The Lab Girls- SVU
There was something going on in Captain Don Cragen’s precinct that he didn’t know about and it was starting to piss him off. You didn’t make it through as many years as he had as a career cop without picking up a kind of sixth sense. Every cop is different. For Cragen, it was an unpleasant tingling along the back of his neck. Normally, it acted up when he sat in on one of Finn and Munch’s interrogation sessions. But for the last few weeks, Cragen felt like either a colony of ants had taken up residence under his scalp or the damn thing was on overdrive.
It was the new lab girls. It had to be. Things were running like clockwork until they’d transferred in from Major Case and now…something was off. Not that anyone else had noticed. In fact, the cases were getting closed at a record pace with the break-neck speed Warner’s office was spitting out lab results. They were good at their jobs, maybe the best he’d seen. They were also quickly becoming popular. Last Monday, Cragen had seen Dr. Huang strolling out to lunch with a dark-haired, bespectacled tech on either arm. Yesterday, he’d spotted them chatting up Chester on the merits of designer coffee. They were good-natured, hardworking, and the source of all Cragen’s problems.
Now, when he said there was something off, he didn’t mean with the cases. Those rolled along as usual, maybe a little smoother with the new turn-around rate of the lab results. He certainly had no complaints there. No, it was something to do with Stabler and Benson. It was always Stabler and Benson. Of course, Elliot was always a hot-button topic with the brass and the last thing Cragen wanted to do was give them more ammunition to take down his dream team.
Odd things were happening to them. First, Elliot and Olivia got handcuffed together. Even now, Cragen marveled at their assertion that they didn’t notice right away. Elliot said it happened in the break room, but Olivia swears it was in the locker room that morning. Cragen still didn’t believe it. It wasn’t until they tried to sit down at their respective desks that they got far enough apart for the metal to pull tight against their wrists. Cragen didn’t want to think about what that meant as to his detectives’ normal degree of proximity. And he really didn’t want to think about how someone had managed to swipe the master key out of his desk without him knowing. Elliot and Olivia might have had to stay like that all day if Finn didn’t happen to be particularly skilled with a paper clip and one of Olivia’s bobby pins.
If it had only been the handcuff incident, Cragen wouldn’t have worried. You work as a New York cop long enough, you’ll see just about everything. But three days late, Benson and Stabler responded to an anonymous 911 tip alerting them to a possible child-prostitution ring. When they arrived at the address give, they did not find exploited children or sex offenders. Instead, they found themselves outside one of the most exclusive Italian restaurants outside of Little Italy, where a table for two was reserved under their names. The maitre d' assured them that the champagne they’d requested was chilling next to their secluded booth. A 1990 Mumm Grand Cordon. An excellent vintage.
After that, Cragen moved to a desk out in the bullpen. He made up some excuse about the heat in his office being on the fritz and watched Benson and Stabler like a hawk. They seemed remarkably unfazed by “the pranks,” as Elliot called them. The pair hacked their way through their caseload with the usual mix of insight, intuition, and barely repressed emotion. No one but Cragen seemed to be on pins and needles, waiting for the other shoe to drop. The reservation fiasco happened last Friday and four days later, still nothing. Cragen listened to the hum of the precinct. Shrill telephones and papers rustling were punctuated by the occasional string of curses from an unhappy perp. The purposeful footfalls of dedicated civil servants echoes through the room. Christ, he was getting sentimental in his old age. All those overtime hours taking their toll, he supposed.
“Morning, girls!” Munch called out. Cragen wrenched his thoughts back to the present. Half the room lifted heads or hands in greeting as the lab girls swanned in, each hefting a stack of files in their arms. Cragen frowned. They were more popular than he realized. That was a problem. Marisa made a beeline for his office while Jessica began passing out lab results like it was Christmas and Santa was out with the flu. Marisa stopped short outside his darkened office.
“Marisa,” he motioned her over. “I’m out here temporarily.” She jogged over and thumped her pile of papers down on the edge of his desk. She flexed out her hands and rolled her shoulders.
“Whew,” she whistled. “That’s heavier than it looks. Anyway, Melinda wanted to me to get this report to you first thing.”
Cragen blinked, suspicious. “Why didn’t you just ask a messenger to run it over?” Come on, he thought. Trip up and spill.
Marisa half-laughed. “Oh no, Captain. I spent two hours verifying every bit of data in that thing. No way was I giving it to a third party.” She held out the file. “From my hands to yours.”
Cragen took the proffered document and paged through the Mendez case DNA results. From the look of it, this would be enough to put at least three gang members away for a long time. He looked up at Marisa. “You personally checked this?”
She smiled and tucked her hair behind her ear. “Every line, sir.” Cragen watched over her shoulder while Munch pried the files out of Jessica’s arms and trailed after her, handing her what she needed and shamelessly flirting with a woman not even half his age. Jessica laughed and flirted back, winking at the detectives who joked at them and waving to others in passing. He looked back at Marisa, who was rolling her eyes at her friend’s shenanigans. Maybe he’d been hasty in inditing them.
“Thank you, Marisa. This is exceptional work.” It really was. She blushed, pleased and embarrassed.
“It’s our job, sir. Anything for the team.”
He nodded his dismissal. She gathered up the remaining files and quickly distributed them around the room. Munch kissed the back of Jessica’s hand before they left and she giggled. Cragen waved good-bye with the rest of the room as Jessica held the door for Marisa and called, “Bye, Cap’n!” Cragen shook his head and chuckled. He picked up the phone to call the DA’s office. Nice girls, the both of them.
Twenty minutes later, Elliot and Olivia were locked in a supply closet.
Technically it wasn’t even a supply closet. There was barely enough room for the sorry mop and bucket, let alone two fully-grown and irate adult detectives. One of the junior detectives rushed into the squad room just after Cragen noticed Elliot and Olivia were late coming back from their morning coffee break. Srgt. Klineman whispered that she’d heard shouting coming from the back hall janitorial closet and that he should come quickly. Cragen waved to Munch, and he, Chester, and Finn headed down to check it out.
Jessica was sitting cross-legged and calm in front of the door while behind it, Olivia employed her best hostage negotiator voice to explain why exactly this was twelve kinds of illegal. Marisa placed erratically across the grimy floor, dancing around her friend, but Cragen noticed she hadn’t called for help. He made a mental note to promote Klineman. He stepped out in front of the other three other detectives and said, “Girls?
Marisa spun on her heel and thrust her finger at Jessica. “All. Her. Fault.”
“Hey!” Jessica didn’t leave her position guarding the closet, but managed to look down her nose all the same. “We agreed! We’re in this together.”
“All. Her. Fault.”
“So I just imagined you faking a 911 call, I suppose?”
Marisa paused, eyed Cragen. “Well…mostly her fault. But I did it under coercion, sir. Massive amounts of coercion.”
Cragen scrubbed his hand over his face. “Alright, for the sake of simplicity, I didn’t hear you confess to a phony 911 call.”
Munch piped up. “Me neither, Cap’n.” Elliot groaned inside the closet and Jessica perked up. She thumped her back against the door and cocked her head to one side, listening. There was a brief pause before Olivia’s voice floated out to the hallway.
“We’re not going to have sex, Jessica, so just let us out.”
“Aw, c’mon! Seriously guys, it’s for the team!”
Marisa called, “We’ll cover our ears and everything if you’re embarrassed!”
Elliot hollered, “We’re not embarrassed” at the same time Olivia yelled, “We’re not having sex!” Cragen prayed for strength and crouched down next to Jessica.
“Jessica,” he said.
“Could you explain to me why you’ve locked two of my detectives in a supply closet?”
She nodded, like this was a normal, everyday conversation and Cragen wished he’d paid a little more attention to the hesitation in Captain James Deakins' voice when he verified their transfers, because maybe it was. “Okay, Captain. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now the scorching chemistry between Detectives Benson and Stabler.”
Cragen said, “No,” expecting a resounding chorus from Munch and Finn and hearing nothing, asked, “What chemistry?”
Chester doubled over and laughed while Finn rolled his eyes. “Oh c’mon, Captain. You gotta be blind to miss that spark. I’ve got a running bet with Huang on the day they finally break and do the deed.” Munch slapped a low-five with Chester while Elliot began cursing a blue streak to make the Corps proud.
Marisa hopped in place and yelped “Oh! I know how to fix this! Nobody move!” Cragen watched Marisa bounce down the hall and disappear into the locker room. He rubbed at the back of his neck and sighed.
Finn said, “So what are the odds you’ll just let them out?”
Jessica set her chin, a picture of resolve. “It’s for everyone. Tell me you won’t feel better after they figure this out. Preferably with sex.”
Finn shrugged. “Fair enough.”
Cragen opened his mouth to lay into Finn when Marisa reappeared, trotting up the hall with something shiny clutched in her hand. For a moment, Cragen was dizzy with hope. She had the key. She had the key and they’d get them out and all this would simply go away so SVU could get back to solving crime.
Marisa knelt down and elbowed Jessica out of the way. She opened her fist to reveal…
“Is that a corkscrew?”
Marisa smiled, proudly. “Yep.”
Jessica frowned. “What’s that for?”
“Detectives? Check under the large cardboard box in the southeast corner.”
Cragen heard shuffling sounds from inside the closet, then the klink of glass. Olivia made a strangled noise. “A bottle of wine?”
Jessica’s eyes were disbelieving. “You planted a bottle of wine in the closet.”
“Mmm-hmm. A merlot.”
Jessica looked flabbergasted. “I’m…I’m just so proud of you,” she whispered before fiercely hugging Marisa.
Marisa shifted, uncomfortable. “Yeah, now help me shove this thing under the door.”
Twenty minutes later, all of Marisa and Jessica’s personal effects were boxed up and waiting outside with the girls waiting for a cab. In each box was a signed referral from Captain Don Cragen to the New York division of the Crime Scene Investigation unit. Those girls were born to run a lab, but being an entire building and several city blocks away from his detectives would do everyone a world of good.
In the end it took over forty-five minutes to get Elliot and Olivia out. After a search for the key proved unsuccessful. Casey called in a favor with a locksmith friend of hers and Cragen watched as a wiry stranger bored a hole in his supply room door.
Olivia and Elliot didn’t seem much the worse for wear. Maybe a little flushed and a little tired-looking, but nothing out of the ordinary. Cragen wondered if Olivia’s shirt had been misbuttoned that morning. It must have been. Anyway, Elliot was leaning into her and murmuring, so he must be telling her. Sure enough, she quickly redid her buttons. If it were any woman besides Olivia, Cragen would have said she was blushing.
Something was different the next morning when Cragen walked into the bullpen. Nothing he could put his finger on. Just that the air seemed lighter, clearer in a way. People smiled as they did their paperwork, laughed louder at their co-workers jokes. Cragen rocked back in his chair at his makeshift desk and glanced at Elliot and Olivia, mostly out of habit.
He couldn’t help but notice Elliot looked loose and relaxed, all the tension gone from his shoulders. More than that, he looked quite pleased with himself as he watched Olivia log a phone call. She stood and grabbed her coat, saying something about a lead in Queens. Elliot nodded and placed his hand on the small of her back as they strode out of the room. Out of the corner of his eyes, Cragen saw Finn slip Huang a handful of bills and sulk off. You didn’t get to be a captain in the NYPD without getting that sixth sense.
Your turn, Marisa. On to CSI!