Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Return With a Vengeance" [PG-13] - Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen




"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE"


CHAPTER 15

"It's been over twenty-fours hours, now!" Sheila Morris cried over the telephone. "Where the hell is he? Where's Darryl?"

Olivia winced from the noise in her ear. She glanced around the precinct office. Thankfully, no one had overheard. She took a deep breath. "She . . . Sheila, honey. I don't know. We're still looking for him."

"Still looking?" Sheila's voice practically screeched. "That's the same answer I got from Phoebe!" She paused. "I think it's time to bring the police in. Maybe they can find . . ."

Olivia switched the cell phone to her other ear. She glanced at Bruce, who seemed engrossed with a magazine. Her brother had dropped by for a visit on his day off. "Sheila," she said in a low voice, "I don't think that's a good idea. Trust me on this. We have . . . a pretty good idea on where we can find Darryl."

"You do?"

"Yes, Sheila. I swear. By this evening, Darryl should be home. Safe with his family." Olivia glanced at the skeptical expression on Bruce's face and shrugged. "Yes honey, I'm serious. Okay? Good-bye." She disconnected her cell phone and tossed it on her desk. "God, I'm screwed! Darryl's screwed!"

Bruce began, "Then why did you . . .?"

"I know what I said! I literally promised Sheila the moon." Olivia sighed. "It was the only way to keep her from calling McPherson, and that's the last thing Darryl need."

Bruce calmly asked, "Do you have any idea where we can find Darryl?"

"We?" Olivia stared at her brother.

"Yeah, I know I wasn't around when Harry was attacked. Mom, Barbara and I were in Palos Alto. You know, at the opening of Baron Todd's new restaurant."

Olivia frowned. "You and Mo . . . What were you doing there? Mom hates Todd!"

With a sigh, Bruce explained, "That isn't exactly a family secret. But we both received invitations. And Mom wanted to see how his new restaurant turned out." He snorted. "Just the usual New Age California cuisine."

"Grilled fish and salads made from weeds? They seemed to be the only dishes that Todd is capable of preparing."

Shaking his head, Bruce smiled. "You really are a bitch, you know that?" Bruce returned his attention to the magazine in his hand. Several minutes passed, while Olivia stared at her computer. Without bothering to glance up, Bruce added, "If you keep staring at that thing any longer, you'll go . . ."

Olivia's cell phone rang. She snatched it from her desk and snapped it open. "Hello?" she answered breathlessly.

"Livy? It's Marty Jancek. I just called to let you know that I've got the information that you wanted. Got a pen and paper ready?"

Olivia scrambled for the needed items. Then she instructed Marty to proceed. The Customs agent revealed that the S.S. Enigma's Singapore manifest included a package addressed to the VENDRUM Company, in San Francisco. At the Hopkins Building on Columbus, Fifth floor, Room 508. The information did not surprise Olivia one bit. "However, when I checked the Enigma's manifest after it had arrived in town," Marty continued, "the VENDRUM package was missing."

The VENDRUM Company. Olivia mouthed the words silently. She had checked the MALEHEX Corporation's list of assets for any other San Francisco company, other than the Tower Bay Import/Export Company and found no sign of the company on the list. How did the remaining Crozats get their hands on this VENDRUM Company? "Who had sent the package to San Francisco?" she asked.

The Customs agent paused. "Uh, someone named William Dagbani. I gather he's not a native of Singapore or Malaysia."

"Hmmm, no kidding. Thanks Marty."

"No problem," Marty warmly replied. "Say, about next Friday night . . ."

Olivia interrupted, "Marty? Do me a favor. Glance at the third finger on your right hand. Now, do you really want to finish that question?"

Marty paused, before he broke into a soft laughter. "Catch you later, Livy." The agent hung up.

Olivia disconnected her cell phone and smiled at Bruce. "Well, looks like we might find Darryl, after all. I have a pretty good idea on where he might be. And the Crozats."

"So where is he?" Bruce asked.

"At the VENDRUM Company." Olivia paused. "Well, maybe. It's at the Hopkins Building. Fifth floor. Hmmm, funny. That company isn't on the list of Crozats assets I had received over a month ago."

Bruce suggested that it might be a new company. "Or maybe this bokor has nothing to do with the Crozats."

Olivia shook her head. "No. A Crozat warlock goes out of his way to kill Ben Mallard. Who may have intercepted a package from a guy named William Dagbani? The guy sounds like he came from somewhere in West Africa. The coincidence is too much." After another pause, she added, "I hope that Cecile is finished with that potion. I wonder if Andre had called about that spell."

Bruce added, "I wonder what happened to Cole. Has he been in touch with that Maxwell woman, yet?"

"I don't know. I haven't been able to get in touch with him, all morning." Once more, Olivia's cell phone rang. She answered, "Hello?"

Cecile's voice exploded in her ears. "Livy! It's me, Cecile! I just had another vision and we're all in trouble! Especially Cole! Where can I meet you?"

Anxiety gripped Olivia. "Huh? What the hell are you talking about? Are you still at the apartment?"

"Dammit Olivia! Haven't you heard a word I said? Cole is about to find himself in deep shit! And so will the rest of us! I saw five people steal his powers and kill him, inside some office! We've got to find him! Look, I've finished the potion and I've got the vanquishing spell from Andre."

"Yeah. Okay! Did you say an office? Then I have a pretty good idea on where he might be." Olivia took a deep breath and instructed her friend to meet her and Bruce at a certain address in downtown San Francisco.

* * * *

Cole glanced around the VENDRUM Company's posh office and nearly whistled aloud. Not bad, he thought to himself. Not even his private office looked this well-decorated . . . or expensive. Cole wondered how much profit the Crozats had accumulated over the years.

"Do you like it?" Suzanne Maxwell suddenly appeared by his side. For a woman holding an impromptu meeting, she looked dressed to kill. Or seduce. She wore a white tailored suit with a slit along the long skirt, and a jacket with no blouse underneath, but plenty of cleavage. She added sweetly, "The office, I mean."

Nodding, Cole replied, "Yes, it's uh, very . . . very nice. Are all of these antiquities yours?" He walked over to the far wall and fingered a long scimitar that hung from it.

"That came with the office when I rented it," Suzanne hastily replied. "Along with the name on the door."

"Really?" Cole gave her a brief, intense stare.

The young widow shifted uneasily on her feet. Then she indicated at the liquor cabinet with a sweep of her hand. "Uh, would you like a drink?"

"Thanks. Something non-alcoholic, I think. Club soda. No ice." Suzanne smiled and headed for the cabinet. Actually, she swayed. Cole watched her move with admiring eyes. Too bad she was a Crozat warlock. He would not have minded a one-night stand with her. Or maybe even an hour. However, there was a certain matter to discuss, first. "By the way, you said that the name on the door came with this office."

Suzanne removed a bottle of club soda from the liquor cabinet. "Yes?" She reached for a glass and poured liquid in it.

Cole continued, "Well, it's strange that you would say that. I had someone investigate your background." The warlock paused momentarily. "One, your name is Suzanne, all right. Suzanne Crozat. You were born in Seattle, Washington on September 4, 1970, not Portland. Two, your married name is Maxwell. You had married a wealthy investor by the name of Anton Maxwell, but two years ago, not seven. He died of . . . mysterious circumstances, last August, not two years ago." Cole strode toward her. "And one of his assets happened to be the VENDRUM Company, located here in San Francisco. The one asset you didn't bother to liquidate before you left Vancouver." He paused right behind her and demanded in a low voice, "What do you want with me?"

The warlock whirled around and handed Cole his club soda. "I don't know what you . . ."

Slamming his glass on the cabinet, Cole roughly grabbed her arm. "Don't toy with me. When someone does, I get easily riled. I know you're a warlock with the Crozat coven. What . . . do . . . you . . . want . . . with . . . me?"

Fear flickered briefly in Suzanne's dark eyes. Then she nervously handed Cole his club soda. "Okay. I am a warlock with the Crozat coven. But it's not what you think."

"Oh really?" Cole took a sip of his drink.

Suzanne took a deep breath and continued. "Look, my cousins and I know what happened to the rest of our coven, last month. They tried to acquire enough power to take over the Source's Realm, and they failed. Well, my cousins and I intend to succeed." She glanced into his eyes. "With your help. If you're willing."

Cole swallowed half the contents of his glass. A sneer curled his lips. "What do you take me for? An idiot? So far, your coven has killed two men and unleased a 250 year-old West African spirit, who seems bent upon killing the McNeills and the Charmed Ones. People I care . . ." A dizzy spell gripped him, making him feel disoriented. His eyes grew heavy. "What the . . . what the hell?"

An acid smile tugged the corners of Suzanne's lips. "How's your drink?"

"What the hell have you done to me?" Cole cried. He dropped his glass on the floor, and grabbed Suzanne's forearms. "What . . .?"

Suzanne replied innocently, "I have no idea what you're talking about. And would you please let go of my arms? You're hurting me."

Cole struggled to speak his next words. "I . . . you know damn . . ." Suzanne's face began to blur. Another wave of dizziness left him reeling.

"You don't look so well, . . . Belthazor." Suzanne took a step closer. At least it seemed so to Cole's groggy mind. He could barely make out the sinister smile on her face, as he sank to his knees. "I believe I know a few people who can help you."

At that moment, four men emerged from the far office. Despite his groggy state, Cole recognized two of them - Edward and Henry Crozat. "You . . ." he began. But the word came out as a slur and Cole found himself unable to speak any further.

"And it's nice to see you again, Belthazor," Edward Crozat greeted cheerfully. "How long has it been? Five years? Six?"

An impatient Henry Crozat cried, "Enough of the small talk! Let's get this over with! Now!"

Edward nodded. "All right. Ready?" The four men and Suzanne formed a circle around the kneeling Cole. The warlocks began to chant and the half-demon felt his strength, slipping away. Despair overwhelmed him. For there was no one to save him.

* * * *

Olivia and Bruce met Cecile outside the Hopkins Building, before all three rushed inside. "Suzanne Crozat, thanks to her late husband, owns a company located on the fifth floor," Olivia commented to her friend. "It's called VENDRUM. Would you believe it? It's one of the companies I was investigating in conjecture with the Alvarez murder."

The trio entered the elevator. Olivia bridled with impatience, as the elevator creaked its way up to the fifth floor. "I wonder how Cole managed to discover the whereabouts of the Crozat?" Bruce asked.

"Suzanne Maxwell," Olivia muttered darkly. "Or should I say Suzanne Crozat? He tried to call me this morning, but I was in another meeting with Captain McPherson. Who was still bugging me about Darryl. I tried returning Cole's call, but he didn't answer. Dammit!" The elevator finally reached the fifth floor and the three people stepped out.

Cecile added, "I hope we're in time. From what I saw, these warlocks were using both a potion and a spell to steal his powers."

"Oh great!" Olivia groaned.

The two witches and the priestess finally came upon a door marked VENDRUM COMPANY. Olivia grasped the doorknob to open the door. It refused to budge. "Dammit!" she cried in frustration. Then using her telekinesis, she forced the door open.

The trio rushed inside and a terrifying sight greeted their eyes. Five warlocks - four men and a woman, surrounded a kneeling Cole, chanting a spell. Olivia recognized the woman. Suzanne Maxwell. She cried out, "Cole!". The warlocks halted in mid-chant and stared at the newcomers. Fortunately, Bruce reacted first. Using his power of aero kinesis, he scattered the warlocks away from Cole, with a gust of wind.

A tall warlock in his mid-thirties scrambled to his feet. A dagger appeared in his hand. He threw it at Cecile, who stood closer. The Vodoun priestess quickly ducked and withdrew a small bottle of liquid from her jacket. She tossed it at the warlock, who dematerialized into a ball of flames and smoke.

Another warlock became the second to respond to the newcomers' threat. He stood up, stared at the visitors with dismay. The young man - the same warlock whom Cecile had spotted near Pablo Alvarez's body - disappeared. He reappeared behind Bruce, with a knife in hand. Before he could stab the witch, the latter viciously elbowed in the side and flipped him onto the floor. Then Bruce immobilized the young warlock with a kick to the jaw.

Meanwhile, another Crozat, one who reminded Olivia of the late Philip Crozat, sent a fireball toward Bruce. Olivia deflected the attack with her power and the fireball engulfed the warlock.

"Edward!" cried the fourth warlock. Stock and middle-aged, he glared at Olivia with hatred. Fortunately, Bruce reacted first and with his aero kinesis, attacked. The warlock screamed in horror, as he became trapped within a tunnel of strong wind. Until his body disintegrated into nothing.

There remained one last Crozat - Suzanne. She regarded Bruce's attack upon the stocky warlock with horror, before she dashed to one of the desks. Olivia used her telekinesis to throw her against the wall. Unfortunately, it seemed that Suzanne possessed the power of deflection. The telekinesis boomeranged from Suzanne and sent Olivia sprawling to the floor.

"Your powers don't work on me, bitch!" Suzanne spat out. A Glock pistol appeared in her hand. She pointed it at Olivia and fired twice. Still sprawled on the floor, the latter immediately reacted by using her telekinesis to send the bullets right into the warlock's chest. The dark-haired woman's eyes flew open momentarily, before she dropped to the floor. Dead.

Olivia and Bruce rushed over to help Cole to his feet. Cecile's voice from behind cried, "Look out!" Brother and sister whirled around. They saw a knife appear in the battered young warlock's hand - the same warlock whom Bruce had knocked unconscious. The oldest McNeill grabbed a knife from a nearby desk and very neatly, sent it flying into the warlock chest, killing the latter.

Cecile let out a sigh of relief and rushed over to help Olivia and Bruce deal with the groggy half-daemon. "Cole?" Olivia said sounding concerned. "Cole, can you hear me? It's Olivia! Are you all right?"

"I'm . . . help . . . me . . . sto . . ."

"Cole! C'mon Cole! Snap out of it!" Olivia shook the half-daemon. When he failed to respond, she cried out, "Dammit!" Then she grabbed Cole's head and pressed her lips against his. The kiss failed to snap her friend out of his lethargy. Desperate, Olivia kissed Cole for the second time. Only harder. After a few seconds, he finally responded by placing his hands on Olivia's waist and returning the kiss wholeheartedly. A rush of heat spread all over her body. Groggy or not, Olivia had to admit that the half-daemon was an above-average kisser. More than above-average.

"Livy?" he murmured, after their lips had parted. "Olivia, was that . . .?"

Elated, Olivia gave Cole one last shake. "Yes Cole, it's me. Olivia. Wake up!"

"I'm . . . I'm awake . . . I'm . . . would you please stop shaking me?" The last sentence came out without any hesitation.

Cecile eyed Cole with curiosity. "Amazing! He seems to have recovered, despite being drugged."

"Self-healing power," Cole gasped, as he struggled to his feet. "But the drug isn't completely gone. I still feel a little bit groggy." He opened his eyes wide and stared at the dead body near one of the desks. "Suzanne," he muttered. "What happened?"

Olivia replied, "I killed her. Deflected two bullets she had shot at me."

"Two bad," Cole shot back, under his breath. His eyes fell upon the other corpse. "Say, uh, isn't that the warlock . . .?"

Nodding, Olivia replied, "That's him."

"He's the one who had killed Pablo Alvarez," Cecile added.

Cole shook his head. Blinked several times. "Where's Dako? And where's Bruce?"

"I'm here." The eldest McNeill sibling had disappeared into one of the inner offices. He returned, carrying something that looked like a crude vase. Or urn. And a file in a brown accordion folder. "As for Dako, I don't know where he's at. But I'll bet top money that he had arrived in this." He held up the vase.

Cecile's eyes narrowed. "That looks like a Benin urn. How did the Crozats get their hands on it?"

Before anyone could answer, the door burst open. A uniformed guard appeared in the doorway, brandishing a revolver at the four occupants. "This is security!" he barked. "Everyone hold it!"

Bruce murmured, "Looks like Dako might be the least of our problems."


END OF CHAPTER 15



*AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm sure that many of you were surprised that I had Suzanne Crozat killed off with two bullets. Personally, I don't buy CHARMED's theory that warlocks are immortal and are incapable of receiving a mortal's death. I have checked the definition of a warlock. The only difference between one and a witch is that a warlock practices dark magic for selfish and perverse reasons and a witch practices magic to help others . . . and occasionally, oneself. I just could not fathom that because a warlock has chosen evil, he or she is also immortal.

----------------


"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE"



CHAPTER 16


The sorcerer took a deep breath and opened his eyes. He leaned forward and blew out the candles that made up part of his makeshift altar. After several hours of meditation, he now felt complete. In full control. The mortal, he surmised, should no longer prove to be a problem, when he attacks the witches again.

After another deep breath, Dako rose to his feet. He walked over to the window of his bedroom, and peered outside. It was almost midday. Time for him to go after the witches. He hesitated, recalling his encounter with the daemon the warlocks called, Belthazor. Dako had encountered daemons before - even killed a few. But he had never gone up against one as powerful as this Belthazor.

And there was another matter to consider. Namely the witch with the powerful baby. Unlike the situation with Belthazor, Dako had already formed a plan to deal with the witch. Namely, steal the child from the witch's womb. He had done it before. Using a spell, Dako had managed to transform the embryo from a powerful priestess to his own mistress. Unfortunately the latter, who became frightened by the idea of helping him raise the child, betrayed him by running off. Dako had eventually caught up with his mistress and took care of her - permanently. But he never learned the whereabouts of the child, until 'he' appeared thirty years later to kill him.

In the case of this Halliwell witch, Dako had no intention of transferring her child to another womb - including the one that belonged to that sharp-tongued warlock. Instead, he planned to simply wrench the baby from the witch's belly. Without another womb to nourish it, the child should simply die. A cruel smile curled the bokor's lips.

Feeling alert and sure of himself, Dako headed downstairs to meet with the warlocks. Only he could not find one sign of them. The house seemed to be empty. Where could they be?

A deep suspicion began to form in the bokor's mind. That the Crozats had known about Belthazor for quite some time. Perhaps they had even intended to steal the daemon's powers for themselves. Anger surged through Dako. If those warlocks had so much as decided to . . . He paused. If what he now believed to be true, Dako realized that he might not be able to exact revenge upon the warlocks. He had no seen them in several hours and there was the possibility that they might already have Belthazor's powers. It would be best, he decided, to simply bide his time, work with the warlocks, until he could find a way to steal the demon's powers and kill them all. Meanwhile, he had a few witches to kill.

* * * *

"Officer, put your gun down," Olivia coolly ordered the security guard. She then flashed the badge that hung around her neck. "I'm a police officer. Inspector McNeill. San Francisco Police. I need you to call for back-up."

Bruce McNeill saw the bewilderment that flashed in the guard's eyes. "I don't understand," he cried. "You're the police? But that's . . . that's Mrs. Maxwell over there. And Mr. Crozat."

Olivia sighed. "Yes, I know. Both of them tried to kill that man over there." She pointed at a groggy Cole. "Mrs. Maxwell's attorney. He had stumbled across a smuggling ring operating from this company." The guard failed to lower his gun, much to Bruce's consternation. Olivia added in a sharp tone, "Look Mr. Whatever-Your-Name-Is, do you really want to explain why you're holding a police officer at gunpoint?"

Finally, the security guard lowered his weapon. Much to Bruce's relief. Olivia strode toward him and began to explain what happened. Bruce turned to Cole and Cecile. "We really need to get this file out of here." He indicated the thick, brown accordion file in his hands. "Especially if the cops are on their way here."

"Leave it to me," Cole murmured in a tired voice. With a little effort, he waved one hand over the file and it disappeared. "Your father should have it, by now."

Cecile added in a low voice, "What about the urn?"

Before Bruce or Cole could respond, the guard's eyes spotted the object in question. "Is that one of the pieces you were talking about, Inspector?"

Olivia whirled around and eyed the urn with dismay. "Uh, yeah. I believe it might be the latest piece that was smuggled."

"And what about Mr. Turner?" The guard pointed at the still haggard Cole. "He don't look so hot. What happened to him?"

Olivia quickly replied, "He was drugged."

"Maybe I can help. I've been trained . . ."

Cole barked, interrupting the guard, "I'm fine! I just need . . . I need some rest. That's all." Bruce knew that would not happen. At least not right now. They still needed to track down Dako. And confront him.

"Oh." The guard turned to Olivia. "Then is there something . . .?"

"I need you to call the police. And wait outside for their arrival," Olivia replied. She paused. "Have you called them yet?"

According to the guard, he had summoned the police right after hearing gunshots. Sure enough, the sound of police sirens wailed in the background. Bruce wondered how they would get out of this. Olivia said to the guard, "Don't you think you better go outside, Mr. uh . . .?"

"Vasquez. Yeah, I guess I better go." And the guard sprinted out of the office.

Bruce and the others heaved large sighs of relief. Olivia said to them, "Okay, we don't have much time. This is how it will go down. Cole has been suspicious about Suzanne's smuggling operation and decided to confront her about it. She and Junior, over here" she pointed at the dead male warlock, "tried to kill him. But we had arrived in time to stop them. Suzanne and I struggled for control of her gun. Bruce, you admit that you and young Crozat got into a fight, while he was trying to stab you."

"In other words, we were struggling for the knife," Bruce interjected.

Olivia nodded. "That's right. I'll also explain that I have been investigating VENDRUM in connection to Pablo Alvarez and Ben Mallard's murders."

"Pablo who?" Bruce asked with a frown.

"Bruce!" His younger sister regarded him with a glare. "Just tell them what I told you and play along." Olivia rushed over to the female warlock's body. "Oh and Bruce, you better put Whatshisname's prints on that knife you killed him with. I only hope we can get out of here, fast and warn the Halliwells that Dako is still on the loose."

While Olivia momentarily gripped the dead woman's Glock pistol, Bruce followed his sister's instructions. Just as brother and sister had finished their tasks, the office door burst open. In marched the security guard, with two uniformed cops in his wake. One of the cops stepped forward, his eyes taking in the sight before him. "Jesus! What the hell happened here?"

* * * *

"Thanks for the information," Phoebe said for the last time and disconnected the living room telephone. She turned to her sister and brother-in-law, who sat on the living room sofa. "That was the hospital. Looks like Paige will be released, tomorrow morning."

Piper heaved a relieved sigh. "Thank God. I guess it could have been a lot worse, for her. A lot worse."

"I guess that Darryl . . . I mean, Dako likes to play with his victims before killing them. He did the same with Harry McNeill." Phoebe paused, before she added, "I wonder why he didn't kill the Murillos, when they walked in?"

Leo added, "Just be happy that they didn't. Hopefully, this all should end pretty soon. Olivia told me that Cecile's boyfriend might be able to find the spell that will vanquish this Dako."

"I'd rather use a Power of Three spell, thank you very much," Piper murmured dryly.

Phoebe reminded her sister that with Paige in the hospital, they did not have the Power of Three. And their last encounter with Dako had proven that even the baby or Cole were not more powerful than the sorcerer.

"Well, maybe we should consider using both the baby's power and Cole's," Leo said. "Together."

The two sisters stared at Leo, as if he had lost his mind. Especially Phoebe. "Work with Cole? Are you serious?"

"Phoebe, you saw how he managed to knock Dako's spirit out of Darryl. With all of us working together, we might . . ."

However, Phoebe would have none of it. "Cole could have killed Darryl, Leo! In fact, he didn't even consider Darryl, when he deflected Dako's powers."

A frustrated sigh escaped from Leo's mouth. However, he did not say anything. It was Piper who finally spoke up. "I hate to say this, Pheebs, but Leo might be right. I didn't care what he nearly did to Darryl, either. But we might need Cole, after all. This . . . Dako is very dangerous. And very powerful. Plus, we still have the Crozats to worry about."

Tension filled the Halliwell living room. Phoebe realized that both Leo and Piper were right. But the idea of working with Cole, again . . . There were moments when she feared she would never be free of him. Somehow, he always managed to remain in her life . . . despite her efforts to move on. Phoebe even suspected her ex-husband of using Olivia McNeill to make her jealous. Deep down, she feared that he might be succeeding.

Phoebe sighed. She hated it when any of her sisters were right. "I guess you have a point," she said. "I'll call his office and see if he can come by, later." As she began to dial the number to Cole's office, a familiar figure materialized in the middle of the living room. It was Dako . . . in Darryl's body. "Oh my God!" Phoebe exclaimed.

"I don't think 'He' can save you," the sorcerer crowed. He shot a bolt of lightning at Phoebe. Who immediately levitated above the line of fire.

Leo cried, "Piper, the potion!" He tackled the sorcerer to the floor. Leo's actions gave Piper the opportunity to race to the kitchen for the power-stripping potion. Unfortunately for Leo, he was not able to maintain the advantage. Dako let out an enraged growl and flung the whitelighter off of him and to the other side of the living room. Leo slumped back, unconscious.

"Well, look who's left," Dako declared. His eyes now rested upon Phoebe. Fear formed a large lump in her throat, as he raised his hand to strike. At that moment, Cole, the McNeills and Cecile appeared in the room.

* * * *

Still slightly groggy from the potion that Suzanne Crozat had given him, Cole looked upon the scene inside the Halliwell living room with dismay. Piper was nowhere to be seen. Leo lay sprawled upon the floor, unconscious. And Dako seemed primed to attack a defenseless Phoebe.

Dako sent a bolt of lightning toward Cole's ex-wife. Olivia reacted first. She deflected the sorcerer's attack, using her telekinesis. Although she had managed to succeed in saving Phoebe, she was not strong enough to prevent herself from being injured. The lightning bolt touched Olivia's arm and she fell back on the floor, cradling her arm and crying in pain. Cecile rushed toward her.

Then Dako used his own telekinesis and sent everyone, including Cole, flying across the room. Cole finally snapped out of his stupor and did the same to Dako. The latter hit the side of the staircase with a sickening thud. After a moment's pause, Dako quickly rose to his feet and stared at Cole with gleaming hatred. He raised his hand to attack.

So did Bruce, who used his aero kinesis against the sorcerer. The witch's power had no effect. Dako merely deflected Bruce's power, sending the latter hard against the wall.

Piper rushed into the living room, carrying a small vial. A power-stripping potion, Cole surmised, as he struggled to stand up. She tossed the vial at Dako. Everyone waited breathlessly for it to take effect. Nothing happened. Dako's mouth curled with derision, as he focused his attention upon the oldest Halliwell. He extended his arm toward her direction and began to chant. Piper cried out in pain, as she gripped her slightly rounded belly.

"Piper!" Phoebe cried in anguish. "What is he . . .? He's harming the baby!"

Using his telekinesis, Cole flung the bokor away from Piper. She fell to her knees with a sigh. Then a small vase came from nowhere and struck Piper on the side of her head, leaving her on the floor, unconscious.

Cole barely heard Phoebe's cries. However, he did see Cecile reach inside her purse for something . . . and react with dismay. "What's . . . wrong?" he demanded.

"My potion!" the priestess cried. "I must have left it at the apartment!"

Back on his feet, Dako smiled dangerously. "You must be a mamba. Forgot something?" A massive energy ball began to form in his open palm. He stared pointedly at Cecile, Phoebe and a prone Olivia.

Mustering every ounce of strength that he possessed, Cole struggled to fight the drug in his system. Then he dematerialized. And re-materialized directly in front of the three women. Dako threw the energy ball in their direction. Cole grunted, as he used his telekinesis to redirect the ball right back at the bokor.

The energy ball struck Dako squarely in the chest with great force. He let out a cry, as his body slammed against the side of the staircase. Seconds later, the bokor's spirit burst out of Darryl Morris' body. "A vanquishing spell would be nice, right about now!" Cole shouted at Cecile.

The Vodoun priestess glared at Dako and began to chant, using the Benin dialect:

"In Legba's name, I open the gate;

In Nana-Buluku's name, I summon the twins;

In Liza's name will your spirit be judged;

And in Mawu's name I send you to darkness and

Back to Ghede, where you belong!"


A bright light filled the room, along with a strong wind. Then a vortex materialized before Dako's spirit. While Cecile repeated her chant, he cried out loud. His non-corporeal form finally shot through the center of the vortex, and it closed in an explosion of light. Cole, Phoebe and Cecile reeled backward.

Cole struggled to his feet with great difficulty. He glanced around the room. "Someone better wake up Leo," he commented. "This place is beginning to resemble a battlefield." The drug from the Crozats' potion finally overwhelmed Cole. And everything went black.


END OF CHAPTER 16

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"ENCHANTED" (2007) Review




"ENCHANTED" (2007) Review

I found myself experiencing mixed emotions regarding Disney’s new live-action film, ”ENCHANTED”. On one hand, the movie – more or less – turned out to be exactly how I had expected. The trailer had pretty much revealed the gist of the movie. Yet, when I finally saw it, I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I had expected I would.

The story is basically about an animated heroine named Giselle (Amy Adams) who lives in the blissful animated world of Andalasia, where magical beings frolic freely, animals are talkative companions and musical interludes punctuate every interaction. Giselle becomes engaged to the handsome, valiant, and bumbling Prince Edward (James Marsden). Her fate takes a turn for the worse when his stepmother, the villainous Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), throws her through a magic portal, apparently to her doom, in order to keep her son single and thus remain queen. Giselle's plunge into darkness lands her in the strange and chaotic world of New York City. As the cruelty of this new place wears down the fairy-tale idealism of the once carefree princess, such as a homeless man stealing her tiara, the frightened Giselle meets the pragmatic divorce attorney Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey), who takes her into his apartment despite belief that she is a little crazy. Robert also has to deal with his own fiancée, a very attractive When Giselle’s chipmunk friend, Pip, reveals to Edward of her whereabouts, Narissa orders her henchman Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) to accompany Edward and Pip to New York and prevent her stepson and the missing bride-to-be from reconciling.

”ENCHANTED” is basically a predictable story. Even before the last reel, I knew that Giselle and Robert would fall in love. From the moment Edward met Nancy at the ball, I knew those two would also become a couple. I knew that Nathaniel would eventually realize that Narissa viewed him as worthless and betray her. And I knew that Narissa would end up in New York and nearly kill Giselle. But what I did not expect was how I would enjoy the way the cast – especially Adams, Marsden, Spall and Sarandon, screenwriter Bill Kelly and director Kevin Lima poked fun at the Disney animated fantasy legacy. They did it with fun, color and gentle humor. Okay, the humor was not always gentle. Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel of ”THE LITTLE MERMAID”) caustically made fun of Giselle’s ”fairy princess”. Giselle’s talent for making friends with animals of all kinds was definitely a spoof of several Disney princesses’ friendships with . . . animals. Only Giselle may have taken it to an extreme by summoning them to clean Robert’s house. I do not know about you, but I would be freaking out at the thought of birds, mice and cockroaches inside my home. The ”happily ever after” for most of the characters seemed a little saccharine, but on the whole I enjoyed the movie very much.

I have heard a lot about Amy Adams in the past, but this is the first time I have ever seen her in action. And quite frankly, I am impressed. Not only did I admire her singing voice, I especially admired how she maintained Giselle’s perky ”fairy princess” personality up until the end – even if it suffered bumps from Robert’s more cynical views on love, her disappointing reunion with Edward and her encounter with Narissa. I realize that Patrick Dempsey’s career has bounced back with the TV series, ”GREY’S ANATOMY”, but since I do not watch the show . . . this was my first time in seeing him in action since his days as a leading man during the late 1980s and early 1990s. And it was nice to see that his talent has not waned one bit. He is still as charismatic and professional as ever. I must admit that it was a bit strange seeing him portray a character less extroverted than his roles from the past.

James Marsden. Dear James. I think his talent was wasted in the ”X-MEN” movies and ”SUPERMAN RETURNS”. He really shone in his role as the valiant, yet slightly pompous Prince Edward. Hell, the man was perfect. And he was also charming enough for me to be happy that his character had a happy ending with someone in the film. It was good to see Timothy Spall again, after his appearances in two ”HARRY POTTER” films. Actually, his role as Narissa’s henchman, Nathaniel, strongly reminded me of his other famous role – Peter Pettigrew. But unlike Peter, Nathaniel proved to have more balls . . . and something of a moral compass in the end. But his performance was thoroughly first-class as usual. And of course there is Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, who portrayed the villainess h- the conniving and greedy - Queen Narissa. Sarandon spent most of the movie peforming Narissa's voice in the animated sequences. But she was deliciously evil as her flesh-and-blood counterpart arrived in New York City. One could tell that Sarandon was enjoying herself. And for a brief moment, we got to see how she had manipulated Prince Edward all of those years, pretending to be his loving stepmother. I have only one complaint - I did not really care for the platform shoes she wore. Visually, it did not exactly mesh with the rest of her image.

If you are expecting surprises from this charming spoof of Disney fantasy animation, you are going to be disappointed. As I had stated before, it is a rather predictable movie. But if you are expecting first-class entertainment, laughs, music and a good story, then ”ENCHANTED” is your movie and I suggest that you see it as soon as possible.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Return With a Vengeance" [PG-13] - Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen




"RETURN WITH A VENGEANCE"

CHAPTER 13

It was an angry sorcerer who appeared before the Crozats. Judging from his expression, Edward realized that the attack on the youngest McNeill had failed. "What happened?" the warlock asked.

Growling, Dako/Morris wrapped one hand around Cousin Louis' throat. "I'll tell you what happened! That witch had used his psychic abilities to summon help before I could kill him! I found myself surrounded by that girl's two sisters, the McNeill woman, a man surrounded by blue lights, some woman I don't even know and another man who just might be a daemon." He gave Louis' throat a slight squeeze. Edward's cousin gurgled. "And do you want to know what else I had discovered? One of the witches is not only pregnant, but she also might be as powerful as myself. And the same can be said about the man with the demonic powers. Something you had failed to tell me." Dako squeezed Louis' throat tighter, causing the latter's face to turn red.

A panic-stricken Henry blurted out, "We don't know anything about a daemon! As for the witch . . . well, we knew she was carrying a powerful baby, but we didn't realize it would be as powerful as you."

Dark eyes narrowed dangerously. The sorcerer released Louis, who promptly fell upon the floor, coughing. "You had extensive details on the other Halliwell witches and the McNeill witches," Dako replied in a crisp tone, "and you expect me to believe that you knew nothing about the extent of the pregnant witch's powers or the daemon? Do you take me for a fool?"

Feeling the extent of the sorcerer's dark power, Edward immediately bowed. "No, Your Eminence. We sim . . . our source had failed to provide this information to us."

"Then I suggest that you make your source understand the repercussions of his failure to inform you." Dako paused. "Now, I want to know everything about these people. Their secrets and the extent of their powers. Including the daemon."

Edward, Henry, Rudolf and Suzanne responded as one, "Yes, Your Eminence."

Dako stared at the trio. "One question - is there a way to steal this daemon's powers? He struck me as being very powerful."

An uneasy Edward glanced at his fellow warlocks. "If this daemon was with the Charmed Ones and the McNeills, he must be Belthazor. I understand that he is very powerful. Even more powerful than he had been as the Source. Together with his powers and yours, we could possibly kill the pregnant witch."

The bokor stared at the warlock for a long, terrifying moment. Then he declared, "I will kill the witch. I take the demon's powers, and together with mine, I will kill her child. Am I clear?"

His emotions in turmoil, Edward struggled to keep them in check. He had no intention of helping Dako take Belthazor's new powers. But it did seem prudent to keep his intentions to himself. And healthier. In the end, Edward merely nodded in agreement and murmured, "Yes, Your Eminence."

"Start preparing a potion or spell that will help me steal this Belthazor's powers." The sorcerer glared at the warlocks. "You have the knowledge to create this, I hope."

Edward turned to Suzanne, who kept her mouth shut. Good. "I'm sure that we'll be able to, Your Eminence. It's just a matter of time."

"We don't have much time," the bokor snapped. "Once the potion or spell is completed, inform me." Dako glanced down at Louis, who was struggling to stand up. "Meanwhile, I will be in my room, meditating. I . . . this mortal. He is still making it impossible for me to completely control him. And have this one," he pointed at the unfortunate Louis, "deliver my morning meal at sunrise, precisely." With a frown on his face, the sorcerer disappeared.

Edward heaved a large sigh and turned to Suzanne. "Belthazor. What happened to him, tonight?"

Suzanne responded with a glare. "Don't blame me! He stood me up, thanks to 'His Eminence'!"

"All right! No more procrastinating! Make an appointment to see Belthazor, tomorrow. Get him to meet you at the office," Edward snapped. "We have to get our hands on his powers, as soon as possible!"

* * * *

Cole sat in one of the plush chairs inside the McNeills' long drawing rooms. His eyes followed Olivia, who was engaged in a telephone call with an agent from the U.S. Customs Office. He had returned to the family's residence, after dropping off Cecile at Olivia's apartment.

"Yeah Martin, it has been a long time. Like three weeks," Olivia was saying. "I guess you heard about Ben Mallard." She paused. "Yeah, well your boss wasn't exactly thrilled to see me. What can I say? It was San Francisco PD who stumbled across his body." Another pause. "What do I want, this time? Marty, why do you always assume I'm after something?" Olivia threw back her head and laughed.

It was a rich, throaty laugh that seemed filled with warmth and promise. For a brief moment, Cole felt as if someone had punched him in the gut. He wandered what this Marty could have said to generate such a response from Olivia. Something personal? Intimate? Deep down, Cole knew he had nothing to worry about, but speculating the reason behind Olivia's laugh seemed a hell of a lot more preferable than brooding over what was really bothering him.

"Harry's fine. Gwen and Bruce are upstairs with him." The statement came from Jack McNeill, who loomed above Cole. "I guess dodging that sorcerer's attack must have taken a lot out of him."

His eyes still fixed upon Olivia's smiling countenance, Cole nodded. "I'm not surprised. This Dako seemed very powerful. Harry's lucky to be alive."

Mr. McNeill sat down on the sofa, near Cole's chair. "I understand that Paige was also lucky. Third-degree burns." He shook his head in disbelief. "Whew!"

Cole's gaze wrenched away from Olivia. Mention of Paige's name brought back memories of Piper and Phoebe's reaction to his encounter with Dako. He recalled the anger and contempt in their eyes. "Yeah, lucky," he murmured.

Silence followed, broken only by the sound of Olivia's voice. She said, "All right, Marty. You got me. I do need a favor. Is there a way for me to get a copy of the S.S. Enigma's manifest? It had arrived in San Francisco, the day before yesterday. I also need its manifest before it had departed from Singapore." She paused. "I don't know. Maybe two weeks ago." Then, "How soon can I . . .?" Another pause. "That soon?"

"Cole?" The older man's voice drew Cole's attention away from Olivia. "Is there something wrong?" He nodded at Olivia. "She and Marty are old friends. He used to work for San Francisco PD. They tend to flirt sometimes, but it's nothing serious. He's married."

Nodding, Cole merely replied, "Oh." Once the mystery behind Olivia's relationship with this Marty vanished, Cole's real reasons behind his blue mood came back in full force.

Still staring at the half-daemon, Mr. McNeill continued, "But that's not the problem, is it?"

Cole assumed an innocent expression. "What problem?"

Blue-gray eyes bored into the half-daemon's. The latter squirmed uncomfortably. "Okay Cole, what the hell is really bothering you?" the middle-aged witch gently insisted.

Heaving a large sigh, Cole explained what had occurred inside Harry's office, about an hour ago. How Piper managed to deflect one of Dako's attacks and how he did the same, but with different results. "I deflected his electrokinesis right back to him, hitting him in the chest."

"I know," Mr. McNeill calmly replied. "Olivia told me what happened."

Cole continued, "Did she also tell you how Phoebe and Piper had reacted?" He sighed again, as his mind relived that moment, over and over. "Piper . . . well, both she and Phoebe pointed out that I had used unnecessary force to stop Dar . . . uh, Dako. And that I could have killed Darryl." He shook his head. "You should have seen the look on Phoebe's face. I never realized until now that I have lost my chances with her. Things will never go back to what it used to be."

To Cole's surprise, Mr. McNeill shrugged. "So what? Why should you care about what they think about you? You're not part of their family, anymore." He paused. "Unless you plan to change that situation, sometime in the future."

Cole shook his head. "That's just it. I don't see it happening. It's just . . . I'm tired. I'm tired of taking the blame for all that happened, earlier this year. And I'm tired of their self-righteous crap over everything that I do."

"Then to hell with them." Cole stared at Olivia's father. "Look Cole, I know what you're going through. I've been through the same, myself. Believe me." Mr. McNeill paused. His eyes assumed a distant air, as if remembering things past. "Her name was Pamela. Pamela Davidoff. I had met her during my first year in college. At first, she seemed like the world to me. I thought that she liked me for myself, Jack McNeill." A wry smile touched his lips. "I've never exactly been a . . . promising child, if you know what I mean. Many other McNeills tend to view me as morally ambiguous and have always disapproved of me. And perhaps they're right about me. Being the perfect citizen or the perfect witch has never been my forte. Hell, I went through three whitelighters before I was twenty-one."

The revelation took Cole by surprise. Ever since he had recalled Jack McNeill from his past, he knew that Olivia's dad was capable of great ruthlessness and intelligence. Yet, he never realized that the witch had such a troubled past.

The other man continued, "My parents, on the other hand, had treated me differently. And thank God, because if they hadn't, my life would have been hell."

"What about this Pamela?" Cole asked.

"Well, like I said, I had met her during my first year in college. The McNeills were well-known. Still are. And Pamela's family didn't like the idea of us dating, regardless of how much money my family had." Mr. McNeill added, "The Davidoffs were also witches, by the way. I had met her at a Wicca club. But not many of them had a psychic ability, like the McNeills or the Morgans. As for Pamela, I thought she was different from her family, until I found out differently." Blue-gray eyes became clouded. "Pamela . . . she found out that I had helped a daemon. This was back in early '67. The demon name was Marbas . . ." Cole nearly twitched when the other man mentioned the familiar name. ". . . and I helped him after discovering that another daemon was using him as a diversion, in order to steal this pendant. I didn't bother to vanquish Marbas, since it was obvious that he was being framed. Well, Pamela and her family found out, they hit the roof. She dropped me like a hot potato, making it clear that she regarded me no more than a borderline warlock."

Cole murmured sympathetically, "I'm sorry. Did you . . . did you try to win her back?"

Mr. McNeill sighed. "Unfortunately, yes. But Pamela wouldn't have anything to do with me. And I became bitter. I would have stayed that way if hadn't met Gwen. Who, by the way, had also found out what happened between Marbas and me. But as far as Gwen was concerned, I did right. Marbas was the innocent in that incident, regardless in whether he was a daemon or not. She's a true Wiccan, by the way. I can't say the same about a few of my in-laws."

"And you never saw Pamela again?"

After another shrug, Mr. McNeill continued, "Yeah, I did. Not long after I had met Gwen, she decided that she wanted me back. But in the end, I realized that it was too late for us and I had fallen in love with Gwen, by that time. Don't get me wrong. I had some happy times with Pam, but she never seemed willing to accept me for myself. And to be honest, I've never regretted marrying Gwen. Not in a long shot," he added with a small smile. Then Mr. McNeill gave Cole a stern look. "As for Phoebe, I don't know if she'll ever change, but it's obvious that unless you're willing to become the man she wants, she'll never accept you. Not really. And quite frankly, I think it's time you stop worrying about what she and her family thinks about you, and live your own life."

Olivia hung up the telephone, distracting her father and friend from their discussion. She flopped down on the sofa, next to Mr. McNeill. "Why is it that every time I talk to Marty, I end up finding myself in the middle of a bargaining session?"

"Perhaps poor Marty has finally realized that he's given you one too many favors over the years," Mr. McNeill replied with a smirk.

"Thanks a lot, Dad!" Olivia shot her father with a mild glare.

The older man's eyes grew wide with innocence. Cole looked away, as he repressed a smile. The former continued, "So, what was it that you asked Marty for? A manifest?"

"Yeah, one for the S.S. Enigma. I have this suspicion that Dako had somehow arrived on that ship, thanks to the Crozats. Don't ask me why, but I find it odd that our troubles with both them and Dako had occurred during the same week."

Cole sat up. "You're saying that the Crozats might be responsible for this bokor? I guess it's possible, if they knew someone connected with Vodoun. Especially if the Crozats probably considered us too powerful to deal with, themselves."

"The problem is," Olivia added, "that the Crozats might have bitten off more than they can chew. If they have a spell to vanquish Dako . . ."

A short, mirthless laugh escaped from Cole's mouth. "If they have, it won't do them any good. They're missing one important factor."

"Cecile."

Cole nodded. "Right. Only a Vodoun houngan or mamba can vanquish Dako. Whoever sent Dako to the Crozats, probably forgotten to mention that one little matter. Or did he?"

* * * *

Piper poured the contents of the pot into a small glass jar. "That's it," she declared. "The potion is ready. All we have to do now is find Darryl."

"And what happens after that?" Phoebe asked. She regarded her sister with anxious eyes. "This potion is only good for freeing Darryl's body from Whatshisname. How do we vanquish it?"

A sigh left Piper's mouth. "I don't know, Phoebe. The Power of Three?"

"What Power of Three? Paige is in the hospital. And we can't get Leo to heal her without drawing suspicions from the doctors." Phoebe paused, as she carefully contemplated her next words. "Maybe . . . maybe Olivia was right about Cecile being the only one who can vanquish this spirit. I mean, think about it. Even though her premonitions were being blocked, Cecile managed to detect that something wrong would happen to Darryl. The only premonition I had was one with him at a crime scene. And even when I had been with Paige all morning, I didn't get one premonition of her being attacked. Yet, Cecile managed to get one, even if she didn't see the attacker."

Irritation flitted across Piper's face. "C'mon Pheebs. Do you really believe that Cecile is the only one of us capable of defeating Dako, just because she's into Voodoo? If I recall, all of us helped An-Ling defeat Yen-lo inside the Zen Limbo. And you and Paige helped Ava vanquished Orrin when he had the Evil Eye. Using both a Gypsy spell and Wicca magic, I might add." She plugged the small bottle with a cork. "If Cecile can find some Voodoo spell, I have no problem with using it. But I still think we'll have just as much chance with success with this." Piper held up the bottle with a flourish.

"And what about vanquishing that sorcerer?" Phoebe asked.

Piper cocked her head. "Maybe we can't use the Power of Three, but with the Power of Two and the baby . . ." she patted her slightly protruding belly, "we should do just fine."

"Yeah. Along with Olivia, Cecile and maybe even Bruce or Mrs. McNeill. Right?" Phoebe added.

Piper's mouth formed moue. "Yeah," she replied unenthusiastically. "Right."


END OF CHAPTER THIRTEEN

--------------

"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE"


Author's Note: Warning. This is a short . . . short chapter. Merely a set up for the final action.


CHAPTER 14


The telephone on Cole's breakfast table rang. He reached over to answer. "Hello?" he greeted. "Cole Turner speaking."

"Good morning, Mr. Turner. It's me, Suzanne Maxwell. What happened to you, last night?"

Cole paused momentarily, contemplating on what answer to give his . . . 'client'. For a woman who had been stood up last night, she seemed unusually chipper. Even if she had called him by his surname. Cole finally said, "Sorry to cancel our engagement like that. I had emergency. Actually, my neighbor did. I hope you're not angry at me for canceling last night's dinner."

Brittle laughter filled Cole's ears. That could either mean that Suzanne was truly angry about last night. Or she had some kind of plan in store for him. Cole suspected the latter. "Of course not," she cried. "Actually, I wanted to reschedule our meeting for this morning. Around nine?"

"Nine?" Cole recalled that he had an early meeting with one of the senior partners around eight-thirty. "How about nine-thirty?"

Suzanne paused. "Well, I guess. I'm . . . leaving for L.A., today. A friend of mine has invited me to join her for the weekend and my plane will leave around noon. I suppose I can spare you another thirty minutes to discuss a piece of property I had discovered."

Cole hesitated. He wondered what the warlock had in mind. Seduction? Attempted murder? Hopefully, he would ready for any surprise she might have. He had managed to surprise Dako with the strength of his powers. Cole decided that he would be ready for anything that Suzanne Crozat might inflict upon him. He answered, "I'll be there, around nine-thirty. At your home, right?"

"Actually, I'll be leaving for the airport from my office on Columbus Street. You can meet me there. The Vendrum Company at the Hopkins Building on Columbus. Fifth floor." She added in a sing-song voice, "I'll be waiting for you. Bye!" Suzanne hung up.

Cole placed the receiver on the telephone. And stared at it thoughtfully.

* * * *

A haggard-looking Louis Crozat strolled inside the dining room of the two-story townhouse being rented by the Crozats. The others, Suzanne included, glanced up from their breakfast to greet the newcomer. "Well, how is our guest, this morning?" Edward asked.

Louis sat down in one of the empty chairs around the table and sighed. "Eating. And after he eats, more meditation. He seems determined to gain complete control of the mortal's body before he goes after the witches."

"Oh God!" Suzanne exclaimed with a roll of her eyes.

Edward ignored her and asked Louis, "What about Belthazor? Has Dako mentioned him, this morning?"

"No. He seemed more interested in his plans to rule other sorcerers and daemons. Perhaps even the Source's Realm and a few others." Louis made a face. "He even suggested there might be a place for all of us in his 'kingdom'."

Henry grunted. "How benevolent of him!"

"Henry!"

He let out a huff. "I'm getting tired of this, Edward! And I'm getting tired of him. We all are! Let's just get . . ." He glanced uneasily at the doorway. ". . . get rid of Belthazor, take his powers and kill the witches, ourselves."

"And what about Piper Halliwell?" Edward replied with a sneer. "How do we deal with her baby without Dako's help?" To Suzanne's obvious discomfort, Edward's eyes slid toward her. "If there's a chance we can't get Dako to help us, we'll have to resort to our second plan in regard to the Halliwell witch."

A voice from the doorway boomed, "What about the witch?" All eyes stared at the bokor, standing in the doorway. "I assume you were referring to the pregnant witch."

Edward nervously cleared his throat. "Yes, Your Eminence. We, uh . . . Suzanne has discovered a spell to steal the witch's baby from her womb. This spell was once used by a powerful daemon with psychic abilities, last spring. Against the witch's younger sister. The other sister, Phoebe, was carrying the Source's child, at the time."

"The Source? I've heard of him," Dako replied haughtily. "A talented daemon, but obviously not as powerful as some have deemed him to be."

Henry retorted, "The Source was the ruler of a vast demonic realm."

"Maybe of your realm, but certainly not of mine." Dako rolled his eyes. "And yet three of these witches were able to kill him . . . three times?"

Edward frowned. "How did you . . .?"

"I told him," Louis said, looking guilty. Edward glared at him.

Dako continued, "You can used this spell on the pregnant witch. I will kill the others and steal this . . . Belthazor's powers, before killing him. You can have the witch's child. Compensation for helping me acquire power, again."

Suzanne repressed a retort. Then she glanced at the clock on the wall. Eight forty-five. Her appointment with Belthazor was in another forty-five minutes. In an effort not to raise the sorcerer's suspicions, she slowly stood up. And sighed. "It's almost nine. That herbal shop should be opened, soon. I have some shopping to do."

"Shopping?"

Coolly, Suzanne stared at him. "Yes. Shopping. For the spell to steal the witch's baby. Is there a problem?"

"No. As long as you're back in time to go after Belthazor and the witches. I will be waiting at the witches' home around midday. After we kill the witches, we'll go after the red-haired witch and her family. And then, I will take Belthazor's powers and kill him. Meanwhile, I will meditate some more." He left the room.

Suzanne sneered. "Thril-ling! A great being who can't even . . ." She paused under Edward's warning stare. "Never mind. I'll meet you all at the Halliwells' home . . . around noon." An impatient sigh escaped her mouth, as she stomped out of the room.

* * * *

Cecile stood inside Olivia's kitchen, as she put the finishing touches on a potion she hoped would free Darryl Morris from Dako's spirit. After tossing a pinch of dried amber into the saucepan, she muttered an incantation. A second later, a ball of smoke exploded above the saucepan, taking Cecile by surprise. Step one had been completed.

After a quick search through the kitchen cabinets, Cecile found a small bottle for the potion. She poured the saucepan's contents into the bottle. Just as she finished closing the bottle with a cork, the telephone rang. Cecile picked up the receiver and greeted, "Hello?"

"Cecile? Hey cherie!" a familiar deep voice boomed.

Relief flooded throughout Cecile's body, when she recognized her boyfriend's voice. "Andre? Is that you?"

"Yeah. I got the spell that you wanted. A friend of mine had just e-mailed it to me, a few minutes ago. You remember Thierry Devereaux, don't you? From St. Croix? Well, when I told him about your encounter with . . ."

Cecile kept her patience in check. She loved Andre, but sometimes she wondered if the man was in love with his own voice. "Andre! Honey? The spell, please! I'm in a hurry."

"Oh. Yeah."

Cecile listened patiently, as Andre recited a spell that had not been used in nearly 250 years. She did not bother to write it down, for she possessed an eidetic memory. When the houngan finished, Cecile replied, "Got it! Thanks baby. And tell your friend, Mister . . ."

The vision struck Cecile like a bolt of lightning. She saw Cole Turner inside an expensive office with a dark-haired, beautiful woman. Cecile saw Cole drink something and drop to the floor, disoriented. Then four men entered the office, and with the woman, formed a circle around the half-demon. They chanted some incantation that left Cole powerless. Then Cecile saw one of them kill Olivia's neighbor with a fireball. The vision continued with a shadowy figure (whom Cecile figured must be Dako) and the warlocks killing the McNeills, Phoebe Halliwell, Leo Wyatt and Paige Matthews. Cecile also saw Piper Halliwell killed by the the shadow figure, and her own death at the hands of the same warlock she had spotted two days ago. The vision ended as abruptly as it had begun. Cecile dropped to the floor, gasping for air.

"Cecile?" Andre's voice could be heard from the telephone receiver she had dropped. "Cecile! Are you there?"

Slowly, the Vodoun priestess rose to her feet. She took a deep breath and picked up the receiver. "Andre, I . . . I have to go. There's an emergency. I'll call you back, later."

"Cecile! Dammit wo . . ." Unfortunately, Andre Morrell's voice went unheeded by Cecile, as she disconnected the line.


END OF CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Friday, November 23, 2007

THANKSGIVING Images

Although a day has passed since the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I might as well post a few photos celebrating the holiday. Enjoy:


"THANKSGIVING Images"





































Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Remembering Virgilia Hazard"



I wrote this article about one of the major characters in the "NORTH AND SOUTH" Trilogy, written by John Jakes and adapted for television by David Wolper:


"REMEMBERING VIRGILIA HAZARD"

My recent viewing of my "NORTH AND SOUTH Trilogy" DVD set, led me to the "Special Feaures" section that featured a behind-the-scene look at the television miniseries trilogy. In it, Patrick Swayze (Orry Main), James Read (George Hazard), Lesley Anne-Down (Madeline Fabray) producer David Wolper and the trilogy's author, John Jakes discussed both the literary and television versions of the saga. I found their recollections of the trilogy's production very interesting and entertaining. But the actors' admissions that they regarded abolitionist Virgilia Hazard to be their favorite character took me by surprise. Even more surprising was my discovery that John Jakes shared similiar feelings.

In the saga, Virgilia Hazard (Kirstie Alley) was the only daughter of iron manufacturer William Hazard (John Anderson) and his wife, Maude (Inga Swenson) in Lehigh Station, Pennsylvania. She had three brothers - the eldest sibling Stanley (Jonathan Frakes), the youngest Billy (John Stockwell/Parker Stevenson) and middle brother George. Unlike most of her family, Virgilia became a firm devotee of causes for women's rights, civil rights for free Northern blacks and especially the abolitionist cause in mid-19th century United States. In fact, one could honestly say that Virgilia's devotion to abolition eventually drifted into fanaticism.

Virgilia ended up being one of the most complex characters that author Jakes had ever created. On one hand, her fanaticism, tactless behavior, self-righteousness and bigotry toward all Southern-born whites made her a very unpleasant person. Just how unpleasant could Virgilia be? She had a tendency to air her beliefs to anyone within hearing range, regardless of whether they wanted to listen to her or not. She became so blind and bigoted in her self-righteousness toward Southern whites - especially those from the planter-class - that she failed to notice that despite her brother George's close friendship with South Carolinian Orry Main, he had also become a devoted abolitionist and civil rights advocate by the eve of the Civil War. If she had been willing to open herself more to the Mains, she would have discovered another potential abolitionist in their midst - namely Orry's younger cousin Charles.

Her tactless behavior nearly cost George's friendship with Orry, when she helped Grady (Georg Sandford Brown), the slave of the Mains' neighbor, James Huntoon (Jim Metzler), escape from slavery during the Hazards' visit to South Carolina. That same tactless behavior led her to take part in John Brown's 1859 raid on Harper's Ferry and expose herself needlessly to the local militia. And because of this, Grady - who had become her husband - rushed forward to save her ended up dead, instead. Virgilia's worst act - at least to me - was her decision to toss away her convictions and self-esteem to become Congressman Sam Greene's (David Odgen Stiers) mistress, following her confrontation with a hospital administrator (Olivia DeHavilland) over a Confederate officer's accidental death. In order to avoid being arrested for murder. She had no problem with confronting her family and neighbors' scorn over her devotion to abolition. She had no problem with confronting the Mains in her complicity to help Grady escape. But when she faced a murder investigation, she threw her self-esteem to wind and lowered herself to the level of a prostitue in order to stay out of prison.

But for all of her faults, Virgilia also possessed a great deal of virtues. Why else would the likes of Swayze and Read declare that she was their favorite character? One cannot help but admire her resilient devotion to the abolitionist cause, which was not very popular with most of her family and fellow Northerners. She was open-minded enough to look past Grady's skin color and view him as an attractive man, worthy for her hand in marriage. Many, including most of the Hazards, had dismissed her marriage to Grady as a political statement. Only one member of the Hazard family suspected the truth - George's Irish-born wife, Constance Flynn Hazard (Wendy Kilbourne).

And while many "NORTH AND SOUTH" fans may have abhorred Virgilia's habit of speaking her mind, I cannot help but admired it. If I must be honest, I almost envy her willingness to do so. I really enjoyed Virgilia's confrontations with her family and the Main family about slavery and reminders of the institution's horrors. I believe it took a lot of guts on her part and I admire her for this. Virgilia's practice of "telling it like it is" seemed very apparent in three scenes:

*Philadelphia Abolitionist Meeting - in which she gave a speech about the practices of slave breeding on Southern plantations. Despite Orry's outraged reaction to her speech, it turns out that Virgilia had spoken the truth. Due to the United States' official banning of the Atlantic Slave Trade in 1808, many Southern planters were forced to resort to the deliberate breeding of their female slaves to either maintain the number of slaves in the South or to make a fortune in selling such slaves when the value of their land depleted.

*Opposition to the Mexican-American War - during Orry's first meeting with the Hazard family, Virgilia made her disgust and opposition to the United States' threat to wage war against Mexico very clear, claiming that many of the war's supporters saw it as an opportunity to conquer Mexican territory and use it for the expansion of slavery. I hate to say this, but slavery's expansion had been a strong reason for those who supported the idea of war.

*Confrontation Over Grady's Escape - this is without a doubt, my favorite scene in which Virgilia confronted her family and the Mains over her disgust with slavery. Hell, I had practically cheered the woman as she made it clear that not only the South, but the entire country will eventually pay a price for its complicity in the institution of slavery. And she had been right.

It took a brave woman to willingly pursue a cause that many found unpopular . . . and make her convictions to others, quite clear. Hell, I think that she had more balls than all of the men in her family. Even more so, she did not hide her beliefs and convictions behind a personable veneer in order to soothe the sociabilities of her family and their friends.

I also discovered that both Lesley Anne Down (Madeline Fabray) and David Carridine (Justin LaMotte) had received Golden Globe nominations for their performances in the first miniseries. Frankly, I find this appalling for I believe that Kirstie had deserved a nomination, as well. Probably even more so, considering that she had a more difficult role. I wonder if both any of the other cast members felt the same.

Monday, November 19, 2007

"Return With a Vengeance" [PG-13] - Chapters 11 & 12




"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE"

CHAPTER 11

"Who in the hell is Dako?" a perplexed Piper Halliwell demanded. "I feel like I've been asking that question ever since we left the hospital."

The grandfather clock inside the McNeill manor read three-forty. After nearly an hour in the operation room, Paige's doctor had declared her stable. He also advised her family and friends to leave, since the only thing left for her to do was rest. The Halliwells, the two McNeill women, Cecile, Leo and Cole accepted the doctor's advice and headed for the McNeill home to discuss the situation.

Cecile spoke up. "Dako was a bokor. A sorcerer who practiced dark magic."

"Was?"

Cole added, "He was an eighteenth-century bokor." Cecile glanced at him. Cole stared back. "Andre once told me about him."

"And who is this Andre?" Phoebe asked.

Cecile replied, "My boyfriend."

"How do you know about him?" Phoebe directed her question at Cole. There was something in her manner that annoyed Cecile. It seemed almost accusatory. Suspicious.

Apparently, Cole felt the same. Instead of answering his ex-wife's question, he snapped back, "Why do you want to know?" He gave her a cool stare. Phoebe looked away.

Sensing the tension in the drawing room, Cecile continued, "Dako was a powerful 18th century bokor who was the illegitimate son of a female sorcerer and a Dahomey prince. At least we think so. The mother named her son after her lover's ancestor, a 16th century king named Dako. After his mother's death, Dako had offered his services to a local trader. Needless to say, thanks to Dako, the trader became a rich landlord, and later something of a tyrant. His people killed the former landlord and tried to get rid of Dako. They failed. Unfortunately for them, Dako took over his former employer's holdings and property and became an even worse tyrant."

"From what Andre told me," Cole continued, "a powerful houngan, or Vodoun priest named Ehioze eventually came up with a spell to vanquish Dako." He added, "And please don't ask me what that spell is, because I don't know. But Cecile might."

Leo asked, "Why is that?"

Cecile sighed. "Because one of my ancestors was a houngan named Ehioze." All eyes turned to her. "Unfortunately, I have no idea what that spell is. It probably hasn't been used in over two centuries."

Olivia added, "And how does Darryl fit in all this?"

With a shrug, Cecile replied, "Looks like he's been possessed by Dako's spirit."

"His spirit?" Piper shook her head. "I thought you said that Dako had been vanquished."

"He was," Cecile insisted. "His corporeal body was destroyed and his spirit, sent to the afterlife. Apparently, someone has managed to summon his spirit, again. Maybe those warlocks you've been so concerned about. Vodouns believe that death isn't permanent. Which is why it’s possible that Dako's spirit still exists."

Phoebe sighed. "Great! Because some sorcerer's spirit refuses to die, our friend might be possessed and our sister is in the hospital. Why couldn't he just stay dead like the other demon and warlocks we've gone against?"

"Ten to one, their spirits aren't completely gone, either," Cecile commented. "Look at the Source. Despite you killing him, he managed to possess Cole."

Both Halliwell sisters stared at Cecile. Then at Cole. "Possessed?" Piper said in an arch tone. She glared at the half-daemon. "Is that what he told you?"

"Yeah, I did," Cole retorted. "Is there a problem?"

Another moment of uncomfortable silence followed. Then Piper spoke up. "Since we don't have the spell to vanquish this Dako, does anyone have any other ideas? Perhaps a potion?"

Olivia commented, "I'm sure that we can get our hands on that spell." She glanced at Cecile. "Maybe your parents or Andre might know where it can be found. Then you can use it."

"Why don't we just create a potion or a spell to vanquish it?" Phoebe asked. Everyone stared at her. Especially Cecile. "I mean, why is it so important that Cecile use that particular spell?"

"Because she's Vodoun," Olivia coolly replied. "And the spell that had been used to vanquish Dako came from a Vodoun priest. Chances are a Vodoun would know the right spell to use."

Leo frowned. "Are you saying that those who don't practice Voodoo . . ."

"Vodoun," Olivia corrected. Cecile smiled at her friend's blunt tone.

"Right, Vodoun. Are you saying that those who don't practice it, cannot vanquish this guy?"

Olivia sighed. "All I’m saying, Leo, is that a Vodoun spell might be the correct one to use against Dako. And I don’t recall Piper and Phoebe being Vodoun practitioners."

Cecile realized that her friend's answer deserved an explanation. "You have to understand. Vodoun is an ancestral religion. West African ancestry. The spirits of those like Dako – whether they are good or evil, are part of that ancestry. This spirit is also known as the Diaspora. And those who possessed the Diaspora are namely those with West African ancestry in their blood."

"Not exactly an equal opportunity religion, is it?" Piper murmured sarcastically. However, she had spoken loud enough for the others to hear. Including Cecile.

The New Orleans glared at the oldest Halliwell. She did not care for the witch's words or tone. "I’m sorry. What was that?" she demanded coldly.

"What?" Piper's eyes widened in innocence. Too late, as far as Cecile was concerned. "I didn't . . ."

Cecile snapped back, "Do you know anything about Vodoun?"

An embarassed Piper cleared her throat. "Uh . . . no, I don't. Sorry."

Her eyes still boring into the oldest Charmed One's, Cecile relaxed. Somewhat. "It's okay. Apology accepted. As for Vodoun, non-Africans who are interested are not excluded. In fact, you don’t have to be born in Africa or have brown skin to have African ancestry. But Vodoun is an ancestral religion, like it or not. Those with no ancestral ties to West Africa probably lack the lwa or spirit. Of course . . .” Her mouth briefly curved in a mischievous smile. “. . . there is a good chance that all of us in this room might have some African ancestry.”

Piper’s eyes grew wide before she murmured, “Oh. Huh. Yeah, of course.”

Cecile returned her gaze to Olivia. "I'll call my folks and Andre, tonight. See if they know how to get their hands on that spell and a potion to free your friend, Darryl. If not, I'll try to think of something. Meanwhile, I suggest you all keep your eyes open for Dako. He's very powerful. And I'm not joking."

"She's right," Cole added. "Andre told me that he might be more powerful than the Source."

Phoebe rolled her eyes. "Again, how do you know about this Andre?"

Cole hesitated. He glanced at Cecile, who merely shrugged. "Andre is Cecile's boyfriend." He paused. "And he’s also an old friend of mine. Andre used to . . ."

"He used to be a bokor," Cecile finished bluntly. "Like Dako. Only Andre decided to reject black magic and become a houngan."

Cole added, "Andre and I first met ten years ago. During my glory days as Belthazor. He was a bokor at the time."

Unease crept into Phoebe's eyes. "Wait. Are you saying that your boyfriend used to be evil?"

"Well, he practiced magic for evil purposes. If that's what you mean." Cecile gave Phoebe a direct stare. "Anything else?"

Phoebe turned away. "No. I guess not." She immediately switched to the subject of their present problem. "As for Dako, I guess we should be able to handle him. Vodoun or not, we are the Charmed Ones. I mean, with the two of us and the magic of Piper's baby, we should be able to handle him." Phoebe hesitated, as she spared Cole a glance. "Or maybe Cole can."

In other words, Cecile translated, the Halliwells planned to create a potion or spell to use against Dako. Despite Olivia's warning. She shot a look at her friend . . . who merely glanced away. How on earth did Cole Turner fall for this one? Cecile failed to see the attraction.

"We still have one matter to consider," Olivia added. "Darryl. Before Cecile can vanquish Dako, we have to free Darryl. I mean, after all, we don't want a repeat performance of an innocent getting killed, along with evil."

Phoebe opened her mouth for a retort. Not one word came out. Piper glared at the red-haired witch. Leo merely squirmed with discomfort. Mrs. McNeill maintained an innocent expression. Cecile glanced at Cole, whose mouth formed the beginning of a smirk. Apparently, everyone fully understood the implications behind Olivia's words.

The phone rang. Olivia's cell phone. She stood up and walked away from the others, while they continued to discuss Dako. The Halliwells made plans to create a potion that would free Inspector Morris' from the bokor's spirit. Cole tried to explain that it might not be possible for them to accomplish this, but both sisters seemed determined to ignore him.

Olivia returned to the group, looking grim. "What's wrong?" her mother asked.

"It's Mallard. Ben Mallard. He's a U.S. Customs agent I told Cole about. It seems that he's dead. Someone found his body in an alley off Kearny Street. Stabbed with a sharp object."

* * * *

Ben Mallard's employers proved to be very difficult. And uncooperative. They tried to claim Federal jurisdiction over the agent's death, but Olivia reminded the agency's head that Mallard's body had been discovered by a city police officer. And that the agent had been linked to a local murder.

Following a cool interview with the office's head honcho, Olivia interviewed Mallard's secretary. She was a pleasant-looking woman in her late thirties named Ms. Dominguez. "Nothing special really happened, today," the latter said. "In fact, Mr. Mallard had lunch inside his office."

Olivia asked, "So why did he leave the office early, today? A meeting?"

Ms. Dominguez, who continued to look stunned over her boss' death, paused to wipe a few tears from her eyes. "He had received a call after lunch. No, wait. The phone never rang. It was sometime after one, when I got back from lunch. I saw Mr. Mallard on the telephone. He immediately left after the call." The secretary led Olivia to Malllard's office. "I think I saw him scribble something on his calendar pad, before he left."

A quick glance at the calendar pad revealed an address scrawled in Mallard's handwriting. 5725 Kearny. Right next to the alley where the agent's body had been found. Olivia flipped through the previous pages. She spotted an inscription on the page for Tuesday - ”S.S. Enigma; Pier 34 @ 11:30 am." Interesting. What was so important about the S.S. Enigma? Olivia felt tempted to ask Mallard's supervisor. However, instinct told her that he might prove to be difficult.

"Is there anything else you want?" Ms. Dominguez asked.

Olivia shook her head and smiled. "Not at the moment. I'm afraid I have a dead end, here. But I might return with more questions." You can bet your sweet ass I will.

* * * *

"What happened to the Halliwell witch?" Cousin Henry demanded. "She's still alive. And so is the McNeill witch!" Edward winced, as his cousin confronted the Vodoun sorcerer with his usual bluntness.

Seconds later, a bolt of lightning struck the warlock and sent his body crashing into a wall, thanks to Dako. The latter glared at Cousin Henry's semi-conscious body. At least Edward hoped that the man was semi-conscious. "Don't you ever talk to me in that tone, again!" Dako boomed. Then he glared at the others. "Either learn to hold your tongue or suffer the consequences! All of you!"

Three of the other Crozats squirmed with discomfort. Edward bowed deeply to the bokor. "Yes, Your Eminence. It will never happen, again." Silently, he damned the turn of events. Nothing seemed to be going well. Dako not only failed to kill both Paige Matthews and Olivia McNeill, the latter managed to discover Ben Mallard's connections to the janitor that Rudolf had killed. Which forced Edward to order the death of the Customs' agent. Even more frustrating, Suzanne had failed to begin the first step that would give them Belthazor's powers. In other words, everything seemed to be going wrong. Perhaps he should use the spell given to him by his old friend, William Dagbani, and vanquish Dako. And find another way to get rid of the McNeills and the Halliwells.

"As for the two witches," Dako continued less spiritedly, "I could not kill the one with the red hair. Someone had appeared. As for the other witch . . ." He looked disturbed. "This mortal . . . Morris . . . He stopped me from killing her and the old couple. He is stronger than I had thought possible. Are you sure he is a mortal?"

Keeping his frustration in check, Edward assured the bokor that Darryl Morris was mortal. He delicately added, "Perhaps you're not as strong as you thought, your eminence." The other Crozats stared at him as if he had gone insane. Edward ignored them.

Morris/Dako gave the warlock a long, hard stare. "You might have a point," he finally conceded. Relief flooded through Edward's body. "Perhaps I need a little more meditation to gain more control over this body. But first, I will go after the third witch you had recommended. This Harry McNeill. Where can I find him?"

Edward replied that the McNeill telepath could be found at the family's business office. "At the McNeill-Ross Building on Montgomery. According to my nephew, his office is located on the 23rd floor. He usually works late at night. At least on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. And today is Thursday. He should be alone."

The sorcerer paused. Gave Edward another piercing stare. "Is there something I should know about this particular witch? You failed to inform me that the last one could teleport."

Fear threatened to overwhelm Edward. He took a deep breath and answered, "Other than him being a telepath . . . no. And I apologize for failing to inform you everything about the other witch. I should have. As for this second McNeill witch, not only is he a telepath, but a powerful one. Like his grandmother."

"That should be no problem," Dako said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I have strong resistance to those with psychic abilities." He smiled. "And when I'm finished with this witch, I'll tend to his sister, followed by the other two Charmed Ones." To Edward's relief, he disappeared.

Suzanne sauntered over to Edward. "God! I can't wait to get rid of that bastard!" she seethed. "Exactly when can we vanquish him?"

"After he has killed the others and we kill Belthazor," Edward calmly replied. All of you be patient. And Suzanne, perhaps you should see about setting up another date with Belthazor." A sigh left Suzanne's mouth. "What?" Edward demanded. "Do you have a problem with Belthazor?"

"It's not Co . . . Belthazor I'm worried about," a petulant Suzanne shot back.

Cousin Louis, along with Rudolf, helped Cousin Henry stand up. He asked, "Then what's wrong?"

Suzanne continued, "It's the Halliwell baby. I don't like the idea of being pregnant for the next four or five months."

Edward sighed. Not only did he have a megalomaniac sorcerer to deal with, but a petulant cousin as well. Of course, he could understand Suzanne's reluctance to carry the Halliwell baby. His cousin was not exactly one would label as the maternal type.

"Perhaps you will not have to carry the baby," Edward suggested. "If we can get hold of Belthazor's powers, together with our friend, Dako, we might be able to destroy the baby. And the oldest Charmed One."

Rudolf frowned. "Do we really need Dako's help in getting rid of that baby, Uncle Edward?"

"According to my sources, the witch might be carrying a powerful baby. Perhaps just as powerful as Belthazor. A group of whitelighters seemed to view it as some prophecy child. Only, they did not count on Belthazor returning from the Wasteland just as powerful. But once we steal his powers, we and Dako can destroy the witch and her baby." He looked at Suzanne. "It's either that, or we steal the womb and you carry the child."

Suspicion gleamed in Suzanne's dark eyes. "How did you get all of this information, anyway? Surely not from some daemon in the Source’s Realm. It's chaos over there."

Edward smiled. "Like I said, I have a source. A very interesting one." His smile disappeared. "Now, don't you think it's time to call Mr. Turner?"

Suzanne rolled her eyes and headed for the nearest telephone.



END OF CHAPTER ELEVEN

-------------

"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE"

CHAPTER 12


Cole disconnected his cordless telephone and sighed. Another call from Suzanne Maxwell. Or should he say . . . Crozat? Earlier this morning, he had called his old friend and Cecile's boyfriend to check the so-called "widow's" background. As for Mrs. Maxwell, she had just invited him for a late night supper at her home in Palo Alto. Cole wondered what she had in store for him.

A quick glance at his watch read six forty-five. He was due at Suzanne's house in a little over two hours. Quickly stripping off his clothes, Cole dumped them on the sofa and headed for the bathroom, for a quick shower.

Hot water poured down his body, providing Cole a welcome relief from the stress of the past two days. Poor Paige. He still found it hard to believe that his former sister-in-law had been attacked by a bokor possessing Darryl Morris' body. And as for the good inspector, if it is true that Dako now possessed him, he must be in a state of hell right now. Cole only hoped that Darryl's experiences might proved to be less of a disaster than his own possession by the Source, last spring.

The past seven months flashed through Cole's mind. Had his life really turned out that disastrous? At least during the past month? It still pained him that the Halliwells, especially Phoebe, viewed him with such dislike. Despite Olivia's words that Phoebe might still be in love with him, Cole doubted that the middle Halliwell would be willing to give him a second chance. And to be honest, Cole did not really feel that upset by the possibility. Perhaps he was finally learning to live his life without Phoebe's love. Or perhaps it was the friendship of a certain red-haired witch that now made his life bearable.

Or was it friendship? Cole decided that friendship seemed the perfect word to describe his relationship with Olivia McNeill. By the way she always spoke of her late fiancé, she was obviously still in love with Richard Bannen. And for some reason, it bothered Cole. Why? Did he fear that Olivia's feelings for Bannen might ruin any chance for future love? Did her mourning over another man - dead or alive - filled Cole with jealousy?

Cole nearly laughed at the idea of him being jealous over some woman other than Phoebe. It was ridiculous! Well, almost. He still recalled his reaction the last time Olivia had mentioned Bannen's name. And his irritation at that low life, Gunther Weiss, who tried to proposition Olivia. Instead of laughing, Cole shook his head in disbelief. Life can certainly be . . .

'Help! Anyone, help me! I'm being attacked!'

The voice hit Cole's psyche with such force that he nearly slipped in the shower stall. The voice. It sounded as if it belonged to . . . Harry McNeill. Cole shook his head. Maybe he was imagining things. Grabbing his sponge, he began to . . .

'Help! Please help! Darryl is attacking me!'

Cole definitely recognized Harry's voice. Since Olivia's younger brother happened to be a telepath, it could only mean one thing . . . the youngest McNeill was in serious trouble.

* * * *

The voice took Phoebe by surprise. She gasped out loud. Oddly enough, so did Piper and Leo. The two witches and the whitelighter stood inside the Halliwell kitchen, staring at each other.

"Did you hear that?" Phoebe asked. "I don't think that was a premonition." She stared at her sister and brother-in-law. "I know you two heard that voice. Right?"

Piper replied, "Yeah, I heard it, too." She returned the ladle in her hand, on the table and turned off the stove. "For a moment, I thought it was the baby, or . . ."

A frowning Leo shook his head. "Not the baby. Harry. I think he's trouble. And that Darryl is part of it. We have to help."

* * * *

"Don't worry, Sheila," Olivia assured her partner's wife over the telephone. "I'll find Darryl. I'm sure that he's okay. Just don't . . . don't tell anyone else at the precinct that he's missing. As far as Captain McPherson is concerned, Darryl has been home . . . sick."

A pause followed. Then Sheila asked, "Has this something to do with the Halliwells?"

The question nearly floored Olivia. She knew that Darryl had kept the Halliwells' and her secret from Sheila, but she had no idea that the latter harbored some suspicions about the three sisters. What should she say? Olivia took a deep breath. "I rather doubt it. Maybe Darryl is still working on the DiMatteo case. He seemed very . . . I don't know, obsessed about it. You know how Darryl can be when he becomes obsessed over a case. However, I'm sure that he's fine. I'm still loo. . ."

'Help! Anyone, help me! I'm being attacked!'

The voice rang in Olivia's mind. It sounded like it belonged to Harry. Which meant that her little brother was in trouble. Realizing that she had to cut this telephone call short, Olivia continued, "Uh, Sheila? Don't worry about Darryl. I'll find him. Meanwhile, don't tell anyone else that he's missing. Please."

Sheila Morris murmured a subdued "Okay" and hung up. The moment Olivia hung up her telephone another cry invaded her mind. 'Help! Please help! Darryl is attacking me!' Oh great! She turned to Cecile. "Did you just hear . . .?"

"Harry's voice?" the other woman finished. "Yeah, I did. Where is he?"

A figure materialized in the middle of Olivia's living room. It was Cole, dressed in a dark pullover sweater and trousers. And he seemed to be . . . slightly wet. "I thought I heard Harry's voice," he declared. "Sounded like he was in trouble."

"We heard it too," Olivia replied. "His telepathy must really be growing."

Cecile added, "If Darryl or Dako is attacking him, we better leave. Now."

"Hold on." Cole grabbed the two women's hands and beamed out of the apartment.

* * * *

The attack had come so fast that Harry felt lucky to be alive. One moment, he was examining a list of figures for a new company that McNeill Incorporated had purchased and the next thing he knew, one Inspector Darryl Morris had materialized in the middle of his office.

Harry tossed a file aside and stood up. "Hey Darryl! What . . . how did you get here?" At that moment, the police inspector raised his hand and a bolt of lightning spewed forth. Years of martial arts training kicked in and Harry immediately dropped to the floor. The lightning bolt destroyed his chair, instead.

'What the hell?' Harry thought, as he scrambled away from his desk. Another lightning bolt came his way. This time, Harry jumped away, missing the second bolt by inches. In a fit of panic, he sent a telepathic SOS - something he had never done before. 'Help! Anyone, help me! I'm being attacked!'

Darryl attacked again with a third bolt. It hit its target and pain exploded in Harry's right side. He immediately sent another message - 'Help! Please help! Darryl is attacking me!'

Harry began to crawl toward an empty spot between the liquor cabinet and the bookcase. It was a hopeless gesture. Darryl merely followed him, until he found himself cornered between the two pieces of furniture. A smirk appeared on the inspector's face before he declared, "Say hello to Ghede for me."

Darryl raised his hand. Harry heard a voice cry out, "Darryl, don't!" And then he blacked out.

* * * *

Cole, along with Olivia and Cecile, beamed inside Harry's office. They had arrived just in time to see the Vodoun sorcerer in Darryl's body, fling the Halliwells and Leo across the room, using telekinesis. They also saw Dako/Darryl glaring at his victims.

Piper immediately scrambled to her feet and tried to freeze Dako. She failed. The sorcerer shot a bolt of lightning at her. Without even doing anything, she deflected his attack and the lightning bolt dissipated. The baby, Cole surmised, must have given her the power of deflection. Which meant that Dako was no more powerful than the Halliwell-Wyatt baby. Or, Cole hoped, himself.

Using telekinesis, Dako flung Piper across the room, once more. Then he leveled his hand at Harry for a final strike. This time, Olivia used her telekinesis to budge the sorcerer. And she did . . . for only a few feet. The sorcerer faced her with enraged eyes and seconds later, she found herself joining the Halliwells.

Cole almost cried out, "No!". Instead, he struggled to keep his emotions in check. This was not the time to give in to anger or fear. Especially with Dako now eyeing him. The half-demon attempted to manipulate the bokor's mind, convince the latter to stop the attacks. He failed. Not only did he fail, he also attracted the sorcerer's anger.

"Nice try!" the bokor boomed with Darryl's deep voice. Then Dako sent a bolt of lightning toward Cole's direction. Olivia yelled something, but Cole did not hear. Instead, he deflected the sorcerer's attack and the bolt struck Dako squarely in the chest. Seconds later, some kind of dark spirit rose from Darryl's body. But only for a brief moment. It quickly returned inside the body and Dako/Darryl disappeared.

Cecile stared in horror at the spot that the bokor had previous occupied. "Good Lord!" she exclaimed. "That was Dako? How in the hell are we supposed to defeat someone like that?"

Cole quickly knelt beside Harry to check for injuries. The red-haired young man was unconscious, but alive. Thankfully. Cole called for the whitelighter. "Leo, over here. He needs your help."

The whitelighter scrambled over to the witch. He placed his hand over the young man's side. A white glow indicated that the latter's wound had been healed. "Are you okay, Harry?" Leo finally asked.

The youngest McNeill fluttered his eyes momentarily, before he managed to croak, "Yeah. I'm alive, thank goodness. But I feel a little sore. Jeez! That guy sure packs a punch. And that wasn't even a killing blow." He sat up.

"Hey! Turner!" The cry came from Piper, who along with Olivia and Phoebe, managed to scramble to her feet. She glared at Cole. "Next time, take it easy when you deflect an attack, will you? You could have hurt Darryl!"

Cole sighed. Naturally, he could not spent two minutes in the same room with a Halliwell without receiving a snarky comment. "Sorry about that. I barely deflected his attack and I didn't think it would affect . . ."

"That seems to be a problem with you, doesn't it?" Phoebe strode toward Cole, hands on hips and her eyes brimming with anger. "You never seem to think! Why is it that everything you do or touch ends in death? Darryl could have been killed! But in typical fashion," she continued, throwing her hands in the air with exasperation, "you resort to your true nature and . . ."

Olivia cried out loud, interrupting Phoebe. "Stop it! Both of you! This bitch-and-moan session is getting boring!"

"Cole could have hurt Darryl!" Phoebe retorted.

Olivia shot back, "And Darryl . . . I mean, Dako could have hurt all of us! Just be glad that no one was permanently killed this time! Besides," her voice grew more reflective, "we might have a way to free Darryl from Dako, if a potion or spell doesn't work."

Piper now glared at Olivia. "By hurting Darryl?"

"Perhaps." Olivia glared at the two Halliwells. "I seemed to recall Leo telling me about the time when Prue stabbed you, Piper, in order to free you from some non-corporeal spirit. Is that true?" The two sisters looked away. Cole gave Olivia a grateful smile. She responded with one of her own.

A morose Phoebe murmured, "I don't think we'll have to resort to such drastic measures. Piper and I were working on a potion, before we heard Harry's call."

Cecile offered to help create the potion. "I can help. It might need a touch of Voudon magic," she added.

"Thanks, but we're doing just fine," Phoebe responded uneasily. "We've got the Power of Two and Piper's baby." She grabbed her sister's hand. "Let's get out of here." Leo grabbed hold of the Halliwells' shoulders.

"Wait!" Cecile cried. "It'll probably be better if I . . ." The Halliwells and Leo orbed away before she could finish. The Vodoun priestess snarled with anger. "Dammit! What the hell is wrong with them?" She rounded on Cole. "How in the hell did you put up with them for so long?"

Cole responded with a silent shrug. It was something he had pondered over a lot - especially during the past three months. Phoebe no longer seemed to be a plausible answer. Sighing, he picked up the semi-conscious Harry and slung the latter over his shoulder. "Okay, ladies. It's time to go. Ready?" Both Olivia and Cecile took hold of an arm and Cole beamed the entire party out of the office.


END OF CHAPTER 12