“A Family Affair” [PG-13] – 8/8

“A FAMILY AFFAIR”

CHAPTER EIGHT

Inside the family library, Jack McNeill was busy browsing through a book on Hindu mythology, when Davies interrupted. “Pardon me, sir,” the manservant said in his usual soft Welsh accent. “You have a telephone call. It’s Mr. Chan.”

Jack heaved a sigh. “All right. Transfer it to here, Davies.”

“Yes sir.” The manservant left.

Minutes passed before the telephone on the desk rang. Jack picked it up. “Hello? Wei?”

“Hey Jack! I have some news, regarding your plant.”

Hope swelled within Jack. “Oh? What is it?”

The Taoist priest revealed that his other acquaintance, the Hindu priest he had met in Singapore, has met with the head of his order in Sri Lanka. Amal Sharma’s leader has agreed to take possession of the Soma plant. Wei added, “They would like you to deliver the plant, personally. At least within two months, if possible.”

“Oh God! India in September!” Jack heaved a sigh. “All right. I’ll be there.” He paused. “Are you certain that this priest can be trusted with the plant? And not use the plant for himself?”

Wei assured Jack that the Soma plant would be in safe hands. Apparently, it had been safely kept by the Natha Sampradaya Temple for several centuries, until a rogue priest had stolen it during World War II. The plant had been missing ever since. “Would you mind if I join you?”

“Frankly, I was about to ask,” Jack replied wryly. “I’ll let you know when I’m ready to make the trip.” His mind switched to another topic. “Oh, about that other matter we had discussed . . .”

A pause followed before Wei replied, “Oh yes. The Magan Corporation. I’ve. . . uh, I’ve found some interesting news about the CEO.”

“Like what?” Jack demanded.

Wei continued, “From what I’ve learned, this Arthur Winslow was born on May 23, 1951, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”

Impatience welled within Jack. “Yeah, Cole had already told us. Winslow was born in 1951, attended Northwestern University between 1969 and ’75 . . .”

Wei interrupted, “That is not what I had found out.”

Oh oh. “What do you mean?”

The Taoist priest continued, “There was an Arthur Winslow, who was born in Pittsburgh in 1951. Only he had died eight years later in a car accident. Hit-and-run. Whoever is head of the Magan Corporation is not Arthur Winslow. It could be that he’s not even . . .”

“. . . human,” Jack grimly finished. “Why am I not surprised?” He described the events surrounding the attempts on Marbus and Giovanni’s lives. “So, the Magan Corporation might be headed by a daemon. I just wished that we knew his or her real name.”

A pause followed, before Wei asked, “Would you like for me to continue with the case?”

Jack sighed. “Let me think on that. I’ll get back to you, later. And thanks, Wei.”

“No problem. Let me know when you change your mind. Bye.” The telephone went dead.

———–

Cole stared at both Olivia and Marbus, as if they had lost their minds. “Apologize? To Piper? Why?”

Rolling her eyes, Olivia replied tartly, “Oh, I don’t know, Cole. Because you had threatened her life?”

The half-daemon retorted, “She had wanted Marbus dead! Hell, she tried to kill him!”

“Don’t forget that the other two sisters also tried to kill me,” Marbus reminded him. “Were you planning to kill them, as well?”

A frustrated sigh escaped Cole’s mouth. “Well . . . they weren’t so intent upon killing you, like Piper.” He paused. “Look, you’re family, Marbus. I mean, I had disobeyed the Brotherhood and the Source for you.” He turned to Olivia. “Wouldn’t you have done the same if someone had threatened a member of your family?”

Olivia hesitated, before she finally admitted, “Yes . . . I would.” Then she gently began to caress Cole’s face. “But honey, it would have been the wrong thing to do. And I hope you would have reminded me.”

A touch of shame replaced the hostile anger within Cole. Again, he sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ll apologize.”

A smile illuminated Olivia’s face. She slipped her arms around Cole’s neck. “Good! We can drop by the Halliwells’ place, tonight.”

Cole grimaced. Then he peered from the corner of his eye and noticed the slight smile on Marbus’ lips.

———-

The grandfather clock rang eight o’clock. The inhabitants of the Halliwell manor ignored it and focused their attention upon the television set before them. Then someone sighed. Phoebe realized that it was Paige.

“Would anyone like to change the channel?” the youngest Charmed One asked. “Because I’m not really looking forward to watching “ENTERPRISE”. It’s not exactly one of my favorite shows. Especially since I’ve seen this episode before.”

“Paige!” Piper’s voice bridled with barely contained patience. “Do you mind? We want to watch the show.”

Paige demanded, “Why? None of you really like it.”

Leo shot back in a firm voice, “I do.”

The youngest sister rolled her eyes in disgust and more silence followed. Phoebe tried to focus her attention on the sci-fi show, but could not maintain it. Besides, Paige had been right. Aside from Leo, no one really liked “ENTERPRISE”. Yet, it seemed apparent that no one wanted to bring up the real reason why the Trek show seemed so interesting, tonight. No one wanted to bring up the subject of Cole’s uncle – Marbus. And the lengths that the Magan Corporation had taken to kill the older demon and distract his more powerful nephew.

It galled Phoebe that she had been such an easy target of that telepathic warlock. She had assumed that her talents as a psychic would enable her to detect anything wrong with her premonitions. Then Phoebe remembered Barbas – the demon, whose telepathic abilities had made it easy for him to play with the minds of Cole and all of the Halliwells – including hers. Not only did she feel embarrassed, but also violated. If Cole had not stopped her, she would have beaten that warlock to death.

The doorbell rang, interrupting Phoebe’s thoughts. Paige stood up. “I’ll get it,” she said. Seconds later, Phoebe heard her exclaim, “Olivia! Cole! Hi! What are you guys doing here?” Then, “Oh.”

Startled, Phoebe, Piper and Leo gazed at the visitors entering the house. One of them happened to be Cole’s uncle, Marbus. Both Piper and Leo stiffened at the sight of the two demons. “What’s going on?” Piper demanded.

Marbus maintained an air of serenity, while Olivia stared pointedly at an uneasy Cole. Then the half-demon shifted from one foot to another. “Um, well, the reason we’re here . . . I mean, I’m here to apologize.”

“Apologize?” Phoebe frowned.

Nodding, Cole continued, “Yes. For threatening to kill Pi . . . uh, all of you. You have to understand – Marbus and I are very close and I was concerned for him. And when you all tried to kill him . . .”

Phoebe felt a surge of guilt. Not only for their attempt to kill Marbus, but for the death of that other demon. They had all been so quick to jump to conclusions. Despite Harry’s warnings, or the fact that she had “received” her visions without touching anything. And yet . . . an apology refused to grace Phoebe’s lips, let alone an acknowledgement of Cole’s apology. If they had been wrong about Marbus, there was a chance that they might have been wrong about other matters concerning Cole.

In the end, Paige apologized, while Phoebe and Piper uttered incomprehensible grunts. “That’s okay, Cole. We don’t really blame you for getting upset, especially since he was your uncle. I mean . . . I would have done the same.” She paused, as a nervous giggle escaped her mouth. “Come to think of it, we have.”

“Oh.” A blank look appeared on Cole’s face. Phoebe noticed that he seemed dissatisfied with her and Piper’s response. And uncomfortable with Paige’s recollection of his reign as the Source. He turned to Olivia and nodded. “I guess it’s time that we leave.”

Piper gave him a cool smile. “Well . . . good-bye.”

Embarrassed by Piper’s hostility and her own failure to apologize, Phoebe spoke up. “Ummm, how’s Mr. Giovanni? How did you explain what happened, last Sunday?”

Cole and Marbus exchanged a brief glance. “Actually, we didn’t,” Cole finally said. “We tried to think of an excuse. In the end, I told Mark that an investigator had warned me about a possible hit man going after him. And that he had mistaken Marbus as the target. And that last Sunday night, the killer struck, but Marbus got away. He, uh . . .” Cole’s eyes pleaded for help from his uncle.

Marbus added, “I was so frightened by the attack that I left and didn’t contact Cole until Monday.”

“Sounds a bit lame,” Paige mumbled. Both Cole and Marbus stared at her. She flashed a wan smile. “But I guess it worked. Huh?”

Cole winced with discomfort. “Yeah.”

“It more than worked,” Marbus continued. “I’ve been invited by Mark to join him at his family estate near Santa Rosa, next week. It would be a good opportunity for me to keep an eye on him.”

Paige asked, “And what about this Magan Corporation?”

Olivia replied, “We think it’s owned by a daemon. Only, we don’t know his or her name. Dad found out that the real Arthur Winslow had died some forty-four years ago . . . at the age of eight.”

“What does he want with Giovanni’s property?”

Cole shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows? I’m just curious about who this daemon is.”

“Maybe it’s the new leader of the Thorn Brotherhood,” Piper suggested.

Marbus shook his head. “Oh, I doubt that Nimue is involved in this Magan Corporation. Trust me, I would have known if she was.”

Everyone stared at the older demon. Phoebe noticed that Cole seemed slightly exasperated by his uncle’s comment. Piper frowned. “Who is this Nimue and why do you think you would have known if she . . .?

Cole sighed deeply. “Nimue is my mother. She also goes by the name of Elizabeth Farrell Turner.”

Phoebe asked, “And what does she have to do with the Brotherhood?”

A pregnant pause followed. Then the half-demon finally answered, “Because Mother is the new leader of the Brotherhood.”

The news took Phoebe by surprise. Both Paige and Piper gasped out loud. “And when did you plan to tell us?” Piper demanded.

“When the subject came up,” Cole pointedly shot back.

Phoebe opened her mouth before she realized what was happening. “My God, Cole! You should have told us when it happened! Why did you keep it a secret for so long?”

“I just told him over a week ago,” Marbus announced quietly. “The Saturday before last. Why . . .?” He gave the Charmed Ones curious glances. “Why are you all so concerned? Trust me, Nimue is not involved with this Magan Corporation.”

“It’s just . . .” At that moment, Phoebe realized that she was being upset over nothing and quickly shut her mouth.

Piper spoke up. “It’s nothing.” She shot a dark glare at Cole. “We were taken by surprise. That’s all.”

Cole continued, “By the way, Marbus and I had also told Andrea’s parents about her death. We both thought it was necessary that they knew the truth.”

Panic filled every fiber of Phoebe’s being. If the parents of this Andrea knew that the Charmed Ones had killed her, they might decide to take revenge. How could Cole . . .?

“Are you crazy?” Leo angrily cried out. “What if this demon’s family decided to go after the girls in revenge?”

Olivia rolled her eyes before searing Cole with an annoyed glance. “Don’t worry, Leo. They won’t. Andrea’s parents know that this Winslow was behind the whole thing. In fact, they want him vanquished as much as the rest of us.” She elbowed the half-demon in the side. “Right Cole?”

“Oh. Uh, I guess I forgot to add that, huh?” An insincere smile curved his lips. Then he glanced at his watch. “Boy, we really need to get going.” He turned to Olivia. “Ready?”

A long-suffering sigh left the redhead’s mouth. “Yeah, sure.” Then she added, “By the way, ladies, when do you want to resume those lessons? We have two more to go.”

The Charmed Ones exchanged uneasy glances. “Well, how about next . . .” Paige began.

“We really don’t know when we’ll be available for more lessons,” Piper quickly replied, earning a glare from the youngest sister.

Olivia’s eyes continued to stare at the three sisters. “Are you sure? I would be more than happy to . . .”

With a tight smile, Piper quickly added, “Yeah, we’re sure.”

“Okay.” Olivia sighed. “Well, let me know when you’ll be available for more lessons.”

Marbus also smiled. “Good night, ladies.” Cole muttered something incomprehensible. And the two demons and the witch left the house.

“All right, everyone . . . breath,” Piper commented wryly. “You all look as if you’re about to burst your bubbles.”

Paige turned to the oldest sister. “What the hell was that about us not being available for more lessons on the Craft?”

Phoebe simmered. “I can’t believe that Cole had told that demon’s parents that we killed her. What was he thinking?”

Leo glared angrily at the closed door. “He never thinks! That’s why he always get into so much trouble! And why didn’t he tell us about his Mo . . .?” He glanced up, signaling to others that he had been summoned by the Elders. “I’ve got to go.” He disappeared in a flurry of lights.

Paige glanced toward the Solarium. “Oh, what a shame! That means we won’t get to watch the rest of “ENTERPRISE”.” Phoebe rolled her eyes and left the living room.

———

Artemus sat inside his private office, staring at the view beyond the large windows behind his desk. The intercom box buzzed. “Mr. Lloyd is here, sir,” Prax announced.

Sighing, the daemon wearily replied, “Let him in.” Seconds later, the attorney entered, literally vibrating with anticipation. “You seemed to be in a good mood, Mr. Lloyd. You have some news?”

The attorney smiled. “Not exactly good news, Mr. Winslow, but . . .” His smile grew wider. “I have an idea.”

Artemus’ anticipation dimmed. “Oh. Really? What is it?”

Eminent domain.” Lloyd sat down in one of the chairs opposite Artemus. “It’s a ruling set down by any form of government agency that allows a company to acquire property for “public use”, so long as the government pays ‘just compensation’.” His smile widened. “If a company wants to purchase property in which the public will benefit – like for schools, parks, roads, other public buildings . . . and the elimination of blight through redevelopment . . .” Lloyd paused dramatically. “. . . the government can exercise its power of eminent domain even if the owner does not wish to sell his or her property.”

Comprehension dawned within Artemus. “And how do we go about convincing a government court that Giovanni should sell the property to us?”

Lloyd replied smoothly, “By finding a judge willing to rule in your favor. All we have to do is convince him or her that your purchase of the Oakville property will benefit the public. Preferably, a judge who is willing . . .” Another dramatic pause followed. “. . . to overlook the corporation’s brief history with lawsuits. And accept a bribe.”

Artemus shook his head, impressed by the mortal’s ruthless scheme. And to think that he had wasted his time trying to distract Belthazor. “Interesting. Very interesting idea, Mr. Lloyd.” He nodded. “Work on it.”

“Yes sir,” Lloyd said with a smile. He turned on his heels and walked out of the office.

Artemus leaned back into his chair with an air of satisfaction. If all went well, he would have his hands on the Oakville property. And the object that lies beneath.

————

Leo strode toward the Council’s chambers, when a voice called out his name. “Leo!” It was one of the Elders. “Over here!”

The whitelighter detoured from his path and joined his superior near a column. “You were the one who summoned me?”

The Elder nodded. “Yes. Walk with me.” The two whitelighters began to stroll along another corridor. “I had summoned you, because I’ve discovered some distressing news about Belthazor.”

“So have I,” Leo added. “I’ve found out . . .”

The Elder held up a hand. “Let me speak first.” According to Leo’s companion, another whitelighter – one who happened to be a seer – had foreseen a future that threatened the present state of good and evil. “Eloise saw Belthazor . . . and the McNeill witch bring about the emergence of a new Source and the reorganization of the Source’s Council.”

The news struck Leo with the impact of a thunderbolt. “What?” His voice raised an octave. “That’s . . . are you saying that Cole will become the Source again, and Olivia, his queen?”

“Fortunately, the news is not that dire,” the Elder replied in a wry voice. “Eloise had seen him and the witch help a demon become the new Source.”

Leo hesitated. “Is it Marbus?”

“Are you referring to Belthazor’s uncle?” The Elder added, “No, not him. But there will be a new Source because of those two. We cannot allow this to happen.”

A helpless feeling overwhelmed Leo, as he recalled Cole and Olivia’s visit. “About this demon we might be dealing with . . . I’ve received some interesting news myself. I found out that Cole’s mother is the new leader of the Thorn Brotherhood.” He paused. “Did Eloise envision a woman as the new Source?”

“I will have to speak to her, again,” the Elder replied.

Leo added, “I don’t know what I can do about Olivia and Cole. I have no control over him. And Olivia . . . well, she hasn’t been one of my charges since her second year in college.”

Silence followed, as the two whitelighters continued their stroll. Then the Elder said, “What about the Vodoun priestess’ premonition? Have you considered it?”

Leo frowned. “Premonition? You mean the one about Olivia . . .?”

“. . . vanquishing Belthazor,” the Elder coolly finished. “Yes, that one. I believe it is time to put it in motion.”

“But how? I mean . . . should we?”

A sigh emitted from the Elder’s mouth. “Good heavens, Leo! Where happened to your memory? Remember the McNeill’s witch’s theory? The one about vanquishing the Source?”

Leo stared at his superior in shock. “But . . . it wouldn’t have worked! And it certainly won’t work against Cole, who’s even more powerful.”

The Elder paused. And stared at the junior whitelighter, as if the latter was a child. “Well Leo, it obviously will work. Especially if the Vodoun priestess’ vision is accurate.”

Realization slowly trickled into Leo’s brain. “Oh. But . . . killing Cole?”

“Leo, that man . . . or should I say that demon will help resurrect the power of the Source,” the Elder sternly pointed out. “And didn’t you just tell me that his mother now heads the Brotherhood of the Thorn?”

Memories of Cole’s revelation, along with his threats against the Halliwells rushed back to Leo. The whitelighter’s expression hardened. “I understand. I’ll get on it, right away.”

THE END

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