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: ~3470
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 TENIt was daylight when he woke again. The chair beside the bed was empty but not the easy chair across the room. Don felt a surge of alarm at the brooding stare and felt his complete helplessness all the more. He was utterly powerless against anything the man might do to him. At the moment at least Nelson seemed content to simply stare at him. Breaking the stare Don looked around to find no sign of Paul. It was early and he hoped the younger man was just sleeping in the bunkroom. He did not want to be alone with Nelson.The silence dragged and became oppressive. Don tried to rest, but every time he looked over Nelson was staring fixedly back at him. It had probably only been about an hour but he could finally bear the silence no longer, he had to at least try to talk to the man.“Nelson,” Don started. He saw the older man’s face darken but pressed on. “Scott, I’m sorry. I am, but I had no choice, he gave me no choice.”Nelson’s face darkened further and he slowly stood. Slowly, deliberately, he reached for his holster and pulled his gun free.Don went cold all over even as a sudden dump of adrenalin hit his system leaving his heart racing. Nelson took a step towards him. “Nelson, stop!” Don thought he heard a thud from behind the wall, from the direction of the bunk room but he had attention only for the approaching man and the gun held up towards him. He couldn’t help pulling against the cuffs but they held firm, there was nowhere he could go. “Don’t do this.”“Dad, no!” Paul shouted from the doorway.Nelson stopped and regarded his son before letting his hand lower. “He doesn’t talk to me,” he instructed in a low and dangerous voice.“It’s alright, Dad. He won’t talk to you,” Paul said moving forward. As the gun lowered he gently ushered his father back to the chair.Don watched as Nelson finally sat and resumed his brooding stare with one difference. His gun remained under his hand resting on his knee. Don looked away, it had been all too close, was still too close. Nelson was off the rails and Don clearly recognised the level of danger he was in.“Are you alright?”He looked up at Paul, the younger man blocking his view of Nelson. Don kept his voice low, barely a whisper, “Thank-you.”“He needs time,” Paul repeated from the night before. “When mom died no one could talk to him. He was never this bad. I’ve never seen him like this and with the gun he,” Paul broke off, casting a quick glance back at his father. “Agent, I’ll do my best but think he could kill you if you don’t let him have time.”There was no ‘could’ about it, Don thought. Nelson would kill him. Mindful of the need to keep quiet he nodded again.Paul perched on the edge of the chair and reached down into his kit and pulled out a fresh pair of gloves. “Let me look at you.”Don held still and let Paul work.“I’ll leave these be for a bit but I’ll re-dress them in a little while,” Paul decided. “If we keep them clean and we keep your fluids up I think you’ll be okay. I’ll get you some more juice. Do you need anything else?”He hesitated but there was no way around it. “The washroom,” Don finally whispered.“I’ll get the key.”Don watched as Paul approached his father with the request. Nelson seemed set to ignore his son but Paul was insistent and eventually Nelson moved. Don caught his breath unable to help the alarm as Nelson stood and once again approached rather than simply handing the key off to his son. His eyes flickered down to the gun still held in the man’s hand but it wasn’t raised. Nelson instead swapped it across to his left before pulling the handcuff key from his pocket. Don barely breathed as Nelson fitted the key into the cuff around the frame and opened it. He stood back as Paul moved in.Accepting the younger man’s help Don made it to the washroom. Nelson followed close behind, a menacing presence. Don convinced Paul to give him some privacy and he was relieved when the younger man stepped out, pulling the door partly to behind him. He could barely move and everything hurt but he did what he needed and washed up. Paul helped him back to the bed and eased him down. Nelson stepped in immediately, grabbing roughly at Don’s wrist and again pulling his arm down to the frame. The dangling cuff was snapped back into place and the lock turned. Paul looked as if to argue with his father but changed his mind.Don couldn’t help but look over to see Nelson had resumed his seat, and his stare. He had to turn away again, the intense scrutiny too much. He was trying to keep his own thoughts locked down, the fact that he’d been forced to kill another two men weighed heavily on him. Since his time with Bradford he knew he needed to talk it out. Intellectually he knew it had been totally justified but he needed to hear it from someone else. Paul had been incredibly understanding but he could hardly talk this through with the next of kin of one of the very men he’d killed. Just as he couldn’t discuss it within any sort of earshot of the man who had nearly killed him, and still might, because of it. If only he’d tried harder after stealing the accomplice’s gun, he should have tried to circle back to the driveway and resume his break for the street. Or maybe he should have surrendered to Brad in the hope that Nelson could control his son’s urges before he did too much damage or worse. He’d been forced into the corner he’d warned Nelson about and had reacted, doing the only thing he thought he could at the time. It was totally justified, a clean shoot but ... With effort Don stopped his line of thought as it started to spiral. He had to push his own concerns down and deal with it later, if there was a later. He had to survive this first. Years of practice finally paid off and he pushed it back. Instead Don distracted himself by watching Paul as he moved about the kitchen preparing something for breakfast that he brought over to his father, along with a cup of coffee. Don looked away for those few moments, counting the knots in the wood of the wall beside him rather than be caught in Nelson’s stare again. Finally Paul returned to his side with a tumbler of juice and a bowl.“Do you think you could manage some cereal?”Determined not to speak, no matter how softly, unless he could help it he nodded again. Paul propped a couple of the cushions under his back and got him upright enough to eat safely. It was embarrassing to be spoon fed but with both arms immobilised he was forced to accept it and soon finished the bowl and then the tumbler of juice. Paul started to pull the cushions back out but stopped as Don shook his head.“You want to sit up?” Paul asked. At the positive nod he firmed up the cushions so they would stay in place. “Better?”Don nodded. There was less pressure on his shoulder wound and his chest felt better.Paul moved away and Don watched him tidy up the kitchen area. He then brought over Don’s phone, switching it on. Once it had stopped beeping with a message alert after acquiring the network Paul dialled the voicemail number, putting the phone on speaker.The first was an automated message from fleet reminding him of the service due on his SUV. The next was from a bookshop advising his order had arrived. They were normal, everyday messages that seemed unreal in the current context. Nelson reacted to the next message, standing and moving quickly over.“Mr Nelson, this is David Sinclair. Please call me back when you get this.” The agent hesitated, “It’s about Brad.”Paul pressed the end button as the service indicated there were no more messages. Nelson took the phone and shut it off.***Rubbing his hand down his face David willed the coffee to kick in and give him a boost. The night had been long and he’d put his head down a number of times on his desk to try to get a few minutes sleep but he kept jerking awake imagining he could hear his phone. He was in the incident room, his phone mounted in a cradle that kept it charged and connected it to the recording equipment. A technician sat monitoring the tracing equipment set for Don’s cell ready to react the moment the network detected it.They’d spent a good half the night at the crime scene before returning to the office. He’d given a full briefing to the ADIC and had finally made the call to Don’s cell for Nelson. Nothing had happened for the rest of the night and he envied Colby his skill at sleeping anywhere, anytime. Colby suddenly demonstrated another skill, waking instantly alert as Rachel called out.“Cell’s active,” Rachel announced.Knowing better than to ask David couldn’t help it, “Where?”“Tracing.”David tried not to get his hopes up. The cell had been active before, presumably as Nelson checked Don’s messages, but each time it had been for barely enough time to do more than ping a tower. So far all they’d gained from those activations was possible hits on a number of towers in the hills above LA. Their equipment couldn’t do any better than that and even the cell company that owned those towers wasn’t able to give them more than weak signal strength indicating the cell could be some distance away and no indication of direction. After about a minute the technician looked up. “Tower at Onyx Peak, near Big Bear.”Another hit in almost the same area.“Lost it.”“Direction?”“Signal was too weak, it could have been moving,” Rachel said with a shake of her head.It fitted with their current theory that Nelson was holding Don somewhere in an area between Lucerne Valley and Los Angeles. But there was a lot of real estate in the area, a sparse population and geographic features that served to make the accuracy of their data doubtful. Nevertheless he had all LEOs in those areas alerted for anything out of place. “That means he’s got the message,” Colby said. “He’ll call soon.”Time passed. ADIC Wright had arrived and was briefed on the latest activation of the cell when the awaited call finally came through, a good hour later.“Cell’s active,” Rachel announced just as Wright was about to walk out the door. A few seconds later she looked up, “Incoming.”David’s cell rang an instant later and he took a deep settling breath before pointing at Rachel in a signal for the call to be accepted. He pressed the button on the equipment on the table in front of him to activate the microphone and speaker, “Sinclair.”“You wanted me to call,” Nelson stated, his voice flat. David suddenly got a very bad feeling, glancing across at Colby and Wright he saw they’d also picked up on the tone. The call was already going to be bad enough but clearly something was already wrong. There was nothing for it but to press on.“Yes,” David answered. “We found your son. We found Brad.”The line remained silent. David took another few breaths before delivering the news, “Brad is dead.” “I know,” Nelson said heavily.David’s next words were hurried, “I’m sorry Mr Nelson, but we found him that way. Along with a second man, also dead. We didn’t -”“I know.”The agent digested that for a moment. “You know? You were there?”“We were.”Nelson’s use of the word ‘we’ had not gone unnoticed with Wright, Colby and the other two agents in the room moving closer in silent support as the call progressed. “We also found a lot of blood that wasn’t his, or the other man’s,” David stated carefully. “Whose?”“Eppes’,” Nelson said simply.David sat heavily, mirrored a moment later by Wright. Colby gripped the edge of the table, his knuckles turning white. The other two agents and the technician, less familiar with the missing agent still felt the news hit home, it was one of their own. They were all aware of the medical examiner’s official report, that the unknown person’s blood loss would likely not have been fatal if the victim had received medical aid as she’d explained to Colby at the scene. Without aid however, she expected the victim could die within a time frame of a few hours to half a day. With Don being identified as that victim, in circumstances where he was not likely to get that aid, they could only draw one conclusion. Don was dead.David tried to speak but his throat had closed up. He coughed to clear it, then took a mouthful of his bitter coffee in an effort to gain much needed moisture. “Where is he?”“Where is my son, Agent Sinclair?”“With the Coroner,” David answered, his voice still rough. He looked across at Wright and received a nod. “You ... you want to organise a swap?”“No.”The flush of anger that shot through him was intense. He stood up, leaning forward over the microphone. “His family don’t deserve this! Where is he?”Nelson remained silent.The silence stretched and David just had to try again. With effort he managed to calm his voice even as his blood continued to seethe through his veins. “Mr Nelson? Whatever you thought of Agent Eppes his family deserves to get him back,” David demanded. “Tell us where ... Tell us where we can find him. We will give you your son, wherever or however you want. Mr Nelson?”There was nothing but silence. David looked to Rachel but a wave of her hand indicated the cell was still active, the line still open.“Mr Nelson!”A new voice came on the line, it was weak but recognisable, “David. David, I’m alive.”“Don!” David had to brace himself on the table, the relief was so great. He wasn’t the only one. “Don, we thought-“ he cut himself off. “What happened? That much blood...”“I’ve been shot and stabbed. It’s serious but they’ve patched me up. I’m okay. For now,” Don trailed off.“What happened?”“We met Brad there. He, he came after me.”“He shot you?”“Yes.”David knew there was more, much more. “The other man-”“Doesn’t matter, David,” Don interrupted. The captive agent fell silent before his voice returned, strong and clear. “David, I killed Brad.”“What!” David exclaimed in shock.Once again he looked around the room, seeing the same thoughts in each agent’s mind. How had the hostage got a weapon and killed the very man he was being held to protect? No one had an answer. The blood suddenly drained from David’s face as he realised what this call could mean.“No, Mr Nelson! No!” David said sharply. “Whatever happened there, however that happened, no one else needs to die!”The call abruptly cut off.David’s fist slammed into the table. “Rachel? Tell me we got a location!”“Tower at Breezy Lane, Yucca Valley.” “Plot it, send the nearest police. Have them look for,“ David started to order, then waved his hand to end that thought. “Have them look for anything.”“David, they might not kill him,” Colby said. “They’ve kept him alive until now, more than twelve hours after he killed Brad.”“They wanted him to confess, he’s done that,” David theorised.“You’ve met Scott Nelson,” Wright said. “Do you think him capable of keeping Eppes alive to then execute him?”Unconsciously licking his lips he paced away then back as he considered. “Until now, I didn’t think so. But if they were there that means he saw Don kill his son.”“And he hasn’t killed him yet,” Wright pointed out. “He saw Eppes shoot his son. If he was going to he would have shot Eppes then and there, not take him with them and treat his wounds.”One of the other agents stepped forward, a trained profiler. “Nelson has demonstrated a strong protective instinct towards his son. He took Agent Eppes to ensure his son’s survival. To have seen his son killed in front of him, it could have easily driven him over the edge,” Agent Robson said. “If he was going to kill Agent Eppes to avenge his son, he would have done it immediately. I have to agree with the boss, as Agent Eppes is still alive it seems less likely he will kill him now.” “So why continue to hold him? Why take him at all?” David argued. He wanted to believe them, but he couldn’t see it. Nelson had let them think Don was already dead, perhaps to feel out how they’d take it. He’d then put Don on the line to make his confession. As he saw it there was only one logical step to follow. “You said this could have driven him over the edge, perhaps it has. We can’t assume he is thinking clearly,” he continued.Robson thought on it for a moment before slowly nodding, “Unfortunately that is very likely, but I think the longer this goes on for the less likely they are to kill him.” ***“No, Mr Nelson! No! Whatever happened there, however that happened, no one else needs to die!”Nelson’s response was to disconnect the call.Don held the older man’s gaze a little longer before closing his eyes and laying back. Nelson started the car and they started on the long, bumpy drive back to the cabin. The hour or so getting here, wherever here was, had been hard on his injuries and Don could do nothing but try to brace himself for the ride back. Paul had argued strongly against moving him but Nelson had not listened or cared. His right wrist had been roughly pulled free from Paul’s careful bindings before being cuffed to his left for the move. Paul had argued against that too without any luck. Seemingly understanding it was a lost cause Paul had done his best to support Don out to the car and had got him settled as comfortably as possible across the back seat with a blanket and a pillow. Nelson had grudgingly delayed long enough for Paul to grab his kit and some more water before they left. After they’d finally stopped Paul had checked on Don’s injuries and had given him more water as Nelson started the call. Given his condition he’d not been able to sit up to see where they were.Don been ordered to remain silent until he would be allowed to speak. When the time came he’d understood what Nelson had wanted him to say. It had been hard and knowing the emotional knife’s edge that Nelson was teetering on had made him fear he would be shot within David’s hearing once he’d admitted killing Brad but Nelson had simply ended the call on David’s plea.As they travelled back Don suddenly thought he understood why Nelson had played the call initially as if he were already dead and why he was being treated so harshly. He was being punished.People reacted differently to death and Don had seen all types of reactions having delivered far too many death messages. Some collapsed and became catatonic. Others yelled and screamed, calling him everything under the sun. He'd been assaulted and had even been forced to chase and catch others that had tried to flee from the news putting themselves in danger. Nelson was reacting in his own way to the death of his son, his focus directed at the man responsible. Just how far Nelson was going to take things was the issue that concerned him the most. At the moment, despite Paul’s earlier assurance that Nelson just needed time, he felt it was quite probably going to be all the way. .
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