“Not now, Carisi!” Lieutenant Benson held her palm out in front of her.
Sonny stopped in his tracks, mouth still slightly open where he had started to speak. Olivia Benson turned and ducked into her office, cell phone held to her ear.
Not now, Carisi, her words echoed in his ears. He had heard them before.
He flopped back into his chair, shoulders hunched over. Sonny glanced around and seeing that the squad room was relatively empty, he let his head fall into his palms.
Not now, Carisi. He had grown accustomed to hearing those words in his previous jobs. But hearing them now, from his lieutenant no less, brought back the memories from his past.
He had begun his law enforcement career as a patrol officer on Staten Island. After making detective, he spent two months with the Staten Island SVU, Brooklyn SVU for almost a month and Queens SVU for a mere week before transferring to Manhattan.
Insensitive, blunt, crass. All words he had been called at these precincts. He sighed and let his mind wander.
“Carisi, what do you want?” the Staten Island captain barked at Sonny.
“Sir, I was looking at a list of potential suspects and you know, it would have been easier to narrow this down if he had actually raped her.”
His captain had squeezed the bridge of his nose and sighed deeply. “Carisi, do you have anything helpful to add?”
“Well, sir, I don't know if you know, but I signed up for night school, studying Law at Fordham.”
“Carisi, not now. The whole precinct is aware of your after work studies. Let me tell you, you have a long way to go. Now, unless those studies have helped you discover any useful information which will help us break this case, I suggest you try some good old fashioned police work to narrow down that suspect list.”
“But sir, I thought we could get a warrant to get the DNA of all the teachers at the school. They take samples for anyone registered with the education board.”
“I take it they haven't gotten to the civil liberties lesson yet. Young man, why don't you join your partner and help him. And don't come back until you have a solid lead to follow.”
He had thought that his night classes would help him solve crimes. He had enrolled a month into his first placement as a detective. As a patrol officer, he had rarely been asked to testify in court, but on the occasions he had been summoned, he had been deeply impressed by the prosecuting counsel. He was in awe of their powers to serve justice. He thought that's why he had joined the force, to see justice done, but so far he had yet to independently or successfully send a perp away. Maybe this wasn't the route for him, and Counselor Carisi did have a certain ring to it.
Brooklyn SVU had been less understanding of his aspirations than his captain at Staten Island.
“Hey Sarge, I think I have an idea, a lead maybe! This girl, if she is hooking for the perp, chances are, she is hooking for their crew too. How about I go in as a UC? As a John? I could…”
“Not now, Carisi!” Sergeant Warren finally exploded.
He was silenced by Warren's death glare.
Sonny wouldn't let these temporary setbacks get him down. He was determined to become a successful SVU detective, even if he had to work at every precinct in New York City to do it.
He wanted to be the one who put the riff-raff behind bars, as a cop or as an ADA. The dregs, the scum of the earth, like the vermin who had hurt Amy.
Amy, beautiful, perfect Amelia. He had thought she was the one. He had only been sixteen when he had realized he was in love with her. Her golden brown hair, hazel eyes with shining green specks and her vivid imagination had captivated his heart. She was his Vada Sultenfuss, she had been his girl.
He had often wondered why a girl like her would be interested in a boy the grade below her.
Her family had moved in next door to the Carisis when Sonny was fifteen. His sisters had tried to take her under their collective wings, but Amy had been a law unto herself. When she told a story, it was hard to distinguish between the truth and her frequent flights into the world of fantasy.
For reasons completely unfathomable to Sonny, Amy preferred his company over that of his sisters. Their favorite places to hang out were the Staten Island Greenbelt and High Rock Park. They spent many hours wading through the wetlands, traipsing across trails and hanging with the hawks. He would have followed her to the ends of the earth, he had certainly followed her to the edges of Staten Island.
One day she had procured some pills.
“What you got there, Amy?”
“X,” she said simply.
“X?” Sonny asked, naively.
“Are you kidding me, Carisi? Amy asked incredulously. "Ecstasy! The pills are ecstasy!”
“Where did you get those?” Sonny’s eyes were practically popping out of his head. “What if we get caught? We're gonna be in so much trouble, Amy.”
“Oh Sonny,” she sighed and looked dramatically disappointed.
“What are you going to do with those?”
“I'm going to take one silly!”
“I want to experience the world, I want to take it all in. Sonny, I want to see this…” she waved her arms around at the beauty that surrounded them, “I want to taste it with my fingertips, I want to smell the melodies, I want to hear the colors!”
Amelia laughed blithely and spun around, arms spread wide. To Sonny, she looked like a wood nymph as she nimbly flung herself around the forest.
“You wanna try one?” she asked, popping a pill into her mouth and swallowing it dry.
“Oh Amy, I'm not sure. Is it safe?” Sonny asked uncertainly.
“Are you serious, Sonny? It's perfectly fine. Stop being such a jellyfish!”
Sonny took one reluctantly, slipped it into his mouth and swallowed. He coughed and spluttered almost immediately, choking on the tiny pill.
Amelia laughed and thumped him on the back.
That had been the first of many times that Sonny and Amelia had slipped away to the woods to chase the ever elusive feeling of exhilaration.
The Sunday before Sonny’s birthday, Amy had crept into his room, having scaled the terrace below his window. It was early and Sonny was donning his tie in preparation for church.
“Psst, Sonny!” Amy hissed from the window.
“Jesus Christ Amelia!” Sonny crossed himself before sliding open the window to let her in. “You shouldn't be here. Ma will flip if she finds you in here.”
Amy shrugged. “Skip mass Sonny, come to High Rock with me. Today's the day! I can feel it.”
“Amy, I can't, not now. I'm going to church.”
“I should just call you 'not now' Carisi!” she jeered.
Sonny gave her a pained look.
“Saint Carisi,” Amy taunted as she climbed out the window. “See you there.”
Sonny spent all of that morning's mass struggling to concentrate. Lunch with his family felt like torture, his sisters were intolerable. As soon as they reached home, Sonny was out of his Sunday best and in his sneakers in a flash. He sped down the streets, to their spot in the woods, to Amelia.
“Amy!” Sonny called out before he had even come to a stop. “Amelia!”
It was quiet, unnaturally quiet. Where were the birds? It was silent. A deadly silence. No, wait, he heard a sound. What was that? Sonny strained his ears. There it was again. A whimper?
“Amy?” he called out uncertainly.
H e heard his name, it was barely a whisper.
“Amy, where are you?”
“Here,” came the reply.
Sonny trashed through the trees into a secluded spot. Amelia was there, huddled between the roots of a red maple tree.
Sonny frowned. This wasn't the girl he knew. This wasn't his Amelia. His Amelia would have pounced on him immediately, mocked him mercilessly for choosing to go to church over spending time with her.
She looked up at him through strands of damp, matted hair. Her hazel eyes, which normally shone with mirth, were dull and lifeless. Her lip quivered as she made an effort not to break down and cry.
“Amy!” Sonny gasped, as she reached out to him. Streaks of blood stained her fingers. “What happened, are you hurt?”
Again he was met with silence. He wasn't used to taking the reins. He felt lost. He picked a stray maple leaf from her hair.
“Amy, tell me what happened,” he demanded.
Amy flinched. As she shifted, he noticed that her dress was torn. Something inside his brain clicked into place.
“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell,” Sonny said gently. “Amy did ... did somebody do this to you?”
She looked away and Sonny's suspicions were confirmed.
“Do you wanna go home?” he whispered.
She nodded and took his hand. Sonny took off his sweatshirt and helped Amelia pull it over her dress, to hide the gaping holes.
Sonny remembered walking her home. Darkness had fallen and luckily no one noticed Amy's unkempt state. Her parents hadn't been home. Sonny sat on the floor outside the bathroom door while she showered. He only left when she had finally cried herself to sleep.
She refused to let him tell her parents and he kept her secret faithfully. Looking back at his actions, he wished he had spoken up sooner.
In the months to come, Amy sank into a deep depression, her once sunny disposition had darkened. He had tried his best to help her but he felt helpless. So Sonny did the only thing he knew he could do without betraying Amy, he turned to God for help. The time he used to spend with Amy, he now spent at church.
It took him a while to notice other subtle changes in her demeanor. One day, after school, she pulled up her sleeve and he caught sight of a mark in the crook of her elbow.
He grabbed her wrist, she tried to pull away but he held fast, pushing the sleeve further to reveal multiple track marks. Sonny froze at the sight of the scars on his Amelia's arms.
His grip had loosened and she pulled her wrist from his grasp. There were tears in her eyes as she turned away.
“Amy, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you,” he called after her.
“Not now, Carisi,” he heard her say as she fled.
He wished he had followed sooner. Maybe he could have stopped her. Maybe it would have turned out differently. Maybe...
As darkness fell, Sonny knew something was wrong. He had to find her. He left the house with his mother's words of protest ringing in his ears. Sonny was running down the street to High Rock before his brain had acknowledged his actions. There was no question, no hesitation in his mind, that's where she would be.
“Amy!” he called into the darkness.
The woods were different, there was a malevolence in the air, Sonny felt like the darkness was closing in on him. Why hadn't he thought to bring his flashlight?
He strained his ears, listening out for an answer to his calls. He practically jumped out of his skin when his shout was returned with a hoot from a low swooping owl.
His feet carried him onward, towards a sickeningly familiar clearing.
“Amy!” Sonny cried, as he rushed to her side.
Sonny tried to push the images from his mind, but they continued to bleed into his conscious mind. The tightly wrapped tourniquet. A loosely held, empty syringe. Those hazel eyes, wide staring eyes which no longer focused on his face.
He remembered calling her name over and over. He would never hear her answer again. Her final words to him echoed through his mind. Not now, Carisi.
He hadn't much recollection of the days that had followed. At Amelia's funeral, her parents had come over to speak with him. Her father had blubbered shamelessly throughout the service, but her mother’s stricken face was excruciating to look at, it still haunted his dreams. She thanked him for being such a good friend to their daughter; that’s when he had turned and fled.
He ran and ran, trying to push away the thoughts that crowded his brain. You should have done something. Why didn’t you say anything? You could have helped her. She is dead because of you!
The weeks that followed had been agonizing. His henpecking sisters, his loving mother, his concerned father - Sonny couldn’t tolerate the constant, concerned questions. He preferred to spend his time alone, splitting his time between High Rock Park and church, wallowing in his guilt.
At the start of summer break, Sonny had enrolled in the church’s summer camp, in the hope of finding solace in solitude. His cousin, Matthias, had come to spend time with the family that year, and being a man of the cloth, he often found Sonny nestled in a secluded pew.
“Hey Matthias,” Sonny said dully.
“Shouldn’t you be outdoors? Getting some sunshine?”
Sonny remained silent, so Matthias tried again, this time not bothering to beat about the bush.
“Kiddo, I just wanted to say I'm sorry about what happened to your girlfriend.”
“Amy wasn't my girlfriend,” Sonny mumbled.
“Well, I'm sorry for the loss of your friend.”
“She didn't have to go. I shouldn't have let her go.”
“Sonny, there was nothing you could have done. This isn't your fault.”
“I should’ve gone with her. She asked me to go with her.”
“Why didn't you?” Matthias asked gently, feeling slightly concerned about Sonny’s words.
“Sunday mass. We went to Sunday mass.”
“But… I thought that this happened during the week,” Matthias was extremely confused.
“I should’ve been there,” Sonny rocked back and forth, he hadn't heard Matthias. “He wouldn't have hurt her if I'd been there. It's my fault. She shouldn't have been out in the woods alone.”
Matthias stayed silent, letting Sonny speak freely.
“I should’ve told someone after it happened. I should've gotten her help. Then maybe she’d still be…” he couldn’t bring himself to say the word aloud.
“Sonny, what happened out there?”
“Matthias, somebody hurt her, somebody hurt her bad. I think… I think they...” his voice dropped to an almost inaudible whisper. “I think she was raped.”
Matthias let out a hiss of disgust.
“She never said it, ya know? But I knew. She made me promise not to tell anyone what happened. She begged me.” Sonny looked at Matthias, his eyes asking for absolution from his guilt.
“Sonny, what happened to Amy should never have happened to her. It should never happen to anyone. There are many evils in this world that shouldn't exist. We must do our best to fight them,” Matthias said solemnly.
It was then that Sonny resolved that would do everything he could to make sure that he didn’t fail anyone else's Amy.
It was because of this promise he made, so many years ago, that he had persevered between transfers from one SVU precinct to the next.
“Are you kidding me?” Sonny’s Staten Island accent was significantly more prominent amongst the Queens precinct detectives. “We all know that these women were raped. We need to convince them to stand up and say something. If not for themselves, then for all the people who could be hurt in the future.”
“You can't make a victim testify,” the Queens lieutenant tried to keep his temper in check.
“You’re wrong, you can get a subpoena, make them,” Sonny insisted.
“Carisi, you need to learn that by forcing a victim to testify, you are perpetuating the cycle of abuse.”
“And the doer just gets away with it? He gets to just walk away?”
“Detective Carisi, are you sure that this is the right assignment for you?” his lieutenant had asked.
Queens SVU had left him feeling pretty desolate. But he wouldn’t give up, he would do this, for Amy.
“Carisi?” Sonny looked up at Olivia, snapped out of his reverie.
“Lieu, is everything alright?” he asked, looking concerned.
Olivia smiled, it never ceased to amaze her how caring this young man was.
“Yes, just some confusion at Noah's daycare. Nothing to be concerned about.”
“How's the little guy doing?”
“Very well, thank you for asking. Carisi, I'm sorry about earlier, I didn't mean to dismiss you. Did you find something?”
Sonny beamed before launching into his discovery.
Finally, he thought, he was going be able to accomplish what he had set out to do. Not only that, for the first time he felt he had found a place for himself and earned the respect and friendship of his colleagues. He was finally home.