DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story references a few episodes across all 11 seasons particularly 'Loss',' Ghost', 'Infiltrated' and 'Fault'. Time lines are based on show air dates. There is no mention of L&O:Trial by Jury as in my world, Alex never went there. This is the first part in an ongoing trilogy.
THANKS: To everyone on my Yahoo Group, vivalab, for their support - you guys rock!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"And that's when Detective Stabler and I apprehended the accused."
"Can you identify the suspect Detective Benson?"
"Yes, that's him sitting there at the defense table, Riley O'Hara."
"Nothing further your honor."
1: Deja Vu All Over Again
Alex Cabot looked up as her office door was lightly knocked and a leather clad figure entered.
"Detective?" Alex asked, placing the pen that had been resting on her bottom lip back on the notepad in front of her.
Olivia closed the door and silently walked to the visitor's chair opposite the ADA's desk. She took note of the cluttered, yet, apparently organised desk and looked directly at Alex.
"We got a call at the precinct, Riley O'Hara has put a hit out on you."
Olivia watched the face of the attorney closely for her reaction.
There was none.
"He made three calls from Rikers to three numbers, offering $250k to the first to..." she paused searching for the right word to use not wanting to alarm Alex any further, "fulfil the contract," she finished.
Alex stared at her no flicker of emotion, no registration of the statement just made or the implications. This was why she was known throughout the courthouse as the 'ice princess'.
Olivia continued to watch her face..and then she saw it. Alex reached up to remove her glasses and Olivia saw her hand waiver slightly before placing the glasses carefully, deliberately on the notepad beside the pen.
Alex tucked a few loose strands of hair that had been dislodged behind her ear, she looked down briefly at her glasses and then brought her eyes up to meet Olivia's.
"I'm not going back," it was spoken quietly, almost a whisper, but spoken with conviction.
Olivia leaned forward in her chair and nodded her head.
"We've already got two of the contacts in custody, O'Hara is well connected in the 'guns for hire' field. They're being interviewed at the precinct, no initial, apparent link between them. Lucky for us though ATF already had them tapped and gave us the heads up straight away."
Olivia ran her right hand through her hair wishing it was shorter. Times like these it felt heavy on her head, made it hard to concentrate, not to mention chasing perps had a whole new dimension to it, especially if the wind speed was up.
Alex watched the movement, she knew from all their years working together, despite the gap due to her incarceration in the Witness Protection Plan, that when Olivia Benson ran her right hand through her hair she was stressed. Rarely did the Detective expose the zig-zag scar that ran along the side of her head, she always managed to carefully conceal it. For Olivia to be unguarded with this gesture Alex knew this was bad. Really bad.
"Have they been charged?" Alex asked, wondering which ADA was involved. Homicide was Connie Rubirosa's turf.
Olivia nodded and confirmed what Alex suspected, Connie would be prosecuting both cases. At least she could rely on her friend to make sure these cases were handled swiftly.
Alex bobbed her head almost mechanically in response, she tilted her head to one side, "What about the third suspect, who was the third phone call to?"
Olivia swallowed nervously, disappointed with herself for the slight loss of control. All the way over form the 1-6 she had convinced herself to remain in control, show no outward signs of concern or worry when inside she was in knots and felt physically sick. She had insisted she be the one to tell Alex. She stood up and started pacing between the chair she had just vacated and the leather couch in the corner of the corner office.
Alex watched her anxiously for a few moments and then couldn't stand it any longer, "Olivia, stop!"
Olivia stopped abruptly and looked over at Alex who had risen from her chair and was now resting against her desk.
"Liv, please sit down, after everything I've been through in the past five years a name isn't going to affect me. How bad can it be?" She said quietly.
Olivia walked back to the blonde ADA. She reached for Alex's left hand and changed her mind at the last second, lightly touching her elbow instead. Alex looked down at the hand on her elbow in confusion then back to the brunette's face.
Panic was rising quickly, she could feel her stomach flip and tighten. She reached over and took Olivia's hand from her elbow and gently held it. They stood facing each other, their body fronts almost touching.
They stood like that for a long moment, the silence in the room deafening.
Alex was aware of the warmth of the hand she was holding and the emotions she could see swirling in the deep brown eyes before her.
She squeezed the hand again.
"Liv, you're scaring me," she said, surprising herself at how steady her voice sounded.
Olivia took a deep breath and wished her increasingly sticky palm didn't betray the overwhelming worry that seemed to be oozing from every pore.
Alex searched the recesses of her mind, the name meant nothing, no recognition. Nothing. She furrowed her brow in confusion.
Olivia watched the cobalt blue eyes and knew Alex was desperately trying to find some recognition for the name she had just spoken. She felt the thud of her heart in her chest as she gripped the hand she held just a little tighter.
She swallowed nervously, "He's Liam Connors' brother."
Alex felt her jaw slacken and fear wash over her body. She was instantly transported back to that night in October of 2003 when Liam Connors had shot her and she had died. She remembered the fourteen months she spent as 'Emily' in the WPP before facing him in court in 2005. She remembered the further two years she had to spend as 'Caroline' before Valez was killed and it was deemed safe for her to return to New York. She had lost so much, most of which she could never regain.
"Oh my God," Alex choked out.
Chapter 2: Remembrance
Alex felt herself being pulled into a warm embrace, she reached up and blindly wrapped her arms around the strong shoulders of the Detective. She felt her chest contract and struggle for breath as she was being tugged towards the couch. She could hear Olivia whispering "It's gonna be okay Alex, I promise," over and over again in her ear.
They sat down on the couch, Olivia kept one arm draped over her shoulders and held her close.
"You're staying with me until he's caught. This isn't up for discussion this time, I know you're strong and can take care of yourself. I know you don't want anyone intimidating you or making decisions for you again but this time I-"
"Okay." Alex cut off the Detective's passionate plea.
Olivia had expected more resistance, expected to have to make a convincing argument to win over the independent ADA and was momentarily taken aback at the ease with which Alex accepted her invitation.
Alex sat staring at the mahogany coffee table in front of them, eyes unfocussed. She turned to face Olivia, "What do we know about the brother?" She decided to focus on facts and not the urge to sink into the comforting, one armed embrace and fall apart.
Olivia loosened her grip on Alex's shoulder and moved her hand to gently rub circles on the ADA's back hoping the movement would help ground her. Truth be told, she was trying to ground herself, and her emotions.
She took a steadying breath, "He served 12 years of a life sentence in Attica, voluntary manslaughter. He made a deal with the Feds for information relating to gun running and his brother's activities with the IRA, he-"
She was interrupted as Alex stood abruptly, anger radiating from her core, "AND HE GOT OUT?!" Alex shouted. She stood motionless, her face frozen in disbelief, the only movement the not so subtle clenching of her fists. She looked expectantly down at Olivia.
Olivia reached for the clenched fists of the ADA, tried to uncurl them but Alex pulled her hands out of reach and backed away. She walked around the coffee table and aimlessly wandered to the other side of the room.
Olivia realised where she was heading and leapt from her seated position, "ALEX!" As the ADA spun round Olivia grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the window.
Olivia embraced her fully. She felt arms cling to her and could feel the speed of Alex's beating heart pressed against her. She moved one hand up the ADA's back and began to stroke the silky, blonde hair in an effort to calm them both. She inhaled the scent of her shampoo. 'Citrus fruits' she thought absently to herself. She uttered nonsensical words into her ear trying to soothe her. She couldn't begin to imagine what Alex was feeling right now but she knew she never wanted to experience that feeling of loss again. When the ADA had been 'killed' and before the impromptu meeting with Agent Hammond had revealed a very much alive Alex Cabot, Olivia had been bereft at her death.
When Captain Cragen had taken her into his office in December 2000 and told her of her mother, Serena Benson's death, she hadn't cried. She held it together but when a doctor walked into a waiting room packed with law enforcement officials restlessly awaiting news of ADA Alex Cabot, Olivia had taken one look at the way he carried himself, the sorrow in his eyes and the slow shake of his head and knew. She knew Alex was gone. She had found the nearest stairwell and sobbed uncontrollably.
Olivia took a deep, cleansing breath as if to try and dislodge the remembered pain of a past she hoped to forget. She pulled back and motioned for Alex to sit back down on the couch with her.
Alex gave her a small smile, "Wherever you just went Liv, don't go back there. The windows are reinforced, bulletproof and one way. I need you with me, Detective." She used the formality to remind them both of their ability to handle situations that civilians couldn't comprehend. As they sat back down, Alex kept one hand enfolded in Olivia's. She raised a well defined eyebrow expectantly to Olivia and waited.
Olivia took her cue and smiled. She took a firmer grasp of the hand she held, savoring the connection. Alex was right, this was about now, not the past. "As I said, Connors served 12 years before making a deal with the Feds. Before you say anything, post 9/11, our government is willing to deal with the devil in order to protect this country. He was released in 2006 and disappeared off the grid. The intel we've managed to get so far indicates that he's been in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. He's a mercenary, a gun for hire"
Even as Olivia was saying it she couldn't believe it.
Alex shook her head, "A mercenary is out to kill me? The brother of the man who shot me, destroyed my life, is the hired gun? This cannot be happening Liv, if the Feds made a deal why is he even in this country, why isn't he under surveillance? Why wasn't he extradited back to Ireland? Is he another ghost'? Is it a family thing? Christ, I've been back with Special Victims what, 12 months, I finally feel like I'm Alexandra Cabot again and now...now..."
Alex stopped as abruptly as she had started. 'Control,' she reminded herself, 'not now.' She felt Olivia tug her back to the present with a gentle caress of a thumb across the back of her hand.
Olivia spoke quietly, "I know this is a lot to take in right now, I know there are more questions than answers and I can't possibly begin to comprehend what you're thinking right now but Alex, you have to believe me, this is real. Cragen's drafted everyone in, we have a joint task force with the FBI, Elliot is using all his contacts in the bureau and Huang is researching Connors' prison profile. We're gonna get him and you're gonna be safe. I promise. I won't let anyone take you away again. Alexandra Cabot is going nowhere. Where you go, I go." Her voice faltered as she said the last part and she bowed her head hoping that Alex hadn't noticed her swallow the lump in her throat.
She and Alex had clashed from their first meting but this didn't affect their working relationship and over the months and then years they had become good friends. Both women admired and respected the other's strong mindedness and dedication to the victims. There was also an underlying current of something unexplored between them. Something, that despite the years and distance, never diminished.
Things hadn't been easy since Alex returned, too much had been left unsaid and there never seemed a good time to discuss what they really needed to be talking about. Olivia couldn't understand why the ADA had been out of WPP for three years and never returned her phone calls or emails. She had listened to Alex's flimsy response that she had 'picked up the phone to call' only to remember the events of that fateful night. Olivia pushed all these thoughts aside, determined to focus on their current situation and the potential threat that faced Alex. Faced them both.
"Alex. Alex, look at me." Olivia watched as Alex moved her head slightly she realised the time for panic was over, they needed to get their perspective back and right now that meant mobilising. There was a protective detail downstairs, all the exits were guarded. There was no way in or out without detection. The guys back at the squad were poring over every detail. Looking into every lead and the Feds were checking satellite imagery from O'Hara's location prior to his arrest looking for any sign of Connors.
Olivia spoke with purpose, "We need to get you out of here. Take what you need from your office. I know it's too much to ask you to stop working completely and I don't want to arg-"
Alex opened her mouth to protest but Olivia raised her free hand and silenced her with a finger to the blonde's parted lips.
She smiled and continued, "I don't want to argue with you. There's a car waiting downstairs, we need to get moving. McCoy's up to speed with what's going on and your case load is being redistributed, everyone wants to help."
Alex heard her but couldn't concentrate on anything other than the warm, slender digit resting against her lips. Olivia started to pull her finger away, realisation dawning at the intimacy of the gesture.
A hand reached up and brought the finger back to the lips and pressed a gentle kiss against the tip, "Thank you," whispered Alex.
Suddenly an ear splitting siren filled the air.
The fire alarm.
The fire alarm never went off.
Except on drill day.
This wasn't drill day...
Chapter 3: In Transit
The constant, deafening wail of the fire alarm was unsettling.
Alex looked through the blinds of her office door, she could hear everyone evacuating the floor but with her office location she could only see the office opposite and it appeared empty. Olivia was pacing between the coffee table and her desk talking on her cellphone with Elliot. Tension colored her words.
"No. No. Yes. I don't know. Jesus Elliot, d'you want me to go look myself?" Olivia said through gritted teeth into her phone. She kept an eye on Alex at the door. Her eyes followed Alex as she closed the blinds and moved back to her desk where she retrieved her glasses. Alex started sorting through the piles of papers on her desk and placing items in her brown leather briefcase.
Olivia turned away form Alex and leaned closer into the phone, "We'll take exit 3 on the ground floor, have the Tact Squad meet us there in 15 minutes. What frequency are we on?" she paused. She placed the cellphone on her shoulder and pressed her ear to it holding the device firmly in place as she adjusted the frequency on her portable radio. She took the phone in her hand again and nodded her head uttering an almost inaudible, "We will," into the phone and hung up.
Alex had almost finished her task. If someone had asked her to do this on a day where there wasn't a $250k hit out on her it would have taken her ten times as long to organise everything. She was placing the last of her folders into her office safe when she felt Olivia's presence by her side. "You ready?" asked the Detective as she lifted the briefcase and slung it over her right shoulder.
Alex smiled at the chivalrous gesture, "Yep. Is it too much to hope that it's just a coincidence that the fire alarm is going off?" She asked rhetorically, all these years in this building and not once had it gone off accidentally.
"Central have no reports of a fire in the building or anything hazardous requiring NYFD's presence. We have to assume this is deliberate. If you can't get to someone inside a building, flush 'em out. That's what I'd do." She said as she lifted the portable radio and spoke into it, "This is Yankee, Retriever, you copy?"
A male voice crackled over the radio, "Copy that Yankee, this is Retriever, what's your twenty?"
"In the mail box, I'll do a floor sweep then move the Package to exit 3 in10 minutes."
"Copy that Yankee"
Olivia clipped the radio back onto her belt then checked her weapon.
Alex moved to take the briefcase from her shoulder but Olivia placed a restraining hand on her arm, "I got it," she said smiling.
"There's a Tact Squad waiting for the package," she said disdainfully, tapping her own chest in acknowledgement. "A false fire alarm with a never ending, headache inducing signal. There are people exiting the building left, right and centre. In short, there's chaos out there Detective. Oh, did I mention the mercenary out there waiting to kill me?"
Olivia just stared at her as she continued to rant.
"I think you should keep your 'firing hand' free, don't you?" She finished with a flourish freeing the briefcase and placing it over her own right shoulder.
Olivia just smiled at her stubbornness, watching as Alex re-adjusted the strap, " Did it ever occur to you Counsellor that I might be ambidextrous?" She said waggling her eyebrows suggestively as she made shooting motions with both hands in an attempt to alleviate the rising tension surrounding them.
Alex raked her eyes over Olivia's taught frame, making sure Olivia new exactly what she was doing, "I'm counting on it Detective," and stepped towards the door.
Olivia swallowed and felt the heat rise in her cheeks, "Hooh boy," she muttered and placed her hand on the door knob. "Let me do a quick sweep first and then we'll move, okay?" she dipped her head in a familiar, comforting way. Alex nodded, "Okay," she replied.
Olivia Benson had been on the job a long time, knew how to evaluate a threat in seconds and make the best decision. She stood outside Alex's door and surveyed the familiar surroundings. It was an 'L' shaped corridor, a wall directly to her left and one open door opposite her. She entered the open office, it was empty. She closed the door with a solid click.
She continued around the corner to her right.
There were two closed doors on the left hand side with the twin elevators at the end of the corridor. The emergency exit stairwell was located to the right of the elevators and was closed signaling the evacuation of the floor was complete. This was a fire door and was supposed to be closed at all times except during an evacuation. Olivia checked each office to make sure they were evacuated and vacant. She closed each door soundly behind her.
The radio crackling into life startled her and she jumped slightly, 'Jesus Benson, get a grip.'
"Yankee, what's your twenty?" She unclasped the radio, "Sweep complete, all clear. On our way now, ETA 7 minutes."
"Copy that," the male voice at the other end replied.
As she turned to retrace her steps back to the ADA's office a flash of red at the end of the corridor caught her eye.
Olivia moved towards them. Quickly.
There was a digital display above the shaft doors indicating which floor each car was currently located on.
The elevator on her left displayed 'G' for the ground floor.
The one next to it however, displayed '3' in bold red colors against the black crystal display.
They were on the 9th floor. The building had 12 floors in total.
All use of mechanical machinery was instantly suspended during an emergency evacuation, even if there was no obvious sign of danger. It was procedure.
Olivia stared, unmoving, her eyes never leaving the digital display, hoping someone was on their way down and had forgotten the correct evacuation procedure.
She watched it change, everything seemed to slow down, even the wailing siren seemed to fade away.
Her eyes widened, the grip on her gun tightened and her mouth dropped open.
"Oh shit." Olivia said aloud.
She turned and sprinted down the deserted hallway.
Chapter 4: Hornet's Nest
Alex perched on the edge of her desk, eyes sweeping around the office, wondering if this was the last time she'd be here. She hoped not.
She lifted the titanium plaque off the desk which proudly displayed her full name and title. She ran her fingers over each embossed letter and then turned it over. She read the inscription etched into the natural wood base and smiled. She opened her briefcase and placed it carefully inside. It added considerable weight to the already bulging briefcase but she ignored it, she wasn't leaving this behind.
She looked at her watch, Olivia had only been gone a few minutes, two or three at most. She considered opening the door and going out to meet her. She quickly dismissed the idea. She had learned the hard way how to follow instructions when her life depended on it, 'Not just my life,' she thought sadly.
Watching Agent Tim Donovan being blown up in his own car had been a cruel teacher at the school of life. She blinked a few times to clear her vision and shake off the memories.
She looked up as she heard Olivia's voice outside her closed office door.
"Why aren't the elevators secured?" she barked into the radio.
"Yankee, there's a team en route to intercept. Hold your position"
"Negative Retriever, there's no time. I'll move the package to the stairwell and switch to exit four," Olivia instructed.
"Copy that Yankee"
Alex felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end as Olivia burst into the room.
Olivia was in full cop mode, "We need to move. Now!" She reached for Alex's hand as if that would make her move faster. They turned the corner of the 'L' shaped corridor and ran towards the stairwell. Olivia's eyes never leaving the digital floor display above the elevator.
'7' was illuminated.
The 16th precinct was a hive of activity. Phones were ringing, there was a constant buzz of conversation, fingers were tapping furiously on keyboards and an endless swarm of shifting bodies utilized every inch of desk space.
Only a few heads looked up at the raised voices coming from Captain Don Cragen's closed office door.
"Elliot, the building has been evacuated, the perimeter is secure and the only personnel on site are ours. Whatever's going on over there, it's contained. I need you," he pointed a finger at Elliot, "HERE," he raised his voice to emphasize his point.
He rose from the chair behind his desk and moved towards Elliot, he consciously gentled his tone, "The best thing you can do is find out everything you can about Connors," he said as he reached for the scattered photographs on his desk.
He held them up like a royal flush in front of Elliot, "The last clear photograph we have of him was taken in June '07, we need something more recent so we know who we're looking for." Cragen looked at the various grainy images of Connors taken over the last fifteen years and felt his blood run cold. Connors sported a differing hair style and color in every picture. Mustaches and facial hair in various shades, styles and levels of growth. Connors was dangerous, Connors was a chameleon.
Elliot stood rigidly, his hands clasped behind his back in his usual pose conveying authority. He knew the Captain was right but he wanted, no, needed reassurance and the only way he would achieve that was by being at the DA's building and checking it out for himself. There was no alternative.
He brought his hands to his front and clasped them, rubbing them together, "Cap'n, you gotta let me go down there. Everything's covered here, we got more bodies than we know what to do with. The Feds are working their assess off looking at satellite imagery and dumping LUDS of anyone that's ever had contact with Connors, Munch and Fin are interviewing anyone who every associated with him in Attica and O'Hara has been in solitary at Rikers since this went down so we know he ain't talking to anyone." He knew he was pleading.
Elliot took a cleansing breath and moved closer, "Cap'n, please. I gotta go. Liv and Alex-" he swallowed, "Please, I can't sit here while they're down there." his eyes shone with emotion and he was desperately trying to control the rage building inside as he held the Captain's gaze.
Don nodded his head, "Alright."
Elliot turned to leave but a restraining hand on his arm stopped him.
"No heroics Elliot, the Tact Squad are in charge, do as they say," he warned.
Elliot nodded and turned, he yanked the office door open, running towards his desk. Cragen watched Elliot snatch his jacket off the back of his chair and bolt from the squad room, purpose evident in his hurried stride.
He returned to his chair, the photographs still in his hand, he threw them on his desk and picked up the phone. He listened as it rang and then was answered, "Agent Dean Porter?" he waited for acknowledgment, "This is Don Cragen at the 1-6,we have a situation involving Olivia Benson that you need to be aware of," any port in a storm thought Don and began to relay the events of the past few hours.
Olivia was thankful Alex had asked no questions, that she understood this wasn't the time. They had to move.
She took one last look at the elevator floor display and froze.
Whoever it was, whoever had been in the elevator had stopped at the 7th floor and wasn't moving.
Despite the urgency and the deafening wail of the fire alarm, Olivia opened the door carefully. She motioned for Alex to wait. Her mind was running through every possible scenario, 'Is he on the 7th floor? Is he coming up the stairs? Is it even Connors? Could it be the Tact Team?' Is it someone who works in the building? The rational, cop part of her brain was screaming the obvious, 'He's coming up the stairs.'
Olivia took note of her surroundings, the stairwell was cold. White iron railings protected the central well and a hand rail adorned the concrete wall. Ironically, it reminded Olivia of the sterile stairwell at Mercy General, the one where she had grieved alone for the loss of Alexandra Cabot all those years ago, 'Now is not the time for this Liv,' she thought.
She turned to check on Alex who hadn't moved, she was leaning against the door frame holding the fire door open and looked anxious. Olivia carefully stepped closer to the railing and peered over the edge, weapon drawn. She caught a glimpse of a black clad arm on the railing somewhere below. She tried to work out which floor the figure was on and guessed whoever it was, they were either on the 5th or 6th.
Suddenly the deafening wail of the fire alarm ended and everything went eerily still.
Alex lifted her free hand to her ear and gently rubbed the lobe, "Thank God, I thought that would never end," she said nervously.
Olivia whipped her head round and raised a finger to her own lips indicating for silence.
She was desperately trying to listen.
The Tact Team would consist of at least four men, two if they had split up to conduct a floor sweep. She focused her hearing on the movement below straining to hear the footsteps on the stairs. She was trying to count.
Almost twenty years as a cop, she'd recognize the sound of a silencer anywhere.
She turned quickly back to Alex motioning for her to enter the stairwell. Olivia closed the door as quietly as she could. 'Options, I need options,' she thought. 'One elevator's on the Ground floor suspended and the other is sitting on the 7th,' she thought. She wondered if she should spare, what could be, precious seconds by checking to see if the elevator was still on '7' but decided against it.
Alex was looking at her expectantly.
She leaned in close to the ADA, "We need to go upstairs as quickly and quietly as possible." she whispered as she turned the radio on her belt off and released the safety on her Glock.
Alex contained the panic that was rising and nodded.
They climbed the stairs in silence, both trying to listen for sounds below them. They were sticking as close to the wall as possible. They rounded the next flight of thick stone steps and saw the large '10' on the wall. Olivia considered her options and decided against entering the floor, 'too obvious,' she thought and kept climbing. Her thighs were beginning to burn with the exertion, not to mention the adrenaline that was pumping through her veins, 'and I thought I was super fit,' she thought to herself.
She looked back at Alex and gave her a reassuring smile, she reached out for her hand and clasped it firmly giving a squeeze of reassurance.
When they reached '11' Olivia was about to open the door when she herd a door below them opening. It wasn't close enough to be directly below them but it was close enough to make her pull open the door as quietly as she could and propel Alex through it.
Connors was on the 9th floor
Chapter 5: Brothers in Blue
Elliot parked the police issue Ford Taurus as close to the DA's building as possible. He had called Olivia's cellphone at least a dozen times since leaving the precinct, straight to voice mail. He left a message every time. He switched off the flashing light on the dashboard, shut off the engine and popped the lever for the trunk. He threw the car door open and shut it with a ferocity born out of urgency. He pulled off his jacket and tossed it in the trunk and reached for his Kevlar vest. He slammed the trunk heavily as he finished fastening the Velcro straps across his front. He made a quick inventory of his pockets, adjusted the gun on his left hip and took off running across the street.
He slowed to a jog as he approached the plaza in front of the DA's building and surveyed the scene before him.
A single fire truck sat on the street directly outside the building's main entrance. Cragen had said there was, 'no obvious sign of a fire or hazard,' but even in a false alarm Elliot knew State guidelines required a unit to respond.
Six abandoned patrol cars, lights flashing, sirens off, were strewn across the road, effectively blocking all access. The vehicle's occupants were busy enforcing the police barricade. The underground parking entrance was blocked by another two patrol cars. Two members of the Tact Squad, in full operational gear, complete with assault weapon's, were guarding the entrance.
'Lock down,' thought Elliot. He heard a whooping noise and looked up. He leaned back and shielded his eyes from the mid day sun to look at the ESU aerial surveillance helicopter. He blinked rapidly against the glare of the sun,' Is it only 1 o'clock.' he thought, 'feels a lot later.' He sighed wearily.
The occupants of the building were standing in neat rows on the plaza about fifty feet from the building. Elliot assumed this was the evacuation assembly zone. He spotted the white helmet of the Fire Chief at the front of the crowd, he was talking with DA Jack McCoy and an unidentifiable figure dressed in black fatigues with the letters E.S.U embossed in yellow on his back.
Elliot spotted the Emergency Services Unit's mobile command post and raced towards it. The door was open and he climbed the two metal steps. Inside, the unit was tight on space but highly functional. There were four ESU agents inside, all busy speaking on phones. Elliot looked at the long wall on his left to a bank of monitors, all were blank except for two which displayed the lobby of the DA's building from different angles.
He waited for someone to finish speaking. He was busy looking at the images from the lobby of the DA's building when a commanding voice spoke behind him, "You Stabler?"
Elliot turned and recognized the man as the figure he had seem talking with McCoy and the Fire Chief. He held out his hand in greeting, "Yes Sir. Elliot Stabler of the 1-6, I'm here to help." It was a statement, not a question and it was definitely not up for discussion as far as Elliot Stabler was concerned.
The ESU leader shook his hand firmly, "Lieutenant Tom Goldie," he motioned for Elliot to move to the back of the unit where surfaces were covered with schematics of the building. "Captain Cragen already informed me you were on your way down here. We're running this op Stabler, you do as I say," he saw Elliot about to speak and cut him off, "I know how you feel, you wanna go in there and get them out, so do I but we can't risk a bloodbath when we don't know what we're up against." He looked squarely at Elliot, noticing the clenching jaw.
Elliot knew he was right. The cop inside him knew he was right. The ex marine inside knew he was right but the husband, the father, the protector inside him just wanted to charge in there and get them out, consequences be damned. He nodded his head at Goldie, "What do we know, what's going on in there?"
Lieutenant Tom Goldie was a big man, big and broad with cropped black hair. He held respect from both colleagues and peers and knew how to read people. He gave Stabler the once over, he'd already spoken to his partner on the portable radio a few times today and wondered briefly if there wasn't something going on between them. He'd been in situations like this too many times before and could sense the personal need for Stabler to be here as well as the professional.
He motioned to the monitor's on the wall, the two live feeds displayed a deserted lobby with two elevators visible. One door was closed and the other was open. Next to the elevators was a closed fire door.
Goldie tapped one screen with his finger, "Phone lines are down, security system is offline. We've only got live feed from the lobby, separate server. There are cameras on all 12 floors including the underground parking. No cameras in the elevator's though, we're trying to get the servers back online. Benson reported an elevator moving up, she's switched to exit 4. The car has stopped at '7' and hasn't moved. We can't call it either, doors must be jammed open. A four man team was deployed to intercept via the stairwell. Approximately 5 minutes ago we lost contact." He finished his debrief and indicated for Stabler to follow him outside.
Stabler grabbed his arm, "What do you mean you lost contact? You guys use two way ear radio pieces." Stabler knew how essential the ear communication devices were in operations like these. He and Olivia had used them many times when it was essential to know what was happening when visual was limited and normal channels of communication were restricted.
Goldie pulled his arm away and started walking. Elliot followed closely behind him. Goldie stopped after a few yards and looked at Elliot, "We only lost contact with that team," he let Elliot absorb the gravity of the statement before continuing, "The channel's open but nobody's responding."
Stabler's eyes widened, "So? Why haven't you sent in another team, maybe the stairwell is blocking the frequency, maybe they're on the wrong channel, maybe the equipment malfunctioned." Eliot was clutching at straws, these were state of the art radio transmitters. The ESU agents, relied on them for their survival and would check all equipment prior to deployment. Something was wrong.
Goldie ran a large hand over his strong, square jaw as he spoke, "We can't just storm the building Stabler, we don't know where your partner and Cabot are. Their last know position was on the 9th floor, heading down the stairwell. Benson's turned her radio off, that's all we know. The Tact Team's last communication was received from the 6th floor, " he paused, "Whoever's in there," he pointed at the building behind him, "Trust me, they ain't getting out."
Elliot absorbed everything, painting a mental picture of the interior of the building. He'd been to various offices over the years but he'd never used the stairs, never taken any notice of anything other than the office he was visiting and the elevators. He turned his thoughts to Olivia. He knew the way his partner worked, knew how she processed details and he trusted her instincts, God knows they had saved his ass in countless situations.
The whooping of the chopper snapped him out of his reverie, "She's going up," he drew Goldie's attention to the chopper overhead. " The elevator's are out of use, the stairwell below her might be compromised," he paused and looked directly at Goldie, "She's heading for the roof."
Chapter 6: Interlude
The 11th floor was home to both Executive Assistant District Attorney's serving all five boroughs of the State of New York. There were four offices located on this floor. The lay out was similar to that of the 9th floor, largely due to the design of the building.
As they stood in the empty hallway Olivia took in her surroundings and frowned. This wasn't good, the 'L' shaped hallway meant another brick wall around the corner. They needed to get out of the building. Olivia had decided moving to the 11th floor was their best option in the 'buying time' game they were now forced to play. She needed to establish some sort of communication with the Tact Team and find out what was going on and possibly arrange a roof rescue.
An idea struck her and she looked at Alex, "You know this building better than me, do all the offices have reinforced windows?"
Alex looked at her, "Just because I work here doesn't mean I have the blueprints embedded in my brain Liv," she used her nickname to take the sting out of her words. She'd been quiet too long and Olivia had insisted on silence as they ascended the stairs. The cracks in her cool facade were beginning to show.
Olivia just stared at her and ran her hand through her hair. She walked away from Alex and stepped into the nearest office. She took her cellphone out of her coat pocket and switched it on. As she watched the network logo flash on her Blackberry, she noticed the brass name plate, 'EADA Michael Cutter,' on the desk she was about to perch on.
As she dialed her voicemail she began to list everything she knew, 'Tact Team intercepted, probably dead, 3 shots. Wouldn't it be a 4 man team deployed, maybe I didn't hear it cos of the fire alarm, maybe Connors is one of the Tact Team....nah, that's impossible,' she paused her thinking to consider that possibility, 'They would be in full tactical assault fatigues including goggles and helmet, they'd all look the same....' she furrowed her brow and bit the inside of her cheek, 'Nah-'she stopped as she retrieved her voicemail.
"You have 14 new messages and 3 saved messages. New messages.." the electronic operator informed her.
She listened as Elliot Stabler left message after message asking her to call him, that he was on his way over. She stopped the playback and hit her speed dial. He answered on the first ring.
"Liv, where the Hell are you?" He sounded relieved.
She could hear the background noise coming through the phone and knew he was outside somewhere, "We're on the 11th floor. I think the Tact Team's been taken out and I heard someone open the door on '9'," she continued before he could interrupt, "The elevator is on '7' and I can't take the stairs. I was considering the roof as an option. What's going on out there?" she said watching Alex enter the office and slide into the visitor's chair. As she listened to Elliot relaying everything he knew her eyes never left Alex.
Despite the stress and imminent danger they were both facing the ADA looked immaculate. Her charcoal gray pant suit was only slightly creased, her white silk blouse sat perfectly at the collar and there wasn't a single blond hair out of place.
She looked down at Alex's shoes, she had noticed them earlier, had been relieved to see her wearing comfortable, stylish shoes as opposed to precarious heels. That would have brought a different set of problems. 'Running in heels,' Olivia shuddered at the thought and past memories of many foot baths to soothe her aching feet after hours in heels whilst undercover. She cast a glance at her own practical boots and smiled.
"Did you hear me Liv?" Elliot's voice brought her back.
"Security camera's are down, elevator's out of action and we can't go down the stairs. Is there a plan?" She had repeated this aloud to let Alex know she wasn't hiding anything from her, that she trusted her.
Alex looked up at her, concern etched on her face. Olivia was concentrating, Alex could just imagine the cogs of her brain turning everything over.
"Okay, I'll keep my cell on silent. We'll head up to the roof, shouldn't take more than a few minutes," she ended the call and moved to sit on the chair next to Alex.
Alex turned to face her, "The roof? There's no helipad on the roof Liv and what happens then, they storm the building looking for Connors?" she raised both eyebrows questioningly.
Olivia smirked, "Pretty much, though, you missed the part where we abseil down the building," she said watching Alex's face contort in disbelief. She reached over and patted her arm, "Relax Cabot, I'm yanking your chain, they'll airlift us off."
Alex punched her arm playfully as she stood up, "I need to pee," she announced and walked to the other side of the office where an en suite bathroom was located.
Before she got to the door she turned to find Olivia watching her, a look of disbelief on her face. She smiled, 'Cabot 1 Benson 0' she thought. She walked back towards Olivia and stopped directly in front of her, "Problem Benson?" knowing exactly what was wrong with the Detective.
Olivia just stared at her, "Did Alex Cabot just say she 'needs to pee'?" she looked to the blond for confirmation.
Alex smiled and placed both hands on Olivia's leather clad shoulders, she leaned in closer, "Even the ice princess has to thaw sometimes Detective."
Olivia shook her head, "Holy shit...Alex Cabot is human," she snickered.
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