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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Del

The captain's question had been asked a dozen times before. "Have you seen Cabot today?"

"Nope," Elliot replied, still focused on piecing together John Strauss's bank deposits over the past six months. When Cragen didn't turn and retreat into his office, he raised his head.

"Was I supposed to?"

"Someone was," Cragen said. "Donnelly just called; Cabot missed arraignments this morning."

That was unusual. For Cabot, anyway. Elliot had been with Cabot more than once when she had to run down to handle some other AWOL ADA's calendar.

"Maybe she-–" He paused to snatch up his ringing phone. "Stabler." With a brief "Hang on," he cupped a hand over the receiver. "It's Fin," he said. "He's down in Seligman's court on Melendez. Cabot's a no show."

"Not good," Cragen said. "Tell Fin to ask around, see if anyone's seen her down there today."

Elliot relayed the message. When the call ended, he asked the obvious: "Did Liz try her cell?"

"Cell, home, pager," Cragen confirmed. "When's the last time you talked to her?"

"She and Olivia were playing phone tag yesterday afternoon," he said. "On the Simpson warrant, I think."

"When did Benson head up to Albany?"

The detective glanced at his watch, doing the math. "Probably about seven. She was meeting the AUSA at noon."

"Get the details from Donnelly, then get hold of Benson," Cragen directed. "Maybe she talked to Cabot after she left."

"Hey, Liv," Elliot greeted his partner. "Sorry to interrupt your prep time."

"Go right ahead," Olivia said lightly. "Dixon's taken four calls while I sat here, so it's about time he got a taste of it. He just went down to the copy room, though. Why don't you call me back in about five minutes?"

"Listen, I need some info," he said, trying to keep it casual. "When's the last time you spoke to Cabot?"

He could sense her good mood begin to evaporate. "Why?"

"We just need to get hold of her."

"It's what, quarter to two?" Olivia said. "She's at the Melendez suppression hearing."

"Did she tell you her schedule today?"

"Arraignments at nine, lunch with a couple of law school buddies, then Melendez."

Lunch appt–-check calendar, Elliot wrote.

"What's up, Elliot?" she asked impatiently.

"Eh, just some kind of mixup," he equivocated. "She missed arraignments. She probably traded schedules with someone and they fucked it up."

"No, she didn't," Olivia said. He could hear the growing anxiety in her tone. "I talked to her before I left this morning. She said she'd be heading in for arraignments."

"You talked to her this morning?" he repeated.

"About six."

"Six a.m.?" Elliot asked, a little surprised. "What was up with that?"

"She wanted to touch base before I left."

6 a.m. Only three hours before Cabot went AWOL. "That narrows it down," he said. "Don't sweat it, Liv; I'm sure there's an explanation. She's probably just dodging an ass chewing from Donnelly."

But Olivia wasn't buying into the levity. "She was going jogging, then a latte at Gino's, then to her office, then to court," she said.

Elliot dutifully wrote down the details. "You her secretary or something?"

"It's her normal routine," Olivia snapped.

"OK, we'll check it," he said. "Do us proud up there with the federales."

She ignored the comment. "I could make some calls . . .," she began.

"We've got it under control," Elliot replied. "I'll let you know when she turns up."

"Call me any time," she said. "This doesn't make sense."

"It will," he assured her.

Four hours later, though, it still didn't. Half a dozen tries to Cabot's home and every other number the department had on file for her, including, as a last resort, her mother upstate, had yielded nothing.

No, none of the neighbors, or at least the three that SVU detectives had been able to reach so far, had seen her this morning, Elliot told his partner in her third call. Was Olivia sure Cabot was at home when they spoke? No, there was no need for her to drive down from Albany; they had plenty of people on the job. He would call her soon.

With a sigh of frustration, Fin dropped a stack of LUDs back on his desk and tossed his highlighter down on top of it. "Nothin' here," he announced. "Cabot needs to get a life. All but six of the calls from her apartment in the last week were to her office, the squad room, or Benson's cell."

"What about the six?" Elliot asked hopefully.

Fin consulted his notepad. "Italian, Chinese, Mexican, dry cleaner, and a place that sells flowers."

"Florist," Munch said absently.

Fin stared at his partner. "That's what I said."

"That's only five," Elliot pointed out, hoping to forestall the inevitable quibbling.

"She called the Italian place twice."

Fuck. "What about her cell?"

"Ain't got `em yet. Should be a couple hours."

"What the hell's taking so long?"

"Cell phone company wants to run it by legal," Fin said. "It's after hours."

"What's to run?"

"Don't ask me. They get paperwork on a lawyer, they dot their i's."


The door to Cragen's office opened, and the captain called out, "You want help from Major Cases?"

"Fuck that," Fin exclaimed. "They think we can't find our own ADA?"

"What's the angle?" Elliot asked.

"Branch called them. Missing ADA, you know."

Missing? Was Alex "missing?" Elliot preferred not to think that. "It's been less than a day," he said. "We're covering every angle."

"We're on it, Cap," Fin insisted. "Stabler and I are headin' over to her place right now."

"You got a key?"

"Better." He held up a fax. "Donnelly shot us some paperwork."

"And we're still making hospital rounds," Elliot added.

At that moment, Munch hung up the phone and crossed another name off his list. "No Alex Cabot or Jane Doe at Mercy."

"You get hold of her lunch appointments?" Cragen asked.

Munch nodded, reading from his notepad. "Couple of PDs, Melissa Barlow and George Frantz. They waited at Bennie's for an hour, but Cabot was conspicuous in her absence."

Elliot's cell phone rang, and after checking to see who the caller was, he answered it, "No word yet, Liv."

"Benson again?" Fin muttered.

From across the desk, Munch shrugged. "Think how frustrated we are," he pointed out. "Then think how frustrated you'd be if you were out of town when this went down."

"Listen, Elliot, I can't believe I forgot this," Olivia said, her tone one of self-reproach. "I'm such a fucking idiot."

"Hey, you've got a lot on your plate," he said gently. "What did you remember?"

"Alex jogs by some working girls in the mornings," she replied. "Last week she stopped for a red light-–damn it, why didn't I remember this earlier?"

"Don't beat yourself up, Liv. Just tell me," he urged.

"One of the regulars wasn't there," Olivia said. "From what she heard, Alex thinks the girl's pimp did a number on her. If she saw her again, Alex was going to try to get her to call me. If he showed up while she was there . . ." She sounded ill.

"He wouldn't do anything stupid," Elliot reassured her. "She'd tell him that she's an ADA. He's not risking a capital offense."

"Unless he's already got one under his belt," she countered worriedly. "What if the girl knew something?"

"One if at a time. What's the girl's name?"

"I don't know," Olivia said, growing more upset at each turn of the conversation. "I don't think Alex knew."

"That's OK," Elliot said soothingly, hoping to calm his partner down. "Did Alex say what she looked like?"

"I didn't ask," she replied. "Some fucking detective I am."

Without thinking, Elliot found himself opening his mouth to give the same speech they gave to loved ones every day: It's not your fault. You couldn't have known. Self-recrimination won't help anything. But that wasn't the right approach for his partner, he suspected. Just the facts, ma'am. "What corner?" he asked.

"I don't know," she said again. "What the hell was I thinking, letting her do that?"

"Alex makes up her own mind," Elliot reminded her. Stay focused, Liv. "How far does she run?"

"Three miles," she said. "Five some days."

"OK, that's good information; that'll help." His next words were heartfelt. "Whatever you do, Olivia, don't let this throw you off tomorrow. You know how Alex would feel about that."

For a moment, he thought she had hung up, but then he heard a quiet sigh. "I don't like this, Elliot."

This time, he let himself give the automatic response, "It'll be all right." It was ironic, he recognized, considering the number of times he and his partner gone through these motions before, uttering meaningless reassurances. How could anyone know whether things would turn out all right? They usually didn't.

Less than a week ago, Olivia had stroked Eileen Parmenter's shoulder, urging her not to give up hope that her daughter would turn up alive and well. Ten minutes later, as Elliot was backing out of the parking space, he'd asked her, "Think Johnson killed her?"

Her reply had been blunt: "Hell, yes."

"It'll be all right . . . ," he said again.

"I don't know about this," the building rep said for the third time. "She's a lawyer, you know."

"We do know," Elliot patiently explained. "That's why we got a warrant."

The man hesitated. "She seems like a nice gal."

"And she is," Elliot said. "We're not here because she did something; we're here because we're worried about her."

"Still . . ."

"Still nothin'," Fin declared. "Either you open it or we kick it in and haul your ass in for obstruction. You got 10 seconds."

Even with shaking hands, the manager managed to meet the deadline. The detectives then shooed him away. Bad enough that he and Tutuola were committing the ultimate invasion of the woman's privacy; no need to compound the crime.

As they stepped across the threshold, Fin took a call from his partner. The conversation was brief. Cabot's cell phone records were in, finally, and Munch was sifting through them. "Last call on there was Benson's cell at 6:02 this morning," Fin relayed.

Elliot nodded. Touching bases.

Cabot's apartment, he was not surprised to see, was organized and tidy, with a couple of noteworthy exceptions. The first was the kitchen sink. Two wine glasses, two small plates (breakfast platters, Kath would have called them), and two drinking glasses lay in a jumble, rinsed but unwashed, in the sink. The food was not hardened, and, judging by a quick peek into the dishwasher, Cabot was the kind who usually put dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher.

So she had a guest last night. And--the tart smell of orange juice filled his nostrils as he sniffed one of the drinking glasses-–this morning, apparently.

Good for you, Alex. He just hoped she hadn't--nah, an ADA in Special Victims Unit, of all places, wouldn't be that careless. It had to be someone she knew.

A quick scan of the bedroom, particularly the unmade, tousled mattress, confirmed his theory. Either Alex Cabot was a very restless sleeper or she had not been alone in her bed last night.

A quiet alarm sounded on Tutuola's watch. "Time to try again," he said. While Elliot continued his study of the apartment, Fin pressed a speed dial number. Both were startled by a shrill ring coming from somewhere nearby.

"What the hell?" Elliot said. Tracking the sound, he opened the bathroom door. There, on the edge of the sink, lay the shiny silver device.

"Oh, fuck," Fin muttered. "You ever seen Cabot without her cell?"

No, he hadn't. Things had just gone from bad to worse.

The silence was interrupted by the suddenly too-loud tone of Fin's own phone. He answered curtly, and a series of short responses followed. "Already ran it . . . Donnelly checked that this afternoon . . . Already done it." Finally, he erupted, "Christ, Benson, you ain't the only detective in SVU! We got it covered. We'll call you." He hung up.

After experimenting for a few minutes with the remote control, Detective Stabler punched 09:00 into the Time field. When the black and white image appeared, he activated the Reverse button. 8x was a good speed, fast enough to skim the useless parts, slow enough to spot any activity in Cabot's hallway in time to replay it at normal speed.

08:46, he wrote. Two males. Apartment– He consulted the floor plan the super had given him. –2G. Brunette, 5'9, late 20s, dark sweater over light Dockers. Blonde, 6'3, late 20s, dark suit.

When his phone rang, he snatched it up. "Stabler."

The hooker angle was going to be tough to crack, Fin reported. Depending on which direction Cabot went from her place, there were a couple of corners where working girls gathered at times. "None of `em know a damn thing," he said. "No girl getting done up by her pimp, no blondes hangin' out, no nothin'."

"You buy it?" Elliot asked.

"Hell, no," Fin replied. "They wouldn't know if the sun shines in July."

"Any of `em banged up?"

Not that Fin could see. So, if the girl wasn't there, what did that mean? She hadn't been there earlier, either? Or she had, and Cabot talked to her? Could Cabot have talked her into walking? Doubtful. Their lawyer was good, but not a miracle worker. She could have scored an all-nighter with some tourist, for all they knew. Her friends weren't giving her up, or their procurer.


"Can you get with Vice?" Elliot suggested. "Maybe they've worked it before."

"We need the pimp," Fin said. "If we bring him in, maybe the girls'll open up. I'll ask Cragen for a 24/7."

Settling back in his chair, Elliot aimed the remote at the CD-Rom player again. A few minutes later, he bolted upright. Someone was outside Alex's apartment. 06:32. He slowed the image, slouching again in disappointment. Newspaper dropped at subject's apartment, he noted.

`Subject.' Not `Alex' or even `Cabot.' One way to remind himself to stay detached, Elliot had decided. To treat Alex as if she were any other victim.

Aw, shit. Victim. It was the first time he'd let himself use the word. Resigned to the truth, he pressed the rewind button again.

06:06. Subject emerges from apartment 2C in light jacket over dark sweat pants and light tennis shoes.

So Alex never returned from her jog. Damn.

That probably eliminated her overnight guest from the suspect list, he realized, but not automatically. What if he'd left her apartment less than willingly, and then waited for her?

He didn't have long to wait for his answer. At 5:47 a.m., another image appeared. At eight times normal speed, it walked quickly backward from the elevator, spun around, opened Cabot's door, stepped inside, and closed the door again.

Even at the enhanced speed, there was something . . . . He froze the screen just as the figure started toward the elevator.

Son of a bitch.


Olivia and Cabot.

Olivia and Cabot.

How long? How had he missed something that huge?

Olivia and Cabot.

He closed his eyes. Liv.

His investigation could have stopped there, the detective knew, but he couldn't. When that CD failed to yield the information he wanted, he inserted the 14:00-23:59 disk, and within a few minutes, at 10:47 p.m., it said, two women walked, arm in arm, toward Alex's apartment, stopping just outside the door. Alex inserted her key but then turned around and leaned into Olivia, making the brunette laugh even as she half-heartedly tried to pull away, pointing to her watch and then down the hallway. I can't stay, Elliot translated. I've got to be up early. Alex, though, tugged at the other woman, finally drawing her in for a sensuous kiss that, as he watched, became more passionate.


A few frames later, Alex reached behind her and twisted the doorknob, pulling a willing Olivia in with her and shutting the door behind them.

The unexpected sound of his phone startled him, and he reached for it a bit numbly. "Stabler."

"Elliot, what's happening?"

Olivia and Cabot.

"She didn't make it back from her jog," he said.

"Oh, my God," Olivia mumbled.

Elliot closed his eyes. It wasn't Detective Olivia Benson on the other end of the line, he realized, but a woman whose heart was breaking. "It's OK, Liv," he said soothingly. "We're gonna find her."

"I can't take this, Elliot."

"I know, Liv," he said.

The connection ended, and he stared at the phone.

Olivia and Cabot.

"Because I like the sound of your voice," Munch drawled sarcastically.

Elliot glanced over at his colleague. Like the others, the veteran detective was unshaven, his necktie history, his shirt collar wide open. Munch's lips were pressed tightly together, which was not a good sign for whoever was giving him shit at the moment.

Should he call Olivia? What would be the point? Twenty-four hours since her disappearance, they were no closer to finding Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot.

"I have just faxed you an order from the Honorable Lois Preston," Munch continued. "In case you're not up on your Latin, it directs you to provide me forthwith the names of all female patients between 15 and 50 admitted after 6:06 a.m. yesterday."

Elliot glanced at his watch. Olivia was probably still on the stand, anyway, telling a federal jury about how her investigation of the disappearance of Leslie Firmage had uncovered a hundred kilos of pure cocaine traceable to one Robert Clawson, rendering the feds orgasmic. Forget that they hadn't found Leslie Firmage. Forget that an NYPD detective would spend two days out of town helping with a non-SVU case while her lover was missing.

Munch's voice reached him again. "Well, if you feel a need to check with your legal department, go right ahead; I'll wait . . . . Oh, I'm sorry; I didn't know that your month-end reports are due today. Perhaps the judge didn't realize that you might be inconvenienced. Why don't I stop by and pick you up and we can go see her together? . . . Glad to hear it." Waiting for the information, the detective tapped a pencil against the top of his desk.

"This where we sign up for the surveillance?"

Elliot looked up at the male voice. Giles from the 3-7.

"The Department hasn't signed off on the OT yet," he said.

"Doesn't matter."

He pointed at an 8 ½ by 11 piece of paper taped to the wall. "Sign up sheet's over there."

That made 14 volunteers so far. How did Alex know all these people? Then again, it would only take one meeting. Cabot was memorable.

Olivia and Cabot.

Two of the women he cared most about in the world, involved with each other. Happily, too, judging by the video.

Get over it, Stabler.

"Wait!" Munch's exclamation caught Elliot's attention. "Go back. . . . That one-–what have you got on her?" He scribbled something on his notepad. "Son of a bitch!" Slamming the receiver down, he announced, "St. Mark's has an `Olivia Benson'. Admitted yesterday morning at 7:49. Jogger, hit and run. Hasn't regained consciousness. Blonde and blue, about 30."

"Son of a bitch." Elliot reached for his jacket.

"Should we call Benson?" Fin asked.

He was torn. It had to be Cabot. But what if it wasn't? What if, with the kind of shit luck that always seemed to befall SVU detectives, it was just some bizarre coincidence? Better to wait. "When we know," he decided.

Staring down at their ADA, alive and drifting gradually toward consciousness, Detective Stabler didn't much care how the mixup

had occurred. Detective Munch did, though, and Elliot listened with half an ear to the harried excuses of a stressed hospital administrator.

"If you had identified her as a Jane Doe, we would have been here yesterday," Munch said.

"She had I.D. on her," the man insisted.

"`Olivia' and `Benson' stitched on a baseball shirt?" Munch replied incredulously.

Elliot glanced at the small pile of clothing that had since been replaced with a hospital gown. The ADA had been wearing one of Olivia's casual shirts, not the one his partner had on in the video. She must have left it there some other night.

"Other than in certain sections of Arkansas, clothing is not generally recognized as a legal form of identification," Munch continued.

An assistant hurried in with something in her hand, which the administrator duly tendered to the irritated SVU detective. "Wrist I.D. packet," he said. "Joggers wear them in case something

like this happens." He pulled up the flap and pointed to something

white beneath. "Olivia Benson."

Munch studied it. "Benson's `discreet' card," he informed Elliot.

Name and phone number only, in other words, so that if the recipient got caught with the card, she could make up whatever story might sell. Over the years, his partner had probably been a dog walker, a drug dealer, a psychic, or whatever else someone's desperate imagination could come up with.

A realization struck him. "Cabot was going to give it to the girl," he said.

"Did anyone think to call the number?" Munch asked.

"Well, I . . . I'm not sure." The administrator looked to his assistant for an answer, but she shrugged.

Elliot looked up to see Munch prying the card out of its holder.

"`Alexandra Cabot, Assistant District Attorney, New York County District Attorney's Office,'" Munch read aloud. "Did anyone think to look beneath it?"

They obviously hadn't, Elliot mused, but was it fair to criticize them for that? Maybe not, but twenty-four hours of worry and frustration had to be taken out on someone.

Elliot felt a lot calmer walking out of the hospital than he had walking in. Time to put someone's mind to rest. Just as he reached for his phone, it rang.

"We found her," he said. "She's OK."

For a long moment, he heard nothing but his partner's breathing on the line.

"You OK, Liv?"

She cleared her throat. "Yeah, sure. I was just – you know, your ADA goes missing-–"

"I know, Liv," he said.

"Yeah, you were there."

"No. I mean I know, Liv."

Silence followed.

"I ran the security tapes at her place."

Olivia didn't respond.

"I didn't tell anyone," Elliot said.

"She . . . it would cost Alex her job."

"I know." You don't have to worry about me. "So why'd Cabot call you this morning?" he teased her. "You'd only been gone ten minutes."

"To make a point," she said. "We were up pretty late . . . ."

Elliot the married-partner-friend hoped that she wouldn't go into any more detail. Elliot the red-blooded-male hoped that she would.

". . . And when I left, I accused her of planning to go back to bed while I was on the road."

The rest was easy to figure out. "So she called you to prove that she was getting ready to go jogging," he said.

"Yeah. `You hear this? That's me getting dressed. This is me tying my shoelaces. This is me brushing my teeth.'"

Making her case.

"I knew she wasn't going back to bed," Olivia sighed. "I was just screwing with her."

She knew that, he guessed. But it gave her an excuse to call you.

"Where is she, Elliot?"

He filled her in. In five hours, his partner would hurry into that hospital room, hiding her disappointment at the sight of a Chief Deputy DA, or a police captain, or a couple of men and women in blue already there to wish ADA Cabot a speedy recovery. And as her best friend, Detective Elliot Stabler would find some way to get the Chief Deputy DA, or the police captain, or the men and women in blue out of there, turning back for one last look as Olivia clasped Alex's hand, leaning in for a gentle kiss.

The End

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