To Shatter The Shell: Chapter 7

To Shatter The Shell: Chapter 7

A Chapter by JPDonelan

The Watcher finally encounters Derrick Tharne.


After fifteen minutes, The Watcher left his seat and approached the bouncer. In his head, he hoped the bouncer knew of his boss' real estate business or getting an audience with this "Mr. Tharne" would be difficult. He also hoped Tharne to bigger on displays than on actual force. If he kept the presence of humans he thought might protect him, then answers would be troublesome to get. Not impossible, but a much bloodier route toward his task's completion.


But he had gotten ahead of himself and so refocused on the bulky, black haired bouncer he had approached.


"Excuse me," The Watcher said.


"Hmm," the man replied and squinted his eyes with apparent distrust.


"Is your boss in? I need to speak to him."


"What if he is? What business do you have with him that you think is so important?" The guard scowled at The Watcher, annoyed by the unwanted distraction.


"I need to talk to him about a hotel he owns. The empty one where they were expanding...ten years ago, I believe? You know, that place." The Watcher shook his finger in the direction of the hotel.


The bouncer's face contorted into an expression of abundant displeasure as he rolled his eyes. The man appeared to think, and the reaction told The Watcher he had lucked out. This man knew the location. Now he had to convince the man to speak to his boss.


"I have important business with your boss related to the hotel. It is urgent I speak with him. I am more than willing to wait if you want to confirm with him how the building relates to his...businesses." The Watcher thought he spoke too bluntly but, with luck, the man would understand the words he emphasized.


The bouncer's went hard as he locked eyes with The Watcher as if he expected to see a lie drifting through his ocular fluids. He scratched his neck when he saw the man was either honest or the best bullshitter he'd seen in years. "Fine. Stay put, and I'll be back."


With those words, he left through the door behind the bar.


The Watcher took the opportunity to give the club one final look over. This quick glance revealed the establishment had further emptied, though a number of people still remained. Some even looked like they planned to stay. Of them, he wondered how many were on Tharne's payroll.


He hoped not to find out.


The bouncer dragged his feet when he returned five minutes later, face twisted in a downtrodden expression. He lifted his gaze to The Watcher and, with a grimace, said, "Mr. Tharne wants very much to see you, follow me."


He followed the large man through the door and into a storeroom filled with shelves, boxes, and bottles. At the back stood the rear exit, while another doorway laid halfway along the right wall. The bouncer, in tense silence, moved to and opened this entryway for The Watcher.


"Top of the stairs. Behave yourself," the man growled.


Beyond the door resided a small seating area with two chairs to the right of a stairwell. From these stairs came a cascade of light different from the illumination of the floor. While they possessed a diversity of dancing color, this light poured down the stairs, a gentle waterfall of a whitish-yellow hue which helped alleviate The Watcher's headache. The light made his ascension pleasant.


The office atop the stairs contrasted with the club's sleek, angular aesthetic in more ways than just the gentle radiance. The room's walls had beautiful mahogany panels, while  a desk made of the same material dominated the space from the rear. Two cushioned chairs stood before the desk while bookshelves, lined with texts on law and real estate, filled the rear wall. The window The Watcher saw from the floor bisected the room and stood opposite a furniture arrangement centered around a mahogany coffee table.


Aside from the furniture, five individuals populated the office; of them, two lacked the transparency of illusion. The first, who must've been Derrick Tharne, sat behind the desk with his black hair swept back and the top two buttons of his light-colored shirt undone. Even with the comfortable confidence in his eyes, The Watcher knew this man couldn't harm him.


The second figure, however, gave him pause.


This man, an older gentleman with a receded head of dirty blonde hair and dressed in a dark suit over a purple button-up, possessed an indescribable presence. He didn't understand this feeling, as the man didn't exhibit any signs of inhumanity. The sole oddity came in the form of the man's left eye, a well-crafted stone prosthetic.


Regardless of his hesitance, The Watcher approached the desk when the guard gestured to the chairs. He sat in the one farthest the man and offered Tharne a courteous nod. Tharne smiled in return.


"Well then, sir. I have been informed you have business you wish to discuss. Business related to a hotel I happen to have in my possession." Tharne pulled open a desk drawer and retrieved a folder.


"What in particular did you wish to discuss about the location? If you came here seeking to purchase the property, I have unfortunate news for you." Tharne's odd smile contrasted with his otherwise stern face as if the feature came from someone else.


"I am not interested in purchasing, Mr. Tharne. Mr. Tharne is an acceptable form of address I hope," The Watcher said as he considered how to guide the dialogue.


"It doesn't rile me if that's what you're asking," Tharne replied.


"Well then, Mr. Tharne. Are you aware someone had taken up residence in your hotel?"


"I was not, but I wouldn't say I'm surprised. After the expansion plans collapsed, the entire area went empty. Only thing left are those hollowed carcasses of what looked like a new future for this city; one I would've been on the ground floor for." Tharne leaned back and focused on The Watcher, watching his face. "Likely just a homeless man who settled in."


The Watcher nodded along with a straight face, no hint present to suggest deception. Or his doubts about Tharne's claim to ignorance.


Tharne found his visitor difficult to trust, but even harder to read. How did  this man know of the hotel's guest, and what did he seek in asking. The man's knowledge concerned him, yet he couldn't place why.


He always fancied himself a smart, cautious man who knew he had enemies. Could this visitor be one? But with whom? Could be the police; they, amongst others, kept a close eye on him. This man could be one of their ploys. But, if so, why would he ask about a legally owned hotel?


Why would anyone ask about that hotel?


"Yes...that would make sense..." The Watcher eyed the guard as he spoke. He suspected Tharne would be difficult to read in comparison to the man beside him with an unsubtle bulge at his waist, and, with curious familiarity, another at his side. His reaction would tell if he knew anything. So far, it didn't look like he did.


"Surely this question is not your sole reason for speaking with me?" Tharne inquired, an incredulous look on his face.


"Of course not. Why would I waste my time, let alone yours, if I didn't have a serious matter to discuss?" The Watcher smiled at him. "As I said, your explanation would make sense, if I didn't know better."


He glanced at the illusions and the quiet guard before leaning toward the desk. "I must ask, how deep does their knowledge go?"


"How deep?" Tharne smirked and gave a half-hearted glance toward the spot where the illusionary guards stood. He did this for show, an act to reinforce the realness of these figments of light and trickster magic. His eyes lingered on the purple shirted guard before returning to The Watcher.


"These four are well versed in my affairs. Even those I suspect you refer to." Tharne leaned back into his chair again, his face stern and gaze icy. "I'm not I like this. I'll be honest with you. Honesty is a good approach for those who seek faithful dealings, those who can be trusted. Or, at least those who have as much to hide. I had begun to think you were a cop or a rat they dragged in; now I think that a foolish assessment."


The Watcher, in turn, a turn at looking toward the figments of intimidation. He wanted Tharne comfortable. Confident. Pliable. The man struck him as the sort whose confidence came from their perception of control; a confidence as fragile as glass.


Loss of this confidence would make getting information difficult. He could become jittery, uncooperative, and lose all interest in the conversation. If such occurred, who knows if he would ever answer questions.


Indeed, exploiting the man would be the right course.


"You would be correct. I have no association with any law enforcement agency, nor am I part of the criminal underworld or whatever you call it. I function on a deeper level, as I know you do." The Watcher folded his hands in his lap to look as non-threatening as possible. Intimidation and threats wouldn't have the same effect on this man as they had on Malcolm. They were two different sorts of men.


"I see," Tharne said in a monotone voice. "Then...why are you here? Did you want my assistance in a matter? Such service does not come cheap."


"I came for information about the your...hotel..." The Watcher furrowed his brow and turned toward the window overlooking the club.


A curious look overcame his eyes; one those present couldn't see. He had become aware of a man with whom he had the displeasure of acquaintanceship entering the building. Either the man tracked him down, or an associate of Tharne's had drawn the ire of a particular human organization. The situation would soon be out of control.


"Is something the matter?" Tharne had leaned forward onto his desk again, both pleased and curious. What drew his company's attention away from their conversation, away from divulging what he sought?


"How many of your inhuman associates are here right now?"


"A handful. Why?" Tharne grew suspicious again. He couldn't tell if The Watcher aimed to trick him or if something had happened.


"Most unfortunate. A man I have the displeasure of recognizing just entered your club. Not a jovial figure, very job focused, couldn't be dragged here unless he had work to do. Which means one of your people committed an act beyond the pale." The Watcher turned back to Tharne, his smile gone.


This response caught Tharne by surprise. If this was a trick, the man played it well. Regardless, Tharne, with a jerk of his head, ordered the guard to the window. He wanted awareness. To know what his guest claimed to. The blonde man complied and stepped to the window.


Then the first shot cut through the music.

© 2017 JPDonelan

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Added on April 14, 2017
Last Updated on April 14, 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..