"THE POWER OF ONE"
"Are you sure that he's here?" Elise McNeill asked her granddaughter. The two women climbed out of Olivia's BMW convertible and approached the Union Square shop.
Olivia sighed. "I don't know. Last I heard, Andre went for a walk, last night. And according to Cole, he was missing this morning." She placed her hand on the shop's doorknob. It turned easily. "I guess he is here." Olivia opened the door and the two witches entered. "Hello? Andre?"
The houngan emerged from the back of the shop. "Yeah, I'm here." Andre strode toward the women.
"How long have you been here?" Gran demanded.
"Since five-thirty, this morning." Andre paused, looking slightly uncomfortable. "I had trouble sleeping."
Olivia sighed. "I knew I shouldn't have told you about Cecile!"
Shaking his head, Andre replied, "No, no! It's okay. At least I won't have to waste my time with a wedding proposal."
Both women reacted with distress at Andre's remark. "You can't be serious!" Oliva protested. "I mean . . . don't you have a ring selected? Gran told me."
Andre leaned against one of the shelves. "Yeah, I know. But since Cecile's no longer interested in me . . ."
"Before you decide that's true," Gran said, interrupting, "why don't you see how Cecile will react to your proposal?"
Olivia added, "May I see the ring?"
With a sigh, Andre moved away from the shelf and headed over to the one of the display cases filled with jewelry. He picked up an object and handed it over to Olivia. "That the ring I had planned to give to Cecile."
A quick appraisal by Olivia enabled her to recognize that the ring had a French design and that it dated sometime back in the seventeenth century. She had studied Art History back in college. "Very nice," she murmured. "There's nothing supernatural about it, is there?"
"No," Andre quickly said. "It's perfectly fine." He sighed. "So, you think I should ask her to marry me, anyway?"
Both women answered at the same time, "Yes!"
Andre turned to Olivia. "Well Livy, you're about to make your first profit. I understand that the ring costs around a hundred-and-eighty dollars."
Olivia walked over to the cash register. "I'll get the receipt pad and cash box. By the way, did you guys find anything interesting?"
Gran replied, "We found a lot of interesting items. Especially that dagger with those markings on the hilt. Remember Andre?"
Looking slightly distracted, Andre nodded. "Oh. Yeah, I . . . uh, remember. The dagger that belonged to a dominion spirit."
"A what?" Andre's news took Olivia by surprise. "Did you say a dominion spirit?" She placed a tin box and the receipt pad on the counter. "Did anyone touch it?"
Gran added, "Andre did."
"And he didn't burn? Or get hurt any other way?" Olivia shook her head in disbelief. "Objects like that contain great power, and they usually affect beings who are lesser than dominion spirits - daemons of all kind . . . and mortals." She paused. "Did the marking show to whom the dagger originally belonged?"
Andre snapped out of his distracted state. "I'll show you." He disappeared toward the back of the shop, while Olivia began to write the receipt for the ring. A few minutes later, the houngan returned with a bejeweled dagger.
Olivia reached out to take the dagger. Gran exclaimed, "No Livy! Don't touch the . . ." She broke off, as her granddaughter grabbed hold of the dagger. "Goddess! You two?" She frowned. "I don't understand. Neither of you were affected."
"Maybe you're wrong about it belonging to a dominion spirit," Olivia said, as she examined the dagger's hilt.
Shaking her head, Gran replied, "I can't be. I saw the marking, myself. It belonged to Caspiel."
"The dominion spirit associated with fire?" Olivia asked.
Realization lit up the elderly witch's gray-blue eyes. "Of course! That's why you two . . ." She turned to Andre. "Are any of your psi powers based on the fire element?"
Andre frowned. "Well, I'm an atmoskinetic. Which means that two of the powers I control - fire and electricity - are based on the fire element."
"And Livy is a fire witch," Gran finished. "No wonder you two weren't affected. If that dagger had come from a dominion spirit associated with another element - like Carnesiel, who deals with the spirit element - you would have been in serious danger."
Olivia turned the dagger over and spotted the marking on the bottom of the hilt. She gasped. "Is this Caspiel's mark?" she demanded.
"Yeah," Andre answered. "Why?"
"I think I may have seen it, before. On something else." And idea came to the red-haired witch. "I've got to go." She returned the dagger to Andre and headed for the shop's entrance.
Gran demanded, "Where are you going?"
"To the station. There's someone I need to check on."
The images of Donna Thompson removing hair from Wyatt's brush continued to plague Phoebe's mind. She found herself becoming so obsessed with the new nanny that she found it difficult to do her work.
Why did Donna's actions bother her? Why did a knot in her stomach form every time she thought about the other woman? Piper had been right about one thing. There was nothing sinister about cleaning a baby's hairbrush. So, why did she feel there was? Had it something to do with Donna's reaction, when she had entered the nursery? Or that flash of guilt and fear in the other woman's eyes?
Phoebe shook her head. She realized that she was allowing her imagination to get the best of her. If Donna had really wanted to harm Wyatt, she could have done it by now. Besides, the woman did help Piper save Wyatt from a demonic attack. If she had been interviewed before the demon, Piper would have been dead and Wyatt . . .
The middle Charmed One's thoughts came to a screeching halt. "If she had been interviewed before the demon . . ." Of course! Phoebe shot out of her chair, as the epiphany struck her.
Donna must have arranged for the demon to attack Piper. Phoebe recalled her older sister stating that the Vodoun priestess had been the last to arrive that morning. It all made sense. Donna finds out about Wyatt and the position for his nanny. She arranges for a demon to pose as an applicant. Both the priestess and the demon make arrangements on the order of arrival. The demon attacks Piper. Donna comes to Piper's rescue. Only Donna double-crosses her partner and helps Piper vanquish the demon before the latter can escape. And the priestess is hailed as a heroine and rewarded with the position of Wyatt's nanny. Only . . . only Donna has not made any move against Wyatt. And Phoebe could not help but wonder why. Had Donna's lack of action anything to do with future plans that involved Wyatt's hair?
She had to warn Piper. Now. Phoebe reached for the telephone and dialed the number to P3. An employee answered and informed her that Piper was in a meeting with a liquor merchant, at the moment, and could not be disturbed. Frustrated, Phoebe hung up and reached for her purse and coat. As she marched out of her office, her editor - Elise Rothman - materialized in her path toward the elevators. "Where are you going?" the older woman demanded.
"Lunch," Phoebe replied. "I'm taking an early lunch, today."
Elise glanced at her watch. "At ten forty-five in the morning? Aren't you a bit early for lunch?" Her dark eyes penetrated Phoebe's.
Oh shit! Phoebe realized that the editor had decided to become difficult, today. "Well . . . yeah. But see, I have this family emergency . . ."
"What kind of family emergency?"
"Um . . . Piper. She's . . ." For once, Phoebe's imagination failed her.
Elise smirked. "When you can remember the nature of your . . . family emergency, let me know. Meanwhile, I think you can forgo your early lunch for today."
Annoyed by the older woman's tone, Phoebe protested. "Elise! I'm not a schoolgirl, you know! So, do you mind not treating me like one?"
"I'm treating you like an employee who was forty minutes late for work, this morning!" Elise retorted. Her stare remained relentless. "Now, unless you can provide me with a genuine excuse, I suggest that you continue work."
For a brief moment, Phoebe felt tempted to use the "boyfriend" excuse. But instinct told her that Jason would not cooperate. Especially after a few employees had spotted them indulging in foreplay inside her office, two weeks ago. She realized that if she had decided to use Jason to get her way, the other employees - especially Elise - would resent her. And make her life at work very miserable. A sigh left Phoebe's mouth. "Fine. I'll stay."
"Good." Elise flashed a bright smile at the younger woman and continued on her way. Unless she can find a way to contact Piper, Phoebe realized that the next hour and ten minutes might prove to be very long.
Darryl strolled into the squad room, followed by two members of his team - Carlotta Trujillo and Marcus Anderson. While the other two went toward their desks to deal with a suspect they had just arrested, the police lieutenant was surprised to find his partner seated behind her desk, staring at a computer screen.
"Olivia? What are you doing here?" he demanded, as he sat down in the chair, next to the redhead's desk. "I thought that you had taken the day off to work in your shop?"
Her eyes still glued to the computer screen, Olivia curtly replied, "I did. An emergency had popped up. Regarding a certain nanny."
"Huh?" Confusion whirled in Darryl's brain, until he realized that Olivia had referred to Piper Halliwell's new nanny. "Wait a minute. Are you talking about Wyatt's new nanny? What about her?"
Olivia glanced up. "There's something strange about her. Something I can't put my finger on. And it has to do with an amulet that had allegedly been destroyed and a dagger in my shop." Darryl's partner then told him about her suspicions that had arisen from the nanny's odd behavior and a magical dagger that bore a mark to the one she had spotted on the nanny's amulet. "I'm checking our records to see if there's anything on Donna Thompson."
With a sigh, Olivia finished, "So far, nothing. Well, I did come across three Donna Thompsons. But none match the description of Wyatt's nanny. Also, one of them is dead."
Darryl made a suggestion. "Why don't you check the Department of Motor Vehicles?"
Olivia did as he had suggested. Within less than ten minutes, the pair received Donna Thompson's DMV records. They also discovered that the nanny lived in the city's Bernal Heights neighborhood. And that she had been born on March 14, 1968; in Oakland, California. The birth date seemed to have struck a familiar note with Olivia. "Wait a minute," she murmured under her breath. "That date."
"What is it?" Darryl asked.
The witch minimized the DMV page, before returning to the police department's records. Olivia typed in the nanny's name. Darryl gasped as he read the file. One of the Donna Thompsons in the Department files had also been born on March 14, 1968. In Oakland. Only this Miss Thompson had died on January 21, 1996. "I'll be damned," Darryl murmured.
"No kidding," Olivia shot back, as she smiled broadly. "I've got her! Two Donna Thompsons born on the same day and in the same city? How often does that happen?" She switched back to the DMV site. "The driver license for our Miss Thompson will expire in March 2008. Which means that her last license had expired in 2002. Now, that previous license had been effective between March 1996 and March 2002. Which means that she had received this previous license about two months after the other Donna Thompson's death."
Darryl shook his head. "You know, this reminds me of Rex Buckland and Hannah Webster."
"They were two warlocks who had gained control of the auction house that Prue worked at, some five years ago. These warlocks had murdered the real Rex Buckland and Hannah Webster, before assuming their identities. It could be that your Donna Thompson may have done the same. What does the Department's files say about the dead Donna?"
Olivia returned to the police database. She whistled. "Wow! For someone who had died two months short of her 28th birthday, she sure led a full life. Arrested four times for possession of drugs between the ages of sixteen and twenty. She spent three years at the Valley State Prison for Women for pushing cocaine. Arrested in October 1995 for drug trafficking. Unfortunately, no conviction could be made. Three weeks after she was acquitted, someone murdered her by filling her capsules with drain cleaner. Probably her employer."
A stunned expression appeared on Darryl's face. "Wait a minute! Are you saying that Wyatt's new nanny might be some kind of drug dealer?"
"Of course not!" Olivia protested. Then she hesitated. "Then again . . . I don't know. But I do have a gut feeling that the real name of Wyatt's nanny is not Donna Thompson. I think she may have been using that name to avoid detection."
Darryl shook his head. "Yeah, but there's something I don't understand. She's already close to Wyatt. She's been close for the past three or four days. What the hell is she waiting for?"
Olivia sighed. "I wish I knew, Darryl. I wish I knew. And I dread the moment when we find out before it's too late."
END OF PART VIII