Disclaimer: The characters of SVU belong to Dick Wolf and the powers that be at NBC. The rest, belong to me.
Author's Note: This story references the season 11 episode, Witness, particularly the disturbing events happening in the Congo. If the idea of two incredibly hot women being romantically involved is not your thing, then this is not for you. This tale of misadventure contains copious amounts of high octane drama, you have been warned.
Thanks: As always, to everyone who reads these tales. As long as there is fan fiction, there will be a home for Alex Cabot!
Chapter 1: Not Again
Donald Cragen let out a weary sigh as he glanced down at his watch before looking through his open office door at the detectives in his direct line of sight. He bobbed his head briefly before pushing the chair backwards and rising to his feet. He walked slowly towards the door, sliding his hands into his trouser pockets as he stepped into the squad room.
Olivia Benson snorted lightly at her partner's comment and shook her head with mock disapproval, catching the watching eyes of her Captain as she did so.
"Benson, Stabler," the veteran officer summoned with his usual authoritative flair.
Elliot Stabler automatically turned in his seat at the sound of his name being called and nodded as Cragen disappeared back inside his office. He shifted his gaze to his partner, "We in trouble?" he asked.
Olivia shrugged, "I hope not, I was going to ask for some vacation time," she replied, easing out of her chair.
Elliot shook his head, "Good luck with that one," he uttered quietly.
Olivia rolled her eyes as she strode purposefully past him, heading for the Captain's office.
"Close the door," Cragen instructed Elliot as he entered behind Olivia. Once the door was closed he motioned for both detectives to take a seat and waited until they were settled before glancing at the surface of his desk and lifting his eyes in a familiar gesture.
Elliot shook his head, "What is it Cap?" he asked, studying the man seated across from him.
Cragen looked between them and sighed, "Jo Marlowe resigned. Effective immediately," he stated simply.
Olivia and Elliot shared a confused look, "Why?" Olivia asked, shaking her head, thinking of their outstanding cases and the mountain of notes they would have to take Marlowe's replacement through.
"Personal reasons," Cragen replied.
Elliot instantly thought of the conversation he had overheard between Jo and Sophie Gerard as he hid in the ventilation shaft of the morgue, "Is it her health?" he asked quietly, ignoring the questioning look from his partner.
Cragen shrugged, "McCoy didn't say," he replied.
Olivia sighed with frustration, "Who's the temp? Please tell me it's not Garrett, anybody but him," she said, remembering the EADA's previous reluctance to issue warrants and take cases to trial.
Elliot clenched his jaw at his partner's lack of regard for Jo's well being and swallowed the reply that leapt to his lips. He tilted his head at the Captain, "We're gonna need a warrant once we've interviewed Hodges, we're just waiting for Munch and Fin to come back from his work place," he added.
Cragen nodded, "Blaine's in charge until Jo's replacement starts back," he answered, noticing the disdainful look that crossed Olivia's face.
"What d'you mean, starts back?" Elliot asked.
The comment had been lost on Olivia until Elliot asked his question. She frowned and stared at Cragen intently, "Who is it?" she asked tentatively, feeling a familiar knot tighten in her stomach.
Olivia stared at the door, listening to the soft strains of music that floated through the heavy wood. She swallowed nervously and raised her hand, rapping her knuckles lightly against the solid surface. She blew out a steadying breath as muffled footsteps approached the door and released the locks.
Elliot sat outside the Brownstone, looking absently through the windshield at the late evening traffic of Manhattan's Upper East Side. He blinked a few times as he became aware of a familiar sound and blindly reached into his jacket pocket to retrieve his cellphone.
"Stabler," he announced without checking the caller ID.
There was a short pause and then a female voice spoke quietly into his ear, "Are you planning on sitting out there all night or were you actually going to come up?"
Elliot turned his head to the building on his left and scanned the windows, spotting a familiar blonde haired figure peering down at him. Before he could answer, the caller hung up. He removed the keys from the ignition and took a deep breath as he stepped into the cool evening air.
Olivia stood motionless in the doorway looking at the blonde haired ADA.
"Are you coming in detective or are we going to have this discussion on the doorstep?" Jo Marlowe asked dryly.
Olivia smiled as she shook her head and entered the apartment. She moved into the open plan living space and looked around, taking note of the expensive décor and subtle tones.
"Come on in. Drink?" Jo asked, touching her lightly on the arm as she headed for the kitchen.
Olivia followed her, "Sure," she replied, admiring the older woman's casual attire of jeans and a sweater.
Jo turned and faced her, "You know Liv, I thought the strong and stoic routine was only for work, I didn't realize it was a permanent part of your persona," she mocked, holding up a bottle of wine and tilting her head in question.
Olivia smiled and nodded, "Sorry, I just don't know what to say. I thought about it ever since I left the precinct, but all I can think of is, why?" she asked, accepting the offered glass and following Jo into the living area.
Jo ran her hand through her hair and sat down on the corner sofa, indicating for Olivia to do the same, "A lot of reasons, I just need to get away," she replied, taking a small sip from the glass in her hand.
"Is it Elliot?" Olivia asked, shifting slightly to look directly at her.
Jo shook her head, "No," she answered.
"Is it me?" Olivia asked hesitantly.
Jo shook her head again and sighed, "It's not anyone, Liv," she said, holding her gaze and looking into concerned brown eyes.
"Then what? You were making a difference, you were the final link in the chain and…" she ran her free hand through her hair, "…Dammit Jo, you get it," she finished, sighing with frustration.
Jo smiled at her and nodded, "Coming from you, that's probably the biggest compliment I've received in a long time," she replied sincerely.
Olivia returned the smile before biting her lower lip, "Does this have anything to do with Sophie Gerard?"
Jo shrugged and shook her head, "No, that was over a month ago…it's still pretty raw, but that's not the reason though," she replied.
Olivia stared at her, "Then what is?" she asked again in a softer tone.
"I need to do something different…something less involved," Jo answered.
Olivia understood that sentiment, she thought the same thing herself every week, but every week a new victim would need someone to be their voice, their advocate and she knew she had to be that someone. She dipped her head, "I can understand that," she said before adding, "Are you staying in New York?"
Jo studied the bowed head, "I'm not sure, I've got a few things to sort out and then I'll decide where I'm going," she answered quietly.
Olivia lifted her head and met the pale gaze, "Don't leave without saying goodbye, okay?"
Jo smiled and nodded, "Okay," she agreed.
Elliot sat at the kitchen table studying the woman making the pot of coffee, "How did you know I was out there?" he asked.
"You were loitering outside an apartment on the Upper East Side, people are paid to notice these things," the blonde haired attorney drolled.
He nodded absently, "How long have you been back?" he asked.
"Almost two weeks."
Elliot blinked in disbelief, "Jesus Christ Alex…and you didn't think to call?" he blurted.
Alex Cabot turned away from the coffee she was stirring and arched a well defined eyebrow at him, "Don't start Elliot," she warned.
"Don't start? Are you kidding me? You were out of witness protection for three years before you turned up out of the blue the last time and now you're doing the same again?" he asked incredulously.
Alex stared at him coolly, "That was different," she stated flatly before turning back to the coffee.
Elliot shook his head, "You can't keep doing this to us," he said evenly.
"You mean to Liv?" she asked without turning round.
Elliot didn't reply, choosing to wait until he could see her face as he answered her question. After another minute of strained silence Alex turned and placed both cups on the table before lowering herself into the chair opposite.
"Well?" she prompted.
Elliot turned the handle of the cup towards him and lifted it to his mouth, taking a long swallow of the hot liquid, "Yes," he replied, looking over the brim into her watching blue eyes.
Alex played with the rim of her own cup and sighed, "I've only been away for three months, it's not the same," she said quietly.
Elliot nodded his head, "But you've been home for two weeks and haven't called her," he answered delicately.
Alex studied him, searching his penetrative stare and shook her head, "Things are different between us, it's not been the same since I came back," she said, reaching up and adjusting her dark frames absently.
"You've only been back two we-"
The younger woman cut him off with a shake of her long blonde hair, "I meant since Witsec," she clarified.
Elliot stared at her in confusion, "You're friends aren't you?"
Alex shrugged her shoulders and sighed heavily, "I think we're more colleagues than friends now…before Zapata, we were friends…close friends…since I came back…" she shook her head, "…it's just not the same," she finished quietly.
"You probably shouldn't have left it three years," he replied sarcastically.
Alex nodded her head in response, "I deserved that," she agreed, lifting her cup to her lips.
"Alex, she doesn't have anybody…the job is the only stable part of her life, it's the only thing she has. Kathy invites her for dinner, but she always makes excuses. Every ADA that's come along, after you, she's tried to be friends with, but it's not the same…they aren't you. You get her," he finished sincerely.
Alex ran her thumb absently over the edge of the cup, "I've tried too, I've asked her for drinks or out to dinner…she never accepts," she replied, smiling sadly.
"She doesn't wanna get hurt again and finding out from Cragen that you're back as our ADA is exactly what you're doing to her," he said flatly.
Alex looked at him, "I thought she would have called once she found out," she commented.
"She never said anything, we had to go to Blaine for a warrant and she took off once we got what we needed," he replied.
Disappointment seeped from Alex's pores as she realized her gut had been right, Olivia had no intention of calling her. She shifted her gaze to the cup in her hand , "Should I call her?" she asked quietly.
Elliot shrugged, "I dunno," he answered honestly. He saw the cool façade slip for a second and sighed, "You probably should," he added softly, giving her a warm smile as she lifted her eyes.
Alex sat on top of her bed and stared at the phone in her hand. Olivia had been the first person she wanted to call as soon as she had returned to the city, eager to tell her about the changes she had helped enforce in the Congo, but a hectic schedule of endless meetings had prevented her. She had called the precinct a few times, but each time she dialed she had been diverted to Olivia's voicemail.
She glanced sideways at the bedside clock, noting the late hour and wondering if she should wait until morning. She closed her eyes and smiled as a vision of the dark haired woman appeared before her and blindly hit the speed dial, gently clearing her throat as the call connected.
Blue eyes snapped open as she lowered the phone and pressed the release button. She stared blankly at the phone in her hand and frowned, 'Who the Hell was he?' she thought to herself, feeling the knot in her stomach tighten.
Chapter 2: Timing
Olivia emerged from her bedroom, towel drying her shoulder length hair as she looked around her apartment until she spotted the figure standing in front of the open refrigerator. She stopped behind him and lowered the towel around her neck, "What are you doing?" she asked, leaning casually against the pillar.
"Why do you never have any food in here?"
Olivia pushed off the column and closed the fridge door, pointing at the take out menus attached to the front and waggling her eyebrows.
Simon Marsden shook his head at his half sister disdainfully, "No wonder you can't get a man," he replied.
"You're the one that needed to crash in the city overnight, don't blame me if you arrived on my doorstep empty handed," she retorted, moving to one of the cupboards and retrieving a box of cereal. She shook it in front of him, "Twenty four hour food," she said smiling.
He rolled is eyes as he turned and headed back into the living room, shifting the pillow as he sat down in the corner of the sofa. He watched Olivia move over to the chair by the window, "Your cell rang," he commented, suddenly remembering the earlier hang up.
"When?" she asked, looking at the cellphone on the table as she sat down.
Simon shrugged, "I dunno, twenty minutes ago," he answered, lifting the TV guide magazine and the remote control.
Olivia reached for her phone and scrolled through the call list. Alex Home, the display screamed at her as she fought the initial urge to call the ADA back straight away, realizing that it was already well after midnight.
"Who's Alex? Anyone important?" Simon asked casually, settling into the back of the couch as he found the channel he wanted.
Olivia lowered her eyes and shook her head, "Not anymore," she replied quietly, rising to her feet. She looked over at the reclining figure, "I'm gonna dry my hair and get some sleep. What time's your meeting?"
"Nine thirty," he answered, smiling up at her, "I'll buy you breakfast," he added.
Olivia moved past the side of the sofa and snorted lightly, "You'd better, g'night," she said smiling as she headed into her bedroom.
"Night Liv," he replied, reaching over and switching off the table lamp.
Elliot exited the interrogation room and met familiar blue eyes. He closed the door behind him and looked at her, "What are you doing here? I thought you were coming back on Monday?" he asked, stopping in front of her and folding his arms.
Alex smiled, "I thought I'd better get started, Marlowe's case load was huge. McCoy's passed the easier ones around the bureau, but I wanted to see this one for myself," she answered, pointing through the window.
Elliot bit his lower lip, "Did you call her?" he asked tentatively.
Alex nodded as she unfolded her arms and leaned her hands on the window ledge.
Alex shook her head, "And nothing," she replied quietly.
Elliot frowned, "But you talked to her, right?"
"No. She didn't answer her cell," Alex replied, fixing her eyes on the figure sitting across the table from Kyle Hodges.
Elliot glanced to his right and looked at his partner through the one way mirror, "Maybe she was asleep," he suggested.
"Or maybe you don't know her as well as you think you do," she retorted coolly.
Elliot shifted his gaze to the cold stare being cast through the window, "Alex?"
"Someone else answered her cellphone," she replied before turning her attention away from the dark haired woman, "I'll be in my office if you need anything," she said, giving him a weak smile as she pushed off the ledge and strode past him.
Elliot finished signing the last of the paperwork on his desk and placed his pen wearily on the top sheet before flexing his right hand and stretching out the kinks in his neck.
"You should go home," Olivia commented, glancing up from the file she was writing on.
Elliot looked at his watch, "I need to take these over to Cabot," he answered absently.
The dark head opposite snapped up and looked questioningly at him, "I thought she wasn't back until Monday?"
Elliot shook his head, "So did she, she stopped by to see Hodges," he replied.
Olivia shifted her gaze back down to the paper in front of her, "You talked to her?" she asked casually.
"Briefly, when I came out the box," he answered, lifting the file he had just completed and adding it to a pile on his right, "I said I'd take these over, she's trying to get up to speed on Jo's cases," he lied, applauding his own creativity for trying to get the two women together.
Olivia didn't lift her head as she signed her name and badge number on another piece of paper, "I'll drop them off," she offered.
Olivia looked up and smiled, "Sure, go on…go win points with Kathy."
Elliot nodded and returned her smile, "I could use them after that last case," he replied, lifting his jacket from the back of his chair as he stood up. He pointed to the papers on his desk, "How much longer you gonna be?"
"Ten minutes, go on. I'll see you in the morning," she replied, smiling up at him.
Elliot settled the jacket around his shoulders, "Any plans for tonight?" he asked conversationally, hoping his probing wasn't too obvious.
The dark head shook slightly, "No. I'll drop these off and head home," she said, glancing at her watch.
"Okay, night Liv," he replied, waving at her as he headed for the elevators.
Olivia watched him leave and placed the pen on her desk, methodically gathering the paperwork she needed to take to the ADA's office. She reached for her leather coat and slung it over her arm, before lifting Elliot's paperwork and switching off both their desk lamps. She gave both desks a cursory nod before heading for the underground garage.
Alex sighed as she lifted a sheet of paper from the stack on her left and quickly skimmed over the details before placing it on a smaller pile in front of her and reaching for another one. She glanced at her watch and groaned before blinking a few times to clear her blurring vision and focusing on the details on the page.
She looked up as a figure passed by the window of her office, clearly heading for her closed door. She held the pen in mid air as the door was gently knocked, frowning at the unrecognizable voice seeking permission to enter, "Come in," she shouted.
The door opened and a dark skinned woman entered, looking behind her nervously.
"Please, come in," Alex prompted, rising to her feet and moving towards the woman.
The woman reflexively took a step backwards, her eyes widening in terror as she clutched a package closely to her heaving bosom.
"It's alright, you're safe here," Alex encouraged, nodding her head at the frightened woman.
The woman looked behind her again before closing the door, "Are you Miss Cabot?" she asked anxiously.
Alex bobbed her head and pointed to the name plate on her desk, "Yes. What's your name?" she asked carefully.
"Florence. Florence Ugbalue, I am a friend of Nardalee's," she replied as she moved closer to the desk and the standing blonde.
Alex indicated the visitor's chair, "Please, won't you sit down?" she asked, glancing at the box file the woman held tightly against her chest. She noticed the woman lick her lips, "Can I get you some water?"
"Please," the woman replied as she lowered herself into the chair, her eyes following Alex as she moved over to a small water dispenser in the corner of the room. She nodded her head as she accepted the glass of cool liquid and took a healthy swallow before speaking, "I am so sorry to arrive unannounced, but I did not know what to do," she said.
Alex sat down in the chair beside her and smiled, "You did the right thing coming here, are you hurt?"
"No, but I know someone who will be," she replied.
Alex frowned and shook her head, "Is Nardalee alright?" she asked, knowing the woman who had initially helped her was still in the Congo. She had seen her once or twice, but was so busy with prosecutions and meetings with representatives from different countries that she had lost contact with the woman.
"Yes, she is fine. She sent this to me," she said, placing the file on the desk. She turned back to Alex, "Miss Cabot, you are in grave danger. People are not happy with what you have done back in my homeland, Nardalee trusts you and values your friendship which is why she asked me to bring this to you as soon as I received it," she added, motioning towards the package with her free hand.
Alex shook her head, "Why didn't she give it to me herself back in the Congo?" she asked.
"It was too dangerous for her and for you…" she paused, swallowing nervously, "…Miss Cabot…these men want to show the Western world that a woman, a white woman, cannot dictate their way of life. These men have contacts here, men who will not kill you, but will brutalize you and use you until you bleed and scream for more and when you do…they will start again," she finished solemnly.
Alex felt a shiver run up her spine having spent the last three months knowing exactly what these men did to women, she smiled weakly at Florence, "It's alright, they can't get me here," she reassured the fidgeting woman. She glanced at the box on her desk, "What's in there?" she asked.
"Names and notes from Nardalee of the men who are here, in New York and all across this country. Men who are finding those who have escaped and returning them to the Congo," she replied, finishing the last of the water.
Alex looked at the glass as the woman sat it on her desk, "Would you like some more?"
"No. I have stayed longer than I intended too…they may be watching," she replied, snapping her head to the door as it was lightly knocked. She gasped as her eyes darted around the room, looking for somewhere to hide.
Alex placed a gentle hand on her forearm, "It's okay," she said, trying to calm the agitated woman before turning to the door, "Who is it?" she asked loudly.
Alex smiled with relief as she looked into terrified eyes, "It's alright, she's a police officer. We couldn't be in safer hands," she assured Florence.
"Can I come in?" Olivia asked from the other side of the door.
Alex shifted her eyes back to the door, "Of course," she shouted and watched as Olivia hesitantly entered the office.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt, I just wanted to drop these off," she said, holding the files up as she walked towards the cluttered desk.
Alex felt a jolt of relief as she watched Olivia scan the three stacks of paper in front of her, "One on your left," she offered, smiling up at her.
Olivia nodded as she sat the papers down and looked between the two women, sticking out her hand, "Olivia Benson," she announced to the watching woman.
"Florence Ugbalue," the African woman replied, holding her hand out nervously. She turned to Alex, "I must go, be careful Miss Cabot," she advised quietly.
Olivia frowned and narrowed her eyes, "Is everything okay here?" she asked, looking to the blonde woman for a response.
Alex nodded, "Yes," she confirmed quietly.
Florence rose from her seat and placed her hand on Alex's shoulder, "Take great care Miss Cabot," she warned again as she nodded politely at Olivia.
Alex glanced at Olivia and shrugged her shoulders.
"Can I offer you a ride somewhere?" Olivia asked the standing woman.
Florence shook her head, " It is better if I do not. Goodbye," she said, nodding curtly at both women before hurrying through the open door.
Olivia followed her out the door and watched her move quickly along the hallway before entering the office again and partially closing the door behind her. She moved to the seat beside Alex and dropped into it, "What was that all about?" she asked, studying the blonde.
Alex smiled at her, "Nice to see you too Liv," she quipped.
Olivia snorted lightly and nodded her head, "Sorry. Yeah, good to have you back…" she paused, "…how long you staying this time?" she asked coolly.
Alex clenched her jaw, "Li-"
The sound of gunfire and a muffled scream floated in through the open door, effectively halting Alex's reply.
Olivia instantly reached for her weapon and bolted form her seat, simultaneously turning to Alex and pointing at the corner of the room, "Over there," she instructed with quiet urgency.
Alex scrambled out of the chair and moved over to the leather couch in the corner of the room, ducking behind the arm rest.
Olivia stepped cautiously into the hallway as she retrieved her cellphone from her coat pocket and dialed 911, she lifted the handset to her ear and quietly gave her name, badge number and location before ending the call. She crept closer to the corner and blew out a steadying breath as she tightened the grip on her gun. As she peered round the corner, something struck her on the head sending her crashing to the floor and into darkness.
Chapter 3: Ties That Bind
The elevator door slid slowly open, revealing a bustling hive of activity in the hallway of the DA's building. Captain Donald Cragen quickly scanned the immediate area and headed for the crouching figure of Melinda Warner. He knelt down beside her and looked at the dead woman on the floor, "What have we got Melinda?"
Medical Examiner Warner looked up at him and smiled in greeting, "Hi Don…Female, late forties, no ID. Gunshot wounds to the head and chest," she replied, rising to her feet and pointing towards the stairwell exit and the crime scene technician scrutinizing the area for trace evidence, "Shots were fired from over there," she added.
Cragen looked at the lifeless body on the floor and shook his head as he stood up, "Sounds like an execution…What brings you out here? This isn't a sex crime," he commented, shifting his eyes to the standing woman.
Melinda turned her head to two waiting figures and nodded before stepping aside, "When the call came in that it was the DA's building and Olivia had requested assistance, I wanted to help so I called in a favor," she replied, watching as the dead woman was lifted into the body bag and onto the gurney.
Cragen moved in front of her, "I appreciate that Melinda, anything else here?" he asked.
Warner shook her head, "Some blood in the office, but nothing significant to indicate either of them is seriously hurt," she answered, knowing exactly what he was asking as she studied the pensive expression on his face.
Cragen nodded his head, "Thanks Melinda," he said, turning and heading down the hallway towards Alex's office.
John Munch squinted his eyes as he peered at the screen, trying to focus on the black and white images before him.
"These guys knew what they were doin'," Fin Tutuola commented as he stared at the surveillance footage from the low level garage.
Munch nodded his head, "Three men, smartly dressed in business suits looking ordinary, except for the rubber masks over their heads, exit a Ford Taurus at precisely 7:10pm and smash every surveillance camera between their car and Alex's office," he replied as the security operator ran the footage again.
"What time did Liv get there?" Fin asked.
The man seated at the keyboard brought up a screen with multiple windows showing the garage from four different camera angles. Munch and Fin stood on either side of him, peering intently at the screen, searching for Olivia's beloved Mustang.
"There!" Munch said, pointing his finger at a window in the top left hand corner of the screen.
The operator zoomed in and blew the frame up as they watched Olivia exit her car and head for the elevator.
"7pm" Fin noted as he looked at the digital time stamp at the bottom of the screen.
Munch shook his head as he stepped back, "She was only here fifteen minutes," he reasoned.
"Five minutes to get to Cabot's office…what time did she make the 911 call?" Fin asked.
Munch looked at his partner, "7:15pm."
"So she was only with Cabot for ten minutes before it went down," Fin replied.
Munch shook his head again, "Think this has anything to do with Zapata?"
"Nah, that was over three years ago," Fin dismissed before adding, "Maybe Elliot found something upstairs," he said, retrtieving his cellphone from his pocket.
Cragen brushed past the officer outside Alex Cabot's door and surveyed the busy interior.
Crime scene technicians were busy dusting for prints and swabbing surfaces while Elliot stood beside the window looking through a large box file, precariously balanced on the narrow ledge while he spoke on the cellphone perched between his shoulder and his ear.
Cragen looked over at the sofa, instantly spotting the congealed pool of blood, clearly marked by a bright yellow marker and hoped it was neither Alex's nor Olivia's. He stepped carefully around the upturned coffee table and stopped in front of Elliot, "What you got?" he asked, looking expectantly at the detective as he ended the call and put the cellphone in his pocket.
"That was Fin, surveillance gave us nothing. Three men in masks arrived at 7:10pm in a Taurus, smashed all the camera's between here and the garage, took the stairs and shot the woman waiting for the elevator. Liv got here at 7pm, made the 911 call at 7:15…" he paused as he thought of his partner before adding, "…blood on the floor and a broken crystal decanter by the sofa, my guess? Liv told Alex to stay put while she went to investigate the gunshots she reported hearing…looking at the table and smashed crystal…Cabot didn't go easily," he finished.
Cragen turned and looked at the area beside the sofa and then at the ADA's desk, "Are we assuming the dead woman came to see Cabot?"
Elliot shook his head, "How many times you been here and got your water served in a crystal glass?" he replied, indicating the empty glass on the table.
Cragen nodded as he shifted his gaze back to Elliot and the box file he was holding, "What's that?"
"It was on the desk, beside the glass. I think the woman brought this for Alex," he replied.
Cragen frowned, "You sure?"
Elliot lifted out a piece of paper and showed it to the Captain, "It's a letter from Nardalee Ulah, the woman that led to Cabot's leave of absence," he supplied.
"The Congo?" Cragen asked incredulously.
Elliot nodded as Cragen pulled out his cellphone, "Did we get a plate for the Taurus?" he asked urgently.
Elliot nodded again, "Yeah, Fin's already got Transport looking for it on their camera's…who you calling?"
"The FAA, I want to make sure the airports are covered," he replied.
Elliot's eyes widened, "You think they'll try and get them out the country?"
Cragen shrugged in response as he identified himself to the caller at the other end of the line before covering the mouth piece with his hand, "I'd rather not take any chances," he clarified.
Olivia groaned as the blanket of fog clouding her senses lifted and realized she was lying on her side and couldn't move her arms or legs.
She blinked a few times in an attempt to clear her vision, but met nothing but darkness. Her arms ached from the awkward angle and her head throbbed where she had been hit, but her senses were sharpening with each passing, conscious second. Instinct told her she was moving and most likely in the trunk of a car. As she strained her ears to listen for anything that would identify her current location, the car hit a bump in the road.
She groaned as the jolt caused something to roll into her, knocking her backwards and onto her bound wrists. She heard angry, muffled voices, talking in a language she didn't recognize as she desperately tried to right her position, but the body that had rolled with her was preventing her from doing so, 'Alex,' she thought before remembering the nervous woman back at the DA's office.
Soft strands tickled the side of her face and she inhaled the fresh scent of strawberry shampoo and knew the limp form lying motionless against her was the blonde haired ADA.
"Alex," she whispered.
She waited a few seconds before lifting her head closer and repeating her name. When she was met with more silence she began to panic and lifted her head, nudging Alex gently as she anxiously called her name again.
The body lying against her moaned slightly and Olivia sighed with relief as she reflexively kissed the soft tresses, 'Thank You,' she offered up silently as Alex began to stir.
"Liv?" Alex groaned out hesitantly.
Olivia smiled into the darkness, "Yeah," she whispered quietly before nudging the tall frame with her own body. Pain shot through her arms as the car hit another bump and she winced loudly, "Alex, I need you to roll backwards on to your side," she said in a hushed tone.
Alex blinked, trying to adjust to the blackness as she followed Olivia's instructions. The numbness in her arms making her realize she must have been unconscious for some time as she tried moving her feet and encountered the same tightness in her ankles. She felt Olivia struggle on to her side and wished she could see her face, "Are you okay?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah, someone knocked me out back at your office. I woke up a few minutes ago…we're in the trunk of a car, I heard at least two male voices speaking in a foreign language," she replied softly.
Alex remembered the gunshots in the hallway, "Do you think Florence was shot?"
"Yeah," she replied somberly before adding, "Are you okay?"
Alex felt the distant ache in her skull return and remembered the struggle in her office, "A man wearing a suit and a rubber mask came into my office, he had a gun and told me not to make a sound. I stayed behind the sofa and when he came towards me, I threw the decanter at his head. It bounced off him and smashed against the table…he grabbed me, I kicked him between the legs and he dropped to his knees, landing on the broken glass. I remember him hitting me on the head with the gun when he saw the blood," she answered in a hushed tone.
Olivia longed for a chink of light, just to make sure the blonde haired woman was okay. She scooted closer until their body fronts touched, "Why did Florence come to see you?"
"Nardalee had given her evidence that there were men in New York eager to exact revenge for the work I'd done in the Congo," she answered.
Olivia blanched at the thought, having remembered just what sort of revenge these people carried out, "We'll be okay," she whispered.
Olivia swallowed before answering, "Yeah, I won' let anyone hurt you."
Alex leaned into her and felt hot breath blow across her face, she rested her forehead against Olivia's and sighed, "I'm so sorry," she whispered.
"For what?" Olivia asked, realizing Alex wasn't wearing her glasses.
Alex moved her head slightly, "For getting you involved," she replied.
"I'd rather be here with you, than back at the station wondering what's happening," she said, thinking of her partner.
Alex sighed, "How long do you think we've been in here?"
"Can't tell, I dunno how long I was out of it…we're not in the city though, it's too quiet," she replied, noting the lack of traffic above the hum of the engine.
They lay in silence for a long time, listening for sounds, but heard nothing. The car turned sharply and the road became increasingly bumpy, causing both women to jostle against the other as they fought to remain on their sides. After a few minutes the car stopped and Olivia counted three doors opening and closing before footsteps scuffled across loose dirt and approached the trunk. She leaned forward and kissed Alex lightly on the cheek, "We'll be okay," she confirmed quietly.
Alex shifted her head and kissed Olivia's lips for a lingering few seconds before easing back.
Alex cut her off with a soft kiss on her cheek, "Don't. I just had to," she whispered before easing back as the trunk was slowly opened.
Chapter 4: Friends
"Anything?" Cragen asked loudly as he emerged from his office.
Elliot turned round, phone pressed to his left ear and shook his head negatively. Cragen shifted his gaze to Munch and Fin, arching his eyebrows expectantly.
"Nothing," Munch supplied, looking hopefully across at his partner.
Fin shook his head as he turned in his chair and watched the Captain approach, "Transport lost visual on the Taurus somewhere along Central Park West. They're searching all available camera's, hoping for a hit."
Cragen slid his hands deeply into his pockets as he waited for Elliot to finish his phonecall, sighing quietly at their lack of progress.
Elliot hung up the phone and threw his pencil angrily on the desk, "This is crap. No DNA matches from the blood found in Cabot's office and the vic's prints aren't in the system," he said, rubbing a hand across his jaw, "Liv and Alex are out there and we don't have anything," he added, unable to hide his rising frustration.
"Maybe I can help"
Four heads shifted at the sound of the voice and watched as Jo Marlowe strode purposefully into the squad room.
"What are you doing here?" Cragen asked, tilting his head in question.
Jo perched on the edge of Elliot's desk and smiled, "I heard the call go out on the police scanner, I called McCoy and he's lost my paperwork until Cabot and Olivia are back," she replied, glancing down and catching the weary expression on Elliot's face.
"I appreciate the offer Jo, but we've got everything covered," Cragen said, smiling at her sincerely.
Jo snorted softly and folded her arms, "Really? So…" she glanced at the clock on the wall beside the stairs, "…it's almost midnight, have you had any luck identifying the dead woman or the owner of the blood yet?" she asked knowingly.
"We talked to Blaine about a warrant for immigration records, but he stonewalled us until the morning…needs a better reason to wake up a judge than two missing members of law enforcement and a dead African woman," Elliot growled out.
Jo looked down and met his tired eyes, "I've already sent her picture and prints to a friend."
"Which friend? And how did you get her picture and prints?" Munch asked dubiously, tapping the end of his pen against his chin as he studied the ADA carefully.
Jo met his challenging gaze, "I told you, I heard it on the scanner and called McCoy…I made some calls before I came here…" she paused and tilted her head at the cynical detective, "…did you really think I'd turn up empty handed John?" she asked dryly.
Munch looked at her and dipped his head apologetically.
Jo smiled at him, "I'm expecting his call any time now, I told him he could reach me here," she replied before turning her attention to the Captain, "Can I see the footage from the DA's building?"
Fin eased out of his chair and motioned with his head, "C'mon, I'll show you what we got," he offered.
Alex and Olivia sat side by side on a wooden bench in front of a table. The kitchen was large and spacious, spotlights in the ceiling casting a soft glow around the room. Both visible doors were guarded by men bearing assault rifles. Olivia had asked several times to speak to someone in charge and been ignored, resulting in their current state of uneasy anticipation.
Alex turned to Olivia, "Do you think they speak English?" she asked quietly.
Olivia tilted her head and arched an eyebrow, "I think that was a yes," she deadpanned.
"Do not speak again!" the man warned.
Alex gave Olivia an apologetic smile and shrugged her shoulders, wondering how long they would be made to sit here in the constrictive confines of their restraints and who they were apparently waiting for.
A few minutes later, the door on Alex's right was tapped quietly and the guard stood back allowing a black man in a cream suit and panama hat to enter.
Olivia studied the heavy set man closely, noting the slight limp in his left leg and the black, polished cane he appeared to rely on for support.
He lowered himself onto the bench opposite and removed his hat, placing it carefully on the table before settling the cane between his legs and placing both hands over the silver handle. He glanced between both women and smiled, "Would you like some water?" he asked in a thick accent.
Olivia glanced briefly at Alex, "Yes," she replied coolly.
He nodded his head and shifted his eyes to one of the guards, "Three bottles of water," he instructed.
"Who are you?" Alex asked.
The man met her curious blue gaze before reaching into his pocket and retrieving something black.
Olivia instantly tensed, sensing danger and shuffled closer in her seat to the blonde. Relief washed over her as she recognized the dark frames in his hand and watched as he removed a dark handkerchief from his breast pocket and began to clean the lenses.
"If you had obeyed instructions back at your office, you would not have lost these," he said smiling as he stood up.
Olivia watched as he leaned across the table and gently settled Alex's glasses on her nose.
"Thank you" Alex said, blinking a few times as she took in the room with freshly focused eyes.
The heavy set man lowered himself back onto the bench and wiped his brow with the piece of cloth, "You are most welcome, Miss Cabot..it wouldn't do if your attire was not…complete," he replied cryptically as three bottles of water were placed on the table. He reached for one and unscrewed the cap, "Please… drink," he said, motioning to the bottles in front of them.
Olivia glared at him, "Kinda hard when your hands are tied behind your back."
The man snorted as he placed the bottle back on the table and wiped his mouth with the black handkerchief, "That was funny. You are sharp witted Detective Benson…my people will enjoy your company a great deal," he said as he motioned for one of the guards to approach. He looked between the two women, "I ask that you do as I say and make no sudden movements, I have my instructions, but I am not afraid to take matters into my own hands, if provoked, so please…no heroics," he advised, shaking his head and smiling.
Alex glanced at Olivia before addressing the man opposite, "Your business is with me, not with Detective Benson…let her go," she requested confidently, ignoring the protests from the woman on her left.
The man laughed softly as he nodded his head, "Your reputation precedes you Miss Cabot, I am pleased to see it is not just in the Congo that you think you can order people about," he replied, narrowing his eyes. He rested his elbows on the kitchen table and pointed a finger at Olivia without breaking Alex's cool gaze, "She…" he started, shifting his dark gaze towards the detective, "…will be a small piece of the compensation you owe my people," he stated flatly as he nodded to the hovering guard to release their bonds.
"Oh, come on Hal… I need more than that…yeah, I know what time it is…" Jo trailed off as she held the phone away from her ear and rolled her eyes at the watching figures before lowering her voice, "Hal…does your wife know where you are at one o'clock in the morning on a week night?" she asked pointedly, smiling at the response on the other end of the line. She nodded her head in victory and smiled, "Thanks Hal," she said, replacing the receiver in the cradle.
Elliot's pensive expression remained unchanged as he looked expectantly at her, "Well?"
"They got hits on the DNA from Cabot's office and the prints from the dead woman, file's being sent over as we speak," she replied, looking between Cragen and Elliot.
Cragen shook his head slightly, "Elliot's gone through the box file the woman brought Alex…we already know it's related to the Congo," he said somberly.
Jo slipped down from her perch on the edge of his desk and frowned, "Christ Don, I thought that was obvious," she replied flatly before continuing, "NSA's been observing events in the Congo well before the task force ever got there."
"And?" Elliot asked impatiently.
Jo shifted her gaze to her old partner, "And the kingpins have sent people here to retrieve their property…" she paused and ran a hand through her hair in a familiar gesture of frustration, "…or destroy it," she added in a hushed tone.
Elliot unfolded his arms and took a step closer, "The file had names and cities..you're telling me there are people being sent here to retrieve the women who escaped these animals in the jungle?"
Jo nodded, "And those who helped them…We'll know more once we get the NSA surveillance files," she replied.
"Surveillance?" Cragen asked.
Jo looked at him, "They've had Alex under surveillance since she returned to New York two weeks ago…they believed her to be a target," she said, looking up as Fin knocked on the door frame.
"Jo, we just got files emailed to us from the NSA addressed to you," he announced.
The kitchen was quiet as the two women drank thirstily from their bottles of water. Olivia cast a concerned glance at Alex's exposed wrists and winced inwardly at the angry, red marks biting into the fair skin. She shifted her eyes to her own and saw similar indentations beginning to purple.
"You should not have interfered Miss Cabot."
Alex placed her water on the table and looked directly at him, "I regret nothing. Something had to be done to help the thousands of women and children being brutalized every day by your people," she replied coldly.
"And who will help you?" he asked, indicating for the guards to approach the table.
Alex refused to drop her gaze and clenched her jaw defiantly, "You don't scare me. You have orders, I know you won't disobey them," she answered evenly, despite the twisting knot in her stomach.
He snorted in agreement, "This is true…" he paused and studied her pale blue eyes, "…but only for you," he added, shifting his gaze and smiling.
Before Olivia could react, both guards grabbed her and hauled her from the bench.
"NO!" Alex screamed, scrambling to her feet.
Chapter 5: Eye for an Eye
Elliot rubbed his tired eyes as the images on the large display monitors began to blur, he scanned all three screens and chewed his lip thoughtfully, "If the NSA's been tailing Cabot, how come they don't have anything on our Taurus?"
Fin nodded in agreement, "We got the DA's security coverage from inside the underground garage, but nothing outside…seems kinda weird NSA didn't have something set up, especially if they knew Cabot was in the building," he added, looking over at Cragen.
Cragen turned to Jo, "How reliable is your contact at the NSA?"
The blonde haired attorney smirked confidently, "He wouldn't dare let me down, but you're right," she said, nodding at Elliot, "We've got footage of Cabot coming and going, at home and work, but nothing from the DA's building tonight," she added, unfolding her arms as she moved over to Olivia's desk. She lowered herself into the leather seat and lifted the receiver, dialing a number from memory.
Cragen followed her retreating form with anxious eyes, "Lean on him Jo, we need something to go on," he said before turning his attention to the trio of detectives in front of the monitors, "Go through everything we've got, there's something here, we just need to find it," he added as he walked purposefully towards his office.
Munch shook his head, "NSA has the footage, they just don't want us to see it," he commented.
Elliot nodded as he moved over to the touch screen keyboard and brought up an image of Florence Ugbalue, "We know who our vic is and what her connection is to Alex.." he paused as he brought up another image on the same screen, revealing Nardalee Ulah's face, "…and DNA from the blood found in the office belongs to this guy…Moko Nassiwa," he supplied as a picture of a dark skinned man in military fatigues filled the adjacent screen.
"That's some serious hardware," Fin commented.
Munch stepped forward and peered closely at the image, "He's part of Natoomby's militia," he offered, using the on screen functions to blow up the insignia on the man's left arm.
"How d'you know that?" his partner asked incredulously.
Munch turned to his left and shook his head, "Natoomby is the most powerful man in the Congo," he replied before motioning for Elliot to step aside. His bony fingers danced quickly across the keyboard, bringing up images of the tyrannical leader, "His militia once took down a dozen CIA black ops agents, sent in to destroy his cocaine reserves…they were never seen or heard from again," he said solemnly.
"Doesn't mean they were killed. If it was black ops, nobody ever really knows what the outcomes are," Elliot argued, remembering similar missions from his time in the marines.
Munch shook his head, "Four days after they went missing, a dozen different eyeballs were delivered to Langley," he added.
Elliot glanced at Fin, "And?"
"They belonged to the missing agents…" he paused as his fingers flew over the keyboard once more, bringing up various images of brutality and degradation in the Congo, "…the optic nerves were still attached, forensic pathologists identified that the eyeballs had been ripped, by hand, from the eye sockets…" he turned and faced his colleagues, "…while they were still alive," he finished gravely.
Elliot felt his gut tighten, "If the eyeballs had been torn out while they were still alive, how did they know they were dead, why didn't they send a team in to get them?" he asked angrily.
"A videotape was inside the box, it showed the live execution of all twelve men," he said and swallowed as he remembered the sickening footage.
Fin shook his head, "I'm proud of my roots, proud of my people, but this…" he paused, lifting his hand and pointing at the screen, "…this is barbaric," he said as his eyes absorbed the disturbing images of slain women and children. He tilted his head at a man in the picture, "Look how disrespectful he is, walking through the bloodshed as if it wasn't there."
Elliot sighed as he looked at the screen, studying the image of a heavy set man in a cream suit and panama hat, carrying a cane.
"Where have they taken her?"
The large man reached across the table for his hat and smiled, "Do not concern yourself with Detective Benson, Miss Cabot. She is in good hands…literally," he sneered, placing the panama carefully on his head.
Alex glared at him, "Who are you?" she demanded.
He leaned on his cane and rose from the wooden bench, smoothing out his jacket as he stood, "My name is Kenanga."
Alex couldn't recall ever hearing his name during any of the trials in the Congo, "I've never heard of you," she replied coolly.
Kenanga shook his head, "Of course you haven't, but I believe you know my superior," he replied, enjoying the look of expectation in the cerulean blue eyes watching him.
Alex frowned, "Who?" she finally asked.
"Natoomby. General Natoomby," he responded, indicating for her to stand.
Olivia winced as the grip on her arms tightened. She was being dragged along a hallway towards a set of stairs, her mind already deciding that if they led anywhere but up, she was going to start fighting. The last thing she needed was another Sealview situation, especially with two armed captors to contend with.
They passed two closed doors on her left and she noticed another one on her right. Her senses were now on high alert and her muscles tense with anticipation. She was ready to fight, but needed to pick her moment carefully for fear of endangering Alex.
They approached the staircase and Olivia blanched, 'A basement,' she thought, forcing her racing heart to calm. She swallowed anxiously and flexed her fists discretely as they reached the top step.
"Stop!" the guard on her left announced.
Olivia's steps faltered as she was brought to a halt. She looked down the dimly lit, narrow stairwell and swallowed again, forcing aside painful memories as she focussed on what she had to do.
The guard who had spoken descended first, while the one behind prodded the small of her back with the long barrel of his gun. She moved down slowly, eyes fixed on the stone steps and waited until they were almost at the bottom.
In a flurry of motion, she feigned a slip on the stairs and tumbled into the guard below, rolling with him as they bounced off the cold, hard steps, making sure she cracked his skull off the concrete floor as she landed heavily on top of him.
Olivia ignored the searing pain in her back and reached below him for his fallen weapon, gripping it tightly by the barrel as she tried to appear motionless in the semi darkness. She listened intently as footsteps raced towards her.
The guard stood over their unmoving bodies, breathing hard, "Yeboah!" he panted urgently, falling to his knees and grabbing Olivia roughly by her leather clad shoulders.
As she was pulled, Olivia swung her arm and smashed the butt of the gun into the side of his head, knocking him backwards. She flipped the gun round as she scrambled to her feet and kicked his fallen rifle out of reach, "Not a word," she ordered sharply.
The guard clutched his bleeding head and nodded frantically, "Please don't kill me," he begged.
Olivia aimed the barrel at his chest, "I wanna know where we are and what's going on," she demanded with quiet urgency.
The man's eyes widened with fear, "They will kill me," he replied, unable to hide the terror in his tone.
"Only if I don't do it first," she retorted, moving her aim to his throat.
He raised his hands, "Wait…wait…I can get you out of here!" he pleaded.
She looked at him for a few seconds and thought of the blonde upstairs, "I'm listening," she advised, lowering her aim.
Chapter 6: Loyalty
Alex rose from the bench and glanced at both doors.
"I wouldn't if I were you Miss Cabot, this house is well protected and it would be…" he paused, tilting his head in contemplation, "…unfortunate, if anything should happen to you before the General has a chance to meet you," he finished, his tone laced with insincerity.
Alex concentrated on keeping her expression neutral as she buttoned her jacket in an effort to mask the unsteadiness in her hands. She raised a well defined eyebrow at him expectantly, "Now what?" she asked with a calmness she didn't feel.
Kenanga moved slowly towards the door from which Olivia had recently departed, he turned and looked at her as his hand rested on the handle, "It is time for us to leave," he replied smiling, indicating with his cane for her to follow, "We have a boat to catch," he added, his grin growing wider.
Donald Cragen looked up from the file he was reading as Jo Marlowe entered his office, "Well?" he asked hopefully.
"Hold on Don, the others are just coming," she replied as she moved over to the observation window and heaved a weary sigh.
Cragen studied her back and eased to his feet, he rounded his desk and moved towards her, "Are you okay?" he asked quietly.
Jo turned and smiled weakly, "I will be once we get Liv and Cabot back…" she replied, running a hand through her hair, "…this is a mess," she breathed out, meeting his concerned gaze. She was about to continue when three figures entered the room, their faces etched with frustration and tiredness.
Elliot led the way, his eyes immediately focusing on the blonde, "NSA gonna help this time and not just jerk us around?" he asked impatiently, the images from the screen still fresh in his mind.
Jo nodded, "Yeah. I think you all better sit down," she advised, folding her arms across her chest and leaning back against the wall. She watched as Munch and Fin lowered themselves into the visitors chairs in front of Cragen's desk while Elliot defiantly, remained standing.
Cragen moved back to his seat and bobbed his head at Elliot, "Take a seat El," he instructed as he sat down.
Elliot considered ignoring him and then saw a familiar look pass across the Captain's face, reluctantly he crossed the room to the chair by the side door and perched on the wooden arm, his eyes riveted on the blonde.
Jo glanced down at her feet to mask the nervous swallow she took, "NSA know where they are," she said, lifting her eyes and meeting four dumbfounded expressions.
"What?" Elliot barked, immediately rising to his feet.
Jo unfolded her arms, readying herself for the onslaught, "They've been tracking them through satellite surveillance since they left the DA's building…" she glanced at her watch, "…over seven hours ago."
"This is bull!" Elliot growled out angrily.
Munch and Fin looked at each other with matching expressions of confusion before looking over at the Captain, "It's almost 3am and now we're being told the men in black know exactly where Alex and Liv are?" Munch asked, shaking his head.
Cragen shifted his eyes to Jo, "What's going on?"
"The NSA believe one of their most wanted is in the US. They have information that the Congo's most notorious militia leader, General Natoo-"
"Natoomby?" Elliot interrupted, furrowing his brow.
Jo nodded, "General Natoomby is believed to be somewhere along the East Coast. They don't know where, but they have reliable intelligence that Alex Cabot is the reason for his visit," she replied.
Fin shook his head, "How do they know he isn't with them, where ever they are?"
"He wouldn't take that risk," she answered.
Cragen narrowed his eyes, "But if he's here, I'd say that's already a pretty big risk," he commented.
She shrugged her shoulders, "I can only tell you what they told me, which…is off the record," she said pointedly.
Cragen held her steely, blue gaze and nodded, "What else?"
"They're being held in a farmhouse near Pelham Bay Park, heavily guarded, accessible from only one road. Natoomby's right hand man, Kenanga, is also inside."
"Pelham? That's only forty minutes away," Fin supplied.
Munch nodded in agreement, "Kenanga has a reputation for not getting his hands dirty…that's why he always wears the cream suit," he added.
Elliot's mind instantly flashed to the barbaric images from the screen and the man in the cream suit and panama hat, he took a step towards Cragen's desk, "We gotta go get them," he stated.
Jo pushed off the wall, "No Elliot. We can't," she said firmly.
He turned and glared at her, fire in his eyes, "They could be doing anything to them and we're supposed to do nothing?" he yelled, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Intelligence suggests Natoomby came by boat, but they haven't been able to determine its location. From Turtle Cove to Pelham, it's nothing but marina's," she replied calmly, moving closer, "Kenanga was ordered to deliver Cabot to Natoomby, they don't know when and they don't know where, but they'll have that intel soon," she said, gentling her tone as she held his penetrating gaze, "Once they have that…they'll storm the farmhouse," she finished.
Cragen frowned at her, "How are they going to get their information?" he asked.
Jo shifted her eyes to the Captain, "They've got a man on the inside," she said, ignoring the snort of disbelief from Elliot.
Olivia followed the man up the narrow staircase, her mind racing at the story he had told. She knew Alex had been on a personal mission in the Congo, determined to convict as many of the barbarians as possible, but she'd never considered the possibility that the younger woman's life would be in danger or that their maniacal leader would personally, come after her.
The guard had been eager to save his own life and quickly divulged everything he knew about their situation. She had made it clear, if he betrayed her, she would not hesitate to shoot.
They reached the top of the stairs and she looked at him, "Remember, one word, one slip," she advised, pointing the gun at his chest as she glanced at the dried blood on his head, "You know what to do," she nodded.
Alex stood to the left of the heavy set man, swallowing the nausea rising in her throat as she inhaled his pungent, body odor. She saw the door slowly open and held her breath, wondering who and what lay behind it.
She frowned as Kenanga stood unmoving in the open doorway and cautiously stepped closer, instantly recoiling in shock as the butt of a gun was unceremoniously smashed into his sweaty face.
She watched as he fell backwards, parallel with the ground, almost in slow motion, landing heavily with an ominous thud. The panama hat rolling under the table as his cane bounced noisily off the hard, tiled floor.
She held her breath, fear coursing through her veins as a figure stepped into the kitchen.
"Hey," Olivia said casually, smiling at her.
Alex's shoulders sagged with relief and she expelled the breath she had been holding as she lunged forward, embracing Olivia tightly, "Liv," she gasped as relief washed over her.
Olivia ignored the pain in her back as she gave the taller woman her best one armed hug, the gun safely gripped in her right hand.
After a few minutes, she felt Alex stiffen and slowly pull away, "What's wrong?" she asked.
Alex looked wide eyed, over Olivia's shoulder at the man standing a few feet behind her.
Olivia smiled knowingly, "Don't worry, he's with me," she said.
"Actually…he's with me," a male voice with a thick African accent announced.
Chapter 7: Cold Steel
Cragen looked at the clock on the wall as he exited his office. Thirty minutes had passed since Jo had informed them of the NSA's plan. He slid his hands deeply into his pockets, a familiar, comforting gesture as he approached Elliot's desk and stopped in front of the blonde, "I just got off the phone with the Chief of D's," he announced, catching Elliot's pensive gaze.
Jo lifted her bowed head and looked questioningly at him, "And?"
He turned slightly and nodded at Munch and Fin, "We're going up there," he declared.
Elliot eagerly rose from his chair, "We working with NSA?" he asked, hurriedly reaching for his jacket.
Cragen shook his head, "No, we're going as observers," he clarified.
"What a crock," Elliot growled as he adjusted his collar.
Cragen moved until he stood directly in front of him, "I know you want to be involved in getting them back, but this was the only way I could get our presence approved," he replied.
Jo slipped off the desk, "With all due respect Don, your people have no place in an internationally, sensitive security operation," she reasoned.
Cragen shifted his stance and dipped his head, "With all due respect Counselor…" he paused, lifting his eyes and meeting hers, "…neither do you…which is why you won't be coming," he added.
Jo frowned, "I got you the information in the first place, you wouldn't even begin to know where to look if it weren't for me," she argued.
Cragen removed his hands from his pockets and placed one on her arm, "Jo…It isn't safe, especially for a woman…you know that," he said, softening his tone. He saw the look of defiance in her eyes and continued, "You're more useful to us here, NSA won't tell us anything when we get there. We need someone with connections to keep us in the loop," he finished, gently bobbing his head.
Jo sighed, "Alright," she reluctantly agreed, smiling abjectly at him as he patted her arm.
Cragen turned to Munch and Fin, "Get everything we need and meet me downstairs in ten minutes," he ordered.
Elliot looked expectantly at him, "What about me?"
"Go home Elliot," he said quietly.
Elliot's mouth dropped open, "Go home?" he asked incredulously.
"It's almost 4am, you have a wife and five kids, you don't need to go up there," he replied.
Elliot shook his head, "Not go up there? She's my partner!" he snapped back.
Cragen watched his jaw tighten with rage and stepped closer, "We can't get involved, we're only going as observers," he repeated calmly.
Elliot clenched his fists, fury building inside as he thought of Olivia and Alex in the farmhouse with barbarians. He held the older man's gaze, "Please Cap," he begged, his voice thick with emotion.
Cragen studied him for a long minute before giving him a solemn nod, "Observers Elliot, we're only observers," he warned.
Olivia's grip on the gun tightened as the man behind her spoke again.
"Drop the gun before I drop you," he ordered coldly.
She noticed the slight nod from Alex and held her arm out before lowering the rifle to the ground, "Now what?" she asked, slowly turning round with her hands raised in surrender.
"Now you die," he calmly replied, pointing his weapon directly at her.
Alex's eyes widened, "STOP!" she yelled, quickly moving to Olivia's side, "Natoomby wants us both alive," she blurted.
The dark skinned man tilted his head and smiled, "Is that so?"
Alex nodded, studying his expression closely. She glanced at the insignia on his sleeve and forced aside memories of horrific images she had seen.
Olivia lowered her right arm and placed her hand protectively in front of Alex, "Kenanga told us," she added, thankful that the heavy set man had been knocked unconscious.
The man with the gun stared hard at Olivia, slowly raking his eyes up and down her taut frame, "I can see why," he replied, making no attempt to hide his lascivious gaze.
Suddenly the door at the opposite side of the room burst open and a man in matching military fatigues entered, "Why is she not en route to Natoomby?" he asked, pointing his weapon at Alex as he strode authoritatively into the room.
Alex and Olivia spun towards the sound and watched as he crossed the tiled floor urgently.
The man in front of Olivia frowned, "There is nothing to be alarmed about, only a slight delay. We had some…trouble," he replied, indicating Kenanga's slumped form on the floor.
The newcomer roughly grabbed Olivia's arm and pulled her away from Alex, "This one was supposed to be killed, why is she still alive?" he demanded.
Alex reached for Olivia but stilled her movements as a gun was pointed in her direction.
Olivia watched as the men stared at each other in awkward silence. She caught a glimpse of the man from the basement, shifting nervously in the hallway and glared at him. She narrowed her eyes as he avoided her gaze, "He's a traitor," she informed their captors, motioning with her head towards the door.
The man holding her, looked into the open doorway and raised his weapon, "Get in here!" he commanded.
The man pointing the gun at Alex stepped to the side, allowing the guard to enter the kitchen, "The American is right, he is a traitor," he said, confirming Olivia's claims.
Olivia's brown eyes briefly met cerulean blue as she swallowed apprehensively.
The man in front of Alex shifted his aim to the traitorous guard, "You will pay dearly for your disloyalty," he announced, nodding at the man beside Olivia.
The guard who had led Olivia back up the stairs looked pleadingly at her before shifting his large, terrified eyes between the two armed men, "Please…Please!" he pleaded.
Alex closed her eyes, unable to watch the inevitable and flinched at the sound of gunfire.
The heavy silence in the car was becoming unbearable to Elliot, he turned to the Captain, sitting alongside him in the backseat, "How do we know they won't just kill them in the farmhouse?" he asked quietly.
Cragen slowly turned in his seat, "We don't, but Natoomby wouldn't be here if he didn't want Alex alive," he replied logically.
"Exactly. He wants Alex alive…he doesn't even know Liv, she's just another piece of meat for his men to play with," he said, blocking out barbaric images.
Fin turned round from the front seat, "Stabler, I know she's your partner, but Liv's gotten out of a few tight spots before," he reminded him, specifically remembering the basement incident at Sealview prison a few years before.
Elliot glared at him in the breaking light of dawn, ready to snap off a reply. The retort never came as he recognized the genuine look of concern in Fin's eyes and gave a brief nod instead, "I know," he finally said.
Munch slowed the car as he approached an intersection, glancing up at the road sign, "We're almost at Pelham Bay Park, do the men in black know we're coming?" he asked, meeting Cragen's eyes in the rear view mirror.
"Head for Turtle Cove…take a right here John," Cragen instructed.
Fin turned his attention back to the road as Elliot closed his eyes and wondered what was happening at the farmhouse.
Olivia released the breath she had been holding and looked at the man on the floor, her eyes instantly lifting to the man beside her in question.
The dark skinned man lay dead on the floor, a single entry wound in the centre of his forehead.
The man relinquished his hold on her, his aim shifting to the wide eyed guard beside the slain body, "Do you trust him?" he asked her.
Olivia looked at him with puzzlement, "Not exactly, we made a deal in the basement," she replied, wondering what was going on.
"Good," he replied, moving towards the terrified guard, "If you want to live, you'll do exactly as we say, do you understand?"
The terrified man bobbed his head furiously, "Yes, I will do anything…please do not kill me," he begged.
"See if Kenanga's still alive," he instructed.
The guard rushed past Alex towards the man in the cream suit and fell to his knees, frantically searching for a pulse, "He is alive," he announced.
"Secure his hands and feet," he ordered, throwing plastic handcuffs at him.
Alex and Olivia stared in disbelief at one another, neither of them having moved. Olivia spoke first, "Who are you?" she asked.
He turned to her and smiled, "NSA," he replied, bending down and retrieving her fallen rifle. He handed it to her as he closed the door.
"NSA?" Alex queried, stepping over to Olivia.
He nodded as he passed them, heading towards the door he had entered before cautiously peering out into the hallway and closing it, "Special Agent Dexter Motega," he added as he moved to the table and looked down at Kenanga, "NSA's got this place covered, Natoomby's somewhere along the coastline, they can't move in until they have his location," he supplied.
"Where exactly are we?" Alex asked, her arm brushing against Olivia's.
He ignored her and knelt down beside the guard hovering over Kenanga, "What's your name?" he asked.
"Ngaru," the guard replied.
Dexter nodded, "You're with me now. If you forget that, even for one second, I won't hesitate to kill you. Understand?" he asked.
Ngaru swallowed and nodded, "Yes, boss," he stammered.
"Where are we?" Alex asked again, the icy edge in her tone unmistakable.
Dexter searched Kenanga's pockets and looked up at her, "A farmhouse in Pelham Bay, near Turtle Cove," he answered, studying a piece of paper.
Olivia's brain was still processing the events of the past few minutes, "How are they going to get his location?"
"From me…actually from him," he said, slapping Kenanga's bloody face.
Alex looked at the blood drying on the cream suit and turned to Olivia, "I think you broke his nose," she commented.
"And a few teeth," the dark haired detective added dryly. She lifted her hand and placed it gently at the small of Alex's back, guiding her towards the table.
Dexter looked up at them, "I don't have time to go through the details, you're just going to have to trust me on this," he said before adding, "We don't have much time. I need to find out Natoomby's location and he's the only one who knows where he is," he finished.
"How many more guards are there?" Olivia asked, glancing between both doors.
Dexter shrugged as he stood up, "I'm not sure, I was part of the retrieval team…" he paused and looked at Alex, "…I'm sorry about that woman," he offered sincerely.
"You killed her?" Alex asked, unable to mask her shock.
The NSA agent shook his head, "No, but I was there," he clarified. He shifted his eyes to Olivia, "My mother's American, my father Nigerian. When the agency started investigating Natoomby, I volunteered for deep cover."
"Wasn't that a suicide mission?"
He shrugged, "Natoomby's men raped and killed my mother's family. I did what I had to do," he replied, lowering his eyes.
Alex moved closer to him, "I've seen what his men do to women and children…what you're doing is incredibly brave," she said, looking up at him.
He nodded his head, "Or stupid if we don't get the information we need," he answered dismissively, leaning down and roughly shaking a cream covered shoulder.
Olivia kicked a thick, trouser clad leg and smiled as Kenanga's face contorted in pain.
"Get me a damp washcloth," Dexter instructed Alex.
Alex raced to the sink and returned with a wet rag, watching as Dexter tilted Kenanga's head back and covered his open mouth with the cloth.
Olivia knew exactly what the agent was about to do and reached across the table for a bottle of water. She handed it to him and tugged on Alex's sleeve, leading her to the other side of the room.
The four men stared at the six imposing figures in front of them. They had arrived at the NSA cover house and ordered to exit the vehicle, hands on their head. They had been searched and had their weapons removed, despite Elliot's wordy protestations. Cragen had been introduced to the man running the operation, SAC Kimbrano and was currently engaged in a heated discussion with him, just out of earshot.
The three detectives watched closely as the two men talked animatedly in hushed tones. SAC Kimbrano glaring over at them every now and again, making it blatantly obvious their presence was definitely not welcome.
"Never trust a man in black," Munch commented, sweeping his eyes around the armed men in front of them.
Fin snorted, "You wear black all the time," he retorted.
"Exactly my point," Munch drolled.
Elliot looked up at the early morning sky and sighed, "They know where they are, why don't they just send a small team in…flash…bang…it would be over in less than ten minutes," he said, thinking of similar missions with the Marines.
"They want Natoomby," Fin reminded him.
Elliot shifted his gaze towards the Captain and Kimbrano, "They're wasting time," he added.
"Nah, Cap's marking his turf in the big dogs yard," Fin observed, smiling as the two men shook hands.
They watched Cragen approach, studying his face closely as he stopped in front of them. He waited until the agents moved away before speaking, "They're still waiting for Natoomby's location," he finally said.
Elliot balled his fists, "We're gonna be too late," he growled out, clenching his jaw.
Cragen shook his head, "No, they're expecting the information anytime now," he replied.
"How?" Munch asked.
Cragen shrugged, "Ours isn't to question how John, we're simply here to observe," he answered calmly.
Elliot snorted, "C'mon Cap, you don't believe that…do you?"
Cragen stepped closer, "Ask me again once we know his location," he added conspiratorially.
"Liv, I've seen water torture before," Alex said quietly.
Olivia ignored the gurgling sounds emanating from the man on the floor and reached for Alex's hand, "I think you've seen enough torture to last a lifetime," she replied, giving the soft hand a gentle squeeze.
Blue eyes locked on brown, "Always looking out for me, detective," she whispered.
"Always," Olivia said in a hushed tone. She glanced over at the trio on the floor, unable to see what was going on and lifted her free hand to Alex's face. She stroked her cheek tenderly and smiled, "We're gonna be okay," she promised.
Alex felt her skin flush under the delicate, intimate touch and smiled, "I hope so," she said, covering the hand on her face with her own.
"I will never tell!" Kenanga's voice choked out.
They shared a shy smile, despite their surroundings and reluctantly headed towards the table.
"Where is he?" Dexter demanded, pouring more water over the cloth and into Kenanga's open mouth.
Alex tapped Dexter's shoulder, "May I?" she asked.
The NSA agent nodded and watched as the blonde silently instructed Ngaru to open Kenanga's jacket. Alex knelt down and released the brown leather belt at the heavy man's waist, then opened the button and unzipped his pants.
Olivia watched curiously as Alex and Ngaru lowered the cream material, revealing black boxer shorts.
"During my time in the Congo…I discovered the fear that most men like Kenanga harbor…is the humiliation at the hands of a woman," she informed them, glancing up at her rapt audience before turning to Ngaru, "Sit on his lower legs, when I cut off his testicles, he's going to start writhing around," she announced coolly.
Olivia's head snapped to her right and met Dexter's equally shocked expression.
"Liv, can you fetch me a knife…the blunter the blade the better," Alex instructed.
Olivia moved quickly to the sink and opened a drawer. She returned and handed Alex the knife, wondering if the young ADA was actually going to do this.
Ngaru sat on the chunky lower legs while Olivia moved to the other side and Dexter knelt beside Alex.
Alex removed the washcloth covering his face and lowered her head, "Where is Natoomby?" she asked, pressing the cold blade against his genitals through the opening in his shorts.
Kenanga flinched and tried in vain to move, "I cannot tell you," he rushed out.
"Too bad…you know, I watched a lot of torture footage while I was investigating cases in the Congo…"
Dexter stuffed the wet rag into the fat man's mouth to prevent him screaming and nodded at Alex.
Alex pressed the blade against his skin once more and stared coolly into his round, white eyes, "Where is he?" she asked, pushing hard enough to make his skin pinch.
He shook his head and closed his eyes as the knife pressed harder before opening them and desperately nodding at Dexter.
Dexter removed the rag, "Where is he?"
"A cruiser on the east coast of Pelham Bay," he breathed out, gulping in air.
Dexter stared at him, "Which boat?"
"I do not know. I was supposed to drive Miss Cabot to the harbor and await instructions," he stammered.
Olivia looked down at him, "When are you supposed to be there?"
"Exactly 6am," he replied.
Olivia glanced at her watch, "That's thirty minutes from now," she exclaimed.
"How were you supposed to take me there?" Alex asked, lifting the knife into view.
Kenanga swallowed, "Two guards were to accompany me on the drive to the harbor," he supplied.
Dexter turned to Alex and smiled, "You feel up for a little morning drive?" he asked, ignoring Olivia's concerned gaze.
Chapter 8: Red Dust
The house was quiet as Motega crept into the hallway, tilting his head as he listened for any sign of movement. He paused at the entrance to another door and turned to the watching dark haired woman, "Cover me," he instructed in a hushed tone.
Olivia moved stealthily into the hallway and took up a crouching position on the other side of the doorway, raising the rifle to eye level. She focused on the door and nodded, "On three," she said quietly.
Alex peered through the gap in the kitchen door, ignoring the grunts of protest from behind her as Ngaru forced Kenanga to remain silent.
Motega held up his left hand and counted down from three, gently turning the handle as he reached one. Olivia steadied her aim and moved her finger to the trigger.
The door opened slowly revealing an apparently empty living room. Motega edged into the room, his eyes darting everywhere. He spotted a lone figure beside a door at the opposite side of the room and signaled behind his back to Olivia. He lowered his weapon as he approached the man, greeting him in his native tongue. As he stopped in front of him, he reached behind and removed a small blade from the sheath at his belt. He surged forward, spinning the guard round and muffled his scream with his free hand as he expertly slit his throat with the other.
Olivia blanched as the slain guard was lowered to the floor, wondering why Motega hadn't just disarmed him. Before she had time to process what she had seem Motega indicated for her to move forward.
"The main entrance is on the other side of this door. Get everyone into position while I see how clear the route to the car is," Motega said, already opening the door.
Olivia looked down at the man on the floor, "You didn't have to kill him, he wasn't a threat," she commented.
"I've seen what these people do, he wouldn't have thought twice about cutting your throat or Cabot's," he replied with finality.
Olivia studied him for a few seconds before turning and heading back to the kitchen.
Motega moved towards the front door of the house and peered out the side window. The car was no more than twenty feet from their position, no guards were visible in the early morning light and the house was still quiet save for the shuffling noise of movement coming from the living room.
Olivia paused at the door and turned to Kenanga, "I'll finish what was started if you make a sound," she threatened quietly.
Kenanga nodded, ignoring the sweat that trickled down his forehead into his eyes. Ngaru held him tightly by the plastic cuffs at his back and pushed him forward.
Alex looked at the dead man on the floor, lifting her eyes to meet the matching expression on Olivia's face. She swallowed at the coppery smell invading her nostrils and blew out a steadying breath.
Olivia stepped back into the room and looked at her, "You ready?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
Alex swallowed again and nodded, not trusting her voice.
Olivia gave her a reassuring smile before moving towards Motega, "We good to go?" she asked, glancing at her watch.
"I don't see any guards, not sure if there were any posted out here, strange if there aren't," he replied.
Olivia glanced out the window at the parked car, "Maybe we took care of them?" she asked hopefully.
Motega looked at her, "I doubt it," he answered, shifting his eyes to Kenanga. He moved over to the large, sweating man, "How many guards are at this compound?"
Kenanga smiled, "Enough," he quipped.
Motega thrust the butt of his rifle into his stomach and watched as he struggled to remain upright. He leaned down to Kenanga's ear, "Let's try that again. How many?"
Kenanga puffed heavily, gasping for breath, "The gate…two on the gate…two monitoring the perimeter…" he heaved.
Motega leaned closer, "if you make one slip, just one…I won't hesitate to shoot," he promised menacingly, inhaling the putrid stench of urine and sweat oozing from the man.
Drops of sweat fell from Kenanga's face on to the hardwood floor as his mouth opened and closed rapidly, trying to suck in some air. He lifted his bright white eyes and nodded at Motega.
"Okay," Motega sad with urgency before pointing at Olivia, "You and Cabot in the back…" he paused as he shifted his attention to Ngaru, "…You sit in between them while I keep the big man company in front," he finished.
Alex and Olivia nodded in understanding as Motega reached for the handle of the front door.
"Stabler, quit pacing!"
Elliot stopped and looked over at Fin, "What else am I supposed to do?" he asked, frustration evident in his tone.
Fin shook his head, "Same as the rest of us, watch and wait," he replied coolly from his seat at a table in the house the NSA were using as their temporary command post.
Cragen moved across the room to the trio and slid his hands into his pockets, "Meet with Natoomby is scheduled for 6am," he announced.
Elliot looked at his watch, "That's in twenty five minutes," he said, shaking his head.
Cragen nodded, "They don't know his exact location, only that Kenanga is supposed to meet him somewhere at the harbor," he added.
"So why aren't we going to the harbor?" Munch asked.
Cragen shifted his eyes to the veteran detective, "It's unclear if Natoomby will be at the harbor location or if they'll be given further instructions," he clarified.
"Who's they?" Fin asked.
Cragen looked at him, "NSA agent, Liv, Alex and Kenanga," he replied.
"This is bullshit!" Elliot muttered angrily, shaking his head once more.
Cragen sighed, "A team is en route to the harbor, we should have a visual soon," he replied.
"What about us?" Fin asked.
Cragen nodded, "Like I said, we wait," he answered.
Elliot rubbed his hand off his jaw anxiously, "Anyone need coffee?" he asked.
Cragen studied him curiously, "Whatever you're thinking Elliot, forget it. We have no jurisdiction here, this is an NSA op," he warned.
"I'm just asking if anyone needs coffee," Elliot replied defensively, hiding his dismay that the Captain had seen through his weak ploy.
Cragen stared at him, "Pot's in the corner, help yourself," he replied calmly before heading off towards the command table.
"I could use some fresh air though, maybe call the house, see how things are," Fin commented.
Elliot looked at him in confusion before realizing what he was suggesting, "Yeah, be nice to hear if there's anything new at the house," he agreed.
Munch looked between them both, "As your superior officer I strongly advise against this course of action," he offered.
Fin smiled at him, "Then stay," he replied, rising from his chair and following Elliot towards the door.
Munch sighed, "Wait," he said, waiting for his partner to turn and face him. He glanced across the room at Cragen, "Use channel 12, I'll keep you posted from here," he added.
Fin smiled knowingly at him before turning and leaving the room.
"So far so good," Motega announced.
Olivia studied him as he drove the car steadily down the bumpy, dirt driveway. Her mind replaying the incident in the living room and the dead man they had left on the floor. She shifted her eyes to the man beside her, meeting his frightened expression, "It's nearly over," she assured him.
Ngaru blinked rapidly as he nodded, desperately hoping that was true.
Alex stared out the window, looking at the empty field they were driving past. She tilted her head to one side as he eyes caught a flurry of motion, "Liv…"
Alex motioned discretely with her head, "We're not alone," she observed quietly.
Motega glanced to his left and saw movement behind some trees, "Natoomby's men or yours?" he asked Kenanga.
"They are not mine. Possibly Natoomby is ensuring all necessary security precautions are being taken. I am sure it is nothing to be alarmed about," he replied coolly.
Olivia studied the back of his head before glancing to her left, "I don't like it," she commented, adjusting her grip on the gun.
As the car approached the end of the driveway, two guards stepped on to the road, halting their movement. Motega smiled at Kenanga, "Remember," he warned quietly.
Kenanga smiled at the guards as they approached, lifting a free hand to his brow and wiping away the sweat, "Everything in order?" he asked in his native Igbo, making eye contact with the man on the right.
Olivia listened intently as the men engaged in brief conversation, watching Motega closely with her peripheral vision.
The guards stepped back, allowing the car to pass and saluted Kenanga as he left.
"What did he ask you?" Olivia asked curiously.
Kenanga tilted his head slightly, "He wanted to know where my jacket was and why my nose was cut," he replied.
"And what did you say?"
Motega interrupted before Kenanga could answer, "He told them you were feisty, but he broke you in the end," he answered.
Olivia kicked the seat in front, sending Kenanga forward. She smiled as his head cracked off the dashboard, "I'll show you feisty," she growled.
Motega looked at the clock on the dash and pressed his foot against the accelerator, "Fifteen minutes," he announced ominously.
Alex lost sight of the figures behind the trees as the car sped away, hoping for once her instinct was wrong.
Elliot's eyes glanced back and forth between his watch and the road as the car sped along the dirt road at Turtle Cove.
"Not gonna be much use to anybody if we're dead," Fin drolled.
Elliot snorted in acknowledgement as he steered the car skillfully around another twisting bend. He shifted his eyes briefly to the passenger seat, "If Jo's intel is right, the harbor's a diversion."
Fin nodded, remembering the brief, but informative call to Jo Marlowe. She had told them satellite surveillance showed a car parked in a side road, near the house, with four figures hiding in the undergrowth. NSA were planning on observing the meet, but holding off until Natoomby had been located and positively identified before moving in. Either way he looked at it, Fin didn't like it. He adjusted the Kevlar at his chest, "I hope Liv's armed," he commented.
Elliot nodded in agreement, "I hope they both are," he added.
"Five minutes out," Motega announced, maneuvering the car along a narrow path.
Suddenly a car appeared in front of them, travelling at high speed, intention clear. Motega dipped his head forward to get a better look at the driver and instantly braked, showering the car in a cloud of red dust as they skidded to a halt before throwing the car into reverse.
Olivia strained her eyes through the rear window, peering through the dust at the single track road, "Car!" she yelled, spotting another car bearing down on them from the rear.
Chapter 9: Duel
Munch looked anxiously between the radio in his hand and the cellphone on the table. He pressed the talk button on the side of the portable unit again, "Fin? You copy?" he asked with quiet urgency.
"Care to fill me in John?" Cragen asked as he approached the seated figure.
Munch looked up in surprise, startled that he hadn't noticed the Captain cross the room. He shook his head in defeat, "They went to the harbor. I lost contact about a minute ago. They were approaching a brown sedan, that's all I know," he replied.
Cragen pulled out the chair beside him and sat down, sighing wearily, "Last satellite feed showed a single vehicle on approach to the harbor from the south with another approaching from the north…at speed," he said, tilting his head to look directly at Munch.
"Is that good news or bad news?"
Cragen shook his head slightly, "Nothing about any of this is good," he answered, folding his hands together on the table, "And now we don't have transport," he added.
Munch was about to respond when the radio crackled into life, "Munch…Munch!"
"Go ahead," he replied urgently.
Cragen stared at the portable radio, straining to hear above the interference and then he heard it. He bolted from the chair and hurried across the room towards the command table, "Gunfire. We've got gunfire on the road leading to the harbor."
Alex groaned as she rubbed the back of her neck with her left hand and slowly opened her eyes. She frowned at the blurry images and reached around for her glasses, locating them quickly and slipping them on. She gasped in horror at the sight of Ngaru's twisted, bloody body, lying halfway through the shattered windshield and looked between the lifeless forms of Motega and Kenanga, unsure if they were dead or wounded. She jumped as a hand gently patted her thigh and turned her head, meeting familiar dark orbs.
"You okay?" Olivia asked quietly.
Alex nodded as the sound of gunfire echoed around them. Olivia tugged her down on to the back seat and blindly reached behind for the door handle. She kicked it open with her foot and slowly slid out backwards, her grip tightly on the rifle. Once she was kneeling on the gravelly road, she glanced around, ducking her head as bullets whizzed overhead.
The sedan that crashed into them from behind was a mangled mass of metal. She looked at the body lying in a pool of blood beside the open passenger door and crawled on her stomach towards him. She looked underneath the vehicle and saw another still form, lying motionless on the other side. She retrieved the fallen weapon and slipped it into the back of her waistband. She peered around the door, spotting another vehicle further along the road, 'Three cars?' she thought to herself before turning to her left and mentally measuring the distance to the cover of the trees. She cautiously began moving back towards the open rear door.
"Come on," she whispered, holding out her hand. Her eyes remaining focused on the cars behind them.
Alex slid towards the outstretched hand, keeping her tall frame low. Just as she had almost closed the distance between them, a hand grabbed her left shoulder, holding her firmly in place.
"I don't think so."
Alex whipped her head round in surprise and frowned at Motega, "We need to get out of here," she replied, trying to shake off his grasp.
"You're not going anywhere," he answered, lifting a pistol from his lap. He rested his left arm casually along the back of Ngaru's thigh and shot the slumped, unconscious form of Kenanga in the head before shifting his aim to the back seat.
"Liv!" Alex screamed, a split second before the pistol connected with the top of her head.
Olivia's body instantly spun towards the sound, coming face to face with the barrel of Motega's gun.
"D'you see 'em?"
Elliot strained around the driver's door he was using as a shield, "Sedan's blocking my view," he yelled across the front seat at Fin.
Fin stepped sideways and looked along the edge of the road, pulling his frame back in as a hail of bullets sailed past, "Two on the right; one in the ditch, one at the trees," he barked, pulling the passenger door closer towards him.
"Any sign of Liv or Alex?"
Fin shook his head, "I saw movement on the ground, too low to get a proper visual, coulda been Liv," he replied hopefully.
Elliot nodded, cautiously raising his head and aiming his weapon through the shattered window. He squeezed off a few rounds before ducking for cover. They had almost caught up with the sedan when it suddenly rammed into a reversing vehicle. The detectives reacted instinctively, opening their doors, intent on offering help when a hail of gunfire stopped their movements. Fin had taken out the passenger while Elliot played a visual game of cat and mouse for a few minutes with the driver before nailing his target. Now they were firing blindly at whomever was in front of the car they assumed held Liv and Alex.
"I gotta get to the trunk, I need more ammo," Elliot announced.
Fin nodded, "Go. I'll hold them off and follow," he replied, firing his weapon towards the trees.
Elliot scrambled to the rear of the car and popped the trunk, hurriedly reaching inside for the assault rifles and ammunition, "Fin!"
Fin appeared instantly, accepting the offered weapon and stuffing bullet clips into his pockets. He shook his head at the Kevlar vest in Elliot's hand, "We don't got time for that," he replied coolly before stepping to the side and spraying the trees with a continuous stream of fire.
"What are you doing?" Olivia yelled at Motega above the constant barrage of bullets, looking over at Alex with concern.
Motega lifted out a cellphone and pressed a speed dial button, "Delivering the goods," he replied coldly before turning his attention to the phone as it was answered, "I have Cabot," he announced, listening intently to what was being said. He shifted his aim to Alex's head as he released the call and nodded at Olivia, "Lower your weapon and get in…slowly," he ordered.
Olivia lifted the rifle into view and placed it on the floor of the car before sliding onto the backseat with her hands in front of her. She glanced at Alex, "You okay?" she asked gently.
Alex nodded, massaging the bump on her head.
Olivia smiled at her before shifting her eyes to Motega, "There's nowhere to go," she advised him.
"For you…not for me," he replied.
Olivia tilted her head, "They're shooting at us," she reminded him.
"Are they?" he asked, his dark eyes boring into hers.
Olivia tilted her head and realized the bullets were coming from the front and rear of their vehicle, "NSA?"
Motega shook his head, "Colleagues of yours actually," he corrected.
Olivia felt her stomach tighten and clenched her jaw, "Well, what are you waiting for?" she spat out.
Motega laughed and shook his head, "My ride," he answered cryptically.
Olivia was about to reply when a loud whirring noise sounded overhead. She ducked her head and looked out the side window.
"You see that?" Elliot shouted.
Fin shifted his eyes upwards and saw an approaching helicopter, "Friend or foe?" he yelled.
Elliot strained his eyes in the early morning light, about to answer when bullets landed on the ground beside him, spraying dust everywhere, "Take cover!" he barked at Fin as he threw himself over the hood of the car.
Fin dove into the ditch, firing his weapon towards the trees as he surfaced, providing Elliot with cover. Elliot landed beside him with a thud, instantly recovering and adjusting his aim.
"I'll cover this side," Fin said.
Elliot nodded, "I'll take the chopper," he replied.
Both men adjusted their positions and squeezed off short bursts of gunfire. The chopper pulled back as a scream came from the trees. Fin smiled in victory and began to crawl along the ditch towards the sedan.
Motega watched as the chopper landed in a nearby field, "Looks like we're going for an early morning run," he said, turning to Alex.
Alex cast an icy cerulean glare at him, "I'm not going anywhere," she replied.
Motega snorted, "Your coolness is admirable, even in the face of death," he retorted.
"Hardly. You wouldn't have gone through all this just to kill me. You need me…" she paused and glanced at Olivia, "…and I need her," she finished.
The dark man shook his head, "My mission was to kill Kenanga and deliver you…it does not involve her," he replied, jerking the gun at Olivia.
Alex nodded, "You knew about the location of this meeting all along," she accused.
Motega shook his head, "No. I was given no instructions other than to deliver you. This was a test of my resourcefulness and loyalty."
The man glanced at the lifeless form in the passenger seat, "He was becoming a liability," he replied.
"So…you're what? His replacement?" Olivia asked, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Motega smiled, "Something like that. In this business, retirement is never an option," he answered coolly.
Alex frowned, "What about your family?"
He shook his head, "What family? I've always been loyal to our cause. Gaining entry to the NSA was always part of the plan…this," he indicated between Alex and Kenanga, "Is a fortunate coincidence. Now I will be Natoomby's number two and a hero to the NSA, with my cover intact," he added.
"How d'you figure that one out?" Olivia asked incredulously.
He snorted again, "Miss Cabot and I will be taken by Natoomby and there will be no witnesses to say otherwise," he replied.
Olivia understood the implications of what he was saying and tried to stall him by asking more questions. If that was Elliot behind them, she knew he'd reach them eventually. She just needed more time, she was about to ask another question when Motega's cellphone chirped into life. She studied his expression as he spoke into the phone and lowered his gaze, 'Now or never,' she decided, shifting slightly on the seat.
Chapter 10: Trigger Happy
Munch discretely observed the angry exchange between Cragen and SAC Kimbrano, knowing exactly what the Captain was saying to him. He nodded at Cragen as he shifted his attention towards him and rose from his chair expectantly.
"Sergeant Munch, we're moving," Cragen shouted as he approached.
Munch nodded as he buttoned his jacket, "Any news?" he asked hopefully.
"Latest images show four vehicles on scene, Elliot and Fin are holding their own at the rear," he replied as he accepted the Kevlar vest Kimbrano offered him. He motioned for Munch to put on his before continuing, "A chopper just flew in, NSA have no ID on it, but it could be Natoomby," he added.
Kimbrano looked at Munch, "My team are five minutes out, they were in position at the harbor," he supplied.
"So the meeting was a diversion?" Munch asked.
Cragen shook his head, "We don't know yet. Come on, I got us a ride," he said, indicating the door.
Olivia slid closer to Alex, her hands still high in front of her.
"Don't even think about it," Motega warned, leveling the pistol at her head.
Olivia stopped moving and nodded, "What are you gonna do, run to the helicopter?" she asked motioning towards the side window. She shook her head, "They'll drop you before you make it across the road," she added.
Alex nodded, "She's right, you know she is," she agreed.
"Not if I take you with me!" he growled.
Olivia frowned, "Thought you said no witnesses?"
"I'll take care of you once we make it to the chopper," he shot back.
Olivia arched an eyebrow, "We'll see," she replied, recoiling backwards as the gun connected with the side of her head.
Alex reached for her instantly and turned to Motega, "Either we go now, or not at all," she said, glaring at him venomously.
"Do NOT threaten me," he spat, staring hard at her. He spun his head quickly to look out the window before addressing Olivia, "I'm going to open the door and you're both going to walk in front of me, if you try anything…" he shifted his dark eyes to Alex, "…I'll kill her," he promised, through gritted teeth.
Olivia bobbed her head in agreement; confident all she needed was a few seconds to reach for the gun tucked in her waistband.
Elliot looked at the helicopter sitting in the nearby field, rotary blades spinning; he could just make out a dark figure sitting at the open rear door, pointing something in their direction. He looked down the road at Fin, inching his way along the ditch and decided to follow. The gunfire had eased, coming in short bursts rather than the constant onslaught. Glancing again towards the field, his gut told him something was about to go down.
Something landed nearby with an ominous thud and suddenly the air began to fill with thick red smoke. Elliot recognized it immediately and shielded his face with his forearm, "Fin, cover your eyes!" he yelled.
Motega watched matching red clouds appear on either side of him, creating a clear path for him to follow. He counted aloud to three before yelling, "Go!" to Alex. His arm tightened around her neck as he propelled her forward with Olivia directly in front of her.
Olivia moved slowly, conscious of Alex's proximity; even if she turned and fired, the odds were high she'd hit Alex in the process. She crossed the road, holding her breath as her eyes began to sting, 'CS gas,' she thought before dropping into the ditch.
Motega jumped with Alex and collided with Olivia, angrily rising to his feet, "Move!" he ordered.
Olivia crawled up the other side and headed towards the field, the chopper's two occupants clearly visible.
Motega sneered into Alex's ear, "Almost there," he whispered triumphantly.
Elliot blinked rapidly, desperately trying to see through the red fog despite the pain in his eyes. He spotted a flurry of movement at the other side of the road, "They're heading for the chopper!" he shouted.
Fin scrambled to his feet and raced towards him, "Liv 'n Alex?"
"I think so," Elliot replied.
Fin nodded, "Smoke's covering us. You go left, I'll go right," he said.
Olivia's hands were high as she approached the helicopter, thankful her leather coat was bulky enough to hide the outline of her weapon. She glanced behind her and smiled weakly at Alex.
The guard in the rear of the chopper leapt out and ran towards them, "I was told only two passengers," he snapped at Motega.
Motega shook his head angrily at the man before raising his weapon and firing.
Alex jumped as the man instantly fell to the ground.
"Turn around," Motega ordered Olivia.
Olivia turned slowly and locked her gaze on him.
He shifted his aim and pointed his gun directly at her, "Now it's your turn," he commented.
Olivia's eyes widened, "Wait!" she cried anxiously, "Can't I at least say goodbye?" she asked, indicating Alex.
"Make it quick and don't try anything," he warned.
Olivia nodded and stepped forward, she reached for Alex, sliding her arms around the taller woman's waist and leaned in close.
Alex sagged against her and closed her eyes, opening them instantly as Olivia whispered in her ear.
"Hurry up!" Motega growled.
Alex slipped her hands inside Olivia's coat as she brought their lips together.
"That's enough," Motega barked, grabbing Alex by her upper arm.
Alex smiled at Olivia as they parted, keeping her hands hidden from their captor. Without warning, she spun quickly and squeezed the trigger. Repeatedly.
The gun reflexively fell from Motega's hand as bullets struck his chest.
Alex continued to fire at him as he fell backwards, only stopping when Olivia's hand covered her own. They stood motionless for a few seconds, watching as blood bubbles frothed at Motega's mouth.
The sound of a door opening made Olivia spin them both round. Instinctively, she squeezed Alex's hand holding the gun, the bullet striking the pilot in the neck. They watched as he tumbled out of the helicopter, the pistol slipping from his lifeless hand.
They turned and saw Fin and Elliot racing towards them. Olivia released Alex's hand and removed the weapon, giving the slender fingers a comforting squeeze.
"You okay?" Elliot asked, looking at them both as he ran to the man hanging from the helicopter. He retrieved the gun and reached inside, shutting off the engine.
Olivia snorted as he approached them, "Since when did you know how to fly one of these?"
Elliot stopped in front of her, "Marines, never know when it'll come in handy," he replied, unable to hide his relieved smile.
Fin kicked the gun away from Motega's dead body, "He kill the NSA agent?" he asked, giving Alex a gentle smile.
"He is the NSA agent," Alex replied, stepping closer to Olivia.
Olivia bumped her shoulder, "Was," she corrected.
"Are you okay?" Elliot asked them both again.
Olivia placed a hand on his arm, "Fine. Honestly El," she answered softly.
As sirens wailed in the distance, Fin shook his head at Elliot, "Cap's gonna be pissed," he commented.
"And then some," Elliot agreed.
Alex reached for Olivia's hand and spoke quietly, "What about Natoomby, he's here somewhere," she said.
Elliot dipped his head, "NSA's got that covered, he's out on the water, somewhere along the coast," he replied.
"Motega was working for Natoomby, we don't know if any of that's true," she said anxiously.
Fin nodded, "She's got a point," he reluctantly admitted.
Olivia squeezed Alex's hand reassuringly, "We'll find out what they know and take it from there. If it means protective custody, then we'll look after you. I promise," she said solemnly.
Alex smiled in response as a familiar pair of figures approached.
"Hard to believe it's not even 8am yet," Munch commented as he sipped slowly from a cup of coffee.
Cragen glared at him in response before turning his attention to the rest of the table. They had returned to the NSA house at Turtle Cove where Alex and Olivia had filled everyone in on their kidnapping.
SAC Kimbrano had been visibly disturbed by the revelation that his undercover agent, Dexter Motega, was working for Natoomby. He had instantly put together a special task force to look through all Motega's reports since he infiltrated the group and was determined to ensure he was the only rogue agent in his team. "Coastguard's checked all cruisers in the bay, no sign of Natoomby," he said, snapping his cellphone shut.
Olivia looked across the table at him, "Somebody sent him the air rescue," she commented, absently peeling the label from her bottle of water.
Kimbrano shook his head at her, "There's no logged flight plans. It first showed up on the satellite feed over Hart Island," he supplied.
Alex frowned and turned to Olivia, "Why does that sound familiar?" she asked, tapping her dark frames off her chin.
"Potter's Field…" Cragen offered, "…it's uninhabited except for a security detail housed at the north end of the island," he added.
Elliot nodded, "He could be moored on the south side, he couldn't have a cruiser big enough for a chopper though," he said.
"What if the chopper's based on the mainland and only used as transport to and from the island?" Fin suggested.
Kimbrano mulled over the possibilities, "It's plausible," he replied.
Cragen bobbed his head at him, "How soon can you get us there?"
The NSA agent lifted his cellphone, "I'll mobilize the coastguard, be ready to move in ten minutes," he said, rising from the table as his call connected.
Cragen shifted his gaze to Alex and Olivia, "It's best if you two stay here," he advised.
Olivia shook her head, "Cap, I wanna go," she pleaded.
Alex dropped her gaze as she answered him, "I'll stay," she said quietly.
Cragen smiled at her, "I'll have NSA agents with you at all times. You'll be perfectly safe," he replied.
"With a promise like that, how can I possibly go," she said, sighing loudly as she placed the bottle noisily on the table.