To Shatter The Shell: Chapter 4

To Shatter The Shell: Chapter 4

A Chapter by JPDonelan

The Watcher arrives in the slums in search of Malcolm Little.


The Watcher arrived in the slums at half-past one, after a thirty-five minute trip from the charred husk of the hotel. He didn't spend long considering the hotel as he stood on the street corner; it didn't serve to brood on what acted strictly as a backdrop to an event. The man did, however, hope Whise's muters had held back the reports of the fire long enough for Galloway's people to withdraw. With a quick shake his head to focus, he proceeded down the sidewalk.


The neighborhood The Watcher found himself was in poor shape, with abandoned or half-abandoned buildings littering the street. These structure's facades were in varied states of disrepair ranging from worn and chipped to crumbling. Many of these buildings had boards over their windows and doors, while scattered wooden fragments suggested others had their make-shift barriers removed. The sidewalks fared about as well, with the pavement going uneven every several feet and the occasional hole he had to step around or risk another set of shoes. Only the road appeared well kept, despite a pothole back at the corner.


The number of people on the street or tucked into the alleys surprised The Watcher. He had thought the area to be more desolate than this. Had he known he would've waited before stopping the taxi. Most of the occupants appeared to be homeless, huddled around for warmth in their dirtied, tattered and worn-out attire. Others had the appearance of streetwalkers, though they were comparably few and gathered on the far street corner.


He stopped between two streetlights that flickered and dimmed at random, further demonstrating the neglect the street suffered. An unfortunate state for those who lived in the neighborhood, surely, but a state The Watcher felt to his benefit. His new position placed him near the center of the street, which gave the man a better angle on the nearby alleys.


Unfortunately, none of the homeless in these alleys appeared to be the man he sought.


As The Watcher stood there, looking up and down the street like a man lost, Galloway's voice clawed its way to the surface of his consciousness. The voice reminded him that the man referred to in the report as "LG" liked to hide out in an alley off the side of a decrepit old bar. The experience proved unpleasant, like having the back of your head hacked away at with a cheese grater, but not useless.


Before he could put this information to use, someone approached from behind. The approach didn't surprise; he heard the figure's footfalls as they brought them near. And he heard them cease a foot behind him. The person spoke before he could turn to face them.


"Ey, mister. Sorry to bother ya. But do have�"" The figure, an old man with an impressive, if dirty, beard and dressed in a thick, weather worn jacket, coughed a few times. "Any cash you can spare? Getting to the cold season and any help would be appreciated."


"Help would be appreciated..." The Watcher muttered to himself as he looked at the man and down the alley he emerged from. Three more individuals were huddled together in the alley, eyes and heads turned toward him. Their intent a mystery.




"Apologies. I may have a little I could spare. But, in return, I would like to ask you a question," The Watcher said, shifting slightly to keep the three in the alleyway in view as his eyes focused on the man before him.


"Sure, mister. Ask away," The elderly fellow responded in an increasingly raspy voice.


The Watcher smiled. "I am looking for a man, said to be fond of lingering about in alleys around these parts. Heard he favors a particular alley that runs alongside a bar. Never got the name of the bar. Any ideas?"


"Eh, maybe. Only a few bars round here these days." The old man sighed. "Different back in the day. This place used to be well alive at night. Bars used to run deep into the morning. Then the factories shuttered and the jobs left. Then the people trickled out. With them went the money."


"Sorry to hear that. Take it you've lived here your whole life?" The Watcher asked.


"Most of it. Was born in the country, moved when I was young. Seems so long ago." The elderly man smiled as he thought back on his youth.


"I don't mean to be rude, but an answer to my question if you wouldn't mind." The Watcher, familiar with being pulled from fonder thoughts back to the harshness of the present, nodded apologetically.


"Terribly sorry, Mister. Can think of at least three bars you might be talking about. Don't suppose you got a description of the fellow?"


"Not a particularly good one," The Watcher replied with a partial lie. "The man should be a tad...odd from what I've heard. Either in the eyes, ears and definitely in the teeth."


The man nodded at this description, perking up at the mention of  'odd teeth'. "I think I may know the man. Real friendly, if a bit sketchy. Think he might be hung on something. Hides away next to Rolph's."


"That's what I needed. Where can I find this 'Rolph's'?"


"Oh, next street over. Alley here would have you there in a hurry." The man paused to cough and gesture toward the alley. "Would be on the other side of the street. You'd come across the place before you'd hit the alley, though."


"Thank you greatly." The Watcher smiled as he slid his hand behind his back. His hand emerged with two folded bills. "I fear it's not much, but I only brought so much with me and I will need some to get home."


"More than I expected, mister." The man smiled before looking side to side in a shifty manner. "Should warn you, since you let me reminisce, some down the alley may be interested in getting a helping of your kindness. So you may want�""


"Tell them to come out. I suspected as much and have just enough to give them a little something." The Watcher smiled knowingly and lowered his voice. "Not quite the amount I have given you, though. You've done me a kindness and deserved more."


"Thank you, mister. And may god bless you."


The old man brought the three out from the alley as requested, where The Watcher gave each a folded bill. He explained he had no more money to spare and asked them to forget they had seen him. Though curious as to why this random stranger would request they forget him, the four agreed to honor this simple demand. Wishing them well, he entered the alley.


The Watcher kept alert, uncertain if they would reconsider and pursue, or if others resided further down the alley. Fortunately, the trip proved uneventful; he encountered nothing alive, not even a rodent.


The street on the other side of the alleyway mirrored the previous in appearance, with boarded up buildings, decrepit facades, and crumbling sidewalks. This avenue, however, had buildings that had never been abandoned. Electric light emanated from these apparent homes through window frames whose former glass inhabitants had passed some indiscernible time ago. Noise faintly poured out from the buildings nearest The Watcher; the sounds of chatter and the occasional boisterous disagreement an unsought treat for his ears.


Down the street from where he stood, echoing from a well-lit building, came a cacophony of loud, drunken voices. It didn't take much guesswork or sleuthing to determine the establishment, with its worn exterior, smoky windows, and faded signage, was Rolph's.


The Watcher, in his approach, kept to his side of the street. His planned route minimized the number of eyes that might fall upon him. The course brought him past two noisy abodes whose inhabitants were too preoccupied with their conversations or arguments to pay him any mind or assumed him to be one of the homeless. He turned once he had passed Rolph's, crossed the road, and slipped into the alley beside the alehouse.


The lights from the street and an unseen source from behind the bar imperfectly illuminated the alley. While The Watcher saw no one in the side alley, a shadow cast from behind the bar supplied sufficient evidence that someone was there. The question remained: Is this the man he sought?


The Watcher wasted no time with hypotheticals and moved with quieted footfalls toward the turn in the alley. He knew he would have problems if the individual ran off, more so if the person were the gutter-blood he came to find. He rounded the corner with continued care and came face-to-back-of-the-head with a slender man of near average height with dirty, matted brown hair that ran to his shoulders.


"Hello, Malcolm," said The Watcher.

© 2017 JPDonelan

Author's Note

Any feedback is welcome. -Update- This chapter has been split at a point I thought worked. Please let me know what you think.

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Added on December 12, 2016
Last Updated on April 6, 2017
Tags: Fiction, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Low Fantasy




Currently working on a larger project that has put the editing of the follow-up to "Tome of Reality" on hiatus. My stories tend to reach toward five thousand words, which can be made to look longer.. more..