Monday, June 1, 2009

"Return With a Vengeance" [PG-13] - 15/18



"It's been over twenty-fours hours, now!" Sheila Morris cried over the telephone. "Where the hell is he? Where's Darryl?"

Olivia winced from the noise in her ear. She glanced around the precinct office. Thankfully, no one had overheard. She took a deep breath. "She . . . Sheila, honey. I don't know. We're still looking for him."

"Still looking?" Sheila's voice practically screeched. "That's the same answer I got from Phoebe!" She paused. "I think it's time to bring the police in. Maybe they can find . . ."

Olivia switched the cell phone to her other ear. She glanced at Bruce, who seemed engrossed with a magazine. Her brother had dropped by for a visit on his day off. "Sheila," she said in a low voice, "I don't think that's a good idea. Trust me on this. We have . . . a pretty good idea on where we can find Darryl."

"You do?"

"Yes, Sheila. I swear. By this evening, Darryl should be home. Safe with his family." Olivia glanced at the skeptical expression on Bruce's face and shrugged. "Yes honey, I'm serious. Okay? Good-bye." She disconnected her cell phone and tossed it on her desk. "God, I'm screwed! Darryl's screwed!"

Bruce began, "Then why did you . . .?"

"I know what I said! I literally promised Sheila the moon." Olivia sighed. "It was the only way to keep her from calling McPherson, and that's the last thing Darryl need."

Bruce calmly asked, "Do you have any idea where we can find Darryl?"

"We?" Olivia stared at her brother.

"Yeah, I know I wasn't around when Harry was attacked. Mom, Barbara and I were in Palos Alto. You know, at the opening of Baron Todd's new restaurant."

Olivia frowned. "You and Mo . . . What were you doing there? Mom hates Todd!"

With a sigh, Bruce explained, "That isn't exactly a family secret. But we both received invitations. And Mom wanted to see how his new restaurant turned out." He snorted. "Just the usual New Age California cuisine."

"Grilled fish and salads made from weeds? They seemed to be the only dishes that Todd is capable of preparing."

Shaking his head, Bruce smiled. "You really are a bitch, you know that?" Bruce returned his attention to the magazine in his hand. Several minutes passed, while Olivia stared at her computer. Without bothering to glance up, Bruce added, "If you keep staring at that thing any longer, you'll go . . ."

Olivia's cell phone rang. She snatched it from her desk and snapped it open. "Hello?" she answered breathlessly.

"Olivia? It's Marty Jancek. I just called to let you know that I've got the information that you wanted. Got a pen and paper ready?"

Olivia scrambled for the needed items. Then she instructed Marty to proceed. The Customs agent revealed that the S.S. Enigma's Singapore manifest included a package addressed to the VENDRUM Company, in San Francisco. At the Hopkins Building on Columbus, Fifth floor, Room 508. The information did not surprise Olivia one bit. "However, when I checked the Enigma's manifest after it had arrived in town," Marty continued, "the VENDRUM package was missing."

The VENDRUM Company. Olivia mouthed the words silently. She had checked the MALEHEX Corporation's list of assets for any other San Francisco company, other than the Tower Bay Import/Export Company and found no sign of the company on the list. How did the remaining Crozats get their hands on this VENDRUM Company? "Who had sent the package to San Francisco?" she asked.

The Customs agent paused. "Uh, someone named William Dagbani. I gather he's not a native of Singapore or Malaysia."

"Hmmm, no kidding. Thanks Marty."

"No problem," Marty warmly replied. "Say, about next Friday night . . ."

Olivia interrupted, "Marty? Do me a favor. Glance at the third finger on your right hand. Now, do you really want to finish that question?"

Marty paused, before he broke into a soft laughter. "Catch you later, Livy." The agent hung up.

Olivia disconnected her cell phone and smiled at Bruce. "Well, looks like we might find Darryl, after all. I have a pretty good idea on where he might be. And the Crozats."

"So where is he?" Bruce asked.

"At the VENDRUM Company." Olivia paused. "Well, maybe. It's at the Hopkins Building. Fifth floor. Hmmm, funny. That company isn't on the list of Crozats assets I had received over a month ago."

Bruce suggested that it might be a new company. "Or maybe this bokor has nothing to do with the Crozats."

Olivia shook her head. "No. A Crozat warlock goes out of his way to kill Ben Mallard. Who may have intercepted a package from a guy named William Dagbani? The guy sounds like he came from somewhere in West Africa. The coincidence is too much." After another pause, she added, "I hope that Cecile is finished with that potion. I wonder if Andre had called about that spell."

Bruce added, "I wonder what happened to Cole. Has he been in touch with that Maxwell woman, yet?"

"I don't know. I haven't been able to get in touch with him, all morning." Once more, Olivia's cell phone rang. She answered, "Hello?"

Cecile's voice exploded in her ears. "Livy! It's me, Cecile! I just had another vision and we're all in trouble! Especially Cole! Where can I meet you?"

Anxiety gripped Olivia. "Huh? What the hell are you talking about? Are you still at the apartment?"

"Dammit Olivia! Haven't you heard a word I said? Cole is about to find himself in deep shit! And so will the rest of us! I saw five people steal his powers and kill him, inside some office! We've got to find him! Look, I've finished the potion and I've got the vanquishing spell from Andre."

"Yeah. Okay! Did you say an office? Then I have a pretty good idea on where he might be." Olivia took a deep breath and instructed her friend to meet her and Bruce at a certain address in downtown San Francisco.

* * * *

Cole glanced around the VENDRUM Company's posh office and nearly whistled aloud. Not bad, he thought to himself. Not even his private office looked this well-decorated . . . or expensive. Cole wondered how much profit the Crozats had accumulated over the years.

"Do you like it?" Suzanne Maxwell suddenly appeared by his side. For a woman holding an impromptu meeting, she looked dressed to kill. Or seduce. She wore a white tailored suit with a slit along the long skirt, and a jacket with no blouse underneath, but plenty of cleavage. She added sweetly, "The office, I mean."

Nodding, Cole replied, "Yes, it's uh, very . . . very nice. Are all of these antiquities yours?" He walked over to the far wall and fingered a long scimitar that hung from it.

"That came with the office when I rented it," Suzanne hastily replied. "Along with the name on the door."

"Really?" Cole gave her a brief, intense stare.

The young widow shifted uneasily on her feet. Then she indicated at the liquor cabinet with a sweep of her hand. "Uh, would you like a drink?"

"Thanks. Something non-alcoholic, I think. Club soda. No ice." Suzanne smiled and headed for the cabinet. Actually, she swayed. Cole watched her move with admiring eyes. Too bad she was a Crozat warlock. He would not have minded a one-night stand with her. Or perhaps even an hour. However, there was a certain matter to discuss, first. "By the way, you said that the name on the door came with this office."

Suzanne removed a bottle of club soda from the liquor cabinet. "Yes?" She reached for a glass and poured liquid in it.

Cole continued, "Well, it's strange that you would say that. I had someone investigate your background." The warlock paused momentarily. "One, your name is Suzanne, all right. Suzanne Crozat. You were born in Seattle, Washington on September 4, 1970, not Portland. Two, your married name is Maxwell. You had married a wealthy investor by the name of Anton Maxwell, but two years ago, not seven. He died of . . . mysterious circumstances, last August, not two years ago." Cole strode toward her. "And one of his assets happened to be the VENDRUM Company, located here in San Francisco. The one asset you didn't bother to liquidate before you left Vancouver." He paused right behind her and demanded in a low voice, "What do you want with me?"

The warlock whirled around and handed Cole his club soda. "I don't know what you . . ."

Slamming his glass on the cabinet, Cole roughly grabbed her arm. "Don't toy with me. When someone does, I get easily riled. I know you're a warlock with the Crozat coven. What . . . do . . . you . . . want . . . with . . . me?"

Fear flickered briefly in Suzanne's dark eyes. Then she nervously handed Cole his club soda. "Okay. I am a warlock with the Crozat coven. But it's not what you think."

"Oh really?" Cole took a sip of his drink.

Suzanne took a deep breath and continued. "Look, my cousins and I know what happened to the rest of our coven, last month. They tried to acquire enough power to take over the Source's Realm, and they failed. Well, my cousins and I intend to succeed." She glanced into his eyes. "With your help. If you're willing."

Cole swallowed half the contents of his glass. A sneer curled his lips. "What do you take me for? An idiot? So far, your coven has killed two men and unleased the spirit of a 250 year-old West African bokor, who seems bent upon killing the McNeills and the Charmed Ones. People I care . . ." A dizzy spell gripped him, making him feel disoriented. His eyes grew heavy. "What the . . . what the hell?"

An acid smile tugged the corners of Suzanne's lips. "How's your drink?"

"What the hell have you done to me?" Cole cried. He dropped his glass on the floor, and grabbed Suzanne's forearms. "What . . .?"

Suzanne replied innocently, "I have no idea what you're talking about. And would you please let go of my arms? You're hurting me."

Cole struggled to speak his next words. "I . . . you know damn . . ." Suzanne's face began to blur. Another wave of dizziness left him reeling.

"You don't look so well, . . . Belthazor." Suzanne took a step closer. At least it seemed so to Cole's groggy mind. He could barely make out the sinister smile on her face, as he sank to his knees. "I believe I know a few people who can help you."

At that moment, four men emerged from the far office. Despite his groggy state, Cole recognized two of them - Edward and Henry Crozat. "You . . ." he began. But the word came out as a slur and Cole found himself unable to speak any further.

"And it's nice to see you again, Belthazor," Edward Crozat greeted cheerfully. "How long has it been? Five years? Six?"

An impatient Henry Crozat cried, "Enough of the small talk! Let's get this over with! Now!"

Edward nodded. "All right. Ready?" The four men and Suzanne formed a circle around the kneeling Cole. The warlocks began to chant and the half-daemon felt his strength, slipping away. Despair overwhelmed him. For there was no one to save him.

* * * *

Olivia and Bruce met Cecile outside the Hopkins Building, before all three rushed inside. "Suzanne Crozat, thanks to her late husband, owns a company located on the fifth floor," Olivia commented to her friend. "It's called VENDRUM. Would you believe it? It's one of the companies I was investigating in conjecture with the Alvarez murder."

The trio entered the elevator. Olivia bridled with impatience, as the elevator creaked its way up to the fifth floor. "I wonder how Cole managed to discover the whereabouts of the Crozat?" Bruce asked.

"Suzanne Maxwell," Olivia muttered darkly. "Or should I say Suzanne Crozat? He tried to call me this morning, but I was in another meeting with Captain McPherson. Who was still bugging me about Darryl. I tried returning Cole's call, but he didn't answer. Dammit!" The elevator finally reached the fifth floor and the three people stepped out.

Cecile added, "I hope we're in time. From what I saw, these warlocks were using both a potion and a spell to steal his powers."

"Oh great!" Olivia groaned.

The two witches and the priestess finally came upon a door marked VENDRUM COMPANY. Olivia grasped the doorknob to open the door. It refused to budge. "Dammit!" she cried in frustration. Then using her telekinesis, she forced the door open.

The trio rushed inside and a terrifying sight greeted their eyes. Five warlocks - four men and a woman, surrounded a kneeling Cole, chanting a spell. Olivia recognized the woman. Suzanne Maxwell. She cried out, "Cole!". The warlocks halted in mid-chant and stared at the newcomers. Fortunately, Bruce reacted first. Using his power of aero kinesis, he scattered the warlocks away from Cole, with a gust of wind.

A tall warlock in his mid-thirties scrambled to his feet. A dagger appeared in his hand. He threw it at Cecile, who stood closer. The Vodoun priestess quickly ducked and withdrew a small bottle of liquid from her jacket. She tossed it at the warlock, who dematerialized into a ball of flames and smoke.

Another warlock became the second to respond to the newcomers' threat. He stood up, stared at the visitors with dismay. The young man - the same warlock whom Cecile had spotted near Pablo Alvarez's body - disappeared. He reappeared behind Bruce, with a knife in hand. Before he could stab the witch, the latter viciously elbowed in the side and flipped him onto the floor. Then Bruce immobilized the young warlock with a kick to the jaw.

Meanwhile, another Crozat, one who reminded Olivia of the late Philip Crozat, sent a fireball toward Bruce. Olivia deflected the attack with her power and the fireball engulfed the warlock.

"Edward!" cried the fourth warlock. Stock and middle-aged, he glared at Olivia with hatred. Fortunately, Bruce reacted first and with his aero kinesis, attacked. The warlock screamed in horror, as he became trapped within a tunnel of strong wind. Until his body disintegrated into nothing.

There remained one last Crozat - Suzanne. She regarded Bruce's attack upon the stocky warlock with horror, before she dashed to one of the desks. Olivia used her telekinesis to throw her against the wall. Unfortunately, it seemed that Suzanne possessed the power of deflection. The telekinesis boomeranged from Suzanne and sent Olivia sprawling to the floor.

"Your powers don't work on me, bitch!" Suzanne spat out. A Glock pistol appeared in her hand. She pointed it at Olivia and fired twice. Still sprawled on the floor, the latter immediately reacted by using her telekinesis to send the bullets right into the warlock's chest. The dark-haired woman's eyes flew open momentarily, before she dropped to the floor. Dead.

Olivia and Bruce rushed over to help Cole to his feet. Cecile's voice from behind cried, "Look out!" Brother and sister whirled around. They saw a knife appear in the battered young warlock's hand - the same warlock whom Bruce had knocked unconscious. The oldest McNeill grabbed a knife from a nearby desk and very neatly, sent it flying into the warlock chest, killing the latter.

Cecile let out a sigh of relief and rushed over to help Olivia and Bruce deal with the groggy half-daemon. "Cole?" Olivia said sounding concerned. "Cole, can you hear me? It's Olivia! Are you all right?"

"I'm . . . help . . . me . . . sto . . ."

"Cole! C'mon Cole! Snap out of it!" Olivia shook the half-daemon. When he failed to respond, she cried out, "Dammit!" Then she grabbed Cole's head and pressed her lips against his. The kiss failed to snap her friend out of his lethargy. Desperate, Olivia kissed Cole for the second time. Only harder. After a few seconds, he finally responded by placing his hands on Olivia's waist and returning the kiss wholeheartedly. A rush of heat spread all over her body. Groggy or not, Olivia had to admit that the half-daemon was an above-average kisser. More than above-average.

"Livy?" he murmured, after their lips had parted. "Olivia, was that . . .?"

Elated, Olivia gave Cole one last shake. "Yes Cole, it's me. Olivia. Wake up!"

"I'm . . . I'm awake . . . I'm . . . would you please stop shaking me?" The last sentence came out without any hesitation.

Cecile eyed Cole with curiosity. "Amazing! He seems to have recovered, despite being drugged."

"Self-healing power," Cole gasped, as he struggled to his feet. "But the drug isn't completely gone. I still feel a little bit groggy." He opened his eyes wide and stared at the dead body near one of the desks. "Suzanne," he muttered. "What happened?"

Olivia replied, "I killed her. Deflected two bullets she had shot at me."

"Two bad," Cole shot back, under his breath. His eyes fell upon the other corpse. "Say, uh, isn't that the warlock . . .?"

Nodding, Olivia replied, "That's him."

"He's the one who had killed Pablo Alvarez," Cecile added.

Cole shook his head. Blinked several times. "Where's Dako? And where's Bruce?"

"I'm here." The eldest McNeill sibling had disappeared into one of the inner offices. He returned, carrying something that looked like a crude vase. Or urn. And a file in a brown accordion folder. "As for Dako, I don't know where he's at. But I'll bet top money that he had arrived in this." He held up the vase.

Cecile's eyes narrowed. "That looks like a Benin urn. How did the Crozats get their hands on it?"

Before anyone could answer, the door burst open. A uniformed guard appeared in the doorway, brandishing a revolver at the four occupants. "This is security!" he barked. "Everyone hold it!"

Bruce murmured, "Looks like Dako might be the least of our problems."


*AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm sure that many of you were surprised that I had Suzanne Crozat killed off with two bullets. Personally, I don't buy CHARMED's theory that warlocks are immortal and are incapable of receiving a mortal's death. I have checked the definition of a warlock. The only difference between one and a witch is that a warlock practices dark magic for selfish and perverse reasons and a witch practices magic to help others . . . and occasionally, oneself. I just could not fathom that because a warlock has chosen evil, he or she is also immortal.

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