Mike skidded to his knees beside Bobby, searching desperately for some sign that his brother was okay. It didn’t take long for him to realise that he was anything but. Blood was already free-flowing again from the spot where he’d been struck – the very same spot, Mike realised with dismay, where Blake had hit him earlier.

Struggling against a very powerful desire to panic, Mike ran the tips of his fingers lightly over Bobby’s temple. He was not entirely sure of what he was looking for, except for some sort of reassurance that there was no serious damage done. His fingers paused as he felt something unnatural – a very slight, almost indistinguishable indentation beneath the flesh.

“Ah, crap,” Mike moaned. “No… Please, no… C’mon, Bobby, don’t you do this to me! C’mon, wake up!”

Except, Bobby was not likely to wake up anytime soon, and he knew it. Stricken, he looked over at Elliot, who appeared to be semi-conscious, and trapped within some sort of delirium. Leaving Bobby for the moment, Mike turned his attention to Elliot.

“Elliot? Settle down, buddy. It’s me, Mikey. C’mon, pal, quit fighting. Blake isn’t here. Snap out of it!”

Elliot’s eyes snapped wide open as Mike’s bellowed words cut through his delirium, and drew him back to reality with a jolt. For a few seconds, his eyes were wild with panic. But then, as his vision slowly focused on Mike, the panic faded to make way for confusion, and a fresh wave of pain.

He groaned aloud as his entire body was wracked with pain, and it took nearly a minute before he was able to find his voice.


“Yeah, pal, it’s me,” Mike confirmed, struggling to keep his voice even. Elliot groaned again, and coughed painfully. Grabbing one of the water bottles, Mike held it up to Elliot’s lips, and allowed just a little to trickle into his mouth.

“Th… Thanks,” Elliot whispered, his voice gaining a fraction of strength, and his eyes finally showing some clarity and understanding.

“How’re you feeling?” Mike asked, and Elliot shuddered violently.

“Like a… a pancake…”

A soft, bitter chuckle escaped Mike’s lips.

“Yeah, I’ll bet you do. Try not to worry, though. I’m gonna get you out of here… somehow.”

A confused frown flickered across Elliot’s bruised and battered features.

“You? What about…” He trailed off, looking around slowly, and his eyes finally came to rest of the prone figure lying next to him. “Bobby…? Wh… What happened t… to him?”

Mike hesitated. It had been fairly obvious that Elliot had been delirious when he hit Bobby with the rock, and the last thing he wanted was for Elliot to suffer any degree of guilt for something that really was not his fault.

“Mike?” Elliot asked hoarsely. “Did… Did I…?” And then Mike saw the realisation dawn as Elliot remembered his delirium-driven actions of just a few minutes ago. “Oh god… I did…”

“Don’t,” Mike pleaded with him, feeling an almost nauseating sense of dejavu. Forget about their collective guilt trips, Bobby and Elliot were both going to owe him big time when they got home again. “Please, Elliot, don’t. We don’t have the time for guilt trips, pal. Save it for when we’re safe, okay? When we’re safe, you and Bobby can wallow all you like, but not now. Okay, pal?”

Elliot groaned again softly. As horrible as he felt at the realisation that he had caused one of his companions harm, he also knew that Mike was right. Now was not the time or the place for it.

“We g… gotta get out of here,” he whispered, even as he slid back into that semi-conscious state once more. Mike grimaced. That was one of the biggest understatements he’d heard yet.

Looking around, his gaze fell on the stretcher that Bobby had assembled. It was useless now, for Bobby was certainly in no position to carry his end. In fact, the only other able-bodied person in the vicinity was currently tied up and hand-cuffed in the downstairs bathroom of the cabin. There was no way in hell that Mike would even consider trying to use Blake, no matter how confident he was in his ability to control him. It would have been suicide, plain and simple.

Mike looked around him slowly, tired and distressed. He had two options as he saw it, each one equally unpalatable. He could try to make an adjustment to the stretcher, and convert it into a travois, or he could leave them there, go on his own and do what he and Bobby had so briefly discussed. He could then take Blake’s car, and drive to the nearest town to get help.

The problem with the first option was that he could take only one man at a time, and it meant leaving someone here on their own for who knew how long. And then, he would have to leave whoever he’d taken first alone in the cabin while he went back for the other. If Bobby’s estimate had been right, then it could take an absolute minimum of an hour and a half just to make the trip one way – three hours for a round trip – making it a total of at least six hours to get them both back to the cabin. In all truth, he suspected it would take even longer than that, given that neither Bobby nor Elliot were particularly light-weight, and he was not exactly at his physical best.

The problem that option two presented was that it would mean leaving both Bobby and Elliot alone in the woods, completely defenceless. Neither man was in a fit state to defend themselves if anything else were to happen. Mike was loathed to leave them alone for what could be a considerable period of time, with who knew what wild animals lurking in the trees. Sure, he knew Bobby had said there was nothing more vicious than hungry racoons in the area, but he really didn’t care to take any chances. And even though they had left him securely tied up, there was still the issue of the monster that was under lockdown in the cabin. If he got out, God forbid, they’d all be screwed.

Both options placed in him in an almost untenable position, and yet, if he did nothing, that would be worse still. Elliot would most definitely not survive, and Bobby… Mike had no way of knowing how serious his head injury really was. He’d heard plenty of medical terms in his time as a cop, and he knew damned well that a hard enough blow to the head – especially to the temple area – could kill, but he didn’t know whether the blow Bobby had suffered was that severe or not.

He looked over at Bobby, taking in his ashen features, and the hideous purple-black bruise that had already formed where he’d been struck twice now. All he knew for certain was that it wasn’t good, and that in itself was an enormous understatement.

“What do I do?” he whispered, distraught. “What the fuck am I supposed to do, Bobby?”

But there was no answer, just as he’d known there wouldn’t be.

Minutes passed at a crawl, and the light began to fade as darkness began to threaten, and all the while Mike sat and watched Bobby and Elliot in silence. Never before in his life had he felt so utterly inadequate as he did right then. Even the weekend that he and Bobby had spent trapped in that cage had not left him feeling so completely useless.

He checked each of his companions every couple of minutes, but in reality there was precious little he could do for either one. His first-aid knowledge was minimal at best. He knew CPR – NYPD cop did – and how to staunch the bleeding from a gunshot wound, but that was about it. Bobby was the one with the extended knowledge, not him… Although, he decided grimly, he was damn well going to do a full first-aid course when they were out of this mess.

He shut his eyes, thinking of the other two people who meant the most to him, and wondering miserably when, or if, he would see them again. He was sure that if Alex and Carolyn had been there, they would have been able to take Blake down without anyone taking a tumble down a goddamn precipice.

All of a sudden, he wanted nothing more to see them both. Carolyn, his partner; and Alex, his lover. A bitter smiled flickered across his lips. He was sure they’d find a reason to whack him on the head for this, even though he was fairly positive that none of what had happened was his fault this time.

Mike’s gaze went back to Bobby, and he felt his gut twist up all over again.

“What do I do, Bobby?” he whispered again, but once more there was no answer forthcoming. He shut his eyes again and, as much for comfort as anything else, tried to picture the two women in his life. He found their images easily enough, and sighed softly as he allowed himself to focus on those images. Exhaustion gradually overcame him and, with those images firmly entrenched in his mind, for whatever small measure of comfort they could afford him, Mike lay down on the hard, cold ground.

Another soft sigh escaped him, and he drifted off into an uneasy slumber.

Olivia stood in the doorway of Elliot’s apartment, looking around in a daze. The entire apartment had been cordoned off as a crime scene, and CSU had gone through with meticulous care, but there was nothing. No hard evidence that it was Blake who had trashed the place, and no clue as to where Elliot might have gone. She shuddered. For all they knew, Blake might already have him, and if that was the case…

She shook the thought violently from her mind. To think like that was effectively admitting defeat, and she wasn’t giving up on finding her partner. Maybe, just maybe, Cragen had been right, and wherever Elliot had disappeared to, it was beyond Blake’s reach. Perhaps, Elliot would turn up at the squad room on Monday morning, perfectly fine and completely oblivious to all the panic that had erupted over the weekend.

A soft huff of irritation escaped her lips. If that were to happen, she’d kill him herself.

“You’re not going to find anything here, you know,” a voice said behind her, and she looked around to find Fin standing there, looking as sombre as ever.

“I know,” she murmured. “Part of me just hoped that I’d come here, and find something… some clue… that everyone else had missed.”

Fin laid a hand gently on her shoulder.

“C’mon, Liv. There’s nothing we can do right now. Let’s go get a drink, and something to eat, in that order.”

She hesitated only momentarily before allowing him to guide her out of the building.

Carolyn saw them first, wandering into the bar and grill looking like a couple of drowned rats, minus the water. She hesitated, and then commented in surprise to Alex, who was busy helping herself to a large helping of chilli fries.

“I thought Olivia Benson was in Jersey. Isn’t that what Mike said that Elliot told him?”

“Something like that,” Alex answered. “Why?”

“Because she just walked in with Fin Tutuola.”

Alex shifted around in her seat to look and, sure enough, spotted the two SVU detectives waiting just inside the door to be shown to a table.

“They look seriously miserable,” Alex murmured. “And coming in here for a meal isn’t going to help any. They’re booked out.”

“We’ve got two extra chairs here,” Carolyn suggested. Alex hesitated, and then shrugged and nodded.

“Okay. Go get them before they get booted back out the door.”

Grinning, Carolyn shot to her feet and went to get their colleagues.

“Thanks, guys,” Olivia said with a sigh as she and Fin sat down. “I don’t think I had the energy to go looking for somewhere else to eat.”

“No problem,” Alex assured her. “We couldn’t in all good conscience leave a brother and sister out in the cold. Would have thought you’d know better than to turn up to a place like this without booking first, though.”

“In our defence, we’ve had other things on our minds,” Fin said quietly, and Olivia nodded.

“I wasn’t even supposed to be here tonight. I should have still been in New Jersey.”

“So why come rushing back?” Carolyn wondered. Olivia and Fin exchanged glances, and then Olivia sighed heavily, deciding there was no reason to keep it under wraps.

“Does the name Darius Blake mean anything to you?” Fin asked, and both Alex and Carolyn nodded in answer.

“The Riverside Rapist from six or seven years ago, right?” Alex queried.

“Right,” Fin confirmed. “That’s the son of a bitch.”

A brief silence met the confirmation, and then Carolyn spoke tentatively.

“Isn’t he in prison for life? Took a plea in exchange for giving up the locations of his victims’ bodies?”

“Fourteen consecutive life sentences,” Fin told them. “He got a life sentence for each victim.”

Alex frowned.

“But didn’t he only kill twelve women?”

“He killed twelve women,” Olivia answered in a subdued voice. “The first victim’s body was never found. Blake kept that one to himself, and no one could get it out of him. The other two victims were me and Elliot.”

Startled silence met the admission.

“You and Elliot?” Carolyn echoed softly in horror. “What happened?”

“We were running a sting operation to try and catch the son of a bitch,” Fin told them. “Olivia offered to be the bait. Elliot wasn’t happy about it… Hell, none of us were. But the brass were all for it. Anyway, we set up the sting, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Blake practically walked right into the middle of everything, and snatched Liv right out from under our noses.”

“How badly did he hurt you?” Alex asked softly, feeling a growing lump in the pit of her stomach as her memories took her back to her own abduction by Jo Gage. A bitter smile graced Olivia’s features.

“He didn’t. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he slapped me around a little when he first took me, but that was all. He took me to a house, and he talked a bit about what he was going to do to me. Horrible things that would give anyone nightmares… But then he left for a while, and when he came back, something had changed. He just sat and stared at me for the longest time, and then he left me alone again. He never said anything more to me, and he never touched me. The only time he spoke to me was on the third day, when he told me Elliot was coming to get me.” She shuddered a little at the memory. “I should have known then, but there wasn’t anything I could do anyway. Blake convinced Elliot to basically give himself up… but what Elliot didn’t know was that Blake wasn’t interested in me anymore. He was interested in Elliot. He… He hurt Elliot badly… so badly, that I didn’t think he was going to live.”

“We got there just as Blake was getting ready to cut out Elliot’s eyes,” Fin told Alex and Carolyn softly. “The son of a bitch went down fighting, and screaming about being robbed. He took a plea bargain, but only after the Prosecution rested its case in court, and he realised Elliot wasn’t going to be testifying. The bastard was obsessed with Elliot, and he never got over being interrupted before he could kill him.”

“Okay,” Alex said tentatively. “So what does that have to do with now?”

“Blake escaped from prison early yesterday morning,” Fin answered grimly. “We have no idea where he is…”

“And what’s worse,” Olivia added in distress, “is we don’t know where Elliot is!”

Alex and Carolyn both froze, staring first at Olivia and Fin, and then at each other.

“What?” Olivia asked hoarsely. “What is it?”

Slowly, Alex turned her attention to Fin.

“This morning… When we saw you and Munch at the café, you were looking for Elliot, weren’t you?”

“Yeah,” Fin admitted uncomfortably.

“And you were going to come back and ask us something, weren’t you? But Munch stopped you?”

Fin glanced uneasily at Olivia before nodding.

“I was gonna ask Carolyn if Elliot had spoke to her in the last few days… Ow!” He recoiled as Alex leaned across and punched him hard in the arm.

“You idiot!” she exploded, oblivious to the heads that turned all around them in reaction to her outburst. “If you’d ignored your moron of a partner, you would have known this morning that Elliot is up in the Catskills!”

“What the hell is he doing up there?” Fin asked, even as he started up.

“Bobby and Mike invited him along. They were going to spend the weekend at Jim Deakins’ cabin. They’ve been up there since Thursday night, all three of them!”

“You call Cragen,” Olivia told Fin tensely, and then looked to Alex. “Please tell me there’s a phone up there?”

“Sorry, no,” Alex said. “There’s no cellular reception, and it’s too remote for the phone lines to reach. It’s one of the reasons Deakins picked that location, so that family vacations couldn’t be interrupted. A satellite phone is the only thing that could reach them, and Bobby and Mike don’t have one.”

Olivia and Fin were both on their feet by then.

“Thanks,” Fin told them. “We owe you girls big time.”

Then he and Olivia were gone, out the door.

Leaving a scattering of bills on the table to pay for their half-eaten meal, Alex and Carolyn took off after their fellow detectives.

“Hey!” Alex shouted as they ran to catch up. “Wait!”

“Look,” Fin said shortly as Alex and Carolyn caught up to them, “we appreciate your help, ladies. We really do, but this is our concern now, okay? Not yours.”

“The hell it’s not!” Alex snapped. “You’ve just told us that there’s a lunatic on the loose who wants Elliot’s head on a platter, and we assume he’ll kill anyone who gets in his way. Right?”

“Pretty much,” Olivia conceded reluctantly. Carolyn nodded.

“So, which part of ‘Elliot went with Bobby and Mike’ don’t you get?”

Fin opened his mouth to speak, only to be cut off by Olivia.

“They’re right, Fin. Bobby and Mike are in danger as well.” She looked back to the other women. “Do either of you know where the cabin is, exactly?”

“No,” Alex admitted ruefully. “I’ve never been there. We’ll have to call Deakins, and find out from him where it is.”

“Can you do that?” Olivia asked. “We’ll call Cragen, and get him to organise transport there.”

Alex nodded, and then looked over at Carolyn.

“We need to tell him,” she said softly, but Carolyn held up her hands.

“He’s your captain, not mine. I’ll call Deakins; you call Ross.”

Grimacing, Alex hit speed dial for her captain’s cell phone.

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