Casey Novak’s heels made sharp clicks as she walked down a dank and very familiar corridor. A prison guard opened a door for her and she entered the small meeting room trying to hide her disdain for the persons already seated.
Mark Landon, accompanied by his attorney, Robert Gruenbaum, sat at the table in the room that was painted in taupe to give it a false sense of serenity. His hair clashed terribly with the orange prison jumpsuit and his eyes seemed beadier than normal as he watched Casey take her seat at the table across from him.
She had hoped for a quick resolution to the case where Mark would want to spare himself the embarrassment and stigma of a trial, and yet, there she was spending her time to talk to someone whose taped confession was dubbed and sitting on her desk along with his attorney waiver.
The bruise on Mark’s face had severely reddened in colour since she saw him at his arraignment hearing a week earlier and she frowned at the sight of it. Elliot’s notorious temper had got the better of him again and, while the current rumour was that Elliot had actually thrown Mark through the wall of the interrogation room, Casey only believed Elliot’s version of the events.
“Let’s make this quick,” she said and set her briefcase on the table.
“As long as you’re willing to listen to what we have to say,” Gruenbaum said.
Casey chuckled. “Before you go any
further, perhaps you should have a clear understanding
of the facts. Your client, Mark Aaron Landon, attacked, kidnapped and assaulted
“You’ll listen,” Mark said leaning forward in his seat. “After what I’ve been through, you’re going to listen.”
Casey felt her skin grow red as she tried to contain her rage. “What you’ve been through? What you’ve been through? Jesus Christ! I can’t believe I’m hearing this! It’s not even registering yet, is it? You’re wearing an orange jumpsuit and you’re sitting in a prison cell, but it still doesn’t matter to you! You’re never going to get it through your thick skull, are you!”
“Counselor,” Gruenbaum said standing, yet barely above Casey’s shoulder. “I believe we can still remain civil in this place.”
“You two are quite the pair, you know?” She sat back in her rickety chair. “A real piece of work. So, what am I going to be listening to, other than complete garbage?”
“I’ve got more than garbage,” Mark said. He then pointed as this cheek. “This is far more than garbage.”
“That little bump? You fell.”
“Fell? Who’s the piece of work now?”
“Landon…you raped a little boy, kidnapped and essentially crippled a detective and killed two people. Nothing you can do or say will keep you from serving four life sentences if I can help it.”
“You’ll help it,” Mark said. “Because I have something you need.”
Casey felt her eyes narrow at him. “I need? Okay, fine. I’ll bite, Landon. What do you have that I need?”
“No way,” Mark said pushing back from the table. “I want a deal first.”
“This was such a waste of time,” Casey said as she stood. “I hope you’re happy that I drove all the way out here and now-”
“He knows the name of the person who took your detective,” Gruenbaum said.
“He said he didn’t know the name in his confession.”
“That’s because,” Mark began, “I knew that detective of yours would’ve given me more than this if I refused to give him the information he wanted.”
“Give me the name.”
“I want a deal.”
“You’re not getting a deal!”
“Then you’re not getting a name and you can just come to me all weepy-eyed when this guy finds her and finishes the job.”
Casey’s eyes seemed to darken as she glared at him. “What do you mean ‘finishes the job?’”
“Look, listen to me. I know this guy. I’ve dealt with him before. Why do you think I let you people take a confession with no fuss? I knew if she got out, it was only a matter of time before he came after me. He hates when deals go bad and, with her out and about, I can’t think of how a deal could go worse. If I know him at all, I’d say he’s going to kill her before the year is out.”
“Am I? That’s what your detective thinks, too. That I just made up this guy. If I was just full of it, you explain to me how Olivia got from her apartment to a dumpster on 119th. Keep in mind, I can barely lift her by myself and I don’t have a car.” Mark narrowed his eyes at Casey. “I know you people want to think that your job is over, but face it. You need me to find the guy who actually did the most damage.”
“The seizures are coming from the inhalant you covered her face with and the drugs you injected into her to keep her immobile.”
“But she would have been fine if he didn’t have her.”
”Well, why don’t you do your civic duty and at least ensure that you won’t go straight to hell and give me a name?”
“And when are you going to get it through your thick skull? I’m not saying a damn thing without a deal.”
“There is no deal to make, Landon! We don’t make deals with multiple murderers, especially not with ones who killed two innocent people and ruined the lives of two more just because a woman didn’t like him!”
Mark was silent in his seat for a few moments as Casey’s breathing eased. “I had to do what I had to do, as you have already been informed by my attorney. None of that matters though. I can gift wrap this guy to you if you give me my deal.”
“Goddamn it, Landon. You kno-”
“I’ve been there, you know? In the same place where he kept your precious Olivia. It’s not just him who in on all this.
“So, now there’s another guy, too?”
“There’s always been another guy, I just hadn’t met him. The guy who took her for me…he doesn’t say much, but I knew there was another guy who had to be in on it or else he wouldn’t be able to pull off everything.”
“God, you’re so full of it,” Casey said. “Look, I’ll buy that you had help in getting Olivia out of her apartment and up to 119th, but now you’re just trying to spread the blame as far as you can so you can lead the NYPD on some chase as you get your damn deal.”
“Why would I lie?” When Casey only glared in response, Mark continued. “Look, it’s not just his associates you’ve got to worry about. He’s got others there too. Other girls. Other women.”
“How many others?”
Mark shrugged. “At least five since the last time I was there. Maybe even more now. Maybe even…less, if you catch my drift.”
“Less…as in…there’s a certain odor coming from the upper floors that can only mean one thing. I mean, I know he’s brought girls in by one method or another, but he never needs to take them back out again. Surely even you can understand that.”
“How many less are we talking about?”
“A dozen…probably two. Regardless, that’s a whole lot of families you and the district attorney can put to rest. All you have to do is give me what I want.”
The glare in Casey’s eyes hardened. “For the sake of interest, what are you asking for?”
“Twelve to twenty,” Gruenbaum said quickly. “And, you knock off a year for every person rescued.”
“You must be joking,” Casey laughed. “Twelve to twenty for two murders? No, not just two murders. Two murders, kidnapping and rape?”
“Twelve to twenty,” Mark said, “for bringing a multiple murderer to justice and rescuing the number of girls he’s got in his possession right now. The clock’s ticking Ms. Novak. Even as we speak, our pale friend is out there finding another and another, timing out his vengeance on the only person to get away. He’s let out a couple here or there. Don’t ask me why, ‘cause if I’ve learned anything about this guy, he’s anything but predictable.”
“For the DA’s office to even consider your offer, you have to come up with something credible. I’d get laughed out of my job if I went to my boss with twelve to twenty for two murders. And, perhaps you should keep in mind it’s only a matter of time before Olivia remembers exactly what happened to her. As soon as she’s able to give us a sketch, I don’t care what you think you’ve got to offer or how many names you want to give us, there will be no deal.”
Gruenbaum cleared his throat. “Ms. Novak, if you believed that for even half a second, you wouldn’t be here right now. The fact is, Ms. Benson’s memory is not returning and, right now, my client is your only link to finding out what happened to her after she was out of his…care and also the only link to finding those other women.”
“The women he says are there.”
“The women your detectives will confirm are there,” Mark said, “…or were. Who knows what he’s done since she got out?”
“He can do two twenties consecutively for the two boys,” Casey said. “And, an additional ten for both Olivia and Zachary in exchange for information that leads us to living victims.”
Twitching in his seat slightly and shifting his tie, Gruenbaum cleared his throat again. “You’re essentially offering him a sentence of fifty mandatory years to the rest of his life. He’s thirty-one. He’s still a young man.”
“Then he’s got that much more of a shot at not dying in prison. That is, if he makes it fifty years at all in Sing Sing given his history with people from different backgrounds. I read the autopsy report on Andrew Shaw, Landon. Did you beat him so severely before strangling him because he fought back or just because he was black?”
“We’re not discussing that,” Gruenbaum said. “And, you’re insulting us with that deal.”
“Fifty years is a gift for two murders. I’m being generous because he might have information that is possibly beneficial for public welfare.”
“I want twenty to life,” Mark said.
“I’m sure you do.”
“Look, those two kids are dead and no amount of time I spend in prison will make up for that, but if you give me twenty to life, I will hand this guy to you. He makes a living sell porn where he rapes and kills women on video. He holds them captive and starves them and he’ll take anyone. It doesn’t matter to him. White, black. Tall, short. Blonde, brunette…red-head. Will you be able to sleep at night knowing he’s out there taking more women and defiling them on video and making a profit from it? Could you rest with that on your conscience?”
Casey shook her head. “No deal. If this guy is really out there, we’ll find him. We know where she was dropped and we’ll find him and any of the other women he might be holding captive. And…when we do find them, I’m adding counts of manslaughter to every woman there who died in the past five months.”
“Manslaughter?” Gruenbaum said. “Now, who’s joking?”
manslaughter. If you don’t think I can make it stick, just check my
record and, if I could find a way to get this case to
Mark stared at Casey for a long time, allowing a tense silence to float in the room, before sighing and easing back in his chair.
“Well, what’s another twenty or so when I’m already looking at prison for the rest of my life anyway…”
“You’re kidding? A deal!”
Elliot’s bellow could be heard across the fifth floor and Casey closed her eyes and sighed as his words echoed back to her in the squad room.
“No, I’m serious,” she said. “Landon wants a deal in exchange for giving us the guy who did this to Olivia.”
“How much time is he asking for?” Fin asked.
“Originally it was twelve to twenty, but-”
“For two murders!” Elliot yelled.
“…but, he changed his tune a little later to twenty to life, which I also turned down.”
“Good,” Munch said. “No one deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison as much as Landon.”
“I agree,” Casey said, “but the problem now is finding this other guy. As much as I hate to admit it, Landon made a good point to me this morning.”
“Which was?” Elliot said.
“That the longer we go without finding this guy, the more likely it is that he’ll have a chance to find more victims. I mean you’ve said it yourself, Elliot. Any time Olivia’s questioned, she mentions something about there being other people where she was. She got out, but from listening to Landon describe this guy, I’m willing to bet she got out on her own, not because this guy was just done with her.”
“That’s our Liv,” Munch said.
“But, what about those other women?” Casey said. “If there are others, odds are they are still there and God only knows what happened to them after Olivia got out.”
“She still doesn’t remember anything,” Elliot said.
“I know, but we’re running out of options. I don’t want to deal with Landon at all, but if it comes down to helping more women who were put through what Olivia’s been through, we may need to.”
“Elliot, I didn’t say I’m doing it right now-”
“Giving Mark Landon a deal, any kind of deal, is nothing short of telling the families of those three boys that their sons don’t matter and a slap in the face for Olivia.”
Casey took an unconscious step backward as Elliot’s temper flared. “You make it sound like I’m happy about it. I know what a deal with Landon means, Elliot and I don’t like it any more than you do, but if there are more lives hanging in the balance, we may not have a choice.”
“The lives he says are there to keep his ass out of prison for the rest of his life.”
“The lives Olivia herself told you were there. When she spoke to Cragen or anyone else, she said that she was not alone. That there were others. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather show up to protest every single one of Landon’s parole hearings for the rest of my life and prosecute the man who’s done this to Olivia and God knows how many others than to ensure Landon gets life and later find the women who didn’t escape in worse shape than Olivia was.”
Elliot grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair, shaking with an anger he had not experienced since he learned that Jeffrey Drover had tried to touch his child months earlier.
“Her memory’s gonna return eventually. It’s only a matter of time.”
“And unfortunately, it’s time we don’t have.”
Olivia smiled at the newest letter that had been delivered with her morning mail. It was another handwritten letter from the boy who had found her, Deondre Meekham, and she read it twice before she set it upright on the side table.
When Mark Landon had been arrested, she broke into her first smile in weeks and upon reviewing all the other cards and letters of encouragement she had received, she decided to return a letter to the young boy. Jillian had asked her repeatedly why she did, and, while she could not find the words to express her concern with Jillian, Olivia felt obligated to make sure the boy who had found a body in the trash was still mentally healthy, and it was also a nice exercise for her own mind. She corrected his grammar much like her own mother had done when Olivia was his age and, with each new letter he wrote in turn, his fundamentals increased and sounded much better than he had in his first letter.
The sudden urge to use the bathroom hit her pelvis and she pulled the covers off the bed and shifted slowly as she eased herself into the black, cushioned wheelchair that sat next to the bed.
Her recovery over the past month had been slow, much slower than she would have liked. Physical therapy began as soon as she had re-trained her body to accept food once again and Olivia had held a vision of herself defying all odds by standing and nearly walking on her first day. Instead, the day had been spent training her back and stomach muscles to work in conjunction and keep her upright once again. Though she willed her mind to improve and pushed her body as far as it would go, it took a whole day before she could continuously move her legs in response to what her brain commanded and then several others until she was able to move her legs enough to simply shift off the bed unaided.
Elliot constantly reminded her that being able to move at all was miraculous by itself as her doctors had once been quite sure that she would remain paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of her days.
Using her arms that had gained twice their strength in recent weeks, she pushed on the chair’s wheels and, through a number of gymnastic maneuvers she managed to use the toilet and rolled herself out of the room and down the hall to visit the nurse’s station.
Olivia hated the wheelchair when it was first brought out to her, thinking that it was some kind of black vacuity that would be used to keep her technically disabled for life. Its cushions were plump and it had pockets at its sides for carrying objects of various sizes. The chair was not one of the simple wheelchairs used temporarily for hospital patients; it was meant for long-term use. However, once she was able to get herself in and out of it without help, she felt a freedom she had not sensed since she first left her mother’s house at eighteen.
At first, a foreboding gloom perused her thoughts as she considered the idea of being confined to the contraption. The urge to strike out at anyone around her and grow angry again was great as she realized how much she had taken the ability to stand or walk for granted. A palpable helplessness overwhelmed her mind and she struggled for many days to keep from drowning in depression once more. What incensed her most was that there was no recourse. She could not talk her way out of it; she could not fight her way out of it. As said by the recent amputee that had been staying down the corridor, she would simply have to live through the experience.
She eventually grew to love the mobility afforded through the chair since her legs still did not respond properly and made the best of the situation. When there were the fewest amounts of people on the floor, she and Maya would laugh themselves into hysterics as Maya would give Olivia a running push and then hop onto the back of the chair as they both careened down the corridors reminding them both of the shenanigans of their youth. Olivia would goad other wheelchair bound residents into races and eventually was able to perform tricks in her chair as well as discover new nuances such as how to bounce down sets of shallow steps and turning around hairpin corners at accelerated speeds.
Maya, Elliot and Jonathan visited her at regular intervals collectively pleased to see her convalescing considering her demeanor in the previous month and Olivia eventually apologized to each of them individually for what she had said. Even remembering her coarse words caused her to wince in shame, but all anyone responded was “I understand.”
“Hey,” Olivia said as she applied pressure to her wheel handles and came to a stop just in front of the nurses’ station. “I just wanted to confirm that my time in the Blue Room got moved up today.”
The nurse, Erin, behind the counter nodded as she ran her finger down a list held in a blue binder. “Yep. Jesse will be up here to get you at two instead of four today.”
“How’s it been coming?”
“Not as fast as I want, but it’s coming.”
“Well, I’ll tell you this much, just watching you roll up and down here tells me you’ve made more progress than I’ve seen a lot of people make in so short a time.”
“That’s what Dr. Weiss has been saying, so I’ve been trying to keep my spirits up even though I’m in the chair.”
“Yeah…I’m ready. Today’s the day.”
“Good luck to you.”
“If there’s anything you need at all, just let one of us know.”
Olivia smiled at her, nodded at the cop posted near her door and headed back to her room. As much as she hated it, she was beginning to grow accustomed to the benefits having Halloway money behind her requests and, though she refused to acknowledge it on principle, she enjoyed having the hospital staff treat her like she was plated in gold. The slightest little thing was hers upon request, from a larger television in the room to curtains that let in slightly more light. Jonathan always ensured that her every wish was granted on her extended stay in the hospital.
She had spent a total of nine weeks in various hospitals and, while there did appear to be light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, she was still irritated by having lost close to three months of her life in hospitals and her status in the current one.
Pulmonary problems still erupted at least once a day and the seizures, which had ironically stopped altogether while she was in the throws of depression, occurred at least once every 48-hours. Her newest primary physician Dr. Weiss, insisted that the issues in her lungs stemmed from the severe pneumonia that nearly conquered her at one point, and still threatened to wreak havoc on her body. Her femur bone was still not fully healed, needing several more weeks of mending, and she had also suffered two bouts of infection from the gunshot wound that refused to heal. All of her ailments notwithstanding, Dr. Weiss promised that she would most likely be out of the hospital in a couple of weeks.
With the knowledge that she would eventually be allowed to leave and also that Mark Landon sitting in a prison cell, Olivia had put a new vigor into her therapy and had in the past few days, worked her body to the point where she could do tens of pull-ups without pause and could hand walk across a set of parallel bars as she attempted to pull her legs behind her.
The idea that Mark had been the one to attack her was still quite baffling. She had been certain that her attacker had been tall and blond, but through her fuliginous memory, she remembered that there had been more than one party at some point. Elliot, through her tirade of loud, but unflappable nagging, had shown her the videos Mark had taken of her apartment and it was only after she saw Mark coming after her that she acknowledged that “little Mark” had actually attacked.
Once inside her room, Olivia pulled her chair in front of the large window in the room and sighed as she watched the milling New Yorkers going about their business. She had been trying to spend as much time out of her bed as possible, though she hated the fact that she got tired easily and often felt like a child trapped indoors on a bright Spring day, when all her friends got to go outside and play.
The number of daily visitors had dwindled by a significant amount, but she was not upset by it as most of her time was spent with Maya, Elliot or both together. She enjoyed those times most. Together they would just talk like old friends and she and Maya would end up swapping old embarrassing stories just to make Elliot laugh.
“Hey! You can’t hold that against me,” Olivia had said. “Remember, you were the one who nearly burnt down the whole school!”
Elliot had turned to Maya with a bright smile. “You burnt down your school?”
“No,” Maya said slowly and rolled her eyes. “See, this is how the stupid rumors get started. We didn’t burn down the school. There was just a little fire-”
“Which you started!” Olivia laughed.
“I did not! It was that other girl…Tiffany or Megan or some crap. She’s the one who threw her cigarette in the trashcan instead of the toilet. She’s the one who started the fire.”
“But, it was still a fire,” Elliot said.
“Just a little fire and honestly it wasn’t even that bad. They had it out in like five minutes and we just got a slap on the wrist. ‘Course Olive Oyl here didn’t get anything because she was too goody-goody to participate.”
“I wasn’t getting suspended because you wanted to smoke in the bathroom,” Olivia said.
“But, you could’ve said something! Honestly, Elliot. She ran out of the damn bathroom and I know she had to’ve seen the vice principal coming, but did she yell for us to put out stuff or even run for cover? No way! She just kept running.”
“Damn straight, I kept running. By the time the fire alarms were going off, I was already out of the building. I remember because all the freshmen I had passed were just looking at me like I was some kind of psychic since I knew we’d have to evacuate. It was great. My finest hour and I never even got to take credit for it.”
“No, her finest hour,” Maya said to Elliot, “was when she sang ‘I Want You Back’ for the school talent show in the second grade!”
Elliot laughed so hard his face turned red as Olivia leaned over to pinch Maya.
“You’re one to talk!” she said. “Who was right up there singing with me, Tito!”
Olivia’s cell phone chimed from the medical nightstand near her bed and she sighed when she saw that Jonathan had left her text message announcing that he was on his way to the hospital.
Unlike her visits with Maya and Elliot, Jonathan’s were far more subdued. They had had several long discussions about “them” and what “they” were going to do, but she still had not made up her mind. She had been told what kind of terror Jonathan had been throughout her disappearance and, while she more or less deemphasized the comments, the reality of the situation surfaced as he and Elliot argued in front of her.
Somewhere along the way, Jonathan had developed a sublime hatred for Elliot and she often found it difficult to sympathize. They had had long talks about his jealousy and the fact that it was unnecessary, but he never seemed to accept her promises and she wondered whether or not she should end the relationship in its entirety.
She had not allowed Jonathan to kiss her on the lips throughout her stay in the hospital, whereas she had increasingly allowed Elliot to kiss her cheek goodbye and hold her hand for extended periods of time. Maya had teased her for years that she might be falling for her partner and she never paid the thought any mind, but in recent weeks, Elliot had been the one who refused to leave her side under any circumstance and she found herself pondering that upon many other thoughts that berated her consciousness.
His was the first face she saw when she first awakened from the horrific darkness and, while most memories were a blur, she could remember calling out for just one person when she thought her life was in peril; not Maya, not Jonathan, not Jillian, just Elliot. He was her rock and, after several conversations, she found herself longing to simply be near him.
Still though, Olivia thought as her eyes panned her spacious hospital room.
There was still, and always had been, the problem that Elliot was her partner, the same partner who still sought reconciliation with his estranged wife and the same partner with entire life that did not concern her and, meanwhile, Jonathan was ready, willing and available for her.
Jonathan had pulled out all stops for her at every step of her treatment. Instead of spending her time recovering in a stark and uninviting box, Jonathan had ensured that her room was decorated just enough to awe all of her visitors. Her sheets were highly sterilized, but still 350-count and her bed had been specially made for her with a thickness and comfort that rivaled anything found in the hospital. Together, he and Jillian arranged several of her pictures in the room along with a new decoration everyday and had even surprised Olivia one morning when she woke up to find her beloved afghan wrapped around her, heavily sanitized, of course.
Though she had heard how Jonathan’s behavior had reached disgusting levels in her absence, Olivia could not deny the fact that he put more effort into her recovery than any other person she knew.
Maya and Elliot always made time for her, just to keep up her spirits, but some days even they would only be able to call her for a while due to work or simply fatigue. Jonathan was the only person who came to see her every single day since he learned she had been found. Whether it was just for a few minutes in the morning or just before she went to sleep, Jonathan always came to see her.
He surveyed the hospital’s facilities and then worked with several members of the hospital board to have the most up-to-date machines installed and he even endowed Dr. Weiss with everything he needed, financially and aesthetically, to make certain that he had cleared his schedule and would have no other patients to attend except Olivia. While he had made himself more than a nuisance to her co-workers, Jonathan had time and time again shown himself as someone would literally do anything for her.
Within ten minutes of his text, Jonathan was knocking at Olivia’s door, breaking her reverie with a shining smile.
“Hey!” he said, pulling up a chair beside her. “How are you feeling today?”
“Okay. As good as I can be for the time being.”
“Don’t worry, Olivia. We’ll have you up and running in a just a couple more weeks. I’m sure of it.”
She smiled at the buoyant enthusiasm in his eyes as he squeezed her hand. “What brings you here on a Tuesday afternoon?”
“Just got a little something for you,” Jonathan said and then called toward the door. “Danny.”
A tall, lanky man dressed in all black, with a young face, but with a poorly hidden, receding hairline stepped into the room carrying a large suede case in one arm and small suitcase stand in the other. He set up the suitcase stand with quick, elegant movements, gently set down the case and opened it facing Olivia to reveal the contents that lay within it.
“Wow!” she said, unable to disguise her surprise. “A real Stradivarius?”
She had never seen anything made by the master of stringed instruments up close previously, though she saw a cello once in passing at auction with her mother before she had ever started playing. Olivia could only stare at it, unsure it could be real and unwilling to imagine the amount of money Jonathan had spent in acquiring it.
“Yep,” Jonathan said. “I had
someone fly it here from an auction in
“In this case? That’s a Negri Diplomat. I’m surprised the suede didn’t get damaged during the flight.”
“No, I had someone fly it here. Would you believe the airline made me buy a ticket for it, too? Just because it was taking up a seat.”
“Jonathan…this is too much for me. Seriously. I don’t think I can accept this.”
“It’s not like I can just return it, Liv. It’s a gift.”
“I already have a violin. This is too good for me.”
“Oh, well,” Jonathan sighed “At least it’ll look good in the corner of my apartment.”
“Thanks for taking the time to visit me, anyway though and bringing…company.” She nodded at Danny, not quite sure what to make of his stoic and silent demeanor in the corner of her room. Danny only stared at Jonathan with large blank eyes.
“Playing hooky’s always fun when you have someone wonderful to spend the day with. And, because I know you and I know you very well…Danny?”
The tall man nodded once and had left the room for only a moment when he returned with a weathered violin case in hand.
“You brought it!” Olivia said and she threw her arms around Jonathan. She then rolled her chair forward to meet her own violin before Danny had walked more than three steps.
“Yeah, I figured you’d probably
want to play it rather than the one someone flew across the
“Well, a Strad violin is like artwork. You’re not really meant to play it unless you’re a complete master. At least, that’s what I say. Now, if it was Strad cello…”
“A Stradivarius cello is even out of my range, plus a violin’s a little more portable than a cello.”
“You’ve got two hands and a good back. Where’s the problem?”
Jonathan laughed as Olivia opened the old case taken from Danny. She ran her hand over the old Amati model her mother had bought for her on her seventeenth birthday for a full minute before picking it up to tune it slightly.
“You bring any music?” she said looking at Jonathan.
He glanced at silent Danny who then produced sheet music from a pouch on the suitcase stand and handed them to Olivia.
“Any requests?” Olivia asked as she stared the various sheets of music
“I just want to hear you play.”
She held up the violin bow, but glanced at Danny, feeling oddly self-conscious about playing in front of a stranger.
“Thanks Danny,” Jonathan said. Danny smiled and left the room as silently as he entered it.
“Doesn’t say much, does he?” Olivia said.
“Doesn’t say anything. Not in English anyway.”
“None at all? How’d he get in your…service then?”
“Who do you think flew over here with the violin?”
She shook her head and smiled as she began to play the piece before her.
The fingerings came a little harder than she remembered, but after just a few minutes her left hand was creating notes like her old self. Jonathan simply watched her play with his mouth slightly agape and amazed by what he saw and heard. When she finished, Olivia set down the violin and let out a long sigh.
“Thanks. I really needed that.”
“It’s the least I could do while you’re stuck in here. Maya’s the one who’s really doing everything for you.”
“It’s what she does.”
“Has she still got a handle on payments for your credit cards, your rent…?”
“I trust her. She’s my attorney-in-fact and, if she can take care of all the details with the medical bills without much fun, I trust her to do anything.”
“I’m a lawyer too. I could’ve helped with something other than signing checks every now and again.”
“You’re a corporate attorney, Jonathan.”
“I know, but I just feel so helpless and meanwhile she’s doing everything.”
“Yeah, I know, but I wanted Maya to
do it. She did this for me when I went to
“You and Maya…the sisters forever.”
“I don’t know about forever, but she’s never let me down.”
“Don’t do that.”
“Do what? It’s the truth, isn’t it?”
Olivia shook her head. “You might have said some things to me in…the heat of the moment, but I can’t say you’ve ever let me down.”
“Hm…” Jonathan moved his chair closer to hers. “So, give me an example of someone who has let you down. That way I’ll know what not to do in the future.”
“Just people in general. Every monster I’ve ever come across. Every pedophile, every rapist…Mark Landon, the guy who did this to me. Every single one of them cause humanity to let me down a little more everyday.”
“Well, geez. With standards like that, I look like a prince in comparison.”
Olivia smiled bashfully and nudged him. “After all you’ve been doing for me, you are a prince. My own room with a big window…you bought a new laptop for me…you bought a Stradivarius in a Negri Diplomat case! And, you must’ve had Martha Stewart get to this room before me to decorate because this place is nicer than my apartment…or yours for that matter. In any other case, I’d be squeezed into a room in the basement and sharing a bathroom with six other people.”
“Well, I know you’re an only child and probably don’t share well anyway. I figured it’s for the best.”
She squeezed his hand and smiled wider as his eyes lit up at the touch. Any faults or past harsh words seemed to fade as he rubbed her hand and Olivia wondered if her first truly tranquil moment with Jonathan would last.
A moment later, there was a knock at the door and the ambiance in the room changed from serene to tense within the few seconds it took Elliot to cross the room. The wide, contented smile on Jonathan’s face melted into a shallow scorn, complete with furrowed eyebrows and darkened eyes, before Olivia could even turn around to greet her visitor.
“Elliot?” Olivia said rolling slightly from Jonathan. “Why do you look so…”
“I was going to say ‘glum,’ but I suppose ‘pissed’ works just as well.”
“Just had a talk with Casey. Landon’s asking for a deal.”
“I’m surprised she’s even entertaining the idea of it.”
“She’s not, but it’s imperative that we find the guy who kept you all that time.”
“I take it Mark’s not talking.”
“Not unless he gets his deal.”
“Wait a minute,” Jonathan said standing from his seat. “You’re telling me that there was a second guy involved with this and you can’t find him? You mean he’s still lurking out there somewhere?”
“Well, if you know where we should look first, Halloway, we’ll take any hints.”
“Great!” Jonathan yelled. “That’s just fucking great!”
“Jonathan, please…” Olivia said, pulling him to sit back his chair.
“Some guy across the hall grabbed her after you threw her against a goddamn wall and now, you people can’t find the guy he gave…no, sold her to. This is just great.”
“We’ll find the guy!” Elliot shouted.
“Yeah right! Just like you found Olivia? You need to make whatever deal with that guy you need.”
“And you need to leave police matters to the police.”
“You need to-”
“Jonathan, shut up!” Olivia yelled. “The both of you, just shut up! Goddamnit, I can’t take this anymore! What the hell is wrong with the two of you?”
“Nothing’s wrong with me,” Elliot said, his eyes never leaving Jonathan’s. “My guess is Halloway’s just upset because he’s still got a felony hanging over his head.”
“Felony?” Olivia turned toward Jonathan. “What’d you do?”
“He pulled a gun on me,” Elliot said.
“I asked Jonathan,” Olivia said. Her eyes blazed as she turned back toward Jonathan. “You pulled a gun on my partner? Why?”
“I thought he had killed you.”
“No, you didn’t,” Elliot said. “You just got loaded and did something stupid just like any other drunk from the street.”
Jonathan stepped in front of Olivia’s chair with his hands clenched. “Fine. You want to drag my name through shit in front of her just to prove how superior you are to me, fine! You do what you have to do, but don’t step up to me with that bullshit business with the goddamn gun! I don’t know about you, but I was grief-stricken for days before Olivia was found and, if you’re half the man you pretend to be, you’d have done the same thing if you were in my shoes.”
“Don’t pretend for a minute that I’ve got anything in common with you!” Elliot shouted. “All I wanted was come here to deliver some news to my partner, not talk to you.”
“You’ve delivered it and officially wrecked the first good day we’ve had in weeks. Get the hell out!”
“Who the hell do you think you’re talking to? You get the hell out! I’ve been by my partner’s side through every step of this. You just like to jump when you think the opportunity’s right. You’re completely useless in any situation anyway. All you do is cry. That’s all you’ve got.”
“As opposed to brute force and a hard head? I’m not afraid to show my emotions, unlike you. All you’ve got is a temper and a gun! You’ve got nothing else to offer!”
“Oh, I’ll show you what else I’ve got!”
The next four minutes passed in front of Olivia with a blur of motion and the sounds of two men trying to hurt one another as much as possible. At first she just watched as they pushed each other back and forth across the room, but after Jonathan made a headfirst grab around Elliot’s middle and they became a single mass of arms and grunts, she started yelling for them to stop. When her words had no effect, she rolled closer to the angry mass, urging both men to act their age, but again, there was no change to fighting ball that was Elliot and Jonathan.
By the time she made up her mind to call the nurses’ station, Officer Reeves who had been just outside the door, jumped into the fray, attempting to pull them apart only to be sucked into it himself. All three became so oblivious to the world around them, that on a hit initiated by Elliot, Jonathan or Reeves, it was impossible to tell which, the trio fell backwards together, tipping over Olivia and her chair in the process.
She landed softly on the hand-weaved rug Jonathan had bought for her weeks earlier and watched from the floor as the fight ensued. In a last ditch effort to save herself in case the fight grew even more out of hand, Olivia pulled down her IV stand and threw it at them like a javelin, hitting one and then the others, in the shin and in the knees.
“Jesus Christ!” Jonathan yelled, as a dark red spot began growing on his pants leg.
“Liv?” Elliot said, finally noticing her on the floor.
Both men stepped towards her, but she withdrew from both of them and curled into a screaming ball on the floor.
“Just get out!”
Jonathan came forward another step. “Let us help you back in your-”
“I don’t need anything from you! Just get out!”
“Olivia…,” Elliot began as he tried to right her overturned chair.
“Don’t touch anything!”
“Detective Benson, I just-”
“What the hell don’t you understand! Get out!”
Elliot and Jonathan scowled at one another, but said nothing more and Reeves escorted both out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Olivia lay on the floor for close to a minute with her eyes closed, trying to catch her breath from the exertion, while listening for the murmurs outside her door to fade. The fight seemed to flash before her eyes whether they were open or closed and the harried emotions stemming from it kept her heart racing.
While the idea of two grown men fighting one another with a ferocity that marveled the animal kingdom was absolutely abhorrent to her, Olivia could not help feeling the corners of her mouth curl slightly at the thought of two men fighting over her.
No, she thought quickly. Elliot’s not fighting over me. He just hates Jonathan. It’s as simple as that.
After another five minutes of trying to get a sense of meaning from a fight that would have stretched the greatest Socratic logic, Olivia managed to upright her wheelchair and, through a series of kicks that never behaved exactly as she wanted them, had nearly pulled herself back into the chair when she heard her nurse, Jesse knocking at the door.
“Good God!” Jesse said as he rushed toward her side. “What happened?”
She allowed herself to slide back to the floor with a flop and shook her head at the skewed bed, scratched hundred thousand dollar violin, overturned IV stand and the contents of a leaking IV bag that made up her room.
“My thoughts exactly,” she sighed and raised a hand up for Jesse to help her into the chair.
Saint Alexander Catholic Church
Queens, New York
“Elliot! What can I do for you, son?”
Elliot only nodded to Father Denis as he stepped into the priest’s office. The wood-paneled walls were dark and bare, yet the ornate lights that hung from them every few feet gave the office a less gothic atmosphere. Father Denis had christened each of Elliot’s children and also counseled Elliot and Kathy before, during and after their marriage’s end. While in any other situation, he might have simply gone to his brother following something that was an understatement to call simply a fight, Elliot thought it best to consult his priest.
“I’ve run across an…issue and I just wanted to…get your opinion on it.”
“Okay…Have a seat.”
Elliot sat across from Father Denis with a sigh; he always felt so guilty right before he lied to any source of authority. “A guy I work with came to me asking for advice and I really didn’t know what to tell him.”
“Advice about what?”
“About a woman…like I’m the one to go to, right?”
“What’s he come to you about?”
“He’s…he’s in love with a woman who’s not his wife.”
“I see,” Father Denis said, nodding. “Has he spoken to his wife about it?”
Elliot laughed. “’Course not. What’s she going to do except blow the situation out of proportion? I mean, they’re not even together right now and he’s never acted on it before.”
“Well, what sends him to you?”
“Because…he feels like he’s a terrible person now.”
“Why would he think that, outside of the obvious reasons?”
“Well, a part of him just wants her to happy. To be with someone. To not be so alone. But…it’s like the tables are turning on him. Once upon a time, he was the one with the family and someone to come home to and, now that she’s the one with someone and he’s the one who’s alone, he…he feels like he doesn’t want her to leave him”
“But, she was never his to begin with, right?”
“I don’t know. I guess not. I mean, he wants her to be happy, but if she’s happy, that means he’s left all alone.” Elliot sighed again. “There was a night. Not too long ago, they were going over a case and it was just the two of them. They’d had some pizza and some beer and, even though they were working, it was still just the two of them. And, there was this moment when she had leaned back against his couch with her eyes closed…Right then, he knew. He knew that I loved her.”
“Has he told her this?”
“No. No, she’s dating someone. A guy…who loves her, who’d probably kill for her…who’s spoiled and rich and could probably give her every single thing this life could ever offer. More than he could ever give her. When he sees them together, the rational thoughts start coming. He keeps asking himself, ‘Why would she choose me over him? What have I got for her?’ A relationship that would have to be kept undercover so that they could keep their jobs…an ex-wife, who he still loves like he did when he was nineteen…children who love her now because they see her as their grown-up friend, but would hate her if she was the one who kept their parents from getting back together. He couldn’t give her half the life that Ha-…that he can, but he can’t stand back and let it happen either. It’s like he has to do everything in his power to keep her near because if he’s alone, then he’s alone, but if they’re both alone, then they’re alone together and he cherishes that more than anything else.”
Father Denis leaned across his desk. “Elliot…Olivia’s not going anywhere.” Elliot glanced at him wanting to ask how he knew, but realized that even a stranger off the street would probably know about whom his rambled thoughts referred. “If she and the man she’s dating get married, what do you think will change?”
Elliot rubbed a hand over his face as he settled further into his chair. “I don’t know. Nothing probably, but it’s being face to face with him that gets me. Speaking to the man who’ll marry Olivia, who’ll become the father of her children, who she wakes up to every morning…It’s just too much to take.”
“Why Elliot? Don’t you want her to be happy?”
“I do…it’s just. I can’t help thinking that if we were in any other time or any other place…I would be the one. Not Halloway. And, I hate him for it.”
“Elliot…he’s done nothing wrong. He sees Olivia the same way you do. You hate a man for thinking the same thoughts as you?”
“Father, he has everything. All the money in the world, more respect in this city that a badge could ever offer, a big family that cares about his well-being in the end…I can’t even say he’s less in tune with this God. You know, he probably attends mass more often than I do. He has everything and, of all the women in the world that he has to have…”
“It was Olivia.”
Elliot nodded his head. “When there was finally a moment for us…my wife had left me and she was even working in a completely different unit for a bit. There was finally a moment and he took it from me. I never even had a chance to see what could happen with us.”
“I thought you said it wouldn’t have worked.”
“It…it wouldn’t have. But, I would’ve still liked the chance to see it through. I finally have her back, just to get her taken away from me again.”
“What’s really behind this, Elliot? Is it Maureen deciding to live with her boyfriend?”
“I wish it was. I can’t even allow myself to be as indignant about that as I want to be. My mind’s completely preoccupied with Olivia, but she’s barely thinking about me.”
“I think it’s time that you ask yourself what you really want.”
Elliot sat silent, the only sound in the room being the soft tick of the pendulum in the ancient grandfather clock in the corner of the office. “I want…I want…I want to be happy. Actually happy…for an extended period of time before I go to my grave. I want my children to grow up and lead healthy, happy, productive lives. I want to see my grandchildren and I want Kathy there beside me when we see our first one born. And…I want Olivia to just be happy.”
“Do you remember when you first told me about your partner eight years ago?”
Elliot nodded. “Yeah. I was worried because I’d never had a woman partner before and was…unnerved because I hadn’t been that attracted to another woman other than Kathy in my life.”
“And do you remember what you figured out for yourself that day?”
“That I loved my wife and I would never betray her.” He continued nodding as the memories unfolded and mixed with his words. “I can barely even remember meeting her at this point. Just loving her.”
“That I loved being a father and loved being married. It was like the search was over. I wouldn’t have to worry about who I was gonna grow old with. And then…came Olivia.”
“But, you said it yourself just now. You love Kathy like you did when you first got married.”
“Yeah…yeah, I did say that.”
“Did you mean that, or were you speaking for your…guy you work with?”
“I meant it. It’s just that…I got into this knock down, drag out fight with Halloway less than two hours ago and I can’t even figure out what happened. I mean, we knocked Liv out of her chair and we didn’t even realize it until she started throwing stuff at us.”
Father Denis chuckled and shook his head. “I’d wondered why you walked in here with a bit of a limp. Well, if she’s strong enough to break up the fight herself, I’m sure she’s fine.”
“She seemed pretty fine when she was screaming for us to get out, but I’m more worried about Halloway. He brings out the worst in me and I don’t know why.”
The priest stood from his desk and pulled a separate biblical commentary of The Book of Proverbs from amongst the many books on his shelves. He flipped through several pages, found his desired text and handed the book to Elliot.
“Read thirty-two through thirty-five in Chapter Six.”
Skeptically, Elliot stared at the verses and read aloud. “‘For jealousy is the rage of a man, therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not regard any ransom, neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.’ I don’t know, Father Denis. I’m a long way out of catechism class.”
“Nothing in this life is going to give you joy while you remain jealous over something that was never yours to begin with. I’ve never met your partner, but from what I’ve heard from you and Kathy, she sounds like a special person, but what you need to remember is that she has a right to the same happiness that you had opportunity to find with Kathy. It’s easy to be jealous. Anyone can be jealous. It takes a moral man to be happy for his neighbor’s happiness, even if he is suffering slightly.”
“So, I’m just supposed to sit back and let it happen? How do I know that I’m not what would make her happiest?”
“Well, that’s a bold and arrogant statement, Elliot. Surely, you realize that she has a life outside of you. The fact that she knows you should be irrelevant to her personal voyage, especially when the status of your marriage is where it is. How do you know that this is anything more than lust for a beautiful woman?”
“It’s not lust.”
“If it’s not lust, I can’t say that it’s anything good. The infatuation is causing you to think about your children less, it’s leading you to this erratic greed and it’s causing you to be envious of a person who I know you wouldn’t bother yourself over if you didn’t have Olivia in common. You’ve allowed yourself to become so enraged in a fight with one of her admirers that you lost sight of the prize. It’s not called a deadly sin for nothing, Elliot.”
“It’s not lust,” Elliot repeated and, when Father Denis sighed, he continued. “I know what lust is. It’s looking once and not denying the urge to look again. It’s wanting sex with nothing else. It’s a lot of things, but Olivia is not lust.”
“Why do you think you love her, and the first thing out of your mouth better not be looks.”
“She’s a wonderful person. She’s strong and has a caring heart. I know her like I know myself. I even know what she’s gonna say before it even comes out of her mouth…She loves her job and does it without fear of reprisal, without caring about some corporate agenda. She’s a good person who would do everything in her power to keep the innocent from suffering.”
“And the mother of your children doesn’t have these qualities?”
“Hey, she left me! And, I’m not even saying that. You asked me a question, I gave you an answer.”
“There’s no need to get angry. I’m just trying to present the facts to you because you want to understand why you let an argument get out of control.”
“I don’t love Kathy any less. I just find Olivia…different.”
“Different….” Father Denis sighed and slowly replaced the commentary back on its shelf. “Elliot, you told me earlier what you really wanted: your children to grow up healthy, to see your grandchildren and for Olivia to be happy.”
“But, you’ve also said that involving yourself with Olivia means that your children would hate the both of you, your careers would be in peril and there’s a chance that you would not be able to experience the joys of grandchildren with Kathy.”
“So if say, this Halloway fellow was somehow out of the picture, how does a relationship with Olivia factor into what matters most to you?”
Five minutes later, Elliot was walking the Queens’ street back to his car. He had not been able to answer Father Denis and, after five silent minutes, his priest advised him to say a few rosary prayers and sent him went on his way.
Elliot had been on the force for
years when his first partner left
He could not bring himself to say what he really wanted. Aside from watching his children grow up and seeing his grandchildren, he wanted a life with Olivia. He wanted to love her, make love to her every night, wake up next to her every day, come home to her, cook for her, argue over what to watch on television with her, pay bills on weekends with her and simply be with her. He wanted the best of both worlds.
“How does a relationship with Olivia factor into what matters most to you?”
He could not answer his priest earlier, but now spoke aloud. “I doesn’t.”
In essence, Jonathan Halloway came along at what could be deemed the perfect moment. He kept any possible relationship from blossoming between them and by doing so entertained the possibility that they could all achieve some level of happiness in the end.
Elliot shook his head sullenly as he got back into his car. It must be fate.
Mount Carmel Hospital East
Olivia tilted her head slightly as she stared out the window of her room. The rain had rolled over the city quickly from the west and she found it fascinating that the world looked blurred through the many raindrops that descended to the city. To the east, the sky was nearly black from the impending dusk and the overcast grey and, the clouds seemed to form a slow-moving line of grey and greyer directly over the hospital.
The better part of the past two hours had been spent in her wheelchair, staring out her window in the same position; not depressed, but still overwhelmingly disappointed.
Once Jesse had got her back into her chair and down the Blue Room where the therapy facilities were, Olivia could not get over Elliot and Jonathan’s fight in her room. She had tried to push it out of her head, but with one failed attempt at aided standing after another, the fight was all about which she could think and she left the Blue Room, once again, unable to push herself to her feet without toppling.
Trying to remain positive, Jesse tried to assure her that she most likely was not hurt from the fall out of her chair, but the idea of some extended injury to her body during the fight was never what was bothering her. At the moment she hit floor, Olivia hated both Elliot and Jonathan and could only shake her head as she pondered on whom should be hated more.
The blue-grey of night and the overcast dark of the passing storm passed over one another in the sky like a Venn diagram and Olivia nearly jumped in her chair at a knock from the door behind her.
“Hey!” Allison said, her red hair looking brown from the rain. Her son was in a yellow raincoat as he hung in the baby sling over her chest.
“You came,” Olivia said as she turned toward them. “I didn’t think you’d make it because of the rain.”
Allison took off PK’s rain coat and gracefully handed him to Olivia as she set her umbrella outside the door.
“We’re okay,” she said. “Plus, I know he’s tough and little rain won’t stop either of us.”
Olivia bounced PK in her lap a few times as he began grabbing at everything in sight; her necklace, her teeth, her hair, everything.
“How are the legs?” Allison said.
“Well…at least they’re still attached and not waiting to be dissected by some med school student.”
Allison gave her a sad smile. “It’ll happen, Olivia. I don’t know a lot about these things, but I know. It’ll happen.”
PK squirmed in her lap, suddenly fascinated by Olivia’s mouth as she smiled at him.
“Hey,” Allison said, “do you know the name of that blond guy out there at that desk?”
Olivia stared at her for a moment trying to put a face to “that blond guy.”
“Jesse? He’s one of my nurses. He’s been with me throughout most of this.”
“Really...I talked to him a bit while the cop outside made my sign my name on the sheet thingy out there. He’s cute. Very, very cute.”
“Yeah,” Olivia laughed. “He’s also a very nice guy.”
Allison glanced at the door. “Guess he’s probably dating someone, too.”
“I don’t know. We’ve never really talked about relationships much. Though…I can’t help noticing you’ve been talking about PK’s father less and less lately.”
Allison’s eyes fell toward the floor. “Yeah. We’re…we’re not quite together anymore.”
“I don’t know,” she said shrugging. “I don’t think we were that together when I got pregnant. I was kind of just hoping that since I gave him a son, he’d stick around, but I guess that’s just how guys are.”
“Not all guys are like that, Allison. A lot of guys stick around no matter what.”
“I don’t need a guy to survive. Our moms both did it. I can too.”
As Allison played with PK’s small hands, Olivia saw herself at twenty-four like her cousin before her. A young woman with an alcoholic mother, nearly crazy with the willingness to get out of her mother’s house at any costs and hitting that first moment when she realized she might be alone in the world.
In six Christmases out of eighteen, Olivia could remember instances where she had had close contact with her mother’s sister. On the last they had spent together as a family of sorts, when Olivia was fifteen, Sylvia had brought the Jack Daniel’s and Olivia could remember holding her then two-year-old cousin with her has they hid in the closet while an argument between Sylvia and Serena had escalated into something resembling what she saw in Elliot and Jonathan.
Olivia stared at her cousin’s son and resisted the urge to simply burst into tears. There was a strong possibility that she would not have children of her own, but resolved not to allow anyone else in the Benson family to grow up the way she and Allison had.
“Allison,” she said. “If you ever need anything, just let me know. Anything at all. Food, money, a place to stay, anything at all.”
Allison nodded, though she did not bring her eyes to meet Olivia’s.
“So,” Olivia said, trying to change the subject. “How’s the job going?”
“It’s not. Got fired on Saturday. Sarah tried to vouch for me, but my position’s only got so much paternity leave and with David being an ass about PK…”
“What are you going to do?”
“Don’t know just yet. There’s always the center where David works, though I’m not sure if I really want to be in such close proximity to him. And then, there’s always the good, old-fashioned unemployment line.”
“At the very least, you should be suing David for child support if he’s not going to own up to his responsibilities.”
“What for? I don’t have any money to do it and he’ll find some way to get out of it.”
“He brought a child in the world and, even if he’s not going to maintain a relationship with you, he still has to take care of his kid. And you’re in Jersey. David’s got to pay up until PK’s out of college.”
At that, Allison finally smiled. “I guess he owes me that much, right?”
“More than that much. A friend of mine is an attorney and, if she can’t find someone good in family law, she’ll do it herself.”
“I hope she shares the same enthusiasm as you do.”
“Trust me, she will.”
Allison laughed. “If you say so. But…speaking of some of your friends. I heard on good authority things got a little interesting in here earlier today.”
“Yeah,” Olivia said rolling her eyes. “My partner and my…friend.”
“Well, go Olivia! You’ve got two guys duking it out over you? That’s awesome!”
“No, it’s not. There’s nothing awesome about two grown men acting like they’re five.”
“Who started it?”
“I don’t even know at this point. I guess Elliot threw the first punch, but Jonathan’s the one who escalated the whole thing.”
“Come on, though. How often do you hear of guys actually fighting over a girl outside of Jerry Springer?”
“They weren’t fighting over me. They’re fighting because they got into a spat when I was gone and now they just can’t get over it.”
“Whatever,” Allison said. “I’ve never seen two guys fight sober just because of an argument. For guys to fight like what I that nurse, Jesse, told me about, there has to be a lot of rage involved.”
Olivia shook her head, causing PK to begin grasping at her eyelashes and eyebrows. “The only person who’s entitled to be feeling any rage over that fight is me. They knocked me out of my chair.”
“You seem okay now.”
“That’s only because I felt better after I got them both with the IV stand.”
Allison sighed and tipped her finger into PK’s hand so that he grasped it firmly. “Olivia, I may be a bit younger, but I know men and I know how they act when they’re jealous. I don’t care what you say, they were fighting over you.”
“That can’t be it. Elliot’s not jealous of Jonathan. He’s never been jealous of any of my boyfriends, so why would he start now?”
“What’s the longest you’ve been with a guy?”
Olivia paused, though she already knew the answer. “Two years. With Jonathan.”
“Well, that just proves my point. Up ‘til now, your partner hasn’t had to share you with anyone and, if I know anything about cop clichés, your boyfriend probably thinks something’s up between you and Elliot. So, you’ve got Jonathan who’s jealous of your relationship with your partner and then you’ve got your partner who realizes he’s eventually gonna have to give you up. Add that all together with the stress of what’s happened to you and you get a Jerry Springer fight.”
“Well, that’s a nice little theory, but what’s Elliot giving up? He’s my partner, not my ex.”
“But, I’m sure there’ve been moments-”
“Up until two years ago he’s been married and there haven’t been any moments.”
“I know what I’m talking about, Olivia.”
“Please. You’re twenty-four. You can barely rent a car.”
“But, I still know guys.”
“When was the last time you had an extended conversation with two people over forty, and your mother doesn’t count?”
Allison smiled. “I’m telling you, two respectable types like your partner and that Halloway guy don’t throw down like that for anything but a girl…you.”
Olivia laughed and held up PK. At three months old, his light brown hair was beginning to come in and his eyes that would not decide if they were blue or green could focus on her face and expressions. She broke into a wide smile and he exchanged a toothless grin in return.
“PK…,” Olivia said in high, but soothing baby-voice. “You’re mommy is messed in the head, d’you know that? She doesn’t make any sense at all. S’ok though. Aunt Liv will be here for you when you want a voice of reason.”
By the time Allison left that night, Olivia had given her the numbers to several people at the 1-6 who could get Allison into a dispatcher’s position within the month and she had promised to talk Allison up to Jesse when she found the chance.
Olivia took up her post by the window to watch the lights of the city twinkle in the dark, her mind, once more, a whir of thought.
She had not been fully honest with her cousin in stating that there had not been any moments between her and Elliot. There was one incident, several years earlier, when Elliot had kissed her neck while embracing her after coming to terms with his wife’s departure.
They had just closed a case that ended with the mother of the victims divorcing her husband for allowing their children to be in the presence of a child molester. Elliot had taken the case to heart as the youngest child was Lizzie and Dickie’s age and afterward Olivia had offered to buy Elliot a few celebratory drinks. A few drinks quickly turned into many and Olivia drove Elliot home that night, knowing that he had done the same for her not a month earlier, and it was in the quiet darkness of Elliot’s apartment that he hugged her whispering that he had nothing left.
Following the single kiss on the neck, Olivia suffered weeks of dreams that included her and Elliot in various positions in her bedroom. She had the fantasies all the time, even after she had started dating Jonathan, and was caught voicing one of them while she was coming out of a slight concussion during her stint in Oregon.
As much as she hated to admit it, at some point during her partnership with Elliot she was no longer simply accustomed to his company, but craved it. She enjoyed every moment they spent together, even when they were arguing, and she rather guilty relished in the fact that he spent more time at the precinct following his separation.
Fatigue began to weigh heavily on her eyes and Olivia rang for the nurses’ station for someone to help draw her bath.
The fight between Elliot and Jonathan that day surprised her more ways than one. While she was surprised that grown men would stoop to such low actions, what surprised her most was that she had been considering which of the two she wanted most when in all actuality, Jonathan was the only one who was supposed to be hers. Elliot was her partner and, in many ways, her best friend and yet, of the two, Jonathan was the only one to whom she had ever whispered “I love you.”
Olivia let out a sigh much deeper and longer than normal as Nurse Tina, the one with the sour face, who always let the water get either too hot or too cold, came into the room, looking sorry that she had ever entered nursing. The changing expression on Jonathan’s face as Elliot joined them that afternoon floated in front of her and for the first time since she had him, Olivia wondered if she had been lying to Jonathan from the start of their relationship.
Maybe he really does have something to worry about.
West 87th Street and West End Avenue
When Elliot stepped into Michael Debbs bar, he had half a mind to walk right back out again. Throughout the entire trip to the west side, he continually shook his head and asked out loud, “Why am I doing this…Why am I doing this?”
Behind the bar, Debbs nodded at him and Elliot nodded in return, but instead of heading towards his normal booth, he walked across the restaurant and took a seat next to the black-haired man at the bar.
“I didn’t think you were going to show,” Jonathan said as he sat slightly hunched over his half-finished plate.
“I wasn’t, but I figured even you didn’t deserve to be stood up.”
“Yeah, and only an ass would do that.”
Elliot paused. “You know, I feel like I’ve had this conversation before.”
“Maybe,” Elliot repeated as he nodded for Debbs to bring him a drink. “So, Halloway. This isn’t your side of the city. What’re we doing up here?”
“I’d been driving around for about four hours and, when I got hungry, this was the first place I saw. I’d never been here before, but they grill a good steak.” Jonathan went silent as he watched Debbs pour Elliot a Rolling Rock without Elliot openly asking for one. “I take it you’ve been here before though.”
“A couple times.”
Several silent minutes later, Elliot felt his eyes droop from his previous exertions with Jonathan that day and could feel his patience wearing thin at the same time.
“All right, Halloway. You called me, asked me to come up here and I’m here. What do you want?”
“I don’t know why it is, but you just bring out the worst in me.”
Jonathan sighed. “Look…We can’t have a repeat of today’s fiasco, all right? Let’s just say, we’ll each keep our mouths shut when we’re both in the room. Okay? That way, no arguing, no fighting and no angry Olivia.”
“Fine. Was that all?”
“Yeah, that’s all.”
“Good.” Elliot quickly drained the rest of his drink and opened up his wallet.
“No,” Jonathan said. “It’s on me.”
Elliot stared at him for a moment with narrowed eyes before nodding and leaving him alone in the bar. Once back in his car, Elliot stared at his reflection in the rear-view mirror for a moment before mumbling to himself and driving towards the bridge.
“Still a bastard…”
Unknown Time and Place
Everything was in shambles. No, not yet. Everything was nearing shambles, but it was not quite there.
He had managed to find two others in hopes of continuing his work; hookers whom he lured with the promise of free crack, but he had forgotten how crazy a crack whore could be when she had to do without and both had to be put down before he could really get anything done.
In earlier weeks, he had salvaged a newspaper from the homeless in the area and found that Mark Landon had been arrested, but the newspaper had been too water and urine soaked to make out the name of Mark’s victim. The first letter began with an “O,” and he had felt his face grow oddly flush as he had tried to make the most out of the article. He was certain “O” was her, but in what capacity he could not remember. All that mattered was that she had survived and Landon, the little coward, could be depended on to do nothing but squeal and then everything would be in shambles.
He walked quickly down the creaking flights of stairs and prepared the bits of stale cracker and generic watered “Flavor-Aid” to be given to his objects. The same bits he had been using for years were scattered into three small paper cups and the red drink was poured into cups of equal size. At one point in time he would have needed as many as eight cups of each, but he learned eight was too many and it was now appearing that even three together was two more than safe. A leader always arose whether it was eight or five or just three and, like always, it would have to be put down as well in order to maintain his ways.
As quick as he was able to move down the stairs, he completed the old ritual and flew back up the stairs to slide the gift through a small door on the fifth floor.
It was impossible not to notice, however. Normally, they swarmed the door as soon as he was few steps away from it, hungry from their last exercises with him and from their last meal the previous day, but in the recent weeks they were not nearly as ravenous as they had or should have been. He was certain something else must have been feeding them. Not literally, but simply the idea that escape was a possibility seemed enough for them.
He threw the old tray in the corner with the countless others left for the rats to scavenge the remaining bits and headed for the top of the building. At the tenth and final landing, he opened the grate to the ventilation shaft and made a familiar upwards trek toward the city air. His movements were silent, perfected completely over time through grace and a lean, but strong frame, and his breath caught momentarily as the night air filled his lungs at the top of the shaft.
Once on the roof, he shielded his eyes from the bright haze that glowed from the city lights. His eyes never adjusted properly when he ventured out in the city as even the soft streetlights had become too harsh for his pupils to withstand.
He approached the side of the roof and peered over the edge to ensure the alley behind the building was as barren as normal. With near catlike agility, he swung himself over the edge to hang silently from the metal pipelines that ran down his building, like many others in the city. A hundred feet below him, the ground was wet from weeks of April storms, yet the height did not faze him in the least.
Aided by the pipelines, his movements down the building were swift and he quickly found his way to the ground with a grace few but the half-inebriated homeless ever viewed. He had learned long ago that his fingers could easily find the nuances in brick buildings and it allowed him to crawl up and down walls as if his hands had a spider-like stick to the bricks.
On the ground, he pulled up his hoodie. Even in New York, his skin would draw stares and suspicions and the less often he was seen, the better. He came to the edge of the alley and approached the large post box that stood fixed to the corner of the building.
The front of the building was a labyrinth of locks and chains intended to keep out intruders, but they were simply a farce to allow the building to stay inconspicuous. Several “Closed for Maintenance” signs hung across the series of chained front doors and they had not been moved since he began his trade. Not when the mayor wanted the building torn down, not when developers came seeking the land for other ventures, not ever.
The deeds to the building and the one neighboring his alley were both in his name, stored in a safe deposit box to which he would send Arriston if something was ever needed, but he always preferred simplicity over the mania the mainstream brought upon themselves and rarely needed anything from the safe.
When the city developers were literally at his door inquiring on the status of the building, all they were told was that a deal was closing “soon” and this they were told by a friend of a friend of someone who was well-paid, asked few questions and brought packages to their required places, at their required times.
He reached inside of the rusting black box that hung on the side of his dilapidated building and pulled out a large brown paper bag. Inside were a month’s supplies, enough for him, anyway. Water, juice, canned corn, flour…bullets. He loved his work and had learned to survive on little to keep his time spent working instead of running from law enforcement.
Inside the box he left an envelope that would be removed for its recipient days later, also under cover of darkness. The cash paid for everything and as he loved what he did, he always had enough of it and, though he knew the bastard stole from him from time to time, it was easier to place vague trust in someone who was more or less ignorant, than to fully trust anyone.
It was foolish to trust Landon to do anything. Throughout all of his work, he had become too soft and the want for company that did not cry and scream had made him unable to see what was happening in time. There was no doubt that Landon would get his; it was just a question of the means.
As he approached the walls again intent on making his lissome trek back to his humble dwellings, he heard the shouts of several ladies of the evening making their way down the street.
Knowing he could not be seen from the darkness of his alley, he watched them for a moment, bemused by each of the ones hopeful to sell some of their wares that night. The smallest and darkest of the group was thin and pretty and reminded him very much of the ones he had found in hopes of continuing his work, yet with the clear absence of burns from a crack pipe.
As the group seemed to settle across the street, he made a mental note to seek her out on his own and made his journey up the wall, though a bit slower under the weight of his supplies. He would use her just enough and let her go with a message in mind.
The prostitutes in the area were always eventually sent to Rikers Island for one reason or another and he knew the act of performing how he did had the ability to stay on a object’s mind long after he had finished with her. If he happened to repeat the name “Mark Landon” several times as he worked, reiterating over and over his attitude toward people of colour, he might get lucky enough to have the same information filtered to some choice inmates at Rikers Island. Then, the Landon problem would no longer be a problem.
Thursday April 19, 2007
Mount Carmel Hospital East
Olivia huffed as she pushed the wheels of her chair toward the elevators on her floor.
Nearly all of the previous day had been spent receiving apologies from Jonathan and then Elliot and then Jonathan again later that night. When they arrived, their apologies were almost identical; they had both talked and had agreed they would not allow their situation, whatever that was, to get out of hand again.
Not ready to forgive either of them after her fury on Tuesday and later disappointment on Wednesday when she sank back into her chair following yet another failed attempt at standing, Olivia dismissed both of them outright. When they arrived at the same time that morning, each bearing flowers, she informed them collectively that she would call them she was ready to see either again.
Jesse walked up to her within minutes of her chair arriving in front of the elevators and smiled when they made eye contact.
“Is today, the day?” he asked, eyes bright.
Olivia nodded. “Yes. Today’s the day.”
“Good, ‘cause I’ve got a surprise for you.”
He pushed the down button for the elevator and Olivia eyed him suspiciously as they waited for the lift.
“What kind of surprise?”
“Well, it wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you now.”
“You can give me hint.”
Jesse only shook his head and pulled Olivia and her chair into the lift. When the elevator doors opened on the bottom floor, Olivia laughed out loud at the sight of Maya and Jillian standing in wait for her outside of the Blue Room. They each held short blue and white pompoms and were shaking them when they saw her.
“See?” Jesse said as he pushed the chair off the lift. “You’ve got cheerleaders today, so today’s got to be it!”
Olivia laughed with her friends again as they rushed to get her into the therapy center.
The facility was painted white with many mats and machines coloured blue, making it very calm and the kind of place where she always wanted to simply lie down and take a nap. Naps were not allowed in the so-called “Blue Room,” only progress, as her main therapist, Cedric, often said.
The Lokomat, the only machine in white, stood on the far side of room and, while Olivia longed to begin working on it, Cedric always reminded her that if she could not stand upright, the robotic treadmill was not going to do her any good. She had read article upon article about the speed of recovery and the depths to which patients regained their mobility after using the machine and she knew in her heart that if she could just get on it, she would put every doctor who doubted her abilities to shame by walking by the end of the summer.
Together, Cedric and Jesse helped Olivia onto the narrow, but deep bench that sat at the end opposite the Lokomat. In front of Olivia was a series of mats and covered bars and the sides of the bench were covered in foam.
All you have to do is get up, she said to herself. Just get up.
“You ready?” Cedric asked as he stood in front of her.
“Yes,” she said. “Today’s the day.”
Cedric nodded and held out his hands ready to catch her as he had every during every other session of physical therapy.
Resolve set, Olivia put her hands on the sides of the bench and pushed down on her arms until she broke out in a sweat. She pushed her legs deeper into the ground, but already they were beginning to shake under the strain and her bottom was still in the bench. With a slight whimper and a grunt, she extended her arms and pushed her body out of the chair and into a mostly diagonal, but upright position.
Her arms were shaking as were legs and her breathing had become ragged from the stress, but she continued pushing against her arms to push herself upright. Cedric stood in front of her, while she felt Jesse just beside the chair, both ready to catch her.
She pushed herself forward again, but could feel shaking in her legs giving way to weakness and felt her body falling backward as with every other attempt.
“Oh, no you don’t,” Jesse said, putting his hands at her hips and keeping her steady. “Not today. C’mon Olivia. Today’s the day, remember? Today’s the day.”
Her body shook even harder at being caught between half-standing and half-falling and every muscle was straining, screaming for a release.
To her left, Olivia could hear the rustling coming for Maya and Jillian’s pompoms and their cheers began to echo in the room as she felt Jesse trying to push her forward.
“Come on, Olivia,” Cedric said. “All you need to do is get up and stay up. Come on.”
Olivia tried to nod, but even the muscles in her neck would not respond from the strain. She felt weak from staying in the same position and her arms were burning worse than every. Just as she could feel tears brimming as her body began to fold under the pressure, the glimmering white of the Lokomat caught her eye.
“Go Livia!” Maya shouted as if she were cheering at a Knicks game. “You can do it!”
Ignoring the pain that was telling her to give up, Olivia rocked on her arms three times and, for the first time in three months, found herself standing upright. Cedric had a firm grip on her shoulders, Jesse was holding her hips steady and her legs were shaking from her ankle to her hip, but she had done it; she was standing.
Maya and Jillian were on their feet cheering and, between hearing them and the sensation of seeing the world from her proper height, tears began streaming down Olivia’s face. Her problems with Elliot and Jonathan, the memory of a cold, dark place and any thoughts of Mark Landon were somewhere far away from her. All that mattered was that she stood upright.
I did it, she thought, as the tears continued to flow. I got up.