To Shatter The Shell: Chapter 5

To Shatter The Shell: Chapter 5

A Chapter by JPDonelan

The Watcher begins to question Malcolm. (This is the second part of the former chapter 3)


The man about leapt from his shoes at the sudden and unexpected greeting. He spun with mouth agape and confirmed The Watcher's hopeful suspicion. This man was, indeed, Malcolm Little.


Malcolm's blue eyes, murky and unclear, laid half-hidden behind drooping eyelids he couldn't fully control. A scent reminiscent of sewage wafted off of him and mingled with the odor of the alley. The man, himself, was as jittery as a junkie needing a fix, but without the controlling addiction. Between his eyes and the blunted canines poking out from inside his mouth, Malcolm had the signs of a gutter-blood"the lowest caste of inhuman bloodsuckers.


A gutter-blood's life is of little value amongst their kin, the only exceptions being those who have found themselves in service to a member of an upper caste or one of the great lines. Malcolm, being nowhere near so lucky, feared for his life when he found himself sought after. Or, as he was this night, found.


Without so much as a word or a second look at the man who accosted him, Malcolm attempted to flee. To his misfortune, The Watcher had anticipated this reaction and grabbed him by the neck of his shirt and stained jacket before he got any distance.


"I swear! I don't know...I-I don't got n-nothing!" The scrawny man squirmed and thrashed, thwacking The Watcher a few times before being tugged back.


"Stop your thrashing about you vacuous sewer-feeder. I'm not here for your head. At least not if you knock it off!"


The twig-man kept thrashing and soon was made intimate with the rear exterior wall of the bar, courtesy of The Watcher.


"Are you finished?"


The gutter-blood gave a meek nod and whine and went silent.


"Are you going to try and run again?"


Malcolm shook his head and The Watcher released him. The thin man spun to face his assailant once more, this time examining him with hurried care. Uncertainty remained about who, or what, his visitor was and not knowing made him all the more twitchy. There were certain things he knew to avoid saying and doing when dealing with kin and other non-humans; this knowledge has kept him alive all these long years. But, despite his years of practice, he failed to assess The Watcher's identity. He only knew the man not to be human.


"W-w-w-what do you want?" The bloodsucker asked, his voice gravelly and uneven. His stomach churned and bubbled like water brought to a boil.


"I have questions that you have answers to and I want to hear them from the source."


"As I-I said, I don't know noth""


"I know you've already spoken of this to another, don't try and feed me those lines."


Neither said a word for several minutes, each using the lull to gauge the other. The Watcher examined Malcolm, who anxiously shuffled back and forth on his feet. The panicked man's eyes snaked and darted this way and that, seeking a means to escape. The look reminded him of how Galloway would behave when caught doing something he shouldn't have, like a cornered animal seeking to flee. The memory brought a smile to his face; it was a smile that made Malcolm uneasy.


The Watcher decided to try and work the information from the skittish figure. "I want you to tell me about the missing homeless people, Malcolm."


"M-missing homeless? Why d-do you want to know a-about them? Y-you're not police, I can see that! T-they wouldn't want to know anyway! So w-w-why would you want to know?"


"I am with an organization that finds the disappearances curious and has commenced an investigation into them. We need to know what you know so we might help stop whatever is happening to them; to stop whoever's behind the disappearances."


"Don't lie to me!" The gutter-blood snapped. "Y-you ain't like them! Ain't like them at all! You're in-in-interested in that one. Not in m-my buddies. My friends. Or that one a*****e. You want the f-f-flesh-eater."


The Watcher paused and mulled over his options. For a jittery vagrant, the blood drinker's sharpness came as a surprise. Or perhaps the man's paranoia made him more astute than expected. Either way, The Watcher knew his previous method to be a flop; so he changed his approach.


"Yes, Malcolm. I want to know about the flesh-eater. Surely you know why?"


Malcolm's breathing grew more panicked as he dropped his head and shuffled along the wall. His arms had gone stiff, and his shoulders were hunched up near his neck. The man wanted nothing of this discussion, of this topic. He had already spoken too much on the matter; he feared someone would come for him sooner or later. Surely the figure he saw, the flesh-eater that panicked him so, would be after him if it knew. Worse yet, an associate of the flesh-eater could come for him. He doubled his efforts to figure a way out of the situation with as much subtlety as he could muster.


"No? Would you be more willing to talk if you knew the flesh-eater was dead?"


This question startled the destitute man, who lifted his head and looked wide-eyed at The Watcher. He half expected to see the inquirer's face plastered with signs, subtle and hidden as they may be, which would betray the deception. He found himself overcome with agitation when none of the signs showed.


"I d-didn't have anything to do with it...not a thing." Malcolm defended himself for a reason The Watcher didn't know. But his defensiveness did provide an opening ripe for exploitation.


"I know you didn't. Though, if you had, I would be rather happy to have that question answered," The Watcher said.


To The Watcher's chagrin, these words didn't have the desired effect.


Instead of opening the man to further inquiry, the statement brought greater suspicion. Doubt showed in the alley dweller's eyes, eyes that continued to seek a means to slink away. The man ran his tongue over his teeth on a nervous impulse, as if he started to consider his odds in a scuffle with The Watcher.


Most of these subtleties didn't go unnoticed by The Watcher; Malcolm stood far too close for that. The sewer feeder's unwillingness to cooperate angered him, anger which showed in his tensed face. He couldn't let the inquest carry on like this; too much time had been eaten by the wretch's retreating avoidances already. The decision to push a little harder, to show a little more, was an easy one to reach.


The Watcher gave Malcolm a large toothy grin that lingered with purpose. The man had ample time to memorize the presented teeth before they were hidden by the fleshy curtains that were their owner's lips, a peep show whose time has run up. The act was odd but didn't indicate anything obvious.


"Let me rephrase. You are going to tell me what you saw on the night you witnessed one of your 'friends' killed and eaten at the abandoned hotel. Failure to do so will result in terrible nightmares." He curled his lips back again and the jittery man's face went loose. What were once very human teeth were now sharp, angular things" and more than just a row. A veritable mouthful of these sharp, twisted, barbed fangs greeted the man's sight. They overlapped and coiled around one another; a number even appeared to move by themselves, or so the gutter-blood could swear.


The sight made Malcolm want to flee, to dart off into the night and not look back, but he couldn't get his legs to comply; it felt like he stood in cement that had dried around him. Something deep inside him, instinct perhaps, told him running would be wasted effort. He was right to assume the man before him to be inhuman; he just didn't realize how accurate until now. He wished he had remained ignorant, if only for the accompanying bliss. For the first time, he didn't know how to respond.


The Watcher didn't wait for the man to come up with an approach and closed the gap between them. Before the gutter-blood could react to the advance, he gripped the slender figure's shoulder. Another smile crossed his lips to show his fangs had reverted, turned back into two neat rows of human teeth. He found no further use in scaring the man; he was jittery enough as is.


Now, Malcolm suffered his share of holds when people came looking for information. But the force behind The Watcher's hand surprised him. The grip was strong, firm, and warm; this wasn't the grasp, the threat he expected to bear. For one, the fingers didn't try to dig into his shoulder, didn't seek to cause him harm or keep him in place. Instead, the hand seemed to request his attention. A request rewarded with a cautious, darting glance.


"Malcolm, I need you to tell me what you saw. Everything you saw."


Malcolm dropped his head for a moment. "R-right. I-I followed my friend into the old run-down place. Was s-surprisingly empty for such a large building; expected to see the t-t-thing filled with others like us."


He turned his head to look at the hand on his shoulder and then to The Watcher's face before he continued. "Went up some floors, f-forget how many, and found him looking at his killer like his brain had rotted. Then it t-tore i-into his gut, pulled out things out, and ate them. Right unhinged his j-jaw and slid them down his g-gullet like a f-f*****g snake. Glad to hear the b*****d's dead."


The Watcher nodded. "Did you see anything else? Something other than the flesh-eater?"


"D-didn't stay to look. out of there. It didn't see me. Least I...I don't think it did. Would stand a-about as much a c-chance against the flesh-eater as I would you."


"'re telling me you just ran off?" The Watcher paused. His muscles tensed, and the back of his neck grew heated. He recognized the sensation and knew the emotion would do nothing but send the blood-drinker back into his shell. So, he clenched his fist and bore the burgeoning sensation.


"Suppose that makes sense. I hoped to hear you had seen something else in the hotel. Something long and low."


Malcolm shook his head. "D-don't r-recall seeing anything like t-that. Sorry."


The Watcher nodded with clear disinterest. Hearing the man knew nothing of the Scryvre disappointed, but didn't surprise. The intelligence report noted Malcolm had a good memory with plenty of room; enough to keep memorized a great deal of information that has made him a valuable resource for Whise's information gatherers. If he didn't recall seeing something now, when willing to speak, then he didn't see anything. He determined he had nothing more to gain by asking about the beast.


"Very well. I believe you." He said, his weariness seeping into his words. "One final question. I...don't suppose you've heard of the hotel prior to the night you ventured there?"


Malcolm appeared to think for a moment. "Not s-since the project g-got shut down. I...uh...don't think."


The man's voice had a distinct tone of uncertainty, one different from his prior attempts at avoidance.


The Watcher wasn't certain of what to make of the tone but could tell by the man's unwitting expression of sincere thought and confusion that this wasn't an attempt to hide anything. He couldn't think of anything else to ask, of any reason to linger in the alley, and so opted to depart.


"Well, thank you for your assistance, Malcolm. I will take up no more of your time." With those words, The Watcher turned and began to depart from the alley under the continued watch of the gutter-blood.


He didn't even get to the corner when the man behind him spoke.


"Uhm...wait." Malcolm walked two steps toward The Watcher. "I...did h-hear a-about the hotel b-before I went there. Didn't r-really make great note of it at the time and i-it didn't quite c-connect till now."


This declaration brought The Watcher to a halt. He suspected the gutter-blood had heard something about the hotel when he arrived to question him, but the man's failure to recall had led him to reconsider. Without a care as to the curiosities abound in the retraction, he turned his head to the side.


"I was...downtown. A-at a c-club called Illusion. I...I know a tender there. S-she helps me g-get what I need. Real s-sweet gal." Malcolm seemed less jittery for a reason The Watcher couldn't determine.


The name of the club sounded familiar, like he had heard someone important say the name a couple dozen times. The connection hid in his head behind a thick cloud. He found the sensation reminiscent to his earlier fog relating to the Scryvre. His memory did not fare well this night.


"W-well. While I was t-there I...I overheard the b-b-bouncers talking. A-apparently they had been told to s-stay away from the hotel. T-that their b-boss had been told that the h-hotel had a n-new occupant."


"And these...bouncers let you leave after overhearing?"


"I-I don't think they knew I was there. Then a-again, w-who would believe a twitchy little homeless guy? P-probably thought I was drunk off my a*s." Malcolm paused to laugh. "Could p-probably get more info f-from their boss a-about the hotel. They...they seemed to k-know about it."


"Thank you, Malcolm." The Watcher looked up for a moment before turning around.


"Tell me of your friend, Malcolm."


"W-why would you want to k-know?" His eyes betrayed his fear, his concern, over the reason behind this question.


"I need to know who I should help sneak out when I arrive. Unlike this little conversation, I do not believe the one I will have there will end quite so peaceful."


"Bianca Nessing. Blonde, green eyes, five foot three." Malcolm looked The Watcher in the eye and smiled. "Lyricym."


"Ahh. That will make finding her much easier. I will tell her to come meet you."


With those words, The Watcher left Malcolm behind Rolph's and returned to the street. He wasted no time and, putting the bar to his back, headed toward the street corner. As he walked, he brought the earpiece to his ear. For now came the time to contact Whise, who he hoped had information to offer.


As he arrived at the corner, he changed the earpiece's frequency and turned on his input. "Whise, are you there?" He received no response.


There continued to be no response for over a minute, at which point the quiet hum of another active link filled The Watcher's ear. A groggy, feminine voice followed. "Good morning, Ben""


"Whise!" The Watcher snapped in a hushed voice. A loud, disciplinary outburst, one a mistake like the one she just made tended to incur, would only have drawn attention to him. Or so he feared.


"Sorry, Watcher. Slipped my mind. Do forgive me. You did stir me from a nap and Yard's is being so dreadfully slow with my coffee," Whise said in a sweet and groggy tone.


"Fine. Does a nightclub by the name of Illusion sound familiar to you?"


"It does. Quite familiar in fact." Whise paused for a moment to consider the question's context. "You...are planning on heading there, aren't you?"


"I have business with the owner. He may know some""


"Where are you?"


"Near a bar called Rolph's. Why?"


"You are about two hours away from the nightclub if you go by foot. Considering it is a Tuesday night, going into Wednesday morning, the location shouldn't be too busy," Whise said.


The Watcher didn't respond, too taken aback by the apparent knowledge Whise possessed of the location.


"Why the silent treatment? I've had eyes on the place for almost a year now. The owner has ties to various questionable groups and illicit practices."


"I suppose that explains where I heard the name before. Must've overheard you going on about it at some point," The Watcher replied.


Whise held to the silence that followed The Watcher's words. Reminding him of the countless times she had discussed the location with him would do neither of them any good.


"I am going to let an operative in the city know you're about, where you're heading, and where he can pick you up to hurry you on your way. I will then direct you to the pick-up spot. While you follow my directions, I will brief you on what you will need to know. For now, you can start by heading north three blocks." Whise sighed as the sound of ceramic hitting a hard surface sounded in the background.


The Watcher knew well what this noise meant. Yard's had arrived. And he brought coffee.

© 2017 JPDonelan

Author's Note

Feedback would be appreciated. - This is the second part of what used to be chapter 3. Let me know what you think about where I split it.

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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..