Disclaimer: I do not own CSI NY. I do not own it here or there, I do not own it anywhere. It belongs to CBS and Jerry Bruckheimer whose movies I love. If ever one of my stories was to be made into a movie, I would want him to direct it. (Yeah, I know, keep dreaming Stealthy.) I also did not create American Mcgee's Alice but I do have the game and enjoy it more than I probably should.

Note: I apologize for the title if it sounds a little... disturbing. It's metaphorical, I promise.

A serial killing with a twist, an obssessed copteetering on the edge, and Danny Messer caught in the middle of it all. This case will pull him to the brink of reason. The question is, how faris hewilling to go?

The Skinning of Danny Messer

By Stealth Dragon

Only a few find the way. Some don't recognize it when they do. Someā€¦ don't ever want to. The Cheshire Cat. From American Mcgee's Alice.

Prologue

This is messed up, Danny thought. Too freakin' messed up. What the hll am I thinking? Why am I doing this? Maven's gonna pay for this.

Every step jarred his dislocated arm like a newly acquired wrenching of it. Then there was the throbbing ache in his chest, the drying blood clogging his nose, and the cut on his back that had gone from a sharp sting to an all out burning. The thing about pain was that there was only so much of it the body was going to put up with while the mind tried to ignore it. There came a point where the body did not want that pain to be ignored anymore, so forced its presence like a wake-up slap to the brain. All the macho, idealistic hype of being able to handle pain, of ignoring it, setting it aside, and never even once letting out so much as a whimper of its existence, was just that; hype, machoism, and a major load of crap.

Pain was not supposed to be ignored. It was supposed to be dealt with, and Danny was doing the opposite of that. He was letting it happen, and he had never felt more miserable in his life than he did at that moment. He was on the verge of puking and kept cussing under his breath with each agonizing step. If Aiden saw him now she would have probably whacked him on his bad arm and told him he deserved it, which he probably did.

" Stop acting like you're so tough all the time, Messer," she would say. The words sounded so clear and precise in his head that he could almost feel a phantom presence of her, though she was miles across the city, all safe and sound in the lab.

" You think you're proving something Messer? What're you trying to prove, huh? That you're full it?"

Danny shrugged his good shoulder in response. Great, he thought bitterly, I'm gettin' delirious.

Danny shivered. The nighttime cold caused his muscles to pull and aggravate his cracked and misaligned bones. All the same, Danny kept walking. He continued on down the empty sidewalk illuminated in a sickly wet sheen by the streetlights. He passed without consideration pit-black windows of closed businesses and apartment homes where people slept, warm and oblivious. He kept going despite the terror that had expanded to tighten his chest and cause his heart to pulsate faster than what was normal.

He crossed the street at a light and entered the darkened, silent park. He headed for the nearest bench, one made of concrete, and dropped himself into it much to his regret. His back hit the bench's back a little too hard, provoking the wound that didn't need any more provoking for one day. He sucked in a hissing breath, jerking forward and squeezing his eyes shut until the burning agony faded. He mumbled a few swears, then slowly sat back.

Now all that was left to do was to wait. He remained fixed to the seat, staring into the darkness of a small copse of shrubs across the path while ignoring the voice in his head screaming at him about how stupid this was. It was stupid. What it was not was his idea. He was just playing the game. Whatever happened next would be up to Mavin since it was his game to begin with.

Something would happen; Danny did not doubt that.

He was oblivious to the passage of time, though he was fairly certain it was close to midnight, or perhaps was midnight already. He heard a sound, a low mumbling, and he looked up to see a homeless man tottering along, drenched in rags and shadows. He was coming toward Danny only to stop on seeing the CSI. The two looked at eachother, both their faces obscured and distorted by the intermingling of light and darkness.

You wanna die? Danny thought irritably. This man's presence could ruin everything.

The homeless bum muttered something foul about the young man on the bench, then turned and shuffled back the way he had come.

Danny sighed in weary frustration, then turned away, closing his eyes to rest them for a while. The red image of the two-headed serpent flashed within the darkness behind his eyelids, dripping as though caught in the act of melting. It had become burned into his mind like a brand, which seemed almost fitting at the moment. He felt marked. He was marked. He had probably been marked since the moment he first stepped foot in the empty apartment and saw the blood.

He heard footsteps approaching from his left, crunching the gravel bits of the pathway with sharp reverberations. Though outwardly he did not move, inside he went rigid as wood. The steps were slow, casual, all about taking their sweet time. They sounded after every three beats of Danny's rapidly pounding heart. They grew closer, louder, with tormenting slowness. Danny kept his eyes closed no matter what his mind screamed. Finally, the footfalls stopped right in front of him. Danny opened his eyes, methodically looked up, and laughed.