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Breathless

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Carisi pulls up to the witness’ house. “This is it?”

Rollins nods her head, “Yeah. Looks like it. 1311 South Palmer. Last known address of Casey Tyler.”

“Let’s see what Mr. Tyler has to say,” Carisi says.

It’s been slow this week. There are no new pressing cases. During the lull, SVU has been looking over cold cases. Taking a second look at the cases. Seeing if time and a new set of eyes may see something the second time around, combing through old witness statements and case notes. While looking into the Casiglia case, Carisi came across a witness statement stating that she noticed a delivery van in the area every day for a week before the girl’s disappearance. The lead was never followed up on. Carisi tracked down the eyewitness who said that she never saw the van again after the teenager’s disappearance. With a little more digging, it turns out the delivery van was for Zio’s Pizza. At the time the van was used by a delivery boy named Casey Tyler. Casey Tyler was a new employee during the time and subsequently stopped showing up to work two days after Melissa Casiglia disappeared.

Carisi steps out of the car. The bite of the cold, December air hits him as soon as breathes in the frigid air. He lets out a deep cough. Rollins look at him with concerned eyes. It’s been nearly two months since he was in the hospital with a serious bout of pneumonia that left them all shaken.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Carisi says once his coughing stops. “I’m fine.”

“You better be. I’m not going through that again,” Rollins says as they start walking towards the old, run down house.

Carisi rolls his eyes as he walks alongside his partner. “Thanks for the concern.”

“I am concerned,” Rollins says as she pushes back a piece of hair behind her ear. ”Concerned about my well-being. If you get sick on my watch, Barba is going to have my ass.”

“No he won’t.” Carisi argues.

“Um yeah he will. You weren’t exactly lucid the last time you ended up in the hospital. Him and Liv were not good. You could cut the tension between the two with a knife,” Rollins sighs. Things are just now starting to get back to normal. The last thing they all need is Carisi to end up back in the hospital.

“Awww, were mom and dad fighting?” Carisi teases with a mischievous look in his eyes.

Rollins frowns. “First, that’s gross. Considering you’re sleeping with ‘dad’ and with our line of work. Making that joke is just so wrong.”

Carisi grimaces. “Yeah, I see what you mean when you put it that way.”

“And two,” Rollins continues. “I had to play mediator between the two of them and that’s not a great place to be in. I don’t ever want to do that again. That’s why you better not get sick again for the foreseeable future.”

“Duly noted,” Carisi replies.

“Good. Now let’s do this. You ready?” Rollins asks as they walk up the porch steps.

Carisi nods as he follows her. “Go ahead.”

Rollins knocks on the door. No answer. She knocks again. “Mr. Tyler! This is NYPD! We need to talk to you!”

“This is about Melissa Casiglia! We just want to ask you a few questions,” Carisi calls through the door.

The front door still doesn’t open, but someone is definitely home. Noises are coming from inside the house. They spare each other a second glance before they barged into the house.

“Casey Tyler!” Rollins calls as she rushes the house. “We just need to speak to you!”

“You’re only making this harder on yourself!” Carisi adds, gun raised.

They follow the noises that are coming from the back of the house. The perp looks back at them quickly before he races towards the back door. They’re both on him. Carisi’s long legs giving him a substantial advantage over his partner as they make chase. It takes longer than it should, but soon Carisi has the guy tackled to the ground. His chest heaving with the exertion as he cuffs the man.

“I didn’t do anything!” Tyler protests from his belly down position.

“Then…why…did…you…run?” Carisi asks, clearly winded.

“You got him?” Rollins asks when she reaches the pair.

“Thanks…for…the assist,” Carisi retorts as he pulls Tyler up to a standing position. Rollins rolls her eyes as she grabs Tyler from her partner’s grasp. Carisi lets out a wheeze.

“You okay, Carisi?” Rollins asks concerned. His only response is more wheezing breaths.

“Carisi? What’s wrong? Talk to me!” Rollins yells as she pushes Tyler to the side to get a better view of her partner. She doesn’t like what she sees. Carisi is still struggling to catch his breath after his little chase. His erratic wheezing breaths fills the cold, near silent air. He looks like a fish out of water, his face contorting painfully as he tries taking in desperately needed breaths. With his hands free, he’s grabbing at his chest with his right hand in a frantic attempt to pull in much needed air.

“Can’t…can’t…breathe…tight,” Carisi gasps out in between wheezes.

“Okay, okay. You’re okay. Hold on,” Rollins says as she takes out her phone. “Hi, yeah this is Detective Rollins. Manhattan SVU. I need a bus at 1311 South Palmer.”

She turns to Carisi. “Just hold on, Carisi. I’m getting you help.” Her only response is the other detective’s wheezing breaths. His frantic grabbing at his chest more desperate. She starts speaking into the phone again. “Yeah, they need to get here now. My partner…my partner can’t breathe.”

XXXXX

Barba is in the middle of drafting a motion in limine. Well, maybe trying is a better way to describe. He hates writing motions in limine. Finding crafty ways to say that the defendant’s evidence is prejudicial to the case. In his eagerness to get a break, he answers his cell phone on the second ring. In his haste, he doesn’t even look to see who is calling.

“Barba,” Rollins says.

“Rollins?” Barba asks in confusion. She almost never calls him. They were never that close, but they seemed to have a turned a page in their relationship after Sonny landed in the hospital. Where before he would have found himself touching base with Liv about his partner’s health, he now finds himself texting Rollins. But Rollins very rarely calls him on her own initiative. What is this about? He’s prepping for the Jenkins trial. It’s been an unusually slow week at SVU, so they’ve been catching up on paperwork and other loose ends. He left SVU not even an hour ago. Rollins and Sonny weren’t there. They were chasing down some lead that came up on a cold case. “What can I do for you, Rollins?”

His heart speeds up when he hears her take a deep breath. “Barba...it’s Carisi.”

Dread floods through him. “What happened?”

“We were chasing down a lead in the Melissa Casiglia case. Missing girl from Hell’s Kitchen. You remember the case?”

He vaguely remembers it. It was a case from a few years back. Missing seventeen year old. Parents said she never came home from school. At a first glance they thought the disappearance was connected to a series of rapes in the area. But it never panned out. No DNA evidence. No eyewitness reporting seeing the serial rapist, Clyde Wozjenski, with the missing girl. With so little evidence to go on investigators deemed that no foul play was involved and that she was probably a runaway.

“Yeah, I remember it.” Barba half lies.

“We came across something so we went to go check it out,” Rollins continues.

“What happened?” Barba asks. “Did he get hurt?”

“No, not really.”

Barba feels like Rollins is talking in riddles. If Sonny didn’t get hurt, then why is she calling him?

“He ran. Carisi chased him down. But Carisi was having problems breathing. I called a bus when he couldn’t catch his breath.”

Barba sits in his chair horrified. The last time Sonny couldn’t breathe, he was in the hospital for ten days with a bad case of pneumonia. Five of which he was in the ICU with a respirator down his throat.

“He couldn’t breathe?” Barba asks brokenly.

Rollins must have been able to read his fear through the phone because the next time she talks her speech is much softer, more compassionate. One that she probably had used hundreds of times with victims and their families.
“Barba, he’s going to be okay. The EMT’s got here not even five minutes after I made the call. His breathing got better as soon as they started giving him oxygen. He was still conscious when the EMT’s left with him. They’re taking him to the ER to get checked out.”

“He’s really okay?” Barba asks wishfully.

Rollins lets out a chuckle. “Okay enough to tell me not to call you.”

“Of course he did,” Barba curses. “Where are they taking him?”

“Presbyterian,” Rollins replies.

“I’ll meet you there,” Barba says before hanging up. He has to push those dire feelings away. Sonny can’t breathe. He’s going back to the hospital.

He shakes his head to push those thoughts away. Rollins said Sonny is going to be fine. He was aware enough to beg her not to call him. These are all good signs. Barba just has to concentrate on those.

Sonny is going to be okay. Sonny is going to be okay. He keeps saying the mantra to himself as he puts his coat on and heads out the door. Maybe if he says it enough times, he’ll actually start to believe it.