DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For the purposes of this story Alex's parents are together and live on Long Island.
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 Four

Samuel Hargest walked into the station around noon having been treated for concussion and a broken nose; seating themselves in an interview room the detectives apologized for making him go through it all again. Samuel sat up straighter and said, "just find whoever did it." Having recounted the events of the previous night yet again they asked him if he would be able to describe the runner to an artist, he said he would try. Asked about the business he could not think of anyone that would want to hurt his wife, she always kept in the background he explained, making sure things ran smoothly, he dealt with the face to face side of it, anyone having a problem would have it with him.

It wasn't until they asked him if he had heard the names Jessica Martin or Tyler Dane that he showed any sign of emotion, "Yes" he said, tears in his eyes, my wife came home from a meeting three weeks ago saying that Tyler needed to grow up and realize that the function they were organizing wasn't for their own glory but to help other people. She was very annoyed, it seems so trivial now."

"How do they know each other Mr. Hargest?" Elliot asked

"They're both on the council of the Business Women's Association," he replied.

Having got little additional information out of him, they got the artist in, thanked him and assured him that he would be kept informed. Leaving him describing the face of a man he had only seen for an instant they went back to their desks. Picking up the phone book Stabler noted that the Manhattan head office for the Business Women's Association was listed, calling it, the voice on the other end stated that the office was now closed but was open between Monday and Friday 9am to 5pm. No emergency contact number was given; presumably they never had them.

Waiting until Mr. Hargest had finished with the sketch artist they picked up the result, noting that it looked nothing like Paul Ryan, and headed back to the stores that sold chain hoping someone would remember him. Wearily walking back into the squad room late that evening and seeing the Captain waiting for them, they told him about the latest victim and the link. "Any luck with the sketch?" he asked.

"There's a couple of stores that think they remember him but nothing definite." Olivia said "who ever it is has been planning it for a while, neither of the stores have sold any of that type of chain in the last couple of months."

"Right," said Cragen "First thing Monday you two get down to the head office and see what you can dig up. Fin and Munch can interview Tyler Dane's Fiancé, he flew in this morning.

Olivia got in to her car and started the drive home; pulling over and switching off the engine she looked out of the window and really saw what was there for the first time, realizing that this wasn't her neighborhood. She sat quite motionless wondering how she had got there, then picked up her phone and dialed.

Alex lost in the papers she was reading took a minute to realize her phone was ringing. Fumbling for it, she answered, "Cabot."

"Alex, it's Olivia"


"I was wondering if I could come over?"

"Sure, where are you?"

Olivia gave a short laugh, "Outside your apartment building"

"Well I guess I'll see you in a minute then."

"Thanks, bye."

Alex walked to the entry phone and buzzed the door, then to the wine rack and pulled out a bottle, opening it she put it on the side to breathe and examined the contents of her cupboards. Hmm, they might have to order take out unless Olivia wanted leftovers. A knock at the door alerted her to the detective's presence, opening it she smiled and then frowned as she saw the weariness in the woman's eyes. Pulling her inside she helped her off with her jacket and sat her on the couch. "Are you ok?" she said, concern etched on her face.

"Yes," Olivia rubbed her forehead, "Sorry, I don't really know what I'm doing here."

Alex knelt down and took off the detective's shoes "No problem, why don't you lay down for a bit. I'll just finish up the case notes I'm working on and get us something to eat." Olivia complied, that was easy, Alex thought, she must be exhausted.

Although Alex buried herself in her work again, trying to keep her mind on the job at hand, she still couldn't resist an occasional glance at the woman now sleeping on her couch, God she's beautiful, she thought the first time she looked up to find the detective asleep. Olivia's face had lost the tense expression she had been wearing and she looked at peace. After half an hour Alex put her papers away realizing she wasn't really getting anything done, walking to the kitchen she poured herself a glass of wine, then dialed a number by the phone and ordered. Hearing movement she walked back into the living room to find the detective writhing about restlessly in her sleep. Obviously in the middle of a bad dream she was quickly turning her head from side to side and clawing at her neck, her legs flailing. The next moment she sat up, awaking with a start. She looked around, confusion in her eyes. Spotting Alex she remembered where she was, swung her feet to the floor and stood up, "I'm sorry" she said, "I should be going."

"Sit down" Alex said, realizing that she could not really stop the detective, "I just ordered take out and you're not going anywhere until you've eaten."

Olivia paused, knowing Alex had seen her nightmare made her feel vulnerable, but being with Alex made her feel strangely safe. Much to the counselor's surprise she sat down again. When she had convinced herself that the detective would not make a bolt for the door the minute her back was turned, she walked into the kitchen, retrieved her wine glass and while pouring another, realized that her hands were shaking.

Olivia's eyelids felt heavy but she knew she could not sleep. A glass of wine and her now full stomach had calmed her and created a soporific effect. Alex noticing the trouble she was having sent up a quick prayer that all the phones would stay silent. Walking over to the couch the counselor held out her hand, Olivia looked at her questioningly but took it and was slowly pulled to her feet and across the room. Reaching the bedroom Alex handed her the T-Shirt she had worn the previous evening and pushed the detective into the bathroom. A short while later Olivia was asleep, wrapped tightly in the counselor's arms.

Coming awake naturally was a rare event for the detective. Usually either her phone or her dreams woke her well before dawn and the sun streaming through the window told her that it was a lot later than that. Turning over, she found the counselor sitting up against the pillows eyeing her over the top of a file. "Good morning sleepy head" Alex smiled.

Olivia, feeling surprisingly well-rested grinned back and stretched, "morning" she replied. Amazed at how relaxed and unselfconscious she felt, she lay on her side and gazed at Alex who had gone back to reading her file, knowing without doubt for the first time that this was something she wanted.

Ignoring it for as long as she could, Alex eventually turned and said, "Something I can do for you?"

"Actually there is" Olivia grinned "but your going to need to put that file down."

Obediently Alex closed the file and put it on the bedside table, placing her glasses on top. She turned back to the detective, a questioning look on her face.

Rolling on to her back, Olivia crooked her finger until the counselor's face was mere millimeters above her. "I don't believe I've thanked you yet for dinner last night," Olivia said.

"I don't believe you have either" Alex answered closing the gap between them.

Olivia couldn't get over how soft the lips she was kissing were, flicking her tongue over them, Alex opened her mouth to allow her entry, their tongues dancing. Finally realizing the need to breathe, Olivia rolled the two of them over and pulled away. Staring into Alex's eyes she saw desire warring with caution, knowing she had to make the first move she leant forward and kissed her again gently, tasting the sweetness of her lips, then bending her head lower she placed a line of small kisses down to the hollow of her throat. Returning to her lips, she nibbled the lower one gently, Alex moaned and forced Olivia to look at her. The detective lost herself in the depths in front of her, the need she saw there drawing her in. Closing her eyes, she felt a new sensation, Alex's hands trailing up her back, electrifying her skin. Focusing to keep herself grounded, she lifted first one arm then the other as hands removed her T-Shirt.

The buttons on Alex's pajama top had been put there just to annoy her, Olivia decided, attempting to prop herself on one elbow, kiss Alex and undo them all at the same time. Growling in frustration she grabbed the counselor and rolled back over to her side of the bed, not realizing in her agitation that while she could now use both hands, she had just given Alex unfettered access. As she felt Alex's mouth trail a line down to her breast and then suck her nipple lightly, Olivia's head went back and her hands, in the process of working a button, bunched into the fabric. When Alex bit down, her arms jerked and ripped the top apart. Attempting to focus on something other than the sensation that mouth was causing, Olivia lifted one of Alex's arms and removed it from the top, Alex stopping her ministrations momentarily, took pity on her, rolled off the bed and quickly removed the rest of her pajamas.

The feeling of skin on skin caused them both an intake of breath, mouths came together, tongues clashed, hands roamed, voices moaned and whimpered until Alex quite deliberately lifted her head and stared into Olivia's eyes. Stopping what she was doing under the intensity of the gaze she felt Alex finding her hands. Slowly she brought them above their heads and curled them around the slats in the headboard. Keeping them there until Olivia quickly nodded. Alex moved to one side and kissed her softly. Working her way back down Olivia's body, her mouth teasing small moans from the detective, she stopped briefly to nibble the dark aureoles, grinning slightly when the body beneath her bucked, before continuing her journey of exploration southward.

Pausing to worship the flatness of Olivia's stomach, her hand started a slow journey north up the long expanse of leg that was quivering invitingly under her touch. When it reached her inner thigh Olivia groaned and clutched the headboard tightly, Alex could feel the evidence of her arousal and the heat emanating from her body. Dipping one finger into the wetness she let it travel, hearing the gasp from the woman above her. Taking her hand away briefly she looked up to see the detective struggling for control, knuckles white, eyes tightly closed. Positioning herself between the open legs she waited until Olivia's eyes opened and connected with hers before putting the finger into her mouth and sucking, the detective's tongue wet her parched lips trying to communicate her need. Alex lowered her head and Olivia's world exploded.

Floating back down, Olivia released her hands and wrapped them around the body on top of her, kissing the mouth so temptingly hovering over her own. While waiting for her heart to cease to feel as if it was about to crash through her chest, she noticed the slickness on her thigh and the way Alex was moving. Altering the position of her leg slightly she heard Alex groan and felt the grinding against her. Realizing how close she was Olivia quickly rolled them over and pulled away. Alex's eyes flew open, the pleading in them all too clear, leaning in to kiss her; the detective calmed her body with her hands. Alex regaining some control of her senses caught Olivia's hand and brought it down to her core, the demand implicit. Olivia entered her quickly, thrusting deep, Alex rose to meet her, grabbing Olivia's other hand as she did so. Watching the woman writhe beneath her the detective continued her ministrations, paused a moment, then brushed a thumb along the bundle of nerves as a pinpoint of light fragmented into a million pieces.

"I suppose we ought to get up," Alex mumbled when they awoke several hours later, snuggling deeper into the detective's side.

"Mm" Olivia replied enjoying the unusual sensation of feeling totally relaxed. Alex lifted her head and gazed into the dark eyes next to her, they kissed, spiraling deeper into the world of feeling they had been reluctant to leave.

A loud buzzing noise from the bedside table invaded their consciousness and Alex barely overcame the desire to hurl the phone at the wall. Prying herself away she picked up the receiver and intensely annoyed at the interruption said, "Hello" sharply.

"Alex, it's me. Where are you?"

"Obviously since I picked up the phone I'm enjoying some quality time in my apartment." Alex replied, her mother's tone grating on her last remaining nerve.

"Have you forgotten? You're supposed to be coming over for lunch today. I've invited Josh."

Alex groaned, she had forgotten. Her mother had called to tell her just before the ball game last weekend. She checked her clock, 12:17; lunch was always at 1pm, with drinks before hand, there was no way she could make it. "Sorry mother, we'll have to make it another time," she said knowing she would never hear the end of this.

"But Josh has come over especially, he's so looking forward to meeting you." Josh Matthews was the latest protégé in her father's corporate law firm. Having just made junior partner, he was young and unfortunately single, all perfect qualifications for her mother's eligibility list.

"I'm sure you can entertain him" Alex replied, not attempting to conceal the fact that she didn't care either way.

"Alexandra, that's no way to speak to your mother."

"Sorry mother, but the fact remains that even if I left now I couldn't make it by 1 o'clock."

"Then we will apologize for your lateness and you will make it as soon as is humanly possible. This is important Alexandra, and I won't take no for an answer."

Knowing that she meant it, Alex cursed the man who invented phones and said, "Fine, I'll be there as soon as I can." Not quite slamming the receiver back into its cradle.

The rest of Alex's day went from bad to worse. Olivia, realizing what the phone call meant was dressed by the time Alex returned from the bathroom.

"Liv…" she started then faltered not knowing what to say.

Olivia retrieved her jacket and walked to where Alex was standing, "These thing happen" she said, kissing her softly.

Alex groaned when she let go, "This is so unbelievably unfair."

"I'll see you tomorrow," the detective said, resolutely leaving the apartment.

Having arrived at her parents too late to eat, Alex made suitable apologies and was presented to Josh. Almost like a prize at the fair, she thought bitterly, wondering what her mother would do if she brought Olivia home. Josh, she found, was well read, well traveled, intelligent, handsome, charming and totally, totally boring. Calling her mother Mrs. Cabot and her father, Sir, he was attentive, ready with an appropriately middle of the road opinion to any topic, was quite prepared to laugh at her father's terrible jokes and commiserate with her mother at the lack of suitable staff. Having been forced into accepting a dinner invitation from him for later in the week, she was finally allowed to leave by pleading a horrendous work load, which her mother had coyly suggested she could do away with once she was married, fortunately out of the hearing of Josh.

Walking into the squad room the following day it was quite clear that Olivia had not had a good night. Heading out with her partner to the BWA she made him stop for coffee on the way. Showing his badge to the receptionist Elliot asked to see whoever was in charge and the detectives were asked to wait. A few minutes later a well-dressed woman of about forty walked down the corridor and having introduced herself as the Office Manager, Estelle Richmond showed them into her office. Having explained that they needed the details of all the members of the council, the woman nodded and said, "I read about Jessica, it's terrible, do you think it's anything to do with us?"

"We don't know as yet, we're just following up anything she did to get a picture of her life" Olivia replied, not wanting to worry the woman.

"Well, I'm afraid our computers were stolen in a robbery 2 months ago, but I can write them all out for you. Having explained that they would need both the home and work details of all the women as well as asking when the next meeting was, Benson and Stabler hurried back to the squad room with a list of eight names, 3 of them already deceased.

At 10.30 having finally found an excuse to go down to SVU, Alex stopped outside the door, took a deep breath and entered. All the detectives were in Cragen's office with the forensic psychiatrist, the door firmly shut. Not wanting to disturb her, Alex thought quickly, then wrote a note and left it on Olivia's desk before heading back to her office.

"There's no doubt that this is his hit list?" Cragen was asking.

"We can't find any other links, they had no business dealings together, they live in totally different part's of the city, they had different interests, this is the only thing connecting them, why else would he go from killing two women who lived alone to mugging a man for his keys in order to kill his wife" Benson said.

"So why?"

"It's not them he's killing" Huang said, "It's what they represent."

"Meaning" Cragen, said looking up.

"The Business Women's Association is a female equivalent of the old boy's network, they help each other, they tell each other about opportunities and they support women in up and coming businesses with their experience. That is what they represent, women's desire to have careers, in effect, to be equal." Huang continued, "Look at the bodies, two in the kitchen, one in the bedroom, traditional places women are depicted and literally chained to the bed or the sink."

"So then any woman with a job is fair game?"

"No, it's not the fact that these women are working, it's that they're actively encouraging others to do so, they're the ones sitting at the top table saying look at me, you can be where I am. By raping and killing them he's saying look where it got you, you should have stayed at home."

Looking round Cragen said "suggestions?"

"Well assuming he doesn't speed up his plans the next one is this Friday." Elliot said, "He killed Jessica Martin just after the last council meeting which means the next one is a week on Wednesday, he's probably counting on that being the first time they'll notice."

"If we tell them he might find out we're on to him and disappear."

"But if we don't they're out there as targets."

"He's got to be watching them at least part of the time, he knows where they live and who they live with."

"Ok" Cragen said, "take one each and go and see them this morning, ask if they've seen anything suspicious but don't worry them, make up a story if you have to, I'll take the fifth. I'll see you all when you get back, and in case he is watching, try not to look too much like cops!"

Taking one of the women's details Olivia left the office and headed out of the squad room, spying the note she detoured by her desk and put it in her pocket before heading to her car.

Half an hour later she was sitting in the plush reception area of a large cable TV company waiting for Christine Philips, one of their top executives to come out of a meeting. Having read a company brochure and found out a little more about the woman she was about to see, she fished the note out of her pocket and read,

            I need to go over your statement in the Meredith case re finding the GHB, I'll be in court from 2 o'clock but you can call me before then.

Pulling out her phone she dialed the counselor's number.


"Good morning Counselor, you wanted to speak to me?" she said in an amused voice.

"Let's just say I wanted to hear your voice" came the reply, then the sound of a door shutting. "How are you?"

"Tired" Olivia said briefly closing her eyes, "How was lunch yesterday?"

"The company was awful and the food, at least for me, was none existent" she replied "and I got forced into having dinner with the man on Friday."

"Why didn't you just say no?"

"I did believe me, saying no to my mother is like bashing your head against a brick wall."

Olivia saw a woman in a very short but very stylish skirt walking purposefully towards her, "Got to go" she said, "I'll call you later" and put the phone in her pocket.

"Detective Benson?" the woman said holding out a perfectly manicured hand. Olivia stood and shook it noticing the strong grip. "I'm Christine Philips, I understand you wanted to see me?" Leading the way to her office she stopped outside and asked the woman seated there to get some coffee before opening her door and motioning the detective in. Seating herself on the visitor's side of the desk Olivia was aware of the close scrutiny she was receiving from the woman facing her. Looking up she took in the tanned skin and clinically white teeth before observing the look in the woman's eyes. A sharp knock on the door prevented her from saying what was on her mind as the coffee arrived.

"Ms. Philips" she began when the secretary had left.

"Please, call me Christine" the woman cut in.

"Ms. Philips" she began again, "I'm here because several of your colleagues in the industry have reported receiving notes of a personal nature as well as the feeling of being watched wherever they go."

"I can assure you detective, I have better things to do with my time than stalk my colleagues" the woman cut in again.

"I'm sure you have, I'm not accusing you, I was wondering if you had noticed anything unusual lately?"

"You mean someone stalking me?"

"We're asking several people if they have noticed anything" Olivia said vaguely, "Whoever it is doesn't approach the person, they just get the feeling of someone there."

"Television is a very fickle field detective and many people have a grudge against anyone stopping them from pursuing their dreams of stardom, regardless of their talent."

"So have you noticed anything Ms. Philips?"

The woman considered the question, "As yet, I haven't detective, but I was on the west coast four a couple of weeks and only arrived back last night. Give me your number and I'll make sure you're the first to know."

"Might your husband have noticed anything?" Olivia asked, handing her a card.

"You're much more my type detective," she said amusedly, "I live alone though so no, no-one will have noticed".

Heading back to the office Olivia thought of Christine Philips, getting a distinct picture of a lion and it's prey in her head, she shuddered.

Four of the women on the list had noticed nothing and no one unusual of late, the fifth Marcia Thomas had flown to Mexico for a two-week holiday that weekend. "On the assumption that she will be safe until she gets back, I think we can safely disregard her for the time being" Cragen said, "Which leaves four potential victims that don't know they are and one perp that we know nothing about."

What about showing them the sketch we got from Mr. Hargest?" Olivia said.

"It's too soon" Cragen replied, " If they start getting worried they could alert him and we'll lose him. What about the domestic arrangements of the other women?"

"Paola Danese, lives with her husband and three sons" Elliot said getting up to get more coffee, looking at Olivia as he did so.

"Christine Philips lives alone," Olivia said nodding at her partner.

"Any of the others live alone, John?"

Munch shook his head, "Judy Stanford has a husband and two small children."

"And Domenica Morabito, has her husband and her mother living with her." His partner added.

"Then he'll go for Christine Philips next because living alone makes her the easiest target" the psychiatrist said decisively.

"Then why didn't he go for her last time?" Cragen asked.

Huang looked momentarily stumped before Olivia said, "She wasn't in the city, she only got back from the west coast last night."

"You could be right George" Cragen said looking at Huang, before turning to the detectives and continuing, "but I want them all tailed, see if you spot our guy, keep in contact and if you see him call for backup, I don't want him noticing you and I don't want to lose him."

The detectives spent the remainder of the day keeping a watch out for their suspect. They had swapped targets so that the women wouldn't recognize them and stayed on duty until midnight. This routine continued all the following day, without a result.

On Wednesday morning, Fin finally spotted a possible match in a coffee shop across from Christine Philips office building, when the man in question had been in there for two hours, he rang Cragen.

"Stay where you are for the time being" the Captain said "I'll get someone over there in case he moves." Calling the other detectives he discovered they had nothing to report. As this was their only break, however slight, Cragen decided to put them all on it and told them to get back to his office as quickly as they could.

"OK" he said when the three detectives had arrived, "Fin has a possible sighting near Christine Philips office building, suspect is wearing jeans and a white open necked shirt, but we need to make sure and I don't want to wait until they're all going home in case we're wrong. Olivia, ring Ms. Philips and get her out of the building to see if he follows her. Munch, Elliot if he leaves I want him followed."

"Where am I supposed to tell her to go?" Olivia asked stretching, they had all been pulling long hours and they were beginning to show.

"I don't care, invite her out to lunch," her boss replied.

Olivia called Christine Philips and asked if she had time to see her as she had a few more questions to ask. Getting an affirmative response she invited the executive to lunch and said she would meet her at her office in an hour. Locating a deli that was in walking distance from the office building it was decided that Elliot would follow the suspect from the coffee shop to the deli and Munch would already be stationed near the deli. Relaying the plan to Fin, the detectives left to carry it out.

Elliot dropped Munch off then circled around the back of the office building to let Olivia out. Fin, spotting her going into the building got out of his car, went into the coffee shop and ordered.

"Well this is a pleasant surprise detective" Christine said walking towards her.

"Please call me Olivia," she said not knowing how close the suspect was likely to get.

Christine raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow "If you call me Christine," she responded.

"There's a deli not far from here if that's Ok with you?"

"Certainly" the executive replied.

As the two women walked out of the building and down the street, the man in the coffee shop rose and walked out. Elliot was a little way behind him, talking on the phone, the perfect harassed office worker on his way to lunch. As they approached the deli, Olivia could see no sign of Munch, but knew he could see her. The man did not enter but walked to the newsstand opposite, bought a paper and leant against a wall appearing to do the crossword. Elliot walked straight by the deli and down the street where he turned the corner and walked back round to the car, started the engine and parked it on the street where Fin had been, behind another car but with a good view of the office building and the coffee shop.

Having ordered, Olivia spent twenty minutes inventing questions to ask Christine Philips and fending off her suggestive advances, before her phone rang. Munch finally putting her out of her misery. Putting it away she said, "I'm sorry, I've got to go."

"Perhaps we can have dinner sometime?" Christine said putting her hand on Olivia's arm.

"Erm, I'll call you in a couple of days" the detective replied, knowing it was likely to be true and that she would need the woman's co-operation. Leaving the deli she walked up the street to where Fin was waiting. "Well?" she said.

"He followed" Fin said, "let's see if we can find out who he is" he continued, holding up a paper cup in an evidence bag.

Meeting Munch back at the office they found the man had waited for Ms. Philips to finish then followed her back to her office building. He had then gone back into the coffee shop, where according to Elliot he was still doing the crossword.

Part 5

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