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Brute Force 1/14

Word Count: 45.068
Summary: Banks in L.A. are being robbed apparently at random. The robbers are always a step ahead of the FBI, until Charlie begins working on the case and becomes the gang’s new target.
Characters: Charlie Eppes, Don Eppes, Colby Granger, David Sinclair, Megan Reeves, Larry Fleinhardt, Amita Ramanujan, OCs
Pairing: Charlie/Amita (pre-Ship)
Rating: PG-13
Spoiler: None
Setting: Between seasons 1 and 2 - Megan and Colby are already there but they do not know Charlie yet
Warnings: Violence, verbal homophobia
Author's Note: This was actually my first Numb3rs story and was published a long time ago in Germany. I belatedly thought of translating it and here it is.
Feedback: Can’t breathe without it.
Beta: An-Jelly-Ca – thank you!
Disclaimer: I’m not making money with this fanfic. The tv-show Numb3rs and the characters appearing within it belong to their producers and creators. Any similarities to living or dead persons are purely coincidental and not intended.

Prologue
Brute Force Masterlist


***
***


1.


“Welcome to my personal nightmare,” said Agent Megan Reeves. Her colleague Don Eppes looked up from his desk at her comment. She held a snow-white card which stated in golden calligraphy We’re Getting Married! Megan held the card as if it was a dangerous weapon and she was expecting it to explode at any moment. “My prissy, spoiled brat cousin is getting married. She’s already run off one Maid of Honor and now she wants me to step in.”

Don laughed. “So, I assume that she has no idea that you don’t like her?”

“She is gruesome. She is..." Megan appeared to be searching for words, and glanced around the FBI office for inspiration and ended with, “... well, gruesome.”

“Cancel,” Don advised.

“That’d be impolite, right?” Megan questioned but with a note of hope in her voice.

“You want me to give you permission to cancel?”

“As my boss, you could write an excuse for me,” Megan answered, tucking pale brown hair behind her ears, before she dropped the card on her desk.

A man hurried from the elevators in Don and Megan’s direction. The man’s jeans, backpack and thick jacket were wet from the falling rain outside. His sneakers left damp patches on the ground, and his dark locks hung wetly onto his forehead.

“Don,” he said, putting a sheet of paper on the agent’s desk. Megan had not heard him coming and looked around, surprised at his appearance. He brushed his wet locks out of his face and Don was tempted to ask why his brother didn’t use his newly acquired driver’s license instead of taking his bicycle in such weather. But Charlie was still talking, barely pausing for breath, “I’m in a hurry, but I wanted to bring you your statistics.”

Don smiled in amusement. “Good morning to you, too, Sunshine.” The young man smiled and took a quick step away from Don’s desk when he realised that he was dripping on his brother’s files. Megan stepped closer to Don and into Charlie’s field of vision, curious. Don indicated his colleague. “This is Megan Reeves. She’s replacing Terry. Megan, my brother Charlie.”

Megan remembered. “Oh, the math genius.” She had worked through the closed cases of the last year, stumbling over Charlie’s name again and again.

She hadn’t expected him to be so young. Charlie shook her hand, then immediately turned to Don again. He shrugged. “Sorry, I’m really in a hurry.” Don took the paper which his brother had brought him.

“When are you not?”

Megan glanced curiously at the numbers. “What is this?”

Charlie pulled at the strap of his backpack. “Baseball statistics.” He rolled his shoulders, looking for a better position for the strap of the overcrowded bag. Megan tried to guess its weight, but was stumped for answer. In any case, there were a lot of books in it, because the bag seemed to be in danger of ripping apart at any moment.

Don explained. “He lost a bet.”

Charlie raised a hand. “Statistically speaking, that wasn’t allowed to happen. This was an anomaly.”

Don grinned. “No, you just suck at golfing, buddy.” He folded the sheet before he put it into his shirt pocket. “And I have good chances of winning a couple of baseball bets against David now.”

Charlie raised a warning hand. “These calculations aren’t a guarantee.”

Don grinned at him. “But they’re a chance for me.”

Charlie rolled his eyes. “Gotta go.”

Don asked, “Where to so quick?”

He knew that Charlie didn’t have classes this morning. “I promised Amita I’d be on time. We’re looking after her cousin.”

Don’s brown eyes widened in surprise, “You’re babysitting?”

Charlie shrugged, waved half-heartedly and was gone.

Megan raised her eyebrows, impressed. “He’s like the wind.”

“Yeah,” Don answered, grinning, “I inherited the good manners genes.”

Agent Colby Granger hung up the phone at his desk only a couple of steps away, got up and waved for his partner David Sinclair to follow his lead. Excited, he approached Don and Megan as he pulled on his jacket. “We’ve got another one.”

Megan picked up her jacket, immediately slipping into professional mode.

Don shrugged into his suit jacket and they all moved toward the elevators. He checked to see that the he had his cell phone as he went. “Where?”

Colby impatiently pushed the elevator button. “Another Bank of America branch office. No witnesses and one million dollars was stolen.”

Don cursed. “This is the eighth bank this group has hit.”

David nodded. “Altogether, they’ve gotten away with ten million dollars now,” He said as they stepped into the elevator car.

Don put his hands on his hips. “Let’s see to it that they don’t get another dime.”

***

They were cleverer, more skilful and quicker than all other bank robbers Don had previously investigated. They’d managed to deactivate the cameras and alarms without raising any warnings, and always hit in the middle of the night. When the robberies were discovered the next morning, both the safe and the safety deposit boxes were left open; it was almost as if the team was daring anyone to find them.

Don and Megan were standing in the entrance area of the Bank of America in Chinatown with the branch manager. A stocky man in his forties, he gesticulated wildly with his hands while he was speaking. “One million dollars is missing and the contents of some safe deposit boxes. I can’t explain this to my customers. What shall I say? That those bandits managed to break in without anyone noticing? How did they manage it?”

Don raised his eyebrows, looking to Megan who nodded sympathetically. They always heard the same story from the victims. The agents always asked them the same questions, too, hoping to get a lead.

Don put his hands on his hips, taking a quick look outside at a rain-wet L.A., taking in the curious onlookers and the press who’d gathered by the glass entrance doors.

“Were those boxes special?”

Until now, the boxes of the bank’s richest ten customers had been cleared out. The perpetrators had never permitted themselves a mistake in that. Colby had suggested an inside job, but the robbers had targeted different banks which made that theory unlikely. The man shrugged. “I’d have to look in the computer to see who rented them.”

Megan nodded. “Do that and send us the list. Is there anything you’d like to add?”

The branch manager shrugged helplessly and then shook his head.

***

Megan and Don passed the group of curious onlookers in front of the blocked off bank’s entrance area. Half the road had been closed for the cars of the FBI. Forensics was there and a SWAT team searched the bank’s basement to make sure that nobody had stayed behind. Don and David had parked their cars beside those of the police. It was a cool January day; it had started to rain overnight and not stopped since. The sky remained cloudy and announced even more rain. For the sun-spoilt residents of L.A., this was reason enough to dig out the thick jackets. Don put his hands into his coat pockets. A reporter yelled a question at Don, waving a mike in his general direction. “This is the eighth attack within a short period of time, Agent Eppes. Do you have any leads?”

“No comment,” he answered. “Consult our press department.” They walked to the area where the cars of the investigators were parked. They stopped between Don and David’s cars, looking back thoughtfully at the building.

Megan raised the collar of her coat. “They know exactly what they want and they never make a mistake. These guys are good.”

Don shrugged. “Yeah. We’re not getting anywhere like this. We need new leads.” He considered calling his brother. A couple of years ago, Don never would have thought he and Charlie would be working together. And just a year ago, he never would have thought that Charlie could do more than help him with embezzlement or tax evasion cases. But now he knew that he could actually help track down murders.

Colby and David joined them. When Don looked questioningly at Colby, the younger agent shook his head. “We looked into the video footage and sent it back to our techs just in case. Same old, same old. Shortly before the attack, they switch the cameras off and after the robbery, they switch them on again. We didn’t have the time to check the cameras of the surrounding shops but I think that they’ll show the same as always, anyway - they scout the area out and always keep away from the surrounding cameras. We’re asking around, in case someone did see something. But that didn’t help us during the last two attacks. The robbery times have helped ensure that these guys have no witnesses.”

Megan leant against the car. “They’ve got no problem accessing the bank through the front entrance. They must have the codes for the security system.”

David shrugged sceptically. “Sure, but where did they get them?”

Colby said, “Which leads us back to the theory of an inside job.”

Don folded his arms, looking at the bank. “They ought to have had one in all eight banks. That’s unlikely, but we’ll check all employees just to be on the safe side. I’ll bring Charlie in.” At David’s nod of consent, Don added, “Pick up the video footage from the surrounding shops and send it to the techs as well. Maybe we’ll catch a break, and they’ve caught something.” With that Don got into his SUV.

David opened the door to his car, and Megan climbed into the front passenger seat, leaving Colby to get into the back. “Who’s Charlie?” Colby asked.

Megan answered, “Don’s brother.”

David picked up the explanation. “He’s a math professor at CalSci. He’s helped us out on previous cases.”

Colby pulled his eyebrows together sceptically. “Math?”

Megan shrugged. “I haven’t worked with him yet, but I read through the old case files, and his math thing seems to work.”

David nodded in confirmation. “I’ve seen it. He’s unbelievable. A genius. Half a year ago, somebody tried to hack into the FBI’s witness protection database - safe houses, new identities ... everything is in there and only accessible for the agents in charge. That data’s high-security, but our hacker almost would have made it. Charlie and two techs designed a new firewall - it took weeks.”

Colby seemed impressed. “Did you get the hacker?”

David nodded. “He says he’s innocent, but the burden of proof is on our side.”

Colby shook his head. “I still don’t think that math can help us. That’s like me saying I could read the robbers thoughts and therefore see where they’re hiding. Nobody can calculate something like that.”

David laughed. “Charlie would lynch you for saying that.”

Megan shrugged. “It helped in the past, Colby. We should at least give it a chance.”

***

Charlie’s office door was open and Don heard him and Amita laughing. He stopped just outside the door, the files for Charlie tucked under his arm. His brother’s office was an ordered mess. Charlie knew where everything was, but Don was overtaxed every time he saw the crammed shelves and the book towers on the chairs and tables. The office reflected Charlie’s mind - an unholy mess of formulas, numbers and facts. His brother sat behind his unsurprisingly cluttered desk. His TA and friend Amita had found a free seat on the table-top with her back to Don. She fed a toddler on Charlie’s lap.

Don shook his head in wonder. He hadn’t known that Charlie liked children. He had never seen his brother with a child. And, if Don didn’t know better, he’d think the three in front of him were a family. The little girl had curly, dark hair like Charlie, Amita’s darker complexion and deep brown eyes.

“I hope I’m not interrupting,” he said, stepping into the office. Charlie looked up to him and Amita slipped from her perch on the desk. She turned to face Don.

Charlie got up, the little girl on his hip with an arm wrapped around her as if he was used to having a child around. “No, of course not.”

“Hi, Amita,” Don greeted with a smile.

She smiled back, tucking a dark strand of hair behind her right ear. “Hello. Should I leave?"

“No, of course not,” Don said as he closed the door. “Charlie, I need your help. And I think yours also, Amita.” She raised her eyebrows, surprised. Until now, she had at the most worked together with Charlie on FBI cases. It was the first time that Don indicated that he needed her help in particular. “We’re investigating those bank robberies,” Don said, more for Amita’s sake than his brother’s. Only last week, he had spent an evening with his father and Charlie, complaining that they hadn’t found any leads in the case.

Amita nodded. “I’ve seen the news.”

Charlie knew that Don’s team was having problems with the case. He was frustrated and if Charlie could help to change that, then he would. “What can I do for you?"

“I need a point of origin calculation like the one you did for the serial killer case. You know the lawn sprinkler thing.”

Charlie nodded. “You want to know where they come from.” He sighed. “I still have the notes, the FBI made about the procedure of bank robberies. Those are a good starting point.”

Don handed him the files. “Copies of the reports for the current attacks. They’ve robbed eight banks. Different ones but they’ve hit the Bank of America more often than the other branches. I’m afraid we don’t know much more than that.”

Charlie nodded, putting the child into her stroller, before he took the alarmingly narrow files from Don and leafed through them. He sat back down. “Okay. I’ll see what I can do.”

Don continued: “Amita, we assume that the robbers knew the banks’ security codes. They came at night, and turned off the alarm. They also knew the codes for the safe deposit boxes of some of the customers. Both the codes and the owners of the lockers are registered in the banks’ computers.”

“You think one of them is a hacker,” Amita suspected.

Don nodded. “Computers are your special subject, so ...”

Amita bit her lip thoughtfully. “I can look at the banks’ systems and see how difficult it is to hack in. And hackers leave an electronic fingerprint. I could also search for something like that.”

“That’d be great. I’ll ask the banks whether it’s possible that you look at their systems from here.”

“That’s possible.” She grinned at Don mischievously. “One must only know how.”

Don brushed a hand through his dark hair. “Well, I better inform the persons responsible and my supervisors that I’ve asked you to investigate from this angle, though.”

Amita nodded. “Okay.”

Don put his hands on his hips. “Well, that’s it from my side.” Charlie was focused on the files and Amita sat down in front of her laptop. Don felt useless, so he left them to their tasks.

Chapter Two
Brute Force Masterlist


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