Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"A Family Affair" [PG-13] - 5/8




"A FAMILY AFFAIR"

CHAPTER FIVE

Jack McNeill summoned his assistant. "Sophie, I need you to reach Chan Wei Ku for me, please. And transfer the call to me."

"Yes, Mr. McNeill," Sophia replied. A minute later, she added, "Mr. Chan is on Line 11."

After thanking his assistant, Jack picked up the line. "Hello? Wei? How are you? It's Jack McNeill."

"Jack! It's good to hear from you." Chan Wei Ku happened to be the owner of an herbal shop in Chinatown. Jack had received occasional help from him in the past. Wei's family had emigrated from Canton to San Francisco, when the Communists took over China in 1949. His Chinese-born friend had been five years old at the time. He and Jack first met at Stanford University during the mid-1960s, when both discovered that the other was a magick practitioner . . . and took martial arts lessons from the same teacher. Unlike Jack, who became a Wiccan witch, Wei became a Taoist priest.

After a brief period of small talk, the two friends began to discuss business. "I had received a message from you," Jack said. "About the Soma plant. You have some good news for me?"

"I don't know if this is good news, or not," Wei replied. "After your trip to that temple in London, I've been racking my brains. There is this Hindu archakar I had met in Singapore, three years ago. A priest. His name Sri Amal Sharma and he's part of this order located in Sri Lanka. Perhaps I can contact him and tell him about your situation."

Jack replied, "I would greatly appreciate it. One last thing Wei. You remember my daughter's friend, don't you? Cole Turner?"

A pause followed before Wei replied, "Oh yes. Belthazor. I remember him. He was most helpful with getting my cousin a job at his firm. Hmmm, I never thought I would be grateful to a daemon."

"Well, this daemon has an uncle." Jack paused. "Remember Marbus, from thirty-six years ago?"

A gasp left Wei's mouth. "He-ya! The daemon that was nearly killed by witches? The one who was framed? He's Beltha . . . uh, Mr. Turner's uncle?"

Jack added, "On Cole's maternal side. Anyway, Cole's client is Mark Giovanni, who is trying to maintain possession of this property in Oakville. And Marbus is helping him." Jack went on to explain the situation between Cole's client and Magan Corporation. "I wouldn't have brought this up, except that a demonic assassin tried to kill Giovanni, yesterday. And one of Marbus' associates from his order had been killed, while trying to protect the man."

"Why send a daemon to kill this Giovanni?" Wei asked. "Why not send a mortal?"

"Good question. My guess is that whoever sent this assassin, knew that Cole was a daemon. And wanted to make sure that she kill Giovanni and escape as quickly as possible. And that means . . ."

Wei finished, ". . . the head of this Magan Corporation is also a daemon. Or someone within the company. Or perhaps the entire corporation is a front for a daemon." He sighed. "Too many possibilities."

Jack said, "And that's why I'm asking you to look into this matter. And to start with Arthur Winslow, the corporation's CEO."

"Hmmm, sounds interesting," Wei replied. "I'll see what I can find."

"One last thing, Wei. Please be careful. Like I said, one of Marbus' associates has already been killed." Jack paused. "I don't want the same to happen to you or anyone you know."

"Don't worry. I"ll be careful. And I'll get back to you, as soon as I have some information. See you later, Jack."

The witch replied, "Bye Wei. Take care."

And the two friends hung up.

--------

Harry eased his silver Mazda sports car into an empty parking space not far from the Halliwell manor. He switched off the engine, climbed out of the car and made his way to the salmon-colored house. As he paused in front of the door, he glanced up at the sky and inhaled. The heavy, damp air promised rain - either by tonight, or tomorrow. Then he rang the doorbell.

Nearly two minutes passed before someone opened the door. It was Leo. "Harry," he declared, looking surprised. "What are you doing here?"

Harry replied, "I came to pick up Paige. Is she ready?"

Leo hesitated. "Pick her up. Are you two . . . dating?"

Suppressing an annoyed sigh, Harry shot back, "No, I'm here to pick her up for a little shopping trip. Is she ready?"

"Uh . . . just a minute." Leo stepped back and allowed Harry to enter the manor. The witch headed straight for one of the chairs inside the living room. "So," Leo continued, "what will you two be shopping for?"

"A few things. Uh, do you mind letting her know I'm here?"

The whitelighter's face turned red from Harry's quiet rebuke. "Yeah. Sure." Then Leo turned to face the staircase. "Paige! You have a visitor!" He then smiled at Harry, whose own smile was also strained.

The twenty-six year-old witch and the sixty year-old whitelighter never had an easy relationship. From the moment Harry began practicing witchcraft, some nine years ago, he has rejected Leo's attempts to form a whitelighter-witch relationship. Harry resented the whitelighters' assumption that they had every right maintain vigil over witches and enforce their rules and moral code. Unlike Bruce and Olivia - who had eventually rejected whitelighter authority - Harry had never formed a friendship with Leo. The latter found the young witch's personality too abrasive and slightly ambiguous. And Harry found Leo too self-righteous for his own tastes.

Finally, the youngest Charmed One appeared on the staircase. She shot a quick glance at Harry and quickly made her way downstairs. Her two older sisters materialized from the kitchen. "Harry! Sorry I'm late. I'm running a little behind schedule."

"That's okay," Harry said with a smile. "The store doesn't close until eleven, anyway."

Piper frowned. "What store?"

"It's a store that sells tools and equipment for magick practitioners," Harry replied. "Great bargain prices."

A nervous cough left Piper's throat. "Oh. Uh, Paige? Is it really wise to go there? I mean, what if you meet witches or other people who practice magick? And what if they find out that you're a Charmed One?"

"C'mon Piper! We're not exactly a secret anymore," Paige exclaimed. "Harry's family knew about us, long before we did. So did a lot of warlocks and demons - including Cole. I mean . . . what's the big deal?" Harry smiled, while her sisters failed to answer. He could not have said it better, himself. Paige faced him. "Let me get my purse and then we can . . ."

A gasp left Phoebe's mouth, before her body went stiff. Before Harry could comment, he also gasped. Thanks to his telepathy, he had picked up on Phoebe's premonition. He saw Marbus and Giovanni inside the latter's library. And he saw the daemon kill the wine grower with a fireball. Once the vision ended, Harry shook his head. Had he imagined things, or had he also sensed a third presence?

"Oh my God!" Phoebe cried. "It's Cole's uncle!"

Piper frowned. "What about him?"

Phoebe continued, "I saw him kill Mark Giovanni! He's been lying to us, all along!"

"What?" Paige demanded. "Are you sure?"

Recalling the third presence, Harry tried to put matters into perspective. "Wait a minute!" he cried. "There's something wrong here."

"What are you talking about?" Phoebe shot back, bristling. "I know what I saw!"

Harry sighed. "Look Phoebe, I saw the same thing. My telepathy had picked up on your vision. But I . . ."

"Then we all know what we have to do," Piper added grimly. "Vanquish this Marbus. Paige, get the Book of Shadows."

The youngest Charmed One hesitated. Harry could have kissed her. "Wait a minute," she said in an uneasy voice. "Is it possible that Phoebe might be mistaken? I mean . . . she didn't even have to touch anything."

"Of course I'm not mistaken!" Phoebe protested. "I know what I saw. Besides, my powers might be developing. Look Paige, this isn't the time to hesitate. A man's life is in danger and it's our duty to save him."

"But if Harry thinks . . ."

Leo spoke up. "Paige, I'm sorry, but if Phoebe saw . . . Marbus kill an innocent, she must have done so for a good reason. This isn't a time to raise questions."

Harry shot back, "I think it is! When I saw . . ."

"Excuse me." Piper gave Harry a cool look. "Harry, if you want to help us, fine. Be my guest. Otherwise, you're welcomed to leave. We have work to do." She walked over to the door.

Harry knew a "get out" message, when he heard one. An oath left his mouth, as he stood up. "Look, I think you're making a big mistake. I felt an . . ."

"Good night, Harry." Piper opened the door. Realizing that he had no choice but to leave, Harry stomped out of the house without uttering a word.

Once outside, he quickly rushed to his car and retrieved his cell phone from his jacket. Then Harry dialed the number to Cole's office. No answer. Apparently, the half-daemon had left. Then he tried Cole's penthouse. Again, no answer. A frustrated sigh left Harry's mouth. Where in the hell was Cole? The young witch climbed into his car and quickly drove away.

---------

"This is interesting," Piper commented, as she perused the Book of Shadows. "The vanquishing method for Marbus is similar to Belthazor's. Gee, I wonder why."

A dismayed looking Leo asked, "You mean you have to go through the whole preparation, again? The potion and getting a piece of Marbus' flesh?"

Phoebe spoke up. "Not exactly. Why don't we use some of the potion we had prepared for Cole? I know it's been nearly three years, but I think there's still some left."

Leo frowned. "Would it work?"

"Why not? Don't forget I had used some on a member of the Thorn Brotherhood. I mean if it had worked on a 'blood brother' of Cole's, it's bound to work on his uncle, who's an actual blood relative."

"Are you sure?" It was now Piper's turn to look dubious. "I thought it had all been used, after Leo and I . . ." She stopped and immediately closed her mouth.

Paige, who had been observing her family with dismay, stared at Piper. "When you and Leo had . . . what?"

"Never mind. Phoebe, why don't you check the fridge?"

Phoebe left the attic and raced downstairs. Paige, Piper and Leo immediately followed. By the time they had caught up with the middle Halliwell inside the kitchen, Phoebe was waving a small bottle of liquid in triumph. "Eureka! Here's one. There are two bottles left."

"Okay," Piper said, "let's go."

Paige hesitated. "Wait a minute! Are you sure? I mean . . . what if Phoebe's premonition is wrong? She didn't touch anything, when she got it. And what was Harry trying to tell us?"

A frustrated sigh escaped from Piper's mouth. "Paige, this has got to stop. You have to decide . . . right now, on whether you're with us or not."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Piper shot back, "It means . . . that we haven't felt like the Power of Three, lately. You're so wrapped up in the McNeills that you tend to hang on to everything they say. Especially Olivia. And I'm beginning to wonder if you realize which family you actually belong to."

Phoebe added in a warning voice, "Piper . . ."

"Oh, c'mon Pheebs! Why deny it? You feel the same as I do! In fact, you've been complaining about it, for the past several months."

Resentment and anger surged within Paige. She hated her sisters' demand that she follow every move they made. And she resented that they seemed incapable of accepting her as a competent witch - even after two years. How could she not help but prefer the McNeills' more steadfast support of her growth as a witch? At least they did not treat her as an amateur. However, Paige did not want to endanger what she had spent the past two years doing - namely becoming a member of her family. So, she heaved a morose sigh and murmured, "Yeah, okay. Let's get on with this."

"Good." Piper took Paige's hand. "Phoebe?" The middle sister took Paige's other hand. "Leo, don't forget to keep an eye on Wyatt. Okay, let's go." And Paige orbed them out of the house . . . with great reluctance.

-----------

Upon reaching an intersection, Harry reached inside his glove compartment for a slim leather book. His address and phone. He turned the page, until he came upon the information on one Cole Turner. At the bottom of the page was the half-daemon's cell phone number. The witch sighed with relief and dialed the number.

A few rings followed until Cole's voice answered, "Hello?"

Harry cried, "Cole? Where are you?"

"I'm on my way home. I had to do a little shopping," the half-daemon answered. "What's wrong?"

"I need you to get over to Mark Giovanni's home right away!" Harry replied. "And stop them!"

Cole hesitated. "Stop who?"

"Paige and the others! Phoebe got a vision of your uncle killing Giovanni. Because I'm telepathic, I was able to accidentally see her vision, also!"

Cole practically shouted, "Wait a minute! Marbus is going to kill my client?"

"No!" Harry took a deep breath. "No, you misunderstand me. When I had read Phoebe's vision, I felt the presence of someone else. As if someone had deliberately planted the vision in her mind!"

"Shit!" Cole paused, before he added. "All right. Look, I'm almost at my building. I'll park my car and get over to Giovanni's home. Go on ahead to Olivia's apartment and tell her everything. I'll see you soon."

"Right." As he hung up, Harry hoped like hell that Cole would be able to reach his uncle in time.

----------

The Charmed Ones orbed into the middle of Mark Giovanni's foyer. Hearing footsteps, they immediately rushed into the nearest empty room - namely the library. Phoebe glanced around. "I think this is the room where I saw Marbus kill Giovanni," she whispered.

Seconds later, the footsteps grew nearer. The sisters hid behind a large sofa, as two men entered. They were Mark Giovanni, and Cole's uncle, Marbus. ". . . you like to have a drink?" Giovanni was saying. "After an hour or two in my wife's company, I'm sure that you need one."

Marbus responded with an embarrassed chuckle. "Yes, uh, a shot of whiskey would be fine."

As Giovanni turned his back on the demon, Phoebe hissed, "Now Piper!" The oldest Charmed One shot up from behind the sofa and with her hands, froze the mortal.

"What the hell?" Marbus demanded.

Phoebe and Paige joined Piper. "Excuse us," the latter said in a cold voice, before she raised her arm to throw the potion at the demon. Before she could, Cole suddenly appeared. "What the hell?"

The half-daemon telekinetically snatched the bottle of potion from Piper's hand, causing the latter to gasp. The bottle then disappeared in a ball of flames. "Cole!" Phoebe cried. "What are you doing?" He then waved a hand and the three sisters found themselves back inside their living room.

"Son-of-a-bitch!" Piper growled. "Harry must have told him. Paige! Take us back!"

"Huh?" The youngest Charmed One seemed frozen in a state of confusion.

Piper cried, "Paige! Now!"

"Wait a minute!" Phoebe demanded. "We need another bottle!" She rushed toward the kitchen, and within a minute returned. "Okay."

Paige stared at her. "Okay what? I think we've lost the momentum!"

Glaring at the younger woman, Piper demanded, "Paige, will you please send us back?"

"But . . ."

"I thought you said that you were with us?"

Sighing, Paige took hold of her sisters' hands. They orbed out of the manor. Instead of returning to Giovanni's home, they ended up on the sidewalk, outside the three-story mansion - on their rear ends.

"Shit!" Piper cried once more. "He's blocked us from orbing into that house!"

Phoebe struggled to her feet. "What do we do now?"

"How about we return home?" Paige suggested. Piper glared at her.

Ruefully, Phoebe agreed with her younger sister. "Looks like we have no choice, Piper." The Charmed Ones linked hands and Paige orbed them back to the manor.

Upon their arrival, they found Leo rushing downstairs. "What happened? I thought I heard your voices." When the sisters failed to answer, he added, "Did you get him?"

"No!" Piper replied sharply. "Cole got there in time to save Marbus. And now, Paige can't orb us back into Giovanni's house.

Anxiety flitted across Leo's face. "My god! Do you think that Giovanni is still alive?"

Paige sighed. "Of course he is. Cole's there."

"Speaking of Mr. Turner," Piper coldly added, "he has a lot explaining to do. Both him and Harry." She glared at Paige once more. Phoebe watched, as the youngest sister looked away.

-------

"What the bloody hell just happened?" Marbus demanded. Uncle and nephew faced each other, inside Giovanni's library.

Cole sighed. "Phoebe and her sisters. Apparently, she had a premonition of you killing Mark."

"Wha . . . a premonition?" Marbus' eyes widened with disbelief. "And why would I want to kill your client?"

"I don't know. You got me. But Harry, who had warned me about their attack, told me that when Phoebe's vision appeared, he had felt another presence." Cole paused. "Harry's a telepath."

Marbus' mouth formed a grim line. "Hmmm, sounds like another telepath has been messing with your wife's . . ."

"Ex-wife," Cole corrected.

". . . messing with her mind." The older daemon sighed. "Now what are we going to do? I have three powerful witches after me, and we can't leave your frozen client unprotected."

Cole replied grimly, "Don't worry about Phoebe and her sisters. I'll take care of them. I've already placed a shield around the house, making it impossible for them to return."

Marbus frowned. "You're not going to harm them, are you?"

"I'll try not to." And Cole disappeared.


END OF CHAPTER 5

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