DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
SERIES: This story is the first in the 'Secrets and Lies' series.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Bell's Dilemma
By Ruby

Part One

Juggling two bags of groceries as well as her briefcase, Jessica Martin pulled her keys from her purse, it had been a long day and the thought of cooking did not appeal. She walked up the steps of her apartment building and put the key in the lock.

"Yeah I know," a voice said behind her, "but she'll calm down in a couple of days, I just need a place to crash", a pause and then "I'm outside now, it's ok the door's open, I'll be up in a minute." The man put his phone in his pocket and smiled at Jessica, "Can I give you a hand?"

Detective Olivia Benson hated Mondays, and so far today that was not going to change. She had been woken at 4am and while driving to a scene had almost been broad sided by an idiot in a sports car running the lights, and then narrowly avoided the officers chasing him. Getting into the squad room later on, Cragen had been on her back about a witness testimony that the DA's office said they were missing. Shortly afterward the charming Ms. Cabot walked in and made it very plain what she would do to her person if it were not found. Finally locating the missing document underneath a stack of files on her desk, the detective had handed it to the ADA and stalked out to lunch. Anger and digestion not going well together she was now suffering the after effects.

 "Nice place," she said to her partner, as they entered the apartment.

"Yeah" Stabler returned, "If you go for the fanatically neat don't touch anything look" seeing a CSU officer coming out of a door to his right he motioned to her. Entering, the detectives took in the room at a glance, it was a bedroom, stylishly decorated in cream and tan, the wooden furniture kept well polished, a vase of dried flowers in the middle of the dresser, the country feeling enhanced by the New England landscapes on the walls. "What we got?" Elliot said looking at the bed.

"Well you'll have to wait until I post but it's fairly safe to say she's been raped and shot," said Warren, the ME who was examining her. The naked body lying on its back was exposed to the view of the world, legs splayed, arms outstretched, hiding nothing, blood stained pillows announcing loudly how life had seeped away.

Olivia's eye was caught by something dark, "What's that round her neck?" she asked.

"A dog collar" came the reply, "the chain is buried under the pillows but it's attached to the bed post, too loose to hold her though, it's just for decoration. I'd say she was knocked out before she was tied to the bed, there's substantial bruising on the back of the neck and no sign of a fight, the restraints were probably removed after she was shot in the head."

They returned to the living room, "Who called it in?" Elliot asked the cop on the door.

"Secretary" he replied, "When she didn't show up for work this morning and no-one could get hold of her, the secretary came round to see if she was ok, apparently she kept a spare set of keys in her desk."

"Where is she now?"

"Down in the car with my partner, she was too strung out to stay up here."

They found Tina Pullman in the patrol car. It appeared that Jessica Martin was a workaholic, often staying late into the evenings and coming in on weekends, was rarely ill and always called in if she was. As a deadline was looming and the executive was not answering either her home phone or her mobile, Tina had decided to check the apartment and now wished she hadn't. After getting the officer to drive her home they started helping Munch and Fin canvas the neighbors.

Banging on the door of the nearest neighbour, Olivia heard a voice on the other side ask who it was. "It's the police, ma'am" she responded holding her badge up to the peephole, "we need to ask you some questions."

The door opened, a chain still attached and a woman looked nervously out. "I'm detective Stabler, this is my partner detective Benson." Elliot began, "And you are?"

"Marcie Ryan" the woman replied.

"Mrs. Ryan, you've probably heard all the commotion next door?"

The woman nodded, "It's terrible, she always seemed very nice, what happened?"

"Did you know Ms. Martin at all?"

"We used to say hello in passing, that seems to be as well as anyone knows their neighbors in the city."

"Do you know if she had any visitors at all, boyfriend that sort of thing?" Olivia enquired.

"Not to my knowledge, she was out most of the time."

"Did you see her at all this weekend?"

"I'm afraid I only got back last night detectives, my mother isn't well, I've been going to Connecticut on weekends to see her. My husband was here though."

"Is he here now?"

"No he's a tax attorney with Courtney Roth, he's gone to see a client upstate, he'll be back later tonight."

Elliot had gone home an hour before, and his partner sat in a bar trying to unwind. They had interviewed all the neighbors but Mr. Ryan and come up with zip. The woman spent most of her time out, evenings and weekends included; there were no visitors regular or otherwise. She said hello to her neighbors if she saw them but generally kept herself to herself, no one had seen her that weekend. The detective swallowed the remains of her beer, wondering if Jessica's life had been as lonely as it sounded. She smiled wryly; you can hardly sit in judgment she thought. Putting her glass back on the bar, she headed home, after all isn't that what your neighbors would say about you.

Having finally managed to interview Paul Ryan, they were no nearer to learning anything. He had last seen her on Wednesday night as she had been going out as he came back from work. He also mentioned that he had heard her on Friday night when she had blasted her stereo through his wall. He said he was going to complain but it stopped almost immediately. When the detectives arrived back at the unit the CSU report was in. Apart from those of Jessica Martin and Tina Pullman, there was one other set of prints, unidentified and found on the headboard of the bed, in the living room, the bathroom and curiously the pipes under the kitchen sink. Fibers were found attached to one of the legs of the bed and had been sent to the lab for analysis, results pending. The chain around the bedpost was long, thin and light, a type found in most hardware stores.

"All I said was she reminded me of my last ex-wife" Munch said entering the room.

"I know" Fin replied "but that's no reason to…"

Cragen walked out of his office and regarded the detectives in front of him "Where are we with the Martin Case."

"Jessica Martin" Stabler began, "thirty-four year old advertising executive, lived alone, last seen alive when she left work on Friday. Found yesterday afternoon by her secretary, sorry personal assistant, Tina Pullman. No report yet but it looks like she died from a single gunshot wound to the head. Probably raped, bruising on the body, dog collar round her neck connected by a chain to the bedpost. One set of prints unaccounted for."

"We interviewed the neighbors" Olivia continued, "none of them saw anything unusual and the victim had no known boyfriends or male visitors of any description. Her immediate neighbor, Paul Ryan, says he heard loud music coming from the apartment around 10:30 Friday night, so loud that he was going to complain, also says the music stopped before he could."

"Fin?" Cragen asked turning his head.

"Work colleagues didn't see her at the weekend which was unusual, but not unheard of. She worked hard and was good at her job but didn't socialize and no-one knew anything about her personal life."

"Most of them seemed to think she needed to get one" Munch added.

"Next of kin?" Cragen asked.

"According to her PA, her mother lives in Rochester somewhere, we're still trying to trace her."

"Ok" he said, turning to Benson and Stabler, "You two try tying up the prints. Fin, Munch, check her bank records, phone records, anything that might give us a line on this guy."

"Have you reached a verdict?"

"Yes your honor."

"In the case of Ian Scanlan on the charge of murder in the first degree, how do you find?"

"Guilty your honor."

"I'll schedule a sentencing hearing for next week. The court thanks the jury for its service, jury is excused."

"Court is adjourned, all rise…"

Alex sighed, kneaded her neck to alleviate some of the weariness she felt and packed her papers back into her briefcase. It had been a very long couple of days and all she wanted now was a glass of wine and a hot bath. She made her way out of the courthouse and hailed a cab, about to give her home address when her phone went. "Damn" she muttered under her breath as she fished it out of her purse and pressed answer, "Cabot"

"Alex, it's Olivia, we have a new lead in the Meredith case can you come in and look it over for a warrant?"

"I'll be half an hour" Alex replied, thinking of the evening she had planned and mentally consigning it to the long list headed, when I have time. The counselor had been promoted rapidly since entering the DA's office and when she'd started prosecuting SVU cases she hadn't realized how much they would affect her. Adept at both hiding her feelings and bluffing her way until she was clear of her ground, she had made an excellent poker player in college and while these traits served her well now, the relentless torrent of horror that made up the cases of the Special Victims Unit was beginning to grind her down.

When she got there, Benson and Stabler were in the interview room. "Sorry Alex, they won't be long" Cragen said, "why don't you get yourself a coffee, you look beat."

"Thanks Captain, but I have more respect for my stomach than that" Alex smiled wanly.

The detectives entered a while later, Elliot spotting Alex smiled and walked to his desk, followed by his partner.

"What have you got for me detectives?"

"Seems Andrew Glover was waxing lyrical to a customer about being able to give him something that would, and I quote 'make her let you to do anything you like for as long as you like'" Olivia said, "we have a sworn statement from one of the college lecturers."

They had been working the Meredith case, for several weeks, and it had gotten to Alex. The brutal rape of a college freshman given an overdose of GHB, the case had brought home to her just how easy it was, the girl was still in a coma and the case seemed to be grinding to a halt.

"Let me look" Alex said and Olivia handed her the paper. The ADA read through it quickly, a pained expression on her face. "What you have here detectives is hearsay by one of Helen Meredith's lecturers, who I believe is also a suspect, and no judge is going to give me a search warrant based on a barman bragging about his ability to mix a cocktail. He doesn't mention illegal substances and alcohol has been used since it was first discovered to get people into bed. If you want those warrants you're going to have to come up with something better."

Alex turned to go as Olivia slammed the paper back on the desk, "Damn it Alex, do you know how many cases we're working at the moment?" she said, the frustration clear in her voice, "I thought you were supposed to be helping."

Alex turned back, "The law is very clear detective, I can't help you if you don't get me supporting evidence. This isn't a police state yet."

"Okay" Cragen boomed from the other side of the room, "I think it's time for people to go home and catch up on a little sleep and that includes you Olivia."

"Sorry" Olivia said, rubbing a hand over her eyes.

"No problem" Alex returned, "I for one am longing to fall in to bed, Good night detectives, Captain."

Olivia watched her walk away realizing the mental image of Alex falling into bed was doing strange things to her pulse.

"Did you ask for extra grease?" Benson asked Munch, eyeing his burger with disgust.

"They know me so well I don't need to" Munch said taking another bite, oblivious to the mustard falling on his chin.

"Autopsy on Jessica Martin is back," Olivia said seeing her partner walk through the door. "Death occurred between 8pm and midnight on Friday. Thanks," she added as he put one of the bags he was carrying on the desk in front of her. "Single shot to the head made by a .22 with hollow-point rounds, no match from ballistics. There was bruising on her wrists and ankles caused by tight binding and gum residue on her lips and cheeks of a type found on duct tape. Dog collar was too loose to leave marks and there were no fingerprints on it, but there was a substantial bruise on the back of her neck. Rape kit only came up with spermicide so who ever it is didn't leave us his DNA, also the lab report came back on the fibers, it was mountaineering rope."

Elliot sat down, "So, the guy gets into her building, then her apartment, ties her up, puts tape over her mouth, a dog collar around her neck, rapes her, shoots her in the head and leaves the apartment, without anyone noticing anything."

"Well the music Ryan heard could have covered the shot" Olivia mused.

"Or he could be saying that to cover himself" Elliot shrugged, "He lives in the building, his wife's away at weekends, he could have banged the neighbor in more ways than one."

Munch put the phone down. "A girl was picked up near Columbia last night for disturbing the peace, she passed out so they took her to the hospital, she tested negative for alcohol but they just got the results of a urine test back, there was GHB in her system."

"Is she coming in?"

"She's on her way."

Gloria Janevski stated that she had gone out with friends the previous evening to a bar one of them knew. There, having had several cokes, she started to feel dizzy. Declining a ride home she said she was going to the bathroom, when she came out feeling no better she headed straight for the door. By this time, feeling really unwell and seeing two police officers in a nearby diner she proceeded to try telling them so. They, thinking she was drunk, laughed and told her to go and sleep it off. In trying to get her point across she managed to knock a cup of hot coffee on to the lap of one of the officers. She passed out as he stood up to book her; at this point they took her to the hospital, where they discovered that there was indeed no alcohol in her system.  On further questioning she also stated that the guy who suggested the bar and the guy who said he'd take her home were one and the same, a classmate, Danny Parkes.

Coming out of the interview with Gloria, Olivia saw Alex just leaving the squad room, catching up with her in the hallway she said, "I wanted to apologize for getting mad yesterday."

"It's ok" the counselor replied, "I think that case is getting to all of us."

"Well we may have another lead, I'll let you know if we get anything."


Olivia turned to go, then turning back said, "listen we'll be in 'O'Malley's' after work if you want to join us."

The ADA looked at Olivia's face for a second or two before saying, "I've got a lot of paperwork to get through, but if I finish I'll take you up on that, thanks."

Alex walked into the bar, having finally finished her paperwork, and scanned the tables to see if any of the detectives were still there. Spotting Benson and Munch, she ordered herself a drink and turned to watch the room while she was waiting. It had been another long day but when Olivia had mentioned it, she hadn't been able to resist the rare invitation. The detective puzzled the ADA, she worked in one of the emotionally toughest areas of investigation, Alex had seen her get angry and frustrated but she'd also seen her be gentle and caring, and in the year they had known each other she knew almost no more about her now than she had the first day she'd walked into the squad room. The detectives on the whole didn't talk much about their personal lives, but as she thought about it she realized that she knew bits and pieces about the other members of the squad from things they'd said in passing. The only things she knew with certainty about detective Benson was that her mother was dead and that she was gorgeous.

Alex had always had the policy of being honest with herself, what ever she did in regard to other people. Aware as she was of her parents' ambitions she had decide that her private life was just that. The grueling hours she spent first studying then working her way up the ladder of the DA's office, left her little time to socialize and none of the people she had met moved her as much as this detective with the tough demeanor, and the woman behind she occasionally glimpsed in her eyes. That she would like to get to know her better was certain, that she would get the chance was highly debatable. Looking over to the table, the two detectives seemed deep in conversation, Benson obviously making some kind of point, Munch shaking his head, getting a word in here and there. Unusual, she would have pegged Munch as the more talkative of the two; Olivia sometimes made a Sphinx seem chatty.

Picking up her drink she headed towards their table, Munch glancing up and seeing her said loudly "slumming counselor?"

Benson put her beer up to her open mouth, and Alex, getting the distinct impression she'd stopped mid sentence, replied, "I've been in worse" and seated herself at the table placing the wine in front of her.

Munch finished his drink and got up. "Well I've got to go, have a good night Ladies," he said as he walked out of the bar to the sound of their goodbyes.

"Was it something I said?" Alex inquired.

"Nah, from the smell of the aftershave I'd say he's got a date."

Alex sipped her wine and regarded the detective, "Hard day?" she asked

"Isn't it always" was the response, followed by "By the way, I just heard, congratulations on Scanlan."

"Thanks, that is definitely something to celebrate. So tell me about this new lead in the Meredith case?"

Olivia told her about Gloria, "We haven't got hold of the classmate yet, no one we've spoken to has seen him since yesterday, but he has classes tomorrow, so we'll see if he shows up." Having exhausted the topic of work, the silence that fell between them was of the awkward kind. Olivia wondered yet again why she had invited Alex. The ADA was an intelligent, self-assured not to mention extremely beautiful woman, but with the exception of work they had nothing in common. Alex, realizing that Olivia was not going to start a conversation, tried to think of something to say that wasn't about work and didn't sound like a come on.

"Liv, you want a game?" A voice above her made her look up, the cue by his side indicating exactly what sort of game he meant.

"Sure Tony," she looked at Alex, "Alex Cabot, Detective Tony Greco, he works narcotics in the Bronx" then turning to Tony said, "Alex is the ADA assigned to SVU."

"My commiserations" he said, "This one can be a right pain in the..."

"Did you want to play or not?" Olivia interrupted.

"See what I mean, bring your drinks ladies, watching an expert can be thirsty work."

"Yeah right," Olivia snorted, "have you ever managed to beat me?"

"There's always a first time," he said over his shoulder as he walked towards the pool table.

Olivia glanced at Alex as she stood, "I hope you don't mind?"

"Not in the least, maybe I'll even learn a thing or two" and with that she picked up her wine and followed the detective.

Three games later Tony put his hands in the air, "Ok, I concede to your skill yet again" then looking over at Alex he said, "how about doubles, you and Alex against me and Andy?"

"Trying to handicap me are you?" Olivia asked, turning to watch Alex and Tony's partner, Andy Kelliher, deep in conversation. Andy was tall, slim and blond haired and to Olivia's eyes they made a very good-looking couple, she frowned at the thought and walked over to the table. "Come on you two" she said, forcing a smile as they looked up at her approach, "it seems we're playing doubles, Alex I don't mean to make assumptions but have you ever played eight-ball before?"

"As Tony said, there's a first time for everything" she replied, relieved at the interruption. She had been watching Olivia play, her body becoming more relaxed as she effortlessly moved around the table, joking with Tony. Rarely having seen the detective outside of work the transformation was startling. The weight she always carried on her shoulders seemed to have lightened, she was simply enjoying being with an old friend. Alex wished the detective was so relaxed with her and was very relieved when Olivia asked him how someone called Marie was. Tony's partner seemed like a nice guy if a little full of himself, she had fended off worse in the past and was giving a very creditable impression of giving him her full attention, although if she had to hear one more story in which he had played the hero she would scream.

Andy on the other hand, quite willing to show off his skills on a pool table to the charming ADA said, "need some help beating her do you Tony?"

Tony set up the table while Olivia explained the rules to Alex and showed her how to hold the cue. Not bothering to point out the fact that she was now making assumptions and that other games were played on this type of table, Alex just relaxed into the detective enjoying the sensation as Olivia leant in to position her fingers.

The first time she bent down to play a shot she realized that the skirt she was wearing was not an ideal garment for this sort of game, that Olivia was trying very hard not to look at her legs and was failing miserably and that the other two were simply enjoying the view. Thinking that she had learnt something after all, Alex grinned inwardly, being blonde definitely had advantages if you wanted to play dumb. "Olivia," she called "can you come and show me how to hold this cue again?"

Benson came up behind her, leant in and positioned her fingers, then standing up but not moving away she looked down at the counselor and the table. Alex, with her legs effectively shielded by the comforting presence of the detective, altered her grip ever so slightly and sunk the ball into the pocket with a resounding thunk. Olivia eyed her strangely, "Beginner's luck" she murmured and walked around the table.

An hour later Olivia knew she had been hustled, while the balls Alex pocketed at the start had been easy shots, she had started putting the cue ball in an impossible position for the guys, leaving them to foul and her partner to clean up. As Olivia sunk the eight ball for the umpteenth time she grinned, "Well guys, I think we'll call it a night, we don't want to humiliate you so much you'll never play again!"

"Yeah, yeah" said Tony "I should have known better than to play with friends of yours!"

Leaving the bar with Olivia, Alex was hailed from behind and turning round she saw Andy walking towards her, "Do you want a lift?" he said smiling at her in a way that made the dark haired detective long to floor him.

"Thanks, but we'll get a cab" Alex smiled politely, feeling the tension emanating from her companion and wondering if it meant what she hoped it did.

The two women had walked along the street for several feet before Olivia said, "Andy's a nice guy."

"Yes" Alex agreed "and no offence but he's also got an ego the size of the Empire State."

Olivia grinned, "So tell me where you learned to play counselor."

Alex laughed "I have honestly never played that game before tonight. My father however, spent a lot of time in Europe and loves to play snooker, he taught me how to play when I was growing up so he always had an opponent. Once you explained the rules, it wasn't that difficult."

"I'll be very careful how I phrase my questions next time," Olivia said, hailing a cab. "You'd better get this one, we're going in opposite directions."

"It certainly seems that way detective." Alex smiled wryly, turning and pecking her on the cheek "Thanks for the invitation, we must do this again." The cab was down the street before Olivia's brain started functioning again and it was many more minutes before she was able to process a thought coherent enough to hail another cab.

Part 2

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