It was raining when I get the call. Stinging drops falling, sped along by the wind. It was hard to see; had to keep my gaze down and let the brim of my hat give me some protection. Some lights still shone in the buildings, signs of people thriving away from the revealing light of day. Nothing good stayed up this late. No one upright or moral braved this city at this hour.

This was when I did my best work.

I made my way down the alley, past the city's trash. Garbage piled high enough to shelter the refuse sleeping amongst the filth. The smell bothered me, but I needed the short cut. Late at night and some guy had come down with a bad case of dead. Worse than the usual symptoms, if my contact was to be believed. Soon the police would be on the scene, spreading either corruption or stupidity all over my clues. The reeking alley would save me precious seconds. I was faster than the fat and lazy cops. It was how I made my money.

I was Quick.

My contact was there waiting for me, shivering in the cold, wet night. I struck up a match and lit my cigarette before approaching.

"Did you call the cops yet?"

"N-no. I figured you'd want to see it first."

I pushed my hat up, let myself see more of the scene. I could take my time, take it all in. Smoke trailed up from my face, disappearing into the night. The body lay before me, twisted and face down on the soaking pavement. "Did you touch anything?"


"Good man." I knelt down and stared at the body. People don't off themselves like this. Sure, they might take a sidewalk dive, but they never faced the edge. Always fell backwards, not willing to look into oblivion as it comes crashing toward them.

The corpse was pushed.

I took a long drag and checked the stiff's pockets. They didn't take his wallet. I opened it up. Money was still there. Gold watch was still on his wrist. It wasn't a robbery.

Someone wanted this man dead.

A thousand theories shot through my head. Sleeping with someone's wife. Maybe he had some bad debts. Could have been a thief, tried to steal from the wrong guy. Hell, could have just been some punk looking for a quick thrill. I'd lived in this city my whole life; nothing surprised me.

Something pooled around my shoes. Blood, I thought. But too runny. It wasn't this man's life. It was sticky, clinging to me when I moved away. And it was clear, with just a hint of... yellow?

I pushed the body over and stared at the mess I saw. From stomach to sternum, every inch of the man's torso was covered with the crisp white shells. His clothes were coated with the thick mixture. Forget a cheap thrill. Forget a thief in the night. Forget anything I thought it could be. No one covered a man in raw eggs before pushing him out a window.

I checked the wallet again, this time for an ID. My smoke fell from my hanging mouth and was extinguished on the wet ground.

Name: Humpty Dumpty

I tossed the wallet back down and turned to the man who had called me. He wasn't a usual client, but he was smart enough to know not to trust the police with something like this. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my card.

"I'm out of here. Gonna have to do some research on this one. Call the police, mack. Tell them you found the body, then you go back to your life. Anything else happens, you give me a call."

I pushed the card into his hands and he read it as I walked away. Back down the stinking alley. Back onto the streets lit by the amoral and the cruel.

Jack B. Quick

Private Detective


Humpty Dumpty

Date of Birth: 23 January 1892

Institutionalized in 1917

Date of Imprisonment: 1920

Psyche Report: Suffers from Chronic Depression, highlighted by multiple suicide attempts. History of mental illness began in 1793, with death of mother. Describes himself as a 'shell' and believes he lacks any internal workings; cannot cope with adversity, due to fragile ego and lack of independence during developmental years. Despite numerous attempts at therapy, subject remains unable function outside of medical care. Therefore, booking was recommended.


There it was, in black and white. I set the file down and picked up my drink. I skipped the cheap whiskey and hit the good scotch. That guy, he wasn't the Humpty Dumpty; just a man with an unlucky name. It could have been a coincidence. Had to be a coincidence.

I downed my scotch. It wasn't a coincidence.

The Dumpty kid tried to kill himself three times by jumping off a building. He'd said he only felt alive on the way down. A decade later and some poor bastard with the same name is thrown off a building on Wall Street, covered in egg.

I didn't believe in coincidence; just connections I hadn't found yet.

The window began to let light in, a reminder of another sleepless night. Already, the bakery downstairs sent the scent of the morning batch up into my office. I'd given my entire night to thought, mulling over a long closed case. I needed to work if I wanted to get paid and I needed sleep if I wanted to get any work done.

First, though, I needed breakfast. I went to the bakery. The muffins weren't as good as the old man used to make. They made the neighborhood famous. But when they found out what his special ingredient was, they made Drury Lane infamous.

A few hours of sleep was all I had time for. I folded the bed and made the room look presentable. It wasn't a difficult transformation from bedroom to office. I got a quick shave and a clean set of clothes before hiding away the drink. Someone with curious eyes could give me a very long night in the tank. I didn't have the cash to pay my way out.

The police station was a place of familiar faces and unfamiliar ethics for me. I'd spent my youth here, chasing after punk kids committing petty crimes while the people who were tearing apart this city ran free, ignored by the men who had sworn to keep the streets safe. Pockets were lined, men were corrupted, and the people of the city suffered for it.

I got a forced greeting from Sally at the front desk. She had a few more wrinkles since last time, but no promotion to show for it. She was a good person; they'd keep her low on the ladder. It was safer for everyone that way.

I recognized his desk. It was the same as always. Two pencils and three pens in a cup. A mug of cold coffee next to a phone. No pictures of family. Piles of piles of case littered about in an organized chaos. This was the lair of a hard-working cop. He was as close to honest as they came.

The seat was comfortable. Well used. It had the squeak that came with too much paperwork. Too many long nights spent rocking back and forth to stay awake as the work just piles up. This was how the city operated. Keep the good cops off the street and distracted with bureaucracy.

"You're in my chair, Jack." The voice behind me shook me from my thoughts. "What? Did I startle you? I didn't know Jack Quick could be scared."

"Wasn't scared. Worried about seeing that face again." I stood up from the chair. "Had nightmares for six months last time."

"Always a charmer." Danny sat down, settling in with weight he didn't have before. Too many doughnuts and not enough walking the beat. "What can I do for you?"

"I heard there was a mess down on Wall Street last night."

"Yeah. Looks like suicide, from what I've heard." He sifted through some of the files and flipped open the case. "The guy lived alone. No family. No friends. Hell, not even any pets."

"Anything missing from the house?" I asked, careful to wait until no one was walking by. The place had ears everywhere. I didn't even want to admit I was working the case.

"Couldn't tell you. Why so interested? We see suicides nearly every night." Danny leaned forward and lowered his voice. "Is it the name that's got you spooked?"

I didn't speak. People I couldn't see were listening. I only nodded.

"If anything comes up, I'll let you know." Danny shut the file. He wasn't the most clever guy; anyone listening would know something was up, but they wouldn't know exactly what. I'd have to thank him for that later. "You know, there is a big push for more cops. The department wants to bring in a whole lot of new blood. You should see about getting your badge back."

"Huh." I shook my head. "Not this department. I try to keep my nose clean these days. Ever consider going private?"

"Not me. Too much good I can do inside."

"If you say so." I nodded to my friend and headed back onto the street. The smell of the place brought back memories of struggle against people that wouldn't listen. I got out and, just like before, I didn't look back.