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Brute Force

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 Two
Brute Force Masterlist

***
***


3.


“They know who’s investigating the case,” Don said as Megan fetched a plastic evidence bag from her car.

David nodded, shoving his hands into his coat pockets. “You were on the news, Don. Albeit shortly.” A late model luxury sedan pulled into a reserved parking space next to the office.

Jason joined them. “My boss,” he said, nodding to the car.

Megan put the bill in her coat pocket and slammed the car door.

Hank got out of his old, battered Ford, blinking at the four agents. He was in the 60s and a little pudgy with piercing, grey eyes. “Did you find something?"

Don didn’t return the curious smile. He waved Megan to follow him, before he walked over to the administration office. “We’d like to talk to you and your employee in your office, Mr. Gillion.” Colby leant against Megan’s car in which they had come here together, waiting, while David called Charlie to update him.

Hank stopped for a moment, confused, then he nodded slowly. “Sure,” he answered nervously. “Let’s step inside.” The container was small, overcrowded with three big filing cabinets, two desks, a television set and a computer. Four metal chairs with threadbare seats made of leather were in the office, two at the desks for Hank and Jason and two at the door for customers.

Don and Megan preferred to stand while Hank and Jason were sitting down on the chairs at the desks. Don said without beating about the bush, “They knew that we were coming and vacated their storage room.”

Hank lifted his eyebrows in surprise, and then got up hastily. “I told no one, agent. And Jason didn’t, either. Or did you?” Jason shook his head quickly.

Megan answered sternly, “Well, someone did warn them.”

Hank declared panic-stricken, “We didn’t tell anybody.” He looked at Jason who shrugged, and then again to the sceptical agents. “I swear.”

***

The only noise in the FBI’s conference room was the squeaking of the felt-tip with which Charlie wrote on the dry erase board. Don stopped in the doorway, thinking about how often he had stepped into the garage of his childhood home and found Charlie in his own little world of numbers, oblivious to everything else, and decided that he’d lost count. An image sprang to Don’s mind of a five year old Charlie, scribbling pages and pages of formulas on sheets of notebook paper that he had taped to the wall. It had been their mother’s idea to install the increasingly larger black boards. Don still remembered the argument that had erupted when his ping-pong table had to be moved to the cellar to make room for his brother’s mathematical creativity. It wasn’t the first quarrel over Charlie and certainly not the last.

Don sighed, tightening his grip on the coffee cup, and stepped into the room. “What are you working on?”

Charlie turned to face him, startled, and then he smiled in embarrassment. “I’ve thought of a new approach. I can use a mixture of a statistical analysis and probability calculus to find out which bank they’ll hit next.”

“Didn’t you tell us that they act randomly? So, you can’t find a pattern to work with, right?”

Charlie smiled. “It’s not about patterns.” Don raised his eyebrows in question. “With baseball games, there are no patterns, either,” Charlie explained. “Everything depends on the performance of the players.” Don nodded. “Nevertheless, one can calculate with probability calculus and statistical analysis which team could win the next game.”

“You know the players and their weak points – that’s what you’re using,” Don said in understanding.

Charlie nodded. ”Here, I work with other factors like ... the banks’ proximity to a big street which the robbers can use to disappear fast ... whether the robbers’ previous procedure can be transferred to other banks ... how safe the banks are - are there night watchmen? - and how much they can steal in one --”

Don raised a hand and Charlie broke off. Don rubbed his eyes tiredly, putting the coffee cup aside. He should go home, eat something and then sleep. And he should take his brother home, before their father complained about him missing dinner. A strange thought, if one considered that Charlie would be thirty-one soon. Sometimes, Don thought that neither Charlie nor his father could leave the house behind in which their mother and wife had died.

Last year, Alan had been absolutely determined to sell the house, but Charlie had bought it, just so that he wouldn’t have to leave it. And Alan had never mentioned moving out himself again. If Don was honest, he didn’t want to let go of the house, either. He had lived in his apartment for years, now, but there were still cartons waiting to be unpacked in his guest-room. He had dinner at the house with his father and brother more often than in his own apartment.

Charlie’s quiet voice broke into his thoughts. “David mentioned, that you found a message addressed to you. Maybe this is something personal --“

Don registered the worry that was evident in brother’s voice, and heard the words that weren’t spoken as well. He wanted to put his brother’s fears to rest.

“I don’t think so,” Don said. ”The message was provocative. They regard themselves as smarter than we are and want to prove it. Plus, they couldn’t have known that I’d be the one to investigate the bank robberies. If it were something personal, they would’ve addressed them to me from the beginning.” Don looked out into the nearly-empty bull pen and yawned. “We should call it a night.”

Charlie looked at his watch. “I wanted to leave now, anyway. Dad’s waiting with dinner.”

“What’s on the menu?”

“Steaks.”

Don clapped his hands, suddenly wide awake again. Awake enough to eat his father’s steaks.

“I’m in.”

***

A late dinner ensured that Don would have to answer nature’s call in the dead of night. As he slipped out of the bathroom, he noticed that there was a light still on downstairs. More curious than anything, he started down the steps.

One of the new lamps that had recently been added to the living area spilled over the youngest member of the Eppes clan. Charlie lay against the leather couch, his laptop balanced precariously on his belly. The rhythmic rise and fall of his chest suggested that he wasn’t doing a lot of computing at the moment, but his screen saver had yet to kick in, so he couldn’t have been out for long. With a gentle laugh, Don rescued the computer from its resting place.

“Don’t, I’m still working,” his brother mumbled sleepily, sitting up.

“You should go to sleep,” Don replied, putting the laptop on the coffee table.

“No. No way. It’s just ... this project Larry’s working on. I’ve spent the last three nights writing the formulas he’s needing.”

Sometimes Don wondered why Charlie’s colleague didn’t do his calculations himself. A discussion which flared up between Charlie and Amita again and again, too. Charlie seemed to be able to read thoughts. “He’s a brilliant physicist but his calculations ... he’s insecure.”

Don snapped the computer shut. “You really should go to sleep.” He looked at Charlie with his hands on his hips.

His brother yawned, brushing through his dark locks, then he got up. “You’re right.” He pulled his cell from his jeans pocket and glanced at it. “Amita sent a SMS - ten minutes ago.” Don rolled his eyes. If Charlie and Amita should ever become a couple and found a family, their children would be night active, workaholics and dangerously intelligent. Then, Don could only hope that they stood on the right side of the law. Charlie read through the message and then looked up to Don. “She wants to come into the FBI with me and talk to you tomorrow. She apparently knows which files the hacker accessed.”

“Sounds good,” Don nodded.

***

“Hey, professor!” Colby called, getting up from his chair. He approached Charlie and Amita who were headed for the conference room armed with papers, maps and laptops. He stopped before them and took Amita’s laptop from her. “Hello,” he smiled.

She grinned at him. “Hi.”

Charlie cleared his throat loudly and Colby turned towards him, a caught expression on his face. “I wanted to apologize to you, because of yesterday. You were right about the storerooms.”

Charlie shrugged. “No problem. You weren’t the first or the most critical sceptic I’ve had.”

Colby sighed in relief. “Great, professor, I just wanted … it wasn’t meant to be personal.”

Charlie nodded in understanding. “Call me Charlie.”

The agent smiled. “Colby.”

Charlie continued, “This is my colleague Amita Ramanujan.”

Colby turned towards the pretty young woman again. He grinned charmingly, “Amita.” She smiled back. Charlie frowned.

Don broke the tense silence by putting a hand on his younger colleague’s shoulder and steering him toward the conference room. “Don’t even think about it. She’s much smarter than you.”

Charlie looked darkly after him while Amita addressed Don. She nodded toward the conference room. “In there?”

Don smiled at her, nodding, and Amita went to prepare. Don put a hand on Charlie’s shoulder and followed her with his brother a little more slowly. As soon as she was out of hearing range, he said, “You got to act soon, man. Women like her don’t stay single forever.”

Charlie nodded, overtaxed. “I know. I … know.”

“You’re lucky,” Don continued when they were almost there. “She’s really waiting for you.” Without giving Charlie a chance to answer, he joined Amita and his team. Charlie sighed, following him.

***

Amita crossed her arms, explaining, “Therefore, I’ve found out that he used a vulnerability scanner first. You can search for weak points in computers and systems with it and detect how you can infiltrate them. Then, he hacked in, getting access to internal e-mails, data and the camera system. With a sniffer he was able to find out the password for the entrance doors. In addition the one to the safe. When they were ready to strike, he hacked into the system again, turning the cameras off. They went in, they stole, and they came out.” Amita shrugged. “Easy, really.” Colby didn’t want to admit that he’d understood only half of what the young woman had explained, therefore, he remained silent.

David put one arm on the table to support his head with his hand. “How did they know which lockers they wanted to clear out? They’ve taken only those of the richest customers.”

Amita nodded. “The locker occupancies probably were compared with the bank balances of the customers. I’ve done that, too. They’ve robbed the lockers of people whose bank balances were over 20,000 dollars. VIPs, managers ... company founders. People you read about in every economy magazine or in the rainbow press,” Amita answered.

Colby added, “The richer the customer, the higher the chance of valuable jewellery and things like that.”

Don asked, “Did that hacker leave a … virtual fingerprint?”

Amita sighed and looked to Charlie who nodded at her. She admitted, “He’s good ... damned good. Better than me. He used a Rootkit. Hackers blur their traces with that. And his is particularly good.”

Megan frowned thoughtfully, “There’s got to be somebody in our files who’s been arrested for hacking before. Hackers don’t just go out and give it a first try with a bank. They test their abilities and increase them in time.”

Don answered, “I think so. But we don’t have any reference to the identity of the hacker, right?” Amita shook her head. “How many will there be in America ... thousands? That doesn’t help us.” Finished with her part of the explanation, Amita sat down.

Charlie got up. “I’ve gone through all banks and their branches in L.A. and have calculated which could be the robbers’ next target. I’ve prepared a list of those banks and how high the probability is that they are the next. The Bank of America on Jefferson Boulevard has got the highest value. And they’ll strike soon. I couldn’t calculate exactly when, though, since they act so irregularly.”

David suggested: “We could place teams in front of Charlie’s top three.”

Megan nodded. “Sounds good.”

Don got up. “Let’s get to it.”

***

At night, the Ocean Front Walk was nearly deserted. Don didn’t let his mind relax completely, though. Pinnacle Investment Bank was a worthy target for the robbers and one of Charlie’s top three. Don cleared his throat. “So, you and Amita?” He could concentrate on his surroundings and the street without problems while carrying on a conversation. He’d learned to do it during his days with Fugitive Recovery. He might have hated the job, but he’d learned a lot.

Charlie glanced at him, slightly irritated. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“I’m bored. You wanted to come with me. I want to know.”

Charlie rolled his eyes. “But I don’t want to talk about it.”

“You’re afraid to ask her out,” Don deduced.

“And if I am?” Charlie asked defiantly. Don watched a man and a woman who stopped in front of the bank. They said goodbye with a kiss and the man went on while the woman stopped a cab and left.

“You know, dad’s waiting for grandkids.”

”Well, then it’s time that you get married and fulfilled his wish,” Charlie said. Don laughed. Then he sighed, getting bored again, and looked at his watch. It was getting late and only a few people passed by the bank. Don’s car stood outside a street lamp’s range of light, so that shadows of overhanging palm branches covered the two passengers, the trees separating the street from the sidewalk. Occasional joggers ran towards the coast, couples went past them. Street lamps shone at regular intervals, but there were still more than enough hiding places in the darkness between. Three hours earlier, Don and Charlie had taken over surveillance from Colby and David. The two agents would come back the next morning and relieve the brothers of their duty. Megan remained at the head office, coordinating the surveillance teams as well as passing on observations. Charlie folded his arms, pressing his back into the passenger seat. “It’s getting cold.”

“Yeah,” Don answered. “No parking heater. We can’t stand out.” Charlie grimaced morosely. Don smiled. “Not as exciting as you thought it’d be, huh?”

Charlie shrugged. “I was just curious,” he answered.

Don reached backwards into the back seat and got one of the blankets lying there. “Here,” he said, handing it to his brother. “I’ve also packed hot coffee and sandwiches. Everything we need.”

“Wow!” Charlie answered, covering himself with the blanket, “you’ve really done this a lot, huh?”

“In Fugitive Recovery, it comes with the job.”

Charlie nodded in understanding.

***

Justin Finchley stopped next to the big, leased Jeep, in which Connor Hill was sitting, and got in on the passenger seat. He was a little breathless from his jogging on Ocean Front Walk, wiping perspiration from his forehead with the sleeve of his sweatshirt. “Two,” he finally panted. “It’s actually Eppes, the guy from the news,” he then continued a little calmer, accepting the water bottle which Connor handed him. “There seem to be no other agents nearby.”

Connor looked outside thoughtfully. “Who’s with him? Colby, Reeves or Sinclair?“

“Try again.”

Connor seemed surprised. Then, he turned to face Kenny Jacobson who was sitting with his laptop on the backseat. Connor asked: “Did you miss a team member?”

Kenny immediately shook his head. “No. Eppes’ team consists of Colby, Reeves and Sinclair. Nobody else.” He turned the laptop in the direction of the two older men and indicated the user interface of the internal FBI database. “Look for yourself.”

Connor shook his head. “Not necessary.” He trusted the boy. Kenny was only 22, but an exceptional hacker. It was as good as impossible that he missed something. Connor thought for a moment, keeping an eye on the FBI agent’s car a couple of vehicles away. “An agent assigned from another team,” he said.

Justin laughed. “This one doesn’t look like an agent, if you ask me. Long hair, skinny, not very athletic. He looks like a wuss!” In the back, Kenny winced, ducking his head.

Connor seemed thoughtful for a moment. “What about civilian consultants?” he then asked. “The FBI’s using them.” Kenny was already tapping away on the keyboard of his laptop. It lasted for only half a minute, then the young man handed the laptop to Justin.

Justin and Connor went through the data base file by file. Justin focused on the pictures, hesitating at some of them, but he didn’t seem to find the man. Then, he suddenly went three file entries back. “Him,” he said with conviction, indicating the photo.

Connor glanced at the name and smiled evilly. “Charles Eppes. Well, what a surprise.”

Justin was stunned. “That guy’s his brother?”

Connor answered: “Looks that way.” He set the laptop on his lap and read through Charlie’s file. “Interesting,” he mumbled.

“What?” Kenny asked curiously, leaning forward to try to get a look at the screen over Connor’s shoulder. A few strands of his brown hair fell into his forehead and he brushed it aside, irritated. He had to go to the hairdresser soon.

“Mathematician,” Connor answered thoughtfully. “Did a lot of consulting for the FBI.”

Justin snorted. “So?"

Connor glanced at him angrily, then he said: “Nothing.”

Justin narrowed his brown eyes in distrust. “No, there’s something going through your head.”

“Don’t ask,” Connor answered. “I just thought that it’s interesting.”

Chapter Four
Brute Force Masterlist

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