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Brute Force 11/14

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 Ten
Brute Force Masterlist

***
***


11.


“Oh, no,” Colby mumbled when another squad car raced past him with the siren turned on and flashing blue light, followed by an ambulance. He dropped the paper bag with the newly acquired snacks and started to run the last 100 feet toward the motel. His assumption was confirmed when he saw a group of curious onlookers and the police cars parked in front of their motel room. “Damn it.” Colby ran the last steps and seized the first policeman he could find. “FBI,” he showed his badge, “My partner and I were protecting a man in that room.”

The officer put his hands on his hips. “We got calls reporting shots and something looking like abduction. There’s only one man in that room.”

EMTs came out of the room with a stretcher between them and Colby jostled past the curious onlookers and another officer to reach them. “David,” he panted, horrified, when he recognized his partner.

His colleague looked up to him, blood seeping through the bandage wrapped around his shoulder. He mumbled, “Charlie … Colby, they took him.” He was pushed into the ambulance and Colby lost visual contact with him when the EMT closed the doors.

“Where are you taking him?” Colby asked.

“Huntington,” the man answered then he ran to the front part of the car, got in and drove off. Colby pushed hid worry over David aside and entered the motel room.

A policeman and a man wearing jeans, a pullover and an open rain jacket were occupying the room and looked up when they noticed Colby. The man in civilian clothes showed his badge. “Sir, you can’t enter.”

“FBI,” Colby answered.

The detective shook his head firmly. “This is LAPD’s case.”

“Not really,” Colby answered, irritated. “Those guys shot my partner and took the man we were supposed to protect.”

The man narrowed his eyes. “So, this was something like witness protection?”

“Something like that,” Colby answered. “Please leave this room, until our Forensics made a sweep.” He turned away from the detective, not prepared to bear the poisonous looks and little quarrels over the responsibility and took his cell from his coat pocket. He looked at Charlie’s laptop which still stood on the table while he was waiting for Don to answer. He closed his eyes, frustrated, and he heard the two policemen walking past him and leave the room. When Don answered, Colby heard in his voice that he didn’t have to tell him what had happened.

“Colby?” Don knew.

***

Don left for the crime scene without waking up his father. He’d called Megan on the way and she’d contacted Agent Hailey. They arrived in the FBI head office in the early morning after they’d examined the crime scene and ordered searches and roadblocks and after they’d made sure that David would survive by driving to Huntington. Don had never been so tired and gradually, terror crept into his mind. He stared at his computer screen and didn’t even notice yet that the screen saver had already started minutes ago. He felt Megan and Hailey’s looks drilling into his back while the two stood and discussed the situation in the break room over a cup of coffee. Colby stopped next to Don’s desk and rested his hands on the cubicle wall that divided his desk from the rest of the office. “Don,” he said softly, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have left.”

Don looked up at him. “Damn straight.”

Colby resisted the urge to look away. “I was too sure of the situation being under control,” he said. “That’s why I left.” He swallowed and straightened his stance before he continued more firmly, “But I didn’t miss anything. They were just there, suddenly.”

“It doesn’t matter how you describe it, Colby. David got shot. Charlie’s missing. Nobody can tell what they’ll do to him. So, just focus on finding him.” Don got up and took his jacket off his chair. He headed for the break room and spoke with Megan for a minute, and then he left the office. Colby stared at Don’s screen, sighing. The first big case he had worked with the team and he failed.

“Don’t worry about it, okay? He’s just worried about Charlie,” Megan said from behind him and Colby turned around to face her.

“I don’t know. Maybe I should request a transfer.”

She shook her head. “Believe the words of a profiler, Colby. That wasn’t anger, that was blind panic.” She nodded in the direction that Don had disappeared.

“Where’s he going?” Colby asked.

Megan sighed deeply. “To talk to Alan.”

***

Alan wasn’t home when Don arrived there shortly after eight a.m. so Don called his father to find out where he was. He learned that his dad had left with Amita to listen to one of Larry’s lectures at CalSci. He found the three in Larry’s office.

Now Alan sat in Larry’s chair, his head supported on his hands, staring into space, while Amita stood behind him and, a hand lying on his shoulder. Larry spoke for all of them, “What does that mean for Charles?“

Sighing, Don leant against the closed office door behind which the university morning had started. “We know that they want something from him. Whatever that is, it will depend on Charlie’s … on his … cooperation what will happen next.” He did his best not to think about the fact that he was talking about his brother. That was the only way, he could talk at all. Amita bit her lower lip, seemingly forcing herself not to cry. Don concentrated on his father who hadn’t said a word since Don had explained the situation to him. “Dad …” Alan looked up to him.

He looked as if he’d aged ten years. “Tell me that you’ve got a lead.”

Don shoved his hands in his pants pockets. “We’ve got … leads.”

Larry noticed Don’s hesitation and deduced, “But not enough.” Amita turned away from the men and went to the window. Don saw her running a hand over her face.

He stared at Alan; feeling like the teenager who’d lost Charlie on a camping trip, and said, “I’m sorry.”

Alan shook his head. “It’s not your fault, Donnie.”

“Yes, it is. I should have stood up to Merrick. I should have insisted on a safe house for Charlie.”

“Would that have changed anything?” Alan asked. “You said that Colby and David were absolutely sure nobody followed them. They found Charlie, either way. They would have found a safe house, too.”

Don shrugged, at a loss. “Somebody must have followed them.”

Amita turned away from the window. “And if not?” Don glanced at her with interest and she continued, “They’ve got a hacker. A computer genius. I’m sure he can hack into satellite systems and locate cells. I mean …” She gave a helpless laugh. “That’s Hacking 101 by now.”

“How did they get Charlie’s cell number?” Don asked.

“The university’s got the contact addresses of its professors and assistants in its data base. Security’s low.”

Alan looked up at Don. “You gotta find him.”

“Believe me, Dad,” Don answered. “I plan to.”

***

Charlie felt sick, the left side of his face hurt and he thought that his head was about to explode. He swallowed hard to push back the nausea he felt and opened his eyes. Pale morning light fell through a dirty, scabby window into the small, unfurnished room in which he lay on his belly on a thin mattress. A bottle of water stood next to his makeshift bed and he felt the weight of a thick blanket on his shoulders. Spider’s webs hung in the corners of the room and around the naked light bulb which hung from the ceiling. The walls and the ceiling were made of concrete, the floor was tiled. It was cold. Charlie turned on his side, pulling his legs to his chest and the blanket more tightly around his shoulders. There was no sound coming through the closed metal door or the window - so he had to be out of town. A key turned in the lock of the door and Charlie closed his eyes. Somebody entered and let the door close behind him. “Professor?”

Charlie forced himself to breathe regularly and to wait. As long as he was unconscious, they surely had to leave him alone. The man stopped next to his mattress and Charlie heard clothes rustling. Something cold was pressed to his cheek and he jerked back, frightened. The other man fell back from his squatting position beside Charlie’s mattress, frightened too, while Charlie was pressing himself into the corner of the room. The young man beside his mattress stared at him nervously and unsure. Then he extended his hand, showing Charlie a balled-up towel. “Ice. For your eye.” Charlie automatically raised a hand to his sore cheek, grimacing when he felt a cut just under his eye. The young man smiled shyly and put the towel on the mattress. Charlie hesitantly accepted the ice and pressed it against his cheek and his eye while he was watching the boy in front of him. He couldn’t be older than twenty-five. His whole posture betrayed his tension and nervousness, perhaps even something like fear.

Before Charlie could ask him for his name, the door opened again and Connor Hill entered. “Kenny?” His gaze landed on Charlie and he smiled in satisfaction. “Hello, Professor Eppes. Perfect timing.” He leant against the door frame, waiting until Kenny had gotten up and walked over to him. “Let’s talk business.”

***

Megan stared thoughtfully at the white board in the conference room, one leg crossed over the other and her reading-glasses in a hand. She chewed on the hanger while she was staring at the white surface in concentration. If she tried hard enough, she could just see the shadows of formulas and equations on the board because somebody hadn’t wiped them off thoroughly. Colby was sitting on the other side of the conference table, his head supported in his hands. He was strikingly quiet since Charlie had disappeared. Megan didn’t know what she could say to calm him down. She knew that he was blaming himself because Charlie had been taken and also because David was lying in hospital and had to undergo physiotherapy after his release in a few days. The bullet had damaged tendons and muscles in his shoulder. It would take weeks until he could get back to work. Hailey was reading Charlie’s file.

“What does Hill want from a mathematician?” Don had asked when calling a quarter hour ago, announcing that he wanted a couple of answers as soon as he arrived in the head office.

Hailey snapped the file shut, banishing the silence. “Professor Eppes was quite busy for a guy his age. He worked for the NSA, CIA, FBI, in academics …“

Megan nodded. “Yeah, Hill could use him for whatever he wants.”

“Let’s focus on those bank robberies,” Hailey said.

Megan turned her chair to face the other female agent and said, “Codes … or he could calculate the best escape routes, but Hill couldn’t be sure that Charlie wouldn’t try to outwit him.” Hailey nodded in agreement while Megan was continuing, “With Charlie, he’s got a good hostage against us, but he’s got nothing he could use to pressure Charlie with. I think that he’d try to outwit Hill. Judging from Don’s stories, he can be pretty stubborn.” Don rushed into the room and threw his jacket over a chair.

Megan noticed that he’d pushed aside a big portion of his panic and worry over his brother and seemed absolutely determined to tackle the case professionally. “What’s new?”

“Charlie could do a lot of different things for Hill, Don. Why do you think that the answer will get us somewhere?” Megan asked.

“If we’d know what Hill’s planning we could be better prepared. Does he want to hit another bank? Or is he planning something completely different?”

Colby spoke for the first time since he’d been called into the conference room, “Maybe he wants Brian Wilder.” The arrested accomplice of Connor was still lying in hospital. His GSW was more critical as the doctors had thought at first and he’d had a second operation. Two agents were watching him round-the-clock.

Don looked at Colby for a moment as if he wasn’t sure whether he should believe this. “Okay, but why Charlie? Why not David or Megan? Why not me? He could use any one of us to get Wilder free.”

“He wants to exchange him for Wilder and while he’s got him in his hands, he uses Charlie.”

“For what?” Don asked. Colby shrugged.

He pulled Charlie’s file towards him and opened it. “I don’t think that he needs him for more bank robberies. He manages those without Charlie.”

“Well, he doesn’t need him for hacking, either. That’s what he’s got Kenny for,” Linda added. Silence reigned for a few minutes.

Don thought that they were approaching an answer. “What can Charlie do that Kenny can’t do?” he asked.

Chapter Twelve
Brute Force Masterlist

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