Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Police Captain Actually Leads A Very Rich And Fulfilling Life Outside Of The SVU Office, Too, Thanks

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Oct. 2
9th Ave. and 23rd
New York City
7:43 a.m.

He stops by the newsstand near the HQ and pick up the Post and a cup of the cheap coffee the Bangladeshi man brews on a hotplate, as he does every morning. Total: $1.75. That’s the only coffee he has all day. So he’s not constantly breaking huge bills and futzing with the paper, the cup, and his wallet, Capt. Cragen likes to count exact change days ahead of time and arrange it in little easy-to-grab batches that he leaves on the sideboard for the week, near the green ceramic bowl where he keeps his keys. Every year, though, on the last work day before Christmas, Capt. Cragen slips a 10-dollar bill across the greasy counter and tells the Bangladeshi man, whose name is Syed, “Happy holidays.” He knows the Post is shit, but he supposes it’s important to read their crime reporting. Also, he always skims the gossip page, mostly appalled, secretly curious.

Oct. 2
SVU headquarters
New York City
9:10 a.m.

Benson and Stabler barge in. He is blogging at the time. He maintains an online journal detailing his ongoing sobriety, his struggles and personal triumphs, however small, and sometimes posts links to funny and inspirational things. He’s met friendly people nationwide who are also unpacking the same dependency and abandonment issues. When Benson and Stabler lean over the desk, he calls up an Excel spreadsheet as cover, hoping this one will be just a plain old vanilla rape. Test the victim, yank the pervert out of his spider hole, easy conviction. “Victim won’t submit to a rape kit,” Benson says. Capt. Cragen rubs his head. “Why not?” “She says it’s a violation of her 'constitutional right to privacy,'” Benson says. Stabler snorts. “The constitution say anything about bad guys getting away with rape?” he says. Munch, ears like a bat, pretends to walk across the office to borrow a handful of paper clips, but really it’s just to insert some lefty political jab he knows will piss Stabler off. Every time the constitution comes up, this. Capt. Cragen gazes at his blotter. He hasn’t posted a list of funny affirmations in a while—might be good for this week’s blog, some short, jokey aphorisms. Stabler points to the case file with a huge hamhock fist. “Something’s dirty. I don’t think we’re dealing with just a rape here.” Capt. Cragen sighs. No, not this week or any other. “Find her friends and talk to them,” Capt. Cragen says, turning back to the computer. They all leave. Christ. Did they absolutely need him for that? Aren’t they cops?

Oct. 9
Washington Square
New York City
12:38 p.m.

He takes his lunch and a Yoo Hoo to the park. It’s a panini with eggplant, calamatas, prosciutto, feta, and fresh basil leaves from a plant thriving in his window box. Capt. Cragen has been taking cooking classes Thursdays from 7 to 9 at NYU continuing ed, and it turns out he’s fantastic at it—so much so that the teacher, Helen, is letting him skip the intermediate class and go right to the advanced. He sits on the grass, tie unclipped, browsing a Williams-Sonoma catalog with a Sharpie. He circles a stainless panini press. The good one. And how difficult it would be to make fresh pasta—the flour volcano with the eggs inside and everything? His cell phone rings. He sucks on a tooth and answers it with a grunt. Stabler asks him if he’s heard of Munchausen’s syndrome, and then he goes into this whole thing. There’s an ultra-feminist organization involved now with the ACLU, and the alleged rapist it turns out is gay—really gay. As in, he’s made incriminating videos. “Check if anybody knew that,” Capt. Cragen says. After a while, he swigs some Yoo Hoo. He could infuse the pasta with oregano. Give bundles out as gifts for the holidays.

Oct. 20
5th Ave. and 39th
New York City
2:58 p.m.

He hasn’t had sex since his wife died in the plane crash. But just because he’s on a diet doesn’t mean he can’t read the menu. ADA Novak has a nice little body and also a sort of cute mouth. He could be her father, though. And he’s a professional. Not sure if she has anybody, but she seems lonely. That is to say, it’s hard to broach the subject in a natural way. He sees her taking a call outside the courthouse while he’s out for a mid-afternoon stroll, which he does to keep fit, and also because Tutuola and Munch fray his nerves when they’re topping each other with the Snappy Comebacks. She’s smiling. He approaches to say hello and offer a cup of coffee, to break his one-cup-daily routine, strictly in a friendly and professional sense, but by the time he crosses over to her side of the street she’s all business again, hustling some lawyer, presumably, and this ratty-looking kid into a cab and away from a group of seven spiky-haired women yelling insults. Forget it—he’s not getting in the middle of that. Doesn't need the aggravation.

Nov. 2
SVU Headquarters
New York City
4:09 p.m.

Between paperwork, he inserts fun tasks to break up the monotony. A little budgeting, then a Sudoku. He glances at an internal investigation about an improperly discharged weapon, then he flips through a brochure for his vacation in Spain. First vay-kay in three years. The beach resorts are just as nice as the French ones, but cheaper and less crowded. He’ll sit and catch up on reading and flirt indiscriminately with local ladies for a whole week, maybe pick up some Spanish cooking tips. Benson comes in. The gay lover’s willing to testify, but he’s on the edge. “I don’t know how long I can keep him on his meds,” she says, staring him down with a sigh. He stares back, wondering what she would look like on a beach. Novak walks in and says the feminist leader won’t plea, which is going according to plan, if only they can keep Sanchez out of the picture. There’s a plan? What? Who the hell is Sanchez? The ACLU guy? The gay-porn mogul? The schizophrenic homeless woman with AIDS? Didn't this all start with a girl raped in there somewhere? What happened to that? Wait. Is she Sanchez? He listens to them talk, waiting for contextual clues. That reminds him: he needs to stop by Borders on the way home and buy those Berlitz Spanish tapes.

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