"THE POWER OF ONE"
Daley took a deep breath, as she faced the oval mirror inside her bedroom. Today marked the beginning of the first quarter moon. The day in which she will, hopefully, be the possessor of the most powerful magic in existence. Thanks to a nine month-old baby. Once she possesses Wyatt's powers, no being in existence - human, daemon or otherwise - would be able to prevent her from achieving her goals.
After another gust of breath escaped from her mouth, Daley turned away from the mirror. She donned her coat, grabbed her purse and tote bag, and left. Several minutes later, she was driving along the streets of San Francisco, contemplating on the turmoil inside the Halliwell household, yesterday. And how close her plans for tonight were nearly stonewalled . . . .
Last night at 6:45 pm . . . "I'm sorry, Piper, but I can't," the youngest Halliwell declared. "I've been invited by Harry to attend his parents' party, tomorrow night."
Daley, who had just finished babysitting Wyatt for the day, hovered nearby, as she donned her coat. She realized that Paige had referred to Harry McNeill, the younger brother of that red-haired witch she had met the other day.
A rueful expression appeared on Piper's face. "Dammit! I guess I'll have to ask Phoebe if she won't mind babysitting Wyatt for two days in a row. She doesn't have anything planned with Jason for tomorrow night, does she?"
"As far as I know, she doesn't."
At that moment, Phoebe burst through the front door. "Hi everyone!" She glanced at her two sisters. "What's the big powwow?"
Reluctantly, Piper replied, "I just found out that Paige is going to a party, tomorrow night. On the same night that I need a babysitter for Wyatt." She turned to the younger woman with hopeful eyes. "You'll be free, won't you?"
Phoebe regarded her older sister with pity. "Oh honey, I'm sorry. But I'm also going to a party, tomorrow night. Jason is taking me to some cocktail party at the McNeills."
Surprise illuminated Piper's eyes. "So is Paige. She's going to the same party."
Phoebe frowned at the youngest sister. "You are?"
"Of course!" It became Paige's turn to frown. "I'm surprised that you're even going. Why would the McNeills invite Jason to one of their parties?"
Resentment flashed in Phoebe's dark eyes. "What do you mean by that?"
"C'mon Pheebs! This is Jason, we're talking about! Olivia's old ex. He's about as popular with her family, as Cole used to be with ours."
Phoebe opened her mouth to retort. "You make Jason sound like . . ."
"I'll help," Daley interrupted, taking the others by surprise. "I'll babysit Wyatt, tomorrow night."
Piper regarded the nanny with grateful eyes. "Oh, would you? I don't want to interfere with anything you might have planned for tomorrow night."
"I don't have . . ."
Phoebe quickly interrupted, "Oh, but Donna won't have to babysit for tomorrow night. If it's that important to you, Piper, I'll stay home and take care of Wyatt."
Piper frowned. "Well . . . I don't know. What about Jason?"
To Daley's dismay, Phoebe dismissed the notion with a wave of her hand. "I can call Jason and tell him to go alone. I'm sure that he won't mind."
"Well . . ." Piper began.
Daley realized that her plans for Wyatt were in serious danger. She had originally planned to take a chance and conduct the ritual at the fall of dusk - in the late afternoon. But when she realized that none of the Halliwells would be in the house tomorrow night, Daley saw a chance to conduct the ritual later at night. When the power of the first quarter moon would be complete. And now, Phoebe Halliwell threatened to ruin her plans.
"If you need a babysitter for tomorrow night," Daley finally said, "I'm available. After all, it's my job."
The three sisters stared at the nanny. The latter noticed suspicion brewing in Phoebe's eyes. Even Piper seemed slightly uneasy. "Well . . . I don't want to ruin any plans you might have for tomorrow night," she said.
"What plans?" Daley said with a shrug of her shoulders. "The last time I had any plans was for Halloween. And before that . . ." She paused dramatically. "Let's just say that I lead a rather quiet life."
Paige cheerfully added, "Well, that settles everything. Phoebe and I can go to the party."
Piper continued to regard Daley in a thoughtful manner. "I . . . guess. Would, uh . . ." She paused, and Daley found herself wishing for the ability to read minds. A sigh left Piper's mouth. "Yeah, I guess everything is settled. Since you'll be working after hours, would a higher pay rate do?"
Daley struggled not to show her relief. "That would be fine," she said with a polite smile. "What time do you want me to show up?"
"Around seven would be okay." As Piper spoke, Daley shot a quick glance at the middle sister. Phoebe did not look at all pleased. Which made Daley feel a whole lot better.
The sorceress gave the oldest Halliwell a bright smile. "Seven o'clock, it is."
Present time . . . Daley inserted her car into a parking space, in front of the Halliwells' salmon-colored house. She switched off the engine and sighed. Time to begin her last day as Donna Thompson. After tonight, she would no longer have to play the double role of the struggling nanny, using the name of a dead woman.
Memories of the real Donna Thompson assailed Daley's thoughts. Donna had been an old friend of Marc's . . . and in her opinion, a real loser.
Upon Donna's release from prison, Marc had suggested they use her as a runner for Daley's narcotic operation. Despite the sorceress' misgivings about the parolee's drug habit, she had agreed to give the other woman a chance. For a while, Marc's faith in the real Donna seemed solid. Daley assigned the other woman the job of shipping Methcathinone from her ranch outside of San Rafael to San Francisco. Within a year, Donna had performed well enough to allow the ex-con to transfer to a longer route - from San Francisco to San Diego. It took less than a year for Donna to finally screw up.
Daley and Marc had learned that Donna invited a former cellmate to accompany her on a 'Cat' run to San Diego. The former cellmate turned out to be a police informant for the DEA. Even worse, Donna had been sampling some of Daley's product, when she encountered her old friend.
The DEA had arrested Donna just outside San Francisco. Using a little magic, Daley managed to retrieve her shipment from the DEA's evidence room. Without any evidence, Donna ended up being acquitted from any charges of drug trafficking. Realizing that her runner's drug habit might be a risk, Daley ordered Marc to substitute Donna's 'Cat' capsules with drain cleaner. It took the other woman less than one hour to die. And within two months, Daley assumed her identity. When the occasion demanded. Like this latest situation with the Halliwell family.
Soon, Donna's name would no longer be of any use to Daley. Since she was on the verge of becoming the most powerful sorceress of all time. And hopefully, the biggest drug distributor in the Western Hemisphere . . . if all went well, tonight. Daley opened the door and climbed out of the car. As she made her way toward the Halliwells' narrow stoop, a satisfied smile curved her mouth.
Olivia glanced up from the stack of files on her desk, as Deborah Liu, a Forensics specialist for the Department, strode toward her direction. She noticed the large yellow envelope in the other woman's hand and asked, "Is that for me?"
Deborah paused and stared at Olivia. "Huh?"
"The envelope in your hand. Is it for me?"
Shaking her head, Deborah replied, "Oh no, it's for Marcus. Regarding the Benson case." She continued past Olivia's desk and delivered the envelope to the redhead's colleague, Marcus Anderson. The two chatted briefly, before Deborah turned away and retraced her steps.
The moment the Forensics specialist came near Olivia's desk, the latter demanded, "What about that glass I had given you, yesterday? Any prints?"
Deborah sighed heavily. "For God's sake, Olivia! Stop worrying! Forensics will deal with it before the end of the day. Or maybe tomorrow."
"I have to wait that long?"
"Yes, Olivia!" Deborah looked slightly annoyed. "Your glass is going to have to wait. My guys have a lot of stuff to examine."
Olivia pleaded, "Could you start on my glass, first?"
Now openly annoyed, Deborah replied, "I'd love to, but I have a computer disc to examine for Giamarco and a .44 bullet for Howard. You'll just have to be . . . patient. Okay?"
Realizing that she had no choice in the matter, Olivia nodded. Reluctantly. "Just let me know about the results of the glass, as soon as possible," she added.
The Forensics investigator rolled her eyes and muttered something unintelligible - probably uncomplimentary - and moved on. Olivia leaned back into her chair and sighed.
"Have you proposed to Cecile, yet?"
Mrs. McNeill's question took Andre by surprise. He glanced up from the piece of leather that he held in his hands. "Huh? Oh . . . uh, not yet. I haven't had a chance to be alone with her, yet. But don't worry." He flashed a reassuring smile at the elderly woman. "I plan to ask her, tonight."
The elderly witch regarded him with thoughtful eyes. "You seem different, today. As if . . . you seem quite certain that Cecile will say yes. What happened?"
"Cole," Andre simply answered. "He told me the reason why Cecile has been so distant, lately. And why she wants to break up. It seems that she's ready for marriage. And she thinks that I'm not."
"Oh! I see." A smile illuminated Mrs. McNeill's wrinkled face. "Well, it should work all right in the end. Once you present her with the ring . . ."
Andre sighed. "I only hope that you're right. Even if Cecile does accept my proposal, there's her family to deal with."
"What do you mean? Vivian adores you."
With a shrug, the houngan added, "Cecile's mama may feel that way about me, but I wish I could say the same about the rest of the Dubois family. Sometimes, I think they enjoy throwing my past back into my face. I guess I only have myself to blame."
Mrs. McNeill absent-mindedly removed the piece of leather from Andre's grasp and began to finger it. "Perhaps you do. But . . . how long will Claude and the others keep bringing up your past? Forever? I mean, how can you have another chance in life, when they won't allow you to have one?"
A snicker escaped from Andre's mouth. "You know, that reminds me of something Cecile's daddy once told me, after we had started dating. He told me about the Law of Spirit. My grandmother also told me about this. It's basically the moral law in Vodoun - 'Be truthful; do good.' And an initiate who adheres to the Law of Spirit will be able to grow and develop spiritually. They also told me that violators of the law are punished severely by the Vodou and the Ancestors in direct proportion to their level of violation. Additionally, initiates are held accountable for their conduct not only in this life, but are also judged after death. You ever heard of 'The Song of the Divine Judgement'?" Mrs. McNeill shook her head. Andre continued, "'The world is a place of Trail. At the gates of the land of the dead You will pass before a searching judge, His justice is true and he will examine your feet, He will know how to find every stain, Whether visible or hidden under the skin, If you have fallen on the way he will know. If the judge finds no stains on your feet Open your belly to joy, for you have overcome And your belly is clean.'" He added with a humorless laugh, "Only, I doubt very much that my life is spotless enough for a searching judge to accept me into the land of the dead."
"Andre," the elderly witch said with a sigh, "I doubt there is one human being in existence, whose life is spotless. Including me." She paused. "You know, this 'Law of Spirit' reminds me of Ammut, the Egyptian daemon and the Hall of Maat. You know, the statuette we had found, a few days ago?"
Andre chuckled. "Yeah, I remember talking about it just a few days ago with Cecile, Cole and Olivia."
Mrs. McNeill continued, "As for Cecile, I wouldn't worry. If what Cole says is true, she still loves you very much. Cecile doesn't strike me as the type who would cave in to family pressure."
Silence filled the shop. Andre unexpectedly found himself thinking about Cole's past relationship with the Halliwells. The houngan hoped and prayed that his relationship with Cecile and her family would not suffer the same fate. He glanced at the leather parchment in the older woman's hands. "Have you figured out what that is?" he asked.
She turned the leather parchment over, examining it. "Could be some kind of Native American artifact. Perhaps a piece of hide. Judging by these hieroglyphics, it might be an account of someone's life. I have an old friend who could help me find out." Then she changed the subject. "Speaking of artifacts, did any of you learn anything more about Caspiel's amulet?"
"According to Olivia, this Donna Thompson didn't have it when she and the others had dropped by the Halliwells' house. Or she could have . . ." His cell phone rang. Andre plucked from his jacket pocket and answered the call. "Hello?"
A familiar voice replied, "Andre? It's me, Janet. I got that information that you wanted." The houngan immediately recognized Janet Colbert, a Tulane law student, who also worked as an operative at his detective agency. Although not yet a Vodoun priestess, Janet happened to be an experienced and talented magic practitioner. "From what Bobby found out," she continued, "there's a woman named Esmerelda Ross, who happens to live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She might be the person you're looking for." She paused. "By the way, isn't that were we found the body of that daemon, a couple of months, ago?"
"Sounds familiar," Andre replied. "And thanks, cherie. Tell Bobby that he did a good job."
Janet replied, "Yeah, I will." She paused. "Hey, have you asked Cecile, yet?"
"Not yet. Hopefully, tonight." Andre added, "Now, get back to work. I'll probably see you in about another week or so." He finally hung up.
Mrs. McNeill stared at him. "What was that about?"
Taking a deep breath, Andre replied, "A lead. Remember me telling you about some witch who might be connected to that Nairn daemon?" The elderly woman nodded. "Well, I think I know who she might be."
Daley, accompanied by Marc, strode into the warehouse that she owned near the San Francisco Bay's docks. She glanced approvingly at the stacks of crates that surrounded them. "Not bad," she murmured. "Not bad at all. I guess that you managed to package them all in bottles?"
"Yeah. All of the 'Cat' has been packaged." Marc heaved a sigh. "There's been a lot of overtime this past week, since this shipment is the largest yet. And at such short no . . ."
Daley waved aside his misgivings. "Don't worry. It'll all be worth it, in the end." She walked around, with Marc close at her heels. "Once I have that kid's powers, I'll send the crates to the rendezvous points for the others to make the exchange. Tony, Gloria and the others - they are at their locations, are they?"
Nodding, Daley added, "Good."
Her companion added, "What time will you be doing the ritual?"
Daley sighed. "I don't know. I can't guarantee what time when Piper and the others will be leaving. It'll probably be around eight or eight-thirty. When I have Wyatt's powers, I'll come back here." Daley shot a wry smile at her assistant. "Ought to be fun."
Anticipation and greed gleamed in Marc's eyes. "And profitable. Hell, I reckon we'll be richer than ever." He returned Daley's smile. "Maybe you'll end up running the cartel."
Daley allowed herself one last glance at the crates. "That's the whole idea."
END OF PART XI