Elliot sat straight up in the bed, his breathing haggard and covered in sweat. He looked about the room expectantly, not quite sure of where he was for a moment before settling back onto the bed’s white sheets. As his breathing slowed, he remembered with a grimace on his face why his surroundings seemed so unfamiliar.
The walk to his apartment, after seeing Evelyn Rivers, had come to an abrupt halt by the mass of reporters and camera crewmen waiting by his front and back doors. He thought of maybe staying the night on the couch at his old house, but he did not want to bring that kind of mayhem on his children. It was only a matter of time before the press began to hound them as well, so there was no point in bringing that on them any sooner.
Instead, he checked into a cheap
It was very much like the one he had had weeks earlier about Dickie with some minor changes here and there. He was still running from his car in the dream, but this time officers made a path for him as he came closer and closer to the river’s edge. As he had approached it, he could see something under a white sheet and Fin, instead, told him that he should wait before coming any closer. Again, he pushed passed the person keeping him from his quarry, yet when he pulled back the white sheet to reveal Olivia’s bruised face staring up at him with blank eyes, he simply awoke.
Elliot shuddered under the thin covers of the motel bed. The mere recollection of the dream was almost too much to take and there was no mistaking what had caused the dream. Olivia face seemed to haunt his thoughts and, again, he found himself empathizing with Morse.
His breath caught in his chest as the dream’s last scenes played across his memory again. He did not know what he would do if when they found her, she had been brutalized, but he was certain he would give the media a real reason to trail him and make proper use of their headlines of the cop who had lost it and murdered someone.
Sighing, he rose from the rock hard mattress and glanced at the television in the room. He had set up Morse’s videos to run from it, but even after hours of watching Morse stalk Olivia through the city, he had found nothing of value.
Elliot turned the television onto the news and found, once again, that Olivia’s was one of the biggest news stories. The red-haired reporter rambled in a forceful tone indicating that the police were still “baffled” as to what had happened to Olivia and that they would be showing a message coming directly from her captain that night at ten.
Having heard his fill of the media’s commentary on his and the unit’s actions, Elliot turned on Morse’s videos again, forwarding to the last Tuesday Olivia was seen. He had watched that night more times than he could count at this point, yet each time he watched, he sat mesmerized by the images on the screen.
Questions swirled through his mind as he watched a previous version of himself pushing Olivia backward across her apartment.
Did I really do that to her? Was I really yelling that loud? How the hell did I break her lamp like that?
Elliot shook his head as he rewound the scene watching Olivia’s bow and lamp re-form themselves and leap back onto her desk and watched the scene again and again. When he finally moved on other dates, however, Elliot felt his eye twitch as he watched the screen. Morse had edited the videos so that Olivia was always in view from one of the best vantage points of each of the cameras he had situated around her apartment.
He rose and dressed, prepared to go back to the 1-6 with a new theory on the case regardless of the fact that he was essentially “taking time.” The phone on Cragen’s desk rang relentlessly and there was no telling where Munch and Fin would be at that time in the afternoon.
Each tape had been edited to near-film quality and purposely cut anytime Olivia’s clothes slipped or she and Jonathan were together. As he walked toward his car, Elliot knew that as obsessive-compulsive as Morse had proved to be, somewhere there lay originals of his voyeurism and somewhere on those tapes, lay some inclination as to what had really happened that night.
SVU Squad Room
Cragen sat facing his own desk with his head resting in his hands as he contemplated retirement.
With one detective missing without a trace and another “unofficially” suspended for causing said disappearance, he realized he had reached the lowest point of his career. What made the situation worse were the itching fingers of ambitious younger cops who were anxious for a chance to prove themselves in the SVU and a chance to snatch a possible opening in a captain’s position.
His office door opened behind him and he jumped with a start.
“Look at this mess,” Fin spat as he barged into the office, Munch following after him.
He grabbed the remote control off the small television and pressed three channels forward until he found what he wanted.
On the screen, a blonde middle-aged woman was walking slowly through a small, seated crowd facing a stage with a stern expression on her face and a microphone in her hand.
“So, you all say you’re certain she’s dead?” she said in the direction of four equally-aged women sitting on a stage.
“Well,” the woman sitting farthest to left said. “Everyone knows that telepathic clairvoyance is not an exact science, but all four of us are certain of that one fact, Lessa.”
The announcer nodded, holding her microphone closer. “How can you be so certain? I mean, she’s only been gone a week, and we’ve been hearing reports that Ms. Benson has been kidnapped by the occult to she’s been abducted by aliens. The NYPD is getting calls about her being sighted as far away as Texas, but nothing comes of it and no one still knows what happened to her.”
“Lessa,” the woman second from the left said with a laugh. “No one on this stage would suggest something so far-fetched. Aliens…honestly. We all believe…know that Olivia Benson is dead, however there is something still unresolved with her soul. That’s why people continue to see her about the country. She was a police officer in her old life and she simply cannot rest until her murderer is brought to justice.”
“And, you all think this?” the announcer said.
The woman on the far right shook her head. “No, Lessa. I have sensed that she’s not at rest because of something going on with her former partner. It’s a well-known fact that she and her partner were close and that’s what is keeping her from moving on.”
“Mary?” the announcer said to the eldest of the women, sitting in the center. “Do you agree?”
“I can’t say for certain at this point, which means that this was truly a complicated woman. I believe it’s something between the two relating back to unresolved tension with her partner that might have had some something to do with why she went missing the first place.”
“Vanesse?” the announcer said, nodding her head to the woman on the left again. “Any other thoughts?”
The woman on the left sighed dramatically. “Many of my counterparts refuse to go into grim details because, deep down, no one really wants to think that something terrible has happened to this beautiful woman, yet I am not one to skirt around the issues. I know what happened to Olivia Benson the night of Tuesday January 30th.”
“Care to share that information?” the announcer said, simultaneously ceasing her meander through the crowd.
“Her spirit came to me and informed me that she had been killed…by her partner.” The woman waited for a gasp to emit from the audience and then continued. “She came to me in spirit three days ago and told me everything, including where her body is buried and I’m willing to divulge this information should the NYPD contact me…for a small fee, of course.”
The announcer smiled and turned toward the screen. “We’ll have more on the disappearance of Olivia Benson on The Lessa Show, right after this. Don’t go away.”
Fin flipped off the television in disgust. “I can’t even believe that. They got so-called psychics on TV already claiming Olivia’s dead.”
Munch scoffed, slightly delirious from lack of sleep. “We should give her a call. We’ll quiz her and see what she comes up with. Who knows? Maybe she got her wires crossed and we might end up finding Jimmy Hoffa.”
“This isn’t funny,” Cragen said.
“Who’s laughing?” Munch said defensively. “All this means is that I’m going to be doing double time on the phones and Elliot’s not going to be able to step anywhere in this city without tripping over a reporter.”
“And speaking of…” Fin said his voice trailing as he stared out Cragen’s window.
Elliot burst into the office, looking slightly disheveled, Cragen assumed from the harrying reporters outside the precinct.
“What’s up?” Fin said. “You find anything extra on those tapes?”
Elliot shook his head. “Nothing different except…Those videos are so edited and from what I know about Morse, that means there’ve got to be originals somewhere.”
“But where though?” Munch asked. “And, why would he keep them? He’s already got his ‘best-ofs.’”
“But as crazy as Morse is,” Elliot continued. “There’s no way he’s going to just toss those away. I’m thinking the originals have got to be somewhere and they’ve got to show more than what’s just on the tapes he’s given us.”
“But, the tape he gave us of that Tuesday isn’t edited,” Munch said. “It’s just a straight shot of the two of you.”
“We’re talking about a guy who’s walked around in women’s clothes to keep Olivia from noticing him. He’s tracked her down all across the damn city. How can we be sure he didn’t just doctor up that tape to hide something?”
Fin leaned on the edge of Cragen’s desk. “Why though? I mean, what’s the point? And, why now all of a sudden? What was special about that night that woulda made him snatch her in the middle of the night and blame you for it? Aside from what we’ve already seen on that tape…”
Elliot, not having an immediate answer, ran a hand over his face. “All I know is that we found the tapes we have because Morse left them out in the open in his apartment. He came here with that video, knowing we’d hold him and knowing we’d go through his apartment. We found exactly what he wanted us to find. I’m just saying we need to find the originals. There’s got to be something on there that he edited out, but might help us figure out what happened to her. We need to look at him again.”
Cragen stared at him for a moment and then sighed. “Well, I would’ve said you could’ve just called this in, but seeing as I’ve been keeping my phone off the hook for the past two hours…”
“We need to look at Morse still,” Elliot repeated.
“But, we also need to chase down any of the other leads we’re getting via the phones,” Munch said.
“Let Missing Persons handle it.”
“No,” Cragen said. “We need to handle it. Otherwise it’s looking like the feds are going to bring in their own people on the case.”
Elliot shook his head. “For our detective? First Missing Persons, now the FBI wants a piece?”
“Everyone’s just trying to get the same result.”
“And, the more exposure this case gets, the more people see it and the more likely, whoever’s got her right now is going to freak into doing something else to her.”
“Elliot…” Cragen said after a moment, noting the dark circles under Elliot’s eyes.
“I know,” Elliot interrupted. “I need to take some time…Get some sleep. I got it. I just needed to…”
He stared at each of them for a moment more and then quickly left the office and the squad room to face the hordes of reporters again.
“How are our other cases looking?” Cragen said in Fin’s direction once Elliot had left.
“They’re not. We got a lead on that subway guy from two days ago, but we haven’t had time to look into anything too deep yet.”
“Well,” Cragen said. “I’m sure that talk show’s going to elicit a whole new series of calls. I’m going to pull some people for overtime. Maybe we’ll get some volunteers under the circumstances.”
Four hours after Munch and Fin had filed out of Cragen’s office, he heard a sharp rap on his door. When he turned, he found Jillian Harfort staring back at him, jaw set and eyes blazing.
“I heard,” she began, “that there’s a possibility that Olivia’s partner is responsible for her disappearance.”
“Please,” Cragen said extending his arm toward a chair. “Have a seat, Ms. Harfort.”
“I don’t want to sit,” Jillian said quickly. “I was told, by you, three days ago that I’d be the first person to be called if something new developed on her case.”
“And we haven’t found anything, or else we would’ve called you.”
“Oh, that’s bullshit. I told you days ago that you needed to look at her partner and now I’m finding out about some video circulating the Internet that shows him attacking her and you have the nerve to stand in front of me and tell me you haven’t found anything?”
“We’ve investigated that video and we’ve talked to Detective Stabler. There’s nothing that suggests-”
“This is such bullshit!” she screamed throwing her bag to the floor. “They’ve been arguing non-stop for weeks and weeks! She’s telling everybody she cares about that she’s leaving the unit because of him! Maya even tells me that Liv told her that she was scared of him and now there’s this video that shows him doing something to her! What do you people need to see this for what it is? Murder!”
“Ms. Harfort…I need you to calm dow-”
“No! Screw that! The time to remain calm ended the moment she went missing. It’s time for you people to stop screwing around and find her! For God’s sake, you’ve already arrested him! What the hell is holding you back?”
Cragen took a step toward the red-faced woman, having heard his fill of accusations toward Elliot for one day. “Look! I’ll tell you what I’ve been saying all day. Elliot Stabler did not kill Olivia.”
“What? Did he give you his word on that, Captain?”
“Yeah, actually he did. And, I trust his word more than anyone else’s.”
“Well, he can shove his word for all I care. There’s a video that shows him trying to kill her! Why isn’t he at least in jail? Is it because he’s the big, male cop and she was just the little woman trying to make her way in the boy’s club?”
“That’s enough!” Cragen said. “No one in this precinct has ever once treated Liv like she’s some kind of second rate detective. She’s a good cop and so is Elliot. And if he says he didn’t do anything to her, we have no reason not to believe him. I believe him. His co-workers believe him. The woman who’s known Olivia since they were children believes him. It’s just the outsiders…the people who don’t know Elliot or know Liv as well as they think they do are willing to believe that Elliot murdered her.”
The last comment caught her attention and Jillian’s lips pursed into a thin, pink line. “Look…Maya may have known Olivia since they were in grade school, but I’m the one she runs to when she wants reason. When she needs a normal, practical person to talk to, she confides in me. I’m not sure what Maya’s been telling you, but the woman can be an absolute idiot. She always wants to think the best of people, even when there isn’t anything good about them. Now, I spoke with Olivia a week ago and I spoke with her last Monday and both times she mentioned how angry her partner was with her. You are all detectives here! Do you really need someone to spell it out for you! He has anger-management problems, he’s been angry with her for days and now she’s disappeared! You can’t honestly believe that he’s not involved!”
Her breath was coming in sharp, haggard gaps and her eyes were wet and streaked with red.
“Jillian,” Cragen said saying her name for the first time after he allowed her some time to catch her breath. “I had my doubts about Elliot when I saw that tape too. Okay? I saw him the day after she went missing. He had so many bruises on him he looked like he got hit by a train. But, I was also standing right here when that video was first brought to our attention. He told me everything, every single thing that happened on that tape before we watched it. Now, I know you’re worried and you’re scared. Trust me. I feel your pain, but you have got to stop coming in here like this. We’re going to find her. I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life, but you just have to have faith in us…and in Elliot.”
“But that video…” Jillian said shaking her head.
“Yeah, it looks bad and believe me…I’ve already read him the riot act about his actions, but he did not hurt her. He says she was fine when he left her and there’s not one shred of evidence to suggest otherwise.”
“And you just believe him? Just like that?”
“No. Not just like that. From years of working as his superior and knowing what kind of man he is. Now, you know Olivia and, if you think hard about it, do you honestly think the Olivia that you went to college with would just stand by and let somebody do something to her without a trace of evidence? Do you think if he really roughed her up enough to do some real damage that he’d still be walking? The Liv I know would’ve kicked his ass even more than she had. And, if you’re intent on watching that video, keep in mind what’s missing from it.”
“Like what?” Jillian said, much calmer.
“Like the fact that her gun and his were both in well in reach for both of them, but neither of them reached for one. At one point her gun was less than arm’s length away, but she never reached for it. Do you really think if she thought her life was in danger that she’d just leave it on the table?”
Jillian did not answer, but simply bent over, picked up her bag and brushed the dust off of it. “You make some good arguments, Captain Cragen, but I’m not sure if I’m convinced.”
“Which makes you no different from anyone else in the world.”
“You know…I think about the fact that she’s gone and I think about the safety of my children. Is there some…monster out there waiting to snatch them in the middle of the night too?”
“No,” Cragen said softly, “and if there is, we’ll find him and bury him.”
“But…but what about…what if s-she
turns up in the
“It’s no different than any of the rest of us here.”
“I just…It’s not knowing that’s driving me crazy. She’s a perfectly strong, capable woman and somehow, someone’s just taken her in the middle of the night. It just doesn’t make any sense. What am I supposed to tell my kids? They keep asking all these questions. I just don’t know what to do.”
“And Elliot’s got kids too and they’re just as attached to her.”
“I know and I try to remember that every time I think about that video, but…I don’t think I’m going to be able sleep right until she’s found and we know what’s happened to her.”
Cragen reached across his desk and pulled out of his business cards for Jillian. “Here. I’m here nearly all the time now, anyway. If you’re up at four in the morning, just like the rest of us, you can call me. Whatever it is, I’ll know how you’ll feel.”
Jillian pocketed the card and gave him the smallest of smiles before silently leaving and heading toward the elevators.
Cragen fell into his chair, his eyes catching the bottle of “emergency” whiskey in the corner of his office that beckoned him with an ethereal twinkle.
It’s going to be another long night, he thought.
“Dad!” Lizzie shouted as she crossed the living room in a flash to throw her arms around her father.
Elliot sighed with a smile as he hugged her, having barely come through the front door frame. She and Dickie were playing a video game and Lizzie had dropped her controller the moment she saw Elliot approach the door. Dickie turned on the couch and gave a nonchalant nod in his direction which Elliot returned still tangled with Lizzie.
“Are you okay?” Lizzie asked quickly after she let go of him. “Have you found anything about her yet?”
He shook his head and she gave a somber sigh, returning the couch.
“They were saying all those things about you on the news,” she continued as she grabbed the fallen game controller.
“Yeah,” Elliot said. “You know they always blow things up. Half the time they never have the real story.”
“We know,” Lizzie said.
“That picture of you in that court room looked pretty real,” Dickie said. Though his cracking voice held a hint of jest in the statement, Elliot knew his son well and knew that the defensive mechanism of humour was barely hiding Dickie’s concern.
“Yeah,” Elliot said. “Yeah, I’m sure it did, but even the DA admits they just jumped the gun.”
“We know, Dad,” Dickie said.
Elliot cleared his throat. “You kids see that video yet?”
“Yup,” Dickie said never taking his eyes off the television. “It’s one of my Favorites on MySpace.”
“Nice,” Elliot mumbled.
“Mom’ll be back soon,” Lizzie said. “You wanna watch me smoke him again in Mario Cart?”
“The controller stuck!” Dickie shouted and looked at his father. “She only beat me that one time.”
Elliot laughed, enjoying the quick change in atmosphere and sat down in the chair next to them. “Where’s Kathleen?”
The twins glanced at one another, but Lizzie spoke, her eyes focused on the game screen. “Upstairs. She didn’t go to school today.”
Like her mother, the tone in her voice said far more than her words.
You should go talk to her.
Elliot quickly rose from the chair and headed upstairs.
“Kathleen?” he said when he reached the top landing.
He crossed the hallway into the room that Kathleen shared with Lizzie and found her lying on her bed with a despondent expression on her face as she stared at the spot where the ceiling met the wall.
“Hey,” he said. “How come you’re up here all alone?”
Without looking at him, Kathleen shrugged. “I just wanted some time to myself for a little.”
“Lizzie said you didn’t go to school today. How come?”
“Mom said I could stay home. You’re not going to give me that Education First speech again, are you?”
Elliot sighed. “No, but I still have a right to know what’s going on. You don’t look sick, so why’d you ask Mom to let you stay home?”
Kathleen sat upright and pulled her legs Indian style on the bed. “People at school…I mean people who are supposed to be my friends. They’re saying all these things about you. I just don’t get it.”
“What are they saying?”
“Crap like, ‘So when is your dad going to tell us where he hid her’ or ‘If your dad kills people, should we be scared of you too?’”
“I’m sorry all this is falling on you kids.”
“What are you sorry about?” Kathleen said shaking her head. “You’re not the one saying these things to me.”
“Kathleen, you know how people can be. You can’t lis-”
“How can I not listen to them, Dad? It’s everywhere I go. People whispering things in the halls or stuffing notes in my locker and if I avoid the people saying these things, then I get twenty IMs or text messages saying the same stuff. I don’t even want to go outside anymore. I just want to runaway.”
“Tell me about it,” Elliot said. “But, we both know that’s not going to solve anything.”
Kathleen leaned back against the wall next to her bed. “I just wish…I don’t know. I mean, it’s been a week, Dad. I watched this talk show today and they had these psychic ladies on there…They were all saying that Olivia was dead.”
“Kathleen, they’re psychics, on day-time television.”
“I know, Dad. But, what if they’re right? What if Olivia’s…dead and the next call you get is to go identify her because she’s been in the river?”
“That’s not going to happen.”
“But, how do you know!” she yelled more than asked. “Daddy, it’s been a week. Nobody just disappears like that. How do you know you’re not going to get a call that she’s dead?”
“Trust me, sweetie,” he said. “That’s the same nightmare I’ve been having for days, but I promise you, it’s not going to happen.”
Kathleen nodded slightly, yet in that same moment, Elliot’s phone chirped from his pocket. He and Kathleen both froze and locked eyes, hers growing wide and tearful. Elliot swallowed, glanced at the phone and let out a sigh upon seeing the display.
“It’s someone from another case. She’s just wanting to know if we have any more information.”
“What’s her name?”
“Evelyn and she got really attached to Olivia, so she calls all the time.”
“Does she know anything, Dad?”
“She thinks…No. She doesn’t know anything.”
He broke eye contact with his daughter, not wishing to go into the details of Evelyn Rivers’ case with her. She had enough time to discover the depths of humanity when she got older.
Kathleen stared at him for a long time, scrutinizing every curve of her father’s face as he stared at the floor before her.
“What happened that one night, Dad?” she asked after a minute’s silence.
“Nothing,” he said quickly readying his mantra. “She was fine when I left.”
“No. The night after you found out about the pills. What did you do?”
He sighed. “I went to Olivia’s apartment and I screamed about it.” Kathleen stared at him so intently, he saw a flash of himself within her and he continued. “I was just so angry that she’d keep something like that from me, but all I did was yell. Why are you asking now? You starting to believe the kids at school? Do you think I might’ve done something to her?”
“No,” Kathleen said. “But…I just wanted to make sure.”
A single tear that had been pushing its escape rolled down her face and, though she wiped it away quickly, more formed at the brims of both eyes.
“We’ll find her, Kathleen,” Elliot said after another long silence. “We’re all worried, but I know we’ll find her and once we do…I’m sure she’ll have a long captivating story for us.”
Kathleen nodded and stretched herself across her bed again. “I hope so, Dad, ‘cause it’s really nerve-racking just thinking that she disappeared into thin air.”
“I know, baby,” he said standing. He kissed her once on the forehead. “Just have faith that it’ll be okay.”
“I will…Are you gonna stick around for a while?”
Elliot shrugged as Kathy came through the door behind him.
“Oh,” she said sounding surprised, though he was certain Lizzie had told her that he was upstairs. “I just came up to see how she was doing.”
“Dad was just telling me that he was going to stay for dinner,” Kathleen said. “Right Daddy?”
He turned toward Kathy who nodded.
“Yeah, I’ll just set another place. You feeling any better, though?”
Kathy gave her a small smile and glanced at Elliot before leaving the room for the kitchen. Hours later, she and Elliot sat alone on the living room couch with the TV on, but muted in the background. After the kids had gone to bed, they sat down to watch TV together like old times, but after a while, Kathy picked up the remote and muted it to focus on him.
She had not seen him look so sickly in all her life and, she knew that while the majority of his demeanor was because of Olivia, learning that his children were not fairing well either could not have helped.
“So, there’s still nothing?” she asked.
Elliot shook his head. “We don’t even have anything to go on.”
“But, I’m sure people have been calling in and-”
“Yeah, they’ve been calling, but I don’t know what they’ve said because Cragen’s asked me off the case.”
“I guess they don’t think I’m up to it considering…”
“Elliot, that can’t be it.”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m beginning to think we’ll never find her alive.”
Kathy took his hand in hers. “You can’t lose hope. No one just disappears in the middle of the night. If somebody took her, I’m sure she’ll show up fine and if she just left, I’m sure she had a good reason.”
“Just left? C’mon Kath.”
“I’m just trying to remain optimistic. I know how this is affecting you.”
“I’m just upset that all this is affecting the kids.”
“Well, of course it’s going to affect them, Elliot. They all adore her. And Kathleen…she’ll be fine in a few days. Maybe she’ll develop a little more backbone against her friends in her school.” She paused and rubbed his hand. “Where are you staying because I know you must be catching hell at…your apartment right now.”
He shrugged. “I’m staying at this little slum of a place down the way. The press has been crawling all over my apartment for days.”
“Oh…,” she said pursing her lips. “Well, why don’t you just spend the night? I could, um, make up the couch for you and we could all have breakfast together in the morning.”
Elliot stared at her for a long while, as she continued to rub his hand with her thumb. He wanted to wrap his arms around her and hold her next to him while she whispered everything was going to be all right until he fell asleep, but instead, he allowed his eyes to drop the floor.
“Yeah,” he said. “That’d be nice.”
Fin rubbed a hand over his face and groaned as he stared at his computer monitor. His eyes burned from lack of sleep and his free hand shook from the amount of caffeine coursing through him, though it was not helping. With twenty-three open cases, eight of which were follow-ups from Olivia’s previous cases, sleep was a commodity he could not afford and, after a short and enervating nap, he came back to the floor in hopes of catching up on his caseload.
Volunteers had been coming by the dozens to assist with Olivia’s case by answering phones and chasing down any possible leads, but the pile on his and Munch’s desks grew steadily larger. The volunteers were eager to help find Olivia, but all suddenly held other obligations when it came to the grit of other SVU work. Suspects still needed to be grilled, paperwork still needed to be filed, court appearances still needed to be made and victims still needed a shoulder on which to cry.
As he leaned back in his chair, Alexa walked out of the small video room and headed straight for the coffee stand. The circles under her eyes were dark and her red hair looked flat and dull. Her entire body seemed slightly hunched like a wilting plant that lacked sunlight.
“How’s it coming?” Fin asked.
“I’m almost done with my sweep of 2004, but I still haven’t found anything too relevant. Nothing else about that Matthew either.” She sighed. “I think I’ve been at this a little too long. I’m getting kind of jaded by the idea that Morse follows her everywhere. And, I mean everywhere she goes.”
“Up here even?”
“Twice so far. I think he must’ve had something in a jacket or something because he actually sat at Elliot’s desk to report that he thought a friend of his might’ve been raped, but he purposefully left out a few details.”
“That’s crazy,” Fin said. “For him to stand right here and no one even know it.”
“If anything, he’s brilliant. How are the phones?”
“Calls have doubled since yesterday, but no one’s got anything to offer. Just wanting to know if we’ve found anything, which we might be able to do if they’d stop calling every other second about nothing.”
As they nodded at one another, a small, rusty-haired figure stepped off the elevators. He looked around the squad room for a moment looking apprehensive. His eyes flashed to Fin, but once he spotted Alexa, he made beeline for her.
“I need to speak to someone about Olivia Benson’s disappearance.”
Fin’s ears perked immediately and he approached the pair. “I’m Detective Tutuola. What do you have for us?”
He took a step backward and narrowed his eyes at Fin before speaking. “And who are you?”
Fin glanced at Alexa, his eyebrows furrowed, and repeated himself. “Detective Fin Tutuola. Now, you said you had some information about Olivia. Care to share it?”
“Well, yes,” he said after looking Fin up and down several times. “My name is Mark Landon. I’m not sure how much what I have will help, but I thought I should come forward.”
“Have a seat,” Fin sad motioning to the chair near his desk.
Mark stared at Fin for a moment more before situating himself in the chair. “I’m Olivia’s neighbor. I’ve lived across the hall from her for years. That apartment was originally her grandmother’s and she left it to Ms. Benson, Olivia’s mother, and when she wanted to move Uptown, she gave the apartment to Olivia. That was about ten years ago.”
“That’s nice,” Fin said shortly. “Now, do you have anything about where Olivia is?”
“My point,” Mark continued, “is that I’ve been around that building for a while and I know who’s coming in and out of it and what it sounds like at night. That night…last Tuesday, I heard what was going on and I think I need to step forward and say something.”
Fin glanced at Alexa again and as his chest tightened with unease, his mind immediately thought of Elliot. “Step forward and say what?”
Mark sighed. “I’ve been watching the news and…this is just unfair. Detective Stabler did not take Olivia from her apartment.”
“You’re sure?” Fin demanded.
“Yes, I’m certain. I heard them arguing that night, but I distinctly remember him storming out of her apartment and getting on the elevator.”
“How do you know? I mean, what was she doing while he was getting on the elevator?”
“She was crying in her apartment.”
“And, you didn’t hear anything else?”
“Well, I didn’t stand right by the door to listen to everything. It sounded like a heated argument and I didn’t want to pry. And, if I’d known she was going to vanish like this, I’d have paid closer attention.”
“You don’t know what happened after, but you’re sure you heard him leave?”
“I just said that,” Mark said raising his voice slightly. “I’m certain I heard him leave and get on the elevator. The elevator doors on our floor are very noisy and he’s a big guy. I heard him walk down the corridor and get on the elevator.”
“While she was still in her apartment?”
“Yes. She was in her apartment and he got on the elevator.”
“So, you heard all this, but you don’t know what happened after that?”
Mark let out a deep breath. “Why are you quizzing me like I’m not telling the truth? I’ve told you already, twice, what happened. I heard them shouting. I heard him leave. I heard her crying in her apartment and then I went to the back room because I didn’t want to pry into her private life. What’s so hard for you to understand?”
“Now, just calm down,” Fin said. “We’re all trying to find her and we’ve been sifting through bogus reports for days.”
“But, I’m not some crackpot just coming off the streets looking for their fifteen minutes of fame! I’m her neighbor. I know her well and I’m telling you all, you’re barking up the wrong tree if you think her partner did anything to her. I’m seeing it all over the news and I know it’s just wrong. He got on the elevator that night and left. End of story!”
“No! It’s not the end of the story. If it was, she’d be sitting here taking your bull instead of me. You say you heard what went down and that you heard Detective Stabler leave, but you don’t know what happened after that? He coulda jumped off the elevator at the last second.”
“But, you said you were in the back room, so how do you know?”
“Because I know!” Mark shouted. “I’ve seen them together and I know he got on the elevator. The press is trying to put everything on him, but I’m telling you, he didn’t do anything!”
Fin leaned back in his chair as Mark’s breathing grew ragged. “All right. So, if you know them both, you wanna tell me what you think happened to her that night?”
“Well…I mean I don’t know. If I knew…like you said, she’d be here right now…instead of you.”
“So, all you have to give us is that you think you heard Elliot get on the elevator that night, while Olivia was still in her apartment?”
“That, and I know of someone you people should be looking at.”
“There’s a guy in our building who’s been…I don’t know loitering around our floor recently. His name is Adam Jackson and, as far as I know, he’s probably one of the only people you people haven’t bothered to talk to about all this.”
Mark shrugged. “He’s a big…guy who’s always around. You know? Just dropping by randomly just to talk to her.”
“Wait a minute. Aren’t you the neighbor who said we should talk to Philip Fitzgivens off this same stuff? Why are you just now coming up with this info?”
“Because I figured if he wasn’t involved, you’d definitely look at this guy afterward.”
“But, how would we know?”
“Because you’re detectives! I can’t believe my tax dollars are going to people who are so inept at their jobs! No wonder Olivia’s still missing!”
Fin rolled his eyes. “I need to get your contact information just in case we have any other questions.”
Alexa shook her head with her arms crossed as they watched him leave minutes later. “I don’t like him. There’s something off about him.”
“He’s a creepy little man, but at least he’s given us something.”
“I still don’t like it. I mean, why’s he lurking by his front door in the middle of the night, anyway? And, why’s he so sure all of a sudden Elliot’s not involved. I just don’t like it.”
“At this point,” Fin said, “all I
care is we got another confirmation that Elliot’s not involved. If this takes
some of the heat off him, it’ll be all good. I’m gonna
grab Munch and we’ll talk to this
“Y’all’ve gotta be kidding me!”
Standing at six feet and three
inches tall, Adam Jackson’s long frame seemed to tower over Munch and Fin in
They had attempted to find as much information about Adam as they could, but upon not finding so much as a traffic ticket, they decided to speak to him face to face about Mark Landon’s comments.
“I mean, you’re actually thinking I did something to Olivia?”
“We’re looking at everybody,” Fin said.
“Like hell you are!” Adam yelled. “This is messed up! You’re giving me a full interrogation and I hadn’t talked to her in days before she went missing.”
“Like he said,” Munch said. “We’re checking into anyone who might’ve been a part of her life.”
Adam shook his head and crossed the room to sit on his sofa. “This is crazy. Olivia and I…I’ve known her for years. Why would I do something to her?”
“That’s the question of the week,” Munch said.
“Well, it’s bull. We talked every once in a while and hung out even less than that.”
“But, you’d call her a friend?” Fin asked.
“Well, yeah. Like I said, we’ve known each other for years, but I don’t know why you’d even come looking at me for this.”
“Maybe the last time you talked things got a little heated?” Fin asked. “Maybe you had an argument?”
Adam glared at him. “We never had an argument. In all the years I’ve known her, I never once even raised my voice with her. She was one of the few people in this city who was cool to me right from the start.”
“She was cool from the start?” Fin said.
“Yeah. She welcomed me to the building and told me if I ever needed anything, I could call on her.”
“So, you got close?”
“Yeah…We got kinda close. When she was around, I’d beat her at Madden or whatever or we’d just talk. I mean, what’s the big deal? If you’re looking at me for just hanging with her then you should prolly be looking at her partner or her boyfriend and some other guys too.”
“We are,” Munch said and pulled out a photograph. “Does he look familiar to you?”
Adam stared at the picture. “Uh…yeah, kinda.”
“Kinda?” Munch said. “She’s missing. We need more than kinda.”
“Olivia’s old boy. Matthew…Willis…Wilkens…Willen…Wilden. Something like that. I don’t remember.” Adam glared as Munch sighed. “Look, I don’t know what to tell ya’ll, but I don’t know why you’d even suspect I did something to Olivia.”
“I think you know where we’re going with this…” Fin said.
“Oh,” Adam said in a deep voice. “I get it. A white girl goes missing and the first person ya’ll want to bring in is the big, black guy from upstairs?”
“No one’s saying-” Munch began.
“Bullshit! You’re here ‘cause of that mess. I know it! I betchu that piece of trash across from her told you to check me out, didn’t he?” Munch and Fin glanced at one another, but Adam continued. “You know what? This is beyond messed up. How the hell could anybody take that little sacka nothing seriously!”
“Why wouldn’t we?” Fin said.
“He’s crazy! You know what he did? He comes to my apartment a couple weeks ago and says I need to keep my black ass away from Olivia. He says he knows what’s going on in the building and no one here would approve.”
“Approve of what?” Munch asked.
“My question exactly! Look, Liv and I are cool, but we ain’t that cool. She’s a friend. That’s it and he steps to me like he’s her protector or some crap. If ya’ll need somebody to look at, he’s your man!”
“That’s interesting,” Cragen said when Munch and Fin reported back to him a half hour later. “Landon points the finger at Adam and Adam points it right back at him.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Fin said. “As upset as he was, I doubt he’s anymore involved than Elliot.”
“Speaking of which,” Cragen said. “I think we can at least use Landon’s statement to pull Elliot off the bench on this. Getting some corroboration from someone who’s not a cop will help. If Landon says Elliot got on the elevator when Olivia was still in her apartment, it’s good enough for me.”
Cragen reached for his phone, but Munch stood still, shaking his head.
“What is it, John?” Cragen said.
“There’s just too many coincidences here. Morse’s video just happens to cut out what happened that night. Landon just happens to go to his bedroom at the time when Olivia would’ve gone missing…Elliot just happens to be the last person to see her alive.”
“I know,” Cragen said, “but, we’ve seen worse and I don’t see any reason to punish Elliot for coincidences. Do you?”
“No,” Munch said, but he did not sound convinced. “What about Landon? Maybe we should toss his place. This is the second time he’s pointed us to someone specific.”
“We could,” Cragen said, “but we were there the night CSU went through Olivia’s apartment. Elliot even went over there. He would’ve seen something.”
“Yeah, I guess…” Munch nodded, but the left the office with a frown on his face and Fin followed after him.
As Cragen reached for the phone again, he saw Munch through his window pointing a woman in the direction of his office. He sighed as she approached the door and opened it for her.
“Captain Cragen?” she said quickly. “My name is Diana Willex and I desperately need to speak to you.”
He ushered her into one of the chairs in front of his desk and she sighed deeply as she tucked her light brown hair behind her ears.
“What can I do for you?”
“I’ve been…I don’t know how to say this…seeing Elliot Stabler. I guess you can just say that we’re friends.”
“Now, I’ve been watching the news lately and I’ve been hearing all these reports about him.”
“Do you know anything about the case?” Cragen asked.
The knowledge that Elliot had seemingly given up on reconciling with his wife was unnerving and Cragen was somewhat alarmed that the woman before him was already comfortable enough to speak on Elliot’s behalf.
“The thing is,” Diana said. “I’ve seen this video that’s all over the place…It says it took place the night Elliot’s partner disappeared, but I know that just can’t be right.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because that night in particular…Elliot was with me.”
Cragen stared at her for a moment, unsure what to say. “Are you sure about the date? The videos were time stamped.”
“And, I’m saying the time stamp is wrong. Elliot couldn’t possibly have done anything to his partner because he was with me…the whole night.”
“I’m not lying.”
Cragen shifted in his chair. “No one’s saying you are.”
“I just wanted to come forward and tell someone so that you could set the record straight. I think that video is something old and I’m willing to swear openly in court if I need to.”
“Thank you, Ms. Willex. Let me just get some information from you and we can go from there.”
As Diana gave her written statement, Cragen suppressed a roll of his eyes thinking that Elliot finally had had a run of luck getting two different people to randomly vie for him on the same day.
Neither alibi would ever withstand gross scrutiny, but they both set the wheels turning in Cragen’s mind. There had only been one thing keeping him from openly allowing Elliot to investigate Olivia’s case, but he knew it was past time for the conversation to occur.
As Diana left the office, Cragen reached for the phone, but paused. Elliot hated any kind of psychological probing into his actions, yet there were questions that still needed to be answered and, even with years of experience on the job and also with Elliot, Cragen knew he did not want the answers directly.
He nodded once to himself, making a mental list of the remaining calls he needed to make that day, and pressed a speed dial button labeled “The Doc.”
Elliot squeezed the steering wheel
tighter as he drove under
He had received a call from Cragen earlier with mixed news. Two people had contacted the 1-6 to clear Elliot’s name and after a talk with George, Cragen wanted to publicly dismiss the suspension and any doubts about his involvement in Olivia’s disappearance. The bad news was that Mark was a shifty character and that Diana was clearly lying.
Shaking his head at the thought of
Olivia’s small neighbor, Elliot continued onto
“She wasn’t crying when I left her, Cap,” Elliot had said when Cragen had called him.
“What difference does it make?” Cragen had said. “At this point, all I’m interested in is getting another body in here to work the case.”
Morse’s videos sprang to mind and he sighed at the thought of Olivia nearly falling into Mark’s arms after he, Elliot, had drilled into her over Kathleen. Elliot did not particularly like Mark Landon, but, having only met him a handful of times, he was still grateful for the gesture. Diana, however, was a different story entirely.
She had called earlier offering an alibi he knew he did not need and took it upon herself to lie. Lies at this point in the case would only fuel the fire and that same fire bolted Elliot up the stairs in Diana’s building and caused him to pound heavily on her door.
“Hi!” she said eyes bright when she opened the door.
Her hair was still in a ponytail from working at her school and her makeup looked slightly worn. He stepped into her apartment, thankful only that she had ended her day early and he had the opportunity to give his tirade in private.
“I told you!” he yelled. “I told you not to say anything!”
“Why are you so mad? I did it for you.”
Elliot pulled his hand into a fist trying to retain his anger. This same rage had already caused him to do something stupid and he did not want a repeat of the current problem.
“I don’t need your help, Diana. This is already bad enough without you lying to my boss on top of it.”
“You keep pushing me away, but Elliot, I just want to help.”
“I don’t need your help! How many times do I have to say it!”
“Fine! I’m done. I won’t do anything else, no matter how badly you need it.”
He sighed and headed for her door.
“Is that it?” she said as he reached for the handle.
“What else were you expecting?”
“You are just unbelievable, you know that!”
“What the hell did I do? You’re the one lying to the police for no reason!”
“I stuck my neck out for you and this is how you’re treating me? After everything between us?”
Elliot ran a hand over his face.
You knew this was coming, he thought.
“Diana…Look, I’m sorry about…what you think has happened between us. That first night, I was feeling lonely and I made a bad decision. We had a few good times and a couple great nights, but I think it’s best if we just leave it at that.”
Diana crossed the room and, as her hand made contact with the side of his face that still hurt from the beating he had taken from Olivia, he remembered Olivia’s words from what seemed like years earlier.
“You can’t leave a woman out to dry, Elliot.”
He stepped back as Diana stared at him with wet eyes.
“You bastard,” she whispered. “You have no right to treat me this way.”
“If I remember correctly, you made the first move. You were the one telling me that I shouldn’t spend the night alone.”
“But, you’re a grown man. You could’ve said no!”
“Diana, I’m sorry-”
“You used me. After all I’ve tried to do for you, you just used me. I can’t even believe you. You know…you probably did kill your damn partner! Did you use her too? Is that why no one can find her?”
Elliot pulled himself to his full height and glared at her. “You’re out of line, Diana.”
“How can you say I’m outta line when you’re the one who’s so much as said you just used me for sex! How the hell am I supposed to react to that?”
“I can’t believe you’re really giving me grief over this.”
“You can’t put yourself in my shoes for a goddamn second! You’re a detective and you can’t figure out why I’m upset?”
“No, Diana. I can’t put myself in your shoes because you don’t deal with the same shit I face everyday. So, let me put this in perspective for you. For the past month, I’ve been trying to track down a killer who murdered eight people. Seven of them were kids. Children, Diana. Kids who were found brutalized and strangled and I had to look at every single one of them when they were left in boxes around the city once this guy was done with them. I had to look each parent in the eyes to tell them that they would have to bury their children and I’ve had to look this guy in the face as he confessed to murdering these kids just because. This is what I have to deal with. So, no! I can’t even possibly relate to this piddlin’ crap you’re throwing at me!”
Tears fell from Diana’s eyes, but Elliot could not stem the flow of words.
“And…to top everything off, my partner is gone. Vanished! No one knows where she is and when I’m dealing with the fact that half the world thinks I did something to her, I have to replay that night in my mind over and over and over again. If I never see her again, the last words I’ll have said to her were ‘I can’t fucking stand you.’ How would you feel if those were the last words you said to your son or someone else you care about? This is what I’ve got going on in my life right now and I can’t believe you’d even consider giving me grief because I fell during a weak moment.”
Diana bit her lip and wiped at her face. “I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry. I won’t bother you again.”
He wanted to apologize for yelling at her, but he could not stand the sight of her crying before him and quickly left her apartment hoping that those would not be the last words he said to her.
“You’ll never find her at this rate!” a red-faced Morse screamed to Munch and Elliot.
“Calm down, Morse,” Elliot said, sounding uninterested.
After Diana’s, Elliot had gone back to the precinct to see if they had uncovered anything relevant on Olivia’s whereabouts. When Munch and Fin told him that Mark and Adam were pointing fingers at one another, he suggested they run the idea of both Mark and Adam across Morse.
“Why do you keep telling me to calm down, you imbecile?” Morse yelled. “You’re coming to me about this Adam Jackson? This just tells me that you people don’t have a goddamn clue!”
“Well, why don’t you clue us in?” Munch said. “Apparently, you’ve got all the answers.”
Morse sighed as he shook his head. “You people…Adam Jackson didn’t do anything to her.”
“C’mon, Morse,” Elliot said. “First you insist that I did something when you didn’t have any real proof and now you’re saying the opposite about this guy, when again, you don’t have any proof.”
“I don’t need any goddamn proof when I’ve got common sense! Common sense tells me that any time I ever saw him with Olivia, everything was all smiles. They never yelled at each or even had a rough patch. He’s probably one of the most decent people in her life and I can’t believe you people could honestly think he’s involved. I mean, the man’s a choir boy. Church every Sunday and Bible Study on Wednesdays. I think he really does sing in the goddamn choir! And yet, you people are here asking me if you think he might’ve hurt Olivia. This is beyond ridiculous!”
“We’re here asking you about Adam because you’ve been stalking Olivia for years,” Elliot said, “and if there was someone who knew what was going on in her apartment, it’d be you. We just wanted to cross him off the list for sure.”
“Well, you can cross him off the damn list,” Morse spat. “Adam Jackson…Honestly!”
“Well then, honestly, tell us about him?” Elliot said holding out an image of the unknown Matthew.
“I already told you I don’t remember his name.”
“And, I think you’re stalling.”
“Stalling for what? I’m sitting in a padded cell all day, waiting for nothing and she’s still gone. What the hell would I be stalling about?”
“Fine,” Munch interjected. “What can you tell us about Mark Landon? Her neighbor.”
Morse shrugged. “Him I don’t know a lot about.”
“How can that be?” Elliot said. “He lives right across the hall.”
“If you’d let me finish…The only thing I really know about him is that he’s got it for Olivia.”
“Got it, how?” Munch asked.
“He’s got it for her,” Morse repeated. “He likes her and I guess he likes to take upon himself to look out for her.”
“Kind of like you,” Elliot said.
Morse sneered at him. “Not like me. I don’t go knocking on her door at random times during the night and asking if she needs bread and shit, do I?”
“No, you just stalked her from across the street. You never even had the balls to go and talk to her, let alone help her out.”
“You know, you can just go screw yourself. I’m not like Landon. He’s a sad little man who never leaves his apartment and just ends up getting her door slammed in his face when he interrupts her and the Halloway together. I never bothered her or did anything to interrupt her life.” Elliot rolled his eyes, but Morse continued. “And, keep in mind, I never burst through her apartment door and attacked her for no reason.”
“Are we gonna go through this again, Morse?”
“No,” he said. “But, I still think you’re full of it.”
“Likewise.” Elliot turned toward Munch. “We’re leaving.”
“When can I get out of here, goddamn it!”
“I gave you the cameras,” Morse said. “You’re end of the deal was to get me in minimum security.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did.”
“Why the hell would I lie?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Elliot said. “You’re in here because you belong in here.”
“That doesn’t make any sense! You’re the one who attacked her and you were the last person to see her alive and yet, you’re the one walking free! All I did was follow her a little and paint her picture! You threw her to the floor and jumped on top of her!”
“You belong in a prison cell. Stalking is still a crime in this city.”
“And since when is assault not one? Is it because you’re a cop? Was this a justifiable attack against your partner?”
Elliot took a step toward Morse. “You’re in here because your daddy pulled some strings to get you in here or did you forget what went on during your arraignment. You’re a multiple offender who had been stalking a cop for years. With a rap sheet like yours, you should be serving hard time, but instead you’re here. A quiet room all to yourself and three squares a day.”
“This is still bull.”
“But at the end of the day, all that happened with Olivia and I was an argument between two seasoned cops who were under a lot of stress, whereas you’ve got a stack of crimes a mile high against you. You should be happy I don’t pull some strings of my own to get you thrown where you really belong.”
“You can’t threaten me,” Morse said.
“Who’s threatening?” Elliot said. “The only reason I haven’t said anything yet is because I don’t feel like driving all the way to Rikers if I need to ask you a question. You think about that the next time you start pointing your accusations.”
“What kind of connections do you have to get a Morse thrown in prison for anything less than homicide?” Munch asked when they had left the hospital.
Elliot shrugged. “None, but Morse doesn’t need to know that.”
They both laughed, but the smile fell from Munch’s face quickly.
“Look, Elliot,” he began. “I just want to…apologize for the grief I might’ve been giving you this week.”
“Don’t even mention it,” Elliot said shaking his head. “If I were in your place, I’d’ve done the same thing. In fact, I think the whole idea of it puts me at ease a little. At least I know you’re not holding back from looking at everyone.”
Munch clapped him on the back and they drove back to the precinct in silence.
Offices of Dr. George Huang
28 Federal Plaza
“How have you been feeling lately?”
Elliot stared at George for a moment as they sat in his office. He had hoped for a short talk with the doctor regarding his “state” since Olivia had been gone, but when he arrived at the office and saw that George had already set out a comfortable chair for him, he knew he would have no such luck.
“How do you think I’ve been feeling lately? My partner’s disappeared off the face of the earth and everyone in the world seems to think I had something to do with it.”
“Have you been sleeping?” George asked.
“Yeah. Long enough to have nightmares about what my life is gonna be like if we find her and she’s been raped and killed.
“That’s understandable, Elliot.”
Elliot shook his head. “George, you’re doing that thing you do when you’re analyzing me and you know I can’t stand that.”
“It’s normal to be upset over all of this.”
“Let’s just get to the point where you tell me I’m not adjusting to this so Cragen will force me to do something other than Liv’s case.”
“What makes you think I’d do that?” George said though he did not expect an answer during the pause that came after his question.
Both he and Elliot remembered an incident with a case not too long past where George had done that very thing.
“Then, let’s move onto that video,” George said quickly.
Elliot sighed. “I got angry.”
“That I could see.”
“But, I didn’t hurt her. I would never harm Olivia.”
“I know that Elliot. We all know that.”
“Then why do I feel like I’m repeating myself every ten seconds. Every time I turn around, I’m telling the same thing to someone else. I have to swear up and down and people still don’t believe me. I don’t know what I did to make people think I’d kill her, but it couldn’t be that bad.”
“You’re not a bad person.”
“Doc, you’re doing it again.”
“Okay fine. Let’s talk about something specific in that video. Something, it seems that everyone is intent on avoiding.”
Elliot felt his body tense as he recalled the last night he had seen Olivia.
He had been lying, literally, on top of her and could feel every shift she made beneath him. His heart was pounding and he could feel hers pulsing through the bare skin that was coming in contact with his. Every thought that ran through his mind was focused on her and a yearning for her; want, need, desire. His mind was electric as his hands ran across her arms; her skin was so soft.
His mouth followed in place of his hands and everything in his being want to kiss her everywhere at the same time. He had started to pull at his jacket, thinking he might not be able to get off everything in time, when a thought crossed his mind.
What if she doesn’t want me?
But, Olivia had not shuddered, nor did she pull away from him when his lips came in contact with her skin. She wanted him it as much as he did.
She shifted beneath him and he could hear the keys that lied somewhere hidden in her cami bra jingling and all thoughts of the feel of her skin against his crashed away in an instant.
“Elliot?” George said, breaking his reverie.
“I didn’t hurt her,” Elliot repeated.
“But, you know what I’m talking about.”
“I did that…I admit it, okay? I wanted her. In that moment, I wanted her more than I ever had in my life…but I wanted Drover’s file more.”
“You say you admit it, but what are you admitting?”
“I admit that I…c’mon Doc. Why do we have to go through this?”
“You wrestled your partner to the floor that night. There’s got to be a reason why, aside from Jeffrey Drover’s case file.”
“Why’s there got to be another reason? She was the sole person holding the information I needed to go after the guy who tried to pull something on my kid. I’d’ve gone after her or anyone else holding that file.”
George stared at him a moment, as if playing the video through his own sapient mind. “But you never struck her at any point?”
Elliot gawked at him. “Are you serious? You really think that I’d go so far as to hit her?”
“She hit you.”
Elliot wanted to ask how George had known, but he turned his eyes toward the far wall instead as the slap he had received from Diana stung in place of the dull ache in his face to which he had slowly been growing accustomed.
The more he pondered it, the more absurd it seemed. If he could move his jaw just so much and feel what Olivia had left on him, he thought that she was still with him. Yet, as the pain began to fade, his depression had grown stronger and he wondered whether he had said what he had to Diana just in an unconscious attempt to make the pain, and thus Olivia, return to him.
“That’s different,” Elliot said. “I deserved to have the shit kicked out of me that night.”
“So, you let her?”
“I didn’t let her. She had the upper hand on me and she was pissed. What was I supposed to do? Hit her in the jaw to keep her from hitting me again?”
“You’re a lot stronger than her. You could’ve stopped her at anytime, but you let her keep going.”
“Again with this ‘why.’”
“Everyone has a motive for the things they do.”
Elliot’s foot tapped nervously for a moment as he contemplated the question at which George had been hinting since the conversation began. “You think we were sleeping together?”
George’s eyebrows lifted. “Were you?”
“No…we never had an affair. We never kissed, held hands or even looked into one another’s eyes and had a moment.”
“Eight years is a long time to work next to someone. Especially in this unit.”
Elliot laughed. “You’re tellin’ me. A couple years ago, we were working this case, going through phone records trying to see if this guy was trying lure kids to his house by calling them at night. Anyways, it’s two in the morning and it’s summer and it’s hot. The AC in the room we were in was broken and we just had some fans down there with us. I just kept looking at her over those phone records…And, there’s this part of me that’s just saying, ‘Elliot, go home. Your wife needs you,’ but there was this other part of me that’s like, ‘What about what I need?’ Liv was sitting beside me and had ditched her jacket on the other side of the room and we were both so tired, we were delirious. She started laughing hysterically at this number she found that spelled out ‘fat butt’ and she had that smile on her face and she was sweating just enough…It was all I could do to keep my hands to myself and keep from just touching her.”
“But, you didn’t.”
“No, I didn’t, but the thought had crossed my mind. And, in hindsight, the only thing that probably kept me from doing anything was fear that…she wouldn’t want me.” He sighed after the revelation, unable to look at George.
“She’s very pretty, Elliot. Any man can sympathize.”
“She’s my partner.”
“Things have been known to happen between co-workers. You’re not the first and you’re not the last.”
“But, I knew better.”
George nodded. “Right, you knew better, but you thought about it anyway.”
“Like that Tuesday. You knew better than to jump on top of her…”
“…but I did anyway. So, the question again is why’d I do it?”
George paused, waiting for answer, but Elliot stared at the floor.
“I honestly wish I had an answer for you, but I don’t. Maybe it was just pent up frustration over the case and over the way things were going between us that made me do it. I don’t know. You know, I was talking to Morse today and he said I belong in a cell. I’m beginning to think he’s right.”
“It’s not the first time you and a partner have had a fight, Elliot. You think you should be locked up for one fight?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.” He stood and began to pace the room. “It’s just…if this had been about any other person. Any other person in the world, I think I’d be fine because I know I’d have Liv right beside me telling me so. Telling me that she believed me right from the start and that this would work out. If this was anybody else, I think I’d be fine. How messed up is that? She’s the one I’ve come to depend on. Not my wife, not my brothers…”
“It’s part of the job. If you couldn’t trust and depend on her, then the two of you couldn’t work together.”
“Do you think that might have been why you reacted the way you did?”
“Yes. You said Olivia was withholding the information you needed to investigate Drover. Maybe you felt betrayed by someone you trusted so much and that’s why you did and said the things you did.”
A vision of his last dream came to mind and Elliot closed his eyes momentarily to keep a tear from slipping from his lashes. “You know, when I was a kid, my brother Bryce and I would fight all the time and my mother always made us make up before we went to sleep or left the house. She would say that we should never leave angry because we never know if those are the last words we’re going to say to someone. Her words just keep playing through my head when I think about that night. I was so angry with Olivia and I just left her thinking that I’d have all the time in the world to make up with her and tell her…”
“Tell her what?”
“Tell her…everything. I mean, I told her before, when Kathy left me, that she was all I had left to keep me grounded. I told her all I had left was her and the job and here I am…I’ve all but lost both and now, I’ve got nothing. And, what scares me most, is that I don’t know how I’m going to survive is she’s been killed. Each day, I wake up with just a little less hope, wondering if this is going to be the day. If in the next hour I’ll get the call that will end my life…If I had realized that one person could affect my life this much, then I would have told her every day what it meant to have her by my side.”
“Elliot,” George said softly. “What are you going to do if something has happened to her? What if you do get that call? How will you react?”
Elliot shook his head. “George…How will you react?”
“Olivia isn’t my partner. I haven’t been working directly beside her for years.”
“But, you know her. What are you going to do?”
George leaned back in his chair. “To be honest, I’m not sure how I’ll react. She’s a good person and a good cop who I’m sure has a lot more planned with her life.”
“So, you don’t know how you’ll react, but you’re asking me the question anyway?”
“I don’t think I’ve given it a lot of thought as of yet. I’m still hoping for the best, but you on the other hand…You said it yourself. You have nightmares about what life is going to be like if she’s been killed. So, what are you doing in those nightmares?”
“I don’t know,” Elliot said rubbing a hand over his face. “I usually wake up from those dreams after I start screaming over her body, but I suppose…I don’t know. I’ll probably fall apart for a long, long time.”
“Do you think you could continue working?”
“Not in this unit. I mean, it’d be like, anytime I saw a victim, I’d see Olivia. No, I couldn’t stay in SVU. Honestly, I’m not sure how I’ll take it because she’s like family to me, but I know for sure, I’d have to leave. Maybe take some time and maybe go to another precinct altogether…maybe another state.”
“You think running away from all of it would help?”
Elliot sighed. “A few years back my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and, the whole time, my brothers and I were just sort of bouncing around, not knowing what to do. This same question kept coming up. ‘What were we going to do if she died?’ I mean, she’s our sister. The person we went to bat for anytime Mom felt like yelling at her for something. The person I’d beat up older kids for when we were young just because they looked at her the wrong way or said something to her I didn’t like. It looked like my sister was going to die and just thinking about that made me want to pick up roots and get out of the city altogether.” He sighed. “But, I don’t see how any of this matters now. I mean, what’s the point of all these questions. I feel like I’m wasting time just standing here.”
“It’s important, Elliot.”
“How is this important? How is me telling you that I know I’ll fall apart if Olivia’s dead helping anything. All it’s doing is depressing me.”
“You’ve had a lot to say tonight. Maybe it’s better to get it all off your chest.”
Elliot shook his head. He was angry, but he was not sure from where the anger was coming or at whom it was directed. All he knew for certain was that he needed to get out of the office.
“George…just tell me what you need from me. All right? Just tell me what you need to know so I can go look for her.”
The doctor set down his pen and sighed at the pained detective who stood before him.
“To put it bluntly, we need to make sure that some affair gone awry is not the reason Olivia’s missing. I need to put to rest any fears that you might have…lost it and done something to her in a fit of rage and to make sure there’s not another problem on the horizon.”
“There’s no affair and I didn’t hurt her. In fact, she worked me over worse than I ever could’ve done to her. Besides, whether I’m working her case or not, I’m still going to have to deal with it if she’s dead. I’m still going to have the same nightmares and I’m still going to wonder if there was something more I could’ve done to save her.”
“Okay,” George said. “I guess that’s all I really needed to know.”
“Well, why didn’t you just say that in the first place? You could’ve saved us both an hour.”
Elliot left the office in a huff and George shook his head. He knew that Elliot had had a rough experience with psychiatrists in conjunction with his work and whenever his own work led him too close into Elliot’s life, Elliot pushed back harder than any of the detectives in the unit. That night, Elliot had opened up to him more than usual, but, with the knowledge that whatever he had to say was going to be expressed to someone else, Elliot had also resisted harder than he had on any earlier occasion.
A part of George wanted Elliot as a patient, knowing that there were many layers involved with Elliot’s sometimes cold and overly tenacious demeanor, but he knew short of an absolute catastrophe in his life, Elliot would vehemently refuse help of any kind.
George made his final notes on Elliot and reached for his phone to call Cragen.
“But you think he feels guilty?” Cragen asked several minutes into the conversation.
“Guilt because he think he’s let down everyone around him. The squad, his family and especially her. But, there’s nothing I can see that suggests he might have had some kind of episode and done something to her.”
Cragen sat silent, still unsure of what to think.
“Quite frankly,” George continued. “I think not being a part of the investigation is doing him more harm than anything else. And, if, God forbid, something terrible has happened to Olivia, we’d be dealing with a much worse version of his psyche if he didn’t have a chance at trying to find her. At least if he was doing something to help find her, he could apply his focus on something tangible instead of just fear the unknown. And to be honest, it’s not like he’s going to stop asking the questions and searching on his own.”
“Thanks,” Cragen said after another moment’s silence. “I expect you’ll have something for me in the morning?”
“All right. You’ve been a big help.”
“It’s not a problem,” George said.
As he hung up the telephone, George stared at the chair Elliot once occupied and repressed a shudder. While he did not think Elliot was capable of hurting Olivia, his experience told him that the person responsible for her disappearance most likely had a date with the barrel of Elliot’s gun if they ever found him.
The elevator doors to the ninth floor corridor chimed as they opened and Elliot stepped off the lift following behind the broad orderly.
He figured his thoughts would be solely on Olivia when he first left George’s office that night, but surprisingly he found himself focused on Morse. He could not chance leaving Morse to his own devices in his padded cell without pulling more information from him.
“Morse,” the orderly said. “Wake up. You’ve another visitor.”
“At this hour?” Morse’s voice rang soft from inside the padded room. “It’d better not be you, Dad, because I swear I’ll spit up all over your Barker Blacks.”
His eyes narrowed to long blue slits when he turned to see Elliot standing in the room.
“And what do you want?” Morse said.
“Your videos. Where are the rest?”
“What rest? You’ve taken all my collection.”
“No,” Elliot said pacing in the room. “You made a collection that’s edited. There are parts missing. Pieces left out. I want the originals.”
“What makes you think I’ve even kept originals? What makes you think I hadn’t just thrown them out when I got what I wanted from them?”
“Because, Morse…you’re obsessive compulsive and you’re crazy. Some people think those are one in the same, but I know they’re not. However, when you put them together, you get one messed up individual. Now, I know you’ve got the originals somewhere, so just tell me where they are.”
A sly grin spread across Morse’s face. “You’re just wanting to see her in the buff, aren’t you?”
“Morse. It’s late. I don’t have time for games. I need the originals.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you do. You want to have a look at that tattoo on her side up close, right?”
“I’ve already seen it and I want the damn originals.”
“I don’t have to give you a reason.”
“‘Course you do, Detective. They’re my private property and I’m not giving them up unless I see fit to.”
“Fine. The truth is I don’t think you killed her yourself, but I’m sure you had a hand in this and I know there’s something on the originals that’s been left out of the edits that’ll tell me what happened to her that night. There’s something on them that you don’t want us to see otherwise you’d’ve given it up by now.”
Morse shook his head. “But, the video I gave you people wasn’t edited. It was a straight shot of what I took from the drives. There’s nothing more to it.”
“That’s for the police to decide.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Morse! We’re gonna find them eventually, so why don’t you save us some time and tell me where the damn tapes are!”
“Well, if you’re half as clever as you think you are, go find them yourself.”
“Every second we waste chasing down this bullshit is a second we waste in trying to find her.”
“I suppose you’re right, but I’m not giving you anything. Not after what I saw. Bring one of the other two back in here and I might tell one of them…if I’m in the mood.”
“Morse, if she’s dead because you stalled, I’m coming here to shove my foot directly up your ass before I go to work on you.”
“Yeah, well you do that. Maybe it’ll help my prostate examines go smooth when I’m forty.”
Elliot started to leave, but paused. “Don’t you want to find her! You made paintings of her! Followed her every footstep and now, you’re staring at me like you don’t even care. Like you don’t want her to be found.”
Morse rose from his spot on the floor and crossed the room to glare at Elliot closely. “Believe me, Detective. Every second I can’t see her is absolute agony for me and the only thing that’s keeping me from tying a rope around my neck and giving this world my own ‘fuck you’ is that I’m praying…I’m actually praying that you people can pull your heads out of your asses for long enough to find her. I need to see her again. I need to see her not being set upon by some brute, Irish savage with anger management problems. I just want to see her smile one more time. That’s all I’m living for at this point.”
“Then, why won’t you help me find her?”
“Because you don’t deserve it! You attacked her like you were attacking some rapist on the street.”
“That’s a lie.”
“Like hell it is. You tackled her and you had her by the throat.”
“For a second! I just grabbed her and that was it!”
“It was a second too long, Detective! I’ve been watching remember! I know how you operate. You give her these long looks, but get all pissy when she talks about other men with you. I don’t care what you say. Even though you didn’t kill her, you’re still a bastard and I won’t give you anything.”
Elliot turned on the spot, but Morse called out to him.
“Why do you insist on coming here? I know that you know I didn’t hurt her. And, you know that I know you know I know you probably didn’t hurt her. So, why do you keep coming?”
“You say you know me and Liv so well…You tell me.”
Morse laughed. “You think I’ve got the answers to all this locked up in my brain somewhere or on my videos. Well, I’m telling you now, I don’t. Otherwise, she’d be here right now and I could keep living my life just the way I want to.” He took another step closer to Elliot. “The more I talk to you up close, the less I think you might have done her intentional harm, but I’m still not sure about you.”
“I keep telling you, I didn’t do anything to her.”
“Uh-huh. That’s what all the guilty ones say, though, isn’t it Detective?”
Elliot rolled his eyes.
“You know,” Morse said softly, a grin slowly tugging at his lips. “That night…the Monday before she was gone. I saw the way she looked at you and I’m telling you…If she hadn’t been so tired that night, she would’ve asked you to stay.”
“I did stay.”
“I mean personally asked you to stay…with her…alone…in her apartment…Don’t tell me I’ve got to spell it out for you.”
“Is that a fact?” Elliot said flatly.
“Absolutely. It’s me, remember? I know everything about her. I saw the two of you in the car, I saw her asking you to come up and I saw the look on her face when she let you in the apartment. She only gets the special spark in her eye every once in a while and I knew what it was. If she hadn’t fallen asleep, she would’ve nailed you.”
“Well, I guess that’s good to know,” Elliot said as he turned to finally leave.
“Hey, I’d be happy, if I were you!” Morse shouted. “If you could just get her away from that Halloway fellow, you’d probably be in like flint. Must be fate, I guess.”
“Must be,” Elliot mumbled as he walked back down the corridor.