To Shatter The Shell: Chapter 8

To Shatter The Shell: Chapter 8

A Chapter by JPDonelan

The Watcher and Tharne's conversation becomes heated as conflict rages on the floor.


The shot cried loud, followed by a chorus of panicked screams. The composition surprised Tharne, though he hid it well. Both he and his guard thought The Watcher spoke nonsense when he claimed to recognize someone who had entered the building; a not unreasonable belief, considering where he sat. But now they had to deal with a gunman whose relation to their visitor remained unknown.


"Don't just stand there! Go downstairs and get this dealt with!" Tharne shouted amidst the muffled sounds from below.


The blonde man paused for a moment to look at Tharne before he headed toward the stairs with an illusion. Two steps down, he stopped, turned around, and gave Tharne a knowing look. A glance missed by The Watcher and understood by the recipient.


Tharne shook his head, a subtle gesture dismissive of the conveyed message, a reference to a past conversation. In his perspective, he couldn't be much safer. He still had two "guards" to keep his visitor in line. As such, he still felt comfortable, in control. The man continued to exude confidence, even with a half-worried expression on his face.


The Watcher disliked this hollow confidence and considered breaking it. After all, the man sent his only legitimate protector downstairs. Instead, he opted to wait and see what opportunities availed themselves.


And as he waited, he listened.


As the civilians vacated the premises and the screams died down, the music continued amidst the sound of gunfire being traded off in spurts. Several shots here, then a dozen or so in reply, followed by a couple more from a lone gun. After most of these exchanges, the response grew shorter.


During one exchange of gunfire, the speakers gave an awful, high-pitched, staticky cry and then fell silent.


The death of the pulsating, bludgeoning music pleased The Watcher. Even though muffled by the walls, the noise had kept the pain alive. He much preferred the sound of gunfire; it didn't induce quite as many headaches.


"May we continue, Tharne?" The Watcher asked in a dry tone.


"I must ask. How did you know this person had entered the club? I am most curious to hear your explanation." Tharne squinted at The Watcher with wary eyes.


"I saw him approach. I saw him engage the bouncer out front, just as I had. And I saw him enter. Simple as that." The Watcher had no further reason to dance around, to act for Tharne's comfort.


"Hmm. And how do you know this lunatic?" Tharne started to tap his foot, causing his entire body to shake.


"We've come close to killing each other on occasion; his resilience impresses me still." The Watcher smiled. "Now, about the Griyrlk�"?"


"To hell with your Griyrlk! I'm the one asking the questions! Now, did you get this man to come here to shoot-up my establishment!?" Tharne rose and slammed his desk as anger flashed across his face. A curiously theatric display for the man.


The display surprised The Watcher, but not for the gesture's suddenness. No, his wonderment came from the spread of a familiar shimmer over Tharne's body and into his chair. He didn't need to devote much brainpower to figure out the ploy, or to assess the man too significant a risk to turn.


An old accord with a departed friend told him how to proceed.


He struck before Tharne could move from behind the desk. In a fluid motion, he rose from his seat, took a half-step forward, and lunged for the man's collar.


And missed.


Fingertips grazed the collar of Tharne's dress shirt as the assailed man jerked back and toppled his chair. A decent reaction for a man who appeared sluggish and flat-footed. And yet, the action only earned him distance. Unfortunate, damning distance.


The increase in separation forced The Watcher to reach, to extend the limb in the most effective way he knew: by shifting it.


His outstretched arm bulged, twisted, and cracked as the appendage spurted forth; the hand grew wide and fleshy, phalanges lengthened and pierced the skin to reveal their fang-like sharpness. The shift finished, the newly form maw tilted at the thickened wrist and clamped down on Tharne's shoulder, drawing both blood and a scream. The Watcher now had the illusionist at his mercy, of which little remained.


"Now, Tharne. You will answer my questions."


The words didn't register with Tharne, who snapped his tilted head back and forth between his two illusionary guards. So many thoughts raced through his head at once they drowned out his confusion. The damage to his shoulder had yet to sink in, and the terror of his guest's arm remained shrouded at the edge of perception. Subconsciously, he focused elsewhere�"to maintain control.


"Release me you...are you two slack-jaws just going to stand there and let this b*****d dirty my shirt!?" Tharne's words came out meek and uneven, but still loud. His eyes never once settled on The Watcher.


"I know they aren't real, you simpleton; I see through them." The Watcher drew Tharne closer until he abutted the desk. "Now, did you or your people move the Griyrlk into your empty hotel five months ago? Answer truthfully or you'll lose your head."


Tharne's face grew two shades paler as his confidence crumbled; its foundation swept away like a structure built on loose earth. His eyes darted about the room, awash with panic, in a vain search for a savior. A savior who did not exist.


The ivory-fanged extremity tensed and tightened, driving the pearly daggers another quarter-inch deeper. The maw's master disliked being ignored, but couldn't take the man's head as threatened. He hadn't answered any important questions.


"I will give you one final chance to answer, Tharne. Did your organization bring the Griyrlk to the empty hotel?"


Tharne grimaced and sucked air through his teeth several times before he managed to force out one simple word, "Yes."


"Good. Now, was there anything else you moved into the hotel? Boxes, small animals, anything?" The Watcher observed Tharne's clammy face, gauging his reactions.


"No...nothing." Tharne's eyes went unfocused as a haziness encroached on his mind like a choking smoke.


A dissatisfying answer The Watcher didn't find surprising. Knowledge of the Scryvre was in short supply everywhere he went. Perhaps, he thought, limited to those who brought the beast to the hotel and those who tended to it. Then the question hit him: who tended the creature?


Could it truly be so simple?


"Who hired you to move the Griyrlk?" The Watcher asked as he suppressed a smile. The answer to this question held a new, greater value to him. What hadn't clicked before now rang like a church bell through his mind, enlightening every corner.


The man mustered only a feeble shake of his head, but to what wasn't clear. Did this motion serve to deny an answer, to resist the request? Or did he not have a name to give? Tharne's appearance, with clammy, moist skin, bobbing head, shaky legs, and minor shivering, made a determination difficult to make.


The appearance perplexed The Watcher. Little time had passed since he caught the man, so blood loss should not yet have him to this state. He knew where each long, knife-like protrusion sank and none came close to nicking an artery or disturbing a bone. Could Tharne have already exceeded his level of pain tolerance?


If he passed out now, who knew when he'd wake.


With this in mind, he considered the immediate question: how could this man be kept from despondency? Increased pressure had potential, but obvious uncertainties existed. Would the pain jolt him, or usher him off into temporary oblivion?


He deemed the risk too significant for the little bit of information demanded. The direct route, to pry the name from the man and be done with him, would suffice. With this decision, he reached for Tharne's head.


"I will ask once more. What is the name of the person who had you move the Griyrlk?" The Watcher grasped Tharne's chin and forced the man to look at him, to focus on him. If he could focus, he might muster a response.


Tharne's mouth popped open and closed like that of a fish before he successfully muttered, in a broken, cracked voice, "Cameron...Byrne."


The name sounded...completely foreign; The Watcher had never heard it before. Regardless of familiarity, he now had a name to offer a certain person who'd then talk his ear off. Now he could let Tharne rest.


And Derrick Tharne deserved a good, long rest.


"Well, time for you to nap now." The Watcher pulled Tharne over the desk, bashing the man's quivering knees against the wooden object in the process.


Tharne loosed a pained whimper but offered no resistance. He struggled to maintain awareness of his surroundings, and couldn't even understand what The Watcher said anymore; the words fell muffled and garbled upon his ears. All he felt was the pain in his knees and shoulder, as well as an odd floating sensation.


The Watcher carried Tharne over to the window, where the sound of active gunfire still sang, only with fewer vocalists. His assumption about the outcome looked to be accurate and led him to wonder how those below would respond to his planned action. A few possibilities sprang to mind, but none would change the result. If anything, the act would put him on a tighter timer. A timer he viewed as more a challenge than a problem.


"I believe your men would like to wish you goodnight," The Watcher said and slammed Tharne through the glass. As he did,, the jaws sank deeper into the man's shoulder until no shoulder remained.


Tharne plummeted onto the club floor amidst a shower of glass fragments and a solemn dirge of discharged rounds and descendent casings, a large chunk of him between his neck and upper arm gone. The entire floor went silent for a moment and then returned to chaos.


The Watcher didn't wait to watch the descent, as the Scryvre matter continued to taunt and tease. When he turned to depart, he noticed the illusions had vanished; not even a trace of their sparkle remained. A depressing detail.


Tharne's desk also fell into his sights, spurring a recollection of the drawer from which his prior "host" had retrieved a document. He circled around the desk, curious as to what else resided within.


The drawer, left unlocked, didn't resist The Watcher's efforts to open it. Inside, hundreds of file folders, some thicker than others, revealed themselves. By their nature, each dossier promised information; documents filled with details. Unfortunate that he had no time to sift through for subjects Whise would appreciate. Instead, a quick leaf through would suffice.


When he had finished skimming through the drawer, a third of its contents lay stacked on the desk. Each folder, he believed, held worth to Whise's investigations. The papers within consisted chiefly of lists, plans, and contracts; five or six even had detailed information about Tharne's contacts, clients, and employees. Overall, a valuable find.


The Watcher suspected the words and images to have once been obscured by their former owner. Tharne had been a suspect of the police after all. What better way to hide evidence than as banal business documents?


With Tharne's passing, he'd have to keep an eye on the news. When the left-over folders get into the hands of the police, heads would undoubtedly roll. Both in the newsrooms and in the precinct.


The Watcher departed the office with the folders underarm and slipped from the building via the rear exit. To pass through the war zone would be a fool's decision, no matter how near dead the conflict had become. He didn't worry about police involvement outside of the establishment, the man he saw enter would've already had them hold off. He did worry about backup from the man's organization, though he had no doubts about his ability to fight through them. Such an encounter, however, would be an unneeded confrontation.


Luck sided with The Watcher; no backup had arrived, making his withdrawal uneventful. He couldn't complain after how the situation with Tharne unfolded. A situation he feared had not yet ended. For now, though, he focused on getting back to the car.

As he drew within a block of the car, the engine rattled to life, and an interior light came on. A message from the subordinate, if anything, to say, "I'm awake." The Watcher smiled at the gesture regardless of its intention. A small welcome after the hostility brought him warmth, which lingered even as he entered the car.


The interior light remained on at his request, and he set the folders beside him on the backseat. Based off memory, he peeled the third document from the top out of the stack and popped it open. The pages contained information about Tharne's clients for his hushed operations; complete with dirt. The pages turned one after another as he sought a specific name, a name he assumed must be on the list.


He assumed right.


On the top of the thirteenth page, in bold, read the name: Cameron Byrne. Below the name, right above a list of Byrne's and Tharne's few dealings, read an address he recited to Whise's subordinate. As the interior lights switched off and the car pulled into the street, he put his earpiece in and turned on the device.


"Whise. Questions for you."

© 2017 JPDonelan

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Added on April 20, 2017
Last Updated on April 20, 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..