Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Obsessions" [PG-13] - Chapter 7


Part 7

Olivia opened the thick file in front of her and sighed. Long and hard. A tall figure appeared beside her desk and said, "Long night?"

"Huh?" Olivia glanced up and found herself staring into her partner's dark eyes.

Darryl continued, "That sigh. It had an air of . . . oh, I don't know . . . long suffering. Which can only mean that you had a busy or rough night."

Olivia rolled her eyes. "Actually, I didn't. I did a little meditation, and went to bed early."

"Oh," Darryl said with a nod. "And you didn't get a call from a certain ADA?"

Glaring at her partner, Olivia coolly replied, "I doubt that he's interested in someone who has a powerful half-daemon for a friend. In fact, he didn't bother to ask for my telephone number."

Darryl eased into the chair behind his desk. "And you wanted to give him your number?"

"I didn't say that."

"Okay." Darryl leaned back into his chair. Olivia tried to ignore him. "Speaking of last night, Sheila and I went to the Top of the Mark to celebrate my promotion."

Olivia did not bother to look up from her work. "That's nice," she replied drily.

"Yeah, it was very nice. And we even saw . . ." Darryl suddenly broke and shook his head - as if he had caught himself from revealing a secret.

Suspicion flared within Olivia. "You and Sheila saw whom?" she asked, glancing at her partner.

Darryl shook his head. "No one that you knew. Just some old friend of . . ."

Olivia leaned forward, her eyes boring into the older man's. "Darryl, are you hiding something from me?"

"No, I'm not." Darryl opened the file on his desk.

Time to play dirty. Olivia added, "Darryl, if you don't tell me whom you saw, I'll cast a spell on you and force you to tell me the truth. And I can think of one just like that." She snapped her fingers.

"What about using your powers for personal gain?"

"Personal gain is some nonsense drummed up by the whitelighters to control witches. Trust me, it's not part of the Wiccan Rede." Olivia paused. "So, whom did you see?"

Darryl heaved a large sigh. "Okay, Sheila and I saw Cole at the Top of the Mark." He paused dramatically. "Talking to some blonde at the bar. You know, the ex-model type. They left the restaurant. Together."

Jealousy consumed Olivia in a sudden rush, leaving her stunned and breathless. Cole picking up a blonde at the Top of the Mark? How long had he been indulging in one-night stands? She struggled to keep her emotions in check. "Well," she said in a deceptively cool voice, "good for Cole. I see that he's finally scored."

"Look, we don't really know if Cole and that blonde ended up . . ."

Olivia curtly interrupted her partner. "Do you really think I'm interested in Cole Turner's love life?"

Darryl stared at his partner with knowing eyes. "You tell me, Olivia. Considering that you two have been mooning over each other for the past two or three months . . ." Olivia seared him with a burning glare, but Darryl refused to stop. "Then again, I may be wrong. Especially since you've been directing most of your attention of our new ADA. Am I right, or what?"

Olivia's mouth formed a grim line. "You're wrong. On both points. I'm no more interested in Paul Margolin than I am in . . ."

Captain McPherson's burly figure strode into the squad room. "Morris, McNeill," he barked, "in my office. Now!" He marched past their desks and straight into his office.

Both Olivia and Darryl exchanged wary looks and sighed. 'Once more into the breach', their eyes seemed to hint. The two partners rose from their chairs and followed their captain, close on his heals. Once inside, McPherson tossed a file on his desk and added, "You two have a new case. A homicide that was reported last night."

"Anyone we know?" Darryl asked.

McPherson leaned back into his chair. "I suppose so. If you read the BAY-MIRROR. It's the columnist, DeWolfe Mann." Olivia let out a gasp. "Someone slit his throat, last night."

* * * *

Bruce went into shock as Barbara conveyed the news to him over the telephone. DeWolfe Mann had been murdered. His body had been discovered by Paige and Phoebe, last night. Before a neighbor had reported his death to the police. Barbara had just learned everything from Paige.

"I can't believe it," he said to his mother and grandmother, inside the McNeill kitchen. "DeWolfe Mann murdered just like that. Someone had slit his throat."

Elise McNeill took a sip of her freshly squeezed orange juice. "Well, I guess that's the end of the Golden Horn story. What a shame."

"Surely the BAY-MIRROR will assign someone else to the story?" Gweneth McNeill asked in her soft, Welsh accent. "Perhaps another columnist in the same department? They do have more than one food critic."

Bruce released a caustic snort. "I don't know, Mom. Considering who's the new owner of the paper, I rather doubt it." Both women frowned. "Hel-lo? I'm talking about Jason Dean, Olivia's ex. You know, the one Dad used to call 'Dudley-Do-Right'?"

"I thought Jack used to call Richard that," Gwen commented.

Bruce replied, "He did. When Richard was going through his 'do-gooder' phase. But the term originated with Jason."

Elise shook her head. "I don't understand. If Jason had assigned the story to DeWolfe Mann, why do you think he'll change his mind?"

"Because Jason didn't want to do the story in the first place, Gran. It was Cole who had suggested the idea to Mr. Mann. And the story was almost killed by Jace. Only, according to Paige, Phoebe managed to get him to change his mind." Bruce paused, as bitterness crept into his voice. "Now that Mr. Mann is dead, I doubt that Jason will revive the story."

Gwen let out a mournful sigh. "Too bad. A story on the Golden Horn would have been nice. Not that the restaurant needs the publicity. But it would have been nice." She paused. "Do Paige and Phoebe know who killed Mr. Mann?"

Bruce shook his head. "Unfortunately, Phoebe didn't see the killer in her premonition. The strangest thing is that Mr. Mann's apartment was locked from the inside, when they found his body. Also, Phoebe heard voices just before she and Paige orbed inside."

The two older women stared at Bruce in shocked silence, as they contemplated his words.

* * * *

Darryl eased the dark-brown sedan into an available parking space in front of a light-blue Victorian villa. He and Olivia, who sat in the passenger seat next to him, were in the middle of one their usual daily spats.

"I really don't see why you're upset with me," Olivia was saying. "I'm not the idiot who overlooked a clue laying right there in the middle of the floor."

A long suffering sigh escaped from Darryl's mouth. "Look Olivia, all I'm trying to say is that you could have been a little more diplomatic with Jenoff. I mean it was only a button. Anyone could miss a button!"

"In a crime scene?" Olivia regarded her partner with a hard look. "I don't think so."

After Captain McPherson had assigned the pair to investigate the murder of DeWolfe Mann, their first action was to receive the police report from the two officers - Jenoff and Stevens - who had reported to the crime scene, last night. Needless to say, the latter had not been pleased to learn that Darryl and Olivia were assigned to take over the case. Upon visiting the crime scene, Olivia had discovered a button - a blue button - lying on the floor, near the couch. The pair had returned to the station to deliver the button to Forensics. But not before Olivia had brought the attention of the button to Jenoff and Stevens.

Darryl heaved another sigh. "Can we change the subject? Please?" The he glanced at the house to their right. "Hmmm, nice place," he commented. "Even bigger than the Halliwell home. I wonder what Ms. Mann does for a living?"

"Financial backer at an investment firm," Olivia answered. Darryl stared at her. "Cole had taken me to a party, where I met both of the Manns." Olivia added that Cole had been DeWolfe Mann's attorney since last fall. "He's also Deborah Mann's attorney."

A glimmer of suspicion entered Darryl's mind. "This brother and sister act - the Manns - they aren't, by any chance, witches, warlocks, demons or any other kind of magical beings?"

Olivia rolled her eyes. "No, they're mortals. Of the non-magical kind. Cole only has two or three clients who are witches."

"A half-daemon, attorney for witches. That's new." The two partners climbed out the car and made their way toward the Mann villa. "Are you sure that the Manns aren't witches or anything like that?" Darryl asked. "I mean it was odd that the police found the body behind a locked door. A door that had been locked from the inside?"

A shrug lifted Olivia's shoulders. "Hey, I know as much as you do. Except that . . ."

"Except what?"

The pair climbed the stoop that led to the front door. "Except that Cole wasn't the only one who knew the victim. So did Phoebe."

"What?" Darryl's suspicions jumped forward a notch or two. "And you expect me to believe that the Manns aren't . . .?"

"Darryl, DeWolfe Mann was a columnist for the BAY-MIRROR! Remember? Which means he was probably a co-worker of Phoebe's."

Darryl smacked his forehead in a dramatic fashion. "Oh. Damn! I forgot. He's the one who was supposed to interview your brother, Bruce."

Olivia added, "And Mom. The article was supposed to be about the Golden Horn's silver anniversary."

They stopped in front of the door. Darryl rang the doorbell. Seconds later, a handsome Latino woman in her late forties answered. "Yes? May I help you?"

Both Darryl and Olivia flashed their police badges. "I'm Lieutenant Morris and this is Inspector McNeill of the San Francisco Police." The woman frowned. "We would like to speak with Miss Deborah Mann."

The woman closed the door on the pair, much to Darryl's annoyance. He could hear her shout, "Senora Deborah! It's the police, again!" Darryl and Olivia exchanged mild grimaces.

The door opened again and the woman ushered the two visitors inside the house. She led them from the foyer and into an elegantly furnished sitting room. There, they found a tall, dark-haired woman with a slightly plump figure sitting on the sofa, wiping away her tears. And beside her sat an obviously sympathetic Cole Turner.

* * * *

"Like I had told those two police officers last night," a tearful Deborah Mann said, "I can't think of any reason why someone would want Wolfie dead."

Darryl cocked an eyebrow. "Wolfie?"

"Nickname," Cole quickly added. He glanced at Olivia, who seemed to be making an effort to ignore him.

Nodding, Darryl continued, "Are you sure, Mrs. . . uh, Miss . . ."

"Ms. Mann," the grieving woman corrected. "I'm divorced and I've returned to using my maiden name. And I can't think of anyone who would want him dead. Wolfie hasn't been involved with anyone for nearly a year. I can't . . ." She frowned momentarily. "Well, he was having trouble with someone at work."

Olivia leaned forward, her eyes squarely on Ms. Mann. "At work?"

Clearing his throat, Cole explained that Mann had been clashing with the BAY-MIRROR's new owner. "They, uh . . . didn't get along."

"With Jason?" Olivia's question drew stares from the others. She quickly added, "Jason Dean, right?"

Ms. Mann blew her nose. "Yes, Mr. Dean. Wolfie was always complaining about him. He once said that the man was an amateur pretending to be a newspaper publisher. Mr. Dean and Wolfie had different ideas on what to write about in the column."

"Also, Mr. Mann came to see me, yesterday," Cole added. "About ending his contract with the BAY-MIRROR."

Olivia coolly faced him. "Really? And what exactly did you tell him?"

Blue eyes grew wide with surprise as they met green ones. Cole seemed taken aback by Olivia's hostility. Darryl began to regret for ever telling Olivia about Cole's encounter with the blonde. And an uncomfortable feeling struck him that the two friends and neighbors were in danger of becoming estranged.

Just as coolly, Cole replied, "I had told Mr. Mann that he would have no trouble breaking his contract. It was for five years, with an option to end it after three. Another paper, the CHRONICLE, had recently expressed interest in hiring him."

"Does Mr. Dean know about this?" Darryl asked.

Cole shook his head. "No. Not yet."

Deborah Mann added, "Maybe he did know. After all, Wolfie was one of his top columnists, along with Phoebe Halliwell and Gunther Weiss. He was also one of the top food critics on the West Coast. Do you really think Jason Dean would be thrilled if one of his most successful columnists had defected to another paper?"

Darryl noticed that Cole did not bother to contradict the bereaved woman. He and Olivia asked Ms. Mann and the attorney, a few more questions. Ms. Mann then escorted Olivia to the guest room where her brother occasionally stayed during visits - leaving Darryl and Cole, alone.

"So," Darryl began.

Cole spoke up before the police lieutenant could finish. "Is there anything else you would like to know? Like how I became DeWolfe's attorney?"

"I'm more interested in what happened between you and that blonde Sheila and I saw you with at the Top of the Mark, last night."

A long sigh left Cole's mouth. "I guess you saw me after all," he said with a shake of his head. "I wondered if you did." He hesitated, giving Darryl a wary look. "And I gather you must have told Olivia. Hence the cold shoulder."

"Did anything happened between you and . . ." Darryl broke off at the sight of Cole's face assuming a cold mask. The latter's expression reminded him that this man had once been a top demonic assassin. "Never mind. It's none of my business."

Cole added, "That's right. It isn't."

Darryl sighed. "Oh man! That means something did happen." Cole glanced away. "Jesus man! Why? What the hell were you thinking?"

"What?" Cole demanded, losing his cool. "So what if I was with another woman, last night? I'm divorced! A free man! I'm sure as hell not involved with anyone, at the moment. Phoebe has a new boyfriend. And as for Olivia . . ." He paused.

Darryl leaned forward in anticipation. "What about her?"

Cole shook his head. "Nothing. It's . . . nothing."

It took all of Darryl's willpower not to yell in frustration. Why in the hell did Olivia and Cole continue to be so damn stubborn? Why were they so determined to pretend they had no romantic interest in each other, when it was so obvious? Darryl struggled to keep his eyes from rolling in disgust. "So, you're telling me that you sleeping with some blonde had nothing to do with Olivia and Margolin?"

"No, it . . ." Cole broke off, as Olivia and Ms. Mann returned to the sitting room.

Olivia declared, "Well, there wasn't much I could find in Mr. Mann's room. We might as well leave."

"Before you do," Ms. Mann said, "promise me that you'll keep me updated on your investigation. Me and no one else."

Darryl added, "We will have to inform our captain, ma'am."

Ms. Mann nodded. "I understand. But promise me that you'll tell your captain and no one else. Except Cole and myself, of course. I don't feel that it is anyone else's business. Including Jason Dean's."

Both Darryl and Olivia exchanged knowing glances. Then they stared at Cole, who looked away. "Of course," Darryl murmured.

The two partners finally took their leave from Deborah Mann's house. Darryl noticed on his way out that neither Olivia nor Cole had bothered to exchange good-byes.


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