Wednesday, June 17, 2009
"Return With a Vengeance" [PG-13] - 17/18
"RETURN WITH VENGEANCE"
Blue eyes fluttered open and Olivia sighed with relief. She sat on the edge of Cole's bed and gave him a warm smile. "You're finally awake," she declared, keeping her tumultuous emotions in check. "How do you feel?"
"Fine," Cole croaked. "How long I have been out?"
After a brief hesitation, Olivia answered, "A little over eight hours. It's almost eight-thirty. The potion that Suzanne Maxwell had given you must have been very potent."
Cole sighed. "No kidding." He struggled to sit up. "Wha . . . what happened after Cecile had vanquished Dako?"
Olivia helped Cole sit up. "Oh, Phoebe got Leo to heal Darryl, Bruce, Piper and myself. And Leo helped us get you home. He and Bruce undressed you and put you in bed. Poor Leo, he was . . . well, a little uneasy about orbing a half-daemon."
"He'd done it before. When I was the Source." Cole sighed. "What about the police? Did they buy your story?"
With a shrug of her shoulders, Olivia replied, "Well, Captain McPherson did. By the way, you'll have to go by the precinct tomorrow, to file a statement." She paused momentarily. "But before you do, we have a little . . . file manipulation to take care of."
Olivia continued, "Well, I had went by your office to inform them about your encounter with Suzanne. And I learned that Mr. Jackman was the one who had recommended you to her. He recalled first meeting her at a party, only he doesn't remember exactly when. Probably after the Tower Bay warehouse incident, which was a little over a month ago." Olivia noticed that Cole seemed to be wavering. "Are you okay?"
He took a deep breath. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Listen, about that . . . I've got this idea, regarding Suzanne."
"Are you about to bring up that police report you had filed back in late October?" Olivia's question drew a frown from Cole. "I came across it, some time ago. About how someone had slipped a drug in your drink, at a party. I've always wondered how you managed to keep your job, after nearly strangling your secretary."
Cole rubbed one hand over his bewhiskered chin. "Well, it was either that or tell Jackman, Carter and Kline that the Daemon of Fear was manipulating my mind at the time."
"And they believed you?"
Wariness crept into Cole's eyes. "They did after the police confirmed my story."
"So, are you telling me that the police actually found traces of a hallucinogenic drug in your bloodstream?" Olivia gave Cole a shrewd look.
Cole returned her stare. "I'm sure you have a pretty good idea how I had convinced the police." He glanced away and sighed. "All right. So I had used the old Jedi mind trick on the cops, and on my bosses. And I had also conjured up evidence to back my story. I had lost my job, thanks to Barbas' tricks. So, I had to do the same to get my job back." His eyes returned to Olivia. Wary. "Disappointed?"
Was she? Olivia could honestly say no. Hell, she would have done the same, faced with a similar situation. And if she could look past Cole's actions in the death of that slimeball Ed Miller, she should have no problem with this. "Do I look disappointed?" she shot back, with a smile.
Cole responded with a warm smile of his own.
Olivia added, "Besides, Mrs. Maxwell should fit perfectly with your story. Murderous widow tries to kill attorney after he rejects her. And confronts her with criminal action."
"How did you know about . . .?"
"When I was at your office, your secretary gave me that private detective's report. I was surprised to find out that Maxwell was her real married name. And that she was married to a murdered man named Anton Maxwell." Olivia paused. "Did you know that he wasn't the first? That Suzanne was married, twice before, and 'widowed'? She had built up quite a fortune in the past five years or so. Also, our young warlock was identified by the police as one Rudolf Crozat. According to the Vancouver police, he was last seen with Anton Maxwell, before the latter's death. And dear Suzanne disappeared from Canada, six days later . . . after dissolving most of her husband's assets."
Cole murmured, "More profits for the MALEHEX Corporation. What about the urn that Bruce had found? What happened to it?"
"The police has the urn," a third voice added. Cecile entered the room, carrying a steaming mug. "Or maybe Customs have it by now. Olivia told us that many of the artifacts found in that office may have been smuggled into the country, illegally." She walked over to Cole and handed him the mug. "Boy, you really looked wasted. This should help. It's tea. Help you cleanse the last of that potion out of you." Cole sniffed at the hot liquid. "Don't worry. It won't kill you."
Dark brows cocked upward. "Are you sure?" Cole took a sip of the tea. "Hmmm, not bad. Actually, it's pretty good."
"Naturally," Cecile retorted good-naturedly.
Olivia added, "After you finish your tea, you should get some more rest. I think battling Dako and nearly getting your powers stolen may have taken a lot out of you."
"Uh, huh. You're lucky that you're still alive," Olivia shot back.
Cole gave her a curious look. "Do I detect a rebuke coming?" He drained the rest of his tea and handed the mug back to Cecile.
Hands on hips, Olivia faced the half-demon squarely. "That's right. I'm a little pissed at you."
"For not bothering to tell me that you had a meeting with Suzanne Maxwell. If Cecile hadn't received a premonition, you would have been dead. And probably the rest of us, as well."
Cole rolled his eyes and sighed. "Look, I thought I could handle her."
"Cole, did you ever stop to wonder why she was so interested in you? Hell, it's been preying on my mind all week! And all powerful or not, you're not invulnerable. Barbas had proven that when he managed to manipulate your mind, over a month ago. And even Paige managed to come up with a potion to strip your powers. She didn't need the Power of Three!"
Cecile added, "She's right. That was pretty stupid." She left the room.
"Thanks a lot," Cole grumbled. Then to Olivia's satisfaction, he expressed regret. "Okay, I'm sorry. It was pretty stupid of me. First of all, I couldn't reach you." He paused, his eyes focusing on his sheet-covered lap. "And I had forgot to call you, again. I'm sorry."
Olivia allowed a small smile on her lips. "Apology accepted. Just don't do it again," she said, softly.
As Cole stood up, the sheet slid off his lower torso. He glanced down, realizing that he wore underwear and nothing else. Olivia struggled to contain her amusement, as he jumped back on the bed and covered himself with the sheet. He glanced at her and frowned. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing. I just realized that you have answered the age-old question of boxers or briefs. Considering how tight those things are, you might as well be al fresco."
Cole's face turned red. But his embarrassment did not last long. "Well, I've also discovered something," he said.
A wicked grin curved his lips. "That you give new meaning to the phrase 'French kiss'. All I can say, Livy, is that the man who marries you is going to be one lucky bastard." His grin now became downright lecherous.
Embarrassment washed over Olivia, followed by a wave of heat. She picked up a pillow lying on the floor and threw it at Cole's face. Then she fixed him with a fierce glare. "Get some sleep, Turner."
* * * *
The black SUV pulled into the Halliwell driveway and stopped. Paige, who sat in the back seat, let out a sigh. "Boy, am I glad to be home. I hate hospital food."
The two older Halliwells exchanged brief smiles and climbed out of the vehicle. Phoebe opened the back seat's door and helped Paige climb out. "Watch your step, honey. We don't want you to trip and get hurt, again."
"That's all I need, another trip to the hospital. At least I can't blame some Voodoo witch doctor."
The words immediately tumbled out of Phoebe's mouth. "Vodoun sorcerer. A bokor. Not witch doctor." Paige stared at her. "At least that's what Cecile keeps telling us."
Paige opened her mouth to speak, but closed it immediately when two figures approached the sisters. Their next door neighbors, the Murillos. "Miss Halliwell, I see that you're back," Mrs. Murillo greeted.
"Matthews," the youngest sister grumbled.
Oblivious, Mrs. Murillo continued, "I'm relieved that you're okay. Both Antonio and me. Right, querido?"
The elderly man nodded and mumbled, "Good to see that you're okay."
"Did the police ever catch the man who attacked your sister?" Mrs. Murillo asked Piper and Phoebe.
Piper shook her head. "I'm afraid not. But I don't think he'll come back."
"But if Miss Halliwell saw her attacker, surely he will come back to make sure that she doesn't . . ."
Phoebe cut in. "He won't be back. According to the police, he was last seen in . . . I mean, down south in Oxnard."
"Oh." The elderly woman nodded. "You know, for a moment I thought that thief or whatever he was, looked a lot like your friend. The police inspector."
Time to nip this suspicion in the bud, Paige decided. "It wasn't him," she said abruptly. "The guy who attacked me only looked like Darryl. But it wasn't him."
The Murillos smiled with relief. "That's good to hear," Mrs. Murillo said. "Well, we better get going. It's time for Antonio's lunch. Good day." The elderly pair started back toward their house.
Paige shook her head in disbelief. "How on earth did you two ever deal with that woman as a neighbor and be witches at the same time?"
"We usually tried to ignore her," Piper caustically replied. "It's not easy when living next door to a real live Gladys Kravitz."
Phoebe grabbed Paige's arm and escorted her inside the house. "I wouldn't be too hard on Mrs. Murillo. She and her husband did save your life, Paige."
"That's what I don't understand," Paige shot back. "Why didn't Whatshisname simply kill the Murillos?"
Piper closed the front door behind her. "I don't know, honey. Maybe some part of Darryl managed to stop Dako from killing them."
"Like . . ." Paige stopped herself. During the last two days, she had time to reflect about Elise and Jack McNeills' comments about Cole. That perhaps her former brother-in-law may have been the victim of the Source. She remembered her close calls with death, last spring - during Phoebe and Cole's wedding, her encounter with the power brokers and her brief period as a vampire. Each time, it had been Cole (as the Source) who ended up saving her. If Darryl, while under possession by that sorcerer, had managed to save the Murillos, why couldn't Cole do the same?
Snapping out of her reverie, Paige realized that both Phoebe and Piper were staring at her. "Like who?" her middle sister asked.
Paige thought quickly. "Like you," she said to Phoebe. "When you were . . . you know, Queen of the Underworld. A part of you was still trying to save an innocent." A faraway look clouded Phoebe's eyes. Paige wished she had not opened her big mouth in the first place. "Phoebe, I'm sorry. I didn't mean . . ."
"No, it's okay," Phoebe replied, giving Paige a dim smile. "I understand what you were trying to say. That a small part of Darryl had fought to save you and the Murillos. Like a small part of me tried to save Greg Conroy."
Or a small part of Cole may have tried to save all of us on numerous occasions. Paige kept the thought to herself. She knew that Phoebe and Piper were not ready to deal with that possibility. She also realized that one day they would all have to face it.
"By the way," Piper said, breaking the somber mood, "I received a call from Mrs. McNeill. Gwen McNeill. She invited us to another one of the family's Sunday brunches, tomorrow. I told her we would think about it."
Paige immediately spoke up. "I want to go." Her sisters stared at her. "I want to see Olivia's friend. Ask her a few questions about this Voodoo, or whatever you call it."
"Thinking of converting?"
Paige gave her sister a teasing smile. "Maybe." To her delight, both sisters responded with shock. Nice to know that life was back to normal, again.
* * * *
"I want to thank you, Mr. Turner, for coming down here, today," Captain McPherson said. The burly police captain sat behind his desk, opposite Cole and Olivia. "Inspector McNeill tells me that you've gone through a traumatic experience."
Cole merely shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Not too traumatic. Suz . . . uh, Mrs. Maxwell only managed to drug me. That's all." Can't talk about his experiences with Dako. "I'm only glad that Olivia had showed up before Mrs. Maxwell's boyfriend could kill me."
"He was her cousin, not boyfriend," Olivia explained. Cole gave her a quick glance. Their little script for today's trip to the police precinct seemed to be progressing well. Cole and his neighbor had spent the early morning, visiting the police offices of both Vancouver and Seattle, making adjustments to Suzanne Crozat's record. He had been surprised to learn that the late warlock had already accumulated quite a criminal record during her 32 years on Earth. Drug use, theft and assault.
Captain McPherson grunted. "Nonetheless, you had a very narrow escape. The next time you have any suspicions about a client or a potential client, Mr. Turner, we would appreciate it if you inform us. Or your employers." He gave Cole a pointed stare.
The half-daemon squirmed with discomfort. Which became annoyance, when he saw the amused smile on Olivia's lips. God, he is never going to live yesterday, down!
"I'm sure that Mr. Turner will be more cooperative in the future, Captain. Right Cole?" Olivia looked at him with innocent eyes. She smiled.
Cole responded with a lukewarm smile. "Yeah."
Olivia added, "By the way, I had spoken with one of your senior partners. A Mr. Jackman." Cole perked up. Time to resume their script. "It seems that he was the one who recommended you to Mrs. Maxwell. At a party, over a month ago. The very one at which you claimed you had been drugged."
Knowing what was expected of him, Cole sat up. "Really?" he said with false interest. "You mean to say that she . . .?"
"There is a good chance, Cole. In fact, I'm only surprised that she didn't approach you sooner." Olivia paused dramatically. "She had a history of drug use."
Still in his role of outraged citizen, Cole continued, "But why would she do that to me? Slip a drug in my drink?"
Olivia shook her head. "I have no idea. Personally, I think she was a disturbed woman. Maybe she had some kind of fixation on you. At least you proved to be a threat." She turned to Captain McPherson. "You know, I'm beginning to wonder if Mrs. Maxwell and this Mr. Crozat were responsible for the disappearance of the staff at the Tower Bay warehouse. It was owned by the Crozat family."
To Cole's relief, a knowing smile touched the captain's lips. "Yes, I've considered that possibility. I understand that Mrs. Maxwell and Mr. Crozat were the last remaining members of MALEHEX's board of directors. Looks like a case of theft and murder. I wouldn't be surprised if they had been plotting to get their hands on the company for themselves."
Cole added, "But the MALEHEX Corporation had been liquidated. It's in the report I had received on Mrs. Maxwell."
"Yes, we know," McPherson replied. "The Department has decided to consider that case close."
Olivia protested, "But that doesn't explain how the entire staff had dis . . ."
"The case is closed, Inspector." McPherson gave Olivia a hard stare. Cole managed not to smile. Then the captain closed the open file on his desk. "By the way, how is Morris? Is he still sick?"
Nodding, Olivia replied, "He's getting better. His wife thinks he should be back at work on Monday morning."
* * * *
"I should be back to work on Monday," Darryl was saying to the Halliwells. "Fortunately, my captain thinks I'm sick, so I shouldn't be in trouble." Just several minutes ago, the three sisters had dropped by to pay Darryl a visit. Leo was busy elsewhere, attending to 'heavenly' duties.
Piper smiled at him. "That's good. I'm glad that you're okay, Darryl."
"How about you?" Darryl asked. "I understand that Dako, or whatever his name is, tried to take your ba . . ."
A frown darkened Piper's countenance. "Fortunately, he failed." Her smile returned. "And the baby's fine."
"Yeah, thanks to Cole." The moment Darryl had mentioned the half-demon's name, the three sisters stiffened. He silently bit his tongue. "Uh, sorry about that. I didn't mean . . ."
Phoebe added, "Well, I guess we can't deny that he did save the baby."
"Oh. Yeah." Darryl found himself wishing that this visit would end. Of all the stupid things to do - open his mouth and mention Cole Turner. It felt bad enough remembering what he - or Dako had done to Paige. Since her arrival, the youngest Halliwell had barely said a word to him. He wondered if . . .
Sheila burst into the Morrises' recreation room. "Hey honey! You have three new visitors. Do you mind?"
Darryl sighed. "Yeah, sure. Show them in."
Piper added, "We better go. This house is getting crowded already . . ."
"No, no! Stay." Darryl signaled to his wife. "Send them in."
Sheila disappeared. Seconds later, three people entered the bedroom. "Hey Darryl!" Olivia greeted gaily. She spotted the Halliwells and her gaiety dampened. "Ladies. I didn't realize you were here." Cecile Dubois and Cole, whom Darryl had never expected to see inside his house, tramped into the room. "So," Olivia plopped down on the sofa, next to Darryl, "how are you feeling?"
Darryl grunted. "Okay. Despite being possessed by some Voodoo spirit for nearly two days."
"Vodoun," Cecile corrected. "Don't forget."
To his dismay, Darryl saw Piper roll her eyes. He suppressed a sigh. "Whatever. I'm just glad to be free of it." He paused. "Exactly what was it?"
Cecile replied, "The spirit of an 18th century bokor named Dako."
"Bokor. That's like an evil sorcerer, right? One who practices black magic?"
Paige spoke up. "I think that's what Phoebe said."
From the corner of his eye, Darryl spotted the other two Halliwells stiffened with discomfort. Phoebe shot a wary glance at Cole, who seemed bent upon ignoring his ex-wife.
Olivia said, "I'm surprised that you knew, Darryl. Been doing some research?" She pointed at the computer laptop on the table, next to Darryl.
Darryl's face grew hot with embarrassment. "I was just . . . I mean . . ." He saw the smirk on Cole's face and growled, "Never mind!"
"No, it's great!" Cecile declared. "It's great that you're showing interest in Vodoun. After all, it's part of your heritage."
Memories of his church-going parents popped into Darryl's mind. "I don't know if my parents would agree." His eyes rested upon a large black pot that Cecile held. "What's that?" he asked.
"Jambalaya," Cecile answered. "My mama's recipe. A little gift for you. I better give this to your wife." She faced the Halliwells. "Would any of you like to sample a bite? If Darryl doesn't mind."
Paige opened her mouth to speak, but Piper beat her to the punch. "Thanks, but we were about to leave," she said with a polite smile. "Maybe another time." She waved at Darryl. "See you later, Darryl. I hope you get better."
Before the Halliwells left, Olivia cried out, "I understand that my mom invited you over for brunch. Will you be there?"
"Yeah!" Paige shot back before her sisters could answer. "See you!" She left the room, followed by Piper and Phoebe. The latter shot an impassive Cole another glance, before leaving the room.
Olivia said to Darryl, "Well, at least you'll have a chance to sample Cecile's jambalaya. It's great. Mom tried to get the recipe."
"But I wouldn't give it to her," Cecile added. "Family recipe. I'll be in the kitchen." She left.
Darryl shifted the conversation back to Dako. "By the way, what happened to those warlocks? Phoebe told me . . ." Darryl noticed the uncomfortable expression that flitted across Cole's face. "She told me that you had killed them."
Cole replied, "It was Olivia, Bruce and Cecile. They saved me from getting my powers stolen. And killed."
Olivia added, "They were the ones responsible for Dako possessing you. It seems someone in Singapore named William Dagbani had sent them an urn with Dako's spirit inside. I've asked the Singapore police about him. Apparently, he's left the country."
"Great," Darryl replied. "At least he doesn't have Dako."
Cole said, "There's a good chance this Dagbani is a bokor. Which means he probably knows how to summon Dako from the Underworld. He's done it once. He can do it again."
Olivia started toward the door. "Time for some jambalaya." She left the room.
Darryl turned to Cole. "Mind if I ask you a question?" he said.
Regarding the other man with a wary eye, Cole asked, "What is it?"
"Olivia told me that you were possessed during the time you were the Source," Darryl continued. "Is it true?"
Cole gave Darryl a long, cool look. "You believe her?"
Darryl shrugged. "As long as I've known her, Olivia has always been pretty sharp. She could spot a lie or that something wrong better than anyone I've ever known. Including Prue."
A pause followed before Cole finally answered, "Yeah, it's true. I was possessed."
"So why didn't you tell Phoebe and the others, when you came back?"
Cole glanced away. "She didn't want to hear the truth. Or speak to me. And I was so obsessed in getting Phoebe back, I figured that if I accept responsibility, she would see that I was remorseful and could change. In a way, I was responsible. I had allowed the Seer to trick me into using the Hollow. Giving the Source the opportunity to possess me."
An uncomfortable silence followed. Darryl recalled that moment inside Cole's penthouse, when he had convinced the latter to let Phoebe go. And Cole seemed prepared to do just that when Paige stopped him. "If that's all," Cole added, "I'll leave you to your resea. . ."
"I have another question," Darryl said, interrupting. "What was it like . . . being possessed?"
Cole sighed. "Frustrating. Scary. Like being trapped in a dark box. You can't do anything, while some bastard uses your body to commit all sorts of acts."
Darryl nodded. "Yeah, that's exactly how I felt. There were brief moments of freedom, though."
"When you prevented Dako from killing Paige and the Murillos?" Cole nodded. "Yeah, I've been there, myself."
The two men fell silent again. Then Darryl said, "Look, I uh, I want to apologize. For believing the worst about you. I didn't realize until now, how much hell you had went through. I guess . . ."
"Once evil, always evil?"
"Yeah." Darryl paused momentarily. "As a cop, I guess I should have known better. A lot ex-cons tend to go back to their old ways, simply because everyone else judges them by their past. And never give them the chance to redeem themselves. I guess I forgot that."
Cole smiled. "Well, you're forgiven, if it makes you feel better."
Cecile popped her head into the doorway. "You two better get a move on, or else the 'Red-Headed Creature That Ate Frisco' is gonna to finish this jambalaya." Her head disappeared.
The two men exchanged smiles and followed the woman out of the room.
END OF CHAPTER 17
A/N: Damn! I should just finish it right here and now. But I've got one more thread to tie.