"SPELLS, LIES AND REMORSE"
"I'm home!" Paige's voice carried into the kitchen.
Piper wiped her hands on the apron she wore and headed for the living room. There, she found her youngest sister plopping down on the sofa. Wearing a very odd smile. "Have a nice day?" she greeted. The smile remained stamped on Paige's face. Piper frowned. "What's with the smile? You look like the Cheshire Cat from 'ALICE IN WONDERLAND'."
Paige's dark eyes widened. "Huh?"
"The smile, Paige." Piper's voice radiated suspicion. "What's the news?"
A brief pause followed, before Paige finally answered in that annoying sing-song voice of hers. "Oh . . . nothing. I have a date for Friday night, that's all."
"A date?" The news did not strike Piper as worthy of the odd smile on Paige's lips. "That's it? What is it? You've finally found your perfect man?"
Again, Paige paused dramatically. "Well, I wouldn't exactly call him perfect. In fact, far from it."
The younger woman added, "Oh, okay! I had a visitor at work, today. Harry McNeill. He asked me for a date on Friday night."
Stunned by the news, Piper could only stare at her baby sister. Why would the scion of an old and wealthy San Franciscan family be interested in Paige? She had nothing in common with the numerous other women Harry McNeill had dated. And the only thing Paige had in common with Olivia's younger brother was witchcraft. Even more disturbing to Piper was the fact that she found the idea of the two younger witches on a date a bit . . . threatening. "You have a date with Harry?" Piper asked.
Dark eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Yeah. Do you . . .? Are you okay, Piper? You seemed . . . I don't know, upset by the news."
"Upset?" Piper realized that her tone had raised a notch. She took a deep breath and smiled happily. "Why should I be upset? I think it's great!"
Paige continued to stare at the older woman. "Ye-ee-eah. Okay." Then she looked away. "Anyway, he's taking me to a play, then dinner at the Golden Horn. God! I never thought I would step foot in that place." Her eyes returned to Piper. "Why is it that we've never been there?"
"Too expensive," Piper quickly replied. She sat down in a nearby chair, tonight's dinner forgotten.
"But . . . Mrs. McNeill and Bruce had made sure that we would get a discount - just in case we ever decided to go there. Why haven't we . . .?"
Weary of further discussions about the McNeills, Piper shot to her feet. "You know what, Paige? I just remembered that I have to finish dinner. Can we save this until . . .?" She broke off at the sight of Phoebe descending the staircase. And wearing an oddly desolate expression. "Phoebe?" Piper frowned at the middle sister. "Are you okay? Is there something wrong?"
"No, I'm not," Phoebe replied in a strangled voice. "I . . . oh my God!"
Piper rushed forward to her sister's side and guided the latter to an empty chair. "What's wrong, honey?" She noticed the blue sweater clutched in Phoebe's hands. "What's that?"
Phoebe took a deep breath. "Cole's sweater. I found it . . ."
"Oh God! You had a premonition about him," Piper quickly surmised. "What is it? Is he going to hurt someone? Hurt us?"
Paige protested, "Why do you always assume that Cole is going to do something wrong?"
"Nine months ago, you would have assumed the same," Piper acidly shot back. "Of course, that was before you saw . . . the light."
Phoebe finally spoke. "I saw it too, Piper." She seemed distant. Horrified over something.
Frowning, Piper demanded, "Saw what? Pheebs?"
"Cole. I saw what he had went through with the Source." Phoebe paused. "And us."
A deep suspicion niggled at the back of Piper's mind. "Wait a minute," she began. "You're not saying that . . .?"
"Paige and the McNeills were right, Piper. About Cole. The Source . . ." Phoebe took another deep breath. "He had taken possession of Cole's body. After we had killed him that first time."
Piper felt a growing resentment within her chest. "Cole had no one to blame but himself!" she retorted. "He was the one who made that deal with the Seer. And he was the one who tried to kill . . ."
Phoebe interrupted. "It was the Source, Piper! The old Source. He took over Cole's body, making him suffer for three months! He was the one who tried to kill Paige! And he would have succeeded if Cole hadn't stopped him! Just as Darryl had managed to stop Dako from killing her. Remember? And it was the old Source who killed that innocent! And we were the ones who killed Cole . . . who was only an innocent victim of the Source! We killed an innocent, Piper!"
It was the last straw. At least for Piper. The last thing she wanted to hear was that she had killed an innocent. Especially one who happened to be a notorious half-demon. "No!" she cried. "Don't you dare stand there, Phoebe, and tell me that I'm a murderer! Cole was never an innocent! Remember Ed Miller?"
Blue lights appeared and Leo orbed into the living room. "Hey! Is dinner ready?"
Piper and her sisters barely acknowledged his presence. Paige responded to Piper's last question. "Oh c'mon Piper! Are we any better? After what we had done?"
"We had vanquished a murderous bastard! A demon! And right now, I wish to God that he had stayed dead, like he was supposed to!"
Phoebe stared at the older woman in horror. "Piper! My God! Why do you hate him so much? Even after what Paige and I had seen, why do you still refuse to accept the truth?"
Anger overwhelmed the oldest Charmed One. "Enough! I've heard enough! If you want to crawl back to that son-of-a-bitch, fine! Be my guest! But I'll be damned if I'll ever apologize to him!" On that note, Piper turned her back on her family and rushed upstairs, forgetting the dinner she had been preparing.
Several minutes later, Leo orbed into the middle of Paul's apartment. He found the witch sitting on the sofa, scribbling notes from a book. Paul glanced up and greeted the whitelighter. "Leo! What brings you here?"
"I . . . uh . . ." Leo found himself unable to speak, let alone describe the quarrel he had witnessed between Piper and her sisters. Or the flood of tears released by his wife in the privacy of their bedroom. "I was just wondering how our project is coming along."
Paul's expression hardened. "Has something happened?"
"No," the whitelighter quickly replied. "I mean . . . uh, the Elders are . . . you know, growing more concerned. About Cole."
The witch's stare remained frozen. "Why? Has there been a new development in the Underworld?"
"Huh?" Leo blinked. "Uh . . ."
"Okay Leo, what's wrong?"
The question reminded Leo of the old days - when he used to visit Olivia whenever he felt troubled. With his relationship with the redhead strained lately, Leo has been at a loss for the past nine months. Strange that he had never considered Paul as a substitute . . . until now.
Paul continued, "Leo? Are you . . .?"
"It's about Cole," the whitelighter admitted. "About his time as the Source." Then he revealed the quarrel that had flared within the Halliwell household. And Phoebe's recent vision.
"Do you think her vision was genuine?" Paul asked.
Leo hesitated, unsure on how to answer. He finally admitted his true feelings. "I don't know. My first instinct was that Cole had somehow arranged it. And that he had also arranged that vision for Cecile Dubois and Paige, last December. But the more I think about it, the more I'm beginning to suspect that maybe Cole had been possessed."
Wariness flickered in Paul's brown eyes. "Does that mean you don't want to go through with . . . our project?"
Memories of the Elder's warning whirled in Leo's brain. "No," he replied shortly. "No, the . . . project goes on. This isn't about the past, Paul. It's about the future. Our future. And we have to prevent Cole from endangering it."
Paul relaxed into a thin smile. "Well then, I believe I've found a solution to our problems." His smile disappeared. "Are you sure about Olivia being the one to kill Belthazor?"
Leo nodded. "Yeah. Cecile had a premonition about it." He failed to add that the premonition had appeared when the Vodoun priestess had first met Paul. "I hate to say it, but Cecile's talent for premonition is even stronger than Phoebe's."
"In that case, I've found the perfect spell - along with a potion - to use on Olivia. But I need one last ingredient. And it has to come from Cole. Blood, hair or some kind of skin fragment. Something with his DNA."
Leo hesitated. Then he told Paul about the Belthazor vanquishing potion that the sisters had created nearly three years ago. And the piece of flesh that Piper had extracted. Some of that flesh still existed inside the Halliwells' refrigerator. "Maybe I could get a slice . . ."
"It won't work," Paul said, shaking his head. "Don't forget that Belthazor's DNA has changed since coming back from the dead. I need something more recent."
Leo protested, "But to do that we would have to get something from his apa . . . uh, penthouse."
Paul rolled his eyes. "Forget that."
"Or his office."
Both whitelighter and witch paused. And stared at each other with dawning realization. Paul glanced at his watch. "It's six thirty-eight. Think he's left work, by now?"
With a shrug, Leo replied, "There's only one way to find out." He stared at the other man.
The jury foreman stood up, all eyes focused upon her. "On the first count, we find the defendant . . . guilty." Triumphant cries, mingled with a few moans filled the courtroom. Olivia and Darryl acknowledged the verdict with satisfied nods. "And on the second count," the foreman continued, "we find the defendant . . . guilty. On the third count - guilty."
Pandemonium struck the courtroom. From the corner of her eye, Olivia saw a few reporters scurry outside. Television cameramen vied with each other to get shots of the stunned defendant. The jury remained in their seats - some looking impassive, some conversing with fellow jurors and one or two trying to avoid staring at the defendant.
The judge slammed his mallet and ordered the courtroom to be quiet. Once the silence had settled, he ordered the defendant to stand up. "Michael Alfredo DiMatteo, the jury has found you guilty of the first-degree murder of Sophia DiMatteo Hansen, guilty of the first-degree murder of Richard Hansen and guilty of obstruction of justice. This court will reconvene next Wednesday, on August 5, 2003; for your sentence. Court is dismissed." After he disappeared into his chamber, voice erupted all over the courtroom.
Darryl shook the prosecutor's hand. "Congratulations," he said. "Did a good job."
A polite smile tugged Paul's lips. "Thanks, but I couldn't have done it without your help." His eyes slid toward Olivia. "Both of you."
"But you were the one who put it all together," Olivia said. "Especially since you had to take over for someone else. Darryl is right." She gave the prosecutor a warm smile.
Paul's face turned slightly pink, as his eyes slid away. "Um, I was wondering if you two would . . . well," he refocused his gaze upon the two police officers, "uh, would like to celebrate. Our victory. Uh, at a restaurant. I thought lunch at the Brewery would be nice."
Both Olivia and Darryl exchanged a brief look, before the latter replied, "I guess the squad can spare us for an hour or two. Olivia?"
The redhead nodded. "Sounds like a nice idea."
A smile lit up Paul's handsome face. "Great! I'll meet you at the restaurant within a half hour. I have . . . the 'press' to deal with." He glanced uneasily at the crowd of reporters gathered outside the courtroom. "Until then, I . . ."
A cell phone rang. The two men stared at Olivia, who realized that she had forgotten to turn off her phone. "Oooops!" she said with a mild grimace. "Excuse me. She removed her phone from her purse and answered it. "Hello?"
Olivia, it's me," a familiar voice greeted softly. "Cole."
A warm flush spread over Olivia's chest. "Cole," she replied. From the corner of her eye, she saw Paul stiffened. "It's a good thing you had called now. A few minutes earlier and I would have been in trouble with the judge."
"So, the court is in recess?" he asked.
"Actually, the trial is over." Olivia paused. "In our favor."
Cole warmly congratulated her. "Now that the trial is over, I guess that means you should be free for lunch. Like today?"
Olivia hesitated. She hated to give Cole the bad news. "Uh . . . not quite."
"What do you mean?"
Another pause followed, before Olivia told him. "Paul has invited Darryl and me out to lunch."
"Paul?" Cole's voice expressed surprise and disappointment. "As in our favorite ADA?" Now, he sounded downright chilly.
Olivia sighed, as she turned away from Darryl and Paul. "We're celebrating the verdict, Cole," she murmured. "And it'll be the three of us. Not two."
"Don't worry Olivia," Cole shot back. "I do recall you mentioning Darryl." An uncomfortable pause followed before he added in a begrudging voice, "Well say hi to Darryl for me." He paused again. "And give my congratulations to Margolin."
Feeling slightly guilty at disappointing him, Olivia added, "Tell you what. I'll make us a nice dinner, tonight. For our own private celebration."
Once more, Cole paused before he answered. "Okay. I guess dinner would be nice. What are you making?"
"It's a surprise," Olivia replied. Relief flooded her body. "I'll see you tonight . . . around seven?"
Cole murmured, "Seven sounds fine. I'll be seeing you." He hung up without saying good-bye. And Olivia wondered if she would find herself facing a moody daemon, tonight.
The moment he had hung up the telephone, Cole found himself wondering if he had made a mistake. Had he allowed his jealousy to get the best of him? And what was he jealous about? Olivia spending one lousy lunch with Paul Margolin? A man she had no romantic interest in?
Cole leaned back against his chair and sighed. Then a low chuckle rose from his throat. The half-daemon realized that he might have suffered a minor, yet serious bout of paranoia and insecurity. Especially since Olivia had been spending plenty of time with Margolin on the DiMatteo case, since late June. Time with both the ADA and Darryl Morris. And Olivia had mentioned that Darryl would be joining them. Right?
The telephone rang, jarring Cole out of his thoughts. Wishing that his assistant were around to screen his calls, the half-daemon reluctantly answered. "Cole Turner speaking," he said. "May I help you?"
A familiar voice breathlessly replied, "Cole?"
He blinked. "Phoebe? Is that you?"
"Yeah . . . it's me," his ex-wife reluctantly replied. "I, uh . . . can we see each other? Alone?"
Cole frowned. Why would Phoebe want to see him? Had she received some kind of premonition involving him? When Cole asked her, she answered, "Well . . . sort of. Could I see you, today?"
"Uh . . ." Cole hesitated, as he tried to absorb this phone call into his belief system. "Well, I'm free for lunch. Why don't I meet you at the Aqua restaurant, in an hour from now?"
Phoebe's voice gushed, "I'll see you then. Bye."
"Bye," Cole murmured. By the time the word came out of his mouth, Phoebe had hung up. He continued to stare at the receiver, wondering why his former wife wanted to see him.
Paul glanced at his watch. He had another thirty-eight minutes before meeting Olivia and Darryl for lunch. It was time to put the finishing touches to the potion.
He locked the door to his office and removed a small jar filled with purple liquid. He placed the jar on the floor and straightened up his body, allowing his muscles to tighten. The image of a blue flame appeared in his mind. He raised his right hand and declared, "I cast this circle to protect me from all negative energies that may come to do me harm. I draw this circle only the energies that are right for me and the most correct for my work." In Paul's mind, the blue flame became a circle that surrounded both him and the jar. "I create sacred space. So mote it be."
Now that his circle had been created, Paul began the spell. "From wariness to suspicion to paranoia and dislike. I call upon the power of the elk, guardians of the Water and the West, to direct these emotions to the consumer of this elixir and have said being to express them to the demon, Belthazor. So mote it be."
A blue flame shot up from the mixture in a brief second, before Paul deemed it safe to cover the jar. He picked it up and took a deep breath. Now all he had to do was feed it to Olivia.
END Of CHAPTER TWO