DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
SPOILERS: "Raw" is referred to specifically. I don't really specify the timeline, other than Alex is a Bureau Chief (but that isn't integral to the story at all).
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Scribe's Quill
The coffee pot sloshed its contents dangerously as its wielder continued to shake. A gentle hand came to still the agitating arm and took the carafe.
"Let me get that for you," a soothing voice said.
Leanne nodded dumbly, the red ponytail flung over one shoulder bouncing against her name tag. Still clutching the empty mug in her other hand, she slid into the nearest chair at the counter. She didn't register the warm hand on her shoulder or the owner of that hand filling the cup with coffee. The first thing she felt was the burn of the bitter liquid as it seared her throat and tongue.
"Damnit!" she hissed. She slammed the mug down on the ugly green laminate and felt tears well in her eyes. She blinked them back as she felt someone sit down next to her.
"Leanne, I know this is hard, but I need you to tell me what you saw."
The woman had a hard face, but kind eyes. What did she say her name was? Hell if I remember.
Leanne took a deep breath and expelled it, feeling her burning tongue begin to numb.
"I was coming to work, walking down Lexington. All of a sudden, I'm pulled into this alley. This guy had my arm and he was squeezing real hard," she rubbed her upper arm absently. "It took a second for me to see the gun. Once I did, I stopped pulling away from him. My dad always said, 'Just give them what they want. It's not worth your life.'"
"Your dad's a smart man. You did exactly the right thing." Detective - Benton? Bentley? Ah, hell if I know - patted her hand briefly. "What happened next?"
"I started telling him that he could have all my money, my purse, whatever he wanted. That's when I saw the other guy. He was further down the alley, behind a dumpster, so I didn't see him right away, you know?"
The detective nodded.
"Well, he - the other guy - had a girl, too. She had duct tape over her mouth and around her wrists."
"Do you think you'd be able to describe her to a sketch artist?"
"Yeah, what I saw of her. I could never forget her eyes. She couldn't talk what with the tape, you know, but her eyes drilled into me, begged me." Leanne shuddered. "I'll never forget. Never."
"It's okay, Leanne. You're doing great. Now, what happened next?"
"The guy that had me shoved me forward until I was next to the other girl. Then the other guy said, 'You see her, red? You're going to tell the cops that we have her. You tell 'em we want a deal for her.' Then, they faced me into a corner and told me to count to 300 and go to work to call the cops. So I did. I heard noises while I was counting, but I never looked back once I started out of that alley. Do you know what they were doing? Did they hurt her?"
A look of hate and disgust crossed the woman's eyes briefly. Then she closed them and shook her head as if to physically deflect the question. "Did you see either of the men's faces?"
Leanne shook her head. "They had Yankees hats on and bandannas over their faces. All I could see was their eyes."
"Okay, we're going to need you to describe them to a sketch artist, too. Anything you remember will be a big help. We'll also need your clothes, in case any evidence transferred to you. Do you have someone who can get you some fresh clothes?"
Leanne jumped when she heard Lou reply, "I called her husband, Rick. He's coming down right away, Leanne." She nodded.
"Okay, Leanne. I'm going to stay with you until Rick gets here. I'm just going to go over there and talk to my partner for a minute. I'll be right back."
She nodded again, staring straight ahead into nothingness.
"How's she doing?" Elliot asked.
"She's still sort of numb. I'll have the EMTs check her for shock when they get here. Did you call it in?"
"Yep. They'll probably be here in a half hour. CSU is sending a guy to collect the clothes, and unis are watching the alley until Warner gets there. What I don't get is why they killed the girl when they were trying to get some sort of ransom for her. And why cut off her head and hands if they already had an eyewitness?"
"I don't think they were talking about the girl that they had brought to the alley. I think they've got another hostage."
"Munch is looking through missing persons using Leanne's descriptions. So far, nada," Elliot shifted in his chair to look up at the Captain.
Olivia took over the briefing. "Warner's still working on the body, and CSU is still processing the evidence from the alley. From what they can tell, our vic was only partially chopped up there."
"Forgive me if I don't weep in relief at that little tidbit. What's in your guts at the moment, since we're still waiting on the evidence?"
Elliot raised his eyebrows in Olivia's direction, deferring to her.
"At first, we thought that our vic was the girl Leanne saw. Since it's pretty obvious now that the body was decapited elsewhere, we think that she's the hostage they wanted to tell us about. Our vic is simply part of the message."
Elliot jumped in, "But we haven't figured out what that message is yet. Warner said that without teeth or fingerprints, she's looking for some other way to identify her: some surgical scars, anything. In the meantime, all we have is approximate height, weight, and a general guess at her ethnicity. Nothing that will help us find out who she is or why she was killed."
Cragen stood with his hands in his pockets next to Elliot's desk. He heaved a sigh. "It sounds like the only thing you guys can do right now is go get some sleep and be fresh for when that evidence comes in. You've interviewed the only witness, right?"
"Yeah," Olivia sighed. "There are no windows looking down on that alley, and nobody in the surrounding businesses saw anything when Leanne got grabbed."
"Okay, then I don't want to see either of you until tomorrow morning." Cragen turned on his heel and stomped over to his office, his aggravation in the set of his shoulders.
Fin swung by the bar on his way in to take over Munch's missing person's search. He complained about the coffee while Olivia and Elliot finished their beers.
"I'll probably still be at the house when you guys come back in. Maybe you could help a brother out and bring in some decent mud to drink."
"Sure thing," said Olivia, slapping him on the shoulder. "I'll swing by that bakery, too. I don't want you grumpy all day from eating stale donuts. I think this case is going to take awhile, so I'll bring in the good stuff while I still can."
"You're a saint. Take it easy tonight. Say hey to Kathy for me, El. Thank her for the birthday gift. I know your ass didn't have anything to do with finding out when my son could hit a Knicks game with me."
Elliot looked affronted, "Hey, I agreed it was a good idea when she suggested it. Don't I get points for that?"
Olivia snorted, "Maybe with Kathy."
"Yeah, yeah. You keep talking like that and I won't let her help me with your gift next time."
She rolled her eyes, causing Fin to chuckle. "She has to remind you when birthdays are coming up, so how exactly are you going to stop her?" Fin downed the last of his coffee and stood. They all slapped some money down on the table and grabbed their jackets.
"I'm catching a cab, El. See you tomorrow." She nodded a goodbye to Fin and headed for the curb.
The smell of dinner and sound of music and laughter welcomed her into the hallway. She saw a blond head disappear into the door of her destination and thanked the heavens for getting off early enough to actually attend tonight. She needed some levity after today, and the girls were usually all mellowed out and in a food coma by the time she arrived (on the evenings she could make it at all). She grinned to herself in anticipation and headed toward the rapidly-closing door.
"Police, freeze!" She called out before it slammed shut.
"Liv!? I can't believe you made it for dinner! Will the city function without you?" The sparkle in the blue eyes aimed at her warmed her heart. She had missed girls' night.
"It better. I'm not leaving here without having some of that cheesecake, Serena," she warned as she entered the apartment and shrugged off her coat.
Serena Southerlyn may not be able to cook worth a damn, but she bought a mean cheesecake from the family-owned bakery near her apartment.
"I brought two tonight, so you can even take a slice home this time. I'll make sure of it. It's the least these pigs can do for always devouring every crumb before you can get here." As they bantered, they turned from the tiny foyer to the living room. A wave of surprised greetings assaulted them.
"If it isn't New York's finest. Long time, no see, Benson!" Abbie Carmichael drawled and raised her bottle of beer in salute. "How's Sex Crimes?"
"Same ol' same ol'," Olivia replied. "How's life treating you?"
"Detective! I'm glad you're here. Can you please tell ADA Novak that I have never set foot on a softball field? She keeps trying to get me to join the Bureau team so she has someone to mock that won't try and get her fired."
Alex Cabot looked the picture of incredulity at the thought of even picking up a bat.
"Casey, I'm pretty sure you'd get fired for inflicting Alex on them. She's hopeless. The only sport she participates in is knocking interns around."
"Thank you!" Alex heaved, glad to be off the hook and not the least bit offended at Olivia's description of her skills.
"Alright, alright, I give," Casey said from the kitchen. Olivia made her way through the living room to greet her.
"Hey you," Olivia smiled as she walked in. She stopped just inside the doorway to watch Casey finish pulling garlic bread out of the oven.
"Hey yourself. Don let you off early," Casey turned from the stove and sauntered up to Olivia, a smirk on her lips. Olivia grinned.
"Yep. I'm a free woman tonight," she took Casey's hand with her own and kissed it. "How was your day? Did that arraignment go alright?"
"Piece of cake," Casey stroked Olivia's cheek. She leaned in and kissed Olivia's lips gently, then touched her forehead to the brunette's. "I'm glad you're here."
Olivia wrapped her arms around her. "Mmm, me too. I've missed this. My lone oasis in the testosterone that surrounds me. Is that Italian I smell?" Casey pulled back from the embrace to look into her eyes.
"Mhmm. Abbie has been watching Emeril, apparently. I'll warn you that Alex insisted on 'helping' for a while until Abbie threw a ladle at her, so you may want to check about what is safe to eat. Detectives cannot live on my famous garlic bread and that cheesecake alone." Casey squeezed her a little tighter and chuckled. "I swear that woman wants to try to set fire to every appliance she owns. If Abbie and I didn't specifically bar her from using her own kitchen, this place would burn down and we'd have no place big enough for girls' night. You've got the next biggest place, but you're never there."
"Hmm," Olivia answered noncommittally. She gave Casey a final squeeze, and then wandered over to the stove to peek into the pot simmering there.
"No tasting, Benson. It's time to eat it already. Grab a serving bowl, would you?" Abbie entered, grabbing a bottle of wine from the rack by the dining table. "I'll open the wine, if you'll dish up the pasta."
"It's a deal, Counselor. It smells great." Olivia completed her appointed task and brought the bowl to the table. She returned to the humorously well-appointed kitchen to get the cheese and grater that were always required whenever they had pasta. She, Casey, and Abbie performed their long-rehearsed dance of setting the table and arranging the food for a nice long sit-down meal and laugh-fest. The cheesecake and movie would come later, and they would move the party to the couch.
"Food's ready, y'all. Get in here before Benson and Novak eat it all," Abbie called to the ladies still in the living room.
"You're not kidding," Olivia chuckled. "I missed lunch today."
Casey clasped her hand and pulled her over to their seats at the table. "We'll just have to make up for that. No shop talk, tons of carbs, and the girls will let you pick the movie tonight." She emphasized the last with a pointed look at Abbie, Alex, and Serena. Everyone took their seats.
"Sounds great," Olivia beamed and raised her wine glass. "To not thinking about what horrors tomorrow will bring."
"Cheerful as always, Benson," Abbie snickered, but clinked her glass against Olivia's.
"I know what that's like, and I have no problem drinking to it," Alex said, and toasted.
"Better you than me," Serena deadpanned, raising her own glass.
Casey squeezed Olivia's hand under the table. She raised her wine glass and said, "To the good guys getting some well-deserved R and R."
The music of wine glasses colliding softly and the women intoning a hearty "Cheers" drowned out the Vivaldi coming from the stereo.
The sound of her alarm woke Olivia with a start. She couldn't remember the last time she had still been asleep when it went off. She reached over and shut it off, blinking slowly. A warm body snuggled into her, groaning happily.
"It's nice to wake up next to you," Casey mumbled sleepily into the back of her neck.
Olivia turned back around and pulled her close. "Mhmm. It's been awhile, hasn't it? I'm glad Cap kept his promise that he didn't want to see us until this morning. Fin must have been catching all night. C'mon, get up. Let's go for a run together."
"Mmmkay," Casey answered, then yawned widely, stretching. She grinned when she was done stretching, then sighed and rolled over into her pillow again. Olivia smacked her on the backside, and then jumped out of bed before Casey could retaliate. A muffled yelp followed by a muffled giggle was the reply.
"C'mon sleepy. I'll cook breakfast when we get back."
Olivia entered the squad room and without a word deposited a large coffee and two sweet rolls on top of the paperwork Fin was filling out.
She heard an appreciative, "That's my girl!" as she walked over to the coffee station and set down the pink bakery box that contained probably their only decent food for at least the next 36 hours.
"What'd I miss?" She called to the room in general.
"Warner called about 10 minutes ago and said she'd be ready to see you and Elliot around 9. CSU is ready for you as soon as you can get there."
Olivia looked up to see Elliot walk through the door.
"I guess I don't need to bother taking my coat off. Let's go, Liv."
"Sorry to disappoint, but we don't have much for you. From the amount of evidence these guys left for us, I can tell they were fully clothed and gloved, and didn't stay in that alley long." O'Halloran looked at them apologetically. "All I have is a tire tread from the other end of the alley."
"If we're lucky, that'll be our perps'," said Olivia.
"Yeah, and if we aren't, we'll be talking to some delivery guy with a lead foot for no reason," Elliot cranked.
"Aren't we sunny this morning," retorted Olivia.
"Sorry. I didn't have the best night. Car broke down when I was getting take-out. The tow-truck driver was a crime show enthusiast."
"Ouch. Been there," O'Halloran sympathized.
"Yeah. So, this tire tread?" Elliot asked.
"Standard hostage vehicle issue. Your treads are from a tire put on all factory Dodge Ram vans in 1993."
"Thanks, Ryan," Olivia said as she followed her partner out the door.
"This girl made my night hell," Warner greeted them.
"Hello to you, too. Everyone's in a mood today," Olivia chided amusedly.
Warner ignored the bait for an apology, as she usually did. "Your vic is a female of Middle Eastern descent, about 5'5", 110 pounds."
"We knew that," Elliot said, a request for more information in his tone.
"She is approximately 24 years old and likes to drink. A lot."
Elliot raised his eyebrows. "Liver damage?"
"It was almost completely cirrhosed. This girl partied hard and often. What was unusual, though, was the lack of alcohol in her system. She had to have been plowed nearly continuously for years to be this young and this sick."
"Maybe she was held long enough before she died that it worked out of her system," Olivia ventured.
"It's definitely possible. Alcohol only stays in the blood for about 10 hours until it's metabolized by the body." She walked over to the light box on the wall where some x-ray films were displayed. "What gave me such a hard time last night were these," she pointed to bright white spots on the films, showing several plates and screws. "Your girl had a bad break in her femur."
"Ouch," sympathized Olivia.
"Ouch is right," Warned agreed. "This bad of a break would have had her learning to walk again. By the growth of scar tissue, I thought whatever accident caused it would have taken place a couple of years ago. However, I didn't find any matching records from the serial numbers on the medical implants." She looked aggravated at the mere memory.
"What did you find?" asked Elliot.
"A lawsuit." The detectives' eyebrows shot up.
"This girl had been operated on twice. The first operation was done by a Dr. Emil Sharim. He was sued for malpractice and lost his license for implanting stolen parts into his patients."
"Stolen parts?" Elliot sounded skeptical.
Warner nodded. "Apparently, Dr. Sharim had a low-life brother who liked to hijack medical supply trucks to help out his big bro. Dr. Sharim would then change the serial numbers on the parts - metal plates, screws, etc. - before implanting them."
"So, there's no way to know who this girl is by the serial numbers on the implants, then?" Olivia was getting tired of dead ends.
"No. But this bad of a break might have stuck in Dr. Sharim's memory."
"You said she had been operated on twice?"
"Yes. The second time seemed to be a clean-up job. By the tool marks, it looks like they scraped away the scar tissue to get a look at the quality of the original work."
"Basically, making sure Dr. Sharim didn't screw up the operation?" Elliot wrote something in his notepad.
"Precisely. Whoever did that operation was probably a credible surgeon."
The buzz of the gate signaled their approach into the prison's interview room. A man with dark hair and an intense face awaited them.
"What do you want?" He asked harshly, in accented English.
"Dr. Sharim. Elliot Stabler and my partner Olivia Benson." Elliot took care of the introductions, as was usual when meeting a male person of interest. It saved on dealing with the chauvinist ones' attitude against women. It mirrored their habit of Olivia approaching female victims first, in case they were put off by the mere fact that Elliot was male.
"We'd like to ask you about one of your patients."
"And before you cite privilege, your conviction nullified that," Olivia continued smoothly as she lowered herself into the chair across the table from Sharim.
"We're looking for the name of a Middle Eastern woman, about 5'5", who you operated on. She had a very bad break in her femur a few years ago. Probably had to learn to walk all over again."
The doctor's face changed dramatically: from impatient and hostile to completely heartbroken.
"My Nina. What has happened to her?"
Olivia and Elliot entered the squad room briskly. Elliot gave Olivia a brief look and headed to the coffee pot. She took that as her queue to fill in the other detectives.
"Our vic is Nina Sharim, daughter of Emil Sharim, serving time for fraud, reckless endangerment and a whole slew of other minor charges related to his medical practice of using stolen supplies to pad his bottom line."
Fin and Munch raised their eyebrows and stared at Olivia.
Olivia stopped in the middle of taking one arm out of her coat. "What did I say?"
"Our hostage is none other than Tina Sharim, Nina's twin sister."
"You're kidding!" Elliot barked.
"They aren't. Did you get anything out of Emil?" Cragen had wandered in and perched himself on Elliot's desk and propped one foot up on his chair. Elliot then stole Olivia's chair, forcing Olivia to sit on her own desk. Such was briefing time in SVU.
"Just that nobody was hurt by any of his operations and he couldn't think of anyone with a grudge against him. He says that the only reason that anyone found out he was using stolen supplies was because his brother got busted and rolled on him. He claims he was a good doctor."
"We're not going to take his word for it. Benson, check out the court case. Have Novak look at it too and see if she can give some prosecutorial insight. Elliot, you check out his brother's jacket and follow any leads that it provides. Munch, Fin, you check out the family that isn't in jail, dead, or being held hostage."
Their corner of the squad room once again matched the flurry of the station as everyone dispersed to follow their orders.
"Never sued for malpractice and none of his former patients went after him once he was convicted," Casey summarized aloud as she perused the file.
"It's unbelievable. Why would such a great doctor put everything at risk like that? There's got to be something we're not seeing."
"I'm betting it's the brother. People do crazy things for family."
Olivia nodded. She was opening her mouth to say something when her phone buzzed on her hip. She glanced at the caller ID before flipping the phone open.
"Speak of the devil. Hey El, got something from the brother?" Casey sat back in her chair and waited patiently. She watched Olivia's face, trying to gain clues about what Elliot was saying.
"Really?" Olivia's raised left eyebrow told Casey that there was something significant in the brother's story that explained why Emil turned to crime.
"No. Emil never testified. That's why it's not in the court transcripts. Uh-huh. Yeah. He pretty much just rolled over and took it. He pled not guilty but didn't offer much of a defense beyond that. Yeah, ask about that. No, we're almost done. See you back at the house." Olivia flipped her phone closed and looked at Casey.
"The brother is a drug and gambling addict. Dr. Sharim was buying the stolen goods off of him to pay for the brother's habits. The brother sang like a bird as soon as any pressure was put on him. Well, you read his testimony, so you know that."
"What is Elliot asking him about beyond that?" Casey asked.
"Where he got the supplies. Remember, he plead the Fifth on that in the trial?"
Casey rolled her eyes. "What didn't he plead the Fifth on? That's all he said after, 'Emil knew I stole the stuff I sold him.""
"Seems like the only time he ever shut up was when he was in front of that judge," Olivia grabbed her jacket of the coat rack. "I'm going to head back. You keep that file and let me know if anything jumps out, ok?" She strode over and kissed Casey quickly. "See you later?"
"Isn't that my line to ask you with skepticism?"
Olivia smiled apologetically and kissed her again. "Unfortunately, I meant will I see you at the station. I have a feeling there'll be no down time until we find Tina."
"I wouldn't expect anything else. Yes, I'll see you later. I'll bring dinner by for the troops." Casey smiled. "Be careful."
Olivia continued their usual goodbye routine with, "Always. Kick legal ass."
The next morning, Casey came to the squad room to get briefed. The detectives all showed signs of a long night, and Fin was missing entirely. She assumed he was taking a well-needed rest in the crib. She set down the box and portable carafe of coffee from Krispy Kreme on Olivia's desk, stepping back to avoid the mad rush for the sugar and caffeine.
From the tidbits of information that she got from Olivia over the phone and the brief stay around eight last night to drop dinner off in the station house, Casey knew that they had been running after several leads relating to the lawsuit in hopes of finding out who had Tina and why. The detectives had stayed true to their promise not to call her unless a warrant was needed, and she had slept a good few hours before having to call a judge.
"What did you find at the Haskin place?"
James "Jimbo" Haskin was the brother of one of Dr. Sharim's patients who had made some threats to the man at the trial, though he didn't do anything about them. Munch and Fin had discovered a few priors, and the delightful (to Casey) fact that he was still on parole, making a warrant easy to obtain.
"Mmmfflhuhhfllemmmffhhth," Elliot answered.
Casey raised her eyebrow at him. "I'm sorry, I don't speak Jelly Doughnut. Anyone else?" He grinned and continued chewing around an enormous mouthful of pastry. At least he had the good grace to look a little sheepish, though the red jelly on his lip detracted from the effect.
Olivia swallowed her much smaller bite and answered Casey's question. "He had letters from a buddy in Rikers who has ties to a gang that likes to hire out their services as kidnappers. He's in the stew room. He's probably hungry and has to pee by now, eh El?"
Elliot nodded, grabbed another three donuts out of the box and his cup of coffee. Olivia got her own cup and another (of the station's brew), Casey assumed to jog Haskin's bladder. They disappeared into the interrogation room. Casey put her attaché down by Olivia's desk and, spotting the Captain emerging from his office, grabbed a doughnut for him and signaled that she'd meet him in the observation room.
"I swear, that's all I know. Look, I didn't meant it to go this far. All I did was bitch to my cellmate and next thing I know, I'm getting hauled in here and charged with being an accessory, at the least." Haskin was a rail thin man with frightened eyes and a permanent sneer on his pockmarked face. He ran his hands through his brown hair and bounced his heel up and down faster and faster. It seemed that the appreciative sounds of Olivia eating her doughnut and Elliot slurping his coffee were working.
"Look, can I take a break? I gotta use the john."
"Names, Jimbo, that's all we want," Olivia licked some powdered sugar off one finger. Casey barely contained her own groan at the sight. Unfortunately for Jimbo, he didn't have that kind of restraint. He moaned and muttered, "Damn girl."
The sound had an immediate effect. Elliot jumped up and twisted Jimbo's arm behind his back and pressed the skel's face into the table. Olivia stood up so fast that her chair skidded backward and fell over. She plastered a sneer of hatred on her face and leaned down so she was eye-to-eye with Haskin's face.
"You're not going to want to follow through with that line of thinking. Or else what is currently doing the thinking will be removed. Got it?" Elliot growled.
Olivia simply spat out, "Names."
"Alright, alright. Geez, bitch."
"I hope you were talking to me," Elliot emphasized his point by twisting the arm he was currently holding.
"Ow, yes. Sorry!"
Casey turned to look at the Captain next to her and saw him thoroughly enjoying his doughnut while watching the show. She smiled. "I imagine we'll have a few names momentarily." He nodded. "I'll get started toward Hogan Place to find a judge. Call me when you've got them and I'll have the warrant meet you wherever you need it. If his lawyer kicks up a fuss about that little scuffle in there, tell him I'll be adding sexual harassment charges to the list." He nodded at her again and turned back to watch his detectives. Elliot was currently smiling and rubbing Haskin's shoulder in a brotherly fashion while Olivia slid a pad of paper and pen in front of him.
"Cap, we got a problem." Munch called from his desk. Elliot and Olivia were processing Haskin and Fin was grabbing his jacket to head out to their first search of the man's associates.
"What is it?"
"Novak isn't picking up and her assistant hasn't seen her."
"Okay, call Abbie Carmichael and get the warrants you need to start searching. I'll try and track Novak down. She said she was heading straight down to Hogan."
Cragen called dispatch and had some unis on patrol between the station house and the courthouse check for signs of the ADA. When the radio signaled for him, his heart stopped for a brief moment.
"Captain Cragen, we ran into another car that responded to an assault call. A guy smacked a Good Samaritan who tried to keep him from shoving a tall redhead into a van. She was struggling and the witness heard her say she was a District Attorney."
His face went pale. "Okay, be advised that this is a kidnapping. The vic is ADA Casey Novak of SVU, and this is possibly connected to another kidnapping that we're working on. I want you to hold all witnesses until I get there and immediately issue any APBs that you can based on the descriptions you get. She's one of us, officer."
"Copy that, Cap."
Cragen grabbed his coat and made some more necessary calls to dispatch and the DA's office before nearly sprinting out of the station.
His detectives were going to be pissed.
Casey struggled to sit upright. Her captors had been less than careful with her and she suspected that her right knee had been injured pretty badly when they had yanked her out of the van the moment they reached...well, wherever here was. She wanted to get a look at her throbbing joint to see how bad it was. She also wanted to see something besides the ceiling, maybe get some idea of how to get out of here.
After several attempts, she finally got up from the prone position she had landed in. The first thing she noted was that her knee had swollen to twice its original size. The second thing she noticed was that there was a young woman, bound in duct tape, lying about 10 feet away from her. She seemed to be passed out cold. Casey wrestled for a few more minutes in order to get her own hands out from behind her back. As soon as that was accomplished (with plenty of pain in her damaged knee), she dragged herself over to the girl.
She immediately recognized Tina Sharim. She checked for a pulse, and was relieved to note that it seemed to be steady and strong. She tried to wake the other woman.
"Tina. Tina, wake up. Come on, wake up."
Tina didn't respond at all. Casey was not dissuaded. She knew that there was no way that she would leave Tina here if she somehow managed to find a way to escape. She also knew that there was no way that she'd be able to carry another person, if she could even walk under her own power. Casey doubled her efforts.
"Tina," she said as loudly as she dared, hoping their kidnappers weren't listening. "Tina, you've got to wake up." She didn't want to smack Tina, as she had probably been knocked around enough during her captivity. So she did the only thing she could think of: she pinched Tina in the arm, hard.
Tina woke with a gasp and a muffled cry. Casey immediately tried to soothe her.
"It's okay, Tina. It's just me. They aren't here right now. I promise I won't pinch you again if you stay awake."
The woman's wild-eyed panic from waking up started to subside a little as she took in her surroundings. When she finally focused on Casey, she seemed to relax a little bit.
"Good. Good." Casey stroked her arm reassuringly. "My name is Casey Novak. I'm an Assistant District Attorney. I have some detective friends who are probably mounting a city-wide search as we speak."
A tiny spark of hope entered Tina's eyes.
"Let's see if we can't make you more comfortable." Casey began working on the tape at Tina's wrists with her teeth. She ripped the bonds in half once on each side so that Tina could move her arms freely. She remembered Liv telling her once about how tape could take skin with it if the adhesive was strong enough and had been left on a long time.
"Tina, I don't know if we can do anything about the tape on your mouth. There's a possibility that I'd hurt you if I tried. Do you know how long that tape has been on there?"
Tina nodded. She held up one finger on one hand, then slashed through the air, then held two fingers up.
"Half. Okay. Half of what?" Tina made a vague approximation of the sign language movement for "day."
"Half a day. Okay. Damn, I don't know if that's too long," she muttered to herself. She looked around the room to see if she could see if there was anything to cut with. As she did, Tina grabbed her wrists and began ripping at the tape with her teeth like Casey had done.
As soon as she was free, Casey broke the bad news to Tina. "My knee is hurt. I need to see how badly. Can you help me up so I can test it out?"
Tina nodded. Several muttered curses and pained groans later, Casey knew she could brave the pain if it meant getting out of here. She also knew that once any adrenaline from an escape wore off, she would be in a world of hurt. She had had enough sports injuries as a teenager to know that.
"Ok, so we're both reasonably mobile. Let's see if we can take care of your communication problem, shall we?"
They both searched for anything that might help them make even the slightest tear in the tape on Tina's mouth. Tina finally found a retractable ball-point pen that had rolled under a wooden pallet. Casey used the pen to pierce a hole in the tape right between Tina's lips, just enough to make a tear that Tina could enlarge by working into it with her fingers while pulling her lips apart from each other.
"Oh my gosh. Ow. Thank you," were the first words Tina had spoken in days.
Cragen watched the color drain from Olivia and Elliot's faces. Then, Elliot's face set into a hard mask and said, "They are going away for good after we get her back."
Olivia's face set into an identical mask a split second later. "Let's find these sons of bitches."
"I've called Munch and Fin. They're continuing to search the homes of all the dirt bags that Haskin gave up. I want you to go through their financials and see if anything points to a place where they could have taken Casey and Tina. I don't care if they bought a roll of duct tape three months ago, it would be a start."
Olivia nodded and headed to her desk. Cragen stopped Elliot with a hand on his arm. "I'm going to call Huang in to get in these guys' heads."
He paused to choose his words, and his eyes strayed to Olivia. "I know that Olivia is close to Novak. Maybe too close to be involved with this, but I also know she'd rather work in times of crisis, and I've got no problem with that. Just make sure she doesn't do anything she'll regret later, like give these guys a chance to walk because she went off half-cocked." He lowered his eyebrows significantly at Elliot. "It takes one to know one detective, and that makes you the right man to keep her flying straight."
"Yeah, Cap. I got it."
"Good. Let's get our ADA back."
"Liv, take a look at this."
Detective Benson rubbed her eyes and stood up. She made her way over to stand behind Elliot at his desk, squinting at the paper he was pointing at.
"Guess who is a co-signer on the lease for an old warehouse? Our old pal Jimbo."
"What the hell would that guy need an empty building for? He's not exactly the entrepreneurial type."
Elliot made a strangled noise. "Look at this. The dumbass only signed the lease a month ago!" He stood up quickly. "Cap!" he called loudly.
Tina told Casey everything she had observed for the last few days. The men that took her were not around much and they hadn't sexually assaulted her, two things that gave Casey hope. Something that worried her, though, was that they usually preferred to knock Tina over the head rather than deal with a conscious victim. She suspected the woman needed medical attention, and fast.
The men didn't seem overly intelligent or overly fussed about what they were doing. They hadn't even bothered to clear the place that they had dumped their hostages in. It was still full of what Casey in her mind called random abandoned warehouse crap: wooden pallets, a desk off in a corner, tables, large crates, etc. There was even a half disassembled piece of large machinery at the far end of the room.
There was only one door. It was locked, of course, and appeared to be reinforced, like a fire door. The only windows were close to the high ceiling and well out of reach.
Tina said that the men wouldn't be back until dark: they only fed her one meal per day, and it was dinner from some greasy fast food place.
It appeared that the only chance they had to escape was to take the kidnappers by surprise once the door was open or unlocked. At the moment, they were looking around for something to use as weapons for just such an occasion.
Haskin had clammed up like an eyewitness to a mob hit. As soon as Carmichael told him they knew about his warehouse, he wouldn't say another word. Elliot had no idea why; it was too late to hold anything back now. He was cooked.
Cragen was currently organizing a raid on the warehouse, on the phone with ESU and making arrangements. Some plainclothes officers were already on their way to sit on the building.
Munch and Fin were en route to find a place for a discreet mobile headquarters to set up camp for the raid. They'd be dealing with ESU once they got there. Elliot and Olivia would be going into the building with the force.
Elliot was currently thinking of what he would say to Olivia once they were en route to the raid. He knew she could handle it, but he wanted to give her some words that might act as her conscience once they got face to face with Casey's abductors.
Casey took another look at Tina. The woman was not doing well. She had been less and less focused over the course of the last few hours and complaining of an ever-worsening headache. Casey was really worried. She hoped the men showed up soon.
They had both found a heavy object to hit their captors with when they walked through the door: Casey uncovered a pipe that had rolled under a pallet, and Tina found a large wrench lodged in the old machine in the back. The two women were currently settled out of sight of anyone coming through that door.
The plan was for Tina - who was on one side of the opening - to kick a cinder block they had found into the path of the door so it wouldn't shut completely. This she would do as soon as the second guy came through the entry. The two women had moved a large cabinet away from the wall just enough for Tina to stand behind it so that she was hidden. The cinder block was at her feet, ready to do its job with one good shove. Tina had practiced a few times to make sure she could do it.
Casey was on the other side of the doorway, and until she made her move would be concealed (and protected) by the door itself when it was opened. Her job was to hit the first guy who came into her line of sight. That would hopefully draw the other man's attention for the split second that Tina needed to get out from behind the cabinet and club him over the head.
The light through the windows showed that the sun was setting, and Tina figured that they had about an hour until the men arrived. They wanted to be ready, so they were in their positions now, just waiting.
Casey hoped that their plan would work. She hoped that Tina would be able to stay conscious long enough.
Olivia and Elliot were in the ESU van getting briefed on the layout of the property and the plan for the raid. The full entry force had not yet arrived.
"There is only one entry point, here," the squad leader pointed to the blueprint obtained from the city. "There is no line of sight from any of the surrounding rooftops, so we've got a team trying to figure out how to get a camera placed to get eyes inside."
"Damnit, that's going to take too long!" snapped Olivia under her breath.
Elliot's phone rang.
"Stabler. He did?" Then a long pause from Elliot. "That's good news. Thanks," he turned to the squad leader. "Our accomplice just sang. There are only two guys working this job. No one else from the gang is involved at this level. And these guys only show up twice a day: once in the morning and once after dark."
"We haven't seen any movement. The lights aren't even on in there," Olivia said anxiously. "So can't we just go in and get Tina and Casey before these guys get here?"
The squad leader nodded. "That's what it sounds like."
"Not so fast, Cap. We've got incoming." The woman watching the video monitors of the warehouse's exterior pointed to the image of a Dodge Ram van pulling up in front to the building.
Olivia took one look at Elliot and jumped out of the van.
"Damnit, Benson!" He ran after her.
Olivia quickly crossed the street, running toward the suspects and un-holstering her weapon.
"Police, freeze!" She barked at them.
The one carrying the food dropped it and ducked behind the van. The other one produced a gun and pointed it at Olivia.
"Drop your weapon!" Elliot had flanked to the side and was currently pointing his own gun at the armed man.
"Not a chance," the man said before turning and firing at Elliot. He moved so fast to the shelter of the other side of the van that Olivia couldn't even get off a shot. Elliot dropped like a stone, clutching his thigh with his free hand.
As Olivia turned to look at her partner, she knew the suspects were running toward the safety of the warehouse.
"I'm fine! Get Casey!" Elliot ground out. The ESU captain was rushing toward him, talking on his radio. Munch and Fin - who had been in an unmarked car just down the block - weren't far behind.
"John! Stay with Elliot! Fin, with me," Olivia called out as she took off after the perps. They had opened the door and were disappearing from sight.
Casey saw Tina's face go white when she heard the van pull up.
"Okay, Tina. We can do this. Remember: Let them in, cinder block, wrench." She repeated the mantra they had devised while they were waiting. Tina had been afraid that she would freeze up, so Casey had suggested physically going through the motions while chanting to herself. She nearly drove Casey insane repeating it, but Casey had been glad the woman had something to keep her occupied and keep her from passing out.
Tina said softly, "Let them in, cinder block, wrench," then nodded to herself.
"We can do this," Casey said again, firmly.
Just then, she heard a muffled female voice shout, "Police, freeze!"
"Liv!" Casey gasped.
She heard Elliot's shouts, then the gunshot. She heard footsteps coming toward them. As soon as she and Tina heard the key in the lock, they knew that it wasn't the police who had fired. It wasn't the police that were coming through that door. They locked eyes and nodded to each other.
The door burst open and the men came inside. In the moment they took to try and see in the dim light, Casey struck. Leaning around the door, she swung the pipe at the first man's head. She heard the cinder block scraping along the floor. The metal in her hand connected and the man dropped to the ground unconscious.
Tina's aim wasn't as true. Her wrench came down hard alright, but she hit the second man where his neck connected to his left shoulder. The man screamed in pain and swung around reflexively, hitting Tina. Her own automatic responses compromised, she fell against the wall and hit her head hard. She slid to the floor and didn't get up.
Casey made to swing again, but he raised his gun and pointed it at her.
"Ah, ah, ah," he chided. "Drop it."
Olivia and Fin heard a few faint noises coming from inside the building, followed by a loud scream. They skidded to a halt and took up positions on either side of the door. She noticed that the door hadn't closed all the way, and then looked down and saw the cinder block propping it open. She pointed to it. Fin shrugged.
They heard a male voice say, "Ah, ah, ah. Drop it." Then there was the sound of metal hitting concrete.
Casey tried to back away from the man, but her injured knee wouldn't cooperate. He easily caught her around the waist and faced them toward the door. He pointed his gun at the door first, then seemed to think better of it and pointed it at her head instead.
"Don't you say a word. I'm in charge, got it?" He pressed the muzzle into her temple.
"Uh huh," she managed.
The door slowly opened halfway, a foot moving the cinder block with it to keep it open. A dark brown head darted around the door for a split second, and then disappeared.
Olivia pulled her head out. "The gunman has Casey, using her as a shield. The other two are down."
"Do you think we should invite them in? I think I will," the gunman told Casey. He jostled her a little in his nervousness and she groaned at the pain in her knee.
"Hey, cops! I've got your pretty lawyer. Come in here and I'll talk about letting her go."
That was all Olivia needed. She quickly pushed the door open all the way and stepped in, gun trained on where she knew the man was standing with Casey. She felt Fin follow, though he cursed at her.
"Casey, are you alright?" Casey started to answer, but the man jabbed her head with the gun.
"She's fine. I want to talk deals, but lawyers always screw those up. So this lawyer isn't going to talk." Another jab.
"Okay. Let's you and I talk then," Fin said. "You drop the gun, and things will definitely go better for you than if you hurt her."
Casey felt the man nod behind her. "Yeah. Yeah. I ain't going back to lock-up in that hell-hole I was at before."
"Okay. We'll find you a different place," Fin continued his buddy routine. "Let her go, now."
"I had the worst cellmate there, you know. Offered me protection if I joined his gang. Now look where I am." He started rocking back and forth a little, not caring that Casey had begun whimpering slightly with every movement.
"Why did you take these women?" Olivia asked, trying to stay calm. The look of pain on Casey's face wasn't helping.
"Because he told us to! I can't say no or the gang will kill me!" In his excitement, he grabbed Casey a little harder around the waist, which actually took some of her weight off of her injury. Some color returned to her face.
"Who told you to? Who is 'us'?" Fin asked.
Surprised, Olivia blurted, "Dr. Emil Sharim?"
"No. Jamal, his brother."
"Who was working with you?"
"Just Manny, there," and as he pointed toward his accomplice on the floor, his arm partially released Casey. She collapsed in pain as her full weight was so suddenly put on her bad leg.
When the man found that his shield was suddenly gone, he swung his gun around to point at Olivia. She didn't hesitate to fire twice, hitting him dead in the chest. Like someone had snipped his strings, he crumpled.
Olivia rushed to Casey's side. Casey cried out, "No, I'm fine. You've got to help Tina." She pointed at the woman slumped by the door. Olivia nodded briskly, then pulled out her radio and spoke into it as she headed to check on Tina.
Fin checked the gunman's vitals. "He's dead." He secured the gun, then went to inspect the man Casey had knocked out.
Casey wouldn't let the EMTs touch her until she knew that Tina was on her way to the hospital. They hadn't been able to wake the poor woman yet.
Olivia helped Casey up and out of the warehouse, following the four medics that were tending to Tina. Fin came up to Casey's other side to take some of her weight, and together they practically carried her to a waiting gurney. It was then that Casey asked where Elliot was.
Olivia paled. Casey grabbed her hand, a question in her eyes.
"He's at Mercy. Munch rode with him and called me. He got shot in the leg, but they think he'll be fine. It doesn't look like it hit anything important," Fin supplied. Olivia sagged in relief.
The EMTs finally shoved Fin out of the way as they attempted to work on Casey. Olivia would not be dissuaded, however, and would only move enough to stay out of their way.
When they put Casey into the ambulance, Olivia climbed in beside her without a word.
Casey rolled her eyes at the joke Fin was making as he pushed her along the hospital's hallway. About an hour ago, Elliot had come out of surgery and Olivia had gone down to see him. Casey wouldn't even let Olivia think of staying while the doctor poked and prodded at her knee. Still, it took several threats to get the detective to go see her partner, whom she was clearly concerned about. Now that she had been released, Casey wanted to see for herself that Elliot was okay.
They finally turned through the doorway of a non-descript room and saw Olivia and Kathy on either side of the bed, each holding one of Elliot's hands. Olivia looked up at Casey.
"Hey! You're mobile!" The detective smiled brightly.
"Yep. I've got to see a specialist before I get the okay for anything but a wheelchair, though. The bastard is off in Tahiti or something until Wednesday."
"I told his secretary that he had better not decide to stay an extra day," Fin said ominously. "I think she got the hint." He seemed to have taken Casey's abduction and injury more personally than expected and had stuck close to the ADA as much as possible all evening. Casey was a little confused at the protectiveness, but touched.
Olivia winced in sympathy. Whether it was for Casey's inconvenient transportation for the next few days or for the poor secretary, Casey couldn't tell. She chuckled.
"I'll be okay. I'm glad my apartment building has a working elevator. I don't think Fin would like me very much if he had to drag me and this chair up seven flights of stairs." She looked over her shoulder at the man. "Thanks for wheeling me around. I appreciate it."
"No prob, Case." He turned to Olivia. "I'm gonna go find my partner and get started on some paperwork. Cap said he'd be down in an hour or so. He's still cleaning up the scene."
Olivia knew what he meant. The details of the evening were a tangled mess that the Captain had to unravel and put in a nice package to keep everyone' jackets neat and clean. IAB wanted things their way: no move unexplained, no bullet unaccounted for, no T's uncrossed. It had already taken a good five hours, and apparently would take a little longer.
She looked into his eyes and said, "Thanks, Fin."
He nodded briskly and left without a word.
Casey rolled herself to Elliot's bedside beside Kathy. "How's he doing?" She asked her softly.
"Oh, he'll be fine. He always is. Stubborn as anything. Though he moans and groans plenty when he's at home. Don't tell him I told you that." Kathy smiled. Casey and Olivia sniggered under their breath.
"I'm glad he's okay." Casey said sincerely, and patted Kathy's hand that was resting on top of Elliot's.
"Even though I'll get to hear his moaning and groaning myself when he's riding a desk while he recovers." Olivia mock-complained.
They all laughed, the mood significantly lighter.
It was 3am. Kathy had gone to the restroom and to get a sandwich from downstairs. She had just put dinner on the table when Captain Cragen had called her, so she hadn't eaten since her early lunch the day before.
Olivia looked at Casey. She had dozed off, a side effect of her ordeal and the pain medication she was on. She was leaning forward, her head resting on her arms which were folded on the bed by Elliot's feet. She looked like death warmed over. But to Olivia, she was beautiful. She was alive.
The hardened detective had never been so terrified in her life. When Casey had been held hostage briefly by that brainwashed white supremacist kid in the courtroom, she had been angry. She had wanted to kill that kid herself. She'd told Star as much in a moment of unguarded rage.
But this time was different. This time, she knew that she loved Casey. They had a life together, of sorts. They may not have told the world, but they loved each other. She had never had that before. She never knew how or what that would make her feel. She certainly wasn't prepared for the terror of losing it.
She got up and walked slowly over to where Casey had parked her wheelchair an hour ago. The redhead had insisted on staying until Elliot woke up, to thank him -even though she was clearly exhausted, starving, and drugged up.
Olivia smiled fondly at her. She had seen so much selflessness and concern from Casey in the last few hours, it amazed her. First, she wouldn't let anyone help her until Tina had been taken care of, even though she was clearly in excruciating pain. Then, as she was giving her statement, Casey had revealed what she and Tina had done to the men. Olivia, of course, had asked a little later for more details. Casey had related the events to her as if they were nothing: her encouragement to Tina, her strength in planning the escape attempt, her care of Tina's injuries even as she dealt with her own.
As Casey lay sleeping lightly, Olivia stroked her hair and fell even more in love with her.
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