Sunday January 14, 2007
Woodside, New York
The Sunday morning sun was bright and cheerful, though it offered no warmth on the pointed face of the Catholic church. Elliot had said goodbye to his priest, parted ways with his family and was driving south on 58th Street with a slightly pleasant feeling tingling in his stomach. He had not felt any sense of peace all week, but mass that morning made him especially hopeful for some reason. Perhaps it was the Word moving him. Perhaps it was knowing that he was trying to be a better Catholic than his father. Perhaps it was just having his family all together as if nothing had ever gone wrong.
Seeing Kathy and the kids each Sunday gave Elliot the strength to push forward with his work and stirred his emotions in all the wrong ways. He could not help thinking that his impending divorce from his wife was the worst kind of example he could have for his children. All he truly wanted was for them to live happy lives and be good Catholics. There were times he thought that with his failed marriage he had failed his children.
He turned onto Queens Boulevard as he headed toward his precinct. Once upon a time, he would have taken his family out for brunch and tried to spend as much of his day with them before going back to into the harsh reality of the SVU. Now, however, he had to wait until it was his weekend to take the children, and while relations between him and Kathy were amicable to the point where she allowed the children to spend time with him at different points throughout the week, he still hated having to leave them in the end. Instead of playing Polonius to Lizzie's Ophelia while she wanted to act out Hamlet, acting as goalie for kicking a few soccer balls to Dickie or grinding out the bowels of Trigonometry with Kathleen, Elliot had to simply hug them all and say goodbye until he had them again for the weekend.
Elliot unconsciously shook his head as he drove onto the Queensboro Bridge. If he was honest with himself, even if he could spend every waking second with his children, the job would eventually come in the way. The faces of Jacob Lewendale, Connor Whickfield and now Ricky Schrader haunted him as he drove and he knew no peace would come until he found their killer. Kathy had informed him that Dickie was standing to his principles and refusing to apologize and Elliot was inwardly happy to keep him on punishment.
"Just keep an eye on him," Elliot had said to Kathy.
He decided not to tell her his underlying reasons for sticking to his principles. She would come across his name in a newspaper article surrounding the case soon enough and he would simply deal with it then. When she did find out, they would dance the same line they had since he joined the SVU: She would insist that he intentionally kept in her dark about everything; he would remain adamant about police procedure and not wanting to expose her to this world; she would say this was the very reason she had to leave since he refused to open up to her; he would get angry about the argument in general saying that he already told why he wanted to keep quiet.
A while later, he arrived at the squad room and found Olivia already pouring over notes on her desk. The coffee cup on her desk was half drained and she looked as if she had been there for some time.
"Hey," he said. "How long've you been here?"
Olivia yawned. "Since before eight. I couldn't sleep so figured I might as well get some work done."
"Not really. There's just nothing to go on."
Elliot nodded and stared at her for a minute. Her eyes had not reached his since he entered the room and her eyes remained fixed on the piece of paper before her.
"Something wrong?" he said.
She visibly tensed. "No, I'm fine. It's just so frustrating..."
Elliot nodded and his eyebrows flew toward his hairline when he remembered the note he had made for himself. "Hey! What kind of piano music do you have that's...uh...cool?"
"Cool?" she said glancing at him for the first time that morning.
"Yeah, Lizzie wants something cool to play at her next recital. Oh, I meant Elizabeth wants something cool to play."
She smiled. "Every girl goes through that stage where she doesn't want to go by the 'baby name' anymore."
"Really? What was the nickname that you grew out of?"
"Sorry," she said. "I've already reached my Personal Questions quota for the day this morning."
"Yep, sometimes that man's just full of questions."
"No wonder you couldn't sleep," Elliot said with a smile.
Her cheeks turned a light shade of pink. "Well, I'll see what I can drum up for her."
Silence fell over them as they each remembered the pressing task lying before them.
"So," Elliot said. "I'm thinking we need to talk to Jacob Lewendale's parents again. I want to be able to cross Drover off the list altogether."
Olivia nodded her head. "Sounds good. Just let me finish this and we'll go."
As she typed furiously on her keyboard, Elliot gathered Jacob Lewendale's file from the many stacks on his desk and threw Olivia an occasional glance. While he was not going to press the issue, he knew that something was wrong and he repressed a sigh as he hoped it would not interfere with the job. He could never tell if it was specifically something personal or something regarding a case, but she seemed overly stressed and he knew time would tell that the situation, no matter what it was, would throw them into a very loud argument.
"Jeffrey Drover?" Mrs. Lewendale said, her eyes still glazed from grief. "No, I don't really think Jacob knew him."
"Wait, Deborah," Mr. Lewendale said. "I remember him."
Elliot perked up immediately. "From where?"
"Jacob's soccer league. He's a younger guy. I think he's either an assistant coach or a trainer or something. But, he's always at the fields helping the boys practice. From what we'd heard from the other parents, he seemed to be a real stand-up guy. Why? Do you think he knows what happened to Jacob?"
"We're not certain if he knows anything," Elliot said. "But, we are just trying to find a connection between Jacob and the other boys."
"The other ones," Mrs. Lewendale said. "They played soccer too? With Jacob?"
"One did," Olivia said. "But, the other didn't."
"Oh," she said, but her mouth remained opened and her eyes wide as if she wanted them to say something more to allay some of her grief.
There was a brief silence among all those present before Mrs. Lewendale appealed to Elliot. "Are you any closer to finding out who did this to our son?"
"We have some leads and I assure you, the moment you have any information on Jacob, we'll let you know."
She gave both he and Olivia a weak smile, but her eyes held behind them a sadness so deep that Elliot nearly burst into tears himself.
As they left the Lewendale home, Elliot drove them North to view the soccer complex in which all three victims had played their winter sport.
Located at Harlem's edge, Tri-State ISA Complex 6, was a large, spacious building, well-lit and surrounded by a constant stream of people. Elliot shook his head wondering how Connor and Jacob could have disappeared from such a crowded place.
"It's a Sunday," he said to Olivia as they were browsing the turf fields inside the complex. "It's hard to believe the boys could've been taken by someone from here and no one noticed anything."
"Well," she said, "at least the media hasn't found out that two of them used to play here or we'd be facing riots here. I'm going to ask the service desk a few questions. I'll be back."
Elliot nodded as she walked away and his eyes scanned across the several games that were in progress on the four fields.
He's here, Elliot thought. Somewhere in the building, the killer was watching the young boys and waiting for the opportune moment to seize another victim.
His attention turned to the soccer game nearest to him and he watched for a few minutes, thinking about how many of Dickie's games he had missed and the ones he would miss in the future. The advancing team had both boys and girls on their side, all around Dickie and Lizzie's age, and Elliot felt a smile tug at the corners of his mouth as the tallest girl sent the ball flying through the fingertips of the defending goalkeeper.
"All right. Let's go," Olivia said, her voice tired and annoyed.
"They know anything?" he asked.
"Of course not. In fact, the guy up there asked me how the hell he was supposed to keep track of the thousands of kids who came through here every day. I mean, you'd think I asked him for complex information. 'When was the last time you'd seen these kids? Did they look like they had a parent with them?' They aren't hard questions and if he didn't know he could've just said so."
"Did he get in your face?"
"I don't want to talk about it," she said and walked out of the complex.
Elliot watched the girl take another victory loop around field and headed toward the building's entrance. He saw a flash of dark hair and skin pass by him as he reached the door and he heard a woman's voice yelling behind him.
"Daniel!" she yelled. "Don’t push past people and wait for the rest of us."
A small black boy reappeared through the complex doorway with a wide, mischievous grin on his face.
"C'mon on, Ma!" he yelled back, his voice cracking. "We’re late!"
The boy, nearly a foot smaller than Elliot, then gave him a sheepish look which Elliot could only return with one of his own as he followed Olivia's footsteps to their car.
Before returning to their squad room, he and Olivia drove to the other side of the island to visit their previous victim, Evelyn Rivers. Olivia insisted that they check on her to make sure Evelyn knew she had advocates on her side, and Elliot grudgingly obliged. The truth of the matter was that they were most likely going to run across Evelyn Rivers several more times as her boyfriend continued to abuse her and eventually her case would be covered by Homicide once Micah Diorel killed her. Elliot wanted to be sympathetic and offer Evelyn support, but he simply could not bring himself to pour out emotion for her when she would not testify against the man whom all four involved knew would kill her in due time.
"Detectives!" Evelyn said brightly as she opened the door. "What are you doing here?"
"We just wanted to check on you," Olivia said. "Just to see how things were going."
"Oh we're fine!" she said smiling.
"Who the hell is that?" the detectives heard from inside the apartment.
"It's the police, Micah," she yelled into the apartment. "But they're just seeing how we're doing."
They heard footsteps coming to the door and Micah Diorel appeared at the doorway with a smug smile in place. His colourless eyes could look directly into Elliot's and his black hair, nearly shoulder length, was gelled back to give a windswept appearance. He looked Elliot up and down and put his arm around Evelyn.
"Hello, Detectives," he said grinning. "It's good to see you all...on much better pretenses."
Elliot felt his right arm tense and relax as he resisted the urge to throw a right hook into Diorel's jaw.
"We just stopped by to see how Evelyn was doing," Olivia said.
"Well," he said giving Evelyn a squeeze, "as you can see, she's doing just fine. Healing nicely from her fall on Thursday."
"We'd like to hear it from Evelyn," Elliot said.
"I'm fine," she said. "Really. I'm walking better and Micah's taking real good care of me."
Elliot glared at Diorel. "I'm sure he is."
"Believe me," Diorel said. "I am."
Olivia pulled her card from her coat pocket and handed it Evelyn. "Evelyn, if you ever need anyone to talk to...give me a call. Day or Night."
Diorel gently pulled the card from Evelyn. "We'll be fine."
Elliot and Olivia glared at Diorel and silently, they left the doorway and began walking down the hall of the building.
"Hey!" they heard Diorel yell before they reached the entrance. "I don't want you people coming by here anymore. It just upsets Evelyn."
Elliot squinted at Diorel as if not seeing him properly. "You've got a lot of nerve telling us what upsets Evelyn."
"Look! I know Evie! She's fine! She just had a little fa-"
Before Diorel could tell him that Evelyn simply hurt herself by falling the previous Thursday, Elliot grabbed Diorel by the shirt collar and slammed him against the corridor wall.
"Elliot!" Olivia said eyes wide. "Let him go!"
"Police brutality!" Diorel screamed. "I'm suing! I'm going to every newsp-"
"Shut up!" Elliot yelled. "You! You beat up women like it's a hobby! You're lucky I don't knock your goddamn teeth in!"
"Elliot, come on," Olivia said pulling lightly at his arm. There was a part of her that wanted him to actually throttle Diorel, but she could not allow him to ruin his career over someone so low. "Let him go."
Elliot's eyes burned into Diorel's and he slowly released him. He and Olivia then walked out of the building with Diorel shouting explicatives at them as they went back to their car.
"You shouldn't've done that," Olivia said once they were back in the car.
"I know!" he said louder than he had intended. "I just couldn't take that lying sack of crap telling me that Evelyn got hurt falling down some stairs!"
"We know he's a liar, Elliot," she said. "I just wanted to make sure that she was okay and that he saw we were watching."
Elliot shook his head. "He's just going to beat her again and the next time, he'll kill her. He should be rotting in a cell right now, but since she refuses to say that he was the one who hurt her, he's free to walk the streets and kill her and anyone else he comes across."
"Maybe she'll come to her senses," Olivia said softly.
"Yeah, and maybe bacon will hail from the sky tomorrow..."
SVU Squad room
473 West 47th Street
The light on Elliot's desk in the squad room flickered for a moment and he felt a cold chill as he was reminded of the despised bathroom light in his apartment. As the light changed, his eyes glanced forward past Olivia to Captain Cragen on the phone in his office. Cragen's eyebrows were furrowed and his forehead was wrinkled as his face displayed a strong frown. Elliot knew Cragen was most likely speaking to his boss, Deputy Inspector Richard Felton, and he knew Cragen would be coming to speak to both he and Olivia next. Deputy Inspector Felton only contacted Cragen directly when public outrage of crimes in the city was approaching an event horizon.
From what he had seen throughout the morning newspapers, the media was calling Manhattan's SVU squad everything from incompetent to corrupt. Three boys were dead and they still had no answers. Usually this amount of public outrage would roll together after several months of inaction, but with two boys found within days of one another, the media seemed to be fueling parental fears with more fervor. However, when Elliot was honest with himself, he knew that if he was on the outside of the situation, he would be just as fearful and angry.
His eyes fell upon Dickie's face in the picture of his four children and Elliot felt drained. He and Olivia had been on the case for nearly two weeks and still, they were no farther along than they were when they first started.
The movement of Cragen's head nodding into the phone caught his eye and he was certain the storm was just about to hit them. He mentally braced himself knowing that the moment Cragen was off the phone he and Olivia would be forced to set every other case on their plate to the back of the pile and spend every waking moment tracking the killer of Jacob Lewendale, Connor Whickfield and Ricky Schrader.
Opposite him, Olivia was reviewing the autopsy reports completed on the latest victim. Like Connor Whickfield, there was no DNA present, no hairs and nothing that would lead them to a suspect. Elliot was exhausted and could see the same lines of fatigue appearing in Olivia's face as the afternoon turned to evening.
"Well," Cragen said approaching their desks, "I just had my own ass fed to me by the deputy inspector. Tell me we've got something more on these three murders."
Elliot shook his head. "We could, but we'd be lying. Cap, we've talked to everyone involved. No one knows anything. The only thing close to a lead we've had was this Drover guy, but neither the first or the third victims have had any real contact with him."
"And, the forensics has turned up nothing," Olivia said. "There's no DNA, no hairs and the only fingerprints are from the newest victims."
"How 'bout Ricky Schrader?" Cragen asked.
Olivia sighed. "Melinda's latest report doesn't show any fingerprints at all. Even anything from another boy."
"I guess it's too much to hope that this guy's been scared off by the media..." Cragen put his hands in his pockets. "What about the kid who saw Jacob Lewendale talking to someone in a black truck?"
"Marcus Valentino?" Elliot said. "We already talked to him. All he saw was the truck."
"Well, that was more than a week ago," Cragen said. "Talk to him again. Maybe his story's changed or maybe he remembers something else since the media exposure."
Elliot and Olivia glanced at one another, but Cragen caught the exchange. "Look! These Whickfields are more connected than you would think and I've got everyone down from the commissioner to retired cops calling me every second wanting to know how the case going. Go see what this kid has to say!"
He turned and headed back to his office and Olivia looked at Elliot with raised eyebrows. Cragen had few reasons to actually yell at them and they knew if he seemed this edgy, there was a fair amount of pressure bearing down on him from all sides. Even though the case specifically belonged to Elliot and Olivia, Munch and Fin would soon be called in to assist as the case became the absolute priority of the SVU.
Elliot followed Olivia to the elevators and a while later, they were in an apartment at West 90th and Riverside Drive speaking, once again, to Marcus Valentino.
"I already to you what I saw that night," Marcus said his voice cracking on the last word. "How come you guys are here again?"
"Well," Elliot said. "We just want to make sure we understood everything you said. Now, why don't you tell us about that guy and the black truck again."
Marcus glanced between Elliot and Olivia and then down at his shoes before answering. "Well...it wasn't a truck."
"It's not a truck?" Olivia repeated her eyebrows nearing her hairline. "Well, if it's not a truck, what was the guy driving?"
"I don't know," he said, brown eyes wide. "It was like...er...truck-ish, sort of."
He looked expectantly at Elliot as if his answer was definite and concrete.
"Truckish?" Elliot said. "You want to elaborate on that?"
"It was like...not a truck...actually it was more like an SUV."
Elliot felt his entire body tense as he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small, glossy piece of paper. "The guy in the SUV...did he look like this?"
Marcus took the photo from Elliot and stared at for a moment. "Yeah, he did. I mean it was dark, but he kinda' looked like that."
Olivia bent slightly at the waist to see the photo Elliot had handed the boy. He refused to meet her eyes when she straightened, but he felt warmer from the anger growing in Olivia.
He had given Marcus a copy of Jeffrey Drover's license photo, yet he had neglected to tell Olivia that he even obtained the image. Elliot steadied himself on his feet as Marcus continued to describe the man in the car that night.
"Yeah," Marcus said. "His hair was kind of scruffier and stuff, but it was dark like that and he had, like, the same face and stuff, too."
"Had you ever seen him before?" Elliot asked.
Marcus nodded. "I've seen him around the complex a whole bunch of times. He watches a lot of our games."
"Did Jacob seem like he knew who he was talking to that night?"
"Yeah, I think so. He wasn't looking like he was talking to some random dude or anything. Yeah, I pretty sure he knew him."
"Did you see him get in the car?"
"I had to leave, so I didn't stick around." Marcus looked down at his shoes again. "Do you think that's the guy who did something to Jacob?"
As the argument in the squad room heated up, the voices bounced off the walls and echoed through the now mostly empty halls of the SVU.
"That's two of three Olivia! We need to bring in him!"
"Two of three based on what? The kid who couldn't tell the difference between a truck and an SUV!"
The detectives had been yelling at one another since they left the Valentino home over an hour ago. Olivia threw the first jibes the moment they reached the car, saying that Elliot would have better luck dragging Drover into the squad room if he dropped leaflets with his image from a plane over the city, to which Elliot responded with the fact that Olivia had been dragging her feet on Drover from Day One only because she wanted to prove him wrong. They were standing in front of their desks facing one another, Elliot's skin turning red throughout the argument and Olivia's turning bright white over the strain. The argument had gone on non-stop and even though the squad room had emptied, as evening turned to night, leaving the two of them and one other diligent worker in the area, neither detective had noticed.
"He made positive ID!" Elliot yelled. "It's enough to bring him in."
"You could've showed him a picture of Ronald McDonald and he would've identified him as the guy! What is wrong with you!"
"I am trying to track down this guy before he kills another kid!"
"By violating every procedure you've ever learned?" she yelled. "You completely tainted the witness! Even if he truly saw Drover that night, how the hell can Casey use him on the stand if he ID'd him from his license photo? You didn't even bother to throw together a six-person line-up!"
"It gave us what we need to get him in here and question him! That ID is enough to bring him in and figure out what he knows. I didn't have time to put a line-up together. I knew we were talking to the kid today and I wanted something to jog his memory!"
"But not like this!"
"Then how, Olivia? How! At least now we know we can't stop looking at him. We have a suspect! We have something to go on now, which brings us one step closer to stopping these murders!"
"You know this is absolutely ridiculous!" Olivia picked up her coat. "You're willing to bring this guy in, rip his life apart, all on a whim and a gut feeling!"
"It's more than that, and you know it," he said softly.
"Is it? I mean honestly, there's no reason for this vendetta against Drover, Elliot. None at all."
"If he's murdering thirteen-year-old kids…" Elliot shook his head and his voice trailed.
"Why now?" she said, their argument finally dying down to softer tones. "We've dealt with child molesters who went after kids the same age as Dickie and Lizzie before. Why are you gunning so strongly for this guy all of sudden?"
Elliot sighed. "I'm not there to watch them...to keep them in line...to protect them."
"Elliot, they are good kids, and you and Kathy raised them well. They're not going to do anything irresponsible."
"Irresponsible?" he said. "Dickie's thirteen and he's sneaking out of the house to hang out with his friends. The latest victim...Ricky Schrader, snuck out of his house like it was nothing, and now we're investigating his murder. Look, Liv. I know you think you understand how I'm feeling with this case, but you don't. This is different."
"It's okay to step down from the case, especially if it's hitting this close to home."
Elliot shook his head. "No, I can handle this-"
"Well, obviously it's affecting you because you can't think this case through carefully. You're so focused on Drover that you may miss the real killer altogether."
"And, if it's Drover?"
She shrugged and stared at her desk. "If it's him, I'll eat my words and I'll distract the Cap while you help Drover have a little accident."
Elliot smiled at her, thankful for her support and the supposed end of the argument. The silence that came over them afterward was overwhelming since their voices had been echoing for such a long time.
"C'mon," he said after a minute. "Let's go it's late."
She nodded and put on her coat.
"You wanna grab a drink with me?" he asked, but she shook her head.
"Can't. I promised Jonathan I'd cook dinner for him and since it's already nine, I'm willing to bet I owe him for even more at this point."
He let out a laugh. "You're cooking dinner?"
"If spaghetti and frozen meatballs is dinner, then yes."
He followed her out of the building and before they parted ways, she rubbed his arm. "It'll be okay, Elliot. We'll find the guy. Regardless if it's Drover or not."
Elliot nodded at her and got in his car, intending to drive to Queens and get some rest before diving back into their current most pressing case, however, instead of heading back across the river, he drove to a small restaurant on West End Avenue. Once there, he simply walked into the building and took a seat at the end farthest from the door. As a regular to the restaurant, Elliot knew the owner well and could simply grab a seat wherever he wanted without having to wait.
The dimly lit booth he chose was warm and familiar. He had come to the restaurant dozens of times with Kathy, the kids, his brothers and even Olivia, and each time he visited, he made sure to get a seat somewhere around the same booth. Cream-coloured menus sat upright against the wall of the booth on the table, and Elliot did not mind the slight sticky feel of them when he picked one up to examine the menu. He had tried nearly everything on the menu and although he continued staring at it, he had made up his mind the moment he stepped through the doors.
A short waitress with a big smile appeared just a moment after he had set down his menu and took his order of a medium rare steak, mashed garlic potatoes, steamed mixed vegetables and a Rolling Rock. She informed him that she would be back with his order in a little while because “the kitchen was cold,” but he knew it would be soon nonetheless.
The owner, Michael Debbs, had gone to high school with Elliot and even though money was tight at the time, Elliot and his brothers had fronted Debbs a portion of the funds needed to help get the bar off the ground. In gratitude from the loan, Debbs made certain that Elliot was well served anytime he visited the restaurant.
Debbs had made good on the loan within a year and to celebrate, Elliot and his brother, Bryce, five years older, took their sister, Colleen, two years older than Elliot, out for the restaurant’s grand opening. Elliot and Bryce had intended on going to the restaurant opening regardless, but took Colleen with them when it seemed certain that she did not want the slightest adulation for having beaten breast cancer that same year. It seemed a small consolation, but it was the most either brother could do for their sister who had wanted to sweep the entire experience out of mind.
Ten minutes later, the girl returned with his meal and Elliot heartily dug into the perfect steak, savoring each taste of it. He had not wanted to be alone, but sometimes it was unavoidable. He hated every evening he had to make dinner by himself and for himself, especially on Sunday nights. Once upon a time, Sunday evenings were the one time throughout the week his entire family would get together and make dinner as one. The family of six would spend the evening laughing, talking and catching up on each other’s lives. Even when Maureen went away to school, she would try to make it back home every once in a while, always on Sunday evenings. Normally, he was in charge of the salad, but he was getting good at making the simpler things. Now, however, Sundays were a blur of loneliness and frozen dinners.
He had asked Olivia to come out with him in a last effort to avoid spending another Sunday alone, even though he knew she would probably be busy. The small restaurant seemed out of the way from the rest of the world and Elliot knew he could more or less be alone without feeling such.
An image of Olivia trying to make dinner for her boyfriend floated to his mind and he dove into the potatoes with a bemused expression. He had seen a fair amount of men come in and out of Olivia’s life and as they had been partnered for so long, he could tell just after meeting one how long he was going to last. Jonathan Halloway, it seemed, would probably be around for a bit, longer than the others at least. Elliot had only spoken to him twice and neither occurrence was enjoyable, but after nearly two years, he had learned to tolerate hearing about the man.
Eighteen months earlier, Elliot found himself both unnerved and relieved by the slightest suggestion that Olivia might have become an in-law. Both Bryce and his younger, unmarried brother, Nolan, had helped Elliot move out of his house and into his apartment along with Olivia and Elliot could not help but notice that the exchanges between Olivia and Nolan were a bit much for his tastes. He spent the better part of the day ensuring that they were not alone together for very long, unsure if he was trying to protect his brother or his partner.
All in all, Elliot was comforted to see Nolan react to Olivia. Nolan, who at the time had just turned forty, had been a bachelor for far too long in Elliot’s mind and without seeing a woman in Nolan’s life as a high school teacher in Staten Island, he and Bryce had shared long talks over whether or not they would have to “deal” with a non-straight relative. However, when Nolan had asked for Olivia’s phone number at the end of his move, it was with great relief, pride and slight regret that Elliot informed his younger brother that Olivia was already dating someone.
Elliot sat in the booth, took a swig of his Rolling Rock and casually scanned the room. The restaurant was small the bar towards its middle, but on Sunday evenings especially, it was a nice, smoke-free place to have dinner.
He was about to return to his steak, when his eyes caught a somewhat familiar face at the bar. Dressed as if about to approach a trendy club scene, Olivia’s friend, Maya Shah, stood at the bar talking on her cell phone, a Corona with a lime stuck in its neck in front of her. The eyebrows over her dark eyes were furrowed into an annoyed expression and she continuously moved a lock of long, black hair behind her ear, loosely disguising her frustration.
“Well, fine,” he heard her say into phone. “You do whatever you feel like you need to, but I did come all the way up here just for you…yeah, well, I don’t think I should be penalized just because you have kids…yeah, that’s fine, I just want you to know, that’s a real shitty thing to do someone…whatever, I’ll just talk to you later.”
She snapped her phone closed and tossed it into the small Louis Vuitton bag that hung from her shoulder. Maya sighed and took a long drink of her beer and glanced around the room. She spotted Elliot in his corner and he nodded at her in acknowledgement. She smiled at him and quickly strode to his table.
“Evening, Detective,” she said. “Mind if I sit?”
“Have a seat,” he said, a piece of steak in his cheek.
Maya sat across from him, but neither spoke for a full minute. Elliot had met Maya years earlier when he had first been partnered with Olivia, but he rarely had a chance to talk to her outside of Olivia’s presence.
“So,” Maya said brightly. “What’re you doing here eating alone?”
Elliot shrugged. “I know the owners and they grill a good steak. Plus, I didn’t really feel like trying to cook tonight.”
“I completely understand,” she said. “I never cook if I can help it.”
“Never? Doesn’t that get a little tedious?”
“In the greatest city in the world? Never!”
Elliot laughed, but silence fell upon them again.
“I talked to Livia yesterday,” Maya continued. “She’s seeming kind of…I don’t know…maybe a little happier than before.”
Elliot could tell that Maya was lying simply to make conversation and he did not blame her. He did not like pure silence either and Olivia was the only thing either of them had in common.
“Mm…,” he replied, his mouth full of vegetables. “Might be that guy she’s dating.”
Maya’s eyes seemed to light up at the mention of Jonathan. “Yeah, Jonathan. He’s great. Wish I’d’ve caught him, but he’s good with Livia.”
“I don’t think he likes me,” Elliot said.
“Really? I didn’t Jonathan disliked anybody.”
“‘Bout a month ago, I had to drop off something for Liv. She wasn’t there, but he was.”
He paused briefly, recalling the encounter.
“Oh, so you’re Liv’s partner,” the dark-haired man had said, crossing his arms, but smirking slightly.
“Yeah,” Elliot had said. “Just…uh…give her this and have her call me if she has any questions about what I wrote.”
“I think I can manage that,” Jonathan said smugly.
“Yes…well,” Elliot had said, not sure what else to make of the guy. “Take care, then.”
“Hey, hang on sec,” Jonathan had said. “So, um…tell me. What’s it like to work with Olivia?”
“‘What’s it like’?” Elliot shrugged. “It’s fine…perfect. We get along great.”
Jonathan nodded his head. “I see.”
“You see what?”
Jonathan raised his eyebrows as his mouth stretched into the same smug smirk. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”
Elliot grew irritated. “Do you have some kind of problem with me or something?”
“No, no problem,” Jonathan had said. “Well…actually, I uh…have about three questions for you.”
“Okay…,” Elliot had said..
“First of all, are you sleeping with Olivia?”
Elliot felt his eye twitch and he stood silent for a moment, wondering whether to deck the guy or just turn and walk back toward the elevator.
“No. I’m pretty sure you’re handling that.”
“‘Kay. Just checking…Have you ever slept with my girlfriend?”
“Well, all right,” Jonathan had said, the smirk turning into a wide grin. “So, let me ask: have you ever hurt her in any way?”
Elliot felt his expression soften. He was certain in their eight years together, he had said or done something that hurt Olivia. While he did not like to so much as raise his voice in her direction, he knew Olivia carried emotional scars from their partnership.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he had said.
“Well, then you know what? I think we’ll be all right. I’ll make sure Liv gets this and I hope you have yourself a good day.” With those words, Jonathan closed Olivia’s door in Elliot’s face.
Elliot shook his head.
“Bastard,” he said under his breath as he headed for the elevator.
“He got a little…snippy with me,” Elliot continued breaking his own reverie.
“Really?” Maya said eyes wide. “Jonathan?”
“Took one look at me and we just gave each other a bad vibe, I guess.”
“Wow. He seems like such a sociable guy.”
“That’s what Liv tells me.”
“Hmmm,” Maya said taking a drink, “Although…You know he is a Halloway. And sometimes he can lay that smugness down pretty thick on people.”
Elliot nodded. That’s for damn’ sure, he thought to himself.
Silence hovered over them once more.
“So, what’re you doing here?” Elliot asked to break the silence again. “A happenin’ gal like you. Shouldn’t you be out at some fabulous restaurant, dining with the rich and famous?”
“Yeah, I should,” she said, eyes gleaming with a flippant toss of her hair. “But, instead I’d thought I’d meet a friend for a few drinks, and of course, he blew me off.”
“Why’d he do that?”
“So,” she sighed, “he could spend a nice, Sunday evening with his kids.”
“Can you blame him?”
“Of course, I can. If he was gonna spend the night with his family he should’ve told me. Before I took the cab ride over here.”
Elliot shrugged. “Father’s are like that.”
Maya rolled her eyes. “Whatever. He knew what was up the second he woke up this morning. He can’t just confess eternal love and the possibility of marriage one night and blow me off the next minute.”
“You want to get married?”
“Hell no!” she said, taking another sip of her beer. “Not right now at least. But, that doesn’t mean he can jerk me around. I’m a person too, you know.”
“That’s what Liv tells me,” Elliot repeated.
Maya smiled. “Livia thinks I should break up with him.”
“Probably not, but I know I should. She’s always been the smart one. Always giving me the good advice that I always regret not taking.”
Elliot finished his potatoes and took a long drink of the Rolling Rock. “How long have you known one another?”
“More years than I can really remember,” she said slowly.
“A little more…”
She raised her eyebrows and shifted her gaze to the side table with a smile on her face.
“Can’t be more than twenty,” Elliot said. “You’re both not that old.”
“We’re the same age, actually. Same sign too. Born four days apart.”
“How ‘bout that,” he said, smiling.
Maya returned the smile. “Yep. Practically soul sisters.”
He nodded and tried to keep the conversation going.”
“So, Maya. What is it that you do? I mean I’ve never heard Liv say, ‘when Maya gets time off work’ or something. Do you work somewhere or are you living of your folks’ money like I first assumed?”
She gave him a sly smile. “Technically speaking, I’m a criminal attorney.”
“Really? You’re a lawyer?”
“Look,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I went to law school, passed the bar and even set up a little office on the East Side. The thing is, my parents hate me and they always will for as long as they’re alive. I might as well give them a valid reason for hating me by being a leech on their bank account.”
“I suppose that sounds fair enough.”
Elliot could not help but smirk at Maya as she finished the rest of her Corona. Though Maya was Indian, her facial features had some of the shape of Olivia’s and combined with nearly the same colouring, Elliot could almost see a far less stressed and less mature version of Olivia beaming out from Maya’s eyes.
An unavoidable silence seemed to creep back between them again when Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” rang from her purse.
He started to laugh. “You know, my youngest daughter has that ringtone on her phone.”
“Well, the teenie boppers always have the best stuff,” Maya said, winking and looking at her caller ID. Her eyes grew wide as she looked at the phone. “Know what? I have to go.”
“Emergency at home?”
“Guess you could say that.”
“Your shoe collection on fire or something?” Elliot asked still grinning.
Maya threw back her head and laughed. “No, that would be an absolute disaster. My sister’s just losing her goddamn mind…again.”
“And she’s calling you for advice? I thought Olivia was your advice pool.”
“Oh, she is, but Priyani is calling for someone to bitch at and I know this is going to take a while. Have a good night.”
“See you later,” he said as Maya slipped out of the booth and began speaking rapid Hindi into her phone.
His steak finished and his only beer nearly emptied, Elliot sat alone staring at the seat Maya had just occupied. The loneliness had settled in quickly and he wondered if he would drive around the city for a while to clear his mind or simply go home and get some sleep.
Elliot took a few bills out of his wallet, laid them on the table, gave Debbs, who was behind the bar, a quick wave to add the meal to Elliot’s tab, and headed out the door. As he got to his car he decided to go for Option Three: to head back to the precinct to find something more concrete on Drover. Perhaps if he worked quickly, he would find something before Olivia noticed and read him the riot act again.
Monday January 15, 2007
Greenwich Village, New York
Through a haze of sleep and her own hair covering her face, Olivia could hear her cell phone ripping through the night’s silence from her end table. She dislodged herself from Jonathan’s grasp and the mass of sheets and blankets that covered the bed and reached for the phone. She could hear Jonathan groan from his side of the bed as she moved.
Twenty minutes later, Olivia was dressed, was in Jonathan's car because she desired not to deal with cabs that early in the morning, and was passing through the light at University Place and 10th Avenue, all the while wondering why crimes could only be discovered at this time of night.
Why couldn’t they do this in the middle of the day and give me one night of sleep? she had said to herself.
She had received a call from officers informing her that a murdered young boy had been found behind a building and since she was “catching” cases that night, it was her turn to first investigate. Earlier that night, she told Jonathan that it was strong possibility that she would be called out of bed, but he wanted to have dinner regardless. She wanted to nudge him in the chest when he groaned once the phone rang, but she suppressed the urge. Jonathan had been told what her situation was the moment they started dating and she thought he had no reason to be annoyed.
West 10th Avenue turned into East 10th and Olivia continued forward with a slight grimace on her face. The officer had said that a black boy had been found and that they were working on an identification on the victim, and she was not ready to take on another child molestation so close to the most poignant one. The current string of murders was her and Elliot’s prime focus and any other case would have to wait until it was solved. Though she had yet to even meet the parents of the victim, she knew she would have to lie to them, telling them that their case was at the top of her list, while she knew the murders of Jacob Lewendale, Connor Whickfield and Ricky Schrader took complete priority.
She pictured the face of the grieving mother as she crossed 3rd Avenue and was suddenly nauseated. A wave of exhaustion passed over her and a part of her wanted to just let Elliot get to the scene first to handle everything and go back to sleep, but she knew she had never been accused of dereliction of duty previously and there was no need start now. She also knew that no cop in the SVU kept his or her job by passing the more unpleasant duties onto other detectives.
The radio in the car had been playing the oldies Olivia had listened to as a small child and when Don McLean began singing about a time long, long ago, she turned up the volume. A memory of she and Maya screaming the song at the top of their lungs with a group of other friends as teenagers came to mind and she briefly let the task at hand slip from her thoughts as she drove.
A familiar flash of purple light created from the red and blue alternating squad car lights appeared as Olivia approached Avenue C. Moments later, she was ducking under yellow crime scene tape and was viewing the body of a black boy who did not look much older than ten or eleven. His close-cut, black hair had bits of white fuzz in it that Olivia could not identify and his eyes were vacant with a blue glaze over them. While his large eyes were reminiscent of the other boys, his age was seemed a few years outside of the modus operandi of their current murderer.
Just as she began to feel slight relief that the previous killer had not jumped races, Melinda asked her to view the body from where she stood.
“See this?” she said pointing to the boy’s neck. “It was harder to tell immediately, but those are the same marks found on the past three murders.”
Olivia felt her eyebrows furrow at Melinda. “It’s same guy?”
“Has to be,” she said. “From the way the body’s been positioned here and the shapes of a belt or something like it around the neck. He’s nude and he’s been sodomized to the same point as the others. It’s exactly like the past murders.”
Olivia shook her head. “But, pedophiles are very particular. All the past victims have been white and somewhere closer to thirteen. He can’t be older than ten.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” she said shrugging. “I’ll know with an absolute certainty once I get him on the table, but this looks like the same guy.”
Olivia closed her eyes and sighed.
“But,” Melinda continued, “unlike the others, this boy’s only been dead for a few hours. Even with the cold, I can tell he was strangled somewhere between two to four hours ago.”
Olivia heard Elliot calling her name and she waved him toward where she and Melinda stood. He strode over quickly and she could see that he looked extremely tired. She also had to hide her surprise and worry that he had arrived to the scene far sooner than she would have thought. A quick calculation over the time it would take to get from Woodside to Alphabet City ran through her head and she made a note ask Elliot if he had slept in the “crib” at the 1-6.
When he got to the body, Elliot bent down to look at his neck. He stood quickly and he seemed to grow pale in the artificial police lights. Olivia wanted to ask him what was wrong besides the obvious, but Melinda spoke before she could.
“I’ll let you two know if I find anything that looks like it’s a different guy,” and she began to pack up her examiner’s kit.
Twenty minutes later, Olivia and Elliot were heading back to their respective cars to go back to the precinct, but Olivia grew concerned as she could still see the same sickly expression on Elliot’s face. Even when they left the boy’s body, the colour did not return to his face and she knew something was definitely wrong.
“Elliot,” she said softly as they reached his car. “Is something going on?”
He stared at the Taurus and remained silent.
“Did you sleep at the crib tonight?”
He still said nothing.
“I mean,” she continued. “You haven’t said more than two words to me since you saw the body-”
“I saw him,” Elliot said, blurting out the words. “The victim. The boy…I saw him.”
“You saw him?” she said eyes wide. “Where? When?”
“Yesterday at the ISA complex.” His eyes remained on the car. “He ran right by me. I even heard his mother calling for him.”
Olivia stood for a moment silently staring at him. “Do you remember his name, because we’re still looking for an-”
“Daniel,” he said. “I didn’t catch the last name.”
She nodded. “Well, we can use that to narrow down our search for him.”
Elliot lightly hit his fist against the hood of the car. “That kid was walking, talking, breathing…smiling at me yesterday, Liv…and now…I mean I could’ve reached out and touched him.”
She stared at him as he refused to return her gaze, wishing so much that she could give some words of encouragement, but none came. She had had the same occurrence with other victims, where they were just a minute too late to save one here and a moment shy of catching a criminal there. It was a rare and unfortunate coincidence, and she empathized with him knowing that only time would ease the pain he was feeling.
An hour later, they were back at the precinct reviewing new Missing Persons cases involving a black boy named Daniel.
“Found him,” Munch said from his desk. “Daniel Richardson. Lived on West 63rd, near the park.”
“When was it filed?” Elliot asked.
Olivia’s eyes were directly on Elliot, knowing a major reaction was about to erupt.
Munch sighed. “About an hour before he was found. He was supposed to visit a friend’s house just down the street and he never made it there.”
Elliot slammed his hands on his desk and both she and Fin across from her jumped at the sound.
“He was there!” Elliot yelled. “He was right there! We probably saw him and he picked this kid out right in front of us. He’s mocking us!”
“Elliot,” Munch said calmly. “We don’t even know if it’s the same guy or not.”
“Warner all but said so this morning,” Olivia said.
“But, we still don’t know for sure,” Munch said. “This could be a copy cat. I mean this case is getting more exposure by the day. Who knows who’s been getting some sick ideas?”
“This is the guy,” Elliot said, teeth clenched. “There’s no way it’s not.”
“But he’s black,” Munch said standing. “All the other vics have been white. He’s not going to switch up all of sudden.”
“It’s the same guy,” Elliot said. “He was at the complex while Liv and I were there and now he’s taunting us.”
“We don’t know that he’s taunting us, Elliot,” Olivia said softly trying to calm him.
Elliot shook his head at her and started to retort, but she interrupted. “Let’s just go notify the parents. Maybe they’ll know a little more about what happened to him last night.”
He stared at her for what seemed like an eternity before taking his coat from his chair back and walking toward the elevators. Olivia grabbed the victim’s information from Munch, gave him a look that read, “I’m sorry about Elliot,” and followed her partner to the elevators.
The Richardsons, Langdon and Daphne, were dressed in Kenneth Cole and Chanel, respectively when they answered the door, and were both more or less unresponsive upon receiving the news that their son, Daniel, had been found. Mr. Richardson demanded to see his son in person the moment they told him that he had been murdered, and Olivia and Elliot found themselves standing just behind the parents as Melinda was about to reveal the boy’s face from under a white sheet.
Olivia held her breath, waiting for the storm that was about to hit. As if a symbol had been struck, the sound of Mrs. Richardson’s scream bounced and resounded around the walls of the waiting room as Melinda revealed Daniel Richardson’s lifeless face from beneath the sheet. Olivia saw Melinda quickly cover him as Mrs. Richardson fell to her knees in front of the window, arms reaching out as if wanting to hold her child one last time.
Stepping forward automatically, Olivia took Mrs. Richardson’s hand in one of her own and allowed the grieving mother to squeeze her hand numb. She looked up at Elliot who stood next to a stoic Mr. Richardson, but said nothing as Mrs. Richardson continued to scream for her son.
SVU Squad room
The large, clear Plexiglas board which had held the photos of countless criminals and victims, stood in the middle of the SVU squad room adorning the pictures Jacob Lewendale, Connor Whickfield, Ricky Schrader and now, Daniel Richardson. Cragen stood in front of the board with a frown on his face while his four detectives stood behind him with equally grim expressions.
The media had caught wind of Daniel Richardson’s murder and the reporters were nearly leveling the precinct in hopes to get a statement. He knew one would need to be issued soon, but as he stared at the innocent faces on the board, he realized no answer he could give would appease the impending mobs.
Langdon Richardson was one of the more affluent realtors in the city and Daphne sat on the boards of several of New York’s most notable charities. The death of their youngest son hit the media far sooner than anyone could have imagined, and Cragen’s phones began ringing just an hour after Olivia and Elliot had notified the parents.
“We’ve got a real problem here,” he said toward the board but intended for the detectives behind him. “I mean besides the obvious.” He sighed. “Dr. Warner’s sure it’s the same guy?”
“Hand delivered the results herself,” Elliot said. “It’s the same guy.”
Cragen shook his head. “This just doesn’t make any sense.”
“It’s sick,” Fin said.
“It’s always sick,” Munch said, putting his hands in his pockets. “The Richardsons are notable people, but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this and it won’t be the last either.”
“It’s sick,” Fin continued, “because this guy killed a black kid…today.”
Silence fell over the group for a moment before Olivia spoke. “It’s Martin Luther King Day.”
“Yeah, that is sick,” Munch said. “Killing a black kid in honor of a leader. What kind of sick bastard gets his kicks by changing his MO on Martin Luther King Day?”
“The same one who gets his jollies by raping and murdering adolescent boys,” Elliot said. “This guy couldn’t have picked Daniel out at random. He knew exactly what he was doing.”
“How so?” Cragen said.
“Daniel Richardson just turned twelve years old on the ninth and he’s small for his age, but the parents told Liv and me that Daniel played soccer with older kids. He should’ve been in a U-12 league, but they greased some wheels so that he could play up.”
“Why?” Munch said. “So, he could get beat up on the soccer field?”
“So that he’d be competitive by the time he got to high school. But, he held his own even though he played with kids a few years older.”
“But, why is that even significant?” Fin said. “I mean, so he played soccer with older kids. Why would this guy target him?”
“Because he probably didn’t realize that Daniel was younger until he got a hold of him,” Elliot said. “That might explain why the quick turnaround this time.”
“But, Daniel looks young,” Cragen said. “Anyone could see it. If this guy’s a pedophile, he would’ve seen this and kept on trucking since his age group is thirteen.”
Another wave of silence fell over the group and again Olivia broke it.
“What if he’s not actually a pedophile?” she asked. Met with inquisitive stares, she continued. “What if he’s just a freak who’s out to kill these kids just because they’re there? Maybe there’s something about them that they have that he wants or never had in the first place.”
“But everything about this guy screams pedophile, though,” Fin said.
“That doesn’t mean he has to be one,” she said. “And, if he’s not then there’s no reason why he wouldn’t go after a boy outside his apparent age range and race.”
“Which means,” Elliot said, “he picked out Daniel just because he was around that complex. Daniel played on a team with twelve and thirteen year old kids and this guy would’ve seen him with them. He’s picking out his victims from that site.”
“Wait a minute,” Munch said. “I thought Ricky Schrader didn’t play in the same league as these other kids. He wouldn’t have had a reason to be at that site.”
“He could’ve followed Ricky anywhere,” Elliot said, “especially since his foster parents said he ran away a lot. I’m telling you this guy is stalking the kids from that complex.”
“So, now we have to make a decision,” Cragen said. “Do we close down the site or do we let it stay open?”
Two distinct answers were heard from each of the four detectives simultaneously and the captain simply stared at those before him.
“We need to keep it open,” Fin said. “If we close it down, the killer’s gonna know we’re onto him and we’ll never find him.”
“I agree,” Elliot said. “We should place some Unis and some Plain Clothes around the whole complex looking for the guy.”
“But,” Olivia said, “we may not find him, even with officers at every door. We still not sure how he tracked down Ricky Schrader-”
“Which is why we need people at the complex,” Elliot interrupted.
“But,” she continued, “we’ve already established that this guy might not be a pedophile at all. If he’s moved on to other spots in the city there’s no telling where he might be and when he’ll go back to that complex.”
Olivia glared at Elliot, trying hard not to show her aggravation that Elliot was, again, not backing her opinion on this case. In her eyes, the longer the complex stayed open, the more likely it was that another boy was going to be taken from the site and found murdered elsewhere in the city.
She stared at him, hoping to sway him with the look in her eye, but Elliot stood firm.
“Shutting down that complex does nothing except excite hysteria. We’ll be up to our armpits in angry parents the moment the press gets wind that this guy’s targeting that site.”
Munch took a step between them. “How’s it going to look if we leave the place open and another kid disappears?”
“How’s it gonna look if we never find this guy?” Fin said. “It’s like Elliot said: as soon as we close the place, he’s gonna bolt.”
“All right, look,” Cragen said before Olivia could respond again. “Why don’t we just leave it open for the time being. We’ll place both Unis and Plain Clothes all around the site and see what we can dig up. What about that trainer, Drover? What else do we know about his involvement?”
Olivia spoke up before Elliot could open his mouth. “We’re still not sure if he’s involved at all.”
“The witness who saw Jacob Lewendale talking to a guy in a truck that night, did identify him,” Elliot said.
She threw him a dirty look. “But it was just through a license photo and that ID was sketchy at best.”
“Sketchy how?” Cragen asked.
“The kid didn’t know how to describe the difference between a truck and an SUV and he identified Drover because that’s the picture we showed him. I still don’t think he’s involved.”
“Fine,” Cragen said with a tone that proved the subject was closed at the moment. “I want you four doing rounds at the soccer complex tonight. Benson, Stabler: you two will start the first round. Munch, Fin: you’ll get the next.”
Tri-State ISA Complex 6
439 West 108th St
The soccer ball smacked against the painted wooden walls of the indoor soccer field and a teenager with a mop of blond curls chased after it, three other boys following close behind him.
The complex was about to close for the night and Olivia thought that she could sleep for the next hundred hours. She and Elliot had been watching the site for several hours, hoping to see someone who looked out of place. Unfortunately, everything Olivia saw only made her biological clock tick louder than ever. Fathers holding younger children, all the while cheering for their older ones out on the fields; mothers pushing toddlers in strollers; children of all ages, everywhere. With the sighting of each family, Olivia felt every day of her thirty-seven years weighing on her.
She glanced at Elliot who was scanning the faces of the dwindling crowd around the oblong field. She knew that he was desperately searching for Drover’s face among the spectators and a part of her wished that Drover would be there too, but she knew he would not. While Drover did not strike her as the most well adjusted person, running through Manhattan streets at night alone, nothing about him seemed like he would be capable of committing this string of murders.
She sighed as the referee on the field in front of them called time on the game. Elliot had said hello to several sets of parents they had seen around the complex, all of whom he had known from attending some of his own children’s soccer games. She could see that he desperately wanted to tell each of the parents to keep a closer watch on their children around the complex, as she wanted to do the same, but they had both been told to keep quiet about the situation at the site to keep from stirring a panic.
The respective teams were in lines shaking hands, congratulating one another on a “good game,” and Olivia felt Elliot shift beside her.
“We calling it a night?” she asked.
He nodded. “I figure another hour as they close up, but yeah.” He stared out at the fake grass field and tall, bright lights. “You know, I saw your friend Maya, yesterday while I was having dinner.”
“Really?” Olivia said, feeling her eyebrows rise. “Where was this?”
“A restaurant on West End,” he said.
“You had dinner together?”
He shook his head. “No, I just happened to look up and she was there. We just talked for a while. She’s a real character, that one.”
“Yeah, that sounds like Maya. So, what’d you talk about?”
“Why?” he said, grinning slightly. “You jealous?”
She rolled her eyes. “Well, I guess I don’t have to ask because the only thing you’ve got in common is me.”
“We only talked about you for a little bit,” he said. “She’s cute. She reminds me of you.”
“How?” she said a little louder than she had intended.
Elliot shrugged. “Don’t know. She just seems like a version of you before the world got to you.”
Olivia stared at him for a bit, thinking to herself. Maya was most definitely a character; one who had mentioned on more than one occasion that Elliot seemed like the perfect catch for any woman. The very idea of she and Elliot conversing alone had her more than worried for reasons she could not quite understand.
“What?” Elliot asked when he noticed her staring at him.
“Nothing,” she said. “Just…be careful with Maya.”
“Well…she cheats…often. I wouldn’t want to see you or anybody I cared about involved with that side of her.”
Elliot let out a laugh. “Liv, I’m not even thinking about that. I just thought it was interesting that you two would be so alike and so different at the same time.”
Olivia nodded and smirked, but an uncomfortable silence fell upon them nonetheless. The situation with Kathleen notwithstanding, she and Elliot had few secrets between them, but Olivia told Maya nearly everything. While she trusted Maya wholeheartedly, she could not help but wonder exactly what was said between her and Elliot.
“How long’ve you known one another, anyway?” he added.
She shrugged. “Forever. Hey, it looks like it’s just us and a few other Plain Clothes officers in here. When are Munch and Fin coming tomorrow?”
“They open at noon, so I suspect a little before then.”
“You see anyone out of the ordinary?”
“No,” he sighed. “But, that doesn’t mean he’s not coming back. “
“Exactly,” she said.
“C’mon, Liv. Don’t start that again.”
“Start what? I’m just saying…we don’t know who we’re looking for and for all we know, he’s probably tracked down a different-”
“Olivia, if we close down the site, we’ll never find him.”
“I’m just not sure I’m willing to sacrifice another victim in the hopes that we may track him down here.”
“Well, what other ideas have you got?” he said nearly yelling. “The only prints we have are from the other victims, we only have DNA from one victim, it doesn’t match anything in the system and we haven’t got any suspects to even run it against! We’ve got nothing! If we close down the complex, we lose our only chance at finding this guy.”
She stood silent, unsure what to say. The entire situation annoyed her endlessly. The issue at hand, Jeffrey Drover, was not being expressed, and she could see Elliot was venting his frustration over not finding him.
“Fine,” she said and walked toward the complex exit without another word to him.
The truth of the matter was that she was tired, not only physically, but in every way possible. She was tired of dealing with the stress of the case, tired of feeling her life slipping away from her one day at a time and she was sick of the groove, in which she and Elliot found themselves. One moment, everything appeared like it was getting better, fitting back into place, and a minute later, they were arguing again.
Weeks ago, they had been arguing almost non-stop over the Sennet case and they seemed to have patched up all the sour feelings following her departure from the department months earlier. Yet, there they were, still arguing over things that seemed trite when one considered all that they had endured together. They simply could not get back to where they were and they seemed to drift apart farther the longer they went without a suspect.
A valid suspect, she thought to herself as she hailed a cab.
The thought of sharing a silent ride home with Elliot was almost too much for her. Drover was still at the heart of the problem and Olivia knew that if they did not find another suspect soon, Elliot would explode at the thought that they had Drover just within their grasp and he managed to slip away from them.
A half hour later, Olivia was in her apartment and checking the messages on her home phone. She had three: one from Maya telling her that Elliot had the “cutest dimples” when he was eating, one from Jonathan saying he was having “one of those days” and would not be coming by her place that night and one from her friend Jillian just asking how she was doing.
Olivia dialed *8 on her phone and was speaking to Jillian Harfort a moment later.
“Well, Jordan was excited all day,” Jillian said several minutes into their conversation.
“Was he?” Olivia said.
“He just heaved that basketball up there and after it went in, you couldn’t do anything to wipe that smile off his face. I mean he’d never made a three-pointer in his life and he even did a little dance afterward. Oh, Liv. You should’ve seen it. It was adorable.”
Olivia smiled into the phone as Jillian rattled on about her son Jordan’s basketball game. The same age as Olivia, Jillian Blakendorf, now Harfort, attended Sienna College while Olivia was there and they had been friends for close to twenty years. Her appearance, straight blonde hair cut just below the ear and large, soft blue eyes, often times betrayed her demeanor. She could seem acquiescent and malleable and, as she had once revealed to Olivia, would sometimes keep a vacant expression on her face to give people a false sense of security. While Jillian’s main choice of topic usually surrounded her husband or her children, she had a fierce soul that many found ruthless. Jillian could sound like a “soccer mom” one moment and like the cutthroat litigator she was at heart the next.
Jillian and Maya attended law school together and while Maya set up a very small practice with her own degree, Jillian married and decided her efforts were better served by raising a family. Though she wanted to have the American Dream, at no point had Jillian lost the cold-blooded nature she perfected in law school.
Any time someone close to her was threatened, a side of Jillian seen by few people would erupt and her true forceful nature was revealed. Although she could be cold at times, Jillian had been by Olivia’s side through good times and bad and of the few friends with whom she still kept in touch, Jillian was the most dependable.
“So,” Jillian said. “Jordan and Jeremy are wondering when they’ll get to see their Aunt Liv.”
“I know,” Olivia said. “I’ve been so busy with the caseload. Jonathan and I barely even have time to see one another.”
“You need a vacation.”
“Tell me about.”
“No, seriously,” Jillian said. “You need to take a break before you just fall down out of exhaustion.”
“Of course, I do, Jill, but when? The second I think I can take some time for myself, a case falls on my lap that I can’t just leave for someone else.”
“But, you have to take time for you.”
“Well, it’s not happening anytime soon, so I’m not going to worry about it,” Olivia said sitting on her couch to rewrite the notes she had made that day concerning Daniel Richardson.
Jillian was silent on the phone for a moment. “You’re working this thing I’ve heard about the boys in the city, aren’t you?”
“No, I know you can’t tell me about it, but I can tell. That’s probably why you’re calling back now when I called you around six. Although, I honestly can’t remember the last time you were actually home in the evening.”
“Neither can I.”
“But…” Olivia could hear Jillian hesitate. “I’m worried Olivia. I mean I know all this is happening in the city, which makes me so glad we’re in Connecticut, but it’s just that no one’s saying anything about it, which just makes us parents worry more.”
“Jill, there’s nothing to say. Trust me. If we had a guy in custody, you’d know about it.”
“I’m also worried about you too. I know how you take these kinds of cases and I know that your partner’s probably not being all that pleasant with this either.”
Olivia was unable to stifle her sigh into the phone. While Maya had met Elliot a few times since she lived in the city, Jillian had not, but it did not stop her from forming her own negative opinion of him. Olivia blamed herself for the problem because the only times she ended up telling Jillian about Elliot was when they were arguing about something. She usually saved the stories of the delightful times with her partner for Maya and it was not until a few months ago that she noticed the discrepancy.
She had told Jillian that Elliot was talking to his estranged wife and that they seemed to still be on good terms, but Jillian seemed to think that Elliot did not deserve to have his wife return to him. Since then, Olivia had made a clear effort to highlight the positive parts of her relationship with her partner.
“He’s got kids this same age,” Olivia said.
“I see,” Jillian said with a tone that suggested that she did not care how old Dickie and Lizzie were. “Well, I know my boys haven’t seen you in ages. You wouldn’t believe how tall Jordan’s getting. It’s almost like someone’s stretching him out at night. When’s the soonest you think you could get out here? Or we could even come to you.”
Olivia glanced toward the calendar that lied flat on her desk and across the room. “Probably not until…February,” she lied. “Late February. March even.”
She could barely keep plans with Jonathan who lived twenty minutes away from her, but Olivia still did not want to discount her friend all together. In truth, she wanted very much to see Jillian’s children, as she was their godmother, but she did not want to set plans she would not be able to keep. She had seen Elliot do the same too often not to know that there would repercussions at some point if she could not keep her promises.
“Well, how about you pencil us in for around the 16th of February,” Jillian laughed, “unless you and Jonathan are doing something special that weekend for Valentine’s.”
Olivia scoffed. “Yeah, well if we manage to have dinner that night, it’ll be a miracle.”
“I still think it’s a miracle Sarah and I picked a guy that actually worked. You cost me fifty bucks.”
She smiled into the phone, knowing how much Jillian loved to rub in the fact that she had set her up with Jonathan. “You set me up with someone you thought wouldn’t work out and bet on it?”
“Yep, but I figured you deserved a nice dinner with a good looking guy since you seemed to be giving up for a while there. I guess the money was worth it, but it’s really the principle of the thing.”
They talked until Jillian had to leave when Jeremy, aged five, woke up because he had an “accident,” and the moment she set down her phone, it began ringing again.
She closed her eyes and sighed before she answered it. “Benson.”
“Uh…hi, Olivia? It’s Kathleen.”
“Hi,” Olivia said, her tone raising several pitches. “What’s up?”
“Um…I wanted to know if…uh…I-er…um, we could make…um…an appointment for the doctor. You know…about what we talked about on Saturday?”
Olivia paused for a moment as she put together what Kathleen was trying to say. “Yeah. That…that’s fine. What day is best for you?”
“Um…how ‘bout Friday? Can we do it, like at night or something?”
Another uncomfortable pause was heard over the phone. Olivia knew Kathleen wanted to make a doctor’s appointment for later Friday evening so that she could simply tell her parents that she was “out” and would be able to avoid telling them anything altogether.
“Well, it’d be kind of hard to get a doctor’s appointment with my doctor on a Friday evening, but…” She racked her brain for a moment, thinking about what she would do if she were in Kathleen’s position. “If we went to the free clinic, they’d be open later and we could get your prescription right there.”
“Yeah!” Kathleen said, nearly shouting. “That’s great. Do you want me to call or…?”
Olivia unintentionally rolled her eyes before answering. “Well, I can…I can call tomorrow and make the appointment for you. I’ll just say it’s for my daughter or something.” She heard Kathleen let out a little giggle. “So, would six be okay?”
“You’re sure you don’t want your mom to come? Because I know if you were my daughter…”
“Olivia,” she interrupted. “If I were your daughter, I know I’d be able to just straight talk to you about this. I don’t want to tell her. Not yet, at least. And I really don’t want my dad to know.”
“Okay,” Olivia said nodding into the phone. “I understand. Well, I’ll…make that appointment for this Friday at six. I’ll just pick you up from your house or something.”
“Well…” Kathleen began and Olivia flinched. Their conversation was becoming more deceptive with every passing moment. “How ‘bout I just meet you at Schreider’s again and then we’ll go from there?”
Olivia sighed. “That…that’ll work. So, Schreider’s, this Friday at six. I’ll make the appointment for six-thirty so we’ll have some time.”
“Great! Thanks so much, Olivia!”
“No problem,” she said and then hung up the phone.
She put her hand to her stomach, suddenly feeling both queasy and a burning sensation from deep within her abdomen. She ran a hand through her hair and groaned. Having nearly forgotten about the predicament with Kathleen, Olivia felt the strain of stress pressing on her from all sides.
She heard a buzz from her intercom and she considered just leaving whoever it was outside in the cold.
“Who is it?” she asked a minute later into the intercom.
“Jonathan,” she said in a low voice. “I’m really tired and I thought you said you were busy?”
“I was, now I’m not and my first thought was on you.”
“Yeah and I’m sure you were thinking with your head instead of your dumbstick.”
“Whatever, whatever,” he said through the intercom. “Seriously, Liv. It’s like fifteen degrees out here.”
She sighed. “Come on up.”
Ten minutes later, she was lying on her couch wrapped in Jonathan’s arms. Olivia nuzzled her face into his chest and, as she smelled the cologne she had purchased for him a month earlier as a Christmas gift, her memory drifted to one of the most pleasant Christmases she had experienced since she was a small child.
“I got you a little something,” Olivia had said as she pointed a small, neatly-wrapped gift toward Jonathan.
Her living room was dark save for the small white lights that twinkled from her plastic tree near the window and Christmas music echoed softly from the iPod Maya had given her a month earlier for an Indian celebration. The lights from her tree reflected in Jonathan’s eyes and seemed to dance as he smiled at the gift.
“A little something, eh?” Jonathan had said. “How little is little?”
“A little, little.”
“Ah, now it makes sense.”
She hugged him and whispered “Merry Christmas” in his ear as they fell onto her sofa together. He kissed her cheek and began to rip at the wrapping paper that covered the small box.
“It’s cologne,” Jonathan said once the box was opened. “You trying to tell me I stink or something?”
“Well, I figured it would be the most subtle way of saying it.”
He smiled as he pulled the small bottle out of its box. “What’s this called?”
“Jealousy believe it or not.”
“Why wouldn’t I believe it’s called Jealousy?”
“You’ll see. Spray away.”
Jonathan gave her a suspicious smirk and sprayed a mist onto his neck. He blinked for a few minutes as the fragrance dissolved into his skin and then turned to gawk at Olivia, his mouth hanging slightly.
“Wait a minute. I think I remember this…Olivia…”
“It wasn’t until last year,” Olivia began with a nonchalant air to her voice, “that I was first really pressed with the question ‘What do you get for someone who has absolutely everything?’ I only just pulled it off last year.”
“You did great though. But…but this…”
She nodded. “Yeah, but this year, I’ve had time to plan. Remember our first date? Remember how that guy passed by our table and I said he smelled good and you got that look on your face like you were jealous already.”
“Yeah…you told me you’d get me some of whatever he was wearing, but how…?”
“How did I find it? It took forever and ever and thousands of stores and thousands of hours of smelling things with Maya and Sarah, but I finally found it. Cool that it’s called Jealousy, huh?”
Jonathan laughed. “How’d you even remember something like this? It was close to two years ago.”
“I pay attention to all the small things.”
He smiled at her and brought out a small box from his pocket. “Well…speaking of small things…”
“Oh no. What have you done now?”
Jonathan refused to answer, but batted his eyes at her as he handed Olivia the box. She mimicked his suspicious smirk and quickly opened it. When she saw the red box from Cartier, Olivia’s heart skipped a beat wondering if Jonathan had splurged to pop the question, but she opened the box to find a much smaller black case. She nudged him as he chuckled at the fluster that had appeared on her face and opened the smaller case to find subtle, half-carat diamond earrings.
“I figured I’d goad you a bit with the case from Cartier.”
“Oh, you did more than goad,” Olivia said as she replaced her small gold hoops with the diamond studs. “You just about gave me a heart failure.”
“Well, I know you don’t like anything flashy, but…I’m a Halloway and I just couldn’t help myself.”
Olivia nudged him again and kissed him as leaned against her sofa cushions. She heard something crinkle under their combined weight and she released him as she felt him tense beneath her.
“What was that?” she asked. “Are you hiding something behind the couch cushions?”
A familiar boyish grin spread across Jonathan’s face as he reached between the pillows on her couch.
“I didn’t think I was going to be attacked like that so quickly,” he said and removed something wide and flat from the depths of the sofa.
“What on earth?”
“You’re not the only one who can give the thoughtful gifts. Open it.”
Eyes wide with wonder, Olivia ripped the paper from the gift and was met with her own smiling face in an image taken two years earlier. Jonathan, dressed in his best Armani, twirled her in a Ralph Lauren dress into which she had poured half a paycheck as they stood on the dance floor of a cheap karaoke bar.
“Now,” Jonathan said, pulling her very close, “I know you remember our first date.”
“How could I forget? Sarah and Jillian lured us both to that restaurant, but we ditched the place and went karaoke singing in our formal wear. It might’ve been the best night of my life. But, where’d you get this?”
“The little Mexican guy who going around there taking pictures that night. I went back there the next day and bought the picture because I knew how special it was.”
“You’re too much, you know that?”
“I’m serious,” he said as he nuzzled her neck. “It was a special moment and I knew I’d want to give it to you someday.”
“So, you could have a record of the exact moment when I fell for you.”
Olivia closed her eyes to keep from allowing the pure joy of the moment to flow out of her in the form of tears. Jonathan shifted off the couch and pulled her up into a slow dance in the middle of her living room.
“See that Liv?” he said as he hugged her. “We both thought of the same night. Our minds are already in sync.”
She reached up to kiss him softly while Otis Redding’s rendition of “White Christmas” began to play through her stereo. Jonathan pulled her close to him as they danced a slow circle in the dark, brushing kisses against one another as they moved.
“Have you come up with any little resolutions for the new year yet?” he mumbled close to her face.
Olivia sighed with a smile. She had been on-call that night as she was the one without family and had volunteered for the shift, but no calls had buzzed through her cell phone throughout the night.
“Well,” she said after a full minute, “I had been promising myself to get to know my cousin a little better and maybe train for the marathon, but as of right now, all I want is to be held by you.”
Jonathan squeezed her tighter and smiled into her hair. The pair turned to the tune of the slow song and Olivia felt her heartbeat become one with Jonathan’s. As he turned her on the same spot, time seemed to melt away along with the cares for anything but the man whose arms enveloped her.
Jonathan rubbed Olivia’s back as she lied nearly on top of him, eliciting a low purr from her throat. “How was your day or should I just change the subject?”
“New topic,” Olivia said softly.
She felt him laugh. “That bad eh?”
“New topic,” she repeated.
“The job or something else and the job?”
“The latter and I thought we were onto a new topic?”
“Well,” Jonathan continued. “I can probably guess what’s wrong with the job, but what else is wrong?”
“New topic,” she mumbled again into his shirt.
“Seriously, Liv,” he said nudging her in his arms. “What’s wrong?”
She sighed. “Elliot.”
Jonathan tensed beneath her. “Why him? What’s he done?”
“Nothing. It’s his daughter.”
“Which one? Doesn’t he have, like, five kids?”
“Four and it’s his second one, Kathleen. She wants birth control and she’s too afraid to ask either of her parents about it.”
“And, how does that concern you?”
“Well, I’ll give you one guess as to who she’s come to for help.”
“Still don’t see how it’s your problem.”
Olivia maneuvered herself out of his arms. It was not like Jonathan to be curt when something was bothering her. “Well, aren’t you being a complete jerk about this?”
He sighed. “Liv…If you get stressed out because of the job, that’s understandable. But to get all worked up over your partner’s kid, Liv, that’s ridiculous.”
“I’ve known her since she was ten years old.”
“So. That doesn’t make her your responsibility. It’s your partner’s kid. If she’s having problems, he should be the one to deal with it. And, I’m pretty sure she’s got a mother too. I don’t see why you should be stressed out over their problem.”
She moved away from him on the couch and glared at him. “You can’t see why I’d want to help out Elliot’s daughter? Are you serious?”
“Olivia,” he said rolling his eyes. “She’s not your kid.”
“And neither are the ones I help every day.”
“But, those kids are different. They’ve got real problems. You shouldn’t be penalized because your partner can’t control his kids.”
“Kathleen doesn’t want to go to her parents and neither would any girl her age in her situation. Elliot is perfectly capable of taking care of his kids.”
A smug smile spread across Jonathan’s face. “Well, obviously he’s not since his kids can’t go to him with their problems and he’s let his marriage fall apart.”
The nausea that had subsided when she fell into Jonathan’s arms earlier returned in full swing and she quickly stood.
“You know what?” she said. “I’ve just realized I’ve got a lot of work to do seeing as how I’ve got rapists and pedophiles and killers to track down. Maybe you should go home and I’ll call you a little later.”
“Oh, I’m real serious.”
Jonathan sat on the couch for a minute, mouth agape before he finally stood to look down at her from his six-foot two frame.
“Fine,” he said. “I’ll call you later. When you’re a little less busy or whatever.”
“Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.”
“Well,” he said as he stood at the door, the expression on his face still registering shock that she would throw him out in the middle of the night. “I...well, I guess I really will just call you later.”
“Good night,” she said in a sing-song voice, closing the door behind him.
Olivia returned to her notes on Daniel Richardson, shaking her head all the while. Things between her and Elliot might have been bad, but she could not sit idly by and allow someone to bad mouth her partner the way Jonathan had.
Her stomach rumbled and she leaned her head back against the coach. Perhaps, if she had the strength to rummage through her medicine cabinet, she might find a Tums or a bottle of Pepto-Bismol to settle the pains in her stomach.
Unknown Time and Place
He had always loved it; that scream. It was not the final one; far from it. It was the scream she made, they all made, in that moment she knew death was imminent. The scream that said all hope had faded and fear had completely overtaken her.
She screamed and he smiled, reveling in the sound as it echoed through dark halls and wet walls. This one had bored him for much too long and now was the time to put her away with all the others.
His hands sparkled in the miniscule light to which only he was accustomed as he ran both of them up her chest and toward her throat. He was still inside of her and he paused briefly considering if he should wait until he reached climax or continue onward.
He slid his hands forward. There was no need to wait. Climax would come with her last breath.
He could feel her blood pulsing through her veins against the skin on his rough hands and he spread his fingers about the soft orifice of her neck. The muscles in her throat clenched sensing the impending pressure while he pushed his palms forward against her windpipe. Her entire body tensed around him and beads of sweat appeared on his brow in anticipation for the release.
His mind was electric as the small muscles in his hand applied slow pressure against her windpipe. More and more. Harder and harder. The stronger the pressure, the softer her scream and he continued to press his hands upon her.
With a final exertion of pressure to her throat, the windpipe gave way at last and he felt it break within his grasp. Her arms flailed wildly about him, struggling harder against him and slapping at anything within reach as his drops of sweat splashed onto her face.
Pale skin turned red and brown eyes bulged from their sockets, but he continued to hold her without a movement or hurried breath. The seconds ticked away and her eyes darted around as her brain began its last efforts to save itself from an untimely end.
His eyes locked onto hers looking for that which he loved more than any scream. The second her brain ceased to function and her soul vapored out from her eyes and dissipated into the cold air about them. The bright flecks of gold and green that once livened her face melted into a sea of dark brown and her arms slowly fell to her sides. He could feel her body relaxing all around him and watched as the last vestiges of life floated out of her. To know that he had ended a human life, to know that never again would this soul walk the earth, engage with him and scream for him. He felt simply exhilarated.
With all oxygen depleted from her lungs and the cells of her body deprived of the electrical impulses needed to function, her heartbeat slowly came to a stop and he bucked forward finally achieving climax.
Her body was still warm and he kissed her graciously on the lips, relishing the taste of her last warmth. He climbed off and sighed. In the end, she had been quite fun. Perhaps if she had put up the same type of vigor in the past, he may not have grown so very bored with her.
But, that was in the past and he would now have to simply tuck her away with all the others. He would put her away; where he placed all the others with whom he had grown bored. The odor of all the past ones was more than foul, but there was no reason to move them elsewhere. Moving them from outside of his grasp would only involve outsiders; those who would not, could not, understand the way things were and the way things had to be.
He was not worried. He still had the others and there were always more to be found. He could replace her and any of those who bored him. And he would replace the new ones too, should the time come.