This story takes place during the eight season, after the episode "Florida". It also takes place after the events in Casino Royale. This doesn't take place in the same universe as my other SVU stories, but in a universe of its own. Hey, Stephen Hawking once said that there were a multitude of universes, so I guess I'm covered.

Benson & Bond

Chapter One

Detective Elliot Stabler slammed his hands on the table and shouted, "Don't you dare lie to me, you little shit!"

"I'm not lying, I swear!" the boy replied. He stared back at Elliot with fierce, unblinking eyes behind his glasses, yet his voice quavered as he spoke. "I-I'm telling the truth, I was never there!"

"We know you were there, Tommy," Elliot said more calmly, yet with the same firm determination. He paced back and forth in the interrogation room, giving the bored air of a man who has heard it all. "CSU puts you right at the scene on the very night that Allison died. So why not cut the bullshit and just fess up right now, huh? You'll feel much better."

B&B

Detective Olivia Benson intently watched the confrontation between Tommy and her partner through the two-way glass in the adjacent observation room. Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak stood next to her. She turned to Olivia and said, "CSU has evidence placing Tommy at the crime scene? Why wasn't I told about this?"

"Because it's total bullshit," Olivia replied. "Elliot's just trying to bluff him."

"No!" Tommy shouted, looking outraged. "You're wrong!"

"About what?" Elliot asked. "What am I wrong about? C'mon, tough guy, why don't you try and straighten me out like you straightened out Allison."

"I didn't do anything to her!" the teenager cried. "I wasn't there the night she died, and nothing you say can change that!"

"Looks like Tommy just called Elliot's bluff," Casey said grimly. "I think Elliot's pushing him too hard, anyway."

"He needs to be pushed," Olivia replied darkly. Tommy Irvine was a preening little rich snot who thought he was owed everything--including Allison Gable. When Allison had refused to sleep with him, Tommy had raped and killed her in a fit of rage. If only they could prove it.

Captain Donald Cragen, the commander of the Manhattan branch of the Special Victim's Unit, entered the observation room with an urgent look on his face. "Just got a call from Munch, Tommy's parents are on their way down here right now with an attorney. Has Elliot cracked him, yet?"

"No," Olivia said with a sigh. "The little bastard's still sticking to his story."

"You've got twenty minutes--at best--to get a confession from him," Cragen told her.

Olivia glanced back at Tommy with a practiced eye and noticed that he appeared to be close to tears. Yet something told Olivia that Tommy's grievous appearance wasn't from the verbal pounding he took from Elliot. 'Something's been eating at him, even before Elliot hauled him into the interrogation room,' she realized. 'And I think I know what it is.'
She knocked on the glass, causing Elliot to promptly excuse himself from the interrogation room. When he entered the observation room, closing the door behind him, Elliot looked flustered and angry. "What is it?"

"Parents are on the way with an attorney," Casey informed him. "They'll be here within twenty minutes, if not sooner."

"Shit," Elliot muttered, disgusted. "He looks like he ready to bawl his eyes out. But he's still dug in. I can't shake him."

"Mind if I try?" Olivia asked.

Elliot gestured at the door which led to the interrogation room. "Be my guest."

When Olivia caught sight of herself in a small mirror on the wall by the door, she saw that her long, dark brown hair was unbound. She abruptly remembered Allison's grieving mother telling her that Allison always preferred to wear her hair back in a ponytail. Grabbing a stray rubber band from the table, Olivia quickly tied her own hair back into a ponytail. Her hair was slightly darker in color than Allison's was--yet Olivia hoped that seeing her with the same hairstyle as his victim should be enough to jar Tommy.

Both Casey and Cragen gave Olivia strange looks, as if wondering what the hell was she doing fixing her hair at a time like this.

But Elliot had a knowing smile on his face. "Go get 'em tiger," he murmured.

Olivia gave him a quick, furtive wink as she opened the door.

Tommy sat staring at the floor with a deeply wounded expression on his face. When Olivia entered the room, Tommy glanced up at her, and she could almost see him building up the mental walls once again, getting ready for another siege.

'Elliot misjudged his own abilities; he actually did a great job,' she thought. 'Tommy's just about primed. But I need to disarm him, first.'

"It's ok," she said, taking a seat across from Tommy at the table. "I'm just here to make sure you're not going to run away, or anything."

"Why would I?" Tommy asked petulantly. "I didn't do anything. Is the interview over? Can I go now?"

Olivia decided to risk it all. "Your parents are coming to get you. That's what we're waiting for, now. Do you need anything while you're waiting? A soda? Something from the vending machines?"

As Tommy shook his head, Olivia could see his guard falling once more. Then Olivia made a big deal of making sure her ponytail was clear of the collar of her shirt. A sideways glance told her that Tommy saw her gesture, and he looked as if somebody had stabbed him in the gut.

'I knew it,' Olivia thought. 'You're feeling guilty over Allison's murder, aren't you? You little son of a bitch….'

"Are you all right, Tommy?" Olivia asked, putting as much concern in her voice as she could manage.

"What? Uh, yeah…I don't feel so good, is all." He glanced back down at the floor, the sadness filling his eyes with tears. "I guess I miss her…."

"You and Allison were the best of friends, weren't you?" Olivia asked sympathetically.

"Yeah, we…Ally and I were pretty close," Tommy muttered uneasily. He smiled briefly. "I always called her Alley Cat."

"It must be hard losing a really good friend like that," Olivia said, deciding it was time to twist the knife in his wound. "Just think of all the things that will now forever be left unspoken between the two of you. You know, I lost my mom a few years ago, and to this day, there are still so many things I wish I could have gotten to say to her. I sometimes wish I could just have an extra five minutes with her right now."

Tommy somberly shook his head. "Ally probably wouldn't want to speak to me anyway…."

"Why not? That's what friends are for, to talk to? Right?"

Tommy then burst into tears. "Ally would hate me! I know she would!"

Olivia leaned forward. "Nonsense, Tommy. You and Ally were the best of friends! I'm sure there's nothing you've could have done to make her hate you."

"Oh yeah…oh yes there is," he said, wiping the tears from his eyes. "But I didn't mean it! I swear to God, I didn't mean to do it!"

'Bingo!' Olivia thought. Now she had to push, but not too hard. "You didn't mean to do…what, Tommy?"

"I panicked!" Tommy blurted out. "After I got it on with her, she-she kept screaming about how I raped her, and how she was going to tell everybody, and I panicked! I-I didn't mean to do it! I didn't mean to kill her! But the next thing I knew, my hands were around her throat and…she was gone! I didn't really want to kill you, Ally, you've got to believe me!"

"Wherever Allison is right now, I'm sure she knows the entire truth, Tommy," Olivia said coldly.

Elliot, Casey and Cragen came into the room. Elliot gave Olivia a sly thumbs up sign of approval. Casey turned to Cragen and said, "I've heard enough. Book him."

"Thomas J. Irvine, you are being placed under arrest for the murder of Allison Gable," Cragen solemnly said, as Elliot pulled Tommy from his chair and escorted him out of the interrogation room.

As Olivia followed the group into the squad room, she saw Tommy's parents enter with their attorney. "Just one minute, Casey," the attorney called. "We need to speak with Tommy."

"You can--just as soon as we're done booking him for Allison's murder," Casey informed him. "He just confessed."

"How can he confess to murder?" Tommy's mother cried. "He's just a baby!"

"Your son is eighteen years old, Ms. Irvine," Casey told her. "That makes him an adult."

"Don't say anything else!" the attorney told Tommy as the entire group left the squad room. "You hear me, not another word!"

Olivia stayed behind at her desk and let out a sigh of relief. For a second there, she wasn't sure if she could shake Tommy enough to get him to confess in time. As it was, they just barely made it under the wire.

John Munch and his partner Fin Tutuola entered the squad room just then. "We just saw Tommy Irvine being taken to booking," Munch said. "Did you get the little bastard?"

"We got him," Olivia confirmed. "Elliot and I tag-teamed him into a confession."

"Way to go, Liv!" Fin said with a smile. "Now admit it, ain't this better than hugging some trees in a forest someplace?"

Olivia smiled. His comment referred to the recent undercover work she did for the FBI, posing as an environmental activist in the pacific northwest.

Munch shot him an incredulous look. "Protecting our natural wildlife is a very important job, Fin. The recent statistics state that if global warming isn't stopped--or at least slowed--there will be no life on earth within the next hundred years."

"Nah, I'm not saying that," Fin muttered with an annoyed wave of his hand. "I'm just saying that Liv is way better at protecting people from the urban wildlife that's out there, y'know? Anyways, why do you always got to turn everything into an argument, John?"

"What do you mean?" Munch said. "You're the one who keeps starting the arguments!"

Fin pointed at him. "You see? Right here's what I'm talking about!"

"I'm not the one who started this argument," Munch insisted. "You're a very hostile man, Fin."

"It's only because you bring it out in me."

'I should have stayed in the woods,' Olivia wearily thought, as she sat down at her desk with a heavy sigh. 'It was much more quiet there.'

Elliot came back from booking Tommy Irvine. He walked up to her desk and said, "Liv, stand up."

"What? Why?" she asked, as she stood.

"Because I wanted to do this." He gave her a tight hug. "Great going with Tommy, Liv. I thought our goose was cooked until you tipped him right over."

The hug that Elliot gave her caused a warm, tingling sensation to spread all over Olivia's body. She found it to be very pleasant, and wanted it to last longer--but Elliot abruptly broke the embrace and went back to his desk.

'Maybe it's just as well I came back after all,' Olivia thought with a slight smile.

B&B

'There he is,' James Bond thought.

He watched from the driver's seat of his Range Rover as Ronald Guzman crossed the busy street. Guzman was a portly man in a three piece suit who looked very much out of place among the multitude of scantily-clad vacationers whom he walked among.

Bond waited until Guzman was just far enough away, then he got out of the Land Rover and put on a pair of sunglasses. Dressed in Khaki pants and a polo shirt, he even had the strap of a camera case slung over his shoulder in his attempt to look every bit as just another one of the tourists, out enjoying a sunny day on the Riviera. Yet if anybody were to ask him to take a picture, that would be a problem, since the camera case actually contained his Walter PPK gun.

Bond watched as Guzman entered his antiques shop, opening the door with a key. Bond strode up to the display windows and pretended to admire the various trinkets that Guzman had for sale. But what he was really doing was casing the place. He saw that Guzman appeared to be all alone.

Good.

Bond cautiously entered the store, his blue eyes darting about behind his sunglasses, looking for any hidden accomplices. He feigned interest in an ornate vase with a jade Chinese design as Guzman spoke on the phone behind the counter.

"I'll be right with you, sir!" Guzman called, with one hand over the phone.

'Take your time, we have all day to talk,' Bond thought.

"Don't move!" a man called out.

Bond was startled to see a tall, dark-haired man pointing a gun right at him. Guzman put the phone down and smiled broadly. "Welcome to my shop, Mr. Bond. I've been told to expect you."

Bond should have known. Guzman was only pretending to be on the phone, lulling Bond into a false sense of security while his goon got into position to get the drop on him. Where did he come from? Probably hiding from somewhere behind the counter, no doubt.

Bond held up the vase with one hand and calmly asked, "How much for this?"

For the first time, Guzman looked apprehensive. "Careful, please, Mr. Bond! That's a Ming Dynasty vase, we wouldn't want to damage it."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Bond said. He glanced at the man who held the gun on him. "Here, you'd better hold this, then."

He tossed the priceless vase right at the armed man.

"Grab it!" Guzman screamed in horror. "Grab the vase, Philippe!"

As Bond expected, Philippe forgot all about him and grabbed the vase with both hands. In the spilt second it took him to do that, Bond flicked a hidden switch on the camera case, causing the Walter to drop out of the bottom and into his hand.

Bond quickly brought the Walter up and pumped three bullets right into the stunned Philippe's chest. The Walter had a silencer attached to its muzzle, which effectively muted the gunshots from the vacationers frolicking outside.

Bond swung the Walter over in Guzman's direction--only the shopkeeper was already gone. Bond removed his sunglasses and saw that a door behind the counter was left ajar.

'Cheerio, Philippe,' Bond thought, as he stepped over the man's body. Philippe still clutched the Ming vase in a death grip, his surprised expression making him look like an overly excited antique shopper who suddenly keeled over while hunting for a bargain.

Bond burst into the back room and immediately found Guzman cowering in a corner. There was no other way out of this room. "Please don't hurt me!" the man whined, as Bond stuck the gun right in his face. "I'm merely a simple shopkeeper!"

"A simple shopkeeper, eh? And I suppose Philippe was just a security guard you hired to scare off shoplifters," Bond said with a shake of his head. "You said you were told to expect me. Who told you, Guzman?"

"I don't know!" Guzeman cried.

Bond shot a bullet into the wall right next to Guzman's face, making the man flinch. "That's not good enough, Ronald. The next one will be in your kneecap."

"M-my contact never tells me his name," Guzman cried. "I swear!"

"What organization are you working for?" Bond firmly asked.

"While I admit that I am more than just a dealer in antiques, I am what you would call an independent contractor. One who is hired on a job by job basis, Mr. Bond," Guzman said with a shrug. "I don't know of any organization. I barely know who hires me, or why, and I prefer it that way."

"What about Lucien Marko?" Bond asked. "Where is he?"

"I never heard of him!" When Bond aimed the gun at one of his knees, Guzman held his hands up in a helpless gesture. "I swear, Mr. Bond, I've never heard of a Lucien Marko!"

'Little bastard's lying through his teeth,' Bond thought. There were several different ways he could make him talk--all of which would be very ugly and painful for Guzman. Yet Bond had a better idea.

"Very well, Ronald," Bond said, as he abruptly lowered the gun and stepped back. "I'll leave you for now. But I'll be back. And when I return, you'd better have the answers I want--or else I shan't be as polite as I have been up to now."

Bond left Guzman in the back room of his shop with a shocked look that was priceless.

B&B

Bond leaned up against a streetlamp, pretending to look for directions in a tourist map that he held up to his face. Yet he was actually keeping an eye on Guzman's antique store across the street. So far he hasn't emerged.

Bond was taken aback when he saw a familiar looking woman walk up the street in front of the shop. She had long black hair, and strikingly beautiful blue eyes with a piercing stare.

'Vesper?' he thought, amazed. 'But I watched her drown in Venice, I brought her body out of the water, how could she be here?'

Bond relaxed when he saw that he had been mistaken; the woman was just another brunette with a remarkable resemblance to Vesper. When she saw him staring at her, she smiled shyly and continued walking, giving him an inviting glance over her bare shoulder--as if hoping he would follow her.

'Vesper's dead, keep focused,' Bond told himself.

Bond watched Ronald Guzman as he finally emerged from his shop. He quickly locked the door to his shop and ran down the street. A bikini-clad woman shouted angrily after him when Guzman roughly shoved her aside.

Bond followed him off the main drag and down a side street. Guzman entered a dilapidated-looking warehouse. Knowing better than to just follow him inside, Bond quickly scanned the building until he saw a side door in an alley.

The door wasn't locked, which set off an alarm blaring in Bond's mind. With the Walter PPK firmly gripped in his right hand, Bond shoved the door open and quickly stepped to the side of the doorway--just in case there was somebody in there with an unpleasant welcome.

But it was clear.

Bond went down a narrow hallway that led to another door. He could hear men's voices speaking excitedly on the other side of the door. One of them was Guzman's, who sounded very anxious.

Bond kicked the door down and entered the vast storeroom with the Walter held out before him. He saw Guzman standing next to a man…the very same man whom Bond had been hunting down for the past two weeks.

Lucien Marko.

The moment Marko saw Bond, he aimed an Uzi right at him. Bond managed to get two wild shots off, making Marko abruptly duck behind a row of crates before he could even fire. Bond started running for the crates, his gun at the ready, when Marko suddenly popped up from behind them and let loose a withering hail of bullets from the Uzi.

Bond deftly dived for cover underneath a workbench, but the spray of gunfire caught the hapless Guzman, who let out a yelp as he fell to the floor. Bond got off three more shots from his position under the workbench, causing Marko to let out a curse as he ducked down behind the crates once more. Bond stared at the dead Guzman, who lay splayed out face-down on the concrete floor, looking like road kill.

Bond, pressing the attack, got to his feet once more with the gun held out. He stood next to the workbench, and did a double take when he saw a Blackberry Smartphone lying on its surface. Still aiming his gun at the crates, Bond slipped the Blackberry into his pocket with his free hand.

"Marko," he called. "There's no other way out of here. Just give it up. Surrender peacefully, and I promise you'll be treated very well."

There was no response--not that Bond was expecting one. Marko was a renowned bomb maker who hired his skills out to the highest bidder. Bond had found him to be a cunning and ruthless quarry these past few weeks, one whom he could almost come to respect. Almost, but not quite. The big problem with Marko was that he had no regard for human life whatsoever. Killing another professional was one thing in this game, but using a small child as a human shield--as Marko once did to evade arrest in Madrid--was simply not done in Bond's book. And any man who could do something like that was not a man to be treated lightly, nor with respect.

That was why Bond approached the crates very carefully, with his gun at the ready. Yet he wasn't prepared for the sight that greeted him.

Marko was gone. There was a small sliver metal box set by an opened trap door in the floor. Bond carefully leaned forward, and saw that the metal box was actually a clock.

A clock that was counting down to zero, with twelve seconds left.

"Shit," Bond muttered, as he started running for his life.

He exited the building and ducked for cover in the alley just as the explosion erupted. Something slammed into the brick wall next to him, missing Bond by inches. When he glanced up, he saw it was the very same door that he had kicked in.

Bond removed his hands from his ears and stood up. The warehouse itself was still intact; its solid walls still stood. Yet the explosion blew out all of the windows and had set the interior ablaze, wiping out whatever evidence there might have existed inside. There was no way to track where Marko might have gone.

'Except for this,' Bond thought, as he patted the Blackberry in his pocket. He quickly left the alley and got back to his Range Rover. There, he examined the high-end cell phone. Although it did belong to Marko, unfortunately, he was smart enough not to leave any discriminating information on it.

But there was something. An email from an airline, confirming a ticket to New York City that had been bought yesterday. Bond was very unsettled at the revelation that one of the world's most cold-blooded bomb makers was headed for New York City.

'Not good,' he thought grimly. 'Not bloody good at all.'

B&B

"Look at this," Fin said, gesturing at the TV in the squad room. It was tuned to the news, and showed images of the aftermath of an explosion. "Looks like another terrorist bombing overseas."

"Where is it? Cannes?" Olivia said, as she paused in stirring her tea. "Isn't that were they have the film festival?"

"Who set off the bomb, an angry film critic?" Elliot jokingly asked.

"They're saying it was an accident," Munch said with a scoff. "Yeah, right. A likely story."

"You don't think it was an accident, John?" Olivia asked.

Fin frantically waved at her. "No, Liv, don't encourage him!"

Munch angrily pointed at the TV. "They're saying here that the explosion took place in an abandoned warehouse. But who the hell knows what was in there? Or who?"

"Here it comes," Fin muttered with a weary sigh. "Thanks a lot, Liv!"

Olivia just gave him a helpless shrug. "I forgot, ok? Sorry!"

"We may have just witnessed an assassination by the CIA right here," Munch said, now warming up to his favorite topic. "And even though it's being reported live, on TV, it's still managed to be swept under the rug. Your tax dollars at work, folks!"

"I still say it was an angry film critic," Elliot retorted, with a deadpan look.

"I don't know which one of them is worse," Fin said to Olivia. "Munch may ramble, but at least he's earnest."

"Just think about the crap that Hollywood comes out with on a regular basis," Elliot said, determined to run this joke right into the ground. "That would be enough to drive any film critic nuts. Take what's her name, Rachel Ray. If she watches enough of these crappy films, she'd go off the deep end, too!"

"Rachel Ray isn't a film critic," Olivia corrected.

Elliot frowned at her. "She's not? What the hell is she, then?"

"A talk show host, right?" Fin said. "But she only talks about food, I think."

"Sounds like a pretty dull talk show," Elliot commented.

"She's part of the great diversionary tactic employed by the powers that be in this country to keep us from knowing the real truth," Munch said. "The mass media, along with Hollywood, are working in conjunction with the CIA to lull the public into a state of--"

"Excuse me, Munch," Cragen said, as he came out of his office just then. He held up a sheet of paper. "Olivia, Elliot, I just got word that your old friend Luke Marcus is back in town. There's been a sighting of him on the West Side. Here's the address. Since he was one of your unsolved cases, you two go check it out."

"Luke Marcus," Olivia said with a nod. "I remember that scumbag. Rich guy with a fondness for young girls. He skipped the country when we started getting too close to him."

"We even got one of his victims to come forward," Elliot said. "Her name was Tracey, wasn't it?"

"Tracey Needham," Olivia recalled. "Brave kid. She never got justice."

Elliot put on his jacket. "Well, if this sighting pans out, there's a good chance we can get it for her now."

"Let's go," Olivia said, after a final sip of her tea. "I was getting a little tired of talking about Rachel Ray, anyway."

"Rachel Ray?" Cragen asked with a thoughtful look. "Wasn't she a porn star?"

"The porn industry!" Munch exclaimed. "Now there's a perfect example of a diversionary tactic used by the CIA on the public!"

"Let's get out of here," Elliot muttered.

"I'm way ahead of you," Olivia replied, as they both hurried out the door.

B&B

"Splendid job, 007," M said, her voice dripping with venomous sarcasm. "You let Marko get away, and Guzman--the only man who could tell us where he went--is dead. Just marvelous work all around!"

Sitting in her office at MI6 headquarters in London, Bond couldn't help but feel like a naughty schoolboy who was caught by the principal. M was in her seventies, although she had the vitality of a woman half her age. She had been involved in the spy game and its machinations back when Bond was in diapers.

"There's the information on the Blackberry," he offered.

"You know full well that Marko was too smart to use the plane tickets that were confirmed by the airline, since he knows we have his Blackberry," M said. "We've had people watching that flight, and Marko was a no-show."

"But we do know what his next destination is," Bond persisted. "New York City."

"You're assuming the email on Marko's Blackberry wasn't planted there, as a means to throw you off his trail," M said, sitting back in her seat. "For all we know, he could be in Istanbul right now. Besides," she added, as she consulted an opened folder on her desk, "he's wanted by the NYPD under one of his aliases. New York is too hot for him to work."

There was a buzz, and M leaned forward and pressed a button on the inter-com. "Enter."

"Sorry to disturb you, Ma'am," Geoff Jones said, as he rushed into the office. "But we've got a hit on Marko's location. It's New York City. The NYPD got a call about a sighting of him on the west side of Manhattan."

M shot Bond a surprised look. "Apparently, Marko must be dumber than we thought. Why would he go to New York, knowing they're hunting for him?"

"Because that's where whomever hired him wants him to build a bomb," Bond said. "Why else should he be willing to risk a manhunt by the NYPD if New York isn't his latest target?"

"You may well be right," M replied with a nod. "Go to New York and see what you can dig up. Work with the local police. If anybody has a lead on where Marko is in the city, they should. And, Bond, I do hope you won't have any qualms about killing him outright, like you did in Cannes."

"I hesitated killing him in Cannes because I had conflicting orders," Bond informed her. "I was told to try and bring him in, first--then kill him if he refused."

"Then let me allay any doubt in your mind, this time," M said. "You are to kill Marko the moment you find him. Is that clear?"

"Like crystal," he said. He took the folder that she handed him and browsed through it. "The Special Victim's Unit?"

"It's an elite squad within the NYPD," M said. "They'll be your contact for finding Marko. They mainly deal in crimes of a sexual nature. It appears that Marko has a preference for teenage girls, which was what got him almost caught by the SVU before he fled the city."

"He's a child molester?" Bond's countenance hardened into a scowl. "In that case, killing him will be an extreme pleasure."

B&B

Elliot knocked on the door of the superintendent's apartment. He heard a woman's voice on the other side nervously say, "Who is it?"

"Police, open up, please," he said.

"Why?" the woman wanted to know.

Elliot exchanged an irritated look with Olivia. "Ma'am, you were the one who called us, weren't you?" he said, trying to keep his voice calm. "About the fugitive sighting in this building?"

"Oh, yeah!"

He and Olivia patiently waited while they listened to the sound of about a half dozen locks being unfastened on the other side of the door. When the door finally opened, a diminutive woman in a house dress smiled broadly at them. Her black hair was done up in hair rollers. "When am I getting the reward? There is a reward, right? Is it a lot of money?"

Elliot felt like throttling the little twit. Olivia must have sensed the rise in his temper, for she stepped forward and quickly said, "Yes, ma'am, there is a reward. But only after he has been successfully convicted. And even before that, we still have to catch him, first." She held up a photo of Marcus. "Is this the man you saw?"

The woman nodded her head. "Yeah, that's him! He came around here about an hour or so ago, asking about some dude who used to live here."

"What dude was that?" Elliot asked.

"He used to live on the top floor, name was George Hellmann," she replied. "He just moved out during the night a few days ago; didn't leave no notice, or anything!"

"What was Mr. Marcus' reaction to that?" Olivia asked.

"If it bothered him, he didn't show it. He asked me if the apartment was for rent. When I said it was, he wanted to see it. I showed it to him, and then he just left. He was kind of rude, too!"

Elliot didn't like the way this was going. "Could we see the apartment as well?"

The woman smiled. "You two thinking of getting a new place? It's really nice. The previous tenant left some of his furniture, but if you decide to take the place, you can either keep his stuff, or I can have it--"

"We're conducting an official investigation, and would just like to take a look at the apartment," Elliot told her, stopping the woman in the middle of her sales pitch. "That's all. Now, if you'd please?"

When the woman took them upstairs and opened the door to the apartment, she let out a cry of horror once she peered inside the apartment. Both Elliot and Olivia quickly grabbed her by the arms and pulled her back into the hallway as they removed their Glocks from their holsters.

Once Elliot stepped into the apartment, he saw what made the super so agitated: one of the windows in the living room had been smashed in. There was broken glass all over the floor. Elliot and Olivia made a rapid sweep of the apartment, with their guns drawn, but it was empty.

"When you showed the apartment to Marcus, was the window broken?" Olivia asked the super.

"No," she replied. "Everything was in order. Oh, these rotten kids! They hang around the neighborhood all day and will steal anything that's not nailed down! Excuse me, I have to go call the landlord!"

Elliot glanced out the broken window and saw there was a fire escape out there. 'That was where the intruder came from,' he realized. 'And probably where he exited through, as well.'

Olivia came over to him and said, "Does it seem strange to you that, right after she shows Marcus this apartment, it gets robbed? That's just too much of a coincidence for me."

Elliot nodded in agreement. "I think we can rule out the neighborhood kids as suspects in this robbery. Marcus comes here, asking about his friend, and when he finds out his friend has run out on his apartment, he comes back and steals something from here," Elliot said, verbally formulating the theory of what happened here. "But what did he steal?"

"I guess that's what we're going to have to find out," Olivia said, as she pulled out her cell phone. "I'll call this in and get CSU here."

Two hours later, after the place had been turned upside-down by Elliot and Olivia, who were helped by an army of CSU technicians, they turned up nothing. Whatever Marcus stole from Hellmann, it obviously wasn't here--but then again, they really had no idea if Marcus truly got what he came for.

As he stood by the window, watching a storm gathering in the east, Elliot couldn't help but shake the uneasy feeling that something very bad was brewing.

Olivia came over to him. "We might as well call it quits for today."

"Yeah," Elliot agreed. "There's nothing here, anyway."

"We can start fresh tomorrow," she assured him.

He dourly shook his head. "You can, but I got court tomorrow. I'm giving testimony in the Westfield case."

Olivia leaned in close and asked, "You all right?"

"Something's really bothering me about all this, you know? Call it a hunch, but I got a feeling this is just the tip of a very large iceberg." Elliot shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe I'm just tired."

"You want to stop and get a drink at Mulligan's after we punch out at the station?" Olivia asked hopefully.

"Nah," Elliot said. He didn't know why, but he felt a growing sense of paranoia about this case. All he wanted to do was go home, call his kids, and make sure they were safe. "Besides, I thought all you tree huggers only drank herbal tea."

Olivia flinched sharply, as if she were stung. She glared at him with a hurt expression. "You know what, Elliot? Maybe you'd be better off asking Dani Beck out for a drink. She seems better suited for you, anyway."

Elliot immediately regretted saying that last remark. "Liv, I'm sorry."

"Yeah, so am I," she muttered hotly. "Go home, Elliot. I'll wrap up here."

She turned from him and briskly walked away before Elliot could repeat his apology. He thought about going after her, but felt uneasy about making a scene here, in front of a dozen CSU techies.

As Elliot walked out of the apartment, he thought, 'Smooth, Stabler, real smooth. I'll call her tomorrow and apologize. Hopefully, she'll be in a good mood.'

B&B

Olivia awoke the next day feeling like a moron.

She reflected on the sour parting she had with Elliot last night, and wondered what her problem was. Elliot had just made a harmless little joking comment about how she had changed since coming back from her previous undercover work with an environmental group, and she'd practically tore his head off.

'But was it the joke that bothered you,' a little voice asked at the back of her mind, 'or the fact that Elliot turned you down for a drink?'

As Olivia got ready for work, she mused over that thought. She had been eagerly looking forward to just hanging out with Elliot after work all day yesterday--even more so than usual. But Olivia had been away from her job, and Elliot, for several months while undercover. Olivia had assumed she felt this way because she simply missed the big lug.

'But there was more to it than that, isn't there?' she realized. Olivia recalled the time when, deep undercover with the environmentalists, she had been injured while in the process of being arrested. When she woke up in the prison hospital, Olivia had been told that she was calling Elliot's name in her sleep. And then there was the hug that Elliot gave her yesterday, which felt so good, and….

"Good Christ," Olivia exclaimed at herself in the bathroom mirror, "I'm falling for my partner!"

She went to work actually hoping she wouldn't run into Elliot--not because Olivia was still mad at him, but because she felt so awkward. When Munch mentioned that Elliot had already went to the courthouse, Olivia breathed a sigh of relief.

Munch frowned at her from behind his dark glasses. "Having problems in paradise, are we?" he asked.

"Piss off," Olivia grumbled, as she went to answer the phone at her desk.

"Testy this morning, ain't she?" Fin called, his eyes wide. "Looks like Liv didn't get out of the woods soon enough!"

Olivia casually flipped him the middle finger as she picked up the phone. "Yeah, Benson."

"Hey, sis."

Olivia burst into a broad smile. "Hey, you. Lucy told me you got back home. You get settled in, yet?"

"Yeah," Simon said, with a sigh of relief. "It feels great to sleep in the same old bed again, and never have to worry about looking over my shoulder."

"Yeah, I'll bet," Olivia said, feeling extremely grateful to have a brother, an actual family member, to speak to. She shuddered inwardly when she recalled just how close she came to losing him forever.

'But that frigging nightmare's over now,' Olivia reminded herself. "So, what are you up to?"

"Well, I was thinking of asking for my old job back, but now I'm not so sure," Simon told her. "I mean, as long as I'm job hunting anyway, why not aim high, right? Like maybe get something in the city?"

"Sounds like you've got something in the works, kiddo," Olivia said, with an approving nod. "What is it?"

"How about I tell you over lunch today? You free? Elliot can even come, if you want."

The very mention of Elliot's name had caught her off guard. It took everything Olivia had to keep from screaming "WHY SHOULD I BRING ELLIOT? I'M NOT IN LOVE WITH HIM!!!" into the phone. As it was, Olivia still found herself fumbling for the right thing to say. "Uh, um, I'm not…I mean, uh, no, Elliot won't be there. He's got court today."

Cragen came out of his office and said, "Olivia, may I see you, please?"

"You ok, Liv?" Simon asked with concern. "You seem a little…off."

"Yeah, I've had some trouble sleeping," she lied. "Look, my boss just called me, so I gotta go, Simon. I'll call you back, and we'll set up the when and where for lunch all right?"

"Ok, you can reach me at my cell."

"Great, talk to you later." She hung up and walked over to Cragen. "Yeah, Cap?"

"It appears we're not the only ones looking for Luke Marcus," Cragen told her. "Scotland Yard's after him, too. They just sent one of their people over today. I want you to work with him."

'Oh wonderful,' Olivia thought, annoyed, as she strode into Cragen's office. 'Just what I need right now, to babysit some old coger who….'

Her thought was cut off once Olivia laid eyes on the man, who sat in a chair facing Cragen's desk. He was lean and muscular, with dirty blond hair and craggy features that appeared to have been carved from stone. He glanced up at Olivia with a pair of steely blue eyes that resonated with intelligence. He got up to greet her, moving with the confident grace of a panther.

'Whoa!' Olivia thought, impressed. 'What a hottie!'

"This is Olivia Benson, the detective whom I was talking to you about," Cragen said to the man. Then he abruptly shook his head in frustration. "Oh, I'm very sorry, but your name just slipped my mind."

The man took Olivia's hand in his own and said, "The name's Bond…James Bond."

To Be Continued...