"BREATH OF THE UNDEAD"
The four adults sat inside Piper's black SUV, which happened to be parked across the street from a three-story building. Neon lights in white flashed the words - THE DIAMOND CLUB above the building's third story windows.
"The chiang shi is here?" Piper asked, frowning at the building.
Scott corrected her. "You mean . . . are there. Don't forget there are now two of them to deal with. And you should know. You're the one who had pinpointed their location."
A sigh left Piper's mouth. "Don't remind me." Again, she peered at the building. "You know, I just can't see a Chinese vampire popping up at this place."
"I cannot see myself inside that place," Master Chan commented. "Perhaps one of the chiang shi is after someone in particular."
Disbelief rang in Harry's voice. "At the Diamond Club? Exactly whom would Ronald Wong be after?"
Cole sat inside the waiting chambers of a daemon named Hazika. The chamber happened to be a loggia connected to a white, rectangular-shaped building located near the edge of a sandy, white beach in the Eshu Dimension. Cole had visited this particular dimension on at least three occasions, but he had always found its semi-tropical setting rather breath taking.
A brown-skinned female with piercing green eyes, an unusually long neck and close-cropped dark hair appear before the half-daemon. She wore a tight-fitting long dress that perfectly accentuated her svelte figure. "Belthazor?" she asked in a bell-like voice.
The half-daemon nodded. "Yes?"
"Hazika is sorry to keep you waiting." The woman smiled, revealing faint ridges on the bridge of her nose. "She is now ready for you." Cole stood up and followed the female daemon . "Hazika has been exceptionally busy, lately. With so many realms in an uproar, clients have been demanding her services." They entered the building and strolled along a narrow hallway. Finally, the assistant indicated a slightly opened door to her right. "You may enter."
Cole murmured, "Thank you," and entered the room. Rolls of parchment paper, books and other items filled the large bookshelf that stretched from one end of the east wall to the other. Opposite the bookshelf, a pair of French doors led to a veranda that overlooked the turquoise ocean beyond.
"Belthazor!" The husky voice came from a petite female with bronze skin, bright green eyes and short-cropped hair. She sat in a white wicker chair. Unlike the assistant, silver hair indicated the female's advancing years. But like her assistant, she possessed a ridged nose. "So, Belthazor, how long has it been?"
Cole bowed respectively before the female daemon. "Hazika. How are you?"
"Doing quite well, so far," Hazika replied. "Sit down." She indicated the wicker chair opposite her own. Cole sat down. "So . . . exactly how long has it been since we last saw each other? Seven years ago? Eight?"
With a faint smile, Cole answered, "Actually, it has been five years or less. I had requested information on a witch. A male witch."
"Oh yes. Now I remember." Hazika nodded. "I also seemed to recall creating a - what do the humans call it? A dossier. I had completed a dossier on the Charmed Ones. For you."
Smiling, Cole shook his head. "Actually, it was the Triad who had requested the dossier."
"But they had handed it over to you," Hazika continued. "Did they not?" She reached for a silver bell from a nearby table. "Would you care for a drink?"
"No thank you."
Hazika placed the bell on the table. "Now, to business. What information do you require this time?"
Cole heaved a small sigh. "I need to find out if a certain human or his family have any connections with any demonic faction."
Hazika placed her fingertips together, forming a small teepee. "Hmmm. How soon do you need this information?"
"As soon as possible," Cole replied.
Again, Hazika reached out toward the small table. She waved one hand and a pen and small pad of paper appeared. "Please write down the name of this human. Also, include age and area of origin."
Cole grabbed a pen and poised over the small tablet. Then he wrote the information down as requested:
Curt Decker - Age 23 Human - Non-Magical San Franciso, California; Earth Dimension
Then he added:
Maximillian Decker - Age 50-55 Human - Non-Magical San Francisco, California; Earth Dimension
He handed over the slip of paper to Hazika. The older daemon stood up. "This might take a while. Are you certain that you don't want that drink?"
Realizing that fulfilling his request might take Hazika longer than he had expected, Cole changed his mind. "On second thought," he said, "a Melorian brandy would be nice."
Hazika nodded, as she stood up. "I'll make sure that Damika will return with your drink. Excuse me." And she left the room, leaving Cole alone with the view and his thoughts.
Inside the FBI Office on Golden Gate Avenue, Special Agent Lee Alvarez removed a slip of paper from a yellow in-office message envelope. The slip of paper revealed a conversation between Curt Decker and someone very surprising. He signaled his partner. "Hey Jay! Guess what I have in my hand?"
The other agent glanced up and frowned. "What?"
"It's from the listening post outside the Decker home," Alvarez continued. "Apparently, Curt Decker has decided to give his old buddy, Alonzo Giovanni a call. After nearly four months."
Excitement danced in Ruhl's eyes. "You think this has something to do with the drug operation?"
"I hope so," Alvarez replied. "I've always suspected that little bastard had been one of Decker's investors. It's too bad that Ron Wong is dead, because he had felt the same."
Ruhl asked, "What did Decker wanted?"
"A meeting between the two." Alvarez paused. "At some place called the Diamond Club."
A low whistle escaped from Ruhl's lips. "I don't know, Lee. I've heard of that place. Pretty exclusive."
Alvarez dismissed his partner's warning with a wave of his hand. "Who cares? This is a chance for us to prove a connection between Decker and Giovanni, other than mere friendship. Maybe we'll be able to find out if Giovanni knows if Decker had any other partners." He stood up and grabbed his jacket. "The meeting is going down in nearly forty minutes. Let's go."
The two partners headed toward the door.
Darryl pointed at the empty parking spot, located not far from his and Olivia's destination. "There's a spot," he said. "Park there." Olivia guided her green BMV into the parking spot. Once she switched off the engine, Darryl frowned at a two-story building. "Getz's Pharmacy. Are you sure that this is the place?"
"This is it," Olivia replied. "This is where the pendant told us where to find Larson."
"What in the hell would a demon or . . . whatever the hell Larson is . . . be doing here?"
Olivia shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. There's a good chance that Larson might want some kind of herb for a spell or potion. Or maybe this Getz is an alchemist." Darryl shot an anxious stare at her. "Or not," she revised.
The two partners climbed out of the car. A quick glance around informed Olivia that this particular street seemed nearly empty. They paused before the pharmacy's entrance. Darryl glanced at his watch. "At least it's still opened." He pointed at the sign, which indicated that the shop would close around eight o'clock. They entered the shop.
Nearly a minute passed before a tall man with gray, intense eyes and a Van Dyke beard approached the pair. "May I help you?" he asked in a deep voice. Upon close inspection, Olivia saw that the lines on his face and dark hair mixed with gray, indicated a man in his late forties or early fifties.
The two police officers displayed their badges. "San Francisco Police," Darryl announced. "I'm Lieutenant Morris. This is Inspector Turner. We're searching for a fugitive, who was last seen on this street. In fact, a witness has claimed seeing him entering your shop, not long ago."
"I'm sorry, but I do receive customers practically on an hourly basis," the pharmacist replied. "Who exactly would he . . .?"
Olivia handed over a copy of Larson's DMV photograph. "His name is Keir Larson, Mr. . . ?"
"Herman Getz." The name sparked a familiar note within Olivia's brain. Meanwhile, the pharmacist gazed at the photograph. "Ah yes! He looks familiar. I had sold him a bottle of chlorophyll."
"Chlorophyll?" Darryl's eyes narrowed. "Did Mr. Larson have a little problem with mitosis?"
A polite smile curved Getz's lips. "I suppose so. Mr. . . Larson? He seemed to know what he wanted. Anything else, Lieutenant?"
Darryl hesitated. "Well, as a matter of fact . . ." He glanced around the shop. "Don't you have an assistant? I've never heard of a pharmacist without one."
"I don't need an assistant. Although my business is pretty sound, this isn't exactly your local RITE-AID store." Getz's eyes bored into Darryl's. "Why are you interested in my shop, Lieutenant? Am I under some kind of suspicion?"
During the exchange between Darryl and Getz, Olivia had been trying to remember why the pharmacist's name seemed familiar. Now, she remembered. "Oh my God!" she burst out. "Of course! Herman Getz! You're a wizard who specializes in alchemy. And a whole lot of other stuff I don't want to get into. Which makes me wonder . . . why would a magic practitioner like Larson be interested in paying a visit to your . . ."
The fireball materialized above Getz's open palm before Olivia had a chance to blink. Darryl moved a lot faster, as he whipped out his revolver and shot Getz's hand. The ball of fire exploded and the wizard found his left hand missing. Getz cried out in pain. Then he raised his other arm and Olivia cried out:
"A ring of truth I cast on thee,
Deceit and all confusion flee.
Speak the truth, which must be told.
Or with a lie, your life grows old."
A beam of violet light materialized and wrapped itself around the wizard's body. Olivia declared, "Speak the truth! Now!"
"Stupid witch!" the wizard growled. "Do you honestly believe that your magic can bound me? Resolvo!" But the violet ring failed to dissipate. In fact, it tightened around the alchemist's body. Panic filled Getz's eyes. "What's going on?"
Olivia glared at the wizard. "Simple. For every question you fail to answer truthfully or ignore, the ring will take away a drop of your life force. Now, why did Larson come to see you?"
Getz defiantly tilt his head upward. "None of your business!" he retorted. The ring tightened around his body again and he cried out in pain for the second time.
"Why did Larson come here to see you?" Olivia repeated in a harsher voice. "What did he want?"
A groan escaped from Getz's mouth before he answered, "Chlorophyll tablets for his breath." Once again, the violet ring tightened. Then he added, "All right! All right! He needed my help to find someone."
"Someone?" Olivia and Darryl exchanged frowns. "Like who?"
Following another groan, Getz replied, "A daemon. A daemon who used to be a mortal. The mortal had become a vampire. A chiang shi. That's a Chi . . ."
"I know what a chiang shi is," Olivia coldly interrupted.
Darryl exclaimed, "He's looking for Ronald Wong?"
Getz took a deep breath and said, "I don't know his name. All I know is that he was a mortal before Larson had killed him. The man . . . turned into a chiang shi and Larson needs his body to claim a fee."
"Why did Larson need you to find this chiang shi?" Olivia asked. "He could have used divination."
"The usual divination methods didn't work," Getz answered. "Larson needed me to use the mortal's blood on his knife to track the vampire." The wizard began to wheeze. "Please! Let me go."
Olivia retorted, "One more question. Where can I find the chiang shi and Larson?"
Getz hesitated. The magical ring squeezed his body for the fourth time. "The Diamond Club!" he cried out in desperation. "Some place called the Diamond Club!"
"I've heard of that place," Darryl commented.
Olivia nodded. "Yeah, so have I." She turned to the wizard and declared, "Resolvo!" The violet ring immediately disappeared. Getz's body dropped to the floor with a thud. "I think we better get out of here," she said to Darryl.
The police lieutenant nodded at the fallen figure. "What about him?"
"He served his purpose," Olivia replied with a shrug.
The two partners started toward the front door. The moment Darryl placed his hand on the doorknob, Olivia felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise. She whirled around and saw that Getz now stood on his feet. Olivia gasped, as he flung a fireball toward her direction. Using her telekinesis, the redhead deflected the fireball, causing it to zoom right back at the wizard. The ball's flames engulfed him.
Darryl glanced at the spot where the alchemist once stood. "Why didn't you kill him earlier?" he demanded.
"Because he was down," Olivia replied. "Unconscious. I try not to kill someone who's not in a position to defend himself. I've got enough blood on my hands."
Shaking his head, Darryl opened the door and walked out of the shop. Olivia followed closely behind.
END OF CHAPTER ELEVEN