Charmed Role Reversal



CGIS: San Francisco

K elly Anderson stood stiffly at attention. She was wearing her Service Dress Blue uniform - light blue shirt, blue tab tie, blue single breasted jacket with three gold buttons on the front and one and one-half gold stripes on the sleeves, blue trousers and black oxford shoes. Her Combination Cover - to civilians a hat - with the embroidered eagle on the front of the stiffened oval crown, the blue brim rolled at the sides but flat in front and back, the gold chin strap visible, was under her arm, as protocol demanded. Her blond ponytail was pinned shorter than usual to conform to regulations.

At five-foot-nine, Kelly was not accustomed to being among the shortest people in a room. But of the six people in the office, with the exception of Prue Halliwell, dressed identically to her and standing to her left, Kelly was the shortest person there.  

"Now you know the new officers," Commander Wilcox said to the three men standing behind the two women. "Dismissed."

The five saluted, turned and walked out of the Commander's office. One of the men, wearing the same uniform as the girls, with "LATTIMER" on the name tag above the right breast pocket, walked casually over to Prue.

"This is a plum assignment," he said. "You must know someone high up to get stationed here."

Prue shook her head. "No," she said, "sometimes things just work out right."

"I haven't seen that happen here. So I don't buy that," he said.

Prue shrugged her shoulders. "I can't make you believe it," she said.

"You came from Station Monterey," he said. "So you know Lt. Mickey Harley."

Prue looked at him with a steely look. "If you so much want to know about me, speak to Commander Wilcox," she said. "Don't try to poke around me. I know there isn't any Mickey Harley stationed at Monterey.

"And so do you!"


    Thirty-six hours earlier...

The overhead lights partially broke up but didn't eliminate the nighttime darkness on the dock as the young woman stealthily approached the ship. She momentarily stepped out of the darkness and the light shone on her fair complexioned face. With a slightly elongated jaw that served to square off what would otherwise have been a round face, the illumination showed her to be in her mid-to-late twenties.

She was wearing a blue windbreaker and a dark ball cap, with yellow lettering on both, a black shirt underneath the jacket, and black pants. Her dark, stringy hair reached her neck, which together with her slim body, made her appear to be taller than her five foot-seven. Her right hand supported her left hand, which held her Sig Sauer P229 gun pointed upwards, as she carefully made her way to the edge of the dock. Then she made out a figure, mostly in the shadows, creeping along the ship's bow.

"Federal Agent - freeze!" she shouted.

The figure, startled, turned and began running in the shadows past a stack of boxes. "Stop!" the young woman commanded as she ran after him, then aimed her gun at the figure and fired at his leg. The gun's report reverberated in the still night air. But the figure did not fall.

Instead, the figure turned around and pointed a hand at the young woman. A flash came from the hand and an energy bolt blasted just past the young woman's face. She dived for cover behind the stack of boxes. A second energy bolt tore through the corner of a middle box.

The first energy bolt had taken her by surprise. The second one had not. She holstered her gun, knowing it would not help her now. With the boxes behind her she made a dash for the ship, running in a zigzag. A third energy bolt landed at her feet just as she jumped onto the ship's quarterdeck. She hurried down the stairs and went as far aft as she could go. She opened a bulkhead door, went inside, then quietly closed it and locked it.

And then she waited. She reduced her breathing to very brief, practically inaudible breaths. And then she listened. And waited some more.

After fifteen minutes she quietly unlocked the bulkhead and slowly opened it, peeking into the corridor. It was empty. Carefully and quietly she slowly made her way topside. No one was there.

The young woman took a deep breath. It was safe.

For the moment.




Click speaker for Opening Credits Theme Song

 

Kelly Anderson draped her namesake kelly green windbreaker across a chair in the Halliwell Manor living room. Dressed attractively as always, she wore a tailored orange shirt, her usual blond ponytail reaching just below its collar, a black skirt that fell two inches above her knees,and black flats.

She had worn the jacket as the morning started off rather chilly. Being almost mid-July, the temperature could warm up quite a bit by late morning, making layering the sensible way to dress. But with San Francisco's unique weather, it could just as easily remain cool all day and be the harbinger of an early San Francisco winter. A winter that would otherwise normally begin towards the end of July and run until early September.

Prue Halliwell had invited Kelly over to look through the Book of Shadows with her. The book had the descriptions of, and vanquishing spells and potions for, the evil that each generation of witches had encountered and then documented for future generations. Kelly had seen it only once. That was the day that three demons, joined together, sent her along with Stuart Weston to an alternate reality. She and Stuart had remained there together for two years until returning to this reality about two weeks ago.

Kelly had assisted Prue, and her sisters Piper and Phoebe, in fighting demons and other evil on at least half a dozen occasions, prior to her stay in the alternate reality. But while Prue had liked Kelly, she had considered the exuberant twenty-one year old girl to be a junior witch.

But after returning from the alternate reality, Prue recognized that Kelly's two years there had matured her. She was now a more patient, planning and thoughtful fighter of evil, and also one whose powers had been boosted during her stay there.

Though those powers were still not as strong as those of the Charmed Ones, and in this reality she was still only twenty-one, Prue now considered Kelly an equal. Hence Prue's offer to share the contents of the Book of Shadows with her, letting Kelly become familiar with the descriptions of, and ways of vanquishing, demons, warlocks and others of their kind that was inside it.

"Would you like a hot coffee?" Prue asked.

"That would be nice," Kelly replied. "It's a chilly morning."

Prue went into the kitchen to prepare the coffee as the doorbell rang.

"I'll get it," Kelly said. She went to the door and opened it. A young woman in her mid-to-late twenties, slim with stringy dark hair and a mostly round face but with an elongated jaw, stood there. The woman looked Kelly over carefully.

"Phoebe Halliwell," the woman said.

"No, I'm not her. She's not home," Kelly answered.

"Sorry," the young woman said. "You have blond hair - I just assumed you were her. Are any of the Halliwells home?"

Kelly stiffened. The week before, demons and warlocks had come to the Manor to kill the Halliwell sisters. Kelly had helped the Halliwells vanquish them and save themselves. Now she looked at the young woman at the door warily with suspicion.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"It's confidential for the Halliwells," the dark haired young woman answered. "Look, I'm not here to hurt them," she added.

"What is it?" Prue asked as she joined Kelly at the door. "Who are you?"

"You must be Prue," the woman said. "I have to speak to you confidentially - in private."

"This is Kelly Anderson," Prue said. "Anything you want to say to me you can say in front of her."

The young woman looked at Kelly for a moment. Then she put her hand in her jacket's inside pocket, took out a wallet and opened it to show them the contents. In it was a picture ID and a badge.

"Jordanna Amsel, CGIS," she said. She handed it to Prue. "Look it over - it's legitimate," she said.

Prue and Kelly carefully examined the ID and badge. In truth, neither one would be able to tell if they were fakes.

"CGIS?" Kelly asked.

"Coast Guard Investigative Service," Jordanna answered. "You can think of us as being like the FBI, but limited to crimes involving the Coast Guard." She exhaled. "I really hate being thought of as a 'junior offshoot of the FBI' but I've found that's the only way some people can relate to us."

"What do you want?" Prue asked, as she returned the wallet.

"We have to talk. Can I come in?" she asked.

Prue thought for a moment, then motioned for Jordanna to come in. They led her into the living room and sat down.

"What I have to discuss with you is confidential," Jordanna said.

"I've already told you that anything you want to say to me you can say in front of Kelly," Prue said.

"Even about who - and what - your grandmother and mother were?" Jordanna asked. She waited but there was no change in Prue's expression. She glanced for a second at Kelly, then turned back to Prue.

Jordanna took a deep breath. "As you wish," she began. "Your grandmother Penny was a witch, your mother Patty was a witch. And you are a witch."

"A witch?" Prue asked. "Witches? That's ridiculous."

"Cut the cover story - we don't have time for that," Jordanna said. She turned to Kelly. "And as you, Ms. Anderson, did not flinch at what I said, I surmise that you are a witch, as well."

"I don't know what you're up to," Prue began, "but your fantasy is just -"

"I told you there isn't time for that," Jordanna interrupted her. "Save the story for someone who doesn't know who you really are. I do." She paused for a moment.

"Does the name Margie Amsel mean anything to you?" she asked.

"No. Should it?" Prue asked.

"I guess that's to be expected," Jordanna said. "You were very young when your mother was killed at the lake."

"How do you know about what happened to my mother?!" Prue demanded.

"Margie Amsel was your mother's best friend," Jordanna said. "In fact, it would be fair to say that they were close like sisters. Margie was a witch, too. Through Patty she knew your grandmother and even sat in on a few of Penny's coven gatherings.

"When your mother was killed, Margie didn't have a real connection anymore with your family. She came a few times to Penny but there was too much of an age difference between Penny's witch friends and Margie."

"Interesting story," Prue said.

"Don't persist in denying everything and wasting time," Jordanna said. "When you were young, you had the ability to move things by waving your hand. But then Penny bound your powers as well as those of your sisters. I know that Phoebe came home two years ago. And every once in a while I see your names in some article or police report, mysteriously linked to helping or saving someone. With your grandmother dead, I put two and two together. Your powers were unbound when she died and you're picking up where Penny and Patty left off. Fighting evil." Jordanna waited for a reaction but none was forthcoming.

"The Book of Shadows is in the attic, handed down through Warren/Halliwell generations," she added.

Prue just looked at her but said nothing. Jordanna took another deep breath.

"Sam Wilder never got over the guilt he felt for letting that demon kill your mother at the lake," Jordanna resumed. "He was Patty's whitelighter. And he was Margie's whitelighter, too.

"Margie Amsel...is my mother."

Prue exhaled.

"If what you say about your mother is...true, why haven't we run in to her?" Prue asked. "Where is she?"

"She's...in a home. In Oakland," Jordanna answered. "About seven years ago, she was hurt...very badly by a demon. She's never...recovered." Jordanna closed her eyes for a moment, then took a deep breath.

"That's how I know about you, your powers, and Penny's binding them," she said. "And about Patty. From my mother...before she was put in the home."

"What happened to her?" Kelly asked.  

"My mother was tracking down a demon who was preying on newly wedded couples," Jordanna explained. "He took delight in killing the bride but leaving the groom alive. That way he viciously destroyed two lives. The wife was dead and the husband was devastated by her death.

"My mother had anticipated where he would strike next. She went there and was going to use a spell to vanquish him. What happened next is what I pieced together from what I was told by different people. The bride suddenly walked in where she shouldn't have been - where the demon was. My mother must have realized she couldn't say the spell fast enough to save the girl. So she rushed to her and pushed her away. In doing that, she turned her back on the demon.

"As best I can tell he shot energy bolts into her back and head. The bride, though hysterical, kept her wits enough and had the presence to run for help."

"I'm so sorry," Prue said.

"Do you know what happened to the demon?" Kelly asked.

"When the bride returned she knelt down by my mother," Jordanna said. "She said my mother was mumbling and she took that to be from shock or delirium."

"But you think she was trying to say the vanquishing spell," Prue said.

"I like to think that she was," Jordanna said. "It would have been like my mother to use every last bit of strength, and consciousness, she had to do that. But...I can't say for sure."

"Didn't The Elders help her?" Prue asked.

"The Elders," Jordanna said, with contempt in her voice. "They have their agenda. When you can do what's on it, good. If you can't...well, you're no longer of any value to them."

"Their agenda is...that is, their goals are good," Prue said.

"But their means to those goals aren't always good for anyone except themselves," Jordanna replied. "I'm surprised you haven't run into that."

"We have," Prue said, thinking about how she and her two Charmed co-stars were turned into real-life witches by The Elders to serve their goals. "If Piper was here I'm sure she would quote chapter and verse."

"After your mother died, Sam gave up being a whitelighter," Jordanna said. "The Elders sent a couple of others off and on to my mother. But they didn't care about my mother, just about the tasks they wanted her to do. They weren't like Sam. He cared about her. Just as he had cared about your mother."

Prue had an uneasy feeling. "Were any of those whitelighters about five-ten, medium build and brown hair?" she asked. She was describing Leo, hoping that he had not been one of them.

"No...not that I recall," she answered. "One was much taller and very thin. Another one had black hair and a mustache. In fact, I came to the hospital about a week after...the attack. My mother was still in a coma. As I was coming to the nurses' station I saw him walking away. I asked the nurse what he wanted. She told me he had been asking about my mother's condition and prognosis, claiming to be a brother.

"That was the last I saw of him. Or anyone else from The Elders." Jordanna took a deep breath. "Let's get back to why I'm here. There are three Coast Guard Stations in Sector San Francisco: Golden Gate at Point Cavallo, San Francisco on Yerba Buena Island and the Air Station adjacent to San Francisco Airport.

"Over the past two months, there have been a series of 'incidents' at the Stations. A cutter took on water in heavy weather, then found that the de-watering pumps had been rendered inoperable. Another cutter's turbine engine blew up shortly after getting under way, which could have killed or seriously hurt a lot of people. Fortunately there were only a few minor injuries. A piece of metal was found to have been sucked into the engine. That metal had to have been purposely placed in just the right position for that to happen.

"In another 'incident' during an interdiction, one of the M16 rifles on a boat was jammed and useless, endangering the personnel during the action."

"Sabotage," Prue said.

"It gets worse," Jordanna continued. "A small boat had capsized, the woman aboard barely clinging to the hull. There wasn't time for a boat from Golden Gate to reach her so a helicopter was dispatched from the Air Station. The Coast Guardsman had been lowered with the harness and was being hoisted up with the woman. When he was within a few feet of the helo the strop tore apart. That's the short strap that attaches the harness to the helicopter's winch cable hook. Afterwards it was discovered that it had been partially cut. Not enough to stop the harness from being lowered but enough to tear apart under the combined weight of two people.

"They fell down and the woman hit her head hard on the part of the hull that was still above water. She became disoriented and began flailing around, falling into the water and pulling the Coast Guardsman with her. She must have hit him hard in the face and knocked him unconscious. Then she lost consciousness, too. They both drowned. That's when it was put into CGIS' jurisdiction."

"Deadly sabotage," Prue said.

"So it seemed," Jordanna said. "More has happened since then. I was going to send in one of my team undercover, in Coast Guard uniform, to track down the saboteur from inside the Stations. Until last night.

"There had been an incident two days ago at Station Golden Gate, sabotage done overnight. Then yesterday a cutter was moored there - unusual for that Station which has only small boats. I figured the saboteur wouldn't pass up the chance of easy access to sabotage a cutter so I staked out the dock. Around midnight I saw a figure near the bow of the ship, where no one at that hour belonged. I challenged him - it could have been a female but the figure was mostly in the shadows and I couldn't see the face - and when he didn't stop I shot at his leg to bring him down. It didn't even slow him down."

"Maybe you missed," Prue said.

"I didn't miss!" Jordanna said indignantly. "I have the highest rating for marksmanship in the entire CGIS Pacific Region. I don't miss!

"After my shot, I got an energy blast in return."

"An energy blast?" Prue asked.

"Three to be exact," Jordanna said. "I managed to get on board the cutter and hide until he left."

"A demon," Kelly said. "That's why your bullet didn't affect him."

"Are you sure it was an energy blast?" Prue asked.

"I know how an energy blast looks," she said. "I've seen them. My mother would never let me near one of her assignments. But on two occasions when I was going someplace with her we ran into demons. Or maybe they found my mother. Either way I saw just what their energy blasts look like - and what they can do."

"Why would a demon go through everything needed to join the Coast Guard just to do evil?" Prue asked. "It's not like going down to some business and applying for a job. It must take a lot to join the Coast Guard."

"Boot Camp, OCS, the Coast Guard Academy in New London - whichever way you go, it takes a lot of time and effort," Jordanna said. "If he was trying to join. But not if we was impersonating someone who was already a Coastie."

"But then his ID, his photograph...everything about him wouldn't match," Prue said. "Wouldn't they catch that?"

"If they didn't match. Tell me, Prue, what do you know about shapeshifters?" Jordanna asked.

Shapeshifters, Prue thought. There had been a Charmed episode about them. But it was in the first season, almost two years earlier. She couldn't remember much, if anything, about them.

"I know they exist," she answered.

"Shapeshifters can change themselves into looking and sounding like anyone they choose to," Jordanna said. "They're at the bottom rung of demons. If a shapeshifter demon wanted to bring death and destruction to the Coast Guard, and use that to get attention and move up in the demon hierarchy, that would be the way to do it. Change into looking like someone already a Coastie."

"And the real person?" Kelly asked.

"Dead," Jordanna answered. "Dumped somewhere where his body wouldn't be found."

"And this shapeshifting demon could fool even the person's family?" Prue asked.

"He could if he prepared well enough," Jordanna said. "But most likely he would choose someone who is single and without family in the area. Which may give us our first clue to finding him.

"I can't send anyone from my team up against a demon. Even if I could explain what he would be up against - which of course I can't - he'd be defenseless against him. Which is where you come in. I need you to go in undercover instead, as a member of one of the Stations. Then find and vanquish this demon."

"But why?" Prue asked. "Your mother is a witch, so why don't -"

"I go in undercover?" Jordanna said, finishing Prue's question. "Because I don't have any powers. I'm not a witch."

Prue look at her confused.

"I'm sure you know that a witch's powers can, and sometimes do, skip a generation," Jordanna said.

Prue thought for a moment. She had heard that. Whether it was here in San Francisco since her Charmed character was made real or in a Charmed script she could not recall. But she did know that was true.

"I don't have any children - I'm not even married - so I don't know what they will be like," Jordanna said. "Though, if they're girls, I'm pretty much resigned to their having powers. I'm not sure I'm happy about that."

"Our father wasn't happy that we have powers, either," Prue said, thinking about her Charmed TV father.

"So I need to send you and one of your sisters in to find the demon," Jordanna said.

"Phoebe went to the South Bay," Prue said. "Something strange was on the news and she went to see whether a demon was involved. She won't be home until late tonight. And Piper is at the club because of the damage from yesterday's small quake. It wasn't a lot but she has to deal with the contractor who's doing the emergency rush repairs, not to mention a city building inspector."

"We can't wait until tonight," Jordanna said. "There's too much to prepare. And you have to meet with Commander Wilcox this afternoon."

"Who's he?" Prue asked.

"The CO - that's Commanding Officer - of Station Golden Gate," Jordanna replied. "It's standard for a Chief Warrant Officer to be the CO there but the previous one's tour was up. And with the incidents going on, they temporarily assigned a senior officer to the Station."

"Wait - you want us to go undercover, you don't know who the demon is, but you're giving our identity to someone who's at the station?" Prue asked.

"I could not place you at the station without the CO's knowledge and co-operation," Jordanna said. "You don't become a Coastie overnight. You need someone there with your back. Someone who can steer assignments to you that you might actually be able to do, while covering for you on the assignments that you can't do. And who can also give you the leeway to nose around.

"That's why I couldn't get you placed in Station San Francisco. I don't have an 'in' there. That's why when you do go there and to the Air Station looking for this demon, you'll be on your own.

"And Dustin Wilcox...is not the demon."

"You seem very sure of that," Prue said. "It seems rather personal," picking up on an inflection in Jordanna's voice. "Are you...together?"

"Were together...for six months," Jordanna answered. "But...it's over."

"What happened...if I may ask," Prue said.

"We didn't think the almost twenty year age difference would matter," she said. "But after one too many times of someone greeting me as Dusty's daughter...I guess it became too much. And...there were a couple of other, small things, too."

"Who broke it off?" Kelly asked.

"It was done mutually," Jordanna answered.

"So you would put us at the station where the one person who would know who we are had an acrimonious break-up with you," Prue said.

"There wasn't any acrimony," Jordanna said, "just...disappointment. And we're still...friends. We still care about each other. I wouldn't put you in a position that I would not take myself. And I would trust Dusty with my life without a second's hesitation."

"Well...I guess that will have to do," Prue said. "What did you tell him about us?"

"Nothing," Jordanna replied. "I said I was sending in two civilians to find the saboteur and couldn't tell him why. And that he had to make it work for you. And to just trust me."

"And he accepted it just like that?" Prue asked. Jordanna nodded her head affirmatively.

"Then you really are still on good terms - and care about each other," Prue said.

"But I'm not sending you in alone," Jordanna said. "You have to get one of your sisters here now so she can go with you."

"I can't," Prue said, "but I don't have to. Kelly's here. That is, if you're willing to do this," she said to the young witch.

"I am," Kelly said.

"She's not a Halliwell," Jordanna said. "Is she up to it?"

"More than up to it," Prue responded. "I consider Kelly my equal."

Jordanna raised an eyebrow, then shrugged her shoulders.

"There's a lot of material about the Coast Guard that has to be learned quickly," she said.

"I had to learn to be an art historian, and a museum curator, in three weeks," Kelly said, referring to what she did in the alternate reality.

"We don't have three weeks!" Jordanna snapped. "We don't even have three days. Lives are at stake, both Coast Guardsmen and civilians. Every day this demon is loose more people are in danger of being hurt or killed by him." Jordanna paused and exhaled. "You have to report for duty at 0900 hours tomorrow."

Kelly took a deep breath. "I can do it," she said with determination. "I'll be ready."

"And I have experience learning scripts," Prue said.

Kelly gave her a surprised look.

"I've tried a few different things looking to find what I liked," Prue said. "I did acting...for a while." If you only knew for how long...and how much, she thought. "I can learn lines quickly. After all, I'll be playing a role. The information I have to know is the same as learning lines for a part."

Jordanna thought for a brief moment. "OK. But then I'm going to want your two sisters with me as CGIS Special Agents. I don't know what we'll be up against and when but whenever that is I want them on board."

"Phoebe will be available but I doubt that Piper will be able to do it," Prue said. "The way it sounded she's going have to be at the club tomorrow, too."

"I would rather have had the two of them," Jordanna said.

"You can still have two people. Take Stuart," Kelly said.

"Who's he?" Jordanna asked.

"Stuart Weston. We're engaged to be married," Kelly said, showing Jordanna the engagement ring on her left hand.

"Nice. Congratulations," Jordanna said. "And he's a witch?"

"No, he isn't," Kelly said.

"What? No...I don't need some ordinary normal person who can't help us against this demon coming along for the ride," Jordanna said.

"Stuart is not 'ordinary'," Kelly said. "He has a lot of experience fighting demons. He knows how to handle himself with them. And he's smart. He's seen things in the past that we didn't. And he could do the same thing here."

Jordanna gave Kelly a questioning look, then turned to Prue.

"Kelly's right," Prue said. "Stuart has been a big help and would be that here, too. Take both of them - Phoebe and Stuart."

Jordanna hesitated then exhaled. "OK. I hope you're right. For his sake."

"Will anyone at CGIS know who they are?" Prue asked.

"No - with the bureaucracy in the government I would never get it approved," Jordanna said. "They'll just be visiting CGIS Special Agents. And we'll just hope that the SAC - that's Special Agent in Charge, my boss - doesn't get inquisitive and check up on them.

"Now that all of this is settled, we have a lot to do today. I'm sending you in as Lieutenant Jr. Grades. That will exempt you from a lot of the grunge work while giving you some leeway to move around. I have to get you measured and outfitted in uniforms, get your credentials and IDs as well ones for Phoebe and Stuart. This is going to take a lot of time that we really don't have."

"You don't have to do that," Kelly said. "Get me sample uniforms, IDs and whatever other credentials and forms that you need. I'll take care of making them up."

Jordanna turned to Kelly and stared at her for a long moment.

"You...can replicate," Jordanna said slowly. Kelly nodded her head. "My mother...that was one of my mother's powers. Replication." Jordanna's breathing became more pronounced. Then she took Kelly's hand in hers.

"My mother never used it for us. But I remember a few times when she was preparing to do something involving a demon she would replicate what she needed." Jordanna held Kelly's hand tightly and stared at her. But it wasn't Kelly whom she was seeing. It was a different witch. A witch named Margie Amsel. In a different house. In a different time.

After a moment Jordanna snapped back to the present, then self-consciously let go of Kelly's hand.

"I'm sorry," she said. "It's just...your power...it brought back memories. Memories of my mother when she was...herself."

"It's OK," Kelly said. "I'm glad I could help bring them back for you."

"OK," Jordanna said, pulling herself together. She opened her briefcase, took out two bulging folders, and handed one each to Prue and Kelly. "Start reading. We're meeting with Dusty at four o'clock."

"Where?" Prue asked.

"CGIS headquarters is on Coast Guard Island," she said, "which is in the estuary between Oakland and Alameda, but so is Base Alameda. That's the support and supply base for the stations in the Sector. People from the Stations can be coming through the Base and I can't risk someone there seeing you with us. So we'll meet here. I should be back within an hour and a half with everything you need for the replications."

 

At six foot two with a broad build, curly brown hair and a strong, handsome face, Dustin Wilcox was impressive even when sitting. As he was now in the Halliwell Manor living room.

"I've secured base housing for you in Fort Baker, which is adjacent to Station Golden Gate," he said. "This will give you cover for being there at all hours of the night."

"Thank you, sir," Prue said.

Wilcox gave her a slightly surprised look.

"I can't do the same for you on the other Stations or Base Alameda," he said. "Quite frankly, you'll be on your own when you're there. In a dire situation I may be able to get you out of a jam there - one time. I emphasize the word may."

"Understood, sir," Kelly said.

Wilcox gave her the same look. "We're just talking with no one else here," he said.

"We have to become accustomed to our roles," Prue said. "When we're at the Station, we can't stop and think what to say and what to do. It has to become automatic."

Wilcox looked at both of them. "Saboteurs are ruthless. You're volunteering for an extremely dangerous mission. I'm obliged to remind you that you are civilians. You are under no obligation to do this."

"We understand the dangers involved in what we are undertaking, Commander Wilcox," Kelly said. "We accept the mission, sir."

Wilcox raised an eyebrow, then glanced at Jordanna. There was no ambivalence in her expression.

Wilcox turned back to Prue and Kelly and exhaled. "Jordanna picked you for this mission. That means you're up to whatever it will take to complete it. Very well. Let's get started - Lieutenants."

 

Three and one-half hours later, they, minus Wilcox, were still sitting in the Halliwell Manor living room. Wilcox had gone back to Station Golden Gate. While he was with them, he had gone into detail on some of their tasks as Coast Guard Officers, as well as customs and protocols. He had also given them a list of personnel who had been at Station Monterey within the past two years, when and where Kelly and Prue had supposedly been stationed, so that they would, he hoped, recognize a name if it came up.

They had considered having them come from a small station much further away, perhaps one on the East Coast, where it might be less likely that anyone here would have a connection. But they couldn't find one situated in a city that Kelly and Prue both knew well enough to say that they had been there. And it would have been doubly complicated to have them come from two different stations. So it remained the moderate-sized Station Monterey down the California coast.

Prue was accustomed to learning lots of script dialogue on a tight shooting schedule but even she was exhausted from the volume of material they had been covering. She couldn't imagine how Kelly, without any acting training, was coping with it. But then she looked at her and saw the determination on Kelly's face. She was going to do this without a peep of complaint.

Prue smiled inwardly. This was just another confirmation that she had been right when she decided to treat Kelly as her equal.

"I checked personnel who have been re-assigned among the three Stations and those who weren't but who had signed in visiting the Stations before the incidents," Jordanna said. "Then I eliminated any who were married with spouses here or who came from the San Francisco area. As I said, it's likely that the demon would avoid using someone with a family here who might spot the impersonation. That narrowed down the list to thirteen suspects."

"Eleven men and two women," Prue said, looking at the list.

"Of course, Golden Gate is pretty open," Jordanna said, "so someone could have been at the Station without a record of it. But we need to start somewhere."

"That makes sense," Stuart agreed.

"I'll start with the first one on the list, Petty Officer First Class Arthur Rubinek," Prue said. "He's stationed at Golden Gate."

"I'll take Joanne Bering at the Air Station," Kelly said, as she looked down the list. And then the name at the very bottom caught her attention. A name co-incidence? Or is the record about this person incomplete. "And I'll take the last one, too," she added.

"You have to bring Phoebe up to speed on everything," Jordanna said. "She has to be ready to play the CGIS agent in the morning."

"Don't worry about Phoebe," Stuart said. "She'll pick up her 'part' very quickly. She's good at that."

Jordanna and Kelly both gave him a quizzical look. But as he couldn't elaborate on Phoebe's professional acting skills, he just smiled back at them.

"She'll be ready," Prue chimed in. "And I think we've done all we can for tonight," changing the subject. "Let's get a good night's sleep."

  

    The present time...

Prue and Kelly stood outside on Sommerville Road, the street that went past the entrance to Station Golden Gate. Wilcox had given them some "show" assignments so they would appear to be doing the work of real Coast Guard Lieutenants. But he had made sure they were tasks that each one could handle and without taking away too much time from their investigation.

"I'm adding Eddie Lattimer to our list of suspects," Prue said.

"Why? He doesn't fit the profile?" Kelly asked.

"The Lieutenant paid me a lot of attention after we left Wilcox' office. He was very nosy about how I got to be stationed here," Prue replied. "He tried to trip me up about my having really been at Monterey. So now he has my attention."

"OK - we'll look into him," Kelly said. "I'm going to the Air Station to find Petty Officer Bering. She has an AST rating, which puts her in contact with the winch and strop." Kelly and Prue had learned that in addition to ranks, enlisted personnel had ratings, which were their jobs descriptions. The responsibilities of an AST - Aviation Survival Technician - included the helicopters' rescue equipment. Equipment that had failed, resulting in two deaths.

"I'll find Petty Officer Rubinek and get started pumping him," Prue said. "Be careful, Kelly."

"You too, Prue," Kelly replied and headed for her car.

 

Kelly signed in at the Air Station's gate, made an inquiry, then made her way towards one of the helicopters. The bright orange Dolphin HH-65A, with its distinctive eleven-blade tail rotor at its tail fin base, sat idle. Kelly approached the young woman working beside it, noting the name BERING stitched onto her uniform.

Joanne Bering, tall, slim with a long but attractive face and dark hair, stood up and saluted. Kelly returned the salute.

"Checking the flotation system, I see," Kelly said.

"Yes, ma'am," Bering replied.

"I've just transferred from Monterey. I've heard good things about this Station. I want to get some time on board and see some of the techniques first hand," Kelly said.

"I'm sure that can be arranged, ma'am," Bering said.

"I've also heard about the recent accidents," Kelly added casually. "Must be hard." Kelly saw Bering stiffen.

"There was an inquiry and I was exonerated," Bering said.

"I wasn't suggesting otherwise," Kelly said. "But you do seem to be touchy about it."

"I...I feel it was my fault," Bering said.

"How so?" Kelly asked. "Didn't you check the equipment?"

"Of course I did, ma'am," Bering answered. "I checked all of it the night before. But it was still my responsibility that it should have been in proper working order when it was needed."

"That's commendable, Bering," Kelly replied. "We need to execute our jobs to the full extent of our responsibilities. And improve them whenever we can."

"I've done that, ma'am," Bering said. "I've instituted a second morning check of all of the equipment. It takes more time and I have to get up much earlier than normal to be able to do it. But I feel that after what happened I can't assume everything is good from the night before. I have to be sure."

Kelly looked closely into Bering's face. She knew that in the past her witch's sensitivity had let her "feel" things. And she recognized what it was making her feel now about Bering.

"With that attitude I expect that you'll make officer one day," Kelly said. "Carry on."

"Aye aye, ma'am," Bering responded.

Kelly walked away from the helicopter and headed towards her car. Joanne Bering was now crossed off the suspect list. Kelly had a stop to make before returning to Golden Gate. She would have liked to call first but regulations did not permit her to carry her cell phone. So she would just have to drop in.

 

Prue made her way around to the small armory on the side of the Station. Golden Gate was smaller than many other stations. But its actions in law enforcement, in addition to SAR - search and rescue - and its fifty nautical miles offshore AOR - area of responsibility - made it one of the busiest stations on the West Coast, requiring a full complement of weapons.

Entering the armory, she saw no one there. She started to look at the weapons assembled when she heard someone come in. As she turned around, the man approached her, saw she was an officer and saluted. Prue returned the salute, looking at his name tag as she did.

"I've just transferred here and want to meet the crew," Prue said to Petty Officer Rubinek. "The Gunner's Mate is a good place to start. You also transferred here not long ago - from Station San Francisco."

"Yes, ma'am," Rubinek replied. He was short, though not as short as Prue, with curly, dark hair.

"I would have thought Station San Francisco, being larger, would have given you more of a challenge in your duties," Prue said.

"I was one of two Gunner's Mates there," he replied. "Here I have more responsibility, ma'am."

Prue looked at Rubinek intensely. "And all of the responsibility," she said.

"I don't understand your point, ma'am," he said.

"That's fine when things go as they should," she said, "but when they don't that can backfire on you."

"Is the Lieutenant referring to the M16 rifle failure?" Rubinek asked.

"Yes...now that you mention it," she replied sternly.

"I don't know how that happened, ma'am, though I know that's not an excuse," he said. "It was my responsibility to make sure the rifle was in working order."

"I expect you had checked it beforehand," she said.

"Yes ma'am, every night," he replied, "along with the machine guns. So that they are ready for use at first light."

"And yet it happened anyway," Prue said. She was turning the screws slowly without making it obvious that this had been her intention all along.

"Yes ma'am, it did," he said. Prue could see that he was becoming uncomfortable with her "interrogation".

"I cannot undue what happened," he said. "What I can do is to make sure it does not happen again. To that end I have implemented a check on my check. Petty Officer Jaime Wells is a Damage Controlman. She would rather be a Gunner's Mate. With Commander Wilcox' permission, I have been giving her some training for that, including checking all of the weapons with me. That puts a second pair of eyes on every weapon every day."

Impressive, Prue thought. "That would seem to undermine your reason for transferring here," Prue said, "having a second person sharing your responsibilities."

"The responsibilities for the armaments are mine and mine alone," Rubinek replied. "I'm just doing my job as a Coast Guardsman to find every opportunity to make things work better. Having HG check them with me does just that."

"HG?" Prue asked.

"Sorry ma'am. That's Petty Officer Jaime Wells' nickname," he said. "She loves all of H.G. Wells' science fiction stories, I suppose sharing the same name initially got her interest, and often refers to them in conversation. So that's what we call her. She takes no offense and has even expressed a liking for it."

"Logical, I suppose," Prue said. "Do you have a nickname, too?"

"I'm called Artie, which I prefer, by everyone. Except by Lieutenant Commander Irene Pounder when I was at Station San Francisco," he said. "She always used the formal Arthur, which made me uncomfortable."

"Very well, Artie," Prue said, purposely using his nickname. "This has been an interesting conversation. Carry on."

"Aye aye, ma'am," he replied.

Interesting enough to eliminate you from our suspect list, Prue thought.

 

Kelly had driven up the Bayshore Freeway - US 101 - from the Air Station until she was back in the city, then took to the local streets, making her way to the Richmond District. The middle-class residential neighborhood lay north of Golden Gate Park and south of The Presidio and Lincoln Park, its western border being the Pacific Ocean.

Kelly drove west on Balboa Street, then turned on to Sutro Heights Avenue. The pleasant looking houses were quite individual. No two seemed to be alike. Kelly pulled up near a very neat, gray one-family house. A maroon car was parked nose-in to the garage door while a smaller, white car sat perpendicular and behind it, blocking the first car's exit to the street.

Kelly pulled over to the side down the block, parked and walked back up the block to the house. A rounded archway to the left of the garage covered the few steps from the street to the front door. The name next to the doorbell was the name she saw at the bottom of the list of suspects, the name she had recognized. She would have preferred that no one else was here but time was critical and she couldn't afford to come back another time. She took a deep breath and rang the doorbell.

In a moment the door opened. The young woman who stood in the doorway was a little shorter than Kelly, with a slightly broader build but just as slim. Her curly, brown hair stopped a few inches above her shoulders.

The young woman was dumbstruck as she looked at Kelly. She stared at the young witch and at her uniform.

"Uh...uh...Kelly?" was all she could manage to say. Kelly however saw past the young woman into the living room. She caught a glimpse of a blue uniform. A Coast Guard uniform.

"Alexis - it's so good to see you," Kelly said with enthusiasm. At the same time she gave Alexis a warning look. Alexis caught the look and stifled her surprise as Kelly embraced her with a warm hug.

"Hug me and go along with me," Kelly whispered in Alexis' ear. In shock at seeing Kelly in a Coast Guard uniform, Alexis haltingly put her arms around her friend and hugged her back.

"It's been too long, since I started my tour at Monterey," Kelly said, as they released each other. "I was just transferred here so I came first chance I had to see you."

"Uh...yes...uh...come in," Alexis said, confused.

Seeing Kelly come into the living room, the Coast Guardsman stood up and saluted her. Kelly returned the salute.

"Uh...my cousin...Mark Bourné," Alexis said.

"Nice to meet you, Petty Officer Bourné," Kelly said.

"Thank you, ma'am. Same here," he said. "Uh...I really need to be getting back to base."

"You're at Alameda?" Kelly asked.

"Yes ma'am," he said. "Thank you Alexis for lunch." He turned to her and gave her a peck on her cheek.

"Good day, Lieutenant," he said, went to the door and left. Alexis was still so overwhelmed by Kelly's sudden appearance that she didn't even say goodbye to her cousin.

"Kelly...what -" she started to say but Kelly held up her hand with a finger on her lips. Kelly waited until she heard a car engine start, then walked over to the window and carefully peeked outside without letting herself be seen. Satisfied that the white car had left, she turned to Alexis.

"Kelly...I know you've told me that you're more than just a museum curator," Alexis said "and that you can't explain some things that you do. But this?! What...when...you're in the Coast Guard?!"

Alexis Bourné worked at the Legion of Honor Museum in Lincoln Park. She had become good friends with Kelly during the string of art thefts from people's homes that had taken place the previous week. Alexis had even helped Kelly and Stuart catch the people, and the demons, behind the burglaries, though Alexis had no idea that the latter were involved, let alone that they existed.

"It's one more thing that I can't explain," Kelly said, "one more thing for which you'll have to trust me."

Alexis took a deep breath and exhaled. "You are my friend, Kelly and I do trust you. But...the Coast Guard? What about your job at de Young?" Kelly was Assistant Curator at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.

"This is only for a few days," Kelly said. "I'll be back at the de Young very shortly." That was really wishful thinking on Kelly's part. Despite how critical the life-and-death situation with this demon was, she didn't know how long it would really take to uncover him - or her.

"Tell me about Mark Bourné," Kelly said.

"Mark? Why? Is he in trouble?" she asked.

"I hope not," Kelly replied. "How are you related?"

"He's my first cousin," Alexis answered. "My father's brother's son."

"He's from Milwaukee and has been stationed here for five months," Kelly said.

"Yes...how do you...?

"How well did you know him before he came to San Francisco?" Kelly asked her friend.

Alexis was about to challenge Kelly's question but saw something in Kelly's expression that stopped her. "Not that well," she admitted. "We'd met a few times at family gatherings - a couple of weddings and a few other times."

"How often have you seen him since he's been here?" Kelly asked.

"Pretty often," Alexis said. "He's...a bit homesick for his family back in Milwaukee. I'm family so he's been coming to me. At least once a week for dinner, some weeks a second time for a quick lunch, too, when he can get away."

"Has he seemed any different to you since he's been coming here?" Kelly asked. "Say, over the past two or three months as compared to when he first started coming to you?"

"No, nothing different at all," Alexis said. "We talk about his duties - at least what's he's allowed to discuss - and about the family. He often calls home to speak to my aunt and uncle while he's here."

"He's been doing that all along without change?" Kelly asked.

"Yes...Kelly, what is this about?"

"Anything about your family that...he should have known but...didn't know?" Kelly probed.

"The family..." Alexis exhaled. "If you must know, it was the opposite. He told me a story about my grandmother that I had never heard before. When I mentioned it on the phone to my aunt, she said she had told my cousin that story twenty years ago and hadn't thought about it since then."

"Has he ever mentioned problems that have happened lately?" Kelly asked.

"Problems...you mean like that tragedy with the rescue helicopter?" she asked. "He was there that morning when it happened."

"I know," Kelly said. The seriousness in her tone unsettled Alexis.

"Kelly...are you suggesting that Mark had...that Mark was involved with that?" she asked.

"I'm not suggesting that," Kelly said. Alexis was her friend. She had to tread carefully and get what she needed without endangering their friendship.

"Mark was here the next day and he was beside himself," Alexis said. "He said that wasn't the first...'problem' that had happened. More things had been happening but he couldn't talk about them. But he was very upset about it. It was almost like he thought there was sabotage going on. But he wasn't allowed to elaborate on his feelings."

Kelly was quiet for a moment, turning over in her mind everything that Alexis had told her. Then she felt her witch's sensitivity coming to the fore, again. "Mark is OK," she said, with a small smile. "You don't have to worry about him." And she mentally crossed Bourné off the suspect list.

"Kelly...as I've said before, the more I think I'm getting to know you the more I realize that I don't know you," she said.

"The one thing that you do know about me - and that won't change - is that you are my very dear friend," Kelly said.

Alexis closed her eyes and exhaled. Opening her eyes, she took Kelly's hands in hers and smiled. "And I am yours, Kelly. And as your friend...I'll just go on trusting you. Without the explanations."

 

It was late afternoon when Prue and Kelly were summoned to Wilcox' office. Prue had been satisfied, after her continuing investigation, to remove one additional name from their list, Petty Officer 1st Class Claudia Scagliotti at Station Golden Gate. That brought the number of remaining suspects down to ten, including the addition of Lieutenant Eddie Lattimer to the list.

"Rear Admiral Charles Rhodes is coming to Base Alameda this evening," Wilcox said. "He is the Commander of District Eleven, which includes Sector San Francisco. This was a last minute decision but we still have to have a formal reception for him. Most everyone from the Sector will be in attendance. Which means you will have to be there, too. I can't very well have my newest junior officers absent."

"With almost everyone there, the stations will be pretty much deserted. This will be a perfect opportunity for the saboteur to strike again," Prue said. "This is when we need to be available to be on the lookout for him."

"I'm well aware of that," Wilcox said. "One of you make yourself seen and noticed for half an hour, then discreetly leave. The other will have to remain there the whole time."

"But sir -" Kelly began.

"I know this puts a crimp into your investigation," Wilcox said as he cut her off. "But we've gone to great lengths to make and keep your cover. I'm not going to risk blowing it by having questions raised about you both being absent from the reception.

"Except for the hall, Base Alameda is never as empty as it will be tonight with so many people attending the reception. So if you're right about the saboteur making the most of the opportunity, my bet is he won't pass up having almost complete access to Alameda, including the supplies for the Stations. Focus on it."

Kelly took a deep breath, then exhaled. "Aye aye, sir," she reluctantly said.

 

Kelly and Prue stood at the entrance to Point Welcome, the Coast Guard Island facility in Base Aalameda used for official functions, which tonight was the venue for the Admiral's reception. They were wearing their Dress White uniforms, identical to the choker Dress Whites worn by the Navy, save for the Coast Guard insignia and buttons. They had tossed a coin as to who would search for the demon. Kelly had won the toss so Prue would be staying behind for the duration of the reception.

They entered the hall and began to make their way around separately from each other, trying to make their presence noticed. They had been doing that for some twenty minutes when Prue realized Lieutenant Lattimer was watching her. She decided to reverse the process and, as she moved around the room, made a point of watching him. But then she was stopped by a Lieutenant Commander from the Air Station who wanted to meet Golden Gate's new junior officer. When they finished chatting, Prue looked around for Lattimer but didn't see him.

Having made the rounds and then being introduced to Admiral Rhodes, something Kelly had unsuccessfully tried to avoid as she wanted to keep a low profile with very senior officers, she made her way to the door and slipped out. The Point Welcome hall was in Building 4, almost in the center of Coast Guard Island. Sunset was approaching as she made her way outside onto Eagle Road, one of two streets that ran the width of the island. The evening air was refreshing but she could not take the time to enjoy it. Not knowing what would be the demon's target, she had to cover a lot of ground. As there was still some sunlight, that would reduce the demon's cover outdoors. So she decided it was more likely that he would be inside. At least for now.

Kelly crossed Eagle Road and made her way to the huge base warehouse, a large "13" identifying number over its entrance. The building was divided into half a dozen areas, the smaller ones not related to storage. She thought it likely that items critical to the stations' duty responses would be housed there. That would be tempting for the demon, giving him a broad choice of targets to sabotage.

Kelly entered the warehouse, which was lit with limited, subdued lighting. She carefully made her way down the first aisle, looking at each side and listening for any sound. Coming to its end, she turned down the next aisle and worked her way back to the front. Then she heard some movement two aisles over. Quietly making her way to that aisle, she carefully peeked around the corner.

At the far end of the aisle, an open crate stood on the floor, a piece of equipment that had apparently been removed from it lying next to it. From that distance, and with the subdued warehouse lighting, Kelly could not see what the equipment was. But what she could see was someone crouching next to the crate. Someone with his back to her. Someone wearing a Coast Guard Working Blue Uniform.

Kelly turned around, planning to go down the parallel aisle, turn at its end into the first aisle and then confront the figure at that aisle's end. But as she turned around she knocked over a small box that had been sticking out from the shelf. The box hit the floor with a loud bang.

She quickly turned back to look down the first aisle. The figure in the Coast Guard uniform, alerted by the falling box' noise, had jumped up and was running out of the far end of the aisle. Kelly started running down the aisle after him, then turned left at its end in the direction the figure had gone.

The warehouse had a partial second level that gave a low ceiling to part of the main floor. The figure ran up an open metal staircase to a short walkway that led to the second level's storage area. The walkway ended at the middle of that level's first aisle, forcing anyone coming that way to go left or right. The figure was about to turn left down the aisle when he saw Kelly climbing the staircase. He quickly turned towards her and sent an energy bolt from his hand at her. Three steps from the top, Kelly saw the flash and quickly twisted around sharply, barely avoiding the deadly energy blast. But in doing so she lost her balance, tumbled down the staircase's first four steps and hit the warehouse floor.

She lay there face up, her head turned to one side, her arms spread outward and her knee bent in a figure four.

Her eyes were closed.

Kelly didn't get up.

 

"Anderson! Anderson!" the voice repeated loudly.

Consciousness started to come but very slowly.

"Anderson! Anderson!" the voice said loudly again.

The volume was starting to get through to her. A halting, slight opening of the eyes was followed by their closing again.

"Anderson - can you hear me?"

Kelly's eyes started to open again as the fog began to lift. Eddie Lattimer was crouched over her. Kelly slowly tried to sit up.

"Not so fast," the Lieutenant said. "What happened?"

For a moment Kelly didn't remember. She knew she had left the Point Welcome reception. But everything after that was just a haze.

"I...I don't know," she said.

"Did you fall down those steps?" he asked. "Don't try to move. You may have broken something."

"No...nothing's broken," she said, moving parts of her body. "But my head..." She raised her hand to the side of her head. "That's...tender."

"I'll get the medics to get you on a gurney and wheel you to sickbay," he said.

"No...no, wait!" Kelly said emphatically. "I don't need that." She made an effort to sit up and Lattimer assisted her.

"How did you find me?" Kelly asked.

"I saw you slip out of the reception and I was curious why you had," he said. "So I followed you here. When I came between the aisles I saw you lying on the floor."

"The...aisles," she said. And then it all started coming back to her. "The aisle...the fourth aisle." She started to try to stand up.

"Slow down," Lattimer said.

"I remember now. We have to get back to the fourth aisle," Kelly insisted. She made an effort again to stand up. This time Lattimer put his hand under her arm and helped her up. Then he put her arm around his shoulder, supporting her.

"What's so important about the fourth aisle?" he asked. But Kelly was moving towards it. He could either let go and risk her falling down or go along with her and help her. He chose the latter.

"There," she said, pointing to the equipment on the floor and the open crate. She put both of her hands onto the edge of a shelf to support herself. "See what's there."

Lattimer let go of her and walked over to the crate.

"Communication equipment," he said. "From the looks of what's marked on the crate, this was scheduled to be installed on a cutter. It was already checked and tested. What's it doing here?"

"Someone had taken it out and was doing something to it," she said. "He saw me and ran."

"And you chased after him?" Lattimer asked. Kelly nodded her head.

"Start from the beginning," he said.

"I...I walked out of the reception to get some fresh air," Kelly began, remembering the cover story she had made up in case she was seen leaving. "I walked around for a minute and then I saw someone going into the warehouse. That didn't seem right at this time of day. So I followed him in. That's when I saw him crouching over the equipment.

"Then he ran up the stairs to the second level," Kelly continued.

"And you ran after him," Lattimer said. "There have been some incidents lately of 'damaged' equipment. Sabotage, really. That person you saw was probably the one behind it. And he was probably armed."

"You're right," Kelly said. "I think he shot at me and I ducked. That's how I lost my balance." That's mostly true, she thought to herself. He did shoot at me - just not with a gun.

"Did you get a good look at him?" he asked.

"No...the lighting was too dim," she replied.

"I'm taking you to sickbay to be looked at," Lattimer said, "and on the way I'll get Shore Patrol over here to take charge of the equipment."

Lattimer put Kelly's arm around his shoulder again.

"I'm OK," she protested.

"We'll let the doctor decide that," he said, and they started to walk towards the warehouse door.

 

Captain Matt Groves had been called out of the Admiral's reception to tend to Kelly. As the Coast Guard does not have its own medical officers, Groves, in his late forties, was from the Public Health Service Commissioned Corp, detailed to Base Alameda. An offhand comment to her seemed to say that he was happy to be sprung from a boring event. He had duly poked around her body, taken a couple of x-rays and given special attention to the small lump that was now on the side of her head at the place that had felt tender to her touch.

"Nothing broken and no obvious signs of a concussion," Groves pronounced. "But I'm going to keep you here for twenty-four hours for observation."

"There's no need for that," Kelly said, "I feel fine."

"Just because I don't see signs of a concussion doesn't rule out the possibility that you have one," he said.

"I have important duties for which I'm responsible," Kelly said. "I want to get back to them, sir."

"Admirable, Lieutenant, but just the same I'll feel better with you here being observed," Groves replied.

"But I won't feel better," Kelly said. "And I won't be a helpful patient. Whatever you ask me will have the same answer: I feel fine. So you will gain nothing by keeping me here."

"Determined, are you," Groves said. He took a deep breath.

"If you give me your word, Lieutenant, that at the first indication of even the slightest bit of nausea or dizziness you'll report back to sickbay, I'll let you go."

"You have my word, sir," she replied.

"Very well, Lieutenant," he said. "You can go."

"Thank you, sir," she said. She stood up and walked out of the examination room. Her dress whites were soiled from her fall and she tried to brush them off.

"That won't do it," Lattimer said as he approached her. "You can't brush them off so easily."

"Nor you, it seems," she said. "Why are you still here?"

"I wanted to know how you really are," he replied. "I'm surprised Groves didn't keep you for observation."

"He wanted to," Kelly said, "but I convinced him it wasn't necessary. I have duties."

"You turned down a comfortable day in sickbay?" he asked with surprise. "And that was a brave thing you did chasing after that saboteur on your own without a weapon. Anderson - you didn't come here for a soft tour, after all. I had you pegged all wrong. And I'm man enough to admit it."

 

Back in their base housing at Fort Baker, Kelly told Prue what had happened in the warehouse.

"We can find a secluded spot and call Leo to come and heal you," Prue said.

"No," Kelly said. "I can't show up tomorrow without this bump on my head. It has to stay the way it is. I'll manage."

"At least your seeing the demon in a Coast Guard uniform proves that who we thought he was is right," Prue said. "Though as you couldn't see his face it doesn't narrow down out list of suspects."

"It does," Kelly said. "We can take Lattimer off of it."

"Because he helped you to sickbay?" Prue asked. "He could have decided he needed to give himself a good alibi and doubled back to you."

"No...I could tell that his helping me was sincere," Kelly replied. And his interest in me almost bordered on the personal, she thought. "But more than that, he was wearing his Dress Whites. The demon was wearing a Working Blue Uniform with a ball cap. He wouldn't have had the time nor the place to change his uniform twice. We can safely scratch him from the list."

 

Commander Wilcox picked up his phone. "Get Lieutenant Anderson, now," he said into the intercom.

In a few minutes Kelly walked into his office.

"Sir, Lt. Anderson reports," she said.

"Close the door, Lieutenant," he said.

"Aye, sir," she replied, closed the door then stepped over to his desk.

"You wanted to know about anything unusual," he said. "Petty Officer Gordon Richards failed to report for duty this morning."

Richards, Kelly thought. He's on our list of suspects.

"Does he live in base housing?" she asked.

"No - he lives in Noe Valley," Wilcox replied. That was a neighborhood in San Francisco.

"I need his address - and a secure phone, sir," she said.

 Jordanna had just stood up from her desk when her phone rang.

"Amsel," she said into the handset. She listened intently, then picked up a pen and a pad and wrote something down. "We're on our way," she said, and ended the call.

"Come on," she said to Stuart, sitting at the next desk. "That was Kelly. A Petty Officer on our list didn't report for duty. We're going over to his place. Where's Phoebe?"

"She called me to say that she was checking something she heard on the radio early this morning," he answered. "She said it was just a longshot so she didn't give me the details."

Jordanna opened her desk drawer and retrieved her gun and holster. She saw Stuart looking at her.

"Is your gun still unloaded?" she whispered.

"Yes," he replied, without enthusiasm. Jordanna exhaled. "Good. Take it," she whispered. "A lot of people are around us and we have to keep up your cover."

Stuart grabbed the empty gun and holster from his desk drawer and followed Jordanna out of CGIS Headquarters.

 

Richards' apartment was on the second floor of a small three storey building. Jordanna quietly made her way up the stairs with Stuart right behind her. When she reached the apartment door she pulled out her Sig Sauer gun and held it in her left hand.

"Really? For a demon?" he whispered.

"SOP - Standard Operating Procedure," she replied. She gently put her hand on the knob. "Locked," she whispered. "I'll break it down."

"That's trampling on rights," he mused.

"Demons don't have rights," she replied. "Stand way back behind me, far away from the door down the hallway and along the wall."

"Uh-huh," Stuart said, and moved over to stand side by side with her in front of the door. "You made me your CGIS partner. As your partner we do this together."

"You don't have a real weapon - you're gun isn't loaded," she whispered.

"But yours is," he replied. "You're the best shot in this CGIS Sector so you can shoot for both of us."

Jordanna briefly shook her head, started to say something more, then didn't. "Ready?" she asked.

"Ready," he whispered.

Jordanna took a few steps back then ran at the door, her left leg raised. The door crashed inwards and they burst into the apartment.

"Federal agents - CGIS!" she shouted. They were in a living room, a sofa and two chairs on one side, a desk on the other. Two doors opened to the right off the room, one door opened to the left. Stuart slowly made his way to the left one as Jordanna made her way to the first right door.

Stuart carefully opened the left door and found himself in the kitchen. He looked around to be sure no one was hiding in it.

"Clear," he shouted then headed back to the living room.

Jordanna, having checked out the first room on the right, which was the bathroom, came back into the living room.

"Clear?" she repeated, looking at him quizzically.

"I learn. I watch TV police shows," he said. Jordanna shook her head, then carefully went into the second room on the right. Opening the door she saw it was a bedroom. She carefully went around the room, opening the two closet doors. Then she turned to Stuart who had followed her into the bedroom.

"Clear!" she said emphatically to him, with a hint of a tease in her voice.

She pulled out two pairs of latex gloves, handing one to Stuart as she put on the other pair.

"For a demon?" he asked. "I know - SOP." He put on the gloves as Jordanna began to examine the desk. She picked up a few bills - all marked paid - then went through papers stacked in a corner.

"Phew!" she exclaimed. "Look at this. The names of the Stations and dates. These...they correspond to some of the sabotaged Stations and the dates when they happened." But Stuart didn't pay them any attention. He had sat down on the sofa and was looking through what was lying on it next to him.

"Stuart, this has to be him," Jordanna said. "Let's get out of here before he comes back. We'll get Prue, Kelly and Phoebe to stake out the apartment with us."

But Stuart didn't budge from the sofa. He continued to stare at what he had picked up from it.

"Stuart are you listening?" Jordanna asked.

"Kansas City," he replied.

"What?" she asked.

"This is a map of both Kansas Cities and the surrounding area," he said. "And here" - he picked up a book lying on the sofa next to him - "is a Triple-A guidebook to Kansas and Missouri. It was open to the pages about Kansas City."

"So?" she asked. Stuart stared at the book, thinking as he did.

"Why Kansas City?" he asked. He exhaled. "Forget the stakeout. He's not coming back."

"What? Why? How do you know that?" she asked.

"By not showing up for duty today, he gave Ensign Richards a high profile," Stuart said. "That's the last thing a demon wants. Maybe he wanted to throw suspicion on the real Richards, whom, as you said, must be safely dead."

"The closets were empty," she said.

"And leaving the travel guide and map where they were sure to be found would add to the impression that Richards was the saboteur and is on the run," Stuart said. "Maybe he decided he had been Richards for too long and was risking exposure. Whatever the reason is, he didn't suddenly do it. He was preparing for this for some time."

"You can't be sure," Jordanna protested. "Maybe he just decided he'd done enough evil here and was ready to move on."

"Kansas City," Stuart repeated. "Why was he studying the Kansas City map and guide book?"

"Why is that bugging you? He was just picking a new city where he could cause death and destruction," Jordanna said, "and Kansas City is as good a place as any for his purposes. He wanted to know the most vulnerable places where he could do the most damage where he was going."

"Why Kansas City?" Stuart asked again out loud. After a few seconds he let out his breath.

"This is not about where he's going to," Stuart said. "It's about where he's coming from."

"Huh?" Jordanna asked.

"He's not leaving, he's staying," Stuart said. "He's picked out whom he's going to impersonate next. A Coast Guardsman from Kansas City. And to avoid anyone doubting who he was when he shapeshifted to look like him, he made sure to know enough about Kansas City to pass himself off as having come from there.

"He's been preparing this escape plan for a while. Hmm...something happened this morning that made him execute it today."

Jordanna stood silently for a moment. It took a few seconds for what Stuart explained to register in her mind. Then she quickly pulled out her cell phone and dialed CGIS Headhunters.

"Amsel," she said. "I need a list of everyone at Golden Gate, San Francisco, Alameda and the Air Station who comes from within a one hundred mile radius of Kansas City. And I need it now!"

She covered the cell phone with her hand as she turned to Stuart.

"Kelly and Prue were right about you," she said. "You are smart. And you do see things that others...that I...miss."

 

Phoebe loved the smell of the water in the morning air. She had worn her blue windbreaker, with CGIS in large yellow letters on the back, because of the chill she felt when she left The Halliwell Manor. Though only eight miles away, Oakland could be across the country from San Francisco as far as the difference in their weather was concerned. Phoebe was already feeling warm with her jacket on and opened it to let in the pleasant breeze coming off the bay.

Yellow police tape roped off a large part of the beach leading down to the water. As Phoebe approached it a uniformed policeman stopped her.

"This is a crime scene," he said. "You can't come any further."

Phoebe pulled out a wallet from her jacket's inside pocket, then opened it to show the policeman.

"CGIS. I need to get down there," she said.

"CG what?" he asked, as he examined the badge and ID.

"Coast Guard Investigative Service. I'm a Federal Agent," she said.

"Coast Guard? This is a police matter," he said, handing back her wallet.

"Are you letting me in or do I call your superior and tell him you're obstructing a federal investigation?" Phoebe asked.

The policeman gave her a long look, then lifted up the tape for her to pass under it. Phoebe made her way down the beach to the water. A group of people were clustered around a body, which they were just finishing putting into a body bag.

"Hey - this is a police crime scene. You can't be here," one of the men said. He was partially balding with a gruff, long face, swarthy complexion and heavier than he should have been for his medium height.

"Special Agent Phoebe Halliwell, CGIS," she said, as she began to remove her wallet again.

"CGIS - what are you doing here?" he asked. "This is a police investigation. No Coasties involved."

"And you are who?" Phoebe asked.

"Lt. Russo," he answered. "And you can go back to investigating your boats."

"I need to see the body," Phoebe said.

"Why?" Russo asked.

"I'm not at liberty to say," Phoebe replied. "There's national security involved."

"National security?" he repeated. "Yeah - I'm sure," he said mockingly. He paused for a few seconds. "OK you can see the body. But that's all you're getting."

Phoebe walked past him and knelt down. She unzipped the top portion of the bag and stared at what was there. Or at what wasn't there. Almost all of the face was gone, as was most of the mouth. Looking carefully she saw that half a dozen back teeth were still intact.

"I need the body at CGIS," she said. "We'll check what remains of the teeth against Coast Guard dental records."

"That's not going to happen," Russo said. "This is a crime scene in my jurisdiction. It's an Oakland PD investigation."

"Let's not get into a jurisdictional squabble," Phoebe said. She recalled how this was handled on a couple of TV shows she had seen when a situation like this came up. "Let's co-operate. We'll examine the body at CGIS. If it's not a Coast Guardsman, we'll bring the body to you."

"Nah...we'll do it the other way," Russo said. "We'll examine the body and let you know if we find a Coastie connection."

"Then we'll do it the hard way," Phoebe said. She walked away out of his hearing range, pulled out her cell phone and placed a call.

"It's Phoebe. There's a body on the beach in Oakland that may help us find who we're looking for."

"We already know who we were looking for," Jordanna said. "It was Petty Officer Gordon Richards. And the demon has already picked someone else to impersonate."

"We should still get the body to Headquarters," Phoebe said. "If it was the demon's doing he made sure to burn off the face. But there should be enough teeth left to do a match. We need to know for sure if this is him."

Jordanna thought for a moment. "You're right. We need the body here until we figure out how we're going to explain all of this. Where exactly are you?" Phoebe gave Jordanna the location. "I'll get our M.E. out there. Give him about twenty minutes."

"It's not going to be that simple," Phoebe said. "There's an Oakland Police Lieutenant who's claimed exclusive jurisdiction. He's in the process of taking the body. And ignoring what I've told him."

"Russo, right?" Jordanna asked.

"Yes," Phoebe said. "I take it you know him."

"He doesn't like CGIS. We've had this problem with him before," Jordanna said. "I'll get a call made to his Captain now. My boss has his number on speed dial. Come back with the body. I'll tell the M.E. to expedite the examination and to give you, and only you, the results."

"OK," Phoebe said and ended the call.

"The CGIS Medical Examiner will be here in about twenty minutes," she said as she walked back to Russo.

"Good for him," Russo said. "But he'll be here by himself. We're not waiting around for twenty minutes."

"No, I don't expect you to wait twenty minutes," Phoebe said. "Only five minutes. That should be how long it will be until you get the call from your Captain that CGIS has jurisdiction. And that we're taking the body."

 

After a couple of minutes of impatiently waiting, the agent at CGIS had finally called back and was giving Jordanna the information which she was quickly writing down on her pad.

"OK...thanks," she said and hung up. "You're right. There are three people from the Kansas City area stationed here," she said to Stuart. "One each at Golden Gate, San Francisco and the Air Station." She pulled out her cell phone and placed another call.

"Dusty...it's me," she said. "Where is Petty Officer Nesbitt?"

"He just requested a one day liberty," Wilcox replied. "He'll be leaving any minute."

"Delay him," Jordanna said. "Find some excuse to keep him until I can get there. I need to tail him."

"Is he the suspect?" Wilcox asked.

"He's one of them," she said. "Don't let on that there's anything unusual. I should be there in about twenty minutes. I'll call you when I'm close by. Oh - and I need to know what he'll be driving."

"I'll have that for you," he said. "Anything else?"

"Is either Halliwell or Anderson available?" she asked.

"Hold on," he said. In another minute Kelly was on the phone.

"There isn't time for details," Jordanna said. "He's making a new impersonation of one of these people. Petty Officer Nesbitt is by you but going off station so Stuart and I will handle him. Chief Petty Officer Roland Aygers is at Station San Francisco. Lt. Forest Marshall is at the Air Station. You and Prue each take one."

"Has he already...made the change?" Kelly asked.

"I don't know for sure but assume that he did," Jordanna said. "You and Prue be very careful."

"OK, we're on it," Kelly said and ended the call.

"Let's go," Jordanna said to Stuart. As they reached her car she opened the trunk and took out the "red cherry".

"This is not SOP," she said as she affixed the red light to the dashboard, "nor is the siren I had installed under the hood. Hold on."

 

It was just fifteen minutes later when Jordanna, having weaved in and out of traffic, the dashboard "red cherry" flashing and the siren blasting, passing cars and trucks at what was to Stuart white-knuckle speed, pulled up outside of Fort Baker on Moore Road that crossed near Golden Gate Station. She called Wilcox to let him know she was there and to find out about Nesbitt's car. She jotted down the make, color and plate number, then showed it to Stuart.

"It shouldn't be long," she said. It was less than ten minutes when they saw Nesbitt's car pull out from the Station. He turned up Murray Circle, heading towards Sausalito. Jordanna started her car and began to follow Nesbitt at a discreet distance.

 

Nesbitt drove into Sausalito, then pulled over into a parking lot near the piers and got out of his car. Jordanna passed him and pulled over into the far end of the lot. She watched Nesbitt walk towards a small shop adjacent to the parking lot. Then she and Stuart got out of her car and followed him slowly towards the shop.

The bay side of the street, aside from the shop, was all open, having only the parking lot and the piers. Apparently the shop wasn't the one Nesbitt wanted and he suddenly turned around and started walking back towards them.

"Oh no! He's heading back here," Jordanna said. "If he's the demon he'll recognize me."

"How?" Stuart asked. "You said he was in the shadows."

"He was but there was an overhead light shining on me," she said. "He saw me. I need to hide before he comes back. If he is the demon we're in danger."

Stuart looked around. "We're out in the open," he said. "There is no place to hide."

Jordanna hesitated for a second. "Yes there is," she said. "Put your arms around me. Quickly!" She turned to Stuart as he cautiously put his arms around her. Then she threw her arms around him, pulled him tightly to her and put her lips on his. She buried her face in his face with a very passionate kiss. Without thinking, Stuart instinctively tightened his arms around her back.

Jordanna's face was not visible as Nesbitt approached them. He gave a brief glance at the "lovers", then continued on his way. Within thirty seconds he had passed them but Jordanna held the kiss for a good minute more.

"He may still be nearby," she whispered, when she released Stuart's lips, then resumed the intense kiss for another minute.

"It's safe," she said, when she was done. Stuart was breathing heavily.

"Don't tell me you didn't enjoy that," she said.

"I...you...it...felt..." He sounded overwhelmed and confused.

"Good," Jordanna said. "The word is 'good'. Say it."

As Stuart calmed down, he realized that she was right. To his dismay, Jordanna's kiss had felt good. As had her arms around his neck, and her body pressed tightly against him. But he hadn't wanted it.

"I...uh...it was...in the line of duty," he said.

"You can say that if you think it will make you feel better," she said. "It won't. And if that was 'duty', then I'll volunteer for it again any time." She looked into Stuart's eyes. "I may not be a witch...but I do have powers." Jordanna gave a knowing smile. "And I'd love to take you home and use them on you."

"Me...home...?" he asked.

"Don't worry - it's only wishful thinking," she said and sighed. "I know you're with Kelly. And I would never do anything that would come between the two of you. I'm not that kind of girl. My loss, Kelly's gain," she said. She saw the confused look on Stuart's face.

"Do you like me?" she asked.

"Like you? Uh...yes...uh. You're a nice person, a good person," he said.

"Do you find me attractive?" she asked.

"Attractive? Of course you're attractive," he answered.

"When a man is kissed by an attractive girl whom he likes, it's to be expected that the kiss, and the girl, will feel good. It's a normal male reaction."

"Normal," he repeated, as if trying to convince himself of that.

"Just like it's normal that your arms are still around me and holding my body tightly to you," she added, with a smile.

"Uh...oh," he said, and self-consciously put his arms down.

She saw that he still felt embarrassed.

"Stop feeling guilty!" Jordanna said. "I ambushed you. You weren't being unfaithful to Kelly. You were just being...very human." Jordanna sighed.

"And so was I," she added.

Being very human, Stuart thought. Had this been two years earlier, before he had been with Kelly in the alternate reality, he would have been very happy about his "normal male reaction" to Jordanna. He did like Jordanna and would have welcomed her seduction and a night with her.

But now things were different. He was in love with Kelly. Jordanna had aroused Stuart's desires - but for Kelly. Jordanna's sensuality had made him want Kelly even more. While they were hunting the demon, Kelly was staying in Fort Baker housing and so they couldn't be together.

But once this was over...

Stuart took a deep breath and regained his composure. "We lost him," he said.

"No we didn't," Jordanna replied. "I saw him from the corner of my eye. He went into the general supply store across the street."

"Wait here," Stuart said, and crossed the street. Going into the store, he made believe he was casually looking through some items. But he was watching Nesbitt carefully. The Petty Officer spent about ten minutes looking through the shelves until he found everything that he wanted. Then he approached the checkout and Stuart moved in that direction. Now he could see what Nesbitt was buying. And he didn't like what he saw.

After paying for his items, Nesbitt left the store, then headed to another shop three stores down. Stuart casually followed him into what was an electronics store. He watched Nesbitt make another purchase, then leave the store.

Stuart followed him back to the parking lot. He stopped by Jordanna and they both watched Nesbitt get into his car.

"Phoebe called," Jordanna said, as they got into her car and she started it. "Richards' dental records were a match. I guess we know now what triggered his using the escape plan. He must have heard on the radio early this morning that a disfigured body washed up on the beach, just like Phoebe heard it. And he knew whose body it probably was."

"Even though he disfigured the face, there was a tiny chance that the body would be identified - and thanks to Phoebe, it was," Stuart said. "And he didn't want to take that small risk of that happening and it pointing back to him. And with his escape plan ready, he didn't need to."

"I sent Phoebe to check on our three suspects' homes and see what she could find there," Jordanna said. "She's starting with Aygers. He lives in Alameda City so it's the closest to Headquarters. Now tell me what Nesbitt bought?"

"Electrical wires, propellant and a clock," Stuart replied.

"The makings of a bomb," Jordanna said as she pulled out and discreetly followed Nesbitt. "And a last minute liberty. He's going to plant it today."

"It would seem that way," Stuart said. "But...it doesn't fit his pattern. All of his sabotage has been to make things fail. They've been reactions to what he did. He hasn't done anything that actively caused damage. A bomb is a very different matter."

"So he's changing his tactics," Jordanna said. "Maybe he decided that with his new persona he's going to go about his sabotage differently."

"You could be right," Stuart admitted. "But...demons usually don't make such significant changes in their methods of causing destruction."

"If this shapeshifter is looking to get noticed by the demon hierarchy," Jordanna said, "there's no telling what he'll do to get their attention."

 

Kelly had signed in at the Air Station and began looking for her suspect. She turned a corner and ran into Petty Officer Joanne Bering. The slim young woman stopped and saluted Kelly, who returned the salute.

"Hello again, Bering," Kelly said. "I'm looking for Lt. Marshall. Can you tell me where I can find him?"

"Oh...you must want to get your time on board," Bering said. "He's about to go up. In fact, here he comes."

A tall, handsome man wearing a blue dry suit and carrying a flight helmet approached them. The dry suits were worn by helicopter crewmen to prolong survivability in a cold water environment. Which they often had to endure in their many rescue missions of saving people in and on the water. They both saluted the senior officer.

"Lt. Anderson was looking for you, sir," Bering said. "She's just transferred to Golden Gate and wants to get some first-hand time on board to see our techniques."

"Uh..." Kelly started to say.

"Excellent. I'm going up in five minutes and you're welcome to join me," Marshall replied, with the air of someone quite confident in himself.

Kelly hesitated. Going up alone in a helicopter with someone who may be a demon was not a smart thing to do. But that would be the only way she could speak to him and check him out now. The demon might be planning to do something today so this could not be put off until some later time after he came back.

"Come on, JG, I don't have all day," Marshall said. "JG" was how senior officers often referred to a Lt. Junior Grade. "Are you coming?"

"Yes, thank you sir," Kelly replied.

"Go get suited up and be at the pad in five minutes," he said.

Bering helped Kelly get a blue dry suit and a flight helmet. Kelly hurried and made it to Marshall's orange Dolphin helicopter without a second to spare. She climbed on board and had barely buckled up when Marshall lifted off. She turned around and was relieved to see someone else was on board, too..

"Ensign Rachel Taylor - JG Anderson," Marshall said, making the introductions.

"Nice to met you, ma'am," Taylor said.

"Likewise," Kelly replied. All she could see of Taylor under the helmet was a squarish, pretty face and a wisp or two of blond hair.

"This is a routine sortie to see if everything looks good out there," Marshall said, using his headset microphone. It was the only way to be heard above the rotors' and engine noise.

"What's your AOR?" Kelly asked. AOR was "area of responsibility", the area that a Station was responsible to cover.

"About three hundred miles along the coast," Marshall responded, "from Point Conception north to Fort Bragg." He banked the orange helicopter and turned northward. Half a dozen pleasure boats were now beneath them. The sun's rays turned the water into a deep, lovely blue. Ahead in the distance Kelly could see the Golden Gate Bridge. She found it all a spectacular view from a vantage point she had never before had.

In another minute they were making a fly-by of the bridge, the majestic orange towers below them. Marshall banked again and turned the helicopter eastward. They went over the Marin Headlands and continued out over the bay, flying between Alcatraz on their right and Angel Island on their left. Looking down at them from above, it struck Kelly how similar the two islands had been. Both had served the same purpose - to keep people in. The former for prisoners without hope of getting out, the latter for immigrants with hope of being allowed out into "America the beautiful". Now both were quiet, one a park, the other a tourist attraction.

Kelly re-focused her thoughts. She would have enjoyed the view and the ride if she wasn't sitting next to a possibly deadly demon. And she had a job to do.

"Where was your prior tour?" Marshall asked.

"Monterey," Kelly replied. "How long have you been stationed here?"

"Two years," he answered. "Best tour I've had."

"How many SARs do you log?" she asked. SAR meant "search and rescue", one of the Coast Guard's major, though far from only, missions.

"This time of year almost one a day," he answered. "Everybody's out there."

Kelly was silent for a moment, thinking of how to proceed. "Have they found out what happened...the other time?" she asked, referring to the Coast Guardsman who had been killed falling from the helicopter.

Kelly could see Marshall stiffen. He said nothing.

"Ensign Parma was Lieutenant Marshall's friend," Taylor said. Parma was the one who had been killed. "It's been hard on him...and on everyone at the station."

 

Wilcox had checked on Aygers and found out he was assigned on board the cutter James Leland for the day on a training exercise. This was the same cutter that had been at Station Golden Gate the night Jordanna was attacked by the demon. Prue had gotten a letter from Wilcox to give to the Captain of the cutter requesting she be allowed on board on "special assignment." To Wilcox surprise, the Captain, Chief Warrant Officer John Carlson, had accepted it.

Prue hurried over to Station San Francisco. She boarded the ship, rendered a salute to the ensign - the Coast Guard flag at the stern, as required when boarding a ship. Then she waited until they got under way so that she knew everyone, including Aygers, was on board.

Prue started to ask around for him. As he wasn't a regular member of the crew, it took a while until she found someone who knew who he was. That was the Boatswain's Mate. And he knew only because Aygers had volunteered for the assignment, so it had come to his attention.

Was volunteering to get onto the same cutter that the demon had once before tried to sabotage a co-incidence? Prue thought. Prue didn't believe in co-incidences. Was this to get a second chance to do his damage?

 

Jordanna and Stuart followed Nesbitt for a short distance on the 101 along the bay. Then he turned off on to the Shoreline Highway and drove for a few minutes into a residential neighborhood. He stopped by a one-family house and pulled into the driveway.

"That's not where he lives," Jordanna said. She found a spot a few houses before it and pulled over.

"What is he up to?" she asked. Nesbitt made his way down the driveway then disappeared behind the back of the house.

"I'm going to find out," Stuart said, getting out of the car.

"You can't go after him alone," Jordanna said.

"And you can't go in because, if he is the demon, he'll recognize you," Stuart replied. "Wait by the front door. Be ready to break in if I call for help."

Before Jordanna could protest, Stuart was in the driveway, after having taken a quick look at the name by the front door, and making his way around the house. Jordanna got out of the car and hurried up the steps to the front door. The blinds in the front windows were closed so she could not see what was happening inside.

There was a back door at the rear of the house. Stuart quietly opened the screen door, then tried the knob on the inner door. It wasn't locked. Slowly he turned the knob and peeked inside. The door opened into a kitchen but no one was in it. Quietly Stuart went inside and made his way through the kitchen to the doorway that led from the other side of the kitchen.

That opened into the living room. Nesbitt stood in the room, his back towards Stuart so he didn't see him come in. Stuart thought for a moment, then decided on a tactic.

"Hello," he said.

Startled, Nesbitt jumped at the unexpected voice, then turned around. He was holding the electrical wires and a screwdriver.

"Uh...hello," Nesbitt said.

"I'm the Nielsens' neighbor," Stuart said, using the name he had seen by the front door. "I saw you go in the back door so I thought I'd better have a look at what was going on."

"I'm Kyle Nesbitt. I guess it must have looked suspicious to you, my going in the back. Especially as you don't know me."

"Uh-huh," Stuart said, in a tone that implied that he was still suspicious of what Nesbitt was doing there.

"I'm a friend of Jeannie," Nesbitt said, picking up on Stuart's suspicions. "That's how I knew where the spare key to the back door was hidden. Jeannie grew up in Overland Park near Kansas City, where I'm from. She's making a birthday party for her seven-year old this afternoon. Saul was supposed to come home yesterday and arrange everything this morning but he got delayed in Denver and won't get in until early afternoon.

"Jeannie knows I'm an ET in the Coast Guard - that's Electronics Technician - and she figured I could put something together the last minute."

Stuart understood that Saul must be Jeannie's husband. "Interesting. So what are you setting up?"

"There's a toy model plane that Saul bought for Billy," Nesbitt said. "It uses a propellant to fly around. I'm rigging it to take off and surprise him when the party starts at four o'clock. That's what I'm setting up with this clock. Here - let me show you."

Nesbitt walked over to a closet, opened the door and pulled out a large carton. Opening the top flaps, he revealed what was inside. Stuart saw a model plane. A string with "Happy Birthday" stickers was attached to its tail. And a small housing where the propellant obviously went was beneath the cockpit.

"You do have to be very handy with electronics to set that up," Stuart said. "I'm sure Billy - and Jeannie and Saul - will appreciate your effort. I'll leave you to your preparations."

Stuart retraced his steps, then waved to Jordanna to join him.

"It's a birthday party," Stuart said, then explained everything to Jordanna.

"It still could be him just covering himself," Jordanna said, but without much conviction, as her cell phone rang.

"Amsel," she answered.

"It's Phoebe. I'm at Aygers' apartment. The place was oddly extra securely locked and I had to make up a spell to get inside. He's dead. The demon didn't have a chance to disfigure the body and get rid of it so he didn't want anyone getting in here until he did. He secured the door to prevent that from happening. He probably needs to wait until dark to move the body."

"Call the M.E. - he knows you now - and get him out there," Jordanna said. "I'll get a message to Prue. I'll keep you posted."

"Phoebe said it's Aygers," Jordanna told Stuart as she hung up and placed a call to Wilcox.

"Dusty, I need to get a message to Prue at Station San Francisco. It's important."

"She's not at the Station," Wilcox replied. "She went to follow up on Chief Petty Officer Aygers. He's on a cutter and I managed to get her on to it, too."

Jordanna exhaled. Now it was getting complicated - and dangerous. She thought for a minute.

"Dusty - no time to explain. Here's what I need. Find a way to do it and make it happen. I know you can." And she told him what she wanted.

 

Kelly was thinking of how to press Marshall on the subject of Parma's death. She started to say something but Marshall waved her off. He was listening to the radio in his headset.

"Repeat that," he said. From his tone, Kelly could tell that he couldn't believe what he thought he heard. He listened for a minute.

"Roger that," he said, then waited a few seconds before speaking.

"I just received orders to bring you to the Cutter James Leland," he said to Kelly. "It's cruising up in Bolinas Bay." Marshall paused. "Code Molokai."

Code Molokai. As a precaution in case they couldn't speak freely, Jordanna had assigned code names of Hawaiian Islands to each of the three suspects. Code Oahu was given to Nesbitt. Marshall was given Code Maui. Code Molokai was Aygers'. That code was confirmation that the shapeshifter demon was impersonating Aygers. Her being ordered to the cutter meant that he must be on it.

Kelly breathed a sigh of relief. That meant that she wasn't sitting in the helicopter next to a demon.

But Prue had been going to check up on Aygers and had probably gotten herself assigned to the cutter to follow him. If Prue had figured out that Aygers was the demon, and especially if she hadn't, she needed Kelly's help. And somehow Jordanna had managed to get her ordered to the cutter to help Prue.

"You want to tell me what you're up to and what Code Molokai is?" Marshall asked.

"I'm sorry, sir, but I can't," Kelly replied. "I'm under orders not to reveal the operation."

Marshall took a deep breath. He wasn't happy with the answer but he knew he had to accept it.

"You're not an ordinary JG, are you, Anderson," he said.

"No, sir, I'm not," she said.

Marshall banked the Dolphin and they turned to a northwest heading that would bring them to Bolinas Bay, some twenty-five miles away up the coast. With the sun shining on it as they passed over Battery Spenser and the Gateway National Recreation Area, the orange helicopter stood out against the clear, blue sky.

In a few minutes they reached Bolinas Bay and sighted the James Leland. Marshal made a pass near the cutter.

"They've got a helo on the pad," he said, referring to the helicopter sitting on the cutter's deck. "I can't set her down. The only way you'll get down there is with the harness."

Kelly was not happy about doing that. She had no experience with that procedure. And without experience it would be dangerous.

"You wanted to see our techniques first hand," Marshall said. "Now you'll get to do that. Rachel will show you how the harness works."

"Have you ever done this, ma'am?" Taylor asked.

"No...I...I haven't," Kelly replied. Taylor could tell from Kelly's answer that she was far from comfortable with doing this.

"Are you sure you're ready for this ma'am?" Taylor asked.

Ready, Kelly thought. Prue may be in danger. At the very least she needs my help. Whether or not I'm ready doesn't matter.

"I have my orders, Ensign," Kelly replied. "Let's do this."

Rachel Taylor looked at Kelly with a new admiration. The helicopter SAR teams train regularly over and over for this, she thought. But Lieutenant Anderson was willing to do this without any training at all because she had to be on that cutter where she was needed. Where she had a mission to accomplish.

"I'll show and explain it all to you ma'am," Taylor said. "And I'll be controlling the winch. I'll be sure that you go down easy."

"Thank you, Rachel," Kelly said.

Rachel helped Kelly into the harness, attached the suspension strop from it to the winch cable hook and showed her how to use the harness release.

"Regs are that the sun visor has to be up during descent," Taylor told her, referring to the darkened visor, attached to the helmet, normally lowered to block out sun glare.

Rachel helped Kelly to the door opening, and showed her how to ease herself out. Kelly took a deep breath and eased herself over the side. Rachel began unwinding the winch cable and Kelly started down.

Its overhead and vertical tail rotors spinning, Marshall kept the Dolphin in one spot. Looking up for a moment, it amazed Kelly how he kept the helicopter stationary as if it was on the ground and not in mid-air.

As promised, Taylor eased Kelly down slowly. There was little lateral swing and Kelly allowed herself a look out at the water for a few seconds. Despite her trepidation at using the harness, suspended in air and seeing the bay all around her, with Stinson Beach in the distance, she found it to be exhilarating. Then she looked down and with Taylor's instructions playing in her mind, concentrated on landing aboard the cutter.

Boots on the deck, she released the strop and waved up to Rachel, who then rewound the cable. One of the ship's crew greeted her and escorted her to the Captain's quarters.

The Captain, Chief Warrant Officer John Carlson, stood up as she came in. Though Kelly outranked him, on board the ship he was Captain. Protocol required a mutual respect.

"Welcome aboard, ma'am," Carlson said. "Now, will you please tell me what is going on here? I get orders to let you on board my ship as part of the training exercise. I know that it isn't part of it."

"I'm here, Captain, tracking down a saboteur, who may be on your ship," Kelly said, putting down her helmet on a chair. She removed her harness and placed it on top of the helmet. "Including my arrival as part of the training exercise was to prevent his being suspicious that something out of the ordinary was going on."

"A saboteur?" a startled Carlson responded. "Who?"

"I can't say yet, Captain, as we're not certain," Kelly replied. "But we'll soon find out."

"Tell me whom you suspect and I'll send Shore Patrol with you," he said. "There are a few on board."

"Thank you Captain but they can't get involved now," she said. "This is a very clever and cunning saboteur. My partner and I are specially trained to find him."

"Your partner, ma'am?" he asked.

"Lieutenant Prue Halliwell," she replied.

"Lieutenant Halliwell," he repeated. "The one who came on board for a 'special' undisclosed assignment."

"Yes, Captain. And I really have to find her and carry out our assignment," Kelly said.

"How?" Carlson asked.

"We have our methods, Captain," she answered ambiguously.

"And I have my methods, ma'am," he said. "You have fifteen minutes. If you haven't found the saboteur by then I'm sending the Shore Patrol to ferret him out."

"Fifteen minutes," Kelly repeated, nodding her head.

"Where's your weapon, ma'am?" he asked.

"I don't have one," she replied. "I wasn't expecting to be diverted here."

"You're going after a saboteur un-armed?" he asked in disbelief.

"As I said, Captain, we are trained for this and have our methods," Kelly replied.

Carlson stared at her for a few seconds. Then he walked over to a cabinet, took out a key and opened a drawer. He removed a Sig Sauer P229 pistol from it, opened it and checked the magazine, then closed it and handed it to Kelly.

"Keep it concealed in your dry suit pocket until you need it," Carlson said.

"Thank you, Captain," she said.

"Remember - fifteen minutes," he reminded her.

 

Prue had found Aygers in a corner of a storage area on the starboard side of the ship. A carton was open and he had apparently removed some of the smaller boxes that had been inside of it and opened them.

"Taking inventory?" Prue asked. Aygers looked up, startled.

"Checking the munitions, ma'am," he said.

"That would have been done before we left," Prue said, her already aroused suspicions rising a notch.

"This is only a training exercise so I'm just checking up, making sure it wasn't overlooked because of that," he explained.

"All the more reason that preparation would have been included as part of the exercise," she said. "You volunteered for this training assignment. That seems a rather odd choice," she added as she walked over closer to the boxes to see inside them.

"I...felt I could use the practice," Aygers said.

"Does that practice include removing the munitions from their boxes? And what were you going to practice with them? Hmmm...these look like something has been done to them."

Prue looked back at Aygers just as the demon raised his hand and pointed it at her. Prue dived, the energy bolt coming so close that it singed the sleeve of her shirt and the skin on her arm.

Kelly had asked who had seen Prue and was told she was seen heading to the storage area. She went to the area and saw Prue on the floor near Aygers.

"It's Aygers!" Prue shouted at her.

"I know," Kelly answered.

Prue waved her hand and sent the demon flying back towards the railing.

"The spell - quickly!" Prue shouted. The demon stood up straight and pointed his hand at them. Prue waved her hand again, knocking him back down. Then they saw him face start to change.

"He's trying to shapeshift into something else," Prue said. "Let's say it." She and Kelly began together.

 "Shapeshifter to do your evil you change how you appear
  But never again - we vanquish you from here."

The demon began to spin, his features changing the faster he spun around. He spun faster and faster until he was a blur. And then he burst apart and was gone.

They both sighed in relief.

"You're hurt," Kelly said, seeing Prue's arm.

"It's a minor wound," Prue said. "I'll be OK. But we have to find a way to explain what happened to the demon - to Aygers."

"Here," Kelly said, taking out Carlson's gun from her dry suit pocket. "We'll shoot into the water, make it look like I shot him and he fell overboard."

They ran over to the railing. Kelly had shot a gun only once, a special type of rifle in the alternate reality. She held the Sig Sauer with both hands, pointed it at the water and pulled the trigger twice. The force of the gun's recoil pushed her backwards and her shots went wild. But as both bullets hit the water no harm was done.

"To sell that we're going to need some physical proof," Prue said.

"We need a spell to make some," Kelly said.

"And we need Phoebe for that," Prue said. "I can't make up a spell on the spot the way she does."

"Maybe not - but we'll do it together," Kelly said. "Hold hands. And just start a spell."

Prue thought for a few seconds. "Demon shapeshifter whom... we've been trailing..."

Kelly picked it up and added "Leave proof of his death...upon the railing."

In an instant, there was blood covering the top railing.

They heard footsteps running towards them and they quickly let go of each other's hand.

"What happened?" Carlson asked, leading three members of the Shore Patrol. "We heard shots."

"We found the saboteur," Kelly said.

"Where is he?" Carlson asked.

"I shot him and he fell overboard," Kelly replied. "He's dead."

Carlson ran to the railing, saw the amount of blood on it, and agreed with Kelly's assessment. Then he looked down into the water.

"Start a search for the body," he ordered one of the Shore Patrol. "Who was it?"

"It was someone posing as Chief Petty Officer Aygers," Prue said.

"Posing? How could he pose as him?" Carlson asked.

"This saboteur was a master of disguise and makeup," Prue replied. "He had the skill and material to make himself look like whomever he wished to."

"Part of our special training was to be able to recognize the signs of that and see through it," Kelly added.

Carlson looked at them for a moment.

"Well done, ma'ams," he said.

 

After the unsuccessful search in the water for the saboteur's "body", and some discussion with Sector Senior Officers, the James Leland continued with an abbreviated training exercise for another two hours, then returned to Station San Francisco.

Prue called Jordanna and told her what happened on the ship. Then she went back to Station Golden Gate to brief Wilcox, giving him the "sanitized" version that she had given to Carlson. Jordanna, who had met her at the Station, backed that up with the findings of the M.E. and Phoebe's discovery of the body. Wilcox accepted it and Jordanna left to fill out a report for her boss at GGIS Headquarters.

Kelly got a lift to the Air Station, where she had left her car. Walking through the Station, she was approached by a young woman in Tropical Blue uniform, her insignia and shoulder boards showing that she was a junior officer. Slim, at five-foot-eight just one inch shorter than Kelly, her blond hair was in a side-parted, chin-length, soft bob, one side tucked behind her right ear. She saluted.

Kelly returned the salute, then looked at the name tag affixed to the front of her uniform above the right pocket.

"Rachel Taylor?" Kelly asked.

"Yes ma'am," she replied.

"Sorry Rachel - I didn't recognize you without the helmet covering your face," Kelly said. And that face is pretty enough that you could have been an actress, Kelly thought. "Thank you for helping me in the helo."

"You're welcome, ma'am, but I was just doing my job," she said modestly. "I heard what you did on the cutter and, if I may be permitted to say so, that was very brave. As was your using the harness without any experience. Frankly, ma'am, your dedication to your assignment is an inspiration to me."

Kelly was moved by the young Ensign's words. "Thank you, Rachel. But using the harness was a one-time necessity for me. You do it, or are prepared to do it, every day in SAR. And as for the saboteur, you're on call for interdiction support the whole year, which can be just as dangerous. It is you who are the inspiration for duty - and for putting yourself in danger to save others."

Kelly meant what she had said. In her mind, replace the word "others' with "innocents" and what she and Rachel Taylor did, including the risks each took, were quite similar. Over the past few days, Kelly had gotten a healthy appreciation and respect for the Coast Guard. Her being on the helo and having first hand experience with its crew had made that even greater.

"That's very kind of you to say that, ma'am," Rachel said.

"You exemplify Semper Paratus, Ensign,Kelly said. That’s the Coast Guard motto, meaning 'always ready'. "I'm glad I had the chance to serve with you on this mission."

 

It was the next afternoon when Jordanna called and said she needed to see Prue and Kelly. They had both spent the previous night in their Ft. Mason housing, to give Wilcox time to arrange for their orderly "transfer" out of Station Golden Gate without raising too many questions about them.

It was early evening when Jordanna came over to the Halliwell Manor. Kelly had just gotten there herself. It had taken some time in the morning before she and Prue were able to leave Golden Gate. She didn't arrive at the de Young Museum until noon and had to stay late catching up on work in her capacity as the Assistant Curator.

“Dusty was amazed at how well and believably you both played your roles as Coasties,” Jordanna said, after they sat down in the living room. “Frankly, so was I. You both said that you could do it - and you did.” Jordanna took two manilla envelopes from her briefcase and handed one each to Prue and Kelly.

"Open them," she said. "The letters are identical except for your names."

Kelly removed the letter from her envelope and began to read it.

 

United States Coast Guard

Eleventh Coast Guard District

Sector San Francisco


Ms. Kelly Anderson

Dear Ms. Anderson,

This letter is written to thank you for the service you provided in combating a serious threat to the Coast Guard, and in turn a national security threat to the United States. As a civilian, your offering your services without remuneration is remarkable. As is the success you achieved in eliminating this threat.

Often, the accomplishments of those serving their country are generally unknown outside of the government and the military. In rare instances, they are not known even there, save by one or two people directly involved with the individual. Your case is one of the latter. Though it does not reduce the appreciation nor the gratitude due you, it does preclude any official recognition and honor that would have been awarded you.

In lieu of that, I offer this Letter of Commendation for the heroic valor that you displayed. You undertook a mission to uncover a saboteur who had infiltrated Sector San Francisco, causing much harm and the loss of life. You volunteered for this very dangerous mission out of a sense of duty and the desire to protect your fellow countrymen, receiving injuries in the process. I can think of no other action on the part of a civilian that would warrant a greater commendation. It has been a privilege and an honor to be associated with you in your successful completion of your mission.

In light of this, it would be beneficial to the Coast Guard to continue to have a relationship with you. A person who places duty and responsibility above personal safety is a most valuable asset. I am therefore exercising my prerogative and offering you placement in the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, District 11 Northern Region, Flotilla 12 with the rank of Vice Flotilla Commander. Accompanying this letter are the appropriate insignia to affix to your uniform collar and shoulder boards. It is my sincere hope that you will accept this appointment and continue to be a most valuable resource to the Coast Guard.

May you always be kept safe in all endeavors you undertake, in whatever capacity, to protect us from those who wish to do us harm.

Sincerely,

CDR Dustin M. Wilcox, Jr.
Commanding Officer
Station Golden Gate


Kelly stared at the letter in stunned silence. After a moment, she gave a deep breath. As it began to sink in, she found herself very moved by the letter. She glanced at Prue and could tell from her expression that she was affected the same way.

Kelly thought for a moment, then turned to Jordanna.

"It would be my great honor to accept this appointment," she said.

"And mine too," Prue seconded.

"Good," Jordanna said. She took out two small, square flat boxes from her briefcase and hand one to each of them.

"Your insignias," she said with a smile as they took the boxes. "Welcome aboard, Commanders," she added and saluted them.

 

Kelly lay alluringly on their bed, wearing only a large Coast Guard T-shirt on her slim body. Her blond hair, released from its ponytail, draped beckoning across the top of her shirt. It was her first night back home with Stuart.

"What's the protocol for approaching a Coast Guard officer in bed? Do I salute first? Do I ask for permission to approach?" Stuart quipped. "What are your orders, ma'am?"

"You have permission to approach and while saluting is not necessary other things are," Kelly replied with an anticipatory smile. "Here are your orders, Coastie," and she read them out with great specificity.

"Aye, aye ma'am," Stuart acknowledged. He slid into the bed and she turned onto her left side to face him. Stuart began to carry out every detail of her orders. But after a couple of minutes he suddenly stopped and lay motionless.

Kelly opened her eyes. She knew what had happened and what was wrong, as only two people so in synch with each other through their love could know without the other person saying a word. Kelly knew what she had to do. She threw her arms and legs around Stuart. The softness and warmth of her body began to penetrate his stupor as she tightened her embrace, bringing him to her.

And then they were together.


With his head on Kelly's shoulder and the security of her arm around him, Stuart had felt secure that they were together - emotionally and physically. Then he surrendered to sleep, the usual affect their intimacy had on him. It had the same affect on Kelly. But though she was drowsy and half asleep, this time she fought it off as she thought about what had happened to Stuart. She knew what happened - but why here, why now?

Stuart had spent a lot of his life alone, without a true partner and companion. And though he had been with Kelly for two years, he would still occasionally get a feeling of that loneliness. But whereas in the alternate reality they had been flashbacks to his past, in this reality they weren't. Stuart had let it slip that the loneliness he felt here was a fear of loneliness in the future, not in the past.

Stuart was not a witch. Kelly knew that he therefore had neither Phoebe's power of premonition nor Kelly's witch's "sensitivity." She didn't understand how he could feel a fear of something from the future.

But Stuart did understand. Or at least his sub-conscious did. He knew that at some point The Elders were going to send The Halliwells back to being their real selves in their real lives - actresses on Charmed. And he was afraid of how that would affect him - he had come to the Charmed-modified world with them - and what that would do to Kelly. And to their relationship - and their love. But of course he couldn't explain that to her.

Stuart didn't want to think about that so he pushed it out of his conscious mind. But his sub-conscious mind had those fears and they would pop out from time to time into his conscious mind. Just as they had that night.

Kelly's trying to figure out why Stuart had these fears was becoming hazy. She could no longer resist the sleep that was overcoming her. And she finally helplessly let go, gave in and submitted to it.

 

The early morning sun was shining as Kelly opened her eyes. Stuart was still asleep next to her. The sunshine and Stuart made her awaken contentedly. But then she remembered her disturbing thoughts during the night about Stuart's fears of a future without her.

She needed re-assurance that they were, and more importantly would stay, together. She had lost him once, when they had come back from the alternate reality. His memories of their two years there had been erased during their return. It was only through her spell - and with a big assist from Piper Halliwell - that his memories of their time together, and of their love, had come back to him. She knew that logically nothing she did now with Stuart could stop whatever might be in the future that had somehow triggered his fears. But love isn't logical and Kelly very much loved Stuart.

She leaned over him and began to alternate between placing soft, gentle kisses on his ear and whispering seductively into it. Stuart began to stir, then started to react to what Kelly was doing. And he reacted exactly the way Kelly had wanted him, had needed him, to react.

Because of Kelly's strong, desperate need at that moment to be with Stuart, her body reacted to their joining with a heightened and intensified sensation of intimacy, greater than anything she had expected to experience with him.

Stuart felt Kelly's intensified feelings and they caught him by surprise. And his body reached a response that overwhelmed him with feelings of intimate love.

When eventually their bodies calmed down and each had an arm lying gently on the other, she was left with the feeling of a connection of companionship, of being each other's partner in life, and of love that was un-breakable, and that could withstand and overcome whatever might be coming their way in the future.

Kelly had her re-assurance.

 

"I can't," Leo said.

"Yes you can," Piper said.

"No," Leo said.

"Yes!" Piper insisted.

They were in the Halliwell Manor parlor where they had been talking for several minutes.

"The power that I have to heal...it's not meant for me to use on everybody," he said. "Otherwise I could just go around the world healing everyone. It's just in special circumstances...when a witch is hurt by some evil."

"She is a witch and she was hurt by some evil. An evil demon," Piper replied. "Prue told me the whole story."

"If The Elders would have wanted her cured they would have sent me to her," he protested. "They don't want me to help her."

"And The Elders didn't want you to save Stuart at one point, either," she said. "Until I blackmailed them into letting you save him. I can blackmail you about this."

Despite her initial resistance to thinking of Leo as a "real" Leo, his continued presence combined with her thinking and acting more and more like Piper finally overcame that. She stopped trying to fight it and let Piper's feelings take control of her. And with that, Leo's relationship with Piper had finally evolved onto the verge of intimacy. And so he understood very well what kind of blackmail Piper was threatening.

"Look...even if I did agree to try to help...it's been too long," he said. "My powers work when the wounds are fresh, when the body's cells can still be put back together as they had been. This has been too many years. The body has been in that state far too long. It doesn't still have the cells with which I can work."

Piper thought for a moment. "But the mind is different," she said. "It has cells but they're not like the body's cells. They just need a small jolt to rejuvenate them.

"Just heal her mind," Piper said. "Give her at least that."

Leo hesitated, then exhaled. "I can't promise anything. I can just try."

"That's all I'm asking," Piper said.

"But if The Elders find out about this..."

"Then we won't let them find out," she said with assurance. "And whatever you do, don't let them either of them know who and what you are."

 

"Why?" Jordanna asked.

"He has a medical background," Prue replied.

"I've had the best doctors, the best specialists look at Mom," Jordanna said later that day, sitting with Prue in the Halliwell Manor kitchen. "There's nothing that can be done for her. Your friend has a medical background? So what. That doesn't make him a doctor. And even if he was, he couldn't find anything that all the others haven't."

"Jordanna, we've just been through a lot together," Prue said. "Doesn't that count? Haven't I earned your trust?"

Jordanna looked at Prue for a few seconds, then exhaled. "Of course you've earned my trust."

"Then just trust me," Prue implored her. "Take us to see your mother."

Jordanna exhaled. "All right Prue," she said in a low voice. "I'll take you."

 

Prue and Leo followed Jordanna into a private room near a lounge at the corner of the floor but stayed well behind her, not wanting to suddenly have a crowd around her mother. A small table with a single chair stood near the window, the late morning sun lending a cheerful glow. But Prue could sense that despite the sunlight there was no cheer in that room.

A bed stood near the far wall. In the bed a woman sat propped up against some pillows, a blank expression filling her face. Prue expected her to be about fifty. But the emptiness in her face made her look much older.

"Hi," Jordanna said as she approached the bed.

"Hello," the woman replied, turning slowly to face Jordanna. "There's no one here."

"You're here," Jordanna said. "I've come to see you."

"To see me?" the woman asked. "That's very kind of you. Do you know me?"

"Yes...I do," Jordanna said, taking her mother's hand and giving it a gentle squeeze.

"I don't get visitors," her mother said. "At least...I don't think I do." She noticed Prue and Leo standing just inside the doorway. "Are these your friends?"

"Uh...yes." Jordanna took a deep breath. "This man is...is a doctor. He wants to examine you. Would that be all right?"

"A doctor? Do I need a doctor?" she asked.

Jordanna turned to Prue and Leo and hesitated for a few seconds. "It's just to make sure that...everything is OK," she said as she turned back to her mother, giving her a small encouraging smile.

"He looks like a nice man," Margie said. "All right."

Jordanna turned and nodded to Leo. He approached the bed as Prue went over to Jordanna and took her by the arm.

"We'll wait outside," Prue said, pulling on Jordanna's arm.

"What? No..." Jordanna began to protest but Prue pulled her forcefully from the room, closing the door behind them, then pulling her into the small lounge.

"I'm not leaving him alone with my mother," she said, pushing away Prue's hand.

"Jordanna - you said that you trust me," Prue said. "Then trust me! Stay out here with me."

Jordanna looked back at the room's closed door, then took a deep breath and turned back to Prue, accepting Prue's request.

"How did you wind up in CGIS?" Prue asked, trying to divert Jordanna's attention from Leo and her mother.

"I suppose it was growing up seeing what my mother did," she said, "helping and saving people while fighting evil. I wanted to do that, too. But I got skipped over in the witch department so I was looking for another way. I had thought about but discarded the idea of becoming a local cop. Too many other things that didn't interest me were part of the job, not to mention the politics in police departments.

"I went on a skiing weekend with some friends - I don't really ski so I just enjoyed the scenery and sat around a lot in the lodge. I met a girl there, Riley Ory, who was a Special Agent for NIS. That was the Naval Investigative Service. We got to talking and her job sounded like something I would like, giving me a way to follow in my mother's footsteps as best I could.

"She encouraged me to apply but they were just undergoing a change into a fully civilian agency within the Department of the Navy - their name was even changed to NCIS - and they weren't accepting applications for Special Agents. I called Ory and told her of my disappointment. She nosed around, called me back and told me that CGI - that was Coast Guard Investigations - did have openings. I applied, got accepted - the name changed four years ago to CGIS - and here I am."

"It certainly seems to me that you've been doing a good job of emulating your mother," Prue said. "You're clearly committed to your -"

Leo's opening the door interrupted her. Jordanna gave him a long look as he walked over to Prue, then she hurried past them into her mother's room.

"I did what I could," Leo said.

"Was it enough?" Prue asked.

"I can't tell how much effect it had," he said.

"Will whatever you did do...will it remain with her?" she asked.

"It's permanent," Leo said. "But I don't know what it is."

They walked to the door and stood by it as Jordanna slowly approached her mother's bed. As Margie turned her face towards her, Prue saw that it looked differently than it had a few minutes earlier. Margie stared at Jordanna for a few seconds.

"Jordanna?" Margie asked. "Jordanna darling...is that you?"

"Mom...Mom?" Jordanna began. She rushed to her mother and threw her arms around her and hugged her. And Margie hugged her back.

"Jordanna," Margie said as her daughter released her hug, "You look different. Older...and your hair is even longer that it was." Margie looked around the room. "Where am I?"

"You're...in a...home," Jordanna said, tears falling from her eyes.

"A home? Why?" Margie asked.

"You were hurt. What do you remember, Mom?" Jordanna asked.

"Remember? I remember...I was at a house, in a back garden. Uh...Leora Kaufman, newlywed. And the demon Bartosa was there to kill her. But I was ready for him and...and I was about to vanquish him. But Leora walked into the garden and I had to get her away. Bartosa must have thrown energy blasts at me. I remember lying on the ground...and saying the spell."

"And after that?" Jordanna asked.

"After that...it's all hazy," Margie said. "Until now. But why do you look...older?"

"That demon Bartosa...that was...a few years ago," Jordanna replied.

"A few years?" Margie repeated.

"I'd better leave now," Leo whispered to Prue. "Before The Elders notice."

"Go ahead," Prue said. "And thanks," as he quietly left.

"Come in," Margie said motioning to Prue. "Who's your friend, Jorri?"

"Jorri," Jordanna repeated as Prue came over. "That's what Mom used to call me."

"Hello Mrs. Amsel, I'm Prue Halliwell."

Margie looked at her intensely. "Prue Halliwell." A smile came across Margie's face. "All grown up into a lovely young woman. Patty would have been so proud of you."

Jordanna grabbed Prue and spun her to the side, away from Margie.

"What did you do?" Jordanna demanded. "How did you...who is Leo?"

"What, how, who - none of that matters," Prue said. "Her body is still damaged but your mother's mind is back. That's what matters. And that's all that matters...is that you have your mother back."

Jordanna stared at Prue for a moment. As tears streamed down her face, she embraced Prue, hugging her tightly. When she let go, her hands were still holding Prue near her.

"Thank...you," Jordanna said. Her words were barely audible...but Prue heard them. Then Jordanna turned back to her mother and went over to her.

"Mom, I'm getting you out of here," Jordanna said. "You're coming home to be with me."

"Jorri...I can tell that my body...Bartosa damaged me," Margie said. "I won't let myself be a burden to you."

"Mom you are not a burden," Jordanna said, trying to wipe away her tears of joy. "I love you, Mom. And I'll take care of you." Margie lifted her arms and hugged Jordanna, holding her close to her, and planting a kiss on her daughter's head.

Prue found that she had to wipe away tears of her own, as she watched their embrace. Stories don't always end this way, but this time it has, Prue thought. This story was written with a happy ending.



~ Notes ~

I do a good deal of research for each episode, to make its content authentic and enhance its realism. This episode was no exception. In fact, the research done in writing this episode was greater than for any other. But as an amateur writer, I did not have access to official Coast Guard resources and had to rely on such sources as I could find. It is therefore possible that I will have made errors in some facts. For this I apologize to the Coast Guard and to the reader.

~ ~ ~


CGIS - Coast Guard Investigative Service - is as described in the story. It focuses on criminal investigations and protective services involving the Coast Guard. There are eight CGIS Regions, with the Pacific Region's Headquarters on Coast Guard Island as in the story. Its National Headquarters is located in Arlington, Virginia. The Director of CGIS reports to the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard.

~ ~ ~

The Coast Guard is the least generally understood branch of our military. Though smaller than its sister services, it is no less vital to our safety and security. It is the only military service authorized to operate domestically, as well as abroad.

In addition to providing waterways and coastal security, stopping criminal activities and conducting vessel safety and security inspections, its brave men and women are our maritime "first responders". When someone in need on the water calls for help, they execute SAR - search and rescue - with the utmost efficiency and proficiency. They are deserving of our recognition and appreciation.


                        

~ ~ ~


The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian component of the United States Coast Guard. Its "offices" are equivalent to active duty "ranks". It is an adjunct to the Coast Guard and as such is subject to many of its protocols, customs and regulations, including identical uniforms, with slightly different but similar insignia. There are nine Auxiliary Districts, some sub-divided into Regions. Flotillas are the basic units within each District or Region.

The Auxilliary provides support to the Coast Guard, primarily in promoting boating safety and SAR. But they can provide support in any Coast Guard activity at the direction of the Commandant of the Coast Guard.


~ ~ ~


The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps' mission is to protect, promote, and advance the country's health and safety. As America's uniformed service of public health professionals, the Commissioned Corps achieves its mission through rapid and effective responses to public health needs and leadership in public health practices. PHSCC officers assigned to the Coast Guard, which does not have its own medical corps, do not wear their standard uniforms but instead wear Coast Guard uniforms, with PHSCC insignia.




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