To Shatter The Shell: Chapter 3

To Shatter The Shell: Chapter 3

A Chapter by JPDonelan

Tabitha proceeds with the autopsy under The Watcher's observation. (This was previously the second half of chapter 2.)


Twenty minutes and two reports denoting that a floor of the hotel had been cleared and prepped passed since Royse set to dissecting the corpse. The Watcher observed the autopsy with a fixed, disciplined gaze. He saw every minor incision and cut, every severance of ligament or tendon, every space and crevice unveiled by Royse's steady and careful hands. He understood little of what he saw, but he was marveled by the confidence and expertise Royse displayed with her work. He had forgotten her level of proficiency in her art.


His viewing, however, failed to halt his fidgetiness. The twitch got so bad that Galloway could see it in the dim light of the moon without even looking directly at The Watcher.


The settled silence broke with a drone of the earpiece followed by the utterance of words in Royse's familiar voice. "The Griyrlk shows no signs of a form shift or reversion. Not even minor signifiers of an initiated shift. No abnormalities in the ocular organs, at least not for the species. The epidermis exhibits minor--"


"What of the innards!? How much is missing!? I saw the space when you cut in! What's missing!?" The Watcher leaned forward with a focused and curious shine in his eyes.


"I am getting there, Watcher. Relax or you may miss something important."


The Watcher killed his link in response and sat quietly amidst the questions that bounced about his head. Behind him, Galloway snickered.


"As I was saying, examination of the epidermis reveals minor damage, chiefly scratches and bruises, on the front. The epidermis on the creature's back is largely missing, with the edges appearing to have been cut with a well-sharpened knife or a piece of surgical equipment."


This caught The Watcher's attention and served to kill his anxiety. He now sat perfectly still, eyes locked on the splayed body of the creature he had come to dispose of.


"The chest cavity and abdomen have been hollowed out. All organs are missing, as is the spine from the fifth vertebrae of the thoracic spine to the fourth of the lumbar. The majority of the ribcage is likewise unaccounted for. Any bone in the way appears to have been cut smooth..." Royse's voice trailed off at the end as if a thought had snuck into her head and made itself at home.


The autopsy, which revealed nothing The Watcher didn't already have a vague idea of, provided more concrete details about the damage done to the former target than the brief report from earlier could. He found little comfort in this knowledge, though. The information served only to unearth more questions and he already had too many of those for his liking.


In an attempt to blow away the fog that now enveloped his understanding of the situation, The Watcher asked a simple question. "Any idea what could have done that to him, Royse?"


"Not with such meticulous care and enough haste--"


Another voice entered their ears. "Corbin here. Last of the upper floors checked. All clear. Charges set and we're headed down for the last few floors. Out."


"As I was saying, not in a fashion that would result in these wounds and still kill it fast enough to prevent even the beginnings of a shift. There are no signs of trauma to the head. It is possible the innards and the missing section of the back were all removed at once, but by what I do not know." Despite her best efforts, Royse's frustration with the frequent interruptions rode her words.


"Is it possible that the chitinous creature your crew swept up out here did the deed?"


"It is highly doubtful. That creature was far too big to have done this damage. The wounds would have much rougher edges and would be in an entirely different location, while also being more severe. The beast simply had nowhere near the finesse required to do this."


This response distressed him more than it comforted. If the large bug creature had nothing to do with their target's death then who, or what was? One question down, another in its place.


"Delightful. So now I still don't know what killed the target, how they relate to any of this, or what the damned beast was!" The Watcher had a stone-like grimace set upon his face, the aggravation and inactivity a strain on him.


"That last one someone here might be able to help you with. That is if I heard his sneaky utterances right," Royse said with a bitter-sweet hum to her voice.


A moment of silence swept over as both Royse and The Watcher, in unplanned unison, gave the culprit the opportunity to come clean. It took him a minute to do so.


"Alright, alright. You got me. Of course, I know what the corpse was and I'm surprised you don't remember. You were there when we wiped the little b******s off. Maybe your memory's finally actin' its age," Galloway said with a laugh.


"The beast is--"


The earpiece droned to life once again.


"Galloway, just tell him you stalling, garble-tongued clown!" Royse had turned to face them again as her voice carried on the night air to join her words through the earpieces.


"I am! Just because I hadn't started spoutin' to the whole team doesn't mean I am not doin' what I'm doin'!"


"It's alright, Royse. He's talking. I'll let you know when he's done." The Watcher killed his feed and looked Galloway dead in the eye. "Resume."


Galloway coughed. "Right. The 'beastie' is a Scryvre. Please tell me the name sounds familiar or I may have to question my own recollection. I don't think Tabby's goin' to want to have to clean up that mess."


"Draws up old images. Dusty halls, stone buildings. Sacrificial altars with carvings of large, misshapen centipedes?" The Watcher made a quizzical expression. "Bunch of the usual as well; screaming, crying, you making absurd noises and getting yelled at."


"Yep. That's the one. Killed the lot, or thought we did anyway. Glad we could sort that out." Galloway stared at The Watcher with a wide smile, waiting for the man to save him from getting hollered at again.


The Watcher found the look suspicious, but the words helpful. He indeed remembered the Scryvre purge; one of the rare times he entered the field alongside The Student. He also remembered the cleansing that followed was amongst the biggest of such operations to date. The memory caused The Watcher chest to clench for a reason he didn't try to digest.


"Royse. Galloway has finished reminding me about the creature." Further words were caught in his throat, but he swallowed them down.


"Well, a blessing. Thought I was going to have to come over there for a moment."


"Thankfully, that won't be necessary. He is giving me this look that makes me think he is hiding something from me. Any ideas?"


Galloway's face contorted into an expression of shock and insult. The look lasted a moment before he dropped his head.


The Watcher ignored the act.


"Has he given you the file? He had planned to hand it off to you when we arrived."




"Yes, a copy of the intelligence report that brought your group out here. He read it on the way here to familiarize himself with the intelligence and thought you might want another look." Royse had turned back to her subordinates, gesturing to the cleansers as she spoke. Based on their reactions, the orders were to clear the area of any signs of disturbance.


"Doesn't surprise me that he would forget to give it to you. He likely got distracted," Royse said as a melodic hum returned to her words. She obviously enjoyed this.


Before The Watcher could turn to give Galloway an annoyed look the man tapped his shoulder with a thin, rectangular beige object. It was a folder whose warped form suggested he had kept it in his clothes.


"Sorry about that. You know how it goes." Galloway offered a pleading, guilty smile. At least he wasn't trying to hide his error this time.


The Watcher snapped the folder off his shoulder and popped it open. He already had a familiarity with the contents, but there were certain details he didn't pay much attention to during his initial reading. The original scope of their operation made various details irrelevant.


"Anything strike you when you read the report?" The Watcher asked as he began to read the document in the pale moonlight.


"That you'd be interested in? Eh, little. Do know who you may want to start with, though. You'll note one of the sources is referred to as 'LG'. Should be in the section that notes the city's missin' homeless." Galloway scratched his chin as he knelt down beside The Watcher. "Confirmed the rumor that the hotel here was the hidey-hole for the shifter. Had three other sources suggest it, but nothin' concrete from them."


"Do we know who this informant is?"


"Know who he is?  I know where to find the droopy-eyed b*****d. Don't go sayin' I'm slow on the info. Wretch is a gutter-blood, name of Malcolm Little. Get it, 'LG'? Sure you do."


The Watcher shot him a glance that told him to hurry up with it.


"Right, sorry. Find him scurryin' about the slummy part of the city. Seems to like the alley beside this old run-down bar, forget the name. Not too many with an alley access, though. You'll have an easy time of finding him."


"Finding is not my concern. Getting details out of him is." The Watcher continued to read the document, slower than he had the first time. A missed detail could send him in the wrong direction, regardless of what he could get out of the gutter-blood. He had no desire to make another error on the same night as his last.


As The Watcher read the document he located the informant marker "LG" that Galloway had yammered about. According to the informant, a total of twenty-four members of the homeless community had gone missing over the course of the last three months. The information that sent him to his present location was not this presumed loss of life, but that the informant in question alleged to have followed one of the now missing individuals to the hotel and witnessed their unfortunate, and gruesome, passing.


The Watcher couldn't help but wonder, was the passing all that he had witnessed?


"You'll be fine. Not like you're tryin' to pry it from Mel." The Watcher cringed at this nonchalant reference to The Student, but let the transgression pass.


"Ha, not even like you're tryin' to get it from Yards. That one would have you listenin' through his tripe for hours. Right until you both forgot what you were askin' of him. Really cannot talk to that one." Galloway shook his head as his voice trailed off.


In the silence that followed, The Watcher memorized the details he felt to have potential relevance for his self-imposed task.


Galloway, on the other hand, seeing that the conversation was dead and not wanting to interrupt the man while he prepared himself, sat quietly and stared toward his subordinates. The cleansers were busy sweeping and scuffing up the ground in an attempt to make it appear as natural as possible. They were still occupied with this task when the team inside the hotel announced that the building was clear and that all charges had been set.


The Watcher closed the folder and slapped it into Galloway's chest as the cleansers inside the structure emerged. The act was a crass way to say he had finished with the document, not that Galloway cared how neatly the folder returned to him.


"I take it you're done. Once the party starts I'll see to the proper disposal of this. Hope you're sure you got everythin' you need," He said as he tucked the document away.


"If I haven't, I can always harass Whise a little. Suspect she will be hearing from me at least once before the night's out. If we're lucky, you won't be hearing from me again until I return."


Galloway laughed. "So I should expect to hear from you by...four? Five? If you can hold till six that would be appreciated."


The Watcher chuckled in response and Galloway gave him a hard slap on the back.


"C'mon, let's go get you shoed up and out of here. You are lookin' to have a long night."


The two descended the retaining wall as the first of the charges went off. The fire spread quickly and soon the entire front of the hotel was ablaze, the window frames a series of portals to a land where flames danced to some warped, mesmerizing tune. The blaze generated a great deal of light, forcing the cleansers to retreat a safe distance. There would be problems if they were to be seen by outsiders, which would ruin all the hard work the muters would be engaged in soon.


The Watcher and Galloway met up with the cleansers shortly after they had retreated. Galloway wasted no time in telling one of his subordinates to fetch the shoes they had brought for The Watcher. As the subordinate scampered off in the direction the cleansers approached from Galloway walked toward the burning building to dispose of the intelligence document. The Watcher remained with the cleansers and spoke with Royse about inconsequential subjects.


The shoes, apparently having been hidden a short distance away, arrived as Galloway returned. With his shoes exchanged The Watcher departed the scene, the building a pillar of flame behind him. He had a destination now, and someone whose brain he needed to prod.

© 2017 JPDonelan

Author's Note

Any feedback would be appreciated. - This is the second half of what was chapter 2, which I split at a spot I thought worked. Feedback on if it does or doesn't would be greatly appreciated.

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Added on April 6, 2017
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..