“Return With a Vengeance” [PG-13] – 5/18

“RETURN WITH VENGEANCE”

CHAPTER 5

Alberta Devore removed her lips from the water that streamed from the fountain and straightened her back. As she strode down the corridor, a noise caught her attention. From one of the offices on this floor. The noise sounded like a cry or a scream, and it made Alberta feel very nervous. 

Her first instinct was to investigate the noise. But self-preservation kept her in check. And when she heard a door click open, she quickly dashed into her office and shut the door. The last thing she wanted was to witness a murder or any other act of violence.

Alberta took a deep breath and returned to her desk. Minutes passed and her unease grew, as she heard more noise from outside the office – like the sound of a heavy object being moved. Unable to deal with the wear on her nerves, Alberta stood up and walked over to the window. She glanced out and saw a man leave the building. That same man climbed into a silver Ford sedan with license plates that read – 666MAL. Curiosity replaced her fear for a brief moment. She wondered if this man had anything to do with the noise she had heard.

* * * *

Phoebe rushed downstairs to the Halliwells’ living room after hearing the front door open. Apparently, her two sisters and brother-in-law had finally returned home for the evening. “Leo! Piper! Paige! You’re back!” She remained on the staircase’s last step. “Where have you all been? It’s almost eight.”

The other three stared at Phoebe, wearing concerned expressions. “Paige and Leo were helping me at P3,” Piper replied. “What’s wrong?”

“I got a visit from Darryl, today. And Olivia McNeill.” Phoebe made her way to the living room sofa. “It seems Darryl wanted me to summon a premonition.”

The other two Halliwell sisters joined Phoebe on the sofa. Paige frowned. “What on earth for?”

Heaving a large sigh, Phoebe continued, “Apparently, it has something to do with a friend of Olivia’s.”

“Cecile,” Leo stated. His comment drew stares from the three sisters. “She’s a friend of Olivia’s, who also practices magic.”

Phoebe continued in a tense voice, “Well, apparently this Cecile had received a premonition after meeting Darryl. Only, she didn’t get a vision, just a feeling.”

“What feeling?” Piper demanded.

“I don’t know. Some kind of sense that something wrong might happen to Darryl.” Phoebe went on to describe Darryl’s request that she summon a premonition. And the vision she had received when she held his hand. “The only thing I saw was Darryl and Olivia at some crime scene in the downtown area. I certainly didn’t sense any forbidding future for Darryl. But I can’t help but wonder if the case he and Olivia will investigate might prove to be dangerous for him.”

Piper began to rub her younger sister’s arm. “Honey, maybe this Cecile person was wrong. I mean, she couldn’t even bring up a vision. It’s a good chance that her powers are not as strong as yours.” She glanced at Leo. “Right?”

The whitelighter shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve only met Cecile a few times. All I know is that she’s not a witch like you or the McNeills. She doesn’t practice Wicca.” He paused. “She’s . . . uh, into Voodoo.”

“Voodoo?” Paige made a face. “You mean like zombies and stuff? Why would Olivia be friends with someone like that?” Phoebe privately agreed.

With a sigh, Leo continued, “Voodoo isn’t evil or anything like it’s shown in the movies. I understand that it’s just another pagan religion. Like Wicca. Besides, Cecile’s okay. I do know that she has premonitions and telepathy.”

Phoebe added, “Yeah, Olivia did say that she was a powerful psychic.”

“A powerful psychic who wasn’t able to summon a vision?” Paige’s voice rang with disbelief. “And besides, you’re a Charmed One, Phoebe. One of the most powerful witches ever. Your premonitions are probably more powerful. Ten to one, your premonition was more accurate than hers.” She turned to Leo. “Do the Founders know anything about Voodoo?”

Leo shook his head. “No. They’re not really familiar with any magic outside what you practice. Remember the Zen master? They weren’t familiar with that brand of magic, either.”

“Then what good are they?” Phoebe snapped. An uncomfortable silence followed. Leo’s face turned red with embarrassment. “I’m sorry Leo,” she added. “It’s just I can’t help but wonder if she’s right about Darryl. He is one of our closest friend and the only vision I had of him was investigating some crime scene.”

Leo added soothingly, “I understand. But I don’t think you have to worry. Your vision is probably more accurate than hers, anyway. And there’s a chance she never had a premonition. Maybe it was her intuition. And I’ll keep an eye on Darryl, tonight. If it would make you feel better.”

Phoebe responded with a nod. Piper added, “By the way, did you speak to Olivia about . . . you know, Cole?”

“Yeah.” Leo sighed. “Only Cole was there. Having breakfast with Olivia and Cecile. I talked with her after he left. She, uh . . . she didn’t listen to me. As usual.”

“So, you’re saying that this Cecile knows Cole?”

Again, Leo sighed. “They did seem a little chummy with each other, this morning.”

Paige tucked her feet underneath her legs. “Does Cecile even know he’s a demon?”

“Looks like it.” Leo paused. “She didn’t seem bothered by him.”

“Oh great!” Paige rolled her eyes. “Are you sure that Voodoo isn’t some kind of Satanic cult?”

A frown creased Piper’s brow. “Paige! That’s not a nice thing to say. Don’t forget there are a lot of people who still feel the same about Wicca.” She turned to her husband. “Leo, you have to do something about Olivia. Granted, none of us are particularly fond of her, but she is your charge.”

“Piper’s right,” Phoebe added. She could feel her heart beat unnaturally fast. “You should do something, before Olivia finds herself in a bad situation. Can’t you talk to her parents?”

An exasperated Leo shot back, “Phoebe, Olivia’s a grown woman. And don’t forget that she’s no longer my charge. Neither her or Bruce. They haven’t been in the past twelve years. And that’s exactly what Jack and Gweneth McNeill would tell me. Besides,” his voice lowered, “I get the feeling that they don’t really like me. Especially Mr. McNeill.” He glanced at his wife. “Could you talk to them? At least to old Mrs. McNeill?”

“Leo . . .” Piper began in protest.

“Please, Piper! I think she would listen to you.”

Piper sighed. She glanced at Phoebe, who returned the look with pleading eyes. “Oh all right. I’ll pay a visit, tomorrow afternoon. Maybe if I told them everything on what happened last spring . . .”

“Oh.” The word immediately came out of Leo’s mouth. The three sisters frowned at the whitelighter. He seemed confused. Disturbed.

Phoebe demanded, “What’s wrong?”

After a brief hesitation, Leo continued, “Well, it seems that Cole has already told the McNeills about his time as the Source. He told them that he became the Source against his will.”

“And they believed him?” Piper cried.

The whitelighter’s next words took the Charmed Ones by surprise. “Yeah, they believe him. According to Olivia, Mrs. McNeill read his memories using telepathy, and she’s supposed to be a very strong telepath. And if that’s the case, I’m beginning to suspect that he might be telling the truth.”

Disbelief gripped Phoebe’s stomach. Dammit! What was it about Cole that brought so much torment and confusion? She heaved a large sigh. “Leo, whether or not Cole had chosen to become the Source, he’s still a danger. Disaster always seemed to follow him. And with those new powers of his . . . well, who knows when he’ll give in to evil again? Olivia might not be your charge anymore, but she’s still your friend. For her safety, for the safety of her family, someone has to talk to them. Make them understand how dangerous he is. If you can’t do, let Piper try.” Phoebe paused and stared at both Leo and Piper. “You know I’m right.”

Piper coughed slightly. “The lady has spoken.”

* * * *

Olivia watched Cecile sink her teeth into the slice of Devil’s Food cake. “Hmmm!” the other woman groaned. “God, this is good! How do you make it so moist?”

A smile spread across Gweneth McNeill’s face. “Pudding. I’m glad that you like it.” Her green eyes, which her two younger children had inherited, sparkled with satisfaction. The fifty-five year-old woman had also passed along her red hair to Olivia and Harry. Only in her case, sprinkles of gray mixed in the red. “Before you go back to New Orleans, I’ll make another one for you to give to your parents.”

“If I don’t eat it first. Maybe I’ll save a slice for Andre. Devil’s Food is his favorite.” Cecile turned her attention to Cole. “You know, I just realized something. You never told me how you and Andre first met.”

A wariness crept into Cole’s eyes. He shook his head and gave Cecile a tight smile. “It was . . . Nothing. I forgot.”

“You forgot?” Jack McNeill, Olivia’s handsome father frowned. “Sounds like you don’t want to tell us. Did it involve someone’s death?”

Embarrassment replaced the wariness in Cole’s eyes. “No.” He paused. “Actually, Andre and I met at a party in the French Quarter. During Mardi Gras. It was . . . a party.”

The McNeills stared at the half-daemon. “What’s the big mystery?” Bruce demanded. A younger version of his father, he also happened to be the oldest McNeill sibling.

Cole gave an embarrassed cough. “Nothing. There’s no big mystery. I met Andre at a party. That’s all.”

“Oh dear God!” Cecile’s outburst drew stares from the others.

Olivia demanded, “What?”

“I . . .” Cecile stared at Cole, who heaved a defeated sigh. “Nothing.”

However, Olivia decided to be persistent. “C’mon! What’s with the big outburst? Does it have something to do with Cole and Andre?”

Cole’s shoulders sagged. “I’ll tell. Andre and I met at this party.”

“In the French Quarter,” Elise McNeill added. The McNeill matriarch nodded. “Go on.”

The half-daemon continued. “Have you ever seen the movie, EYES WIDE SHUT? It featured Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman at this party . . .”

Realization hit Olivia like a slap in the face. She finally recalled a party that she and Cecile had tracked this drug lord when they first met Andre in Morgan City. The party seemed more like an orgy filled with sex, booze and drugs. “Good grief! You met Andre at one of those?”

Cole nodded. “Yeah. Many daemons loved to frequent such parties. They were great places to seek out people willing to sell their souls, if you know what I mean.”

A wide grin spread across Harry’s handsome, freckled face. “And I bet the sex was great, too! Right?”

To Olivia’s amazement, she saw her first look at a daemon – or half-daemon – blushing. No one, especially any of her Wiccan friends, would ever believe this! Then a small, private smile appeared on his face. A smile that spoke a thousand words. Olivia felt a quick stab of envy.

“Anyway,” Cole continued, “that lifestyle is over for me. I haven’t been to a party like that in over four years. And I don’t have the taste for one, either.”

Gran patted Cole’s arm. “Good for you,” she replied, nodding.

“Although, I wouldn’t mind a private, one-on-one version,” he added with a smile.

Cole’s words drew stunned stares – especially from the women. Olivia’s mother cried out in shock, “Cole!”

“Sorry,” Cole said with a shake of his head. “I met this woman, today. A widow named Suzanne Maxwell. Very beautiful woman.” Olivia’s jealousy returned. Cole continued, “But there was something about her . . .” His voice drifted into a whisper.

Olivia demanded, “What?”

Cole paused, as his expression became reflective. “I don’t know. She had invited me to dinner, tonight. And when I turned down her . . . she didn’t seem disappointed. She seemed frustrated. Very frustrated. It seemed as if I had ruined some plan of hers.” Again, he shook his head. “I don’t know. I guess I had a bad feeling about her at that moment.”

“Maybe you should stay away from her,” Bruce suggested.

Her eyes shinning like polished emeralds, Olivia leaned forward. “No! I think you should get to know her, instead. Maybe there’s a reason she’s trying to get close to you. I mean, it is odd that she should show up not long after the MALEHEX Corporation closed its Seattle office.”

“The Crozats?” Cole said questioningly.

Olivia shrugged her shoulders. “It’s a long shot, but . . . I don’t know. Maybe you shouldn’t dismiss your feelings about her. Come to think of it, you’re not the only one who’s been receiving bad fe . . .”

A gasp from Cecile’s mouth interrupted Olivia. The Vodoun priestess went into a sudden trance, startling everyone else. The trance lasted for several seconds, until it ended with a shuddering sigh. Then Cecile collapsed on the floor. Harry, Bruce and Cole rushed to her side.

“Cecile! Are you all right?” Olivia cried. She watched anxiously, while the three men helped Cecile to her feet.

Cecile murmured, “I’m fine, I’m fine. I . . .” She took a deep breath. Gweneth handed her a glass of water. “Thanks.” She took a sip.

“What happened?” Gran asked.

“I, uh . . . I don’t know.” Cecile finished her water in several gulps. The others looked upon her with concern. “I had this vision. Well, it wasn’t a vision. More like a feeling. Like the last time, when Livy and I were at the police station.” Cecile heaved a sigh. “Only the feeling was stronger. More powerful. I felt as if I had sensed this great darkness. Or an evil spirit. I felt the same when I met your Inspector Morris, only it wasn’t as strong.”

Olivia frowned. “Are you saying that Darryl has some evil spirit within him?”

Cecile cried out, “I don’t know! Maybe I’m wrong, but . . .” She paused. “Then again, maybe we’re in for some serious trouble. I think we all should be careful.” Anxiety flashed in everyone’s eyes, as a troubling silence enveloped the dinner party.

END OF CHAPTER 5