"SPELLS, LIES AND REMORSE"
A lime-green Volkswagen sat parked across the street from one of San Francisco's many courthouses. Bruce, Harry and the car's owner - Paige - sat inside, waiting for a certain Assistant District Attorney to make his appearance on the courthouse steps.
"What time did Paul say that he was going to lunch?" Paige asked impatiently.
Bruce sighed. "He didn't say exactly when. All he said was . . ." He broke off at the sight of two men descending the wide steps. He recognized one of them as Paul. "There he is." Bruce glanced at his watch. "At twelve-thirty, on the dot."
The three witches watched Paul and the other man turn left and strode along the street, before disappearing around the corner. Harry, who sat the seat next to Paige, turned to grin at the older man in the backseat. "Show time, big brother. Do us proud."
"Oh great!" Bruce moaned. Harry helped him out of the car. Then he added, "I'll see you guys within a few minutes or so." He dashed across the street and entered the building. A security guard informed him that Paul Margolin's office was located on the seventh floor. Just before approaching the office, Bruce dashed into the men's restroom. Finding it empty, he quickly morphed into the New York-born witch's form. Then he strode out of the restroom and into Paul's office, expecting to encounter the latter's secretary. Fortunately, she was no where to be seen.
Once safely inside the office, Bruce took a deep breath and cried out, "Leo! LEO!" Nearly twenty minutes passed, but the whitelighter failed to respond. Once more, Bruce called out the latter's name. "Leo!" At that moment, blue lights appeared, signaling the whitelighter's arrival.
"Morris!" Captain McPherson's bark took Darryl by surprise.
The police lieutenant rushed into his supervisor's office. "Captain? You need something?"
"Yeah. I need to know the whereabouts of your partner. Where is McNeill?"
Dreading this moment, Darryl lied to the police captain. "She's at home, sick. Sore throat and stomach bug. She called me, this morning."
"Oh. Okay." McPherson added, "By the way, how is the Kostopulos case coming along?"
Darryl nervously cleared his throat. "Slow. Both Scott Yi and Carlotta Trujillo are still questioning witnesses. It shouldn't be long before we have ourselves a suspect."
McPherson dismissed the lieutenant, allowing the latter to escape from the former's presence. A relieved Darryl returned to his desk. Where in the hell was Olivia? And why has she not called? Even if she were involved in a supernatural emergency, she would have informed him.
Darryl shook his head. Even before he had learned that she was a witch, Darryl never could fathom his partner's mind. And lately, her personality seemed to have undergone a major change since that lunch with Margolin, last . . . Darryl's thoughts broke off, as his mind retrieved a memory that he had been trying to recall for the past few. That afternoon at the restaurant flashed before his eyes - the phone call he had received from Sheila, returning to the table to find Olivia gone . . . and seeing Paul Margolin pour something into Olivia's drink. Paul Margolin? Realizing that he had just remembered something important, Darryl picked up the telephone and dialed the number to the McNeills' home.
Inside Paige's Volkswagen, she and Harry sat in silence. This was the first time they had been alone since their date, Friday night. And considering that it had not ended well, she felt slightly uncomfortable in his presence. Then Harry's voice cut through the silence. "Cat caught your tongue?"
Paige stared at the red-haired man. "Huh?"
"I've noticed that ever since Bruce left the car, you've been silent. Is there a reason?"
Her cheeks burning with embarrassment, Paige shook her head. "No. No reason. Can't we sit in silence? Do we have to . . .?"
"Okay Paige, what the hell is wrong?"
Paige shot back. "Nothing's wrong!"
A large sigh left Harry's mouth. "I realize that our date didn't turn out like we had hoped, but . . ."
"What makes you think that our date has anything to do with me being silent?" Paige rolled her eyes in feign contempt. Then she confronted him. "Are you trying to tell me that you didn't enjoy yourself?"
With a shrug of his shoulders, Harry replied, "Actually, I did. Until we ran into Olivia and Paul at the Golden Horn. After that . . . well, it wasn't exactly paradise."
"No wonder, considering the shock of seeing Olivia and Paul together like that."
A long pause followed, before Harry added, "Actually that wasn't it. You . . ."
"I . . . what?"
Once more, Harry sighed. "Have you ever considered the possibility that you have a . . . well, obsessive nature?"
"What?" Paige stared at her companion in shock. "What do you mean by that?"
Harry continued, "After we saw Olivia and Paul, you seemed . . . obsessive. I mean, c'mon Paige! You spent the rest of the evening obsessing over them. You even tried to talk me into reading Paul's mind, again." He shook his head. "That sort of ruined it for me."
"Well, pardon me for ruining your evening!" Paige retorted, feeling put out by Harry's comment. "Maybe you should stick to women who wouldn't mind worshipping the ground you walk! Like Dana Morton, for instance. I'm sure she's capable of stroking that ego of yours!"
"For crying out loud!" Harry focused his green eyes upon the Charmed One. "Would it really hurt for you to accept a little criticism?"
Paige shot back, "Oh please! Like you would like it if I had criticized you about you about some of your traits!"
"What are you talking about? You do it all the time!"
"The hell I . . ." Paige paused, as she recalled the numerous times she had either insulted Harry or made some comment about his less than personable traits. "Never mind," she murmured.
Another lengthy moment of silence followed, before Paige heard Harry say, "So, um . . . would you like to go out, again?"
She stared at him, as if he had lost his mind. "What?"
"Would you like to go out on another date? This upcoming Friday, for instance?"
Stunned by his proposal, Paige nearly ended up stammering. "Wha . . . I thought . . . You didn't . . . Why do you want to go out with me, so badly?"
"Because I find you attractive," Harry said. From the corner of her eye, Paige saw his face turn red. "Is that so hard to fathom?"
"Considering your opinion on my 'obssessive' nature," Paige commented, "yeah."
A embarrassed smile curved Harry's lips. Paige could not help but notice that he seemed very attractive at that moment. "Okay, I had that coming. But flaws or no flaws, I find you . . . attractive. And I would like to go out with you, again."
'Say no,' Paige's mind told her. 'No!' She opened her mouth and . . . "Sure. Why not?" God! She could be such a sucker for a cute smile!
At the same time, Olivia stepped out of the elevator and strode toward the double doors that led to Cole's penthouse. She produced a special key from her purse - one used by thieves to open lock - and used it to open the door.
Once inside the penthouse, Olivia surveyed the living room, trying to decide where to create her circle. The middle of the room - in front of the fireplace - seemed to be the perfect spot. She removed from her purse, a small bottle of the potion, now a red paste, and set about drawing a circle. With a heptagram inside.
"Paul?" A concerned expression appeared on Leo's face. "Something wrong?"
As rehearsed, Bruce replied in a tense voice, "They know."
Leo frowned. "Know what?"
Bruce began to wonder if Harry and Paige had been mistaken about the whitelighter. He sighed and added, "I'm talking about Olivia, Leo . . . and Cole. They know. At least, Harry does."
Shaking his head, Leo protested, "That's impossible. I know I had told you about Paige's suspicions. But I managed to nip it in the bud. She hasn't mentioned it, again." Anxiety lit up his blue eyes. "Or has she? At least mentioned it to Harry? Do they know about the spell?"
The spell? Margolin had placed a spell on his sister? It took all of Bruce's self-control not to lose his temper. "I was dining with Olivia's family, last night. Well, you know that Paige and Harry saw us at the Golden Horn, Friday night. But last night . . . Harry was looking at me rather odd. As if he was trying to concentrate on something."
"That something was probably you." Leo heaved an exasperated sigh. "My God! Harry must have read your mind, Paul. He's a telepath."
Naturally inclined to defend his younger brother, Bruce said, "But don't witches with telepathic powers have this code about reading other people's minds without permission?"
"They do," Leo replied shortly. "Only, Harry isn't the type who follows the rules." Son-of-a-bitch! Bruce mentally suppressed the insult. Leo added, "When did you realize that they . . . I mean, Harry knew?"
Bruce continued to lie. "Like I said, he had this odd look on his face. And there were the hints he was giving. Especially after the phone call he had received from Paige. He started talking about spells that change people's personalities. And that's when I realized that he knew. Paige probably knows, as well."
"She must have told him that I've returned," Leo said. Another sigh left his mouth. "What about Cole? What do they know about Cole?"
At that moment, Bruce mentally sent out a summons to his brother, in the hopes that the latter would detect it. Sure enough, Harry and Paige orbed behind Leo, seconds later. To keep the charade going, Bruce frowned. "Know about Cole?"
"You said that they knew about the spell you had used on Olivia," Leo continued. "Do they know about her plans to vanquish Cole?" Paige gasped. Leo whirled around with a stunned expression. "Paige! Harry! What are you . . .?"
"Leo?" As the whitelighter's gaze returned to Bruce, he transformed back to his original form. The shapeshifter regarded Leo with a cold gaze. "I think we need to have a serious talk. Like about that spell Paul had cast upon my sister."
Leo's face paled.
At precisely one-thirty in the afternoon, Paul stepped out of the elevator and walked toward the double doors that led inside Belthazor's penthouse. Fearing that his lunch with the District Attorrney would last longer than he hoped, Paul had cut it short with a fake excuse. Upon leaving the restaurant, he nearly broke several traffic laws in trying to reach Olivia's apartment building on time. There were moments like now that he wished he were a teleporter.
Paul raised his hand to knock on the door - and hesitated. What if Olivia was not inside? Even worse, what if Belthazor had returned home earlier than usual? And why start the plan now? Why not wait until after the half-demon's arrival? "Forget the questions Margolin, and just knock," he muttered to himself. Which he did.
Seconds later, the door opened, revealing Olivia. She smiled. "You made it. And you're early." She opened the door further, allowing Paul to step inside.
"I didn't know how long that lunch would last," Paul said. "The D.A. can be a bit . . ." He paused, as the penthouse's décor took his breath away. And nearly made him green with envy. Paul wished that he could only be so lucky as to live in such a beautifully furnished and expensive penthouse like this. He noted the fireplace against the left wall. And the balcony on the far side of the apartment that overlooked San Francisco Bay. Hell, it looked even more beautiful than Olivia's apartment. "Not bad," he murmured. Paul seemed ready to dismiss the place as too perfect and lacking in any warmth. But his eyes spotted various plants stationed throughout the living room. And the burgundy macramé shawl spread across the sofa's back. Resentment flared within his breast. Olivia's touch, of course. Then his eyes fell upon a red circle on the floor. "What's that?" he asked.
Olivia's smile widened. "A magic circle, of course. Where the vanquish will take place. The circle is made from a potion I had prepared. Which, hopefully, will kill Cole." She said in a very cheerful voice.
"But that's . . ." Paul peered closer at the circle. "That's not a pentagram, is it?"
"No, it's a heptagram. Star with seven points."
Seven points? Paul shook his head. "But why? I mean . . . why seven . . .?"
Olivia interrupted. "Each point represents an element. This is, uh . . . based on a new theory of mine." Paul continued to stare at the symbol with growing doubt. An impatient huff escaped from Olivia's mouth. "Don't worry. It'll work. Trust me. Now," she picked up the cordless telephone, "time to put the plan into action."
Before she could contact Belthazor, Paul said, "Wait a minute! Why don't you just wait until he comes home?"
"And when will that be?" Olivia's green eyes bored into Paul's, making him feel slightly intimidated. "Cole doesn't have a regular schedule. I don't know any attorney who does. Do you?" He had to admit that Olivia had a point. "Okay, here we go." She dialed a number. Seconds later, "Hi, this is Ms. Beatrice More, the general manager of Mr. Turner's building. May I speak to him?"
A curious Paul asked Olivia what she was up to. Instead of answering his question, Olivia gave him a cryptic smile. Then, "Good afternoon, Mr. Turner. This is Beatrice More. There's a problem at the building. We're experiencing gas leaks from our pipes. Mr. Farnelli believes that it might be coming from your place. Could you give us permission to enter?" She paused. "Oh, you'll be here yourself?" Olivia's smile widened. "Well, if you insist. I'll see you soon. Thank you." She disconnected the telephone. "Get ready," she added. "Cole should be here at any time."
Paige stared at her brother-in-law in disbelief. "I can't . . . Oh my God! I can't believe it! Leo! What have you done?"
"I haven't done . . ." Leo paused under the stares of the three witches. "Look, I had to do it! It was the only way to prevent a disaster from happening!"
Bruce took a threatening step forward. "What disaster? What was so damn important that you and Paul had decided to put my sister under a spell?"
"It had to be done!" Leo protested, taking a step back. "To prevent a new Source from emerging."
The whitelighter explained, "One of our whitelighters is a seer. She was also one, as a mortal. Anyway, she had a vision of Cole playing a part in the emergence of a new Source. Both he and Olivia. When I found out that Cole's mother now headed the Brotherhood of the Thorn . . ."
"You've got to be joking!" Harry exclaimed. "You and the Boy Scout had cast a spell on Olivia to stop a new Source from emerging? What the hell does Olivia has to do with all of this? Why have her kill Cole? If that's possible!"
An uneasy expression appeared on Leo's face. "Because . . . because, she's the only one who can kill him."
An epiphany struck Paige. She finally understood what Leo was trying to say. "Oh my God," she murmured. The others stared at her. "Oh God! The vision!"
Harry frowned. "What?"
"Cecile's vision! Remember what happened at the wedding?" Paige continued in an excited voice. "When she had first met Paul, Cecile had a vision of Olivia killing Cole. In Paul's presence!"
Shaking his head, Harry protested, "But that's impossible! Olivia isn't strong enough to kill Cole. None of us are - including the Power of Three."
Bruce threw his head back and groaned. "Oh! Of course! Olivia and I had this theory on how to kill the Source without the use of brute strength. Only . . ." He frowned. "Barbara told me about Olivia making a big purchase at Ostera's, last Saturday. Is that true?"
Paige nodded. "Yeah. Some weird stuff. Why?"
With a sigh, Bruce added, "Then she must have made the potion, and plan to use some time in the near future."
"We have to stop her!"
A grim Leo shot back, "You won't! Remember? In Cecile's vision, none of you make it in time to save Cole. Why don't you accept the fact that he's as good as dead? In the end, it'll be best for all . . ."
Harry punched the whitelighter in the jaw, stopping the latter in mid-sentence. Leo reeled back and landed on the floor. "That's for using my sister as a pawn in your little scheme," he growled. "And when she finds out, may the God and Goddess help you." He turned to the others. "We have to warn Cole."
Bruce retrieved his cell phone and dialed. Seconds later, he returned it to his jacket. "That was his assistant. Cole left his office about a few minutes ago. Something about an emergency at his building."
The older witch's words brought back memories of Cecile's vision to Paige. "Of course! The penthouse! Cecile had used her telepathy to show us her vision. That's were Olivia is going to kill Cole!"
Another sigh left Bruce's mouth. "Okay. I'll try to reach Cole's . . ." His cell phone rang. "Hello?" A pause followed, while Paige noticed the grim expression on his face. "Oh shit! Thanks Gran. I think we know where to go." He disconnected his phone and returned it to jacket pocket. "That was Gran. She just got a phone call from Darryl. Apparently, Olivia didn't bother to show up for work, today. I think she's planning to do the job, as soon as possible."
"Well then, let's go," Harry said. "Paige?"
The Charmed One grabbed hold of each McNeill brother. Leo stared at the trio. "Where are you going?" he demanded.
"To Cole's place," Bruce coldly replied. To clean up your mess, before it gets any worse." And the three witches orbed out of Paul's office.
Cole materialized in the middle of his penthouse. He glanced around the semi-dark living room and turned on the lights. There did not seemed to be any sign of gas in the air. Only cinnamon apple. Which happened to be . . .
Two figures emerged from one of the bedroom, taking Cole by surprise. Olivia and . . . Paul Margolin. "What the hell are you two doing inside my place?" he demanded.
Olivia stepped forward, her beautiful face marred by a cold smile. "Doing the universe a favor, Belthazor."
"What?" Confused, Cole stared at the redhead. "Olivia, have you lost your mind? What the hell are you talking about?"
Her smile grew chillier, making Cole feel increasingly uneasy. "This." She waved one hand in the air. "Initiate."
To Cole's surprise, a bright red circle formed around him. Something akin to a force field. For some unexplained reason, he felt a shot of fear go through him. "Olivia? What's going on?" He made an attempt to push himself past the force field. To his surprise, he failed. His fear threatened to overwhelm him. "Olivia . . ."
The red-haired witch began to chant. "In Hecate's name, I summon the powers of air, of water, of earth, of wood, of metal, of fire and of spirit to infect this daemon's powers and destroy him from within!"
Another surprise awaited Cole, as the red light from the circle began to seep into his body. The pain rose to an unbearable level, causing Cole to fall to his knees with a cry.
Bruce, Harry and Paige orbed into Cole's penthouse and came upon a scene of horror. They found the half-daemon surrounded by a circle of red light, on his knees and screaming in pain. Outside the circle stood Paul Margolin wearing a smug expression and Olivia chanting a spell.
Horrified, Bruce called out his sister's name. "Olivia! Olivia, stop!" His cries failed to reach her ears. Paul was another matter.
The New York-born witch turned around and regarded the newcomers with anxiety. As Paige stepped forward to stop Olivia, he raised his hand and sent a gust of ice toward the Charmed One. Bruce immediately counteracted Paul's attack with his aerokinesis, forcing the ice to envelop the cyrokinetic and turn him into an ice statue.
Meanwhile, Olivia continued her chant. "In Hecate's name, I summon the powers of air, of water, of earth, of wood, of metal, of fire and of spirit to infect this daemon's powers and destroy him from within!" The red circle soon began to envelop Cole.
Again, Bruce ordered his sister to stop. For once, she heard him. Then she waved one hand and sent Bruce reeling back against the door. At the same time, Paul's frozen figure toppled backward and shattered into pieces upon impact of the floor. Bruce glanced helplessly at the others. "Oh my God," he murmured. "How can we stop her?"
"Let me try," Harry said. He directed his stare at the back of Olivia's head. Experienced in living with telepaths, Bruce nearly detected the younger man's psychic message to their sister. However, she continued her chant. Then Harry's stare became more intense. "Olivia, stop! Now!" Cole's tormentor grabbed her head and cried out in pain. Seconds later, she fell to the floor, unconscious. Cole did the same, once the red circle finally disappeared.
Paige stared at Harry. "What did you do?"
"Touched a nerve in her brain, a little bit," he replied. "She was resisting me. I guess . . . I had to be a little more intense." Harry pointed at the circle on the carpet. "Anyone know how to get rid of that?"
Paige opened the nearest window. I'll do it." She pointed at the red circle on the floor and said, "Potion . . . window." The mixture on the carpet disappeared and reappeared outside the open window before it dispersed into the air. She nodded at the couple on the floor. "What about them?"
Bruce replied, "Take her to her apartment."
Kneeling beside the unconscious Olivia, Paige grabbed the other woman's hand and orbed them both out of the penthouse. Bruce sighed and knelt beside Cole. "C'mon Harry. Help me get him inside his bedroom." The two brothers picked up the unconscious half-daemon and carried him out of the living room.
END OF CHAPTER 8