Secrets and Lies

The burn in Olivia’s calves began mid-way through her third
loop around the Central Park Reservoir. Nearly five miles and she
hadn’t managed to shake the thought that had been with her for the
past three weeks: when would she get time alone with Alex?

Munch and Fin had managed to catch all the cases that had any
hope of going to trial while a series of unlinked stranger-rapes in
the East Village had kept Olivia and Elliot running at all hours of
the day and night. Though she and Alex had managed to squeeze in
half a dinner before Olivia had been called away, their interaction
had largely consisted of a few late night phone calls, including
one memorable conversation during which Alex admitted she’d never
actually seen Casablanca. The phone calls, while pleasant, weren’t
enough for Olivia.

Alex’s polite decline of her dinner invitation the night
before had puzzled Olivia. Fridays were usually an early-out day
on the court schedule. Olivia’s mind drifted back to their
conversation as she jogged.

“I have a previous engagement,” Alex said.

“I understand,” Olivia replied, keeping her voice neutral
for all the listening ears in the squadroom.

“If I could get out of it…”

“But you can’t. Look, we’ll talk about it some other
time, OK?” Olivia mouthed a thank you at the file clerk dropping
off some files in her inbox.

“Olivia…” Alex’s tone had been soft, almost placating.

“I’ve got to go.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow.”

The spaces in between their calls had given Olivia too much
time to think about why it wasn’t enough; about why she couldn’t be
as calm and collected as Alex appeared to be. She wasn’t sure she
was comfortable with the answer, and she had no intention of
sharing her feelings anytime soon, but part of her insisted that
she just enjoy the discovery, enjoy the fall, and not worry about
the inevitable landing.

Olivia glanced at her watch as she came to the first turn that
would take her across the bottom of the Reservior. It’s not too
she thought. Her feet made the decision for her as she
skipped the turn east and headed south along West Park Drive. She
slowed to a walk as she passed by what she knew was the back of the
Met. Photography exhibit, low pressure and something she’s
interested in. That should do nicely for an afternoon,
thought as the sunlight glinting off the multi-sided dome covering
the Lehman gallery brought to mind an exhibit review she’d skimmed
in the paper a couple of weeks ago. She picked up the pace as she
made her way to the 72nd street transverse.

Alex tried to ignore the slight pounding behind her eyes that
was her last trigger to change something before too many late
nights and not enough rest really began to take a toll. She
stifled a yawn against the back of her hand as she padded into the
kitchen to set up the coffee maker. She heard the shower start
running just as she hit the faucet to fill up the coffee pot. An
evil smile touched her mouth. And this is what you get for keeping
me out until 2am.

Palm sweating against the brown paper bag from the deli,
Olivia searched the apartment building’s electronic directory from
the call box near the front door. You’ve come up with some pretty
ripe one’s, Olivia, and this beats most of them,
she thought even
as she continued to thumb her way through the last names starting
with B.

“Excuse me, dear. Could you help me carry this inside?”

Olivia turned to find that the tremulous voice belonged to a
small woman in her 80s who was trying to manage her keys, a large
shopping bag, and a dachsand that had taken a sudden, sniffing
interest in Olivia’s running shoes. “You know, it’s not a good
idea to ask someone you don’t know and who doesn’t live here to
help you inside.” Olivia took the shopping bag.

Mrs. Williams smiled. “I don’t have to know you. You’re that
police detective friend of Alexandra’s.”

Olivia quashed the surprise she felt as Mrs. Williams

“And I didn’t survive 82 years in this city by not
knowing who to trust,” she said with a wink as she opened the
security door.

Alex watched the coffee pot fill and resisted the urge to
replace the pot with her mug. The soft gurgling of the burnt umber
liquid created a focal point for her, letting Alex drift back to an
abortive attempt at dinner with Olivia the previous week. The
restaurant had been nothing special, and Alex had dragged her legal
pad and case files along in her briefcase for later attention at
home. Olivia’s voice, filled with cushioning smile, had been a
welcome, if tardy, interruption.

“Did you know you bite your lower lip when you’re

“I wasn’t aware, no,” Alex had replied, finishing the
sentence she was writing.

She’d looked up to find Olivia standing by the table, her
black leather coat unbuttoned, hands shoved in her pants pockets,
mouth and eyes matching the grin in her voice. Alex had expected
the rush of sexual tension she’d felt. She hadn’t expected the
warm sense of calm Olivia’s presence had brought.

The knock on the apartment door startled Alex out of her
reverie. She checked the security viewer. “I was just thinking
about you,” Alex said, grinning as she swung the door open.

“Really? And what were you thinking?” Olivia stepped
into the apartment. Alex closed the door behind her.

“That I hadn’t seen you look better than you did in that
leather coat the other night.” Alex’s eyes ranged over Olivia’s
navy blue sweat pants and hooded sweat shirt, both emblazoned with
the NYPD shield. Olivia’s face was ruddy with the cold, and the
exercise. Her hair stuck up in tufts where she’d finger combed it.
Alex welcomed the tightness in her belly and the racing increase in
her heart rate Olivia touched off by Olivia’s unexpected
appearance. “How did you manage to get upstairs?”

“Mrs. Williams let me in. Apparently I’m OK because I’m
a friend of yours,” Olivia said, giving Alex a questioning look.

“Not much gets by her, and I was wrong. You look better

Olivia smiled. “Flattery gets you nowhere Counselor, you know

“I’ll have to think of some other tactic then.” Alex
stepped in close and kissed Olivia lightly, inhaling the mixed
smell of soap, shampoo, and healthy sweat. Olivia’s free hand went
to the small of Alex’s back as she stretched the kiss into
something languorous. Olivia had almost lost herself in the taste
of Alex’s mouth when she heard the bedroom door open.

“God, Alex, do you have anything in that bathroom that
doesn’t smell like fruit?”

Olivia started, stepping back and breaking her contact with
Alex. The owner of the smooth tenor stood about six feet tall.
His short, blond hair was slicked back from a recent shower. Broad
shoulders led down into a classic swimmer’s build, complete with
six-pack abs nicely showcased by his lack of a shirt. A pair of
well-faded jeans barely clung to his hipbones.

Olivia hated him instantly. The blaze of jealousy that washed
through her was nearly overrun by a wave of embarrassment at being
caught in an intimate embrace. Shame at her expectations for
whatever was developing between them, and disappointment that her
trust in Alex had been misplaced had Olivia’s stomach in a knot in
the time it took for the young man realize Alex wasn’t alone.

He looked from Olivia to Alex, took in their physical
proximity and the blush that colored Alex’s cheeks, and grinned.
“Hi, I’m Jake,” he held out his hand. “and you must be the reason
my sister isn’t coming home for Thanksgiving this year.”

Raymond Dowd ran his hand over his head and through the neatly
trimmed fringe of hair at the back as he checked his watch.
9:30am. Where is she? Kathleen was never late, but this morning
she’d kept him waiting for more than an hour. He glanced around for
his waitress. He caught her eye and motioned for his check.

“Hey, Professor Dowd. I thought that was you.”

Dowd looked up from his wallet where he was fumbling for some
bills. “Hello, Billie. How are you?”

“Doing great. I think I finally finished the paper for
History of Reform Movements.”

Dowd threw two five dollar bills on the table, shoved his
wallet in his inside jacket pocket, and stood. He looked at his
watch again. “I’m sure it will be your usual stellar work, Billie.
Listen, I’ve got to run. Excuse me.”

Dowd brushed past her and out of the pub. Billie watched him
bump into one of the frat brothers at the bar, make a hasty
apology, and continue out the door before she headed back to the
employee locker room to change for her shift.

Olivia wasn’t surprised when Jake’s handshake was firm, if
slightly moist from the shower.

“Olivia Benson. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you as well.”

Once she saw the grin, the resemblance was between the
siblings was obvious to Olivia. Jake held her hand a little longer
than strictly necessary for a friendly greeting before he released
it. Olivia belatedly noted the pillow and neatly folded blanket at
the end of the couch.

“Jake, put something on. We’re not in a locker room
here,” Alex said, her voice tinged with embarrassment.

Jake winked at Olivia. He pulled a duffle bag from under the
coffee table, took out a t-shirt, and shrugged it over his head as
he crossed to the kitchen. Olivia, eyebrow arched in question,
turned to Alex.

“I didn’t think you’d want to join us after the week
you’ve had.”

“I see.”

“She wanted to prep you for the flood of questions, more
likely,” Jake said from the kitchen as he filled two coffee mugs.
“She always preps her witnesses very well. Coffee, Olivia?”

Olivia looked away from Alex’s steady gaze. “No, thanks.”

“The tea must be for you then. I know my big sister
hasn’t jumped off the coffee boat.”

Olivia turned back to Alex. “You bought me tea?”

“You don’t drink coffee.” She smiled softly.

“But you bought me tea.”

Alex nodded. Jake moved into the living room. He held out a
coffee mug to Alex, who took it without looking away from Olivia.
“Jake, go out and get some cream cheese. I don’t have any for the
bagels Olivia brought.”

“We can just toast them with a little butter,” Jake said,
taking a sip from his coffee mug. “They’re better that way.”

Alex turned and looked at her brother. “Take a walk, Jake.

Jake focused on Alex’s face. The needling, little-brother
retort died under the strength of her stare before passing his
lips. He put his coffee mug down and grabbed his coat from the
back of the chair. “I’ll just take a walk then. Get some cream
cheese for those bagels.”

Alex concentrated on the warm, pungent liquid in her mug. She
took a sip, waiting for the door to close. Once the latch clicked
home she moved to the couch, curling her feet under her as she sat.
“You’re angry.”

Olivia sat in the arm chair and put the bag of bagels down on
the coffee table. And I feel stupid for feeling angry. “I’m
confused. Why didn’t you just say you were having dinner with your
brother? Why all the mystery?”

“I like to keep my private life private, Olivia. I’m
not…I’m not ready yet to share so publicly whatever is going on
between us.”

Alex searched Olivia’s face for her reaction. She covered
Olivia’s hand with hers. Despite the roil of emotion coursing
through her, Olivia felt her pulse leap at the contact. “I’m
greedy. I admit it. I want a chance to court you without an
audience giving advice and placing bets on the course and outcome
of our relationship.”

“I thought I was courting you,” Olivia said with a small
smile. Relationship?

“You may be one up in that department…for now.”

Olivia squeezed her hand, caressing Alex’s palm with her
thumb. She took in Alex’s jeans and faded Harvard Law sweatshirt.

“You’ve got the most mischievous look on your face right
now,” Alex said, taking a sip from her coffee mug. She didn’t let
go of Olivia’s hand.

“I’m just trying to figure out what you’re wearing under

“Hum…I’m sure you’d like to know.”

The front-door intercom buzzed. Alex grinned. Some part of
her Olivia didn’t even know was tense relaxed.

“You know, he was probably right about the butter,”
Olivia said.

Alex squeezed her hand, put down her coffee mug, and padded
over to the intercom panel. “He probably was but I won’t tell him
if you don’t.”

Elliot Stabler scrubbed a hand over his eyes as he walked down
the dormitory hallway. This was his eleventh straight day on-call
and the case load had just increased by at least one.

Curious faces regarded both him and the activity at the end
of the hall as he passed each doorway. He nodded to the uniformed
officer on guard outside the open door before stepping into the
room. Eddie Ramierez, one of the forensics technicians, waved to
“Where’s your lovely partner today, Detective Stabler?”

“Running late. Don’t take it personal, Eddie,” Stabler
said with a grin. “What have we got?”

“Kathleen Farrell, 22. This is her room. When she
didn’t show up for study group one of her classmates came looking
for her. ME will know more but it looks like she was strangled.”

Elliot looked at the body lying on the twin bed. Her long,
blonde hair appeared tangled, as if she’d struggled against the
pillow. The top sheet and a light blanket were pulled up to her
waist and neatly folded making it seem as if she was merely asleep.
The only giveaways were a large, reddish bruise on her right temple and some light marks on her neck.
“She like this when you got here?”


“Any idea yet how long she’s been dead?”

“Based on the body temp, I’d say no more than two hours.”

“You’re gonna make me ask, aren’t you, Eddie?”

Ramierez shook his head. He pulled a sealed plastic evidence
bag containing a used condom out of the collection box for the
crime scene. “Damn thing was still warm when we got here. Guy
wasn’t even smart enough to flush it.”

The room spun in two directions simultaneously. While he
very much doubted it was possible, Raymond Dowd fully believed what
his eyes were telling him. He pressed his face against the cool
porcelain of the bathtub and closed his eyes. The floating
sensation of darkness sent him scrambling for the toilet again.

After he was completely spent, Dowd crossed to the sink and
threw some water on his face. He’d covered her up. She’d still
been warm but he covered her up. That was the right thing to do,
he knew, but his instinct for self-preservation kept pushing one
thought, and one thought only at him: had he touched anything
besides the blankets?

“Hey, sorry I’m late. Fill me in,” Olivia said after
showing her badge to the uniform on the door and passing into the
room. “Hey Eddie. Nice find there.”

Ramierez grinned and dropped the evidence bag back into the
collection box. He crossed the room to talk to one of the
other techs. While Stabler gave her the basics Olivia looked
around the room.

“This room is huge. Stereo’s top of the line,” she
said, pointing to a brand new stereo sitting on top of a bookcase.
“Where’s her roommate?”

Stabler shook his head. “No roommate on file with the housing

“Ah, the famous senior swingle. Boyfriend?”

“Don’t know yet.”

“Detectives,” the uniform guarding the door motioned to
Elliot and Olivia. “This young lady says she’d like to speak with

They stepped out into the hallway, mindful of the observation
of Kathleen’s hallmates. The young woman in question hugged an
over-sized messenger bag to her chest. Her face was chalk white
and she was swallowing rapidly.

“I’m Detective Benson. This is Detective Stabler. And
you are,” Olivia said, focusing her attention on the young woman.

“Dana Voorhees. I’m…Kathleen and I were in a study
group for psychology together. I…found her.”

“I know this is hard, Dana, but anything you can tell us
might help us find the person who did this. Why did you come
looking for her today?”

“Kathleen is never late. I mean never. If she says
she’ll be there at 10:00 she’s there at 10:00 without fail. When
she didn’t show up today I was worried, plus, honestly, she’s the
strongest student in the group so we can’t get a lot done without
her. It was kind of pointless for some of those folks to be there
when she wasn’t.”

Olivia nodded. “And who are the other students in the group?”

“Brian Mercer, Jane Williams, me, Kathleen, and Robert
Krawkowski. Jesus,” she said, holding her hand over her mouth.

Olivia put her hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Just take some
deep breaths, Dana. Take your time.”

Dana nodded, swallowing hard. “Sorry, the last person I saw
dead was my grandmother, and I was 7.”

“How did the other folks in study group get along with
Kathleen,” Elliot asked, looking up from his notepad, his
expression open and friendly.

Dana shrugged. “Pretty well, I suppose. Brian had a huge, I
mean huge, crush on her but there was no way it was going

“Why not?”

“Kathleen’s boyfriend, Mike.”

“Mike have a last name?”


“Do you know where Mike was this morning,” Olivia asked.

“Not a clue. You can try the campus bookstore. He works
there. Other than that, I try to stay out of her relationship with

“Why is that?”

“They thrived on drama. Breakup to makeup sort of thing.
The latest rumor was their last fight was over some professor she
was supposedly seeing.”

Stabler scribbled in his notebook. “This rumor say which
professor, Dana?”

Dana shook her head. Olivia could see the shudder move
through her. She pulled a card out of her jacket pocket and
offered it to Dana who took it, running her fingers over
the raised shield in the corner.

“You guys are going to find the guy who did this, right?”

Olivia nodded. “We’re going to do our best.”

“One more thing, Dana,” Elliot said. “Did Kathleen owe
anyone any money? Anyone have a grudge against her?”

Dana shook her head. “No, nothing like that. It was weird,
Kathleen was on scholarship so she had a work-study job but lately,
she’d been buying the pizza and beers for study group.”

Olivia’s glance at her partner told her they were on the same
train of thought. Olivia returned her attention to Dana. “Don’t
hesitate to call if you think of anything else. Also, can you give
your information to the Officer so if we need anything we can find

“Anything I can do to help, really.”

Dana shoved the card into the outside pocket of her messenger
bag and moved off to the side with the uniformed officer who took
down her information before she made her way down the hall.

“Professor,” Stabler said, closing his notebook.

“Sounds like a trip to admissions on Monday,” Olivia
replied, turning to face him as Dana disappeared into the elevator
at the end of the hall. “On scholarship but spending a lot of

“Sounds like a trip through her financials,” Elliot said
with a nod. “In the meantime, let’s see if we can find the

Alex dropped Jake’s duffle bag into a corner in her bedroom.
No reason for him to dress in the living room. She put the
blankets and pillows down next to her dresser. Olivia had asked
her to keep Sunday free. The way she said it led Alex to believe
that she had some sort of surprise in store. As if showing up
here at 9am fresh from a workout with breakfast in hand wasn’t
surprise enough.
Alex smiled, recalling the feel of Olivia’s hand
on the small of her back, and the pleasure she’d felt watching two
people she cared for meet for the first time.

Alex moved into the kitchen and poured herself the last from
the pot of coffee. Alex had felt the physical attraction sooner
and more keenly than she’d dared let on with Olivia just yet. It
surprised her to admit, even to herself, that she cared for Olivia.
Their conversations over the past few weeks had given her a
peek behind Olivia’s ever-calm detective facade, and Alex liked
what she saw. If you looked at their families and backgrounds,
they had nothing in common, Olivia being the product of
middle-class household headed by a single mother while Alex was,
well, a Cabot, with all the monied privilege, political
connections, and historical lineage that conveyed. When Alex
considered who she and Olivia were in themselves, and in how each of
them made her way in the world, they were philosophical sisters.

Alex stood in front of the window and sipped from her mug.
Olivia knew herself, and, generally, knew what she wanted out
of life. Based on what Alex had seen of her, what Alex’s family
had to offer didn’t have anything to do with Olivia’s romantic
interest. Unlike some people, Alex thought, grimacing as she
swallowed a mouthful of coffee. No matter, she thought, putting
the mug in the dishwasher. It was an entire late-Fall day to
herself. With Jake gone to some fraternity charity event with his
prep-school roommate, Olivia working a case, and all of her
upcoming trials prepped, Alex knew just how she wanted to spend the
afternoon, in a quiet room with a certain, select group of black
and white photos. All it would take is a quick walk into the park.

Mike Fitzgerald stuffed the last manila envelope into the
file box. He taped the lid shut and tossed the tape gun back onto
the shelf. After placing the box in the corner of the storage
room, he piled a couple of boxes of last year’s promotional t-
shirts on top of it and stepped back. Only if you know where to
He flicked the light switch off before shutting the storage
room door.

Olivia and Elliot walked across campus toward the bookstore.
Elliot glanced at his partner. Her step seemed to have an extra
bounce in it, her face fought a slight grin mostly successfully.
This sort of light, chipper mood wasn’t something Elliot had seen
often in the nearly three years they’d been partners.

“So…how was breakfast,” Elliot asked, making a
concerted effort to keep his gaze on the walk ahead

“Didn’t get any, unfortunately.”

“You said were already out and uptown when I buzzed you.”

“I went for a run in the park.”

Stabler nodded. “With all these days on-call he must be
missing you.”

“Who,” Olivia said, glancing sideways at her partner.

“This guy who’s responsible for the good mood you’ve been
in the past few weeks.”

“What, I can’t just be in a good mood?”

Elliot snorted as he pulled open the door to the bookstore.
Once they were inside, Olivia approached the cashier. “Excuse me,
I’d like to see the Manager please.”

“Over there, behind the display case.”


Olivia, with Stabler following, crossed to the glass display
case filled with pen and pencil gift sets and diploma mounting
plaques. Patrick Campbell, dressed in a sport shirt and chinos,
stood behind the counter plowing his way through the
reconciliation process for a small stack of invoices. Olivia
flashed her badge at him. “I’m Detective Benson. This is my
partner Detective Stabler. Is Mike Fitzgerald working today?”

“He’s in the stock room today. Can I ask what this is
about? Did he violate his probation? I told him if he did I’d
have to fire him.”

“We just need to ask him a few questions. What time did
he clock in today,” Stabler asked.

“He was supposed to be here at 8:30am before we opened.
He was about 10 minutes late.”

“We’d like to see him.”

Mike Fitzgerald looked up from the stack of books he was
pricing as the store manager led Olivia and Elliot into the stock
room in the back of the store.

“Mike, these detectives would like a word with you. Do
you want me to stay,” Patrick asked.

Who knew cops could be that hot, Mike thought, doing his
best to be surreptitious as his eyes ranged up and down Olivia’s
body. He looked up from his appraisal to find Stabler watching him
over Olivia’s shoulder and swallowed a lump in his throat. “Thanks,
it’s fine.”

Patrick nodded and backed out of the stock room. Mike crossed
his arms and waited. Stabler moved up and a little past Olivia to
flank Mike. “We’d like to ask you a few questions about your

“Kathleen…Is she OK,” he asked, relaxing his posture
and shoving his hands in his pockets.

“When was the last time you saw her,” Olivia asked,
making a mental note of Mike’s soiled jeans and wrinkled t-shirt.

“Friday at lunch.”

“Where were you this morning,” Stabler asked.


“Can anyone confirm that?”

“I’ve got a single this year.” Mike shook his head.
Look, what’s going on? Did something happen to Kathleen?”

Elliot glanced at his partner.

“Mike, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but,
Kathleen’s dead,” Olivia said.

Alex clasped her hands behind her back and gazed at the photo
in front of her. Crisp black and gray shadows and expanses of
whites and lighter grays formed the image of the space underneath
and beyond the elevated subway train at Bowery and Doyer streets,
circa April 1936. Part of Abbott’s WPA funded Changing New York
project, this particular photograph intrigued Alex.

The composition led the viewer down the street that was on the
opposite side of the elevated tracks from where Abbott had taken
the photo but because of the curve of the street the viewer was
left wondering just what was out of sight. Hanging to the right of
this was another view of the elevated train tracks, one taken from
directly under them where the viewer’s visual path naturally
followed the line of the tracks overhead.

Both photos gave Alex that itchy skin anticipation feeling of
discovery she associated with learning something new, going
someplace different, or falling in love. This particular image,
like most of Abbott’s work, made her either want to walk right in
or move away quickly. Abbott had a way of capturing the details,
elevating the small bits of beauty to something sublime and making
the shadows on every-day fear stand out in sharp relief.

After slightly more than a year in the prosecutor’s office
Alex felt she was skilled at keeping the shadows and sordid details
of her professional life at a distance, at keeping them from
pushing her into something she didn’t want. Jake had shown up at
her apartment bearing the usual second hand admonishments from
their mother, who’d never understood why, having insisted on law
school, Alex hadn’t taken a comparatively cushy position as
someone’s in-house counsel.

Their father understood Alex’s ambition, and he almost
understood Alex’s love life. At least, he understood her need to
keep it private. Jake, Alex smiled at the thought of him, was the
black-sheep of the family when it came to emotion. He felt people
should have them and express them openly.

Alex was so lost in thought her cell phone was in the middle
of its second vibrating ring before she noticed it. “Alex Cabot,”
she said quietly, moving out of the exhibit space and into the

“Hey,” Olivia said, as she stood waiting for Elliot
outside the men’s room in the student center.

“Hey yourself,” she replied, her pleasure coloring her
voice. “How’s it going?”

“OK. We won’t be able to do much until Monday when the
administrative offices are open, and we’re going to need a subpoena
for her financials at some point.”

“Just give me the details on Monday. It shouldn’t be a

Olivia glanced toward the men’s room door. Still closed.
“Listen, I know I asked you to keep Sunday free but…deep breath,
if you don’t have plans, I was hoping to see you tonight.”
Olivia hoped the sound of her clenching teeth didn’t carry through
the cell phone.

On the other end of the call Alex smiled. “How about your
place, 7:30pm? We can order in and watch a movie, unless you had
something else in mind?”

“That sounds perfect,” Olivia said, as Stabler exited the
restroom. “I’ll see you then.”

She closed the phone and dropped it into her coat pocket.
Stabler raised an eyebrow. “Can’t leave you alone for a whole day,
can he?”

Olivia rolled her eyes. “Knock it off, Elliot.”

“All I’m saying is that it’s nice to see you happy.”

“And all I’m saying is that when I’m ready to have you
pry, I’ll let you know.”

“If you were ready for it, it wouldn’t be prying.”


Elliot held up his hands. “No mas…I got it.”

“Good,” Olivia nodded. “So, back to the House to do the
notify and then we can dig through her stuff, see if that tells us
anything more about this professor.”

Mike Fitzgerald downed this third Cherry Coke in an hour.
Drinks were strictly forbidden in the stock room, too many people
knocking them over and ruining the merchandise, but Patrick, Mike
smirked at the thought of his mincing discomfort with Mike after
the detectives had left, was turning a blind eye in the face of the
news about Kathleen. Kathleen…why did you have to be so damn
stupid about it?
He shook his head, trying to get rid of the
image of her that bubbled up from his memory. Their second date,
she’d gotten ice cream on her nose and had walked around not wiping
in off just to see how long it would take him to notice. He
crushed the Coke can and sent it arcing toward the trash bin across
the room. It bounced and clattered behind the tall can. Damn it!
Stupid, stupid bitch.
Mike jingled the change in his pocket and
headed over to the convenience store side of the operation.

“Can I help whoever is next?”

Alex stepped toward the counter with her completed paperwork
in hand. The clerk took it, comparing her id to her paper work.
She looked up with a smile. “I’m just going to need a credit card
on file against late fees or unreturned rental charges and you’re
all set.”

“Great,” Alex said, handing the requested card across the
counter. “So, I can pick something out right now?”

“Absolutely,” the clerk said, swiping Alex’s card through
the computer terminal’s reader and handing it back to her. “You
actually get one free in the first six weeks as a sign-up bonus.”

Alex smiled her thanks and made her way deeper into the store.
The clerk sighed and put the completed membership application in
the to-be-filed box under the counter. And would that I were the
lucky person who gets to watch that movie with her tonight.

“Who’s next?”

Raymond hung up the phone, his free hand clenched nearly to
the point of drawing blood from his palm with his fingernails. The
police were already involved in Kathleen’s death. Dowd felt his
stomach begin to clench. He crossed the room to the liquor
cabinet, pulled out a bottle of bourbon and highball glass, and
poured himself a two-finger shot. Dowd contemplated the amber
liquid. He knocked back the shot, wiping his mouth with the back
of his hand.

Stabler looked up from the first of Kathleen’s diaries as
Olivia placed the receiver in the phone’s cradle. “Parents will
be here tomorrow. They’re coming from Nebraska.”

“The ME isn’t going to be able to release the body until
after the autopsy. Monday afternoon at the earliest.”

Olivia nodded, rubbing the back of her neck. “I told them.
They said they’d be here tomorrow anyway. Anything useful in

“You mean like the name of our mysterious professor?
Nothing so far. According to her pay stubs, her work-study
assignment was in the history department. You find anything on

“Misdemeanor possession and a drunk and disorderly. The ‘probation’ was probably an
academic disciplinary measure.” Olivia got up and walked around the
desk. She rummaged through the cardboard box holding Kathleen’s
papers. She pulled a pink sheet out of the box, unfolded it, and
scanned it. “Elliot…it seems Kathleen was about to make Mom and
Dad proud grandparents.”

“Are you going to see her tonight?”

“Doesn’t ‘you’re on your own for dinner and
entertainment’ imply that to you, Jake,” Alex said, standing in
front of her open closet as she tried to figure out what to wear
for the evening before she got into the shower.

Jake chuckled and crossed his arms as he leaned against the
bedroom door frame. Alex pondered the closet’s contents a few
moments longer. She caught herself biting her lip and suppressed
a smile. She crossed to the dresser, opened the bottom drawer,
pulled out a royal blue, v-neck sweater, and laid it on the bed.

“Not a good choice.”

“What makes you think your opinion is wanted or needed in
this matter,” Alex asked, her eyebrows raised with surprise.

“Since when have I ever waited until you asked for my

Alex made no reply, hoping her best prosecutor stare did the
talking for her.

Jake shook his head. “Uh, uh, not this time, sis. The ADA bit
isn’t going to work, not when I know I’m right.”

“Alright, smart guy, tell me why it isn’t a good choice,”
Alex said, not bothering to hide the amusement in her voice.

Jake crossed the room to the bed. He felt the sweater
material between a thumb and forefinger. “Soft, that’s a plus. The
color will be good on you,” he said with a grin. “The problem with
this is that while I’m sure you’ll look very good, it’s not exactly
easy access now is it, Alex?”

Alex felt the flush of anger creeping up her neck from her
chest. “You presume way too much,” Alex said finally, her voice
hard edged.

Jake shrugged and shook his head. “All I’m saying is that
based on what I saw this morning I don’t expect to be seeing you
until early afternoon on Sunday.”

Damn it. “You may have a point.”

“You want my advice,” Jake said, grinning. “Take this
for Sunday brunch, which I expect to be invited to. Wear something
with buttons tonight. You won’t be sorry.”

He winked at her, turned, and headed out of the room and
toward the kitchen. Alex could hear him humming softly not quite
under his breath. She grinned in spite of her annoyance and headed
back to the closet.

Olivia glanced at her watch. She checked the inside of her
mug. Empty. She fought the urge to look at her watch again,
tapping her pen on the open diary in front of her.

“Go home.”

She looked up to find Elliot regarding her steadily from
across the desk.

“You’re making me nervous,” he continued. “Forensics
won’t be back until tomorrow. The ME’s backed up. There’s
nothing left that needs both of us to do it today. Go home
already. Get ready for whatever it is you’re doing tonight that
I’m not prying into,” he said with a grin.

“You sure?”

“Positive. Just tell me one thing.”

“What,” Olivia said as she shrugged on her coat.

“He’s awfully patient about your work hours.” Stabler leaned
back in his chair. “That’s not something I’ve noticed in the
civvies you’ve dated. Is this guy on the job?”

“Sort of,” she said, buttoning her coat.

“Sort of? How can you be sort of on the job?”

Olivia grinned at him. “You’re so smart, you figure it out.”

Alex barely felt Olivia’s hand come to rest on her hip she was
so focused on the velvet of Olivia’s mouth against hers. She
pulled back slightly, breaking the kiss, and slid her free hand up
Olivia’s arm. The material of the navy-blue sweater Olivia wore
was butter-soft against Alex’s palm.

“Hello to you too,” she said with a smile. “You keep
kissing me like that I’m going to drop the wine.”

“We can’t have that, now can we? What else have you got
in that bag?” Olivia released Alex from her embrace and moved to
take Alex’s package from her.

Alex shook her head, extracting the bottle of wine from the
bag. “It’s a surprise.” She held out the bottle for Olivia.

“Then I’ll let it be a surprise,” Olivia said, moving
into the kitchen area, bottle in hand. “Make yourself comfortable,
dinner should be here soon.”

Alex put the plastic bag on the coffee table and curled into
the end seat on the couch. She noted the DVD player on the shelf
under Olivia’s TV with a small grin. Pays to have a good memory
“How was your day?”

“It was OK,” Olivia replied from the kitchen. “We didn’t
make much progress on the case. Forensics is backed up. How was

“Good, relaxing.”

Olivia moved out of the kitchen and crossed to the couch, full
wine glasses in hand. “Here you go.”

Alex took the glass of Valpolicella Olivia held out. Olivia
sat down next to her, resting her free hand casually on Alex’s
denim clad thigh. Just let it happen, Alex. You don’t have to
control everything
, she thought, resisting the urge to try to calm
her racing pulse. “Thanks. There is a great exhibit at the Met I
haven’t had time to see. I finally got to it today.”

“Really, which one,” Olivia asked, trying to ignore the
sinking sensation in her stomach.

“Changing New York. The whole show is black and whites
from the 1930s, all by the same woman photographer. I think you
would like it. It shows a New York that might have a different
impact on you as a native than it does on me as a transplant. I’d
be willing to go again if you’re interested,” Alex said, taking a
sip of wine.

“It sounds great. Damn it, there goes Sunday’s
“Did Jake go with you?”

Alex shook her head. “No, he had some fraternity charity event
to go to. Ostensibly, his reason for being in town.”

“You don’t think that’s why he’s really here though, do

Alex considered the question as she ran a finger around the
rim of her wine glass.

Tease, Olivia thought, fighting both the grin that wanted to
spread itself across her face and the desire to make Alex forget
all about the arriving dinner, the movie, and the wine glass in her
hand. The black, cotton dress shirt she wore put Alex’s blonde
hair and light skin in sharp relief. Olivia hadn’t missed the
strategic number of buttons Alex had chosen to leave undone giving
the imagination just enough room to work overtime.

Alex looked up to find Olivia watching her intently. “No, I
don’t think it is,” Alex said finally.

“He mentioned something about you not going home for

Alex swallowed a sip of wine. “I thought I’d spend the holiday
in the city this year.”

“A little early to decide that, isn’t it,” Olivia asked,
her thumb moving in a slow circle against the top of Alex’s thigh.

Alex paused trying to gauge Olivia’s mood. Something told her
that Olivia didn’t just mean the date on the calendar. “The first
week in November is not too early to start thinking about where to
spend Thanksgiving, not when my family is involved.”

“Your family’s important to you.” Olivia reversed the
direction in which her thumb was moving against Alex’s thigh. She
was rewarded with a soft smile.

“Very. What about yours?”

The front-door intercom buzzed.

Saved. “I think dinner is here,” Olivia said, getting
up to answer the second buzz from the intercom.

Dowd hammered on the mahogany door with his clenched fist for
the third time. He caught a small glimpse of himself in the brass
knocker he’d chosen to ignore. Dowd looked down at this half
tucked-in shirt. He had his hand down the back of his pants trying
to manage the shirt’s tail when the door swung open.

“Ray? What in the hell is the matter?”

Dowd looked up to find anger warring with concern in the
expression of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Joel
Rutherford put his hand on Dowd’s back and walked him into the
house. The miasma of bourbon around Dowd was palpable. Rutherford
shut the door. “What’s going on, Ray?”

“She’s dead, Joel.” Dowd burst into tears, covering his
face with his hands. “I loved her and she’s dead.”

Rutherford swallowed hard. He led Dowd down the hall and into
his study. Bourbon was starting to sound like just the thing.

“I don’t understand why this has got you so bothered,
Elliot,” Kathy said, pushing the cut celery off the cutting board
into the stew pot. “It’s not like Olivia hasn’t dated before.”

Stabler shut the refrigerator, twisted the top off the bottle
of beer he’d taken out of the big box, and tossed the cap into the
trash can. “Not bothered, curious. It’s like she dared me to spy
on her,” he said swallowing a swig of beer. “I can’t not do it.”

“You can, and you will, and stop eating my carrots.”
Kathy tapped him lightly on the back of the hand that was sneaking
across the cutting board to the growing pile of vegetables. Elliot
grinned at his wife.

Charmer. She smiled. “You really want to find out,
invite them over for dinner.”

“Never work. She won’t bring him until she’s ready, and
probably not even then.” He took another sip from the beer bottle.

“It’s like taking your boyfriend home to meet the folks. Worse,
most parents don’t carry a gun around for a living.”

“Have you asked her for Thanksgiving yet? I think it’s
important. After all, this is her first year without her mother.”

“We’re not going to your parents’ ?”

“Don’t you remember,” she said, leaning in and kissing
him lightly on the lips. “They’re coming here.”

She turned her back, cutting board in hand, and crossed to the
stove. Elliot rolled his eyes and took another swig from his beer.

“Wait, so Victor knows that Rick has the letters of
transit. Ilsa knows Rick has the letters of transit. Renault
knows he’s got them, and Strasser suspects he’s got them.” Alex
ticked the points off on her fingers as she went through them.

“Uh-huh,” Olivia said, running her fingers through Alex’s

“So why doesn’t Strasser just arrest him then?”

Olivia smiled, planting a kiss on the top of Alex’s head.
Apples again. Given their position it was easy for Olivia to do.

Alex had nestled between Olivia’s thighs, leaning back against
her as they both stretched their legs out on the couch. They’d
spent the better part of forty minutes like this, Alex’s fingers
brushing against the inside of Olivia’s arm which lay draped
lightly over Alex’s shoulder and across her chest.

Olivia’s sock clad foot spooned against Alex’s calf where
their legs twined together. The warm smell of shampoo, and soap,
and skin wafted up enveloping Olivia in Alex’s scent. “Because he
doesn’t have jurisdiction, and because it’s art.”

“They’re Nazis. Why do they care about jurisdiction?”

“They have to maintain the illusion that Vichy France is
actually operating independent of Nazi rule.”

Alex nodded. Olivia was suddenly sure that Alex could feel
the throbbing pulse between her legs that was spurred on as much by
Alex’s light touch as by their proximity and position.

“Right. A separate peace so the Nazis wouldn’t burn down

“Exactly,” Olivia said, hitting PLAY on the DVD player’s
remote. “And it’s art.”

The rest of the movie unfolded on the screen as they lay
together on the couch touching with an air of casualness Olivia was
finding it increasingly difficult to maintain. As Rick and Captain
Renault walked off into the black and white fog, Alex turned
within Olivia’s embrace. She stretched up and kissed Olivia
lightly. “You were right. It was lovely.”

“I’m glad you liked it. Thank you for bringing it. That
probably puts us even in the courting department,” Olivia said with
a grin.

Alex smiled. “Jake was flabbergasted when I told him I hadn’t
seen it.”

“So, your brother’s better educated than his big sister.”

Alex arched an eyebrow. “I’m not sure that I like the way you
say ‘big sister.’ He is not that much younger than I am.”

Olivia motioned for Alex to sit up. She got up off the couch.
“How much is ‘not that much’?” She removed the DVD from the
machine, and put it back in the rental box. Alex’s other choice
had been The Maltese Falcon. Not something I would have picked
for a date but still
, Olivia thought, crossing back to the couch
after putting the other movie in the DVD’s tray. She sat facing

“Three years.”

“Which makes him…”

“Twenty-six in December. Very sneaky, Detective.”

Olivia’s smile hid her surprise. 29…I don’t think I even
remember being 29.

Alex stroked Olivia’s knee, her fingers straying up the inside
of Olivia’s thigh. “So, why didn’t your parents give you a brother
or sister to boss around?” Alex sensed rather than felt Olivia
stiffen up. Alex tilted her head, waiting for Olivia to speak in
her own time.

Olivia looked away. When she looked back, Alex’s gaze was
filled with sympathy.

“It’s too soon after your Mom?”

Olivia nodded, feeling both relief and a sense of dread at the
small lie. She leaned in and kissed Alex softly, her tongue gentle
between Alex’s lips as she pushed her self control to its limit.
By the time she pulled back, Alex’s face was flushed.

“Let’s do something else besides talk about our families,
OK,” Olivia suggested, her voice low.

“Did you have anything in mind?”

Olivia nodded. She clicked off the TV with the remote, then
she grasped Alex’s hand, pulled her up from the couch, and led her
to the bedroom.

Mike Fitzgerald knocked back another beer. He sat next to the
serving station because it got him his beers from the bartender
quicker, but it also got him a chance to chat with the waitresses.
Billie was the only one who gave Mike the time of day. It’s those
blue eyes and that dark hair. Man, instant fucking hard-on. And
that’s all she really needs to turn her around too.
The corner of
his mouth turned up in a smirk. Mike felt someone hovering near
his elbow. “Hey Dana,” he said, turning his head to find out who
was in his personal space.

“Hi Mike,” she said, squeezing between him and the guy
next to him at the bar. “I’m sorry about Kathleen.”

A blurred image of Dana, half naked, swam to the bleary
surface of Mike’s mind. Without context for it, he just nodded. He
felt Dana’s hand slide up the inside of his thigh.

“If there’s anything I can do…”

“Yeah, I’ll let you know. Thanks.”

Dana stared at him for a second, removed her hand, and shoved
her way through the crowd toward the door. Good riddance. To
never go where many have boldly gone before.
Mike ordered
another beer.

After 6 beers and a bit of polite conversation from Billie,
Mike’s confidence level was in the stratosphere. He’d tried to
talk to her the last time she’d come to pick up an order but the
bartender had stopped him. She gave him a thin smile as she moved
away from the bar into the Knicks-mad crowd with a fully loaded

“Man, give her a break,” the bartender said, putting some
empties in the bar back’s bin. “She’s working a double today.”

Mike just nodded and ordered another beer. In a few hours,
maybe she’d be ready to have him walk her home.

Joel Rutherford snapped off the desk lamp after picking up the
two glasses from the coffee table. He moved quietly out of the
study and shut the door on Raymond Dowd’s drunken snores. Affairs
between students and professors were nothing new. There’d been
that near disaster with the womens literature professor and the
starting forward on the girls basketball team the previous spring.
Rutherford shook his head to clear away the image that leapt to his
mind’s eye. Between crying jags it had taken Dowd an hour to give
Rutherford all the details. Rutherford considered the high-ball
glass in his hand for a second. Deciding against another drink, he
put the glass next to the sink and turned out the kitchen light.

The question for Rutherford wasn’t Dowd’s innocence or guilt
in the matter of Kathleen’s death; Rutherford absolutely believed
his friend’s claim that the young woman had been dead when he’d
arrived at her dorm room. For Rutherford, the question was his
next move. He sighed as he trudged up the stairs to his own bed.
A student death on top of what is shaping up into a doozy of a
mid-term cheating scandal. It’s times like these I almost envy the
Catholics and their confessionals.

Rutherford flicked off the hall light from the wall switch and
quietly shut the door to his bedroom behind him.

“Oh god, Alex…”

The husky moan kick started her already satiated system as
Alex felt a soft throbbing begin anew between her legs. Alex
grinned and raised her head to look up at Olivia. “Something
wrong,” she asked, her tone packed with as much innocence as she
could muster.

“Nothing except for the way you tease.” A slight smile
tinted Olivia’s voice.

Olivia, who had insisted on long, slow exploration their last
time together, had been bruising heat once they’d reached the
bedroom. Alex’s climax had been hard and fast under Olivia’s
insistent fingers. Finding the buttons to her shirt in the morning
was a task Alex wasn’t relishing.

Alex said nothing as lowered her mouth to Olivia’s swollen
mound. She inhaled the rich, musky aroma of Olivia’s excitement as
she slowly parted Olivia’s lips and found her clit.

Alex suppressed another grin as Olivia moaned. She began to
work in earnest, starting with long, slow strokes with the flat of
her tongue gradually narrowing her focus, increasing the intensity
and speed with which her tongue moved over Olivia’s aroused,
hypersensitive organ.

She moved her fingers to Olivia’s wet, open center and applied
a small bit of pressure. Olivia spread her legs slightly, moving
her lips farther apart. Taking the cue, Alex slid her first two
fingers inside.

“Alex…” God…just breathe.

The tone of the single word was all the encouragement Alex
needed. Quickly, the movement of her fingers synced with the fluid
motion of her tongue. Alex glanced up to find Olivia, her face and
chest flushed and her eyes shut tightly, rolling one pebble-hard
nipple between her thumb and forefinger. Alex’s senses focused to
a sharp point with one goal in mind as she returned to
concentrating on keeping her fingers and mouth consistent.

Alex felt Olivia’s orgasm begin as her thighs went rigid.
Olivia’s horse cry and the rhythmic pressure on her thrusting
fingers let Alex know her concentration had paid off. She allowed
herself a sly smile, her mouth curving against the slippery pillows
of Olivia’s lips. Once Olivia was spent, Alex slowly withdrew.

Olivia shivered as Alex completed her exodus. “Tissues,”
Olivia muttered, not daring to open her eyes as she gestured weakly
toward the night stand.

“I am going to need more than that this time,
sweetheart,” Alex said with a grin.

Alex pulled the sheet over Olivia after she got out of bed and
padded naked out of the bedroom. In the bath, Alex washed her face
and hands. She caught sight of herself in the mirror, hair mussed,
face flushed with effort and arousal. Sweetheart? Jesus,
Alexandra. Trying to scare her off?

Olivia had pulled the blanket up while Alex was gone. She
flipped the covers over and motioned Alex into bed. Alex settled
on her side, tucked into the curve of Olivia’s arm. Olivia pulled
the sheet and blanket over her. “Thank you.” She tilted her head
down and kissed Alex lightly.

“My pleasure.”

“Not entirely,” Olivia said, grinning. “Is this what you
had in mind when you suggested dinner and a movie at my place?”

“No, this is what I had in mind for after dinner a couple
of weeks ago.”

Olivia stroked Alex’s hair. Despite the endorphins coursing
through her system, a small part of Olivia twisted, fighting the
desire to relax and be comfortable. The tears she’d managed to hold
off as Alex had withdrawn from inside her had formed a hard lump in
her chest.

“Is Jake expecting you home tonight,” Olivia asked to
fill the silence.

“He is most definitely not expecting me. He told me
that in no uncertain terms. In fact, he’d probably be disappointed
if I did come home. He expects to be invited to brunch tomrrow

Brunch… “What happened to not wanting an audience?”

“It’s a little late for that, don’t you think?” Olivia
felt Alex’s smile against her shoulder.

“Hum…I guess. Is he planning on having someone over

“In my bed? He may be a wise ass but his manners are
better than that.”

Olivia’s hand moved to Alex’s arm, her fingers making idle
circles against Alex’s bicep. “Tell me more about your family.”

Alex propped her head on her hand and looked at Olivia. Her
expression was completely unreadable as Alex searched Olivia’s face
for a clue to her mood.

“They’re important to you. I’d like to know more about
them,” Olivia said, kissing Alex again. “More about you.”

Alex smiled softly. “OK, Detective. Just remember, you asked
for it.”

Billie propped Mike up against the wall next to the passcard
reader outside his dorm’s main door. He grinned at her, oblivious
to the reek of vomit on his breath. Billie sighed. “Mike,
where’s your passcard?”

“‘s in my wallet,” he muttered, scraping at his front
pocket with his right hand, unable to muster the small amount of
dexterity it took to actually reach into the pocket.

Billie pushed his hand away and reached into his pocket for
the wallet.

“Oh baby…” Mike lurched forward and threw his arm over
Billie’s shoulder.

“Get off it, Mike,” she said, pushing him off and yanking
the wallet out of his pocket. “If Kathleen wasn’t my best friend
you’d be spending the night on the park bench I found you on.”

She managed to swipe his pass card and get him into the
building. She leaned him against the wall and punched for the
elevator. Kathleen is so going to owe me for this. She jabbed
the elevator button again as Mike burped noisily. He held his
fingers up in front of his mouth to try to quiet the sound after
the fact.

The stairwell door next to the elevator opened and Billie’s
friend Jill emerged carrying a laundry basket. “Hey girl, what’s
up,” Jill asked, balancing the basket on her hip.

Billie jerked her thumb over her shoulder. Jill’s eyebrows
rose. Mike wiggled his fingers at Jill in greeting.

“Isn’t that Kathleen’s boyfriend?”

“Yeah, he’s had a few.”

“Nine…or was it ten,” Mike slurred, regarding the
fingers he held up with the utmost interest.

Billie rolled her eyes. “Corporal work of mercy.”

“So you’re not leaving the sisterhood then,” Jill asked
with a grin.

Mike burped wetly. Billie shook her head.

“In the immortal words of Janice Joplin ‘not a fucking
chance honey’.”

The sound of Jill’s laughter followed them into the elevator.
The trip to the third floor was enough to send Mike’s head spinning
again. Billie swiped the passcard and opened the door to his room.
Mike pushed the door wider and staggered over to the bed. He
dropped on to it face down. Thank god. Just what I needed was to
have to roll him over.
She unlaced and removed Mike’s shoes.
Billie was covering him with a blanket from the floor when Mike
moved his hand to her arm. He raised his head up off the bed.

“I didn’t mean it you know.”

“It’s OK, Mike. Kathleen doesn’t have to know you spent
the evening hitting on everything female and breathing.”

“Kathleen…” Mike made a raspberry noise with his lips.
“All she had to do was not fall in love with the old fart and it
would have been OK. Don’t you see? That’s all she had to do.”

Mike’s head dropped to the bed as he passed out. Billie pried
Mike’s fingers from her forearm. She dropped his passcard and
wallet on the dresser. Breakfast with Kathleen tomorrow was going
to be interesting. Billie closed the door quietly and moved down
the hall to the elevator. She considered the elevator for a
second, then pushed open the stairwell door. She smiled to
herself, remembering some of Jill’s more inventive ideas about how
to they could kill time while they did their laundry sophomore

Elliot was pouring his first cup of coffee at the office when
Olivia got to the squadroom Monday morning. She draped her coat
over the back of her chair, picked up her mug off her desk, and
made her way over to the coffee hotplates.

“Morning,” she said with a smile. “You look like you got
some sleep.”

“Some. How was the rest of your weekend?”

Olivia poured some hot water over the tea bag she’d dropped
into her mug. “Good. Mostly relaxing.” Except for the grilling I
got from my girlfriend’s brother over brunch on Sunday.
Girlfriend…where the hell did that come from?

“Does that mean whatever I didn’t pry into was a

Olivia just grinned at him and made her way back to her desk.
She pulled two new files out of her inbox. The top one was the
forensics report on Kathleen Farrell. Olivia set that aside and
sipped from her mug. The second file was tagged as originating in
the ADA’s office. The thought of the ADA’s office brought thoughts
of a particular ADA which brought an involuntary smile.

She flipped open the manila folder and scanned its contents.
Olivia’s stomach knotted around the tea she’d just swallowed.

Elliot caught her expression. “What’s up?”

Olivia handed the court notice across the desk to him. “They
want me to testify at Darrell Guan’s appeal.”

Elliot scanned the document. He handed it back to her. “It’s
probably nothing. Look, it’s not just you, it says ‘arresting
officers.’ That means I’m up for one of these too.”

Olivia nodded, not quite believing him.

“Is that the forensics on Kathleen Farrell?”

“Yeah,” Olivia said, flipping open the other folder.
“Nothing about evidence of rape, they pass that off to the ME. No
DNA match in CODIS on the semen from the condom. That would have
been too easy.”

“When’s the autopsy?”

Olivia glanced at her watch. “Soon.”

“We stop to eat they’ll be done and have the results by
the time we get there.”

“I don’t know how you do the morgue on a full stomach.”

“Better than trying to do food afterward,” Stabler said
with a wry grin.

Olivia shook her head and shrugged into her coat.

“Your girl wasn’t raped.”

Stabler glanced at Olivia. “You sure we’re talking about the
same girl,” he asked.

“Kathleen Farrell, age 21, found dead in her dorm room at
Hudson University on Saturday morning,” Medical Examiner Melinda
Warner said.

“That’s the one,” Olivia said.

“She wasn’t raped. I found evidence of recent
intercourse but no signs of bruising or any of the other trauma
associated with forced sexual contact. Also, she was pregnant.
About 10 weeks on.”

Olivia nodded. “She had positive test results from the
student health center in her papers.”

“I sent a sample for a CVS test in case you need to prove
paternity later.”

“What was the cause of death,” Elliot asked.

Warner crossed to the autopsy table. She pointed to some red
marks on both sides of Kathleen’s neck.

“Manual strangulation combined with intracranial
bleeding. This bruise on her temple is from a blow that probably
knocked her out, made her more pliable. Also, whoever did this to
this girl used a considerable amount of force to hold her down.
There’s a bruise here,” Warner said, indicating an oval shaped red
mark between Kathleen’s breasts. “which seems consistent with
restraint. I’m thinking maybe a knee, possibly a forearm.”

“So, what, sex game gone bad,” Olivia asked Elliot.

“Possibly. Guy realizes he’s gone too far, strips off
the condom, covers her up, and leaves in a panic.”

“Condom?” Warner looked from Olivia to Elliot.

“CSU found a used condom, still warm, in the trash can in
her room,” Elliot said.

“The evidence of intercourse I found was a sample inside
her that was at least 12 hours old. I sent that and some skin I
found under her finger nails off to the DNA lab for cross

“I think we may be looking for two guys,” Olivia said,
glancing at her partner.

Jill Franklin wasn’t surprised to see the cops when she got to
work Monday. She shook her head, remembering Billie’s tears
Saturday night. Jill’s work-study job in Student Records kept her
in the loop about most of the happenings on campus the
administration would rather the student body didn’t know about.
The policy was clear on how police inquiries should be handled.
“Let me get Mrs. Marks for you,” Jill said to Stabler.


Jill did her best to get as much information as she could out
of the conversation she eavesdropped on between Marks and the
detectives. Master prevaricators at work, all three of them,
Jill thought, smiling to herself as she listened to Marks refuse to
give them anything more than Kathleen Farrell’s class schedule and
work-study assignment. Jill waited a few beats after they’d left.

“Mrs. Marks, I’m going to get some coffee. Would you
like any,” Jill asked, pulling on her sweatshirt.

“Decaf, please. After that, my nerves don’t need the

Jill jogged up to Olivia and Elliot as they stood on the
sidewalk outside the administration building.

“You guys get everything you need from Mrs. Marks,” Jill
asked, shoving her hands into the kangaroo pocket on the front of
her sweatshirt.

Olivia looked at Stabler. “You sound like you’ve got more to
tell us,” she said, turning her attention back to Jill.

“Not me,” Jill shook her head. “Try Kathleen’s best
friend. Billie Chambers. They talked about everything. If
anybody can give you the 411 on Kathleen, it’ll be Billie.”

“Where can we find Billie?”

“The Rat…rathskeller, across campus. Working the lunch

Olivia pulled a card out of her coat pocket and handed it to
Jill. “If you hear anything else, don’t hesitate to call.”

Olivia and Elliot made their way across campus to the
rathskeller. Once inside the pub, Olivia motioned for the
bartender. She flashed her badge at him discreetly and asked for

“Take that booth if you like,” the bartender said,
motioning behind them. “I’ll send her over.”

Stabler and Olivia slid into opposite sides of the booth while
the bartender walked farther down the bar to speak with a slim
young woman with dark hair.

“Her,” Elliot said, looking at Olivia and raising his

“It’s short for Wilhelmina, and the only person who calls
me that is my grandmother,” Billie said, coming to a stop at the
end of the booth.

“I’m Detective Benson. This is my partner, Detective

Billie set her tray down on the table and slid into the booth
next to Stabler. The better to see you, Detective, she thought,
taking Olivia in with a glance. Olivia didn’t miss the appraisal.
Neither did Stabler.

“You guys want to know about Kathleen. Ask.”

Olivia couldn’t hide the surprise on her face. “Most people
aren’t so forthcoming when we show up.”

“Most people probably didn’t just find out their best
friend since childhood was raped and killed in her own room.”

“Fair enough.”

“Tell us about Kathleen’s love life, Billie,” Stabler
said, taking his notebook out of his pocket and flipping it open.

“Complicated. Mike Fitzgerald, you guys talked to him

“Say we didn’t,” Olivia said, folding her hands on the

“Mike’s a piece of work,” Billie said, picking one of the
napkins up off her tray and pulling off a corner. “He’s drunk or
stoned most of the time. Says he loves her, then hits on anything
female that has a pulse. He tried to get her into some test paper
scam or something. She only told me enough about it to know it
sounded like typical Mike, bad news from the beginning.”

“Did she do what Mike wanted,” Olivia asked.

“I don’t know. Look, I loved Kathleen like a sister but
she was keeping a lot of stuff to herself lately. We were supposed
to have breakfast yesterday. I worked a double Saturday and didn’t
even find out she was dead until after I got off at closing.”

“Do you know if she was confiding in anyone else?”

Billie pulled more chunks off the paper napkin and
dropped them into the pile in front of her. “Maybe someone from
her psych study group. It was the one she spent the most time

Stabler made some notes. “We heard a rumor that she was
seeing one of her professors.”

“She wouldn’t say which one,” Billie nodded, shredding
more of the napkin. “She’d convinced herself she was in love with
him. I have to give her this, she committed with more enthusiasm
than I ever have. Ironic all things considered.”

“How do you mean,” Olivia asked.

Billie looked right into Olivia’s eyes. “You know how it is,
Detective, the old second date curse.”

Stabler looked from one woman to the other. Billie dropped
her gaze down to the pile of napkin shreds on the table.

“Billie, can you think of anything else that might have
been troubling Kathleen,” Olivia asked.

“She mentioned having news when I talked to her Friday
night but she didn’t say what. She was going to tell me at
breakfast. Look, I should probably get back to work.”

“One last question,” Stabler said. “Did she have any
sort of financial problems? Owe anyone any money?”

“Far from it. We’re both on academic scholarship, so
money was usually tight but Kathleen’s been pretty flush for the
past month or so.”

Billie slid out of the booth and picked up her tray. Olivia
pulled a business card out of her jacket pocket.

“If you think of anything else that might help…”

“I’ll call.”

She took the card from Olivia, slipped it into her apron, and
headed back down the bar toward the kitchen.

“‘Second date curse’,” Elliot asked, pausing outside the
bar to put on his sunglasses.

“Got me.”

“Unless I missed something, that’s the second 20 year old
female in less than an hour who’s flirted with you.”

“It’s the badge, Elliot. People assume things. You know
how it is.” And, apparently, I’m suddenly giving off a very dykey

Stabler nodded, falling into step beside his partner. “History

Olivia nodded.

Alex suppressed a sigh as she handed the menu back to the
waiter. She could have called to let the squad know she’d gotten
the subpoena for Kathleen Farrell’s financials but she made the
trip over on the off chance of seeing Olivia. Cragen’s big grin of
welcome and the invitation to lunch were nice, but not fully

“I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages, Counselor.”

“Your detectives have been keeping me busy, Don,” Alex
said, spreading the napkin over her lap. “They’re delivering me
solid cases.”

“Good to know. What’s this I hear about the Guan case
going to appeal?”

Alex swallowed the sip of water she’d just taken. “Pretty
standard. They’re claiming their expert’s testimony was not given
the weight it should have been given. They have a new study
suggesting that while genetics aren’t fully responsible for
behavior, they predispose someone enough that if the environment is
unstable or hostile that person can’t be held responsible.” She
broke a piece of bread from the basket in half and placed both
halves on her bread plate. “Basically, they’re trying to blame
Susan Guan for her son’s actions.”

“Olivia tells me she’s been called to testify. Is
Stabler getting a notice too?”

“It should be in his inbox today.”

Cragen nodded. “That’s good,” he said, digging into the salad
their waiter had just delivered. “The case had Olivia a little
spooked in the first place. When her notice arrived and Elliot
didn’t get one I think she was afraid they were going to drag her
family history into it.”

“What family history?”

“When do you expect him back,” Elliot asked, trying to
keep the irritation out of his voice.

“I expected Dr. Dowd for classes today, Detective. I’m
the department’s secretary not his mother. If he says he’s sick,
he’ll be in when he feels better. His TA had to give his mid-term

The secretary shut the file cabinet drawer with a bang.
Stabler clenched his jaw.

Olivia stepped forward. “Mrs. Jenks, we have reason to believe
that Kathleen was romantically involved with one of the professors
in this department. If you know anything that can help us you need
to tell us now.”

Olivia watched as Marla Jenks’ gaze dropped to the floor. “We
also have reason to believe that this man may be the father of
Kathleen’s unborn child,” Olivia continued.

Jenks sighed. She opened the top right hand drawer of her
desk. She pulled out a list of faculty members names and home
addresses, scribbled something on a piece of scrap paper and handed
it across the desk to Olivia. “You didn’t get that from me.”

“And I’m sure we can rely on your discretion regarding
Kathleen’s condition,” Olivia said, folding the sheet and slipping
it into her pocket.

Jenks looked from Olivia’s face to Stabler’s. She swallowed
a lump in her throat and nodded.

“I honestly don’t know anything much about Kathleen’s
personal life,” Brian Mercer said, dropping onto a bench outside
the psychology building.

Stabler sat down on the bench next to him. Olivia stood near
the end.

“We talked to one of the other members of your study
group, Dana. She said you had something of a crush on Kathleen,”
Olivia said, hovering over Brian.

Brian blushed. He unlaced one inline skate and pulled it
off. “Yeah. Kathleen was pretty cool about it. She took me out
to dinner about a month ago. It wasn’t your standard ‘I just want
to be friends’ speech either. She said she understood what it was
like and that she was flattered.”

“You sound like a pretty easy guy to get along with,
Brian.” Stabler turned from gazing at the quad to look at Brian.

Brian pulled off the other inline skate. “Yeah, wimp central
right? Look, Kathleen was a babe. Smart, funny, kind. Way, way
out of my league.” He patted the spare tire around his middle.

“Besides, she had it bad for Professor Dowd.” He pushed one of
the inline skates into his backpack.

“What makes you say that,” Olivia asked, pushing her
hands into her coat pockets.

Brian put on one of the high-top shoes he’d pulled out of
his backpack. “Dana told me they were an item, seemed kind of
pissed off about it too. Said Kathleen told her she was pregnant.
Imagine,” He stuck his foot in the other high-top and laced it.
“fatherhood at 45.” The clock tower on the quad chimed 15 minutes
to the hour. “Look, I’ve got class.”

Mercer shoved his other inline skate into his bag and
headed into the psychology building. Olivia looked at Elliot.
“She lied about knowing which professor Kathleen was seeing.”

“Yep,” he said, folding a stick of gum into his mouth.
“Now we just need to find out why.”

Mike Fitzgerald’s head felt like it was being dismantled from
the brain outward. He’d woken up Sunday afternoon, still drunk,
wet from the waist down, and not a clue how he’d gotten home. Hair
of the dog on Sunday after a brisk business during the day had
turned into six or seven beers, and a bitch of a hangover on Monday

He sat on the bench outside the bookstore smoking one last
cigarette before punching in. His storehouse of exams was almost
depleted and he wanted to get rid of the last of them before the
cops came back around. Mike flicked his cigarette butt into the
street and went inside the bookstore.

It took every ounce of control Alex had not to fling her
briefcase on to her desk and slam her office door. Damn it!
Alex thought back to brunch on Sunday morning and the way Olivia
had asked, and artfully dodged, many questions. The hot stab of
anger gave way to a sick feeling of betrayal. How could I have
been so blind?
Her musings were interrupted by the ring of the
phone on her desk.

“Alex Cabot.” She paused to listen. “Just let me get my
active cases together and I’ll be right up, Liz.”

“Kathleen and I were very close, yes,” Raymond Dowd said,
crossing his legs and smoothing out a wrinkle in his pant leg.

“How close is very,” Stabler asked.

“I’m not sure I understand you, Detective.”

Elliot leaned forward. “I think you do.”

Dowd paled under Elliot’s stare. He got up from his chair and
moved toward the liquor cabinet. Halfway there he changed his
mind, turned around, and shoved his hands in his pants pockets. He
took a deep breath and released it with a sigh. “My career is over

Stabler glanced at his partner, and back to Dowd.

“I loved Kathleen, and she said she loved me,” Dowd
continued. “I know you may find that hard to believe, that a
beautiful, attractive young woman like that could love a balding,
pot-bellied old history professor, but I believed her.”

Dowd paused. He cleared his throat. “It took me a while to
trust her, to believe that what she said she felt for me was real.
Last semester I had a student develop a crush. I couldn’t figure
out why. I didn’t encourage her but she persisted.”

“What was this girl’s name?”

“Vorhees, Dana Vorhees. One of Kathleen’s friends,
actually. Kind of ironic.”

Olivia and Elliot exchanged a questioning look. “Persisted
how,” Stabler asked.

“Sending notes, e-mails, the tone of which got more an
more unstable with each one. When she started showing up in
courses I was teaching which I knew she wasn’t registered for I had
campus police speak with her. That pretty much took care of it.”

Olivia nodded. “When was the last time you saw Kathleen?”

“Friday night. We had dinner and spent some time
together after that. She called me from her dorm room around
12:30am to say she’d made it home OK.”

“What did you talk about over dinner?”

“She said she had some news but we never got to it.
There was a break-in at my office earlier in the week. All my old
exams were stolen.”

Stabler nodded. “That had you worried.”

“Yes. It was too late to develop new questions for this
year’s batch of mid-terms and all the exams for my classes are
based on previous years tests. There’s no telling what happened to
those exams.”

“How many exams are we talking about,” Olivia asked.

Dowd’s attention shifted to Olivia. “Everything for the
freshman introductory class. That’s three sessions of two hundred
kids each. Plus, all the exams for my 300 level classes, History
of Reform Movements and History of U.S. Military Policy. That’s
another sixty to seventy students.”

“Did you suspect Kathleen,” Elliot asked.

Dowd sighed. He sat back down in the wing chair across from
the couch where Stabler and Olivia both sat. “No. I suspected
that louse of an ex-boyfriend of hers, and I told her as much.”

“Ex-boyfriend,” Olivia said, raising an eyebrow.

“Mike something. He’d been placed on academic probation
the previous fall term for selling a paper he bought off the
internet to another student.”

“Other than his history, why suspect this kid,” Stabler
asked, leaning back against the couch.

“I’d misplaced my keys a few weeks ago. It turned out
Kathleen had them. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I think she gave
them to this Mike to copy. There was no forced entry to my office.
I confronted her about it over dinner but she put me off. I let her
because I really didn’t want to know.”

“If she loved you, why would she give your keys to him,”
Elliot asked, searching Dowd’s face.

“I wish I knew, Detective. He had some sort of emotional
hold on her. It don’t think it was anything vicious, or even
conscious on his part,” Dowd said, catching an exchanged look
between the two police officers. “Kathleen was molested by a
cousin when she was 12. She’d recently, through some serious
therapy, come to realize that all the boys she’d dated in some way
resembled this cousin. She knew it wasn’t healthy. Honestly, I
think that’s part of what she found attractive about me, that I was
nothing like them.”

Olivia crossed her legs. “Did you know Kathleen was
pregnant, Professor Dowd?”

Dowd’s face drained of color as he shook his head. “I had no
idea.” He paused, swallowing hard. “She wanted to meet for
breakfast on Saturday around 8:30am but she…she never showed up.”
Dowd’s gaze slipped away from Olivia’s face.

Stabler looked at his partner, eyebrows raised in question.

“Professor, were you and Kathleen intimate on Friday
night,” Stabler asked.

Dowd nodded, pressing his lips together in a thin line.

“Would you be willing to give us a DNA sample,” Stabler


“The ME is still trying to determine whether or not
Kathleen was assaulted. We want to be able to rule you out from
any other evidence she might find.”

Dowd nodded is agreement, lips still pressed firmly together,
his pallor more than a little sickly. And it’ll tell you if I’m
the father of that baby, won’t it detectives.

“Well, it’s official, we’re looking for a second guy,”
Olivia said, hanging up her coat.

Stabler looked up from the bank statement he was reading.
Cragen came out of his office at the sound of Olivia’s voice. He
stopped next to Stabler’s desk. “There was no match on the DNA,”
Cragen asked, crossing his arms.

“It was a match on the sample Warner found inside her,
and for the fetus. Dowd’s the father. No match for the condom or
for the fingernail scrapings,” Olivia said, fixing herself a fresh
mug of tea. “They’re going to cross match the DNA from the condom
and from under her fingernails. Tomorrow’s the soonest they can
get us results.”

“Her financials are pretty interesting. One of our
witnesses said she was on scholarship, right,” Stabler said,
holding up the bank statement.

“Right.” Olivia sipped from her mug.

“There was a $5,000 deposit to her checking account last
week. Regular deposits of $75 a week as far back as we have
statements. I’m betting the $75 was what Mom and Dad could afford
to send her in support money. Where’d the $5,000 come from?”

“OK, theory,” Olivia said, sitting down at her desk. She
picked up a pen and started rolling it between her hands.

“Fitzgerald approaches her with the exam scheme. She says yes,
cozies up to our professor to get the access, falls in love with
him, and tells the boyfriend. He’s jealous but willing to deal
with it because of the money coming in. She tells him she’s
pregnant and he snaps.”

“Or,” Elliot leaned back in his chair, his hands behind his
head. “She doesn’t tell him she’s pregnant but tells him she’s
cutting him off on the exams, killing his cash flow.”

“Either way, get this kid Fitzgerald into interview
tomorrow,” Cragen said, looking at his watch. “Right now, I want
you both to go home. Don’t come back for at least 10 hours.
Olivia, my office please.”

Cragen turned and walked back into his office. Olivia looked
at Elliot, her question written all over her face. Stabler
shrugged. Olivia crossed to Cragen’s office.

“What’s up, Cap?”

“Shut the door, would you, then have a seat.”

Olivia shut the door. She sat down in the visitor chair that
faced Cragen’s desk.

“I had lunch with Cabot today.”

Fuck… “OK…”

“The Guan appeal came up in conversation. Olivia, I had
no idea she didn’t know your family circumstances. I’m sorry.”
Cragen’s expression was one of genuine regret. “It wasn’t my place
to reveal that kind of information to someone you have to work

Olivia nodded, fighting the twisting feeling in her gut.

“I made an assumption that you’d told her, and once the
cat was out of the bag…” he continued, his voice soft. “I just
thought you’d want to know.”

Double fuck. “Thanks for telling me, Captain. It’s not
a problem, really.”

Cragen nodded his thanks for her forgiveness. Olivia went
back to her desk. She looked at the phone. In person. It’s the
only way.

“Everything OK,” Stabler asked, adjusting the collar on
his coat.

“Yeah, fine.”

Olivia stacked the files on her desk and switched off her desk
lamp. She swung on her coat and followed Stabler out the door.

Alex held her left index finger on the open page in the case
law book just under the title of the citation she wanted to use.
She made a note of the case and appropriate statute on a legal pad
with her other hand. A soft knock on the door prompted her to
glance at the clock on her desk. 7:45pm

“Come in.”

“Hi,” Olivia said, opening the door, stepping in, and
shutting the door behind her.

Olivia noted Alex’s pin-striped suit, light blue shirt, and
glasses in a quick glance. Alex’s relaxed elegance only added to
Olivia’s nerves. It wouldn’t be any easier even if I weren’t so
damn attracted to her,
she thought.

“What can I do for you, Detective,” Alex said, her tone

Olivia shoved her hands in her pants pockets. “That answers my
first question.”

Alex said nothing. She tapped her pen on the legal pad.

“You don’t have anything to say?”

“You lied to me, Olivia. What am I supposed to say?
Thank you?”

“I never actually lied, Alex.”

“When I asked why you didn’t have any brothers or sisters
you led me to believe you didn’t want to talk about it because it
was still too soon after your mother’s death.”

Olivia nodded. “Not entirely false.”

“But not entirely true, either,” Alex said, raising one

“You’re right. I wasn’t completely honest with you.”

“Honesty is something of a prerequisite, Olivia.” Alex
leaned back in her chair.

“That’s a bit hypocritical, isn’t it, coming from a woman
who believes men have ‘social uses,'” Olivia said, crossing her

Oh no you don’t. Alex leaned forward, her cheeks flushed.
“I’ve never been anything but completely honest with you about who
I am or how I conduct my life. Discretion and dishonesty are not
the same thing and you know it.”

Olivia sighed and dropped into one of the visitor chairs in
front of Alex’s desk. I get one shot, and this is it. She
swallowed hard, staring off into the space above and behind Alex.
Alex watched a series of emotions run across Olivia’s unguarded
face. When Olivia finally met Alex’s gaze, her eyes were moist.

“You know exactly who you are, Alex, where you came from.
The only thing I know about my father is that he raped my mother.
You can probably trace your roots all the way back to the god damn
Mayflower. How am I supposed to measure up to that? To all that

The backwash of adrenaline from the anger Alex felt was
replaced by a hot surge of guilt. She took off her glasses and
laid them on the open case law book. She came around the end of
the desk and sat down in the other visitor chair.

“Don’t you dare pity me,” Olivia said, her voice cracking

Alex smiled softly. “I wouldn’t dream of it.” Pity?
Someone strong enough to deal with that?
Alex pushed aside the
sadness she felt rising in her chest. She reached out and stroked
Olivia’s forearm until the other woman turned and looked at her.
“I don’t expect you to measure up. I expect you to be who you are
and to let me figure out if I want to be with that person or if I

Olivia swallowed the lump in her throat and nodded, her still
moist eyes sliding away from Alex’s. Alex slid her hand down
Olivia’s arm. She twined her fingers with Olivia’s. Alex waited
until Olivia’s eyes met hers again before she spoke.

“I can’t stand being lied to, Olivia. I won’t tolerate
it.” Alex caught the anger that sparked in Olivia’s eyes and
knotted the muscles in her jaw. Alex took a deep breath and
continued. “I let passion convince me to ignore being lied to once
before in a relationship. That willful blindness cost me, dearly.”
Her eyes held Olivia’s gaze. “I never wanted to feel like that
again after it was over, but that’s how I felt today at lunch with

“How did you feel,” Olivia asked, her eyes searching
Alex’s face. Her anger was replaced by a bubble of surprise at
Alex’s admission.

“Betrayed…and foolish for trusting you.”

Olivia nodded, her expression grim and her face pale. Sort of
the way I felt when a half-naked guy walked out of your bedroom
Saturday morning.
Olivia rubbed her thumb across the back of
Alex’s hand. They sat in silence for a few moments.

“I…”    “Can we..”

Olivia smiled. “Please…”

“Can we agree not to do this again,” Alex asked.

“I’d like to avoid it, yes.”

“Good.” Alex consciously pushed away the tightness in her
chest again. “Have you eaten yet?”

Olivia shook her head. Alex smiled.

“Why don’t we get out of here then.”

Dinner turned out to be ordering-in Chinese at Alex’s. The
cab ride to her apartment had been quiet. Olivia had spent the
time staring out the window, lost in thought. Alex had spent the
ride alternately staring at Olivia’s profile, fighting the urge
to reach out and touch, and staring out her own window, unable to
control the sadness spreading through her as she thought about what
Olivia’s childhood must have been like, about how it must have felt
to mature as a woman carrying the knowledge of her conception.

The two women sat next to each other on the couch, not quite
touching, cartons arrayed in front of them on the coffee table.
Olivia’s hand brushed Alex’s as they reached for the beef and
broccoli at the same time. Olivia withdrew her hand, as if the
contact burned.

Oh hell…not by halves, Alex. Alex put down her
chopsticks. She turned toward Olivia, leaned forward, and kissed
her softly. Alex parted Olivia’s lips with the tip of her tongue
exploring the inner edges of Olivia’s mouth. Olivia responded
tentatively at first, relaxing after a few seconds as the tip of
her tongue flicked against Alex’s. Alex broke the kiss. Sweet
and sour chicken…not my favorite. Still…
Alex licked her lips
and smiled.

Olivia laughed. “Thanks.”

“For what?”

“Giving me a second chance,” Olivia said, stroking the
top of Alex’s thigh.

Alex turned back to the table, picked up the carton of beef
and broccoli with one hand, and her chopsticks with the other. She
extracted a broccoli floret. The touch of Olivia’s hand pulled at
her physically while some small part of her held still, refusing to
give in. “Do we need to talk about this some more?”

“Not unless you have questions for me,” Olivia said,
tilting her head.

Alex crunched the broccoli stalk. She used the time it took
to chew and swallow to fully squash her curiosity. “Can I take a
rain check,” she said finally.

“Absolutely.” Olivia nodded.

“Tell me how the Farrell case is progressing.”

Olivia updated Alex on the interviews she and Stabler had done
during the day as they finished the meal. Alex was putting the
last plate in the dishwasher when a thought crossed Olivia’s mind.

“Have you ever heard of the ‘second date curse,” she
asked, leaning on the counter of the kitchen’s pass through.

“In what context? Tea?”


Alex put a box of Plantation Mint, a box of Raspberry Royale,
and a box of Lipton’s black on the counter. Olivia looked through
them, chose a Plantation Mint, and handed the bag to Alex. “One of
our interviews today mentioned something about committing and the
‘second date curse.'”

Alex laughed as she poured hot water from the kettle she’d set
to boil earlier into the mug with Olivia’s tea bag. “What does a
lesbian bring on a second date?”

“What,” Olivia said, arching an eyebrow.

“A U-Haul.”

Olivia gave her a quizzical look. Alex handed her the mug of
tea and left the kitchen. She sat on the couch, mug of coffee in

“Women are famous for over-committing.”

“Are we really,” Olivia said, sitting down next to Alex.

Alex nodded and took a sip from her mug. “So how old was this
girl, and was she cute,” Alex asked, her eyes flicking sideways to
catch a glimpse of Olivia’s face.

“21 or so, and striking more than cute. Blue eyes, dark

“Um…your type?” And what are you going to say if she
answers yes?

“Not really. There is this one beautiful, whip-smart
blonde that’s got my attention though.” Olivia moved closer,
leaned in, and lifted the fall of her hair to expose Alex’s neck.

Alex leaned back, away from Olivia, a small smile touching her
lips. “Now who’s flattering, Detective?”

“Is it going to get me somewhere?”

Alex took another sip from her mug. “It might.”

Olivia leaned in and kissed Alex on the side of her neck just
below her ear. Not so easy. It doesn’t all just disappear
because you kiss me like that
, Alex thought even as a shiver of arousal ran through her, quieting some of the sorrow she felt. She
took another sip of coffee.

“How am I doing so far?” Olivia’s question was a whisper
against Alex’s skin. She held her breath waiting for Alex’s

“When you get to a stopping point, I’ll let you know,”
Alex replied finally.

“You guys have a little problem with your sample,” DNA
Analyst Danny Wu said to Olivia and Elliot.

“What kind of problem,” Stabler asked, crossing his arms.

“The sample taken at the ME’s office from your suspect
matches what was found in your victim at the autopsy. It also
proves paternity.”

Olivia nodded. “Tell us something we don’t know, Danny.”

“There was a hair recovered from the victim’s clothing
that doesn’t match your victim or your suspect. Plus, the DNA from
the sample inside the condom found at the scene doesn’t match the
scrapings from under your dead girl’s fingernails.”

“Wait…you said from inside the condom,” Stabler said.

Wu grinned. “I got here a little early this morning, for once
the D train was on time. I took a sample from the outside of the
condom. Any sort of sexual activity is going to leave DNA on both
sides of the barrier.”

Wu held up two transparencies. He slid one over the other to
match up the DNA markers. “The DNA from the outside of the condom
matches the fingernail scrapings, it’s XX, and it’s not from your
victim. You’re looking for a woman, guys.”

Mike Fitzgerald sat at the green, metal table bouncing his
knee and trying not to stare into the mirror opposite him.
Fucking one-way glass. Do they think nobody watches TV?

Olivia, Elliot, and Alex stood on the other side of the glass
watching him.

“How long’s he been in there,” Stabler asked.

“Twenty minutes,” Olivia said, checking her watch.


Stabler shook his head. “Let’s see what you can get out of
him. I think with me in there he’ll just clam up.”

Olivia nodded and went into the interview room. Alex watched
her out of the room before turning toward the glass. Elliot didn’t
miss the small bit of extra attention Alex gave her. He filed the
observation for later consideration.

Olivia dropped a manila folder on the table and sat down
across from Mike. She studied him for a several seconds giving the
impression she was considering a very interesting stain on a bit of


“I’m just wondering what a girl like Kathleen saw in

She opened the folder. “Kathleen was a great student. Mostly
A’s, a couple of B’s here and there. Volunteered, was involved in
campus life. You, you’re lucky if you can manage the gentleman’s
C. You’ve been on academic probation twice, and according to this,
you’re in violation because you spent Saturday night pounding down
beers in the campus pub.”

Mike sat up in his chair. “Look, I had a few, OK. Someone
kills your girlfriend you’ll probably go out and have a few too.”

Olivia’s eyes narrowed. On the other side of the one-way
glass, Stabler’s eyes flicked over to catch Alex’s expression.
Alex was utterly relaxed, her face neutral as she concentrated on
the interview in progress.

Olivia leaned forward. “See, we don’t think it was ‘someone’,
Mike. We figure you for this.”

“Well, you figure wrong then,” he said, slouching back
down in his chair. “I had lunch with her Friday between Econ and
work and never saw her again. Besides, I loved her. I didn’t have
any reason to kill her.”

“Sure you did. She cut you off. She took her cut, the
5 grand, and cut you off.”

Mike shot her a puzzled look.

“We know about the exams. We’ve already talked to Dowd.”

“You can’t prove I took them.”

“Yeah, we can. Kathleen gave Dowd his keys back. She
said you had them.” Blatant lie but worth a shot.

Mike’s eyes narrowed as Olivia’s bluff worked its way into his
brain. “Fucking bitch, I knew it! She told me since she was the
one who had to get his keys she deserved a bigger piece. I told
her since I was taking all the risk, going to the office, making
the contacts, there was no way she was getting more than thirty
percent,” he said stabbing the table in front of him with his index

On the other side of the glass Stabler glanced at Alex.
“Nearly $17,000 for stolen mid-terms,” she said, catching his look.

“Nice little side business.”

“Nice little admission of guilt for a group of class C

They both turned their focus back to the interview in the
other room.

“Where were you Saturday morning before you went to
work,” Olivia asked.

Mike looked away quickly, then looked back at Olivia, who
regarded him steadily. He squirmed in his chair. “In my room. I

“Mike, you and I both know that’s bullshit. We pulled
the records for your passcard. You went in on Thursday night but
your next entry wasn’t until Saturday afternoon.”

“So I piggy-backed on someone. Big deal.”

Olivia sat back and crossed her legs. “The passcard opens your
room door too, genius.”

Fuck! “OK, look, I knew Kathleen was seeing him…”

Olivia raised an eyebrow.

“Dowd…seeing Dowd on Friday. It fucking burned. All
she had to do to get the exams was get him to trust her. She
didn’t have to do him, and I never asked her to do that.”

“It was an insult to you that she’d want him instead of

“Exactly,” he said, raising his hand off the table. “So
I decided to get a little payback.”

“How’d you do that?”

Mike shrugged, his expression nearly a smirk. “Went out,
picked someone up, went home with her. It wasn’t quite coyote ugly
the next morning but there wasn’t a lot of deep conversation
either, OK. I went right from her place to breakfast and then to

“About what time was that?” Coyote ugly…jesus.

“I rolled out of her place at like 8:30am and punched in
around 8:50am. I stopped for a smoke.”

“This girl have a name?”

“Something…Dana,” Mike said snapping his fingers. “She
was in one of Kathleen’s damn study groups.”

“Son of a bitch!” Stabler’s exclamation echoed what he was
certain Olivia felt but didn’t want to say in front of the kid in
interview. “She found Kathleen, or so she told us,” he explained in
response to Alex’s questioning look.

“What time did you get back to her place?”

Mike scratched the back of his head. “I know we closed down
the Rat. Last call there is 12:30am. Closing is 1am.”

“Did you use a condom when you slept with this girl,”
Olivia asked.

“Probably,” Mike shrugged. “We did when we hit it in the
morning, I know that. Man, I hate those things.”

Alex leaned against Olivia’s desk and crossed her arms.
Stabler sat at his desk, talking quietly on the phone.

“We can get him on the burglary and the sale of stolen
property but there’s nothing from that interview I can use compel
a DNA sample.”

“We don’t need it,” Olivia said, getting up and crossing
to the moveable white-board.

She drew a line on the movable white-board. At one end she
wrote Friday, 00:35 at the other she wrote Saturday, 10:41.
“LUDs confirm that Kathleen called Dowd at 12:35am to say she’d
made it home. 911 got the call at 10:41am on Saturday. The ME
puts time of death one to two hours before that.”

She drew vertical line slightly to the left of the 10:41am
notation. Above it she wrote TOD (08:30-09:30). “Fitzgerald said
he left Dana’s place around 8:30am, and that they had sex that

She made another notation on the timeline. “I’m betting he
didn’t hang around for a lot of cuddling and pillow talk afterward.
That would give her access to his DNA, time to get to Kathleen’s
room, do the deed, and still make study group at 10am on time. She
lied to us about knowing who Kathleen was seeing.”

“It’s all hearsay and theory. It won’t stand up in court,”
Alex said.

“It doesn’t have to stand up in court. I think if we get this
girl in interview we can make something stick.” Olivia put the dry
erase marker back on the board’s ledge, crossed over to her desk
and stood next to Alex. Stabler hung up the phone.

“Hudson U. campus police confirm that Dowd asked for an
administrative restraining order against Dana Vorhees last spring

“It doesn’t put her in Kathleen Farrell’s room,” Alex

“What if we can get you forensics,” Stabler asked,
leaning back in his chair.

“Such as?”

“CSU found three sets of prints in that room, one
belonging to our victim, two they couldn’t match. They also found
a hair, female, on the body that didn’t match the victim and DNA
evidence from under the victim’s fingernails, also female, also not
a match to the vic.” Stabler smiled. “Dana Vorhees’ work-study
assignment is in student housing. Everyone who works there is
fingerprinted for insurance purposes. We call ’em back and get ’em
to fax her prints to the lab for a match.”

Alex picked up her brief case and hitched the strap on to her
shoulder. “Pick her up. If you get a match that’s enough for a
warrant for her DNA. Call me when you know something.”

Olivia nodded. They exchanged a quick look of goodbye before
Alex moved through the swinging doors into the hall. Olivia sat
down, picked up the phone, and dialed for the housing office at the

Nah…, Stabler thought, looking across the desk at his
partner as he processed the unspoken communication he’d just
witnessed. Couldn’t be.

Olivia set the mug of steaming coffee in front of Dana
Vorhees. She slid into the seat at the end of the table, crossing
her legs, as Stabler closed the door to the interview room. He sat
opposite Dana, his back to the one-way glass.

“We appreciate you coming in to talk with us today,
Dana,” Stabler said, giving the young woman his most charming
smile. “We’ve got a few more questions we were hoping you could
help us with.”

Dana smiled at Elliot in return, and in equal wattage.
“Not a problem, really. I want to do anything I can to help.”
Dana blew across the top of the mug and took a sip of coffee.

Stabler nodded, opening his notepad. “We talked to a couple
of people who were close with Kathleen who said she might have
confided in you in the weeks before she died.”

“She didn’t tell me anything special. Just the usual
complaining about coursework, gossip, that sort of thing.” Dana
took another sip from the coffee mug.

Stabler looked at her expectantly, waiting for her to

“I mean, we were close, sure. Not as close as she was
with Billie Chambers, though. Frankly, I never quite understood
what that was about,” Dana said, filling the silence.

“What didn’t you understand about it,” Olivia asked,
folding her hands on the table.

As Dana focused on Olivia a slightly irritated expression shot
across her face. She composed her expression quickly before she
answered. “Kathleen was pretty normal, and Billie’s well…you
know. I just always thought she had a little crush on Kathleen.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” she said, pushing a
lock of hair behind her ear. “It just seemed a little off.”

“Anything else seem off to you about Kathleen’s life,”
Stabler asked, drawing Dana’s attention.

“Like what?”

Olivia leaned forward. “Like her dating Professor Dowd.”

Dana looked down into the coffee mug she held between her
hands. “I heard the rumors but that was all.”

“That’s not what Brian Mercer told us, Dana,” Elliot
said, his voice soft. “He told us you knew all about their
relationship. That you knew about the baby.”

Dana shook her head. “No.”

“It hurt you, didn’t it, finding out that someone you
considered to be a friend would betray you by getting pregnant by
the man you love,” Stabler continued.

“You’re wrong,” Dana said, shaking her head again. “He
wouldn’t have not when…”

“When what, Dana,” Olivia asked, her tone hard. “When he
could have had you instead? He didn’t want you. He wanted

Dana’s head snapped up. The look she threw Olivia was filled
with venom. “No one could know about us. What happened had to
stay a secret, to protect both of us.”

“What happened between you? Nothing happened between you
and Dowd, Dana. He got a restraining order against you. You
couldn’t stand the fact that he didn’t want you but he loved

“No,” Dana shook her head, “that’s not true.” She turned
and focused on Elliot. “We had to keep our relationship a secret.
No one could know or he’d lose his job.”

Stabler nodded, his expression sympathetic. When Dana glanced
down at the now empty coffee mug between her hands Stabler shot his
partner a warning look. A knock on from the other side of the one-
way glass moved Olivia out of her chair and into the observation
space outside the room. Cragen turned down the volume on the
speaker as Elliot gently asked Dana to continue.

“What’s going on, Olivia,” Cragen asked. “You’re pushing
way too hard.”

“I’m just not buying the innocent act. To plant that DNA
evidence took a lot of calculation, she had to consciously hide her
motives.” Olivia focused on the tableau in the interview room.
Whatever Stabler had asked had Dana teary eyed. “It wasn’t an act
of passion or anger. It was revenge.”

“The print lab matched up her file card from the housing
office with one of the sets of unknowns from Kathleen Farrell’s
room.” He handed her the fax copy of the report. “Cabot says she
can have the DNA warrant meet you at the ME’s office but let’s see
if we can get a confession to seal the deal. I want to know why
she did this.”

Olivia nodded and headed back into the observation room.
Cragen turned up the speaker volume as Olivia sat down. The nod
between the two partners was almost imperceptible. Olivia glanced
down at the folded sheet of paper she held and then back up at
Dana. “Do you know what this is, Dana,” Olivia asked.

“How could I? You just brought it in with you.” Dana’s
voice held an edge of sarcasm that Olivia did not miss.

Olivia unfolded the paper, turned it so Dana could read it,
and slid it across the table. “It’s a report from our fingerprint
lab. They matched prints found in Kathleen’s room to your prints
on file with the campus security office.”

Dana shrugged, rotating the empty coffee cup within the circle
of her hands on the tabletop. “So? I was in Kathleen’s room a
lot. We were friends.”

“Were you in Kathleen’s bed too, Dana? Because CSU found
the prints they matched on the back side of the headboard.” Olivia
watched Dana’s face carefully. Dana’s face flushed, her lips
pressed together in a hard line.

“We found a condom in Kathleen’s room. We’ve already
matched what was inside it to Kathleen’s boyfriend Mike,” Olivia

“So why aren’t you talking to him?”

“Dana, you’re his alibi. He admitted to having sex with
you but the timeline doesn’t work out for him to have killed her.
You waited too long to go to Kathleen’s room. This print match,”
Olivia tapped the sheet of paper on the table “it means there’s a
warrant coming for your DNA.”

Dana shrugged. “Why would my DNA be in Kathleen’s room”

“When you use a condom DNA gets left on the inside and on
the outside,” Stabler said, his voice soft. “If you wait for the
forensics to come through there’s no way you’ll get any kind of
deal out of the DA. Just tell us what happened, Dana.” Do it,
please, just do it.

Dana looked from Stabler to Benson and back again. “I didn’t
mean for it to happen.” I knew it. Olivia thought. “I mean, I
went to Kathleen’s room, just to talk to her, you know,” Dana
continued, holding eye contact with Stabler. “She was going to
tell Ray about the baby. I just…I got mad. I pushed her. She
hit her head on the dresser and the next thing I know my hands are
around her throat.” Dana put one hand up near her own neck. “I
didn’t realize how hard I was squeezing until she stopped

Stabler nodded. “How did the condom get in her trash can?”

“I went back to my room and got it. Mike is a shit.
He’s done so much stuff that he’s gotten away with he deserved to
get blamed for this.” Dana shook her head and squared her
shoulders, her face assuming a self-righteous expression. “Don’t
you see? She had Mike, she was going to have Ray’s baby when I
wasn’t allowed to. It wasn’t fair. It should have been me he
loved, but everything that happened between us had to stay a secret
to protect him. Then he ‘falls in love’,” Dana held her fingers up
in quotation marks. “with Kathleen and she can’t keep her mouth
shut about what’s going on between them. If she’d blabbed all over
the place about the baby he would have been ruined.”

Olivia exchanged a look with her partner as revulsion rippled
through her raising goose bumps on her arms.

“Well, she wasn’t lying about the abortion,” Stabler
said, dropping into his chair. “Student health services confirmed
a positive pregnancy test and a referral to a clinic.”

“There’s no way to prove conclusively the baby was
Dowd’s,” Alex replied from where she leaned against Olivia’s desk.
“Even if there were, the best her attorney is going to be able to
do is use her mental state as a mitigating factor at trial. With
the confession, and the DNA evidence, it’s a solid case.”

Olivia pushed through the swinging doors from the hall. Her
heart jumped at the sight of Alex leaning against her desk. Calm
down. It’s business.
Alex, hearing Olivia approach the desk,
stood up and turned around. “I was just telling your partner that
the confession is going to help quite a bit at trial. Can I take
you both out for a drink as a thank you for the hard work,” Alex
asked, tilting her head slightly and watching Olivia’s expression.

Stabler’s eyes narrowed, the flesh on the back of his neck
prickling at the undercurrent leaping between the two women. He
composed his expression seconds before Alex turned her gaze to him.
“What do you think, Elliot?”

“I could use a beer, sure.” Elliot stood and pulled his
coat off the back of his chair. “C’mon, Liv. I think we earned

“Sounds great,” Olivia said, swallowing the gathering
lump in her throat.

Alex looked at her watch as she swallowed the mouthful of
beer. 9:30pm already, damn. She glanced at Stabler who was
methodically consuming a handful of peanuts. The hour at the bar
had been filled with small talk, work talk, and general polite,
neutral conversation. It was taking every ounce of effort Alex
could muster to maintain that neutrality and she still hadn’t found
a way to get Olivia alone even for a few minutes. She glanced at
Stabler again. He was halfway through his third beer. The man
has the bladder of a camel.
Alex put her mug down on the bar. “I
hate to drink and run but I’ve got court tomorrow morning. Do you
guys mind watching these while I make a pit stop,” she asked,
gesturing to the hook under the bar that held her briefcase and

“Not a problem, Counselor,” Elliot said with a smile. He
popped another couple of peanuts into his mouth.

Olivia gestured to the far end of the room. “It’s back there,
second door on the left.”

“Thanks,” Alex said with a grin. She dodged in and out
of the crowd as she headed toward the interior of the bar.

Olivia turned to face the bar and took a sip from her mug.
Elliot considered his partner’s profile for a second as he crunched
the last of the peanuts. Fuck it. “So, you and Cabot, how long
has that been going on?”

If he hadn’t been looking for it, Stabler would have missed
the split second when Olivia was completely, utterly still. She
took a sip from her mug and turned to him with a sideways grin.
“OK, now I know you’ve had too much.”

Stabler just watched her, waiting. “Is it that obvious,” she
said after searching his expression for traces of humor and coming
up empty.

Elliot shook his head. “Not so much, but I know you pretty
well, and I’ve been paying attention. You want to talk about it?”

Olivia swallowed the last of her beer and signaled the
bartender for another. “Not right now,” she said, shaking her

“You’re happy, though. I’m glad.”

Olivia paused trying to control her reeling emotional
equilibrium. “Yeah, I am. The whole thing…it’s not exactly for
public consumption, OK?” Olivia’s gaze flicked over his shoulder
and then back to his face.

Elliot nodded. Alex appeared out of the crowd and stopped
next to where Elliot and Olivia leaned against the bar. Stabler
looked at his watch. “Listen, I’ve got to get home. Thanks for
the beer, Alex.” He patted Olivia on the arm. “See you in the
morning.” He scooted behind Alex and pushed his way through the
crowd and out the door.

Alex, her brow furrowed, took the space at the bar facing
Olivia that Elliot had vacated. “What was that about?”

Olivia took a swig from her fresh beer, hoping it would make
it past the tightness in her chest. Oh but isn’t it a bitch.
“Just remember, you asked for the truth.”

Alex nodded as Olivia began to explain.

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