The alternating sequence of black words and white spaces on the series of reports relating to Harry Morse burned across Elliot’s retinas and he wiped his eyes with the balls of his hands to rub away their burn. The better part of his morning had been spent trying to obtain warrants for and going through anything associated with Morse and his family, his goal being to find something that might suggest where Morse was keeping his original videos.
Not for the first time, he tossed and turned in the bed for hours the previous night before giving up to stare at the motel’s ceiling and that was until images played in front of his eyes as if his nightmares were dancing on the serrulated plaster. When he finally drew himself from the dank room, his thoughts were fixed on Morse.
The Morse family tree could be
traced back to the Mayflower and there seemed to be no limit on their hold over
the city. Through his research, Elliot found Morses everywhere from the city
council to distant cousins sitting on the bench for
Elliot stood, stretching over his
desk and his eyes fell on the most recent list of entitlements attributed
specifically to Harry Morse. While most of the women in the Morse family
married into wealthier
Living in the shadow of his own
father and brother most of his life was difficult enough for Elliot and they
were simply a family of Stablers in a smaller neck of
He glanced over the report again as it listed several cars in Morse’s name, the apartment he held across from Olivia’s, a studio near the Meat-Packing District and a small yacht that rested up North. His eyes paused over something in the middle of the list he had seen twice, but had not given much thought.
In the middle of the
“Hey,” Munch said walking in the squad room with a Styrofoam cup of coffee, though he looked fatigued. “How long have you been in?”
“Maybe,” Elliot said still staring
at the list. “You in the mood for a road trip to the
Munch shrugged. “Of course! It’s February. Why not? Let me just pack my swim trunks and some sun block and we’re off.”
Elliot tried to stifle another shiver that ran through his body, but was unsuccessful. He was quite cold from his and Munch’s foray to Morse’s cottage, though he had had plenty of time to get warm in the seven hours it took to get there and back again.
He and Munch had approached it cautiously, not knowing what to expect given the last time they had entered a Morse premise and, found that the inside of the shed, though heavily insulated, was just as cold as the surrounding area. The shed was, in fact, a large refrigerator in which Morse had installed rows and rows of shelves to house his thousands of hard drives and Elliot’s sense of self-satisfaction had warmed him throughout the entire time it had taken for him and Munch to pack away Morse’s uncut videos. Hours later however, the exertion in the cold that had entered his bones was seeping out from Elliot’s clothes and even taking another sip of hot coffee did not quell the next shiver.
Cragen had assigned another female detective, Andrea Cooke, to watch the new tapes with Alexa once they returned as the captain knew no one in the squad could, in good conscience, watch Morse’s possessions.
Fin sighed as he watched yet another cart pass by filled with Morse’s videos. “Are we even sure we’re gonna find anything off all these?”
Elliot shrugged and rose from his desk. “Who knows? But I feel better knowing we’ve looked into all his assets and we can pretty much cross him off the list.”
“I wouldn’t say that too loud,” Munch said. “His team of attorneys might hear and try to use that to get him out of the loony bin.”
“Not a chance,” Elliot said. “I got word they recovered some stolen artwork in Morse’s apartment. If he’s lucky, Team Morse can keep him there instead of Rikers.”
“Who’ve we got left?” Cragen said, solemnly keeping the topic to the subject at hand.
With Olivia missing for eleven days and with no strong lead on a suspect, the heat he was taking from his superiors was not what was keeping him up at night. The possibility that they would never find her was becoming more real with each minute that passed and even Missing Persons’ investigation was coming to a halt.
“What do we know about Liv’s neighbor?” Munch said.
“Who?” Elliot said. “Landon?”
“No, the one down the hall from her. The first apartment on the left when you first get off the elevator.”
“He said he just heard some noise that night. Same as everyone else.”
Munch shook his head. “He might be worth looking at though. If memory serves, that building has a crazy numbering system.”
“What d’you mean?” Cragen asked.
“Instead of alternating with odds on the left and even on the right or vice versa, it just starts right down one side, then up the others.”
“But why would that warrant us looking at the guy down the hall further?” Elliot asked.
“Because Liv’s apartment is eighty-four, but in any other building it would be eighty-eight. The guy at the end…Sam or something. He’s in number eighty-eight. What if someone was looking for him, but got Liv’s apartment instead?”
It was Elliot’s turn to shake his head. “No, that doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well,” Munch said. “Olivia just disappearing in the middle of the night doesn’t make any sense either, but here we are.”
“What I mean is we would’ve seen something in her apartment to show that and we didn’t. Plus, even if Sam was into something, how would anyone have locked her door from the outside? I mean, let’s say Sam owes people money and they came after him. How would they get her door locked when all her keys are either in her apartment or accounted for otherwise? No, it just doesn’t fit.”
“I still think that theory might be worth following up,” Munch said.
“I’ve already looked at the guy every possible,” Elliot said. “He’s an artist and sells his stuff by the river. The apartment was his grandmother’s and he’s just barely scraping by, but he’s making it completely clean. He’s not involved.”
“What about Diorel?” Fin said.
“He was at Rikers,” Elliot said. “We’ve already checked.”
“But, the reason he’s in there is ‘cause he tried to get at Evelyn Rivers.”
“Yeah, but that was before Liv went missing. He would’ve already been in a jail cell waiting for the bus up there before I even got to her place last Tuesday.”
“But still,” Fin said. “How’d he even know where Liv had taken Evelyn? He was in a cell the whole time we whisked her away, so how’d he even know where to go in the first place?”
Silence fell upon them as Alexa slid toward their circle. Cragen glanced at her, trying not to stare at her as if asking, “What are you doing here?”
“Andrea said she’s got it on her own, so…” Alexa crossed her arms and stared at Cragen in return.
“We checked his connections, though,” Elliot said, ignoring Alexa. “He’s being moved to Sing Sing to do six years for the assault and battery on Evelyn. And, there’s nothing on Morse’s tapes that shows anybody out of place coming in or out of Liv’s building that night.”
“Which leaves us back where we started,” Munch said.
“There’s got to be someone we didn’t look at enough,” Cragen said.
“What about Jonathan Halloway?” Alexa said in an unusually high-pitched voice. “I mean, he’s been in here more than enough times, but we’ve never really taken a good look at him. And, he’s got a set of Olivia’s keys.”
“You want us to look at Halloway?” Elliot said. “He’ll be harder to dig into than Morse. At least Morse’s family wants to just wipe him from the books altogether. Hallway’s got his own money to push around and his family’s.”
“But aside from Drover and Kreider, who else haven’t we looked into?” Alexa said. “If I remember correctly, he was in here accusing you of doing something before there was any real word that something bad might have happened. I think that warrants a little more investigation.”
Elliot opened his mouth to retort, but Cragen interjected. “That sounds good. Alexa, you and John dig up what you can about Halloway. Nail down his every movement from the last time he’s seen on Morse’s tapes until he showed up here. Elliot, Fin. I want you two to talk to both Drover and Kreider again.”
“They’re not involved, Cap,” Elliot said. “And we’ve already nailed down where Drover was that night.”
“Talk to him anyway. We’re just guessing where he was that night and we still don’t know what Kreider might’ve been doing. Go.”
The five parted ways and forty minutes later, Elliot and Fin were facing a pale and subdued Jeffrey Drover inside a barred, meeting room.
“I can’t believe you people are still thinking that I did something to her. Don’t you think I would’ve said something by now?”
“Maybe not if it would add to your sentence,” Fin said.
“This is crazy. Let’s say I took her, okay? Just for the sake of argument. Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense for me to use her in some kind of…I don’t know bargaining deal to get me out of here earlier?”
“Is that what you’re about to do?”
Drover ran a hand over his face and squeezed his eyes shut. “I can’t…I can’t even believe this is my life. I’m in here for doing something to little kids and you people are asking me questions about that crazy bitch.”
“Crazy bitch!” Elliot shouted. “You’re the one who’s crazy! You followed her and jumped her in a goddamn alley!”
“She practically did the same thing to me! What was I supposed to do? Just let her get away with it? No! No one pulls that kind of shit without retaliation.”
“So, is that what you did?” Elliot said taking a step toward Drover. “Did you retaliate? Is she lying somewhere dead because of you?”
Drover ran a hand over his long face again. “Look, I don’t know how many times I have to tell you, but I did not do anything to her. Aside from that one night, I haven’t even seen her without you hovering around. If she’s missing it means, she probably pissed off someone else one too many times and they’ve got her. Not me.”
“You mind tellin’ us where you were last Tuesday,” Fin said before Elliot could respond. “At least what you remember?”
“I’ve already told you people! I don’t remember. I’d been drinking all night. They thought I was gonna slip into a coma and die in the hospital! Why do you keep asking me the same goddamn questions!”
“Because she’s still missing,” Fin said. “And, we know for a fact that you already attacked her once.”
“Look, I’m telling you for the last time. I didn’t do anything to that cop. I’ll own up to the fact that I grabbed her in that alley, but that was it! I never even saw her again after that.”
“Maybe,” Elliot said. “Or maybe you just don’t remember…or want to remember.”
“I didn’t…” Drover sighed. “You know, I don’t need this. I’m already here until some judge gets to my appeal and I’ve got three hundred pound guys wanting to take off my head because some news station just hinted to the fact that I did something to her, too. I didn’t do anything to her. I don’t deserve to be here with these…people and I don’t need this bullshit.”
“You deserve every second you spend in here,” Elliot said shaking his head as they turned to leave.
“Hang on a sec,” Drover called out to him.
“Can you…I mean is there someone who can…?”
“Can what?” Elliot asked irritated.
Drover waved his hand and shook his
“Forgotten,” Elliot said and he followed Fin out the door.
“What d’you think he wanted?” Fin asked.
“Don’t want to know and what’s better is that I don’t care. I’m calling Kreider’s attorney now just to let them know we’re coming.”
“It’ll be okay, Evelyn. I promise you. It’ll be okay.”
Elliot hung up his phone and rubbed the back of his neck with the grievous need to break something in half. He had not been so frustrated in weeks and wondered if he could find some time to go to the gym to beat the faded punching bag until his knuckles grew sore.
Kreider had been eerily pleasant when Elliot and Fin came to see him and, after they quizzed him about his whereabouts on Tuesday past, he inquired about a plea for his case. Fin had told him what he could do with his plea, but Kreider remained smiling and upbeat.
Elliot had figured it was just a
show he was beginning in order to help his case as his attorney was attempting
to get him acquitted by proving mental disease, but Elliot’s frustrations came
later when they were able to corroborate Kreider’s alibi. Kreider was too busy
retrieving his treasures from
He rose to stretch and saw Andrea Cooke, newly pulled to comb through Morse’s unedited videos for evidence, pouring herself a fresh cup of coffee with a bereft expression on her face. In just a few hours, her normal mahogany-coloured skin had taken a yellowish appearance and her dark brown eyes were laced with strips of red. As she nodded at him and returned to the small room, Munch and Alexa stepped off the elevator arguing loudly.
“Of course we weren’t going to get anywhere with him!” Munch yelled. “You were standing there looking at him with some little fan girl look on your face. I’m surprised he didn’t throw us out sooner.”
“I did not! Excuse me if I don’t think the best approach to questioning is staring a guy down like he’s already guilty.”
“If you didn’t think he was guilty then why even suggest him? We could’ve been looking at his phone records or just retracing his steps, but you wanted to talk to him.”
“Because I know you can gauge a lot about a person by just talking to them. I don’t see what the-”
“A cop is missing! There’s no time to prance around the issue. Now, it’s going to be even harder to track down where he was last week.”
Munch brushed past Elliot and headed toward Cragen’s office, leaving Alexa standing in the middle of the squad room with her hands on her hips and a frown on her face.
“I take it the trip to Halloway’s didn’t go well?” Elliot said.
“No,” Alexa said. “It didn’t. I tried to just ease into the subject, but John got in his face almost immediately. Of course, Halloway threw a fit and told us he’d file a report if he caught us around his apartment or his office.
“File a report with who? If he’s a suspect, he can be under observation just like anyone else in this city.”
“But, he’s got connections. He’s a Halloway.”
“You know, you keep saying that like it should mean something, but it doesn’t. Rich bastards like Halloway are just as capable of committing crimes as anyone else and being a part of a family like that doesn’t exempt them from investigation and especially punishment.”
“Well, regardless…I don’t think he did anything anyway. He was sitting alone with a half empty wine bottle when we saw him. His eyes kept going in and out of focus every couple of minutes. I’m sure he’s just been staring at the ceiling, wondering if…Hey, where are you going?”
Elliot had turned away from her as she spoke and quickly ran to the tables that held most of the paperwork and files they had made regarding Olivia’s case.
“Six minutes,” he said softly.
“What?” Alexa said now standing next him.
“Six minutes. There were just six minutes between the time Morse’s tape ends and the time his next camera sets up.”
He shook his head as Fin approached them.
“Why didn’t I think of it earlier?” Elliot mumbled.
“What’re you thinking?” Fin asked.
Alexa shrugged as if the question was directed at her. “Something about six minutes on Morse’s tape.”
“There were six minutes,” Elliot repeated. “The gap between Morse’s tapes is just six minutes long.”
“Right,” Fin said. “We knew that earlier.”
“But, we didn’t take a step back to really think about it. I’m still…holding her when that tape went out. The whole thing between me and Liv last for maybe five minutes altogether.”
“There’s about four full minutes of you two going at it on the video,” Alexa said. “I remember putting it in my notes.”
“Right, so there was another minute between the time Liv had me on the floor, the time she made herself a drink and the time she eventually let me up. Which leaves probably less than four minutes for her to vanish out of her apartment.”
“But, how is four minutes any different six?” Alexa asked. “It still doesn’t leave any time for something to really go down.”
“Exactly,” Elliot said, his eyes blazing. “If Olivia disappeared in just four minutes and no one saw a damn thing that means-”
“…she went somewhere in her building,” Fin finished.
Elliot nodded. “This whole time we’ve been going at this like someone snatched her out of her apartment, but if she’s gone that quick, she had to still be in her building. We need a warrant to search her whole building.”
“I’ll tell the cap,” Fin said walking toward Cragen’s office. “You find Casey.”
Elliot grabbed his coat and stuffed some papers he thought might help Casey persuade a judge, who was probably well into his dinner, into a manila envelope. He wanted to be right next to her the moment the judge signed the warrant.
His eyes glanced toward Alexa who was busy putting on her coat. She looked so ready and eager and he suppressed a roll of his eyes as he walked toward the elevators.
He glanced toward his side and noticed that Alexa was still a step behind him instead of directly beside him like Olivia would have been since Alexa was a good six inches shorter than Olivia.
Elliot held the elevator for her a second after he’d already stepped on it and he closed his eyes for a moment at the thought of possibly dealing with a brand new partner.
The judge had been quick to act, though only enabling them to search Olivia’s floor, and Elliot and Alexa arrived at Olivia’s building at the same time as Cragen, Munch and Fin.
From Elliot’s urging, they began first with Mark Landon’s apartment. Mark stood steadfast in his doorway for several minutes, arguing that they had no right to even suspect him and that he was the least likely person in the world who would have done something to her. Elliot had stared him down throughout his tirade before pushing past him with the girth of his broad body, handing Mark a copy of the warrant and the others followed in trade.
Just as cold and sparse as he last remembered it, Elliot stepped through the apartment, his senses piqued and searching for the slightest trace of Olivia. His eyes went to every place one might conceivable hide a body, but to no avail.
“See!” Mark said as Elliot leaned against his wall having recovered nothing. “I told you!”
Elliot only shook his head, but Fin beckoned him toward a spot near the door.
“Who’s do you suppose that it?” he said point to the floor.
They both bent at the knees.
“Looks like hair,” Elliot said loud enough for Mark to hear. “Long brown hair, that’d probably come to a little longer than, say, shoulder length.”
“Yep,” Fin said, taking out an evidence bag as his voice echoed Elliot’s sarcasm. “And Landon’s got short reddish hair, like a rusty nail.”
“Hey!” Mark said stepping toward them. “What…what are you doing over there?”
“We noticed some hairs on the floor over here,” Elliot said. “They might be Olivia’s.”
“Well, if they look like it, they probably are.”
“You don’t sound worried.”
“Why should I be? She was my neighbor, remember? I’m sure some of her hair has floated on over here at some point over the years. That doesn’t prove a damn thing.”
Fin and Elliot glanced at one another as Fin grabbed a set of hair and dust and pulled them into the evidence bag.
“Are you people done now?” Mark said, arms crossed. “I think you’ve offended me enough for one night.”
Begrudgingly, Elliot left the apartment last, staring at Olivia’s door covered in strips of yellow crime scene tape for a moment before they moved onto the other apartments on the floor.
Finding nothing outside of irritated residents in the other apartments, they returned to the precinct to have an analysis run on the hair found in Mark’s apartment and Elliot began a detailed search on Mark Landon. Within the hour, he discovered that Mark maintained a series of small websites for a living and hardly ever left his apartment. The last time any of his credit cards had been used in a physical location as opposed to online was in 2004 and that was only at the corner store less than a block away from the building.
Odd living habits notwithstanding, Mark was a very boring person. Outside of occasional 1-900 calls, it seemed his every moment was spent maintaining the thirty sites of which he was Webmaster. He did not have cable, but several of his credit cards appeared dedicated to soft-core pornography websites and various penile enhancement drug endeavors.
Elliot yawned as he went through another list of Mark’s credit charges and Alexa padded softly to his desk as if wondering if too much noise might elicit one of the arguments she had seen erupt between he and Olivia weeks earlier.
“Finding anything?” she asked and Elliot shook his head slightly.
“We’d pulled a set of his prints
from the apartment,” Alexa continued. “Landon matches some of those found on
her door when
“And, I’m sure mine were lifted off that door too,” he said without moving his gaze away from the computer monitor.
“Well, are you interested in trying to look further into this guy or not?”
Elliot finally turned in his chair and glared at her. “I’m interested in finding Olivia. Prints on a door are not going to lead us to her.”
“How ‘bout this?” Alexa said edging closer to Olivia’s desk. “He matches several sets of prints found inside the apartment too. But, I’ve fast forwarded through the past five years of Olivia’s life in that apartment. I’ve only seen him in there a handful of times and he never once came any further inside than the edge of her open door.”
Elliot glanced at her again, this time with a severely softened expression. “You’re sure you haven’t seen him inside her apartment?”
Alexa shrugged. “I know what I saw and I know what notes I took and I didn’t see him. Of course, those were Morse’s edited videos, so there’s no telling what he’s taken out for his own sake, but I think I’d rather just ask this Landon guy up close and personal instead of hoping to find something on the thousands of hours left of Morse’s tapes. I would want him to tell us how his prints wound up in Olivia’s apartment when we’ve practically got surveillance that says there shouldn't be a trace of him in there. Wouldn’t you?”
He stared at her for a moment longer before marching toward Cragen’s office; the captain was sitting in his chair while on the phone and in the midst of a heated discussion with the police commissioner over Olivia’s case and the lack of evidence.
An hour later, Mark Landon sat red-faced and visibly shaken on the far side of an interrogation table across from Elliot and Fin.
“You’ve no right to demand that I be here,” Mark said, nearly shouting. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“No one said you did,” Elliot said nonchalantly. “We just said we had some questions for you that would be easier for you to answer down here.”
Mark shook his head. “This is some kind of mistake.”
“It’s no mistake, Landon,” Fin said. “Now, why don’t you tell us how you spend your time in your apartment.”
“Spend my time?” Mark said, his small brown eyes narrowing at Fin.
“Yes, spend your damn time. We know you don’t leave the place, so what are you doing in there when you’re not working?”
Shaking his head at Fin, Mark crossed his arms and glared at the table. Elliot and Fin glanced at one another and an idea struck.
“You don’t like me, do you?” Fin said.
Mark pursed his lips and turned his gaze toward the ceiling. “I prefer not to deal with blacks and…others if I can.”
Fin nodded after a moment of glaring at Mark. “You know, you seem like you’re kind of attracted to Olivia. Didn’t she mind your little problem with others?”
“Well, she was very attractive and if I’ve learned anything in my life, attractive women are always more forgiving than people should be.”
“Forgiving of what? You’re not even making any sense.”
“Look! I don’t have to give you details about my life!”
“A cop is missing! You’re going to give me every damn detail I ask for. Why are your prints in her apartment when we’ve got tapes that show you weren’t there?”
Mark looked at Elliot, pleading with his eyes. “Make him stop.”
Elliot shrugged. “Stop what? He’s asking valid questions and if you don’t want any further interruptions in your life, it’s best that you answer them truthfully.”
“Fine! Yes! I liked her! Is there something wrong with that? Does finding a woman attractive all of sudden make me some kind of suspect?”
“Actually, it does,” Fin said and Mark’s eyes grew wide. “Now, we know this is probably one of the few times you’ve left your apartment in a good three years-”
“That’s not true. You’re trying to make me sound like some kind of freak.”
“Well, maybe you are,” Fin said. “I mean from what I’m looking at, you’re some little man whose only contact with the rest of the world comes from phone sex girls…and his neighbor across the way. The neighbor who’s all of a sudden gone missing in a matter of minutes and the neighbor inside who’s apartment we have found your fingerprints even though we’ve got video tapes saying that you have never been inside that apartment.”
Mark stood quickly, though standing he was barely taller than either Elliot or Fin still seated.
“That’s enough,” he whispered. “That is enough. I don’t care what your video tapes say. I’ve been in Olivia’s apartment loads of times and there’s a million reasons why her hair might be in my apartment, too. Now, I’ll not sit here and take accusations from some cops who are so clueless as to what happened to her that they’re looking at me as a suspect. Me! Look at me! I’m practically half her size. Do you think, even if I wanted to, that I could do anything to her? She’s a goddamn cop for crying out loud. I’d have to be a total idiot to try something like that.”
“Not if you planned it right,” Fin said. “You don’t have to leave the house and you can always hear her coming and going. You could easily take your time, count down the days and plan out everything, so you could execute to a tee.”
“Enough!” Mark shouted. “I won’t take this from a black man who has no business wearing a badge! I’m leaving!”
Mark rounded the table, but Elliot turned in his seat stretching out his legs, causing Mark to trip over them and fall flat on the floor.
“Oh, let me help you up,” Elliot said softly.
He bent down and clenched his hand tight around Mark’s arm as he pulled him off the floor.
“Don’t leave the city, Mr. Landon. We may need to talk to you again and I’d hate to have to hunt down your little ass to ask you a simple question.”
A scorn fell over Mark’s face and he snatched his arm away from Elliot before storming out of the interrogation room.
Fin sighed. “You still think he’s involved?”
“I don’t know,” Elliot said. “I don’t like him, but I want to know more about the hair on his floor.”
“They were neighbors,” Fin said. “It could’ve been like he said. She just floated over there.”
“Are,” Elliot corrected. “They are neighbors, though I’m sure…once we find her, she’ll be wanting to move when we tell her how crazy her neighbor is. How long d’you think before Melinda will get those results.”
Fin glanced at his watch. It read a quarter past four in the morning. “Probably not ‘til eight, earliest.”
“All right,” Elliot said, rubbing a hand over his face. “I’m going to try and get some sleep in the crib, but uh…Keep an eye on Brown, will you? She keeps looking at Liv’s chair the wrong way. If she needs a place to sit, bring her up another chair, but I don’t think I can take her sitting at Liv’s desk.”
Fin shook his head. “I’ll give her a friendly reminder, but I’m pretty sure Munch will keep her in check. After that falling out they had earlier today, my guess is she’ll be back scanning the videos with Andrea.”
Unknown Time and Place
“It’s called a christening,” he said into the darkness.
“Stay the hell away from me!” Olivia shouted with her back against the wet wall.
Her eyes still darted about the room trying to make out something more than a shadow of his skin, but only in vain.
“It must be done,” he said calmly. “Every other one has gone through it and I can make no exceptions.”
Olivia heard a scurry of movement from her left and could discern a dark shape slinking against the far wall and could swear she heard what sounded like the voice of a young boy calling for help. They probably all had to listen to the others go through this same ordeal, but she refused to allow it.
“I’ll hurt you again,” she said in as a strong a voice as she could muster.
“Come now. That hurt you just as much as me. Your poor shin must still be throbbing.”
She swallowed and limped slightly on her left leg, wincing from the pain. The last time he had come for her, she had kicked at him until her shin came in contact with his hard bones and she was just able to scramble away from him in the darkness while he lay gasping for air. When he had finally rousted himself, he left all of them alone for what she thought were days. Time had all but come to a stop for her.
“Just don’t come any closer,” Olivia said, but heard him take a step toward her regardless.
“We can do this one of two ways. You can either be a good girl and take it quietly, or you can be bad, and we fight for a bit, and then I take it quietly. It’s up to you. We should’ve had this done a while ago. I’ve already wasted too much time on you as it is.”
Her breath caught in her throat as she ran her hands along the back wall searching once again for the metal pole. He had unhooked the chain that had nearly worn her ankle raw and Olivia knew an opportunity lied in wait if she could just find something to stabilize herself.
“What kind of girl are you going to be?” he asked softly.
“Let me out of here!” she shouted, her voice echoing back to her in every direction through pure black.
“That’s not the answer I was looking for.” She heard him take another step closer to her.
“Look,” she said as her arms reached farther for the pole. “We can do this one of two ways. Either you let me go now or let me go after you’re bleeding on the floor. It’s up to you.”
He came to a stop and Olivia was certain he was staring at her clearly through the darkness.
“I’m beginning to think it’s no wonder, he wanted to give you up so quickly. There’s a special zest about you that I’m sure he couldn’t handle. Pity, really.”
“Let! Me! Go!”
His growing laughter replaced the echo of her voice and her breath caught again as her hand finally made contact with the icy pole.
“Go? Go where? Even if I did, you’re still mine. You belong to me and you’ll stay here with me until I’ve had my fill. But for now…For now, we must do a christening. I won’t be able to use you to your full potential until it’s done.”
She heard him take another step and the dark before her faded slightly to show the long outline of a pale figure.
“I’m a cop,” Olivia coughed. “I’m a cop and I know I’ve been gone for days. People will be looking for me. They’re going to find you and you’re going to have a whole host of problems. If you let me go…I haven’t seen your face and I don’t know where I am. If you let me go, I won’t turn you in.”
“Does that little speech work? Perhaps to the ignorant, I guess. Yes, I suppose only the ignorant would believe that a cop would not turn them in.”
“I’m serious,” she said clutching the pole that burned cold into her bare arm. “Just let me go and I won’t say anything.”
He sighed and she could feel his breath on her face.
God, he’s so close.
“See?” he said. “So much vigor. So much life. I’ve all but forgotten what a new one felt like. That is why I must have you.”
He reached out fingers that grazed across her chest and she swung away from him, clinging to the pole.
“Why must you resist? None of the others ever resisted this much or even this long. Why must you make this so difficult?”
She felt his cold, pale fingers brush against her shoulder and she kicked into the dark, hoping to make contact.
His breath let out again as her foot hit his midsection, but he quickly grabbed hold of her at the knee and pulled.
“Get off!” she yelled as she clutched the pole holding on for dear life, his hand pulling at her leg from higher and higher on her thigh.
He snaked an arm around her waist and she let go of the pole to strike him across the face and swing her free leg around to come in contact with a shoulder.
She fell against the cold floor as he released her and she struggled back to the pole.
He came at her again, this time, his arms sliding across hers until she used the full force of her body to kick at his midsection.
He released her again and Olivia heard him collapse to the floor, his breathing ragged. He lied on the floor, several feet away from her, and she managed to wrap both her arms and legs around the pole determined not to be wretched from it.
After several minutes, she heard him rise from the floor and her arms tightened around the pole.
“Perhaps,” he said in a voice that was still soft though far more guttural. “Once you’ve had another day or two without anything to eat and once that spirit dies down a little. Maybe then…we’ll try the christening again.”
She heard his feet shuffle away from her. Her arms remained tangled around the pole as if frozen there by the cold and the sweat from her skin until she could only hear the sounds of the others in the room with her.
“Next time he’ll take you away to the room,” a young woman’s voice whispered in the dark. “He’ll take you there and he’ll kill you. Then, he’ll kill us all just out of anger.”
Olivia closed her eyes as tears began to spring forth from them, wanting nothing more than to call out for help, but not wanting to give him any reason to come for her again. When the shaking that rocked her body subsided, she finally let go of the pole, her stomach raw from where the cold of the pole had burned her hot skin through her cami.
She allowed herself to yield to gravity’s pull and crumpled to the floor in a heap. As she lied on the ground, her mind flashed to a memory that could not have been so old.
She had had the feeling that something perfect and comforting had just left her presence when another force had knocked her backward and everything before her eyes turned into a swirl of colour.
Olivia gasped as the tears still slipped from her eyes and as her body began to succumb to hunger and exhaustion, she whispered out loud the last words she thought before she had first awakened in the dark.
Elliot, don’t leave me.
Elliot jumped from the small cot with a start, his eyes darting in every direction of the small room as perspiration slipped from his brow. When the sensation of danger seemed to pass, he let out a breath and rubbed his hand across his face.
He had managed to fall asleep for the first time in days, yet Olivia’s voice plagued his dreams worse than ever and he was actually thankful to be wretched from sleep. It was better to be awake and useful, than asleep and replaying that Tuesday over and over again until it unhinged him.
Minutes later, he had changed his shirt in the locker room, unable to drive out the memory of holding Olivia momentarily several aisles away from his own locker, and was pouring a third sugar into his coffee in the squad room as Melinda stepped off the building elevator.
“Do you have the results yet?” he asked immediately.
She nodded. “It’s hers all right. Where’d you find it?”
“In the apartment of the guy who lives across from her,” he said shaking his head.
Melinda pursed her lips and her eyebrows fell. “Well, I’m not sure how much it’ll help, but they’re newer. I’d say they’ve probably been away from her less than two weeks top.”
“You sure?” Elliot said.
“Yes, granted, if they live across from one another, it could’ve been tracked in at any point.” She handed him a report and an evidence bag. “I know it’s not really the answer you’re looking for, but at least it’s something, right?”
He sighed as he quickly leafed through the report. “It is…Thanks Melinda. I know you probably got to this early on and I appreciate it.”
“Just let me know if you’ve got anything else,” she said. “I’m…I miss her, and I want us to find her safe and sound.”
Melinda turned to leave and Elliot set his coffee on his desk before striding straight into Cragen’s office where he, Munch and Fin stood conversing.
“It’s Liv’s,” he said as soon as he stepped into the office.
“Melinda’s come back with the analysis?” Cragen said.
“It’s Liv’s,” Elliot repeated, nodding. “We need to bring him back in here.”
“Landon is her neighbor though,” Fin said. “And, he’s right. There’s dozens of reasons why her hairs would be in his place.”
“No,” Elliot said. “From what Alexa’s been telling me about the tapes, Mark comes to see Olivia all the time. I don’t think she’s even been in his apartment. Something’s off with him.”
“But, we were there,” Cragen said. “We were right across the hall from him the night after she disappeared. You even went into his apartment, Elliot. She wasn’t there.”
Elliot shook his head. “We barely even looked at him because he’s been feeding us other people this whole time.”
“But,” Munch said, “are we really entertaining the possibility that Mark Landon, a guy who might weigh ninety pounds soaking wet with a rock in his pocket…Are we really thinking he took down a seasoned cop?”
“We’ve as much as determined that Olivia disappeared in the space of four minutes,” Elliot said. “And she left without a trace. No one anywhere heard or saw a damn thing. If he jumped across the hall and grabbed her, the whole thing could’ve gone down in less than a minute and no one would know.”
“Look,” Fin said. “I don’t like Landon either, but we were just there. Olivia is not in that apartment.”
“She might not be now. Maybe he did something else to her. Maybe when he saw that we were getting too close, he…dumped her somewhere.”
“All right,” Cragen said. “Now, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.”
“Because we’re jumping on him like we jumped on the Drover bandwagon and it got us nowhere, fast. We still had other people check out. There was that Matthew person and Andrea’s come up with a whole list of people we should probably look into. Now, I know we checked into Landon’s alibi. What was it?”
Munch rifled through some notes in his hand. “Said he was on the phone half the night.”
“Was he?” Elliot asked quickly.
“Yep, on the phone with a 1-900 number from a little before eleven until one-thirty.”
“So, he was home right about the time Liv disappeared.”
“He never said he wasn’t,” Fin said.
“But, he was there.”
“He’s always home,” Munch said. “He never has to leave his apartment.”
“Which means Olivia’s probably the only person he sees on a daily basis and that gives him plenty of reason to lust after her.”
“I think we’re reaching at straws, Elliot,” Cragen said.
“We might be, but I think this is the one, Cap. We’ve followed up every single angle and this is the only one left. Think about it. He told you yesterday that he heard me get on the elevator, but how’d he hear this if he was on the phone? He lives right across the hall and they’ve got the two end apartments. No one would know if he just jumped right over there and snatched her.”
“But how?” Munch said. “He’s two feet tall.”
“When I left Olivia…she was upset. If Landon came at her and she had her guard down…it might’ve gone quick.”
Cragen shook his head and started walking back to his office. “I want to check further into his alibi first.”
“And waste time doing that?” Elliot said. “He could have her right now.”
“Where, Elliot? We all just walked through the whole damn apartment and we didn’t find her.”
“We didn’t go through the place
“And there’s millions of reasons why that might be,” Cragen said. “Poke holes in his alibi first and then, only after we look at him some more, do we make a move.”
Elliot followed Cragen into his office. “I don’t like waiting around for Landon to get scared and run. What if he’s got her somewhere and all he needs to do is give the okay to have her executed?”
“You’re rushing this, Elliot.”
“Don, it’s been twelve days. I say we haven’t rushed this enough.”
“I don’t want another repeat of Drover.”
“Drover turned out to be a pedophile. Now, when was the last time my instincts were wrong?”
“If we hadn’t been fawning all over him, we might’ve tracked down Kreider faster.”
“But he was still doing something to those kids. I knew it. I knew it the second I saw him he was involved. So, no. He wasn’t the one killing those kids, but my gut told me he was still sick and I was right.”
“Let’s say you’re right. Let’s say, he’s got her somewhere and all he has to do is call someone or press a button and it’s the end of her. What makes you think he hasn’t already done it after we looked at him yesterday? The more we look at him, the better our case against him will be.”
Elliot stared at Cragen for a moment. “You’re trying to make the murder case as solid as possible. You think she’s already dead.”
“You said it yourself. It’s been twelve days.”
“I’m not willing to just write her off as dead and move on with life, Don.”
“And, neither am I, but we have to face reality here. I want to find her alive and well as much as you do, Elliot, but if she’s not…if she’s been murdered by Landon or someone else, I don’t want there to be the slightest chance that he walks. I want a case so solid that the trial would be over before it starts. If Olivia’s dead…I want to do everything possible to make sure her killer doesn’t go free and that means we can’t leave any loopholes. Nail down Landon’s alibi. If it’s faulty, we bring him in, after he’s advised of council, and we shake the truth out of him.”
Elliot walked out of the office trying to keep his composure as he headed for his desk. Cragen, it seemed, was not only preparing himself for the worst, he had resigned himself to it.
He doesn’t really think it, he thought to himself. He’s just trying not to fall apart…like me.
Andrea Cooke stepped out of the small video room in three terse stomps and nearly knocked into Elliot as he crossed the squad room. She rubbed a hand across the back of her neck with an irascible expression on her face.
“You find anything?” he asked her quickly when he regained his balance.
She shook her head with sleepy yet irritated eyes and spoke in a sardonic tone. “And, I haven’t been losing any sleep over it, obviously.”
“What’s wrong, besides the obvious, I mean?”
“Well, I was doing okay until about when Alexa insisted on showing me how the videos should be run. I’d been going at a good clip from six, and then she showed up. You all need to find something else for her to do besides bug me.”
Elliot cracked his first smile in days. “Why do you think we threw her back in with you?”
“I doubt it matters in the long run, though,” Andrea said. “I bet she won’t make it through summer.”
“Why do you say that?”
“She’s not cut out for this. I can tell. She’s one child molestation case away from being driven out of here. You can always tell the weak ones. They’re way too jumpy and far too emotional.”
“I’d take that bet,” Elliot said, “but I’ve got too much else going on right now.”
“Well, I’ll let you know if I find anything significant. And I’ll, uh…let Alexa know you’ve been looking for her.”
Elliot opened his mouth to protest, but with a quick flash of black hair, Andrea had gone back into the room and had left Elliot with a smirk on his face.
“What’d you need?” Alexa asked minutes later at Elliot’s desk.
Andrea left the room again as he began to speak, looking very innocent as she walked toward the coffee stand.
“Yeah,” he said giving Andrea a sideways glance. “I need you to help me go through some more of Landon’s phone records from last Tuesday. I’m trying to track down the address for the place he was calling that night.”
“I’m guessing 1-900-
“No, it’s not,” he said absent-mindedly ignoring her attempt at humor.
She sat at the other end of his desk, careful not to drop even an errant sheet of paper on Olivia’s desk.
“What did Cragen have to say about the hairs in Landon’s apartment?”
“He wants to make sure that if Landon took her, we’ve got the most solid case possible.”
Alexa nodded, but spoke again after a few moments of silence between them. “Do you…do you think she’s dead?”
Elliot set the documents in his hand down in front of him and sighed. “I don’t know and I really don’t want to think about it right now. I just want to concentrate on finding her and then we’ll worry about the aftermath. Okay?”
Alexa nodded her head furiously. She opened her mouth once more to continue her line of questioning when Fin stepped toward them pulling on his jacket.
“We got problems,” Fin said.
“What kind of problems?” Elliot asked through furrowed eyebrows.
The newest layer of pure white snow
was disturbed in long stretches creating paths from the small gathering of
trees to the paved walk that curved through
Elliot’s shoes were sodden and irriguous by the time he had trekked through the snow behind Fin and Munch and he threw a glance backward at Alexa as she was just barely able to keep herself from slipping in his footsteps.
Melinda was bent in an odd crouch, standing in large footprints made by another officer, close to the ground yet still above the drift of snow that covered the area. In front of her, the large cardboard box was darkened by the surrounding snow, yet stiff from the continuous cold and, inside of it, Melinda’s body cast a grey shadow over the pale form that rested within its bounds.
From his viewpoint just behind Fin, Elliot saw that the boy that lied scrunched in the box and could not have been more than thirteen years old. His light brown hair lay matted against his head, a fresh layer of ice sprinkled throughout the short locks and the dark smudges of bruises that had just begun to heal were visible along a broken collar bone and across his jaw, yet his face was oddly calm; almost at peace.
Elliot heard Alexa unsuccessfully attempt to abort the gasp that sprayed from her mouth as she caught sight of the body from just behind him. A gust blew from the west, bringing a flash of white falling from the surrounding trees with it and Elliot wiped his bare forehead momentarily wishing he had brought a hat with him. They would most likely be spending the remainder of the day canvassing the crime scene of the boy in the box and his body had still not fully recovered from the attack of chill he had experienced the previous day.
Silence fell over the group surrounding the boy and even the sounds of the city seemed drowned out by the newest tragedy to befall such a young life. Elliot squinted around the area with a small hope of seeing something; some sign that Owen Kreider had somehow sprung forth to effectuate his heinous crimes again, but found nothing to suggest any such thing had happened. Outside of their footprints, each detective and officer standing in the pre-made prints of an earlier officer, the only evidence that the boy and his box had not simply fallen out of the air was a light indentation in the snow leading toward the nearest path, proving that the box had been dragged to its destination, but covered by a thin layer of ice that had formed from snow melting in a quick blast of sunlight and refreezing once the sun had hid itself within the clouds once again.
Elliot looked at Melinda who rose from the body and simply shook her head with a dismal expression. She said nothing to him in that moment, but he had seen the same look on previous occasions and knew that her eyes said what her voice would not.
It just never stops, does it?
Chambers of the Honorable Judge Horace Farrow
“Your Honor, this is absolutely ridiculous!”
“The only thing that’s ridiculous here is that an innocent man is sitting in a cell for something he did not do.”
Casey could feel her face turning slightly red from the exertion of arguing in front of Judge Farrow for the last fifteen minutes. She had intended to spend her Sunday afternoon with her boyfriend after a long week and weekend of trial preparation, yet there she stood in front of a judge who seemed just as miffed by the idea of sitting in chambers on a Sunday. Beside her, Owen Kreider’s lawyer, Shaina Flint, stood stony-faced and determined.
“We have the defendant’s
“And, I’ve got two psychiatrists lined up who will testify that Mr. Kreider was not in his right mind when he signed that confession.”
“Our Dr. Huang says Kreider’s
newfound mental apathy is a farce,” Casey said. “And, we’ve still got his
“On one victim,”
“No one’s saying that Kreider’s involved in this newest murder,” Casey said.
“But your evidence says otherwise, Counselor. Everything in Ryan Daly’s murder is perfectly reminiscent of what we saw in January.”
“The police haven’t even finished their investigation on this latest murder.”
“She’s right,” Judge Farrow said,
shifting in his seat toward
“With all due respect, Your Honor,”
“You may call it a blunder if you want, Ms. Flint,” Judge Farrow said, “but, I’m not comfortable with the idea of dismissing the entire case against Owen Kreider when it stands as it is. Motion denied.”
Simultaneously irritated and
satisfied, Casey left the judge’s chambers and found herself Uptown in thirty
minutes staring at each of the remaining
“How?” Munch said. “It’s a copycat. It has to be.”
“She’s going to argue that this new murder is evidence that we didn’t get the right guy and that might just be enough to lead them to an acquittal.”
“That’s bull,” Fin said. “Kreider confessed to all of them. Elliot and me were there when he did. He picked out those kids specifically because of Drover.”
“Well, she was planning to go the
mental defect route anyway and we still only had
“But, the details from this newest murder are damn near the same as with the other seven boys,” Casey sighed.
“Again,” Munch said. “It’s a copycat.”
“That may be, but the longer Ryan
Daly’s murder goes without a suspect, the more
“So,” Alexa said, arms folded across her chest. “Basically, you’re saying that if we don’t find whoever killed Ryan Daly as soon as possible, Kreider might go free on all eight murders?”
Casey sighed again. “The case we
have against Kreider is strong, but this murder creates doubt that
Silence fell over the lot as they stared at one another, the impact of Casey’s words still wafting in the air around them.
Elliot, having said nothing throughout the interlude, rubbed a hand over his face and turned his gaze to Olivia’s empty desk.
If she were here, he thought, she’d probably be arguing that Kreider might have had a hand in the new murder, even from within Sing Sing.
The newest victim, Ryan Daly, like the others, was thirteen years old and had been killed in precisely the same manner as Kreider’s other victims. He had only been missing a day and his parents were simply numb when the news of their son’s death was delivered to them. Elliot knew the realization would hit eventually and he just hoped he would not have to see it when it happened.
There was usually something in Olivia’s eyes that would elicit the emotions from parents straight away instead of having them bottle it until it exploded, normally at one of the detectives working their child’s case and, when Peter and Michele Daly only held one another without any kind of outburst when they were told how their son had been murdered, Olivia’s absence pressed strong over Elliot.
Everything in his being wanted to look further into Mark Landon and Olivia’s disappearance, but as much as he hated to admit it, the possibility of Kreider walking free on eight murders seemed unavoidable in trumping his necessity to continue searching for Olivia.
He had hoped hat Saturday would bring some clairvoyance into Olivia’s case, but the remainder of the day had been spent interviewing potential witnesses and detailing the crime scene with Alexa.
Elliot glanced at Alexa who shifted on her feet as Casey reiterated the impact of the newest murder on Kreider’s case. Each time he looked Alexa straight in her eyes, he could not help but notice that they were not as dark as Olivia’s. Alexa’s were lighter and closer to the colour of her own red hair, not nearly as warm and comforting as Olivia’s, and he also noticed how his eyes had to fall significantly to meet her eyes whereas he was so accustomed to staring Olivia directly in the eye when she stood by his side. She was not even close to what he wanted, no, needed.
They had regrouped at the precinct when Cragen informed them that Casey was fighting a Sunday morning motion with Kreider’s lawyer and, Elliot noticed, on more than one occasion, how comfortable Alexa seemed to be getting as she edged closer and closer to Olivia’s desk.
Casey’s news was most uninviting as the new case was not as cut and dry as Kreider’s originally murky ones were. While the details such as the box and the lack of evidence were found in perfect stride with Kreider’s case, smaller specifics differed.
Unlike the previous victims, Ryan Daly was not an active youngster who had had some contact with Jeffrey Drover. Ryan was an average student and also unlike the previous victims, he was not the shining star of his peers. He preferred to be alone, spent most of his time reading and did not like loud noises. Ryan Daly was nearly the opposite of Jacob Lewendale and Connor Whickfield, yet he was murdered in the same way, by apparently the same hand.
What set the case apart, however, and what caused all five officers to stand stoic and overly concerned were the details of the case that had not been released to the media. The formation and location of the ligature marks on the boys’ necks and around their bodies had never been mentioned outside of the squad room, yet Melinda had informed them that from her preliminary examination, every detail was precisely like that of the previous murders. Kreider, having been forced into a solitary confinement in Sing Sing, was in lonely cell further upstate and could not have had any involvement with their current murder, yet his flair was all over the case.
The sheer clout of Kreider’s atrocities was pulling Elliot, unwillingly, from Olivia’s case and he suppressed a sigh as he stared at her empty chair, all the while wondering if her case really would get shunted to the bottom of the pile.
The media circus that had surrounded Olivia had shifted overnight back onto Owen Kreider and the newest victim in a line of similar murders. Calls about Olivia’s case had slowed to a small trickle to the point that officers were being moved around to handle the surmounting calls about Ryan Daly’s murder instead. While he abhorred the thought, Elliot knew the public was fickle and would soon forget that a detective named Olivia Benson had ever gone missing.
“All right,” Cragen finally said
and turned toward Munch and Fin. “You two. I want you pinning down everything
possible on this case. I want you to track down Ryan Daly’s movements for the
past seven days. Find out who his friends were and what he was doing Thursday
before he went missing.” He turned toward Elliot and Alexa. “I want you two to
Elliot looked at Alexa as Munch and Fin stood to leave. She stared back at him expectantly as if waiting for instruction and even bounced on her toes slightly in anticipation. He noticed how young she looked for the first time since Cragen had pulled her onto Olivia’s case. She could not have been older than twenty-eight or twenty-nine, yet she looked so eager and so ready to please. The pure ardor embodied in her face was nearly overwhelming and Elliot found himself annoyed simply by looking at her.
No wonder Andrea wanted to get rid of her so quick, he thought.
“Why don’t you pick up where we left off yesterday on Landon. I think we were still trying to find a location for the people he was on the phone with.”
She nodded and quickly found her notes she had placed on what was becoming her corner of Elliot’s desk.
He glanced at her balancing a clipboard over her crossed leg as she sat dutifully next to him and he thought of the woman he had been assigned to work with after Olivia had left to work with the FBI.
Dani Beck, with her long golden
brown curls and bright blue eyes that softened her face, became his partner at
a time when he was most vulnerable and had allowed things to get too
complicated between them before she eventually left the
Alexa sniffed away the beginnings of a cold and Elliot glanced in her direction again as she shifted her chair slightly towards Olivia’s desk to make some room between them. A part of him wanted to let down his guard with her and allow her to “borrow” Olivia’s desk, but the unyielding side of his brain thought better of it.
I’m not gonna try replacing Olivia again.
Within the next hour, he and Alexa discovered everything there was to know about Mark Landon’s solitary life and yet they still had nothing linking him further to Olivia’s disappearance. While they were certain the call Mark had made the Tuesday Olivia disappeared went someplace in the city, they had hit a proverbial brick wall in their attempts at finding the exact location.
To Elliot’s further annoyance, Alexa reminded him that they still had to find Emme Donaugh and speak to Lucas Roy once more.
Pushing himself from his desk with an antipathic shove, Elliot retrieved his coat and allowed Alexa to follow as they headed for Emme Donaugh’s residence. Alexa had tried to make small talk with him as they drove through the city streets, but after a series of grunts and nods of the head, she gave up on conversation for the duration of the ride.
“You know,” she said, as they got out of the car near Donaugh’s home, “I know you miss Olivia, but I don’t deserve to be treated like some second class officer.”
“What?” he said squinting at her.
“You know what I’m talking about. This whole thing with Olivia’s desk…I don’t mind it out of respect for you, Fin and Munch, but you can all still treat me like any other detective instead of just some young kid who doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
Elliot stared at her over the roof of the car for a moment ready to respond by reiterating that she was just a young kid who did not know what she what doing, but hesitated.
“Fine,” he said. “Just keep up.”
“Oh, I will.”
Talking to Emme Donaugh through her power of attorney, Elliot thought, was akin to speaking to a rock and expecting water to pour out of it. Though the power of attorney, a close relative who was making every attempt to keep his inheritance from being squandered, had tried to elicit information from Donaugh, she kept herself in a waft of stupidity and aloofness.
The talk with Lucas Roy in Rikers
faired no better as he insisted on telling them how his wife and children had
to move in with her mother because she couldn’t pay the bills to keep the
apartment and was now threatening him with divorce papers. Elliot offered the
name of his divorce lawyer, but
With no new information coming from either Donaugh or Roy, Elliot rounded them across the city stopping briefly for coffee, but not at the coffee shop he and Olivia frequented, and eventually ended at Mark’s apartment once again.
The knowledge that Mark was seemed innocent still aggravated Elliot and, against Alexa's wishes, he had the need to stare down Mark in the Village apartment.
“I’ve told you already,” Mark said. “I haven’t done anything to her.”
Elliot stepped about the apartment searching for something that might tell him where Olivia had gone.
“This is borderline harassment, you know!” Mark said. “I’m getting a lawyer first thing tomorrow!”
Elliot, however, ignored Mark as he ran his hands along counter tops and couch cushions. Within five minutes, he was looking through closets and behind the shower curtain of the bathroom. By the time he caught a whiff of something familiar under Mark’s bed, he was nearly tearing through the apartment pulling open cabinets and dresser drawers.
She was here, he thought.
His hands shook with frenzied motion and his eyes darted about the apartment as if panicking. There had to be something; some trace of her in the apartment. There just had to be.
He glanced under the bed and stood ready to flip Mark’s mattress off the box spring, when Alexa pulled at his shoulder.
“What are you dong?” she said, nearly yelling. “Stop it. She’s not here.”
Breathing hard, Elliot shook her off his shoulder and set down the mattress. Just before they left the apartment in an array of scattered clutter, Mark shook his head at Elliot.
“As if I’d do something to Olivia.”
After dropping a silent and annoyed Alexa off at the precinct, Elliot drove to the Upper West Side with the faint memory of visiting Maya’s apartment just once a year earlier.
“Mark who?” Maya asked through furrowed eyebrows.
“Landon,” Elliot repeated. “Mark Landon. He lives across the way from Olivia.”
“Oh yeah,” Maya said, her expression relaxing. “What about him?”
“Do you think he’d have any reason to hurt Liv?”
“That guy? I don’t think she even knew him all that well. I mean, I never really talked to him myself, but anytime I saw him, he was always looking at me weird, like I was about to do something wrong. I don’t know. Are you really looking at him at this point?”
“We have to look at everyone,” Elliot said.
Maya nodded as she sighed. “I guess it’s better than you telling me you’re just setting her aside until you can come up with something.”
Elliot stared at her sad form for a moment before she spoke again. “Can you let me into her apartment?”
“Because I need into her computer. I’ve got to…I’ve got to pay her bills and I know she does everything online, but I don’t think I can figure out all her passwords.”
“You pay her bills?”
“I do when she’s away. Technically speaking, I’m her attorney-in-fact and also her only beneficiary at this point, outside of Jill’s boys. Anyway, how’d you think she kept her apartment when she left last year?”
Elliot shrugged having never given it thought before Maya had mentioned it. “How’s her computer going to help you?”
“Well, the passwords will be saved in her Firefox, wouldn’t they? Can you let me in or not? I’d go with my own key, but you’ve got that police tape across her door still and I don’t want to mess anything up.”
A half hour later, Elliot paced
across Olivia’s apartment as Maya tidied as best as she could.
Behind Elliot, Maya squeezed the brown afghan her mother had made specifically for Olivia in her hands for a moment before folding it neatly and setting it across the back of the couch as she had seen Olivia do many times.
“What’s this one from?” Elliot asked as he stared at a framed photo on Olivia’s bookshelf.
There was a plethora of photos of Olivia’s past sitting on her bookshelves and hanging on her walls, mostly of Olivia in groups of people he had never seen before, with either her and just Maya or just Jillian or with Olivia and Jillian’s sons. In the picture in question, both Olivia and Maya, dressed in Indian saris, looked to be in their teens, but he especially noticed that Olivia’s was the only Caucasian in a mass of Indians.
“Oh, that one?” Maya said appearing
by his side. “That was at my older sister’s wedding. She’s such a brat. She
demanded that she wanted to be married in Ramanathapuram even though none of us
had ever even been to
Maya rolled her eyes and smiled.
“Just call it Ramnad. It’s in the south of
“And you all took Liv there for your sister’s wedding?”
“Of course. It took weeks and weeks of begging Ms. Serena, but she finally let her go. I remember, Livia freaking out on the airplane because it was the first time she’d flown anywhere.”
“She never told me she’d been to
“Well, I don’t suppose it comes up
in everyday conversation all that often. I can just see it: ‘Hand me that case
file. Oh, by the way, did I ever tell you about the time I went to
“Still though,” he said. “That’s a long trip for a wedding and to bring a friend with you…”
“For Indian weddings you invite practically everyone you know anyway and Livia’s like family, so…” Maya sighed and pursed her lips as her large eyes became wet. “What am I gonna do if you guys don’t find her?”
“I promise you. We’ll find her.”
Maya nodded and let a single tear escape from her eyes as she turned to the door. “I have to go.”
“I’ll drive you.”
“No, that’s okay. I’ll just take a cab.”
“You sure?” Elliot asked. “I drove you down here. I don’t mind at all.”
“I’ll be all right…I just need to be alone for a little while.”
She stepped out of the apartment quietly, but he could sense a definite shift in her mood. Despite the sardonic joke before she succumbed to sadness again, there was no longer an air of surprise and hopefulness in her eyes. She was beginning to show the wear of constant fear and growing anger and Elliot stared with a sigh at the twenty-year-old image on the shelf as he listened to the elevator doors open and close. The teenaged Olivia’s eyes shined back at him through the large photo and his stomach burned at the idea of informing Maya if they found Olivia murdered.
His cell phone rang from his pocket to break his reverie and he answered it softly, knowing who was calling regardless of the unrecognized number.”
“Evelyn?” he said.
“E-Elliot? Yes, it’s me. Have…have you…”
“We’re still looking, Evelyn.”
“Like always, right?”
“Until we find her.”
“Did you find out what Micah was doing that night? I’m telling you he’s probably done something.”
“We’ve looked at him up and down, Evelyn. Micah’s not involved…”
Though the squad room was familiar to him, Elliot was still slightly shocked at the view of the unit from Olivia’s desk. Hoping for a moment of clarity, he had taken to sitting in her chair across from his desk and was opened to new view of the mundane. Everything on her desk was nearly arched at what would be perfect arm’s length for Olivia and through the stacks of files, she had kept an opening toward the middle but offset just to the right of the desk almost completely clear of obstructions. A smirk pulled at his lips when he realized that he normally sat just to the left of his own desk directly across from her.
Olivia’s chair had a clear view of the elevators and his eyes continuously flitted to them each time they opened. At one point, Alexa stepped off them, frowned the moment she saw him and brushed quickly past toward Cragen’s office.
When Elliot was just about to pull himself from Olivia’s chair, which he found far more comfortable than his own, the elevator doors opened once more and he felt his heart leap into his throat.
A woman stepped off the lift and looked around the squad room for a moment before heading into the unit. She still had the glow of a recently pregnant woman, her green eyes were large and focused and her strawberry blonde hair, pulled back in a loose ponytail, shimmered slightly in the harsh squad room lights, but the shape of her eyes and curve of her jaw line were so familiar to him that he nearly fell out of his chair.
“I’m looking for a Detective Stabler,” she said approaching him.
He stood quickly. “Yes?”
“I’m Allison Whitmore,” she said offering her hand to him. “We spoke on the phone a while ago. I’m Olivia Benson’s cousin.”
“Yes,” he repeated as heart pounded.
He had not realized what not seeing Olivia in person for days had done to him. His hands felt like they were vibrating at the wrists as he shook Allison’s hand, his mind unable to grapple with the idea of a woman who looked like a costume-makeup version of his partner. Tall and slender, like Olivia, but several years younger, Allison stared him directly in the eye with the same expression that Olivia gave him when she was upset about something.
“I…I thought it best for me to just come here in person and see how the case was going. I was in the city visiting my mother and we talked about Aunt Serena for a bit and of course, Olivia came up.” She bit her lip. “It’s just that I’ve been obviously paying closer attention to the news lately and I can’t help noticing that there is less and less being said about her, but I know she’s still missing.”
“That’s the media,” he said. “They’re only interested in the next biggest thing.”
“But, I think she should still be the biggest thing. I mean, I know Olivia and I haven’t been all that close over the years, but she’s still my family. Outside of my mother, she’s the only family I’ve got and we just said that we were going to try harder, you know?”
“I know,” Elliot said, every part of him wanting to reach out and hug her. “I understand. But, trust me. No one’s giving up or setting her case aside. Me especially.”
Allison nodded at him, her eyes beginning to grow wet. “I just needed to make sure that the case was still open. Well…I left my baby with my boyfriend and he’s still not that excited about being a father, so I should probably be getting back.”
“Okay. Do you want me to get you a cab?”
“Yeah, it’s no problem.” He walked to the elevators with her. “You know…you and Olivia look a lot alike. I mean the colouring is off, but you can just tell you’re family. I nearly fell out of my seat when I saw you.”
She gave him a small smile that
pulled at his heart. “Yeah, one of my friends called me the night she
saw…everything on the news. She said my long-lost sister just went missing in
“We’ll find her,” he said thinking that the phrase should be on recording so that he could play it over and over at a moment’s notice.
Allison looked at him with an unconvinced expression very reminiscent of Olivia and the elevators closed on the pair of them.
Elliot’s foot slipped on the half
shoveled steps that led to the
Kathy had called him that morning and asked him to spend dinner with them as Maureen was bringing her boyfriend for the first time. It was his “turn” to have all the kids this weekend, but as usual, the job ended up coming between him and his family, but he appreciated the gesture from his ex-wife.
He cooked dinner with his family just like old times and sat directly next to Maureen’s boyfriend to quiz him like he was interrogating a suspect. When Justin left his chair after dinner, his shirt was slightly wet from sweating under Elliot’s intense glare. Kathleen was still usually quiet, choosing to simply poke out at her food instead of eating, but Lizzie made up for her silence by talking non-stop about school and her piano recital. The conversation rounded to Olivia, but Elliot kept it as upbeat as possible and quickly changed the topic to Maureen’s upcoming graduation.
After dinner, Kathleen quietly helped with the dishes before going to her room, leaving her cell phone on the table. Elliot looked at Kathy when he noticed the item that was normally glued to the side of his daughter’s head lying forgotten on the table, but she just shrugged. Lizzie grabbed the house phone and began chatting about the newest boy in their school, and Dickie sat in the living room to play Madden ’07 as Elliot and Kathy made small talk over coffee.
Elliot stood to leave after he had finished his coffee, but as he passed the couch on his way to the front door, he noticed Dickie simply staring at the television. The video game was paused, yet Dickie was only staring at the screen.
“Dickie,” Elliot said. “Why are you staring at the pause screen?”
“No reason,” Dickie said softly.
Elliot stared at him a moment more before sitting on the couch beside him. “What’s wrong?”
He suppressed a roll of his eyes, having heard his fill of the word “nothing” for the rest of his life. Elliot ran through a quick list of what could be troubling his son and Drover’s name popped up instantly.
“Look,” he said. “If you’re feeling worried or anything about what that guy-”
“The man who…approached you a couple weeks ago…”
“Oh…yeah. I almost forgot ‘cause of everything that’s been going on.”
“Well, if it’s not that, then what’s up?”
Dickie sighed. “It’s Jessica.”
“Ah,” Elliot said. “The infamous Jessica. What’s wrong with her?”
“She’s got a boyfriend now.”
“I take it you’re not him.”
Dickie shook his head and crossed
his arms. “This stupid basketball player.
Elliot nodded relieved that his son had bounced back so quickly from Drover’s perversion. “I agree. Sounds like a stupid name.”
“It is a stupid name, and the guy’s a jerk too.”
“I’m sure she’ll come around, though,” Elliot said. “And, if she doesn’t, there’s plenty of fish in the sea.”
“But, it’s not fair. I liked her first. I even told her that and then, like a week later she’s walking down the halls with him. I think it’s just ‘cause he’s the tallest kid in school right now and his dad has a motorcycle.”
“A motorcycle, eh?”
“Yeah…it’s stupid too.”
Elliot shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you, Bud. I’ve been around women my whole life and I still can’t understand them.”
“Girls are crazy.”
“Tell me about it. Sometimes they’re almost more trouble than they’re worth…Why don’t you hand me the other controller and we’ll see if Dad can still p’own you in Madden?”
Dickie beamed at him. “No way. I played, like, every day over Christmas Break and I’ve been playing a lot since then too. You’re going down.”
“Yeah, we’ll see.”
They played for a solid two hours, during which Elliot had let his son make major gains and score several times, but when Dickie began to proclaim that he would be able to beat his father at anything eventually, Elliot put him in his place by winning 108 to 35. Dickie went to bed a short while later and Lizzie followed suit, giving him a big hug before she went. There was a great pang in his heart when he saw her run up the stairs with a flip of her hair as her nighttime ritual when she was four years old was to leap from the third step into his arms before bed.
“Are you leaving?” Kathy said as Lizzie disappeared upstairs.
He had reached for his coat, but paused. “Yeah, I was, uh…I’ve got a lot to do still.”
“I see.” She had folded her hands behind her back and with her hair pulled back, looked very much like she did when they had first moved into the house.
“You know,” she continued, “the kids seemed really glad having you over tonight.”
He could tell there was something else veiled behind the comment, but the constant stress over Olivia and his newest case had blocked his ability to read her.
“This weekend was just so crazy, it got away from me. I’ll make it up to them next weekend.”
Kathy nodded and they stared at one another for a moment before he reached for his coat again.
“Well,” Kathy said. “Since you didn’t get to spend a lot of time with them this weekend, maybe you can stay the night again and you can drop them off at school in the morning.”
Elliot rolled his thumb over the leather coat in his hand and tried to read her large, worried eyes. His mind pressed that he would probably be spending the night on the couch if he chose to stay, while his body wanted to cross the room and scoop her in his arms and into their bedroom.
He remained silent a minute more, but Kathy made the decision for him and opened the blanket that rested on the couch.
“I’ll bring you a pillow in a sec,” she said heading for the stairs.
Elliot nodded silently and rested on the sofa.
So close, he thought, and yet so far.