TITLE: A WEDDING IN FOUR ACTS

AUTHOR: RFK

SERIES: CHA

RATING: [PG-13]

SUMMARY: A Wiccan wedding is invaded by a succubus and a witch, bent on revenge. Sequel to "Obssession".

FEEDBACK: june_daley@rocketmail.com - Be my guest. But please, be kind.

DISCLAIMER: Cole Turner, Darryl Morris, Leo Wyatt and the Charmed Ones and other characters are related to Charmed to Spelling Productions, Brad Kern and Constance Burge. The McNeills and a few other characters are my own creation.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: To understand certain parts of this story, please read "A Day in the Life of Paige Matthews" (http://www.fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=1338275) and "Obssession" (http://www.fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=1387679).

"A WEDDING IN FOUR ACTS" by RFK

ACT I - Part 1

A tall, well-dressed man strolled across the terrace that overlooked the blue Mediterranean Sea. He paused beside one of the lounge chairs and kneeled down to speak to a dark-haired woman, sipping a glass of Sangria. "Padronessa," he murmured to her, "I finally have the news that you require."

The glass hovered less than an inch from the woman's lips. "Tell me," she ordered.

"I have discovered the name of the Streghore who had summoned your sister."

Disbelief radiated from the woman's voice. "A Streghore? It was a witch who had summoned Portia?"

The man, who happened to be a low-level demon named Leonardo, trembled with fear. "Si, Padronessa. A Streghore named Nichola Marcano. I learned this from the seer, Venusia. This Marcano witch had summoned your sister, nearly a month ago. For what reason, I do not know."

"For sex, of course," Claudia Della Scalla retorted. "What else? This Streghore was probably desperate for sex and summoned Portia. After they had sex, he vanquished her, before she could kill him. Simple." Her expression hardened. "Only he had vanquished the wrong succubus. Where can I find him?"

Leonardo replied, "San Francisco, California. Only . . ." he hesitated.

Claudia heaved a frustrated sigh. "Only what?"

"After Venusia gave me the name of the Streghore, I discovered a few things about him. For example, he was arrested by the authorities for murder and attempting kidnapping. He is now incarcerated in the local jail."

The news took the beautiful succubus by surprise. "He's in jail for murder? Hmmm, this witch sounds very promising. It is a shame I will have to kill him."

Doubt glimmered in Leonardo's eyes. "Before you do, Padronessa, perhaps you should talk to the witch. Find out what really happened. Something tells me that your sister may have been involved in his crimes."

Claudia nodded. "Good idea. Meanwhile, have Gia pack my belongings. We are off to San Francisco."

"We?" Leonardo hesitated. "Shall I inform the other members of the boschetto?"

The succubus took another sip of her Sangria. "No, I will only need you and Giancarlo to get this Streghore for me. Once I am rid of him, perhaps we can remain in San Francisco for a few days. It has always been one of my favorite cities."

Leonardo rose to his feet, bowed and marched back to the villa. Heaving a satisfied sigh, Claudia returned her attention to her drink and the view, beyond.

* * * *

Cecile Dubois glanced at the grandfather clock standing in one corner of the living room, inside her Garden District house. It read five-eighteen. "Where is he?" she demanded, glancing at her handsome boyfriend. "He's late."

"Only by eighteen minutes," Andre Morell protested. "C'mon, cherie! Be patient. It's not like we have a plane to catch."

The third person inside the room grumbled, "Considering that he hasn't even shown up yet, I'm beginning to think that we should catch a plane." At fifty-five years old, Vivian Reyes Dubois had maintained her good looks and vitality. She and her daughter shared the same bronze-colored skin, high cheekbones, dark eyes reminiscent of ancient Egyptians and diminutive form. "I wonder if there's a plane available for San Francisco, in the next hour or two."

Andre demanded, "Why are you in such a hurry? Once Cole gets here, it should take us at least a second to arrive."

"Because I plan to do a little shopping."

Cecile added, "So do I. Olivia told me about a sale going on at Macy's."

A sigh left Andre's mouth. "Shopping? We're going to San Francisco for a wedding, and all you can think about is shopping? I thought you two had already bought wedding gifts."

Vivian rolled her eyes in disgust. "You don't understand women very much, do you boy?"

Before Andre could reply, a tall figure clad in a dark business suit, materialized in the middle of the living room. Cecile sighed with relief. Andre rushed forward to greet the newcomer with a bear hug. "Cole! Glad you could finally make it, man!" he said cheerfully. "We were beginning to get a little worried."

"We were more than beginning to worry," Cecile added caustically. "Another twenty minutes and we would have ended up going to the airport." She walked toward him and pecked his cheek.

Cole graced the Vodoun priestess with a charming smile. "And it's good to see you too, Ms. Dubois." He returned her kiss with one of his own. Then he turned to Cecile's mother. "Mrs. Dubois. It's good to see you."

"Nice to see you again, Cole," Vivian responded. "Now, what took you so long?"

A heavy sigh left Cole's mouth. "I'm sorry that I'm late, but the Senior Partners' staff meeting took longer than I had expected. Is everyone ready?" He glanced at the pile of luggage near the fireplace. "Oh, I guess so."

The others gathered around the half-demon. "Is this going to take long?" Cecile's mother asked, uneasily. "I've never teleported, before."

"Don't worry Mama," Cecile reassured the older woman. "Like Andre said, it'll be over within a second." Sure enough, the four people disappeared from the New Orleans house and reappeared in the middle of the McNeill foyer, a second later.

Vivian released a gust of breath. Then she glanced around and frowned. "Is that it?" she demanded. "What happened to our luggage?" No sooner had she spoken, the Dubois and Andre's belongings materialized.

The McNeills' manservant, Davies, appeared in the foyer. "Oh, I see that you've all arrived."

"Afternoon Davies," Cole greeted. "I finally got them here. You can tell both Mrs. McNeill and the others."

Nodding, Davies replied, "Yes sir. Mr. Morell, Mrs. Dubois and Miss Dubois, it's good to see you, again. If you will all follow me, I will take you to the others in the drawing-room. Carmen and Liam will take care of your luggage."

"Leave my baggage in here, Davies," Andre said. "I'll be leaving with Cole."

Cecile added that she will be leaving with Olivia. "That is after she gets here."

"Miss Olivia is in the drawing-room with the others," Davies announced.

Cole frowned. "She's here?" He glanced at his watch. "This early?"

"Yes sir." Davies led the quartet toward the drawing-room. "Miss Olivia is here, along with both Mrs. McNeills and Mr. Bruce."

Vivian murmured to her daughter, "Why is it that every time I'm around that man, I feel as if I'm in the middle of a Merchant-Ivory movie and I'm about to meet Helena Bonham-Carter?"

"You and me both," Cecile shot back.

The manservant opened the drawing-room's double doors and ushered the visitors inside. They found both Elise and Gweneth McNeill observing the other two McNeills engage in a heated conversation. "Why are you asking me, Livy?" Bruce McNeill was saying. "Harry's the one who is planning this party."

Bruce's red-haired sister replied, "Because Harry told me to ask you. After all, it's your bachelor party."

"Okay. Then the answer is no," Bruce answered coolly.

"Bruce!"

Davies interrupted the conversation with a slight cough. "Excuse me, but the Dubois, Mr. Morell and Mr. Turner are all here."

The McNeills' attention became riveted upon the visitors. Gweneth McNeill let out a cry of delight. "Well, look who's here! Vi, darling! How are you?" She rushed forward to envelop Cecile's mother into a bear hug.

Cecile found herself being hugged by Olivia. Soon, everyone - sans Cole and Davies - were exchanging hugs, kisses and handshakes. The younger Mrs. McNeill then turned to Cole and thanked him for giving the visitors from New Orleans, a supernatural lift.

"No problem at al," Cole replied genially. He shot a quick glance at Olivia, who immediately looked away. Much to Cecile's surprise. "Unfortunately, I was a little late. The meeting at the firm ended a bit later than I had expected." He turned to face both Olivia and Bruce. "Don't let me stop you, two. What were you talking about?"

Bruce replied, "My bachelor party. It seems Olivia wants me to add a certain someone to the guest list."

"That certain someone is Paul," Olivia retorted, glaring at her older brother.

"And I said . . . no."

Cecile asked, "Is this that attorney, who happens to be a witch? One of Leo's charges?"

Cole rolled his eyes. "Oh. Him. He's going to be at the bachelor party?"

Olivia diverted her glare to Cole "And what exactly, is wrong with . . . him?"

"Well, for one thing, he's a bore," Bruce replied. Both Cole and Andre snickered.

Green eyes now focused upon Cecile's significant other half. "Gee Andre, I didn't realize that you knew Paul."

"Uh, I don't," Andre said. "I just . . . heard . . ." Cecile surreptiously squeezed his arm. "Never mind."

Vivian piped up, Does anyone know what time the department stores close in this town? I need to do some last minute shopping."

"Macy's should be open until nine, tonight," old Mrs. McNeill replied. "Perhaps Davies can drive you over . . ."

Olivia cut in. "I'll take her. I have some shopping to do, myself."

"And I'm going with you," Cecile added.

"Okay." Olivia paused and glanced at Bruce. "What about Paul?"

Bruce sighed. "What about him?"

Impatience radiated from Olivia's eyes. "The bachelor's party. Is it okay for Harry to invite him?"

Rolling his eyes, the oldest McNeill sibling coolly replied, "Let me think about it."

"Think about it fast, huh Bruce? The bachelor party is in two days." Olivia nodded at both Cecile and Vivian. "Ready ladies?" She started toward the doorway. Daughter and mother followed. As the former glanced behind her, she noticed the pained expression on Cole's face. Interesting.

* * * *

Piper picked up a stainless steel saucepan and held it up in front of her husband's eyes. "What about this?" she asked. "Would this do?"

The oldest Charmed One and her whitelighter husband stood in the middle of the Appliance Department, inside Macy's department store. Leo shook his head in dismay. "A saucepan? Piper, we're shopping for a wedding gift, not a housewarming party!"

"What's wrong with a saucepan?" Piper protested. "Maybe Bruce and Barbara will like it. He's a chef, after all."

An exasperated sigh left Leo's mouth. "Don't you think we should get them something with a little more class? Like silver, for instance."

"Too expensive," Piper curtly replied.

Leo shot back, "Piper, you own a nightclub that's . . ."

". . . that has been losing a little business, ever since Wyatt was born."

Undaunted, Leo continued, "But we still have enough money. And I've been earning a few bucks with some carpentry jobs on the side."

"Leo . . ."

"C'mon Piper. I don't want to give Bruce and Barbara a . . . saucepan." Leo paused, as he squirmed with discomfort. "I mean he is one of my charges."

Rolling her eyes, Piper replied caustically, "Then why did we receive our wedding invitations at least a week after Paige had received hers? Can you explain that?"

"What is there to explain?" Leo protested. "Our invitations probably got lost in the mail."

Again, Piper rolled her eyes. "If that's what you want to believe, Leo, go ahead. It seems obvious to me that Bruce and Barbara only wanted to invite Paige. So, I see no reason why I should spend my money on something better than a saucepan."

"Look, maybe you're right. Maybe Bruce didn't want us at the wedding. Can you blame him?"

Piper blinked. Had she heard right? "Excuse me?"

"Well, we didn't invite him, Olivia or Harry to our wedding. And aside from you and your sisters, they were my only other charges here in San Francisco. It even took them a while to forgive me for not inviting them."

With a scoff, Piper replied, "Well, at least you now believe me that we were excluded from the guest list."

"Piper! Please!" Leo pleaded. "Let's just buy something better than a saucepan. Okay?"

Piper opened her mouth for a retort, when three women appeared. She recognized Olivia McNeill and the latter's friend from New Orleans, whom she remembered from last December. The third woman seemed to be an older version of Olivia's friend. "Leo!" Olivia greeted cheerfully. "And Piper. Fancy meeting you two, here. Shopping for wedding gifts?"

"Uh," Leo began, hesitating, "yeah. We, uh . . . didn't have much time for shopping. Until today."

Olivia's smile widened. Piper began to wonder if she was mocking them. "Well, that's nice. By the way, I'm sure that both of you remember Cecile Dubois. She's here for the wedding." Both Piper and Leo nodded at the Vodoun priestess, who returned their nods. "And this," Olivia continued, "is Vivian Dubois, Cecile's mom. She's also a close friend of my mother's."

Piper smiled politely at the older woman. "Nice to meet you. Are you a Voodoo . . ." She saw Leo grimace from the corner of her eye. "I mean, a Vodoun priestess also, Mrs. Dubois?"

"Yes, I am," the older woman replied. "Both Cecile and I hold the title of mami."

What the hell? "Mami?"

Cecile spoke up. "That's the title for all women who are priestesses."

Leo asked, "Do you have a power like Cecile?"

Mrs. Dubois frowned. "Sorry?"

Again, Cecile explained, "He wants to know if you have a psychic power, Mama. Like my telepathy and visions."

"Oh." Mrs. Dubois nodded. "I suppose I do. I'm a metamorph. What you would call a shapeshifter."

Olivia added, "Like Bruce and Dad, only Mrs. Dubois can morph into anything - other people, animals, plants and any other object."

"Like Cole," Piper added. "Or a chameleon demon." Everyone stared at her. "My sisters and I had an encounter with one, nearly two years ago."

The older woman wore a confused expression. "I share a power with a demon? There's a spirit out there that changes form?"

Now it was Piper and Leo's turn to look confused. "Huh?" the Charmed One asked. "What do you mean by spirit?"

A salesgirl appeared. "Excuse me, miss." All talk of the supernatural and magic ceased between the five people. The salesgirl continued, "Do you need any help with that saucepan?"

"Huh?" Piper glanced at the object in her hand. She also noticed the others staring at it, as well. Especially Olivia. "Oh, um do you know where I can find some candlesticks?" she asked lamely. "Preferably silver ones?"

* * * *

ACT 1 - Part 2

Nick Marcano sat inside his cell, reading the latest issue of SAN FRANCISCO TODAY. The local weekly magazine, which featured stories about the city's entrepreneurs, high society and other local celebrities, usually did not appeal to him. But he was interested in this particular issue.

". . . years after the restaurant opened its doors, Gweneth McNeill stepped down as Executive Chef and handed over the position to her elder son, Bruce." Jealousy throbbed in the center of Nick's chest. His mouth formed a tight line, as he continued to read the article.

Bruce McNeill. The very mention of that name would send Nick into a state of boiling rage and resentment. Bruce McNeill, the handsome millionaire's son who had assumed control of his mother's famous restaurant . . . and stole the heart of the only woman Nick had ever loved. Because of Bruce's engagement to his Barbara, the Stregheria witch had summoned a succubus to seduce and kill the chef. Unfortunately for Nick, the scheme also involved killing a newspaper columnist who was supposed to interview Bruce. The chef ended up vanquishing the succubus, Nick killed the columnist and now faced charges of murder and attempted kidnapping.

A sigh left the prisoner's mouth. He allowed the magazine to slip from his fingers to the floor. A figure appeared before Nick. He glanced up at the uniformed guard that stood outside the cell. "What do you want, Brimmerman?" Nick growled.

The guard coolly shot back, "You have a visitor, Marcano. So, get your ass up. Now!"

Nick slowly rose from his bunk. He waited patiently, while Brimmerman opened the cell door. Seconds later, the guard led him out of the cellblock and toward one of the private interrogation rooms. Inside stood a tall, slender man with dark hair and eyes, and dressed in an expensive Armani suit. Nick frowned at the stranger. "Who the hell are you?" he demanded.

Smiling coolly, the stranger held out his hand to Nick. "My name is Leonard Mollari. I am your new attorney."

Nick sat down in one of the chairs. "What happened to Ms. Holtz?" He referred to his former court-appointed public defender.

Mr. Mollari shrugged. "I am not sure. I believe . . . she had some kind of family emergency and had to be removed from the case. But do not worry." He gave Nick a smile reminiscent of a hungry shark. "I will be able to defend you properly. Now, shall we discuss your case?"

Nick stared at the man. There was something about this attorney that made him uneasy. Perhaps it was the attorney's expensive suit, which seemed more appropriate for one who worked for a successful law firm, instead of a public defender. Or perhaps it was the man's formal speech pattern that seemed more suited to a foreigner who was educated in the States. Everything about the man seemed . . . odd. "Listen," Nick said, "I'm fine with Ms. Holtz. I'm sure that once her family emergency is over, she would be available."

"I doubt it very much," Mollari firmly replied. His dark eyes glittered dangerously. "So please, stop procrastinating and tell me about your case."

Despite Mollari's frightening aura, Nick felt reluctant to open up to the man. "Didn't you read my case file?" he asked petulantly.

"I want to know what happened from your own point of view." Mollari leaned forward. "Please cooperate, Mr. Marcano, and you will not face any further trouble. Now," he sat down in a chair, opposite Nick, "about this Portia Della Scalla . . . what do you know about her?"

Suspicion gleamed in the back of Nick's mind. "What about her?" he asked. "Why are you interested in her? Why not DeWolfe Mann? After all, I've been charged with his . . ."

"Mr. Marcano! I am in charge of your case. Not you! I suggest that you cooperate, unless you want to spend the rest of your life in prison!" Mollari leaned forward, his eyes glittering. "Now, did you kill her?"

Taken aback by the attorney's question, Nick hesitated. "N-No. No, I didn't."

Mollari shot back, "Who did?"

"Wha . . .? How did you . . .?" Nick shook his head, as if to clear his mind. "What makes you think she's dead?"

Dark eyes bored into Nick's. "Because," Mollari said in a soft voice, "a seer named Venusia DiSicca has named you as the one who had summoned Signorina Della Scalla."

He was a demon. Nick realized that his new public defender had to be a demon who, knew Portia Della Scalla. Genuine fear gripped him. "Who are you?" he whispered.

Mollari smiled. Coldly. "A valuable friend, if you cooperate." He now spoke with an Italian accent. "And your worst nightmare, if you do not. Do you understand?"

Nick closed his eyes and nodded. "Perfectly."

* * * *

Cole placed the cordless telephone on the receiver and heaved a sigh. He had just finished a difficult conversation with one of his clients - a wine grower named Mark Giovanni, who faced a real estate dispute with a small corporation trying to take possession of a vineyard in Santa Rosa County.

Growing impatient with the length of the case, Giovanni had asked Cole to meet with Cedric Lloyd, attorney for the Astar Corporation, to discuss some kind of settlement. Fortunately, Cole had managed to convince Giovanni that the Astar Corporation had no interest in settling. They wanted the land - pure and simple. Cole had just become aware of Lloyd approaching certain government officials to convince Giovanni into selling the land to Astar. When Giovanni heard this, he immediately changed his mind and decided to continue the dispute with Astar.

The door to one of the penthouse's bedrooms flew open and Andre entered the living room. "Who was that?" he asked.

Cole replied, "A client. One who was about to make a big mistake. So," he watched the other man plop down on the sofa, "what do you want to do, tonight?"

"Oh, I don't know." Andre heaved a sigh. "Cecile tells me that she and Olivia are going out to dinner, tonight. At some place called Neptune's at Pier 39. Seafood restaurant. My question is . . . why aren't we joining them?"

"Because we weren't invited," Cole shot back. "At least I wasn't."

Another sigh left Andre's mouth. "Okay. What about this place called P2? I heard it's one of the city's hottest nightclubs."

Cole corrected his friend. "It's called P3 and it's the type of nightclub that features music neither of us would appreciate."

"P3?"

"P3. Piper owns it. She named it after her sisters - the Power of Three."

Andre nodded. "Oh. That's right. She's your sister-in-law."

Once more, Cole corrected Andre. "Former sister-in-law. Since November 14, 2002. Over five months ago."

"Keeping count, huh?" Andre gave Cole a shrewd look. "Still thinking about the ex-wife?"

Cole sighed. "No, it's worse. Someone else."

"Oh. Olivia." Andre paused momentarily. "Is it true about her and this other witch? That they're seeing each other?"

A morose Cole answered, "I really don't know. Olivia and Margolin have been a bit close these past two or three weeks. But as far as Bruce and Harry know, they're not dating." He headed for the liquor cabinet. "Want a drink?"

"Actually, I want some food. Now." Andre shrugged his shoulders. "But, since you're going to offer me a drink, I'll have a glass of orange juice, if you got it."

"I don't. I do have some ginger ale."

Andre sighed. "I'll take it." Cole filled a glass of ginger ale for his guest. He handed the glass to Andre and returned to the liquor cabinet. Then he decided to pour himself a glass of the same, realizing that liquor on an empty stomach was not exactly wise. "About this new friend of Livy's . . ." Andre began.

"His name is Paul Margolin," Cole retorted. "What about him?"

Andre continued, "What's this guy like? Is he for real?"

Cole drained the last of his ginger ale, while longing for something stronger. "Unfortunately, more so than me. He's one of Leo's prized charges. I'm sure you've met Leo."

"Yeah, I have," Andre interjected. "Olivia's whitelighter. I bet he's thrilled about her new friend."

Cole snorted with derision and poured himself another glass of ginger ale. "More than thrilled." He glanced shrewdly at Andre. "What's your interest in Margolin?"

"I don't know. Cecile told me about him. She hasn't met him, either. And I'm curious as to why you and Olivia have been acting like strangers, around each other."

After a large gulp of ale, Cole said, "Well, you'll be meeting him at Bruce's bachelor party, day after tomorrow. Did Harry tell you where it'll be held?"

"Some place called Vornado," Andre replied.

Cole wondered if he had heard right. He gave his friend a hard look. "Vornado? Harry's holding the bachelor party there? At a demon-owned club?"

"Demon?" Andre blinked.

"Yeah, it's owned by our old friend, Riggerio. You remember him, don't you?"

Andre nodded. "I heard he had recently left Italy. I haven't seen him since Marseilles, seven years ago. He's here in San Francisco?

Cole told him about Nick Marcano's attempt to kill Bruce McNeill, using a succubus. And how Riggerio had provided information on the demon. "Fortunately, Marcano is behind bars, right now. And Portia Whatshername is dead, thanks to Bruce and Barbara. Unfortunately . . . I wasn't much help. That bitch managed to put me under her spell within seconds."

"I don't get it," Andre said with a frown. "I thought you were now too strong to be affected by someone else's powers."

With a sigh, Cole explained that he was. "Except, I'm not immune from any telepathic powers. Including Miss Della Scalla. Remember Barbas from last fall? He had the power of telepathic suggestion."

Andre shot back, "So do you. Why didn't you use it?"

Cole paused. Stared at his friend. He realized that Andre's suggestion had never occurred to him. "Well . . . I would have, except . . . hell, I don't know! I guess she took me by surprise, I didn't have time to respond."

"Well, the next time you come across a succubus or an incubus, I suggest that you use it."

"It might be sooner," Cole said. "According to Riggerio, "this Portia demon had a sister. An older sister, who might end up seeking revenge. Maybe I should have a talk with Riggerio, at the bachelor's party. By the way," his voice grew morose again, "Margolin will be there. At the party. I'm sure he'll be at the wedding, as well. As Olivia's date."

Andre asked, "What about you? Will you have a date?"

Cole frowned. "A date? Like who? Phoebe? She has a new boyfriend."

Rolling his eyes, Andre retorted, "Of course not, Phoebe! Man, what has gotten into you, lately? Are you losing it?"

"I'm not . . ." Cole heaved an exasperated sigh. "Well, who should I bring?"

Andre patiently replied, "I'm sure there someone in your office or somewhere else, who wouldn't mind being taken to a wedding. I mean, who cares, as long as you'll make Olivia jealous?"

Cole gave his friend a cool stare. "This isn't about making Olivia . . ." He sighed in defeat. "Okay, maybe I do want to make her jealous. But what if she doesn't?"

"C'mon man! I heard about what happened at Nathalie Gleason's party. Olivia told Cecile. Who told me."

A groan left Cole's mouth. "Oh God! Everything?"

"Yeah. Well," Andre shrugged, "pretty much everything. I heard about Olivia's reaction to some witch trying to hit on you. And her fight with Phoebe." Remembering what had occurred in Nathalie's bedroom, Cole realized that Olivia had not revealed everything. Andre continued, "Listen, once Olivia sees you with a date, I'm sure she'll be jealous."

Cole snorted with derision. "Or she'll put two and two together. She's not stupid."

"No, she's not." Andre gave Cole a knowing look. "But she'll certainly get the message."

* * * *

The two friends strolled along Pier 39, enjoying the lights from the various shops and restaurants, and the bustling crowd. Cecile walked over to the edge of the pier and gazed at the calm Pacific Ocean, beyond. Olivia immediately joined her. "You know, I forgot how beautiful the ocean can look."

"You live next to the Mississippi River," Olivia calmly replied. "It's easy to forget."

A slight snort left Cecile's mouth. "Yeah, but as much as I love that old river, it's pretty ugly. Especially in the daytime." She paused. "By the way, are you going to work, tomorrow? I have some last minute shopping to do, since I still haven't found the right present for Bruce and Barbara."

"Yes, I know," Olivia replied sharply. "You and your mother practically dragged me all over downtown San Francisco, this afternoon. What exactly are you looking for?"

Her eyes still fixed on the ocean's horizon, the Vodoun priestess replied, "Something perfect. I don't know. Hopefully, I'll find it, tomorrow." She turned to face Olivia. "You know, Andre wanted to join us for dinner, this evening."

"What stopped him?"

Cecile replied, "You. And Cole. Andre would have joined us, if Cole came along. And for some reason, you two didn't seem happy to be in each other's company, this afternoon. What's going on?"

A frown marred Olivia's expression. "Nothing. Nothing's going on. It's just that . . . well, I've been spending more time with Paul. And he and Cole seem to dislike each other."

"Gee, I wonder why," Cecile remarked, sarcastically.

Olivia glared at her, until her eyes grew round with surprise. "Look who's here?"

Cecile whirled around and saw a good-looking man of medium height approach the two. "Hello!" he greeted cheerfully.

"Paul! Hi!" A bright smile appeared on Olivia's face. "What are you doing here?"

Smiling, the newcomer replied, "Just out for a walk. After hitting the law books and files all day, I decided that I needed some fresh air. It's a good thing I ran into you. I just heard from Harry, a few hours ago. Apparently, he has extended me an invitation to Bruce's bachelor party."

"Really?" A pleased expression appeared on Olivia's face. "That's nice of him. I have to thank Harry."

Intense eyes fell upon Cecile. "By the way, who's your friend?"

"Oh, I'm sorry." Olivia turned to Cecile. "Paul, this is my best friend, Cecile Dubois. She's a Vodoun priestess. Cecile, this is Paul Margolin. He's one of the city's new ADAs, a witch and one of Leo's charges."

Paul offered his hand to Cecile. "Nice to meet you."

"Same here," Cecile replied, as she grasped his hand and shook it. Within an instant, a series of disturbing images flitted through Cecile's mind. She gasped out loud and released her hand.

Both Olivia and Paul stared at the priestess. "Are you okay?" the former asked.

Cecile smiled wanly. "It's nothing. I . . . stubbed my toe." She lifted her left foot and rubbed her large toe. "On this damn pier. Should have known better than to wear these sandals."

Olivia continued to stare at her. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm fine!" Cecile insisted. "Don't make a big deal out of it!" Squashing the horror of what she had witnessed, Cecile smiled at Paul and linked his arm with hers. "So, why don't you tell me about yourself? I'm a computer software designer." She led Paul further along the pier, with Olivia close at their heels.

* * * *



Ben Jenoff never cared for the afternoon-to-evening shift at the city's Criminal Courts building. As far as he was concerned, working between 3 o'clock in the afternoon and eleven at night, interfered with his social life and quality television viewing. He had submitted a request to change his working hours, but so far, no action had been taken.

The clock on the wall read 10:58 PM. He should be relieved by a new guard within the next two minutes, thank God. Today had seemed like a peek into his own personal hell. A fight between two prisoners had broken out in the Recreation Room. Ben had to sacrifice twenty of his lunch hour, thanks to another guard who had failed to relieve him on time. And now it looks as if Hardy will be late, as well.

Another five minutes passed. Ben grounded his teeth in frustration. Where in the hell was Hardy? When another three minutes went by, his patience finally ended. Screw this! He was leaving. If Hardy could not get his ass here on time . . . A uniformed figure appeared outside the office. Ben sprung to his feet and rushed outside. "Hardy?" he cried. A quick glance at the other man told Ben that he had been mistaken. Hardy happened to be a stocky black man with thinning hair. This man was tall, thin, dark-haired and white. "Who are you?" Ben asked, frowning.

The other guard smiled politely. "Reyes. I'm new."

"What happened to Hardy? Called in sick?"

Reyes responded with a shrug. "Who knows? All I know is that I was ordered to report here, tonight."

"Oh well. At least someone's here to relieve me." Ben reached down to pick up his duffel bag. "You can take over, now."

Reyes hesitated. "But . . ."

Before the other guard could finish, Ben bid his co-worker a quick "good night" and left the office. Just before he reached the elevator, Ben realized that he had left his ID card on the desk, behind. He turned on his heels and returned to the guards' office.

"What the hell?" Ben glanced around the office that seemed to be missing one guard. "Son-of-a-bitch!" What in the hell happened to Reyes? He walked over to the monitors. Everything seemed secure. Normal.

Then a second guard entered the office. It was Hamilton and he seemed surprised to find Ben inside. "Hey Jenoff! What are you doing here? I thought your shift was over, by now."

"It will be," a grim Ben shot back, "as soon as I find Reyes."

Hamilton blinked. "Who?"

"The new temp. Hardy had called in sick, tonight."

Another confused look from Hamilton followed. "What are you talking about? Hardy and I came in, together. We always do. You mean he hasn't shown up, yet?"

An uneasy suspicion niggled in the back of Ben's mind. He dropped his bag and rushed out of the office, ignoring Hamilton's cries.

Minutes later, Ben found himself walking furiously past rows of cells. He soon came upon one cell that housed a prisoner named Marcano. Ben glanced past the bars and was surprised to find Reyes inside. "What the hell?" he declared. "What are you doing with that prisoner? And who in the hell are you?"

To Ben's surprise, dark-brown eyes belonging to Reyes suddenly turned red. It turned out to be the last thing he would ever see. Searing red-hot heat enveloped his entire body . . . before everything faded to black.

END OF ACT 1