“You look like you’re about to murder someone, Carisi,” Rollins drawled as she tossed her purse in a desk drawer.
“I’m giving it some serious thought.”
“You wanna talk about it?”
“No.” Carisi sighed. “I probably should though. And the lieu’s gonna find out when she gets in anyway.”
“What, did you run over Dodd’s dog or something?”
Carisi rubbed at his temples, wishing this headache was so easily gotten rid of. “I got a call at the ass crack of dawn this morning, my old Sarge from homicide. He wants my help with a new development on an old case. Serial killer. The only one I ever saw, and even then I only got in on it because I was partnered with a senior detective, Shafer, and they wanted him investigating it.”
“Your old partner can’t handle what they need?” Rollins asked.
“He retired and moved to Illinois, of all places.”
“Okay, so what’s up?”
“This serial was probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen. He liked to kidnap teenage girls. All between fourteen and sixteen, fair skin, light hair, blue eyes, petite. He would take them…somewhere. We still don’t know where, and he would torture them. He would torture them for days, until they died from it. Healthy teenagers, and every single one of them died of a cardiac episode brought on by stress, except the one who died early of an asthma attack, and then he would dump their bodies in the Hudson.”
“I remember that one,” Rollins shuddered. “Had no idea you investigated it.”
Carisi nodded. “That case almost cost me my badge. We had a suspect in custody, Clif Richards, and I was so sure it was him. Problem was, we had no evidence. We couldn’t figure out how he was transporting the bodies, or snatching the girls. We had to let him go. He taunted us and, being young and not having very good impulse control, I took a swing at him.”
“I ended up decking my partner because he stepped in between us.”
Rollins cackled. “Just so you know, I’m not doing that.” She wandered over to make herself a cup of coffee, and offered Carisi one. “I’ll let you hit the guy and lose your badge.”
“Thanks.” Carisi shook his head. “Anyway, my Sarge was furious. Gave me the dressing down of my life, right there in front of everybody, including Richards. He left, and I sulked. Not two days later, my partner and I were stuck in traffic, after an accident blocked up 71st, and I look over and see Richards driving a car. He didn’t own a car. That’s why we couldn’t figure out how he was transporting the girls. I’m trying to glare a hole through his skull, and my partner just keeps saying ‘let it go, Carisi,’ and I swear I see something move in the back seat.
“I’m out of the car before common sense catches up with me. I bang on the window and tell him to get out, he refuses, so I pull my gun on him. At this point I know that I’m going to get busted down to traffic cop if I’m lucky, so I figure go big or go home. I break the window, unlock the door, and drag him out. My partner is screaming at me, people are getting out of their cars to see what’s going on, Richards is yelling that if I just let him leave, he won’t have my head, but I don’t care anymore. There’s a blanket tossed over something in the backseat, and I guess it was worth my badge to see what was under it.”
Carisi accepted the coffee Rollins made, right as Benson walked in. “Morning. Carisi, why is Homicide trying to requisition one of my detectives?”
“He’s getting to that,” Rollins says.
“It’s the Richards case,” Carisi explains.
“You say that like I’m familiar with all of your cases,” Benson deadpanned.
“He’s that serial killer I caught.,” Carisi explained. He turned back to Rollins and continued, “Any other partner, anyone but Shafer, and I think they would have physically dragged me away from the car. But he was a nosy bastard, and I guess he figured I should at least get to do the thing I was gonna lose my badge over. I open the door to the backseat, rip the blanket off, and there’s a girl laying back there with her hands tied together and a washcloth in her mouth. Shafer arrests Richards, and I pull her out of the car. I will never forget the look on her face when she realized that she wasn’t going to die. He’d already cut her up a bit, and she was bleeding, so somebody called an ambulance, but I just…. I don’t even know. She wouldn’t let go of me, and I didn’t let go of her, and I just sat down in the middle of 71st street, back against the car, and I cried.”
“Wait, you cried?” Rollins asks skeptically.
“Oh absolutely. I have this fifteen year old girl in my arms who had already been tortured, who was on her way to being tortured to death, and it was just luck or God or something that we happened to drive up on Richards. If I had done what I was supposed to do, if I had listened to my Sarge, or my partner, or the law, and not completely gone off the rails, that girl would have died. There were eight before her; she was the only one who survived. So yeah, I sat there holding her and I cried. Not loud, dramatic sobs or anything, thank God, though I definitely felt like it. I rode with her to the hospital, stayed with her the whole time, even after her brother got there. This was my first live victim. I had no idea what to do. But she got upset every time I left the room, which now I know is pretty normal, but back then I had no idea.”
“So did something happen to her?” Benson asked, getting back to her earlier question.
“No, no, Eleanor is fine. Sarge called because Richards told the prison guards that he has five more victims, and he’s willing to reveal their names and locations.” Carisi swallowed hard.
“And he’s willing to give you that information,” Benson prodded.
“I wish,” Carisi said. “No, Richards said he would only give that information to Eleanor. She’s his ‘one that got away.’ He’s obsessed with her. Sarge knows that I kept in touch, and he wants me to talk her into it.”
“I’m assuming you don’t want to do that,” Benson said.
“She deserves to get to put all of this behind her,” Carisi explained. “I don’t want to drag her right back into it. She’s got a life now, a career. She’s a chef who’s about to open her own restaurant, and she’s not even 30. She’s moved on.”
Benson smiled sadly. “And what about the families of those five other victims? They can’t move on.” Carisi opened his mouth to argue, but Benson continued. “Let it be Eleanor’s choice, Carisi. I get that you feel protective of her, I really do. But she deserves to make the decision for herself. I don’t like the idea of putting a civilian through that any more than you do, but helping bring closure to other families might give her closure too.” She went to walk into her office, but turned back and added “If you don’t ask her, someone else will. Do you want her to have to go through this without you?”
Ella’s took up the entire top floor of a hipster hotel in Brooklyn. The sign on the door listed the grand opening as just over two months away, but the inside was already bustling. Despite the fact that he would rather be anywhere else, Carisi couldn’t help the smile that tugged at his lips. He was proud of Eleanor. After everything she had been through, it would have been so easy for her to crumble, or waste away into nothing. Instead, thanks to years of counseling, the right medications, and her own persistence, she was thriving. And here, judging the plating skills of her new sous chefs, she was in her element.
Carisi really, really did not want to send her back to the worst period of her entire life. When she was done praising the ‘balance’ of the plate in front of her, Carisi called out “Ella!”
It was barely enough to get her attention –maybe yelling Ella in a restaurant called Ella’s wasn’t the most effective way of going about it- but when she did turn around, a grin split her face. “Sonny!” The pair hugged, and Carisi gestured to his partner.
“This is Detective Amanda Rollins. Rollins, this is Eleanor O’Malley.”
“Good to meet you,” Eleanor stuck out her hand, and Rollins shook it.
“What brings you two here? I know you said you’d be first in line, Sonny, but we’re not open yet.”
“I know, but I’ll be back for the Grand Opening. This is something else. Is there somewhere private we can talk?” Carisi asked.
Eleanor just nodded, and led them to a well-appointed office by the kitchen. “It’s something with Richards, isn’t it?”
Well, she’d never been stupid. “Unfortunately, yes,” Carisi said.
“Oh God, did he escape or something?” Eleanor asked.
“No! No, nothing like that.” How could he even be asking this of her? “I just want to preface this with, I think this is all a terrible idea and I don’t even want to be bringing this up to you.” Eleanor pursed her lips a bit. “Richards told the guards at the prison that he has five more victims that we didn’t know about. His first five. He buried them, unlike the next eight. He’s willing to give up their names, and where he buried them.”
“And you need me to testify again?” Eleanor asked.
“No, he probably won’t be tried for their murders. He confessed.”
“Then what does this have to do with me?”
Rollins kicked him, lightly, just enough to prompt him when he hesitated too long. “He said that he would only give the information to you. In person.”
Eleanor sank down into her desk chair. “Wow. I was not expecting that.” She fidgeted with a pen on the desk. “Do I have to?” She sounded so terribly small.
Carisi crouched down next to her. “Absolutely not. I think it’s a bad idea. Nobody’s got any right asking you to do that.”
“I-I’m not scared of him,” She whispered. “I know he can’t hurt me. I just don’t want to see him again. I’ve been trying to forget about this for ten years. I know I never will, I can’t, but the one thing I could always count on when it got really bad was that I would never see him again. He was locked up, and he would never get out, and I would never see him. That’s what you told me before the trial.”
“Right,” Carisi agreed. “And that’s exactly how it’ll stay. No one can make you do this. And if anybody tries, if another cop comes to you about this, I want you to call me and I’ll deal with them.”
Eleanor nodded slowly, and Carisi wanted to kick himself. He had always been a little surprised that Eleanor wanted to keep in touch with him after the trial had ended. When she did so much to try to move on from what had happened to her, why would she want to keep dragging it up by talking to the cop on the case? But she had explained a long time ago that she didn’t see it that way. He didn’t remind her that she had almost been murdered –he reminded he that she hadn’t been. He’d saved her life. Sharing a meal once or twice a year, just to catch up, it didn’t upset her. But this… He could see the shadow that had passed over her. He should have told Benson, and his old Sergeant, no. He never should have brought this back into her life.
A knock on the door made them all startle a little, and Eleanor smiled grimly at the woman who popped her head in. “Duty calls.” She stood up and gave Carisi another hug. “I expect to see you here when we open.” Carisi nodded. “And you too, Detective Rollins. Hell, bring your whole squad. I’ll have a table waiting for you.”
The detectives said their thanks and left. “Hey,” Rollins put her hand on his arm. “I know you didn’t want to do that, but you gave her the choice. Just like Liv said. Now you can tell your Sergeant that Eleanor said no, and that can be the end of it. They’ll have to find another way to get the locations from Richards.”
They both knew that there was no other way, but they both had the grace not to say it. “Yeah,” Carisi mumbled. “That’s the end of it.”
That was not the end of it.
A week later, Rollins threw a copy of The Ledger onto Carisi’s keyboard. Serial Killer Speaks blazed across a picture of Richards. Carisi groaned and flipped to the main story. “Infamous New York Serial Killer Clif Richards, convicted of brutally murdering 8 young women, has told the NYPD that he has an additional five victims, including Carlotta Shelby, who went missing in 1998, and Maggie Carlton, missing since 1999. An anonymous source tells The Ledger that Richards offered the locations of all five of his early victims’ remains to the NYPD, but that Detective Dominick Carisi, currently of Manhattan SVU, who initially solved the Richards case, has stalled the investigation and refuses to cooperate. Carlotta Shelby’s parents are demanding answers from the city.”
“Are you dating journalists again, Carisi?” Fin joked.
Carisi didn’t smile. “My current partner has a lot more discretion than that. Who the hell leaked this story to the press?”
“My guess?” Rollins said. “Richards.”
Fin cocked his head. “What makes you say that?”
Carisi answered for her. “Because now we have names.”.
Carisi shouldn’t have been surprised when Eleanor walked into the squad room two hours later, eyes red rimmed and face pale. She had a copy of The Ledger in her hands. “Sonny.” She sounded miserable, and started crying against his shirt when he wrapped her in a hug.
Benson came out of her office, and gestured for him to take Eleanor inside.
“They’re blaming you for this,” she said with no preamble when he got her sitting on the couch.
“Don’t worry about that, Ella. It doesn’t matter.”
“Are upset, but they’ll cope. At least now they know for sure that their daughter is dead, and who killed her. They can finally mourn.”
Eleanor shook her head. She was tearing the front page of The Ledger into little pieces, absently. “They know she’s dead. They know who killed her. But they still don’t know where she is. Sonny, I can give them that.”
“Wait, are you saying you want to talk to Richards?” She nodded. “Ella, you don’t have to do that, not for me, and not for Carlotta’s parents.”
“I want to.”
“Really? Because last week, you never wanted to have to see him again.”
“I know that!” Eleanor snapped. “But Sonny, this is different. It’s like he’s taunting them. Taunting me. When the trial ended, I said I was done with it. Case closed, you know? I would never have to deal with him again, and I could focus on getting over it. But now it’s like he turned the light back on or something. I can’t move on because it isn’t over anymore.”
Carisi sat down beside her, and took her hands in his. “Listen to me, Ella. It’s amazing that you want to help these people. But, as bad as this sounds, those girls are dead. There is nothing you can do for them now. It’s not like these are living people that you can still save. The best thing for you to do is to focus on taking care of yourself.”
“Is that what you would do? You would refuse to help them get closure?”
Carisi hesitated. “I don’t know what I would do,” he answered honestly. “I don’t know, because I’ve never been in this situation. I’ve never had to live through the things you lived through, and I’ve never had to try to deal with the aftermath.”
“Exactly,” Eleanor insisted. “I’m the only one who has ever lived through this. I’m the only one who lived. You told me, all those years ago, when I was afraid to testify, that facing him would help. You said that from the second he got those handcuff slapped on him, I was safe and he could never hurt me again. You said that if he was locked up, then that meant I would be free. I need to face him again, Sonny. I need to face him and put an end to this once and for all. Remember what he called me at the trial?”
“The one who got away,” Carisi whispered.
“I got away. Carlotta didn’t. Maggie didn’t. And their families can’t get away from their grief. But I can help with that. I can help them get away too. Those girls deserve better than whatever grave he dumped them in. I want to give it to them. Otherwise that guilt is going to keep me tied to Richards forever.”
Eleanor had stopped crying. Carisi was in some kind of awe of how strong her voice was, of how fierce the look on her face was.
She was right.
She was the only one who really knew what she was facing. She was the only one who knew if she was strong enough to get through it. And if she was sitting there telling him what she needed to overcome it, he owed it to her to believe her.
“I’ll go with you, okay?” Carisi said. “You won’t be alone. The meeting will be held in a secure room in the prison, he’ll be handcuffed, and you’ll have me and Detective Rollins both there, along with the guards. I promise, he won’t hurt you.”
When Eleanor was waiting to take the stand against Richards, she had looked small and timid. She had clung to Carisi, hand tight around his bicep as they sat on the bench outside the courtroom. The judge had agreed to allow him to escort her all the way up to the witness stand, but she had to sit up there alone. When she caught sight of Richards, something inside of her had steeled. She no longer looked frightened; if anything, she looked angry. Through the proescutor’s questions and the defense attorney’s both, she sat up there with her head held high and her voice firm. Carisi’s testimony had gotten thrown out on the grounds of unlawful search. It didn’t matter. Eleanor’s testimony sank the defense’s case.
When Eleanor saw Richards handcuffed to the table, waiting for her, much of the same thing happened. All of the fear that had been so plainly written on her face just moments before, vanished. Through all of Richard’s prodding and remarks and offhanded confessions of love, she just sat there, unspeaking, looking for all the world like she was the queen of the castle, and he was an insect that just hadn’t been squashed yet.
Carisi couldn’t have been more proud.
True to his word, Richards told them where the bodies were buried.
Savannah Robinson, 13, buried in Richards’ old back yard in New Jersey.
Kayla Douglass, 15, buried in a deserted area of Central Park.
Diana Cunning, 15, buried in the basement of a house Richards had rented in Queens.
Maggie Carlton, 14, buried in a lot in the Bronx.
Carlotta Shelby, 13 –
“You really do look so lovely now, Eleanor. Not half as much as you did when you were 15, but you did age well.”
“Carlotta Shelby, Richards,” Carisi interrupted. “Where did you bury Carlotta Shelby?”
Richards continued unperturbed. “None of my girls ever made it out except for you, so I do have a bit of curiosity. Did you scar up badly from where I cut you? Are they still visible? I bet you can press your fingers down on them and still remember what the knife felt like-“
“If you won’t tell us where she is, Eleanor is leaving,” Rollins growled.
“I just want to see the scars,” Richards insisted.
“That’s it, we’re done. Come on, Eleanor.” Carisi pulled Ella’s chair back from the table.
“No!” She said, speaking for the first time since they got in the room. She glared at Richards. “Tell us where Carlotta Shelby is buried. You said you would if I came here, so do it.”
Richards licked his lips. “I want to see your scars, Eleanor. I’ve been imagining what they look like for almost ten years.”
Eleanor stood up, and took a step back from the table. “If I show you, you’ll tell me?”
“Of course, of course.”
“Ella,” Carisi said warningly. “You don’t need to do that.”
“It’s hardly up to you, Detective Carisi,” Richards chirped. He watched Eleanor hungrily as she raised the hem of her shirt and pushed at the waistband of her jeans to reveal a jagged scar cutting across her abdomen.
“This is the worst one,” she said.
“Well, second worst,” Richards amended.
Eleanor looked at him in confusion.
It was all just a blur from there.
One moment, everything was well contained. Then it exploded.
Richards’ hands were no longer cuffed to the table.
And he was holding a shard of glass.
He swiped out, catching Eleanor across the throat even as Carisi yanked her back with an arm around her waist.
The prison guards sprang forward.
“Goodbye, Eleanor!” He yelled, triumphant, as he plunged the glass into his own neck.
Carisi desperately pressed his handkerchief to Eleanor’s neck, even as he pulled her from the room. It took the institution nurses only minutes to arrive, to put Eleanor on a gurney, and run her to the infirmary, as Carisi stood there in shock, holding his blood soaked handkerchief.
Definitely Not Dick Wolf