Eames rolled over in her bed and groaned. Why was it the damn phone always rang just when she was sleeping well? She reached over and grabbed it from the bedside table. "Eames."
"Good morning, sunshine."
"No, it's not a good morning, and if we don't have a case, Goren, I swear I'm going to kick your ass."
"Come on, Eames. I know better than to just call you at this hour."
"And what hour is it?"
"Figures. All right. I'll pick you up in a half hour."
"Make it forty-five minutes and pick me up down by the deli."
"You've got a deal, partner."
As she climbed out of bed, she mused over how much she appreciated that all night deli down the street from Goren's apartment. And the girl who worked there at night had her eye on him, so they always got fresh coffee.
He got into the car and handed her a Danish and coffee. "My hero," she mumbled.
"Yeah, right," he smiled. "A Danish and coffee and you turn to mush."
"Well, you're in a good mood." She shifted into drive. "At least one of us wakes up on the right side of the bed."
"That would be the left side on my bed. The right side would run me into the wall. And who said I've been to bed?"
She looked at him. "Hot date?"
"Not hardly. Lewis isn't my type."
"You're not drunk, are you?"
"Do I look stupid?"
She smiled. "No, not stupid. Just in too good a mood for 3 in the morning. Any idea what we're walking into?"
"Nope. Deakins just said he'd meet us at the scene." He pulled a napkin from his pocket and read off the address. "That's a nice neighborhood."
She glanced at the napkin, then at him. "Have you even been home yet?"
"I stopped in to change my clothes. It's never a good idea to show up at a crime scene smelling like a night on the town."
She raised an eyebrow. "Like a what?"
"Lewis spilled a beer on me, and, well, aw, never mind. Just trust me when I say be glad I got changed."
"Maybe I should go out with you and Lewis some time."
He smiled. "I don't know, Eames…"
"Next Friday…Logan and Barek are on call, and I have nothing to do."
She smiled. "Ok. It's a date."
"You heard me. You, Lewis and me. A threesome."
He choked on his coffee and she smiled a wicked little smile. Score another one for the little detective with the big attitude.
Goren was still sponging coffee off his tie as they got out of the SUV and met Deakins. "What happened to you?" the captain asked.
"Just a little coffee mishap," he muttered.
Deakins noticed the grin on Eames' face and decided he didn't want to know. He started toward the house. "I want you both to prepare yourselves. This is not going to be an easy case. Victim's name is Christin Smalley. She's four. Apparently, the perp broke in down in the basement and no one heard him. He waited until the family was sleeping, then made his way upstairs. He bypassed the little boy's room and…well, you'll see."
Eames looked at Goren, who met her eyes. "You want to check out the point of entry?" he asked.
She nodded and mouthed thanks. It would be hard enough to review the crime scene pictures. She was a cop and a professional…but children…there was a good reason she never worked special victims'. She headed down to the basement while Deakins and Goren headed up the stairs. "How'd we catch this case?" Goren asked. "Shouldn't it belong to special victims?"
"Oh, they've been called in as well. You'll be working together with them. We got called in by the commissioner. This kid's mother is his niece."
Goren nodded. He was used to high profile cases and they didn't scare him. "Are they here yet?"
Good, he thought. He hated trying to decipher a scene second-hand, or with half a dozen people climbing all over him. Deakins stopped outside a door that was decorated with Disney's Princesses. Goren frowned, his previous good mood forgotten. "Uh, how did they find out?"
"Mom is pregnant, and she got up to use the bathroom. She thought she heard something, saw the perp running down the hall, and screamed for her husband. The husband chased the perp out of the house and down the street, until he lost him a couple of blocks over. He's an off duty cop, stationed up in the Bronx, but he didn't have time to grab his piece. Mom found her daughter, called 911, then her uncle, and he called us."
Goren nodded, pulling on a pair of latex gloves. Bracing himself, he entered the room. Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw. He just stood in the doorway, eyes searching the room. He made up his mind, right then and there, that he was going to get this guy…no matter what. Stepping further into the room, he began his examination of the scene.
Eames came back into the entryway from the basement as the detectives from SVU came in the front door. They looked at her and at her badge, before either one of them spoke. "Elliot Stabler, SVU. This is my partner, Olivia Benson."
"Alex Eames, from Major Case. The commissioner called us in."
Stabler nodded, shaking her hand amiably. "Calling out the big guns right away. You have a partner?"
She nodded. "He's upstairs, examining the scene of the murder. Anyone tell you guys what went down?"
Benson shook her head. "All we know is that a child was involved."
"A four year old. Point of entry was the basement. He used a glass cutter to cut out a window pane so he could open the window and get in."
"Alex," Deakins was halfway down the stairs. He looked at the two detectives who had just arrived.
"Captain, these are the two detectives from SVU, Stabler and Benson."
Deakins held out his hand. "Captain Deakins, Major Case." Greetings and niceties aside, he turned back to Eames. "Goren asked if you would talk to the mother, Alex."
She nodded and looked at Benson. "Interested?"
Benson looked at her partner, then back at Eames. "Let's go."
Stabler looked at Deakins. "I'd like to have a look at the scene."
"The kid's bedroom. My detective's already in there. This way."
They found Goren on one knee beside the child's body. With infinite tenderness, he brushed the hair back from her face. He knew they were there; he didn't look up. Deakins knew enough to leave him alone; he was protecting himself by avoiding contact right now. But Stabler had no idea. "What do you have here?"
Goren still didn't look up. "A murder victim."
Stabler looked at Deakins. "You got a wiseass here, captain?"
Goren finally looked up, frowning, his expression guarded. "Uh, excuse me?"
"I know we've got a murder vic. That's why we were called."
"And you are?"
"Oh." Goren just nodded and turned back to the body, not yet ready to share his findings with anyone, particularly not an arrogant detective with an attitude. He didn't play those games.
Stabler looked at Deakins, who had rolled his eyes without being noticed. "Goren, cooperate. Share and share alike, got it?"
"Yeah. I got it."
Deakins looked from Goren to Stabler and quietly sighed. This was not going to be fun. Ready or not, he wanted to hear what Goren had to say. "What do you have, Bobby?"
Goren was quiet for a moment, gathering his thoughts. He readjusted his position, leaning back on his heels, arms resting on his knees. "Cause of death seems to be blunt force trauma to the head. She also has premortem bruising to her chest and abdomen. The perp kept her alive long enough for bruising to start. There are fibers in her mouth. He gagged her…and, there are…ligature marks…on her wrists and ankles." He looked up at Stabler. "This little girl did not die easily." He got to his feet. "We're gonna get this son of a bitch."
He brushed past Stabler and left the room. Deakins looked at the SVU detective. "He really is very good at what he does, detective. He may not work and play well with others, but he gets the job done. He's my best officer. Highest solve rate in the department." He studied Stabler, the detective's face telling him he'd heard about Goren. That made Deakins uneasy; most of the rumors out there had Bobby painted as an unstable cop, a loose canon ready to blow. He knew that wasn't the case, but he couldn't stop the rumors. "You can't believe everything you hear, Stabler. You have a problem with him, you run it by his partner or you come to me. This is a high profile case and I don't want any fireworks. Do you understand me? I'll talk to Goren, too."
Stabler nodded. "I understand, Captain. No fireworks."
He turned his attention to the crime scene and Deakins went to find Goren.
Deakins wasn't surprised to find his detective hovering behind his partner as she and Benson talked to the child's mother. He motioned for the big detective to follow him. Out in the hallway, he said quietly, "Understand me on this one, Goren. This is their case, too. You find out anything, you let them know. I'll talk to Don Cragen. We are working together on this. It's not a race and not a competition. We're both after the same scrub. Got it?"
"Yeah. I got it."
Eames and Benson came out into the hall. Deakins looked at them. "Anything helpful?"
"Not really," Eames answered. "We need to talk with her husband. She's in shock. They're going to take her to the hospital."
The captain looked at the two women detectives. Over his shoulder, he said, "Go find the father, Goren."
Goren met his partner's eyes, then he walked off to do as Deakins asked. The captain said, "I just talked to both of your partners. This is a high profile case, and I'm not going to have any intersquad struggles here. Goren and Stabler seem to have already decided they don't like each other. That leaves it to the two of you to make sure they behave. I want everything you find shared with each other as well as with Cragen and me. We are going to solve this and we're going to do it together. Understood?"
Eames nodded. "Got it, Captain." She looked at Benson. "How are you at babysitting?"
"Lots of experience."
Deakins smiled. "Keep me informed. Now I have to go and call the commissioner."
Eames looked at Benson. "Well, I'm gonna go find my little boy."
Benson smiled. "And I'll find mine."
Eames found him sitting in the kitchen with the child's father. Goren had a cup of coffee and the dad had a beer. Both men rose to their feet as she approached. She caught her partner's eye before turning to the distraught father. "Hello, Officer Smalley. I'm Detective Eames."
He shook her hand and they sat down. Smalley looked at Goren. "Partners?" Goren nodded. Smalley looked at Eames. "I was just telling your partner that I never got a good look at the guy. He was already on his way down the stairs when I got out of the bedroom. I lost him in an alley three blocks over. He was probably my size…" He shrugged.
"Do you know of anyone who might want to do this to your family? Any enemies?" Eames directed the questioning, as she always did, so her partner was free to observe.
Smalley shrugged. "I'm a cop. What cop doesn't have enemies?"
"Does being related to the commissioner have any bearing on your job?"
"No. I don't even think my captain knows."
"Uh…" Goren interrupted and pointed to the doorway. "Your son…"
A little boy of about three was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, rubbing his eyes. Goren raised his hand. "Finish talking to my partner. I'll take care of him."
He got up and went to the doorway, squatting down in front of the child. "Hi there. I'm Bobby."
He studied the big cop. Goren took out his badge and showed it to him. The boy took it with a smile and said, "I'm Charlie."
"Why don't we go in here and talk, Charlie?"
Charlie looked at his father, then took Goren's hand and went with him into the living room.
Eames turned back to Smalley. "He's very good with kids. Charlie will be fine."
Goren sat on the couch and Charlie crawled into his lap. The big cop glanced at the doorway when Benson and Stabler came into the room and sat down. Charlie looked at them. Goren said, "They are police officers, too, Charlie."
Benson leaned forward. "Hi, Charlie. I'm Olivia, and this is my friend, Elliot."
"Hey, little man."
Charlie smiled, but held on tight to Goren's badge and leaned against his chest. Goren tipped his head toward the little boy. "Hey, Charlie, did you see anyone outside your room tonight?"
He nodded. "There was a man. He went into Chrissie's room."
"What were you doing up so late?"
He looked around the room, then leaned closer. "I had to pee."
Goren laughed softly, setting the boy even more at ease. "Ok. What did you do when you saw him?"
"He scared me. I went back into my bed. I didn't hafta pee no more."
"Do you remember what he looked like?" Charlie nodded. "Was he big, like me, or not so big, like Elliot?"
Charlie pointed at Stabler. "But he had hair on his face. Here." He touched his upper lip.
"That's very good. Was his hair dark or light?"
"Like hers." He pointed toward the doorway.
Goren looked but no one was there. "You mean like Alex? The lady who's talking to your daddy?" Charlie nodded. "Very good, Charlie. Did you see him again?" He shook his head. "Did you hear anything else?"
"I heard Mommy. She was crying. Where is Mommy?"
"Mommy had to go see the doctor. You can see her later. Charlie, did you smell anything?"
Stabler shifted impatiently on the couch and Benson elbowed him. Goren ignored them, his attention fixed on the little boy. "He was stinky. Like when Mommy and Daddy go out."
"Ok, Charlie. Thanks for talking to us. You were a big help. Let's go see if your daddy is done talking to Alex."
The child slid off his lap and gripped his hand. He still held onto the badge in his other hand. Benson and Stabler watched them leave the room. She looked at her partner. "He's good."
"Maybe we should have talked to the boy."
"Why? He did as well as we would have done. What is your problem, Elliot?"
"I just…I don't like him, Liv."
"You don't have to like him. You just have to work with him on this case."
Eames looked up as Goren returned to the kitchen with Charlie, who climbed into his father's lap. Eames stood up. "Thank you, Officer Smalley."
A uniformed officer came to the doorway and spoke softly to Goren, who nodded. He looked at Smalley. "The, uh, the ambulance is ready to go…with your wife."
"And my daughter?"
"If you want to follow the ambulance, my partner and I will stay with her until the M.E. is done."
"Thank you, Detective Goren." He gently took the badge from Charlie and placed it in Goren's hand as he walked past him, carrying his son.
When they were gone, Goren looked at his partner. "He smelled cologne, Eames. So did I…on Chrissie's body. It was a mix of colognes…male and female. My…my dad used to come home smelling like that."
"This is probably a stupid question. Can you identify the colognes?"
"Yeah…Old Spice and Chanel. I, uh, I smelled that a lot."
She laid a hand on his arm and gently squeezed, moving past him and into the living room where Benson and Stabler were talking. They fell silent as the two major case detectives entered the room. Goren looked from one to the other. Stabler glared at him; Benson looked uncomfortable. Goren was very familiar with the uncomfortable silence. He looked at his partner and motioned toward the stairs. "I, uh, I have a…promise to keep."
Eames nodded and watched him head up the stairs. She looked at the other two detectives, annoyed. "That was smooth. He's not stupid, you know. He knows when people are talking about him."
"Sorry," Benson said. "Elliot isn't comfortable working with him."
Eames glared at Stabler. "You'd better unruffle those feathers, Stabler. You're stuck with us until this case is solved."
Trying to change the subject, Benson asked, "Did he say something about keeping a promise?"
Eames nodded. "He promised to stay with Chrissie until the M.E. takes her. Excuse me."
They watched her head up the stairs to join her partner. Stabler still looked uncomfortable. "I know you've heard the same things about him that I have, Liv."
"Why can't you go into this with an open mind, Elliot? You saw him with that little boy. We couldn't have done any better."
"Yeah, well, maybe. Let's go down and check out the point of entry."
Eames walked to the doorway of the little girl's room. CSU was done and the room was empty, except for the little girl and the big cop who sat with her. Eames sat beside him on the bed, fighting down the bile that rose in her throat just thinking about what had happened to this little girl. "I wish I could cover her," he said softly.
"Rodgers will be here anytime."
"This is just wrong, Alex. I…I want to get this guy."
"I know. We will."
He looked at her. "You really think so?"
She looked into his eyes, and she saw the determination behind the pain. "Yes. I really do."
They remained with the child until Rodgers and her team were done processing their part of the scene and they took possession of the body. The two detectives followed the stretcher down the stairs. Stabler and Benson were waiting in the hallway. Goren stepped off to the side, letting his partner deal with the other detectives. Eames was used to his remoteness. She said, "I guess we're done here. Let us know if you get any leads and we'll do the same."
Benson nodded. "I want to apologize to both of you if we did anything to make you uncomfortable."
She watched Goren, who shook his head. He met her eyes as he replied, "No apology necessary. I'm…used to it."
He left the house and headed for the SUV. Benson looked at Eames. "Is he ok?"
"He's fine. Unfortunately, he's right. He is used to it."
She joined her partner at the car and drove off. The sun was coming up and they had a lot of work to do if they were going to catch this child killer.