“Return With a Vengeance” [PG-13] – 9/18

“RETURN WITH VENGEANCE”

CHAPTER 9

Olivia glanced at her wristwatch. It was eight minutes past eleven. After three hours, Darryl Morris still failed to show up for work. Captain McPherson had been ragging her all morning about her missing partner. She glanced at her watch, once more. What in the hell happened to him? As Olivia reached for the telephone on her desk, it rang. “Hello?” 

“Olivia, this is Darryl. Darryl Morris,” the voice on the other end of the receiver announced. Elation from hearing her partner soon became confusion. Was she imagining things, or was Darryl speaking with a foreign accent? “Olivia, are you there?”

The red-haired witch sighed. “Yeah, Darryl. I hear you.” Then she burst out, “Where in the hell are you?”

A pause followed, before Darryl responded, “I’m on Washington. I wanted to make a few inquiries on that case we are working on.”

Olivia opened her mouth, but hesitated. There was something about Darryl’s reply that struck her as vague. And Darryl Morris had never seemed like the vague type. Nor so formal . . . as he did now.

“Olivia?” Darryl continued. “Did you hear me?”

She took a deep breath. “Did you find something new on the DiMatteo case?”

“I believe so. I will share my discoveries when I return to the office.” He paused. “Around two o’clock.”

“I’ll see you then. Bye.” Olivia slowly hung up. She stared at her desk, as she contemplated the recent telephone call. The DiMatteo case? Apparently, Darryl had forgotten that he took home the new file on the Pablo Alvarez murder. She shook her head and frowned. Something was wrong.

* * * *

“Everything is fine,” the tall figure declared to the Crozats. “She believed me.”

Edward stared uneasily at the sorcerer. “Well, that is good to hear,” he said in a cautious manner. “I understand that the McNeill witch is notorious for possessing a suspicious mind. We don’t have to worry about her. At least not yet.”

“Are you sure?” a petulant Suzanne questioned. “She gave me quite a scare, last night. How do we know that she doesn’t suspect a thing?”

The phony Darryl Morris glared at the only female in the room. “She is not suspicious. Do you doubt my word?”

Suzanne literally shrank under the sorcerer’s imposing stare. “No . . . no, I . . . I don’t. Of course you’re right.” She sent an anxious glance toward Edward’s direction. The other warlock refused to meet her gaze.

“Good.” Dako/Morris nodded approvingly. “Now, whom do I kill first?”

Edward heaved an inward sigh. He did not dare tell the Hoodoo sorcerer that Olivia McNeill had been first on their list to eliminate. Aside from being the first witch who would be in contact with the mortal, Suzanne’s description of what happened at Belthazor’s apartment last night convinced him that of all the witches, she might prove to be the greatest danger. She struck Edward as being just a little too clever for his own comfort. Along with her father, John McNeill. If only Dako had not insisted upon a long meditation session following his possession of Darryl Morris’ body. And if only the sorcerer had completed his meditation before it was too late to go after the McNeill witch. Especially if she has reached the crowded anonymity of the police station.

“Well,” he began, “since it’s too late to go after the McNeill woman, let’s try someone more vulnerable. Like the youngest Charmed One. She is half-whitelighter and the most inexperienced of them. Also, you can go after the youngest McNeill. His only power is telepathy. Neither should be any problem.”

Dako frowned. “Charmed One? I’ve heard of the story from a European who once visited my homeland, long ago. Aren’t they supposed to be the most powerful witches among the British pagans?”

Edward nodded. “Yes, Your Excellency.”

A cruel smile curved Dako/Morris’ lips. “Too bad, because their powers will have no affect upon me. Of course, I could use the additional powers, as you had promised. Where can I find this little witch?”

“According to my nephew, she lives with her sisters at this manor on Prescott Street. She should be alone, since the other two have jobs and are probably not at home. The address is 1329 Prescott Street.”

Dako/Morris gave Edward a condescending frown. “Later. This McNeill witch sounds interesting. I shall go after her, first.” He shimmered away before Edward could protest that he did know the McNeill woman’s whereabouts.

Another sigh left Edward’s mouth. Suzanne glared at him. “That . . . thing,” she hissed, “might prove to be a problem, once we accomplish our goals. How do we get rid of him?”

Edward walked over to the desk, inside the Crozats’ library. He removed an envelope from inside the drawer. “With this,” he said, waving the envelope. “It came with the urn. A spell to vanquish Dako.”

“Well, that’s a relief.”

“I would not get too relaxed if I were you, Cousin,” Edward warned. “There is still the matter of Belthazor.”

Suzanne scowled. “I thought you understood what happened, last night. If it weren’t for that McNeill woman spilling the potion . . .”

Anxiety turned Edward’s stomach. “So you do believe that she suspects you?”

“I . . . I don’t know. But the next time I’m with Belthazor, I’ll make sure that we won’t be disturbed.” Suzanne paused. “There’s another problem.”

Edward walked over to the liquor cabinet to pour himself a drink. “What?”

“The oldest Charmed One. Didn’t that report we had received, state that she was pregnant with some powerful being?”

Edward allowed himself a smile. He loved surprises – especially when they came from him. Giving Suzanne a thoughtful stare, he replied, “How would you feel about being pregnant for the next several months?”

Suzanne stared at him in shock.

* * * *

Without a partner to accompany her, Olivia decided to continue the investigation of Pablo Alvarez’s death, on her own. She had nothing else better to do.

Alvarez’s employers provided information on the janitor. Olivia learned that he had lived in the United States for the past fifteen years; was married with four children; lacked a police record of any kind; helped cleaned the Hopkins Building from four in the afternoon, until midnight; and always called his wife before returning home.

Olivia recorded all of this information in her notebook, before leaving the supervisor’s office. Before she could reach the elevator, Olivia heard someone call her name. “Inspector McNeill?” Behind her, a middle-aged, pleasant-looking woman with coffee-colored skin rushed toward her. “You’re the police inspector, right?” the latter asked in a breathless voice.

“May I help you, Mrs. . . .?” Olivia began.

The woman finished, “Mrs. Devore. Alberta Devore. I . . .” She broke off, looking abashed. Olivia’s curiosity heightened.

“Is there something wrong?”

Mrs. Devore took a deep breath. “Is it true? About Pablo?”

“Yes ma’am,” Olivia replied. “His body was found yesterday. We believe that he had been killed . . .”

The woman sadly added, “. . . the day before yesterday. Around seven-fifty, in the evening.” Olivia gave her a startled look. “No, I didn’t kill him. But I think I may have overheard him being killed.”

“Here, in this building?” Olivia asked.

Mrs. Devore nodded. She told Olivia about hearing a cry the night before last. Like an animal being slaughtered. The older woman also admitted that she had been too scared to investigate the source of the noise. Or report to the police on what she had overheard. However, she did see someone leave the building shortly after Alverez’s murder.

“Was this him?” Olivia handed Mrs. Devore, Cecile’s sketch of the Crozat warlock.

The older woman shook her head. “No, his face was wider, I think. I remember, because he glanced up at the building. He was short, stocky and had brown hair. Didn’t look that interesting. But he had a nice car. A silver Ford sedan.”

Olivia asked, “Did you see the license plate?” She removed a notebook from her purse.

“It was a bit dark, but . . .” Mrs. Devore squeezed her eyes shut. “Okay, now I remember. It was 666MAL.” Olivia scribbled the number in her notebook. “I’m sorry I didn’t come to the police sooner.”

The same thought flashed through Olivia’s mind, but she kept it to herself. Instead, she gave the older woman a reassuring pat on the arm. “It’s okay. At least you’ve finally told us. That’s all that matters.” After giving Mrs. Devore a smile, Olivia continued on to the elevator.

* * * *

Back at the station, Olivia ran a check on the license plate number, given by Mrs. Devore. It belonged to a silver Ford sedan, owned by one Benjamin G. Mallard of Berkeley. Olivia dialed the work number listed in Mr. Mallard’s DMV record. The voice on the other end of the telephone answered. “U.S. Customs Office. May I help you?”

Olivia paused. Then, “This is Inspector McNeill of the San Francisco Police. May I speak with a Mr. Ben Mallard, please?”

Silence followed. Then a second voice said, “This is Agent Ben Mallard, U.S. Customs. May I help you?”

“Good afternoon, Agent Mallard. This is Inspector Olivia McNeill of the San Francisco PD. I would like to question you about your whereabouts. It seems that you were spotted at the Hopkins building, where a murder had occurred.”

Another long pause filled Olivia’s ear. Then, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” the Customs agent replied smoothly. “I was no where near the Hopkins building on Tuesday night.”

Bingo! The word rang triumphantly in Olivia’s brain. She paused, before continuing in a sweet voice. “Agent Mallard, how did you know that the murder occurred on a Tuesday night? I never mentioned the date.”

Mallard paused – which seemed to be occurring with great frequency over the past few minutes. “What are you talking about?” he replied in a nervous voice. “I clearly heard you say . . .”

“Sir, I never mentioned when the murder had occurred.” Olivia paused. No sound came from the other end of the receiver. “Agent Mallard, are you there?”

“Yes, I . . .” He sighed.

Olivia continued, “Sir, I believe we should continue this conversation in person. Why don’t I drop by your office . . . say, four-thirty, this afternoon?”

The Customs agent reluctantly replied, “I guess four-thirty will be fine.”

“Good!” Olivia practically sang out the word. “I’ll see you then. Good day!” She hung up.

A satisfied smile curved Olivia’s lips, as she leaned back into her chair. Thank goodness something went right, today. She glanced at her watch. Eleven minutes after one. So far, Darryl has failed to appear. And she was growing hungry. Olivia wondered if Cole would be available for an afternoon lunch.

After a quick glance at her captain’s office door, Olivia left the squad room. Quickly. She had no desire to face Captain McPherson and his questions about Darryl’s absence. Once outside, she strode toward the precinct’s parking lot and her car. Olivia glanced to her left and spotted a figure standing several feet away . . . staring at her. Was that . . .? Olivia’s eyes narrowed. Yes, it was! Darryl!

Olivia immediately forgot about lunch and started toward her partner. In her rush to reach him, she dropped her purse. Olivia paused to bend down and retrieve the fallen object. When she stood up, Darryl had disappeared. What the . . .?

“Olivia?” A familiar voice called out her name. Cole. She spun around and found the half-daemon approaching. “Was that Darryl I just saw?”

Feeling confused, Olivia stared at the spot where Darryl last stood. “Yeah, it was,” she murmured. “Where the . . .? Did you see where he go?”

“Sorry, but I was distracted for a moment.” Cole peered at Olivia. “What’s going on?”

Olivia threw her hands in the air in a frustrated gesture. “I have no idea! I haven’t seen Darryl all day, until a minute ago.”

A puzzled expression flitted across Cole’s face. “Huh?”

“Never mind,” Olivia said, shaking her head. She smiled at the newcomer. “Looks like you read my mind. I was going to drop by your office and ask you to buy me lunch.”

Dark brows formed double arches. “Me, buy you lunch?”

“Well, lunch was on me, the last time.”

Cole rolled his eyes. “We had lunch at your mother’s restaurant. Which you didn’t have to pay for.”

Smiling, Olivia slipped her arm through her companion’s. “Consider it money lost by the McNeill family. Besides,” the pair strolled out of the parking lot and toward Cole’s Porsche, “you once promised to treat me to an expensive lunch. The Laurel Court Restaurant, at the Fairmont is the perfect place. And don’t worry. Mom knows the chef.”

Realizing that he was about to lose a day’s salary, Cole let out a groan.

* * * *

Paige orbed into the middle of the manor’s foyer, lugging several shopping bags. At that moment, the telephone decided to ring, prompting a resounding oath from the young witch/whitelighter. The telephone rang for the second time. Torn between the telephone and the bags hanging from her arms, Paige orbed the latter to the kitchen table. A quick rush to the telephone left her breathless, as she answered, “Hello?”

“Is this Paige Halliwell?”

Slightly annoyed by the error in her name, Paige tartly replied, “This is Paige Matthews. May I help you?”

“Oh, thank goodness!” the voice at the other end of the receiver gushed. “I’ve been trying to get hold of you for the past two hours. Listen to me very carefully. You need to get out of the house, now!”

Paige frowned. “Say, who is this?”

“Cecile Dubois. A friend of Olivia McNeill. We met at Ostara’s, this morning.” A pause. “I’m the Vodoun priestess.”

Now Paige remembered. “Oh yeah. Did you say something about getting . . .?”

Someone knocked on the door. Frustration welled inside Paige. This was becoming ridiculous! “Look, hold on for a minute, will you? There’s someone at the door.”

“No! Wait! Don’t . . .”

Paige barely heard the woman. She abandoned the telephone and rushed toward the front door. Opening it, Paige found the family’s close friend standing outside. “Darryl! Hey! What are you doing here?” Anxiety suddenly flared within her chest. “Is there something wrong with Piper or Phoebe?”

Darryl Morris stared at Paige, making her feel uneasy. He reminded her of a hunter who had successfully stalked its prey. Then he smiled. “No. Everything is fine. Are your sisters here?”

For a moment, Paige thought she had detected a hint of a foreign accent. She frowned. “Uh, no. No, I’m alone.” Paige stared at the police inspector. “Darryl, are you okay? You sound . . . I don’t know, strange.” An odd glimmer lit up Darryl’s dark eyes. Paige felt a stab of fear. “Darryl?” She did not get a chance to say anything further. He raised his hand in a threatening manner, and a bolt of lightening shot forward. Before it could hit Paige, she orbed out of its path and reappeared near the grandfather clock. “Darryl!”

“I’m afraid he cannot speak at this moment,” her attacker declared, facing her. Then he disappeared, sending Paige into a state of panic.

She muttered uneasily, “Where in the hell is he?”

“Right here,” a deep voice boomed behind Paige. Before she could turn around, a sharp pain engulfed her, sending Paige’s body several feet away from the clock. Darryl, or the creature that now inhabited his body, slowly walked the young witch’s inert figure. “Hmm, you’re not as hard to kill as I was led to believe. Too bad. I had hoped to enjoy a little challenge.” Malevolence brimmed in his eyes, as he extended his hand toward Paige.

‘Get out of here,’ her mind commanded. ‘Get the hell out of . . .’ Despite the pain within her body, Paige utilized every will power that she possessed and orbed before the fake Darryl could attack.

“Little witch? Where are you? You cannot hide from Dako forever!” Darryl’s voice carried all the way into the kitchen, where Paige now huddled. “Little witch?”

With every nerve and muscle screaming in pain, Paige tried to concentrate on orbing out of the house. Perhaps she could go to P3. Piper would be there. Alone, or maybe the McNeill manor . . .

“Where are you, little witch? You might as well stop hiding! Where you disappear, I can follow!”

‘Oh God! Oh God!’ The litany repeated in Paige’s mind, over and over again. ‘Concentrate. Just con . . .’

A tall figure loomed before her. Smiling. “There you are, little witch.” Never in her life did Paige imagine that Darryl Morris could look so sinister or intimidating. “If you will just stay still, we can finish this as quickly as possible.” He raised his hand.

“Hello? Anyone home?” a voice from the living room cried out.

Darryl, Dako, or whatever his name was, seemed momentarily taken aback. Giving Paige the opportunity to orb out of the kitchen and into the Solarium. “Help.” The word came out of her mouth like a whisper. She crawled toward the living room. A pair of shoes appeared before her haze-filled eyes. “Hel . . .” Before she could finish, darkness enveloped Paige.

END OF CHAPTER 9