A/N: To lkq(), your thoughts have been duly noted. I might touch later on why Alex didn’t wait for Bobby to finish getting dressed, and consequently placed herself in a situation where she was alone with Salinger. (ie, she had a gun, and didn’t think she could be taken unawares again. And we all know what happens when you make assumptions…)
Secondly, how did Salinger know exactly where to find Bobby and Alex? Well, that will be dealt with before long, I promise you…
And thankyou all – I thrive on cruel angsty-ness.
The atmosphere in the van as it arrived back in town shortly after four-thirty in the morning was sombre, to say the least, and was only made worse by the fierce storm that had caught them all unawares around midnight. They had gotten to the cabin shortly before twelve, after the long drive up the mountain and an equally long trek along the rough path to the cabin. They had arrived at the cabin soaked to the bone, and near frozen. At that stage, all that had kept them moving was the hope of finding Jane McManus alive.
They had found the missing girl right where Page had said she would be, tied up and locked in that little concrete room which had been Bobby and Alex’s prison for two days not so long ago. Despite their hopes of finding her alive, though, they had been too late.
The girl had been dead less than five hours, dead from a lethal combination of exposure and suffocation, and the ME that attended the scene grimly declared there was little they could have done even if they had arrived earlier. According to him, they would have needed to arrive a good ten hours earlier to have been in time to save her.
The knowledge was of little comfort to any of them.
“You think we should let Bobby and Alex know?” Olivia asked Elliot softly as they and the other four detectives finally arrived back at the motel. Elliot watched as their colleagues headed off to their rooms in silence, tired and dejected by the grim find.
“No,” he murmured finally. “They’ll hear soon enough. No need to disturb them now. Let’s just get in a few hours sleep while we still can.”
Olivia hesitated, on the verge of arguing. She knew if it were her, she’d want to know straight away… but Elliot was probably right. They would find out soon enough. There was little point in waking them up now.
“Okay,” she conceded. “See you in a few hours, I guess.”
Elliot nodded and headed off wearily to the room he shared with Logan and Munch. Olivia watched him go, then headed off to her own room, and a few hours of much needed sleep.
The same morning
Lieutenant Gus Brenner sat in his office, paperwork sitting untouched on his desk. As yet, none of the New York detectives had made an appearance, but nor was he in a hurry for them to do so. It had been a long, awful night, and if they were able to get a few hours extra sleep, then so much the better for them. He certainly wasn’t going to begrudge any of them that little bit extra time. They had their killer, and there were no more hidden victims, yet to be discovered. All that remained was to wrap up the investigation, and officially charge Tobias Page with the murders of seven people.
There was a light knock on his door, and he looked up to see one of his deputies standing there, looking in uncertainly.
“What is it, Bill?” he asked tiredly.
“We, uh… We have visitors.”
Brenner raised an eyebrow questioningly.
“Visitors? Care to elaborate?”
Bill glanced back over his shoulder, then grimaced and stepped out of the way. A moment later, two men walked into Brenner’s office, both with an air of authority that Brenner couldn’t hope to match.
“Lieutenant Brenner?” the first man asked, and went on without waiting for an answer. “I’m Police Commissioner Gerald Adkins.”
Brenner blanched visibly.
“That’s right. And this is Captain James Deakins, head of the NYPD’s Major Case Squad.”
Brenner stood up quickly, almost knocking his chair over in his hurry to get up.
“This is a surprise,” he stammered. “To what do we owe the honour, Commissioner?”
“This is no pleasure visit, Lieutenant. We need to see the detectives who have been assisting you, immediately.”
Brenner stared at the two of them for a long moment before shaking himself out of his stupor.
“Well… We had a pretty rough night last night. They’re all still at their motel.”
“We’d appreciate it if you’d escort us there straight away.”
Again, Brenner was left momentarily speechless. Then, finally, he nodded his acquiescence and grabbed his car keys from his desk drawer.
“Okay. This way, gentlemen.”
Bishop emerged from the room she was sharing with Olivia just before ten, feeling slightly guilty about sleeping so late, but feeling physically and mentally better for it. After last night’s events, they’d all needed that little bit extra time. That seemed to be proven when she came out to find none of her colleagues appeared to be up yet.
She turned, intending to go back inside, when she spotted a familiar figure sitting further along, encased in shadows. After a moment’s hesitation, she went to speak to him.
“Mike? How long have you been out here?”
Logan looked around as she approached, then shook his head.
“Not long. Half an hour, maybe. We all overslept.”
“I don’t think it matters too much now. All we have left to do is the clean-up.”
He laughed softly. “Ironic, isn’t it?”
“Ah, nothing. I just think it’s funny… Salinger ended up doing us all a favour by demanding that Bobby and Alex came along. Without them, we’d probably still be fumbling around looking for a suspect. Gotta hand it to them. They’re good. They’re damned good.”
Bishop smiled softly.
“So are you. Don’t knock yourself.”
“I’m not,” Logan reassured her. “I’m not knocking any of us. But whoever it was that said it was right when they said that having Bobby and Alex here would mean getting home just that much quicker.” He paused, the smile fading a little from his face. “There’s just one thing bothering me.”
“Page insisted all along yesterday that he never took the McManus girl.”
“And yet he knew exactly where we’d find her,” Bishop pointed out. Logan nodded.
“I know, but think about it. All the other women he took… and it was women, not girls… had been raped. The girl hadn’t been touched. Not like that.”
Bishop chewed lightly on her lower lip, feeling mildly disturbed. He was right, little though she liked to admit it.
“So… what are you thinking?” she asked quietly. Logan shrugged.
“Honestly, I don’t know. Like you said, he knew exactly where she was, after all.”
“Accomplice?” Bishop suggested, feeling a chill in her gut at the possibility.
“No,” Logan said decisively. “Not an accomplice. Page isn’t a sharing kind of a guy. I don’t know… Maybe he did take her. It just doesn’t seem to fit.”
Bishop was about to suggest he stop worrying about it when she spotted a familiar vehicle turning into the motel car park.
“Isn’t that Brenner’s car?”
“Yeah. But who’s that with him…?”
“Captain Deakins?” Bishop exclaimed, startled as she recognised the man in the front passenger seat. Logan’s eyes widened as he recognised the second passenger.
The car pulled up, and the three men got out, Adkins pausing to help Deakins with his cane. Logan and Bishop approached slowly, puzzled by their unexpected appearance.
“Logan,” Deakins greeted them grimly. “Bishop.”
“Sir…” Bishop stammered. “What… What are you doing here?”
“That’s slightly complicated,” Adkins said ruefully. “We need to see all of you now. If you’d care to rouse your colleagues…?”
Logan and Bishop exchanged baffled glances, but conceded without argument, turning to go and get their fellow detectives.
Short minutes later, six of the eight detectives have assembled in the car park, all equally confused by the sudden appearance of not only Deakins, but Commissioner Adkins as well.
“What about Goren and Eames?” Adkins asked, looking at the group with a frown. “Where are they?”
Elliot and Olivia exchanged grim looks, each anticipating the same explosion if Adkins were to find out that the two Major Case detectives were currently sharing a room and a bed on the other side of the motel.
“They’re around the other side,” Elliot said finally. “I’ll go get them.”
Elliot came to a halt outside the door of Bobby and Alex’s room, rapping hard on the wood.
“Bobby! Alex, open up!” he called out as loudly as he dared. “C’mon, guys. Deakins and Adkins are here! They catch you sharing a room, and it’ll be all our heads on the chopping block!”
There was no answer from within. Elliot took a step back, and was just considering his options when Deakins came around the corner.
Elliot froze, his tanned face turning grey.
“Uh… Captain Deakins… I… uh…”
Deakins took in Elliot’s ashen features, then looked at the door that he was standing in front of.
“Bobby and Alex are sharing a room, aren’t they?”
Elliot swallowed hard, unable to bring himself to answer. Deakins regarded him with barely suppressed amusement.
“And I’m guessing that you and Detective Benson had something to do with organising it.”
Again, all Elliot could do was swallow. Deakins laughed softly.
“Relax, Detective. I’ve known for a while that Bobby and Alex are inclined to share a bed. It’s often the only thing that will get them through the night without suffering nightmares. I wouldn’t, however, recommend letting Commissioner Adkins find out about it. As positive as he is towards them, I suspect that this might stretch even his limits of acceptance.”
Elliot coughed, and was relieved to find his voice.
Sir… Sorry… There’s no answer, and I don’t have a key to get in there.”
Deakins amused smiled faltered noticeably.
“Would you hold this, please, Detective?”
Elliot took Deakins’ cane, and stepped aside as the older man pulled a length of wire from within his jacket and leaned in close to the lock. The SVU detective watched, wide-eyed, as the Major Case captain set about picking the lock of Bobby and Alex’s motel room.
Half a minute later, there was a distinct click, and the door opened up.
“Ten years ago, I could have done that in half the time,” Deakins admitted ruefully as he accepted his cane back from Elliot, and pushed the door open.
“Empty…” Elliot stated unnecessarily as they walked in to find an empty room.
“Bed’s been slept in,” Deakins observed. He walked over, and lay his palm on the sheets. “Cold. They didn’t leave recently. Detective Stabler, where else might they be?”
Elliot looked around, trying hard to ignore the budding sensation of panic deep in his gut.
“They could be over in the restaurant having breakfast.”
“Could you go and check, please?”
Elliot took off at a run to do so, even as Deakins pulled out his cell phone and dialled first Alex’s phone, and then Bobby’s. Both rang out.
“Jim? What’s going on?”
Deakins looked around as Adkins entered the room, with Olivia close behind him.
“They’re not here,” Deakins answered, and found he had to make an effort to keep his voice level and free of panic. “Stabler has just gone to see if they’re in the restaurant.”
Adkins looked past Deakins to the bed, a slight frown developing on his face.
“They were… sharing a room? And a bed? Jim…?”
“Please, Commissioner, not now,” Deakins pleaded. “I’ll explain it to you later, but right now…”
He trailed off as Elliot came back.
“They’re not in the restaurant. No one’s seen them in there at all this morning.”
“Neither of them are answering their cell phones,” Deakins said, his voice starting to sound very strained.
“Well, there’s no sign of trouble,” Olivia surmised as she looked around the room with a critical eye. “No sign of a struggle…”
“When did any of you last see them?” Deakins asked, looking from Olivia to Elliot.
“Late yesterday afternoon,” Elliot answered, starting to feel sick. “We had to go up the mountain last night, and I wasn’t going to make them come with us. I told them to consider themselves off duty, and to come back to the motel and get some rest. Neither of them slept really well the night before.”
Deakins looked over at Adkins.
“He could already be here.”
“I don’t doubt that he’s already here. Judging by what you told me, the son of a bitch could have been here all along, just waiting for his chance.”
“What’s going on?” Olivia asked, looking at them with growing trepidation.
“We have reason to believe that Chief Salinger was on his way here,” Adkins answered, “and that he may have less than honourable purposes towards Detective Goren and Detective Eames.”
Elliot and Olivia took a moment to digest the inference in Adkins’ words.
“You’re saying he might be trying to kill them,” Elliot said finally. Adkins looked at Deakins, and then nodded slowly.
“Yes, Detective Stabler. That’s what I’m saying.”
“Hell,” Olivia muttered.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Logan asked as he appeared in the doorway. He faltered, looking around the room in confusion. “Where are they?”
“That’s the million dollar question, Logan,” Elliot answered grimly. Logan stood frozen as his mind quickly came to the conclusion that something was very wrong indeed. In that same moment, his earlier conversation with Bishop came rushing back, and the pieces suddenly clicked into place.
Not an accomplice. Page isn’t a sharing kind of a guy. I don’t know… Maybe he did take her. It just doesn’t seem to fit…
He sucked in a sharp breath. The girl hadn’t been abducted and killed by Page, or an accomplice of Page’s… But he knew where to find her anyway… A diversion… An innocent little girl had been abducted and killed, purely to serve as a diversion…
“We have to talk to Toby Page.”
“Who is that?” Deakins asked.
“The guy we nailed for the murders,” Logan explained urgently as he led the way out of the room. “He insisted that he never grabbed the little girl that we went up the mountain, but he knew exactly where she was anyway. I don’t think he did take her, but I think whoever did told him what to tell us, because taking that kid was only ever meant as a diversion. Whoever did take her had to know Goren and Eames would stay behind when the rest of us went up the mountain to find the kid.”
“Salinger must have grabbed the kid,” Elliot said, drawing a startled look from Logan.
“Salinger? Chief Salinger?”
“That’s right, Logan,” Adkins said grimly as they walked quickly back to the main car park, where Brenner and the other detectives were waiting.
“What’s happened?” Brenner asked as they rejoined the group.
“That’s what we’re trying to work out,” Adkins answered. He looked around the group with a grim, piercing stare. “For those of you who aren’t aware, Detectives Goren and Eames are missing. There are no obvious signs of a disturbance in their motel room, and we have no idea exactly how long they might have been gone for. Presumably, it might have happened any time between when you all went up the mountain last night, and now. Detective Logan has suggested that perhaps the abduction and murder of the little girl was purely a distraction to separate you from them, to give the person who took them open slather. Does anyone have thoughts on that scenario?”
Silence met Adkins’ query as they all took a moment to consider his words.
“We have to go back to Page,” Bishop said finally, echoing Logan’s words. “Even if he didn’t have anything directly to do with what happened to Jane McManus, he knows more than he’s told us. We need to get him to tell us everything.”
“Good luck,” Munch muttered. “He obviously only came clean yesterday because it was part of the master plan to set up Goren and Eames.”
“We have to try,” Logan insisted, then cursed softly as his cell phone beeped loudly, alerting him to an incoming message. He turned away to check it, scowling at the unwanted interruption.
“Hang on,” Olivia interrupted. “There’s no point in all of us going charging back to the precinct. Think about it. If it is who we think, and he does have Bobby and Alex, then I think it’s pretty obvious where he’s taken them.”
“Up the mountain,” Deakins said in a soft, tense voice. Olivia nodded.
“Exactly. Up the mountain, and probably back to Mathers’ cabin. Shouldn’t a team of us head straight up there, instead of wasting time with Page when he probably isn’t going to tell us anything anyway?”
Adkins nodded in agreement.
“I think you’re right, Detective Benson.” He looked around. “Jim? I know you’re not going to like this, but I want you to stay here. Go back to the precinct with Fin and Munch, and talk to Mr Page.”
“You’re right,” Deakins agreed frostily. “I don’t like it.”
“Captain, think about it,” Bishop told him carefully. “You remember what it was like getting from the road to Mathers’ cabin the last time? It’s no easier now, sir.”
Deakins tried hard not to look aggravated, and failed miserably.
“I said I didn’t like it. I didn’t say I wouldn’t go along with it. Commissioner, just promise me you’ll do everything you can to find them?”
“You have my word, Jim. We’ll bring them back, and I’ll shoot that bastard Salinger myself, if I have to.”
Deakins nodded, but before he had a chance to comment further, Logan suddenly swore loudly, drawing everyone’s attention.
“Got a problem there, Logan?” Fin asked, frowning darkly. Logan looked up, and his suddenly frightened gaze quickly found Deakins.
“What is it, Logan?” Deakins asked. Logan held his phone out to the captain.
“You’d better look at this, Captain.”
Deakins took the phone from him and looked at the screen. Seconds later, his already pale face turned a deathly grey.
Adkins stepped over to look, and swore softly. On the screen of Logan’s cell phone was a slightly grainy image of Bobby, lying on his stomach on a cement floor. His wrists were bound tightly behind his back, his leg brace was gone, and his feet were forcibly elevated off the floor, and joined to his bound wrists by a cruelly short length of rope. He was blindfolded and gagged, and had been stripped of all clothing, except for his trousers. It was, Deakins realised with a growing feeling of nausea, more or less the same way that he had been tied up by Erik Mathers.
“There’s a second picture,” Logan said in a dull voice. Deakins flipped through to the next image, and had to struggle not to be sick on the spot at the sight of Alex in a similar position to Bobby.
“The son of a bitch has recreated their abduction,” Adkins said softly, angrily. “Goddamn it…”
“Do you still want us to talk to Page?” Deakins asked, half-hoping that Adkins would say no. To his acute disappointment, Adkins responded with a nod.
“Yes, Jim. See what you can get out of him. Lieutenant Brenner?”
Brenner came forward, looking surprisingly reluctant all of a sudden.
“With all due respect, Commissioner, I can’t see what the point of talking to Page is. He’s not going to tell us anything that’ll help us find them. We know where they’ve been taken.”
Adkins nodded impatiently. “Your concerns are duly noted, Lieutenant. Now, I’d very much appreciate it if you would contact Search and Rescue, and mobilise your team. We’re going up that mountain, now.”
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