"DEATH UNDONE"

Chapter 7

Artemus' eyes glanced up from the file on his desk, as his personal assistant, Prax, entered his office at the Magan Corporation building. He noticed the anxious expression on the other daemon's face and sighed. "I gather you have bad news for me, Prax?"

Wariness crept into Prax's eyes. "I'm afraid so, sir. It's . . . it's about the warlock, Miss McNeill." He paused.

"Well?" Artemus demanded. "What about her? Is she dead?"

Prax continued, "I don't know, sir. At least Klymus doesn't know. Miss McNeill had dismissed him after they had gained access to Belthazor's penthouse. Also, Klymus had checked on Lady Belthazor's condition after Miss McNeill shot her. She has not been checked into any hospital. Nor has her body been found. However . . ." Again, he paused. "However, he did see a familiar red-haired woman leave the building after waiting near the apartment building for nearly ninety minutes. Whether she was Lady Belthazor or Miss McNeill, he doesn't know."

Another heartfelt sigh left Artemus' lips. "I guess we'll never know what happened to Miss McNeill. Too bad. I rather liked her. Anything else?"

"I've also received word from the alchemist Argoth. He believes there is a chance that a potion to vanquish Belthazor might be possible."

The news brightened Artemus' mood considerably. "Does Argoth have any idea when the potion will be ready?"

Prax shook his head. "He didn't give me a specific time. But, Argoth believes that it might not be long. Probably less than two mortal months."

Artemus leaned back into his chair, with a half-smile curling his lips. "I can be patient."

Manhattan, New York; Alternate Dimension

The door to Olivia's Manhattan penthouse slammed shut. She remained seated on the living room sofa, staring ahead at the fireplace. A pair of lips pressed against her right cheek. Lips that belonged to her lover.

"Hey," the half-daemon greeted quietly. "How did it go?"

Olivia heaved a sigh. "Badly." She continued to stare at the fireplace.

"So . . . you didn't get the staff?" Seconds passed before Cole joined Olivia on the sofa. He added, "Of course you didn't. What happened?"

Quietly, Olivia told Cole about her experiences in the alternate dimension – her discovery of the marriage between the alternate Olivia and Cole, her difficulties in finding the Turners' new residence, the brief alliance with Artemus of the . . .

"Artemus?" Cole's face expressed shock. "He's alive in that dimension?"

Olivia nodded. "Alive and kicking. He hopes to become the new Source. Only, two things stand in his way – Lohdon of the Fornost Order and your doppelganger."

"ME?" Cole shook his head. "I mean . . . my other self? Why him?"

After a brief hesitation, Olivia told her lover about his doppelgänger's death at the hands of the Charmed Ones, the latter's resurrection and new magical strength. "The other Cole is an attorney for some wine grower from the Napa Valley. For some reason, Artemus wants something that is buried on this client's land. He wants it desperately. But since Cole is this Giovanni character's attorney and protector, Artemus can't get it. He thinks this object will make him the new Source."

"This guy is stronger . . . than the Source?" A hard edge crept into Cole's voice.

Olivia replied, "Stronger than the old Source or any future Source. He is also stronger than Piper Halliwell's son, who is the strongest witch ever. Stronger than the Charmed Ones."

"It's the other Cole I'm interested in."

A sigh left Olivia's mouth. "So . . . what are you saying?"

Cole gave her a cool, long look. "Are you planning on returning to that particular dimension?"

"I don't know, Cole. I mean . . . I've tried twice to get my hands on the Aingeal staff in that particular dimension. I'm beginning to think that place is unlucky."

A long silence followed before Cole added, "What about this other Cole's powers? Don't you think they're worth a return trip?" Wide-eyed, Olivia slowly directed her gaze upon him. "After all, you know what they say. Third time's the charmed."

THE END