Charmed Role Reversal



The Great Art Caper

K elly Anderson straigthened the collar on Stuart's French blue shirt.

"Are you trying to make me look good?" he asked.

"You always look good to me," Kelly replied. The young witch moved her hands from his collar down to his shoulders, drew him closer and kissed him. Stuart put his hands around her back and tightly embraced her.

A few days earlier, Kelly's spell had restored Stuart Weston's memories of the alternate reality in which he and Kelly had lived for two years. Memories of their being together that whole time, as they had fallen in love, and of their engagement and planned marriage, before their unexpected return to this reality. It had taken Stuart a while to absorb the memories, to come to the point where he was no longer examining each memory as something new but rather had the memories tucked away where memories belong.

Just shy of five foot nine, her blond hair often tied in a ponytail, with a fair complexion and medium‑boned, Kelly was a lovely girl, with a bright, softly oval face that showed there was more to her than just her surface beauty. Being in love with her, Stuart had moved out of the Halliwell Manor, where he had been living since he and the Halliwells became part of the Charmed modified world, and in with Kelly. While Kelly's home here was not as classy as the one she had in the Marina District, the one she and Stuart had shared, in the other reality, it was still a solid, middle class house on Russian Hill.

Living with the Halliwells, Stuart had not needed independent income. Prue Halliwell's job at 415 Magazine and Piper Halliwell's P3 club were sufficient for the household, of which he, along with third sister Phoebe, had been a part. But now that he and Kelly were living together on their own, they needed income. Kelly had graduated two months earlier from the University of San Francisco with a degree in Business Analytics. While in school, she had been working an un‑related part‑time job.

After graduation, while still in this reality, she had started the arduos process of searching and applying for jobs in the field of her degree. But after two years in the alternate reality in which she had worked as an art historian, first as Assistant Curator and later as Associate Curator at a museum, she wanted to continue working in that field. Both because she had come to enjoy it more than analytics and because with her experience, she felt she could get a job at a higher position than as a "beginner" in the field of her degree.

But as that degree was not connected to art history, no one would even give her an interview. Prue finally persuaded 415's art critic to do her a favor. While he wouldn't recommend Kelly for a job, he agreed to use his influence to get her an interview.

The Museum Curator who reluctantly agreed to give the interview, which she believed to be a waste of her time, was stunned at Kelly's knowledge and expertise. It took her a few minutes to fully comprehend that Kelly had the requisite qualifications for the job without having the "requisite paper". She then hired her on the spot for the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, the same museum in which Kelly had worked in the alternate reality.

With the museum scheduled to close at the end of the year ‑ it's building and tower had been irreparably damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and were being torn down and replaced with a new structure that would take five years to complete ‑ Kelly would then move over to its sister museum, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park.

Piper had given Stuart a part‑time job at P3. A "made up" job, she didn't really need someone in that position. But she felt a responsibility to Stuart and Kelly, especially as she had been the one who had gotten Kelly's memory spell to work, thereby getting the two of them back together. And in truth, Piper was happy that she had, as she felt that after what they had been through for two years they deserved to continue to have each other. And as Stuart had spent a fair amount of time helping out at the club while living in The Manor, he was already familiar with everything that needed to be done there.

Stuart and Kelly held their kiss for a long minute before letting each other go.

"I just want people who don't know you as well as I do to have a good impression of you," Kelly said, finally answering his question.

"Always looking out for me," Stuart said, a smile in his eyes as he looked at her.

"Always," she agreed.

"Will you stop by P3 later?" he asked, as he helped stack the dinner dishes in the sink.

"No...I think I'll stay home tonight," she said. Stuart realized that Kelly was not anxious to join the Halliwells in their booth at the club.

Phoebe, while not being overtly hostile to Kelly, had been quite cool to her after Stuart resumed his alternate reality's relationship with her. Then Prue and Piper had a long talk with Phoebe. They pointed out that after two years together, and with no hope of ever getting back, as had been the case until the last minute, it was reasonable that they would fall in love. Especialy as they had no one except each other with whom to make a life in that reality; the Charmed Ones and Leo hadn't existed there. And it was to be expected that once Stuart's memories were returned, he would not abandon what they had meant to each for those two years.

And, Piper reminded Phoebe, that it was she who had been afraid of making, and therefore refused to make, the commitment in her relationship with Stuart that he had repeatedly wanted, leaving them instead with an "open" relationship. Which allowed Stuart the leeway to become involved with Kelly.

Phoebe had finally, albeit reluctantly, accepted their arguments. But it still made her uncomfortable to see Stuart with Kelly and she did little to mask that sentiment. So Kelly tried to avoid social situations in which Phoebe was present.

"And I really want to review the homes and artwork for tomorrow's tour," she added.

The San Francisco Arts Education Project, a non‑profit which promoted and provided arts education for young people, had arranged a fundraising tour of some of San Francisco's stately homes. The attendees, for a considerable though by most of their standards still a reasonable fee, would be given a tour of both the homes themselves and the artwork that they housed. The de Young Museum was assisting the endeavor, as were other museums, by providing docents in the homes.

"Sounds like a tiring ‑ and boring ‑ day," he said.

"I suppose after the tenth time answering 'why is there a boy?' in Thomas Sully's painting Washington Family it will seem so," she said. "But they brought in Austin Kingsley to draw some of the attendees questions ‑ and their money ‑ and he'll be making the rounds among the homes. He's an art authenticator who's worked with auction houses such as Sotheby's in New York and Bonhams in LA, though he's been only second tier at best with them. He's mostly made do working with private collectors."

"OK ‑ I'll leave you to your homework," Stuart said. "I don't know how late I'll have to stay at P3 but I'll be careful not to wake you when I get into bed."

"You'd better wake me when you get into bed," she said, with a smile.

 

"No, Lucas van Valckenborch was a Flemish painter of the Northern Renaissance," Kelly explained to the woman. "I'm afraid the title of the painting was too long to fit in the program sheet, so we shortened it to 'Wooded Landscape With Figures Dancing'".

"This painting over here," another woman said loudly to get Kelly's attention, "seems rather simple."

"It's significance is more as a rare representation of Maltese artwork," Kelly patiently explained. "Nicolas Cammillieri was the only Maltese painter of note."

"A museum may feel that's worthy of some historical mention but I wouldn't hang that in my home," the woman huffed.

Kelly took a deep breath and kept her thoughts to herself. She had seen all manner of person touring the home to which she was assigned. From those who appreciated the opportunity to see new works and learn, to those familiar with much of the artwork, to one woman who sniffed that her house should have been on the tour instead of this one.

Aside from a few short breaks, Kelly had been on her feet all day and was happy to see that this was the last group before the tour officially ended. She walked over to Alexis Bourné, whom the Legion of Honor Museum had sent to share the duties with Kelly. After a difficult day together, during which they would quietly commiserate, they had now become friends.

A little shorter than Kelly, Alexis had a slightly broader build but was just as slim. Her curly, brown hair stopped a few inches above her shoulders.

"I am so glad this day is over," Alexis said. "I'd rather spend three days doing boring cataloging. At least I'd be sitting."

"I know how you feel," Kelly said.

"No you don't. You're two years younger than me. That gives you more stamina," Alexis kidded her.

"You'd be surprised," Kelly responded, with a smile.

Kelly's true age was not a simple matter. Having been a young, exuberant twenty‑one year old witch when she was sent to the alternate reality, she had returned to within seconds of the time at which she had left ‑ at age twenty‑one. But she had lived two years in the alternate reality, years that had added maturity and tempered her exuberance. And which made her twenty‑three years old. But only in the alternate reality.

They went around the house picking up left over programs and other handouts, then dumped them into a large garbage bag. They walked out of the house together, leaving the bag where they had been told to put it.

"Let's keep in touch," Kelly said.

"Absolutely," Alexis replied. "And I'm looking forward to your coming over to us when de Young closes in December."

"So am I," Kelly said. "It will be great working together with you."

 

Kelly came into her house and plopped down on the sofa. Stuart saw the exhausted look on her face.

"I picked up some things so that you wouldn't have to cook dinner," Stuart said.

"I think I'll skip dinner," she said. "Right now all I want to do is get into bed and go to sleep for ten hours."

"All you want to do?" he asked.

"Well...maybe not all," she replied. Stuart sat down on the sofa next to her. She cuddled up to him and he put his arms around her.

"I made a new friend ‑ Alexis Bourné from the Legion," Kelly said. "I would be in worse shape had she not been there to help. It's amazing ‑ some people ask because they realize that they don't know and want to learn, while others make inane comments because they don't know but have convinced themselves that they do."

"That Kingsley fellow being there must have helped," Stuart said.

"Well he certainly had most of the women's attention," Kelly said. "He has a certain...charm about him."

"Oh?" Stuart said.

"But not as much as you have," she said, poking a finger in Stuart's chest. "And he doesn't have all of the other qualities you have that make me love you so much."

"OK...now I feel better," he said, with a smile. "But his being there must have given you a bit of a break."

"Not nearly as much as I expected," Kelly said. "I don't know if he even noticed that I was there. He spent more time examining the paintings then he did discussing the artists with the people on the tour and answering their questions. It was as if he was trying to authenticate the artwork. Alexis also thought his behavior was strange."

"Maybe he just can't help himself," Stuart said. "It's just habit. It is what he does for a living."

"Maybe you're right," she said. She sat up and shook out her blond hair, then leaned back against his shoulder.

"I'll let you go upstairs and get some sleep," he said.

"Not yet," Kelly replied, closing her eyes. "I'm very comfortable right now just the way I am."




Click speaker for Opening Credits Theme Song

The toast popped and Piper took the two slices, putting them on her plate. The cherry preserves were already on the table and she began to spread them on the toast as Prue came into the kitchen.

"Good morning," Prue said.

"Good morning," Piper responded. "It would be an even better morning if we weren't still here. What are The Elders waiting for before they send us home?"

"I don't know," Prue said, "but there must still be something that needs us here. It's been two weeks since we vanquished Argyris but as we've seen, things were not all wrapped up when we did. Other problems ‑ and some pretty powerful demons ‑ have been showing up." Argyris was the demon who was going to cause major destruction whom they had to stop, and was ostensibly the reason the actresses' roles, and Charmed, were made real.

"The Elders could have at least told us that, instead of letting us get our hopes up that we were all done here," Piper said. "But complaining, as we've seen, has no affect on them.

"But at least one good thing has happened," Piper continued, but lowering her voice in case Phoebe came in. "Stuart and Kelly being together. They are so right for each other."

"They are indeed," Prue agreed. "And if not for the demons sending them to the alternate reality they would never have found each other."

Piper poured milk into her glass. Then, as she did most mornings, she turned on the radio to listen to the news.

"...sometime between 11:30 PM, when Mrs. Devin went to sleep, and 7:00 AM this morning, when Mr. Devin discovered the theft. Police have refused to comment but my sources tell me that the Devins' security alarm had not been triggered, leaving the police baffled as to how the thief gained entry and escaped with the Walsingham painting without activating the alarm.

"Harley Devin is President of Devin Investments. His wife, Mattie, serves on the Board of the San Francisco Arts Education Project, which ironically had a fund‑raising tour in her home just yesterday.

"Reporting live from outside The Devins' home on Nob Hill, this is Lisa Apelt, KABL Radio News."

"Do you think they purposely pick Apelt to cover all the odd stories?" Piper asked. "She covered what Uthyr did at Pier 39 and what Egill did at Hendrik Point." Uthyr and Egill were demons who had been testing their powers by flooding Pier 39 from the bay and creating sinkholes at Hendrik Point. Together with a third demon, they had been the ones who had sent Kelly and Stuart to the alternate reality.

"Just because its odd, let's not jump to conclusions that a demon was involved," Prue said. "Security alarms can fail. And why would a demon want a portrait of some Lady?"

"To start his own museum," Piper quipped. "Though I would expect a demon would choose a painting from another demon. Hmm...do you think there are demon painters?"

"We're not going to worry about that for now," Prue said. "But I did have a shoot scheduled with Mattie Devin for this morning. 415 is doing a feature on the Arts Education Project. If it's still on I may learn more of what happened."

 

"Reporting live from outside The Devins' home on Nob Hill, this is Lisa Apelt, KABL Radio News."

Kelly turned off the radio and took another sip of her breakfast coffee.

"That doesn't make sense," she said.

"That the alarm didn't go off?" Stuart asked, spreading some more blackberry preserve on his toast.

"Maybe...but there are technological reasons why a security alarm will fail to go off," Kelly said. "What doesn't make sense is why the thief took only the Walsingham painting."

"Isn't it valuable?" Stuart asked.

"Oh its valuable," Kelly replied. "But there are other paintings there that are also valuable but they weren't taken."

"Was that the home where you were assigned for the tour?" he asked.

"No ‑ I was in the Marbury home," she replied. "Just a second." She got up and went into the living room, then came back with the tour program.

"Here," she said. "There was a Georgia O'Keefe, a Mark Catesby, a Hans Hofmann...just those alone are at least in the same price range as the Hoppner Walsingham. But they were left in the house."

"Maybe the thief heard someone stirring and panicked," he said.

"The news report said no one heard anything until the discovery was made in the morning," she said.

"Could it have been an order?" Stuart asked.

"Hmmm...someone wanting a specific painting stolen to put into his 'very private' collection," Kelly said. "That's certainly been known to be done. If the thief wasn't being paid for anything but the Hoppner, he wouldn't bother taking the others."

"Do you have any contacts who would have heard if there was something like that out there?" he asked.

"I had a couple in the alternate reality," she said, "but I had been working at the de Young for two years, which gave me the time to cultivate them. Here, I've been at the museum just a couple of days so I haven't had time to find anyone."

"Morris may have some contacts," Stuart said. Darryl Morris was a Police Inspector. He was a friend of the Halliwells and, by extension, a friend of Stuart's.

"Do you think someone on the tour was casing the Devin home?" he asked.

"That seems likely," Kelly said. "Though I have a hard time picturing some of the women on the tour being up to that task."

"Well...whatever it is we're not going to solve it here," Stuart said. "I'm going over to the club in a little while. I'm working on the inventory so I won't have to stay there tonight. I'll be done about six‑thirty. How about dropping by after you're done at the museum. Then you can take me home."

Kelly hesitated for a few seconds. "OK," she said, still preferring to avoid seeing Phoebe.

"Park in the back behind the club," he said. "There's room there for a second car besides Piper's."

 

Though it was relatively early, the club had begun to fill up. Half a dozen twenty‑somethings congregated around one table, while some slightly older men were at two other tables, apparently having a "boys’ night out". A single man sat at a corner table, just watching.

Prue was still at 415, finishing up some work on a layout. Piper was at The Manor so Phoebe was alone in their booth. She looked at her watch, got up and went into the office, where Stuart was going over some inventory numbers.

"I'm going home," Phoebe said. "Piper will take the car and be back here in about a half‑hour. Do you mind waiting until she gets here?"

"No, that's fine," he said. "I still have to go over this some more."

"Thanks," she said, "have a good night."

"You too, Phoebe," he replied.

Phoebe closed the office door, then headed down the hallway towards the back door. She hadn't noticed that the single man from the corner table was slowly following her.

She went outside and started walking to her car when the man rushed up behind her. Hearing him she turned partially around and saw a large dagger in his hand. She tried to move to her right to avoid him but he swiped the dagger against her vertically up across her chest. Phoebe fell to her knees, blood starting to seep onto her turquoise blouse.

"Finally, witch," the man said as he stood over Phoebe, the dagger poised at her neck, as a car pulled into the parking area. "I checked and made sure that your sisters aren't around to save you." Kelly jumped out of the car and stared at the man and Phoebe.

"He's...a demon," Phoebe managed to say.

"A demon...with a dagger? What kind of demon needs a dagger!" Kelly said, contemptuously.

"A Frubos demon," he answered proudly. "Who are you?"

"I'm a witch ‑ Kelly Anderson. Know my name? You should. You should be shaking in fear knowing that I'm here." With his attention focused on her face, Kelly put her left hand into her pants pocket and slowly took something out.

"I don't know who you are and I don't care," he said. "I'm going to kill this Charmed One. We were going to do it before the solstice ‑ and then we would have been invincible ‑ had they not managed to vanquish us. But at least now I will take our revenge."

"Charmed One? Hah...that's passé. I'm the new strongest witch in town," Kelly said. "If you kill her, I'll vanquish you before you can take two steps."

"Hah," the demon laughed. "With what?"

"With this," Kelly answered, opening her hand, revealing a flat triangular object that was glowing.

"You've hurt her badly ‑ she can't do anything," Kelly said. "Come here and take me on, instead. If a Frubos demon is up to it."

"Are you...challenging me?" the Frubos demon asked, incredulously.

"Yes...I like a good challenge," Kelly replied. "I'm sure you remember Grimaldo, the big, powerful demon. There was another one of him in an alternate reality. I challenged him there and I vanquished him. Then I vanquished all of the remaining demons there. When I came back from that reality there wasn't a single demon left there. And then I vanquished the Grimaldo in this reality." Kelly had slowly placed her right hand behind her back. She began to concentrate as the Frubos demon thought over what she had said.

The Frubos demon took a deep breath. Then he let go of Phoebe and, with his dagger pointed straight ahead of him, ran at Kelly. Kelly moved to the side at the last second and kicked out his leg from under him. As he tripped and fell, the dagger dropped from his hand and Kelly broke a flask of orange liquid over his head. Some smoke began to come from the demon and he gave a couple of cries of pain. But he did not burst into flames.

Kelly rushed to Phoebe and knelt down next to her.

"The Frubos...are too strong for...a regular potion," Phoebe said with difficulty. "Only the spell...will work. We vanquished them...with it."

"Then say it," Kelly implored her.

"It needs...the...Power of Three," Phoebe struggled to say. "It can't work..."

"Yes it can. Hold this," Kelly said, as she put the triangular object in Phoebe's hand, then put her own hand around both the object and Phoebe.

"Say the spell...you can do it," Kelly said.

Phoebe closed her eyes, trying to remember the words of the incantation.

 "Frubos who destroy

  Your end...is this day;

   Let...the demon of daggers

   Be...taken...away."

A fire appeared above the Frubos and ignited his body. He screamed in agony, then began to shrink until both he and the fire were gone.

Phoebe let go of Kelly's hand, closed her eyes and collapsed against Kelly's chest.

"Leo! Now!" Kelly shouted. "Phoebe's been hurt." There was no sign of Leo.

"Get here now!" Kelly commanded. Leo immediately began to orb in.

 

Leo had used his healing powers to save Phoebe in the club's small parking area. Now they were all sitting in The Manor's living room.

"How can it be The Frubos? It can't be," Prue said. "They were the first demons we vanquished."

"No they weren't," Leo said. "You've been vanquishing demons for two years."

Oops, Prue thought. The Frubos were the first demons they vanquished ‑ after they became their Charmed characters in real life. But the show has been on for two years. To Leo, everything that happened on Charmed had happened in real life. Which, as they'd learned, The Elders had made to be true.

"I meant the first demons together with Stuart," Prue said, to cover up.

"Maybe he wasn't really a Frubos demon," Piper said, "maybe he was just pretending to be one because it made him seem more important."

"I remember how they looked," Phoebe said. "It was a Frubos."

"And we have his dagger," Stuart said. "There's no question that it's from the Frubos. Phoebe and I even found a drawing of it in the Book of Shadows after the first time they attacked us."

"Then how can this be?" Prue asked. "Have you ever heard of this happening, Leo?"

"No, I haven't," he said. "It's as if he was given...a second life."

"A second life..." Kelly repeated.

"What is it?" Stuart asked.

"I...don't know," Kelly answered. "Something...I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it's nothing."

"Now we have to worry if the other two Frubos are somehow back, too," Stuart said.

"I don't think so," Kelly said. "He said he was taking 'our revenge'. It sounded like only he was here to do it."

"You may be right, Kelly, but you all still need to be careful," Leo said. "At least until we can figure out how this happened."

"Using the amplifier from the other reality saved the day," Prue said. Not knowing its real name, "amplifier" is what Stuart called it in the other reality and the name stuck. "It's power is amazing. It boosted Phoebe's power ‑ together with yours, Kelly ‑ to be able to vanquish him. It took the Power of Three the first time we vanquished the Frubos."

"I don't know if it would have worked against all three of them," Kelly said.

"And the amplifier took the vanquishing potion from your memory and used your power of replication to make a flask of it," Piper said. Kelly had a unique power to take something she sees in a picture and replicate it into the real thing. The amplifier, which she had found in the other reality's Kelly's home, boosted her power to replicate anything that was in her memory, no matter how faint, and make it real. "It's a good thing you had it with you."

"I'm not even sure why I had it with me tonight," Kelly said. "I just had a feeling...to bring it along."

"That's your witch's sensitivity at work again," Stuart said, "just like in the alternate reality when you felt something bad was coming and you were right."

"Well...I think that's all we can do for tonight," Prue said.

"You're probably right," Stuart said, and he and Kelly got up.

"Kelly ‑ can I talk to you for a minute?" Phoebe asked.

"Uh...sure," Kelly said. Phoebe led her into the conservatory.

"I need...I want to thank you," Phoebe said. "You saved my life tonight."

"There's no need to thank me," Kelly said.

"Yes, there is," Phoebe said. "You took a big risk, and put yourself in danger, challenging the Frubos to distract him from killing me. You could have been killed. And I do have to thank you for that."

"It wasn't anything your sisters wouldn't have done in the same circumstance," Kelly said.

"But it wasn't my sisters ‑ it was you who did it," Phoebe said, then took a deep breath. "I know...I've been acting...the wrong way towards you. I understand why you and Stuart are together. And...I...want to apologize. It was just hard..." She hesitated for a few seconds, then took a deep breath. "No matter...it was wrong. And it's ending right now."

"Phoebe...I want to still be friends with you," Kelly said.

"And we will be," Phoebe said.

 

Stuart sat bolt upright in the bed. He was hyperventilating as he looked around in the darkened room, seemingly unaware of where he was.

Kelly felt his movement and slowly started to wake up. Then she sensed his distress, as only two people so attuned to each other through love can sense, and quickly forced herself to become fully awake.

"What's wrong, honey?" she asked. "What is it?"

"...dream...nightmare...I was...all alone again...so lonely," he managed to say between breaths. "You were gone...something happened...Frubos...the dagger."

"Shh...shh..nothing happened to me. I'm OK," she assured him, taking his hand. Feeling Kelly's touch, Stuart squeezed her hand tightly.

"Come on," she said, easing him back down on the bed. "I love you," she said softly as she put her arms around him.

"You're not alone anymore. And I'll show you that right now," she whispered as she maneuvered him towards her.

 

Kelly turned up the volume on the radio in the kitchen as they finished breakfast the next morning.

"The Vermeer painting was hanging on the wall when the Monroes went to sleep," the female voice said. "Though the house's security alarm system had recently been upgraded, it failed to detect the burglary.

"This is the second robbery of a valuable painting in two days. The police have refused to comment whether there is a gang of art thieves at work here. But this second robbery undoubtably has made owners of private collections in the city very nervous.

"Reporting from outside the Monroe home on Nob Hill, this is Lisa Apelt, KABL Radio News."

"Valuable painting?" Stuart asked.

"Very valuable," Kelly answered. "I know which one this is ‑ Two Friends With Their Virginals. There's only one other Vermeer that's not owned by a museum or gallery ‑ and the Queen of England has that one."

"But again, no other painting was taken," he said.

Kelly shook her head and picked up the tour program that was on the counter. She turned the page until she found the Monroe's entry.

"There was a Jackson Pollock and a Paul Klee there, both of which are valued well into six figures," she said. "The only explanation for leaving them is the one that you said. The Vermeer was taken to fill an order. The thief didn't want to look for customers for the other paintings."

"I'll go down and speak to Morris," Stuart said. "I'll see what I can get out of him."

"I'm meeting Alexis for lunch," Kelly said. "I'll see what they're thinking over at the Legion of Honor."

 

"Let the police handle this," Morris said. Stuart was in the police station, sitting on the "guest" chair next to Morris' desk. "It's the same thing I would tell Prue if she was here."

"You've always come to us when you had something...unusual," Stuart said, "and wanted help."

"You mean when something was weird," Morris corrected him, "but this isn't one of those cases. It's a highly skilled burglar, that's all.

"And I understand you've moved out from living with the Halliwells and you have a normal girlfriend. I wouldn't involve her in a case, anyway. It's not the same as involving Prue and her sisters."

You'd be surprised, Stuart thought. It's exactly the same.

 

"So everyone has a theory. But no one can prove any of them," Alexis said, taking the last bite of her Caesar's salad.

"Maybe I can," Kelly said as she finished her tuna and avocado wrap. "You've been at the museum for a few years. I'm sure you've developed a connection or two with people who deal with buyers for 'very private' collections."

"Uh...I don't do that," Alexis said, sounding defensive and offended.

"Of course not. I didn't mean that you did," Kelly quickly said. "But I know that in this field such connections are useful for information." She saw the questioning look on Alexis' face. "I may be working at the de Young just a very short time but I have experience in this field. I couldn't have gotten the Assistant Curator job as a novice."

"How did you land that position?" Alexis asked. "Not that I'm not glad that you do have it."

"Alexis ‑ I know we've just become friends. But ‑ you have to trust me. I know that people in your position ‑ and my position ‑ can't have our heads in the sand about these things. And no, before you ask, I never facilitated anyone getting art works into any 'very private' collections. But I need to know what's on the 'black market street'."

"I really like you, Kelly," Alexis said, "and I'm glad that we've become friends." She stopped and exhaled. "And you're right ‑ friends have to trust each other. So yes, I do have a contact. And he is plugged in to 'the street'. I'll find out what he knows and call you later. But what's your plan?"

"I don't know yet," Kelly admitted. "There's something bouncing around in the back of my head but I can't articulate it yet. I'll let you know when I can make sense out of it."

 

Stuart had again worked at P3 in the afternoon, rather than in the evening. Piper was giving him a lift home but she needed to stop off at The Manor and pick up something to bring back to the club. It was easier for her to do it on the way before she dropped him off and then go straight back to the club from Kelly's house.

"I'll just be a few minutes, Stuart," Piper said, as she ran up the stairs to her room.

"How are things at 415?" Stuart asked Prue as he waited in the living room.

"These burglaries are getting everyone's attention," Prue answered. "They're pushing back a story that was set for the next issue and trying to rush in something about the paintings and the people."

"I suppose that's not surprising as they're part of Nob Hill society," Phoebe said. "That's always ‑"

A figure suddenly appeared walking into the living room through the outside wall. He had a mean looking expression on his long and broad face and was dressed all in black. But what got their attention was the sickle he was holding. And which he raised above his head as he began to approach them.

"OHH!!" Phoebe shouted.

"It's a demon!" Prue exclaimed.

The demon hurried towards Phoebe as she was closest to him. Prue quickly waved her hand and the demon fell backwards against a chair, knocking it over. But he quickly got back up and took a swing at Phoebe. She ducked and his sickle bisected the lamp, sending its two halves crashing to the floor.

"Piper!" Phoebe shouted as the demon turned and took another swing at her. Prue waved her hand again and the demon fell backwards, landing near Stuart. As he got up again, the demon pushed Stuart over towards the wall, then loomed over him with the sickle in front of Stuart's throat.

There was the sound of steps running down the stairs and then the demon and Stuart froze.

"What...?" Piper said, staring at everyone.

"A demon attacked us," Phoebe said.

"From where did he come?" Piper asked.

"First things first," Phoebe said. "We have to unfreeze Stuart. But wait! He's too close to that sickle. He could go right into it when you unfreeze him."

"Let's move him a little ‑ carefully," Prue said. She and Phoebe gently eased Stuart slightly further down from the sickle. Then they held him tightly as Piper raised her hand.

"Don't move!" Prue said. "Just relax your body. We have you." Stuart let his body go limp and Prue and Phoebe eased him away from the demon's sickle. Stuart's eyes opened wide as he saw how close he had been to it.

"Piper froze him just in time," Prue said.

"Thank you, Piper!" Stuart said.

"Who is this demon and how did he get in here?" Phoebe asked.

"We'd better get answers fast," Piper said. "He won't stay frozen for long."

"I don't know who he is," Prue said, as Stuart carefully looked him over.

"I do," he said.

"What??" Piper asked.

"I know this demon. And I know how he got in here," Stuart said.

"How can you know a demon that we don't know?" Phoebe asked.

"He was on a Charmed episode," Stuart replied.

"What?? Now we have to worry about fictional demons besides the real ones?" Piper asked.

"His name is Libris," Stuart said.

"Libris..." Phoebe repeated.

"Libris can travel through solid things, such as walls and floors, so that's how he came in from the outside," Stuart said. "When The Elders made your Charmed characters real, we know they somehow made your Charmed‑related past real, too. Melinda Warren, your other ancestors, and everything that would have happened to you became real. And that includes every episode of Charmed.

"This was the episode in which Libris killed the college co‑ed Charlene. She became a ghost but Phoebe had to convince her that she was dead."

"Yes...that was with Rebecca Cross," Phoebe said. "She played Charlene. The two of us had a fun time together shooting that episode," she added, the memory putting a smile on her face.

"It is not a fun time when a demon from that episode tries to kill us in real life!" Piper exclaimed. "Remind me when we get back home to strangle the writer who wrote this demon into that script."

"You vanquished Libris with a spell," Stuart said. "Just think back to which spell you used."

"We've had two seasons of Charmed,” Phoebe said. "That's over forty episode scripts with who knows how many demons and spells. It's all in the back of my head in a big jumble. I don't even know if this spell is still there."

"It's in the Book of Shadows," Stuart said. "They showed the page in the episode so it has to exist in the real life book, too."

"If this was a Charmed episode we would find the spell in the book right away," Piper groused. "But in real life, it could take hours to find it."

Stuart thought for a second. "That's it ‑ Phoebe has the answer," he said.

"I do?" she asked.

"You said the spell to vanquish Libris was somewhere in the back of your head," Stuart explained. "It's in your sub‑conscious. So we have to get it out. And we can ‑ with your spell, Piper. The one you wrote to retrieve the memories that the demon Mordun put into Phoebe's sub‑conscious. Do you remember it?"

Piper thought for a second. "My one and only successful attempt at making up a spell," she said. "You bet I remember it."

"Use it," Stuart said. "It will make Phoebe remember the vanquishing spell to use on Libris."

"I have to change one or two words," Piper said, "but here goes.

    "Let thoughts you didn't know you had

     That this script placed inside your head,

     Come out now from your sub‑conscious

     And be remembered and said."

Phoebe drew a deep breath. "I...remember it," she said, pleasantly surprised.

"I do, too," Prue said. "Your spell worked on both of us."

"And just in time," Piper said with alarm, as Libris unfroze. He started advancing towards Phoebe but Stuart grabbed the sickle with both hands, trying to hold Libris back.

"Now!" Prue said and she and Phoebe began the spell.

   "Demon hide your evil face

     Libris die and leave no trace"

Libris burst apart and was gone. The sickle remained in Stuart's hand.

"Phew!" Phoebe exhaled.

"He left the sickle behind," Piper said.

"That's what happened in the episode," Stuart said, "so it makes sense that it would get left behind here, too."

"What an evening! Now I know how viewers feel when they're sitting through Charmed reruns," Piper said and plopped down on the staircase's bottom step.

 

When Stuart didn't come home when Piper was supposed to drop him off, Kelly tried calling him. But as he was occupied dealing with Libris, he couldn't answer her call. Eventually she reached Piper, who explained what had happened. Kelly jumped in her car and hurried over to The Manor.

"This is nothing new," Stuart was telling Kelly, who was clearly upset. "I fought demons for two months while living here in The Manor. And in the alternate reality, I fought them together with you."

"I know...but you don't have any powers," Kelly said. "I worry about you."

"Well...that's only fair," he said. "I worry about you even with your powers."

Kelly took a deep breath, exhaled and then smiled at Stuart. She took his hand in hers but then her cell phone rang.

"Hello," she said, as she opened it. "Oh, hi Alexis...you did?" Kelly listened. "What?...is he sure?" She listened some more. "Both?!" She listened again. "No...it's not what I was expecting." Alexis said something more. "I'm not sure. I have to think about it. I'll call you tomorrow. Thanks again. Good night."

Kelly put away her cell phone.

"That was my friend Alexis from the Legion of Honor Museum," she explained to the sisters. "She reached her contact in the art underworld. He told her word had gotten out that the Hoppner Walsingham was 'available'. Someone snatched it up a short time later."

"What? You mean it was for sale on the open black market?" Stuart asked.

"Yes...and the same thing with the Vermeer painting," Kelly said.

"Which kills my theory," Stuart said. "I thought those particular paintings were stolen to fill an order," he explained to the sisters. "But if the paintings were for sale on the black market, then nobody had placed an order for them."

"Whatever the reason, I still think a demon was involved in stealing those portraits," Piper said.

A look came over Kelly's face as if she had some revelation.

"Portraits. That's it!" she exclaimed. "That's what's been in the back of mind for two days and I couldn't put my finger on it. Both paintings were portraits. The O'Keefe, the Klee, the other valuable paintings that weren't taken were all landscapes or still life or abstracts or...or somehow different. Your theory is right, Stuart. We've just been looking at this the wrong way. We've been looking for the wrong kind of buyer. Can I use your laptop, Prue?"

 

For a few minutes Kelly searched for things on Internet. Then she brought up a painting on the screen.

"This is the Hoppner painting, Charlotte Walsingham, Lady Fitzgerald," she said. "The screen doesn't reproduce it anywhere near the way it looks in real life but it's close enough. Describe it to me," she said to Stuart.

"I was a history teacher in the other reality but with only a passing familiarity with art," he said. "That's your expertise. I couldn't give a technical description of the work."

"I don't want a technical description," Kelly said, "I want a layman's description."

"Well...I would call it very life‑like," he said. "It captures the essence, the spirit of the woman. When you look at her eyes...it's as if he's captured her soul."

Kelly's fingers moved on the keyboard and another portrait came up.

"This is the second portrait that was stolen, Vermeer's Two Friends With Their Virginals," she said.

"What are virginals?" Piper asked.

"It's an instrument in the harpsichord family," Kelly replied, "dating back to at least the early 16th century. It's smaller and simpler than the harpsichord, which made it more affordable to own. Sitting in a rectangular case, it was also rather portable. The 's' at the end, by the way, does not make it a plural. It refers to a single instrument, just like the 's' at the end of 'scissors', which is similarly singular. 'Virginals' is also often written without the trailing 's', as in Vermeer's other portraits, such as A Lady Standing At a Virginal.

"Now describe this portrait," she said.

"Two girls, maybe thirteen or fourteen years old, standing beside the virginals," Stuart said. "Clearly proud of their instrument, or perhaps of their proficiency in playing it. They also look very life‑like."

"Their eyes look so alive," Phoebe said. "It's like...you can see into their souls captured in the painting."

"Exactly," Kelly said. "And there is a demon using that to bring back the vanquished demons."

"Wait...are you saying that these artists were themselves demons?" Prue asked.

"No, they were just masterful artists who could capture the very souls of their subjects and include them in their portraits," Kelly said. "But there is a demon who somehow has the power to extract what the artist put into his painting, re‑constitute it and use that to bring back demons."

"Wow!" is all Phoebe could say.

"Now look at this portrait," Kelly said, her fingers moving once again across the keyboard. The portrait displayed was of two girls, slightly younger than the two in the Vermeer portrait, one girl having her arm around the other. "Again, the computer screen can't faithfully reproduce the painting's nuances."

"They could be life‑like, too," Piper said. "Their faces seem real enough."

"But they aren't," Kelly said. "I've seen the actual painting when it was on loan to the de Young Museum in the alternate reality. It's an excellent painting but it didn't capture their souls in their faces and in their eyes the way the other two paintings do."

"I'm not an expert," Piper said, in her own defense.

"That's my point," Kelly said. "It would take an art expert to make that assessment. To make the distinction between this portrait and the two that were stolen. And this painting is in the Monroes' home, from which the Vermeer was stolen. And that's why this portrait wasn't also taken."

"So the demon doing this would have to be an art expert, to pick out just the right portraits to steal," Prue said.

"And he would also have to know where they were," Piper added.

"I suppose it's possible that the demon is an expert in art," Phoebe said.

"Or it's more likely that he has a partner who is an expert," Prue said.

"I agree with you, Prue," Stuart said. "We're dealing with a demon and mortal collaboration. The mortal gets to sell the paintings on the black market after the demon gets to use the paintings to bring back vanquished demons."

"All of whom have one thing in mind ‑ to kill us," Piper said.

"We have to find this demon and his partner before he can bring back any more demons to attack us," Phoebe said.

"But how?" Prue asked. "How do we find them?"

 

"My cell phone battery is dead again," Phoebe complained as she came into the kitchen the next morning. "Maybe I could put a spell on it so that it would warn me when the battery is going, with enough time to get someplace where I could charge it before it dies completely. I can't wait around now for it to re‑charge so I'll be without a cell phone all day."

"You don't need a spell for that," Prue said. "All you need is to simply check it before you go to sleep. Then it can be re‑charging all night."

"Hmmm...maybe I need a spell to remind me to check it before I go to sleep," Phoebe said, then shrugged her shoulders.

"We'd better get the news on," Piper said. Prue noticed that Piper was wearing her new brown tie‑shirt, which matched her beige pants. "I hate to think that the demon struck again but after the last two days we'd better find out before we're surprised by a once‑vanquished demon on our doorstep." She moved the radio closer to her and turned it on.

"...just like in the other thefts, the alarm was not triggered by the thief," the woman said."

"Oh no!" Phoebe said. "The demon did strike again."

"The self‑portrait of Le Brun, a female artist of the 18th century, was unusual because there weren't many female artists at that time. Police are tight lipped about what some newspapers have taken to call the 'Invisible Thief', though my sources tell me that pressure is mounting on the police, and on the Mayor, to find those responsible for the thefts and return the stolen paintings.

"Reporting from outside the McGann Mansion on Nob Hill, this is Lisa Apelt, KABL Radio News."

"We're going to have to be very careful today," Prue said. "There's going to be a demon with a second life out there coming for us."

"Why is this demon who's bringing back the vanquished demons sending them after us?" Phoebe asked. "I know that being the Charmed Ones means we're always a target. But you would think demons coming back with a second life would find other demon‑type things to keep them happy."

"The demon behind all of this does seem fixated on us," Prue said. "And he's somehow able to get the demons he's bringing back to go along with him and concentrate on us."

"Even though we've vanquished, for the second time, the two demons he brought back," Piper said. "Maybe the word will get out that they shouldn't throw away their second chance by taking us on."

"I hate to say it but we've been lucky," Prue said. "And maybe that demon realizes it. He may try something different today."

"We should stay together," Piper said. "Stuart's going into the club late this morning so I can stay at home. Although he really needs some help in the office preparing for tomorrow night's guest band."

"I know I'll have to stop off at the McGann Mansion and get some shots, even if only from outside, then bring them down to the magazine office for their rush story. But I'll get out of there as soon as I can and come home."

"I promised Lorna Palmer I'd pick up a birthday present for Marion at her favorite store on Market Street," Phoebe said, "even though it won't be her birthday for another week." A few weeks earlier, nine year old Marion Palmer and her eleven year old sister Nicole learned that Phoebe and her sisters were witches, after they had saved the Palmer girls from being killed by a ghost. "They're having a sale today and they may sell out of what she wants if I don't get there this morning. I'll try to do it quickly. And as long as I'm out I'll stop by P3 on the way back and give Stuart a hand for a little while, then come home."

"Be alert," Prue said, "and don't take any chances. At the first sign of danger let one of us know."

 

"Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun's Self Portrait in a Straw Hat is a magnificent painting," Kelly said, after Stuart shut off the radio. "She was a successful 18th century French female artist, something almost unheard of at the time. I've seen that painting. She imbued that self‑portrait with her very being. That's why it was chosen for the demon to use."

"Was it in a house that was on the tour?" Stuart asked.

"Yes ‑ which brings us back to the idea that the demon's accomplice was on the tour," she said.

"A lot of people were on that tour," he noted.

"So we have to figure out a way to narrow down the suspects," Kelly said. "In the meantime, there's a newly brought back demon out to kill Prue and her sisters."

"I'll be at the club later this morning," Stuart said. "I'll keep an eye on Piper."

"Be careful," Kelly said, taking his hand and squeezing it. "Libris came after you just because you were with them."

"I'll be fine," he said. "I have experience fighting demons."

"I know ‑ that's what I'm afraid of," she said. "Look...I'll come over to P3 lunchtime. We'll have a bite to eat there together and I can keep an eye on both you and Piper for a while."

"I'll never turn down having lunch with you, whatever the reason," he said with a smile.

 

Piper had taken the forced time at home to do some cleaning around The Manor. She was in the parlor when she heard the doorbell ring. She stuck the small dust cloth in the waistband of her beige pants, went to the front door and opened it. A young woman in her late twenties, wearing jogging shorts, t‑shirt and running shoes, stood there.

"Hello Piper," she said.

"Uh...hello," Piper responded. "Uh...do I know you? Have we met?"

"Indeed we have," the young woman said. It took Piper about five seconds to remember who the woman was. That was five seconds too long as the energy bolt from the woman's hand hit Piper in the side of her head. Piper fell backwards on to the floor and remained there, laying sprawled on her back.

 

Prue had managed to wangle her way onto the McGann Mansion's grounds and get half a dozen pictures before being forced to leave. She brought them to 415's office, waited for them to be developed, then selected two from which one would be chosen for inclusion in the upcoming article. She made some excuse for leaving and hurried back to The Manor.

 

"Piper, I'm back," Prue announced as she came in and closed the front door. "Piper?" she called.

She looked through the first floor rooms, then went up the stairs, calling her name. As she came out of Piper's bedroom a young woman in running shorts and a t‑shirt was standing on the landing.

"Who are you? What are you doing here?" Prue demanded. Then recognition set in.

"Don't raise your hand or move your eyes if you want Piper to live," the young woman said. "She's up in the attic but...a little tied up at the moment."

"You're the demon who tried to kill Gwen Bristow two weeks ago," Prue said. The sisters, along with Livia and Dan, from the past and future respectively, had saved Gwen. Piper had done the actual vanquishing of the woman demon.

"It's nice to know that I'm remembered," she replied. "Though I'd prefer to be remembered by my name ‑ it's Adalyn ‑ then by a failure that you and your sisters caused. But...that will be addressed.

"Now ‑ upstairs to the attic. And stay ahead of me with your head facing forward. Or Piper will die right now."

"I don't believe you that she's up there," Prue said.

"She's wearing beige pants with a brown tie‑shirt," Adalyn said. "Oh, and she has a dust cloth in the waistband of her pants. She must have been doing housework. That's pathetic. What kind of witch is she that she couldn't find a spell for that. Now move!"

Prue slowly made her way up to the attic but stopped short as she went inside.

"Put on the blindfold so you can't use your power with your eyes," Adalyn commanded. Prue reluctantly did as she was told. "Now over to this chair," Adalyn said, leading Prue to it. "Hands behind the back of the chair and I'll tie your hands up nice and tight so you can't use your power that way, either."

 

"Piper called me and said she's staying home today," Stuart said, as Kelly sat down in the P3 office.

"That's smart. They should all stay home where at least they're together," Kelly said.

"But Phoebe had to go out for something so she'll be over soon to help me, instead of Piper's helping me," he said.

"I managed to get a copy of the tour registration list," Kelly said, "and I've been going through the names. Not that any of them will have a 'demon accomplice' annotation. But it's something to do."

"Speaking of something to do, I'll go into the kitchen and see what I can warm up for our lunch," Stuart said.

As Stuart stood up Prue suddenly appeared on the office floor. Her hands tied behind her back and a blindfold covering her eyes, she was in a sitting position.

"Prue...what??" he said.

"Adalyn, the demon who tried to kill Gwen Bristow, has Piper and me in the attic, and ‑" Prue said but vanished before she could say any more.

"She astral projected here," Stuart said, "but someone cut her off."

Kelly put her hand inside her pants pocket and took out the flat, triangular amplifier.

"With what's happened with the demons I've been keeping it with me every day," she said. She closed her eyes and concentrated, the triangular amplifier glowing in her hand. In a minute, a flask filled with orange liquid appeared on the desk. She continued to concentrate and after another minute a second flask of vanquishing potion appeared, too.

"I'm going to The Manor," she said, taking one of the flasks.

"I'm coming with you," Stuart said.

"No, you have to stay here," Kelly said.

"I'm not letting you go there alone," he said.

"You have to wait for Phoebe and tell her what happened," Kelly said. "You said she'll be here soon. The second flask of potion is for her. She's my backup."

"I'm your backup," he insisted.

"I know ‑ but you don't have powers and Phoebe does," she replied. "I'll be all right. Phoebe is just...insurance."

Stuart took a deep breath. "Be careful," he said.

"I will," she said. "I have experience fighting demons."

"I know ‑ that's what I'm afraid of," he said.

"That's what I said to you," Kelly said. "Hey, you're stealing my line." She gave him a small smile, leaned forward and kissed him. Then she ran out of the office to the back door and out to her car.

 

"She was tied up when she astral projected here so I'm sure Piper is tied up to," Stuart said, as he told Phoebe what happened. "Kelly rushed over there about fifteen minutes ago and left this second flask of vanquishing potion for you."

"You let her go there alone?!" Phoebe asked angrily.

"Don't make me feel worse than I already do," he shot back. "She insisted that I wait here to tell you what happened because you're her backup."

Phoebe closed her eyes, then exhaled.

"Kelly's right," she said, her eyes open again. "And so were you for listening to her. Kelly is a capable witch but we each need a backup fighting demons. And now I'm hers. Let's go."

She picked up the flask and they started to run out of the office.

"Wait," Stuart said.

"What?" Phoebe asked.

"Something's not right here," he said. "Kelly is a capable witch. But so are Prue and Piper. How could a demon manage to overcome them and tie them both up? It doesn't add up."

"What are you saying?" Phoebe asked.

"The first painting that was stolen," he said, leaning back against the desk, "the Walsingham, was followed by one of the Frubos trying to kill you. And after the Vermeer was taken, Libris was brought back to kill you. The Le Brun was stolen last night and today Adalyn is back."

"So...it's one for one," Phoebe said, impatiently.

"But it's not," Stuart said. "The Vermeer was Two Friends With Their Virginals. There were two girls in that painting. There should have been two demons yesterday. But only one showed up. Which means ‑"

"The demon doing this held off bringing the second demon back until today," Phoebe said. "To work with Adalyn to kill us. Kelly not's expecting a second demon. She's walking right into..."

"I have to warn her," Stuart said, pulling out his cell phone.

"No ‑ don't!" Phoebe said, grabbing his hand. "If she's sneaking around The Manor the ring of her cell phone could expose her. Let's just hurry." It had been a while since Phoebe had held Stuart's hand. Despite the circumstances, she couldn't help feeling good touching him again.

 

"Who's that?" he demanded.

"Phoebe Halliwell," Adalyn replied, as she pulled the girl's unconscious body into the attic.

"That's not her," he said.

"What do you mean that's not her? You said the third sister is blond and she's blond," Adalyn said. "And she's a witch ‑ she had a flask of vanquishing potion with her."

"Well, well, well...who are you?" he asked as he walked over to Kelly and stood over her as she lay sprawled on the attic floor. "I'll find out soon enough. After I kill you and take your powers, I'll know all about you."

A moan came from Piper. He turned around and approached her.

"You kept floating in and out of consciousness," he said. "Adalyn reduced the power in her energy bolt so it would be enough to just knock you out. Well, maybe do a little damage, too," he added, looking at the small trickle of blood coming from the left corner of Piper's mouth. "But I'm glad you're back with us. I prefer you to be awake to watch as I kill you."

"Leave her alone!," Prue shouted.

"Oh don't worry," he said, turning to Prue, "I'm going to kill you at the same time." He turned back to Piper. She looked up at him, partially groggy. He saw there was no recognition in her eyes.

"Don't tell me you've forgotten me already," he said, acting insulted. "You were in love with me." He grabbed her chin in his hand and lifted up her face towards him.

"Jeremy Burns," he said. "We had such good times together."

Piper looked at him through eyes half glazed over but Prue recognized the name. Jeremy Burns. The warlock in the first episode of Charmed. That episode was shot twice. Once with Lori Rom as Phoebe and a second time with Alyssa in the role. So the name Jeremy Burns, despite it being two years since that episode was shot, was well remembered by Prue.

Jeremy had tried to kill The Charmed Ones and take their powers in that episode, Prue thought. And now he was repeating that attempt ‑ in real life.

"Now when I kill them you'll have your revenge, Adalyn, for their vanquishing you. And I'll have their powers," Jeremy said. He took out a long dagger from his jacket. "The athame will see to all of that."

Prue remembered that from the episode, too. The athame was a dagger that was supposed to let a warlock gain a witch's powers as he killed her with it. That had been just something in the Charmed script. But the athame in Jeremy's hand was all too real.

"We'll still have to find Phoebe Halliwell and kill her," Adalyn said. "We can't fail and leave one of them alive. Especially her."

"And we will," Jeremy said. "It will be easier to deal with her once I have these witches' powers."

 

Phoebe nodded her head at Stuart. Then he counted to ten, took out his key and opened The Manor's front door. He was not quiet as he did that, purposely slamming the door shut. He made his way to the staircase with loud footsteps, looking around him as he did. As he reached the first step he heard someone rushing down.

"Oh, hello," Stuart said in an innocent tone.

Adalyn looked at him with ice cold eyes.

"Who are you?" she demanded.

"I'm Stuart," he said, jovially. "I live here. You must be visiting. Is Prue home?"

"If you live here," she said, slowly walking down the steps between them, "then you know what they are. And you know what I am."

"You're a witch, too," he said, still smiling. "No...not a witch? Hmm...don't tell me you're a demon. Wow. They've never let me see a demon. Always said it was too dangerous for me."

"It...is," she said, drawing out the words. "I should kill you right now."

"Kill me? Oh no, no...I haven't done anything," he pleaded. "I'm just their friend. They let me stay here. See ‑ here's my key to the house."

Adalyn thought for a moment. "You may be useful," she said. "Get upstairs to the attic. And stay in front of me." She pushed him back, went down the last steps then turned him around in front of her.

"Yeah...sure...OK," Stuart said, fumbling with the steps and sounding nervous.

Adalyn marched Stuart into the attic.

"Found him downstairs," she said to Jeremy. "Says he lives here, which explains his coming in the front door with a key."

"What are you?" Jeremy asked.

"I'm just a plain, ordinary person," Stuart answered, an expression of fear on his face.

Adalyn went around in front of Stuart, then turned around to size him up. He was now between her and the attic doorway.

"He may help us find Phoebe," Adalyn said.

"Yes ‑ I know I can do that," Stuart said. Then he dropped to the floor. Keeping Adalyn's attention focused fully on him, he had kept her from hearing Phoebe come in through the parlor window, then stealthily climbs the stairs to the attic. Where she now stood.

With the flask open, Phoebe threw the orange vanquishing potion on to Adalyn. The woman demon began to scream terrifying cries.

"He's Jeremy Burns, the warlock," Prue shouted.

On the floor, Stuart quickly rolled across the room towards Prue. Phoebe ran past the burning Adalyn but Jeremy moved the athame in a counter‑clockwise motion, setting a circle of fire around everyone except Phoebe, who was just outside of the circle.

This is just what Jeremy did in the episode, Stuart thought. He remembered that first Charmed episode very well.

"Remember the spell!" Phoebe shouted to Prue and Piper across the roar of the flames.

"Your spell only worked when the three of you said it together holding hands," Jeremy said. "And that's not going to happen again."

Phoebe tried to cross over the fire into the circle but the flames were too high.

With the athame in his hand pointing outwards, Jeremy took two steps towards Piper. But Stuart grabbed Jeremy's hand. Catching the warlock off guard, Stuart swung him around in a clockwise circle. That extinguished the flames, just as Stuart remembered it did in the Charmed episode.

With the fire out, Phoebe ran over to Prue and pushed her chair closer to Piper. Kelly started to come to, hazily seeing what was happening in the room. Struggling to free the athame, and his hand, from Stuart's grip, Jeremy twisted the dagger, plunging it into Stuart. As Stuart slowly fell to the floor, Jeremy turned towards the three sisters. Though their hands were still tied, Phoebe was now kneeling in between Prue and Piper and had managed to take hold of their hands.

"The power of three will set us free," Phoebe began and Prue joined in.

"Piper!" Phoebe shouted, releasing her hand for a second to slap Piper's face, "Say it!" she commanded her.

"The power of three...will set us free," Piper managed to say with them.

   "The power of three will set us free.

    The power of three will set us free.

    The power of three will set us free."

Jeremy gave a huge scream. "I'm not done with‑" he started to shout at them. And then he exploded.

Phoebe just sat there for a few seconds, trying to catch her breath and calm down. Then she took off Prue's blindfold and started to untie her hands.

"Stuart!" Prue shouted and they looked down and saw him on the floor, blood running from the side of his chest.

Unsteady on her feet, Kelly rushed over to him, but fell down on the floor when she was halfway to him.

"Leo!" Prue shouted. "Leo come now! Piper and Stuart are badly hurt!"

 

Things had settled down after Leo had once again used his power to heal and Kelly found Phoebe in the kitchen.

"I just want to thank you," Kelly said to Phoebe. "You saved my life."

"Thanks aren't needed. I just did what either of my sisters would have done," she said, using the same reply that Kelly had given when Phoebe had thanked her for saving her life.

"I guess that makes us even," Kelly said.

"No, it doesn't. We're not even," Phoebe said. "We're not keeping score." She took Kelly's hand in hers.

"Because we're friends," Phoebe said.

 

"This can't go on like this," Prue said. They were sitting in the living room a short time later.

"No, it can't," Stuart agreed.

"Alexis told me her contact said the guy fencing the paintings is not an art expert," Kelly said. "He's just a middleman. He wouldn't know which paintings meet the requirements."

"So there's a third party involved," Piper said. "The demon, the fence and the one who selects the paintings. How are we going to find all three, let alone stop them."

"I'm glad you asked that, Piper," Stuart said. "Kelly ‑ will you begin?"

 

"That's bold," Prue said.

"That's audacious," Phoebe said.

"That's risky," Piper said.

"Come on, Piper," Stuart said, "don't be the wet blanket."

"I'm not," she said. "I'm not against your plan. I just want everyone to know that it has risks."

"And not using Kelly and Stuart's plan is even riskier," Prue said. "We're sitting ducks."

"Alexis is key to it," Kelly said.

"And Morris would be helpful," Phoebe said.

"But he's not going to want to be a part of it," Stuart said. "He told me the burglaries weren't 'weird enough' for him to come to you. We'll have to use an alternative."

Ding‑dong.

"I'll get it," Piper said. Then she remembered what happened that morning when she opened the door ‑ and it was Adalyn who had rung the bell. "On second thought..."

"I'll come with you," Phoebe said and they went to the door together.

"Will Alexis go along with it?" Prue asked.

"I'll call her and tell her I have to see her," Kelly said. "I think she will."

Piper and Phoebe returned ‑ with Daryl Morris.

"Hello Daryl," Prue said.

"Hi," he answered, looking uncomfortable.

"What can we do for you Daryl?" Phoebe asked.

"I, uh...need your help.," he said.

"With the art thefts?" Piper asked.

Morris hesitated. "Yes," he said.

"I take it they have become sufficiently 'weird' to warrant that help," Stuart said, with a mild dig.

"The Mayor...he's made this our top priority case," Morris answered. "We have to solve, and quickly, the ‑ and these are his words ‑ 'weird burglaries'."

"Have a seat Daryl," Prue said. "We just happen to have a plan."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I haven't introduced you," Stuart said. "Kelly Anderson ‑ Inspector Daryl Morris."

"Pleased to meet you," he said.

"Likewise," Kelly replied

"This is your...uh...new..." he asked Stuart.

"Yes, she is," Stuart said.

"And you're here together in the Halliwell Manor?" Morris asked, looking perplexed.

"Yes," Stuart said.

"And Phoebe's...right here with you?" Morris asked.

Phoebe nodded her head affirmatively and flashed a smile.

"And you want to be part of whatever the Halliwells are planning?" he asked Kelly, as he looked even more perplexed.

"I wouldn't have it any other way," Kelly said.

Morris exhaled, shook his head in disbelief, then leaned back in the chair.

"I don't know what's weirder ‑ the painting thefts or...all of you," he said. "OK, let me hear it."

 

It was late afternoon when Kelly sat next to Alexis in a small conference room at the Legion of Honor Museum.

"Why?" Alexis asked. "This is for the police to solve. And you're not the police."

"No, I'm not," Kelly admitted, "but they're not going to be able to solve this, let alone stop it from continuing."

"And you can?!" Alexis asked with disbelief.

"Let's just say that I...can do more than just be an Assistant Curator," Kelly said.

Alexis shook her head. "The more I think I'm getting to know you, the more I realize that I know even less about you. Why do you think you can do what you say the police can't do? And who is helping you?"

"Alexis, I can't tell you," Kelly said. "The less you know about this the safer it is for you. I'm afraid, and I know I've said this before, it all comes down to trust. We've been friends for just a few days and I realize it seems like I've been asking a lot of you. But I really need your help with this. And you're the only one who can help me."

Alexis stared at Kelly for a long moment. "You're right ‑ I've known you for just a few days. I can't imagine even having this conversation with someone else whom I had just met. But I like you Kelly. There's something about you ‑ something that just resonates with me ‑ that you're a good, sincere person. And that I want us to be friends." Alexis took a deep breath.

"It does come down to trust," she continued. "And...I do trust you. So I'll make the call. But please ‑ promise me that you'll be careful. Very careful."

 

Piper was alone in the parlor when Leo orbed in.

"Piper, that was a very narrow escape you had today," he said, concern and worry clearly in his voice and on his face.

"Every day of re‑matches has been a narrow escape," she said. "You would think it would be a lot easier the second time around."

"I asked The Elders about the demon who's behind this," he said.

"And..." Piper asked with anticipation.

"They said there was one demon who could reverse spells," Leo answered. "But that's not what's happening here. You didn't even use a spell to vanquish Adalyn the first time ‑ you used a potion. And she came back."

"So who is doing this to us," she asked.

"They don't know," he said.

"They're not being helpful," Piper complained.

"No...but I can be," Leo replied. "I'm going to be here tonight. I can be watching if a demon comes while everyone is asleep."

"He hasn't sent a demon after us at night," Piper pointed out.

"That's why he might try that," Leo answered. "If he steals a painting during the night...there's no telling what he'll do."

"Leo, if you're looking for an excuse to stay the night...you don't need one," Piper said warmly, looking into his eyes.

Leo coughed self‑consciously. "I, uh... really would feel better knowing that I was close by," he said.

Piper took hold of his hand.

"So would I," she said, with a sensual smile.

 

Stuart felt the warmth and softness of Kelly's body against him, as her hand made lazy circles on his back. The adrenalin from dealing with the evil, and the need to later focus on their plan, had shielded them from, and numbed them to, what Adalyn and Jeremy had done. But once in bed at night, that numbness fell away and the realization of all that had happened fully hit them.

He was calm now ‑ they both were ‑ and with Kelly's presence next to him, he started to drift into sleep. But earlier it had been very different.

Kelly was literally shaking when she got into bed and felt Stuart next to her, grabbing him tightly with all of her strength. She knew the dangers and risks involved when taking on demons and warlocks and could handle it stoically, without question. But it was different when the danger almost killed the one she loved. It was the same for Stuart. Accustomed as he was to the risks of fighting demons, tears began falling from his eyes when he felt Kelly's touch. A touch he had so feared he would never feel again.

They had both almost died that day and lost each other, narrowly escaping death on the floor of the Halliwell Manor attic.

They had needed reassurance that they still had each other. They had compensated for what had happened by feeling, by being, one with each other. Before dawn, they would compensate for it again. And then they would get up and begin a new day filled with the risks and dangers of fighting evil.

 

"The self‑portrait of Rembrandt Peale was taken from the Ashbrook home sometime between 10:00 PM and when it was discovered missing shortly after eight o'clock this morning," the woman reporter on the radio said. "This is the fourth valuable painting stolen in the past four days. The Ashbrook home is on the same block as the McGann Mansion, the site of the previous night's theft, and the families are close friends.

"Pressure is mounting on the police to stop the burglaries, which have become a daily embarrassment to both the Mayor and the Police Department, even as the McGann family has announced a reward for the apprehension of the thief and the return of their Le Brun painting. Sources expect that the Ashbrook family will join their friends the McGanns and add to the reward, including their painting as a condition.

"From the steps of the Ashbrook home on Nob Hill, this is Lisa Apelt, KABL Radio News."

"Another theft means another demon who will try to kill us today," Piper said.

"Let's stay close, if we can," Prue said.

 

"That painting was on loan to the de Young Museum in the alternate reality so I know it well," Kelly said into the telephone. "Some visitors found it eerie. When you look at the self‑portrait, you get the distinct feeling that Peale himself is looking back at you. It's the most life‑like of all the paintings that have been stolen. Be very careful today."

"We will," Prue said on the other end of the call. "Thanks for the warning, Kelly."

 

The warehouse was dimly lit as they made their way to the room at its far end. The door was open and they walked inside into an office. A small table was in the middle of the room. A man in his late forties sat at the end opposite them. He had a stubble beard and a partially balding head. His eyes were sharp and they focused on Kelly and Stuart.

Stuart was wearing a charcoal grey pinstripe suit, a light grey shirt with French cuffs and onyx cufflinks, and a muted‑red tie with grey specks. His attitude, manner and clothes displayed the air of money. Staying a few steps behind him, Kelly was wearing a brown leather jacket, her ponytail doubled over on itself, so it was shorter than usual.

Stuart approached the table with an air of complete self‑confidence, adding in just a touch of superiority. He very deliberately lifted the attaché case he was carrying and stood it on its side on his end of the table.

"Martin Easton," Stuart said. His tone, too, was one of complete self‑confidence. They had decided it was best to use aliases as a protection.

"Who's that?" the man asked pointing at Kelly. She came forward and stood next to Stuart, making sure that her leather jacket pulled open as she did. That revealed the Glock 21 in her shoulder holster, which was not lost on the man.

Kelly had used her power of replication to make the gun and the holster. She had never shot a gun, save for the one time in the alternate reality when she had blasted apart a Dalek who had shot Stuart. But her emotionless face and cold eyes gave away no indication of that. She had made the gun so that there would be no one thinking that they were simple patsies when they met the man in the warehouse.

"Among her many proficiencies," Stuart said with a half smile, as Kelly kept her Glock visible, "Ashley is an art expert. I expect that you're Tarly."

"Yeah...that's me," the man said.

"Good," Stuart said.

Stuart lay down the attaché case, then opened it. Tarly looked at the neat stacks of hundred dollar bills. He leaned forward and was about to pick one up when Stuart slammed the lid shut.

"You've seen the money. Now we see the painting," Stuart said. "If we're satisfied, you get to count it."

Tarly slowly stood up, then walked over to the wall behind him. He lifted up a cardboard box and brought it to the table.

"Go ahead," he said.

Kelly went over to the table and carefully opened the cardboard box. The painting had been properly packed for movement. She removed it from the box, then slit open the tape securing the outer bubble wrap. She removed the corrugated cardboard, beneath the bubble wrap, that covered the front and back of the painting. Then she carefully removed the inside layer of bubble wrap, then finally removed the protective sheet of glassine paper that covered the painting. The Le Brun self‑portrait lay before her.

Kelly turned over the painting and carefully examined the canvas, running her hand across it. Then she turned it front side up, laying it down on the table. After sniffing parts of the painting, she opened her bag and took out a portable ultraviolet fluorescent light. She slowly moved it over the painting, looking carefully at whatever part was under the light.

Saying nothing, she put away the light and removed a jeweler's loupe from her pocket. Putting it to her eye, she painstakingly went over every inch of the painting.

Tarly was getting anxious but he held himself back from saying anything. Finally, Kelly took the loupe from her eye and returned it to her pocket.

"It's authentic," she said.

"Excellent," Stuart said. He pushed the attaché case over to Tarly, who quickly opened it. He pulled out a few stacks and fanned them.

"There's a five percent bonus there," Stuart said, "for putting me ahead of other customers."

Tarly's eyes widened in surprise.

"I believe in paying for what I want, not taking it," Stuart said. "And I can afford to do that. You get what you want ‑ and so do I."

"I guess I should say thanks," Tarly said.

"You're welcome," Stuart replied. "And you have no need to go looking for buyers for whatever other items 'come your way'. I will buy every item as you get them, as long as they are authentic and of this quality. That will relieve you of any concern of quickly processing your merchandise. But make sure you come to me first. I don't want to find out that you sold something to anyone else."

"You're a real collector," Tarly commented.

"Yes...a very big one" Stuart replied, slowly and coldly. "And I'm establishing myself, and my collection, here in San Francisco. And therefore you will profit handsomely from our relationship. There may even be an occasional bonus, like today's."

They could see Tarly's mouth watering at the thought of easy money flowing to him.

"I have a Rembrandt Peale in the back," Tarly said.

"I brought only enough money for the one painting," Stuart said. "It will have to wait for next time. But as I said, I guarantee I will take it from you, if it's authentic. So be sure not to sell it to anyone else."

"Yeah...I can hold it for you. For a day," Tarly said,

"Good. But I want something in return," Stuart said. His tone was a statement of fact, not a request, and it caught Tarly off guard.

"There is a Gilbert Stuart painting that I want. It has the rather long name Anna Dorothea Foster and Charlotte Anna Dick. Get it for me."

"I don't do orders," Tarly said, shaking his head.

"You will do this one," Stuart said coldly.

"No," Tarly repeated.

"I have given you an extraordinary opportunity to do business with me," Stuart said, smoothly but with a firm undertone. "An opportunity that comes with a guarantee of your making all of your sales. An opportunity unlike any other that you've had. I know what I want and I can afford to pay for it. Which is to your benefit. I'll even add a bonus to the Stuart painting, too.

"But do not rebuff me, Mr. Tarly. I have connections in cities where I've been before coming here. And I can afford to bring those connections here, to San Francisco."

Stuart paused, then leaned slightly forward over the table.

"Those connections, once here, would take over the 'art re‑sale' business," Stuart said, his eyes fixed firmly on Tarly's eyes. "Your business. You wouldn't make another sale here."

Tarly started to look worried. He swallowed hard.

"Is that a threat?" he asked, having difficulty getting out the words.

"Only if you turn down this business arrangement," Stuart answered. "As I said, I believe in both parties in a business deal getting what each one wants. You want money." Stuart paused, then added icily. "And I want that Stuart painting for my collection.

"Get it!" Stuart commanded.

Now Tarly was sweating. "I'll...have to make a call...to, uh, try to arrange it," he said.

"Do that," Stuart said, straightening up and stepping back from the table. "Tomorrow I want to hear on the radio that the Stuart was taken. And I'll be here the same time as today ‑ with the money."

"Oh...and I know what the Stuart painting is worth. As I said, Ashley is an art expert. I will bring the money for what it's worth ‑ plus your bonus."

Stuart turned around, his back to Tarly. "And I'll take the Peale tomorrow, too," he said over his shoulder and strode out of the room. Kelly followed him walking backwards, the bulge of her Glock prominent, not taking her eyes off of Tarly until he was out of their sight.

 

The man waved down the patrol car and it slowed down as it approached him.

"What is it?" the policeman behind the wheel asked.

"Inspector Rodriguez," the man said, pulling out his shield and waving it in the officer's face. "There are three dangerous women who tried to kill me. Unlock the door and we'll go after them."

"There wasn't anything on the radio," the second policeman said.

"It just happened so there hasn't been time," Rodriguez snapped. "Now unlock the door and I'll tell you where to go."

The first policeman looked at his partner, who shrugged his shoulders and unlocked the patrol car's doors. Rodriguez jumped in.

"Make a right at the next corner. Code 2," Rodriguez barked. "I don't want them to know we're coming." Code 2 meant no lights and no siren.

After a few minutes they pulled up two houses down from the Halliwell Manor.

"They're the Halliwell sisters and they are not only dangerous but also devious and desperate," Rodriguez told the two policemen. "You go through the front door ‑ I'll go around and cover the back. But it's very important that you immediately pull their hands behind their backs and cuff them, then turn them to face the wall. Don't let them turn around towards you."

"Why...what can they do," one of the officers asked.

"You're better off not knowing the details of what they've done," Rodriguez assured them. "They're ruthless killers who'll kill anyone who's a threat to them. Like me. And like you. Now let's go."

The two officers headed up the steps to the Manor's front door as Rodriguez made his way around to the back. Drawing their guns, one of the officers rang the bell.

Ding‑dong.

Piper hesitated. Yesterday morning, it had been the demon Adalyn at the door. But in the afternoon it had been Morris who rang the bell. Hmm...fifty‑fifty she thought. I'll answer it but carefully.

Piper opened the door a crack, then relaxed when she saw the police uniforms. The two officers threw the door open, pushing her back. One of them pulled her hands behind her back, cuffed them and pushed her face forward into the wall.

"Halliwell," the second officer began, then realized he didn't know her first name. "You're under arrest for attempted murder."

"What?!" Piper protested, and started to turn around. But the first officer pulled her back to face the wall.

"What's going on?" Phoebe asked as she came into the room.

"Get your hands behind your back and turn around the other way," the officer ordered, pointing his gun at her. Phoebe was stunned but the officer rushed to her, pulled her hands behind her back and cuffed her, while turning her away from him. Then he led her over to the wall near Piper.

"Excellent," Rodriguez said as he came in from the kitchen, having used the back door. "Now go find the third one. She's even more dangerous than these two."

The two officers hurried to the staircase and went up the steps.

"What is going on here," Piper demanded, "and who are you?"

"Inspector Rodriguez," he said. "I'm sure you weren't expecting to ever see me again."

"Rodriguez?" Piper asked, clearly confused.

"Oh," Phoebe said. "The Inspector who was really a demon ‑ and killed Andy."

"And now I will kill both of you while you're attempting to escape," he said. "And then I'll kill your sister Prue."

"No you won't," Prue said, as she came into the room from the basement.

Rodriguez turned for a second towards the voice but then turned back to Piper and Phoebe and threw a fireball from each of his hands at them. But Prue waved both hands at her sisters, throwing them out of the fireballs' paths.

Prue then waved her hand at Rodriguez, sending him into the wall. He reacted instinctively without thinking, sending a fireball from each of his hands at Prue. She quickly waved her hands at them, sending them back into Rodriguez.

"AGHH! AGHH!" the demon shouted as the fireballs consumed him. Hearing the commotion, the two policeman came running down the stairs.

"Hands behind your back ‑ now!" one of them commanded Prue.

"Where's Rodriguez," the other policeman asked his partner.

"He's...gone," Piper answered, smiling.

 

It was thirty minutes later when Daryl Morris stood in the living room talking to Prue. He had explained everything to the two policemen, who, rather embarrassed, had apologized to the girls.

"I can't believe he'd come back here and show his face," Morris said. "But this time we'll catch him."

"Good luck," Phoebe said, standing off to the side with Piper. "Hmmm...that's the same line I said at the end of that Charmed episode. Remembering it must be left over from your spell that let me remember lines from the Ex Libris script."

"Prue was right when she said that somehow Andy had been real and had died here," Piper said, referring to Prue's comment a few weeks earlier, after she had saved Stuart's life, that one "Andy" killed by a demon was enough. She meant Andy Trudeau, their Police Inspector friend in Charmed's first season. "That whole Charmed episode really happened here ‑ Rodriguez killing Andy and Prue vanquishing him."

"Rodriguez was the vanquished 'demon of the day' brought back through a painting," Phoebe said. "He certainly didn't need any encouragement to want to kill us."

"Have you heard from Stuart?" Morris asked as he walked over to them.

"My cell phone rang before but my hands weren't available to answer it," Phoebe said, referring to the handcuffs that had been on her. "But he and Kelly should be here soon."

 

Kelly held the thin triangular amplifier, as Stuart had named it, in her hand as she concentrated on the picture in her memory. Something began to take form on the table in front of her. But then the look on Kelly's face as she concentrated became stronger, as if she was struggling with her power. Finally, a complete painting sat on the table.

"That wasn't easy," Kelly said, "but it is imperfect."

"Which makes it just perfect," Prue said.

 

"It's time for part two, Alexis," Kelly said to her friend over the telephone. "You have to keep the Marburys out of their living room for ten minutes."

"I know you won't explain any more of this part than you explained about the first part, so I won't even ask," Alexis said. "I'll do my best. Call me at 7:30."

 

The doorbell rang at 7:25.

"Hello Mrs. Marbury. I'm Alexis Bourné from the Legion of Honor," she said, when the door opened.

"Oh yes, I remember you were a docent on the Education Project tour," Mrs. Marbury said. She was in her early sixties, grey hair and perhaps five inches shorter than Alexis. "Won't you come in."

Alexis stepped inside and closed the door behind her.

"That's why I'm here," Alexis said. "The Project asked me to personally thank you on their behalf for allowing the tour in your home."

"Oh...well...that was very thoughtful of them, and of you," Mrs. Marbury said. "But really not necessary. My husband and I have a great appreciation for the Project's accomplishments."

"Is your husband here?" Alexis asked. "I was asked to thank him personally as well."

"No, he's attending a meeting about the thefts of our neighbors' paintings," she replied. "This is a dreadful state of affairs."

"It certainly is," Alexis agreed, relieved that she had to manoeuver only one of them away from the living room.

"May I offer you some refreshment?" Mrs. Marbury asked. "Tea perhaps or coffee? We can sit in the living room for a while."

"Uh...actually, when I was the docent for the tour, I noticed this marvelous Van Stry in the parlor," Alexis quickly said.

"Oh yes...A Mother With Her Children. The name is actually longer, of course, but one gets tired of saying such a mouthful," Mrs. Marbury said.

"My duties on the tour prevented me from getting more than a passing glance, and that at some distance," Alexis said, telling her the story she had fabricated. "I was wondering if I might get a closer look at it, if that wouldn't be too much trouble."

"No trouble at all, my dear," Mrs. Marbury said. She led Alexis to the parlor, in the opposite direction of, and away from, the living room.

Alexis' cell phone rang. "Oh...uh pardon me...work sometimes doesn't end," she said as she answered the call. "Yes...that's correct...call me back when it's all done." She closed the cell phone.

"No need to apologize," Mrs. Marbury said, leading Alexis to the painting.

"It is a marvelous painting," Alexis said. She went on discussing both the painting and the artist for almost ten minutes when her cell phone rang again.

"I know this is rather impolite," Alexis said.

"Not at all," Mrs. Marbury replied. "Take the call."

"Hello," Alexis said, opening the cell phone. "Glad to hear that it's over....yes, I'll speak to you tomorrow. Good night."

"Everything go well?" Mrs. Marbury asked.

"So I'm told," Alexis answered, with a silent sigh of relief.

 

"I hope Kelly and Stuart's plan works," Piper said, after hearing the news on the radio the next morning of the theft of the Gilbert Stuart painting during the night from the Marbury home. "These returning vanquished demons appearing at any time have me stressed out."

"We're all stressed out," Prue said. "All we can do now is wait."

 

Stuart strode across the warehouse to the room at the far side, an attaché case in each hand. Kelly walked beside him, her hand conspicuously close to the Glock in her shoulder holster.

"One case with payment for the Peale, one case with payment for the Stuart," he said. He opened each attaché case to allow Tarly to look at their contents, then closed both cases.

"The Stuart painting first," he said. Tarly brought a cardboard box from the back wall, placed it on the table, and stepped back. Kelly moved to the table and went through the same process she had done the day before, removing the packing material that enclosed the painting, then looking over the portrait in painstaking detail.

It seemed to Tarly that "Ashley" was taking much longer than she had the previous time, looking at some things more than once. Finally she took the loupe from her eye and put it back in her pocket.

"It's really quite good," Kelly said. "For a copy."

"What?!" Tarly said.

"A copy," Stuart repeated, as if he needed time for the word to register. He looked at Kelly and she nodded her head, re‑affirming what she had said.

"What are you pulling here, Tarly," Stuart said, angrily. "Do you think I'm some novice off the street on whom you can pass off a copy?"

"No...wait...it's not a copy. It's the real painting," Tarly said, squirming.

"If Ashley says it's a copy...then it's a copy," Stuart said slowly in a menacing tone.

"I didn't try to pull anything on you, Mr. Easton," Tarly said. "This is the painting I was given."

"Given? I'm dealing with you, Tarly," Stuart said, his apparent anger building. "Don't give me a story that there's someone else behind whom you can hide." He nodded at Kelly and the Glock was in her hand before Tarly could react.

"No...wait...there really is someone else," Tarly said, getting more frightened. "Two people. They check that the paintings are authentic and then get them to me. I'm not double‑crossing you. This is what they gave me."

"I have no reason to believe you," Stuart said. He gave Kelly a small nod and she took a few steps towards Tarly.

"No!...Wait! I'll prove it to you," Tarly said. "I"ll call him and he'll come here. He can...explain...what happened."

"Or you could call some of your friends to come here with their weapons," Stuart said.

"No...no...I wouldn't do that. Let me make the call," he begged.

Stuart was silent for a moment, letting Tarly stew.

"Go ahead," Stuart finally said. "Ashley will listen closely to every word, every nuance, you say."

Tarly swallowed hard. He walked over to a corner in the room where the telephone sat, Kelly shadowing his every step and movement. He picked up the phone and dialed a number.

"It's me, Tarly. There's a...mixup. The buyer says the Stuart is a fake, it's not real...his expert said it's a copy...yeah, he brought it to me this morning." Tarly was sweating as he listened. "Look you gotta come here and prove that it's real. Otherwise I'm ‑" Kelly lifted the Glock in her hand and aimed it at Tarly. "Otherwise we lose the sale. And if word gets around that there's hanky panky with what we're dealing..." Tarly hung up the phone.

"They'll both be here in twenty minutes," he said, and exhaled. "Uh...could you point that gun...somewhere else?"

 

Two men walked across the warehouse and into the office, taking a hard look at Stuart and Kelly as they did. Kelly controlled herself and showed no reaction as she recognized one of the men.

Austin Kingsley. The art authenticator who had been on the tour as the resident expert.

"I used the painting this morning," the other man said. "It worked perfectly. It's real."

"Who are they?" Kingsley asked.

"Martin Easton is the buyer," Tarly answered. "The girl Ashley is his art expert."

"An art expert," Kingsley repeated, turning to Kelly. "I know this painting is real. I've examined it carefully myself. Tell me, Ashley art expert, what doesn't suit you."

Kelly stood up from her chair and approached Kingsley and the painting.

"The canvas," she said, in a tone that showed that Kingsley had failed to intimidate her. "It's smooth and almost white. It should be uneven with discoloration. And the paint edges are too straight.

"The paint itself has an oily smell," she continued, "as a relatively new painting would have. An authentic Stuart would have long ago lost that odor. The layers of paint along the Foster girl's sash and ribbon, and on her upper chest, are inconsistent with the layers in the rest of the painting. That was sloppy. And while the brush strokes are almost all consistent with Stuart's style, it is only almost. The strokes on the bottom arm of the chair are close ‑ but not exact. Perhaps it was assumed it was too much out of the way and trivial to be noticed."

Kingsley stared at Kelly for a long moment then turned to the painting.

"See for yourself," she said with an air of confidence.

Kingsley turned the painting over to its back, feeling the canvas with his fingers and looking at it carefully. He took a deep breath, then turned the painting over face up. He put his head close to the painting and began to sniff. The expression on his face showed a growing distress. He took out a loupe from his jacket pocket, examining the areas that Kelly had stated. He looked at a few other parts of the painting, then stopped and put away his loupe.

"What do you think you are trying to do Balbus?" Kingsley said. "This is indeed a copy."

"Impossible," Balbus said. "I took it from that Marbury home and I used it. It worked!"

"Perhaps the real one did," Kingsley said, "but this is not that painting. I examined it very carefully while it was hanging on the wall in the Marbury home during the tour.

"Our arrangement is quite simple. You remove the lifelike portraits for your purposes, then leave the paintings for Tarly to sell for me. Now you're trying to take my end, too. Substitute a copy and sell the original for your self."

"I've done no such thing," Balbus said. "That Fitzgerald painting, the Vermeer, even the Le Brun yesterday. I've taken each painting that you've picked and used it, then given it to Tarly to sell. And he has. There hasn't been any problem with that arrangement."

Kingsley was about to say something but stopped as something occurred to him.

"Each painting that I've picked," he said slowly. "But I didn't pick this one." He turned to Stuart. "You picked this one, Easton. Why? And you," he said as he came over to Kelly and circled her. "I've seen you before ‑ somewhere." He thought for a moment.

"In one of the homes, during the tour," he said. "You...you were one of those novice docents the museums sent to hold the hands of the wealthy matrons, who didn't understand, let alone appreciate, what they were seeing.

"These two are phonies," he said. "This was a set up."

"I'll take care of them," Tarly said, his face showing the pleasure he'll have in doing that.

"Leave one of them to me," Balbus said. They both walked around the table, coming menacingly close to Stuart and Kelly.

"Police! Freeze!" The command came from inside the warehouse just outside the room. Morris was standing with a gun pointed at Tarly as another Inspector and uniformed officers swarmed in to the room behind him, training their weapons on Kingsley and Balbus.

"You heard everything?" Stuart asked.

"Yes ‑ and it's all recorded," Morris said.

"After all the cop shows I've seen," Stuart said, "I've long wanted to wear a wire."

Stuart opened his right cufflink. With the edge of his finger, he popped back the "onyx" top which was fake, revealing a miniature microphone and transmitter.

"You're under arrest for the theft of art work and the possession of stolen property," Morris announced to the three suspects. "Read them their rights, Tilby."

"We've got them here with the paintings," Morris said as Inspector Tilby did as required. "I'll have a warrant in an hour to search their homes. I'm sure we'll find the money you paid them yesterday there."

"And as you have their serial numbers, that will be conclusive," Kelly said.

"You'd better let Kelly open the Peale painting box so you can witness that it was in their possession," Stuart said. "And while she's at it Kelly will pack up the Stuart painting so that it can be moved."

"Good idea," Morris said. "You're plan worked just the way you said it would. But what I don't understand is why Kingsley thought the painting was a copy even after he was here and saw it."

"Probably the power of suggestion," Stuart offered. "Kelly had proven her credentials as an expert when she authticated the Le Brun painting yesterday. So when she insisted this one was a copy...well, Kelly can be very convincing."

"I guess so," Morris said.

"May I suggest that we move everyone out of the room so that Kelly can work without distraction," Stuart said. "She does have to be very careful with these paintings."

"OK," Morris said. "Just bring out the Peale painting for a minute so that we can witness it."

Kelly nodded her head in acknowledgment. Morris and the officers began moving the three men out of the office. Balbus was behind the other two and Stuart took him aside.

"I strongly suggest that you do not simply disappear while under arrest," Stuart said. "The Infernal Council frowns upon displays that show mortals that you demons really exist."

Balbus stared at Stuart. "Who are you?" he asked.

"Someone who knows all about demons," Stuart answered. "What I don't know, and what you're going to tell me, is how you've been bringing back the vanquished demons and why you've been targeting the Halliwells."

Balbus chuckled. "I'm not telling you anything," he said.

"Really?" Stuart asked. "I know that I can convince you otherwise. See the bulges under Kelly's ‑ or as you know her Ashley's ‑ jacket? Kelly has small breasts so it's not them." He got Kelly's attention and she moved to the doorway where Balbus could clearly see her. She put her hands on her hips, pulling back both the left and right sides of her brown leather jacket.

"See that holster over her left shoulder?" Stuart asked. "That's Kelly's Glock, something she uses, as needed, on mortals. But for demons she needs something else. Look at the holster over her right shoulder. See that flask? It's filled with vanquishing potion. I've asked Kelly to try a different color ‑ maybe rose ‑ but she's partial to orange.

"All she has to do is 'accidentally' drop that flask on you. And you know what will happen."

"You...you wouldn't do it," Balbus said. "Then you'd be showing them that demons exist."

Stuart shrugged his shoulders. "So what? I don't report to the Infernal Council. That's not my problem. But it is yours. If you try to disappear. And if you don't tell me what I want to know."

Balbus hesitated, then looked at Kelly. She started to take a step towards him.

"OK," he said. Kelly turned around and went back inside the office.

"You're so smart and know all about the Infernal Council. Then you should know who's behind this," Balbus said.

Stuart exhaled. "Dalios," he said.

"He wants the Charmed Ones killed, and especially Phoebe Halliwell ‑ she did something to him that he won't forget ‑ but the Infernal Council won't let him do it himself," Balbus said. "Something about your Elders retaliating in kind if he did. I had a power that could potentially bring back vanquished demons but it wasn't strong enough to actually do it. Dalios infused me with additional power to make it work."

"That's why the demons you brought back were so focused on killing the Halliwells," Stuart said. "They'd have to answer to Dalios if they failed."

Balbus nodded his head slightly, acknowledging Stuart's reasoning.

"And speaking of failures, Dalios must be disappointed with you," Stuart said. "You've failed five out of five times."

"But I've brought back a sixth one. The most fearsome demon the Halliwells have ever seen. He hasn't been vanquished for long. He has a personal score to settle first but then he'll come after the Charmed Ones when they least expect it. And he won't fail."

"Who is it?" Stuart demanded. "Which demon?"

"Come on," one of the policeman said to Balbus. "Get over here with the others."

"Sorry," Balbus said with a smirk, "I'm under arrest. I have to go with the police and can't stand here talking to you."

Stuart stared after Balbus, then turned back to the office. He stood in the doorway so that no one could accidentally see inside the office. In a few seconds Leo orbed in at the far corner, carrying a large cardboard box.

"Here's the real Stuart painting just as you packed it," he said to Kelly. She took it from him and gently put it down against the wall.

"Hurry up and take the copy, the box, the cardboard and all of its wrapping," Kelly said.

"I have only two hands," Leo protested.

"And a mouth," Kelly said, sticking the cardboard and bubble wrap between his teeth. "Now go!"

 

"We got the warrant and found the money in Kingsley's home," Morris said. They were all there, including Alexis, sitting in the Halliwell Manor living room.

"Getting that reward money up front let us seed the attaché case," Morris said. "But that was only part of the price they wanted for the painting. And when we found the money, there were stacks of plain green paper in the shape of bills underneath the money. I don't understand how you got that past them."

"I guess that twenty thousand dollars on top satisfied them so they didn't look any further," Prue said, trying to sound convincing. "It did make up quite a few of the stacks."

"As for the Glock...I'm going to look away from Kelly's having that gun without a permit," Morris said.

"A real Glock needs a permit," Stuart said.

"You mean that wasn't...you went in there with..." Morris said, then exhaled. His assumption was that Kelly had gone in with a fake gun, an assumption Stuart was not about to correct. Her gun was not a "real" Glock, in the sense that it was not manufactured by the company. But Kelly's replication was a fully working, and loaded, exact duplicate.

"And the plan would not have worked if not for Alexis," Kelly said. "You have to tell the museum that it was thanks to Alexis that the thieves were caught and that most of the paintings were recovered. And that she deserves to have the reward money."

Kelly would have liked to say more about how important Alexis' contribution to the plan's success had been. How her keeping Mrs. Marbury out of the living room, where the Stuart portrait hung, gave Leo the ten minutes he needed to orb in and replace the real painting with Kelly's replicated, albeit imperfect, copy. But of course she couldn't tell them about that.

"How did you justify putting Alexis in danger?" Morris asked.

"She wasn't," Kelly quickly said. "I would never have done that. She was removed from any danger. But that does not take away from how critical her participation was, nor of her deserving the reward money."

"I'll do my best to see that she gets it," Morris said. "And I'll let the museum know, too."

"I'll walk you out Daryl," Piper said and she escorted Morris to the door.

"Kelly, that's nice of you to say that I should get the reward money," Alexis said, "but I don't deserve it. It's you and Stuart who took the risks. It belongs to you."

"You didn't have to get involved but you did," Kelly said. "You do deserve it."

"And you did have to get involved?" Alexis asked.

Kelly just smiled at her.

"I know...you're more than just an Assistant Curator," Alexis said.

"Thanks Alexis...for everything," Stuart said.

"I did wind up burning my black market contact," Alexis said. "I told him that 'Easton' was loaded and would be my sugar daddy if I got him an 'in' to buy the paintings that he wanted. Now my former contact knows that I lied."

"I figured that would happen," Kelly said. She took out a piece of paper from her pocket and handed it to Alexis, who looked at the name, address and phone number written on it.

"You have to cultivate him a bit but he'll work out as your new black market contact," Kelly said.

"How..." Alexis started to say, then just shook her head. "Kelly Anderson, I don't know if I'll ever understand you. But it doesn't matter. I'm just really glad that we're friends." Alexis threw her arms around Kelly, who reciprocated, and they hugged each other.

"Thanks," Alexis said, as she put the paper in her pocket. "I'll speak to you tomorrow." She said goodbye to the others and headed for the front door.

"He likes Cuban cigars," Kelly called after her as Alexis was halfway out the door. "There's a place down on Mission where you can quietly get them."

Alexis smiled, shook her head, and closed the door behind her.

"Your contact in the alternate reality?" Stuart asked.

"One of them," Kelly answered. "I'm keeping the second one for myself. A good Curator always needs a good contact."

"It really was a great plan," Prue said, "forcing them to come out in the open to confront each other. The art expert, the demon and the fence."

"That's why Kingsley was so intently examining the paintings during the tour," Kelly said. "He was looking for the ones that captured the subjects' souls which he would tell Balbus to steal."

"I guess he got tired of never quite making it in the art world," Stuart said, "so he decided to make it in his own way."

"Using that Gilbert Stuart portrait was a masterful bit of manipulation," Prue said. "We had to know which painting he would steal next so we had to force him to the one we wanted him to take. You knew the painting, knew that the subjects were very life‑like, and knew that whoever was selecting the paintings from the tour would know that too."

"I could have been wrong," Kelly admitted. "It was a gamble."

"With your expertise, Kelly, I had confidence in your choice," Piper said. "And I would again any time."

"It's amazing how you replicated the real money," Prue said, "giving it a major imperfection of the colors running after twenty‑four hours. And giving Morris a stack of green, bill‑shaped paper about which to scratch his head."

"It's a good thing Kingsley or Tarly didn't look at the replicate's serial numbers," Kelly said. "I used the real money to make them so the serial numbers were the same."

"I'm sure once they saw the denominations they didn't look any further," Phoebe said.

"And you're replicating the Stuart portrait with just the right imperfections was a work of art in itself," Piper said.  

"It wasn't easy, doing what amounted to twisting the replication process," Kelly said. "I still had to keep the face life‑like for the demon to make it work so he would insist that was the real painting, while the art expert would know that painting was a copy."

"Which made Kingsley angry enough at Balbus to spill everything when he accused him," Prue said.

 "I just hope that imperfections don't become the way all of my replications come out from now on," Kelly added with a small, self‑conscious smile.

"Don't give that a thought. Your replication power will be fine," Phoebe said, patting Kelly's shoulder. Suddenly Phoebe froze.

"Oh!" she exclaimed.

"What's wrong?" Prue asked.

"I had a premonition," Phoebe said. Her hand still on Kelly's shoulder, she stared at the young witch.

 

The clock over the mantel showed 7:00 PM as Stuart and Kelly stood anxiously in the living room of their home. Suddenly there was a loud bang. And a demon stood in the room with them. There was fury in his eyes and a sardonic smile on his mouth. His overall countenance projected power and destruction.

"Grimaldo," Kelly said softly.

"Yes," the demon said, "back to kill you. And this time you don't have anyone to help you. You're too weak a witch to be able to use your spell on me by yourself."

"I'm here," Stuart said.

"A mortal ‑ hah," he laughed. "I'm going to so enjoy killing you," he said to Kelly, "seeing your limp and dead body lying before me." Grimaldo sent an energy bolt towards Kelly's feet but she moved back away from it.

"But I'm going to do it slowly so you can feel your helplessness against me," the demon said. "You're all alone, a weak, novice witch who can't do anything to me."

"She's not alone. I'm with her," Stuart said.

"Shut up mortal," Grimaldo said. "I'm going to kill you together with her. Very slowly. You dared to go up against me, witch, and now I'll settle the score and make you pay for it with a slow death."

"No you won't," Stuart said, "because I won't let you."

"You? You won't let me, mortal?" Grimaldo laughed again. "What are you going to do, mortal. That is, before I kill you."

"Speak," Stuart replied.

"Speak? You think because you've been with this weakling of a witch you're going to say a spell?" Grimaldo laughed again.

"No, not a spell," Stuart said. "Just one word."

"One word," Grimaldo repeated. "One word," he said derisively. "Go ahead, mortal. Say your word."

Stuart nodded his head. "Now!" he said loudly.

The bedroom door flew open and Prue, Piper and Phoebe, holding hands, hurried into the living room and began to say the spell.

"Your name is Grimaldo and with that known
This spell has all its power aimed at you
We use the Power of Good that will defeat evil
And with that power we vanquish you forever"

A great fireball immediately engulfed Grimaldo. He struggled against it but his screams were overwhelmed by the fireball's large roar. And then all was quiet. Nothing remained of the fireball, nor of Grimaldo.

Phoebe exhaled. "I'm glad that is over," she said.

"Balbus said more than he realized," Prue said. "'The most fearsome demon' we've ever seen, who hasn't been away long and had a personal score to settle before coming to kill us. And when Phoebe got the premonition when she touched Kelly of an energy bolt in your living room at Kelly's feet, putting it all together it had to be Grimaldo. He really wanted to settle his score with you for finding out his name, and with that the spell to vanquish him."

"And the clock in the premonition showing a few minutes after seven told us when it would happen," Piper said.

"Thanks," Kelly said.

"As I said, no thanks are needed," Phoebe replied. "We all help each other."

"There were two girls in the painting," Piper said. "Why didn't Balbus use it to bring back a second demon, besides Grimaldo?"

"Gilbert Stuart painted the life-like face of Anna Foster but he painted only a profile of her cousin, Charlotte Dick," Kelly explained. "There wasn't enough of her face to capture her soul. Stuart almost never painted profiles so this is a rare exception."

"And a fortuitous one for us," Prue said.

 

"Hey, hey!" Balbus called out.

"What?" the policeman in charge of the cells asked.

"Get me out of this cell," Balbus said. "I feel threatened in here by some of these criminals you have in here with me."

"Is that so," the policeman said.

"Yeah, it is," Balbus said. "And you have to protect me while I'm in your custody. I know my rights. So I want out of this cell. Put me in one all the way at the end, with nobody else."

The policeman took a deep breath. "Renko, come here. We have a prima donna who wants to be moved." The other policeman came over and together they carefully move Balbus to the empty cell at the end.

Balbus, having decided he had enough of a police jail, was about to disappear. But before he could, someone was suddenly in his cell with him.

"Dalios", he said, with surprise.

"I added to your power so that you would bring back those who could, and would, kill the Charmed Ones," Dalios said. "And you've failed five times. Even one failure is more than I tolerate."

"They should have all been able to kill them," Balbus said. "That wasn't my fault they were stupid and got themselves vanquished again."

"I say it is," Dalios said.

"Wait...I brought back a sixth one. He is the strongest demon I know of. Besides you, of course," he quickly added. "He'll kill them."

"He decided to take care of his own agenda first," Dalios said. "And that got him vanquished."

Dalios put his hand on Balbus. The demon glowed for an instant.

"What was that?" he asked.

"Just making you look more human when they find your body," Dalios answered.

"What? No...no," Balbus pleaded. Dalios put one hand tightly over Balbus' mouth. He placed his other hand on Balbus' chest. Powerful energy bolts went into Balbus' body. But with Dalios' hand over his mouth, not a sound from Balbus' screams were heard.

Dalios dropped Balbus' body to the cell floor. He pointed at the ceiling fixture and it fell down to the floor, too. Dalios pointed again and the live wire that had been connected to the fixture fell over Balbus' body. And then Dalios was gone.

At the sound of the fixture's crash, policemen came running to the cell. One of them quickly opened the door and went into the cell.

"Don't touch him!" one of the other officers shouted. "That wire is live ‑ even if he isn't."

 

"That was Morris on the phone," Phoebe said. "Balbus is dead."

"What?!" exclaimed Piper.

"A light fixture somehow fell down in his cell and a live wire electrocuted him," Phoebe said.

"How convenient," Prue said. "That had to be Dalios' doing, cleaning up loose ends."

"Now the police don't have to try to explain how Balbus stole the paintings," Phoebe said. "They can say, truthfully, that he died before he could tell them."

"That leaves everything nice and neat," Prue said. "We don't have to worry about any more vanquished demons coming back to try to kill us a second time."

"And Tarly cut a deal," Phoebe added. "He gave Morris information about the buyers of the Hoppner and Vermeer paintings."

"So they've got them back," Prue said.

"The one who bought the Vermeer knew what he was doing to be untraceable," Phoebe said. "Whatever Tarly knew about him was worthless. But they did catch the one who bought the Hoppner portrait and returned it to the Devins. So now things are mostly back to normal."

"Except that we're still here," Piper said. "Maybe now The Elders will finally send us back home to being our real selves."

"Don't count on it," Prue said. "I have a feeling that The Elders are going to want us to continue living our Charmed roles in real life for a while longer."

 

They had changed into their sleepwear, matching extra‑large Golden Gate Bridge t‑shirts that reached part way down their thighs, an orange bridge on a cream background. Stuart sat comfortably on the sofa as Kelly's CD played in the stereo.

Click playbutton to hear Kelly's CD
Click playbutton to hear Kelly's CD

Kelly sat sideways across his lap with her naked thighs on his, her left arm behind his neck, her right hand laying relaxed against the front of his t‑shirt.

"I think the music from The Sting is fitting for tonight, after the con we pulled on Kingsley and Tarly," Kelly said. "You were great playing the multi‑millionaire art collector who was going to have what he wanted."

"And you were perfect as my one‑girl security team," Stuart said. "You really looked good wearing that Glock and its holster."

"Speaking of teams, I checked to see if Tali and Lonnie exist in this reality," she said. Tali and Lonnie were their married friends who played with them on the same football team in the alternate reality in which they had been for two years. Tali had undertaken to plan and arrange Stuart and Kelly's wedding that was supposed to happen in October in that reality.

"They do exist. They're not married but they are engaged. I don't believe this Tali would suddenly plan our wedding, as she doesn't even know us." Kelly said, gently feeling the engagement ring on her ring finger with her thumb. "But I would like to be friends with them again. They don't have a football team in July but they do have a softball team which we could join."

"I'm up to being with you on a team ‑ tomorrow," Stuart said. "Tonight, I want you all to myself."

"And you have me," Kelly said. She moved her right hand behind his head, drawing him closer to her and gave him a very, very long kiss. When the kiss was over, she had a very self‑satisfied look on her face.

She got off of his lap and stood up, then took his hand and helped him up from the sofa. She walked backwards so that she could see him, her eyes full of love, as she led him into their bedroom.

When she felt the bed behind her legs, she carefully dropped down backwards on to it, pulling Stuart with her. Releasing his hand, she put her arms around his back, bringing him closer to her.

"You have me ‑ all night," Kelly repeated softly, with a smile.




~ Notes ~



• All of the known and authenticated paintings of Jan Vermeer are in museums and galleries in Europe and America, with two exceptions. One is The Music Lesson in the Royal Collection in Windsor Castle. The other, in a private collection and currently on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals, upon which Two Friends With Their Virginals is based. At the time this episode takes place in July of 2000, there was disagreement as to whether A Young Woman was really painted by Vermeer, though it was known that he did paint women with virginals. It was not until four years later in July of 2004 that it was confirmed to be an authentic Vermeer.

• There is no comprehensive list of the works of Vermeer. Though it is generally accepted that Vermeer produced more paintings than those noted above, the names and whereabouts of the others is not known. It is plausible that Two Friends With Their Virginals is one of those paintings.

• The un-named painting that Piper saw and believed its subjects were life‑like, which Kelly told her really were not, is a stand‑in for The Ragan Sisters by Jacob Eicholtz. They are indeed not as life‑like as the subjects in the stolen paintings. As the Eicholtz painting is in a museum, and was so at the time the episode takes place, it is not plausible that it could have been hanging in the Monroes' home, as Kelly stated. The painting Piper saw, therefore, remains nameless.

• All of the named paintings were in private hands at the time this episode takes place, July of 2000, and remain so today. It is therefore conceivable that they were hanging in the Nob Hill society homes at that time.

•The San Francisco Arts Education Project is a real non‑profit, its function exactly as described in the episode.

• The paintings referred to in the episode, as well as selected works of other artists mentioned, are on display in the Art Gallery. Please come in.



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