Everything about the inside of Rikers Island was abhorrent to Olivia. The colour of the walls, the sounds of the clanking metal bars, the hooting inmates who yelled obscenities to her as she passed and especially the sound of “Woman on the block!” that was shouted by each new officer that escorted her down the dim corridors.
She had not expected to visit a jail so quickly after beginning with the force again and had weighed the idea of even going, but the message had sounded so dire and there was a part of her that needed real closure on the situation. She also knew that a side of her brain wanted to aid at least one person throughout the messes created in the past six months. On the other hand of that, however, she was still glad she had to check her gun before entering the prison.
It had taken several days for her to stop mourning for Amy and also for Evelyn again as it seemed that no matter how hard she tried, victims kept slipping through her fingers. Elliot, Maya and Jonathan had been supportive of her, allowing her to cry when she needed and helping her smile when she needed to be uplifted.
What Olivia had found to be most helpful and stimulating was playing her cello once again. It was not until she had taken the new bow Elliot had bought in her hand that the horrors of the previous months seemed to float away with ease. She would drag a chair next to the baby grand piano in the sitting room and play for hours at a time. Her hands remembered how to play almost instinctively, even better than with the violin or the piano and, unless Jonathan interjected on health concerns, she sometimes played forgoing food or sleep just to keep the demons at bay. Eventually, she was able to push the thoughts of Evelyn, Amy and the darkened room where dozens of faces had stared out at her into the depths of her subconscious as she prepared for returning to the force.
The past several weeks at the precinct had gone by in a blur of special moments and miles of paperwork. She had wanted to start with the SVU once again, but as her connection to the unit’s most poignant case was still too strong to settle into a case not concerning her own, Olivia had been assigned to Computer Crimes with an understanding that she could return to SVU when, in the deputy inspector’s words, “the time was right.”
Computer Crimes had been just like she remembered it and she learned a lot even though she was permitted only the easiest desk work at first. When she grew tired of sending faxes and creating spreadsheet after spreadsheet of IP addresses, she latched onto a Detective Donnie Colefaulter and nudged him until he opened up several new cases for her. By the end of that Monday, she had forwarded three cases to Elliot that had the appearance of the special victims unit and an arrest was made Monday night on a fourth case she had traced to an original source who had been working through credit card companies to obtain account numbers of unsuspecting civilians.
Maya had finally closed her case with Luis Cordoval, obtaining four years incarceration for his crimes instead of nine with the help of exchanging the location of his other weapons and also testifying in two other drug-related cases. Olivia was torn at first by the idea that a criminal was getting such a light sentence, but brushed off the incident, knowing that there would come a time when Maya defended a client who really would test the strength of their friendship.
With her apartment lying empty and the rent control on it about to expire with no other tenant, Olivia gave the apartment to her cousin and a thousand dollars of her own money to help get her back on her feet and also to assist with the lease that was still in their grandmother’s name.
The greatest of all the events in June was when she was able to surprise Elliot with a new “trick” she had learned a week earlier.
“Just stand there,” she had said.
“Liv…what are you dong?”
“Just stay there and I’ll show you.”
“Olivia,” Elliot had said, an irritated notch to his voice. “You called me all the way over here. What did you need?”
“I need to show you something.”
“Well, can I at least come inside the apartment?”
“Fine, step into the living room.”
Elliot did as commanded and stood in the middle of the room feeling very foolish.
“All right. What do you want to show me?”
Olivia grinned at the annoyed expression on his face and lifted herself from her chair. She had become quite good at bringing herself into a stand, though she could only stand for minutes at a time, and proceeded to stand, unaided, several feet away from Elliot.
“Neat trick,” Elliot said. “Was that it?”
“Hold on a second.”
Olivia concentrated all thought onto her hips and legs to ensure that they would not buckle as she attempted to move. She shifted her left hip toward Elliot and her leg came with the move. She then threw her weight toward the opposite direction and shuffled her right leg as she stepped forward. Over the courses of two minutes, she slowly closed the gap between them and fell into Elliot’s arms as her legs finally gave way at the other end of the room.
Elliot held back tears as she wrapped her hands around him to keep herself from falling to the floor, steadied her with his own hands and smiled so wide his face hurt from pure happiness. He held onto her for a moment longer than he supposed he should have because after a minute, he felt her pull away slightly, but he held fast. As he embraced her, he opened his eyes to view some of her personality hinted throughout Jonathan’s apartment. There was a very real possibility that he would never again get the chance to just hold her and relished in the moment with each second that passed. His reverie, however, was quickly broken when Jonathan stepped into the living room wearing a hapless scorn on his face.
Elliot helped Olivia back into her chair and paused at the door as Jonathan ushered him out of the apartment.
“I didn’t really mean anything by that,” Elliot said. “She was just showing me that she could walk and then her legs gave out.”
“I know,” Jonathan said, though the reassurance did not reach his eyes. “Just remember, you don’t have to worry about her so much now. She’s in good hands.”
Olivia rolled back into the living room as Jonathan shut the door and sighed. Though they seemed to be on the same accord, it was clear that Jonathan and Elliot still despised one another and only the memory of the look on Elliot’s face when he watched her take her first “step” kept Jonathan’s attitude from bringing down her spirits for the night.
“Woman on the block!” the guard bellowed as Olivia rolled her chair along side him. She had half a mind to snatch him by the uniform collar and tell him that she did not need that promulgation drawing further attention to her, but thought better of it knowing that he was simply doing his job.
As they came down the final corridor, she suddenly felt exposed and frail in her chair and wished that she had brought her braces with her. She could only hobble on them for short periods of time, but she was uncertain of his state and worried that he might try to intimidate her if she could not directly stare him in the eye and scold him properly.
The heavy olive green door at the end of the corridor swung open a minute later and revealed a disconsolate Jeffrey Drover pacing the far side of the room.
“I’ll be just out here if you need anything,” the guard said just before closing the door and leaving them as alone as anyone could be in a prison.
“So,” Olivia said. “You sounded pathetic on the phone. What did you want?”
Drover stepped toward her side of the room and she rolled backward slightly, causing him to pause where he stood.
“You’re in a wheelchair?” he asked.
“Good eye. Yes. Yes, I am.”
“Is this what that guy did to you?”
“I suppose I could ask which guy, but I’m sure it wouldn’t make any difference. Yes. I’m in the chair because of what he did to me. But, I’m in here because you summoned me. What did you want?”
Drover took another step toward her. “I need to talk to you.”
“Yes…I figured that. Get on with it.”
“You don’t have to be so bitter.”
“I’m sitting a prison on a day when I could be in therapy for my legs. I have every right to be bitter.”
“You don’t know what my life’s been like. I didn’t mean to be like this.”
“I guess that’s what every brutal criminal says.”
Drover ran a hand through his hair. “I’m not like every other criminal. My dad…my father…did things to me when I was Connor and Ricky’s age.”
“And, that gives you the right to turn around and do that to other boys?”
“No…but look, I’ve come to terms with it.”
“And, I’m sure that’s a real comfort to those boys’ families.”
“I stayed friends with those kids because I knew it was wrong and I didn’t want them to turn out like me.”
Olivia shifted in her chair. “Okay, just so that we’re both on the same page…you abused all those boys and stayed friends with them so that they’d forgive you and not report you. Don’t try to twist it around.”
“That’s not how it happened.”
“Yeah, sure. And Daniel? You abused all those kids and then turned right around and started abusing him.”
“I fell off-”
“I don’t wanna hear about this, Drover. Our DA got me the court transcripts to Kreider’s trial, so I’ve already heard this bull. Now, I know that’s not the only reason you dragged me all the out here. Get. On. With. It.”
Drover sighed and leaned against the wall for a moment before shaking his head and tearing slightly at the eye. “You have to help me.”
Olivia laughed and shook her head. “You know…I’ve met some really bold and arrogant pedophiles in my time, but you…you’ve managed to top them all.”
“No, you don’t understand. I-”
“Actually, I do understand. Let me guess. You want me to talk to Judge So-and-So to help you get some kind of lighter sentence because you think you can get some kind of sympathy through a cop in a wheelchair.”
“That’s not why I need you.”
“Oh!” she said with false surprise. “Well, then enlighten me, Jeffrey.”
“There are people…real criminals in here. Guys who’ve murdered people just because they didn’t like they way they walked.”
“Welcome to prison. It’s a bitch, isn’t it?”
“No, you don’t understand! The…the correction officers or something have told all the people in here that I’m a child molester.” His breath caught. “I’m…I’m getting it everyday. Every single day. And, it’s always somebody new. You’ve got to help me.”
She rolled her chair closer and spoke in a clear voice. “Jeff. I don’t know how to break to this to you, but you are a child molester and you are getting nothing more than your just rewards in here.”
“Please!” he said kneeling in front of her. “I’m willing to pay for my mistakes, but no one deserves to be-”
“To be what?” she hissed. “To be raped? Like you did to eight, eight, kids. They were children for Chrissake. You ripped apart their childhood and you lied about it! To my face! Multiple times!”
Drover put his head in his hands and cried in front of her, but she was sickened by the sight and scowled at him.
“My partner tells me that you confessed to raping Daniel Richardson as recently as the Friday before he was murdered…Kreider picked out these boys because of what you had done to them and what you were still doing to them. As far as I’m concerned, you’re just as guilty for murdering them as he is.”
“I didn’t…” Drover pulled his hands away from his face and large grey eyes were so wet they showed Olivia’s reflection like two mirrors. “I didn’t kill them. And I was starting to get help. I swear to God I was.”
“‘Swear to God?’ Are we swearing to the same god on whom you swore you were not touching any boy inappropriately? That one?”
Drover shook on the floor. “I know you have no reason to believe me, but I was. I let Daniel go that night and I’d made up my mind to get help that Monday. But…but, none of that even matters now. I can’t go on like this. I can’t eat or sleep because I know the second I turn around, I’m going to be somebody’s bitch.”
“And, what’s worse for you is that I really don’t care.”
“Please! Just…just talk to the DA. I don’t want to be let out. I know what I did was wrong and I deserve to be in here, but I can’t be in the general population like this anymore. You’re the only one who can do something.”
She scoffed. “You’re a real piece of work, Drover. I’ll give you that much.”
“I’m asking you because you’re the only one who-”
“You’re asking me? Like that night you were asking me to just talk to you and you jumped me and tried to rape me in an alley!”
“I was just so angry that night and I took it out on you and that other kid and I’m sorry-”
“You don’t know anything about anger,” she said. “You’re lucky I was still too sick to testify at your trial or you’d be doing twenty to life after I got through with you.”
Tears spilled from Drover’s eyes and splashed onto the cement floor. “Please…please. I need help. I can’t go on living like this.”
“Well, I would say that life’s a bitch, but I guess you already know that.”
She rolled backwards and called for the guard.
“They’re gonna kill me in here!” Drover yelled from the floor. “You can save my life, Olivia! Just talk to the DA!”
“Jeffrey…even if the Archangel Gabriel came to me in a dream telling me you’d be killed right in front of me, I still wouldn’t talk to anyone. You deserve everything you get in here. So, I suggest you just bend over and take it like a man. Don’t call for me ever again.”
Without turning around again, she rolled herself out of the room and left Drover crying face down on the floor.
Thursday July 12, 2007
Northbound on Madison Avenue at East 81st Street
Olivia’s sigh echoed
throughout the sedan as Elliot gassed the car through another green traffic
light. They had been driving up and down the island for several hours in an
attempt to jog Olivia’s memory. She had remembered seeing the outside world as
she plummeted to the earth and was certain that she had been in
A part of him wanted to use the time away from his other cases to simply think for a few moments without a barrage of other people or problems coming in his direction. He had spent the majority of his evenings in the past weeks with his family and trying to strike up conversation with Kathy, but the previous day had hit him to the point that he was ready to scrap the whole idea of trying to save his marriage.
“…and so now, he’s got two of them,” Kathy laughed, her hands pink with the warm water from the sink as she handed Elliot a wet dish.
He took the dish and began to dry it with a towel in his hand, performing the “You wash. I’ll dry” ritual with Kathy like he had everyday that week.
“I can’t even get over it,” he said. “How the heck does he go from fawning over one girl to dating two girls at the same time?”
“I guess he’s a stud now. Like father, like son.” She smirked as she glanced at him and grabbed a plate to wash.
“What?” Elliot said, smiling at her. “I never did something like that. Not even at Dickie’s age. How does one kid even manage to date two girls at the same time nowadays?”
Kathy shrugged. “No idea, but he doesn’t see a problem with it.”
“You gotta say something.”
“Me? You’re his dad.”
“It’ll be stronger if his mother tells him how terrible it must be for the girls to know they’re not in a monogamous relationship. You talk to him…all the kids for that matter when they get back home tonight.”
“No way, Elliot. He’s too old to fall for that now. You’ve gotta talk to him about it. Besides I already tried. He keeps telling me ‘Mom…it’s no big deal…they’re fine with it.’”
Elliot laughed. “If I know Dickie, this is all some grand scheme he’s created to win back that Jessica girl.”
“You think so?”
“Oh yeah. We Stabler men…we love hard, you know?” He nudged Kathy’s arm as he finished drying his bowl and she stared at him.
“I…don’t want to take that kind of step, Elliot,” she said as she took a step away from him.
“What kind of step?”
“That step.” She pointed at his arm. “I don’t think I’m ready yet.”
“We’re just talking, Kathy,” he said. “I thought that’s all we were doing.”
“It’s too fast.”
“Too fast?” He threw down the dishtowel. “You know, this is getting ridiculous. You’re making me jump through all these damn hoops just to get us back to what we used to have and I’m getting sick of it.”
“I just said we’re moving too fast.”
“Kathy, this is nonsense! What fast? How can we be moving too fast if I just touched your arm? For Chrissake, I can nudge Olivia’s arm without it turning into some kind of affair.”
“I’m sure it didn’t.”
He narrowed his eyes at her. “Are you…are you trying to tell me that I’m working my ass off to save this marriage just because you think I did something with Olivia?”
“Like I said, Elliot…like father, like son.”
“You actually think I had an affair with Olivia?”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me. I can’t be having this conversation.”
“It’s just a simple question, Elliot.”
“Screw that! I’m not the one who had an affair and then threw out her husband because of it!”
Kathy slammed the plate in her hand onto the countertop and it cracked into two pieces in her hands. When she turned toward him, her eyes were ablaze with the kind of anger he had not seen in a long time.
“You know…when you first told me that your new partner was going to be a woman all those years ago, I didn’t worry about it because I pictured some butch woman with crow’s feet. Then, I saw Olivia and I nearly freaked, but I didn’t because I trusted you.”
“And, I trusted you, but you betrayed me.”
She shook her head and crossed her arms. “You want to talk about betrayal? Fine, then let’s talk about a video on the Internet that Lizzie showed me months ago. Let’s first discuss that and then we can go into who betrayed who.”
“Kathy-” he began.
“Let me finish…Now, you weren’t here when Lizzie was calling from her bedroom with Kathleen when they first saw a homemade video that showed their father rolling on the floor with his partner. You weren’t here to try to make up something to tell them on the spot when they both looked at me and said ‘What does this mean for you and Dad?’ I’ve thought about it and prayed about it and thought about it some more, but I honestly thought that the night I told you what I had done or had almost done that you would at least come clean to me about you and Olivia.”
“There’s nothing to come clean about.”
“Elliot, why are standing there lying to my face?” Her eyes were wet, but she did not shed one tear. “I admit that I made a mistake. I saw what I was doing and the path I was going down and I turned away. You on the other hand…There’s a video circulating the Internet for the whole world to see that shows that you were ready to make more than a simple mistake with your partner in the middle of her floor and yet…you still refuse to admit you did anything wrong. You insist on standing right in front of me to lie directly in my face. Why Elliot? I can admit when I’m wrong. Why can’t you? Why do you always have to be the victim here? Why is it that I’m always the bad guy?”
“Because you’re the one who threw me out,” he mumbled.
“Because I needed time away from you to think and now I’m thinking I made the right decision!”
“I have nothing to apologize for.”
“You know what Elliot? Fine. Just go. I don’t need you to apologize to me because there’s no reason for you to. If you don’t care or respect me enough to tell me the truth, then we are just delaying the inevitable.”
“Well, then why won’t you just tell me the truth! For God’s sake, Elliot. Put yourself in my shoes for a second. If you came home and the girls were watching some video that showed me and some man you thought I’d been having an affair with for years, rolling around on the floor and looking like that they were about a half second away from screwing in the middle of a room, you would be just as angry with me right now as I am with you.”
“The difference is I never did anything.”
“And where do we start drawing the lines, Elliot? Because what I saw on the screen looked like something to me. It looked like my husband had been lying to my face for years. Like it was confirmation of what I always knew was going on in the background.”
“How many times do I have to say it? There’s was never anything going on between me and Olivia.” Elliot sighed. “What is it that you want from me?”
“I just want a simple apology. That’s it.”
“Fine. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I almost kissed Olivia in a moment if stress so severe I could barely think. I’m sorry that we’re even having this conversation when I know I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m sorry that even after I’ve told you, repeatedly why I could open up to Olivia about things on the job and not you, you still have some kind of inferiority complex. I’m sorry that you need to make it seem like I did something too in order to justify your own infidelity. I’m sorry that Kathleen had to spend her last years in her house without her father at home. And, I’m becoming sorry that I let up custody of the twins so easily. So, yes. Okay? I’m sorry, Kathy. I’m sorry for a lot of things.”
She glared at him for a full minute before storming out of the kitchen and up the stairs.
He knew he had gone too far and, though he had tried to make amends the next day with a genuine apology, she was not receptive of him and he felt ready to stop all efforts at making the marriage work.
“Anything yet?” Elliot asked as Olivia stared out the window.
“No. If I see something, I’ll let you know.”
He nodded and they continued
Though the progress in her legs had taken great stride recently, as she was now able to hobble along with long braces that attached to her arm and kept her upright, Olivia knew she was at the precipice of a depression.
Jonathan had begun working well into the night and conversation was at a minimum. Much of her time was spent wondering what she had done to push him away and whether or not he was just waiting until she was well before he ended the relationship for completely. The previous night, for the first time since they had first spent the night together, Jonathan slept on the other side of the bed instead of nearly on top of her and she felt cold when she awakened the next day.
In sharp contrast, Maya announced to her that her boyfriend, Amit, had proposed to her and Olivia did her best to display a sense of happiness to her friend, but once Jonathan had slept nearly crouched away from her, she was unable to keep up her own spirits, especially after learning that Jeffrey Drover had indeed been raped and killed while in general population the previous week.
She had been so angry that Drover had even called her for help, but his death weighed heavily on her conscience as she remembered how pitiful, yet sincere he looked when he was pleading for his life. A part of her wanted to pay her respects at his funeral, but in the end, she decided to wipe him from memory as best she could. Her attacker still walked the streets free and as the weeks pressed on without any evidence as to what happened to the man who had held her, it was all she could do to keep herself from allowing a sad gloom from covering every part of her life.
“We never going to find him, are we?” she said as she stared out the window.
“We’ll find him, Liv.”
“I’m starting to lose faith. It’s been sixth months. If we were going to find anything, we probably should have found it by now.”
“If you only knew how many times I’ve had this same conversation…You were gone for weeks Olivia and everywhere I turned people were starting to lose faith and look what happened.”
“It was just dumb luck.”
“Dumb luck that you survived? C’mon Liv.”
“What c’mon, Elliot? It’s the truth. The guy…” She placed her hand against her side. “He dragged me out in the corridor and he shot at me and…I don’t know if it was a burst of adrenaline or what, but if I hadn’t got out of there myself, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”
“But, we found you, Liv. We were going to find you because we were meant to find you.”
“You found me because some poor, traumatized kid found me while his uncle made him go trash digging.”
“Like I said, we were meant to find you, Olivia. It was only a matter of time.”
Olivia crossed her arms. “I just…I just can’t believe that this has happened…any of it. Mark, those boys, the other women, this…animal who’s still out there probably biding his time until he can find me and cut my throat to finish the job.”
“That’s not gonna happen.”
“How do you know? We can’t even find the guy.”
“Olivia, I give you my word as a Catholic and a cop, I will never let that happen.”
She smiled weakly and
concentrated on the buildings on
“And, this will work out,” Elliot continued. “All this…I know this will work out. There was something we were all supposed to learn from this. There’s some kind of lesson here.”
“A lesson? I would’ve preferred the Cliff’s Notes version.”
“We had to go through this. There’s something here that we’ll look back on and say, ‘yeah…that made a lot of sense.’ Some kind of growth or development or something. I mean, I look at myself a year ago and I know I’m already a changed man. Just by having my resolve, my patience, my faith…my emotional strength tested like that…I know this whole experience has changed me. And I think about us like that too. I mean, just looking at us together tells you-”
“STOP THE CAR!”
The car tires screeched to a halt, causing a noxious cloud of burning rubber to float from beneath the car and hang in the air.
“What?” Elliot said, eyes wide.
“Holy shit. That’s it.”
By the time Elliot had put the car in the “park” and taken off his seatbelt, Olivia already had out her braces and was hobbling as best she could to the sidewalk.
“Liv, what is it?” he asked as she stared through the alley between two buildings.
“That billboard…that’s the one I saw.”
“From when though Liv? That Absolut ad has been up for months.”
“No! There was a second…just before I started falling. There was a second and I saw it, clear as day.” She pointed toward the building to her left. “This has to be it.”
“How do you know? You were found in the alley back that way.”
“But, this one is positioned exactly where it needs to be…This is the building. I swear on my life, this is the one.”
“Liv, you were found across 3rd and three buildings away from here. And, a block up further.”
She shook her head as she stared up at the billboard. “This is it,” she whispered.
He nodded at her and approached the building that had been covered with multiple chains and locks interweaving the door handles. Grabbing a set of lock cutters from his trunk, he handed his phone to Olivia.
“Call Casey,” he said as the first of the chain links snapped open. “Tell her we need a warrant for this place and we need it now.”
“Right. I’ll get back-up too.”
Within five minutes, Elliot had pried open the doors and pulled out a flashlight as his eyes tried to search for some semblance of life within the darkness. The air was stale and rank and the only light came from the bulb in the flashlight. Against his wishes, Olivia shuffled through the door behind him and panted as he peered about the first floor.
“Try to find some stairs,” Olivia said. “I’m thinking it was about the third or fourth floor.”
“I’m on it. And, Melinda and I talked about it. I think you might’ve been on the fifth floor.” Elliot took a step forward, but paused and looked back at Olivia. “I’m begging you, Olivia. Go back to the car.”
“No, I’ve got my gun.”
“You’re on braces.”
“And, you could wait for backup.”
“If you’re right about the building, those other women are still in here with him.”
“My point exactly. If I thought I could make it up the stairs, I’d be right behind you. I’ll be fine. Just be careful.”
He shook his head. “At least…stand by the door, okay? Stay closer to the light.”
Olivia maneuvered a hand into her pocket and pulled out a Nextel. “I’ve got mine and you’ve got yours. I’m not going to wait outside wondering if you hit a bad step somewhere. Someone’s got to be able to tell the Unis where to go.”
Sighing, Elliot walked farther into the dark, using his flashlight as a guide against walls and poles. He stepped through the darkened building, occasionally flashing his gun toward rats that flitted from one corner to the other and found a set of stairs that looked like they were intended as an emergency exit.
Five floors later, he attempted to control his panting as a mephitic odor hit his mouth and he pointed his gun down the corridor at the sound of scattering somewhere in the dark.
He could hear the faded sounds of the city through the expanse of black and tried to pique his ears toward any other signs of movement, but his other senses were blocked by the stench that grew more powerful with each step he took down the hall.
The flashlight caught the glimmer of a series of metallic locks on a door midway down the hall and Elliot shifted the light in his hands as he pulled at the door. It did not budge and he searched the walls on either side of the corridor for something that looked like a key holder, but only found smears of red a ways from the door. He put his ear toward the door and thought he could hear the sounds of someone crying.
“Anybody there?” Elliot said against the door, but could not discern the sounds from beyond the door from the buzzing of the flies whizzing passed him.
“El?” Olivia’s voice buzzed through the Nextel. “Is that you?”
“Yeah,” he said as he continued down the hall. “I’m okay.”
As he came to the end of the corridor, Elliot noticed what looked like a wooden door lying on its back through the haze of dark grey light. He stepped toward the opening of the room with his gun drawn and prepared to shoot.
At first he saw nothing as the smell had become so great that his skin burned, but when he walked on top of the broken door and into the room, his eyes finally focused to show a spread of several blank faces stacked on top of one another at the room’s other end. He clapped a hand to his face to block the odor as he took another step in the room, but stopped short as his mind finally processed what lay before him.
Decay had set in at different rates, but each of the faces that stared back at him belonged to bodies that were molted and nude as they lay stacked on top of one another. They wriggled slightly from the massive infestation of maggots that squirmed through each of them as if they were a uniformed mass and he could see the swarm of files batting at each vacant body part.
“Jesus,” he whispered.
“Elliot?” Olivia’s voice said through the two-way. “How’s it coming?”
He stepped backwards and nearly tripped on the fallen door before he came to an abrupt stop at the far wall near a boarded window. A few bits of glass remained on the floor below the window as well as drops what he knew had to be Olivia’s blood. The horrific display that lay in the room caused bile to gather at the back of his throat and, at the sight of not blood, but Olivia’s blood splattered on the floor just next to him, Elliot’s eyes began to water.
“Liv,” he said into the Nextel. “Call Hazmat, too…”
Monday, July 16, 2007
An investigation was just
beginning and for the first time since Elliot could remember, he was not
burning the proverbial oil as he sought a
criminal. Instead, he sat in the brightly lit
The scene he had witnessed four days earlier still nauseated him from time to time and to evade the current wave that was unfurling itself in the pit of his stomach, Elliot took another long drink of his coffee and nervously tapped his foot.
When officers from the sixteenth and neighboring twenty-fifth precincts had arrived with a Hazmat squad, the undertaking seemed almost routine and mundane but, whether it was from word of mouth or simply the innately ominous nature of the building, the milling onlookers soon understood that it was no ordinary crime scene and pandemonium nearly broke out in the streets.
The scene spread before the building previously labeled as “Vacant” was nothing short of grotesque and officers had to increase the perimeter of the police blockade that surrounded the building as more and more onlookers vomited sporadically from the sight and eventually the smell.
It took nearly an hour to ensure the area was secured and only then did a complete search of the building begin. The majority of the upper floors were completely abandoned and it was when the painstaking operation of removing the remains from the fifth floor began that Elliot suspected the scratching behind the large door on the same floor was something more than just the rats. Olivia confirmed what he already feared and the team opened the door to finding a stinking room and in the corner were two women cowering in the corner of the room farthest from the door.
The women held onto one another crying out of grief, fear or relief, no one could discern which, and they refused to separate even after they were moved to a hospital where doctors determined that they had been raped and starved for the entirety of their capture. Detectives attempted to withdraw some kind of statement from them, but they could only cry and seemed physically incapable for piecing words together.
Months of therapy lay in wait for both of them and, Elliot, who had to endure several additional sessions with George to discuss what he had seen, was completely moved by the sight of the women hanging onto Olivia as if for dear life when she had come to see them. Together, all three cried and Amanda Hill and Taynesha Grant were finally able to mumble "thank you, thank you" to Olivia, their minds unable to conceive of anything else.
The bodies of eighteen women, all in varying stages of decay, had been found throughout the fifth floor, including remains of a woman who had been shot in the face weeks earlier, but left to lie on the floor of the room where the two surviving women had been found.
It was only when the woman was identified through fingerprinting as Kimberley McNelson that the downpour of blame began to fall. Deputy Inspector Felton and the commissioner himself came down upon any officer who had touched the case before Elliot and Olivia found the building. From detectives to clerks, everyone was interrogated personally by Deputy Inspector Felton. Not only had their own detective been right in the city throughout the duration of her disappearance, but because the area where she was found had not been searched to the greatest degree, Amy Kettering and Kimberley McNelson’s lives were forfeited for something as simple as negligence.
Six uniformed officers and two plain clothes detectives were fired at the end of Felton’s onslaught of placing proper blame, but the media’s thirst for the story could still not be quenched. Even throughout an exhaustive search of the building’s remaining rooms and possible exit points, the one who had created the mock, but thorough hell for so many women had eluded them. The suspect’s image had been enlarged and enhanced from the pornographic videos found and was given to every local news station in the Tri-State area, but to no avail.
Though Olivia, and eventually Taynesha and Amanda, all gave descriptions describing the same pale, blond man, no trace of him was found in the building. There were some indications that someone ate and slept on some of lower floors, but outside of sandwich wrappers that carried prints that were not in the system and varied filming equipment, they were not able to find anything. Investigators were able to find a collection of pornographic films stored in the basement of the building, some of which showed Mark Landon violating Zachary Calbrach and murdering Andrew Shaw, yet no further evidence could be found.
Felton’s outward rage at not finding the mastermind behind the murders of twenty women even managed to outshine the initial attention that was given to Elliot and Olivia as he vowed that the NYPD would not rest until the culprit was brought to justice. The idea of Felton’s proclamation was almost laughable to Elliot, who knew that if anyone would be losing sleep over the fact that the murderer was still loose, it would be Felton least of all.
Olivia had vehemently refused a police escort at Cragen’s first mention of it, but together, Elliot and Jonathan had come to an agreement with one another to ensure, by one method or another, someone was with Olivia at nearly every moment during the day. Arranging it very carefully and quietly trying not arouse her suspicion, Elliot made arrangements for Olivia to coincidentally run into other cops who “just happened” to be heading in her direction to avoid the necessity of taxis each night and between himself, Jonathan and occasionally Maya and her “friends” who worked at the 19th Precinct, Olivia never spent a minute alone in the apartment she shared with Jonathan.
The first day of constant companionship went without a problem, but halfway through the second, Elliot knew Olivia knew about it and simply acted that the random acts of kindness she received throughout the day were just that.
Even with Olivia relatively safe after the flight of the still unknown criminal, Elliot was uneasy over the entire situation. From the moment Olivia insisted that they had found the right building, he had been fervently scrutinizing every face he saw for his culprit, but a day’s search had turned up nothing and the recurring nausea began to mix with outright anger from not finding his quarry making him sicker than usual, both physically and mentally.
Not knowing anyone better from whom he could seek advice, Elliot did what he had since he was a boy and gave his brother the same weak smile he always did when his thoughts were beleaguered.
“You order me a decaf yet?” Bryce asked as he sat in the chair across from Elliot.
“She’s coming with it in a bit.”
Bryce nodded. “So, what’s going on…besides the obvious, I mean.”
“Just…just been having some trouble sleeping lately.”
“Maybe it’s all these coffee shop trips.” Bryce sighed when Elliot did not respond. “Is it what you saw in that building?”
“I wish it was something better, but that’s all.” Elliot took a drink from his coffee cup and cleared his throat. “You know, I was okay in there until I looked down…and I saw her blood.”
“How’d you know it was hers?”
“I just knew. From how she described what happened, I just knew. I don’t know why, but it only seemed real in that moment. It only occurred to me right then that this happened. My partner didn’t just vanish for a couple weeks. She didn’t just up leave. She was in that place…subjected to that environment…in there with that guy. I can’t explain it, but it only hit me in that second…she really went through hell.”
Bryce broke eye contact for just a moment to accept his coffee from the curly haired waitress and turned his attention back to his brother without missing a beat. “It took you this long to realize that? C’mon, Elliot. Just looking at the couple pictures the media got a hold of tells you that she went through hell.”
“But, it never connected. Like for you, just now. You say she went through hell, but it still hasn’t even clicked for you. To be in that place without any hope of…rescue. Without any way to get out…”
“Yeah, but she got out.”
“But only just, and if she had landed wrong when she fell, if she didn’t even fall at all, if he’d shot a little closer to her center, I’d be…struggling with the fact that the last words I said to her were angry ones.”
“Like Ma used to say…” Bryce sighed again and stared at Elliot for a long time. “Did you freak out in there?”
“No…almost, but no. I called Liv and I made back down the stairs without losing it, but I was close.”
Bryce wrapped his hands around the black coffee mug and tightened his hands twice. “That’s normal though, El. Anybody would’ve had some kind of moment after seeing that.”
“The problem’s that I didn’t start…losing it until hit me how close I was to losing my partner. She could’ve died in there and been just another…just another body in the stack and I would’ve never known. I wasn’t thinking about anything else. Not the job, not the kids. The only thing I wanted to do when I got out of there was just…hold onto her because I didn’t want her to leave me again. And, so I don’t know what to think because Kathy and I were trying to pull things together, but now we’re…I don’t know where we are, but we’re not going forward. All I know is that I haven’t wanted to hold onto Kathy to keep her from leaving me like I had for Liv in a long, long time.”
Bryce rubbed his forehead. “So, what’re you telling me for? You want my approval? My blessing to go ahead and pursue this partner of yours?”
“Do you think I’d even bother asking for your approval if I knew what I really wanted?”
“I don’t know. I figured if I laid it all out there, you’d figure it out.”
“I think…you and Kathy need to make it work. Whatever distance that’s come up between you…that’s normal. Okay? That’s marriage. You’re not the first man wearing a badge to go through this with his wife and you’re not the last, but you owe it to your family…to yourself to at least try to make it work. Otherwise, regardless of what happens with your partner, this is just gonna be hanging over your head for years to come.”
Elliot stared at his coffee cup and jumped slightly when his phone began to beep.
“I gotta go,” he said staring at the display. “The guys at the 1-6 said one of the girls who work near 119th gave them a lead and it looks good.”
“Duty calls,” Bryce said. “Just think about what I said for a bit, eh? And, uh…thanks for the coffee.”
SVU Squad Room
When Elliot stepped into the side room next to the interrogation room, he hoped to see the man Olivia had described sitting at the small table behind the two-way mirror. He had wanted to spend the rest of the night glowering at the man’s pale face as he listened to a complete and unmitigated confession. He had wanted to inwardly tell himself to keep his hands to himself as he contemplated strangling the man for even touching his partner. Instead, he had to excuse himself to splash some cold water on his face as he tried to regain his composure after seeing the suspect in the interrogation room.
Kathleen’s voice bounced in his head, repeating the name “Mike Arriston” and Elliot shook his head at his reflection in the restroom mirror as he visualized the expression on the face of the “tall kid with spiky hair” once he learned his father had been involved with something so devious.
As he walked back to the
interrogation room, he ran a list through his head of the number of times he
had met the parents of each of Maureen’s boyfriends. There had only been two
occasions where he had missed them; when she was in the seventh grade and the
relationship was over within the week and then with Justin Wheeler, as his
parents lived three states away from
There’s no way I would’ve known even if I had met him, he said to himself, trying to quell the growing nausea. It still would’ve come to this even if I had met the guy.
Still trying to convince himself that favoritism had not, yet again, cost him gravely, Elliot returned to the room, stony-faced and bitter that his connection to finding Olivia sooner had been within arm’s reach for months.
Dan Arriston of Carrow, Arriston and Page, looking like a short, doughy and balding version of his eighteen-year-old son, sat behind the glass shaking his head and pursing his lips as if he could not believe where he was. Cragen stood in corner of the side room staring out at Arriston, his eyebrows furrowed and his arms crossed, while Munch gave Elliot a synopsis on finding him.
“So, a working girl calling herself…Sky O’Hara calls Crimestoppers with a tip,” Munch began. “She says that she’d seen a pale guy and a fat guy talking in the alley behind that building where the women were found.”
“And, Sky O’Hara wasn’t just calling for the reward?” Elliot asked.
Munch nodded. “When Fin and I went down there, we ask around and finally we find her. She’s mad at first because she just wanted the money, but we keep on her and she says that a friend of hers, also in the business, said that some pale guy had snatched her and kept her in a boarded building and videotaped what he did to her and that she was sure it had been in that building.”
“Why didn’t she say anything?”
“She’s a hooker and she thought no one would believe her.”
“Aw Jesus,” Elliot said, rubbing a hand over his face.
“But, this is where it gets interesting,” Munch continued. “She says the guy let her go on two conditions. The first that she talk to every one she could find about a certain little guy named Mark Landon…” Munch paused for Elliot’s eyes to widen. “The second being that she give also service of his…business partners.”
“The one and only. We kind of camped out there for most of the day and, lo and behold, at about nine, Arriston rolls up the street to meet his lady of the evening. Now, at first, we were just going to bust him on the solicitation, but Fin had a look in his backseat and saw he had supplies just sitting there.”
“What’d he have?”
“Bottled water, a whole bag of those little cups that were scattered all over the room were Kimberley McNelson was found and boxes of that cornmeal crap we found stacked in the basement of the building.”
Elliot shook his head. “He was making a delivery. The rat bastard…”
“There’s more to it than just that. You know how we found all those videos in there, right?”
“Yeah. Was anything found from stores we checked into this week?”
“Just that everything was done as a cash transaction. A couple of the stores have video cameras that show Arriston picking up the cash, but the names on everything just go back to the name Roman Landanorak.”
“Goddamnit…Did we get anything from the wire transfers Landon was getting?”
“Nothing. They all lead back to a Swiss bank that’s refusing to work with us. When I told them we found twenty dead bodies in relation to the money, they said when the number got up to a thousand, they’d think about it. Either way, just looking at the money those stores have been shelling out and the amount Arriston had in his trunk, this guy has been in business for years. Warner says some of the bodies go back five years. He just abused them and when he got done he tucked them away in a single room so the smell wouldn’t attract attention. What really makes you sick is that Arriston had to have known what went down at the building on Thursday and yet he was too much of a clueless putz to take that crap out of his car.”
“No, what makes me sick is that he knew what happened up there Thursday, but was still in the mindset to go see the prostitute he had on retainer.”
Elliot walked toward the door, but Cragen stopped him. “Go easy in there, Stabler.”
“I know how to do my job.”
“And, I know how you do. He’s part of the reason your partner’s re-learning how to walk instead of walking beside you. I know you probably want him dead right now and we all want a piece of him, but if there was ever a moment when you needed to keep your hands to yourself, this is it.”
“I can only make it as easy as he makes it for me.”
“Make sure it goes easy either way. We know Arriston’s involved, but he’s not the one who kept Olivia in that building.”
“We won’t know for sure until we drag the answers out of him.”
“Let the answers come out on their own. I don’t want any slip-ups in there and I don’t want to see him have any…accidents that will damage the case we have against him.”
“Is he asking for his attorney?”
“Not yet,” Cragen said, “but I don’t want a knot on his head that matches your knuckles to be the reason that he does.”
Elliot sighed and walked into the room. Fin, coming from around the corner with a manila envelope in his hand, followed Elliot into the interrogation room and together, they glared at Arriston who was now sweating profusely as he sat in the center of the room.
“L-look,” he stammered. “I’m ready to pay the fine for the hooker, but you can’t just keep me in here like this.”
“You gotta know you’re in here for more than just the hooker,” Fin said.
Arriston’s hands shook as the rested on the table. “It’s about that case in my trunk, right?”
“Good,” Elliot said. “So we’re all heading down the right track. Now, why don’t you tell me where the guy who murdered those girls is and we’ll call it a night.”
“Murder? What murder? I didn’t murder anybody.”
Elliot sighed dramatically. “You’re telling me you don’t read the papers? The bodies of eighteen women were pulled from the building around where we found you picking up hookers tonight.”
“That’s…that’s on the other street. That’s on 119th, but I was around the corner at 3rd.”
“And, of course that makes you innocent.”
“What? Is that hooker girl saying I did something? Look, she just owes me, that’s all.”
“Owes you for what? Drugs? Because I’d love to add that to the list to keep your ass in prison well into your eighties.”
“Whoa, wait a minute! I’m not going to prison for picking up a hooker an’ having some cash in my car.”
“You’re not hearing me, Arriston! This is way beyond picking up a hooker off the street. You didn’t just have cash in your car, did you?”
“You mean the…the water and cups and stuff? That’s just my grocery shopping, that’s all.”
“Groceries?” Fin said, as he leaned against the wall. “You’re pulling in over half a mil each year and you feed your family Brand X cornmeal?”
Arriston glanced between Elliot and Fin for a moment before nodding. “I think…yeah, I think now’s a good time as any to call a lawyer for myself.”
“And, who do you think is coming for you? I hope you don’t think it’s anyone at your firm. You know they will be disavowing any knowledge of you as soon as this hits the papers in the morning, so it’ll be just you and some public defender who probably knows less about the law than your kids. If you’ve even thought about what this is gonna do to them.”
“Look, I’ll answer your questions, but you’re not gonna railroad me into saying anything stupid. I know I’m in some heat here, but I didn’t kill no one an’ you’re not gonna make me say I did.”
“We all know you didn’t pull the trigger, but I’m sure even a tax attorney knows a little criminal law. Lucky for you, I know the definition of Second Degree Murder by heart. ‘Under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life, he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person and thereby causes the death of another person.’ What a mouthful, eh?”
“I know the penal code, detective an’, I know that either way I look at it…I know I’ll be serving some time for being wrapped up in this, but I had no way o’ knowing what he was doing.”
“Who’s he?” Fin asked.
“Him. The guys who owns one of the damn buildings up there. I was just hired in to bring him a few things every now an’ then, that’s all. I had no way o’ knowing what he was up to.”
Fin snickered. “You only enabled him to keep doing what he was doing…that’s all.”
“I’m telling you-”
“You know, Arriston,” Elliot said. “People like you make me sick to my stomach. You have everything you could ever want or need. You’ve got a good job, good kids, a good life in general and yet you go and do something so stupid. It’s like having the American dream wasn’t enough for you.”
“I know you probably hear this all the time, but I’m telling you, I didn’t start out to hurt anybody.”
“Well, of course. No one starts by wanting to hurt anybody. Except the guy you work for.”
“I just did it for the money!”
“For what he wanted me to do…the money just seemed like something easy.”
“What’d he ask you to do?”
“You don’t want to wait for my lawyer?”
“Fine. We’ll just sit in here together while Detective Tutuola acquires this lawyer for you. In the meanwhile, you’ll be sitting in here…with just me.”
“Look…he just…he just…”
“What did he ask you to do!”
“Just bring him what he needed. You know, like a little food, a little water…sometimes gas for the generator…stuff you’d need if you were trying to keep low, that’s all.”
“You never questioned what he was doing in there? Or why you couldn’t get in the building? Or the reasons you had to bring him this shit in the first place?”
Arriston shook his head wildly. “Look! I just did it for the money.”
“How much was he giving you?”
“About five grand a month.”
“Five grand?” Fin said. “We took almost seven from your car.”
“Helped yourself?” Elliot finished.
“The guy never leaves the building. How’s he gonna know? But, I just keep the books. That’s it.”
“How’d you even find him? When did this start?”
Arriston shrugged. “Maybe five years ago when the firm contracted with Morley to look on the buildings up there. I was…uh…talking to a…”
Arriston trailed and Elliot felt his eye twitch. “Talking to a what?”
“A girl, okay? Another working girl. It was after my divorce and I was talking to a girl up there and she kinda led me to him. He said he’d pay me a cut o’ the earnings.”
“Did you ever inquire how he was getting these…earnings?”
“Didn’t seem important.”
“So…he was giving you five grand a month to just bring him stuff he’d need to…lay low, you were sticking your hand in the cookie jar to take an extra two grand and still…you never questioned where all this money was coming from? You’re a partner. This is pocket change.”
“He seemed like a good guy.”
“A hooker led you to a ‘good guy’ who never leaves a building that supposedly locked who pays you in cash and this seemed like good idea to you!”
Elliot jumped from his seat and Fin got up with him and held out a hand. Elliot paced in front of the window and Fin continued to glare at Arriston.
“You know you’re going down for this, right?”
Arriston’s eyes widened. “Going down for what?”
“You really need us to elaborate some more?”
Arriston sighed. “I…I…look, I know what’s coming for accepting that money, but if I hadda known those girls were in there, I never would’ve-”
“You could’ve known!” Elliot yelled. “You could’ve found out months…years ago, but you were too fucking greedy to ask questions!”
Arriston leaned backward in his seat, his eyes even wider after Elliot’s bellow still echoed in the room. “It just didn’t seem like that big a deal. I swear on my mother’s grave, I didn’t know.”
Elliot paced the room again and Fin, very calmly and slowly, opened a manila folder and spread its contents in front of Arriston.
“What’s all this?” Arriston asked, still leaning backward in his chair.
Fin held up the top sheet. “This is a picture of Ryan Daly, age twelve. You know what happened to him?”
“Please don’t do this. I swear I didn’t know.”
Fin held up another image. “This is one of the first pictures taken at the crime scene. See that? That’s his blood smeared across the box on the inside. All the snow makes you think it’s just wet, but no. That’s all from this little kid.”
“I swear on my life, I didn’t know anything about any kids. Besides, I heard the crazy guy who took that cop of yours was the guy who killed these kids.”
“And, guess who you two have in common?” Fin pulled another photo out of the array. “See this one? It’s the crime scene where the crazy guy who took that cop of ours actually killed these kids. It’s the same place where that cop of ours was kept for two weeks living off the crap you got in your car. It’s the same damn building that you were telling all those developers was empty when we coulda shut this guy down a long time ago.”
“I didn’t know it wasn’t empty.”
“What the hell did you think he was doing, Arriston? The man pays you in cash for making deliveries and you think you’re just showing up to an empty building?”
“I thought…I thought…”
“You think? Sure as hell doesn’t seem like it, ‘cause if you were thinking you wouldn’t in this mess right now.”
Arriston swallowed hard. “I thought that maybe he was into some kind of smuggling business or something, that’s all.”
“What kind of smuggling?”
“You know…people are always
trying to smuggle in the Asians to do some kinda work
“You thought he was into Chinese slavery and you thought you’d keep doing business with him?” Fin sighed and rubbed his head as he glanced at Elliot still fuming on the other side of the room. “And, you’re telling me you weren’t expecting anything else except for the money?”
“All right, look. I was hoping that maybe he’d hook me up with a girl to use on the side for a while. Nothing special, but I’d heard about guys who got into all that and made a killing and had a spare girl to use.” Elliot kicked the wall and paced the room again and Arriston’s eyes widened further. “But…but look. I’m only telling you all this so you can see that I wasn’t involved with those women in there.”
“How do we know that?” Elliot said. “You just admitted you were looking for a free sex slave in addition to the cash you were being handed by this guy. What do you think he was doing with all those girls up there?”
“I swear on my life I didn’t know about those girls.”
“But, you just said you thought he was involved with sex slaves.”
“I just figured okay! I imagined it! You people never heard of mid-life crisis? Jesus Christ! I was just looking for something new and different and then I found this guy. He was offering me cash to do something that seemed down and dirty and I just went along for the ride, but I never imagined that he was killing anybody in that building…or letting anyone else kill people in there. I swear to God, I didn’t know.”
Fin moved his chair closer to the table and pulled a legal pad from beneath the stack of crime scene photos. “You’re gonna give us a name tonight.”
“I don’t have a name to give you.”
“You wanna go down for this, it’s fine by me. Less paperwork to do if I get to slap your name down for twenty murders, rapes and kidnappings.”
“Oh my God…”
“Yeah, it’s like that,” Fin said. “So, either you give me a name in the next two minutes or you’re looking at real active social life at Sing Sing…”
Wednesday July18, 2007
SVU Squad Room
Don Cragen always liked the serenity of the early morning hours on the fifth floor of Precinct 16. Unless matters were exceptionally pressing, the squad room was nearly empty and the peace of the floor was something rarely found in the city. Unlike most calm nights that blurred into the next the day, Cragen found no rest in the pleasant quiescence that floated throughout the corridors.
On his desk lay a stack of notes recounting the findings of his best detectives in regards to Dan Arriston and his arrest the previous day. Next to that sat an envelope holding discreet orders from his superiors as to how to handle the situation with Olivia’s actual captor and murderer of twenty women.
He glared at both with his chin in his hands wondering when life became so complicated and if Friday would be the perfect day to announce his retirement.
The staring contest between the documents and him went lasted another five minutes until he heard footsteps padding closer to his door. Refusing to look up because he knew to whom they belonged, Cragen maintained his gaze on the papers before him and did not jump when the silence was finally broken.
“This time of night is for sleep,” a voice said from the office doorway. “Or at least for drinking Scotch.”
Cragen slowly raised his eyes toward the voice and the frown on his face grew deeper as he watched the deputy inspector for his precinct lower himself into one of the chairs in front of the desk.
“You’re coming down here isn’t going to make a difference,” he said. “I can’t do this. I won’t. What you’re asking doesn’t make any sense?”
“For who?” Felton said. He then pointed back toward Cragen’s window. “The people out there don’t want valid, sensible, actual answers, Don. They just want answers and they want them quickly.”
“But, it’s wrong and we already know the right answer. You’re prepared to purposefully mislead the media and people just for this.”
“It’s not a ‘just for this.’ This is to make sure we aren’t facing riots in the street when we’re supposed to be finding a killer.”
“Even if that means falsifying information.”
“We’re not falsifying anything. Based on the information gathered by your detectives, there is nothing that will stop us from prosecuting this man for those women. It’s how we’re going about giving that definitive answer that’s being tweaked and that’s what Page A2 is for.”
“Rich…there’s another guy. You know this. Benson told us there’s a different guy. Our videos even show that it’s a different guy.”
Felton rubbed a finger under his nose and sniffed. “Don…is this Arriston giving up this other guy?”
“Everything we have leads right back to Roman Landanorak, which is just an alias for a guy who’s already dead.”
“Right. You’ve got nothing and the media wants a face. So, we’re going to give them a face.”
Cragen gathered the stack of papers from his desk. “This doesn’t look like just a face to me. This looks like you want to set up Arriston for the fall here.”
“What are you insinuating?”
“I’m only questioning your judgment in doing what is essentially the same thing those guys did up there when they were doing the search after we found Benson. Going through this only half-assed…putting a band-aid on head wound…”
“Unless Arriston gives us a name, we have no legitimate reason not to believe he’s the guy.”
“C’mon,” Cragen said. “That’s the worst bullshit I’ve heard fly in this department for a decade.”
“Don, with the amount of exposure this case is getting, it’s no wonder we haven’t seen even greater public outcry already. Your detective’s case is wrapped up in five, no, six different matters. You’ve got that Kreider nut back in February, her disappearance, her reappearance, the second set of murdered boys, that other nut Landon and now this Arriston. And, with nearly every part of every one of those cases, we look like we’re just standing around with our thumbs up our asses. This stops here. You’re right. We do need to find the man responsible for those bodies, but as far as the public goes, this needs to go away as quickly as possible.”
“You want us to sweep the facts under the rug.”
“I want this perp found. I want him in a court room and then I want him sitting in a prison cell until his corpse dries up. And, I know that’s what you want to, but we’re not going to get that with media hounding you, your detectives and anyone else touching the case at every minute of the damn day.”
“So, instead of actually doing what’s necessary to catch the guy as soon as possible, you want to push all the blame on the first guy who pops up just to take pressure off?”
“I want justice for your detective and for those women.”
“And, I still say it’s all bull.”
“I’ll tell you what, Captain. Why don’t you take the driver’s seat with this? Why don’t stand in front of the people and tell them what you think they ought to hear. You think the storm you went through when Kreider and Landon were killing those boys was tough? Just wait until you’re face to face with not just parents and the media, but your superiors and other officers looking at you and demanding answers that you’ll never have. If you want to go in front of the city and tell them that the person who tortured one of our own detectives…who kidnapped, raped and murdered twenty women in our city is still walking around here, you be my guest, but I’m telling you right now, you’ll have to eat your own gun to get another minute’s rest. This guy…he’s not just a threat to the general populace. People can handle that because they look to us to make things right…to catch the bad guys. But him…we can’t find him and this is someone who didn’t just snatch civilians, but one of our own. A cop wearing a badge almost went down the same way those other women did and, if you think people aren’t putting together the fact that Benson just barely got out with her life and she’s been wearing a badge for years, then you’re a few feet short of a full stick. The people want a resolution, Don. They don’t want to hear about us working on finding the same man who managed to slip out of the building when fifty men in blue were out there at the same time. People want answers and they want them now…and I’m going to give it to them.”
Cragen glared at him. “Felton, if you’re not prepared to take the heat, then you shouldn’t be in the fire in the first place. I don’t care about what image you’re trying to give the media, but what are you gonna say when this guy finally surfaces, huh? When he’s started up with a whole new building and started gathering a whole new batch of girls to put himself right back in business? Or when he’s come after my detective…the only one who got away? What are you gonna do then?”
Felton swallowed and stood from the chair. “I’ll do what I’m told just like you’ll do as you’re told. Like we all do as we’re told. This monster doesn’t care about race and he doesn’t draw any distinctions for people with money. This city will be set afire if the people thought this guy was still running around loose.” He pointed the papers in Cragen’s hand. “Don’t forget to sign off on every page. I don’t want any problems to come out over some lazy book keeping.”
“We’re not backing down off the investigation…” Cragen called after Felton, but he simply waved a hand in the air as he left the office and walked toward the elevators.
Offices of Dr. George Huang
28 Federal Plaza
Olivia huffed slightly as she pushed against the wheels of her chair and moved in a perfectly straight line down the corridor. Her feet twitched in the chair’s leg rests and she felt her eyes narrow as she recalled that Dr. Weiss had mentioned that she would have “good days” and also “bad days.”
Good days required only her braces and saw her unaided shuffling turn into awkward steps. Bad days gave rise to needing help to come to a stand in the morning and they also required the chair which sat in the corner of the bedroom hidden under a quilt until it was absolutely imperative that she use it. Bad days also, while still few and far apart, almost always followed a seizure.
The one she had had the previous night was not as bad as those previous, though judging from the look in Jonathan’s eyes when he helped her off the floor, Olivia could tell it was still severe. Sporadic paroxysmal attacks notwithstanding, the miracle drug had been keeping the seizures to a minimum since she had left the hospital and she suspected the real explanation behind her current “bad day” was what had happened the previous week.
The nightmares did not return like she expected they would, but learning that her captor had murdered another woman since she had escaped was all that was needed to take away any sense of satisfaction that two of the other women trapped in that room had survived.
At first, she tried to use music to keep away the same melancholy that had for weeks been threatening to return, but when neither the cello nor piano seemed to have an effect, only Maya’s constant pampering helped keep her thoughts together. Maya would talk for hours about nothing in particular in a voice she always reserved for cheering up Olivia.
Olivia, taking a week to regain her mental strength, greatly appreciated everything Maya did, letting Maya dote on her whenever she wanted and even spending the majority of that Sunday lying on the sofa as Maya read poems from a book recently published by one of their old roommates from college.
The same gestures were repeated often, though a bit more awkwardly, by Jonathan who had developed a small line in his forehead from constantly worrying about her, but still slept on the other side of the bed.
Elliot, now partner-less and dreading the idea of dealing with anyone other than Olivia, also stopped by the apartment more than he had previously and, with the news that they had at least detained her captor’s supplier, by Thursday, Olivia was ready to work again.
Before she was allowed to come back to work with Computer Crimes, however, the deputy inspector and her new commanding sergeant insisted that she speak to a psychologist to ensure that she was mentally prepared to continue working. They had suggested several with the NYPD, but as she had not wanted to speak to a psychologist at all and refused to tell her life story to someone who she presumed would most likely want to use her previous trauma as a headline in a novel someday, she went to the FBI’s psychiatrist assigned to Precinct 16’s Special Victims Unit.
Olivia paused at George’s office door and took a deep breath before knocking. He answered the door immediately and she smiled weakly, not wanting to be there, but still glad it was him and not a stranger who wanted to peruse the deeper meanings behind her decision to even work as a detective and especially in the SVU.
“Good afternoon,” George said as Olivia pushed herself into the office. “How are you getting on these days?”
“Well, I’m out of the hospital, so that’s a plus, but things could be a bit better.”
He nodded and sat in a chair in front of her as he took small pad of paper and a pen in his hands. “Have you been thinking a lot about last Thursday?”
“Yeah, a bit,” Olivia said. “Though…it’s mostly because I’m reminded almost daily that everyone’s fearing for my life right now.”
“How are you being reminded of that?”
“Well, Jonathan actually took time out of his ridiculously busy day to drive me here when I could’ve easily taken a cab and I know I’ve got another friend waiting for me downstairs once we’re done here. And, I know it’s all through Elliot and I know he knows that I know what this is all about, but we’re both pretending that I don’t know he knows I know just so that we can get through the day.”
George gave her a small smile. “As long as you know that everyone is just looking out for your safety after all that’s happened.”
“I know what’s happened and the last thing I need is a constant reminder that this is a part of my life now.”
“Have the nightmares stopped?” he asked in a soft voice.
“Yes. About three days before we found them.”
“Have they returned at all?”
“How are you doing otherwise? Are you eating well?”
He pursed his lips. “Olivia, I am trying to help.”
“I know, but if I thought I needed help, I would’ve asked for it.”
“You’ve been through a lot. We just want to make sure you’re doing okay before cases come piling on the pressure.”
“I can handle it. I’ve handled difficult situations before and I’ll handle this one. I just need everyone to stop treating me like some kind of porcelain doll.”
George wrote a few notes on the legal pad in front of him. “How is everything else going?”
“What everything? Work is everything.”
“You’ve only been back to work for the past month. Life still went on as you were recovering.”
“Things are…” Olivia sighed, knowing what kind of conversation lay ahead of them. “I don’t know, George. I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.”
“I’ve heard your therapy is coming along.”
Olivia unconsciously shifted her legs and sighed. “Yeah…and so what? It’ll still be a year or more before I’m anywhere near normal again.”
“But, at least there is the possibility of regaining everything you had.”
“There shouldn’t be a possibility. I should just be. I should be further along in my life right now, but I’m picking up from nowhere.”
“Not nowhere, Olivia. Those women were found because of you.”
“Not all of them. I tried…so hard to save them, but they wouldn’t come with me. I was pulling…pulling Amy out the door, but she wouldn’t move.”
“She’d been abused by your attacker for months with no hope for an end in sight. She was probably paralyzed with fear.”
“Paralyzed…I don’t care what had been done to me.” Olivia paused and shook her head. “I could never be so scared that I couldn’t do what I needed to get out of there.”
“Not everyone’s as strong as you are, Olivia. People get scared and they freeze up. You know that. You see this all the time.”
“Which is what makes this feel all the more worse. I mean I keep seeing her with this smile on her face when she finally seemed ready to get out of that place and then he killed her. After everything that had happened…after all I’d tried to do, she still died. Just like Evelyn.”
George set down his pad and pen stared intently at Olivia. “You got Evelyn Rivers away from the man who was beating her. If you hadn’t pulled out all stops for her and kept at her, Micah Diorel would have murdered her.”
“But, she still died. It’s like he killed her anyway. And, what’s worse is it’s because of me. If I’d been there to help her, she’d still be alive.”
“You can’t be everywhere, Olivia. You helped saved those women and you gave closure to more than twenty families.”
“I know,” Olivia said. She blinked rapidly to hold back threatening tears. “I know, I know, I know. It’s just the ones I couldn’t help are the ones that keep me up at night. You know? I mean we’re halfway done with this year and I don’t feel like anything’s been accomplished. I had plans and I had goals…”
“Olivia, you paved the way for your colleagues to find Owen Kreider. He killed eight people and you helped put him away.”
“But, George…there’s always more out there. Like this…this guy. The one who did this to me. He’s still out there. They didn’t even find him in that building where he’d kept us. He could be anywhere doing anything to anyone.”
“Is that what really keeps you up? The fact that you want justice for all those women?”
Olivia locked eyes with George for a long time before finally breaking the contact to stare at the bookshelf behind him.
“I wish I was so noble,” she said. “All I can think about is myself. About what I would do to him if I found him. What I want to do to him…The fact that six months of my life have passed me by and I’ve got nothing. Absolutely nothing to show for it.”
“Nothing Olivia?” George sat back in his chair. “Does the fact that you rescued yourself from your own attacker and saved two women mean nothing to you?”
“But, this still isn’t over yet. I still can’t move on yet.”
“You found the man responsible.”
“We found a man responsible. This Arriston guy is just a greedy moron who got roped into more than he could handle. And, of course he complicates issues between Elliot and his family…I mean it was bad enough with his daughter being hounded over the fact that people thought he’d killed me. Now, the poor girl’s got to deal with the fact that her old boyfriend’s father was hired by the guy who…God, this is just a mess.”
“But the fact is, you still remembered the building where you were held and you still saved lives. This still seems insignificant?”
“I don’t know.”
“Olivia, months ago, I sat here with Elliot as he contemplated what he would do if you were never found. Just surviving these six months is the real accomplishment.”
Her eyes fell to the floor as his words hit home. Tears burned once more, but she swallowed and pulled them from the brink.
“If I’ve accomplished something, then why does my life feel like it’s in disarray?”
“You can’t get depressed because of what didn’t happen. What about the positives from the past six months? You’re close to walking. Months ago, you couldn’t feel anything from the waist down. You’re working again and God knows Elliot can’t wait to have you right beside him again.”
“I still had plans with my life and now, I’ve taken a step…many steps backward. I just don’t feel like myself anymore. I feel like I’m…I don’t even know anymore. I feel indescribable.”
George stared at her a moment, his mind clearly a whir of thought. “It’s been a while since you’ve been with SVU, hasn’t it?”
“Yes…” Olivia felt her eyes narrow. “But, I’ve still been in touch with everybody. In fact, Munch took me out to lunch on Tuesday.”
“But, the actual work…It’s been a while since you’ve worked a case. Is that perhaps what’s really getting to you? Being away from the job?”
“No, that’s not it and I’m not away from the job. As soon as we’re done here, I’m back with Computer Crimes.”
“Okay.” George paused, but his eyes never faltered. “When you first began to remember what had happened to you, something specific jarred your memory, am I correct?”
“Yes, the crime scene photos from Amy’s…What about them?”
“You’d ask Elliot specifically to see those images. Why?”
“I was bored and I needed something to do.”
“But, why a case in particular?”
“I needed to…I don’t know. I don’t understand where you’re going with this.”
“Olivia,” George said. “Is there any chance that you’re simply missing being on the job? You miss working with and helping the people you come across in SVU.”
“Well, yeah, I do, but what’s that got to do with anything. The way you make it sound, you’d think I was completely defined by my job.”
“But, it’s very much a part of you, isn’t it? You’re Detective Olivia Benson with the SVU. You help those who’ve been hurt the most.”
“So, you’re saying this isn’t just depression that I can’t walk? If I’m not Olivia the SVU Detective, I’m no one?”
“And, we both know that’s not the reality of the situation, but couldn’t that be what feels so wrong right now? This restlessness you’re feeling…You’ve said you’ve had plans and goals for this year, but how many of those plans involved something work related?”
“I don’t like where this is going. I don’t like the insinuation that I’m only the job. There’s more to me than just the job.”
“Is there?” Olivia’s eyes narrowed at him, but George continued. “Olivia, you’re mother was a victim of an assault of which you are the product. Hasn’t that driven you toward this position in the first place?”
“Perhaps…” She shook her head and trained her eyes upward. “Yes…yes it has.”
“So, something that had been such a defining force in your life has brought you to this career path and now, it seems like all that has been taken away from you. Everything that made you yourself has been removed, albeit temporarily, but still removed from you.”
“No. That’s not true. I’m not Olivia the Detective when…I’m with my friends or when I have my music. I’m just Liv. I’m me. I am who I am. I’m not just the job.”
went on the undercover assignment in
Olivia concentrated on the floor to keep from crying and finally swallowed as she prepared a retort. “I’m not a victim. I never was a victim. He didn’t rape me.”
“But, he tried to and you’ve said that in the nightmares that’s always what happens. Aside from drowning, he comes after you and he succeeds. You don’t think you’ve been…victimized by his assault?”
“I don’t need this,” she said sighing. “It’s hard enough trying to get on with my life, being who I am, regardless if that’s in or out of SVU, without you saying all this to me. It’s bad enough that everyone knows everything that’s happened to me and that no matter how many times Elliot’s been cleared, other cops still look at him like he’s some kind of criminal…and I can’t even be there to back him up like I used to.”
George leaned forward and the pad in his lap wobbled slightly, but his eyes never left Olivia’s face. “Is missing your partner what could be causing a problem?”
“What?” Olivia said, eyebrows furrowed. “No. That doesn’t even make any sense. I see Elliot almost every day. He’s rarely left my side throughout all of this. In fact, I’ve seen more of him in the last six months than I have…well, I’d be lying if I said throughout our partnership, but I’ve seen him a hell of a lot more than I’ve seen anyone else.”
“I didn’t mean missing Elliot’s presence. I said missing your partner. The partnership, that is. You’re not yourself lately because what makes you Olivia is not just the job and the music, but also the partnership that’s lasted longer than with anyone else in the unit.”
“I thought we already went over this. I’m not just the job and just because I do miss working with SVU and working with Elliot, it doesn’t mean that makes me just the job either.”
“Okay, but we’ve been saying-”
“And, even if I am just the job, what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with loving what you do so much it…completes you?”
“Nothing at all. It’s a rare thing in today’s society that a person can find something they love to do.”
“Right. So, why is this even a problem that we even have to discuss? Can’t we just talk about what happened last week? I thought that was the real reason I’ve been forced to talk to someone, not to find out that without the job, I’m nothing.”
“Not nothing, Olivia.”
“Fine! Whatever. I don’t care, but I don’t want to talk about that anymore.”
“Okay then. Let’s talk about the past few days. I read that you went to personally see the women who were rescued from that building.”
Olivia eased back into the cushions of her wheelchair, not realizing she had been sitting on the edge of the chair and felt her pulse slow. “Yes. Yes, I did go see them.”
“What did you think when you saw them?”
“I thought…I thought that I should’ve been able to get all four of them out, but…also how happy I was that they made it out too.”
George nodded. “Did you go by yourself?”
“No, Elliot took me.”
“Why didn’t you go alone?”
“I don’t know. Elliot was there, so Elliot took me.”
“He just happened to be there?”
“We were discussing the specifics of the case,” Olivia said. “And, I said I wanted to see how they were doing, so he took me. Simple as that.”
George went silent for a moment and Olivia sighed and turned her attention to the wall behind him.
“How did you feel when you were driving for the city looking for that building?” George said.
“Good, after we found the place.”
“Elliot was driving you, wasn’t he?” He waited for her to nod. “When did you both decide to simply start driving until something looked familiar?”
Olivia shrugged and let her shoulders fall so hard they hurt slightly through the frustration. “That morning, I think. I was…at my desk and needed a bit of a break and so I called him to see what he was working on and that’s when the subject came up of just driving through the city to see if anything piqued my memory.”
“Why did you suddenly decide to call Elliot when you’d seen him all week? Why not Munch or Fin or Cragen?”
“I don’t know. I guess since he’s my partner, it seemed…this isn’t more of that Olivia-needs-the-job-to-complete-her crap, is it?”
“I’m just asking questions.”
“Leading questions that are leading us back down the same street.”
“Why don’t you want to talk about the fact that it’s both the job and working with your partner that makes you who you are-”
“Because it’s not.”
continued as if she had not interrupted, “the fact that in becoming a victim of
sorts, you can no longer associate yourself with what you like doing and who
you like doing that
“You know what? Forget it.” She pushed herself away from his desk and rolled in her chair toward the door.
“We can talk about this, Olivia.”
“No, we’re supposed to be talking about how all that’s happened is affecting my ability to do my job. It’s not. It won’t. I’m fine and I think we’re done.”
“You know where to find me when you’re ready to talk about it,” George said as Olivia pushed herself out of his office and she sighed heavily once she reached the elevator.
She rocked slightly in her chair as she pushed the button for the lift, wishing she could take the stairs and wondering whether she could remove the guilt from her face before she met whoever “just happened” to be in the neighborhood to drive her home.
Olivia had known her life was comprised of her job and her partner for years, but she never voiced the issue and did not wish to do so when her relationship with Jonathan seemed to be swinging by a thread. What concerned her most was what lay just behind those thoughts and, how easily George have could pulled out what she was not ready to air.
She had said it aloud, in complete privacy, but she had not shared with Elliot any of the revelations she had had in the hospital and, as time passed, she wondered if she ever would.
As she pushed herself onto the lift, she considered the number of times she wanted to say something to Elliot, but the time never seemed right. If the time did seem appropriate, then it was the location that did not seem suitable and if not the location, then somehow she would become very tired and got so tongue-tied she was not able to discuss anything in particular with him.
While she attempted to rationalize the matter by telling herself that she loved Jonathan regardless of how he slept and that telling Elliot she cared about him would be no different than telling Maya or Jillian the same, her body would react negatively each time she tried to tell him what she had known for a long while.
Her mind was so full of tumbling thoughts that when the elevator doors opened to reveal Elliot standing in the vestibule waiting for her, she nearly jumped out of her chair.
“Elliot,” she said, eyebrows high. “What are you doing here?”
He smiled brightly. “I thought I’d give you a ride home when you were done with the doc.”
“How’d you even know I was here?”
“I called Halloway to see if he knew when you were coming back to work and he said you were here.”
“Okay,” she said, still unable to hide the surprise that the person who she was thinking about so strongly had materialized in front of her. “But, all these free rides around the city are starting to make me dizzy.”
“Don’t worry about that. It’s just people wanting to make sure they see more of you now that it’s really hit them what you’ve been through. I know that’s what…a lot of people are probably thinking.”
He smiled again as their eyes met and he helped her into the SUV he was driving.
It’s now or never, she thought as Elliot managed to get her chair into the SUV.
“Elliot, I….” She paused, suddenly feeling very sleepy and not sure if she had complete control over her mouth. “I, um…”
He stared intently at her. “What’s wrong?”
“What was that?”
“I…I…I think…this should stop. You can’t keep hiding people throughout the city like this for me and you can’t keep stepping out of the precinct just to come drive me back home. I can call a cab, you know? I’m a big girl. I can do a lot of things by myself, even in the chair and I know you’ve got work waiting for you just like I do once I get back.”
Elliot launched into what she knew was a well-prepared argument about doing everything in the interest of her safety and Olivia settled into the passenger seat, glad the tightening in her chest had eased and happy to participate in the light bickering that had helped form their indefinable partnership.
She had already admitted one secret about herself before she was ready to voice it, but the day was still turning into one of her “good days;” the second secret would have to wait for another “good day.”
“You have to give up one of them.”
“Everybody’s happy with the situation, Dad. I don’t wanna rock the boat.”
“This is about that Jessica girl, isn’t it?”
The Jets and the Giants were lining on the twenty-six yard line and the Giants’ quarterback was about to call the snap when Dickie paused the game on the TV screen and set down his Xbox controller.
“It’s not about Jessica,” he said, eyebrows furrowed as he stared at Elliot.
Elliot sighed. “Then, why do you need to date two girls at the same time?”
“Because I can and it’s not like one of them is on the side or anything. They know about each other and they’re fine with it.”
“And, it’s just a coincidence that you pick up two people after Jessica leaves you hanging? I’m not buying it.”
Dickie groaned. “It’s not
about her, okay? She’s not even with that
“If you say so, but eventually one of them isn’t going to like this little arrangement you’ve got going.”
“Can we just play? Your Jets are just waiting to be spanked.”
“Whatever. Seventy four yards is a long way when you’re a touchdown behind.”
The game resumed and Elliot smiled, happy to be spending time with his son who seemed to have aged ten years in the past few months. Dickie was the only one who remained in the house that afternoon and Elliot took the opportunity to revel in the father-son bond he knew had weakened since the separation from Kathy.
He had originally stopped by the house to check on Kathleen, but found she did not seem bothered by Dan Arriston’s arrest stating, “Well, Mike’s parents are divorced and always said his dad was insane, even with his second wife.”
When the Jets intercepted and made a fourteen-yard touchdown, Dickie threw back his head and yelled at the same time the doorbell rang.
“I told you seventy-four yards was a long way to go,” Elliot said as walked to answer the door. “Next time, don’t throw into double coverage. Madden 08 is different from 07. Yes?”
A pretty girl with thick, long brown hair held in ponytail and large doe-like eyes stood on the porch hold red shin guards under one arm.
“Oh hi, Mr. Stabler,” she said. “Is Rick here?”
“Di-…Rick. You’ve got a visitor.”
Dickie thumped toward the door. “Jessica?”
“Hey Rick!” she said. “A lot of us were going to the park for a kinda pick up soccer game. Wanna come?”
“Yeah!” Dickie tossed his controller to his father and was running out the door after her before Elliot could even wave goodbye.
Elliot chuckled and went into the kitchen to get something to drink before he went back to the precinct. He was surprised to find Kathy sitting at the kitchen table with a spread of paper in front of her; surprised in that he knew she was still in the house, but there was still some shock in actually seeing her.
She was wearing the thin, silver-trimmed glasses she only wore when it was time to pore through the bills and she had a small wrinkle in her forehead as she stared at the paper in her hand.
He walked passed her towards the refrigerator and they glanced at one another for just a moment before Kathy turned her attention back to her paperwork. Elliot started to simply leave the kitchen, but paused when the light from the window shone against her hair and highlighted her eyes when he glanced at her again.
“What are you looking at?” he asked and sat across from her at the table.
Kathy sighed. “Just notes from the orthodontist. Lizzie hasn’t been wearing her retainer and she’ll need another correction soon.”
“I’ll talk to her about it.”
“It’s okay. It’s my turn to get on her about that anyway.”
Elliot nodded and stared at the soda in his hand. They sat in silence for several minutes, Elliot’s eyes fixed on the soda can, Kathy’s eyes on the bill in front of her.
“Kathy,” he said finally. “I want to apologize for what I said to you last week.”
“You already…apologized,” she said, her eyes never leaving the bill.
“It was wrong for me to say all of that,” Elliot continued. “And, I can understand if you don’t…I can understand if you want to take this even slower than before.”
“I see. Do I dare ask what’s brought out this new apology?”
Elliot sighed. “I just…Last week, I saw something that really got me thinking because quite frankly, it scared me.”
At that, she set down the bill and turned her full attention onto him. “What do you mean scared? What did you see?”
“I don’t really want to get into the specifics, but it made me realize that…maybe Olivia and I had grown a lot closer than I was ready to admit and…perhaps it was wrong of me to jump down your throat about the, uh…young doctor, when a lot of the distance between us, was partially because of what had happened in my partnership with her.”
He paused and her eyes were intense, but she did not say anything. Elliot swallowed the lump in his throat and stared back at her, hoping she would somehow respond, but after a full minute passed without anything said, he cleared his throat and stood from the table.
“I just wanted to say I’m sorry, Kathy. That was it.”
She remained silent and he began to leave the room when he heard her speak again.
“Now,” Kathy said, “that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
He gave her a small smile and left the house to go back to the precinct.
Unknown Time and Place
All his work. His years of work taken, stolen from him.
For five years he had acquired his possessions and for five years he had cared for them and stored them away for his amusement, but everything was gone. Years of work, years of effort, years of struggle. Everything was gone.
The homeless around the alley in which he lay huddled away from him as if he had a bad aura about him. The mat he had found to lay upon was cold and wet from combined garbage and condensed humidity and the feel of it upon his skin only gave rise to more anger.
His work had been precise and beautiful; always striving for perfection in a way that no others were even capable. Who else could capture the human body’s most vivid emotions of fear and agony and also share with the plebeians the majesty to watch life leaving the eyes of a mortal being? His work should have made him one of the Michelangelos of his time and yet, everything was gone.
It all came back to her. He was sure of that. He shook his head in the darkness that surrounded him.
He had seen her peering through the first floor darkness and the sight of her vulnerability caused his heart to skip a beat. She was so close as she stared up the stairs upheld by metallic braces. He could have easily snatched her again in that moment, but stirrings from the above floors deterred him. The stirring was different from that of the others that remained in the room and he knew had been found. And, it all came back to her. There was no uncertainty that she had brought the stranger and she was the one who had ruined it all.
The surrounding crowds that had milled around his home gave him the occasional awkward glance as he brushed through the people wearing a jacket and dirt from the basement smeared across his face. There was no question he looked odd, but it was enough to escape the NYPD who were looking for a ghost-white man in the vicinity of the building.
It had already taken every bit of stealth and acrobatics in his varied abilities to exit the building without being noticed and he knew that others, the laughable police, would patrol his home in hopes of finding him, but they would not. They could not. They lacked the capacity. The only reason he was forced to flee was because of the mistakes he had made with her.
He never should have made the deal with that bastard Landon and there was no telling how long Arriston could keep quiet before his fat mouth fell open to reveal the ignorant coward that he was, but he had to focus, regroup, inspirit himself to begin again. First thing was first, however; revenge was a necessity.
All his treasures and keepsakes were stolen away and it was time make reprisal on the thief. Payback was necessary before he flew away to start over everything.
The gun was gone, left with the stored ones while he spied her in the dark, but his single blade he reserved for special productions pressed against his leg, comforting him. It would come in use at the end. Now, he just needed to find her and wreak the same havoc on her that she had him. It was simply a matter of using the name.
What was the name? The face had been etched on his mind for months, but the name had eluded him. In all the rage and disorder that she caused, he had forgot if she had even said her name. Very few of them ever had; only the defiant ones who thought they could talk their way out of anything and occasionally those who had shouted their names in failed efforts at gaining sympathy. She was clearly the former and she had to have said the name, but what was it?
Eleanor, Elizabeth, Emilia…No, it was “O.” “O” had done this to him. Something short, but longer at the same time.
The name was all he needed. With just the name he could seek his rancorous vengeance. He combed his memory of his precious little time with her until strands of the sunrise began to peek into the alley and he sat up straight as her voice echoed through his head.
“My name is Olivia Benson and I’m a cop. You have to let me go…”
The large orderly in the white uniform glanced down at Olivia’s wheelchair-bound form for fourth time and a part of her wanted to simply stand and slap him as she screamed “You’ve never seen someone in wheelchair before?” but decided against it. There was a possibility that he was simply concerned that someone in a wheelchair wished to see one of the long-term residents of the hospital.
He and a young doctor stood and she sat in the elevator as it lifted them to the hospital’s upper levels and Olivia was fairly content with the thought that when she left the hospital that day, there would not be a surprise escort waiting to take her home.
She had waited until she could sit down both Jonathan and Elliot to advise them that she was nearly walking all the time on her braces and that, between the security in Jonathan’s building, the number of officers at the precinct and the gun that never left her side, she could take care of herself. Both protested until she advised them that if they kept providing her with surprise attendants she would be forced to use her own craft and cunning to avoid the entrapments just to have a moment’s peace, but she thanked them for getting along with one another to organize such a plan just the same.
After their discussion, Jonathan began to sleep spooned against her again which simultaneously confused and comforted her. When she was brave enough to finally ask what had changed and then changed again in him, Olivia was completely surprised by the response.
“Honestly, it was something as simple as jealousy,” Jonathan had said.
“Jealousy?” Olivia had said, her fumbled confession to Elliot still at the forefront of her mind. “From what?”
“Just that we both bought you gifts for your birthday. Elliot and I, that is. Mine was bigger, cost more and was the actual instrument and his was just the bow, but you play with his gift more than mine.”
“But,” he added. “Then I realized that…that was just you being you. You can’t change the fact that the cello is what you go to when you’re stressed just like I can’t change the fact that I unconsciously still turn into a little kid when I things like that get to me.” He chuckled. “And, to think that I was accusing you of shutting down on me when I can be guilty of the same thing too.”
She thanked him for saying what she knew he never would have said six months earlier and, every night after that, they continued to sleep tangled together.
The elevator stopped and the doctor stepped into the corridor. Olivia grabbed the wheels of the chair as it rolled forward with the shifting elevator and sighed.
Up until that morning, she had been hobbling on her crutches when she was not at the precinct where she needed to be as mobile as possible. She knew she felt fine, but she had slipped in the kitchen, falling flat on her back as she tried to balance a small plate and a glass of orange juice in one hand while she attempted to walk and, after she and Jonathan spent half the morning on the phone with Dr. Weiss, Olivia decided it was best to resign to her chair if she wanted to leave the apartment for the day.
Once the elevator doors opened again, the orderly stepped in stride with Olivia’s powerful pushes on the chair’s wheels and stopped in front of a large, locked door outside of which was a nameplate that read “Morse, Harry Stewart.”
“I’ll be right here,” the orderly said as he opened the door, “if you need anything at all…”
She rolled onto the padded floor, suddenly wishing she had simply struggled with her braces instead of conceding to the wishes of Jonathan and her doctor.
“I’ll be fine,” she said and her voice carried across the room eliciting an immediate response from the small figure that leaned against the window.
Morse turned and stared at her, his small eyes wide and curious and she moved farther into the room.
She had never seen Morse previously and, in contrast to what Elliot had been telling her, he seemed to have re-grown some of his blond hair and was not as fantastically thin as Elliot made him out to be. His skin, while very pale, also had the slightest hints of pink attributed with someone who was growing healthier. In the corner of the room, lay a crumpled newspaper and Olivia could see that the main article concerning herself and the two women who were found had been read ad nauseum.
Morse’s mouth gaped as he continued to stare and he drew himself slightly taller as his eyes took in every part of her.
“So,” she began softly. “You’re Harry Morse.”
“Yes…yes, I am.”
They stared at one another silently for a moment and Olivia wondered if she had indeed made a mistake in coming to see him. Elliot and Jonathan and Maya and Jillian and Munch and Fin and Cragen and George had each insisted that there was no use in seeing Morse as he had no further information about her case and was likely to hurt her upon sight, but Olivia had a drawing need to see the man who had watched her for so many years.
Once the aftermath of
As she saw images of herself close to five years younger, she was just as unnerved as Andrea suggested she would be, but she also held a special fascination for the videos. Somewhere in her day-to-day tasks she deemed as ordinary and completely uninteresting, Morse had found something to cherish, something simply captivating. She was further intrigued when she saw the paintings and drawings he had made. Never in her life had someone put so much effort into something as simple as capturing an expression on her face and, while she was still troubled by what she saw, the need to meet said person was planted and grew stronger and stronger until she could no longer hold it at bay.
“How old are you Harry?” she asked in attempt to break his adamantine gaze.
“Really? You have such a young face. I wouldn’t have guessed that you were even legal.”
Morse smiled. “I get that a lot.”
“Now that I see you up close, I realize I remember you.”
Morse’s eyes grew wide. “From how?”
“I ran into you at the store down the street. The only reason I remember is because you looked so freaked out when you dropped your camera and you ran away from me. It just seemed weird, that’s all.”
Morse nodded and she pursed her lips. She rolled closer to him and his eyes grew wide again.
“I…” she began, but was not sure what to say to him. “I don’t know whether I should slap you or hug you.”
“I hope it’s the latter,” Morse said smiling weakly. “He’s right. You have lost a lot weight. You’re too thin.”
She opened her mouth to inquire about whom he spoke, but Elliot’s name came to her quickly. “Well, I’ve been through a lot.”
“I know. I only wish I could’ve done something to stop it.”
“Well, the reason we were able to track down the guy who took me in the first place was because of…you. I mean, if you hadn’t been…We may never have figured out that my neighbor was involved.”
Morse cocked his head to one side. “I’m not sure I follow you exactly.”
“I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this and…if you’re removed from this entire situation, our investigators would have had nothing. We would never have suspected Mark.”
“Your people are good…most of the time. Besides, you escaped the bad guy on your own and helped saved others in the process, from what I’ve read at least. I’m sure something would’ve been found even if I hadn’t been…involved.”
Olivia shook her head slightly. “No, I don’t think so. Your videos showed that I disappeared in a matter of minutes. Without something as simple as that, they would’ve never had a reason to suspect anyone but Elliot. In fact, if you hadn’t been involved, he would’ve been the last person to see me that night and, with the way my apartment looked after our…scuffle, they probably would’ve not just arrested him, but prosecuted him and won.”
“I doubt that, honestly.”
“I checked the records of the entire case. My unit investigated Mark Landon initially because he was right next door, but without a time frame of when I had gone, there would’ve been no reason to keep looking at him. Because you told them where your cameras were, um, hidden, they found that there was another person involved. And you…your watchful eyes saw more than I think you even knew.”
“Like what for example?”
“Like the fact that if you hadn’t been…watching me for years, we would’ve never suspected Mark Landon was doing the same thing.” One of Morse’s blond eyebrows moved toward his hairline and she continued. “There was this blip on one of the tapes. That’s how they knew something had been going on in my apartment and that’s what gave them an understanding of how Mark did what he did. That’s what really put the nail in Mark’s coffin, so to speak. On top of the fact that they knew, because of you, that I’d gone in just a few minutes, your videos put him away and he did some really…really terrible things after what he did to me.”
Morse nodded. “I never liked him, but, he seemed so weak and simple. Besides there were so many others I had to keep track of, he didn’t even register on the radar. But…I still think you would’ve figured it out eventually. You’re the best in your unit. Trust me, I know. I know a lot about you.”
“I’m sure you do.” She glanced awkwardly toward his window and a memory popped to mind. “You were the boy…the man who came to my rescue the night I was almost attacked on the street too.”
“Yeah. It took me a minute to see what he was doing and I couldn’t let that happen to you. You’re too important to this city.”
“Just to the city?”
“And, to me too.”
Olivia looked at the floor and felt herself blush.
“I’m sorry,” Morse said, shrinking slightly on his feet. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I know it bothers you a bit to have people be so forward with something like that.”
“Wow,” she said, her eyes still trained on the floor. “You…um…you really do seem to…I guess you can learn a lot about someone by just watching them.”
“Yes, you can.”
She bit her lip, feeling very exposed. Morse shifted on his feet and new footprints appeared in the padded floor as he moved.
“How…how long are you in the wheelchair?” he asked. “I’m not used to seeing you so…vulnerable. Like you’re one of your own victims.”
“I’m not that vulnerable,” Olivia said and quickly pushed herself to a wobbling stand. “And, I’m not a victim. I’m…I’m doing a lot better, actually. It’s just that I had a fall on my crutches this morning and my boyfriend insisted on the chair. It was just easier to take the damn chair than argue with him all morning.”
“He’s a Halloway. They’re like that.”
She nodded and felt her cheeks get hot again. “I can’t believe I’m just sitting here…standing here giving you my whole life story. I guess you know it already, though, don’t you?”
“Yes, but don’t be angry, though. I didn’t do it to be perverted or anything. I…only wanted to understand you better. You’re quite the enigma, you know.”
Olivia eased herself back into the chair and sighed. “I guess. Some people would say that I’m all the job. If I’m not Olivia the Detective, I’m no one.”
“I can see that,” Morse said. He then took a step backward at the change in her expression and continued. “But…there were still moments when I, at least, could see the real you. It’s easy to just see you as Olivia the Detective because she’s so fierce and she’s always out there in the world doing what’s right. It takes a while to really get a glimpse of what’s under all those layers, but Olivia the Person is there. She peeks her head out from time to time, mostly when she’s laughing with Maya Shah or with her godsons, but…she’s there.”
“Well…as someone who seems to know me so well, what would you suggest I do to change that so that Liv the Person shows more often?”
“I’d never change anything about you,” Morse said, causing Olivia to blush again, “but, since you’ve asked…perhaps just pulling away from the job every now and again.”
“What if I told you, my job…and my partner complete me and make me who I am? Would you still suggest leaving the job and my partner?”
“No one said leaving or giving up what you love so much. Just pull away for a bit because every night…you bring home one or two or all of your open cases, you pore through them for hours and then go to sleep to get up and do the same thing all over again. You rarely even take time to play the cello anymore. And, God knows that partner of yours could use less time knee deep in the filth of society. It’d be better for both of you to even just…go for a hotdog and not talk about work for an hour. Or even if you did something that was completely removed from work for a few hours one day a week. I think it would be good for you because sometimes…you’re just alone so much and that even worries me.”
Morse smiled as he watched Olivia’s mind whir. “Once you’re up and about again, you should even go play racquetball with Maya again like you used to and then jump back into it. That way you’re not so distracted by things so much and you notice more around you.”
“Like that fact that you’ve been following me for years?”
“Yeah….like that.” Morse looked down at his pink toes wiggling in the pads of the floor. “And…it’d probably be better for you to just spend more time with the people who bring out the…Liv the Person. I know I don’t necessary like Jonathan Halloway much, but…he does seem to really love you and, when I think about it, I’m rather jealous of him.”
Olivia sighed and shifted in her chair.
“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable,” he added quickly. “It’s just so…sublime having you here in front of me. Talking to me, saying my name, looking at me…intentionally.”
“You know,” Olivia said, “you could’ve come and talked to me at anytime. I didn’t realize I was that unapproachable.”
“Oh, you’re not. You’re like a light that shines on the city making it seem not quite as dark. It’s just that not enough people realize it, or they would hold you in the same regard as I do. I suppose Halloway might, but I can tell from your eyes you already know that. Just the way you look when I mention his name makes me think you’ve reach a new level with that one.”
She shifted in her chair again in an attempt to keep back the tears that were threatening from the idea that someone, a complete stranger, could know her so unconditionally.
“You’re right…It’s very strange, but you’re right. We’ve…we’ve definitely changed. How did you know?”
“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable again, but I’ve watched you for a long time and I know why you do the things you do.”
“But, how can you just proclaim that? I don’t even know why I do or say the things I do.”
“You don’t have the benefit of watching yourself and taking notes. I do. I’ve heard you say things in your apartment that you promised yourself you’d never say and I’ve seen you accept help when you seem so adamant against it at times. Like, there was an instance a little more than a year ago, before you disappeared on me the first time. You had come home with that cut on your neck and you and Maya stood in your bathroom as she tried to put some kind of ointment on it. I remember because she kept saying that the ointment would keep the cut from scarring, but it burned and you pulled it out of her hands and threw it into the sink. But after a few minutes, you started crying and she cried with you and you let her help you. You never ask for help and you only take it after you take a step away from yourself to realize what’s happened in your life that makes you need help in the first place. It’s Olivia the Detective who has to step back and let the real you come out before you’ll actually let people help you. You’re odd like that, but that’s part of the reason why I needed to watch you. So much intrigue wrapped up in just one person. I must say you’ve kept me entranced for years.”
Olivia stared at Morse for a long time, again unsure what to do or say.
“I have to go,” she said finally.
“It’s okay. I said too much and now you don’t feel right even being near me. I understand.”
She nodded and swung her chair toward the door.
“Olivia,” Morse called.
“You will come see me again, won’t you? I don’t expect that even my grandfather will be able get me out of here anytime soon. They think I’m crazy or at least a danger to myself.”
She pursed her lips as she stared at Morse’s expectant face.
No use even trying to lie to him, she thought.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Okay,” he said and sat down again on the cushioned floor with a grin. “That’s the answer I was hoping for. That’s almost as good as a yes.”
She smirked at him and quickly left the padded room, her mind burning with thought.
East 72nd Street and 3rd Avenue
Olivia paused her fingers on the ivory keys of her piano and glanced at the antique clock her mother had left her that now hung from the far wall of the apartment’s sitting room. It was nearing at night and Jonathan had still not come home. He had promised her he would start coming home earlier after they had had another lengthy discussion about her safety and she found it more than ironic that she was the one who now waited for him each night.
In the past month, Jonathan had been trying to close the largest deal of his career and with the extra effort came longer hours spent away from one another. Though, she found the solitude peaceful and acquiescent to her music, there were many times she felt the need to look over her shoulder or make sure her gun was still within reaching distance when she was alone in the apartment and eventually took to wearing her holster even in the apartment.
There were multiple doormen at the building’s entrances and she was also eleven stories in the air, but the knowledge that her captor was still loose was finally beginning to take its toll and became more the foremost thought on her mind.
While he still existed as nothing short of a hazy memory locked in a building far away, Olivia was able to continue with her daily affairs without a second thought to him, but upon seeing the magnitude of his actions when she read Melinda’s report which concluded that the corpses were not simply stacked, but had been arranged together as if he had put them there with a specific purpose in mind, her attitude changed from sadly indifferent to vividly worried. Learning that Amanda Hill had been raped to the point that she would never be able to bear her own children and that Taynesha Grant had at some point had a miscarriage in that small room did not help any either.
She had returned to Computer Crimes the Monday after her evaluation with George, but took another sabbatical after going to see Amanda and Taynesha who still refused to separate and still held onto her and cried like they had when she first saw them outside of the building. A part of her considered leaving the force altogether and perhaps starting a new path of her life, but the more rational side of her psyche told her it was simply the idea that the killer was still free that kept her unable to focus on the misdeeds of fraudulent scammers.
Her fingers twitched for a song and Debussy’s elegant canticle resounded at her touch. For a moment the song brought a smile to her face, that is, until she remembered how well Elliot had said things had been recently with his wife. Kathy had accepted his apology, though he never told Olivia why he was apologizing, but he had still not made the final leap into moving back home.
Olivia’s ears piqued at the sound of the floorboards shifting behind her and she called out as she continued playing.
“It’s about time you got home. I was getting lonely here all by myself.”
When she did not receive a response, she stopped and listened, but heard nothing outside of the sounds of her own breathing.
“Jonathan?” she called. “Jonathan, is that you? Maya?”
The floorboards shifted again and Olivia grabbed her braces and fastened them to her arms. She had stepped not several feet into the corridor when she looked up and found a pale face gleaming at her from the open door.
Her breath caught as his menacing, sharp blue eyes glimmered in the hall light and he took a step toward her.
She reached for the gun in her holster and pointed it directly at his chest, but her body froze, too terrified to pull the trigger. He blinked at her for a second, noting the shaking gun in her hand, but then bolted out of the apartment and down the hall.
By the time, she had reached the corridor, all she could hear was the sound of the door to the emergency stairs clicking closed.
Olivia found the phone and called for the front desk, screaming into the phone a moment later.
“There’s a man in my apartment! He just ran out of here and he’s going down the stairs!”
“The police are on their way. Which stairs Miss Benson?”
“He’s coming! He’s coming right now! Down the South stairs! He’s got on dirty jeans and a hoodie! Meet him at the bottom!”
She dropped the phone and snatched her braces as she hobbled in a near run toward the elevators. When she had reached the bottom, her gun was ready to shoot at anything that moved too quickly and she stepped out of the elevator to see five uniformed officers with their gun weapons trained on her. She shook her head and they all looked toward the door to the stairs instead.
For several minutes, she stood with them, her trigger finger set, but the tension waned and two sets of officers went running up the stairs at either end of the building.
Within the hour, the building had been evacuated and Jonathan kept one arm around her waist to help her stay upright as her legs were ready to give way on her braces. The officers canvassed the entire building, yet by the time Elliot and Cragen appeared at the complex, there was no news on his whereabouts.
Inside the apartment later, a heated argument erupted as Cragen wanted to have an official protective detail imposed on Olivia until he was found.
“Difany, you can stay for the first shift, right?” Cragen asked the officer nearest to him.
“No,” Olivia said. “I don’t need protective detail.”
“Come on, Liv!” Elliot said nearly yelling. “This guy managed to get in here and get right back out again. You were lucky he didn’t just come up behind you and t-take you out.”
His face was red as were his eyes while he made every attempt to keep the panic out of his voice.
One of the cases Olivia had forwarded to him from Computer Crimes began as something small, but had snowballed into uncovering one of the largest child pornography rings in the state and he had barely had a minute to think straight. From dealing with the case, making an effort to talk to his estranged wife and still dealing with the aftermath of discovering the place where Olivia had been held captive, his life had been a tumult of non-stop activity. With his every minute accounted for, he had found limited amounts of time to even call Olivia, let alone visit her, yet as he stood in the apartment she shared with Jonathan, he clearly remembered each time he thought to check on her, but was deterred by every other factor of his life.
Every muscle in his body was tense trying to simultaneously keep his heart from pounding out of his chest and keep the fear that rocked his body from letting him do something rash. He wanted to kick chairs and throw punches into walls from combined hysteria and anger. He wanted to hit Jonathan as many times as his fists could stand, asking him why he “allowed” this monster to even get near Olivia while he pummeled the life from him. He wanted to take Olivia to another state, another country, another world, anywhere he could think of to just keep her safe. Thousands of “what if” questions had plagued his mind from the moment he received the call and he had not stopped shaking since he arrived at the apartment.
Olivia sat straighter in her chair and Elliot stifled the urge to grab her and hold on as if he alone could protect her. The same terror that had welled within him when he had been asked to identify Olivia’s supposed corpse had returned with a vigor like none other and it was all he could do to keep his voice steady as the painful thoughts coursed through his mind.
No one was here, he thought. It was just her and her braces. What if he had come after her and she couldn’t fight him off? What if he had killed her?
“He didn’t,” Olivia said, causing Elliot to jump in surprise, “and he’s not going to just come up from behind and shoot me. I’m aware of the situation and now, we can take appropriate action.”
“Yeah, like leaving,” Jonathan said. “We’re not staying here another second. I don’t care how many cops you put in here.”
“We’re not leaving,” Olivia said. “If he’s found me here, he’ll find me at a hotel or your brother’s or somewhere else across the city or wherever.”
“So, you just want to sit here and be bait for him!” Jonathan yelled.
“I want him found and running isn’t going to do that! If he’s going to come for me, let him come. I’m ready. This is not going to get the best of me!”
“At least take the detail,” Cragen said. “Two eyes can watch out for him better than just one.”
“No,” she said. “I don’t need one. Before, I had the feeling that something was up and even then I had my gun on me, but I was still lax. Now, I’m prepared.”
“How prepared can you be, Olivia?” Elliot said. “You can barely walk, let alone defend yourself.”
“I’ve already defended myself against him. I don’t need the goddamn detail!”
Cragen ran a hand over his head. “I’m through reasoning with you. You’re getting the detail whether you like or not. I’m not having a cop under my command go down like this after what we’ve all been through just trying to find you.”
“No,” she repeated. “I don’t need it. I can-”
“Olivia,” Jonathan said in a low voice. “For the love of God…just take the damn detail. We don’t need you trying to prove you’re a hero. You’ve already made it out of a fifth floor window to get away from him. No one doubts that you can handle him. If you’re intent on staying here, we need to make sure that if he does come at you again, we can take him down and keep him down. I don’t want any more slip-ups and neither do your fellow officers. Please…stop being stubborn and allow us to help you.”
Olivia wanted to protest again, but as she opened her mouth, Morse’s words echoed in her ears and she sighed instead. She glanced at Elliot who looked angry, ashamed and fearful all at the same time. His eyes were pleading with her in a manner which she had not previously seen and, swallowing her pride, Olivia accepted help.
“Fine,” she said. “Do it.”
The series of black and red cards stared back at Olivia as she frowned at her hand. Dave Difany smirked as he held his own thin array of cards; small flowers of cards spread in packs of three and four lay in front of him on his side of the coffee table.
“This is crap,” she said after staring at her cards for a full minute. “Can’t we play something else?”
“You only don’t like it because you’re losing so badly,” Difany said.
“Of course that’s it! If I was winning, I wouldn’t be complaining.”
He laughed and set down his cards as she let out a sigh and threw her twenty cards into the air letting them flutter down like leaves. She and Difany had played a card game every single night he had spent in the apartment as a part of her night police detail. For the first few days, she glared at him every time he crossed her path, but Jonathan stressed to her that Difany and the other three officers who followed her every movement throughout the day, were simply doing their jobs and everything was done to keep her safe. Afterward, she let down her guard slightly, but still craved a resolution.
After the misfortune of not finding him or his methods in and out of the building, even after hours of searching, the other tenants on the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth floors had checked into nearby hotels hoping not to be caught in the fray. Olivia heard the murmurs as she checked in from time to time at the front desk and as the neighbors across the hall were leaving for the Ritz-Carlton, she could have sworn she heard Mrs. McNeely say to her husband, “I told you she’d be trouble. Jonathan has his pick of any woman in the world and instead, he’s shacking up with the one who’s got maniacs after her.”
I wish he would just come for me already, Olivia found herself thinking from all the stress that surrounded her. Everyone was so busy trying to protect her that she was left alone with her police escort for much of the day and was very lonely because of it. Though she ended up liking Difany, who amused her with stories of his son and two daughters, more than she thought she would, the other officers were not nearly as fun to pass the time.
Maya and Jillian and even Allison had wanted to spend the days with her, but she refused to let any of them visit. If something did happen in the apartment, she knew that she would never be able to face herself if one of them got caught in the fight and, with the thought that she was essentially on house arrest until the threat no longer seemed great, Olivia grew surlier with each day that passed.
Part of the reason she had so vehemently resisted the protective detail was because she was ashamed of how she had reacted when confronted with her attacker. Maya, being the only person in whom she confided such thoughts over the phone, insisted that what she did was natural and she behaved as anyone would have in the same situation, but Olivia still refused to commit to the idea. Admitting that meant admitting she was just like any other victim, and if there was one thing she was not...
“Think up something else you want to play,” Difany said. “I’m gonna take a leak. You know the drill…Don’t answer the door, call for help if-”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I got it.”
She glanced at the clock as he left, willing Jonathan to come home, but at the same time hoping that he had another late night ahead of him. He still slept on top of her and instead of wishing for space, she relished the comfort his open arms brought. His “big deal” had not yet closed and he still spent a fair amount of time in his office, but it was not by his own choice. Though, Olivia did not want to be alone with the police escort all day, she also did not want to be the cause of some regret in Jonathan’s career later down the line and she pushed him out of the bed each morning, imploring him to do what he loved, but knowing she just wanted him away from her for the same reasons she wanted Maya, Elliot and Jillian to keep their distance.
When five minutes passed and she was still sitting on the sofa alone, Olivia called out for Detective Difany.
Hearing no response, she rose from the couch, but froze when she heard the sound of something heavy falling to the floor several yards away from her in the apartment.
Elliot hummed along with the radio in the kind of
cheerful mood he had not seen in months as he drove up
He and Kathy were making the final preparations to get
everything Kathleen needed to start at
The stop Elliot made at a small store to buy Olivia
a bouquet of yellow roses and a box of chocolate did not dampen his spirits as
a surly Irish man argued that he received two dollars less than he should have
in change with the Arab clerk and spewed obscenities at the Arab, who sent them
right back in his own language. As he continued his trek toward the
He found an open parking spot just a block away from the building, waved at the Crown Victoria driven by officers commanded to go by the building every fifteen minutes and walked up the street with a near skip in his step. One of the night doormen at Olivia’s building had recently been hired and did not want to let Elliot into the building until the elder tapped him on the shoulder and informed him that Elliot was “a friend of Mr. Halloway and Miss Benson.”
As the elevator doors closed to bring him to the eleventh floor, a smile spread across Elliot’s face at the thought of the expression on Olivia’s face when she saw that he had not only surprised her with a visit, but also came bearing gifts, particularly chocolate.
“Dave?” Olivia called again, but received no answer.
Her breath began coming in jagged gasps as she reached for her gun and grabbing one brace as she hobbled toward the bathroom. She thought she could see Difany in the bathroom down the hall, but he looked like he was on the floor.
“Dave, are you okay?”
Olivia took another step toward the bathroom, but froze when she felt something brush against her back. She tried to turn around in the corridor, but the movement was stymied as she heard the sound of metal scraping together like a sword coming unsheathed and then felt something cool and flat sliding against her face.
“I’ve missed you,” he breathed onto her neck.
His wide, eight-inch knife caught one of the tears that fell from her eyes and, as he pressed a hand to her shoulder, he held up the tear to stare at the droplet in the hall light. The teardrop moved in jagged spurts over an expanse of something dark and viscous as he tilted the knife in several directions.
“Tears? That’s so beneath you. Isn’t it…Olivia?”
She tried to pull the trigger of her gun, but he squeezed her shoulder and brought the knife’s serrated edge to her throat.
“Let’s have that shall we?” he said, as he slowly pulled the gun from her hand and threw it into the living room.
Olivia tried to take a breath, but her diaphragm had stopped functioning and only vibrated against her attempts. From down the hall, she could see into the bathroom and saw Difany lying face down in a pool of his own blood with a white cloth in his mouth and a large gash across his throat.
“There aren’t going to be any problems this time,” he said, as kicked away the brace that was holding her upright. “You will obey me for the last moments of your life and then I’ll have my vengeance. No one takes anything away from me.”
She moved her arm forward intending to make enough room to knock him in the stomach, but he drew the knife closer into her throat and she could feel it begin to pierce the first layers of her skin.
“Don’t do that. I’d like this to last. I won’t be satisfied until I’ve ravaged you with this blade and I’d like to lick your warm blood clean from it when I’m done.”
Olivia’s hand began to shake as more tears began to fall from her eyes and he wrapped an arm around her waist, flashing the blade before her eyes for a moment.
“It’s okay,” he whispered into her neck. “It’s okay. I’m here now. And, I promise, everything will be fine…”
The elevator doors chimed open and Elliot stepped into the corridor with an extra bounce in his step. He hesitated for a moment, wondering if he should call first since Olivia was no longer a single woman living on her own, but waved away the thought as he approached the door.
He knocked twice and waited, but did not hear the slightest movement from the other side of the door. Knocking again, he held his breath as he tried to hear or feel the slightest tread of footsteps, but heard and felt none.
Elliot sighed, immediately dejected that he would not get to see Olivia that night and headed back toward the elevators.
Olivia gasped when she heard the knock at the door and wanted to cry out for help, but as if reading her thoughts, he clenched his arms tighter around her and pressed the knife directly against her throat again.
“Don’t say a word or I promise the last you’ll see is your blood spraying across the walls.”
Her body shook from fear and exhaustion in her legs. She wanted to collapse, but knew any wayward movement might plunge his blade into her throat.
A single tear ran down her face and, as his breath came in soft hums against her ear while he used his knee to pry apart her legs, Olivia prayed for the first time since she was eight years old.
Please…Jesus…please…I can’t die like this…not like this…
Elliot paused as he pushed the button for the elevator.
Well, she’s gotta be there, he thought. Or else they wouldn’t have let me up.
He fished a set of keys out of his pocket, found the new key that was marked with an “OJ” and turned it in the lock.
“Liv?” he said as opened the door a crack. “Liv, it’s me. Hope, I’m not interrupting anything…”
Elliot stepped into the foyer and dropped everything his hands as he pulled the gun from his holster and pointed it at the pair that stood before him.
In contrast to Olivia, the man next to her appeared so white he nearly glowed against her skin and his fingers clenched tighter around the knife he held directly against Olivia’s throat. She stood without her braces though he could see her legs shaking under the stress and Elliot took a step forward, never taking his eyes off the ones that seemed to burn his face as he stared.
He smiled against Olivia’s face. “Well, isn’t this fun? And, I thought we would do this all alone, but now we’ve a third player.”
Elliot took a step forward, his gun trained on the pale figure behind Olivia, who managed to choke two words from her throat. “Elliot…shoot.”
Elliot shook his head once. “Let her go.”
“Kick your weapon to me,” he said, “and I won’t butcher her in front of you.”
“You want to die here tonight! Let her go!”
He drew the knife across Olivia’s neck eliciting a whimper and short line of red. Elliot’s breathing began coming in deep breaths as he stared at them and a bead of sweat trailed down the side of his scalp. His eyes met Olivia’s and then the line of her blood staining her skin.
“Fine,” Elliot said, setting down the gun and kicking it so that it landed directly in front of Olivia. “Now…let her go.”
“She’s mine and I’ll do what I want with my own property.”
“Let…me go,” Olivia said her voice catching in her throat.
He took a deep breath. “You don’t know how I’ve missed that phrase these past few months. You would say it to me almost non-stop, wouldn’t you? Even now. With a knife to your throat. You’re still telling me to let you go. But, that’s what I like about you. Your simple spirit. You don’t ask me to let you go. You tell me to. Like you’re commanding from on high.”
“I gave you the gun…give her to me and you won’t die here tonight.” Elliot took a step forward. “That was the deal.”
“Deal? You don’t understand. She’s mine and I’m leaving here with what is mine.”
Elliot tried to take another step, but stopped as he
watched him push the glistening blade further into her skin emitting a gasp
from Olivia’s mouth and more blood. Elliot locked eyes with Olivia, but in that
moment, he saw no sense of panic or fear. The moment he stared directly at her,
the connection between them that had been severed when she had flown for
Within an instant, Olivia shifted, throwing her elbow into his stomach before he could move his blade and Elliot jumped at them as they began to fall to the floor as one.
A tangle of arms and cotton hit the wooden floor and Olivia saw his knife moving through the air with malicious intent. She felt something brush quickly against her and then gasped at the searing pain that cascaded across her neck and shoulder.
In her line of sight, she could see Elliot’s hands moving toward the pale neck, but Elliot could not see the knife inching toward his chest. Elliot’s discarded gun lay closest to her and with a hand still wrapped around her waist she reached for it, but then heard the sickening squish of sharp metal coming in contact with flesh.
Forgetting the gun, she saw his painfully blue eyes ablaze as his blade pulled toward Elliot’s ribcage, the sound of ripping fabric and shredding skin flowing in its wake.
All the air seemed to draw out of her lungs, her heart cramping at the sight, and Olivia exerted every force in her body away from him and toward the gun. The gun clinging to her hand with near magnetic force, she twisted within his grasp and pulled the trigger with a single hand.
The force of the gun pushed her backward and she could see his eyes sear at her one last time before the black bullet made contact with the bridge of his nose. It pushed through thin skin and bone quickly and a spray of red splashed across her face as his head went backward with the force of the traveling bullet.
Within a second, the bullet had exited his skull, its tail taking a pink expanse of skin and brain with it as it ricocheted off of a lone nail in the floor and dug itself into the doorframe. The trail of shining blood and entrails made a path toward the bullet and his body, now free its moving metallic menace, slowly fell backward to pool near-black blood across the floor.
Olivia rolled away from him and used her arms to drag herself across the floor to Elliot who lay on his back, the knife still embedded in his abdomen. His eyes were glazed and stared unblinking at the ceiling.
“Elliot…” she called as finally pulled close to him. His damask blood had puddled over the floor and soaked into her pajamas, causing her to slide against the floor as she tried to reach for the knife.
Covered in the same viscous red fluid that now mixed with her own, the knife slipped out of her hands twice before she could pull it out, extracting a curdled gasp from Elliot. She shifted on the floor and attempted to put pressure on his stomach, but the wound had slit vertically up his middle and was too large for her hands to cover.
Shaking, she reached into Elliot’s jacket feeling
for something plastic and small. Olivia grabbed his phone and quickly dialed
With an ambulance on the way, Olivia shifted once more and cradled Elliot’s head in her lap, her own blood dripping onto his clothes as she moved. His chest was trying to expand to fill his lungs with air, but whether from pain of the wound or from the lack of strength needed to do so, his breathing came in short, but slowing gasps. Blood poured from the corner of his mouth and Olivia, not knowing what else to do, continually wiped it away, realizing with each wave of her hand, Elliot stood less and less a chance of recovering from the loss of so much blood.
Her tears splashed onto his face and her own breathing grew ragged as his eyes began to grow dull. The room began to spin and, with the taste of copper beginning to spread across the back of her tongue, Elliot’s eyes turned into a steely blue-grey.
As the room began to grow darker and darker, she bent over to place her tear and bloodstained face next to his.
“Just keep breathing,” she whispered. “Elliot…just keep breathing…”