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Brute Force 9/14

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 Eight
Brute Force Masterlist

***
***


9.


As Don was draping his jacket over his chair, David came towards him in an excited hurry. “Don I was just going to call you. We’ve got an ID on Charlie’s kidnapper – and we think that he’s connected to the bank robberies.”

Don felt as if someone had given him new energy and he followed David into the conference room. Merrick was already there. He sat at the conference table, looking at the phone placed there.

As Don and David entered, a woman on the other end of the line was explaining, “… can tell you who’s working with him. I’m going to catch the next flight.”

“Thank you, Agent Hailey. We’ll be awaiting your arrival.” Merrick hung up. “Lucky us,” he said to Don, the argument in his office a few hours ago apparently already forgotten. “We sent the identikit to all the FBI branches and Denver called back. One of their agents is already on the way. Linda Hailey. She ID’d the man as one Connor Hill. He was in prison for a triple murder and a few bank robberies. Was part of a successful escape a year ago when he was on the way to another prison with a couple of felons. The escape was well organized. He had help from the outside. They blocked the street and outwitted the guards. Even some of the felons in the bus were shot.”

Don sank into one of the chairs, overwhelmed. The investigation had moved so slow till now and they had run into so many walls that he’d not expected a promising lead. And now, they had even more than that - they had a name.

“I’m already running a check on Hill,” David said. “We’re checking for credit card traces, leases and so on. So far we’ve got nothing. He may be using a false ID.”

Don answered, “Sure. But we’ve got a lead.”

***

Charlie shook his head. “No. I’m staying.” Charlie sat at his desk, his chair turned in Don’s direction. His desk was cluttered with the reference books that didn’t fit on the shelves or in the garage and Charlie’s office on campus anymore. The simple, big table made of bright wood was the only thing which had already been in this room during Charlie’s childhood. The bed, the chest of drawers and the bookshelves were relatively new. A result of renovation work.

Don sighed, sitting down on Charlie’s bed. “I want you to leave with Colby and David.”

“I want to stay.”

“Don’t make a big deal out of this,” Don pleaded.

“Why do I have to leave? I can still help you. Now that we know who’s behind those robberies, I can calculate with a lot more accuracy. All I need is Hill’s file. Then I can --“

“Charlie.” Don’s voice hardened. He wasn’t going to argue this anymore.

Charlie hesitated, staring at Don for a couple of seconds. “Why are you sending me away?”

Don was pretty sure that Charlie knew the answer. But it seemed as if his brother wanted to hear Don’s version.

“Because I don’t want something like yesterday happening again – because it could go wrong next time.”

“Colby and David could protect me here. Or I’ll stay in the FBI office.”

“I want you to leave.”

“But you can’t force me to, right?” Charlie tilted his head questioningly.

Don sighed, irritated. The doorbell rang and he looked at his watch. “Colby and David are here.” He heard his father opening the door and letting the agents enter. Their small talk couldn’t be understood in Charlie’s room because of the closed door, but it would be only a matter of time until the two agents would ask for their supervisor. He got up and went to the door. “Please, pack a bag.”

“Don --“

“Damn it, Charlie! Can’t you just do what I tell you?” Don asked furiously, turning around to face his brother. “Believe me; this isn’t easy for me either. I’d like to look out for you myself but I just can’t. I’m the lead agent and I have to be able to concentrate. And if I let another team take over the case, another agent’s going to be responsible for your safety and if he’s thinking like Merrick then he’d just assign a rookie to look out for you. Truth is, that a triple murderer, bank robber and escaped felon is looking for you. He wants to take you to do God knows what to you. And his friends are for sure just as nice as him.”

Charlie stood, becoming just as furious. “Well, isn’t that my decision? My risk? I want to take it to --“

“As my civilian consultant you have to follow my orders, Charlie.”

“But not as your brother. I can take every risk I want to.”

“When you said that the last time, a sniper tried to shoot a hole in your head.”

Charlie took a step back. “Wow,” he mumbled. Don closed his eyes, turning away. He hadn’t wanted to bring up that topic, knowing that Charlie still had nightmares because of it. Don did, too. Charlie cleared his throat. “You’re still thinking that I don’t know anything about reality. You’re still thinking that I’m living in this bubble. But I know how life works, Don. The FBI’s not my only gig. And not everyone’s treating me like a baby.”

Don whirled around to face him. “But I’m always the one who’s responsible for your injuries. I always have been.”

“You should never have asked me for help, Don, if you didn’t want it. I can decide for myself. I’m not an abacus that you can put on the shelf when you don’t need it.”

“Yeah, and that’s such a shame.” Don turned away, taking a deep breath.

Charlie cleared his throat. “You should have never asked me for help, Don ,” he repeated.

“Yeah,” Don mumbled. “I think so, too.” He turned away and left the room, slamming the door on his way out.

Charlie stared after his brother, too shaken to call after him. The last time his brother had been so furious with him had been the day their mother had died. Back then, Charlie had been too lost in his own mourning to register Don’s angry outburst. He had allowed the numbers on the blackboard to be his only solace. Today, he heard every word.

It was true that their parents had always put much responsibility for Charlie on Don. Don had picked up Charlie from the elementary school one year every day when Sam Titchell had beaten him. They had attended the same high school and Charlie, much younger than the others, had needed his older brother to protect him from bullies. Don had helped; no matter how strained their relationship had been at the time. And even now as adults, Alan was counting on Don to protect Charlie when they were working on a case. Don and Charlie tried not to talk about the dangerous situations they got into in Alan’s presence. But he had an instinct for such things. One day after the almost catastrophe with the sniper, he’d gotten the whole story out of Don. He always tried to be calm and to trust in his sons to keep the situation under control. But since the surveillance had gone wrong a couple of days ago, Alan was more nervous than before and Charlie knew that Alan wished he’d stop working for the FBI – or for any law enforcement body.

“Charlie!” Don called from downstairs. “Ten minutes!”

He sighed deeply. Truth was that he wanted to stay because he wanted to be nearby. He wanted to know immediately when something happened, he wanted to help. He hated the feeling of being useless.

***

Larry and Amita were standing behind Alan and Charlie. Colby and David were packing Charlie’s bag into the pale grey car, going through the details with Don for the last time. Colby kept an attentive eye on the street, but his posture showed that he didn’t notice any danger. The two agents wore civilian clothes and the car was part of the fleet of civilian-looking FBI vehicles. Alan hugged Charlie and then handed him the painkillers that the hospital had prescribed.

“I’m fine, Dad,” Charlie tried to calm him down.

Alan shook his head. “Take them, please.”

Charlie put the tablets into his jacket pocket.

Amita hugged him close. “Be careful,” she pleaded.

Charlie returned the hug. “Don’t worry,” he mumbled. Larry nodded to him. He didn’t speak.

Don joined them, putting his hands on his hips. “It’s time,” he said. Charlie walked to the car beside him. Both of them stared downwards. When Don finally spoke, it was in his most commanding tone. “Listen to Colby and David. I’ll call you when something happens.”

Charlie simply nodded.

Don didn’t respond, but his posture betrayed his anger and tension.

Charlie put a hand on the car roof, not looking at Don. He knew that it wasn’t a good idea, but he had to say it. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Don. What if something happens to dad? Or Amita or Larry.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Don answered sharply. “I know my job, okay?” He held the door open for him. David, already in the driver’s seat, started the engine. Charlie looked back to his father, Larry and Amita. Then he got in and Don slammed the door shut.

Colby fastened his seat belt and turned his head towards their charge. “Don’t worry, Charlie. Everything’s going to be okay.”

Don shoved his hands into his trouser pockets, watching the car drive away. Then he ducked his head, sighing. His brother was right. His gut feeling was acting up, too. Don had always been able to rely on his instincts. He hoped to be right this time, too.

***

It was still quiet an hour into the drive. Charlie stared unseeingly out the window while Colby was on the lookout for pursuers and David concentrated on the traffic. Finally Charlie sighed, bored. “Why are we driving by this park for the third time in a row?”

Colby turned his head in his direction. “We’ll be driving for as long as we need to in order to be sure that nobody’s following us. Then we’ll head for the motel.” David turned into a quieter street and Colby nodded when nobody followed them. “What do you think?” he asked his partner.

“Looks clear,” David answered.

Charlie asked, “Where are we going?”

Colby turned to around to face him as far as the seatbelt allowed. “Small motel near the airport.”

David joined the traffic going towards the airport. He glanced in the outside mirror. “But we’ll change the motel the day after tomorrow. Just to be on the safe side.”

“If you need anything then you need to tell us and we’ll fetch it for you,” Colby added.

“What kind of room did you book?”

“Megan did that,” Colby answered. “But I’m sure that she only booked for two.”

“Motel’s aren’t very attentive. At least as long as you pay on time. Colby and I will check in together and sneak you in. We are the official guests and the motel’s employees have to see us. We’ll be the only ones who know that you’re there, too. You won’t leave the room.”

Charlie sighed morosely. “Just like prison.”

Colby and David glanced at each other. Don had recommended letting Charlie sulk.

David felt forced to say something. “Charlie … I can see why you’re unhappy about this situation. But you need to work with us here, man.”

Their eyes met in the rear view mirror and Charlie nodded.

***

Agent Linda Hailey from Colorado was tall, handsome and her black-white pantsuit fitted like a second skin. Her figure was perfect. On first sight, she didn’t look like a well exercised FBI agent but rather like a style-conscious businesswoman. The fine face was framed by curly, shoulder-length hair and although the brown eyes looked sharply and attentively around, they inspired trust immediately. Megan almost got a little jealous. All the more when she saw the wedding ring which the young woman was wearing. There was kind of a legend going around the office that there were FBI agents who could maintain a marriage. Maybe, Megan could ask Hailey about that later and get advice on that. At the moment, she and Don were concentrating on the young woman’s report. They sat together in the conference room; the projector displayed a picture of Connor Hill from Linda’s laptop. His arrogant grin and cold, blue eyes didn’t make it hard for Megan to believe that he’d killed a family.

Linda looked at the identikit in her hands which Charlie had made with the draftsman. When she spoke, she looked at Don and Megan sitting across from her at the table. “That’s him, no doubt. Your civilian consultant was able to see him that well?”

“Yeah. He was able to look him directly in the eyes. Hill didn’t hide behind a mask,” Don answered. That said much about the man’s self-confidence. “During the attacks, they didn’t wear any masks, either. They just kept their faces turned away from every camera in the area.”

Linda nodded slowly. “Well, we’ve been searching for Connor Hill for months now. As you know by now, he did time for bank robberies and a triple homicide. He and two other men escaped during a transfer to another prison. The outbreak was neatly organized from the outside. We don’t know for sure who helped them but we know who Hill escaped with.”

She pressed a button on her laptop and Connor’s picture was replaced by two other photos. The first one featured a broad-shouldered, stocky man who looked in the camera with a dangerous smile. The brown hair was short cropped.

The other photo showed a boy - Megan estimated him to be in his early twenties. He looked nervously at the police photographer; the green eyes didn’t focus directly on the camera but apparently on a spot just over the photographer’s shoulder.

“Steve Klein and Kenny Jacobson. Klein’s record’s quite thick. Some of his crimes were violent like rape and bodily injury. He and Hill were having problems when they met in prison. They argued, there were fights and Hill even had to spend a night in the prison infirmary once.”

“What did they fight about?” Megan asked curiously.

“Kenny,” Linda answered. “He was arrested shortly after Hill and they shared a cell. Klein noticed Kenny in the prison’s courtyard once and started to attack him.”

Megan asked, “What kind of attack?”

“Klein’s a rapist; some of his victims were men,” Linda explained and Megan nodded. She thought so. Kenny was slim and cute and in prison, boys like him attracted bullies ... and worse.

“Hill became Kenny’s protector. They formed a tight bond during their stay,” Linda continued. Don raised his eyebrows.

“No, nothing like that,” Linda said, cutting off his question. “Hill’s like a father to Kenny. Kenny adores him.”

Megan leant back in her chair. “Okay. So … Hill and Klein stopped fighting?”

Linda nodded. “I think that Hill was planning those bank robberies while in prison. And he knew that Kenny could be of use. That kid looks like the nice boy next door, but he’s way out of our league.”

Don became impatient when the other agent paused.

“Because?”

“He’s a hacker,” Linda answered. “I know from your case files that somebody hacked into the bank’s systems. Kenny was condemned to six years in prison because he hacked into the systems of some companies and federal agencies. They couldn’t link him to all the attacks the prosecutor accused him of and the attacks were rather minor, so he only got six years.”

“Okay,” Don said, “and what does Hill need Klein for?”

“Klein was the one with the contacts outside of prison. We’re assuming that two of his buddies busted them out.”

Megan asked, “Why do you think that?”

“They visited a lot before Klein escaped. And though they didn’t leave any witnesses after the breakout, you arrested Brian Wilder and his buddy can’t be far.” She projected two new pictures on the wall. One was of Brian, the other showed a man with a slim, but athletic body and dark hair. “Justin Finchley. Did time for bank robberies. Out of prison two years. His field of expertise is safes. They say there’s no safe he can’t open.”

Don leant forward, placing his forearms on the table. “Okay. Hill tried to kidnap a mathematician who consults for the FBI. Can you imagine why?”

Hailey seemed thoughtful, and then she shook her head. “He’s got the perfect team for those robberies. I mean, you couldn’t catch them so far … no offence.”

Don shrugged.

Megan thought aloud. “Maybe those bank robberies aren’t enough. Maybe he’s got a new target. A bigger one. And he needs a mathematician to reach it.”

Don nodded. “Maybe.”

Linda sighed. “Well, one thing’s for sure. Hill, Wilder and Klein are dangerous. Finchley’s only after the money and the glory. He’s not known for a violent streak. And as far as Kenny’s concerned, I don’t think he’s doing this voluntarily.”

Don frowned. “Why would you think that?”

“He’s young and he made mistakes, but he didn’t harm anyone. He’s not the type for shoot outs like the one you had with the robbers. He’d rather work sitting in front of a computer. He doesn’t like violence, and he wanted to begin a new life after prison.” Linda looked pleadingly at the two agents sitting across from her. “Don’t look at Kenny like you look at Hill. I think he’s the victim, here.”

Don got up. “There’s a possibility that he’s doing this voluntarily and I just can’t keep him out of this.”

Linda nodded, blowing a blonde curl out of her face. “I understand, but … I’m the one who caught and interviewed Kenny the last time he was arrested. I know him, so I should be part of this investigation. He’s a sweet kid. He’s just had a rough life. He’s highly intelligent, but nobody ever supported him like he needed. Intelligence can be a curse, Agent Eppes.”

Don laughed bitterly. “Believe me, I know. My brother went to Princeton when he was 13 years old.”

“Well, I’m assuming his genius was discovered at a young age. He always had the support from his parents and from you, didn’t he?”

Don narrowed his brown eyes. “Why are you asking?”

Linda stood too. She sounded almost furious. “Kenny never had anybody, Agent Eppes. His parents didn’t care about him or his intelligence. His teachers thought that he was lazy because he was bored out of his mind in school and didn’t participate. His classmates bullied him. That’s why he skipped classes and dropped out of school. So Kenny searched for ways to challenge himself. He began to hack. Your brother would have done the same in this situation, don’t you think?”

“You’re very protective of the kid. I don’t think you should work the case.”

“Well, I’m not the only one with personal interest in this case, right?” Crossing her arms and raising her eyebrows, Linda looked at Don provocatively. “Did you really think I’d come here unprepared? I know that your brother’s the civilian consultant who was attacked. I’m not saying that nobody should pay for that. But Kenny didn’t do it. I just want to work with you on the case, as part of your team.” Don stared at Linda undecidedly for a couple of moments, and then nodded. Linda seemed to have a good knowledge of Kenny which could help them later. He looked to Megan who nodded slowly, seemingly thinking the same.

“Okay,” he said. “Let’s get to work.”

Chapter Ten
Brute Force Masterlist

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