The Day of the Rat
-by J.P. D'Osty-Fernandez
-dedicated to all Police Officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, and, as ever, to Diane Neal, the wonderful young actress who brings Casey Novak to life
Standard Disclaimer: The SVU characters belong to Dick Wolf, every other character belongs to me.
To say this was not one of Detective Olivia Benson's better days would have been a gross understatement. Across the table from her in a dark, gloomy interrogation room at 1 Police Plaza was parked the rotund mass of Captain Bernie Kelly, the King Rat of the Internal Affairs Division, that support group for failed cops who raised their self-esteem by busting the chops of real cops.
A more vile specimen hiding behind the badge of the NYPD was difficult to find. Kelly had once been a Detective, Third Grade, before he was shipped off to the NYPD representative's slot in Interpol. The official announcement of his transfer claimed that he was "most eminently qualified to represent this department." The transfer, however, came too soon for comfort after his partner was shot in the back of the head in his car by a low-end dealer he had once collared The dealer had made the partner when the car was standing long enough for Kelly to go into a deli and order a large meatball hero in the middle of the lunch rush.
An inquiry had cleared Kelly of any wrongdoing. This finding was not surprising, considering that Kelly's father-in-law was a city councilman and a powerful member of the city's political machine. However, the incident earned Kelly the sobriquet "Third Grade Brutus." There was some controversy among the scuttlebutt as to whether "Brutus" referred to the back-stabbing antagonist of Julius Caesar, or to the not-so-slim character from the cartoons.
Either way, street police hated Third Grade Brutus, and Third Grade Brutus hated them right back. His hatred only increased after he returned from his Interpol tour. He acted out this hatred by using the celebrity status he had cultivated while in Europe to "serve as special police liaison" to virulently anti-Cop political action groups such as the Alliance for the Protection of Equality. After his superiors had enough of his public self-promotion, they promoted him Captain and sent him to the Rat Squad. It was a win-win solution for the bosses and the politicians. The Alliance was mollified that their favourite cop was now investigating "bad cops," and Third Grade Brutus was restricted, both by workload and by regulation, in terms of what he could say to the public. It was a lose-lose situation for street cops, on whom Third Grade Brutus declared open season.
He reserved an especial venom for the Special Victims Unit, and for one of its lead detectives, Liv Benson. He had always held on to the delusion that no woman alive could resist him. Back when he was actually a detective, he had pinched Detective Benson's backside. This earned him a lightning-quick elbow to the solar plexus.
"Oh, Bernie, I'm so sorry!" Liv had exclaimed as she rushed to help him. But the look in her eyes told him she was anything but sorry. The look in her eyes this day, as he stared her down in the gloomy interrogation room of 1PP, was the same. This nearly frustrated the stuffing out of Third Grade Brutus, who had been looking forward for years to this day, the day in which he would make the snotty Olivia Benson, beg for mercy.
"Detective Benson," he began, pen in hand, folder open in front of him as the wheels of the tape recorder spun, "Thank you for coming in. We have a couple of questions to ask you about the events of November 22nd…"
"Well, as I said in my report, the defendant Lillo Pepin had grabbed the Bailiff's gun and…"
"The way this works, Detective" interrupted Kelly, pronouncing the last word as if he were choking on a reheated egg roll, "is that YOU speak ONLY WHEN SPOKEN TOO! Is that CLEAR?"
Her expression unchanged, Liv waited a half-a-second, then nodded.
"WHAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU! SPEAK UP!"
"Yes Sir," responded Liv, her voice calm and collected, in complete contrast to the fury in her eyes "That is clear."
"We already KNOW that Pepin had the Bailiff's gun. The question is…"
Third Grade Brutus paused and leered, like a jackal about to close in on its wounded prey.
"Why did you let the defendant grab the Bailiff's gun? Why did you do nothing to stop him?"
Third Grade Brutus' heart sank when he saw the expression on Liv's face. Not a muscle had moved since her response to his previous question. He had hoped to fluster her.
Liv waited. She waited long enough for her Inquisitor to lean forward and try to begin to prompt her.
"That's two questions…"
"That's two questions…I'm confused…you said 'The question is,'…which one do you want me to answer?"
Third Grade Brutus stood up, knocking his chair backwards. The poor chair, if it had lungs and a larynx, would probably breathe a sigh of relief at not having to bear that tremendous burden, even if the respite was only for a short while.
But Third Grade Brutus said nothing. Slowly, the red dissipated from his face. He pulled the ever-suffering chair back into place and sat down.
"I see you have a sense of humour, DETECTIVE. That will serve you well on the unemployment line."
This evoked no response from Liv.
"Now, why didn't you do anything to stop Pepin from grabbing the Bailiff's gun?"
"I was behind the bar. I couldn't have reached him in time to grab his hand. The only way for me to stop him would have been to shoot him, and I did not have a clear shot."
"You didn't have a clear shot?"
"You didn't have a clear shot?"
"Yes…that's what I just said."
"Yes, you did say that…But, I'm having trouble understanding something here…you say you didn't have a clear shot when Pepin grabbed the gun…but when you finally did shoot him, ADA. Novak was between you and Pepin, and your bullet clipped her left shoulder before it ended up in his heart."
"He had a gun to her head…"
"So, it takes a perp having a gun to someone's head before you do anything, is that what you're telling me, Detective Benson?"
"No, I'm telling you that there were no clear shots that day, only the best of a lot of bad shots. I chose the one with the least risk to all."
"The least risk? Wouldn't there have been NO risk if you, at that point, had just backed off and let the hostage negotiators come in and resolve the situation without bloodshed?"
"Pepin was on trial for fifteen counts of sexual assault, thirteen counts of felony murder, and six counts of first degree murder. I don't see how a hostage negotiator would have gotten him to drop his gun."
"Well, you made sure we'll never know, now, didn't you? And the City is facing a multi-million dollar suit by Ms. Novak as a result."
Third Grade Brutus smiled, for a perplexed now appeared on Liv's face, as she cast her eyes downwards, seemingly contemplating the table.
"Huh! Now that's strange…this happened three months ago…Ms. Novak was treated for a flesh wound and then released the same day…she had plenty of time to file a suit before today, and yet I haven't heard anything about her filing a lawsuit from the DEA," responded Liv after a moment's reflection Her acronym referred to the Detective's Endowment Association, the union which represents NYPD Detectives, just as the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association represents uniformed officers.
The smile had evaporated from Third Grade Brutus' face as he mentally chastised himself. The fact that Liv had not requested a DEA delegate should have told him something. Nevertheless, he was determined that nothing come in the way of the slaking of his thirst.
"Sarcasm, I see," he commented "You know, sarcasm is a weapon of the weak…"
This drew zero response from Liv.
"The weak…and the impotent."
Third Grade Brutus set down his pen, and turned over a couple of pages in the folder stretched opened before him, looking down at them with intent interest.
"One of those six counts of first degree was for the killing of…let me see…I have the name here…ah, yes…Sergeant Daniel Dillon…he was one of your partner when you were back in uniform, wasn't he?"
The sick leer in Third Grade Brutus' eyes met the furious shock in Liv's.
"Yes…I see now…that's it… Pepin murdered your old partner Dillon, so you were just returning the serve, isn't that right, Detective Benson?"
Liv said nothing.
"That's why you waited until Pepin had a gun to ADA Novak's head. Sure you could have finished him when he first grabbed the gun. But, you figured that was too risky, that we would start asking questions. But, with a helpless heroine, a damsel in distress—hell, you would be a HERO, now wouldn't you? You save the poor victim AND you avenge your partner's death. Two birds with one stone. NO ONE would question you then, would they, Detective Benson?"
Liv sat silent and motionless, but if looks could kill, Third Grade Brutus would have been luncheon meat then and there. Under the table, the skin above her knuckles was almost ivory-coloured from the clenching of her fists.
Third Grade Brutus sensed Liv's tension. He was about to goad her just over the edge when there came a sudden knock followed by an opening of the door before anyone could respond.
Third Grade Brutus whipped his head towards the door, a scream on his lips at this rude interruption. He checked his scream when he saw who entered the room.
"Ms. Novak…what a pleasant surprise…we're not quite done here…"
"Hello, Captain." said Casey quite perfunctorily, "Liv, they said I could find you here. I got the warrant for Cameron Williams' studio. Let's go."
"Excuse me, Ms. Novak!" There was an edge to Third Grade Brutus' voice now. A polite edge to be sure, but an edge nevertheless. "I am afraid your warrant is going to have to wait. I am conducting an investigation into your shooting…"
"Line of duty, Captain, line of duty. Liv had Pepin stopped dead in his tracks. He wasn't going anywhere with her pointing her weapon at him."
"B-but…she shot you, and killed a man…"
"A man who had screamed he was going to kill me and Liv during his arraignment, Captain. And Liv didn't want to shoot at first. I forced her to."
This made no impression on Third Grade Brutus, whose face was hardening for a comeback.
"It's all in my statement, Captain." declared Casey. "Pepin taunted Liv that I might get killed if she shot at him. I screamed ' Liv! Do what you have to! We're good!' In fact, the Court Stenographer and the crime reporter from the Ledger saw and heard the whole thing. To be frank, I don't know why you're investigating Detective Benson. My office cleared her…"
"Did you know that one of Pepin's victims was Officer Daniel Dillon?"
"I should hope so. I filed the indictment."
"Did you know that Dillon was once Detective Benson's partner?"
"Well, Ms. Novak, I wouldn't presume to tell you how to do your job…but doesn't that smack of…motive to you?"
"If Detective Benson had hunted down and shot Pepin in the back while he was completely defenceless, yes. But that never happened."
"N-no…but the way it did go down…well, that looks like a perfect execution to me, Ms. Novak…"
"Well, Captain, that's why I'm an ADA, that's why Detective Benson is a Detective and that's why you got that nickname…what is it again? Oh yes! 'Third Grade.'"
The red spread like a flood across Third Grade Brutus' face now, as his rage soared at Casey's blunt and highly accurate statement of the situation.
"Oh, really, Ms. Novak? 'Do what you have to do! We're good!' huh? Well, that's not what your little buddy Benson over here just told me."
An instinctive look of fear flashed across Liv's eyes. Since the shooting, she had not seen much of Casey. And when the two happened to be in the same room together, there was a distinct discomfort between them. Liv has apologised for wounding Casey, and Casey had told her it was no big deal. But there was, from then on, a certain resentment in Casey's eyes whenever Liv met them.
Third Grade Brutus smiled as he saw Liv's discomfiture. But Casey was looking directly at him, now, and not at Liv.
"Well, now you have my attention, Captain," announced Casey. "What did Detective Benson say?"
"She said you were pleading like a little bitch for her to drop her gun so Pepin wouldn't shoot you"
A silence ensued, a terrible silence for Liv. Third Grade Brutus had pushed a button when he threw Danny Dillon's name in her face. Liv was so upset that she had forgotten the tape recorder was still working, and that the tape would tell Casey exactly what she did and did not say.
"It gives you a sense of power to call me a 'little bitch,' doesn't it, Captain?"
"I'm only telling you what your buddy over here told me."
"It's funny" Casey went on, ignoring Third Grade Brutus, "With all that generic Viagra you're taking, I would think you wouldn't need a power trip. Guess you got a bad batch and the flag is still at half-mast, huh?"
Casey reached into her briefcase and pulled out a manila folder. She dropped the folder in front of Third Grade Brutus. The folder missed its mark on the table, and spilt onto the floor, a spreadsheet cascading out.
Third Grade Brutus bent down and retrieved the folder and the spreadsheet. When he realised what was on the spreadsheet, his eyes widened, each to a diametre that could accommodate an entire carrier group without difficulty.
"You see, Captain, White Collar Crimes has had your father-in-law under investigation for some time now. Sure, the only thing we can trace to you are these purchases of generic Viagra on one of your wife's credit cards—a credit card on which, surprisingly, there are no other purchases. But something tells me that a police Captain would have an ethical obligation to report such gross financial irregularities, irregularities of which he HAD to be aware. I mean, I know a Captain makes more than a lowly detective, but enough to own such a large summer place in the Hamptons?"
Third Grade Brutus was looking at Casey now. His face was so blanched, so drained of colour that Liv didn't know whether or not she should say "Third Grade Brutus just saw a ghost!" or "Third Grade Brutus looks like Caspar the Ghost!"
"On the other hand," continued Casey "If you were to accompany those two nice DA's investigators waiting outside this room to White Collar and tell them everything you know about your father-in-law's dealings, they just might consider immunity in exchange for your testimony. And, just by coincidence, I happened to hear the other day that there was an opening for a Chief of Security at a resort on one of those Caribbean Islands where they tear up IRS subpoenas, never mind subpoenas from New York divorce lawyers."
Third Grade Brutus had slowly begun to breathe again. When he had gathered enough air to regain his voice, he stuttered out "T-t-thank you…M-ms. Novak!" Then, he closed his folder, capped his pen, and got up and left the room without a backward glance at either Casey or Liv.
Casey walked over to the tape recorder, shut it off, and then removed and pocketed the tape.
"Casey…Thanks….but you shouldn't have—"
"Don't worry, Liv. This was a nothing case. Little Third Grade over there just wanted to bust another good cop. No way IAD is going to get egg on its face to satisfy his little ego, especially now."
"Oh, Casey…" Liv's voice trailed off as she approached the younger woman, arms open to embrace her. Casey mirrored her move.
So focused on Casey's face were Liv's eyes that she failed to notice Casey's right arm and forearm deftly moving inwards and backwards until her wrist brushed up against her rib cage, her fist a hardened ball.
"Uuomph!" The air wheezed out of Liv as Casey's fist connected very speedily with her solar plexus. Liv sagged to the ground.
"Don't you EVER shoot me again, Liv!" Casey angrily barked out as Liv struggled to catch her breath on the floor.
"Hu…hu…hu…hi… suppose" squeezed out Liv, "hi…had that…coming."
"Damn right you did!" answered Casey as she reached down and offered Liv a helping hand, a hand which Liv accepted. "Now, we have a warrant to serve. So get off your behind and give me a big ole hug so we can kick down some doors!"