Yet the images from Cecile’s visions refused to go away. Neither would Olivia’s words to Phoebe during that early Sunday afternoon at the McNeills’ home. ‘If the old Source didn’t become a Charmed One after taking your sisters’ powers, what makes you think Cole became the Source, after taking the latter’s powers?’ Those had been Olivia’s precise words to Phoebe. But instead of answering the question, Paige’s older sister merely avoided an answer.
Paige shook away the memory and stepped inside the precinct. She dodged a crowd of suspects being booked and made her way to the squad room for Homicide detectives. “Hey Paige,” Darryl Morris greeted the young visitor. He stood next to a water cooler. “You wanted to see me about something?”
Smiling, Paige shook her head. “Not today. Actually, I . . .” Her smile disappeared. “I came here to see Olivia.”
Darryl immediately sobered. “Is there a problem? Like something supernatural?” He obviously still remembered the last encounter with the Crozat warlocks and a Vodoun sorcerer, who had possessed him.
“No, it’s . . .” Paige sighed. “This is about something else.”
The police inspector’s dark eyes penetrated Paige’s. “Must be something serious.” He hesitated. “Is this about Cole?”
“In a way.” Paige took a deep breath. “It’s about a mistake . . . a mistake that my sisters and I may have done.”
Darryl gently replied, “About Cole being the Source. Right?” Paige’s eyes widened. “Yeah, Olivia had told me what really happened to him.”
“And you believed her? Believed everything?”
“This is Olivia we’re talking about,” Darryl continued. “She’s a hard woman to fool. Even harder than you or Prue.” Paige almost felt flattered that anyone would favorably compare her to late sister. Darryl added, “I can’t think of the number of times she had stopped us from charging the wrong person.”
Paige murmured, “Too bad we didn’t know her last spring.”
“What?” A moment passed before realization dawned in Darryl’s eyes. “Oh. I see. Well, if you’re looking for Olivia, she’s at her desk.”
A wan smile quirked Paige’s lips. “Thanks.” She headed toward the desk, where Darryl’s red-haired partner sat. “Hey Olivia,” she greeted.
Olivia gave Paige a polite smile. “Hi! I understand that you wanted to speak with me.”
“Huh?” How did she . . . “How did you know?”
Holding up her cell phone, Olivia replied, “Cecile. She called me about an hour ago. Took you long enough.” Olivia glanced at the clock on the wall. “It’s only eleven-fifteen, but I guess I wouldn’t mind an early lunch, today.” She stood up and grabbed her purse. “Let’s go.”
* * * *
The two witches ended up at a popular eating spot called the San Francisco Brewing Company. The place served as both a beer brewery and a restaurant. The first sentence that came out of Paige’s mouth was that she did not drink.
“Well, I don’t drink beer,” Olivia responded. “But the food here is great.” She picked up her menu to examine it. “So, what do you want to talk about?”
Paige stared at the other woman. “Didn’t Cecile tell you?”
“No, she only told me to expect a visit from you.” Olivia tossed her menu on the table. “What’s this about?”
Taking a deep breath, Paige revealed to the other witch on what had occurred inside Cole’s penthouse, this morning. “It never really occurred to me, until today, that we had made a mistake. The Charmed Ones, I mean.”
“Mistake?” Olivia’s green eyes bored into Paige’s dark ones. “Honey, spare me the bullshit. You did more than just made a mistake.” Stunned by Olivia’s words, Paige found herself speechless. “Well,” the other woman continued, “is there anything else you wanted to say? Or is this lunch just a waste of time?”
Paige took another deep breath. “What else can I say? It was a mistake. I mean, how were we supposed to know that Cole . . . had been possessed against his will?” God, she sounded so lame! Apparently Olivia felt the same, judging from the hard stare in those green eyes. Olivia did not answer. Instead, she continued to stare at Paige. Who began feeling very uneasy. “Aren’t you going to say something?” the latter asked in a wavering voice.
“I do have one question,” Olivia said. “When did you first begin to have suspicions about Cole?”
Paige frowned. “What does that have to do with . . .?”
Before the young witch/whitelighter could answer, a waiter appeared with two glasses of water and a basket of warm rolls. He served the rolls and water, and asked the pair if they were ready to order. Once the two women placed their orders, Paige finally asked Olivia’s question. “I began suspecting Cole,” she murmured, “right after Phoebe and Cole’s wedding.”
Olivia added, “And they were married in March. Right?” Paige nodded. “And when did you three kill him?”
“About two months later.”
“Two months,” Olivia said with a shake of her head. She reached for a roll. “Uh, during these two months, did you ever bother to find out how Cole became the Source?”
Paige took a sip of her water and sighed. “None of us even knew he was the Source, until a week or two before his death.”
“What about before? When you were suspicious about Cole during those two months following the wedding – did you bother to find out how that might be possible?”
No. The word formed on Paige’s lips, but she did not utter it. No, she had never bothered to find out how Cole became demonic, again. She had been so obsessed with proving to Piper and the others that something was wrong with him that . . . “Oh God!” she murmured. “I just . . . I had assumed . . .”
Olivia nodded. “Yeah, I know. You assumed that he had chosen evil again, because of his past,” she finished. She finished the last of her roll. “Would you have done the same if either Piper, Phoebe or Leo had turned evil?”
Paige’s head hung low. “No,” she replied quietly. “I would have tried to find out what happened. Maybe find a way to save any of them first, before vanquishing . . . Oh God! When that baby was taking control of Phoebe and Piper had considered vanquishing her, I stopped her. I stopped her from trying to kill Phoebe.”
“Because Phoebe was your sister,” Olivia calmly added. “I understand. I probably would have done the same with my own family. But since Cole was formerly a half-demon . . .”
“. . . we gave in to our fears and killed him,” Paige finished in a stunned voice. “Without even bothering to find out what really happened. Or save him.” She shook her head, eliminating any imaginary doubts. “But the Hollow! If that didn’t turn him into the Source, how . . .?”
Olivia sighed. “Paige, what do you know about the Hollow?”
“It’s a . . . it’s a power absorbing box,” Paige said. “It absorbs all magic, good and evil.”
Nodding, Olivia continued. “Okay. So if that’s true, how can it make Cole the Source? Yes, he used it to absorb the Source’s power. Which was pretty stupid of him, by the way. But . . .”
“But if he had the Source’s powers . . .”
An exasperated sigh left Olivia’s mouth, causing Paige to wince. “Honey, you’re not stupid. Think! The Hollow only took away the Source’s power, not his essence. Now, how could Cole have become the Source at that moment, when he was still alive when you all used a Power of Three spell to vanquish the Source in the attic that night? Did the Source become a Charmed One when he stole your power? And Piper’s?”
Paige murmured, “No.”
“That’s right. The Source only took away your powers, not your essence. Your strength as the Power of Three lay in your essence, not magical powers. My guess is that the Source’s essence took possession of Cole after you had vanquished him.” Olivia paused and gave Paige a hard stare. “You didn’t consider that, did you?”
A long moment of silence followed, before Paige morosely answered, “No. No, I didn’t. God! I can’t believe . . . I mean . . . God! What have we done!”
The younger witch glanced up. “Yeah?”
Olivia leaned forward. “Admit what you did was wrong. You might even have to face Cole about this. But please, don’t go into a tailspin of guilt. You want redemption? Face the consequences of your actions and if you receive forgiveness, fine. If not, you still need to move on. The important thing to do is face your guilt and deal with it. Not wallow in it. Like every other being in this world, you’re not perfect. You’re capable of both a lot of good and evil. Trust me. I’ve done a lot of shit that I’m not proud of. What you and your sisters did to Cole was wrong. You wronged him. If someone like Cole can admit and face the evil he has done, so can you. Just take that first step.”
First step. Was that admitting that she had been responsible for a horrible act against her former brother-in-law? Or would that be asking for his forgiveness? Even more important, how would Piper and Phoebe react to what she had discovered?
* * * *
The two older Halliwells stared at Paige with disbelief. So did Leo. Apparently, all three could not believe what she had just revealed.
“What?” Paige demanded.
Piper said in a voice that barely brimmed with anger. “How can you say such a thing? To us! Paige! You’re practically accusing us of committing murder!”
Okay, so they did not understand what she had just learned. Paige closed her eyes and sighed. “Piper, try to understand. I’m not accusing us of anything. What we had done to Cole was wrong! He had been possessed by the Source and we did nothing to find out what happened . . .”
“He chose to become the Source!” Phoebe declared angrily. “Remember? Cole made that choice when he decided to use the Hollow! He got what he had deserved!”
Paige shook her head. “You’re wrong, Phoebe. I saw Cecile’s visions. Cole had no idea that he would become the Source. Besides, how could Cole become the Source by using the Hollow, when the Source didn’t become a Charmed One after stealing my powers? And Piper’s?”
Shock and disbelief filled her sisters’ eyes. Leo stared at Paige in bewilderment. “Oh my God! That’s what Olivia had said,” he murmured.
Piper stabbed her husband with a piercing glare. “What did you say?”
“I . . .” Leo hesitated. “I guess she has a point. About the Hollow.”
The whitelighter shot back, “I’m sorry Piper, but there’s a chance that Paige might be right. Olivia had more or less told me the same thing. So did the McNeills . . .”
“Well then, how did he become the Source?” Phoebe demanded.
Paige rolled her eyes. “Simple. The Source’s essence took possession of Cole, after we vanquished the Source in the attic. I thought I had made that perfectly clear!”
Phoebe coolly added, “How do we know this isn’t another trick of Cole’s?”
Keeping her patience in check, Paige replied, “Phoebe, Cole has no idea that I was inside his penthouse, today. Nor does he know what Cecile had done. Well, maybe he does now. But that doesn’t change what Cecile’s vision had shown me. Cole was an innocent man who became a victim of the Source. And the Seer. And instead of helping him, we killed him.” She paused, staring at her sisters. “With extreme prejudice.” Phoebe’s gaze dropped.
“May I remind you that Cole was the Source of All Evil?” Piper coolly retorted. “And that he had put us through a lot of hell?”
Paige returned the oldest sister’s cool stare with a hard one. “Tell me Piper, if any of us had been possessed by the Source, would you have immediately tried to kill us? Or would you try to find a way to save us, first?”
“None of us were demons with a long history of evil!”
Paige retorted, “Gee Piper! Are you saying that it’s okay to judge and kill an innocent man, because of his past? If you are, that’s one opinion I no longer share.”
Tension filled the manor’s living room. A part of Paige wished she had never revealed what she learned this morning. In fact, she almost wished she could turn back the clock to that fateful day when the old Source had made his final attempt to kill the Charmed Ones. Paige even wished the Oracle had never stopped Cole from successfully killing the old Source, when the latter had kidnapped and brainwashed Piper, over a year ago. There were so many things Paige wished had never happened. But . . .
“Look, I don’t know about the rest of you,” she continued, “but I’m going to see Cole. Tell him what I know, apologize and hope that he’ll forgive me.”
Phoebe remained uncharacteristically silent. However, a deep chill resonated from Piper. “Do what you want!” the latter retorted. “But you’ll be doing it alone. I’ll be damned if I go to that evil bastard and beg for forgiveness!”
Again, Phoebe remained silent. She looked up, gave Paige a long look – one mixed with disbelief . . . and horror, turned on her heels and marched upstairs. Piper stomped toward the kitchen, leaving Paige alone with Leo.
The whiteligher opened his mouth to speak. But a light noise interrupted the moment. Leo shrugged and orbed way. Paige remained in the middle of the living room. Alone. She had not felt like an outsider since those days following Phoebe and Cole’s wedding. Which led her to remember the half-demon. Would he be willing to forgive her? Or will he shut her out, like her sisters?
END OF PART 3