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Dr. Melinda Warner walked into the Manhattan Special Victims Unit with a feeling of unease. She had just been pulled off the autopsy of a reporter found strangled in her car, in an under car parking garage.
She had been pulled off of it and was told that Captain Don Cragen wanted to see her. Melinda smiled a hello at Elliot Stabler, who was on the phone. He nodded back. Melinda approached Captain Cragen’s office door and gave three quick knocks. When she heard him say ‘come in’, Melinda stepped inside and closed the door behind her.
Detective Olivia Benson was also in the room. Melinda was surprised by her friend’s presence but certainly not alarmed. She looked from Olivia to Cragen.
“Captain Cragen...what is this all about?” Melinda asked. Don Cragen motioned for her to sit down and she did. Don gave Olivia a look, then spoke.
“It’s about that reporter that was killed last night.” he said. Melinda nodded.
“Yes, in the underground garage. I was just going to open her up when I was told to come here. Actually I was pulled off of the case. Why?” Melinda asked, a bit perplexed. But as she stared into the Don and Olivia’s faces, she knew she was about to hear something unpleasant.
“We thought it would be a conflict of interest.” Cragen finally said. Olivia folded her arms and looked down. Melinda stood back up.
“Do you want to tell me what’s going on here?”
“Melinda,” Olivia began, “you know A.D.A. Ron Carver, don’t you?”
Melinda shrugged slightly.
“Just to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to. Why?”
Cragen took over.
“That reporter’s name was Lanelle Ferguson. She worked for the New York Times. Let’s just say that we believe she was getting ready to write an unflattering story about A.D.A Carver.”
Melinda now folded her arms.
“What kind of story?”
“One that said that Carver’s real name was Eric Carver and not Ron.”
Melinda shook her head slightly.
“Ron Carver changed his first name and that’s a story?”
“Ron Carver had a twin brother that was a gang member named Eric Carver. This Lanelle Ferguson was getting ready to allege that Eric Carver, when he was 22 years old, tried to get out of this gang. The gang members chose to assassinate him. They did, supposedly. But there is now reason to believe that it was Ron Carver that was actually killed and that Eric assumed his brother’s identity, took his place in law school and...”
“Wait a minute!” Melinda cried out, holding up a hand. “That theory is...quite fantastic. This dead reporter knows this how?”
“We’re looking into it,” Olivia said, “but so far Stabler has found out that Lanelle Ferguson was a girl gang member gone good.”
“So she knew because she actually knew Ron and Eric Carver?” Melinda asked. Olivia and Ron nodded.
“That’s right. Look, D.A. McCoy wants this handled very carefully.”
“Yes, I would see why. So what does any of this have to do with me?” Melinda asked.
Don just decided to come out and say it. Olivia turned away slightly.
“There is reason to believe, that one man might know of a way to prove that Ron is really Eric. Melinda, we’re talking about a lot of cases being overturned if any of this is true. And yet we cannot allow someone to practice law under a stolen identity.”
“I get that, Captain Cragen, Olivia. Again, what does this have to do with me?”
“The person that we think might know something for sure,” Olivia said, “is a prisoner at Oswald State Penitentiary.”
Melinda knew what they were going to say and she was not having it! She turned and began to walk out of the office, but Olivia ran to cut her off.
“Melinda! Just hear us out!” she pleaded.
“What is there to listen to? You want me to go to OZ and try to get information out of Kareem Said.” Melinda said knowingly. Don picked up a file off of his desk and read it aloud.
“Prisoner 975444 Kareem Said, member of the Muslims. Convicted June 6, 1997. Arson in the second degree. Sentence 18 years. Eligible for parole in 5.”
Melinda glared at Don.
“I know what Kareem did. I see he never became eligible for parole?”
“He refused to leave,” Olivia said matter-of-factly. “And he won’t tell us a thing.”
“Because you’ve asked him?” Melinda probed. She could see by the guilty looks on their faces that they had not.
“You used to be involved with him...” Don began but Melinda cut him off.
“That was back in college! A lot of people don’t know that he actually attended Boston University, until he fell in with the Muslims. Suddenly I was too high falutin’ for him. He became just a little too angry for me. I felt like I didn’t know him anymore.”
Olivia touched her arm.
“Do you think he still cares for you?”
“How would I know? I haven’t seen him in years! Over twenty!”
“But do you think if you went to see him...” Don began again. This time Melinda shook out her hair wildly!
“No. He would think it was odd that I was coming to see him after all of these years. And he would never tell me anything if I asked him directly.” Melinda sighed. Olivia looked at Don.
“Could you give Melinda and I a minute? Please?” she asked of her captain. Don nodded and left his own office, closing the door behind him. Olivia focused on Melinda.
“Melinda, I know that the idea of seeing Said again makes you uncomfortable. But I’m going to lay it on the line here: we found all of this evidence in the toilet tank in Lanelle Ferguson’s bathroom. Her apartment had been broken into, as if someone had been looking for something. Said is mentioned as someone that threatened to expose Carver if he didn’t drop the case he had against him. Carver didn’t, for whatever reason and Said did apparently try and reach other officials, but was ignored.”
“So Said never actually got the chance to tell anyone because no one would see him? How did Said even know Ron Carver?” Melinda asked.
“The Carvers grew up in the same neighborhood as Said. Ron, or Eric Carver, made some kind of slip up. There is something about the real Ron Carver that made Said know that he was not looking at him. We need to know what that is, Melinda.”
Melinda walked over to a window and stared out.
“Olivia, he is not going to tell me that in one visit. We both know that.” she said, then turned around. Olivia bit her lip.
“We’re prepared for that. If you’re willing.”
“You want me to do what in Oz?”
“We already have the position of coroner set up for you. You won’t be twiddling your thumbs, Melinda.”
“Let’s say I agree to this: unless Said dies, how am I ever going to see him?”
“We have contacts inside. Let’s just say that the word will get to him that you will be working there. We’ll also send Detective Tutuoula undercover as a guard. You’ll be alright.”
“Will I? We both know why you sent Captain Cragen out of here, Olivia. What you really want is for me to use any feelings Said may have for me, against him...and Ron Carver...Eric or whoever he is, right?”
Olivia looked down again. Melinda looked away from her. There was no way Olivia could understand that her biggest fear was not the prison, or the prisoners. It was testing how powerful her feelings still were for prisoner 975444... Kareem Said. Melinda took a deep breath. This was about more than her past with Kareem. If Ron Carver was really his twin brother, then a lot of criminals would have a ‘get out of jail’ card. And her work on some of the cases would be tainted as well.
But if there was NO truth to this, and it got out, well Ron Carver’s reputation could still be messed up forever. There would be people that would demand proof. Melinda bit her lip. She knew what was next. If she did find something damning out from Kareem, then that would give the Jack McCoy cause to run a DNA test on Ron Carver by exhuming the remains of his brother, Eric.
“I’ll do it.” Melinda told Olivia brusquely.
Melinda nodded slightly to Detective ‘Fin’ Tutuoula as she entered Oz State Penitentiary. It was not long before she chatted with Dr. Gloria Nathan in the infirmary. Believe it or not, except for a couple of elderly prisoners, it was rather quiet.
“So, where did you work before you came here?” Gloria asked, straightening up some medicine bottles.
“Oh, in Boston mostly. In the Coroner’s office in Baltimore.”
Gloria raised a brow.
“What are you on punishment or something? Why would you leave a job like that to come here?”
Melinda really wasn’t cut out for this undercover crap! She was about to give yet another lame answer, when an inmate was rushed into the infirmary! Melinda sucked in a breath, for some reason, thinking the man could be Kareem. But it wasn’t. It turned out to be a handicapped inmate named Augustus Hill. He died almost a second later and Melinda knew that she had her first case.
As she began to lose herself in poor Mr. Hill’s wounds, she scarcely took notice of someone sweeping up around her. Melinda sighed heavily. The last thing she needed was janitorial staff around her while she was working. How did this guy get in...
Melinda looked at the man. Kareem set the broom against the wall, did the sign of some prayer that Melinda vaguely recognized as Muslim over Augustus, then looked into Melinda’s eyes.
“Hello, Mel.” Kareem said quietly. Melinda couldn’t break her stare even if she had wanted to. He was obviously older but looked...good. As if prison had given him some sort of peace that he would’ve never been able to find on the outside.
Melinda motioned for Kareem to step into the next room, away from the body. He did so, looking around. There were no other guards outside, probably the way Fin had arranged it.
“What are you doing here, Mel?” Kareem asked in a no nonsense voice.
“I transferred from Boston...”
“You work in Manhattan.” Kareem corrected matter-of-factly. Melinda folded her arms.
“Look, I’m no good at this. I need for you to tell me something.”
“About Ron Carver?”
Melinda eyed him.
“How did you know that?”
“We do get papers and television in here, in case you didn’t know.”
“Don’t be so defensive, Kareem! I know that! But there isn’t a story about Ron Carver out yet.”
“No, but I saw that Lannie had been killed.”
“You knew her?” Melinda asked. Kareem reached for her hands and squeezed them.
“You’re right. You’re not very good at this. Leave this place, Mel. Leave before one of Carver’s minions finds out that you’re here.” he said, turning away from her. It was taking everything in him not to throw her onto the cot and fuck her endlessly. That’s what it had been like for the two of them. When they had been young and in love...
“Well, well, well,” a voice said in a sing song tone, “if it isn’t Kunta Kinte and another affirmative action hire.”
Melinda stared into the eyes of Aryan Brotherhood member, Vern Schillinger. Vern smirked at Said.
“I brought mail to the new Black chick here and find you all over her. And why are you doing clean up detail...”
“Leave, Schillinger. Leave before you get a fist down your throat.” Said warned. Vern put his hands up in a mock surrender.
“Okay, okay. I’ll leave so you two can get your groove on or whatever negroes like yourself do. Though I have to say...if your girlfriend there ever wants a taste of White cockmeat...”
There were many things Kareem could and had had to tolerate, in prison. Disrespect of his self and his person. But he would not allow his Mel to put with it. Not from this Aryan piece of trash.
Kareem rushed Vern and the two fell back against a wall! Melinda screamed and whipped open the door, yelling for the guard! Fin and two other guards hurried into the room, just as the two prisoners had knocked poor Augustus Hill’s corpse off of the table! Melinda wanted to yell out to Kareem, to give him some comfort, but both men were dragged out in a quick and orderly fashion.
Fin touched her shoulder.
All Melinda could do was nod.
“Look, let’s get you out of here.”
Melinda shook her head.
“No, Fin! Look, Kareem is...pliable. Not the same hard man that he once was. He said that Carver had minions in here. He’s afraid for my life.”
“So am I!” Fin hissed.
“All the more reason for me to stay put. Where was Kareem taken?”
“To solitary. Same as Schillinger.”
“For how long?” Melinda asked.
“I’ll try and find out. You going to be alright?”
Melinda took a deep breath.
“Just help me get poor Mr. Hill back onto the table, and I’ll be fine.” Melinda told him. Neither of them saw a shadow near the door. The person had heard every word and was on his way to a telephone...to let A.D.A. Ron Carver that a nosy doctor and guard were in his business.