“A Wedding in Four Acts” [PG-13] – Act 2 (Part 1)

“A WEDDING IN FOUR ACTS”

ACT II – Part 1

When he and his demonic savior materialized in the middle of an expensively furnished living room, Nick released a gust of breath. He glanced around, both impressed and apprehensive by his surroundings and asked, “Where are we?”

Dark brown eyes gave him a cold stare. “You will find out,” he said in an Italian accent. Then he cried out, “Hello? Padronessa? Leonardo? We’re here!”

A beautiful, dark-haired woman with familiar sherry-brown eyes descended the curved staircase. And aquamarine robe barely hid a statuesque figure that any woman would envy. Nick realized that she bore a strong resemblance to his former partner-in-crime, Portia Della Scalla. Same delicate features, same towering height and curvaceous figure; and the same eyes. Only this woman wore her luxuriant hair in a severe chignon. She also possessed a patrician air that Portia had lacked. Behind her, followed his new defense attorney – Leonard Mollari. Nick closed his eyes and heaved a despairing sigh.

“So,” the woman said in a cool voice, “this is the Streghone who killed my sister.”

Fear gripped every nerve in Nick’s body. “Oh. Oh no! No, Signorina! I didn’t kill anyone!”

One dark brow formed an arch. “Oh?”

“I mean . . .” Nick sighed. “Yes, I did kill someone. But it was a man, not who you think.”

The woman took a step forward. “Exactly whom am I referring to?”

Nick hesitated. “Uh, Portia Della Scalla? She’s a . . .”

“A succubus. I know.” The woman stepped closer. “So am I. Portia was my younger sister.” Cold eyes bored into Nick’s. “If you did not kill my sister, who did?”

Nervously, Nick continued, “Um, mind you, I wasn’t present when your sister was killed. I was being arrested at the time.”

“Enough!” Portia’s sister swept past Nick and the daemon guarding him. She settled upon a nearby sofa in a regal manner. “Sit down! I want you to tell me everything.”

Nick waited for the minion to release him, before he eased into an empty chair near the sofa. Bumping his foot against a nearby table’s leg. He darted uneasy glances at his hostess and her minions.

“Alessandro,” the succubus said to Nick’s rescuer, “get a glass of wine for Signor Marcano. The Rosso Villa Monticelli.” While Alessandro headed for the liquor cabinet, Nick’s hostess returned her gaze toward him. “Now, let us start from the beginning. First, my name . . . my human name is Claudia Della Scalla. I am Portia’s older sister. As Leonardo must have told you, a seer had informed us that you were the one who had summoned my sister. The question is . . . why?”

Aware of the panic rising within him, Nick took a deep breath. He then told Signorina Della Scalla everything – his feelings toward Barbara Bowen, her engagement to Bruce McNeill and his reason for summoning the late and unlamented Portia. He also revealed the events that led to Portia’s death. “Like I said,” he continued, “I wasn’t there when she was killed. But before I was sent off to jail, I found out that Bruce had killed her. Bruce McNeill is the witch I wanted her to . . . well, you know . . .”

“Yes. Kill,” Claudia declared bluntly. “So, some ridiculous little witch had killed my sister. A Wiccan.” She gave Nick a hard stare. “Unless, you happened to be lying to me. To save your skin.”

Nick drained the last of his wine. “Oh no! I’m telling you the truth! You can use a spell or something to find out. As for Bruce . . . well, he’s a very powerful witch. And so is the rest of his family.”

“I will simply kill this entire family. I’m sure that my coven will be able to deal with th. . .”

Exasperated by the succubus’ arrogance, Nick bluntly interrupted her. “Your sister had believed the same thing and ended up getting killed! Besides . . . Bruce should be getting married this weekend. To Barbara. If you go after the McNeills, you might end up hurting her. And there is one more thing.”

“What?” Claudia impatiently demanded.

Nick continued, “Belthazor.” He noticed the ominous look that flared in Mollari’s eyes. “The half-daemon, Belthazor. He’s a very close friend of the family. And he’s very powerful.”

“He is telling the truth, Signorina,” Mollari added. “I have heard of him. He was one of the Source’s top assassins of the latter’s reame.”

The Streghone continued, “Belthazor also became the Source for a while, until the Charmed Ones killed him.”

“The Charmed Ones?” Claudia frowned. “I have heard of them. Like the Cavalli family, only Wiccan?”

Nick nodded. “Yes. The youngest witch works at Barbara’s shop and is a close friend of Bruce’s sister. Anyway, after Belthazor was killed, he returned from the dead more powerful than ever. He’s even more powerful than their Source. But not as powerful as Dis and Umbria, who are gods.”

Claudia’s sherry-brown eyes widened in surprise. “I see.” She paused momentarily, while the other three stared at her. “I see that I may have to approach this with more subtlety.” Her eyes bored into Nick’s. “You say that you had promised my sister with a Soma plant, when you asked her to kill this witch for you?”

Once more, Nick nodded. “Yes, Signorina. The plant is inside the McNeills’ greenhouse, at their home. It was given to Barbara by an old friend of hers, some three weeks ago.”

“How clever of my sister,” Claudia murmured. “She almost had her hands on a Soma plant . . . one that would make her a god. I wonder if she would have told me about it.” Her eyes flashed at Nick. “And this Barbara . . . do you want her?”

“Well . . . yes. But she would never . . .”

The succubus dismissed his last words with a wave of her hand. “We’ll deal with that later. This Signor McNeill . . . you say that he is getting married?”

Nick added, “This Saturday. “Why?”

Her eyes glittering maliciously, she responded with a slow smile. “Because, I believe we will be attending a wedding, this weekend. And hopefully, I will have in my hands a plant that will make me a goddess.” She suddenly became businesslike. “Now, I want you to tell me everything about the McNeills, their acquaintances and whom you believe will be at the wedding.”

———

Andre and Cecile strolled along Chestnut Street, enjoying the early morning crowd that rushed past them and the shops along the street. His stomach growling from a lack of breakfast, Andre demanded that they stopped at a local coffee shop called Peet’s Coffee and Tea. The pair entered and each ordered a cup of coffee and a pastry.

“Okay Cecile,” Andre said after they settled around an available table, “is there a reason why you had me forgo a nice big breakfast with Cole and drag me out of the building?”

Cecile paused momentarily before she made her announcement. “I had a vision.”

The cup in Andre’s hand froze just an inch away from his lips. “Say that again?”

Her eyes focused on her boyfriend’s, Cecile repeated herself. “I had a vision. A very bad one.” She paused. “I met Olivia’s new friend, last night. What’s his name? Paul Something.”

“Margolin,” Andre corrected. “Cole told me about him. I heard that he and Livy may be more than just friends.”

Shaking her head, Cecile replied, “God, I hope not.”

“Meaning?” When Cecile failed to answer, Andre added, “C’mon girl! What could be so wrong about this vision? Is something gonna happen to this Margolin character?”

Cecile hesitated. “No . . . not him. But I think he may end up being responsible. The vision came to me when I shook his hand.”

Andre took a sip of his coffee. “Look, why don’t you just show me. Telepathically.”

“Here?” Cecile glanced around the coffee shop.

“Why not? Or we can go to Olivia’s apartment.”

Cecile cried out, “No!” Her outburst drew stares from the other customers. “Not there. She hasn’t left, yet. That’s why I wanted to leave. I couldn’t wait to tell you.”

In other words, Cecile’s vision had something to do with both Cole and Olivia. Andre frowned. “Show me. Right now.”

“Okay.” Giving the coffee shop another glance, Cecile ordered Andre to lean forward and close his eyes. She muttered a phrase in the Fon language over and over again. A minute later, the vision struck.

Andre saw Cole, Olivia and a strange man inside the penthouse. The stranger, whom he surmised must be Paul Margolin, stood by wearing a smug expression, while Cole and Olivia engaged in some kind of conversation. Then Olivia began to chant and a heptagon within a circle materialized around Cole’s feet. Each side of the heptagon shot bolts of light at Cole, causing the half-daemon to scream. The red-haired witch continued her chant until Cole’s body disintegrated into a burst of light.

The moment the vision ended, Andre gasped out loud, drawing more stares. Breathing heavily, he looked at Cecile in disbelief. “What the hell? I can’t . . . Did I just see . . .?” He leaned forward and whispered, “Did I just see Olivia kill Cole?”

Cecile nodded. “Yeah, I know. It’s impossible. Paige once told me about this sorcerer who had Cole’s powers, last fall. Someone named Barbas. She and her sisters weren’t able to kill him with the Power of Three. They had to return the powers back to Cole, first.”

“So, how would Olivia be able . . .?” Andre paused. “If the Power of Three couldn’t kill some guy with Cole’s powers, how would Olivia be able to kill Cole?”

A grim Cecile replied, “I don’t know. Maybe Olivia will find a way. You know, she once had a theory on how to kill the Source, but Leo didn’t take it seriously. I’m worried about why she would kill Cole in the first place. And why would I get a vision like that shaking Paul Margolin’s hand?”

Andre stared at his girlfriend with uneasy eyes. “Are you gonna tell her? Tell Livy?”

“Tell her what, Andre? That she’s gonna kill Cole? And that her present boyfriend might have something to do with it?” Cecile rolled her eyes. “Are you kidding?”

“Listen cherie, you’re gonna have to tell her, sooner or later.”

Cecile took a sip of her hot chocolate. “I’d rather do it, later. Maybe after I talk to Mama and Livy’s parents about it.”

A heavy sigh left Andre’s mouth. “Okay. It’s your call. Man! I should have known something was gonna happen during this trip. I only hope that matters don’t get any worse.”

———

Stunned by the news they had just received, Olivia and her partner, Darryl Morris, sat inside Captain McPherson’s office, staring at the man with shocked eyes. Darryl became the first to find his voice. “Excuse me Captain,” he said, “but you could repeat what you just said?”

The burly police captain viewed his lieutenant with sympathetic eyes. He sighed. Heavily. “I said that Nick Marcano has escaped from the County lockup at the Hall of Justice, last night. He simply . . . disappeared.”

“Disappeared?” Olivia leaned forward. “How?”

McPherson continued, “We believe that a guard helped him escape.” He glanced at the report on his desk. “According to one guard named Timothy Hamilton, another guard named Ben Jenoff had told him that one Keith Hardy had called in sick, and a temp named Reyes showed up. Only Hardy never called in sick. At least, according to Hamilton. He stopped by the cafeteria, while Hamilton reported for duty. Jenoff became suspicious and went to investigate.”

“So it was this Jenoff who discovered that Marcano had escaped?” Darryl asked.

The captain shook his head. “No, it was Hamilton. He found Marcano missing and . . . Jenoff’s body outside the cell. Burnt to a crisp. How, no one knows.”

Olivia muttered under breath, “Oh great!”

“What was that, Inspector?” McPherson demanded.

“Nothing sir,” Olivia responded morosely.

The captain nodded. “By the way, Hardy’s body was also found.” He paused dramatically. “Inside a closet, not far from the cafeteria. Also burnt. Now, how the perpetrator managed to achieve this without setting the whole damn building on fire is beyond me.”

Darryl asked, “Exactly who is this guard? This Reyes?”

“No one knows,” McPherson curtly replied. “He doesn’t exist. At least not with the County Sheriff’s Department.” The police captain heaved a sigh. “This Reyes is probably someone who is mighty interested in Marcano. I can think of someone else who might be behind this escape. Marcano’s accomplice in the DeWolfe murder is still alive. And missing.”

Both Olivia and Darryl exchanged uneasy glances. They both knew better. “Uh, you mean this Della Scalla woman?” Darryl asked hesitantly.

McPherson nodded. “We need to find Marcano. Fast. This escape . . . it’s a real embarrassment not only to the County Sheriff’s Department, but to SFPD, as well.”

“Um, does this mean . . .?” Olivia began. However, she immediately closed her mouth under McPherson’s direct stare.

“Does this mean . . . what?”

Olivia’s face grew hot with embarrassment. She shook her head. “I . . . there’s a wedding in the family, this weekend. My older brother. Also, we have a few out-of-state guests. I was thinking if I could take part of today and tomorrow . . .”

McPherson’s reply was curt. “No, you may not take some time off. I want both you and Morris working on this case, full time. At least until you’re off duty. I’m sure that your brother would appreciate your efforts. Understand?”

A sigh left Olivia’s mouth before she answered, “Yes sir.” Shit!

“Dismissed.”

The two partners stood up and left McPherson’s office. Silently. Upon reaching their desks, Darryl finally broke the silence. “Well, I guess we better tell Bruce and Barbara the news.”

“Along with Deborah Mann, Aunt Carla and Jason,” Olivia added morosely. “Nick picked one hell of a time to escape. Three days before Bruce’s wedding.”

Sympathy filled Darryl’s dark eyes. “Something tells me that Marcano had no choice in the timing.” When Olivia reached for her telephone, he added, “Giving Bruce a call?”

“Yeah, I might as well. I’m going to ask him to meet with us at Ostera, so we can break the news to him and Barbara at the same time. They’re not going to like this.”

Something like a cross between a guffaw and a grunt escaped Darryl’s mouth. “Huh. That’s the understatement of the year.”

——–

Two pairs of eyes – one blue and the other blue-gray – stared at the two police officers with disbelief. “Escaped? Nick Marcano has escaped?” Barbara said in a high-pitched voice.

It was lunchtime. Olivia and Darryl stood inside Ostera’s storeroom, facing both the store’s owner and her fiancé. Darryl nodded. “Yeah. Last night. He . . . uh, he disappeared from his cell. Along with the guard who helped him.”

Olivia added, “Who might be a daemon.”

Barbara looked away, distress marring her beautiful face. Bruce sighed. Long and hard. Of all the days for this to happen, he thought. He said out loud in a testy voice, “That’s just great. Nick decides to escape just three days before my wedding.”

Both Olivia and Darryl exchanged uneasy glances. “I don’t think he had planned his escape,” she added. “It’s obvious that someone helped him. Remember the guard?”

“What about him?” Barbara demanded.

Olivia continued, “Well, this guard . . . might be associated with Portia Della Scalla. Or maybe even her sister.”

Anxiety flitted within Bruce’s chest. Memories of the succubus filled his mind. “Oh shit!”

Darryl frowned. “That . . . uh, she had a sister?”

“Yeah. Remember what Cole’s old friend had told us?” Olivia replied. “He said . . .”

“Yes, thank you for reminding us!” Barbara curtly interrupted. “I was there, remember? I remember what that daemon had told us about Miss Della Scalla’s sister. God!” She walked away from the others, her body trembling. “This is great! Bruce and I are supposed to be married the day after tomorrow, only we have Nick Marcano and maybe a vengeful succubus to worry about. I just knew something would happen to screw up everything!”

Bruce walked over to his fiancé and gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Barbara, honey . . . Look, don’t worry. I’m sure that nothing will happen before the wedding. Maybe Nick has already left San Francisco.” He glanced at the two inspectors. “Has he?”

Darryl shook his head. “I doubt it. Look, Olivia and I have to get going. We have to break the news to a few others.”

Olivia added, “Yeah, like the BAY-MIRROR.” She sighed. “And Deborah Mann. I really don’t look forward to her reaction.”

Bruce nodded. “We understand. I’ll see you two later, okay?” Without bothering to look at his sister and her partner, he gently forced Barbara to face him, and enveloped her into his arms.

END OF ACT II – Part 1