DISCLAIMER: Law & Order and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is an AU story and a homage of sorts to film noir. Some of the "chapters" were originally posted as drabbles on livejournal's svu100 community, in response to a film noir challenge. The narrative that follows is not exactly linear, and are written more to evoke a mood than to tell a story. In the end the plot may be as muddied as The Big Sleep, but hopefully it works on some level.
CHALLENGE: Submitted for the 5th Anniversary Challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Last Good Fall
By theholyinnocent


I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.
~ from In a Lonely Place (1950)



Like a haunted snapshot culled from the mind of Norman Bates, the motel loomed at the end of the highway, a good distance from the strip mall desolation of Route 46. The owner was a Russian mob guy named, oddly enough, Frank. Perhaps he had been a Fyodor at one time, in one of those many little Russian countries now—Turkmenistan, Stolistan, Kvetchistan, Wretchistan. Who knew?

It was not that Frank needed either the money or the trouble that Olivia Benson's visit would bring, but in the quicksand of favors owed/favors done that constituted the classic relationship between sniveling informant and crooked cop, he could deny her nothing.

If the stakeout last fall had not gone bad, perhaps she wouldn't be here. Perhaps the patrolman would still be alive, perhaps Elliot would still be on the force, perhaps she would have stayed with Abbie—it had been a good year, a good fall. In the graceful meander of their descent, the autumn leaves on the trees had whispered the promise of better things.

You should have known better to believe that.

A chilled sliver of Jersey air floated in the sedan as she cracked the window. Headlights from cars on the road caught the rearview mirror and then their bright gazes sauntered over the body of the motel.

Perhaps was a word for effete Englishmen, for people who could sit around and drink tea and waste time rewriting the past in the quiet exclusiveity of their minds.

She looked at her watch. It was time.


The long-legged woman in the mahoghany leather chair, who sat in the corner of Washington's most exclusive cigar club, appeared to dominate the room without moving a muscle. The varying golds and ambers of the oak panelling and leather upholstery appeared soft and glowing through the silky gossamer of cigar smoke and gentle gaslights, the atmosphere thus creating the perfect narcotic by which to experience her beauty. Every man in the club made an excruciating science of ignoring her—which, of course, made all the plainer their enthrallment.

Olivia Benson understood these men very well. For who would not fall under Abbie Carmichael's spell?

A Montecristo Number 2 smoldered within Abbie's elegant grasp. Her suit was new, down to each tiny handsewn detail. Did the Feds really pay so well? Olivia wondered. But Abbie had always been well dressed—the perfect complement to her brazen confidence. On this fine October evening, however, there was no telling what lay under the beautiful mask of Abbie Carmichael's carefully composed expression. Not until she spoke was it evident—pain corseted that sweet Texas rasp: "Always knew you'd throw me over for a blonde."

Olivia leaned forward, resting her elbows upon her thighs while idly swirling scotch in tumbler. "It's nothing personal." In its blatant stupidity, it amounted to the worst lie ever. But that was what you said in situations like this. Anything to salve the agony.

It was not working.

"It's not, huh?" Abbie was trying desperately not to allow any emotion crack her façade.

Olivia was not so much empathetic, guilty, or distressed at this barely perceptable yet no less significant struggle as she was quietly awed by it. That Abbie would go to such lengths to preserve her dignity only revealed how thoroughly in tatters it actually was. And so Olivia was finally, amazingly aware of her power over this woman, a power she never believed she possessed.

To save herself, Abbie switched the subject. "You realize you're in way over your head."

"What do you know about it?"

Abbie puffed busily on the cigar. "Only that there's a file on her thicker than the Manhattan phone directory."

"Yeah. I knew there was something. Can you—get a look at it for me?"

"You must be out of your goddamn mind, Ben. There's no way in hell I'm doing the dirty work on your new girlfriend. Find someone else. Get Eliot to do it. You've already screwed him over enough, maybe he won't mind getting arrested for breaking into the Justice Department."

Olivia's back stiffened. "What does that mean?"

"He was with her first."

"He was married at the time."

"Doesn't matter. He loved her. You knew that."

"She loves me." Olivia tilted the glass again, watching the whirligig of booze spin around—the inevitable vortex that claimed her mother, the one that she wished, nowadays, would bury her. If she could, she would execute a thrillingly knife-like plunge into a pool of the clearest, coldest vodka. "Besides, if she's so goddamn awful, maybe I'm doing him a favor." Maybe we deserve each other, she thought.

Abbie tapped the cigar against the ashtray. "Some favor." She looked at Olivia, who swore that she finally saw a flicker of regret in those dark eyes. "Next thing you know, you're gonna be saying you're doing me a favor too."

"Maybe," Olivia mused.

Abbie reclined further into the chair's embrace. "And here I had such plans for the next month or two. Just you and me. Concerts, sailing on the Chesapeake, a drive up through New England to watch the leaves turn. It's your favorite season, I know. Figures it would be the season of things dying." She took a luxurious drag off the cigar, and for one final moment Olivia envied that fat stump of a cheroot and, as she would a dead rose in an old edition of Shakespeare sonnets, she pressed into memory those lips, those hands, that sensual glower, the movement of her hips when she came, every inch of that delicious body.

"Baby," Abbie sighed, "you've really ruined my fall."


A savior of bleakness, the bare light bulb presided over the basement.

Stabler flexed his arms. Smooth, undulating muscles indicated that he was, if completely numb, at least alive. Life was movement. But he was going nowhere: His marriage long over, his badge long gone, he was distilled into the embodiment of rage.

Illegal boxing paid the bills; he was getting too old for the racket, but didn't care. When he needed extra, though, there was this.

His hands wrapped around the victim's neck. "Mr. Profaci wants his money."

He hesitated only at the remembrance of gently touching someone. It didn't matter if it was his wife, his lover, his children. He wanted to touch someone again.


Around the DA's office she had been called the Marquise. Rumors abounded over her sexual preferences and predilections and, more specifically, how said preferences and predilections were acted out both with and upon her golden protégé, a woman who remained untouched and untainted by a fountain of scandal.

A lighter clicked insolently, demanding Abbie's attention. The same old trick, performed by legions of narcissistic assholes everywhere; no matter if they were career criminals or defense attorneys with ties that looked as if a color wheel had thrown up on them. "There's no smoking allowed in federal buildings," she said tiredly.

The smoke from the freshly lit cigarillo softened Liz Donnelly's haggard features, if not the coarseness of her tongue. "Tough shit."

Abbie stared her down. "Put it out or get out."

"I thought Southern girls were supposed to have the finest manners."

"Not in Texas."

"Ah. That explains everything." Liz smothered the cigarillo against an empty coffee cup. "But if you think slapping a misdemeanor on top of all the charges I'm facing is going to amount to anything, go right ahead."

"Icing on the cake, eh?" Abbie touched the file on her desk.

"Something like that." Liz smoothed her skirt. "Shall we get down to business?"

"Not gonna wait for your attorney?"

"He'll be furious. But you two can iron out the fine details. For now, I just want to know if we have a deal."

Abbie sat down, opened the file, made a pretense of studying documents that she now knew better than the Old Testament. The body in the dumpster, the time-dated photograph of Olivia at a convenience store near the murder—

The photos of Cabot. That mysterious, spectral quality of her smile; it went beyond being a mere smirk, really, and yet calling it a Mona Lisa smile was far too banal a descriptor.

Too many photos.

"You could've worked this out with anyone here." Abbie closed the file. "But you picked me. You want to rub my nose in it? You're not encouraging me to play ball with you."

"I was counting on your empathy."

"That might be the first honest thing you've said to me since this whole mess started."

As if she truly realized this for the first time, Liz paused. "Yes, I suppose you're right." Like a pearl, a tiny sense of wonder was firmly enclosed within her voice. She frowned. "I fell for the wrong girl, Ms. Carmichael. As did you. And what a glorious fall we both had, did we not? I see it in your face—you don't regret any of it. In fact, sometimes when you're alone at the end of the day, sipping some chardonnay—or, no, a good Texas girl like you would drink whiskey, probably Jack Daniels if we want to be completely stereotypical about it—I bet you'd give anything to get her back. But then you wake up the next morning and in the clear hard light of day, you know better. That's how you came out of it on the right side of the law." Liz managed a rueful smile. "Perhaps I'm hoping your sanity is contagious."

Abbie was silent for a long time. "If you cooperate fully with the NYPD, and if your testimony leads to the conviction of Alexandra Cabot, you will have federal protection."

Liz said nothing. Abbie could hear Liz's lawyer belittling the receptionist from the outer room, and she knew that tonight she would get stinking, blindingly drunk, she would have to, because it was the only thing that blunted those deceptively dangerous shards of memory.


"You might be interested to know," Munch said, dropping a folder on the table, "that your partner is looking at twelve to twenty upstate—if he's lucky."


Fin smoothed his silk tie. "Nothin' to say, huh? That's cold."

Her voice broke. "He lost more than I ever did. He lost it all."

"C'mon, baby," implored Fin. "How long you gonna protect that blonde?"

"Think about it." Munch added. "She's in a penthouse. You're in a prison."

"Well," Olivia said ruefully, "she always said she'd keep me somewhere safe."


Before he could ask about the money—even before his mouth opened in its usual moist, flaccid fashion—she pulled out the revolver and steadied her wrist in a tight, loving clasp.

It took a while for him to die. Longer than it should for someone with two bloody gaping holes in his chest. Slouched on the floor, propped up by the bed, he twitched, he lolled, he tried to speak. She was fairly certain that he was trying to say "you fucking bitch" but only bloodied bubbles came out, beached upon the dying shore of his lips.

She turned away, fingered the rough burlap of the cheap, gold-and-avocado curtain, parting it just enough to peer out at the night. She counted cars. Wondered where that Land Rover was going, who was driving that PT Cruiser, how long would that battered Honda last. The beautiful euphoria of destination was an easy illusion to maintain within the blurring cradle of a car.

As promised, Frank came to the room within an hour, surveying the mess with the characteristic wince of the long-suffering, aspirant capitalist. "Blut everywhere," he tut-tutted in heavily accented English.

"Shut the fuck up and help me clean it up," Olivia muttered.


An elegant leg drapes over a chair arm. Cigarette smokes scrolls above her blonde head, like a secret song crooning to Olivia and no one else: You're mine. Like the coolest martini in the house, she sweats sophistication. Like the husky-sweet rumble from an alto sax at three in the morning, she performs the most delicate damage, burrowing insidiously inside Olivia's heart.

She rises from the ashen dusk, walks across the room. "You'll take care of it, won't you?"

Her mouth is on Olivia's. The aftertaste is bitter and blistering, sex and blood upon the lips.

Olivia can't get enough of it. "Sure. Nothing says 'I love you' quite like murder."


For an old broad, Liz Donnelly still had damn good legs.

And as any of his exes would confirm, John Munch was certainly a leg man. "I'm not usually charmed by snitches," Munch said, "but there is something about you."

"Aside from my legs, Detective?" Liz arched an eyebrow.

Caught, Munch smiled. "You're very observant."

"And you're very obvious."

"What made you change your mind about coming forward? You and Cabot were once so—close."

Liz tapped a cigarillo against the table. "I had a friend in college who cultivated a fun, and occasionally insulting, parlor game. He liked to sum up people with titles from English plays." The spark of a lit match hovered before her tired face; she thanked him and continued. "He was particularly fond of tragedies, Jacobean dramas—"

Munch waited patiently. Every criminal was a storyteller, and he a rapt audience.

"—you seem like a well-read man, Detective." Her eyes glinted.

"You're very flattering. The operative word here is seem, Ms. Donnelly. But please tell me what this particular summation of Alexandra Cabot would be."

Dragonesque, Liz spewed smoke. "'Tis a pity she's a whore."


She refused to believe they were coming for her. No, Alex thought, they were coming for the woman who sat sprawled, cavalierly dying, in the lush Italianate leather chair behind her desk. She rather hoped that Olivia would not bleed excessively; she was quite fond of that chair. But a bullet in the stomach was always a messy thing.

In the darkened office the siren's rhythmic red painted a metronome along the walls.

For whom the siren wails? It wails for thee. Alex thought of saying it aloud; Olivia, an English professor's daughter, would surely appreciate the allusion.

But Alex felt strangely guilty. She was responsible for that slug in Olivia's gut, it was true, but it had to be done. Donnelly's testimony had afforded Olivia the luxury of a deal—and freedom.

"You know something?" Alex could feel her throat tightening. Had she possessed anything remotely resembling compassion or empathy, she would have—after sweet recognition—welcomed this, the irritating stranglehold of love. "I really will miss you when you're gone."

Leaning over, she ensnared Olivia one final time with the feverish bounty of her kiss.

No sooner had their lips parted then a gun barrel, thickly menacing, pressed into her pale, lovely throat.

"Well, baby," Olivia rasped, "I think I'd like to take you with me. You know why?"

Alex knew it was too late. "Why?"

"Hell might be a lonely place."


On a warm day in late October, John Munch was possessed of a sudden desire to take a long drive. Stuck in traffic on the Whitestone, the low afternoon sun slanted through the grime of the sedan's windshield and he rolled down the window. Indian Summer, he thought. What did they call it when autumn was chilly, rainy, and glum? Jewish Summer?

Years ago he had predicted to someone—probably one of his exes—that eventually Queens would be nothing but one giant cemetery. His prediction seemed to be coming true: It took him a good half hour to find her grave amid the sprawling green, stippled with gray stones as far as his eyes could see.

The grave was well tended—a sure indication that, as in life, her partner's quiet vigilance remained a constant. The combination of Donnelly's testimony and good behavior had earned Elliot's early release from prison; initially he had emerged bearded, gaunt, almost wild-eyed, like a mystic coming off the mountain, returning from a pilgrimage of the damned. He was doing better now, the Captain had said. Apparently being off the force had done a world of good for his peace of mind.

Something to consider, Munch thought. He placed the gently wilting lillies on the gravestone and glanced again at the horizon. The humid haze of the morning lingered, but he knew that all too soon it would burn away. As do we all.

He turned around and walked back to the car.

The End

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