DISCLAIMER: The characters in the story are the creation of Dick Wolf and I'm using them without permission for entertainment and not for profit. The story is my own.
SPOILERS: Set after Alex comes out of witness protection, so there may be some spoilers for those who have not seen the show (or L&O) to that point. I've taken some minor liberties with canon, but they shouldn't be too distracting.
FEEDBACK: To Alcina_to_Zauberflote[at]sympatico.ca
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Blood is Thicker
The Sergeant responding to the scene escorted Alex and Rhonda to a squad car, instructing his officers to keep the press at bay. He decided that getting the women and the child away from the crime scene was more important than the absence of a child seat and instructed the young officer driving to "be careful".
Alex was shaking so hard that her teeth were chattering when they got to the emergency room, which was a sea of blue. Hearing that a fellow officer had been injured seemed to have spurred every cop in the area, coming off shift, or about to go on shift, to stop by and donate blood or otherwise show support and solidarity. Rhonda was overwhelmed. Officers who knew Olivia and hadn't seen her in a while assumed that Jamie was her son and fussed over him, making him laugh. His grandmother didn't correct them, because she was too busy trying to cope with what felt like tragedy stalking two incredible women who didn't deserve it.
The police presence thankfully made it easy to keep members of the media at bay, the image of Alexandra Cabot, pale and blood-spattered, being entirely too compelling an image for them to resist. Alex tried to stop trembling, but she felt as though there was a chill that went all the way to her bones and which no amount of heat could ever overcome. Olivia had been shot in the chest with a .44. She couldn't have worked as an ADA for as long as she had without knowing the kind of damage such a large-caliber hand gun could do. She knew that the only reason Olivia was still alive was that the second shot had missed.
The quick response of EMS and their proximity to a trauma center gave her hope, but she'd seen the amount of blood the detective had lost, she'd seen her pallor and she'd heard the EMT's calling out vital statistics that, even to her untrained ears, had sounded bad.
"Alex?" Alex looked up to find Maribel Piquero's concerned dark gaze focused on her.
"Do you have any news?" There was undisguised terror in the question.
"Not yet. But I thought you might want to come with me. One of the doctors is about your size and has a t-shirt you can borrow and you can wait in the surgical waiting area "
"They won't let Jamie come up, so I'll stay with Rhonda."
Rhonda shook her head. "Alex, you should go ahead. But please let me know if there's any news."
Alex focused fully on Rhonda for the first time. She noticed the strain on the woman's face and realized it was the second time in two weeks that she'd been put through this brand of wringer. "Why don't you go up and visit Gladys? I'll find you if there's news."
Rhonda nodded. "Maybe a short visit. Then I have to get him home to my place. Get him settled. It will take almost two hours on the train and the bus."
"Why don't you stay at Olivia's? She's got a sofa bed and I think she'd want that. It would be hard for you to travel back and forth from Cherry Hill with Jamie."
"My sister will be here the day after tomorrow."
"So stay until then. Jamie's room is all set up. Please. I keep her spare key on my key chain." I'd meant to give it back.
Rhonda reluctantly agreed and Alex followed Maribel out of the ER to the doctors' lounge where the social worker politely turned away as Alex slipped off her bloodied blouse and pull on on a t-shirt with a Gap logo over the left breast. She encouraged Alex to wash her hands, looking on in alarm as Alex swayed on her feet when Olivia's blood stained the water that swirled down the drain. Maribel then called in a CSI, who put Alex's blouse and blood-spattered navy jacket into a paper bag, then sealed and signed it. Alex realized that her clothes were crime scene evidence and shuddered.
The small surgical waiting area was deserted. Maribel got a cup of water from the dispenser in the corner and sat next to Alex. "Here, drink. And I'm going to get a blanket for you to put around your shoulders." Alex tried to decline, but her teeth were chattering.
As the ADA huddled under the blanket and sipped from the paper cup, Maribel sat quietly next to her, her stillness somehow soothing despite the fact that she said nothing. Unfortunately, Alex needed a diversion. Somewhere behind the swinging doors, surgeons had cut open Olivia's chest and they were trying to save her life. She refused to think about that because she couldn't cope with the idea that they might not be successful.
"Were you and Olivia lovers?"
"Effective, yet subtle." Maribel raised her eyebrows.
Alex pursed her lips. She wasn't sure if the other woman was mocking her and she didn't like being so far off balance.
Maribel's tone was warm, almost gentle, when she added, "The rumor around here is that you're a senior ADA, so I guess it's natural for you to ask questions."
Alex looked away. "Sorry. It's none of my business."
"I'd argue that it probably is, but I also think it's something you should ask Olivia about, not me."
"Since your avoidance of the question is about as telling as Olivia's was, I'll take that as a yes?"
Maribel smiled. "My girlfriend has a love/hate relationship with that information. She refers to Olivia as "the dashing detective" with varying degrees of sarcasm. I'll invite you two to dinner to set her mind at ease once and for all. You know it's not surprising Benson ended up with a lawyer; that woman does not back down from an argument " She sighed, deciding to answer Alex's original question. "My thing with Olivia was a long time ago at a time of upheaval in both our lives. It wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been sleeping on her couch and it never happened again after I moved out. Sometimes, when life feels as though it's out of control, human contact helps."
Alex nodded. "At one point, when I'd been with SVU for a while, I realized that I'd actually shut down the physical side of my life part of it was because I was already hung up on Olivia, but a bigger part was that what I saw every day had warped my perception of what a physical relationship between two people could be. I made a decision to fix that. I wanted " she hesitated and then decided to use Maribel's words, "human contact. So I accepted a date with another lawyer and wore the most seductive dress I owned hell, I even sat around with heated rollers in my hair for twenty minutes. I wanted to make sure he didn't say no. I wanted to be wanted in a healthy way. Pure lust."
"There's a lot to be said for pure lust," Maribel said with a smile that made Alex realize why her girlfriend wasn't exactly comfortable with the social worker's history with Olivia. "I assume it worked?"
"No. Well, it worked for him, but not for me. Olivia came to the restaurant with some paperwork related to the case we were working on." Alex managed a small smile. "You know how attractive she can be when she's all fired up with righteous indignation and passion to do the right thing Just imagine that with the added complication of being completely and hopelessly in love with her. She left, but after seeing her and being that close to her, I could no more let a defense attorney touch me than I could let John Wayne Gacy touch me."
"The brain is the biggest sex organ at least in most women, it is." Maribel looked curious. "Did Olivia know?"
Alex shook her head. "I think we both sensed a mutual attraction, but denial was a matter of survival of getting the job done and getting justice for the victims."
"You're lucky to have found each other again after you'd moved on from SVU."
For reasons Maribel could not fathom, that statement seemed to break the dam that held back Alex's emotions and the ADA began to cry. Her body shook with sobs and her face twisted with indescribable pain. Maribel wrapped an arm around her shoulders and held her, saying nothing, because, until the surgeons walked out to let them know how Olivia was, there was nothing to be said.
Alex eventually seemed to have cried herself into exhaustion and she sat staring blankly at the far wall with red-rimmed eyes. "I need to call the office," she said, finally.
"You shouldn't worry. You've been on the news, so it's a safe bet that everybody in the DA's office knows where you are."
"They know where I am now, but I have a suppression hearing in the morning other responsibilities and I won't be going in. I can't cope with " Fresh tears spilled down her cheeks. "If she's not ok, I'm never going to cope again." She shook her head. "I don't know how she did it when she thought I was dead but I'm not strong enough I'm not!"
"Alex!" Maribel interrupted the flow of words that had started to take on an edge of panic. "There's a phone over there. Dial "9" for an outside line. Call your office and have someone take over your workload. Then I'm going to go and get you a cup of tea, ok?"
"No. Don't. Just stay with me Please." The words were measured, not pleading. Alexandra Cabot was not used to needing, or asking for, emotional support.
"And Alex? If you're going to give that lady the key to Olivia's place, you need to do it soon; it's been almost two hours and she has a baby on her hands." She looked at the way Alex flinched at the mention of how long Olivia had been in the operating room. "Is there someone you want me to call? Relatives? Friends? I can stop by my office after I drop off the keys."
"Please. My uncle." She fumbled in her handbag. "His number is in my cell phone address book under 'Uncle Larry'. His name is Lawrence Cabot."
Maribel accepted the phone and the keys. "And I'll get that tea on the way back. Don't worry, I won't be long." She squeezed Alex's shoulder and slipped quietly down the hall, leaving the blond woman to call the DA's office.
Before Alex could hang up the phone, Elliot arrived.
"Alex, I had no idea! I was at a meeting at Dickie's school and my phone was off. As soon as I found out I came in. Any news?"
Alex shook her head. "Did they tell you why that woman ?" Alex looked bewildered. "She tried to shoot Jamie and she thought Olivia was Jamie's mother." Olivia had seemed to recognize the woman she'd called her by name yet she'd never mentioned her. She shook her head in bafflement. "Why would she want to kill Gladys Preston and her son?"
"Her name is Christine Fisher. She was Stirling's sometime girlfriend. She freaked out when he died. Right now it looks like she got hold of Rhonda Preston's address and stalked her. She followed her to Manhattan, saw Olivia with the baby and assumed she was Gladys." He shrugged. "Olivia was holding Gladys's kid and talking to Gladys's mother and then there's the fact that they look alike. I can see why Liv would try to talk her down instead of trying to convince her she was the sister nobody knew Gladys had. That might have enraged Fisher even more." He trusted his partner's instincts.
He looked at the ADA. She looked fragile the way she'd looked just before federal agents had taken her away. "Alex, as soon as you're ready, they'll need a statement from you."
Alex nodded. "Is she in custody?"
"Sedated and restrained at Bellevue. Olivia broke her jaw." He smiled faintly. "It's all the cops in the ER could talk about. She broke the perp's jaw after taking a .44 slug in the chest. They all want to marry her." Elliot wondered what he'd said wrong when Alex's face crumpled and she looked away.
He realized that he'd been focusing on the crime because he was afraid to focus on the victim. The victim was Olivia. His partner, whom he loved in a way normally reserved exclusively for family. His Olivia, for whom he'd borrowed his brother's Suburban and humped used furniture to the city because she'd had some crazy idea about taking care of a baby. Their Liv, who'd always been one of the boys without ever being less of a woman.
He refused to think that after everything she'd been through, everything they'd been through together, it could end like this, because some psycho had mistaken her for someone else. "She's gonna make it, Alex. She's strong and she's never run away from a fight." He looked surprised when his voice cracked.
"Detective Benson made it through the surgery, but she was given over twenty units of blood." The surgeon looked solemn. "If she hadn't been in such good physical condition, I doubt she'd have made it this far. Her condition is still critical, but I think we've repaired the damage, so all we can do is try to prevent infection and wait."
The small group of Cabots, along with Elliot, Munch, Fin, Maribel and Melinda Warner, looked both relieved and scared. They thanked the doctor and as he was walking away, Warner followed him down the hallway and, when they were out of earshot, she asked him softly, "Exactly how much damage did that bullet do?"
He knew who she was and how many bullet wounds she'd seen, long after the issue of the patient's fate had already been decided. "It shattered the body of the fifth rib and exited the posterior intercostal space between the ninth and tenth ribs. It's what it did in between that was our problem."
He listed the damage, finishing with, "We had to excise about a quarter of the left lung because of damage done by the bullet and bone fragments. A bone fragment also nicked the pericardium and a small one got lodged in the vena cava. Fortunately, that didn't get dislodged during transportation or she would have bled out. To be honest, it felt as though every time we plugged a hole, she'd spring a leak somewhere else. Your friend is lucky to have arrived on my table as quickly as she did. And she's lucky I take losing patients so damn personally. She crashed twice." Thoracic surgeons were not known for false modesty and this one was no exception.
"Thank you." She meant it. He had a reputation for excellence and he had obviously put everything he had into working on Olivia. He looked exhausted.
He nodded and walked away. She turned around to find Stabler only a few feet away, impatiently waiting to hear what the surgeon had said to her. She briefly relayed the information. "They'll probably move her from recovery to ICU within the next couple of hours," she concluded. "I have to get back to the office, but please page me if her condition changes."
"I'll see if Munch and Fin can drive you," Elliot offered. "Captain instructed them to meet him at Bellevue as soon as they had news. He had to leave because he wanted to be there when they interviewed the shooter."
On the other side of Manhattan, Christine Fisher was handcuffed to the frame of a hospital bed. Her jaw was bruised and her badly-bleached hair was matted and unkempt, but otherwise she looked healthy. Unfortunately, her jaw was wired shut, which only encouraged her to accept the counsel of her legal aid lawyer and exercise her right to remain silent.
Donald Cragen walked into the room carrying a legal pad and a felt-tipped pen. "I'm Captain Donald Cragen and the woman you shot this morning in front of a senior Assistant District Attorney is one of my best detectives: a decorated, fifteen-year veteran of the New York Police Department. Now, I don't know what Mr. Peters here has told you, but there is just about zero chance that you are going to avoid going to prison for attempted murder, since you plainly stated an intention to commit murder when you shot Detective Benson."
"Uh fuht sh wv Gldsh Prshtn."
"Yes," Cragen agreed, "you thought she was Gladys Preston and you thought Jamie Preston was Jamie Preston when you pointed a .44 caliber handgun at a baby and threatened to kill him." Fisher said nothing and Cragen looked curiously at her. "Do you somehow hope to convince a jury that it's a point in your favor that, if Detective Benson had been a regular citizen like Gladys Preston, instead of someone trained to protect, you would have successfully blown the brains out of a baby's head?"
"Sh hut muh!"
"She hit you after you fired one of the most powerful handguns made, directly into her chest, missing her heart by inches. Again, do you somehow believe that a jury will do anything but applaud her for that?"
"Uh dudunt muhn ta hrt hr."
"No, you meant to hurt Gladys Preston and her child and a New York Police Officer prevented you from doing that. That action has left her clinging to life." He dropped the legal pad on the bed. "I'm asking you now, if you have one shred of decency in you, to write down an accurate account of what happened and save Detective Benson's fellow officers the trouble of putting it all together without your cooperation."
He turned to leave, but as he got to the door, Fisher said, "Huh wz a gud mn and Gldsh Prshtn kud hum."
Cragen looked incredulously at the woman on the bed. "I'm not going to discuss an open case with you, but I do know that you have spent more time in the emergency room than the nurse working the triage desk. So, while I understand that you need to deny that Stirling abused you in order to preserve your own self-respect for staying with him, even when he'd fathered Gladys's child and moved in with her, please don't inflict your denial on the rest of the world. Jamie Preston and Olivia Benson certainly had nothing to do with your twisted relationship with Stirling."
He started to turn away, then paused long enough to add, "And you'd better pray that my detective survives because, if she doesn't, I will personally volunteer to put the needle in your arm."
As he exited the room, he took a deep breath and tried to calm down. Something about the self-pitying attitude of the woman really yanked his chain. "You ok, Cap?"
Cragen looked up to see Detective Green of the 22nd precinct's homicide squad looking at him with a concerned frown knitting his brow. "Just having a word with Olivia's shooter and trying to convince myself that I shouldn't save the state a lot of time and money."
"I know just what you mean, but I can't even afford to think that way since I caught the case."
Cragen paled, "You're " He didn't want to say Homicide because that would mean that Olivia had died while he'd been in the room with Fisher.
"Major Case. I'm on temporary assignment. Working with Eames. She's been pulled from the arson case because Brown confessed and no case in New York City is bigger right now than Olivia's."
Cragen almost sagged with relief. "What's your partner doing back at the 2-2?"
"She's on a beach in the Bahamas. Some people get holidays, you know. We're starting a rumor that she and Goren are on holiday together."
Cragen nodded in acknowledgement of the joke. The idea of Detective Robert Goren and "Detective Beauty Queen" as a couple probably would have been funny on any other day. "What have you got so far?"
"Everybody wants to be flawless on this, so we're being meticulous, but it's looking increasingly like the easiest investigation I've ever had to do. Eames is going to interview Cabot tomorrow, but I've spoken to Rhonda Preston and she's a solid witness, despite the fact that her nerves are close to being shot. I think if she didn't have responsibility for her grandson, she'd have fallen apart by now."
He flipped open his notebook, "Shooter walked up to the three women and the child, aimed at Olivia and fired two shots. Olivia was bending down at the time or she wouldn't have a head. She hit the deck and took the old lady and kid down with her. Cabot also hit the deck. Shooter commented that Benson looked pretty good for someone who'd been beat up and claimed to have killed a guy in self-defense. Benson tried to calm her down, said it was a misunderstanding or an accident; shooter said she had to kill her and the kid. She took aim at the kid, who was with the old lady on the ground, Benson ran, placing her body between the kid and the shooter, then tackled her just as she pulled the trigger. She fired twice, one bullet hit Olivia and the second seems to have gone wild as they hit the ground. Olivia punched her and then passed out." He flipped to another page. "Action, if not dialogue, confirmed by three other eye-witnesses. There would have been more, but she fired first and talked later, so most people in the area had taken cover."
"Can't find the last bullet fired, but everything else fits that sequence of events. Four casings indicate four shots fired. Two slugs recovered from a tree where the victim women and the little boy had been standing. The one that went through Olivia was recovered on the ground on the crime scene, trajectory consistent with blood pool where Olivia and the shooter landed. Fingerprints on weapon and casings match Fisher's and her hand tested positive for GSR."
"Anything on motive?
"Logan and Wheeler are on their way back from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Local cops were waiting with a search warrant for her place. Nothing remarkable except paperwork on the gun that she bought at a show in Virginia a week ago. They say she smoked like a chimney and there were piles of cigarette butts on Rhonda Preston's street, indicating she'd been parked there for extended periods of time watching the house and probably following Preston in the hope she'd lead her to Gladys. Butts have been sent for DNA testing."
He shook his head. "The ironic thing is that Gladys was living anonymously in New York to avoid being found by Stirling so, while Stirling was alive, Rhonda took extraordinary precautions to avoid being followed into Manhattan. With Stirling dead, she thought her daughter and grandchild were safe. But Fisher had also spent a fair amount of time stalking Gladys and taking pictures of her with Stirling, while she was pregnant and then with the baby. Hundreds of photos."
"I'm sure her lawyer is planning to mount an affirmative defense." Both men turned at the sound of the pronouncement from the distinctive voice of Abbie Carmichael.
"You think she'll claim she was nuts when she shot Olivia?" Green looked surprised.
Abbie looked grim. "Her legal aid lawyer has been fired. Nothing attracts the big firms like a case that has a reserved space on the front page of the Times. From now on she'll be ably represented by Trevor Langan, who should be here at any second to start spinning imaginative tales about psychotic breaks."
"Not even Langan could have followed the ambulance here that quickly " Cragen scowled.
"He was retained by her brother to represent her interests, or so he said when I spoke to him."
"Never mind Langan," Green frowned, "how's the US Attorney involved?"
"Gladys Preston and her son were still official residents of New Jersey, Fisher lived in New Jersey and planned her crime there not to mention the purchase of the gun in Virginia. It's pretty clear that she crossed State lines in planning and executing the crime. I'm just here to smooth over things with the other jurisdictions. Jack McCoy will be prosecuting."
She shrugged and then looked directly at Cragen. "How's Olivia?"
"No news yet. I'm expecting Munch and Fin to come over with lights and siren to let me know when she gets out of surgery."
Abbie looked over Cragen's shoulder. "Here they come now."
"She's hanging on," Munch said before they asked. "It was close, but the doctor says she has a chance."
"Sorry it took so long to get here, but the elevator was a bit slimy," Fin added.
The cop and AUSA quickly got his meaning when Trevor Langan arrived. "Good day, Captain, Abbie. Where's my client?"
"In there, with her current lawyer," Cragen gestured towards the door with the police guard outside.
"And let me guess, she's also shackled to the bed?"
Green rolled his eyes. "What did you expect, that she'd be allowed to come and go freely and maybe we'd have given her back her weapon by now?"
"Yeah," Fin sneered, "with all those cops still waiting to be shot, she could be having some target practice." He glared at Langan. "The woman shot Olivia Benson while the detective was unarmed and trying to save the life of a ten-month-old baby. How do you live with yourself?"
"Everyone's entitled to legal representation, Detective Tutuola, and you of all people should not be implying that some victims are more worthy than others."
Fin's eyes turned hard and cold, anger seemingly replaced by something that made Abbie shiver. She understood for the first time how Fin had been so successful when he'd worked undercover, gaining the confidence of some of the most feared drug lords in the city. "Why don't you step into the room with your client, Counselor? I think the company on the other side of that door is much more in keeping with your moral standards."
Trevor declined to make further eye contact with any of the four cops or the AUSA, before he turned on his heel and hurried to the guarded door, showed his court ID and entered Christine Fisher's room.
Return to Law & Order: SVU Fiction
Return to Main Page