"A FAMILY AFFAIR"
Cole finally appeared outside Olivia's apartment and knocked. Seconds later, she opened the door and greeted him with a kiss. "Harry told me what happened," she said. "Did you stop them?" She led him into the living room, where Cole spotted Harry on the sofa.
"Yeah," Cole replied in a gruff voice. "They were about to use the vanquishing potion they had prepared for me, years ago. Phoebe had once used it on a fellow 'Brother' from the Thorn Brotherhood. She probably thought it would work on Marbus, since he's a blood relative."
Olivia's green eyes expressed disbelief. "You mean they still have some of that potion, after nearly two-and-a-half years?"
A grim Cole replied, "Apparently, they haven't lost their penchant for leftovers. Remember the power stripping potion that was used on me?" The McNeills nodded. "They had first prepared it, when Prue was still alive. Actually, just before her death. Only," his voice became tinged with bitterness, "Phoebe had kept it in her dresser, all that time." He faced Harry. "What had exactly happened, tonight?"
The youngest McNeill related his visit to the Halliwell manor, including Phoebe's vision and his detection of another presence in her mind. "I tried to tell them," Harry added. "Hell, I was about to argue with them, all night long. But they wouldn't listen." He paused. "Well, except for Paige. She seemed willing to listen to me." Both Cole and Olivia exchanged knowing looks. "But the others overruled her. Especially Piper, who had practically threw me out of the house. Why would anyone go through so much trouble of sending witches after Marbus?"
Cole had no idea. But before he could reply, Olivia answered, "Distraction." The two men stared at her. "It's simple. Whoever wants Giovanni dead must know that he or she can't kill Cole . . . unless his powers are stripped. So, the Magan Corporation hires a telepath to send false visions to Phoebe, hoping the Halliwells would kill Marbus." She paused. "Cole would end up distracted, leaving Giovanni free to be killed."
"And the corporation would be free to buy the Oakville property from Pamela Giovanni," Cole added grimly. "Clever."
Nodding, Olivia said, "Yep, very clever. This means that someone at Magan knows a lot about you and your relationship with both Phoebe and Marbus. In other words . . ."
". . . he or she is a daemon," Cole finished. "Great!" The doorbell rang. The three people exchanged curious glances. Cole added, "Where you expecting someone?"
Olivia shook her head. "No." She stood up and headed for the front door. After a quick glance through the peephole, she faced her two companions, wearing a smirk. "Guess who." She opened the door and the Charmed Ones entered the apartment. "Ladies, how may I help you?"
Cole felt a surge of anger, at the sight of the three witches. His anger increased, as Piper glared at him. "Look who's here," she remarked in a cool voice. She turned to Olivia. "We're here to see Cole."
"Well, you've seen me," Cole growled. "What do you want?"
The oldest Charmed One marched up to the half-daemon, still glaring. "Why did you stop us from saving Giovanni?" she demanded.
"You were trying to kill my uncle!" Cole retorted through clenched teeth.
"He was going to murder your client!"
Piper heaved an exasperated sigh. "Phoebe had a premonition!"
Phoebe stepped forward. "She's right, Cole. It's possible that your uncle might not be what he pretends to be. I saw him kill Giovanni."
Cole rolled his eyes. "Like I said . . . bullshit!"
The middle Charmed One's face reddened. "Cole . . ."
"So, where is he?" Piper demanded. "Your uncle."
The two older Halliwells gasped aloud. "Are you crazy?" Piper cried. "He's going to kill Giovanni for sure!" She turned to her sisters. "Let's go. We'll find another way to get inside that house."
Cole immediately sprung to his feet and blocked Piper's path. "If you touch Marbus, I'll kill you," he said with great menace.
The air inside the living room grew still. Everyone stared at Cole in pure shock - except for Harry, who seemed fascinated by the confrontation between the witches and the half-daemon. And Olivia, who warned, "Cole!"
Finally, Piper said, "What did you say?" Her voice had dropped several degrees in temperature.
Cole took a few steps closer to his ex-sister-in-law. "I said . . . if you so much as touch my uncle, you are going to be . . . one . . . dead . . . witch! And I am not joking!"
Paige gasped out loud. A sigh emitted from Olivia's mouth. Phoebe moaned. And Harry's green eyes sparkled with interest. "Are you threatening me?" Piper demanded.
"Yes." Cole allowed his face to hover inches away from the witch's. "I am threatening you, Piper. Stay away from my uncle!"
"He's a killer! You rather save him and let him kill an innocent?"
"The only innocent that will end up dead is Marbus, if you kill him."
Piper shot back, "Phoebe's premonition . . ."
". . . was a fake," Cole finished. "Ask Harry."
The Charmed Ones stared at the telepath, who nodded. "It's true. When Phoebe had her vision, I managed to pick up on it. And I felt the presence of someone else. Someone other than Phoebe or myself. I got the feeling that someone may have been feeding her a false vision."
"That's not possible!" Phoebe protested. "I would have known."
Harry shook his head. "I doubt it. Only another telepath would have known the difference."
"But . . ."
Olivia spoke up. "Phoebe, Harry's right. It's possible that you were given a false vision. It's been done before. Even to those with the power of precognition."
"How do we know that you're telling the truth?" Piper retorted.
Harry looked at the oldest Halliwell, as if she had lost her mind. "Why the hell would I lie?" he demanded.
Olivia added, "Piper, we can prove it. All we have to do is find a way to flush out this telepath. Meanwhile, I suggest that you hold off from trying to kill Marbus."
Piper grumbled, "Great! An innocent man could end up dead, while we . . ."
"Marbus isn't going to . . ." Cole began angrily.
Olivia raised her hand, signaling Cole not to speak. "Piper, please try to relax. You've already failed to kill Marbus, once. He's now on guard and Cole has made it clear what will happen if you do go after him, again. And I think you should consider what Harry has told us. Can you please be patient?"
Her eyes flashing with anger and disbelief, Piper retorted, "Are you really going to take the side of a demon over an innocent . . ."
"Then I gather that your answer is yes," Olivia said, interrupting. "Great! We'll get back to you about that plan to flush out the telepath." She smiled at the oldest Charmed One. "I'll see you later."
Cole walked over to the door and opened. "In my words that means 'get the hell out'!"
Piper glared at the half-daemon and marched toward the opened door. A tense Phoebe quickly followed. Only Paige lingered briefly. She shot pleading looks at the McNeills. "Sorry about the mix up," she said, and followed her sisters out of the apartment. As she walked past Cole, they exchanged uneasy looks. He closed the door behind the trio, saddened by the possibility that his friendship with Paige might end over a family feud.
"And how do you plan to prove that Phoebe's visions were false?" Harry asked, interrupting Cole's thoughts. "I thought my word would be good enough.
A silent pause filled the living room. Then Olivia replied, "I've got an idea." She paused dramatically. "We allow Paige and her sisters to kill Marbus. And have Cole seek revenge. Once that happens, I'm sure that Magan Corporation will make its move on Mark Giovanni. We'll just wait and see what happens." Both Cole and Harry regarded her with disbelief.
"He's still alive," Artemus said to Nina Kriegler, as she entered his library, the following morning. "Marbus is still alive. The Charmed Ones failed to kill him."
Nina frowned. "Are they dead? Did Marbus kill them?"
Artemus glanced at his assistant. "Tell her, Prax."
Prax revealed that according to their warlock spy, the Charmed Ones did appear at the Giovanni home to kill Marbus. Only Belthazor had intervened before the witches could perform the deed. He added, "They're all still alive, by the way. However, from what Kelson had witnessed, the Charmed Ones might be angry at Belthazor."
"Which means they still might believe that Marbus is a threat," Nina added with a smile. "And Belthazor is torn between protecting Giovanni and his uncle. It's perfect."
One of Artemus' brows formed a dubious arch. "Is it? Perhaps the Charmed Ones know they had been set up. Perhaps your telepath should send another vision to the witch."
Nina shook her head. "Not now. Not until we're sure. We could be overplaying our hand. Thanks to the vision, the witches are suspicious of Marbus. And probably Belthazor. I say we wait until Monday and see what happens."
"I only hope you're right," the daemon said with a sigh. He paused and stared at the darklighter through narrowed eyes. "By the way, I have an extra job for your warlock. If he's willing to accept it. And if our plan succeeds."
Nina stared at her employer.
Later that afternoon, Olivia, Cole and the former's father paid the Halliwells a visit. After Olivia rang the doorbell, Paige appeared at the front door. "Oh," she said, as she stared wide-eyed at the visitors. "Hi . . . umm guys. What are you doing here?"
"Hi Paige." Olivia smiled at her friend. "We're here about what happened, last night."
Paige's face flushed pink. "Oh." She widened the door, allowing the visitors to enter. "Come in."
Phoebe, Leo and Piper with Wyatt in her arms, made their way into the living room. "What's going on?" the latter demanded. She cast a dark look at Cole.
"We're here to talk about my plan," Olivia said. "You said that you would give us a chance to prove that Marbus wasn't a threat. Well, I have a way to prove it."
Leo spoke up. "Piper told me what happened, last night." He glared at the half-daemon. "About how Cole had threatened to kill her."
Not again! Olivia rolled her eyes. "Leo, please? Let's put that all behind us, at the moment. Right now, all we want to do is find out who wants the Charmed Ones to kill Marbus."
"I still find it hard to believe that someone could send me a false vision," Phoebe insisted.
Olivia stared at her. "Why?"
"Because I would have known."
"How? You're not a telepath."
The middle Halliwell faltered under Olivia's direct stare. "I . . . I don't know. I guess . . . I guess I would have sensed it. I mean I am psychic."
"Phoebe, we all have psychic abilities," Jack said. "Which is why we possess powers like telekinesis and levitation. Now, I realize that you have precognition and can even guess if time is out of whack . . . at least according to Leo. But do you have any telepathic abilities?"
Phoebe hesitated. "No."
"Are you trained or experienced in detecting and blocking telepathic action?"
She sighed. "No."
"Then there is a good chance that Harry might be right about someone sending you visions," Jack concluded.
Paige said, "What's your plan, Livy?"
Relieved that her friend had returned to the main topic, Olivia revealed her plan. It was simple. The Halliwells were to fake Marbus' death - just as Phoebe had faked Cole's death nearly three years ago - using the old Belthazor potion. Naturally, Giovanni would experience some anxiety over the daemon's disappearance. But more importantly, Cole will become "wild" with grief and "hunt" down the Charmed Ones. With Giovanni unprotected, the Magan Corporation minions will eventually make their move on the wine grower. "We'll spring a trap and find out whether or not if Marbus had been set up," Olivia finished.
"What if nothing happens?" Piper asked.
Jack answered, "Well . . . you can make a genuine attempt to kill Marbus, but I wouldn't advise it. I don't think Cole will allow that to happen."
"My God, Jack!" Leo exclaimed. "Are you just going to allow Cole to kill them?"
The middle-aged witch rolled his eyes. "May I ask how any of us are going to stop him, if they do kill Marbus? I guess you better hope and pray that we do learn the truth behind Phoebe's vision. Or better yet that you ladies don't kill the man."
"I believe demon is the correct term," Piper nastily corrected.
"Whatever!" Jack barked. "The fact is, Piper, if you and your sisters decide to seriously go after Marbus, you might suffer the consequences."
Cole added menacingly, "So I suggest that you accept Olivia's plan." He glared at Piper.
At that moment, Olivia realized that Cole was a natural-born ham. Granted, she also felt certain that his threats regarding his uncle had been serious. But there was an element of the theatrics behind his threat. Pure ham.
"We'll do it," Paige quickly replied. "Right Piper? Pheebs?"
The two older sisters mumbled their consent.
"Okay," Olivia continued. "Let's make the attempt on Marbus' life, tomorrow night."
Phoebe asked, "Why then?"
"Timing. Mark Giovanni has invited Marbus over for Sunday dinner." Olivia gave both Piper and Phoebe stern looks. "And ladies, please remember that you are going to 'fake' his death. And not actually kill him. Right?"
"Whatever," Piper airily replied.
Olivia refrained - with much effort - not to roll her eyes in disgust.
END OF CHAPTER 6