A/N: Since I know nothing about Carolyn Barak, Logan’s new partner, I’ve decided to continue on with my Logan/Bishop pairing. I’m not going to try and nail a character that I literally know nothing about.
Sorry this part took a while to post. I kept getting interrupted in the process of writing it, and this story is slightly more difficult than Deliverance or Blood Moon, because I started it without a crystal clear idea of where it was going.
Deakins watched until Bobby and Alex had disappeared into the relative safety of the tea room before returning his attention to the paperwork in front of him. He had to agree with Bobby, of course. It was juvenile for them to be hiding from Salinger, but he also believed it better that they not be around for whatever bullshit the Chief of Detectives was here to spout.
Deakins sorely missed Salinger’s predecessor, Dave Harrison, and he knew he was not alone. With the exception of the bureaucratic pencil-pushers on the fourteenth floor, the general opinion was that Salinger was a useless moron.
He had taken over as Chief of Detectives not quite eighteen months ago, just a short while before Erik Mathers had abducted Bobby and Alex. Dave Harrison had finally retired after fifty years on the Force, and ten years as Chief of Detectives. He was well-respected by all, but in particular by the fraternity of NYPD detectives. How Salinger had worked his way into the job, no one was quite sure. All they knew was that the man seemed to have his lips locked permanently to the Mayor’s ass. The only saving grace was Police Commissioner Adkins, who knew what a prick Salinger really was and worked his ass off to counter the other man’s constant negative influence.
What caused the biggest problem for a high profile squad like Major Case, though, was the knowledge that Salinger hated with a passion any cop that dared to have a higher public profile than himself, intentional or not. Needless to say, Bobby Goren and Alex Eames were at the top of Salinger’s hit list.
A smirk tugged insistently at Deakins’ lips. Ever since the Mathers case, Salinger had had it in for the two detectives. Their abduction, rescue and everything that came between had turned them into rather unwilling celebrities. Salinger’s rancour towards them had sky-rocketed, though, in the wake of a very public incident that had taken place whilst Bobby and Alex had both still been in hospital after being rescued from near death on Gore Mountain.
In the hopes of promoting his own public profile, Salinger had contacted the Executives at the Letterman Show, and offered to front up for a live interview about Bobby and Alex’s ordeal. The word was that he had been turned down very abruptly – popular opinion was that it was on the grounds that Salinger had the personality of a sloth. Whether that part was true or not didn’t matter, but to rub salt in the wound, Letterman himself had apparently contacted Commissioner Adkins the very next day, begging him to arrange an interview with Bobby and Alex, live out of the hospital, if need be.
Even though the Commissioner had politely refused out of respect for the two detectives who, at that point, were still suffering grievously, it didn’t stop them from becoming the poster boy and girl for the NYPD. For months afterwards, whenever the Department wanted to put forward a positive image of a courageous, self-sacrificing police force, it was Bobby and Alex whose images were presented. It was common knowledge, particularly within the confines of the Major Case Squad, that Salinger had never forgiven the detectives for usurping him as the public face of the Department.
The door rattled loudly as it was opened forcefully, and Deakins looked up in time to see Salinger stomp in.
“Where are they?”
Deakins sat back slowly, watching Salinger in bemusement.
“Good afternoon to you, too, Sir.”
“I don’t have time to exchange pleasantries, Deakins. Where are they?”
“Where are who?”
Salinger glared at him.
“Your pet detectives, Deakins, who else? Where are Goren and Eames?”
“Lunch break,” Deakins answered dismissively.
“Yes. Last time I checked, they were still entitled to one.”
“Don’t get smart with me. I don’t have the time. Now, get on the phone and call them back.”
Deakins made no effort to reach for his phone.
“You heard me. I said no. Whatever you’ve got to say, you can say it to me. I’ll pass it on to them when they come back.”
Salinger leaned across the desk, still glaring at the captain.
“Newsflash, Deakins. Adkins is in Paris for a month. No one’s around to get your back. As acting Commissioner, I’m the one with the authority right now, and you will heed me. Now, call them back!”
With obvious reluctance, Deakins picked up the phone and hit speed dial for Alex’s cell phone. He was not especially surprised to get the recorded message of her voicemail. He tried Goren’s, and got the same result. Fighting the urge to grin, he hung up and looked back at Salinger.
“They have their phones switched off. Sorry.”
Salinger was starting to look as though he might bust a valve.
“Goddamn it, Deakins…”
“Why don’t you just cut them some slack?” Deakins asked tersely. “Whatever it is you came for, just say it to me. I’ll pass it on when they get back.”
Salinger stood there frowning for a long moment before a grin slowly spread over his face, sending a slight chill down Deakins’ spine. Finally, he sat with a soft thud.
“All right. I can be reasonable. If you want it done that way, then that’s how we’ll do it. You want to be the one to tell them? Fine by me.”
By that time, Deakins was starting to feel distinctly nervous. It was with some effort that he kept his expression neutral, and his voice level.
“How about you tell me what it is that you’re so damned eager to say, so I can get back to work?”
To Deakins’ consternation, Salinger’s grin actually widened a little.
“There have been half a dozen women murdered upstate, and it’s more than the local troopers can handle. Apparently, the women were all sexually assaulted prior to being killed, and the local lieutenant is friends with Don Cragen, so he called and asked for help. After consulting with me, Cragen agreed to send one of his teams to run the investigation.”
“What does any of this have to do with Major Case?” Deakins asked, struggling now to conceal his growing irritation.
“I’m assigning Goren and Eames to the task force.”
Deakins stared at Salinger, confused and concerned. He sensed there was something in this that he wasn’t seeing yet, and it was starting to worry him greatly.
“Why do you need Goren and Eames to be a part of this taskforce? Sounds like it was made for SVU.”
“Well, it looks like there could be some similarities between this current case, and the Mathers case. I looked it over, and it looks to me that there’s a strong possibility that someone is deliberately copycatting aspects of the Mathers case.”
Deakins felt that chill race through his body once more.
“If you want to include detectives familiar with the Erik Mathers case, then you’d be better off sending Logan and Bishop. They led the investigation that ended in us finding and rescuing Goren and Eames. They’re familiar with everything to do with it…”
“No,” Salinger said calmly. “I think I want to send Goren and Eames. They do have that first-hand experience, after all.”
It was all Deakins could do to maintain his calm.
“If you’re doing this purely out of spite…”
Salinger smiled coldly.
“Not at all, Captain. As I said, I’ve reviewed the case, and the similarities are strong enough that I honestly believe Detective Goren and Detective Eames will have quite a significant contribution to make. Their experience is invaluable, after all.”
Deakins had to make a conscious effort to loosen his jaw.
“Exactly where is it that these murders have happened?”
Salinger’s smile widened, and he made no effort to conceal his cruel delight.
“It’s in the Adirondack mountain range. Specifically, Gore Mountain.”
Deakins sat rigidly in his chair, his breath literally freezing in his throat. Salinger said nothing, just continued to sit and watch with vicious pleasure as the Major Case captain processed what he had just heard.
“I must be more tired than I realised,” Deakins said finally. “I could have sworn you said Gore Mountain. But I must have misheard you, because even you couldn’t be that vindictive.”
“You heard right, Captain. I did indeed say Gore Mountain.”
Deakins shifted forward slowly in his chair.
“No… No… Goddamn it, no!” he exploded. “You can’t send them back there, Salinger! Damn it, you can’t!”
Salinger continued to smile, and Deakins had to consciously fight a sudden, powerful desire to get up and throttle the smug bastard.
“Just watch me, Deakins.”
“No,” Deakins said again. “I won’t make them go back there, not for any reason.”
“The decision is not in your hands. I’m not letting you give them an option, not this time. They are going back there, and that is the only option open to them.” Salinger glanced at his watch. “I asked Don Cragen to come with his two lead detectives, Benson and Stabler. They should be here soon. Now, I suspect that you probably do know where Goren and Eames are, or at least have a pretty good idea. I suggest you send someone out to get them. Then, when they get back, you can tell them the news, just like you wanted.
Deakins stared across the desk at Salinger, white-faced with anger.
“You son of a bitch. It’s not enough to put them through this. No, you have to go and display their trauma for everyone to see.”
“Trauma my ass,” Salinger snapped. “Ever since they were rescued from that damned mountain, you’ve treated them with kid gloves, and it’s time to stop. They are going to go back to that mountain and deal with it, or they can start looking for a new line of employment. Oh, and this will be the last time they work together. When they come back, they’re each to be assigned a new partner. Or you can start looking for a new job. Am I making myself clear, Captain Deakins?”
Deakins got up, snatching up his walking stick in fast-building anger.
“Absolutely transparent as hell. Are you done? Good. Now it’s my turn. You might be able to force Goren and Eames into going back to that place, and I’m sure you’re probably hoping it might crush them entirely, but don’t you dare think you can bully me into separating them. You try that, and I swear I will personally charter a plane if need be to bring Adkins back from Paris. Goren and Eames’ partnership is one of the best in the entire NYPD, and if you think you can get away with separating them while Adkins has his back turned, think again. I’ll go to the media, if I have to, and if you think you’ve been getting bad publicity lately, just wait until it hits the headlines that you tried to split them up because of a grudge over who is getting the most media exposure. You might be able to force them into returning to Gore Mountain, but don’t you think for a second that you have the authority to force me to split them up. Because it is not going to happen. Am I making myself clear?”
Salinger’s eyes had narrowed to pinpoints.
“You’re not always going to be around to get their backs, Deakins. I’ll warn you now, I’m going to make sure they’re watched with an eagle eye while they’re away from here, and if there’s anything at all inappropriate in their behaviour, particularly towards each other, I promise I’ll see them split up, whatever the cost.”
The two men stood glaring at each other for a long moment before Deakins turned and headed for the door.
He then stalked out of his office before he could give into the temptation to pull his gun and shoot the man.
“Captain’s coming,” Bishop murmured as Deakins made his way towards her and Logan’s desks. “He looks really, really pissed off.”
“Not surprising,” Logan murmured. “Salinger has that effect on most people.”
He didn’t have the chance to elaborate. Deakins reached their adjoined desks, pausing for a moment to take a deep breath before speaking.
“What does that idiot Salinger want?” Logan asked once Deakins had focused on them. The captain hesitated, considering what to say.
“I need one of you to go and get Bobby and Alex, and bring them back. You’ll find them up the road at Belle’s Diner.”
“What’s going on?” Bishop asked as Logan immediately got up. Deakins regarded them both grimly.
“Let’s just say that with Commissioner Adkins out of the country, Salinger’s decided to sink his hooks in as deep as he can. The proverbial is about to hit the fan, and it’s going to be very, very ugly.”
“What does Salinger want with them?” Logan asked, frowning. Deakins glanced back at his office before speaking.
“He’s hooking them up to a task force to work with SVU on a string of murders. But it isn’t the ‘what’ that’s the problem. It’s the ‘where’. The murders all happened in the Adirondacks, on Gore Mountain.”
Logan and Bishop stared at Deakins in open-mouthed shock.
“Gore Mountain…?” Logan echoed finally in disbelief. “Not the same Gore Mountain where they were nearly killed by that psycho Mathers?”
“The same,” Deakins confirmed grimly.
“Is he out of his fucking mind?” Logan blurted out, drawing startled looks from the other detectives around them.
“I’d like to think so,” Deakins admitted. “But I’m afraid the truth is that he’s just a sadistic bastard, plain and simple. He claims these murders are similar to the Mathers case, but I’m betting that’s just a smokescreen. He’s doing it to try and do as much damage as he can to Bobby and Alex. Problem is that he might just succeed this time.”
“You aren’t actually going to make them go, are you?” Bishop asked incredulously.
“He hasn’t left me with a choice. The bottom line is that they go, or Salinger will have them fired.”
“That lousy son of a bitch,” Logan growled as he grabbed his coat. “Okay, I’ll go get them, but you go back and tell Salinger that we’re going, too. He might be trying to hang Goren and Eames out to dry, but we aren’t going to let them deal on their own.”
Bishop was on her feet by then, also pulling on her coat.
“We’ll go get them. Do you think Salinger would mind if we spoil his fun by forewarning them?”
Deakins smiled faintly.
“Be my guest. But please, go about it carefully. I don’t want them coming back and telling me they quit, either.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Logan told him. “Just be sure to tell Salinger that we’re going, too. He’s not getting a choice about that. And if he doesn’t like it, he can shove it up his ass. If he kicks up a stink about it, just remind him that the journalist from the New York Post that ran the series of articles about Goren and Eames back when Mathers grabbed them is a good friend of mine. I’m sure he’d love to hear about this latest development.”
Deakins watched as they left, then turned and headed back to his office, feeling the first hints of relief that maybe, with Logan and Bishop’s added support, the situation wouldn’t turn out to be as bad as he was anticipating.
“Maybe we should have left our phones on,” Alex mused as she sipped at her coffee. Bobby smiled, and shook his head.
“You don’t think we should have any more than I do. Odds are, Salinger will demand that Deakins try to call us…”
“Assuming he was there because of us in the first place,” Alex put in. Bobby regarded her with an amused grin.
“You were the one who wanted to run and hide, remember.”
She sighed. “Maybe I just feel guilty about leaving Deakins to take the heat. Salinger is such an asshole…”
“Deakins can handle Salinger,” Bobby murmured, nodding thanks to the waitress as she set a large schnitzel salad sandwich in front of him. “Even without Adkins around to keep him on the leash…”
Alex sighed again as she bit into her own sandwich.
“Why can’t the creep just leave us alone to do our job?”
“He hates anyone who’s more famous than he is,” Bobby murmured. “Unfortunately, we qualify.”
“It isn’t as though we asked for it,” Alex argued. “What happened wasn’t our fault. We could just as easily have been killed, and then we would have been two famous dead cops.”
He reached across the table, and grasped her hand gently.
“It turned out all right. Don’t think about what might have happened. You’ll just give yourself nightmares.”
She stared at him miserably.
“And how, exactly, would that be different from every other night?”
“Bad night again?” he asked softly. “Want to talk about it?”
The invitation to talk was a mere formality. On any other day they would have met first thing in the morning to get coffee and bagels, and talk about any bad dreams they’d had through the night. This morning, of course, that routine had been thrown out because Alex had been late in. Consequently, neither one had had the chance to talk about their nightmares.
“I woke up… and we were in that room again. Tied up… in the dark… cold and hungry. And we could hear him laughing at us… Except, it wasn’t just Erik. This time, it was his father, as well. They were both there, laughing and talking about how they were going to kill us. The thing is… When I woke up, I could still feel the ropes around my wrists, and ankles… And my whole body felt sore, like it did when we first woke up outside.”
Bobby nodded in wordless sympathy, reaching across and gently taking her hands in his own, stopping her from the subconscious motion of rubbing at her wrists. Her wrists still bore the visible scars of the two days they had spent in captivity in Erik Mathers’ cabin. Gently, he traced the white, ropy scars around her wrists, then looked back up at her with sad understanding.
“At least you can cover yours up with your shirt cuffs,” Alex said softly, though not bitterly. Bobby hesitated, then pulled his shirt sleeves up to reveal almost identical scars around his own wrists. He stared at them for a long moment before pushing the cuffs back down, covering them up once more. Then, he offered her a crooked smile.
“Maybe, but at least you don’t have a dirty big scar across your face.”
Alex paused, her gaze going to the recently formed scar across his right cheek.
“It’s not so bad,” she said with a small smile. “It adds character.”
He grinned, quietly pleased to have gotten a smile out of her.
“Character? That’s not what my mom called it when I visited her on Saturday.”
Alex regarded him in surprise.
“You got someone to take you to Carmel Ridge?”
“An old friend offered.”
“No. Someone else. Someone who knows her. Just… an old friend.”
She decided not to press for details.
“So how was she?”
He smiled a small, sad smile and touched his fingertips very lightly to the scar on his face.
“Thanks to this, she thought it was Halloween, and spent the whole day waiting for kids to come trick or treating.”
She laughed softly, and he joined in.
“All in all, it was one of her better days,” he said simply, and Alex nodded in understanding. In other words, she had been neither abusive nor violent.
Alex looked away wearily, out the window. She knew it was good… no, not good. It was healthy for them to talk about it whenever they felt they were able, but the truth was it wasn’t easy for either one of them. Not for Bobby, who had had years of practise at hiding his true emotions, and burying trauma as deep as possible within his psyche, and not for herself, who had been brought up under the belief that to show emotion was to show weakness.
So their talks came in stilted dribs and drabs. Some days, one would have more to say than the other. On others they would both contribute. It was a slow and often painful process, and still there seemed to be no end to the horrible nightmares that plagued their subconscious minds. The only nights either one of them had been fortunate enough to be spared the frightening dreams were the nights that they spent together, holding each other and sleeping in each others’ arms purely for mutual comfort and safety. It was truly the only times they felt completely safe and secure, and the only other person on the face of the planet who knew they sometimes resorted to that was their captain.
“I thought I was supposed to be the one who goes spacey.”
Alex looked back at him, puzzled.
“You were somewhere else totally. What were you thinking about?”
Alex sighed softly. “I haven’t had more than three hours sleep at a time for nearly a week. I’m tired, Bobby.”
“You want to come to my place tonight?”
She nodded without hesitation.
“Yeah. I’ll bring the beer.”
He smiled ruefully. “You do, and you’ll be the only one drinking it.”
“Root beer, Bobby,” she elaborated, rolling her eyes. “You don’t really think I’d do that to you, do you? And don’t you dare answer that.”
“You’re making assumptions,” he chided her gently. “You know what happened the last time one of us did that.”
“Yeah. I nearly threw a plastic brick at your head.”
Bobby chuckled softly, but whatever he’d been about to reply with was lost before he could say it as he spotted two familiar figures turn off the sidewalk and head for the diner’s entrance.
“What are they doing here…?”
Alex looked around just as the door of the diner opened and Bishop and Logan walked in. The two detectives quickly spotted them, and walked over.
“Please tell us you’re here because Deakins sent Salinger packing?” Alex pleaded with little hope. Logan smiled sympathetically.
“No such luck. Can we sit down?”
Bobby and Alex both nodded, and Bishop slid into the booth beside Bobby while Logan sat next to Alex.
“So what’s going on?” Alex asked, looking from Logan to Bishop. The two newest additions to the Major Case Squad looked wordlessly at each other before Logan spoke quietly.
“We know what Salinger wants. Deakins gave us the okay to tell you… but you guys have got to promise to try and keep your cool, okay? Don’t go ballistic, and do anything stupid…”
“Like what?” Bobby asked suspiciously.
“Like quitting,” Bishop said, suddenly wishing she was sitting next to Alex rather than Bobby.
“Will you knock it off with the cryptic answers?” Alex demanded. “Just tell us!”
“All right,” Logan conceded. “Here’s the thing… Salinger’s hooking you both up to a joint taskforce to investigate a series of murders.”
Bobby and Alex exchanged glances.
“Okay,” Bobby said slowly. “Who are we supposed to be working with?”
“SVU,” Bishop said.
“Benson and Stabler, by the looks of it,” Logan added. “We spotted them going into One Police Plaza with Don Cragen as we came out.”
Bobby gave a slight shrug.
“Okay,” he said again. “We’re not exactly best friends, but…”
“That’s not the issue,” Logan interrupted grimly. “Look, there’s just no easy way to tell you this. These murders you’ll be investigating… They all happened upstate.”
Bobby and Alex froze, the blood literally draining from their faces as their minds rapidly leapt to the same conclusion at the same time.
“You don’t mean…” Alex said, but trailed off as Bishop nodded in grim confirmation.
“Gore Mountain, in the Adirondacks,” Logan said quietly, looking worriedly from Bobby to Alex. Silence met his words. Neither Bobby nor Alex spoke or moved. They simply sat in complete silence, staring intently at each other.
“Are either of you going to say something?” Logan asked tentatively. “Anything?”
“We can’t go back there,” Alex said softly, her voice barely audible. She never took her eyes of Bobby, and Logan and Bishop both had the distinct feeling that it was as if they were suddenly non-existent as far as the two senior detectives were concerned.
“Deakins said Salinger wasn’t leaving you any choice,” Bishop said.
“But we told him to tell Salinger that we’re going with you,” Logan told them firmly. “And if Salinger doesn’t like it, he can…”
“Didn’t you hear me?” Alex snapped, the volume of her voice rising considerably and drawing the attention of other patrons and the two waitresses. “I said we can’t go back there. Not ever. Not negotiable.”
Logan looked across at Bobby. The other man returned his stare for a long moment before looking away out the window, still saying nothing. He didn’t need to, Logan thought unhappily. The look on his face spoke louder and more clearly than anything he might have tried to say aloud.
“Look,” Bishop said with just a hint of desperation in her voice, “Salinger is just looking for a reason to string you two up. Don’t give it to him. You can do this… We’ll back you up, okay? You don’t have to deal with it on your own.”
“That sounds really nice,” Alex said caustically. “Gosh, I never realised it was so simple. Did you hear that, Bobby? We’ve got Logan and Bishop to back us up…”
“Stop it, Alex,” Bobby said softly, silencing her more effectively with his soft words than any pleading from Logan or Bishop might have done. He went on, his voice never lifting above a murmur. “It’s not their fault. They’re just trying to help. We should be more appreciative.”
Alex’s shoulders slumped.
“You’re right. I’m sorry…”
“It’s okay,” Bishop murmured. “We understand, really.”
“Salinger’s still back there?” Bobby asked. Logan nodded.
“Yeah. And just for the record, the last time I saw Deakins that pissed off was when that idiot lieutenant gave us the run-around when we were searching for the two of you.”
“And he’s expecting us back there straight away?” Bobby asked. Again, Logan nodded.
“Look… I won’t say not to take this the wrong way… There’s only one way to take this, but Salinger threatened to have you both fired if you refuse to go.”
A strangled sound of frustration and distress escaped Alex, and while Bobby never uttered a sound, the hand that came up to cover his eyes and pinch the bridge of his nose was a very telling gesture.
“He’s a slimy bastard,” Logan said quietly, “but he’s the one holding the cards at the moment. I know you don’t want to hear this, but I don’t think you have a choice.”
“We could always quit,” Alex muttered.
“You do that,” Logan countered, “and you’ll be handing Salinger victory on a gold platter. Don’t do it, Eames. Don’t let that asshole win. Not like that.”
Bobby sighed, then, a barely audible sound but there all the same, and reached for his walking stick.
“All right. Let’s get back and get this over with.”
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