Part III - Reine
Olivia's weekend was cut short, getting a call late Sunday morning to respond to Beth Israel Hospital to question a victim in a brutal gang rape. Not that each individual case wasn't tough, but this was a nine-year-old girl. She really hated the cases that involved children. As Elliot was in church with his family, Munch responded to Beth Israel to assist Olivia with this case. He spoke with the doctor and the victim's parents while Olivia gently and compassionately spoke with the child. Kids responded to Olivia. They could sense her honesty and feel her sincerity, which made their innocence in the situation even more heartbreaking.
Olivia and Munch exited the ER area solemnly and sadly. Annie Montoya had obviously been a normal, oblivious nine-year-old until this happened, until she was shattered and scarred forever by five teenage boys grabbing her and violating her in an abandoned warehouse. Her only crime was she veered off-course of the regular route she took home from church to take a short cut her mother had always told her to avoid. If her father didn't have to work three jobs and her mother didn't have to attend to six other children, all younger than Annie, one of her parents would have accompanied her to church and back. But ever since she turned a worldly nine-years-old, she was allowed to ride her bike to church as long as she stayed on the main streets. Annie was wracked with guilt that because she disobeyed her mother, she was responsible for what happened to her. The only positive thing to come out of the interview was that Annie recognized three of the boys who raped her and two of them were brothers.
"I'll call the Fifteenth and have them round up these boys and bring them in," Munch offered. "Their parents should be very proud."
"Their parents probably don't even have a clue that they left the house this morning," Olivia mumbled, disgusted. "I'll finish up with the docs and meet you down at the car."
"Okay, I'll be out front when you're ready," Munch stated, quietly. The details of this case disturbed him, as much as anyone.
"Thanks, John. But I'm driving!" she called after him. "You scare the shit out of me," she commented, without malice.
Munch waved her off and flipped open his cell phone as he strolled toward the entrance of the ER, disappearing from view. Olivia stood at the admissions desk, checked over her notes, waiting for the doctor, looking up occasionally, hoping to get out of there soon. Still scanning her paperwork, Olivia alerted on the sound of a female voice with a French accent. Looking around, her eyes locked with another pair of eyes belonging to Reine LaSimonne. It took them both less than a minute for recognition to settle in. Realizing immediately who Olivia was, Reine took off at the same time Olivia started her pursuit.
John Munch sat in the passenger side of the unmarked police car waiting for Olivia. He always let her drive to appease her but he didn't feel he was that dangerous or negligent behind the wheel. He was a little fast, maybe, a little aggressive but that certainly didn't distinguish him from any other New York driver. He was on the verge of really being insulted and indignant when he saw a woman tear out of the ER entrance and then saw Olivia in hot foot pursuit. Munch rolled down the window. "Hey!! I said I'd let you drive!!" He moved over behind the steering wheel, putting the idling car into drive and headed in the direction he saw Olivia run.
"Man, this woman is fast," Olivia thought out loud as she increased her pace to try and catch up to the mysterious French woman. Olivia ran anywhere from three to five miles every day and she still seemed to be losing one step to this woman's two. Olivia's cell phone jingled and she snatched it from her belt. "Benson," she breathed, heavily into the receiver.
"Under any other circumstances, I would find that voice very erotic but, since we're on duty, what the hell is going on?" Munch asked.
"Where are you?" Olivia wondered, not breaking pace.
"Look to your left." Looking in the instructed direction, Olivia spotted Munch, driving right beside her, keeping up with her running.
Olivia looked ahead and saw LaSimonne turn right, into an alley. "Hey," Olivia panted into her cell.
"Come on, get in the car," Munch urged.
"No," she said into the phone, "call in our location. The car can't get down that alley but I can. See if we can set up a perimeter so she can't escape."
"Olivia, who are we chasing?"
"Reine LaSimonne." Snapping her phone shut, Olivia picked up her pace and disappeared into the alley.
"What the hell happened, John?!" Cragen's hand slammed down hard on the roof of the car, as Elliot came into focus, walking toward them.
"I don't know!" Munch answered, frustrated and scared. He didn't have a good feeling about losing track of Olivia when a professionally trained assassin was involved. "I called it in like she asked me to. I blocked the east side and I know it couldn't have taken the marked unit more than a minute to block the west side. They called in their location as a block away."
Cragen held up Olivia's cell phone. "Then where the hell did she go?!"
"I got a 9-1-1 WORK on my cell, what's going on?" Elliot asked, approaching his boss and co-worker, eyes moving intently between the two men.
"Olivia's missing," Cragen stated, flatly.
"What do you mean 'missing'?" Elliot's expression balanced between fear and anger.
"I mean missing, Elliot. Gone. We found her cell phone but no Olivia."
"What happened??!!" Elliot tried unsuccessfully to keep the panic out of his voice as Munch chronologically unfolded the events for him.
Olivia swam into consciousness slowly, her head throbbing. She did not recognize her surroundings nor did she have an immediate recollection of how she got there. It was dark. She reached for her gun. Gone. She reached for her cell phone. Gone. Olivia tried to sit up quickly but the pounding in her head increased as she elevated, which stopped her mid-rise and she immediately laid back down, putting her hand up to her eyes.
"I am sorry, I had to hit you pretty hard," she heard a female French accent say. Olivia looked to her right and squinted. Her eyes finally focused on three, then two, then one Reine LaSimonne. Reine stood up, held out two white pills and a glass of water to Olivia. "Here, take these. You'll feel better in a while."
Looking at the pills then back at Reine, Olivia said, "How do I know what those really are?"
"Each pill has 'aspirin' printed on it?"
"Thanks but I'll pass." Olivia closed her eyes again, trying to gain some clarity.
"Suit yourself," Reine shrugged, placing the water glass and pills next to Olivia and sat back down opposite her.
"Where am I?" Olivia wondered out loud, rubbing her forehead as if the motion would take the pain away.
"Somewhere. With me," Reine answered, simply.
"Now, why do you think, Detective Benson?" Reine's tone was more amused than threatening.
"Why not just knock me out and leave me and then get away?" The real question she didn't want to ask was 'Why not just kill me?'
"The first time we met - in the hospital - I recognized that look in your eye. The one that told me you are not someone who gives up easily. The fact that you chased me just proved that to me. I am sure you know who I am by now."
"Yeah. Jane Doe. Where's my gun?"
"I have it. It is safe. A Glock, yes? Do you feel comfortable with a Glock?"
"If I didn't, I wouldn't carry one. Melaninkov was killed with a Glock, doesn't that mean you carry one, also?"
"You are assuming, of course, that I killed Melaninkov."
"You're a trained assassin, it was a professional hit and...he did just rape you a week ago..."
Reine just smiled, complacently. "I am not comfortable with a Glock. The spent cartridges, when they eject, fly back and hit me in the forehead. Very painful because they are hot and distracting. Not conducive to my line of work."
Olivia almost smiled at the mental image. "So what do you use?"
"I have found the best handgun for me is a 9MM Taurus. We fit well, hand and grip."
"And the Glock that killed Melaninkov?"
"It was his Glock," Reine smiled, as she took a sip from a mug of coffee. "He got...eh...arrogant, cocky. Deadly mistake." Noticing Olivia eyeballing her mug of steaming coffee, she said, "I am being a terrible hostess. Would you like some coffee?"
"No," Olivia said, annoyed, "I'd like to know what the hell is going on? What am I doing here?" It was when Olivia attempted to sit up again that she discovered her left hand was handcuffed to the single bed she was laying on. She stared at her restrained wrist and then at Reine. "You have got to be fucking kidding me!" Olivia didn't know which made her more upset. The fact the she was cuffed at all or restrained with her own set.
Reine smiled at Olivia again. "I like you, Detective. You are...how do you say...feisty." The French woman sat forward in her chair. "I was sure to double-lock them so they won't continue to ratchet up and cut off the circulation in your wrist."
"How thoughtful of you," Olivia commented, dryly.
"I thought so."
Olivia looked over at Reine, studying her. Her swelling had gone down and her physical bruises and scratches were healing fast, giving her a more human look. A rather sultry, sensuous look, the more Olivia concentrated on her captor, especially in the dim light. She had clear, green eyes, and dark, wavy hair that hung stylishly just below her shoulders. She appeared to have a flawless, creamy complexion, despite the fading contusions, full lips, a perfect white smile and cheekbones to die for. She had a slender but athletic build, which shouldn't have been a surprise, being in her line of work, she would have had to be in great physical shape.
"Why am I here, Madame LaSimonne?"
Olivia just looked at her.
"I am going to need you now. For bartering purposes. I am sure you did not think I cold-cocked you and dragged you here just for your company, did you? Admittedly, I do find you fascinating, Detective, but..." She shrugged and smiled again.
"Is there a possibility I might not come out of this alive?"
"There is always that possibility. There is that possibility every day when you go to work, yes?" Her light eyes met Olivia's dark ones. "But, to answer your question as honestly as I can, I hope you come out of this alive. I have no desire or intention to kill you. That does not mean I won't, if I have to. However, killing you would be needless and senseless. I know you know what I do - but I am not a heartless bitch that just goes around randomly killing people. The people I am hired to 'take care of'? We just try to kill each other."
Olivia was somewhat stunned at the nonchalant, reasonably sane-sounding way Reine delivered that response. Without remorse, without conscience...or was there one lurking in there somewhere? She seemed to be telling Olivia she didn't kill indiscriminately.
Her head still aching, Olivia sat up. "What do we do now?"
"Take the aspirin, they will help. Trust me, Detective, if I wanted to kill you, you would already be dead and it wouldn't be by giving you tainted pills."
Hesitating, Olivia then reached over and grabbed the aspirin, put them in her mouth and drank just enough from the water glass to swallow the pills. "You didn't answer: What now?" Olivia persisted.
"We wait. Until the heat dies down."
"Do you understand that I am a New York City police detective? The heat will not die down. I think it's safe to say that your days of flying stealth are gone."
Again, smiling confidently, Reine said, "maybe for now. We'll see."
"How long do you expect us to be here?"
"Until we're not," Reine stated, simply, getting up and wandering into a make-shift kitchen area. She poured herself another cup of coffee. She held her cup toward Olivia. "Are you sure you don't want any?"
"No. Thank you."
"It's like she disappeared into thin air," Fin said to Elliot. "They have scoured this whole area, anywhere this alley leads and there ain't no sign of nothin'."
"How does this happen?" Elliot bellowed to no one in particular. He turned to Munch. "Could they have made it to the other end before the unit blocked it?"
"It's possible but I would say unlikely. Although, I don't think I've ever seen Olivia haul ass like I did today. I kept her in sight as long as I could but, as you can see, too many corners and edges,"
"You're positive she said Reine LaSimonne?" Cragen asked.
"Well, she was breathing pretty heavy but I know that's what she said."
"Okay, Elliot, you and I will stay here in case they find anything. Munch, Fin, get back to the hospital to find out where LaSimonne came from, who she might have been there to see."
Watching Munch and Fin leave, Elliot looked at Cragen. "What would a trained assassin want with Olivia?"
"We don't even know if she has Olivia. We don't even know if -"
"Don't go there, Cap...just don't," Elliot warned.
"Where the hell is she?" Cragen asked the air, just as frustrated as Elliot.
"Where the hell are we and how did you get me here?" Olivia inquired.
"We are in one of my many escape hatches, I like to call them. Like a rat, I have holes to run into all over this city."
"You compare yourself to a rat?"
"Rats are intelligent, resourceful creatures of survival."
"I guess you're not going to tell me where we are."
"No reason to."
"And I got here how?"
A smile crossed the lips of Reine LaSimonne. "I am stronger than I look."
"I suppose I couldn't talk you into letting me out of these cuffs," Olivia suggested, wearily.
"No. I wouldn't be comfortable with that."
"What if I have to go to the bathroom?"
"Then I guess I will have to catheterize you," Reine told her with a straight face.
"Great. A killer with a warped sense of humor."
"Seriously, just let me know and it will not be a problem." Reine stretched. "Do you smoke, Detective? I have cigarettes."
"No. I don't smoke."
"I don't, either. Anymore. I quit."
"Then why do you have cigarettes?"
"Just in case."
Olivia could not get over the comfortable tone in Reine LaSimonne's voice, as though, taking a cop hostage was an every day occurrence for her.
"Why do you do what you do?" Olivia inquired, seriously curious.
"Money. And I am good at it."
"You kill people."
"These are not good people."
"And you're what -? The savior of the world because you execute and eliminate them?"
"No. I have no illusions about who I am and what I do," she mused. "What about you? You kill people, also."
"Only if it comes down to it...self-defense...protection of my partner or colleagues or victims..."
"Yes, but, the bottom line is, you still kill people, too."
"It's not the same," Olivia debated, tightly.
Reine shrugged. "No? Isn't it the police who say I would rather be tried by twelve than carried by six? Think what you need to if you feel it makes you different from me."
Olivia shook her head, vehemently. "It's not the same thing."
Chuckling softly, Reine walked across the room. "How's your head?"
"Feeling better, thanks."
"Good. I do not need you any more grouchy than you already are."
Olivia's mouth dropped open. "What the fuck do you expect? I've been hit over the head, taken hostage and have no idea what my immediate future holds or even if I am going to have a future!"
"Tell me, Detective, are you as passionate in bed as you obviously are about everything else?"
The question so took Olivia off guard that the several responses and indignation that caught in her throat left her unable to say anything.
Reine broke into a wide grin, looking at her. "Just trying to keep you on your toes, Detective." Then she stared directly into Olivia's brown eyes with a look on her face, despite the circumstances, that electrified the detective right to the core. "But I would guess that, yes, you are as passionate in bed." Reine held Olivia's gaze for a moment and then returned her attention to rummaging through a crate in the kitchen.
Olivia counted to ten to herself and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.
"Do I frustrate you - what is your first name again?"
"Do I frustrate you, Olivia?" Reine picked up a can of ravioli, searching it for an expiration date.
"This situation frustrates me, Reine." Olivia put full emphasis on her name.
Picking up a can from the crate, she held it in Olivia's direction. "What would you prefer - ravioli or spaghetti?"
"For dinner? Ravioli or spaghetti?"
"I'm trying to find out about what's going on in this situation and you want to know which selection of canned pasta I want?" Olivia was nonplussed. "I'm not hungry!"
"Not hungry? You should eat. Unfortunately, I cannot offer you gourmet meals, it will be more like c-rations for a while but you'll get used to it and you need to keep your strength up."
"I don't want to get used to it," Olivia growled.
"Well, you do not have a choice, do you?" Reine's eyes shifted between the two cans. "Ravioli, I think." She placed the other can back in the crate, then reached into the pocket of her black jeans and pulled out a keychain. Holding the keychain up by a key, she searched until she found a specific implement. She fastened the little piece of folded over metal to the can and started working it around the lid.
"It is a P-38. A can opener soldiers use in a situation where they do not have all the comforts of home." When she had made a near circle along the can top, she peeled back the lid. "The two most important things on my keychain are my P-38 and my handcuff key." Reine stuck a plastic fork into the contents of the can.
"You're going to eat it like that?"
"Why not? It is already cooked, just not warmed."
Olivia shook her head, brought her knees up, hugging them with her free arm and buried her face.
Back in the bullpen of the 16th, Cragen was reviewing details of the afternoon.
"Nobody leaves until we find Olivia. Does everybody understand that?" Don Cragen was doing his best to be authoritative but the personal aspects of this case were wearing on him already.
"Fin and I spoke with everyone on duty at the time of the incident and no one has any record of Reine LaSimonne being anywhere in the hospital today or any day," Munch volunteered.
"Of course not," Elliot slammed his hand down on his desk. "We need some kind of a break here."
"We may have one," Fin offered. "LaSimonne's photo was recognized by a nurse up in pediatrics. Called her Mrs. Smith. Had a cup of coffee with her one night about a week ago. Wasn't sure, but thought she was there to see a kid."
"She didn't know. It was just a guess. But, hey, it's something, you know? A place to start."
"Did you know that blind people dream?" Reine asked Olivia, after finishing her 'dinner' and enduring a long silence between them.
The detective was lying back down on the single bed, stretching the ache and cramping out of her bones. "I never thought about it."
"Yes, it is true. What and how long they dream depends on whether or not they were born blind or lost their sight later in their life."
"I guess that makes sense."
"If someone has been blind from birth, then their dreams revolve around senses other than sight...sound, touch, smell..."
"Let me guess, you're one of these people who believes in dream interpretation."
"Oh, yes. Dreams are an extension of how you perceive yourself. Your dreams can tell you all kind of things that are not readily available to you when you are awake."
"That's all just so very interesting," Olivia began, irritated. "I don't want to sound ungrateful for your...hospitality...but what do you need from me? I would really like to do what I need to do - within reason - and get back to my life."
"As I would like to get back to mine, Olivia, but you slightly messed that up."
Olivia sat up. "How? Tell me how I messed that up for you? What is your connection to Melaninkov? What were you doing at Beth Israel that day?"
"I was visiting my son."
"You have a son?"
"Yes. He is six years old."
"Why was he in the ER?"
"He wasn't. He was in a room upstairs. I left through the ER because I thought it would be less conspicuous. I was not counting on you."
"What's wrong with your son?"
"Nothing. He is perfect, the love of my life." she smiled, proudly. She then sighed, her tone becoming very serious. "He has a disease. He was in the hospital getting a transfusion. There is a strong chance he might not make it to adulthood."
"I'm...I'm so very sorry," Olivia told her, sincerely.
"He was born with a disease called Fanconi Anemia. It depletes the bone marrow. He is transfusion dependent. He receives platelets once a week and packed red cells once a month. His counts are very low. He needs a transplant."
"A bone marrow transplant?"
Reine nodded. "His best chance for a successful transplant is a matched sibling donor or a relative. He doesn't have any. Not on my side of the family, anyway."
"What about his father?"
"Well, that is the reason we are here in New York. To get his father tested to see if he was a match and if he was, would donate. His father wanted nothing to do with him. Never really wanted anything to do with him but I thought, under the circumstances, it would be different."
"His father was Stepanya Melaninkov," Olivia gasped, her gut instinct kicking in.
"Yes. So, now, I need to get my son back to Paris. His doctors have located a six out of six matched unrelated donor. It is good. But not as good as a related donor. Now my problem is...I need to get my son out of the hospital and on a plane back to France. You have made that very difficult for me to do."
"How do I know you are telling me the truth?"
"You don't. But I have no reason to lie to you."
"What do you want from me?"
"Get my son out of that hospital, get us to Canada and we can go home. That is all I am asking."
"Why would I do that?"
Reine looked at her with unsettling certainty. "I know where your girlfriend is."
Part IV - Etienne
The handsome little dark-haired boy with the big green eyes had been sitting up in his bed, watching videos on a special television/VCR that someone from the hospital staff had wheeled into his room. He had Spiderman pajama bottoms on and no shirt. On his little chest, about five inches below his left shoulder was a capped-off access tube that stuck out of a port-o-cath that had been surgically implanted under his skin. This device allowed the transfusion process to be easier, as his tiny veins were becoming weak and unable to sustain a needle without his veins rolling over or collapsing.
"Good morning, Etienne," the nurse said, pleasantly, as she brought in a tray with pancakes and milk on it. She set the food in front of him and he ignored her, trying to look around her to finish watching his movie. "Please try to eat something this morning, you are such a picky eater."
"Where is my Mom?" He asked, finally looking up at her. She loved to hear him talk, he had the sweetest little voice and the cutest accent.
"I haven't seen her yet. I'm sure she will be here, soon."
"I want to go home," he said, sadly, pushing his food tray away and turning up the volume on his video.
"I know, sweetie." Poor little thing, she thought. In and out of hospitals since he was diagnosed at two years old, his chart said, stricken with an autosomal recessive genetic disorder. If both parents hadn't carried the same defective gene, he may have been born healthy. She turned to leave the room and was face to face with Elliot Stabler. "Can I help you, Sir?" she asked, more than mildly startled. She had not heard him come in.
He automatically held up his badge. "Detective Stabler, Special Victim's Unit. Have you seen this boy's mother lately?"
"No. I do expect her in. Why?"
"Where's my Mom?" Etienne asked, looking slightly frightened and very small in that big bed.
Elliot smiled his warmest, fatherly smile and approached the boy. "Hi. My name is Elliot. You must be Etienne."
"Where's my Mom?"
"I don't know. I'm looking for her, too. Do you know where you live?"
"Do you know where you stay when you are in New York?" The address on his chart did not exist.
"No. I want my Mom," Etienne said, as big tears started rolling down his face.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, Elliot's voice was very soothing. "Honey, your Mom will be here soon. Is it okay if I wait with you?"
"Okay," he sniffed. "Do you like Spiderman?"
"Are you kidding? Spidey is my hero," Elliot told him.
"Me, too," Etienne smiled and turned the volume back up on his movie.
An hour later, both Elliot and Etienne were dozing. Elliot from the lack of sleep and Etienne from the effects of Benedryl, administered to him before his platelet transfusion to make sure he had minimal allergic reactions.
Olivia opened the stairwell door a crack and saw two uniformed officers milling around the nurses' station. Which was almost directly opposite Etienne's room. Dressed in 'borrowed' scrubs and a white lab coat and dark-rimmed glasses, Olivia entered the hallway and walked right past the policemen into Etienne's room. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Elliot, asleep in a chair next to the boy's bed.
Quietly approaching the child, Olivia bent down and whispered to him in French, "Wake up, I am going to take you to your mother."
The little boy stirred as Olivia continued to gently shake his arm. He opened his eyes and looked at Olivia. "Where's my Mom?"
"Shhhh. I am going to take you to her," Olivia whispered, compassionately. It wasn't the child's fault he was caught up in the middle of all this. This poor little boy already had enough on his plate. He was groggy, so Olivia helped him into the wheel chair that was in his room. Just then she heard a gun being unholstered.
"Don't move," she heard Elliot say, evenly. She knew he was pointing his service weapon right at her. She stood up and turned to face him, much to his shock. "Olivia! What the f -" he suddenly remembered Etienne, who was now very wide-eyed, watching all this unfold. "What are you doing? Where the hell have you been?" He put his gun away.
"Elliot, I have to take this boy to his mother. He is very sick. He needs to get back to Paris ASAP."
"Do you realize there has been a city-wide dragnet out there looking for you and her? You are not taking that kid anywhere until you tell me what the hell is going on."
"Elliot," Olivia said, desperately. "If I don't get this boy to his mother and help get them out of here, she is going to have Alex killed."
"Alex? She knows where Alex is? How does she know about Alex at all?" Elliot was confused.
"She does her homework. That's all I can tell you."
"How do you know she's not lying?"
"I don't. And I am not willing to call her bluff." Olivia's voice was hushed but urgent. "Listen to me. She has got me by the short hairs here. I can't just walk away from this and I can't go to Cragen or anyone else. They all think Alex is dead, remember? Do you want to open up that can of worms? Because I don't." Her eyes captured his, pleading. "Help me get this boy to his mother and then get them to Canada."
"Canada?! How the hell are we supposed to do that?"
"You don't have to. But I do. Help me get him out of this hospital."
"Elliot, do you understand she means business? I have no doubt that Alex will end up dead this time if I betray this woman."
"Can I see my Mom now?" Etienne interrupted, waiting patiently behind them.
"Yes, sweetheart," Olivia answered, staring directly at Elliot, "I am going to take you to your Mom now."
Both Olivia and Elliot were amazed at how easy it had been to get Etienne out of the hospital and into a waiting car. Elliot went to the door, waited until the nurse on duty left the desk, signaled one of the two cops and told the officer that he and the doctor were going to escort the boy downstairs for some more testing. And that was it. They were into the elevator, wheeling the child out the front doors.
Elliot helped Olivia put Etienne in the back seat and leaned down to see Reine at the wheel. She had a warm smile on her face. "Why, Detective Stabler, how nice to see you again. Thank you for bringing my son back to me."
"Just make sure my partner gets back to me," Elliot said to her, trying to control his anger.
"As long as you do not try to follow us or stop us, there should not be a problem. But if you or anyone else shows up in places you shouldn't, I promise you, you will regret it."
"I'll be fine, El. Just let me do this. I will call you when they are safely on a plane back to France," Olivia told him, climbing in the back seat.
Shutting the car door, Elliot watched helplessly as the vehicle sped off. How was he going to explain this to Cragen?
In the long drive to the Vermont/Canadian border, Olivia spent most of her time conversing with Etienne. It was like talking to an adult. This child was an old soul in a young boy's body, wise beyond his years. He spoke very frankly about life and death and could have taught a course in Hematology 101. By the time they reached Burlington, Vermont. Olivia Benson had fallen just a little bit in love with Etienne, learning more about this boy in seven hours than she knew about Elliot's children in seven years. They spoke mostly in French, the language Etienne was most comfortable with. He had endured a lot in his young life and would obviously be enduring a lot more.
Pulling the car to the curb in the heart of the biggest city in Vermont, Reine put the car in park and turned to look at her son, who was giggling at something Olivia had said to him. "Say goodbye to Olivia, Etienne."
Both Etienne and the detective looked at Reine, surprised. "Why?" the six year old whined.
"Because it's time," his mother said, gently.
"We aren't in Canada yet," Olivia stated, puzzled.
"You are not going to Montreal with us. You are going to go into this bus station, go to the ticket window and ask the man for an envelope marked 'OB.' In that envelope will be two keys. One to that rental car right there," Reine pointed to a navy blue Sunfire, "and another to a chalet in Killington. The address will be in the glove compartment. What you have been looking for will be there."
"Alex?" Olivia's heart was pounding. "I don't understand. How -?"
"I am successful at what I do because I have the connections to get things done. There are a lot of people who owe me favors. Olivia, I told you I was not heartless and that I saw no need to eliminate you, unnecessarily. You have been stubborn but cooperative. The directions are very simple. Drive south on Route 7 until you get into Rutland. Then go east on Route 4. Your instructions from there are in the car. I am giving you a gift, so please do not be foolish. By the time it takes for you to get to your destination, we should be on our way home. If something happens to prevent that, I will not make you guess what you will find when you get to your girlfriend." Reine smiled at Olivia, almost apologetically. "Please…do not test me."
Olivia looked at the little boy beside her. "You go get well, okay?"
"Am I ever going to see you again, Olivia?" His big eyes blinked questioningly at her.
"Oh, I hope so. Maybe your Mom will let you keep in touch. I'd love a postcard from the Eiffel Tower sometime."
"Okay," he smiled. "Send me something in the hospital, something from New York."
"I'll let your Mom decide that, okay, sweetie?"
"Give her a hug, Etienne, we have to go," Reine instructed.
He popped off his seat belt and jumped into Olivia's arms, giving her a ferocious hug. "Pinkie promise me that we'll be friends forever," Etienne said, as sternly as a six year old could, holding up his little finger.
Olivia circled her little finger around the boy's and they clasped their pinkies together tightly.
"You know pinkie promises are sacred and can never be broken, right?" Etienne challenged her.
"Absolutely, sweetheart." She hugged Etienne again and released him to get out of the car. Looking at Reine, she said, "I wish you the best of luck with his transplant. He is precious. If there is any way you can let me know…you know…the outcome, without jeopardizing his safety, I would appreciate it."
"I will see what I can do."
Leaning back in, Olivia helped Etienne put his seat belt back on and gave the boy a kiss on the cheek. "Bye, sweetie," she said to him, closing the back door.
"Bye, Olivia," he called and waved as his mother drove off.
Sighing, almost choking up, Olivia walked into the bus terminal.
Elliot could have only wished, at this point, that he had been kidnapped by an international assassin. Cragen had been up one side of him and down the other at least three times since he had returned from the hospital with the news that the boy was gone and that Elliot had unwittingly aided in the boy's escape. Elliot blamed it on stress and exhaustion and even knowing the circumstances were not what he had told his captain, it stung no less when Cragen advised him that he probably signed Olivia's death warrant. No departmental penalty or disciplinary action, including jail time, would ever come close to how Elliot would punish himself if Olivia did not come out of this alive. All he could do is wait. And pray.
Part V - Alex
The television meteorologist had predicted good weather for the next couple of days but Alex's aching shoulder contradicted that. In fact, she wasn't fond of this weatherman's forecasting. She remembered two different times last year when she shoveled more than five inches of 'partly cloudy' off her front door step.
It was beginning to get chiller out and it smelled like snow. Alex had never heard that expression before she came to Vermont but it was true. The air had a crisp odor to it, hard to describe but an indication that winter was on its way. There were a lot of expressions Alex had never heard until she came to Vermont. Things here were always 'just a stone's throw' away or up the road. These New Englander's had mighty powerful arms because sometimes their 'stone's throw' direction was over twenty miles. 'Ay-yup' and 'boi the jaysus' were also two colloquialisms Alex was getting used to. Her neighbor, Beth, was always coming up with sayings she had never heard before but was beginning to become very fond of. Something wasn't tough, it was 'harder than a puppy's nut.' When Alex answered her door one morning having just gotten out of bed, Beth told her she looked like 'a turd struck with a club.' At one point when Beth's husband, Joe, was having sexual potency problems, she told Alex that sex with him was like trying to 'push a marshmallow into a parking meter.' Alex's all time favorite, though, was Beth's description of Alex when she had a particularly nasty strain of flu, she told the gorgeous former attorney that she looked like a 'weasel peeking out a rat's ass.'
Alex had just walked inside from retrieving her mail. Junk, junk and more junk, addressed to 'Occupant' or Ms. Audra Callan, her new name for the last thirteen months. At least she didn't have to get rid of anything monogrammed from her past life. She liked the name Audra and got used to saying it pretty quickly. She also liked the name of the road she lived on, Journey's End. How prophetic.
She safely worked out of her home now, giving online legal advice for a reputable national law firm. She set her own schedule and her own pace. Funny, how she still didn't have much of a social life. She did go skiing a few times last year after her shoulder healed and she had gone out on a few meaningless dates but nothing that could take her mind off Olivia. Beth had tried to set her up with a few male friends and had taken the news rather well that Alex preferred women, but never attempted to set her up with any female friends. Rutland wasn't a bad little city, though definitely a jump from New York. No building was taller than eleven stories high and that was just one, Sheldon Towers. The next tallest building in town was three stories shorter. There was constant development going on in town and constant fights against any change. It wasn't a 'hick' town, by any means, but it certainly wasn't Manhattan, either. There were days she loved it here, loved her solitude, loved the small town atmosphere. There were other days she hated it here, she felt too alone and needed the crush and excitement of New York. Who was she kidding? If Olivia was with her, she could live anywhere.
It was going to be one of those days. Olivia was going to haunt her today. There were times when she actually made it through an entire twenty-four hour period with the beautifully intense detective crossing her mind only once...maybe twice. Then there were days like today, when the force of nature known to her as Olivia Benson, would not leave her head. 'She must be thinking of me today,' was how Alex reasoned these strong feelings. Smiling at the memory of Olivia, she went to her kitchen and flipped on her stove to heat water for tea.
She had missed the left turn into Journey's End the first time, as the road seemed to come out of nowhere. That particular section of Route 4 was lined with pine and blue spruce trees, which, unfortunately, for her, did not shed their leaves during foliage, making the street sign and the opening itself, almost invisible until one was right on top of it. Turning her vehicle around at the first available opportunity, Olivia slowed and turned into Journey's End and followed the road to the address on the instructions that had been left in the glove compartment.
Slowing the car down, Olivia saw a cute little Swiss Chalet-style house off a path to her left. The driveway was small and parked in it was a small 4-Wheel-Drive SUV. Pulling into the driveway, the detective threw the Sunfire in park and stepped outside.
"Please, please, please be Alex," Olivia repeated to herself as she ran to the door and knocked frantically. She heard the bark of what sounded like a very large, mean dog.
As the teakettle whistled loudly, Alex heard the dog start barking wildly in the basement. She almost didn't hear the pounding on the door. Turning the burner off, she went to the basement door and let the dog into the kitchen. The dog, Angus, a Newfoundland, had what Alex described as his own apartment in the basement. He was way too big to live in the house with her, so she had the cellar converted into a big doghouse. Beth and Joe had given her Angus when he was just a little guy (a four month old puppy whose feet were already bigger than hers) and she never thought he would ever stop growing. He looked like a big black bear and he was as friendly as he was huge, his size intimidating a lot of salesmen and Jehovah's Witnesses away from her door. His only assault would be to knock someone over and possibly lick them to death.
Angus stayed at the door, barking wildly. Alex had not been expecting anyone but that wasn't unusual. How people found their way back in the woods amazed her. They were really persistent to drive back this far. She walked to the door and looked out the peephole. Stunned, she at first thought it must be an apparition. Throwing back the locks and opening the door with enough strength to nearly take it off the hinges, Alex stood face to face with Olivia Benson. Angus' barking seemed to fade into the background.
"Oh my God!" Alex breathed, shocked.
Olivia looked as though the weight of the world had been taken off her shoulders. She stepped in, almost tackling Alex, pulling her into a secure embrace. Kicking the door shut behind her, she kissed every inch of Alex's face. "Thank God, thank God," Olivia sighed. "It is you and you're alive."
"Olivia, what are you doing here, how did you find me?" Alex managed to get out, in between being gratefully ravished.
"It is a long story. Alex, I love you so much."
"I love you, too..." Alex responded, effortlessly, still trying to gain control of her senses. She looked at the dog, also getting caught up in the moment of excitement. "Angus!! Enough!!" she shouted at the dog, which of course meant nothing to the big, black fur face. Taking Olivia by the hand, she led the detective and the dog to the basement door. She lovingly pushed the Newfoundland, giving him incentive to trot down the cellar stairs. Closing the door behind him, Alex turned to look at Olivia. "I can't believe this."
Olivia pulled Alex tightly to her, not wanting to let her go.
"What's happened? I am thrilled to see you, Liv, but I know you would not be here unless something has gone terribly wrong..."
Looking into Alex's crystal blue eyes, Olivia bedroom brown ones started to well up. "I have missed you so much," she told her, barely above a whisper. "I need to use your phone - your cell phone if you have one."
"Absolutely." Alex reached to the kitchen counter behind her, grabbed her cell phone and handed it over to Olivia. Olivia let go of Alex and dialed Elliot's number.
"Stabler," she heard after the second ring.
"Hey, it's me. I'm safe." Olivia heard Elliot breathe a huge sigh of relief. "Someone wants to talk to you." She handed the phone to Alex. Looking at Olivia questioningly, the detective mouthed the words, "It's Elliot."
Taking the phone, Alex said, "Elliot? I feel like I need to bait you into an argument so that you'll know it's really me."
Smiling, Elliot actually thought he was going to cry. Since he was in the squad room, he didn't dare to say her name. "It is so great to hear your voice. You are very much missed around here. May I speak to my partner, please?"
"Yes, of course." She handed the phone back to Olivia, who held Alex around the waist.
"El, are you okay?"
"I'll live. Are you okay?"
Olivia looked at Alex in her arms. "Right now? I'm perfect."
"I will let the captain know that you are away and safe. What about LaSimonne?"
"On a plane to Paris, I hope."
"When will you be back?"
"Hmm...that depends on my hostess. I will call you tomorrow morning with more details."
"I'll fix things here. Give my best to our friend."
"Oh, I intend to," Olivia told him, winking at Alex.
"You owe me, Benson, you know that," Elliot smiled.
"Forever and always, partner." She heard Cragen's voice in the background, saying 'Is that Benson??.' "I think I should go now."
"Yeah. Thanks. Hey, Liv? Come back when your ready and not before."
Laughing, kissing Alex's neck, she said. "We'll see. Good luck with Cragen. Love you, El," she said platonically but sincerely.
"Love you, too, partner."
The line went dead and Olivia handed the phone to Alex, who placed it back on the counter. "Where would you like to start?" the detective asked the blonde.
Smiling radiantly, Alex jumped up unto Olivia's arms, wrapping her long legs around the detective's waist. "Guess."
It really wasn't that tough, making up for lost time. The two women got naked very quickly and got down to business in less time than that. The intimacies were wonderful but holding each other, falling asleep in each other's arms, was just as satisfying. It was as if no time had passed between them.
Olivia returned to her job that following Monday. She accepted an administrative ass-chewing from Cragen but came back, otherwise unscathed. She took a bi-weekly trip to Vermont and within six months, she and the former ADA were discussing a civil union.
Approximately a year had passed since the incident with Reine LaSimonne. Because of that experience, Olivia donated platelets once a month and had herself HLA-typed and registered herself with the national bone marrow registry. She talked Alex into doing it, too.
Olivia arrived at work one day to find a postcard of the Eiffel Tower on her desk. The words were simple: "My son's ashes flow freely from the highest point in Paris. He will always be your guardian angel. You pinkie promised him and pinkie promises are sacred."
Nobody knew why Olivia openly wept that day and she couldn't have explained it even if she had tried. She credited that special little boy with getting her and Alex back together and getting her priorities in order. She owed him. For eternity. Because pinkie promises were, indeed, sacred.
The EndBack to the Annex