"THE HALF-BLOOD DEMON"
Harry glanced at the selection of dishes spread out on the long table for the McNeills' weekly Sunday brunch. Since he could not choose between the Crab Quiche and the Eggs Mornay, he decided to select both. Using a spatula, he lifted a slice of quiche and placed it on his plate.
"My, we are hungry, this morning. Aren't we?" a low, feminine voice commented. Harry peered to his left and found Paige standing next to him.
"Yes, I am." Harry scooped a ladleful of eggs onto his plate. "Would you care for some Eggs Mornay? No one makes it better than Bruce."
Paige glanced at her plate, which seemed to be filled with plenty of food. "Thanks anyway," she said. "I have enough."
"I just realized that it's been a while since we've laid eyes upon each other," Harry continued. "At least . . . what? Two weeks? Three?"
A sigh left Paige's mouth. "Less than three weeks. I guess I've been avoiding most of you, since Phoebe and Cole . . . well, you know."
"Dating? Does it bother you to say the word?" Harry waited, while the family's manservant poured him a glass of orange juice. He thanked Davies, before returning his attention to the youngest Charmed One. "By the way, how are they? Cole and Phoebe? And the rest of your family?"
Paige quickly murmured, "Fine. Where's Olivia?"
"She's in Monterey for the weekend." Harry added, "If you're fine, why do you look so tense?"
After receiving her glass of juice from Davies, Paige followed Harry to a table set up for the family and their guests. Barbara, Gweneth and the latter's old friend, Carla Bianchi, already occupied seats. "What do mean, I look tense?" Paige demanded. "Why are you always making some kind of comment about my emotional state? I'm perfectly fine."
Harry scooped a forkful of eggs. "I don't always comment on your emotional state."
"You once told me that I was paranoid. During that time Paul Margolin had cast that spell over Olivia." Smirking slightly, Paige added, "And I was right."
Dumping the eggs back on his plate, Harry sighed. "Okay. I was wrong. You were right. Sue me. Besides, you are acting rather tense right now. You should see the expression on your face. Let alone read your body langu . . ."
"Hey, I'm fine! Okay? Seriously." Looking slightly annoyed, the Charmed One began to eat.
Gweneth peered at the two younger witches. "Is there something going on between you two?"
"Sorry Mom," Harry answered. "Just a small discussion about . . . something." He popped the eggs into his mouth.
Paige shot him a resentful glare. "I am not feeling tense. And we were talking about . . . nothing. Okay?"
Barbara frowned. "You're feeling tense? About what?"
Swallowing his eggs, Harry said, "All I did was comment that Paige seemed tense, today. I think she has something on her mind."
"What are you . . . reading my mind, or something?" Paige retorted.
The redhead shot a contemptuous glare at his table companion. "If I was, I would now know what's bothering you."
"How do you know I'm bo . . ." Paige immediately broke off.
"Oh ho! So I was right!" Harry smiled. "The emotion is rolling off from you, sweetheart."
Gweneth added, "He's right, Paige. You do seem troubled. Are you uncomfortable, because Cole is back . . .?
"Cole plans to get rid of his powers!" Paige's curt announcement nearly caused Harry to choke on his juice. He stared at her in shock.
Barbara shook her head in disbelief. "Say that again? Did you just say . . .?"
Paige heaved a sigh. Long and hard. "Cole plans to strip his powers, so he can become a mortal. Phoebe talked him into it."
"My God! Is he out of his bloody mind?" Gweneth's voice rang across the garden. Bruce, Jack and Uncle Wei joined them at the table. "Why on earth would he want to do something so incredibly stupid?"
A sardonic Paige added, "That's what I said, when Cole and Phoebe first told us."
"Told you what?" Harry's father asked.
Gweneth quickly told him about Cole's plans. Listening to the earth-shattering news for the third time, Harry still found it hard to believe. "What the hell?" Jack's voice expressed shock. "Is he insane? My God! I've warned him about that! What the hell is he thinking?"
"Did you say that Phoebe talked him into it?" an equally stunned Bruce added. "Does Marbus know?"
A snort escaped from Harry's mouth. Everyone stared at him. "Marbus? Can you imagine how Olivia will react when she finds out?"
Olivia faced a tall, thin man with a long face, swarthy complexion and expressive eyes, inside the living room of an expensive beach house in Monterey. The man's name happened to be Alexis Kostopulos and he seemed relieved by her news that his father's murderer had been captured. But he did not seem particularly upset that the rare medallion that had led to Stefan Kostopulos' death, had not been recovered.
"Quite frankly, I'm glad that you've never recovered it," Kostopulos said to Olivia. "When Dad first bought it during a family vacation in Greece . . ." Kostopulos' face paled, as he shook his head. "I don't know. I guess I had bad vibes from the first moment I clapped eyes upon it." Disbelief shone in his dark eyes. "It's hard to believe that Dad and some New York antique dealer had been killed over these medallions."
The redhead murmured, "They were quite rare. Mr. Liederhoff was prepared to sell his medallion to Miss Bryant, but she had decided to hire someone to steal it for her. I gather she considered it a cheaper method to get her hands on it."
Kostopulos frowned. "This Miss Bryant . . . she sounds familiar. About a week before he was killed, someone had contacted Dad about buying the medallion. A woman."
Olivia nodded. "Probably Lin Bryant. She was the one who had hired Gerry Gallagher to rob your father's store. The police had discovered a file in her office that contained information on his store, Gallagher and Mr. Liederhoff."
"So, is this Miss Bryant behind bars?"
Images of a beautiful Eurasian woman being slammed against a bookcase flashed in Olivia's mind. "Uh, not quite. She's dead. Broken neck. We, uh . . . she tried to resist arrest and we ended up in a fight." She sighed. "Needless to say I won."
"So that's the reason behind the bruises on your face," Kostopulos said with a nod. "That must have been some fight." He paused, as his eyes grew even darker. "At least she paid for her actions," he added with quiet savagery.
Olivia did not share her host's satisfaction. She had hoped that Lin Bryant would provide more information on the phony Arthur Winslow and the Magan Corporation. But that would never happen, now that Ms. Byrant's corpse laid inside one of the city's morgues.
Changing the subject, Olivia asked the realtor what he intend to do with his late father's store. Kostopulos leaned back in his chair and sighed. "I don't know. Hire someone to operate the shop. Perhaps sell it. Only I don't know anyone who might be interested in antiquties. Or the occult."
"Oh." Olivia paused, as she summoned the courage to speak her next words. "Um . . . I might be interested."
Kostopulos frowned. "I'm sorry. What did you say?"
In a louder voice, Olivia repeated, "I might be interested. If you don't want to keep the store, I might be interested in taking it off your hands."
"But . . . you're a police officer," Kostopulos began. "What would you know about . . .?"
Olivia interrupted. "Look, I've always been interested in the occult, myself. In fact, I've even studied Mythology in college. And when I saw your dad's shop for the first time . . . well, I guess I found it fascinating."
Kostopulos stared at her. Then a slow smile appeared on his face. "Well, in that case, Inspector, you just might have a deal."
Paige returned home later that afternoon and found her sisters and Cole inside the kitchen. Phoebe and Piper stood behind the counter, surrounded by herbs and other ingredients for a potion. Cole sat in one of the chairs, reading a book. "What the hell is going on?" the youngest Charmed One demanded, as she sat in another chair.
Phoebe glanced up from the herbs laid out on the island counter and shot a mild glare at the younger woman. "What does it look like? We're making a power stripping potion for Cole. And since you won't help . . ."
"Oh my God! Cole? Are you still going through with this crazy plan?"
An unfamiliar voice exclaimed, "I bloody well hope not!" All eyes turned toward the figure standing in the doorway. She was a striking-looking woman who stood at least an inch above Paige, possessed rich auburn hair sprinkled with gray and cut stylishly short. High cheekbones accentuated her delicate face. The woman seemed somewhere between her late forties and mid fifties. She wore a blue pantsuit that highlighted her blue eyes. Eyes that possessed a familiar shade of blue. In a soft Irish lilt, she continued, "Belthazor, I see that you plan to continue this ludicrous scheme of yours."
"Demon!" Piper raised her hands.
Cole shot to his feet. "No! Don't kill her!"
"Huh?" Paige frowned at Cole. "Why not?"
"Because . . ." Cole hesitated.
The woman or demoness finished, "Because I am his mother." The Charmed Ones gasped. Cole's mother coolly greeted he son. "Hello Belthazor. It's good to see you, again. After all these years."
Cole glared at his parent. "Wish I could say the same, Mother, but I'm not in the mood to be polite. What are you doing here?"
"Cole?" Phoebe's voice expressed a touch of anxiety.
Sighing, the half-demon made the introductions. "Uh, Phoebe, Paige, Piper . . . this is my mother, Elizabeth Farrell Turner. Otherwise known as Nimue. Mother, these are the Halliwells. Paige, Piper and . . . Phoebe."
"Oh yes, the famous Charmed Ones." Elizabeth Turner's blue eyes fell upon the variety of herbs on the counter. "Brewing a little potion, are we, ladies?"
A slightly uneasy Piper began to squeeze a bag of fennel. "Uh . . . it's nothing. I'm making . . . making this sauce . . ."
"Please don't lie, Miss Halliwell," Nimue shot back. "You're not very good at it. Besides, I have a good idea what you are preparing."
Cole spoke up. "What are you doing here, Mother? I can only assume that you've seen Marbus."
"You assume correctly," Nimue snapped. "What kind of insanity is this? Stripping away your powers?"
"It's my choice! And it's none of your business!"
Nimue retorted, "Despite the fact that we haven't laid eyes upon each other in over thirty years, you are my son! And I do care about what happens to you! Do you honestly believe that I would stand by and say nothing, while you commit this . . . blunder?"
"Amen to that!" The words came out of Paige's mouth, before she could stop herself. All eyes focused upon her. Paige felt a warm flush creep up her neck. "Sorry," she muttered.
The female demon regarded Paige with admiring eyes. "Why apologize, my dear? It's the first sensible comment I've heard since my arrival."
"Mother . . ."
Phoebe stepped forward, her body trembling. "Look, you may be Cole's mother, but he's a big boy, now. If he no longer wants to be a demon, it's his choice and not yours!"
"Are you saying that Belthazor . . .?"
"His name is Cole!"
Nimue ignored Phoebe and continued, "Belthazor, are you saying that this decision to become a mortal is yours alone? And that no one," she shot a putrid glare at Phoebe, "had to convince you?"
"Yes Mother, it's my decision," Cole retorted. "I'm sorry that I cannot be the 'Big Bad Demon' for you, but I have my own life to lead. Do you understand?"
For what seemed like eternity, the three witches and the two demons regarded each other in silence. Actually, Phoebe and Cole cast hostile eyes at the latter's mother. Piper's eyes seemed to be everywhere, except upon mother and son. And Paige simply regarded the entire scene with great interest.
Nimue heaved an impatient sigh. "I see that any further arguments from me will not deter you from your decision."
Cole sneered. "That's right, Mother. Marbus had sent the wrong person to talk to me."
Ah! Now Paige understood how Cole's mother had found out about his decision to strip his powers. Marbus. The Gimle demon must have been desperate to change his nephew's mind. Especially if he had resorted to contacting Nimue.
Eyes that bore a strong resemblance to Cole's in both color and intensity, stared at the dark-haired human-demon hybrid. "Fine. I see that I am wasting my time." Nimue added in a cold voice, "If you decide to proceed with this folly, don't be surprise when you end up facing the consequences of your actions . . . in a very ugly manner."
Cole's expression hardened. "Is that a threat, Mother?"
The demoness rolled her eyes in contempt. "Please! Don't be silly!" She heaved a mild sigh. "By the way, Belthazor, let's not wait another three or four decades before we meet again. Till the next time." On that note, she shimmered out of the kitchen.
The moment she disappeared, Phoebe went into panic mode. "Oh my God! I can't believe that she came here! Your mother!" She stared at Cole with anxious eyes. "What do you think she's going to do?"
"Do?" Cole frowned. "What can she do? She's done just about everything she can."
Piper rolled her eyes. "Wake up, Cole! Your mother is a powerful and probably a very evil demon! And she didn't seem too pleased about this whole power stripping business."
"She can't do anything!" Cole shot back. "Unless she wants to risk pissing me off."
"Yeah! While you still have your powers! But what will happen once they're gone?"
Cole heaved a sigh. "Then she will have to deal with either you or Marbus. My mother may be a lot of things, but she's not stupid."
Paige noticed that her sisters seemed reluctant to accept Cole's assurances. But what else could they do? Go after the woman? Cole would end up pissed off, all right. But not at his mother. "I'm heading out," she announced, breaking the silence. The others stared at her. "What?"
Piper asked, "Where are you going?"
"To get something to eat for all of us." Paige's eyes scanned the mess on the island counter. "It's obvious that it'll be a while before you have a chance to cook dinner. By that time, we'll be starving."
Phoebe cried out, "Wait a minute!" Paige paused. "Listen, we're having trouble copying the enhancements you made for Cole's power stripping potion. Could you tell us . . .?"
"Sorry Pheebs!" Paige literally sang. "You're on your own. Personally, I agree with Cole's mom. You're all making a big mistake and I won't be a party to it."
Phoebe glared at the younger woman. "Thanks a lot."
"My pleasure," Paige replied with a smile. "Will Chinese be okay with everyone?" The others nodded. "Great! I'll be back real soon." And she escaped from the kitchen as fast as her feet would allow.
In the darkness of one of the bedrooms, inside the Halliwell manor, a lamp post suddenly morphed into a slender figure with brown skin. With great stealth, Zamora made her way toward the young woman asleep on the large bed. She glanced down and smiled.
While Paige Matthews continued to sleep, Zamora chanted a brief spell in a voice low enough to prevent the witch/whitelighter from waking up:
"Separate now, but soon will link, You mind to mine, shall finally sync. My soul is dark and so too shall yours be, Just follow my voice, and so it will be."
When she finished, Zamora's mouth hovered above the Charmed One's exposed ear and relayed a few instructions. Her task done, she smiled once more and teleported out of the room.
END OF PART 3