“Return With a Vengeance” [PG-13] – 10/18

“RETURN WITH VENGEANCE”

CHAPTER 10

Phoebe took one look at the gathering in front of the Halliwell manor and nearly panicked. Police cars, a paramedic van and an ambulance blocked the driveway. A crowd of onlookers had formed on the lawn and the sidewalk, below. Phoebe immediately parked her car across the street and rushed toward the nearest uniformed cop. 

“What the hell is going on?” she demanded.

The police officer eyed Phoebe warily. “Who are you?”

“Phoebe. Phoebe Halliwell. What’s going on? What happened?”

Surprise, followed by recognition lit up the officer’s eyes. “Hey! Are you that Phoebe Halliwell? The one who writes for the San Francisco . . .?”

“Officer!” Her voice rang with irritation.

Looking contrite, the officer explained that someone had been attacked. “Someone broke in and attacked one . . .” He scanned his notebook. “. . . a Miss Paige Matthews. Do you know her?”

The panic within Phoebe grew. “Paige is hurt? How? Where is she? Can I see her?” She tried to brush past the officer. He held her back. “Will you please let me go?”

“I’m sorry, Miss Halliwell. But the paramedics are now taking care of her.”

Phoebe felt a glimmer of hope. “Then she’s okay?”

“She’s seriously injured, but stable,” the cop answered. “Do you know her?”

Reining in her impatience, Phoebe retorted, “Yes! She’s my sister. My half-sister. Who attacked her?”

“We don’t know, miss. We do know that two of your neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Murillo, found her inside and called 911.”

From the corner of her eye, Phoebe spotted two familiar figures standing amongst the crowd on the lawn. Gweneth McNeill and Olivia’s friend from New Orleans. The Voodoo woman. What the hell were those two doing here?

“Excuse me,” she muttered to the cop and walked away. Phoebe approached the two women. “Mrs. McNeill?”

Gweneth McNeill faced Phoebe and her green eyes expressed recognition. “Phoebe! Oh dear! I’m sorry that you had to see this!”

“I heard that Paige had been attacked. What are you two . . . what are you doing here?”

Olivia’s friend glanced uneasily around her. Then she led Phoebe to a spot where no one could overhear. Mrs. McNeill joined them. “I saw it,” the former said. “I saw what happened to your sister.”

“Then shouldn’t you be speaking to the police?” Phoebe retorted. The other two women glanced sharply at her. Realizing that she had went to far, Phoebe immediately felt contrite. “I’m sorry. I . . .”

Mrs. McNeill gave her arm a sympathetic squeeze. “It’s all right. We understand.” Cecile murmured something, but Phoebe could barely hear her.

A second later, two paramedics emerged from the house, carrying a figure on a gurney. Paige. Phoebe immediately forgot her two companions, broke away and rushed to her sister’s side. One glance at Paige’s singed face made Phoebe cry out in dismay. “Oh my God! Paige!” She followed the paramedics to the ambulance.

A tall figure blocked her path. “I’m sorry, miss,” said one of the paramedics, “but you can’t get in.”

“She’s my sister,” Phoebe protested.

“I understand, miss. But there isn’t any room for you. We’ll be taking your sister to the San Francisco General Hospital. You can meet us there.”

Phoebe thanked the paramedic. She stood by and watched him and the other paramedic load Paige into the ambulance. The first paramedic climbed in after the patient, while his partner returned to their van. Once the ambulance started to back out of the driveway, Phoebe reached inside her purse for her cell phone. She dialed a familiar number. One that belonged to Piper’s phone.

* * * *

Cole and Olivia strode into the Emergency Room at the San Francisco General Hospital. And straight toward the receptionist’s desk. Olivia flashed her police badge. “Inspector McNeill, San Francisco Police,” she announced to the receptionist. “I believe a patient was brought in here not long ago. A Miss Paige Matthews.”

The receptionist directed her to one of the operating room, down the corridor. Olivia thanked the woman and left the desk. Cole quickly followed. The pair found a uniformed cop waiting, along with Gweneth McNeill, an elderly Latino couple, Cecile and Phoebe. Cole noted the anxious look on his ex-wife’s face.

“Officer.” Olivia strode directly to the cop. She flashed her badge for the second time. “Inspector McNeill. What happened?”

Cole and Olivia had been eating lunch at the Fairmont Hotel, when the latter received an urgent call from her mother about an attack upon Paige. The pair quickly made their way to the hospital where, according to Gweneth, Paige had been taken.

“Someone broke into the house and attacked Paige,” a shaken Phoebe declared before the cop could respond. “He would have killed her, if the Murillos hadn’t found her first.” Seeing the distressed look on Phoebe’s face, Cole’s first instinct was to draw her into his arms and offer comfort. However, instinct told him that Phoebe would not welcome any comfort from him. He sighed heavily.

The cop added, “Looks like someone used a weapon that gives out electrical shocks. A taser, maybe. Or a stun gun. Nearly stopped her heart.”

Phoebe let out a cry. Olivia admonished the cop with a glare. “Why don’t you get a statement from Mr. and Mrs. . . .”

“. . . Murillo,” the officer finished.

“Yeah. Our witnesses. And then find a nurse or doctor who can give an update on Ms. Matthews’ condition?” The cop acknowledged her order with a sharp nod and led the elderly couple along the corridor. Then Olivia turned to the others. “Now, what really happened?”

Before anyone could speak, Piper and Leo appeared. “Phoebe?” Piper rushed into her younger sister’s arms. “Oh my God! Phoebe, what happened to Paige? Is she all right?”

Mrs. McNeill spoke up. “She’s fine. The doctors are with her, right now.”

Confusion whirled in Piper’s dark eyes. “An operation? How was she hurt? Who attacked her?” She glanced at Cole. Hostility replaced confusion. “What is he doing here?”

Olivia tartly replied, “Cole and I were having lunch at the Fairmont, when I received a call from Mom. Now, will someone please tell me what the hell happened?”

Everyone began talking at once. Except for Cole. Finally, Cecile loudly ordered everyone to shut up. “This is what happened,” she continued. “Your mom and I ran into Paige and Phoebe at Barbara’s shop. Before they left, I . . .” She paused, as she glanced at the cop and the elderly couple, down the hall. “I had a premonition of Paige being attacked by someone. A shadowy figure, which I couldn’t make out. I tried to warn them both, but they had drove away.”

Mrs. McNeill added, “We tried calling their house, but neither Cecile and I knew their number. And I had left my phone book at home. Cole was in a meeting. And you were away from the station. By the way Livy, did you turn off your cell phone? We tried calling P3. No one answered. Neither Harry or Bruce knew the Halliwells’ number and they couldn’t get hold of Leo.” She stared pointedly at the whitelighter. “Why is it so difficult getting hold of you?”

Cole would have laughed aloud at Leo’s sheepish expression, if it were not for the grave situation. “I . . .” the whitelighter began. “Uh, Piper and I . . . we had an emergency regarding one of my other charges.”

“That always seems to be the case,” Mrs. McNeill murmured caustically.

Olivia glanced at her mother. “Mom!” The older woman apologized to Leo.

Phoebe frowned. “I don’t understand. I thought you didn’t have visions,” she said to Cecile. “How were you able to have one of Paige?”

“What makes you think I don’t have visions?” Cecile shot back.

Phoebe opened her mouth to speak. Before she could, the Murillo approached the group. Cole recognized them as the Halliwells’ next door neighbors. “Miss Halliwell!” The handsome, elderly woman in her early seventies grabbed Piper’s hand. “I’m so sorry for what happened to your sister! If I had known that man was going to attack her, I would have immediately called the police.”

Olivia stepped forward. “Hi. Inspector McNeill, San Francisco Police. And you are?”

“Dolores Murillo,” the older woman replied. She pointed at the elderly man standing behind her. “And this is my husband, Antonio. He was in the living room, watching TV and I was out front, tending my garden, when we heard the noise from next door. Well, I heard it.”

Mr. Murillo added, “So did I. But Dolores saw the man.”

“What man?” Olivia asked. “Can you describe him, Mrs. Murillo?”

For a brief moment, Mrs. Murillo paused. Then, “Well, I just told the policeman, but okay. He was tall. Very tall. Over six feet. Like you.” She spoke her last words to Cole, who felt slightly taken aback. Mrs. Murillo peered at him closely. “Mr. Turner? Is that you?”

Cole flashed a brief smile. “Yes, it is. It’s been quite a while, Mrs. Murillo.”

“Since last spring. How are . . .?”

Olivia immediately interrupted. “Um, Mrs. Murillo?”

“Oh yes.” The elderly woman continued. “The man was slightly taller than Mr. Turner. By an inch or two. Very good-looking. In fact, handsome. He was a black man with light-brown skin. Large forehead, I think. With dark eyes and a small goatee. And his clothes . . . good quality. Dark gray suit with a blue shirt and tie.” She paused reflectively. “You know, he looked very familiar.”

It did not surprise Cole that Mrs. Murillo’s description struck a familiar note. She had just described Darryl Morris. Judging from the stunned expressions on his companions’ faces, he realized they had all recognized the police inspector’s description.

Something like a gasp escaped from Olivia’s mouth. She smiled uneasily. “Well. Thank you for that description, Mrs. Murillo. I’ll call you if I need you. To sign a statement, later.”

“Okay.” The Murillos started to walk away, until the elderly woman paused. “Oh, one last thing. I forgot to mention this to that young man, but while we were waiting for the police and the ambulance, Miss Matthews was conscious for a brief moment and said a name before she passed out, again. Uh, . . . do you remember, Antonio?”

The old man nodded. “Of course. She said ‘Dako’. Whatever that means.”

The elderly couple said their good-byes and left. The moment they disappeared down the hall, both Cole and Cecile exclaimed at the same time. “Dako?” They stared at each other, stunned. Then, “You know about Dako?”

* * * *

The two figures met in an alley just off of Kearny Street. An anxious Ben Mallard said to Rudolf Crozat, “She knows. This police inspector. She knows about my connection to that janitor. And she wants to see me, later this afternoon. What the hell am I going to tell her?”

“You lie,” Crozat brutally replied. “Just tell her that you know nothing about the janitor.”

Mallard rolled his eyes in disgust. As if it were that easy. “I tried telling her. But she didn’t buy it. Apparently, someone saw me leaving the building minutes after you killed him. You killed him and I’m the one who’s going to be holding the bag. And I assure you, I won’t take full blame for this.”

“Are you threatening us?” Crozat punctuated his question with a menacing glare.

For a second, Mallard felt truly frightened. Malice and evil seemed to pour from young Crozat’s eyes. “I. . . uh . . . I mean . . .” Mallard took a deep breath. Never in his 42-year existence, had he ever found himself speechless. “No, I’m not . . .”

Crozat took a step forward. “You’re not what, Mr. Mallard?”

“Look, all I want is for you guys to take care of Inspector McNeill. Before she gets her hooks into me. I’m supposed to meet her around four-thirty.”

The other man’s expression became less menacing. “So, you want us to murder a police officer for you? Just don’t bother to show up. Is that so hard?”

Of all the dumb suggestions! “Don’t show up? How in the hell is that going to help me?”

“I don’t know,” Crozat airily replied. “But I’m sure that it will help my family.”

Before Mallard could comprehend the man’s words, he felt a sharp pain. “Wha . . .?” He glanced at the knife protruding from his stomach. Then he looked up and saw the malice in Crozat’s eyes. “Why?” he croaked.

Crozat removed the knife and shrugged. “What can I say? Killing you is the lesser evil. At least for now. Good-bye.” The last thing Benjamin Mallard saw was the knife’s blade that flashed across his throat.

END OF CHAPTER 10