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Brute Force 8/14

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.

Chapter Seven
Brute Force Masterlist

***
***


8.


Larry watched his younger friend quietly for some minutes from the door. It was dim in Charlie’s office; the curtains were drawn and only admitted in enough sunlight to be able to recognize the furniture. Additional light came from the writing table lamp and a lamp in the corner. Larry knocked on the door frame softly and entered. Charlie turned around from the black board, his eyes squinting as if in pain and rubbing his forehead.

“Hey, Larry!” Charlie said.

Larry put down the tray containing sandwiches and juice for Charlie as well as rice pudding and milk for himself. Charlie turned to face the board again and Larry stepped up next to him, glancing at the formulas with a practised eye. He knew Charlie’s way of working better than anyone. It hadn’t changed very much since he’d first met his friend. It nevertheless astonished Larry again and again, how fast Charlie could express the world around him in numbers.

It had been that way since he’d observed Charlie working for the first time - late in the evening in Larry’s office in Princeton. He still remembered Margaret Eppes sitting in an easy-chair in the corner and reading a book while the 15-year-old had explained to Larry where one of the professors had made a mistake in his calculations.

“Charles, am I right with the assumption that these calculations are for Don’s current case?”

Charlie squinted again. “Yeah.” He closed his eyes, rubbing his forehead with a hand and then started to massage his temple. Larry knew intense headaches when he saw them. He opened the topmost drawer in Charlie’s desk and held out a can of aspirin to him. “I already took three,” Charlie answered. “I’ll take stronger painkillers when I get home. But I can’t do that before office hours.”

Larry put the aspirin on the desk. “Charles, you shouldn’t work.” He frowned and pointed to one of the equations. “Are you trying to avoid Heisenberg?”

“I’m trying to estimate what the robbers are going to do next. They play with open cards now – the FBI knows that they can disturb the radio, that they are heavily armed and with what – and they lost one of them to the FBI. They know that the FBI’s on to them and that everybody’s looking for them and I’ve got to find out where they’ll hit next.”

Larry shook his head in dismay. “I thought I’ve already told you that there are things which mathematics cannot solve.”

“I know that, I’m taking an educated guess.”

“Guessing’s not good,” Larry replied.

“I know,” Charlie sighed. He put down the chalk and sat down. “That’s why I’m approaching the calculations from different angles. It’s good that the guy the FBI caught doesn’t seem to be the leader.” Larry had begun to eat his rice pudding, but he stopped when Charlie was talking.

“How is that good?“

“That means that the group’s organization doesn’t change and-“

“Its tactics,” Larry nodded in understanding. “They’ll only adjust a few minor things.”

“It’s as if a company had to fire half of its employees and is forced to spend less money because the order book’s almost empty. If the CEO doesn’t change he’ll take measures to improve the situation. But he’ll do that in his own way, because every CEO’s running his company differently. Some would take out mortgages and invest in marketing; others would wait it out and try to save their resources.”

“Megan did give you a profile on the leader, right?” Larry asked.

Charlie nodded. “Yeah. It’s not much, but she thinks that he’s a strong character, born to lead. Very organized. Smart. She also profiled the robbers’ dynamics. We don’t have any video footage from the banks, the safes were opened expertly and the robbers knew which safe deposit boxes to open. So she thinks that the leader gathered a pretty talented group. I noticed that there’s no pattern concerning the time frame between the robberies. They strike as soon as they’re ready. They’re unpredictable, but well thought-out. With this profile I can estimate how the robbers will react to the changed circumstances and give Don a few lists with the next targets.”

“It’s still an educated guess,” Larry said.

“Yeah,” Charlie answered with a shrug, “I know.”

***

Don’s cell rang when he and Megan took a break. His eyes hurt from going through the mountains of files on hackers and past robberies that he hoped would contain some kind of lead on who’d be capable of doing this. He looked at the caller ID and answered, concerned. “Dad, what’s up?”

“Can you do me a favour? Could you pick up Charlie at CalSci and drive him home? I’d ask Larry, but I know that he’s holding a class right now. My car broke down and it seems like I’ll be waiting in the shop for a while.”

Don frowned. “What? Is Charlie already working, again?”

“No. He just didn’t want to miss his office hours.”

Don sighed, annoyed. “He really doesn’t know how to relax.”

“Yeah, I know someone else with that very same problem,” Alan said and Don shook his head, smiling.

He could get … a bit obsessed when he was working on a case. He could admit that. “I’ll pick him up. You want me to pick you up at the shop?”

“No, no. They say it’s just a small thing. They’re already working on it. But that’ll take another hour or so. I’ll wait.”

“Okay, Dad.” Don hung up, and then turned to Megan. “I need to leave for half an hour.”

Megan smiled knowingly. “Doesn’t the professor know when to rest?”

Don laughed. “Yeah, right.”

***

“So, if you look through your notes on the last few lectures again, you shouldn’t have any problems with the exam,” Charlie explained, opening the door for the young student standing beside him. “You’re worried for no reason. I believe that you understand the substance very well. If you should nevertheless have problems, you can send me an e-mail any time.”

She smiled. “Thank you, Professor.” When she left, Charlie took a look into the corridor in front of his door. There were no other students waiting for his advice, so he returned to his office, leaving the door open, before he sat down at his desk. A look at his watch told him that his father should already be here. His office hours had ended ten minutes ago. He started to organize his documents, sliding some of them into his bag to study them within the next days at home. After the headaches had become much worse during office hours, he had to admit that he simply wasn’t fit enough for work yet. So he wanted to follow doctor’s orders and stay at home the next few days. At least the nausea and the dizziness seemed to have disappeared. Charlie got up and looked thoughtfully at the calculations for Don’s case on his black board. He’d already noted down the results for his brother, but since his father was apparently late, he could take a look at the equations one more time. Suddenly, a possibility to improve his calculations occurred to him. Frowning, Charlie reached for the sponge and removed the equations, and then he took the chalk and spent the next minutes improving the calculations. For lunchtime, it was astonishingly quiet in the corridors outside of Charlie’s door. From the court under his window, he could hear the voices of the students who spent their lunch break outside despite the cold and the rain. He shut out the noise, concentrating only on the scratching of the chalk on the board. This habit had driven his father to despair during Charlie’s youth. He didn’t hear anything when he really concentrated, not even somebody calling his name. Finally, he drew a double bar under his new result. He took a step backwards and scrutinized the calculations once again from a distance. “Hm,” he said. When he wanted to turn around to correct the results on the summary for Don he suddenly knew that he was no longer alone. He stared at the board, knowing instinctively that neither his father nor his friends or students stood behind him. The barrel of a weapon was pressed into his back.

“I always sucked at math,” a man said. Charlie closed his eyes, he didn’t dare to move. He hoped that his father wouldn’t come in now. “Here’s the deal, Professor. You’ll take your bag and accompany me to my car without talking to anyone, without even looking at anyone. You do that and I’m not going to hurt you.” Charlie swallowed. The gun was pressed harder into his back. “You understand?” Charlie nodded slowly. “Good.” The man seized his upper arm, taking the weapon away before he turned Charlie around to face him. Charlie looked up at him, trying to take in as much of the other man’s looks as he could. He was bigger than Charlie, even bigger than Don. He was around 50, with short, blonde hair which contained streaks of grey and blue eyes. He wore a leather jacket which didn’t hide the fact that he was very athletic. With one hand he held Charlie’s upper arm while the other one was stuffing the Beretta into one of the big jacket pockets, holding it in Charlie’s direction. The leather was old and soft, already well-used. Nobody would suspect a weapon was in the hand of the man. “Your bag,” he said, pushing Charlie in the direction of his desk. Charlie reached for the strap of the bag when he saw his cell lying on the table top. As casually as possible he reached for it while he was hanging the bag over his shoulder. The man laughed in amusement, taking the cell away from him, putting it back on the desk. “They can locate those things. It’s better if it stays here, don’t you think?” He pushed Charlie toward his office door.

“What do you want?” he asked breathlessly.

“Just a couple of answers,” the man said. They entered the corridor and his kidnapper let Charlie go to drape a seemingly friendly arm around his shoulders. They didn’t head for the main stairs but in the other direction - to the emergency exit at the other end of the corridor. Nobody approached them, the office doors of Charlie’s colleagues were closed – it was around lunchtime; most of them weren’t even occupied. Charlie was oddly glad for that. He didn’t want to risk pulling others into this situation.

“Charlie? Wait. Where are you going?”

Charlie wanted to stop and warn his brother, but the man pulled him forwards.

Don sounded alarmed. “Charlie!”

Charlie could imagine how the man’s grip on his weapon tightened. He couldn’t stay silent. “Don, gun!” Faster than Charlie could react, the man had pulled him crossways over his chest, turning around to face Don with the weapon drawn, Charlie a shield in front of his body. Charlie’s bag slipped off his shoulder, hitting the ground with a muffled sound.

Don had pushed open the door to an office next to him and was standing behind the protective door frame His gun pointed to the man who was holding his brother hostage – and who was obviously trying to reach the emergency exit down the corridor. Don cursed that he didn’t have any direct contact to any sort of reinforcements. “FBI! Drop your weapon.”

The door to Dr. Jennings’ office opened. Confused, he asked, “What’s going on here?” Then he noticed Don’s weapon, paled and stepped back into his office.

Don showed him his badge with his free hand, keeping his gaze on Charlie and the man behind him. “FBI. Call the police. Tell them to surround the emergency exit.” He focused on Charlie’s kidnapper. “FBI! Drop your weapon, now.” They’d reach the emergency exit soon. Charlie knew that his chances were bad if they made it.

Therefore, he let himself drop, hoping that his kidnapper didn’t want to let himself be held back by an additional weight. The man made a surprised sound, before he cursed softly. His grip around Charlie tightening, he dragged him further away from Don. “Get up,” he hissed. Sirens could be heard in the distance. The man cursed again, and then pushed a knee in Charlie’s back, flinging him forwards. A shot came loose from Don’s weapon and Charlie raised his arms over his head, lying on the ground, hoping, that Don had hit. The door to the emergency exit closed, confirming that this was not the case.

“Damn,” Don cursed. He hurried to his younger brother and squatted down next to him, trying to find any injuries. “Charlie, are you hurt?”

“I’m okay,” he answered, sitting up. He batted away Don’s hands. “Go. Go after him.” Don hesitated. “I’m okay. Go.” Don nodded and hurried to the emergency exit. When he had disappeared through the door, Charlie let himself fall against the wall of the corridor, rubbing his forehead.

“Charlie, are you all right?”

He looked up at Dr. Jennings, nodding. “I’m fine, Carl. Thank you.”

Jennings squatted down next to him, looking towards the emergency exit. “What the hell just happened?”

“I’m not sure,” Charlie answered.

***

“Don,” Megan called in the FBI head office half an hour later, handing him a cup of coffee. He tore himself out of his thoughts, averting his eyes from Charlie who was making an identikit with a draftsman in the conference room. His brother seemed to be tired, permanently massaging his forehead and Don knew that he had to have one tremendous headache.

“They couldn’t find him,” Megan reported and Don sighed in frustration.

“I thought so. He was well prepared. He wanted to sneak Charlie out through the emergency exit instead of crossing the whole courtyard.” He was looking at his brother again, watching David serve Charlie a coffee and then take a position in a corner of the conference room.

Megan’s focus was on Charlie, too. “You think that’s got something to do with our case.”

Don shrugged. “Could be. Could also be some criminal who wants to use Charlie’s math.”

Megan added carefully, “Could be someone who’s after you.”

Don was getting sick just thinking about that, but he forced himself to a nod. “Could be. I sent Colby home to watch my dad, just in case.”

Megan could see that her supervisor was worried beyond reason. “What are you going to do now?”

Don sipped his coffee. “Protect my family.”

***

Colby opened the Eppes’ the front door when Don and Charlie arrived at the house. The young agent updated Don while they were entering the house.

“I’ve seen no one. No suspicious car or person, nothing … I don’t think that your father’s the target.”

Don closed the door.

Alan joined them, coming from the kitchen. “Thank God, you’re okay,” he said with a nervous edge to his voice, looking at Don, visibly stunned. “I don’t want to imagine what could have happened if I’d picked him up.”

Don didn’t want to, either, and instead turned to his brother: “Charlie, go and lie down. And by that I mean that you should take a nap.”

His brother’s answering look was slightly irritated, but also exhausted, so he said nothing and took the stairs to his room. Don turned to his father. “He has a headache. And I think that this whole situation overwhelmed him.”

“I’ll take up a sandwich for him so he can take his painkillers.” Alan nodded at Don, before following his youngest upstairs. Don suspected that Alan wanted to calm down Charlie, first. Possibly himself, too.

Don sighed and turned to face Colby. “Colby, I need to get back to the office and check a few things with David. Megan will be here in half an hour to take over.”

Colby raised his eyebrows in surprise, running a hand through his dark blonde hair. “I can stay the night, Don. No problem.”

“No, you go home and sleep. I want you and David to take Charlie out of town tomorrow.”

Colby crossed his arms. “A safe house?” he asked.

Don shook his head. “I’ll talk it through with David, later, but you should check into a motel.”

“A motel,” Colby echoed in confusion. “Wouldn’t it be better to hide him in a safe house?”

Don massaged his neck, frustrated. “Merrick doesn’t want us to. He thinks that Charlie should be guarded by an agent, but that’s about it. He thinks the case is getting too personal for me to be involved. I couldn’t argue with him about it. He’d have assigned Charlie’s safety to another agent.”

“I take it he doesn’t know about your plan,” Colby answered.

“Not really. He knows that I’m assigning David and you to protect Charlie. I don’t think he cares where you do it. But I’d like to see him outside of his usual routine. Then he’s harder to find.”

“What about your dad?” Colby asked.

Don sighed. “The kidnapper told Charlie, that he wanted answers. I think that he wanted to take Charlie in particular. But dad’s going to move into my apartment tomorrow, just in case. It’s small and you can’t get in as easily. I’ve got a curious neighbour with a protective dog. He’s always barking as soon as someone comes near our doors.”

Colby glanced upstairs, grimacing. “Is Charlie going to like your plan?”

Don laughed bitterly. “Even if you have to bind and gag him – tomorrow, he’ll leave this house.”

Chapter Nine
Brute Force Masterlist

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