A/N: Hello all! For the sake of this story, we are going to pretend that Kathy left for good after Wildlife and she and Elliot have been officially divorced for almost 2 years (Woohoo!). This one will be about 3 or 4 chapters, I think. I was lucky enough to have two awesome Beta's for this chap, who have truly been helpful and supportive! Thanks Cori and Belle, you ladies rock! Hope everyone enjoys…
The city was slowly sinking into darkness, the early evening sky just beginning to show signs of the impending nightfall. Cool rain pelted heated skin as Olivia breathlessly ran through the slick Manhattan streets. Her heartbeat reverberating in her eardrums drowned out the sounds of the rush hour traffic around her as Olivia took a sharp left into a vacant alleyway. It smelled of garbage and urine, but she barely noticed. She refused to stop.
She'd been chasing the perp, Carl Saunders, for ten blocks and he was now only a few feet ahead of her. He swiped up a tin garbage can as he ran, stopping only briefly to toss it in Olivia's direction. She faltered as she used her right arm to block the direct hit, the movement slowing her down considerably.
"You son of a bitch, stop where you are!" Olivia panted, her lungs heaving with effort.
"Got him!" Elliot shouted as he cut the man off at the other side of the alleyway. Elliot grabbed the scumbag by his navy blue hoodie and threw him harshly up against the wall.
"Fuck," Carl yelped as he was smashed against the hard concrete. Seconds later, Olivia caught up with them, cuffing Carl as she read him his rights.
Not that the asshole deserved rights.
Carl Saunders was 36, six foot two, in relatively good shape, with dark blue eyes and sandy hair. Your typical all American, nice guy. Unfortunately, he had a not so nice habit of stalking and raping women on the upper west side near Riverside Park.
The Special Victims Unit had received an anonymous tip early in the day, implying that Saunders was in fact the long sought after Riverside Stalker. The Stalker had a penchant for following young women in their twenties for weeks before making his move. His MO was known throughout the city and had been causing panic all over the west side of Manhattan.
Up until this point, all the SVU had to go on was a physical description, not including a face. All they knew about him from the neck up was that the stalker wore a dark ski mask to hide his features.
And Saunders fit that profile to the letter.
"Okay, Saunders, where were you last night around 10:30pm?" Olivia's voice was cold, accusatory as she questioned him.
Carl Saunders' gaze raked up and down her body, sending chills of disgust down her spine.
He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest, replying smugly, "Having consensual sex with some bitch I met at the bar."
Olivia smirked as Elliot looked on from the corner of the interrogation room, waiting. Waiting for this bastard to make one wrong move before he pounced.
"That's not what we were told," Olivia said as she sat down in front of him, staring him down. "We received a call this morning putting you at the scene of the latest victim's attack."
Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, Carl answered, "Attack? That chick I took home asked me for it and you can't prove otherwise. I'd give you her number to ask yourself if I had it." He leaned backward, stretching his arms behind him, lacing his fingers together behind his head.
Elliot made eye contact with Olivia, communicating without words.
The fucker was right. They had no solid evidence, only an anonymous tip and a partial description.
The last victim of the Riverside Stalker had been halfway home before she was attacked and the pervert had used a condom. As with all of the other women he had violated, there was never anything of use left behind for their investigation.
They couldn't hold him. Elliot and Olivia had both been counting on a confession, but after almost an hour of questioning, neither of them could rattle the prick.
Then Saunders uttered the words that left them in defeat. "I want a lawyer."
As Olivia pushed herself off of the chair, Saunders grabbed her arm. "Nice meeting you, Detective," he said smugly. "Looking forward to seeing you again very soon."
The sadistic grin on his face was enough to make both Olivia and Elliot flinch with concern.
"Look, Liv, it's for your own safety," Elliot argued as Olivia glared at him, slamming her locker door shut.
"Elliot, I do not need a protective detail following me around as if I were a civilian," Olivia stated firmly.
"I know you can take care of yourself, but this guy is good. We've got nothing substantial on him and he practically threatened you during interrogation. At least let me take you home…"
"Fine! Fine, El, have it your way but you're being ridiculous," Olivia grumbled, defeated. Shaking her head and giving him a half smile, she said, "I'm just gonna grab my bag from my desk and I'll meet you out front."
As Elliot waited in the lobby of the precinct, he could feel the weight of worry for his partner draining him. Ever since his divorce from Kathy almost two years ago, he had come to further depend on Olivia emotionally. They had become quite close, and slowly Elliot had developed genuine feelings for her. If he was totally honest with himself, he was pretty sure he was in love, though he couldn't imagine admitting it out loud any time soon. He and Olivia had been out to dinner at least a dozen times and have spent an increasing amount of time together in general over the past few months. Both of them were hesitant to put a label on what had been developing between them, but Elliot for one was happy with the way things were going. The thought of some stalker-rapist even looking at her wrong caused a sinking feeling to develop in the pit of his stomach. It took all the restraint Elliot possessed not to thrash the son of a bitch right there in the interrogation room. He smirked at the thought of the look on Olivia's face if he had done just that. She was already pissed enough that he even suggested getting her a protective detail for her own safety. The woman was nothing if not stubborn as fuck.
Over a week had passed with no new evidence leading to the arrest of Carl Saunders. Another rape had occurred in broad daylight near a dumpster next to the victim's apartment building. He was getting bolder, taking more risks. They knew he was bound to screw up soon; to get caught or leave something behind.
Elliot and Olivia sat at their desks, frustrated as they reviewed the latest victim report. Elliot stared at his partner from across the desk, taking in her exhausted appearance, brow furrowed with unease.
"I'm fine, Elliot. Please just drop it, will you? It's not like getting harassing phone calls every now and then is something new with our job."
Over the past week Olivia had grown increasingly irritated with Elliot. She never should have told him about the late night calls she had been getting from an unknown male. Almost every night for the last few days, at exactly 11pm, the phone would ring. Upon answering, Olivia would only hear heavy breathing followed by an evil laugh before he hung up. She hadn't said anything to anyone until the previous night when the voice told her that he'd be watching and would see her soon. Elliot had noticed the dark circles under her eyes due to lack of sleep and she'd finally broken down and told him about the calls. For the rest of the day, Elliot must have asked her at least five times if she was okay.
"No, I won't drop it, Liv. Some psycho basically threatened you and you expect me to act like it's just another day?" Elliot reached out to grab her hand but Olivia quickly pulled away. Even though they had been spending time together outside of work to the point where others may call it "dating", she had been very clear about keeping whatever it was they had together out of job.
"Elliot," she warned. Elliot retracted his hand back to his own desk as she continued. "I don't need you coddling me. I can handle myself. I'm sorry I even said anything to you."
Elliot sighed and raised an eyebrow at her. "Fine, have it your way. You drive me nuts sometimes you know," he said with a wink before returning his attention to the file on his desk.
Olivia shook her head in amusement, trying to hold back the smile creeping up on her face.
Several hours later, Captain Cragen ordered Elliot and Olivia be dismissed early so they could start their weekends. It had been an incredibly long and trying week not being able to arrest their prime suspect in the Riverside Stalker case despite hours of re-interviewing his victims and combing through what little concrete evidence they actually had.
Heading to their respective cars, Elliot bumped his shoulder against Olivia's. "Want to grab dinner and hang out tonight?" He asked hopefully.
Olivia stopped walking and quirked her right eyebrow at him. "El, I know what you're doing. I'll be okay alone tonight. I just want to go for a run, and then soak in a hot bath before collapsing into bed early for a change."
"A hot bath, then bed? You sure you don't want some company?" Elliot teased, playfully poking Olivia's side.
Olivia laughed, batting his hand away. "I promise I'll call you later, so you don't have the National Guard at my door! Want to get lunch tomorrow around one?"
"Sounds good, Liv. I'll talk to you later," Elliot said with a soft smile.
Yet under half an hour later, Elliot couldn't help himself. He was so filled with concern for Olivia's safety, even more now that she received a threatening message, that despite how furious Olivia would be if she knew, Elliot waited outside her complex for her to leave her apartment and head over to Riverside Park for her daily jog. The two of them had run the same trail together many times over the years, so he knew the routine. When he saw Olivia leave her building, clad in black yoga pants and a charcoal grey sweatshirt, he drove to the end of the trail so he could ensure she got home again safely.
The sun had begun to set over the Hudson River as Olivia started her jog. The sky was lit with streaks of orange and pink and the descending sun reflected shimmering light onto the ripples of the water, making it appear as though thousands of diamonds were glistening upon the surface.
Olivia had always felt calmed by the presence of water. Whether it was going to the beach, jogging along the river, or taking a hot bath, there was something about it that put her at ease. Her sneakered feet pounded lightly against the gravel path around the edge of the park as she took in the beautiful scene before her. Olivia looked forward to this time not just to get in her daily exercise, but also for the opportunity to clear her head. She smiled to herself as she thought about how worried Elliot had been acting lately. As annoying as he could be when he got overly protective of her, she secretly kind of liked it because it made her feel safe…and loved.
Following the curve of the path before her, about fifteen minutes into her run, an eerie feeling Olivia could not shake took over her body, raising the fine hairs on the back of her neck. Her heart stopped for a moment as she slowed down to inspect her surroundings, a rustling coming from one of the trees beside her catching her attention. As she walked over to investigate the source of the noise, Olivia suddenly felt a sharp throb in her skull and was aware of her body being tossed into the frigid water of the Hudson River. Soft shades of gray clouded her vision as the cold water enveloped her. Despite the temperature, a peaceful warmth flowed throughout her body as the water rushed into her lungs stealing her breath. Thoughts of Elliot flooded her memory before she was drawn further beneath the surface of the Hudson.
So this is what it felt like before you died.