First Avenue and
“What’s up Doc?” Elliot said brightly as he strode into Melinda’s lab. He had fallen into dreamless sleep the previous night and while his neck hurt slightly from sleeping on his old couch, he felt rested and mildly happy.
“We got the analysis back on Olivia’s clothes,” Melinda said, “and I’ve got lots for you.”
“I ended up finding eight different types altogether. Some were actually from you and I also found a match with that handsome Halloway she’s been seeing. Four of the other samples were in the system too.”
“Whose are they?” he asked.
“All Missing Persons cases. Two
from women who had gone missing about three months ago, one who went missing a
month before them and another who’s been missing for close to a year. Their
“Figures,” Elliot said shaking his head.
“But, there’s a plus,” she
“And his hair was found on Olivia?”
“His blood too and…” She rifled through a large envelope on her desk. “I’m willing to bet that these probably belong to him too.”
“Bite marks,” Elliot said just above a whisper as he stared at a black and white image of what was clearly Olivia’s left shoulder.
“I had the hospital send those over this morning.”
“So, this guy…whoever he is… He’s had Liv this entire time and he did all this to her.”
Melinda sighed. “I still don’t know for sure, but since his blood was on her clothes, I’m willing to bet he didn’t get away without a few problems.”
“Yeah,” Elliot said laughing flatly, but never taking his eyes off the grey image.
“I ran the dirt on her clothes and found some weird stuff.”
“Well, some of it looks like dust, really. Accumulation of dead skin, little hairs and other things that would just collect from the air. Basically stuff you’d find in the corner of a bathroom or under a bed or something.”
“How is that weird?”
“By itself it’s not, but I also found wood chips, cement dust and… what looks like decaying tissue.”
Elliot’s eyebrows flew toward his hairline. “What do you mean decaying tissue?”
“Like…the kind of stuff you’d expect if you stuck your hand inside a casket that had been buried for about four or five years. There’s skin, other than hers, rubbed all over her clothes. They’re old too. Also found rat droppings and some unhatched fly larvae.”
“Jesus,” Elliot said rubbing his head and staring at the bite mark on Olivia’s shoulder once more.
“I’m not sure how much any of it will help. It’s not making a lot of sense to me right now, personally, but it might later.”
Elliot nodded and waved the photograph. “What about these? Do you see anything else from her injuries?”
“I did,” Melinda said. “They took pictures of most of her bruises and they also sent me X-rays. Now, some of the bruising looks older than some of the others, especially this one on her back.”
“That one is older. There was an…incident with a suspect.”
“There’s these two rather large ones though. I’d say this other one’s a little newer than the one you pointed to, but still older than the rest.”
She paused and stared at Elliot with large, questioning eyes.
Elliot replayed the events of that night in his head. He had literally thrown Olivia into her side wall. He saw her double over and that was what brought him to his senses. That was also what caused an eruption in her and sent her flying back at him.
"When I last saw her..." Elliot began. "That night, we, um… I thought at one point I might’ve broken one of her ribs, but she seemed okay. "
She nodded, having already known the answer, and continued.
“Well, her X-rays tell me a lot. She definitely fell. I’d say from about thirty feet or so in the air. Maybe even forty.”
“Just from the depth of the splintering and the breakage. Do you know how much it takes to break a femur?” Elliot shook his head. “It takes a lot. The thigh bone is one of the hardest and thickest in the body and it takes a good seventeen hundred pounds of pressure to do it, so a fall from thirty feet at just the right angle might do it, but…”
“Physics tells me that if she fell straight from thirty feet and landed on the ground, she’d be suffering worse problems than she is right now. She’d have bad injuries from a fall from just ten feet. I’d say something broke her fall and gave just enough cushion to keep her alive.”
"Well, they found her inside that dumpster on 90th. I'm thinking she wasn't put there, she fell into it."
"You mean out of a window and into the dumpster?"
"That would explain all the glass and many of the lacerations she has look like those of someone going out of a window."
"Was she pushed or did she jump?"
"Still can't say yet. I'd have to get a better look at the scene."
"How soon can we get started on it?"
“Give me a few hours and I can go up there with you.”
Elliot nodded and gave her a weak smile.
"How's she doing?" Melinda asked. "I haven't gone to see her yet."
"Still in the ICU and in a coma, but her doctor says they may be able to move her some time tomorrow. She originally told me today, but this morning she decided to give it another day. Just in case."
Silence fell between them before Melinda spoke again.
"She's going to be okay, Elliot," she said.
"I know," Elliot lied. "It's just...she's been having these seizures and they don't know if it's this chemical she's been exposed to that causing them."
"What kind of chemical?"
Elliot shrugged. "Her doctor didn’t specify. Just some kind of chemical that’s causing all these problems."
Melinda's eyebrows rose as she walked across the room and flipped through a few reports.
"The same substance found on the floor of her apartment... and on the boys. It was on her clothes too. I’ll have to check it again, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same concentration as the others and… if it was inhaled for an extended amount of time, it could some seizures or brain damage-" She froze, immediately regretting her words.
Elliot was silent a moment. "...someone came at her with this stuff the second I left her place."
"Where can you buy this stuff?"
"You can get the components from a lot of sources. Any chemical supply place, but a lot of these are all regulated. If these were made from legal transactions, there'd be a record."
Two hours later, Elliot parked the navy sedan on East 119th and headed west down the street with Melinda. He had gone to see Casey while Melinda was completing several other projects in her office and, even after pleading with the best sad eyes he could muster, Casey insisted that there was no way to get a warrant to search the entire block.
The police tape that surrounded the
dumpster in which Ray Meekham and his nephew, Deondre, had found Olivia had
been removed as
“Yeah, we move ‘em,” a grizzly man told Elliot when questioned. “Depends on whose trying to piss out his territory, you know?”
Elliot nodded. Melinda stood a foot away from them, slightly apprehensive about the man’s appearance.
“Were you around here on maybe Friday night or Saturday morning?” Elliot asked.
“Already told the other cops who was out here,” the man said. “Just saw the man and his boy the other night and that was it. Didn’t even see nobody putting that lady in there.”
Elliot thanked the man and he and Melinda stepped across the area staring at each of the buildings. The row was falling apart and even the black and white letters of the “Absolut” billboard in the distance did little to suppress the gloom.
“What do you think?” Elliot said as he stared up at row upon row of boarded and broken windows.
“There’s no way to say for certain,” Melinda said, “Most of the windows around here are broken and boarded up, but just from judging the area and the crime scene photos, it's got to be one of these on the left. I'd say the fourth floor for certain since the dumpsters are tall. If she fell from up there, it would definitely account for her injuries and whatever was in the dumpster could have broken her fall just right.”
“We didn’t find any glass, though,” Elliot said. “If she fell, there would’ve been glass all around here, but there wasn’t.”
Melinda shrugged. “Well, maybe it’s like the homeless guy said. If they move around the dumpsters, Olivia could have fallen from any one of these buildings.”
“C’mon Casey,” Elliot said pleading once more in her office another hour later. “We’ve gotta be able to get something.”
“It’s out of my hands,” she said. “Especially if the homeless up there are moving the dumpsters around just for the hell of it. That dumpster could have come all the way from the park and we’d have no way of knowing. Only one of those buildings up there even has an owner and he’s been MIA for years.” Elliot looked noticeably dejected and she sighed. “I want to get the bastard too, but I don’t want us throwing our weight all over the city, only to have him get off on a technicality once we find him. I have to have something specific to present to a judge if I expect the warrant to get signed.”
“But, we’re still trying to figure out what happened to her. Doesn’t that matter at all?”
“Not as much as I’d like it to. Several squads have already gone through that area twice and cleared it. We can’t just sweep the whole area in hopes of finding something that may or may not have to deal with Liv’s case. Not if we expect it to lead to a conviction.”
He turned to leave, but paused. “What about a list of names?”
“What do you need?”
“Melinda told me there’s this chemical that was found on Liv’s clothes. It’s been found on her floor too and in the most recent case with these boys. I can find out who makes the components and, if I had a warrant, I could probably get a list of who’s bought them recently.”
Casey turned to her monitor. “If you can get me the manufacturers, I’ll see what I can do.”
Elliot rubbed his eyes and pushed away from his desk to stare at the ceiling in the squad room. He had obtained the lists of consumers in the city who had purchased large quantities of anesthetizing agents from the warrant Casey had had signed within thirty minutes, and he and Alexa had been combing through the pages and pages of records for hours without finding anything relevant.
He had been fervently searching for something relating to suspects he had been able to cross off his list: Harry Morse, Owen Kreider, Philip Fitzgivens, Adam Jackson, Matthew Williard, Jeremy Cross, Jonathan Halloway and especially Mark Landon. Hours into his search, he was still unable to come up with anything.
“You should go,” Alexa said softly from behind the list she was reading. “You look extremely tired.”
“I am,” Elliot whispered.
The constant stress of the previous weeks combined with days upon days of extreme fatigue and poor eating habits had finally caught up with him and he felt sicker with each passing minute. His clothes fit loose from the weight he had lost and the circles under his eyes did not seem like they were disappearing any time soon.
He rose from his desk with a sigh.
“You gonna be okay?” he said to Alexa. “I mean we need to at least go through these tonight. I can catch a quick nap in the crib and help you later if you want.”
“I’ll be fine,” Alexa said. “Just get some rest. You look like you’re about to collapse right before me.”
Elliot nodded and quickly left the squad room and, the moment the elevator doors had closed, Alexa leapt from her seat beside Elliot’s desk. She padded quickly toward Cragen’s office and stared at her superior for a moment as he sat behind his desk.
“Yes?” he asked eyebrows high.
“I just thought you should know what I’ve found…or really didn’t find when I was going through all these records.”
Cragen leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “Okay…what didn’t you find?”
“Stabler’s name, of course.”
“I didn’t know you were looking for it.”
“Well, I was keeping an open mind about the case.”
“Elliot’s involvement has been nullified by his actions,” Cragen said trying to keep a scowl from spreading across his face at the young detective.
“Captain,” Alexa said taking a step forward. “I understand that Elliot is everybody’s favorite around here, but the fact is a detective still went missing and he was the very last person to see her from January 31st until last Friday. Combined with what we saw in Morse’s videos, I made a judgment call.”
“And it was the wrong choice, Alexa.”
“I see it as good news. This way we can say for certain that Elliot’s not involved.”
“Only the rat squad does something like that.”
“But, as far as I’m concerned we’re still trying to find out what happened to Detective Benson. I know no one wants to think it, but if he was any other guy off the street, we would’ve checked him thoroughly too. I mean, we still checked Halloway and he’s dating her.”
“And the difference between Elliot
and Halloway is Elliot is a seasoned cop who I’d trust with my own life. The
fact you didn’t find anything just proves what kind of person he is and what
kind of person you are. It’s not something anyone does here in
Alexa stared at him for a long while before straightening her posture and blinking rapidly to hold her resolve.
“My father was on the job once,” she began. “And he’s spent the last ten years in a wheelchair after his old partner lost it after his divorce and shot my father in the spine. His partner did it in the middle of the night and claimed he didn’t know what the hell had happened for days. He stood by my father’s bedside, came to church with our family, held my mother’s hand as she cried…everything. And he maintained his ignorance of the incident until he left his last message in his suicide note four years ago. I know that we all want to believe the best of people, but I think it’s a little naïve to do so blindly just because someone wears a badge.”
“That kind of stuff doesn’t happen all the time, Alexa,” Cragen said in a much softer tone.
“But, the fact is, it does happen and, as much as people revere Elliot Stabler in this department, he was still the last person to see Olivia before she disappeared. Cops do wrong too, but at least now we’re that much closer to being certain that he’s not involved.”
“He’s a good cop.”
“And so was the one who shot my father.” She sighed and took a step toward his door. “I just thought you should know so that maybe the higher ups might get off your back about it a bit.”
She left and Cragen ran a hand over his face feeling both relieved and heavily burdened at the same time.
Mercy General Hospital East
Elliot’s heart raced as the orderlies and nurses slowly pushed Olivia’s bed and various IVs out of her room and along the corridor. Maya stood next to him with her hand at her chin and shivering from her tattered nerves.
When Dr. Haddley removed the large tube from Olivia’s throat, he and Maya were able to see Olivia up close and it was only then that they could see the damage that had been done. The swelling around her eyes had gone down significantly and many of the cuts had healed into brown scabs in spots on her face, but it was the lack of colour and the gauntness of her face that caught Elliot’s breath. She had lost a considerable amount of weight and, even though Dr. Haddley insisted that Olivia was getting “better,” her waxy, grey skin told Elliot otherwise.
“She’ll be monitored around the clock,” Dr. Haddley said once Olivia had been set up in a new room. “I’m still slightly worried about the bronchitis, but I think the change might do her some good.”
“And, if it doesn’t?” Maya said, face stricken.
“Then we’ll try another course of antibiotics and she may have to go back into intensive care.”
“So, what do we do now?” Elliot asked. “Is this just a waiting game?”
“Well…yes. We need to wait for her bones to set. A broken femur is no small matter. Besides the bronchitis, she’s also in danger from infection from the break and also the gunshot wound. But…I’ve seen people bounce back from worse.”
“Can we…can she hear us?” Maya said. “I mean can we talk to her to just let her know that we’re here for her?”
Dr. Haddley nodded. “You can talk to her. Her brain waves are very active so she should be able to hear you.”
The doctor left Elliot and Maya alone in Olivia’s room as the sound of heart rate monitors and IV drips echoed in waves.
Maya pulled a chair close to Olivia’s bed and patted her left hand which was the only extremity not to break throughout the ordeal.
"I guess," Maya said with a sigh. "I guess all we have to do now is wait."
They sat in silence for nearly an hour, each willing her to wake, but neither wanting to make a sound for fear of disturbing her barely stable condition.
Maya cleared her throat and glanced at Elliot as she continued to pat Olivia's hand. "This is so nerve-racking."
"I mean..." Maya said. "Does she just wake up or...I mean, I'm not sure what's supposed to happen. How long can she stay like this?"
Elliot shrugged. "People stay in comas for years, but...this is Olivia. She'll probably wake up tomorrow and demand to know why neither of us is at work."
Maya smirked at him and turned toward Olivia as she leaned closer to her.
As Elliot expected, there was no change in Olivia’s stoic and unconscious face, but Maya continued.
“Livia…We’re here for you…You should just wake up ‘cause… you look like hell.”
Elliot let out a soft laugh and Maya turned around, facing him with shining eyes.
“Figured I’d put her on the defensive…might her snap her out of it.”
Elliot nodded, but Maya continued staring at him.
“Say something to her.”
Elliot shook his head. “No, I…no…”
“Please,” Maya said tears reforming in her eyes. “It’s Livia. She’d want to know that you’re here too.”
Elliot sighed and walked across the room. His body cast a grey shadow over Olivia’s small form.
“Liv,” he said softly. “It’s me…”
Her body immediately jerked and Maya stood quickly dropping her hand. The heart rate monitor emitted a piercing sound as the vibrating lines on its screen splattered erratically.
“Nurse!” Elliot shouted, but a team of nurses and doctors on the floor had already run into the room dragging a crash cart from behind them.
He and Maya backed into the corner, watching in horror as the doctors worked on Olivia’s frail body. Tears streamed down Maya’s face as the crash cart seared and Elliot felt his own heart stop as the solid flat sound that signified that Olivia’s heart had stopped beating resounded about the room.
Three shots of epinephrine and three jolts later, the heart monitor popped back to life and the tension in the room eased over the course of several minutes.
Elliot pulled Maya into a hug and allowed her to cry into his shoulder while he held back tears of his own.
“…we’re still unsure if it was the seizure or something else that elicited it, but it’s definitely pneumonia at this point.”
Elliot and Maya stood outside of a large window that displayed a new room in the ICU. Olivia, paler than ever, lay with several new IVs and the intubation tube reconnected. Maya had her hand over her mouth, still in shock, and shook as she stared through the window.
“We’ll keep her under close observation overnight,” Dr. Haddley continued.
“What made her heart stop like that?” Elliot asked.
“We’re still unsure…which is why she’ll stay down here for another night. She’s stable now, but I don’t want any other surprises.”
She left a short while later, noting that no other responses were imminent from either Elliot or Maya, and a cold silence descended on the corridor until both heard the sounds of someone running towards them.
“What happened?” Jillian yelled. “I want to know what happened! She was fine and now she’s down here again! What happened!”
“Jill…” Maya said, approaching her cautiously. “They tried to take her out, but she just wasn’t ready. She’ll be okay, though.”
Jillian’s eyes were fixed on Elliot and she pointed at him as her cheeks turned red.
"You see!" she screamed. "You see what happens! You leave her alone with him for just one minute and now she's back in intensive care!"
"Jillian, please," Maya hissed grabbing her arm. "Stop yelling. You're not making any sense."
"The hell I'm not! You were here earlier and she was getting better! You leave him alone with her and now she's sick again!"
“Jill, I was standing right here the whole time. She just got sick.”
“He did something else to her!”
"She's got pneumonia!" Maya said. "Her doctor said it was a possibility. She'd been out in the cold for hours. Let's just be thankful she's not any worse off!"
Jillian dissolved into tears, shaking her head. "No! He's not going to stop until she's dead! He doesn't want her to wake up and tell the world what he did! I told her she should've gotten out of that unit because of him and now look! Look! He's going to kill her and it'll be all my fault because I didn't force the issue. I didn't tell enough people about the type of person he was!"
Maya pulled Jillian into a hug. "Livia's a smart woman, Jillian. And she's strong. She wouldn't go down without a fight. That's why she's here now and not...somewhere else. Elliot didn't have anything to do with this and you know it."
Jillian just cried in Maya's arms and together they sank to the floor as Maya looked on at Elliot helplessly.
“I’m sorry,” Maya said an hour after she had ushered a sedated Jillian Harfort into a cab.
“For what?” Elliot said, never taking his eyes from Olivia’s window.
Elliot shook his head. “You’ve already apologized about her and I told you not to worry about it.”
“I know, but…I still feel bad about it. I should’ve waited until I was little more collected before I called her.”
“Has anyone been able to contact Halloway yet?” he asked, changing the subject.
“No, and seeing as how this is almost Wednesday and he still doesn’t know that she’s even been found, I’m sure we’ll all be facing a shit storm once he rolls back into the city. Maybe it was better that he wasn’t here for this today. With Jillian flying down the hall like that, I’m sure Jonathan would’ve pulled a gun on you at this point.”
Too late for that, Elliot thought with a sigh.
“You want a ride home?” he asked.
“That’s okay. I think I just want to stay for a little while longer. I know it’s not going to do anything, but I just want to be here for her…just in case.”
Elliot wanted to ask “in case of what” as he left the hospital, but decided against it. His dreams were already haunted by visions of Olivia’s death and he knew that he would have enough trouble staving off the demons without Maya’s tribulations to torment further.
“It’s her. I know it.”
“Are you sure?”
“I just said I was.”
Alexa rolled her eyes at Elliot as he sat with a case file open on his desk.
After spending the morning wanting
Olivia to wake and lighting a candle for her in the hospital chapel, Elliot had
settled back at his desk to comb through Missing Persons cases of
The sight of Kimberley McNelson, missing since late October 2006, in a photo with a smiling beau had elicited a sharp memory from a video that had been buried under a stack of manila files for nearly two weeks.
“It’s the same girl from the
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Alexa said. “That was made in December and she hasn’t been seen or heard from since before that and everything in her Missing Persons file makes it look like she was probably killed at the same time she disappeared.”
“Did you look at the video? It’s her.”
“There’s no way.”
“She was about twenty pounds heavier in her picture with her boyfriend, but it’s her.”
Alexa shook her head. “I don’t see it.”
“It’s her,” he repeated. “And the
blond guy who’s in all of them…he doesn’t kill her on here, but I’d say the
last of the movies on that
“I can’t see how this is going to help us find out what happened to Olivia.”
“Alexa,” he said trying to remain
composed. “Olivia was brought into the hospital wearing the same clothes I’d
seen her in three weeks ago. We found hair from half a dozen people on those
clothes and, this girl, Kimberley McNelson, was one of those people. Think
“But, how do we start? We only have that video and some hair.”
“We need to know what’s in those original case files. You up for a drive?”
She eyed him suspiciously for a
moment, but nodded her head and, thirty minutes later, they were heading
“How long have you lived out here?”
“Long enough to know that
“Tell me about it…”
Partelli and Charaden had little
information to give them and both seemed irked that Manhattan
“What do you know about the guy who’s in all the movies?” Elliot asked the detectives who stood, stony-faced with crossed arms.
“We’ve been getting these trickle in for a couple years,” Charaden said shaking his head. “But, the people who bring them in are always anonymous and, by the time we see what’s on them, no one can find them.”
“We gave the ones where it looks like a murder goes down to Homicide,” Partelli said. “And, they don’t have anything on him either. It’s either a private dealer or just an amateur because there’s no production info and there’s never anybody else on them. Just him and some girl. Sometimes it’s different girls; sometimes the same, but it’s always just him.”
“How’d the women turn up missing?” Alexa asked.
Charaden let out an annoyed sigh. “Usually just disappearing in the middle of the night. Never a note or a call. They just vanished.”
“Friends and relatives?” Elliot said glancing at Alexa.
“All been quizzed and shown a picture of this guy’s face. Nobody knows anything. You might want to bother Bronx Missing Persons too. I know they’ve got a case that sounds kind of similar.”
Missing Persons in both the
Tired from a day of discovering nothing more to lead them closer to what had happened to Olivia, Elliot and Alexa returned to the precinct to report on what they had not found about the case.
As daylight slowly turned into evening, Elliot started to ask Alexa if she wanted to buy half a pizza, figuring they were both in for a long night, when he received a call from Maya. The call was quick and to the point. The hospital was about to move Olivia from the ICU again and she thought he would want to be there when they did.
Alexa asked if she could tag along with him when he started to leave the precinct for the hospital, but Elliot made certain not to even bat an eyelash in hopes that she would simply assume he had not heard her.
When he got to hospital, Maya had already begun arranging a series of cards and taut plastic balloons on the small window sill to the far left of the room.
“Who are those all from?” he asked softly as he sat in the chair beside Olivia’s bed. He had wanted to keep conversation to a minimum as the last time he had spoken in Olivia’s presence, she had gone into shock and, though he was in no mood to repeat the experience, his curiosity got the better of him.
“Mostly well-wishers. She probably doesn’t know most of them, but I still figured it might brighten the place a little. Especially, considering she might be in here for a while.”
“You think so?”
“I know so,” Maya said. “I spent most of last night reading up on bone breakage and expected healing times. She’d be in the hospital for a while even if she wasn’t…”
Maya’s voice trailed and she sighed as she turned another “Get Well Soon” card so that it caught the shrinking outside light.
"Do you have any idea what happened to her yet?" she said.
He shook his head, not wanting to voice the words “we haven’t got anything” so close to Olivia.
"Well, I have faith in you just like I have faith that Liv will wake up any day now and tell me...tell me...how my haircut doesn't fit my face or how I need to stop jumping from man to man or how I should just get over my parents and work on growing my practice. After all this is over…she’ll be okay."
Elliot turned his gaze to Olivia and simply stared at her, wishing she would wake as Maya stepped about the room behind him. His gaze on her face had been so intense he barely lifted his eyebrows when Maya told him she was leaving for a bit or when a new figured appeared at her door an hour later.
Jonathan’s breath caught as he came within a few feet of Olivia’s bed and Elliot leapt to a stand upon noticing him. Eyes red and black hair shining even in the flat hospital light, Jonathan stared unblinking at Olivia.
Elliot stood silent not knowing if there was anything to be said or done. He knew that Cragen would have most likely notified Jonathan not too long after calling Maya, but Jonathan had been unreachable for days. The desire to start into him with questions on where he had been and also the location of his gun was great, but the same sympathy that kept Elliot from arresting Jonathan the night he came to Elliot’s apartment, kept him from saying anything and he even shuddered at the thought of receiving the news from numerous messages left after days and days of calls.
“Olivia…” Jonathan muttered softly as he stared at her. He then glanced at Elliot. “Can she even hear me?”
Elliot nodded and Jonathan’s eyes welled before him.
“A…a week ago,” Jonathan said. “My brother asked me if I wanted to get in on this restaurant venture and…and he asked me for a name for a place. The only name I could think of was…” He wiped his eye. “Then all my brothers told me to upstate and clear my head. No phone, no TV, nothing. Just the lake and the air.”
“Did it help?” Elliot asked.
Jonathan raised his hand to catch a tear that was teetering on his eyebrim, but he was a moment too late and quickly ran down his face.
“No,” he said. “Nothing helped.”
Watching in silent awe at the wealth of emotions flowing from the man, Elliot simply stared as Jonathan fell to his knees and sobbed at Olivia’s side.
Remembering the look of absolute grief and despair upon Jonathan’s face when he last saw him, Elliot slowly crept out of the room as Jonathan’s wails filtered into the corridor even through the closed door.
When he returned to the hospital the next day, Elliot immediately checked the visitor log for Olivia’s room, noting that Jonathan, Maya, Jillian and Sarah, had each come and gone in the morning hours and that an “S. Shah” remained still in the room.
With the name Shah and a conversation he had had weeks earlier in mind, he entered Olivia’s room expecting to see a slightly older version of Maya sitting in the room, but found instead an elderly woman bent over Olivia’s unconscious form and rubbing something into the fingers that stuck out from her cast.
“What are you doing?” he asked immediately, his full interrogation voice echoing vehemently.
The Indian woman glanced at him for a moment before returning her attention to rubbing Olivia’s hand.
“It’s a kind of lotion,” she said in a voice surprisingly deep for her short-stature and mild face. “It’ll keep her hands from drying too badly while she’s in here. Hospital air is notably horrible for your skin.”
He crossed the room never taking his eyes off the woman. “Who are you? You only listed an initial on the visitor’s log.”
“My name is Sharvani Shah, but you can call me Mrs. Shah.”
“You’re Maya’s mother?”
“Yes,” she said, the expression on her face turning sour for a moment. “I suppose I am.”
She moved to the other side of Olivia’s bed and squeezed a dime-sized drop of the white demulcent into her hand to rub into Olivia’s skin. Elliot could see that her eyes held the same kind of youthful spark that Maya had when she was laughing, but the rest of her vaguely familiar face spoke a story of a woman not younger than eighty.
“I think we’ve met before,” he said. “I’m Elliot Stabler. Olivia’s partner.”
“Yes, I remember,” Mrs. Shah said. “Serena Benson’s funeral. These years later, I’m still shocked. She was such a nice young woman.”
“I didn’t realize you and Ms. Benson were so close.”
She sighed for a moment as if searching her memory for a scene from years earlier.
“We didn’t have much in common until I realized she worked at the university with my husband. Completely different college, though. The Humanities will never be the same without her. Always pleasant as long as she stayed away from that bottle. But, yes. We did get to know one another rather well over the years.”
“She was a mistake,” she said abruptly, but then formed a smile. “But, she brought little Olivia into our lives, so I suppose she makes up for it.”
Elliot’s eyebrows furrowed at the comment. “A mistake?”
“Yes, a mistake. I was nearly forty-three-years old when she was born. My four others were nearly grown when she came around. There.” She rose from her seat having capped her small bottle. “She should be good for a few more days. I’ll send that girl in here with more later in the week. It’s getting harder and harder to make these longer trips into the city.”
“That girl? You mean, Maya? She’s here every day, in fact she was in here this morning. You probably just missed her.”
“Yes, I’m sure,” Mrs. Shah said curtly. “Probably shirking her responsibilities as usual. That girl has been a disappointment from her very first step to the moment she tried to tell me something had happened to Olivia. She’ll most likely suffer from an extra long bout of imprudence and stupidity now that our Olivia won’t be around to tell her how to walk and breathe at the same time.”
“Oh…” Elliot said crossing his arms and taking a step backward, floored by the brass comments flowing from eighty-year-old’s mouth. “Well, we all have somebody who helps us out. I’ve just now realized how much I’ve come to depend on Olivia myself.”
Mrs. Shah sighed as she slowly crossed the room. “Depending on someone is one thing, young man. Not being able to stand on your own two feet as an adult without someone strong like Olivia propping you up is another.” She paused and a small, sad smile pulled her at lips as she came near the doorway. “I’ve watched this one for a long time. Olivia was clearly the child we should have had instead of the spoiled thing that came to us, but…such is life. It was good to see you again, Detective. I hope to be notified if there are any other changes to her condition.”
Elliot nodded and she continued. “I’ve taken it upon myself to make sure she’s looked after the way her mother would’ve. Now, the driver’s been waiting downstairs for quite some time and, if I leave him to his own devices for too long, he’s starts to find mischief. Has been nothing but trouble since the day he was hired. Probably should’ve married Mayanjula off to him so they could have their own brand of misfit children. Goodbye.”
She stepped from the room, leaving Elliot dumbfounded as he took the seat next to Olivia.
Munch came by a short while later and he tried to uplift Elliot’s spirits by cracking several jokes about what Olivia was going to do once she found out they had ransacked her apartment, but the light humor consoled him for only as long as Munch stood by the bed. By the time he had left, Elliot was left with the sinking feeling that Olivia might remain in a blank, vegetative state for the rest of her life.
He left the room to quiz Dr. Haddley about Olivia’s vitals and the possibility of other seizures or surprise infections and, when he returned to the room to try and talk Olivia into consciousness, Maya had taken his seat, reading a magazine as if waiting to be seen during a doctor’s visit.
“Hey,” he said softly. “You’re back.”
“Yep. My client and I had another long argument today and normally I would’ve asked Livia if she wanted to blow off steam with a quick drink, but seeing as how she’s slightly incapacitated at the moment, I decided to just be here for her for the time being.”
“Where’s Halloway? I know he was here yesterday.”
“Sedated on another floor.”
Elliot stared at her with wide eyes and she nodded.
“According to Jillian, he kind of lost it last night when he saw her and he became so hysterical that they had to drag him away. Then, he was throwing such a fit that he had to be admitted. I went to see him before I came back here.”
“How is he?”
“He’ll be fine. I think he’s more embarrassed than anything else.”
"Oh… I met your mother today," he said pulling the other empty chair in the room beside her.
Maya scoffed. "Bet that was an interesting conversation. Did she tell you how she always thought I was her biggest disappointment?"
"No," Elliot lied. "We really didn't talk that much."
"Well, that surprises me," Maya said without looking up from her magazine. "She's always liked telling people that I was the mistake."
The heart rate monitor beeped twice in quick succession, eliciting a tense, silent stare from the both of them until it began to chirp at a regular pace.
"You...uh," Maya began, "ever have that friend who you were certain your parents loved more than you?"
"You think your parents loved Olivia more than you?"
"I know it for certain. My mother used to say it daily. When all my brothers and sisters had moved out and it was just me, her and my father...we'd be at the dinner table and she would say, 'Oh, I heard Olivia made the honor roll again. It's shame we can't a child like that over for dinner more often. Someone we could love and be proud of instead of...' Then, she'd trail off and stare at me."
"You don't really think she meant it, though?"
Maya smiled and shook her head. "Senior year of high school, Olivia got the lead in our school musical. And it was crazy too, she just came to me after school one day and said she'd auditioned and that she'd got the part. She wasn't even in the choir or did anything that would bring a lot of attention on her. It wasn't until after the play was over that I realized she only did it because her mother was going to be at this...conference or whatever while the play was showing.
“Anyway, I went to see every show and so did my parents, and after the last show...you should have seen them. They brought her flowers and candy and took loads of pictures. They'd even taped the last one and kept it as a keepsake. And the way they were looking at her that night...that look. Just so filled with this glowing pride and happiness...so, enamored with her. They never looked at me like that. Even after I'd graduated law school. They never once looked at me like that."
Elliot nodded slightly, hearing the hurt in her voice. "Everyone's parents do something to screw them up...My old man used to tell me I was good for nothing all the time. I’m third of four kids; three brothers, but our father acted like our sister walked on water. She would do anything she wanted and be perfectly fine, but the rest of us… Your parents don't sound like they were ever abusive though."
"Yours were?" Maya asked. When Elliot shrugged, Maya sighed and continued. "When I was little, really little, before I'd even met Livia, my mother would be teaching me how to tie my sari for the Diwali celebrations and, any time I'd make a mistake, she'd just start screaming at me. She would say how stupid I was, how I was never going to be like my sisters, how she wished she'd had a miscarriage. It wasn't until I was older that I learned what a miscarriage was, and it hurt even more than when she had spat the word at me."
Maya paused, reflecting for a moment. "I'd asked Livia, when we were in the third grade, and we ended up looking it up in the dictionary, because she said her mother said that she wished she'd had a miscarriage too, but neither of us knew what it was. It just seemed like common sense to know...I think that was the moment Livia became more than just a best friend for me. Even though, I knew my parents cherished her and thought the world of her, far more than they ever could me, we...sometimes, she got it."
"Sometimes? You say that like you think Liv never really understood you."
"Oh, she understood. If there was anybody in the world who understood, it was Livia."
“So why ‘sometimes?’” he pressed. “From what I know about the two of you, you were two peas in a pod growing up.”
“Because sometimes Livia acted like my older sisters. It was when she got that exasperated look that said she was annoyed with having me around. But, then there were other times when she did things just like I would’ve and those were the times when I knew she got it.”
She set down her magazine and gave Elliot her full attention. "When we were kids, just like sixteen, she was dating this older guy. I think he was one of her mom's students. So, she calls me this one day, so excited. David, that was his name. David wanted to get married and she was just so excited to be going, leaving. And, I'm listening to her go on and on about him and I felt really bad because then I had to ask the question: 'What are you going to tell your mom?'
“And she was quiet for a really long time before saying that she didn't know and then changed the subject. But, later that night, she shows up at my house and she's really upset. I can tell she'd be crying the whole walk over. And, she's crying and telling me that she just needed to get away. That's all she kept saying. She had to get out, she had to get away. And so...we left. We got in my car and just started driving. We didn't have any idea where we were going, but we just drove. When it was like , I just pulled over and made her tell me what happened."
"What had happened?"
Maya paused a moment staring at the floor, as if playing the memory of that night in her head. "She said she hurt her mom when she told her about David. Something about a bottle…she was never really clear about it, but she just kept saying that she didn't know what she was going to do."
"What'd you end up doing?"
"We drove around for a little
bit more before we found this Bates-looking motel off Route 9. We stayed the
night there and we started saying the craziest things. Like, what would happen
if we just kept going. Just kept driving until we got to
“ I...I know it's not right to speak badly about the dead, but I never cared for Ms. Serena. I realized that when she showed up that night. I mean, if my daughter had been gone for two weeks, I'd be out of my mind worrying about her. Plus, after everything that had happened with David... Ms. Serena looked rested...like she didn't even care. And she and my mother used to get along so well, too. When Livia went back to her mother's house, my mother acted like Livia had just spent the night like she did when we were little. She and Ms. Serena both laughed and acted like everything was fine."
"Did your mother know what had happened?"
"Not the specifics, but would your parents have been perfectly fine if one of your friends just started living at your house, without a call or anything from their parents?" Maya sighed. "I think that might be half the reason why I don’t want children of my own. Aside from these crazy genes I’d be passing onto them, I wouldn’t want to make the same mistakes my parents and other people make."
Elliot simply stared at her.
“What?” she said.
“Nothing…it’s just that you Olivia are so similar at times.”
Maya shrugged. “We used to get that a lot when we were younger. Especially during the summer.”
“So, you two spent all your time together growing up.”
“A lot of it. When we got to high school though, Livia just seemed so…awkward. I mean, I probably would’ve been too if I had grown so much in one summer, but it was more than that.”
“Yeah, but everybody’s a little shy when it comes to high school. I remember I used to trip over my own feet and get shoved into lockers by kids who knew my older brother.”
Maya sat quiet for a moment as if trying to picture a fourteen-year-old Elliot Stabler, but shook her head. “I know what it was…that awkwardness in Olivia…”
“Probably her mother.”
“It was…and I’d invite her out with me and my other friends all the time, but she never wanted to come out with us. It was like she didn’t want anyone else to know, but I’d say to her, ‘Livia, you’re not the first person to have an alcoholic mother and you’re not the last. You can’t let the fact that she is one, run your life,’ but she never really heard me. The only time she ever did anything was when it was just the two of us. I guess because I already knew about it, but even all these years later it still bothers me.”
“Everybody deals with their problems with family differently, though.”
“Very true. That’s the thing that separates us most in my mind. At the end of the day, Livia loved her mother, but I….I still hate mine and I’ll hate her in her grave, too.”
Silence fell upon them, broken only by the sounds of the many machines monitoring Olivia's signs of life.
"Well," Maya said standing and gathering her things. She brushed away a tear that was attempting to escape from her eye. "I actually have work to do believe it or not."
" You have work to do?" Elliot said with a smile. "Get outta here!"
"Yeah, every once in a while I pretend like I'm an actual lawyer and I need to check on a few other clients before they wise up and get better attorneys. I’ll probably see you later on tomorrow. Bye."
Elliot gave her nod to signify goodbye and let his gaze fall upon Olivia, willing her to wake up before he had to go face the world again.
When he left for the night, he tipped the nurses at the station and gave them a list of names.
“If anyone comes by to see her who’s not on the list,” he said. “I need you to call me at this number immediately.”
The floor nurse tacked the list on a bulletin board and gave him a small smile as he turned to leave the hospital.
A quiet lull fell over the fourth floor in an odd shift from previous early Saturday morning hours. Normally, the hospital buzzed with victims suffering with anything from alcohol poisoning to life-threatening gunshot wounds and the noise would filter upward to cause a stir on the higher floors, however no such bedlam was present.
Danica Rodgers sighed as she mulled over the large textbook that sat on the desk in front of her. She had been playing with the idea of taking the nurse practitioner’s exam for years, but for one reason or another, had somehow talked herself out of doing it. With her recent night shifts taking a toll on her sleep, she had begun doubting whether or not she should even bother studying for the imminent exam.
The shifts always seemed longest as they tended to drag on endlessly. Danica would find herself organizing files, taking a moment to stare at the clock, working on something else, and looking back at the clock only to see that just one minute had passed since the last time she had looked. The recent quiet made the boredom even worse and she stood quickly hoping to get her blood pumping enough to keep sleep at bay.
She had not had a dull moment in the past few days due to the most recent inhabitant of Room 108, one Olivia Benson. Danica had seen Olivia on the news and was mildly interested in her well being as it seemed she had gone through hell just to land in a coma weeks later, but the newness of the patient wore off quickly, even with the constant stream of visitors and especially cops.
Never had so many officers called or visited the floor in regards to one patient and Danica wished for another visit from one of them to break the monotony. Several days earlier they had witnessed quite the stir when a man from one of the wealthier families in the city came to visit Room 108 and fell into such a blaze of grief that he screamed himself into a panic and had to be admitted to the hospital.
Outside of him, a series of people from all walks of life had come by to see the patient. One of her favorites was the blue-eyed detective who came every day for hours at a time. He would always speak to her and the other nurses in a soft, but earnest voice, constantly wanting to be notified of the slightest change in the patient. Danica had half a mind to “accidentally” cause a problem with an IV just to get him to return when she wanted him.
A younger LPN, Sharisse McPhillps, came around the corner, having finished her set of rounds, and stepped into the semi-circle that created the nurse’s station.
“They released that Halloway guy,” Sharisse said as she flopped into the chair next to her.
“That’s too bad,” Danica said.
“He’s dating that lady from 108, right?”
Danica nodded. “Yup. It figures too. He’s rich and attractive, but he’ll probably spend the rest of his life at her bed side while the rest of us go without a man.”
“You just keep trying,” Sharisse laughed. “You never know. I think I saw a movie not too long ago about something like that. The rich guy kept coming to see his wife who was a vegetable and then fell in love with either the nurse or the doctor. I think the wife eventually woke up though and caused a whole lotta drama.”
“It figures. That’s what would happen to me too.”
“There’s always Detective Pretty-Eyes to fall back on,” Sharisse teased.
Danica fell into a fit of giggles. “You are too much, you know that?”
A light flashed just once on the display before her. It was not indicative of anything significant, but Danica rose to check in on Room 108 nonetheless. She turned on lights in the room, making its occupant appear ghostly pale at once and set upon checking the assorted monitors near the bed.
Having checked that each of Olivia Benson’s vital signs appeared normal, Danica turned to leave, but a twitch of movement caught her eye as she did. She stood still, staring intently at the woman on the bed, waiting to see if there was another movement, but after several minutes of seeing nothing, she sighed and headed for the door.
Danica began to pull the door closed, but paused just before her foot had exited the room.
Did that sound just come from her? she thought.
She stepped back into the room and walked toward the bed, eyebrows furrowed, but fixed on Olivia. Five minutes went by without any other sound or movement and she soon heard Sharisse calling for her.
“Something wrong?” Sharisse said entering the room.
“Look at her,” Danica said. “Tell me if you see her moving.”
They stood silent for another minute before Sharisse rolled her eyes.
“I don’t see anything. Besides, I heard her doctor the other day. They don’t expect her to ever wake up.”
“She’s not brain dead.”
“But, she’d be conscious by now if she was going to wake up. They don’t even know what’s wrong with her.”
“I guess. It’s just that I thought I saw her move.”
“Wishful thinking. You and that one cop.”
They left the room together and within an hour they had settled into a game of Hearts with two of the other nurses on the floor.
“How the hell did you just Shoot the Moon like that?” a nurse said hitting his hand on the counter.
“Just got it like that,” Danica said smiling.
No sooner had the words left her mouth that the control panel to the right of the group lit several flashing lights and an alarm erupted from it.
All four rushed down the hall to Room 108, where its sole occupant tossed and convulsed in the narrow bed.
“It’s another seizure,” Kyle said trying to set her back against the bed.
“Careful!” Sharisse said. “She’s torn the bandage on her side. She’s already bleeding.”
They each held her steady, but the convulsions grew worse coming in waves and hit an event horizon when her body contracted at the waist and burst to life. Brown eyes, red with burst blood vessels, flashed open at the same time her mouth gaped to emit a piercing sound that caught Sharisse so off guard that she released the struggling arm she had been holding only to be hit in the face as the cast-encircled arm quavered free.
An alarm blared almost as loud as the shriek, amplified by the ringing and beeps from the surrounding machines, and Danica, still holding on for dear life and yelling out for the doctors on call, closed her eyes as Olivia Benson screamed into the night.