A/N: As always, these characters don't belong to us, but to the great Dick Wolf and NBC. Please read and review! Let us know what you think! Thanks!
Chapter 1: Pre-Dawn
Bleary-eyed, Elliot Stabler reached across the nightstand for his ringing phone. Half-asleep still, he flipped it open.
"Stabl'r," he mumbled.
"Elliot, it's Cragen," the Captain of the Special Victims Unit said. "We've got a huge case on our hands…I don't want to discuss it over the phone, but I need you to pick up Olivia and meet me at the station."
Elliot murmured a response and hung up, dragging himself out of bed. He pulled on a t-shirt over his undershirt, and put on a pair of jeans. Nearly four am. It was often in the pre-dawn hours, not when he was running after criminals or stressing about his tattered family life, but in the early morning, when he felt his forty-four years to the fullest. He sighed, reached for his gun and badge, and made his way out of the house.
4:21 am. Manhattan.
Olivia Benson heard the car coming down the street and locked her apartment behind her. She met Elliot at the curb right as he pulled up. She wasn't as tired as she immediately saw her partner was. She was anxious to see what had Cragen so worked up over the phone.
"You want me to drive?" she asked.
"Nah…I made it all the way here from Queens without crashing…should be good."
"That's not exactly encouraging but okay…"
She got into the car.
"Cragen tell you what's going on?" she asked.
"You still having trouble sleeping?"
He'd been suffering from bouts of insomnia ever since the divorce had been final. More accurately, since Kathy had filed the papers several months before. It had been right when he'd gotten shot in the courtroom. As if that wasn't enough. To see your life flash before your eyes, and then have all your regrets thrown right in your face, packaged neatly in a sheaf of papers sprinkled with words like "alimony" and "irreconcilable differences." He'd hardly seen the kids. That was another thing. He was too tired to think about it all at that moment.
"Yeah," he finally answered Olivia. "Sleep is scarce in the bachelor pad."
There was a hint of regret and bitterness in his voice, even at nearly four-thirty in the morning.
She didn't say anything else. After years of working with him, she knew when to talk and when to be quiet. She also knew that this man, the one with the bags under his eyes and the worry lines constantly creasing his forehead was not the Elliot Stabler she was used to. She was used to everything in her life being the same. Normality was something she clung to, not having much of it growing up, or even as a young adult. When something changed, like his demeanor had been, it scared her. But she only nodded and looked out the passenger side window.
4:40am. 16th Precinct.
Captain Don Cragen ushered his detectives into the squad room, and straight to his office. There wasn't anyone around, but the situation was ultra-sensitive, and he was pulling out all the stops for precaution.
"What is it, Captain?" Olivia asked, getting slightly nervous.
"Lena Petrovsky," Cragen said.
"The judge?" Elliot was slowly waking up.
"Yes, Judge Lena Petrovsky," Cragen said. "She's in the interrogation room with an officer right now. I wanted to keep her away from prying eyes…people are going to start coming in soon."
"What…what did she do, Captain?" Olivia frowned in concern. She knew the judge—they all did. Lena Petrovsky frequently presided over SVU cases…why on earth was she being held in an interrogation room?
"Not what did she do," Cragen shook his head. "But what was done to her."
He was met with looks of confusion by Stabler and Benson. He sighed.
"She was attacked in her home about an hour and a half ago," Cragen explained. "Assaulted in her own bed. Perp tried to kill her…she's pretty mangled up. She wouldn't stay at the hospital though—she insisted on coming down here. She knows you both and requested that you be on the case."
"Oh…my God." They saw terrible things every day, but that it happened to someone they knew was enough to make Olivia's stomach turn.
"Who would try to hurt a middle-aged judge?" Elliot wondered aloud.
"That's what we're going to find out," Cragen said. "It could be a number of people. Criminals she's put away. Disgruntled defense attorneys…or something completely random—someone who didn't even know she was a judge. Olivia, I want you to go in there and talk to her. Elliot, I want you to go to her house. CSU is still there, combing for anything and everything."
"Sure thing, Cap'n," Elliot said, getting ready to go out to the squad sedan.
"Before you go…" Cragen stopped him. "Both of you, be discreet. Lena is a sitting judge. If this makes the papers, it could mean problems for every case she's currently overseeing, as well as reporters at her door 24/7."
"She's married, right?" Olivia asked.
"Husband's in Detroit on business," Cragen said. "His alibi is rock-solid, I assure you."
She nodded. "Had to ask."
"I know. Now get going with her. I don't need to tell you to be delicate."
5:15am. Upper West Side. Petrovsky Residence.
Elliot walked up the steps of the brownstone. He noticed there were conspicuously no police cars out front. The door was slightly ajar and he pushed it open, going into the house. CSU tech Millie Vizcorrando stood in the living room, writing on a notepad. She looked up.
"Good morning, Elliot," she said.
"'Morning," he replied. They'd worked together a few months ago—right after he'd gotten shot. He'd still had his cast on. Thanks in large part to her dedicated sleuthing, they'd been able to solve a thirty-year-old murder case. He wondered why she wasn't a detective. For all her nosing around leading up to that case, she may as well have been.
"Cragen tell you what happened?" Millie asked.
"He didn't give me specifics," Elliot said. "Only that the judge was attacked in her bed."
"Forced entry through the front door. It was wiped free of prints. The perp had a knife. He only used it to threaten her though. He hit her in the face several times with a candlestick he obtained in the living room on his way up to the master bedroom. He tried sexually assaulting her, but she managed to claw back. We've got some samples of his DNA under her fingernails. Hopefully, that'll get us our guy. He's also got a shiner on his face, whoever he is. She hit him back with the telephone. He ran out of the house after that."
Elliot glanced around the room, taking in the posh dwellings of one of Manhattan's premier judges. Her husband was a cardiologist, if he remembered correctly. They had no kids and no grandkids. The house was immaculate.
"Do you want to see the scene?" Millie asked. "There are a couple of other techs still up there, trying to figure out semantics."
He nodded and followed her up to the master bedroom.
5:17am. SVU Interrogation Room.
Olivia opened the door to the interrogation room. The judge was sitting alone at the table, hugging herself, as if trying to stay warm. It was then that Olivia noticed how she was dressed—still in her nightclothes, with not even a sweater, in the cold room. Why hadn't someone given her a blanket or something? Olivia walked in, and told the uniformed officer that he could leave now.
"Judge Petrovsky," Olivia said, once the officer had left.
"Detective Benson," the older woman said.
"Please, call me Olivia."
The judge made a slight nod of her head.
"Are you cold?" Olivia asked. "I can get you a sweater or something if you'd like."
Petrovsky gave an affected look of indifference.
"I'll bring some coffee as well," Olivia said. "Be right back." She saw that the judge was trying to play it cool, putting up a barrier between them. She'd been at her job long enough to notice these things right away.
Sweater and coffee in hand, Olivia knocked on Cragen's office door.
"Come in," that man called out.
She went in. "Captain…would it be okay if we used your office? An interrogation room is hardly the place to talk comfortably with a victim."
Cragen nodded. "Go ahead and bring her in here. I've got to go wake up Arthur Branch with this news…"
"This is big, Liv."
A few minutes later, Olivia and the judge were sitting in Cragen's office on the chairs usually reserved for visitors, across from his desk.
"I know you gave your statement already, but can you tell me what you remember?" Olivia asked softly, trying to make the judge feel less bound by formality.
"The SOB woke me up," Petrovsky said, her voice curt. "Slapped me across the face. I opened my eyes and there was a knife in front of me. I didn't see his face—he was wearing a ski mask. And I don't know how tall he was—he was leaning over me, and it was dark. But he was strong. Almost…professional in his task. Hit me several times, before I could react. And then he tried to go for my nightgown. He didn't expect me to fight back. But I did, and it took him off guard. I don't have any idea who it could have been. Being the hard-ass judge might get you respect but it doesn't come without its risks."
She raised an eyebrow at Olivia. "You will, I trust catch him. I won't pretend not to be a little uneasy. Not as much as Howard, though. He's insisting I go with him to our summer house until this is all sorted out. I was never one for following his orders, but I almost agree with him, so I'll be up there if you need to reach me for anything."
11:32am. SVU Squad Room.
Benson and Stabler had spent the morning tracking down released criminals who had been sentenced by Judge Lena Petrovsky. Their interviewing and scare tactics had gotten them nowhere. They were still waiting on the DNA from under Petrovsky's fingernails.
That woman had been picked up by her husband, who had flown back from Detroit as soon as he'd gotten the news. They went immediately to their cottage in the Berkshires to lie low. Arthur Branch agreed with Dr. Petrovsky—the judge should be nowhere near the city for the time being. To the judge's chagrin, her cases had been reassigned indefinitely.
Elliot took another sip of what had to be his fourth or fifth cup of coffee.
"You're on your way to becoming the Folgers poster boy," John Munch said sarcastically.
"You're on your way to getting your butt kicked," Elliot replied without missing a beat. He may have been tired, but he could still barb with the best of them.
"When are the DNA results coming in?" Fin asked.
"Shhh," Munch said. "Cragen might hear you talking about the case outside of his office. He's ready to have a coronary over this, you know. If it reaches the press, he'll kill us all."
"Millie's supposed to be coming from the lab with the results any time," Olivia said, finishing some old paperwork at her desk.
As if on cue, Millie came through the doors, a look of exhaustion and frustration on her face.
"You got it?" Elliot asked.
She nodded, miserably.
"That bad?" Munch asked.
She didn't say anything, only went to Cragen's office, as the detectives followed.
"What's the news?" Cragen asked after the door had been shut.
"There is no news," Millie said finally. "Perp's DNA is not on record. We're back to the beginning."
Cragen cursed under his breath.
"Get back out there," he ordered his detectives. "Look over everything again. Maybe we missed something."
They nodded, not being able to do much else and headed back out to the squad room.
Elliot was dozing off to sleep as he tried to look at the judge's statement for the umpteenth time when he was again startled awake by his cell phone.
"Stabler," he answered.
"Elliot, it's Jamie Barrigan," a man said.
"Jamie…what's going on?"
He hadn't talked to the reporter since the Tandi McCain case sometime back. Barrigan had burned him, but that was to be expected from reporters, even if they had been high school friends.
"I've got some interesting information," Barrigan said. "About a judge…"
Cragen was going to flip.
"What are you talking about, Jamie?" Elliot asked carefully.
"I think you know," Jamie said. "I got an anonymous tip about an hour ago…told me that Judge Lena Petrovsky was assaulted and nearly killed in the wee hours this morning."
"You know I can't confirm or deny that even if I wanted to," Elliot said. "We have bigger concerns than selling papers here at NYPD, Jamie."
"Look, normally…you'd be right to call me out," Barrigan said. "But this isn't about selling papers, Elliot, this is about something bigger...have you read the papers today?"
"Can't say that I have…I've been a bit busy doing my job. Why?"
"Lewis Huntsley, the top aide to the mayor was killed this weekend in his Manhattan apartment. They're still not sure of the cause of death. A candidate for state senate, Mervyn Goddard, was also found dead. Again, the cause of death hasn't been released."
"And…your point is?" Elliot was getting impatient.
"It looks unrelated, I know," Barrigan said. "That's what I thought at first. Then I read their CVs...they're both on the Anti-Drug Reform Council...so is Lena Petrovsky..."