Olivia and Elliot arrived back at SVU to find Fin and Munch already there, waiting for them in Cragen’s office. They joined them, acutely aware of the sombre atmosphere that seemed to be blanketing the entire bullpen.
“What’s going on out there?” Elliot wondered. “Somebody die?”
Cragen motioned for them both to sit down.
“Word spreads fast when a cop gets hurt. Especially when it’s a high profile cop like Bobby Goren, and especially when the circumstances are what they are. Now, I just had a call from Jim Deakins not too long ago.”
“That didn’t take long,” Elliot muttered sourly. “We only talked to him in the hospital about an hour ago.”
“He wants results, Elliot, and so do I,” Cragen said firmly. “Now, this shit is going to hit the Press, and when it does, I for one would like to have some answers to give.”
“Well, we just came from CSU,” Olivia said wearily. “They’re still going through everything, it’s going to take a bit of time. The best evidence they’ve probably got is Goren himself, but they can’t do anything there until he comes out of surgery, and none of us know how long that will be. Until then, they have clothes that they believe he was wearing when he was attacked… plus a few things that we think were used as weapons. Fireplace poker… steak knife from his kitchen… and there was a half-empty container of salt on the floor in his bedroom.”
Cragen was silent for a moment before speaking again.
“He was tortured?”
“It looks like it,” Elliot confirmed. “Over a prolonged period, too. We’re guessing he was gagged the whole time…”
“He had a pretty big piece of material stuffed into his mouth,” Olivia explained. “The paramedics missed it when they got there. They took off a piece of material that was wrapped around his mouth, but they didn’t realise there was something inside his mouth. He wouldn’t have been able to make a sound, Captain. Whoever attacked him would have been able to do whatever they liked, and take all the time they liked.”
“Tell me straight,” Cragen said quietly. “Your honest opinion… What are his chances?”
Elliot glanced at Olivia before speaking.
“Well, that depends.”
“On what?” Fin asked, frowning.
“On whether you’re meaning will he live and make a full physical and mental recovery… or will he just live.”
“It’s really that bad?” Munch asked, and both Elliot and Olivia nodded.
“It’s that bad,” Olivia confirmed. “We’ve seen some god-awful things, but this definitely rates up there with the worst of it. He actually went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance on the way to St Clare’s. They managed to revive him, but from what we heard, it took some time. If he goes into arrest again, they may not be able to revive him again.”
“And then there’s the head trauma,” Elliot added.
“Blow to the head?” Cragen asked.
“Yeah, but that’s not what I mean. His eyes were burned, Captain. Someone used the poker from his fireplace, and burned his eyes.”
Cragen moaned softly.
“Okay… Let’s try and focus, people. Fin, Munch, what have you got?”
“Not a lot,” Fin admitted. “We talked to the neighbours on both sides of Goren’s apartment. They all had pretty much the same story to tell. Everything was quiet until a bit before midnight, and then all hell broke loose and for about twenty minutes or so. They could hear the sound of furniture literally being thrown around the apartment. Then it all went quiet again and no one heard anything more until this evening when one of his neighbours found him. None of them bothered calling the cops about the disturbance last night before they all figured Goren was a cop, and he could handle it.”
“And if they’d called, help would have reached him a lot sooner,” Cragen said ruefully, “and he might not be fighting for his life right now.”
“Don’t worry,” Fin said. “They’re all feeling pretty guilty right about now.”
“Munch,” Cragen said, “what about you? Do you have anything to add?”
“I talked to the Super,” Munch said. “He gave me the tapes from the security cameras outside and inside the building. I’ll look at them when we’re done here.”
“And what about you two?” Cragen asked Olivia and Elliot.
“Apparently Goren was expecting a visit from his older brother last night,” Elliot said. “And if what his neighbour Mrs Pirelli said was true, they’re not exactly best buddies.”
“Are you kidding?” Olivia asked incredulously. “What was it she called the brother? A lousy piece of filth?”
Elliot nodded, then explained to Cragen. “Apparently this brother only ever shows up on Goren’s doorstep when he’s in trouble, and wants Goren’s help to get out of it.”
“We don’t know yet if anything was actually taken from the apartment,” Olivia went on, “but we called Casey Novak before we left the apartment and got a warrant to run a check on Goren’s credit cards. If any of them were taken and are used, we’ll be notified immediately.”
“Okay,” Cragen murmured. “Good work, people. Now, get out there, and find this brother of his. And for God’s sake, be careful. Anyone who’s capable of taking down a guy like Goren is not someone you want to be underestimating.”
“You really think his brother could be responsible?” Munch wondered as they left Cragen’s office. Olivia shrugged.
“We’ve seen family members do as bad as this to each other, sometimes even worse. Nothing’s out of the realm of possibility.”
“I just find it hard to imagine anyone taking Goren down without shooting him first.”
“Unless he was drugged,” Fin pointed out. Elliot nodded.
“It’s a possibility. The paramedics took blood samples that we took to CSU, and they’re running tests on those samples now. If he was drugged, we’ll know soon enough.”
“Well, if you need me, I’ll be in the video room,” Munch said, scooping half a dozen surveillance tapes off his desk.
“Enjoy,” Elliot called after him. Then, to Fin, “Does he even know what he’s looking for?”
“We think so,” Fin said. “We had a thorough look through Goren’s place after you guys left to go to the hospital. We found a photo album that had a picture of him with his brother. Just the one, but at least we know what the guy looks like.”
“You got it with you?” Elliot asked, and Fin pulled a photo out of his jacket and handed it to Elliot.
“Wow,” Elliot said finally. “And I thought Goren was a big guy. When we find this guy, we’d better make sure we have back-up. If he was willing to beat the crap out his own brother, he probably won’t think twice about turning on any other cops.”
“We’ll get him,” Fin said confidently.
“We have to,” Olivia agreed. “For his own sake. You guys saw the mood in here. Imagine what it’s like up at Major Case. If we don’t bring in Goren’s brother, someone else will probably do it for us, by way of a bullet to the head.”
“We don’t even know where to start looking for this mutt,” Elliot pointed out.
“Maybe we do,” Fin said as he was handed a faxed sheet from a passing officer. “Looks like big brother helped himself to at least one of little brother’s credit cards. We got a hit on a Visa card registered to Goren. It was used to check in at the Hilton about an hour ago.”
“The stupidity of criminals never ceases to amaze me,” Olivia said ruefully. “The idiot doesn’t even bother to get out of New York before using a stolen card.”
Elliot looked grim as he grabbed his coat, and handed Olivia hers.
“Okay. Let’s go pick him up.”
It was, Alex decided before long, quite possibly the most awful wait she had ever had to endure. Despite her promise to Deakins to get some sleep, she found that sleep wouldn’t come. Lewis, on the other hand, had fallen asleep within an hour of arriving.
She looked at him now, envious of the ease with which he gave in to sleep. She wanted to sleep, she really did. But her mind would not give in, not until she knew for sure… one way or the other.
It had been over four hours now since Bobby had been taken into surgery, pushing on towards five, and still there was no word. She was trying desperately to stay positive about that. At the very least, no word meant he was still alive. And yet, her thoughts went unwittingly back to the sight of him chained and handcuffed to his own bed. The sight of him naked, and beaten almost to death. The sight of him on that gurney as the medics brought him out of his apartment. The sight of him as his body convulsed violently in the ambulance, and went into cardiac arrest.
She wiped away fresh tears. She wanted to see him, wanted to see with her own eyes that he was still alive. It wasn’t enough to simply be told. She wanted to reach out and touch him with her own hands, and feel his still-warm skin. Until she could do those things, she would not be able to rest easy. She would not be able to rest at all.
Curled up in one of the armchairs, Lewis stirred and whimpered softly in his sleep. His hands tightened into fists, and a faint moan escaped his lips. Alex watched sympathetically. Lewis might have had no trouble falling asleep, but clearly he was not experiencing a dream free rest, either.
Alex slumped back into the soft sofa, resting her head back and staring up at the ceiling. This was a favourite pose of Bobby’s. She often saw him lying back in his chair in the Major Case bullpen. In fact, she’d frequently wondered how he managed to avoid falling over backwards. She’d warned him once, early on in their partnership, that if he tumbled out of his chair and injured himself through being an idiot, not to expect her sympathy. He’d just smiled and said nothing.
She learnt since that he had an impeccable sense of balance, something that was surprising in someone of his stature.
Alex sighed faintly, and tried to tell herself once again that Bobby’s injuries would turn out to be nowhere near as bad as it had all looked, and that he would be fine. But even as she told herself that, she couldn’t bring herself to truly believe it. If nothing else, the sight of his eyes, severely burned and sealed shut by whatever implement of torture his attacker had used, warned her against hoping for too much.
She shut her eyes, feeling tired and frightened, and hurting more deeply than she had ever imagined was possible. Right then, the most she could bring herself to hope for was that he would live. Beyond that, she just didn’t know.
Alex awoke with a start to find herself staring up into an unfamiliar face. It took her a moment to process her surroundings before everything came back to her with a horrible crash, and she remembered where she was and why.
“I guess I fell asleep after all,” she mumbled, pushing herself up a little. The woman offered her a small smile.
“That can only be a good thing.”
She looked up at the woman questioningly.
“I’m sorry… You are…?”
“I’m Doctor Jennifer Craig. I’m one of the three doctors that were assigned to your partner, Robert.”
That snapped Alex very abruptly back into awareness.
“Is he… Is he going to be all right?”
“He came through the surgery,” Craig reassured her softly. “We have every reason to believe he’s going to live. Look, perhaps you’d like to come with me? We can let your friend sleep.”
Alex looked past her to where Lewis still slept soundly. A selfish part of her wanted to agree with the doctor’s suggestion, but she knew how hurt she would feel if she were the one left sleeping.
“No, let me wake him up. He’s Bobby’s best friend, he’ll want to know.”
“Technically, it should be family that I speak to,” Craig pointed out. Alex paused in reaching out to wake Lewis up.
“Bobby’s only family are his mother and brother. His mother is a permanent resident at Carmel Ridge, and his brother is the prime suspect for the assault. We are his family, Dr Craig.”
She reached out and gently shook Lewis’ shoulder. He awoke with a start, looking around in dazed confusion.
“Doctor’s here,” Alex murmured. “Bobby came through surgery.”
“Thank God,” Lewis muttered. He pushed himself forward in the seat, running his fingers through his mussed up hair in a pointless attempt to flatten it down. “So, he’s going to be okay then?”
Dr Craig was silent for a long moment, considering her next words with care.
“I didn’t say that. I only said he was going to live.”
Alex felt her stomach turn unpleasantly and, going by the look on Lewis’s face, she guessed he’d just experienced a similar sensation.
“Please,” Craig murmured, indicating the sofa. “Have a seat, Detective Eames.”
Alex, however, straightened up.
“I want to see him.”
Craig nodded. “I understand, and I will take you to see him, but there are some things you need to hear first.”
Alex sat, albeit with extreme reluctance, dreading what the doctor had to say.
“Okay,” Craig murmured. “Now, once we managed to clean him up a little, it turned out that most of Robert’s wounds were only superficial…”
“Superficial?” Alex cut her off incredulously. “I saw him, Dr Craig. None of what had been done to him looked superficial to me.”
“Nevertheless, ninety percent of his injuries did turn out to be just that. Unfortunately, the other ten percent is what caused us to nearly lose him, firstly in the ambulance and secondly during surgery. I won’t go into details now, but you need to be aware that his condition is still considered critical, and probably will continue to be critical for several days, at the very minimum. What I’m trying to say is that when I take you in to see him, don’t expect him to be awake, or responsive. It’s entirely possible that he may not regain conscious for another twenty-four hours or more.”
“Please,” Lewis said quietly, at the same time watching Alex out of the corner of his eye. “We just want to see him.”
Craig nodded and finally stood up. Alex and Lewis quickly followed suit.
“All right,” she conceded. “Come with me, I’ll take you both to ICU.”
“Both of his legs were broken, weren’t they?” Alex asked as they walked. Dr Craig glanced back at her.
“We thought so, too, when he first came in, but no. There is a minor fracture in the right fibula, and his left patella is cracked, but there’s no worse breaks than that in his legs. The bruising made it look much worse than it really was.”
Alex bit lightly on her lower lip. She was loathed to ask, but she also knew there was no point in deluding herself.
“And his hands…?”
Dr Craig hesitated in answering, just long enough to set Alex’s nerves back on edge.
“His hands are a different story. The right isn’t too bad, but his left hand…”
“What about his left hand?” Lewis asked tensely.
“Every bone in his left hand was broken,” Dr Craig told them quietly. Alex heard someone give a low moan, and it took her a moment to realise the sound was coming from her own lips. Whoever was responsible for the attack, whether it was Bobby’s brother or someone else, it didn’t get more personal than this. Someone had deliberately set out to hurt Bobby as much as possible, in every way imaginable.
Dr Craig came to a halt outside ICU, and looked back pointedly at the two of them.
“I know you saw him before he was brought to hospital, Detective Eames, but I suggest you brace yourself regardless. This is still going to be a tremendous shock to the system.”
“Hey, how bad can it be?” Lewis asked with an uneasy laugh. He was silenced abruptly by the look Alex gave him.
“Worse than you can imagine,” she said softly, following Dr Craig into ICU.
Alex heard Lewis’ soft curse, but chose to ignore him, at least for the moment. Slowly, she walked over to the bedside, manoeuvring carefully through the myriads of equipment that surrounded the bed. She had braced herself, just as the doctor had advised, but in all truth she didn’t find the sight of him now anywhere near as distressing as when she’d forced her way into Bobby’s bedroom hours ago.
She reached out with trembling fingers to gently touch his right cheek, one of the very few places on his body that didn’t seem to be bruised or cut. His skin was warm, and the feel of it – the feel of life within him – sent a tremendous, shuddering sob through her. Yes, he was still alive, and still fighting.
“I have to call Captain Deakins,” she said finally, but mad no effort to move.
“It’s all right, Detective Eames,” Dr Craig assured her. “One of the other surgeons has already called him. I expect he’ll be here soon. But would you know of any family of Robert’s that I could contact?”
Alex looked around at her, exhaustion resulting in a considerably shorter fuse on her temper.
“I told you. The only family he has is his mother and brother, and there’s no point trying to call either one. We’re really the only family he has.”
Um, that’s not strictly true,” Lewis said, drawing the attention of both Alex and Dr Craig.
“You mean there is other family?” Dr Craig asked, and Lewis nodded.
“Yeah. He’s got a cousin, on his father’s side. They used to be pretty close, but I think they lost touch when Bobby went to Germany.”
“Would you know how we can get in contact with this cousin?” Dr Craig asked. “My main reason for asking is because we need a family member to make decisions on Robert’s behalf, at least until he’s able to make them for himself.”
Lewis nodded again.
“Um, yeah. His name is Danny Cooper. He lives in DC. I can get you his number.”
“Thankyou,” Dr Craig said appreciatively. “I have a few other patients to check in on now, but you’re both welcome to stay here, at least for a while.”
Lewis nodded distractedly, while Alex didn’t respond at all. Dr Craig made no further attempts to communicate with any of them, instead leaving the room in silence.
“Man, look at him,” Lewis said finally in dismay. “Did he look this… you know, this… bad earlier?”
“No, it was worse,” Alex said quietly, truthfully. Lewis shuddered.
“I don’t see how.”
Alex looked up at him slowly.
“He was handcuffed to his own bed, Lewis. Handcuffed at the wrists and chained at the ankles. Another hour or so, and he wouldn’t have made it to hospital. So yes, it was worse.”
“I… I’m sorry. It’s just, I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Alex shut her eyes for a moment in an effort to calm herself. Taking her anger out on Lewis would get her nowhere fast.
“I’m sorry,” she apologised quietly. “This whole situation is just such a shock to the system.”
Lewis watched her for a while before speaking again, changing the subject.
“I… I guess Bobby never mentioned his cousin to you.”
“No,” Alex answered woodenly. “He never said anything to me about him.”
She was trying desperately not to feel offended, but she had honestly thought that she knew pretty much everything there was to know about Bobby’s family. Clearly, she was wrong.
“I’m sure there’s a reason he never mentioned him,” Lewis stammered. “I… I mean… His family has always been a pretty sensitive subject.”
Alex found her thoughts unwittingly going back to the Nicole Wallace cases, and the way that bitch of a woman had twisted Bobby so painfully around her little finger, using the subject of his family to shove the proverbial daggers in good and hard.
“I know that, Lewis,” she said softly, forcing those unpleasant memories out of her mind. “When did you meet his cousin?”
Her question was met with a long silence, and she was about to look at him when he spoke nervously.
“The, uh… The thing is… I’ve never actually… You know… met Danny.”
She did look at him, then.
“So Bobby’s just talked to you about him?”
To her quiet amusement, Lewis went red.
“A couple of times… But it was kind of under duress.”
Alex raised an eyebrow questioningly, and Lewis finally conceded.
“Okay. Look, I happened to overhear Bobby on the phone to him once, and I bugged him until he told me who it was. It took a bit longer to get the rest of the story out of him.”
“And what’s the rest of the story?”
“Well… You know about Bobby’s mom and dad. And about how his dad walked out on the family when Bobby was twelve?”
Alex nodded wordlessly, feeling a fresh surge of anger at the now-deceased father of her partner.
“Well,” Lewis went on, “did you know that Bobby’s mom had a tendency to get violent?”
Alex didn’t respond to that. The truth was, it was something she had long suspected, but she had never found the right moment to broach the subject with her partner. Standing beside her now, Lewis gave a short, bitter chuckle.
“You guessed, didn’t you? He’s never said so, but you guessed anyway. I guess that shield he puts up to protect himself isn’t so all-powerful after all.”
“What happened, Lewis?” she asked tersely. She felt like a rat, pressing Lewis for details about something that was clearly very personal and private to Bobby while he lay unconscious right in front of them, but if this so-called cousin was to turn up, she wanted to have some idea about his relationship with Bobby.
“Okay, sorry. Anyway, it happened not long after his dad left, and his asshole brother left to take up his scholarship. Bobby’s mom had another episode, a really bad one. I don’t know exactly what happened. To this day, Bobby still won’t talk about it. All I know is that he turned up on our doorstep sometime after midnight covered in his own blood and saying that his mom needed help.”
“You mean you knew Bobby back then?” Alex asked, startled. “Back when you were kids?”
“Yeah. We weren’t best friends then, mainly because he was nearly something like six or seven years older than me, but yeah. We knew each other. Anyway, my folks took one look at him, and they freaked out. They called the cops, told them Bobby’s mom had tried to kill him, or something like that. When they got there, the cops organised for Bobby’s mom to go to a psychiatric hospital, and they called Bobby’s aunt and uncle to come get him. He spent the next eighteen months with them while his mom was in and out of hospital.
“The point is, Danny is Bobby’s older cousin, and he really took care of Bobby. Even after Bobby eventually went home to his mom, Danny still looked out for him.”
“So they were pretty close,” Alex murmured. Lewis nodded.
“Yeah, they were tight.”
“You think he’ll come?” she wondered.
“I think so,” Lewis said. “I hope so. It’d be good for Bobby if Danny comes. But I tell you, Alex, when Danny finds out that Richie might be responsible for this, he’ll want to kill him himself.”
Alex stared down at her partner’s battered features, and fresh tears stung her eyes.
“He’ll have to get in line.”
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