DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Interview, Benson, O.
New York City Police Department
Internal Affairs Bureau
April 30, 2005
"Detective Benson, do you know when your Union representative plans to be here?"
Olivia slumped back in her chair, staring at the table between them. Fuck me, someone had carved into the cheap wooden surface. Her sentiments exactly. "I don't want a Union rep," she replied.
"You understand that you"
"I understand," she snapped. "Let's just get this over with."
"All right." The IAB investigator, one of their most experienced in light of the circumstances, pressed the Record button on his tape recorder. Like him, the equipment had seen better days but still got the job done. "Why don't you tell us in your own words what happened last night?" he asked mildly.
"I fucked up," she said. "And Alex paid for it. Case closed."
"That's bull," a third voice said from the doorway.
"Captain Cragen, this is a closed interview."
Cragen pulled up a chair beside Olivia. "I'm her Union rep," he said.
"You can't act as Detective Benson's representative; you're her supervisor," Detective Stoyavich explained to someone who knew that as well as he did.
"The rule's not clear," Cragen said.
"Actually, it is."
Cragen sighed. "Do you want to know what happened or not?"
"Of course we do." And fast. One PP had a press conference scheduled at noon. Benson was both responsible for the body count and the only one who could explain it.
"Is she telling you?"
Of course she wasn't.
"Detective Benson was presented with circumstances that she could not have anticipated," Cragen said. "What happened was not her fault." He turned to his SVU detective. "You've got to believe that, Olivia."
No, she didn't.
April 24, 2005
The sounds emanating from Olivia's car were enough to drive a man insane, especially a man separated from his wife for more than six months. The SVU detective didn't know whether to curse his job at that moment or be grateful.
More panting and a whimper flowed through the speaker phone on their console.
"Damn, Benson!" Wilkins from the 2-3 exclaimed from his seat beside Elliot.
Olivia's voice suddenly interrupted the audio. "This is a waste of time," she said. "You are one bra clasp away from violating section 245.05 of the New York state penal code, Pal."
Elliot could picture her driving home the point with the flash of a gold shield over her shoulder. He chuckled at the muttered "Fuck" from one of the back seat's occupants as the yellow and black Ford eased over to a curb where a couple of other cabs sat idle.
"She's pulling over," Wilkins announced unnecessarily.
"Catch another ride," Olivia directed her passengers. "I've got better things to do."
"We don't," Elliot said into her ear.
From their vantage point a block behind her, the two men chuckled as an unhappy young couple scurried out of the back seat.
"That your idea of passing as a regular cab driver, Liv?" Elliot asked.
"I read the rule book," she replied. "I can eject passengers for lewdness."
"Premature ejection," Elliot said lightly.
She didn't dignify his quip with a response.
"Cabridus interruptus," he added.
"Stakeoutus interruptus," Olivia countered mockingly. "My finely tuned cop instincts told me they weren't getting ready to hit me over the head and attempt to rape me."
"Sure you weren't just jealous?" he teased.
"Yeah, it was true romance, especially the part where he couldn't remember her name."
Wilkins tapped the mute button. "Is Benson a prude?" he asked.
Olivia Benson? "No," Elliot said, smiling at the notion. "I think four days of this is just getting to her."
Which was understandable. His partner knew and was friends with most of the other women assigned to this operation, one of the largest coordinated efforts in Department history. Wanda Szermak and Paulette Dean from the 2-3, Karen Smythe Olivia's first mentor from the 3-1, and two dozen other women in blue were making themselves very visible targets to catch the man who had raped and beaten five female cab drivers in the past two months. Considering the resources being poured into this, not the least of which were car leases and overtime, they had at most a couple of weeks to flush the perp out. Every legitimate customer was merely something to be endured in order to keep up the facade. A plausible excuse to boot one was much appreciated.
When the next shift rolled around, Elliot was pleased to see that he was paired up with Munch for the evening. Wilkins was all right, but the man was clearly enamored of his partner, and Elliot was a little weary of dodging the increasingly personal questions: How long had they been partners? Did Olivia like her job? Had she ever been married? What did she like to do in her spare time? What did he think her ideal date would be?
Dinner and dancing with Alex Cabot, Elliot refrained from speculating. Any more pining from Wilkins and he planned to disable the mute button in their vehicle. That would put a stop to the inquisition, he was pretty sure. Wilkins hadn't worked up the nerve yet to say much to Olivia's face beyond the normal smart mouth remarks that cops tossed around.
Wrong tree, Buddy.
Business wasn't quite as brisk tonight, leaving Olivia to drive aimlessly in her assigned zone for nearly twenty minutes. "Talk to me," she said.
Munch obliged. "Have you heard about the undisclosed orders that John Ashcroft issued on his last day in office?" he asked.
"Talk to me, Elliot," Olivia amended.
"He can't," Munch said. "He's chowing on a footlong, and I have no interest in seeing anyone's dinner post-mastication. Don't you want to know the extent of government intrusion into your daily life?"
"Ignorance is bliss, Munch," she replied.
He shook his head, resigned to the unfathomable concept that some people preferred to live in denial. "All right, is there a less important subject you would prefer to discuss?"
"Anything but that," she replied. "Anything interesting happen yesterday?" Munch and Fin had been off rotation the previous day. "You see anyone? . . . Cabot, or anyone?"
"Ah, yes, our assistant district attorney was indeed in fine form yesterday," Munch said approvingly.
Yes!Olivia's favorite subject. "What happened?" she asked.
"We brought in a gangster on a Central Park attempt," he said. "When we got there, Cabot was at the station house dropping something off for you"
"Dropping what off?"
"Sadly, my x-ray vision failed, rendering me unable to divine the envelope's contents," Munch said wryly. "She left it on your desk."
An envelope? She would be stopping by the station before heading home tonight, Olivia decided.
"It turns out that our perp has some serious artwork," Munch went on. "Cabot tells him to take his shirt off so we can get a photo of the tats."
"Bonzo whips off his shirt and flexes for her," Munch said. "Cabot doesn't swoon, so he decides to show her another hard muscle."
Damn it. Spying a couple of young men flagging her down from the sidewalk, Olivia resisted the urge to drive on past. They could be looking for two perps. She pulled over. "Two male Caucasians, early twenties," she reported, adding quickly, "So what happened?"
The back door jerked open and the men hopped in. Now that she could see them more clearly, they appeared a little younger than she had originally thought. One of them was soaked, while the other was completely dry. "412 Strawberry," the drenched youth said.
Olivia had no idea where that was. "Roger that," she said. "412 Strawberry." She activated the meter.
In the car behind her, Elliot heard the code words and pressed the map guide. "Directions coming up," he said. Meanwhile, Munch quietly relayed their next destination to the dispatcher charged with tracking the units. While she waited for the information, Olivia stalled by punching random figures into an official-looking but nonfunctional keypad.
Elliot's voice spoke into her ear again, "Take a right and head toward 38th."
"So . . . ," she hinted. What had happened with Alex and the flasher?
"What?" one of the teens said.
"What?" she replied.
Come on, Munch, finish the story. Instead, the next words she heard were, "Take a left on 38th."
She did, and then waited. And waited. "So, what the fuck happened?" she finally exploded. The youths blinked at her.
"Asshole here pushed me into the fountain," the redhead said unhappily.
"Munch," Olivia said.
"No shit," the boy said, smacking his friend on the arm.
At long last, her SVU colleague resumed his story. "Braindead drops his drawers and waves his baton at our distinguished J.D.," he continued.
What did she do? Olivia wished she had been there.
"Cabot checks out the guy's unit and tells him if he plans to argue diminished capacity, he might have a case."
She laughed out loud, surprising her passengers. Alex the bitch was one hot woman.
As they had each of the past five nights, Olivia and her shadows stayed on the street until well past the official shift change. "I'm calling it a night," she finally said as streaks of sunrise glinted off her windshield.
"OK," Elliot acknowledged with a yawn. "See you tonight."
By sheer luck, the last fare had taken Olivia within a dozen blocks of her apartment. The Department was picking up the tab for parking their rented taxis. A left here, a right there, and she would be home in five minutes. But the image of an envelope on her desk was fixed in her brain.
It could just be a copy of a DD-5 that Alex had questions about. But why wouldn't she just drop it on her desk with a post-it note like she usually did?
It could be a sensitive report of some kind, but they didn't have anything hush hush in the works right now. And they rarely worried about leaving material out in the open, anyway. It wasn't as if civilians roamed the squad room freely.
Various other possibilities were alternately conjured up and rejected as Olivia made her way back to the station house in cab number A6748E. Nonchalantly, she strolled into the squad room and moved toward her desk, easily spotting the pristine white envelope among the usual clutter. Sealed; that was unusual. Glancing around to see whether anyone else was nearby, she slid a finger beneath the flap and tore it open.
"Detective Benson," the familiar handwriting read. "I've been completely surrounded by testosterone all week. As penance for leaving me with no one to talk to, you are hereby required to utilize the enclosed certificate within one (1) week of your return to regular duty." The signature - Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot - emphasized the official nature of the command.
Reaching again for the envelope, Olivia held it upside down until a small piece of paper dropped out. One free dinner for Olivia Benson and guest Alexandra Cabot at Alfonso's. She smiled. Alex missed her, too.
"Seventeen fifty," Olivia informed her fare tiredly.
"No way," he protested.
"Tell it to the TLC," she said, not bothering to conceal her indifference. This guy's attitude had turned her off the moment he oozed into the cab.
"You took the long way here."
"No, I didn't," she said. At least not according to Elliot and his trusty MapQuest.
"Yeah, you did," he insisted. "I'm not paying it."
Not paying it? "Yes, you are," Olivia replied. "When you got into this cab, you said you knew exactly where we were and that we were exactly 20 minutes away from your apartment. I got you here in fifteen. How'd I manage that if I went the long way?"
"Swallow that, dick!" her supportive partner said into her earpiece. "You been taking lessons from Cabot?"
Olivia didn't smile, largely because the anatomical feature in question had not yet dug out his wallet. After eleven hours of being trapped in this vehicle with no progress in catching their serial rapist, she was not in the mood for this shit. Actually, come to think of it, she was in the mood for this shit.
"I'll report you for fraud," he said.
"Please do," she said. "The number's 529 twelve twenty-eight. Tell her I defrauded you. My name's Benson."
Elliot spoke up again, his tone amused. "Alex is gonna enjoy that call."
Before Olivia could say anything more, the fare bolted out of the cab. "Hey!" she yelled. She tore out after him, chasing him down the street before finally catching up to him as he ducked into an alley. Grabbing the back of his t-shirt, she slammed him to the ground. "Seventeen fifty," she growled, yanking his head up by the hair to glare at him.
"In my left pocket," he said.
"Front or back?"
She frowned at him. "There'd better be cash in there or I'll yank out whatever I find," she said. "You got me?"
"It's there," he stammered.
Olivia reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of green, three twenties, a ten, and a five. Peeling off one of the twenties, she let go of his hair and asked, "Do I get a tip for extra-friendly service?" She cuffed him on the forehead with the bill.
Clutching her payoff, she strode back to the cab just as Elliot and another man she couldn't immediately place leapt out of a car parked haphazardly behind hers.
"Shit, Liv," Elliot said, holstering the gun he had partially drawn. "What the fuck are you doing?"
"Taking my break," she said with a grin.
"You've gotta stay within 20 feet of this piece of shit," he reminded her, jerking a thumb toward the cab and its NYPD-budget transceiver. "You scared the hell out of us."
"Sorry," she apologized. "He took off, and I just . . . ."
Elliot smiled his understanding. He was going a little stir crazy himself. Until they caught some action on their serial, they'd have to settle for a deadbeat. "You get your money?"
She held up the cash.
From the driver's seat of the men's car, Silcott from the 4-1 pressed a radio button. "False alarm," he reported. "Mike problems; all fixed."
"Thanks," Olivia said warmly.
Not a good idea, Liv, Elliot thought. He knew she wasn't flirting, but he'd seen two many witnesses and victims fall under the spell over the years. Confirming his fears, he looked over at Silcott. Yep, one more dazed victim of the Olivia Benson aura. Sorry, Pal; I think that aura's already spoken for.
"Yeah, I do think you're overreacting," Olivia said. She made eye contact with the man in the back seat. "My best friend is a man, but that's all it is. My boyfriend has got nothin' to worry about."
In the dark sedan two blocks behind them, Detective Houle from the 3- 7 pressed the mute button. "Benson's got a boyfriend?" he asked.
"Nah," Elliot replied. "She just says that to the potentially clingy ones. `Complication avoidance.'" The moment he finished, Elliot realized belatedly that he probably hadn't done Olivia any favors with the honest answer. Something along the lines of, "Oh, hell, yeah, she's been banging Big Mike for years now" might have been more helpful to his partner.
While the two eavesdroppers rolled their eyes, Dear Livvy continued with her advice. "Just sit down with her and be honest about why this business trip is bothering you," she said. "She may get pissed, but letting this eat at you is worse. Remember, though: Stay calm; don't blow it." Swerving into an open space beside the curb, she turned part way around to say, "$18.50."
A nicely coiffured hand reached forward through the open space proffering two twenty dollar bills. "Keep it," the man said. "Thanks."
"Thank you," she replied. When the door clicked shut, she checked her mirror, glided out into traffic again, and spoke into the air. "Anything up?"
"Yeah, Oprah called," Elliot said. "She wants you to fill in for her next week."
"Hey, don't knock it," she replied. "I'm buying at Houlihan's when we nail this fucker. I've scored almost a hundred and forty bucks tonight."
"Tip money goes back to the department," Elliot pointed out.
"Like I said, I've scored almost forty bucks tonight," she said. "So, nothing going on?"
"All quiet," Houle said.
Damn it. Day 9 of this expensive operation and no closer to a resolution. Her back hurt. Her head ached. And she hadn't heard a word about Alex for three days. She wasn't particular; anything would do. Was she in court today? What did she wear? How did she spend the rest of her day? Talk about Alex, Olivia wanted to plead with her partner, but she couldn't.
"I will never complain about my job again," she groaned.
Elliot's voice came back at her, "You had fun with that family this morning."
She pressed her lips together to hold back a grin. "They wanted a little action," she said. "Hell, they live in Utah."
"That why they were still screaming after you drove off?" he asked.
"I saved `em five minutes of valuable tourist time."
"On a ten-minute trip."
Olivia laughed. "Just remember that next time we're in a hurry."
In the meantime, it was another pickup here, another drop off there. Her next fare fit Huang's profile, mid-to-late twenties male (which narrowed it down to only about 3 million possible suspects), but this one had only one thing on his mind.
"No way," he retorted. "Torre fucked us. He should have pulled Johnson in the seventh and brought in Mussina."
"Are you kidding?" she said incredulously. "I'd rather have a Johnson slider with a tired arm than an 86 mile-an-hour Mussina slowball."
Once again, a hand reached for the mute button in the nondescript sedan tailing them. "I want to marry your partner," Houle announced.
Elliot smiled. "Get in line."
"I'll settle for a date. Any chance?"
Although Olivia rarely said much about her personal life (when she actually had one), Elliot was pretty sure that Houle did not reflect her gender or occupation of choice these days. Diplomatically, he said, "I think she's got her sights set on someone." Which reminded him. When Olivia deposited her disgruntled Yankees fan at a nearby sports bar, he clicked the mike back on. "Liv, Cabot called a few minutes ago. She needs some info from you and your Jane Hancock on an affidavit tonight. She's going to Preston for a warrant in Rush tomorrow."
"Good thing she's holding the fort on our other cases," Olivia said, happy at the prospect of spending time with the ADA tonight. Too bad her car wasn't equipped with the same mute button that the guys had. Not that she expected to declare her undying love and leap into the back seat to tear off the attorney's clothing, but even a few minutes of talking privately to Alex would be nice. Maybe to set up their dinner date at Alfonso's. "Where's the meet?" she asked.
"When she's ready, dispatch'll send her to one of your dropoffs. You pick her up and drive around while she does her thing, then circle back around to her car," Elliot said.
"You want your break?"
She considered it. "I'll take it with Cabot," she decided. That would get her away from the damn car - at least 20 feet away - and standing close to Alex as they reviewed the affidavit together. She entertained herself for a while by fantasizing about their upcoming dinner, picturing Alex smiling intimately at her over a half-empty glass of wine.
Must be a show getting out, she noted idly as she cruised past a sea of cabs lined up along the curb in front of a once grand, now outdated hotel. Their perp would likely steer clear of such a visible pickup; not much point in loitering here.
She jammed on the brakes when one of three men in dark business suits stepped out from between two parked cabs and extended his palm in front of her windshield. That particular hailing technique would lose this ass an arm some day, she groused. She'd have to pick them up, though. Bypassing such a high-tipping constituency would be a little obvious.
"Three Caucasian males, all suits," she advised her shadows. "Shoot me now." The good news about three-pieces was that they usually ignored her because they were talking about business shit. The bad news was that they were usually talking about business shit. Not exactly Detective Benson's bag.
"Maybe we'll get some insider information out of it," Elliot joked.
"Yeah, for that extra hundred grand I don't know what to do with," Olivia said. She stopped talking as the men filed into the car.
"West Port 14," one of the three ordered.
Wordlessly, she jabbed at the meter, checked her side view mirror, and pulled into traffic.
"Got a radio?" another said.
It was the third time she'd been asked that tonight. "Broken," she replied automatically. It was a little late to catch the Yankees game anyway, unless it had gone into extra innings, but maybe they didn't know that . . . . She let off the accelerator. "You want a new cab?"
After an inaudible discussion, the first man who had spoken directed her, "Just drive."
"Dunseth from the 4-2 is retiring," Houle's filtered voice reached Olivia through the earpiece.
She had to hand it to the man; he was a veritable font of Department gossip. Considering that she was at her colleagues' mercy to keep her sane on some of these interminable rides (the debate between two passengers about the interaction of sections 1681(a)(3) and 1692(d) (1)- of what, they never said - came to mind), she'd lucked out with Houle.
"Is that what they're calling it?" Elliot replied.
"He gets to keep his pension," Houle continued.
"Is that the same deal they cut with Martinez last year?"
"No, he took it in the shorts. The Rat Squad nailed him."
"No shitMartinez? What happened?"
As her associates carried on their conversation, Olivia checked out her customers in the mirror, mostly out of habit. She couldn't see their faces clearly in the dark, but there was something familiar about the man seated in the middle.
"Turns out Martinez was banging the evidence sergeant," Houle's voice went on.
"No, the other one, Angie."
Olivia's eyes flickered back to the mirror. The man's profile was in clear view now. You have got to be kidding. No question about it, that was Eldon Miller. It was the first time that cabbie Benson had encountered anyone from the SVU world.
Do your best to maintain cover, the task force had said. Once word leaked of a plant, the odds went up that their perp would hear about it. Plan B: Complain about lousy NYPD pay ("we can remember that one," Smythe joked) that forced struggling cops to work two jobs.
"So, Martinez's wife goes into IAB one day, drops a box of receipts on the desk, says `She wants him, she can have him,' and stomps out again."
Disguising her actions with a yawn and a mild neck massage, Olivia turned down the volume on her earpiece, leaving it loud enough for her to hear the other detectives, but allowing her to focus more easily on Miller and his cronies.
Miller had been a guest of SVU last year due to his inability to comprehend the basic concept that yes, coercing a prostitute into having sex did, in fact, constitute rape. Part of his problem was arrogance, part was that he was one of the dimmest bulbs she had ever arrested. ("I don't speak Spanish. How'm I supposed to know what the cunt's saying?" "`No' is the same in both languages, Eldon.")
If she recalled correctly, he worked in the "family business," ostensibly construction, but suspected by OCU of having a number of less public offshoots. It was one of those subsidiary businesses for which their complainant went to work shortly before her memory of the events became too cloudy for Alex to make a case.
A few minutes later, a chill went through her. The discussion was veiled, but to someone with her knowledge of street code it was unmistakable: The trio were discussing - in very familiar terms - the recent death of Marc de Santos, a DEA agent. Jesus. Had they just stumbled onto a lead on the feds' top-priority case and the execution-style murder of one of their own?
As she listened, more clues emerged: References to a .45, the same caliber that killed de Santos. Delivery of an upcoming drug shipment. Shut up and listen, she willed the two detectives trailing her, who had moved on from Martinez's piss poor judgment to Paulsen's two bottles a day. This wasn't the price-earnings blather they had been expecting.
She glanced into the rear-view mirror again to see if she could identify either of the other two passengers. One was a large-framed male (58 jacket, she guessed) in his late forties with wire-rim eyeglasses. Most of his hair had long since swirled down the shower drain. The other man was about ten years younger, with thick black hair and classic no-neck musculature. Brains and brawn.
Had Olivia finished her scrutiny a moment sooner, she would not have met another pair of dark eyes in the mirror. Shit. She looked away, trying to make the move seem casual, but it was too late.
"Do I know you?" Miller asked.
Before Olivia could answer, an excited shout from Elliot rang out in her ear. "Suspect on scene-Alpha 3!"
"Suspect is behind the wheel! Alpha 3 is requesting backup for pursuit," Elliot yelled. "You need us to stay, Liv?"
"Do I know you?" the inquiry came again. Asked a second time, it drew the interest of her other two passengers, who paused to await her answer.
"No," she replied.
Her heart sank as a four-door sedan several car lengths behind her pulled out of her lane and sped past. "Alpha 2 responding," she heard her partner advise Dispatch.
Miller was still staring at her, she sensed. "Nice try, Pal," she added disdainfully. "I got a boyfriend, OK?"
The other two laughed. Olivia risked another glance in the mirror and saw Miller scowling. "Fuck off," he muttered. She wasn't sure whether the epithet was directed to her or to his companions, but it didn't really matter. Unfortunately, the chatty mood seemed to have been broken; the men had all clammed up, silently contemplating the roadway as they drew near the water front.
Audio was still streaming in, and now Olivia had a moment to listen.
"Alpha 3, we have a visual," Houle alerted. "Smythe is clear."
"Suspect vehicle is-"
"We got a runner!" Elliot yelled. "Spread out - take the alley!"
The next thing Olivia heard were the sounds of both two detectives breathing hard, shouting "Freeze!" at someone who obviously wasn't freezing. Then there was nothing.
Following the glare of her headlights, Olivia's heart sped up. Up ahead on the walk, smiling and clutching a file folder to her chest, stood a familiar blonde figure. No . . . . Dispatch hadn't sent her there without giving Olivia a heads up, had they? Damn it, of course they had-the evidence was waving lightly at the cab, more a greeting than a hail.
Ignoring her, Olivia let the car cruise on by the stop.
"Hey!" Miller barked. "What are you doing?"
"You said 13."
"14," Miller said.
"Sorry," she said. "Thought you said 13." 13, Elliot, if you're there.
"Twenty-six ten," she said, striving to maintain her cover. Through the window, she spied a flash of red in the passenger-side mirror. No, stay there! Alex Cabot was unforgettable. If Miller saw her . . . .
The big man tossed Olivia two twenties. "Gimme a ten."
Olivia hurriedly pulled a ten out of her cash bag and handed it to him. Now get the hell out of here!
As he stepped out of the vehicle, a woman's voice carried over to them. "Hi, Charlie," Alex greeted him. "I haven't seen you since the Bar Convention."
"Alex?" he said uncomfortably.
All three men were standing beside the car. Get in the car, Alex, Olivia's instincts screamed at her. She unholstered her gun.
"Fuck!" Miller erupted. "I know her!" He spun around and looked at Olivia, whose face was no longer hidden as she looked out at them. "She's a fucking cop! It's a setup!"
Instinctively, Alex began to step back, but Charles Jefferson grasped her arm.
"What are you doing?" the ADA asked, bewildered.
Olivia burst out of the car, gun drawn.
"Sorry, Alex," he replied. He propelled her toward Miller, who shoved her head first into the back of the car. Leaning over her, he drew a gun from inside his jacket and pressed it against her head.
"No!" Olivia shouted. Yanking open the back door, she aimed her .38 at Miller and pulled the trigger. Two shots rang out almost simultaneously. Olivia's caught Miller in the forehead, propelling him backwards and out of the cab. The other-
What was the other shot?
Firing through the open door at the two remaining men scattering on the other side of the car, Olivia looked down to see darkness spreading across beautiful blonde hair. "Alex!" she yelled. There was no response from the ADA, who lay motionless on the back seat.
"Oh, Jesus!" Olivia screamed. "10-13! Shots fired! Shots fired!"
A moment later, the rational side of her brain alerted her to the fact that two men who were trying to kill them were no longer in her sight.
Did they both have guns?
Had they split up to come at her from both sides?
She had to get them away from the car.
She had to get Alex to a hospital.
From her kneeling position behind the rear tire, Olivia sprang to her feet and ran toward a ratty dumpster positioned across the roadway. The first bullet bounced harmlessly off the side of the metal bin. Soon afterward, both men were emptying barrels at her from the other side of the car.
"10-13! Shots fired!" Olivia yelled again into her mike. "Elliot? Houle? 10-13 - shots fired!" She wasn't more than 20 feet from her receiver; that must mean that the guys were.
Think, Olivia. Images of Alex lying hurt - not dead, not dead, not dead - in the back of the car flooded her brain. She needed to get Alex to the hospital. While she was hiding over here, Alex's blood was seeping into the leather surface that pillowed her head.
Bleeding. Not dead.
She recognized the sound of someone reloading. Crouching behind the dumpster, Olivia peered around the edge. Metal chips from a ricochet stung her skin as the men peppered her with shots, and she quickly pulled back. She had seen enough, though: No Neck gesturing that he would charge her while Shyster laid down covering fire.
Come get me, she urged him. She wanted him. She wanted them both.
Would he come at her from the right, or left? The shortest distance, probably. That meant left. Or the side that would put him at her back if she hadn't moved. That meant right.
One-two-fuck it! Olivia leapt out from the left side of the barrier, pulling the trigger while she ran. No Neck, caught halfway between the car and cover, stopped abruptly in his tracks as two, then three red splotches appeared on the front of his light blue shirt. He dropped to his knees, then pitched forward and lay still.
The shooting stopped as suddenly as it had begun. Olivia strode toward the cab, holding out her gun protectively while she eyed the man who had betrayed a woman that he knew, a fellow officer of the court. A twinge shot up from her calf as she walked, and she knew that if she looked, she would see a stream of red dripping past her ankle.
From behind the hood, Jefferson slowly got to his feet, raising his gun timidly above his head. She didn't have time for this. Alex could be dying. "Are you going to shoot me?" she asked.
He shook his head.
"Then you've got one second to drop it."
He hesitated, and Olivia pulled the trigger.
As he crumpled, the gun still clutched in his fingers and a stunned expression on his face, Olivia moved quickly to the cab and crawled into the back. "Alex," she said, straining to see her friend in the dark. Reaching out a hand, she drew it back immediately when she felt a sticky substance. "Oh, God." Tears filled her eyes. She laid two fingers against the other woman's throat. That was a pulse, wasn't it? As gently as she could, she pulled Alex the rest of the way into the car, then slammed the door shut and hurried around to close the other door, ignoring the dead men at her feet. "Hang on, Alex," she begged.
Olivia jumped into the front seat and switched on the ignition, laying on the accelerator. "Goddamn it," she said, gripping the steering wheel with both hands. "Goddamn it!" Leaving skid marks at the first corner, she floored it again. "Hang on, Alex," she said over her shoulder. "We're almost there." She wiped a tear from the corner of her eye with the back of her hand.
A masculine cry jolted her out of her revery. "Yeah!" Elliot gloated. "That prick's gonna sing soprano for a month."
"Where the fuck have you been!" Olivia lashed out at him, swerving around a slow-moving vehicle.
"You stupid motherfucker!" she said. "Where have you been, you stupid bastard?"
"Where were you?" she said again.
"We went after the serial," he said, mystified by her attack. "What's wrong?"
"They fucking shot her!"
"What?" he said in disbelief.
"I'm so fucking stupid!"
Her partner was alarmed now. "Olivia, is Alex with you?"
"They shot her." She sped around another corner and onto the four- lane, weaving between the cars in her way. Why hadn't the idiots thought to equip these cabs with portable sirens? "Good Hope's the closest, isn't it?" she said.
"Where are you?"
Midway down the next block, Olivia was relieved to see the bright lights of a huge hospital complex up ahead. She said over her shoulder, "We're here, Alex. We're here. Hang in there."
She slammed on the brakes outside the double doors of the Emergency Room. "Help me!" she yelled at a passing EMT, who hurried over to the car. Realizing what she had in the back seat, he ran back into the hospital for help.
"Alex," Olivia said, careful not to touch her friend. "You're gonna be fine. We caught him, Alex," she rambled on. "Elliot had to chase him to hell and back, so we'll be hearing about that forever. Everything's back to normal now, so you owe me a dinner, remember? I-"
The EMT burst through the double doors with half a dozen men and women in white behind him.
"You're gonna be OK now," Olivia said. She watched the hospital workers efficiently load Alex onto a wheeled gurney and laid a hand on the edge, but it was soon whisked away from her touch.
"Olivia, we're on our way to Good Hope. Are you there?"
Elliot. She had forgotten him. "Yeah," she said. The hurtful words she'd flung at her partner her best friend came back at her with nauseating clarity. "Elliot . . . ," she said. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it."
"I know," he said. "We're good."
"I love her," she blurted out. She had to explain.
No reply came.
She glanced back over her shoulder at the cab. Out of range.
"Has she regained consciousness?"
The question startled her. "What?" she asked.
The nurse repeated, "Has she regained consciousness?"
"I don't think so," Olivia replied. "I wasn't with her the whole time."
"Has she said anything?"
Filling in blanks as best she could, she followed the woman with pen and clipboard into the trauma unit, where sounds of controlled chaos reached her. "TGSW . . . fragments . . . possible ICH . . . ."
"No spontaneous eye response," a female voice reported. "What's her name?"
"Cabot," Olivia replied, raising her voice to be heard over the din. "Alex Cabot. She's an assistant district attorney."
"There we go," the intern praised Alex. "She knows that voice. Eye response to vocal stimulus. Localized motor response; no verbal response. GCS 9."
"I can work with that," the doctor said.
"BP 110 over 80 . . . CT scan ready . . . ."
And then they were wheeling Alex away again, leaving Olivia alone in the room that had been bustling with activity a minute earlier. The same nurse who had questioned her earlier laid a hand on her arm. "You can wait in there," she said kindly, pointing toward a room with card tables and a television. "The doctor will be in to see you as soon as he can." She paused. "You might feel better if you cleaned up a little."
Olivia looked down at her hands, which were coated with ugly splotches of dark red. Is that what she meant? It didn't matter, anyway. Why should she feel better? Alex wouldn't.
She was still sitting there when Elliot and Houle found her half an hour later. "Liv?" Elliot said. "How is she?"
Like she knew.
"What the hell happened?"
I may have killed Alex.
He accepted the non-answers for now. "Have you called anyone?"
Olivia shook her head.
"What's that?" This time, the voice was Houle's. He was pointing at a darkening patch on her pant leg and shoe.
"Nothing," she replied.
"Right," Elliot said. He rose and walked over to the nurse's station. When he returned, a senior nurse was with him.
"What have we got here?" she said.
"It's nothing," Olivia said again, a little irritated with her partner for pestering her. "It just grazed me."
"Then it won't take long to fix it up, will it?"
"Fine," she sighed. What else did she have to do, anyway?
One by one, Munch, Fin, Cragen, and, sporting a new look for her (hastily donned t-shirt and sweats), Liz Donnelly joined Olivia and Elliot as they awaited word. With a silent nod to Elliot, Houle excused himself from the group in which he was the sole outsider. Encouraged, prodded, and finally ordered by her captain, Olivia gave a sketchy account of how three people had ended up dead and another - the only one who mattered - fighting for her life because of her.
Perched on the arm of an overstuffed chair, she went over the events again in her mind. It was her fault that Alex was here instead of home in bed. Her stupidity. She should have hit the gas when she saw Alex standing there. It was so obvious now; why hadn't she seen it at the time?
At 4:10 a.m., Dr. Jeffrey Singh came in to announce that the patient had suffered a basal skull fracture and intracranial hemorrhaging, but they believed they had it under control. She had tolerated the debridement well and, if all went as planned, would awaken on her own within the next few hours. (And if she didn't? Olivia wondered.) Miss Cabot was fortunate, Singh added; the wound was tangential.
"He missed?" Munch asked.
"Well, not missed, exactly, but the bullet didn't penetrate her skull," the physician said. "That's why she's still with us."
"How do you miss at six inches?"
"Guess getting your head blown off throws off your aim," Fin mused.
The call from IAB came at a quarter til seven. Benson should be ready for an interview at 8 a.m., Cragen was advised. The hospital would make a room available.
"What the hell's their hurry?" Fin said, disgusted.
Cragen shrugged. "Dead lawyer."
"Shot by a cop," Munch added.
Olivia rose and headed down the hall toward the main entrance. She needed some air.
She was leaning against an unused bike rack when Elliot appeared at her side a few minutes later. "It was a good shoot," he said. "Don't worry about it."
"I'm not," she replied truthfully. Those three men could rot in hell, for all she cared. Probably would, if there was a hell.
"She'll be fine."
"I love her."
"I know." Elliot settled in beside her and casually eyed the visitors coming and going through the sliding doors of the hospital entrance. Neither spoke again until he looked at his watch long minutes later. "It's ten til eight," he said. "You want some time to put on your face?"
She laughed. "You know me so well."
"Well, at least wash it, anyway."
At 8:02 a.m., Olivia reluctantly shook hands with IAB investigator Paul Stoyavich and sat down at a small conference room table. Forty minutes later, she was talked out. It had now been - she checked her watch - nearly five hours since the doctor's update.
"And you're sure you've never met Charles Jefferson before," Stoyavich asked.
Not again. "I'm sure."
"As defense counsel in an SVU case, perhaps?"
"I said I'm sure," Olivia replied testily. "What do you think-I've been stalking the guy, waiting for my chance? Check the damn files if you don't believe me." Any further suggestions she had for him were silenced by the ringing of her cell phone. "It's Elliot," she told Cragen nervously.
"She's awake," her partner announced happily.
Oh, God. Olivia turned away from the others. "How is she?"
"A little spacy, but no more than Munch."
She smiled. "Can she talk?"
"Like a magpie," he replied. "Get your ass out here and see for yourself."
"Does she remember what happened?"
She hesitated. Alex had to blame her for this.
"Come on." Elliot lowered his voice. "You're the one she really wants to see, Liv. She flipped when she saw that you weren't with us. She thought you were hurt."
That stung. She didn't want Alex to be upset, especially not because of her.
"She needs to see you in the flesh," Elliot urged her.
"Cabot's awake?" It was Stoyavich.
Holding the phone to her ear, Olivia nodded.
"Good. I need a word with her."
What? "I don't think so."
Cragen held out a hand. "Easy, Olivia."
"It's in your best interests," Stoyavich began. "The-"
"I don't give a fuck," she interrupted. "She's in no condition for you to be going at her."
Thirty years earlier, he might have taken offense. Since then, he'd been called every name in the book. He could handle a woman who was worried about her friend. "Tell you what," he suggested. "Let's leave it up to her. If she thinks she's not up to it, I'm out of there."
Olivia started to protest, but he cut her off.
"I'm sure neither one of us wants to dictate to Miss Cabot what she can or can't do."
Trailed by Cragen, the two headed for ICU. As they neared the doorway to Alex's room, Stoyavich stepped out ahead of Olivia and turned around. "I'll let you know when she's available to meet with you."
"She's available to `meet with me' now," Olivia disagreed.
"Sorry, Detective," he said calmly. "Procedure."
"Fuck your procedure."
Stoyavich turned to the other man standing with them. "Captain Cragen, you don't see Detective Benson attempting to meet alone with an eyewitness before an IAB investigator has had a chance to interview her, do you?"
Cragen took Olivia gently by the arm and began to steer her away from the door. "No, I don't."
At the sound of Alex's voice, Olivia shook off the captain's friendly arm and stepped into the room, stopping abruptly at the sight of the frail-looking woman with white bandaging across one side of her head and an IV taped to her arm.
"Gorgeous, huh?" Alex smiled weakly.
"Always." The reply was sincere.
"You like the banged up look?" the attorney said. "I'll have to remember that."
"God, Alex," Olivia said. "I thought you were . . . ." She couldn't finish the sentence.
"The reports of my execution have been greatly exaggerated," Alex said dryly. "Who are you?" The question was directed at the stranger who had joined them.
"Ben Stoyavich, Internal Affairs Bureau."
She glanced at Olivia.
"I'd like about ten minutes of your time," he continued.
The ADA's gaze shifted from the cool IAB veteran to the infuriated SVU detective to the familiar peacemaker standing between them. Cragen nodded at her.
"All right," she said warily. "Don't disappear on me, Olivia."
"She won't." Cragen directed his detective toward the waiting room.
Stoyavich shut the door behind them, then turned back to Alex. "Detective Benson's guilt chip is in overdrive."
"Guilt?" Realizing what he meant, she sighed. "She blames herself." This was Olivia, after all.
"Of course not," Alex replied. "I should have known there was a problem when she drove past the stop. I wasn't thinking."
"If she'd kept on driving, you wouldn't be here."
She stared at him as though he had suddenly begun speaking in a foreign language. "If she'd kept on driving, they would have killed her," she pointed out.
"They almost killed you."
"But they didn't," she said. "She saved my life."
An indecipherable expression crossed his lips. "Interesting perspective."
Growing irritable, Alex asked him, "Do you have any specific questions?"
On the other side of the closed door, Olivia paced back and forth, checking her watch every thirty seconds or so. Finally, she reached for the knob and threw the door open. "Time's up," she declared.
Stoyavich wrestled with a response, but decided against it. He'd been in love once. "All yours," he said, walking to the door.
When he was gone, Olivia crossed the floor until she was standing beside the bed. "Hey," she greeted Alex.
After hours of desperation to see her friend, Olivia suddenly didn't know what to say. "Hey," she repeated, chiding herself for her inarticulateness.
Thankfully, the attorney let it go. "I hear you're considering a career change," she said.
Olivia grimaced. "Tell that to my bad back," she said. "I'm putting in for disability."
"Did you really chase a man down to get your fare?"
Thank you, Elliot. "Yeah, well . . . ."
"What would you have done if he hadn't had the money?"
"Beaten him to a pulp, maybe," Olivia cracked. "Or taken it out in trade."
Don't ask. Olivia hoped that the picture would become clear without any help from her, but Alex seemed to want an answer to her question.
"One service exchanged for another," she said delicately. She brought her hand to her zipper and pretended to draw it down.
"Oh," Alex said, following the motion of Olivia's hand. "I always thought that was an urban myth." She studied Olivia's face, which grew warmer under her scrutiny. "Did you get any of those offers?"
"One," Olivia remembered a little awkwardly.
"Illegal in 22 states," she said.
Alex laughed. "How could you resist that?"
"Want her number?"
Neither woman spoke for a moment as they subtly gauged each other's reaction to the notion that Olivia had been solicited for sex by another woman.
"I might," Alex finally said. "What was she willing to do?"
That was unexpected. "We hadn't gotten that far," Olivia fudged. Actually, they had ("Come back here and I'll go down on you like you've never had it, Baby"), but she had quickly nipped that particular exchange in the bud, trying unsuccessfully to shut down the ribald hooting from Munch and Fin in her ear.
From behind her, a rapping sound alerted her that the patient had a visitor. Two, actually: District Attorney Arthur Branch and his Chief Deputy DA.
"Are we interrupting?" Donnelly had the manners to ask.
"No," Olivia replied. Yes.
"Alexandra," Branch's deep tone addressed his subordinate.
"How are you feeling?" Donnelly asked.
"Ask me tomorrow," Alex said. "Right now I'm still on the good stuff."
Olivia guessed that the expression on Branch's face was supposed to be a friendly smile. "You were lucky," he said.
"Hardly," Donnelly said. "Do you think a bullet actually stood a chance against that hard head?" Her fond expression took any sting out of the words. "Sorry to drag business into it, Alex, but we need to go over some caseload issues for this week."
That was her cue for a graceful exit, Olivia figured. She began edging toward the door.
Noticing the movement, Alex ordered her, "Go take a shower and a nap."
"Sounds like a plan," Olivia agreed. "I'll be by to see you later." Spying Cragen standing beside her fellow SVU detectives, she approached him. "Cap," she said. "I'd like a couple of personal days."
He nodded. "You're on desk duty anyway until the IAB report comes in," he said. "Stay in touch."
"I'm not going anywhere." Literally. Once she got into some new clothes, she intended to plant herself in the room she had just vacated until either Alex or hospital staffers kicked her out.
"Just the person I was hoping to see," Alex said when a freshly scrubbed Olivia strolled into her room shortly before noon. "Wow."
"Nothing," Alex said. "That's just a great shirt."
Olivia glanced down at the plain white t-shirt tucked into her dark jeans. Head injury, she reminded herself.
Musical tones from over her shoulder drew Olivia's attention, and she turned her attention to the television for a moment. "Oh, my God, Alex," she exclaimed. "Is that . . . ?"
"Cop Rock," the ADA confirmed. "It's `Failed Experiments' week on Bravo, apparently."
"Oh, yeah?" Olivia said. "Did they have Munch's orange tie on there?"
Olivia tried to keep from cringing at the detective serenading his interrogation of a suspect. What would rhyme with `raped her'? "I can come back when this is over," she offered.
"Good grief, I'm not watching it," Alex said. "That's why I need you. I was channel surfing and the remote control slipped out of my hand."
"Sure it did," Olivia said. "I'm not here to judge you, Alex."
"Funny." The ADA pointed down at the floor. "Just give me the damn remote."
As if she could deny Alex anything. Getting down on her hands and knees, Olivia fished around beneath the bed for the elusive device. "Gotcha," she said, handing it to her friend.
"Thank you." Alex aimed the remote at the television and turned off the sound. "I was afraid the prosecutor was about to burst into song at the suppression hearing," she said. "If she did, I was going to break down and hit the Call button."
"Oh, come on," Olivia said, brushing dust off of both knees. "Haven't you ever been tempted to belt one out in Petrovsky's courtroom?"
"And end up in a cell?"
Olivia leaned over the side of the bed. "Again," she said, grinning.
"Thank you for your support." Alex narrowed her eyes at her. "If I were you, I'd be worrying about my next time on the stand. `Detective Benson, please identify the person who threatened you in the park, and do so in the key of F.'"
Chuckling at the threat, Olivia impulsively reached for her friend's hand. Alex laced their fingers together and squeezed. With her other hand, she changed to a local news channel, where the Department's spokeswoman and the Police Commissioner could be seen walking up to a podium.
"Is this going to bother you?" Alex said.
Oh, shit. Feeling a little uncomfortable with what they were about to see, Olivia started to pull away, but Alex tugged on her hand to keep her near. Together, they watched Johnson describe the events that Olivia had lived through twelve hours ago.
So far, there was nothing new. Gunshot residue and ballistics - 27 shell casings were recovered at the scene - confirmed that three suspects had opened fire on NYPD detective Olivia Benson and Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot. Detective Benson's use of lethal force was justified under the circumstances, an IAB investigation had concluded. Cabot received a gunshot wound to the head and was presently in stable condition at Good Hope Hospital, he announced grimly; Benson was shot once in the leg.
"You were shot?" Alex said.
"Nah," Olivia replied. "He's just puffing."
Then, suddenly, came the coup de gras: A handgun found in the possession of one of the suspects had been conclusively identified as the murder weapon in the death of DEA Agent Marc DeSantos three weeks earlier. The NYPD was pleased that, through the efforts of one of its detectives, it was able to bring closure to a fellow law enforcement organization.
We got one on the feds, Olivia translated. Trust Johnson to crow while an assistant district attorney lay in the hospital with fluids dripping into her vein.
She waited for Alex to speak. Whatever she expected her to say, it wasn't a simple, "I'm glad you're all right."
Didn't she have any questions? Elliot must have filled her in already. Still, there was one thing that needed to be said. "Alex," she said, "I am so"
"Please don't say it." Alex pressed the back of Olivia's hand against her cheek. "This wasn't your fault. It was Charlie Jefferson's fault, and Eldon Miller's fault, and whoever the third bastard was." She frowned. "I don't think that was a sentence."
Yes, concerns about Alex's grammar were weighing heavily on Olivia. "Close enough," she said.
Without releasing her grip on Olivia's hand, Alex nestled into her pillow and closed her eyes. "I'm sick of this bed already."
"You don't look sick of it," Olivia said.
A corner of Alex's mouth went up. "Looks can be deceiving."
"When do you get your walking papers?"
"Tomorrow, I hope. They are `monitoring the patient for signs of increasing intracranial pressure,'" Alex said. "It's just a precaution."
"They're checking to see if a lawyer has a swelled head?" Olivia joked. "How did Branch make it out of here?"
Alex opened one eye to look at her. "Am I sensing some deep-seated
hostility toward lawyers?" she said, closing it again.
"Not all lawyers," Olivia said. She played absently with Alex's
hand. "I like some of them."
Olivia pretended to think. "Scarry's not bad. Green. Cohen."
"All defense attorneys," Alex said suspiciously. "Are you a closet
"Not all defense counsel," Olivia said. "There are some I wouldn't
mind kneeing in the groin."
"Such as . . . ?"
She couldn't resist. "Langan."
"You don't like Trevor? Why didn't you tell me that before I went out with him?" Alex asked drowsily. "That would have saved me four hours of suicidal ideation."
"I didn't hate him at the time." Oh, hell. Olivia hoped that Alex
didn't pick up on what she had just admitted.
There wasn't much risk of that, she realized soon afterward Alex
had fallen asleep. Standing beside the bed, she held onto Alex's
hand until her own leg began tingling from the awkward angle.
Walking off the numbness, she wandered into the waiting room and
picked up some magazines to take back to Alex's room, where she
halfheartedly leafed through them.
By the end of the evening, she had skimmed the Newsweek and the Good
Housekeeping and the Sports Illustrated as Alex's medication caused
her to doze off periodically (nothing to worry about, according to
the nurse who answered Olivia's call the second time it happened).
Olivia had given up the pretense of focusing on anything other than
her friend, who, in the course of a long day, had become something
After years of dancing around it, The Big Issue had been thrown wide
open finally thanks to the natural progression of conversation
between two people confined in a room together for hours.
Light office gossip ("No, that was Phillips' third wife") had
transitioned to amusing tales of their first days on the job, and
from there to a discussion of the choices that ultimately had led
each woman to SVU. While Alex caressed the detective's hand in
sympathy for her tale, Olivia was picturing an adorable blonde girl
in pigtails turning the pages of a cheap Erle Stanley Gardner
"I read my first Perry Mason book and had my first kiss the same
summer," Alex reminisced.
"Now you're talkin'," Olivia said. "Let's hear it."
"Well, Perry's client was accused of-"
"Yeah, yeah," Olivia interrupted. "I want the smooch. Who, when,
where, and did you like it?"
Tommy Duncan, two months after her twelfth birthday, behind the back
yard fence, and yeah, it was OK. Her next kiss, Alex volunteered,
came twenty seconds later.
"That Tommy was a real charmer, huh?" Olivia said.
"Tammy, actually," Alex said. "His twin sister." At Olivia's
intrigued look, she smirked. "Twelve years old, behind the back
yard fence, and yes, I liked it. The next time I went behind the
fence, I took Tammy with me and left Tommy on the swings."
"That would have been my choice, too," Olivia said. The two women
smiled knowingly at each other.
It was the other side of midnight now, but Olivia wasn't tired. If
anything, she was wired, wondering with child-like anticipation
whether she would be able to sleep at all before tomorrow morning.
Tomorrow, the day her life would change.
She tossed the unread People on the floor with the others.
Actually, the change had come today, she realized. She had learned
what it was like to spend a day with Alex Cabot talking about
something other than violence and warrants and DNA. It was
addictive. This would be the first of many such days together, she
vowed, beginning tomorrow, when she had agreed to give the ADA a
"I don't have any cash on me," Alex had said unexpectedly.
"Don't worry about that; I've got plenty," Olivia assured her. "Did
you want to stop somewhere on the way?"
"I just know how you are about getting your money. . . ."
It took the detective a moment to place the reference, and then she
smiled. "No money, huh?" she said. "Well, that leaves me only two
"I was afraid of that," Alex said. She held Olivia's gaze. "I
really don't want to be beaten to a pulp."
A trade it was, then . . . .
When Alex was recovered, of course. Olivia walked over and gazed
down at the woman she loved. Until then, she would be content with
Alex opened one eye to look at her. "Am I sensing some deep-seated hostility toward lawyers?" she said, closing it again.
"Not all lawyers," Olivia said. She played absently with Alex's hand. "I like some of them."
Olivia pretended to think. "Scarry's not bad. Green. Cohen."
"All defense attorneys," Alex said suspiciously. "Are you a closet defense-counsel groupie?"
"Not all defense counsel," Olivia said. "There are some I wouldn't mind kneeing in the groin."
"Such as . . . ?"
She couldn't resist. "Langan."
"You don't like Trevor? Why didn't you tell me that before I went out with him?" Alex asked drowsily. "That would have saved me four hours of suicidal ideation."
"I didn't hate him at the time." Oh, hell. Olivia hoped that Alex didn't pick up on what she had just admitted.
There wasn't much risk of that, she realized soon afterward Alex had fallen asleep. Standing beside the bed, she held onto Alex's hand until her own leg began tingling from the awkward angle. Walking off the numbness, she wandered into the waiting room and picked up some magazines to take back to Alex's room, where she halfheartedly leafed through them.
By the end of the evening, she had skimmed the Newsweek and the Good Housekeeping and the Sports Illustrated as Alex's medication caused her to doze off periodically (nothing to worry about, according to the nurse who answered Olivia's call the second time it happened). Olivia had given up the pretense of focusing on anything other than her friend, who, in the course of a long day, had become something more.
After years of dancing around it, The Big Issue had been thrown wide open finally thanks to the natural progression of conversation between two people confined in a room together for hours.
Light office gossip ("No, that was Phillips' third wife") had transitioned to amusing tales of their first days on the job, and from there to a discussion of the choices that ultimately had led each woman to SVU. While Alex caressed the detective's hand in sympathy for her tale, Olivia was picturing an adorable blonde girl in pigtails turning the pages of a cheap Erle Stanley Gardner paperback.
"I read my first Perry Mason book and had my first kiss the same summer," Alex reminisced.
"Now you're talkin'," Olivia said. "Let's hear it."
"Well, Perry's client was accused of-"
"Yeah, yeah," Olivia interrupted. "I want the smooch. Who, when, where, and did you like it?"
Tommy Duncan, two months after her twelfth birthday, behind the back yard fence, and yeah, it was OK. Her next kiss, Alex volunteered, came twenty seconds later.
"That Tommy was a real charmer, huh?" Olivia said.
"Tammy, actually," Alex said. "His twin sister." At Olivia's intrigued look, she smirked. "Twelve years old, behind the back yard fence, and yes, I liked it. The next time I went behind the fence, I took Tammy with me and left Tommy on the swings."
"That would have been my choice, too," Olivia said. The two women smiled knowingly at each other.
It was the other side of midnight now, but Olivia wasn't tired. If anything, she was wired, wondering with child-like anticipation whether she would be able to sleep at all before tomorrow morning. Tomorrow, the day her life would change.
She tossed the unread People on the floor with the others. Actually, the change had come today, she realized. She had learned what it was like to spend a day with Alex Cabot talking about something other than violence and warrants and DNA. It was addictive. This would be the first of many such days together, she vowed, beginning tomorrow, when she had agreed to give the ADA a ride home.
"I don't have any cash on me," Alex had said unexpectedly.
"Don't worry about that; I've got plenty," Olivia assured her. "Did you want to stop somewhere on the way?"
"I just know how you are about getting your money. . . ."
It took the detective a moment to place the reference, and then she smiled. "No money, huh?" she said. "Well, that leaves me only two choices."
"I was afraid of that," Alex said. She held Olivia's gaze. "I really don't want to be beaten to a pulp."
A trade it was, then . . . .
When Alex was recovered, of course. Olivia walked over and gazed down at the woman she loved. Until then, she would be content with this.
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