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Old Ghosts, New Habits
By Connecticut Mcphee


It was a cold night, colder than usual or so it seemed to me. New York can get so cold in the winter that some nights you'd swear that the wind is cutting straight through your clothes like a kitchen knife. You look down and expect to see your clothes cut to ribbons but they never are. The wind just moves like that in the city.

I was tired, then again, I was always tired. You don't sleep well with my job. You only do two things well, work and drink. Well, there is a third thing you do well but that's only if you find a willing partner still waiting on a barstool as you down your sixth or seventh straight shot of booze and crush out your last cigarette.

But I'm not gonna lie, I've had more than my share of willing partners. Honestly, half the time I don't even look for them, they find me. Usually, an uptown girl who feels like slummin' struts over to my stool looking like a million bucks and smelling like diamonds and money. The rich dames never realize that money has a smell but it does. It smells like power, the grease that makes things move and people work.

I sit at my stool every night after work and they find me, smelling like greenbacks and looking like Lana Turner. Me, I never take my eyes off my glass and my smoke. If I talk to anyone I talk to the bartender, he's always good for a story that takes my mind off my job if only for a moment. It always happens the same. By the time I am just drunk enough that the day's memories of broken women and frightened children are fuzzy around the edges and my judgment is as cloudy as the bar is smoky, the girl walks over to me and the game begins.

I hear her before I see her. The clic-clack of heels on the wooden floor of the bar resonates in my ear and I can feel what's coming. Every night it's the same. Half of me cares, half of me considers packing it up and going home to spend at least one night alone in my own bed, free to get a good night's sleep. But who needs sleep on this job? Such good intentions are usually met by unending nightmares that would keep the devil himself awake. Nah, drunk is better. And sex…sex makes me forget it all, at least in the moment. And the exhausted sleep that follows curled up in another woman's bed is usually thankfully brief and dreamless.

So when she takes the barstool next to mine I still don't look at her, not yet. Her eyes are boring into me, looking me up and down, sizing me up like a prize pony at the fair. I don't mind, I'm used to it by now. I've stopped asking what it is that they all seem to like so much. Maybe it's the way I draw my cigarette, or the leather jacket, or maybe it's the way I act like I just don't give a damn. Though it's usually not an act. It's not that I don't care about them. I care about them as much as they care about me. There is a good hour to two hours between their expensive, perfumed sheets where we are both intimately concerned about the other. But business is business. I get that and so do they.

Still without looking at her, I reach into my pack of smokes and pull out another cigarette. I flick my zippo casually and light it quickly drawing the thick smoke into my lungs. I let it mull there for a moment, lost in thought before I exhale all the while staring forward. It's not that I don't want to look at her. It's just that by now it's inevitable, and I still want a few moments to myself and my thoughts before I hand my attention over to the next pretty face.

I don't even notice when the bartender sets a drink down in front of her. I sigh, lost in my own world and flick my cigarette, watching absently as the ash accumulates in the glass ashtray with the bar logo at the bottom. I've been two years on the job now and with every day it gets harder. I'd be lying if I said that some of it is getting easier. It never gets easier, more routine maybe but never easier. After awhile death and destruction starts to look the same. But it's still death and destruction, it still rips your fucking guts out. When I first started I didn't drink every night. I spent most of the nights in my own bed too, alone. Hell before I worked SVU I was pretty straight-laced, I dated men.

But one night I walked out of the precinct after having just listened to a serial killer sing like a canary about raping women in the park and I couldn't take it. I couldn't just go home. I needed a drink, the stiffer the better. By the time I walked through the doors of the bar I was so angry I could've strangled the next guy that looked at me funny. I sat at the bar and barked for a straight shot of whiskey. As soon as the bartender set it down I grabbed it and downed it like a dying man in the desert. He filled it again I downed it again. After four in a row I lit a smoke and put my head in my hands like a broken prize fighter trying to will the anger and disgust out of my head.

I smelled her before I saw her. They all walk the same. They move like gazelles in the wild, tall, proud and with their noses in the air. They're not like me. I'm the streets. I'm the dirt and gravel that sticks to the sidewalks. I'm the grime that gets in the tread of your shoes. But these dames, these dames are the air floating above it all. That's why you can't hold on to them and I don't try. You can only breathe them in for a moment but sooner or later you gotta exhale. She was sitting at the other end of the bar but moved next to me as soon as I lit my smoke. I still remember it clear as day, her voice came out of nowhere sweet and thick like honey. "Can I get a light?"

I looked up and laid my eyes on the most stunning woman I had ever seen. She looked like Park Avenue. I pulled my zippo and lit her cigarette dutifully. She eyed me up and down. The next thing she said changed my life forever. "As soon as I finish this cigarette you are coming home with me." Without thinking twice I nodded, downed two more shots and followed her like a drooling dog out of the bar. The world's a crazy, mixed up place. I can't explain what made me follow a dame like that out into the cold New York night when I had never even considered a thing like that before but I did. That was the night I learned the magic combination Women and booze. I slept like a baby that night. She slept even better if I recall. What can I say? I learn fast.

The memory is a good one and I smile briefly to myself as I bring the cigarette back to my lips. It has burned down almost completely while I was lost in thought. But I take a last long drag the orange glow burning almost to the filter before crushing it out in the astray. I don't need to glance to know that she is still there, waiting, hoping for an opportunity. Instead of looking at her face I look down, checking out her legs as they dangle, one crossed over the other in that way that women do that drives me crazy. I do it too but I don't do it in a skirt and heels so who gives a damn. She's got great legs. Long and smooth with muscled calves, a runner maybe? My eyes trail up to her thighs which are exposed just slightly more than they should be underneath her skirt. The intentional positioning is not lost on me. Women they put so much forethought into foreplay. Finally, my eyes move past her thighs rounding the curve of her ass and I use all of my impressive detective skills to piece together from the clues how she might look under that power suit.

Again I stop before I can see her face. It's a tease. I know she watched me as I looked at her, she wants me to look at her. Hell, I want to look at her. But I draw it out. I turn my attention back to my glass and down the rest of its amber contents. I don't even have to say anything to the bartender, he knows me, he knows I want another. He's been watching too. He watches me dance the same dance every night with a different partner. He's well aware of the moves. I watch him fill it up and nod a silent 'thank you' when he is finished. Before I can take another sip she speaks, her voice ringing in my ear with a familiarity I certainly did not expect.

"You act like you have done this before Detective." She comments.

My eyes snap up to her face in an instant I know that voice. I'm lost in the crystal clear blue of her eyes. I can't believe it's her next to me. Alexandra Cabot, of all the dames in the world that could walk into this bar and sit down beside me it had to be my godamn ADA. I crack a grin and shake my head as I causally pull out another smoke and light it. I look at her for another moment sizing her up. Her body language when she first sat down had been undeniable. I turn to face her relaxing against the bar and taking a drag before I answer confidently, "I have done this before."

She belies nothing either as she looks me up and down, openly appraising me. She turns to her drink and sips it. It's a martini and she's barely touched it. Smart, she doesn't want to lose her head. Without looking at me she responds in that voice she has, "You've never done this with me."

I'd be lying if I said that comment didn't make me instantly wet. Suddenly aching for something I couldn't yet have I was thankful to be able to wrap my lips around my cigarette instead. I had to admit, the kid had moxie. When I exhaled I nodded in agreement, still playing it cool. "No, no I haven't…yet."

She smiles a wicked smile and I can see in her blue pools the image of us soon-to-be writhing under her sheets together. But her mood turns serious for a moment and she asks, "You looked so somber when I first came up." It's a simple statement that shrouds a question. I know this, so does she. I'm not a detective for nothing, and she's not a lawyer for any less.

"Just ghosts Counselor," I say dismissively flicking the ash off my cigarette, "only ghosts." I know she understands. There's a strange comfort in it which I did not expect to feel. I watch as she dips her finger gingerly into her martini glass and fingers the olive pulling it out gently and placing it between her lips. My mouth goes from wet to parched and then to drooling as I watch her lips wrap around the morsel gently sucking the alcohol from it before popping it onto her mouth completely. I know when a woman is toying with me.

When I finally tear my gaze away from her mouth and look in her eyes it's obvious that I have lost the game. With no more cards left to play I sit back again, content to wait on her next move. I run my fingers through my hair and take the last drag of my cigarette. She reaches out and fingers the leather of my jacket.

"God I love this jacket on you." She states her voice getting heavier with desire.

"Thanks Counselor." I speak with an amused tone. She's wearing Armani and she's admiring my leather. It makes me feel like I'm a greaser and she's wearing a poodle skirt. I don't reply but I look at her in a way that has worked on every other woman that has ever sidled up to me at a bar. It's a look that says she better know what she's doing because she's gonna get everything she asks for. It's too late and I've drunk too much to turn back now.

She bites her lower lip hesitantly for a moment and I realize the tables have turned. Now I'm in control. I'm driving this baby and she seems reluctant to get in the "car". That's when I realize she's different from all the other Park Avenue girls who come to this bar looking for a quick fix from a blue collar. Sure, she can play the game but under the fast talk and sharp wit is something more. I may be out looking for a quick lay but I'm not about to push a dame that don't want to be pushed. I'd rather sleep alone with my ghosts. I turn around to grab my drink and once again down its contents. I give the bartender a quick look to let him know I'm done for the night. He knows to put it on my tab. I reach into my pocket and pull out some bucks tossing him a few for a tip and nodding. I look at her and my voice changes slightly. I want her to hear the knowing concern in my voice as I stand up, "Look Darlin' It's been nice talking to you. I'll see you at work tomorrow."

If I'd turned around on my way out I'd have seen her set a determined look on her face as she downed the rest of her martini in one gulp and stood following me out the door. And If I'd look back at the bartender I'd have seen him shaking his head with a grin on his face.

I was gonna walk home but before I was able to take more than five steps I heard the clackity clack of her heels on the pavement. Then I felt her hand on my arm. In one smooth motion, that I didn't know she had in her, she moved me against the wall of the bar and pressed her whole body against me. Her knee instantly found its way between my legs. Her right hand went to my shoulder helping to pin me against the wall, her left hand fingered my gun in its holster at my side. Her lips were mere millimeters away from mine as she spoke with a deep husky voice that shattered her earlier hesitancy like a brick through a window. "I've wanted you since the moment I saw you Olivia Benson. I'm not gonna lose you now."

I don't know who moved first me towards her or her to me but instantly we were kissing. It was a hard crushing kiss that knocks the wind out of your lungs and the blood out of your heart. Every part of my body came alive when her lips and tongue moved against mine and I bucked against her as she continued to pin me against the cold brick of the bar. My gun pushed into her hip and she whimpered with need. She pulled back with a look of wanton lust and grabbed my hand pulling me forcibly towards the street and into a cab that she hailed easily with her uptown looks.

I grinned from ear to ear as I followed behind her all too aware of what the night would bring by the feral look in her eye. It was the gun I finally realized as I shut the cab door and she was all over me again heedless of the driver in the front seat. It was the gun that always sent them over the edge. Well, maybe the leather jacket too, okay it was the leather jacket and the gun. There would be no more ghosts for me tonight I thought as my hands found their way up her skirt caressing the soft skin of her ass. And maybe if I played this smart, no ghosts for many nights to come.

The End

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