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

 

“RETURN WITH A VENGEANCE”

CHAPTER 13

It was an angry sorcerer who appeared before the Crozats. Judging from his expression, Edward realized that the attack on the youngest McNeill had failed. “What happened?” the warlock asked. 

Growling, Dako/Morris wrapped one hand around Cousin Louis’ throat. “I’ll tell you what happened! That witch had used his psychic abilities to summon help before I could kill him! I found myself surrounded by that girl’s two sisters, the McNeill woman, a man surrounded by blue lights, some woman I don’t even know and another man who just might be a daemon.” He gave Louis’ throat a slight squeeze. Edward’s cousin gurgled. “And do you want to know what else I had discovered? One of the witches is not only pregnant, but she also might be as powerful as myself. And the same can be said about the man with the demonic powers. Something you had failed to tell me.” Dako squeezed Louis’ throat tighter, causing the latter’s face to turn red.

A panic-stricken Henry blurted out, “We don’t know anything about a daemon! As for the witch . . . well, we knew she was carrying a powerful baby, but we didn’t realize it would be as powerful as you.”

Dark eyes narrowed dangerously. The sorcerer released Louis, who promptly fell upon the floor, coughing. “You had extensive details on the other Halliwell witches and the McNeill witches,” Dako replied in a crisp tone, “and you expect me to believe that you knew nothing about the extent of the pregnant witch’s powers or the daemon? Do you take me for a fool?”

Feeling the extent of the sorcerer’s dark power, Edward immediately bowed. “No, Your Eminence. We sim . . . our source had failed to provide this information to us.”

“Then I suggest that you make your source understand the repercussions of his failure to inform you.” Dako paused. “Now, I want to know everything about these people. Their secrets and the extent of their powers. Including the daemon.”

Edward, Henry, Rudolf and Suzanne responded as one, “Yes, Your Eminence.”

Dako stared at the trio. “One question – is there a way to steal this daemon’s powers? He struck me as being very powerful.”

An uneasy Edward glanced at his fellow warlocks. “If this daemon was with the Charmed Ones and the McNeills, he must be Belthazor. I understand that he is very powerful. Even more powerful than he had been as the Source. Together with his powers and yours, we could possibly kill the pregnant witch.”

The bokor stared at the warlock for a long, terrifying moment. Then he declared, “I will kill the witch. I take the demon’s powers, and together with mine, I will kill her child. Am I clear?”

His emotions in turmoil, Edward struggled to keep them in check. He had no intention of helping Dako take Belthazor’s new powers. But it did seem prudent to keep his intentions to himself. And healthier. In the end, Edward merely nodded in agreement and murmured, “Yes, Your Eminence.”

“Start preparing a potion or spell that will help me steal this Belthazor’s powers.” The sorcerer glared at the warlocks. “You have the knowledge to create this, I hope.”

Edward turned to Suzanne, who kept her mouth shut. Good. “I’m sure that we’ll be able to, Your Eminence. It’s just a matter of time.”

“We don’t have much time,” the bokor snapped. “Once the potion or spell is completed, inform me.” Dako glanced down at Louis, who was struggling to stand up. “Meanwhile, I will be in my room, meditating. I . . . this mortal. He is still making it impossible for me to completely control him. And have this one,” he pointed at the unfortunate Louis, “deliver my morning meal at sunrise, precisely.” With a frown on his face, the sorcerer disappeared.

Edward heaved a large sigh and turned to Suzanne. “Belthazor. What happened to him, tonight?”

Suzanne responded with a glare. “Don’t blame me! He stood me up, thanks to ‘His Eminence’!”

“All right! No more procrastinating! Make an appointment to see Belthazor, tomorrow. Get him to meet you at the office,” Edward snapped. “We have to get our hands on his powers, as soon as possible!”

* * * *

Cole sat in one of the plush chairs inside the McNeills’ long drawing rooms. His eyes followed Olivia, who was engaged in a telephone call with an agent from the U.S. Customs Office. He had returned to the family’s residence, after dropping off Cecile at Olivia’s apartment.

“Yeah Martin, it has been a long time. Like three weeks,” Olivia was saying. “I guess you heard about Ben Mallard.” She paused. “Yeah, well your boss wasn’t exactly thrilled to see me. What can I say? It was San Francisco PD who stumbled across his body.” Another pause. “What do I want, this time? Marty, why do you always assume I’m after something?” Olivia threw back her head and laughed.

It was a rich, throaty laugh that seemed filled with warmth and promise. For a brief moment, Cole felt as if someone had punched him in the gut. He wandered what this Marty could have said to generate such a response from Olivia. Something personal? Intimate? Deep down, Cole knew he had nothing to worry about, but speculating the reason behind Olivia’s laugh seemed a hell of a lot more preferable than brooding over what was really bothering him.

“Harry’s fine. Gwen and Bruce are upstairs with him.” The statement came from Jack McNeill, who loomed above Cole. “I guess dodging that sorcerer’s attack must have taken a lot out of him.”

His eyes still fixed upon Olivia’s smiling countenance, Cole nodded. “I’m not surprised. This Dako seemed very powerful. Harry’s lucky to be alive.”

Mr. McNeill sat down on the sofa, near Cole’s chair. “I understand that Paige was also lucky. Third-degree burns.” He shook his head in disbelief. “Whew!”

Cole’s gaze wrenched away from Olivia. Mention of Paige’s name brought back memories of Piper and Phoebe’s reaction to his encounter with Dako. He recalled the anger and contempt in their eyes. “Yeah, lucky,” he murmured.

Silence followed, broken only by the sound of Olivia’s voice. She said, “All right, Marty. You got me. I do need a favor. Is there a way for me to get a copy of the S.S. Enigma’s manifest? It had arrived in San Francisco, the day before yesterday. I also need its manifest before it had departed from Singapore.” She paused. “I don’t know. Maybe two weeks ago.” Then, “How soon can I . . .?” Another pause. “That soon?”

“Cole?” The older man’s voice drew Cole’s attention away from Olivia. “Is there something wrong?” He nodded at Olivia. “She and Marty are old friends. He used to work for San Francisco PD. They tend to flirt sometimes, but it’s nothing serious. He’s married.”

Nodding, Cole merely replied, “Oh.” Once the mystery behind Olivia’s relationship with this Marty vanished, Cole’s real reasons behind his blue mood came back in full force.

Still staring at the half-daemon, Mr. McNeill continued, “But that’s not the problem, is it?”

Cole assumed an innocent expression. “What problem?”

Blue-gray eyes bored into the half-daemon’s. The latter squirmed uncomfortably. “Okay Cole, what the hell is really bothering you?” the middle-aged witch gently insisted.

Heaving a large sigh, Cole explained what had occurred inside Harry’s office, about an hour ago. How Piper managed to deflect one of Dako’s attacks and how he did the same, but with different results. “I deflected his electrokinesis right back to him, hitting him in the chest.”

“I know,” Mr. McNeill calmly replied. “Olivia told me what happened.”

Cole continued, “Did she also tell you how Phoebe and Piper had reacted?” He sighed again, as his mind relived that moment, over and over. “Piper . . . well, both she and Phoebe pointed out that I had used unnecessary force to stop Dar . . . uh, Dako. And that I could have killed Darryl.” He shook his head. “You should have seen the look on Phoebe’s face. I never realized until now that I have lost my chances with her. Things will never go back to what it used to be.”

To Cole’s surprise, Mr. McNeill shrugged. “So what? Why should you care about what they think about you? You’re not part of their family, anymore.” He paused. “Unless you plan to change that situation, sometime in the future.”

Cole shook his head. “That’s just it. I don’t see it happening. It’s just . . . I’m tired. I’m tired of taking the blame for all that happened, earlier this year. And I’m tired of their self-righteous crap over everything that I do.”

“Then to hell with them.” Cole stared at Olivia’s father. “Look Cole, I know what you’re going through. I’ve been through the same, myself. Believe me.” Mr. McNeill paused. His eyes assumed a distant air, as if remembering things past. “Her name was Pamela. Pamela Davidoff. I had met her during my first year in college. At first, she seemed like the world to me. I thought that she liked me for myself, Jack McNeill.” A wry smile touched his lips. “I’ve never exactly been a . . . promising child, if you know what I mean. Many other McNeills tend to view me as morally ambiguous and have always disapproved of me. And perhaps they’re right about me. Being the perfect citizen or the perfect witch has never been my forte. Hell, I went through three whitelighters before I was twenty-one.”

The revelation took Cole by surprise. Ever since he had recalled Jack McNeill from his past, he knew that Olivia’s dad was capable of great ruthlessness and intelligence. Yet, he never realized that the witch had such a troubled past.

The other man continued, “My parents, on the other hand, had treated me differently. And thank God, because if they hadn’t, my life would have been hell.”

“What about this Pamela?” Cole asked.

“Well, like I said, I had met her during my first year in college. The McNeills were well-known. Still are. And Pamela’s family didn’t like the idea of us dating, regardless of how much money my family had.” Mr. McNeill added, “The Davidoffs were also witches, by the way. I had met her at a Wicca club. But not many of them had a psychic ability, like the McNeills or the Morgans. As for Pamela, I thought she was different from her family, until I found out differently.” Blue-gray eyes became clouded. “Pamela . . . she found out that I had helped a daemon. This was back in early ’67. The demon name was Marbas . . .” Cole nearly twitched when the other man mentioned the familiar name. “. . . and I helped him after discovering that another daemon was using him as a diversion, in order to steal this pendant. I didn’t bother to vanquish Marbas, since it was obvious that he was being framed. Well, Pamela and her family found out, they hit the roof. She dropped me like a hot potato, making it clear that she regarded me no more than a borderline warlock.”

Cole murmured sympathetically, “I’m sorry. Did you . . . did you try to win her back?”

Mr. McNeill sighed. “Unfortunately, yes. But Pamela wouldn’t have anything to do with me. And I became bitter. I would have stayed that way if hadn’t met Gwen. Who, by the way, had also found out what happened between Marbas and me. But as far as Gwen was concerned, I did right. Marbas was the innocent in that incident, regardless in whether he was a daemon or not. She’s a true Wiccan, by the way. I can’t say the same about a few of my in-laws.”

“And you never saw Pamela again?”

After another shrug, Mr. McNeill continued, “Yeah, I did. Not long after I had met Gwen, she decided that she wanted me back. But in the end, I realized that it was too late for us and I had fallen in love with Gwen, by that time. Don’t get me wrong. I had some happy times with Pam, but she never seemed willing to accept me for myself. And to be honest, I’ve never regretted marrying Gwen. Not in a long shot,” he added with a small smile. Then Mr. McNeill gave Cole a stern look. “As for Phoebe, I don’t know if she’ll ever change, but it’s obvious that unless you’re willing to become the man she wants, she’ll never accept you. Not really. And quite frankly, I think it’s time you stop worrying about what she and her family thinks about you, and live your own life.”

Olivia hung up the telephone, distracting her father and friend from their discussion. She flopped down on the sofa, next to Mr. McNeill. “Why is it that every time I talk to Marty, I end up finding myself in the middle of a bargaining session?”

“Perhaps poor Marty has finally realized that he’s given you one too many favors over the years,” Mr. McNeill replied with a smirk.

“Thanks a lot, Dad!” Olivia shot her father with a mild glare.

The older man’s eyes grew wide with innocence. Cole looked away, as he repressed a smile. The former continued, “So, what was it that you asked Marty for? A manifest?”

“Yeah, one for the S.S. Enigma. I have this suspicion that Dako had somehow arrived on that ship, thanks to the Crozats. Don’t ask me why, but I find it odd that our troubles with both them and Dako had occurred during the same week.”

Cole sat up. “You’re saying that the Crozats might be responsible for this bokor? I guess it’s possible, if they knew someone connected with Vodoun. Especially if the Crozats probably considered us too powerful to deal with, themselves.”

“The problem is,” Olivia added, “that the Crozats might have bitten off more than they can chew. If they have a spell to vanquish Dako . . .”

A short, mirthless laugh escaped from Cole’s mouth. “If they have, it won’t do them any good. They’re missing one important factor.”

“Cecile.”

Cole nodded. “Right. Only a Vodoun houngan or mamba can vanquish Dako. Whoever sent Dako to the Crozats, probably forgotten to mention that one little matter. Or did he?”

* * * *

Piper poured the contents of the pot into a small glass jar. “That’s it,” she declared. “The potion is ready. All we have to do now is find Darryl.”

“And what happens after that?” Phoebe asked. She regarded her sister with anxious eyes. “This potion is only good for freeing Darryl’s body from Whatshisname. How do we vanquish it?”

A sigh left Piper’s mouth. “I don’t know, Phoebe. The Power of Three?”

“What Power of Three? Paige is in the hospital. And we can’t get Leo to heal her without drawing suspicions from the doctors.” Phoebe paused, as she carefully contemplated her next words. “Maybe . . . maybe Olivia was right about Cecile being the only one who can vanquish this spirit. I mean, think about it. Even though her premonitions were being blocked, Cecile managed to detect that something wrong would happen to Darryl. The only premonition I had was one with him at a crime scene. And even when I had been with Paige all morning, I didn’t get one premonition of her being attacked. Yet, Cecile managed to get one, even if she didn’t see the attacker.”

Irritation flitted across Piper’s face. “C’mon Pheebs. Do you really believe that Cecile is the only one of us capable of defeating Dako, just because she’s into Voodoo? If I recall, all of us helped An-Ling defeat Yen-lo inside the Zen Limbo. And you and Paige helped Ava vanquished Orrin when he had the Evil Eye. Using both a Gypsy spell and Wicca magic, I might add.” She plugged the small bottle with a cork. “If Cecile can find some Voodoo spell, I have no problem with using it. But I still think we’ll have just as much chance with success with this.” Piper held up the bottle with a flourish.

“And what about vanquishing that sorcerer?” Phoebe asked.

Piper cocked her head. “Maybe we can’t use the Power of Three, but with the Power of Two and the baby . . .” she patted her slightly protruding belly, “we should do just fine.”

“Yeah. Along with Olivia, Cecile and maybe even Bruce or Mrs. McNeill. Right?” Phoebe added.

Piper’s mouth formed moue. “Yeah,” she replied unenthusiastically. “Right.”

END OF CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

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