Tuesday, October 3, 2017
"Double Enmity" (R) - Chapter 5
It was a groggy witch that stumbled toward the Turners' penthouse balcony, the following morning. Olivia slid the glass door open and inhaled deeply.The cool, muggy air indicated that San Francisco might experience some rain before the day ended. Not that it mattered to Olivia. She looked forward to the rain and right now, all that mattered to her was the fresh air entering the penthouse. Anything to dispel the lack of sleep that had plagued her the moment she had awaken from her nightmare.
Or had it been a nightmare? Although not a gifted seer like Cecile or Phoebe, Olivia had previously experienced at least three prophetic dreams in her lifetime. All had occurred during the last four years of her life. The last dream had occurred the night before Richard and Aunt Rhiannon's deaths. It seemed odd that she would dream of two complete strangers having sex before the woman's murder of her partner. Were they somehow connected to her?
"You're up already?" another voice asked.
Olivia whirled around and found Cole approaching the balcony. His haggard eyes and pale face told her that he must be as exhausted as she felt. "I've been up for the past hour or two," Olivia said with a sigh.
Cole stopped beside Olivia. "It's almost a quarter to six. You've been up since . . . what? Three-thirty? Four?"
"Probably since three-thirty or so," Olivia added. She cleared her throat. "I had a nightmare. Something I haven't had since Richard's death. And Aunt Rhiannon's." She glanced at Cole's haggard face. "If I didn't know any better, I would say the same about you."
Cole let out a gust of breath. "Yeah, I did. About someone I haven't seen in months. At least not since last summer. He was . . . I mean, he's a daemon. From the Gimle Order. I think your brothers and Barbara had met him, while we were on our honeymoon."
An awful thought came to Olivia. "Wait a minute. Are we speaking of the same guy? Pale blond hair, pale green eyes, hawk like features and slender in built?"
"That's him. Cirhan" Cole paused ominously. "He's one of the Gimle Order's top operatives." His eyes narrowed suspiciously. "You had a dream about this guy?"
Olivia nodded. "Yeah. He was having . . . I mean . . ."
Cole continued, "He was having sex with some redhead. Who eventually murdered him by . . ."
". . . crushing his heart with telekinesis," Olivia finished with a shudder. "How awful! Even worse, I've killed at least two daemons in that manner. But I've never viewed it from the victim's point of view. Ugh!" She asked her husband, "Do you think that this Cirhan has actually been murdered?"
A sigh left Cole's mouth. "I hope not. But I'll check with . . ."
The doorbell rang. Husband and wife exchanged surprised looks. Who would be visiting them around this time of the day? Both returned inside the penthouse and Cole opened the door. The visitor turned out to be Cole's uncle. The older daemon wore a grim expression. "Belthazor, Olivia," he greeted. He entered the penthouse. "I hate to interrupt your morning, but I need help. It seems that one of the Order's operatives might be dead. Killed here in San Francisco."
Again, Olivia and Cole exchanged looks before they answered at the same time, "Cirhan."
Surprise replaced the grim expression on Marbus' face. "How did you know? We just found out this morning. A seer with our Order had a vision of Cirhan's death. I found his remains inside his flat, just a few minutes ago."
Cole guided his uncle toward the living room sofa. "Your seer wasn't the only one who had a vision of his death. Both Olivia and I also had visions. In our dreams."
"You and Olivia had both dreamed of Cirhan's death . . . at the same?" Disbelief rang in Marbus' voice. "Bloody hell! Has this ever happen to you before?"
"Not exactly," Cole replied wryly.
Olivia asked, "What was Cirhan doing in San Francisco?"
"I . . ." A pained expression appeared on Marbus' face. "The Gimle Council had assigned him to seek employment with the Magan Corporation . . . and spy on them. Cirhan had informed me that he had some evidence to show me. He had already given me a photograph of these two visitors at the office. As for the other material . . ." He sighed. "Well, someone was at the door. I didn't have time to thoroughly search his flat."
"I'll do it," Olivia said. "I'll just pop over there on my way to work." The two men stared at her. "It should be no problem. Trust me."
Cole, who stood behind Olivia, asked, "What photograph did Cirhan send you?"
Marbus handed Cole a photograph of Cedric Lloyd with two men. Olivia peered at the photograph. It consisted of three men, who stood beneath a sign that stretched across the wall. It read - MAGAN CORPORATION. "He had taken that photograph about three days ago. I only recognized the attorney. As for the other two men . . ."
Cole chuckled mirthlessly. "I know those two. Robert Prima and Marc Jaeger of the Napa Valley Housing Corporation. So, they do have connections with the Magan Corporation. Interesting. This little photograph is going to come quite in handy."
The other members of the McNeill family gathered inside the manor's dining-room for their usual morning breakfast. The patriarch, Jack McNeill, had left the room to answer a telephone call. Gweneth McNeill turned to her only daughter-in-law and asked, "Barbara, how are you feeling? Are you still . . .?"
"Having fainting spells?" Barbara finished. She shook her head. "No. Dr. Palin told me to go home and drink some camomile tea to make me relax. Which helped, because I've been feeling pretty good since yesterday evening."
"Do you know why you had fainted in the first place?" Harry asked. "Did Dr. Palin tell you . . .?"
Barbara shook her head. "Not yet. She said that she would give me a call." The McNeills continued to regard her with concerned eyes. "Hey! I'm fine. Really. Perhaps I've been a little overworked . . . lately."
Bruce muttered, "More like the past two months or so." Barbara glared at her husband, who bore a strong resemblance to his father. He assumed an innocent air. "What?"
"What did you mean by that?"
"C'mon Barbara! You've pretty much been on edge since the Winter Solstice," Bruce protested.
Barbara continued to glare at her husband. "If you're referring to that incident with Paige . . ."
Jack McNeill entered the dining-room with a frown stamped on his face. "I've just received a phone call from Olivia. Apparently, a Gimle Order daemon had been killed last night."
Bruce shrugged his shoulders. "Why is Livy so concerned about this particular daemon?"
"Because apparently you know him." Jack sat down in his usual chair. "Someone named Cirhan." Barbara gasped at her father-in-law's mention of the familiar name. "Wasn't he that daemon you and the Halliwells helped track down that sword before the New Year?"
Shock appeared on Bruce and Harry's faces. Barbara knew exactly how they felt. She had liked the fair-haired daemon. "How . . ." She hesitated. "Uh . . . who killed him?"
"Must be someone here in San Francisco," Harry replied. Barbara and the other family members stared at him. He revealed that Cirhan had been assigned to spy upon the Magan Corporation for the Gimle Order. "Piper and Phoebe had spotted him at P3, last night. Paige and I found out, when they returned home."
Barbara's father-in-law included that Olivia and Cole had learned of Cirhan's death from Marbus, Cole's uncle. The young daemon's charred remains had been found on his bed. "According to Livy, Marbus is in the dark about how someone managed to get so close to Cirhan. I mean, the poor bastard had been killed in his bed."
"Perhaps it was his date," Harry added. "Piper and Phoebe saw him leave the club with some redhead. I wonder if she was a daemon."
The family's matriarch, Elise McNeill, expressed doubt. "I don't know. Considering the amount of time Cirhan may have spent with her, don't you think he would have sensed she was one?" Everyone, including Barbara, stared at her. "What? It's possible, isn't it?"
Barbara pondered her grandmother-in-law's words. A mortal killing a smart, upper-level daemon like Cirhan? Perhaps if that mortal had been a wizard. Or a warlock. Or perhaps even a McNeill.
A loud groan drew the two younger Charmed Ones' attention to the kitchen doorway. An exhausted-looking Piper stumbled into the kitchen and slowly made her way toward an empty chair. "Oh my God," she muttered. "I think I may have overslept. What time is it?"
Paige, who stood in front of the stove, glanced at the kitchen clock. "It's almost seven forty-five. You overslept." She stirred the oatmeal bubbling inside a boiler on the stove.
"I guess I did. I better . . ." Piper's eyes grew wide at the sight of Paige. "Are you cooking something?"
Phoebe replied, "Oatmeal. You were still asleep, so Paige started on breakfast." The oldest sister began to rise from her chair. "C'mon Piper! Sit down. It's not as if Paige has never cooked before." Paige allowed herself a private smile.
"Yeah. I know." Piper – reluctantly – returned to her seat.
The telephone rang. Paige abandoned the oatmeal in order to answer it. The caller turned out to be her boyfriend. "Hey! Harry! Did you forget something, last night?"
"Actually, I have some news that I think your sisters might find interesting," Harry's voice replied. He told her about the death of Cirhan. Surprised, Paige gasped out loud. "From what Dad told us, Olivia is going to check out his apartment. Oh, and . . . I might be free for lunch, today. Suppose I pick you up around twelve-thirty?"
Still disturbed by the news of Cirhan's death, Paige muttered, "Yeah, that would be great. See ya." She hung up and turned to face her sisters. "That was Harry."
A sardonic Piper replied, "We pretty much figured that out."
Paige ignored her sister's caustic remark and continued, "The McNeills just found out from Olivia, who found out from Mar . . ."
"Paige!" Phoebe heaved a sigh. "Sorry. Go on."
Phoebe frowned. "Who?"
"Cirhan. According to Harry, some Gimle Order seer had a vision of his death." Paige slowly returned to the stove and turned it off. "Marbus had found Cirhan's remains – a pile of ash, by the way – on his bed. He's dead."
"What?" Piper's exhaustion disappeared. "When did this . . . how?"
Phoebe grimly added, "I bet it was that redhead he was dancing with. Why couldn't I have foreseen his death?"
Piper shook her head. "You never touched him, Pheebs. Or anything that had belonged to him. My God! They must have found out he was a spy!"
Blue lights materialized into Chris. The young whitelighter greeted, "Hey guys! Good, you're all here. I want to talk to you about . . ."
"Not now, Chris," Piper said curtly, interrupting. "The Elders can wait. Unless . . ." She gave Chris a shrewd look. "Has this something to do with Cirhan?"
Chris blinked. "Who?"
"Cirhan!" Paige retorted. "Oh God! You mean to say that you don't remember him? The Gimle demon that we had helped to get back that Sword of Haldane?"
Vague realization gleamed in Chris' eyes. Paige suspected that he barely remembered Cirhan. "To tell you the truth, I only met him once. So . . ."
"What do you want, Chris?" Piper demanded. "Is there some demon that the Elders want vanquished?"
Chris shook his head. "No, this is something personal."
Piper shot back, "Well, since it's personal, it can wait until later. Right now, I have an appointment regarding a new liquor license." She glanced at her watch. "Oh God! I have at least an hour to get ready!"
"I can give you a lift," Paige suggested. "The fast way."
Piper struggled to her feet. "I suppose that'll have to do." She turned to Chris. "Listen, why don't you talk to Leo about your problem, when you deliver Wyatt to him?"
A mild hint of distaste flickered in Chris' eyes at the mention of his predecessor's name. "Actually, I'd rather talk to you."
"Why don't you listen, Piper?" Phoebe said out of the blue.
Both Paige and Piper stared at the middle Charmed One. "Why?" the latter demanded.
"I . . ." Phoebe began. She shot a helpless look at Chris, who directed his gaze away from her. Much to Paige's surprise. Phoebe mumbled, "Never mind."
Paige demanded, "Is there something that you two know that we don't?"
Chris sighed. "I've gotta go. Is Wyatt upstairs?"
"Yeah," Piper said. Chris orbed out of the kitchen.
Piper and Paige redirected their gaze at Phoebe. "What was that about?" Piper demanded.
Phoebe avoided their gaze. Instead, she pushed aside her half-empty bowl of oatmeal and stood up. "I don't know. Chris had told me that he wanted to speak to you about something. He didn't exactly go into details about it. I'm running late. See you two later."
"Wait a minute! Phoebe!" Piper cried. The middle sister paused at the door. Piper hesitated before she continued, "Do yourself a favor. Don't go running to Cole about Holly McMillan, okay? Remember . . . you're no longer married to him."
Phoebe grumbled, "Yeah . . . right. See you." She left the kitchen.
Her eyes still glued to the doorway, Paige said. "She's going to do it, isn't she? See Cole about that woman."
A hard sigh left Piper's mouth. "I'm afraid so. That's our Phoebe."
The front door to Artemus' Palo Alto home swung open. The red-haired warlock greeted the pale-faced Prax with a bright smile. "Good morning, Prax," Olivia greeted. "As you can see I'm right on time. Eight o'clock sharp."
The daemon glared at her. "Miss McNeill. Please follow me. Artemus is expecting you." Instead of leading her to the red drawing-room or Artemus' study, Prax led Olivia to a spacious dining room filled with elegant 18th century furnishings. They found the chestnut-haired daemon eating breakfast.
Artemus glanced up from his meal and beamed at the newcomer. "Well, well! Look who's here! Congratulations, Miss McNeill. Have a seat."
Olivia sat in the chair closest to Artemus' right side. She glanced at his plate. "Hmmm. The omlet and bacon looks delicious."
"Would like some breakfast?" the daemon asked politely.
"I've already eaten, thanks." Olivia paused, as Artemus continued to eat. "Now that I'm here . . ."
Artemus wiped his mouth with an expensive napkin and regarded Olivia through narrowed eyes. "You know, Miss McNeill, Prax should have told you that I dislike being dictated by others . . . especially some young warlock who has the nerve to tell me when we're supposed to meet," he coldly remarked.
Despite the daemon's chilly demeanor, Olivia responded with an amused smile. "I see. You like being in control, but not under the control of others. It's only natural. Most beings feel the same." Her smile disappeared. "Including me. I didn't exactly relish being used as your personal assassin. Especially against my will."
It became Artemus' turn to smile. "Well, now that we finally understand one another, may I convey my congratulations for the manner in which you had disposed that spy? Death by heart failure. How unique."
Olivia gave her host a hard stare. "How did you know that I had crushed . . ." She paused, as a suspicion came to her. "You had me followed!"
"Actually, I had Cirhan followed," Artemus explained. "By a daemon who can literally make himself invisible. He had a cousin in the Thorn Order. I believe that she knew Belthazor. Her name was Klea."
"I know her," Olivia replied, recalling the tall demoness whose human form resembled a woman of Asian descent. "She is still alive in my dimension."
"Her cousin Klymus had witnessed your little tête-à-tête with Cirhan. He did not realize who you were, until you had killed the poor bastard."
Annoyed that she had been observed by some Peeping Tom who happened to be a dameon, Olivia replied in a sharp voice, "Now that I've killed the poor bastard . . . my payment?"
Artemus nodded. "Of course." He removed a slip of paper from his jacket pocket. "Here is Belthazor's address."
Olivia glanced at the paper. "I know this address. It's in the Pacific Heights neighborhood." She stared at Artemus. "The penthouse?"
"It had originally belonged to the law firm that Belthazor now works for," the daemon explained. "I believe he had purchased it for himself, six months ago. I think you should know that you might find it difficult to get inside. Belthazor's penthouse is practically a magical fortress. It's warded."
Chuckling softly, Olivia said, "There are ways to break into someone's home that don't require magic." She stood up. "Time for me to leave. Thank you for your help."
"If you require further help, just call," Artemus added. "I will send Klymus to help you."
The idea of working with her demonic Peeping Tom did not appeal to Olivia. "Thanks, but no thanks. I'm certain that I won't require the extra muscle. Getting inside the penthouse should not be a problem. Especially with Cole and my doppelganger at work."
Artemus shrugged his shoulders. "If you say so. But," he whipped out a business card and held it out. "Just in case you need the extra help."
A sigh fell from Olivia's lips. "All right. Just in case." She took the card. "Again, thanks for the help." She started toward the door.
The daemon's voice rang in her ears as she strode toward the dining-room's doorway. "Anytime, Miss McNeill. Anytime."
END OF CHAPTER 5