To Shatter The Shell: Chapter 6

To Shatter The Shell: Chapter 6

A Chapter by JPDonelan

The Watcher arrives at the club and, intent on keeping his word, seeks out a certain bartender.


A few minutes before three, The Watcher rounded the corner and laid eyes upon the two-story nightclub, Illusion. He made good time thanks to Whise's operative: a man now asleep in his car, parked a block away. Much sleep had been disturbed this night, a trend unlikely to break.


En route to the club, Whise provided information about the nightclub's owner, Derrick Tharne. Tharne had an interest in real estate and owned a myriad of buildings and businesses. Included amongst these were the hotel where The Watcher's night began, and the nightclub now before him. These ventures served as more than just a means for revenue and power concentration, they also acted as fronts and warehouses for his innumerous illicit operations.


These enterprises included not only mundane criminal activity, such as drug dealing and laundering but also endeavors on a less noticed level. Tharne's affairs on this deeper level, known as the "Quieted Plane" by those who aren't The Student, is what drew him to Whise's attention. She noted the smuggling and sheltering of wanted individuals were among his affairs in this sphere, which The Watcher thought explained much. He'd have to ask the club owner himself for details.


The Watcher waited at the corner, eyes cast down the street. After a moment, a familiar figure rounded the corner, looked toward the club, then to him. At this entity's nod, he crossed the street.

Illusion's exterior exuded an undeniable appeal to the eye. Faint, alternating shades of blue, white, and purple cast danced upon the facade, while a large neon sign hung over the entrance. The least garish aspect came in the form of gray metal doors with the business's name printed in a flourish on the front.


Yet, the colorful, fancy lighting failed to dominate The Watcher's eye as he approached. No, that privilege belonged to an odder sight.


The bouncers, one to each side of the entrance, drew his attention. In particular, the large man at the far end of the doors claimed his focus and for a simple reason. Under careful observation, the figure became translucent.


This sight caused The Watcher to give pause. At first, he assumed the effect little more than a trick of the eyes brought about by weariness. When the translucency failed to dissipate, he considered an alternate angle, a different cause. Perhaps this was a different type of trick. A deception most would be fooled by, but failed before his eyes. He glanced to the signage again and shook his head in disappointment.


Whoever gave the club its designation did not employ much personal creativity.


Years had passed since he last saw this type of deceit and he couldn't help but smile. What stood beside the door, mimicking the shape of a man, was but a construct of mysticism, light, and the exploitation of the senses. An illusion. Such hallucinations always revealed their underpinnings to him, and the way they glistened and glowed like swarms of fireflies delighted.


Awareness of this trickery would prove useful, more so if his suspicions could be confirmed.


The Watcher approached the entrance with an eye kept on the nearest bouncer. The man appeared to be both real and human. For a moment, this surprised him; he had expected a non-human. A not unreasonable assumption considering the Tharne's other ventures.


When he drew close, the man faced him.


"Going to need to see your ID," the bouncer said in a voice much higher than his size would've suggested.


"Certainly." The Watcher fished out a driver's license from his back pocket and handed the plastic rectangle to the man. The card contained false information. Genuine information would've presented a messy problem.


The bouncer glanced at the license, then at The Watcher, and then back to the license with a squint. The card felt off to him, yet every detail looked right. Satisfied with his assessment, he returned the card.


"Cover is fifteen tonight. You can pay at the counter." The guard nodded his head toward the door.


The Watcher nodded his acknowledgment and entered the establishment.


He paid the cover and entered the club's main room. The room reverberated with music pumped from speakers, while shades of blue, purple, and white pulsed like the heart of a panicked beast to the rhythm. The Watcher didn't like either aspect. The lights, while pleasant in coloration, shook and darted with the pulsations in such a way as to be a railroad spike to the head.


He rubbed his temples as he crossed the room, headed toward the bar with a stagger to his step.


As he pressed forward, he caught glimpses of the layout between thrusts of colored light. The booths along the right wall were easiest to see due to proximity, while the sets of chairs and underlit tables set around the central dance floor proved painful. As far as he could tell, a mere eight people populated the dance floor, adding credence to Whise's claim; not that The Watcher found this a surprise.


The bar ahead had an obvious smoke motif, from the white lights set in a design reminiscent of rising plumes to the sleek, gray stools whose legs snaked in the same pattern. Even the shelves, filled with countless bottles, contributed with an impure backlight. A door behind the bar's left side continued the trend with metal etched wisps of smoke.


The Watcher presumed this door would lead him to where he needed to be.


Above the bar space, a tinted window overlooked the floor from what he suspected was the owner's office. He would know soon enough.


Behind the bar, two attractive young women served half the bar's seating worth of customers. The young lady who tended the right side drew The Watcher's attention and for more reasons than her beauty. He knew her at first glance, and he knew why. The young woman, with shoulder-length blonde hair and green eyes, met every detail of the description the gutter-blood gave him.


But, her presence told him more than any description. She had an air about her, a flow which spoke to his eyes in a familiar way. A gentle, radiating energy he recognized from halfway across the room, headache or not, as the calm aura of a Lyricym.


The Watcher sat at the bar and watched the Lyricym fix a drink. He knew better than to interrupt, a lesson learned in youth, and so waited. In the interim, he scanned the club's inhabitants for more of trickery's translucency.


First, he checked the bouncers, whose number totaled four. Not a one so much as shimmered, though one did have the eyes of a nonhuman. Another, who stood near the bar's left side, drew his attention for a different reason. This man would get an earful before the night's end.


With the bouncers examined, he gave a once the establishment. At first, no one looked to be influenced by the subtle magics. But then his eyes fell on the other bartender.


Something about this woman's face seemed off. Her features appeared to blur at certain angles, an effect he thought resulted from his headache. Closer examination, however, revealed the appearance to be the overlap of inhuman features and obfuscating magics. Despite this deception, he considered her no threat.


 Content with the lack of ominous trickery, he turned his attention to the bottles behind the bar. An observation cut short when the Lyricym stopped in front of him.


"What can I get you?" she asked.


"Gin and tonic if you would be so kind," The Watcher replied.


He watched as she smiled and went to prepare the drink. In his head, he thought of ways to get her to leave the venue. He promised the gutter-blood, and he'd be damned if he broke his word again tonight.


He reached his decision as Bianca returned with the drink.


"Here you are. That will be fourteen-fifty. I can open a tab if you'd like."


"I'll be paying, miss Bianca Nessing," The Watcher said as he fished what money he had left out.


"Do I know you?" she asked, concerned with how this man knew her name. Experience had taught her to expect the worst when an unknown man knew your full name. She considered herself lucky those previous incidents ended without issue. But that was then, and this is now. Now could always be different.


"No, but we have a mutual, twitchy acquaintance who worries for you." He handed her three times the cost of the drink with a straight face, certain a smile would cause additional confusion or distress. "And I gave the low-blood my word you would be fine."


"Low-blood?" A confused look shot across her face as she leaned close, only for her expression to change to a look of realization as she figured out to whom the man referred. " mean Malcolm? Is he alright?"


"He's perfectly fine. I spoke to him less than an hour ago." The Watcher tasted the drink. Weaker than he would've liked, but he'd make do. "A proper pain in my a*s, that man. Is he always so unwilling to talk to others?"


"I don't know." She paused to think. "Did you startle him or appear threatening? He doesn't respond very well when he is fearful. More fearful, anyway."


She leaned closer and spoke in hushed tones. "He's usually alright talking with aren't a 'normal' person, are you?"


The Watcher looked along the bar in both directions and, once satisfied no one had taken to eavesdropping, offered the bartender a smile. "You would be correct, Miss Lyricym. I am more like you and him than I am your average patron."


"That answers that." She smiled at him, and he failed to understand why. "Why did you go and to talk to him?"


"I had questions for him. Nothing else." The Watcher drank more as his headache began to subside or dull, he couldn't tell which. Nor did he care. "I came here immediately after I finished speaking with him."


"For me?" she asked as she looked down the bar to see if a patron needed service. Seeing the customers tended to by her fellow bartender, she returned her attention to The Watcher.


"Not quite. I need to speak with your boss, the owner of this place. Which is why I've gone and gotten your attention."


"You need to speak to Mr. Tharne? What about? Is Malcolm involved?"


"Has nothing to do with him and it's best you not know. Less likelihood you'll be troubled by the issue in the future." The Watcher drank more of the gin and tonic, spun the remainder around in the glass and poured the liquid down his throat. "I want you to go see him. Malcolm, I mean, not your boss. I would like you to leave now. For your safety."


The young woman didn't know how to react to this request, which sounded more like a demand. She didn't know how much of what the man said to believe, and she'd parsed the words of countless men. Then again, how many of them claimed they knew of her because of a homeless man? How did he even know Malcolm? More important to her, though, was what Malcolm thought of him.


"Does...Malcolm trust you?" she asked, uncertain if she could trust his intentions.


"Enough to believe me when I said I wanted to know who you were so you may depart beforehand. You know, in the event something unfortunate should happen." He smiled at her again.


The smile made her queasy.


"Right. Okay, I'll go," she said and took his glass away.


The Watcher watched her walk away before he turned his attention toward the door behind the bar and then to the bouncer near the far end of the bar. This man would be his route to the club's owner, but he needed to wait. For him to ask about an audience with the boss so soon after a discussion with a bartender who then left would rouse suspicion. A series of coincidences wouldn't look so coincidental in rapid succession. He knew such an appearance would make his task harder and so opted to distract himself with the glass bottles behind the bar.


© 2017 JPDonelan

Author's Note

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Added on April 8, 2017
Last Updated on April 8, 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..