Elliot rose from his bed after watching his alarm clock change from early morning hours to simply, morning hours. Six days had passed since he had had a good night’s rest and, as his eyes spotted the sweater Olivia had given him lying on his dresser, he acknowledged he would not gain such a luxury for a long while.
He stepped into the living room and turned on the television to see Cragen’s somber face speaking at a podium inside the 1-6. Elliot watched as Cragen read an official announcement that all charges on Elliot concerning Olivia’s disappearance were being dismissed and the NYPD was “fervently searching for Detective Benson.”
A snicker escaped his mouth as he turned off the television. Despite the “fervent searching” that would ensue, Elliot knew he would be barred from working Olivia’s case, if he was not suspended from the department indefinitely.
Cragen had told him, following his departure from the courthouse, that a suspension was probable, but that he wanted Elliot to continue working with the unit until the reprimand came from his superiors.
A bustle of voices outside that of discernible
pedestrian traffic could be heard from outside his bedroom window, but he did
nothing to inquire further about it, preferring instead to go through as much
of his morning routine as possible. With Kreider in prison awaiting trial, life
He dressed quickly, obtained his first jolt of caffeine from the black coffee maker in his small kitchen, and headed out the door. As he walked down the last steps to the bottom floor of the apartment, his thoughts regarding Olivia’s disappearance were interrupted by the growing sound of the disturbance outside the building.
By the time he had reached the bottom landing, Elliot could see a tumult of activity by the front door of the building. Numerous reporters and corresponding cameramen stood flashing in front of the door and all were speaking in quick voices as if preparing themselves for something.
The shortest of the reporters caught sight of Elliot through the door and her eyes grew wide.
“He’s there!” she shouted and Elliot took a step back from the door.
Activity burst from those standing outside the building as Elliot continued to backtrack down the corridor. The faint memory of Morse’s video floated into his mind as the cameras flashed through the transparent door and he pulled his coat tighter around him as he stepped outside the back door of the building.
Two reporters were waiting for him there, but he brushed past them quickly and made it into his car before the others in front could catch up with him.
It was going to be a great day.
Fin increased his grip on the large mug in his hand as he prepared to pour the hot, black liquid from the coffee pot and into his mug. His eyes were coming in and out of focus and he could feel the cup falling from his grasp as he poured. Behind him, Munch stretched after having spent the night in the “crib” upstairs and Fin put a fourth sugar in his coffee hoping the extra boost would keep him from having to take a nap in the crib as well, not that he would be able to sleep, regardless of fatigue.
His thoughts for the past few days had been solely on Elliot and Olivia and even when he had had opportunity to rest, he could not. Fin had been trying to think the best about Elliot, but as the sun rose on Day Six since they had seen Olivia, doubts were beginning to run amok in his mind.
Weren’t we just making fun of Helena Fayden the other day, he asked himself. How the hell did all this happen?
He returned to his desk as Munch, across from him, reviewed the details of a case that had come through to them overnight. While he, Fin, knew he had been on Elliot’s “side” since Olivia first went missing, Munch appeared distrustful from the start. Fin had watched Elliot and Olivia work for years and just could not bring himself to believe that Elliot would somehow hurt Olivia. Any other cop in the precinct? Absolutely. But Olivia? Not possible. He would have sooner believed that a token office relationship had erupted between the pair before he could conceive of Elliot violently taking out his anger on her.
As Fin considered the implausibility of Elliot hurting Olivia, Elliot walked into the precinct, sporting just one remaining light bruise high on his cheek. He was forcibly cheerful and joked as he asked Munch about not using handcuffs the previous night. Munch gave him a nod and a small smirk and Fin repressed a sigh.
There had been few witty retorts coming from Munch in the past few days and he wondered if Elliot and Munch would ever be right again, especially if something had happened to Olivia.
“You see what was going on outside?” Fin asked as Elliot rose to get his second cup of coffee.
“Yeah,” Elliot said with a smile that did not reach his eyes. “That’s my entourage. No one can get enough of me lately, but it’s nice to be wanted.”
They all chuckled, but all smiles faded quickly once they each noted the missing female voice in their company and glanced toward Olivia’s desk.
Munch updated Elliot on the new case he had caught the previous night and, several hours later, Elliot nearly ran into Casey as she walked into the squad room on his way out of it.
They stared at one another like awkward teenagers before Casey cleared her throat.
“I’m sor-” she began, but Elliot held up a hand to stop her.
“Don’t be sorry about anything,” he said. “You did what you were told to do and I thank you for having faith in me.”
She nodded twice and turned toward the rest of the unit.
“Morse is now at
“Oh, that’s bull,” Fin said. “He was perfectly fine when he was talking about Liv and pointing fingers at Stabler and now he needs treatment?”
Casey shrugged. “Greyson and the rest of Morse’s attorneys argued it well and Morse was looking every bit the part.”
“How so?” Munch said.
“Well, I’d say he’s aged about ten years between last night and this morning. He looks like he’s coming off of some kind of high, at best.”
“How long’s he gonna stay there?” Fin said.
“At least the next thirty days, though I’m sure the family lawyers will push for more time. Anything to keep these charges from sticking.”
“What about Kreider?” Munch asked setting down the files in his hands.
“Jury selection for Kreider’s case begins next Monday. Arthur Branch wants to put this away as soon as possible considering…”
Casey trailed and glanced briefly at Elliot.
“Is Kreider asking for a plea again?” he said.
She shook her head. “And, even if he was, there’s no way McCoy’s going to take it. The people want to see him tried, so he will be.”
“Are you at all peeved that McCoy’s getting the case?” Munch asked.
“Not even. There’s no way, I’d be
able to give Kreider sole attention with everything else on my caseload and I’m
just glad to be second-chairing. Besides, if this was a
“We’re about to get another shit storm,” Cragen said heading toward them.
“What’s going on?” Fin said standing.
“Aside from the press conference that’ll air again later tonight,” he said as he glanced at Elliot, “we’ve got two stations threatening to air Morse’s video tonight.”
“How can they air it?” Munch said. “How’d they even get it?”
“Probably his friends who uploaded it in the first place,” Fin answered.
“Either way,” Cragen said. “You’d better get anything you need now because once that thing airs we’re all in for the long haul. I just got off the phone with the commissioner and he’s not pleased.”
“What’s he got to be ‘not pleased’ about?” Fin said. “We’re the ones missing our detective.”
“He’s upset about Halloway being kept in a cell for the night.”
“He wanted to stay!” Munch yelled.
“But, every Halloway that’s ever stepped foot in this city has been calling about it and the Morses are also closing ranks around the baby of the family. And, there’s only a matter of time before Halloway comes in here screaming about Morse’s video.”
They each glanced at Elliot who continued staring straight at Cragen.
“Well,” Cragen said, turning back toward his office. “This is gonna get a lot worse before it gets better.”
“Stabler,” Munch said standing as Fin and Casey spoke softly. “I’m about to hit the phones again, but I’ve got this case file I started about week ago. Some guy brought in this tape. He thinks someone’s actually killed on it.”
Munch shrugged. “Haven’t watched it, but he says it’s porn, so who knows what’s on there.”
“Yeah, I’m sure we’ll be able to find lots about that one.”
Silence fell over the four and Casey announced that she was due in court to escape the tension in the squad room. Munch and Fin stood a moment later; Fin to relieve Alexa who had still been working Morse’s tapes and Munch to catch incoming phone calls about Olivia’s case.
Elliot stared at Olivia’s cold coffee cup and turned to leave, asking Casey to hold the elevator for him. He did not look back, but he was certain all remaining eyes in the squad room were squarely fixed on him.
Eyes burning and body aching from having sat in the same position for hours on end, Elliot sighed deeply and rubbed his eyes. He was putting the finishing touches on a report to keep the case file Munch had handed him open, yet at the bottom of an ever-growing pile and the sound of phones ringing constantly for Olivia had developed into a piercing headache.
He had watched the tape Munch had handed him with the file and one of the girls on the tape did appear to be killed rather literally, but there was simply no way to be sure. Much of the day had been spent trying to analyze it with a specialist, Ruben Morales, yet he came up with nothing.
Elliot looked up and saw Cragen through his office window. He stood with a phone to his ear, his eyebrows furrowed and the crease in his forehead deeper than Elliot had ever seen it. As Cragen put a hand to his forehead, his face contorted into a grimace, signaling that he was receiving loud, strong words from the other end of the phone. Elliot knew the conversation was either about Olivia or about him or both, since Cragen had been correct in his assumption about the increase in calls about Olivia’s case.
A glum relief waved over him as he brooded over the fact that if Olivia had not looked so very attractive in the photo he had given Cragen, they might not be receiving as many calls. All the calls notwithstanding, he was overwhelmingly frustrated that he could not do more to assist with her case.
Every case was important, but he knew just as well as any detective that some took precedent over others. Even though he knew he should have been out on the streets trying to track down possible witnesses for cases caught over the weekend, he could not chance being away if there was a break in Olivia’s case.
As he leaned back in his chair, Fin appeared in the main squad room, looking every bit as tired as Elliot assumed he was.
“You in the mood to stretch your legs for a bit?” Fin asked with a sigh.
Elliot squinted at him. “What?”
“I know, officially, you’re not supposed to be working Liv’s case but …” Elliot’s ears piqued at Olivia’s name and Fin continued. “…I need your…opinion on the something.”
Without hesitating, Elliot left his chair and followed Fin to a back room where Alexa still sat going through Morse’s videos, refusing to leave.
“Show him,” Fin said.
Alexa queued several videos and showed Olivia, with much shorter hair, yelling at a tall man in her apartment. Cragen, now off the phone, but looking flush, had entered the room as well to view the tape.
“You know who he is?” Fin asked pointing to the man.
Elliot squinted at the screen. “Yeah, Matt. Matthew…Matthew Something. I think it was a W…Liv dated him for a few months a while back. What’s special about him?”
With a frown on his face, Fin nodded at Alexa.
“Okay,” she said preparing to commentate. “There’s three of these that I found. This is the first one…So, they’re talking…they’re talking, then Wham!”
Elliot jumped in his seat with the sound of Alexa’s voice in conjunction with Matthew’s hand coming out of nowhere to slap Olivia across the face.
“And then there’s this one,” Alexa continued, as if nothing significant had happened on the screen. “They’re together…they’re talking…they’re talking…they’re yelling…yelling some more, then again: Wham! Right across the face!”
“Could we do this without the sound effects?” Cragen said glaring at her with his arms crossed.
Alexa seemed to grow very small in her chair. “Sorry…I, um…”
“Just show the next one,” Cragen said quickly.
“And then he does it again here,” Alexa said in a substantially dwarfed voice. “But, this time he does it…really hard and she doesn’t get up for a second. But…then she goes and she gets her gun…and then he backs out and then we don’t see him again.”
Elliot ran a hand through his remaining hair. “I can’t believe it. I mean, she…She said he was a jackass when she broke up with him, but she didn’t even…God, there was even a day when she came in and I couldn’t stop looking at her because she looked so weird…so made up, but I didn’t say anything about it.”
“It’s not your fault this guy was beating on her,” Fin said.
Elliot sighed remembering how unsympathetic he had been and how vigilant Olivia had been regarding Evelyn Rivers. “I still wish she would’ve told me.”
“We need to figure out who he is,” Cragen said. “Elliot, you don’t remember anything else about him?”
He shook his head. “No. And, he’s not in her address books or I would’ve remembered calling him about her.”
“Go talk to Morse,” Cragen said.
“Morse?” Elliot said, eyebrows high. “Why the hell are we talking to him? He’s supposed to be too crazy to sit in a prison cell where he belongs.”
“Because,” Cragen said, “Morse has been taping Olivia for years and if there’s anyone who might know what all this is about, he would.”
“Cap…Liv’s got other friends. She might’ve told-”
“Do you want to waste time probing every single person in her life again? Airing her dirty laundry to the world and risk the chance that this guy catches wind that we’re looking for him?”
Elliot remained silent.
“Go to Morse,” Cragen repeated. “Both of you. I want to know who this is and what he’s been up to lately.”
“What about me?” Elliot said. “Won’t this look like I’m tainting the case?”
Cragen stared him a long time before speaking. “Do you or don’t you want Olivia found?”
“You know I do.”
“Then get going already. Let me worry about the protocol.”
The white, heavy metal doors leading to the upper levels of the clinic clanked and shuddered in place as Elliot and Fin were lead down a third corridor. When they finally approached Morse’s room, they saw all that came with the power of the Morse name. Instead of a simple padded holding cell, Morse had been situated in a room with a large Plexiglas window that overlooked the river and they learned that he had been assigned a personal psychologist to care for his mental health.
A broad orderly unlocked the four-inch lock on Morse’s door to reveal the young man crouched in the far corner staring toward the window while rocking on his feet.
“Morse,” the orderly said. “You have some visitors.”
Morse did not respond and only continued rocking in his corner.
Casey was right, Elliot thought when he got a clear look at Morse. He looked as if he had lost some weight since Elliot had last seen him and his hair seemed paler and thinner.
Elliot and Fin stepped softly into the room, the light pads of the flooring squeezing out air under their feet. Morse glanced toward them and stood immediately.
“Why’d you bring that killer in here?” he whispered pointing at Elliot.
“Now, let’s just keep calm,” the orderly said. “These are some detectives, Morse. They’re just here to talk to you.”
“I know who they are,” Morse said through his teeth. “I don’t need some loser oaf who’s too stupid to find a better job to tell me that these are detectives. I spent half the night talking to that one, and this other one…we’re well acquainted with one another.”
The orderly glanced at Elliot and Fin and leaned against the opposite wall with a sullen expression on his face.
“We need to talk to you,” Fin said.
Morse took a step backward. “I gathered that. I assumed that’s why you came here. You obviously didn’t come just to check on my well-being…to make sure they were treating me right in this hellhole.”
“It’s your own fault you’re in here,” Elliot grumbled.
Morse crossed the large room in half a step to stare directly up at Elliot. He barely came to Elliot’s shoulder, but his piercing eyes seemed menacing enough to make the orderly jump from his position on the wall.
“I wouldn’t be here,” Morse whispered close to Elliot’s face. “If you hadn’t killed her.”
“C’mon now, Morse,” Fin said stepping toward the pair. “Everyone here knows that he didn’t do anything to her.”
Morse turned toward Fin. “How can you defend him after you saw what was on that tape? How can you stand there and act like he’s still…Whatever. This is bull and you both know it. He should be sitting in a cell somewhere, not me.”
“What’re you talking about?” Fin said sardonically. “This place is better than my own apartment.”
“You still think this is all a big joke! He murdered her and he’s gonna get away with it because the NYPD doesn’t want the world to know they’ve got a murderer carrying a badge!”
“Morse, you are the only one who thinks she’s dead!” Elliot yelled. “No one wants to think she’s been murdered. Just you! If you’re so sure she’s dead, that tells me you’re the one who probably killed her!”
“Fuck you!” Morse said and spat in Elliot’s face.
Fin took a step between them and the orderly pulled a struggling Morse away from Elliot.
“Let go!” Morse shouted.
“Not ‘til you calm down,” Fin said.
Morse’s small eyes grew wide. “Me calm down! What about him? He’s the one who’s ready to put me down just like he did with Olivia. He’s ready to kill me just because I stood up to him, too.”
“All right, just shut up and listen!” Fin said. “Let’s pretend for second that you’re not a goddamn lunatic and Olivia’s just holed up somewhere. Now, nobody really believes Elliot did something to her which means we need to start looking at other people for this.”
“It’s a waste of time,” Morse said. “I bet he just sits at home with a beer and the remote control laughing to himself about how he got away with it.”
“You’re so full of it,” Elliot said approaching Morse again.
“I’m full of it?” Morse yelled.
“Yeah, did I stutter? You’re full of it. You come into my precinct and claim to know my partner better than anyone else in the world-”
“I do. I’ve been watching.”
“Then you would’ve seen the two of us together and you’d know that I’d never do anything to her. So, when you’re screaming that I must’ve killed her, I’m just thinking that you’re either the one who did or you’re covering for someone. Either way, you are full of it.”
“I swear on my life,” Morse said. “The second I’m outta here, I’m going slit your throat.”
“You go ahead and you do what you have to do, but that still doesn’t change anything. Instead of watching her, you should’ve been doing something to protect her. If you were a real man you wouldn’t’ve let this happen. You’d’ve been there to see what went down after I left instead of dicking around taking your walk, and if you really thought I was responsible, with or without proof, ten orderlies wouldn’t be able to keep you from killing me. Now, I know you don’t really believe I did anything to her. So why don’t you just cut the bullshit and let us get on with our investigation.”
Morse glared at Elliot for a long time before snatching his arm from the orderly and sauntering across the padded room to lean against the wall near the window.
“What, then? Why’d you come to talk to me?”
Fin pulled a manila folder from his coat pocket. “We’re looking at someone for her case and we need your input.”
“You people are ridiculous,” Morse said, laughing. “You throw me in here and now you want my help?”
“Just look at the guy,” Fin said handing him the folder. “Tell us what you know about it.”
Morse glared again at Elliot before opening the file. His eyes squinted at the images in the folder as his memory played the scene for him.
“Yeah…Matthew…I can’t remember his last name though. I was never able to get a lot of the last names of the ones who weren’t around too long.”
“You’ve been following her,” Fin said. “You haven’t seen him around even? Maybe just dropping by to catch a visit?”
“You’ve got my damn videos. You tell me.”
“They’re edited,” Elliot said. “There’s stuff missing.”
“Yeah…yeah, I guess they are.”
“Told you this was a waste of time,” Elliot said turning to leave the room. “He doesn’t know anything and he’s just a prick who’s trying to pull something.”
Morse crossed the room again. “What crossed your mind first when he slapped her senseless, Detective?”
Elliot paused at the door and closed his eyes attempting, unsuccessfully, to keep the memory from returning.
“What hurt more?” Morse continued. “The fact that he did it or the fact that you didn’t know about it?”
Elliot turned around with a fire in his eyes Fin had only seen when the two of them were about to fight, but Morse just snorted.
“I’ll tell you what. How about I tell you where I taped from and you people talk to the judge about getting me into minimum security.”
“You’re already getting off light as far as I’m concerned,” Elliot said.
“And no one asked your opinion. Do you want to know where I taped from or not?”
Elliot glanced at Fin who shrugged and took out a notepad.
“Who’s he talking to?” Fin said as he and Elliot returned to the 1-6.
Cragen stood in his office speaking to two men seated across from his desk. The frown on his face appeared deeper than ever.
“Missing Persons,” Munch said. “He’s briefing them. They’re acting like they’re about to snatch the case from us. What’ve you two got?”
Elliot lifted the first of two large plastic bags onto his desk. “The fifteen hidden cameras Morse had around Liv’s apartment.”
“How’d you find all these?” Munch said now sifting through the other bag Fin had placed on his desk.
“Morse led us right to them,” Fin said as he turned on his monitor. “He didn’t have anything more to give us, but he told us about the cameras in exchange for us giving the word to Casey to bring him out of maximum security at the hospital.”
“Not that we will though,” Elliot said. “Morse told us he only put up twelve cameras in Liv’s place, but we found fifteen.”
“He probably thought he could just continue his little reality show after we find her,” Munch said examining one of the small cameras, but Fin shook his head.
“That don’t make any sense, though. I mean we found the other three in the same place as the others. Like he doubled them up or something.”
“Did you map out where you found them?” Munch asked.
Elliot pulled some papers out of the bag on his desk. “Yeah, we pulled some guys from downstairs to help us and they mapped out everything…I think he might’ve just forgotten about the others. Maybe they broke and he didn’t bother to take them out. Either way, he wasn’t honest and he still belongs in a cell for what he’s been doing, so he’s not going anywhere.”
The door to Cragen’s office opened and Cragen and the two detectives left, each looking irritated.
“What’ve we got?” Cragen said approaching the desks.
“Morse gave up the cameras he used,” Fin said.
“In exchange for what?”
“Us talking to someone about getting him into minimum security at the hospital.”
Cragen shook his head. “He’s admitted to breaking and entering and stalking at least. The only reason he’s there is because of his family’s connections.” He paused, taking a moment to stare at each of his detectives. “You should all go home and try to get some sleep. I shoved Brown into cab a few hours earlier and it looks like only the crazies are calling in about Olivia now.”
They nodded at one another and Cragen went back to his office, visibly preoccupied with something else.
Munch sighed as silence descended upon them. “Maybe we should extend the case to Missing Persons…”
“You’re kidding, right?” Elliot said with his arms crossed.
“In a few hours, it’ll be Day Seven since Liv’s been missing,” he said shrugging. “Her face has been all over the news and still there’s nothing. There’s no ransom note, no nod from the mob…We’ve tracked down every single person who might related-”
“No, we haven’t,” Elliot interrupted. “There’s this Matthew we need to look at, plus we’re still going through those tapes. Who knows what else we might have missed.”
“I’m just trying to be realistic here, Elliot,” Munch said. “She’s been gone for seven days and it still looks like she vanished into thin air.”
“Well, how ‘bout trying to be a little optimistic here,” Elliot said. “I’ve been checking hospital reports and homicide logs and no one’s brought in anyone even close to Liv’s description.”
“I’m just trying to prepare for the worst.” Munch stood from his seat, his eyes heavy and tired, and grabbed his coat. “Well, the triple espresso I had earlier isn’t doing anything for me. I’ll see you two in the morning.”
Elliot and Fin watched him and as soon as the elevator doors closed, Fin nodded Elliot towards the video room. Inside, he handed Elliot two of Morse’s hard drives as well as bag containing a small laptop, a set of cords, and a copy of the notes Alexa had been making.
“I don’t think I can handle anymore today, but I know you won’t be sleeping,” Fin said, “and we still need to go through all these as quickly as possible.”
“Cragen might want Missing Persons to look through these,” Elliot said, although still taking the set.
Fin shook his head. “Even if they did, they don’t know Liv and they don’t know what they should be looking for. You’d know for sure if something seemed out of the ordinary or if there was someone else we should be looking at that we just overlooked at first.” He paused, sighing. “The setup hooks straight from the laptop into a TV, so you shouldn’t have any problems with it.”
Elliot nodded and they parted ways silently, Elliot praying that no one would question what happened to two of the drives before he could bring them back to the precinct. He catalogued Morse’s cameras and checked his phone messages at his desk, noting that he had received half a dozen calls from Evelyn Rivers, all inquiring about Olivia and also about some video she heard about on the news. Before leaving, he called into Olivia’s voicemail and listened to a last hopeful message left by her friend, Sarah, and all seventeen desperate messages Evelyn had left for her.
As the lights from the expressway hit his windshield, Elliot’s thoughts remained on the video Alexa had shown them. The image of Olivia stumbling backward as Matthew’s hand flew from his side to strike her across the face played in front of his eyes like a marionette show and his hands shook, though he did not know whether it was from sublime anger or extreme sorrow since he so clearly remembered the day Olivia had come to the squad room hiding more than hints of wrinkles under her makeup.
“Hey,” Elliot had said to Cragen who sat in his office. “I just need Liv to do the last sign off on the Balthus case and we’ll be able to close the books on that one.”
Cragen had nodded in his chair. “Are you going to be all right…considering?”
Elliot stared at him for a moment, picturing the young girl who had lied incapacitated in her hospital bed, while her mother told lie after lie.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’ll be fine.”
“Okay,” Cragen said, doubt etched in his voice.
Elliot turned from the office and gave Olivia a smile as she entered the squad room.
“Morning,” he said. “How was your night?”
She glanced across the desk from him and her eyes fell immediately back to the files spread across her desk.
“Fine,” she said quickly.
Elliot scrutinized her face, not liking the answer he had received. Her face looked oddly fuller than normal under what looked like several layers of makeup, more than he had ever seen her wear for an ordinary day. She had liberally applied a pink blush to her cheeks and her eye makeup gave her an almost fatigued appearance.
“You have a hot date or something tonight?” he asked playfully with a grin on his face. “You’re so made up.”
She shook her head. “I’m…I’m off dating for awhile. Do you have the Balthus case file? I know we need to get that wrapped up.”
He handed the file to her, a bit caught off guard by her sudden change of topic and watched as she briskly brushed past their desks to deliver the file to Cragen a moment later. When she returned, Elliot stared at her once more.
"Why are you staring?" she said as her finger flew across her keyboard.
"Is something going on, Liv?"
"I suppose I could ask you that question since you're the one boring your eyes into me."
"So am I."
"Olivia...did something happen last night?"
"No, everything's fine."
"Why are you suddenly off dating? Did something happen with Matthew?"
Olivia stopped typing and glared at him, her eyes appearing violent under the heavy eye makeup. "Everything is fine."
"I'm just asking what might've happened."
"Matthew's an asshole. That's what happened. 'Kay? He's a bastard and it's over and everything's fine."
"Did something specific happen that makes you think-"
"You know what? I'm not really in the mood to talk about it."
"C'mon, Liv," he pleaded. "I just want to make sure that you're okay."
"Elliot...I'm fine. Nothing happened and everything's fine."
He nodded, still unconvinced. "But, you would tell me if something did happen, right?"
Olivia stood and walked toward the ladies room, but Elliot could see the slightest nod of her head in his direction.
The moment he walked through the door of his apartment, Elliot headed straight for the phone and called his old home. Kathleen answered the phone first and sounded as if she had been crying for most of the day. She told him how the other kids in her school were looking at her because of the video and Elliot did what he could to placate her, but to little avail. The subject of his arrest came up and there seemed to be no remedy for her tears.
Sitting with his head in hands after speaking to each of his children much later, Elliot sat in the dark wondering how one life could affect so many people in so little time. Most of the phone messages he had received that day had come from people who knew him well who, while they had not seemed ready to accuse him of murdering his partner, still sounded apprehensive at what one of the smaller news stations had been airing. His brother, Nolan, had sounded more perplexed than any of the cops or other friends and family who had been calling.
“Just…just tell me honestly, El,” he kept repeating. “Please tell me you didn’t hurt her.”
No matter how hard he attempted to press the fact that he had not hurt Olivia, Nolan continued asking. Elliot figured he would probably get at least a call a day from Nolan and Kathleen and at least three from Evelyn Rivers.
The image of Matthew with the unknown surname hitting Olivia sprang to mind again and Elliot sighed into the night. Olivia had seemed so fixated on helping Evelyn Rivers and Elliot had never stopped to even question why. From knowing Olivia as long as he had, he imagined that Matthew would have had just the one opportunity to hurt her before she threatened with him a loaded weapon. Three strikes within two weeks’ time simply made his stomach burn.
Elliot rose from his sofa and set up the laptop and hard drive to play through his television. The work was quick and monotonous allowing him time to further despond over what had happened.
The conversation with Gordy Kerran he had had earlier in the day had done nothing but depress him further.
“We just need to remain and most of this will eventually blow over on its own.”
“It’s gonna be okay. I promise. The DA isn’t going to come with new charges at this point…not until something significant is found.”
Gordy had been trying to be helpful, but the stark manner in which he had referred to Olivia without saying her name made Elliot silently pray that closure, of any sort, would come and come soon.
The night hours ticked away as he sped through Olivia’s days over the past month in case Alexa had missed anything. As he watched, Elliot noticed small idiosyncrasies between he and Olivia each time Morse had taped them together. The gap between them when they walked down the streets was noticeably small, clearly more than a fraternal bond between the pair. The smallest of smiles nearly always spread across his face each time she came across his line of sight. When the sun was just so high in the sky, she really did have a sparkle in her eyes when she laughed with him.
Elliot’s television replayed the night he had arrived at her apartment after learning that she had taken Kathleen to get birth control behind his back and he gave an involuntary shudder at the sight of the pure anger in his eyes. He wanted to turn off the video and pray for sleep, but he felt mesmerized by what he saw and, first the first time since he had encountered him, Elliot understood why Morse was deteriorating in the hospital.
He, Elliot, had been without working beside Olivia for just seven days and he could not force any of his thoughts to concentrate on anything else without drifting back to her. He could only imagine what horrors would be going through his mind if he spent every second of his day focused solely upon her.
Unknown Time and Place
The air is cold, and then is hot.
The air is cold, and then grows hot.
The air around her body shifts continuously, but any concept of time evades her thoughts as there is no way to tell for how long the air has been changing. Every several rotations of cold and hot, the pale and wet, cold hands appear from nowhere, touching her. She does not want to be touched, but the hands always continue. As the air turns cold and then grows hot, the hands continue. Always high on her body, but they still continue.
At times the fierce will not to be touched intensifies and she manages to shift away from the hands, but then the pain returns like it always does, occasionally across her face.
The air grows cold around her and her body is moving, unwillingly. The unyielding force from beneath her slides…
No, she is sliding, moving, sifting through space with the cold, pale hands upon her at all times.
The air grows colder, too cold, far too cold as her skin tightens and she begins to hear a new murmur. The grey shadows are now darker than ever in the cold, but they move about her as her own body moves against her will.
The voices begin coming in quick bursts from all around her. The deeper murmur, the new voice, is coming from the larger shadow, while the older voice is from the smaller of the two. The voices hiss. She can almost make out the words again, but she has trouble understanding them as they fade in and out, like static on a phone.
“…just … can’t… keep… her… -more…got to… please… take… find… here… then… screw-…”
Her left hand, the strong hand whose finger moved first, reaches toward the masses, but the cold hand slaps hers out of the air. The new voice resounds, loud and angry, like a piercing wind.
The cold hand grabs her skin and it feels like ice compounded. Something long and thin slides against her skin, close, too close, far too close.
Pain sears from Olivia’s neck and all shades of grey close to black.
Violent hunger shook Elliot from
As he pushed two slices of bread into his toaster, Elliot caught a glimpse of himself in the overhead microwave and realized that he had lost some weight. His face appeared gaunt from constant stress and exhaustion and he simply shrugged, figuring his outer appearance was just beginning to reflect the distress within him.
His cell phone chirped from the coffee table and he crossed the living room quickly to answer it. He looked at the display, half expecting to see Olivia’s name, and felt his body grow tense as he read his eldest daughter’s name.
She sniffed into the phone and Elliot closed his eyes, knowing precisely what was wrong and knowing that there was nothing that could be done, but wishing he could instantly dry his child’s tears nonetheless.
“Dad…,” Maureen said, “somebody e-mailed me this…this video. I couldn’t figure out what was going on at first, but then I kept getting all these IMs and things from people about it and then I watched the news and…”
Her voice faded into a broken sob and Elliot sighed.
“No one’s pressing charges on me, Maureen.”
“But, Dad…there’s this video…”
“Maureen, that video is not what it looks like.”
“I know, Dad. I know you wouldn’t really hurt Olivia, but why did I have to hear about it from the news? I mean…has she really been missing for a week?”
“Yes, and like I told Kathleen and Lizzie and Dickie, not a second goes by when we aren’t trying to find out what happened to her.”
“It just doesn’t make any sense. Dad, I just don’t know how to feel.”
“What do you mean?”
“Olivia…she’s been your partner forever. I mean, she feels like family and to hear that she just disappeared in the middle of the night, and that people think you might’ve done something to her and with that video-”
“I know how it looks, sweetie, but this is all going to be all right.”
Maureen sighed. “Just…Please just let me know if you find out anything.”
“Trust me, Maureen,” he said, a small smile tugging at his lips. “I’ve told a lot of people they’ll be first to know, but I promise you, the second I hear something, I’ll let you know.”
They talked for several minutes more about the video, specifically what it did not show and, by the time Elliot returned to his toast, it had not only popped up, but had grown hard and cold in the time he had tended to his daughter. Dumping the cold toast into the garbage, he shrugged and turned on his coffee maker deciding instead to grab something on his way to the precinct. From the corner of his eye, the laptop setup Fin had given blinked and he turned on the current video of Olivia’s apartment.
Before he had gone to sleep, he had gone back through the tapes toward the very beginning of January and watched as Olivia had tossed and turned in her sleep, causing Jonathan to jump out of the bed, one of her pillows in hand, and fall onto the couch to sleep instead. The video was from the night Valerie Sennet had died and Olivia had tossed in her sleep for a bit longer before dressing and heading out into the night. She had gone to Elliot’s apartment that night and so that they could talk about the downward spiral of their partnership. That night, they seemed to have pulled themselves in the right direction, but Kreider’s case proved they had not yet come full circle.
Elliot’s thoughts drifted to Tessa Sennet, Valerie’s daughter, and he wondered how she had been fairing these past few months. Her father was in prison and mother was dead, but Elliot could not find a spare second to check on her.
Liv might have, he thought, and a familiar burning sensation spurred in his stomach. Even if Olivia had contacted Tessa, the news of Olivia’s disappearance would have probably done nothing but upset the girl further.
He sighed as he set the video to back to the Saturday before his last fight with Olivia and watched Morse’s camera follow a taxi that screeched to a stop before Olivia’s building. Elliot was about to disconnect the set when the video showed Philip Fitzgivens grabbing Olivia’s arm in front of her building door. He had watched the same scene the previous night and thought nothing of it since Olivia had snatched her arm away from so quick and intrepidly, but as the event played before him again, his eyes narrowed at the television.
Philip had volunteered a statement and an alibi the previously, but as Elliot watched him arguing with Olivia as they both walked into her building, Philip’s statement suddenly seemed to have holes.
He dressed quickly and attempted to call Cragen with his newfound interest in Philip, but the line was busy on all three calls he had made. By the time he had come down the back stairs of his building, he had become so preoccupied that he did not notice the ever-growing noise that came from just behind the back door.
Elliot opened the back door quickly and was met by a barrage of reporters, each shouting questions and flashing cameras in his direction.
“Detective Stabler, do you wish to give a statement on Olivia Benson’s disappearance?”
“How does it feel to be arrested for her murder?”
“Can you comment on the video circulating the Internet showing you brutally attacking her?”
“Is it true you were having an affair with her?”
“Did you kill Olivia Benson?”
“Where’s the body, Detective?”
“Who did you pay off to get the charges dropped so quickly?”
“Is Owen Kreider at all involved in Detective Benson’s disappearance?”
“How do you think Harry Morse’s video will affect your career?”
“How do the Halloways and Morses fit into her disappearance?”
His face stoic and his resolve set, Elliot pushed his way through the mounds of reporters without pausing to answer any questions. The group around him massed as he made it to the street and became even larger when the gathering from the front of the building had caught wind that he had snuck out the back door.
When he finally made it to his car, he was breathing hard, not from the exertion of pushing through the crowds, but from the questions the reporters had been posing: Where’s the body, Detective?
What if there really was a body? he thought. What if she really had been murdered?
Elliot took a deep breath and turned the ignition to the car, revving the engine twice as a warning for all those pounding on his car windows to step back or find themselves under his wheels.
His hands shook as he passed through the mass of reporters outside of the precinct and when he had stepped off the elevators, everyone paused briefly to stare at him. He walked through the squad room, heading directly for Cragen’s desk, when he heard footsteps from behind running toward him. He turned around just in time to see Jonathan Halloway’s fist swinging at his face.
Elliot ducked and grabbed Jonathan by the midsection to keep him from taking another swing and by the time he had wrestled him to the ground, three other detectives had come to break up the fight.
“You’re a bastard!” Jonathan screamed, still struggling to get to Elliot as he was being held by three people. “I saw what you did to her! You’re a lying, murdering bastard and I’ll get you if it takes the rest of my life to do it!”
“You okay?” Cragen said, handing Elliot a cup of water a while later as they both sat in his office.
Jonathan still yelled from the holding cell into which he had been thrown for attacking Elliot, yet again, and Cragen had ushered Elliot into his office while he caught his breath.
“I’m fine,” Elliot said shrugging. “He’s lousy in a fight.”
“He’s enraged,” Cragen said. “They’d been trying to get him out of here for the past hour before you showed. I figured he would probably react like that after the video aired, but I hoped we could keep him out of here until he had time to cool his head.”
“He’ll cool off in the holding cell and, this time, I want to press charges. I know he won’t serve any time, but a nice fine might make him cool his jets the next time he comes in here gunning for my head.”
Cragen crossed his arms. “I don’t think he’d even care at this point. He was in tears when he first got here and it took twenty minutes just to get him calmed to the point where he was coherent again.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Elliot said. “He’s no more upset than any of the rest of us. He’s probably just angry with himself because the last words he might’ve said to Olivia were angry ones.”
“How do you know?”
“She told me the Monday before…She said they’d all but broke up. That’s the only reason he’s as angry as he is. And, with that in mind, I want to talk to this Fitzgivens again. I was thinking it over and his alibi being at the library on Tuesday is just seeming kind of shaky for me.”
“Fin thought so too and he and Munch are already on it,” Cragen said. “But seriously. How are you doing with all of this?”
“As well as I can, I guess.” He took a sip of water from the Styrofoam cup on Cragen’s desk. “I mean, I’ve got the press hounding me everywhere I go, so I’m practically homeless at this point. They’re probably at the house bothering the kids too.”
Cragen sighed. “The deputy inspector is forcing us to give a statement in regards to Olivia and Morse’s tape.”
“What are you going to say?”
“Just the truth,” Cragen said quickly. “We’re just going to keep to the facts. We have other suspects and several theories of the case and also that there’s evidence including that video that supports what you’ve been saying all along.”
Elliot nodded and Cragen continued. “And, that you explained to us precisely what happened on the video before anyone had even watched. You’re an excellent detective and you’ve been the showing the cooperation and the honesty completely becoming of the NYPD.”
“And the arrest?”
“We made a hasty decision at the forefront of the case, but with further investigation we found that you couldn’t be remotely involved with Olivia’s disappearance.”
“You sound prepared.”
“Well that’s what spending the night in your office is for.”
Elliot sighed. “What about the suspension?”
“I have to put through some papers, and I’m sure they’ll get buried under something else for a bit. But, I’ll be sure to mention to the press that with you cleared of any suspicion soon, you’ll be assisting us with her case in probably a few days.” Cragen paused noting the unexpressed sigh that lay on Elliot’s face. “Why don’t you take some time? It’s your partner who’s missing and you’re the one who’s been catching the most heat over the case.”
“I can handle it.”
“No one said you couldn’t. But, given all that’s happened…you might want to take some time off. Spend the evening with your kids. Talk to Kathy.”
Elliot rubbed a hand over his face. “I get it…It looks bad with me in here when the media’s pointing a finger at me, is that it?”
“You know I need you in here,” Cragen said.
“But, not if it’s going to cause more problems for us.” Elliot stood to leave. “I’ll just check my messages and I’ll be on my way.”
“No, Cap. I’m a detriment to the case. I’ve got it. I’ll rework my time around it. No problem. Just let me check my messages and I’m gone for the day.”
Cragen started to respond, but Elliot had already left the office, drawing the stares of everyone in the squad room.
Staring straight ahead, Elliot walked to his desk and checked his messages. Three were from Evelyn Rivers, each sounding more desperate than the last and it was still morning.
“Evelyn?” he said minutes later after getting her on the phone. “It’s Detective Stabler. We’re still working on her case, Evelyn. We’re not giving up.”
“I-It’s just that…I know you say that Micah was in jail, b-but I know he must’ve done something.”
“Evelyn, I’ll be over there in just a bit, okay,” he said.
He set down the phone and headed toward the elevators. As he passed by Munch’s desk, they caught eyes for just a moment and the distrust Elliot saw shook him even as he passed through the swarm of reporters and sped through the city streets.
The hard-packed snow squeaked and crunched under his shoes as Elliot arrived at All Saints House a half hour later. The modest building was unimpressive and one could have easily missed it if one did not know precisely where to look. Once inside the building, however, the mammoth security personnel guarding the front entrance seemed daunting. They refused to let Elliot through until he showed his badge and even when he passed the receptionist desk he heard the whisper, “Hey, isn’t that the cop who just killed his partner?” as he walked toward Evelyn’s room.
When he finally approached her, Elliot was struck by how similar Evelyn’s demeanor seemed in comparison to Morse. Her room was painted in calming, pale blue, but she sat, hunched and legs pulled to her chest, on the bed as she stared sadly out the room’s sole window.
“Hey,” he said softly, drawing a quick turn of her head.
“Detective Stabler?” she said, eyes wide. “Have you found her yet?”
Elliot stood silent and tears formed in Evelyn’s eyes as she read the answer in his face.
“Micah’s done something…I know it.”
“Evelyn, Micah was on a bus to Rikers when she disappeared.”
“Then he had someone else do it.”
He stepped close to her. “Evelyn…we’ve looked at Micah and everyone he’s related to. He hasn’t done anything to her.”
“Then where is she? She said she’d be here. She said she’d come by to check on me and make sure I was settled.”
“That’s why I’m here. You can talk to me.”
Evelyn shook her head. “You don’t understand. She…she made him so angry that day. I just know he’s done something to her and it’s only a matter of time before he comes through to finish me off too.”
The tears that had been readily forming fell over the threshold of her eyes and she leaned, sobbing, against the wall. Elliot crossed the room to hug her and allowed her to wet his shoulder with her falling tears.
“He’s coming for me,” she said into his shoulder. “I just know it.”
“He’s not getting out of prison.”
“Maybe not today, but he’ll find a way if he hasn’t already and he’ll kill me. I told her he told me to stay right there and look what’s happened. He said he would too. H-he said he was going to kill us both if she came to the apartment again and he has. I know he has. He’s killed her and now he’s going to kill me too.”
Elliot did his best to comfort her and as she continued to cry in his arms, he suppressed the urge to cry with her. He knew that Diorel was sitting in a cell in Rikers before he, Elliot, had even gone to Olivia’s apartment on Tuesday last, but he wanted to believe that Diorel had done something, just to put a face with the crime.
His partner had been missing for seven full days and with out any word on her whereabouts, he doubted if they would ever find her.
Unknown Time and Place
Olivia’s eyes slowly opened, but all she saw was black. She blinked twice and, while she still saw nothing, she knew that she was lying on her side and her head was lying against something cold and hard.
Rolling forward, a shudder vibrated through her body as a violent cold brushed against her skin. She reached out in the darkness and deduced that she was lying on a cement floor, but there was something more than amiss about the situation.
Where am I?
After several minutes of blinking in the darkness, Olivia stretched out her arms to push herself into an upright position. Her head was pounding worse than it ever had in her life and every bone in her body ached simultaneously. She groaned at the pain echoing between her temples and tried to make out something in the black. Something large shifted in front of her and she tried to make out an outline in the dark, but her eyes could not differentiate anything in the chasm.
“Hello?” she said in a rasping voice much deeper than normal.
The sound of movement fluttered before her and Olivia leaned backward, away from the unknown.
She tried to move her legs, but as she unfolded them from beneath her, the piercing cold of the air overtook her and her body began to shake. Rubbing her arms to create some frictional warmth, she realized she was still wearing her pajamas.
How did I get here?
She shifted her legs again and heard a slight clink of metal shifting in conjunction with the sharp slice of freezing metal coming in contact with her ankle. Grabbing at her ankle instantly, she felt through the darkness and found that there was some kind of chain wrapped around her leg.
Olivia grasped around the frore chain and moved her hand along it, trying to feel if the chain was attached to something. Her hand quickly came in contact with a metallic pole just as cold as the chain around her. The pole was not wide, though she could not wrap her entire hand around it and she could feel the exchanges of finish and bumps that indicated chipped paint along its sides.
Readjusting on the floor to situate herself closer to the pole, she ran her hands up it in an attempt to get her bearings. The pole ran higher and higher and eventually she was able to use it to pull herself into a standing position. She grabbed the pole, holding it between her shoulder and elbow and reached out again in the darkness. Having turned around, instead of coming in contact with nothing as she expected, her hand hit what felt like a wall.
Freezing to the touch, it felt like weathered stone and as she coursed her hand along its surface she realized it was not only cold, but wet with an unnerving ooze of slime over it.
Olivia waved her hand along the wall for a few moments more until she was able to make out something grey across the dark field before her eyes. She moved her hand again and recognized her own hand moving across a black wall. Turning around quickly, she peered out into the dark again in hopes of discerning her whereabouts. Though she could only see outlines, Olivia made out the shapes of what looked like other people in the dark room with her.
“Hello?” she called again. “Can you hear me?”
The several shapes scattered in multiple directions and she sighed, causing the cold chain to slide on her foot. She gasped at the cold and turned her attention back on the wall reaching as far as she could to see if the wall and pole intersected.
High in the air, her hand came in contact with a curvature in the pole that ran into the wall. She pulled at the bar to see if she was truly attached to the pole, but misjudged the strength in her arms. Falling back to floor with a smack as her arms gave way, she shivered in the dark until her chest began seizing into a fit of coughs.
Olivia pulled her legs to her chest and shook while she sat on the floor from combined cold, fatigue and fear. Her breath was coming in quick gasps as her mind raced, trying to remember what could have happened to get her into such a place.
She remembered Elliot; he was especially angry with her and then he was gone. The door to the apartment opened again, but...Her mind drew a blank and another series of shivers, starting from her stomach muscles, cascaded through her body.
The sound of a door creaking not far from her caused her head to shoot up toward the noise and she quickly stood. The shapes in the room with her had now gathered into one corner of what she could see and standing directly in front of her, a new tall figure glowed a faint grey in the dark. She could hear the figure breathing and apprehension spread across her body.
“Hello? Is somebody there?”
The call was answered only with silence and she tried again.
“My name is Detective Olivia Benson. Who are you and what am I doing here?”
“You’re here to stay,” a deep, masculine voice responded.
Olivia felt her face scrunch at the absurdity of the idea. “Who are you? How did I get here?”
“You’re bought and paid for,” he said. “You’re mine now.”
“Oh, that’s bullshit,” she blurted out without a second thought. “Who the hell are you?”
Footsteps drew near toward her and before Olivia’s eyes could make out the outline of a pale face in the dark, she heard the swish of something moving through the air as a hard object came in contact with her head.
A painful white light appeared between her eyes as she stumbled backward hitting her head against the cold, wet wall and the grey before her turned once more to black.