“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (1.22) “Déjà Vu All Over Again”

“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (1.22) “Déjà Vu All Over Again”

When I first saw (1.22) “Déjà Vu All Over Again”, the Season One finale for “CHARMED”, I promised myself that I would never watch another episode of the series again. Never. Yet four months later, I broke my promise and resumed watching the series for another three-and-a-half seasons. 

One would assume that I harbor some very negative feelings about “Déjà Vu All Over Again”. And that person would be wrong. From an artistic point-of-view, the episode was first-rate. Not only do I consider “Déjà Vu All Over Again” to be one of the best Season One episodes, I believe it is one of the best episodes of the series. And yet . . . after watching it, I was ready to give up the series. The ending upset me very much.

Directed by Les Sheldon and written by Constance Burge and Brad Kern, “Déjà Vu All Over Again” began with Phoebe Halliwell experiencing a premonition of the most deadly kind. She saw a demonic attack result in the death of her oldest sister’s former boyfriend, Andy Trudeau of the San Francisco Police Department. And the demon in question happened to be one Inspector Rodriguez, who was established as a member of the police department’s Internal Affairs in previous episodes investigating Andy’s connection to the Halliwell sisters. Determined to prevent Andy’s death, Prue warns Andy that Rodriguez is a demon who has plans to kill her and her sisters – the Charmed Ones. As Rodriguez makes plans, he receives a visit from Tempus, a high-level demon for evil’s causes. As the demon makes plans for his attempt to kill the Charmed Ones, he receives a visit from a demon named Tempus. According to him, Tempus has the ability to turn back time and was sent by The Source to help Rodriguez kill the Halliwells.

Mind you, “Déjà Vu All Over Again” had its flaws. In one conversation between Rodriguez and Tempus, the latter instructed the younger demon to make sure that all three Halliwells were gathered in the same place before killing them. Frankly, this sounds rather stupid to me. Surely, anyone with intelligence would know that the Halliwells were at their strongest when they were together. For me, it makes better sense to kill the Halliwells one by one. After all, the sisters cannot stay in each other’s company, 24/7, unless they want to forgo a life. Why did Rodriguez even bother to appear at the Halliwells’ front door in the first place? He could have simply teleported inside the manor and kill the sisters a lot faster. According to (1.03) “Thank You For Not Morphing, Piper was born three years before Phoebe. And according to (1.17) “That 70s Episode”, Phoebe was born in late 1975, making Piper’s birth year 1972. Phoebe remembered that Piper’s old classmate, Joanne Hertz, had graduated from their high school in 1972, making her birth year 1974 or 1973. Why would Piper recall someone who graduated two years after her?

Aside from Tempus’ suggestion that Rodriguez gather all three Halliwell sisters in one place before killing them, the flaws in “Déjà Vu All Over Again” seemed minor to me. In other words, the virtues outweighed the flaws. Burge and Kern nearly outdid themselves in an episode that served as the end of the first stage in the Halliwells’ lives as the Charmed Ones. The episode also marked the end of what I consider to be the best romance featured in the entire series – that between Prue Halliwell and Andy Trudeau. Another interesting aspect about this episode is that it marked one of the rare occasions when one of Phoebe’s premonitions tragically came true. Rodriguez made three attempts to kill the Charmed Ones, thanks to Tempus’ time changing ability. If it had not been for Tempus, Rodriguez would have been dead after his first try. And so would Phoebe. After his second try, Rodriguez ended up dead again, thanks to Prue’s telekinesis. But he ended up killing both Phoebe and Piper before his death. On his third try . . . Phoebe’s premonition came true, when Rodriguez killed Andy. Is it any wonder that this episode depressed me? By this time, the sisters figured out that someone was rewinding time and they cast a spell to break Tempus’ time loop. Unfortunately, this act left Andy permanently dead. I supposed I should have foreseen this when I first saw “Déjà Vu All Over Again” all those years ago due to the scenes that featured Prue meeting Andy in a park to warn him about Rodriguez. Although their first meeting came off as slightly businesslike, their second and third scenes grew increasingly poignant and romantic. Both Shannen Doherty and T.W. King were excellent in these scenes.

Not only did this episode featured first-rate performances from Doherty and King, I was also impressed by the rest of the cast. All of them gave solid performances. Although I found him a tad over-the-top at times,
Carlos Gomez was appropriately intimidating as the demonic assassin out to kill the Charmed Ones. But it was David Carradine who gave the best performance as the time manipulator, Tempus. He was witty, elegant and menacing. It seemed a pity that he never made a second or third appearance on the show. Even worse, his character was mentioned before killed off-screen in the Season Three finale, (3.22) “All Hell Breaks Loose”.

I am certain that my brief apathy toward “CHARMED” must have been figured out by now. This episode marked the last appearance of T.W. King as Andy Trudeau and it took me a long time to recover from this – over a year, to be exact. I had first became a fan of King, when I saw him in the short-lived series, “TIME COP”. His portrayal of the sharp and no-nonsense Andy only solidify my admiration of him. Unlike Julian McMahon, of whom I also became a great fan, King’s last episode proved to be first-rate and probably one of the best in the series. It seems a pity that it also proved to be one of the saddest for me.

“CENTENNIAL” (1978-79) – Episode One “Only the Rocks Live Forever” Commentary

“CENTENNIAL” (1978-79) – Episode One “Only the Rocks Live Forever” Commentary

Over thirty-two years ago, NBC Television aired a sprawling miniseries called ”CENTENNIAL”. Produced by John Wilder, The miniseries was an adaptation of James Michner’s 1973 novel of the same title. Because the miniseries stretched to twelve episodes, NBC aired the first seven episodes aired during the late fall of 1978. After a one-month hiatus, the remaining five episodes aired during the early winter of 1979. 

Michner’s tale followed the history of the fictional town of Centennial, Colorado and its surrounding region from the late 18th century to the 1970s. By focusing upon the history of the town, ”CENTENNIAL” managed to cover nearly every possible topic in the Western genre. Some of those topics include Native American societies and their encounters with the white trappers and traders, American emigration along the Western trails, the Indian Wars, a gold rush, a cattle drive, the cattle-sheep range wars and environmental issues. The first episode ”Only the Rocks Live Forever”centered on an Arapaho warrior named Lame Beaver, his daughter Clay Basket, a French-Canadian fur trader named Pasquinel, and his partner, a young Scottish-born trader named Alexander McKeag.

”Only the Rocks Live Forever” began with the death of Lame Beaver’s father in the mid-1750s, at the hands of the Pawnee. The episode also covered moments of the warrior’s life that include his theft of much needed horses from the Commanche for the survival of his village, his first meeting with Pasquinel and later, McKeag; and his village’s wars with their nemesis, a Pawnee chief named Rude Water and his fellow warriors. The episode focused even longer on the fur trader, Pasquinel. Viewers followed the trader on his adventures with various Native Americans such as the Arapaho and the Pawnee; and his two encounters with a keelboat crewed by murderous French Canadian rivermen. After being wounded in the back by a Pawnee arrow and barely escaping death at the hands of the French Canadian rivermen, Pasquinel made his way to St. Louis, then part of the Spanish Empire. An American doctor named Richard Butler introduced him to a German-born silversmith named Herman Bockweiss and the latter’s daughter, Lise. Pasquinel formed a partnership with Bockweiss, who provided him with trinkets to trade with the Native Americans and fell in love with Lise.

Upon his return to the West, the Pawnee introduced Pasquinel to the Scottish-born Alexander McKeag, who became his partner. After experiencing a series of adventures, the two arrived at Lame Beaver’s village. There, Pasquinel strengthened his ties with Lame Beaver, while McKeag fell in love with the warrior’s daughter, Clay Basket. The pair eventually returned to St. Louis with a profitable supply of furs. There, Pasquinel married Lise. During the two partners’ visit to St. Louis, Lame Beaver and his fellow Arapaho became engaged in another conflict with the Pawnee in an effort to rescue a child that had been snatched by the other tribe. The conflict resulted in the rescue of the child, Rude Water’s death at the hands of Lame Beaver, and the latter’s death at the hands of Pawnee warriors. When Pasquinel and McKeag returned to the Pawnee village, they discovered that Rude Water had been shot by a bullet molded from gold by Lame Beaver. They also learned about Lame Beaver’s death. And upon their return to the Arapaho village, they learned from Clay Basket that her late father had ordered her to become Pasquinel’s wife. Because of the French Canadian’s desire to learn about the location of Lame Beaver’s gold, he agreed to make Clay Basket his second wife, despite McKeag’s protests.

Directed by Virgil W. Vogel and written by producer John Wilder, ”Only the Rocks Live Forever” was a surprisingly well paced episode, considering its running time of two-and-a-half hours. Viewers received a detailed look into the society of the Arapaho nation (despite the fact that many of the extras portraying the Arapaho were of Latino descent). And through the adventures of Pasquinel and McKeag, viewers also received a detailed and nearly accurate look into the perils of the life of a fur trader in the trans-Mississippi West. Wilder managed to make one historical goof. When asked in late 18th century St. Louis, circa on how far he had traveled upriver, Pasquinel said, “Cache La Poudre”. However, that particular river was not known by this name until after the 1820s, when a severe storm forced French trappers to “cache their gun powder” by the river bank. And although the episode never stated outright, it did hint that St. Louis and the rest of the Mississippi Valley was part of the Spanish Empire during that period, through the characters of Senor Alvarez and his wife, portrayed by Henry Darrow and Annette Charles.

This episode also benefitted from the strong cast that appeared in the episode. I was especially impressed by Michael Ansara’s charismatic performance as the Arapaho warrior, Lame Beaver. Well known character actor Robert Tessier (of Algonquian descent) gave an equally impressive performance as Lame Beaver’s main nemesis, the Pawnee chief Rude Water. Not only was I impressed by Raymond Burr’s performance as St. Louis silversmith, Herman Bockweiss, I was also impressed by his use of a German accent. Whether or not it was accurate, I must admit that his take on the accent never struck me as a cliché. Sally Kellerman’s own handling of a German accent was also well done. And I thought she gave a poignant performance as the slightly insecure Lise, who found herself falling in love with Pasquinel. Barbara Carrera gave a solid performance as Clay Basket, but I did not find her that particularly dazzling in this episode. Hands down, ”Only the Rocks Live Forever” belonged to Robert Conrad and Richard Chamberlain. Both actors did an excellent job in adapting foreign accents. And both gave exceptional performances in their portrayal of two very different and complex personalities. Superficially, Conrad’s portrayal of Pasquinel seemed superficial and very forthright. However, I was impressed how he conveyed Pasquinel’s more complex traits and emotions through the use of his eyes and facial expression. And once again, Chamberlain proved to be the ultimate chameleon in his transformation into the shy and emotional Scotsman, forced to learn about the West and who seemed bewildered by his morally questionable partner.

”Only the Rocks Live Forever” is not my favorite episode in ”CENTENNIAL”. I can think of at least three or four that I would personally rank above it. But I must admit that thanks to Vogel’s direction and Wilder’s script, this episode proved to be a perfect start for what I consider to be one of the best minseries that ever aired on television.

“Obssessions” [PG-13] – Chapter 11


Part 11

The following morning, Olivia and Darryl entered the BAY-MIRROR building, located not far from Union Square. “Okay, how are we going to handle this?” the redhead asked her partner. 

Darryl punched the “UP” button for the elevator. “Like this – I’ll talk to Mr. Dean about his newest employee and you’ll have a little discussion with the lady, herself. By the way, how’s your Italian?”

“Not bad,” Olivia replied. “Although I doubt that I’ll need it. If this Ms. Della Scalla is able to get hired by an American newspaper, I’m certain that her English is just as good.”

The partners stepped inside the elevator. As it began its ascent toward the BAY-MIRROR’s main newsroom, Darryl added, “By the way, how did Cole find out about this Portia Della Scalla?”

“He met her yesterday morning. Here at the BAY-MIRROR.” A pause followed before Olivia continued, “He was here with Deborah Mann to clean out her brother’s belongings. Only, I didn’t find out until eight hours later.”

Darryl shook his head. “Are you still pissed about that? Had it ever occurred to you that the man was simply busy? I bet you must have bugged the hell out of him during your practice, yesterday.”

“Actually, I didn’t have any practice session with Cole,” Olivia shot back. “I had a visitor.”

“A visitor?”

Nodding, Olivia continued, “Paul Margolin. He came by to ask me out for dinner.”

The news took Darryl by surprise. “You had dinner with the new ADA, last night?”

The elevator reached the fifth floor. “We only had coffee before he left. But we’re having dinner, tonight.”

“Lucky you.” The elevator reached the eleventh floor. Olivia’s destination. The door opened and she stepped out. Darryl added, “Meet me upstairs, when you finish with Ms. Della Scalla.”

The elevator doors shut and it continued its journey upward. Darryl contemplated Olivia’s news, wondering if his partner was making a mistake. Sure, the new ADA seemed more like a better prospect than Cole Turner. Not only was Margolin an officer of the courts, but also a witch. A good witch, who happened to be highly respected by Leo. But Darryl knew that a person’s moral state did not determine his or her capacity to love. Or receive love. He also suspected that Olivia did not love Paul Margolin or felt any real attraction. It did not matter how “good” Margolin was. In the end, it would not serve any relationship between Margolin and Olivia one whit. And a person never really has much control over with whom he or she will fall in love – a lesson that Phoebe Halliwell has yet to learn. Darryl only hoped that both Olivia and Cole will.

The elevator reached the fifteenth floor. The doors opened and Darryl stepped out. He made his way toward the reception area, outside Jason Dean’s office. Ten minutes later, he found himself in a confrontation with the young publisher over the latter’s new employee.

“This is ridiculous!” Dean cried. Darryl had just asked him a few questions about Portia Della Scalla’s references. “Are you trying to tell me that the police are suspicious of Ms. Della Scalla? All because she took Mann’s old job? They’ve never even met!”

Patiently, Darryl replied, “Mr. Dean, she took over Mann’s job in less than a week. That’s pretty damn quick, considering that we’re talking about a position that would normally be difficult to fill.”

“I had put an ad for Mann’s old job in various magazines and papers, on the same day I had learned of his death. Ms. Della Scalla was simply the first to respond. That’s all.” Dean’s voice bridled with hostility. “Has it ever occurred to the police to investigate Mann’s personal life?”

Darryl sighed. “We already have, Mr. Dean. And we’ve found nothing about his personal life that would lead to his murderer.”

“And you think that Ms. Della Scalla killed him? Or is somewhat involved?”

Darryl said, “Five days, Mr. Dean. She was hired five days after Mann’s death. And it took you – how long? Less than an hour to hire her for the job. Tell me, did she have a reputation as a well-known food critic?”

“I didn’t hire her,” Dean curtly replied. “Her editor did – Milo O’Keefe!”

An unrelenting Darryl continued, “Okay, so he hired Ms. Della Scalla. Didn’t you ever wonder why Mr. O’Keefe took such a short time to hire her? Didn’t he even bother to check her references?”

A scowl marred Jason Dean’s handsome face. “Look, I realize that you’re a close friend of Phoebe’s, Inspector . . .”

“Lieutenant,” Darryl corrected.

Dean nodded. “Lieutenant. Excuse me. I realize that you’re Phoebe’s friend and you’re just doing your job. But that does not give you the right to question this paper’s employment policy. Nor do you have the right to insult Ms. Della Scalla’s integrity. She’s a beau . . . uh, intelligent and decent woman who had no idea what she was getting into when she applied for the job.” The publisher stood up and glared at the other man. “Now, if you persist with this ridiculous idea, I’ll have you up on charges of harassment.”

Now, Darryl stood up, his face a cold mask. “Charge me all you want, Mr. Dean. You better make damn sure that I’m wrong about my suspicions regarding your employer. If not, you might find yourself in hot water over obstructing justice. Good day.” He turned on his heels and left the office.

* * * *

Outside of Dean’s office, Darryl found the reception area empty. Obviously, Olivia had not finished her questioning of Portia Della Scalla. Darryl made his way to the building’s eleventh floor. He arrived in time to witness Olivia leaving Milo O’Keefe’s office. With the editor searing her back with a baleful glare.

Rolling her eyes, Olivia approached her partner. “How did it go with Jace?” she asked.

A gust of breath escaped from Darryl’s mouth. “Badly. He seemed insulted that the police would find his newest employee suspicious. He even threatened to charge me with harassment.”

One of Olivia’s auburn brows rose an inch. “Jason? That doesn’t sound like him. Well, not quite. I mean, he’s a bit overbearing at times, but not that much.”

“What about Ms. Della Scalla?” Darryl asked. “Did you talk with her?”

Olivia shook her head. “She left about a few minutes before our arrival. I suspect that she’s gone to see Mom and Bruce about the interview.” A frown creased her brow. “Dad’s suspicious of her, so hopefully both Mom and Bruce will be on their guard. In the meantime, I ended up talking with Mr. O’Keefe, who seemed downright touchy about the newest columnist. Almost hostile.”

“Like your old boyfriend,” Darryl added. “Interesting reaction to a woman whom neither man had met before yesterday. I wonder what Phoebe thinks of her. Let’s find out.” He strode toward Phoebe’s office, aware of Olivia at his heels. Darryl knocked on the door before entering. “Hey Phoebe!” he greeted the Charmed One. “How’s everything?”

Phoebe responded with a bright smile. “Fine, Darryl. How are you?” Her smile dimmed slightly at the sight of Olivia. “Olivia. You guys must be here for Whatshername. Patricia . . .”

“Portia,” Darryl corrected. “Miss Portia Della Scalla.”

“Yeah right. What do you want to know about her? Has Cole been speaking to you?”

Olivia asked, “Did he ask you about her?”

“Yesterday,” Phoebe replied. “He was here with Wolfie’s sister, when Jason hired that woman. Cole asked me to keep an eye on her. Said there was something odd about her.” She frowned. “What’s going on?”

Darryl eased himself into one of the chairs on the other side of Phoebe’s desk. Olivia remained standing. “We heard about Ms. Della Scalla taking Mann’s place on the staff and decided to investigate,” he said.

“Yeah,” Olivia added. “We were a bit surprised to find out that she was hired not long after O’Keefe and Jason interviewed her. Does she . . . um, have a reputation as a food critic or something? Because I can tell you right now that I’ve never heard of her. Nor has Mom or Bruce. I asked them this morning.”

Phoebe shook her head. “No, I’ve never heard of her, either. And I guess that if Cole is suspicious of her, there might be a good reason for us to feel the same.” Another frown creased her forehead. “Have you checked her background, yet?”

Darryl replied, “We’re looking into it, right now. So far, we haven’t found anything.” He paused. “I tried to tell your boyfriend, but he gave me the brush off, instead.”

“O’Keefe did the same to me,” Olivia added. “I’m beginning to wonder if this Della Scalla woman has some kind of supernatural effect on others. Or that you were right about Mr. Mann’s death having a magical connection.”

Phoebe sighed. “Maybe. I mean, a part of me believe that you and Cole are right. It’s just . . . well, there’s still the matter of my premonition. I saw a man’s hand slitting Wolfie’s throat. Not a woman’s. If this Portia woman is the killer, how do you explain that?”

Darryl stared at the Charmed One. She seemed so certain about her premonition that he began to wonder if this Portia Della Scalla was the real killer. Yet, a nagging part of him could not dismiss the fact that even Cole felt suspicious toward the woman. And who could argue with the instincts of a powerful half-demon?

* * * *

Smoke curled in the middle of an alley, before it manifested in the form of a woman. Portia Della Scalla. She smoothed down her neatly tailored gray suit and strode out of the alley. To her right stood the Golden Horn restaurant. A satisfied smile curled her lips. She loved it when a plan proceeded on course.

Portia walked into the restaurant and nearly gasped aloud. The restaurant’s atmosphere nearly took her breath away. She reveled in the smell of food and wine. Her ears took in the conversation that filled the dining room and she could not help but appreciate the restaurant’s elegant décor. The Golden Horn seemed to be everything that a successful restaurant should be. And more. Portia approved. Then she remembered that she had other matters to consider. Like her plan to seduce and kill one Bruce McNeill.

A well-tailored maitre’d approached the succubus. “Good afternoon, miss. How may I help you?”

Portia politely replied, “I am Portia Della Scalla of the BAY-MIRROR newspaper. I have an interview with Signor Bruce McNeill.”

The eyes of the maitre’d lit up. “Oh yes! Both he and Mrs. McNeill are expecting you.”

Mrs. McNeill? A small frown appeared on Portia’s face, as the maitre’d led her to the restaurant’s office, upstairs. As they passed the kitchen, she heard a woman bark orders to a group of cooks. The voice struck Portia as being very feminine, yet very commanding. Portia could not help but admire the woman.

Finally, the maitre’d led her to a door above the restaurant’s dining room and kitchen. He knocked on the door. “Mr. McNeill, that reporter from the BAY-MIRROR is here to see you!” The door slowly opened.

The first thing that struck Portia was that Bruce McNeill seemed a lot more handsome than his photograph had hinted. In his own way, he looked just as handsome as Jason Dean, or that enigmatic lawyer she had met, yesterday. There seemed to be an open and friendly air about Signor McNeill that led Portia to believe that seducing him would be an easy task.

“Miss Della Scalla,” Bruce McNeill warmly greeted the visitor, “how nice to meet you. Why don’t you have a seat? My mother should be up here, any moment.”

Mother? Portia gave Bruce a dazed smile. Mother? That idiotic Streghone had said nothing about a mother!

* * * *

In all of her one hundred and seventy year existence as a succubus, Portia never had such difficulty with a potential victim, like she did with Bruce McNeill. She had expected to spend time alone with him and ended up spending hours on end, discussing the restaurant business with him and his mother, Gweneth. While the latter engaged in a lengthy description of the Golden Horn’s development and opening day, Portia began to wonder if killing Bruce was worth all of this trouble. Worth the mind-boggling boredom.

“. . . the trouble with financial backing and construction, we finally opened on May 28, 1978. On my youngest son’s first birthday,” the middle-aged woman added with a wistful smile.

Portia returned the smile. Politely. Before she could ask another question, the maitre’d appeared in the office’s doorway. “Pardon me, Mr. McNeill,” he said, “but Ms. Bowen is here to see you.”

“Barbara?” Bruce frowned. “Thanks Greg. Send her in.”

Seconds later, a beautiful blond-haired woman entered the office. “Hey Honey!” she greeted.

Bruce’s frown remained intact. “Barbara, what are you doing here?”

“I thought your interview might be over, and decided to see if you were available for lunch.” Barbara gave Portia a curious look. The succubus immediately recognized trouble. “So, you’re Ms. . . Della Scalla? From the BAY-MIRROR?”

Another polite smile formed on Portia’s mouth. “Si, Signorina . . .?”

“Bowen. Barbara Bowen.”

Gweneth added in a voice that seemed a touch too loud. “Barbara is my son’s fiancé, Miss Della Scalla. The wedding is later this month.”

Portia’s smile widened insincerely. “How nice.”

Bruce added, “Also, Barbara used to work here, herself.”

“As a waitress?” Portia asked. She felt a tug of satisfaction at the blond woman’s slight frown. The insult had struck its target.

Barbara coolly replied, “No, as a pastry chef. I worked here for a few years, following college. Also, my uncle was one of the bankers who had approved the loan for the restaurant’s construction.”

“She’s also an excellent pastry chef,” Bruce said.

Portia’s smile remained frozen. “Really? What was your specialty?” she asked Barbara.

It was Gweneth who answered. “Chocolate soufflé. And desert crepes.”

To Portia’s credit, she managed to maintain a façade of interest. “And what about you, Signor McNeill?” she asked, focusing her full attention upon the male witch. “When did you first become the restaurant’s manager?”

A waiter entered the office, carrying a tray with three plates. When he spotted Barbara, he asked if she would like to order for lunch. The blond woman shook her head and the waiter left.

“Actually, Mom still pops up, now and then, to put some backbone into the staff,” Bruce replied charmingly. He took a bite of his baked salmon. “As for your question . . .” Soon, Portia found herself listening to her soon-to-be victim reveal his career as a chef – his training and early career in France, and his jobs since his return to San Francisco, as she ate her lunch. It was not that Portia found Bruce a bore. On the contrary, she considered him to be a very charming and intelligent man. Unfortunately, she lacked the patience to listen to someone discuss cooking as a profession. If only he had been a fashion designer, a movie producer, or perhaps a book publisher, this interview would be a lot more bearable. And with his mother and fiancée around, Portia found it difficult to accomplish her task. She would simply have to find another way to get Bruce alone.

” . . . three years ago, last fall.” Bruce paused. “But I didn’t start managing the Golden Horn, until . . .” He faced his mother. “When did I take over, Mom?”

Gweneth answered, “Over two years ago. February 2001.” Then she faced Portia. “How was your lunch, Miss Della Scalla? Would you like a tour of the restaurant?”

Portia glanced at her empty plate. As much as she had enjoyed her meal and Bruce’s presence, she had to escape from this mess. Fast. She glanced at her watch. “Oh dear! Look at the time.”

Barbara glanced at the office’s wall clock. “It’s only ten after one.”

“Yes, and I have . . . a doctor’s appointment.” Portia shrugged helplessly. “I made it before I was hired by Signor Dean.” She stood up. So did the others. “I am so sorry.” She faced Bruce and Mrs. McNeill. “Perhaps we can re-schedule this interview for tomorrow. Yes?”

A bright smile lit up Bruce’s handsome face. “Of course. I’ll . . .”

An idea came to Portia, as she interrupted the witch. “Oh, one more thing. I came here by taxicab. Could you . . . could you give me a ride back to my office? If that is not too much trouble.”

Nodding, Bruce replied, “Of course. I would be more than happy to. I won’t actually be on duty, until this evening, anyway.”

Curiosity and a touch of suspicion gleamed in the blond woman’s eyes. “Excuse me, Signorina. But what about your doctor’s appointment? Shouldn’t you be going there, instead?”

A long pause followed. Portia smiled at Bruce’s fiancée. “Of course, but I must go to the BAY-MIRROR’s office, first. I have something to pick up.”

“In that case, Bruce, you might as well give me a lift to the shop, as well.” Barbara gave Portia a sweet smile. “If you don’t mind.”

Portia’s returned Barbara’s smile. “Of course not.” Bitch.

* * * *

The bell above Ostera’s front door rang, announcing a new customer. Paige glanced up from her task – examining the list of new inventory – and spotted none other than Nick Manusco, entering the shop. The man seemed to be more than a regular customer. Paige began to wonder if Nick regarded Ostera’s as a second home.

“Hey Nick,” she greeted him. “Back for more herbs?”

The Streghone nodded nervously. “Uh, yeah. The . . . uh, the last batch I had bought, didn’t exactly work.” He glanced around the shop. “Uh, where’s Barbara?”

“Out to lunch,” Paige replied. “With Bruce.”

Dark brown eyes widened considerably. “Bruce? But, I thought . . .”

Paige stared at him. “Thought what?”

With a shrug, Nick replied, “I thought she . . . uh, she went to lunch around 11:30.” Under Paige’s unrelenting stare, he continued, “I uh . . . I wanted to ask her a few questions. About this potion I’m trying to create.”

Paige finally looked away to spare Nick any further embarrassment. She knew the real reason behind his visit. Love – plain and simple. Or more likely a crush. Poor Nick. It seemed pathetic that a man in his thirties would be acting like an adolescent boy in the throes of an unrequited crush. “Maybe I can help,” Paige offered.

Nick opened his mouth to speak, when the shop’s door swung open. In walked Barbara, Bruce and a woman who practically resembled a super model. Paige briefly shifted her attention to Nick, whose face expressed a dazzling array of emotions. From desperate longing at the sight of Barbara, to envy and dislike toward Bruce, and finally apprehension toward the stranger. Paige frowned. Why would Nick be afraid of some unknown woman?

Barbara greeted her regular customer with a bright smile. “Nick! Back for more herbs?”

An uneasy smile quirked Nick’s lips. “Uh . . . yeah. I still haven’t got that po . . . uh, sauce down pat.” He chuckled nervously. And yet, he continued to shoot nervous glances at the woman.

Paige was not the only one who noticed. “Oh!” Barbara said. “I’m sorry. Nick, Paige, this is Ms. Portia Della Scalla, the new food columnist at the BAY-MIRROR. Ms. Della Scalla, this is Nick Manusco, one of my regular customers, and quite an expert on Italian cuisine. And this,” she indicated Paige with a nod, “is Paige Matthews, my assistant. I have another assistant, but apparently, she’s out to lunch.”

Ms. Della Scalla smiled politely at Paige and Nick. Her attention remained focused upon Nick. “So, you are a chef?” she asked in a bell-like voice.

“No,” Nick answered in what seemed to Paige, like a choked voice. “I, uh . . . I work at an investment firm. I just . . . like to cook. Mainly my grandmother’s Italian dishes.”

A bright smile illuminated Ms. Della Scalla’s face. Paige overheard Bruce take a deep breath. “You’re Italian? But of course you are! What part of Italy does your . . .?”

“I hate to interrupt,” Barbara stated, “but what about your doctor’s appointment?”

The two women stared at each other. Paige could sense the mutual dislike and distrust between the pair in waves. Interesting. Then Portia Della Scalla gave Barbara what seemed to Paige, an insincere smile. “Of course. Thank you for reminding me.” She turned to Bruce. “Signor? If you would please?”

To Paige’s astonishment, Bruce offered the Italian woman his arm. “Sure thing,” he said. Then he bid everyone good-bye and led Ms. Della Scalla out of the shop.

The moment the door closed behind the couple, Barbara growled in a rare display of anger, “Bitch!”


“NORTHANGER ABBEY” (1986) Review




“NORTHANGER ABBEY” (1986) Review

Most movie and television adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels are either highly acclaimed or perhaps even liked by fans and critics alike. I can only think of two or three adaptations that have been dismissed them. And one of them happened to be the 1986 A&E Network/BBC adaptation of Austen’s 1817 novel, “Northanger Abbey”

Adapted by Maggie Wadey, “NORTHANGER ABBEY” follows the experiences of seventeen-year-old Gothic novel aficionado, Catherine Morland, who is invited by her parents’ friends, Mr. and Mrs. Allen, to accompany them on a visit to Bath, England. This is Catherine’s first visit to Bath and there she makes new acquaintances such as Isabella Thorpe and the latter’s crude brother, John. She also becomes friends with the charming and quick-witted clergyman Henry Tilney and his sweet-tempered sister, Eleanor. While Catherine’s brother James courts Isabella, she finds herself becoming the romantic target of the ill-mannered John. Fortunately for Catherine, she becomes romantically captivated by Henry Tilney, who seemed to have fallen for her, as well . . . much to the displeasure of the Thorpes. Eventually, Henry and Eleanor’s father, General Tilney, invites Catherine to visit their estate, Northanger Abbey. Because of her penchant for Ann Radcliffe’s gothic novel, “The Mysteries of Udolpho”, Catherine expects the Tilney estate to be filled with Gothic horrors and family mysteries. Instead, Catherine ends up learning a few lessons about life.

Personally, I do not consider the 1817 novel to be one of Austen’s best. It has always seemed . . . not fully complete to me. I never understood why the Thorpes actually believed that the Morlands were wealthy, considering John’s longer acquaintance with Catherine’s brother, James. And why did John tell General Tilney that Cathrine’s family was wealthy in the first place? For revenge? His actions only encouraged the general to invite Catherine to Northanger Abbey. But I digress. This article is not a criticism of Austen’s novel, but my view on this first movie adaptation. And how do I feel about“NORTHANGER ABBEY”? Well . . . it was interesting.

There are aspects of “NORTHANGER ABBEY” that I liked. First of all, director Giles Foster had a first rate cast to work with. I cannot deny that the movie featured some top-notch and solid performances. Both Katharine Schlesinger and Peter Firth gave first-rate performances as the two leads, Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney. Now, I realize that many Austen fans had a problem with Firth’s characterization of Henry. And they are not alone. But I cannot deny that he did a great job with the material given to him. Best of all, not only did Schlesinger and Firth have great screen chemistry, but also exchanged one of the best kisses I have ever seen in an Austen adaptation. But if I must be honest, there was not a performance that failed to impress me. The entire cast were excellent, especially Robert Hardy as Henry’s perfidious father, General Tilney; Cassie Stuart as Isabella Thorpe; Ingrid Lacey as Eleanor Tilney; and Jonathan Coy as the vulgar John Thorpe.

Watching “NORTHANGER ABBEY”, it occurred to me that its production values were superb. Truly. I noticed that the movie seemed to be set in the late 1790s – the period in which Austen first wrote the novel, instead of the late Regency era (when it was officially published). Cecilia Brereton really did justice in re-creating Bath in the late 1790s. My two favorite scenes – from an ascetic point-of-view – featured Catherine’s meetings with the Thorpes and Eleanor Tilney at the city’s Roman Baths; and the two assembly balls. Nicholas Rocker did a superb job in designing the movie’s colorful costumes. In fact, I adored them. The costumes, the hairstyles and even the makeup designed by Joan Stribling beautifully reflected the movie’s setting.

Now that I have waxed lyrical over “NORTHANGER ABBEY”, it is time for me to tear it down. Despite some of the movie’s more positive aspects, I can honestly say that I do not like this film. I almost dislike it. There were too much about it that turned me off. Surprisingly, one of those aspects was the characterization of Henry Tilney. The novel had hinted a witty and playful man with a wicked sense of humor. The sense of humor remained, but Henry’s condescending manner toward Catherine and penchant for lectures really turned me off. I cannot blame Peter Firth. I do blame Maggie Wadey for transforming Henry from a man with a wicked sense of humor, to a slightly humorous, yet ponderous character. And why did Wadey transform the vulgar John Thorpe into a borderline stalker? Honestly, the way he eyed Catherine whenever Henry was in her midst made me believe he would be a first-class serial killer. I also believe that Wadey went too far in her characterization of General Tilney. Instead of being a stern and rigid tyrant, the general became an aging and mercenary Lothario, whose dissipation depleted the family’s income. Artistic close-ups of Robert Hardy’s face wearing a salacious expression did not help matters. To reinforce General Tilney’s dissipation, Wadey included a character called the Marchioness, an aristocratic refugee of the French Revolution who has become his mistress. Personally, I found her addition to the cast of characters to be irrelevant.

And the problems continued to roll. The main house of the Tilneys’ estate is supposed to be an abbey, not a castle. Why on earth did the production designer and the producers choose Bodiam Castle as the location for the fictional Northanger Abbey? The scenes featuring Catherine’s vivid and “Gothic” imagination struck me as unnecessarily long and rather off-putting. I felt as if I had stumbled across a horror movie, instead of a Jane Austen adaptation. Also, Catherine’s friendship with Isabella seemed to have been given the short-shrift. Quite frankly, I do not think it was developed very well. Wadey had a chance to clean up some of the flaws in Austen’s novel – namely the Thorpes’ interest in Catherine and the trick that John Thorpe played on General Tilney about the Morelands’ wealth or lack of it. And why did Wadey include that minor sequence featuring the Tilneys’ young black slave? All the kid did was lure Catherine outside to the estate’s lawn in order to impress her with his gymnastic skills. And for what? I am trying to think of a witty comment to express my contempt for this scene. All I can do is shake my head and wonder what the hell was Wadey thinking.

Who was responsible for hiring Ilona Sekacz to compose the movie’s score? I wish I could compliment Ms. Sekacz’s work. I would if it had served as the score for an episode of “MIAMI VICE”, a soft porn movie, or some other television series or movie from the 1980s. Sofia Coppola used early 1980s pop music to serve as the score for her 2006 movie,“MARIE ANTOINETTE”. Surprisingly, it worked. I think it worked because Coppola utilized the right song for the right scene. But Sekacz’s score, which featured a strange mixture of new age and period music, night club jazz, and synthesizers, was never utilized properly. Or perhaps I simply found the music too strange or off-putting for me to appreciate it. It certainly did not blend well with the actual movie released on American and British television.

“NORTHANGER ABBEY” has some aspects that prevents me to viewing it as a total write-off. It does feature some first-rate performances – especially from leads Katharine Schlesinger and Peter Firth – and I adore both Cecilia Brereton’s production designs and Nicholas Rocker’s costumes. But the movie has too many flaws, including an unpalatable score and some very questionable characterizations, for me to consider it a first-class, let alone a decent adaptation of Austen’s novel. This is one movie that I will not be watching with any regularity.

“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Ten “Points” Commentary


“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Ten “Points” Commentary

”BAND OF BROTHERS” finally came to an end in this tenth episode that featured Easy Company’s experiences as part of the U.S. Army of occupation, following Germany’s surrender in Europe. This marked the third episode that featured Richard Winters as the central character and the second with his narration. 

Told in flashback via Winters’ narration, ”Points” opened in July 1945, with Dick Winters (Damian Lewis) enjoying a morning swim in an Austrian lake, while being watched by his best friend, Lewis Nixon (Ron Livingston). After the two friends spend a few minutes looking at regimental photos, Winters recalls the experiences of Easy Company during the last days of the war in Europe and their role as part of an occupational force. Two months earlier, the company manages to capture Eagle’s Nest, Adolf Hitler’s high mountain chalet in Berchtesgaden. Following Easy Company’s capture of Berchtesgaden, they receive news of Germany’s surrender to the Allied Forces. Easy’s remaining stay in Germany does not last long. They, and the rest of 2nd Battalion, are sent to Austria as part of the U.S. Army’s occupational force. Easy Company battled boredom, various departures, the death of Private John Janovec (Tom Hardy) in a jeep accident, the shooting of Sergeant Chuck Grant (Nolan Hemmings) by a drunken American soldier, and a mixture of anticipation and anxiety over the possibility of being shipped to the Pacific. The miniseries ended with a visit by a recovered Lynn “Buck” Compton (Neal McDonough) and the revelations of the men’s post-war lives.

”Points” proved to be a mildly interesting episode about what it was like for World War II veterans to serve as part of an occupational force in Europe, following Germany’s defeat. Many of the incidents featured in the last paragraph certainly prevented the episode from becoming dull. And thanks to Erik Jendresen and Erik Bork’s screenplay, along with Mikael Salomon’s direction; ”Points” provided other interesting scenes. One featured a tense scene that saw Joe Liebgott (Ross McCall), David Webster (Eion Bailey) and Wayne A. “Skinny” Sisk (Philip Barrantini) assigned to capture a Nazi war criminal. Private Janovec’s conversation with a German veteran at a road checkpoint provided a good deal of subtle humor for me. Another humorous scene featured Winters and Nixon’s encounter with a still resentful Herbert Sobel (David Schwimmer), who proved to be very reluctant to salute the now higher ranked Winters. One scene that really grabbed my attention featured most of the 506th regimental officers watching a newsreel about the fierce Battle of Okinawa in Japan. Not only did that scene remind viewers the fate that Easy Company had managed to evade with the surrender of Japan, it also proved to be an unintentional foreshadow to Spielberg and Hanks’ World War II follow-up, ”THE PACIFIC”.

Once again, Damian Lewis gave a subtle, yet exceptional performance as the miniseries’ leading character, Richard Winters. But I was also impressed by Matthew Settle’s fierce portrayal of a frustrated and somewhat tense Ronald Spiers, who struggled to keep Easy Company together, despite their travails as part of an occupying force. And I was pleasantly surprised by Peter Youngblood Hills’ poignant performance in a scene that featured Darrell C. “Shifty” Powers’ private farewell to Winters.

I do have one major complaint about ”Points”. I did not care for the fact that miniseries did not reveal the post-war fates of “all” of the surviving members of Easy Company. The only characters whose lives we learned about were most of those seen in Austria, at the end of the episode . . . but not all. The episode never revealed what happened to Edward “Babe” Heffron or Donald Malarkey, who were also in Austria, by the end of the miniseries. And viewers never learned of the post-war fates of veterans such as William “Bill” Guarnere, Walter “Smokey” Gordon, Joe Toye, Roy Cobb, Les Hashley, Antonio Garcia, and yes . . . even Herbert Sobel.

Despite my major disappointment over how the episode ended, I still enjoyed ”Points”. I would never consider it to be one of my favorite episodes of ”BAND OF BROTHERS”. But it did not put me to sleep. However, it still managed to be a satisfying end to the saga.

“COWBOYS AND ALIENS” (2011) Review

Below is my review of the Science-Fiction/Western movie, “COWBOYS AND ALIENS”

“COWBOYS AND ALIENS” (2011) Review

Ever since its release during the last month of July, many have been contemplating on the box office failure of the highly anticipated movie, “COWBOYS AND ALIENS”. I could go over the many theories spouted about its failure, but I would find that boring. I am simply aware that the movie only earned $34 million dollars short of its budget. And all I can say is that I find this a damn pity.

“COWBOYS AND ALIENS” had some big names participating in its production. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford were the movie’s stars. The cast also included well known names such as Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Keith Carradine, Paul Dano and Clancy Brown. Jon Farveau, the director of the two successful “IRON MAN” movies, helmed the director’s chair. At least five of the screenwriters – Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby – have been associated with projects like “LOST” and the “STAR TREK”. And big names in the film industry such as Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Steven Spielberg acted as some of the producers. But despite all of this “COWBOYS AND ALIENS” remained one of the flops of this summer.Again, pity. I realize that I keep using the word “pity” as a response to the movie’s failure. But I cannot help it. I really enjoyed“COWBOYS AND ALIENS”. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that it has become one of my favorite movies from the summer of 2011.

The movie was based upon the 2006 graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. It told the story of an alien invasion that occurred in the New Mexico Territory in 1873. The story focused upon a mysterious loner that awakens in the desert, injured and wearing a strange bracelet shackled to his wrist. He wanders into the town of Absolution, where the local preacher, Meacham treats his wound. After the stranger subdues Percy Dolarhyde, who has been terrorizing the populace, Sheriff Taggart recognizes the loner as Jake Lonergan, a wanted outlaw, and tries to arrest him. Jake nearly escapes, but a mysterious woman named Ella Swenson knocks him out. Percy’s father, Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde, a rich and influential cattleman, arrives with his men and demands that Percy be released to him. He also wants Jake, who had stolen Dolarhyde’s gold. During the standoff, alien spaceships begin attacking the town. Percy, Sheriff Taggart and many townsfolk are abducted. Jake shoots down one ship with a device concealed in his wrist band, ending the attack. Realizing that the bracelet that Jake wears stands between them and the aliens, Colonel Dolarhyde, Meacham and Ella convinces Jake to help them find the aliens and the kidnapped townspeople, despite the fact that he has no memory of his own identity, let alone of any previous encounters with the aliens. Their expedition leads them Jake’s former gang and a band of Chiricahua Apaches, who have also been victims of the aliens.

“COWBOYS AND ALIENS” is not perfect. It has its flaws. To be honest, I can think of one or two flaws. Perhaps one. Although I understood that the aliens were taking the gold found near Absolution to power their starship, the script never made it clear on why they were taking the populace, as well. The only thing that the script made clear was that the kidnapped populace were being experimented upon. When it comes to human experimentation of reasons behind an invasions, many plots for alien invasion movies and television series tend to be rather weak in this area, including some of the best in this genre. And my other problem was that the script failed to reveal how Ella, who turned out to be another alien whose people had been destroyed by the invaders, ended up on Earth.

But despite these flaws, “COWBOYS AND ALIENS” really impressed me. I thought that Jon Favreau did an excellent job in combining action with the film’s dramatic moments. And his eye for location, greatly assisted by Matthew Libatique’s photography of the New Mexican countryside, gave the movie’s visuals a natural grandeur. In my review of “SUPER 8”, I had commented that it reminded me of an old “STAR TREK VOYAGER” episode. I cannot say the same for “COWBOYS AND ALIENS”. But it did remind me of a “STAR TREK VOYAGER” fanfiction story called “Ashes to Ashes”. At least Jake’s experiences with the aliens before the movie began. And “COWBOYS AND ALIENS” must be the only alien invasion movie I can think of that was set before the 20th century. It occurred to me that if the two most famous adaptations of H.G. Wells’ novel, “War of the Worlds” had been given its original setting, this would not have been the case. Unless someone knows of another alien invasion movie with a pre-20th century setting. Ever since I first saw the trailers for “COWBOYS AND ALIENS”, I wondered how the screenwriters would combine the two genres of Science-Fiction and Westerns. Hell, I wondered if they could. Mixing Jake’s history as an outlaw with his experiences with the aliens did the trick. At least I believe so. More importantly, “COWBOYS AND ALIENS” provided plenty of opportunities for character development – and that includes the supporting cast.

The cast certainly proved to be first-rate. There have been British actors who have appeared in Westerns before. Come to think of it, Daniel Craig is not even the first James Bond actor who has appeared in a Western. But he is the only one I can recall who appeared in a Western as an American-born character. And if I must be blunt, the man takes to Westerns like a duck to water. More importantly, both Craig’s super performance and the screenwriters made certain that his Jake Lonergran did not come off as some cliché of the “Man With No Name” character from Sergio Leone’s DOLLAR TRILOGY”. Craig made him a man determined to learn of his past, while dealing with the sketchy memories of a past love and his attraction toward Ella.

The character of Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde seems like a far cry from Harrison Ford’s usual roles. His Colonel Dolarhyde was not the solid Jack Ryan type or the rough, yet dashing Indiana Jones persona. In one of his rare, offbeat roles, Ford’s Colonel Dolarhyde was a ruthless, no-nonsense man who ruled his ranch and the town of Absolution with an iron fist. And Ford did a first-rate job of diluting Dolarhyde’s distasteful ruthlessness into something more . . . human and warm. I wondered how I would take Olivia Wilde’s performance as the mysterious Ella Swenson, who seemed determined to get Jake to help the rest of Absolution’s citizens find the aliens. After seeing the movie, I enjoyed her performance very much. She had a strong chemistry with Craig. More importantly, she gave a solid performance and possessed a strong screen presence. But I really enjoyed about Wilde’s performance was that she conveyed an other world quality about Ella that strongly hinted her role as an alien who landed on Earth to find the invaders who had destroyed most of her race.

The supporting cast was led by the likes of Sam Rockwell, who competently portrayed Absolution’s insecure saloon keeper, Doc; and Adam Beach, who gave a deliciously complex performance as Dolarhyde’s right-hand man, Nat Colorado. And actors such as Paul Dano as Dolarhyde’s s raucous son, a serene Clancy Brown, Noah Ringer (from “THE LAST AIRBENDER”), who portrayed the sheriff’s grandson, and a solid Keith Carradine gave firm support.

I do not know what else I could say about “COWBOYS AND ALIENS”. I find it a pity that it failed to become a box office hit. Because I really enjoyed it. The screenwriters, along with cinematographer Matthew Libatique, a first-rate cast led by Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford and fine direction by Jon Favreau made it one of my favorite films from the summer of 2011.

“Obssessions” [PG-13] – Chapter 10


Part 10

A shocked Jack McNeill stared at his oldest offspring. “They’ve found someone to replace DeWolfe Mann? Already?” Disbelief tinged his voice. “And who is she, again?” 

The McNeills had gathered inside the large sitting room, waiting for Davies to announce that dinner was ready. Bruce, who had just entered the room a few minutes ago, sat down on the sofa, next to his mother. “Portia Della Scalla,” he answered. “She’s Italian. And she’s got a very sexy voice. Rather bell-like,” he said thoughtfully.

“Sexy voice?” a third voice asked tartly. The McNeills turned their heads and found Barbara standing in the doorway. “Exactly how sexy did this Miss Della Scalla sound?”

Bruce shot to his feet, his face hot with embarrassment. “Hey! Barbara! I didn’t know you were here. What . . . uh, what are you doing here?”

The blond woman strode into the sitting-room. “I came to deliver a package to your grandmother.” He handed a white plastic bag to the McNeill matriarch. “Here you go, Mrs. McNeill.” Chilly blue eyes stared pointedly at Bruce. “So, she has a sexy voice. I didn’t realize you had noticed.”

“C’mon Barbara,” Harry protested good-naturedly. “Bruce isn’t dead, you know. He’s still a guy.” The eldest McNeill sibling had a sudden desire to knock his younger brother unconscious. Harry continued, “Besides, you have nothing to worry about. He still loves you. Right Bruce?”

Bruce glared at Harry. “Yeah. Right. Thanks Harry.

Elise McNeill spoke up. “So when will you and Gwen meet this Miss Della Scalla?”

“Tomorrow, during lunch,” Bruce answered. He turned to his mother. “If that’s all right with you?”

Gwen nodded. “I’ll be there. Perhaps I will allow Henderson take a day off, tomorrow. And I might as well act as executive chef for the lunch crowd, while I’m at it.”

A concerned looking Jack McNeill said, “Don’t any of you find it strange that this woman pops up to take over DeWolfe Mann’s job, just five days after his death?”

“I do,” Barbara commented. Bruce shot her a dark look.

Jack sighed. “Thank goodness someone is thinking around here. I mean, c’mon people! This woman suddenly pops up to replace Mann. And she also takes over the story about the Golden Horn.”

“What’s wrong with that?” his wife demanded.

“I thought that Jason Dean was against the idea of a story on the Golden Horn, and that it was Phoebe Halliwell who convinced him to convince him. Now that there is a new writer aboard, why is he willing to continue with the story? Why not just kill it?”

Gwen suggested, “Perhaps Jason is more open to the idea. Granted he and Livy had a messy breakup, but I’m certain that he has put the past behind him. Now that he’s dating Phoebe.” Her husband shot her a withering look. “Then again,” she added, “perhaps not.”

Harry said, “So what are you saying, Dad? That is Della Scalla woman is trouble? I mean, I don’t see how, considering it was Jason who probably hired her.”

“I don’t know,” Jack said, heaving a sigh. “Perhaps I’m imagining things. It’s just . . . something doesn’t feel right about this whole matter.”

Barbara crisply spoke up. “I heartily agree. Maybe you shouldn’t do this interview, Bruce. Or maybe you should let your mother take care of it.”

“Barbara!” Bruce glared at his fiancée. “This is getting ridiculous! All I did was comment on her voice and you’re acting like a jealous shrew! Stop it, will you?”

The blond woman rolled her eyes and looked away. At that moment, Davies entered the room and announced that dinner was ready. Much to Bruce’s relief.

* * * *

Phoebe slammed the door shut and cried out, “I’m home!” When no one answered, she headed straight for the Solarium and found Leo and Paige watching television. Wyatt was snuggled in his father’s arms. “You’ll never believe what happened!” she declared.

Both Paige and Leo glanced up from the television and stared at Phoebe. “What?” Leo asked.

“Wolfie has been replaced.”

Paige frowned. “Meaning?”

Phoebe sighed and sat down in one of the wicker chairs. “Wolfie? DeWolfe Mann? Jason has hired someone to take his place. Some Italian lady named Portia something.”

“Why is that news?” Leo demanded. “He was bound to be replaced.”

“Five days after his death?” Phoebe leaned forward, barely able to contain her excitement. “And both Jason and O’Keefe hired her. Right on the spot.”

Sarcasm tinged Paige’s voice. “Again, what’s the big deal? So were you.”

“Yeah, but I spent most of the day working on that column, because you guys had to keep the previous owner safe,” Phoebe explained. “That’s when Elise realized I was right for the job. Jason and O’Keefe had hired this woman not long after meeting her.”

Leo shook his head. “And that’s your reason for being suspicious? Phoebe, for all you know, this woman probably has a reputation for being a top food critic. Or do you know who the top food critics are?” His blue eyes bore into hers.

For a moment, Phoebe wondered if she had overreacted. Or that Leo and Paige had every reason not to feel suspicious. Until she remembered her encounter with Cole. “No Leo, I don’t. And neither does Cole.”

“What does he have to do with this?” Leo demanded.

Phoebe explained, “He was at the office, today. With Wolfie’s sister, Deborah Mann.”

“I’ve heard of her,” Paige said, nodding. “From Olivia.”

Phoebe continued, “Well, they were there to clean out Wolfie’s personal belongings. And they also met this Portia woman. Needless to say, Cole is very suspicious. He wants me to keep an eye on her.”

Paige immediately became alert. “Really? Now that’s interesting.”

“C’mon!” Leo declared. Sounds of whimpering came from Wyatt’s mouth. Leo rocked his son a few times, and the infant fell back into a deep sleep. “Just because Cole is suspicious . . .”

“If Cole’s suspicious,” Paige said, interrupting her brother-in-law, “I’d say that was a good reason to keep an eye on this Portia.”

Phoebe fell back into her chair with a satisfied look on her face. “Precisely. Maybe I’ll ask around the other newspapers in the city. Find out if anyone has ever heard of her.”

“Heard of who?” Piper appeared in the doorway, wiping her hands with a white towel. She glanced at the others. “What’s going on?” All at once, Phoebe and the others proceeded to tell her of the new woman who had replaced DeWolfe Mann.

* * * *

It had been another long day for Olivia. After four or five days of investigating DeWolfe Mann’s murder, the investigation seemed to have come to a halt. With no results. Not even from Forensics, who now possessed the button found inside Mann’s apartment. At the moment, she and Darryl were stuck with a body found inside a locked apartment, no weapon, a button that Forensics seemed to have forgotten and no suspect.

If her professional life seemed to be in a rut at the moment, her love life was in worse shape. In short, she had no love life. During the proceeding months, following Richard’s death, Olivia had seemed willing to deal with the lack of romance in her life. She, in fact, practically embraced her celibacy. But that all changed after a certain half-daemon became her new neighbor. Slowly but surely, Olivia found herself falling in love with Cole Turner – aka Belthazor. But there seemed to be a problem and it had nothing to do with Cole’s demonic status. The problem centered around the fact that Cole seemed determined to keep their relationship on a friendly footing and indulge in one-night stands with other women, at the same time. Olivia knew the reason behind his actions – Phoebe Halliwell. Cole was still in love with his ex-wife. And if he could not have Phoebe, he apparently decided to sleep with unattached women, leaving Olivia, sexually and emotionally frustrated.

A new romance had seemed possible with the arrival of one Paul Margolin, witch extraordinaire and San Francisco’s newest Assistant District Attorney. But once Paul had learned about Cole’s identity, Olivia had not heard a peep from him. After she learned from Paige about Paul’s confrontation with Leo, Olivia came to the conclusion that she might as well face a future without a nice, steady companion. Then again, perhaps there might be someone other than Cole or Paul for her in the future. At least she hoped.

Upon entering her apartment, Olivia snapped on the lights. Then she tossed her purse and briefcase on the nearby sofa. Before she could head for the bedroom, the doorbell rang. Olivia peered through the door’s peephole and was surprised to find a certain attorney standing in the hallway, outside. She immediately opened the door and cried out, “Paul?”

The New Yorker flashed a bright smile. “Hi! I uh . . . I dropped by to . . . uh, I was hoping,” he sighed, “hoping to see you. I meant to call. Earlier. But I’ve been . . . busy.” His voice became low.

Olivia widened the door and allowed her visitor to enter. “So, what do you want to see me about?”

“A cup of coffee?” Paul’s voice expressed hope. He sat down on the sofa. “And I was also wondering if you were available for dinner, tomorrow night. At the Golden Horn.” Another smile lit up his handsome face.

Returning the smile, Olivia replied, “I’ll see what I can do about that coffee. As for dinner,” she shrugged, “sounds like a great idea. I accept. Excuse me.” Olivia proceeded to the kitchen. There, she poured cold water into the coffee machine. As she reached for the jar of coffee, the doorbell rang again. “I’ll be right there!” she cried. Olivia rushed back into the living room, flashed Paul a quick smile and peered through the peephole. Her heartbeat increased tenfold. It was Cole.

“Something wrong?” Paul asked.

Olivia shook her head. “No, it’s . . . it’s just a neigh . . . it’s Cole.” She noticed how Paul’s face quickly tightened and she opened the door.

The half-daemon stepped inside the apartment. “Hey! Ready for some exercises?” He paused at the sight of Paul, sitting on the sofa. His expression assumed that of a cold mask. “Oh. I see you have a guest.”

“You remember Paul, don’t you, Cole? He only dropped by for some coffee. What are . . .” Olivia glanced at Cole’s outfit – black gym pants, black sneakers and a gray T-shirt that accentuated his muscular frame. “Oh! Oh God! I forgot! We were supposed to do exercises this evening.”

“Exercises for what?” Paul demanded. He stood up and walked over to the couple.

Olivia replied, “Uh, to help me control my new power. It’s . . .”

“You have more than one power?”

Cole replied coolly, “She has two – telekinesis and pyrokinesis, a fire power. The latter carries quite a punch.” His mouth formed a sardonic quirk.

Paul’s mouth dropped open. “You have a fire power? But that’s . . .”

Glaring at her neighbor, Olivia added, “It’s pyrokinesis and nothing more, Paul.” She faced the ADA. “It’s not a demonic power, if that’s what you think. But it is quite strong. Very strong. And since it involves fire, I need Cole’s help in teaching me how to control it better.”

“Oh. Well, I guess since it involves fire . . . a demon would be the best person to help you control it.” Paul coolly raked his eyes over Cole. “Especially since he would have much experience dealing with fire.”

Cole’s blue eyes became hard as marbles. “And what exactly is your power?” he asked.

“Cryokinesis. The ability to freeze,” Paul replied. “Literally.”

Cole’s brows formed two small arches. “Really? I knew at least three daemons with the same power.”

Anger flared in Paul’s eyes. Before an outburst could follow, Olivia stepped between the two men. “Uh, look Cole,” she said to the half-daemon, “could I get a rain check on the practice session? Perhaps we could meet on Wednesday?”

“I’ll be having dinner with a client on Wednesday evening. How about tomorrow?” Cole paused momentarily. “If you’re available.”

Longing and regret surged through Olivia. She shot Paul a quick glance, mindful of his dinner invitation. “Sorry, I have another engagement, tomorrow.”

“Dinner,” Paul added. “With me.”

The half-daemon’s expression became even more business-like. “Oh.” Olivia thought she had spotted a brief flare of pain in his eyes. Then it disappeared. “Well, so much for that. As for that practice, I’m sure that we can postpone until next Monday.”

“What about this upcoming Sunday?” Olivia asked. “At my parents’ house.”

Coolly, Cole replied, “I’ll be out of town that day. Next Monday will be fine.” He turned away and started for the door. Then he halted. “Oh, by the way,” he said, facing both Olivia and Paul, “did you know that the BAY-MIRROR had hired someone to replace DeWolfe Mann?”

The news took Olivia by surprise. “What? I mean no . . . no I didn’t know. When did you find out?”

“This morning. I was at their office with Deborah Mann to help her collect her brother’s belongings.”

Olivia could not believe this. “And exactly when were you planning to tell me?” she demanded. She could not believe Cole! All day long, she and Darryl had been busting their asses to find a break in the Mann case and Cole had been holding out on them, since this morning!

Cole rolled his eyes. “Well, I thought we would be practicing this evening. Especially since I have been busy all day. With a job?”

“And I suppose you’ve never heard of that wonderful little invention called the telephone?” Olivia shot back. “Or a cell phone?” She sighed, as she struggled to keep her frustration in check. “You know what? Never mind. I don’t suppose you know the name of this newcomer?”

“Portia. Portia Della Scalla.” Cole walked over to the door and reached for the doorknob. “She’s Italian and very beautiful. I’ll see you later.” He opened the door, spared both Olivia and Paul a cool look and left.

Paul let out a long gust of breath. “Man! That is one cool customer! I realize that you all consider him a close friend of yours, but . . .” He paused and shook his head. “I don’t know. Who am I to judge? I hardly know the man.”

Glaring at the closed door, Olivia muttered, “You’re not the only one who feels that way, sometimes. He can be so damn difficult, sometimes!” Then with great effort, she dismissed Cole from her mind and returned her attention to her guest. Olivia’s smile returned. “Why don’t we see about that coffee? Shall we?”