Title: The Demise of Conrad Ecklie
Summary: The CSIs gather for a dinner party at Conrad Ecklie's home. When the host of the party if found dead, the CSIs must figure out who, why, and how. My response to Ann's (Poncholives) October challenge!! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I barely own the computer...let alone the character or CSI...this is all in jest!
It'd been a long time since he'd last had his college baseball uniform on, at least fifteen years. He wasn't even sure it would still fit him. It was awkward, slipping into the green jersey, pulling on the green cap.
Though, he had to admit, he wasn't sure wearing his old uniform was really all that awkward in comparison to the dinner party he was driving to at Ecklie's. He barely thought the man human, let alone human enough to hold a social engagement outside the lab.
It was October, though, and time for Ecklie's annual I'm-the-boss-and-everyone-loves-me dinner theme parties. It was also time for the Las Vegas criminalists to put on their game faces, and, this year, their favorite college sports team memorabilia, and pretend they really did love their boss.
It was going to be one hell of a long night.
"Hey slim," Warrick sauntered up to the front door of Conrad Ecklie's home. "Lookin' sharp," he smiled joining Nick at the entrance. "Is that your old college uniform? You're pullin' out the big guns tonight, man, goin' all out." He'd only managed to rummage up an old UNLV football jersey. "You ring the bell?"
The Texan shook his head silently. "Was counting to ten first," he offered a small chuckle as he used his hands to brush off the front of his shirt.
Warrick rolled his eyes and with a slightly exasperated sigh, leaned forward and pushed the button initiating the overly theatric ringing of chimes from inside the home.
"I always hate coming over here," Nick sighed repositioning his ball cap.
"Just relax," Warrick offered the man a pat on the shoulder. "Ecklie may be a royal prick, but the man can cook a damn fine pot roast. What could go wrong? It's only a couple hours out of your life, right? Hey I'll even play ya in a game of pool. Loser has to help Ecklie with the dishes after dinner."
"Yeah," Nick smirked as the door opened. "You think we're the first to show up?" he asked stepping into the open foyer, his baseball cleats clacking on the hardwood floor.
"Hey guys," Sara smiled from the living room. She was wearing a Harvard sweatshirt. Not exactly sports attire, but then again it WAS Sara. "We're in here."
"That answer your question?" Warrick smiled leading the way into the room to join Sara, Grissom, Catherine, and Greg, each of whom looked equally as uncomfortable as the two entering the room felt. "Hey guys," he nodded taking the open seat on the sofa next to Sara.
"Warrick, Nick," Conrad Ecklie grinned, baring his bleached-white teeth, as he entered the room, "glad you guys could make it." Even wearing his Yale track suit, the man still managed to look like he had a stick up his ass.
"Hey, Conrad," Nick offered the man a handshake before pulling up a chair of his own.
"Can I get you guys a drink? Maybe a beer?" the lab director asked.
"A beer would be great," Nick smiled with a nod. "Thanks."
"Yeah, sure," he nodded. "You guys been here long?" he turned his attention to his colleagues.
"Just got here," Grissom shook his head. He was wearing a polo and slacks, about as casual as the man got apparently.
"What's up Griss?" Nick smiled accepting the cold beer from Ecklie as he returned to his guests. "You don't own any sports gear?"
"Let's just say I don't go all out for these things like you, Nick," the man shrugged with a twinkle in his eye.
"We can't all be as enthusiastic," Catherine grinned rubbing the top of the man's shaved head as she crossed the room to the couch.
"Yeah," Greg agreed scooting over to give the woman room, "but you're at least wearing a Clippers cap. Grissom isn't wearing anything. It's called a theme party for a reason."
"You're one to talk, Greg. Mister I've-never-been-to-a-real-basketball-game-in-my-life," Sara offered a sly grin. Go figure she'd take up for the boss.
"Now who's the one to be talking?" Nick laughed. "Sara you were just as out of the loop as Greg was. Did you ever even go to a Harvard game?"
"Hey man," Warrick stood, giving Nick a light slap on the arm. "You up for that game of pool or what?" He really didn't feel like getting stuck in the middle of a battle of wills with Sara and his best friend. He'd been there before. It was always a tight squeeze.
"If you're up to losing," Nick's grinned broadened, his attention falling from Sara. "You know I'm unbeatable."
"Yeah, picture that. We'll be in the billiards room," Warrick shook his head, leaving the group behind.
"Dinner will be out soon," Ecklie nodded heading back into the kitchen.
"You remember that girl I met last month?" Nick asked lining up the cue ball with the seven.
The lighting was dim in the billiard room. A row of stained-glass lighting hung low over the green felt and maple wood table centered in the middle of the handsome room. The deep green walls were accented by a narrow burgundy plaid border where the walls and ceiling met. Two of the four walls were lined with floor to ceiling mahogany book cases, the shelves of which were lined with various forensics and business journals.
"That hot blonde you met at the bar?" Warrick asked leaning on his cue stick. The game had painfully been one-sided.
Nick nodded as he pocketed the seven with ease.
"Yeah I remember. She was with that dime of a redhead, right?"
"Yeah," Nick laughed standing upright and leaning back against the table. "Well, we went to dinner again last night."
"Oh yeah? You gonna take your next shot?"
"Yeah, we went to that new restaurant that opened down on Fremont."
"Any good?" Warrick asked as he watched Nick line up the eight ball.
"Eight ball corner pocket. The food or the date?" he smiled finishing the game.
"Take your pick," Warrick sighed returning the cue stick to the rack on the wall.
"The food was good, the date…not so much."
"She dumped you?"
"Like a bad habit," Nick laughed leaning back against the table once more. He let his eyes scan the bookcases. "You ever wonder if Ecklie went into the wrong business?"
"What, like maybe he should have been a carpenter or a chef?"
"Like maybe he should have been an executioner," Nick laughed returning his own cue stick to the rack. "You know you're doing the dishes right? You're not getting out of that."
"Yeah, yeah. What's keeping dinner anyway? It's been almost a half hour," Warrick looked at his watch returning to the living room. Greg sat on the couch reading a book he'd found on the end table. "Hey Greg, whatcha reading?"
"Where is everyone?" Nick asked.
"I dunno," the young man closed his book looking around the room as Catherine joined them.
"Where you been?" Nick asked the woman.
"Oh…just checking out the study, Sam's left me quite a bit of money. I thought I might redecorate some of the house, maybe make a few upgrades. Thought I could get a couple ideas. What's keeping dinner?" she asked turning back and heading toward the kitchen.
"Hey Cath, where's Griss and Sara?" Greg asked rising from his seat.
"I think they're in the library," she replied from down the hall.
"Better question…" Nick trailed off exiting the room. "Where's Ecklie?"
"Dude bail on his own shindig? 'Cause, let me tell ya, this is a slammin' party." Warrick shook his head following the Texan into the hallway, Greg close on their tails. They were quickly met by Grissom, who, in turn, was closely followed by Sara.
"Well, this is great," Greg stopped short of bumping into Nick as the graveyard shift rendezvoused in the hall. "Where's the man of the hour?"
"That's what we were coming to find out," Grissom shrugged unknowingly. "Last I saw he was heading into the kitchen."
"Last any of us saw, it seems," Catherine nodded.
"Where could he be?" Sara asked.
"Uh…guys…" Nick called out. "I…I think I found him." The Texan stood in the doorway of the dining room. There, clad in his navy Yale jogging suit, laid Conrad Ecklie, face down on the red carpet…dead.
"Well…this can't be good," Grissom raised a brow as he joined the Texan in the doorway.
Conrad Ecklie lay in a pool of his own blood. The chairs positioned strategically around the massive dining room table had all been upended in what had to have been a horrible struggle between the decedent and killer. The man's position on the floor was anything but natural, as the CSIs let their gaze linger on the scene. The man lay face down, his head twisted at an unnatural angle, his right arm contorted into a ghastly position behind his back. The appendage was clearly broken in several places. A knife, obviously the weapon of choice, sat discarded just to the left of the body. It had apparently been used to slash the victim's throat, the jugular vein noticeably severed as evidence of arterial spray covered the room.
"There's gotta be a bright side to all of this, right?" Greg asked from his previous spot on the couch. "I mean…think about it," he shrugged as he shifted his gaze between his five co-workers.
"Well…Rick and I were in playin' pool," Nick raised his hands defensively as he shifted in his seat. "But, you know…maybe Greg's right."
"Shouldn't we call PD…get a detective in here or something?" Catherine asked from her perch on the window ledge.
"NO!" Grissom shot out the answer. "No, we handle this internally," he shook his head.
"What do you mean we handle this internally? Someone's gonna notice when Ecklie doesn't show up for work tomorrow night," Warrick asked from the doorway. "By the way, did anyone notice if the neighbors were home?"
"Houses on both sides are dark," Catherine shook her head.
"Doesn't mean much," Nick shrugged. "Why don't we just ante up, huh? Who had the guts to do it?" he asked leaning forward in his chair, resting his forearms on his knees. The looks he got from his co-workers were full of question, shock, and a lot of effort not to laugh. "Oh, come on guys. It's not like we've not all thought about it at some time," he stood to pace the floor. "I mean, seriously we all wanted to kill him when he split the team up. But, like I said Warrick and I were in playing pool."
"You know…this is kinda like that game Clue. It was Ms. Scarlet in the dining room with the candlestick. Only…this time I guess Ms. Scarlet would be…Catherine? And, well…we'd have to come up with a name for Sara. I guess Grissom would be Col. Mustard?" Greg offered a slight grin.
"Don't you guys think we're jumping the gun here?" Sara stood against the wall. "I mean, who's to say this was even murder? Maybe he just…killed himself," she shrugged.
"You know they did a "Saved by the Bell" episode like this too," Greg added.
"Rick, you've got a spare kit in your truck right?" Nick asked looking to his friend.
"Yeah. I've got my back-up," the man nodded.
"Well, why don't you and I process the scene? The way I see it…we've got four suspects."
"Wait, why do you guys get to process the scene?" Greg stood. "I didn't kill Ecklie, I should help."
"Seriously, Greggo," Nick stopped at the door. "You were sitting in here alone when Warrick and I got here…"
"So," the younger man shrugged. "I didn't kill him."
"Yeah, neither did I," Catherine stood from her seat on the couch. "I'll help process."
"Griss, Sara," Warrick looked at the two who have yet to speak up, "You guys want to add your two cents?"
Grissom just stood there, his lips pursed, as he leaned against the large bookcase with his arms crossed in front of him.
"Alright, look," Catherine sighed, the typical voice of reason among the criminalists, "we can't all just go in there and process. I mean, technically we're all suspects here."
"Well, we can't all just stand here and stare at each other waiting for a confession either," Nick sighed.
"So, what are we going to do?" Warrick leaned heavily against the doorframe once more. "Play Farkle to see who's guilty? I'm sure Conrad's got a set of dice somewhere."
"You know…" Sara trailed off, "there could be another option."
"What's that?" Nick asked rather skeptically.
"We're the only ones to know any of us were ever here, right?" she asked. "I mean, nobody knows for sure Ecklie even had this party planned, right?"
"What are you getting at?" Catherine asked taking off her Clippers cap and running a hand through her long locks.
"Are you saying we cover this up?" Warrick stood up straight.
"I'm just thinking out loud," Sara shrugged as she watched Grissom moved to the center of the room.
"We could…" Greg nodded picking up on her train of thought.
"Listen," Grissom interrupted the man's words, "Sara may have a point," he nodded.
"Griss…" Nick started. He was quickly cut off by his boss.
"We've spent years gathering evidence, discovering the truth," he started slowly. "I think it's safe to say it's been our driving force as a team and as individuals for the past ten years."
"Gil," Catherine tried to interject. She, too, was quickly cut off by the shift supervisor.
"We all know Conrad Ecklie was twisted. He was more focused on budget reports and timecards than any kind of real justice," the entomologist continued. "We've all had our run-ins with him. He's managed to grate on each of us in some way. We've all got motive for wanting the man…dead."
"The man's had it out for our team ever since he became lab supervisor," Warrick smirked.
"Then what are you suggesting?" Nick directed the question to their boss. "We cover it up. Leave as if nothing happened?"
"Sounds like…" Sara trailed off once more.
"A good idea?" Grissom offered a slight smile, his gaze moving around the room. There seemed to be a general agreement slowly taking hold of his team.
"So does anyone want to shed some light on what happened in there? Who did it?" Nick shrugged. "Griss?" he looked to his boss. There was a slight sag in the man's shoulders as he slid his hands into the pockets of his khakis. It seemed as if he was carrying the weight of the world.
"For years, Ecklie has had us tied up in a web of politics and bureaucratic propaganda," he started again.
"Basically a bunch of bullshit," Warrick smirked.
"Quite frankly," Grissom offered a nod to Warrick's response, "I was tired of it," he shrugged.
"So…you killed him," Nick stated matter–of-factly.
"No," he shook his head. "I was with Sara in the library," he turned his gaze to Catherine. "But, we're a team, we stand together."
"Well, if you didn't kill him…" Warrick started.
"Who did?" Sara asked, finishing the man's sentence.
"You know what?" Nick stood ready to head back to the dining room. "As far as I'm concerned… What's it really matter who did it? Maybe Greg's right. Maybe this is just a huge favor to everyone. I mean, we know how he died, right? What was it you used to say Griss, the more the how, the less the why. The less the why, the more the how."
"Man, you make it sound like we should give a banquet in honor of whoever did this," Warrick laughed a little.
"Well…there is all that food still sitting in the kitchen," Catherine shrugged.
"It'd be a shame to let it all go to waste," Warrick smiled at the female, a glint in his eye.
"Maybe we should eat in the kitchen?" Sara asked. "There is quite a bit of blood in the dining room."
"May as well," Grissom shrugged. "We'll have a lot of cleaning up to do when we're done, though."
"I do love pot roast," Greg smiled rising from the couch.
"Clean up…" Nick looked to the man questioningly. "How do you propose we do that?"
"You mean cleaning the crime scene?" Sara asked.
"He means us," the Texan nodded in understanding.
"We can't let anyone know we were here…at least during the time of the murder," Grissom nodded. "All evidence leading to us needs to disappear."
Nick nodded again, leading the group into the kitchen. "You're always thinking Griss. Always on top of things, aren't you?"
"That's why I'm the supervisor, Nick" he nodded grabbing a plate and filling it up with food.
"I see," Catherine pulled her hair back into a ponytail. "So, what's that say about the rest of us? You know I was a supervisor for several months."
"You know, if you play your cards right…" Warrick offered stuffing a forkful of mashed potatoes into his mouth, "You may be able to get that dayshift spot you've been working for. I mean…now that…Ecklie's…gone."
"Do you honestly think I could give up on you guys?" she smiled in response picking her plate up as she leaned against the kitchen counter.
"But isn't that why you did it?" Sara asked hopping up to take a seat on the counter top.
"Did what?" the older female asked with a spark in her eye. "Damn, these mashed potatoes are amazing!"