St Clare’s Hospital
She hated hospitals. Hated the sight, the smell, the feel of them. It was all the waiting. Endless, sickening, hopeless waiting. Ever since her mother’s stroke, hospitals had been a place to dread, places that meant death rather than life. She hated them with every fibre of her being.
And now here she was, waiting yet again. This time it was not a family member, but her best friend and partner whose life hung in the balance. The partner she was supposed to watch out for… protect… and she’d failed.
Unwittingly, her mind slipped back to that moment when she’d walked into the bedroom and gotten her first look at her partner. Despite Deakins’ warnings, she really hadn’t been prepared for the scene that would greet her. Truth was, she doubted that anything could have prepared her for the sight of her partner lying naked, chained and handcuffed to his bed, with the life just about beaten out of him. And then there was the rest…
‘...is he naked? Yes, he is...’
Assaulted… Molested… Sodomised… It all came down to the same thing, in the end, no matter what terminology was used. She drew in a ragged breath. Bobby had been raped…
At first, the voice didn’t register in her exhausted, shell-shocked mind. She heard it, but it was a distant noise, nothing more. Then, a hand alighted on her shoulder, and she looked up slowly, drawn back to the present to find a familiar, concerned face peering down at her.
“Captain?” she whispered, sounding as dazed as she looked. Somewhere in her bewildered mind it registered that he was wearing a dinner suit, but then that thought was dismissed back to the nether regions of her mind.
Deakins sat down beside her, keeping one hand gently on her shoulder as though in an effort to keep her connected to reality.
“You came in with the ambulance?” he asked gently.
Alex nodded. God, she felt so sick. Numb, and sick. Please, she prayed miserably, please don’t make me actually talk.
“How is he? Have you heard anything?”
She looked away to the floor, wondering dimly if she would be able to speak without throwing up violently. The terrifying journey from Bobby’s apartment building to the hospital was forever burned into her memory. She knew damn well that she would have nightmares about it whenever it was that she next happened to sleep… and he wanted her to talk freely about it.
She drew in a long, slow breath and spoke woodenly, trying desperately to keep the shock, fear and grief at bay.
“They… They’re trying to… to stabilise him…”
Deakins felt his stomach roll slightly. He didn’t like the sound of that.
“Stabilise him how?”
Alex looked up at him finally, blinded by her own tears.
“He went into cardiac arrest… in the ambulance. They were still… still trying to revive him when… when we got here.”
She broke down, sobbing helplessly into her hands. Deakins looked up at his wife, ashen-faced with shock as it slowly registered in his mind that there was every chance that Bobby Goren might already be dead.
“Give me your coat,” Angie Deakins told him, and he did so without question or argument. Angie took the liberty of draping it around Alex’s trembling shoulders, then sat down on the other side of her and hugged her reassuringly.
“Jim, go and find out whatever you can,” she told him softly. “There must be someone who can tell us something.”
With a last look at Alex, Deakins did as his wife suggested.
Dr David Warren made his way out of the ER feeling sick and exhausted, and feeling guilty for feeling sick and exhausted. He, along with three other trauma doctors, had been summoned urgently to the ER to deal with the police officer who was being brought in. The ambulance had arrived and, just temporarily, all other ER patients had been forgotten – thought, granted, that had less to do with the man’s status as a police officer than with the fact that his injuries were truly horrific, and very much life-threatening.
He had actually been in cardiac arrest when the ambulance had arrived, and the entire ER staff scrambled with almost military precision in a monumental effort to save the injured man’s life. And save him they had – at least for the moment. With a lot of skill, and even more luck, they had thankfully been able to revive him, and stabilise him enough for surgery.
That was where he was being rushed to now, up to surgery so that the massive internal damage that had been done could hopefully be repaired.
David sighed faintly as he passed through the double doors of the ER into a short corridor that ran parallel to the main waiting room. He was exhausted because he had already been at the end of a fifteen hour shift when the cop had been brought in, and the fact that he had been assigned to the cop as one of two available Orthopaedic specialists meant only a limited rest time before going back on duty. The other surgeon on duty, Dr Carl Shand, would actually be performing the necessary orthopaedic surgery now, in conjunction with whatever other surgery was necessary to save his life, and then the cop would be passed into his care for follow-up treatment.
The bottom line, though, was he would certainly not be going home tonight. He had to admit, though, that he was grateful that he wasn’t performing the initial surgery. He was just too damned tired.
He paused before going on, his attention drawn to the reception counter in the waiting room. As near as he could tell from his vantage point, there were only a handful of people in the waiting area. What drew his attention, though, was the tall individual standing at the counter, arguing with the duty nurse.
David pushed the swinging door open and ventured slowly into the waiting room, his attention fixed on the man at the counter. He didn’t necessarily look dangerous, but David had learnt the hard way that any human being had the capacity for violence, given the right stimulus. Perhaps this man’s wife or child was sick… or hurt… and he was impatient with waiting. Given a high enough level of frustration, it was entirely possible that the situation could erupt, and he wanted to be ready to help if that were to happen.
As he got closer, he was able to make out what was being said.
“…must be someone that I can talk to! He was brought in over half an hour ago, now.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t…”
“Listen to me, damn it! I am his captain. Isn’t there someone in this whole goddamn building who can tell me whether my detective is even still alive?”
Realisation hit. David hurried over, deciding he could at least provide some reassurance.
The silver-haired man wheeled around, and David was momentarily taken aback by the look on his face. There was no aggression there, but rather raw pain and grief. Shaking himself back to reality, David drew the man away from the counter.
“Would I be right in thinking that you’re asking about Robert Goren?”
The desperation and borderline panic in the other man’s face was almost more than David could bear.
“Yes, I’m his captain, Jim Deakins. Are you a doctor?”
“Yes, and I can tell you that he is most certainly still alive.”
The relief on Deakins’ face was visible, but tempered. David saw immediately that he couldn’t quite bring himself to believe that.
“He was taken off for surgery about ten minutes ago, once we’d managed to stabilise him.”
“I was told he went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance.”
David nodded again. “Yes, that’s true, but we were able to revive him. He’s still fighting, Captain Deakins. I assure you of that.”
Finally, Deakins visibly relaxed as he accepted the doctor’s words.
“Thankyou. I’m sorry if I was making a scene, but not knowing anything at all…”
“I understand,” David murmured. “Look, I can’t tell you much else at the moment, but I guess you already know he’s in a pretty bad way. There are three surgeons taking care of him right now, so I can at least reassure you that he’s getting the best possible care we can afford him. Our trauma specialists are among the best in the country.”
Deakins smiled grimly.
“No need for the advertising plug, Doctor. I already know that. Why do you think the NYPD sends its wounded here?”
David laughed softly.
“Sorry, Captain. Standard reassurance device. I do it on reflex.”
Deakins spoke quietly.
“Warren. David Warren.”
“Dr Warren… How bad is it? Really?”
“I’d really prefer not to be speculating on Robert’s condition at the moment.”
“I understand that, but please, I’m asking because… It’s just that, I didn’t see him, but one of my other detectives did. Detective Eames… She’s Detective Goren’s partner… She’s pretty badly distraught, and I’d like to have some idea of what caused that reaction in her.”
David stared at him for a long moment before drawing him away to the side of the waiting room, and urging him to sit.
“Captain Deakins… I seriously doubt that I can adequately describe to you just how shocking a condition your detective was in. The bottom line is, he was literally beaten within an inch of his life, and sexually assaulted into the bargain.”
Deakins felt an icy cold wave of panic sweep through his body, from head to toe.
“Raped? He… He was… raped?”
At the same time, a tiny inner voice whispered inside his mind, Why so surprised? Why the hell do you think SVU were called in?
“I didn’t say raped,” David corrected him firmly. “I said sexually assaulted. That’s bad enough, but I won’t confirm or deny suspicions of rape when I’m not qualified to do so. There was certainly evidence of interference, but how far that interference went, I can’t tell you.”
Deakins pressed one hand over his mouth, feeling sick to his gut. Who the hell could have done this to Bobby Goren…?
David stood up slowly.
“I have to go, Captain. I’ve just come off a fifteen hour shift, and I really do need some rest. One other thing, though, are you here alone?”
“No, my wife is here, and so is Detective Eames.”
“All right. If you go down that corridor, there are a few private waiting lounges. You’re welcome to wait in one of those. It would be a lot more comfortable than sitting in a cold corridor.”
Deakins nodded, speaking unsteadily.
“Thankyou, Dr Warren. I think we’ll do that. And thankyou for taking the time to speak with me.”
David nodded and headed off, leaving Deakins sitting there, trying to collect his thoughts. He was about to get up and go back to Angie and Alex when he spotted two familiar faces entering the ER. Benson and Stabler saw him as they came in, and quickly made their way over.
“Sir,” Olivia murmured in greeting as Deakins stood up to meet them. “Is there any word yet? We heard something about him going into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital.”
“Yes, but it’s okay,” Deakins told them. “They were able to revive him. He’s in surgery now.”
“Thank God for that,” Olivia said with relief.
“I know I shouldn’t be asking this,” Deakins went on quietly, “but do you have any leads at all yet?”
The two detectives exchanged glances.
“You’re right,” Elliot confirmed. “You shouldn’t be asking. But yeah, we do have a possible lead. Just don’t ask us who.”
“This is ridiculous,” Olivia growled. “He’s going to find out, if not from us, then from Alex. Sir, apparently Goren’s brother was with him last night.”
Deakins was taken aback.
“His older brother? Richard?”
Elliot nodded in confirmation.
“Yes. His neighbours on both sides say they were woken by the sounds of a fight happening in Goren’s apartment just before midnight, but none of them called the police because they believed that whatever the problem was, Goren could handle it. In fact, he was only found as soon as this because he was supposed to be having dinner with one of those neighbours, and she went looking for him when he didn’t turn up.”
Deakins was feeling truly sick by then as the implications of Elliot’s words sank in.
“So if that neighbour hadn’t gone looking for him, the next likely person to find him would probably have been Eames tomorrow morning. Except, by then, he probably would have been dead.”
“If he’d been left there for much longer?” Olivia said. “Then yes, we think he would have died.”
“Oh god, this is bad,” Deakins mumbled, pressing his hand over his eyes to stave of the threat of a migraine.
“That’s a massive understatement,” Elliot said. “Captain Deakins… You understand why SVU was handed the case…?”
“Yes, I know, Detective Stabler. I know Goren was sexually assaulted. And I expect Detective Eames is aware of that fact too, isn’t she?”
Again, Elliot and Olivia exchanged grim looks. Olivia nodded in answer.
“Yes, Sir. She knows.”
Deakins took a step back, towards the door. “I have to get back. I assume you two will be heading back to report to Cragen?”
“Yes,” Olivia answered. “We’ll ask him to keep you informed.”
Deakins nodded in wordless thanks. He watched the two detectives exit the hospital again, then hurried to get back to the two women who were waiting for news.
When he got back, he found Angie had managed to calm Alex down considerably, and now the detective sat sipping at a steaming cup of very strong coffee while Angie looked on with almost maternal concern. Both women looked up as he approached, and he managed a small, pale smile.
“He’s still alive. They were able to revive him. He’s in surgery now.”
Angie’s breath escaped her in audible relief, while Alex shuddered, and shut her eyes in a brief, silent prayer of thanks.
“How about we head down here, and wait in one of the private lounges?” he suggested.
“That’s a good idea,” Angie murmured. She took hold of Alex’s arm, urging the smaller woman to her feet and guiding her down the hallway and into the first private room available.
“Alex,” Deakins asked quietly, once they were seated again, “what do you know about Bobby’s older brother?”
She looked up at him questioningly.
“You’ve spoken to Benson and Stabler?”
“Yes. They came here to find out how Bobby is. They told me his brother is a possible suspect. Has Bobby ever spoken to you about him?”
“Only once or twice. He never really had much to say about him. All I know is that he got himself a college basketball scholarship when Bobby was thirteen, and pretty much left Bobby to look after their mother on his own.”
Deakins sighed softly. “Great. So Bobby probably has about as much love for him as he does for his father.”
“I know he never finished his college degree,” Alex went on. “And he’s come back to Bobby a few times over the last ten years, begging for help to get out of trouble.”
“So it’s possible that he’d come looking for help again,” Deakins mused, “and maybe this time Bobby said no.”
Alex was silent for a long moment before speaking.
“Sir, I’d like to assist in the investigation.”
Deakins did a double-take.
“Please,” she begged, “I need to be involved in this. I can’t be left out of the loop.”
“You won’t be,” he assured her. “But I can’t give authorisation for you to assist. You know that. Don Cragen at SVU would never allow it, and I can’t blame him.”
She slumped back in her seat miserably.
“I need to be able to do something to help, Sir.”
“I understand that, Alex, but you cannot be directly involved in this investigation. You know you can’t.”
She didn’t answer that, staring instead at the floor. Deakins watched her for a while, then added threateningly, “And don’t even think of running your own investigation. Do you understand me, Detective Eames?”
She nodded, conceding with obvious reluctance.
Angie spared her husband a grim look, then spoke quietly.
“Alex, is there someone we can call for you? Your father, perhaps?”
Alex continued to stare bleakly at the floor.
Deakins stood up.
“I’ll give Gavin a call. You shouldn’t go home and be by yourself.”
She did look up at him then.
“Don’t bother. I’m not leaving.”
It was with some effort that Deakins suppressed a sigh. He knew he should have expected that.
“Alex, there is no point in you staying here all night. He could be in surgery for hours yet, and you aren’t going to be able to see him until some time tomorrow morning, at the absolute earliest. There really is no point…”
He trailed off, silenced by the hardened look in her eyes.
“I don’t care. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Alex…” Deakins started to protest, but again she cut him off.
“What do you think Bobby would be doing right now if it was me that had been… had been hurt? Do you think he’d be going home to get some sleep? Or do you think he’d be camped out here?”
Deakins’ shoulder slumped in defeat. Alex had very firmly made her point.
“Okay, Alex… Okay. I’ll talk to the staff, get them to set you up in here with a pillow and blankets. But please, will you try and get some sleep? You won’t be of much use to him when he wakes up, if you’re exhausted beyond reason, will you?”
It was a cheap shot, but Alex was too tired and too sick with worry for Bobby to argue. She conceded with a nod, and Deakins sighed with relief.
“Okay, good. I’ll give your father a call…”
She shook her head then.
“He and Mom have gone away. They won’t be back for a few weeks yet.”
Deakins frowned in frustration.
“I don’t want to leave you here on your own. What about your brother? Or your sister?”
Alex conceded once more. The truth was, she didn’t really care to wait alone.
“My brother… but I’ll call him.”
Deakins regarded her intently.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. I’ll call Philip. I promise.”
Deakins finally gave in, getting to his feet and opening the door. Angie paused long enough to give Alex a hug before allowing her husband to usher her out.
Alex sat in silence for nearly ten minutes after Deakins and his wife left, before the gears of her mind slowly began to crank over. She had told Elliot Stabler, and then Deakins, that she knew very little about Bobby’s older brother, and that was true. Bobby had never really confided in her, and she had always suspected it was because Richard was still very much a thorn in his side. Where he was haunted by the ghost of his deadbeat father, and the threat of his mother’s illness, his brother was obviously still an active presence, and clearly an unwelcome one at that.
So he had never divulged much more about Richard than she had been able to glean from scraps and hints of information that he’d dropped during various cases. But there was one person who might know more, someone whom Bobby might have talked to more openly about his brother.
With Deakins’ warning about investigating the case ringing in her ears, Alex pulled out her cell phone and began to dial.
Lewis was working late. Or, perhaps more accurately, he was trying to stave off a royally foul mood by focusing on the vehicle he was currently restoring. It wasn’t working.
Truth be told, it was actually making his mood worse, and that was mainly because the true object of his irritation was supposed to have been working with him today on this very vehicle.
What really bugged Lewis was that Bobby Goren was normally a hundred percent reliable. Sure, his job was unpredictable, but he always called if something came up. This time, though? Nada. Not even a goddamn text message.
When Bobby hadn’t turned up by ten (he should have been at the workshop by eight), Lewis had tried calling his apartment. The son of a bitch actually picked up his phone, then hung up again straight away, without saying a word. When Lewis tried again, all he got was an engaged signal telling him Bobby had taken his phone off the hook.
Already feeling well and truly pissed off at his buddy, Lewis decided to go ahead with working on the car, and Bobby could just go to hell.
He cell rang, startling him into dropping his wrench right on his own head. Swearing furiously, Lewis rolled out from under the car and grabbed the phone. If this was Bobby now, he was going to get an earful like he’d never known.
“What?” he exploded into the phone, half-convincing himself that it was Bobby calling to offer some lame-ass excuse for being a no-show.
“Lewis, it’s Alex.”
Lewis felt his stomach drop abruptly at the thought that he’d just blown up at the one woman that he had serious interest in.
“A… Alex…? Oh… man… I’m sorry. I thought you might have been Bobby. I don’t s’pose you know where he is? He was supposed to be helping me today with a restoration job, but the mook never showed up. He wouldn’t even talk to me when I called his place earlier this morning. He just picked up and hung up. Then he left his damn phone off the hook altogether.”
On the other end of the line, Alex went cold.
“Lewis, what time did you call Bobby this morning?”
“Um… Around ten. Why?”
Alex shut her eyes, trying to fight off a sudden bout of nausea. She knew there was no way it could have been Bobby who picked up Lewis’ call earlier that morning, and if the trouble had started before midnight, then that meant that Bobby’s attacker… or attackers… had been there for more than ten hours. This meant that Bobby had been tortured literally all night.
“…Alex? Are you still there?”
“I’m here,” she said. “Lewis… I’m at St Clare’s Hospital. I think you need to come… I can’t explain what’s happened over the phone.”
Lewis sucked in a long breath, as two little words snaked through his mind.
“I’m on my way.”
Following Alex’s instructions, Lewis quickly found the small room where she was waiting. He faltered in the doorway, taking in her ashen face and swollen, red-rimmed eyes in growing dismay before walking over and sitting down next to her on the sofa.
“What’s happened?” he asked softly, though at the same time dreading the answer. “Did he… You know, did he get shot?”
Alex shuddered, and a single tear rolled down her cheek. Lewis felt a sudden, insane desire to lean over and kiss it away, but wisely suppressed the urge. Instead, he pulled a handkerchief from his denim’s pocket and offered it to her. She accepted, but the movement was almost robotic. She was functioning on auto-pilot, he thought grimly. He could have just handed her a venomous snake, and she probably wouldn’t have noticed.
“No,” she answered finally. “Not shot. But maybe it would have been better if he had been. He… He was attacked, Lewis. His neighbour found him a little over an hour ago. He was chained and handcuffed to his bed, and beaten almost to death.”
“Oh god,” Lewis whispered in horror. “Oh god… And I… I just… Oh god…”
He looked at her, suddenly feeling more frightened than he had been for a long time.
“When?” he asked hoarsely.
“Some time last night.”
“But… then… it couldn’t have been Bobby who picked up the phone this morning… could it?”
She watched with acute sorrow as the realisation dawned on his bespectacled face.
“Oh… Oh no… I could’ve called for help… But I just let myself be mad at him. But I should have known! I should have known something was wrong…”
She reached out and closed her hand lightly over his.
“You couldn’t have known he was in trouble anymore than anyone else knew, Lewis.”
He looked back at her, the pain only too evident in his eyes.
“I should’ve known, Alex. I’ve known Bobby for over twenty years, and he’s never stood me up once, especially not when there was a car involved. If he was tied up with anything, he’d have let me know. So you see, I should have known. And I didn’t do a fucking thing.”
Dimly, Alex realised that Lewis was not going to be comforted any more easily than she; she for failing her partner, and he for failing his friend. Well, she thought miserably, at least they could sit and feel guilty together.
“I don’t suppose you can tell me if they know who did it yet?” Lewis asked with little hope.
“Sorry, no,” Alex murmured, wondering how she was going to raise the subject of Bobby’s brother without putting ideas into Lewis’ head. As it turned out, she didn’t have to worry.
“You said it happened last night?” he asked, and she nodded in wordless confirmation. An instant later, Lewis was out of his seat, pacing back and forth like a wildcat.
“His brother… Damn… Bobby was supposed to be meeting his brother last night. He told me a couple of days ago, it’s one of the reasons I offered to let him work on the car with me today. I figured he’d want to blow off steam after whatever bullshit his brother threw out at him this time round.”
“You think his brother would want to hurt him?” Alex asked. Lewis shrugged.
“Sure, if the son of a bitch thought it was the best way to get what he wanted. He never cared about Bobby. If he did, he wouldn’t have walked out on him when Bobby was just a kid, like their old man did to all of them.”
“Is that the only reason that Bobby doesn’t like him?” Alex wondered. Lewis hesitated, then sat back down again with a soft thud.
“There’s that… and don’t get me wrong, that hurt Bobby a hell of a lot, but I think one of the things that really stung with Bobby were all the opportunities his brother was handed, then wasted. You might find this hard to believe, Alex, but Bobby really struggled in high school. He might have quit the basketball team himself, but the truth is if he hadn’t quit he would’ve been dropped from the team anyway, ’cause his grades were so bad.”
Alex stared at Lewis in disbelief.
“But… He’s so smart…”
He smiled sadly.
“I know. He was always smart, but back then he was taking care of his sick mom, and that was a full-time job in itself. He hardly ever had time to study, or do anything he wanted to do. So it really burned him that Richie got himself a scholarship, and then wasted it. Ever since Bobby got his discharge from the army, Richie keeps popping up and causing him problems. Sometimes little problems… Sometimes big. If Richie had a big problem this time, and Bobby said no, then yeah, I can see Richie getting violent. He has before.”
Alex did a double-take.
“Hell, yeah. You think Bobby’s a big guy? You ought to see his brother. Richie comes in at about six foot seven. He’s a huge guy, Alex, and he drinks, a lot. Last time… Yeah, it was about five years ago, just before Bobby finished up at Narcotics. That’s the other thing, Richie likes his dope. He’s not a hard core user… At least, he wasn’t back then. But he liked it all the same. When he showed up, it was the first time in four years. He got wind that his little brother was a Narc, and he thought he could get some free drugs out of it. Bobby told him no, of course… And Richie went nuts at him. I had to take Bobby to the hospital later on ’cause he was so badly cut up.”
“Richie stabbed him?” Alex asked in shock, and Lewis nodded.
“Oh yeah, about five times before Bobby got him off him. I think his captain got wind of it, wanted him to press charges, but he wouldn’t. Anyway, Richie did a disappearing act after that, and Bobby hadn’t seen him again, until now.”
Alex sat back, her mind awhirl. While she’d suspected that Lewis would know more than she did about Bobby’s tenuous relationship with his older brother, this was more than she’d anticipated. It also solidified in her mind Richard Goren’s viability as a suspect in his brother’s assault.
“Do you know if he’s going to be all right?”
Alex found herself catapulted roughly back into the present. She looked sideways at him, and had to struggle not to cringe at the anxiety on his face.
“I don’t know,” she answered honestly. “I just don’t know.”
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