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 Five

Fin put the phone down, "We got a match on the prints, Adrian Croft, did two and a half years for assault 95 to 97. Got a recent address for him on the Lower East Side."

"Olivia, see what else you can dig up on him, Munch work surveillance with Elliot, Fin ask around see what his neighbors say" Cragen ordered.

Fin and Munch headed out, Christine Philips was still in her office, Croft was still in the coffee shop and Elliot was still on the street. Munch took the subway back to the office building, detouring round the back and getting into the passenger side of Elliot's car. He handed Elliot a burger and coffee he had picked up on the way.

"Thanks" Elliot said taking a bite, "so what are we doing now?"

"Continuing surveillance" Munch replied taking the lid off his cup and settling in for a boring afternoon. At 7 o'clock Elliot began to wonder how late she was planning to work.

"Do we know if she's going straight home?"

"I don't think the question was asked," he said remembering Ms. Philips body language in the deli and thinking Olivia probably hadn't dared.

"Well assuming she is, she came in on the subway so if I go into that 7-11 on the corner I can see the building door and the subway entrance" Elliot said.

"Fine, I'll wait on the platform, let me know when she's on her way" Munch said, getting out of the car and retreating back around the side of the building." Elliot waited until several people were walking by then he got out of the car and joined them until they reached the end of the street then walked into the store.

"Olivia what did you get on Croft?" Cragen said the following morning.

"Adrian Croft was in care homes from the age of ten to sixteen, didn't stay with foster parents long. At nineteen he hit a female police officer who was trying to question him on a minor drugs charge, put her in hospital, did time for assault. Went to Carson City about six months after he got out, was there until four months ago, when he came back he started working for a construction company. Stopped working for them six weeks ago, said he had another job. There's nothing on his credit cards that links him to the chain, the rope or the dog collars, but his finances suggest that he came into some money a few month's ago. I also came up with a lot of coincidences. He was taken away from his father by child services under a protection order; his mother had already left. I traced her to Carson City but she disappeared seven months ago. According to the local cops she went off in an RV one day and never came back, she'd just sold her company and taken early retirement so they thought nothing of it, apparently she'd run a very successful publishing business dealing with self-help books. The female judge who put Croft away was killed in a hit and run four months after he got out, they never caught the driver. Also there were three suspicious deaths of business women in Carson City while Croft was there, one killed in a car accident, one apparently took an overdose and the last one definitely murdered, shot in the head."

"So we can safely say he's been planning this a while, Munch?"

"He followed Ms. Philips home, walked passed the building and down the road, stood on the corner looking back at the building for about half an hour then left."


"He got home around 10:30. He's been living there since he moved back, not the sociable type, his neighbors don't know him to speak to, and he lives alone".

"What do you think Alex?" Cragen said turning to look at the counselor.

Alex sighed, "If you pick him up now I could get him on a fourth degree stalking charge or third degree assault if Mr. Hargest can pick him out of a line up, both of which are misdemeanors that won't put him away for long and there's no evidence for him being at the crime scenes."

"If we find the gun in his possession we can get ballistics to match it" Fin interrupted.

"But if you alert him and don't find it, he could disappear, for a while at least" Huang said, "He considers himself on a mission, he's stuck to an MO and a timeline on these, but the murders in Carson City show that he's adaptable, or he could just go to another city and carry on, there's plenty of businesswomen's groups out there. If he pulled a hit and run on the judge then pulling him in on the stalking or assault charges would put Alex in danger."

"I agree" Cragen said grimly, "the only way we'll make this stick is if we get him when he's in definite possession of the gun, which means waiting until tomorrow night."

"Which means waiting until he's inside Christine Philips apartment" Olivia said not liking the thought of Alex in danger.

"Let's keep them both under surveillance for now, we'll tell her tomorrow, there's no point in alarming her any sooner than necessary. Assuming she's staying at her office I want two of you outside on four hour rotations but stay well out of sight I don't want him suspicious, if either of them move call for back up."

They left his office and Olivia headed out to meet Elliot, Alex following her. Catching her up when they'd left the building, she touched the detective on the arm, "are you ok?" she said, the dark circles under the detectives eyes, not having gone unnoticed. Olivia slackened her pace, and was about to retort that she was fine when she saw the concern in the counselor's face, "yes" she replied "I've just not had much sleep in the last few days."

"Come over when you've finished."

"It's probably not a good idea, it might be late."


Olivia sighed, knowing it was an argument she didn't really want to win. "Ok" she agreed, "I'll see you later."

Christine Philips got home around 8 o'clock, Alex Croft stayed until 8.30 then Elliot followed him home acknowledging Fin as he walked passed and went home. Munch, parking behind Olivia got in beside her. "I'm glad this is over tomorrow" he said, "it's playing havoc with my social life."

"Olivia grinned, "You're a cop, your not supposed to have a social life."

"A fact which my ex-wives were painfully aware" he responded. "Go home, you look beat."

"Thanks" she replied sarcastically, "you do wonders for my ego."

Waiting until he was back in the car behind, Olivia drove off, thinking he was right she should go home, she pointed the car in the direction of Alex's. Getting out her cell she dialed her number, "I'm on my way, have you eaten yet?"

"No" came the response "want me to cook?"

"I'll pick something up on the way, pizza ok?"

"Sure" Alex said, thinking she'd have to start running further or get Olivia off take-out fast.

"Have the last piece" Alex said, "I'm full."

"Are you sure?" Olivia waited until she got a confirming nod before putting the pizza to her mouth. She was sitting on the floor propped up against the couch again and Alex who had joined her was regretting the decision as she tried to rise, she had forgotten the napkins and getting to her feet without transferring pizza to the rug was proving a problem.

"How do you find that comfortable?" she said finally standing up.

Olivia shrugged as she put the last bite into her mouth and used her elbows on the couch to prop her up as she rose. Alex rolled her eyes, picked up the pizza box and walked into the kitchen, with Olivia on her heels.

Putting the box in the trash she turned to find the detective washing her hands. Alex looked at them fascinated, she had never thought of herself as being attracted to a particular body part before but their strength, their beauty was mesmerizing. Snapping out of it just as the woman turned, she nodded at the towel and washed her own hands.

Olivia waited until she had finished, she knew she should go, she had a long day ahead of her, but Alex's presence relaxed and calmed her and she was finding it difficult to leave. Voicing both their thoughts Alex turned, "Are you staying?" she inquired quietly.

"Do you want me to?"

"I think that's a given, I am aware however that we haven't really had time to talk since the weekend and…" Olivia had walked over to her and put a finger across her lips. When she was sure Alex was not going to continue she took it away and picked up her hand, leading her out of the kitchen and down the hallway to the bedroom.

Leaving the hall light on and the bedroom door ajar, she stood looking at the counselor in the dim light. Opening her mouth to speak Alex saw her shake her head and closed it again, she hadn't seen Olivia like this before and wasn't sure what she wanted. She could feel her heartbeat pick up as the detective walked towards her.

Standing close enough to feel breath on her face, Olivia looked into her eyes for what seemed like eternity, then barely moving, leaned in and touched her lips to those in front of her, breaking contact when arms encircled her. Alex frowned, opening her eyes and searching the face before her. She dropped her arms and Olivia smiled slightly.

Reaching up with her hands she traced the contours of the counselor's face, reading it like a blind man, the delicate features a language she knew, and when at last she came to her eyes the lids fluttered shut without hesitation. The detective kissed first one lid then the other.

Keeping her eyes closed and her arms still, Alex felt Olivia kiss her lips again, responding to their warm touch. Then a tongue darted into her mouth and dueled with her own, as she fought the urge to pull her closer. The mouth left her and she whimpered in protest then in pleasure as it continued its journey down her neck. Alex had never before needed this much control, the heat radiating from her body threatened to consume her. Even when Olivia had not been touching her, the look in her eyes had caused every nerve ending to reach towards her, magnetized by the passion she saw there. Proactive by nature and assertive by inclination she was not disposed to hold back, in the courtroom or the bedroom.

Her hands curled into fists, the detective had removed her shirt and bra, the material moving slowly down her arms had barely registered as teeth and tongue played havoc with her senses. "Liv" she moaned as hands strayed lightly over her abdomen, reaching the button on her jeans. Olivia raised her head and kissed the woman deeply before kneeling and quickly divesting her of the rest of her clothes. Standing there naked and vulnerable required all the willpower Alex possessed and as the seconds lengthened the only thing that kept here there was the look she remembered in Olivia's eyes.

Taking her hand Olivia led her to the bed and pulled back the bedclothes, picking her up and laying her gently on it she uncurled the fists and kissed the palms. Not being able to see made Alex's other senses more acute, she could feel the sheet beneath her, cool on her skin and the slight wetness on her thigh, she could hear Olivia to her right and her own heartbeat racing in her ears, she could taste the remains of pizza and Olivia's mouth and she could smell the lavender she kept in the room mingling with her own musky scent. Olivia knelt on the bed and leant over, kissing her lightly as Alex registered that she was naked, moving away again she kissed her stomach, smiling against her skin as Alex grabbed the headboard to prevent herself from touching her tormentor. The detective traced patterns across the body next to her, watching the skin tremble beneath her touch, moving slowly, mapping her like an undiscovered country, the brush of her fingertips causing ripples across the skin and waves of desire underneath, then lowering her mouth she followed her hand.

Alex's breath was coming shallow and fast, she didn't know how much more she could take when Olivia lowered her body on to her and sent tiny sparks crackling all over her skin, she groaned and bit her lip. Working her way down her lover's body she could feel the tension and the minute movement of her hips that she was powerless to prevent becoming stronger by the second. "Alex" she said, looking up, "Alex, look at me." Alex heard her through the pounding in her ears and struggled to focus, her hips stilled and she looked into the eyes glinting in the half-light. She followed them as the detective moved quickly off her and resettled herself, never breaking contact until Olivia lowered her head...

Pulling herself to the other side of the bed and dragging the covers over them both, Olivia put her arm across Alex's stomach and kissed her cheek. A mumble came from the woman next to her. Alex swallowing tried again, "Give a girl some warning before you ravish her why don't you!… And don't think we're not going to have that conversation either" she teased turning her head to kiss the mouth next to her, tasting herself. Olivia chuckled, that was one of the things she liked about Alex, no matter how far you went to sidetrack her, she always came back to what she was thinking eventually, it was one of the things that made her so good in court.

She was coming back to her senses and Olivia felt a hand working it's way up her leg, she stilled it and shook her head, "Do you mind?" she queried softly "I just want to hold you."

Alex looked at her; "No" she said then kissing Olivia she held her tight as the detective again fell asleep in her arms.

Having informed Christine Philips that she needed to see her, Olivia and Elliot headed over to her office. Christine was surprised to see two of them. "This is my partner detective Stabler" Olivia said introducing them, then passing her a photo, "can you tell me if you know or have seen this man at all?"

"Not that I recall" she said looking at it, "however I meet so many people that I'm afraid I couldn't tell you for certain." Olivia's demeanor and the fact that she had brought someone else indicated to Christine that something had happened. "Is he the stalker?" she asked.

Olivia looked at Elliot and he continued, "He's been following you for at least the last three days, Ms. Philips."

Christine looked at the photo again, then looking sharply at Olivia she said, "that's why you wanted to have lunch outside the office wasn't it?"

Olivia nodded, "we needed to make sure."

"Well, why don't you arrest him, I thought stalking was illegal."

"It is, Ms. Philips, however at this stage we would only be able to get him on a minor stalking charge…" Elliot trailed off.

"If he's done something, why is he still on the streets?"

"Because unfortunately we can't prove it at the moment."

Christine pressed a button on her phone, "Sue?"

"Yes, Ms. Philips?"

"What time is my next meeting?"

"In ten minutes."

"Cancel it, and then bring some coffee in please."

"Will do."

She looked at the detectives, "So I'm his what? next victim?"

"It looks that way", Olivia admitted.

She got up and walked to the window, hearing the door open she turned and watched her secretary put the coffee on her desk. "Thanks… Sue", the woman looked up. "I don't want to be disturbed."

The woman nodded and left, closing the door behind her. Christine went back to her desk and picked up her coffee, indicating that the detectives should help themselves; cradling the cup she sat back down and looked at Olivia.

"What's he done?" she asked nodding at the photo.

Elliot told her about Jessica Martin, Tyler Dane and Rebecca Hargest. She shuddered, "I read about Jessica, I didn't know about the other two, we were all on a committee together you know."

"Yes" Olivia said, "it appears that he is specifically targeting the women on it."

Christine stared at her, not knowing what to think, "Why?"

"We're not sure."

"He's killed three people but your not sure why and you can't prove it."

"He left no evidence at the scenes that we can match him to."

"What am I supposed to do, leave town?"

The detectives looked at each other, then Olivia spoke, "Christine, the only way we can stop him is to prove that he killed those women. We can only do that by matching the gun and finding all the other things he used in a way that will prove it was him. There's only one way to do that".

"Which is?"

"We need to put him at a crime scene" Olivia said, deciding to tell her the minimum possible.

"I thought you said you couldn't?"

"We haven't been able to so far," Elliot said.

Suddenly Christine realized what they were suggesting, Olivia seeing the look on her face hurriedly continued, "We've been following you the last three days as well, we want to put some officers in your apartment, you'll be perfectly safe, we won't let him or you out of our sight."

"You want to use me as bait?"

Elliot's cell went, he excused himself and went outside.

"Christine, if there was another way, we'd use it, but there isn't. If he gets off or gets only a few years he will kill again, this is the only way we can stop him for good."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Nothing, just carry on as if everything was perfectly normal. Continue working today then go home at the time you planned, we'll be in your apartment when you get back and we'll have officers following him all the time. The minute he comes in to your apartment we'll get him."

"You make it sound so simple."

Olivia looked at her, "We will protect you."

Elliot came back into the room, "He's back in the coffee shop" he said to Olivia, who nodded.

Christine sighed, "Very well, but I have a condition", the detectives looked at her. She looked at Olivia, "you are the only one who comes into my apartment, I don't want a lot of people I don't know there." Seeing that they were about to argue she continued, "Otherwise I get the next plane out of the city."

"Ok" Olivia said.

"What time were you planning on leaving tonight?" Elliot asked.

"Erm, I leave at about 7.30 on a Friday, go home get something to eat, get changed and go out again around 10.00/10.30, there's a club I usually go to."

"Well assuming he knows that, it gives him about two hours unless he meets you on the way home or at the club." Elliot mused. "If he approaches you at all outside your apartment, be polite but don't invite him home."

"I would imagine if he's been following me he knows I won't detective, and he wouldn't get into the club", she said wryly looking at Olivia.

"So that leaves the time your already in your apartment" Olivia said. "Can we go and have a look around?"

Christine opened a drawer and handed her some keys, "Spare set" she said.

"Is there another way out of this building apart from the front entrance?"

"There's a fire exit at the end of the hall, hang on a minute, I'll tell security to switch the alarm off", she picked up the phone.

Christine arrived home without incident, "She's going into the building" Munch said into Olivia and Elliot's earpieces. She was already in the apartment as planned, Fin had the keys so he could get in to the building after the perp and Elliot was waiting in the stairwell on the floor above.

Fin, narrowly avoiding being seen, watched as Croft made sure she went into her apartment waited for about half an hour and then doubled back down the street. Fifteen minutes later he called Munch, "Get this, he's gone into a florist."

"What's he buying, a wreath?" Munch asked before relaying the information to the other detectives.

Alex got into Josh's car, she had called Cragen's office to get an update before leaving her apartment, there was no answer and she didn't dare call Olivia's cell. She had had a bad day in court and this was the last thing she needed, Josh drove to the restaurant, noting her silence. They ordered and he chose wine that didn't go with the meal before asking her politely how her day had been, Alex sighed, this was going to be a long night.

Having realized that propositioning Olivia while she was doing her job was not going to get her anywhere, Christine had micro waved herself a frozen meal, offering to do one for the detective who declined, had finished eating it and was currently engaged in getting ready as if she was going out for the evening. Olivia sat staring into space, charitably putting Christine's advances down to nerves, wondering if Alex was enjoying herself, and thinking she should have eaten before she came up. Her earpiece crackled into life, "He's walking towards the building, with a shoulder bag and some flowers", Munch said.

Olivia knocked on Christine's bedroom door; the exec opened it looking appropriately dressed to kill. "He's on his way" the detective said, "just say hello and see what he says."

Her buzzer sounded loudly in the silence.

Walking over to it she pressed a button "Hello?"

"Ms. Philips?" a voice said from the other end.


"I'm from the florist, I have some flowers for you."

Christine looked at Olivia, "Tell him to come up, leave the door ajar and then go to the other side of the room and do something, I don't want you next to it when he gets there. Tell him to leave the flowers at the door. I'll be down there," she said pointing to the hallway.

Christine nodded and pressed her intercom and the door lock, "Come on up" she said. Opening her front door slightly she walked to the sideboard and pretended to look in a drawer.

The man knocked on the door, "It's open," she said.

He pushed the door all the way open scanning the room, "where do you want me to put them?"

"There's fine," she said turning, "I'll get them in a minute, thanks" before continuing her rummaging.

"I'll put them on the table" he said walking into the room and putting them down.

Christine turned and stood up but remained where she was, "Oh, thanks" she said.

He grinned, "beautiful flowers" he put his bag down and took the card, holding it out to her "someone must think a lot of you."

Without thinking Christine crossed the room and reached out to take it, as she did he clamped his hand around her wrist and pulled her towards him, just as Olivia came up behind him and put her gun to his head.

"Put your hands on your head and turn around slowly" she said, he did as she asked and she stepped back keeping her gun pointed at him.

"Adrian Croft I am arresting you for the murders of Jessica Martin, Tyler Dane and Rebecca Hargest, you have the right to remain silent …"

"I don't know what you're talking about" he said, "all I'm doing is delivering flowers."

"Christine open his bag."

She dragged it away from him and did as she was asked while Olivia kept looking at him, thinking of what he had done, the women he had killed, she had to make this one stick.

"Tape, Rope, Chain…" Christine said in horror, realizing for the first time how much danger she had been in, and sinking to her knees.

Olivia's eyes darted to her and he seized his chance, he whipped his hand down pulling out the .22, and pointed it at her. Her gun wavered "put it…" she began as she saw his finger twitch, pulling the trigger she fell to the floor as his bullet skimmed the air just above her and embedded itself in the wall outside. Hers hit its target and the man fell backwards and lay still. Seconds later the guns of Fin and Elliot were in the doorway."

"Here come the cavalry," Christine muttered under her breath.

Having pleaded a migraine, Alex had left as early as she could and was sitting in her apartment when her phone made her jump. "Cabot."

"Alex, it's Elliot."

Alex's heart caught in her mouth. "Yes" she said.

"Adrian Croft is dead."

"What happened?"

"I wasn't there but Olivia is giving a statement now, I think it was pretty much a case of him or her."

"I'm on my way down."

"That's not necessary, it's just procedure."

"I know it's just procedure detective, however I would like to know what happened."

Three hours later Olivia was ready to leave, having taken a statement from Christine Philips at the scene and from her at the station as well as digging the bullet out of the wall, it was quite clear that Olivia had shot in self-defense, she was sick of going over it. Alex had come down and went white when she heard what happened; fortunately no one else seemed to notice.

"Ok" Cragen said, "time for everyone to go home, we'll tie up any loose ends on Monday."

"El" Olivia said knowing he lived the nearest, "Can you give me a lift home?" not feeling up to driving.

"Sure" he said.

"Can I talk to you a minute?" Alex said looking at her.

"I'll be in the car," Elliot said walking out with the others.

Olivia regarded the counselor, a bleak expression on her face.

"Are you ok?"

"Sure I am" Olivia answered, "case ended without the expense of a trial."

"That's not what I meant."

"I'll be fine, I just really need to be on my own for a while." Olivia got up, "I'll call you" she pecked her on the cheek, "I promise." Alex, knowing there was nothing else she could do walked outside with the detective and watched her get into her partner's car, her heart aching.

Part 6

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