Saturday, April 6, 2013
"Bride of Belthazor" [PG-13] - 5/16
"BRIDE OF BELTHAZOR"
Cecile speared a piece of honeydew melon from her place and popped it into her mouth. As she chewed, she note the subdued air that permeated the McNeills' dining room during breakfast. No one seemed inclined to talk. Not after the verbal bloodbath between Mr. McNeill and Mr. Morgan that she and Olivia had encountered, following their return from Cole's penthouse, last night.
The Welsh-born witch had castigated Olivia for getting involved with a notorious half-daemon, and the McNeills for supporting the relationship. Jack McNeill made it clear that any of Olivia's relationships were none of his business. Before matters could get worse, both old Mrs. McNeill and Cecile's own father managed to convince the two men to cease hostilities.
Strangely enough, Olivia had remained silent during the entire quarrel. And her subdued manner seemed to have continued into the morning. Cecile knew the reason behind the redhead's mood. Her vision. That damn vision about Cole marrying some old daemonic lover. Right now, Cecile wished that she had never opened her mouth in the first place.
After twenty-one years, Cecile knew Olivia. Very well. On the surface, the redhead usually projected an air of great self-confidence. But when it came to her love life, that self-confidence usually threatened to crumble at the first hint of a major trauma. And those traumas usually involved romance. Cecile knew about the high-school football player to whom Olivia had lost her virginity. He used her feelings for sex and dumped her not long after he got what he wanted. And there was poor Richard Bannen, whose only real crime seemed to be that he was killed before he and Olivia could get married. But Olivia's biggest trauma occurred during college when an old boyfriend and fellow witch named Adrian Chambers had dumped her after she failed to live up to his ideal of what a girlfriend and a witch should be.
It seemed ironic to Cecile that the biggest threat to Olivia's relationship with Cole Turner happened to be his status as a divorced man, and not his past as a daemonic assassin. A divorced man who remained in touch with his ex-wife. Barbara had told the Vodoun priestess about the summer breakup between Olivia and Cole . . . and the latter's brief reconciliation with Phoebe Halliwell. And now it seemed that another one of Cole's former lovers threatened to ruin the upcoming wedding. Or marriage. Cecile knew that Olivia would remain in a state of anxiety until . . .
"She really planned this well. Didn't she?"
Everyone stared at Brion Morgan, who had spoken. Mr. McNeill sighed wearily and stared at his brother-in-law. "I'm sorry, Brion. Did you just say something of any significance?"
Mr. Morgan glared at the other man. "I'm speaking of Bel . . . Cole's mother. Nimue. Haven't any of you wondered why she didn't tell you about the connection between her husband's family and yours - until now?"
The younger Mrs. McNeill rolled her eyes in contempt. "I don't know, Brion. Perhaps this is some devious plan of hers to prevent Livy's upcoming marriage," she commented snidely. "Of course, I'm sure that would sit well with you."
"Gwen darling," old Mrs. Morgan said in a firm voice. "Brion. Must we quarrel?"
Olivia's uncle protested, "I was not quarreling, Mother. I had merely stated that I found it odd that Nimue never told Jack and the others about . . ."
"Where are you going with this, Brion?" Mr. McNeill demanded. "Honestly! Why are you so upset by the idea that Cole might be my great-grandfather's godson? Is this some kind of hint or sign that the McNeills are marked by evil?"
Cecile noticed that Olivia's other uncle - Michael McNeill had winced at his older brother's words. "I don't think that Brion meant anything of the sort, Jack," he said in a conciliatory voice.
"The news probably took him by surprise," Cecile's father suggested. "Like the rest of us."
Glaring at his brother-in-law, Mr. McNeill muttered, "I'll bet."
Bruce continued, "C'mon Uncle Brion. I'm sure there isn't a family with a magical background that has connections others might not view with a tolerant eye."
"Like dear great-great-great-whatever grandmother Briana Morgan," Harry added.
Brion Morgan's head whipped around. He glared at his younger nephew. "May I ask why you deemed it necessary to bring 'her' up? And how can you even compare her to any daemon? She may have been a warlock, but she was mortal."
"For heaven sakes, Brion!" Mrs. McNeill retorted. "Briana Morgan was one of the most notorious warlocks in the supernatural world! Everyone knows it! She was practically a favorite of the old Source's! Look at Andre!" Or don't, Cecile added silently. She really wished that Olivia's mother had not brought up her fiancé. But Mrs. McNeill continued, "He was once a notorious bokor with associations with a powerful order! He managed to change his life and will be marrying Cecile, next month!" The Vodoun priestess glanced at her father, whose face had tightened. "And before you experience another fit, I might as well tell you that your niece and two nephews are descendants of at least three daemons!"
The dining room fell silent. Everyone stared at Gweneth McNeill. Cecile noticed that her mother's eyes had grown wide with shock. Brion Morgan, on the other hand, reacted to his sister's words with horror. "What did you say?" he whispered.
Oh oh, Cecile thought. The shit has certainly hit the fan.
"I said that the McNeills are descended from at least three daemons. At least the ones, here in America." Mrs. McNeill glanced around the dining room with defiant eyes. "What? It's nothing to be ashamed of!"
Mr. McNeill regarded his wife with an affectionate smile. "It certainly isn't, sweetheart."
Cecile shot a peek at her best friend. Mrs. McNeill's little bombshell had knocked Olivia out of her anxious mood. There seemed to be something to be grateful for.
"BECAUSE SOONER OR LATER, I THINK THE TWO OF YOU WILL END UP AS HUSBAND AND WIFE."
Cecile's words reverberated inside Cole's head, over and over again. The New Orleans woman had predicted future matrimony for the half-daemon. Only not with Olivia. According to Cecile, he would eventually marry Idril - one of the great mistakes of his life. And he could not simply fathom such a thing happening.
Cole leaned back into his leather chair and sighed. Perhaps Cecile's vision might prove to be false. He fervently hoped so. The last thing he wanted to do was marry a shallow bitch like Idril, who would bore him silly after thirty minutes in her company.
The intercom on his desk buzzed. Cole snapped out of his reverie and answered. "Yes?"
"You have a visitor, Mr. Turner," his assistant, Elinor, replied. "A new client. He had made an appointment, earlier this morning. A Mr. Gary . . ."
Cole finished, ". . . Whalen. Oh yeah. I remember. Send him in."
A minute later, Elinor ushered in a blond man just barely under six feet tall, with blue eyes. He held out his hand. "Mr. Turner? How do you do? I'm Gary Whalen." The man spoke with a slight Southern accent.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Whalen." Cole shook his guest's hand. "Would you like some coffee? Or water?"
Cole said to his assistant, "Thank you, Elinor." Once she had closed the door behind her, the half-daemon turned to his guest. "So, what can I do for you, Mr. Whalen?"
The blond man cleared his throat nervously. "I . . . uh, I need an attorney," he declared. Then he paused. "I'm looking for a new attorney, that is." He ended his last sentence with a firm nod.
Cole regarded the other man through narrowed eyes. "Is there something wrong, Mr. Whalen? You seem nervous."
"I guess I am," Mr. Whalen said with an uneasy chuckle. "You see, I'm . . . interested in drafting a new will."
One of Cole's dark brows formed an arch. "A new will?"
Whalen hesitated. Then, "My former attorney . . . He, uh . . . was killed by a hit-and-run driver before he could draft a new will for me. And his death, quite frankly, has made me more aware of my own mortality."
"Your accent," Cole continued. "You don't sound like a Californian. Where are you originally from?"
Mr. Whalen gave a slight smile. "Um . . . Richmond. I've lived in San Francisco for the past four years."
Nodding, Cole said, "I see. Now, before we commence upon drafting your will, we need to sign you up as one of the firm's new clients." He strode toward one of the beige filing cabinets and opened one drawer. "This is basically a standard contract. It will remain in effect as long as you remain a client of Jackson, Carter and Kline." Cole removed a blank contract. "I'll have my assistant type it up, so that you can . . ."
Cole turned around. A bright, turquoise-blue stone gleamed in his eyes. And then his mind went blank.
Ensnaring the infamous half-daemon proved to be easier than Gary had imagined. Perhaps those rumors about Belthazor's encounter with Barbas had been correct. The warlock took a deep breath and continued:
"With this stone will soon be linked,
Your mind to mine, shall finally . . ."
A sharp knock on the door interrupted the spell. Gary muttered a quick oath under his breath. Then he said to Belthazor, "Forget the last minute or two. Continue explaining about the contract."
The half-daemon's blue eyes blinked momentarily. Then he finished his last sentence. ". . . sign it."
At that moment, the door burst open. Two men entered the office. "Hey there, buddy! Ready for lunch?" The tall, black man stopped short at the sight of Gary standing near Belthazor. "Oh, sorry man. Didn't realize that you were alone."
Belthazor paused, as if confused about something. Fortunately, his confusion barely lasted a second. "Uh, it's lunch, already?" He stared at the newcomers. "Where's Elinor? Wasn't she out there?"
The other man, who was a white man with dark-brown hair replied, "She wasn't there." His blue-gray eyes fell upon Gary. "Hello."
"Oh yeah. Uh, Bruce," Belthazor began, "this is my new client, Gary Whalen. Well, a prospective client. Mr. Whalen, I'd like to introduce you to my future brother-in-law, Bruce McNeill and a very close friend, Andre Morrell."
It took all of Gary's efforts not to gape at the black man. He had heard of Andre Morrell. An infamous bokor from the Anasi Order. "Oh, uh . . . hi." Gary smiled uneasily at the two men. He realized that he needed to get out. Fast. "Well, I better get going." He started toward the door.
Belthazor frowned. "What about the new contract? And your will? Do you still plan to join our firm?"
"Oh! Of course. Uh . . ." Gary deliberately drifted toward the door. ". . . I'll get back with you, later. Your friends just reminded me that I have a lunch date." He nodded at the three men. "Nice meeting you all." And he quickly made his escape.
Andre regarded the closed door with thoughtful eyes. "That is one strange dude," he commented.
"Huh?" Bruce asked. "What do you mean?"
"Cole's new client. I've never seen anyone - normal that it - move with the speed of light, like that. Strange thing is," Andre paused, "he didn't seem to be much in a hurry, when we first got here."
Cole shook his head and smiled. "I think you had scared him off. He, uh . . . had some private business to attend to. A will." Then he frowned at the other two men. "By the way, what are you two doing here?"
"Bruce and I had decided to take you to lunch," Andre explained. "Help get you out of any funk you might be feeling."
Rolling his eyes, Cole retorted lightly, "Well, you're wasting your time. I'm not in a bad mood."
Andre grunted. "You could have fooled me, last night. And this morning, before you left. Considering how Olivia had reacted to Cecile's little bombshell."
"I'm not upset." Cole insisted in a hard voice.
Bruce shook his head. "That's one hell of a vision that Andre had told me about. Was Cecile referring to that daemon you used to date? The one who had appeared at your engagement party, in the Melora dimension? And who used to be in the movies as Diane Hayward?"
Cole sighed. Long and hard. "You mean, Idril. One of the few mistakes in my life."
"If you feel that way about her, why would you want to marry her?"
The half-daemon rolled his eyes and retorted, "What makes you think that I would ever marry someone like Idril? Cecile's vision must be a mistake. I just can't . . . The idea of marrying Idril makes me ill. Literally."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Andre said. "I remember her from that trip we had made to the Bahamas, early in '99. Before I had even met Cecile and Olivia. Never understood what you saw in her. She seemed pretty sharp, but . . . just didn't seem your type." He paused momentarily. "Come to think of it, I'm trying to understand why you became involved with Phoebe. Especially after meeting her."
Cole shot back, "What? You're now questioning my taste in women?"
"I have to admit that Andre has a point about Phoebe," Bruce added. "I mean - yeah, she has an outgoing personality that would probably attract someone like you." Cole stared at the witch, as he continued, "But when Leo had first told us about you two, I was surprised that you didn't hook up with Prue. She seemed like more your type. You know, more sophisticated and mature. Then again, maybe Prue was too much your type. You two seemed a little too similar in your natures, despite you being a daemon, and her a witch. As for Phoebe . . . well, sometimes she seems smart and on the ball. And other times, she reminds me of a female Peter Pan. Or a child bride. You know what I mean?"
Cole knew exactly what Bruce meant. One of his former clients - the late DeWolfe Mann of the BAY-MIRROR - had said the very same thing, last spring. The half-daemon began to wonder if his relationship with Phoebe had been doomed from the start. And what about Olivia? She had Phoebe's extroverted nature, but Prue's maturity. Did Cecile's vision meant that he would never find happiness with her, as well?
"For two people who came here to cheer me up," Cole grumbled, "you're doing a piss poor job of it. Now I'm really beginning to question my taste in women."
With a smile, Andre said, "Well, you've hit the jackpot with Olivia. That's saying something. Right Bruce?"
His gray eyes twinkling, Bruce solemnly replied, "I refuse to answer on the grounds of possibly being accused of favoritism."
Cole sighed, as he led the other two men out of the office. He could only hope that Olivia felt the same about him.
Inside a small suite at the St. Regis Hotel, an impatient Idril faced Gary Wheeler. "Where's Belthazor? Why isn't he here?"
Wheeler sighed. "Because we were interrupted before I could finish the spell."
"And that stopped you?" Idril rolled her eyes in contempt. "Why didn't you just deal with them and continue the spell?"
Keeping his annoyance in check, Wheeler shot back, "Because we were interrupted by one of Belthazor's future brothers-in-law . . . and Andre Morrell. I wasn't about to go toe-to-toe with a powerful witch and a powerful Voodoo priest."
Idril's stomach tightened. "Morrell? Andre Morrell? From the Anasi Order? I've met him once. Nearly five years ago." Realizing that the warlock had good reason to abort the spell, disappointment settled within her. "Okay," she added, "I guess you'll have to set up another appointment. Maybe you can see him, later this afternoon."
Wheeler shook his head. "Sorry, but he'll be busy. I was lucky enough to see him this morning. Besides," the warlock paused, "why don't you do the spell?"
The demoness snapped, "Because I would have to get close to him! And I can't. Or have you forgotten? It means you'll have to make . . . another . . . appointment!"
"I tried!" Wheeler sighed, as he plopped down on the sofa. "I just called his secretary. Or assistant. Apparently, Belthazor won't be available after today. Not until after the New Year."
Idril heaved an exasperated sigh. "Of all the . . ." She paused and then added, "All right! Then visit him at home. Tonight." She shook her head in frustration. "This is getting out of hand."
"Then why don't you call it off?" Wheeler suggested. Idril glared at him. "Or not."
Still glaring, the demoness added, "You'll visit Belthazor's apartment, tonight. The McNeill woman should be at her parents' home. Make sure that you're alone and use the stone. Once the spell is completed . . ."
"Yeah, I know," Wheeler said, interrupting. "Bring him here." He sighed. "I only hope that nothing goes wrong."
"It better not." The veiled threat hung heavily in the air. Just as Idril had intended.
END OF CHAPTER FIVE