Disclaimer: I don't own any of the CSI NY characters, I'm only borrowing them, and I promise to return them in minty fresh condition when I'm finished.
I know that a lot of the time, I’m not gonna be the smartest guy in the room. Leastways not when the room is part of the Crime labs. I get that those guys are always going to be a step, no make that, several steps ahead of me when it comes to the sciencey stuff, and that’s fair enough. It doesn’t embarrass me that my formal education stopped long before theirs did. Academia was never gonna be my thing.
I’d always known that I was going to be cop, I’d wanted it since I was a kid. I knew that one day I’d be a beat cop at the very least, and who knows, maybe even a detective one day. Ma used to tell me I could even be the Police Commissioner, but I know that that’s just the way moms talk up their kids when they’re trying to get them to do their homework or eat up all their vegetables. But I put my mind to my books and studied enough so I could fulfil the entry requirements for the NYPD. And then I studied some more until I finished my training. But the idea of keeping at it and getting a string of letters after my name, that was never going to be me.
So, it doesn’t bother me that a lot of the time the people in the Crime lab seem to be speaking a whole different language. They’re always willing to translate for a poor sap like me who doesn’t know a mass spectrometer from a centrifuge. Although admittedly by now, I’ve been hanging around the place for so long that I can actually tell the difference between the two machines. Sure, I still couldn’t operate either of them or interpret the results they spit out, but I do know what sort of results they’re supposed to get. It’s the Detective in me, I can’t help but pay attention to details, no matter complicated they gets.
But to be fair to them, they don’t deliberately try to make me feel inferior when they’re explaining their findings to me. It’s just that most of the they can’t help themselves. They’re so used to dealing with folks who know all this stuff backwards that sometimes it’s just hard for them to remember that not everybody speaks that same language. It’s like trying to talk about basketball to somebody whose never watched a game.
Most of them that is, don’t do it deliberately. Still, I’ve had a few run ins with lab techs who wore their knowledge as a badge of pride and treated with disdain us lesser mortals who weren’t as educated as they was. But not Mac and his team, no way.
It hadn’t always been that way of course. The first time I got sent over to the Crime Lab. It was pretty soon after I’d made Detective. My shield still had the factory polish on it, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was ‘Detective’ Flack and not just ‘Officer’.
I was headed over to the lab to chase up some forensic results. My boss had told me in no uncertain terms not to come back without them. I found the guy who was handling it, got the report from him, but when I took a quick look at it, I couldn’t make head nor tail of the jargon. So, I just asked if he could just tell me whether they’d been able to identify the stains on the murder victim’s clothing and what they were, so that I could in turn relay the information to my boss. Next thing he’s reeling off a whole list of scientific stuff, and I swear my eyes were glazing over before I managed to interrupt him and ask if he could just simplify it a bit for me. The guy wasn’t having any of it. He pretty much just rolled his eyes at me and said with disdain, “I have just told you everything that I’ve laid out in my report. You have a copy of it in your hands and I’m sure you’ll be able to find somebody at the station to read it to you.”
Well, I’m telling you, I was sorely tempted to tell him where he could shove his report, but then I wouldn’t have had it to bring back with me, so I was just stood there fuming, and almost biting through my lip to avoid saying something that’d I’d regret. And I was about two seconds from storming out, when all of a sudden Mac Taylor shows up like an avenging angel…that is if angels started dressing in lab coats instead of flowing robes.
He’d obviously been close enough to overhead the whole conversation, but it wasn’t until later when I started to wonder if it had been some kind of test, although whether of me or his lab tech, I didn’t know.
All I did know this guy, whose name I didn’t even know at that point, had taken the report from my clenched fists and dismissed the lab tech with a curt “I’ll take this from here.” I figured that he must have been one of the top guys there from the way that lab tech just scuttled away in a hurry. Then he ordered me to come with him, and I’m not kidding, even though I’d only just met him, I would have followed him anywhere, he had that air of authority about him.
He heads for his office and I’m following him like a lamb and then I see the name on the desk and realize that he’s not just ‘one’ of the top guys, he’s the main man in charge, Detective Mac Taylor. So, I sits down across from him and watch as he quickly reviews the report.
“Flack, Detective Don Flack,” I say quickly.
“Detective Flack, what do you need to know?”
I asks my questions, and he goes through the report with me. He breaks it down into simple terms that even I can understand, and more importantly, terms that I’ll be easily able to remember when I report back to the Senior Detective on the case. And not once does he make me feel like anything other than an intellectual equal. I could sit and listen to him all day, but I know that we both have work to do, so I get to my feet and tell him, “I really appreciate you taking the time to do this, Detective Taylor. It all sort of makes sense now.”
“If anyone in this lab gives you any more trouble,” Mac had stood up as well, “You just come straight to me, Detective Flack.”
I tried to brush it off, “It wasn’t trouble. It’s not that guy’s fault he’s way brainier than me.”
But Mac wasn’t having any of it. “You wouldn’t have made Detective if you didn’t have the brains for it,” he told me, firmly. “The only difference between you and any of the people in this lab, is that we’ve spent considerably more time learning about forensics and what we do here. Always remember that.”
“I will,” I told him as I put my hand out, “Thanks for everything, Detective Taylor.”
He shook my hand and told me, “If we’re going to be working together, the name’s Mac.”
“Thank you, Mac,” I said. I took the report, and while I wasn’t exactly whistling on the way back to the precinct, there was a definite spring in my step.
I don’t know what Mac had said to that tech, but the next time I showed up at the lab, the guy was nowhere to be seen. I did feel a bit bad about it and years later, after our relationship had changed from colleagues to friends and then to something more, I’d asked Mac about it, hoping that I hadn’t been responsible for a guy losing his job.
“It wasn’t you, Don,” Mac had told me. “At least, not just you. Part of our job is always going to involve testifying about what we’ve found. Anybody can explain their findings so that I can understand them, because I’ve got the training and the experience to know what they’re talking about. But if they can’t explain their findings to an untrained person.”
“Or a dumb cop like me,” I commented.
“Like any ordinary member of the public that might be sitting on a jury,” said Mac. “I don’t want my team to work round the clock to solve a case, only for the perpetrator to be acquitted because they couldn’t explain things properly. And if a member of my team can’t understand that, well, they don’t belong on my team.”
“Makes sense I guess,” I’d told him.
“Yeah,” he’d said, and then he’d looked me straight in the eye and said, “You know I don’t like it when you put yourself down like that. You are not a ‘dumb cop’, Don Flack.”
It’s almost cute the way he gets so worked up about it sometimes. One time we’d been interrogating a suspect together and the guy had made a snarky comment about how cops in general and me in particular were too dumb to tie our own shoelaces. I’m telling you, if looks could have killed, I’d have been running Mac in for one count of homicide, right there and then. But that guy had ended up doing time in Rikers thanks to Mac and me, so who was the dumbass then?
“You know I’m not, and I know I’m not,” I’d told him, “But sometimes it ain’t no bad thing for people to underestimate me. Suspects and even witnesses are more likely to run their mouths off if they think I’m just some big dumb lug who won’t understand half of what they’s telling me.”
He’d tilted his head and looked at me as if he was suddenly seeing me in a new light and I guessed he was mentally reviewing some of our previous interactions to wonder if he’d been guilty of the same thing. And I’m not saying I may have sometimes pretended not to understand something just so he’d have to spend a bit more time with me to explain it thoroughly but if he’d asked me outright, I might have had to plead the fifth.
But anyways, thankfully, in all the years since that first day, guys like that lab tech were few and far between. And while Mac’s people still frequently said things that I might not have initially understood, I knew for the most part that it came from genuine scientific interest rather than any deliberate attempt at condescension.
Of course, Danny Messer will still sometimes deliberately use the longest most complicated scientific terms that he can. But that’s done out of affection and because he knows it annoys me, and I can always kick his ass on the basketball court, so things balance out just fine.
And as for Mac Taylor, well, when a guy has been able to use his scientific knowledge to stop youze bleeding to death, he’s pretty much earned the right to talk over your head if he feels like it. But he came and sat by my hospital bed pretty near every day after that and translated for me all the stuff the docs were telling me about how bad things had been for me after the blast. He did admit to me much later that he’d had Hawkes explain to him some of the more complicated stuff and it made me feel good that even Mac Taylor had limits to his expertise.
But if I can’t match Mac when it comes to talking about science, I know that I can always put my tongue to use in other ways. And when I have Mac in the palm of my hands, sometimes literally, neither of us really gives a damn about which of us has more letters after our names, or the more arrests to our credit or are carrying more battle scars.
When we’re off the job, when we’re together, we’re always equals.