Part I: The Fellows Down the Hall
rating: 0+x

1926. New York City.


The 44th precinct had a saying. It was one that every officer — from traffic cops on up to the chief of police — eventually learned: 'Pass it off to the fellows down the hall.'

Detective Jackson Worth heard the phrase three weeks after he started as a patrolman. He was still green, then — full of piss, vinegar, and that special sort of invulnerability that only came from the first time you got that shiny badge and nickel-plated pistol.

The Bronx felt bigger in those days. There were still long stretches of flat, undeveloped land. Quiet places where you could lose yourself for hours. He spent shift after shift walking down the Grand Boulevard, distinctly aware of the steady slap, slap, slap of the carbon steel Colt against his thigh. The shape of it; the weight of the thing.

Then, one night, he heard that terrible scream.

He charged toward the sound. His pulse roared across his ears; every step he took was a thunderbolt, propelling him closer to destiny. When he rounded that corner, his pistol was already out. His palms did not sweat. His hands did not shake. He was ready — ready for anything.

Anything except for a woman made out of glass.

It wasn't all of her, but it was enough. Chunks of flesh and bone had become windows that exposed her inner workings. He could see a delicate filigree of veins that weaved through her innards like ribbons of pink, pulsating silk. She was propped against the wall, trying to scream — just trying to breathe.

When she moved, it made this horrible sound. Crackling, crinkling, popping. Like grinding your heel down into a sack of light-bulbs. Each motion ruptured out into waves of jagged, crooked lines that spread through her. Each line splintered veins and organs, drawing out slivers of blood. Each sliver trickled along the cracks, threading back to the surface of the glass — where they formed row after row of dark crimson beads. With each heart-beat, the beads grew brighter and fatter.

It took her twenty minutes to finally shatter and bleed out. All he could do was watch.

Later, he asked his commanding officer what to write it up as. The old man pulled him aside, patted him on the back, and told him to 'pass this one off to the fellows down the hall'.

It meant that sometimes, a crime couldn't be solved with shiny badge and a gun. Sometimes, you just had to leave it be. Sometimes, you just left it up to the fellows down the hall. The Unseen Hand. The Mystery Men. The freaks.

Nowadays, Jackson often forgot that he even carried a pistol.

When he heard Benson's voice on the other end of the phone, Jackson knew this would be one of those cases. Something in the younger detective's stammer; something about the way he asked Jackson to "hurry it up". Whatever it was, Detective Worth was fairly certain they'd be passing this case off. But that didn't mean he had to like it.

He turned his coat's collar up against the cold night air and made his way through Macombs Dam Park. Uniformed officers crowded the path in tight clusters — like pigeons looking for a free meal. He nudged his way past a few of them and caught sight of Benson in the distance.

Benson rushed forward and waved him down. "Thank God. Christ, Jackson, I don't even know how to — this is way out of our league."

"You said five bodies?"

"Yeah." Benson looked pale. He was a bit too green for this sort of thing; Jackson was pretty sure the kid hadn't even seen a corpse get up and dance, yet. "I think."

"You 'think'?"

"Yeah."

"Alright. Let's have ourselves a looksee, yeah?"

Benson led him to the clearing in the grotto.

Detective Jackson Worth once saw a woman made of glass. He once watched a corpse melt at room temperature, only for the puddle of goop to boil away into a fine, yellow mist. He once witnessed a young man turn himself inside out — then wink, smile, and walk away.

Detective Jack Worth had never seen anything like this.

Out of five bodies, he was fairly certain only one was human.

"What the hell am I even looking at?"

"As best as I can figure — the one on the left — the one on the left is invisible," Benson whispered. "That's why you just see her clothes. The other one, he's — I think he was trying to pass through that tree, but stopped half-way. That one over there's stitched together from different bits — some human, some animal — I think — Jackson, I think some of the bits are still alive —"

Jackson turned away. He pushed past Benson and walked to the edge of the grotto, reaching to pull a cigarette out of his coat pocket.

Benson followed. "Jackson?"

Jackson's palms were sweaty. His hands shook. He fumbled with the cigarette, then with the lighter. It took him a good ten or so clicks to ignite the oil-soaked wick. "The normal looking one. The one in the suit, tie, and scarf. Pretty sure that's Allen Kent."

"Allen Kent — that rich asshole? The one who owns, like, half of Manhattan?" Benson glanced back over his shoulder. "What the hell would he be doing down here?"

"Probably a meeting. Working a case, something like that." Jackson took a long, hard suck of smoke. He slipped his hand under his coat and brushed his fingers across the grip of his pistol. Still there. Good.

"What kind of — Jackson, how the hell do I write this up?" Benson asked. His voice dropped to a fierce whisper. "This is — we have to pass it to —"

The fit of barking laughter shot through Jackson fast — like a punch straight to the gut. He had to fight not to choke on his own cigarette. "'The fellows down the hall'? You want to pass it off to them?" He turned to face the younger detective. Jackson jerked his thumb back to the grotto. "Be my guest."

Benson looked confused. Christ, was he really this green? "I don't understand."

"We can't pass this one off because there ain't no one left to pass it to, Bennie. Those are the fellows down the hall."


Next: Part II