that cleared, she found herself about twenty yards from the terminal exit, though not the same
exit that she had been in front of before. To her left was an airport newsstand. Strange, she
thought, that no one else had walked this way down that deserted corridor to get to this exit.
"What happened...everything was blurry for a moment," Shaw remarked.
"The world in 2014 is dependent upon what happens to these two people whose numbers the
Machine gave Harold," Root said, ignoring Shaw's question.
"You mean happened," Shaw corrected her. "Whatever it was already happened ‑ we can't
"The San Francisco airport has been renovated since 2000," Root continued. "The corridor we
walked down, and the door in the left wall at its end, were not part of that renovation and are
unchanged from how they had been in 2000. And are therefore a portal that connects the present
and the past times, one of the very few portals that exist. The blurriness you experienced was our
going through that portal."
"Through what?" Shaw challenged Root. "No...you're not saying we...traveled through
time...back to 2000. That's...absurd! That's science fiction and fantasy. And I don't go in for that."
"She's evolved, Sameen," Root explained, referring to the Machine. "She's gone beyond what
Harold envisioned for her, what he even thought possible. She had to in order to do what she was
designed to do. To save people. And she found that portal and sent us through it."
"That's impossible!" Shaw said flatly. Root tilted her head slightly and gave Shaw a half‑crazy
Lionel Fusco referred to Root as "Looney‑Tunes." There was no doubt that Root was somewhat
"off"; to what extent was open for discussion. What was not open for discussion any more was
her hearing the Machine talking to her. Dismissed out of hand at first by Reese, Finch and Shaw,
they subsequently accepted it after it was repeatedly became obvious to them that what Root
knew, and when she knew it, could only have happened through the Machine talking to her and
"Take a look," Root urged Shaw, motioning at the newsstand.
Shaw stepped over to the newsstand and read the LA Times headline. "George W. Bush
Choosing Cheney as His Vice‑President Running Mate" was splashed across the front page.
"Announcement to Come Today", in a smaller font, was printed just below it. Shaw just stood
there, staring at it in disbelief. That...happened fourteen years ago, before the 2000 election, she
thought. What's that doing in the paper today?
"This must be a special, historical issue, not today's paper," she said confidently.
"Keep looking," Root directed her.
Shaw went over to the magazines lying just past the newspapers and picked up an American
Heritage magazine. Her mouth hung open as she saw the publication date: July/August 2000.
Then she picked up a Popular Photography magazine and stared in disbelief at its issue date of
"Finch!" she said, touching her ear transceiver.
"Harold can communicate with you around the world," Root said, "but not across time. I told you
that you need my help."
"Finch! Reese!" Shaw shouted, drawing the attention of a few of the newsstand's customers.
Shaw gave them a harsh look and they quickly turned away. She put the magazines down and
took a dollar bill out of her pocket, picked up a small candy bar and tentatively handed the bill to
the sales clerk. The young woman rang up the sale, then gave Shaw her sales receipt and her
Shaw stared at the coins in her hand. She couldn't remember the last time she had been able to
buy even a small candy bar for just a dollar, let alone get back change from it. Then she looked at
the sales receipt. The date was clearly printed on it: July 25, 2000.
Shaw stood immobile, frozen in shock.
"Come on Sameen," Root said, grabbing her arm and shaking her. "We have to go."
"This is the last of the catalog documents," Kelly Anderson said, handing the folders to Alexis
Bourné. Just as slim as Kelly but a little shorter than Kelly's five foot nine, and with curly brown
hair reaching just above her shoulders rather than Kelly's ponytailed blond hair, Alexis worked
with Kelly at the de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. More than just
colleagues, they had become good friends.
"I feel so ambivalent about this exhibition," Alexis said. "We'll have it ready for next month and
it will really be nice." Alexis sighed. "But it will be our last major exhibition before the museum
closes at the end of the year."
Having been significantly damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the de Young Museum
had been temporarily shored up to remain open while long‑term plans were being made. Most of
the museum would finally be torn down after December and replaced with a new, seismically
secure museum, while incorporating a few historic elements of the old museum.
"I understand how you feel," Kelly said. "There's familiarity and comfort with the museum that
you'll be missing." Kelly had been working as an Assistant Curator at the de Young for less than
two months. But she had spent two years in an alternate reality ‑ where demons had sent her and
Stuart Weston ‑ working in the de Young as Associate Curator. As that alternate reality was also
five years in the future, Kelly had already worked in, and was quite at home with, the new
museum that was first going to be built in this reality. She missed the familiarity of that new
museum and could therefore relate to Alexis' discomfort at losing the old one.
"But you'll love the new museum and be quite at home in it," Kelly assured her, remembering
how nice it was ‑ and would be again.
"How can you know that?" Alexis asked. "Never mind...I've learned not to ask about things that
you say and do." Alexis had unknowingly been involved in some of Kelly's demon fighting
activities over the past few weeks and had learned to just accept and trust her friend's sometimes
strange actions and odd pronouncements.
"And we'll have a good time working together at the Legion of Honor," Kelly added. The Palace
of the Legion of Honor was a sister museum to the de Young and would be home to the displaced
de Young staff until the new museum was completed.
"At least that's one thing that will be the same," Alexis replied. "Well, I'll file these with the rest
of the exhibit's documents and then we can call it a day. It's already past six‑thirty."
"Sounds good," Kelly said. She put away some papers that were on her desk, then grabbed her
jacket. "I'll walk out with you," Kelly said, putting on her jacket.
Alexis finished filing the catalog documents, made a half‑hearted effort at straightening out her
desk, then stood up and took her jacket, too. They walked out together and were in the museum's
parking lot when Kelly's cell phone rang. She waved good‑night to Alexis and took the call.
"Hi Kelly. It's Phoebe."
"Hi," Kelly replied. "What's up?"
"I need your help," Phoebe Halliwell said. "I had a premonition about something demons were
going to do tonight. Prue is away in Sacramento on an assignment for 415 Magazine. And Piper
is back on White Sand Island. She sweet‑talked the management into giving her a few make‑up days
because of what happened last weekend. And Leo has been quietly taking some time off to
secretly be with her ‑ without The Elders' knowledge."
Phoebe was referring to her sisters Prue and Piper Halliwell, and to their whitelighter, Leo,
whose close relationship with Piper would not be approved by The Elders. Demons had caused
terrible things to happen to the resorts' guests over the weekend. The sisters, along with Kelly and
Leo, got the demons' evil undone, but not before the guests had some unexplained bad
experiences. While trying to make light of it, the resort's management was willing to give guests,
who asked, a freebie, just to make it all go away.
"So you're the only one who can help me," Phoebe said.
"Tell me what you saw," Kelly responded.
"Two demons were inside what looked like an old, possibly abandoned warehouse," Phoebe said.
"They had maybe a half dozen AK‑47 automatic assault rifles in a crate on the floor. I know that's
what they were because I heard one of the demons say that it was eight o'clock and their AK‑47
customers were late."
"Why would demons get involved in selling black‑market Kalashnikov rifles?" Kelly asked.
"Spreading AK‑47s around would also spread destruction to wherever they wound up," Phoebe
replied. "Which is what demons want. And the money they'll get paid will probably be used to
insinuate themselves into society, giving them more access to cause destruction under the cover
of appearing to be normal."
"Your premonition told you the time but where is the warehouse?" Kelly asked.
"I saw a Potrero Avenue sign on a lampost outside the warehouse," Phoebe said, "so it's
somewhere in Potrero Hill." That was a district in the southeast part of San Francisco. "But as I
recall there are old warehouses at both ends of Potrero and the image was too dark to be sure
exactly which warehouse it was. It's over a mile between the two ends of the street and I can't be
at both ends at the same time. So I need you to be at the warehouses at one end of the street while
I'm watching the ones at the other end."
"Are you expecting this will happen tonight?" Kelly asked.
"I have to," Phoebe said. "My premonitions usually happen close to when what I see actually
"We'll have to move quickly," Kelly said, "as it's close to seven o'clock. I'll pick up Stuart and
we'll meet you at the southern end of Potrero. You'll search for a warehouse that looks like the
one in your premonition and Stuart and I will wait there. Then you can drive to the other end of
Potrero and find a warehouse there that is also similar to what you saw."
"OK," Phoebe said, "I'll see you in a half‑hour."
"This looks like it could be the warehouse I saw in my premonition," Phoebe Halliwell said. She
was standing with Kelly Anderson and Kelly's fiancé Stuart Weston outside a warehouse at the
southern end of Potrero Avenue near Army Street.
"We'll pull our car over out of sight and wait," Kelly said. "There's a half‑hour until we'll know
if this is the right place."
"I'll drive further up Potrero to near 16th Street and look for a warehouse there," Phoebe said.
"Here's the spell I made up to vanquish them." She handed Kelly a piece of paper, then got into
her car and drove off.
Stuart and Kelly got back into their champagne colored Nissan Altima, drove about half a block
to a spot out of the way and parked, turning off the engine so as not to be heard. As they waited
silently, Kelly memorized the spell. After about fifteen minutes they heard some noise coming
from a warehouse on the corner behind them. They got out of the car and carefully walked back
down the street to it.
Near the side of the building that was around the corner they saw a small truck parked near the
warehouse's side entrance, an entrance large enough for a car or truck to use, its rolldown gate
open. On the front side of the warehouse where they were standing was a similar large gated
entrance, its rolldown gate raised only halfway. They lowered their heads and went in under the
gate, then stealthily made their way over to free‑standing metal shelves that were off to the side.
They got behind them, a few old, torn open cardboard boxes which lay on the shelves giving
them some cover.
From their hiding place they saw two slim women in their late thirties, one with red hair and the
other with black hair, in the middle of the warehouse. At their feet lay an open crate but Kelly
and Stuart couldn't see what was inside of it.
"It's eight o'clock. Our AK‑47 customers are late," the redhead said, looking at her watch.
"They're probably coming late on purpose," the dark haired one said. "These gun‑running humans
don't trust anyone."
"As long as they put more of these guns in humans' hands I don't need their trust," the redhead
"And as long as they pay up," the other added.
"No doubt about it. These are the demons that Phoebe saw and heard," Kelly whispered. "The
rifles must be in that crate on the floor."
"Just samples to show the buyer," Stuart said. "The rest must be in the truck we saw around the
"Let's cancel this sale," Kelly said. Stuart nodded and she stepped out from behind the shelves so
that she could clearly see the demons. Seeing her, they turned to Kelly as she began to say the
spell. Focusing on her, they raised their hands to quickly send energy bolts at her. But Stuart
pushed over the metal shelves, the loud bang as they hit the floor reverberated throughout the
warehouse, distracting the demons' attention from Kelly. And giving her the time to complete the
"Evil who traffic in illegal guns
These two female demons are the ones;
For death and destruction you planned a sale
As I vanquish you both, your plans will now fail."
Small balls of fire appeared, encircling the two demons. The fires began revolving around them
faster and faster. Just as the two demons let out screams there was a large puff of smoke. And the
demons and the balls of fire were gone.
Stuart and Kelly walked over to where the two demons had been. They looked down at the
automatic rifles inside the crate.
"We'd better get these out of here before the buyers show up," Stuart said. "We can put the crate
‑" The sound of a truck's motor starting up from outside of the warehouse's open side entrance
interrupted him. They rushed to the side entrance and caught a quick look of a young female in
the truck's cab, the same truck they had noticed earlier. With tires screeching, she pulled the truck
away from the warehouse and took off.
"There must have been a third demon who stayed near the truck to keep an eye on it," Stuart said
as they watched the truck disappear around the next corner.
"I should have anticipated they would do that," Kelly said. "I let that demon, and the guns, get
"It's not your fault, honey," Stuart said. "You ‑ we ‑ were focused on what Phoebe told us she saw
in her premonition. And she saw only two demons."
Kelly exhaled. "It still bothers me," she said.
"I know," Stuart replied. "But look at what we did accomplish. We have the rifles that had been
brought in for display. And we prevented the sale of the others."
"For now," Kelly said. "But that other demon will try to sell them again."
"Come on," Stuart said, taking Kelly's hand. "Let's put the crate in the back seat of the car. You'll
call Phoebe and let her know what happened. " They walked the
half‑block to where they had parked the car, then drove it back to the warehouse, driving in
through the side entrance.
Unbeknownst to Kelly and Stuart, five men had come into the warehouse through the front
entrance while they had retrieved their car. The five men stayed in the shadows, silently watching
as Kelly and Stuart loaded the crate into their car.
"What should we do about the entrances?" Kelly asked.
"We'll close the side entrance behind us," Stuart replied, "but I don't want to spend any more time
here to play around with the front entrance. And it's only partially open, anyway."
They got into the car's front seats, Kelly behind the wheel, and they drove out through the open,
large door. Stuart jumped out and lowered the roll‑down gate, then quickly got back into the car.
As they hadn't gone back to the front entrance, they didn't see the black car and the black
full‑sized van that were parked outside of it. And they didn't see the five men quietly walk out of
the warehouse, three of them getting into the black car while the other two got into the large van.
And as Kelly and Stuart were concentrating on getting away from the warehouse, they also didn't
see the large van come around the corner and follow them.
They were driving in a blue car that Root had "borrowed" from the airport's long‑term parking
lot. "We can't rent a car using a driver's license from the future," Root had said, which Shaw had
to agree made sense.
"We'll drive by the house for a quick look, then find a place to stay for tonight," Root said.
After parking their car, Stuart and Kelly carried the crate with AK‑47s into their house for
safekeeping overnight. They didn't notice the large van driving slowly down their block, then
pausing outside of their home. The two men in the van stared at Kelly's car, then at the house.
The headlights of a car coming up the street from the opposite direction got the attention of the
men in the van. Not wanting to be noticed, the driver pressed the gas pedal and the large van
began to move away.
Shaw saw the large van coming down the street and carefully maneuvered their car around it. She
and Root looked carefully around the house. Satisfied that there was no danger, they drove off.
The man's standing orders were that he not be disturbed when he was relaxing with a glass of
bourbon in his hand. As he was with most everything else, he was very particular about his
bourbon, drinking Eagle Rare 10 Year Old Kentucky Straight to the exclusion of any other
whiskey. But the important business deal that was supposed to take place that night had not been
made. It seemed someone had interfered with it. And this phone call was important. The other
party had finally answered after repeated calls one of his men had placed.
And so he made an exception.
"What did she say, Grako?" he asked one of his men.
"She wants to complete the deal, Mr. Guillory," Grako answered. The name Guillory means
"will" and "powerful", which accurately described how the man felt about himself.
"At a lower price, as she is short one crate," the man said.
"Yeah," Grako said, "but not until we take care of that girl who interfered tonight."
"And who is she?" the man asked.
"She didn't know her name," Grako replied.
"Did you impress upon her that there is a deadline?" he asked. "That if I don't get these rifles
from her in the next two days the window of opportunity for her will close?"
"Yeah," Grako answered, "but she said she won't make another meet until we take care of that
"She wants us to kill her first," the man said matter‑of‑factly.
"No...she wants to do that herself to be sure that she's really dead," Grako said. "She said to just
bring her bound and gagged ‑ she emphasized the gagged part ‑ to the meet. So she'll know then
that she can't hurt her. And then she'll kill that blond...bitch herself. She must have meant 'bitch'
though it sounded like she said 'witch'."
"What did she say about the blonde's companion?" he asked.
"She didn't even mention him so he must not be important," Grako said.
"You know where she lives. Send two of the men to take her tomorrow night when it's dark and
bring her here," the man said. "We'll 'prepare' her and set up the meet."
The man picked up his glass of bourbon. Grako understood that the conversation was over. The
two men from the van who had followed her car knew where she lived. He would send them to
wait for her tomorrow night when she came home and grab her.
"We have to be with them and watching them all day," Root said as they sat in the motel room.
"That may not be easy," Shaw said.
"Yes, it will," Root countered. And she explained to Shaw just how they would do it.
Kelly was working on part of the plans for the museum's upcoming shutdown at the end of the
year when Alexis came into the museum office.
"Sorry I'm late," Alexis apologized. "My car was making a funny noise this morning and I had to
drop it off by the mechanic. So I had to take a couple of buses from his garage to get here."
"No one's noticed," Kelly said. "Adele isn't in yet." Adele was the de Young Museum Curator.
"He said he'll try to have it ready for me to pick up after work," Alexis added. "So, how was your
night? Do anything exciting with Stuart?"
"No...nothing special. We just took a little drive and picked up something we brought home,"
Kelly sort of lied, though technically it was true.
"Good morning," a young woman said, approaching them. "I'm Samantha Groves from ARTnews.
I'm doing an article for the magazine on the de Young's plans and preparations for closing at the
end of the year. I want to get a perspective from one of the curators, rather than relying on only
the museum's formal press releases." She presented Kelly with press identification and a letter of
ARTnews was the premier magazine of the art world, almost one hundred years old. Samantha
Groves was Root's real name. And the false identification and letter had been meticulously made
up by her.
"Nice to meet you. I'm Kelly Anderson, Assistant Curator. This is my colleague, Alexis Bourné.
I'll actually be working on some of the plans today."
"Then you're the person with whom I want to spend the day," Root said, smiling. She had already
known that Kelly was scheduled to do that ‑ the Machine had told her. And now she could easily
keep watch on Kelly, which is what she needed to do.
It was Kelly's number the Machine had given to Finch.
Shaw lifted the heavy carton of tomato juice and moved it to the storage room in the back. Then
she returned to where the delivery had been left, picked up the heavy carton of lime juice and
brought it to the storage room, too. Next up was the case of Absolut vodka. She gave the carton a
dirty look, lifted it and brought it to the back, setting it down near the others.
Shaw took a deep breath. She was not enjoying doing this. But it was the only way. She went
back to the front of the club.
"Can I get some change for the phone?" she asked.
"You're working here," Stuart replied, "so you can use the club's phone. There's one behind the
"Thanks," Shaw said. She took out a paper from her pocket, looked at the phone number written
on it, and dialed it.
"de Young Museum, Assistant Curator Kelly Anderson," came the voice from the other end.
"May I speak to Samantha Groves?" Shaw asked.
"One moment," Kelly said and gave the hand set to someone near her.
"Hello Sameen," Root said quietly. "How is your surveillance going?"
"Less comfortably than yours is," Shaw complained. "Why did you get a cushy, interviewing job
while I'm here hauling ten ton cartons."
"Come now, Sameen, those cartons aren't that heavy," Root countered.
"They feel that way after the twelfth one filled with bottles of juice, or rum, or Glenfiddich that
I've had to lift and move to the storage room in the back," Shaw replied.
"And what about our number?" Root asked.
"He's fine," Shaw said. "I kept a close eye on the delivery man and he's gone now. No one else
came. There are only two other people here besides him, both young women, both regular club
workers. Amazingly a third worker took the day off because he went to collect a small winning
on a local lottery. So I got the temporary job carrying these deliveries and then doing the
inventory on them."
"She arranged for an opening at the club for you to get in," Root said, referring to the Machine,
"so don't complain. And you'll have to follow him home in a cab."
"I know," Shaw said. "Stuart Weston seems like a really nice guy. I can't figure out why his
number came up and why anyone would want to kill him."
It was five‑thirty when Alexis hung up her phone, then exhaled. "That was my mechanic," she
said to Kelly. "He found what's causing the noise but he can't get the part until tomorrow and that
I shouldn't drive the car until it's fixed. So now I have a problem. I have two important
appointments, one downtown and the other in Sausalito. I'll never make even the first one on
time taking the buses. I can forget about the second one."
"Just take my car, Alexis," Kelly said, "and you'll make both of them."
"No...I can't do that," Alexis said. "Then you'll have to take a couple of buses to get home."
"I'll call my friend Phoebe Halliwell to pick me up on her way home from
the P3 Club," Kelly
replied. "She's covering the early evening, after Stuart leaves, while her sister Piper is away. I'm
staying late tonight anyway to work on more of the plans for the museum's shutdown so I'm not
in any hurry. Drop the car off by me when you're done and either Stuart or I will drive you
"Kelly...you're such a good friend," Alexis said. "But I ‑"
"No 'buts'," Kelly interrupted her. Kelly opened her small pocketbook, pulled out her key ring
and gave it to Alexis. "And just let yourself in. The back door house key is on the ring," she
added, pointing to it.
"Kelly...thanks!" Alexis said, as she gave Kelly a hug.
"If you don't mind I'll stay here and keep looking over your shoulder at how you're putting
together more pieces of the plans," Root said.
"Sure," Kelly replied. "You can stay here with me until I leave."
Shaw sat outside of the P3 Club in a taxi. She told the driver not to be concerned about how
much the meter was running up, just to sit there until she told him to move. A minute later a car
pulled out from behind the club. Shaw saw a young woman driving, with Stuart sitting next to
"Let's go," Shaw told her driver. "Just follow that car." The cab driver half turned around but
Shaw gave him a hard look. He quickly turned back to facing frontwards and began driving.
Phoebe pulled up her maroon car to the side of Kelly and Stuart's house. Shaw let the cab ride a
half block further then told the driver to stop. She gave him double what was on the meter and
jumped out of the cab. A briefcase was in her hand.
Stuart's cell phone rang. Answering it, a woman's voice started speaking to him, asking about
Piper, who was away, and about possibly having a private party at the club. Stuart answered the
woman, who kept him on the line with her questions.
As Root, who was the caller, kept Stuart on the phone in Phoebe's car, Shaw ran back and
secretively went around the house, checking the windows and doors for any forced entries. She
opened her briefcase and took out a small thermal heat sensor. Aiming it at the house from
different angles, she saw the readings were negative. Satisfied that no one was inside waiting for
him, she went down the block, found a place with cover, and waited.
After precisely five minutes, the amount of time Root had told Shaw she would have, the caller
suddenly told Stuart she would think about the party and hung up. He looked at Phoebe, shrugged
his shoulders and thanked her for the lift home. He got out of the car, went inside and Phoebe
drove back to the club.
It was dark when Kelly's car drove up to the side of Kelly's house. As the driver got out of the car and
started walking to the house's back door, a black car suddenly pulled up, its doors flinging open.
The two men ran towards the young woman and grabbed her. She screamed twice before one of
the men could get a cloth over her nose and mouth. In a few seconds the chloroform rendered her
unconscious and helpless in his arms.
Hearing the screams, Stuart ran out the back door towards the car. "Hey ‑ let her go!" he shouted.
He grabbed a hammer that had been left by the side of the house and ran towards them. As he
came closer one of the men took out his gun, aimed it at him and pulled the trigger. The bullet hit
Stuart in the right part of his chest and he fell to his knees.
"Take him, too," the other man said. "I'm not leaving a witness." The two men pulled Stuart and
the woman to the car and pushed them into the back seat.
Hearing the screams and the shot, Shaw ran towards the house from her hiding place. As the black
car pulled away, its tires screeching, Shaw wanted to shoot at it. But she had seen them put the
two hostages into the back seat. Trying to shoot at the driver from behind the car would risk
hitting one of the hostages. Shaw positioned herself to shoot out a tire. But a car suddenly pulled
out from its parking place on the block, getting between Shaw and the escaping black car. And so
she could not take her shot.
Shaw's choice of a hiding place was based upon Root, in the "borrowed" car, following Kelly in
hers and covering Kelly from the side of the house. From their drive‑by of the house the night
before, Shaw recognized Kelly's champagne colored car as the one just driven to the side of the
house. But why wasn't Root right behind her? Where was Root?
While Shaw was berating herself for letting the kidnappers get away, a maroon car pulled up by
the side of the house. The passenger door opened. And Kelly Anderson got out.
"We got her," one of the men said in the black car said into the cell phone. "Her boy friend got
in the way and I shot him. I took him with us. I wasn't leaving anyone behind to ID us."
"Not a problem. He'll be eliminated once you get back here," Guillory on the other end of the call
said. "And now I'll call the seller to arrange the completion of our business."
"Who are you?!" Phoebe demanded of Shaw as Root walked into the living room where they
were all standing.
"Samantha? What are you doing here?" Kelly asked.
"They took Stuart and someone else," Shaw said to Root. "She was driving Kelly's car so they
thought she was Kelly. And one of them was shot. I found blood in the driveway. Before they showed up
I made sure the house was safe for Stuart and I was positioned to cover it from the other angle
when you came. Where were you?"
"Following Kelly," Root replied. "She stayed late and Phoebe Halliwell drove her here in her car,
not in Kelly's car. That was Kelly's friend Alexis who drove Kelly's car. And whom they
"I will say this just one more time!" Kelly said sharply, fierce anger in her eyes. "Who are you?!"
"We're here to help you," Root said.
"Help? What do you mean 'help'? You claimed to be doing a story on the museum and spent the
day there with me," Kelly said.
"And you got a temporary job at the club and were there all day," Phoebe said to Shaw. "Now
explain what you're both up to!"
"I can't explain it," Root said. "You're going to have to trust us."
"Trust you?!" Kelly shouted. "My fiancé and my close friend are kidnapped and shot after both of
you show up today. And under false pretenses ‑ you're not doing any story for ARTnews."
"It was the best way to stay close to you to protect you," Root said.
"And I did the same thing ‑ to be able to keep a close eye on Stuart for the same reason," Shaw
"Why?!" Phoebe demanded.
"Because...that's what we do," Shaw said. "And that's all we can tell you about it."
"And just why did you think that Kelly and Stuart needed protection?" Phoebe pressed them.
"She told us," Root replied.
"She? Who's she?" Phoebe asked.
"The Machine," Shaw replied with a little reluctance, knowing that answer wouldn't go over well.
"And she was right. Kelly and Stuart did need protection. And still do," Root added.
"Well you certainly didn't do a good job of protecting Stuart!" Kelly said angrily.
"I checked that the house was safe before your friend Phoebe dropped him off," Shaw said. "And
had you been in your own car with Root following you ‑"
"Enough!" Kelly said. "Phoebe and I have to find Stuart and Alexis and save them. We don't
have time to bother with whomever you two really are. Now get out of here!"
"Who the hell is she?" the man demanded, putting down his empty glass that had, a little while
earlier, been filled with his choice bourbon. "She's not the one who was at the warehouse. She's
not a blonde."
"We know her car ‑ the color, make, even the plates ‑ because we followed it last night, Mr.
Guillory," one of the kidnappers said, defensively. "She's slim, too, and they're about the same
height. When her car pulled up by her house and she got out of the driver's side we assumed it
was her. It was dark."
Guillory exhaled. He would need a new plan to get the blonde. He thought for a moment and one
began to form in his mind.
Sitting on the floor near the wall, Alexis tore away Stuart's shirt and undershirt to get to his
wound. The bullet had not come out the other side; it was still in him. And he was bleeding.
Alexis quickly took off her cinnamon colored tailored blouse and rolled it up. She pressed it
against the wound and applied pressure to it to stem the bleeding.
"I have First Aid training," she told him to try to ease his mind. In truth she knew that what she
was doing would not be enough. If he didn't get medical attention soon he would bleed out.
"Thank...you," he said with some difficulty.
"Who are these people? What do they want with us?" she asked. She couldn't keep the fear out of
"I...don't...know," he replied.
Alexis looked down at Stuart and saw the pain he was in. She took a deep breath, steadying
herself to push aside her fears ‑ for his sake. Then she put her arm under him and lifted him up,
placing his head against her chest's now bare, soft skin to comfort him. Stuart looked up at her,
then his eyes became un‑focused and they began to close.
"Stay with me, Stuart! Stay with me!" Alexis commanded him and he half‑opened his eyes. And
with her other hand she kept the pressure of her rolled up blouse against his wound.
"Give me the blonde's phone number," one of the kidnappers ordered Alexis. He had come into
the storage room where Alexis and Stuart were being held.
"What? No!" Alexis replied.
"We've got a midnight appointment and she's got to be there with us. Now give it to me or I'll
finish the job on your friend right now," he barked, pulling out his gun.
Alexis exhaled. "OK, OK," she said and gave him Kelly‛s phone number.
The voice on the other end of the line was being modified by a voice changer.
"The police aren't here," Kelly emphatically answered his question. "Why did you take ‑"
"And keep it that way if you want your friends to live," the voice said. "And no questions. Be at
the entrance to the Daly City Golf Course in two hours." Daly City was immediately south of,
and adjacent to, San Francisco. "We'll release your girl friend in exchange for you. It's wide open
there and we can see if you bring in the police.
"Your boy friend is hurt but he won't be where I'll be taking you. If the police come after me they
won't find him ‑ and he'll be left alone to die. And until I'm convinced you didn't bring in the
police he'll stay alone. If you care about him keep the police out."
The line went dead.
Kelly put down the phone, then repeated what the voice had said to her.
Phoebe picked up Stuart's jacket that he had dropped on the sofa when he had earlier come into
the house. She held it tightly and closed her eyes.
"Did you get anything, Phoebe?" Kelly asked, meaning whether Phoebe had gotten any
premonition, by holding Stuart's jacket, of where he was.
"No, nothing," she admitted.
"Then I'll have to meet them," Kelly said. "At this time of night it won't take more than
twenty‑five minutes to get to Daly City." She turned to Shaw and Root. "I told you two to get out
Root cocked her head to one side, as if listening to something for a few seconds.
"You're not going to be able to save them," Root said, "but Sameen and I can. I know where
they're being held."
"What?! How can you know ‑" Kelly started to say.
"The one who ordered the kidnapping just called you," Root said. "She knows the phone number
he used and the location where that phone is."
"She? Your machine again?" Phoebe asked.
"The calling number was blocked," Kelly added. "You couldn't know what ‑"
"There's no time for that," Shaw said. "The Machine can trace the call, blocked or not. They're
giving you two hours so they can get there early and watch if any police show up. We have to go
to where they are now before they leave for the golf course. We'll bring Stuart and Alexis back."
Kelly shook her head. "If you think you know where they are then we're coming with you."
"You'll just be in the way," Shaw said. "We'll have to divert our attention from rescuing them to
keeping you safe."
"We can keep ourselves safe," Phoebe replied.
"These are people who kidnapped them," Root pointed out. "They're not within the realm of your
Shaw gave Root a curious look while Kelly and Phoebe, taken aback by what Root said, stared at
"What do you know about what powers we have?" Kelly demanded.
"She told me," Root replied. "Your powers, as strong as they are, won't help you save them."
"She? The Machine?" Kelly asked. "I don't know who 'she' really is nor what this machine of
yours is, either. But there is no way that I'm going to just sit home while Stuart's life is in danger.
I'm going to be part of whatever you're doing to save him and Alexis. Assuming you really do
know where they are."
Shaw glanced at Root. "OK ‑ you follow us in your car," Shaw said to Kelly and Phoebe. "And
you stay outside and don't interfere until we have both of them. Understood?"
This was not acceptable to Kelly. But she had no idea where Stuart and Alexis were being held
so she couldn‛t try to save them by herself . And the prospect of meeting the kidnappers at the golf course
did not give her any confidence that by doing so she would be able to save them.
"It looks like they're our only hope," Phoebe said to Kelly.
Kelly took a deep breath. "OK ‑ we'll do it your way."
"You want to tell me what that 'power' thing was all about?" Shaw asked Root as they got into
"Not now, Sameen," Root replied. "But you may see that for yourself, later," she added
"After we make the exchange, follow that girl we're releasing," Guillory told his men. "There's a
winding road leading from the golf course. Make sure her car has an 'accident' there."
"What about the boyfriend?" one of his men asked.
"I'll hold on to him in case I need another bargaining chip. But once we have the blonde, take him
somewhere he won't be found and finish him off," the man replied.
The house was somewhat large ‑ and isolated from neighboring houses. Shaw drove past it for a
quick look, then continued on, turned down the next street and parked. Phoebe, with Kelly sitting
next to her, did the same.
"You wait here!" Shaw quietly ordered Phoebe and Kelly as she walked past their car. Then she
and Root made their way to the house, staying in the shadows. A security camera was positioned
near the front door. They saw another camera on the side of the house. Staying out of the
cameras' field of view, they carefully went around towards the back, where a third camera was
"Will you take the front?" Root asked.
"I thought you'd never ask," Shaw replied, with anticipation. She made her way back towards the
front of the house, got into the position she wanted, aimed her gun at the camera and shot it out.
In half a minute the front door cautiously opened, just enough for someone to peek outside. Not
seeing anything, he opened it a drop more.
Shaw's shot hit him in the center of his chest. His body pushed the door completely open as he
fell silently outside, then lay sprawled face down across the front steps. Shaw stepped past him
and carefully snuck inside the house.
Root shot out the side camera, then blasted open the side door's lock. With a gun in each hand,
she kicked open the door and began making her way down a hallway. A man with a gun darted
out of a room ahead of her. Before he could react to seeing her, Root blasted him with her gun
and he fell down. She heard the noise of a door opening behind her. Without turning around, she
pointed her second gun behind her and shot the man who had just come into the hallway with his
gun aimed at her. Now he, too, lay sprawled dead on the floor.
Root heard movement and running. She headed in the direction of the sounds. A shot rang out,
just missing her and she quickly pulled herself behind a large breakfront. A second shot shattered
the glass of the breakfront's doors. With her back against the wall, Root edged back down the
hallway. She pushed open a door along the wall and went into a room.
Paintings with attached picture lights covered two of the walls. Objets d'art were scattered
around the room on stands and on end tables. A double‑width bookcase, about six feet wide,
stood against the wall furthest from the door. The lower third of the bookcase had a compartment
behind closed wooden doors. Root hurried to the bookcase, opened its doors and threw the
compartment's contents onto the floor. Except for the last item, which she flung across the room
at a hand blown Tiffany Favrile Galanto Vase. The force knocked the vase off its pedestal and
into the adjacent wall with a loud noise, smashing the vase into small pieces of green and blue
Footsteps came running in the hallway. After a few seconds the door was slowly opened just a
bit. One of the men who had kidnapped Stuart and Alexis, gun in hand, quickly came into the
room in a crouching position. Using the stands and the furniture as cover, he cautiously made his
way around the room. The pieces of glass from the broken vase laying on the floor confirmed for
him that someone was in there with him.
He silently continued around the room, looking behind the recliner and the club chair, listening
for the slightest sound of someone breathing. Then he came upon the contents of the bottom
compartment of the bookcase that had been dumped on the floor. That shouldn't have been there,
he thought, and something clicked in his mind. And he started to turn towards the bookcase.
The bookcase's bottom doors flew open and two guns fired at the man. Root had squeezed herself
into the bookcase's bottom double‑wide compartment to hide and lie in wait. And now the gun in
each of her hands was blazing. The man fell backwards, his gun firing once wildly, and landed on
top of the compartment's contents. Root got out of the bookcase's compartment, stood up and
headed for the door and the hallway.
Guillory, the boss who had arranged for the rifle purchase and ordered the kidnapping, knew that
he was in trouble. Gun in hand, he hurried down to one of two storage rooms in the basement and
unlocked the door.
Alexis, with Stuart in her arm, was sitting on the floor with her back up against the far wall.
Seeing the man come in, she eased Stuart down on to the floor. Still keeping the pressure from
one hand on his wound, she protectively placed herself between him and the man with the gun.
Hearing footsteps coming down the stairs behind him, Guillory hurried over to them.
He pushed the gun into Alexis' side and ordered her to stand up, then grabbed Stuart and hauled
him up with one hand. Keeping Stuart in front of him, he maneuvered himself behind Alexis,
too. He moved the gun to her head just as Root came into the room.
"You can't get away," Root said, calmly but firmly.
"I can and I will," Guillory replied. "Put your guns down. Both of them."
"That won't help you," she calmly said.
"Do it now! Or I will kill her," he replied. "I will still have him as my getaway card. But this
woman will be dead. And it will be because of you."
Root saw the terror in Alexis' eyes. "You're not killing anyone, anymore," Root said, in a calm
The man pushed the gun harder into the side of Alexis' head. "If you haven't dropped both guns
by the time I count to three I will pull the trigger."
Root shook her head, then gave him her half‑crazy smile.
"One!" he shouted. Root didn't move.
"Two!" he shouted with even more emphasis. Root stood immobile.
The man took a deep breath. And a shot rang out.
There was a stunned look on Guillory's face. He stood that way for a few seconds as if frozen.
Then his grip on the gun, on Alexis and on Stuart loosened. As blood spurted out from his head
he fell to the floor.
With no one holding him up, Stuart also fell down. Shaking, Alexis fell to her knees, then began
to hyperventilate. But when she saw Stuart lying on the floor, she caught herself and snapped
back into rescue mode. She dropped down next to him, lifted him up into her arm and against her mostly
bare chest again and put her hand back on to her rolled up blouse that was over the wound.
Root looked up to the small louvered vent high on the side wall that was shared with the adjacent
storage room. The vent from which the shot had come. Shaw had found that adjacent room as she
was checking out the house and, looking through the vent, had seen Alexis and Stuart. She was
about to go to them when she saw Guillory come into the room with his gun. So she had
positioned her gun in the louvers and waited.
Now she lowered herself from the chair on which she was standing, which had given her access
to the vent. Her gun still in her hand, she walked out of the room and went into the room where
Root and the others were.
Kelly and Phoebe rushed into the room right behind her.
"I told you to wait," Shaw said but they ignored her. Kelly dropped down by Stuart, then looked
"I did the best I could for him," Alexis said, still holding him to her mostly bare chest, her hand pressing
against his wound. "They shot him when he tried to stop them from taking me. The bullet is still
"Are you all right, Alexis?" Phoebe asked.
She nodded her head. "Concentrating on saving Stuart...it took my mind off of myself," she said.
"I...I'm sorry, Alexis," Kelly stammered. "I didn't ask you if you ‑"
"That's OK," Alexis replied. "I know what Stuart means to you. He has to be your first concern."
"There could still be more of them in the house," Shaw said.
"They would have shown themselves by now," Root said, "but I'll check," and left the room.
"We have to call Leo," Kelly said.
"Leo's on White Sand Island with Piper," Phoebe said. "He won't hear us. Only The Elders will hear us
and then they'll look for him. And when they do they'll find out he's broken the rules by being
"Then we have to get Stuart to a hospital right away," Kelly said.
"No hospital," Shaw said. "He has a gunshot wound. There'll be questions from the hospital, who
will report it to the police who will have their own questions and will be looking into what
happened here. And they can't know about us."
"You may have rescued Stuart and Alexis but I still don't know who you are," Kelly said. "And
I'm certainly not going to let Stuart die regardless of what happens to you."
"He's not going to die," Shaw said clearly. "I'll take care of him. I was a doctor."
Kelly looked at the gun in Shaw's hand, then looked back at her bewildered.
"I found out that killing people was a better match for my temperament than saving people was,"
Shaw said. "Is there a drug store open this late? If not I'll 'open' one that's already closed."
"There's one on Van Ness," Phoebe said.
"The house is clear," Root said rejoining them. She was carrying Alexis' pocketbook that she had
found in one of the rooms.
"Give me paper and a pen," Shaw said, returning her gun to her shoulder holster, "and I'll give
you a list of what to get."
"I'm not risking Stuart's life by putting it in your hands," Kelly insisted.
"You're risking his life by wasting time arguing with me!" Shaw said emphatically.
"Sameen really can do this," Root said in a soothing voice. "Trust her."
"Open my pocketbook and you'll find pen and paper," Alexis said. Root opened it, fished around
inside and took out a small pad and a pen. Shaw took them from her and quickly wrote the list of
"The one thing you can't get off the shelf is an anaesthetic, which he'll need while I work on
him," Shaw said.
"They used some kind of chloroform on me when they grabbed me so there must be more of it
around here," Alexis said.
"I'll look for it," Shaw said, tearing the page off the pad and offering it to Kelly. "Get these now
and meet us back at your house."
"I'm not leaving Stuart ‑ and Alexis," Kelly said. "I'm going with them."
"Give it to me ‑ I'll get them," Phoebe said, taking the list from Shaw.
Kelly took hold of Stuart and supporting him helped him up, her hand taking over from Alexis to
press against the wound. Alexis started to stand up. But not having to focus on saving Stuart, the
whole situation suddenly hit her and she started to wobble.
Shaw removed her black jacket and draped it around Alexis' bare shoulders.
Root put her arm under Alexis,
steadied her and helped her walk as Shaw went to find the chloroform.
It was a about an hour and a half later when Shaw washed her hands in the sink, the stitching
completed. The bullet she had extracted from Stuart lay on a tray in the bedroom.
"He's out of danger and just needs rest now," Shaw said. "If he needs anything tomorrow you can
bring him to the hospital ‑ there's no trace of a bullet having caused his wound ‑ but I don't
believe that will be necessary."
"Thank you, for saving him," Kelly said.
"You're welcome," Shaw answered in a dispassionate tone.
"Now that Stuart is safe I'm going to look in on Alexis," Kelly said. She walked out of the room
and went into her guest bedroom. Returning home from Guillory's house, Kelly had insisted that
Alexis was in no condition to be home alone and would stay with her in her guest room. She had
given Alexis five cordials of Herman Jansen Blue Curacao liqueur to calm her ‑ Alexis preferred
liqueurs to whiskey ‑ and then let her lie down and rest.
Alexis was still lying on the bed, her eyes open, but when she saw Kelly come in she sat up.
"Is Stuart OK?" she asked.
"Yes, thanks to Shaw's surgery," Kelly replied. "She really does have surgical skills." Kelly came
over to the bed and sat down next to Alexis.
"And thanks to you," she added. "You saved him, too. If not for what you did for him in that
basement he...wouldn't have made it. I...with Stuart being in danger I...didn't thank you."
"Oh, don't worry about that," Alexis assured her. "You're mind was on Stuart, as it should have
been. You're my good friend and he's your fiancé so of course I would do everything I could for
Kelly put her arms around Alexis and hugged her. "Thank you."
"Now that Stuart's out of danger," Alexis said after Kelly released her hug, "we can talk about
happened. What was this all about? I know they thought that I was you. But why did they want
you? How do you fit into...whatever this was?"
Kelly hesitated for about ten seconds then took a deep breath. "I know this is not an answer but
it's not something I can...just explain to you."
"I was kidnapped and almost killed tonight," Alexis said. "I deserve to know what's going on."
"You do deserve to know," Kelly said, then exhaled. "But I know that if I tell you what it
is...you'll wish I hadn't."
"I'm your friend, Kelly. You can trust me with whatever your...secret is," Alexis said.
"I know I can trust you," Kelly replied. "But once I tell you my...secret, you're going to regret my
giving you the burden of keeping it."
Alexis stared at Kelly for a moment. Then she exhaled and stood up. She turned around and
began walking to the bedroom door. Kelly knew that Alexis was hurt. And that hurt could lead to
undermining their friendship.
"I fight evil," Kelly called after her. Alexis stopped and slowly turned around to face her.
"What does that mean?" she asked.
"It means that I fight evil in whatever guise, in whatever form it takes," Kelly answered.
Alexis thought for a moment. "So that's why you were involved with those art thefts right after
you started at de Young...and why you were suddenly posing as a Coast Guard officer two weeks
ago. And that's why you're involved in whatever happened tonight. This is what you meant when
you told me that you weren't just a museum curator." She took a deep breath.
"You're a spook," Alexis said, as realization came to her. "For which agency...CIA, NSA, FBI?"
"I don't work for the government," Kelly said.
"Then who do you work for?" Alexis asked.
"I don't work for anyone," Kelly replied.
"Then...why are you doing this?" Alexis asked her.
"Because...it's my responsibility," Kelly answered. "It's my responsibility to fight evil, and to save
and protect innocents."
"I don't understand," Alexis said. She saw the hesitation on Kelly's face. "That's OK, Kelly. You
don't have to say any more. Everything that happened tonight...it won't change your being my
friend. My good friend. When you'll be ready you'll tell me. And I will be ready to share ‑ and to
keep ‑ your secret."
"I still want to know who you both are," Kelly said as she rejoined the others in the kitchen. "And
why you're here. And what your 'machine' is."
"As we said, we were just here to protect and save both of you," Shaw replied. "And now that
we've done that we'll be leaving. We have a plane to catch."
"Maybe not," Root said.
"What? Why?!" Shaw said.
"What are you going to do about the rest of the AK‑47s that the seller still has?"
"We're going to find them and take them ‑ and put the seller out of business," Phoebe said.
"Otherwise they'll be sold to a different buyer and still cause many deaths."
"That's what she thought you would say," Root said. "And that's why we're staying. She says
Stuart is safe now but you're still in danger, Kelly. And now Phoebe is in danger, too."
"She? The Machine, again?" Kelly asked. "We know that the seller is a de‑...uh, someone we can
"Things are not always as they appear to you to be," Root said ambiguously "You both still need
Shaw exhaled. "And how are we going to stop this sale?" she asked.
"First we have to know where and when the seller will have the rifles," Root replied. "And then
we have to provide a different buyer."
"The man who made me give him your phone number said they had a midnight meeting and they
needed Kelly there with them," Alexis said. "But how did I fit into that?"
"They wanted to exchange you for Kelly," Phoebe said. "Because...Kelly broke up their sale last
night. And they didn't want her doing it again. Which means the sale is back on for tonight."
Shaw thought over what Phoebe had said. "If that's all they wanted the kidnappers could have
just killed Kelly after they exchanged Alexis for her," she said. "But he told Alexis that Kelly had
to be there ‑ at the midnight meeting. Which means that Kelly was to be part of the sale and
turning her over to the buyer was a condition. But why not just kill her first and bring her body as
"There's another element involved here," Phoebe said. "Possibly personal revenge."
"We know the time they set but we still need to know where the sale will be tonight," Shaw
pointed out. "When they spoke to set the time they probably chose a new place, just to be safe."
"We have the crate we took last night," Kelly said. "It was part of the sale that got left behind
when we...broke it up. We were going to leave it anonymously somewhere for the police to find
but we didn't have time to do that. See if you can get anything from it, Phoebe. It's behind the
"What does that mean?" Shaw asked.
"I told you that you'd get to see the powers they have," Root replied.
They all went into the living room. Phoebe moved out the sofa and removed the blanket that was
covering the crate. She knelt down and put both hands on the crate. Shaking her head, she opened
the crate and took out one of the rifles.
"Uh!" she drew in her breath and tightly closed her eyes. No one said anything and after about ten
seconds Phoebe opened her eyes.
"I saw it. It's not the same place where they were last night but I recognized the location. It's the
warehouse at the other end of Potrero Avenue, the one where I waited last night," Phoebe said.
"And Kelly...your hands were tied and a gag was in your mouth. And the dem...uh, the seller was
pointing her hand at you. You are part of the deal. You're part of the price."
"What...how can you...?" Alexis started to ask.
"There isn't time for that," Kelly said to her. "Just...trust me. Please!"
Alexis looked into Kelly's eyes, then reluctantly nodded her head, agreeing to what Kelly had
asked of her.
"And while we're out ‑ please keep an eye on Stuart," Kelly said. "I know it may not be fair to ask
of you. But I know that I can trust him in your hands."
Alexis nodded her head again. "Of course you can trust me to take care of Stuart." She took a
deep breath and looking around, saw the determination, anticipation and tenseness on their faces.
"Now get out of here and do whatever it is that you have to do," she exhorted them.
Phoebe slowly walked into the warehouse. She was leading Kelly, whose hands were tied behind
her back, a gag over her mouth. In Phoebe's left hand was a briefcase she had found in Guillory's
"I'm here," Phoebe called out, her voice echoing in the large warehouse. "Let's get our business
"Who are you?" a female voice called out, the caller hidden somewhere. "You're not Guillory."
"Guillory is no longer making this deal," Phoebe called out in reply. "In fact, he's no longer
making anything. We had a management change tonight. I was Guillory's...associate. But I
decided it was time to move up." Phoebe paused for a moment to let that point sink in.
"As of tonight, I've taken over all of his business ‑ including this one," Phoebe continued. "I have
his money ‑ now my money ‑ and I have the girl. I understood from Guillory ‑ at least while he
was still around to say anything ‑ that she was a problem last time. Guillory had her all wrapped
up and ready to be delivered. So come out and take delivery."
There was silence in the warehouse. Then there was a sound of footsteps slowly approaching. A
female who looked to be in her early twenties appeared. She stopped a few feet from Kelly,
looking her over.
"I will take such pleasure in killing you, witch," she said, smiling as she saw how helpless Kelly
appeared to be, gagged and tied. "After what you did to Vanna and Zoe last night I will make this
very slow and painful. You will suffer ‑"
"She's yours to do with as you want," Phoebe interrupted her, "but after we conclude our
business." She lifted the briefcase and opened it, showing her the money inside it. "Now the
rifles. And then you can have all the fun with her you want ‑ once we're gone. And I'll need your
truck to take them. Guillory's van had...a little 'accident'."
The demon looked at the money and nodded her head. Phoebe closed the briefcase and handed it
"The truck with the rifles is on the other side of the warehouse," the demon said. She put her
hand in her pocket and pulled out a key ring. She removed a key from the ring and was about to
hand it to Phoebe when a voice called out from behind her.
"Not so fast," the voice said. They heard footsteps approaching from the other side of the
warehouse and then someone came into view. A woman in her late twenties, about five foot six,
wearing a tailored black jacket, over a pale yellow blouse, tailored heather gray pants and black
penny loafers. Her black hair permed, she stood with an air of confidence and superiority about
"Hello cousin," she said.
Phoebe gasped. "Tara!" she exclaimed in surprise.
"It's been what...almost three months since we last got together?" Tara asked. "Huh...you changed
your hair, Phoebe. You're a blonde, now. When Bree told me a blonde witch had caused trouble,
I didn't think of you."
"It wasn't her," the demon Bree interjected and pointed at Kelly. "It was the other one." Kelly
pulled her hands from behind her back, which had only been made to appear to be tied, then
removed the gag from her mouth.
"Ah...your very young witch‑in‑training," Tara said, looking at Kelly and how young she
appeared to be.
Though Kelly had matured in her witch skills in the two years she had spent in the other reality where the demons
had sent her, her age there reaching
twenty‑three, upon returning from there her age in this reality was still only a younger twenty-one. And she looked it.
"You must have written out the spell for her, cousin. She's obviously too much a junior
to have come up with it herself."
Kelly bristled at Tara's "put down". But she quickly realized that it was to her advantage to let
Tara underestimate her abilities. "I know who you are," is all Kelly replied.
"I'm famous!" Tara said with feigned delight.
"Infamous!" Kelly corrected her.
"Ah...if only fame was a commodity. Then I wouldn't need this money," Tara said.
"So you've been behind this...deal," Phoebe said.
"And the deal before this one," Tara replied. "Three dozen AK‑47s, which are now in...some
revolutionary group's hands, I imagine. You missed that one, cousin. Your powers are getting a
"Hmm...I'm curious. How did you get Guillory out of the picture and get his money?"
"I have my ways," Phoebe replied. "I'm not as rusty as you think."
"No matter," Tara said, taking the briefcase from Bree. "I have his money. Now I can re‑sell the
rifles to someone else and get paid again. Thanks, cousin!"
"Why?" Phoebe asked. "Why are you doing this? And why are demons fronting for you?"
"For the money, of course," Tara answered. "Isn't that obvious? These young demons don't have
the ‑ shall we say 'experience' ‑ to put together deals like this. So they need me to do that for
them. In turn, they handle the actual transaction. Bree gets one third ‑ which she would have
shared with Zoe and Vanna had they not been so unfortunately vanquished ‑ which she will use
to appear like a normal person as a cover for her...uh, activities. And I need the rest to live on.
And to be able to barter for powers ‑ and to play and win them at palorak."
"Prue told me that you have quite a reputation as a palorak player," Phoebe noted, referring to a
game of chance favored by demons and warlocks. Prue had learned that when she had posed as a
demon to get information she needed from a demon named Kameron. "I'm surprised anyone will
let you into a game where you could win."
"I don't use my name when I play...I use Prue's," Tara said and laughed. "And where is cousin
Prue?" she asked, becoming serious. "Last time we were together she wanted to vanquish me."
"With good reason," Phoebe replied. "You brought evil here across time from the past to do your
bidding. Then you stole our powers, stole our memory of who we are, even stole our home."
"The Halliwell Manor," Tara said, her mind going back to a few months earlier. "Yes...I enjoyed
living there and really wanted to stay there. A lovely, normal house ‑ that should have been mine!
"Oh...you left out my stealing Stuart from you. I would have savored that. I had him in my grip
and just needed to reel him in.
I'm suprised he's not here with you tonight, Phoebe. He is still with you, isn't he?"
"He's with me now, if you must know," Kelly said, not able to keep a hint of happiness out of her
"With you? My, my, my...the student bests the teacher," Tara said with a little admiration ‑ and
glee. "That must have left you, cousin, feeling a bit embarrassed ‑ and impotent."
"You're evil, Tara," Phoebe said. "You deserve to be vanquished."
"You can't vanquish people with spells," Tara said. "That is, until great‑great‑great ‑ hmm...I've
lost track of how many 'greats' she goes back ‑ grandmother Melinda Warren wrote a spell in the
Book of Shadows to use just on me. It focuses on the one part of me ‑ of us ‑ that is not a 'normal'
person. Our witch powers. Neither Prue, nor anyone else, could have come up with that precise a
spell to use on a witch."
"Tara, you didn't have to be like this. You could have ‑" Phoebe started to say.
"Could have what?! she demanded. "When great‑grandmother Mercy was passed over, when she
was deemed unfit to receive the powers of the 'high and mighty' Warren/Halliwell lineage, and
had to fend for herself with scraps of powers wherever she could find them. And grandmother
Teige and my mother Tracey lived the same way. Always just getting by with second‑rate
powers to survive.
"I want better for myself, dear cousin. I want to live more in the way that you and your sisters do.
I want powers that I can use to get anything I want, in any way that I want. And for that I need
money. Lots of money."
"You could have gotten a job, the way ‑" Phoebe began.
"The way plain mortals ‑ ordinary people ‑ live?" Tara mocked. "With their mundane jobs and
their mundane lives? No, cousin. I‛m not one of them. I‛m a witch and I‛m going to live like one.
A powerful one."
Tara hefted the briefcase, then took a quick peek inside it.
"Not quite as much as the original price because your junior witch here took a crate last night,"
Tara said. "I'll be sure to stop by and pick that up afterwards."
"There's not going to be an 'afterwards' for you, Tara," Phoebe said firmly, staring her in her eyes.
"Oh no! Are you going vanquish me here?" Tara asked, affecting fear in her voice. "You don't
even know the spell without having the Book of Shadows in front of you," she taunted Phoebe.
And, in fact, she was right. While Prue might have remembered the spell, Phoebe had never even
"But she...they can still vanquish me," Bree said, with genuine fear.
"No...they can't," Tara said with assurance as she pulled out something from her jacket pocket. It
was tubular shaped, about six inches long and blue‑white in color. She quickly pointed it at Kelly
What looked like snowflakes began suddenly and quickly falling on Kelly and Phoebe,
encompassing the place where they stood. Kelly tried to say something but found that she
"Ah...just something I won at palorak ‑ I did sort of cheat that time if you must know the truth.
It's a handy little thing with the power to freeze whomever I am pointing it at," Tara said. "Not
the way your sister Piper freezes demons and people. This 'snow' really does freeze you, in the
literal sense and it will turn you both into icicles.
"So this is goodbye, cousin. But, knowing what you would do to me if you could, it's your own
doing that brought this upon you."
Bree relaxed as she saw Phoebe try to move her hand but it wouldn't respond. Then Bree smiled
as she saw Kelly shivering. The young witch felt colder than she'd ever been and her face was
turning a blue‑white icy color.
"In another minute it will be over for both of them and we can go," Tara told the young demon.
And then a shot rang out.
The bullet smashed the blue‑white tube in Tara's hand, splintering it to pieces. With the freezing
tube gone and no longer being pointed at Phoebe and Kelly, the snow over their heads
disappeared. In a few seconds they felt themselves warmed up and unfrozen, moving their bodies
freely in confirmation.
Startled by the gunshot, Tara turned. Then she dove and dropped down to the floor just as a
second shot rang out, hitting her on her side below her armpit. Blood spurting out, she managed
to roll behind a low wall that jutted out into the mostly open warehouse space.
Seeing what had just happened, Bree panicked. She starting running to where she had left the
truck, what she would use to escape. But Kelly was right behind her, starting to say the spell as
she ran after her.
Bree reached the truck then stopped short. Root was sitting in the truck's cab with the motor
running, having pulled out the ignition wires and started the engine without needing the key. She
gave Bree her half‑crazy smile, then shifted the gear into reverse, quickly backing the truck out of
the demon's reach.
Stranded, Bree turned around to look for another way out but instead saw Kelly just a few feet
from her. Bree raised her hand, hoping she could send an energy bolt at Kelly, whom Tara had
said was a mere witch‑in‑training. But the young witch was finishing the last line of the spell,
which she had changed on the fly as she was running, from the original plural to now vanquish
just a single demon.
Small balls of fire appeared, encircling Bree. The demon sent an energy bolt from her hand but
she was already screaming in agony and her aim was way off, the bolt hitting the warehouse wall.
Her screaming continued for a few seconds more until in a puff of smoke she and the balls of fire
"So much for my being just a junior witch‑in‑training," Kelly said in vindication.
Phoebe knelt down next to Tara, who lay on the warehouse floor. Blood was coming from Tara's
side, soaking her pale yellow blouse and changing its color.
"Who...shot...?" she tried to ask.
"A friend...who came to protect and help us," Phoebe replied.
"Friend..." Tara repeated. "I don't...have any," she added, jealousy ‑ and sadness ‑ in her voice.
"I'm...I'm not...through yet...cousin," she said with difficulty.
"I'm afraid you...are, Tara," Phoebe said. Despite how evil she knew Tara was, she was still
family. At least, within the Charmed Role Reversal modified world she was. And Phoebe,
despite herself, felt something for her "cousin" as she lay dying.
With difficulty, Tara used her hand to reach into her pocket and pull out a small piece of paper.
As she unfolded it, Phoebe saw that it looked like an old‑time train ticket. There was a place for
a return destination but Tara's hand was on it and Phoebe couldn't see what the destination was.
"I bought a...round‑trip ticket," Tara said, barely audibly. "I'm not going to...die here. I can still..."
She squeezed the ticket with whatever strength she could still muster. Her image slowly began to
fade until she disappeared.
Phoebe heard footsteps running across the warehouse. She stood up and saw Shaw approaching
her, a rifle in her hands.
"The other shot was aimed at her heart but she moved at the last second," Shaw said defensively,
then shook her head. "I saw...and I heard...but I don't..." She left the end of the sentence hanging.
The approach of the truck, with Kelly walking in front of it, got their attention. Root stuck her
head out of the cab's open window.
"I'll drive this to Kelly's house," she said. "You can turn it over to the police tomorrow with an
appropriate cover story. You have experience in making those up to the police to cover things
that you do, Phoebe."
The truck and the cars now all parked in her driveway, Kelly hurried in to check on Stuart and
Alexis. Phoebe, Shaw and Root went into the living room.
"You still haven't explained where you're from nor what this machine of yours is," Phoebe said.
"Nor how it communicates with you. It's time that you did."
"We're from New York," Root said. "And the machine isn't ours. She's very special and
intelligent. She just tells me things."
"Tells you...as in talks to you?" Phoebe asked.
Root half‑smiled. "I'm fortunate that she chose me for that."
"And the machine 'talks' to you, too?" Phoebe asked Shaw.
"No." She hesitated, glanced briefly at Root, then continued. "We get numbers that are associated
"We?" Phoebe asked.
"My...associates," Shaw replied.
"And how does your machine know what's going to happen?" Phoebe asked.
"She was designed to predict that," Root replied.
"Predict," Phoebe repeated. "By whom? Who is such an expert who could build this kind of a
"Our associate Harold Finch," Shaw replied. "He's more than just an expert in artificial
intelligence. He designed something unique."
"I would think you'd be working for the government," Phoebe said. "A machine with this level of
artificial intelligence is something I'm sure they would very much want for themselves."
"The government...does want it," Shaw answered. "And us, too. Which is why we work in the
shadows. We have a very different view of the importance of each individual number ‑ of each
person ‑ that the machine tells us is in danger and what to do about them, than the view the
"And you ‑ and your associates ‑ do this just to help people you think ‑ uh, the people whose
numbers the machine tells you ‑ need help?" Phoebe asked.
"We all help and protect them," Root replied. "Something like what you do to help innocents."
Phoebe paused. "You seem to know a lot about me," she said. "Well, I also know something
about you. You said where you're from ‑ but not when you're from."
Shaw looked at Phoebe uneasily.
"You gave me a list of items to get for you at the drug store so you could remove the bullet and
save Stuart," Phoebe continued. "One of those items doesn't exist. At least it doesn't exist yet.
The pharmacist said its approval by the FDA is still about three years away. He gave me a current
'substitute' for it ‑ then asked me how I even knew about it, let alone why I expected to able to
"The answer...is that you have used it. After it was approved and became available. Which tells
me that when you're both from...is not the present."
Shaw stared at Phoebe but didn't say anything. Root tilted her head as if listening to something
being said to her.
"She says that not everything about who we are and where we're from neither should be nor needs
to be told," Root said, with a half‑smile. "Just as not everything about who you are ‑ and where
you're from, should be told either."
Phoebe stared at Root, who, with her half‑smile, stared right back at her. She can't mean about
my being Alyssa Milano, about my really being an actress from Hollywood, Phoebe thought.
There isn't any way in this Charmed‑modified world that she could know about the real me...and
Phoebe exhaled. Or can their machine somehow know that? Phoebe did not want to accept that
to be true. Yet after thinking of what she had seen them do with information the machine "gave"
them, she had to accept that it was at least a possibility.
Shaw took a deep breath as she looked Root squarely in her eyes as they sat in their "borrowed'
car, about to go back to their motel.
"Witches? Demons? This is not...real world," Shaw said. "I just don't understand it."
"Just because you don't know or understand everything that's around you," Root replied, "doesn't
mean that it's not there. She knows a lot more than Harold ever expected her to know."
"I don't know if Finch will believe all of this," Shaw said. "I don't know if I believe all of this."
"You've seen it Sameen. Now you know that she was right and it all does exist," Root said.
"Including the time portal," Shaw said, then exhaled. "But why was it so important for the
Machine to send us back here to save them?"
"There is evil that they have to prevent from happening," Root replied, "evil that would have
terrible repercussions all the way up to our time. Now they'll be stopped."
"OK ‑ I suppose I can understand Kelly‛s number coming up first. But Stuart isn't even a...he
doesn't have any 'powers' to use," Shaw said.
"He does have them indirectly," Root replied. "She told me that he was instrumental in many of
their past successes. There are ways someone can be a part of preventing evil without his
directly having special powers. Just by being willing to fight the evil ‑ and by just being himself."
It was eight‑thirty the next morning when, after returning their "borrowed" car to the airport's
long‑term parking lot, Shaw and Root walked into the terminal. Shaw gave a long look at the
newsstand, where two days earlier she had bought the candy and confirmed her travel back
through time, as they passed it going to the "portal's" door. Root opened it and they walked
through the doorway, Shaw again seeing everything blurry for a few seconds.
Kelly had gotten only a couple of hours of sleep. But those hours had been spent lying in bed
with Stuart, comforted by just feeling him next to her. Her arm lightly around him reassured her,
giving her the feeling that she was protecting him and that he was safe.
When she woke up, the early morning light made everything seem fresh and good. Stuart was
safe and would heal and be all right. But last night had been very different. It had been a close
call. She had come so very close to losing him.
Kelly leaned over and very gently put a kiss on Stuart's head, being careful not to wake him. She
quietly got out of bed, slipped a robe on over her naked body, and left their bedroom. She went to
the guest bedroom and very lightly tapped on the door.
"Come in," came the response. Kelly opened the door and came into the room. Alexis, still in
bed, sat up. Kelly walked over to her and sat down on the bed next to her.
"How are you feeling?" Kelly asked.
"Better," Alexis replied.
Kelly looked into the eyes of her dear friend. She had saved Stuart's life, thinking nothing of
herself as she did. She would now trust her friend with her own life.
"Are you up to talking before breakfast?" she asked.
"Sure," Alexis replied.
Kelly took a deep breath. "Let me tell you a story...a true story," Kelly began. "Once upon a time
there was a young girl, whose parents had moved to San Francisco from Brooklyn. She grew up
as any normal girl, the only difference from her friends that she knew of was that her father had
instilled in her his love for the Brooklyn Dodgers of his youth.
"But then something happened and the girl learned that she was different from her friends in a
much greater way. She learned that she had special powers. And with those powers came a great
responsibility to protect innocents from evil. Not the evil people in the world but a very different
kind of evil, an evil of..."