A/N: I know. I’m a bitch. But seriously, I thought the finale was in sight, and then my muse goes and pulls this shit. Oh well. Here we go…

When Bishop came stumbling out of the cabin in tears after only a few minutes, and Benson followed, looking equally distraught, Salinger was unable to contain the elated feeling inside him. He’d heard the shotgun go off, of course, and though he couldn’t envisage a way that Bobby Goren could have escaped his fate, he still hadn’t been a hundred percent certain. And when that piece of shit Logan came around with Brenner in handcuffs, Salinger knew that it would be exclusively up to him to finish the job if the shotgun hadn’t worked.

He watched as the two women sat together on the steps, one trying to comfort the other. Then Deakins arrived, and Salinger watched as Benson said something to him and pointed to the inside of the cabin. Deakins practically ran inside, and rather than get up and follow, Benson had gone back to comforting her colleague.

He continued to watch, even though all the signs seemed to indicate success. He wanted to see a body. Specifically, he wanted to see Goren’s lifeless body, so that he could be sure that his little booby trap had worked.

A smirk twisted his features. How he would have loved to have seen the look on all their faces at the moment when they opened the door, and the shotgun went off. It would have been absolutely priceless. More importantly, though, he was eager to see Eames, to see how she was reacting to the death of her precious partner.

His smirk widened. He’d told Deakins that he’d see them separated. It was Deakins’ own fault that it had needed to come to this. If he’d just conceded to splitting them up… like he damn well should have done to begin with… then none of this would have been necessary.

He decided he’d send a little note to Eames a bit further down the track, letting her know that her partner could still have been alive if Deakins had just acted a little more professionally.

The cabin door opened and the medics emerged, carrying a stretcher carefully between them. The body lying on that stretcher was covered completely, from head to toe, with a standard white sheet.

Salinger licked his lips, watching eagerly as Adkins emerged, guiding a stricken Alex Eames. She was damn near hysterical, Salinger thought in amusement.

Adkins guided Alex down the steps, and then bade her sit on the cool grass. She protested vehemently, trying to fight free to follow Deakins, and the medics who were carrying the stretcher bearing Goren’s body back to the waiting chopper. Adkins wouldn’t allow her to go, though, and finally she collapsed to the grass, crying helplessly. Elliot dropped to the ground beside her and gently drew her to him, hugging her as she cried.

Salinger laughed softly to himself and lowered the gun he’d been holding. He’d been ready to take out Eames, Goren… and anyone else he felt was necessary, but now… Now, it was far more satisfying watching them all wander around like lost sheep.

So far, Logan had not emerged from cabin, but then neither had Brenner, Munch or Tutuola. Salinger chuckled softly to himself. He had a pretty good idea of what was going on inside the cabin right then. Officially, the detectives would be examining the scene, and questioning Brenner. Unofficially, they were probably beating the crap out of the lieutenant.

Well, Salinger thought in amusement, better Brenner than himself.

He looked around in time to see the medics disappear through the trees with the stretcher, Jim Deakins trailing close behind. Sparing the group gathered outside the cabin a final, smug look before abandoning his position and slipping away through the trees.

“Got him,” Munch muttered to himself as he looked out the dirty window with a pair of high-powered binoculars. “Asshole is on the move… He’s heading for the chopper.”

A muffled cry of protest drew his attention, and Munch looked around at Brenner. The lieutenant sat on the only other chair in the cabin, his hands cuffed securely behind his back. The gag that had kept Bobby silent not long before was now shoved roughly into his mouth to keep him from doing anything to alert Salinger to their plan. Brenner gave a second muffled cry, shaking his head furiously. Munch favoured the man with one of his custom smirks.

“You know, we could always arrange for you have a little time alone with Logan when we get back to town.”

Brenner went white, and sank down in the chair. Munch smirked again, and then turned his attention back to the window. Picking up his radio, he spoke into it in a low voice. “He’s on the move. He’s heading for the chopper.”

Sitting back a little, Munch set the binoculars down to wait it out.

“Okay,” Adkins murmured after receiving word from Munch that he’d spotted Salinger moving in the direction of the chopper. “Show time, people.”

Alex looked up at Adkins, dropping the hysterical, grief-stricken partner act in an instant, and pulling away from Elliot.

“I’m coming with you.”

Adkins frowned.

“Alex, that is not a good idea. You need to stay here, out of harm’s way.”

“That son of a bitch tried to murder my partner,” Alex said heatedly as she got awkwardly to her feet. “Don’t tell me I can’t, because I have a right! You know I do!”

“You have every right to be a part of this arrest,” Adkins agreed. “But for your sake, and Goren’s, I can’t allow it. Damn it, Eames, you took buckshot to the head! If you aren’t concussed at the very least, I’ll be stunned. I cannot allow you to come with us. Please, don’t make me do something drastic. Forget what you have a right to, Detective. Think about your responsibilities. You have a responsibility to your partner to stay safe. How do you think he’ll cope, if you’re hurt… or killed, through putting yourself in danger unnecessarily?”

Alex’s shoulders slumped.

“I understand. But please, at least let me watch from a distance? I need to see Salinger go down… for both my sake and Bobby’s. I need to, sir.”

Adkins frowned, frustrated. They needed to get going, and he didn’t have time to stand there arguing the point with her.

“All right,” he conceded finally, hoping to God that he wasn’t making a very big mistake. “All right, Detective. But whatever happens, you stay clear of everything. Do you understand me? Do not place yourself in the line of fire, not for any reason.”

Alex nodded breathlessly.

“Yes sir, I understand.”

Adkins nodded grimly.

“Okay. Let’s do this.”

Deakins followed the medics bearing the stretcher, his gaze focused on the shape of the body beneath the white sheet. He was supposed to be acting grief-stricken, working under the assumption that Salinger was somewhere close by, watching their performance. It wasn’t hard to do. Staring at the body on the stretcher, it wasn’t at all hard to imagine that Bobby was, indeed, dead beneath that white covering. In fact, it was disturbingly easy.

Of course, they weren’t out of the woods yet… pardon the bad pun… and one mistake on their part could quite conceivably result in both Bobby and Alex paying the ultimate price. Because regardless of how many potential targets they were offering up right at that moment, there were only two that Salinger was interested in, and that was Bobby Goren and Alex Eames.

Deakins came to a halt and watched silently as the medics load the stretcher into the rescue chopper and secure it carefully. How, he wondered dimly, had it come to this? How had someone like Salinger – a man who was supposed to be a respected police officer – allowed himself to harbour such a deep-seated hatred for two detectives who had done nothing at all to deserve it? And how was it that Bobby and Alex could be so unfortunate to suffer similar assaults on their beings three times over?

Third time’s the charm, he thought insanely as the medics assisted him in climbing into the chopper. Perhaps when this was over, then recovery might be able to truly begin for them both. God, he hoped that would be the case.

He recalled with a gut-wrenching sensation the brief conversation he’d had with Bobby before they’d put their plan into action. Salinger had busted his leg again, and now Bobby was genuinely afraid that the damage would be permanent. As much as he wanted to offer reassurance, Deakins had a horrible feeling that the detective’s fears were justified this time. He’d been incredibly lucky in Denton, but the chances of a full recovery now were slim at best.

Deakins didn’t blame Bobby for his anxieties. They both knew only too well that if the damage to his leg became permanent and irreparable, it would effectively put an end to his career with the NYPD. And right then, that possibility had seemed closer than it ever had before.

He hadn’t had much of an opportunity to say anything much at all, though. Adkins had come over at that point and laid a hand gently on Bobby’s shoulder as the medics carefully secured a brace onto his busted leg, and quietly told him not to worry about the future, or his career, that everything was in hand. Neither he nor Bobby had had the chance to wonder what Adkins might mean by that. The Commissioner had given the go-ahead to move out, and the plan to lure out and trap Salinger had begun.

He sat down carefully in one of the seats that lined the wall of the chopper, his gaze fixed on the motionless body on the stretcher. Considering the circumstances, Deakins was quietly impressed with how still he was keeping. It couldn’t be easy at all to do.

“We’re going back for Detective Eames now,” one of the medics told him. “When we get back, we’ll head straight for New York City.”

Deakins nodded in wordless appreciation. He watched the medics exit the chopper and hurry across the grass, disappearing into the line of trees. Now, he thought grimly, all he could do was wait.

Salinger watched as the medics jogged back into the trees, most likely to go and get Detective Eames. It was all clear now. The only person in the chopper was Deakins, and one of the three medics, and Salinger didn’t regard either as being a threat. He knew, of course, that he should simply disappear, but a deeper part of him demanded proof that Goren was, indeed, dead. Seeing really was believing, Salinger mused grimly, and he needed to see the detective’s lifeless body on that stretcher.

Just two minutes was all he needed, only two.

Heart pounding in his chest, Salinger left the safety of the trees and darted across the grass to the waiting chopper.

Deakins sat back a little, his eyes sliding shut almost before he was aware of it. The biggest problem with his own injuries was the ease with which he became exhausted. It was no surprise to him that he was fighting to stay awake now. With considerable effort, Deakins forced his eyes open again. He had to stay alert, at least until Salinger was caught.

Deakins froze, snapped painfully back into awareness, as he pushed his tired eyes open to find himself almost nose to muzzle with a gun.

“Sleeping on the job,” Salinger said softly, his eyes dark with hatred. “That’s worth a black mark on your record, Captain.”

Deakins swallowed hard.

“You son of a bitch…”

It wasn’t hard to put real vehemence into his voice. Salinger laughed softly.

“Yes, I know. I am, aren’t I?”

“What the hell do you want?” Deakins growled. “Haven’t you done enough?”

“Strangely enough, I think I have. Don’t worry, Deakins. I said I’d let Eames live if the shotgun did its job. I just thought I’d like to see for myself.” He stepped back, inclined his head towards the body on the stretcher. “Pull back the sheet. I want to see his lifeless face.”

Deakins sat back slowly, his expression hard and angry.

“Pull it back yourself, asshole.”

Salinger stared at him for a long moment, a slight twitch in his cheek the only sign of how near he was to the edge. Then, finally, he smirked.

“Okay. Fine. I’ll do it myself. But first, take the clip out of your gun and toss it aside.”

Scowling, but knowing he had no choice, Deakins did as he was ordered, removing his gun from its clip on his belt and tossing it aside once he’d removed the ammunition clip. Salinger nodded.

“Now the other one.”

Deakins stared at him for a long moment before cursing silently and reaching around behind him for the second gun that he had tucked into a holster at his back. Salinger nodded again in satisfaction.

“Very good. Very cooperative. Now, are you sure you don’t want to pull back that sheet yourself?”

“I told you,” Deakins growled. “Do it yourself, you piece of shit.”

Salinger laughed softly, and turned away from Deakins, to the stretcher.

“How does it feel, Deakins? Knowing you’ll be going home to plan a funeral. Going to make it a big state affair? And what about his poor mother? How are you going to break the news to her? Oh, that’s right. She’s a mental case, isn’t she? She probably won’t even know her precious son is dead.”

Deakins sat rigidly in his seat, fighting to contain his rage at the callous comment. Salinger stood silently, staring down at the sheet-covered body with open eagerness. Finally, grinning with anticipation, Salinger grabbed the corner of the sheet and yanked it back.

“Hello, asshole,” Mike Logan said with a cold smile, barely suppressing his delight at the stunned expression on Salinger’s face. Logan sat up slowly, lifting his gun smoothly and pressing it firmly against Salinger’s forehead. “You’re under arrest for kidnap and the attempted murder of a police officer. Now drop the gun, you fucking bastard, or I swear to God I’ll put a bullet right between your pretty blue eyes.”

Salinger’s face went stormy with anger.

“He’s not dead.”

“Bingo, shithead,” Logan confirmed. “Drop the gun. Now.”

“She did it, didn’t she?” Salinger asked, his voice dropping to an angry hiss. “His bitch of a partner. Somehow, she saved him.”

“I said, drop the damn gun,” Logan repeated tonelessly.

Salinger let the gun drop. An instant later, the medic abandoned the shadows where he’d been waiting, and darted in, grabbing Salinger’s wrists and pulling them behind his back in preparation for handcuffing him.

“Thanks, Fin,” Logan said with a wry smile. “My legs were starting to cramp up.”

Fin smirked as he reached for the handcuffs that Deakins was holding out to him.

“No problem. Gary Salinger, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you don’t say may be held against if you later rely on it in court. You have the right to a defence attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. You…”

Fin never got anything more out. As he started to slip the cuffs onto Salinger’s wrists, the Chief of Detectives suddenly wrenched free from his grip. At the same time he swung a fist around and collided it with the side of Logan’s head, sending the detective crashing to the floor of the chopper, stunned beyond response.

Salinger turned on Fin, snarling with fury, and slammed his knee into the detective’s groin, effectively disabling him. Divesting Fin of his gun, Salinger swung the weapon around at the same moment that Deakins pulled out a third gun that he had tucked away in the inside pocket of his coat, and both men fired at the same instant.

Deakins felt the hot pressure of a bullet striking his right shoulder long before he felt any pain. Even as he staggered back, and collapsed back into the seat, he felt some small relief to see Salinger fall backwards, he himself struck by a bullet just below his sternum. His relief was short-lived, though, as Salinger pulled himself up and, with a last enraged glare at Deakins, dropped out of the chopper to the ground, and stumbled off towards the trees.

He tried to rouse himself to no avail, and could only watch helplessly as Logan and Fin tried to stir themselves to go after Salinger. They were still trying to get up when Adkins appeared at the open door of the chopper.

“What the hell went wrong?”

“Salinger got away,” Fin mumbled, his face grey from the below-the-belt blow.

“That’s damned obvious,” Adkins growled. “Jim? Is it bad?”

“I’ll be okay,” Deakins answered hoarsely. “Go after Salinger.”

“Fin?” Adkins asked, even as he began retreating from the chopper. “Can you manage?”

Fin grimaced as he hauled himself to his feet and collected one of Deakins’ discarded guns from the floor of the chopper.

“I’m with you, sir.”

“Logan…” Adkins said, then shook his head as the detective collapsed back onto the floor of the chopper, too dazed to move. “Stay here. Fin, let’s go.”

They were just moving away from the chopper when a scream split the air, just audible over the slow turn of the rotor blades.

“Was that…?” Fin started to ask. Adkins broke into a run towards the trees.

“C’mon, let’s move!”

Alex scowled as Adkins, Elliot and Olivia moved away, leaving her hidden in the relative safety of the trees. She’d dared not protest, though. It had been hard enough talking Adkins into letting her go this far. So she watched and waited, her heart in her throat as Salinger appeared, emerging from the trees and crossing the grass to the chopper.

Where, she wondered as Salinger climbed into the chopper, was Adkins? He, Olivia, Elliot and Bishop should have started moving in immediately, but they were nowhere in sight.

Less than a minute passed that felt much longer to Alex, when the sound of two gunshots split the otherwise silent air. A moment later, Salinger climbed… almost fell… out of the chopper and staggered away towards the trees. He’d just vanished from sight when Adkins suddenly emerged and ran towards the chopper.

Alex reached instinctively for her gun before she remembered she didn’t have it with her. She bit down on the inside of her cheek, frowning deeply. She didn’t dare risk trying to corner Salinger herself, not alone and most certainly not without a weapon, but she had to do something. Something had gone horribly wrong, that much was certain. And now the question was, where had Salinger disappeared to?

Her heart leapt into her throat as the logical answer came to mind. He was going back to kill Bobby…

She wheeled around to run back to the cabin, only to grunt in pain and shock as she slammed full force into Salinger.

“I warned you,” he whispered as his hands spun her around and he pinned her arms to her sides with brutal force. “You should have let him die, you stupid little bitch.”

Alex did the only thing she could in the seconds before Salinger clamped his hand over her mouth and dragged her away. She opened her mouth and lungs, and screamed.

Ensconced safety in the cabin, Bobby was almost falling asleep where he lay on the narrow bed, his leg braced by the medics before they commenced the ruse of carrying Logan out to the chopper. He was thrown very abruptly back into awareness by the echoes of a scream.

“What the hell…?” Munch growled, moving away from the window.

“What is it?” Bobby asked, trying to push himself up. Munch didn’t answer to start with, standing just inside the doorway and looking out, weapon drawn and ready to use. A moment later, his radio crackled to life.


“Fin?” Munch asked, answering the call quickly. “What the hell is going on?”

It’s Salinger. He shot Deakins, took down me and Logan, and he’s bolted.

“Who screamed?”

There was just a brief moment of silence before Fin answered.

It was Eames. Salinger has her. We need you out here, now. Elliot and the medics are on their way back to the cabin for Goren and Brenner. They’ll get them to the chopper. They should be there in a couple of minutes. Don’t wait for them. We don’t have the time.

Munch looked back at Bobby, making every effort not to cringe at the horrified look on the other detective’s face.

“He… He has Alex…? Salinger has Alex?”

“We’ll stop him, Goren,” Munch promised quietly. Then he was gone.

Bobby stared at the space where Munch had been standing only a moment before. He remained frozen for only a few seconds before pushing himself up and, with more than a little difficulty, got to his feet.

Brenner watched, wide-eyed, as Bobby limped across the floor, his expression set in stone as he fought with every ounce of strength he had to ignore the ferocious pain in his damaged leg. Bobby came to a halt in front of him and, without hesitation, yanked the gag out of Brenner’s mouth.

“Where’s he taking her?”

Brenner’s face contorted with anger.

“Go fuck yourself, asshole.”

A moment later, Brenner’s head rocked violently to the side as Bobby back-handed him hard across the face.

“You son of a bitch…” Brenner gasped, tasting blood in his mouth.

“Don’t make me hit you again,” Bobby said coldly. “If you do, I’ll have to hit you hard. Now, where is he taking her?”

“I don’t know,” Brenner growled. His cry of pain ripped through the air as Bobby punched him full in the face, breaking the lieutenant’s nose with a resounding crunch.

“Am I going to have to ask you again?” he asked in a dangerously soft voice. Brenner made a gagging sound, and a moment later spat out a bloodied tooth.

“You shit…”

Bobby drew back his fist to hit him a third time, and Brenner cringed away.

“No! Please…”

“Answer me!” Bobby exploded.

“The ravine!” Brenner choked out, his eyes squeezed shut as he anticipated another punch. The sound of floorboards creaking loudly reached his ears, and he opened his eyes slowly, looking around in dim amazement.

Bobby was gone.

Elliot climbed up the steps of the cabin, limping heavily and favouring his sore leg. He was quietly grateful that Adkins had ordered him to accompany the medics back to the cabin to get Bobby and Brenner. God knew he couldn’t go as fast as the others, and as much as he liked to think he could keep up, he knew the reality of his situation. And the reality was that he couldn’t keep up with them, and his colleagues couldn’t afford to be worried about him falling behind.

He swallowed back a groan as he entered the cabin. Munch was never going to let him live this one down and, more than likely, neither would Fin or Olivia.

He limped into the cabin, and froze just inside the doorway, his heart rate sky-rocketing. Brenner was right where he should be, still handcuffed to the chair, albeit no longer gagged, but Bobby… Elliot sucked in a long breath that did precious little to calm him. Bobby Goren was nowhere in sight.

For several seconds, Elliot didn’t move. He stood still and silent as his mind raced through possible scenarios. He didn’t think it was likely that Salinger had taken the big detective. There was no way he would have had enough time to come back for Bobby after grabbing Alex in the woods. But the man also had a broken leg, so it was almost inconceivable to think that he had gotten up and walked away on his own. So where the hell was he…?

Finally, Elliot shook himself back to reality and approached Brenner. He noted the man’s bruised and bloodied face with mild interest. He had no doubt who was responsible for this, and it seemed that the great Bobby Goren, amateur shrink extraordinaire, was not above slapping around a suspect after all; at least, not where the welfare of his partner was concerned.

“Where did he go?” Elliot asked quietly. Brenner glared at him, and spat out blood with his angry reply.

“Go to hell.”

Elliot leaned right in close, and spoke in barely more than a whisper.

“Are you going to make me hit you, too? Because if you are, I guarantee I’ll hit you a hell of a lot harder than Bobby Goren did.”

Brenner cringed, fear in his eyes. The truth was, Bobby’s second punch had felt like a sledgehammer on his face. He had no desire to find out if Elliot was exaggerating about his ability… and his willingness… to hit harder than the big detective.

“He… He wanted to know where Salinger was taking his partner.”

“And where was that?”

“The ravine,” Brenner moaned. “Salinger said if the shotgun didn’t work, he was going to grab Eames and take her to the ravine.”

Elliot sucked in his breath sharply as the puzzles pieces began to drop into place.

“He knew Goren would follow if he took Eames.”

“That’s right,” Brenner confirmed. “He’s going to kill them both.”

“The hell he is,” Elliot snarled as he switched on his radio. “Come in, Commissioner.”

What is it, Stabler?” Adkins’ voice came back, crackling over the radio speaker.

“Sir, Salinger’s heading for the ravine. Goren’s gone after him.”

He what?” Adkins exploded. “How in the name of God can he even walk?

“With respect, Commissioner,” Elliot answered grimly, “Salinger has Eames. Goren would have to be paralysed from the neck down to stop him from following them.”

You’re probably right about that,” Adkins conceded. “Damn it… Okay, get Brenner back to the chopper. Make sure those medics get back there, too. Deakins and Logan both need medical attention.

“Yes, sir. And you…?”

We’re going after Salinger.

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