DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm not a lawyer. I did some research on NY law, but I may have taken some creative liberties for the sake of the story.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Questions and Answers
Detectives Benson and Stabler entered the bedroom to see the medical examiner snapping on a fresh pair of gloves. The nude body of the victim was lying on the bed partially covered with a sheet. Dr. Melinda Warner glanced up and nodded to the two detectives.
"What have we got?" Elliot asked.
"Victim is Christina Grado, thirty-five year old white female. No obvious cause of death. Super found her when he came in to do a routine plumbing inspection this morning. I estimate TOD at around ten o'clock last night."
"Rape?" Olivia stepped closer to the bed.
"Possibly. Fluids are present on her thigh. The sex could have been consensual though. Take a look." The doctor leaned forward and removed the sheet from the victim's upper body."
Elliot looked confused. "What the ?"
"Nipple clamps," Olivia answered. Two sets of eyes focused on the detective. Melinda looked almost amused and Elliot looked puzzled. If either look had an effect on Olivia, she exhibited no signs of it.
"Nipple clamps," the medical examiner confirmed with a nod. Elliot still stared at his partner. Not sure if his expression was due to his lack of knowledge about the clamps or the fact that his partner knew exactly what they were, the doctor offered an explanation. "They enhance sensation." Elliot turned his face back toward Warner. She continued, "Most rapists aren't too concerned with the victim's pleasure, so that leads me to believe that we may not be dealing with a rape. Or at least, not with a traditional rapist."
"Detectives?" the CSU tech called as he came into the room. He handed Elliot a plastic bag containing a very lifelike replica of a penis and scrotum attached to a leather harness. "Found this in the trash bin out front." Elliot looked down at the bag and back at his partner.
"Don't tell me you don't know what that is," she said with a smirk.
He gave her a sarcastic smile in return as he turned the bag over in his hands, visually examining the contents. "Pretty realistic. Think it's connected to our vic?"
"Whoa!" The exclamation came from another tech as he opened the box he had just pulled from beneath the bed.
"What is it?" Olivia asked moving to the other side of the bed for a better look.
"It looks like her toy box." He moved back to give the detective a better view. The box was full of dildos, vibrators and various other sex toys in all colors, shapes and sizes.
"I finished the post on your vic," Warner said as the two detectives walked into the lab. "She died from a heart attack."
"Heart attack?" Elliot questioned.
"I found a congenital heart defect that she probably didn't even know she had. She was basically a ticking time bomb."
"So we may not even have a crime?" Elliot asked.
"It's possible, but her tox screen showed evidence of MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy, in her blood. That probably contributed to the MI."
Olivia nodded. "CSU found a plastic bag with some pills in it in the nightstand."
Melinda nodded and continued. "And the fluids on her leg were not hers."
"So you're thinking the guy could have slipped her a mickey and then raped her?" Elliot gave the medical examiner a questioning look.
"I found no evidence of semen. Only vaginal fluids."
Elliot looked blank and Melinda waited for the detectives to process that information.
Olivia finally spoke. "We're looking for a woman." It was a statement more than a question.
Melinda nodded. "I swabbed the apparatus found in the trash outside. It was positive for fluids matching both the victim and the unknown."
Elliot still looked confused. "You're telling me she was raped by another woman?"
"I can't say it was rape, Detective, but there was definitely another woman present."
"If this was consensual and an accident, then why not report it?" Stabler couldn't seem to let go of the rape angle.
"Find the other woman and maybe you'll find your answer," the medical examiner stated succinctly.
"We printed the strap-on, but only found a few partials on the harness," the crime lab tech stated to the two detectives. "Nothing we would be able to get a match on."
"So why did you call us down here?" Elliot asked.
The tech smiled. "We also printed everything from the box. Got several good prints and ran them all through AFIS. We got one match."
"They have a record?" Olivia asked.
"Not the kind you're talking about."
"What does that mean?" Olivia was getting exasperated with the cryptic game the tech seemed to be enjoying.
"The print came from the American Bar Association database." Olivia waited. "More specifically, from someone associated with the Manhattan District Attorney's office." Brown eyes widened. The tech waited for a moment as if he needed to let the information he had just disclosed settle in. Olivia was beginning to wonder if she was going to have the beat the name out of him.
"So who is it?!" Elliot snapped before Olivia could make a move.
The tech smirked. "Former ADA Serena Southerlyn."
Olivia expelled the breath she was holding. For the briefest of moments she let herself wonder if she had really been worried that it might have been Alex Cabot's print that was discovered at a crime scene. The next thought almost made her head spin. Had she also allowed her subconscious to view that as evidence that Alex was a lesbian?
Elliot frowned. "Southerlyn?" He looked at his partner. "You know her?"
Olivia shook her head. "I've heard the name. I think she used to be in homicide." Olivia flipped open her cell phone and began to dial. "Let's see if Cabot's free for lunch."
As the two detectives entered the lobby of One Hogan Place, Elliot's cell phone rang. He unclipped it from his belt and flipped it open as they approached the elevator. "Stabler."
It took Olivia a second to realize that Elliot had stopped in his tracks. She stopped and turned around to see him listening intently, his brow furrowed. "Slow down, slow down. What happened?" He listened for a minute more. "OK. Calm down. Where are they taking him?" He nodded as if the person he was speaking to could see him. "OK. I'll meet you there. Just calm down. I'm sure he's gonna be fine." He nodded again and glanced up at Olivia. "Just go with them in the ambulance and I'll meet you there." He snapped the phone shut.
"What's wrong?" Olivia asked, concern evident on her face.
"Dickie collided with another kid playing soccer. Knocked him cold. They think he's got a concussion and probably a broken arm. Kath's a basket case. I gotta go meet them at the ER." He said the last sentence almost apologetically.
"Go, Elliot. I'll go talk to Alex." She put her hand on his elbow and urged him back toward the entrance. "Call me later and let me know how he's doing, OK?"
He nodded and turned to leave. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
"Take care of your family, El. I got this."
He nodded again and headed back out the front door. Olivia took the elevator and walked down the hallway to Alex's office. She stopped and knocked. Hearing Alex's voice say, "Come in," she opened the door and entered the ADA's office.
Alex was seated at her desk writing on a legal pad. She glanced up as the detective entered and held up one finger on her left hand as she quickly finished what she was writing. She put down the pen and looked up with a smile. "Sorry, I've been trying to finish this closing for two days and inspiration just struck this morning. If I didn't finish that thought, who knows when it will strike again." She smiled and gestured for Olivia to sit in one of the chairs facing her desk.
"No problem. Wouldn't want to interrupt justice in the making."
"So, what's this 'potentially delicate situation' you wanted to talk to me about?" Glancing around as if she had just noticed Elliot's absence, she added, "Does it involve your partner?"
"No, he got called away just as we got here. His son is on his way to the ER." Alex raised her eyebrows in alarm. "Soccer injury. Sounded like Kathy may be in worse shape than Dickie." Alex nodded and the eyebrows returned to their normal place. "We have a possible lead on the new case we just picked up that may involve someone with connections to the DA's office." The eyebrows shot up again. "Do you know Serena Southerlyn?"
Alex gave the slightest hesitation before answering. "Yes. She used to prosecute homicide cases along side Jack McCoy. I think she's in private practice now."
"How well do you know her?"
"Why? Olivia, what is this leading up to?"
"We found her print at our crime scene." Alex's eyes widened. "It's not just that, Alex. The print was found on a sex toy apparently belonging to the victim."
"OK, back up and tell me the whole story."
Olivia gave Alex a rundown on the details of the case. Alex listened intently without adding any commentary. At the end of her briefing, Olivia looked squarely at the ADA and said, "So, I'll ask again. How well do you know Serena Southerlyn? Do you think she could be involved in this?"
"I wouldn't exactly say we were the best of friends, but we were more than mere acquaintances. I can't imagine that she would be involved in a rape/homicide. And if it were accidental, I can't imagine that she, as an officer of the court, not to mention a decent human being, would just leave the victim there without calling emergency services or the police or someone." Olivia nodded and waited for Alex to continue. "And, yes, I knew she was a lesbian. She believed, but had no proof, that had something to do with the reason for Branch asking her to leave the DA's office. I honestly don't believe that it did."
"Have you kept in touch since she left?"
"She called me once to have a drink shortly after she left. We talked about her dismissal and her plans to go into private practice." Alex omitted the fact that Serena had propositioned her that evening, even though Alex had politely declined the invitation.
"Was she seeing anyone?"
"Not that she mentioned. She was more into the short-term. Liked to have fun and then move on."
"You really should be asking her this, Olivia."
"I'm not sure when Elliot's going to be back. I don't suppose you want to go talk to her with me? If you really don't think she's involved, it might make her a little more comfortable to have a friend there."
"I have an arraignment at one, but I can go with you after that."
"Ms. Southerlyn will see you now," the secretary said as she ushered the detective and the ADA into the attorney's office.
Serena met them in front of her desk and smiled warmly at Alex as she extended her hand. "Alex, good to see you again. What on earth brings you and your detective here on official business?"
Alex shook the offered hand. "Good to see you too, Serena. Detective Benson asked me to come along as a courtesy."
Olivia offered her hand and said, "Olivia Benson from Special Victims, Ms. Southerlyn. I remember you from your time in the DA's office."
Serena smiled and shook Olivia's hand. "That could be good or bad. Please, call me Serena." She gestured to the client chairs in front of her desk and moved back around to sit at her desk. Once everyone was seated, Serena looked at Olivia and said, "So what can I do for you, Detective?"
Olivia reached in her pocket and retrieved a picture of the victim. "Do you recognize this woman?"
Serena took the picture and said, "I met her a few months ago. Her name is Tina. I believe her last name is Grayden or Grayson or something like that."
"Grado," Olivia stated.
Serena nodded. "Grado. Tina Grado, that's it. Is she in some sort of trouble?" She handed the picture back across the desk to Olivia.
"She was found dead in her apartment Wednesday morning." Olivia watched her expression and was a little surprised at the lack of reaction from the attorney.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Serena stated matter-of-factly. "I'm still not sure how this involves me."
"I'll cut right to the chase, Ms. Southerlyn. We found your fingerprint in her apartment. I'm not suggesting that you had anything to do with her death, but I do need to rule you out as a suspect, and see if you have any information about Ms. Grado that might help in our investigation."
Serena glanced at Alex and nodded. "I met her at a bar about three months ago. I accompanied her to her apartment that evening and that's the last time I saw her. Actually, that's not true. I have seen her since, in the same bar, but we haven't had a conversation or shared anything else for that matter."
Olivia nodded. "I have to ask this-"
Before she could finish the question, Serena interrupted her. "I'll save you the trouble, Detective. My lone encounter with Ms. Grado was sexual in nature, one between two consenting adults. And to answer the other question you have to ask, I was at a Legal Ethics seminar in New Hampshire from Sunday until yesterday. I have receipts and meeting materials if you need to see them." She reached over and held up a meeting program for Olivia to see.
"Thank you. That won't be necessary. But I do need you to tell me the name of the bar where you met Ms. Grado."
Another glance at Alex. "It's a place called Gertrude and Alice. Over on West 54th." Olivia pulled out a small notebook and scribbled down the name and address while Serena talked. "It's a very discreet lesbian bar. Only advertised by word of mouth. There's not even a sign out front. A lot of professional women go there to meet and socialize with others like themselves. Discretion is a pretty high priority among the patrons there."
"And Christina Grado is a regular there?"
"I've seen her there on multiple occasions, so I would say she is."
"Have you ever seen her use drugs?
Serena's eyes widened slightly. "Drugs? No. I've only seen her have a few drinks and she never seemed to be under the influence of anything stronger."
"What else can you tell me about her?"
"Not much. She likes upper class, professional women. It seemed she took an interest in a different one each time I saw her. Some would call her a player, I guess."
"Discretion high on her priority list too?"
"I assume so. No one has mentioned her to me until today. Do you mind if I ask you a question?" Olivia nodded a go ahead. "You're Special Victims, so I assume her death was sexual in nature. And if so, why would you think I had anything to do with it?"
"We're trying to rule out the possibility that she may have been raped. We also found evidence of another woman present. A print found on a sex toy in a box beneath her bed was matched to you. I'm sorry for the invasion of your privacy, but given the circumstances, I'm sure you understand why I had to speak with you." Serena nodded. "My partner and I will have to check out the bar, but I will try as much as possible to keep your name out of it."
"Thank you, Detective. I'm not really in the closet, but I don't feel it necessary to advertise either." Then she added, "Is your partner male?"
"You may get a warmer reception at the bar, if you go without him. Men are not usually on the guest list there."
Olivia nodded. "How do I find this place if there's no sign? Do you have an exact address?"
Serena glanced again at Alex. "I don't know the number, but it's in the vicinity of-"
The ADA interrupted her. "I know where it is, Olivia." A very surprised look crossed the detective's face as she quickly turned to look at Alex. "I went there with Serena once," Alex offered in explanation.
"OK..." Olivia turned back to Serena. "Well, then Thank you for your time, Ms. Southerlyn." She stood up and handed Serena a business card. "If you think of anything else, please let me know."
They got in the car and Alex waited for Olivia to ask the inevitable question. She didn't have to wait long.
"So, you and Southerlyn ?"
"No. Remember when I told you we got together for a drink? Well, that's where we went. I'd never been there before and I haven't been back. And I left alone that night."
Olivia suppressed a smile and glanced over at Alex who was staring straight ahead. "For a prosecutor, you just got awfully defensive."
"I'm not being defensive. I just don't want you to think I lied to you."
"You know, Alex, whatever you do in your personal life is your business. I don't plan on opening any closet doors that I don't have to." She waited for Alex's reaction as she allowed herself to once again contemplate the possibility that Alex was a lesbian. Alex, however, remained silent. No confirmation, but no denial either.
After a few minutes of awkward silence, Olivia glanced over at Alex again. "So, Gertrude and Alice?"
"I'm pretty sure it's a reference to Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas."
Olivia nodded. "OK. So where is it?"
"I don't remember the exact address either. I can probably show you easier than tell you." Alex looked down at her watch. "It's probably not open now, though. Why don't you drop me back at my office and then meet me after work. We'll go then. If you don't have other plans, that is."
Another sideways glance, but Alex seemed to be studying the light at the intersection. "Nope. No plans. It makes more sense to go when the after work crowd is there anyway."
They spent the rest of the ride to One Hogan Place with Olivia muttering about the traffic and Alex checking her voicemail via cell phone. When they arrived, Olivia dropped Alex at the curb and said, "See you back here around six?"
Alex agreed and watched the dark brown Crown Vic ease back into traffic. As she made the trek up to her office, it began to sink in that she had just made a "date" to go to a lesbian bar with Olivia Benson. She nearly ran head-on into Liz Donnelly as she exited the elevator.
"A little distracted today, Alex?" Donnelly asked as she side-stepped to avoid a collision.
"Hi. Sorry, Liz. My mind was elsewhere, I guess."
"Arraignment go OK?" Liz looked at her watch and frowned. "Are you just getting done?"
"No. I mean, yes, the arraignment went fine. I just went with Detective Benson to interview a witness."
Liz smirked. "Your detectives have you doing their job again?"
"We work as a team, Liz," Alex said as she walked away. She really wasn't in the mood for Liz's sarcasm at the moment.
Liz stared after Alex as she walked toward her office, wondering what had the ADA so distracted.
At five after six Alex's phone rang.
"Hey, it's Olivia. I'm out front. Are you about ready or should I find a parking place?"
"I just finished up, so I'll be right down." She hung up the phone and gathered her purse and briefcase. She exited the building to find Olivia double-parked with the light flashing on the top of the car. She opened the car door and got in.
Alex smiled and said, "I didn't realize this was an emergency trip."
Olivia reached out of the window and removed the flasher from the roof. "One advantage of being a cop. You can always find a parking place when you're in a department vehicle."
Alex gave Olivia the approximate address and they drove to the bar. They lucked up and found a parking place not far up on the same block. As they got out of the car, Olivia told Alex her plan. "Southerlyn said that they weren't too friendly toward men here. I'm guessing that they might not be too welcoming if I go in flashing my badge right away. How about we just go in for a drink and get a feel for the place before asking any questions?"
Alex gave Olivia a sideways glance. "Should we really be drinking if we're here in an official capacity?"
"No, but there's nothing wrong with ordering a mineral water, now is there?" the detective responded with a smile.
Alex gestured to a door. "Here it is." Sure enough, there was no sign or markings of any kind on the door.
"So do we need a password or a decoder ring or something to get in?" Olivia joked as she held the door open for Alex to enter.
Alex hesitated for an instant and then walked past Olivia through the door. "No, but remind me later and I'll show you the secret handshake."
Olivia stood speechless for a moment before shaking her head with a smile and following Alex up the stairs. She knew Alex was joking, but she couldn't help but wonder if there was hidden meaning in her words.
They went through a second door at the top of the stairs and found themselves in a cozy bar, surrounded by lots of oak, brass and greenery. Many of the tables were occupied by women dressed in business suits and work attire. "Gertrude & Alice" was written in script on the mirror behind the large oak bar. Olivia led the way over to two empty barstools and pulled one out for Alex as she took a seat on the other.
The bartender approached shortly after they got seated. She was wearing black pants and a crisp white tuxedo shirt. Her long, dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She instantly reminded Olivia of a younger version of former ADA Abbie Carmichael. The Abbie look-alike smiled and said, "What can I get for you?" Looking directly at Olivia, she added, "We have a half-price special tonight for first time visitors."
"What makes you think I'm a first time visitor?" Olivia asked.
"Oh, I'd definitely remember you," the bartender answered with a grin. She turned to Alex and said, "No offense."
Alex smiled and said, "None taken." Then not quite under her breath she added, "She is quite memorable."
The bartender laughed when Olivia's chin dropped as she gave Alex an incredulous look. "I'll just bet she is. So what'll it be, ladies?"
Alex ignored Olivia's look and said, "I'll have a Perrier with lime, please."
Olivia recovered enough to say, "I'll have the same." The bartender moved away to get their drinks and Olivia turned back to Alex. Smiling through clinched teeth, she asked, "What was that all about?"
Alex shrugged innocently as she barely suppressed a smile. "Didn't want to blow our cover."
The bartender returned with two glasses garnished with lime and set them in front of the two women. She twisted open a large Perrier bottle and filled each glass, leaving the bottle between them. She looked again at Olivia and said, "My name's Kate. Don't hesitate to call me if you need anything." She then gave Alex a quick smile and moved to the other end of the bar.
Alex looked at Olivia with an amused smirk on her face. Olivia looked back as she took a sip from her glass. She stopped mid-sip and said, "What?"
"You do realize that she's flirting with you?"
Olivia's eyes widened. "Really?" The genuine look of surprise that Alex gave her in return made Olivia unable to keep up the charade and she laughed.
When Alex realized that Olivia was only feigning ignorance she rolled her eyes and said dryly, "Smartass."
Olivia shrugged. "I thought I might use that to my advantage."
"Being a smartass?"
"No, the flirting." Alex cocked an eyebrow. "You know, make it a little easier to get her to talk to me." The other eyebrow joined the first. "If I came in here in cop interrogation mode, she would probably just clam up. A little friendly banter first, and she's more likely to answer my questions later."
"Detective school 101?"
"More like human nature 101." At the other end of the bar, Kate flashed Olivia a smile and the detective smiled back. Alex saw the exchange a rolled her eyes again. Olivia caught the eye-roll and leaned over to Alex. "Are you jealous?"
"Jealous? Of who?" Now that was an interesting question. It occurred to Olivia that Alex could be jealous of either woman.
She opted for her original thought. "That she's flirting with me and not you?"
Alex scoffed and glanced at the bartender. "She's not really my type."
So that left the other option. Was Alex jealous that Olivia was flirting with the bartender? "So, what is your type?"
Before Alex could answer, the bartender appeared in front of them again. "You two doing OK down here?" She glanced again at Alex, but directed her focus to Olivia.
"We're good," Olivia answered.
"OK. Let me know if there's anything you need." She turned to walk away again.
Olivia shot Alex a look and then said, "Actually, Kate?" The bartender turned back around. "There is something " Kate moved over right in front of Olivia and grinned. "Do you work here every night?"
"Every night but Sunday & Monday. We're closed Sunday and I have Mondays off."
Olivia nodded. "Has Tina been in lately?"
"Tina?" The bartender's expression changed slightly. "I don't think so."
"But you do know her? Tina Grado?"
"Look, we have a policy to not really discuss our patrons."
"I understand." Olivia reached into her pocket and pulled out a business card. She handed it to Kate. "Here's my card. If you remember seeing her, please let me know."
Kate took the card and looked at it. She looked at Alex and then back at Olivia. She leaned forward and said, "You're cops?"
"I am, but I'm not looking to cause any trouble for the club. I'm just trying to find out what happened to Tina Grado."
"Something happened to her?"
Olivia nodded. "I'm afraid so." Seeing the look on the bartender's face, Olivia sensed a chink in the armor. "When's the last time you saw her here?"
"I think it was Tuesday night. Look, you really need to talk to my boss. I don't want to get fired for talking to you without her."
"No problem. Is she here?"
"Hold on." The bartender turned around and picked up a phone, pressing a button. She spoke quietly into the phone for a few seconds and then hung up. She turned around and called to one of the wait staff, "Michelle? Could you show these ladies to Joanna's office please?"
They were escorted around the end of the bar, down the hall past the restrooms, to a large oak door at the end of the hall. A short knock and the door was opened by a well dressed redhead that Olivia guessed to be in her mid to late forties. She nodded to the waitress and smiled at Olivia and Alex.
She extended her hand to Olivia and said, "Joanna Delacroix, owner of this fine establishment."
Olivia shook her hand and then produced her badge. "Detective Olivia Benson, and this is Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot."
She shook Alex's hand and said, "Please, come in. Have a seat." She gestured to a small sitting area in the corner of the large office. When they were all seated, the club owner looked again at Olivia. "I understand that you are, unfortunately, not here to simply enjoy the company of Gertrude & Alice." She spoke with a slightly southern accent.
"We're investigating the death of Christina Grado." Olivia noticed the look of surprise that crossed the woman's face as she handed the victim's picture to the club owner. "We understand that she was a regular here."
Joanna looked at the picture and handed it back to Olivia. She nodded and said, "Yes. I know Tina. She came in quite often. What happened to her?"
"That's what we're trying to find out. What can you tell me about her?"
"Not much, other than she loved the ladies. And rarely went home with the same one twice."
"Did you see her Tuesday evening?"
The redhead seemed to think for a moment. "I don't recall seeing her Tuesday, but I can't be certain. I'm in and out of my office all the time. You may have better luck asking my staff."
"I talked to the bartender, but she was hesitant to talk to me without your approval."
"Please don't hold that against either of us, Detective. I stress the importance of discretion to my staff. It's part of what makes my business successful. I've tried to create an environment where women can meet other women safely and without fear of judgment or prying eyes."
"I understand, but if she saw Ms. Grado on Tuesday night, it could be vital to our investigation."
"Certainly. I'll tell Kate to tell you anything she knows. And if you need to speak with any others on my staff, you are welcome to come back tomorrow afternoon. We open at four, but the staff comes in to prep at three. I'll make them available to speak to you then."
"Thank you. That will be helpful." Olivia reached in her pocket and produced a business card. "Here's my card if you should think of anything that might help."
Joanna smiled. "Thank you, Detective. I hope your next visit will be of a personal nature." She gave Olivia a brief once-over as the detective stood. "You could be good for business."
Olivia's only reaction was a slight quirk of an eyebrow. Alex rose from her chair, her lips pressed together in a tight smile. "Thank you for your time."
At the sound of her voice, Joanna turned to Alex as if she'd forgotten the ADA was in the room. "Let me escort you back to the bar." She moved away from the seating area and past the two women. She opened the office door and made a flourish with her hand to allow the detective and the attorney to exit first.
When they reached the bar, Joanna summoned the bartender. "Kate, please answer any questions these ladies have for you." She turned back to Alex and Olivia and nodded a farewell. "Ladies, I hope to see you again, under friendlier circumstances, of course." She then turned on her heel and disappeared down the hallway to her office.
Kate gave Olivia a sheepish look. "Sorry about that. I can't afford to lose my job."
Olivia smiled. "It's OK. I understand." The detective perched on an empty barstool. "So you did see Tina Grado here Tuesday night?"
"Yeah, she was here."
"Was she with someone or alone?"
"She came in alone, but left with someone. As usual."
"Did you know the woman she left with?"
"No. I'd never seen her here before."
"Can you describe her?"
"She wasn't very memorable to be honest. I'm pretty sure she had dark hair, about shoulder length. I don't really remember much else. She seemed a little shy at first, but warmed up pretty quickly when she got a few drinks in her."
Olivia nodded. The physical description definitely ruled out Serena Southerlyn. Even though Olivia had believed the attorney had no involvement, it couldn't hurt to have evidence to back it up. "Who approached who?"
"I'm not sure. More than likely, Tina made the first move, but I don't really know." She paused for a second trying to remember. "Hold on. I think the other woman picked up the bar tab. Give me a minute and I'll check the credit card receipts."
"That would be great." Now they were getting somewhere.
"Can I get you anything while you wait?" Kate turned on the charm again with a killer smile.
Olivia turned to Alex who had moved to sit next to her at the bar. The ADA shook her head. Olivia turned back to the bartender and shook her head also. "No, I think we're good."
Kate smiled even bigger. "I'll just bet you are, Detective." She glanced at Alex and walked to the register at the opposite end of the bar.
When Kate was out of earshot, Olivia rolled her eyes and turned to Alex. "What? Have they never had a police detective in here before?" She looked down at her clothing. She was wearing dark slacks, a light blue V-neck sweater over a white t-shirt, and her usual black leather jacket. "I don't look any different than any other female detective."
Alex bit her lip in an attempt not to smile. Olivia couldn't help but notice the amused look. She scoffed and gestured toward Alex. "You're a beautiful woman, who's been here before I might add, why aren't they fawning over you?"
This time it was Alex who rolled her eyes. "Oh, please, Olivia. With your looks, the leather jacket, and that swagger you walk with, you're a lesbian's wet dream."
Olivia's eyebrows skyrocketed and her chin dropped. It took her a few seconds to find her voice. "I do not-"
"Found it!" Kate appeared in front of Olivia, interrupting her, as she handed her a receipt.
Olivia took the receipt and read the name. "Kimberly Neil. Ring any bells?"
The bartender shook her head. "Nope. Don't know her. I made a copy, so you can keep the receipt if it will help." She offered Olivia another smile.
"Thanks, Kate. You've been a big help." Olivia dropped a twenty-dollar bill on the counter to pay for their earlier drinks and leave a generous tip. "If you think of anything else, you have my card." She stood and looked at Alex. Alex took that as a signal that they were done and stood up.
Kate produced Olivia's business card from her back pocket and flicked it. "I've got it. Maybe I'll see you here again sometime."
Olivia didn't respond, but smiled. She turned to Alex. "Ready?"
The ADA nodded. "Ready."
Olivia turned toward the door and then spun back around almost causing Alex to crash into her. She lowered her voice and leaned closer to Alex. "And for the record, I. Do not. Swagger." Then she turned and walked to the door.
Alex stood still for a moment and watched Olivia walk away, swagger very much intact. She suppressed a smile and said quietly under her breath, "Yes. You. Do." She glanced back at the bartender who was doing nothing short of ogling the detective as she departed. Another woman turned to look as Olivia passed her on the way to the door. To no one in particular, Alex said, "I rest my case." Then she took a deep breath and followed Olivia.
Alex had just entered her apartment when her cell phone rang. She put down her briefcase and shrugged out of her overcoat as she retrieved the ringing phone from her purse. Glancing at the display, she saw Serena Southerlyn's name.
"You've been holding out on me, Cabot."
"I can't believe you never introduced me to Olivia Benson."
"Why would I?"
"Oh, come on, Alex. She's gorgeous! Is that why you turned me down?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You're keeping her all to yourself, aren't you? I can't believe you never told me about her."
"She's a colleague, Serena."
"Are you sleeping with her?"
"What?! No! We work together."
"Oh, please. You can be discreet."
"We're not sleeping together."
"So then you won't mind if I call her."
Alex hesitated. "I don't think that would be a good idea."
"Well, for starters you're a potential witness in the case she's working on."
Serena scoffed. "I think I was cleared as a suspect, was I not?"
"I said witness, not suspect."
"What do you mean 'what else'?"
"You said 'for starters'. What other reasons do you have for me not calling her?"
Alex hesitated again. "I just don't think it would be a good idea."
Alex never realized that you could actually hear someone smile. But she could swear that she heard Serena smile, even over the phone. "You're interested in her, aren't you?"
Alex sighed. "Serena I'm not even sure she plays for our team."
"Oh come on, Alex. I'll bet she doesn't just play for it, I'll bet she's an MVP!"
"And I notice you didn't deny the attraction." Alex really hated it when Serena sounded so smug. "I'll back off for now. But I'm keeping her card "
"You can be such a pain in the ass, Serena."
"And you're a chicken-shit, Cabot. Go for it! What's the worst that could happen?"
Alex shuddered. "I don't even want to go there."
"Go there, Alex! I'll bet you like what you find."
"Goodbye, Serena." Alex clicked off the phone to the sound of Serena smiling again.
"Wait, let me get this straight no pun intended." Elliot laughed at his own joke. "You took Cabot to a dyke bar?"
Olivia bit her tongue to keep from telling him that it was Alex who took her to the bar, but she promised not to open any closet doors unless it was absolutely necessary. Even if Alex had nothing to hide, she didn't want to be the cause of any rumors that may get started. "That's all you got out of what I just said? Elliot, we have a solid lead. I ran the credit card number from the bar receipt and got an address. I'm going to talk to Kimberly Neil. Are you coming or not?"
Elliot stood and followed Olivia out of the squad room. When they got to the garage, he just couldn't let it be. "So how did she like it? Did anyone hit on her?"
"What? No!" She held her hand out to Elliot. "Give me the keys."
He tossed her the keys. "Maybe they thought she was with you."
Olivia rolled her eyes. "She was with me."
"No, I mean with you."
Olivia scoffed. "Didn't stop them from hitting on me." She immediately wished she hadn't said that when she saw the look of amusement on Elliot's face.
They got in the car and Elliot continued with his tormenting. "And how did she react to that?"
Olivia backed the brown sedan out of its parking space and headed toward the exit of the police garage. "Why would she react to that?" She wasn't about to tell her partner that the ADA almost seemed jealous of the women flirting with her.
"A little jealousy, maybe?"
Olivia hit the brake and turned to glare at her partner.
"Jesus, Liv!!" Elliot had reflexively braced himself by placing his hands on the dash as the sudden stop engaged his seatbelt as it lurched him forward. He pulled one hand back and adjusted the belt where it was now almost cutting into his neck.
"Why would you say that?"
"Because you nearly gave me whiplash."
"Not that! Jealousy?"
"I've seen the way she looks at you."
"You've had some rather heated conversations."
"They're called arguments."
"When she argues with me, I get the Ice Queen. When she argues with you the paint on the wall starts to peel from the heat." He shook his head. "I swear last time I thought she was going to kiss you," Elliot said with a chuckle. Olivia simply glared. Elliot shrugged as he continued, "There's a fine line between anger and lust. I'm just saying that sometimes with you and Alex that line seems to blur."
"We are not having this conversation." Olivia stomped the gas pedal, sending Elliot's head back against the car headrest.
"Fine. Especially not while you're driving."
Alex stood next to Captain Cragen as they watched the two detectives interview Kimberly Neil. It turned out that their suspect was a married elementary school teacher who took a walk on the wide side to try and escape her unhappy marriage. She had never met Christina Grado until that night and panicked when the woman had a heart attack during sex.
Olivia stood facing the observation window, listening to the suspect. Alex found herself studying the detective when she knew the other woman was not aware of her gaze. Serena was right, Olivia really was quite beautiful. The detective turned back toward the suspect so that she now had her back to the window. She had placed her hand on the back of her neck and absently rubbed the spot where her neck and shoulder came together as if working out a kink in her neck. The motion of her hand and the long fingers captivated Alex. She had a sudden, highly inappropriate thought of those fingers doing other things and felt a hot flush moving through her body. She shifted her stance and gave Cragen a quick glance. To her relief, he was focused on the interview and had not noticed the slight reddening of Alex's cheeks.
The sound of Olivia's voice snapped the ADA back to reality. "So, Ms. Neil, you didn't notice that Ms. Grado was in distress?"
The woman looked embarrassed and lowered her eyes to the tabletop. "No. I just thought That she was really into it I guess. I've never been in that situation before."
Elliot's eyebrows rose. "You've never had sex before?"
"Yes, of course. But not like that with another woman." She looked at Olivia as if she was looking for support. She got another question instead.
"Did you give her the drugs?"
"No! They were hers. She wanted me to take some too, but I wouldn't. We have random drug testing at my school and I couldn't risk that. I told her I'd rather she didn't take them either, but she said it made it so much more intense. I swear I didn't know she was having a heart attack!"
Elliot spoke again. "So why didn't you call for help?"
The suspect let out what sounded close to a sob as she broke down in tears. "I should have. I just panicked! When she stopped moving, I tried to rouse her, but I couldn't. I checked for a pulse and couldn't find one. Then I just freaked out. I didn't want anyone to know what I was doing I didn't want to lose my job and I knew they would find out everything if the police came. There was nothing I could do. She was already dead. So, I got dressed and left."
"Why did you throw the strap-on in the garbage outside?" Olivia asked as she leaned on the table.
"I knew it had my I knew there was evidence of me on it and I didn't want to leave it there. I'm not really a lesbian. It just happened one time."
In the viewing room, Cragen turned to Alex. "What can we charge her with?"
Alex shook her head. "Not much, I'm afraid. Certainly not murder and I'm not even sure I could get manslaughter to stick if she's telling the truth about the drugs. If her fingerprints aren't found on the baggie they were in, then the best I can do is failure to report a death."
Cragen knocked on the window and Olivia joined them in the viewing room.
"Check with the lab about prints found on the drug bag. If they found Neil's prints, we'll hold her. Otherwise, we really don't have much."
Olivia looked from the Captain to Alex. "We're not just cutting her loose?"
"No, but all I can charge her with under the circumstances is failure to report."
"Alex, she left a woman to die."
"We have no way of knowing if the victim was still alive when Neil left her. And unfortunately, lack of compassion is not a crime."
Olivia sighed and went to make the call to the lab.
Alex was waiting by Olivia's desk when the detective returned from taking the suspect to the holding cell. There was a slight pause in her stride when Olivia spotted Alex beside her desk.
"Hey. The lab had a backlog of calls, we're holding her until they call me back." Olivia motioned to the chair beside her desk as an invitation for Alex to be seated.
"Olivia, you don't really think Kimberly Neil intentionally killed Christina Grado, do you?"
Olivia sighed and tried very hard not to stare at Alex's legs as she crossed them beside her desk. "No, but it seems like she should get more than a slap on the wrist for just letting the woman die without even calling for help."
"I don't disagree, but my hands are tied. Unless the drug bag has her fingerprints on it, or we find some other evidence that this was a crime, we really don't have any other options."
"What about negligent homicide?"
"This was a one time incident, not a pattern of negligent behavior. And we can't say that she willfully disregarded a danger that she didn't even know to be in existence. I'll see what I can do, but I really don't think my bosses will go for it." She saw the exasperated look on the detective's face. "If it's any consolation, she'll probably lose her job, since the public school system frowns on teachers with any kind of criminal record. Not to mention the ridicule she's likely to face when it's discovered that she was having an extra-marital affair with another woman."
"I don't exactly call that justice. And what kind of person is more worried about their job and so-called good reputation than another human life?"
Before Alex could offer a response, Olivia's desk phone rang. Alex began to gather her briefcase as Olivia answered the phone. "Special Victims, Detective Benson." She listened for a moment and then glanced at Alex as she replied. "Hi, Kate." Another pause. "Yes, we've all but closed the case it seems her death was natural causes." Alex put two and two together and realized Olivia was talking to the bartender from Gertrude & Alice. "No, nothing like that." Alex stood to leave and Olivia held up her hand as if asking her to stay. "Maybe I will. Thanks for calling." Short pause. "You too. Bye." Olivia cradled the receiver and rolled her eyes at Alex as Elliot sat down at his desk.
"Hey, El." Then to Alex, "That was Kate, the bartender. She wanted to make sure they didn't have a serial killer preying on women at the bar."
Alex smirked. "Creative reason for calling."
Elliot caught the sarcasm and grinned at his partner. "New snatch, Liv?"
Olivia threw her post-it pad at him.
Elliot laughed and ducked. "Snitch! I meant to say snitch!" He caught the pad in mid-air and tossed it back.
Alex watched the exchange with a mixture of amusement and some other emotion Olivia couldn't quite put her finger on. She turned back to Olivia. "Did you need me for anything else?"
Elliot waggled his eyebrows at Olivia and she threw the pad again. She looked at Alex as if she just realized that she had stopped the ADA from leaving. "Oh, no. Thanks."
Alex nodded and looked back and forth between the two detectives. "Try not to kill each other and call me when you have the fingerprint results." She turned and walked out of the squad room, her heels clicking on the floor as she walked. She paused at the door for a moment and called back over her shoulder to Olivia. "Say hi to Kate if you see her." Then the click of heels resumed and she was gone.
Elliot couldn't help himself. He grinned at his partner and nodded. "Jealousy."
"Bite me, El!"
He laughed. "You should make that offer to Alex instead of me."
This time she threw her pen.
"I wanted you to hear it from me." Olivia immediately recognized the voice on the phone as belonging to ADA Cabot.
The detective's eyebrows rose a notch. "Hear what?"
"We plead out Kimberly Neil."
The eyebrows lowered. "I figured as much."
"I'm sorry, Olivia. My bosses just didn't think the case merited going to court."
"It's a shame a woman's life doesn't merit a court date." Olivia really didn't mean for it to come out quite so harshly. Her tone made Elliot look up from his paperwork.
"I don't disagree, Detective, but unfortunately, we have no evidence that Kimberly Neil is responsible for the death. Cold and callous, maybe, but not a murderer."
"I know." Olivia softened her voice. "I'm sorry. I know you didn't have a choice. And I really don't think she was responsible. It just seems that she should have cared enough to make one phone call to try and help the woman she was in bed with."
"Well, for what it's worth, her guilty plea got her 100 hours of community service. I suggested that her local gay and lesbian center might be a good place for her to put in her time."
Olivia cracked a smile. "Did she go for it?"
"I made her think she didn't have a choice." Pleased at the "Hah!" that earned from the detective, Alex continued, "Hopefully she'll learn something while she's there."
Olivia smiled. "Next time we go to that bar, I'm buying you a real drink." Elliot gave her another look and she heard absolute silence from Alex. Her eyes widened when she realized what she had said and how it might have sounded. "Well, not necessarily that bar."
Her conversation with Serena flashed through Alex's mind. Olivia had opened the door. She decided to go for it. "How about tonight?"
"What I meant-" Then Alex's response registered. "What?"
"I said, how about tonight? I've had a long day and a drink sounds really good. Wherever you'd like." Alex hesitated. "Unless "
"No. I mean, yeah. OK. Tonight's good." Elliot stifled a snort and Olivia glared at him. At least she tried to glare. She was so shocked, she really couldn't narrow her eyes enough to look very threatening. "Should I pick you up?" Was this a date??
"No, I've got a five o'clock meeting with your Captain, and I'm free after that, so I'll come to you. We can share a cab."
"Great. See you then."
When she hung up the phone, Olivia knew the expression on her partner's face before she looked. Sure enough, the smirk was firmly in place. She ignored it. Or at least she tried to ignore it.
"Elliot, I'm buying her a drink. That's all."
Elliot held up his hands in surrender. "OK, OK." But the smirk remained.
At six o'clock, the ADA exited the captain's office and walked to Olivia's desk. Olivia glanced up as she placed the report she had just finished in the file and tossed it onto the "Done" pile on her desk.
"Perfect timing. You ready?"
Alex nodded and waited for Olivia to gather her belongings from her locker. They bid Elliot good night and Olivia tried to ignore the amused expression on her partner's face. She was thankful that he at least had the courtesy to keep quiet.
Elliot couldn't help but notice what a striking pair the two women were. Olivia was dressed in her usual form fitting slacks and black leather jacket, her dark, cropped hair just messy enough to be considered stylish. Alex was dressed in one of her power pantsuits complete with classy silk blouse. Her camel overcoat screamed sophistication without being too pretentious. She carried her leather briefcase at her side as usual. The dark and light contrast certainly made them compliment each other.
The two women met Detective Tutuola coming in as they exited the squad room. Elliot heard "G'night, Fin," uttered by his partner while Alex opted for a courteous nod accompanied by, "Detective."
"See ya," Fin responded as he continued to his desk. Seeing Elliot he nodded and asked, "Where'r those two off to?"
Elliot smirked again. "Liv's buying Alex a drink."
Fin looked at him for a moment. "You invited to go?"
Elliot couldn't suppress the laugh when Fin shook his head and said, "Damn, Benson. Took ya long enough."
When they exited the front doors of the 16th Precinct, Olivia turned to Alex and asked, "So, where would you like to go?"
Unsure of the exact nature of their "date", Alex replied, "Your choice." She wanted to give Olivia an option in case she didn't really view this as a date. "Don't you guys usually go to Maloney's?"
Olivia nodded. "Yeah, but unless you want to have half of the one-six join us, we'd be better off going somewhere else."
Alex nodded. "OK." So Olivia did want some time alone with her.
Olivia hesitated for an instant and then decided to throw caution to the wind. She had come this far and Alex had readily accepted her invitation. "I can think of one place where the guys will leave us alone." Alex looked at her expectantly. Olivia almost chickened out. What if she had read this completely wrong?
"Are you going to keep me in suspense?"
Olivia took a deep breath. "I've heard there's this bar over on West 54th, very discreet. And I know someone who promised to show me the secret handshake to get in."
Alex's eyes widened slightly and Olivia almost panicked. Then the attorney broke into a slow smile and Olivia almost melted. "Sounds like my kind of place."
Alex nodded. "Yeah."
"Olivia, I thought you'd never ask."
"Well, I never thought your answer would be yes! I'll get us a cab." Olivia turned to flag down a taxi.
The detective turned back to Alex. "Unless what?"
"Unless you just want to go back there to see the bartender."
Olivia expelled the breath she was holding with a laugh. "Hah! In the first place, I'm probably old enough to be her mother." She noticed the corners of Alex's mouth begin to turn up. The detective arched an eyebrow at the ADA. "Were you planning to agree with me on that?"
"I was going to say an older sister."
"Good answer. And secondly, I believe today is Monday, and if I recall from our previous conversation with the overly friendly bartender, she's off on Mondays."
That brought a real smile to Alex's face. "So I guess you're stuck with me then."
Olivia smiled back. "Only if you show me your secret handshake."
"I'll show you mine if you show me yours."
Olivia laughed out loud. "Now that's your best answer yet!" She gestured to the cab that had just pulled to a stop at the curb. "C'mon. I believe I owe you a drink "
FADE TO BLACK
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