in computer terminal. The information flashed onto the monitor.
Webber, Harold Arthur. Birthdate: 10-12-47. Owner of 2005 Lincoln Continental, black. License plate number: BFD 690, New York. Warrants Pending: Fraud, embezzlement, child neglect and abuse.
The patrolman got out of the cruiser and walked toward Webber. "Mr. Webber?"
Webber still tried to play it cool. "Yes?"
"Step out of the car please. There is a warrant out for your arrest. I'm afraid you will have to come with me."
Artie Creed drained the last of his third Scotch and soda of the afternoon and pondered his next move. He could file a wrongful discharge suit against the station, but it wouldn't be worth the effort. KLOL had been bleeding red ink for years now. Why beat a dead horse? He could find better stations to work for, LA for instance. That was where it was happening. Or he could go back to Washington State, to Seattle, where he started. It still had a thriving music scene, and, as he was familiar with the area, he'd score a job at one of the major stations.
Seattle. Home. Where he got his feet wet in the broadcasting business, made a name for himself, met and married Brenda--no, that ship had sailed. Brenda was history to him, the ungrateful little--. Seattle was out. No sense trying to recapture the past. He had to look forward to the future. He had to put out feelers for new radio spots. He'd leave Sin City behind and start a new life somewhere else. Surely there was a place for him in this great country of his.
He heard the mail drop flap clatter as the morning post arrived. He rose to retrieve it. Phone bill, water bill, ad, ad, credit card statement, something from the FCC--
The FCC! He dropped the rest of his mail and ripped the envelope open. He quickly unfolded the tri-folded page:
Dear Mr. Creed:
This letter is to inform you that in light of your past and recent violations of FCC protocol and regulaions, your broadcasting license has been revoked, effective immediatly. This decision has been based on the following:
a) Persistant use of vulgar, obscene and abusive language on the air.
b) Falsification of data and non-verification of news sources.
c) Defamation of character.
d) Lack of respect and courtesy to the public.
Due to the seriousness of these charges, and the number of past complaints about your conduct, this decision is final; there will be no consideration for reversal.
David C. Bargerman,
Federal Communicaions Commission.
Artie stared at the letter clutched in his hand. They revoked his license! How could they do that to him? They said there was no way he could appeal; they said it was final. Over. Done with. Kaput.
He sank down on the couch. They destroyed his career. Artie Creed, king of the airwaves, dethroned by the powers-that-be. He could never find work in radio again. There was only one thing to do.
Artie got up and mixed himself another Scotch and soda.
Last edited by Veritas; 12-11-2012 at 10:25 PM.
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
12-14-2012, 02:54 AM
By now, the Long Island foster home scandal had made national news. It had everything in it--poor, starving kids, a heartless guardian who stole their money, a little old lady who blew the whistle and got framed, and a big name celebrity to boot. That the little old lady was the mother of the big name celebrity made the story even jucier. The Cult of Personality milked it for all it was worth.
The Loyals stood by their beloved Mother Angel, burning up the Web with shout-outs, prayers and protestaions of Dimitra's innocence. How dared Harold Webber accuse Dimitra of such a thing? It was inconceivable that she would, or even could, commit such a crime? He was lying through his teeth! And those poor children! They had been blessed with Mama Angel's care (you just had to look at her three sons as proof of that), and her Angel of a son helped with finances, but that greedy man who was supposed to take care of them took the money and ran. What happened to them? they wondered.
Criss' press statement at KLOL had been posted on the Internet; it was greeted with both cheers and tears. Artie Creed had been thrown out on his ass! Hooray and good riddance to bad rubbish! He got what he deserved, and deserved what he got. Many replayed Dimitra's last words to him: May you never work in radio again! May God silence you forever! And now the prophecy had come to pass. The Loyal Community rejoiced that Creed would never diss Criss again.
On the other hand, Baby Mia's death triggered an outpouring of grief. There was even a thread on the Loyal Community Website dedicated to her memory. One sharp-eared Loyal found "Tiny Angel" on an early Criss Angel CD and reprinted the lyrics. Banners were created with Criss cradling a cherubic infant with the caption "Guardian Angel". Baby Mia received more love and affection in death than she ever had in life.
Her funeral, however, was attended by only Dimitra, Stella Strumpolis and the priest conducting the service. She was interred in a tiny white casket, paid for by Criss, in the same cemetery his father was buried.
The foster care scandal trial took place in mid-December. Harold Webber was formally charged with fourteen counts of child neglect and abuse, several counts of embezzlement, one count of fraud, and one count of negligent manslaughter. He faced ten to fifteen years in prison, with a maximum of twenty years if convicted of manslaughter. Despite the confidentiality of the location of the trial, a large group of Loyals gathered outside the courthouse, braving the elements to catch a glimpse of Dimitra or, they hoped, Criss himself. And wherever the Loyals gathered, the media were sure to follow, ready to catch a statement or snap a picture.
Dimitra sat on the prosecutor's side of the courtroom, dressed simply and conservativly. Harold Webber sat in the defendant's chair on the other side, sweating profusely. That man never seemed to stop perspiring, Dimitra thought. He was damp with sweat, even out in the twenty degree weather. Now, in the courtroom, he was like a human Niagara Falls.
The jury filed in and took their seats in the fourteen seat juror's box. The trial was about to begin.
"All rise!" the bailiff announced. "This court is now in session, the Honorable William Barris presiding."
Everyone rose as ordered. The Honorable William Barris, the judge for the County Court, a man of integrity and more years in the legal profession than many attorneys of the State Bar had been alive on this planet, took his seat on the bench, overlooking the courtroom. "Be seated." he commanded.
"The case of the State of New York vs. Harold Webber." Judge Barris read from the docket. "Mr. Webber, you have been charged with child neglect, fraud, misappropration of public funds and negligent manslaughter. How do you plead?"
"Not guilty," Mr. Webber replied, still sweating heavily.
"The counsel for the prosecution will make its opening statement."
"Thank you, Your Honor," the prosecuting attorney said. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this man, Harold Webber, has extorted funds from the county which was intended for the care of fourteen children in foster care for his own selfish needs. It had left these unfortunate young ones without even the most basic necessities, even to the point where the youngest of the group, no more than two years old and who had suffered third-degree burns resulting in the amputation of her left hand, had succumbed to a serious infection resulting in her death. The children were housed in squalid conditions, with inadequate food, insufficient clothing and no medical care. If not for the selfless devotion of Mrs. Sarantakos, who went above and beyond the call of duty to provide for the needs of these children, even purchasing supplies out of her own pocket, these children would have met a similar fate.
"A society is judged by how it cares for its indigant. If we are judged as a society by the way these children have been treated, then we should hang our heads in shame. Let us make an example of Mr. Webber, and show the nation that we do care for these, the least fortuante among us."
"Thank you, Counselor." Judge Barris said. "The court will now hear the opening statement for the defense."
Webber's lawyer rose. "Thank you, Your Honor. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my client is accused of the neglect of his young foster children, even the unfortuante death of one of them. I intend to prove that there were circumstances beyond his control. For example, the previous caretaker was extremely negligent, even abusive. She was responsible for the conditions of the home, the bad food and the filthy conditions there. Mr. Webber dismissed her immediatly, replacing her with the more competant Mrs. Sarantakos, who worked hard to undo the damage. Does that sound like neglect to you?
"Nor is Mr. Webber responsible for the death of Mia Doe. Her death was from an infection which even the best doctors were unable to cure. It was beyond his control. As for the money, he worked with what he had, which was precious little enough. Mrs. Sarantakos, however, did leave for Las Vegas for a few days while still employed by Mr. Webber. There are allegations of embezzlement on her part--"
"Objection, Your Honor!" shouted the prosecutor. "There has been no proof that Mrs. Sarantakos stole anything from the defendant. She had already been cleared of that!"
"Objection sustained. Counselor, please remember that it is Mr. Webber on trial here, and not Mrs. Sarantakos."
"As I was saying," the defense continued, "it is my intention to prove my client is innocent of these charges. He is a respected businessman who took in not one, but fourteen children who would not have had a home into his care."
"Thank you, Counselor. You may call your first witness." Judge Barris said.
"The defense calls in Mr. Harold Webber."
Mr. Harold Webber heaved himself from his chair and took the stand. "Mr. Webber," the bailiff intoned, "do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you?"
"You may be seated."
Webber sat down. "Now, Mr. Webber," the defense attorney began, "Please tell the court what happened to the funds you received from the county."
"What little they sent me, I spent on the kids, I swear!" Webber answered. "I loved them as my own."
"Were all expenses recorded?"
"Yes, in my ledger, every cent. See for yourself."
The ledger, labeled Exhibit A, was brought forward. "This is the ledger you used to record the foster care expenses?"
"Yes, that's the one."
"How much were you allotted per month, total?"
"Sixteen hundred dollars." Webber pointed to the ledger. "It's all in there. No falsification on my part, I assure you."
The defense attorney opened the ledger. "Let the record show that Mr. Webber recorded receiving sixteen hundred dollars every month for the care of his foster children." He showed the book to the jury, then placed it back on the table.
"And as for the charges of neglect and abuse, can you shed some light on that?"
"That was not me!" Webber protested. "The previous caretaker was at fault there. She was the negligent and abusive one, not I. I had dismissed her immediatly."
"When did Mrs. Sarantakos come into your employ?"
"Around the end of April, I believe."
"How was her performance as caretaker of the children?"
"Well, it was excellent all around. She really cleaned up the place, going above and beyond, at least at first she did."
" 'At first'? You mean she became less competant as time went on?"
"Oh, no. I mean she did leave for Las Vegas for a week or so, leaving the children unattended."
Dimitra was shocked. How dared he say that? He knew perfectly well she did not leave those children unattended! She kept quiet for the time being, knowing her chance would come to refute his testemony.
"Did she return?"
"Any suspicious behavior?"
"Well, she had invaded my office to read my personal records. And that was when the money was found missing."
"How and when did you discover funds were missing?"
"I checked my bank statement as always, and there was about thirty-two thousand dollars missing around the end of June, the same time Mrs. Sarantakos had been in Las Vegas."
Dimitra kept her rage in check. Despite the fact that she had been cleared of any theft charges, Mr. Webber was still trying to pin the blame on her. How could he betray her like that? She who had cared for the children he had been entrusted as guardian by the county, she who had spent thousands of dollars not only of her own money but that of her son's as well--how could he stab her in the back like this? She had been proven innocent already.
The defense rested. Now it was the prosecutor's turn. He had his game face on, ready to grill the defendant without mercy. The prosecuting attorney had shown up at court loaded for bear: check stubs, bank statements, deposit slips, receipts--every available scrap of paper had been carefully collected and recorded for testemony. He strode confidently to the witness stand, staring Webber squarely in his sweaty face.
"Mr. Webber, you claim to have received only sixteen hundred dollars a month for fourteen foster children, is that correct?"
"That's right, it's in the ledger."
"Oh, it's in the ledger. Well, according to your bank records, you were actually receiving forty-two hundred a month. That's three times what you claimed to have been receiving."
"Well, there were taxes, of course, you know."
"Taxes? Mr. Webber, there are no taxes of any type withheld from county foster care funds. Surely you know that!" He leaned closer. "What did happen to the extra thirty-two thousand dollars per month you received, Mr. Webber?"
Webber was silent, damp with sweat. "Answer the question, please, Mr. Webber." the prosecutor pressed.
"It was her!" He pointed at Dimitra. "She stole those funds to go to Las Vegas! She must have lost it all gambling or something!"
"You are lying!!" Dimitra shouted, shooting up from her seat. "You yourself stole that money and you know it!"
The judge pounded his gavel. "Order! Order in the court!" When the dust settled, the judge told the prosecutor to proceed with the questioning.
The prosecutor produced a handful of paper slips. "Do you know what these are, Mr. Webber?"
"Deposit slips from the bank," he replied.
"Exactly. They are deposit slips from your bank accounts." He turned to the jury. "These deposit slips show that Mr. Webber had cashed the monthly stipend checks, totalling forty-two hundred dollars, dividing the amount into two separate accounts, one for himself and one for the foster children. Thirty-two thousand went into his own personal account, but only sixteen hundred went into the other for the foster home. Furthurmore, there is no evidence that Mrs. Sarantakos made any type of withdrawl from the bank. She had filled out vouchers and handed them to Mr. Webber for any money needed. All financial transactions were handled by Mr. Webber himself."
Webber was silent, sweat pouring from his face, his armpits two dark, damp patches growing bigger by the minute. Dimitra sat calm and serene, confident of vindication. After more interminable questioning by the prosecution, Mr. Webber was dismissed. Mopping his brow with an already damp kerchief, he returned to his seat.
"The court calls Dimitra Sarantakos to the stand."
Dimitra rose and walked over to the witness stand. She raised her right hand as instructed by the bailiff.
"Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you?"
"Please be seated."
Dimitra sat down, bracing herself for the onslaught to come. She knew the truth was on her side, but she was still a bit nervous. Her eyes stared past the two counselors to the main doors of the courtroom. One door pushed its way forward, and to Dimitra's surprise, Criss himself emerged from behind it. He slipped into the courtroom unobtrusively, gave her a reassuring smile, and took a seat in the back of the courtroom. It was going to be all right now. Her Angel had arrived.
"Mrs. Sarantakos, can you describe in your own words what the conditions of the foster home were when you first arrived?"
"Filthy dirty," she replied with a tone of disgust. "There was a foul stench everywhere, and the children were all together in one room, boys and girls. The two youngest were in a single crib together. They were in rags, and the beds were not fit for dogs, let alone children. The bathroom was so filthy we could not use it."
"Did you report these conditions to Social Services?"
"Not at the time, no, though I should have. I tried to set things right myself. I did have help from my son, Costa , and my two sisters, Calliope and Stella. I had the help of the church, and GoodWill. I also purchased anything that had not been donated."
"Such as what?"
"Food, of course, and medicines, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and any necessary medical care."
"How could you afford all that on sixteen hundred a month?"
"I couldn't. I used my own money, and the money my son, Christopher, sent to me."
"How much of your own money and your son's did you spend?"
"Two thousand of my own, and four thousand of my son's."
"I see. But you never withdrew any funds from Mr. Webber's foster care account?"
"No. I had to fill out a voucher for any of that money. I never set foot in Mr. Webber's bank, let alone take money from it."
"Now, Mr. Webber said you went to Las Vegas in late June, is that correct?"
"Yes, it was for my nephew's wedding. And I was there only for a few days, not a week or two as Mr. Webber said."
"Did you leave the children unattended, as Mr. Webber claimed?"
"Absolutly not! I called the convent and requested the help of the sisters there. Sister Dorothy and Sister Eleanor came and tended to the children while I was gone. In fact, I had asked Mr. Webber for time off to attend the wedding, and he gave his consent, if I found someone to cover for me, which I did."
"When you left for Las Vegas, were you aware that the youngest child, Mia Doe, was ill?"
"When I left, she was fine. She was eating well, and actually seemed to be improving in many ways. She tried to talk a little; when I arrived, she did not make a sound, let alone say a word. She was even smiling before I left for the wedding."
"So her condition deteriorated after you left?"
"Yes. The sisters took her to the hospital immediatly."
"What was Mr. Webber's reaction to Mia's condition, do you remember?"
"He seemed almost indifferent to it. In fact, he was more concerned with finances than with her health."
"Thank you, Mrs. Sarantakos. Counselor, your witness."
The prosecutor returned to his seat. The defense rose, but for some reason, did not approach the witness stand.
"No furthur questions, Your Honor." he said, and sat down again.
"What the hell are you doing, giving up like that?" Webber hissed. "I'm looking at twenty years here."
"He's got all the paperwork on you, Webber." his lawyer replied. "Face it, you are screwed. There is too much against you. Besides, you haven't paid my fees in months. You can either plead guilty or let the jury decide. I wash my hands of you."
"Your Honor," the foreman of the jury spoke up. "We would like to withdraw to deliberate the case."
"Granted," the judge said. "The jury will now withdraw to decide the verdict." He banged his gavel once, and retired to his chambers.
Dimitra rose and crossed over to the back of the courtroom where Criss waited. "I didn't know you were in New York," she said.
"Hey," he smiled, hugging her. "I figured you needed a little moral support. And, besides, you know I like helping disadvantaged kids." And stick it to Artie Creed as well, he added mentally. Also to prove to the world what a monster Webber really is!
Last edited by Veritas; 12-14-2012 at 03:02 AM.
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
12-14-2012, 03:50 PM
Harold Webber couldn't believe it. Here he was, on trial for his life, and his attorney takes a dive wtihout cross-examining Dimitra! He just quit, right then and there! No furthur questions, Your Honor. What the hell was he thinking? Webber turned to his lawyer.
"How could you just throw in the towel like that?'' he demanded. "I'm looking at twenty years here! What the hell am I paying you for, anyway?"
"You haven't paid me anything in months, Hal." his attorney replied. "I've been covering your fat ass without so much as a single dime from you for years now. Besides, that evidence is incontrovertable against you. I've got kids of my own, you know, and you've been screwing these kids, and others, for too long."
"You swore an oath that you'd defend your client regardless of guilt or innocence, remember?"
"Not if he hasn't paid me."
"You are a crook, Abercrombie. You are a thieving crook!"
Abercrombie just shrugged. "Takes one to know one, Hal."
The Honorable William Barris stepped up to the bench as all in the courtroom rose respectfully. He ordered them to be seated, then turned to the jury, who had just reconvened to deliver the verdict. The foreperson handed the bailiff a slip of paper containing Webber's fate. The bailiff handed the slip to the judge, who read it to himself for a moment, then to the court.
"Harold Webber, please rise for the verdict." the judge intoned.
Webber rose on shaky feet, sweating heavily. He braced himself on the table to keep from falling.
"Harold Webber, you have been found guilty on all counts by a jury of your peers. Do you have anything to say before sentencing?"
Harold Webber's mouth flapped open like a landed fish as he struggled to speak. "I...I don't know what to say. I...I'm in shock."
"Try saying you're sorry!" Criss shouted from the rear. His mother tried to hush him.
The judge rapped his gavel in disapproval of this outburst. "If the defendant has nothing to say, then sentencing will proceed. Mr. Webber, exploitation of innocent children for personal profit is reprehensible. Indeed, your avarice had cost the life of a helpless infant. Was that tiny life worth thrity-two thousand dollars a month? The way you made those children live in such squalid conditions was an outrage to human decency and morality. It was no wonder your own defense counsel abandoned you. And then you tried to pin the blame on the one person who provided more care and nurturing to those unfortunate children in one day than you ever did during the tenure of your guardianship, who went above and beyond the call of duty to supply even their basic needs out of her own funds. She did all that with no compensation from you, but of her own free will."
Criss squeezed his mother's shoulder affectionatly. The judge continued. "If any good can come of this, it will be a more rigorous screening of potential foster care parents and tighter control of living conditions for them. Also, more accountability for funding spent. It is my fervent hope that the lasting damage you inflicted upon those children who were unfortunate enough to be under your supervision will be minimal, and they will find better families with whom they can live.
"Harold Webber, this court sentences you to a minimum of fifteen years in state prison, not to exceed twenty years. It is a small price to pay, as you have sentenced a dozen children to a lifetime of psychological trauma. Also, you are to pay compensation to Mrs. Sarantakos, totalling six thousand dollars, plus court costs. This sentence will take effect the first of December. Meanwhile you will be held in the County Detention Center. Case dismissed."
A final rap of the gavel, and all was done. The jury filed out, relieved their term of service was mercifully brief. Criss helped his mother into her winter coat. "I thought I taught you better manners than that," she chided him.
"What?" Criss shrugged. "He should have apologized to you."
"All the same, you should have shown more restraint."
The left the courtroom together. The media pounced upon the star magician and his mother for statements. Criss waved them off. It was a struggle to get to the car. Dimitra just wanted to go home and take a nap. She was relieved it was over. She had been proven innocent, and Mr. Webber was going to prison where he belonged. Still, she had worries over the children. What would be their fate? She could only pray for them.
Christmas Day was a particularly joyful occasion that year at the Sarantakos house. Not only did it welcome the newest member of the family, Cousin George's new wife, Angela, but that it was the Christmas both Criss and Dimitra almost didn't see, in more ways than one. But this was not a time to bring up the horrors of the past, but to celebrate the present and look confidently toward the future. Not only that, a new season of MindFreak was in the works. There was also rumors of another Phenomenon in October of the New Year.
There were gifts galore, food aplenty, and lots of hugs and kisses all around, with a few tears of joy and gratitiude. Angela had never had such a happier holiday as this one; her Christmases past had been suffering the criticisms of her overbearing sister, Bianca, or at the shelter, where she was appreciated more, if only as someone's meal ticket. Now, she was part of a real family, who loved and accepted her as one of their own, even if she wasn't Greek.
As the holiday euphoria simmered down, Criss noticed his mother staring tearfully out the window. He approached with concern. "Mom? You okay?" he asked gently.
Dimitra looked up at her son. "I'll be fine," she replied, smiling bravely. "I was just thinking of the children I cared for last summer. Where are they now? Are they happy? Are they well? I'm afraid I'll never see them again."
"Mom, you gave those kids the best care they ever got up to that point. I'm sure Social Services will find better homes for them all."
He was momentarily distracted by a knock on the front door, but Angela rushed to answer it. He turned back to his mother. "Have you thought of doing more volunteer work?" he asked.
His mother shook her head. "No, I'm too tired," she said. "Maybe someday."
Criss hedged a little before speaking. "Did it help you to forget...you know, what happened in Vegas?"
"You mean the Bomber, the man who kidnapped me? It haunts me still, but not as much as before. At least I don't hide behind the furniture anymore." She gave a depreciating little laugh.
"Auntie?" Angela called. "You have company."
Dimitra made her way to the front door, wondering who could be calling on her. Angela opened the front door wide enough for her to see. Dimitra's eyes and mouth opened wide as well when she saw Heather, Roland, Buddy, China, Buck, Aaron, Austin, Brandy, Jamal, Derek, Chris and little Kira standing outside, wearing the winter gear Dimitra had bought for them from GoodWill. Roland held a large beribboned box in his gangly arms. "Merry Christmas, Mrs. S.!" they chorused.
Dimitra could hardly believe her eyes. She had just been thinking about them and here they were! She looked at her own son, Christopher, wondering what sort of magic he had used to conjure up this miracle. She quickly invited them all in to get out of the cold, for Heaven's sake, and called the rest of the family to meet them.
It was mass confusion introducing so many to so many others, but it didn't matter. Cookies were brought in for the kids. They practically ate the plate; such a treat was so rare in their lives. Roland handed Dimitra the gift box. "This is for you, Mrs. S.. from all of us." he said.
"Oh! Thank you, Roland," Dimitra gushed as she untied the ribbon, pulled off the lid, and removed the tissue paper inside. Her eyes grew large as she lifted a large porcelain statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Infant Jesus.
"We got that 'cause you was like a mom to us," Derek explained. "You like it?"
"Oh! Darlings! It's beautiful!" She wiped away tears of joy, embracing her former charges for the third time that day. Even China was more receptive than usual. "I'll think of all of you every time I look at it." she sniffled.
All her children, biological and foster, gathered around her. More valuable than rubies, they knew she strove to do good and not evil in her life. She stretched out her hands to the poor and needy, clothed in strength and honor, opening her mouth with wisdom, her tongue the law of kindness. Her children shall rise and call her blessed, and shall rejoice in the time to come.
Join Date: Aug 2011
12-14-2012, 06:40 PM
Join Date: Jan 2012
12-14-2012, 10:59 PM
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww great story
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