Tuesday, April 6, 2010
"Obssessions" [PG-13] - Chapter 15
Bruce entered the McNeill dining room, looking very exhausted. Which Harry immediately noticed. "Morning, big brother," he greeted cheerfully. "Get a good night's sleep?"
Shooting the younger man a dark look, Bruce growled, "I'm fine!"
"Are you certain, love?" Gweneth added. She regarded her oldest with concerned eyes. "You practically resemble the walking dead, right now. Did you have a rough night?"
Bruce plopped down in one of the chairs opposite Harry and yawned. Davies served him a cup of coffee. "Well, other than Ramirez failing to show up and Hugo Kennard getting arrested for possession of marijuana, last night was peachy." His voice dripped with sarcasm.
"Hugo?" Disbelief shone in Gweneth's green eyes. "Hugo was arrested for drug possession?"
The middle-aged woman rolled her eyes in disgust and sighed. "That bloody idiot! Now where in the hell are we going to find another first-rate pastry chef?"
"I'll put an ad in the local papers," Bruce wearily replied.
Bruce sighed. Long and hard. "I'll do it tomorrow, Mom. I'm just not . . . I'm staying home, today."
Harry continued to stare at his older brother. "Not feeling well, after all, huh? You do look rather tired."
"Harry's right," the McNeill patriarch added. "I realize that you've been working evenings for the past two weeks, but this is the first time you've looked so . . ."
Bruce slammed his empty cup on the table, startling Harry and their parents. He shot out of his chair, toppling it over. "What the hell is wrong with everyone?" he cried out loud. "So I'm a little tired! So what? It's no big deal!" He started toward the door. "I'm going back to bed!"
Elise McNeill appeared in the doorway. "Did I just hear someone shout . . ." Her oldest grandchild stormed past her. "Oh. Bruce." She stared at her family, frowning. "Is there something wrong with him?"
* * * *
Olivia strode into the precinct's squad room and toward her desk, attracting stares from fellow officers. One of them, an attractive, dark-haired man in his late twenties named Scott Yi, approached her desk.
"Inspector McNeill?" Yi said with a frown. He glanced at the clock on the wall. "Aren't you here a little early? I thought you shift didn't start until eight."
"It does," Olivia coolly replied. "I . . . uh, I had some extra work to finish, this morning."
Yi nodded. "Oh. Uh, does this have to do with the new unit being formed under In . . . Lieutenant Morris? I'm one of the . . ."
"Yeah, I heard," Olivia said, interrupting. "Looks like we'll be seeing a lot more of each other, starting next month. As for my work - it has to do with the case Morris and I are working on now."
Dark eyes lit up with interest. "Oh yeah! The Mann case. Uh, there's a report from Interpol on the lieutenant's desk about some woman you had asked about. And Forensics had delivered a report on some piece of evidence you had found." Yi snatched a yellow envelope from his desk and handed it to Olivia. "Apparently, Forensic had delivered right after you and the lieutenant had left, yesterday."
Olivia could not help but roll her eyes at the absurdity of the situation. "I can't believe this!" she declared. "You mean to say that it took Forensics practically a whole week to deliver this goddamn report? A week?" She opened the envelope, retrieved the report from inside and read it.
The report stated that a partial fingerprint had been discovered on the button found inside DeWolfe Mann's apartment. Since it had failed to match any known person with a criminal record, Forensics decided to check the Department of Motor Vehicles records. And found a match. When Olivia read the name on the report, her jaw practically dropped.
"Something wrong, Inspector?" Scott Yi asked.
Olivia finally overcame her shock. "No, I'm . . . uh, I'm . . . it's nothing." She shook her head. "Um, thanks for the report. Is Lieutenant Morris in yet?"
* * * *
Nearly an hour later, Darryl's eyes scanned the report in his hand. The moment he had arrived in the squad room, Olivia had shown him the Forensics report. "Nick Marcano? That name sounds familiar. Who is he?"
Olivia replied, "Don't you remember him from the Sunday brunches? He's a witch. A Streghone. Quiet guy with dark hair, whose aunt happens to be an old friend of my mother's?"
Darryl let out a gust of breath. Olivia's description conjured up memories of a dark-haired, attractive man in his early thirties. A man with an unassuming manner. "You mean the guy who always seemed to be mooning over your brother's fiancé? The one who belonged to some Italian pagan sect?" he added.
"That's him," Olivia acknowledged. "There's a very good chance that he may have killed Mann. Don't forget that Phoebe's vision included a man's hand slitting the victim's throat."
"But why? Does the guy have something against gays?"
Olivia shrugged her shoulders. "Well, it's like you said - Nick was always mooning over Barbara. It's possible that he wants Bruce dead and Barbara for himself." She went on to explain a theory that came to her, last night. That Portia Della Scalla was in San Francisco to kill Bruce.
Darryl found the whole idea far-fetched and said so. "I mean, why didn't Marcano kill Bruce, himself?"
"And risk facing a murder charge?" Olivia leaned forward and lowered her voice. "Or even worse, face two powerful witches like my parents? Why bother when you can summon a daemon to the job for you? But something must have prevented the demon from attacking Bruce at my parents' house. Probably the protection spell."
Darryl added, "By demon, you are referring to the Della Scalla woman. Right?"
Olivia nodded. She handed Darryl another report. "This also came in after we left. From Interpol." While he read the report, she continued, "According to the report, she worked at the Rome office of VOGUE magazine in the 70s. After eleven months, her boss had died mysteriously of some "wasting" disease. And Miss Della Scalla disappeared, never to be heard from again. And six years later, she wrote the first of five best-selling novels. All romances. Her publisher also ended up dead from the same disease."
"What the hell is this wasting disease?"
"I don't know. It's possible she used some kind of magic to kill them. If only I knew what kind of daemon she is." Olivia took a deep breath. "Now, if my family's protection spell prevented her from killing Bruce at the house, then she and Nick had to find another way to get close to him."
Darryl looked up from the second report. "Namely, DeWolfe Mann's interview with your brother. I wonder how Marcano found out about it."
"Probably from Barbara or Paige at Ostera's. Nick goes there a lot."
Darryl continued, "And with Mann dead, Miss Della Scalla could take his place. Get close to Bruce. Only . . ." He frowned. "Surely she and Nick couldn't have known that Dean would assign her to the story? Let alone go ahead with it, since he was reluctant about it in the first place?"
Olivia hesitated. "I don't know, Darryl. Maybe . . . maybe this Portia has some kind of psychic ability." She paused. "As for now, I think we better get a search warrant for Nick's apartment. Or maybe an arrest warrant."
Darryl stood up and donned his jacket. "Or maybe both. We already have sufficient grounds to arrest him. There's a judge I know - Ray Itoga. If we can catch him between court sessions, maybe we can get both warrants."
"How nice. A trip to the courthouse." Olivia grabbed her jacket.
A smirk played on Darryl's lips. "Plan to pay a visit to a certain ADA?"
Olivia smiled acidly at her partner. "That's none of your business, Morris," she replied sweetly. "And wipe that smirk from your face." Darryl, fortunately, did not bother to respond.
* * * *
"Are you sure that you don't want to join me?" Elise McNeill asked her grandson. "Especially since you're not going to the office, today."
Harry followed his grandmother and father to the foyer. His mother had already left the house. "Thanks Gran, but no thanks. I have some work to catch up on, and I'd rather do it here, where I won't be interrupted. Besides, I'm not in the mood for one of Vanessa Probst's charity luncheons."
"Then I might as well avoid it, as well," Jack McNeill commented. "Since you're staying home today, someone has to be at the office."
Elise glared at her son. "Oh no you don't! You're not getting out of this. I need someone to escort me to that godawful party and you're it! Besides, this is important. The luncheon is a fund raiser for UNICEF and I'm a member of the fund-raising committee. You just make sure that you and Davies pick me up from Connie Ward's place at precisely eleven-thirty."
"What about your grandsons?" Jack protested. "They're both going to be home, today."
Harry immediately spoke up. "C'mon Dad! You know I have a lot of work to do. And I don't think Bruce is feeling very well. He's just cancelled his appointment with that Della Scalla woman."
The McNeill matriarch frowned. "You mean he hasn't even returned downstairs to finish his breakfast, yet?"
"I think he's still in a bad mood, if you ask me." Harry hesitated. "Uh, I haven't told anyone this, but I thought I had heard a voice inside Bruce's room, last night. A voice that belonged to a woman. Only I didn't find anyone inside. But . . ."
Jack urged his son to continue. "But what?"
Harry sighed. "I don't know. I could have sworn I also smelled gardenias."
Elise frowned. "Are you sure? Perhaps Bruce's TV was on, last night."
"It was off," Harry added.
His father and grandmother exchanged confused looks. Then Elise continued, "Are you saying that a daemon or some other magical being was inside Bruce's room? I mean, how is that possible? Especially with the protection spell surrounding the house. Surely that would have stopped him."
"Or her," Harry said. "Remember, I did hear a woman's voice."
Jack added, "What about that Italian reporter that your mother and Bruce saw yesterday? Miss Della Scalla? Isn't Livy suspicious of her being involved in that columnist's death?"
"Oh Jack, it can't be her!" Elise protested. "Didn't Phoebe Halliwell have a vision of a man killing DeWolfe Mann? Besides, what does he have to do with Bruce?"
Jack replied, "I don't know, Mother. But like I've said before - I found it very convenient that this woman would show up to interview Bruce so soon after Mann's death. Perhaps I should stay home with Harry. Cancel that meeting with Mark Giovanni. In case a visitor actually does show up."
"You'll do no such thing," Elise shot back.
Davies opened the front door. "Pardon me, Mrs. McNeill, Mr. John, but the car is ready."
"Thanks Davies," Jack replied. He turned to his mother and sighed. "Ready Mother?"
Elise let out a heavy sigh. "Oh God! I'm not really looking forward to today. As for you," she said to Harry, "perhaps you should check on that protection spell when you get the chance. If someone did get inside Bruce's room . . ."
Jack gently steered his mother toward the front door. "Let's go, Mother. If I have to eventually go to that luncheon, so do you. Beiside, I'm sure that Harry knows what to do. And I'll be late for that meeting." The two McNeills bid Harry good-bye and left the house.
* * * *
Both Olivia and Darryl strode out of the judge's chambers, looking as frustrated as Olivia felt. "So much for Judge Itoga," she muttered.
"What can I say?" Darryl said. "I had no idea that he was out of town. You know of any judge who can help us?"
Olivia contemplated her partner's question. "I've usually gone to Bob Gleeson for a warrant, but he's also out of town. I'm beginning to wonder if some there's some judge's convention going on in another part of the country."
Shaking his head, Darryl replied, "Damned if I know. Maybe we should check with one of the court clerks to see who's available." The pair started along the corridor and toward the elevator. Upon reaching their destination, they came across a familiar figure.
"Hello!" Paul Margolin greeted the pair with a smile. "I didn't realize that you two would be here. Are you here to see me about the DiMatteo case?"
Olivia shot her fellow witch a quick smile. "No, we're here about the DeWolfe Mann case. We're trying to get hold of a warrant."
Paul quickly sobered. "So you have a suspect, huh? Who is it?" Olivia informed the ADA about the button found inside the victim's apartment and the partial fingerprint belonging to Nick Marcano.
"And you need a judge to issue a warrant?" Paul asked. "I think I have the woman for you. Carlotta Alvarez. She'll be presiding over the DiMatteo case."
Darryl asked, "Is she available?"
"I just left her chambers, a few minutes ago." Paul glanced at his watch. "In fact, she's not due back into court for another forty minutes."
"Great!" Olivia wished she could kiss Paul, at that moment. Instead, she settled for a grateful smile. "Thanks for the help, Paul," she said softly.
He responded with a winning smile. "No problem. Mind if I join you? If this Marcano fellow has summoned a demon, you might need all the help you can get."
Olivia glanced at Darryl, who immediately looked away. As if he did not want to make the decision to include Paul. A frown touched Olivia's countenance. Then she flashed another smile at the ADA. "I would more than appreciate your help," she replied graciously.
* * * *
Slowly, Phoebe cracked open her office door and peeked into the newsroom. There seemed to be no sign of the Signorina Della Scalla. Whose office door was definitely closed.
"Is she there?" Piper asked.
Phoebe shook her head. "No. There's no sign of her. Of course, she could be inside her office."
Piper said, "Phoebe, you've already called her extension three times. No one answered. She's probably not there. Let's go."
"Okay, explain it to me again, why we're about to break into this woman's office?"
Calmly, Piper repeated her explanation. "Because both Olivia and Cole have asked you to keep an eye on her - in case she happened to be a warlock or demon. Because Paige told us that Cole has gone through the trouble of looking into her background - something we've tried and failed with the Book of Shadows. And because, when we saw Bruce with the Italian stallionette yesterday, it looked as if she was trying to put the mojo on him. C'mon Pheebs!"
Phoebe sighed. "What if she comes back, Piper?"
The older woman rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Phoebe, what's going on? What happened to the bold little sister who would have broken into that woman's office without any hesitation?"
Phoebe retorted tartly, "She grew up." After a pause, she added, "Have you considered that someone might see us going into her office?"
"So, we sneak in!"
"Why don't we summon Leo or Paige to . . ." Phoebe broke off, as Piper grabbed her arm. "Piper! What the hell are you doing?"
Through gritted teeth, Piper hissed, "We're going inside that woman's office. Now!" She dragged the younger woman out of the latter's office and quickly marched across the newsroom. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice the two sisters, as they entered the Italian columnist's office. Phoebe glanced around to ensure that she and Piper were not being noticed. Then she gingerly grabbed the doorknob and opened the door. The two sisters quickly slipped inside.
They scanned the office's interior. Aside from a few pieces of furniture that included a desk, a few chairs and two files, the office seemed bare.
"How long has she been here?" Piper asked.
Phoebe replied, "Two days. Since Monday. I guess she hasn't been able to decorate her office, yet." A sigh left her mouth.
Piper glanced sharply at her. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. It's just . . ." Phoebe's voice quavered slightly. "It's hard to believe that a week ago, Wolfie was still alive. In this office."
The older sister gave Phoebe's should a sympathetic squeeze. "I know, honey. I know. But now, we have Bruce to be concerned about. Do you think you can summon a premonition from something in here?"
"Why is it that everyone keeps demanding premonitions from me?" Phoebe protested. Despite her cry, she began to search the office for any of Portia Della Scalla's belongings. "First Olivia, and now you."
The search for an object proved to be one in vain. After five minutes, the sisters could not find anything that belonged to the BAY-MIRROR's newest columnist. "Doesn't this woman have anything in here?" Piper complained. She sighed. "And as for your premonitions, how else can we find out what's going on? The Book of Shadows can't foresee any future danger." She opened the desk drawer and grunted.
"What is it?" Phoebe demanded. She stood near one of the file cabinets.
Piper withdrew a magazine from inside the desk. "This. VOGUE magazine. Interesting reading material for a food critic."
Phoebe held out her hand. "Let me see." Piper handed her the magazine. The moment she touched it, Phoebe found herself engulfed in another vision. She saw Portia Della Scalla grabbing hold of Bruce McNeill and disappearing into a cloud of smoke. Then she saw Bruce and Portia having sex inside an elegant bedroom. That disturbing vision was replaced with one of Bruce lying on the bed. Dead. Once the vision ended, Phoebe gasped out loud and dropped the magazine, as her knees buckled under.
Slender hands firmly gripped Phoebe's arms and pulled her to her feet. "Phoebe?" Piper cried. "Are you okay? What happened?"
"I . . ." Phoebe took a deep breath. "I had a premonition. Of Bruce and Portia. Oh God! Piper! We've got to warn him to stay away from her!" A surge of energy shot through Phoebe. She immediately started toward the door.
Piper cried after her, "Phoebe! Wait up! Phoebe!"
The younger woman had already opened the door. She stepped outside the office and nearly collided with a tall figure. She glanced up. "Oh! Uh, Jason. I uh, . . ."
"What were you doing inside Portia's office?" the publisher demanded with a frown.
"Oh, uh . . . I was . . . uh, looking," Phoebe replied uneasily.
Jason's frown deepened. "Looking for what?"
"For whom." Piper shot out of Portia's office and closed the door. "We were looking for Portia." She gave her sister a pointed look. "Right Phoebe?"
The younger woman immediately nodded. "Yeah, right." She tried to bypass her boyfriend. "Look Jason, I really need to get going."
Jason blocked her path. "Where are you going? And why are you in such a hurry?"
"I'm not . . ." Phoebe finally exercised her skill at quick thinking. She moaned slightly and pressed a hand against her forehead. "I'm not feeling well. I think I'll go home."
"Then why were you inside Portia's office?"
Piper stepped forward. "Phoebe became ill, while we were looking for . . . her. Um . . ."
"Looking for Portia," Phoebe quickly added. She gave Jason's cheek a quick peck. "Listen baby, I really need to get home. I'll call you later. Let's go, Piper." The two sisters escaped from Jason and made their way back to Phoebe's office.
Once inside, Piper reached for the telephone on Phoebe's desk. "I'll call the McNeill home to see if anyone is there. Maybe someone can warn Bruce." She paused. "Do you know their phone number?"
Phoebe rolled her eyes and sighed. "No, I don't." She took the phone receiver from Piper's hand. "Why don't you call for Leo? And I'll call Darryl and Olivia." While she dialed the number to Darryl's office, Piper cried out her husband's name.
END OF PART 15