In some twisted, dark, fucked up place in her head, she’s actually surprised it took this long.
The apartment had been updated since, of course. new counters, new paint, new floors. The breakfast bar is a kitchen island now, easier to move around, and the bathroom has new fixtures. Absently, and in a place within her that is cavernous and hollow and echoing at the moment, she wonders if all the apartments in the building had been redone in the years since, or if it’s just this one. After him, after. It had needed work after the destruction - maybe the owner had only redone this one in order to rent it.
Then again, in Manhattan, an apartment that had once been a torturous dungeon would rent in hours if the price was right.
She knows there are people watching her at the moment. Truthfully every single person in here right now is watching her. Maybe they aren’t openly staring or gawking, but they are definitely side eyeing her. Fin and Amanda are only steps away from her at all times, and they too are hovering, she can practically feel Fin’s breaths, heavy and weighted, and she hopes he is okay.
He will have to hold it together.
Olivia can’t help anyone but herself and their vic right now. Their vic is a forty-one-year-old nurse from Mercy, divorced, no kids, no debt, a random woman who had unknowingly walked into a pending nightmare when she had rented this place two years ago. Their innocent vic, who had come home and ordered some food, who had let the delivery guy up past the buzzer system that was exactly nine years old. She’d opened the door, and now the poor woman’s life - if she was still alive somewhere - would never be the same.
The apartment smells putrid, and the hauntingly familiar scent slips into her lungs, nearly searing her from the inside out. Everyone is talking, there’s a heady buzz in the room and it’s unerringly close to what it would have been a lifetime ago. It’s the techs and uni’s, her squad, the sound of people coordinating evidence and videos, taking photos, and combing through the disaster of Laura Parker’s struggle. It hadn’t been much of a struggle if she’s being fair. The vic had been adept at saving lives, not defending them, she wasn’t a fighter, and the destruction that Olivia had left in this place years ago is not evident now.
But she imagines this apartment was similarly busy back then. When they’d come in, discovered Olivia was missing, it would have played out like this. It’s an out of body experience to be on the other side this time, to be the hunter and not the hunted, to visually be privy to what must have been happening in those first hours after they’d realized she’d been gone. They all have so much purpose in this room right now, a determination and conviction that they can save their vic. But the truth is, part of their vic has already died. Part of their vic took her last breaths when she’d been burned by the keys and hangers left in the kitchen. Part of their vic had died when she’d ingested the vodka that came from the empty bottle on the floor. Part of their vic had died when she’d felt the bastard’s weight on her on the bed, a place where she had fought, because the sheets are tugged off and now bagged.
The difference in this case is that Laura Parker has only been gone since last night - it had been less than twelve hours before she had been missed, not days. Laura Parker has a frantic doctor boyfriend who hasn’t been able to reach her, a terrified sister who is making her way to the 1-6, a job that had needed her a few hours ago. Laura Parker’s world had imploded almost immediately without her actively in it, and that is where this monster had miscalculated.
Laura Parker is not Olivia Benson.
Enjoy the trip down memory lane.
It’s a typed, clean, and simple note that had been left on the counter. The music had been left on, Peggy Lee’s Ain’t We Got Fun playing just above a whisper on repeat, a macabre backdrop to the disheveled paintings on the wall, the blood on the area rug, the ashtray full of half-used cigarettes, ones that hadn’t likely been smoked, but instead had been weaponized, used as a threat and a consequence.
Realistically, in her bones, Olivia knows Lewis is dead. She’d felt him disintegrate into her hair and onto her skin, the spray of his death had stained her clothes and her mind. This is someone else coming for her, someone else who wants her to pay for something she’s done along the way to wrong him. Revenge tactics against an arresting cop aren’t unusual, it isn’t even the first or second time some perp has wanted her attention. But the extent of this detailed mimicry, it’s not meant to upset Olivia, it’s meant to destroy her.
She jerks at the sound of Fin’s voice.
He’s barely a foot behind her, and the way his eyes have been unerringly focused on her is unsettling. It’s too much, they can’t make her the vic again via their concern and hushed voices. There is a fine line between feeling someone’s compassion and pity and right now she’s not sure where that line is within her.
Whatever he has to say, whatever concern he’s got, she has to kill it. She can’t give McGrath or 1PP the slightest opportunity to pull her when this is about her. “Get Velasco and Muncy on my old case files, any old threats, pull the name. Any perps recently released, last six months. Cameras in the three-block radius, I want all that footage. They’ve got cameras here, too, but he must have known that so by the time he got here, he’d be keeping his head down or disguised. I need Rollins to give a heads up to everyone around Laura, put a detail on her boyfriend, her family, anyone who might be a secondary target.”
“Liv -“ Fin tries again, setting a hand on her shoulder.
Olivia flinches out of his grasp and doesn’t turn around. No one can touch her; they can’t know she’s shaking. Her triggers won’t play out in front of her squad - if she’s going to crumble, she will do it on her own, after they find Laura, maybe then she will fall apart in Lindstrom’s office. But it won’t be here, it won’t be now.
Not in front of anyone.
“I need you to set up patrol on every single location from the last time.” From every place Lewis took me. “Especially the beach house. Put unmarked’s on that road and if there is anyone living there, get ‘em out now.” She knows there is an older couple living there, she’s watched the property change hands three times over the years, but she can’t tell anyone that, they can’t know that her digging is still so focused, this many years later.
Fin doesn’t move. When Olivia finally turns to glare at him, she sees the way his eyes have gone soft. This isn’t just sympathy for her, there is something else, something he doesn’t want to tell her.
“Just say it,” she bites off.
He looks away for a second and then lowers his voice. “There’s a lotta press outside already. Musta heard it on the scanner.”
She doesn’t care. The vultures always descend. A pretty nurse from Manhattan abducted by a stranger is going to make headlines, she knows the heat will come down from the brass soon enough.
“Tell her family not to speak to the press. Radio silen-“
“They’ve made the connection already, Liv.”
That sends her pulse skyrocketing. Her skin feels damp, her heart is beating unevenly. “How the hell did they get the details of what we found up here?”
Fin just shakes her head. “They don’t have that yet. But the address was flagged. They’re already talking about it on social, about how this place is cursed. They’re bringing up your case, your ordeal…”
203 West 89th.
She’d heard how the press had camped out in front of this building the last time. People had left candles on the doorstep outside for God’s sake, thinking ‘that poor lady cop was probably dead.’ Some of the victims she’d helped over the years, they’d taken up vigil. Even after she’d been rescued, the onlookers had come by for weeks, and she had stayed away both for her physical and mental health.
Olivia hadn’t truly come back inside this place for months after, and even then, she’d thrown almost everything away or donated it.
Cursed, yeah, this place was fucking cursed. It’s Satan’s den at this point.
She’s so unsteady that she has to grip Fin’s forearm. The magnitude of what is about to unfold slams into her now, maybe for the first time. She’d sent a car to sit on Noah’s school as soon as this address had come through, but she knows the bastard is replicating an old trauma, not trying to deviate from Lewis’s horrific roadmap.
She’d been so clinically detached, so emotionally locked down, so perfunctory after she’d heard the address that she hadn’t considered the numbing rest of it. “Get Noah out of school, now.” Olivia can’t breathe, she needs some fucking water, something cold in her throat before it closes. “Call Lucy, she’ll take him to Rollins’ apartment. Put a detail on their place. Now, Fin.”
But Fin doesn’t move, he’s still staring at her, almost like he feels sorry for her. “And what about Stabler?”
That’s when she feels Fin’s hands grip her arms, guiding her back towards the wall near the front door. She must have swayed, must have closed her eyes, must have almost blacked out because it’s all dark for a moment. Jesus. Not like this.
“Call Ayanna,” she rasps.
The wall firmly at her back, Olivia stands there for long moments, even after she feels the air shift as Fin leaves and Amanda slips in to take his place. “I’m gonna get you some water,” she hears her say softly.
The water isn’t going to douse the flames of hell that are about to burn everything around her, but Olivia nods anyway.
Elliot, she thinks. He’s probably heard by now.
And if he’s heard, then the shit storm is on its way, and it won’t be long now until the real destruction is right in front of her.
Dad, please call me.
He’s exhausted, and though it’s not even noon, he’s been up for eight hours already. They have a guy running cash for the Lombardo’s that was supposed to move before dawn today, but the intel was bad, and he’d been pulled from watching the drop point. He hadn’t shaved before he’d last left the loft, and he feels like shit from sitting in the truck half the night and morning. He wants a shave and a shower, and maybe a new shirt.
Elliot juggles his coffee, the bag of bagels and his keys, and he tells himself that the politeness in Kathleen’s text means she isn’t in immediate danger. He’s at his front door now, he’ll call her as soon as he can set all of this shit down inside.
Only someone inside of his place must have heard him because the door whips open.
It’s Kathleen, and her face is ashen, her eyes wide. “You know already, right?”
Now he’s worried.
She’s panicking, and she’s usually the one in full control. Catastrophes don’t rock her; she’s been through enough of her own. Only now she is tracking him as he walks into his place, and he is trying to keep himself calm against whatever storm is brewing. Eli is sitting on one of the stools in the kitchen, inexplicably home from school and watching him warily.
His gut is churning. It’s a sucking whirlpool within him, and he can’t let his kids see him panic.
“Why the hell aren’t you in school?” he directs at his son, setting down the food and his coffee on the counter. He doesn’t give Eli a chance to answer. His mother isn’t here so he whirls on Kathleen. “What’s going on? Where is your grandmother?”
Kathleen’s eyes water, and she tilts her head as if apologizing. “She went to LBI with Mo and the boys for the weekend. Dad, you saw the news, right?”
Elliot grits his jaw. He doesn’t like games or puzzles or vague innuendos. He just needs everyone to get to the point, but he can’t snap at his kids. He can’t get frustrated with them for no damned reason anymore. Nothing in his life is their fault, and there’s no buffer between him and them anymore now that their mother is gone. If he fucks up with them, there’s no one to clean up his mess.
“No,” he tells his daughter carefully. “I’ve been working.”
At that, Eli grabs a bagel from the bag, and he silently and swiftly removes himself from the room, clutching his phone and closing his bedroom door hard behind him as he shuts himself in.
Christ. His kid is removing himself from an emotional blast radius, and that’s fucked up on so many levels.
Kathleen doesn’t even acknowledge her brother leaving. She’s intently focused on Elliot right now, nearly crying. “Mom told you right? She said she would, that it wasn’t our place. You were gone for those weeks, when you were in Malta, but she said -“
He’s really fucking worried now. He can feel his blood pressure soaring, can feel his daughters panic lock itself in his chest. “Kathleen,” he takes a step forward to touch her shoulder, to settle her. “Katie, take a breath. Tell me what?”
His vision narrows into pinpricks, and whatever it is, it’s a pending hurricane. He can feel the barometer around him drop, can feel the coming storm looming around him. “What about Olivia? Is she all right? Did she call you?”
Shit. He isn’t calm at all. Just the mention of a Olivia’s name combined with his daughters tears and he’s ready to destroy something. Nothing makes sense.
“She’s fine, I think. I mean I don’t know how she’s taking it, or what this will do to her, but none of us ever talked about it. Mom said you didn’t stay in touch with Olivia, but that she’d tell you.” Kathleen is just spewing words, one after the other, a confession and an apology all at once. “She said she’d tell you when you got back. She was worried you wouldn’t stay safe on that assignment if you were worried about Liv. Only you didn’t come back for weeks, and by then they’d found Liv, but she told you later, right? I mean, you know. Right?”
His daughter is operating at warp speed, but his world has slowed down to a nightmarish crawl. It’s nothingness around him. Just phrases and bits of a story that are ominous at best. By then they’d found Liv. “Kathleen, what are you talking about?”
His daughters stricken blue eyes fill with tears and spill, and she almost stomps her foot in anger and indignation. “How could she? How could mom not tell you?” Her disappointing heartbreak is evident. She’s wearing her guilt for being mad at a mother who wasn’t here - her ache for whatever horror she knows she’s about to spill - in her contorted expression.
And just by that Elliot knows it’s bad. Whatever it is, it’s grotesque.
“Tell me, baby. It’s okay, just tell me.” Nothing is okay, but he will rub his child’s arm, he will soothe her and absolve whatever omission Kathy had made, because he only cares about what he needs to know now.
“Did Olivia tell you about William Lewis?” Kathleen is whispering now, in agony, blinking back tears that fall anyway. It’s sadness that is warring within her now, compassion and sympathy. It’s sympathy for him.
No, she’s worried for him. And she’s in her own pain. Christ, there’s a pain in his child about Olivia that he knows absolutely nothing about.
He knows his world is about to change. It’s that big, it’s that heavy. That storm grows closer, the thunder of it trapped in his chest. He pushes forward anyway because there is no turning back now.
He shakes his head. “Who is William Lewis?”
The question instantly shatters his daughter. She launches at him, arms wrapping around his neck as she pulls him to her. “I’m so sorry, Dad. I’m so sorry. I should have told you. I figured Mom would tell you, or Liv would call you, she would have needed you and -“ She’s clutching him tight. “Someone is trying to fuck with Liv, I just know it. The woman who rented Liv’s old apartment, someone kidnapped her, it’s all over the news.”
He’s holding his daughter and he can barely hear anything anymore.
His world has fallen, it’s off its axis now. He hasn’t seen the news; he’s only getting things in bits and pieces. He closes his eyes, something white hot coming at him.
His daughter doesn’t know that he’s splintering already, she’s too caught up in her worry, her confession, her grief for everyone. “Someone kidnapped that woman, just like that monster took Liv,” Kathleen whimpers. “I can’t imagine what Liv is going through. It was days, Dad. I don’t know how she survived it then, and the guy is dead, the second time he finally died, so who could be doing this now?”
The storm arrives, and it’s not a hurricane but a tornado, the black winds of it tearing his world down.
It was days, rings in his head.
He doesn’t have the pieces to understand, but something within him dies anyway, a survival tactic for what he’s about to discover ahead.