“HANCOCK” (2008) Review

”HANCOCK” (2008) Review

When I first learned about the premise for ”HANCOCK” – a superhero leading the life of a drunken bum – it struck me as rather original. Twelve years later, I still feel that it is one of the original movie premises I have ever come across.

”John Hancock” is a powerful amnesiac who uses his super abilities to occasionally help the citizens of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, not only does his help tend to come off as heavy-handed and reluctant, but also damaging to public property. In short, his actions and drunken, yet sardonic attitude also pisses off a lot of people. This all changes when Hancock ends up saving the life of a Public Relations spokesperson named Ray Embrey. The grateful PR man offers to help Hancock clean up his public image. Although Ray ends up achieving his goal, trouble arises when Hancock finds himself growing attracted to Ray’s wife, Mary. And she finds herself forced to reveal a big secret surrounding both Hancock . . . and herself.

I must admit that I found the first half of ”HANCOCK” rather interesting. It seemed like a rare treat to witness the metamorphosis of a drunken, yet powerful asshole into a competent and less reluctant Good Samaritan/superhero. Unfortunately, once Mary revealed the truth about herself and Hancock, the movie veered into entirely new direction. What started out as the development of a genuine superhero who might be interested in a friend’s wife, ended up as a semi-tragic tale of two immortals forced to remain apart in order to maintain their powers. Frankly, I found this whole, new scenario a load of nonsense. And a contrived reason to keep the two immortal lovers, permanently apart.

In a way, I can understand why screenwriters Vince Gilligan and Vincent Ngo prevented Hancock and Mary to end the movie with a lovers’ embrace. Such a conclusion would have broken Ray Embrey’s heart. And I must say that Jason Bateman’s portrayal of the idealistic PR spokesperson struck me as very enduring. It would seem slightly depressing if the movie had ended with his character as a loser. In fact, I would go further and say that the main strength ”HANCOCK” centered around its cast. British actor Eddie Marsan made a captivating bank robber with a penchant for bombs and revenge against Hancock. Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron did a wonderful job in portraying the enigmatic Mary Embrey, who is not only torn between two men, but by a secret she has been harboring for years. But it was really Will Smith in the title role, who really impressed me. Portraying a character as complex as John Hancock must have been a challenge. But Smith lived up to the challenge by capturing every nuance of the character without resorting to over-the-top acting, as he was inclined to in the past decade. Without him, Bateman and Theron, the movie could have fallen apart.

I wish I could say that ”HANCOCK” was one of the better movies of 2008. Despite stellar performances by the cast and Peter Berg’s competent direction, the movie was nearly undone by a script that deviated midway into the story. However, the movie was not a total loss. It could have been a lot worse. A lot worse.

“EL DORADO WEST” [PG] – Chapter Four

The following is Chapter Four of my story about a pair of free black siblings making the journey to California in 1849:

Chapter Four – Mr. Whitman’s Legacy

March 9, 1849
The news shook me to my very foundations. As I had assumed, Mr. Whitman’s family had inherited most of his fortune. But to my surprise, that wonderful old man also left me five thousand dollars. Five thousand!

At first, I had feared that the Whitman heirs would contest my inheritance. My fears proved to be groundless. As far as they were concerned, the five thousand dollars was my reward for keeping the old man company. Besides, the five thousand was mere chicken feed in compare to what they had inherited.

My family received the news in a state of shock. Especially Papa. He knew what the inheritance meant – at last I had the means to make the trek for California and the gold fields without his support.

March 18, 1849
After nearly a week of preparation, I finally departed Cleveland for California. Or should I say . . . “we” left? Sister Alice had decided to join me at the last moment, upsetting the family even further. Since her rejection of Charles Maxwell, the family has made life miserable for her.

From the moment I had received my inheritance until our departure, my parents desperately tried to convince Alice and me to stay in Cleveland. I simply could not oblige them. It was not that I did not love them. I simply had to leave Cleveland. The desire to see other lands and dig for gold continued to grasp my soul. Mr. Whitman understood.

It is our first night on the road. Alice and I found shelter at a small tavern near the edge of Yellow Springs. Pleasant town. Although its citizens did not exactly make an effort to make our acquaintance, they did not seemed to mind the presence of two Negroes.

March 31, 1849
After nearly two weeks of travel, Alice and I have finally reached Cincinnati and the Ohio River. We decided to head straight for the riverfront and acquire about steamboat passage to St. Louis, instead of search for local lodgings.

I have never seen so much activity in one spot in my life! Cincinnati teemed with all sorts of characters – local riff-raff, stevedores, complacent-looking farmers, and well-dressed travelers on their way to heaven knows where. We even had our first glimpse of those rustic-looking creatures called mountain men, with their unruly beards, Indian clothings and tanned faces. Whores – especially those of the worst kind – teemed the levee, looking for new customers. But if there is one thing I will never forget about this city is the pigs! I forgot that Cincinnati was the pork capital of the nation. A person cannot walk one block without encountering the pink-skinned creatures.

Recalling that Cincinnati was a favorite hunting ground for slave catchers, I began to wonder if I would see any of their black merchandise. In the end, it was Alice who spotted the first of them – three black men chained together in a coffle. A tough-looking white man wearing a wide-brimmed hat, led them. The sight sent a chill down my spine and for the first time since leaving, I longed for the familiarity of my father’s home.

Another sight temporarily erased any fears that the slave coffle had produced. Since Cinncinati happened to be one of the major ports along the Ohio River, river vessels of every kind filled the spaces by the river. Flatboats, keelboats (rarely used these days) and canoes. But the vessels that dominated the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, along with the Great Lakes were the towering steamboats. And they nearly filled the riverfront.

Both Alice and I were at a loss. It would take us forever to discover which boat was destined for St. Louis. Someone would have to remain with the wagon, while the other searched for a vessel. And I did not look forward to leaving Alice by herself. She was young, pretty, female and colored – the perfect target for any man, especially a white one who might be interested in carnal pleasures or slave hunter. Fortune eventually appeared in the form of one Reverend Abraham Miller of a local Baptist church for Negroes. He allowed us to keep our wagon inside his barn, until our departure. He also invited us to join his family for supper.

Meanwhile, Alice and I scoured the riverfront for passage to St. Louis. Thankfully, we managed to find one within an hour. The name of the steamboat was the ALBERT P. SIMPSON. It was a white, three-story vessel trimmed in dark-blue. Its smoke stacks were painted in the same color. A uniformed purser informed us that it was scheduled to depart Cincinnati tomorrow afternoon at two o’clock. That left us with less than twenty-four hours in the city. When I had informed Reverend Miller, he suggested that we spend the night at a local boardinghouse two blocks away from his church. Cinncinati turned out to be slightly more friendly than I had orginally assumed.

End of Chapter Four

“SCARECROW AND MRS. KING”: Top Five Favorite Season One (1983-1984) Episodes

Below is a list of my favorite Season One episodes from the CBS series, “SCARECROW AND MRS. KING”. Created by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, the series starred Kate Jackson and Bruce Boxleitner:

“SCARECROW AND MRS. KING”: TOP FIVE FAVORITE SEASON ONE (1983-1984) Episodes

1 - 1.03 If Thoughts Could Kill

1. (1.03) “If Thoughts Could Kill” – After checking into a hospital for a routine checkup, government agent Lee Stetson (a.k.a. “Scarecrow”) is slowly brainwashed into becoming an assassin by a former Agency physician.

2 - 1.12 Lost and Found

2. (1.12) “Lost and Found” – While protecting a ESP expert who had defected from the Soviet Union, Lee is reunited with his former lover, the ESP expert’s current wife.

3 - 1.13 I Am Not Now Nor Have I Ever Been a Spy

3. (1.13) “I Am Not Now Nor Have I Ever Been a Spy” – A case of amnesia causes recently recruited spy and suburban divorcee Amanda King to forget vital information about terrorists.

4 - 1.18 Filming Raul

4. (1.18) “Filming Raul” – Amanda and Lee tries to help a parking lot attendant for the Agency and film director wannabe, who had filmed an attempted kidnapping of an Agency courier. This makes him the target of enemy agents.

5 - 1.01 Pilot

5. (1.01) “The First Time” – The series’ pilot episode reveals how Amanda became an agent for the Agency, when she is given a package by Lee – an act that leads to their first adventure together.

HM - 1.10 The Long Christmas Eve

Honorable Mention: (1.10) “The Long Christmas Eve” – Amanda and Lee’s violent encounter with two KGB agents lead to a long night on Christmas Eve, inside an isolated cabin.

“THE KINGDOM” (2007) Review

“THE KINGDOM” (2007) Review

Based upon a real life incident regarding a terrorist attacks in the Saudi Arabia (Riyadh Compound Bombings), the 2007 action thriller, “THE KINGDOM”, tells the story of an FBI Counterterrorist unit sent to Saudi Arabia to investigate a terrorist attack upon an American compound in Saudi Arabia. Directed by Peter Berg (“FRIDAY NIGHTS LIGHTS”) and produced by Michael Mann, the movie starred Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman.

The main question is . . . did I like “THE KINGDOM”? And the answer is yes. In fact, I had enjoyed it very much. It had plenty of suspense, drama and especially action that should not leave anyone disappointed. Most of the story seemed to be focused upon the theme of American cops forced to deal with their country’s own bureaucacy and with the hostility of foreign cops who resent the idea of Americans invading their turf. There have been other Hollywood crime dramas with similar themes. But in “THE KINGDOM”, this theme is intensified due to the story’s setting – namely Saudi Arabia and the Middle East culture and the current concern of terrorism. And I feel that screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Michael Mann did a great job.

The entire cast was first-rate . . . especially Jamie Foxx as FBI Agent Ronald Fleury and Ashraf Barhom as Col. Faris Al-Ghazi of the Saudi police, who managed to create a very credible relationship of two men whose different cultures would automatically make them enemies during this time in history. Yet slowly . . . surely, they managed to form a close friendship. Jennifer Garner, Kyle Chandler in a brief appearance and a very entertaining Jason Bateman also gave competent performances. Rounding off the competent supporting cast were Jeremy Piven, Ali Suliman, Richard Jenkins, Tim McGraw, Ashley Scott, Frances Fisher, Omar Berdouni, Anna Devere Smith and Danny Huston. My only problem with the casting was Chris Cooper. Although he was his usual competent self, there were times when his character seemed a bit irrelevant and a little hammy at times.

About a month before the movie was released in the theaters, someone had written a review of the movie and considered it as a potential for Academy Award nominations. To be honest, I do not know if I would agree with that assessment. As good as “THE KINGDOM” was, I never saw the possibility of it earning any award nominations. At least of Oscar caliber. And I was right. To me, it was simply a solid action-drama with a first-rate cast and good, solid writing. Worthy of an entertaining trip to your local theater or afternoon/evening in front of your television and DVD machine.

“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Three “Carentan” Commentary

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“BAND OF BROTHERS” (2001) – Episode Three “Carentan” Commentary

This third episode, ”Carentan” picked up one day after where ”Day of Days” left off – Easy Company in Northern France for the Normandy invasion. ”Carentan” mainly centered around the experiences of Private Albert Blithe, portrayed by actor Marc Warren during Easy Company’s attempt take the town of Carentan.

Easy Company’s nighttime jump into Normandy seemed to have left Private Blithe in semi-shock. He barely acknowledged the comments of his fellow paratroopers. During the company’s assault upon Carentan, he suffered from temporary blindness. Conversations with officers like Easy’s Harry Welch and Dog Company’s Ronald Spiers failed to help Blithe ease his anxiety regarding the horrors of combat. Winters is finally able to spur Blithe into action, during a German counterattack, a day or two later. But Blithe’s triumph is short-lived when he is wounded by an enemy sniper after volunteering to lead a scout patrol. Also during this episode, the legend of Ronald Spiers continues when Donald Malarkey and his friends – Warren “Skip” Muck, Alex Pankala and Alton More – discuss Spiers’ alleged connection to the deaths of a group of German prisoners-of-war and a sergeant in Dog Company. Winters endured a mild wound and Sergeant Carwood Lipton endures a more serious one during the battle for Carentan.

”Carentan” became the second episode in ”BAND OF BROTHERS” with a running time longer than one hour. ”Currahee” was the first. But I must admit that I enjoyed ”Carentan” a lot more. The longer running time and broadening effects from the horrors of war gave the series’ portrayal of the Normandy campaign more of an epic feel than ”Day of Days’. It featured two harrowing combat sequences – Easy Company’s attack upon Carentan and the Germans’ counterattack that nearly left the company in a vulnerable state. And it is the first episode that featured an aspect of ”BAND OF BROTHERS” that I truly enjoy – namely casual conversation between the men of Easy between combat situations. Conversations such as the one about Spiers between Marlarkey, More, Muck and Penkala turned out to be bright spots that prevented the miniseries from sinking into the cliché of a typical World War II combat drama.

The main storyline for ”Carentan” happened to be about Albert Blithe’s anxieties in dealing with combat for the first time. Writer E. Max Frye did a solid job regarding the Blithe character and his troubles with hysterical blindness. But I do have a few problems with his work. One, his take on the whole ”soldier traumatized by combat” did not strike me as original. Watching Blithe’s travails on the screen left me with a feeling that I have seen numerous war dramas with similar storylines. And two, Frye got a good deal of his information wrong about Blithe. The end of the episode revealed that Blithe never recovered from his wound in the neck and died four years later in 1948. As it turned out, Blithe did recover from the wound . . . eventually. He remained in the Army, served in the 82nd Airborne during the Korean War and died in 1967. Either Fyre made this mistake intentionally . . . or had made a major blooper. There was another mistake regarding Blithe, but I will reveal it later.

One last complaint I had was the episode’s last fifteen or twenty minutes, which featured Easy Company’s return to England. Aside from the ham-fisted scene in which Malarkey found himself picking up the laundry of some of those who had been killed or wounded in Normandy, most of those scenes should have been featured in the beginning of the following episode. And they should have deleted the scene in which Lipton announced that they would be returning to France. One, he had not been announced as Easy Company’s new First Sergeant and two, they never did return to France.

The performances in ”Carentan” were solid, but a few did stand out for me. Matthew Settle continued his excellent introduction of Lieutenant Ronald Spiers in a very memorable and slightly tense scene in which he tries to give Blithe some advice on how to mentally deal with combat. Another first-rate performance came from Rick Warden, who portrayed one of Easy Company’s platoon leader and close friend of Richard Winters and Lewis Nixon – Harry Welch. I rather enjoyed Warden’s charming take on the easy-going and sardonic Welch. And finally, there was Marc Warren, whose portrayal of Blithe pretty much carried this episode. He did a very good job of conveying Blithe’s journey from a shell-shocked trooper to the more confident warrior, whose experience with Easy Company ended with a wound in the neck. My only complaint with Warren’s performance is that he portrayed Blithe with a generic Southern accent. And the real Blithe was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Why Spielberg, Hanks and director Mikael Salomon had him used a Southern accent for the character is beyond me.

”Carentan” is not my favorite episode of ”BAND OF BROTHERS”. I found the whole ”soldier traumatized by combat” storyline for the Albert Blithe character to be slightly unoriginal. The character also spoke with the wrong regional accent and the information about his post-Easy Company years was historically inaccurate. And I could have done without the scenes with Easy Company back in England near the end of the episode. On the other hand, I do consider ”Carentan” to be one of the miniseries’ better episodes. Easy Company’s experiences in taking Carentan and enduring a German counterattack gave the episode more of an epic feel than the events featured in the last episode, ”Day of Days”. And despite portraying Blithe with the wrong accent, Marc Warren did give an exceptionally good performance.

Five Favorite Episodes of “JESSICA JONES” Season One (2015)

Below is a list of my favorite episodes from Season One of “JESSICA JONES”, the Marvel Netflix adaptation of the Marvel Comics heroine.  Created by Melissa Rosenberg, the series stars Kristen Ritter as Jessica Jones:

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “JESSICA JONES” SEASON ONE (2015)

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1.  (1.10) AKA 1,000 Cuts” – A discovery about the past of her former tormentor, the telepathic Kilgrave, has the chance to change the game between the latter and enhanced private detective Jessica Jones.

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2.  (1.01) “AKA Ladies’ Night” – In this series premiere, Jessica is hired by a couple to find their daughter, an NYU student athlete who has vanished.  But the case turns out to be more than a simple missing persons case. 

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3.  (1.06) “AKA You’re a Winner!” –  Former lover and enhanced bar owner Luke Cage  hires Jessica to help him find someone who may have skipped town, but she fears he’ might learn too much about her past history with his late wife.

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4.  (1.12) “AKA Take a Bloody Number” – Jessica’s hunt for Kilgrave reunites her with Luke. Her foster sister, radio talk show host Trish Walker receives some unexpected information about NYPD Sergeant Will Simpson and Jessica.

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5.  (1.03) “AKA It’s Called Whiskey” – Jessica thinks she has found a weapon to use against Kilgrave. After discovering that Luke is an enhanced person like her, Jessica bonds with him.  And Kilgrave uses Simpson to go after Trish, who has become involved with Jessica’s case against him. 

“Bride of Belthazor” [PG-13] – 4/16

“BRIDE OF BELTHAZOR”

Chapter Four

The doorbell rang. Olivia heaved a sigh and stared at Cecile. “Oh God,” she murmured. “It’s time.”

Cecile rolled her eyes. “Get serious, girl. You act as if we’re about to attend the wedding party from hell.”

“We’re talking about my half-daemon fiancé, his daemonic mother and uncle, and my prissy Uncle Brion in the same room.” Olivia paused. “You do the math.”

With a snort, Cecile added, “Now if you add Daddy and Andre, who can barely stand each other, then you’re talking about a hellish night.” She grabbed Olivia’s arm. “And by the way, since when, as a Wiccan, did you start believing in hell? Time to go downstairs and meet the guests.”

The two friends left the bedroom that they shared and headed downstairs toward the large drawing room. Seconds later, Davies ushered in Cole, Andre, Nimue and Marbus. Olivia greeted her fiancé with a kiss. “Ready for tonight?”

“Would you be upset if I said ‘no’?” Cole murmured back.

Olivia shot him a quick grimace and made the introductions. “Cole, Andre . . . I’m sure that you two remembered my grandmother, Bronwyn Llewellyn Morgan. From Bruce’s wedding.”

The half-daemon and the former bokor greeted the elderly witch with warm smiles. Olivia’s grandmother literally gushed over the pair. “I must say that it’s lovely to see you two, again.” She sighed. “Makes me wish I was fifty years younger.”

“Mother!” Gweneth admonished.

“How about forty years?”

Barely smiling, Olivia continued the introductions. “Nana, this is Elizabeth Turner, Cole’s mother. She’s also known as . . . uh, Nimue.”

The elderly woman’s dark eyes grew wide at the sight of the demoness. “Good heavens! So, you’re the one who . . .” She glanced at her son. “Brion, is the daemon who had . . .?”

Olivia’s uncle stiffened. “Yes,” he muttered.

An amused smile curved Nimue’s lips. “Yes, I’m the one who had taken Aeronwyn’s Grimoire. I still have it, by the way. Nice to meet you again, Mr. Morgan.”

Brion’s mouth tightened even further. His mother peered closely at Nimue. “Good heavens! I don’t mean to be rude, but why do you speak with a Dublin accent?”

“I was born in Dublin,” Nimue explained. “And my family are descendants of the Tuatha Dé Dannan.”

Bronwyn exclaimed, “Bloody hell!”

“That was more or less my reaction,” Margaret Ferguson added.

Nimue’s smile widened, as she nodded at Marbus. “By the way, this is my elder brother, Marbus. I’m sure you know him as . . . um, Miles Farrell. Like me, he was born . . .”

“Miles Farrell?” The outburst came from Olivia’s uncle. Who wrote ‘VISIONS OF RAGE’ and ‘TIME OF THE PHOENIX’?”

Looking slightly embarrassed, Marbus nodded. “That and a few others.” He held out his hand to the Welshman. “Nice meeting you, uh . . .?”

“Brion Morgan.” Olivia’s uncle shook the daemon’s hand. “I understand that you’re also a Gimle daemon?” Nimue rolled her eyes.

Marbus replied, “Aye. For over 140 years or so.” He shook Bronwyn’s hand. “Lovely to meet you, Mrs. Morgan.”

“It’s a pleasure,” Olivia’s grandmother replied.

After Olivia finished with the introductions, a heavy silence filled the room. Nimue’s next comment caught the others off guard. She turned to the Welsh visitors and said, “I suppose that Gweneth must have told you the news.”

Brion peered suspiciously at the demoness. “What news?”

“About Jack’s family, of course.”

Another deadly silence followed. Dread filled Olivia’s mind. She feared that her future mother-in-law was about to reveal the McNeills’ family secret. “Oh, Nana and Uncle Brion already know about the daemonic wedding ceremony, Nimue.” She shot an uneasy look at Cole. “If that’s what you’re talking about.”

The half-daemon stepped forward. “Mother is probably referring to the news about your shop.”

“What?” Nimue frowned at her son.

Cole deliberately repeated himself. “Olivia’s new shop, Mother. Isn’t that what you mean? She plans to open it after the New Year.”

“Hopefully in early February,” Olivia added, grateful for Cole’s quick thinking. She turned to Mrs. Dubois. “I thought you might like a peep at it, before you leave.”

A wary smile appearing on her face, Mrs. Dubois replied, “Yeah. Yeah, Andre told me all about it.”

Once again, the room fell silent. From the corner of her eye, Olivia noticed that Nimue seemed interested in the room’s décor. So did Gweneth. “I realize that this room looks a bit old-fashioned, but I’ve always been a fan of the old Spanish Colonial style. Ever since I first arrived in California.”

“So have I,” Nimue replied. “Of course that was 120 years ago. Although I must say that this room looked slightly different, back then.”

Everyone stared at the demoness. Including Olivia. “You’ve . . . been here, before?”

Nimue hesitated. “Well . . . yes. After all, the Turners were a well-to-do family, back then.”

“That would make sense,” Mr. Dubois said. “Considering that Cole is . . .” He paused and turned to the half-daemon. “Sorry, but I remember Cecile and Andre telling me that you’re . . . 115 years old?”

Cole corrected him. “I’ll be 119 years, next month.”

“That’s right,” Nimue added. “Oh, how I remember that day. Deirdre had to act as midwife, while Benjamin and William waited downstairs for . . .”

Uncle Mike interrupted. “Wait a minute. William? As in William McNeill?”

“Of course,” Nimue coolly replied, nodding her head. “He and Benjamin were close friends. As a matter-of-fact, Belthazor was his godson.”

Gasps filled the room. Eyes grew wide with shock. Olivia and Cole’s eyes met. Then Jack McNeill turned to the family’s boggling manservant. “Uh, Davies, perhaps you should serve another round of drinks.”

————-

Several hours later, a furious Cole paced back and forth in front of the penthouse fireplace. Olivia, Nimue, Andre, Cecile and Marbus observed his action with wary eyes, from the comfort of nearby chairs and the sofa. The half-daemon finally paused, as he angrily turned on his mother. “Exactly when did you plan to deliver this little bombshell to the rest of us, Mother?”

“This . . . what?” Nimue coughed slightly. “Oh, you mean our little family connection? Well, I didn’t exactly have any plans, Belthazor. Especially since I’ve been a bit pre-occupied by the engagement and the wedding. And before that, I had not seen you in months.”

Cole retorted, “And why didn’t you tell me, last summer?”

“Because I was too busy trying to prevent you from making a grave mistake.” Nimue’s eyes – so similar to her son’s – shone with resentment. “You remember, don’t you, Belthazor? When you had planned to give up your powers?”

“Mother . . .”

Cecile spoke up, “I don’t want to get involved in a family spat, but I don’t see why you’re upset.” Mother and son stared at the Vodoun priestess. “Yes Cole, I’m talking to you.”

“What the . . . I . . .” The half-daemon felt speechless. He turned to his fiancée for support.

Olivia merely added, “Cecile has a point, Cole. I don’t really see why you’re upset. Didn’t you once say that you had the feeling that you’ve been inside my parents’ home before? And considering your mother’s news, I thought you would be thrilled about being the godson of my great-great-grandfather.”

Shit! Cole glared at his mother, who looked slightly amused. His anger increased. “I would be,” he growled, if Mother . . . had not deemed it necessary to keep this a secret.”

“In Capsiel’s name! I did not keep this a secret!” Nimue protested. “I simply forgot to mention it! Bloody hell! I haven’t set foot inside that house since 1892!”

Marbus drained the last of his whiskey and stood up. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but it’s time for me to leave. I need to get home.”

“Before you leave Marbus,” Cole said in a deceptively soft voice, “how long did you know that I was William McNeill’s godson?”

“Who me?” The older demon regarded his nephew with innocent eyes. “Not until tonight.”

Nimue added, “He never knew, if you must know. I never told Marbus about our connection to the McNeills. Don’t forget Belthazor, he first met you in the Melora Dimension, when you were four.”

Cole remained silent, but continued to regard both his mother and uncle with suspicion. Marbus said, “Well, I guess I’ll be seeing the rest of you, later this week. Uh . . . when is the bachelor’s party?”

“This Friday,” Andre replied. “At the Vornado Club. On Powell Street. The party begins at 7:30.”

“Right. The Vornado Club. I reckon I’ll see you lads there. Goodnight everyone.” And the daemon teleported out of the penthouse.

Nimue stood up. “It’s time for me to leave as well.”

“Making your escape as well, Mother?” Cole murmured in an insinuating voice.

The demoness sighed. “You really amaze me sometimes, Belthazor. You’re about to be married in a few days. Someone has recently tried to kill your bride-to-be . .”

“I had hoped everyone had forgotten that,” Olivia added.

Nimue finished, “. . . and you’re creating a fuss over something I had forgotten about for years.” She shot a friendly smile at Olivia and the two New Orleans visitors. “It was lovely seeing you all, again. And I’ll be seeing you two ladies, Friday night.” Then she glared at her son. “Belthazor.” She shimmered away.

Cole stared at the other three, who deliberately avoided his gaze. “Okay. You might as well say what’s on your mind.”

“Oh, you mean that you’ve been acting like a complete ass?” Olivia volunteered. “Or that once again, you’ve allowed your feelings toward your mother to overcome any sense of forgiveness?”

Frowning, Cole shot back, “Olivia, is it your goal in life to make me feel like a complete shit?”

With a sigh, Andre answered, “Hey man, you’re doing that all on your own.”

“No kidding,” Cecile added. “You really need to make up your mind about how you feel about that mother of yours. Apparently, you still have a grudge against her, because of what happened to your daddy. Yet, you’ve allowed her to become involved in your wedding. What’s up with that, anyway? Have you forgiven her or what?”

A gust of breath escaped from Cole’s mouth as he sat down on the sofa, next to Cecile. “I don’t know. I mean, I want us to move on, but . . .” He paused, as a gasp left the Vodoun priestess’ mouth. Everyone stared at her. “What?” Cole demanded. “Something wrong?”

A frown appeared on Cecile’s face. “I don’t know. Are you familiar with a dark-haired woman who looks like a second-rate Vegas showgirl?”

Idril. The moment Cecile spoke, he recognized the demoness’ description. “Yeah,” he said warily. “I think I know her. Why?”

The frown remained stamped on Cecile’s face. “Because sooner or later, I think the two of you will end up as husband and wife.”

———-

Idril climbed the stoop of a Baltimore townhouse and rang the doorbell. Seconds passed before a man’s voice answered. “Yes? Who is it?”

“My name is . . .” Idril hesitated. She had considered using her mortal name, but decided against it. Why bother when Wheeler happened to be familiar with the supernatural world? “My name is Idril.” She paused. “I’m a daemon.”

The door immediately swung open. An attractive man with conservatively cut blond hair and light-blue eyes appeared in the doorway. He stood at least an inch under six feet tall. And Idril could not help but admire his compact, muscular body – especially his wide shoulders. “What do you want?” he demanded in a suspicious voice.

Idril took a deep breath. “I understand that you have an object – an amulet that I might be interested in. Evendril’s Amulet. I would like . . .”

“Who told you that?” Wheeler regarded the demoness with hostile eyes.

“Valindal of the Anduin dimension.”

Wheeler muttered through his teeth, “That bitch! Can’t keep her mouth shut. I’ll never do business with her, again.” He glared at Idril. “If you think that you can take the amulet from me, think again.”

Idril retorted, “I could have simply killed you and taken the amulet. Which I assume is hanging from your neck.”

“I doubt it.” Wheeler glanced at an object that hung from the doorway – inside the house. Idril’s eyes followed his gaze. She saw a white pouch hanging from above. “Protection ward. Angelica Root.”

A frustrated sigh left Idril’s mouth. “Look, I understand that you have to be close in order to use the amulet on the . . . person in question. Which is something I won’t be able to do. Not with the person I have in mind. Which means I need someone to get close to this person.” She paused. “Namely you.”

Silence followed, until Wheeler finally agreed to cooperate. “Okay. Fine. I’ll help. But for a price.” His eyes hardened.

“How much?” Idril asked.

The warlock hesitated. “One hundred thousand. I want half before I do anything.”

“Fine. One hundred thousand is chump change to me.” Idril glanced at the protection ward. “By the way, may I finally come in? We need to make plans and that’s not gonna happen with me standing on this stoop.”

Reluctantly, Wheeler removed the protection ward from the doorway. He stood back. “C’mon in,” he said. With a tight smile on her face, Idril entered the townhouse.

END OF CHAPTER FOUR