The Lab Girls: CI
Deakins perused the two letters on his desk. The pages were nearly identical, neatly typed with clean, even edges, the blocky letters
announcing that they were REQUEST FOR TRANSFER printed across the top. Everything seemed to be in order. All they required were his
signature and an official rubber-stamped seal. He pulled off his glasses and tossed them onto his desktop. Tugging his tie loose, he
sighed and said, “Now just for the record, ladies, why exactly do you want to leave Major Case?”
The two women seated in front of him shifted uneasily. They seemed nice enough. When HR sent him the memo that the ME was taking on two new lab techs, he’d swung by himself to say welcome. Rodgers said they worked well together, called them the twins. “The twins are running the DNA spectrum analysis now,” she’d said and damned if they hadn’t gotten results back in record time. They certainly weren’t twins, although the dark hair, the glasses, and the odd shorthand speech did nothing to discourage rumors that they were at least related if not actually sisters. Even Deakins was having difficulty remembering which one was which. Melissa or Marisa. And Janie. He was pretty sure that one, the taller one, was Jamie.
Whatever their names, Rodgers adored them, the sergeants had no complaints, and as long as those lab results kept pouring out of the ME’s office, Deakins didn’t care if they lab girls spoke only Pig Latin, so long as their reports kept nudging the squad’s solve rate up. They’d been here for a few months now, maybe even half a year. He hated to lose good people for any reason, and thought that maybe a face-to-face exit interview with the captain the New York City Major Case Squad might change their minds about this transfer business. Although, Deakins noticed, the lab girls were looking a little rough around the edges. Melissa clutched a bottle of water and was systematically tearing strips off the label with her black-polished thumbnail. The scrap of paper was in tatters and the small, ripping noises were not helping Deakins’ ever-present headache. Janie, on the other hand, looked exhausted, dark circles stark under the edges of her square, plastic frames. Her head kept slipping forward only to jerk up when Melissa started in on the water bottle again. She shook her head to perk up and said, “The reasons for the requests should be listed on the form, sir.”
Deakins glanced at the careful wording under REASON FOR TRANSFER. “ ‘Unsuitable work conditions’? Is someone here giving you two a hard time?”
“Not exactly, sir.” Janie glared at Melissa, who shrugged and returned to picking at her label. Deakins frowned. He liked to think he was up on the office grapevine, but no one had so much as dropped a whisper about the girls, not the whole time they were here. Janie shook her head.
“No, sir. Frankly, we love our jobs. Liz is great, the benefits are stellar— ”
“Let me tell you about benefits —”
Deakins winced internally as Marisa, not Melissa, and was it even Janie, bent their heads together for a whispered conference. The whispers got sharper and harsher, and Deakins seized the opportunity to scan the transfer requests. Jessica. Damnit. His memory was going in his old age. He cleared his throat, which brought both women up short.
“Jessica,” he started softly. Her eyes lit up at her name and he felt like a jerk. “I wish I had stock options to offer you two, but I’m afraid the city of New York would have some less than flattering things to say about that.” Janie-Jessica chuckled weakly as he continued. “Bottom line is you two are the best lab gir – techs I’ve seen in a long time. I think you belong here at Major Case with the best and brighests. Hell, the pair of you could make ME’s in a couple years if you put your minds to it.” He mentally apologized to Rodgers, but it was true. “Just tell me the problem and we’ll fix it.”
Jessica opened, then closed her mouth, and chewed the inside of her cheek. She seemed to be considering her words very carefully. Deakins waited in silence until she nodded to herself and took a deep breath. Marisa, however, beat her to the punch.
“It’s Detective Goren.”
If Deakins hadn’t been paying attention before, he certainly was now. He looked over the lab girls’ heads. Bobby Goren sat at his desk, rifling through his notebook with one hand while holding a phone to his ear with the other. Hunched over and waist-deep in paperwork, he looked like any other detective on the floor instead of the infamous Robert O. Goren, resident eccentric. Deakins looked back at the lab girls. Jessica’s face was now flushed bright pink. Marisa’s death-grip on the plastic bottle tightened, causing the sides to give with an unnatural-sounding crunch. Deakins felt the familiar presence of his old friend, the Bobby headache, spooling up behind his temples.
Jessica, face still hot and embarrassed, gushed, “He hasn’t done anything. Literally, nothing at all. So please don’t think he’s been…” She circled her hands in the air, grasping for the words as she blushed brighter. “Been…inappropriate, or something. Oh, God.” She dropped her face into her hands.
Deakins asked, “Then what’s –”
“ – I can’t do this, it’s too –”
Marisa sat up. “Jess, we talked about this. It’s just not working. You know that.”
Jessica nodded and Deakins focused on Marisa. Her left eyelid twitched spasmodically, but apart from that, she appeared to be the calmer of the two.
“Let me get this straight, Marisa. You’re quitting because of Detective Goren?”
“To be fair, sir, we’re not quitting. Just requesting a transfer.” Deakins may not have had the interrogation prowess of Goren or Eames, but he did have three daughters and he knew when one was holding back.
“Bullshit,” he said. Marisa’s eyes went wide. “Now level with me. What’s Goren got to do with your transfer?” Marisa bit her lip and sucked her breath in. She looked at Jessica, who nodded miserably, and said, “He’s just…there.”
Deakins waited for any explanation and when none came, prompted, “He’s just there?”
Marisa exploded. “Yes! He’s just there. All the time! With the tall and the shoulders and those goddamn hands! He’s all shy and baby-faced and ‘aw shucks, ma’am,’ and then last week I saw him slam a perp into a car. Like, with no effort at all. Just bang, and he’s down without breaking a sweat.” She was picking up momentum and Deakins was swiftly rethinking his assessment of her as the rational one.
“It’s the perfect suits and the ties and then he’ll show up without a tie. Two weeks ago, he undid his top button and I had to go home early.”
Jessica’s voice was muffled through her hands. “I like it when he rolls his sleeves up to his elbows and wears the gloves.”
Marisa rounded on her. “Yes! I know!” She turned to Deakins, who by now was fighting the impulse to back away from his own desk. “This isn’t just me, sir. Remember last month when the German investigators visited here and Goren had to translate?” Deakins though he heard Jessica moan softly, but he may have imagined it.
Marisa’s voice was getting higher and higher. “Oh, stop! You called in sick for three days until they left. And I know for a fact that you broke your favorite coffee mug in the break room when he named the Puccinni aria you were humming under your breath.”
At that, Jessica’s head snapped up. “Who the hell knows Madama Butterfly by heart? Seriously? Sir, it’s just not fair!” Deakins sat very still and let his hand slid to the security call button. He preferred her when she was incoherent. “We’ve tried, sir, really we have. But he’s got those big brown eyes and the smile and I swear he does that whole stutter-stop speech thing on purpose, just to get me all…never mind what it gets me, our bottom line is we can’t do it anymore.”
Time to turn on the bad cop. “Ladies, you are trained professionals. Surely you can’t expect –”
“Look at him,” Marisa spat. Deakins craned his neck to see around her. Bobby still sat at his desk hacking away at his paperwork, blissfully oblivious to the havoc being wreaked not ten feet from him. “Look at him, just sitting there, doing his job. Chasing down leads. Protecting citizens from criminals.” Her voice dropped to an obscene whisper. “Investigating.” Deakins watched with something akin to horror as she revved up again. “It just never turns off, sir! Never!” She was full-out shouting by now and a couple of passersby stopped near the door, openly eavesdropping. “I swear, sir. It just—I never – he – I just –” Now Goren twisted in his chair to see the cause of the ruckus.
Jessica grabbed Marisa’s flailing arms out of the air. “Breathe, Marisa! Breathe! Remember what we discussed. We’re grown women, so let’s handle ourselves like adults. The captain’s going to sign the transfers, aren’t you, sir?” Deakins looked down to see his signature already on the letters. When had that happened? Swallowing past a dry mouth, he pulled out the rubber stamp and slipped the lid off his inkpad. “We’ll get transferred and everything will go back to normal. You’ll see. Okay?”
“You good now?”
Marisa began stripping her crumpled water bottle again. Jessica apparently took this as a yes and flashed Deakins her best smile. “Sorry about that. You know how it gets.”
He most certainly did not know and wished fervently he knew even less than he did now. Behind them, the spectators began to lose interest and drift away, but Bobby, who he was dismayed to see had both his top button undone and his sleeves rolled up, continued to stare at the lab girls through the glass wall. The captain prayed they hadn’t noticed as he wetted his stamp on the black pad. Just as he raised the stamp, Bobby slowly, carefully tipped his head completely to one side.
That did it.
Marisa leapt out of her chair, knocking the offending piece of furniture to the floor. She pointed a shaking finger at Bobby and cried, “Do you ever sleep?” If the entire squad room wasn’t listening before, they were now. Eames stood open-mouthed next to Goren’s desk while Logan poked his head over a stack of papers haphazardly positioned atop a file cabinet. “Well, do you?!”
Jessica reached across the desk, covered Deakins’ hand with her own, and slammed the stamp down on the request letters. “Thank you so much for your time, sir” she said, sweeping up the request letters. “We’ll just run these over ourselves.” Marisa gibbered and squeaked quietly to herself until Jessica seized her elbow and hauled her out the door. Deakins trailed after in a daze. Eames had the decency to laugh into her hand as opposed to Logan, who slumped forward and clutched his sides as he guffawed. Deakins hollered after them, “Run them over where?”
Jessica kept right on frog-marching Marisa toward the elevators. “To Captain Cragen at SVU,” she called over her shoulder. “Hopefully, we won’t have this problem over there.” The elevator dinged twice and the door slid open and the lab girls disappeared. The room was quiet for a heartbeat before the usual low hum of productive noise kicked up again. Bobby lifted wide, hurt eyes to Deakins.
“Was it something I said?” he asked. Behind him, Deakins noticed two whispering sergeants gazing in Bobby’s direction and giggling as his star detective cuffed his sleeve further up his arm. Deakins cleared this throat and clapped loudly for attention.
“Listen up, people! In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a serious disregard to the office dress policy!”