“Neighbors” [PG] – 7/11

 

“NEIGHBORS”

Part 7

Olivia spent half of the following morning at the police station, waiting for her friend’s response to the e-mail message she had sent. And thinking about last night’s dinner with Cole Turner.

The half-daemon had done more than just tell her about his experience as the Source. Olivia also learned about his life as Belthazor and his experiences with the Halliwells from the past two years. Namely, the deal he had made with the Triad; his attempts on the Charmed Ones’ lives; falling in love with Phoebe Halliwell; being hunted by demonic bounty hunters; the death of his mentor, Raynor; those trying months following Prue Halliwell’s death; losing Belthazor to a vengeful woman; adjusting to mortality and finally; the circumstances that led to the Source’s possession of his body. Cole also talked about being trapped in the Wasteland and acquiring his new demonic powers. Along with his failed attempts to win back Phoebe. Including his part in the recent death of a well-known slum lord.

In all, Olivia felt as if she had relived an engrossing, supernatural saga on good, evil, love and betrayal. Cole’s life story would have made a great novel. Or autobiography. She could see the title now – “THE DAEMON FORMERLY KNOWN AS BELTHAZOR”. Or perhaps “LIFE OF A DEMONIC ASSASSIN”, or even “WITCHES AND DAEMONS IN LOVE”. What amazed Olivia was that Cole and Phoebe’s story bore a strong resemblance to her experiences with Richard. Except for the tragic ending. Cole still might have a chance to start over again with Phoebe Halliwell – once she realizes that he had also been traumatized by the Source and the Seer’s machinations. And once Cole stops trying too hard to win her back.

Olivia contemplated the idea of a reunion between her neighbor and his ex-wife. For some reason, the idea did not really appeal to her. Her gut instinct told her that unless the middle Charmed One learned to accept Cole for himself, there would be no true happiness between them. And Olivia deeply suspected that accepting Cole was something that the Halliwells might not easily accomplish.

“Hey!” Darryl’s voice snapped Olivia out of her thoughts. She glanced up and caught her colleague standing in front of her desk. “You’ve been staring at that laptop all morning. Are you some Internet addict, or something?”

Olivia gave Darryl a cool look. “I’ve been waiting for a message. From a friend of mine in Seattle. If you must know.”

Darryl eased into the chair, opposite the redhead. “Seattle? What’s there?”

“I had received a tip on those . . .” Olivia paused and glanced around. She wanted to make sure there were no eavesdroppers. “. . . on those warlocks.” Her voice grew soft.

Dark eyes narrowed. “What kind of tip? From Cole Turner?”

Olivia heaved a frustrated sigh. “Oh God! Darryl, you’re not going to start another lecture on not trusting him, again, are you?”

“Look, you have no idea how dangerous he can be.”

A sigh left Olivia’s mouth. “Trust me, I have a pretty good idea. I saw him in action.” She paused, as her eyes returned to the computer screen. “In fact, I have more than a good idea. What would you say if I told you that I was once engaged to a warlock?”

Darryl’s eyes flew wide open. “A war . . . What . . . What happened to him?”

Olivia struggled to quell a surge of grief. Her eyes focused on Darryl again, as she quietly said, “Richard was killed, while trying to save me and my mother.”

“Oh.” Darryl glanced away, unable to meet her eyes. “I’m sorry.”

A bitter smile formed on Olivia’s lips. “So am I. You know, Cole reminds me of Richard. At least on the surface. They have that same sarcasm and air of loneliness. Only Richard wasn’t as reserved as Cole. And his tastes weren’t so . . . I don’t know, expensive.”

Darryl added, “But I bet your Richard never betrayed you in the end. Did he?”

“No,” Olivia replied shortly. “He didn’t. But are you so sure that Cole betrayed Phoebe in the end? Or were there other forces involved?”

Despite the chatter that surrounded them, Olivia and Darryl stared at each other in silence. Then Darryl began, “Are you talking about the . . . ?”

Olivia’s computer laptop beeped. “You’ve got mail,” it announced. She immediately tore her attention away from Darryl and concentrated on the computer screen. Using her mouse, she clicked on the new message:

“To: Liv71@aol.com
Subject: Malehex Corp.
From: DGraySPD@hotmail.com
Date: Mon, _ Oct 2002 09:39:16

Malehex Corp has one holding in SF. Check out Tower
Bay Imports/Exports Co at 534 Bayshore Blvd. Phillip
Crozat, company director. Hope this helps.

D.G.”

“Got ’em!” Olivia declared triumphantly. “Tower Bay Import/Export. Now that name sounds familiar. Ever heard of it?” she asked Darryl.

The other inspector frowned. “Yeah. It’s an exclusive company that imports and exports stuff like rare antiquities, expensive perishables – mainly food delicacies from other countries, and bond certificates. That sort of thing.”

“Rare antiquities, huh?” Olivia became thoughtful. “Great way to distribute certain items to other warlock covens and demonic organizations.”

Darryl looked shocked. “You mean that Tower Bay is owned by war . . .?” He paused, as an office clerk walked by. “By warlocks?”

“The Malehex Corporation,” Olivia clarified. “Which happens to be owned by the Crozat Coven.”

“I better tell the Halliwells about this.” Darryl stood up.

Olivia grabbed his arm. “Wait a minute, Darryl. When you do, tell them not to do anything.”

“Why not?” Darryl demanded.

“Because I want to find out what we’re in for. Reconnoiter the place. Get a layout. From what Cole told me, the Crozat Coven is pretty large. And I’m not in the habit of charging in like some idiot with a trigger finger.” Olivia reached for the telephone. Darryl asked whom she was calling. “The one person who can help me, right now. Well, actually there are two, but I don’t think Bruce will be available, this afternoon.”

Confusion whirled in Darryl’s eyes. “So, who are you calling?”

Olivia shook her head. “Don’t worry. I’m not calling Cole.” She reached for her telephone. “And don’t forget what I said. Tell the Halliwells to stay away, until I reach them.” Darryl nodded and walked away. Olivia dialed the number to the McNeill manor.

* * * *

“Thanks for helping me out, Dad,” Olivia said to her father, as she drove the car along Bayshore Boulevard. “I hope you weren’t forced to interrupt anything.”

Jack McNeill dismissed Olivia’s worries with a wave of his hand. “You didn’t interrupt a thing. I had already finished a board meeting. And the only other thing I had scheduled was a golf game with Cameron Douglas.”

Olivia frowned. “Cameron Douglas? You can barely stand him. Has this anything to do with Mr. Douglas’ sudden desire to retire? And his company?”

“Perhaps,” Jack replied airily. His blue-gray eyes radiated innocence. “Besides, I like golf. I think I can survive one game with Douglas.”

A smirk formed on Olivia’s lips. “Yeah Dad. Sure.” She stopped the car at an intersection. “The least said, the better. Right?”

Jack’s mouth twisted into a knowing smile. “Sometimes, Olivia, I think you know me too well.” He glanced around the car’s interior. “This isn’t a police car, is it?”

The light turned green and Olivia stepped on the gas. “Not quite. I had . . . borrowed this from a friend in U.S. Customs. I want the Crozats to think I’m a Customs officer. I have to return it before someone realizes that it’s missing.”

“Ah,” Jack said, nodding. “You don’t want this car traced to you.”

“That’s right. If they had sent a warlock after me, they must know I’m a cop. And I don’t want them to know I’m on their trail.”

Jack continued, “Which is why you asked me to join you, this afternoon.”

Olivia smiled. “You know me too well.” She spotted a wide, one-story building to her left. Black letters across the top read: TOWER BAY IMPORTS/EXPORTS. “There it is,” she commented.

“How did you find out about this place?” Jack asked.

“I traced it through a friend of mine in the Seattle Police. It’s owned by a Seattle-based corporation called MALEHEX.”

Jack’s eyes widened. “Malehex? Of course! I should have known,” he groaned. “I forgot that Malehex was owned by a warlock coven. I just didn’t know which one. Who told you about them?”

“Cole. He used to be part of the Brotherhood of the Thorn, which has done business with the Crozats.”

One of Jack’s brows jumped upward. “Really?”

“Does that bother you?” Olivia asked in an anxious voice. “That I had asked for Cole’s help?”

Her father shrugged. “Isn’t that what Harry had suggested?”

“Yeah.” Olivia stopped the car for a second, before she made a left into Tower Bay’s parking lot.

Jack continued, “I bet the Halliwells won’t be thrilled, when they find out.”

Olivia snorted. “Do I look like I care?” She eased the car into a parking space. “I think I had made myself perfectly clear, yesterday.”

“You don’t like them very much, do you? The Halliwells, I mean.”

A gust of breath left Olivia’s mouth. “Dad, did I say anything of the kind? Besides, the only two Halliwells I personally knew are dead. Prue and her grandmother.”

“Uh-huh. But you didn’t like them. And you don’t like Prue’s sisters. Am I right?” Jack insisted. He stared at Olivia. Who found it difficult to meet his eyes. “Look, honey, I realize they can seem a bit self-righteous. Come to think of it, one could say the same about both Penny and Patty.”

Olivia added darkly, “And Prue.”

“Yeah, well self-righteous or not, they’re not bad people. In fact,” Jack paused, “I’m sure that they can be pretty nice. They must be, or Cole would have never stuck with them for so long.”

Olivia switched off the car’s engine. “I guess you’re right. But we can talk about the Halliwells, later. It’s showtime.”

Jack nodded. He sat still for a moment. Within a blink of an eye, his body transformed into another body. He went from a six foot man with graying chestnut hair, blue-gray eyes and ruggedly handsome features, to a stocky, forty-something man with gray eyes and blond hair. “How do I look?” he asked his daughter.

“Even better looking” Olivia joked wryly. “It’s my turn.” Jack leaned toward her and waved his hand in front of his daughter with one swipe. Olivia immediately transformed into a man – a tall, thin man with dark-brown hair and a perpetual frown. Olivia felt a certain physical addition between her legs. She squirmed. “Gee Dad, did you have to change me into a man?”

A smirk appeared on the older man’s lips. “What’s the matter? Afraid I won’t be able to change you back?”

Olivia shook her head. “Sometimes I wonder how Mom has been able to deal with that sense of humor of yours, for so long. Let’s go.” Daughter and father stepped out of the car. Olivia handed Jack a phony U.S. Customs badge and the pair proceeded toward the building.

* * * *

Phillip Crozat eyed the new visitors warily. This was the company’s second visit from the U.S. Customs in over a month. One visit could be construed as a nuisance. But this second visit . . . The warlock began to wonder if the company had attracted any unwanted attention from the Federal government.

His cousin Andre wanted to kill the two customs inspectors. In case they discover something. Phillip pointed out there was nothing inside the warehouse to discover – aside from several boxes of stock certificates. Unless some idiot had left traces of the last witch they lured here.

Irritation rose within Phillip. With the exception of the witch they had killed at Candlestick Park two days ago, the coven has been encountering a great deal of bad luck in acquiring witches’ powers. The Charmed Ones prevented Cousin Simon from killing the mother of that unborn witch, last Wednesday. And a witch from the powerful McNeill Coven had killed Cousin Stephen, the following night. Phillip had them marked for retribution. But to go after such powerful witches required more fire power. With the powers of the Charmed Ones and the McNeills, the Crozat Coven could ascend to demonhood and become leaders of the Source’s Realm.

The sulky-looking inspector strode up to Phillip. “Looks like everything’s in order,” he said with a scowl. The man almost seemed disappointed.

Phillip haughtily replied, “I could have told you that. Tower Bay has been one of the most prestigious trading companies on the West Coast.”

A sniff from the Customs inspector was the response. The scowling man added, “That’s what George DeMere of DeMere Imports said. Two days before we discovered illegal arms in his warehouse. He was part of a big arms smuggling ring and have reason to believe that another company is involved.” He turned to his companion, a stocky man with blond hair. “Hey Dan! Find anything back there?”

Seconds later, the other Customs inspector emerged from the back. “Everything’s A-okay, Pete!”

Inspector Peter Zwick rolled his eyes. “Right. Let’s get out of here.”

To Phillip’s relief, the Customs inspectors finally left the warehouse. The warlock ordered one of his minions to follow them and make sure they had left. “Think they might be a problem?” Cousin Andre asked.

Phillip shook his head. “I don’t think so. But I want to make sure they really are customs agents.” The minion returned inside the warehouse, breathing heavily. “Well?” Phillip demanded.

“I saw . . . them leave in a car with . . .” The minion panted between words. “. . . with government plates. U.S.”

Andre said, “I guess they’re genuine.”

“Maybe so,” Phillip replied. “But two visits within a month? And this visit just three or four days after Cousin Stephen failed to kill a witch who happened to be a cop? I don’t know.” His eyes narrowed. “But in case they had been sent by that witch, I think we should prepare that trap. Just in case we have more visitors.” His lips formed a thin smile.

END OF PART 7

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