A/N: This takes place directly after "Burned." Anything occurring in the show afterward should be disregarded in relation to this story.
Special Thanks goes out to my beta readers: Jo; Wendy; svuismylifemoce from TV dot com; dadoinkdoink, FAN4EVER, mrslee, MunichGirl and SVUgal1318 from the USA forums and Froggie from MySpace.
Extra comments and things can be made at the forums at the site in my profile.
Flight, a novel
To: Edrith…for beating me there.
Part One: Flight from Rage
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Greenwich Village, New York
Lights from the eighth floor apartment shone bright amid the darkened windows of the neighboring flats. The hour was late, and as many of the building's inhabitants had retired to sleep, the fourth apartment to the right glowed against the remaining haze of city lights.
Olivia Benson stood inside the small bedroom of Apartment 84, separating her laundry into whites, darks and those in-between. The dark-haired woman worked quickly, knowing that every moment of her time was precious. Large, dark brown eyes darted about the room searching for any errant articles of clothing and spotted the bottom half of a dark blue uniform that had escaped her laundry hamper.
She picked up the navy pants and tossed them into her dark pile with a smirk on her face. The pants were part of a complete police officer's uniform, though she had purchased them with a completely different purpose in mind. Olivia had been a plain-clothes, New York City detective for nearly a decade, and the idea of having to wear a uniform was more than abhorrent to her, however, she had bought an additional one that fit just a size too small. Olivia had no intentions of wearing the tight uniform in front of the other detectives in her unit; it was meant solely for the man she had been seeing for close to two years.
Jonathan Halloway had relished the idea of Olivia playing "dress-up" for him and for once, she did not mind the game. Her case load had been higher than ever; each one more upsetting, more heart-breaking and more devastating and she had needed something to take her mind off her work, if even for one night.
Olivia was a detective in Manhattan's Special Victims Unit and all her cases dealt with the violent scourge of humanity. Child molestations, rapes, rape-homicides, child sexual abuses and any type of sexual crime that a human could imagine. She had not seen it all, but she had seen far more than she would have liked. Even the strongest and most stable of New York detectives only lasted two years in the SVU; Olivia had been there for more than eight.
Having finished her clothing separation, she gathered her whites into the blue, plastic laundry basket, picked up her keys and made her way to the laundry rooms in the basement of her building. Olivia cleared the doorway, when she caught sight of tall, dark, black man folding his own clothes by the set of dryers along the far side of the wall. He wore a white wife-beater and a pair of navy basketball shorts, showing off large muscles on both his arms and legs. A smirk spread across Olivia's face as she quietly set down her basket.
"Bringing out the old wife-beater, eh?" Olivia said setting her clothes on the nearby machine.
"Yeah," he said, with a scoff. "You gotta problem with it?"
His voice held the long, Southern twang of a Houston native and always brought a smile to her face. Olivia had met Adam Jackson the day he moved into the apartment two floors above Olivia, and although they had respective significant others, they had developed a flirtatious, but benign friendship in the years thereafter.
"Well," Olivia said with a hint of arrogance in her voice. "I think it might be a little inappropriate...even for the laundry room."
"What would you like me to do?" he said matching Olivia's arrogance with his own voice. "Take it off?"
"Maybe...you can do what you want." Olivia winked at him and they exchanged glorious, pearly smiles.
"'Spose I could," Adam said slyly. "It is, after all, laundry night."
He slowly pulled off his shirt, allowing Olivia to stare at his bare chest for a moment.
"It's a Thursday," Olivia said. "Shouldn't you be out clubbing with two or three ladies on each arm?"
"That's for Friday," Adam said raising his eyebrows at her. "Tonight's just for you, babe."
Olivia laughed and they went about their respective business silently. Adam gathered the rest of his clothes and gave Olivia a little pinch on her side as he left the room. She let out a girlish shriek and watched him walk away as he added an extra swagger to his step for her enjoyment.
Setting her own load in the laundry, Olivia returned to her apartment and organized the files on her desk. Flirting with Adam in the laundry room was one of the few moments of "fun" she had throughout her week of dealing with the city's lowest criminals. Her eyes fell upon the framed image of herself and Jonathan, and she allowed a smile to play across her face.
Jonathan was the youngest son of New York's Halloway family, one of the older and wealthier families in the city, with a long list of political connections and a history of destroying the "common man" to further their own interests. Instead of falling into the family business of buying, selling and splitting apart corporations, Jonathan became a corporate attorney and built his own fortune without the help of his affluent relations. He was considered the black sheep of the family, going into his own business and dating women with whom he could hold a conversation and actually fall in love, instead of the uptight, well-to-do women the men of his family often married. Most of the time, he was subtle and only those closest to him would know the amount of family money that stood at his disposal.
Set up by her friends Jillian Harfort and Sarah Hyman, Olivia had been duped into a blind date with the "lesser known" Halloway two years earlier. She had no idea who he was when she first had dinner with him and he had refused to divulge his last name for the first three days they had known one another. It was not until Jonathan saw in Olivia someone he could trust and someone he was sure was not looking for a wealthy husband to solve her problems that he let on about his family. After the initial shock wore off, they settled into a relationship that flourished mostly because they both worked long hours and varied times. The little time they did have for one another was meant for the simple things and, unlike past boyfriends, Jonathan never once asserted the idea that Olivia should find different employment. He respected what she did and she respected his ability to remove himself from his family.
Each time a difficult case would come to her, Olivia had the need to push him away, an act that strained their relationship more often than not. When her partner, Elliot, had been shot a year earlier, Olivia had refocused all of her attention onto him, much to Jonathan's disdain, and that had erupted into a month-long argument, complete with yelling and insults. In the end, however, Jonathan would always apologize for being smug or rude, regardless of whether he was, and they would continue as if nothing had happened. Most recently, Olivia jumped on the opportunity to work with the federal government as an undercover agent without telling anyone important in her life. In her own line of personal importance, Jonathan, unfortunately, came third, and it was only upon her return three months ago, that she realized that Jonathan had been completely left out of the information loop. He was furious when she finally contacted him, but as usual, he apologized without knowing why he had and they fell back into a routine.
As the weeks turned into months, Olivia saw herself falling in love with Jonathan. In May of 2007, she would be turning the big 3-8, and with every relationship that ended, Olivia felt she was one moment closer to spending the rest of her life alone. It was not that she felt the need to settle at this point in her life, but her biological clock was loudly ticking and with each passing day, she felt her remaining youth fade a bit more. At thirty-seven, she was still single and childless, though she was not sure whether or not she wanted to remain such. Her own alcoholic mother had not been much of an example, and most men were either turned off by her line of work or turned on in a way she would just as soon not relate.
Then there was also the question of never knowing what she might pass onto to potential children. Olivia never knew her father, as he was the man who had raped her mother, and the fear that she would impart his violent genes onto her own children was ever present. Many of those in her life questioned her choice of volunteering to work in the SVU given her history, but she knew she was doing the right thing. Who better to assist rape victims through their difficult time than someone completely involved in said situation?
The muffled sound of a police siren bellowed outside her apartment and Olivia sighed as she glanced toward her window. She pulled a file from her newly organized stack, tucking a strand of dark hair behind her ear, and studied the cover for a moment, hoping for inspiration on the case. Someone was murdering children; not really out of the norm in her line of work, but the case managed to flip her stomach more than usual. A vague image of Elliot came to mind as she thought about how he must be internally dealing with the case, having a son just the victim's age. Whenever Olivia heard of some tragedy happening to children, she immediately considered the only children with whom she had constant contact: Elliot's. She knew, although he would never voice his reservations to her, anytime a case dealt with children, and a fair amount of their cases did, Elliot would automatically think of his own.
Jacob Lewendale had just celebrated his Bar Mitzvah when he was found three days later stuffed into a cardboard box, sodomized and strangled to death. The frightened expression etched on his face was what struck Olivia most. Jacob had lived on the Upper West Side, yet had been found miles away in Tompkins Square Park, and he had not been missing for more than twenty-four hours when he was found. His parents had not even filed a Missing Persons report yet. The only reason they were able to identify him was that an officer at the scene was a friend of the Lewendales and recognized Jacob instantly. The last time anyone had seen him was when he was talking to a dark-haired man in a truck, but there were no other leads to follow.
Olivia opened the file and stared at the large image of the thirteen-year-old boy paper-clipped to the manila folder. Jacob's face was still round and youthful, but a brush of acne appeared to have erupted in small, red blotches on his forehead and chin. Large blue eyes offset by light brown hair gave anyone who viewed his seventh grade yearbook photo the instant feeling that Jacob had enjoyed a normal, happy childhood and would have gone on to lead a normal adolescence had his life not been cut short just five days earlier.
The yearbook photo varied greatly from that of the crime scene photo paper-clipped opposite the class picture. Jacob's naturally tan skin had lost all vestiges of colour, appearing grey though the image was not, yet red marks still marred the skin around his neck in the shape of something that had been long and thin. The box in which he had been found was no bigger than a standard moving box and was sold at retailers across the city. In the top photo, Jacob had been folded, nude, inside the box, smears of blood along the inner sides appearing as if the murderer who had set him there was too hasty to get rid of the body to wash his hands first.
The Lewendales had no enemies, no large debts and no real problems. No one could understand how someone could hurt Jacob in such a way and it was all Olivia could do to stifle a somber sob when the memory of Deborah Lewendale's wail upon learning that her son had been murdered came to mind.
She flipped through some of the notes on the case and, in her head, remade the list she and her partner had created days earlier regarding the killer: possibly a friend of the family, possibly a complete stranger, possibly a garden-variety pedophile, possibly a hate crime against Jews. She had seen enough rape-homicide cases to lean toward the idea of the pedophile, but she also knew that sociopath murderers often had a way of thwarting her even most basic instincts.
Olivia pulled a second folder from her pile: rape victim, Evelyn Rivers, her newest case. She had spent the majority of the day staying with Evelyn throughout the lengthy process of a hospital rape kit and then the near ritual of obtaining a statement and simply comforting her. Even after all that had happened with the case, Olivia could do nothing to make Evelyn file charges against the abusive boyfriend who had raped her and left her to bleed to death in their apartment.
"Are you sure you don't want to file charges, Evelyn?" Olivia had said.
Evelyn Rivers shook her head quickly, straight black hair falling into her eyes. "No," she breathed. "I-I…I can't. He'll come after me."
"Not if he's serving time at Rikers," Olivia had said.
"But he'll get out eventually…and then he'll come for me." Evelyn brushed a tear from her grey eyes. "I can't live like that, Olivia…I just can't. B-Besides…he's said he's changed. He promised he wouldn't do it again."
Olivia sighed. Micah Diorel was no different from any of the other perps she had seen abuse and rape their girlfriends, and like so many of these victims, Evelyn was falling into the trap of thinking the apology she had received was for real. Olivia knew all too well that no matter what they said, they always did it again.
"Evelyn," she had said. "Micah beat and raped you and if your neighbors hadn't heard the commotion, you would have died in your apartment. Do you really think he means it when he says he's sorry?"
"Maybe…," Evelyn had said giving a long shrug. "But…I don't know. I think he was really just having a bad day. But, it doesn't really matter because I can't talk against him. He'll kill me. I know he will."
"I wish you would change your mind," Olivia had said shaking her head.
"He said he was sorry," Evelyn said with a little more backbone in her voice. "I was the one who screwed up and he just reacted. I'm not going to press charges against him, when I know he didn't really mean it."
There was a finality to Evelyn's statement that had made Olivia's heart ache. Evelyn was just part of the vicious cycle that probably wouldn't end until her boyfriend murdered her.
Olivia made a mental note to stop by Evelyn's apartment on Saturday to make sure that she was not only okay, but that Micah Diorel saw that the police were watching Evelyn very carefully. Sometimes it helped; many times it did not, but she had to try.
She changed her laundry load and returned to her desk to organize the rest of her notes. She came across her planner and opened it to Saturday with a bemused expression on her face. Regardless of the amount of planning she put into any event, the job always came in the way. She kept buying pages for her leather-bound planner because it seemed like something she ought to have, but she rarely wrote in it, knowing how quickly her schedule was likely to change in just a few hours. Six days ago she had been planning a winter getaway with Jonathan at one of his family's cabins out in the country, but Jacob Lewendale's murderer had halted her plans.
Olivia flipped to the address book in the back of the planner and made a second note to call Sarah to see if she was available for dinner. She rarely got to see her as Sarah had three children and her own career to chase after and even though they had been close while at Siena College, they were more or less acquaintances at this point in their lives.
She glanced over the Lewendale file once more and rose to pour herself a glass of cranberry juice from the refrigerator. The phone that hung on the wall near her refrigerator rang once and she picked it up absent-mindedly.
"He's leaving his wife!"
Olivia paused a moment, unsure if she understood what had just been shouted at her through the telephone.
"Maya?" she said.
"Livia! He says he wants to leave his wife!"
She glanced at the clock on her microwave and sighed. Maya Shah had been a part of Olivia's life since before she could remember. They had gone to college together and unlike her dwindling friendships with Jillian and Sarah, Maya remained her best friend, just as she had been throughout her life. Maya had been the first person Olivia had called on her return from Oregon, and one of the things she missed most while undercover was the sordid details of Maya's numerous affairs. Their lengthy friendship notwithstanding, Olivia sometimes felt the antics of her Indian friend almost irritating.
At thirty-seven, Maya still lived off of her parent's money and held no qualms about the fact. She had gone to law school and had even passed the bar exam, but did little to acquire clients for her practice, preferring instead to date an Indian doctor who was willing to dote upon her, as well as several others at the same time. Her newest fling, a Mason Garriston, had been a pain in Olivia's side for the past year as he was always the foremost topic on Maya's mind, and while she was always laden with work and she found the entire situation more than ridiculous, the sparkle had yet to fade from the story. Olivia was always ready and willing to dispense advice to her scatter-brained friend.
"What makes you think he wants to leave his wife?"
Maya made a disgusted sound into the phone. "Because he just left my apartment saying that he wanted to leave his wife and be with me all the time."
"He's got kids," Olivia said sitting on her couch.
"I know! The way he says it, he acts like he want to marry me or something…and I just wanted him for the sex."
"Honestly, Maya. I don't think you have much to worry about."
"These guys never leave their wives. You know that. Did any of the others leave their wives?"
"No, but this is different. He says he's so unhappy with his wife and he's just a little too interested in the Hindi language and India, in general."
"And what," Olivia laughed. "You don't want any light brown kids running around?"
"Don't be a bitch," Maya said laughing as well. "I don't want any kids in any shade of brown and I sure as hell don't want to marry him."
"Well, you know what you can do?"
"Break up with him and stop cheating on Amit!"
"Olivia! Come on. I'm serious."
"So am I. How long do you really plan on keeping this up? Amit's been dropping hints that he wants to marry you for ages now."
"Exactly. How long's he going to drop hints before actually doing something?"
"So, what? Are you actually going to stop seeing other people if Amit proposes?"
Olivia was met with silence on the other end of the phone for a moment. "Yeah…Yes. Yes, I will."
"Good because he asked me if I knew what your ring size was a week ago."
"Olivia, don't be a bitch. Are you serious?"
"Of course I'm serious. Break up with Mason."
"Yeah, I know, I know," Maya said. "Oh shit!"
"What?" Olivia said worried that something had happened to her friend.
"Mason just popped up on my Caller ID."
"Break. Up. With. Him. Marry your Indian doctor and live happily ever after."
"Okay, I know. You're right…but, Livia…?"
"You don't really think Mason'll leave his wife, do you?"
Olivia rolled her eyes and sighed into the phone. "Maya, śubha rātri."
"Yeah, good night yourself, Livia."
As soon as Olivia had set down her telephone, there was a knock at her door.
"Who is it?" she asked with the door still closed.
She hesitated for a moment before opening the door. She was about to simply lie and say that she was about to go to bed to avoid seeing her neighbor across the hall, but she thought better of it. Mark Landon had often alerted her to odd things happening in the building and he had the aggravating, but helpful habit of taking it upon himself to look out for her well being, regardless of how many times she informed him that she could take care of herself. Standing at just over five feet tall, Mark was nearly a foot shorter than Olivia, but she was always amused by his willingness to offer himself as her "protector" time and time again.
"Hi," she said just barely opening the door.
"Hey!" he said far too enthusiastically for the late hour. "I…uh…thought I heard you struggling with some laundry earlier. Do you have another load to do, 'cause I'm going down in a sec?"
"Thanks, Mark," she said with a smirk, "but I think I can handle washing my own clothes."
"Okay," he said. "Just thought I'd ask, 'cause you never know who's wandering 'round the building at night, 'specially since that big, black guy moved in. God knows who he's been letting in."
Olivia stared at Mark with a blank expression for a moment. What fascinated her most about bigots was their assumption that all those around them shared their same beliefs. For all of Mark's many endeavors to win her few affections, his assumptions about her life always killed any thought she could gather about even having dinner with him.
"Adam's a good guy," she said.
"Yeah, but I saw him on the elevators wearing just a pair of shorts. No shirt. Do we really need that in our building?"
Olivia attempted to hide a smile. "He was probably coming from the laundry room and it's late. Who cares?"
"I do. It's not right. I don't like him."
She sighed. "Mark…it's late. Is there anything else you wanted?"
"No," he said caught off guard by her sudden change of topic. "Just wanted to know if you needed anything…"
"I'm fine and even if I wasn't, I'm not about to let you do my laundry for me."
"Well…y-you know, I know you're busy, so I just thought I'd ask."
"Thanks," she said, not meaning the words. "Good night."
She shut the door on the little man and gathered the remaining files from her desk and into her bag. She wanted to make as much of Friday as she could and the best way to do such was to ensure that she was organized.
Fridays typically meant that lab results would come back to the unit far slower and witnesses would be far less willing to cooperate, wanting instead to get their respective weekends started quicker. Olivia could barely remember the last time she had a weekend to herself, constantly bogged down by one case or another. On occasion, she would take a personal day just to allow her mind some time to relax before she dove back into the sexual deviants with whom she daily contended.
She took another moment to tidy her apartment a bit more, pausing briefly over the old cello that leaned in the corner of the living room. She longed for the days when she could sit and play for hours just because the moment had moved her, but as always, work came first. She had once played the violin, which sat in the Hope chest she used as a coffee table, for a younger rape victim who had been hospitalized for several weeks to entertain her for a bit and keep her spirits high. The little girl, Amarie was her name, at seven years old, had enjoyed Olivia's small performance and Olivia later learned that Amarie was inspired to take up the violin herself.
A small smile appeared on her face, but she quickly sighed away the memory. The job did not end at five o'clock or on Friday. It did not end even when the case was won or lost in court. Each case continued on for months or years after the fact. She was still in contact with victims she had cared for during her first months as an SVU detective. It was a difficult job that had consumed nearly every facet of her life, but still, she loved it.
Her apartment buzzer rang a little after one o'clock, and she crossed the room in three long strides to answer it.
"Who is it?"
"Girl scouts!" a masculine voice attempting to sound like a young girl said from the speaker on her wall.
She smiled and bit her lip. "Girl scouts…? I'm on a diet."
"Please Miss! Let us up! We've got Thin Mints. Loads of them!"
"Sorry, I give to The United Way and we don't want any cookies."
"Olivia, seriously," Jonathan said breaking into his natural voice. "Open the damn door. It's freezing out here."
"Oh hey, Babe! Did you buy any shortbread cookies from the girl scouts?" she said laughing.
She could hear that he was growing impatient with their little game and she buzzed him into the building.
"Hey!" she shouted when he finally got to her apartment. "You're not a girl scout!"
Jonathan wrapped his arms around her, the cold from his clothes seeping into her skin through her t-shirt and cotton pajama pants.
"I missed you," he said into her hair.
"Well, why don't you take off your coat and stay awhile." She unwrapped herself from his grasp. "Or at least get warm before you touch me again because you're freezing."
"Yeah, well I parked nearly a mile away," he said, jet black hair shining in the lights of her apartment.
She rolled her eyes. "Why didn't you just take a cab over?"
"Felt like taking the Jag for a drive. He doesn't get to leave the garage much and I figured now was as good a time as any."
Olivia nudged him. "Only you would park your Jaguar a mile away from my building and leave it there all night."
"If he gets stolen, I'll just get a new one. He's getting on in years anyway."
She rolled her eyes again. "Come on. Time for bed."
"Oh boy," he said unenthused, but taking off his jeans to reveal flannel pajamas.
"Like a boy scout," he said his bright blue eyes sparkling when he saw Olivia had noticed his ensemble. "Always prepared."
She walked into her bedroom and set her alarm clock for five-thirty in the morning. She was not going to get a lot of sleep, but perhaps she might have the rare opportunity to sleep through the night. So often was her slumber interrupted by the news that someone had been involved in a sexual catastrophe, that she had grown accustomed to living on less than five hours of sleep a night.
"So," Jonathan said, pulling back the covers of Olivia's bed, with a smile. "When are we going to play 'Bad Cop, Good Civilian' again?"
She tried not to smile at his boyish grin, but she could not help herself. "I don't know…maybe if you're good…we'll see."
"Oh boy," he said as she settled into the bed beside him.
"Why do we always sleep at my place?" Olivia asked after they had wrapped her many blankets around themselves. "You hiding a wife or something at your place?"
"Of course not!" Jonathan said with a false indignation. "At least not as of yesterday."
She gave him a slight kick under the covers, but he just laughed.
"It's 'cause my place is so stark and unloved and designed by an interior decorator. Yours has got you all over it and it has something extra special in it that I just love."
"Oh," she said yawning. "What's that?"
Jonathan said nothing, but simply nuzzled her between her shoulder and the side of her neck. All thoughts of Jacob Lewendale's murderer and Micah Diorel's crimes began to melt away as Jonathan wrapped his long arms around her.
Olivia smiled into her pillow and as exhaustion finally caught up with her, she let loose a happy sigh. Unlike so many of her past relationships, Jonathan never needed to be told when she was or was not in the mood. He never needed a hint as to how her day had gone and he never wanted her to tell him all about her day. He always knew precisely what she needed and wanted, and she loved him for it.
Thursday January 11, 2007
Woodside, New York
It was just past eleven o'clock at night when a light flickered in the third floor Queens apartment. The bathroom lights never quite reached full brilliance the moment their respective switch was hit, as they were fairly old and hummed for a full second before showing even the slightest spray of light. They sputtered a short blast of light a few times before they continually stayed lit and it was that initial blast of light that Elliot Stabler hated the most about his apartment.
The two-bedroom flat was comfortable and Elliot had no real reason to complain. A friend of a friend held a rent-controlled apartment, and Elliot managed to get it at far less than market value for the area. It was simply its purpose that destroyed him each time he left work for "home."
Elliot and his wife, Kathy, had been separated for more than a year and a half, yet leaving the home they had shared and in which they had raised four children was the memory that sprung to mind each time he entered his bathroom. Bathed in the light of his new apartment, he was only reminded that he was no longer at home with his family.
He removed his clothes, leaving them in a heap in the corner and stepped into the shower. He knew he would take a second one early in the morning, but before he could even attempt to relax for the night, he needed to rinse the stink of human frailties off of his skin. Elliot had spent the greater part of his day watching a young man named Micah Diorel lie through his teeth while his partner, Olivia, cared for Diorel's victim.
Working in the SVU, Elliot had seen it a million times and he wished, as he had watched Diorel make up lie after lie regarding his whereabouts the previous night, that he could round up all the women of the world and warn them all at the same time to stay away from men like Diorel. What frightened him most about Diorel was that he held the kind of allure that could entrap anyone, even one of his own three daughters.
It never failed to set him in awe: guys like Diorel, who were charming at first, could beat their significant others a hundred times, but the women continuously came back to them. He had wanted to throw a chair across the room when Olivia had told him that Diorel's girlfriend refused to press charges against him. After he had beaten and raped her and left her for dead, Diorel was going to walk home a free man; free to repeat the acts again and again, until he finally killed her.
Elliot allowed the hot water to run down his face and the rest of his muscular body. Regardless of how the majority of the day went, he still felt slightly relieved. The same friend of a friend who got him his apartment, enabled him to get basketball tickets to a semi-professional team and Elliot took the time to take his son, Dickie, out for the night. Though it was a Thursday, Kathy had agreed and as Dickie was spending the night at his father's apartment, Elliot had been "allowed" to spend an additional day with his only son and youngest child.
He had wanted to take Dickie's twin sister, Lizzie along as well, but she was going through a phase where she did not want to be associated with anything that was not feminine and "girly," making a basketball game with her father and brother completely out of the question. He had made sure to ask around the precinct for tickets to any "feminine" events and Olivia had passed him tickets to a ballet she was not using. Elliot planned on surprising Lizzie with the ballet tickets when she least expected it.
He got out of the shower, wiped the steam off the small mirror and stared at the forty-three-year-old man staring back at him. He ran a hand over his receding, close-cropped brown hair and squinted through hooded, large blue eyes into the mirror, all the while wondering about time and age.
Where had all the years gone? It seemed like just yesterday he was at the hospital with Kathy when Dickie and Lizzie were born. His oldest daughters, Maureen and Kathleen, were about to graduate from college and high school, respectively, and the twins had just been confirmed in the Catholic Church. He had never intended for his job to come before his family, but the SVU was easily one of the most demanding units on the force, giving a detective little to no time for his or her family. The job required his full attention, which meant the majority of his time was spent with the other detectives in his unit, specifically his partner, rather than with his family. He never wanted it to be that way, but it was the way of the SVU and he had explained it to Kathy more times than he could remember. He had missed birthdays, holidays and important events in his children's lives, moments he could never get back, all for the job he loved for twelve years.
Most recently, he had sacrificed his marriage, and although he had signed the divorce papers a few weeks earlier, after dragging his feet for months, he still hoped that his wife was simply going through her own mid-life crisis and would let him come back home. He and Kathy had married when they were just nineteen and not under the best circumstances. A generation earlier would have called it a "shotgun wedding," but Elliot knew he had done the right thing marrying her. They were just kids, but Catholics just the same, and he knew that no real man would leave a pregnant woman to have a child out of wedlock. Yet, since they were so young when they married, they each held a fair amount of growing-up to do before becoming the people they were, and somewhere along the line it seemed they had simply grown apart from one another.
Kathy had told him when she was leaving with his children, she was tired of him being angry all the time, and he knew truthfully that he wasindeed angry all the time. In his unit, however, it was difficult not to be such. After watching criminals like Diorel walk free, if not by the fruition of their victims, then by some flaw in the legal system, anger was simply a primary response. One could only take so much of society's filth before the weight of the world would seemingly fall straight upon one's shoulders.
Kathy had also told him, on more than one occasion, that she was unsettled by the fact that he would not open up to her, but he could never quite explain that to her. How could he tell her everything he saw in his day? Did she honestly expect him to tell her about the women found raped with scissors or the little boys sodomized to the point they would never walk again? If there was one place he did not want to bring what he saw during the day, it was in his home, with his family. The fact that she would not understand his position, instead pointing out that he opened up to Olivia and not her, simply angered him all over again.
Elliot put on his bathrobe and dressed in his own bedroom, noting the light coming from the guest room that served as a bedroom for each of his children when they spent the night.
The phone rang and he quickly picked it up, hoping it would not bother Dickie and also was not a call stating that someone else had been raped or murdered with sexual connotations.
"Stabler," he said into the phone.
"Hey, Dad," replied a young female voice.
Elliot smiled into the receiver. "Maureen. How you doin', Babygirl?"
"Good," Maureen said.
Maureen, his eldest and, although he hated to admit it to himself, his favorite, attended Hudson University and was majoring in Psychology. A part of him hoped that she would pursue the same field as her father, while another part of him, the part that always saw her as the blonde toddler he had watched take her first steps into his arms, prayed that she would take another path. Several months earlier, though, Olivia had informed him that Maureen had called her wanting a woman's perspective on the NYPD.
"What are you doing up this late?"
"Well, it's still technically early in college time, Dad." Elliot could hear Maureen smiling.
"Oh, right," he said.
He did not have the chance to go to a traditional four-year college when he was Maureen's age, as he had to take care of both her and Kathy, and he loved knowing that she experienced many of the opportunities he missed by marrying young.
"Everything okay?" Elliot asked switching gears. "Do you need any money or anything?"
"No," she said. "Everything's fine. I'm just procrastinating because I've got a paper that's due to tomorrow."
Elliot laughed. "Okay. As long as you get it done."
"I will, Dad," Maureen said in the same voice she had used when he nagged her as a teenager.
"So…uh, how's Jared…er...Johnny…er…"
"Justin," Maureen said. "God, Dad. Jared? Where'd you get that one from?"
Elliot shrugged although he knew Maureen could not see it. "Knew his name was somewhere along those lines."
In all actuality, he knew Maureen's boyfriend's name; he just liked to mess with her from time to time since she was away at school. In fact, he knew nearly everything there was about Justin Wheeler: his primary school, his high school, sports he played, number of speeding tickets he had had, jobs he held, what both his parents did for a living, what his siblings had done with their lives. The list continued endlessly and was part of a process he had used since the first day Maureen had announced she had a "boyfriend" while in the third grade.
Anyone who came into contact with her was subject to gross scrutiny and if, and only if, they appeared to be clean and decent individuals would Elliot even bother acknowledging them with Maureen. For all the rest, and with his daughter there were many, he simply made his presence well known, as well as the fact that he had the ability to throw someone in jail for a day just because he looked at his daughter the wrong way.
"He's fine," Maureen sighed. "He's been working a lot on his thesis lately, so we haven't seen much of each other."
Good, Elliot thought. The less they saw of one another the less likely Maureen would be to repeat the same mistakes he and Kathy had made at her age.
"Marilyn's moving in with her boyfriend at the end of the semester."
Elliot felt his heart skip a beat as he considered his daughter's roommate's many dramas that oft times involved Maureen. "Don't you get the same idea. I'm telling you right now, your mother and I will not approve."
"I know, Dad. I'm just telling you so you'll know why I'll be looking for a new apartment in a month."
"You have any place in mind, and keep in mind that Daddy isn't exactly made of money?"
Maureen chuckled and Elliot could feel her rolling her eyes across the phone. "I know, Dad. I was thinking of something farther from school, like around Tompkins Square Park."
Elliot thoughts flitted to his impending caseload and his latest case, which had brought him to the very park Maureen had been considering. "I don't know if I want you that close to Alphabet City."
"I'm almost 23. When are you gonna start to let go?"
He sighed. "You know that's never going to happen. The sooner you figure out that I'm your father for life, the better. What about Chelsea?"
"Chelsea," she whined. "That's closer than I wanted to be."
"But think of the nightlife you'll have for your last year at school."
"Not my last year," she corrected. "I sent out applications for Columbia and St. John's Master's programs."
"Master's? You might as well go for your doctorate."
She groaned. "Dad, not again. I'm not going to med school and I don't see the point in getting my Ph D in psychology."
"You don't have to go to med school. You could do the same thing a psychiatrist does. Everything except prescribing the meds."
"And I don't want to do that, so the subject is moot."
"Maureen, psychology is a good field. Especially in this city."
"You know what," she said impatience watering her voice. "I think I've got some inspiration on my paper. Talk to you later."
"Hey!" Elliot said. "Don't leave like that. It was just a suggestion. Besides, you have a few months yet before you have to make a real decision. Have you thought anymore about internships."
"Yeah," she said. "I…uh…well, I last semester I interned at the Manhattan DA's office."
Elliot sat silent for a moment wondering how best to approach the subject. It was not that he disliked district attorneys; far from it. However, he had seen his fair share of them destroy cases that were more than solid when presented to them. The SVU had a specific DA assigned to it, and while Casey Novak did an outstanding job, he had watched as numerous criminals slipped through her fingers into acquittals and back onto the streets.
His own disdain for the other side of the criminal justice system notwithstanding, he did not want his eldest child to become a lawyer. He knew her too well. She would start out with the district attorney's office, but then switch sides obeying her ambitious side instead of her conscience. The very idea of Maureen defending the same criminals he spent his life trying to put in prison sickened him.
"Dad?" she said. "Are you still there?"
"I'm here," he said still stunned. "Why didn't you say anything about it earlier?"
"Well, I know how you are sometimes about lawyers."
"But, if that's what you want to do…" He allowed his voice to trail to silence. "You could've still told me or your mother."
"Well, I told Mom forever ago, but I guess…."
It was Maureen's turn to fall silent and Elliot tensed knowing the reason. Kathy had been good about relaying important details of their children's lives onto him in the past, but in the recent months, she had become far more passive. He was only notified when major moments came about, like Dickie fighting at school or Kathleen just barely passing her exams. Kathy had obviously felt that Maureen's possible choice of vocation was a detail too unimportant to relay to Elliot and he felt a hot flash of anger swell over him.
"Well," he said after a moment of shared silence. "Whatever you decide to do, just think about it for a bit. Don't just go rushing into something because you think it sounds cool."
"I know, Dad. It's Maureen, remember?"
Her snide comment referred to her younger sister's ability to bandwagon jump with greater occurrence and far more accuracy than most teenagers her age. Kathleen did whatever her friends were doing, no matter how ignorant. Her friends drank as freshmen in high school and Elliot and Kathy were forced to have a long-winded discussion about alcoholism with her after she came home drunk at just 14. Her friends dated older men and Elliot found himself pulling Kathleen out of a car from a twenty-one-year-old deadbeat she claimed she loved.
Elliot knew he had lost control of his second child sometime around the same time he lost control of his marriage and the rest of his life, and it came as no surprise to him that Kathleen seemed to be taking his and Kathy's impending divorce harder than the rest of his kids.
"I know, Sweetie," he said. "I just want what's best for you."
"Eventually you'll have to trust me," Maureen said.
"I'm getting there."
She laughed. "Okay. Well, now I really do need to get to my paper."
"How much have you got left?"
"Well, including the eight pages I did over the past week…twelve.
He shook his head. "What time's it due?"
"In the morning? God, Maureen," he said noting his alarm clock.
"I know," she said quickly. "I'm on it. Bye Dad!"
"Love you," he replied and set down the receiver.
Elliot suddenly had the need to procrastinate, not wanting to return to his world of murder victims and shattered lives. He was about dress for a few quick laps around the block, but he thought better of it. Jacob Lewendale's family would never have a conversation similar to the one he had just had with Maureen with their son. They deserved to know who murdered their child and they deserved that answer as soon as possible.
He headed out into the living room wearing sweatpants and t-shirt and sat down with a copy of Jacob Lewendale's file on his coffee table, hoping to get a greater grasp of the case. He normally would not have had the cases in the open while his kids were present, but Dickie was most likely about to go to bed and he knew that he would have time to close anything not meant for his thirteen-year-old's eyes.
He opened the file, took one look at Jacob's large, blue eyes and closed it immediately. He did not want to let this case get to him, but nearly alone in his apartment, he was not ashamed to let his own fears show. Everyday since he started with the force, he feared for the lives of his wife and children. Since joining the SVU, those feared had tripled. The Lewendales were an average family whose lives had been ripped apart by the loss of their son, and Elliot could not help but relay those same emotions onto his family.
At thirteen, Dickie's blond hair was turning brown, lighter than Jacob's, but his blue eyes shone just as bright as Jacob's had and it was heart-breaking to think of what he might do if it was Dickie in that file instead of a stranger. He had voiced what he wanted to do to all the criminals with whom he dealt on a daily basis and those words had him brought before the police commissioner. He was not about to make the mistake again, but feelings still raged, especially with cases such as this.
He opened the file once more, focusing immediately on the crime scene photos and the dozens of questions that had come to mind in the five days he and Olivia had been working the case came rushing back to him. Was it simply a pedophile? Some guy who liked early teenaged boys instead of grown women or even grown men and killed Jacob when he fought against what was done to him? Was it someone Jacob might have known and trusted, like a parent or a teacher? Jacob, like Dickie, had played soccer and played on an indoor soccer league during the winter months. Perhaps there was someone who frequented the soccer fields involved? Was this only the beginning of a serial killer's spree?
The last question that came to mind bothered Elliot the most. They had had the case for five days and while there was DNA found from semen on the body, there was no match in the New York City database, no fingerprints on the box and no witnesses. Everyone who was even remotely close to Jacob and the rest of the Lewendale family had been questioned relentlessly, yet only one of Jacob's teammates had any information about the last night Jacob had been seen alive. The boy's own parents had simply assumed he stayed at a friend's house following soccer practice, and since he was constantly out and about with school, sports and friends, they had not even considered their son missing when he was found in Tompkins Square Park. There were simply no leads to follow and it seemed like yet another criminal was going to get off Scot Free.
Elliot ran a hand over his face and sighed. He considered putting the file away to consider another he had on his caseload, when the door to Dickie's bedroom opened.
"Hey," Elliot said, quickly closing the Lewendale file.
"Hey," Dickie replied, his voice still young and childlike. "Later, Dad." He had on his coat and was heading for the door to the apartment.
"Hey!" Elliot yelled standing from the couch. "Where do you think you're going?"
"David's," Dickie said innocently.
The Kalinger family lived a block West on Heiser Street and their youngest son, David, went to Dickie's school and played soccer with Dickie as well. When it had come time for Elliot to find another place to live, he chose an area of Queens that would keep him close to his children's schools and also close to his former residence, just in case Kathy or the kids needed anything.
Elliot glanced at his watch and then stared at his son with furrowed brows. "It's eleven o'clock."
"I'll be back by one," Dickie said as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
"On a Thursday night?"
"Dad, we're gonna be doing homework."
"Well, why didn't you tell me you had stuff to finish up before we went out tonight?"
Dickie shrugged and put his hands in his pockets.
"How 'bout this afternoon?"
"I was out."
"That's all you've got to say? Out?"
"Come on, Dad," Dickie said becoming exasperated. "I'm there a couple of hours and I'm back by one. What's the problem?"
"The problem is you had all day to do whatever it was you were supposed to do. I'm not going to let you go wandering the streets just because you chose to procrastinate."
"But, it's due tomorrow and I already told him I'd be over!"
"Well, I suggest you this remarkable invention known as the telephone to call David and do your homework over the phone."
"Dad," Dickie said. "Come on…Mom would let me go."
Elliot paused before issuing a retort. Unlike his daughters who always referred to his separation from Kathy with either tears or forlorn expressions, Dickie used the issue to his advantage at times, knowing it was the one and only soft spot Elliot had formed throughout Dickie's life.
He sighed. "We both know she wouldn't. Now, go back to your room and take care of it over the phone."
"Jessica's gonna be there!" Dickie finally shouted, his hands held out as if pleading for understanding.
A smirk spread across Elliot's face as he stared at his son. Dickie's long-standing crush on his partner had begun to subside slightly, and the newest dark-eyed love of Dickie's life, Jessica Barrow, lived three doors down from the Kalingers.
"So," Elliot said, "This is going to be a homework par-tay?"
Dickie rolled his eyes. "Come on, Dad. I promise I'll be careful and I'll be back at one. It's just down the street."
Elliot's eyes gave an involuntary glance toward the case files sitting benignly under day-old newspaper on his coffee table and then back at his son. "No," he said sternly.
Dickie shook his head in a fashion Elliot had seen more than once in Kathy. "This blows!"
He stormed across the living and slammed his bedroom door shut.
"Tell me about it," Elliot sighed to himself.
He hated being the disciplinarian, especially now that he was completely removed from his children. Even when he and Kathy had been together, she was always the parent of the household. Elliot saw his family so infrequently that he was more or less the guy who simply brought home a paycheck.
He sat back on the couch and picked up Jacob's file again trying to imagine the face of his murderer instead of dwell on the similarities between Jacob and Dickie. The killer would most likely be male, judging from the crime scene images, and would have an average face, a face a boy of thirteen would be prone to trust. From the only eye witness statement, Elliot supposed the killer would have most likely known Jacob, had the chance to get close to him, even become his friend.
Elliot shook his head at the face of the murdered child, gathered his files and went into the unoccupied bedroom. He knew he had had enough of imagining Jacob Lewendale's killer, but he still could not wait to have the bastard in his squad room. Elliot loved the interrogation process as much as he loved running down perpetrators in general. He had caused criminals to cry, wet themselves or even call out for their mothers while enduring his interrogations. After so many years as a detective, Elliot was the complete professional and he knew exactly which words could make a suspect confess everything, which made Micah Diorel so very frustrating. Even after three hours of Elliot's interrogating, Micah still claimed that he had not touched Evelyn Rivers, regardless of the fact that a hand print that matched the size and shape of his hand, glowed red on her face.
He ran a hand over his hair wondering if it was the stress of the job that was causing the hairline to slowly creep farther and farther back on his head or if it was just his genes at work. He shrugged off his own question choosing instead to lie on his back on the bed that was not nearly as comfortable as the one he had once shared with his wife, hoping for some semblance of sleep to come quickly before he was awakened by yet another case in the middle of the night.
Some nights he wished that every criminal or would-be criminal could simply hold up his or her crimes in favor of other undertakings just for one night so he could get the full night's rest his body so terribly craved. Just one night.
A creak outside Elliot's bedroom door caused his eyes to fly open at one-thirty in the morning. He instinctively grabbed his gun from his nightstand drawer, but set it back down remembering that Dickie was spending the night and was most likely half asleep, walking to the bathroom like he did as a child.
He opened his bedroom door to find Dickie fully-dressed and in mid tiptoe, halfway across the living room and going back to his bedroom door. Father and son stood a moment staring at one another, each staring back at the other in disbelief; fear building in Dickie's eyes, rage building in Elliot's.
Elliot shifted his weight on his feet and put his hands on his hips. "Where the hell have you been?" he said.
"I-I haven't b-been anywhere," Dickie stammered.
"You haven't been anywhere? Why are you wearing jeans and your shoes?"
Dickie glanced down at himself and his eyes darted toward the side of the room. "I needed…like a…drink of water."
"And you put your shoes on for that? And your jacket?"
Dickie's searched around the living room again.
Elliot squinted at him. "I'm gonna ask you again: where you have been?"
Dickie took a deep breath. "David's."
"After I told you not to go!"
"You were being unreasonable," Dickie said, now nonchalant and rolling his eyes.
"Unreasonable! I don't care if you ever think I what I say is reasonable. When I say no, it means no!"
"Dad, it's just like I said. I was out at eleven and back at one."
"It doesn't matter! I told you not to go and you did it anyway! What, did you wait until you thought I was asleep and sneak out?"
Dickie stared at the floor. "We got the project done and I'm back home safe. I don't see the problem."
"You don't see a problem with doing exactly what I told you not to do?"
"You were being unreason-"
"Unreasonable! You don't even know why I told you no! No, you know what? All that matters was you disobeyed me just because you thought you could get away with it."
Dickie continued to study the floorboards.
"What if something had happened to you? I'm expecting you to be here and safe, and you're out wandering the streets with whoever!"
"Not whoever. David, Jessica and a few other peo-"
"I don't care! I need to know where you are at all times."
"You knew where I was going."
"No, I knew that I sent you to your room and you should have been there until breakfast tomorrow, this morning!" Elliot was so angry he wanted to shake his son. "Go to your room. You're grounded."
Dickie's eyes grew wide. "For how long?"
"'Til I say so."
"How the hell long is that gonna be?"
"Until you learn you are not going to run the streets whenever the hell you feel like it!"
"I wasn't running the streets! Dad, I was at David's working on homework for Chrissake!"
Elliot threw his son a cold glance at the use of God's name in vain and Dickie fell silent immediately.
"You talk to you mother like that?" he said sternly.
"Mom would've let me go."
"If you hadn't waited 'til the last second, I would've too, but you did, so I didn't and now you're grounded."
"For how long?"
" 'Til I'm not pissed about this anymore."
"Fat chance that's ever gonna happen."
"Well, then I hope you had good time with your friends tonight because you won't be seeing them anytime soon."
Dickie started stormed past him. "What, are you going to lock me in my room?"
"I'll do what's necessary."
"Whatever. I gotta go to school in the morning, don't I?"
Dickie took the finality in the sound of his name to heart and raced into his room, slamming the door shut. Elliot sighed as he settled back down on the couch. He held his face in his hands and closed his eyes. Things were easier when the kids were little. For the most part, they did as they were told. Now that they were older, it seemed like they were all turning against him at the same time. He sighed, not knowing if this was just his children acting as teenagers or acting out because of what had happened with he and Kathy.
He got up and poured himself a glass of water making a mental note to tell Kathy what Dickie had done in the morning. Elliot still could not believe it. Dickie was thirteen and already sneaking out of the house. Dozens of questions came at him at once. How long had he been doing this? What if he had not have woken up as Dickie was coming back home? Would he simply continue doing this until Elliot found him in a box on Tompkins Square? What if something had happened to him? How could he explain it to Kathy? How would he live with himself?
He went back to his bedroom and saw that Dickie's light was still lit. He wanted to barge into the room and demand that Dickie go to sleep immediately, but decided against it. Elliot had done enough to damage the relationship with his son for one night.
Glancing at his alarm clock that read close to two o'clock in the morning, Elliot lied on his bed and simply stared at the ceiling. Maybe he could get three or four hours before he needed to get up and make his trek back into the SVU's thunder.
He turned toward the window and closed his eyes. He would have to deal with Dickie in the morning, but he was unsure how to do it. They only had so much time between the two of them and he hated the idea of spending that little time at odds with his son. Feeling the waves of sleep overtake him, Elliot allowed his mind to drift into the precious REM sleep he so rarely achieved.
He was unsure how long he slept before he heard the ripping chirp of the cell phone that sat on his nightstand. Elliot groaned and glanced at his clock. Four-seventeen. He let out a deep sigh and flipped open the phone after fumbling a bit.
"Stabler," he said exhaustion emanating from his voice.
"Detective Stabler," a male voice said with a heavy accent. "This is Officer Keith McKillen from the 1-6."
"Yes," Elliot said knowing precisely what was about to be said.
"You're one of the SVU detectives on-call tonight, and we have a situation here at Tompkins Square."
Elliot's ears perked up immediately. "Who's been found?"
"Still unsure at this point," McKillen said. "It's a white male. 'Bout twelve, maybe thirteen."
"Was he found in or by a box?" he asked thinking of the case that set on his coffee table.
"No, but he was found nude, near the same place that other body was dumped a week ago."
Elliot sighed. "I'll be there in thirty."
He pushed "End" on the phone and quickly pressed "Star 2."
The phone rang twice before a less than familiar, groggy male voice answered the phone.
"The West Side of Olivia's bed speaking."
Elliot sat silent for a moment while he heard some slight rustling and then Olivia's voice.
"Give me the phone, Jonathan," he heard her say a distance from the phone.
"Benson," she said after a few moments more.
"Olivia," Elliot said. "There's been another one."
"Tompkins Square?" she asked.
"In the same place as Jacob Lewendale."
Olivia let out a low, heavy sigh into the phone. "I'll be there in a bit."
"Yeah," Elliot said closing the phone and running a hand over his head.
Thankfully, his apartment was in walking distance of Dickie's school and Elliot knew Dickie had friends to walk to school with in the morning, but the situation exasperated him nonetheless. He did not want to be gone when Dickie woke up in the morning, as that had been the situation far too often in the past, but depending on how long it took for he and Olivia to go through the crime scene, interview witnesses and canvass the area, it would be past nine o'clock before he would even have a moment to think. Any thoughts of having "make-up" breakfast with his son faded quickly and Elliot rose from his bed to dress and face yet another young victim.
Unknown Time and Place
He felt her shudder under his touch and the shivers ran electric under his fingertips. He would be done with this one soon and then…then he would be ready for another.
She whimpered, knowing what was about to happen and he relished in the moment. The pitch black of the room kept her from seeing him, but he had been there for so very long. He could see her just fine. She was beautiful in the light that just barely peered into the room from the door that only he could locate.
He had taken her again and again for ages now, but he still had a use for her. She sold well and he enjoyed her on and off the clock, but boredom was edging on him day by day. He would need a new one. Not one of the others he kept away, but someone new altogether. Someone who had not come to anticipate what he was about to do. Someone special; someone great.
It would need to be someone exceptional and strong and he did not want to fork over another couple grand for one who had been weakened by beatings and other abuses. He needed someone he could break and train and mold into a wonderful possession, all of his own. Someone feistier, with a little zest to make the productions a little less monotonous and his nights all the more fun.
He had his sources, but for now he would simply have to wait. Wait until the perfect one came to him. They always came by fate and eventuallycame to him in fear. But for now he would have to wait and take this one, as well as the others, as often as the urge reared him to them.