Chapter Nine


Monday January 22, 2007

SVU Squad Room


Jeffrey Drover’s image stared back at Elliot from his computer monitor and the detective felt a grimace fall over his face. He had been studying everything he could find about Drover’s past for several hours though it was only six o’clock in the morning. Originally, he had come in early to keep from having to extend his time with Diana, but once he began digging on Drover, he was glad he did. Holding George’s analysis on The Boxing Strangler in his hands, Elliot’s scorn for Drover grew stronger.

White male, late twenties or early thirties, not necessarily a pedophile in a traditional sense who would seek sexual gratification from children, but simply abuses them so that he can control them and was most likely molested at the same age as the victims.

Elliot could only shake his head at the photo of a young Jeffrey Drover on his screen. After running the name “Drover” through several systems, Elliot discovered that a Christopher Drover, aged fifty-six, was serving time at Sing Sing Correctional Facility for molesting four thirteen-year-old boys fifteen years earlier. Elliot did a quick calculation in his head and realized that Jeffrey Drover would have been exactly thirteen fifteen years ago. Upon further research, he found a divorce decree for an Amelia Ryan-Drover who in 1992, had obtained sole custody of her two children named Sara Emily and Jeffrey Christopher.

Elliot made a phone call to a friend who had owed him a favor and minutes later he was looking into the details of Christopher Drover’s crimes. It seemed that Christopher and Amelia Drover were living the American dream on Staten Island when Christopher lost touch with reality and began molesting his son Jeffrey when he turned thirteen. The abuse went on for months until one of Jeffrey’s friends came forward to announce what Christopher had done to him as well as two other boys, and Drover Senior was sentenced to ten years for each of his victims, all to be served consecutively.

Pity briefly struck Elliot as he re-read the case file on Christopher Drover, but it passed quickly. No matter what had been done to him, nothing gave Drover the right to molest anyone. The succinct profile on their killer now matched Drover perfectly and it was only a matter of time before they would be able to explain what had happened in regards to the DNA mismatch on Jacob Lewendale. Elliot had seen everything from doctors managing to contaminate their own blood to massive mistakes leading to and away from convictions. It was simply the difficulty of discovering how Drover accomplished his feat.

He considered calling Olivia when she had not appeared in the precinct by eight, but decided against it. It was not like Olivia to be late, but there could be an entire host of reasons behind where she was and time was of the essence. He knew she would want to drag out the inevitable by wanting to compare Drover and Kreider again, but he wanted a warrant executed for Drover’s apartment as soon as possible. With six boys dead and a solid lead, there was no time to be wasted. Within an hour, he had called Casey, received his warrant, alerted Cragen and was heading down Second Avenue with Munch and Fin ready to bust Jeffrey Drover.




Greenwich Village, New York



Olivia rolled onto her side and slid one foot from beneath the covers on her bed to balance her spiking body temperature. Most of the men she had dated preferred to have their space when they slept at night, but Jonathan liked to sleep completely spooned together. For the most part, she did not mind, finding it rather comforting to wake up with someone right next to her, but every once in a while, she would become feverish and the feel of his warm, heavy body all over her became nearly unbearable.

She knew half of her fever came from simple stress. Stress from the job, stress from peers, stress from life. It came at her from all angles and, as she stared up at the ceiling wondering what horrors the new day would bring, she felt the stress pressing over her most upsetting case. Six young boys had been murdered and while she felt a strong certainty that Kreider was involved, without cooperation from Elliot, she knew they may never apprehend him.

Her alarm clock switched to six-fifteen and she reached around to pull herself from Jonathan’s grasp, speculating all the while about what had gone wrong in his childhood to make him cling so tightly in bed. The moment her feet hit the wooden floorboards, the cell phone on her nightstand chirped its irritating song.

She answered it quickly hoping not to wake Jonathan. “Benson.”

There was only the sound of someone breathing on the other end for a moment.

“Hello?” Olivia said.

“Yeah…hi,” an unfamiliar voice said. “This is Olivia right?”

“Yes, this is Detective Benson,” she said her eyebrows furrowed. “Who’s this?”

“Um…this is Evelyn. Evelyn Rivers.”

“Evelyn, yes. Is everything all right?”

“Yes…well…” There was a hesitation in her voice that caused Olivia to stand as if doing so would allow her to hear better. “I was just…you know, wanting to say…um, hello. So, hello.”

Olivia heard her sniffle into the phone. “Evelyn? Is everything okay?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “Everything’s…everything’s fine. Just fine. I just wanted to make sure that you haven’t forgotten about me or anything.”

“No, I haven’t forgotten about you. Are you all right? Do you need anything?”

“Um…no.” She heard Evelyn sniff again and was certain by the nasal sound of her voice that she was crying. “Just…you know, saying hello. ‘Cause you said I could call…any-anytime, so that’s why I…uh, have called.”

“It’s okay. I want you to call.” Olivia paused. “Do you need me to come over?”

“No,” she said quickly. “I’m fine, and I, uh, don’t want to wake Micah or anything.”

“Evelyn, has Micah hurt you? Are you okay?”

“Oh, I’m…I’m just fine. I was just calling…to tell you that I was okay.”

Olivia nodded into the phone. “Tell you what, Evelyn. I’m going to get dressed and I’m going to come pay you a visit this morning. Okay?”

“Well…you don’t have to do that…I mean…if you want to, but everything’s fine.”

“Yeah, I know, but I want to. So, I’ll see you in a little bit, all right?”

“O-okay, Olivia. Th-thank you.”

Olivia closed the phone and sighed as she thought about Evelyn Rivers’ state. The woman was calling at six in the morning and was obviously already crying. There was no question in Olivia’s mind that Micah Diorel had been violent against Evelyn again. It was only a matter of how badly and if he would still be in a woman-beating mood when she arrived at their apartment.

She heard Jonathan rustling in her bed and she turned toward him. “I have to go.”

“I understand,” he said nodding, but as she crossed the bedroom he sat up in the bed. “Hang on a second. Dinner tonight? The Avant. We’ve got reservations.”

She lowered her head. “At eight?”

“Yeah. You can make it, right? If all you can do is just run out of the precinct, you can just meet me. I’ll bring you a dress. I just really would like to make this one.”

“I’ll try.”

He sighed. “That’s all I can ask for, I guess.”

“I’ll call by seven if it’s not looking good.”

“Okay,” he said, but stared at the ceiling all the while.

By the time Olivia reached Evelyn Rivers’ building, it was after seven and she warily walked into the building whose outer door still held a broken lock. “Evelyn?” she said, knocking on the door. “It’s Olivia. Open up.”

She heard footsteps pace behind the door for a moment before the door locks began to slide and the apartment door opened.

Evelyn stood in the doorway, barefoot, wearing a blue cami and matching pajama pants, with an anxious expression etched on her face. There was a splatter of a rusty red substance on the cami where the spaghetti strap met the rest of the shirt and Olivia could see that Evelyn’s lower lip, looking puffy and swollen, had a cut that was just beginning to mend.

“Hi,” Olivia said softly.

“Hello. You really didn’t have to come. I’m fine, now. Really. Everything’s fine.”

“You sounded so scared on the phone, Evelyn. I just wanted to see how you were doing for myself. Can I come in?”

Evelyn nodded and opened the door to let her into the apartment.

“Is Micah here?”

“No, he-he’s gone. He left for work a little while ago.”

“Are you expecting him back any time soon?”

“No,” she said shaking her head. “He probably won’t be back ‘til, like, much later tonight.”

“What happened to your lip?”

Her hand immediately flew to the cut on her lip. “Nothing. I don’t know. It was just there when I woke up. I guess…I just bit my lip or something.”

Olivia nodded. “What’s that on your cami? It looks like blood.”

Evelyn crossed her arms in front of her chest. “It’s not. It’s just a stain. I should probably just throw this out.” Her voice cracked and sounded as if she were restraining a sob.

“Evelyn, please,” Olivia said, taking a step toward her. “Why are you staying here with him? He beat you and he raped you and he’s going to keep doing it unless you leave him.”

“I-I…I can’t.”

“Why Evelyn?” she said, taking the young girl by the shoulders. “Why can’t you leave him? You’re not married or even engaged. You don’t have children together. You’re a pretty girl. You can find someone else.”

Evelyn shook her head. “You…you don’t understand. He loves me. I know he does. He just gets angry sometimes, but I know he loves me.”

“How can he love you if he’s hurting you like this?”

“He…he loves me and I can’t just leave him. He’ll fall apart without me. I know it. I can’t leave him.” Olivia gave a deep sigh, but Evelyn continued. “Have you ever been loved by someone? Really loved by someone?”

“Have you? Because from what I know about Micah, he can’t be the one you’re talking about.”

“Have you ever really loved someone?”

“Trust me,” Olivia said. “I understand.”

“Then you’d know what I’m talking about. That feeling that you’ll never find anyone in the world who’ll love you as much as he does…it’s strong. And I can’t just let all that go.”

“But at what cost? I know what it’s like. I get it. I really do. He’s a good-looking guy and you’re trying to do everything to keep from feeling so alone. I understand, Evelyn. I know you think you love him and I know what it’s like to think that if you just give him one more chance, he’ll change. But, he’s not going to change. Guys like Micah don’t change. They just get worse and worse.”

“Micah…Micah loves me, Olivia.”

“Evelyn, the night I first saw you, you told me what really happened and then you changed your mind because you said he’d hurt you even more.”

“I was…I was angry…at myself and I was on medication.”

“You told me what happened before they gave you any medications.”

“That was a long time ago.”

“It was barely two weeks ago.”

“He’s changed since then.”

“In two weeks?”

“Yes. People can change completely in a day.”

“Then, why do you have a cut on your lip?”

Evelyn stared at the floor and her eyes began to tear. “I…I told you. I…um, fell.”

“I thought you said it just appeared overnight?”

Evelyn’s eyes darted upward, but she was unable to stem the floor of tears.

“Evelyn,” Olivia said shaking her head. “Please. Just come with me. Right now. I’ll take you someplace safe, where Micah will never find you and he’ll never hurt you again. I promise. Just come with me. Please.”

Evelyn shook her head and gave Olivia a tear-stained smile. “Everything’s fine. Really. I’m…I’m okay.”

“Then, why did you call me this morning?”

She swallowed and looked around the room for an answer. As she looked, so did Olivia who noticed a red-brown stain on the carpet and a curvature in the neighboring wall that looked very much like the indentation of a fist.

“I’m sorry I called you,” Evelyn finally said. “But, I won’t bother you again.”

“No,” Olivia said. “Evelyn, you haven’t bothered me. In fact, I want you to call. All the time. I want you to call, if you’re sad or lonely or feeling hurt in anyway or even if it’s raining outside and you’re just feeling down. And, I want you to call if everything’s really fine too. If the sun’s out and shining and people everywhere are laughing, I still want you to call. Please. Any day, at any time. Always call.”

The flow of tears coming from Evelyn’s eyes was steady as she nodded and showed Olivia the door. Begrudgingly, Olivia passed her and sighed as Evelyn closed the door. She had half a mind to simply kick in the door and drag Evelyn out of the apartment to save her from herself, but she knew she could not. What troubled her most as she headed for the exit was that for every one Evelyn Rivers that they were even notified of, there were still dozens of others who would never be found in time.

When she got to her desk at the 1-6 and began to take off her coat, Cragen approached her.

“Don’t bother,” he said. “They’re executing the warrant on Drover’s apartment.”

Her jaw dropped. “Based on what? How’d we get a warrant when his DNA didn’t match?”

“Casey said the judge didn’t care, though I’m not sure if the decision was based on the law or the fact that he was Connor Whickfield’s great-uncle. But anyways, you’ll want to get down there. If anything incriminating is found, I want all four of you seen bringing him in.”

She nodded and headed for the elevators.

When she arrived at Drover’s apartment, Elliot, Munch, Fin and several other officers were tearing apart the place. Drover was standing in the corner shaking his head at an officer who was pulling each of his books off the shelves and tossing them onto the floor.

“Oh my God!” Drover said upon seeing Olivia. He crossed the room in two leaps and was standing directly in front of her. “Please! Do something! You’ve got to call them off. You know I didn’t do anything.”

Olivia took a step around him and entered the apartment. “Jeff, we have a warrant to search your place, so the best thing to do is to stand back and let us do our job.”

“Your job? Come on! What could you possibly be looking for? I didn’t do anything!”

“Jeff…just step back.”

“You said if I gave you a statement, you people would back off. You promised I wouldn’t have anything to worry about!”

“I didn’t promise anything.”

“Goddamn it! You said if I gave you something, you could write me off. You’d stop looking at me, but here you are tearing through my apartment!”

“Just stay here and let us take care of this,” she said and went through the apartment looking for Elliot.

She found him a moment later pulling everything out of Drover’s dresser drawers.

“Looks like I’m a little late to this party,” she said as she snapped on a pair of latex gloves.

“Yeah,” he said. “I tried calling you on the way over here, but I just got your voicemail. You wanna help look through the rest of these drawers? I’ll start on the nightstand.”

“I went to see Evelyn Rivers this morning,” she said opening a drawer full of socks. “She called me at about six saying that she just wanted to say hello and when I went over there, it looked like Diorel had been beating her again.”

“Surprise, surprise,” Elliot said. “Help me flip the mattress.”

“Do you really think we’re going to find anything here?” she said taking one end of the mattress. “I mean if he’s involved, he didn’t kill anyone here.”

“We just need to find something to hold him for a bit, Liv.”

They lifted the mattress off of the box spring and flipped the box spring as well. Under it, they found a worn shoebox, which Elliot scooped up a moment later.

“Look at this,” he said beckoning Olivia. “His little stash. It’s a collection of kid’s pictures.”

“They could be just kids he used to train,” Olivia said. “Some of these look like they’re several years old.”

He rolled his eyes. “Under his bed? Come on, Liv. Work with me a little on this.” He flipped through several of the images. “Look! That’s gotta be Ricky Schrader from a few years ago.”

Olivia took the picture. “You’re right.”

“And, look. Connor Whickfield. And this one’s of a whole team…Doesn’t that look like Dominic Hedges?”

“Yeah, it does, but under his bed or not, his lawyer’s going to say that these are just pictures of kids he used to coach.”

“I don’t care what his lawyer has to say. He’s got keepsakes of each of the kids. Combined with everything else, this is enough for an arrest.”

He handed her the box and walked down the hall.

“Found something!” Fin yelled from the bathroom.

Elliot and Olivia appeared at the bathroom room door a moment later.

“Blond hairs all around the sink and…” He bent down to the small trashcan in bathroom with a disgusted expression on his face. “…a bloody, used condom in the trash.”

Elliot nodded at Olivia and walked back to Drover who stood still shaking his head in the corner of the apartment.

“Turn around!” Elliot yelled to him.

“No, please…”

“Jeffrey Drover!” Elliot said as he forced Drover against the wall and took out a set of handcuffs. “You’re under arrest for the murders of Jacob Lewendale, Connor Whickfield, Ricky Schrader, Daniel Richardson, Manny Scheibley and Dominic Hedges. You have the right to remain silent. If you choose to give up that right, anything you do or say can be used in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney…”

Olivia stared at the space that her partner and Drover had just occupied as Elliot continued to give Drover his rights, marching him down the hall. She knew there was no way that the arrest would stick, but there was no doubt that Drover’s neighbors had heard their commotion and, the arrest, valid or not, was likely to haunt him for the rest of his days.

As she followed Munch and Fin out the door, allowing the other officers to continue combing Drover’s apartment for other evidence, she hoped with her heart that Drover was guilty. If not, Olivia knew that they would have just destroyed an innocent life for nothing.




SVU Squad Room



“My client has been more than cooperative at every step of your investigation,” Warnoff said.

Elliot, Olivia, Casey, Drover and his lawyer, Warnoff, all sat staring at one another in the poorly lit interrogation room. Drover was hunched over, looking dejected and Olivia felt the same overwhelming pity come over her again.

“I want him arraigned as soon as possible,” Warnoff continued. “There’s no way a judge, an unbiased judge, will let these charges stand.”

“We found pictures of all the murder victims stashed under his bed,” Elliot said. “Your client has some explaining to do.”

“They’re just pictures!” Drover said.

“Jeffrey,” Warnoff said. “Just stay quiet…As Mr. Drover has already pointed out, yes, he has some photographs, but they are just that. Photographs. Pictures of children he happened to coach in the past.”

“He said he didn’t know Manny Scheibley,” Elliot said pulling out a picture of fourteen ten-year-old boys in a group. “But here he is.”

“That’s a coincidence!” Drover yelled. “I keep pictures of all my teams and the kids send me pictures of their new ones when they get older. They all play in the same damn league! It’s just a coincidence that that kid was in there!”

“Why keep them under your bed?” Elliot said. “A little night-time fun?”

“All right, that’s enough,” Warnoff interrupted before Drover could yell again. “My client has given a valid explanation for those photos and since I’m sure you didn’t find anything related to any kind of child pornography in his apartment with your grievously obtained warrant, I don’t think you have a leg to stand on.”

“Well, we found some hair in his bathroom,” Olivia finally said. “Our lab tech’s just got back with the analysis on it and it belongs to Connor Whickfield.”

“I knew Connor Whickfield,” Drover said.

“Well enough for his hair to be found in your bathroom?”

“Come on! This is ridiculous! You promised me-”

“Don’t get excited,” Warnoff said. “If they had anything solid, we wouldn’t even be talking.”

“The case is building up quite nicely, actually,” Casey said. “Your client neglected to mention that he had one of the victims in his apartment recently. The victim that he found in the park.”

“I was in shock!” Drover yelled. “I was running that night and I just found him. I didn’t know what to think.”

“Jeff,” Warnoff said. “Shut up. Now, we all know there’s a million reasons why one of the victims’ hair could be found in the bathroom.”

“Including the probable reason,” Elliot said, “which is that Drover invited him over for a little chat before he killed him.”

“Fine. You have your theories, but you’ve got quite a few hurdles to jump through before you’ve got anything solid on my client. Or are we all forgetting that the DNA analysis on one of your victims doesn’t match or even that pesky false identification we dealt with last week? Not to mention that you accounted for my client’s whereabouts for the time that this last kid was killed.”

Elliot glanced at Olivia, but she kept a tight-lipped gaze fixed on Drover.

“Your case is weak at best and I want my client arraigned. Now.”




The sharp clicks of a heeled shoe coming down upon cold, grey tiles alerted the four lead SVU detectives of Casey Novak’s approach. She brushed past several uniformed officers and made a beeline for the set of four desks that stood in the middle of the squad room, angry, but not at those she sought.

“You don’t look happy,” Elliot said when Casey appeared beside his desk.

“I’m not,” Casey said. “I just got a reprimand from Arthur Branch for going to Judge Headdley for Drover’s warrant. Apparently, I showed ‘judgment unbecoming of a New York district attorney’ by asking Headdley for the warrant when I knew that his impartiality was questionable considering the proximity to the case.”

“But, if the judge couldn’t be impartial,” Olivia said, “he shouldn’t have signed the warrant.”

“That’s what I was going to say, but in order to keep my job, I kept my mouth shut. And, to make matters worst, the arraignment judge cut Drover loose and she threw out the case.”

“Goddamn it!” Elliot yelled. “What do we have to do to get this guy behind bars?”

Munch simply shook his head. “Well, we barely had anything to go on in the first place. And the hairs and pictures were a stretch at best.”

“I wanna go see the Whickfields,” Elliot said standing. “I want to know just how well Drover knew Connor. If Drover was close enough to Connor to have him at his apartment for any length of time, we should’ve been told right from the start.”

“Their son had just been murdered,” Olivia said. “And you remember the mother’s reaction when we told her what happened to Connor. I’m not surprised they forgot something.”

“I’m going,” Elliot said, coat in hand. “You coming?”

The question spoke volumes. Following Elliot would mean that Olivia had his back, if even for the time being. Staying put meant that she was standing firm and stubborn and ensuring that another fight lay in the near future.

Olivia stared at him a moment more before rising with her own coat and heading toward the elevators.

Minutes later, she and Elliot were driving toward the Whickfield residence on West 66th Street.

“You should’ve called me before you all went to Drover’s,” Olivia said.

“I did,” Elliot said. “You didn’t pick up.”

“You called once and you didn’t even leave message. I could’ve been there earlier if I didn’t come all the way back up here to get the word from Cragen.”

“I didn’t have time to track down wherever the hell you were. I had a killer to catch.”

She felt her eyes narrow at Elliot. “You make it sound like I was lying around until nine, just waiting for the day to start.”

“I know,” he said. “You and Evelyn Rivers. I remember.”

“And I can see you’re sympathetic about it.”

“I would be if it was worth a damn, but we both know what’s going to happen to her. It would’ve been better if you were there when we got to Drover’s. Maybe you could’ve calmed him down sooner…considering what you told him on Saturday.”

“What’d I tell him on Saturday?”

“You tell me,” Elliot said, his tone biting. “You’re the one who got him to spell out every place he went on Friday. You seemed to’ve developed some kind of rapport with him and I’m suspecting it might have something to do with promising him that we’d back off if he told you where to go.”

“I didn’t promise him a thing. I told him it might help, but that’s all.”

“Yeah, that’s all.”

“Elliot, I didn’t promise him a goddamn thing.”

“I’m not saying that you did, but I still think it was stupid of you to actually trace his footsteps.”

“Why not? Now, we know exactly where Drover was during Manny Scheibley’s murder. Something you might’ve found useful before running out to tear Drover’s place apart this morning.”

Elliot turned toward her as the traffic slowed. “How the hell did you know that he wasn’t setting you up for something?”

“He didn’t. He’s not smart enough to do something like that.”

“Okay, fine. I’ll give you that, but you had no way of knowing. What would be better for a killer than to set up one of the cops who have been tracking him down? He could’ve been leading wherever and you just walked right into whatever he laid out.”

“What are you kidding me? In the middle of the day? At movie theatre and a bar?”

“Look,” he said. “Let’s just…stop, all right? I don’t want to get into this here.”

“We’re not getting into anything. I just asked a simple question and you started questioning my ability to do my job.”

I'm not questioning anything," he said. He opened his mouth to continue, but paused. The air in the car felt stiflingly warm though the heat was not blowing and Elliot knew his next words, if not chosen carefully could begin yet another strident argument in a very confined space.

He sighed and allowed the heat of argument to cool to a low simmer before he spoke again. "Is there something bothering you? ‘Cause I know you’re not picking a fight over me not calling you earlier.”

Olivia shook her head wanting to say something about her frustration over the Kathleen situation, but she said nothing.

“I’ve noticed that you’ve been a little…I don’t know, off, for lack of a better word.” He leaned toward her. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “Maybe it’s just that time…”

“No,” he said with a small smirk. “I know it’s not that. Something with Mr. Moneybags?”

She rolled her eyes. “No, we’re…we’re fine.”

“What is it, then? I know it’s something other than Drover.”

She looked him in the eyes and sighed knowing that she would need to tell him about Kathleen eventually, but she knew that it was neither the time nor the place. “It’s not. Don’t worry about it.”

Elliot nodded, though he was tired of hearing women tell him “don’t worry about it.” As he thought about what might be troubling his partner, he remembered Lizzie telling him about Kathleen’s breakfast date and also the way that Kathleen looked when Olivia came to get him that past Friday. He doubted the two issues were related, but the stress of the problem pressed on him either way. Figuring that the moon must be causing some strange tides or something of that nature, Elliot shrugged off the issue and decided that all the women in his life were just going crazy simultaneously.

Within the hour, they were sitting at the Whickfield’s kitchen table discussing Drover.

“Yes,” Mr. Whickfield said. “Jeff and Connor were close, but it didn’t seem all that important at the time. You’d just told us that our only child was dead. What did it matter how close he was with his soccer trainer?”

“It matters,” Elliot said, “because we could have saved some time in trying to track down your son’s killer.”

“Why Jeff?” Mrs. Whickfield said, a handkerchief crumpled in her hand. “We told you he wasn’t involved right from the beginning.”

“Our evidence was pulling us in a specific direction,” Elliot said.

“What evidence?” Mr. Whickfield said. “On Jeff? That’s ridiculous. He brought Connor home from their practice and would have all the boys over for sleepovers and even take them camping. If something was wrong with him, this wouldn’t have been the first time we would have heard about it.”

“We taught Connor about the predators that were out there,” Mrs. Whickfield continued. “If Jeff was doing…something to him or any of the other boys, Connor would have told us.”

“Are you sure?” Olivia asked. “Because if Connor was very close to Jeff Drover and especially if he knew you both liked him, he might not have wanted to say anything bad about him.”

“If something was wrong,” Mr. Whickfield said raising his voice slightly, “I know Connor would have said something. Why do you keep harping on something we already told you wasn’t a problem?”

“We have to go where our evidence leads us,” Elliot said.

Mrs. Whickfield sniffed into her handkerchief. “I don’t care about your evidence. You barely asked us about Jeff when you first got here and we told you what kind of person he was…He called us that Saturday, you know? Came by here and just cried with us. Like he’d lost his own son. Does that sound like a person who would murder a thirteen-year-old boy?”

Elliot and Olivia glanced at one another as the question posed seemed more than valid and neither was comfortable saying anything more. Olivia took a photo array from her coat pocket and slowly slid it across the table toward the Whickfields.

“Do any of these other boys look familiar to you?” she said.

“Who are these kids?” Mr. Whickfield asked as he looked at the small array.

“They are the other victims who’ve been murdered the same as Connor,” she said. “We’re looking for some kind of link between all of them to help us find this killer.”

Taking the photo in her hand, Mrs. Whickfield sighed. “All these babies…”

Mr. Whickfield shook his head and narrowed his eyes at Elliot and Olivia. “I don’t recognize any of them.”

“Wait,” Mrs. Whickfield said as Olivia reached to take back the photo array. “This the top. I think his name’s Jacob. Yes, that’s it. They used to play on the same team several years ago. I remember him because for half of the season he wouldn’t come to the Friday evening or Saturday morning practices because he’s Jewish, but I think they might’ve gotten over it a little later. His father brought him one Saturday morning and I remember being surprised that he wasn’t a Jew too. Apparently, it was just the mother.”

Olivia restrained a roll of her eyes at the subtle anti-Semitism and pulled out the second array that she had put together. “Is there anyone in here that you might recognize?”

Together the Whickfields stared at the picture. Mr. Whickfield shook his head again and walked across the room to stare at the photo of Connor that still sat on the fireplace mantel, but Mrs. Whickfield spoke after a moment.

“Yes, this one,” she said. “I’ve seen him before at some of Connor’s games. The only reason I remember him is because he kind of looks like Jeff. I figured he might have been a relative or something or maybe a cousin or uncle of one of the other boys on the team.”

With Kreider’s image identified on the photo array, Olivia took it back and placed it into her coat pocket saying “thank you” in the process.

“Is there anything else you can think of?” Elliot said. “Anything that you might not have thought of as important at the time?”

“Like what?” Mrs. Whickfield said, her eyes growing redder by the minute. “We’ve told you everything we can think of to help you find this…this man, but you haven’t, have you?”

“Your son’s case is at the top of our list,” Olivia said.

Mr. Whickfield rounded on her. “That’s not what I’ve been hearing! It was in the newspaper…some politician’s daughter was attacked in a hotel somewhere and you people were called off looking for my son’s murderer to help her. If you call that putting Connor at the top of your list, you can save it. We can’t even bury him…put him at rest yet and you’re telling me he’s at the top of your list! I find it absolutely unbelievable!”

Olivia swallowed and looked at Elliot, not sure what to say to the grieving man before her.

“I assure you,” Elliot said standing. “We’re working this case non-stop. We’ll find the man responsible.”

Mr. Whickfield stood in front of Elliot as if sizing him up. “Then, I expect to see results. And soon.”




Lewendale Residence

73 West 69th Street



Elliot could not help but notice that all the mirrors in the Lewendale home still seemed to be covered. He knew very little about Jewish traditions, but he felt a slight pang in his chest each time he passed a cloth-covered frame, knowing they stood as signs of mourning.

In the past three hours, he and Olivia had spoken to each of the kids on Connor Whickfield’s soccer team again, this time armed with a photo array holding Kreider’s image. Each teammate identified Kreider as being seen at either a game or a practice at one point or another, but each had assumed that Kreider was the relative of someone else on either their team or the opposing team. After taking a small break to regroup and a small tiff over whether or not they should approach them having learned so little about their son’s crime, he and Olivia decided to speak to Jacob Lewendale’s parents again.

“Why can’t you just leave us be for a little while?” Mrs. Lewendale said with a wavering voice. “We just want to mourn our son in peace. Is that so much to ask?”

“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think it was absolutely necessary,” Olivia said sitting across from the Lewendales. “But, if you don’t help us now, more families will suffer just like yours has.”

“You don’t know anything about suffering!” Mrs. Lewendale scathed. “My son…my child is gone. Taken away from me for no reason and you have nothing to tell us about the person who did it.”

“We just have a few more questions,” Olivia said softly.

“Why do you have to keep coming?” Mr. Lewendale said matching Olivia’s tone. “We’ve told you everything we know. Unless you’re coming to tell us that you’ve found the man responsible, we’ve got nothing to say to you.”

“Mr. Lewendale, please,” Elliot said. “We just-”

“Have a few questions,” he interrupted. “Yes, I’ve heard. Do you have children, Detective?”

“Yes,” Elliot said. “I have four and I know what you’re feeling.”

“No, you don’t,” Mr. Lewendale said. “You have your four children. You get to see them again…watch them all grow up…become a grandfather. I’ll never see my son again. I’ll never watch him graduate from high school or see him marry the love of his life. Nothing! My life has been taken from me and you people are standing around here asking questions.”

“Mr. Lewendale,” Olivia began, “there have been six boys that have been murdered so far just like Jacob and it appears that Jacob was the very first.”

“How is that important?” he said. “Is the fact that Jacob was first supposed to console us!”

“It’s important because it means there was something about Jacob specifically that attracted him to the killer and it is only going to be through Jacob that we find the person responsible for murdering all these boys.”

Mr. Lewendale rubbed a hand over his face and sighed as he sat down next to his wife.

“Now,” Olivia said as she showed them a photo array containing the images of six dark-haired men. “Do you see anyone you recognize?”

Mrs. Lewendale looked at the array first and gasped. “My…my goodness.”

“What it is?” Olivia asked, eyes wide.

“That’s…that’s Owen. My sister’s son. Why on Earth would he be in here?”

“Did he attend Jacob’s games?” Elliot asked.

“I don’t think so,” Mr. Lewendale said. “We knew he still lived in the city and we asked him to come just so that he could have some sense of family. We figured we could make a bit of an outing out of it and allow Jacob to get to know his cousin some, but we probably haven’t seen him in close to a year.”

“Why’s that?”

“He’s an odd person,” Mrs. Lewendale said. “He…Owen hasn’t had the best life. His father left when he was still young and my sister died a short time later. No one else in the family has spoken to him since my sister died ten years ago.”

“Did Jacob know him at all?” Olivia asked.

She shook her head. “I don’t see how he could have. They’d only met once several months ago and the only other time Owen would’ve seen him was when Jacob was still…just a baby.”

“Why develop a relationship?” Elliot said. “If your sister’s been gone all this time and it doesn’t seem like you knew him well before…I don’t understand.”

Mrs. Lewendale pursed her lips before speaking. “When I lost my mother, it got me thinking about family. My sister and I weren’t very close and I’d never gotten a chance to know Owen really. It just seemed like as good a time as any to start, but he stopped returning the phone calls and he only stopped by just the one time. But…but, why would you have Owen’s picture in here?”

Olivia and Elliot exchanged glances.

“You said that Owen’s had a hard life,” Olivia said as if Mrs. Lewendale’s question had not been said. “What did you mean by that?”

Mrs. Lewendale looked at her husband who stood and crossed the room before she began to speak. “Well, his father never really accepted the fact that Rosalyn was Jewish.”

“How is that significant?”

“Because he insisted that Owen be raised a Christian, which might have been fine, but considering…”

“Considering what?”

“He was adopted, so he wasn’t really theirs anyway. Rosalyn had known for years that she couldn’t have children, so they adopted early on. Sometimes, I felt like she was sorry she had since Owen had so many problems.”

“What kind of problems?”

Mrs. Lewendale shrugged. “Mostly disciplinary, I think. Rosalyn was never very specific.”

“And you never developed any kind of relationship with him?”

“No. Owen was fifteen by the time Jacob…by the time Jacob was born. I tried to get to know him about that time, but since Owen wasn’t raised Jewish…he was just sort of outside the rest of the family.”

“Is that why no one in the family’s spoken to him?” Olivia asked with an eyebrow raised.

“Well, it’s not the only reason, but it’s part of it. I mean, when do you normally see your family? Holidays, right? What’s the point in inviting him for Rosh Hashanah when he’s not Jewish?”

“And, that’s why you tried to…entice him with Jacob’s soccer games? Something secular to bring him into the fold?”

We tried, but like I said, he hasn't returned any more of our calls

“Were you at all aware that Owen’s been trying to locate his birth mother?”

No,” Mrs. Lewendale said. "I don't imagine he would've told me anyway. But, you still haven’t answered my question. Why would you have Owen’s picture in here? You don’t think he’d hurt Jacob, do you? I mean he’s only seen Jacob that one time. Why would he want to hurt him?”




A new layer of white snow had descended on the city, leaving its downy blanket to gather on building awnings and lightly used sidewalks. The normal electric whir of the city seemed dulled by the pale cover and Olivia continued throwing expectant glances toward the squad room windows that showed nothing but darkness, vaguely worried that her noisy city seemed oddly quiet.

She sat typing her notes from her discussions with the many families she and Elliot had spoken to that day while Elliot had gone to find more information on what was discovered in Drover’s apartment. She was annoyed that he felt the need to do so considering the weight of all that they had learned about Kreider, but knew it was necessary to ensure that the Drover issue was finally put to rest. The evening had turned to night quickly after leaving the Lewendales and she had taken a break from her notes to tell Jonathan that she would not be making their dinner date that evening. He had suggested that she simply bring her work with her and he would “allow” her to work while they waited for their dinner, but she declined.

“God, Liv,” he had said. “I’ve had these plans for a while, you know?”

“I know and I’m sorry, but I can’t get out of here just for dinner.”

“Just for dinner? Olivia, this was important.”

“Jonathan, I’m sorry. How can I make it up to you?”

He sighed. “Don’t worry about it.”

But she did worry and with each passing moment, she worried about him even more. He had used the word “important” to describe dinner and she felt her insides burn and her breath catch at the thought.

What was so important about dinner?

As she typed, the same question rolled in her mind. He had planned evenings for them previously, many of which had had to be cancelled, but he described this one as being important. Olivia shook her head involuntarily as her fingers flew back and forth across her keyboard. “Important” could only mean one of two things: either he had planned for her to meet his family or he was planning to “pop” the question.

 “Oh God,” she said aloud and she found herself in the ladies’ room a moment later bringing up her dinner into a porcelain fixture. Thankful that she was one of the only females to be found for several floors at that time of night, she sank to the floor and closed her eyes feeling suddenly very foolish.

Any other woman in the world would have felt ecstatic at the idea of marrying a Halloway, but Olivia felt her skin prickle and her insides squirm at even the memory of the thought. It was not that she was afraid to get married, but it was everything that led up to saying “I do” and the concept of “forever” that troubled her. She was no stranger to having a ring set upon her finger by someone who loved her, but she also did not want to repeat any of her past mistakes and, watching her partner go through the hardship of divorce when he had tried so hard to keep it together, made the idea of marriage even harder to imagine.

She loved Jonathan more than she had any other man she had ever dated, but there were problems in their relationship that were hard to allay. Even before their lengthy discussion the previous night, Olivia knew he was often jealous of every man with whom she came in contact and she found it more aggravating than endearing. There was also the problem that he could be smug, arrogant and even pretentious from time to time, to the point that she could not stand to be around him, however, when he was in an understanding mood, she could let all of her worries melt away with his touch.

All of his problems not withstanding, she could not forget those of her own. The job always came first and, as described by a former co-worker and former flame, would be the only “marriage” she would ever know. She could barely find the time to meet Jonathan for an occasional dinner that he had been planning for some time. How would she keep a marriage together?

 “Liv?” she heard Elliot’s voice say from the restroom outer door.

“Yeah?” she said jumping off the floor.

He opened the door a crack and peeked his head inside the room. “Can I come in?”

“Yeah, I’m…just washing my hands.” She turned on one of the faucets and hoped that the colour would return to her face before he was able to look at her too closely. “Were they able to turn up anything else at Drover’s?”

“Well, nothing new,” he said looking at her reflection in the mirror, “but you wouldn’t believe what we found on those pictures we found under his bed.”

“What’d you find?” she said lathering her hands for the second time.

“Old semen on some of the pictures,” Elliot said. “I’m willing to bet anything he takes them out every once in a while just to pleasure himself.”

She refused to say anything, trying to keep the image of Drover masturbating to pictures of ten-year-olds from forming in her head.

“I think we might be able to get him back in here and hold him for a bit.”

Olivia continued rubbing her hands under the lukewarm water, but said nothing.

“At least while we talk to Kreider again,” Elliot continued, but then paused staring at Olivia’s reflection. “Is…is there something wrong, Olivia?”

“No,” she said still facing the mirror. “Everything’s fine.”

“You look a little pale. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Elliot, I’m fine.”

“Is this something about that doctor’s appointment you’re hoping I’m going to just forget about?”

She turned off the faucet and whirled around, her hands dripping onto the tiled floor.

“Elliot,” she began. “It was just a doctor’s appointment and there’s nothing wrong. I just came in here ‘cause I had to pee and now, I’m done. I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine, Liv,” he said, putting his hands into his pockets. “Andrea said she saw you running for the bathroom. Are you going to tell me what’s going on or what?”

“Well, you know,” she said, drying her hands. “I did drink that whole liter of water today…”

His expression remained stoic, fixed on her, and she sighed. Her eyes rested on the floor just in front of Elliot’s shadow and she felt every urge to simply fling her arms around him again and tell him everything from how his little girl was not so little anymore to the fact that she was near terrified of allowing Jonathan to get close enough to her to ask her to marry him. Instead of doing either, she decided to simply get on the defensive and change the subject.

 “There’s nothing to discuss, Elliot,” she said after a minute’s silence. “I had to use the bathroom. I’m allowed to do that every once in a while, aren’t I?”

“You can try to change the subject all you want, Liv, but I’m going to keep pressing until you give it up.”

“There’s nothing to give up,” she lied.

“The hell there’s not. I know you, Olivia.”

“Look, Elliot. I don’t even know what we’re arguing about at this point. If we’re going to talk about something, let’s talk about the fact that you still want to waste more time on Drover when we’ve already got so much on Kreider.”

Elliot stared Olivia directly in the eye until she broke the contact and turned her attention to the brown paper towel she was using to dry her hands. He knew from Olivia’s body language that she was hiding something deep and her attempt to quickly change the subject was part of the show. Taking a deep breath, he decided to play along hoping that she would eventually tell him what was wrong before he had to shake it out of her.

 “We’re not wasting time with Drover. We’d just be keeping an eye on him while we’re gathering more on Kreider.”

“You talk about me wasting time,” she said sardonically as she tossed the crumpled towel into the nearby trash. “We’ve had positive IDs on Kreider for most of the day. More than half the kids we talked to ID’d Kreider which is especially significant because it wasn’t like they saw one or the other and just didn’t know who they were looking at. They all know Drover and they could identify Kreider as a specific person who visited that complex.”

“And, the fact that Drover jerks off to pictures of kids he used to coach makes no never mind to you?”

“Is it even his semen?”

“Of course it is. That was the first thing I had them check.”

“What about that condom we found in his trash? I’m assuming that didn’t turn up anything and that’s why you’re on about these pictures.”

Elliot’s eyes narrowed at her. “No. The condom had vaginal cells on it, which doesn’t make me hate him any less. If he’s turned on by little boys, then I’m sure he messed some woman up pretty good because she wasn’t what he wanted. And aside from that, you’re forgetting something significant about these IDs today: the Lewendales.”

“I didn’t forget about them,” she said. “In fact, they pretty much seal the deal on Kreider since he’s Jacob Lewendale’s cousin.”

“Exactly. She pointed out Kreider immediately from that photo array. Don’t you think she might’ve noticed if her estranged nephew randomly appeared at one of her son’s soccer games? If she noticed him instantly from a photo, wouldn’t it be fair to assume that she would notice him standing around among the throngs of other parents? But, she didn’t, did she? You heard it just like I did. Hadn't seen him in months, which means that there’s a low possibility that Kreider would’ve had a chance to even see Jacob, let alone track him down and attack him. Drover had a relationship with most of the victims and a deeper one than probably the parents knew about with Connor Whickfield.”

“Elliot,” she said taking a step forward. “No matter what you may think about Drover, his prints and his DNA don’t match Jacob Lewendale, but we just found out that Kreider is blood relative. Everything lies on Jacob since he was the first and I’m not willing to put Kreider on hold until we get DNA from him.”

Elliot shook his head. “He’s not a blood relative. He’s adopted and I’m not sure I’m willing to lay off completely on Drover just yet. Regardless of Kreider’s association with the Lewendales, Deborah Lewendale didn’t seem that upset that her ‘odd’ nephew was in that photo array.”

“She kept asking me about it.”

“Out of curiosity, not concern.”

“Elliot, she’s grieving for her child. I’m not surprised that her emotions are all over the place.”

“I don’t want to stop looking at Drover with just this.”

“Just this! Kreider is a relative of the first victim.”

“A relative she picked out the moment she saw him! Now, if Kreider was at that soccer complex, she would’ve noticed him being anywhere near Jacob, so now we’re left to piece together how Kreider would’ve even seen him.”

“As opposed to the downhill battle we’ve got with Drover’s DNA and prints not matching and his amazing praise from every person we’ve spoken to?” Her sarcastic words were biting and he glared at her in return.

“As opposed to dealing with someone who’s got proximity to each of the victims and who’s a confirmed pedophile!”

Olivia gave a deep sigh as a young officer quickly flung open the door to the restroom.

“Oh, sorry,” she said looking surprised at Elliot standing directly in front of her.

“No, Alexa. I’m leaving,” he said, throwing Olivia a dirty look and walking out of the restroom.

“Elliot, fine,” Olivia said, back at her desk. “We don’t drop Drover just yet, but you and I know both know it’s going to take far more than that to get an arrest on him, especially considering that the judge just threw out the case today.”

“He’s a pedophile, Olivia, or don’t we investigate them anymore?”

“A little semen on some old pictures isn’t going to convince any grand juries. His lawyer will have half a million reasons for that, if we could even get that past a judge.”

“I have faith in Casey.”

“As do I, but wouldn’t you like to have something a little more concrete this time before we send her to the wolves again?”

“Fine,” he said, resting his arms at the back of his head as he leaned in his chair. “What do you suggest we do?”

“I want to talk to Martha Harvand again.”

“The woman who lives above Kreider? Why?”

“The first time we talked to her, we’d been answering phones all day and we were both so out of it that we didn’t even pick up on the fact that Drover and Kreider looked alike. I say we go visit her first thing in the morning when we’re fresh. Make her tell us what it was about Kreider that made her even decide to call in the first place. If she can’t give us anything legitimate, we sit every single boy on Drover’s teams with Huang and figure out what, if anything, Drover’s been doing.”

Elliot nodded. “And, if she’s got anything serious to say?”

“Then, won’t it be convenient that she lives right above Kreider? That way we’ve only got to walk down a flight of stairs to throw those cuffs around him.”

“Okay,” he said with a sigh. “First thing tomorrow.” She gave him a nod and he continued. “You ready to go or are you meeting the Million-Dollar Baby somewhere?”

At the mention of Jonathan, Olivia felt her eyes grow involuntarily wide and she tried to tear them away from Elliot.

“Now see. You look like your stomach just dropped three floors. What’s going on?”

She sighed to regain her composure. “It’s nothing. He’s just…stressing me out a bit.”

“Why?” Elliot said, his tone lowering into the one he reserved for when he heard that someone was troubling a member of his family. “What’s wrong? What’s he done?”

Olivia shook her head. “Nothing specific. It’s just the nature of the relationship. You don’t have to worry about it, okay? I’m fine.”

Again, Elliot met Olivia’s gaze until she finally broke contact to stare at her computer screen.

“All right,” he said. “Well, when you’re ready to talk, you know where to find me.”

“Thanks,” she said with a small smile and she reached into her bag. “Oh, I almost forgot. I brought these for Lizzie. If she plays it right, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.”

She handed him several sheets of music and he nodded as he leafed through them. He could tell immediately that either the music was very old or the print job was of a lower quality as the piece’s title, “Lately,” had faded significantly. To the right of the title, in small bold letters read “by S. Wonder” and directly under it read the line, “as composed by O. K. Benson.”

He glanced up at her, smiling. “Did you make this yourself?”

“Yeah,” she said nonchalantly packing her things into her bag. “I made it a long time ago and I found it when I was cleaning yesterday. I’m not exactly sure what she means by cool, but I’d made it so that the accompaniment doesn’t overshadow the whole melody. If she doesn’t like it, let me know and I’ll try to find something else…cool.”

 “Trust me,” he said shaking his head and still smiling. “This’ll be fine.”

They headed toward the elevators, but Elliot could not stop smiling at the thought of his partner reworking Stevie Wonder in her younger years.

“My partner composes music,” he said softly more to himself than to Olivia.

“I know,” she replied. “How will you face the world now?”

He laughed. “So, what else can you do that I don’t know about?”

“Well…I can knit.”

“Knit? So, where’s my sweater?”

“I already gave you a sweater. For your birthday.”

“That was store bought. Where’s my Olivia-knit sweater?”

“Sorry, I can only do baby blankets. But, I can write the preamble to the Constitution with my feet.”

“Just the preamble to the Constitution, eh? When did you learn you could do that?”

“The guys who lived across the hall from Maya and me in college liked to bet on things. They suggested I do something stupid with my feet and I made it up as went along. I won fifty bucks for doing that.”

He shook his head as the elevator doors closed on them. “You had too much time on your hands during college, Olivia.”

“But, when else are you supposed to learn useless crap like that?”

“Well, I won’t call it useless. That foot writing thing may come in handy one day…”




The telephone was ringing in its stand as Elliot walked through the door to his apartment and he crossed the living room in three steps to answer it.

 “El?” a male voice said when Elliot picked up the phone.

“Bryce!” Elliot said to his older brother. “Hey. I just walked in.”

“Yeah,” Bryce Stabler said, his voice eerily similar to that of Elliot’s. “Just the customary call to remind you to call Ma this Friday for her birthday. Even though you like to pretend to forget every year.”

“No, see last year I really did forget.”

“Yeah, there’s always something.”

“You’re a cop,” Elliot said. “You know what’s up.”

“That’s the beauty of being a cop out in the ‘burbs. Less hassle altogether. Speaking of hassle, how’s that case with those kids coming?”

“Which one? There’s always some case with some kids.”

“The one where I saw you on TV the other day.”

“Still got a couple people we’re looking at.”

“Humph. Well, I’ll be looking to see your big head in the papers again.”

“Trust me, you’ll see it,” Elliot said, smiling into the phone. “Hopefully, it’ll be something positive.”

“How come you’re in such a good mood tonight?” Bryce said. “Normally, you sound like a strong wind might blow you over.”

“Don’t know. Just in a good mood, I guess.”

“How are Kathy and the kids?”

Elliot sighed. “See, Bryce. You always know how to kill the mood.”

“So, sue me. How’s Maureen doing in school? She’s ‘sposed to graduate soon, isn’t she?”

The conversation with his brother continued for another hour as they discussed Maureen’s impending graduation, Kathleen’s mood swings and Dickie sneaking out of the house and his eventual apology. When talk turned to Lizzie’s insistence on being called Elizabeth, Elliot remembered the piano music that now lied on his coffee table and Bryce noticed that Elliot sounded like his spirits were lifting.

“What’s with you tonight?” Bryce asked. “You’re sounding all cheerful again?”

Elliot laughed. “Just thinking about music…”

“Music? Thought Dad would have stamped all that out of you?”

“Not all of it, besides, it’s not my music. Lizzie’s…well, Olivia’s. She gave Lizzie something to play at her next recital.”

“And that’s got you happy all of a sudden?”

“Well,” he said with a shrug. “It’s just weird how you can know a person for years, but realize you barely know anything about them.”

“Why’s that? You don’t know your partner?”

“Nah, that’s not it. This music she gave Lizzie…she wrote it herself.”

“She writes music now?”

“Apparently. I mean, it’s Stevie Wonder, but she wrote new piano music to it, probably back when she was in college. I don’t know…it’s just the little things that surprise you sometimes.”

“Is this the same woman I met when me and Nolan were moving you in?”

“It is.”


“What?” Elliot said.

“Nothing. I’m just…uh, thinking that’s all.”

“About what?”

“You’re all happy all over her music?”

“Yeah. It’s like I said…it just makes you think.”

“Uh-huh,” Bryce said before going completely silent.

“Hey! I know what you’re thinking and it’s not like that. I’m not looking at Olivia like that and nothing’s going on. She just handed me this music that she composed herself and I was…I don’t know…awestruck.”

“Awestruck…yeah, okay.”

“What ‘okay?’” Elliot said, getting aggravated. “I just find it fascinating that she would even think to write music let alone give it up so freely. Is there something wrong with that?”

“Guess not,” Bryce said. “Though, that story would be a little more believable if I didn’t already know what your partner looks like.”

Elliot rolled his eyes. “C’mon. It’d be fascinating no matter what she looked like. Even if she was some ugly troll who composed music, I’d still think it was interesting.”

“Like I said: oh-kay.”

Elliot sighed and quickly changed the subject to how Bryce’s kids, all of whom were about Maureen’s age, were doing. After he hung up ten minutes later, Elliot sat staring at the phone, Bryce’s words rolling around in his head. He hated any implication that relations between he and Olivia were anything but platonic, even when the idea came from people who did not know them both. Bryce had met Olivia just one time and although he never said anything specific to Elliot about her, his tone said more than enough.

He shook his head at the thought of his brother’s suggestion and rose from the couch to approach the nearby closet. Hardly used because he rarely had company outside of his children, Elliot had used the coat closet as extra storage more than anything else. He rifled through some boxes he never bothered to unpack until his hand came upon something long and heavy. Giving it a strong tug, he managed to pull the black 80-key keyboard out of the closet.

Dust floated throughout the apartment for a moment as the light layer that had settled on the keyboard was disrupted by a wave of Elliot’s hand. He quickly set up the keyboard near his window, trying to remember if he had even turned it on since he had moved to the other end of Woodside.

The keyboard, an item scrimped and saved for by he and Kathy for close to a year before buying, was the only that thing that he and Kathy had actually argued over when he moved out of his house. She had stayed at her sister’s home throughout his departure, as he assumed she hoped to make it seem to the children that nothing significant had happened, but when she saw that the keyboard was missing, she called him immediately.

She demanded that he return it because she and the kids used it more than he did, but when he argued that she had the whole piano and that he wanted the kids to have something on which to practice when they were at his new place, Kathy did not have a retort.

He plugged in the massive instrument and pulled a chair up to it. After a moment of staring at the old notes on Olivia’s sheet music, he sighed, went into his bedroom and pulled a pair of reading glasses out from their case in his nightstand. He preferred not to use them, thinking that they made him look old and had once voiced his detest for the glasses to Olivia. She allayed some of his aging fears by calling him “sexy” while he wore them and even winked at him in the process.

Elliot laughed at the memory and settled back at the keyboard. As he spread his long fingers across the black and white keys, he had a sudden flash to his youth where Sister Hannah would slap his hands with a ruler each time he made mistake on the piano and he took a deep breath to clear the thought.

Olivia’s notes soon began to echo out of the electric instrument and he smiled as he continued to play. His strong, callused hands were rougher with the fingerings than he had been in the past and wondered for a moment if he could ever find more time to play in his week. He used to play for Kathy all the time when he was still trying to “woo” her, but once he got out of the marines, he pushed away the piano to make way for work and kids and life.

Page after page, Elliot continued playing, all the while picturing a twenty-something Olivia playing the song on a cassette tape over and over again until she knew how she wanted “her” piece to sound. By the time he had finished the song, the smile that had been spreading across his face wider and wider all night had stuck and he shook his head as he leafed through the music once again.

Fatigue finally beginning to pull at his eyelids, Elliot packed the keyboard away for another day and showered before he allowed himself to fall into bed. As he rolled over in his bed, for once grateful that it was empty, his mind was only his partner.

It really was a beautiful song.




Unknown Time and Place


The decaying square radio cackled in its corner as heavy snow clouds passed over the neglected building. Circa 1971, a layer of dust nearly a half-inch thick lied flat on the radio surface giving it the appearance of a weathered box. The several knobs and dials that had once gleamed across the radio’s face were scratched and tarnished and only three of the original six remained.

Static from the radio cleared and an old tune rang from the single speaker, causing him to raise his eyebrows at the change in atmosphere. Olive oil bottle in hand, he spread the yellow substance across his arms, legs and face, all the while finding the bottle’s label, Extra Virgin, rather ironic considering the task at hand. The smell was simply alluring to him and he took a deep breath to keep from becoming too excited too early, as he knew the scent of blood and oil together was the most enthralling fragrance on earth.

The radio’s song switched to an old favorite and he paused the rubbing of the oil to increase the volume on the radio. The small dial broke off in his hand as he turned it and a smile full of white teeth spread across his face. He threw it over his shoulder knowing the broken dial on the floor would only add to the ambiance.

Moving to the room’s other side, he prepared two handcuffs with long intertwining chains from their position in the ceiling and rubbed oil into the leather whip that had sat, unused since his last performance, in the corner. He had longed to use it during his brief interlude, but as the others were fragile at this point, he did not want to risk it.

The work continued dully as the minutes ticked by, but he hummed along with the song as he worked the whip’s end and the individual cuffs into a shine in the dim light of the room. He enjoyed the labor though the work was straining. Fun, but straining, and, even if they found him or tried to shut him down, he would fight for it whole-heartedly, guns blazing and heart on fire.

When the song ended, he turned off the radio and stared at himself in small mirror that covered the room’s only window. His pale skin made his sharp blue eyes nearly glow in the haze of the room; painfully blue as his mother had once described. The straight wisps of blond hair were falling into his face, half shading his eyes, but he decided to leave it. The slight disguise of his eyes kept the anonymity going and had proven to raise interest in every production. He took a deep breath at his nude visage and crossed the room to bring her to the stage.

Her screams bounced against the cement walls as he tangled his arms around torso to drag her into the room. This one was normally quiet throughout each production, and resisted silently which is why he chose her out of the four that remained, but for some odd reason she screamed when he grabbed hold of her.

Unlike some of the others, he became bored with her quickly and as he connected the cuffs around her emaciated arms, he drowned out her screams with the words of the song playing in his head.

A long, long time ago, I can still remember…

He could remember a time before he would do this. It felt like a lifetime ago; a life he would just as soon forget. He took the black whip in his hand and lashed out at her.

How that music used to make me smile…

A wide grin slid across his face again as he threw strike after strike at her screaming form. The music of their screams always did seem to draw a smile to his face like few things did.

And I knew that if I had my chance, I could make those people dance and maybe they’d be happy for a while…

Everything he did was to make other people happy. Would he rather be living someplace warm and comfortable? Who would not want to be? But, he had a job to do; a job he liked, one he adored and would not give up for the world.

But February made me shiver, with every paper I’d deliver bad news on the doorstep…

His body shivered involuntarily at her last scream and, as she hung, he wondered if he had overdone it. She would have to last for a while and he needed her to be strong enough for the main feature.

I couldn’t take one more step…

Her voice continued to echo against the room’s walls, piercing him in all the wrong ways. She was crying to the point that it was nearly unbearable and he half wanted to throw her away with the others right then and there. Her scream was not pleasant this time; simply a gargled half-moan that sickened him. She kept repeating her name, Amy, as if it meant something, pleading with him to let her go. All it really meant was more work for him in the end.

I can’t remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride…

Setting down the whip, he took the keys from their hiding place by the radio and released her from the chains. She kicked him in the stomach the moment she was free and ran as much as her legs would allow.

His heartbeat raced as she bounced against each of the walls in the dark, unable to see the only door to the room. He loved to chase them, but did not with this one.

He watched her run for a bit, slapping her side at each lap she made around the room and teasing her with every strike. She settled to floor screaming that horrid scream and crying once again. He stared down at her ugly form for a moment before enveloping her with his arms to take in every part of her beaten body with his mouth.

But something touched me deep inside…

He pulled her to the middle of the room and took her as hard and deep as her body would allow. Blood from her whipping had spread across his chest giving him a purple appearance in the murk and he laughed as sweat from his brow dropped onto her face and mixed into her open cuts and wounds. With every thrust of his pelvis he felt genuinely excited and quickened his pace as her cries grew softer. Climax came swift and he touched her face softly as if she were his lover.

The day…the music died.

Perhaps he would not throw her aside…just yet.