Title: Return with a Vengeance

Author: RFK

E-Mail: june_daley@rocketmail.com

Categories: Alternate Universe, Drama

Ratings: [PG-13]

Content Warnings: N/A

Spoilers: N/A

Season: Set in alternate Season 5.

Disclaimer: Cole Turner, the Charmed Ones and other characters related to Charmed to Spelling Productions, Brad Kern and Constance Burge. The McNeills and Cecile Dubois are my creation.

Summary: REPOST! The remaining Crozat warlocks seek vengeance against Cole, the McNeills and the Halliwell and unleash an unknown power that threatens a close friend. Sequel to "Neighbors".



CHAPTER 1



A tall, dark-haired man appeared in front of one of the numerous old buildings on Columbus Street. He sighed, brushed away imaginary dirt from his jacket and disappeared as fast as he had appeared.

Seconds later, he re-appeared inside the building's fifth floor corridor - in front of a door marked VENDRUM Company. The man cleared his throat and opened the door. The office interior contrasted sharply with the building's old-fashioned exterior. Edward Crozat examined the office with an approving eye. The modern and expensive décor reminded him of his former office in Seattle. In fact, it made him feel right at home.

"Cousin Edward!" A beautiful, statuesque woman with pale skin, dark hair and eyes, strode toward him. "I see that you finally made it. Has the office met with your approval?"

Edward nodded. "Perfect. It's almost as if I've never left Seattle. Are the others here?"

"Yes. They're waiting for you in the Conference Room." Suzanne Crozat led her cousin into another room, mainly occupied by a long table. Three other men sat in seats surrounding the table.

Once Edward and Suzanne occupied the remaining empty chairs, the meeting began. "Cousins, I gather that you all know why we're here. The five of us . . ." Edward glanced around the table, ". . . are the last remnants of the Crozat Coven. Five out of what used to be at least thirty to thirty-five members." He paused, as a frown darkened his countenance. "An absolute sacrilege, in my opinion."

"Your brother, Philip, should not have proposed the move from Seattle," commented one Crozat cousin. His name happened to be Henry. He was a stocky man with beady black eyes and thinning hair.

Edward glanced at his cousin. "How can one assume control of the Underworld without the extra powers needed? At least ten witches in the San Francisco Area possessed the powers we had required."

"I assume you are referring to the Charmed Ones?" Henry continued. "The most powerful witches, ever? Exactly how did Philip plan to kill them?

Tension filled the conference room. Edward seared his cousin with a deadly glare. "If you must know, Philip and the others managed to trap the Charmed Ones. And he would have killed them . . ."

". . . if it hadn't been for the McNeill witch," Suzanne finished. "Or should I say . . . bitch?" Her dark eyes radiated hostility. "I saw that she was the one who had discovered the location of our warehouse. In my visions." Edward nodded. He knew about Suzanne's ability to see the past. Unfortunately, her visions did not extend to the future. A minor problem he planned to remedy. Suzanne continued, "The McNeill woman, her telepath brother . . . and Belthazor were the ones responsible for the deaths of our cousins, brothers and sisters."

Agitated voices filled the room. "Belthazor?" Henry exclaimed. "I thought he was dead, thanks to the Charmed Ones?"

"He certainly was alive the last time I saw him," declared another Crozat. The person who spoke happened to be the youngest in the room. Cousin Rudolf. He also happened to be the son of Edward's late brother. Rudolf added bitterly, "Before he transformed me into a stone."

"Cousins, cousins!" Edward's voice rose above the others. "Please! Now, regarding Belthazor . . . as you all know, the whore of some male witch he had once killed, vanquished his demon half about a year ago. Then the Charmed Ones vanquished him again, after he became the Source, last spring." Edward paused. "But now he is back."

Henry asked, "Is he trying to take control of the Underworld again?"

"I have no idea. As far as I know, he has not made any attempts to take control. At least not yet."

The fifth Crozat, a muscular man of medium height named Louis spoke up. "Are you sure? Why else would he help destroy most of our coven?"

Edward glanced at the anxious faces around the table. His eyes rested upon Suzanne, who eventually replied, "Apparently, he was only helping the McNeill witches save the Charmed Ones. I gather from my visions that he is friendly with the female. Olivia."

"Not in love?" Rudolf asked.

A vindictive smile curved Edward's lips. "After Belthazor's experiences with the Charmed Ones, I doubt that romance with a witch is the last thing he wants."

Henry scowled. "Whether or not he is in love with this new witch, we still have to deal with him. Especially if he has the power of the Source."

"He doesn't," Edward replied curtly. He hesitated. "Unfortunately, since his return from the Wasteland, he has become more powerful than ever."

"That's just great!" Henry cried out with his usual pessimism. "Not only do we have the Charmed Ones to deal with, but also a more powerful Belthazor, and the McNeills witches! Quite frankly, I'd rather deal with the Halliwells alone. They may be the most powerful witches, but they're not as . . . cunning and difficult to kill as Belthazor or the McNeills."

Nodding, Edward replied, "And that is why we're here, tonight. To discuss our revenge against those who killed our family. And take control of the Underworld."

"And how do you propose we do that?"

Edward heaved a patient sigh. Moments like this made him wish Cousin Henry had been among those killed in the upheaval at the Tower Bay warehouse, nearly a month ago. "One," he began, "we will take care of Belthazor on our own. Suzanne will become a new client at the law firm he works for. Lure him to our office or her apartment, before we kill him." Edward paused dramatically. "And we'll kill him after we steal his powers."

Louis frowned. "How do you plan to do that?"

"Using a potion and a spell that I have discovered," Suzanne added. "Unlike the demon Barbas, we won't need a Charmed One to steal his powers. The potion I have created also has a hallucinogenic ingredient that will make it easy to deal with him."

Henry demanded, "What about the Charmed Ones? And the McNeills? I don't exactly relish going up against two powerful witch covens."

Edward smiled. Slowly. "We won't have to. A friend of mine in Singapore has sent a package that will do the job for us." His smile broadened. "Within a week or two, we'll have vengeance over our kinsmen's deaths. And we'll become the new rulers of the Underworld."

* * * *

A low hum pierced the silence inside Captain McPherson's office. Inspectors Darryl Morris and Olivia McNeill of the San Francisco Police Department sat in chairs in front of his desk and watched him read the report in his hand.

The silence finally ended with a long sigh from the captain. He placed the report on his desk and glared at the two subordinates. "Is this it? This is all you were able to learn about the disappearance of . . . what, twenty-five people? All employees of the Tower Bay Import/Export Company?"

Both Olivia and Darryl exchanged uneasy glances. They knew exactly what had occurred at the Tower Bay warehouse. However, they also knew that the truth would only result in trouble for Olivia and possibly a heart attack for their captain.

Darryl coughed slightly. "That's about the gist of it, Captain," he said. "Olivia and I found no traces of bodies or blood, or anything else."

"Except for a scorch mark," Captain McPherson grumbled. Darryl looked away. "Does anyone have an idea what caused the scorch mark?"

A pause followed before Olivia spoke up. "Forensics went over the mark, Captain. As far as they know, it was caused by fire."

"That's it? A fire?"

Olivia responded with a shrug.

The captain's eyes returned to the report. Then he asked, "What about the employees? What do you know about them?"

The two partners paused briefly. Darryl opened his mouth to speak, but Olivia beat him to the punch. "The company was owned by a Seattle-based corporation called MALEHEX. Both Darryl and I checked with Seattle PD. A family called Crozat owns the corporation. And we also learned that the Crozats were in the process of moving the corporation's headquarters to here, San Francisco."

"And?" Captain McPherson insisted.

Darryl took a deep breath. "We haven't been able to track down members of the family. Including the company's director, Philip Crozat." He paused, wishing he were at home or facing a perp's gunfire, instead of his captain. "It's all in the report."

"Which isn't much," the captain grumbled. He heaved another sigh. "Okay, it looks as if we have another unsolved case on our hands." He shot Darryl a pointed look. "Another one of your 'freaky cases', Morris."

Darryl tried to maintain a calm façade. It would have worked if Olivia had not opened her mouth. "Considering the number of 'freaky cases' that come our way, I'm surprised the Department hasn't started its own X-Files division." A long, suffering sigh escaped Darryl's mouth. Of all the bad jokes . . . He glanced at Captain McPherson, who glared at the embarrassed Olivia.

"I assume that you two are still working on the DiMatteo case," Captain McPherson added darkly. "Since nothing new has cropped up, I suggest that you get back to work. Dismissed."

Neither Darryl or Olivia hesitated to follow the captain's orders. They quickly returned to their desks and Darryl took the moment to confront his partner. "What the hell was that about?" he demanded.

"What?" Olivia protested in innocence.

Darryl rolled his eyes. "The X-Files joke. Are you crazy?"

"So I forgot that Captain McPherson lacked a sense of humor," Olivia retorted. "So what? It's not the first time." She switched on her computer terminal.

Struggling to keep his irritation in check, Darryl continued, "Sometimes I think you like playing the devil's advocate just a little too much." He leaned forward, his eyes penetrating the red-haired woman's. "You're a first-class cop, McNeill. But you really need to learn when to keep that big mouth of yours, shut."

Olivia sighed. "You know, you almost sound like my aunt."

"Maybe she knew what she was talking about," Darryl shot back.

A grunt escaped Olivia's mouth. Her next words baffled Darryl. "If you knew the real truth about Aunt Rhiannon, Darryl, you wouldn't say that."

What the hell? "What? What are you . . . Oh God! Never mind!" Darryl heaved a sigh. Another thought came to his mind. "By the way, we have heard the last of these Crozats. Right?"

Olivia hesitated. Which did not help to ease Darryl's fears. "Well, to tell you the truth," she began, "Cole and I aren't so sure."

Oh Lord! "What?" The word came out of Darryl's mouth like a gunshot.

Olivia then proceeded to tell Darryl about a Crozat warlock whom Cole Turner had transformed into a pebble. The image reminded Darryl of the time that son-of-a-bitch had transformed him into a water cooler. "Cole and I went back to the warehouse to find him," she continued. "Only . . ." She hesitated.

"Only what?" Darryl demanded.

"Only Cole wasn't able to transform him back. We think the warlock might be gone. It seems that a police guard had caught some kids on the property, throwing rocks, two days after the uh . . . incident. There's a chance that one of those rocks happened to be the warlock. And he probably changed back into his original form upon impact on the ground."

Despair overcame Darryl faster than an incoming wave. He visibly wilted before Olivia. "Oh God," he murmured. "That warlock . . . did he . . .?"

Olivia shook her head. "The patrolman and the kids are still alive." She paused. "Unfortunately . . ."

". . . we still have a warlock roaming about San Francisco," Darryl finished through clinched teeth.

If that was not bad enough, according to Olivia, there seemed to be a chance that the McNeills and the Halliwells might have to deal with more than one Crozat warlock. According to her friend from the Seattle Police, someone had closed MALEHEX's Seattle office permanently. When Darryl failed to respond, Olivia added uneasily, "Darryl? Are you okay?"

A long, dry sigh slowly eased out of his mouth. "I was just wondering," Darryl said in a tired voice, "if matters can get any worse."

Before Olivia could respond, a tall, handsome man with dark hair and blue eyes, and wearing an expensive blue suit, approached her desk. Olivia smiled. He returned the smile with a wide one of his own. "Hey Olivia, ready for lunch?"

Darryl groaned. Cole Turner glanced at him, looking slightly concerned. "Hey Darryl. Something wrong?"

A morose Darryl grumbled, "Yeah, I think my day just got worse."



END CHAPTER ONE

"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE" by RFK



CHAPTER 2



The waiter served the man and the woman, each a chilled glass of martini - with an onion, Gibson style. Then he asked for their orders.

Cole waited as Olivia ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with a salad. He ordered a Quiche Lorraine with ham, mushrooms and spinach. After the waiter disappeared with their orders, Cole took a sip of his martini. "Is it just me, or did Darryl seemed a bit . . . tense?"

Olivia sighed. "He was tense, wasn't he? We just had a meeting with our captain about the Tower Bay Company."

"Oh. That figures." Cole took another sip of his drink. "Poor Darryl. Another 'freaky case' to deal with. You know, I think the FBI could use him for their X-Files division. If they have one."

"Please!" Olivia groaned. "Please don't bring that up the next time you see Darryl. I made a joke about that during a meeting with him and Captain McPherson. Let's just say that neither of them appreciated the joke."

Cole asked, "Did you tell Darryl about the warlock that got away?" The expression on Olivia's face answered his question. "Oh. Hence Inspector Morris' lack of humor, this afternoon."

"I have more bad news about the Crozats," Olivia continued. While Cole finished the last of his martini, Olivia revealed information she had received from her fellow cop and witch from Seattle. MALEHEX, the Crozats' firm, had recently shut down its Seattle office. "Which can only mean one thing."

A grim Cole finished, "There are more Crozats to worry about. And they might be here in San Francisco."

"They were planning to move their operation to this city," Olivia reminded Cole. "And I wouldn't be surprised if they come after us."

A heavy sigh left Cole's mouth. He did not fear any retaliation by the Crozats. But he realized that he could not always be around to help the McNeills or the Halliwells, in case of an attack. Especially Olivia or Phoebe. "Damn!" he hissed. "It always seems as if trouble is never far behind. Don't you have any good news to tell me?"

Olivia's wide mouth stretched into a beautiful smile. "Well, I do have some good news. My old friend, Cecile Dubois, will be arriving within a day or two. I think she's due in here, tomorrow."

"Now, that sounds nice." He paused uneasily. "Does she know about . . .?"

A red brow shot upward. "About you?" Olivia's smile broadened. "Well, not everything, but enough. She knows you're a very powerful half-demon, who also happens to be a friend of mine. Don't worry. Cecile is pretty open-minded. After all, she knew that Richard was a warlock. They even became good friends."

Cole's stomach formed a knot. It always did whenever Olivia mentioned her late fiancé, Richard Bannen. "Well," he began in an effort to sound casual, "that's good to know." Olivia gave him a hard stare. "What?"

"Do you realize that you look rather tense at this moment? Is there something wrong?"

A tight smile formed on Cole's lips. "It's nothing. I . . . uh, my stomach is feeling a bit odd. Lack of food." He cleared his throat. "Tell me more about this Cecile."

According to Olivia, she first met her best friend during a family trip to New Orleans, some twenty years ago. While visiting a herbal shop that belonged to the Dubois family, both Olivia's mother and grandmother discovered that they were Vodoun practioners . . . with very strong powers. "Cecile happens to be a psychic, a prophetess. Not one of those phonies from the infomercials, but the real McCoy. Like Phoebe. In fact, Cecile has both premonitions and telepathic abilities. And both are very strong."

The waiter arrived with their food. Once he left, Cole asked, "What's she like? Personality wise?"

"In some ways, she reminds me of Prue Halliwell," Olivia replied.

Cole nearly winced at the mention of his late, ex-sister-in-law. "And you believe that Cecile and I will get along?"

Olivia smirked. "Good grief, Cole! Olivia and Prue were similar, not alike. Besides, Cecile can be a lot more . . . well, open-minded. Nor did she have any of Prue's hang-ups. Just her own."

"Ah! I didn't realize you felt that Prue had hang-ups."

"Good grief! Who doesn't?" When Cole's gaze remained fixed on her face, Olivia continued, "Look, I'm not saying that Prue was an awful person. Or that I'm perfect. Believe me, I can be just as difficult. It's just Prue and I . . . well, our personalities didn't mesh well, together. But I have to admit, I personally thought that Prue really needed therapy. Badly. She always seemed so tense and unhappy a lot."

Memories of an enraged Prue Halliwell nearly beating that Seeker to death, flashed through Cole's mind. Along with her determination to defeat Death. Yep. Olivia had described Prue perfectly. Poor woman. Cole took a bite of his quiche.

Olivia continued, "Actually, Cecile reminds me more of Mom than Prue. All three of them can be very reserved and bossy. But at least Cecile and Mom aren't so judgmental. And tense. Although Cecile used to be."

"That's good to know," Cole answered. "Once I use the old Turner charm, I'll have Cecile eating out of my hand. Like your mother." He gave Olivia a roguish smile.

The redhead regarded Cole with a sardonic eye. "The old Turner charm?" She shook her head in disbelief and sighed. Using her fork, she speared a piece of his quiche and popped it into his mouth. "Here. Why don't you just finish your lunch . . . and work on that sense of humor, while you're at it."

A smirk spread across Cole's face as he chewed.



* * * *



From another table, at the other side of the restaurant, dark eyes watched the red-haired woman and the dark-haired man with disbelief. Phoebe Halliwell detected her growing jealousy at the sight and ruthlessly tried to squelch the feeling within her. She failed miserably.

"Phoebe?" Her lunch companion's voice interrupted her silent musings. "Hey Phoebe! Aren't you going to order?"

The word came out of Phoebe's mouth like a squeak. "Huh?"

"The waiter. He's waiting for you to order." Phoebe's companion, a fellow co-worker at the newspaper named Gunther Weiss, stared at her with concerned eyes. "Hey, are you okay?"

Phoebe gave Gunther a wan smile. "Yeah, I'm fine. I . . ." Mindful of the waiter standing patiently beside her, Phoebe finally ordered. "I'll have the Greek salad with red wine vinegar."

"Will that be all, ma'am?" the waiter asked.

Ma'am? Phoebe tried not to wince at the term. It made her feel old and she was only three years shy of thirty. She replied tersely, "Other than a glass of your house wine, that will be all." The waiter nodded and quickly walked away.

Gunther continued to stare at Phoebe. "Are you sure that you're all right? I realize that it's been less than a month since your friend Miles' . . ."

"I'm fine!" Phoebe insisted. Realizing that she seemed curt, she quietly admitted, "I . . . it's my ex-husband." She sighed. "He's here. Inside this restaurant."

Curiosity lit up Gunther's eyes. "Really? Where?" He glanced around the dining room. Phoebe squirmed with discomfort, when he finally spotted Cole and Olivia McNeill in a booth, on the other side of the dining area. "Oh yeah, I see him. Who's the redhead?"

Irritation mingled with jealousy within Phoebe. She glared at her companion. "That's Olivia. She's . . . she's an acquaintance. In fact, she even went to school with my oldest sister, Prue."

"Gee, I wonder how your ex-husband and your sister's old schoolmate ended up together." Phoebe's glare became more pointed and Gunther quickly apologized. "Sorry, I didn't mean to imply . . . well, what are they? Friends or . . .?

Phoebe coldly shot back, "Friends! And quite frankly, I couldn't care less. I stopped caring about Cole some months ago." She took a sip of water, as she tried to calm herself. Another sigh left her mouth. She did not need this. Not now. Not after her powers went haywire due to her emotional turmoil over Cole. And certainly not after Miles' death, and the Charmed Ones' close call with the Crozat warlocks.

"Hey Phoebe?" Gunther's voice drifted back into her consciousness. "Maybe we should go somewhere else for lunch."

"No!" The moment the word came out of her mouth, Phoebe realized that she sounded harsh. She should really learn to keep her emotions in check. Aware of Gunther's curious gaze, she continued softly, "I mean, no. It's not necessary. I don't plan to run every time I encounter my ex-husband. He's not worth the effort. Okay?" She gave Gunther what she hoped was a reassuring smile.

Not long after Phoebe had spoken, two figures engrossed in deep conversation approached her table. Cole and Olivia. Phoebe's heartbeat increased as the pair grew closer. She struggled to maintain control of her breathing.

"Speak of the devil," Gunther whispered.

Cole and Olivia finally reached the other couple's table. Olivia's green eyes alighted upon Phoebe and Gunther. "Phoebe!" the redhead politely greeted. "We didn't realize you were here."

Phoebe's mouth quirked into a small smile. "Olivia. Cole. Are you two on a date?"

In an equally cool voice, Cole replied, "No, just lunch between two friends." He glanced at Gunther. His eyes narrowed. "Don't I know you? From Phoebe's office?"

"Yeah. Gunther Weiss," the journalist replied with a nod. "Staff writer." His eyes swept appreciatively over Olivia. "And you are?"

Olivia responded with a cool smile. "Olivia McNeill. Cop. San Francisco Police."

"Hey, a cop! What do you know?" Gunther declared. "Must be very exciting!"

"Very."

Phoebe nearly cringed at Gunther's overenthusiastic flirting. And Olivia's cool response. Embarrassment became envy when she saw irritation flared in Cole's eys. Strange, he seemed more bothered by Gunther's flirtation attempt toward Olivia, than her having lunch with the reporter.

"We better get going, Olivia. I have a meeting to attend, this afternoon. Nice seeing you, Phoebe." Cole shot one dark look at her companion. "Gunther."

Her cool smile still intact, Olivia added, "See you, Phoebe." Her eyes swept over the reporter with amusement. "And it was nice meeting you . . . Gunther."

"Same here," Phoebe's companion practically gushed. Olivia cocked a sardonic brow. Cole rolled his eyes and smirked. Phoebe found herself wishing she could crawl into the nearest hole and die from embarrassment.

* * * *

Piper Halliwell glanced around the dining table with an air of satisfaction. It was a rare moment when her entire family managed to gather for a meal together. Tonight happened to be one of those rare moments.

"Paige honey," she asked her youngest sister, "could you pass the bowl of salad to me?" Paige reached for the salad bowl and handed it to Piper. She also handed over a bottle of French dressing.

With a smile on his face, Leo bit into his piece of fried chicken. "Boy, am I hungry! I haven't had a bite to eat, all day," he declared before swallowing his food. "The Founders held a meeting for all whitelighters, today. I barely had time for a snack, let alone a meal."

"The meeting must have been very important," Paige commented.

Leo nodded. "Yeah, it was." He took another bite of chicken.

Both Piper and Paige exchanged exasperated glances, before the former burst out, "Well, aren't you going to tell us? One would think it was important enough for us witches to know about."

"Piper, you know that I can't talk about my meetings, unless the Founders deemed it necessary." Leo paused, under his wife's withering stare. "Well, okay. I can tell you that we're having trouble with a few whitelighters. They've been a little derelict of duty, that's all."

Paige demanded, "Can't you give us more details than that? Why wasn't I summoned to the meeting? I'm half-whitelighter, after all. And I've already guided a whitelighter-to-be and my own dad."

Leo sighed. "Paige. You know the rules. Besides, I've have some other news for you." The sisters stared at him, as he continued, "I've heard from Olivia McNeill. She thinks we should expect more trouble from the Crozat coven. Apparently, someone has closed the Seattle office of the MALEHEX Corporation. She believes it might be the remaining Crozat warlocks."

"That's good to know," Piper murmured sardonically. She did not know what disturbed her more - hearing from Olivia McNeill, whom she found hard to like, or the fact that there might be more Crozat warlocks to deal with.

Surprising Piper and the others, Phoebe burst out, "I saw Olivia, today."

Piper responded, "Oh? Where did you see her?"

Phoebe answered, "At Morgan's. Gunther took me there for lunch, today." She paused. "She was having lunch with Cole."

A pall seemed to have crept into the Halliwell dining room. "That's nice," Piper said with very little enthusiasm.

However, a snort emitted from Paige's mouth. "I bet Cole wasn't happy to see you with Gunther."

"He didn't seemed to mind," Phoebe coolly replied.

A quick glance told Piper that her husband seemed disturbed by Phoebe's news. And as for Phoebe . . . Piper's eyes narrowed. Was she imagining things or did Phoebe really mind seeing Cole and Olivia together?

"Cole and Olivia." Paige shook her head. "Now, why am I not surprised?"

Phoebe glared at the youngest Halliwell. "What do you mean by that?"

"C'mon Phoebe! You remember how chummy they were during that mess about the Crozat warlocks. And just last week, Dave and I saw them at the movies. Like I said, very chummy."

Leo seemed disturbed by Paige's words. "Wait a minute! Are you saying that Olivia and Cole are dating?" he demanded.

Paige shrugged. "I don't know."

"Cole claims that they're just good friends," Phoebe added tartly.

Silence filled the dining room. Then a solemn Piper asked, "Do you believe him?"

Phoebe sighed. "I don't know. But I certainly don't like what's going on." Piper looked away. "It's not what you think. I'm not jealous or anything like that."

"Honey, then why are you upset?"

Phoebe speared a piece of tomato with her fork. "I'm not upset, Piper. Just concerned. For Olivia. Remember what I had said before? That she could get hurt getting involved with Cole? I still believe that. And I think that someone should warn her about Cole." She stared at Leo.

Who nodded, wearing a concerned expression. "I guess you're right. It's just that . . . well, the last time I tried to talk to Olivia, she wouldn't listen."

Piper gave her husband a reassuring pat on the arm. "Leo, you have to make her listen. You're her whitelighter, after all."

Then Leo murmured, "That's never stopped you from not listening to me."

"What?" Piper gave the whitelighter a pointed stare.

"Nothing."

Phoebe added, "Look Leo, whether Olivia wants to listen or not, you have to talk with her. Tell her everything you know about Cole, if you have to."

"That is if you haven't, by now," Piper added under her breath, as she recalled Olivia's already extensive knowledge of the Halliwell family.

Leo frowned at his wife. "What did you say, honey?"

"Nothing," Piper replied, repeating his earlier response. She then returned her attention to the salad and filled her plate.

* * * *

Rudolf Crozat escorted the visitor to his Uncle Edward's private office. The latter whistled with deep appreciation at the lush room inside the two-story villa, located in Palo Alto. "Not bad," the visitor declared. "Must have cost you a pretty penny. How much did you pay for this?"

"We're renting it." Edward rose from his seat behind the desk to greet the visitor. "We hope to purchase it, if the owner is willing to sell." He shook the other man's hand. "Edward Crozat. How do you do?"

The visitor replied, "Ben Mallard."

Uncle Edward smiled. "Ben Mallard, of the United States Customs Office." He added smoothly, "You seemed to have forgotten that little tidbit."

Mallard shifted uneasily from one foot to the other. "Yeah. Uh, is there a reason why you summoned me?"

"Yes, there is. Have a seat."

The Customs agent sat down on a plush sofa, located to the left of Edward's desk. The warlock returned to his seat. And Rudolf headed toward the rosewood liquor cabinet. Edward asked Mallard if he would like a drink. The latter ordered a glass of Kentucky bourbon - straight. Rudolf already knew that Edward preferred Napoleon brandy during this time of the evening. After serving the drinks, the young warlock returned to his position near the door.

Mallard took a sip of bourbon. "So, what can I do for you, Mr. Crozat?"

"I'll get to the point, Mr. Mallard. I require your services, as a Customs agent." Edward paused. "I'm . . . expecting a package from Singapore. On the S.S. Enigma."

Nodding, Mallard finished, "And you want to guarantee that it will pass a customs inspection. Am I right?"

"I want you to make sure that a Customs agent never inspects the package. It contains . . . well, an item one could call dangerous." Edward whirled the brandy in the large snifter, before taking a sip.

Mallard's eyes widened. "Dangerous? Uh, you're not one of those . . . I mean, you're not expecting something that the government should be wary . . .?"

Shaking his head, Edward gave the Customs agent a reassuring smile. "No, it's nothing like that, Mr. Mallard. We're not part of some insurrection group or anything like that. I assure you. We're merely expecting a shipment of . . ." Edward shrugged his shoulders. ". . . drugs." His dark eyes pinned the other man's. "Do you have any trouble with that?"

"Oh no!" Mallard immediately replied. He almost seemed relieved. "I thought that . . . never mind." Avarice crept into his eyes. "Uh, exactly how much are you willing to offer for my services?"

Uncle Edward's dark eyes lit up with appreciation. Then he glanced at Rudolf, who immediately removed an envelope from his jacket and handed it to Mallard. "Thirty-three thousand dollars, Mr. Mallard. One-third of the full price for your services. The other two-thirds will be paid upon delivery of the package. Will you prefer cash, or shall I have the sum transferred to your . . .?"

"Cash," Mallard immediately shot back, eyeing the package. He then stuffed it into his jacket, swallowed the last of his bourbon and stood up. "Well, it was nice doing business with you." He started toward the door. "And don't worry, Mr. Crozat, your package will be here as soon as it arrives. I have a contact at the docks." He shot the other two men a smarmy smile and quickly left the room.

Rudolf turned to his uncle. "Why did you hire Mallard? Any one of us could have snatched the package."

"In broad daylight?" Edward shot back. "Without attracting any attention? Besides, that damn ship is already two days late and I have no idea on when it will arrive. In fact, I don't know what this package looks like. This way, I'll have someone official to intercept the package - without one of us hanging around the docks."

Rudolf asked, "And what about Mallard? Shall I kill him once we receive this package?"

Shaking his head, Edward replied, "It won't be necessary. At least, not now. Mallard might prove to be . . ." He examined the brandy and whirled it about once more, ". . . useful. I understand that Mallard had been very useful for the Bannen coven."

"Useful huh? Like the package?"

A sinister smile slid across Edward's face. "The package will prove to be more than useful, dear Rudolf. Useful to us . . . and dangerous to others." He sighed and finished the last of his brandy.



END OF CHAPTER TWO

"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE" by RFK



CHAPTER 3



Olivia's eyes were fixed upon the television set. She had never been particularly fond of CITIZEN KANE, but there seemed to be nothing else on television, at the moment. Nor did she feel like rummaging through her large collection of videos and DVD discs.

The dialogue from the movie continued to drone on and on. Olivia found her eyes growing heavy with sleep. She took a deep breath. If only she could hold on for one more second . . . Olivia's eyes fell shut. The doorbell rang. She remained in her present state for another second. Another ring followed, along with a hard knock at the door. Olivia's eyes fluttered open.

She glanced at the clock on the mantle. Ten twenty-seven. Who on earth would bother to pay her a visit at such an ungodly hour? Rubbing her eyes, Olivia strode over to the door and called out, "Yes? Who is it?"

"Guess who?" a voice from behind the door shot back.

Olivia frowned. The voice sounded very familiar to her. She peered through the peephole. Delight rose within her. She would know that face from anywhere. Olivia quickly opened the door and let out a squeal. "Cecile!"

The figure bundled in a wet coat and a rain scarf dragged her bags and umbrella inside the apartment. "Hey there, cherie!" she cried gleefully. "Where you at?" The two women then threw themselves into each other's arms and squealed with delight.

Amidst all of the noise, a figure materialized beside Olivia. It was Cole, dressed in his usual black trousers and sleeveless white undershirt. "Olivia! Is everything okay?" he asked, looking both concerned and paranoid at the same time. "I thought I heard you . . ." He glanced at Cecile and his body relaxed. "Oh. You have a visitor. I, uh . . . I guess she's wondering . . ."

Olivia smiled as she observed her two friends stare at each other. "Don't worry. This is Cecile. The friend I told you about? She's quite used to seeing others appear and disappear. Cecile, this is my friend and neighbor, Cole Turner. Cole, this is Cecile Dubois, my best friend."

Cole held out his hand. "Cecile, it's nice to finally meet you."

"Yeah," Cecile murmured, "same here." Looking quite stunned, Cecile grabbed Cole's hand and shook it. A gasp escaped her mouth.

Both Olivia and Cole frowned. "Something wrong?" the former asked.

"Muscle spasm," the other woman quickly replied. "From jet lag." She slowly removed her coat and scarf. At five-feet-four, the New Orleans-born woman stood nearly a foot shorter than Cole. She possessed rich brown skin, high cheekbones, and black almond-shaped eyes that many have found penetrating. "So, you're the famous Cole Turner. Livy told me a lot about you." Her eyes swept over his figure in an appreciative manner. "She didn't do you justice."

"Cecile!" Olivia's cheeks grew hot with embarrassment, as she took her friend's wet belongings.

Cole's dark brows shot upward. "Really? Exactly how did Olivia describe me?" Amusement twinkled in his blue eyes.

Before her friend could respond, Olivia quickly spoke up. "I told her that you were a half-demon . . . and a friend. A close friend. Right Cecile?"

Innocence gleamed in Cecile's dark eyes. "If you say so, cherie." Olivia sighed. She wanted to die from embarrassment. Right there on the spot.

Cole smiled. "Well, it was nice to meet you, Cecile. I wish I could stay longer, but I have a busy day, tomorrow."

"Will you be busy, tomorrow morning?" The words came out of Olivia's mouth before she could stop herself. Cole's eyes expressed surprise. Even Cecile stared at her. Feeling self-conscious, Olivia added, "I just thought . . ."

Cole immediately responded, "I'll be here at seven, sharp. See you tomorrow." He gave the two women one last smile and disappeared.

After placing Cecile's wet coat and scarf into the closet, Olivia helped her friend carry the latter's luggage to the guest room. "I had the room prepared after you called." She dumped one traveling bag inside the spare bedroom. "Only I wasn't expecting you until tomorrow."

"I changed my mind and decided to leave today. Tomorrow's flight was a little too crowded for my taste," Cecile replied. She placed the other bag alongside the first one. "And you know how much I hate crowds." She sighed. "Lord, I'm tired. And hungry. You got any leftovers?"

Olivia started toward the kitchen. "I can make you a quick omlette, if that's okay with you."

Seconds later, Cecile joined Olivia inside the kitchen. She sat down on one of the chairs that surrounded the table. "So, this is your new apartment. Very nice." She added slyly, "And so is your new neighbor."

Olivia removed several items from the refrigerator - eggs, butter, milk, red and green peppers, onions and cheese. She gave Cecile a pointed stare. "Meaning?"

"Meaning nothing," Cecile replied with a shrug. "I only meant that he seemed like a very nice man. Or half-demon, or whatever he is. He's a demon, right?"

After reaching for a knife, Olivia began chopping peppers. "Yeah, he's a demon. You don't have a problem with him being one, do you?"

"Not after what you told me about him." Cecile broke off a piece of cheese. "I like him. I don't have a bad feeling about him. And besides, you've always been a good judge of character. Better than me, that's for sure." She popped the cheese into her mouth.

A mischievous smile curved Olivia's mouth. "Does that include Andre?"

Cecile frowned. "On second thought, you're not always right."

"Oh dear God! What has Andre done now?"

The other woman's frown deepened. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Okay." Olivia finished chopping peppers.

Silence reigned inside the kitchen. It did not last. "Do you want to know what that son-of-a-bitch Andre did?" Cecile angrily cried, ending the silence. "He helped Janet Casey get a job at his uncle's insurance company!"

"And?"

"And?" Outrage increased the decibel in Cecile's voice. "You know how I can't stand that woman! So does Andre!"

Olivia began chopping onions. "Why? Because she's a little odd? Who isn't? It seems to me that you have some . . . I don't know, inferiority complex about Janet. It's funny, since both of you seem alike in many ways." Olivia paused. "Does that bother you?"

A sigh left Cecile's mouth. "You know, remarks like that will only get you into trouble with me."

"Well, I'll still have Cole as a friend," Olivia said with a smile. When Cecile failed to retort, her smile disappeared. She glanced up and noticed the other woman staring knowingly at her. "What?"

Cecile commented slyly, "You should see the look on your face. You're attracted to him, aren't you?"

Olivia rolled her eyes. "Of course I think he's attractive!" she retorted. "What woman in her right mind, wouldn't?" She cracked one egg into a bowl.

Cecile's next words left Olivia feeling slightly uneasy. "I didn't ask whether you thought he looked attractive. I asked if you were attracted to him. You know what I mean. You're just avoiding the question."

"If you must know," Olivia shot back, "I only think of Cole as a friend. My neighbor. A chum, a buddy. And that's all!" She glared at Cecile. "Get the picture?"

Cecile shrugged. "Yeah. Sure. Whatever you say." She broke off another piece of cheese and popped it into her mouth. Almost under her breath, she added, "I wonder if Cole knows Andre."

"Fat chance!" Olivia replied.



* * * *



The two women stared at Cole with disbelief. Especially Olivia. "You know Andre? Andre Morrell?"

As promised, Cole appeared at Olivia's apartment for breakfast, at seven o'clock sharp, the following morning. He, Olivia and Cecile had just finished a meal that consisted of French toast and sausage. The two women told Cole about their twenty-year long friendship, which included six years at Stanford. And Cole answered all of Cecile's curious questions about his past. One of those questions happened to be about her boyfriend, Andre.

Cole swallowed the last of his coffee. "Sure, I know Andre. We've been friends for the past ten years. While I was eluding the Source's bounty hunters, two years ago, he helped me hide in planes of existence I've never even heard of."

"Now, why hasn't he told me about you?" an annoyed Cecile asked, partly to herself.

"Considering his past, maybe he feared you wouldn't understand his friendship with a half-demon."

Cecile gave him a shrewd look. "So you know that Andre used to be a bokor? Of course you do! What am I saying?"

"Yeah, I know." Cole paused. "He still practices magic, right?"

Nodding, Cecile added, "Andre is now a houngan, a priest. And a healer. He uses his power to help others. But redeemed or not, Andre is still Andre. He hasn't changed that much."

A soft chuckle escaped Cole's mouth. The laugh felt easy on the ears. Cecile approved. "It's been a while since I last saw him, but you're right," Cole admitted. "Which leads me to wonder how on earth you two met."

"Andre and I have known each other since we were kids in New Orleans," Cecile explained. She added that she had been aware of Andre's embrace of dark magic and how it affected the Morrell family. "I never really got to know him until Olivia and I met him in Morgan City, some three years ago."

Olivia added, "Andre was temporarily working for some drug dealer I had tracked from here. This guy was heavy into Vodoun. The police thought he used 'voodoo' to keep certain locals in check. They never realized that he had a genuine bokor, or sorcerer, working with him. To make a long story short, the drug dealer asked Andre to kill us . . . only he couldn't."

"He got tired of his life of crime," Cecile added. "And of using black magic."

Rolling her eyes, Olivia smirked. "C'mon Cecile! You know the real reason Andre gave up his life as a bokor. And it just wasn't about him longing for a new life."

An annoyed Cecile bit her lip. She loved Olivia like a sister, but the woman could be exasperating. No one loved playing devil's advocate more than Olivia. Except for her father, Jack McNeill. And Andre.

"You know, you two ladies have very dangerous tastes in men," Cole concluded. "A warlock and a Vodoun sorcerer. What's next, I wonder?" Cecile gathered from his words that he knew about Olivia's late fiancé, Richard Bannen.

Cecile replied, "Well, I don't have a half-demon as a close friend." She smiled at Cole. "At least not yet." He returned the smile. A wave of warmth seemed to radiate from the half-demon. Which greatly surprised Cecile. He almost seemed to be at peace. She wondered if Olivia's presence had anything to do with this feeling.

Cole opened his mouth to speak when blue lights appeared in the room. Seconds later, a familiar figure materialized. Cecile recognized Olivia's whiteligher, Leo Wyatt. "Hey Leo!" Olivia greeted warmly. "What brings you here? Would you like some French toast?"

The whitelighter's gaze lingered on the breakfast longingly, before it shifted to Cole. Leo frowned. "Oh. Cole. I didn't realize you were here."

A smirk appeared on Cole's lips. "Leo. I didn't realize you were coming. Is there something wrong? A disturbance in the Force?"

Coffee almost spurted out of Olivia's mouth. Cecile hid her smile with a coffee cup. Leo's handsome face turned red. Cecile saw the suppressed anger in his blue eyes. "I'm here to discuss a matter with Olivia. Whitelighter-witch matter."

"In other words, you're here to besmirch my character again," Cole sarcastically added. He heaved a large sigh and stood up. "Well, I know when I'm not wanted. Good day, ladies," he said to Cecile and Olivia. "And thanks for the breakfast." He disappeared.

Leo murmured darkly, "I see that no matter how he tries, he doesn't change." Then he finally seemed to be aware of Cecile staring at him. Again, he flushed. "Oh, I didn't realize . . . It's nice to see you again . . . uh, Cecile, right?"

"Yeah." Cecile held out her hand. Leo shook it. "I haven't seen you in quite a while, myself. Not since last May. Olivia has told me that you're expecting a baby next spring."

Leo smiled. "That's right. Piper is at least four to five months pregnant, right now."

Cecile returned his smile. "Congratulations." Personally, she found the idea of an angel getting a witch pregnant very strange. But she kept such thoughts to herself.

After shooting a quick smile at Cecile, the whitelighter returned his attention to his charge. "So, you and Cole are now having breakfast together?" he demanded, frowning.

Olivia sighed. "Leo, please tell me that we're not going to start on this conversation again!"

"I understand that you might be grateful to Cole for saving your life, three weeks ago, but . . ."

In a hard voice, Olivia shot back, "But nothing! My relationship with Cole is not about me being grateful! I like him. He's a friend. And my friendship with him is none of your concern!"

"He's a demon, Olivia! He's evil!" Leo cried. "You have no idea of what he's really like! You've only seen his good side."

Green eyes expressed fake surprise. "His good side? Gee Leo, how can he be evil, if he also has a good side?"

Leo heaved an exasperated sigh. "You know what I mean!"

Olivia's eyes narrowed. Cecile felt a brief pang of pity for the whitelighter. She recognized that look on her friend's face. Someone was about to discover the brutal truth. And that person would not be one Olivia McNeill.

"Leo, why are you here?" the red-haired witch asked suspiciously. "Why are you here, this morning?"

The whitelighter hesitated. "I . . . I mean . . ."

"You mean what?" Olivia demanded relentlessly. "Your little visit has something to do with Phoebe Halliwell, doesn't it? Cole and I ran into her at Morgan's, yesterday." Her green eyes bored into Leo's. "What's the matter, Leo? Does the idea of another woman with Cole bother her that much?"

Leo's face became even redder. "Phoebe's not jealous, if that's what you mean." The unease in his eyes said otherwise. "She's concerned about you. We're all concerned."

"I've heard this before," Olivia airily replied. "From Phoebe, as a matter of fact. According to her, Cole hurt her and she thinks he might hurt me."

The whitelighter angrily declared, "He did hurt Phoebe! He betrayed us all when he . . ."

"When he became the Source? Yeah, I know all about that." Olivia paused and gave Leo a shrewd look. "In fact, I may know a lot more than you do."

A frown darkened Leo's countenance. "What are you talking about? What has Cole been telling you?"

"Let's just say that Gran scanned Cole's memories of the past and projected them to us. The family. We know what really happened when he became the Source, earlier this year."

Cecile spoke up. "This Source. Are you talking about the same demon that led your Underworld? The one you told me about?"

Olivia nodded. "That's the one."

Disbelief mingled with pity in Leo's eyes. "My God, Olivia! I can't believe that you just accepted everything Cole told you. Don't you know? One of his powers is the ability to manipulate the minds of others. He could have been sending your grandmother, false memories!"

Green eyes rolled in disgust and sighed. "Leo, I love you like a brother and I know that you mean well. But could you please get your head out of your ass and use your brains? Do you really believe that Cole could prevent Gran from learning the truth? For all of his powers, he couldn't even prevent Barbas from messing with his head, last month!"

"Barbas?" Cecile asked.

"The fear demon I once told you about." Olivia continued, directing her words at Leo. "And Leo, do I have to remind you that Barbas has never been able to deal with the telepaths in Gran's family? Why do you think he has been avoiding Collins telepaths for so many centuries?"

Realization seemed to have stricken the whitelighter. He stared at Olivia with stunned eyes. "Are you saying that . . .? What exactly did your grandmother see in Cole's mind?"

Olivia sighed. "That Cole had been possessed by the Source's essence. After using the Hollow to take his powers and save the Charmed Ones. Cole had been possessed by the Source for practically three months. Now, while you contemplate this earth shattering news, do you want me to fix you some French toast?"

Poor man. Cecile stared at the whitelighter with pity. He had just become another victim of the McNeill Redball Express - otherwise known as Olivia's blunt tongue. Poor man.

* * * *

The slightly battered cargo ship ended its voyager from Singapore, when it eased into one of the docks at Pier 34. The dock supervisor, Lloyd Janowski, glanced out of the window heaved a private sigh of relief. At last. Although three days late, the S.S. Enigma had finally arrived.

One of the dockworkers, a burly, blond-haired man named Clancy Walker, popped his head inside Janowski's office. "Hey, is that the Enigma?"

Janowski growled. "Yeah, it's finally here, thank God! And it's about damn time!" He reached for the telephone.

"When do you want us to start unloading the Enigma's cargo?"

A frown creased the supervisor's face. "What's the rush? You're not even finished with unloading that freighter."

Walker shrugged. "We're almost finished. And besides, don't we have another freighter that's due from Yokohama, this afternoon?"

Janowski sighed. "It can wait. And as for the Enigma, you can begin on her hold. But after you finish unloading the Omega Star." Once Walker disappeared, Janowski reached for his telephone and began dialing the telephone number for the U.S. Customs Office.



END OF CHAPTER 3



"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE" by RFK

CHAPTER 4



Olivia and Cecile strode inside the police squad room, attracting admiring glances from the former's co-workers. And a hard stare from her partner.

Darryl stabbed a finger at the squad room's clock. "Do you see that?" he demanded. "Exactly what time is it?"

"Eight after ten," Olivia coolly replied. "And if you're trying to point out that I'm late, don't bother. I had called the Captain and told him that I would be late, this morning."

Darryl's shoulder's sagged. "Thanks a lot. And I was about to give you a good tongue lashing." His eyes fell upon Cecile. "Who's this?"

"This is my friend, Cecile Dubois," Olivia answered.

"Oh? The one from New Orleans?" Darryl nodded at the other woman. "Hey, nice to meet you. I'm Olivia's partner, Darryl Morris."

For the first time, Olivia noticed that her friend seemed to be in a trance. Frowning, she gave Cecile a slight jab in the side. "Cecile? This is Darryl Morris, my partner," she repeated.

"Huh?" Cecile blinked. "Oh, nice to meet you." Her eyes roamed appreciatively over the tall man, as she shook his hand.

Knowing what was on her friend's mind, Olivia quickly hissed into the latter's ear, "He's married."

"I see the wedding ring," Cecile hissed back.

Darryl's gaze shifted between the two women. "What are you whispering about?"

Cecile quickly replied, "Nothing. Well, it's nice to finally meet you, Darryl." Once again, there seemed to be a glazed expression on her face.

Both Olivia and Darryl stared at her. "Is there something wrong?" the latter asked. "You seemed a bit . . . I don't know. Preoccupied?"

Cecile flashed a quick smile - one that seemed much too bright to suit Olivia. "No, no! I'm fine. I was . . . uh, just thinking of some errands I have to run. A little shopping." She turned to Olivia. "Livy, mind if I borrow your car, today? I'll pick you up, this afternoon. What time do you get off?"

Taken aback by her friend's mercurial behavior, Olivia hesitated before she answered, "Uh, around four. Don't forget that we'll be having dinner with my parents, tonight." She began digging into her purse for her keys. "Are you sure that you're okay, Cecile?"

"I'm fine. Just a little tired. After I finish shopping, I'm going to take a long afternoon nap." Cecile smiled as Olivia handed her the keys. "Well, I'll see you later. Nice meeting you, Darryl." And she strode out of the squad room.

The two partners continued to stare at Cecile's retreating form. Darryl turned to Olivia. "What was that about?" he asked.

Olivia shrugged. "I have no idea. Maybe she's just tired." Then she recalled the gasp Cecile made when the latter first met Cole. "Then again . . ." Still deep in thought, she headed for her desk.

Darryl followed. "Then again . . . what?" He eased into the chair, behind his desk and leaned forward. "You know, she reminds me of Phoebe Halliwell, a little. Especially when Phoebe would get a premonition." He paused and frowned. "Is your friend . . . like you? And the Halliwells?"

After a moment's pause, Olivia shook her head. "No, not quite."

"What do you mean . . . not quite?"

Olivia glanced around to make sure there were no eavesdroppers. "Cecile is a Vodoun priestess, not a witch. Her family practices Vodoun."

Darryl frowned. "Practice what?"

Olivia leaned forward and hissed, "Vodoun. Otherwise known in Hollywood circles as Voodoo."

Darryl's eyes grew wide with horror. "Are you kidding ME?" His voice boomed throughout the squad room, attracting stares. He sighed and lowered his voice. "If she practices this . . . what exactly are her powers?"

"Telepathy and premonitions."

Darryl stood up. "That's it. Something is wrong. I don't know, but if your friend is the same as Phoebe, something doesn't bode well for me. Let's go. Maybe we can catch up with her in the parking lot." He grabbed his jacket and started toward the door.

Heaving a sigh, Olivia slid out of her chair, grabbed her jacket and followed her partner out of the squad room.

* * * *

The intercom on Cole's desk buzzed. His secretary, Eleanor, announced, "Your eleven o'clock appointment has arrived, Mr. Turner."

"Okay, Eleanor. Thanks. Send her in."

Eleanor replied crisply, "Yes, Mr. Turner." Over a month ago, Barbas, the Demon of Fear had plotted to steal his powers, by manipulating his mind. The former tricked Cole into believing that Lauren, his first secretary, was actually an unforgiving Phoebe bent upon convincing him that he was evil. In a desperate attempt to cease what he believed to be Phoebe's endless words, Cole nearly strangled Lauren. He eventually managed to convince both Laurel and his bosses that some stranger at a party he had attended the night before, had drugged his drink with a hallucinogenic. Thanks to a police officer working on a case involving recent assaults upon wealthy partygoers, the firm's owners and Laurel seemed willing to accept Cole's explanation. Laurel also accepted Cole's apology. But she refused to continue as his secretary. Cole did not blame her. Instead of crying over spilled milk, he decided hired someone new upon his return to the firm. Namely Eleanor.

The door to his office swung open and Eleanor escorted a beautiful woman with pale skin, dark eyes and dark shoulder-length hair inside. Cole's eyes swept appreciatively over the visitor's lithe figure and elegant appearance. A scent of orange blossoms surrounded her. Not bad at all, he thought. She could prove to be quite interesting for a night or two on the town.

Cole flashed a smile at his new visitor. "Good morning, Miss . . .?"

"Mrs. Maxwell. Suzanne Maxwell." She smiled and offered her hand to Cole. "And you're Mr. Cole Turner, I believe?"

"Just call me Cole. Why don't you have a seat?" Cole indicated one of the empty chairs on the other side of his desk. He turned to his secretary. "Eleanor, why don't you get Mrs. Maxwell a drink? A . . .?"

The new client spoke up. "I'd like a cup of coffee, thank you very much. And you can call me Suzanne." Again, she smiled. It struck Cole odd that her voice reminded him of Olivia's.

Once Eleanor left to fetch Suzanne her coffee, Cole settled in the leather chair behind his desk. "So," he began, "how may I help you?"

Suzanne Maxwell explained that following a year after her husband's death, she had decided to move to San Francisco. Not only was she interested in finding a new attorney to handle her affairs, but she also needed help in investing in property in the Bay Area. "Back in Vancouver," she continued, "my husband and I had created a non-profit organization that provided housing and jobs for the needy. I would like to create something similar here in San Francisco."

Cole took a deep breath. "Well, I can think of a few real estate agents you might consider meeting with. But first, let's see about establishing your file with the firm."

"Does that mean you will consider me as a client?" Suzanne leaned forward, her eyes wide and appealing. Orange blossoms filled Cole's nostrils.

His lips curved into a smile. "I guess I can say yes. I'll have Eleanor draw up a contract."

Suzanne returned his smile that seemed to hint promise of something more than business. "That's wonderful. Listen, why don't we discuss this matter over dinner, tonight?

The idea of an evening with Suzanne Maxwell seemed appealing to Cole. He found her very attractive. And he could not recall spending a romantic evening with someone since his marriage to Phoebe, nearly nine months ago. Those evenings with Olivia had been spent with a close friend. Even if a part of him wished it could be more.

Cole paused, as he contemplated his last thoughts. Did he just say . . .? "Mr. Turner? Cole?" Suzanne's voice cut into his reverie. "About tonight?"

"Oh." Cole remembered. He had been invited to join the McNeills for dinner, tonight - in honor of Cecile Dubois' visit. "I'd love to join you for dinner, but I already have plans this evening," he politely answered. "Perhaps tomorrow."

The Canadian woman gave him a tight smile. "Perhaps." A chill seemed to have settled in the office. It left Cole feeling very uneasy. Suzanne Maxwell seemed disappointed. Too disappointed, considering they had just met. And he wondered why.

* * * *

"Aren't you supposed to be working right now?" Cecile asked. She, Darryl and Olivia stood next to the latter's BMW convertible, in the middle of the station's parking lot. The two inspectors had caught up with her, before she could leave.

Olivia sighed. "It's Darryl. He's worried that you had an odd reaction to meeting him. And he wants to know why." She paused. "Quite frankly, so do I. You did seem a bit . . . distracted."

"What are you talking about?"

Darryl Morris spoke in an urgent voice. "Olivia told me that you're a witch like her. Only you practice Voodoo or something."

"Vodoun," Cecile automatically corrected.

"Yeah. She also told me that you receive premonitions. Visions of the future." Darryl hesitated. "Did you see something when we first met?"

Cecile took a deep breath. She glanced at Olivia, who nodded. Oh well. "I didn't see anything," she said.

"What?" Both Olivia and Darryl had spoken at the same time.

"But I felt something," Olivia continued. "I don't know. Trouble. Impending doom. Something like that."

Olivia frowned. "You didn't have any vision? That's strange. Is there a chance that your visions are being blocked?"

"By whom?" Cecile shot back, now feeling very concerned. "Or what?"

Inspector Morris interrupted with a frustrated cry. "Hey? Remember me? The one who might be facing impending doom?"

"Darryl, you don't know that," Olivia said, trying to reassure him. "Cecile doesn't have to touch anything to receive a vision. For all we know, she had a vision about something else."

The tall inspector looked doubtful. "Uh-huh. If you don't mind, I think I'll get confirmation from someone else. Maybe Phoebe can help."

"Phoebe?" Cecile frowned. Who in the hell was this Phoebe?

Olivia answered for her. "Phoebe Halliwell. One of the Charmed Ones? Cole's ex-wife. You know, the one who has premonitions."

Now Cecile remembered. Obviously Darryl Morris believed that this Phoebe could receive a clearer vision. Perhaps she could. Cecile was not about to stand in his way. "I guess it wouldn't hurt to get a second opinion," she finally said, feeling a bit put out, but hiding her feelings. "As for me, I have a few stores to visit. Starting with Macy's. Excuse me, but I'll see you both later." Cecile climbed into the BMW.

As she steered the car out of the parking lot, Cecile's thoughts returned to her recent premonition. Olivia must have guessed right. None of her premonitions have ever been so vague. At least not until she met Darryl Morris. Either there was something about his essence that blocked her vision, or the good inspector seemed destined to encounter something that might prove to be very powerful. Cecile hoped it was the former.

* * * *

Darryl knocked on the front door of the Halliwell Manor. A minute later, it swung open. In the doorway stood the middle Halliwell sister. "Darryl, hey! What are you doing here?"

"Hi Phoebe," Darryl greeted. After spending a few hours on the DiMatteo case, he had convinced Olivia that they should pay Phoebe's office at the SAN FRANCISCO BAY-MIRROR a call. The two partners discovered that Phoebe was on vacation this week and that she could be found at the manor on Prescott Street. "I heard you were on vacation, this week."

Phoebe shot Darryl a bright smile. "Yeah, Elise finally decided to emancipate me for a few days. I would have started yesterday, but I had some work to finish." Her eyes shifted to Olivia and her smile disappeared. "Olivia."

A small smile touched Olivia's lips. "Phoebe. Nice to see you."

The two visitors stepped inside the manor. Phoebe led them to the Sun Room. "So, what brings you two here?" she asked. Concern suddenly filled her dark eyes. "Is there something wrong? Piper? Paige?"

"More like Darryl," Olivia responded laconically.

Phoebe frowned. "Huh?"

Darryl took a deep breath. He told her about Olivia's friend . . . and the premonition the latter had recently experienced at the police station. "I wondered if you could get a clearer vision, since you're stronger."

"You don't know that," Olivia added. "Cecile is a very powerful psychic."

Darryl shook his head. "But Cecile isn't one of the most powerful witches of all time."

"Maybe not among Wicca practitioners. But Cecile does not practice Wicca. She's Vodoun."

Olivia's words fell upon deaf ears. Darryl returned his attention to Phoebe. "Could you give it a try? See if a premonition will come to you?"

Phoebe glanced uneasily at Olivia. Who remained silent. Firm determination gleamed in her eyes. "I'll give it a shot. But I can't guarantee anything. Give me your hand."

Darryl allowed Phoebe to take hold of his hand. She closed her eyes. He could hear her breathing heavily. Then . . . a gasp escaped her mouth. "What?" he demanded.

"Nothing, except . . ." Phoebe's eyes flew open. She heaved a deep breath. "I saw you in an alley, surrounded by onlookers, the police and paramedics. It looked as if you were at a crime scene. Both you and Olivia. And both of you were staring at the body of a Latino man. That's it."

A frown creased Darryl's forehead. "That doesn't sound like something foreboding," he said. "Just another case to work on. Olivia's friend told me that she had sensed something more serious." A gust of breath left Darryl's mouth. He saw a flash of doubt in Phoebe's eyes. "Maybe she was imagining things," he added.

Olivia opened her mouth to speak. Instead, she shook her head and looked away. Somehow, the gesture did not make Darryl feel any better.

* * * *

Edward Crozat's eyes glowed with delight, as he stared at the small crate on his desk. "That's it," Ben Mallard declared. "The package you wanted. The Enigma had arrived in San Francisco, sometime before noon."

"Well done!" Edward declared. "How did you know . . .?"

Mallard explained that a contact at one of the piers had alerted him to the ship's arrival. "My . . . friend held it for me, until I could get there." He paused before adding, "I had to pay him $5,000 of my own money."

"Then you shall be compensated," Edward added smoothly. Men, he decided, can be incredibly greedy. He had seriously considered killing the Customs agent. But as he had told Rudolf, Ben Mallard might prove to be useful in the future. Edward nodded at Cousin Henry, who opened the safe.

Henry returned to Edward's desk, carrying a wad of bills. "Here you go, $67,000, plus an extra $5,000. All unmarked." He stuffed the bills into a large yellow envelope. Just as Henry began to hand over the envelope to Mallard, a noise caught the attention of those inside the office.

Everyone turned to stare at the figure standing in the doorway. A janitor, whose eyes were fixed on the envelope in Cousin Henry's hands. Edward's eyes narrowed dangerously.

"Pardon me," the janitor began nervously. "I didn't realize . . ."

Henry's hand shot up. Edward slapped it down before the former could use any magic. Then he gave the newcomer a polite smile. "Are you looking for someone?"

"Actually, I thought the office was empty. I came here to clean . . ."

"Rudolf, why don't you show the man out?" Edward nodded at the young warlock. Who strode toward the nervous janitor. The latter's eyes popped out, as Rudolf slammed a wicked-looking knife in the janitor's gut.



END OF CHAPTER 4



"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE" by RFK





CHAPTER 5



Alberta Devore removed her lips from the water that streamed from the fountain and straightened her back. As she strode down the corridor, a noise caught her attention. From one of the offices on this floor. The noise sounded like a cry or a scream, and it made Alberta feel very nervous.

Her first instinct was to investigate the noise. But self-preservation kept her in check. And when she heard a door click open, she quickly dashed into her office and shut the door. The last thing she wanted was to witness a murder or any other act of violence.

Alberta took a deep breath and returned to her desk. Minutes passed and her unease grew, as she heard more noise from outside the office - like the sound of a heavy object being moved. Unable to deal with the wear on her nerves, Alberta stood up and walked over to the window. She glanced out and saw a man leave the building. That same man climbed into a silver Ford sedan with license plates that read - 666MAL. Curiosity replaced her fear for a brief moment. She wondered if this man had anything to do with the noise she had heard.

* * * *

Phoebe rushed downstairs to the Halliwells' living room after hearing the front door open. Apparently, her two sisters and brother-in-law had finally returned home for the evening. "Leo! Piper! Paige! You're back!" She remained on the staircase's last step. "Where have you all been? It's almost eight."

The other three stared at Phoebe, wearing concerned expressions. "Paige and Leo were helping me at P3," Piper replied. "What's wrong?"

"I got a visit from Darryl, today. And Olivia McNeill." Phoebe made her way to the living room sofa. "It seems Darryl wanted me to summon a premonition."

The other two Halliwell sisters joined Phoebe on the sofa. Paige frowned. "What on earth for?"

Heaving a large sigh, Phoebe continued, "Apparently, it has something to do with a friend of Olivia's."

"Cecile," Leo stated. His comment drew stares from the three sisters. "She's a friend of Olivia's, who also practices magic."

Phoebe continued in a tense voice, "Well, apparently this Cecile had received a premonition after meeting Darryl. Only, she didn't get a vision, just a feeling."

"What feeling?" Piper demanded.

"I don't know. Some kind of sense that something wrong might happen to Darryl." Phoebe went on to describe Darryl's request that she summon a premonition. And the vision she had received when she held his hand. "The only thing I saw was Darryl and Olivia at some crime scene in the downtown area. I certainly didn't sense any forbidding future for Darryl. But I can't help but wonder if the case he and Olivia will investigate might prove to be dangerous for him."

Piper began to rub her younger sister's arm. "Honey, maybe this Cecile person was wrong. I mean, she couldn't even bring up a vision. It's a good chance that her powers are not as strong as yours." She glanced at Leo. "Right?"

The whitelighter shrugged. "I don't know. I've only met Cecile once before. And it was only for a few minutes. All I know is that she's not a witch like you or the McNeills. She doesn't practice Wicca." He paused. "She's . . . uh, into Voodoo."

"Voodoo?" Paige made a face. "You mean like zombies and stuff? Why would Olivia be friends with someone like that?" Phoebe privately agreed.

With a sigh, Leo continued, "Voodoo isn't evil or anything like it's shown in the movies. I understand that it's just another pagan religion. Like Wicca. Besides, Cecile's okay. I do know that she has premonitions and telepathy."

Phoebe added, "Yeah, Olivia did say that she was a powerful psychic."

"A powerful psychic who wasn't able to summon a vision?" Paige's voice rang with disbelief. "And besides, you're a Charmed One, Phoebe. One of the most powerful witches ever. Your premonitions are probably more powerful. Ten to one, your premonition was more accurate than hers." She turned to Leo. "Do the Founders know anything about Voodoo?"

Leo shook his head. "No. They're not really familiar with any magic outside what you practice. Remember the Zen master? They weren't familiar with that brand of magic, either."

"Then what good are they?" Phoebe snapped. An uncomfortable silence followed. Leo's face turned red with embarrassment. "I'm sorry Leo," she added. "It's just I can't help but wonder if she's right about Darryl. He is one of our closest friend and the only vision I had of him was investigating some crime scene."

Leo added soothingly, "I understand. But I don't think you have to worry. Your vision is probably more accurate than hers, anyway. And there's a chance she never had a premonition. Maybe it was her intuition. And I'll keep an eye on Darryl, tonight. If it would make you feel better."

Phoebe responded with a nod. Piper added, "By the way, did you speak to Olivia about . . . you know, Cole?"

"Yeah." Leo sighed. "Only Cole was there. Having breakfast with Olivia and Cecile. I talked with her after he left. She, uh . . . she didn't listen to me. As usual."

"So, you're saying that this Cecile knows Cole?"

Again, Leo sighed. "They did seem a little chummy with each other, this morning."

Paige tucked her feet underneath her legs. "Does Cecile even know he's a demon?"

"Looks like it." Leo paused. "She didn't seem bothered by him."

"Oh great!" Paige rolled her eyes. "Are you sure that Voodoo isn't some kind of Satanic cult?"

A frown creased Piper's brow. "Paige! That's not a nice thing to say. Don't forget there are a lot of people who still feel the same about Wicca." She turned to her husband. "Leo, you have to do something about Olivia. Granted, none of us are particularly fond of her, but she is your charge."

"Piper's right," Phoebe added. She could feel her heart beat unnaturally fast. "You should do something, before Olivia finds herself in a bad situation. Can't you talk to her parents?"

An exasperated Leo shot back, "Phoebe, Olivia's a grown woman. And that's exactly what Jack and Gweneth McNeill will tell me. Besides," his voice lowered, "I get the feeling that they don't really like me. Especially Jack McNeill." He glanced at his wife. "Could you talk to them? At least to old Mrs. McNeill?"

"Leo . . ." Piper began in protest.

"Please, Piper! I think she would listen to you."

Piper sighed. She glanced at Phoebe, who returned the look with pleading eyes. "Oh all right. I'll pay a visit, tomorrow afternoon. Maybe if I told them everything on what happened last spring . . ."

"Oh." The word immediately came out of Leo's mouth. The three sisters frowned at the whitelighter. He seemed confused. Disturbed.

Phoebe demanded, "What's wrong?"

After a brief hesitation, Leo continued, "Well, it seems that Cole has already told the McNeills about his time as the Source. He told them that he became the Source against his will."

"And they believed him?" Piper cried.

The whitelighter's next words took the Charmed Ones by surprise. "Yeah, they believe him. According to Olivia, Mrs. McNeill read his memories using telepathy, and she's supposed to be a very strong telepath. And if that's the case, I'm beginning to suspect that he might be telling the truth."

Disbelief gripped Phoebe's stomach. Dammit! What was it about Cole that brought so much torment and confusion? She heaved a large sigh. "Leo, whether or not Cole had chosen to become the Source, he's still a danger. Disaster always seemed to follow him. And with those new powers of his . . . well, who knows when he'll give in to evil again? Olivia is your charge. For her safety, for the safety of her family, someone has to talk to them. Make them understand how dangerous he is. If you can't do, let Piper try." Phoebe paused and stared at both Leo and Piper. "You know I'm right."

Piper coughed slightly. "The lady has spoken."

* * * *

Olivia watched Cecile sink her teeth into the slice of Devil's Food cake. "Hmmm!" the other woman groaned. "God, this is good! How do you make it so moist?"

A smile spread across Gweneth McNeill's face. "Pudding. I'm glad that you like it." Her green eyes, which her two younger children had inherited, sparkled with satisfaction. The fifty-five year-old woman had also passed along her red hair to Olivia and Harry. Only in her case, sprinkles of gray mixed in the red. "Before you go back to New Orleans, I'll make another one for you to give to your parents."

"If I don't eat it first. Maybe I'll save a slice for Andre. Devil's Food is his favorite." Cecile turned her attention to Cole. "You know, I just realized something. You never told me how you and Andre first met."

A wariness crept into Cole's eyes. He shook his head and gave Cecile a tight smile. "It was . . . Nothing. I forgot."

"You forgot?" Jack McNeill, Olivia's handsome father frowned. "Sounds like you don't want to tell us. Did it involve someone's death?"

Embarrassment replaced the wariness in Cole's eyes. "No." He paused. "Actually, Andre and I met at a party in the French Quarter. During Mardi Gras. It was . . . a party."

The McNeills stared at the half-demon. "What's the big mystery?" Bruce demanded. A younger version of his father, he also happened to be the oldest McNeill sibling.

Cole gave an embarrassed cough. "Nothing. There's no big mystery. I met Andre at a party. That's all."

"Oh dear God!" Cecile's outburst drew stares from the others.

Olivia demanded, "What?"

"I . . ." Cecile stared at Cole, who heaved a defeated sigh. "Nothing."

However, Olivia decided to be persistent. "C'mon! What's with the big outburst? Does it have something to do with Cole and Andre?"

Cole's shoulders sagged. "I'll tell. Andre and I met at this party."

"In the French Quarter," Elise McNeill added. The McNeill matriarch nodded. "Go on."

The half-demon continued. "Have you ever seen the movie, EYES WIDE SHUT? It featured Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman at this party . . ."

Realization hit Olivia like a slap in the face. She finally recalled a party that she and Cecile had tracked this drug lord when they first met Andre in Morgan City. The party seemed more like an orgy filled with sex, booze and drugs. "Good grief! You met Andre at one of those?"

Cole nodded. "Yeah. Many demons loved to frequent such parties. They were great places to seek out people willing to sell their souls, if you know what I mean."

A wide grin spread across Harry's handsome, freckled face. "And I bet the sex was great, too! Right?"

To Olivia's amazement, she saw her first look at a demon - or half-demon - blushing. No one, especially any of her Wiccan friends, would ever believe this! Then a small, private smile appeared on his face. A smile that spoke a thousand words. Olivia felt a quick stab of envy.

"Anyway," Cole continued, "that lifestyle is over for me. I haven't been to a party like that in over four years. And I don't have the taste for one, either."

Gran patted Cole's arm. "Good for you," she replied, nodding.



"Although, I wouldn't mind a private, one-on-one version," he added with a smile.

Cole's words drew stunned stares - especially from the women. Olivia's mother cried out in shock, "Cole!"

"Sorry," Cole said with a shake of his head. "I met this woman, today. A widow named Suzanne Maxwell. Very beautiful woman." Olivia's jealousy returned. Cole continued, "But there was something about her . . ." His voice drifted into a whisper.

Olivia demanded, "What?"

Cole paused, as his expression became reflective. "I don't know. She had invited me to dinner, tonight. And when I turned down her . . . she just didn't seem disappointed. She seemed frustrated. Very frustrated. It seemed as if I had ruined some plan of hers." Again, he shook his head. "I don't know. I guess I had a bad feeling about her at that moment."

"Maybe you should stay away from her," Bruce suggested.

Her eyes shinning like polished emeralds, Olivia leaned forward. "No! I think you should get to know her, instead. Maybe there's a reason she's trying to get close to you. I mean, it is odd that she should show up not long after the MALEHEX Corporation closed its Seattle office."

"The Crozats?" Cole said questioningly.

Olivia shrugged her shoulders. "It's a long shot, but . . . I don't know. Maybe you shouldn't dismiss your feelings about her. Come to think of it, you're not the only one who's been receiving bad fe . . ."

A gasp from Cecile's mouth interrupted Olivia. The Vodoun priestess went into a sudden trance, startling everyone else. The trance lasted for several seconds, until it ended with a shuddering sigh. Then Cecile collapsed on the floor. Harry, Bruce and Cole rushed to her side.

"Cecile! Are you all right?" Olivia cried. She watched anxiously, while the three men helped Cecile to her feet.

Cecile murmured, "I'm fine, I'm fine. I . . ." She took a deep breath. Gweneth handed her a glass of water. "Thanks." She took a sip.

"What happened?" Gran asked.

"I, uh . . . I don't know." Cecile finished her water in several gulps. The others looked upon her with concern. "I had this vision. Well, it wasn't a vision. More like a feeling. Like the last time, when Livy and I were at the police station." Cecile heaved a sigh. "Only the feeling was stronger. More powerful. I felt as if I had sensed this great darkness. Or an evil spirit. I felt the same when I met your Inspector Morris, only it wasn't as strong."

Olivia frowned. "Are you saying that Darryl has some evil spirit within him?"

Cecile cried out, "I don't know! Maybe I'm wrong, but . . ." She paused. "Then again, maybe we're in for some serious trouble. I think we all should be careful." Anxiety flashed in everyone's eyes, as a troubling silence enveloped the dinner party.



END OF CHAPTER 5

"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE" by RFK



CHAPTER 6



The unmarked police car eased to a stop near the alley's entrance. Darryl Morris switched off the engine and sighed. To be more accurate, he yawned. His partner frowned at him. "That's the fourth time you've yawned this morning, Darryl. Didn't you get any sleep?"

Darryl grumbled, "I would have . . . if I hadn't found a whitelighter inside my bedroom, last night."

Both Olivia and Cecile, who sat in the car's back seat, gaped at the man behind the wheel. "Leo was in your bedroom?"

"Yes," Darryl hissed through clenched teeth. At least they looked clenched to Cecile. "Do you have any idea what a shock that was? Good Lord! If Sheila had woke up . . . or even worse, if we had been . . ." He sighed. "Never mind."

Laughter burst from Olivia's mouth. Cecile struggled to keep her own in check. "Ohmigod!" the redhead cried out, between her laughter. "Now that would have been a sight to see." Darryl glared at her. "Hey, don't look at me! I didn't give him the idea. Nor was I the one who had insisted upon seeing Phoebe."

Darryl heaved another long-suffering sigh. "Look, could you please ask him not to do that again?"

"You tell him. You see him more than I do."

After shooting Olivia one last glare, Darryl opened the car door and climbed out. Olivia followed. Cecile decided to remain inside the car. When she had asked the pair if she could accompany them on a call, she had no idea that it would involve a corpse. And she was not in the mood to face one. Not after last night's scare.

From the back seat, Cecile watched Olivia and Darryl approach a crowd that had gathered in the alley. Minutes passed. More police officials joined the group. Two uniformed cops kept the onlookers at bay. One particular man attracted Cecile's attention. He was a tall, thin young man in his mid-twenties. His height, slender build, dark hair and sleek wardrobe made him stand out in the crowd. But it was his eyes that really interested Cecile. They were intense, dark - almost black and possessed an air of menace. Cecile glanced away for a second. When her eyes returned to the crowd, the stranger had disappeared. Twenty minutes after being in the car alone, Cecile became restless. "Screw this," she murmured to herself, before climbing out of the car.

Cecile tried to reach Olivia and Darryl, but one of the uniformed cops blocked her way. Even worse, she had to stand by and watch a pair from the city morgue carry the sheet-covered body on a gurney. Just as the gurney bumped her leg, a vision struck Olivia. It involved the dark-haired stranger. He approached a Latino man, carrying a dagger. The stranger plunged the dagger into the other man's stomach. Cecile gasped aloud, stumbled backward, and vision disappeared.

* * * *

"The police has discovered the body," Rudolf announced to his fellow warlocks. "In the very place where I had dumped it. That McNeill witch was there with her partner."

Edward nodded. "Good. Now that our little problem has been disposed, we can continue with our plans." He removed the top of the small crate that sat on his desk. Then he reached inside.

"We still have another problem," a belligerent Henry retorted. "Ben Mallard. You should have him killed. Now!"

Rudolf glared at his cousin. "Uncle Edward has made it clear that we might need Mallard for handling future shipments," he said in a hard voice. "And he'll remain alive, until he becomes a liability. Understand?"

Henry responded with his own death glare, before he brought up another problem. Namely Suzanne's failure with Belthazor. "Why didn't you give him the potion, like you were supposed to?" he demanded.

"You really are determined to be a pain in the ass, aren't you?" Suzanne shot back. "If you must know, I only met him for the first time, yesterday. And how do you expect me to give him the potion, when his secretary was the one serving drinks? Besides, he had other plans, last night."

"What about tonight?"

Suzanne heaved an exasperated sigh. "I left a message with secretary, but has not returned my call, yet."

Henry suggested morosely, "Perhaps he's on to you."

A sneer marred Suzanne's beautiful face. "You know, Mother was right about you. You are a moaning Minnie."

Edward roared, "Enough!" He pulled an object from inside the crate. It was a reddish-brown urn - or it seemed like one to Rudolf, despite its crude shape. His uncle placed the object on the desk. "Voila!"

The other warlocks stared at it. "What is it?" Rudolf asked.

"An urn, of course. It holds the remains of a powerful 18th century bokor."

Suzanne frowned. "A what?"

"A bokor. A Vodoun sorcerer, who practices black magic." Edward continued, "The fellow inside this urn was named Dako. He was extremely powerful. A Vodoun priest or houngan finally vanquished him nearly 250 years ago. Although Dako's remains were destroyed, a friend of mine from Nigeria - another bokor - managed to summon his spirit and place it in this urn. When I had told him about what happened to our coven, he suggested that I use our new friend to solve our little problem with the Charmed Ones and the McNeills. They will be no match against Dako. All we need to do is find a host body."

Silence filled the office. Then Suzanne asked, "And who will that be?"

"Not one of us. I won't take the chance of Dako taking control of our bodies. However," Edward paused, "that nice police inspector whom Rudolf saw with Olivia McNeill might prove to be perfect. He's expendable, mortal and he has connections to both families."

Henry asked, "If this Dako is so powerful, how do we control him, once he kills the witches?"

Edward removed an envelope from the crate. "With this. My friend, William, provided me with a spell to vanquish Dako, once the witches are dead. Of course, Dako's host body will be killed in the process, but . . . who cares?" He smiled.

The telephone rang. Suzanne picked up the receiver and talked for a few minutes. Rudolf and the other warlocks watched. After she hung up, Suzanne faced the others, wearing a smug smile. "Guess who just called."

"Mr. Cole Turner?" Edward guessed.

Suzanne's smile grew wider. "Very good! It seems Mr. Turner has invited me for dinner. Tonight."

* * * *

The two sisters stood in front of the large oak door that led inside the McNeill manor. A green wreath made from evergreen and trimmed with a red ribbon, hung on the door. Piper rang the doorbell.

"Why am I here?" she murmured, half to herself. "Why did I let Leo and Phoebe talk me into this?"

Paige gave Piper's shoulder a reassuring pat. "Because you love them both. And you want to help Leo with his job."

Piper glared at her youngest sister. Finally, the door opened. The McNeills' manservant, Davies, stepped forward. He immediately recognized the visitors. "Mrs. Wyatt, Miss Halliwelll, how may I help you?"

Despite her familiarity with the McNeill family over the past month, Piper never failed to feel slightly intimidated by Davies' appearance. She stammered briefly, before answering. "Uh, is Mrs. McNeill in? Either one?"

"The elder Mrs. McNeill is home." Davies swung the door wide open, allowing Piper and Paige to enter the house. Suitcases were scattered about the foyer. The manservant explained, "Mrs. McNeill is leaving for a trip, today. To Palm Beach."

Paige gave Davies a vague smile. "Oh, Miami. Sounds nice. I guess she'll be visiting friends, huh?"

Davies gave her a long stare. Discomfort flitted across Paige's countenance. "No, her sister."

Piper allowed a small gust of breath to escape her mouth. Then she and Paige followed Davies into the McNeills' wide drawing room. The found the family's matriarch examining a package.

"I think I might have overdid it with the shopping," Elise McNeill was saying. "Well, it is the Christmas season. But you know your aunt; she'll lecture me about spending too much money on presents. She does it every year."

Davies coughed slightly, attracting the pair's attention. "Pardon me, Mr. Jack, Mrs. McNeill. You have visitors."

'Mr. Jack?' Paige mouthed the words. Piper squeezed her sister's fingers, warning the latter to keep quiet. Then she silently damned her husband for persuading her into this visit, and smiled at the McNeills. "Hello!" she greeted politely.

The McNeills expressed delight at the Halliwells' presence. Piper felt a small semblance of relief. "Well, hello! What are you doing here?" Mrs. McNeill asked. "We haven't seen you in three weeks. And where is Phoebe? Oh, I forgot! She must be working."

"So many questions," Paige murmured.

Piper gave her sister a quick jab in the side and answered, "Actually, Phoebe is on vacation, this week. But she had an errand, today. And as for our visit, well . . ." Piper and Paige exchanged uneasy glances.

"Oh. I gather this isn't a social call?" Jack McNeill asked.

Paige added, "Well, not quite. It has to do with . . ."

"With Olivia," Piper finished. She shot her sister a quick glare for jumping the gun. "And Cole."

The McNeills each gave the sisters a penetrating stare. Mrs. McNeill invited them to sit down on the sofa. Which both did. Piper felt as if she was being eaten alive by the cushions.

"So," Mr. McNeill coolly added, "What exactly is the problem with Olivia and Cole?"

Piper took a deep breath. "Well, Leo has been very concerned about Olivia's friendship with Cole. We've had some . . . uh, some bad experiences with in the past."

"When he was the Source," Paige added.

Again, Piper glared at her sister. "Yeah, and Leo doesn't want the same or something similar to happen to Olivia."

Mother and son exchanged confused glances. "What are you saying? That Olivia might become Queen of the Underworld?" Jack McNeill asked. "And why isn't Leo talking to Olivia about all this?"

Both Piper and Paige looked embarrassed. "Uh, he already has," the former answered. "Apparently, Olivia thought otherwise."

"Well, we trust Olivia's judgment," Mrs. McNeill said. "She's always been a good judge of character."

Piper found the old lady's lack of concern, disturbing. "I'm sure that she is, Mrs. McNeill, but this is Cole we're talking about. He's very dangerous."

"Yeah," Paige added. "I mean, he was the Source of All Evil for two months. He put Phoebe through a lot of hell. And these new powers he got from the Wasteland have made him very powerful. More powerful than the Source."

Mrs. McNeill stared at Paige with cool eyes. "Weren't you responsible for stripping those powers from him, last month?"

Paige looked uncomfortable. "Well, yeah. He wanted to be good . . . and I didn't mind helping him. Both of us were being brainwashed by this demon of fear named . . ."

"Barbas," Mrs. McNeill finished. "Yes, I've known about Barbas for decades. And Cole told us about your last brush with him. Through his memories. Don't forget, I'm a telepath."

Piper spoke uneasily, "But Cole has the power . . ."

"To control the minds of others? Yes, I know. So did Barbas. But neither is powerful enough to keep a strong telepath from reading their thoughts. And if Barbas can manipulate Cole's mind from the Underworld . . ." She paused. "Well, you get the picture, right?"

Again, Piper and Paige exchanged uneasy glances. The oldest Halliwell remarked, "Listen, I realize that you all think Cole is trustworthy, because he saved Olivia's life. And because he helped her and Harry save us from the Crozats, last . . ."

"We're all well aware of Cole's past," Mr. McNeill said, interrupting. "And we all know about his experiences as the Source. And what happened to Ed Miller."

Piper gawked at the middle-aged man. "And you're still willing to . . .?"

"Give him another chance?" Mrs. McNeill finished curtly. "Why not? Especially since he seems genuine in his desire for another chance." Shocked by the woman's revelation, Piper stared at her in silence. Then Mrs. McNeill added, "May I ask you two a question? Do you know exactly how Cole became the Source?"

Finally, something she could respond to! Piper recovered from her state of shock and replied, "Well, yes. He used something called the Hollow to absorb the Source's powers."

"But he didn't become the Source, until the old one's death. Right?"

A brief silence fell between the two sisters. "What do you mean?" a frowning Paige asked.

Mr. McNeill sighed. "What Mom is trying to find out is that you know absorbing the Source's power, while using the Hollow, didn't make Cole the new Source. I mean if that were possible, you would have killed him that night in your attic and not the old Source. After all, the old Source didn't become a Charmed One when he absorbed your powers, did he?"

Even Piper had to admit that the man had a point. "So when did Cole . . .?"

"Become the Source? Probably after you killed the old one. Like we found out, the old Source's essence took over his body."

Piper had a deep suspicion what this was leading to. The possibility that Cole had become the Source against his will. That did not change the fact that Cole deliberately used the Hollow - at least in her eyes. And she said this to the McNeills.

Both mother and son stared at Piper in disbelief. Making her feel very uncomfortable. "Excuse me, but you did just hear what Jack said about the Hollow, didn't you?" Mrs. McNeill said in her usual pointed manner.

A sigh left Piper's mouth. She began to feel that this whole trip had been a waste of time. "Mrs. McNeill," she began.

"You must really dislike him very much. Cole, I mean." The old lady sighed. "I guess that's understandable, considering how you all first met." Her blue-gray eyes pinned Piper. "But I get this feeling that none of you really know what happened. I wonder. Did you kill him, because you had no choice? Or because your personal feelings got into the way?"

That was it! Piper decided that she had enough of the McNeills' self-righteousness. Rising to her feet, she coolly announced that it was time for her and Paige to leave. "We've taken enough of your time. Paige." To Piper's surprise, Paige remained glued to the sofa, wearing a stunned expression. "Paige! We're leaving."

"Huh?" Paige finally snapped out of her trance. "Oh. Uh, yeah. Sorry." She stood up.

"I'm sorry that you have to leave so soon," Elise McNeill politely remarked. "It seems that whenever you visit, we never get a chance to talk about your grandmother. Perhaps someday."

In your dreams, Piper silently retorted. She felt a sudden burst of shame. Grams would be appalled by her feelings toward an old friend. Especially a close friend like Elise McNeill. Still . . . Outrage replaced the remorse within her. Old friend or not, Mrs. McNeill had no business making an assumption about her feelings toward Cole.

"Yeah," the oldest Halliwell murmured, "perhaps. Well, we'll be seeing you. Sometime. Paige?" Piper turned on her heels and strode toward the doorway. She overheard Paige bid the McNeills good-bye and follow her. Leo, she angrily concluded, had a lot to answer for, today. A lot.

* * * *

"Why would anyone go to the trouble of killing a janitor and dumping his body in an alley?" Darryl asked. "The victim had obviously been stabbed. Even if there's no sign of blood or a struggle." His eyes scanned the crime scene.

Olivia shrugged. "Maybe the killer wanted to draw attention away from the real crime scene."

"If that was his intent," Darryl commented, "he or she failed. The killer forgot to remove the janitor's uniform. Which has a name tag."

"And the victim's name?"

Darryl consulted his notebook. "Someone named Alvarez, who worked for the Hopkins Building." He glanced at Cecile, who had returned to the squad car. "I wonder what happened to her. She looks shaken. Think she had one of . . .?"

Olivia shot back, "I'm sure that we'll find out, soon."

A third figure approached the two partners. Olivia recognized one of the precinct's forensic pathologists, Deborah Liu. "Hey Deb!" she cried. "What have you got?"

"Stab wounds," the pretty, thirty-something woman answered.

Olivia rolled her eyes. "We can see that. Anything interesting?"

"Something odd about the stab wound. And yet, very familiar."

Darryl frowned at the pathologist. "Such as?"

Inspector Liu continued, "Remember those string of murders that hit the city, last month? Bodies that were found in Lafayette Park, Candlestick Park . . ." Olivia knew what she was referring to - murders of witches committed by the Crozat coven. "Anyway, the weapon used on your victim, here, is similar to the one used on those from last month. I think your killer is back." She walked away.

Olivia turned to Darryl and sighed. "Looks like the Crozats are definitely back."

The two partners approached their car. Olivia knocked on the backseat window. Which Cecile rolled down. The latter seemed to be sketching a picture on a sheet of paper. Olivia pointed at the picture. "What are you doing?"

Cecile thrust the sheet of paper at Olivia. "Drawing a picture of the killer. I had a vision of him stabbing the victim, when the latter was being taken away."

Olivia stared at the sketch. With a heavy heart, she recognized the subject. "Oh God," she murmured.

"You recognize him?" Darryl demanded. He leaned over Olivia's shoulder.

"Oh yeah. That's the warlock whom Cole had turned into a pebble, outside the Tower Bay warehouse, three weeks ago. Oh well, at least we now know that he's definitely still alive." Darryl glared at her. "Trust me, it wasn't a joke."



END OF CHAPTER 6