The occupants inside Mister Dairon's office looked upon the dead warlock with shock and horror. Nearly a minute had passed before Olivia broke the silence. "Well," she commented, "that was disappointing. Now, we'll never know who had hired him."
"We know that the Magan Corporation had hired him," Cole grimly stated. "I should have known."
Gweneth shook her head, "Yes, but who's behind the Magan Corporation? We still don't know. Unless it's this daemon named Prax." She turned to Nimue. "Is this Logan fellow associated with any particular demonic group? Like the Khorne Order? Or how about a warlock coven?"
"I really don't know," Nimue replied. "I've never heard of him, until today. As for Prax being the head of the Magan Corporation . . ." She shook her head. "He does not have the ambition or imagination to attempt something like the destruction of the Whitelighter Realm."
Cole spoke up. "I recognized Eric Logan. And no, he didn't have any close association with a demonic order or a coven. In fact, the only person he was associated with was another warlock named Doris Meade. Only some witch had killed her fifteen or twenty years ago."
An angry roar erupted from Lohdon's mouth. Before anyone could do or say anything, the daemon released a stream of fire and incinerated the warlock's corpse. "I want revenge!" he cried out loud. "I swear in Caim's name that I'll find the bastard who hired this Logan and kill him! Slowly!"
"Patience Lohdon," Nimue coolly replied. "You'll have your chance for revenge."
Jack added, "She's right. It's clear that the Magan Corporation's CEO is after the Source's throne. And since you're after it, as well . . . sooner or later, the two of you will meet."
Both Olivia and Cole stared at the former's father. "Say that again, Dad?" the young witch demanded.
The McNeill patriarch opened his mouth . . . and closed it. He had obviously revealed some kind of secret.
Cole frowned at Lohdon. "You plan to become the new Source?" When the other demon failed to answer, Cole turned to his mother. "So, that's why you had this party. You wanted an opportunity to introduce Lohdon to Olivia's parents. The question is - why?"
"This party was for you and Olivia," Nimue replied tartly. "When Lohdon had found out about it, he asked me to invite me. He wanted to meet Jack and Gweneth, in order to obtain information on the Magan Corporation."
Gweneth added, "She's telling the truth, Cole. And you know that Jack, Elise and I never really had a problem with the idea of a new Source. One is needed to bring some kind of balance in the magical world."
"And someone like Lohdon would fit the bill. Someone who won't be inclined to do something extreme like . . . destroy the Whitelighter realm." Cole nodded. "I understand. But what I don't understand is why Edward Winslow - or whatever his name is - would want Olivia dead? And who told him and Logan about this party? And who killed Logan?"
Nimue demanded, "What are you saying?"
"Isn't it obvious, Mother?" Cole replied. "Either you or Lohdon . . . have a spy in your midst."
The two Charmed Ones and their whitelighter found Leo and Wyatt inside the Solarium, upon their return to the manor. The young Elder sat in a wicker chair, rocking his sleeping son, in his arms. Leo glanced up at the trio and frowned. "Back so soon?"
"Soon?" Piper shot back. "We've been gone for at least eight hours or so. It must be . . ." she glanced at her watch and gasped. "It's only six thirty-three!"
Paige added, "Hey, that's only two-and-a-half hours, since we left."
"Time must move pretty fast in the Melora Dimension," Chris commented. "Which is odd, considering that it moves a lot slower in the Whitelighter Realm."
Leo stood up. "You know, I had forgotten about the Melora Dimension. I've visited the place, a few times, myself. It was great." He handed Wyatt over to Piper. Who sat down on the sofa. "So, how was the party?"
Paige quickly replied, "Great! The food was great. So was the food. Unfortunately . . ."
Chris added, "Unfortunately, the party became ruined when some unknown person or being killed a wizard with poison."
"What?" Leo stared at his young colleague. "There was a murder in the Melora Dimension? That hasn't happened in nearly two hundred years. What happened?"
A sigh left Piper's mouth. "It's like what Chris had said. Some female wizard had been poisoned." She paused dramatically. "After she had drank from Olivia's glass of champagne. It seemed some warlock in disguise tried to kill Olivia."
"An assassin," Paige added. "Harry caught him. But . . ."
Chris finished, ". . . someone had poisoned the warlock. And he died before he could reveal anything - other than the Magan Corporation was behind the whole thing."
Leo frowned. "The Magan Corporation? Them again. I don't understand. Why would they be after Olivia?" He stared at Chris. "You're from the future. You must know something."
"Sorry, but I don't!" Chris retorted. "In fact, I've never even heard of the Magan Corporation, until I came here to the past." Then he murmured under his breath, "I wonder if they're the ones . . ."
Paige demanded sharply, "The ones who what?"
Chris glanced up, as if he realized that he had not spoken softly enough. "Uh, nothing."
"Oh c'mon!" Paige exclaimed with a long-suffering sigh. "Not again!"
Piper stared pointedly at the whitelighter. "Chris? The ones who what?"
Chris' face turned red. He quickly mumbled, "The ones who . . . uh . . . will try to re-organize the Underworld."
"Try? You mean we had stopped them?"
Instead of answering Piper's question, Chris glanced at his watch. "Oh, I better get going. See you guys."
Piper cried out, "Chris!" But the young whitelighter had made his escape before anyone could stop him.
Several hours later found Cole and Olivia inside the penthouse's master bedroom. While Cole changed into his sleeping clothes, Olivia laid on the bed, scribbling in her notebook. "What are you doing?" Cole asked, as he donned a light-blue T-shirt.
Olivia continued to write in the notebook. "Writing down a few notes for my Book of Shadows."
"Book of . . .?" Cole shook his head and smiled wryly. "I should have known. No wonder you were being so friendly to many of the daemons at the party. Trying to worm a few secrets on the demonic world? You could have just asked me." He slid into the bed.
Olivia pecked her fiancé's cheek. "No offense honey, but I'm afraid that you don't know everything."
Green eyes settled upon Cole's face. "Well, did you know about Guldur grabbing a special chalice from the Delphi Temple for some wizard?"
Cole sighed. "Okay, you got me there. It's too bad that we still don't know who's the CEO of the Magan Corporation." He paused. "Or why he wants you dead."
"I wish I knew. I mean . . . why me?"
After Olivia had tossed her notebook on the nightstand, Cole drew her into his arms. "Well, you are the Aingeal Staff Bearer. Which makes you very dangerous to him. Even if he does become the Source."
"You're just as dangerous to him," Olivia reminded the half-demon. "And the Halliwells. So, why send an assassin after me?"
All Cole could do was give his fiancée a tight hug. Especially since he had no answer for her question.
Artemus examined his Atropa Belladonna plant and spotted a small brown insect crawling along one wide, green leaf. He immediately picked up the bug with his thumb and forefinger and squashed it. At that moment, Prax entered the greenhouse. "Pardon me, sir. You have a visitor. In the Magneta Room."
A sigh left Artemus' mouth. "Thank you, Prax. Send Ameddo in there, as well for a few drinks. I'll be there in a few minutes."
"Yes sir." Prax paused at the door. "By the way, Artemus. I haven't heard from Mr. Logan. I can only assume that the visit is about him."
"Thank you, Prax." After his assistant had left, Artemus removed his smock and washed his hands. Then he teleported out of the greenhouse and into one of the manor's elegant drawing-room. The vivid coloring of the room's draperies and wallpaper had led the daemon to name it the Magneta Room. Inside, he found his guest sitting on the sofa with a glass of martini and looking very anxious. "Judging from your expression and Prax's announcement that Mr. Logan is missing, I can only assume that everything did not go as planned."
Idril placed her glass on the table before her, and regarded her benefactor with fearful eyes. "I'm afraid not, Artemus. Mr. Logan had . . . fed the poison to the witch's drink, as planned. Only . . ."
"Yes?" Artemus headed for the liquor cabinet, where he found a glass of bourbon that had been prepared for him by his manservant. He picked up the drink and headed for his favorite leather chair. "Only what?" He regarded the young demoness with an intense stare.
Squirming slightly, Idril continued, "Someone else had ended up drinking the poison. Adrianne Evans."
Mention of the well-known wizard caught Artemus by surprise. "Adrianne? What was she doing at Belthazor's engagement party?" An unpleasant thought came to the daemon. "Was Lohdon there, by any chance?"
Idril nodded unhappily. "Along with several members of the Fornost Order. I saw Lohdon and Adrianne talking with Nimue and the witch's parents. They seemed very chummy."
"I see." Artemus' stomach began turning flips. He had long harbored a deep suspicion that Nimue might try to assume the Source's throne. He had no idea that she had managed to recruit support from Lohdon, of all people. Both daemons, along with Artemus, were heads of at least three of the five most powerful demonic orders within the old Source's realm. If Nimue had managed to recruit Lohdon's support, all she needed was support from the remaining two top demonic orders. Unfortunately for Artemus, he had only managed to recruit support from minor demonic factions, but no one from the Big Five. And to make matters worse, Olivia McNeill remains alive and her family, involved with both Nimue and Lohdon. Artemus asked his guest, "And what happened to Mr. Logan?"
Idril sipped her drink. "He's dead. Belthazor had cast a magical shield around the ballroom at the Berisa Resort, preventing anyone from leaving. I'm afraid that this made Mr. Logan . . . rather anxious. So, I felt it was necessary to make sure that he would never reveal anything. It's a good thing I had poisoned his drink. Ms. McNeill's brother had caught on to Mr. Logan and turned him over to Belthazor."
"Are you sure that Mr. Logan is dead?"
A smug smile curved Idril's lips. "Oh yes. I had peeked into the hotel manager's office. He died just before he had the chance to reveal anything. Although I do believe that Belthazor and the others are suspicious of your company."
Artemus dismissed Idril's last sentence with a shrug. "They've been suspicious of the Magan Corporation since last summer." He gave the demoness an appraising stare. "Perhaps I should have allowed you to take care of Ms. McNeill."
"I don't think that would have been a good idea," Idril commented. "I had already taken a chance at appearing at the party with Melkora's invitation, in the first place. And I suspect that both Belthazor and Nimue were suspicious of me." She paused. "Do you, uh . . . still plan to get rid of Belthazor's witch?"
"I have no choice. Now that I know that she and her parents are involved with both Nimue and Lohdon, the prospects of Tiresias' prophecy about the Source's throne seem more certain than ever."
Idril added, "And Belthazor?"
Artemus stared at the demoness. There seemed to be a catch in her voice. "Well, he has to die, of course. He's the main threat. I wish I could kill him first, but . . ." He sighed. "Belthazor might prove to be a bit more difficult. I have asked an alchemist to find out how the Crozats came so close to killing Belthazor, last year." He gave Idril a thoughtful stare. "Does the idea of Belthazor's death upset you?"
"Why should it?" Idril turned her attention to her drink.
The older demon continued, "Because you seem slightly upset, my dear. And I do recall you being quite fond of him. I would hate for your feelings to interfere in this opportunity."
Idril snorted with derision. "I'm a daemon, Artemus. We don't fall in love."
Artemus regarded the younger daemon with pitying eyes. "You still view that nonsense about our inability to love as fact? My dear Idril, that was nothing more than propaganda perpetrated by the former Source in an attempt to hide the fact that he had fallen in love, centuries ago." Idril's eyes widen in shock. "Oh yes? You didn't know? My former mentor had told me. Before he had become the Source, he had fallen in love with this female sorceress. A human. She spurned him and he ended up developing a deep hatred for all humans. Personally, I believe he had drummed up that silly nonsense to hide the fact that he had once experienced love. And I believe that he had considered himself immune to the emotion . . . until Belthazor's feelings for one of the Charmed Ones had affected him."
"But Raynor had . . ."
"My dear, if there are daemons who are definitely not evil - like those of the Gimle Order - then we are most definitely capable of love." Artemus paused. "I've been in love. Once. It did not work out. But I survived. I have no problem with falling in love . . . as long as you don't allow your emotions to cloud your judgment or get in the way of business."
Again, Idril took another sip. "I see."
Artemus stared at her. "You're not in love with Belthazor, are you?"
Mirthless laughter rose from Idril's throat. "Of course not. Granted, I still find him very attractive. I can't deny that. But the closest I've ever been in . . . love, as you say, was probably with Raynor." She added before taking another sip, "And not that much. Business always comes first with me."
Again, Artemus stared at the demoness. A small worm of doubt wiggled within him - despite her air of sincerity. He only hoped that he had not made a mistake by including her in his plans to assume control of the Source's Realm. Perhaps he should keep a close eye on her. Satisfied with his decision, Artemus took a deep breath and finished his drink.