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Hunter & Prey
Déjà vu. That's the only way she could explain it. How else to explain sitting in the Captain's office while applying an ice pack to her bruised face.
He sat behind his desk. Peppered white hair, dark chocolate skin, soft brown eyes with a tinge of 'I'm too old for this shit' staring back at her.
"What is your business here?"
"It's supposed to be a vacation," Olivia grumbled, adjusting the ice pack on her face.
Captain Arnold Lanni squinted his eyes suspiciously. "And your association with Reginald?"
"Reginald? You mean Buck Buck?" Olivia gaped. Lanni nodded passively. "He's my cab driver. That's it."
"Just a word of caution, Buck Buck isn't someone you want to associate yourself with. Trouble has a tendency to follow him."
"Ah." Olivia mumbled. Trouble has a tendency to follow me.
"Now," Lanni clasped his hands together, leaning forward on his desk. "What can you tell me about the shooter?"
"Nothing I didn't tell your officers. I saw the target crawling up that guy's back. Afterwards, I saw something and decided to investigate."
He cocked a suspicious eyebrow. "Even though you have no jurisdiction here."
"Force of habit," Olivia sighed. This conversation was going nowhere, at least, nowhere in a direction that was positive.
"You got a look at the shooter then?"
"More or less."
"What did she look like? More or less."
"Yes. Witnesses say they saw a woman leaving in a red Jeep."
"No offense to your witnesses but that was no woman. You know," she shrugged. "From what I could see."
"Well, you are the only person to get the closest to the shooter," he grabbed a pen, opening one of the many folders on his desk. "Any other descriptions you can think of other than male, white and blond?"
"Nothing really. Everything happened pretty quickly. Plus, I was chasing him. Not really an opportunity to get him to pose."
"More or less."
Olivia eyed him. "More or less. Can I go now?"
"That is all for now. You are free to go."
Olivia rose from her chair.
"We pride ourselves on a safe, crime free place for outsiders such as yourself to visit. I hope this is the end of such excitement for you. I hope there won't be any more shootings during your stay, especially young black teenagers."
"Has the target been eliminated?"
Alex stood at the large windows of her bedroom, staring out at the crystal blue waters, at the cruise ships in the harbor as tourists milled about the docks like tiny ants.
"No. There were," she paused. "Complications. But, everything's under control."
"We're under a time table here, Julia."
"I know. I won't disappoint you."
By the time Olivia exited the police station, the sun had just begun to crest below the horizon. She paused at the top of the steps, taking a moment to gaze at the skyline.
Buck Buck sat on the hood of his car, parked across the street. He casually read through a Rolling Stone, a cigarette hanging off his bottom lip. Olivia strode across the street.
"Waiting for anyone in particular?"
Buck Buck smiled, hopping off the hood. "Just my favorite customer." He smiled.
"Captain says I should stay far away from you."
"Captain has a stick up his ass, 10 feet long."
Olivia sighed, tried valiantly to ignore the aches and pains in her bruised body yelling for attention. The best course of action would have been to take the Captain's advice, find another cab. But, she'd never been one for following orders, the first time around.
She slid into the backseat, resting her head lazily on the cushion. Buck Buck hopped behind the wheel. "Where to, Boss?"
"The hotel. And an extra 20 bucks if you do it in a hurry."
Olivia exhaled as she slid her key into the door. After eleven hours not including the flight, she'd finally made it to her hotel room. Now, all she wanted to do was sleep. Something she hadn't had a chance to do over the past couple days. Her day hours had been spent answering questions with IA, performing desk duty, avoiding the media cameras that hounded the station, avoided her own home lest she find them camped out in front of her complex. Her answering machine turned off to avoid the constantly blinking red light.
When she did have the chance to sleep, her dreams were plagued with visions of a gun, a suspect barely older than a child and a choice she desperately wished she could take back.
In a nutshell, Olivia didn't sleep a lot these days.
The room was a reasonable facsimile of the brochure except, to Olivia's surprise, much, much larger. The walls were painted a pale cream with various paintings of island locations dotting the walls. A small foyer led to the living room area. A faux Victorian couch and matching chairs across a large tv screen. Behind it, a dining table in front of the largest bay windows she'd ever seen leading out to a deck.
Not that any of it mattered. The only thing Liv concerned herself with was the bed. She turned the corner into the bedroom, clicking on the light, which turned on both the overhead light and a ceiling fan.
She stopped dead in her tracks. Her suitcase had been placed right next to the bed. That didn't concern her. It was the rectangular box sitting on the bed that caused her to stop in her tracks, her heart to pulse quicker in her chest.
It was a red satin color with matching bow. She opened it gingerly. Gasped at the contents within, a black dress. Also inside, she found a note with an address -
I'm sorry we didn't get to chat earlier,
I hope this meets your standards.
Please meet me for dinner 8pm - A.
Olivia's hands began to shake. This couldn't mean what she thought it did? The physical exhaustion within her evaporated, replaced with a nervous apprehension as she began peeling out of her clothes heading for the shower. A quick glance at the clock telling her she had a little over an hour to get ready and go to some unknown location she had no idea where it was.
"Buck Buck? You wouldn't have time to give your favorite customer a ride would you?"
The sun had already set by the time Buck Buck drove her through the winding hills taking her to the top of the islands. The sticky heat from the day replaced with a mild warmth.
"Wow," Buck Buck exclaimed as gated metal doors opened automatically and he drove down a small driveway. "Somebody's made some new friends. Rich new friends."
"Down boy, it's just a dinner date."
"A dinner date? Do you have any idea who lives here?"
As if on cue, the passenger door was opened by a courtly looking butler. "Miss Benson?" He asked politely, extending a pristine white gloved hand.
Olivia followed him into the mansion. It wasn't anything she hadn't seen before in all the expensive homes she'd crawled through in Manhattan. A McMansion with expansive rooms decorated in a minimalist neo-modern décor. High ceilings arched above her. Her heels clacking softly on white marbled floors.
The butler led her out to the back. Where a swimming pool illuminated by mood lights overlooked the harbor. A table had been set with red linens and matching tableware at the edge of the deck.
"Ms. Benson, I didn't think you'd come."
Olivia turned towards the voice. A male voice. A man stood at the top of the stairs, quickly descending. He was mid-forties, dark hair peppered with grey, and matching goatee. Tall and lean, with a musculature of a man who knew he was being watched, admired, envied. Greeted her with a debonair smile and sparkling brown eyes.
"Alexander Sharapov," he answered with a soft Eastern European accent, lifting Olivia's offered hand to his lips. "You look surprised."
"Why wouldn't I? You have me at a loss, Mr. Sharapov."
"I figured it's the least I could do. For saving my life. Or a close facsimile." He tilted towards the man over his shoulder. A bodyguard stood at the edge of the property. Olivia recognized him immediately. The man she'd saved earlier. Alexander nodded his head and the guard disappeared behind some bushes. "Do you like the dress?"
"It's gorgeous," she tried to hide her slight blush. "A little too low cut for me."
"There's no such thing. It accents your beauty."
Olivia bristled slightly. She was used to compliments but meeting someone she hadn't expected made her realize her vulnerability. "What do you want, Mr. Sharapov?"
"Wine?" He had already poured the glasses, an aged blend from some obscure French town that was all the rage these days. Even the rich succumbed to trends.
Olivia sighed, taking the offered glass. "If you're trying to seduce me.."
"Seduction is the last thing on my mind. Not that I can't be convinced," he flashed a dimpled grin that, on any other day, would have given Olivia pause. She'd been charmed by the best and the worst, didn't mean she was above being wooed. Alexander darkened slightly, taking on a serious tone. "Someone tried to kill me today, Ms. Benson. And the only person who stopped them is you. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want you, but not for the reasons you think."
"And that reason is?"
"I want to offer you a job."
The Pacific winds had begun kicking up. Chilling the air slightly but, more importantly, swaying the trees covering the hills.
Alex lay flat on her stomach, still as a rock. The rifle snug under her arm, her left eye right against the scope. It hadn't been hard to find Alexander's hideaway, she'd learned lots of new skills since beginning her new life.
It was a rookie mistake, falling for a decoy. Still, it surprised her that he had remained on the island. Hadn't fled to safer locations. Not that this place wasn't safe. The house sat on a hill with a steep incline, surrounded by lush tropical forest that reached high into the air. Easy to look down, harder to look up. A feat she discovered as the trees swayed back and forth, blurring her sight.
She'd glimpsed him only once since taking her spot. Dictating orders to the workers around him, he was expecting someone. And he acted like a man with all the time in the world. She could wait as well. Patience was something else she learned in her new life.
The breeze backed down slightly, causing the trees to still their swaying. She readjusted her sight, focusing on her target. He stood at the top of the staircase, all dazzling white teeth and perfect hair. She followed him with her scope. Watched as he approached the woman at the back of the deck. Brown hair, black dress.
Alex blinked. Checked her scope again to make she didn't imagine what she thought she saw. It had been awhile since she'd seen Olivia in a dress. But, she could never forget those legs, or the toned smooth back and matching muscular arms.
Olivia stood on Sharapov's back deck looking guardedly relaxed.
She removed her finger from the trigger, pulled back and turned on the safety. Lay still as a church mouse, looking through her scope at Olivia Benson.
Watched Olivia, the woman she'd loved, flirt with the man she'd been hired to kill.
Dinner had been, in a word, interesting. She couldn't decide if it had been fortuitous the man Alex had tried to kill had invited her to dinner, or a portend of things to come. She wasn't one to be impressed by 'the finer things in life'. After spending three hours with the man, she still found Alexander an enigma. He knew the right things to say, things that kept the flow of conversation going. Lured her with enough information about himself to keep her interested, but nothing tangible. He'd flirted, joked. And she responded in kind.
In another time, she might have been flattered by his interest in her. In another time, she'd still be there, sharing his bed.
She pulled her shoes off, walking languidly towards the bedroom. The evening's wine still tingling her senses. The bedroom was dark, etched with bands of moonlight spilling across the bed. Olivia reached for the light switch on the wall.
The light didn't turn on.
Instinct kicked in, her senses snapping awake. This wasn't her bedroom, her home, her territory, but, she knew the signs.
She wasn't alone.
Quickly, quietly, something round and hard pressed against the back of her head. The unmistakable sensation of a gun barrel pressed against her skull.
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