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Backwards and in High Heels

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When Patel tells her she’s being temporarily assigned to Burke’s team, Lauren is ecstatic.

When Lauren’s had a chance to read her assignment file and has seen what Wardrobe’s picked out for her disguise for the party, she’s infuriated. She storms into Patel’s office and says, “Tell me I earned this,” holding up the file, “and that it’s not because I look good in this,” holding up the skimpy dress.

Patel looks uncomfortable. “White Collar sent out a memo asking for agents who fit a certain type,” she says. “The op they’re planning is a Fashion Week party, so whoever the Bureau sends has to fit in.”

Lauren gives Patel a level stare and says, “I’ve done good work on your team. When you said I was being assigned to Burke’s team, I thought I’d earned it with that, not my looks.” She doesn’t want to hurt Patel, who’s been a good mentor, but this situation is untenable. People have always dismissed her, assuming that pretty was a synonym for brainless, and things hadn’t been any different when she’d started at the Bureau. It had taken two years of hard work and downplaying her appearance with ugly suits to get her coworkers to recognize her competence.

Patel says, “Look, I realize this isn’t a fair situation to put you in. But working here means doing things you don’t like, sometimes, if it’s necessary to get the job done.” She points at the dress. “That’s necessary for whatever Burke’s got his hands in. There aren’t many people who can wear that and carry a gun, and you’re the only one of them who works for the Bureau.”

Lauren’s mouth tightens, but she knows that Patel is right. She’ll do what she has to, in order to help catch a criminal, but it’s frustrating that she’s finally gotten her dream job--but only because she can wear a dress. She nods and says, “I know, I’m sorry.”

Patel says, “Don’t be. It’s a valid concern for you, which is also unfair, I know. You should be aware, too, that this assignment isn’t temporary so much as it’s provisional.” She clears her throat. “You do good work, Agent Cruz, and provided that you do well on this case, you’ll be permanently assigned to Agent Burke’s team. Burke and I had been discussing transferring you next month, after we’ve closed out the paperwork on the Morstan case, but this op moved up the timeline.”

Lauren tries not to lose her cool, because she doesn’t want to sound too excited about leaving her old boss, but it’s hard not to. She’s been dreaming about working with Peter Burke since her first criminology class in college, and she’s finally earned it, and more on her own terms than she’d thought. “Wow,” she says, “that’s great! I mean, that’s a great opportunity, thank you.”

Patel quirks an eyebrow. “Don’t sound too thrilled about dodging the paperwork,” she says, then gestures at the dress. “Go get changed and head over to the op site. Burke’s setting it up now, you should introduce yourself to him.”

Lauren nods, and heads to the locker room. While she’s tugging the skintight dress into place, she reflects that none of her male colleagues have to prepare for an undercover op by shaving their legs and putting up their hair. She straps on her thigh holster and makes sure it’s hidden under the short skirt of her dress. Essentially, she’s being asked to do everything they do, but in knockoff designer clothing and in heels. She checks the clip on her gun, then stows it in the holster, and examines her reflection in the mirror. On the surface, she looks like an aspiring supermodel. Beneath the soft folds of her dress, however, she’s carrying a loaded gun, and her clutch holds an FBI badge as well as lipstick and mascara. She might have been assigned to this case for her looks, but it's her brain and her work that are going to help solve it.

She’s ready, and it’s time to catch a criminal.