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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Night In A Haunted Courthouse
By Del Robertson


"For the last time, the courthouse is not haunted!"

"It is," insisted Fin, "Betty Lou, Johnson's cousin's girlfriend, works as an intern for Judge Smith. She was working late one night last week filing papers in Smith's chambers and heard it herself."

"See, there you go," Elliot rebuffed, "Betty Lou is known to keep a bottle or two of gin in those filing cabinets. Unreliable witness."

"Ah," interjected Munch. "Not so unreliable when you can corroborate it with at least two more witnesses." Elliot folded his arms across his chest, waited for further elaboration. "Thomas Wilson and Serena Southerlyn."

"Thomas Wilson is a sixty-seven year-old rent-a-cop who thinks he's being solicited every time his hearing aid whistles," Elliot answered, smugly.

"And, Southerlyn?" asked Fin, "Come on, she's an ADA; you've gotta believe her!"

"She was probably scared by a mouse or something," Stabler shrugged. "And, just what was Southerlyn doing in a judge's chambers after hours, anyway?"

"Lay off man, Serena ain't like that," Fin took what could be construed as a menacing step in Stabler's direction. "Wasn't no mouse, either."

"Sure it was, my friend. Maybe it was a super-powered mouse experimented on by the government," suggested Munch. "Or, it's a conspiracy by the communist rodents to slowly eat away at the American legal system by nibbling on case files and assorted other legal dockets."

"That's wrong, man." Fin glared at his partner. "Even for you."

"Hey, just laying it out there, man," Munch shrugged, turning back to the mound of paperwork on his desk.

"Look, it ain't no mouse," Fin stated again.

"As much as I enjoy giving my partner a hard time," Munch grinned, "I'm afraid I have to defer to him on this one. There's been corroborating evidence from too many sources. We've got reports of heavy objects moving of their own accord, lights going on and off for no reason, loud moans and ear-piercing screams."

Fin folded his arms over his barrel chest, cocked his neck to one side, glaring at Stabler. "In a word, man, haunted."

"Well, it's obvious there's only way we're going to settle this," declared Elliot.

"What you thinking about, man?" asked Fin, "Sneaking into a federal building after hours?"

"If that's what it takes to prove to you clowns that courthouse is not haunted."

"Yeah, big guy?" Munch opened his wallet, rifled through his bills. "Let's see you back your mouth up with some cash."

"You mean bet on if the courthouse is haunted or not?"

"Yeah, that's exactly what I mean," Munch declared, pulling two hundreds from his wallet, dropping them on Stabler's desk.

"I'll match that," Fin agreed, "IF you stay in the courthouse all night."

"And, how do you plan on proving whether I did or didn't?" Elliot couldn't hide his smirk of arrogance if he tried.

"We drop you off," Munch stipulated. "Old man Wilson's on-duty tonight. He'll snitch you out if you so much as step foot outside that front door."

"Yeah, and just to make sure," Fin added, "We'll be there to pick you up in the morning. In Judge Petrovsky's courtroom."

"All I can say, boys," Elliot's grin broadened as he reached to grab his jacket from his off chair, "Is bring your money in the morning cause it's gonna be sweet getting paid over danishes at the coffee shop."

"So, you're planning on winning the bet and making us treat you to breakfast?" Munch asked.

"Hey, you're the ones that insisted I put my money where my mouth is." Stabler couldn't help chuckling all the way out of the squadroom and down to the car.

"Haunted my ass," Stabler mumbled to himself as he zipped his fly.

He checked his wristwatch again. Three hours. And, so far, the only ghostly apparition he'd seen was his own reflection in the mirror above the sink in the second floor men's room.

He jauntily strolled out of the restroom, his shoes echoing loudly on the marble tile. Hands in his pockets, he meandered his way down the hall, peering into this room and that.

Stopping outside the women's restroom, he casually glanced around, as if to verify he was truly indeed alone. His right hand made its way of its own accord to the door. Surreptitiously glancing over his shoulder once again, he gradually pushed the door just a bit. Fingers curled around the hardwood, his nose and beady eyes curiously crept around the crack of the frame. Whistling, checking the hall once again, he nonchalantly pushed the door the rest of the way open, stepped inside.

Yeah, solving the great mystery of the women's room killed all of half an hour.

Annoyed, Stabler checked his watch again. He was a man of action, used to chasing the bad guys, being in the thick of the action. He just wasn't suited to this type of inactivity. Even on stakeout duty, Liv was always griping at him for being too fidgety.

Can't help it if I feel the need to keep active.

Sure, exploring the courthouse was a fun way to pass the time. At first. But, let's be honest; How much fun could a federal building be? Granted, he'd been surprised to find the stash of men's magazines hidden beneath the desk blotter on Judge Carter's bench. And, he'd helped himself to Betty Lou's gin. But, really, there was only so much mischief he could get into.

He flipped his wrist, eyeing his minute hand again.

Just past midnight. I guess I could head to Petrovsky's chambers and settle in for the night. Ain't like anything's happening here.

Hands once again in his pockets, he forced himself to stroll at a casual pace through the halls of the courthouse. It wasn't like he was in any hurry to reach the judge's chambers. It might be nice to catch a nap, but in all honesty, he knew he wouldn't sleep through the whole night on some strange judge's couch.

Just then, Stabler heard a loud grumbling sound.

Maybe I'll snoop around the cafeteria on my way, Elliot thought, rubbing a hand over the stomach that was now loudly protesting his decision to skip dinner in lieu of the bet he made.

Stabler's shoes were off, the soles of his dress socks rubbing against the fabric of the interior armrest of Petrovsky's couch. One arm was beneath a throw pillow, clutching it to his head in an almost ferocious hug. His tie was off, the end dangling haphazardly from his front trouser pocket. Likewise, his shirt was also off, draped across his torso like a makeshift sheet. His military tattoo rippled with the flexing of his arm muscles as he shifted restlessly in his sleep.

He stirred uneasily, dimly became aware of noises in the background. His eyes abruptly flew open, narrowing as he took in his surroundings. Instantly remembering where he was and why, he sat up, ears perked for any additional noise.

Must have been my imagination.

The sounds came again. Straining his ears, he could have sworn he heard soft moaning. Getting up, he attempted to follow the source of the sound. As he neared the door leading out towards Petrovsky's courtroom, he stilled. There it was again. Hand on the knob, he cautiously cracked the door open, peering out into the hallway.

Shadows on the wall, a woman's laughter was distinctly audible now. He nearly gasped out loud as he realized there were two different voices, and both were drawing nearer. There were no other rooms between the courtroom and the judge's chamber. They were definitely coming in there.

Quickly, he scanned his surroundings, looking for a possible hiding place. He bolted for the restroom, initially locking the door behind him. As he stood there, panting in the darkness in the judge's toilet, he slowly realized how foolish a hiding place that was. He'd be found in a matter of minutes.

Darting back out the door, he furtively surveyed the room. Closet? Nah, too cliché. His eyes fell on the filing cabinet standing in the corner to the left of Petrovsky's desk. There was just enough room between the cabinet and the wall if he squeezed in just a bit. Hearing the voices louder, seeing two silhouettes outside the glass window, he slipped into his hiding place, settling in.

He breathed a sigh of relief as he adjusted himself into the cramped quarters. The giggling sound of women's voices drifted in the air. Two of them, speaking in exaggerated whispers.

Elliot struggled to place the throaty, basically indistinguishable whispers. Must be Cabot and Benson. Nah. His mind quickly processed and rejected that scenario. No way Cabot's willing to jeopardize her fast-track career by risking getting caught doing the freak nasty with an SVU detective in Petrovsky's chambers. Now, on Cragen's desk, maybe -

The rustling of garments followed by an ear-piercing shriek broke into Stabler's reverie. Liv must be in a mood, he thought, a smirk instantly forming on his lips. Okay, her date's a screamer. If not Cabot, though, who? His eyes lit up at his next thought. Benson and Southerlyn? Now, that could be hot! He closed his eyes, relishing the mental image that combination conjured.

"It's great of you to - " a deep sigh, a moan as the speaker's back was pushed up against the door. " - Oh, take such a personal interest in me," gasped out the woman, a deep groan punctuating her sentence.

"It's my sworn duty to lend a - " deep chuckle from the other woman, "helping hand to any district attorney that needs it."

"Any?" asked what Elliot surmised to be a shapely woman who stood slightly taller than her companion.

"Well, of course, I find there are some that need more attention than others," ground out the huskier voice between what could only be kisses and bites to her date's neck.

Oh, fuck! That's not Liv. Elliot swallowed harshly, his throat feeling suddenly dry. Who the Hell is that?

The taller one reached behind herself at an awkward angle, hand upon the knob, slowly turning it. Elliot's eyes nearly bugged out of his head as he caught sight of his shoes laying on the carpeting at the end of the couch. Hastily, he darted from his hiding place, crouching low so as not to cast a reflection of his own upon the glass door pane.

Kneeling, he gingerly grabbed for his footwear, his fingers curling inside his dress shoes. Another moan caught his ear and he instinctively looked up. A set of pale pink fingernails were curled about the door, a flash of lime green sleeve plainly visible. Shaken, he beat a hasty retreat to his hiding place.

Sweating profusely, he tried to control his erratic breathing as he closed his eyes, leaned his head against the cool metal of the filing cabinet. Cautiously opening his eyes, he kept his gaze away from the door and instead concentrated on the image of the desk and chair situated not more than three feet away.

"Oh, Lena," he heard a voice purr, then the office door click shut, effectively trapping him in the same room as the two women, "Is that a gavel beneath your robes, or are you just happy to see me?"

Please, God, strike me deaf, blind and dumb this very minute. PLEASE!

"Come sit in my chair, Ms. Novak," Judge Petrovsky's voice grumbled, "And let me - " Please, God, please don't let her say it, Stabler prayed. " - inspect your legal briefs."

Oh, God, she said it! Stabler fought down waves of nausea and the uncontrollable urge he had to suddenly beat his head against the filing cabinet. Please, somebody save me! He mentally intoned.

"Huang," Cragen reached out, grasping George's hand, shaking it, "Glad you could make it."

"Of course, Captain. Always happy to help out in any way I can." He followed Cragen down a long, carpeted hallway. "Now, what seems to be the problem?"

Wordlessly, Cragen swung open the heavy wooden door, gesturing helplessly inside. Curious, George stepped into the room, quickly surveying his surroundings. Seated - no, huddled - on the floor in a corner between the wall and a large filing cabinet was Detective Stabler. His knees were pulled up to his chin, his arms wrapped about his legs. He appeared to be briskly rocking and humming to himself.

Cautiously, George approached the detective. As he knelt on the floor, he noted that Detective Stabler's eyes never blinked. He made no acknowledgement that he even knew anyone else was in the room. And, his once dark hair had now turned stark white.

After several tense moments, Huang stood up from his kneeling position. Slowly, he made his way back to the doorway. Fin and Munch had joined their captain, and were anxiously looking on.

"Well?" they asked as soon as George approached.

"Well," George began, glancing back over his shoulder at Stabler, "No response to outside stimuli. I don't think he blinked once the whole time I was with him. Hair turning white overnight. In my professional opinion, I'd say he's traumatized. Detective Stabler is literally frozen with fear."

"Come on, man," Fin protested, "The dude's an ex-marine. He can bench press more than twice his weight. What would it take to scare a jarhead like him?"

"Excuse me, gentlemen," Casey slid past the detectives standing in the doorway, retrieved her briefcase from off Petrovsky's desk. Tucking it beneath her arm, she quickly ducked back out again.

"Only one explanation," Munch surmised, "The courthouse really is haunted."

The End

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