In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous.
In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies
are members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit.
These are their stories.
Thursday, June 23
Another case closed.
After finishing up their reports, the detectives of Manhattan's Special Victims Unit called it a night. In Amanda Rollins' case, that meant going home where her daughter Jesse was waiting. For this reason, she declined when Odafin Tutuola asked his fellow detectives if they would join him for a drink. A small group left the bullpen with him and a part of her wished she could go with them.
“Feel like grabbing a pizza instead?”
Turning her head, she discovered her partner, Dominick Carisi Jr., stepping up behind her.
“I thought you'd go with the others,” she shrugged.
“That doesn't answer my question,” Carisi smirked. “So?”
“Pizza would be nice,” Rollins agreed, eyeing him closely as he rolled down his sleeves and buttoned them up before he shrugged his jacket back on. The light blue summer suit had to be new as she was noticing it for the first time and fit incredibly well, making her think that it was custom tailored. She recalled the vest that came along with it but that he had discarded when the temperature rose during the day. In her opinion, it accentuated his slender figure and its navy blue, patterned back added a nice contrast. Inwardly, she smirked at the thought that even more women would try to chat him up if he wore it going out.
“Actually, you don't need to bribe me in order to play with Jesse,” she teased lightly, fleetingly wondering, if it was Barba's influence that made him buy such a suit, “but I'm still looking forward to a huge thin crust pizza.”
Realizing that she saw right through him, Carisi turned an adorable shade of red.
“You've got me there,” he admitted with a crooked smile. “Well, I'll pick up the pizza then and meet you at your place.”
“Alright,” Rollins nodded. “Thanks for the great idea. I didn't really feel like cooking tonight.”
“It's been a long day.”
“It's been a long week,” Rollins sighed, grabbing her purse and heading for the door.
Carisi fell in step beside her. At the elevator, they had to wait. Sensing that she did not want to make small talk, Carisi let his mind wander. It was not just the week that felt long and strenuous, though it was only Thursday. It was the squad's condition in general. Eight weeks had passed since Mike Dodds' funeral, and yet the horrendous pain of losing their sergeant on his last day at SVU still lingered. Each of them could have been in his place, getting caught by surprise in a situation that seemed totally under control. Cases of domestic violence were always unpredictable. As a result, everyone felt tense, which did not get any better by the fact that Gary Munson's trial had not yet begun.
As if that was not enough, Carisi felt the additional strain of having dealt with the death threats against their prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba. Not long after Heredio had been arrested, the threats escalated from hang-up-calls and letters to actual attempts on the attorney's life. The pressure of the case left everyone reeling. Even weeks after the situation had been resolved, Carisi tried to understand why he still felt tense. He could not tell the reason, but the mere idea of losing their Cuban American prosecutor terrified him.
The elevator came and they rode the carriage downstairs. They were about to part ways, when Rollins declared, “I think I'll rather go with Devilicious. I'm craving something hot.”
Carisi frowned, thinking about the detour he would have to make to the pizzeria that had the extra hot chili pizza on the menu. “That's not exactly enroute.”
“Please?” she begged, batting her eyes at him from under her blonde bangs.
Helplessly, he rolled his eyes, “Okay, but then I'll choose what we'll watch.”
“Okay,” Rollins agreed with a smirk, grateful for her ability to wrap her partner around her little finger like this. When it came to Jesse, he was easy to manipulate. He'd be a wonderful dad, she thought.
“See you later,” Carisi called after her as he started for the subway.
“Later!” she replied, waving at him.
During the ride, Carisi recalled the case they had just closed. It was still an unfortunate abnormality to him that some men could be so devious to abuse their own children. Working with adult victims was hard, but whenever children were involved, the job became even harder to bear. Those were the times when Carisi both wondered whether or not he should quit or just grow more determined.
From the station, it was only a short walk around the corner and down the block to the pizza place. Carisi ordered Rollins' Devilicious as well as a pizza with chicken, red onions, and artichoke for himself. While he waited, he contemplated the other case they were currently investigating. Working in this special squad, they all knew the horrible facets the human sex drive could take on. They knew how to deal with victims of sexual assault and they knew that some cases were harder to leave behind at the office than others.
Right now, though, Carisi had a hard time to wrap his mind around another recent case. It was hard enough to understand why women were unable to leave an abusive relationship but he could hardly comprehend that a man stayed with a violent woman.
When the Special Victims Unit was called in, Brenton was in hospital, with cracked ribs and a rupture of the spleen.
Nobody wanted to help. Aileen Flynn stuck to her right to remain silent. The children were too traumatized to talk about what happened. The friends of the family rather were friends of Aileen, and even Brenton's parents were reluctant to aid him, thinking that he was the one who discontinued contact with them and kept them from seeing their grandchildren.
It was the same story as it would have been with any female victim and yet, it was harder to get. Deep in thought, Carisi started when the brunette pizza girl tapped at his hand. Smiling sheepishly, he thanked her and paid. Carrying their pizza boxes, he was on his way back to the subway station, when he heard excited voices.
“Stop struggling, you little slut,” someone spat.
“What? No!” a high-pitched voice almost broke with fear. “Let go! What are you doing?”
Looking into the passage, Carisi discovered two people, the woman being dragged deeper into the dark alleyway.
“Not before I've got what you promised!” the man demanded viciously.
“Promised?” she all but squealed.
Seeing her getting cornered by the man, the detective's right hand reflexively moved to his hip, resting his hand on the grip of his service piece.
“Aaargh! Let go!” the woman cried. “No! Pat, no!”
When the man shoved the woman into the brick wall, forcing her arms up and pressing her wrists against the stones with one hand while yanking at her clothes with the other, Carisi cast caution to the wind and strode purposefully into the passage.
“Hey!” he shouted at the guy she had called Pat to get his attention. Slowing his steps and extending his right hand in a pacifying gesture, he calmly demanded, “You've heard what the lady said, right? She said no.”
“None of your business, pal,” the man snarled back. “Get lost.”
“No,” Carisi stood his ground. “I recommend you release the lady now.”
Sneering at his opponent, Pat scoffed.
“You've got nerves! You barge in here, thinking you could tell me what to do?”
"Yeah," Carisi firmly stated, pushing his jacket back to reveal the badge clipped to his belt, “I’ve got nerves. NYPD. Let the lady go. Now.”
Whoever this Pat was to the woman, she definitely did not want him that close right now, as she writhed in the man's hold. Carisi was pretty certain that he interrupted an attempted rape. In the twilight of the alley, he could not see the wild look in the man's eyes, but the teeth that were bared at him set off first warning bells in his subconscious.
Grimacing, Pat released his grip and the woman wriggled out from between him and the wall. Staggering, keeping her head down, she moved toward Carisi, apparently intent on fleeing into his embrace.
“Ma'am, everything's alright,” Carisi told her reassuringly, using gentle force to guide her behind him instead. Turning back to Pat, he said, “That was the right decision.”
“Don't get cute with me!” Pat snarled. “You think I'll let that slide?”
His reaction should have been a warning for Carisi, who felt a normal dose of anxiety but still confident that he could handle the situation.
At least the woman's out of his reach.
Carisi still tried to remain professional despite the man's aggressive attitude, “Sir-"
“Sir?” Pat cut him off with an evil laugh, making a step towards the detective. “You're calling me sir?”
Now, Carisi's warning bells were shrilling loudly. As the other man's speech was not slurred or something, he likely was not drunk, but he still seemed ready to provoke a fight.
“Sir, I need you to stop right there,” Carisi ordered in his best command voice, holding out his hand in a calming gesture.
“Just because you have a badge doesn't make you a cop.”
“Maybe he's got a good Samaritan complex,” a new voice mingled in.
Startled, Carisi snapped his head around, seeing not one but three figures approach from behind and fanning out in the passage. His hand went to his gun holster. Shocked, he found it empty.
“If he wants to be the bitch's knight in shining armor,” another man threw in, “he's more stupid than he looks.”
“Looking good, though,” a short person snickered lecherously, reaching up and pulling a long haired wig off his head. Showing that he held another object as well, he asked ominously, "Missing something?"
Seeing his service weapon in the other man's hand, all three of them effectively blocking his way back to the street, Carisi realized that he was in trouble. Abandoning the pizza bag, he backed against a wall, reaching for the Apple watch's side button in order to activate a 911 call.
“You think you can take us on all at once?” the short man who had posed as a woman taunted, an evil grin spreading on his weasel-like features.
“Hey, what’s that?”
“The watch!” Pat shouted, “Look out!”
A punch hitting Carisi’s upper arm momentarily stunned the limb, making his grip slip.
Did the call connect?
Blocking another attack, Carisi whirled around and drove a vicious kick into one of the assailants' stomach. An uppercut slid off his defense, and he hit somebody's chest in return.
From behind, another man reached for his upper arms, hooking around them. Carisi's first reflex was struggling, but then, he let himself fall. The grip loosened and he landed on his butt. In retaliation, he beat the man between the legs. A howl of pain told him he had hit the bull's eye.
Rolling over, Carisi scrambled to his feet. With a sweep of his leg, he made another attacker's knees buckle. Straightening, the detective came face to face with the short, weasel-faced man. For a second or two, their gazes locked, and Carisi knew he had to get out.
Firing a straight right at the man, he felt his arm being intercepted. Intending to free himself by punching the weasel with his left resulted in both arms getting stuck crossed in an iron grip. Still holding tight, the man kicked at Carisi's middle. Due to the hold on his arms, the unexpected blow made the detective double over, gasping for breath. A split second later, something smashed down on his back, and before he even knew it, he was on all fours on the pavement, taking gulps of air.
“Ten-thir...” he croaked, hoping that the emergency call connected.
A kick to his side spun him around. Carisi tried to roll onto his back, but strong hands grabbed at his arms. One of the assailants brutally twisted his left arm, wrenching the smart-watch from his wrist. Then they yanked him back to his feet. Someone gripped at his chin from behind and he did not hesitate.
“Ouch! He bit me!”
A retaliating blow to his middle hit his solar plexus.
Paralyzing pain shot through Carisi's system. It drove tears to his eyes as the punch literally knocked the wind out of him and he became lightheaded.
A punch to his head split his lip and he tasted blood. Seeing stars from both the impact and the lack of oxygen, Carisi defenselessly hung in the grasp of the men. Beyond the pain, he numbly felt someone patting down his body and fishing his phone out of his inner jacket pocked, and he imploringly hoped that the call had connected. Hopefully, they would believe he was a cop after all and cease their assault as they heard him hoarsely voice with desperation, “Ten-thirteen.”
“Definitely a cop,” one of his attackers sneered, slapping him across the face in order to silence him.
Mustering what little strength he currently had left, Carisi reared in their grip. At least he thought he reared, while he merely struggled sluggishly.
Evil laughter penetrated his ears.
Due to his swimming vision, the man called Pat only was a blurry shape in the twilight of the alley. Carisi could make out that he was looking at something in his hand and his hopes fell. Hearing the man snicker devilishly, he knew that he was in big, big trouble.
“Now look what we have here,” Pat sneered, reading off Carisi's credentials, “Detective Third Grade Dominick Carisi... Junior.”
A hand in his hair forced the detective to keep his gaze ahead. Carisi always thought it to be a cliché, but he felt his blood run cold as he heard Pat read out contentedly, “Special Victims Unit...” his voice rose with amusement, “he's a sex cop.”
With horror, Carisi felt someone grip his crotch through the fabric of his trousers, squeezing and digging nails in painfully. Groaning, he strained against the hold on his arms.
“Thinking with the wrong head explains why he tried to mess with you, Pat,” one of the other men laughed.
“We should teach him a lesson,” another cut in.
“Yeah, Roy,” the first agreed. “One that he never forgets.”
Impending panic threatened to paralyze Carisi.
They know I'm a cop and still want to teach me a lesson? Whatever they mean by that... certainly entails more pain.
Seeing how the situation quickly got out of hand, he tried to gather his strength and argue, the words leaving him on a throaty gasp, “You're right, I'm a cop. So you know you'll get in...”
A hand brutally grasping his chin, fingers digging into his cheeks, stopped his argument before he had a chance to explain in just how much trouble they were.
“Don't you worry about our problems, sweet cheeks,” Pat sneered.
Carisi knew that he had not much time left. When Pat let go of his chin and frisked him again, he was sure that once they found his handcuffs, he was going to be rendered helplessly at their mercy. Sagging, pretending to be groggier than he was, Carisi managed to catch the shorter man by surprise. The grip on his left arm loosened and he managed to break free just when Pat tugged on his belt. Screaming with rage, Carisi slammed the heel of his hand against the man's collarbone. Using his elbow, he then knocked it backwards at the opponent who still held on to his right arm. Unfortunately, his punch did not possess enough force to make the man release his grip. Instead, the mountain of a man grabbed his left arm as well. Letting himself drop did not work this time and all his rearing remained unsuccessful. With four against one, they overpowered him and knocked another scream off his lips.
Dazed, Carisi crashed prone on the asphalt.
A light flashed above.
“C'mon!” one of them demanded, “We don't have forever!”
Roughly, they pulled the detective back up to his feet.
Very real fear hit Carisi, knotting up his insides, when he heard the ratchet of metal and one half of his handcuffs snapped shut around his right wrist. Blood rushing in his ears, he tensed up in a vain attempt to prevent them from tying his hands. Carisi fought a desperate fight, but a second later, the steel eights encircled both of his wrists. Before he could recover from his shock at feeling his arms catch on the metal, the men marched him even deeper into the alley and around the parked cars.
Suspecting the worst, Carisi struggled and felt himself being lifted off the ground. Crying out, he felt his voice catch in his throat.
“Silence!” someone hissed sharply.
Viciously, the men manhandled him on their way to who knew where. Carisi felt himself dipping sideways, thinking he would fall, but they still held on to him strongly. Writhing and kicking in their carry, the detective fought tooth and nail to get out of their grip, but they were relentless. While one of them held his legs, another pulled off his shoes and tied his ankles. Carisi wanted to scream, but no sound came over his trembling lips except heavy breathing. When his feet were dropped, he felt nauseous from being handled and turned as if he was a puppet. Did nobody notice his predicament?
His breathing was still labored as Carisi tried to keep his wits as he was manhandled.
Someone pulled his tie from his neck. Despite his blurry vision, Carisi could discern that the same someone made knots into the fabric before reaching for the detective’s head, which set off a fresh bout of terror within him.
Instinctively, Carisi reared into the man holding him from behind. Throwing his head to the side, he tried to avoid the inevitable, but they gripped his head and forced the fabric between his teeth. Panic hit Carisi full force, his eyes growing wide, when the cloth filled his oral cavity, pressing his tongue down, and a squeal from deep in his throat escaped him. Firmly, they knotted the gag behind his head.
“Scared?” Pat snarled, getting into his face, “You should be.”
Once more, Carisi lost contact with the ground.
With no pretense, they shoved him into a confined space. Feeling their hands everywhere, manipulating his body, overloaded Carisi's mind. In vain, he tried to process what was happening. All he heard was the rush in his ears and his heavy breathing through flaring nostrils.
Suddenly, the hands were gone.
The lid slamming shut above him, plunged Carisi into darkness.
Upon arriving home, Rollins was greeted by a giddy little girl that reached up at her as soon as she came into view. Rollins lifted her daughter up and thanked her babysitter, asking if Jesse had eaten. Hearing her confirmation, she thanked her again and saw her out. Bouncing Jesse in her arms, Rollins returned to the living room where she sat on the sofa.
Knowing that she did not need to cook tonight, she switched on the television and made herself comfortable.
In her arms, Jesse snuggled up to her chest and when she tickled her side, her daughter giggled happily.
Rollins delighted in the sound. As long as Jesse was happy, she was happy, too.
Thinking of how delighted her partner was going to be when he could play with her little girl later, she snickered. Carisi was such a softy when it came to children. Once he had kids of his own, their mom certainly would have to be the strict one.
Or their dad? she thought, recalling how she had caught Carisi out one night between two after-work-beers. She had gone to the ladies' restroom and when she returned, she saw him with another man who apparently tried to chat him up. When Carisi spotted her, he had firmly told the other man goodbye. Though nothing had really happened, he had to endure her teasing for the rest of the evening. Of course, Carisi had claimed that he just did not want to be rude, but Rollins still could not help but to wonder. There had been a twinkle in his eyes just before he noticed his partner, which made her wonder if he was not bisexual. As it had been the only cue she ever picked up, she had dismissed it as irrelevant soon thereafter.
Only recently, the idea struck her again, and that was at Dodd's wake. Carisi had been talking with Barba then and they looked so well acquainted with each other that Rollins had to bite back a smirk. Later she had learned that Barba had told Carisi about the death threats he received, so she could relate to how close their conversation had been then.
It must be my imagination, she told herself. Our good Catholic boy just is good at mediation as well as undercover work. Deflection is his way to handle difficult situations. He's just that kind of guy who tries to make everyone happy.
Rollins thought at the rare occasions when she got the impression that he was indeed seeing someone. Despite all her prodding, he did not give anything away, not even if he actually had a date.
Looking at the clock on the wall, Rollins wondered what might keep her partner. She was yearning for a hot, delicious pizza with thick cheese. After a long day at work she had earned a luscious meal.
Squirming in her hold, Jesse demanded her attention. For a while, she could keep her entertained with finger games, but when the little girl became grumpy, she decided to take her to bed.
Carisi will be devastated, Rollins inwardly chuckled when she laid her daughter down in her crib. For him, playing with her would have been the best after-work distraction.
For a moment, she stayed with Jesse, caressing her back, before she returned to the couch. Another look at the clock did not make the time pass any faster. Rollins' stomach was growling audibly by now and she tried to withstand the urge to call Carisi.
C'mon, Detective Carisi, where's the promised pizza? I don't want to wait forever.
Without his company, the reality show on the TV could not hold Rollins' attention. Subconsciously, her annoyance at being let down turned into concern. It was not like her partner at all to be late and not get in touch with her.
Maybe I should call, remind him that it's his responsibility as my partner to keep me fed properly. C'mon, how long can it take to get two pizzas?
Slowly, the nagging concern in the back of Rollins' mind turned into worry. Another glance at the clock told her that only a few minutes had passed since she last checked, which made her feel ridiculous. Shaking her head dismissively, she returned her attention back to the TV.
She had just settled deep into the couch, when her cell phone chimed, announcing a text message. Snagging it off the coffee table, she glanced at the display, expecting to find an excuse for why Carisi could not bring the promised dinner yet.
Her heart jumped into her throat, though, at seeing the automated emergency message, forwarded to her by the device after an SOS had been released. Frantically, she opened it to get the information about her partner's location at the time of emergency.
As she had no way of knowing what the emergency was or whether it had been resolved by now, she tried to call Carisi back, but she only got the voicemail, another clear sign that something was wrong.
Horribly so. It must be a really dangerous situation if my partner resorts to using the SOS function of his smart watch.
As soon as Rollins had slipped on her shoes again, she grabbed her phone, service piece and jacket, and left her flat to head two doors down the hallway, knocking insistently.
"Mrs. Dean," she greeted when her elderly neighbor opened, "I'm sorry to disturb you, but I need to run an urgent errand. Could you have an eye on Jesse?" Seeing her skeptical expression, she pleaded, "She's already asleep. I'd just like someone to be there in case she wakes."
Mrs. Dean still hesitated.
"Please, Mrs. Dean. It's an emergency."
"Alright, Dear," she relented. "I'll be over in a moment."
“Now would be perfect,” Rollins begged, hoping her gaze adapted at least some of the puppy-dog-qualities her partner was capable of.
With a deep sigh, her neighbor gathered a knit jacket and her keys and followed Rollins to her flat.
"Thank you, Mrs. Dean," Rollins sighed. "I owe you."
As soon as her impromptu babysitter sat on the couch, Rollins took her leave and headed straight to the pizza place. Upon her arrival, she spotted a patrol car and strode over to her uniformed colleagues.
“Rollins, SVU,” she declared. “What have you got?”
“Nothing so far,” the officer told her. “No sign of a brawl of any kind.”
“Keep looking,” Rollins ordered and turned to enter the pizza restaurant. Impatiently, she pushed past the customers and tried to get hold of one of the service staff. Producing her cell phone where she had pulled up a picture of Carisi, she said, "NYPD, have you seen this man tonight?"
The young man shook his head, but nudged his colleague in order to direct her attention to Rollins, who asked her question again. Once more, she only got a shake of the head in response.
"Thanks. Anyone else whom I could ask?"
"Yeah, Sheila," the woman nodded. "She should be right back from her break."
Rollins did not have to wait long until the woman in question returned and her colleagues already pointed her in the detective's direction.
"Yes, he was here," Sheila recalled when she was shown Carisi's picture. "I can't tell when exactly, though."
"Do you happen to remember in which direction he left?"
Worrying her bottom lip, Sheila wracked her mind about it before she shook her head.
"I think he turned left," she said, "but I'm really not sure. Sorry, Detective."
Rollins thanked her anyway and left the restaurant, turning the way, Carisi presumably had taken on his way back to the subway. As she walked along the pavement, she pulled up the map again that showed her where Carisi's phone had been tracked and realized that it was not the restaurant itself where it registered but an alley a few yards away.
Shining around with a flashlight, she kept searching for her partner. The officers joined her and she directed them to advance down the alley and search in the space encompassed by the buildings as well. As she could not spot anything yet, she dialed Carisi's number... and heard the melody he had programmed as her ring-tone. Turning around, she stood in front of a dumpster and realized that the sounds came from within.
Heart beating in her throat, she rushed to open the lid, expecting the worst. Instead of a body, she found a heap of trash bags. Wrinkling her nose, she produced gloves, slipping them on and climbing into the dumpster. With only the flashlight, she could not find the phone, so she called again to orient herself with the help of the ringtone. Keeping digging, she finally unearthed not only Carisi's phone but also his smart-watch from the depths of the dumpster.
He'd never throw that away.
As she had felt something else between the bags, she reached down again and pulled something out of the rubbish that made her heart sink.
Climbing out in a daze of emotion, she shone the light around, halfway expecting to find Carisi lying in the dirt, but all she could discover was a plastic bag with two pizza cartons.
And no sign of her missing partner.