Monday, January 25, 2010
"Obssessions" [PG-13] - Chapter 5
Cole examined the contract in his hands. A tall, pale man in his early forties paced back and forth in front of his desk. Once Cole finished reading the document, he leaned back against his leather chair and sighed. "From what I've read, Wolfie, you should have no problems leaving your job."
Tugging nervously at his dark and luxuriant mustache, DeWolfe Mann demanded, "Are you sure? I don't want to find myself with a lawsuit on my hands."
"Trust me. You have nothing to worry about. This contract gives you the right to leave the BAY-MIRROR under certain conditions." Cole flicked the document. "And you have fulfilled them. How long have you maintained your column? Three years, now? And you can't be forced to finish the last two years of the contract." The half-daemon stood up and strolled toward the liquor cabinet. "So, why do you want to leave the BAY-MIRROR? Your column has become very popular."
Shaking his head, Mann grumbled, "It's that damn Jason Dean! Ever since he took over the paper, it's been absolute hell! He's the new owner, who thinks he's also the new editor-in-chief. The man has no experience in journalism, and yet he treats the staff as if we're part of some high school newspaper! I swear Cole, if I hang around that place any longer . . ."
"I understand." Cole poured a glass of bourbon. "I'll contact the newspaper's attorney and inform them of your plans to resign." He handed the bourbon to the columnist.
Who took a hefty swig, before he continued. "Not now. Not until I finish this last piece I plan to do. You know, the Golden Horn piece. The one you had suggested."
"Oh, so the paper has given you the go-ahead on that?" Cole asked. He prepared himself a glass of bourbon and soda water, before returning to his chair.
DeWolfe grimaced. "Just barely. My editor, O'Keefe, did. But Dean . . ." a small growl emitted at the mention of the publisher's name, "almost pulled the plug on it. If it wasn't for your ex-wife, there would have been no story."
The glass of bourbon and water paused in front of Cole's lips. "Phoebe, huh? Well, that was nice of her."
"She's a very nice person."
Cole grunted and continued drinking his bourbon.
DeWolfe continued, "Although, I now understand why your marriage to her didn't work." He drained the last of his drink.
"What?" Cole stared at his client.
Without even flinching, DeWolfe added, "Like I said, Phoebe is a lovely young woman. And very pleasant to be around. But every time I'm with her, I get this feeling I'm speaking to some young twenty-something just fresh out of college."
Cole allowed himself a small smile. "She is a twenty-something just fresh out of college. In fact, she had graduated, two years ago."
"Yeah, I know," DeWolfe said with a nod. "But I also happened to know that she's on the wrong side of twenty-five. Nearly thirty, as a matter of fact. Yet, she dresses like a college student, sometimes. Look, all I'm saying is that I understand why you two didn't last. She simply seems . . . I don't know, too young for you. No, that's the wrong phrase. Look, I like Phoebe, but may I be honest? You never struck me as someone who went for women with the mentality of a child bride."
Cole merely remained quiet, his eyes fixed on the large bay window and the view, beyond. As much as he wanted to deny it, the columnist had a point.
DeWolfe continued, "Jason Dean, on the other hand, seems perfect for her. Personally, I think he's a boy in a man's body. You know, he became rich by getting involved with computers and the Internet." The columnist grunted. "Typical. Another one of those who got rich too quick and too young, if you ask me."
Snapping out of his thoughts, Cole offered DeWolfe another glass of bourbon. But the columnist declined the offer, stating that he needed a clear head to prepare for his story. Cole added, "You know, I realize that you don't like Dean that much, but don't you think you're a little hard on the guy? You can't deny that he's successful. Even the BAY-MIRROR is doing better than ever."
"The BAY-MIRROR's business has been increasing before Dean's arrival," DeWolfe retorted. "And granted, the boy is successful. Now, if only he can learn how to be an editor." The embittered columnist placed his empty glass on the liquor cabinet. "Anyway, thanks for the information and the drink. I'll probably get in touch with you, next week." He started toward the door and then, paused. "Say, what about that female cop you once introduced me to at my sister's birthday party, two months ago? You know, the gorgeous one with the red hair? Are you two, uh . . .?"
Cole interrupted curtly, "No. We're just friends." And nothing else, Cole silently added. Judging from Olivia's newfound interest in Paul Margolin.
* * * *
Phoebe closed the door to her office and heaved a sigh. She had just survived another private session with her immediate supervisor, Elise. To be honest, the visit to the editor's office had turned out to be far from nerve-wrecking. Quite pleasant, in fact. The two women even managed to squeeze in a little private "girl talk" during the meeting. Phoebe wondered if Elise was becoming mellow in recent months.
Before she could set her mind to finishing her column for the week, the office's door swung open. A familiar figure stepped inside - DeWolfe Mann. "Wolfie!" Phoebe greeted. "We missed you at the staff meeting, earlier this afternoon."
"I doubt that Mr. Dean missed my presence," DeWolfe said, rolling his eyes with his usual sardonic manner. "And he was there - right?"
Phoebe bit back a retort. "Yes, Jason was there. After all, he is the paper's owner."
"He's the paper's owner, Phoebe," DeWolfe shot back, "not an editor. He should be having meetings with his editors, not with his writers and columnists." The columnist sat down in one of the empty chairs facing Phoebe's desk. "Besides, I doubt that he missed my presence. I certainly did not miss his."
The Charmed One shook her head. "God, Wolfie! What is it with you and Jason? Why can't you two get along? I mean, he did allow you to write that story on the McNeills' restaurant. You could at least be grateful."
"I am grateful, sweetie." DeWolfe leaned back into his chair. "To you. For convincing that overgrown Boy Wonder to go ahead with the story. Which is why I'm here." He tossed a small, expensively-wrapped package on Phoebe's desk. "To thank you and give you a little token of my appreciation."
DeWolfe's dark eyes stared at his fellow columnist. "I stayed away from the meeting, didn't I? What more could your precious Jason ask?"
A sigh left Phoebe's mouth. Aside from the "controversy" surrounding her relationship with Jason, the feud between the BAY-MIRROR's owner and its famous food columnist had become the talk of the office. "He's not my 'precious' Jason. We're just . . . I mean, I know that most people don't like . . ."
"What are you worried about? Most of the staff isn't concerned about your relationship with the young Ball and Chain. Why are you always worried about what others think of you?" DeWolfe asked, catching Phoebe offguard. "Especially when it comes to your private life?"
Phoebe hesitated before she replied, "I don't worry about . . ." She glanced away, embarrassed. "I mean . . . Okay, so maybe I do." She paused. "Why are we talking about me?"
"Because you obviously seem worried about how the staff feels about you and Dean," DeWolfe replied. "And after meeting your ex-husband earlier this afternoon, I found myself thinking about you."
A frown appeared on Phoebe's face. "You saw Cole?" she demanded. "Why?"
"He's my attorney. I had some business with him, today." The older man peered suspiciously at her. "Why? Does that bother you?"
It bothered Phoebe very much. The idea that her ex-husband had another connection to her, aside from Paige, disturbed her. It seemed as if he might never be out of her life. And Phoebe wanted nothing to do with Cole. Especially if it meant bringing up bad memories.
Instead of expressing how she felt, Phoebe asked, "Exactly how did Cole become your lawyer?"
"My previous attorney had passed away from a heart attack, last fall. Just before I met Cole. I had met him during one of his visits to the office before you two finally divorced." DeWolfe leaned forward. "You know, you still haven't answered my question."
Phoebe inhaled deeply. "The answer is no. It doesn't bother me that you saw him, today. Or that he's your lawyer. In fact, it's no concern of mine."
Chuckling, the food columnist said, "Now, why do I get the feeling that you're lying?" When Phoebe failed to answer, he sighed. "Never mind. Anyway, I hope that you like the present." He stood up and walked toward the door. "And again, thanks for running interference on that story. See you." He left the office.
Once the door closed behind DeWolfe, Phoebe exhaled. She shook her head, mumbling to herself. There was nothing like the subject of one Cole Turner to put her in a state of tension. One day, she would have to learn not to allow him, the topic of him, or even the image of him, get to her like this.
Phoebe glanced at her watch. Five twenty-four. Almost time to go home. She saved the material on her laptop computer and closed the lid shut. After dumping a few items into her purse - including DeWolfe's present, she gathered both her purse and laptop, and left the office.
* * * *
Forty minutes later, Phoebe entered the Halliwell manor and cried out, "Piper? Paige! I'm home!" Silence greeted her ears. "Hello? Is anyone home?"
Paige's figure appeared on the staircase. The two sisters greeted each other before Phoebe added, "Isn't Piper home?"
"Nah, she left a message," Paige answered. "She's at P3. Had to take Wyatt with her."
Phoebe blinked. "A baby at a nightclub?"
The younger woman shrugged. "I just got home, myself. And Leo isn't here. I guess she had no choice."
"Oh God!" Phoebe heaved a sigh and dumped her purse and laptop on the sofa, followed by her own body. "God, what a day!" You wouldn't believe what I had found out."
Paige strode toward the kitchen. "Piper has fixed dinner for us. Why don't you tell little sister all about it, while we eat." Phoebe followed. Nearly an hour later, the two sisters finished the last bites of their pot roast dinner. Paige sat back in her chair and sighed. "You know, you still haven't told me what was bothering you," she added. "In fact, you've barely said a word during the entire dinner. "What gives?"
After a moment's pause, Phoebe made her announcement. "Cole. He's Wolfie's lawyer."
"Paige! Don't you get it?" Phoebe cried in frustration, "Cole is Wolfie's lawyer!"
Staring at Phoebe, as if the latter had lost her mind, Paige demanded, "Who in the hell is Wolfie?"
Patience, Phoebe told herself. She took a deep breath. "Wolfie is DeWolfe Mann. The BAY-MIRROR's top food columnist. He's the one . . ."
"Oh! The one who'll be doing the story on the Golden Horn!" Paige cried out. She paused. Frowned. "So what's the problem?"
The drama queen within Phoebe burst forth. "The PROBLEM? It's bad enough that both you and Cole are friends. But now I find out that he's the attorney of one of my co-workers. I mean, am I ever going to get him out of my life?"
A large sigh left Paige's mouth. She stood up and headed for the kitchen's island. "Oh God, Phoebe! You've got to be kidding me! I mean, who cares if Cole is this Wolfie's lawyer? What do you think he's trying to do? Use your friend to get to you?"
Phoebe squirmed with embarrassment. "No, I . . . Never mind." Paige reached for the cake holder and placed it on the table. Phoebe lifted the top, revealing a three-layer coconut cake. "Maybe you're right. Maybe I am making a big deal out of nothing."
"Or maybe you need to make some kind of closure with Cole." Paige's remark drew a dark look from Phoebe. Then she added quietly, "Or maybe not."
Phoebe said, "Speaking of Wolfie, he gave me a present, today. A little appreciation for convincing Jason to approve the Golden Horn story. I think I left it . . ." she stood up, ". . . in my purse. Wait, I'll be back." She rushed out of the kitchen, fetched her purse from the sofa, and fished the small package from inside. Then she returned to the kitchen. "Here it is. Isn't it nice?" Phoebe carefully unwrapped a package, revealing a small box. After opening it, she removed what looked like an antique perfume bottle. And at that moment, the vision struck.
She saw DeWolfe Mann inside an expensive apartment, facing his personal computer. She saw him stand up and head for the front door. The next flash revealed a man's hand reaching for DeWolfe. A knife appeared, its blade gleaming in the light. That same blade slashed across the columnist's throat, slitting it open. Blood gushed forth. The last thing Phoebe saw was DeWolfe's lifeless body, falling dead.
A gasp escaped her mouth. Dizziness overwhelmed the Charmed One and Phoebe's torso fell forward across the kitchen table. "Phoebe?" she heard Paige cry. "Phoebe!" She saw her younger sister's face hovering above her, before everything faded to black.
* * * *
"Phoebe?" Paige hovered over her sister's inert form and lightly patted the latter's cheek. "Phoebe, wake up!"
The older woman sat up with a gasp on her lips. "Wha . . .? What happened?"
"You went zombie on me, all of a sudden and then, passed out." Paige frowned. "That must have been one hell of a premonition."
"Oh God! Wolfie! I saw him get his throat cut!"
Paige peered closely at her sister. "By whom?"
Phoebe shook her head. "I didn't see. I only saw someone's hand holding a knife and slitting Wolfie's throat." She finally stood up. "We better get Piper."
"Why? Do we need the Power of Three on this?" Paige asked.
After a moment's pause, Phoebe shook her head. "I guess not. But we'll need Darryl." She started out of the kitchen.
The youngest Charmed One followed. "Wait a minute, Phoebe!" she cried out. "Do you even know where this Wolfie guy lives? How can Darryl meet us . . .?"
"Oh God!" Phoebe's shoulders sagged with defeat. "I don't know where Wolfie lives. And the paper's Personnel office should be closed by now."
Impatient, Paige suggested that they orb to DeWolfe Mann's apartment. "Orb there, save him and turn the guy trying to kill him, over to the police. Okay?"
"Yeah, but do you know where to . . .?"
Paige grabbed her older sister's arm. "Phoebe! I don't need to know where his address is! All I have to do is zoom in on his location. C'mon!" The two sisters immediately orbed out of the manor.
END OF PART 5