Rating: PG 13+
Characters: Don Eppes, David Sinclair, Colby Granger, Charlie Eppes, Alan Eppes, OMCs - Scott Nelson and Paul Nelson
Disclaimer: I don't own them, I just borrowed them. Numb3rs and its characters are the property of those that created them. No copyright infringement intended. No financial reward gained. All real places and organisations are used in a fictional sense. Anything you don't recognise is a product of my imagination.
Spoilers: Arrow of Time, Fifth Man, Pilot.
Word count this chapter: ~2840
Word count total: ~44,000
Summary: Making a choice is one thing, surviving the consequences that follow is something else altogether. Third instalment of Nelson series following Flight and Crosshairs - Brad escapes but danger for Don comes from an unexpected quarter.CHAPTER TWOAfter the first flush of alarm Don let out a breath in relief as he recognised the voice. It wasn’t Brad Nelson. At his next breath his apprehension rose, he had not expected to hear this voice again, let alone be only a few feet away from its owner. This did not bode well, especially not now. It also explained why the FBI hadn’t been able to track him down. “I thought you didn’t want to see me again?”“I don’t. But I have no choice.”Don’s hand still gripped the butt of his Glock. He wondered whether he should draw it or if it was already too late. He found himself not wanting to turn and find out just what his situation really was even though he had a fair idea. “Do I?”“It’s back to this again, but I’m sorry Agent. I really am.”“You said you had made your last apology to me. You were going to make your life over.”There was a sigh, “All true. I’m glad to see my message was passed on so clearly. But there are times when things don’t go to plan. I’m sure you understand.”He didn’t want to understand, even if he feared he did. “Walk away, Nelson.”“I’m afraid I can’t do that. I need your help.”His grip tightened on his weapon, “And if I don’t want to help you?”Now came the indication of how much danger he was in, the distinctive metallic click sounding from all too close behind him. His eyes closed briefly as he realised Nelson was close, but not close enough for any disarming techniques he might try. Opening his eyes and taking a deep breath he came to a decision, he wasn’t going to give in quite so easily this third time. He was healthy, not semi-conscious and injured like their first encounter after the plane crash, nor was he suffering from heat exhaustion and under a sniper’s eye like the second time at Pershing Square. “I didn’t think you would cooperate voluntarily, Agent. I had to come prepared,” Nelson explained. His voice hardened as he answered the question posed earlier, “You don’t have a choice.”Don slowly turned having shown the man enough of his back during this conversation. Nelson hadn’t taken advantage of the opportunity he’d been given to simply walk away. As he expected Nelson was standing two yards away, a SIG-Sauer semi-automatic handgun in gloved hands pointed right at him. It seemed Nelson no longer had any reservations at holding him at gunpoint, the gun steady. Then again compared with ramming his own Glock under his jaw this was almost civilised.“There is always a choice,” Don countered. His right hand flexed slightly but remained in place, securely over the grip of his Glock.Nelson noted the agent’s actions and his meaning and braced himself, lifting the SIG up slightly, “I hope you make the right one, Agent.”“Would you really shoot me?”“Do you doubt that I could?” Nelson replied instantly.Unfortunately the man had him on that one, the quick response causing his pulse to spike. Last time he’d come to the conclusion that Nelson was prepared to carry through on his threat to kill him if pushed. The situation was a little different now however, some time had passed and his son was no longer in danger, or at least not immediate danger. He was perhaps not as sure that Nelson would shoot right at that moment, but that was a long way from thinking that he couldn’t if he felt he must.Another approach was called for, “Tell me what you want from me.”“For now, I want you.”Far from liking the sound of that Don shook his head, “I’m going to need more than that.”“How about, we want you.”Sudden movements when being held at gunpoint were not generally considered smart but he spun at the unexpected new voice. Barely catching himself in time his Glock had only half cleared his holster. Somewhere a small part of him absently noted he had not been shot down in a hail of bullets as he recognised the second man.Having spent part of the afternoon re-reading the files on the Nelson family he instantly remembered the other man’s name, Paul. He hadn’t changed much over the last few years. The youngest of the Nelson family was still the same medium build he’d been when he’d last seen him in Albuquerque, obviously not following his older brother’s example in working out to bulk up. He knew that his earlier estimation of age had been wrong, Paul had actually been a year older than he’d thought at the time which would now make him around twenty-three. Don didn’t know who he could have expected to be here backing Nelson up but it certainly wasn’t the man’s youngest son even if he had also been reported to be in the wind. Speaking of back-up, the agent looked the young man over closely but didn’t see a weapon. Unfortunately that didn’t mean that he wasn’t armed, a gun could easily be tucked into his rear waistband and he had to assume that was the case given the circumstances. The younger man was also wearing surgical gloves, a detail that only alarmed him further. A quick glance over at Nelson showed the older man watching but not interrupting. He seemed happy to let this run its course.“You argued against this last time, Paul.”“I know. It was wrong back then. Just as this is now,” Paul swallowed nervously and shifted his feet. Clearly he did not want to be here but was making no effort to prevent whatever was going down, instead actively participating. “Dad must do this, we must do this.”“Why?” How could they possibly be forced into this confrontation? In accordance with Nelson’s wishes and his own preference he’d had no contact with any of the Nelson family since the committal proceedings for trial. “And do what? Kidnap a Federal Agent?”“Yes.”“Okay. That explains the what,” Don managed after a moment at the bluntness of the reply. It was clear that they meant to take him with them. “But not the why. What you intend to achieve?”“We don’t have time for this now, Agent,” Nelson interrupted.“Make the time,” Don snapped in sudden anger. He backed up a pace, putting his back against his SUV. He hadn’t noticed Paul was nearby before he’d made his appearance, there could be more people at this party that he hadn’t yet spotted. He finally made a decision and his right hand jerked as he drew the Glock the rest of the way. He didn’t raise it but it was now clear of the holster and one step closer to being in play. If Paul was really unarmed he still had a chance.Nelson immediately responded, firming his aim, “I really don’t want to have to hurt you.”“You have a damned funny way of showing it.”“You are still alive,” Nelson countered. “I have managed to keep you that way twice now. You should be able to trust me enough to do it again.”“Both those times you were as much a victim of circumstance as I was. This time you are instigating this. This time you are the threat. Walk away and I’ll keep myself alive.”There was a silence that dragged on for several long seconds. Nelson shifted and started talking, “Alright, Agent. You want the why?”“That would be nice.”“My son is why.”Don didn’t even look at Paul; he knew that was not the son that Nelson was referring to. “Your son is on the run.”“I know. He’s called me.”“When? Where is he?” Whilst he hadn’t exactly forgotten that he was being held at gunpoint Don temporarily put that aside to address the main issue, the recapture of a highly dangerous escaped prisoner.“He called me just after his escape. He told me he’s coming here. He told me he’s going to kill you, Agent.”Wright had been correct, the threats were solid. Don stared challengingly at the older man, “So you’re good with that now?”Nelson’s forehead crinkled in confusion as his gun drooped slightly. It took him a few moments to gather his thoughts to phrase his question, “What do you mean?”“Let me put it this way, what are you going to do if I let you take me? Hand me over to your son again?”“No!” Nelson appeared shocked. He glanced at his younger son before turning his attention back to the agent, “How could you think that?”Don waved his free left hand at the weapon still pointed at him, “What else should I think? You did the last two times.”The older man’s mouth opened then closed as he thought the agent’s words over. There was a sigh and a momentary pause as he looked down at the concrete. He straightened a few moments later. “Okay. I deserved that. That’s not going to happen this time. I am going to protect you from him. And as I told you before, I want your help.”Don resisted the urge to look at his watch; surely the five minutes he’d given his escort were up. “I have my own protection waiting outside.”Nelson looked momentarily alarmed at that. He gestured at his son and the younger man adjusted his position slightly to keep an eye on possible approaches.“Not doing a good job are they?” Nelson responded as he regained his composure. “If we can get to you, so can Brad.”Another point Don had to give Nelson. It had been his own fault though, sending both agents back out to their vehicle whilst he went alone to his SUV. “What exactly is it that you want my help for?” He demanded, trying to spin out the encounter as long as possible before it came to the inevitable head. When Stone and Brown came to investigate the odds would be in his favour.“I want, no I need you to help us find Brad before the FBI or cops do.”“How? You take me and I’ll have access to nothing. I’ll be useless to you.”Nelson shook his head. “You’re smarter than that. You’ll find a way to access your databases.”Don couldn’t help the shake of his head at that. It wouldn’t work, Nelson just didn’t understand. Not given the current circumstances. Assuming they managed to take him with them his disappearance would be immediately discovered and known to be involuntary. Part of the procedure after that would be to shut down his access to internal databases as a security precaution.The older man continued, partially interpreting the agent’s meaning, “And if you can’t I’m sure you’ll figure out how to find him before they do. If they get to him first they’ll kill him. We find him and we have a chance to save him.”Memory of how he’d been treated whilst in Brad’s hands resurfaced. As he’d recalled earlier it had been mostly Nelson’s intervention at the time that had prevented him from being seriously injured. Brad had clearly stated his intention to make Don pay for Nelson’s arrest and jailing after the plane crash. He’d started on that path first by setting up the scenario in the square exposing him without shelter to the heat-wave sun for several hours. He’d followed up by wounding him with a sniper rifle before taking a more hands on approach. Don forgot who he was speaking to, reacting to the concept of the budding psychopath being rescued. “He doesn’t deserve to be saved.”Nelson’s grip briefly tightened on his gun but otherwise he appeared not to react to the words. “I understand why you would feel that way, really I do. But he is my son. It also doesn’t change the fact that we need your help.”“There are agents and marshals out looking for him as we speak. They’ll find him and put him back in jail where he belongs.”“They will kill him.”Don shook his head. That was not the way they did things. “We don’t want that. We’ll take him alive if we can.”“I know you will try. I also know that my son won’t come quietly.”“Neither will I.” Don finally raised his weapon, pointing it back at the man in front of him. The time had come. His protection detail was not coming and he was now becoming actively worried about them, wondering if there had been outside interference. Even more worryingly Nelson simply nodded at his reaction, appearing otherwise unfazed.“You are more sensible than my son, Agent, and even he knew when he was outgunned,” Nelson briefly looked sideways. “Paul.”Flicking his own gaze to the side Don saw Paul reach behind him and pull out a revolver. This second weapon was raised to point unsteadily in his direction. From a tactical perspective things had just gone from bad to pretty much impossible. The two men had him at a severe disadvantage; they were far enough apart that he couldn’t cover both at once. No matter who he pointed his weapon at the other had a clear shot. He turned his head slightly and had another look at Paul whilst still keeping his own weapon aimed at the older Nelson.“You won’t shoot,” Don stated.“I will do what I have to for my brother,” With visible effort Paul stilled his weapon.Don’s eyes narrowed as he reassessed the younger man. Back on Mount Taylor it had been obvious the two brothers did not get along but obviously now when it was coming to a situation where his older brother was likely to be killed Paul had reconsidered his position. As a brother himself and knowing the lengths he would go to if necessary to protect Charlie he suddenly found himself believing that Paul could go the distance. His gaze flicked back to the older Nelson before returning to the son. His own gun hand started to waver, no longer certain which threat he should be trying to address.“I know you understand that, Agent,” Nelson added once he saw the first signs of uncertainty. “I’ve done some research, I know who you are.”Knowing it was pointless Don had to try again, “You would shoot me to protect me from Brad? To force me to help you?” There was another use for him that Nelson had not yet raised but he didn’t get to voice it as the other man was already speaking.“If we have to and I won’t be taking you to hospital this time,” Nelson answered firmly. His normally warm and friendly voice had suddenly turned chilly. The time for talk was over. “Put your gun down. Now.”As far as Don could see, there were limited options open to him. He could shoot Paul at which point Nelson would shoot him. Or, he could shoot Nelson at which point Paul would very likely shoot him. He may have some lingering doubts as to Paul’s determination to follow through with his threats to use his weapon to obey Nelson, but Don could be fairly sure that if he shot the boy’s father in front of him there would be no hesitation. Trying to shoot his way out was a sure fire way of getting himself killed or at best seriously wounded and if Nelson was to be believed, taken anyway. That led to the remaining two options, the first being that he could negotiate his way out which had failed. That left the second which seemed to be the only viable way open to him. He would have a chance, he was uninjured and healthy as he’d reminded himself earlier and this would be his best way of remaining that way. Whilst it was a totally different situation than what he’d found himself in the last two times it was still not good, far from ideal in fact, but there was nothing else he could do. He found it to be one of the hardest things he had ever done. Moving slowly he raised his left hand and twisted his right so that he showed his palms to Nelson, the Glock now pointing safely away and held loosely.Nelson appeared relieved. His gun jerked slightly, “Put it down, Agent. Then turn around.”It went against every instinct but he slowly crouched and put the weapon on the concrete. He raised his eyes as his right hand released the Glock and stared Nelson in the face, it was a challenge. As he’d done before, he was going to hold the man to his word even if he was no longer as sure as he’d once been that he could trust him. Nelson’s reply was a nod at which point Don rose and after a final glance to the younger son turned around and faced his SUV, hands up at shoulder height.
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