"THE POWER OF ONE"
The moment Chris orbed into the Halliwells' living room, the doorbell rang. Several seconds passed, but no member of the family appeared to answer the door. Again, it rang. This time, Chris decided to open the door himself.
The whitelighter found a tall, brown-skinned woman standing in the doorway. She smiled politely. "Hi. I'm Donna Thompson. Piper Halliwell had hired me as a nanny, yesterday."
"Oh! Uh . . ." Chris hesitated, wondering how to introduce himself. "I'm, uh . . . I'm Chris. Chris Perry. A friend of the family."
Ms. Thompson's smile widened. "Really? May I come in?"
"Uh . . ."
Piper suddenly appeared and shook Ms. Thompson's hand. "Hi! Donna! Glad you could make it." She pushed Chris aside. "Come on in." The newly hired nanny entered the manor. "You're early," the Charmed One continued. "It's only twenty minutes to eight."
"I guess I'm a bit too eager, this morning," the other woman replied sheepishly. "Nerves."
The oldest Charmed One frowned at Chris. "What are you doing here?"
"You didn't know that he was here?" Ms. Thompson asked, looking slightly confused.
Sighing, Piper replied, "Uh, not really. You see . . ."
"I had let myself in," Chris added, hoping to save Piper an explanation of his status.
Piper rolled her eyes. "Chris is my whitelighter. He's also my sisters' whitelighter."
"Oh! Like your guardian angel, or something," Ms. Thompson said, staring at Chris. "Never met one, before."
Stunned by Piper's revelation, Chris stared at her. "Wait! You told her about me?"
"Oh, for heaven's sake, Chris!" Piper protested. "She knows I'm a witch. I know that she's a Voudon priestess. And she knows about Wyatt. I don't see any reason to keep you a secret."
Annoyed by Piper's lack of discretion, Chris fumed in silence. Meanwhile, the other two Charmed Ones appeared on the staircase. "Was that the doorbell?" Paige asked. Both she and Phoebe were dressed for work.
Chris watched as Piper introduced them to the newcomer. "Guys, this is Wyatt's new nanny - Donna Thompson. Donna, these are my sisters, Phoebe and Paige."
Ms. Thompson shook Paige's hand. "Nice to meet you." Then she hesitated, before shaking Phoebe's hand. "I'm a big fan of yours," she added. "I've read your column in the BAY-MIRROR. In fact, one of my friends had written a letter to you, over a year ago."
Phoebe smiled happily. "Thanks. It's nice to meet a fan. I'd talk a little more, but I have to get to work."
Nodding, Ms. Thompson said, "Of course." She continued to smile, as Phoebe and Paige headed for the front door. Chris noticed that the Voodoo woman's shoulders sagged with relief. Only, what would she be relieved about?
After the two younger sisters left, Piper turned to the new nanny. "Well, let's get acquainted with your new charge, shall we?" She led Ms. Thompson toward the staircase. Chris followed. As they turned the corner, Piper paused, and frowned at the whitelighter. "Where are you going? Shouldn't you be leaving now?"
"But I just got here," Chris insisted.
"Chris . . ." Piper hesitated. Then she sighed. "Never mind." She continued upstairs, with Ms. Thompson and Chris in her wake. Once they reached the nursery on the second floor, the trio found Wyatt playing with his toys, inside his crib. "There he is," Piper cooed. "Hel-lo honey!" She smiled at the infant, as he gurgled at the sight of his mother.
Every time Chris saw mother and son together, he found it difficult to reconcile the happy infant with the grown man from his future. How could it even be possible that Wyatt would . . .
Piper lifted her infant son from the crib. She carried him over to Ms. Thompson. "Hey Wyatt, remember Donna? You met her yesterday. She's going to be your new nanny!"
Wyatt regarded the other woman with curious eyes. Ms. Thompson smiled at him. "Hi Wyatt," she said cheerfully. "Remember me? It's nice to see you, again." The baby responded with silence.
"Maybe he doesn't remember you," Chris added. The two women stared at him. He decided to remain silent.
Ms. Thompson said to Piper, "May I?" Chris held his breath, as the witch handed over her son to the other woman. Then the nanny bounced the baby in her arms for several seconds. Chris let out a gust of breath, as Wyatt began to laugh.
"Well, it's nice to see that he still likes you," Piper commented.
The nanny smiled. "Yeah. For a moment there, I was worried." While Wyatt began to play with the buttons on her blouse, she continued, "Uh, is there a schedule for Wyatt, while you're away? You know, his meals and naps."
"Yeah." Piper paused, as she stared at the whitelighter. "Do you mind, Chris? This is business. I'll meet you, downstairs."
Chris hesitated. Then, "Um, yeah. Okay. I'll . . . uh, I'll be downstairs." He left the nursery and reluctantly returned downstairs. Several minutes passed before Piper joined him in the living room. "Where's Ms. Thompson?" he asked.
"Doing her job," Piper curtly replied. "Now, what do you want?"
Chris informed her that the Elders were pleased that the Charmed Ones had managed to vanquish the demonic shape shifter. "It turns out that he was an assassin and they would like you to find out who had hired him."
"As it so happens, it was Donna who helped me vanquish him, not Phoebe and Paige."
Surprised by the news, Chris nearly became speechless. "Oh. Uh . . ."
Piper continued, "As for finding out who had hired him, I'm just as interested in that little tidbit as the Elders. So, you can go back and tell them. Now, if you don't mind . . . good-bye."
Chris stared long and hard at her. "Look, I realize that you guys still resent that I had replaced Leo as your whitelighter. But it's not my fault that he had decided to . . ."
"Good-bye Chris." Piper glared at him.
A sigh left the young whitelighter's mouth. He got the message. After shooting Piper a wry smile, he orbed out of the house.
Inside Olivia's new store, Andre lifted a dagger from one of the glass display cases and held it up in the air. "Hmmm. Interesting. And very beautiful." The dagger's hilt had been carved from silver. It was also studded with polished gems.
"Do you recognize it?" the elderly Mrs. McNeill asked.
With a shake of his head, Andre replied, "Nope. Looks like . . ." He paused, as he spotted an insignia on the hilt's bottom. "Huh."
Mrs. McNeill frowned. "What?"
"Do you recognize the insignia on the bottom?" He displayed the bottom of the dagger's hilt to the elderly witch.
Softly, Mrs. McNeill exclaimed, "Dear God and Goddess! That's . . ." Andre placed the dagger on the counter, while she reached for a book on sorcery called 'The Lemegeton' that she had brought from home. "That's the mark of a dominion spirit named Caspiel. Very powerful. And I'm sure that you're familiar with dominion spirits.
Nodding, Andre replied, "Oh yeah. An immortal more powerful than daemons like Cole and Leo. Don't they rule over other daemons, including the Elders and the old Source? I also know that they are responsible for the cosmic order, and for maintaining a balance or something. I wonder how the shop's previous owner got his hands on this dagger. Which element is he supposed to be the great spirit of?"
"Fire," the elderly witch replied. "Which is why I won't touch it. There's also a medallion or amulet that belonged to Caspiel. Fortunately, it hasn't been seen in ages."
Andre let out a low whistle. "Definitely something that should remain locked up." He and Mrs. McNeill continued to examine the other daggers inside the case. Then they moved on to another - one filled with jewelry. After examining a pair of earrings and a necklace, Andre picked up a ring. It was a small, silver ring with a turquoise stone in the center. Andre could not help but feel that the ring would fit perfectly around Cecile's finger.
Mrs. McNeill glanced at it. "Very lovely. Looks like it had been made in the 17th century. I can tell by the design."
"Yeah, it is nice." Andre continued to examine it. "Do you think it has any magical properties or . . .?"
"Do you see anything odd on it? A symbol or writing?
Andre used a magnifying glass to examine the ring more closely. Other than a phrase in French on the inside that translated into "Love forever", he could find anything out of the ordinary. And said so. "You know, this would make a great engagement ring for Cecile. Don't you think so?"
Mrs. McNeill nodded. "Definitely. Why don't you go ahead and buy it?"
A quick glance at the ring's price tag revealed that it cost nearly two hundred dollars. It seemed pretty cheap for a piece of jewelry over three hundred years old. "I guess I will," he said. Andre imagined the expression on Cecile's face, when he finally presented the ring to her. And smiled.
Olivia and Cecile climbed the manor's stoop, before the former rang the doorbell. "Just a minute!" a voice bellowed from inside. Over a minute passed before the front door swung open, revealing Paige. She greeted the two friends and ushered them inside the house. "So guys, what are you doing here?"
"I'm here to pick up a certain item that you were supposed to return to me," Olivia coolly replied. "Like my dragon brooch?"
Paige dark eyes reflected a touch of guilt. "Oh! Oh yeah. I was supposed to drop it off, yesterday. Wasn't I?"
A smile touched Olivia's lips. "I believe so."
The Charmed One led the two visitors toward the kitchen. "Would you mind if I hold on to it, a little longer?"
Olivia heaved a long-suffering sigh. "Yes Paige, I would mind. You've had it for nearly a week, now. I don't know if you realize this, but you've developed a habit of borrowing a lot of my stuff. I get the feeling that I'm becoming some kind of pawn shop on legs to you."
"Oh come on, Livy! I'm not that bad." Paige turned to Cecile for support. "Right?"
A 'don't look at me' expression appeared on Cecile's face.
The three women entered the kitchen, where they found a strange woman plopping a baby's bottle into a saucepan. The woman glanced at the newcomers, while Paige made the introductions. "Guys, this is Wyatt's new nanny - Donna Thompson. Donna, these are friends of mine - Olivia McNeill and Cecile Dubois."
Both Olivia and Cecile shook hands with the nanny. The redhead noticed that Ms. Thompson had hesitated, before grasping their hands. Interesting. The nanny asked, "Are you two witches, like Paige and her sisters?"
At first, Olivia seemed astounded by the woman's question. Until she remembered Cecile and Cole's account of yesterday's events - "Wait a minute!" she exclaimed. "You're the one who helped Piper fight off that daemon! Right?"
Ms. Thompson nodded. "Yeah. I, uh . . . I've had similar encounters before. With daemons. I'm a . . . a mambo. A Voudon priestess."
Olivia smiled, as she patted Cecile's shoulder. "Small world! So is Cecile. And you were right about me. I am a witch."
A chuckle escaped from Ms. Thompson's mouth. "I'm beginning to feel even more at home. You can call me Donna, by the way."
"I better get that brooch," Paige said with a sigh. Cecile, who expressed a need to visit the bathroom, followed her out of the kitchen.
Once they were alone, Olivia asked Donna, "So, where exactly is home? Here in San Francisco?"
"Oakland," Donna quickly replied. Olivia noticed that her fingers automatically began to finger a leather strap hanging around her neck. "But I've been living in San Francisco for the last three or four years. Expensive."
Olivia's eyes narrowed. "Is that a necklace around your neck?"
"Huh?" Donna's hand immediately dropped to her side. "Oh. Uh . . . yeah."
"May I see it?"
For a brief moment, anxiety flashed in Donna's eyes. And Olivia wondered why. "Oh . . . uh, sure." The nanny - very slowly - began to remove the leather thong from around her neck. Olivia saw that it held an amulet.
Paige entered the kitchen, holding a small red velvet box. "Okay," she said, "here's your brooch. But . . . are you sure that you want it . . .?"
At that moment, Donna dropped her amulet. Both she and Olivia kneeled to pick it up. The nanny's hand reached the amulet first. Before she could snatch it from the floor, Olivia managed a quick peek.
"Olivia, about that brooch," Paige insisted. "Are you sure that you won't change your mind and let me use it a little longer?"
Olivia forgot about the new nanny and the amulet, as she turned her attention to the Charmed One. "No Paige, I won't. Why don't you buy your own brooch? In fact, I'm sure you have a few nice pieces of jewelry, upstairs."
Paige sighed. "Yeah, but I love your brooch."
"Well, find one that looks like it. I'll see if I can get you a nice discount."
After handing over the brooch to Olivia, Paige retorted, "I'll hold you to your promise."
Cecile returned to the kitchen. "Did you get your brooch back?" she asked Olivia.
The redhead nodded. "Yeah. I . . ." Her eyes caught Donna tucking the amulet behind her blouse. Then the nanny removed the baby bottle from the saucepan. Suspicion of the other woman reasserted itself. "Yeah," Olivia slowly replied. "I did."
"Good. Let's go. I had a small lunch, today. And I'm looking forward to Cole's dinner."
Paige's face perked with interest. "Cole's cooking dinner?"
Cecile nodded. "Yeah." She turned to Donna and held out her hand. When she noticed that the other woman's hands were full, she smiled politely. "Well, it was nice meeting you. I hope we get to meet again, before I leave San Francisco."
Donna smiled at Cecile. "Same here." Then she faced Olivia. "And it was nice meeting you, too."
"Yeah. Keep up the good work." Olivia gave Donna a quick nod. Then both she and Cecile said good-bye to Paige, before leaving the kitchen. Once they were earshot from the youngest Halliwell and the nanny, Olivia commented, "You know, there's something odd about her. Wyatt's new nanny."
Cecile rolled her eyes. "Really? Don't you ever stop being a cop?"
"I'm serious! There's something odd about her." The two women left the manor. As they descended the stoop, Olivia continued, "You should have seen the way she had reacted, when she dropped this amulet that was around her neck."
"It's probably some kind of good luck piece for her," Cecile muttered. "Can you blame the woman? She had just recently survived a daemonic attack."
Olivia added, "And that's another thing . . ." The two friends reached Olivia's BMW. They climbed inside the convertible.
Cecile leaned back against the passenger seat with a sigh. "What other thing?"
Olivia hesitated before she finally continued, "I don't know. Why would any woman even bother to accept the job of Wyatt's nanny, after what happened? I realize that she's also a magic practitioner. But Piper wasn't even able to hold on to some elfin nanny, after an attack on Wyatt. It just doesn't make any . . ."
"Good grief, Olivia!" Cecile cried out. "Could you please give it a rest?"
Startled by her friend's outburst, Olivia stared at the Vodoun priestess. "Excuse me?"
Cecile continued to rant. "Why do you always let your paranoia get the best of you? So what if . . . Donna had accepted the job? The woman is a mambo. A Vodoun priestess, and obviously an experienced magic practitioner. And considering that she even bothered to answer Piper's ad only tells me that she was desperate for the job. So, please! Give it a rest!"
A long pause followed, as Olivia switched on the convertible's engine. "Jeez," she finally muttered. "Who stuck a crowbar up your ass?"
Olivia guided the convertible away from the curb and proceeded to drive it down Prescott Street. "Meaning, you've been acting like Miss Broodmeister of 2003, since you got here. What the hell is the matter?"
A large sigh - her third - left Cecile's mouth. "I'm . . ." She paused. Then, "I'm thinking of breaking up with Andre. And I don't know how to tell him."
Stunned by her friend's revelation, Olivia shot a surprised look at the other woman. Seconds before she managed to avoid a head-on collision with an oncoming green van.
END OF PART VI