“You know, you should have stayed behind, and let Munch or Fin come instead,” Olivia commented to her partner as they made their way along the overgrown path towards Erik Mathers’ cabin. Elliot shook his head, and tried hard to make his limp less noticeable.

“I’m fine, Liv. Really.”

“You can hardly walk, Elliot…”

“I said I’m fine,” Elliot snapped. She stared at him in surprise, caught off-guard by his snarling response. A moment later, realisation dawned.

“You feel responsible that Bobby and Alex were taken, don’t you? Elliot, that’s ridiculous…”

He looked sharply at her.

“Is it? I was the one who insisted they go back to the motel. They both said they should have gone up the mountain with us last night, but I practically ordered them to go back to the motel. But if they’d been with us, Salinger would never have had the chance to grab them.”

Olivia sighed softly.

“You had no way of knowing what was going to happen, Elliot. None of us had any idea that Salinger had snapped… that he was here and waiting for a chance to grab them. Newsflash, partner. None of us are psychic.”

Elliot looked at her, tired and miserable.

“What does it matter, Liv? If we get there, and we’re too late… what does it matter?”

“We’ll get there in time,” Olivia murmured. “We have to.”

“Think positive, people,” Adkins said as he came up alongside of them. “We’ll get to them in time. Logan?”

“Yes, sir?” Logan called back as the group tramped along the path.

“How far to go?”

Logan jogged to catch up to the Commissioner.

“We’re about twenty minutes away. Tell me again why we couldn’t use a search and rescue chopper to get up here? It would’ve been a hell of a lot quicker.”

“I tried to get one,” Brenner said with a shrug. “But Search & Rescue are caught up with a major rescue operation on the other side of the Adirondacks. Something about a severe landslide. They said they’ll send a team in a chopper as soon as they can, but until then, we’re on our own.”

Adkins nodded, hoping he looked and sounded more positive than he felt. The truth was, he was sick to his stomach with fear for the two missing detectives, and he could only pray and hope that they arrived in time to save them.

The shrill sound of a phone ringing cut through the otherwise silent atmosphere, startling them all mildly. Frowning a little, Adkins pulled his cell phone from his pocket and checked it.

“It’s Jim,” he murmured, then answered the call. “Adkins here. Yes… Yes… I see. You’re positive…? Yes, we’re about twenty minutes away from the cabin. We’ll be there soon. …All right. Go ahead with that, Jim. Yes, we’ll see you then.”

He ended the call, and slipped the phone back into his pocket, his expression passive.

“What was that all about?” Bishop wondered.

“Deakins and Fin finished interviewing Page,” Adkins answered. “He closed up like a clam, wouldn’t tell them a thing.”

“Not surprising,” Brenner said with a derisive grunt. “So what are they going to do?”

“Only thing they can do,” Adkins answered. “They’ll stay in town and wait to hear from us. Hopefully, before too long we’ll have some good news to report back. Okay, everyone, let’s pick up the pace. We’re nearly there.”

There was not a word of protest as the group hurried along the path, coming ever closer to the cabin and, hopefully, the rescue of their colleagues.

Alex found herself nearly paralysed by the sight of the shotgun, its deadly barrels pointing downwards at the general vicinity of Bobby’s back. Taking into account the new injuries he’d suffered, and the shock of their situation, one blast from that weapon would kill him for sure.

She knew she had to do something, and do it fast. If Salinger had been telling the truth, it was entirely possible that their colleagues would arrive within the hour. Whether they would anticipate Salinger booby-trapping the place like this, she didn’t know. She had to assume they wouldn’t.

Alex returned her focus to the weapon, and her helpless partner. Though it was hard to judge from the angle she was lying at, she figured that if Bobby were to roll to his right, it would take him just out of the shotgun’s sights. At least, she hoped to god that it would. At the very least, it would move him out of direct aim of the weapon.

It would be agony for him, to land on that side and, consequently, on his damaged leg… damn Salinger, she thought bitterly… but it was the only way to get him out of the way of the deadly blast.

Her real dilemma lay in how to get him to move. She either had to shift her own position to try and physically push him over, or somehow get her gag off to tell him to do it himself. She doubted she had the time or the strength to achieve both. She didn’t know how she was going to achieve either.

Tears spilled down her cheeks as her mind worked furiously for a solution that would save both their lives. God knew she couldn’t just lie there and watch Bobby die, but what could she possibly do?

Inadvertently, her mind slipped back several months, before their trip to Denton. A Saturday afternoon spent at Bobby’s apartment… Many Saturday afternoons had been spent this way since their individual discharges from hospital after their original ordeal on the damned mountain.

It had been her idea, and they had talked about it off and on for a few weeks, neither terribly keen to actually go through with it. Then, one Saturday afternoon, she turned up at his door with a bag that was filled with various lengths of ropes.

She’d thought for a minute that he was going to panic outright. But no, he’d gotten a grip, and they had discussed the idea properly for the first time since Alex had first raised it.

“I guess it’s a good idea,” Bobby had conceded reluctantly. Alex had watched him with sympathy.

“I know how you feel, Bobby. It makes me sick to my stomach, too. But what if we ever find ourselves in a similar situation again? You know what will happen as well as I do. We’ll both freeze up, totally. Don’t you think it’s worth trying? We can overcome that fear, and give ourselves a bit of practical experience at the same time.”

In the end, he’d conceded, and they had spent that afternoon, and multiple others, tying each other up and learning to escape. Their practise had already come in useful in aiding them to escape From David Graham, Erik Mathers’ psychotic father…

Alex drew in a steadying breath. Could she get out of this? It was the one form of binding she hadn’t tried under Bobby’s supervision. It had been an unspoken agreement between them not to try it for fear of what sort of panicked response it might cause.

Tentatively, she wriggled her wrists. Not surprisingly, the ropes were tight enough to burn the skin of her wrists. She had no hope of freeing herself from those. What did feel a little bit loose, however, was the rope that joined her bound wrists to her bound ankles. If she could just get that rope undone, then she could at least wriggle across the floor, and push Bobby over.

Grunting and sweating with the effort, Alex twisted her hands around as much as she could, as much as the ropes allowed for, and picked awkwardly at the bindings. Sometimes, she thought ruefully as her fingernails finally managed to catch the knot, fingernails really did have a practical application. The next time Bobby gave her hell about her manicures, she was going to take great pleasure in reminding him of this.

Making a conscious effort to breathe evenly, Alex picked carefully at the knot, praying she was truly loosening it and not making it tighter. Her heart was in her throat, and a fear that she hadn’t experienced since their capture in Denton by David Graham knotted up her stomach.

She didn’t know how much time she had to do this. For all she knew, their colleagues were right outside the door right at that moment, getting ready to open it…

She thrust the thought from her mind. It would do neither her nor Bobby any good to get into a flurry of panic. If she was going to do this successfully, she needed to be calm. Well, as calm as was possible, given their situation.

Across the floor, she was acutely aware of the shuddering whimpers of pain from Bobby. He was trying to stay calm and quiet, but it was a strain that she suspected was quickly becoming too much for him. Not that she blamed him, not at all. The pain in his leg had to be horrendous.

Alex gasped through the gag as the short length of rope suddenly came loose, and her legs dropped to the floor with a painful thud. She took a precious moment to recover, and relish not having her legs forcibly suspended off the floor, before rolling herself over, until her body was pressed once more against Bobby.

He had gone quiet again, waiting to see what she was going to do. He was unable to contain a grunt of surprise as she suddenly pushed against him, as thought trying to push him across the floor.

Alex groaned as she tried, unsuccessfully, to push him over. He was a lot heavier than she’d anticipated, and he wasn’t moving an inch.

Damn it, she thought miserably, with fear ever increasing in her gut. If she could only get the gag off, she could tell him to roll over onto his side, but the gag was jammed too tightly into her mouth. She had no hope of forcing it out.

As for Bobby, she suspected he was simply too overcome with pain to be able to think clearly, and understand what she needed him to do.

Alex pulled back from him a little when a second effort failed to move him. She was just considering her options when she heard the distinct sound of the outer door of the cabin opening.

They arrived at the cabin, and took cover on the south side, near the porch and front door.

“We really need a thermal scan,” Adkins murmured as he peered at the building. “We need to know whether Salinger is in there, or if Bobby and Alex are alone in there.”

“Or if they’re in there at all,” Logan added grimly. “We’re flying blind here, sir.”

Adkins nodded.

“Maybe we are, Logan, but assumptions are all we have at the moment, and we might as well do the best we can with them.” He looked around at the team critically. “Can I assume that everyone here knows the lay-out of this place?”

Bishop nodded.

“Yes, sir. There are two rooms. The second is where he’ll have them, if they are here. It’s a small room built onto the back of the cabin. The only doorway into it is through the main room, and there’s a single window that’s been boarded up.”

Adkins nodded.

“Okay, people, here’s the issue. None of you are probably aware of this, but Salinger is no pencil-pushing politician.”

A grin tugged at the corners of Logan’s mouth, until Adkins flashed him a warning look.

“Save the cracks about alliteration until after this is over, Detective. Right now I need you all to pay attention. Like Detective Goren, Salinger did a stint in the armed forces before joining the NYPD. He was a Navy SEAL, and a damned good one. He knows all the tricks of the trade, including how to rig very effective booby traps.”

“That’s just great,” Olivia moaned. “A psycho with paramilitary training.”

“Precisely,” Adkins agreed, “which is why we need to be very careful in how we go about this. I don’t want us to be responsible for killing Goren and Eames because we just charged in there without a thought to their safety.”

“So how do we know he hasn’t rigged theplace to blow up as soon as we open the door?” Elliot wondered, a not-so-little part of him suddenly wishing that he was back in Wolf River with Deakins.

“He won’t have done that,” Adkins replied, sounding more confident than any of his colleagues felt he had a right to be. “I’m certain of that. If he hasn’t killed them yet… If he has set up some sort of trap, it’ll be rigged to the inner door. He’ll want us to see it happen… whatever he has planned.”

“Any chance he might have the window rigged, too?” Logan wondered. Adkins shook his head.

“I don’t know, and we don’t have the equipment to do a thorough check. We’re going to have to go this one on instinct. Brenner, I want you, Logan and Bishop and a couple of your men to go around the rear, and check out that window. See if you can’t get those boards off, and get a look inside that room. But for God’s sake, be careful.”

Once they’d gone, Adkins sent the rest of Brenner’s men to stand point, and watch for any sign of Salinger. Adkins then turned to look at Elliot and Olivia, and spoke quickly in a low voice.

“Deakins is on his way with Tutuola and Munch.”

“Deakins?” Elliot exclaimed. “Do you have any idea how long it’d take him to get here?”

“On foot?” Adkins asked. “Probably half a day. But they’re coming in a Search & Rescue chopper.”

“Search and Rescue?” Olivia echoed in disbelief. “But Brenner said the Search & Rescue choppers were in use…”

“He lied,” Adkins answered grimly. “Listen to me, both of you. Salinger had help. Brenner is in on it, and according to Deakins, if whatever Salinger has set up doesn’t kill Goren and Eames, then Brenner will.”

Pure fury flashed across Elliot’s face, and he withdrew his gun from its holster.

“Over my dead body.”

“Be careful what you wish for, Stabler,” Adkins warned him.

“Do you have a plan, Commissioner?” Olivia asked. Adkins nodded.

“I spoke to Logan after the call from Deakins. He knows the deal, and he has his instructions. The two of you are with me. We’re going in now.”

Panic hit Alex in the form of a mega-burst of adrenalin. She knew deep down in her gut that it was her fellow detectives who had just entered the cabin, which meant she had only minutes… or even less… to get Bobby out of the way of that shotgun.
“We can get those boards off easy enough,” Brenner said as they examined the boards nailed across the window. “Get a good look in there, and see what the situation is. Won’t take a moment.”

Brenner stepped up and was just reaching for the first of the boards when he froze, suddenly and acutely conscious of the gun pressing just behind his left ear.

“Just put your hands down by your sides, Lieutenant,” Logan said softly as he swiftly disarmed the other man.

“Detective Logan? What the hell…?”

“Just do what I tell you,” Logan ordered. “Slowly, Lieutenant.”

After a long moment, Brenner let his hands drop.

“Very good,” Logan murmured. He nodded to Bishop, who stepped in and pulled Brenner’s hands behind his back, slipping her handcuffs onto his wrists.

“What the hell is going on?” Brenner burst out. “Why are you handcuffing me? Don’t you want your friends back? If we don’t get a look in that room…”

“Let me guess,” Logan said coldly. “The window’s probably rigged to blow up, or something, as soon as we pull the boards off.”

“You’re crazy, Detective,” Brenner growled, starting to sound angry.

“And you’re under arrest, for aiding and abetting in the abduction and attempted murder of two police officers.”

“What?” Brenner burst out, only to grunt in pain as Logan tightened the cuffs even more.

“You heard me, Lieutenant. Now, I suggest you just stand here and keep your mouth shut. I’d hate to have to use my nice clean handkerchief as a gag because you weren’t smart enough to keep quiet. Am I making myself totally clear?”

Brenner looked back at Logan, hatred filling his eyes.

“I should have known when Adkins took that call from Deakins. I should have known Page couldn’t keep his filthy mouth shut…”

“Just make sure that you keep yours shut, Lieutenant. I’m not going to tell you again.”

Brenner scowled angrily, but said nothing. Logan nodded in satisfaction.


“What now?” Bishop asked softly. Logan didn’t take his eyes off Brenner.

“Now we wait.”

Alex heard muffled voices on the other side of the door, and outside the window, and gave an equally muffled cry that she knew could not possibly be heard by anyone else. Knowing that any further cries she made were pointless, she returned her attention to her partner. If she could just find a way to get through to him, to make him understand…

Her gaze went to his legs. She’d been loathed to resort to pushing against his legs, but the time for being considerate was past. All she could hope was that she didn’t cause damage any worse than that which had already been done.

“…okay. Open it very carefully…”

The voice came from immediately outside the door, and Alex quickly recognised it as belonging to Commissioner Adkins. Driven by panic and pure terror, she pushed herself up onto her knees, and all but threw herself against Bobby’s up-turned legs.

A muffled scream of pain tore from Bobby’s gagged mouth, but it finally did the trick. In an instinctive effort to lessen the impact to his legs, Bobby rolled to his right. Alex grunted as she lost what little sense of balance she still had and collapsed on top of him, drawing another cry of pain from him.

At the same moment, the door opened just a little, but that little bit was enough. The chain, carefully rigged by Salinger, had been almost completely taut to begin with, and as the door was pulled slowly open, it tightened just enough. The trigger on the shotgun squeezed closed, and the gun fired, the blast sounding like an explosion in the stillness of the cabin.

“Oh no…” Bishop whispered in horror at the sound of the shotgun going off. She looked at Logan, who returned her gaze with a fearful one of his own. Brenner was grinning.

“So much for that…”

His words were cut off very abruptly when Logan punched him hard in the face, sending him to the ground in a dazed heap.

“Next time,” Logan snarled, “keep your damned mouth shut.” He looked back to Bishop. “Go and see what’s happening. I’ll bring this piece of shit around in a minute.”

She paused, eyeing him sceptically before hurrying away and leaving Logan alone with Brenner.

The horrifying roar of the shotgun galvanised Adkins, Elliot and Olivia, and they wrenched the door open, expecting to see one, or both, of their colleagues dead.

“Oh, Jesus,” Elliot muttered as Adkins ran forward, and gently lifted Alex’s limp form from where she’d collapsed across Bobby. Blood trickled from her forehead, from an apparent gunshot wound.

“She’s been shot?” Olivia asked hoarsely. Adkins took a moment to examine the injury before shaking his head in relief and setting about untying her.

“No, it’s just a surface wound. I’d guess the shot ricocheted off the floor… It just grazed her. Elliot, check Goren.”

Elliot dropped to his knees beside his fellow detective, carefully untying first the gag and the blindfold, and then the rest of the bindings.

“Bobby? Can you hear me? C’mon, pal, snap out of it. We’re here. You’re safe.”

Bobby coughed painfully as the gag finally came out of his mouth.

“Someone… give me a… a gun…”

“What for, Detective?” Adkins asked as he took it upon himself to press his handkerchief to Alex’s head wound. Bobby shuddered as Elliot helped him to sit up a little, gently guiding the detective to lean back against him while Olivia took one of his wrists and gently began to rub it between her palms in an effort to restore the circulation.

“Because…” Bobby muttered, blinking against the sudden flood of light to his eyes. “I’m gonna… gonna kill… Salinger.”

Adkins smiled ruefully.

“I imagine that would seem a very attractive option right at the moment, but I promise you he is going to be brought to account for this.”

Bobby’s gaze fell on Alex, and fear lit up his eyes.


“She’s all right,” Adkins reassured him. “The buckshot from the shotgun just grazed her.”

The relief on Bobby’s face was palpable.

“What’s happening?” Bishop asked as she hurried into the room.

“It’s okay,” Olivia told her. “They’re okay.”

“Thank God,” Bishop murmured in relief. “When we heard the shotgun go off, we thought the worst.”

“Where’s Logan?” Adkins asked.

“He’s bringing Brenner around,” she answered. Bobby looked to Adkins, his confusion obvious through his pain.

“Brenner? What did he have to do with this?”

“He helped Salinger,” Elliot explained. “Son of a bitch was helping him all along. I should have known something wasn’t kosher. He was way too quick to agree to you two staying behind when the rest of us came up here looking for the little girl.”

Bobby sighed faintly.

“You couldn’t have known.”

“He’s right, Stabler,” Adkins agreed. “You couldn’t possibly have known.”

Bobby shifted his position a little, only to groan as pain flared through his right leg.

“Easy,” Olivia murmured, releasing Bobby’s wrist to take a closer look at his leg. “Jesus, Bobby, your leg…”

Bobby sucked in a long breath that ended in a pained cough.

“He broke it… again. Commissioner… He’s got to be close. He said… he’d be watching. That if we got out of this… that he had a contingency plan.”

“I’d say Brenner was the contingency plan,” Adkins muttered. They looked around as Logan came in, pushing Brenner ahead of him.

“I’ll have you up for brutality, you bastard,” Brenner was snarling at the tall detective.

“Tell someone who gives a fuck,” Logan shot back. Brenner looked over at Adkins, who made no effort to conceal a faint smirk.

“Like he said, Brenner, tell someone who gives a fuck. And that doesn’t include anyone in this room. Now, let’s assume that Salinger is still close. Brenner, are you going to help yourself out and tell us where the bastard is?”

Brenner looked away sulkily.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Why does that not surprise me?” Adkins retorted. He looked back at Bobby. “Goren, I need you to tell us everything you can, everything that you know.”

Bobby drew in a shuddering breath and tried to shift his position again, but Elliot held him firmly in place.

“Stay still, Bobby,” the SVU detective warned him. “We don’t need you going into shock.”

Bobby grimaced, but didn’t protest. He explained what he knew about Salinger’s movement in a soft, but steady voice.

“Salinger had that shotgun set up to kill just one of us. I… I guess it was aimed at me. Alex was trying to push me out of the way. That’s how she ended up on top of me. He told us that if we managed to escape that… and he wouldn’t be going far… then he’d kill both of us.”

“Well, we’ve already got this son of a bitch,” Logan said with a frown as he prodded at Brenner.

“Yes,” Adkins agreed, “but I wouldn’t put it past Salinger to be waiting out there somewhere with a sniper rifle. If that shotgun was meant to kill you, Goren, then he’ll be waiting to see whether you really are dead.”

A grim smile found its way onto Bobby’s face.

“So let’s not disappoint him.”

The Search & Rescue chopper landed nearly twenty minutes later, and Deakins, Fin and Munch arrived with a team of medics only to be confronted with a gut wrenching sight. Bishop was sitting on the rough wooden steps of the porch, sobbing into her hands while Olivia tried to comfort her. Deakins froze, staring at the two with an ashen face as his mind leapt rapidly to the logical conclusion.

“No… Please, don’t tell me…”

Olivia looked up at him, her own eyes red from crying.

“You’d best go in and see for yourself, sir.”

Feeling sick to his stomach with fear, Deakins made his way into the cabin.

“What the…?”

It was all he could manage as he came into the cabin to find both Bobby and Alex hurt, but very much alive. Both were awake, and being tended to as best as possible by Adkins, Elliot and Logan. Adkins looked around as Deakins came in, and offered him a reassuring smile.

“Relax, Jim. They’re both okay.”

Deakins walked over, looking from Bobby to Alex with a critical stare.

“Then what's that all about outside, with Benson and Bishop?”

Adkins smiled sheepishly, then.

“I asked them to employ their acting skills. Salinger had a shotgun rigged up to kill Goren. Thanks to Eames here, that failed, but we think Salinger is still out there close by, watching to see whether his plan worked.”

“And you have Bishop and Benson out there crying in each other’s arms to try and convince him that it did.”

“Exactly. We were just waiting for you people to arrive to be able to get Goren and Eames out of here safely. Salinger told them that if the shotgun didn’t work, then he’d kill the both of them. We’re all going to leave this cabin now, and Detective Goren is going to play dead for us.”

Deakins looked over at Bobby. The detective was ashen-faced, and clearly in a hell of a lot of pain.

“Bobby? Are you okay with that?”

“Okay with it?” Logan retorted. “It was his idea, Captain.”

“Okay,” Deakins murmured, frowning a little. “Fair enough… But if Salinger is still out there watching… even if he believes Bobby is dead… what’s to stop him from taking a shot at Alex?”

“He said that he wanted one of us to die,” Alex explained in a soft, shaky voice, “and one of us to live. More specifically, he wanted one of us to be left completely alone. He wanted to separate us in such a way that we couldn’t ever be together again. He’s turned his hatred of us into a pathological obsession.”

“And we thought Bobby was the shrink of your outfit,” Fin teased gently as he crouched down beside Bobby. Alex smiled weakly.

“You think I could go five years, and not have something rub off?”

“Even so…” Deakins argued, loathed to put either of them at risk. Adkins nodded, understanding his fears.

“It’s okay, Jim. I know what you’re thinking. She’ll have a vest on.”

“All right. Now tell me this. If this plan works, and Salinger believes Bobby is dead, what’s to stop him disappearing?”

“Well,” Bobby said tentatively, “we weren’t just planning on parading to the chopper. If we want to catch Salinger, we need to lure him out.”

Deakins had a horrible suspicion that he knew what was coming, and he didn’t like it one bit.

“Lure him out how?”

“Using bait,” Bobby explained. “Using… well… using me.”

“Excuse me?” Deakins growled.

“We’re relying on Salinger wanting more than just visual proof,” Adkins said. “What’s going to happen is this. Goren will be covered up as if he was dead, and he'll be carried to the chopper and left there while the medics come back here.”

“We hope that he’ll take the bait, and go to the chopper to see for himself to… to see my body,” Bobby finished off. Deakins shut his eyes for a long moment, feeling slightly light-headed.

“It’s a damned big risk to take.”

“For who?” Logan asked with a snort. “Salinger or Bobby? Because if it comes down to bets, I’m putting my money on Bobby.”

Deakins looked to Adkins, who nodded reassuringly.

“We’ll be watching carefully, Jim. The moment Salinger shows his face, he’ll be arrested. And just for a little bit of insurance, Goren will have a gun.”

The captain swung around to look at Alex, who gave a very slight shake of her head.

“Don’t look at me,” she mumbled. “I didn’t get a say. And no, I’m not happy about it, but he’s right. We need to offer up some sort of bait.”

“It’s the only way,” Bobby argued. “Like you said, Captain, we have to keep him from just disappearing.”

Deakins sighed and nodded.

“All right, I understand that, but there has to be a better way than to offer you up as the proverbial sacrificial lamb.”

“We’re open to suggestions, Jim,” Adkins told him quietly. “Do you have an idea?”

For nearly a minute, Deakins didn’t answer. Then, a slow smile spread over his face.

“As a matter of fact, I think I do.”

Back                         Home                              Law and Order: Criminal Intent Main Page                              Next

Your Name or Alias:      Your E-mail (optional):

Please type your review below. Only positive reviews and constructive criticism will be posted!