Part 3: G.I. Joe Special Missions: Manhattan

Chapter 43: SVU

7PM. Tonight. My house. Get a ride with Elliot. We need to talk. C.

There was no mistaking Cragen's scrawl on the sticky note slapped inside the front of the file folder. Olivia took the folder off the rest of the stack wordlessly, handed it to Elliot, who took it with a mystified expression. The look on his face cleared when he saw the sticky note and deciphered the handwriting.

Olivia took the folder he handed her, pulled the sticky note off and tore it into miniscule little pieces, then grabbed her own notepad and scribbled a brief message, stuck it inside the folder and headed for Cragen's office. "New D5, Captain," she said, putting it on his desk. He opened it, read her note.

Fin? Munch?

"They have as much right as we do, Captain," she said by way of explanation.

He shook his head. "Not yet, Detective," and closed the folder.

It was so, so hard to go through the rest of the day, doing paperwork and pretending everything was normal. Fin and Munch, bless their suspicious little hearts, seemed to know something was going on that didn't include them, and Munch looked positively stormy. Fin finally accosted her on the way to the ladies room. "Liv."

"Yes?" She kept her face impassive.

"What's going on?"

She hesitated. She knew Fin and Munch could be trusted utterly, but Don had ordered… "Fin, I can't," she said, feeling miserable as she saw the hurt expression on his face. "It's not that I don't trust you, but it's orders."

"From that military guy who walked in earlier? What's he got to do with this?" He saw her hesitation. "You know Munch's suspicious ass is gonna be pokin' all over this, spoutin' ridiculous half-assed conspiracy theories. You wanna head it off now, at least give us a clue."

"I can't." But as she brushed passed him on her way to the ladies room, she muttered, "The ICC."

He and Munch would figure it out. It would be hard not to, when Cesar Velez figured prominently at the top of the list of names of those who had 'died' in the accident at the ICC jail. And they knew who was at the ICC.

She knew when they figured it out. Halfway through the afternoon Munch suddenly sat straight up, staring at his computer screen; moments later Fin joined him, took a look at whatever he was looking at, and nodded slightly. Half an hour later he found an excuse to come over to her desk and give her something that needed to be signed. As he did so, he glanced casually at the framed photo of her and Alex sitting next to the desk phone, and said, "I sure wish Alex came back. These new ADAs they're givin' us are drivin' me nuts."

At the desk across from hers, Elliot looked at her, raised both eyebrows. Did you tell him? She shrugged. He shook his head slightly, smiling, and returned her attention to her paperwork.

The day dragged on interminably, but finally six o'clock rolled around. Elliot pretended to rummage in his locker at the same time she was in hers, allowing him to speak to her without anyone else hearing. "Change your clothes to the spare stuff in your locker so if someone's watching you won't be leaving wearing the same clothes you came in with. I have a spare baseball hat in my locker; you put that on and wait for me. I'll drive around to the back entrance by the motorpool and pick you up; if you go out to the garage via the interior entrance they shouldn't spot you."

"Elliot, this is completely unnecessary. If they're waiting for me they'll get suspicious when they don't see me leaving."

"Wouldn't be the first time you pulled an all-nighter here."

"They'll see me when I come in tomorrow."

"No they won't because you're coming in with me."

"What am I going to do, spend the night at your place?" She was only joking, but Elliot nodded seriously. She stared at him. "What will Kathy say?"

"You can crash in Maureen's old room. And Kathy's about your size so you can borrow something of hers tomorrow morning."

"What's Kathy going to say?" She wasn't going to give in without a fight.

"I'll explain. It'll be all right. Olivia, if someone could attack Alex at the ICC on Velez's orders, they're capable of doing anything. And if she's out of their reach on a secured, classified military base they'll try to use you to get to her. I've been watching you all afternoon and I saw your face when you looked at her photo. I'm guessing she looks really, really bad, and I do not want to see you end up looking like whatever she looks like now. Get changed." He plunked a baseball cap on top of the pile of clothes on her locker shelf, closed his locker door, and went back to his desk.

By the time she got to the rear garage door that led out to the motorpool he was waiting there, his eyes busy scanning the street outside the fence. "I haven't seen anyone yet. Get in the back, fast." Olivia slid into the back of his minivan. "There's a blanket across the back seat. Get down and cover yourself up."

"Elliot—"

"Just do it, Liv!" he wasn't angry, just impatient with her stubbornness. "Jesus, Liv, if a couple of hard-ass military guys like Gung Ho and General Hawk can be afraid of the people who did…whatever… to Alex, that's definitely something I have to be afraid of on your behalf. Don and I will do whatever we have to in order to ensure you're safe."

They drove in silence for a time; Olivia finally broke it. "I'm sorry, El. It's just—this all seems like unnecessary caution to me."

"Liv, you went with Gung Ho to see Alex. I don't know what you saw but it had to be pretty bad; every time you've looked at her picture this afternoon you've been close to tears. I'm not taking any chances and neither is Don. Until this gets resolved and whoever it is that's following you stops, I'll do whatever I feel is necessary to foil them."

Elliot remained silent and on edge as they drove out of the city onto the bridge that led out into Queens; he was checking the mirrors every few minutes, peering out the side and rear, switching lanes inexplicably. He even checked the road outside Don's house in Queens, driving by twice before finally parking in the driveway; he pulled his baseball cap low over Olivia's eyes as they went in, and didn't relax until they were in Don's living room.

Cragen was waiting for them. "I'm glad to see you made it. Were you followed?" Cragen asked Elliot directly.

"No. I checked and I made several u-turns and backtracked. If there was anyone at the precinct who saw Liv get in the back we definitely lost them on the way here."

"You guys sound like this is a military operation." Olivia took off the baseball cap and smoothed her hair down.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is a military operation. I never served with General Abernathy but I checked up on him this afternoon through some of my Nam buddies who did stay in the service. He's tough but fair, an experienced veteran of several wars, and is currently spearheading a highly-classified military project on a military base so secret no one even knows where it is. I decided not to inform anyone that I know it's in the New York area—you weren't gone long enough for it to have been that far outside the city."

Don led the way into his office, to one side of the living room, and closed the door, then locked it. "What we say here tonight goes no further than this room. I already swept it for bugs this afternoon; they are apparently not suspicious of me yet, which is why I had you meet me here. Olivia, you're being followed and I suspect they may already have bugged your apartment, so no conversation about this at your place. Elliot, your place is a little more secure but I'm positive that as Olivia's partner you're on the peripheral radar. I suspect that I will be there shortly so this will likely be the last time we discuss this." He sat down in his desk chair, indicated two other chairs on the other side of it. "If we need a more secure place to talk later I'll clue Munch and Fin in on this, but not until then. Liv, I know you told them it had to do with Alex. No, I'm not upset—if Munch suddenly started sounding more paranoid that usual it would set up a red flag if the squad room has been compromised, and John may drive me crazy with his conspiracy theory of the week but when it comes to Alex's secrets I trust both of them implicitly." He scrubbed his hands over his eyes, looking more tired than usual, then straightened in his chair. "First thing; how bad is she?"

"I don't…I can't even begin to understand what she endured. She…oh God, the photos in her medical file over there…" And the words poured out of her, the grief and anguish and horror and fury and fear that she'd felt when she saw Alex's medical file, and when she finished she saw all her own emotions mirrored on Elliot and Don's faces. "She's never going to be the same. She's so thin, weak, she's pale and lost a lot of blood and I don't know how she even survived. Everyone at the base seems to be worried about her, they're all hoping she'll get better but she has a long road ahead of her."

Don closed his eyes, took a deep shuddering breath. "Thank God for the soldiers she went out with. From what you say they are the only reason she's still alive."

"This whole thing has been Cesar Velez. General Abernathy—General Hawk—sent a couple of his people undercover at the ICC, and they found that Velez is—was—orchestrating all of this from behind bars at the ICC. The Feds released Alex from Witness Protection after Velez was arrested by ICC authorities for drug smuggling, human trafficking, and arms dealing because they deemed that he wouldn't pose a threat to her anymore. But when she got to the ICC she found him waiting in jail there, and he recognized her. When we took down Gaviria, we dealt a huge blow to his organization , and Alex has become the target of his focused hatred and obsession. He had…he had an observer in the DRC with the militia faction that captured Alex and this other soldier, and that observer took pictures as they were torturing Alex!" Sick disgust crossed Elliot's face; Cragen's features hardened into a stony mask.

"Hawk's operative, a woman code-named Scarlett, went undercover at the ICC. She took Alex's place with Alex's boss, a Ms. Judy Donnelly. The other operative—I never knew his name—went undercover as Ms. Donnelly's driver. They found out that Ms. Donnelly's aide was compromised and was Cesar Velez's contact to the outside world; I'm sure as a chief prosecutor's aide she had access to a lot of people and a lot of places that helped Velez strike back at Alex in countries all across the world where she traveled for the ICC. He finally came up with an elaborate plan to get Alex into an inescapable position in the DRC, it's only thanks to the soldiers that were chosen for the token escort team that she survived at all, and two soldiers were wounded just getting her out." She took a deep breath, scrubbed her sleeve across her eyes. "I told them that I was being followed, by persons unknown. When they said they were concerned about the people following me, I told them…I told them…don't come to see me anymore. I won't put Alex in any more danger than she's already in, she's been through enough." She bit her lip. "I just…I hope they will let her stay there. General Hawk said there was some concern over orders from his superior officer that would compel him to place Alex in a regular hospital; I hope that somehow they'll be able to get word to me if she is transferred." She briefly outlined everything General Hawk had told her about their information so far.

"If they put her in a regular hospital she's dead. If Velez managed to do this much from behind the bars of a prison cell, God only knows what he'll be capable of now that he's out and everyone thinks he's dead. Christ." Don sighed heavily. "There is nothing we can do about her now. Let's hope General Hawk can talk his superiors into letting her stay, and let's hope they'll be able to get word to us. Until then, let's worry about what we do have control over. How are we going to take care of Liv?"

"She's staying with Kathy and me tonight, and I'll take her into work tomorrow. Anybody watching will think she pulled one of her usual overnighters and they won't suspect we had this conversation. Tomorrow she'll resume her usual routine."

Cragen nodded. "Olivia, I want you armed to the teeth every minute you're out there. Here." He reached into his desk drawer and took out a large, impressive-looking automatic pistol. "Smith & Wesson M&P 40. Their newest, holds ten rounds. Here's the holster. Strap it around your shoulders and wear it at all times under a jacket or sweater. Your service Glock is fine but this should make anyone pause long enough for Elliot or I to get to you. I am going to have my cell phone on and with me at all times and Elliot will too; if you have even the slightest hint that anything is even the tiniest bit wrong, call one of us. Both, if you have time."

Olivia hefted the gun experimentally, nodded. "It's a little heavy, but I think I can still fire it. I just have to hold someone off until you get to me. Will do, Captain." She started strapping the shoulder holster around her torso, then paused. "Hey, if we're going to do this commando style, do I get a code name too?"

She meant it jokingly; she was completely unprepared for Cragen's thoughtful, considering look. "You know, that's not a bad idea."

"No, seriously, I was joking!" she exclaimed as she saw a similar look on Elliot's face.

"I'm not. It's a good idea." Cragen nodded. To Elliot, he said, "Something simple that will be easy to insert in a conversation."

"Alex and I used to call each other 'Sister' and 'Fearless'." Olivia supplied helpfully.

Elliot cracked a smile for the first time that evening. "Let me guess, you were 'Fearless'." Her grin was answer enough.

"Okay. Fine. Fearless it is." Cragen grinned. "I used to be 'Trigger'. Good shot," he said to Olivia by way of explanation. "That should be easy enough to work into conversation." They both lookd expectantly at Elliot.

"Stable."

"Can't work that into conversation," Olivia objected. "What did you use while in the Marines? Gung Ho said you had one."

Elliot muttered something and wouldn't meet her eyes.

"What? I didn't hear you." She leaned in, grinning mischievously.

"Just call me Red. That's easy enough." Elliot grabbed his jacket. "Come on. Kathy's gonna see red when I tell her we have a guest…she hates last minute surprises."