An Eye for an Eye
Written December 2003
Synopsis: An attack on Olivia’s life sends her to the hospital and Elliot on a hunt to find the man who shot her.
Disclaimer: The characters you recognize are property of Wolf Films and Universal Television. No infringement is intended. Some of the characters and situations are my own.
East 40th Street
“What time is it?”
Elliot Stabler glanced at his watch. “Quarter til twelve.” A sigh escaped his partner’s lips, and he chuckled. “What’s the matter, Liv? Afraid you’ll turn into a pumpkin at midnight?”
“No, I’m helping out at that youth basketball tournament tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, right, your date with Munch.”
The look Olivia Benson gave him was emphasized by a punch on the shoulder. “It’s not a date. It’s just us agreeing to be at the same place at the same time for the same purpose.”
“And in the same cab.”
Olivia glared at him playfully. Elliot laughed again, turning toward his apartment building and climbing the few steps to the entrance. He was about to reach for his key when someone opened the door. He looked up. “Hey, Randy, thanks.”
Randy Moore had lived across the hall for the past two months, but their occasional outings to Yankee Stadium had made them fast friends. “You’re getting back late, Elliot. You’re not keeping him out past his bed time, are you, Olivia?”
She smiled. “Quite the contrary.”
“Hey,” Elliot protested, “it was your idea to eat dinner after Shakespeare in the Park.”
“Iambic pentameter makes me hungry.”
Randy chuckled. “It usually just makes me sleepy. Can’t afford that, not since I’ve started working the graveyard shift over at the Hilton.”
“How’s that working out for you?” Olivia asked.
“Can’t complain. Right in the heart of Times Square, and they pay me well. But not if I’m late.” He waved over his shoulder and started off down the street.
“Bye,” they called out, heading inside and up the stairs to the second floor.
“So why are you dragging me up here again?” Olivia asked, glancing at the door to Randy’s apartment while Elliot unlocked the door to his own. “It’s late.”
“Well, Lizzie would kill me if I forgot.”
“Lizzie?” The mention of one of his twin children made her frown, and she followed him inside.
“Yeah, Lizzie.” He crossed the room to his kitchenette and pulled a vanilla-colored orchid out of a vase. “She told me that I should get you a flower because ‘that’s what guys are supposed to do for girls.’ Her words exactly. And I remember you said something about orchids, so … here you go.”
He handed her the flower, and she took it with a chuckle. “Yeah, that’s what guys are supposed to do for girls, but I thought you standing in line for three hours for tickets to see ‘Henry V’ was acceptable. Thanks, Elliot.”
He bowed slightly. “You’re welcome. Make yourself at home, I’ll call you a cab.”
I’ll have to remember to thank Lizzie, Olivia thought as she headed downstairs to the waiting taxi. Elliot had changed since his divorce, and in this case, change was good. Even though three of the children still lived with Kathy, they were free to visit their father whenever they wanted, and he saw them more often than he did when they all lived under the same roof. They didn’t seem to resent their parents’ decision, and Olivia was glad; the hardest part about his divorce, Elliot had told her, was the thought of losing his children. Now that the papers were signed and the legal fees had been paid, it was almost as if he was an entirely different person. Calmer, more relaxed. She smiled to herself and smelled the flower in her hand. And a whole lot more thoughtful!
Olivia opened the door and headed outside. She crossed the sidewalk, her arm already reaching for the door handle. “Hey, Olivia!” She recognized the voice and turned toward it, smiling.
Then she saw the gun.
The reverberations of the gunshot startled him. It sounded much too close, almost as if it was right outside. Elliot went to the window and threw aside the curtain. “Oh, my God.” He raced out of his apartment and down the stairs, taking two at a time, tripping at the bottom and almost falling to the ground. “Olivia!” He thrust open the door that led outside and jumped over the steps, breaking into a run when his feet hit the concrete. “Olivia!” Elliot dropped to his knees beside her, lifting her head off the sidewalk. He pushed his other hand against the wound on her chest. The blood gushed between his fingers. Her brown eyes were half-opened, but he wasn’t sure if she could see him. “Oh, God. Olivia! Talk to me, Liv.”
“What can I do?” the cab driver asked, kneeling beside them.
“Call an ambulance,” Elliot answered harshly. The veins in Olivia’s neck were bulging out. Stay calm, Stabler.
“I did! They’re on their way.”
Her eyes dropped to a close. “Olivia, don’t you die on me. Come on, Liv, stay with me.” He looked quickly at the cab driver. “Do you have a first aid kit in there? Get a bandage, a towel, anything. We need to put pressure on the wound.” When the man returned with a ladies scarf, he snatched it from him and pushed it against Olivia’s chest. His eyes fell on the orchid he had given her. The flower, once cream-colored, was now stained crimson. “Hold on, Liv,” he whispered quietly. “Hold on.”
Bellevue Hospital Center
462 First Avenue
Sunday, July 13
Elliot paced in the waiting room, boring holes into the linoleum. When he got tired of walking, he sat in a chair and put his head in his hands. Then he was up and pacing again. The ambulance attendants didn’t give him the opportunity to ride along; he had heard one of them say something about her heart as they loaded her into the back of the bus. The cab driver who had been at the scene drove him to Bellevue Hospital, where they were taking Olivia. It wasn’t the closest emergency facility, but it was one of the best in the world. Now no one would tell him anything, except that she was in surgery. He continued to walk around the room. Waiting.
“Elliot.” John Munch walked over to him, followed by his partner Fin Tutuola. “We heard about Olivia.” He didn’t answer, and Munch looked at his partner. “Fin, go get us some coffee.” Fin rolled his eyes and walked off, muttering something about being a waitress. “What happened?”
Elliot sat down beside Munch. “She was shot. I don’t know. I don’t–” He stood again. “–know. One minute she was in my apartment and the next she was bleeding to death. I don’t know.”
“Did you see anybody?”
“I told you, I don’t know.”
Munch leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers. “Okay, man. It’s just standard protocol, you know that. Ask the witnesses what happened, what they saw.”
Elliot nodded, finally sitting back down. “I’m sorry. I just–” He sighed. “It’s Olivia in there.”
Fin returned with two styrofoam cups. He handed one to Elliot. “Here you go.”
“Where’s mine?” Munch asked.
“Go get your own.” He sipped his beverage. “Let’s start at the beginning and work from there. What did you guys do yesterday?”
“I took her to Shakespeare in the Park. Sort of a thank you for hanging around with me and the kids a few weekends ago. I spent three hours in line to get tickets.” He half-smiled at the memory.
“Never pegged Olivia as a fan of Shakespeare,” Munch said.
“Me neither, but she really enjoyed it. We were going to have dinner somewhere, but we decided to walk through the park instead. We got hot dogs from one of the vendors. Then the show started at eight. When it was over, Olivia suggested we have dinner at this twenty-four hour Chinese place she likes. We got back close to midnight.”
“Anyone follow you?” Fin asked.
“Did you talk to the cab driver?”
“There wasn’t any time.”
“Do you know which company it was?” Munch asked, pulling out a small notepad.
“Cab International.” Elliot shook his head and rose. “I should’ve walked her outside.”
“Then you would’ve been shot, too,” Fin said. “It’s not your fault. Perp probably took her by surprise.”
“Was anything missing?” Munch asked. “Her wallet, anything like that?”
“I don’t think so. I heard the gunshot and ran to the window. He would’ve still been there if he was mugging her, but I didn’t see anyone but the driver.” He frowned deeply. If the person who shot her wasn’t a robber, then why bother shooting her at all? He glanced at Munch and Fin. The looks on their faces betrayed their objectivity; they were thinking the same thing. Munch’s ringing cell phone interrupted their silence, and he answered it.
“Detective Stabler?” A man in blue scrubs entered the waiting area. “I’m Doctor Page.”
“How is she?” Elliot asked, practically cornering the doctor. “Will she be all right?”
“She got here just in time. Her blood pressure was only 90 over 70 and her neck veins were enlarged. Those were the first signs that we were dealing with a cardiac tamponade.”
“The pericardial sac surrounding the heart wasn’t working properly because it was filled with blood. We drained it during surgery. She’ll likely make a full recovery.”
Elliot sighed and collapsed in the nearest chair. “Can I see her?”
Page shook his head. “She’s drifting in and out of consciousness, and we need to keep her vitals stable. Since we’re keeping her in CCU for the cardiac tamponade, we’re also going to put her under observation for her head injury. Her GCS was eleven when the paramedics brought her in. We suspect a mild to moderate occipital concussion, probably from when she hit her head on the pavement.” When no one spoke, he excused himself and left the room.
“The captain called,” Munch said, snapping his cell phone shut. “The cab driver’s waiting for us over at the station.”
Special Victims Unit
Sunday, July 13
“Tell us about last night.” Fin eyed the driver, Bhim Kumar, who sat hunched over in a chair, head in his hands.
“Everything was fine when I got there. She came out of the building and walked toward the car. I started up the meter. Then I heard a man say her name. Then there was a gunshot.”
“He knew her name?” Fin asked, glancing over at Elliot who was patrolling the perimeter of the room.
“He knew her. I could tell by the way he called out to her. Very familiar.”
“Did you get a look at the guy who did this?” he continued.
Kumar shook his head. “When I saw the woman on the ground, I got on the radio and called for an ambulance. Is she going to be okay?”
“Can you remember anything else, no matter how insignificant it might seem?”
“No. I’m so sorry. I want to help, but I didn’t see anything. I feel so terrible. I should have watched her get in the car.”
Elliot walked over to the table where Kumar was seated and leaned toward him. “So what you’re saying is that you don’t know anything because you weren’t paying attention.”
His eyes darted between Fin’s face and Elliot’s. “S–sometimes lovers kiss, they grope, and that’s none of my business.”
“She walked out alone, you said it yourself. Pretty woman like that and you didn’t even look at her?”
“I have a wife, two children. They came with me from India. I’m not interested in American women.” Elliot leaned closer, and Kumar backed away, whimpering. “I would never betray my family!”
“Well, she’s my family,” Elliot said, his voice low and level, “and you betrayed her.”
Fin jerked his head toward the door. “Thank you for your help, Mr. Kumar. If you think of anything else, give us a call.” Kumar jumped out of his chair, nearly tipping it over, and darted out of the room. “You know, next time you want to play good cop/bad cop with our only witness–”
“He’s not our only witness.” Elliot straightened and looked at Fin. “Olivia knows who did this to her.”
“And like the doc said, she’s unconscious. So until we can interview her, take it easy.”
“Take it easy? My partner was almost killed and you want me to take it easy?” His eyes darkened with anger. “Go to hell.” He pushed past him, bumping his shoulder, and threw open the door.
Captain Don Cragen stood in the doorway, face blank, posture solid. “My office.” Without a word, Elliot followed him.
“You know, Bhim Kumar came to the station on his own.” Cragen closed the door to his office and went to his side of the desk, sitting in the chair. “He wanted to help.”
Elliot threw his hands up. “He didn’t have any information.”
“And it’s a good thing too because I saw your little interrogation in there. Harassment of a volunteer witness?”
“I know that tension is a little high today. Our unit has suffered a terrible loss. So I’m going to turn a blind eye this time. You do it again, I won’t be so lenient.” He picked up a file folder on his desk and began reading a report. Elliot didn’t move. Head down, he said, “You’re excused, Detective.”
There was a pause. “When Kathy served me with divorce papers, I thought my life was over. Nearly twenty years of marriage, and then she just didn’t love me anymore. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even remember life before Kathy and the kids.” Elliot sighed, the weariness evident on his face. “Somehow, I ended up at Olivia’s apartment, and it was like she knew exactly what happened. Through the whole ordeal, she stayed by my side and supported me. I slept on her couch for two months until I could find my own apartment and not once did she ever complain. I don’t know what I would’ve done if it hadn’t been for her.”
“Look, Elliot … why don’t you take some time off? Maybe go see your kids–”
“It’s not my kids I’m worried about, it’s Olivia. Someone tried to kill her, and I need to find out who. I owe her that much.”
Elliot sat behind his partner’s desk, looking at the photographs lining the edge. Olivia and her mother, Olivia’s grandmother and two dogs, Olivia and the gang at last year’s holiday party, Olivia and him. He picked up the last photograph and sighed.
“Huang, my man, what’s up?”
Elliot lifted his head at the sound of Fin’s voice to see the young forensic psychologist enter the squad room. “George.”
“I just heard about Olivia. What happened?”
“Perp shot her outside of Elliot’s apartment,” Fin answered.
“Not likely,” Elliot said. “Cab driver said he heard a man call out her name in a familiar manner.”
“So it was personal.” Huang paused in thought. “If he knew Olivia’s name, maybe she knew him.”
“He coulda seen her on TV or in the paper, developed some sort of fixation,” Fin said, folding his arms across his chest. “She and Stabler were getting a healthy dose of culture at Shakespeare in the Park that evening, so he would’ve had to have known they were together.”
“Elliot, where on her body was Olivia shot?”
He gestured to a spot near his sternum. “Near the heart. Why?”
“And what do you do when someone calls your name?”
“I look at them.”
“By turning your head. You check to see if you know them. And if you do, you turn your body.” He carried out the actions as he said them. “It’s open, familiar body language.”
“So she was facing him, which means she probably recognized him?” Elliot shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“You’ve been partners with Olivia since I started helping out at Special Victims. Can you think of anyone who would want to kill her?”
He laughed wryly. “Yeah, hundreds.”
“I don’t necessarily mean criminals. It’s the familiarity thing again. She knew her attacker. The open body language is used with friends, neighbors, co-workers. I don’t think she would physically ‘open’ herself to someone she put behind bars.”
“The case is cold, Doc,” Fin said. “We got no witnesses, no evidence. The only person who can identify the perp is Olivia herself.”
Munch entered the bullpen. “It took all morning, but we finally finished interviewing everyone in Elliot’s apartment building.”
“What did you find out?” Elliot asked.
“Other than the fact that you live with some very strange people, not a lot. No one actually saw the shooting, and those who heard it looked out their windows and saw you holding some bleeding woman. That’s about it.”
He rubbed his face vigorously with his hands then stood. “I should go by the hospital, see if Olivia’s in any condition to speak.”
“They’ve got the number to the station and your cell with distinct directions to call if her condition changes.” Munch shrugged. “Go home, get cleaned up, maybe get some sleep. We’ll keep you updated.”
Elliot hadn’t realized how exhausted he was until Munch said the word ‘sleep.’ He’d been awake for almost thirty hours, running on pure adrenaline. “That’s probably a good idea.” He picked up his suit coat and slung it over his shoulder, walking toward the exit. “Hey, Fin, about earlier?”
The man nodded. “No hard feelings. Just remember, we’re on your side.”
The drive home was long and lonely. The memory of his partner nearly dying in his arms replayed over and over. If the ambulance had arrived just a few minutes later or had gotten stuck in traffic on the way to Bellevue… It was his job to protect her, and he had failed. The guilt sunk heavily in his chest, causing a deep and incurable ache.
Once he reached his apartment, he called his children. He wanted them to know what had happened, that he loved them and wanted them to be safe. They were all concerned for Olivia’s health, Kathleen especially. Since the divorce, she had formed a close bond with Olivia that at times seemed to surpass the one she shared with her mother.
“Dickie, throw it to me! Dickie!” Lizzie’s shouts were ignored as her twin threw the ball to Kathleen. “Dad!”
Elliot lifted his head. “Dickie, be nice to your sister!” The boy seemed annoyed but obeyed the next time he caught the ball, tossing it to her. “He’s at that stage where it’s not cool to have manners,” he told Olivia, who sat next to him on the park bench. “Lizzie just wants to fit in, and Kathleen … Kathleen’s been so distant lately.”
“She’s growing up, Elliot. You used to say the same thing about Maureen, and now she calls you every week to let you know she’s okay.”
“Having a child turn sixteen is a parent’s worst nightmare.”
Olivia chuckled. “Two down, two to go. Come on, you’re doing great.”
“It hasn’t been easy, but you know that. They handled the divorce better than Kathy and I expected. I’m grateful for that.” He smiled at her. “I’m also grateful for you, Liv.”
“You’ve put up with me more times than necessary, helped me out with the kids–“
“Elliot, you don’t have to thank me. That’s what friends do, they help each other out.” She leaned closer to him. “Someday, you’re going to find a woman who understands you, who deserves you, and who loves your kids.”
He tilted his head toward her. “You think so, huh? Got any women in mind?”
“Um, Olivia?” Kathleen twisted her fingers together and looked at the ground. “Could I talk to you?”
Elliot slid over to make room for his daughter. “Sure, honey, sit down.”
She scoffed. “Not you, Dad. I said Olivia.”
“She said Olivia,” Olivia repeated, standing up and following the teenager. She looked over her shoulder and half-shrugged, trying to keep the grin off her face. A smile touched Elliot’s lips as he watched them go to a different bench. He may have had a woman in mind himself.
Elliot sighed at the memory, walking through his apartment. Everything in there reminded him of her as well. She had helped him find the place and buy furniture. ‘It helps to have a woman’s touch,’ she had told him, even though he really couldn’t tell the difference. Months ago, they had attended an art show together, both of them gravitating toward the same ugly painting which now hung over his bed. They were so much alike.
He headed for the bathroom, intent on washing his hands for the umpteenth time. He swore he could still see Olivia’s blood on them. He flipped on the light and looked at the mirror above the sink. A ragged breath choked him.
Taped in the center of the mirror was a professionally taken photograph of him in the foreground and Olivia off to the side, her face blackened out with a permanent marker. The pen had also been used to scrawl a message above the photo: ‘An eye for an eye.’
End of Part 1