“DEFENSE OF THE REALM”
Darryl pointed to the second entry. “Try that one,” he suggested. Olivia used her mouse to click on the suggested site. “Hmmm. The Bryant and Winslow Auction House. Isn’t the name of that guy from the Magan Corporation? Winslow?”
“Arthur Winslow,” Olivia answered.
Then Darryl read the address and paused with a thoughtful expression on his face. “What?” Scott asked.
“That address looks very familiar.”
Olivia heaved an exasperated sigh. “Well, aren’t you going to cough it up, or what?”
Ignoring his partner’s outburst, Darryl added, “That was the same address for Buckland’s Auction House. Where Prue used to work.”
“Who’s Prue?” Scott asked. “And what the hell is the Magan Corporation?”
Olivia explained, “Prue Halliwell used to date Andy Trudeau. I graduated from high school with her, and like me and her sisters, she practiced magic. She also used to work at Buckland’s. And now Lin Bryant owns it. Apparently, along with Arthur Winslow. Interesting.” She paused. “I’ll tell you about the Magan Corporation, later. Even Uncle Wei knows about it.”
A sigh left Darryl’s mouth. “Scott, I need you to check Lin Bryant’s personal bank account and the account for Bryant and Winslow Auction House. See if there has been any withdrawals made around the time of Kostopulos and Liederhoff’s deaths.”
“Right.” Scott immediately left.
Olivia added, “Looks like we were right about supernatural circumstances surrounding this case. Maybe we can check some of the books at my apartment for anything on those medallions. After we visit Ms. Bryant.”
“Supernatural.” Darryl shook his head. “How are we going to explain this to the captain?”
With a shrug, Olivia said, “Well, we’ve got Gallagher behind bars on the two murders. We’ll just do what we’ve done before. Leave out the supernatural stuff for McPherson. Right?” Her green eyes penetrated Darryl’s.
Cole reached for his telephone and dialed the number to Phoebe’s office. The telephone rang several times before he heard the following recording:
“Hi! This is Phoebe Halliwell. I’m either on the phone, away from my desk or Out of the office, right now. Please leave your name, telephone number and a brief message at The sound of the beep. I will get back to you.”
A beep rang in Cole’s ear and he hung up. Then he glanced at the clock on the left wall. Phoebe usually went to lunch around noon. It was now twenty minutes past one. What could have led her to be twenty-one minutes late getting back to work? Had something regarding the debacle in the Whitelighters Realm delayed her return? Recalling the concerns of his houseguest, Cole decided to pay a visit to the Halliwell manor and find out.
The three police officers appeared before the Bryant and Winslow Auction House on Montgomery. “I hope that Carlotta and Marcus won’t get pissed for being cut out of this arrest,” Scott commented.
“Don’t worry,” Darryl replied. “I ordered them to look into the Carlyle case.” He sighed. “Listen, Olivia and I will arrest Ms. Bryant. You stay in the lobby. If she gives us any trouble . . .”
Scott nodded. “I’ll be there.”
The trio entered the building. For a moment, Darryl felt a sense of déjà vu – as if he had stepped back into time. He could almost see Prue and Andy’s ghosts, along with those two warlocks that had taken control of Bucklands, five years ago. Until he spied a pair of eyes belonging to a stone dragon glaring at him. Darryl glanced around and noticed the other Asian artifacts that filled the lobby. Yep. The old Bucklands office had definitely changed.
“May I help you?” a pretty young woman of Asian descent asked the visitors.
Darryl flashed his badge at the receptionist. “Lieutenant Morris, along with Inspectors McNeill and Yi of the San Francisco Police. We would like to see a Ms. Lin Bryant.”
The young woman flashed a brief frown at Scott, before she picked up her telephone. After speaking a few words, she said to Darryl, “You can find Ms. Bryant in Room 16. Down the hall and to your left.” Unease flickered in her dark eyes, as Scott sat down in one of the lobby’s chairs. Darryl and Olivia went in search of the owner.
One look at Lin Bryant and her sleek, modern office almost led Darryl to believe that he had been transported into a James Bond movie. The dealer projected the image of an exotic beauty – delicate Eurasian features that included almond-shaped hazel-green eyes, high cheekbones, full lips and black hair that cascaded around her oval-shaped face. “Miss Bryant?” he greeted. “I’m . . .”
The businesswoman interrupted, “Lieutenant Morris of the police. Yes, my receptionist had informed me.” She spoke in a slight British accent. Then she glanced at Olivia. “And this is?”
“I’m Inspector McNeill,” Olivia crisply replied.
One of Ms. Bryant’s brows formed an arch, as her eyes examined Olivia’s wardrobe. Comparing tastes, perhaps? Despite her simple style, Olivia’s clothes had obviously cost a pretty penny. Darryl eyed Ms. Bryant’s own cream-colored pantsuit and realized that he could say the same about the dealer’s outfit. “So,” Ms. Bryant continued, “How may I help you?”
Darry said, “My partner and I are investigating the murders of two men – Stefan Kostopulos and Gregory Liederhoff. Mr. Kostopulos was the owner of an antiquity shop who was robbed and murdered nearly three weeks ago. Mr. Liederhoff, a dealer from the East Coast, had been murdered a few days ago, inside his hotel room at the Powell House Hotel. He had also been robbed.”
“Wha . . .?” An appalled expression appeared on Ms. Bryant’s face. “My God! Poor Gregory! I wondered what happened to him!”
“So you knew Mr. Liederhoff?”
Ms. Bryant shook her head. “No, I’ve never met him. But we had an appointment to see each other, yesterday. Regarding a certain piece of merchandise.”
“A medallion?” Olivia added. “About 10 centimeters, and with strange markings? A similar item was missing from Mr. Kostopulos’ store.”
Now looking sympathetic, Ms. Bryant said, “Something like that. Is that why you came to see me? Because of Mr. Liederhoff? I had talked with him over the telephone on several occasions, but I’ve never met this Mr. Kosto . . . whatever.”
“Kostopulos,” Darryl corrected. He paused and exchanged a brief glance with Olivia. “By the way, the killer of both men was caught.” Anxiety flickered in the dealer’s dark eyes. “His name is Gerry Gallagher.”
Olivia asked, “Why were you interested in Mr. Liederhoff’s medallion?”
The Eurasian woman turned her attention to the redhead. “It belonged to a set of medallions that had been forged for a secret society of Russian knights during the Dark Ages. They belonged to the Order of Mintz. The medallions are considered priceless. I was lucky that Mr. Liederhoff was willing to sell me his for a reasonable price.”
Darryl said, “I’m surprised that he was willing to sell it to you in the first place, if it was so valuable.”
“Poor Gregory. He needed the money. His business in New York wasn’t doing so well.”
“And you knew nothing about Kostopulos’ medallion?”
Ms. Bryant frowned. “Of course not. If I had known that a similar item was here in San Francisco, I would have never contacted Gregory.”
“Really?” Olivia’s comment drew a hard stare from the dealer. “Because according to Gerry Gallagher, he had been hired by you to steal both medallions.”
A long, silent pause followed before the other woman angrily protested, “That’s absurd! This Gallagher fellow is lying!”
Darryl leaned back into his seat. “Perhaps. But we had checked a few bank accounts – Mr. Gallagher’s, yours and the one belonging to this auction house. The day before the Kostopulos murder, you had withdrawn five thousand dollars from this business’ bank account. Gallagher deposited twenty-five hundred dollars later that day and twenty-five hundred on the day after the murder.”
“Then three days ago, you withdrew another five thousand dollars from your business account,” Olivia continued. “Gallagher deposited twenty-five hundred before Liederhoff’s murder and twenty-five hundred after. I believe there is a pattern forming here.”
Despite her stoic expression, Ms. Bryant’s chin trembled. She stood up and walked around her desk. “Is that all you have on me? Circumstantial evidence? Am I supposed to be worried?”
“Granted, the evidence may seem circumstantial,” Darryl commented. “But if you add Gallagher’s confession, along with the fact that you were scheduled to meet with Gregory Liederhoff . . . Well, it doesn’t exactly look good for you.” He paused. “Would you like to comment, Ms. Bryant?”
The door burst open, revealing two Asian men bearing guns. A smirk appeared on the dealer’s face. “Yes I do, Lieutenant. How about . . . please hand over your weapons, officers?”
The remaining members of the Whitelighter Council – all four of them – gathered inside the Council’s chambers to discuss potential new members. “I cannot believe it,” Gideon Gautier declared. A tall, angular man with intimidating eyes, he was one of the two remaining survivors from the old Elders Council. “Only four of us left. This is certainly a dark day for the Realm.”
Johann rolled his eyes in disgust. Pretentious bastard, the darklighter thought. He found himself regretting that neither he nor Belinda had targeted the headmaster of a magic school, operated by the whitelighters. “Do you have any suggestions on who might fill the Council’s empty seats?”
“I have a suggestion,” Serafina Villabos said. She was the whitelighter who had been initiated as an Elder at the same time as Johann. “How about Emil Lubcheck?”
Gideon frowned. “I’m not certain about him. I fear that he lacks . . . the character to assume responsibility of an Elder.”
“Nonsense!” Serafina protested. “We had a thirteen year-old boy on the Council for nearly a year! And he never had any experience as a whitelighter.”
Gideon stared at Johann and the fourth Elder, a tall, middle-aged man with pale skin named William Prescott. Johann had no idea how William felt, but he felt willing to accept Serafina’s candidate. After all, they would soon all be dead.
“I agree with Serafina,” William said. “The old Council had been considering him as a replacement for Ramius anyway, until the latter gave Kevin his powers. Johann?”
The Austrian shrugged his shoulders. “I have no problem with the choice.” The four Elders then proceeded to choose two other members, before Johann announced his suggestion. “Belinda Benedict,” he said, referring to his fellow darklighter, who had also infiltrated the Realm. He held his breath, while the others discussed his choice.
“What do we know about her?” Gideon asked. Johann revealed details of Belinda’s past four years as a faux whitelighter.
Johann added, “She has a very good record with her charges. Responsible. Strong-willed. Good Elder material.”
Gideon sighed. “I see no reason to reject her. Despite her minimum experience. William? Serafina?” He spoke the last Elder’s name in a chilly manner.
The other two agreed to Johann’s suggestion, much to his relief. Then the Austrian turned to Gideon, aware of the conversation they had before the beginning of this meeting. And right on cue, the magic school headmaster added, “By the way, I have one last suggestion. An . . . old timer.”
“Who is he?” William asked.
Gideon corrected, “She.” He paused dramatically. “Mathilda Everard. I suggest that we reinstate her back on the Council.”
Darryl stared at the antiquity dealer in disbelief. He and Olivia now stood before her. “You don’t really expect to get away with killing two police officers, do you?”
“No. I expect to avoid a lengthy stay in your state prison,” Ms. Bryant shot back. “Your weapons, please.”
Both Darryl and Olivia exchanged a quick glance that expressed hope Scott would intervene. As Darryl reached for his Glock pistol, he saw an object fling from one of the office shelves and strike one of the gunmen in the neck. “Ow!” the man cried, before he dropped his gun.
At that moment, Olivia snatched letter opener and flung it at the same gunman, stabbing him in the hand. Another gunman aimed his weapon at the redhead, but Darryl whipped out his Glock and shot the former in the chest – twice. The second gunman fell to the floor.
Olivia took out her gun, but a well-placed kick from Ms. Bryant knocked it out of her hand. Even worse, the auction dealer swiftly punched Olivia, sending the redhead flying onto the desk. Alarmed, Darryl cried out his partner’s name. Olivia quickly recovered and rolled off the desk. Before he could watch the upcoming showdown between the two women, the third gunman raced out of the office, shouting something in Chinese.
Behind him, Darryl noticed that the two women had finally come to blows. He had heard of Olivia’s martial arts skills from the Halliwells, but had never witnessed it. Until now. Judging from the way she blocked Ms. Bryant’s blows, he realized that Olivia would feel right at home in a kung fu movie. And so would Ms. Bryant.
Loud shots and gunfire from the hallway told Darryl that Scott might be in trouble. He rushed out of the office and found his other partner engaged in a fight with two men. The third gunman from the office aimed his weapon at Scott. Darryl aimed his own Glock and cried out, “Put the gun down! Now!” The gunman whirled around and shot at the police lieutenant. Just as two bullets whizzed past his face, Darryl pumped another two into the perpetrator – who slumped to the floor.
Scott knocked one man out with a swift punch to the jaw. He took out the second man with two roundhouse kicks in the face. Then he turned around and saw Darryl standing over the dead gunman. “What the hell?”
“Ms. Bryant had decided that she was going to avoid a prison sentence, even if it meant killing us. Three guys with guns had appeared in her office.”
Darryl sighed. “She’s . . .” Then he let out a gasp. “Shit! I forgot! She’s still fighting that Bryant woman!” He ran back toward the office, with Scott at his heels. The two men halted in the office doorway and saw the two women still fighting . . . and stared at the amazing display of fighting skill between the two.
Just as the Bryant woman was about to deliver a devastating punch to Olivia’s face, the latter blocked it and immediately threw a punch to Ms. Bryant’s face. Then she whirled around and back kicked the latter’s legs from under, dropping the other woman to the floor. Bleeding at the mouth, Olivia turned to her two colleagues. “What happened to that other gu . . .?”
Darryl gasped at the sight of the bruised Ms. Bryant, levitating to the ceiling. Olivia whirled around and shot out her arm. The dealer flew backward, until her body struck the bookshelf behind the desk with a sickening crash, causing the latter to slump to the floor unconscious.
Olivia wiped the blood from her mouth. “Talk about a difficult fight! What happened to the third guy?”
“I shot him in the hallway,” Darryl replied. “Scott left two other guys outside, as well.”
Scott stared at Olivia. “Where in the hell did you learn to fight like that?” She shot him a sardonic look. “Oh! I forgot. Master Chan, of course.”
Darryl sauntered over to one of the gunmen, who continued to nurse a wounded hand and neck. “Hey! Asshole!” Darryl barked. “You have some questions to answer for us.”
With a sullen expression stamped on his face, the gunman released a spew of vitriolic words in some Chinese language. Scott knelt beside the man and pressed a thumb against the other’s neck wound. The latter screamed in pain. Scott barked a few words in Chinese, until the other man replied. Olivia said to Darryl, “According to our friend, Ms. Bryant had been hired six years ago to find several of these medallions. Nine of them, as a matter of fact.”
“Nine?” Darryl cried out in surprise. He said to Scott, “Ask him who had hired the lady.”
Again, Scott spoke to the gunman, who quickly answered. Although Darryl did not understand Chinese, he quickly caught the words – ‘Magan Corporation’.
Olivia gasped. “Magan Corporation?”
“Who?” Scott asked.
“It’s a long story.” The redhead knelt beside the wounded man and asked him a question in Chinese. Darryl caught the name – Arthur Winslow from her mouth. The gunman shook his head. Then he said, “Johann Bauer.”
“Johann Bauer?” Olivia frowned. “Why does that name sound familiar?”
The wail of police cars drifted into the office from an open window. Scott added, “I had called for backup.”
Darryl asked Olivia if there might be any information on the medallions in the books she owned. “I don’t know,” she answered. “But we can drop by my place and find out.” At that moment, two uniformed cops burst into the office, delaying the topic of the medallions for another time.
END OF CHAPTER 10