Chapter One: Introductions
Lieutenant Olivia Benson adjusted her glasses and studied her pamphlet on the Met’s exhibit. Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. Years of practice helped her to school her features into interest as she looked up from her pamphlet into the glass box housing a golden sheath evening gown sporting a large, paler gold cross in the center. She cocked her head, pretending to appreciate the lines of the Versace gown and consider how it glamorized the priestly robes that women in the Catholic church as yet could not wear.
“It seems kind of blasphemous, don’t you think?” Carisi’s voice came through the earbud hidden in Olivia’s ear; she didn’t react to it. Nor did she grin, like she wanted to, when she heard Rollin’s shoot back, “Only if you’re talking about how the most well-known religion in the known world only allows men to be ordained. That’s blasphemy.”
“Shut up, both of you.” Fin’s voice came through the earbud; she glanced over to the corner where he stood in his museum security uniform. His face was blank as he pulled his mouth away from the radio on his shoulder. His eyes scanned the room, passing over her on his sweep without pausing. He blended well and had pitched his integration into museum security with his own unique brand of persuasion. As much as it still baffled him, Sergeant Tutola wore the rank well.
Instead of shutting up, Carisi wondered, “How is it that we ended up in the van on this op, anyway? They outrank us. Rank gets to sit in the van.”
“He already knows your faces, genius,” Fin muttered.
“Oh right. I knew that. It’s this weird pope fashion exhibit,” Carisi protested. “Throwing me off.”
Rollins shot back a retort (something something altar boy), but Olivia let it slide over her. She moved to the next case, a Dolce and Gabbana gown with three quarter sleeves designed to mimic ancient mosaic icons. She pretended to study it, but she was watching the reflection of museum goers behind her in the case’s mirror. Her mark wore a Yankees baseball cap that didn’t cover his dead-giveaway red hair. He shifted, nervously, reaching to remove his sunglasses before changing his mind and pushing them further up on his nose instead. She glanced at her watch, and then said softly, “Six o’clock.”
“LT’s spotted him behind her,” she heard Carisi say, all business now. “There. Yankees hat, black hoodie, looks nervous as a sinner in church. Which, considering this exhibit, is kind of fitting.”
“Har har,” Rollins said. “I sent a screenshot to museum security, but this is the exhibit he picked. Liv was right.”
Olivia coughed into her hand as her eyes tracked the mark, one Corey Schiller, suspected serial rapist recently released from questioning thanks to high-powered lawyer dad. Not enough evidence to charge him, Stone said. Even though they knew he had a pattern, that he took a victim every three days.. Erin was his third, and she was an art student; she drew a sketch herself. It matched the police sketches from Jane and Layla.
The Met was the common denominator between all his his victims. Jane was a tourist from the UK, taking in the sights; she’d been assaulted at her Airbnb shortly after leaving the Met. Layla volunteered there on Tuesdays and Thursdays when she had the days off from her nursing job. And Erin, of course, was an art student at Hudson taking in the newest exhibits. The Catholic fashion exhibit was a few months old, but Liv had a hunch; she followed it. Good for her team to see she was right, she thought. And good to be in the field; rank did keep her at her desk more often than not, but this was why she became a cop.
She moved on to the next glass case, tracking Schiller behind her. He was holding a pamphlet that he didn’t glance at once; he ignored the exhibits. Instead, she knew, he was looking for a target. He liked brunettes. When she was younger, she would have gotten a morbid thrill trying to lure in a target like him; now, with Noah at home and William Lewis occasionally still lurking in her dreams, she wasn’t cavalier with her own life anymore. If one of her squad or an innocent person was in danger, then she wouldn’t hesitate. But otherwise, caution was the name of the game.
Besides, she thought, okay to acknowledge that she was older than his victim type. The others-- she recited their names in her head because she always remembered them-- Jane, Layla, Erin, had all been between 22 and 32, tall, trim, long dark hair. Now, Lieutenant Olivia Benson took great pride in still being street fit, but she didn’t consider herself trim, exactly. And she hadn’t been 32 for twenty years, not that anyone was pointing that out. Her team understood the game-- track Schiller, prevent him from attacking someone else.
Schiller moved; she saw it where he was headed and adjusted so that she could track him in the mirror even as Rollins reported it in her ear.
“On the move, Liv. Seems like he’s heading toward the exhibit help desk,” she said.
“Bastard’s going to be 18 inches away from Fin, so we’re still good. Who’s he going for?”
Olivia shifted, craning her neck, as if she was studying the intricate bead work on the mosaic dress rather than watching Schiller in the mirror behind the gown. She saw two women at the help desk, both wearing museum nametags. Both women, she noted, were young brunettes. The younger woman sitting at the desk was a multiracial female, early twenties, with wild brown curls that bounced when she talked. Probably a student volunteer, considering her wardrobe and the way she was chattering at the older woman with a mixture of fear, glee, and awe.
The older woman didn’t appear to be much older; early thirties perhaps, her age was obscured. The woman’s angular features, black-rimmed glasses, glamorous red dress pair with a white blazer, and immaculate updo hairstyle made her look older. Yet her olive-toned skin was flawless, making her look younger. Consequently Olivia didn’t know if she was 25 or 45, but either way, she was striking. She could be the target, Liv thought. She made her way to the next piece, tracking Schiller in the mirrors as she feigned interest in the gown; she didn’t notice this one.
“Could be either woman at the desk,” Carisi considered in her earbud, echoing her thoughts. “My money’s on the beauty in the red dress.”
“Think again,” Rollins scoffed. “Watch.”
As all four of them watched as the woman in the red dress gently interrupted the student’s excited chatter, delicately adjusted her glasses, and excused herself to confront an Asian tourist who was breaking the exhibits “No Flash Photo” rule. She walked with perfect balance on her ankle-breaker stilettos, and her those legs were defined with just a little more muscle than was typically feminine. Olivia returned her eyes on Schiller-- he hadn’t moved, still fidgeting near the help desk--but she could hear the woman unleash her scolding in perfect Cantonese, her tone cool and polite, brooking no refusal.
“Look at how nervous he is,” Rollins continued. “Schiller wouldn’t touch that woman with a ten-foot pole. She’s fierce, and he’s ready to wet himself. That’s why he usually goes the GHB route because he’s a fucking coward. Nope, he’s casing the student. Here, let me zoom in.... name tag says Brooklyn Ramirez. Our multilingual ball crusher is Diana. Diana Prince.”
“Staff records say Prince is a higher-up in the Met,” Carisi reported. “But this isn’t her usual department; she’s an expert on Greco-Roman artifacts. Ramirez is an intern, and a recent art history graduate from Hudson. Yeah, Loo, I agree with Rollins. Brooklyn here is in danger. Especially since I think Schiller here is more than just nervous; I think he’s on something or jonesing to be.”
Olivia nodded to show that she’d heard them, that she agreed, but didn’t speak. Too many people around.
“He’s coming over,” Fin murmured. Olivia adjusted, turning to track Schiller head-on now that his back was to her. She moved to the next row of glass cases, meandering closer to the glass cases. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she noted that these cases held actual priestly raiments rather than modern fashionable interpretations of them.
The team was mostly quiet as Fin’s mike picked up Schiller’s stammering question about the exhibit and Brooklyn’s enthusiastic answer. All the while, Olivia moved closer and closer, closing in. Drugs, she knew, made people unpredictable.
Schiller complimented Brooklyn’s hair and wondered when she got off shift. Brooklyn’s smile dimmed into vivid discomfort, and she opened her mouth to answer. Olivia was right behind him now.
“Excuse me,” came a feminine voice with a musical accent. Greek, perhaps. “Please do not interrupt my employee’s work. She doesn’t come here to get hit on. This is not a bar. It is a museum. So please, keep your questions relevant to the exhibits, or you will be escorted out.”
Failing to hide his grin, Fin approached. “Security, is there a problem here?” He got into Schiller’s personal space, forcing the other man to stumble back a step.
“Not at all, thank you, Officer,” Diana Prince said. “Mr. Schiller was just leaving.”
Olivia froze. The radio went silent. Schiller’s color bled out of his face.
“That’s right,” Diana Prince said, lowering her voice to quiet steel. “I know who you are. I read about you, and I know what you’ve done. I will give your photo to every member of our staff, every officer in our security. The police will find enough to arrest you, and until then, you are not welcome here at the Met.”
Olivia was debating the legality of that when she saw him draw the knife. She screamed it, “Knife!” at the same time as Fin did, and she dove, she was closer. She tackled Schiller as he lifted it over his head. He struggled, so Olivia drove her knee into his back. He yelped, but she held him down while Fin cuffed him.
“Oh, you’ve made this so much easier. Corey Schiller, you are under arrest for attempted assault with a deadly.”
“Go to hell, pig bitch!” he screamed, attempted to head butt her. She dodged easily, smiled. “And resisting arrest. You have the right to remain silent.”
Carisi and Rollins came jogging in. “Good timing. Read him his rights, take him back to the house,” she ordered.
“You got it, LT,” Carisi said, grabbing Schiller.
“Remember me, kid?” Rollins said, grinning into his face, laughing when he lunged at her. “You have the right to remain silent.” Together, they hauled him out.
Olivia brushed herself off and pulled out her badge, letting it dangle from her neck. “NYPD, everything’s under control,” she announced to the gawking crowd. Museum security, in on the operation was gathering too. “Go about your business.”
With that, she turned back to Fin and Ms. Diana “Ballbuster” Prince. The lady was dropping the knife into a plastic bag Fin was holding open for her. Olivia’s eyebrows shot up; when had she grabbed the knife?
“Thanks,” Fin was saying. “That was fast. You must have some training.”
“Some combat training yes,” Diana answered in that musical accent of hers. “Martial arts is a hobby of mine.”
Olivia came to stand beside Fin. He pocketed the weapon. “Sergeant Tutola,” he said by way of introduction. “This is Lieutenant Benson”
Diana held out her hand, shook with them both. “The creme de la creme,” she said in a perfect accent. “How lovely. I am grateful you were here to prevent that man from escalating. I read about him in the paper; someone could have been hurt.”
“Just doing the job,” Fin said. “Excuse me, I’m going to connect with Museum security, get the tapes, return the uniform. Meet you back at the car, Liv?”
Olivia nodded, turning to focus on Prince. With the up close and personal view, Olivia felt a sense of dejavu pass over her. Diana Prince looked impossibly familiar. “It’s not a bad idea,” Olivia said, “to warn your staff about Schiller.” She pocketed her glasses and said nothing else; the investigation was ongoing, after all, and though she hoped today gave them enough to remand him while they built the rape case, his lawyer dad was scary good.
“I will do that,” she said. “I am Diana Prince.” She walked, leading Olivia into a more private corner behind the held desk. As they passed, she patted Brooklyn on the shoulder to offer reassurance, saying, “Everything is fine, Brooklyn. You are safe here.” Another museum security officer had already replaced Fin, Olivia noted, appreciating the efficiency.
“This isn’t my department,” Diana continued, gesturing to a bench. They both sat. “Normally I am in the back, evaluating artifacts. But I am Brooklyn’s mentor, and she loves this exhibit. I am glad I was here.”
“So am I,” Olivia said. “You handled him well out there, when he was harassing your employee. Risky, though. Perhaps next time you might consider calling security when a man under the influence is making trouble.”
Diana smiled, putting Olivia in mind of cat. Olivia still thought the other woman looked familiar, but she couldn’t place from where.
“I am not in the habit of letting others fight my battles any more than you are, Lieutenant Benson. But I appreciate your concern for my safety.”
“It’s the job,” Olivia echoed Fin, leaning back into the bench. She hadn’t tackled a suspect in a few weeks yet; she rolled her neck. “I prefer if vigilantes remain in Gotham until such a time the NYPD finds itself unable to keep up.” She slid her gaze at Prince, interested to see that the other woman was bristling. “Ms. Prince, would you mind coming to the station to make a statement? We can have an officer drive you back.”
“Please, call me Diana,” she said with a cool smile. “Yes, it will be my pleasure, Lieutenant.”
Olivia stood again, seeing Fin approach. “Excellent,” she said.
Diana Prince gave a succinct statement full of gratitude and complimentary assessments of the NYPD team. She offered her contact information and assured Olivia that she would be happy to cooperate further in any ways necessary, that she was had no trips for work coming up at the moment. All in all, she was ruthlessly polite yet that strange fire that had lit with the mention of vigilantes was still there in her eyes. Olivia noted this, amused and fascinated that a gorgeous museum curator in mile-high red stilettos would get her back up over vigilantism. Or was it just the one in Gotham that that had her on the defensive?
Oh, she wanted to know. Olivia stood, offering her hand to Diana, who stood as well. “Thank you so much, Diana, for coming in. If you see anything suspicious at the Met in the coming days, I hope you will give me a call.”
Her grip was tight; Olivia approved. She snagged a business card from her desk, circled her cell number and office line, then offered the card to Diana. She thought her detectives would be surprised; she didn’t give it out to just anyone these days what with trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Handshake completed, Diana shouldered her bag, a small practical piece in white leather that looked to cost more than Olivia’s best suit. She slid the business card into an inner pocket and zipped it shut. “Of course,” she said. “I hope if Mr. Schiller is released on bail or if there are any other developments that may put our employees and patrons at risk, that you will let me know.”
“Certainly,” Olivia agreed. She stepped around her desk to the first uniform she saw. “Carmichael,” she called, and the young officer snapped to attention, her face eager.
“Drive Ms. Prince back to the Met, would you?”
“Absolutely, Lieutenant. Ma’am, right this way.”
Olivia meant to watch them leave, so she wasn’t embarrassed to be caught looking when Diana turned back around three steps from her office door to call out, “Until next time, Lieutenant” with a red-lipstick smile, cool and sharp. Yes, she knew that face, that smile... but from where?
Everyone’s eyebrows shot up into their hairline but for Olivia, who didn’t react. As soon as the door shut behind Officer Carmichael and one Diana Prince, Olivia turned to Fin.
“Run her,” she ordered.