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: ~2880
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 SIXAgreeing to Charlie’s demand David made his second escape from the hotel where they’d stashed Don’s family. He didn’t make it to the office this time either.“David, it’s Colby,” his partner announced when he answered his cell. “We’ve found the red sedan.”“Where?”“A motel on West Garvey Avenue at West Corvina. The Walnut Inn. A patrolling LAPD cruiser was checking all the parking lots in the area and found the car.”“Did they check with the manager?”“No, the BOLO said to report in so they’ve back off. They’re watching the exit but the car hasn’t moved.”“Make sure they stay out of sight. I’m on my way. Is a team rolling?”“I’m with SWAT now, about ten minutes out.”David didn’t need to ask if Wright had been notified, he would have had to authorise SWAT to deploy. “Hold for me if you can.”“Plan to,” Colby advised before hanging up.By the time David arrived the SWAT team had worked up their plan and he was given a briefing.“I’ve spoken to the manager,” Colby reported as they waited for David to kit up. “The room was booked by a young man around midday today for tonight. The manager saw a second older man go in and out of the room this afternoon. He said he didn’t see the car come back tonight.”“Brad?”Colby had shown the manager the photo of the fugitive. “No. I’ve had no luck with the name either, a P. Merlton.”“Certainly fake,” David concluded. “We ready?”“Good to go,” Colby reported. The SWAT team silently took up their positions and waited for Colby and David to move to their hold point, they would only be able to move in once the room and any occupants had been secured. The SWAT commander, Agent Torrel, raised his hand and suddenly dropped it as the signal to execute. A flashbang was fired through the front window then the door was crashed with the team rushing in. It was a high speed breach to maximise the effect of surprise. Agent Torrel reappeared less than thirty seconds later and waved his hand, inviting David and Colby to enter.Disappointingly it was clear the room was empty despite the car still being parked in the spot outside. David put the call in for forensics as Colby started carefully poking around; trying not to destroy any more evidence than they’d already done in the breach. His next call was to Wright just as Colby waved him to the bench and pointed at a card lying next to a set of keys. He recognised them, along with the clothes he’d already seen scattered on one of the beds.“The room is empty,” David reported into the phone. “We’ve found a building swipe card and the keys to Agent Eppes’ SUV along with the clothes he was wearing today.”“West Corvina is on the way out to Rialto from his apartment block isn’t it?” Wright asked.“Yes.”“Then they’re long gone,” Wright concluded. “I’ll have the units out at Rialto pay close attention to any motels. If he made the call from there that’s where they may be staying. It looks like this was a stop off to change Don’s appearance and their car.”“Run it out,” Wright ordered.They left a pair of SWAT agents guarding the room as the rest of them went door to door throughout the motel but didn’t gain anything particularly useful. One of the agents stopped a man staggering his way into the parking lot and suddenly waved David over.“Tell him what you told me,” the SWAT agent ordered.“Likes I’s tol’ him,” the somewhat inebriated man started, “I saw sree men leaving ‘bout sree or m’re hours ago. They was real chummy, or ash leasht two of ‘em were!” The last was added with a nudge and a wink at the SWAT agent.“How do you mean?” David demanded once he’d interpreted that.“Well da two of ‘em, da older two, they’s pretty mush cuddling on da way out. Sa young one looks a bit of a fird wheel. I thinks they’s went down s’at way. Bet they’s having a great time some’ere,” the man ended with a laugh.Whatever they were doing David was more than sure Don was far from having a great time. He left the SWAT agent to take the man’s details and sent the rest of the agents, including Colby, to doorknock their way down the street in the direction the man had indicated. Forensics finally arrived and he set them to work on the room and car. It wasn’t long before they located clear sets of Don’s prints on the car window and the bathroom mirror determining their positioning suggested they were purposely left. Partial prints were found in a few more places but they were all Don’s. A few smudged marks turned up when the experts checked the usual high contact places leaving them to conclude the suspects were wearing gloves.By the time he’d ordered the vehicle towed Colby and the other agents returned, along with a couple of LAPD officers. They’d all drawn a blank; no one else had seen three men walking in the area.Disappointed he thanked the LAPD officers, calling their supervisor to also thank her for the loan of her staff. The SWAT agents had some packing up to do and the tow wasn’t far away so even though it wasn’t their role they agreed to stay and wait for the vehicle to be seized. David and Colby headed back for the office.When his cell rang David automatically checked the screen expecting to see ‘restricted’. What he saw instead had him shoving the phone under Colby’s nose. “Call Control,” he ordered as he pulled the car over.David gave it as long as he dared before answering the call, shielding the microphone so Colby’s quiet voice as he spoke urgently to Control wouldn’t be picked up. “Sinclair.”“David.”“Don!” He’d hoped but had not really expected the caller to be Don himself. “Don, where are you?”“I can’t tell you that, David,” Don said calmly. “I’m unharmed.”He didn’t expect an answer to his next question but he asked anyway, “Who?”“Scott Nelson.”A long breath of relief escaped him. That Don had been kidnapped was very serious but at least it wasn’t Brad Nelson. Scott Nelson had shown he was capable of caring for the agent he was now holding. But, as David recalled all too clearly, he was also quite capable of threatening him too. “Why?”“I need you to give me back my data access,” Don explained. It didn’t answer David’s real question but explained the purpose of the call. “I can’t do that,” David said firmly. “Not now. You know that.” He’d noted the slightly distant nature of Don’s voice and suspected they were on speaker. His end of the conversation was also being monitored making him glad he was shielding his microphone. He briefly held one of his fingers up in front of his lips warning Colby to keep quiet.“I have inquiries to make.”“What inquiries?”“They want me to find Brad for them before the FBI or police,” Don explained.“They? Who’s they?” David demanded. Despite his boss saying only Scott Nelson had him David knew that would have been under instruction. They still had no identity on the younger man. He did harbour a suspicion but the lack of prints or a good description made it just that for now.A new voice came onto the line. “My son is not to be harmed, Agent Sinclair.”“We have no control over that Mr Nelson.”“He is to be brought in alive.” Scott Nelson’s voice was firm and determined. He didn’t need to explain the consequences as his actions had made that plain enough.“That is our intention,” David insisted. He spelt it out, “But ultimately that is up to Brad. You know that. Holding and threatening Agent Eppes won’t change anything.”After repeating himself Nelson hung up even though David tried to keep him on the line.Turning to his partner David demanded, “Anything?”Colby reported the call had terminated to the Control operator and listened for his response. “They got a hit off a cell tower in Lucerne Valley.”“Where is that?”“West of Victorville,” Colby supplied. “There was an earlier weak ping off a tower up in the hills, near a place called Big Bear. Control plotted it and they think they may have gone through there to get to Lucerne Valley. Looks like they’re still on the move. What did he say?”David held up a hand, dialling Wright. They would both hear it at the same time.***Don listened in silence as Nelson repeated himself.“Alive, Agent Sinclair.” “Mr Nelson,” David started but the call was ended and the cell switched off.“If Brad tries to shoot it out you know we won’t have a choice,” Don said.“Maybe. But with your life on the line they will try harder to keep him alive.”“Would you really kill me if Brad dies?” Don asked. Despite knowing it had been coming he still felt a new chill as things moved to the next level. He fixed Nelson in a hard stare, his next words carefully enunciated so there could be no mistake, “Could you murder me in cold blood?”Nelson stared at the agent for a long time before looking across to Paul who had been watching them during the call. Don followed the glance and saw the younger son’s gaze flicking uncertainly between the two of them. Nelson put the cell back into his pocket.“Back to the cabin.”Paul started the car and they turned back, retracing their drive. It wasn’t an answer but in a way it was. Nelson sat still, his gaze locked on the road ahead.Paul started to say something then stopped, unsure what to say next as his father remained silent. They rolled to a stop at an intersection waiting for a couple of cars to pass and he turned his head briefly, looking into the back of the car from one man to the other, finding no help in either direction.“You are in this now, Paul. Just as deep as your father is,” Don warned as the younger man turned away to watch the road once they started moving again. He drove the point home, “However far this goes.”“No,” Paul protested. His head tilted as he tried to look at the agent in the mirror. “It won’t happen, it won’t go that far. Brad will be fine. You will be fine.”Unable to catch Paul’s eye in the dark Don looked out his window instead. He’d come on strong but given the circumstances fully justified. Until now it was clear to him that despite all their planning they had had not totally considered where things might end. Nelson had issued his ultimatum, his voice firm and resolute but now he was clearly thinking hard on what he’d said and the agent’s following words. The point that worried Don was Nelson had not backed away from the threat at his challenge, had instead put the less than subtle unspoken threat into words. Even if he’d not wanted to let Sinclair and the FBI off the hook he could have cleared the air with him. Don looked over at the other man to see him staring steadily back and reminded himself once again he should not underestimate him.The rest of the long drive back to the cabin passed in uncomfortable silence. This time as Don climbed out of the car he found his arm taken in a firm grip, clearly Nelson now expected him to make a break for it. Don had seriously considered it but the man’s hold put paid to that. He let himself be led to the cabin and pushed inside.Nelson waved his left hand towards the bed against the wall in the living area, “It’s late.”“So? We need to talk about this.”“No, we don’t.” Nelson’s hand moved to rest on the butt of his holstered gun as he waved a second time towards the bed.Don glanced down at the weapon, raising his hands slightly in acknowledgement of the warning. He took a step back before turning and moving towards the bed as ordered. He was a little surprised, figuring he would be secured in the bunk room rather than right next to the main door of the cabin that he’d seen was not lockable. He reached the side of the bed to find that Nelson had followed him closely. He turned slowly, taking a half step backwards in the process as the other man was clearly on alert for him to try something, which was precisely the reason he wasn’t. For the moment anyway, his best chance for escape would only come when they let their guard down.Nelson held up the cuff key in his left hand, “It might be uncomfortable for you but we probably can’t watch you all night. Cuff yourself to the frame.”Don liked that idea even less than wearing the cuffs in the first place. “Not up for discussion,” Nelson stated as he saw the agent about to argue.“In that case, may I?” Don pointed his hands towards the doorway into the rest of the cabin and the likely direction of washroom.“Oh, of course,” Nelson’s tone was a touch surprised. He’d not considered that. He moved away to collect the battery lamp before allowing the agent to move through the doorway. “Left.”Don turned and found the washroom right where he expected it to be. He went to raise his hands for the cuffs to be removed but Nelson was already shaking his head. Taking the offered lamp with a sigh Don stepped into the room and put it on the floor. He turned and hesitated, his hand on the door. Unexpectedly Nelson nodded, allowing him to close it. He understood why a moment later, there was no window in the tiny room, just a vent mounted high on the wall that was too small for a child, let alone him to get through. He took as long as he dared, relishing the moment of privacy. A few minutes later he washed up then turned the handle, giving it a half a second before pulling the door open. At this point it would be all too easy to startle Nelson and the outcome would not be good for him.He found the other man as he expected, backed up out of easy reach with his hand still resting on his gun. He backed away before following as Don first put the lamp onto the table and then moved slowly back to the bed. He stopped and turned, holding out his hand for the key.“Sit,” Nelson ordered. “Cross your ankles.”Without protest Don complied. The last instruction meant it would take him a precious moment to untangle his feet if he were to make a break for it once he’d freed his hands. He once again held out his hand and this time the key was deposited in his palm. The head of the sleeping bag was pointed towards the end wall so Don removed the cuff around his right wrist and closed it about the frame about a third of the way down its length from the wall. With his now free right hand he slowly held up the key and held very still as Nelson took it back.“Lock it.”Don completed the step. He’d hoped Nelson wouldn’t notice; leaving the cuff unlocked gave him an option of working on the small tab of metal that bit into the teeth on the swing arm. If he could work something in there he could possibly force the cuff open. Locked, it was no longer possible. But then he really shouldn’t have expected the other man to have missed it, anyone who had been in the prison system for any length of time became an expert on handcuffs, especially their weaknesses.Nelson went over to one of the easy chairs and sat down. He looked over at Paul who had been hovering near the door. “Turn down the gas lamp then go get some sleep.”Paul looked to the watching agent then back to his father. “I’ll get a couple of hours. Wake me before then if you want.”“’Night.”Paul went to the gas lamp first, turning it down to a dim glow before he collected the battery lamp and left the room.“That goes for you too, Agent.”Not bothering to respond and certainly not inclined to wish Nelson a good night, Don uncrossed his ankles and set about opening the bag. It wasn’t cool enough yet to need its warmth so he left it open. Lying back after shucking off his shoes he stared up at the ceiling for a while considering his slight advantage for whatever it was worth. Assuming he could actually get to sleep he was likely to have more than either Nelson or his son. They had to guard him, he had no such obligation..
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