Darryl parked the sedan across the street from Nick Marcano's apartment building. "Okay," he said to his companions, "we're here. I sure wish we had a squad car or two for backup."
"Somehow, I don't think that police backup will help." The words came from Paul Margolin, who sat in the car's back seat. He had accompanied Darryl and Olivia to Marcano's apartment in North Beach. "Especially if there's a chance he's involved with a demon or warlock," the ADA added.
Olivia said, "To be honest, I'm not sure about us being here. Other than Nick, I have no idea who or what we'll be facing. I hope that Nick won't give us any trouble, when we arrest him. I can't believe that he's behind all this."
"At least the Captain will be very happy," Darryl added. "He's been pressuring me to find a suspect for nearly a week. And now that we have one, we might as well deal with him. I just . . . I don't know. I still wish we had backup." He opened the door and climbed out of the car. Olivia and Margolin followed. The trio crossed the street and entered the apartment building.
Once inside, they paid a visit to the building's manager and demanded the key to Nick's apartment. The manager happily obliged - especially after Darryl showed him the search warrant. Once the trio reached outside Marcano's apartment, Darryl hesitated. "Think he's here? Marcano?" he asked.
"Well, we called his office," Olivia reminded her partner. "And he wasn't there."
Darryl knocked on the door. Seconds passed and no one answered. Then Olivia knocked. "Nick? It's Olivia McNeill. Are you home?"
More silence greeted the trio. Olivia suggested to Darryl that he use the key he had received from the manager. The two partners whipped out their revolvers. After Darryl unlocked the door, the two police officers and the ADA entered the apartment. "What exactly are we looking for?" Margolin asked.
Olivia replied, "Anything that can lead us to Nick's whereabouts. Or at least link him to DeWolfe Mann's death." She began to rummage through Marcano's desk.
Darryl went inside the bedroom and began his search with a highboy dresser. He did not find anything important, but he did notice that some of Marcano's clothing seemed to be missing. But he did find an interesting piece of female clothing behind the dresser. Everything else seemed to be normal. However, Darryl noticed that a few personal items seemed to be missing. Like a toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant.
Then his eyes fell upon the sink. Darryl noticed a faint red streak on the edge. One touch indicated that it was dry. After removing a napkin and a pair of tweezers from his pocket, he delicately scraped at the red streak, using the tweezers. Then he brushed some of the residue onto the napkin. Darryl only hoped that his efforts would amount to something. Or that his "evidence" would not linger in Forensics for a week.
Just as he left the bathroom, Darryl overheard Olivia cry out, "Found something!" He rushed into the living room and spotted his red-haired partner waving a thick book in the air. "I found this in a tote bag, underneath the desk." Olivia glanced at it. "Looks like a library book. Huh. It's a book on . . . demonology?"
"On what?" Darryl took the book from Olivia's hand. He read the title. "FORMMAN'S ENCYCLOPEDIA ON WORLD DEMONOLOGY?" What the hell?" Then he peered inside the book. "Damn, this thing is old! Published in 1932."
Olivia nodded. "I know. I have a copy of it, at home." She retrieved the book. "And it looks as if I was right about Nick summoning a daemon to kill Bruce. The problem is we don't know what kind of daemon he had summoned." She sighed. "God, I wish that Cole was here."
Darryl noticed the dark look that flitted across Margolin's face. "Why?" the latter demanded. "We seem to be doing fine on our own."
"Because he was trying to get information on Miss Della Scalla, last night," Olivia explained. "From another daemon."
Margolin's mouth formed a tight line. "So, Belthazor is still in contact with other demons? I thought he had put that life behind him."
Olivia heaved a deep sigh. "You're not going to have a problem with Cole, are you Paul? Yes, he's still in contact with other daemons. They're a source of information. Besides, Cole's friend had promised he would find all he can about . . . or whatever her name."
"Can he be trusted?" Darryl wondered if Margolin meant Cole or the other demon. Fortunately, the ADA clarified matters. "This friend of Belthazor's. Can he be trusted?"
Shrugging her shoulders, Olivia replied, "I wouldn't know. I've never met this Riggerio, but I've heard of him. Very . . . ambiguous. He's a daemon known among Stregheria practioners."
"Stregheria. Like Nick," Darryl added.
Olivia nodded. "Precisely. It was Aunt Car . . . Mom's friend, Carla, who once told me about Riggerio. I just wish she were here in town. She could have told us about Portia."
One glance at the ADA told Darryl that the former still disapproved of Cole's decision to seek help from another demon. Probably disapproved of Cole, period. Darryl would have understood over two years ago. But now, he only wished that Margolin would learn to be a little more open-minded.
"I've been going through Marcano's dresser," Darryl added. "Looks like he's packed a few things. And his suitcase is missing. But I found this." He held up the piece of clothing found behind the highboy. A half-slip. "And this." He displayed the residue of dried blood inside the folded napkin.
Olivia grabbed the half-slip. "This must belong to Miss Della Scalla."
"That's what I figured," Darryl said.
Margolin asked, "If this Nick and his suitcase are missing, where is he?"
Darryl's cell phone rang. He answered it. "Hello? Oh, Phoebe. Wha . . .?" He fell silent, while the witch explained a premonition that she had experienced. Once she finished, he said, "Look Phoebe, if you're having trouble in reaching Leo, call Paige. I'm sure that she can get you to the McNeills' home in time." From the corner of his eye, he saw Olivia turn pale. "We'll see you there. Bye." He disconnected his phone.
Concern flared in Olivia's green eyes. "The McNeills' home? What's going on, Darryl?"
"That was Phoebe. She had a premonition of Bruce being kidnapped by Portia Della Scalla. And Piper can't get a hold of Leo."
Margolin added, "Then we better get over there, as soon as possible. And stop her." He turned to Olivia, who looked very upset. "Perhaps you better give your brother a call. That is, if he's at home."
"Yeah. Right." Olivia retrieved her cell phone from her purse. "God, I knew I should have called Bruce, again!"
Meanwhile, Darryl dialed the number to the precinct. And placed an All Points Bulletin for one Nicholas Marcano.
* * * *
The telephone rang. Paige rushed toward the counter to answer. "Ostera's," she greeted politely. "How may I help you?"
"Paige? It's Piper." The oldest Charmed One's voice sounded urgent. "Listen, can you orb to Phoebe's office at the BAY-MIRROR and pick us up? We have an emergency."
The youngest Charmed One glanced at her boss, who was busy with a customer. "Uh, what kind of emergency?"
Piper sighed. "Of the demonic kind. Look, I don't have time to explain. We need you. Now. I'm sure that Barbara would understand. It involves Bruce."
"Bruce? What about him?" Paige spoke loud enough to capture Barbara's attention. The latter shot a quick glance at her.
"Phoebe saw him being kidnapped by that Portia woman. Now get your butt over here, so we can save him!"
A sigh left Paige's mouth. She hated it when Piper assumed a bossy attitude. It made her elder sister seem bitchy - a trait that did not suit Piper at all. As much as she loved Piper, the latter never struck Paige as a natural leader. "All right, Piper! Gee! I'll be there as soon as I tell Barbara."
After she hung up, Paige looked at Barbraa. The latter turned over the customer to the shop's other assistant, Madeline. Then she approached Paige. "What's going on?" she demanded. "Is it Bruce? Is he in trouble?"
"Yeah. Um, that was Piper." Paige went on to describe her sister's news about Phoebe's premonition and Leo's missing status. "They need me to orb them over to the McNeills' house and . . ."
Barbara immediately interjected, "I'm going with you." She turned to Madeline, who had just bid a customer good-bye a few minutes ago. "Maddy, Paige and I have an emergency. We'll be gone for a few hours."
"But my lunch . . ." the younger woman protested.
"Don't worry. I'll give you an extra hour or two of overtime. We'll be back." Barbara led Paige to the storeroom. "Okay, let's go," she quietly ordered. The pair immediately orbed from the store.
* * * *
About fifteen minutes before Phoebe had experienced her premonition, Harry sat inside his father's study, working on a merger proposition between McNeill Corporation and a real estate company. Unfortunately, his mind seemed to linger on something other than his work. Matters like his older brother's odd behavior and the voice he thought he had overheard, last night.
Harry realized that there was no way a daemon or any other magical being could have entered the house. Not without the protection spell that Gran had cast over the house. Unless . . . Harry immediately dismissed the disturbing thought. No. If someone had managed to enter Bruce's apartment, he or possibly she had to be strong enough to bypass the spell. Or . . . Harry realized that he could not deny it any longer. The possibility that someone inside the house had removed the spell.
Heaving a sigh, Harry left the study and began a tour of the house, to check on the protection herbs. Ten minutes later, he discovered, to his dismay, that every sprig of Mallow planted around the house, had disappeared. Who had removed . . .?
The disturbing thought returned. That and memories of Bruce's behavior, this morning. Harry began to wonder if his older brother had been responsible for the removal of the Mallow. Determined to find out, he made his way upstairs, to Bruce's bedroom. As he raised his hand to knock on the door, Harry could hear a voice. A woman's voice that sounded very familiar. A mental alert rang inside his head. This time, he planned to discover the identity of Bruce's visitor. As he grasped the doorknob, Harry gently opened the door.
Inside, he saw a beautiful, dark-haired woman on the edge of Bruce's bed, leaning over the older man's inert figure. "What the hell?" Harry cried out. The woman's head whipped around. Sherry-brown eyes flew open. "Who the hell are you?"
The woman slowly rose from the bed. Her eyes widened further, as she stared at Harry. A sudden attack of lethargy overcame him, and he found himself struggling to remain conscious. "Sleep," he heard the woman command. "do not fight it." Harry's knees gave way and he slowly slid to the floor. "Yes, yes," the woman murmured in her soft accent, "allow the sleep to wash over you."
"No!" Using every ounce of his will and his telepathy, Harry deflected the woman's psychic attack. She gasped out loud and fell to her knees. Harry crawled toward her, as he used his mind to apply pressure to hers. She clasped both hands to each side of her head and screamed. Then she disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
Harry sighed with relief and slowly rose to his feet. He took one step toward the bed, when the woman reappeared. "Hey!" he cried. She smiled at him, grabbed Bruce's arm and disappeared. This time, with the oldest McNeill sibling in tow.
Oh no! Panic struck Harry. He had failed to save Bruce, despite his best efforts. Shit! What the hell was he supposed to do, now? At first, Harry considered calling his parents or grandmother. Then he thought of one person truly capable of tracking down Bruce. He reached for the cordless telephone on the nightstand and dialed the number for the offices of Jackman, Kline and Carter.
* * * *
Cole glanced at the clock on his desk and sighed with relief. Two minutes past noon. Which meant it was time for lunch. Only he did not feel like eating. A liquid lunch seemed more preferable. Something alcoholic.
This morning, he barely had time to recover from his latest one-night stand, when he realized that he had to go to work. Encountering Olivia in the building's parking lot had done nothing for his mood. Cole still felt embarrassed over her discovery of the lipstick on his chin. And a little pissed. After all, who in the hell was she to strike an attitude over his late night activities? Especially since she had dinner with her saintly new ADA, last night. God only knew what else happened between them once that dinner ended.
And yet, Cole could not rid himself of the guilt or the embarrassment. Or the longing for a return to their old relationship. Before Paul Margolin had entered their lives. It would be even better if they could take their relationship toward a new . . . The intercom box on his desk buzzed. "Mr. Turner," his assistant announced, "you have a call on Line 3. It's Harry McNeill."
Harry? Why would he be calling around this time of the day? Cole calmed down and replied, "Thanks Eleanor. Buzz him through." She connected the call to Cole's desk and he answered. "Hello? Harry?"
The youngest McNeill literally shouted into the phone. "Cole! Thank God I reached you! I need your help! Badly!"
"Harry, calm down. What's wrong?"
"It's Bruce," Harry continued. "He's gone!" The young witch went on to explain about the demonic visitor that had snatched Bruce. Judging from the kidnapper's description, Cole realized that Portia Della Scalla had paid a visit. His mind on the present emergency, Cole sat up in his chair. "Listen Harry, get a hold of Olivia, Leo, your parents, or anyone who might help. Don't . . . don't worry, Harry! I'll help as well. Listen, make sure that you tell Olivia first. I have something to do, first."
"Oh. Okay," Harry replied. "Anything else?"
An idea came to Cole. "Remember how you managed to tap into Phoebe's premonition, last fall? Just before she and her sisters got caught by those warlocks?"
Hesitation crept into Harry's voice. "Uh, yeah. Are you . . . are you suggesting that I . . .?"
"Harry, just try it. Try to make a connection with Bruce and find out where he is."
Harry replied doubtfully, "I don't know. I had only managed to connect with Phoebe by accident. I was meditating at the time."
"Well, a little meditation wouldn't help right now," Cole said. "Meanwhile, I have a little errand to run. It's regarding Bruce. I should be at your house, soon." He hung up before Harry could respond. Then Cole grabbed his jacket and left the office. "Eleanor," he said to his assistant, "I'll be out of the office for the rest of the day. If anyone calls or comes looking for me, tell them I'm at an important meeting."
Eleanor nodded. "Yes, Mr. Turner." But Cole barely heard her, as he marched toward the elevator.
* * * *
Seconds later, Cole materialized in the middle of a long corridor, deep within the Source's Realm. He immediately recognized the corridor as the very one that led to the Source's throne room. Dismissing memories that threatened to overwhelm him, Cole made his way toward the aforementioned room and entered.
"Who the hell are you?" a voice from behind, demanded.
Cole whirled around and faced a young man who looked to be in his twenties. The latter was of medium height and possessed dark hair, dark eyes and a swarthy complexion. There seemed to be something oddly familiar about him.
The young daemon repeated his question. "Who are you? What are . . .?" His dark eyes widened in recognition. "Belthazor! I mean you're the Source! The last Source!"
"And you are?" Cole demanded.
"Sirius." The demon stood proudly. "My father was Bacchus. He was part of the old Source's Council."
An image of an older version of Sirius popped into Cole's head. "Of course! Bacchus was also part of my council. You . . . uh, you look a lot like your father. Was he among those who perished when the Seer tried to become the new Source?"
Sirius shook his head. "No, he wasn't at the ceremony. He was killed six months later. By Barbas. Thankfully that bastard is dead."
"Yeah, thankfully," Cole murmured, recalling his part in Barbas' death.
Dark eyes swept over the older daemon. "It's good to see you again, Your Eminence. Are you here to reclaim leadership of the Realm?"
"No," Cole curtly replied.
Sirius frowned. "Then why are you here?"
Cole walked past the younger daemon and headed toward the altar. "I'm here for another matter. To retrieve something." He stepped behind the altar and used his telekinesis to remove a heavy stone embedded in the wall.
Sirius leaned over Cole, irritating the latter. "What are you doing? What is that?"
Cole held up a small black box. He replaced the stone. "A little personal item that I had left behind," he replied. "Now that I have it, I'll be on my way." He started to walk away from the altar. Sirius blocked his path. Cole glared at the younger daemon. "Look, do you mind getting out of my way?"
"No. I cannot allow you to leave with whatever you have. It belongs here."
A long sigh left Cole's mouth. "Actually, it doesn't. Not really. Now please, get out of my way." When the younger daemon refused to move, Cole's expression hardened. "Let me remind you of a few facts of life, Sirius. One, this realm is in chaos, which means there is no reason for you to act as guardian of the Source's throne room. Two, this little item in my hand does belong to someone else - another daemon - and I intend to return it to him. For a price. And three, if you don't get out of my way, I will kill you." Cole took a threatening step forward. "Slowly and painfully. And you're not strong enough to stop me."
A few seconds passed before Sirius finally stepped aside. He seemed to humiliated and embarrassed to face Cole. Which produced a spark of pity within the latter. Cole gave the younger daemon a quick punch to the shoulder. "Look, there's no reason to feel humiliated. Neither your father or the Old Source would have been able to stop me. Besides, you strike me as an intelligent person. Like your father. Keep it up and you might have an important place if the Source's Realm ever becomes reorganized." Sirius gave Cole a grateful nod, before the latter disappeared from the Source's chamber.
END OF PART 16