Disclaimer: See Part 1
"So, Cabot, do you want to tell me why you dragged me out for $6.95 worth of pizza, or are you just going to stare at me with that annoying contemplative expression on your face?" Serena Southerlyn asked, taking a sip of her Pepsi. Privately, Alex wondered if she drank it to spite Abbie Carmichael despite their three year and 290 mile separation. For Abbie, anything besides Coca Cola was blasphemy, and not just because she came from the South where every non-alcoholic soft drink was a 'Coke'.
"The pizza was fourteen bucks."
"We're splitting the check and you're tipping since you invited me out and I only have two singles on me, which I need to make $6.95. You owe me a nickel."
"You can afford it. I thought we were going to some fancy place where the meals are a hundred bucks a pop." Serena was not as wealthy as Alex, but came from some means. Their social circles overlapped occasionally because she and Alex had shared similar political ambitions at one time, but now Serena was relatively happy working for the ACLU.
Before her time in Witness Protection, Alex did not think very much about the amount of money she spent on every day things like food and clothes. Leaving all of her belongings behind and moving four separate times had taught her the value of life's simpler pleasures. Upon her return, her precious car had been one of her few concessions to luxury. Her clothes remained expensive because she needed them for work, but the rest of her monthly budget took a dramatic slash. Her large, slightly pretentious apartment she could do nothing about. She had inherited it from her deceased parents once the State finally recognized that she was no longer dead.
"Too bad for you. Thanks for bumping our dinner up a day, by the way. My other date bailed on me for work."
"No problem. You know, since you are such an inconvenience, I should make you pay for the whole meal," she teased.
Alex rolled her eyes. "Hey, I came here because I felt like eating pizza... I'm sure even Donald Trump eats pizza once in a while."
"Shut up, Alex. You're not that rich."
"No, I'm not, especially considering where most of the interest from my trust fund is going these days." Nardalee's story had touched her life in several ways. Recently, her charitable contributions had branched out internationally as she prepared for her new job overseas.
"But that's not why you've dragged me out for dinner. I bet it isn't because of my brilliant dining conversation, either."
"You know I enjoy spending time with you, Serena." It's just awkward dealing with you, Abbie, my own screwed up life, and now Liv on top of everything else. "I'm sorry that I have been neglecting you lately. I've, well..." Alex groped for the right words. 'Met someone' sounded too trite. How exactly did one go about telling people that after years of arguments, a shooting, various assaults, reincarnations, reappointments, resignations, and engagements gone awry that she had finally worked up the nerve to confess her feelings to her seemingly unattainable love of almost a decade? She was sure that the Miss Manners handbook had no advice for this particular situation.
Two bites of mushroom and olive pizza gained her a thirty second reprieve. "Olivia and I have been seeing each other."
Alex was confident that if Serena's parents had not drilled proper table manners into their only daughter from a very early age, her mouth would have fallen open even though it was full of food. "I don't believe it," she said hoarsely, finally swallowing and trying not to choke. She had a sudden case of dry mouth, and took another long gulp of her Pepsi. "I don't believe you had the guts to approach her, and I don't believe she was enough of a Saint to forgive you after the way you treated her."
The taller of the two blonde attorneys blushed, feeling a little defensive. "Believe it. I know I've made a lot of mistakes concerning Detective Benson. You don't need to remind me about all the time I lost because of my own stupidity..."
"Hey, I never said I wasn't happy for you! That's great." Reaching across the table, she hugged Alex, not noticing or caring that the edge of her white sleeve trailed over a spot of grease on the table. Suddenly, her expression became almost coy, and Alex's face might have flushed if she were not used to handling Abbie Carmichael's constant sexual innuendos. "So, Alexandra Cabot, am I to assume that you asked me out to dinner for girl talk about your new squeeze?"
Alex raised her right eyebrow over the frames of her glasses. "What evidence do you have to support this accusation?"
"Well, there's a love bite that you keep trying to shift underneath the collar of your blouse," Serena pointed out, amused when Alex scowled and tried to crane her neck at an awkward angle in order to see the alleged mark.
"Really?" she asked, looking a little frustrated. "I thought I used enough cover-up."
The former Homicide ADA grinned. "Missed a spot. I guess Benson likes to brand her conquests." Alex chose not to take offense at the term 'conquest' and also decided not to mention that Olivia was currently sporting several marks of her own.
"I remember teasing you about the same thing once upon a time," Alex pointed out instead, subtly directing the conversation back to Serena's life.
Serena sighed. "Unfortunately, my own dating opportunities have been few and far between," she said, picking up on Alex's cue. She sensed that the blonde was excited to share the news of her new relationship, but not comfortable discussing the explicit details. "You know, when I came out as a lesbian, I thought the dating pool would improve without all the hassle men bring into a relationship. Unfortunately, there are just as many queer crazies as straight crazies."
"There certainly are," Alex laughed. "Oh well, at least the sex is better."
"If I was looking for amazing sex, I'd hop on a train to DC," Serena said with a hint of regret. "You know, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was the last long term relationship I had, as sad as that sounds... and it wasn't even a long term relationship. Hell, it wasn't even a relationship. We were basically friends with benefits." Although Serena could stand to hear Abigail Carmichael's name now, there had been a time when she refused to let Alex speak it in her presence.
Alex tried not to pale. That was more information about her best friend than she ever wanted to know. Even when Carmichael's not around, her wild sex life seems to come up to haunt me during conversations. Oh well, at least she hasn't asked me about-
"So, speaking of amazing sex..."
"Is Detective Benson the passionate, red-hot lover that all of the men and lesbians at the courthouse seem to think she is? I'm sure they still do, but I don't work there anymore, courtesy of our former boss."
A dark shadow crossed Serena's face, and Alex closed her eyes and pressed two fingers to each temple. "No. No. No. We are not discussing this."
"Branch, or Donna Olivia?"
"Don Giovanni was a scoundrel and a rapist, so I sincerely hope that you were not comparing Olivia to him. I am never taking you to see a Mozart opera again."
"Wagner is out, too. The Ring of the Nibelung is far too long."
Serena smiled at the long-standing inside joke. "You remembered."
"Of course I remembered. It was the first thing we did together when I came back from the dead."
"You've got Jesus Christ beat, Alex. He has only come back from the dead once so far, but you've done it twice."
"That just proves that I did it faster," Alex said, her standard reply to that particular joke. "Don't expect any other miracles from me any time soon."
Although a little help from upstairs wouldn't go unappreciated right now, she thought to herself. Trying to talk Serena into hearing Abbie's apology – or whatever that crazy woman has planned this time – will take a minor miracle.
"So, has the squad been giving you a hard time now that you've snatched up one of New York's finest?" Serena asked.
"Actually, Abbe has been giving me a hard time." Alex knew that she was taking a risk when she saw the flash of old hurt that welled up in her friend's eyes. "Personally, I think she is a little jealous. Far be it from me to ask about her personal life, but I get the impression that she has been rather cool towards the ladies recently."
Serena's eyes narrowed slightly, an almost imperceptible tremor shaking the contents of her glass ever so slightly as she lifted it to her mouth, leaving a smeared lipgloss print along its edge. She noticed and dabbed it away with her napkin. "Really," she said guardedly. "Don't tell me she's started seeing men."
"No. I think our Miss Carmichael is approaching the age when the chase begins to lose its thrill. Actually, she mentioned you the other day."
Serena's lips pressed tightly together, her suspicions instantly aroused. "Really," she repeated.
Alex decided to be blunt. "She wants to apologize to you for being an insensitive ass."
"Someone," she gave Alex a pointed look, "should remind our Miss Carmichael that using friends to relay messages fell out of favor some time after middle school. Does she want to apologize or reconcile? Because I'm not sure I want to hear either from her right now. I'm not even sure whether I should be talking to you if you're in her camp..."
"I refuse to take sides in this," Alex interrupted before Serena could pick up an old, familiar argument of theirs that had almost ended their friendship on two different occasions. "I told her I would lay the situation out for you, but that if she wanted to try and apologize or reconcile, she had to do it herself. And if you want to tell her to go to hell, I wouldn't blame you."
There was a thick, layered silence.
Alex chose her moment and her words carefully. "She thinks about you. Sometimes she will start telling a story about something you said or did before she realizes... I can honestly say that I have never heard her continue to talk about any other woman she has invited into her bed after the first night. To her, I'm not sure they even have names." Then, the trump card. "She hasn't had sex for the past two weeks. I don't think she is expecting me to tell you that part."
Serena was speechless. "Two weeks?"
What might seem like the norm for many other people in the United States was a rare and precious accomplishment for Abbie, who spent just as many nights in strange apartments as her own.
"Two weeks... Give me time, Alex."
"Don't feel obligated to do anything , Serena. Considering all of the stupid things I've done, I sympathize with her, but you owe her absolutely nothing. Don't let her need to clear the air disrupt your peace of mind."
"My peace of mine has been good and disrupted since she broke my heart," Serena admitted. "It's too late to try and protect me, Cabot, but thanks for trying."
At 9:05 PM, Olivia Benson stumbled in to Alex's apartment, a little disconcerted that the Doorman recognized her and allowed her in without asking for identification. She had spent several hours at the Rosetti crime scene and her nerves were already shot. It did not help that she was supposed to be off this evening and that Elliot had not yet contacted her with an explanation for his absence.
Honestly, it was not the lack of security that bothered her as much as the lack of privacy. Telling the squad (inadvertently or not) about her relationship with Alex was one thing, but having everyone and their grandmother aware of their relationship made her decidedly uncomfortable. For all of their teasing, Elliot, Munch, and Fin were family. She and Melinda were also fairly close.
But even the damn Doorman? Olivia asked herself, frowning as she turned on the light. That's too much. Driving Alex's car to the crime scene was stupid, too. What if a reporter...? No. I doubt anyone recognized it. She usually took a cab or the subway when we worked together.
With a tired sigh, Olivia kicked off her shoes and placed them neatly beside the coat hanger, careful to wipe her feet. Alex's apartment was larger than hers. On her first visit, she had been surprised by the lack of expensive furniture and artwork, but it soon became clear that Alex did not care as much about that sort of thing as Olivia had expected (aside from the lavish design of the master bathroom, which Olivia appreciated very much).
It was clear from the lack of footwear beside her own pair of modest heels and the darkness of the apartment that Alex was not back from her dinner engagement. Olivia still felt guilty about leaving her stranded in the Lower East Side, and so she decided that Alex was due for some pampering.
"She'll probably be home soon." And glad to see her precious car undamaged, she added silently. The detective thought for a moment as she hung up her coat on the coat rack and re-did the locks, the domesticity and familiarity of the act making her stomach twist nervously.
"Okay, right. Do something for Alex to apologize. Yeah."
Olivia dismissed cooking as a possible idea, remembering that her girlfriend was out at dinner with Serena. The name seemed familiar, but it took Olivia a few moments to place Serena Southerlyn, the blonde, attractive ADA who had worked in Homicide for a time before being dismissed under dubious circumstances. According to the rumor mill at One Hogan Place, former DA Branch had canned her for shopping at the softer side of Sears.
So, Alex was out with a friend. A female friend. An attractive lesbian friend. Pull it together, Benson. You're the one who left her tonight. Besides, this is still so new...
Feeling tendrils of jealousy beginning to wind their way around her heart, Olivia tried to think of something else to do for Alex. Preparing dinner was out, but she could at least draw the attorney a bubble bath and check her answering machine so that Alex did not have anything else to worry about when she got home. She'll probably be home soon, right? I mean, we've both been out for a few hours already.
Recognizing that her emotions were running all over the place, Olivia headed for Alex's bedroom to start a bath for her, deciding that if the blonde did not show up in time toenjoy it, she would take advantage of the large Jacuzzi tub herself.
While she waited for the water to heat up – Alex liked her bathwater scalding and her showers cold, Olivia had learned in the past week – the detective went through Alex's bathroom cupboards to find some bubbles and scented candles. So far, Alex had made most of the romantic gestures in their relationship. If she cared to analyze Alex's behavior before their awkward, expensive French dinner date (which she did not, because it made her slightly uncomfortable and more than a little terrified), the attorney had certainly been courting her. Well, two could play at that game.
Once the scent of lavender bubble bath and vanilla candles (a strong but surprisingly pleasant combination) had permeated the bathroom, Olivia decided to peek in Alex's wine cabinet. As she passed through the master bedroom, she noticed the flashing screen of Alex's phone on her bedside table. For a moment, Olivia wondered why Alex had gone without her phone until she remembered the blonde's last text message.
Recalling her earlier idea to check Alex's work messages for her, something she had done a few times while Alex was particularly busy even before they had entered a relationship, she touched the phone's screen and brought it to life with her fingertip.
You Have 4 New Messages , Olivia read.
Pressing 1 for voicemail and grabbing a pen and slip of paper from a small plastic basket on the nightstand, which had probably been placed there exactly for that purpose, Olivia prepared to write down anything important.
The first two messages were short and to the point, leaving numbers and requests to call back the following morning. The third message was much more interesting. Alex's boss, the 'Senior Member' of the international task force to which she had been assigned, began describing a rebel camp that the UN had disbanded. In a clipped British accent, he explained some of the terrorism charges that the group hoped to bring against someone named Mani Japhet.
Writing down the pertinent information and pressing 9 to save the message, Olivia got ready to listen to the next recorded voicemail. To her surprise, a familiar voice with a very pronounced Texan twang filled the room.
"Cabot, you need to change your damn answering machine to something more interesting. You're probably off screwing your new stud, but I refuse to be jealous. I'm feeling much better, even though I look like I was in the outhouse when lightning struck... [Pause] Yes, I know I annoy you, you don't have to remind me. You will also be delighted to know that I have not had sex in... um... Twelve days! So, call me back and tell me how dinner with Serena went. Oh, and tell Olivia that I get to be maid of honor when you get married. She doesn't know it yet, but you've got her ass branded, cowgirl."
Long after the dial tone of Alex's empty phone filled the room, Olivia sat staring at the wall, her heart pounding in her chest. Marriage? Alex had been talking to Abbie about marriage? They hadn't even been together for a week yet! Granted, there were extenuating circumstances, but...
Suddenly, the detective felt the walls closing in on her. The doorman, everyone's teasing and assumptions about their relationship, the constant phone calls... with something akin to horror, Olivia realized that she had spent almost all of her free time with Alex since she returned from Washington D.C.
This is happening way too fast...
Throwing the phone onto the bed and abandoning her sheet of messages, Olivia bolted from the bedroom and ran to grab her coat and shoes, getting out of Alex's apartment the only thing on her mind.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Why did I think this would work? Both of us must be crazy...
Every time Olivia and Alex started to grow close, something bad happened to tear them apart again – forward one step, back two. After she began processing the beginning stages of surprise and fear, Olivia realized that she was angry. "Who does she think she is?" she asked fate or God or whoever happened to be listening as she threw herself into the driver's seat of her own car, which was parked next to Alex's Lamborghini. Barely glancing in to the rear view mirror, she swerved out of the parking lot and into thick, congested city traffic. The uneven, sporadic motion of the cars ahead of her gave her plenty of time to simmer.
"Damn it," she said aloud into the empty space. "I can't believe her... she thinks she can walk back in to my life acting like the last six years never happened and just claim me like some goddamn trophy! She's the most arrogant, pig-headed, insensitive..." She continued to fume for the rest of the drive back to her empty apartment, ignoring the ringing of her cell phone.
Several blocks away, Alex was wandering around her apartment, confused and a little disappointed. Olivia had obviously been there, since someone had drawn her a bath and turned on the lights. The door had been unlocked when she came in, but her lover was nowhere to be found.
Deciding to give the missing detective a call, Alex headed back into the bedroom to find her cell phone. To her surprise, it was lying in the middle of her bed. A tinny voice drifted out of the speakers. "You have no more new messages. To erase, press 7. To save, press 9. To listen to this message again, press 2 now."
Picking up the phone, Alex pressed 2. When Abbie Carmichael's voice flooded the room, all of the color drained from her face.
Olivia paced around the bullpen like a caged lion, trying to force all thoughts of Alex from her mind and throwing herself into the latest rape/homicide with renewed vigor. Her apartment had been too empty, too quiet and dark, leaving her with nothing but loneliness and thoughts of Alex.
Every time she wondered why she was here, alone and boiling over with anger instead of sharing a lavender bubble bath and champagne with a naked, beautiful blonde, she remembered something Alex had done in her past to hurt her. Disappearing before they could confess their feelings. Not saying goodbye after Liam Connors' trial when she had promised ... Disappearing again and not even having the decency to pick up the phone when she came back as Bureau Chief. I had to readabout her big-society engagement in the Post, for Christ's sake. And in a few weeks she would be flying all the way to Africa.
What if she changes her mind about us while she's there?
"She can't keep doing this to me," Olivia said to the empty room. "She keeps pulling me back like some sort of Goddamn magnet no matter how hard I try to escape."
Time after time, the attorney had drawn Olivia in, pulling her closer and closer before disappearing from her life pushing her away without the courtesy of a goodbye. What if she leaves me again? Olivia was not sure if she could survive it this time. Before, she had collected the pieces of her broken heart and moved on, isolating her feelings and locking them away, but it was too late for that now. Not after making love with Alex, experiencing all of her. Not after hearing her say 'I love you'. The only solution – and it was not really a solution – was to pull away herself before Alex could reject her again.
"And she has the nerve to talk to Carmichael about marrying me when we both know it's just a matter of time..."
Slowly, deliberately, Olivia stopped pacing and stared at the three pictures on the situation board. Below each were notes, notes about the similarities and differences between the three victims. So far, she had not found a connection between Alicia St. Michael and Leo Rosetti, but she figured it was only a matter of time. These men deserved justice, and here she was, moping over her confusing, disastrous relationship with Alex Cabot. She needed to focus.
With one last surge of energy, she forced all thoughts of Alex from her mind.
"The case. Think about the case."
Before, her problem had been bringing tough cases home with her. Now, she was bringing personal problems into the squad room and it was interfering with her job.
Alicia. She was the focus of this case. With a sigh, Olivia realized that she was going to have to bring the girl in for another round of questions. There had to be something, some small detail, some way of figuring out who was following her and killing the men she interacted with. She flipped through the file of forensic information and witness statements until she found Alicia's address, copying it down. She considered calling ahead, but the thought of checking her phone and seeing frantic missed calls from Alex was too painful. Grabbing her keys, she gave the situation board one last glance. Three faces, pale with death's familiar color, stared back at her.
Okay. Get to work, Benson.
It was going to be a late night. She could tell.
"Pick up, pick up, pick up... Oh hell, why does she have to be so difficult?" Alex ground out the words between clenched teeth, smashing the 'end call' button with her thumb for the sixth time. It didn't take a genius to figure out what had happened. Obviously, Olivia was running away from her again because of what she had heard on Alex's answering machine. "I am going to kill Abbie Carmichael when I get the chance," she promised the lamp on her bedside table, glaring a hole through the fabric of the lampshade. The lamp did not respond.
Dropping the phone carelessly on the carpeted bedroom floor, Alex sat on the bed and tried to think of what to do. Eventually, she went into the bathroom and blew out the candles, emptying the cold bubble bath without getting in to the tub. She did not feel like enjoying it without Olivia's company.
She was about to begin brushing her teeth while formulating a plan of action when a shrill ringing from the bedroom drew her attention. Hoping it was Olivia and knowing it probably wasn't, Alex dropped her toothbrush in the sink and ran for her cell phone, grabbing it up off the floor and flipping it back open.
"Olivia?" she asked hopefully when she realized that she had answered the phone before checking caller ID.
"Nope, her other half," said a concerned Elliot Stabler. "She's not answering your calls either?"
"No. We had a – well, Olivia had a fight by herself while I was out. I didn't exactly get a chance to make my case."
"She's an idiot," Elliot said flatly. "So that's why she's not answering her phone. I don't suppose you know where she is? I was hoping she was at your place."
"No. She's probably at her apartment. Why?"
"She's not. I tried calling her home phone, and when there was no answer, I asked the landlord to check and see if she was in. He said her place was locked up and dark."
"Could she be at a bar?"
Elliot shook his head before realizing that Alex could not see his response. "She only drinks when she's happy and out with friends, not when she's sad. She's careful around the bottle because of her mother, you know?"
"Why do you need to find her?"
"I was with Warner earlier, and then I had to track down Marlowe on the off-chance of getting a warrant. Has she told you about the case we're working on?"
"The double – wait, she said something about 'another one' earlier when she left our date – triple male rape/homicide? Yeah. I've seen it in the papers, too."
"Yeah, that one. All of the vics knew a girl named Alicia St. Michael. We've been questioning her on and off for the past week, and she claims she's being stalked. We thought it might be a reporter following her around, but–"
"Do you think she's at the station?"
"Want me to drive over?" Alex asked, slipping back into her heels and grabbing her keys off of the kitchen counter as she hurried through the apartment. "Where are you?"
"Getting in the car out in Queens. When I couldn't find her, I thought she might be at my place; Kathy and the kids are out tonight. You'll beat me there."
Alex sighed as she went into the elevator, pressing the button for the parking garage and staring at the illuminated letter 'P' with tired eyes. "Okay." She had hoped that Elliot would get to Olivia first. Maybe he would be able to talk some sense into her. Alex had a feeling that if Olivia saw her, she would be resistant to her attempts at making up. "Not that I got a chance to fight with her, she bolted before we talked..." she mumbled.
"What?" Elliot asked, not able to make out what Alex was saying.
"Nothing, sorry... why the urgency to get a hold of Olivia? I thought this was her night off."
"New evidence came in. There were some problems with the DNA, but Warner sorted it out."
"Enough to make a defense lawyer happy?" The lawyer in Alex could not resist asking.
"Nah, we got a clean semen sample, but the epithelials caused the techs a few headaches. Originally, they thought it was one set of DNA that got contaminated, but it turns out there were two sets of DNA, a 50% match, brother and sister. Alicia St. Michael has a brother. Apparently, he checks on her most evenings. We're goddamn lucky he must have spent time with her earlier in the night. If he hadn't transferred a bit of her DNA on to his victims, we might not have gotten around to checking him so quickly."
"You've got your perp," Alex said. It was not a question. "Listen, Elliot, I'm getting in my car. I'll drive over to the station house and call you when I get there. I'll put her on the phone if I find her so you can chew her out."
Elliot was too worried about his partner to notice the opening for a dirty joke, for which Alex was grateful. "Okay. Thanks, Alex."
Removing her finger from the buzzer, Olivia stared up at the neat little two-story house. Its windows were dark and so far no one had come to answer the door. There were no reporters in sight, probably because most of them were still at the Rosetti crime scene, but she kept her eyes open for any strange shadows or movements in the night. Raising her fist, Olivia tried banging on the door just in case the buzzer wasn't working. "Ms. St. Michael? Alicia? It's Detective Benson from the 1-6." Receiving no answer to her knock, she tilted her head to the side, peering in through the dark glass window-squares that lined either side of the front door. For a moment, she thought she saw movement inside the house, but she could not be sure.
Just as she was about to turn and walk back to the car in order to retrieve her cell phone, she heard the click of a lock and the creak of hinges behind her. Glancing back over her shoulder, Olivia recognized the face of Alicia's brother staring at her through a crack in the door. His expression was serious, his jaw set, and his eyes seemed to burn as he looked at her. Suddenly, Olivia realized that she didn't even know his name.
"Detective Benson. I remember you."
The cadence of his voice was normal, unhurried, but she could detect a hint of nervousness about him. Her instincts were instantly on high alert. "Mr. St. Michael," she said, assuming that he probably shared a last name with his sister. "I'm looking for Alicia. Is she home?"
The young man glanced over his shoulder and then turned back to study her thoughtfully. "Yes." Olivia felt like a specimen tacked to a display board. This guy is really giving me the creeps, she thought, regretting her decision to leave her cell phone in the car. The first and only time she had met this man, nothing about him had stood out, but now she felt like the heroine in a very bad horror movie about to go in to the serial killer's lair. Why didn't I think to check on the brother before? Sex Crimes 101 – it's usually someone in the family.
For a moment, Olivia considered walking away and calling Elliot, doing a background check, something, but she did not want to do anything to make Alicia's brother uncomfortable. Besides, the girl might still be in the house, and if her brother really was behind all of this... she did not want to think about what he was capable of doing to his sister. That made the decision for her. Mentally checking the weight of her holstered gun at her hip instead of reaching for it and possibly scaring him, she took a deep breath and asked, "may I come in? I need to speak with her."
Again, the young man appeared to think about it. He did not look dissimilar from Alicia, but they did not share a particularly striking resemblance, either. "Sure."
Cautiously, but not too cautiously, the brunette detective stepped inside the dark house as Alicia's brother stepped aside. "I don't believe I remember your name," she told him. She was sure it was in her files somewhere, but she could not remember it. Olivia was usually better with faces anyway.
"James," he said. "We were never formally introduced."
The house was surprisingly clean, almost bare. As Olivia trailed her fingers subtly along one of the tables near the door, she noticed that there wasn't a speck of dust to be found. Swallowing to moisten her dry throat, she straightened her spine and followed James up the stairs.
Alex hurried through the familiar hallways of the police department with the practiced ease of a veteran. She was on autopilot, having made the trip to SVU's squad room many times. The blonde just hoped that Olivia would calm down and listen to reason once she realized that she was being ambushed. Alex was tired of doing most of the work (and all of the reassuring) in their relationship so far, but she supposed that she deserved it – to a certain extent. She had left the detective alone and heartbroken more than once, although some of those separations had been out of her control.
"She's not getting away with this," she muttered, refusing to take the blame for Olivia's insecurities. Olivia could keep running for as long as she liked. Alex had no intention of letting her escape this time; she would just hold on tighter. She was ready to fight, cajole, seduce, or forcibly drag Olivia in to her arms. Whatever worked the fastest.
Bursting into the bullpen, Alex lost all of her fire when she realized that the squad room was dark. Only the faint light of the lamp on Olivia's desk illuminated the usually busy squad room. That meant Munch and Fin were catching, since Elliot was heading in from Queens, and Olivia was...
Searching for inspiration, Alex turned on the overhead fluorescent lighting, listening as the familiar buzz of electricity filled her ears. Glancing at Olivia's desk, she saw three pictures – dead crime scene photos – on the board and an open file on Olivia's desk. "She really needs to put more of this stuff on a computer," Alex said. Although she had pushed a forest's worth of paper during her first stint as SVU's ADA, most of her work as Bureau Chief had been computerized.
When she noticed the address form sitting on top of one of the paper stacks and the discarded notepad and pen beside it, she instantly realized where Olivia had gone. "Why on earth is she questioning suspects so late?" Alex asked herself, even though she knew perfectly well why. She was not surprised that Olivia had retreated into her work to escape from their non-fight.
She reached for her phone to call Elliot, looking back at the paper in order to give him the address, when she noticed the bottom of the form. Other Residents: St. Michael, James Gabriel.
The attorney's blood froze.
If she was reading this right, Olivia had gone to question Alicia about the third victim. Her brother lived with her. The same brother that Elliot had told her was very likely their murderer and rapist. And Olivia was going in there alone, without back-up, not knowing...
"Please, let her be armed... better yet, let me be totally wrong about this..." she muttered as she hit Elliot's number on speed dial. He answered on the first ring.
"21 Rathbone Place," she said, her voice clipped and dry.
" Plugging it in. I'm glad I bought Kathy that GPS two Christmases ago. Why is she there?"
"It's Alicia's address."
" Shit, I knew it sounded familiar. Why is Liv- wait, doesn't her brother live with her?" he added, his voice sounding increasingly worried.
"Exactly," Alex panted, slightly out of breath as she hurried back to her car as fast as possible in heels, pulling her keys out of her purse preemptively.
" Does she know he-?"
"Not sure." Either Olivia knew and was doing something monumentally heroic – monumentally stupidand likely to result in a lawsuit and the case getting thrown out, Alex thought –, or she had no idea how much danger she was in. More than likely, it was the second. Olivia was sensible enough to follow the proper legal channels and call for back up when approaching a potentially violent suspect. Alex wasn't sure which of the two possibilities was more frightening. "I'm heading out too. I'll probably beat you there."
" Alex, stay-" She hung up before he could finish, leaving Elliot cursing into the mouthpiece of his phone as his foot pressed harder on the gas pedal.
Olivia purposely allowed James to lead the way, the small muscles in her hand twitching as she glanced at her gun from the corner of her right eye. Even though she did not match the demographics of James' previous three victims, she had no desire to become his fourth. She stared at the back of his head, her mind racing. In contrast, he seemed completely calm. All I need is fake boobs and blonde hair and I'm ready to audition for a B horror movie, she thought, unwilling to admit that she was terrified. Blonde hair... Alex.
Hearing the attorney's name in her mind instantly made her regret running out of her apartment a few hours ago. She wished... but wishing was pointless now. It was time to move on to non-verbal praying to whomever might be listening.
“So,” James asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence, “you think you know anything about this nutcase that's been stalking my sister and killing those three people?”
Olivia did not mention that only two of the murders had been announced so far. Unless he had been watching TV right before coming downstairs to answer the door, it was highly unlikely that he would have heard about Leo Rosetti's murder – unless he was involved. Instead, she settled for lying through her teeth, grateful that James could not see her face. “We don't know for sure if it's the same guy, we think the person following her is a member of the press.”
“Oh yeah? Give me his name so I can pound some sense into him.”
“My partner is on his way to pick him up for questioning,” she lied again. “I'll let you know if we get anything out of him.”
“My sister can't even feel safe in her own home. It isn't right.”
Olivia let her silence stand as agreement. Finally, they reached the top of the stairs. The St. Michaels' house was actually very tasteful. It certainly did not look like the kind of place a slasher flick would purchase for their set. The furniture was nice, the carpets were clean, and there were even some charming family photos on the walls. Oh well, I suppose even murderers can live in the most innocuous surroundings.
The detective wanted to slide out of her leather jacket and free the range of motion in her shoulders, but could not think of a subtle way to do so. Instead, her muscles bunched and coiled like a jungle cat's. Her adrenaline levels surged and her heart pounded, sending blood rushing to her legs and arms in case she needed to make a run for it or grab her weapon.
James opened the door to a bedroom at the end of the hall. The low, muted sound of a television drifted underneath the crack in the door. “Alicia's in her bedroom.” James held the door open for her, and Olivia waited for one long, uncomfortable second, deciding whether it was safe to allow her back to face the large man or step into the room. Eventually, the length of the silence made the decision for her, and she went past him and through the door, immediately sidestepping so that her back was against the wall...
And straight into the pointed barrel of a gun.
“I need sirens on this damn car...” Alex spat through gritted teeth, honking furiously at the line of cars stopped in front of her at a red light. Strangely, she wished that Abbie Carmichael was with her. The federal prosecutor was almost always packing, but Alex's Louis Vuitton only contained a tube of lipstick and some mascara, her ever-present smartphone and PDA, her wallet and credit cards, and twenty-three dollars and sixty eight cents in cash. Unfortunately, she had cleaned the unnecessary items out of her purse after taking her leave of absence. She had no idea what she was going to do when she arrived at Alicia St. Michael's house, but she knew she had to try and do something to help Olivia, even unarmed. If she was lucky, maybe Olivia would still be in possession of her weapon and she could tell her James was their perp.
She glared at the stubborn, neon-red stoplight, mentally willing it to turn green. Banging her head against the steering wheel again in frustration, she let the horn blast, not caring if she annoyed her fellow commuters. Why are so many people out driving this late at night, anyway?
“Hey, baby, don't get your panties in a twist...” a stocky man in a wife beater yelled from the next car over.
Slowly, oh so slowly, Alex turned her head, ignoring the curled wisp of hair that fell from her bun and tickled her neck. She rolled down the window, letting the unfortunate driver feel the full power of her glacial glare. “Excuse me?” she said, her brows lowering dangerously over the frames of her glasses.
The man ignored her (an impressive feat). “Nice ride. Why don't you follow me off at the next turn so I can get a closer look.”
Keeping one eye on the light so that she would not waste a second of precious time, Alex glanced down at the man's front license plate. “That's it,” she growled. “I'm memorizing your license plate, and after tonight you are never going to be able to drive anywhere in this city without getting some kind of parking ticket. Oh, and if you have any fines? Consider them doubled.”
At that second, the light turned green and Alex slammed her foot on the gas, zooming off into the night as fast as traffic would allow and not even bothering to flip the offending lowlife off through the open window of her car.
“Turn right in 2.1 miles,” her GPS said in its robotic voice, increasing Alex's frustration.
“Don't you start, Emily,” she groaned, referring to the GPS by the name of its American – English voice setting. Emily's clock said that she would be arriving at the St. Michael residence in 7 minutes, but she knew that the GPS was probably underestimating city traffic and stoplight length.
“Dial by name,” she instructed her car phone, glancing frantically from her dashboard clock to the GPS and almost forgetting to check her rearview mirror as she changed lanes. The car behind her honked, but she ignored the minor distraction. “Stabler, Elliot.”
“Dialing...” said another mechanical voice, this one recorded instead of robotic, but entirely too perky. One ring later, Elliot picked up.
“I'm five minutes away,” Alex said, skipping introductions. “What's your ETA?”
“I'm ten minutes behind you with the sirens. Alex, pull over and wait for me. You don't know what you could be walking in to.”
“I don't care.”
“Think about what Olivia would do if you got hu-”
Not allowing Elliot to finish his guilt trip, she continued weaving her way in and out of the evenly spaced cars ahead of her, trying to get any advantage she could. New York City traffic could be ruthless, but so could she. Olivia was in danger and she was going to be there come hell or high water.
Her last thought before she followed Emily's directions and turned right on two wheels was: at least Abbie will be satisfied. Riding to the rescue, and here I am using colloquialisms. Damn her.
Return to the Academy