Batman & Benson
"An NYPD Princess In Gotham City"
Captain Donald Cragen frowned when he entered the SVU squad room. "You still here, Olivia?" He glanced at his watch. "You're gonna miss your train!"
Detective Olivia Benson froze at her desk, startled. Her partner, Elliot Stabler, gave her a smug 'I-told-you-so' look as he sat across from her. Olivia had several last minute chores to do—mainly a few phone calls and some paperwork—before she left for Gotham City today, but she had ignored Elliot's repeated warnings to just leave everything for when she came back.
It turned out that it was just as well she did make a phone call to the Gotham City Police to confirm her visit, because the detective whom she was to meet at the train station down there—Detective Burt West—was called away on another assignment. And nobody there had any idea who Olivia was or why she was coming to Gotham in the first place. After she straightened everything out with the Gotham City cop on the phone, Olivia received a phone call from ADA Casey Novak, who said that Giles Neufeld, their prime suspect as the leader of the slave ring they busted, was untouchable due to lack of evidence. And now it looks as if the wealthy Neufeld, who managed to avoid capture, might skip the country.
'Well, we'll see about that,' Olivia thought, as she glanced at her watch. She saw she just barely had enough time to make it to Penn station, but only if she really hustled.
Olivia gave Cragen a sheepish smile as she quickly got up from her desk and pulled on her jacket. "Just running out the door right now, Cap!"
Cragen just shook his head as he went into his office.
John Munch looked up from his desk and asked, "Where are you headed to, pray tell?"
"Gotham City," Olivia told him. "That's where I finally tracked down Annabelle Justino, who may hopefully be our lead witness in the slave girls trafficking case."
Munch sat back in his chair with a start. "You're going to Gotham City?"
"Yeah," Olivia said. "What's so special about that?"
"Gotham City is the home of none other than the mysterious Batman," Munch told her.
"The what-man?" she asked incredulously.
"The Batman," Munch said excitedly. "A dark, demonic force that's reportedly been stalking the streets of that city at night." When everyone—including Olivia—merely gave him a blank stare in response, Munch added, "C'mon, haven't any of you been reading the papers?"
Fin Tutuola wearily shook his head at his partner. "We don't get the National Enquirer, or the Lone Gunmen, or any other of those extremely 'credible newspapers' that you get in your little world, John."
"For your information no less a newspaper than the New York Times just recently did a piece on the Batman," Munch informed him. "And a lot of extremely credible witnesses have sworn they've seen Batman—several of whom claimed that the Batman had actually saved their life."
"What's he supposed to be?" Olivia asked, smiling. "Moth Man's cousin?"
"No, he's actually an alien escapee from Area 51, right John?" Fin said with a broad grin.
"Fine, laugh all you want," Munch said, waving his hand. He glanced somberly at Olivia. "Just promise me that you'll be careful when you're out on the streets of Gotham City tonight, all right, Liv?"
"I'll be just as careful on the streets of Gotham City as I am on the streets of New York," Olivia promised him. She smiled when a thought occurred to her. "Should I be wearing a cross, John? Or maybe garlic would be better?"
"Keep a hammer and a wooden stake in your pocketbook," Fin jokingly said to her, "just in case."
Elliot leaned over his desk and whispered, "I don't mean to be a hassle, but you really should leave, Liv, before Cragen—"
No sooner did he begin to say the words than the Captain stuck his head out of his office and glared angrily at Olivia.
"I'm going, Cap," she assured him. "I'm going right now." As she walked past Munch, Olivia growled: "Thanks a lot, John!"
"Why is everything automatically my fault?" Munch said after her.
As she stormed out of the SVU squad room, Olivia heard Fin say, "Because you're so adorable, Munch."
Almost two hours later, Olivia resignedly stepped off the train onto the bustling platform of Gotham City's Union Station. She carried an overnight bag in one hand, and a sheet of paper in the other with the names of her replacement Gotham City Police contacts on it: Detectives Montoya and Bullock.
As she glanced around at the massive crowds, Olivia caught sight of an obese man who stared back at her hard. He looked like a hippopotamus in a rumbled suit, with the nasty attitude to match. There was something about the guy that rubbed her wrong—so much so that Olivia instinctively flicked back her coat, exposing her gun, just in case she needed to reach it quickly. But the man, his attention caught by something else, strode away from her.
A young woman of Spanish descent walked up to her just then and said, "Excuse me, but are you Detective Benson, NYPD?"
Surprised, Olivia said, "Yes, I am."
The woman smiled warmly as she pulled out a badge and said, "Detective Renée Montoya, Gotham City Police Department. I couldn't help but notice the badge and gun on your hip when you brushed your jacket back just now."
Olivia smiled at that. "You're very perceptive, Detective Montoya."
"Being perceptive goes with the job," Montoya said, "as you well know."
Olivia was startled when the enormous man abruptly lumbered right over to them. "Yo, Montoya," he said, a toothpick dangling from his lips, "I'm getting sick of waiting on this New York twit."
"Uh, Harvey…" Montoya began, as she anxiously held up a hand.
"I say we just leave now and let this little NYPD princess find her own way through Gotham City," the man said, sounding pleased with his idea. "You know those New York City cops always think they're God's gift to crime fighting. Well, maybe a night wandering through Gotham City's underbelly, facing some real crime, will soften this Benson babe up some and put her in her place. What ya think?"
"Harvey!" Montoya angrily said, as she gestured at Olivia.
The big detective finally took notice of Olivia. "Who the hell are you?" he asked dully.
"Olivia Benson, NYPD princess," she said sarcastically.
He grunted at her. "About damn time you showed up, Benson! C'mon, let's get outa this madhouse."
As he turned and lumbered away from them, Olivia glared at his broad back with intense dislike.
"Sorry," Montoya said with a shrug. "Believe it or not, but Harvey's actually a pretty decent guy…once you get to know him. I guess you can say he's quite a character."
Olivia had a few choice words to call Detective Bullock, but she decided to keep her peace for now. The slave trafficking case she was presently working on was too important to be ruined because of a few bruised egos between the police departments.
Olivia got in the back seat of the Gotham detectives' sedan, where she sat back and gazed at the cityscape—which was impressive, if a little overwhelming. Enormous buildings rose skywards to impossible heights amid humongous art-deco statues of weeping or praying figures. And on some streets the sky was blocked out completely by an inter-city above ground train platform. Although she was a life-long resident of New York City, Olivia still found herself inundated by this dense urban landscape. It was as if Gotham City had never heard of zoning laws, and had simply allowed everything to be built right on top of each other in a massive maze of ironworks, concrete and asphalt.
They had arrived at Gotham City Police Headquarters before Olivia was even aware of it. Bullock pulled the car into a parking garage, where he stopped before a large array of doors that had police officers coming and going. They left the car and entered the building, taking the elevator up to the 30th floor.
"We just gotta check in with the boss, first," Bullock told Olivia.
She had figured they were checking in with their departmental commander, a lieutenant or a captain, but Olivia was stunned when the elevator doors opened to reveal the office of the police commissioner before them. Montoya announced them to the secretary, who told them to go right on in. "Commissioner Gordon is expecting you," she said.
Olivia entered the slightly cramped office of the Police Commissioner of Gotham City with Bullock and Montoya. There were stacks of files and computer disks all over the place, along with newspapers, magazines, and loads and loads of books. All of this told Olivia that Gordon was no bureaucrat, but rather a hands-on commander. When the commissioner himself glanced up from the computer screen on his desk, Montoya made the introductions: "Commissioner Gordon, this is Detective Olivia Benson, from the NYPD's Special Victim's Unit."
"Special Victim's Unit?" Gordon said, as he rose to shake Olivia's hand. "That's sex crimes, isn't it?"
"Yes, sir, it is," Olivia replied.
Gordon was a thin man with graying brown hair and a mustache. The glasses he wore gave him an academic look, as if he would be better suited teaching a class in criminology. Yet the photos on the wall behind him revealed his police career, and it looked like a very busy and commendable one.
'This guy rose up from the ranks,' Olivia thought with admiration. 'He's a real cop through and through.'
Gordon gestured for Olivia to take a seat. "I understand that you were originally meeting with Detective West," he said.
"Yes, until I was told that he wasn't available," Olivia replied as she sat down. Montoya sat next to her, while Bullock stood by the window. "I hope there's nothing wrong."
"We don't know that for sure," Gordon said. "Because Detective West has been reported missing since last night."
That stunned Olivia. "I only spoke to him just—when was it—yesterday afternoon? We confirmed that he was to meet me at the train station here in Gotham today."
Gordon nodded his head, looking thoughtful. "May I ask why you're in Gotham City Detective Benson?"
"I'm working a slave trafficking case up in New York City. My partner and I busted a sex slave ring in Times Square a week ago, and we discovered that one of the people who might be involved, Annabelle Justino, fled here to her mother's house in Gotham City. I spoke about this with Detective West. He said he was going to take me out to her home to talk with her."
Gordon grimaced as he leaned forward in his seat. "Did Detective West tell you her present whereabouts?"
"He confirmed it for me," Olivia replied. "She's living at her mother's house on Pascal Avenue. He said he knew where that was, and would take me to see her."
Olivia noted that Gordon, Montoya and Bullock all exchanged a knowing look. "What does Annabelle Justino have to do with this slave trafficking case you're working?" Montoya asked. "You said she might be involved?"
"Well, she worked in the main office of a machine parts shop—which turned out to have been just a front for the warehouse where the girls were kept," Olivia answered. "We don't know how deeply she was involved, but it looks as if Justino may at least be a witness to some business transactions dealing with the girls. Has something happened to Justino? She hasn't fled Gotham City, has she?"
"No, she's still here in Gotham," Gordon said with a heavy sigh. "But she's not living with her mother on Pascal Avenue."
"Then where is she?" Olivia asked.
"Annabelle Justino is an inmate at Arkham Asylum," Gordon grimly replied. "It's an institution we have here for the criminally insane."
Olivia was shocked to hear that. Then a chill swept up her spine when something occurred to her. "How long has Justino been in Arkham?"
"The past week," Bullock replied. "She was admitted right after she went nuts and tried to kill her mother."
Olivia's stomach tightened into an icy knot. "But Detective West confirmed for me over the phone yesterday that Justino was still living at home with her mother. So either he had the wrong information, or—"
"He deliberately lied to you," Gordon said quietly. "And, if that's case, then Detective West might have planned his own disappearance shortly thereafter."
'Good God,' Olivia thought, as her heart sank. 'Just when Elliot and I were getting so close to proving Giles Neufeld is the real mastermind behind the slave trafficking ring, now we've run right into another frigging dead end!'
"Of course, one wonders about the coincidence about this whole thing," Bullock said.
"What coincidence?" Olivia asked.
Bullock came over and loomed over Olivia in a threatening manner. "I mean, Detective Benson, it's real interesting how West disappears right after you speak with him. Maybe we should be asking you some hard questions about this case in the interrogation room!"
Olivia simply stared at him, speechless. 'They actually think I'm involved in Detective West's disappearance!' she thought, stunned.
To be continued...