"THE POWER OF ONE"
Power transference. Daley heaved a sigh, inside her private office. She had checked her spell book for anything on the subject, but came up empty. Not surprising, since she has never dealt with the transfer of power during her fifteen years as a sorceress.
Another sigh left her mouth and she examined her spell book one more time. Again, nothing. She slammed the book shut. Perhaps she should forget about this insane idea and go ahead with the plans to expand her business. Then again . . . to hell with it! She had to find a way to access that child's powers.
Out of desperation, Daley scanned her bookshelf for any information she might find on West African magic. She finally came upon a book titled "THE SUPERNATURAL WORLD OF THE IVORY COAST". It had been written by an early 20th century anthropologist named Jonathan Close. Much to Daley's surprise, the book contained detailed information on the region's myths . . . and practices of various West African shamans. Including spells that she never knew had existed. It still eluded Daley that a British anthropologist would come upon such a discovery. And record them. Perhaps he had been so fervent in his desire to record West African culture, he failed to realize that he had exposed practices and spells that others would consider valuable . . . and dangerous.
After removing the book from the shelf, Daley examined it - page by page. She came across rituals that had been performed by now dead houngans, mambos and other magic practioners. Rituals for good health, prosperity, and protection against evil spirits. The latest chapters, however, included spells and ritual on a more sophisticated level. In one of the chapters, Daley finally found a ritual that transferred psychic abilities and magic from one being to another. A ritual, according to the book, that had first been created by a 12th century sorcerer. After reading the details of the ritual, Daley realized that she had found what she was looking for. The sorceress copied details and instructions of the ritual on a notebook. Once she was finished, she reached for her cordless telephone and dialed a number.
"Hello?" a voice finally answered. "This is the Halliwell residence. May I help you?"
Daley replied, "Is this P. Halliwell, who had placed an ad for a nanny?"
"Yes, this is Piper Halliwell. Who is this?"
Taking a deep breath, Daley continued, "Hi, my name is Donna Thompson. I saw your ad in THE LUNAR VOICE newspaper. And I was wondering if the nanny position had been filled.
Piper Halliwell informed Daley that she had not filled the position. "Right now, you're the second person who has called about the job. Uh, why don't you come by, tomorrow? Say around eleven in the morning? There might be a few more applicants. And after I finish with the interviews, I'll . . . make my choice."
"Okay. Sounds great to me. I'll see you tomorrow, around eleven. Bye." After the other woman said good-bye, Daley disconnected the line. And smiled.
Around five-thirty that evening, Piper bid good-bye to the third and final applicant for the position of Wyatt's nanny and hung up the telephone. "Well, that's three so far," she said to her guest. "Two women and a man have answered the ad."
Chris, who had dropped by to warn the sisters about a shape-shifting demon that steals the essence and powers of other beings, frowned. "What ad?"
Piper shot an annoyed glance at the young whitelighter. "The ad I had placed in newspapers and in some of the local occult stores for the position of nanny. For Wyatt."
"A nanny for . . ." Disbelief poured out of Chris' blue eyes. "Are you crazy? Getting a nanny for Wyatt?"
"Well, it's either that or allow my club to sink into bankruptcy," Piper retorted. "I need some time to get back my customers and attract new ones. Which means I'll need a regular babysitter for Wyatt. A nanny."
Chris demanded, "What about Paige and Phoebe? Or D. . .Leo?"
Piper sighed. "Both Phoebe and Paige have jobs . . . and a social life. As for Leo . . ." She rolled her eyes in contempt. "Forget it. He's too busy being an Elder."
"Still . . ."
"Don't you have other charges to see?" she interrupted in a too-sweet voice that failed to match the hard gleam in her eyes.
The whitelighter's face turned red. "There's still the matter of that demonic shape shifter . . ."
"We'll let you know when we find it. Bye." Piper continued to stare at Chris, letting him know in no uncertain terms that he was no longer welcomed.
Fortunately, Chris got the hint. He gave Piper a sharp nod and immediately orbed out of the kitchen. Much to the Charmed One's relief.
Dinner at the Golden Horn restaurant did not turn out as Cecile had hoped. Or expected. Although Olivia and Andre proved to be lively dinner companions - with Cole providing his usual caustic wit - Cecile remained mired in her present dark mood.
She stared at her boyfriend, while he related his findings at Olivia's new store. Poor Andre, she thought. He seemed so happy. So energetic. Soon, she would have to pull the plug on his happiness, when she breaks the bad news. Cecile had considered telling him over a week ago. But when Olivia had asked him to accompany her to San Francisco and help appraise certain items in that new shop, the Vodoun priestess had decided to postpone her announcement. She realized that it could wait until their return to New Orleans.
". . . and the next thing I knew," Andre said, "I found myself holding a statute of Ammut."
Olivia frowned. "Who?"
Cole explained, "Ammut. An ancient Egyptian daemon that devours the souls of those whose hearts proved to be too heavy to be sent to the Hall of Maat. Which is where judgment of the dead is performed."
"Ewww!" Olivia said with a shiver. She said to the half-daemon, "You seemed to know a lot of this stuff."
"Not as much as Andre," Cole protested. "He had studied a lot on the mythologies of this world and other dimensions."
Andre shook his head. "What I can't understand is how this guy . . . what was his name?"
"How did he get his hands on such stuff?" Andre continued, "Including a medallion created by a dominion spirit."
The red-haired witch replied, "I don't know. According to his son, Kostopulos was a big collector of antiquities. He also studied the occult, but I got the feeling that he didn't know the significance of some of the stuff he had collected."
"I bet that Cecile's mama would love to get her hands on some of that stuff. Right, cherie?" Andre addressed the question to Cecile.
The Vodoun priestess blinked, aware that she had been drawn into the conversation. "Huh? Oh . . . yeah, I guess."
"You guess?" Andre shook his head. "Baby, I've seen some of the stuff inside your mama's shop. A lot of those items are pretty freaky. I mean, there's a reason why she keeps 'certain items' locked up in that storeroom in the back."
Olivia frowned. "Is that what Mrs. Dubois does with her . . . uh, with the certain items in her shop? Lock them up in a back room? Maybe I should do the same. There's an empty storeroom in the back." She squirmed slightly in her chair. "Right now, I think I need a trip to the restroom." She stood up.
Andre also stood from his chair. "Yeah. Same here. Excuse us, folks." He and Olivia left the table.
The moment the pair exited from the private dining room, Cole turned to Cecile. "Is there something wrong?"
"Huh?" Cecile blinked. Was her bad mood that apparent?
Looking worried, the half-daemon said in a low voice, "You seemed to be on another planet, lately. I'm talking about what you had told me, earlier. About our lives being in a rut. What was that about?"
Oh shit! Cecile could have kicked herself for opening her big mouth. Realizing that Cole would not easily dismiss the matter, she heaved a large sigh. And decided to tell the truth. "It's about . . ." Cecile hesitated. "I . . . I guess I want something new in my life. You know what I mean?"
A confused looking Cole shook his head. "No, I don't. What . . .?"
"May I ask you something?" Cecile realized that she had caught the half-daemon off guard. To be honest, she did not really care. "You were the one who first brought up marriage to Phoebe, right? You were the one who asked her to marry you? And not the other way around?"
Cole's expression became guarded. Almost mask like. "What are you getting at?"
Cecile's mouth curved into a wry smile. "I guess that's a big yes."
"Yeah, I had asked Phoebe to marry me. So what?"
After a brief hesitation, Cecile continued, "Why? What I'm getting at . . . Hell! Look, all I want to know is why you were the one to ask Phoebe, before she could ask you."
Cole hesitated. Then a slight smirk appeared on his mouth. "I don't know, Cecile. Because it's traditional for the man to ask, I guess."
Cecile rolled her eyes in contempt. "Cole, get real! This is the 21st century. And I know you're not a sexist. So, stop bullshitting and please answer the answer the question."
The half-daemon shot a quick glance at the dining room's door. And sighed. "All right. If you must know . . . I guess I had wanted something different with Phoebe. Something more permanent. You know, build a life together. Only it didn't . . ." Pain flashed in his blue eyes for a brief moment. "I guess it didn't work out."
Nodding, Cecile said, "Now, you know what I want."
Surprise reflected in Cole's eyes. "Wait a minute! Are you saying that you want to get married?"
After a brief hesitation, Cecile shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. Maybe." She paused again. "Yeah, I do. Why not? I'm tired of our old relation . . ." Spotting Andre and Olivia in the doorway, she broke off. "Don't say anything to Andre or anyone else!" she hissed. "Please? Not until I'm ready." Then she smiled at the newcomers, ignoring Cole's stunned expression. "So, are you guys ready for dessert?"
The doorbell rang. Piper glanced at the grandfather clock. It read 10:43 in the morning. It seemed that the first applicant for Wyatt's nanny had finally arrived.
Doubts began to assail the Charmed One's senses. Piper took a deep breath. Calm down, she told herself. But what if she was making a mistake? Chris seemed to think so. Along with Barbara McNeill and Cole. And their experiences with that elf nanny seemed to hint to Piper that perhaps a nanny might not be in the cards. After the last attack on Wyatt, the Elf Nanny decided she had enough with the Halliwell household.
Again, the doorbell rang. Piper sighed. Screw it, she decided. Might as well finish what she had started. She fixed a bright smile on her face and opened the door. "Good morning," she greeted the slender man, standing in the doorway.
The newcomer held out his hand. "Hi! Warren Koslo. I uh, I saw your ad on the bulletin board at Ostera's." He referred to the herbal shop where Paige worked.
"Oh." Piper shook his hand. "Um, why don't you come inside?"
Mr. Koslo smiled. "Sure." Piper stepped aside and ushered him inside the manor.
Less than five minutes after Warren Koslo's arrival, the doorbell rang again. "Excuse me," Piper said to her guest. Then she left him inside the Solarium with Wyatt and headed for the front door.
The next applicant turned out to be a middle-aged Latino woman with short hair and stoic features. "Good morning," she greeted in a pleasant voice. "My name is Mrs. Rosa Madrigal. I'm here for the nanny position. I saw the ad on the bulletin board, at the Red Pyramid."
"How nice." The Charmed One smiled at the newcomer. She widened the door. "Why don't you come in?" Then she held a hand to Mrs. Madrigal. "I'm Piper Halliwell, Wyatt's mother. Uh . . ." She glanced toward the direction of the Solarium. "I'm interviewing another candidate right now."
Mrs. Madrigal looked slightly disappointed. "You are?"
"Oh, don't worry. He's the first one to arrive. Um, why don't you wait here, until I finish?"
A polite smile appeared on the older woman's face. "Oh. Okay. Of course." Then she sat down on the sofa. Piper flashed one quick smile at her, and returned to the Solarium and Warren Koslo.
The doorbell rang for the third time that morning. Piper bit back a frustrated oath, and smiled at Mr. Koslo. Once more, their interview had been interrupted. She sighed and shot a weary smile at the applicant. "Excuse me." Then she glanced at Wyatt, who seemed fast asleep in his basquinet, and headed for the living room.
On her way to the front door, Piper smiled at Mrs. Madrigal. The doorbell rang one last time, before she finally opened it. Outside stood a slender black woman of medium height, curly long hair, along with wide brown eyes and narrow cheekbones on a narrow face. "Hi," the woman greeted, "I'm Da . . . Donna Thompson. I saw your ad in THE LUNAR VOICE for the nanny position."
Piper shook the woman's hand. "Come on in. You're the third person to show up."
Brown eyes widened in surprise, as Ms. Thompson entered the manor. "Third person?" she said with a frown.
"Yeah, um why don't you take a seat?" Piper indicated the living room, where Mrs. Madrigal sat. "I'll get to you, as soon as I finish with Mrs. Madrigal, here, and my other applicant."
Ms. Thompson eyed Mrs. Madrigal with wary eyes. She sat down in the chair, left of the sofa. The two female applicants exchanged polite smiles. Piper heaved a soft sigh and returned to her guest in the Solarium. At that moment, the Charmed One realized that she was in for a long morning and afternoon.
END OF PART III