"THE POWER OF ONE"
McNeill Corporation's corporate officers filed out of the boardroom, as they chatted happily over the new deal that had been reached. Even Cecile felt better than she had in the past week.
"That went off well," Jack McNeill declared, as he settled into the leather chair behind his desk. "Once the contracts are signed and processed, we can set about arranging training sessions for our employees. Um . . ."
Cecile interrupted. "I suppose we can discuss the training schedules, later."
Harry corrected, "Sure. But just to let you know, your employees can train our tech people who are employed at the corporate level. After that . . ."
"You will provide training to all of your companies," Cecile finished. "That's fine with me. But right now, I feel like celebrating."
Cole shot her a penetrating glance. "Well, you're certainly in a good mood, today. A first this week, isn't it?"
Cecile's smile faltered, thanks to the half-daemon's cool observation. She suspected that he was thinking about Andre. "Yeah," she said, staring at him. "I guess I am." Cole looked away. "Of course, I . . ." Her cell phone rang. Cecile retrieved it from her purse. "Excuse me. Hello?"
"Hey Cecile, it's me! Olivia! Are you busy?" The redhead's voice rang in her ear. "I've been trying to get a hold of you for the past hour."
The Vodoun priestess commented, "I've had my cell phone turned off. What do you need?"
"I'm just calling to let you know that I'll have to take a rain check on our lunch, today," Olivia continued. "Something has come up."
Suspicion glimmered in the back of Cecile's mind. "Does that something have to do with Donna Thompson?"
A brief hesitation on Olivia's part followed, before she finally answered, "As a matter of fact . . . yeah. It does. Why? Do you want to help?"
Cecile glanced at Cole. "Well, I was thinking about lunch with Cole and Harry."
"Bring them along. Especially Cole."
"Uh . . ." Cecile faced the others. "I'll ask." She removed the cell phone from her ear. "Are any of you guys interested in helping Olivia with a little investigation, this afternoon?"
Harry answered, "Sorry, but I have an appointment. Business."
"So do I," Mr. McNeill added.
Once more, Cecile glanced at the half-daemon. "Cole?"
He shrugged. "Sure. Why not? My schedule is free."
"Cole and I will join you," Cecile informed Olivia. "Where do you want to meet for . . .?"
Olivia told her. "Meet me at P3 in about an hour from now. I have to get something from my apartment. I'll see you then."
"I'll see you." Cecile disconnected her telephone. Then she turned to Cole. "Olivia wants us to meet her at P3."
Looking slightly confused, Cole demanded, "Why? By any chance does this have to do with Wyatt's new nanny? I remember her trying to talk about this Donna, during last night's dinner."
Cecile sighed. "I'm afraid so. Olivia had an encounter with her, yesterday. And now she's become paranoid over the woman. And when she gets like . . ."
"Yes, we all know how Olivia can be when her paranoia gets the best of her," Mr. McNeill wearily added.
Cole murmured, "But she usually turns out to be right."
"Can't deny the truth," Mr. McNeill shot back. Then he added, "By the way, Gwen and I will be holding a little cocktail party, tomorrow night. To celebrate today's deal. It'll start around seven."
Cecile frowned. "Not tonight?"
"Our coven is holding a meeting, tonight. At Phil Bannen's home."
"Oh. I'll be there." Cecile turned to Cole. "Ready?" The half-daemon nodded, as he and the Vodoun priestess bid the McNeills good-bye, before setting out for their new destination.
Family always mattered to the Halliwells. It certainly mattered to Piper, who loved her family very much. But there were moments when her family could be the biggest pain in her ass. Like now.
"Phoebe," the oldest Charmed One said in her most patient voice, "please stop this. Please? I'm trying to finish this inventory of liquor and you're still going on about Donna."
The younger woman had dropped by the nightclub to invite Piper for lunch. Unfortunately, the club owner had no choice but to decline her sister's offer due to her heavy workload. Between checking the inventory, booking new acts for the next two months and finding a new manager, Piper really had no time for ninety minute lunches. But instead of leaving, Phoebe decided to hang around the club . . . and nag her to death about her son's new nanny.
"But Piper, don't you find it strange that she was the last applicant to arrive? One would say that it was pretty convenient that she was around to help you vanquish that . . ." Phoebe glanced around to ensure that no one could hear them. ". . . that demon."
Piper rolled her eyes. "A demon that she had allegedly hired to attack me?"
"Phoebe, if Donna had hired a demon to attack us, why did she help me vanquish him? Why did he attack her?" The younger sister's mouth fell open. Piper moved in for the kill. "With me dead, no one could have stopped Donna and that demon from taking Wyatt. But that didn't happen, Phoebe. I'm alive and we still have Wyatt with his powers intact - thanks to Donna. And she hasn't made a move in the past few days. Can you explain that?"
Uncertainty replaced the fervent gleam in Phoebe's eyes. "I don't know, Piper. But I can't help how I feel. There's just something wrong about her."
"Something wrong about whom?" a third voice asked. Both Piper and Phoebe looked up and saw two figures descend the nightclub's staircase. It was Cole and Cecile. As usual, Phoebe's face turned slightly pink at the sight of her former husband. The two newcomers approached the sisters. Cole added, "Were you two talking about someone?"
Phoebe remained silent, while Piper sighed. "Wyatt's new nanny. Donna. Phoebe thinks there's something suspicious about her."
"Oh no!" Cecile groaned. "Phoebe too?"
Piper frowned. "What do you mean?"
The Vodoun priestess continued, "Olivia is also suspicious. Something to do with a necklace or amulet that she thinks your nanny has."
An uneasy thought entered Piper's mind at Cecile's mention of an amulet. "Are you saying that Olivia believes that Donna has that demon's amulet?"
Footsteps clattered on the staircase. Seconds later, Olivia appeared before them, carrying a thick book. "Hi guys! What's going on?"
"You tell us," Cole said, as he greeted her with a light kiss. "You asked us to join you here."
Piper added, "We're talking about Donna. Whom Phoebe seems to think has designs on my son. And now, Cecile tells us that you're also suspicious."
Olivia placed the book on the bar's flat surface. "And you're not?"
"What for? She hasn't done anything! I've been trying to tell Phoebe, but she won't listen."
Phoebe retorted, "She hasn't done anything . . . yet. For all we know, she might be biding her time. I mean, this is Wyatt we're talking about. Donna probably has some special potion to strip his powers."
"Or a special ritual," Cecile added. Everyone stared at her. "Look, I'm no more suspicious than Piper. So far, I haven't sensed anything threatening about her and I'm a telepath. But if this Donna is planning on stealing Wyatt's powers, she would probably use some kind of ritual. I know I would."
Feeling slightly annoyed, Piper exclaimed, "Okay, this has gone too far! Neither Phoebe or Olivia have any real proof that Donna has some . . . 'nefarious' scheme planned for Wyatt. Or do you?"
Olivia exchanged a glance with Phoebe before she declared, "Well . . . here's something that you might find interesting. Did you know there are . . . or were two Donna Thompsons born on March 14, 1968? One of them died back in 1996 and the other happens to be Wyatt's new nanny."
Everyone - including Piper - stared at the redhead. "Meaning?" the oldest Charmed One asked, feeling suddenly uneasy.
The other witch revealed what she had learned from the city's police records and the Department of Motor Vehicles. "I can understand if there are more than one Donna Thompson in the world. But two that were born on the same day? And in the same city? What's even more suspicious is the fact that I could only find two driver's licenses issued to your new nanny. And the first one had been issued about two months after the other Donna's death. I don't know about the rest of you, but that seems to be taking coincidence a bit too far. Don't you think?"
Stunned by Olivia's revelation, Piper exclaimed, "Are you trying to tell us that my son's nanny is a fake?" The red-haired witch merely responded with a silent shrug.
"I think that's exactly what Olivia is trying to tell us," Phoebe added. "I haven't been able to sense any emotions from her for the past two days or so."
Piper retorted caustically, "Lucky woman!"
"I'm serious, Piper. I haven't sensed anything from her. And considering my lack of control over my empathy, I should be able to."
Sighing, Piper demanded, "So, what are you saying? That Donna isn't even human?"
"There's a good chance," Phoebe murmured. Piper glared at her. "What?"
"Nothing!" Then, "I just . . . I just find it hard to believe that Donna is a demon. I mean, that demon who had attacked me, nearly killed her."
Phoebe shot back, "I wouldn't be surprised if your nanny had arranged that little attack."
Olivia opened the book that she had placed on the bar. "I don't know if she's a daemon or not. I'm still wondering about the daemon that had attacked you."
"Is that your Book of Shadows?" Piper asked, staring at the thick book.
"Yeah. I wondered if you would be able to identify him."
Piper shook her head. "I've already checked our Book of Shadows. He wasn't in there."
"But he might be in mine," Olivia added. "Your description of him reminded me of someone I had once seen about fifteen or sixteen years ago."
Believing that she was wasting her time, Piper heaved a sigh, as she began to peruse Olivia's book. To her surprise, it did not take long for her to find the demon that had attacked her. Olivia had added a rather well drawn sketching the demon on the book's 14th page. "Oh my God," she murmured. "That's him! That's the demon who had . . ." She stared at Olivia. "How did you . . .?"
"I had spotted him during a family trip to Scotland," Olivia said. "Just before he had killed an old friend of my grandfather and Cousin Keith's. A wizard named Adolphus Grant. Since I was the only one who had spotted him, I added a drawing of him in my Book of Shadows. Only, no one knew his name."
Cole approached the bar and peered at the book. "I know him," he commented. His name is . . . or was Nairn. A demonic assassin. A soldier-of-fortune."
"Like you used to be," Phoebe added. Piper noticed the plaintive tone in Phoebe's voice.
Apparently, Cole did not. He continued, "Actually, I was never really a soldier-of-fortune. Especially since I had worked for the Source. And the Thorn Brotherhood directly. Nairn, on the other hand, was a true soldier-of-fortune. He worked for anyone who would hire him. He had been on the Source's hit list for over forty years. Ever since he killed the head of the Lehme Brotherhood, back in the late 50s."
Curiosity gleamed in Cecile's dark eyes. "He managed to kill the head of a demonic order?"
"Don't ask me how he did it," Cole said with a shake of his head. "Granted, Nairn was a top assassin. But he was also a mid-level daemon. His assassination of Bosaal became the talk of the Source's Realm over the next forty-two years." The half-demon assumed a rueful expression. "Until I killed the Triad."
"Why would he risk the Source's vengeance with such a job?" Olivia asked. "Who hired him?"
Cole replied, "It turned out that a powerful witch coven in Norway had hired Nairn to kill Bosaal. The latter had killed their leader in order to steal their sigil. Which is supposed to be a source of great power for the coven. The coven summoned and hired Nairn, who completed his job. After Bosaal's death, the Source retaliated by putting zoltars on his trail and tried to destroy the coven. Unfortunately, Nairn killed every zoltar who crossed his path. And the coven proved difficult to destroy. Only a few members were killed, but their sigil proved to be very effective in protecting them."
Phoebe stared at her former husband in shock. "Wait a minute! Are you saying that witches had hired a demonic assassin?"
"Yeah." Cole nodded. "And Nairn completed the job. Just as I had told you."
"But witches?" Phoebe paused, and shook her head in disbelief. "I can't believe that they would . . . Were they evil witches?"
Cole rolled his eyes in contempt. "Sorry Phoebe," he said sarcastically, "but the Bla Mane Coven are known throughout the Asatru world as decent witches. The death of their leader had . . . somewhat affected them, I think. At least the coven's council members. Besides, didn't Prue and Piper once work with a zoltar to hunt me down? And none of you didn't mind working with me, for a while."
Oh God! Piper heaved a mental sigh. She always tends to forget about Krell, the zoltar who had been after Cole after the latter had killed the Triad. She began to fear that little alliance might haunt them forever.
"Oh yeah," Phoebe murmured. "Krell. I forgot about him."
Piper added sarcastically, "I wish I could."
Cecile continued, "So, this Nairn had no trouble being hired by witches? I'm surprised that he didn't try to double-cross them in the end."
Cole replied, "The Bla Mane witches had something to offer Nairn in return for Bosaal's death. Which is why he didn't double-cross them. Besides, he's not in the habit of double-crossing his clients. That's how he stayed in business for nearly a century."
"Too bad his last client didn't follow the same policy," Phoebe muttered.
Cecile shot back, "You don't know if Donna Whatshername had hired this Nairn."
"Isn't it obvious?"
The frowning Vodoun priestess retorted, "How? How is it obvious? Look, I'm not denying that there is something suspicious about Wyatt's nanny. And I'm not denying that she could have hired that daemon. But we don't know for a fact that she did. And before we start assuming, I suggest we find more proof."
Hands on her hips, Phoebe glared at Cecile. "What more proof do you need?"
Cecile glared back. "A hell of a lot more than you do! Has anyone ever told you that you have a bad habit of jumping to conclusions?"
Phoebe opened her mouth to retort, but Olivia interrupted. "I'm more interested in what the Bla Mane coven may have given to Nairn." She turned to Cole. "Do you have any idea what they gave him?"
Cole shook his head. "Sorry, I haven't the foggiest idea." His eyes narrowed. "What do you think they gave him?"
With a shrug of her shoulders, Olivia replied, "An amulet perhaps? One that once belonged to a dominion spirit named Caspiel?" Everyone stared at Olivia, as she revealed what she had noticed about Donna's necklace, yesterday. Along with her grandmother's book on the supernatural and her knowledge of dominion spirits.
The revelation flabbergasted Piper. She could not believe her ears. "Dominion spirits? Why hasn't Leo ever told us about them? And if this Nairn had been wearing the amulet of one . . . Oh my God! No wonder I couldn't just easily vanquish him!" She frowned at Olivia. "You really think that Donna now has the amulet?"
Olivia sighed. "I don't know, Piper. I don't know for certain that she has it. For all we know, it might still be somewhere inside your house. But if the amulet had originally belonged to a dominion spirit, I doubt very much that it had been destroyed, when you and Donna killed Nairn."
Piper glanced at her watch. It read twelve fifty-one. "So . . . I suppose you want to check to see if she has that amulet?"
Again, Olivia shrugged. "It would be a good idea."
END OF PART IX