They had to stop frequently, making what was already a painfully slow trip even more drawn out. Bobby suspected that Mike was probably in more pain than he was willing to admit, but he’d long since given up pushing the subject with him. His own head hurt too ferociously to put up a halfway decent argument. His only victory was insisting on regular rest stops, something which Mike agreed to with reluctance.

Bobby was sure that if he hadn’t insisted, Mike would have just kept going until he collapsed. As it was, he could see that his brother was struggling.

“Hear that?”

Bobby looked up at Mike, puzzled, as they sat side by side on a narrow log.

“Hear what?”

Mike’s gaze went skyward.

“Choppers. I can hear choppers, Bobby. They’re coming for us, baby brother.”

Bobby looked up as well but try as he might, he could not hear a thing.

“Concussion must be getting worse,” he mumbled. “Can’t hear a thing.”

Mike squeezed Bobby’s shoulder gently.

“Trust me, Bobby. They’re coming. If we can just get back to the cabin, we’ll be fine.”

“Let’s go then,” Bobby murmured, even though it seemed to Mike that he would have much preferred to curl up and go to sleep. Grimacing, Mike shifted around to look Elliot over.

“How’re you doing there, pal?”

Elliot shuddered.

“Y… You were right, Bobby.”

Bobby and Mike exchanged glances, each man wondering just how attached to reality Elliot was right then.

“What was I right about?” Bobby asked. His head was pounding so hard that it was difficult to concentrate on what Elliot was saying. Somehow, though, he managed.

“Me and… Olivia,” Elliot whispered. “We l… love each o… other… But we’ve been d… dancing around each other for a… a few years now… and not just ’cause of the frat regs.”

As Elliot spoke, tears worked their way out of blood-shot eyes, though neither Mike nor Bobby could be certain whether they were a result of emotional grief or physical pain. Probably, Mike mused, it was more likely a combination of both.

“Here’s your opportunity, Elliot,” Mike told him. “When we get off this friggin’ mountain, you make sure to tell her how you feel. Trust me, she won’t be able to resist you when you’re all laid up and vulnerable like this.”

Elliot looked up at Mike blearily.

“Speaking from e… experience… Mikey?”

Mike grinned faintly, wondering firstly whether Elliot was even aware that he was calling him “Mikey”; and secondly at the realisation that he wasn’t offended by it coming from Elliot’s lips anymore.

“Hell yeah,” he answered with enthusiasm. “How do you think I got Alex Eames to fall for me?”

Elliot laughed weakly.

“Not the old Irish charm? I’m shocked…”

“She’s Irish, too,” Bobby pointed out. “Don’t think it works on her.”

“I know it doesn’t,” Mike snorted. “I tried it on her and she just shot me down.”

“Mike, you just grinned at her and expected her to swoon,” Bobby reminded him. “You’re lucky she didn’t hit you.”

“So… how’d you get her to go out with you?” Elliot wondered.

“She told me to be sincere, so I was,” Mike answered with a lopsided shrug. “That’s how you’ve gotta be with Olivia.”

“Yeah,” Elliot mumbled, even as exhaustion took him over once more, and his eyes slid shut. “S… Sincere…”

“He’s out again,” Mike murmured unnecessarily. He looked over at Bobby, and winced at the sight of his brother’s ashen features. “Man, you don’t look so great either.”

Bobby frowned just slightly. It was all the expression he could manage with his head pounding like it was.

“You don’t look so hot either, Mikey.”

Mike sighed.

“I’m just stating fact, baby brother. This is the wrong time to get defensive.”


“Just tell me you can keep going? Because I can’t drag both your asses along, and I am not leaving you behind.”

With a determination and reserve of strength that Mike hadn’t known he had, Bobby got to his feet once more.

“Let’s go.”

It was fairly obvious from the looks on the faces of Cragen, Fin and Munch as they exited the room that Ross had not clued them in on his plan. Cragen came to a halt outside the room, anxiety written all over his features.

“Well? Where are they?”

Ross signalled for them to keep it down, and ushered them away from the room.

“We haven’t actually found them.”

Genuine anger filled Cragen’s face.

‘Then what the hell is going on?”

“We haven’t found them,” Ross went on in a low voice, “but we want Blake to think we have. If he thinks we don’t have any further use for him, then he might let something slip.”

“Damn it, Danny, you’re gambling with three lives here!” Cragen argued, but Ross refused to back down.

“We’re not getting anywhere in there, Don. He won’t talk to us, and you know it! But he might talk to Olivia.”

Cragen went white.

“You’re not sending Olivia in there to face that monster.”

“She’s already in there,” Ross replied unapologetically. The rage that flared on Cragen’s face was a sight to behold, and Ross found himself taking an instinctive step back, to put some distance between himself and the SVU captain.

“You stupid son of a bitch, Danny! Don’t you know what he did to her?”

“I know what he did to Stabler in front of her,” Ross countered quietly. “I know she wants her partner to be found. I know that she’s willing to try.”

“We’ve got to let her try,” Munch said, reluctantly support the Major Case captain. “Unless we know exactly where Blake has them, we’re not going to have any luck finding them until it’s light again.”

“John’s right,” Fin agreed. “Captain, you know what Blake likes to do to his victims. If he’s done anything like that to Elliot… or to Goren or Logan…”

Fin trailed off, and Cragen finished the grim sentence for him.

“They may not survive the night… if they’re even still alive.”

“Goren and Logan might be a pair of pains in the ass, but they’re resourceful,” Ross countered. “I have to believe they’re all right, wherever they are. All three of them.”

Cragen was silent for so long, and his expression was so dark that Ross was just starting to wonder whether he should be wearing a vest. Then, finally, the SVU captain nodded.

“All right, we’ll let her try. But if Blake doesn’t come clean before morning, we make him talk, no matter how we go about it.”

It took every ounce of mental and emotional strength that Olivia had not to simply pull out her gun and shoot Blake’s kneecaps off. She really did want to, but at the same time that irritating little voice of reason whispered insistently that they would get nothing useful out of the killer is he was screaming in pain.

She had to play it cool, and not give anything away. Olivia grimaced. Now, more than ever, she relied on her ability to bluff, and play the perp, hoping ferociously that she could pull it off successfully. After all, it wasn’t just her partner whose life depended on it, it was Bobby Goren and Mike Logan as well.

Slowly, Olivia walked around until she was standing right in front of Blake, and her stomach rolled unpleasantly at the sight of his smug face.

“Olivia,” he purred. “Couldn’t keep away from me, could you? Well, I guess I can understand that.”

“Shut your mouth, you sick bastard,” Olivia snapped. “I only came in to take one last look at you before you go back to your hole in the wall… Although, after this, I think you can probably look forward to an upgrade to Death Row.”

Blake smirked at her.

“No bodies, so conviction, beautiful.”

Olivia allowed a small smile to grace her features.

“Did you hear, asshole? We found them. We don’t need you anymore. So long, Darius. Have a nice life… Whatever’s left of it.”

With that, Olivia turned and began to walk back towards the door, her heart pounding. If Blake called her bluff now, she was screwed.

“No fuckin’ way,” Blake called after her with a confidence that turned her stomach. “You couldn’t have found them. Not that fast. Not in the dark.”

“Oh?” Olivia retorted. “And why is that, Darius? Because we’re just a bunch of dumb cops?”

“Nah, sweetheart. Because it’d take you at least an hour to climb down to where your precious Elliot landed after he took a tumble down that cliff.”

Olivia froze, the blood running cold in her veins. Blake saw her reaction, and grinned cruelly.

“You haven’t found them. But I could take you to him, Olivia. I know where he fell. Would you like me to show you? I’m sure you’d like to bury him, wouldn’t you?”

Stricken, Olivia looked over at Carolyn. Equally pale, Carolyn came around to look at Blake.

“You don’t have them somewhere,” she stated with more confidence than she felt. Blake grinned at her.

“You can’t know that for sure.”

“Yes, I can,” Carolyn countered. “You’re not holding them somewhere, but you do know what happened to them.”

“Smart lady,” Blake conceded. “So what are you gonna do about it? You gonna slap me around some until I tell you?”

Carolyn drew in a steadying breath. She had one chance to get this right. She thought briefly of Bobby, but then pushed his face from her mind. She was hardly sure as it was whether her profiling skills were up to scratch for a challenge of this magnitude. Thinking about her missing boyfriend would do her no good at all.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” she said calmly – far more calmly than she felt. “I’m not even going to threaten it. Pain doesn’t frighten you, Darius. You like pain. You get off on it, regardless of whether it’s yours or someone else’s.”

“Very smart lady,” Blake whispered, licking his lips.

Carolyn glanced around as the door opened, and Alex slipped in. Perfect timing, she thought.

“Alex, do you have the switchblade Bobby gave you a couple of months back? I left mine at home.”

Raising an eyebrow, Alex pulled out the knife, and tossed it to Carolyn. She turned back to Blake in time to see his smug grin had faltered just slightly.

“What are you going to do with that?”

Carolyn didn’t answer him, but rather turned the blade over and over in her hands until Blake was utterly fixated on it. Only then did she speak again.

“Why the eyes, Darius? Why take the eyes?”

Blake swallowed hard. He could not tear his gaze away from the knife.

“They were pretty…”

“No, that’s not it,” Carolyn cut him off, still in that quiet, lulling tone. She paused, considering her next words with care. “They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Is that what you were after, Darius? Is that why you started taking the eyes while your victims were still alive? You thought you could capture their souls?”

A dreamy sneer flitted across Blake’s face.

“I did. I stole their souls. They’re mine, now. I own them.”

Carolyn nodded, keeping a poker face even though she was repulsed by the man cuffed to the chair.

“You must have been pretty pissed off that you missed out on Elliot’s eyes, then.”

Blake licked his lips.

“I was so close. Those fuckin’ pigs ruined it.”

She had no way of knowing if he was talking about his original assault on Elliot, or whatever had gone on over the last twenty-four hours. Deciding it was time to take a chance, she ploughed forward, working on the assumption that he meant Bobby and Mike.

“Well, Detectives Goren and Logan are good cops.”

Blake laughed softly, a chilling sound that sent shudders through all three women.

“They’re not that good. Especially not after I shot one, and gave the other a real headache.”

It took Carolyn all her willpower to stay calm in the face of his taunts. Despite the deep, biting fear she felt, she spoke nonchalantly.

“If you think that would stop Bobby and Mike, then you’re going to be very disappointed, Darius. They’ve gotten out of situations a lot worse than this. You’re minor league, compared to what they’ve been through.”

“Am I?” Blake hissed. “If they’re so fucking good, then where are they? Huh? Where are they, you bitch?”

“We will find them Darius,” Carolyn insisted, “with or without your help. And when we do, I can promise you one thing.”

“Oh yeah? And what’s that?”

“You’ll never lay eyes on any of them… Elliot, especially… again.”

She turned to walk away, and Blake gave a shriek of rage.

“You fucking bitch! I want his eyes! They’re mine, I earned them!”

Carolyn looked back at him.

“You seriously think we’d even consider offering Elliot to you on a platter as a bribe to convince you to cooperate? You’re even dumber than you look.”

Blake laughed, and Carolyn felt a chill at how quickly he swung between placid and enraged.

“Trust me, sweetheart. Even if he’s not dead yet, he’s not gonna miss them.”

An instant later, he hissed in pain as Alex came up behind him and grabbed his cuffed hands in a fierce grip.

“How’d you break your hand, Darius?”

“None of your fuckin’ business.”

Alex smirked.

“You broke it getting out of handcuffs, didn’t you?” Releasing his hands, she walked around to stand beside Carolyn. “You know, I think I’m starting to get a picture of what really happened here. You tried to jump the guys, but they got the better of you. They got cuffs on you, didn’t they?”

Blake scowled, and didn’t answer. Encouraged by his silence, Alex ploughed onward.

“We found evidence that someone had been held prisoner in the bathroom, and we all thought it was Elliot… but it wasn’t. It was you! They cuffed you, and locked you in, and they hightailed it out of here. I’m betting you’d only just got yourself loose when we arrived. So… I think they’re still somewhere around here, just waiting until they know it’s safe. I figure at least one of them must be hurt fairly badly, otherwise they would have taken your car. But you definitely don’t have them stashed away somewhere.” She smirked at him. “You probably don’t even know where they are.”

Turning, she sauntered away, giving every indication of confidence in her own assertions. Carolyn and Olivia joined her in heading for the door, each one fervently hoping that their bluff would work this time. They were not disappointed. The door was open and they were on their way through it when Blake’s control finally broke and he screamed after them in a rage.

“You fucking bitches! You think you know everything? You don’t know shit! Get the fuck back here!”

“Screw you, Blake,” Alex threw back at him. “We know you’re a lying sack of shit. We don’t need to know anything more than that.”

Blake twisted around in the chair as much as he was able, and his face was almost purple as he glared at the women.

“Am I? Am I, you fucking bitch? Why don’t you go for a fuckin’ walk then, about fifteen minutes south of here? But you might want to take a nice long rope, because it’s a long fucking way down, especially in the dark.”

Alex sucked in a sharp breath. She felt precious little pleasure in having wheedled the information out of Blake. Sharing a grim look with Olivia and Carolyn, they exited the room, leaving Blake to his insane ranting.

“Fifteen minutes south of here?” the ranger who had accompanied them echoed when Alex, Carolyn and Olivia rejoined their colleagues in the kitchen. He frowned as he bent over a map of the surrounding area, and then tapped a spot. “Here. I think I know the spot he was talking about. It’s extremely unstable, and…” He trailed off, looking very worried all of a sudden.

“What is it?” Cragen pressed.

“There’s a twenty… maybe even thirty foot drop there,” the ranger admitted grimly.

“Oh god, Elliot,” Olivia whispered in distress. Ross looked grimly at the ranger.

“What’s the fastest way there?”

Blake could here them leaving, and it was all he could do to contain hysterical laughter. He had no doubt at all that they were all going to head straight for the place where Elliot had fallen.

Although his plan hadn’t worked the way he’d wanted it too, thing were still working out positively for him, for what the cops didn’t seem to know was that the other two cops had taken rescue equipment with them when they left him handcuffed to the bathtub. What they didn’t know was that there was every likelihood that the three cops were no longer at the bottom of that drop.

He thought of that, and of the blonde bitch who had been so fucking cocky in guessing what had happened, and he couldn’t help but laugh crazily to himself.

Darius Blake was by all definitions insane. However, he was also very intelligent and cunning, a combination that made him the dangerous man that he was. As soon as he’d learnt where Elliot had gone, the first thing he’d done was to go to the public library, get on a computer and search the internet for detailed maps of the area. He’d studied them intensely over the course of Friday night, after planting the head on the coffee table, and subsequently he was aware of the walking path that led to where Elliot had fallen.

He figured now that he had perhaps half an hour before those cops came back. All he needed was a fifteen… perhaps twenty minute head-start, that was all. Twenty minutes would be more than enough time to claim his prize, either from Elliot or from the Irish cop. The other big bastard would have to wait for another day, but so long as he could make a clean getaway, he was confident that day would come sooner rather than later.

Blake looked around awkwardly. There was one cop that had been left behind to guard him. Just one lousy cop, and a local hick at that. It took a serious effort not to start laughing again. It was almost too easy. Affecting a pained look, he called out to his solitary guard.

“Hey, I need the bathroom.”

The cop raised an eyebrow at him in mild amusement.


“C’mon,” Blake growled. “I need to take a piss! You want me to do it in my shorts?”

“Do you really want me to answer that?” the cop shot back. Rage flashed across Blake’s face at the open rejection of his plea.

“I’ll make a fucking complaint against you! It’s cruel and inhumane, not letting me go to the bathroom! You want me to complain? I’ll go to the fucking press if I have to!”

The cop sighed heavily, deciding it wasn’t worth being screamed at by a lunatic.

“All right, keep your pants on,” he growled. Walking around, he released one of Blake’s hands from the cuffs, intending to let him stand up before re-cuffing him. A second was all Blake needed. He ripped free of the cop’s grip, twisted around and grabbed him around the neck. He gave a single, ferocious jerk and twist, grunting in satisfaction at the ensuing snap. When he let go, the cop crumpled to the floor in a lifeless heap.

Retrieving the key, Blake freed himself from his cuffs and went to find a knife with which he could finally claim his prize.

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