Tiffany Bairstock’s one bedroom apartment had both the appearance and smell of the “neighborhood crack house” and Elliot threw Alexa an annoyed glance at she bounced on her toes, clearly uneasy about her surroundings.
The early morning hours in the squad room had finally proved beneficial when he and Alexa were able to find not only the location of the call center, but through some light coercing and the threat of further police investigation, had found the very girl on whom Mark had spent nearly four hundred dollars conversing the same night Olivia went missing.
She was very thin with deep set hazel eyes and a liberal use of sunless tanners gave her an orange glow as she sat on her tan Pleather couch. Elliot knew she could not have been much older than Maureen, but the track marks on her arm and bags under her eyes made him wonder about the girl’s father and whether he knew how his daughter was living.
“I talk to lots of people, you know?” Tiffany said in a sultry voice. “How do you expect me to remember some random guy?”
“This would’ve been about two weeks ago,” Elliot said. “Near on Tuesday the thirtieth. You were on the phone with him for longer than your normal customers. We checked.”
Tiffany shrugged. “You have any idea what he sounded like? I mean, maybe if I had a clue or something…Still don’t know how you two found me.”
“We talked to the right people. Now, he sounded…I don’t know. Like a normal guy, I guess. His voice was a little higher pitched than mine. A little uppity?”
He glanced at Alexa who nodded in agreement.
“You talked to him for over two hours,” Alexa said.
Tiffany stared back and forth between them for a full minute, before she jumped in her seat, her eyes lit.
“I actually do remember a guy from, like, Tuesday who I talked to for a while. Yeah…it was, like, more than two hours. Maybe even closer to three. I remember because I remember thinking that most guys who would drop that much on the phone would normally just go and get a girl, you know? But…not that I’d know anything about that…Detective.”
Elliot rolled his eyes. “What can you tell me about him?”
She shrugged again. “He was just a guy. I mean the whole time he’d get real quiet for like a long time, but then again…so do a lot of people when they go…relieve themselves, or whatever.” She paused. “The only reason I really remember him was because he just seemed real distracted. Most guys who are on with me are usually completely focused on whatever I have to say.”
“You know that what she said isn’t not going to make one bit of difference, right?” Alexa said an hour later in the squad room.
She stood several feet away from Elliot as he pounded the keys on his computer keyboard.
“We have some new evidence,” he said. “I’m gonna run with it.”
“Why? I feel like we’re wasting our time here.”
He stood from his chair, case file in hand, and turned, but grimaced slightly when he had to rotate his head downward to meet her eyes.
“We’re bringing Landon in. I want him to know that the NYPD is looking at him.”
“After everything we’ve learned, or didn’t learn about him, I’d say he’s probably innocent.”
“So you’re flip-flopping? A couple days ago, you didn’t like him at all. Or was that just because he was saying that I was innocent?” Alexa’s eyebrows flew toward her hairline and he continued. “Oh yeah. Fin and I talk, so I don’t understand why all of a sudden you’re so sure Landon’s not involved.”
“I didn’t say that I didn’t think he wasn’t involved.”
“Did you or did you not just say Landon’s probably innocent?”
“Look!” Alexa said. “All I was trying to get at is you have to get your priorities straight. Ryan Daly might be the sole reason Kreider gets off and, whether you like it or not, we have an obligation to this city to find his killer.”
Elliot glared at Alexa as she crossed her arms in front of her chest. “What are you really getting at?”
“I think…” She paused momentarily pursing her lips. “I think you should probably be reassigned somewhere else until this whole thing is over.”
He slapped the file in his hand on his desktop. “You’ve got a lot of nerve saying that to me when you’ve been in here all of eight seconds.”
“I’ve been in here long enough to know when a cop has lost sight of why he wears a badge. I know you don’t want to hear it, but we don’t have any more leads on your partner. We need to focus on finding Ryan Daly’s killer.”
“You don’t think we’ve got anything
on Olivia?” he repeated. “Then tell me, Detective. What shocking new method of
criminology are you preparing to use to find Ryan Daly’s killer when there’s no
Alexa’s expression softened. “I didn’t say I had all the answer-”
“But, you as much as said, we should just give up on Olivia because we’ve got more important things on our plate.”
“You’re twisting my words around! I don’t want to give up searching-”
“So, let’s get this straight…You recognize that Olivia’s still missing and that we shouldn’t stop searching for her, but you want to put all focus on this new murder, the same new murder that we’ve got jack shit on. Meanwhile, we still have Landon to toss around a bit to see what else he might be hiding. Munch and Fin are in there talking to Cragen right now, letting him know just how little we have on this Daly case, but you aren’t willing to put forth any effort on the case of a detective who was snatched out of her own home. Have I got it right?”
“You know, I don’t need this shit from you. You’ve been treating me like crap since the day I got here all ‘cause I’m not Olivia.”
“Forget it then,” he said striding quickly away from her. “I’ll get Andrea and you can go back to doing whatever else you were doing before you decided to step into a big girl’s shoes.”
He stepped into the video room where Andrea sat, having no one else with whom to commiserate.
“I can’t take much more of her.”
Andrea glanced at him and shook her head. “Well, don’t come bringing all that negative energy in here to me.”
He sat down in the empty seat next to her. The lights from the screen that forwarded through Morse’s videos cast the room in an odd pale glow.
“I shouldn’t have to deal with this bullshit at this point in my career,” he said.
“We were all green at some point, Elliot. Someone had to train you, too.”
“Yeah, but I was never this pushy and arrogant.”
“Yeah, okay,” Andrea said, clear skepticism echoing in her voice.
“I’m sure you are, but don’t forget. Half the reason you’re so pissed with her, and I’m assuming you’re talking about Brown, is because you’re realizing that no one but Olivia was willing to put up with you.”
“Guess that leaves you out then?”
He gave her a small smile and grabbed the extra legal pad off the desk. He set up the second screen and coursed through the remaining videos, his memory piquing anytime he noticed Olivia’s reactions in relation to a date he remembered.
The Olivia on the screen entered the apartment to the right of the video with an irritated expression on her face and he slowed the tape as she picked up her telephone. She had called Maya to vent about a time Elliot vividly remembered because they were working with one of Olivia’s ex-colleagues and he and Olivia had parted ways that day arguing. The smallest of smiles pulled at his lips when Olivia blurted out “God, he can be such an idiot sometimes.”
Elliot forwarded throughout the night and began fidgeting in his seat when, on the next day, Olivia crossed the apartment wearing only a bra and her suit pants as she poured herself a glass of orange juice. He then shut off the screen and rubbed a hand over his face.
“I know,” Andrea said noticing his response to the video. “It’s hard when it’s someone we know.”
“I still can’t get over the fact that this guy’s been doing this for years.”
“Well, just be glad he was. Otherwise, we’d have every single person she’d ever come in contact with, including you, in our holding cell until we got it all sorted out. At least now we can see who has and hasn’t been snooping around her place.”
Elliot sighed and rested back in his chair. He watched her take some notes on her legal pad and closes his eyes for a moment.
“I’ll give you fifty bucks if you ask Alexa to come help you out in here.”
Andrea shook her head without looking at him. “Not a chance.”
He sped through the videos for an hour longer, before Munch poked his head in the room.
“Cragen’s looking for you,” he said.
Elliot gave a sardonic snort. Wonder what this could be about?
He stood to leave with Munch. “I’m looking to bring Landon back in. I want to grill him further about his alibi.”
“You find anything special about it?” Munch asked as they left the room.
“The girl he was on the phone with said he was distracted.”
“I’m sure that’s understandable.”
“She said for minutes at a time. I want to know what he was doing in those minutes.”
“That’ll be a pleasant conversation.”
The captain had wanted a quick update on his findings with Lucas Roy and Emme Donaugh and, after Elliot had delivered the news, Cragen nodded and rested against his desk, arms crossed.
Here it comes, Elliot thought.
“Alexa’s telling me you’ve been giving her a hard time,” Cragen said.
“So, she’s the tattle type too?”
“She’s the concerned type, Elliot. I think she might be right. Maybe working Olivia’s case is affecting your judgment.”
Elliot leaned against the far wall. “You watch the news this morning, Cap? Everything was about Ryan Daly and Kreider’s possible involvement. Just enough to help pollute the jurors in Kreider’s case and stir up the public enough to make it that much harder to do our jobs. There was also something about a guy found stabbed just below East 90th and a six-car pile up around Holland Tunnel, but not anywhere…not at any point did they say anything about Olivia. It’s like the rest of the world is ready to just move on to the next chapter and I’m the only one standing here screaming that we haven’t finished this one yet.”
“No one is preparing to give up, Elliot.”
“That’s not what I’m hearing. You’re even telling me that I’m obviously not thinking clearly because I want my partner found.”
“We all want Olivia found, but her case is about to be pulled from us any day now. It’s been almost two weeks and we’re not coming up with anything new.”
“That’s because everyone who’s been assigned to her case specifically keeps getting pulled. I mean I can’t even believe I have to entertain the possibility that she’s just going to the wayside, never to be found.”
Cragen sat silent for a moment letting his eyes drop to the floor to let Elliot quickly brush away an errant tear.
“Pick a case, Elliot. I know you had a stack ten people deep before all this happened and we’ve got the ones Olivia was leading to deal with too. Just pick a case and focus on it until we can find something else solid on Liv.”
“How is that different from telling me I’ve got to give up and move on? Don…I’ve already got a case to focus on.”
Elliot did not wait for a response and strode out of the office allowing the door to slowly creak shut behind him. It bumped, but missed the latch as it hit the door frame and Cragen simply stared at the old doorknob.
The harsh reality of the situation was that no matter how hard he knew he would fight it, the call to move Olivia’s case officially to either Missing Persons or Homicide was coming quickly and the frown that had spread across his face on Elliot’s departure deepened as he imagined having to tell his most senior detective that his partner’s disappearance would soon be at the bottom of another department’s pile.
“This will be the last time we do this, Detective.”
Mark paced the small interrogation room, arms crossed and eyes narrowed.
“I’ve had enough,” he said. “You’re harassing me and it’s going to stop now.”
“No one’s harassing you,” Elliot said. “Out of everyone we’ve talked to, you’re the only one putting up any real fuss. In my opinion, if you didn’t have anything to hide, you wouldn’t be this angry when we have more questions about the neighbor you’re apparently so cozy with.”
Mark turned to his lawyer who sat across from Munch. “I don’t really have to say anything else to these people, do I?”
Robert Gruenbaum, five feet, two inches tall with beady eyes akin to Mark’s, straightened in his uncomfortable chair. “Of course not. You’re here because they asked you to come, but you are under no obligation to stay.”
“Unless we arrest him,” Munch said casually.
“For what! I haven’t done anything!”
“Oh come on,” Elliot said. “We hear that everyday.”
“Unless you have any more specific questions for Mr. Landon,” Gruenbaum said, “I think it’s best we leave.”
He stood and Mark began to follow him out of the room, but paused to glare at Elliot.
“You know, it was what I had to say to your colleagues that practically exonerated you.”
“Well, I’m glad you felt the need to do so.”
“I’m the reason the press isn’t chasing you down the street anymore and this is how you treat me in return?”
Elliot stood to glare down at Mark properly. “I didn’t need anyone to come forward for me, Landon. I didn’t need you to say a goddamn word for me because everyone here knows I wouldn’t harm Olivia, but we can’t say the same about you.”
“This is ridiculous,” Mark said.
“Yeah, I find it pretty ridiculous to think that out of every person we talked to, every single person, you’re the only one who lawyered up. That tells me you’ve got something to hide and, whatever it is, I’m going to find it.”
Mark narrowed his eyes again at Elliot and stormed out of the room, Gruenbaum following in his short footsteps. Elliot and Munch then left the room; Munch going to take a nap upstairs, Elliot heading for his desk.
Flinging himself into his chair, Elliot rubbed the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes as he heard the soft pads of feet coming toward him.
“Um…” he heard Alexa say and he squeezed his eyes behind his hands. “Did we look into that Philip Fitzgivens again?” She spoke as if they were in the middle of a conversation. “If I remember those videos correctly, he was hanging around her place a lot.”
Elliot sighed letting his hands drop to his lap. “He’s there because Liv’s neighbor is his mother and I’ve already looked at him every way possible…again. We’ve tracked down everything about him and his alibi turned out to be solid. Three people saw him there.”
“Oh, okay,” Alexa said softly.
She started to turn and walk away, but paused mid-step.
“Look. I’m sorry, okay? I was out of line today saying that you should be reassigned.”
“Yes,” Elliot said. “You were.”
“Let me…make it up to you with a beer or something.”
He glanced up at her hopeful eyes and for a moment saw a flash of Dani Beck. Things always began with just a drink which eventually turned into several and before either detective knew what happened, new rumors were floating around the precinct, however they would not just be rumors.
“No,” he said. “That’s okay. I’ve got a lot of catch up for tonight, but I’ll have everything ready for you to sign off on Donaugh and Roy tomorrow. ‘Kay?”
Alexa nodded. “All right. Well…I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Elliot gave a slight nod in her direction as she turned and walked toward the elevators. His eyes fell on Olivia’s empty chair and wondered how long he would be able to fend of any new partnerships to keep her desk clear of any visitors. In the past twelve months he had had to endure Olivia’s clear desk and a new face behind it twice and had no desire to do so again.
The squad room had grown quiet in the late hour and, though he tried to focus on the task at hand, his thoughts were littered with memories of Olivia. Late nights, early mornings, bright days and long ones.
He tried to dig through the papers on his desk in hopes of finding his notes on a recent case had handed to him about women being raped too realistically on video and his mind unintentionally flashed a part of Morse’s videos in front of his eyes. The scene, one he had watched that day, had elicited a very clear memory and he was glad that Andrea had stepped out of the room the moment he rushed through it, wondering all the while if anyone else had seen it.
“I wanna go home.”
“We’re home, Liv,” Elliot had said. “We’re almost on your floor.”
She leaned, half against the elevator and half with her arms draped across him. Her head rested on his shoulder and he had an arm squeezed around her middle holding her upright on wobbly legs.
The elevator doors slid open and he stuck out one foot near the frame to keep the doors from closing on him.
“C’mon, Liv,” he said pulling at her arm that uselessly tried to keep her stable in the elevator. “Just a few more feet.”
Olivia tried to lean forward, but lost her balance and fell onto him. He rolled his eyes momentarily and gathered her upward in his arms, allowing her to curl into his chest as her eyes began to close.
Elliot rotated her weight slightly to keep his center of gravity square, ensuring he would not drop her, and slowly made his way down her corridor. His steps were steady, but he could not walk directly in a straight line as the six beers and two tequila shots that splashed in his stomach were beginning to work their magic.
Olivia murmured next to his chest and he wondered if it would be safe to even leave her alone that night. She too, at close to half his weight, had poured six beers down her throat as well as seven shots of tequila and the three Rum and Cokes various hopeful suitors had bought for her at the bar that night.
He and Olivia had stopped for a quick lunch at a hot dog stand that day when Olivia had turned, mid-bite, and was face to face with an ex-boyfriend and the woman for whom he left her, who also happened to now be his pregnant wife. The only reason Elliot remembered him as such was due to the anger that had emanated from Olivia in the weeks after learning that he, Will, had cheated on her. The four of them had exchanged quick greetings and parted ways, but he could still feel that Olivia had not fully recovered from the incident.
She left the precinct that night proclaiming that her goal was to drink away the memory of Will and Elliot, fearing what might happen to his partner in such a state, searched three bars before he found her surrounded by four different men, each listening to her slurred speech with optimistic eyes.
“I hate him,” Olivia said, her voice muffled by his jacket.
“Yeah, I hate him too, Liv,” he said still making his way down the hall.
“Yep, Liv. A big jerk.”
They approached her door and as he shuffled to keep her in the air and finagle his keys from his pocket, Mark Landon opened his door with narrowed eyes.
“What are you doing?”
“What the hell does it look like I’m doing?” Elliot said. “You could help me out here by just grabbing my keys from my jacket pocket and opening her door.”
Mark peered over Elliot’s shoulder at the incapacitated Olivia. “What have you done to her?”
“Not me. Blame Jose Cuervo. Now, can you get my keys or not?”
Mark fished the keys out of Elliot’s pocket, found Olivia’s house key on his own and opened the door for them.
“Do you need any help?”
“I dragged her from the bar and out of the cab,” Elliot said. “I think I can take it from here.”
He closed Olivia’s door with a kick of his leg and half stumbled as he got her onto her couch.
“I wanna go home,” Olivia mumbled.
“You’re home, Liv,” he said. “You’re on your couch. Are you gonna be able to make it to your bed all right?”
“Mm-hmm,” Olivia murmured into her sofa cushions, but her hand slid from the couch and she banged her knuckles on the floor. She did not react to the crack of her bones hitting the wooden floor.
Elliot rubbed a hand over his face and took off his jacket as he stared at her sprawled on the couch. A brown trickle of her sick gleamed into the light and he sighed as he had hoped he leaned her far enough into the bushes, when they left the bar earlier, to keep any from getting on her pants leg.
He bent down to her resting form. “I can’t let you sleep like this, Liv.”
“I wanna go home,” she repeated. “Heesah bastard…I wanna go home.”
Sighing again, he padded across the apartment and rummaged through her dresser drawers until he found some pajama bottoms. He laid them on her bed and returned to the living room. Gathering her with one arm around her waist and one of her arms around his neck, he led Olivia into her bathroom, where he held her hair as she wretched again and helped her swish some Listerine in her mouth before he carried her into her bedroom.
He hesitated over her mumbling form for a moment before sitting on her bed and pulling her feet into his laps and taking off her shoes and socks. He had removed her jacket and left her in her t-shirt when he stopped and stood with his hands on his hips.
“Liv,” he said. “I can’t let you sleep in those pants, there’s throw up all over them.”
“I wanna go home,” she mumbled and twisted on the bed.
“I know,” he said, “But you can’t sleep like this and I have to take off your pants, okay? I’ll make it quick.”
She groaned and slapped his hands away twice before he could get her side zipper undone. To his word, Elliot slipped her pants off quickly and slid on her pajama bottoms, before he unfolded her bed covers and moved her into her bed.
He lied beside her for a minute, his head beginning to grow fuzzy from the alcohol and he rose to leave, he felt a tug at his shirt.
“Don’t leave,” Olivia whispered. “I don’t want to be alone.”
“Liv, I…I can’t stay here with you.”
“Please,” she said, her grasp growing tighter around his shirt. “I don’t want him to know that I’m alone.”
He sighed. “You’re not alone, Olivia. And Will’s not going to know even if you were. He’s gone. He’s a jerk, remember? He’s gone.”
“Please…please don’t leave me.”
“All right,” he said after staring at her for a moment and slipping off his shoes. “I’ll stay with you until you fall asleep okay?”
She nodded and smiled sleepily as he crossed the bed and fell on top of the covers next to her. She curled next to him immediately and he simply sighed as their breathing slowed and fell in time together.
“Why doesn’t he want me?” Olivia mumbled into his neck.
Elliot tried to shrug. “Beats me, Liv. The man’s an idiot as far as I’m concerned.”
She turned her head slightly and he realized that her lips were tracing a curve up his neck toward his jaw line.
“Hey,” he said patting her on the arm. “C’mon Liv. Don’t do this.”
She swung her arm around him and a moment later she had pulled herself on top of him, her blankets still separating them.
“Olivia…stop,” he said trying to sit up in the bed. “You’re drunk. You’ve got to stop.”
“Why?” she whispered her hand caressing his chest. “He doesn’t want me and she doesn’t want you. She left you, El. She left.”
He let his head rest on her headboard feeling like the wind had suddenly been knocked out of him. Her words, dripping with the slurred innocence that only absolute drunkenness could bring, seemed to rip through him as her hands traced patterns in his chest and then began to pull at his shirt.
Elliot pulled her at the waist and sat her back on the other side of the bed as he tried to get out of it. She pulled hard at his shirt, much harder than he thought she would have been capable of considering her state and he fell back on top of her. Her hands wrapped around him instantly as she kissed a line up his neck once again.
“I want you, Elliot,” she hummed.
Bringing his hands around her arms, he clasped them to her middle as he straddled her, sitting upright in the bed.
“You have to stop, Olivia,” he said now breathing hard from the stress of restraint. “We can’t…do this.”
“I want to.”
“No, you don’t. That’s the seven tequila shots talking.”
Olivia stopped squirming beneath him and, with her hands still handcuffed by his hands, she stared up at him, her eyes large and sad.
“You don’t want me either?”
He closed his eyes for a moment and let out a breath. “Yes, Olivia. I want you…very much. More than you’ll ever know, but you’re hammered and you’re never going to remember this, so I need you to just lie here and go to sleep.”
“You’re leaving me?” she asked softly as he released her hands.
“No,” he said sighing again as he shifted to the other side of the bed. “I’m just going to lie over here until you fall asleep. All right?”
She nodded and curled herself around a pillow instead of around him. Within minutes, she had sprawled onto her back in an inebriated slumber and Elliot quietly slipped out of her bed. He put on his shoes while sitting on her couch and sat with his head in his hands for a moment, his heart still pounding from the feel of Olivia touching him the way she had. It had taken his every ounce of strength to pull away from her when she said that she wanted him and a part of his mind still wanted to return to her bedroom and fulfill her proposition.
He lifted himself from Olivia’s couch, paused for a moment to make sure she was still passed out in her bed and headed for the door, a light sweat just beginning to appear at his brow.
Elliot swore as his hand slipped across a sheet of paper in a manila folder and cut a thin slice in his finger. Finding Olivia’s kit of band aids and antibiotic in her bottom drawer, he painfully patched his finger and returned to his desk, the file of his desire going unfound.
The clock on his desk read several minutes past in the morning and he rubbed his temples as he leaned against his desk. Fourteen full days had passed since he had last seen his partner and every lead on her case seemed exhausted. He had dealt with weary cases before where, even after fervent searching, it did not appear that a child who had been snatched by a molester’s hands would ever be found, but this was different.
Through his years with the unit, he had trained himself to make every child and every rape victim whose case came across his desk nearly faceless. It was a necessary evil of the job and, if he had not adopted the technique, every abused child would turn into Dickie or Lizzie and every raped young woman into Maureen or Kathleen before his eyes.
Olivia, on the other hand, had stepped beside him as he worked said cases for years. He had grown accustomed to having her near to the point where his eyes unconsciously sought out hers and found them instantly during conversation, and he could tell by just the sound of her breathing how many steps away she was when they were chasing down a perpetrator. There was no way to wipe her from his mind.
Resigning to the fatigue that pulled at his very core, Elliot turned off the light at his desk and pulled on his jacket. He sighed as he reached the squad room elevators, wondering if he could put in another hour before acknowledging the fact that he was only going to stare at his ceiling instead of sleep through the night.
The elevator doors closed around him and, as his thoughts floated to his near-interlude with Olivia several years earlier, he silently wished he had not pushed away Diana so zealously.
Munch stymied a curse word from his mouth as he lost his footing on the snow-covered hill. A path had been made in the snow leading toward the river, but the night air had quickly turned the slush of snow into ice and he stretched out his arms to balance himself as he slowly footed down the hill.
When he got to the bottom, he
glanced backward to see the FDR curving toward
The boy over whom they stood lay on a blue tarp and the river lapped against the farther edge of it in odd waves. When Munch had received the call that morning, he had heard the word “river” and hoped that they would have some relief from Kreider’s copycat, but once he saw the crime scene, he knew they would receive no such luck.
Melinda wrote a measurement in her notepad and looked up as she saw Munch approaching the scene.
“I see you made it up here,” she said, her light brown skin pink at the cheeks from having been outside for hours.
“Barely. I nearly fell on my ass up there and could’ve just slid down here to you. What’ve we got?”
“A young male, black and about twelve years old. He hasn’t been in the water very long, so we can be grateful for that. In fact, I don’t think anything more than his feet really touched the river.”
“Is this the same guy as Ryan Daly’s?” Fin asked blowing on his bare, cupped hands.
“I didn’t want to think so at first,” Melinda said. “This is very different from the other murders. All the other boys were found at the very least on dry land, but there’s more to this one too. Look at his face and his chest. He’s been beaten far worse than any of the others I’ve seen, but the marks on his neck are exactly the same as Ryan Daly and the other seven.”
“Can we get prints?” Munch asked. “I want to be able to put a name with the face at least.”
“They already pulled them,” she said sniffing slightly against the cold. “Hopefully we’ll have a name by morning.”
Munch shook his head again. “Why another black kid? This just isn’t making any sense. Even if it was a copycat, he’d follow the same formula, wouldn’t he? Daniel Richardson was Kreider’s fourth victim.”
“Why the river even?” Fin said. “All the other kids were found in parks or alleys. This guy’s going from the exact location where the first couple victims were found to all the way up here.”
“He might just be getting sloppy,” Melinda added. “Another difference I’ve seen directly on the boys was that Kreider was meticulous. The abuse most likely went on for several hours before they were murdered. Ryan Daly was abused, but it was over quickly and I’m sure we’ll see the same thing with this boy.”
“Might explain why he decided to try the river,” Munch said. “Maybe there was something on him that the killer thought the river might wash off or hide. He probably just didn’t have the time to get him in all the way. I mean, anyone could have seen something from the FDR.”
Fin nodded toward another officer at the scene. “Any witnesses so far?”
The young officer shook his head. “We’ve got a couple teenagers up the hill who said they saw a guy walking around down here, but that they thought he was just a homeless guy.”
“They get any other description than that?” Fin asked.
“They said he was white,” the officer said shrugging. “But, other than that, they didn’t see anything. Bardell’s got their statement.”
“All right,” Fin said as he started walking toward the hill. “We’ll talk to him.”
“When you do think you’ll know the cause of death for certain?” Munch asked Melinda.
“It’ll definitely be a while. There’s so many bruises on his face alone.”
“Well, the more differences we can dig up the better off we’ll be. I don’t want to give Kreider any more leverage when it comes to this case.”
Melinda sighed and shivered as a large gust blew against her. “I’ll let you all know as soon as I find something.”
“You need to give us more time,” Cragen said into the telephone. “I can’t believe you want to pull this from us.”
“Missing Persons has their own caseload,” Deputy Inspector Felton said. “As of tomorrow, her case is getting moved to Homicide.”
Cragen’s mouth went dry. “There’s no evidence that she’s been killed. She’s just missing and, if you gave us more time, we can find out what happened to her.”
“Two weeks without a trace is more than enough time, Don,” Felton said. “It’s either Homicide or the Feds. I’d like to keep this within our jurisdiction.”
“I don’t care about jurisdiction at this point. I want our guys to find her.”
“Regardless if you care or not, she’s being moved to Homicide.”
“She’s nowhere to be found,” Felton
interrupted. “And there was some blood in her apartment when
“If we can’t find anything and she’s our own detective, what’s Homicide going to do?”
“This will give Benson more attention if we treat her case like a homicide. It’s not that we don’t value everything your unit’s been doing for the case, but a cop is still missing and fresh eyes need to look at this. We need people to comb through every single detail, without any reservations about colleagues floating around, if you catch my drift. We’re bumping the case to Homicide and if we find her alive…” Felton paused when he heard Cragen’s voice catch. “I didn’t mean that. I meant if…when we find her, we’ll pass the case along accordingly.”
Cragen hung up the phone several
minutes later in disgust. He had known the switch was coming, but he thought he
would have a chance to struggle to keep the case a little longer. With two new
While sitting in his darkened office, plagued by his own thoughts, he allowed a single tear to fall from his eyes before brushing it away quickly and making up his cot in the corner of his office.
Unknown Time and Place
Olivia’s eyes opened slowly as her head lay on the bare cement floor. Endless grey expanded before her, shifting and becoming more varied with each blink of her eye. By the time she had pushed herself from the cold floor and elicited a series of coughs akin to a bronchial infection, a set of weak colours had presented themselves.
The room, to which she had become more accustomed than she would have liked, consisted of concrete and cinder block walls and, at the far end of it, stood a metal door with several locks that gleamed in the available little light. A group of what she assumed was three women sat crouched together against the wall to her right. Two of them looked very grey while the third was so dark Olivia could just barely make out her outline in the gloom. She could see the slightest hint of a dull red hair coming from the head of the woman who sat nearest to her. All three were so thin she could see every bone that protruded from their bodies, their heads looking like nothing more than flesh-covered skulls.
Olivia turned her head toward her left and felt her eyes grow wide at the sight of a younger woman, a girl, staring directly at her. Her eyes were large and colourless in the grey and her face so gaunt, Olivia could see cheekbones that would not have shown so clearly had the girl been healthy. She wanted to recoil from the sight of her, but her body was so weak from just the exertion of pushing herself upright that she did not bother.
She opened her mouth to speak, but only sputtered a fit of coughing which the girl watched intently as if watching a caged animal.
“Is…this hell?” Olivia finally managed to whisper to the girl.
The girl simply stared at her as if she had not seen a human being properly.
“Don’t think so,” the girl said finally. Her voice had the hint of a British accent that had been lessened by years of New Yorkers surrounding her. “I feel…alive, and I haven’t gathered I’d done anything that wrong, so I can’t say that it is.”
“Do you know where we are?”
The girl shook her head. “We’re higher up in the air. That I know. I can feel it. It has a feeling of being high up instead of being way down below, doesn’t it?”
Olivia sighed and closed her eyes for a moment.
“What’s your name?”
The girl stared at her for a moment as if trying to remember. “Amy. Amy Kettering.”
“What’s the last thing you remember before you got here, Amy?”
“I don’t know.”
“How long’ve you been here?”
“I don’t know.”
Amy shrugged and sat down beside Olivia. She was easily half Olivia’s weight though she was nearly as long. Her bones stuck out of her skin in odd places as if broken and healed improperly and her eyes were sunken.
“He’s been angry lately.”
“Who?” Olivia said eyes wide. “Him? Who is he? Why are we here?”
“He uses us,” Amy said, a daft air about her voice. “One of the others said she saw a camera at one point in the room with the lights, but he just uses us again and again.”
Olivia looked out at the expanse of the room that had grown to a dark grey rather than black.
“We’re…” she coughed. “We’re going to get out of here, Amy. We’re all going to get out of here.”
“No one gets out,” Amy said. “We’re here to stay.”
“No,” Olivia said. “I won’t die like this.”
“When he’s ready,” Amy began, “he moves us to other room. Not the room with the lights, but the other room. He’s only changed his mind once and that girl told us about the smell. It’s the smell of death. The only time we leave is to go into that other room and we don’t come back.”
A shiver ran through Olivia’s body as she tried to imagine what Amy meant by “the smell of death.”
Amy shifted next to her. “I saved you something from the other ones. They tried to take yours too because you were still asleep.”
She pointed to the huddled three who all now stared curiously at their pair. Amy then held out her dirty hand and dropped something small into Olivia’s.
It was some kind of cracker that
reminded her of communion wafers and as she tried to remember how to chew, Amy
handed her a small
“Thank you,” she said resting her head against the wall, but then feeling hungrier and thirstier than she was before she ate.
The sound of footsteps pounding across cement echoed throughout the room and Amy jumped from Olivia to crouch, shivering in the nearby corner. The three on the right had locked arms and huddled together shaking as a single mass. The red-haired one closest to Olivia cried.
Olivia’s breathing grew ragged as she watched the grey locks turn on the door at the room’s far end. She stood looking quickly for the pole that had saved her the previous time he had come for her, but found that it no longer existed. Only jagged stumps on the floor and toward the pole’s curve and splash of water on the floor remained of it.
She looked toward the door and saw his pale form gleaming at her. His hair was a mess of blond locks and his eyes were cold and penetrating, but she could not make out his face against the grey.
“My name is Olivia Benson,” she said defiantly. “And, I’m a cop. You have to let me go.”
“You’re a difficult one,” he said nonchalance biting. “That I’ll say for certain. But, even the difficult ones can be…broken.”
Olivia heard the clank of something metallic in his hand and the noise had an uneasy familiarity to it; the sound of a gun being loaded.
He drew the gun level to her face and took a step toward her.
“Now, Detective,” he said. “Put your hands against the wall.”
Olivia stood rebellious, hoping to call his bluff.
He took another step forward. “Must I tell you again? I’d hate to have gone through all this trouble on a wasted project. Put your hands against the wall…please, dear.”
She turned, her breath coming out in gasps and placed her hands against the cold wet wall. He stepped just behind her and from the corner of her eye, Olivia could see Amy squeezing herself into a smaller ball in her corner.
He raised his gun and a moment later Olivia could feel its sharp cold barrel against her temple. She tried to shift away from him, but heard the safety click on the gun.
His free hand caressed her shoulder twice before she felt him place his lips at the back of her neck. When he let his mouth drag across the nape of her neck, Olivia’s breath caught and she quickly reached out to grab his wrist with her fingernails.
He grunted at the pain and pulled the trigger in Olivia’s direction. Heat from the errant shot wafted past her arm, burning her as the bullet blew and lodged itself in the wall. The sound of the bullet exiting the gun was deafening and the flash of light that spewed from the gun left her temporarily blinded, but she held onto his arm all the while.
Warm blood trickled onto her hand as she dug her hand into her wrist further and she heard the gun drop to the floor. He slammed her against the wall, cutting her shoulder in the process, but she kicked out in every direction finally making contact with the weapon in the darkness and heard it skitter across the floor.
She whirled toward the expanse of the room, his arms clamoring all over her as they both rushed toward the sound of the gun. Her arms searched out for the gun as he caught up with her in the dark and pressed her toward the floor. The sounds of the others scattering echoed in the room as they had drawn near. Olivia kicked backward, her foot hitting him squarely in the chest at the same time she her fingertips brushed against the gun’s cold handle.
She wrapped her hand around it, but he let go of her in that instant and retreated toward the wall where her eyes, still half-blind from the gunshot, could not make him out from the rest of the dark wall.
She held it out, ready to fire, pressing her eyes to see his pale form in the darkness. She did not want to chance hitting any of the others, but she knew he was still right there.
Her heart pounded and the only sound in the room was her ragged breathing coming in large gulps. She did not know whether a minute or an hour had passed as she sat, gun still perched, shifting its barrel toward the slightest sign of movement in the room.
Olivia heard the air shifting, like something swinging through the air. He was right next to her.
She fired twice, her arms unsteady from lack of sustenance, but the gun jammed on her third shot.
Time passed silently, as she was unable to take a breath wondering all the while if she had hit her mark. She arched her arms toward the sound of something shuffling.
“Stupid bitch,” she heard him say, now from the room’s other side. “It’s not that bad…I guess. It hurts a little less than this wound you’ve given me on my arm. But…it’s not that bad.”
Olivia kept her gun on him even though she knew it was jammed and her eyes were finally able to focus on his pale grey form that slinked against the darkness. The door across the room opened, shut and locked with three quick clanks.
The sound of crying erupted from Olivia’s left and her head spun as her lungs gasped for air.
Amy appeared by her side quickly and sat down beside her again.
“I…I can’t believe what you did,” she said in a small voice. “He’ll come back. He always comes back and he’s angry now. You can’t think that’s the only one he’s got. He’ll come back and finish off all of us.”
Olivia let her head rest against the wall unable to speak. She was so weak and so very tired. Tears formed in her eyes as she realized she did not know how much longer she would be able to hold out against him.
Amy patted her hand with bony fingers.
“You’ll learn to live with it…Then it won’t be so bad.”
“No,” Olivia said snatching her hand away from her. “He’s not keeping me here. I won’t die like this. Not like a victim. I won’t. I’m not a victim. I’m not a victim…”
Elliot lurched forward in his bed as his mind released him from the gripping recesses of his subconscious. He had had another nightmare where this time Olivia was trapped somewhere dark and lay unable to move, but calling out for him.
Pulling back the covers that were laced with his sweat, he set his feet on the floor and put his head in his hands as he quickly prayed for an end to all this. Not for the first time, he cursed sleep as much as he cursed the gross fatigue that rattled his body. Exhaustion made his body hurt in the morning, but the nightmares ate at him throughout the day.
He got up, dressed quickly and made his way to the precinct, wincing as he got off the elevators knowing that someone with red hair and brown eyes would be lying in wait for him.
As soon as he set down his morning coffee, Alexa nearly pounced on him, feeding him information about the newest boy found, this time far north of any of the previous crime scenes. By the time she had finished her announcement with far too much energy than he was accustomed in the morning, it was nearly and Elliot’s eyebrows shot toward his forehead when he saw Craig Spencer step off the elevator and into the squad room.
“What’re you doing up here?” Elliot said shaking his hand with a quick clap on the back.
“Wish it was on better terms,” Spencer said. “I take it you haven’t got the news yet?”
“Your partner’s case. It’s been officially handed to Homicide. In fact, I just caught it this morning.”
Elliot leaned against his desk and crossed his arms. “No, I didn’t get the news. Why is her case being given to the eighth? We’ve got Homicide cops here at the 1-6.”
“As far as the deputy inspector’s
concerned, whatever went down, happened in her apartment, so the case was
passed to us.” Spencer paused a moment watching as Elliot ran a hand over his
face. “I came here to talk to you personally about it, Elliot. I’m officially
on her case, but I promise you’ll be in the loop every step of the way. And,
the second we find out who’s responsible,
Elliot paced in front of desk. “As long as we find her…I don’t care who gets the glory.”
Spencer nodded at him and headed back for the elevators. He passed Melinda on his way out and she approached Elliot, Munch and Fin very somber.
“Andrew Shaw,” she said flatly. “Twelve years old. He’d been missing since Sunday night when he disappeared on his way home from a pick-up basketball game.”
“Was he killed the same way as the others?” Fin asked.
She nodded. “Yes, but that’s probably the only thing that links him to the other boys. He was kicked and beaten with something that was probably a wire hanger before he was strangled. I also found burn marks and defensive wounds on his arms. There were prints this time, but they weren’t in the system.” She sighed. “I hope this guy isn’t just getting started because he really did a number on this boy.”
A pressing silence fell over them and she continued as she fumbled the manila folder in her hand.
“I found something else that sets Andrew Shaw apart from Kreider’s victims. There’s a chemical substance on the skin near his mouth. I was actually surprised to see it since he’d been by the water, so I took another look at Ryan Daly and there’s a trace of it on his neck as well. When I ran the Tox screens, I saw they had both inhaled it and it probably knocked them out quickly.”
Munch took the report from her and shook his head.
“I’ve seen it before that too,” she added and all three snapped their necks toward her.
“Where?” Fin said.
She pursed her lips for a moment. “Olivia’s apartment. This is the same stuff they pulled off her floor that night.”
All three quickly glanced at Elliot, but Fin spoke first.
“Same as in it’s the exact same makeup and concentration as what I found previously.”
“You think the guy who took Olivia is the one killing these kids?” Elliot asked
“That’d make sense,” Munch mumbled. “If he’s got her, maybe he made her say how the other kids were murdered. Maybe that’s how this guy knows all the little details behind Kreider’s case.”
“I don’t believe it,” Fin said.
“Well, unless I have a…unless we can find Olivia, I’m not willing to say whether or not a single person did both. Just that the same substance was found on his face just like it was on her floor.”
“We’ve got more problems,” Cragen
said as he walked toward them from his office. “We need to meet with the press.
Now. A number of people are gathering at
“Aside from the actual murder itself, this latest case isn’t anything like the others,” Melinda said. “He is much more brutal this time.”
“I’ll use that to counter what the press is already starting to print.”
“This is bull,” Fin said. “Kreider killed those other kids.”
“And that’s what I’m going to say when we get there.” He headed for the exit. “Show starts in ten minutes.”
The detectives each grabbed various suit jackets and ties to make themselves look more presentable and followed Cragen to the press conference set up on the second floor.
The conference went quickly as
Cragen and the deputy inspector re-affirmed that all evidence pointed to a
copycat killer and not the same one. Several times Cragen repeated that Owen
Kreider killed Jacob Lewendale, Connor Whickfield, Ricky Schrader, Daniel
Richardson, Manny Scheibley, Dominic Hedges and Tyler MacFarland and that a new
criminal was starting where Kreider had stopped. Cragen ended his speech to the
public with a solid determination that they, Manhattan
Questions shouted by the press dealt with both sets of cases and there was a contented air about the state of the newest case and its pending resolution as the conference came to an end. However, just before Cragen had a chance to leave the podium, a young reporter shouted from the back of the room.
“Aren’t you still down a detective up there?”
Unable to depart with such a question hanging in the air, Cragen informed them that Olivia’s case was now being considered a homicide and that they were working diligently to find her killer.
He retreated to his office on that final note, creating an eruption of new questions and thinking that he could retire right there and then.
In the squad room, Munch, Fin and Elliot sat stoic in the wake of their captain’s announcement. Though they knew that Olivia’s case had been shifted to Homicide, hearing it gave the information a new reality. They each had open cases, but to call Olivia Benson a victim of homicide pressed like the heaviest of burdens.
Fin soon received a call from a potential witness who remembered someone walking through the park Saturday morning near the area where Ryan Daly was found, and he and Munch quickly left to investigate.
“Cragen’s looking for you,” Andrea said to Elliot an hour later, having just left his office.
“We just got a call,” Cragen said when Elliot stood in his office. “A teenaged girl was found just above Delancey. She’s shook up pretty badly, but they think she’ll be all right. Brown’s already on her way down there…”
Elliot sighed and shook his head.
“Just give her a chance, Elliot,” Cragen said. “She’ll get the hang of things.”
“I don’t have time to show this girl the ropes.
“She’s has all the potential to be a good cop.”
“I understand…She’s not Olivia.”
Elliot glared at him. “So, that’s just it. We right her off as a homicide, clear all the stuff off her desk and make way for Detective Wet-Behind-The-Ears?”
“No, I’m not doing it.”
“You’ll do as you’re told.”
“I’m not letting Brown even fill in for Liv. I’m not giving up.”
“Neither is anyone else here, but two detectives working together is going to get a lot more done than just one. You need to give her a chance.”
Elliot shook his head. “What about Andrea? She’s gotta be close to done with those tapes by now.”
“Andrea’s been shot at twice before
and she’s got two boys. She says she likes her desk work and I’m not throwing
her out there if she doesn’t want to be.
“You’ve got to have some kind of answer for me,” Elliot said pacing the room.
George stared at Elliot, still surprised by his sudden excursion to his office.
“It’s not going to be unusual for you to start seeing her in other’s faces,” George said. “What happened today is to be expected.”
Elliot rubbed a hand over his face as he continued pacing. When he had met Alexa at the hospital with their newest rape victim, Cora Rosen, he passed by an open door and happened to glance at the woman inside the room lying on the bed.
Her head was wrapped in several bandages and one of her arms was in a cast, but Elliot froze in her doorway. For just a moment, he thought she was Olivia and nearly caused a scene with the family members who were visiting the woman. It was only when he had taken a second look at the woman, after pushing through the woman’s two brothers, that he realized she did not look anything like Olivia. He had simply seen a brunette in a hospital bed and overreacted.
“On Sunday, I met Olivia’s cousin and they look so much alike I nearly lost it. Morse…You know I should be where he is right now because I’m practically going through the same thing he is.”
“I’m…affected by all this. It’s like I realized on Sunday that I’ve spent the better part of the last decade with this woman and I thought I was handling the fact that she was gone, but when I see someone who looks like her or who I think looks like her…Is this what it’s gonna be like if she’s dead? Am I going to see Olivia look-a-likes on the street and just break down?”
“I can’t answer that for you. We all deal with grief differently.”
Elliot stopped pacing and shook his head. “This…this is just bullshit. We had to declare that Liv’s case is now being considered a homicide. No one in the squad thinks she’s been killed, but her case got snatched from us anyway and I’m gonna have to walk around the rest of my life remembering the words ‘Olivia Benson has been a victim of homicide.’”
“But, that’s to be expected,” George said. “You’re beginning to really grieve for her and-”
“Yeah,” Elliot interrupted. “‘We all deal with grief differently.’ But how…how am I supposed to do my job when there’s a possibility that this could happen again?”
“You can always step away from this, Elliot. No one would think any less of you for doing so.”
“There’s nothing to walk away from. Her case is a homicide, not a sex crime. I’m already away from it.”
“How about just taking time for you? Spend some time with your family and-”
“And what? I’d just be delaying the inevitable. No matter where I go…she’s still going to be missing. Or dead. How am I supposed to forgive myself if she’s dead?”
“You aren’t the person who took her and, if she’s been killed, you weren’t the person to do it.”
“Then, why do I feel like I am?”
Without waiting for a response, he left the office and drove back to the precinct hoping that Alexa was still speaking with Cora Rosen’s family.
“I think we should sit on Landon for a while,” he said to Munch when he had settled back at his desk. “Maybe put some Unis on him or follow him ourselves.”
“This is sounding too familiar,” Munch said.
“Does the name Jeffrey Drover ring a bell?”
Elliot threw down the pencil in his hand. “I was right about Drover.”
“No, you got lucky on Drover. He just happened to be molesting those kids, but you wanted to railroad him for everything. Same thing with Landon and there’s no reason for you to focus just on him.”
“I’m not willing to believe she’s dead. I can’t.”
He and Munch stared at one another, extreme sympathy washing over Munch’s face.
“Spencer is a good cop,” he said. “He’ll let us know the details.”
“He’s also got six open cases,” Elliot said.
“As do you.”
“Brown is probably still at the hospital helping the girl retrace everything that happened to her and I’ve got a foot and half worth of paperwork to sift through. I can focus on Liv at the same time.”
He threw himself into his chair with a sigh and Munch put his hands in his pockets.
“There’s a problem with Landon,” he said.
“There’s always been a problem with Landon,” Elliot said.
“No. In looking at him for this. There’s a problem.”
“What about the door?” Munch said.
“Liv’s door. The door to her apartment was locked from the outside. Landon might seem slightly plausible, but the fact that her door was locked throws a monkey wrench in the whole theory.”
Elliot shook his head. “Not necessarily. They were neighbors. Maybe she gave him a key.”
“Olivia gave a key to a neighbor she barely talks to? C’mon Stabler. We’ve got to do better than that.”
“But, what you’re suggesting is that whoever took her had to’ve had her keys.”
“Exactly. It fits everything else. If somebody had her keys, they could’ve been anywhere just waiting for the right second. And, the stairwell’s not that far from her apartment. Someone could’ve just waited for you to leave and then grabbed her. If they pulled her in the stairwell, no one would’ve known, there wouldn’t be any noise and the whole thing could’ve gone down in less than a minute.”
“But, we would’ve seen someone coming in and out of there who didn’t belong there,” Elliot argued. “On Morse’s tapes before that night. We would’ve seen something.”
“How would we know though?” Munch said. “Especially if this is someone Liv gave her keys to. It could’ve been a friend who could’ve been going in and out of her building all the time and wouldn’t look out of the ordinary on the videos.”
Elliot shook his head again as he crossed his arms. “Based on that theory, it could be anyone. Me, Halloway…Hell, even Maya Shah is up based on that. I don’t even know all of Liv’s friends.”
“Look, Olivia’s given her keys out to people, right? But how often has she had her locks changed?”
“From what I know about Liv, she’s given her key out to maybe four or five people tops.”
“And have we looked at all four or five of those people?” Munch said. “What about old boyfriends? What about this Matthew guy who smacked her around?”
“She didn’t give him a key to her apartment.”
“Are you sure? You didn’t even know that he was hitting her. The fact that she stayed with him even after he hit her tells me she probably made a couple other mistakes in that relationship too.”
Elliot stood and paced in front of his desk. “I don’t like this. I don’t like talking about Olivia like this. She didn’t…wouldn’t make some stupid mistake like that.”
“She’s human just like the rest of us. She makes mistakes and one of those mistakes has to be the reason she’s missing.”
“You’re making it seem like it’s her fault she’s missing. Like she did something to deserve this!”
“Don’t get mad,” Munch said. “I’m just trying to get you to put a realistic spin on this. She’s vanished without a trace and whether we like or not, Mark Landon does not have her.”
“Yeah, not now, but-”
“And, we can worry about him having her at some point and then getting rid of her later. Right now, our focus needs to be on finding her. Every day that passes is another day she’s probably going without food or water and it becomes more likely, that we’ll never find her.”
“We can’t prove that and Spencer won’t be able to either. Not when there are others to still look at. We don’t even know this Matthew’s last name. How can we cross him off the list when we don’t even know who he is?”
“Morse said he hadn’t seen him around the building lately.”
“Well, Morse might’ve been running to Olivia’s aid when Drover was after her, but I’ve seen the unedited videos of the night that guy hit her. Drover’s camera didn’t falter and he didn’t seem to give a damn about what was actually happening across the street. From what I’m thinking, he probably didn’t want us to find those unedited tapes because he didn’t want us to see that he did nothing when his supposed shining star was in danger.”
“Fine,” Elliot said. “Let’s say we don’t depend on Morse’s opinion. That leaves us with practically nothing to go on.”
“No, it just means we go back to the basics. Look,” Munch continued when Elliot rolled his eyes. “Whether you like it or not, there are things, lots of things you don’t know about your partner. You didn’t know about this Matthew and you don’t know who she’s been giving her keys out to. If you don’t have that info, neither will Spencer and her case just sits on the shelf.”
“Maya would know,” Elliot said quickly. “Olivia tells Maya damn near everything and she hasn’t mentioned anything about this guy.”
“Well, when was the last time we asked her?”
Maya’s hand shook constantly, almost like a sufferer of Parkinsons’s, as she sat in the chair next to Elliot’s desk. Occasionally, she threw a glance at the empty desk behind her and her large eyes would grow red once more. Her bag sat open at her feet and Elliot could see a half-empty box of Camel Ultra Lights poking out from its top.
“I can’t remember his name,” she said in a voice raspy from crying. “It was like Matthew Wilson or Woodard or something. How the hell can you expect me to remember the name of some guy my friend dated years ago? Do you have any idea what’s happened in my life…both our lives since then?”
She sounded simultaneously as irritated as Mark and as mournful as Veronica Schrader.
“We’re just trying to cover all our bases.”
“Yeah, well while you’re covering your bases, Livia’s still missing. She’s still out there somewhere, probably being hurt by someone, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“What do you remember about him?” Elliot said trying to keep her focused.
“Nothing,” she said. “He was just a guy she dated. He was in and then he was right back out.”
He and Munch glanced at one another. “You don’t know why she left him?”
“She said he was a jerk. I really
don’t know. I wasn’t seeing much of her back then. My grandmother was ill and I
was flying back and forth to
“Maya,” Elliot said softly. “He’s not some random guy. We didn’t bring you down here to talk about some random guy. We’re looking at him for a reason.”
She glared at him, her lips pulled tight as her face contorted into the first scowl he had ever seen on Maya’s face. She had looked remarkably like Olivia when she was angry.
“I don’t care what reason you’ve got,” she said through clear, enunciated words. “I’m telling you this Matthew is just a random guy and, if he’s the best you’ve got, then I might as well start drawing up the plans for her grave marker.”
“How can you say that when you don’t know anything about it?” Elliot pressed. “We’re asking you for a reason.”
“And, I’ve already told you, he doesn’t matter. He’s a non-entity! He’s not involved! How many times must I tell you! I’ve known Livia for years and this guy doesn’t matter!”
“Then, you don’t know her half as well as you think because this guy was beating her and, if you don’t think that’s worth anything, then you’re of no use to us.”
Elliot stood, half-expecting Maya to burst into tears again, but she simply rolled her eyes and shook her head.
“You make it sound like some severe domestic violence case or something,” she said softly. “He just hit her three times and then she got rid of him.”
“So, you knew?” Elliot said. “You knew this whole time?”
“How many goddamn times do I have to tell you?” she yelled. “I know Livia. There isn’t anything that’s happened to her that I don’t know about. From the time she learned to ride a bike to the time you came tearing into her apartment over the whole mess with your daughter! She tells me everything, so yes. I knew about him and I was just as angry when I heard about it the first time as I was after the second and third times.”
“You didn’t think this was something we needed to know!” Elliot shouted. “We’ve been trying to track down anyone who’s had any contact with Olivia and you’re sitting on information!”
“I wasn’t sitting on anything!” Maya shouted in return. “Excuse me if I wanted her to have some dignity! There’s no reason for you to pull every single detail of her life to light.”
“There is when we’re still trying to find her.”
“And, is this helping at all? Does the fact that she let a guy hit her on more than one occasion give you any more insight on where she is? Does it!”
“We’re detectives here, Maya,” he said in a less intense voice. “You need to give us the facts and let us do our damn jobs.”
“And, I’ve already told you, there’s no use even bothering to look at Matthew. She hasn’t seen him in years, so it’s a waste of time having us even talk about him. If you think that some random guy from years ago is just going to come after her out of the blue, then I’m pulling every contact I’ve got to get this bumped to a federal case, because you people don’t know what you’re doing.”
He turned and stared at her distressed and heavy breathing form for a long time.
“Does Olivia tell you when she hands out keys to people?”
“Yes. She gave you a set about two years after you were partnered.”
“What about this Matthew? Did she ever give him a set of keys?”
Maya rolled her eyes. “What difference does it make?”
“Maya,” he said sitting across from her again. “Olivia’s apartment was locked from the outside after she disappeared, but her keys were all inside her place. That means it had to be someone who had access to her keys.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. Based on that, I could argue that you did something because I know she gave you a key. Someone could’ve had a key made.”
“But, did she give Matthew a key?”
Maya crossed her arms in front of her chest in a huff. “I still don’t see what difference that makes. She still hasn’t seen him in years.”
“You don’t know that for sure,” Elliot said softly. “You have no way of knowing for certain.”
Maya stared at the wall to her left.
“Does she tell you every detail about her cases?” he asked and watched as Maya gave a slight shake to her head.
“So,” he continued. “She leaves out basically anything concerning the job that takes up most of her life. If she’s not telling you about the job, how can you say for sure who she does and doesn’t see?”
Maya’s eyes met his and he could see they were beginning to tear. “She would tell me if she saw that asshole again.”
“Did she tell you about a guy named Drover?” Maya shook her head again. “Maya…he attacked her right outside her building. He was a suspect in one of our other cases. He followed her, lured her outside and then attacked her and would’ve done real damage if she hadn’t talked her way out of it.”
Maya’s foot tapped rapidly next to her chair leg and she swallowed. “She didn’t tell me about that.”
“She didn’t want to tell me either. In fact the only reason I found out about it was because I noticed she was favoring one side of over another and I forced it out of her. He gave her a bruise the size of a basketball and she wasn’t going to tell anyone. Not even you.” He paused as Maya wiped a tear from her eye. “It doesn’t matter how long you know a person. They can still have secrets and there’s always going to be something you don’t know about them. So, I’m going to ask you again. Did she give a key to Matthew?”
“Yes…” Maya said slowly. “She’d said she felt some bullshit love at first sight thing or whatever and she gave him a key right away, but I knew better.”
“How’d you know better?”
Maya scoffed. “Because I had thirty years experience telling me so. I knew he wasn’t going to last just by knowing Livia. Every five years or so, she always manages to meet this magical “one” and it’s always a disaster. I knew he was just one of them, so I wrote him off immediately. But…from what she’s told me at least, and just from reading her, she hasn’t seen him in years.”
“You know how the relationship ended,” Elliot said. “Do you think he might retaliate?”
“Not after so long.”
“What about where he works? Or lives? Anything?”
“No. It was years ago.”
“Not that long ago. How ‘bout how they met or where or when?”
Maya ran a hand through her hair. “If…if I had known something like this was going to happen, I would’ve catalogued every single thing she’d mentioned about every single boyfriend every single day of my life. That way, when I told you the first time not to worry about this guy, you’d have written proof that I know what I’m talking about.” She stood and wrapped her large bag around her shoulder. “Now, if you’re done probing me about every detail of Olivia’s life, I have to go. I need to talk to my mother now so that when she sees the news tonight of your captain telling the world that Olivia’s officially been labeled as dead, she doesn’t go into a complete panic over the woman she thinks of as a surrogate daughter.”
Maya stormed away from him hitting Fin on the shoulder with her bag as he approached the desk pairs.
“There’s been another one.”
Elliot hung his head for a moment.
“Can’t be at
“He wasn’t. He was found in a box near Penn Station. But, he’s at Mercy General right now. Cap wants us all there.”
“Mercy General?” Elliot said. “He’s alive?”
“Beat up pretty badly, but he’s alive, and he’s talking.”
Unknown Time and Place
The metallic piece snapped in two again and Olivia swore as the piece sliced her hand for the second time.
He had not come back in what she counted to be two days, and while he still shoved the stale crackers and juice by the small opening in the door twice a day, she knew it was only a matter of time before he healed and was ready to come after her again.
Her bleeding hand shook as she took hold of the piece again. Much of her strength had been used to chip away at the lock on the chain around Amy’s leg and she was growing weaker on a diet of old wafers and sugar water. Thankfully, he had not had time to replace the chain around her ankle and, after some light coaxing, she managed to have Amy sit still long enough for her to work with her new tool.
The gun, a cheap thing that was large and showy, had been rendered useless after her last encounter with him, but she saw opportunity in it and pried, pulled at it and banged it against the floor until she had cracked it into several pieces. The longest of the pieces she rubbed against the walls and floor until it formed a sharp point and this she kept pressed against her side just inside her underwear. The others she used to finagle at the lock that kept Amy chained to the wall.
She had been trying to stay awake at all times, marking a point on the wall with the gun and counting in her head to keep time. It was not exact, but she had an idea of how much time elapsed between the times he brought them “food” and the noises from outside the room.
Olivia had paced the room several times listening for any variations that might give her clues as to where she was. The muffled sounds of the city would echo most when she was near the door and by a large square on the wall that appeared to be a boarded window, but she never lingered at the door long in case he made a quick entrance. She could, however, hear buses and on occasion, people shouting. The sounds were not as far “up” as in her own apartment, but as Amy had suggested, they were clearly above ground.
“How much longer?” Amy whispered for the third time in what she thought to be an hour.
“I don’t know, Amy,” she said. …four…five…six… “When it’s off, you’ll know.”
“He’s going to be mad. He’ll see what you’ve done and then he’ll kill us.”
“He’s not going to kill us.” …seventeen…eighteen… “We’re getting out of here as soon as I get you all undone.”
She continued to pick at the lock, the crude tools clicking at intervals as she turned them in her now hurting hand. She had hoped to do something with the gunpowder in the remaining bullets, but the room was damp and even if she could manage to create some sort of fire, she knew she could never maintain it.
The minutes ticked by as she continuously tapped her toe to the floor in one-second time and her ears piqued at the sounds of the lock’s inner mechanisms. An hour passed and then finally…
“You’ve got it off?” Amy said, a bewildered expression displaying on her emaciated face.
The lock fell the floor with a clank that echoed in the room several times.
“Yep. Told you I would.”
Olivia stood and faced the other three who sat crouched together in the corner. She took a wobbling step toward the three, but they withdrew in unison making a small blotch of grey in the dark corner.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Olivia said. “Just let me see your chains and I can unlock them too.”
The woman nearest to her pulled her legs toward her body, taking her lock with her.
“Just go away,” one of them whispered.
Olivia sighed and stared at Amy again. She was marveling at the chain that now lay flat against the floor and her hand rubbed the placed where it had worn a dark stain on her pale skin.
Olivia crossed the room and pulled at the chain to see where it fastened to the wall. She pulled herself along it until she found set of hooks and washers that were bound to the wall.
As she tried to imagine how long it would take to pull the chain off the wall, the sound large footsteps pounded from beyond the door.
She jumped from it, taking the end of the chain with her and Amy tore across the floor to huddle with the others.
Olivia’s breathing took up pace as she saw the door locks shift and the door open slowly.
“I see you’re waiting for me,” he said with a smile that seemed to glow in the dark room.
Olivia took a step backward as he took one toward her.
“C’mon, you bastard,” she whispered as she pulled the shank from her side.
“What’s that you’ve got? Don’t tell me you been-”
Olivia leapt forward brandishing the chain and within a second had the chain wrapped around his throat. She pulled at the chain that twisted around him as he clutched at his throat and pushed the shank into his middle as hard as her arm would move.
The sickening squish of metal tearing through skin seemed to ring in her ears as his blood trickled onto her hand.
He screamed and, with his free hand, managed to snatch the chain from her and threw her against the far wall.
She regained her balance and ran to the corner where Amy squatted.
“Come on!” she screamed as he stood doubled over in room’s middle, but Amy just stared at her with wide eyes, the others trembling beside her.
Behind her, he groaned and stood upright.
Olivia snatched Amy’s arm. “Come on!”
She had dragged Amy to her feet when he came at them both, slamming them into the wall.
Amy screamed as they hit the wall, the others scattering to the other corner and Olivia slashed her shank at him.
Amy’s hand slipped from hers, covered in his wet blood, and Olivia heard her run across the room as he came around to slam her into the wall again. His hand slid to her throat and squeezed tighter and tighter.
Her throat constricted and lungs seized as everything in her neck pained at once. He pressed himself against her. His tried to gyrate his body against hers with Olivia pinned to the wall. Spots of light seemed to pierce the dark as her body went longer and longer without oxygen.
She swung the shank haphazardly at anything her hand could reach and stabbed into his arm. Blood seeped from the new wound and onto her hand as she made repeated slashes at him and slipped to the floor when he released her.
Unable to get to her feet so quickly, she crawled for the door and into a black corridor. She scrambled across the floor going as straight as she could and heard him coming after her.
Every muscle in her body burned as she pushed herself to her feet and broke into a run. Her eyes searched the black for some sense of light, but found nothing.
His shuffling feet behind her quickened pace and he grunted as his feet fell into a full sprint for her.
She willed her legs to continue running and –
White stars appeared before her eyes as she came in contact with something hard.
His feet raced into her paused form and she darted her hands in every direction trying to find something. A doorknob, a handle; anything.
He slammed her body backward as her hand touched a long, cool latch. She felt his hands squeezing at her arms and he threw her into the wall again. Blinding pain seared through her side from an old bruise and with it came a course of anger. Her legs kicked in a fury at him as his mouth came toward her shoulder.
White teeth bit into her neck and she screamed kicking him again and again. His hand grabbed hold of her hair and pulled her toward the wall as he sunk his teeth further into her, breaking the skin.
With every will left in her body, she surged her hand forward and slashed the shank across his face.
He doubled backward for just a moment, but it was all the time she needed. The handle was found and she threw herself against the door and into a new room.
He pounded after her as she pushed the door closed and used every muscle against the door to keep him back. She struggled for only moment before he stopped and she turned quickly to find a lock on the handle. It would not keep him out if he chose to come through the door, but she knew it would buy her time.
Her breathing came in gasps and, as she tried to catch her breath, leaning against the door, the smell hit her. She clapped a hand to her mouth, but soon it was suffocating.
The smell of years of rot and decay floated through her body and tears fell instantly from her eyes as she leaned further against the door in hopes of getting away from it.
Not all the crime scenes she had beheld could account for such an odor and, as she considered whether to find another hiding place, Olivia heard him throw his body against the door.
In the dark grey light that cascaded over the room, she could see the door shake in its frame and she tried to steady herself, shank in hand.
She backed away from the door with his second heave and bumped into something heavy. She moved around it as it stood in the middle of the room and kept it between her and the door as he threw himself at the door a third time.
The odor grew stronger as she came farther into the room, but in the dim light, the object before her looked like nothing more than a large armoire. It stood taller than her with two doors in the front and a set of three drawers beneath them.
The door blasted a wooden spray as he broke through its hinges and her breathing waved in quick pants as she stood ready to strike, but wondering from which side of the armoire he might come.
She raised her shank with an unsteady hand as his breathing stopped and, for a moment, she thought he might have padded behind her like on their last clash.
His yell resonated around the room, softened by the piece in front of her and, as she stood prepared to fight, the armoire shook and fell forward.
She screamed as she tried to back away from it, but could not move from its expanse in time and it crashed down upon her as she fell to the floor.
Her breath came in short wheezes as the armoire squeezed the air from her and she watched him step from behind it and pick up her dropped weapon.
“I’m beginning to think,” he said breathing hard himself, “you’re a bit more trouble than you’re worth.”
He turned on the spot and left the room, stepping on the pieces of broken door as he walked.
Olivia shifted her arms and stymied her breath for a moment, trying to pull herself out from under the armoire, but her weight fell back on her elbows as she pulled. Her left leg was caught under one of the drawers that had shifted on the piece’s fall and without the strength to lift the piece of furniture, she allowed herself to fall flat on her back and face the ceiling.
The tears that escaped from her eyes caused the parts of her body not trapped by the armoire to convulse and, as she gasped for air, the smell wafted back into her mouth and lungs.
It came at her from all directions and nothing could be done to suppress it. She turned her head to her left and then her right, but each time she turned, its intensity grew heavier.
Finally, the weight of the odor had reached an event horizon and she leaned over as far she could to keep from having to lie in a pool of her own vomit.
Gasping for clean air, she turned as best she could onto her side and lay against her bruised and scratched arm. As her heartbeat gradually slowed, her eyes peered around the room in search of the putrid odor’s source.
She froze when she came in contact with what looked like another set of eyes staring back at her. She blinked twice, but saw no movement. Shifting again, she focused on the eyes and realized she was looking at another gaunt face. It had a waxy appearance and was even greyer than those of Amy and the others, almost like it was…
Her breath caught, filling her lungs with the sour air and her eyes caught sight of another face and then another beside that.
Stacked along the wall farthest from her lay the bodies of tens of women whose faces, all decomposing at different phases, seemed to stare a hollow gaze at Olivia. Their skin rippled in pulses from thousands of flies and their larvae and dark shadows of small rats bit at their remnants along the wall.
She squeezed her eyes shut, the horror of his actions still floating in her mind and pulled herself into a ball, wrapping her arms around her head. Tears poured from her eyes and not knowing what else was possible, she screamed out the only name her mind could form.