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Brute Force 14/14

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 Thirteen
Brute Force Masterlist

***
***


14.


Don put his hands on his hips, staring at Brian Wilder, waiting for him to crack. Wilder’s public defender was sitting beside the man’s bed and adjusted his glasses. “My client’s got nothing to tell you. I think he told that Agent Granger already.”

“Well, Agent Granger couldn’t possibly relay this message to me since Brian’s leader Connor Hill kidnapped him.”

Wilder’s brown eyes widened doubtingly and Don saw that he started to smooth out the cloth of his blanket nervously. Hailey apparently also noticed Wilder’s unrest. “Things are going south really fast for your client. Not only did he rob twelve banks, launched an attack against federal agents and is responsible for the kidnapping of a civilian consultant, he’s also part of the kidnapping of a federal agent.”

“Hey,” Brian interrupted, “I didn’t kidnap anyone, okay? Neither the consultant nor the agent.” The attorney raised a calming hand.

Don didn’t let it slide. “But you’re not revealing the hide-out of your gang, either. That’s why you’re responsible for the kidnappings, for any kind of torture and – should it happen – even for murder, too.” Don swallowed and was proud that he’d said the words without hesitation. He hoped that it wouldn’t come to murder. He saw Wilder’s unease grow.

His attorney explained, “The only thing you can accuse him of is refraining from aid. He didn’t know of any kidnappings. They never talked about that or planned it. He’s only responsible for the bank robberies.”

Wilder nodded firmly, seemingly finding his self-confidence. “I don’t have anything to tell you,” he said. Don turned away in frustration.

Then he faced Wilder again. “Why? Why do you do that?” Wilder shook his head and stayed silent.

When Don and Hailey stepped onto the corridor of the hospital again, she explained, “There’s money waiting for him somewhere. That’s why he’s keeping his silence. He’ll go to prison and do his time, knowing that when he’s free, he’s rich. That’s Hill’s way to ensure loyalty. Everyone gets his percentage and hides it away. The others don’t know where the money is. It’s going to wait for Wilder.”

Don ran a desperate hand through his hair. “Damn it,” he mumbled, leaning against the white wall. He closed his eyes. “This whole case is one big dead end. And Charlie…” He stopped. He would have to call his father again in just an hour. Alan had insisted on regular news. Don was tired of having to disappoint him. His cell rang. “Eppes?”

“Don, it’s Megan,” his partner said. “Amita’s here. She knows why they took Charlie.”

***

“You know why?” Don asked doubtingly as soon as he saw Amita sitting on Megan’s desk. “How?” Megan handed him Charlie’s file.

Amita explained, “I looked at the file while I was waiting for you a few hours ago. The solution lies in Charlie’s work for the FBI. He updated your firewall a few months ago, right?”

Don nodded. “Yeah. He created the algorithm to make attacks from hackers impossible. We had problems with a hacker trying to enter our data base.”

“That was six months ago – two months after the prison break,” Megan said, getting up from her chair. She leant against her desk next to Amita. “Our techs were able to trace the attack and catch the guy, remember?” Don nodded. Megan brushed her light brown hair out of her forehead. “It was a young man who owns a motel in the city. He claimed innocence and swore that he didn’t do it but one of his guests. But because he was caught as a teenager trying to change his grades in the school’s data base he was found guilty.”

“So?” Don asked impatiently.

Megan looked at the file containing the notes and reports on the case. “And … there were only four guests in his motel when he was arrested. A high ranking town-councillor with his lover and, as described by the motel’s owner, a young guy with his sugar daddy. The description fits Connor Hill and Kenny Jacobson. And now to the really interesting part: the owner said that they fled the scene in a white van without paying for the room and only minutes before the FBI arrived.”

Don shook his head. “Nobody believed him.”

“Well, now, I do. I’m sure that Kenny realized he’d raised the alarm and that the FBI would be on its way. They fled before the FBI arrived.”

“Wait a moment,” Hailey said, “so, now they’re trying to hack into the database they wanted to crack a few months ago and whose security system was updated by Professor Eppes?“ Megan nodded.

Amita added, “I remember Charlie working on it non-stop. I even helped him. I tried to hack through his algorithm.”

“What database are we talking about?” Hailey asked.

Megan crossed her arms. “One of the most valuable. Witness protection.”

***

Charlie shook his head desperately. “I can’t. I don’t have the access code to witness protection. I’d have to apply for it. I mean, I’d get the access without a doubt, but … I’d have to personally apply for it.”

Connor bit into his sandwich and pulled his chair closer to sit next to Charlie. “Don’t try to trick me, Professor. I’d already dismissed the idea with witness protection, because Kenny didn’t get around the firewall and if someone like him can’t do it … so we focused on the preparations for the bank robberies. I have to admit, it’s been a coincidence that we found you. We just wanted to check who was surveying the bank with Agent Eppes. But when I saw what you did a few months ago, I knew that we’d need you. Now, I’ve got a couple of very impatient customers who wanna pay a lot of money for a few names and addresses. Don’t disappoint me now.” Charlie stared at the screen. Kenny was sitting opposite him and looked down at his sandwich. He didn’t look hungry. On the contrary, he seemed to be sick. Connor seized a handful of Charlie’s hair, forcing him to look into his eyes. “You write down the algorithm you worked out. Kenny’ll do the rest. And while he’s working on it, the FBI won’t disturb us since we’re logged in with an authorized password. They’ll notice when it’s too late.” Connor looked across the table to the unhappy young man. “Right, Kenny? With the algorithm, you can do it.” Kenny nodded hesitantly, looking up at Charlie and staring at him pleadingly. Charlie threw back a pleading look of his own but Kenny avoided his eyes. Connor turned back to face Charlie again, waiting. Charlie knew that Connor was once again getting impatient. “So?”

Charlie shook his head. “I can’t. That’d be murder.” Connor jumped to his feet and dragged Charlie at the hair towards the door behind which Colby was waiting.

“Steve, open up,” Connor ordered, letting go of Charlie’s hair and seizing his arm instead to pull him further. Steve opened the door and pointed his weapon at Colby who got up from the mattress. Connor flung Charlie forwards and his injured leg folded. He landed on the tiled floor of the room. “Do it now or we’ll shoot him.” Steve stepped next to Charlie, pointing the weapon at Colby. Past Steve’s legs, Charlie could see Kenny who was standing behind them, watching the scene.

“It’d be murder,” he said, addressing the words at Kenny who took a step back, “All those children and families.”

“I’ll give you one more minute to think it over,” Connor answered. Charlie remained lying on the ground so that he could look at Kenny, staring at him pleadingly. Kenny crossed his arms and tried to avoid Charlie’s eyes, but apparently, he couldn’t get himself to look away. Charlie knew that Kenny didn’t want this.

Colby took a step forwards. “Don’t, Charlie. It’s okay.”

“Stay back,” Connor demanded and while he and Steve were distracted from Colby who raised his hands and stepped back again, Charlie looked at Kenny and formed one word with his lips: Please.

Kenny wiped his eyes, avoiding Charlie’s eyes, then he raised the thumb of his right hand briefly and answered mutely: Do it.

“Last chance,” Connor said.

“Okay ,” Charlie replied. “I’ll do it.”

Connor was surprised for a moment, however, and then he nodded. “Good.” He threw a note pad and a ball point pen on the floor. “Write it down.” Charlie grabbed the pen.

***

Connor left the room with a smile and the pad. The door slammed shut and Colby said, “You shouldn’t have done that.” Charlie leant against the wall, pulling his legs to his chest.

He hugged them with his arms, answering, “Kenny’s on our side.”

“What?” Colby asked, confused.

“I think that he doesn’t want this as much as us.”

“Why’s he doing it?” Colby asked.

“Because of Connor ,” Charlie answered.

Colby nodded slowly, thinking back to what Hailey’d told them. “Possible. Connor protected Kenny in prison.” Charlie sighed deeply, closing his eyes. He wanted to go home. To Don and his father. He wanted to see Larry. And especially Amita. Colby joined him, sitting down beside him. “We’ll get out of here, soon,” he said in a soothing voice. Charlie wanted to believe him.

***

The little envelope in the lower corner of Don’s screen pointed out penetratingly to him that he had an internal e-mail. But, at the moment, he really didn’t feel like opening it. On the other hand, it could be a message from Merrick and that convinced Don to open the e-mail. He stiffened when he saw the sender. It came from the internal address of his brother. Charlie never used this mail address but every employee had one.

Your brother’s in the old Silver media building. Connor and Steve are armed.

“My God,” Don mumbled. Megan and Hailey turned to face him. Megan was sitting at her desk, speaking to witness protection about the threat while Hailey was speaking with the IT from David’s phone, warning them.

Megan got up and pulled at the long cable of her telephone to lean across Don’s shoulder. “Oh, my God,” she said. The she spoke into her phone. “Shannon, gotta go. We have a lead concerning the hacker.”

“We won’t raise the alarm as long as possible. But we’ll take the data from the server until you tell us it’s over.”

“Okay,” Megan answered, and then she disconnected the call. “Is the e-mail from Charlie?” she asked doubtingly.

Don grabbed his phone. “It’s coming from Charlie’s internal address. He’s talking about Connor and Steve – gotta be from Kenny,” he corrected.

Hailey disconnected her call. “I’ve got confirmation. Professor Eppes has been logged in since this afternoon.”

“Why didn’t anyone notice?” Megan asked.

“There wasn’t an alarm. The access was authorized, so nobody noticed,” Hailey answered.

Don talked into his phone. “I need a team for a hostage situation - ASAP. We’ll meet downstairs.” Megan clipped on her gun and waited for Don to end his call and fetch his weapon, too. Then they left to get equipped.

“Silver media,” Megan said in the elevator, “that’s a tiny studio in the industrial park Vernon. They bankrupted a few years ago, never got out of the B-movie-genre. My neighbour told me that was working there for a while.”

“Why didn’t we notice the building before?” Don asked.

“There are just too many abandoned buildings in and around Los Angeles, Don.”

The doors opened. Don nodded. “Doesn’t matter,” he said, greeting the team equipping themselves already with a nod of the head. “As long as we get Charlie and Colby back.”

***

Don waited until all teams had given their okay, before he said into his radio, “Move. Move.” Then he pushed the door to the big hall open in which film sets had been built up years ago. “FBI!” he called. The hall had been made homely. The white van stood before the big rolling gate through which agents were filling in as well as through the many doors. Suddenly, bullets hit the wall next to Don and Megan. They threw themselves to the ground and crawled for protection behind a couch. He looked around the sofa, watching Connor and Steve firing in all directions. But they fought on lost position, because they were only two versus many more agents. Steve was hit and went to the ground while Connor was disappearing through a metal door. Don and Megan were positioned near the door and crouched low while making their way over while the other agents were storming the cellar and the remaining rooms.

Colby was on his feet as soon as the muffled noise of shots had penetrated through the metal door. “Charlie. That’s them,” he said in relief, pulling the professor on his feet and into a corner of the room. The door opened and Connor came in. He slammed the door shut and turned the key, before looking around for his hostages. When he discovered them, he pointed his weapon at them. A shot was fired - outside - and drilled into the metal of the door just above the lock. Colby knew that his colleagues needed more time.

“Not much time left,” Connor said coldly and Colby could recognize the man who had kill three people in him, “Come here, Charlie. You gotta say hello to your brother.”

Colby pressed Charlie to the wall although the professor didn’t move to obey Connor. “It’s over ,” he said. Charlie flinched when Connor pulled the trigger.

He stared at Colby when the agent moaned and noticed that his shirt turned red at the chest. “Colby?” he asked with panic colouring his voice.

“I don’t need you anymore, agent,” Connor said. Charlie stared him in disbelief, then he tried in vain to cushion Colby’s fall as he sank to the floor. Without letting himself think about it, he took off his sweatshirt and pressed it on the bullet wound. He got cold fast in the t-shirt he wore under the sweatshirt, but he concentrated on the agent. Something rammed the door and Connor hurried over to Charlie. When the door was hit again and gave way, Connor grabbed Charlie and pulled him up, using him as a shield. Don, Megan and another two agents stormed the room and grasped the situation, before pointing their weapons at Connor threateningly. Don took a step forwards and Connor pressed his gun to Charlie’s temple. “Déjà-vu,” he said.

“Yeah,” Don answered, “only this time, there won’t be an emergency exit.”

“Drop your weapon,” Megan ordered. Charlie stared at his brother. He wanted Don to tell him what he should do. He didn’t know. Connor tightened his grip, taking another step in Charlie’s direction. And closer to Colby. Charlie saw the movement from the corner of his eyes before Connor did. Colby’s foot hit Connor’s knee with all the force the injured agent could manage and Charlie heard something breaking in Connor’s knee. Connor yelled out, letting Charlie go. Charlie squatted down and Don fired. A shot into the shoulder sufficed. Connor stumbled back and sank to the ground. The two agents Charlie didn’t know immediately approached to disarm Connor while Megan hurried over to Colby.

Charlie watched Connor being arrested and started when Don put a hand on his shoulder. “Hey,” his brother said in a soothing voice, squatting down beside him, “it’s over.” Charlie let himself fall to the ground, supporting his head in his hands as the strain of the last days suddenly fell on him. He got nauseous and started to tremble. “It’s okay,” Don mumbled. Charlie heard clothes rustling and felt Don draping his heavy jacket around his shoulders. “Are you hurt?” his brother asked softly. Charlie swallowed hard. “C’mon, buddy,” Don mumbled, draping an arm around his shoulders. “Talk to me.”

Charlie leant into the hug and answered, “Thanks.” He swallowed with difficulty once more, trying to suppress tears and kept his eyes closed to hide them. “Thanks.” Don put his arms around his brother, pulling him into an embrace. They didn’t do this often. Their mom had been the tactile one in their family. And although Charlie had always enjoyed and accepted an embrace or a kiss from her, he was more restrained \with his father and his brother.

Don watched the EMTs who’d gathered around Colby and answered softly, “You’re welcome.”

Epilogue
Brute Force Masterlist

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