Back to the old days at the 1-6
Olivia spent the next few days continuing to interview Sydney. She listened for the slightest detail, anything that would help her find Jonathan and Marshall. There were a few things that Sydney said that she thought may be a lead but it turned out to be nothing.
Sydney's dad was notified that she was found and he and his new wife were staying in New York waiting for her to be released from the hospital. Sydney thought that both of her parents were dead so receiving news that her dad was still alive and that Jonathan didn't kill him like he claimed pushed her morale forward in a positive way. She was starting to become less frightened and there were no more incidents of her panicking and having to be restrained. She looked like she was going to be released soon and based on the conversations that Olivia was having with her doctors and Mr. Greenwood. Olivia knew the second that Sydney was released he would take her back to New Jersey and their access to her would be limited at best. She couldn't say she blamed him. If it were her daughter she would do the same thing but she wasn't and this was a police investigation. She needed all the information she could get from the one survivor they had. Once Sydney was gone there would be no further chance to talk to her and get her statement.
To make matters worse the Chief of D's was all over her once again because of the press involved. Word got out that there was a baby at the scene and the interest in the case renewed. They followed false leads that came in through a tip line and canvassed the streets to no avail. Olivia was beginning to bang her head against the wall. She wanted this case over for personal and professional reasons but she couldn't bear to do anything that would stall or harm Sydney's recovery. She went to the hospital talk to her everyday for an hour or so either before work or on her way home.
On this particular day, Olivia decided to stop by in the morning on her way to the office. "How are you this morning?" she asked her trying to sound especially vibrant. Sometimes she felt Sydney fed off her energy so she always made it a point to sound as encouraging as possible when she first came in despite the negative turn their conversation may take later.
"I'm ok," Sydney answered with a small smile. "Doctors said I can probably go home in a couple of days."
Olivia was torn in her feelings about her release. She knew having her close to the hospital and police would keep her safe and give them easy access to her but seeing the joy on her face at the thought of leaving the hospital made her smile in return. "That's good to hear. I bet you can't wait to be back home."
"Yeah." She spoke in a little voice and bowed her head warily.
"What's wrong? You don't want to go home?" Olivia asked holding her hand that was now free of the thick cast.
"Of course I do," she agreed but her smile didn't reach her eyes. "It's just been a long time since I've been home. I just don't know how it's going to be. It will be weird seeing everyone again."
She understood that fear and she wished she could assure the little girl that people won't stare and treat her like a victim for a long time to come but she knew better. For the first time since she's been rescued Sydney looks like a different person, more confident and assured despite her occasional slips back into being nervous. She looks older than she is no doubt because of what she has endured and she's talking in more complete sentences instead of shorter answers.
"Do you remember your friend's names? I bet they are excited to see you again," Olivia prodded using her patented interview technique of having the victim think of something positive to talk about.
"I remember Ashley Moore. She was my best friend. We did gymnastics together," she said smiling despite herself.
"Wow a gymnast. I had no idea. I wanted to be a gymnast when I was a little girl too. What was your favorite event?"
"I loved them all," she said proudly and she's beaming. "But Ashley was the best. Scored a perfect ten once."
"I bet you can't wait to get back to gymnastics and see Ashley again," Olivia prompted.
Sydney nodded her head enthusiastically. "Yeah."
"So what about your other friends? I'm sure you hung out with more than just Ashley."
"There was Catherine, she was on the gymnastics team with me. I went to her house a lot. We would make up routines and stuff," she added rubbing her arm as if she was nervous.
"Sounds like quite the crew there," Olivia said.
"Yeah they called us the Fantastic Four."
They were interrupted by Olivia's phone ringing and she momentarily cursed herself for not remembering to put her phone on vibrate until she realized it was Lucy's ringtone.
"Excuse me," she said walking to her purse to retrieve the phone and Sydney paid close attention.
"Hey Lucy everything ok?"
"Yeah but I think you have Noah's ear drops in your purse and I need to give them to him soon," she explained.
The phone volume was loud enough that Sydney could hear the conversation.
"Damn," Olivia cursed putting her hand up to her forehead and sighing. "I forgot to take them out of my purse from when we ran errands yesterday. I'll bring them back to you before I go in the office. I'll be there in about thirty minutes."
She hung up the phone and her eyes locked with Sydney who was suddenly staring.
"You have a little boy?" she asked. Her voice was shaking and her demeanor was completely different than it was before Olivia answered the phone.
"Yes I do. He's almost two years old."
She maneuvered back over to the bed and sat down. She felt they were getting closer to talking about her deceased son and maybe there would be more information to go on.
"What's his name?" Sydney asked looking at the screensaver on her phone.
"His name is Noah."
"That's a nice name," she said rubbing the picture on the phone. Olivia watched her closely and as she was getting ready to ask a question, Sydney interrupted.
"My baby's name was Astor," she said sadly still staring at the picture.
She made sure to stay silent and allow her to talk at her pace. She was beginning to open up and Olivia didn't want any sudden move to deter that.
"I only had him for a few days before…" she stalled and began to get emotional. "What are you going to name your baby?"
The sudden change in topic threw Olivia for a loop.
"Umm I don't know yet. We haven't really talked about it much," she answered watching her closely. "How did you choose the name Astor?"
She was still being very gentle and cautious with her questions.
"My grandma always said you name babies after a positive time in your life or something you view as happy. My name is Sydney because my mom and dad met in Sydney, Australia when she was an exchange student. They both loved it there. Every time she talked about her time there she would just laugh and laugh," she explained and the same smile she had on her face when she talked about her friends returned. She missed her mother and she hated that such a cheerful memory would be soon marred by grief at having to constantly come to terms with the fact that her mother is dead.
"Sounds like she picked the perfect name for you," Olivia said tenderly.
"You should do that with your baby. Think about a time when you were really happy or something positive and name your baby after that."
She nodded in response and shifted before continuing her line of questioning.
"Is that how you came up with Astor's name?" she asked beginning to rub her hand again. "Because it was something positive? A happy time in your life?"
Sydney laid her head back on her pillow and looked up at the ceiling. She fidgeted with her arm for a moment and Olivia was certain she lost her.
"Yeah," she finally answered.
Her voice was so soft that she wasn't sure she heard her at first.
"I saw the name all the time when he took me out. I felt like one day I was going to get away or that someone would recognize me. It gave me hope."
They sat in silence for a few instants while Olivia's mind was going on overdrive at the revelation until the door opened and the nurse came in. "Good Morning Lieutenant, I trust that you are on your way out," she said curtly.
This nurse was not fond of the police and especially Olivia because she was there everyday. She felt that she was hindering Sydney's progress and always causing her to be upset.
"Yes I am. We were just saying our goodbyes," Olivia said passing her a stern look.
"Ill see you tomorrow," she said placing her hand on Sydney's who nodded back to her.
She was annoyed that the nurse cut her off just when she felt she was getting somewhere but the baby's name probably served as her biggest clue. On her way to the station she called Fin and updated him on the conversation. They were going to search all places with the name Astor in it for some type of clue. They were close to finding these guys, her instinct told her so.
The team minus Olivia spent the day searching the area and couldn't find much. Noah was a little fussy due to his earache so she decided to go home early and spend some time with him while Fin and the team continued to canvas. During the day she talked to Sydney's dad who provided her with some of her things from school including yearbooks and pictures. She wasn't sure that she would find anything but she always had a thought in the back of her mind that there was a reason that Sydney was left alive and the other girls weren't. She was also looking for any kind of connection between her and the other victims or the Harringtons. They tried that angle originally and came up empty but it deserved another look.
She relieved Lucy for the day and comforted Noah rocking him back and forth in the living room. Olivia's presence calmed him tremendously and he just seemed to enjoy being in his mother's arms. The feeling was mutual. After her conversation with Sydney, she desperately wanted to just hold him. She got him down after about an hour and went back to the couch to go over the things from Sydney's dad and check in with Fin.
"Any luck?" she asked him.
"Not yet Liv, we've checked all the places with Astor in it, we even went to Astor Place and searched the entire two block radius. We've searched places that even sound like Astor. Nothing yet," he said sounding frustrated. "Ill call you as soon as we have something. How's little man doing?"
"He's sleeping right now. I'm going to keep going through her personal belongings. Something has to be here."
"Yeah I want this guy. We're going to get him Liv. Don't worry," he said trying to assure her.
"Keep me posted," she said hanging up and answering her other line.
"Hey Liv it's Liz." She sounded more chipper than usual and Olivia's mood lifted marginally.
"Hey honey what's going on?"
"Does something have to be going on for me to call my favorite stepmom?" she asked sarcastically.
"Ok ok I'm busted. Geez I've got to work on being more subtle," she said to herself while Olivia chuckled. "Ok here's the deal. You haven't said much about it so I thought I would help you out with it since we are getting closer to your due date."
"I'm not due for another three months or so and said much about what?"
"Your baby shower. Most people have them a month or so before the baby is born," she explained eagerly.
"Oh honey, I don't know about that," she said rubbing her neck and trying to get comfortable.
"Liv you have to have a baby shower. It's tradition. Plus this is the only baby you will have, you have to experience this," she insisted. "But then again this is you and Dad. It may not be the last baby you have," she added with that typical Stabler sarcasm.
"Liz trust me. This will be the last baby that I have and…ok you win. I'll have a baby shower," she said giving in. She didn't have the fight in her to take on her stepdaughter and she was pretty sure she would lose anyway.
"Ok perfect," she said and Olivia heard her clap her hands together in the background. "I know you are busy so Casey and I will start planning."
"Yeah I talked to her before I called you."
"Of course you did."
Her head popped up at hearing Elliot walk in the door.
"Oh honey your dad just walked in," she said pointing to the phone and mouthing to Elliot that it was Liz.
"Tell him I said hello. I'm headed in to meet some friends at the library and Ill call him later. Love you both. Bye," she said in a breeze and hung up. Olivia smiled at the phone as she set it back down on the table.
"What is she up to now?" he asked smirking at her.
"I had a feeling that was coming. Good luck," he said. He took off his jacket and walked over to the couch to sit next to her.
He looked tired after spending the day with Dickie and a contractor. They had decided on a house, the first one that Elliot saw and liked. She went to see it and ended up falling in love with it too. He spent the last few days seeing how much all of the renovations they wanted would cost before they put in an offer.
"Hey. Is Noah sleeping?" he asked.
"Yeah he just went down. He's feeling much better," she said leaning into him and giving him a kiss.
He took off his shoes and got more comfortable while inspecting all the papers and everything surrounding her on the coffee table. "How's the case?"
"I think we may have a break. I talked to Sydney today and she opened up about the baby's name which I'm pretty sure is a tie to where they were keeping her," she talked frantically shifting through the papers on the table. "I also have all this stuff here from her room, old school stuff that I'm going to go through."
He thought long and hard about his next move. He was going to go with his usual asking her if she's eaten and offering for her to lie down but he figured it wouldn't go over well. She left work early to be with Noah so that was a good sign that she wasn't completely consumed with the case so he decided to throw her a gesture of good faith.
"Do you want me to help you?" he asked beginning to pick up some of the papers on the coffee table.
"Really?" she asked surprised.
"Of course. You know you and I used to be quite the crime solving team back in the day," he teased.
"You act like it was so long ago El. It's only been a few years."
She was beginning to relax. She sat back on the couch and rubbed along the small of his back. He was leaned over going through everything she had.
"So this is them hunh?" he asked holding up the old mugshots of Jonathan and Marshall.
"Yep that's them."
He looked at the pictures closely and shook his head. They looked like any father son he would see on the street. Nothing out of the ordinary or thought provoking. That's what always scared him the most when he worked Special Victims. It was the first time he really came to terms with the fact that monsters could be just about anyone.
"And these are her personal pictures and her yearbook," he said going through one by one. "What are we looking for?"
"That's the thing, I don't quite know."
He lifted his lip slightly smiling. This brought him back to the old days at the 1-6 when they were just two younger detectives, headstrong, eager and solving high profile cases with little to nothing to go on but that's what made them great. Benson and Stabler, the best team at SVU that got away with more than most because of their impressive 90% closure rate.
"Never stopped us before," he smirked and she returned the smile. "Let's get to it."
They were going through everything and talking through Sydney's statement for half an hour when one of the pictures caught his attention.
"Hey is this her? It's a picture of her in a leotard. Looks like it's at a Gymnastics recital," he said.
"Yeah that's her. Those other girls must be her friends she told me about," Olivia said leaning over him to get a better look at the photo. "Yes that's them. Ashley Moore, Catherine Dearing and..Maya Hutchinson."
Olivia's mind was wandering and he was struggling to keep up.
"Liv what is it?"
"Sydney didn't mention Maya. I wonder why," she said beginning to go through the yearbook again. "Here they are again. The fantastic four," she says whimsically thinking back to their conversation. "She told me that. She told me they called them the fantastic four and I didn't put it together at the time that she only mentioned the three of them."
"Maya is the answer. She left her out for a reason," Elliot concluded.
Olivia hurried to grab her phone and called Fin while Elliot continued to look through the pictures to see if he could find something else.
"Fin. I think I have something. Maya Hutchinson one of Sydney's friends. I need you to see if you can find out the name of her parents and look for a connection with Jonathan or Marshall," she said
"Liv look, here," he said walking over to her showing her a picture in the pile. "I think I already found their connection. It's a picture of a birthday party. Check out who is in the background trying to stay away from the camera." He held up the photo so she could see. It was Jonathan Harrington with his arm around a woman in the background.
"What the hell?" she said in shock. He had a different hair color and was wearing glasses but it was definitely him.
"You've got to get to Sydney and have her tell you who that woman is," he said.
"I don't need to," she said definitively. "Look at her eyes, the hair color, the smile. Maya looks almost exactly like her. Jonathan Harrington knows Maya's mother."
She was holding the phone temporarily in shock and not hearing Fin shouting in the background.
"Liv you there?"
"Oh yeah Fin I'm here. Maya Hutchinson's mother. She's the connection. See if you can pull Maya's birth certificate, get her name and find out what you can about her. In the meantime I'll call Barba and have him get with the ADA in Jersey to get a search warrant," she said pacing.
"I'm on it."
She hung up and got ready to dial the phone again before hanging up quickly. The sudden stop in movement got Elliot's attention.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"I need a favor."
"What's that?" he asked with an eyebrow arched. He wasn't sure if he was ready to hear it.
"Work this with me," she said hopeful. "I mean your team. I know Dodds and he's going to want the Feds brought in on this. I'm actually shocked it hasn't happened already," she expressed.
"Maybe he has more faith in you than you thought."
"Yeah but this time he would actually be right. This crosses state lines and now that we know that Maya's mom may be involved this could be something much bigger than we ever imagined."
She went back to the couch and put her hands in his lap while he contemplated what she was saying.
"If I have to deal with the Feds on this I'd prefer it to be one I trust…. like my husband," she said her voice low and putting her head on his shoulder.
He thought for another moment and smiled at her. "If I didn't know better Lieutenant I would think you are trying to bribe me," he said giving her a quick peck on the lips.
"Is it working?"
"You don't have to bribe me. I would like nothing better than to work with you again. Let me call my case agent and also see if I can round up the guys. I think some of them may be on assignment but I know that Eric is free."
He started to dial his phone to put in some calls and she did the same. She called to update Chief Dodds on the new developments and told him that she had looped the Feds in. He seemed genuinely shocked that she took the initiative to call him and bring in the Feds in on her own but was thankful to have something to take back to his superiors.
Elliot returned from the back and updated her on his call.
"Ok we are good to go. I talked to my case agent and they had already gotten wind that they were probably going to be brought in. He's sending a team of twenty agents to start with including Eric to come down and work with us on this. If you need more just say the word," he said putting down his phone. She started to put her jacket back on and grab her purse.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"I need to get back to the hospital and talk to Sydney about Maya's mom. I think she would've talked to me more had that damn nurse not interrupted us. We've got to move on this quick while we've got the momentum, you know how that goes."
She gave him a quick kiss on the lips and was ready to head out before she stopped again.
"Come with me," she said simply.
"We are officially working this together. Come with me. I'll get Lucy and Dickie to come back and watch Noah. He's going to be sleeping for awhile," she said again.
"Ok you go ahead to the hospital, talk to Sydney and I'll meet you at the precinct."
"Sounds good." She grabbed the pictures they identified and some of the paperwork and stuffed them in her bag. "And El?"
"Thank you. I'm glad we are working together again."