Saturday, November 2, 2013
"Torn Duties" [PG] - 2/6
The following morning, a very anxious Paige reported to Ostera's for work. She found Maddy placing jars of herbs on one of the shelves near the door. Barbara, on the other hand, was no where to be found. Paige quietly approached the younger woman. "Hey Maddy. Is Barbara in, yet?"
Maddy gave Paige a tentative smile. "Uh, yeah. She's in the storeroom."
Which meant that Paige would have no time to prepare facing her employer. After a long pause, she asked a second question. "Um, how is she? I mean . . . is she still pissed? About yesterday?"
"She seemed pretty cool." Knowing Maddy's knack for vague replies, Paige realized that the other witch's answers could span a variety of meanings. Maddy continued, "Barbara also told me that you need to set up a display for that shipment of books on Herbal Medicine. The box is near the front door. She thinks it should take you most of the morning."
Paige suspected that Barbara meant to keep her busy enough to avoid any conversation between employer and employee. At least for a few hours. "Okay," the Charmed One said with a sigh, "where are the books?"
During her lunch hour, Paige had joined her sisters for a little bit of sleuthing. The Charmed Ones stood across the street from the same auction house that Paige, Piper and Chris had visited, yesterday. "Why are we here?" Phoebe demanded.
"The sword might still be here," Piper commented. "Unless it's been handed over to some private collector."
With a sigh, Phoebe repeated, "And I say again . . . why are we here? If the sword is gone . . ."
"It won't hurt to look around, Pheebs. Okay?" Piper retorted. "Besides, we don't know if the sword is gone."
The three sisters crossed Montgomery Street and made their way toward an alley next to the auction house. They linked hands and Paige orbed them to a deserted corridor, inside the building. "Okay," she said. "All we have to do is find the room where all of the stuff is usually held."
"The items," Phoebe corrected. The other two stared at her. "Hey, I had worked at Bucklands, once. Remember?"
Piper grumbled, "For one day."
The three sisters made their way along the corridor. It did not take them long to stumble across a room filled with antiquities - furniture, statues, statuettes, paintings, jewelry and even chandeliers. "Whew!" Paige exclaimed. "I bet Olivia would love to get her hands on some of this stuff. For her new shop."
"She bought that place last August," Piper said. "When is she going to re-open it?"
Paige explained, "The contractors have already finished refurbishing the building. And she needs to hire at least two employees. So hopefully, everything will be ready by early February."
"Can we please focus on more important matters?" Phoebe complained. "Like the sword?"
After searching the room for a few minutes, the sisters came up empty. "No sword," moaned a disappointed Paige. "Maybe it has already changed hands."
"I had figured as much," Piper said. "I think it's time we find ourselves a snitch. With a little persuasion, maybe he . . . or she will tell us who now has the sword."
Paige asked, "What kind of persuasion are you talking about?"
With a smile, Phoebe explained, "The crystals, of course. Piper has set a little trap. All we have to do is find ourselves a victim."
"Okay," Paige said, "but we have to do this in another thirty-three minutes. Or I might find myself without a job."
The Charmed Ones left the stockroom and made their way through the building. Thanks to Piper's freezing power, they managed to avoid detection by a few demonic employees. The trio finally came upon a solitary figure inside one office, levitating a bright lamp. "Bingo!" Piper whispered. "We've found our snitch."
Phoebe took a deep breath. "Paige, get ready to orb us all back to the manor."
"Huh?" Paige replied.
Piper hissed, "Phoebe, I'll take care . . ."
But the middle Charmed One had not heard. She strode inside the room and tapped the man's shoulder. "Excuse me."
The man turned around and his eyes grew wide at the sight of Phoebe. "Uh, who are . . .?" Before he could finish, the middle Halliwell knocked him down with a roundhouse kick.
Piper and Paige quickly joined their sister and the demon. "I was about to freeze him," the oldest sister grumbled at Phoebe. Then Paige orbed all four back to the manor.
Cirhan came to the conclusion that the only way to find Ulmund's missing sword was to learn how it had disappeared in the first place. With that in mind, he teleported to the Council member's mortal home, outside Antwerp. A few minutes later, Ulmund's housekeeper led him to a large greenhouse, several yards from the manor house. They found the senior daemon tending to some roses.
"Good evening Ulmund," Cirhan greeted quietly.
The other daemon whirled around. Hope illuminated in his eyes. "Cirhan! Have you found the sword, yet?"
Cirhan replied in a tone filled with regret, "I'm afraid not." Ulmund's hopeful expression dimmed. Cirhan continued, "Actually, I'm here for some information. For instance, how did your sword disappear in the first place?"
An outraged looking Ulmund exclaimed, "It was stolen, of course! From my study. Some thief had broken into my home . . ."
"Don't you have a protection ward surrounding your house?"
Ulmund sighed heavily. "Yes. Against all magical intruders. Well . . . those deemed morally questionable."
With a nod, Cirhan added, "So, it's possible that someone inside your house may have stolen the sword?"
Ulmund frowned. "What are you saying? That someone I know may have stolen the sword?"
"Yes." Cirhan hesitated. "No magical creature cannot teleport into the house. And if the thief had been a mortal, other valuable items would have ended up missing. But only the sword was taken . . . and from a house warded against magical intruders."
The older daemon's face turned pale. "In Camuel's name! In other words, the theft may have been a . . . what do the mortals call it?"
Sighing, Cirhan said, "An inside job." He paused. "Is there anyone in your household missing?"
Ulmund shook his head. "No. Everyone is here."
"What about your apprentices?"
According to Ulmund, his senior apprentice, a daemon named Kolchun, had been staying at the former's home. Mira Novak, a wizard, happened to be on vacation in Paris. And his third apprentice, a young human-daemon hybrid named Beatrice Cuomo was at her home in Milan.
"Could you summon Kolchun for me?" Cirhan asked. "So that he can contact your other two apprentices?
Ulmund did as the young daemon asked. Seconds later, a tall, dark-skinned daemon with pale gray eyes and a shaved head strode into the greenhouse. "You summoned me, Ulmund?"
The older daemon shot a quick glance at Cirhan. "Yes. Um Kolchun, would you please contact Mira and Beatrice for me? I have a special project I need to discuss, tomorrow morning."
Kolchun stared at Ulmund. "Including Mira? She's on vaction."
Kolchun retrieved a cell phone from his jacket and dialed a number. "Hello? Beatrice? Yes, it's me, Kolchun. Ulmund wants to make sure that you'll be here, tomorrow morning. He has a special project in mind." He paused. "Good. I'll see you, tomorrow." And he hung up. Frowning, he asked, "What was that about?"
"Please Kolchun," Ulmund insisted. "Call Mira."
With a sigh on his lips, Kolchun did as Ulmund asked. Over a second passed before he disconnected his cell phone with a frown on his face. "That's odd. According to the operator, her number has been discontinued. I don't understand."
Cirhan said, "You said that she was on vacation."
Ulmund shook his head. "But I had specifically ordered to keep herself available for a possible emergency. Why would she disconnect her phone?"
"When did she start her vacation?" a grim-faced Cirhan demanded.
Ulmund replied, "Two days before the sword had been taken." Anxiety flashed in his eyes. "You don't think . . ."
"I suspect that your Miss Novak went on more than just a vacation. And with your sword," Cirhan replied in a hard voice.
"To this San Francisco?"
Cirhan shook his head. "I don't know. I don't even know if she's there or if she is genuinely responsible for the sword's disappearance. But it is odd that her cell telephone has been disconnected. And I do know that Loxias was expecting to receive the sword at his auction house in San Francisco . . . and didn't." He turned to Kolchun. "Are there any aliases that Miss Novak use when she's in the mortal world?"
After a brief hesitation, Kolchun nodded. "There are two I know of. She sometimes uses them when dealing with other magical beings on Earth. Uh . . . why do you want to know?"
"If she is responsible for the sword's theft and is using one of the aliases, I might be able to find someone in San Francisco to help me track her," Cirhan replied.
Ulmund asked, "One of the Charmed Ones?"
"No," Cirhan said with a shake of his head. "Someone with a little more authority in the mortal world."
Inside the Halliwells' attic, Piper touched one of the crystals that formed a circle on the floor. Streams of electricity crackled from all of the crystals and into the figure inside the circle. The demon cried out in pain.
"We'll stop if you answer our questions," Piper calmly said. "The Haldane Sword! Where is it? Where can we find it?"
The demon cried, "I don't know!"
"Bullshit!" Paige exclaimed. "Where's the sword? It was supposed to be at that auction house. What happened to it? Did your boss sell it to a private buyer? Or did he keep it for himself?" She touched a crystal. Again, the demon screamed.
Phoebe stared at their demonic captive. "You know, maybe he's telling the truth. Maybe he doesn't know."
Piper asked, "Can you read his emotions?"
"Only pain and embarrassment."
"What about his boss?" Piper continued. "He might know about the sword." She regarded the demon with cold eyes. "Hey! Does your boss know where the sword is? Or is he . . . a she?"
Paige touched another crystal and sent more streams of electricity into the demon's body. "Hey pal! Answer us!" More screams filled the attic, as Paige again touched a crystal.
"That's not it," Darryl Morris murmured to his colleague. "Go down further."
The police lieutenant hovered near Scott Yi's left shoulder, while the latter perused an Internet site that propagandized white supremacy. "I haven't spotted the 'Contact' link," the younger police officer commented. "I'm not sure if it's on the site."
"There must be a name or an e-mail address. Or something." Darryl sighed. "It's our only way of finding out if Wells . . ."
A third voice interrupted. "Excuse me?" He spoke with a distinctive East Coast accent. Both Darryl and Scott turned around and found a slender, blond man with pale green eyes standing behind them. "Excuse me, but . . . do you know where I can find a Miss Olivia McNeill?"
"That would be Mrs. Olivia Turner," Darryl corrected. "And she's on her honeymoon. She just recently married."
The stranger smacked his forehead dramatically and growled, "Of course! How stupid of me! I had forgotten that Bel . . . I mean . . ." He paused and flashed an uneasy smile. "Ah, never mind. Thank you." He started to turn away.
Darryl almost allowed the man to leave. Until he realized that the stranger had nearly spoken a familiar name. "Wait a minute!" The man paused. "Do you know someone named Cole Turner?"
"Yes!" The man's green eyes lit up. "Yes, you . . ." He frowned. "You must know that he's a . . ."
Darryl spoke before the man could finish his sentence. "Yeah, I do. So does Inspector Yi, here. And we both know Mr. Turner's wife very well."
"May we help you with something?" Scott asked politely. "Believe me, I'm more than qualified to help."
A bright smile stretched across the man's face. "I believe I might require your help, after all."
"Hi Darryl! Scott!" Bruce McNeill greeted cheerfully, as he and Barbara breezed into the squad room. "We had just finished lunch and thought we stop by to drop this off." He handed a jar of white sauce over to Darryl. "It's that White Madiera Sauce that Sheila wanted."
The police lieutenant placed the jar on his desk. "Uh guys," he began. "This is, uh . . ." He regarded the stranger with a frown. "I'm sorry, but I don't know your name."
"My name is . . ." He paused as his eyes warily fell upon Bruce and Barbara. ". . . um, Lawrence. My name is Lawrence. McDargh."
Scott added, "He's an acquaintance of Cole's."
The McNeill couple stared at the man - or demon. Bruce's eyes narrowed. "Are you a . . . daemon, by any chance?"
The demon hesitated. "Uh . . . well . . ."
Rolling his eyes, Scott said, "This is Bruce and Barbara McNeill. They are the brother and sister-in-law of Olivia."
Relief flooded the demon's eyes. "Yes! Of course! My name . . . my real name is Cirhan. I'm with the Gimle Order. And I'm acquainted with Bel . . . I mean, Mr. Turner's uncle."
"Marbus," Bruce said with a nod.
Cirhan continued, "He had suggested that I get in contact with you. Or your sister. I need her help in finding someone. Who might be here in San Francisco."
Scott said, "I think that Darryl and I might be able to help you on this."
"I'd love to join you guys, but I have a business to run." Barbara pecked her husband's cheek. "See you later. I'll catch a bus or the trolley. And nice meeting you, Cirhan," she said to the demon with a nod and immediately left.
Heaving an inward sigh, Darryl added, "Why don't we go to somewhere private? Like one of the interrogation rooms. Okay?" After shooting a long-suffering glance at Scott, he led the others to a more private room.
Fifteen minutes had passed and the demon had not revealed anything about the Haldane sword. "Maybe we should use a truth spell," Phoebe suggested. "We might get an answer a lot quicker."
Paige seemed receptive to Phoebe's suggestion. "Great idea!"
"Wait a minute!" the demon cried. "There's no need for a truth spell!"
Piper regarded the demon with disbelief. "You would rather endure the pain than be under a truth spell? Why?"
"So that he doesn't tell us more than we want to know," Phoebe shrewdly guessed. "Maybe we 'should'use it."
A sigh left Paige's mouth. "Fine." She marched toward the stand that held the Book of Shadows and opened the latter. "Let's see . . . truth spell."
"You don't have to use it!" To Phoebe's surprise, the demon looked desperate. "I'll tell you everything."
Piper began, "Like . . .?"
The demon sighed. "Okay. One, my boss doesn't have the Haldane Sword."
"Liar!" Paige declared. Again, she zapped the demon with the crystals.
"I'm telling the truth! We don't have the damn sword! We were double-crossed by the seller!"
Silence filled the air. Piper and Paige glanced at Phoebe, who shrugged. "Sorry," she said. "For some reason, I can't read his emotions."
Paige regarded the demon with cynical eyes. "Should have known you would lie," she commented dryly. "Demons! Always stabbing each other and anyone else in the back."
"Right! Like you humans are above such a thing!" the demon retorted. He rolled his eyes. "Spare me the bullshit. Please!" Then he cried out in pain, as Paige touched a crystal for the umpteenth time. "What the hell?"
Again, Paige zapped him. "Watch your mouth, asshole! There are ladies present." Phoebe stared at her younger sister and began to wonder if Paige might be slightly sadistic.
"What's the name of this double-crosser?" Piper demanded.
With smoke now pouring from his body, the demon croaked in a weakened voice, "Her name . . . is Mira."
Phoebe frowned. "Who?"
Another groan escaped from the demon's mouth. "Mira. Mira . . . Novak."
Paige returned to the Book of Shadows. "Mira Novak? You mean she's a mortal?"
While smoke continued to seep from his body, the demon struggled to open his mouth. "Sh-sh-she . . ."
"What?" Paige demanded. She knelt beside one of the crystals. "She what?"
"Sh. . . she's . . ."
An exasperated sigh escaped from the youngest Charmed One's mouth. "C'mon dude! She what?" Impatiently, Paige touched one of the crystals. Bolts of lightning crackled into the demon's body, until he finally exploded into a ball of light. Silently, the three sisters stared at the now empty circle. "Oooops!" Paige finally exclaimed.
"Paige!" Hands on hips, Piper glared at her youngest sister. "Now, what are we going to do?"
"Hey, I'm sorry! I thought that one last zap would get him to talk." Looking slightly rueful, Paige added, "How was I to know he was on the verge of a blowout?"
Phoebe sighed. "Well, at least we got a name. Mira Novak." She frowned. "Doesn't sound like a demon."
"Maybe she's a warlock?" Paige suggested.
Piper continued, "At least she's a mortal. Which means her name can be checked by Darryl. Or Scott."
"Scott Yi?" Phoebe glanced uneasily at the oldest sister. "The Chinese cop who works with Darryl? You two are becoming a bit close, aren't you? And what happened to Greg?"
"Greg is old news," Piper retorted lightly. "And Scott is just a friend. Nothing else."
Paige sharply intervened. "Guys! Let's get back on the subject." She glanced at her watch and her eyes widened in horror. "Shit! I better get back to work. I'm already running late."
Frowning, Piper asked, "You think that you'll get into trouble with Barbara?"
"I hope not. Fortunately, Barbara went to lunch with Bruce. Hopefully, she'll be late in getting back." She turned to Phoebe. "Do you think that the BAY-MIRROR might have something on this Mira Novak?"
Phoebe shook her head. "I haven't the foggiest. And I don't dare ask. As far as Elise and Jason are concerned, I'm still in Hong Kong. We can still check with Darryl."
Piper added, "And Scott."
"Whatever. Gotta go." Paige orbed out of the attic.
A sigh left Piper's mouth, drawing a stare from Phoebe. "Dammit!" the older sister exclaimed. "We should have asked for a lift to the police station."
Ten minutes earlier, Barbara finally returned to Ostera. The moment she entered the shop, she nearly halted in her tracks at the sight of Maddy helping a customer. "What the . . .?" she began, and stopped herself from exclaiming out loud. Once the customer left, Barbara approached her employee. "Shouldn't you be out to lunch by now?"
Maddy's eyes grew wide. Her mouth opened momentarily, until she simply nodded. "Yeah."
"When Paige gets back, send her to my office." Barbara walked away, before Maddy could say anything further.
Inside her office, Barbara sat behind her desk and leaned over to reboot her computer. The moment she managed to access her Microsoft Excel file on the store's inventory, Paige appeared in the doorway.
"Maddy told me that you wanted to see me," an anxious looking Paige said.
Barbara nodded. "Have you noticed the time?"
A heavy sigh escaped from Paige's mouth. "Look Barbara, I know that I'm a bit late in getting . . ."
Barbara coolly glanced up. "Paige, you're a half hour late. Because of you, Maddy will have to start lunch, thirty minutes later than usual. Yesterday, it was an hour."
"There was this emergency," Paige continued. "My sisters and I had caught this demon and . . ."
"You're still looking for the sword, right?" Barbara leaned back into her chair. "I suspect that someone else is also looking for the sword. Another daemon."
Paige's expression turned serious. "Who is this demon?" she demanded.
Staring coldly into the younger woman's eyes, Barbara commented, "I think you should be more concerned with your job at this moment, than some magical sword."
Averting her eyes away from Barbara, Paige began, "Barbara . . ."
"I'm letting you know right now," the blond witch said, interrupting, "that your next paycheck will be a little less than usual. I'm docking your pay by at least a half hour."
Barbara's eyes now bored into the younger woman's. "Don't tell me that you're complaining. I had warned you."
"But . . ."
"Be thankful that I'm not firing you, Paige." Barbara paused. "That will happen the next time you're missing from the shop without a good reason."
Paige's mouth formed a grim line. "Yeah. Okay."
"You're dismissed." Once the Charmed One left the office, Barbara sighed. She wondered if she had gone too far with Paige. Then again, if the younger woman does not get her act together, Barbara feared that she might have to find a new shop assistant.
END OF PART TWO