Disclaimer: I don't own them, and I never will. Cross my heart and hope to cry.

A/N: This story may become more graphic in later chapters, so I warn you now.

As always: Please review!


Chapter 1: The Briefing

"Okay listen up, people!" Captain Don Cragen called as he walked across the room and handed Olivia a picture of a young woman. "Amy Wu has been missing for three days. If our perp is following the same pattern as he did with his last two victims, we have less than twenty-four hours to find this girl alive."

Cragen turned to crowd of police officers gathered around the board to which Olivia had attached Amy's photo. "Detectives Benson and Stabler have been with this investigation since the beginning and they will be in charge. You all will answer directly to them, and any questions regarding the case should be directed either to them or myself. Is that understood?"

Noises of assent and nods emanated from the other officers.

Cragen glanced about the crowd and continued. "I want to remind you all that your assistance on this case is in no way mandatory. If you feel you are not capable of working the investigation, we have no objection. There are plenty of other cases that need our attention. Any other cases that Benson and Stabler currently have open will be divided amongst those of you who opt not to participate, as this investigation will take priority on their end."

Of the near two dozen men and women gathered, only seven stepped back to their desks.

The captain nodded. "If at any time the rest of you lose your ability to handle the case, you are free -- and I encourage you -- to remove yourself as well. Psych services will also be available for anyone who needs them at any time during the investigation."

An odd and expectant silence followed.

"Good," Cragen responded after deciding his message had been understood. He turned and tipped his head in Olivia's direction. "Detective?"

Olivia Benson stepped forward. "Right. Three weeks ago, the first victim was abducted from her third-floor apartment. Four days later, her body was found. From what Detective Stabler and I uncovered during the first two cases, the perp allows each woman four days to live after her abduction. During those four days, he holds them in an undisclosed location where they undergo extensive bouts of torture and sexual assault."

She motioned towards an autopsy photo attached to the board. "Marilyn Koster sustained a hundred and seven knife punctures to her arms, legs, chest, and abdomen. According to the ME, the wounds were inflicted one at a time over the entire four days."

Elliot Stabler shook his head in disgust. "The perp would wait a certain amount of time after the first wound before going on to the second and so on and so forth so she wouldn't bleed out. The sick bastard wanted to keep her alive to experience every second of pain."

An uncomfortable air settled over the room. Several faces showed traces of green, and a few of those gathered began to whisper among themselves.

Benson waited for the crowd to settle back into a disturbed silence before pointing to a second autopsy photo.

"Our second victim, Ashley Marin, was burned repeatedly with what looks like a cigarette butt. Autopsy showed burns to her face, upper and lower extremities, chest, abdomen, and genitals. The ME stopped counting when the number surpassed four-hundred-and-thirty."

A white-haired officer broke off from the group and headed quickly for the restroom.

Cragen stepped forward and acknowledged the man's sudden absence. "I want to remind you all, again, that you are here strictly on a volunteer basis. If you can't handle it, please step back."

Detective Stabler nodded and crossed his arms behind his back. "This psycho needs to be stopped, and we will appreciate anyone who can be of service, but we don't wish to force any of this upon any of you."

A few others drifted away from the pack, but one woman raised her hand to speak.

"Yes?" Benson asked, gesturing to her.

"If he purposely stretched out the torture in order to keep them alive, what was the cause of death?"

"Both women were found with their throats slashed."

The woman grimaced, and a second officer found his voice.

"Besides their manners of death, what else was common among the victims?"

Elliot cleared his throat. "Both were Caucasian in their thirties. Their naked bodies were discovered in vacant apartments after the building managers received an anonymous phone call. These calls originated from two different pre-paid cell phones. Our guess is the perp dumps the phone as soon as he's made the call."

The man didn't miss a beat. "What about this third victim? She's Asian-American and only twenty-three. How do we know we're dealing with the same perp?"

"Amy Wu's sister received the same phone call that Marilyn's husband and Ashley's mother received on the days of their disappearances," Olivia responded. "We never released the intimate details of those calls to the press."

"And then there's the music," Stabler added, bringing his arms back around to the front, where he folded them against his chest.

The man shifted his weight. "Music?"

Stabler inhaled deeply before answering. "When police have responded to the apartments of the missing victims, each of their stereos were all set to replay the same CD over and over again. The CD was burned with only one song. According to Detective Munch's computer skills, we've identified the song as -- Munch?"

"'Tourniquet' by Evanescence," Munch faithfully replied. "An upbeat little ditty, I must say."

"CSU found smudges and one partial on the first CD only. They're still running it through the system, but so far, no hits," Benson explained, shooting Munch a warning look.

"What else do you know about the perp?" asked another brave soul.

Elliot rocked back on his heels. "We found a bloody shoe print at the first crime scene. CSU pegged it at a size eleven work boot. That in combination with the perp's apparent familiarity with apartment buildings and their security led us to believe he could be employed in some maintenance capacity."

"Now," Benson began, pointing to another photo. "Security cameras across the street from Ashley Marin's building captured the image of a vehicle outside the morning of her abduction, as well as circling the block suspiciously two nights before. After cleaning up the image a bit, we believe the vehicle to be an early-nineties Toyota Camry, dark blue in color. Lab techs are currently sorting through security camera footage from the vicinity of the first victim's residence as well as the two other crime scenes."

"The only other thing we know about him is he's accelerating. He waited two weeks after dumping the first victim to kidnap the second. There were only five days between number two and number three." Liv shrugged. "Beyond that, we're as much in the dark as you all are."

Captain Cragen checked his watch. "Alright people, time's wasting. Detective Benson, if you would, assign tasks to those still willing to participate in the investigation. Those neighborhoods need to be recanvassed -- at this stage, talk to anyone and everyone. Detective Tutuola --I'd like you to re-interview Larry Koster, and Munch -- go babysit those videotapes. I don't want any lab geeks taking unnecessary bathroom breaks."

"You got it, boss," Munch said quickly as he and Fin headed out the door.

Benson had already begun divvying out the areas among the other officers, and Elliot seemed to be ready to assist her.

"Uh, Detective Stabler," Cragen said in a quiet tone. "A word?"

Stabler narrowed his eyebrows suspiciously, but turned and joined him on the sidelines. "Yeah, Captain?"

Cragen glanced about the room, his eyes resting a moment on Detective Benson, before meeting Stabler's questioning gaze. "I called Agent Huang earlier this morning. He should be on his way over here any minute now."

"Okay."

Cragen donned an anxious expression. "It's about the press conference we discussed. He thinks Olivia should be the one to do it."


A/N: I know there wasn't much to this chapter, but what do you think? Should I continue?