It was three in the afternoon when the press swarmed the courthouse steps. Cameras flashed, and microphones were waved around as people began to leave. In the middle of the press storm was ADA Rafael Barba, who ignored the questions fired at him.
"Mr. Barba, do you think the jury's going to find Vargas guilty on all counts?"
"Sir, is the-"
Their voices could only abruptly falter as he cut through them like they were the sea. Lieutenant Olivia Benson and Sergeant Fin Tutuola followed from behind, making sure nothing would go awry as Barba reached the bottom of the cold steps.
Of course, they would later get information from other people. That Terrence Vargas was recently sentenced to consecutively serve the crimes he was charged with. He had raped three men and three women, and had beaten his own 6-year-old son to death, now he wouldn't be able to hurt anyone for a very long time.
Soon as Rafael reached his car door, he looked up at the sky. Only a few lumps of clouds decorated the light blue. The sun's harsh rays were beaming down. But even if the summer heat raged on, a thought made its way into his head, something that wasn't impossible. A hurricane was about to strike New York City.
Two hours later, Barba was in his office, shuffling any remaining papers on his desk. There was a light knock on the door.
"Come in," He said without looking up. Olivia entered the room, when she noticed the already-open briefcase beside him on the floor, she spoke, "Leaving early?"
He affirmed, "There's nothing left for me to do right now,"
As he inserted the papers into one of his folders, she asked again, "Want to head down to Forlini's?"
"Sure," The answer automatically tumble out of his tongue. Olivia must've realized this too, because she returned the grin he gave her as he replied. He added, "I'll be there at seven,"
When she turned and left the office, he looked over at his papers. Then he noticed the edge poking out of the stack, standing out because it had that certain color that he knew all too well. The grey was easily conceilable among the white, possibly slipped through by someone paid a large amount. He stopped receiving these last year, but why would they continue threatening him now?
He looked up and saw Olivia walking away, like when she did when his phone rang, when Willard contacted him and threatened him with information he thought was correct. The thought he kept to the back of his mind ever since he left the courthouse resurfaced again.
The hurricane is coming.
Maybe he was wrong, maybe it was just a false alarm. That it was like an isolated storm- short but serious. At Forlini's, he only told her a part of what he felt about the case. Nevertheless, he hoped she didn't notice that not all of it was off his chest. It was 9 PM when they parted ways.
Rafael's apartment building sat beside a few restaurants (they were on speed dial delivery whenever he and Olivia were reviewing cases at either one of their offices), but the few lights outside were dimmer than flashing neon. He finally unlocked his apartment door, expecting his foot to step on the soft mat. But when the sole instead collided with marble, he looked down.
The welcome mat (one his mother forced him to buy 'in case he was entertaining visitors', he knew he wouldn't be, but decided to appease her) was moved a few feet away from its original place. Adrenaline should've kicked in by now, he relied too much on his instincts. No, his heartbeat was still at a normal rate, nothing was unusual.
But he kept his door open just to be sure, and he stepped further into his apartment. Even though exhaustion was threatening to close his eyes, he still tried to be alert.
Then the exhaustion disappeared quickly. He tried to be alert, but now there was a gun pressed to the back of his head, and a hand covering his mouth.
The hurricane has unleashed its wrath, and it will stop at nothing until only destruction lies on the ground.
Olivia arrived at the precinct, a cup of coffee in her hand as she walked through the door. She was about to quickly greet everyone when she noticed her sergeant and two detectives invested in watching a computer screen.
"Hey, guys," She greeted them, "What's up?"
Fin, Amanda and Sonny were all snickering until they realized their boss had noticed what they were doing. Blame it all on the quality of Rollins's dog home videos. Amanda quickly scrambled for the mouse as the others straightened up. A screen of Frannie happily leaping from one place to another was immediately closed.
"It's nothing, Lieu," Sonny bluffed. Fortunately, she decided to let it slide and made a beeline for her office.
Olivia sat down on her chair and pulled out her phone for any updates. She expected a text from Barba to talk about the motions Buchanan just filed, but nothing came up. Her eyebrows furrowed as she slightly rested her chin on her hand. Last night, he told her he was going to send her a message this morning, because apparently he has plans with his mother today. So she placed the phone down on the table, thinking that maybe he was so busy talking with her that he forgot to do so.
Having only met Lucia Barba once, and once overhearing their conversation in loud speaker at his office, she could tell it was hard not to listen to her.
That memory lit a smile up her face, but her thoughts were interrupted when someone knocked on her door. "It's open," She told them. Her grin fell, because Chief Dodds entered the room, followed by, Fin, Carisi and Rollins, and they all looked worried and uncomfortable.
"Olivia," Dodds began, "there's something you need to listen to,"
At first, she thought that they were facing a new case that most likely involved politics. But fear only grew in her heart when they decided to set it up inside her office, and not outside using the television of the squadroom. Then the audio played, and her heart sunk when she recognized the frantic caller reciting an address.
"I-I entered my son's apartment and-and es un- there's some blood on the floor!" They heard the 911 Operator trying to calm her down, "I can't find him, oh God, he's not here!" At that moment, Dodds pressed a button and stopped the recording. Olivia covered her mouth with her hand, the horror was plain on her face. Everyone in the room can see it, the detectives shot worried glances at her and at each other.
No, that voice cannot be Lucia Barba. No, that address cannot be Rafael Barba's.
Dodds sighed, "They got this call at 9 AM, and the unis responded. They're waiting for you guys to collect evidence," He looked at her, seeing the hint of disbelief in her eyes, "It's him, Olivia."
She tried to speak, but the words were caught in her throat. The weight of the situation was crushing down on her. She was the last person to see him, and she knew deep down that not everything was alright with Rafael when he turned around and left.
No, she will never go down that road ever again.
"Listen, you aren't off the case. But you're working with Major Case on this one."
Olivia nodded in understanding. Guilt was easily overpowered by determination now, as Dodds turned and left the room, she turned to her detectives,
How do you brave a storm?
Once the detectives entered Barba's apartment, a scene of discord greeted them. A small table was overturned, several other pieces of furniture were misplaced. But the most unbelievable of all was the small speck of blood on the floor now turning a shade of brown. Amanda kneeled down next to it, "The perp could've kicked him,"
She shook her head as she stood up, and she turned to look at other places in the apartment. Fin looked through a few cabinets, and only a few medicine were in store. But so far, the scene of the crime was still near the door.
Carisi came out of the bedroom, saying, "Nothing unusual there. Geez, it's like Barba spends more time in his office than in here," They could've laughed about it, but maybe at another time. The man they were talking about is missing, and they need to move quickly.
Meanwhile, their Lieutenant checked the nearby kitchen. None of the knives appeared to be missing, and the faucet remained unused. But when she looked over the trash bin, she stopped. A syringe was inside, only half of the liquid it held remained. The sick bastard didn't even properly throw it away, and there was no doubt that they weren't going to find any prints.
Olivia carefully lifted the medical instrument out of the bin and turned it over. The tip of the needle was coated with dried blood. That was the only thing on her mind as it was placed in an evidence bag. She stood up, inhaling a shaky breath.
"Liv," She heard Fin say, "we're gonna find him,"
She knew, and he knew, that right now she wasn't Lieutenant Benson, the commanding officer of SVU investigating a crime. She was Olivia, mourning the disappearance of her best friend.
"I know," She told him, voice dropping to a near whisper. As the lieutenant made her way to a glass door at the far end of the room, she noticed that it was ajar. A couple of CSU officers were waved and soon they got to work. The door was now opened all the way and wind immediately hit their faces soon as they stepped foot into what appeared to be a balcony.
Olivia stepped forward, and what first caught her attention was the blood on the floor. The realization hit her- He was dragged. Droplets of blood formed a trail, and she followed it until she saw an emergency staircase not too far away. She tapped the shoulder of a nearby tech, "Dust the staircase for prints, DNA, anything." Anything that can help us find him, supplied a voice in her head.
Then a piece in a puzzle she never knew existed was there. A perp who used the emergency staircase as an escape from his victims' apartments (he never chose houses, which made it easier to catch him), was someone who, as logic asserts, is currently behind bars for the rest of his life.
But Olivia's gut immediately placed in the name of serial rapist Terrence Vargas. This was his MO. Besides, it couldn't hurt to check, and it was a huge coincidence that Barba was... abducted (even in her mind it was hard to link the name and the word) just a few hours after he was found guilty.
"Fin, hold down the fort," She ordered to her sergeant as she made her way back to the doorway leading to the apartment, "I'm going to Riker's,"
When she heard the buzzing, Olivia expected Vargas to go right in and plop down on his chair, a smug smile almost permanent on his face. This time, it was only his lawyer, John Buchanan, who appeared. She exchanged looks with Dodds, who insisted that he go with her since the man who usually did was the one they were trying to find (the harsh realization settled in her stomach).
"Counselor," It took every fiber in Olivia's body not to act on her thoughts and grab Vargas by the collar and immediately question him once he was in her line of sight. But now that he wasn't here, the anger inside her could only grow. She forced a smile unto her face, although it was more of a thin line, "We wanted to speak with your client,"
"I'm afraid he's not here," Buchanan casually took a seat, "the CO's told me he was in the hospital ward for an infection," Bull, the thought immediately raced into her head.
Dodds spoke, "Well, we need to know when he comes back, it's very important,"
"Important?" Buchanan repeated, he casted a glance at the Bureau Chief, "Well, if this is about the appeals I filed yesterday, I'm surprised Mr. Barba isn't here to discuss them,"
"That's why we're here," said Olivia, almost leaning forward. It was hard not to just say the truth. Under Dodds's orders (to the relief of the detectives), news of Barba's abduction won't be released to the press for now. Even if it was 2017, the occasional self-proclaimed psychics still dial the hotline.
Buchanan arched an eyebrow, but before he could say anything Dodds interrupted, "Listen, could you at least make sure someone has him in their line of sight?"
"Are you saying my client escaped?" He laughed in disbelief, "Go ask the officers yourself,"
They did ask the CO's, and they were met with shrugs.
"Yeah, yeah, still here," glared one officer.
Even though the instinct never quite left her stomache, Olivia knew they were back to square one.
The walk to the exit was silent but brisk. They both knew going here definitely reopened stinging wounds, especially since a former CO was the same man who pulled the trigger that eventually ended a certain Sergeant's life.
And there were several faces they've already seen; the people at Munson's trial, the people who nearly threatened Barba-
"Benson, did the threats against Barba ever stop?"
She looked at him in surprise, "They did," another glance at the correction officers was sent, "Chief, you think the CO's had something to do with this?"
It was both impossible and possible, they definitely shared their hatred of Barba with Vargas. But why would they send some sort of copycat hitman, and who?
When Dodds nodded in reply, she sighed, "I'll search Barba's office, maybe there's something in there that will help,"
SEVERAL HOURS AGO
Great, just great. He can keep trying, but sarcasm won't be able to tap down the fear in Barba's chest. He struggled, alright, he kicked and he fought at whoever was behind him. They crashed into the small table near the door, and he was about to break free and run but then in a split second a swift kick was delivered to his stomach, causing him to fall on the floor and cough out blood. Now, he was lying on his side, trying to gather the strength to stand up. But when he did, the cold barrel of a gun was forced against his temple.
"Don't. Move." ordered the cold, familiar voice.
Back in his early childhood, Rafael always expected bullies to go and almost beat him whenever he spoke up. But never had he expected to be beaten by-
"Terrence Vargas," He choked out, finally placing the voice with a name. The same man he had sent away to prison on this same day was now in his apartment, holding a gun against his head. The serial rapist said nothing, he forcefully grabbed Barba by the shoulders and lifted him up, silencing him again.
This time, the ADA stayed still. He heard Terrence rummaging through something behind him, but before he could turn his head and see what it was, he was forcefully jerked to look forward. The shuffling stopped, signifying he had found whatever he needed. Rafael felt something prick a vein on his neck.
"You and I are going to have so much fun," he heard Terrence breathe heavily, almost sounding exhilarated, "but not here,"
When rain falls, not everyone is able to get to shelter.
I finally finished this unfortunately short chapter. Constructive criticism is highly appreciated.
The next time Rafael came to, he was in a dark room, tied to a metal chair too small for him to sit on. His hands were tightly tied behind his back around something cold and metal, his feet to the legs of the chair. His eyes blinked as he tried to remember what happened after he was unconscious. All he could recall was the claustrophobic space in the back of a car, the smell of gas and pitch black all around him. The only time he was able to see color was in his dreams, but they remained hazy.
He never saw the door in front of him until Terrence kicked it open, and the light from outside flooded in, almost blinding him. He rapidly blinked his eyes, trying to adjust to the sudden appearance of light. But it was quickly snuffed out with the loud BANG of the door. He can only hear ragged breathing and footsteps, and then something hitting the ground.
"Oh, so now you shut up?" was the serial rapist's harsh comment. Rafael carefully considered any word that will come out of his mouth. He didn't even know where he was, and trying to break free from his restraints was a lost cause. Now he decided to say nothing, allowing Terrence to have his moment of triumph. That was probably what the detectives would do, if his remembering of Olivia's last seminar was correct. Letting the perp feel like he's in control.
He tried to stay conscious, tried to look for and memorize any kind of object all around him, but there was a huge gap between getting knocked out and waking up. And yet one of the few things he can only remember was a talk from two weeks ago done by his best friend, who is certainly searching the far ends of the earth for him right now.
His mind returned to the present when he heard the ripping of paper, as if his kidnapper was opening something in a package. Vargas was taking his time, and if his intention was to unnerve the hell out of Rafael, it was working.
"How did you get out?" Barba asked him, the cool confidence he had in the courtroom slowly returned. He was answered with a cackle, along with a hand repeatedly and harshly clapping his shoulder, as if he just delivered a joke. Rafael gritted his teeth, it felt like his shoulder would get dislocated if it continued.
"If I told you, then it would be too easy, wouldn't it?" Vargas continued to open the package.
Rafael took the risk, "Don't make it too hard on yourself. You're already serving a lifetime and if they catch you, it'll get worse."
"IF they catch me," Another laugh caused chills to go down his spine. Then he heard a tiny spark, and a small flame appeared in the darkness, "Well, before they do, I'll have to make the most of my time, won't I?"
Olivia couldn't count how many times she'd been to Barba's office. Of course, she was here last night, standing on the same exact spot she is on right now. But the chair before her was empty, only the nameplate bearing his name and title on the table signifying he was once there. Dread could only take hold of her heart.
Several feet walked on the carpeted floor. Glancing over her shoulder, Olivia noticed the detectives entering Barba's office, with a concerned Carmen staying by the door. It was strange, going over Rafael's belongings in order to find the man himself.
They looked through the drawers, making sure they didn't move things out of place once they were done. Olivia searched his desk, standing beside his chair as she read through the few papers left on the wooden surface. Her fingers brushed against the edges of the white sheets of paper. Warrants, affidavits, appeals and all sorts of legal work were here. She couldn't help but agree with Carisi, Barba does spend more time in his office than in his now-ransacked apartment.
And then something caught her eye and her hands came to a stop, resting on an almost silver gray paper.
Red words glared at her, chilling her to the bone, and she knew he must've felt the same thing. She could only imagine him reading those words as they were seared into his brain.This stood out from all the other threats the ADA had received, it was direct, as if the person was certain he was going to carry it out.
And, if she was right, he definitely did.
She pulled out an evidence bag and dropped it in, there should be something left that can help them find the sender and, hopefully, Barba. A minute passed by when her phone rang, she checked the caller ID, Fin's name appeared on the screen. She held the phone to her ear, "Fin, what do you have?"
"Liv, we checked Vargas's visitation records for the past week. Someone named Ferdinand Shelby visited him the other day."
"Okay," She said, "Does he have a record?"
"He's a retired CO," Dodds's intuition couldn't be any more possible. This Ferdinand Shelby was the link and they had to get to him fast. Especially since a press briefing is set to take place two hours from now and the Bureau Chief himself can't delay it any longer. "Go talk to him, but don't let him know too much,"
"Got it," When she ended the call, she sighed in relief. There was a window of opportunity, and she hopes she can keep it wide open for long.
You can't delay or destroy a hurricane, you can only try to survive it.