Monday, March 31, 2008

"Obssessions" [PG-13] - Chapter 5



"OBSSESSIONS"


Part 5

Cole examined the contract in his hands. A tall, pale man in his early forties paced back and forth in front of his desk. Once Cole finished reading the document, he leaned back against his leather chair and sighed. "From what I've read, Wolfie, you should have no problems leaving your job."

Tugging nervously at his dark and luxuriant mustache, DeWolfe Mann demanded, "Are you sure? I don't want to find myself with a lawsuit on my hands."

"Trust me. You have nothing to worry about. This contract gives you the right to leave the BAY-MIRROR under certain conditions." Cole flicked the document. "And you have fulfilled them. How long have you maintained your column? Three years, now? And you can't be forced to finish the last two years of the contract." The half-daemon stood up and strolled toward the liquor cabinet. "So, why do you want to leave the BAY-MIRROR? Your column has become very popular."

Shaking his head, Mann grumbled, "It's that damn Jason Dean! Ever since he took over the paper, it's been absolute hell! He's the new owner, who thinks he's also the new editor-in-chief. The man has no experience in journalism, and yet he treats the staff as if we're part of some high school newspaper! I swear Cole, if I hang around that place any longer . . ."

"I understand." Cole poured a glass of bourbon. "I'll contact the newspaper's attorney and inform them of your plans to resign." He handed the bourbon to the columnist.

Who took a hefty swig, before he continued. "Not now. Not until I finish this last piece I plan to do. You know, the Golden Horn piece. The one you had suggested."

"Oh, so the paper has given you the go-ahead on that?" Cole asked. He prepared himself a glass of bourbon and soda water, before returning to his chair.

DeWolfe grimaced. "Just barely. My editor, O'Keefe, did. But Dean . . ." a small growl emitted at the mention of the publisher's name, "almost pulled the plug on it. If it wasn't for your ex-wife, there would have been no story."

The glass of bourbon and water paused in front of Cole's lips. "Phoebe, huh? Well, that was nice of her."

"She's a very nice person."

Cole grunted and continued drinking his bourbon.

DeWolfe continued, "Although, I now understand why your marriage to her didn't work." He drained the last of his drink.

"What?" Cole stared at his client.

Without even flinching, DeWolfe added, "Like I said, Phoebe is a lovely young woman. And very pleasant to be around. But every time I'm with her, I get this feeling I'm speaking to some young twenty-something just fresh out of college."

Cole allowed himself a small smile. "She is a twenty-something just fresh out of college. In fact, she had graduated, two years ago."

"Yeah, I know," DeWolfe said with a nod. "But I also happened to know that she's on the wrong side of twenty-five. Nearly thirty, as a matter of fact. Yet, she dresses like a college student, sometimes. Look, all I'm saying is that I understand why you two didn't last. She simply seems . . . I don't know, too young for you. No, that's the wrong phrase. Look, I like Phoebe, but may I be honest? You never struck me as someone who went for women with the mentality of a child bride."

Cole merely remained quiet, his eyes fixed on the large bay window and the view, beyond. As much as he wanted to deny it, the columnist had a point.

DeWolfe continued, "Jason Dean, on the other hand, seems perfect for her. Personally, I think he's a boy in a man's body. You know, he became rich by getting involved with computers and the Internet." The columnist grunted. "Typical. Another one of those who got rich too quick and too young, if you ask me."

Snapping out of his thoughts, Cole offered DeWolfe another glass of bourbon. But the columnist declined the offer, stating that he needed a clear head to prepare for his story. Cole added, "You know, I realize that you don't like Dean that much, but don't you think you're a little hard on the guy? You can't deny that he's successful. Even the BAY-MIRROR is doing better than ever."

"The BAY-MIRROR's business has been increasing before Dean's arrival," DeWolfe retorted. "And granted, the boy is successful. Now, if only he can learn how to be an editor." The embittered columnist placed his empty glass on the liquor cabinet. "Anyway, thanks for the information and the drink. I'll probably get in touch with you, next week." He started toward the door and then, paused. "Say, what about that female cop you once introduced me to at my sister's birthday party, two months ago? You know, the gorgeous one with the red hair? Are you two, uh . . .?"

Cole interrupted curtly, "No. We're just friends." And nothing else, Cole silently added. Judging from Olivia's newfound interest in Paul Margolin.

* * * *

Phoebe closed the door to her office and heaved a sigh. She had just survived another private session with her immediate supervisor, Elise. To be honest, the visit to the editor's office had turned out to be far from nerve-wrecking. Quite pleasant, in fact. The two women even managed to squeeze in a little private "girl talk" during the meeting. Phoebe wondered if Elise was becoming mellow in recent months.

Before she could set her mind to finishing her column for the week, the office's door swung open. A familiar figure stepped inside - DeWolfe Mann. "Wolfie!" Phoebe greeted. "We missed you at the staff meeting, earlier this afternoon."

"I doubt that Mr. Dean missed my presence," DeWolfe said, rolling his eyes with his usual sardonic manner. "And he was there - right?"

Phoebe bit back a retort. "Yes, Jason was there. After all, he is the paper's owner."

"He's the paper's owner, Phoebe," DeWolfe shot back, "not an editor. He should be having meetings with his editors, not with his writers and columnists." The columnist sat down in one of the empty chairs facing Phoebe's desk. "Besides, I doubt that he missed my presence. I certainly did not miss his."

The Charmed One shook her head. "God, Wolfie! What is it with you and Jason? Why can't you two get along? I mean, he did allow you to write that story on the McNeills' restaurant. You could at least be grateful."

"I am grateful, sweetie." DeWolfe leaned back into his chair. "To you. For convincing that overgrown Boy Wonder to go ahead with the story. Which is why I'm here." He tossed a small, expensively-wrapped package on Phoebe's desk. "To thank you and give you a little token of my appreciation."

"And Jason?"

DeWolfe's dark eyes stared at his fellow columnist. "I stayed away from the meeting, didn't I? What more could your precious Jason ask?"

A sigh left Phoebe's mouth. Aside from the "controversy" surrounding her relationship with Jason, the feud between the BAY-MIRROR's owner and its famous food columnist had become the talk of the office. "He's not my 'precious' Jason. We're just . . . I mean, I know that most people don't like . . ."

"What are you worried about? Most of the staff isn't concerned about your relationship with the young Ball and Chain. Why are you always worried about what others think of you?" DeWolfe asked, catching Phoebe offguard. "Especially when it comes to your private life?"

Phoebe hesitated before she replied, "I don't worry about . . ." She glanced away, embarrassed. "I mean . . . Okay, so maybe I do." She paused. "Why are we talking about me?"

"Because you obviously seem worried about how the staff feels about you and Dean," DeWolfe replied. "And after meeting your ex-husband earlier this afternoon, I found myself thinking about you."

A frown appeared on Phoebe's face. "You saw Cole?" she demanded. "Why?"

"He's my attorney. I had some business with him, today." The older man peered suspiciously at her. "Why? Does that bother you?"

It bothered Phoebe very much. The idea that her ex-husband had another connection to her, aside from Paige, disturbed her. It seemed as if he might never be out of her life. And Phoebe wanted nothing to do with Cole. Especially if it meant bringing up bad memories.

Instead of expressing how she felt, Phoebe asked, "Exactly how did Cole become your lawyer?"

"My previous attorney had passed away from a heart attack, last fall. Just before I met Cole. I had met him during one of his visits to the office before you two finally divorced." DeWolfe leaned forward. "You know, you still haven't answered my question."

Phoebe inhaled deeply. "The answer is no. It doesn't bother me that you saw him, today. Or that he's your lawyer. In fact, it's no concern of mine."

Chuckling, the food columnist said, "Now, why do I get the feeling that you're lying?" When Phoebe failed to answer, he sighed. "Never mind. Anyway, I hope that you like the present." He stood up and walked toward the door. "And again, thanks for running interference on that story. See you." He left the office.

Once the door closed behind DeWolfe, Phoebe exhaled. She shook her head, mumbling to herself. There was nothing like the subject of one Cole Turner to put her in a state of tension. One day, she would have to learn not to allow him, the topic of him, or even the image of him, get to her like this.

Phoebe glanced at her watch. Five twenty-four. Almost time to go home. She saved the material on her laptop computer and closed the lid shut. After dumping a few items into her purse - including DeWolfe's present, she gathered both her purse and laptop, and left the office.

* * * *

Forty minutes later, Phoebe entered the Halliwell manor and cried out, "Piper? Paige! I'm home!" Silence greeted her ears. "Hello? Is anyone home?"

Paige's figure appeared on the staircase. The two sisters greeted each other before Phoebe added, "Isn't Piper home?"

"Nah, she left a message," Paige answered. "She's at P3. Had to take Wyatt with her."

Phoebe blinked. "A baby at a nightclub?"

The younger woman shrugged. "I just got home, myself. And Leo isn't here. I guess she had no choice."

"Oh God!" Phoebe heaved a sigh and dumped her purse and laptop on the sofa, followed by her own body. "God, what a day!" You wouldn't believe what I had found out."

Paige strode toward the kitchen. "Piper has fixed dinner for us. Why don't you tell little sister all about it, while we eat." Phoebe followed. Nearly an hour later, the two sisters finished the last bites of their pot roast dinner. Paige sat back in her chair and sighed. "You know, you still haven't told me what was bothering you," she added. "In fact, you've barely said a word during the entire dinner. "What gives?"

After a moment's pause, Phoebe made her announcement. "Cole. He's Wolfie's lawyer."

"And?"

"Paige! Don't you get it?" Phoebe cried in frustration, "Cole is Wolfie's lawyer!"

Staring at Phoebe, as if the latter had lost her mind, Paige demanded, "Who in the hell is Wolfie?"

Patience, Phoebe told herself. She took a deep breath. "Wolfie is DeWolfe Mann. The BAY-MIRROR's top food columnist. He's the one . . ."

"Oh! The one who'll be doing the story on the Golden Horn!" Paige cried out. She paused. Frowned. "So what's the problem?"

The drama queen within Phoebe burst forth. "The PROBLEM? It's bad enough that both you and Cole are friends. But now I find out that he's the attorney of one of my co-workers. I mean, am I ever going to get him out of my life?"

A large sigh left Paige's mouth. She stood up and headed for the kitchen's island. "Oh God, Phoebe! You've got to be kidding me! I mean, who cares if Cole is this Wolfie's lawyer? What do you think he's trying to do? Use your friend to get to you?"

Phoebe squirmed with embarrassment. "No, I . . . Never mind." Paige reached for the cake holder and placed it on the table. Phoebe lifted the top, revealing a three-layer coconut cake. "Maybe you're right. Maybe I am making a big deal out of nothing."

"Or maybe you need to make some kind of closure with Cole." Paige's remark drew a dark look from Phoebe. Then she added quietly, "Or maybe not."

Phoebe said, "Speaking of Wolfie, he gave me a present, today. A little appreciation for convincing Jason to approve the Golden Horn story. I think I left it . . ." she stood up, ". . . in my purse. Wait, I'll be back." She rushed out of the kitchen, fetched her purse from the sofa, and fished the small package from inside. Then she returned to the kitchen. "Here it is. Isn't it nice?" Phoebe carefully unwrapped a package, revealing a small box. After opening it, she removed what looked like an antique perfume bottle. And at that moment, the vision struck.

She saw DeWolfe Mann inside an expensive apartment, facing his personal computer. She saw him stand up and head for the front door. The next flash revealed a man's hand reaching for DeWolfe. A knife appeared, its blade gleaming in the light. That same blade slashed across the columnist's throat, slitting it open. Blood gushed forth. The last thing Phoebe saw was DeWolfe's lifeless body, falling dead.

A gasp escaped her mouth. Dizziness overwhelmed the Charmed One and Phoebe's torso fell forward across the kitchen table. "Phoebe?" she heard Paige cry. "Phoebe!" She saw her younger sister's face hovering above her, before everything faded to black.

* * * *

"Phoebe?" Paige hovered over her sister's inert form and lightly patted the latter's cheek. "Phoebe, wake up!"

The older woman sat up with a gasp on her lips. "Wha . . .? What happened?"

"You went zombie on me, all of a sudden and then, passed out." Paige frowned. "That must have been one hell of a premonition."

"Oh God! Wolfie! I saw him get his throat cut!"

Paige peered closely at her sister. "By whom?"

Phoebe shook her head. "I didn't see. I only saw someone's hand holding a knife and slitting Wolfie's throat." She finally stood up. "We better get Piper."

"Why? Do we need the Power of Three on this?" Paige asked.

After a moment's pause, Phoebe shook her head. "I guess not. But we'll need Darryl." She started out of the kitchen.

The youngest Charmed One followed. "Wait a minute, Phoebe!" she cried out. "Do you even know where this Wolfie guy lives? How can Darryl meet us . . .?"

"Oh God!" Phoebe's shoulders sagged with defeat. "I don't know where Wolfie lives. And the paper's Personnel office should be closed by now."

Impatient, Paige suggested that they orb to DeWolfe Mann's apartment. "Orb there, save him and turn the guy trying to kill him, over to the police. Okay?"

"Yeah, but do you know where to . . .?"

Paige grabbed her older sister's arm. "Phoebe! I don't need to know where his address is! All I have to do is zoom in on his location. C'mon!" The two sisters immediately orbed out of the manor.

END OF PART 5

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE" - Behind the Scenes



"ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE": Behind the Scenes


Below is a gallery of photos featuring promotion shots and "behind the scenes" looks at the production of the 1969 James Bond film, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service":


































Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"LOST" - Kate Austen and Character Development




”LOST” - Kate Austen and Character Development

In a review of the ”LOST” Season Four episode - "Eggtown" (4.04) - someone named Entil made a curious comment about Kate Austen's character development. Entil said the following:

"Unfortunately, the focus on Kate and her supposed "mysterious" personality is a letdown. As luminous as the actress can be, the writers have spent more than three seasons on the character with little or no progress. Considering how many of the other prominent characters have been given substantial growth, Kate seemed stunted in comparison.

I am aware of the numerous complaints about Kate Austen's lack of growth and how her personality seemed to be wrapped around her choice between Jack Shephard and James "Sawyer" Ford as possible love interests. In fact, I have complained about it during the past two years. Aside from acting as occasional action girl in episodes like Season 2’s ”Maternity Leave”, Kate’s character seemed to revolved around Jack or Sawyer. Skate vs. Jate. And the sad thing is that the producers of ”LOST” seemed to have no intention of ending ”the love triangle from hell”. The reviewer, Entil, also discussed the questionable circumstances surrounding her guardianship of Aaron in the future:

"Whatever the case, Aaron is meant to be a part of Kate's overall redemption, or at least the most glaring opportunity. That plays into her agreement not to leave the state during her ten years of probation. She doesn't take full responsibility for her actions, but she does take a step in the right direction. It's unfortunate that this step is connected to decisions on the island that directly contradict any semblance of growth."

Frankly, I am a little confused on whether Kate's guardianship if Aaron is any proof of her growth as a character or merely an opportunity to avoid incarceration in prison. But overall, I cannot help but wonder if Kate is meant to represent something else. Considering that she is the only character that has remained completely stagnated after four seasons of ”LOST”, I cannot help but wonder if this is her fate. Is Kate being deliberately set up to be the only character that will face a dark future, due to an inability to grow as a character?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Obssessions" [PG-13] - Chapter 4



"OBSSESSIONS"


Part 4

Less than a minute before Cole had spotted them, Phoebe and Jason stood at the entrance of Morgan's dining room. "Thanks for joining me for lunch," the BAY-MIRROR's owner said. "Although I wish you had chosen another restaurant."



"Jason," Phoebe gently chided. "Just because this restaurant is owned by Olivia's family . . ."

Nodding, Jason admitted, "I know, I know! I'm letting her get to me, again." He sighed. "Besides, the reason I had invited you to lunch was because I wanted to tell you about her . . . and me. And I thought it would be best to do so away from the office."

"I understand." Phoebe gave her boyfriend's arm a reassuring squeeze. "And I'm glad that you finally wanted to talk." She and Jason followed the casually dressed maitre'd across the dining room. They were halfway to their destination, when a familiar voice cried out Phoebe's name.

"Phoebe!" She glanced to her left and spotted Darryl Morris waving at her. He sat inside a booth with Paul Margolin, Olivia and . . . Phoebe's heart fluttered out of control . . . and Cole. "Hey Phoebe," Darryl greeted as she and Jason approached the inspector's table. "How are you?" The other three stared at her.

Stifling the need to take flight, Phoebe responded with a wan smile, "I'm fine." She turned her attention to Darryl's lunch companions. "Paul, it's good to see you. Again. Olivia." And in an even less enthusiastic voice, she added, "Cole. Wha . . . what are you four doing here?"

The red-haired woman and Phoebe's ex gave her stiff nods. Paul Margolin merely stared at her - like she was a specimen under a microscope. Weird. Only Darryl responded with any kind of friendliness. "Celebrating!" he said. "I've been promoted to lieutenant."

"Hey! Congratulations!" Phoebe's smile became more genuine. Then she remembered her companion. "Oh, you all remember Jason Dean, right? Jason, I guess you already know Olivia and Cole. And this big handsome man over there," she said, pointing at Darryl, "is Darryl Morris - Olivia's partner. He's also an old friend of the family." Then she nodded at Paul. "And this is Paul Margolin. He's an . . . old friend of Leo's. And he's also an ADA."

Jason greeted both Darryl and Paul with friendly nods, deliberately ignoring Olivia and Cole. But his former girlfriend spoke up, anyway. "Jason, it's good to see you." A small smile appeared on Olivia's face. "Although, I am surprised to see you, here. I didn't think you would ever step foot inside a McNeill restaurant again, after we broke up."

The BAY-MIRROR's publisher grew red in the face. Phoebe gave his arm a reassuring squeeze. "I've decided to let bygones be bygones," he said with a stiff smile. Then, "Uh, well don't let Phoebe and me interrupt the celebration. We need to get going. Nice meeting all of you." He tugged at Phoebe's arm.

Ignoring the smirk on Olivia's lips, Phoebe said her final good-byes and with Jason, walked over to the table, where the maitre'd waited. Once the couple was seated, Phoebe shot a glance at Darryl's table. The new ADA seemed to be in a state of shock over something. Olivia seemed to be hovering over him with concern, while Cole regarded the whole scene with a mixture of annoyance and jealousy. Phoebe's chest grew heavy. Jealousy? Cole?

" . . . wasn't so bad," Jason said. "Seeing her again."

Realizing that her boyfriend was talking, Phoebe blinked. "Huh?"

"Olivia. Seeing her again wasn't so bad," Jason repeated. "Despite her little comment." He sighed. Heavily. "At least I didn't have some unpleasant little flashback. Like the last time."

Phoebe devoted her full attention to Jason. "I didn't realize that seeing her again would be so difficult for you. You really must have loved her."

Jason paused. "Love?" He shook his head. "It wasn't so much . . . I mean, I don't think I was ever in love with Olivia. Or she with me. Maybe I was infatuated with her. Olivia was . . . well, an exciting woman." He stared into nothingness. "I don't think I've ever met anyone like her."

"Oh?" Jealousy crept into Phoebe's voice.

Smiling, Jason continued, "Don't worry. I can easily say the same about you. In fact," he leaned closer, "I'm glad that you're nothing like her. One Olivia was enough to last a lifetime, thank you."

Phoebe leaned forward and covered one of Jason's hands with hers. "I hope this isn't your idea of a pick-up line." The pair shared a private laugh, before leaning back into their chairs. Phoebe glanced to her side, wondering if Darryl and the others had noticed her little private moment with Jason. She could see that Darryl had. Olivia and Paul seemed deep in conversation. And Cole . . . shot unhappy looks in their direction. Phoebe could not decide whether to be relieved about the latter. Or disappointed.

"About Olivia," she continued, "was being with her that difficult?"

Jason heaved another heavy sigh. "What can I say? She was exciting, smart, temperamental, amusing, cruel and perverse. All at once. I think she only saw me as a part time guy. And Olivia had a . . . well, she still has it, I think."

"Her what?" Phoebe asked.

"A talent for making me feel very small. Or an idiot." Jason paused. "You heard the comment she made to me about coming here. Like I said, she can be cruel."

Recalling Olivia's rant against the Halliwells over Cole last fall, Phoebe understood. Perfectly. That little conversation at one of the McNeills' Sunday brunches had left her feeling worse than an idiot. Almost criminal. And Paige's discovery about Cole and the Source had not helped.

Jason continued, "After two months of dating, I just couldn't deal with her crap any longer. And Olivia had grown tired of me. So, we mutually decided to break up."

"Hmm, I wish my marriage had ended like that," Phoebe muttered.

Sympathy gleamed in Jason's eyes. "Was it really that bad?"

Phoebe nodded. "Let me tell you about the horror that was Phoebe and Cole." Leaving out any references to the supernatural world, Phoebe spilled out her official version of the failed Halliwell-Turner union.

* * * *

Upon his return to his apartment, Nick commenced upon his plans to get rid of Bruce McNeill. First, he concocted an elixir made from the Angelica Root he had purchased at Ostera. Next, he formed a circle on the floor, using a white chord. Then he placed three black candles next to the circle, in equal distance. He created a circle outside the white chord, using more crushed protection herbs.

Nick lit the black candles, before stepping away from the circle. After taking several deep breaths to calm himself, he placed a smudge of the elixir mixture on his forehead. He finally placed his body on the floor, in a pentagram position - arms straight out and legs apart. Then he summoned the succubus in Italian.

For a few seconds, nothing happened. Nick recited the chant again. The air grew heavy. Gray smoke materialized in the middle of the circle, until it finally formed into a bi-pedal, demonic-looking creature with horns, a tail and . . . breasts. Breasts? Nick let out a gasp and sprung to his feet.

The succubus frowned. A very frightening sight for Nick. "Did you just summoned me?" she demanded in Italian. "Who are you?"

After a moment's hesitation, Nick stammered in English, "Uh, I'm . . . my name is N-Nick." He cleared his throat nervously. "Nicholas Marcano. I had sum . . . summoned you. But not for me," he quickly added. He peered harder at the demon. "Um, is that how you always look?"

The demonic form magically transformed into a beautiful, statuesque woman with long, curly black hair, soft sherry-brown eyes and a creamy complexion. "Is this better?" Now she spoke English, with an Italian accent.

Nick's eyes drank in the beautiful face and the curvaceous nude body. "Much better," he replied in a breathless tone. "What's . . . uh, what's your name?"

"Portia. Portia Della Scalla." She stepped forward. "So, are you ready to make love?"

Nick opened his mouth to say yes. Until he remembered what he was facing. Thank goodness for the protection herb on his forehead and on the floor. "No! I mean, I didn't summon you to have sex. I mean . . ." He shook his head, feeling slightly confused. "I did summon you to have sex. But not with me. With someone else, so that you can steal his soul."

"His?" A delicate brow formed an arch. "You want me to seduce someone else?"

"Yes." Nick sighed with relief. "His name is Bruce McNeill. And he's a witch. One of those Wiccans."

Portia tried to step out of the circle and encountered a force field. She pointed at the circle of herbs. "Do you mind? I do not want to stand here forever."

"Oh." Nick scrambled to sweep away the crushed herbs.

Portia made a second attempt to leave the circle. Succeeding, she walked over to the sofa and sat down. "Bruce McNeill," she murmured. "Why does that name sound familiar?" She looked at Nick. "If you want this Signor McNeill dead, I will require something in return."

"Huh?" Mindful of the intense pair of eyes upon him, the realization of the succubus' question struck Nick. "Oh. Yeah. Compensation." He paused. "Have you, um, ever heard of a Soma plant?"

Portia's eyes lit up. "Of course! A Hindu shrub. Cures diseases of all kinds. And grants the owner, immortality. Even a daemon such as myself will be immune from being vanquished. Where is this Soma plant?"

Nick shook his head. "Not so fast. First, you help me kill Bruce McNeill. Then I'll tell you were you can find the plant. I'll even help you find it."

A long pause followed. Nick tried to ignore the sherry-brown eyes contemplating him with such intensity. Don't look at her. Don't look . . .

"All right! I will seduce and kill this Bruce McNeill for you," Portia said with a huff. "Where can I find him?"

Nick rushed over to his desk and scribbled an address on his notepad. He ripped the top sheet from the pad and handed it over to Portia. "Uh, do you read English?"

An impatient sigh left Portia's mouth. "You mean to say that you have not figured that out, by now?" She snatched the piece of paper from Bruce. "Of course I read and write English! And by the way, I am familiar with San Francisco."

"Ah. Well. Then you should have no troubles." Nick hesitated, as he stole a surreptious glance at the succubus. "Uh, by the way, do you think you could find some clothes?"

* * * *

"A demon!" Paul's voice rang throughout the Halliwells' first floor. "I sat and had lunch with a demon, today! A demon who had married into your family, Leo! I can't believe that you had allowed a demon to spend time with your charges, let alone marry one of them!"

Leo took a deep breath and reached out for his charge. "Paul, calm down. Getting excited won't help. Phoebe told me that you had met Cole, today. I just didn't . . ."

"Did the Elders' Council know about him?" Paul demanded.

In one of those increasingly rare moments, Leo had found himself at home with his family, when Paul Margolin dropped by to pay a visit. It was nearly nine o'clock. Leo, Phoebe and Paige had just finished dinner. Baby Wyatt was upstairs, asleep. And Piper was at P3, supervising the club for tonight. No sooner had he stepped inside the manor, Paul demanded that Leo tell him everything about Cole.

"Yes, the Elders knew about him," Leo calmly replied. "How did you . . . how did you find out that Cole was . . .?"

Paul interrupted. " . . . a demon? The infamous Belthazor? Or the fact that my whitelighter had once worked with this guy? And said nothing when this demon married another charge? Who happened to be one of the Charmed Ones? My God, Leo! A demon? And now he's with another one of your charges!"

"Look, Olivia hasn't been one of Leo charges in years. And she and Cole aren't romantically involved," Paige added. Leo glared at her. "But I am keeping my fingers crossed." This time, Phoebe glared.

Paul merely regarded the youngest Charmed One with disbelief. "This doesn't bother you? Being associated with a notorious demon? I mean, this guy . . . I've heard about him! Belthazor was one of the Source's most notorious killers for nearly a century!"

Smiling, Paige replied, "If you had asked me this, four months ago, I would have said yes. Yeah, I was once bothered being associated with Cole. But not anymore."

"He ended up becoming the Source! The Source of All Evil!"

Paige calmly continued, "And we killed him. Only we didn't realize at the time that Cole had been possessed by the Source's essence."

"Po . . ." Paul shook his head. "Possessed? What do you mean?"

"Why are we answering your questions?" Paige demanded. "You don't know Cole. You don't even know us!"

Leo admonished his sister-in-law. "Paige! There's no need . . ."

"Look, I'm sorry if I come across as rude, but . . . you seemed to resume a lot without knowing what really happened," Paige said to Paul. "And to be honest, I see no reason why we have to explain ourselves to you."

An embarrassing silence filled the living room. Leo glanced at Paige, who seemed cool and slightly resentful toward the male witch. Who looked absolutely deflated by Paige's words. And poor Phoebe looked as if she wanted to crawl away somewhere and die. Leo began, "Maybe Paul was just concerned . . ."

"Concerned about what?" Paige demanded. "That his whitelighter might be under the influence of a demon? Or consorting with one? Or has this all to do with someone else?" She glared at Paul.

Every now and then, Leo would find himself wishing that Cole Turner had never entered their lives. Tonight was one of those moments. Taking a deep breath, he said, "Listen, I think we're all getting a little ahead of ourselves. All this over a half-demon, who is no longer involved with us."

A nervous laugh escaped Phoebe's mouth. "Thank goodness for that."

"Oh, I don't know about that." Paige gave Paul a pointed stare. "Cole is still in Olivia's life." Then she gave both Leo and Phoebe a defiant stare. "And in mine." She turned on her heels and marched upstairs.

Feeling embarrassed over the outburst, Leo shrugged his shoulders. Judging from Paul's outraged expression, the damage had been done.

* * * *

Portia Della Scalla materialized on the McNeills' front lawn. She gazed approvingly at the Colonial Spanish villa. Very nice, she thought. And very tasteful. Unlike most American homes. Portia harbored an opinion that the majority of Americans, including the very wealthy, were vulgarians.

Unbeknownst to Nick Marcano, Portia had heard of Bruce McNeill. She had also heard of Gweneth McNeill, as well. One world-renowned chef, and the other, an up-and-coming talent - and both came from a wealthy San Francisco family. During her previous visits to San Francisco, Portia had visited the famous Golden Horn restaurant on several occasions. She had no idea, however, that both mother and son were witches. Or that the illustrious McNeill family had anything to do with the supernatural world.

Closing her eyes, she could detect the presence of four men inside the house. Four. Portia heaved a frustrated sigh. Wonderful! How was she supposed to figure out where her intended victim slept? Thankfully, the Streghone had provided a photograph of this Bruce McNeill. Glancing at it, Portia could not help but admire the subject's handsome face. Very handsome. And the perfect man to act as progenitor to a powerful adamitici, if the Streghone was correct about Signor McNeill being a powerful witch. She pressed one hand against her belly and sighed with content. This would be the perfect time for her to breed.

Portia transformed herself into gray smoke and wafted toward the villa. A second later, she found her solid body being flung back on the lawn. Damn them! The McNeills must have cast some kind of protection spell around the house. Damn! Now how was she supposed to get to the witch?

* * * *

"Is he dead?" Nick asked, after Portia returned to his apartment. "Have you done it?"

The dark-haired succubus rolled her eyes, contemptuously. "And I thought you knew something about us. We have to mate with our victims several times before we can take their souls completely."

A hopeful Nick asked, "Well, have you begun? Have you, uh . . .?"

"Mated with him? Had sex?" Portia sunk onto the sofa, pouting. "No. Someone cast a protection spell on the house. I could not enter."

"Damn!" Nick began to suspect that this whole scheme to get rid of Bruce might be a big mistake. Maybe he should give up. Or consider another way to stop the upcoming McNeill-Bowen nuptials.

Portia's bell-like voice cut into his thoughts. "You are not changing your mind, are you?

Nick stared at her. "Huh? Uh, no. No, I . . ."

"Because I do not relish the thought that I had been summoned for nothing." Her brown eyes flashed with intimidation. Then they softened. "Of course, I do not have to seduce Signor McNeill in his bedroom. I can always lure him here. Or to some other place."

Some other place. The words reverberated inside Nick's mind. Of course. All it took was to find a way for Portia to get close to Bruce.

The succubus continued, "Why did you not tell me that you wanted Bruce McNeill dead? The Bruce McNeill from the Golden Horn restaurant?"

"You've heard of him?"

Nodding, Portia continued, "Of course. I may be a succubus, but I have moved about in the mortal world for a long time. Why, I remember when the Golden Horn first opened." She heaved a heartfelt sigh. "Ah, bellisima! The food was exquisite!"

"So, you don't mind that I want him dead?"

With a shrug, Portia added, "Why should I? He is just another potential victim to me. And there are other five-star restaurants. The culinary world will not suffer from his death."

Nick glanced shrewdly at her. "Say, do you know much about the . . . uh, culinary world? Or anything about professional cooking? Maybe we can find a way to get you a job . . ."

"I do not cook!" The succubus stated most adamantly. "I dine."

Okay. "Well, what have you done, besides fucked a lot of men?"

Searing him with a dark glare, Portia replied angrily, "I have worked in the mortal world, before!" Her delicate nose rose an inch higher. "I once worked as a secretary at a trading firm in Marsailles, forty years ago. I ended up seducing the owner. And back in the late 1880s, I was married to a Bavarian count. I also worked for an Italian fashion magazine in the 1970s. As a writer, I might add. And while working as a reporter for a Quebec newspaper, I had seduced a newspaper magnate. And I . . ."

Reporter? "Wait! Did you say . . . writer?" Nick asked. "You can write?"

Portia's eyes radiated with pride. "Of course. Writing happens to be one of my natural talents . . . aside from seduction. Why, back in the 1980s, I wrote a series of bestselling novels. Romantic fiction. They were very popular. Even with the demonic world. Perhaps you've heard of them? There was . . ."

"You're a writer!"

"That is what I said!" The succubus stared at Nick, as if he had grown a second head. "Haven't you been listening to me?"

The Streghone shook his head. "No, you don't understand. You're a writer. And I've heard that Bruce McNeill will be interviewed by some food columnist from the BAY-MIRROR."

Portia frowned. "The BAY-MIRROR. Is this some kind of newspaper?"

Nick nodded. "Yes. And since you're a writer, maybe we can find a way for you to hold the interview, instead."

Comprehension dawned in Portia's sherry-brown eyes. "Ah yes! I understand! But first, we must get rid of this columnist. Do you know his or her name?"

Nick pondered on the question for a moment, recalling Paige Matthews' words. "Wolf, something. Wait! DeWolfe. DeWolfe Mann!"


END OF PART 4

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"Crossroads of the Force" [PG-13] - Chapter One



"CROSSROADS OF THE FORCE"


CHAPTER ONE

8BBY - CORUSCANT

The announciator inside her private office distracted Senator Zoebeida Dahlma from her work. She glanced up and said, "Enter."

Seconds later, a petite, dark-haired woman dressed in royal blue entered the Maldarian senator's office. "Pardon me, Senator Dahlma, but you have a communiqué from Senator Mon Mothma."

Returning her gaze to the data pad in her hand, Senator Dahlma replied, "Upload it into my computer."

The younger woman hesitated. "It's a . . . private communiqué."

Zoebeida glanced up. She noticed the small holoemitter in her aide's open palm. A sigh left her mouth. "I see. Give it to me." The aide, Igraine Colbert, handed the holoemitter over to the senator. "Thank you, Igraine. You may go."

Igraine nodded and left the office. Although the twenty-six year-old aide knew about Zoebeida's activities with the barely formed Rebel Alliance, the senator made sure that she remained ignorant of any details . . . in case the Empire ever learned of Zoebeida's secret activities.

Now alone, the senator placed the holoemitter on her desk and switched it on. Mon Mothma's statuesque figure illuminated above the device. "Greetings Zoebeida," the Chandrilian began. "A special conference will be held at the Hotel Grand in Worlport, on Ord Mantell, to discuss the Alliance's future agenda. Because this is a special meeting, Bail Organa, Garm Iblis and I have decided it would be best not to hold this meeting here on Coruscant. If you plan to participate, please respond to either Bail or myself within the next twenty-four hours. I hope to hear from you soon." The hologram disappeared.

Zoebeida leaned back into her chair and sighed. A special meeting for the Rebel Alliance? In reality, no such alliance really existed. At least not yet. The Maldarian senator had originally been amongst the Delegation of 2000 - a group of senators who had opposed Palpatine's growing power around the end of the Clone Wars. The Delagation had presented a petition to the former Chancellor that demanded he find a peaceful resolution to the war and give up his emergency powers. Instead, a conflict with the Jedi led Palpatine to declare himself emperor and order the destruction of the Jedi Order. Many who had signed the petition ended up either killed, imprisoned or forced into exile. Of course, there were those senators like herself, Organa and Mothma, who managed to elude Palpatine's retribution by removing their names from the petition and continuing their opposition against Palpatine, a secret.

Padme Amidala, along with other senators like Solipo Yeb and Garm Bel Iblis had ended up in exile. Zoebeida recalled that the discovery of a fugitive Jedi Knight on Andalia had led to the Imperial annexation of Solipo's homeworld. And poor Garm had nearly been killed by Palpatine's troops - a fate that his family had failed to avoid - because of the Corellian's past open opposition against the former Chancellor-turned-Emperor. But Zoebeida could not fathom Padme Amidala's reason for evading the Empire. The former Naboo senator had once been Palpatine's protégée. And Naboo's ties to the Empire seemed free of any conflict with its former Emperor - despite the mysterious death of Queen Apiliana, some nine years ago. What exactly had led Amidala to fake her own death?

If this meeting on Ord Mantell proved to be a major one for the Alliance, then it seemed possible that Organa, Mothma and Iblis had finally discovered a way to unite many individual factions and resistance cells now fighting against the Empire. Zoebeida wondered if Amidala and Yeb will be present. Both former senators possessed connections to various resistance cells in the Outer Rim Territories.

Zoebeida finally erased Mothma's message from the holoemitter. Then she replaced it with one of her own: "Greetings Mon. I am more than happy to accept the invitation to attend this conference. Please provide me with the details, so that I can make arrangements. Thank you." She ended the recording and summoned Igraine. The younger woman entered the office and Zoebeida handed over the holoemitter. "Return this to Senator Mothma. And if you're unable to find her, give it to Senator Organa of Alderaan. Make sure that you give it to either one of those two . . . personally."

"Yes, Senator Dahlma," the pretty young woman dutifully replied with a nod, before leaving the office. Zoebeida remained behind her desk and contemplated upon the upcoming conference. Has the day for an organized resistance against the Empire finally arrived? The Maldarian senator sincerely hoped so.

-------

LE YER, ABREGADO-RAE


"Happy Birthday!"

The handsome 21 year-old Corellian broke into a wide grin, as his partner, along with several friends and acquaintances sang to him inside a private room at the Triple Nova Casino. As the singing continued, an attractive, blue-skinned Twi'lek placed a Pyollian cake with 21-lit candles in front of him. Once the singing ceased, everyone broke into applause.

"Congratulations, Han. Today, you are a man." The 33 year-old Anakin Skywalker also grinned, as his younger partner shot him a disbelieving stare. "What did I say?"

Han grumbled, "Nothing." He blew out the candles and more applause followed.

The Twi'let, a fellow pilot and smuggler by the name of Vi'dal Mira, leaned down to plant a light kiss on the Corellian's cheek. "So, what did you wish for?" she asked.

"I believe that my wish had already been granted," Han replied slyly. "About two years ago, on Ord Montell." He shot a meaningful glance at Vi'dal, who smirked.

Anakin understood the meaning behind Han's words. Nearly two years ago, Han had suffered a setback from a serious romance and turned to Vi'dal for one night with the Twi'lek smuggler. Fortunately, nothing serious had evolved from the brief affair. With a straight face and his tongue firmly tucked in his cheek, Anakin commented, "Was that the extent of your birthday wish? Vi'dal?"

Han nearly snickered out loud. Vi'dal glared at the wide-eyed Anakin. "And what did you mean by that, Captain Horus? Don't you feel that one night with me would make a worthy birthday wish?" Set Horus happened to be the name that Anakin used as an alias to avoid Imperial detection.

"Well . . ." Anakin began, as he allowed his eyes to sweep appreciatively over the Twi'lek's voluptuous figure. ". . . I have yet to experience such a night to make that kind of judgment."

Vi'dal eased next to Anakin with hands on her hips. "I would be happy to make arrangements for such an experience. Believe me, you will not be unsatisfied."

"My birthday had passed two months ago."

"Irrevelant."

Anakin allowed one of his brows to arch. "I beg your pardon?"

Vi'dal continued in a seductive voice, "I don't care whether it's your birthday or not. Why should you?"

Both the human and the Twi'lek regarded each other for what seemed like a very long moment to Anakin. He almost sensed an electrical charge between himself and the female smuggler. Aside from his brief period as a Sith Lord, Anakin has always tried to be honest regarding his personal character. He could not deny his attraction toward the beautiful Vi'dal. But he found it difficult to become romantically involved with other females - despite being a widower for the past eleven years. The memory of Padme and what he had done to her became a stumbling block to any possible relationship with another woman - whether serious or not.

Anakin inhaled deeply and gave Vi'dal his most charming smile. "To be honest, I don't . . ." He paused briefly. Then, "How about another time? When the time is right?"

Disappointment flashed briefly in Vi'dal's large brown eyes before she returned his smile. "I look forward to that moment, Set Horus."

"If you find it hard to wait for Set," a fourth voice began, "there's always me." Anakin suppressed an urge to roll his eyes in disgust. The voice belonged to Mako Spence, a fellow smuggler from Corellia.

Vi'dal shot a contemptuous glance at the handsome, bearded pilot. "I'm not that desperate," she retorted bitingly. "If you're longing for company tonight, I suggest that you pay a visit to the Blue Orchid. I'm sure that Umekei Sun would be more than happy to see you." Vi'dal spoke of Mako's regular patronage of the spaceport's most prosperous pleasure house. The older Corellian's face turned scarlet.

Anakin smirked at Mako's discomfort. He never really liked the Corellian. Nor did he see any reason to pretend otherwise and be a hypocrite. Besides, even Han - who happened to be friends with Mako - smirked. "Anyone for a piece of cake?" the younger Corellian asked. "I'm starved."

--------

Nearly a half hour later, the two partners strolled out of the private room and made their way across the casino's floor. "Not a bad haul, huh?" Han indicated the bag filled with birthday presents. "Even Bascko gave me power converters. And I didn't think that he liked me."

"Of course he does," Anakin reassured the younger man. Bascko likes those who don't bother to agree to everything he says." Bascko happened to be a local merchant and a Verpine from the Roche asteroid belt. Both Han and Anakin were amongst his regular clients.

A brief silence followed before Han surreptiously added, "Are you referring to Mako?"

Contempt flickered in Anakin's blue eyes. "I don't recall Bascko ever giving him a birthday present."

Han remained silent. He viewed Mako Spince as a very close friend. Scion of a prominent senator from Corellia, Mako had ended up expelled from the Imperial Academy due to a dangerous prank he had pulled. Disgraced and estranged from his family, Mako used his trust fund and a few connections from the Academy to become a smuggler. With Mako, Han had someone with whom he could enjoy nights at popular establishments like the Triple Nova Casino. Anakin might be a brother and mentor to him, but the former Jedi had never developed the habit of frequenting the galaxy's many pleasure spots on a regular basis. And although Anakin had never protested against his friendship with Mako, his partner never did warm up to the older Corellian.

In an attempt to change the subject, Han asked, "Why didn't you take up Vi'dal's offer?"

"What?" Anakin looked startled by Han's sudden change of the subject.

"Vi'dal," Han repeated. "Why didn't you take up her offer? She likes you. And you obviously like her."

One of Anakin's brows arched. "Obviously?"

Han rolled his eyes. "I'm not blind, Anakin. I saw the way you two were staring at each other, tonight. I mean . . . why deny yourself?"

A long, suffering sigh left Anakin's mouth. "Look, I'm just not that interested in Vi'dal . . . in that way. Yes, she's a beautiful woman, but I only think of her as a friend. Nothing else."

"Uh-huh." The two men passed one of the gaming tables, where they spotted a Rodian yelling with glee. Han added, "So, what you're trying to tell me is that your devotion to your old hokey religion has nothing to do with this decision to act like a monk."

Anakin shot a dark look at the younger man. "Since when did my Jedi beliefs become a hokey religion? Since Ylesia, two years ago?"

The mention of Ylesia brought back painful memories for Han. While Anakin was on Dantooine for a retreat, two years ago, Han did a private smuggling job for the Tatooine gangster, Jabba the Hutt that led him to a tropical planet called Ylesia. There, he discovered that a fellow Corellian had escaped an arranged engagement to join a religious cult operated by the Besadii clan. Han promptly fell in love with the beautiful, red-haired Bria Tharen. After exposing the Besadii's cult as a hoax to Bria, he helped her escape Ylesia with guns blazing and a sack full of precious antiquities that belonged to one of the cult's high priests. The pair eventually made their way to Coruscant via stops at Corellia and Togoria. There, Bria eventually abandoned the love-struck Han, before the latter eventually made his way to Dantooine . . . and Anakin.

"My trip to Ylesia has nothing to do with my opinion of your old order," Han firmly retorted. He added in a mumbling voice, "I've just never been the religious type. That's all." Then his voice reasserted itself. "Besides, I only wanted to know why you won't consider the time of day with Vi . . ."

Anakin interrupted, "Because I'm not ready for another relationship, Han. At least one with the opposite sex. And I don't thin I'll ever be. I'm j . . ." He sighed, as a faraway look gleamed in his eyes. "Maybe I'm not one for casual relationships."

It never ceased to amaze Han that despite being a good twelve years younger than Anakin, his experience with women has been more extensive. "Okay," the Corellian said, "I can accept . . ." Han broke off, as a third figure rushed toward the pair.

"Han! Set!" Mako Spince halted before the two men, breathing heavily. The casino's fluorescent lights highlighted his light-brown hair. "I need to speak to both of you."

Han shrugged his shoulders. "So speak."

"Not here." Mako glanced around the casino, as if expecting to be overheard by an eavesdropper. "Outside." He led the two partners outside, until he halted next to a marble balustrade that overlooked a wide, blue canal filled with boats of all kinds. Le Yer boasted a series of water canals that made the entire city very popular with tourists and other visitors.

Anakin brusquely added, "Okay, we're alone. What do you want?"

Mako took a deep breath. "I have a business proposition. This business . . ." He paused dramatically. "Actually, he's a Quarren named Sekka Verdu. It turns out that he's a . . . representative of Garulla the Hutt and he needs pilots to fly a large shipment of Glitterstim from Kessel to Maldore."

"Glitterstim?" Anakin frowned.

An exasperated sigh left Mako's mouth. "C'mon Horus! Don't tell me that a successful smuggler like you has something against shipping spice! Haven't you done it before?"

"Of course I have!" Anakin retorted. "But you're talking about the Kessel Run! It's heavily patrolled by Imperial ships and the Empire has grown less tolerant of spice during the last few years."

Mako nodded. "I understand. That's what I had said to Verdu. But we're talking about a large shipment of spice worth at least two million credits. Verdu is willing to pay one hundred thousand credits to fly it to Maldore. That's fifty thousand for me and fifty thousand for the both of you."

Han frowned at his friend. He and Anakin would have to split one-half of the fee? Not if he could help it. "Why can't we split the one hundred thousand in three ways?" he demanded.

"Because three starships won't be involved," Mako coolly replied. "Fifty thousand per ship. It's only fair. I would have made the run myself, but my cargo hold isn't big enough for the entire shipment. I need another starship to conclude the deal."

Han saw the word "no" form on Anakin's lips. Fifty thousand credits would greatly make up for the money they had recently spent on repairs for the Javian Hawk. "Just a minute," he said, taking Anakin by surprise. "Uh . . . Set and me need to discuss this." He drew the older man aside.

"You're not serious about this, are you?" Anakin immediately demanded in a low voice.

Han shot back under his breath, "C'mon Anakin! We need the money. Those repairs for the Hawk took a lot out of our account. Besides, what do you have against this deal?"

"Simple. It was proposed by Mako. He's part of the deal."

The younger man shot back, "Look, I realize that you don't like the guy - why, I don't know - but this is a sweet deal. And Mako hasn't done nothing . . ."

"Anything," Anakin immediately corrected.

With a sigh, Han re-phrased his last word. “Like I said, he hasn’t done anything to give us a reason to distrust him.” He paused. “Unless you know something . . .”

“No, I didn’t,” Anakin snapped. Looking defeated, he shook his head. “I know I’m going to regret this, but okay. I’m willing to accept Spince’s offer.”

Relief filled Han’s mind. “Great!” he crowed. Then he returned to mako. “We’ll do it. As for the fee . . . that hundred thousand credits have to be divided three ways. We’ll all be taking the risk, no matter how many ships are involved.”

Mako looked slightly taken aback. “Wait a minute. I mean . . . I’m the one had approached you about this deal. I think . . .”

“Take it or leave it,” Han insisted. “Or find a new partner.”

The older Corellian sighed. Han deduced from that sigh that Mako had been unable to find another pilot to accompany him on this venture. “All right. We’ll split the money three ways. By the way, I suggest that we all leave for Kessel, tomorrow morning.”

“See you tomorrow, then.” Han watched his friend walk back into the casino. Then he approached Anakin. “The deal is on.”

Doubt flickered in the older man’s eyes. “I only hope that we won’t end up regretting this.”


END OF CHAPTER ONE

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Obssessions" [PG-13] - Chapter 3



"OBSSESSIONS"


Part 3

Inspector Darryl Morris sat opposite Captain McPherson, inside the latter's office. He stared in silent shock, as the older man revealed some news. "Uh, could you . . . could you repeat that again, Captain?" he mumbled. Had he heard right?

"I said," McPherson's deep voice rumbled, "that you have received a promotion." He tossed a badge over to Darryl. "Congratulations, Lieutenant Morris."

Numbly, Darryl nodded. "Thanks . . . Captain. Uh," his partner's face flashed in his mind, "what about Olivia? Will she . . .?"

"No, she wasn't in line for a promotion." McPherson leaned forward. "But she will continue working with you. If you want. You'll be heading your own task force. One that investigates the more . . . difficult cases."

Darryl had a pretty good idea what kind of difficult cases he would be handling. Those of the supernatural kind. The freaky cases. He sighed. And wondered if this meant he would end up spending the rest of his career as a lieutenant.

McPherson cut into Darryl's thoughts. "About your unit . . . McNeill will be part of it. As sergeant, she'll be your second-in-command. The others include Scott Yi, Marcus Anderson and Carmen Trujillo. The task force goes into effect at the beginning of next month."

Nodding, Darryl continued, "Got it. Anything else?"

"One last thing. Just received word from the DA's Office. There will be a new ADA assigned to the DiMatteo case. Someone named Paul Margolin from Buffalo. From what I hear, he's good. You and McNeill will be seeing a lot of him over the next month or so. Other than that," McPherson smiled, "congratulations."

Darryl returned the captain's smile. "Thanks." Then he rose from his chair and left McPherson's office, clutching his new badge. The first place he headed for was Olivia's desk. "I've got some news," he announced.

The red-haired woman glanced up, smiling. "Is it about your new promotion?" she asked, taking his breath away.

"How did you . . .?"

Olivia's smile widened. "A little tip I had received from Hugo." She referred to one of the precinct's clerks. Olivia stood up and enveloped Darryl into a bear hug. "Congratulations, partner!"

"Yeah, thanks," Darryl said, feeling a touch dazed.

"Since we don't have anything urgent at the moment,"Olivia continued, "why don't we celebrate with a lunch at Morgan's? Or better yet, dinner tonight at the Golden Horn? You, me, Sheila and . . ."

A voice interrupted. "Excuse me, are you Inspector Darryl Morris?"

Darryl turned around and faced a very attractive-looking man with chestnut hair and hazel green eyes. "Yeah. May I help . . .?"

"Paul?" Olivia's outburst took Darryl by surprise. She grabbed the stranger's hand and shook it. I wondered when we would see each other, again. You must be here about the DiMatteo case. Darryl, this is Paul Margolin, the new ADA. He's . . ."

"Yeah, I know," Darryl added. "He's the new prosecutor for the DiMatteo case. The captain had just told me. Nice to meet you." He held out his hand.

Margolin shook Darryl's hand. "Same here. By the way, congratulations on your promotion. I overheard."

Olivia continued, "Darryl here, is the only one who knows I'm a W-I-T-C-H. If you know what I mean."

Astounded by his partner's revelation, Darryl stared at her. "Wait a minute! He knows that you're a," he added in sotto voice, "a witch? Does that mean Mr. Margolin, here, is also one? How did you two . . .?"

Olivia grabbed her partner's arm. "I'll explain it during lunch, Darryl."

Before she and Darryl could leave, a fourth figure appeared before the trio. "Explain what?" Cole Turner asked.

* * * *

Thank goodness he had called in sick, today. This gave Nick the opportunity to not only summon the succubus, but also prepare some kind of protection for himself. Protection that called for some Angelica Root. Knowing that Barbara usually went to lunch around one o'clock, Nick headed for Ostera's around a half hour, before noon. He found the shop's two assistants helping customers with their purchases. Nick drifted toward one of the shelves and began his search for the root.

One minute later, Nick overheard Paige bid the last customer, good-bye. He continued his search, until a voice behind him asked, "What are you looking for?" It was Paige.

Nick hesitated before he answered, "Oh nothing in particular. Just some Angelica Root, if you have any."

"Hmmm." Paige searched the shelves for the herb in question. Nick followed closely behind. However, the search ended in failure. "Sorry Nick. Looks like I couldn't find any. Hey Maddy?" she called to the other assistant, "could you check the shelves again for some Angelica Root? I'll be in the stockroom."

While Paige headed for the stockroom, Nick and Madeline Oser, the shop's other assistant, continued the search for the Angelica Root. He asked Maddy if Barbara was in today. Before the young woman could answer, Paige returned, along with the person in question, beside her. "We found it!" Paige crowed in a triumphant voice. "Actually, Barbara found it." She handed the package to Nick. "Here you go - one jar of Angelica Root. What do you need it for? A protection potion?"

Caught off guard by Paige's question, Nick hesitated. Then he answered, "Uh, no . . . actually . . . yeah. Yeah, it's for a protection . . . potion."

"Protection from what?" Maddy asked. The youngest of Ostera's staff, she was a pretty, dark-haired twenty-three year-old who had recently graduated from college.

Nick stared at her. "Huh? Oh, uh . . . I'm trying to create this new potion." He paused, until an idea came to him. "A . . . a traveling potion. A strong one." Again he paused. With all eyes upon him, he felt like an idiot. Or that something was wrong with him. "And I need a protection spell . . . uh, potion . . . just in case something goes . . . wrong." Desperate to change the subject, he asked Barbara what she was doing in the storeroom.

"Checking the Internet on my plant," she answered. "You know, the one we told you about."

"The Soma plant that your friend gave you, last Friday? The one that warlock was after?"

Barbara nodded. "Yeah. Well, I finally learned something about it." According to the blond-haired witch, the Soma plant happened to be a shrub from Hindu mythology. Its leaves not only cured diseases of all kinds, but also granted immortality. "Which is probably why that warlock was after it."

"At least you won't have to worry about a demon coming after it," Paige added. "Especially since they're already immortal." Silence filled the shop. Everyone smiled at Paige. Even in his nervous state, Nick could not help but smile at the Charmed One's naivety. "What?" she demanded. "Did I say something wrong?"

Barbara patted her shoulder. "No, it's just that not all of us believe that daemons are completely immortal. I mean, yes they have very long life spans and cannot be killed by . . . say, a bullet. But even something ordinary like a knife or sword can kill them. In my book that does not make them immortal."

"Oh."

"Of course, it's only my opinion. And the opinions of others. We all have our different interpretations." Barbara sighed. "Also, the last thing anyone want is any magical being becoming immune to any kind of death . . . supernatural or otherwise. That's why I have the plant at Bruce's house. His family is strong enough to protect it."

While the others continued to discuss the Soma plant, Nick allowed his mind to wander. Or to be more accurate, contemplate upon what he had just heard. Soma plant. Immortality. Perhaps this plant might turn out to be the perfect bargaining unit to use with the succubus.

"Oh! Hey!" Paige cried out, interrupting Nick's thoughts. "Speaking of Bruce, did you hear the news? The BAY-MIRROR columnist, DeWolfe Mann, will be interviewing him and Mrs. McNeill for an article on the Golden Horn. You know, for its 25th anniversary. Phoebe told me."

Hip-hip-hooray, Nick thought sourly. The 'Golden Man' strikes again. He could not care less about Bruce McNeill or any other McNeill's stroke of good luck. Especially since the bastard will not be around long enough to enjoy it. Hopefully.

* * * *

Four people gathered inside a booth at Morgan's to celebrate one Inspector Darryl Morris' promotion to lieutenant. One person too many, as far as Cole was concerned.

After learning about Darryl's promotion from Olivia, Cole had volunteered to treat the two partners to a celebration lunch at Morgan's - the McNeill family's second restaurant. An unpleasant surprise awaited him upon arriving at the police station. A surprise in the form of a handsome, chestnut-haired man exchanging smiles with Olivia. One glance at the pair and an uncomfortable feeling struck Cole that this burgeoning friendship could easily develop into something more serious. He saw fascination in the ADA's eyes and interest in Olivia's.

Cole had to struggle to maintain his emotions, when Olivia introduced him Paul Margolin. Who turned out to be the newly hired Assistant District Attorney. New ADA, huh? Cole would have laughed at the irony, if he was not feeling on edge at the moment. He received a bigger shock when Olivia revealed that Margolin happened to be a witch. One of Leo's charges, whom she had just met last night. He finally understood why the whitelighter's dinner invitation had not been extended to him.

"Paul had just moved from Buffalo," Olivia explained with a smile. "He was a . . . a public prosecutor. Right?" She directed her last word to the New Yorker.

Margolin returned Olivia's smile. "Right."

Cole's lips formed an arch smile. "No kidding," he commented with a slight sardonic tone. "And now you're an ADA. So what made you decide to move here to San Francisco?"

"I heard about the new position of ADA," Margolin replied. "Through a friend."

"A friend, huh? Leo?"

Darryl frowned at Cole. "How would Leo know about job openings in the DA's Office?"

Cole responded with a shrug. "Well, since Leo happens to be the only person that Mar . . . uh, Paul knew here in Frisco, I simply made the connection."

Paul quickly added, "Actually, I heard about it through another friend."

Silence enveloped the booth. A waitress approached to take orders. After she left, Olivia said to Margolin, "Speaking of the DA's Office, did you know that Cole used to be a ADA? About two-and-a-half years ago?"

One of Margolin's brows lifted out of curiosity. "Really? Why did you leave?" he asked Cole. "Better job offer?"

Cole replied coolly, "Out of necessity. Actually, I had no choice. The Charmed Ones had discovered that I was a daemon sent by the old Triad to kill them."

More silence followed. Cole noted with pleasure that Margolin's eyes grew wide with shock. A sigh left Darryl's mouth and Olivia glared at the half-daemon. "Um," the new ADA began nervously, "did you just say . . .?"

". . . that I'm a daemon?" Cole finished. "Yeah. Actually, half-daemon. My father was a mortal. But the reason I really left was due to the fact that I had failed to kill Phoebe and her sisters, and killed the Triad, instead. So, I ended up on the run from the Source's zoltars." He paused, wearing an innocent expression - and relishing the witch's discomfort. "What? Didn't Leo and the others tell you about me?"

Margolin's mouth merely hung open in silence. Then he turned to Olivia and Darryl. "Um, did you two . . .? I mean, how long have you kn . . .?"

Olivia immediately replied, "Since I first met Cole, five months ago. He had saved me from a warlock. And Darryl has known him longer."

The new police lieutenant shot his partner a resentful look. "Yeah, I've known about Cole, ever since the Halliwells first found out that he was a de . . . a half-demon."

"Belthazor," Cole added, barely containing a smirk. "I was known as Belthazor. You know, one of the Source's top assassins. To make a long story short, I ended up helping the Charmed Ones, lost my powers, got possessed by the Source's essence and ruled the Underworld for a few months. Then the Halliwells killed me, I acquired new powers to escape the Wasteland and now I'm back. With new powers. I'm sure that Leo could fill in the details."

Margolin responded with a numb nod. "So, uh . . . Leo and his family . . . they know about you? I mean, they . . . worked with you . . . even . . ."

"Well, yes," Cole answered. "I was also married to the middle sister. Phoebe. Didn't last very long."

This time, the ADA remained silent. He reached for his glass of water. Took a few gulps. "I don't . . ." Margolin took a deep breath. "This is . . . all so, um . . . interesting."

Cole's pleasure in Margolin's discomfort soured, as he watched Olivia regard the other man with concerned eyes. "Paul? Are you okay? Would you like me to explain everything?"

"I guess I better talk to Leo," Margolin said. Cole looked away in disgust. The man was an experienced witch, for crying out loud! Surely he had been taught to expect the unexpected? And now here he was, freaking out over meeting a half-daemon.

To avoid the sickening scene unfolding between Olivia and Margolin, Cole's gaze turned away and swept over the restaurant's dining room. He spotted a familiar pair weaving their way between tables. A knot formed in his stomach, as he recognized Phoebe and her newest paramour - Jason Dean. Oh shit!


END OF PART 3

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Favorite JAMES BOND Action Sequences

Favorite JAMES BOND Action Sequences

What are your five (or less) favorite Bond action sequences in the different categories listed below?



1. Favorite Battle Sequence
a. Battle on Soviet airbase (TLD)
b. Battle underneath volcano (YOLT)
c. Battle inside heroin processing plant (FYEO)
d. Gypsy camp battle (FRWL)
e. Battle at Piz Gloria (OHMSS)




2. Favorite Chase Sequence (car, foot, boat, etc.)
a. Foot chase in Madagascar (CR)
b. Ski chase on Piz Gloria (OHMSS)
c. Ski chase in Cortina (FYEO)
d. Bike/helicopter chase in Vietnam (TND)
e. Car chase from Czechoslovakia to Austria (TLD)




3. Favorite Hand-to-Hand Fight Sequence
a. Bond vs. Trevelyan (GE)
b. Bond/Bouvier vs. Dairo and thugs (LTK)
c. Bond vs. Obanno (CR)
d. Jinx vs. Miranda (DAD)
e. Bond vs. Largo (TB)




4. Favorite Stunt Sequence
a. Bond and Necros fight while hanging from plane (TLD)
b. Bond parachute fight with thug and Jaws (MR)
c. Bond and Wai Lin’s escape from Carver’s office (TND)
d. Car jump in Thailand (TMWTGG)
e. Bond parachute from cliff’s edge (TSWLM)




5. Favorite One-on-One Gunplay Sequence
a. Bond shoots it out with Soviet troops (OP)
b. Bond shoots it out with Gettler & men (CR)
c. Dr. Kaufman’s death (TND)
d. Bond shoots it out with Whittaker (TLD)
e. Professor Dent’s death (DN)


What are your favorites?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"INTO THE WEST" (2005) Photo Gallery



Below is a gallery of photos from "INTO THE WEST", the award winning 2005 miniseries, produced by Steven Spielberg:


"INTO THE WEST" (2005) Photo Gallery