"THE POWER OF ONE"
Piper felt more than happy that she had finally found the perfect nanny for Wyatt.
"So, when can you start?" the Charmed One asked the priestess. She lowered Wyatt back in his basquinet.
Ms. Thompson replied, "Is tomorrow okay?"
"Sounds great." Piper led the other woman out of the Solarium. "Uh, how about eight in the morning? Is that okay?"
"Fine by me."
Piper continued, "You know, I didn't realize there were any Vodoun practioners here on the West Coast. I mean, my sisters and I had once encountered this witch doctor, but we thought he came from somewhere else." She noticed that the other woman had stiffened slightly. "Is there something wrong?"
Flashing a prim smile, Ms. Thompson replied, "We Vodoun practioners don't like the term 'witch doctor'. We find it insulting. And the word - witch - is considered . . . an insult in the Vodoun world. I know that it isn't in your world. But it is in ours."
"Oh. Uh . . ." Now there was something that Cecile or the McNeills had never bothered to reveal. "I, uh . . . didn't know that. Maybe this guy was a priest. Anyway, I don't think he was from around here. And Cecile and Andre are from New Orleans. Besides, I've always thought that Vodoun was only practiced back East."
Ms. Thompson added, "I didn't realize you were that familiar with Vodoun. You've been to New Orleans?"
"No, I met Cecile and Andre, here in San Francisco. In fact, they're visiting the city, this week." The Charmed One told the Vodoun priestess about the two visitors from Louisiana.
For a brief second, Piper thought she saw Ms. Thompson's eyes widened in alarm. She realized that she had imagining things, when the other woman smiled. "Really? And this Miss Dubois is a telepath? And a clairvoyant? That's interesting. My grandmother was a seer."
"So is one of my sisters," Piper added. "Phoebe. She's also an empath." Then she sighed. "I should warn you about the latter. Phoebe had just received her empathic powers over a month ago. And it's been driving us all crazy."
Ms. Thompson smiled. "Thanks for the warning." Then she glanced at the floor and a frown appeared on her face. "Hey, what happened to that amulet? The one that daemon had been wearing."
Piper glanced around. "I don't know. I didn't see it after we had vanquished him. Maybe it was destroyed."
"Hmmm. Well," Ms. Thompson glanced at the grandfather clock, "I better get going. I had promised to pick up a friend in another twenty minutes. Uh . . . see you tomorrow morning? Around eight?"
"Around eight." The two women shook hands and bid each other good-bye. After Ms. Thompson had left, Piper heaved a smile and returned to the Solarium to begin the cleanup.
Two figures materialized into the room, taking Piper by surprise. It was Cole and Cecile. "My God!" the latter replied. "Piper! Are you okay? Have you been . . .?"
"Attacked? By a demon?" Piper nodded. "Yeah, but I'm fine. How did you, uh . . .?" Realization hit Piper, as she remembered one of Cecile's powers. "Oh. Yeah. Uh, everything's okay. I . . ."
Two more figures orbed into view. Phoebe and Chris. The former rushed toward her older sister. "Piper! You're alive!"
"No kidding," Piper murmured in her usual sardonic manner. "I'm fine. I'm okay. And the demon has been vanquished." She paused and stared at both Phoebe and Cecile. "You mean to say that the both of you had visions of me . . ."
Cecile interrupted. "Apparently so." She stared at Piper. "So, uh . . . you managed to fight off the daemon?"
Piper sighed. "Actually, I had a little help. I probably would have been dead, if it weren't for her."
Cole asked, "Who rescued you?"
"Wyatt's new nanny." Piper then proceeded to tell the others about Donna Thompson, and the demon who had attacked them. "It turns out that she's also a Vodoun priestess. Like Cecile. If she had not spotted that amulet . . ."
Chris frowned. "What amulet?"
Piper told them about the amulet that had protected the demon from her powers. "I think it may have been destroyed, when we vanquished him. We couldn't find it."
Phoebe enveloped her sister into a bear hug. "Who cares? As long as you're safe. And alive," she said. "Is this Miss Thompson here? I would love to thank her."
"You can do that, tomorrow. She'll be arriving around eight." She glanced around the Solarium. "Oh God! Look at this mess! I'm going to be cleaning this up, all day!"
"Why don't you use that spell that Paige had used when . . ." Phoebe broke off and shot an uncomfortable glance at Cole. Then she murmured, "Never mind."
But Piper knew what Phoebe was about to mention - namely the spell Paige had used to clean up Cole's penthouse, after they had killed him. She sighed and decided to thank her younger sister for the advice, later. "I guess I better start . . . cleaning up, right away. Meanwhile, you all can leave. Because once I'm finished, I'll have to feed Wyatt and then both of us will be taking naps."
The others mumbled their good-byes and teleported out of the house. Much to her relief.
The doorbell to Daley's house rang, later that evening. The sorceress made her way to the front door and opened it. Marc stood in front of the doorway, wearing an anxious look. "Well? How did it go?" he asked.
"Everything's just peachy," Daley wearily replied. "You're looking at Wyatt Halliwell's new nanny. Of course, I had to help his mama fight off a daemon in order to get the job."
"Say what?" Marc stepped inside the house. Daley led him to her large sitting room, just east of the foyer. He sat down in one of the chairs. "You had to do what?"
Daley settled on the sofa. "Help save her and the boy from a daemon. Some damn shapeshifter, I think. He had disguised himself as some Mexican woman, applying for the job. He tried to kill Piper . . ."
Annoyed by her assistant's dense questions, she threw a pillow at his head. Marc neatly caught it, instead. "The damn witch who had just hired me! Piper Halliwell! Who in the hell do you think I've been talking about?" Daley retorted. "Some daemon had tried to kill her. Strange that he didn't bother to simply snatch the kid."
"Maybe he wanted to make sure that this Halliwell witch didn't come after him. After all, she's supposed to be pretty powerful, herself."
Daley sighed. "Good point. Anyway, I helped Piper kill him. And in gratitude," she allowed herself a smug smile, "she hired me on the spot. No references were necessary."
Marc nodded approvingly. "So, everything's okay. Right?"
Daley's smile disappeared. "Not quite. It seems that one of the other sisters - the newspaper columnist - is clairvoyant. And empathic."
"That's not good," Marc said with a frown. "She might find out the truth about you, before you're ready to do the ritual."
"Oh, it gets worse," Daley added. "The Halliwells are friends of a Vodoun priestess named Cecile Dubois, who also happens to be clairvoyant. And she's a telepath. And guess who happens to be her boyfriend?" Marc shook his head. "Andre Morell. He's here in San Francisco. With her."
A low whistle escaped from Marc's mouth. "Are you shitting me?" he cried. "Have you ever met . . ."
"No! But, I've met the drug lord that he used to work for - Aaron Mercer. And there's a good chance that he has heard of me."
Marc shrugged his shoulders. "As long as you two have never met, and you're using a phony name . . . what's the big deal? You have nothing to worry about."
Daley paused, as she walked over to her bar. "Except for this Cecile Dubois, and Phoebe Halliwell. It'll be nearly a week before the half moon. I don't want to take the chance of being found out by a bunch of seers."
"So, what are you going to do? Kill 'em?"
A sigh left Daley's mouth. "I don't think that's a good idea. Not now. Maybe I'll . . ." She broke off and contemplated on how to deal with this psychic double threat. Until she spied an object resting on the bar's surface. It was the amulet that had been worn by the daemon killed by her and Piper Halliwell. She had snatched the amulet, while the witch's back had been turned. "Maybe I won't have to worry about them, after all."
"What's that?" Marc asked.
Daley stared at the object in her hand. "I don't know. Judging from the symbol on this thing, it may have been created by a dominion spirit. All I know is that it prevented that daemon from being affected by the witch's powers."
Marc stared at her. "Do you think it'll work against the two seers?"
"I'll find out, tomorrow."
Cole and Andre stepped out of the elevator and made their way toward Olivia's apartment. They found the two women finishing the last of their breakfast.
"You mean to say that you two aren't ready, yet?" the houngan protested in jest.
Cecile remained silent, while Olivia shot Andre an amused look. "My, we are impatient this morning! You must really enjoy going through my shop."
Andre shrugged. "I have to admit that I find it interesting. Reminds me of when I was studying mythology and anthropology in college." He leaned down to plant a kiss on Cecile's cheek. "I guess I'll be seeing you later, baby. Take care."
"You too," Cecile murmured. She and Cole watched the other two leave the apartment. Once Olivia and Andre had left, she stood up and headed for the living room. "I'll be ready in a minute."
Cole replied, "No problem."
A few minutes later, Cecile emerged from her bedroom, carrying her portfolio and a suitcase. "Okay. Let's go." The pair left the apartment and traveled down to the building's underground garage, via the elevator. After they climbed into Cole's black Porsche, the half-daemon heaved a sigh. Cecile stared at him. "What's wrong?" she asked.
Cole shook his head. "Nothing. I . . ." He paused, before continuing. "I was thinking about that attack on Piper, yesterday."
"She got out of it, okay. She's alive. What's the big deal?"
Another sigh left Cole's mouth. "Nothing. I just find this whole idea of her hiring a nanny, a big mistake. Maybe she should try to get in touch with Leo."
Cecile snorted with derision. "Seems like he's more interested in being some high-level guardian angel than being a husband and father."
Her acid response drew a long and hard stare from Cole. "What brought this on?"
"Why are you so bitter? Are you speaking of Leo? Or Andre?"
Rolling her eyes, Cecile retorted, "What are you talking about? Andre hasn't abandoned me!"
"No, you seem more interested in abandoning him," Cole shot back. "Olivia told me about that little rant against men. About how we end up shoving the women in our lives into the background. You were talking about Andre, right? Do you think he's no longer interested in you? Is that why you want to get married?"
Cecile stared at the half-daemon. "Are you always in the habit of asking so many questions, at once?"
"C'mon, Cecile! Don't bullshit me!" Cole continued, "Do you honestly think that a marriage is going to help you?"
Resentment flickered in Cecile's dark eyes. "I guess you don't."
It took all of Cole's efforts not to roll his eyes in contempt. "Why do people believe that a wedding ring is going to solve all of their problems?" He slipped his key into the car's ignition, and switched on the engine.
"This isn't about solving a problem!" Cecile retorted. "I just . . . I just want something different in my life. Something more solid than a convenient boyfriend on the other side of town. After what you told me about what led you to propose marriage to Phoebe, I thought you would understand!"
The Porsche rolled out of the parking lot and merged into San Francisco's early morning traffic. "Yeah, well now I know better! I found out that marriage didn't make my life better or improved my relationship with Phoebe. In fact, our relationship ended in the toilet. Our marriage didn't solve one fucking thing!"
"You had been possessed around the time you got married!" Cecile retorted.
Cole shot back, "And you honestly think that Phoebe and I would still be together, if the Source hadn't possess me? Because I can tell you right now that we wouldn't. I was in love with a woman who wanted a fantasy romance, and who's still incapable of growing up. And I would have remained a mortal - a state that I hated with every goddamn breath in my body - for nothing! Trust me. Our marriage would have ended, just as our little summer 'romance' did, over two months ago. Maybe a wedding ring might give you a little stability with Andre for a while. But sooner or later, your marriage will become a routine that will bore you out of your mind. And once again, you'll find yourself longing for a change. For something new. You know, you and Andre have a good thing going. Why can't you appreciate it?"
"Because it's no longer a good thing! At least to me." Cecile's eyes narrowed. "If what you and Phoebe had before your marriage was such a good thing, why did you ask her to marry you?"
The Porsche rolled to a stop at a red light. Cole took a deep breath and growled in a low voice, "Because I was too fucking stupid to appreciate what we had! That's why!"
"Hmmph! Just as you probably thought that your friendship with Olivia was good enough, I bet," Cecile said with a sneer. "Until she got frustrated and started paying attention to that bastard, Paul Margolin. Tell me Cole, what if Olivia decides that she wants to be more than your girlfriend? Are you going to make the same mistake that you did, last spring? Pretend that your relationship is fine as it is?"
The light turned green. The Porsche roared into life and continued toward downtown. Cole opened his mouth to say something. Tell Cecile that she was wrong. Unfortunately, he could not find the right words.
END OF PART V