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Unbeta-ed mistakes mine.
Disclaimers: I am only playing with the people from Oz and SVU. They do not belong to me and I am making no money from this.
Copyright: Edgar C. Gambodge, Elizabeth Lightbody, Chris's professor and Mrs. Keller are mine.
Theme: B/K. What happened after what really happened at the end of Season Six. This overlaps with my previous story, "Settling the Bill.
Warning: In my Oz-verse, many of the events from the last two episodes of Season Six are fictitious.
Coming in from the Cold 14/17
Part 14: Time runs out
Cragen arrived at Chris's apartment just after nine. He explained he'd given the matter priority and had called in Munch, Fin and Olivia as the principles. They arrived a few minutes later. Elliot suspected Cragen had arrived first to pave the way after the fiasco with Beecher's son's stuff. He filled him in on Gambodge's theory about Junior taking Beecher and sending the e-mail.
"Beecher was most likely abducted from the apartment," Elliot said, explaining about the CCTV maintenance that afternoon.
And Chris? He'd gotten the e-mail just after three. It was over six hours later. It was clear from the way everyone was treating this that they all assumed the worst. Elliot knew better than to hold out much hope of finding either of them alive. Kidnappings seldom ended well. He did what he'd learned to do early working sex crimes: He consciously turned off his emotions. He needed to focus.
"Have you notified Beecher's family?" asked Cragen quietly.
Elliot shook his head. Cragen nodded to Olivia.
"No," said Elliot. "His mother called me. She should hear it from me."
Munch, who had been busy on his cell phone, disconnected and came over to them.
"I've finally found someone who could tell me what was going on at Rikers this morning. It was definitely an inside job. Junior's on the lam with two aspiring prison guards whose previous employment didn't feature in their resumes."
Elliot and Cragen looked at him.
"They worked for Big Daddy," Munch explained.
It was Fin who clarified.
"Big Daddy's a Russian mob boss who made his dough running drugs. Knew him from Narcotics. More like I knew of him. No one knew who he was. No one could finger him. We used to say he was like God."
"Only known by his effects," Munch added. "So they called him Big Daddy."
"He ran the drug trade in Manhattan, but folks said he owned entire cartels in Columbia. Junior's called Junior because..."
"He's Big Daddy's side-kick - his next in command," guessed Olivia.
"That too," said Munch. "Actually he's Big Daddy's only son."
"Big Daddy must be thrilled with his boy in jail awaiting trial for a string of serial killings," Olivia said.
"There's a rumor that Big Daddy died last year of natural causes. Only my sources are saying it wasn't natural. No one knows for sure. All we know is that there's been some sort of upheaval. A power struggle," Fin continued.
"That's because my sources tell me there's a third force," said Munch.
"John, not now," Cragen cautioned him. "Where does this power struggle leave Junior, Fin?"
"Blowing in the wind."
"So he's down and desperate. He can't go back to his syndicate. He's not going to use Beecher as a hostage, but as bait to lure Keller to him and exact his revenge."
"He probably already has Mr. Keller," said Mr. Gambodge from the armchair where he sat poking at a ridiculously tiny palm top with the back of a gold pen.
"Are we sure that Keller would have gone to him?"
"He has Mr. Beecher. Mr. Keller will never leave him to be tortured and killed."
"He'd do anything to avoid it," said Olivia as Elliot came up to them. "Stubborn, unreasonable, obsessive, takes the law into his own hands..."
"You know that about Chris already?" A small smile nagged at the corner of Elliot's mouth.
Olivia looked at him for a moment.
"I know that about you," she told him. "I figured it applied to your brother too."
Mr. Gambodge put down his palm top and looked at Captain Cragen.
"Junior must be stopped. He will kill him. He'll kill them both in the most sadistic manner possible. Of that you can be sure."
As time ticked by, Elliot pushed down his growing dread. Speaking to Mrs. Beecher hadn't helped. She kept sobbing, "I knew it! I knew it!" He didn't like being reminded of her bad feeling. Six hours sounded too much like six hours too late. The trail was cold before they'd even begun. There were no messages on Chris's land line. The number recognition only brought up Beecher's cell and a pizza delivery service for the last few days. Chris had taken his phone with him.
"CSU will be here soon," Cragen told Elliot, while the others watched the video clip of Beecher. "We'll send Keller's computer down to the crime lab and try to trace that e-mail somehow, get his cell phone records. Get the full pedigree on those side-kicks who busted Junior out."
"How long's that going to take?" demanded Elliot. "We don't have time. Call the FBI. Call Huang. Call in a favor. Ask for one..."
"There's no time for that either, Detective Stabler," said Gambodge. "I have taken the liberty of calling for assistance. And I must request that you delay the arrival of your Crime Scene Unit, Captain Cragen."
A discreet "ping" intercepted Elliot's outburst. Mr. Gambodge drew a tiny cell phone out of a waistcoat pocket and raised a silencing forefinger.
"Yes, show them up," he said, rising to his feet. "Captain, please stall your team."
"Not until you tell me precisely who this `assistance' is," said Cragen.
"If you wish to find either Mr. Keller or Mr. Beecher alive, you will do as I say."
"Do it," said Elliot to Cragen.
The buzzer rang. Three men stood in the doorway. The two in the front were youngish, tallish and semi-shaven. They wore open-neck shirts with flashy gold chains and expensive suits. They looked like bad news. The one in the rear was short, old and tired, in a crumpled pale-blue suit, with a bad hair-cut and an apologetic smile as he shuffled in after the young bloods. They looked at Gambodge. Gambodge looked at them.
"And now?" asked Cragen.
"We wait," said Gambodge.
"How long?" Elliot asked.
"Not long," said Gambodge.
The three men arranged themselves around Chris's living room, unspeaking and, save for the older fellow, unsmiling. Gambodge did not introduce them.
"This is bullshit." Elliot started to pace. "We're no closer to finding Chris than we were half an hour ago. We need to do something and fast. I'm not losing him again."
"Patience, Detective," said Mr. Gambodge as he seated himself.
"I was about to say something about the mysterious third force," said Munch, "before being reminded of the pressing nature of our task. Since we have time to kill, I may as well continue. Big Daddy's coalition was known as the Trinity. He ran it with his son and his brother. Big Daddy, Junior and the Spook. We know even less about the Spook than we do about his other relatives. All we know is that some people considered him the brains of the operation. Others suspect that fraternal love did not run as deep as it should. My guess is that these fine, upstanding gentlemen work for the Spook."
The fine, upstanding gentlemen stared at Munch expressionlessly. It was impossible to tell if they understood what he'd said or not. It was Gambodge who spoke.
"That sounds positively blasphemous, Detective Munch."
After ten minutes the doorbell buzzed again. No warning from the lobby this time, but Gambodge and the silent three didn't look surprised.
"If I might trouble you and your detectives to wait in the next room, Captain, we need to speak to this gentleman alone." Mr. Gambodge stood up and made his stately way to answer the door.
"I'm not going anywhere," said Elliot.
Mr. Gambodge looked at him thoughtfully for a moment.
"You can stay."
"Elliot, you don't know what we're getting into here," Olivia blurted out.
"That's exactly why there should be a couple of us in here," Munch said. "I speak some Russian, remember."
"Then you should be with us next door," Fin pointed out. "So we can know what's going down."
"If you're afraid that we'll recognize your source and finger him for something, that's not our priority right now," Cragen told Gambodge.
One of the silent young men's mouth twitched in a smirk.
"Actually, Captain, I'm more concerned that our source will finger you. He can be...vindictive. I cannot leave him waiting on the mat. It's impolite."
Gambodge crossed over to the door.
"What about his recognizing Elliot?" Olivia asked.
"Detective Stabler can pass as his brother."
Keller would clearly be recognized by who ever they were going to meet. Elliot considered that. Had Chris worked for the Russian mob?
As Cragen and the others split up and went into two of the bedrooms, one of which was full of gym equipment, the buzzer went again, impatiently this time. Elliot noticed that the older guy had ambled into Chris's kitchen and was helping himself to something liquid from the fridge.
"Make yourself at home," Elliot called after him, feeling irritated on Chris's behalf. The old guy didn't even give a sign that he had heard him, let alone understood him.
Gambodge opened the door to another open-necked, somewhat-disreputable-seeming man, this one possibly in his mid-forties. He was smallish and wiry and reminded Elliot irresistibly of the French guy from the Gauloises adverts long ago, when he still had time to go to movies. He smelt expensive, his clothing looked expensive and he wore a watch that looked as if it was made of steel and zircons, but Elliot knew instinctively that it was white gold and diamonds. The man looked Gambodge up and down with a bright and birdlike eye, looked into the room and saw the two young Russians and then gave a scornful laugh and a greeting that was clearly meant to be sarcastic. The two seated men just stared at him, without moving. Elliot was getting used to that.
"Please come in," said Mr. Gambodge.
The man sauntered in, hands in his pockets, then caught sight of Elliot behind Gambodge and froze momentarily. He recognized him, but was shocked to see him there. Who was this asshole and what did he know? Elliot decided to do it the Russian way and give him the stone eye. The little shit held his gaze as he flopped into a chair. Gambodge closed the door.
"I believe," said Mr. Gambodge, "that you have some information about a certain matter."
The little guy looked at him and chuckled. Said something in what was presumably Russian. Elliot looked to the silent men, but they remained silent.
"I pray that you will co-operate. This is most serious," Gambodge pressed.
Elliot didn't understand what Chuckles said next, but he got the general idea. It sounded as if it meant, "Fuck you". He wondered if Gambodge spoke Russian, but the lawyer showed no sign of offence.
A clink of ice in a glass and a shuffling step heralded the return of the old guy. Elliot took him for some type of informant at first, but now guessed he must be the translator. He was clenching his jaw so hard by this point, trying to stop himself from shouting at them all to get a move on, that he felt as if he was going to dislocate something. The old man ambled into the center of the room and stood directly in front of the newcomer.
"Hello, Andrei," said the old man.
The color drained from Chuckles's face. He started to scramble to his feet, but the two other Russians were at his chair in seconds, holding him down. In the background, Elliot was vaguely aware of Gambodge on his cell phone saying, "Lock the elevator to the penthouse, please."
"There are people here who don't speak Russian, so we speak English," the old man continued in a pleasant voice. He took a sip of his drink. "Tell me, Andrei, how are you?"
"I am glad to hear it. And how is business these days? Also good?"
"I want something from you, Andrei. A small favor."
The old man waited, swirling his drink, until Andrei stammered, "Anything...anything you want..."
"Tell us where Tobias Beecher is."
"I don't know..."
The old man shook his head.
"Come, Andrei. I like you. You've helped me a great deal. That's why I give you a second chance."
A slight tremor began in Andrei's face. The young heavies remained at either shoulder, like statues carved from ice.
"Wait," said Elliot, who had been fiddling with Beecher's cell phone.
He found the picture of Chris and Beecher that he had taken.
"This is Tobias Beecher. Tell me what you know."
The old man turned to look at him. His eyes were the palest silver, as warm as snow under a winter moon. He turned back to Andrei.
"You know who that is, don't you?" he said.
"And you didn't expect to see him here tonight, did you?"
Andrei cringed in his seat. He had sunk down so far that he seemed to be trying to wriggle out of his jacket.
"Life is full of surprises," said the old man philosophically. "I forgot to ask after your wife and family. Pretty Irina - and your daughter, Katya. How old is she now, two? Her birthday was on Saturday, not so?"
A faint beep from Andrei's breast pocket announced an in-coming phone message.
"It's for you," the old man said.
The heavies released Andrei enough to allow him to get his phone. But he didn't budge.
"I only helped them get Beecher and take him to the warehouse! You've got to believe me!"
The phone beeped again.
"You should really take that, Andrei. It might be your wife."
"No...please, no..." he quavered. "What do you want? I'll give you anything you want..."
Despite not knowing Beecher's exact present location, Andrei turned out to be surprisingly informative about events running up to Keller's disappearance. It seemed he had arranged for the "CCTV repairmen" and his connections had helped them gain access to the building. His men had waited for Beecher at the apartment and overpowered him there. It seemed they had been monitoring his calls. They had driven him in their van to a warehouse near the docks where they had handed him over to a man who worked for Junior. He was apparently alive and unharmed then, although unconscious.
As he listened to Andrei spill his guts, Elliot started to pace. He couldn't risk Chris's life by blowing his cover, but he felt he was risking Chris's life by doing nothing.
"At which point was Mr. Keller supposed to join the party?" asked Gambodge.
"We called him at ten past three. My men reported that he left the building at three fifteen. They followed him the warehouse."
Andrei stared at Elliot.
"Why are you still here?"
"We ask the questions," the old man told him.
Elliot stopped pacing and walked over to Andrei. The watchers in the bedrooms saw something subtle change in his posture as he stared down at Andrei. Then he bent down, hands on his knees, to look him in the eye.
"I'm still here," he said, "because you got my brother."
"He's blowing his cover!" hissed Olivia to Cragen. "He mustn't tell him he isn't ..."
"Wait," said Cragen.
Elliot smiled a flash of white teeth. A smile that didn't reach to his eyes.
"I got a twin brother. Looks just like me. Uses my apartment sometimes since his wife kicked him to the curb. Thought he was helping by going in my place. Guy thinks he's some kind of hero. That's right, you dumb fuck. That ain't me there in that warehouse. And when Junior finds out, he's going to be pretty pissed off. Oh yeah, and my brother's a detective with the NYPD. Ain't hardly any unsolved police murders in New York. Happy now?"
Andrei looked away from his unblinking gaze. Elliot straightened up. Looked down on him.
"Way I see it, Andrei, there's only one way out of this: you take us to them. Help us take Junior out. That's the only way you survive this. Otherwise Junior will be after you, they'll be after you (he jabbed his thumb at the old man and his companions), the NYPD'll be after you and I'll be after you. And you don't want me to come after you."
The old man barked out an order in Russian to his heavies.
"What did he just say?" whispered Fin to Munch.
"They're taking him to the car," said Munch craning his neck for a better look.
They dragged Andrei to his feet and bundled him towards the door.
"C'mon, Elliot," muttered Cragen. "We need an address!"
"He could be leading us into an ambush," said Elliot to the old man. "He should give us the address and we can send someone ahead to check it out."
Cragen relaxed slightly. Andrei rattled off the name and address of a warehouse at the edge of the docks.
"Take him to the garage," said the old man. "We follow soon."
Gambodge phoned and asked that the penthouse elevator be unlocked. In less than a minute, Andrei was pushed into the elevator and the doors slid closed behind him. Cragen and the others emerged from the bedrooms. Cragen was on his radio, calling for officers to proceed directly to the warehouse.
"I got us Kevlar vests in the trunk of my car," said Fin.
"You brought us all Kevlar vests?" inquired Olivia.
"I was a boy scout," he said. "I'm always prepared."
"We give them ten, then we proceed with caution," said Cragen. "Try to get Andrei's plates. Maybe we can get them from the CCTV footage of the garage if we don't get to the garage on time. Elliot... where's Elliot?"
Elliot was gone. The elevator doors slid shut again. The old man was gone too.
"Wonderful," said Cragen.
Mr. Gambodge pressed the button.
"Never mind, Captain Cragen," he murmured. "It will return here soon."
As they emerged into the parking garage, Cragen saw Andrei and one of the heavies get into a gleaming black sports car with red upholstery. It was so flat it looked like an oil slick. Elliot and the other two Russians got into a tan sedan. Something rang a bell in the back of Cragen's mind. It was something Keller's mother had said. The house had been watched by someone in a tan sedan. Again. She'd said they were being watched again. By this Spook (if that's who he was)? Why?
Cragen turned to Gambodge.
"You better not be playing us," he said.
"I can assure you, Captain, that this is not a set up, however, I cannot accompany you any further. I had best leave matters in your hands from here."
The tan sedan pulled off after the sports car and Cragen and the others emerged from shadows.
"Will Andrei's wife and daughter be alright?" asked Cragen.
"Maybe," said Gambodge.
Cragen thought about this.
"I don't know why you were worried about Andrei fingering us," he said. "It would have made more sense to keep us away from your other friend and his merry men."
"My other friend doesn't have a record. Or a sense of humor. I try not to keep things from him," replied Gambodge. "It was better that he knew you were here. You'll never be able to pin anything on him. God speed, Captain. I sincerely hope you're on time."
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