CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Word Count: 1586
You’re fired! Talk about a time you were forced out of something.
The tone of voice was blank, uninflected, uncaring even, but the way his pronunciation put emphasis on the last word betrayed any attempt at being completely uncaring, at ignoring the totality of the matter and the invisible burden it seemed to create. The invisible weight between them, which had so long been a viciously swinging pendulum of vehement dislike and audacious displays of disregard, now teetered almost motionless on the end of a near to snap string. While the displays and the dislike had been mostly Ecklie’s animosity towards Grissom, mostly his way of defending himself against a near equal, Grissom too had his own victories against the Assistant Director. Where Ecklie stood to defend his own pride, his own reputation, his own work, over the years the Nightshift had frequently put his reputation, his whole career, on the line for the greater good of the victim or the co-worker. He was ultimately liked more because of that, because he was a likable person, who had faults, whereas Conrad Julius Ecklie, was the stern authoritarian voice of utter control replete with icy tones and steel like grips. With the entire exception of his aunt, Grissom was one of the only people who chose of their own free will not to wish him untimely death or gruesome injury.
As happened so often in their select single meetings with each other, silence consumed the attempt at conversation and Grissom cocked his head curiously, tiredly also, lids creating docile half closed eyes. While the pendulum was no longer swinging, the weight of their work was still there, different cases with similar themes they had all experienced. Blood, gore, rape, murder, pillage, homicide, attempted murder, disembowelment, decomposition, between them they had seen all that and so much more. Together, yet always separated by their own shifts and schedules, they had seen so many unspeakable tragedies that no human should have to describe, but which they assigned themselves to speak about, their job entailing it to be so.
Eventually the Nightshift just nodded, opening his eyes fully and righting his head to stare at the other man, the one behind the desk, straight backed in his chair, stiff as always. He tried to read emotions off the balding man, off the person he had worked with for so long, but Ecklie betrayed close to nothing, almost nothing at all.
“Do you envy me Conrad?” the Nightshift said suddenly, aware already of how almost familiar these conversations felt. How almost familiar this situation felt, the way they were seated across from each other, totally alone with the weight of accumulated misery thundering over their heads, threatening to drown out their civilised attempts at conversation.
Ecklie grinned then, shattering the stilted silence with a mockery of happiness, the edges of his lips twisting upwards like the outreaching tendrils of a poisonous vine.
“No, I don’t Gil.” he said, quickly interrupted as Grissom, more awake, jumped into the conversation.
It was a question that under any other circumstances none of them would have asked or answered, but this was one of the final showdowns, one of the final conversations they would have as Nightshift and ultimate superior, as co-workers.
“If I envied you Gil, I’d have to show it. Under my rules, I’ve always been the better man, because let’s face it, the rate of kidnappings, murders and injuries to my team was almost nonexistent. The number of complaints directed towards myself is of a different degree to yours, and hell, I follow the guidebook more than you ever have. I file my paperwork immediately, I follow up immediately, my desk is always free of clutter.” the old Dayshift began, conveying across the old habit he had formed over the years of summoning lectures out of thin air. Once more, the familiar silence resumed residence, and the invisible weight of years and accumulated pain pounded at their ears.
“Damn, Gil, if I envied you, if I wanted exactly what you had, do you think I’d be this man? No, I’d do what the rest of your team has done, I’d lose whoever I loved, and moved on, what you’re doing right now. However, even you know, I have not got anything left to go to, no one out there I want to seek after. I’m a realist, Grissom, I can’t envy what others have when it is not possible for me to have anything like it.”
More silence, shorter this time as the Assistant Director nodded his head slightly forwards on razor edges shoulders, and drew in breath.
“You’re going free, you’re escaping this often unimaginable hell hole. Even if I wanted to leave, where would I leave to? You have Sara and her worries to go to, you get to leave and go find the same damned girl who has been lusting after you since before she first got here. Even if I left, it’s not like Michelle is waiting somewhere, because she isn’t, so the best chance I have of achieving what you are about to do is to die, and I find no ability to hold envy towards you over that. I don’t dream like that.” the man said, ending the sheer assault of words as suddenly as it had started, and into silence the air once more fell.
Opting for the quicker answers, Grissom tilted his own head forward, a perfect display of his usual intense curiosity, and quirked a smile at Ecklie.
“Really Conrad? Is all that honestly true?” he said, interlacing fingers completing the picture as they both tried a hand at attempting one last battle of wits.
Out of character, Ecklie rolled his eyes, a childlike action unusual on a face largely accustomed to stoic displays of nothing.
“You’re leaving. You asked if I envy you, and I’ve explained that I don’t. Gil, to me, you have always been inadequate, because your weakness is that out of depravity, you have found not only exhaustion, but happiness. Out of all the murders we see, you speak for the victim, and I speak for the victim, but we are still two different people. You’re leaving because you have a chance to do so, the will to do so. You have realised that you have something worth fighting for, as the adage goes, and you’re going off to do that. If you want honesty, yes, maybe I do hate that you are leaving, maybe I do hate that you have a relationship with Sara, that you have a better life to lead than just staying here to wait out the days until burial.”
More breathing this time, deep breaths, one two, as the old flicker of flame burned within him, the old flicker of something not quite envy, but not quite nothingness either.
“All these years, you have known that you are doing good work here, but you also knew that if the time came that you could break the ties and leave. Any chance I had of leaving started to die with the murder of my parents, and was finished off completely with the violent raping and murder of my wife. I don’t envy you in the way you may want. I don’t hate you because you have something I could obtain, because I can’t get it. I dislike you because you stand for everything I have spent a lifetime accomplishing without happiness. You get your job, but you get solace in it. I do my job, and I still go home, falsified. But my unreality, what I am, what I have become, this thing...”
His voice trebled for a split micro second, and was fixed when he began to raised it into a raised impertinent almost shout.
“It is the only thing I have left. Don’t you get it Gil? All these years and you can still leave. I was born into this place and I was never even given the chance because the nature of our job consumed me long before I had the chance to decide otherwise.”
Ecklie’s lips twitched just then, and he quietened, breathing slightly more rapid than usual, heart a dull but slightly quicker thud in his ears, his ribs burning not with any real physical pain, but with the banging of that pendulum weight. The weight that now just rocked silently, sullenly, and would soon quieten forever, mostly, as the Nightshift left and moved further away. The venomous grin reached across his face, spread like wildfire and settled into a grimace.
Reaching forward, the two men shook hands briefly, but nothing changed. It was true, they would see each other again a couple of times before Grissom departed, and more words would be exchanged, but not of such a confidential kind. There would be a time, probably, certainly, definitely, where Grissom would give Ecklie a very similar exchange of confidence, and then they would be over and done with. Grissom would leave and Ecklie would stay and in this finality his hatred of the man would be absolutely vilified and ascertained as true. Grissom could leave, Grissom could escape and Ecklie could not, he would never, and as he rose from his desk and swiftly exited his very own office, leaving the Nightshift behind, that was part of the reason he moved in such a way. It would be, had always been, part of the reason he hated the man so very, very much, why in some way, he envied him, and in other ways, he could not.