‘A young woman, found this morning in Central Park…’ I begin, raising my badge as we approach the nurse bank.
‘This way,’ a doctor interrupts, recognising Elliott and I as special victims.
‘Any ID?’ I ask as we follow, Elliott easily keeping pace.
‘None, a mugging gone wrong, maybe,’ the doctor assumes, making an educated guess.
‘Any fluids?’ El asks as the doctor stops beside a closed door.
‘Plenty,’ she answers, opening the door and nodding for us to go inside. El and I enter the room and walk towards the young woman lying in the hospital bed. The woman doesn’t stir. ‘She’s medically sedated as she gave one of the paramedics one hell of a left hook,’ the doctor explains as she checks the monitors for any abnormalities. ‘She’ll be out for at least another half hour so its up to you whether you hang around.’ Finding the monitor readings to be sufficiently stable, the doctor leaves the room.
I look at the woman laying unconscious in the bed in front of me. She has almost certainly been beaten, evidenced by the purplish hues colouring her left eye. Her skin is porcelain pale and illuminous against the darkened bruising. Her neck is covered with more bruises. I lean slightly over her, noting teeth marks. Her forearms, placed over the bed covers, have similar injuries, her wrists show signs of restraints. Possible rope burns, I wonder as my eyes travel back to Jane Does face.
‘Liv?’ Elliott interrupts my perusal. ‘Mind if I head out to finish that paperwork for court?’ He asks, knowing he can’t afford a thirty-minute wait.
‘Sure, El. I’ll stay,’ I affirm easily. Elliott Stable and I have been partners for two years. I trust him more than anyone I’ve ever known. He wouldn't walk for no reason.
Once he leaves the room, I continue my perusal of the young woman: probably late 20’s, early 30’s, thin but not malnourished, long and willowy limbs, flowing flaxen hair, astonishingly beautiful even when beaten. There is a determined air to the jut of her jaw and a graceful elegance to her cheekbones. Somebody will miss her, I know with certainty. Suddenly self-conscious, I turn to the door to ensure no one is observing the thoughts in my head. I smile as I realise the absurdity of this concern. I feel my cheeks burn and a shiver run thru my body as I turn back to her. My pulse quickens and my palms moisten as I wonder about the colour of her eyes, the tone of her voice, her name. She’s a victim Olivia! I check myself, fully aware of my immediate attraction to this battered and achingly beautiful victim. I take a deep breath to settle my nerves as I sit down beside her, wanting to be a reassuring presence once she wakes.
She opens her right eye, blinking to refocus her vision in the brightly lit room. She quickly notices me sat in a chair beside her. ‘Please,’ she says hoarsely, trying to gain my attention. Unbeknowst to her, my attention is already completely engaged. I stand immediately and approach the bed. ‘Please…’
‘Hi, I’m Detective Olivia Benson. You're at the hospital...’
‘PLEASE…’ she says more firmly, interrupting me. ‘The light… Bright…’
Immediately understanding, I hurry to the dimmer switch, turning the light down. ‘Is that better?’ I ask, my fingers still on the switch just in case.
‘Yes,’ the woman replies hoarsely.
I walk back to the bed, ‘I’m Detective Olivia Benson, what’s your name?’ My eyes soften as I watch Jane Doe claw at her throat. I reach for the pitcher of water and pour some into a glass, offering the straw to her to drink.
She takes some tentative drags of the water. She winces as the cold liquid passes her raw voice box. ‘Alex. Alexandra Cabot,’ she says quietly, her voice straining against the chain saw in her throat. ‘Thank you.’
I sit back down in the chair, my heart racing as I notice how cloudy blue Alex’s open eye is, aqua blue with a hint of grey. Concentrate Detective! This isn’t about you. I give myself the same reproach I use to avoid killing the paedophiles I have the pleasure of interviewing most days. 'Hi Alex, you're at Bellvue Hospital. You were assaulted last night.' I say the words I loathe as I remind her why she is here. 'Alex, can you tell me what happened?’
Ten minutes later
‘I got to the edge of the park…they caught me…dragged me back in,’ Alex rasps as she recalls last night's events.
‘They? How many?’ I ask, trying desperately to concentrate on her words as her tongue parts her lips in thought. Alex looks directly at me for the first time. I note her gaze holds more determination than I’ve ever seen in a victim's eyes, as I meet Alex’s piercing orbs.
'Two, no three of them… I screamed with all my strength… No one helped me,’ Alex whispers as she breaks eye contact. A shiver travels through me in response to the power of Alex’s gaze and the desperation in her words. Oh god... I lower my head to my notebook to will my thoughts away. The anger simmering inside me on Alex’s behalf is near impossible to subdue. I swallow hard before I meet Alex's gaze once more.
‘Two or three Alex?’ I ask softly, my conflicting need to support and investigate fighting for priority.
‘Three,’ Alex rasps. ‘Two tied me down. The third came later... after they left me like that,’ Alex whispers as she closes her eyes and winces in memory.
My heart rate spikes as I begin to comprehend what Alex is saying. ‘You were tied down and assaulted by two men, then a separate man raped you later that same night?’ I clarify, swallowing as I find myself wondering how someone can rape an already brutalised woman. Alex nods her head in answer. ‘Alex, can you describe these men?’
‘Where the hell was the good Samaritan? Why didn't he help a woman who'd obviously been raped?’ I nearly shout, not knowing why I'm so pissed off, but knowing I'm more pissed off than I should professionally be.
‘What’s got into you Liv?’ Elliott asks, sat across from me at his desk. I feel the beginnings of a blush under my partners scrutiny. ‘What’s going on?’ he presses. Fin and Munch turn from their paperwork at Elliott’s question.
‘I just don’t get why the bastard would assault an already brutalised and vulnerable woman instead of helping her, that’s all,’ I answer, knowing this isn’t truly why I'm reacting this way. My answer thankfully satisfies Elliott enough to quit questioning me further.
‘Alex?’ I say softly, waking Alex as Elliott stands back, taking in her battered form.
‘Detective,’ she replies, as she opens both eyes, her voice stronger but her tone still naturally deep. ‘Detectives,’ she corrects on seeing my partner.
El approaches her bed to introduce himself. ‘Detective Elliott Stabler. I’m Detective Benson’s partner. Benson says you gave us detailed descriptions of your attackers,’ he continues, wishing her to know she has done well.
Alex gazes at Elliott with quiet intensity, ‘I’m a trained lawyer. Detail is my job, Detective,’ she says practically, distancing the complement from the bigger meaning. I smile at her words. I immediately lower my head to hide my eyes. ‘Have you apprehended any of them?’ Alex asks, looking at me.
I raise my head, hoping my eyes don't show my admiration. ‘I’m afraid not Alex but we have three detailed descriptions thanks to you and three strains of DNA which are being run through the database. Any hits and we’ll be on it,’ I answer fully. Elliott looks at me briefly. I ignore him. ‘We need to know if anyone holds a grudge against you: ex boyfriends…?’ I leave the rest of the sentence unsaid.
Alex’s gaze penetrates mine as she evaluates the question. My heart stops and I find myself drawn into her very soul. ‘A number of people hold grudges against me for no other reason than they need to hold a grudge against somebody… No ex boyfriends.’
For a moment both Elliott's and my mind come to the same conclusion as we try not to look at each other: How can she not have had ex boyfriends? Alex is a flaxen haired goddess with piercing blue eyes and...
‘When you say a number of people hold a grudge, who and what do you mean?’ Elliott asks, interrupting his and my train of thought.
‘Most women don’t like me, think I’m a boyfriend stealing bitch,’ Alex says honestly, her eyes finally leaving mine as she looks at Elliott.
‘And are you a boyfriend stealing bitch?’ He asks quickly, knowing most men would easily leave their girlfriends, partners, wives for a woman like Alex.
‘I don’t have any ex boyfriends Detective Stabler,’ Alex replies impatiently, obviously thinking she had already answered the question. Both Elliott and I look at her for a moment. When we still don’t overtly click, Alex continues, exasperated: ‘I’m not attracted to men.'
I already clicked but did not wish to openly admit it so put my head down again, to stop myself from openly staring at the beautiful woman in front of us. My heart beat is now a relentless surge, my palms slick with sweat. When I raise my eyes, Alex is looking at me, ‘Have I said something wrong, Detective?’ I bite my lip.
‘Have you had to spurn men as a result?’ I question quickly, not liking the feelings this woman is igniting in my gut.
Alex lowers her gaze to her wrists; I imagine the rope burns still ache and chafe after days of ointment. ‘Yes.’
‘Can you tell us more about any recent cases?’ Elliott follows my line of questioning, his notebook primed.
Alex gives a humourless laugh, as she shakes her head her golden hair spills down her shoulders. ‘I don’t know whether it's because I make myself unavailable, but I find a lot of men don’t believe me and see me as someone they can and will break down. Somehow, I will miraculously turn straight once I’ve met them, once they’ve asked me out, once they’ve kissed or touched me,’ I lower my head again, trying not to show how akin to Alex I feel at this moment.
‘Are you saying you have been forcibly kissed and/or touched by these men?’ Elliott asks, scribbling in his notebook.
Alex raises her gaze to Elliott, ‘Yes, Detective Stabler, I have been harassed by men throughout my life. From the moment I hit puberty to four nights ago. When you ask me to remember more recent cases, I can tell you that none of the men who assaulted me that night have harassed me before. I remember every face,’ Alex finishes, her tone simmering with anger.
‘You need to find yourself another job,’ Elliott says insensitively. Both Alex and I look at him, insulted. My expression radiates: back the fuck off.
‘I work for a law firm Detective Stabler. At the Christmas party, one of my ‘colleagues’ groped me. He was the reason I forgot my purse, was the reason I left without anyone walking me home. I didn’t want to have to explain my leaving to anyone. If I run away from every job in which I'm harassed, I would be on the dole Detective.’ Having made herself clear, Alex’s icy gaze leaves Elliott’s face. He steps back. I involuntarily throb in admiration of her spirit.
‘Please accept my apology on behalf of Detective Stabler, Alex,’ I offer sincerely, waiting for Alex to meet my gaze. Alex gives a small nod in affirmation. ‘Would you like us to investigate your colleague?’
This makes Alex smile. ‘No, he’s already received a written warning. He’ll be kicked off the board soon enough. I’d rather you concentrate on the three men who assaulted me,’ Alex answers, her eyes lowering once more. ‘What more can I do to help?’
‘You can help by getting better. You have done all you can for now. Once we have more, we’ll let you know,’ I say as comfortingly as I can before I stand, knowing there is no further reason for me to stay at this point.
‘Olivia?’ I stop near the door, my body shivering at the sound of my name on Alex’s lips.
I turn to her, ‘Yes Alex?’
‘Please find the hells spawn before they do it again,’ Alex requests, her deep blue orbs wide and determined as she faces me.
I nod my head and swallow, suddenly losing my ability to speak as I walk out the door.
'This is complete bullsh...'
'Liv!' Cragen interrupts my diatribe. 'The paramedic has every right to press charges,' he repeats as Elliott gives him a heavy look.
'Cap, she's a rape victim who probably thought she was being assaulted again. Her actions were reflexive at best.' The room knows Elliott is right. However, when an overworked, underpaid member of the emergency services has had enough abuse and decides to take a stand, the NYPD has to take note. No matter how unfortunate that the stand is against a victim of a heinous crime.
My anger is not dissipating. I'm realising that these feelings aren't normal. Other victims have gotten under my skin but I know my reaction to Alex is different. I'm caring too much about this victim. I feel physically sick that this is not the only emotion fuelling my anger. Whenever I'm in Alex's presence, I feel a twinge in my heart and as disturbingly, between my legs. When Alex tore into El, I felt the pulses of liquid heat forming in my abdomen, the shivers of excitement rippling through my body as every nerve ending surged towards my groin. Right now, I feel my urges growing as I sit at my desk, thanking fates that I've worn black pants. I've never lusted after a rape victim before. You are sick, I tell myself. But those cloudy blue eyes...
The fact I'm not 'out' only complicates the situation as I know I should inform Cragen. I trust Don Cragen, like an uncle, so know my orientation wouldn't go further. I know I will be taken off the case if I tell him. This is what will truly cause questions to be asked.
When Alex spoke of the harassment she has experienced, I recognise it. This harassment is part sexual, part homophobic. Some men can't handle a beautiful woman being out of their reach. How dare she be unobtainable?! How dare she be untouchable, unfuckable?! I've seen it in the NYPD, seen many men and woman ridiculed due to their orientation to the detriment of their health and eventually their careers. Homophobia is rife, even in this special victim's precinct. The number of slurs I've heard during my daily duties make my insides knot and my feelings of cowardly guilt at not being myself fade but never entirely disappear. I bite my lip as I lean forward in my chair, flicking through paperwork to distract myself.
'Liv.' I raise my head quickly, belatedly noticing Elliott standing right beside my desk. 'We gotta go, Warner has something.' We grab our jackets as we hurry to the elevator.
'We got a hit,' Warner says triumphantly, holding the result file up in front of her. Elliott takes the file whilst I look at Warner pointedly.
'Why not just call us?' I ask, impatient that time has been wasted. Warner gives me the tiniest smirk. 'That’s not all...' I conclude from the coroner's expression. Warner nods briefly.
'We have a repeat offender. This DNA matched another Central Park rape four years ago. The victim was trussed up against a tree and raped repeatedly throughout the night. The perp left the victim tied up until she was found by a good Samaritan that morning. The victim...'
'I remember... Kate Reisner. She was gay,' I suddenly interrupt Warner. Warner nods.
'Hate crime?' Elliott stipulates, looking up from the file. I glance quickly at my partner.
'We didn’t find him, a ghost in the wind.... There was one set of DNA in Kate's case. She remembers one man. Why would he team up?' I ask as I begin to pace the office, trying to figure out why a perp would take the unusual step of changing his MO.
'We found semen at the scene from two of the three perps,' Warner says as she takes the folder from Elliott.
'So, the perp was missing something the first time. Watching was the get off,' Elliott concludes as he wonders how a man can get off on watching rape.
'The second batch of DNA got a match too.' Both Elliott and I look at Warner again. 'It seems to be in the family..,' Warner says, as I take the file this time.
'Father/Son?' I ask her.
'Ninety seven percent sure. He's still in college. Manhattan Polytechnic. Joel Ashton.'
'Detectives Stabler and Benson, we are looking for Joel Ashton,' Elliott flashes his badge as he approaches the reception desk. The elderly woman tips her glasses further up her nose as she examines our badges. 'Ma'am, we need to find him now,' Elliott presses, getting the feeling this could take a while.
As El attempts to hurry the woman along, I hear my cell. I look at the caller ID: unknown number. I almost don’t answer it, as I notice El gesturing for me to follow him. Fuck it.
'Detective,' my stomach jumps as I recognise the voice. I gesture to El to walk ahead.
'Yes, hi. Um... I've realised... I don't.... I don't have any appropriate clothing for my injuries,' Alex says quickly before pausing. 'I didn’t know who else to call.' I swallow the lump in my throat as I comprehend her meaning. How can a spirited, flaxen haired beauty be this alone?
'What do you need?' I ask without judgement, surprising Alex. 'Some more sweat pants and oversized jumpers or do you need something without a waist band?' Alex gives such a relieved sigh that I become worried, 'Alex? What do you need?'
'Understanding,' Alex replies as my stomach knots with anguish. 'Without a waist. No rush, I can imagine you're busy Detective,' Alex continues.
'We'll be with you when we can, Alex. We'll be there today, okay,' I try to reassure her whilst being mindful to use 'we' instead of 'I' to remind myself of our professional relationship.
'Thankyou Detective,' Alex says before she hangs up. I slowly pull my cell away from my ear.
'Who was that?' Elliott asks, as I catch up with him.
'Alex Cabot. She doesn’t have any loose clothing,' I say before I realise how that must sound. 'As in I assume she has lots of suits for her job but...'
'And silk lingerie for bedtime,' El quips, taking me by surprise. 'Joel Ashton turned up for college.'