I've seen that mark before
Chapter One from Thorne: The Withering Shore
Welcome to the first chapter for Thorne: The Withering Shore.
There are six chapters to the Withering Shore but Thorne’s story doesn’t end there, so stay tuned for more adventures.
Enjoy the first chapter!
Thorne: The Withering Shore
I was always told that the day belonged to us but the night belongs to them. It was never a truth I wanted to unfurl but all paths are leading me there, down to the pier at the end of the line. Down to the darkness that bleeds into the withering shore.
Chapter One - I’ve seen that mark before
Thorne watched Brian Elison stumble down the stairs from the diner across the street. Even at a distance she could see his dishevelled hair and the stains spotted on his clothes. Not someone that looked like he was out having a good time. She made a mental note of the way he looked back twice as if he was expecting someone to follow him.
‘There! There he is!’ His wife, Audrey, shouted from across the booth. ‘Well, aren’t you going to do something? Go! Catch him!’
‘I’m not going to chase him down the street,’ said Thorne as she took another sip of her coffee.
‘Why the hell not?’
‘You paid for evidence - if you wanted him that’ll be extra.’ Audrey slumped back into her seat and drained her cup dry, her stare now fixed on Thorne.
She didn’t usually bring her clients along with her, they had the tendency to be a pain in the ass but Audrey had insisted and paid double to make it happen. And by the look of her, it wasn’t the worst idea for her not to be alone.
Thorne knew the Elison’s in the same way everyone did: elite, put together and get-away-with-murder-rich. What Thorne was looking at now was a woman on the edge. Her blood shot eyes were darting from point to point with each shallow breath. Thorne watched as she drained another cup of coffee.
‘I think you’ve had enough,’ said Thorne.
‘I’ve had just as much as you,’ she snapped.
‘Yes, but my hands aren’t shaking.’ Thorne tried to take the coffee away from her, but she snatched it back, coffee-stained spit frothing at her mouth in rage.
‘Just - shut, up and go already,’ she hissed. ‘We’ve been here for hours.’
‘Can’t go yet, we’ve only seen him leave and having an affair requires someone else - I’ll go when we see the lover.’
‘Lover,’ she scoffed.
‘Whore more like.’ There was no point in arguing with her. No point in reminding her that she was once the mistress before she became the wife. That the only reason she had the idea of hiring a PI was because that’s what the third wife had done to break her prenup.
‘Everything alright over here?’ Said the waitress, Marie.
‘Yes, yes we’re fine,’ said Audrey but she waited for Thorne’s reply.
‘All good, Marie.’
‘All right, well we’re closing up in ten.’
‘Thanks,’ Thorne called after her. Ten minutes was a kindness - the chairs were already stacked on the tables around them. They were all waiting on them to leave.
‘Can we go now?’ Said Audrey.
‘We aren’t going anyway,’ said Thorne. ‘I’m going to go inside and take a look, I’ll met you at the Side Project down the street.’ Thorne threw some cash on the table as she got up to leave but Audrey grabbed her arm.
‘I paid you to take me with you,’ she said. Technically she was right, of course. But she’d proven to be more erratic as the night drew on and in her line of work erratic meant mistakes. Getting caught for breaking and entering wasn’t on her to do list for the evening.
‘You paid me to watch. Besides, it’ll be hard to plead ignorance when you appear on the security footage.’ Thorne’s eyes flicked to her sleeve and Audrey reluctantly let go. ‘Side Project, two blocks east. I’ll be there soon.’
The Elison’s bought the apartment building twenty years ago, a gift to Brian from his father when he got married for the first time. Audrey said she only found out that the building was empty a week ago but the smell said otherwise. Thorne stood just inside the front door, taking it all in. The hallway was thick dust and there was a heavy smell of damp and rust in the air.
Not the most likely place to have an affair.
From the street the windows were reflective but inside she could see that they had been covered with paint so that only small rivulets of light could pass through. She took out her flashlight and made out the stairs that climbed up four floors. She climbed to the first floor to find that the walls between the apartments had been removed so it was all one large room, empty of all furniture.
Except at the back where the room had been divided by a thick, black curtain.
Which was where the smell was coming from.
Thorne drew her weapon and inched towards the back of the building. She could only hear her footsteps on the creaking floorboards. She could only see what her flashlight illuminated. But she knew that this was definitely not about an affair.
She heaved the curtain aside and revealed more empty space but the smell pounced on her, stronger than ever. Desperate to leave the stench, she whipped the light to the floor and found dried blood smeared across the wood like paint.
‘Great,’ she groaned. ‘Just what I wanted.’
The blood had been drawn onto the floor in thick layers. She pulled out her phone and took a photo. The flash revealed the mark for an instant and made Thorne gasp - she’d seen that mark before.
Any civilian would have mistaken it for a pentagram but this wasn’t a star. Its five points were curved, each with their own circle at the centre of the crescent. The shape rested within a larger couplet of circles that wove over one another like rope.
Artach, they had called it. The door between worlds.
The one that was meant to be shut.
Years ago, when she had just moved from Fernleigh, she had been haunted by that mark. She knew that there was no point in cleaning the blood; that the damage was already done. She pulled the curtain back into place and marched back down the stairs. She didn’t bother searching the rest of the building. Instead she went straight to the side project to find her deceptive client.
‘Have you seen this before?’ said Thorne as she slid her phone across the bar toward Audrey. She barely glanced at the Artach before she looked away and covered her face with her hands. It was so dramatic that Thorne couldn’t help but cough out a laugh. Audrey’s rasping breaths quickly broke into heaving sobs in front of her but it only convinced Thorne more that she knew exactly what was in that room. ‘Answer me.’
Audrey peaked through her hands to see Thorne watching her unfazed. She lowered her hands and, as naturally as she could, let her sobs become soft whimpers.
‘Once,’ she said. Thorne rolled her eyes harder than she’d ever done before. ‘I’m sorry,’ she breathed. ‘I thought if I told you the truth you wouldn’t take my case.’
‘But it wasn’t all a lie - I really haven’t seen him in weeks. And I knew that there was something wrong.’
‘Right and it was either a mistress or manipulating the cosmos? You know, the usual suspects.’
‘I wanted it to be an affair, I did. I thought maybe if I hired you, it would make it real somehow and there would be someone else. Or that maybe you would catch him and put and end to it.’
‘I’m not going anywhere near this shit.’
‘It’s going to kill him, I know it. Please, help me.’
‘I’m not afraid of death but I am scared shitless of men playing with things that they don’t understand.’
‘It’s worse than that. They know what they’re doing.’
‘Even more reason to stay away.’
‘Aren’t you supposed to have some moral code or something? Something that makes you duty bound to help?
‘I’ll pay extra!’ She said grabbing her purse. ’…please.’ Thorne considered it for a moment, eyeing the weight of the purse and the way the cash pushed at the seams from within.
‘Who are they?’
‘I don’t know - ‘
‘Nope.’ Thorne turned to leave and Audrey grabbed her arm, pleading with her.
’No, wait. Please. Wait. He’s not the leader, I know that. And I know that it wasn’t his idea - he could never think of something like this. It’s not in his nature. But his friend - Lewis March. This has him written all over it.’
The city practically belonged to him. He owned half of downtown and was holding something over those who owned the rest. She had never felt the need to know anymore about him. She knew enough to stay out of his way.
It didn’t surprise Thorne that he was involved but it did make her determined on what to do next. She took out her wallet and put bill after bill on the bar.
‘I’m keeping what I’m owed,’ said Thorne, as she slid the money across the bar. ‘But we’re done.’
‘No, please, please. I don’t know what to do. Please, what do I do?’
‘Get the hell out of here,’ said Thorne as she made her way to the door. Audrey’s voice broke behind her:
‘Wait.’ Her cries for help were gone; her voice now sharp like a knife, daring her to turn back around. ‘They’ll know you were in there,’ she said. ‘Whether you like it or not, you’re a part of it now.’
Thorne ignored her. She pushed against the door and flipped her collar up tall, bracing for the cold.
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Thorne: The Withering Shore is the latest fiction project for verse. With a new part released every Thursday (AEST).
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