Sunday, December 25, 2011

"Breath of the Undead" [PG-13] - 10/15




"BREATH OF THE UNDEAD"

Chapter Ten

Agitated voices from outside his office caused Cole to glance up from the bulging file on his desk. One of the voices belonged to his assistant, who cried out, "I'm sorry, Mr. Giovanni, but you just can't . . ."

The door burst open, revealing a very desperate looking Alonzo Giovanni. "Turner! I need to speak to you. Now! It's about money."

"Mr. Giovanni, please! You just can't barge in here without an appointment!" Eleanor glared at the young man.

Alonzo rolled his eyes and coolly retorted, "I can do anything I damn well please. Mr. Turner . . . works for my father. My family."

Annoyed by the young man's arrogance, Cole glared at him. "That's okay, Eleanor," he reassured his assistant. "I'll deal with Mr. Giovanni. Thanks." After Eleanor left, Cole leaned back into his chair and regarded his client's son with chilly eyes. "What do you want, Alonzo?"

"It's Mr. Giova . . ." Alonzo broke off, as he wilted under Cole's withering stare. "I'd like . . . I mean . . ."

"You had said something about money."

Alonzo's face turned red. "Not much. Just a small amount from . . ."

". . . from your trust fund," Cole finished. "Yes, I know." He leaned forward. "We've had this conversation before, Alonzo. Until you reach the age of twenty-five, you will receive a stipend from your trust fund every two weeks. Which means that payday doesn't arrive for you until next Monday."

An impatient sigh left Alonzo's mouth. "C'mon man! What's the big deal? I just need an extra five thousand to tide me over for the next few days."

"Five . . . thousand . . . dollars?" Cole stared at the blond young man with incredulous eyes. "Wha . . . You receive half that much every other Monday!"

Alonzo hesitated. "Look . . . it's an emergency. Okay? There's something I specifically ne . . . I mean want."

"Like what?" Cole demanded.

Shaking his head, Alonzo glared at Cole. "Never mind! This is a waste of my time!" He turned on his heels and marched toward the door. His hand on the doorknob, he turned to glare at Cole again. "I'll find my five thousand from somewhere else." He opened the door.

"Alonzo!" Cole cried out, but the young man left and slammed the door behind him.

Cole stared at the closed door. Something was wrong. Normally, he could care less about Alonzo Giovanni's spending habits or greedy nature. But the desperation in the young man's eyes and voice told the half-daemon that Alonzo had drifted into a sea of trouble. Trouble that probably cost five thousand dollars. Cole sighed in frustration. If only his telepathic abilities included reading minds, instead of simply manipulating them. Then he would know what really troubled his client's son.

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The tall, bearded man regarded Larson with confused eyes. "I'm . . . I'm sorry. I don't understand. What exactly do you want from me?"

The warlock sighed. "I need help in tracking down this . . . daemon."

Shaking his head, the other man said, "I'm an alchemist, Mr. Larson. What do you need me for? I'm certain that a divination spell would do the . . ."

"I've tried using divination." Which happened to be the truth. Larson had used various divination tools to track down Ronald Wong - water in a chalice, scrying and even tarot cards. When all had failed, it occurred to the warlock that he might be able to use Wong's blood on his dagger to point him in the right direction. This decision led him to a local alchemist - a human wizard named Herman Getz.

The alchemist sighed and took the dagger from Larson. "Okay. Let's see what I can do with this. I'll need my chalice. Come this way." Larson followed the wizard past a beaded curtain that led to another room, away from the latter's shop.

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Olivia guided her BMW to a parking space in front of a two-story clapboard house in San Mateo. The reddish-orange sun hung near the edge of the Santa Cruz Mountains - a sign of the approaching dusk.

"This is it," she said to her companions. "Keir Larson's address. Of course, I don't see any silver Lexus in sight." Olivia glanced at her husband beside her. A frown darkened his usually handsome countenance. "Is there something wrong?" she asked. "You know this Larson?"

"Huh?" Cole finally snapped out of his reverie.

From the car's backseat, Darryl asked, "Something wrong, man? You look a little troubled."

Cole shook his head. "It's nothing. Just . . . trouble with a client." He paused. "Mark Giovanni's son, as a matter of fact. It's . . ." He hesitated. "It's a private matter."

Olivia climbed out of the car. "Well, it's show time, guys." Cole and Darryl also climbed out. The trio made their way toward the house's front door. Darryl knocked.

More than a minute passed before Darryl knocked again. It became apparent that Larson was not home. Olivia sighed. "Talk about a wasted trip," she grumbled.

"Maybe not," Cole replied. "I say that we take a look around for ourselves."

Darryl regarded the half-daemon with horror. "Are you crazy? We can't just break into this man's home without a warrant! Anything we find won't be considered admissible in a court of law. We haven't contact the San Mateo Police. And Olivia and I can lose our badges."

"If we find anything, you and Olivia can return with the San Mateo cops and a warrant. Just pretend that you haven't been here," Cole coolly explained.

Both Olivia and Darryl exchanged wary looks. The latter sighed and nodded warily. "Okay," he began. "We'll do . . ." Before Darryl could finish, Cole teleported all three of them inside the house.

Upon receiving information about the silver Lexus spotted outside Janet Hui's house, Olivia had done a background check on the car's owner. She discovered that Keir Larson owned a private security firm here in San Mateo. Judging from the house's tasteful, yet modern d├ęcor, Larson's business must be very profitable. Her eyes caught sight of a tall armoire made from pine.

"Not bad," Cole murmured. "Even if his taste is a little too Spartan for me."

Darryl added, "Very Scandinavian."

Olivia drifted out of the living-room and made her way along a narrow hallway. She soon came across a door on the left side, painted in red. A few twists of the doorknob proved the room to be locked. Using her telekinesis, she unfastened the lock and opened the door. Olivia found a light switch and flicked it on.

What greeted her eyes took the redhead by surprise. A wide cabinet sat against the far left wall. Jars of herbs and various liquids filled the shelves, along with knick-knacks and what seemed to be magical tools. Even a crystal ball rested upon the cabinet's lower left shelf. A small table stood against the room's right side. Upon it laid a map of the San Francisco area and a white pendulum for scrying. Olivia opened one of the cabinet drawers and found several knives - mainly daggers and stilettos - inside. She also found a double-edged ax. In the center of the room stood a table that obviously served as an altar for spells and magic ceremonies.

Both Cole and Darryl appeared in the doorway. "We found something very interesting," Darryl began. "In Larson's . . ." He paused and gaped at the sight before him. "What the hell?"

Cole also stared at the room in shock. "Who is this guy?" he demanded. "What is this guy?"

"Who knows?" Olivia replied grimly. "He's obviously a magic practitioner. And I find it odd that Ron Wong's alleged killer happens to be one." She finally glanced at the two men. "What did you find?"

Darryl held up sheaves of paper. "Receipts showing deposits made into a bank in the Cayman Islands. The last deposit had been for twenty-five thousand dollars - hours before Ronald Wong had disappeared."

"And I found this." Cole held up a business card. "Just a name and a phone number."

Olivia took the card and read, "James Bishop. No title and no company name. Interesting." An idea came to her. She whipped out her cell phone. "Let's give Mr. Bishop a call, shall we?"

She dialed the telephone number from the car. Seconds passed before a recording voice echoed in her ear. "You have reached the voice mail for James Bishop. Please leave a name and telephone number and I will return your call."

Olivia snapped her cell phone shut. "I only reached a voice mail message. I have to tell you, Darryl . . . I don't think that we have enough to pin Ron Wong's murder on this guy. Just the eyes of a Peeping Tom and these receipts. Which doesn't tell us much."

Cole added, "You should also take into account that magic might be behind Ron Wong's death. If this Larson is involved . . ." He sighed. "I just can't imagine who would want him dead."

"What I'd like to know is why Vampire Ron would go after . . ." She turned to Darryl. "What's his name? The guy who was killed last night?"

Darryl replied, "Dean Corbin. He was Curt Decker's defense attorney. You know, the millionaire's son who's standing trial for drug manufacturing."

"That's it!" Cole's exclamation drew stares from both Olivia and Darryl. "That must be it."

Her eyes still fixed upon her husband's face, Olivia demanded, "What are you talking about?"

"Curt Decker." Cole inhaled sharply. "Janet had told me that he was a close friend of Alonzo Giovanni's. And lately, that little sh . . . I mean, Alonzo has been asking me for extra money. He . . ." The half-daemon paused, realizing that he was about to break client confidentiality. "Never mind. Let's just say that . . ."

A frowning Olivia interrupted, "Wait a minute. Are you saying that Mark Giovanni's son may have been involved in Curt Decker's drug operation?"

Cole nodded. "Yeah."

"But what does that have to do with Ron Wong?"

Darryl added, "Well, he was one of the Federal prosecutors of the case."

"And Janet told me that Ron had wanted John Reyes to subpeana Alonzo," Cole said. "It seemed he had been investigating the money trail to Decker's operation. Alonzo may have been an investor. And if he was an investor that means that Decker had other investors."

Olivia now understood. "Investors who would want to make sure that Ron Wong and John Reyes never find out about them." She paused. "Wait a minute. If Keir Larson was a magic practitioner . . ."

Cole finished, ". . . then his employers - or Decker's investors - might be magically linked, as well. I think I should find out if there is any magical connection to the Decker family."

Darryl glanced at the receipts in his hands. "And we need to find Keir Larson. Find out who had hired him."

Olivia nodded. "Darryl and I will try to find Larson." She sighed. "Only I don't know where to start."

Cole's glance fell upon the map and scrying pendant. "Why don't you try scrying for him?"

Both Olivia and Darryl stared at the map and pendant. "Good idea," Olivia said. "And I have the tools, right here."

"What about the vampires?" Darryl asked. "You know, Ron Wong and the other one."

Cole suggested, "Scott and Piper can find him. Along with Harry and Paige." He pecked Olivia's cheek. "I'll see you later." And he beamed out of the room.

Olivia walked over to the table that held the map. "Well, we best get this show on the road." She picked up the pendant. As the white crystal hovered over the map, she began to chant.

---------------

The white crystal's large tip finally settled upon a spot on the map spread across the table inside the Halliwell manor. "There," Piper declared. "Around Fillmore and Broadway, in the Marina District." She frowned. "Why does that area sound familiar?"

"The Diamond Club," Harry said. "It's one of the top nightclubs in the city."

Piper sighed. She recalled the time she had visited rival clubs to ascertain how she could save P3. The Diamond Club, a glittering nightspot with a Vegas motif, had quickly become very popular since its opening during the summer of '02. The place seemed to be especially popular with the young scions of the city's elite. Customers like Harry McNeill.

"Why would a Chinese vampire hang around a nightclub?" Paige asked.

Scott shrugged. "Probably looking for victims." He glanced at his watch. "It's nearly six-thirty and it's already dark. I suggest that we leave now."

"I'm going home," Janet insisted. "I don't think I can . . ." She broke off, as her voice began to waver.

Piper frowned. "Is that a good idea? What if Ron or the other vampire decide to come after you?"

Paige moved to stand next to Janet. "I'll stay with her. Until you guys return." A wide-eyed Piper stared at her sister. "What? I'm only doing it just in case Ron or that other vampire decides to return. Someone needs to be with Janet. All I need is a piece of wood. I might not be fast enough to stick it into his chest, but I can sure as hell orb it into either of them."

"I'm convinced." Master Chan nodded. "Let's go." He started toward the front door with Harry and Scott close at his heels.

Piper remained behind to give her sister one last questioning stare. And uneasy feeling struck her that Paige had used Janet as an excuse to stay out of any future fray. "Well," she began in a hesitant voice, "take care."

"Yeah. You too. See you later." A mirthless smile touched Paige's lips before she turned away. Piper sighed and followed the three men out of the house.

-------------

The large silver chalice stood on a podium, in the middle of a room filled with materials and tools for magic. The room was located behind Getz's store. "Wow!" Larson exclaimed. "That's one hell of a large chalice!"

"It had originally belonged to a Saxon Pagan priest named Eorpwald," Herman Getz replied. "An ancestor." He held up a silver pitcher of water. As he poured the water into the chalice, he chanted a few words in what Larson recognized as Old Saxon. "Put the dagger into the chalice, please," the alchemist added.

Larson did as he was told. Getz then poured more water into the chalice. Both men leaned over to observe the water's surface. Seconds passed before the water revealed a Eurasian man garbed in a red-and-gold Chinese robe. His face looked slightly green and his fingernails resembled claws. He soared to the rooftop of a building, in which bright lights illuminated the words - DIAMOND CLUB.

"What the hell is that?" the warlock murmured.

Getz coolly replied, "Your mortal is now a chiang shi." The image on the water's surface disappeared.

"A what?"

An audible sigh left the alchemist's mouth. "May I assume that you're not familiar with Chinese mythology?" he asked sarcastically.

Larson shot him a dark glare and retorted, "Do I look like I might be familiar with Chinese mythology?"

"Do I?"

The warlock's mouth formed a grim line. "Just what in the hell is a chiang shi?"

Getz replied, "A Chinese vampire. Or what is also known as 'The Hopping Ghost'." He went on to describe facts about the chiang shi, including ways to kill it.

Larson snorted with derision. "Well, a Buddhist priest is out of the question. Along with fire. I need the body intact to show to my client." The alchemist stared at him. "Don't ask."

With a shrug, Getz continued, "Perhaps you might want to consider decapitation. Once that happens, the chiang shi reverts back to the original host's body."

Recalling the speed and power of European vampires, Larson asked, "Exactly how am I going to slow him down long enough to kill him?"

"Rice," the alchemist replied without blinking an eye. "Remember what I had told you about the rice." He turned his back on the warlock and removed the dagger before emptying the chalice. Then he filled the latter with more water.

Larson cleared his throat. "By the way, how much do I owe you? Was it fifty dollars for . . ."

Getz interrupted. "You better make that seventy-five."

"What for?" Larson stared at the alchemist, whose attention seemed to be focused upon the chalice.

"For the sword I'll be giving you to kill the vampire."

Suspicion niggled in the back of the warlock's mind. "Why do I need a sword from you? I plan to use mine from home."

The alchemist's dark and piercing eyes bored into the younger man's. "I wouldn't return home if I were you. Take a look."

Larson stood before the large chalice and glanced down. The water's surface reflected two men and one woman entering his house . . . and discovering his private room. "Who in the hell are they?" he demanded. "And how . . . ?"

"I have no idea," Getz said with a shrug of his shoulders. "But something tells me that they are looking for you. It might have something to do . . ." He broke off, as they watched the dark-haired man teleport from the room. "Well! This is interesting."

Larson exclaimed, "A teleporter? What the hell?"

Getz handed the sword over to the warlock. "Here. I suggest that you first take care of the vampire, before dealing with your visitors."

With a nod, Larson handed over seventy-five dollars to the alchemist. "Thanks for the sword." He shot one last uneasy glance at the chalice. "And the advice."


END OF CHAPTER TEN

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