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Brute Force 2/14

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 One
Brute Force Masterlist



In the afternoon, Charlie came into the FBI office. He passed security quickly showing his badge and rushed toward an elevator whose doors were already closing. His bag and the big maps in his arms hindered him and he accepted the fact that he’d have to take the next elevator up. But the agent standing in the lift prevented the doors from closing when he saw Charlie running toward him.

“Thank you,” Charlie mumbled, opening the zipper of his jacket, before he hung the badge around his neck. One of the maps slipped from his arms and he cursed. Before he worked out how to get the map back without losing his bag or the remaining plans to gravity, his companion picked it up. “Thank you,” Charlie smiled.

Colby glanced at Charlie’s badge. “Professor Eppes,” he said, surprised.


”You’re Don’s brother?”

Charlie nodded.

“I’m Colby Granger. I’m the new guy.”

“Hi,” Charlie answered and, looking at his full arms, added: “I ... would shake your hand, but ...”

“That’s okay,” Colby said. They reached their floor and left the elevator. Colby put his hands in his trouser pockets while they walked to Don’s desk. “So, you calculate where our robbers are hiding.”

“You sound sceptical,” Charlie replied with a smile. He was used to the government authorities doubting his tactics.

“Well, I’m more the practical type and not the theoretical one,” Colby explained.

Don saw his brother coming toward him in Colby’s company and got up. He nodded at him. “That was fast,” he said.

Charlie gave him a smile. “I had very few variables to incorporate.”

Don answered, “Yeah, I’m sorry.” He took a couple of the maps from Charlie. Then, he addressed Colby. “Megan and David are in the break room. Can you get them while I help Charlie to prepare everything in the conference room?” Colby nodded, taking his coffee cup along.

“He’s sceptical,” Charlie said, as he and Don entered the conference room.

“He’s ex-military,” Don explained, putting the maps on one of the tables. Charlie let his backpack glide to the ground after he had put the remaining maps on the table. He took a look through the conference room’s glazed front into the busy open-plan office. Then, he selected two of the maps and fastened them to the bulletin board with Don’s help.

“Amita’s still working on the data. But I’m to tell you that the hacker must have been very skilful. It’s extremely hard to access the files containing the security codes and the list of the tenants of the safe deposit boxes.”

Megan, David and Colby had heard the last sentences and Megan asked, “How skilful are we talking about?”

Charlie turned to face the three agents who had settled down at the table, armed with coffee. “Very skilful -- a genius. Amita found out that somebody had access to the data from the outside. I suspect you’ve thought of an insider.”

Colby answered in a voice which did not tolerate contradiction. “That’s right.”

Don liked his new colleague, but he thought that the army still rubbed off on Colby too much. He had trouble accepting other opinions. Don only hoped that it would not cause any difficulties between Colby and Charlie because his brother could be just as mule headed.

Charlie gave Colby a smile. “That theory’s invalid. The robbers may have found an insider in one of the banks, but in all the branches concerned? I don’t think so.”

“We won’t rule out that theory,” Colby replied.

Don joined his colleagues at the table, and decided to interrupt the discussion when he noticed how Charlie’s eyes narrowed in warning. He looked at his newest colleague curiously. “Colby, you spoke to our video experts.”

“Yeah,” he answered. “And I just came from a tour of the stores near the branch office that was attacked today. And ... we’ve got a picture of the car for the first time.”

Megan, David and especially Don pricked up their ears. “Really?"

Colby nodded. “Until now, they didn’t park in front of any cameras. However, this time they overlooked a camera at the supplier entrance of a supermarket directly next to the bank, presumably because the market was closed by the public health department weeks ago. The robbers were recorded when they parked behind the bank and then went around it to the front entrance. All five of them were men.”

Megan leant back in her chair. “That’s why no-one saw a car before. They park behind the banks near the supplier entrances. The supplies come first thing in the morning. Not at night. No witnesses.”

Colby continued. “It’s a white van. The camera didn’t catch the license plate or the faces of our guys. It was dark in the lane and the footage is grainy at best. Our experts are working on it, but they don’t think that they can do much; hopefully they’ll get enough for an APB.”

Don nodded satisfied. “It’s a start.” He addressed Charlie who stood waiting before the two maps. “What have you got?” he asked. Charlie had printed out an overview of L.A. and marked the areas where the robbers could come from in different colours. Don noticed that there were alarmingly several big hot zones.

Charlie seemed to interpret his thoughtful look correctly. “Remember how I told you that apparently coincidental patterns made by humans can’t be coincidental most of the time?” he asked. Don nodded.

David also remembered and answered, “It’s impossible to make a coincidental pattern since people always have a pattern ready in their subconscious.”

“Well, actually, I said, that it isn’t impossible,” Charlie corrected with his forefinger lifted up, “but difficult.” He sighed. “Those bank robbers did it.”

Don rubbed his forehead in frustration. “And therefore your calculations aren’t effective?”

Charlie nodded. “That’s why I found more than one zone.”

Colby shook his head. “I count eight zones. Eight. We could just as well go out and ask people whether they’ve seen a white van by any chance.”

Charlie answered, “I know there are too many, but with the Brute Force method, I’ve calculated the probability with which the perpetrators are hiding in the respective zone.”

Megan frowned questioningly. “Brute Force?” she asked.

“It’s an exclusion procedure. Each of the hot zones have values. Depending on what is in it. For example, bank robbers won’t hide in a quarter in which police departments or security companies are stationed, but rather in zones which are as uninhabited as possible, in other words where they are least likely to be noticed.” Charlie answered. He indicated the hot zone outlined on the second map. “I have given this zone a probability of 61% - the highest of the eight. An industrial park. No squad cars go through there - I checked with the police. Many of the buildings are abandoned, so only a few people are there.” He nodded at Colby. “And the ones who still work there wouldn’t notice a white van. Many vans or delivery trucks are parked there.”

Colby snorted in disbelief. “61%.” He looked at Don. “Come on, this is nonsense. You can’t calculate where a group of bank robbers is hiding.”

Charlie continued, “By the way, a company that rents out storerooms is located in the area. A lot of space for spoils. Nobody asks what you want to store as long as you pay. And those rooms are big enough for vans, too.” Megan got up and jotted down the name of the street, in which the storerooms were situated on a sticky note. Then she went to the desk in the back corner of the room and called the information service.

Colby shook his head. “61% is next to nothing,” he said.

Charlie folded his arms. “More than half. The robbers are there with a 61% probability.” Don rubbed his forehead. 61% was less than 100% or even 80%, but Charlie was right. A little more than half would have to do.

Nevertheless, he asked, “What comes next?"

Charlie indicated the remaining, still rolled up maps on the table. “38% - a neighbourhood with many detached houses - neighbours pay attention to each other. 35% - a quarter with a police station and two safety companies which drive their rounds because of the large amount of thefts in the area. 22% - a quarter, where only schools and kindergartens are situated, in addition to a community centre and a church. 13% - the smallest zone, a deserted swimming pool. It’s rented out again and although the tenant doesn’t use the area at the moment, the danger is too big that he suddenly makes up his mind and shows up there. 8% - outside the town, no buildings with a radius of 15 miles. They’d have to live in a tent. 5% - an exclusive residential district with security service. 3% - a shopping street, too many people.”

Colby remained sceptical. “And if the robbers are in none of these hot zones?”

Charlie answered with conviction. “They have to be in one of them.” Don knew that tone of voice. Charlie got defiant if someone doubted his calculations. He had a reason to. He almost never made mistakes. And if he was mistaken, then it was due to falsified or incorrect data, sometimes because of the wrong approach - never because of wrong calculations. “My calculations are correct.”

Colby shook his head. “Don, tell me you don’t believe this nonsense.”

“This nonsense raised my closed case rate up to 85% last year,” Don answered.

Megan re-joined them and stopped next to Don. She held up the sticky note in her hand, on which she’d scribbled the address and phone number of the storerooms’ administration. “And he could be right. The owner did actually rent out to a man driving a white van. He remembers him, because he signed under the name John Doe and added a hundred-dollar note per renting rate so that no questions would be asked.”

David shook his head in disapproval. “And people don’t call things like that in?”

Megan shrugged. “He said he neither saw corpse transports at night nor heard strange noises coming from the storeroom. Therefore, it was okay for him as long as no one asked questions. He’s cooperating. He doesn’t want trouble now that we’re investigating.”

Don nodded. “We’re going to check that storeroom out immediately.” He clapped Charlie on the shoulder. “Thanks.” His brother smiled weakly while the four agents quickly left the room.


The storerooms were a little bigger than garages, with dirty green painted rolling gates which extended overhead. Tire tracks and footprints could be recognized on the muddy ground. The business seemed to flourish - more, than Don had anticipated. The wire-netting fence with the barbed wire on the crown kept burglars away. The administrator’s office was a container. The agents heard the television playing inside the container, while the employee standing before them - Jason Cox - buttoned his parka due to the cold wind outside. He let the agents feel that they disturbed him in his day, chewing emphatically on his chewing gum while he was speaking with them. “Yeah, the boss told me that you were on your way over here. FBI. He had to go home. Are four of you guys really necessary?” he asked morosely, shoving his hands into the pockets. Don looked around.

Apparently, they were alone at the moment. They couldn’t have interrupted much more than his afternoon television program.

However, he couldn’t see the back rows of the storerooms. “We’re trying to catch dangerous bank robbers.”

“Oh, them!” Jason said dismissively. “Yeah. Saw it on TV.” He rummaged in one of his coat pockets and dug out a cap which he put over his clipped, black hair. “Come with me. I’ll show you the units the guy rented.” He walked down the first row.

Don and his team followed him. “So, he rented more than one unit?” Don asked.

“Yeah. Paid cash. More than necessary. Signed in as John Doe.” Jason stopped, indicating three gates situated next to each other. “Here.”

“You got the keys?” Don asked.

Jason laughed. “Official?” He snorted. “Hell, no.” He rummaged about in his pocket again. “But sometimes the guys who rent here don’t pay at the beginning of the new month. We wait for two months, and then we open the door and sell the junk in there. Locksmiths are expensive. We get cheated way too often.” He unlocked all three gates. “I got to go to the office again.” He walked back through the cold winter wind.

Megan raised her eyebrows. “You know, I’m also convinced that my landlady is searching my apartment.”

Don laughed. “What could you possibly be hiding in there?” He opened the first gate with a strong shove upwards. The four assembled in front of the room, staring inside.

Finally, Colby said, “Well, that’s disappointing.” He stepped into the empty room.

David opened the second gate. “Empty!” Colby heard him calling.

“Charlie was wrong after all,” Colby said, looking at Don as if he should have known that fact from the beginning.

Don grimaced doubtfully. “White van, John Doe … it’s fitting a bit too well.”

“Don!” Megan called in that moment. She’d opened the third room. The three men rushed over to her.

Colby looked inside and sighed in disappointment. “Empty.”

Megan held up a bill. “Except for that.” Somebody had written a message on it with a ballpoint pen.

Catch me if you can, Agent Eppes.

Chapter Three
Brute Force Masterlist

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