This is the SECOND in what is apparently going to be a series of FIVE post-"Grave Danger" ficlets. I've never tried to write Ecklie before, so feedback is very welcome! Many thanks to V. for a beta read.
Crime Lab Director Conrad Ecklie stared at the mound of unsorted papers that buried his desk. “Good god,” he muttered, then reached for his phone and dialed the front desk. “Judy. I’m out of the office for at least the next hour. This place is a disaster.”
“Certainly, Mr. Ecklie.” The receptionist sounded guilty. Fine. He wasn’t in the mood to waste time scolding her for the toppled stack of messages that spread across his keyboard.
Where should he even start? Ecklie began sorting papers into piles, by shift, by date and time, by type of information.
The reports were mostly from day shift, who had managed to stagger their resources and personnel across the last 40 hours. They’d accrued a hell of a lot of overtime into the bargain; Ecklie calculated it almost automatically as he noted the hours spent. Most of the messages related to this unusual set-up. Either complaints from tired workers, or calls from lawyers and detectives and victims disgruntled with the dilatory way their cases were being handled.
Ecklie reached for his coffee. It had cooled rapidly, and left an unpleasant furry taste in his mouth. Day shift couldn’t possibly keep going like this. Even after bringing in cadets and other workers, nothing was getting done. Nick Stokes had been found, but it had taken a staggering amount of manpower and resources to pull that off, including round-the-clock work from most of the swing and graveyard shifts. Ecklie poked through the right-hand stack again. There were precious few memos from Grissom, and none from Willows except the initial report on the Stokes crime scene.
Typical disregard for the practical responsibilities of the lab. One of the many reasons Gil Grissom would never have been considered for the job of Director.
Though the man could certainly get through to his people when the occasion demanded it.
His mind threw up, unbidden, the sound of Stokes’ hysterical weeping, shouts rendered incomprehensible by panic and muffled by plexiglass. An answering voice, calm, steady, forceful. Commanding order, commanding results, commanding trust.
And getting every one.
“It could have been any CSI. Anyone, on any shift.” Grissom, filling him in, had been matter-of-fact. Maybe that’s what rankled.
Ecklie blinked the unusual introspection away, and made a determined effort to return to sorting, to calculating.
It could have been one of his CSIs. Alan, or Raquel. Or Sophia. She’d been a dedicated second back when he captained days, even if she hadn’t backed him up in the end. A ready mind, a sharp eye, and an even sharper tongue.
What if it had been her, in that box? Screaming in soundless green video, recording last words on a hand-held recorder, lying on the ground covered in dirt and shaking?
Would he have been able to keep practicalities alive and still save his CSI?
Ecklie’s hand strayed to the right-hand pile again. Grissom was late with the rest of his reports.
Though on a more positive note, there also were no requests for extra time off. From anyone in swing or graveyard. Good. They’d have to take some of day’s cases, or rather, take back the cases that should have been theirs in the first place. Ecklie shook the past night’s images from his mind, and started resorting, making a list of assignment suggestions.
A bundle of paper slid to the floor, scattering like a drift of pale leaves across his carpet.
Biting back a curse, Ecklie crouched and started gathering them up. These seemed familiar. He took a closer look and realized why. He had worked up these rules, made these calculations, charted these schedules. Because his paper practicalities were all he’d had to offer to rescue this victim.
Ecklie hefted the bundle between his hands. It was just as well that the Sheriff had shot this idea down. A million scraped-up dollars would have gutted the lab, and would not have helped Stokes at all.
He stacked the papers near the mouth of the shredder, then pulled them back and paged through the stack to the tight scheduling list.
“I want my guys back,” Grissom had said. Whether the comment had been prompted by stress, weariness, or sheer mule-headed stubbornness, Ecklie wasn’t sure. He was fairly sure that the lab’s resources were too low to spend the effort on recombining those teams.
There hadn’t been enough to keep them together last year, and Stokes’ near-death didn’t change hard-copied, black-and-white figures.
But it couldn’t hurt to check those figures one more time, before he put all that work into the shredder.
Ecklie sat back in his chair, thumbing through the stack, putting it back in order.