The orange sunset blazed before Elliot, yet the sun’s rays were soft against his eyes and he had no reason to shade his eyes. He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned his head toward the woman lying in the reclined seat stuck in the sand next to him.
“But, do we know, yet?” she asked.
Elliot slowly shook his head. “We won’t know for a while.”
She sighed. “I want to know.”
He reached out his hand to cover hers and she squeezed his in return.
“I love your eyelashes,” she said. “You don’t know what your eyes do to me.”
“Is that so?”
He fluttered his eyes at her playfully. Olivia
laughed for a moment, but her eyes shot behind him and she gasped. Elliot
turned around to see what had caused the gasp and saw the grey darkness of his
Elliot stared at the ceiling in his apartment and wondered what, if anything, the dream had meant. He had had so little sleep in the past few days, he had nearly forgotten what dreams were like. Closing his eyes, he tried to shake away the images of the dream, but the sound of her laugh seemed to reverberate throughout the room.
The clock on the nightstand next to him read several minutes after , but Elliot chose not to move. He knew it could have read ; he would not be leaving the bed that morning.
An unintentional sigh escaped his body as he made a final resolve to miss morning mass at his church. He had not missed mass since before he could remember, but he saw no reason to go. Even if Olivia strolled into the precinct, alive and well, nothing would be able to trump Morse’s tape and his actions the night of the thirtieth. Cragen could manage to stall for a while, but he would still be suspended for some odd length of time until he was sent before the police commissioner…again. His career would be at a complete stand still.
Then there was Olivia. He would mostly be barred from working her case, if he was even allowed to work, but the problem remained: there was nowhere to even begin looking. As much as he wanted to push every bit of blame on Morse, he knew with a heavy heart he could not. At the moment he viewed the painting in Morse’s bedroom, he knew Morse would never have hurt her. He was a sociopath, yes, but he would never lay a hand on Olivia.
He shifted on the bed and winced as the last of his bruises ached dully on his side. The clock ticked in the distance and he could see the gentle spray of sunlight attempting to penetrate the grey clouds. He heard snow hit the window with a gust of wind and wondered if he closed his eyes and lay down again, if he would still be able to see the sunset with Olivia beside him.
When the dream did not return, Elliot sighed and left his bed to lounge on his sofa. He turned on the television for some background noise and the first thing on the local channel was a charismatic televangelist. The preacher’s face had turned red from the heat of his sermon and his deep, coarse voice with the hint of a southern drawl, echoed his thoughts about Cain killing his brother out of sheer anger.
“We have to wonder. Wonder! Wonder what that anger was like. The kind of anger that could drive a man to murder his brother. The kind of anger that drove him directly out of God’s light! And, we’ve all felt it! Anger against our fellow man; against our brothers and sisters in Christ. And if we don’t control that anger, my brothers and sisters, we’ll end up just like Cain. Fallen to the wayside and fallen out of God’s light!”
He turned off the television in deep disgust and stared at the ceiling.
Where the hell could she be?
Cragen glanced at his watch and suppressed a sigh, wishing he had not sent Elliot home, while his one of his higher superiors fumed at him from the telephone in his hand by firing question after question.
What’s the status on Detective Benson? What’s this video we’re hearing about? What’s this I’m hearing about a Halloway sitting in your lockup? And a Morse too? What the hell is going on down there?
He managed to finesse his way through the rest of the questions and left his office to retrieve an update from Alexa, when a woman with short blonde hair walked into the squad room, bearing straight for him.
“Can I help you, ma’am?”
The woman glared at him for a moment before gripping her bag a little tighter and pulling herself to her full height.
“Yes. You can help me by telling me what the status is on Detective Olivia Benson.”
“As you can see,” Cragen said. “It’s on a Sunday morning and we’ve got people working the case non-stop.”
“That’s not good enough!” Her cheeks grew red as she stared at him. “After all she’s done for this department…for this city, you’re working on it, is not good enough.”
Cragen’s eyebrows furrowed. “Who…?”
“My names’s Jillian Harfort and Olivia’s been a dear friend of mine for as long as I can remember. She’s godmother to my children for Chrissake.”
“Mrs. Harfort, I’m her captain and I assure you, there is no one looking harder for her than-”
“You know how I found out?” Jillian said, nearly yelling. “My son started yelling at the television when the nightly news came on. ‘Mom!’ he yells. ‘What’s Aunt Liv doing on the TV?’ I didn’t get a call, any notice. Nothing! No one told me that there was even the possibility that she was missing.”
“Our detectives called every single person we found in relation to Olivia.”
Jillian shook her head. “I got one call from her partner who told me that everything was fine and that she just wasn’t returning phone calls. Why didn’t he tell me then that she was missing? God, I went to her apartment building and there’s tape all over the door. I went to see Maya and she’s hysterical and, all the while, she’s gone and no one knows anything! How can this be?”
“Mrs. Harfort,” Cragen said taking a calm step toward her. “Every officer available is working on trying to find Olivia. Now unless you’ve got something new to give, please go home and let us do our jobs.”
“I don’t see him around here. How can everyone be working on her case when her partner’s not even here?”
“Detective Stabler has been up for days looking for Olivia. I sent him home to get some rest.”
As he stared into Jillian’s bright blue eyes, he immediately regretted the lie. It was akin to the one told to her by Elliot when it first seemed that Olivia was missing and eventually this one would warrant Jillian storming back into the precinct after new information emerged.
“The last time I spoke to her, she was contemplating leaving this unit…because of him.”
“This is the first I’ve heard of it.”
“Well, I’m sure Olivia doesn’t confess to you how things are going between her and her partner.” Jillian’s voice held a growing arrogance that made the lines in Cragen’s forehead deepen. “She told me. She was wanting to leave because of how things were with him.”
“How is this significant?”
“Because she’s gone and all of sudden he’s not here. Has anyone asked him what’s happened to her?”
“I don’t like what you’re suggesting.”
“I don’t care if you don’t like it,” Jillian said. “If Olivia and her partner were fighting non-stop and all of a sudden she’s vanished without a trace, everyone should be a suspect.”
“Nothing gives you the right to traipse into my squad room and make unwarranted accusations. Now, if there’s something substantial that you know might help us find Olivia faster, by all means, let us know. Otherwise, just go home and give us some time to do our jobs.”
“Look,” Jillian said crossing her arms. “If there’s a call list or whatever, I want to be on it. I want to know what happened to her and I don’t want to hear some watered down version from the news. I want to hear it directly from you.”
“We have your information,” he said. “The minute we have any word, we’ll let you know. You just have to give us some time.”
“How much time is ‘some time?’ Christ, it’s been five days. She’s the detective who helped bring down that psycho strangler and no one can get a move on her case. What’s it going to take?”
Unable to come up with anything else, Cragen repeated himself. “Just give us some time. We’re going to find her.”
Jillian shook her head at him and turned on her heel to storm out of the squad room. As she left, Cragen glanced toward the interrogation room where Morse was still being held and then toward the corridor where he knew Jonathan Halloway sat in a cell. Jillian made three unconnected people who made reference to Elliot having some kind of involvement in Olivia’s disappearance. The best friend, the boyfriend and the stalker; all three would presumably know Olivia well and all three had hinted toward Elliot.
He sighed as he watched Fin crossing the squad room in his direction. After realizing that Munch would most likely throttle Morse after another word in the interrogation room, Cragen had him work on the newest rape case that had fallen to the precinct while Fin continued working on Morse.
“This kid’s got problems,” Fin said.
“What else is new? Has he said anything else about what might’ve happened to Olivia?”
Fin shook his head. “No. It’s scary though, Cap. I mean…it’s like he worships her or something. Every part of his day is spent thinking about her and ways that he can follow her without her knowing it.”
“Is he giving up this stuff?”
“Yeah, completely voluntary. Like he’s glad to get it off his chest, but still…I mean, he’s talking about dressin’ in drag and in wigs so that Olivia wouldn’t recognize him. He’s put too much thought into all this.”
“Have you seen the tape yet?”
“No. What’s on it?”
“I’ll spare you the gory details, but it shows Elliot and Olivia arguing and him attacking her just before the tape goes out.
Fin’s eyebrows furrowed as he crossed his arms. “Attacking her how?”
“Had her in a headlock on the floor.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. Last thing Liv told me was that they’d all but made up.”
“Made up from what…and when?”
“Last Saturday, Liv told me she and Elliot nearly came to blows because she helped his daughter get the pill.”
“And this is the first time you’re mentioning this!”
“What’s it matter? It’s Elliot. They almost threw down. Almost, and they were fine come Monday.”
“That was before Drover tried to pull something on Elliot’s kid.
Fin shook his head again. “Just don’t make any sense.”
“Another one of Liv’s friends just came in this morning…She hinted that she thought Elliot might be involved too.”
“Aw, c’mon!” Fin said.
“We have to look into it. Especially given what’s on that video.”
He did not want outsiders who were not privy to what he knew to leap to assumptions about Elliot, but Cragen knew the facts had to be considered.
Fin rubbed his forehead. “You haven’t been talking to this guy all night. He’s literally crazy for Liv and, the way he talks about her, he was probably threatened just by seeing Elliot.”
“That would make sense,” Cragen said. “Except that he’s got a slew of people to focus on.”
“Cap, think back to when you were Second Grade. How much time did you spend with your partner? He didn’t need to focus on anybody else because Elliot’s with her all the time.”
“I want to talk to Morse again,” Cragen said after a moment’s pause. “I want him to tell us specifically why he’d look at Elliot instead of Halloway or anyone else for this.”
The shrill cry of Elliot’s phone barely caused his eyes to flicker at the interruption. In the past hour, he had switched from staring at the ceiling above his couch to staring at the ceiling above his bed and back to the couch again.
“Yes,” he said in a low voice.
“El, it’s me,” Kathy said from the other end of the phone.
“Hi, Kath,” he replied in a tone so subdued and rasping it was barely audible.
“I saw the news yesterday.” Her voice was hushed, though Elliot doubted it was in response to his own.
He remained silent, not sure what she expected him to say and she continued.
“None of the kids saw. They were all out…out of the house. Just like normal.”
“Are you okay?”
“Kathy, my partner’s missing and we don’t have the slightest idea what happened to her.”
“I know. Is there…” Her voice trailed and he knew she wanted to ask if there was anything that she could do, but had thought better of it. There was nothing that could be done.
“I just…,” she continued. “I didn’t know whether or not I should call, but I just wanted to make sure that you were okay.”
“I’m fine, Kath.”
“No, you’re not, Elliot,” she said, this time, her voice almost a whisper. “I know you. You’re at home instead of at the precinct which means they sent you home because you probably haven’t slept in three days.”
“And, you’re probably lying down, staring at the ceiling counting down the seconds before you can go back and look for her.”
Elliot sighed deeply into the phone.
“Come to Mass this morning with us, El. We’ll all be together, we’ll light a candle, we’ll talk to Father-”
“Kathy, I don’t think I’m in the mood for it today.”
It was her turn to sigh. “Elliot…if Olivia is missing, what better time can you think of to lean on your faith?”
He lay on his couch silent, his mouth gaping slightly as he tried to think of a retort; none came.
“Elliot, just come. I mean, I’ll do my best to keep the kids from hearing about it, but they’ll find out eventually and they’ll worry about you. And about her. At least come to be with them for the morning.”
“All right,” he said. “I’ll meet you there, but I don’t want to talk about it. If the kids find out, they find out, but I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay. Well, we’ll see you there?”
“Yeah. See you in a bit.”
Elliot turned to sit up on the couch and put his head in his hands.
She’s right, he thought.
Olivia had been gone for, now, five days and he was quickly spiraling into a depression. Faith would probably be the only thing to hold him together if they were unable to find her.
“Morning, Gents,” Morse said brightly, though his small eyes showed the beginnings of murk from lack of sleep. “When’s our friendly detective getting his cuffs?”
“You know what I think, Morse,” Cragen said, as he and Fin entered Morse’s interrogation room. “I’m thinking that someone’s doing a great frame up job on Elliot and someone like you would be the perfect guy to do it.”
“Yes, you. Someone with limitless means and time to set all this up.”
“First of all…No, screw that. I had nothing to do with this and, regardless of what you think, I didn’t fake that tape. I notice he didn’t come barging in here screaming that I framed him or something after you watched the tape. He attacked her and you’re all just wasting time because he’s a cop. If I showed you a tape of an old boyfriend or just a friend, you people would be packing eighteen in a car just to get as many cops as possible to take him down. But, since he’s one yours…”
“And her partner.”
“So,” Morse said. “Cops kill one another all the time.”
“Only in the movies,” Fin said.
“Well, movies or not, that movie shows what happened to Olivia and, in case you’d forgotten, it’s getting awfully close to .”
“Your tape doesn’t show dick!” Cragen yelled. “It cuts off halfway through. Who knows what happened between the time they’d stopped fighting and the time she went missing. You’ve got nothing!”
Morse laughed. “I didn’t need to see how that fight ended because I already know what he’s capable of. And, you do too. You’ll keep it under wraps because he’s your detective and your friend, but it’s all out there.”
“What’s out there?” Fin asked.
“Like the fact that he nearly pummeled a guy to death in a bathroom stall a year ago or that he attacked another cop right in this very precinct a while back. If you know what you’re doing, the world is your oyster.”
“You’re full of shit,” Cragen said standing from the table.
“Am I?” Morse said quickly. “Last Friday, the good detective swung by her apartment to pull this same thing. Raving about something on his daughter. If you’d’ve seen the way he looked at her that night, you wouldn’t be so ready to stand at his defense. She was all but cowering at the sight of him and he looked like he was ready to rip her apart.”
Cragen and Fin glanced at one another, but both remained silent.
“And, all that doesn’t matter anyway,” Morse continued, leaning against the far wall and allowing himself to slide to the floor. “When I saw that I’d run out of space that night, I set up another drive and then, I turned it all off when I found out that she was gone. Roll back the videos. I know you took them all. Watch them. You’ll see.”
“See what, Morse?” Cragen said. “More of your bull?”
Morse shook his head as his eye brims grew red. “There’s just six minutes. Just six minutes.”
“Six minutes for what? Quit talking in riddles!”
“Just six minutes,” Morse repeated. “Six minutes between the time I ran out of space and the time I set up the next drive. Six minutes between the second he’s got her in a headlock and the moment I look up and see she’s no where to be found. Just six minutes.”
Morse then put his head in his hands and wept openly. Cragen grimaced at the sight of Morse’s youthful, but pathetic form on the floor and Fin followed him as he all but raced out of the room.
“Where are you in all this?” he asked Alexa when he
stepped into the small room where
Alexa looked startled for a moment and it took Cragen another moment to see that George had joined her scrutinizing of the videos.
“We were starting at the beginning of January,” she said. “It’s…it’s kind of frightening. He managed to tail her so well. There’s even a couple times when he managed to come right up to the precinct. He was even standing with her in the elevator up here.”
“With a full camera?” Cragen said.
“Probably a small one he had hidden on him somewhere,” George said. “There’s something significant about all these, though. We’ve gone through days of video and they’re all edited.”
“Edited how?” Fin asked arms crossed.
“Edited,” George repeated. “Any time it looked like he was invading her personal space too much, the video cuts and jumps in time.”
“I’m not following,” Cragen said.
“Like this one,” Alexa said, pointing to the screen in front of her. “She just changed into pajamas here and this camera’s set on her bedroom. But, if we roll back a few minutes…she’s back in street clothes. It’s like he was too embarrassed or something to see her without her clothes on.”
“Which is what he’s been proclaiming from the beginning,” George added. “He repeated it more than a dozen times: stalkers are looking at their victims with some kind of sexual gratification in the process. He only wanted to watch her.”
“Is that supposed to be some kind of comfort?” Cragen spat. “He still managed to hook cameras up throughout her house and spy on her for years.”
George shrugged and Cragen, exhausted from days of arguing about the situation, continued. “Pull the tapes from the thirtieth and the thirty-first. Go to the very end of the video. I want to make sure that Morse isn’t just trying to pull something else on us.”
Alexa worked quickly to bring up the desired video and all four watched, mesmerized as Elliot and Olivia fought on the screen as the video clock clicked closer to twelve-thirty.
“That’s the end,” Alexa said.
“What time was that?” Cragen said.
“Pull up the next video.”
“It’s just of her empty apartment,” Alexa said a moment later as she watched the video, but Cragen was already shaking his head at the screen.
“It’s six minutes later,” Fin said. “Just like the bastard said.”
“Why’s six minutes significant?” Alexa asked.
Cragen sighed. “Because it means that only six minutes passed from the time the first tape ends with Elliot tackling Olivia to the time when there’s no one in her apartment. Just six.”
“Wait a minute,” Alexa said. “You…you actually think Stabler’s involved?” Cragen stood silent, but she scoffed. “No way. I mean there’s just no way. I’ve been watching these videos and, I’m telling you, there’s no way.”
“Have you seen something on there that suggests what happened to her?”
“No…but, I have seen Elliot in her apartment after she’s gone. Look.”
Alexa forwarded the video on the screen to show a far more bruised Elliot looking over the disastrous expanse of Olivia’s apartment.
“Look at the concern on his face. He’s worried about where she is. He checks her bedroom, checks her bathroom…peeks out the fire escape. He even notices her keys on the hook. It’s right there on the tape and there’s no way he could’ve known he was being watched.”
The knot in Cragen’s stomach eased slightly. Alexa’s words were comforting even with the small gap in which Olivia had seemingly disappeared. On the screen, Elliot was not seen cleaning up anything or removing anything from the apartment other than what he said he had. If he was not behaving the least bit guilty in the crucial hours after Olivia had gone missing, there was a strong possibility he was not involved in the disappearance at all.
“What about last week?” he said glancing at Fin. “I want to know what happened on Friday.”
Alexa moved quickly about the small station and queued up the videos for Thursday night and Friday morning.
At first the screen before them showed only Olivia’s empty apartment, yet the single video seemed to cut from one angle to another as Alexa scanned through the video.
“They do that a lot,” she said sensing the others were about to inquire about the different angles. “That’s another way we figured out that these have been edited. They usually stop going from angle to angle when she gets in the apartment.”
As the words left Alexa’s mouth, Olivia came through her door on the screen. Alexa slowed the video as Olivia’s leg hit her end table and they watched as Olivia stumbled a few times before falling onto her couch.
After she took one phone call and fell asleep on the sofa, Cragen felt his stomach turn as the camera changed once more, this time into what looked like a hand held in camera from Morse’s own apartment. Morse could be heard rustling and giving the occasional cough from somewhere behind the camera and, by hand, Morse zoomed on Olivia’s sleeping form, wrapped in her blanket.
Cragen was about to ask Alexa to forward through the rest of the night and into the next day, when Olivia’s head popped up from her pillow and her hand reached for the cell phone on her coffee table. He grew concerned from Olivia’s look of unease as she spoke into the phone and took a step toward the screen.
“Do we know who she’s talking to?” he asked.
“We have a pretty good idea,” Alexa said.
“How? Who the hell is it?”
“I think it’s Jeffrey Drover…He’s on this a little later.”
Feeling his eyebrows furrow, Cragen crossed his arms and continued watching the video as Olivia put on her coat and left her apartment.
The camera zoomed out to show the rest of the apartment and then focused on the building’s front door, out of which Olivia nearly tripped as she appeared on the street. Morse’s camera followed her as she shivered in the cold and just as she got to the alley between hers and the neighboring building, all those present saw a flash of hands snatch Olivia toward the alley, her cell phone falling to ground as she was pulled from it.
“What the hell?” Fin said.
“It’s Drover,” Cragen said, softly. “This must be the night he attacked her.”
“But, I didn’t know it went down like this,” Fin hissed as Morse’s camera focuses on the alley and Drover could be clearly seen pinning Olivia against the building.
Cragen opened his mouth to tell Fin that even when Olivia admitted what had happened with Drover, she still left out the specifics, however all his attention returned to the screen.
Morse had zoomed even closer into the alley and the white of Drover’s hand was just barely seen on Olivia’s thigh. The camera faltered for a moment and, after more rustling, looked like it had been set back in its stand where they could make out Olivia and Drover’s shadows in the alley.
A door slammed faintly behind the camera and, as it looked like Drover was beginning to release Olivia less than a minute later, Morse’s blond form was tearing down the street towards the alley.
“That’s just crazy,” Fin said several minutes later, while Olivia slumped into a tearful lump near her door. “I mean, Morse…”
Cragen nodded in his direction and Alexa skimmed through the rest of the night and into the next day for them to see Olivia argue with Jonathan Halloway.
“Slow down,” Cragen said.
They watched the Olivia on the screen turn colours as she screamed back at Jonathan and, as he voiced something to her just above a whisper, she crossed the room and slapped him across the face causing Alexa to jump in her seat.
“I thought you already watched this?” Cragen said. “Why are you so jumpy?”
“I did, but it’s just as bad the second time around as it was the first. I mean…she slapped a Halloway. A Halloway…”
The video continued and by the time Elliot appeared in the apartment, Cragen could feel the same anger that spurred when he watched Morse’s first video return to him. As strong as she was normally, Olivia looked like a complete wreck and he crossed his arms again as he wondered why Elliot could not see how fragile she was as slowly backed across the apartment under Elliot’s tone and glares. He gave an unintentional sigh, however, when Elliot snatched away from Olivia and simply left the apartment without another word.
“Wasn’t as bad as I thought,” he said.
“What did you think had happened?” George asked, his eyes showing slight red against the dark brown.
“Morse made it seem like Elliot first attacked her here, but I don’t see any evidence of that, which makes me wonder about whether or not he’s for real.”
“His running out to Olivia’s rescue on that tape is pretty real,” Fin said. “Drover’s twice his size and Morse could’ve seen that from his window, but he went to her aid anyway.”
“I’m not saying his wonderful feelings aren’t genuine,” Cragen said. “I just think he’s leading us down the wrong road for specific reason.”
“Still, though,” Alexa said shaking her head at the screen. “…a Halloway.”
“You think Halloway’s into something?” Fin said.
Alexa shrugged. “There’s no way to know what he might’ve done…especially after getting slapped like that. That family walks around like they’re plated in gold. It probably did something to his ego for damn sure.”
“Let’s hear it from him,” Cragen said as he turned to leave.
“Halloway,” he said curtly several minutes later as he stood before Jonathan’s resting form in the holding cell.
He looked weathered and subdued from having screamed through the most of the night.
Jonathan slowly turned his head toward Cragen and Fin. “It’s about time you people came to let me out.”
“You’re not going anywhere,” Cragen said.
“Look,” Jonathan said standing. “Up to now, I’ve been nice. I’ve sat quietly waiting for you to pull your heads out of your collective asses to figure out what’s going on and, now, I’m sick of it. Now, when the hell am I getting out of here and when’s her partner being arrested?”
“You should be asking questions about your own arrest,” Fin said.
“You can’t just hold me unlawfully.”
“You attacked an officer,” Cragen said. “Several of them.”
“Oh, that’s bull.”
“A room full of us saw it.”
“Yeah, a room full of cops just trying to railroad me because of my family. You people can’t do this to me.”
Cragen was quickly losing his patience. “You know, Olivia’s one of these ‘you people’ you keep referring to, and if you’re involved-”
“Involved in what!” he shouted stepping directly to the bars.
“With her disappearance!” Cragen yelled. “We just watched a tape of you screaming at her then storming off when she threw you out of her apartment. I want to know when you last talked to her.”
Jonathan took a step backward. “Tape? What tape?”
“Some guy across the way from her has been videotaping her.”
“The guy across the hall?” he asked slightly calmer.
“No, the building across the street,” Cragen said. “What’s special about the guy across the hall?”
“Nothing. He’s just weird…” Jonathan shook his head. “This is great. This is great! There’s a psycho taping her from across the street and you people are here asking me if I’m involved. If I had any idea that the NYPD was this inept, I would’ve demanded that Olivia switch careers.”
“And, I’m sure she would’ve told you where you could shove that demand,” Fin said.
“Why hasn’t this guy been arrested?”
“He’s here, but he’s giving up information freely and we don’t have much to hold him on.”
“You’ve got to be kidding?”
“No,” Cragen said. “Now, Olivia’s apartment was locked from the outside. And, it doesn’t appear that the other guy had a key, but we know you do.”
“And, this is what makes you think I did something to her?”
“Where’s the set she gave you?” Fin asked.
“In my pocket,” he said, fishing them out of his pants pocket. “You people were so quick to throw me in here, you didn’t even bother to frisk me.”
Cragen took the keys and then opened the cell. “Let’s go. Third door on your right.”
“You’re interrogating me now?”
“Yes,” Cragen said. “We’re interrogating you.”
“No way in hell. I’m calling my lawyers.”
“Fine,” Cragen said. “Call out Daddy and Grandpa’s lawyers. Meanwhile, we sit and wait to get your side of the story before we can move on and that can be minutes…hours wasted as we’re trying to find her.”
“I don’t need my father’s lawyers.” Jonathan glared at him, but brushed past him and headed towards the room. “This is absolutely ridiculous, but let’s get this over with.”
“What’s been going with you and Liv?” Fin asked as they all sat at the single table in the room.
“This is what you want to know?”
“It’s relevant,” Cragen said. “So, you can drop the attitude. We work with Olivia and we know what she’s like when she’s talking to you. Half the time it sounds like you’re fighting.”
Jonathan shrugged. “Doesn’t mean I didn’t love her.”
“So,” Fin said, “you probably got a little pissed that someone you loved spent all her time on the job, surrounded by other men.”
“Didn’t bother me,” he said and Fin and Cragen glanced at one another.
“C’mon,” Cragen said. “There’s a lot of cops who work out every day and have had their eyes on Olivia since she first walked through the door.”
“You’re trying to bait me, but it’s not working.”
“No one’s trying to bait you,” Fin said. “We’re just making an observation. You say you’re not bothered by Olivia being around a bunch of cops all day and, I want to believe you, but you’re never here. You don’t see how many times a day she gets hit on…by people who already know she’s with a pretty boy, rich kid like you.”
Cragen moved his chair closer to Jonathan who was now silently shaking his head at the table. “We all know what it’s like. Who wouldn’t want their woman at home barefoot and pregnant? Yours was running around like a man as a cop and calling you telling you that she can’t make it to dinner. It’s ridiculous. She should’ve been the one making dinner for you.”
“No, that’s bullshit because I’m not like that. I love that Liv has a job she loves and, until last week, every time someone mentioned the cops, I’d get happy because I was with one. I’m not like that.”
“And, all this time,” Cragen continued, knowing he had hit a nerve. “She spends nearly every part of her day with a tall, muscular guy, who…well, we’ve all seen the looks and we’ve all heard the rumors.”
“Look,” Jonathan said, nearly yelling. “I don’t know where she is, but if there’s anybody who does, it’s him. So, why don’t you people quit running these games on me and find her!”
“Everything’s pointing at you,” Fin said. “The jealous boyfriend.”
“Jealous of who!” Jonathan yelled. “Her partner? Oh, screw that! There’s no way in hell I’m jealous of anybody, especially him!”
“You came in here raving that Elliot must’ve done something to her,” Cragen said. “The moment you saw him, you were throwing threats and you were ready to jump him. All you knew was Olivia was missing and the first person who looked to was Elliot. Why?”
Jonathan pursed his lips and shook his head.
“C’mon,” Fin said. “You say you weren’t jealous of him, so what’s the deal, then?”
A moment of silence passed over the room and finally Jonathan spoke in a low, punctuated voice. “I know they’ve argued. A lot. Doesn’t it seem plausible to suspect someone she’s been arguing with if she’s missing?”
“Possibly,” Fin said, “but it’s also plausible to suspect the jilted lover.”
Jonathan whipped his head toward Fin. “Who’s jilted? We had an argument. That’s all. We probably would’ve made up by now if it wasn’t for the goddamn partner. No one’s jilted.”
“That’s not what we saw,” Fin said. “Remember, we’ve got tapes from her apartment. That smack to the face looked like more than an argument to me. So, what’s your real reason for suspecting Elliot?”
“You don’t understand…I only saw her, like, two or three times a week and the first thing out of her mouth was something about him.”
“They spent a lot of time together,” Cragen said with a sarcastic undertone caught only by Fin.
“I know. And every time I saw him, he was always…standing too close to her or looking at her…” Jonathan sighed and pushed away from the table. “You know, this doesn’t even matter. If you don’t think her partner’s involved, what are you people doing to find her?”
Cragen and Fin looked at one another, unable to provide an immediate answer. With not even the slightest glimmer of a suspect, they were out of leads on the case and Morse’s possible video was hanging over their heads as ticked nearer.
“You don’t have anything…do you!” Jonathan yelled with his face was suddenly streaked with tears. “How can you sit there like that? Why aren’t you even remotely upset!”
Cragen stood. “If there’s anyone upset about Olivia’s disappearance, it’s the cops in this unit. We’ve worked side by side with her years and we know and care about her more than you ever could. You’re free to leave, now. We won’t be filing any assault charges, as long as you behave yourself.”
“I’m not leaving!” Jonathan shouted as he stood. “I want to be here watching over your shoulder while you mess around instead of giving everything to find her!”
Without answering, Cragen turned to leave and Jonathan flipped the table to cross the room in half a step. He had both arms around Cragen a moment later and Fin jumped toward the pair to pry Jonathan off of the captain. By the time Cragen regained his footing, Fin had handcuffed and wrestled a screaming Jonathan to the ground.
“Now…,” Cragen said out of breath. “Now, we are pressing charges. Take him back to the cell.”
Fin dragged Jonathan down the corridor toward the holding cell, his prisoner yelling every step of the way.
Cragen stared at the clock on the far wall as he walked pass Morse’s interrogation room. He stepped inside a moment and saw Morse lightly tapping his head against the wall and moaning to himself. He sighed, leaving the room and walking toward his office to arrange his phone properly, resigning to the fact that he would most likely be spending the majority of the day on the phone once Morse’s video hit the Internet.
He pulled out the cot that stood in the corner of his office and managed to sleep for a few hours until pounding on the door roused him.
“Yes?” he said softly to the tall, thin black man holding a briefcase in his doorway.
“Captain Cragen,” the man said shaking hands with Cragen. “Reginald Torvant. I am lead council for Mr. Jonathan Halloway.”
“Lead council,” Cragen said. “I expected you to be here earlier.”
“We’ll get to that later. Right now, I want to know why my client is still sitting in one of your holding cells.”
“He attacked multiple officers.”
“Then, he should have been charged and arraigned, but instead I received a trickle-down phone call from one of his secretaries who eventually notified me that he was here. What can we do to get Mr. Halloway out of that cell as soon as possible?”
“Fine, we’ll charge him. He’s been a pain in the ass since he walked off the elevators.”
“No,” Jonathan said in the cell a few minutes later. “I’m not leaving.”
“Jonathan,” Torvant said. “We can’t just leave you in this holding cell.”
“No,” he repeated. “I don’t want to be arraigned because I want to stay right here.”
Cragen sighed. “You can’t stay here. Your attorney’s here to take you back to your palace.”
“I want to stay!” Jonathan yelled. “If I’m here, I see everything their doing, or not doing about Olivia. I don’t want to leave.”
Torvant gave Cragen an exasperated look and pulled him away from the cell.
“What can we do?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Cragen said. “You can take your client and you can go.”
“Why don’t you just do us all a favor and drop these charges?”
“He attacked me and he attacked other officers. We can’t just let it go.”
“He’s emotionally distraught. All he talks about for the past year is this woman and, now, she’s missing. We’ve all been there and we can all sympathize. What can you do for us?”
“I don’t care what you do with him, but he’s not staying here. I’ll drop the charges, but you do whatever you can to keep him away from here and away from my detectives.”
“Done,” Torvant said and turned back to Jonathan as Cragen opened the cell. “Jonathan, we’re going.”
“I’m not leaving,” Jonathan said. “Not until I know they’ve got something on Olivia.”
“They know who you are and what you want,” Torvant said in a very pacifying voice. “They’ll notify you if they get any word on her.”
Jonathan glared at Cragen for a full minute before striding out of the cell. “Today, I am calling my father and grandfather and I’ll be sure to let them know how poorly this case is being handled. I want results, Captain.”
Before Cragen could respond, Jonathan had brushed past him and was walking toward the elevators. Torvant gave Cragen a sympathetic shrug and followed.
As the elevator doors closed on Jonathan and his attorney, Cragen walked back to his office thinking about Morse and wondered whether or not his threat was real. The moment he sat down on his desk, with Morse’s name readily on his mind, the telephone on his desk sprang to life with his superior, Deputy Inspector Felton, on the other line.
“This should be handled by Missing Persons,” Felton reiterated. “They at least need to be leading the case.”
“Not a chance,” Cragen said. “She’s my detective and we’re all taking her case.”
“Don, I understand that
“She’s been missing for five days,” Cragen said.
“And, we have reason to suspect foul play. I can’t believe you’re even
entertaining the possibility of
“You’re all too close to the situation and I think it should be handled by a different-”
“This is ludicrous,” Cragen said nearly shouting. “Our detective is missing and you’re telling us to pull off.”
Felton sighed. “We recovered the
Cragen paused. “He gave an explanation for that.”
“And, I’m sure he did, but this report was drafted two days ago and it’s just now surfaced. I’m also sure I don’t have to tell you that withholding this information is the kind of violation that breaks careers and cuts pensions.” Cragen opened his mouth to retort, but Felton continued. “Now, considering the severity of what’s in the report, I’d rather the media not get a hold of this information until we can get a thorough, independent investigation conducted.”
“We don’t need an independent investigation,” Cragen said. “I kept that under wraps because I have faith in my detective and I didn’t want that blown out of proportion by the media. We don’t need Missing Persons.”
“Well, I’m telling you, you do,” Felton said now raising his voice. “I’ve also been called about a video that’s been circulating the Internet. Computer Crimes brought it to my attention this morning….Don, the goddamn video shows Stabler…he’s attacking her over the course of several minutes before it goes to snow and tells the viewer that they can make up their minds over what happened.”
Cragen sat speechless, unable to move.
“And,” Felton continued. “I heard it on a good authority that you could’ve stopped this video from leaking.”
“The guy who brought that tape to our attention is certifiable, Inspector. He’s still here and he’s about three cards short of a full deck, if you know what I mean. We had no reason to believe that he was reliable.”
“Regardless,” Felton snapped. “I don’t want Elliot
Stabler anywhere near this case while the investigation continues. And, I’m telling
you, Missing Persons will be let into the investigation. I’m already up to my
ass with calls with this and, I am, at the very least, displeased by the
Felton ended the call, leaving Cragen to allow the words to float in the air around him.
“Cap,” Fin said sticking his head into the office minutes later. “Casey and the Morse family attorney are here.”
Cragen sighed and straightened his suspenders a bit before following Fin out the door.
“Gentlemen,” a broad, pale man with black eyes said as Cragen and Fin approached the interrogation room where Morse had been held. “My name is Chalse Greyson and I’m here to take Mr. Morse home to his family.”
Cragen scoffed and glanced at Casey. “Like hell you are. He’s in it as deep as anyone can get. If anything he’s headed for a cell at Rikers.”
“For what?” Greyson said with a haughty air to his voice. “Some alleged peeping? Nonsense.”
“Peeping?” Casey said, indignant. “He’s got years of videos of the woman across the way from him. He’s looking at a lot more than just peeping.”
“Regardless of that,” Greyson continued, “Mr. Morse is ill and needs his rest.”
“He seems just fine to me,” Cragen said. “We’ve fed him any time he says he’s hungry and he doesn’t seem to want to sleep or leave.”
He intentionally left out the idea that they all knew Morse was their only key to finding Olivia to keep Greyson from trying to buy some leverage. “We’re charging him with a bare minimum of voyeurism, which he’s already admitted to.”
Greyson laughed. “It’s a frivolous charge and we all know it won’t stand.”
“But stalking is still a crime,” Casey said. “We’ve got evidence that he’s been doing it for a while. Morse was also spying on the everyday actions of a police officer, which in this day and age, can be seen as conspiracy and terrorism.”
“Young lady, you’re dreaming,” Greyson said. “If you think you can pass that off on any judge who isn’t on his third brandy of the night, you might be in the wrong profession. Now, I’ll collect Mr. Morse so that he can be arraigned and brought home to his family since you people have nearly destroyed his apartment.”
“Now, you’re dreaming if you think he’s going to be arraigned today,” Cragen said. “He’s going to have to sit in a cell with all the other common criminals until Monday.”
Greyson grinned at the captain. “My dear captain. You’re not speaking to some two-bit legal aid attorney who’s defending some miscreant who couldn’t drum up two nickels for council. I’ve been keeping the Morses out of trouble since before you could even spell attorney and the benefit of that, is knowing people in high places. Mr. Morse will be arraigned today and, the sooner I can get to him, the sooner we can leave this retched place.”
Cragen, Fin and Casey glanced at one another as Greyson stood with an arrogant smile on his face. Fin led the way into the interrogation room and they found Morse huddled in the corner with his knees pulled to his chest.
“Can’t believe it,” Morse whispered to himself as he slightly rocked. “Stupid, stupid, stupid. How could I let it happen…stupid, stupid, stupid…you stupid fucking douche loser…who the hell runs out of room…”
“Harry?” Greyson said. “It’s Mr. Greyson. I’m here to take you out of here.”
Morse shook his head repeatedly and he rocked in the corner. “Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter at all now. I haven’t seen her in days and she’s gone and he’s killed her and, now, I’ve got nothing. What am I gonna do?”
“You’re going to get up from there,” Greyson said as if speaking to a small child, “and you’re going to come with me. You’re not going to spend another minute in this place.”
“She’s gone,” Morse repeated, still rocking. “What am I gonna do? He’s killed her and she’s gone. How’m I supposed to go on?”
Greyson turned toward the others. “Well, I think this sounds like the ramblings of someone who isn’t quite well.” He turned back to Morse. “Come Harry. We’re leaving right now.”
Morse put his head in his hands and rocked three times before rising quickly and followed Greyson out of the room.
“Think you’ll get remand?” Fin asked Casey as the elevator doors closed on Morse and Greyson.
Casey shook her head. “Not a chance. I’ll be lucky if I can get any bail at all, but at least this way there’s a formal charge on him and we get a look at anything related to Morse or any of his relatives. If he’s done something to Olivia, we’ll know about it.”
“What about his crazy act just now?” Cragen asked. “I’ll admit he’s been deteriorating all weekend, but this is the worse I’ve seen him.”
“There’s no way to know. It might not be an act.
Didn’t Elliot find that he was holed up in
Cragen nodded, but his eyes noticeably fell to the floor.
“And, speaking of Elliot,” Casey continued. “I was able to catch a glimpse of that video today…Tell me this isn’t as bad as it looks.”
“It’s worse,” Fin said.
“But, he had an explanation, didn’t he?” Casey asked, her eyes reflecting the severe exasperation her voice would not betray.
Silence hung between them and Fin took the moment to check on Alexa before Cragen decided to speak.
“Elliot just said that the video doesn’t show him leaving her in the apartment perfectly fine. So, we’re left with either taking Morse’s video at face value or taking Elliot at his word, which troubles me because I don’t trust Morse, but Elliot’s actions have been saying a lot more than his words lately.”
She stared at him for a long time before speaking again. “Do you think you’re ready if we have to make an arrest?”
“It…uh…we don’t know just yet.”
“So, we’re delaying justice because he’s her partner? And, just when I thought we’d broken down the blue wall…”
“You actually want to make an arrest?”
“Don…If I had my way, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. If I had my way, I’d be inviting Liv out for a drink right now while we bitch about the justice system. But, we have to face facts. I’m sure you’re already getting it from your superiors, too. Elliot attacked her last Tuesday and now she’s nowhere to be found and there’s a video floating around the Internet, polluting any potential jury pool if it comes to that. Don…the public outrage from this is going to mount on top of the evidence and…there’s going to have to be an arrest.”
“The evidence isn’t as strong against him as it may seem at first.”
“It isn’t as light either.”
“Casey, we just watched him on some more of Morse’s tapes. He was going through Olivia’s apartment and was worried about her. Just based on that, I say he’s still just rattled.”
“But, why didn’t he say anything about what happened earlier? He could’ve saved us all a lot of time, but he kept quiet until the video surfaced.”
“Maybe that’s something you should prepare to ask him on cross during his trial,” Cragen said as he prepared to storm away from her.
“You do what you feel you have to do.”
“Don, if there’s going to be an arrest, you’re going to be the ones to do it. Look, I don’t want to arrest Elliot any more than you do, but if this is pushed…I have superior orders to follow just like you do.”
Cragen stared at her for a long time before finally sighing. “If you have to arrest…what are you charging him with?”
“I know Branch will want Murder Two, but I wouldn’t go for anything higher than Man Two.”
“Olivia’s not dead.”
“I’m praying the same as you.”
“He didn’t kill her. I know he didn’t.”
“Fine,” Casey said. “Find me some proof before I get the call and this’ll all be water under the bridge.”
“Yeah,” was all Cragen could utter as he walked back to his office to contemplate both the possible burial of one of his detectives and the murder conviction of another.
When Elliot first stepped into his apartment after spending the morning with his family, he felt fresh, rejuvenated and ready to tackle anything, yet the moment he entered his bathroom and faced the harsh bathroom light, the mild happiness seemed sapped from him and depression overwhelmed once again.
Lying on his couch, with “Lately” playing softly on his radio in the background, Elliot racked his brain for anything that might give him some kind of insight on who could have taken her.
If it was Morse, he would’ve cracked by now. There was no telling if Jonathan had anything to do with it. That smug bastard had the means to pull off something like this just because she bruised his ego…What was I thinking? I didn’t know I could even get that angry. How could I’ve done that? She was my partner. No. She is my partner.
As Morse’s video played through his head again and again, Elliot wondered if Cragen and the others had made up their minds about him. While Fin still seemed undecided, Cragen and Munch looked like they believed Elliot had probably killed her and buried her in the basement of his building and, since he had been demanded off of Olivia’s case, he held no recourse to clear himself.
He felt his stomach burn worse than ever, but could think of nothing to stem the pain. Had this been occurring at any other time, with any other person, at the very least, he knew he would have Olivia by his side to commiserate. Now, however, he had no one.
The telephone rang behind him, but he allowed it to ring into his voicemail. After it rang for the third time in four minutes, he groaned and reached to answer it.
“Yes,” he said solemnly.
“Elliot? It’s me.”
“Diana…How’ve you…uh…how’ve you been?”
She sighed on the other end of the phone. “Fine, I guess. But, I was more worried about you. I saw on the news a woman from Special Victims is missing and I wondered if it was your partner.”
“Elliot, I…” She paused and Elliot put a hand to his forehead wanting nothing more than to hang up on her. “I don’t know what to say. I mean…do you know anything? Is there anyone to talk to?”
“If there was, we’d already be talking to them.”
“What do you want Diana?” He had not meant it to come across so harshly, but the pain in his stomach and increasing ache in his temples had robbed him of what little patience he held.
“I just…I just wanted to know if you needed someone. Someone to maybe alibi you.”
“Alibi me? For what?”
She sighed again. “Elliot…there’s this video. My son told me about it. He’s always wasting time on those video-sharing websites and I keep telling him-”
“What about the video?”
“Well,” she said after a minute’s silence. “It’s of you…and your partner. You’re fighting and it makes it seem like you did something to her. So, I wanted to tell you if you needed an alibi or something…I’m here.”
Elliot sat silent for a moment not sure where to begin, shocked that Morse had been serious about the video.
“Elliot? Are you still there?”
“I’m here…Diana, I don’t need an alibi.”
“Elliot, I know you want to push people away, but now is not the time to do this.”
“No, you don’t understand. I didn’t do anything to her. We knew about that video and I’ve already explained everything to my captain.”
“But, I don’t think you’ve sat down watched this thing, Elliot. It makes it look like you killed her and it was caught on camera. And, now she’s missing. You need an alibi to keep you out of trouble.”
“Diana, I already told you, I don’t need an alibi. I didn’t do anything…”
He wanted to say that he had not done anything “wrong,” but he could not force the lie. If putting his hands on a woman was not wrong, he did not know what was.
“If you don’t need an alibi, how come you’re home instead at the precinct trying to find out where she is?”
“I know, I know. You don’t need an alibi…yet. Just, please…please, come to me if you need help.”
“Diana, I wouldn’t be able to talk to you about the case.”
“It doesn’t matter. I just want to help you.”
Elliot sighed, frustrated with the conversation from its start. “I’m fine, Diana. I don’t need an alibi and I’ll be fine. But…thanks for calling to see how I was.”
“Okay,” she said quickly. “I guess, I’ll just talk to you later?”
He hung up the phone without waiting to hear if she had anything else to say. Sunlight peered through the blinds, highlighting his eyes and he wondered how little it might take to throw him into a complete depression.
Instead of lying on the couch to wallow in depths of his own sorrows, Elliot grabbed his keys and coat and headed for the door, knowing that only the long drive to Bryce’s could raise his spirits at this point.
When he got to his brother’s house, however, Elliot found himself deflated at Bryce’s insistence that Elliot make preparations to become a defendant.
“There’s Gordy with IAB,” Bryce said as he and Elliot sat at his kitchen table. “I know for the most part, they’re all rats, but Gordy’s a good guy.”
“I don’t need a lawyer, Bryce.”
“Elliot! Are you kidding me? Your partner’s missing and there’s some video of you rolling on the floor with her floating around and you’re telling me you don’t need a lawyer. C’mon! I know you want to stay positive, but you still need to stay realistic.”
Elliot sighed. “If I get a lawyer now, it’ll look like I’m trying to hide something and I haven’t got anything to hide.”
“You know that and I know that,” Bryce said. “But, what about all those people who don’t know you and are just going to go off the evidence?”
“What evidence, Bryce! We don’t even know where she is!”
“Exactly and, for all intents and purposes, you were the last person to see her and you’re gonna need a good lawyer to prove the negative. You need to be prepared for what’s coming.”
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Elliot said as he shook his head.
“Well, it is and, as much as you need to focus on finding out what happened to her, you need to still look out for yourself. You need to make sure your ass doesn’t end up in a cell with all the real criminals.”
Elliot left his brother’s home an hour later and was preparing himself for a long drive to ease his whirring mind when his cell phone rang from his coat pocket.
“Stabler,” he said, but could hear someone yelling at a distance from the other end of the phone.
“You have to call him again! Mom! Call him again! You have to talk to him!”
“Elliot?” Kathy’s voice said, strained and with someone still yelling the background.
“Kathy, what’s wrong?”
“Is that him? Is he there?…Yes, just a second…Elliot, Kathleen…she just saw this video…I’m talking to him, Kathleen…Okay…Elliot, hold on a second.”
He heard shuffling on the phone and then his daughter’s frantic voice.
“Kathleen. What’s wrong?”
“Daddy, how could you?”
“How could I what?”
“You…you hurt her! Dad, it’s on MySpace. Three people sent it to me! You’re rolling on the floor with her and then it cuts out and now she’s gone. Dad…How could you?”
Elliot sighed as Kathleen cried on the phone. “Kathleen…I know what you saw on the video and I know it looks bad, but…I didn’t hurt her.”
“Dad, it’s on the video. It’s on the video!”
“I know, Kathleen, but you have to trust me.”
“Was it about the pills?” she said still crying. “Dad, I told you, I’m sorry I kept it from you and Mom, but that wasn’t her fault.”
“Kathleen,” he said calmly. “Olivia and I had an argument that got a little out of control. But, you have to trust Dad. Okay? I didn’t hurt her and no one else thinks I hurt her except for the guy who made that video. I promise you. We’re all looking for her and we’ll find her.”
She sniffed into the phone. “Dad, I just…I just…”
“I’m coming over,” he said. “I’m coming right now.”
Kathleen nearly knocked him over as he entered the house and was crying in his arms for a full minute before separating from him. Kathy stood on the other end of the room with her arms crossed and shaking her head. She ushered Lizzie, who was on the phone in the other room and poking her head into the living room, upstairs and told Dickie to remain in his room as well.
“It’s okay, Kathleen,” he said into her hair. “I promise, it’ll be okay.”
An hour had passed before he was finally able to calm her and, after she decided that she just wanted to go to sleep, he sat with Kathy trying to gather his thoughts.
“What do you think is going to happen?” she asked, breaking the silence.
“I don’t know. Bryce is already arranging an attorney for me.”
“El…They’re not going to arrest you. This is Olivia. They know you couldn’t have done something to her.”
“I’m glad you think so because it doesn’t look like anyone else does.”
“I mean, I saw what was on that video, El and the two of you looked like…”
“I gotta…um…” He paused as he stood quickly. “I gotta go, Kath. I’ll talk to you later.”
She neither moved nor said anything as he left the house and Elliot was grateful. Even though he had explained most of his actions in Morse’s video at length, he was nowhere near prepared enough to discuss all of what happened with Kathy.
“No, that doesn’t really help us, Mrs. Owens, but thanks for calling.”
Munch took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He had tried to sleep into the morning, but only tossed and turned in his bed. Deciding instead to make himself useful by taking calls on Olivia’s case, he realized he had made a mistake after the second call.
Aside from the crazies who just wanted a chance to contact the police, the perverts who wanted to know Olivia’s phone number in case they found her and the seemingly distant Benson relatives who were now calling in from all over the country, Munch could only sigh after his last call with an elderly woman who claimed that Olivia looked identical to her daughter who had died years earlier.
“Don, go home,” he said to Cragen as he came out of his office looking like he spent the night awake in the precinct.
“There’s no point. I can’t sleep when I’m getting calls every other second from the higher-ups. How are the phones?”
“Absolutely nothing, but Liv will be happy to know that she’s apparently got six cousins, three aunts and a grandmother scattered around the country.”
Cragen frowned. “There might be. You know her history.”
“No,” Munch said shaking his head with a sleepy grin on his face. “These are all Bensons. Just crazies trying to get their fifteen minutes. I noticed Halloway’s gone. When’d you cut him loose?”
“When his lawyer showed up, but after he jumped me when I told him we were doing what we could.”
“We are,” Munch said. “If he wanted to help, he should get his rich ass in here and answer some phone calls.”
Cragen shook his head. “I don’t want him in here. Elliot’ll be back in tomorrow to work on the rest of our caseload and this is already turning into circus without Halloway and his cronies in here causing even more drama.”
“And speaking of drama,” Munch said, picking up a stack of paper. “Today’s lucky number is sixty-three for the number of times Evelyn Rivers has called asking about Olivia.”
“Does she have any information?”
“Even if she did, I wouldn’t’ve been able to get it out of her. Half the time when she called she was screaming something about Diorel into the phone and the other half, she was crying. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of anything she said.”
“She probably thinks Diorel’s involved,” Cragen said. “But, he was definitely sitting in a cell by the time she disappeared.”
“What about this video though? I mean, if Morse is right, that means something happened to her minutes after Stabler had left.”
“Not even six minutes. It was six minutes when Morse got his cameras set back up. It was probably more like four or five minutes.”
“I mean, how the hell could she disappear into the night in less than five minutes and Elliot not see what happened? It’s impossible, it’s-”
“I know, John. I know. But, Elliot says he’s not involved and my gut tells me he’s telling the truth.”
“Cap,” Munch said softly. “You saw what I saw. He attacked her.”
“No,” Cragen said crossing his arms. “He just jumped on top of her. If he was really out of it enough to actually murder her and hide her body, he would’ve been doing a lot more than just feeling her up for those keys.”
“And, meanwhile, no one’s even driven by his apartment…just in case.”
Cragen stared at him for a long time, the sound of phones chirping in the background. “You said you didn’t want to rat on him.”
“That was before I saw what he did to her. If something happened in that apartment in less than five minutes, there’s no way I’m going to be able think straight until we at least take a peek in his apartment.”
“John…You’ve been looking at too many conspiracy theories. This is Elliot we’re talking about here. Elliot Stabler. A cop with a good head on his shoulders and a family. There’s no way he could orchestrate something like you’re suggesting.”
“Why not?” Munch said. “We’ve seen doctors implant someone else’s blood in their arms to avoid capture. If the fight went down like it did and, she said or did something to get the rage flying, there’s no telling what he would do if he panicked.”
“But for this long? There’s just no way. If he’d had her holed up somewhere why even bother going into her apartment. You should go through those tapes with Brown and you’ll see. He’s in her apartment the day after, looking for her. There’s no way he’s involved.”
“You keep saying that, but wouldn’t you like to have the peace of mind of knowing for certain she’s not just lying somewhere waiting for help.”
“I’d rather Olivia be somewhere calling out for help than lying somewhere dead.”
“Me too. Either way, we’re out of possible suspects and Elliot’s the only person we haven’t followed up with. Before Fin left to get some sleep, he checked up on Halloway and he’s clean. Morse has been here this whole time. We tracked down Drover, Kreider…We’ve talked to friends, neighbors, everybody. He’s the only one left to check.”
Cragen rubbed a hand over his face. “And, what do we do, if we spy on Elliot and he’s clean too?”
“Then, we sigh in relief and keep searching. She couldn’t’ve just vanished into thin air. She’s somewhere, Cap, and we’ll find her. I just want to make sure we’ve looked into everything, before we start to grasp at the straws we’ve got left.”
Cragen nodded, but still his mouth still held a frown. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Maya Shah standing in the precinct speaking to another detective, but pointing to Olivia’s empty desk with tears in her eyes.
“Ms. Shah,” he said approaching her.
She turned toward him and he could see her eyes looked nearly hazel from the spray of red across the whites of her eyes.
“You…you can just call me Maya,” she said.
He ushered her toward his office and Munch sat next to her as she wiped her eyes in front of Cragen’s desk.
“I just…I just came back because I wanted to know how the case was coming. I mean, no one’s called me or said anything about what’s going on and Livia’s always left me in charge of her things when she’s been gone, so I figured I would come back in because, like I said, no one’s called and I’m really, really worried about her and I just wanted to know how the case is coming because I haven’t seen her and no one’s seen her and I’m hearing all these things and…and…”
She finally took a breath as a sob caught in her throat and Cragen handed her his silk handkerchief.
“Thanks,” she said smiling weakly.
“Maya,” Cragen said as stern and sincere as he could manage at the same time. “We’re talking to everyone in Olivia’s life. If you have any information, anything at all, we need to know. Even if it seems small and trivial, we need to know.”
“Is there anything that you might not have told us yet that could help us figure out what happened to Olivia.
Maya pursed her lips and nodded. “I…I talked to Livia that night.”
“Okay,” Cragen said. “What time?”
“I called her ‘bout…maybe nine-thirty?”
“Are you sure,” Munch said. “You need to be sure of the time.”
“I…I don’t know. It was kind of late…Nine-thirty…maybe closer to ten?”
“All right, what did you talk about?” Munch asked.
“Nothing. J-just stuff.”
“Stuff?” Munch said raising his voice in frustration. Maya was proving to be far less helpful than he was wanting and he knew time was pressing. “What kind of stuff? You need to be specific?”
Maya started breathing hard as tears formed in her eyes once more. “I don’t know! Just…stuff. Things we always talked about. Our other friends, me not working, her job, Jonathan, her partner…”
Maya’s voiced trailed and she began to shake as the tears which had been threatening began to fall.
“What is it?” Cragen asked.
“Livia…we just talked.”
“What were you going to say?” Munch asked trying to regain serenity in his voice.
Maya sniffed and ran her fingers through her hair.
“Livia was…” Maya took a deep breath.
“What?” Munch said impatiently.
Maya started to hyperventilate, but closed her eyes and took another deep breath. “She said she was scared.”
“Of what?” Cragen asked, his voice now filled with Munch’s same impatience. “Of who?”
Maya put her forehead in her palm and started to cry.
“Maya, please,” Munch said, this time calmer, as if speaking to a rape victim. “We need to know what you and Olivia talked about.”
She raised her head, her face now completely tear-streaked. She could not look either detective in the eye, feeling that if she did, the tears would just continue spilling over her face.
“Livia said…” She spoke slowly and hesitated. “…that she was scared about what her partner was gonna do once he found out that she took some file.”
Munch and Cragen took a glance at one another.
Cragen spoke first. “You’re telling me Olivia told she was afraid of Elliot?”
“Ye…N-no,” she said crying again. “I mean she wasn’t afraid of Elliot. It’s...it’s just that this case she was on…She said she took this file. She took it because Elliot was…I don’t know…going about the case wrong or something.”
Both officers were silent and Maya’s eyes grew wide. She started breathing harder, fearing that she had said too much. “But, I know Livia…and Elliot. I mean she said she was scared, but it was like a figure of speech or something. I mean she wasn’t actually scared, you know-”
“Maya,” Cragen said. “We need to know exactly what was said. As it stands right now, you were one of the last people to talk to Olivia before she disappeared.”
“What about Elliot?”
Cragen and Munch shared glances again and Maya continued. “I mean I…I saw part of that video. It was on YouTube. Fucking YouTube. Some stupid site for people with nothing better to do with their time. It wasn’t even on the news.”
“So, you understand why we need you to be honest and specific,” Munch said.
“Look,” Maya said, trying to regain composure. “I know what she said that night, but she didn’t really mean it. Okay, yes, she did say that she was scared of what Elliot was gonna do when he found out about that file, but she didn’t mean it like she was scared for her life or something! She said it…like joking or some crap! Okay? I know both of them and I know he wouldn’t actually hurt her and I know for damn sure that she wouldn’t go out without a fight. I mean, if he really did try to hurt her, he wouldn’t be standing, okay? There’s just no way!”
Cragen nodded at Maya, not in agreement, but with a finality of the questioning. Munch sat back in his chair and sighed. Maya was now crying again and she continued looking between the officers in front of her.
“Please,” she said. “Look, I know it sounds bad for Elliot, but he…he’s a good guy. Whatever was happening on that video…I don’t know what was up, but I’m telling you, regardless of what Livia said to me, he wouldn’t have really hurt her. I mean, what does Elliot have to say about it?”
“Detective Stabler is saying just what you’re telling us,” Cragen said.
Maya sniffed and gave a tearful smile while nodding. “See…he…we…I…” She paused, trying to find the right words. “Look, I know that something happened to her, but I’m telling you, Elliot didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“You do realize that your statement says otherwise?” Munch said.
“Yeah…okay, yeah. But, I’ve known Olivia Benson for over thirty years. If there’s anyone who knows her, it’s me and, I’m telling you, if she really thought that her life was in danger because of Elliot, she wouldn’t have just calmly said it on the phone…she’d have had her gun out and she’d be meeting him head on. Okay? I told you what we talked about on Tuesday because it was the truth, but I promise you, it’s not what it sounds like.”
Cragen ran a hand over his head. “Well, it’s comforting to hear that you believe that so vehemently, especially considering what’s on that video.”
Maya nodded and Munch stood to leave as he looked out the office window. “They’re trying to flag me down out there. I’ll be back.”
“I guess I should go too,” Maya said and Cragen stood as well.
“One sec,” he said and Maya paused.
Video or not, testimonial notwithstanding, he needed to know who was telling the truth.
“Did Olivia…” he began and then sighed, not really wanting to know the answer.
“Yes?” Maya said looking up at him expectantly with wet eyes.
“Did she have a miscarriage a couple years ago?”
Maya gaped at him. “How did you…? Yeah…um…The only thing she kept saying was ‘Don’t tell Elliot. Don’t tell Elliot.’ She never did tell me why. I didn’t think she was going to keep it because the father was this guy she barely liked, but she did. I went to the ultrasound with her and everything and then one night, she just shows up at my apartment crying…She didn’t really elaborate, but she’d lost it. Why? What would that have anything to do with this?”
“I just need to corroborate something that was told to us.”
“About Livia? Well, if they knew that you should probably trust them. As far as I knew, she only told me about it. But…if you need anything, anything at all…Please let me know. I’ll give you everything you need to find her.”
Cragen sighed deeply and guided Maya out of the office.
“Did she have anything else to add?” Munch said once Maya had left.
“Just another confirmation about what Morse has been telling us.”
“We need to at least talk to Elliot, but someone definitely needs to go over there. I don’t want to think it, but if we find her…and we didn’t even look at him. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to live with myself.”
Cragen opened his mouth to respond, but saw a flash of red hair from the corner of his eye. Casey walked with a grim face toward him. She held something long in her hand and he felt his heart stop for a moment.
“It’s Casey,” he said as Munch turned toward his line of sight. “You and Fin…In fact, all three of us need to go.”
“To pick up Stabler.”
“We’re making this official? We’re really arresting him?”
“We arrest,” he began as Casey stared him, “who the DAs tell us to arrest…”
Elliot sighed as he parked his car a block away from his building and rested his forehead on the steering wheel.
He had taken a long drive around the city and spent close to thirty dollars on toll fees alone just trying to clear his mind while attempting make sense of the past week at the same time. The visit with his brother had not put an ease to his anxiety like he hoped it would; rather, Bryce worsened it and trying to comfort his crying daughter had not helped either.
Elliot sighed as he got out of the car, suppressing a shiver as a blast of cold evening air hit him with full force. As he walked down the street, Munch stepped out from a car parked directly in front of the building.
“Have you been waiting for me?” he asked.
“How long have you been out here?”
“What’s going on? Have we found anything yet?”
“Elliot…,” Munch said.
“Why? What do you have to tell me?” Fear raced through him as disjointed thoughts ran through his mind.
They found her. She’s dead. Why didn’t they call me? Maybe she’s being held ransom. Maybe it’s somebody coming back against us. Who could that be? Why would someone want to hurt her? Why is he looking at me like that?
He squinted at Munch who stood stoic in front of him. From the corner of his eye, he saw Cragen and Fin step out of the same car, both looking beyond solemn.
“What’s going on?” he pressed.
“It’s just the three of us,” Munch said, “and we’ll make this as quiet as possible, but…”
Munch fell silent and Elliot slowly nodded as the tightening in his chest expanded ten-fold with the understanding of what his commanding officer and colleagues were there to do.
“Why would I do something to her?” he said. “Huh? I wouldn’t have just-”
“Just what Elliot?” Munch said. “Morse’s video cuts out for six minutes. Six minutes between the time you were seen with your arms around her throat and the time she disappeared and those six minutes don’t leave us with many options.”
“I don’t care how long it was,” Elliot said taking a step closer to him. “It could’ve been six minutes; it could’ve been six seconds. I don’t care. I did not hurt Olivia! When I left her apartment, she was standing in the middle of her living room, perfectly fine.”
“And, I’m sure when we find her, she’ll say the same.”
“John, I didn’t…,” he began.
“We know,” Munch said, “but this is coming from higher up than any of us.”
The wind blew snow in several directions in the duration of the short silence that followed, but Elliot refused to move. A series of impetuous thoughts coursed through his mind as he imagined scenarios that all ended with his gun firing in the directions of men he had known for years.
“I’m going to need your gun,” Munch said.
Sighing, Elliot pulled the weapon from his holster to hand, handle first, to Munch and pulled himself straighter as he marched toward the sedan whose rear driver-side door Fin held open.
“We’ll get you through this as quickly possible,” Munch said as they both approached the car. “You’re not going to be in the pen and you’re going to be arraigned in just a couple hours.”
Elliot nodded again barely able to hear Cragen’s soft reciting of his Miranda warning while he stepped closer and closer to the car. His mind had turned into a blank blur of disbelief and no emotion could permeate the fog.
Fin sat next to him in the backseat as Munch and Cragen’s doors slammed shut and suddenly, the nonsensical nature of the ordeal seemed very funny to him.
“No cuffs?” Elliot said in jest as he sat next to Fin in the backseat. “I mean, I am considered a dangerous felon at this point, right?”
Seeing not the slightest trace of humour in the
situation, Fin only shook his head slightly as the engine of the sedan started
and began heading back toward
Casey Novak sat at the rich mahogany desk that took up the better part of her office slightly bending her thumbnail between her teeth. Her left foot tapped nervously in time with the blue pen in her right hand that was rapping against the desk.
She had not let go of the pen in the past hour. Not when she had added her signature to the space marked “Prosecutor” on the warrant for Elliot’s arrest; not when she handed it to Judge Aurenbraugh to sign; not when she gave it to a solemn-faced Cragen so he, Munch and Fin could make the arrest.
She had not wanted to do it at all, but the pressure had been piling on her since the moment she had left the 1-6 after meeting Morse’s attorney. Through a barrage of e-mails, voicemails and messengers, Casey had been told in more ways than one that the Manhattan DA’s office intended to arrest and prosecute Elliot Stabler. Arthur Branch had said, per messenger, that the longer the office delayed in making the arrest, the more it looked like the city was bending over backwards to protect another white, male office, an image the city was attempting to shed.
Wincing slightly as her teeth settled too far onto her thumb, Casey shook her head as she stared at the small lamp that, alone, sat lit on her desk. Nothing about the case seemed right. Had she actually issued the warrant to not only arrest Elliot, but also arrest him for Olivia’s murder? She had to be dreaming.
She glanced at her watch and sighed. There was still
some time before she had to appear on
Mulling over the meaning of the phrase “conflict of interest” for a few moments, she sighed again as she pulled on her coat and headed downstairs to hail a cab. Though Casey knew the warrant had been executed perfectly, it gnawed at her and, once inside a taxi, she asked the cabbie to make a different stop instead.
Morse’s video was enough to land a conviction by itself and, had she issued the warrant for any other individual, Casey would have considered the matter a done deal the moment the case had come to her. However, this was not any other individual. This was Elliot Stabler, a man on whom she had depended on more than a few occasions and a man she knew would never kill a woman for sport, least of all his partner.
“No way,” she whispered, drawing the attention of the cabbie.
There had to be more to it. She just knew there had to be.
Twenty minutes later, Casey was walking through the fifth floor of Precinct 16, carefully avoiding the harsh scorns from the officers who knew she had been by there not two hours earlier with Elliot’s warrant and pausing only to ask Detective Cooke where the videos taken from Morse’s apartment were being kept.
“Hi,” Casey said as she entered the small room where Alexa sat taking notes in front of several screens and an array of video equipment.
“Yes?” Alexa said.
“ADA Novak,” Casey said extending her hand toward Alexa. “I don’t think we’ve met yet.”
“Yeah, I’m Alexa Brown.”
“How long’ve you been with the unit?”
“Just three months, but I’m really excited.”
“Yeah. This is the closest I’ve been able to actively participate in a major case.”
Casey stared at Alexa for a long time before
speaking again. There immediately did not seem to be anything likeable about
Alexa. Outside of her attitude that Olivia’s case was no different from another
that would come to the unit, Alexa’s youthful face gave the impression that she
was simply too young to understand the
“I heard that you’d found something that Morse hadn’t included in his video of Elliot and Olivia. Something about Elliot being in the apartment the next day?”
“Yeah, we did,” Alexa said nodding, eyebrows high.
She quickly queued up the video of Elliot searching through Olivia’s apartment and Casey stifled a sigh of relief.
“What else have you got so far?”
“Just some notes about some things that seem out of the ordinary I’ve seen. Like the fact that Elliot was at her apartment a few days before she went missing too.”
Within minutes, Alexa was playing the video that showed Elliot and Olivia in a heated argument.
“Who’s that?” Casey asked when the Olivia on the screen opened the door to Mark in her hallway.
Casey’s eyes narrowed at the screen. “So, the neighbor heard them yelling…If he could hear the yelling, then he would’ve heard what went down that night.”
“Yeah, but they’ve already talked to him. He says he didn’t hear anything outside of them arguing and nothing after Elliot left.”
Casey stared silently at the paused image as she shook her head.
“So,” Alexa began, “Elliot was really arrested for this to-”
“Thanks,” Casey said abruptly, leaving the room with a flash of hair and her thoughts raging.
The neighbor says he didn’t hear anything else happen after Elliot left…He gave Olivia a shoulder to cry on after her argument with Elliot…He obviously cares about Olivia, so if something had happened, even if it was Elliot, he would’ve come forward by now. Elliot must be telling the truth…
Her foot began tapping again as she sat in the cab on her way to court. A text laid waiting in her phone and she knew it held the details of Elliot’s arraignment. A hell storm was going to fall on her for what she was about to do, but she could still argue it well. Even if there was the slightest glimmer of hope, she could not allow to her office to prosecute Elliot.
“Docket Number: VB-N11873-S. The People versus Elliot Stabler. The charge is one count Manslaughter in the Second Degree.”
The stout courtroom clerk handed a case file to the fatigued judge who sat in the elevated, wood-paneled bench and stepped toward the side of the room to retrieve another docket.
“Manslaughter, eh?” the judge said in the strong
“The defendant is charged with the murder of an NYPD detective.” Her voice was cold and loud and she refused to even look at Elliot who stood trying to catch her eye on the other side of the aisle.
The judge turned toward Elliot and man standing next to him. “The defendant…”
The tall, blond and slightly balding figure next to Elliot stepped forward and straightened his tie before speaking.
“Gordan Kerran, defense council for Detective Elliot Stabler. Your Honor, Detective Stabler is a seasoned and well-decorated officer with the NYPD. He is a model citizen with roots in the community and was partnered with the victim. Your Honor, the victim hasn’t even been found yet and, given that there is barely any evidence of foul play, I think the People are jumping the gun-”
“What’s the defense asking?” Casey interrupted sounding annoyed.
Kerran paused with a quizzical expression on his face. “We’re…we’re asking the case be dismissed. Your Honor…As of this moment, Detective Olivia Benson is still just missing. There is nothing to suggest that she’s been murdered, least of all by my client. If the People are going to-”
“The People have no objection,” Casey said.
The judge looked at Casey over her glasses. “Counselor? You’re sure?”
Casey glanced at Elliot for a moment and nodded. “Yes, the People are dropping the charges against Detective Stabler…but, we retain the right to re-file charges should more evidence arise.”
“Well, aren’t you being gracious today. Case dismissed. Detective, this must be your lucky day. You’re free to go.”
With the bang of the judge’s gavel, Elliot tried to take a step toward Casey, but she was a half step ahead of him and had nearly bolted from the courtroom before Kerran could clap him on the back twice.
“Arthur?” Casey said, eyebrows high as she stepped into her office. “I’m surprised to see you here this late and on a Sunday night.”
His stern glare did not soften at her mild attempt at humor and she swallowed, knowing the berating was about to begin.
“Tell me I’m dreaming, Casey,” Branch said with the
“Tell me that one of my own prosecutors did not just drop all charges on a major felony when there is motive, opportunity and background history that could all lead to a conviction.”
She steadied herself. “I don’t think Olivia Benson is dead and, I have reason to believe that even if she is, Elliot Stabler did not have anything to do with it. I’m not going to initiate a circus only to find out that Elliot-”
“You’re not going to what? If this was any old guy off the street, you wouldn’t be giving me this speech. You would be going directly where the evidence led you.”
“There isn’t any evidence, Arthur. All we know is that the two of them were arguing a bit in past weeks, there’s some video with them actually fighting a little and she’s gone…”
She stopped. When the words came out of her own mouth, she suddenly thought her extempore actions made her sound brash and incredibly biased.
“Good,” Branch said reading the expression on her face. “I’m glad that at least some of this issue seems a little ludicrous to you.”
“I don’t think she’s dead.”
“This case came to you. As a prosecutor, it is your job to do just that. Prosecute, not give up on a case just because it’s your friend standing in front of the judge.”
“Arthur, it’s more than just that. We’re going into a murder case without a bod-…without knowing if Olivia’s even dead. She could be anywhere. She could be-”
“In a ditch, in a dumpster, in the river, trapped under some large furniture…The point is, Detective Stabler is the last person to have seen her and, until a video that showed him with his hands around her neck had surfaced, he wasn’t giving up anything on what happened between them that night. You should have pursued it. And, what’s with this manslaughter nonsense?”
“If it was Elliot who had mu…murdered her, then it’s obviously without malice. The grounds for second-degree manslaughter dictate-”
“I know the penal code, Casey. And, I know that this is shoddy work at best. I would’ve expected more from you.”
An angry silenced waved between them for a few moments before Casey spoke.
“Are you going to make me bring the charges again?”
“And give the appearance that we can’t make up our minds? Forget it, but if anything else comes up that gives any credence to Detective Stabler’s involvement…”
“I’m on it.”
Branch left with his hands in his pockets and Casey flopped into her chair with a sigh.
She turned toward her bookcase and spotted an image taken after the “Cops v. DAs” softball game the previous year. Her face, along with Elliot’s, shined in the picture, still a little dusty and both bright red from a day in the sun.
She hoped to God that she would not have to bring the charges against Elliot again, but in actuality, she hoped that Olivia would be found and would bring an end to the constant pang that had been irritating the back of her throat.
Elliot, once again, lay on his couch staring at the ceiling of his apartment. He had been lying there for almost three hours and his mind was beginning to play movies of its own against the cracks and ornate markings of the plaster. Try as he might to convey some meaning from the dream that had awakened his troubled slumber that morning, no sense of understanding came to him and he let loose a sigh as he heard Olivia’s laugh ring once again in his head.
In less than twenty-four hours, he had been implied as a suspect in Olivia’s apparent murder, been called such, been arrested as such and, while he knew a public announcement would be coming from Cragen the next day to clearly denounce any suggestion that he had been involved in Olivia’s disappearance, Elliot still held the distinct and virile memory of his own arrest. His life was actually falling into pieces with each day that passed.
Aside from everything that had happened, the look Cragen gave him as he, Munch and Fin stood outside Elliot’s apartment outweighed the camera flashes of the keen and perspicacious reporters who had been following Olivia’s case from its beginnings or the sound of Casey’s voice as she referred to him as “the defendant.” The expression in Cragen’s eyes read as something indefinable; it existed somewhere amongst extreme shame, awe, resignation and sorrow.
Elliot had been exempted from sitting in a cell like a “common” criminal and had stood in front of an arraignment judge in record time, but with Olivia’s clear absence in his hour of need, the loneliness seemed to compound with fear. His career was irrevocably damaged, he had no family to which he could come home and commiserate and, all the while, his partner was gone.
He knew he had done nothing to her. It was now a matter of convincing the rest of the world of the same.
“No,” he said aloud.
Now, it was a matter of finding her.
Elliot closed his eyes for an unknown amount of time wishing that when he opened them again, he could rewind his life and simply have Olivia shouting at him to stop dragging his feet on Owen Kreider. When he opened them, however, only the gloom of chipped plaster greeted him.
Allowing a deep sigh to escape his chest, Elliot rose from the couch and grabbed his keys and jacket.
His second extended drive through the city was not nearly as calming as the previous one, though admittedly the first was not very relaxing, but after a half-hour’s travel, Elliot found himself slowly passing the church in which he and Kathy were married some twenty years earlier. Little of the small church had changed in the years, but he stared at it as if was the most awe-inspiring sight in the city.
Within minutes, Elliot had coursed the
“Elliot. Hey. How are you?” Kathy said in a breathless rush five seconds later.
She had all but thrown open the door and was staring at him with wide eyes.
“I’m…” Elliot sighed. “Can I come in sec?”
“Yeah…Yeah, absolutely,” she said as she stepped aside to allow him through the door. “I, uh…I heard an arrest had been made in Olivia’s case. I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I saw who it was.”
Elliot silently nodded.
“Good thing Kathleen still hasn’t started watching the news with her mom,” Kathy continued.
“What are you doing up so late?” Elliot asked trying to change the topic.
She shrugged. “I was just watching the news and…well, I don’t really know. I guess I didn’t know what else to do.”
“You figured I’d be by,” Elliot said flatly as he rested on the couch.
She sat next to him, her lips pursed and her eyes worried. They sat in silence together with the television muted and casting blurred images across their faces for close to five minutes, before Kathy’s nervousness got the better of her.
“What happened that night, El?” she asked.
It was his turn to shrug. “I’m still not sure. She was holding the information about the guy who tried to get at Dickie.”
“Yeah, I know he is or…at least I’m sure he was before he saw that video. But, Kath, she had his file and she wouldn’t give it to me and I just…snapped. It was like she was the only thing in his world keeping me from righting all the wrongs this guy Drover had done and I lost it.”
“But, what happened to her? I mean, El, she’s been gone for almost a week. Where could she be?”
“Kathy…I’ve been asking that question every hour on the hour since Wednesday morning. I don’t know and I’m…”
Elliot took a deep breath and closed his eyes knowing he was on the verge of tears, yet trying to compose himself. He felt Kathy’s arm slide across his shoulder as she pulled him toward her and he allowed tears to escape from his lids as she cradled him to her chest.
He had been telling himself for days that she was fine, but it was only after facing his crying daughter, his over-anxious brother and a judge staring down at him through smudged bifocals that the realty of the situation hit him. With each day that passed and each hour gone, there was a stronger and stronger possibility that his partner of eight years had been murdered and that they would never find her.
The tears continued to flow and he squeezed Kathy as she whispered to him as he had done previously with their daughter. Though he wanted everything to be “all right,” the growing tension in his chest reminded him that this would not be the last time he cried for Olivia.
Unknown Time and Place
The grey blur before her eyes seemed, at last, to be taking shape as her face pressed against something hard and unyielding. The stagnant chill that covered her body seemed to lift slightly with entrance of the new voice and she willed every inch of her soul to move toward it, but her body did not obey. Nausea instead welled within her, but her lungs would not expand properly when she attempted to draw breath to quell the sickness.
No part of her body would respond to any command. Move arm, no.
Twitch foot, no.
Close mouth, no.
Blink eye, no.
A finger trembled and, as she willed her eyes toward the extremity, the pain from behind her head returned in full force. She wanted to cry out in pain, but even her larynx rejected orders. The blur in her eyes lost its form and she gave another unsuccessful attempt at drawing breath to ease the agony.
The new voice resonated once again and she could feel her finger twitch as the first recognition of her surroundings enveloped her in a new warmth she had not felt since before…
The voice was moving somewhere outside her reach and as it moved she felt shifts in the resistance beneath her. It was close, so close, and if she could just draw its attention, the voice could save her.
With a last surge of every will in her body, Olivia pressed air through her throat to whisper toward the voice she recognized nearly as much as she did her own.