Disclaimer: Not mine.
Author's Note: My second attempt at SVU fiction. I wouldn't exactly call this your typical Post-Loss fic. At least I feel it's different from most. This story has the tendency to imply a femslash relationship. If that bothers you, then turn away now. All the research I did for this piece of fiction will be credited at the end of the story. Spoilers for Loss and Ghost. Oh, I should mention the mature rating for language and such.
Summary: Olivia deals with loss in her own special way. Her latest obsession leads her into a very dark world. A world where she finds something even more sinister than the Columbian drug cartel threatening the life of Alex Cabot. With the help of a mysterious stranger, will she find the answers she seeks?
She paused, then held the phone with her hand instead as she spoke, "Hey, you don't have to quote the facts to me. Trust me, I know them. These drugs range from having a high potential of drug abuse and no medical use whatsoever to having medical acceptance but with the possibility of leading to dependency. Trust me, I know."
THE SNOW WAS FALLING gently over the city of New York. Big, fluffy white flakes melting the second they hit the ground. There was a nice brisk chill in the air, but Olivia Benson had been through worse winters. With a scarf, leather jacket and heavy boots, she was ready to brace the elements. Now if only she could have remembered her cap, then her head wouldn't be so cold. A gust of wind came from nowhere, ruffling the pages of the newspaper tucked under her arm.
The warmth of the station was highly welcomed and the cup of coffee her partner set on her desk moments later was even more appreciated. What she didn't appreciate was his lingering eyes on the newspaper she set on her desk. For once she wished she could get through one day without dealing with the stares.
She could still feel his eyes on her as she swiped a highlighter over the selected passage. Cragen stopped by her desk and dropped a note into her waiting hand. It was an address. They finally had a location on a paroled sex offender suspected to be involved in their latest homicide case. Thanks to this, the mundane task of filling out paperwork could be ignored for at least another day. Unfortunately, she also had to stop reading the paper.
She sat back and enjoyed the show. Elliot was ripping their perp a new one, spit flying as he delivered every derogatory phrase he could think of without using the words 'fuck', 'shit', or any other combinations of the two words that she hadn't thought of yet.
They liked to tag team. When he was done, she'd slam a hand on the table to shake their guy up a bit. She wouldn't yell, but her words were just as vicious. She also had the pleasure of shoving every piece of evidence they had in his face, pinning him to the murder. After only ten minutes of their badgering, the guy rolled over. The confession was signed, sealed and delivered to ADA Novak.
"Hey, how 'bout we hit the bar?" Elliot suggested. "I mean, we should celebrate after handing the DA a slam dunk case."
"I think I'm just gonna head home," Olivia smiled sadly, trying desperately to sound strong. After the perps were put away and the cases closed, her tough cop persona almost instantly vanished leaving behind the vulnerable person that she really was. If only she could hold onto that fire until she got home, then maybe the guys wouldn't be able to pick up on her moods so easily.
"While I'm not one to say I hate conspiracy theories," Munch began gently, slowly approaching her. He even lowered his shades to reveal concerned eyes. "I do have to say, this worries me. I mean, what do you expect to find in all those newspapers?"
"Truth. Reasons," she listed, shrugging her coat on. Tucking her now half read newspaper back under her arm.
Munch choked on a laugh, before reminding her, "That's what makes theories so great, you know. We always think there's a whole lotta truth in them before they're proven false."
"John. . .," Olivia sighed, now turning away from him but ending up face to face with her partner.
"You gotta stop beating yourself up, Liv," Elliot lightly scolded her. "This . . . whole thing is starting to eat at you."
He said the word "thing" as if he truly knew what the hell it was. She didn't even know what the "thing" was, so how could he be all knowing and all righteous?
"I'm fine," Olivia insisted, her tone practically ordering them to leave it alone.
The Columbian drug cartel was a very intricate network. An extremely strong force since the 70s, they were now considered to be the most barbarous and sophisticated drug trafficking organization in the world. It was just amazing how small and humble their beginnings were. Not to say peddling cocaine across various borders was modest living, but compared to their status today, one could only hope that someday they would be reduced back to the small numbers in which they started.
With all the research she had been doing, she highly doubted they would ever reduce in size. In fact, they only seemed to be getting stronger with each passing day. Olivia sipped coffee, reading over her latest piece of interest. A magazine article that was written years ago, slightly outdated. Most of the information she had read before. Even still, she took a highlighter and marked up the page, seemingly accenting the more important facts. There were no huge surprises, however.
Months ago, she learned of these top secret submarines discovered by Columbian police. The cartel had been using these subs to ship large quantities of cocaine practically undetected through the waters of the Atlantic and onto the shores of the United States. It was bad enough having to fight the war on drugs practically blind, but add in these subs and visibility was reduced to nil. Technology was getting better and suddenly the good guys were having a hard time keeping up.
These people involved with this cartel were nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately, everyone in the SVU squad learned that the hard way. When one of their own had to be whisked away into a new life, a new identity to ensure their safety, the entire squad understood the power of these awful people.
Olivia set the magazine aside, yawned and rubbed her eyes. She had been doing this for the last year now, she supposed. Ever since the incident. One could even call her behavior obsessive and unhealthy. She really didn't know what to call it herself. It was only by chance that Elliot found out, then subsequently told Munch, Fin, and Cragen. Then naturally, Casey was next to learn of what Olivia did in her off hours during one of their routine nights out at the bar. Everyone knew. And to call five people "everyone" really showed her lack of a social life.
She highlighted another passage, more out of frustration than for a quest of knowledge. It was only by chance that he found out. Elliot had stopped by unannounced one day. She let him in, forgetting the state her apartment was in. There were books, magazines, newspaper articles, internet printouts. Everything you could dream up about the Columbian cartel, she had documentation of it somewhere. Unsorted pages on the couch. Her kitchen counter had turned into a book shelf. He could only gape in shock as his hands roamed over the various documents in awe.
She didn't really know how to explain herself. Only one word left her lips, a ghost of a whisper that she wasn't even sure he heard. Alex.
He asked her how long she had been doing this. Researching the drug cartel. She didn't have to answer because he had to know. He had to know she spent every waking hour wishing she could find something flawlessly incriminating. Some mind blowing conspiracy-like iota of a lead that would just crush the cartel for good. Anything to bring Alex back home to New York. All her research did was prove their strength.
Then Elliot dropped the mother of all questions on her: "Did you love Alex?"
When she gave him a blank stare, he pushed, "I mean, really loved her?"
Finally, her brain kicked in and she forced a laugh. No, Elliot, she could remember saying. No, she did not love Alex Cabot. Even in a joking manner, she added, "Just because I look butch, doesn't mean I am."
To that he responded with a very serious, "I never said you looked butch."
It took a lot of convincing on her part when trying to explain that her drug cartel obsession was not a labor of love. It was a hobby. Albeit, a crippling one, but a hobby nonetheless. She explained that after Alex "died", she realized how very little she knew about the cartel. Maybe if she learned more, they wouldn't be taken by surprise the next time they had dealings with them.
It began innocently enough. She just wanted to know more. She couldn't remember when, but at some point, it was all she could think about when she wasn't on the job dealing with New York's dirtiest criminals. Nothing she said would ever quell Elliot's concern.
Her head met the cool fabric of her pillow as she tried to sleep. On her night stand she could see her alarm clock draped in yet another newspaper. She reached over to grab it, checked the date and determined it was actually the current paper and not one of her cartel papers. Lately, she had been buying the local papers just to see what they had to say about the war on drugs. She was beginning to run out of resources, finding less and less in the archives of all the local libraries. Now her apartment was covered in current news, the various sections strewn about haphazardly. Passages highlighted in yellow.
She was going to have to organize them all at some point.
Drug trafficking used to be so guileless. They used suitcases. They simply packaged small amounts of cocaine and transported the vile stuff in suitcases. When that stopped working, they moved up in the world. Vans. Planes. Clever disguises as missionaries. They could easily pass through borders and not be stopped. Always with their trusty bibles in hand too. Little did anyone know the pages had been cut out and the drugs stored between the Book of Job and Revelations.
No one was really sure when the murders began. The senseless killings of innocent people who heard the wrong thing from the wrong guy while eating dinner at the wrong place. It took a long time for the authorities to put two and two together. Bodies just kept showing up without a clue as to how they got there. Cement shoes and bullet holes in the head used to be the work of '20s gangsters, but they had been out of business for nearly 50 years. Where were all these bodies coming from?
It was only until top secret undercover work revealed how these murders went down. When judges of high profile drug cases started to drop like flies. When policemen and lawyers and government officials just disappeared without a trace. Suddenly the origin of all those bodies was clear. It brought a whole new meaning to the phrase "drugs kill".
"Pablo Escobar, was just a common street thief," Munch said, between bites of his tuna sandwich. When he wasn't goading her about her obsession, he was encouraging her. John Munch could never resist a good conspiracy. "Now he's credited as being the mastermind behind the criminal enterprise that became known as the Medellin cartel. It's always the quiet ones. The commoner who blends in with the crowd."
Olivia smiled, showing teeth even. He grinned and pointed just over her shoulder, "Our little simpleton over there, with the glasses, could be the next Escobar."
"Shut-up, John," Olivia scolded with a taut grin, pushing aside her half eaten meal. She even mustered the courage to look over her shoulder and glance at the man in question. He was a total nerd, hunched over a laptop with a cell phone attached to his ear. Every few seconds, he had to push his glasses back up the bridge of his nose before they fell off. Olivia turned back to Munch and just shook her head.
"You don't believe me?" Munch asked her, giving her that quirky smile of his. "We really should put a wire tap on that phone. Just to be safe."
"Now you're just making fun of me," Olivia whined in mock hurt, before dropping her part of the bill on the table. "C'mon. I need to buy a few papers."
Munch rolled his eyes and remarked, "And you wonder why I tease you? You are the only New Yorker I know who actually reads The New York Times."
"You're not bored, are you?" she asked, as they strolled through the park, papers tucked under her arm.
"Who me?" Munch asked incredulously. "There's nothing I'd rather be doing on my day off then walking around with a beautiful woman, pining over the incredible history of the Columbian drug cartel."
A slight blush warmed her cheeks at his 'beautiful' remark. She still wasn't sure if he was being sarcastic about the rest of his statement, however. They found a bench and sat down. Her newly purchased newspapers had yet to be opened, but she always saved reading them for last. They weren't finished their "pining" and it was her turn to begin the next round of drug cartel fact spouting. This was about as close to normal conversation as she could get nowadays, so she was eager to start it up again.
"Eventually, the Medellin cartel fractured and broke apart. They just got too big for their britches. It was only when they teamed up with Carlos Ledher did they finally start using planes as their mode of transportation. Things were going smoothly. Their only problem was the ever growing, violent tendencies of Escobar."
"The quiet one," Munch interjected with another facetious smile. She hit him on the arm playfully.
"Escobar is thought to be responsible for the murder of hundreds of government officials, police, prosecutors. . ." Olivia cut herself off, the last word trailing off into nothingness. Munch waited patiently. She cleared her throat before finishing, "Prosecutors, judges, journalists and innocent bystanders. They began to self-destruct under Escobar, while others rose to power. Eventually key players like Juan David and Fabio Ochoa turned themselves in for lesser prison sentences. Other leaders were gunned down and killed. Pablo Escobar got himself shot in what I've always considered the Columbian government's biggest mistake."
"Yep, his cartel secrets died with him," Munch agreed. "Not to mention, killing him gave him the easy way out. No prison sentence. No chance of being extradited to the United States and standing trial."
"He just got away with it," Olivia sighed heavily, her narration over. Maybe some other day they would go into the intricacies of the Cali Cartel. Now it was getting late and she still hadn't gone through her papers. How was it, no matter what she was doing, it always came back to the papers? She always had to read the papers.
She felt a comforting hand on her shoulder. She turned to Munch, giving him a weak smile, "I don't know why you put up with me. Elliot thinks I'm a nutcase. He thinks I'm in love with Alex."
"Are you?" Munch asked quietly. He also amended quickly, "I wouldn't judge if you are."
"It's okay, because I'm not really sure if I am," Olivia shrugged, grasping her papers tightly. So tightly her knuckles were turning white. "It's not like I had these feelings before she left. I'm not even sure they were there after she left. I just know that ever since Elliot put the idea in my head. . ."
"You can't help but wonder about what could've been?" Munch inquired, speaking like a seasoned veteran of this game called love. Well, he was, actually. What man marries four times and doesn't understand the amplification of love? He removed his hand from her shoulder, than leaned back against the bench. "You're just dealing with loss in a very unique way, Olivia. It doesn't have to be about love or anything kooky like that. This research. . .it's a crutch, I think."
"Like it's the only piece of Alex I have left," Olivia mumbled.
To be continued. . .