"REQUIEM FOR MAGIC"

Part III

"I don't think they don't know what do, if you ask me," Phoebe declared to her sisters. The Charmed Ones and their whitelighter sat inside the Halliwell living room, the following early afternoon.

A derisive snort escaped from Piper. "Who does, Phoebe? I mean . . . c'mon. If what Darryl had said is true, how can any of us get that staff back? There must be thousands of alternate dimensions that this 'evil' Olivia may have come from." She sighed, as she placed a dirty bowl into the sink. "Unless there's a way to find out from which dimension she came." Piper glanced at Chris. "Is there?"

The young whitelighter shrugged his shoulders. "How would I know?"

"You're the whitelighter," Paige shot back.

Chris made it clear that he lacked any experience with alternate realities. "This is my first time at bat with time travel."

"Then why don't you ask the Elders?" Paige demanded.

Rolling his eyes at the same time, Chris heaved a sigh. "Can't I get a bite to eat, first?" he muttered.

"Go ahead," Piper said, as Paige opened her mouth to protest. "But I need to know something." She paused, as her mind focused upon her son. "With Cole and Olivia dead, has the future changed? Is Wyatt . . .?"

Chris finished, ". . . still a powerful force of evil in the universe? I'm afraid so. My memories had changed a few days ago. Now with Cole dead, there's no one strong enough to stop Wyatt. It's going to be ugly."

Piper spotted a glass half filled with apple juice. "Oh God! This is great! My son becomes the scourge of the magical world."

Chris glanced away for a brief second before he added, "I better get going. I guess I should get started on any information about alternate realities."

Before he could teleport out of the room, Phoebe said, "Wait a minute! Don't you need to speak to Piper about something else? Like that matter we had discussed?"

Both Piper and Paige stared at the middle Charmed One and the whitelighter. "What matter?" the former asked.

"It's nothing," Chris quickly said. "Gotta go!"

"Chris!" But the whitelighter orbed out of the living room before Phoebe could protest any further.

Piper stared at her younger sister. "What matter where you two talking about?"

To Piper's surprise, Phoebe blushed. "It's nothing, Piper. Well . . . yeah, it's important. But it's best that Chris tell you about it. I've got to go as well. I have a meeting with some lawyer named David Nakano. I think he's Cole's attorney."

"Phoebe . . . wait!" Piper cried. But the middle Charmed One had snatched up her purse and rushed out of the manor's front door. Piper turned to her youngest sister. "Now, what the hell was that whole thing with Chris about?"

Paige rose from her seat. "Beats me. I have to get out of here, as well. Barbara . . . well, let's just say that I'm still managing the shop for now. I'll see you later."

Once Paige had left the manor, Piper went into the kitchen and eyed the dirty dishes on the table and sighed. Once again, her sisters had left her alone to clean up their mess. She promised herself that one day, she would force them to do the job, instead.

After dumping the last of the dirty dishes into the sink, Piper turned on the hot water. The pipes began to rattle loudly, causing the Charmed One to nearly jump out of her skin. "Damn pipes!" she muttered. Nearly three days had passed and the pipes were still making noise all over the house. Piper had called the plumber, yesterday morning. One had yet to show up. She reached for the telephone and called the plumbing company.

After being assured that a plumber would arrive within an hour, Piper went upstairs to feed Wyatt. She fed him his lunch. Then she left the one year-old to sleep, while she cleaned the house. While she set about her task, the Charmed One contemplated on Darryl's theory about Cole and Olivia's deaths. The idea of an evil alternate Olivia committing the murders seemed absurd. At first. And it surprised Piper that Darryl Morris – of all people – would even consider such an idea. But she realized that both the Halliwells, the McNeills and even their closest friends dealt with magic almost on a daily basis. Perhaps Darry's idea was not that absurd, after all.

The doorbell rang. Piper glanced at her watch. It read twenty-three minutes past two. Her mouth twisted into a slight grimace. She had called the plumbing company nearly two hours ago. What happened to the hour it was supposed to take for them to send one plumber? Someone at that company must be slipping.

Piper headed for the foyer and opened the door. She found a tall, attractive, middle-aged man with curly brown hair that grayed at the temples and hazel-green eyes standing on the stoop. He wore overalls. "Piper Halliwell?" he asked, frowning at his clipboard.

"I see that you're finally here," Piper replied caustically. "I had called nearly two hours ago."

The man sighed. "Sorry, Lady. I had another client. So, what's the problem?"

For some odd reason, Piper found herself recalling the visit of the gas man, some five years ago. Only he had ended up being possessed by the Woogeyman . . . and tried to kill her. Why on earth would she be thinking of that day now?

The Charmed One eyed the plumber warily. "You're with Sherman Plumbing, right?"

"Yes Lady, I am." The plumber rolled his eyes. "My name is Chuck Jarwoski. I've been with the company for the past eleven years. What's the problem?"

Piper hesitated. Realizing that she was being suspicious for no reason, she allowed the plumber inside the house. "Sorry about that. Just being careful. Um . . . it's the kitchen pipes. Well, at least for today. I've been having problems with the pipes both inside the kitchen and the bathroom for the past three days."

"Where's the basement?"

"You can reach it through the kitchen," Piper replied. "That way." She pointed in the direction of the kitchen. She had no intention of turning her back on anyone – save a Halliwell, a McNeill, Darryl, Scott or a whitelighter.

Annoyance flashed in Mr. Jarwoski's eyes. "Lady, where exactly is . . . 'this way'?"

Piper continued to point in the same direction. "It's a straight walk to the kitchen. Trust me."

The plumber sighed once more and marched straight toward the kitchen. Piper followed closely at his heels. Once they reached it, Jarwoski turned on the sink's hot water. As before, the pipes began to rattle. "Hmmmm, sounds like a loose pressure valve. Or perhaps it's the pipes' discs. Where's the basement?"

Piper pointed at the doorway to the far right. She opened the door and switched on the basement's light. "It's downstairs." As the plumber headed toward the basement, memories of the Woogeyman incident reared its ugly head, once more. She shook her head and returned to the stove, where Wyatt's milk bottle sat in a saucepan. Once it finished warming up, she turned off the stove. And the telephone rang.

The call came from her liquor supplier. It seemed he wanted to verify a shipment of vodka for P3. Unfortunately, Piper had never ordered any vodka. She had ordered Scotch whiskey. Moron. Once she reminded the supplier that he had screwed up an order for the umpteenth time, she gave him the correct request. She finally hung up the telephone, realizing that she needed to find another supplier. Then she remembered Mr. Jarwoski. "Hey!" she cried, while standing in the basement's doorway. "Are you finished yet?"

The plumber's voice floated back. "Not yet. Almost."

Forgetting her vow to keep a close eye on her visitor, Piper left the kitchen and rushed upstairs to fetch her purse. She realized that this plumbing job was going to cost her a pretty penny. Perhaps she could get Phoebe and Paige to pay for part of the bill. When she returned to the kitchen basement's doorway, she cried out once more, "Are you finished yet?"

"I am now," a voice from behind murmured.

Taken by surprise, Piper whirled around. Something sharp pierced her gut and she cried out in pain. Her eyes widened at the sight of Mr. Jarwoski holding a knife that dripped with her blood. Her mouth hung opened in shock. "Good-bye, Miss Halliwell," Jarwoski coolly added with a smirk. Piper raised her hands in an attempt to vanquish her attacker. Unfortunately, he moved faster and stabbed her again. This time, straight into the heart.

Filled with a deep satisfaction he had not experienced in years, Artemus gazed at the dead witch that lay sprawled on the floor. He knelt beside the body and examined it for a pulse. Nothing. Not a single heartbeat. He had done his job. A cold smile curled his lips. One down and one more to go. At least for today. His eyes glanced upward. Time to deal with the Halliwells' youngest member.

The daemon removed the bottle of milk from the saucepan and unscrewed the top. From inside his pants pocket, he pulled out a small bottle of clear liquid. The bottle's contents happened to be the power stripping potion that the McNeill warlock had left instructions to create. He poured the potion into the bottle of milk and screwed the top back on.

After turning off the stove, Artemus removed the milk from the saucepan and left the kitchen. He paused before the foot of the staircase. With a smile stamped on his face, the daemon shifted into the form of the oldest Charmed One. "Wyatt," he cried softly, "Mommy has a little surprise for you!" Still smiling and clutching the bottle of milk, he teleported to the manor's second floor.

The moment Paige and Harry entered the manor three hours later, the telephone rang. The youngest Charmed One strode into the living room to answer the call. "Hello?"

"Paige, is that you?" Phoebe's voice cried.

Paige glanced at her boyfriend, who sat on the living room's sofa, looking slightly morose. "Yeah Pheebs, what is it?"

"Have you seen Leo?" her older sister asked.

Leo? Paige rolled her eyes. "You're looking for him? Why don't you summon him?"

The middle Charmed One reminded the younger woman that Leo was no longer their whitelighter. "You'd think the Elders would have the good sense to give us a new one."

Heaving an annoyed sigh, Paige suggested that Leo may have been summoned by the Elders. "Why don't you check with Gideon from the Magic School?" She shot another glance at Harry, whose face now expressed contempt at the mention of the Elder's name.

"Oh God! I don't want to deal with that man again. Once was enough. I tried calling Piper, but I can't get hold of her. Something . . . something odd happened to me a few hours ago." Phoebe paused momentarily. "I had this odd feeling that something had changed, but I don't know what. I haven't felt this way since Andy's death."

A frown appeared on Paige's face. As much as she and Phoebe sympathized with Piper dealing with the end of a marriage, something bad must have happened for Phoebe to be desperate to find Leo. "Look, I'll go to the Elders and ask if they had seen him. Meanwhile, try to reach Piper again."

"Yeah. Okay." Phoebe hung up.

Paige walked over and joined Harry on the sofa. "Something's wrong," she murmured. "Phoebe is having these odd feelings. Feelings she haven't had since Andy's death." She paused. "Wasm't someone meddling with time, back then?"

Harry shrugged his shoulders. "I think it was some demon. I don't remember much. I was at Stanford when it happened."

Paige shook her head. "Meddling with time? You're not able sense something like that?"

"I'm a telepath, not a seer. My powers don't have anything to do with time - unless it involves someone's memories."

Paige stood up. "Oh well. I'm going upstairs. Maybe Piper's home." She noticed the haggard expression that had returned to Harry's face. "Hey, why don't you go into the kitchen and get a drink or something? Piper made some lemonade, last night. You can pour a glass for me, as well."

A sigh left Harry's mouth. "Yeah . . . sure." He stood up. Paige planted a light kiss on the side of his mouth. A brief smile appeared on his lips before he headed toward the kitchen.

Meanwhile, Paige climbed the staircase to the second floor. She approached Piper's room and noticed it was empty. Then she headed toward the nursery. When she entered the room, Paige noticed that her nephew was sound asleep in his crib. She started to turn away, when she noticed something odd. Wyatt's head did not rest on a pillow. Instead, the pillow was situated next to the toddler. And his milk bottle had been left on a nearby table. Something that Piper would never do.

An odd sensation tingled at the back of Paige's neck. She strode quickly toward the crib and leaned over to check on her nephew. The Charmed One touched his cheek and realized it was cold. "No!" she cried in horror. "Oh God! No! No!" She touched his pulse and felt nothing. The one year-old was dead. "Oh my God! No! Har-ry! HARRY!"

"Paige! Get down here!" Harry's voice cried. "In the kitchen!"

Tears began to stream down Paige's cheeks, as she rushed downstairs. When she reached the kitchen, she found a grim looking Harry standing over something. Which turned out to be a dead body. Piper's body. "Oh God! Piper! Piper!" Paige fell to her knees and cradled her dead sister in her arms, while her screams filled the kitchen.

THE END