DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Kimly for her geographical assistance. Any discrepancies (hereby deemed 'creative license') in that respect are mine.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"Where the fuck are you?" Olivia didn't care if she sounded panicked. She was panicked.
Finally straightaway. The speedometer needle edged up to 110. Liv could still make out the distinctive red glow in the distance, but the damn S-curves were keeping her from gaining enough ground. Someone familiar with the terrain like the driver up ahead, apparently would have caught them by now.
"Fuck!" She dropped the cell phone into her lap to wrap both hands around the wheel for a sharp turn. When she had safely negotiated it, she reached for the phone. "We just turned again," she reported. ". . . I don't know. I didn't see a sign. I don't have fucking GPS. I don't fucking know!"
I wasn't paying attention, all right? For the whole goddamn trip. That's why I don't have a fucking clue where we are, OK? Olivia couldn't bring herself to say it. Units from Saranac Lake to Albany were searching for them, if Detective Benson could just tell them where to look.
"Did you check with 911 again?" Hadn't that clerk heard her? And why didn't that Honda driver turn them in? Probably because Olivia had managed to edge around it with a couple of inches to spare; except for spitting a little gravel from the side of the hill that she drove up on and scaring the businessman behind the wheel, she'd left the Accord unscathed. Now Olivia wished that she had scraped along the whole length of the car. That would have gotten the cops called.
"What about the chopper?" she asked. A helicopter should be able to pin them down. There wasn't much traffic. How hard could it be to find one vehicle chasing another down a winding road?
She shook her head at the response. "Do you understand that an assistant district attorney and a young girl are in that van?" A van believed to be involved in two abduction-murders in Connecticut and a third in New Jersey, according to reports relayed soberly to Olivia by the sheriff. If she lost sight of them again, Alex and that little girl could be . . . .
Apologetic murmurs reached Olivia's ear. "Yeah, I know it's windy," she said dully.
It wasn't too windy to drive, but it was too windy to chance a helicopter so soon after the crash of a LifeFlight chopper only three months earlier. They were sorry, it was just too risky.
Olivia let the phone drop again before she said something that she knew wouldn't be fair. They were sorry.
It wasn't their fault. If she pointed a finger at anyone, it would be herself. What kind of detective didn't keep track of where she was driving?
She didn't see the small pothole soon enough and the front tire dropped into it, sending another spray of laminated glass toward her face and into her right eye. Don't rub it, Olivia reminded herself. She cautiously worked the eyelid open. Ow. Just her luck. If the fucker shooting at her from the passenger side of the van had dropped his gun five seconds earlier, the Ford's windshield would still be in one piece instead of a thousand.
She brushed a chunk of glass from her hair. The eye was watering now, providing some relief. As long as she could still see out of her other eye, that was all she needed. She knew exactly what that van looked like.
Something was different. Olivia risked a glance at the dashboard.
No . . . . "NoNoNoNoNo!" She slammed her right palm against the steering wheel. "No!" Had she been following these bastards that long?
Another quick look at the warning light confirmed it. Damn it!
According to page 14 of the Owner's Manual, she had at least 60 miles before the tank would run dry. Olivia was aware of that information because, approximately six weeks after buying the car with her department discount, she returned to the dealership for the sole purpose of informing the salesman that said paragraph was complete and utter bullshit. And that as a result of said bullshit, Detective Benson and an assistant district attorney (she gestured toward Alex, who stood nearby, arms crossed, while Olivia jabbed at the manual) had found themselves stranded in not the best part of Queens at not the best time of night.
The fact that the monumental humiliation seemed to have produced a turning point in her relationship with Alex was beside the point.
She hadn't been back yet to get the stupid gauge fixed; it was one of the things on her to-do list when they got back from their trip. As Olivia had learned the hard way, she had 16 miles, give or take, before her piece-of-shit Ford sputtered to a halt.
She reached for the phone resting on her lap. "Where the fuck are you?" she shouted. "I'm out of time!"
With no warning, brake lights flashed up ahead, and the van veered sharply to the right. "Shit!" As Olivia hit the brakes, the phone flew from her hand into the darkened interior of the car.
The driver ahead clearly knew this area well. This was the third time he had almost sent his pursuer into the trees with a last-second swerve. And it was only by pure luck, Olivia knew, that she had even found them again after screeching to a halt at a fork in the road early on. Left or right?
Fifteen sickening minutes later, Olivia had been convinced that, by choosing left, she had just killed her friend. There was no sign of them. Amid rebuking herself and debating whether to turn around, Liv nearly sobbed with relief. There, disappearing around a curve in the distance, was a single red triangle. It hadn't been long out of her sight since.
Olivia pressed down on the accelerator. Her eyes shifted briefly to the clock. 9:47. They should have been unpacking right about now. Or something a little noisier that Olivia had been fantasizing about since the ADA's unexpected phone call.
Where was that cell phone? Not on her lap. She shoved her hand into the space between the console and the driver's seat. Not there. She scraped her left foot along the floor. Nada. If it landed in the passenger area, it might as well have been on Mars; she couldn't fumble around over there at this speed. Great. On top of everything else, they were incommunicado now as well.
Olivia gave up on staying in her own lane; hugging the middle, she gradually crept up on the van. The detective had only a few miles left to figure something out.
She wrestled with her thoughts. There probably weren't any seat belts in the back of the van. If it went badly, Alex could be seriously injured, or worse. And if she didn't try, her friend would likely die. "I'm sorry, Alex," Liv uttered, reaching behind her for her gun. One way or the other, she was about to put an end to the chain of events set in motion back at that damn gas station.
She was firing low, but the third and fourth bullets finally hit their target, punching a hole in the hot rubber. Olivia slammed on her brakes as the van careened out of control before her, rolling wildly off the roadway, finally coming to rest on its side.
When her own vehicle skidded to a stop, Olivia was out the door instantly. Two shots to the chest took out the man who pulled himself out the driver's side door with gun in hand. Stepping around him, she poked her head around the side window to check the cab. The passenger wasn't a threat any more.
Olivia hurried around to the back of the van and reached for the handle.
The captain stepped out of his office with pink message slip in hand. "Rape-homicide on 82nd," he announced. "Stabler, you're catching." When Elliot and his partner began to rise, Cragen added, "With Munch."
Olivia stopped mid-motion. "What's up?"
"I've been informed that you're not available," Cragen said.
Excuse me? "What do you mean?"
"I mean that, at precisely 1:45, Alexandra Cabot will be arriving here expecting to see your smiling face in that chair," Cragen replied.
Alex? Here? Olivia checked her watch. It was already 1:45. What was "Alex!" Liv dragged a chair over beside her desk. "Sit down."
"Hey, Cabot," Munch called out. "What happened to that cast we all autographed? That 'M' was a work of art."
"I've got it up on eBay," she replied drolly.
"Congrats," Elliot said. "You must have been getting sick of that thing."
"That, and lying around on my couch watching Oprah," Alex said. "I never thought I'd be desperate to go back to work."
Olivia gestured toward the chair. "Sit down, Alex," she urged her again.
"I'm not an invalid, Olivia," Alex said. Her tone, while a bit exasperated, was not unfriendly. "The doctor says I'm as good as new. I even went for a jog this morning." She stepped closer to the detective's desk. "I'm here for a ride to your place."
Liv was confused. "My place?"
"To get your stuff," Alex said. At Olivia's blank expression, she added, "Road trip. I left you a message."
"I thought you were joking," Olivia replied. "Go back up to Saranac Lake? After what happened? No way."
"Liv," Alex said, lowering her voice, "when we decided to make this trip the first time, we didn't exactly talk about it, but . . . I thought we both had the same plans." She didn't need to elaborate.
"We did," Olivia confirmed. "I would still like to . . .," she glanced around to see if anyone was listening to what had become an extremely personal conversation, "be with you."
"I want that, too," Alex said. "And I want it to be as we originally planned. I kept thinking about it when I was lying in that hospital bed. Why should we let those two men dictate our lives?"
Because . . . because . . . . because it was freakin' obvious. The last thing Olivia Benson wanted to do was relive any part of that night, including especially any damn curvy roads.
"I talked with Paula Badger," Alex continued. "She and Remi would like to see us."
Paula Badger. Liv remembered her, although she hadn't learned the name until later. They'd met, sort of, while Liv was waiting in line at a convenience store and Paula was trying to get her little boy into a bathroom, not realizing that her daughter hadn't followed her in from the car as instructed.
"To see you, maybe," Liv disagreed. "I'm the one who almost killed the kid and you. If you hadn't wrapped her in those blankets"
"Don't start that again," Alex said. "You did what you needed to do. What do I care about a broken arm?"
"Ruptured spleen, strained neck"
"I want to go back up there, Liv." Alex tried a direct appeal. "Only this time I want to end up in front of a fireplace with you, not in the ditch on some county road in Vermont. The resort's throwing in a free cabin," she added.
Olivia sighed. "That was one of the worst nights of my life," she said quietly.
"Then let's turn it into one of the best," Alex replied.
Could it really be that simple? Staring at the blonde, blue-eyed woman that she loved, Olivia smiled. Yeah, it could.
"Come on," Alex urged. "You're clocked out already, and I'm packed. We just need to hit your place and then hit the highway." She turned and started for the door.
Olivia trailed closely behind. "And then hit a gas station," she corrected her. She wasn't taking any chances. They might stop at every damn station between Manhattan and Saranac Lake, as far as Liv was concerned.
"Good idea," Alex said. "Watching you siphon gas might get old."
"OK; we can be on the road by 3:00." The detective slipped into planning mode as they stepped out into the daylight. "And you are not leaving my side," she insisted.
Alex slipped an arm around Olivia's waist. "I can live with that . . . ."
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