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A Break in the Case

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“Do you ever wonder if our jobs make it harder to have normal relationships?” If the question hadn’t been asked so quietly and seriously by one extraordinarily drunken Alexandra Cabot, Olivia Benson might have howled with laughter. As it was and not knowing why her friend had chosen to drink so much more than was usual for her, Olivia took a small sip of her wine and held up a finger to indicate she was thinking about it.

Alex nodded, relaxed into one end of her couch and took a gigantic swallow from her glass as Olivia tried to relax on the other end. Olivia enjoyed these Friday night unwinding dinner and drink sessions, which had now been taking place more or less every Friday for months. It had quickly begun to give her pause and she was fairly sure that this—whatever ‘this’ was—had to be giving Alex pause, as well. 

But Alex had asked her a question, so she responded. “Quick obvious answer? Yes. Longer answer? We both know the hours aren’t great for relationships and the job itself is all-consuming if you do it right. And of course a ‘honey what’d you do today’ isn’t ever going to be light dinner conversation, so yeah, it’s harder. But you already know that. What’s the real question?”

Alex nodded again and took another gulp of her wine. Olivia grimaced but only said kindly, “Easy there, counselor. Your head will thank me in the morning.”

“You’re so right. But it’s my head.” She winked and finished her glass in two gulps, sat up and placed it on the table, nearly losing her balance as she did so. “O-kay. I guess that’s no more for me.”

Alex turned back to Olivia, who’d immediately moved much closer in case she needed assistance but she didn’t put any distance between them before she said in an overly precise manner, “You’re a detective and I’m a prosecutor so I suppose what I’m asking is do you think you can detect a relationship? Because I’ve found I’m pretty piss-poor at prosecuting one.”

Olivia was pretty sure Alex was on the verge of passing out but, hearing those words, she felt a wave of anxiety. Excitement? Both or either, probably. She could run with what she imagined Alex meant but over-interpreting what a drunken person was saying was a mistake she’d stopped making as a child. After a lifetime of dealing with a drunken mother, she only kept her voice level and kind, “What do you mean, sweetie? Can you explain that?”

Alex’s blue eyes lost focus for a second. “It’s disgusting or pathetic or just human maybe that we leave so many pieces of ourselves everywhere.” She smiled at Olivia, a thin sad smile, reached up and untwisted the band she’d used to pull back her hair. She inspected it and pulled out one long blonde hair and waved it at Olivia, “Our people would have a forensic field day. Pulled from the root. Probably could lift some DNA from this, right?”
“Probably. They could probably lift my hair from this couch.”

Alex snapped her fingers a bit clumsily, hair forgotten. “My point exactly. That’s what I mean—how do you make a case for a relationship?”

“Sweetie, one of us is a little the worse for wear and it isn’t me,” Olivia said as she ran one hand through her short, dark hair.

“You’re so right.” Alex patted Olivia’s other hand as she sank back into the couch, her eyelids drooping. “We’ve left so much forensic evidence. Do you ever think about that?”

“Again, you’re losing me.”

The blonde sighed heavily, “Do I have to spell it out for you?”

“Yes. Apparently.”

The words were quiet and slightly slurred. “If I died tonight in some mysterious way, you know what?”

She thought this rhetorical but after a few seconds, Olivia discovered she was expected to answer so she ventured with a kind smile, “That would really suck?”

“Exactly. That too. But no. You’re all over my apartment—my kitchen, my living room, my bathroom. You’re in my car and you’re in my office, and right now I bet some traces of you are even on me. On my clothes or just me. Hair or fiber. And my cell phone? Dump it and what do you find? You. My email? You. Match restaurant receipts to charge cards. You. I could go on and on but you know all this. And you’ll say ‘but Elliot’s all over me too,’ right? But there’s a ready explanation for that, isn’t there?”

“There is,” Olivia nodded as she pushed a strand of hair off of her friend’s forehead, “So what are you saying, counselor? You framing me for something?”  

“No. I’m saying there’s evidence of something here, detective.” Alex rearranged herself on the couch and seemed to be sinking into sleep even as her eyes oddly sharpened as she repeated, “There’s evidence.”

“Of what, sweetie?” Olivia smiled down at Alex and ran her thumb over her cheek.

Alex punctuated her words with an index finger to the shoulder. “That’s. Your. Job. Evidence. Motive. Opportunity. Give me those three things and I’ll prosecute. Got it?”

“Got it. I think it’s time for you to get some sleep.”

“You mean pass out.”

“Uh huh. Is this why you drank so much tonight?”

“Are you questioning my motives, Olivia?” Alex asked as she closed her eyes, a small smile still on her lips.

Olivia woke early as the first morning light illuminated the room. She felt stiff and sore from sleeping on the loveseat across from Alex and she yawned and stretched as she grabbed her purse and her wineglass from the table. She went into the kitchen and rummaged through her bag for her hand lotion, lipstick, Sharpie pen, notebook and a smaller mesh pocket that held her evidence bags.

She removed an evidence bag, placed it on the counter and then applied her hand lotion and lipstick. She picked up the wineglass and sipped the last few drops of her wine. This left perfect and visible fingerprints as well as a red kiss on the rim of the glass. She placed the wine glass in the evidence bag, sealed it, initialed and dated it.

She wrote a note, filling three pages of her small notebook. She tore the pages out and placed them next to the evidence bag and left the apartment, quietly closing the door behind her.

Two hours later, when Alex woke to an empty apartment, she stumbled into the kitchen and winced sharply at the brightness of the kitchen light as she read the note.

1. Evidence collected at scene. I’m certain that forensics will find hair samples as well as fiber samples from a burgundy pullover the subject was last seen wearing, as well as a plethora of electronic evidence establishing the subject’s whereabouts.

2. Probable motive? Romantic involvement.

3. Opportunity? Rather more than this detective initially suspected.

I believe you have a case, counselor.

Olivia Benson, Detective, NYPD.