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Detective Olivia Benson placed the hard receiver of her cold police phone back in its cradle on her desk. Another day, another sex crime. It never ends, she thought. But if it ended, I’d be out of a job. In a way, are we profiting from these victims?

“Got something,” said Elliot Stabler, stirring Benson from her philosophical quandary. She welcomed the change of mood. “Remember the perp from the strangling rapes last week? He’s back.”

Benson breathed a sigh of relief. She was glad that after Stabler’s brief leave of absence, he had decided to return to Special Victims Unit for good. Just a month ago Captain Cragen signed a police legal document that said Stabler could never leave SVU, and Benson would never have some other stupid partner.

Together forever — how it’s supposed to be, thought Cragen when he signed it. Hell, thought everybody.

“This suspect looks as tough as the ‘hood’ I grew up in,” barked Detective Fin Tutuola as he threw the dossier onto the crime table. That Fin. Always had a tough joke even when the worst was going down. No one said it out loud, but those one-liners helped keep all the detectives sane when anyone else would have lost it from the ocean of kid wiener photos.

“Then it’s a good thing I bought in some extra help,” barked Cragen, bald and striding from his office like a grizzled police torpedo. “Liv, Elliot — meet Special Detective Chris Strauss. He’s from PSF.”

“Hmm, Predator Strike Force,” said Detective Munch, looking up from his Kennedy assassination blogs. He kept tabs on every shadowy government organization — but that included the good ones. “I heard PSF is a lot like SVU… but faster and tougher.”

“Ha ha, I don’t know about that,” said Detective Strauss, his throaty laugh soaring like man-music. Strauss was tall and ethnic, but not too ethnic. His hair was jet black with no signs of gray, and even though he wore a dark suit that covered his muscles, you could tell he was really strong from his good posture for once. He wore a pair of silver sunglasses, even inside the police station — he had to because his eyes were naturally electric blue with flecks of gold, and he couldn’t take the chance of being IDed in case he had to do an undercover job.

I don’t know about undercover, but I’d sure like to go under the covers… with him, thought Olivia. Even though she had a lot of rocky relationships in her past, she could already see that Strauss was a cool maverick with a big heart that she’d never tell was so-so in bed. This is really unprofessional thinking, she straightened. I’d better play it cool and introduce myself like cops and partners do.

Stabler beat her to it. “Name’s Elliot Stabler and this is my partner Olivia Benson.” Elliot extended his hand to shake, and Strauss gripped it firmly. “Whoa, where’d you learn to shake hands, Superman School?” laughed Stabler. “I’ve never felt a grip like that and I was in the Marines.”

“I think a handshake says a lot about a person,” said Strauss with a wry grin, taking a bite of his favorite on-duty sandwich: The Reuben. “That’s why I try to make mine the best.”

Elliot could tell this man was best-friend material, and could easily see himself kicking back with Strauss on a weekend at the basketball court over a couple beers. Only a matter of time before this guy’s my best pal, he thought.

“All right, let’s break up the mutual admiration society,” growled Cragen. “Word came in from the brass: this strangler is a three-partner case. Stabler, Benson, Strauss: you’re the new face of Law and Order.”

But Strauss knew more than he was letting on. He did believe that handshakes said a lot about a person… but more for Strauss than for most people. You see, whoever he shakes hands with, he can see their past just like in the movie Unbreakable.

TO BE CONTINUED