Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with the show 'Numb3rs' or its creation. I have merely committed the virtual felony of kidnapping the characters and forcing them to enact my own plot against their wishes. I will keep them unlawfully confined until such time as I figure out where this tale is going. After that, they're on their own.
Don hung up the phone and leaned back in his chair with a happy sigh. Another tough case to be packed into a banker's box and marked 'solved'. The Los Angeles Field Office of the FBI was racking up quite a reputation for closing difficult investigations. He laced his fingers behind his head and allowed himself the luxury of a few moments without movement.
"Don," Charlie said as he came around the corner of Don's little cubicle. Don gazed at his younger brother complacently. Thanks to him, another violent criminal was behind bars. He could put up with the interruption for his sake. Just this once.
"What's up, Charlie?" Don asked, not changing his position.
Charlie put down the mug he'd been carrying. "I just wanted to let you know that I've finished with my end of the paperwork, and I was going to ask David to drive me back to school. I've got papers there I have to get before I go home."
Don let his hands fall into his lap, but didn't sit up. "Okay," he replied. "Do me a favor and let Dad know I'll be dropping by after, okay?" He reached for the cup.
"You don't want that," Charlie said, snatching out from under his brother's fingers. "It's herbal tea."
"I don't know how you can drink that stuff," Don scoffed, once again lifting his hands behind his head. He watched in disgust as Charlie polished off the tea and set the cup back on the desk. "It tastes foul. Give me a good strong cup of java anytime."
Charlie swallowed. "Ordinarily I'd argue with you. Coffee is very bad for the blood pressure. Not to mention the side effects – being jittery and unable to sleep…"
"For you, maybe," Don put in.
"But this time," Charlie continued as though Don hadn't spoken. "I have to agree – this particular type of tea does taste a little… off." He glared at the cup as though it had uttered a personal insult.
Don laughed. "Okay, Charlie. You'd better go catch David before he takes off for the night and leaves you stranded."
"Later," Charlie tossed back as he disappeared around the corner.
Don stood abruptly and called over the partition, "Don't forget to tell Dad!"
Charlie glanced back as he hurried out of the room behind David and waved to show he'd understood. Don watched as his brother followed the other agent to the elevator and stepped inside. After seeing the doors slide shut, he once again settled into his chair.
"Do you always do that?"
Don glanced up to see Megan Reeves standing beside his chair with her arms folded, an amused expression on her face. He turned his chair around to face her properly. "Do what?" he asked innocently.
Megan leaned up against the cubicle's wall. "Watch Charlie until he's out of your line of vision," she elaborated. "Heck of a guardian complex you've got."
"It's a sibling thing," Don said as he reached for a file on his desk. "You had to be there." He opened the file only to snap it shut abruptly as he rounded on her. "And why are you profiling me?"
Megan shrugged, a small smile playing on her lips. "It's what I do. And in your case, it's highly entertaining."
Don broke into a grin. "Get the heck out of here, Agent Reeves. Go home before I find you some real work to do."
"Hey, I don't need to be told twice," she said, holding up her hands. "I'm gone." She smiled and waved goodbye as Don flipped the file open again and leaned back in his chair. Sketching a casual wave at her retreating figure, Don began perusing the contents, simple daily reports that nevertheless had to be read and initialled before he, too, could depart.
Forty-five minutes later, Don had signed his last piece of paper. He stood and stretched, feeling the last of his tension drain away. The past few weeks had been difficult, but he was finally able to take a break from the stress and relax. Smiling, Don thought of the supper he knew his father Alan would have waiting for him when he got to his – no, Charlie's – house. He shook his head at the memory of Charlie relating the look on Alan's face when he told him the 'mystery buyer' for the house was in fact Charlie himself. He would have loved to have been a fly on the wall…
His smile quickly dissolved into a frown as the telephone on his desk began to ring. Would it never let up – even for a minute? Sighing, Don dropped the sport coat he had been about to put on into the chair and reached for the shrilling instrument.
The voice on the line was businesslike. "Personal call for you, Agent Eppes. Caller refused to identify himself. Says he's a CI." She waited.
Don thought rapidly, unable to call to mind any particular reason for a confidential informant of his to be calling at this hour. After a moment, he mentally shrugged and said, "Put him through." There was an almost inaudible click, and Don heard the operator say, "Agent Eppes is on the line." There was another click as she disconnected herself from the call.
"Eppes," Don repeated.
"Special Agent Eppes, this is Jimmy," came a scratchy-sounding voice. Don recognized the grating tone as that of a man they sometimes used when tracking ex-cons. Jimmy could be trusted – to try and weasel money out of people by petty scams and trickery – but his information was usually pretty reliable.
"What's up, Jimmy?" Don said, letting a note of irritation creep into his voice. "I was about to leave." He glanced up to see David re-entering the office. At Don's puzzled look, David strode over to his desk, picked something up and waved it. His sunglasses. Don refocused his attention on the snitch's call.
"I ran into a guy who's got a mean on for ya," Jimmy rasped. He was a heavy smoker and it showed.
"What are you talking about?" Don's brow wrinkled in confusion. "What 'guy'?"
David, hearing the tone of his boss' conversation, changed direction and headed for Don's area.
"There's this guy, see. Says he's gonna getcha. You been pretty fair to me, Agent Eppes. Thought I'd give you a heads up, no charge." Jimmy broke off and Don could hear muffled coughing. After a moment, the snitch came back on the line. "So anyways, I heard him goin' on about how mad you made 'im… he was drinkin' in the bar, see?"
Don looked up at David, who was now standing next to the desk. "Go on," he prompted.
"He wasn' drunk or nothin'," the greasy little man continued. "Then he jus' kinda walked up t'me an' started talkin' like he knew me or somethin'."
"What did he say?"
"Well, first he asked me m'name, and I told him, 'Jimmy'. Then he asked me if I knew ya." Jimmy broke off in another fit of coughing.
Don, beginning to get exasperated, looked at David and rolled his eyes. At David's questioning look, Don mouthed 'Jimmy'. David's expression changed to one of commiseration, and he leaned up against the partition much as Megan had done an hour before.
After the coughing seemed to have abated, Don asked, "Jimmy, what did he say? Did he say me, specifically?"
Jimmy cleared his throat a few times before replying. "Ya, ya – that's what I said, din' I? He asked me if I knew Don Eppes, the FBI guy."
"What'd you tell him?"
"Well, o'course I din' tell 'im I know ya. Whatcha think, I'm stupid?" Don had to consciously force himself to stop grinding his teeth in frustration. He knew too well how the guy would clam up if someone tried to make him hurry. After a short pause, Jimmy continued, "Anyways, he jus' looked at me when I said that – like he knew diff'rent. Kinda spooked me for a sec. Then he leaned over. Got real close, y'know what I mean?" Without waiting for Don's response, he went on. "He leans in real close an' says, all quiet and serious-like, 'You tell Agent Eppes I'm gonna get him good. You tell him I'm gonna call him. Tonight. On his cell. And he'd better answer, or he's gonna regret it.'" This was a long speech for Jimmy, and once again he broke into a coughing fit.
Don felt for the little man's declining health, but he was starting to feel the tension creeping back into his weary body, and he didn't like it a bit. "Jimmy!" he called into the phone, hoping he was loud enough to be heard. "Jimmy, do you know this guy?"
Jimmy came back on, sounding choked up. "Naw. Naw, if I'da known him, I'da toldja that, Agent."
"I know you would, Jimmy," Don said. He reached for his pen. "What did he look like? Did he tell you anything else?" He started hunting for paper. Seeing a legal pad under Charlie's cup, he swiftly set it aside and drew the pad toward him, sitting down in his chair. The jacket was forgotten.
"Naw, it went down jus' like I toldja. He walked off after that." Jimmy paused, then said, "Now, what he looked like? Well, he was big, for sure. Big – like he's been pumpin' up, y'know what I mean?"
"I know, Jimmy," Don replied, writing furiously. "What else?"
"We-ell," the snitch drawled. "He was tall, too. Tall as you, even. And he was pale."
"Did he look like a con?" Don asked. David moved around the partition to peer over Don's shoulder at the writing tablet. Don's writing was almost illegible.
"Mighta been, mighta been," Jimmy agreed. "But what I meant was – he had pale hair, and pale eyes too. Kinda creepy-lookin'."
David watched Don scratch 'blond hair – blue eyes – pale skin' on the paper. His hand stilled as he waited for more information. It wasn't motionless for long.
"Oh, yeah!" Jimmy said abruptly. "He had hisself a nasty scar, too. Went right down the side of his face. Like in that movie, y'know what I mean?"
"'Scarface'?" Don asked, wishing he would stop repeating that phrase. It really got on a person's nerves after a while.
"Ya, ya, that's the one!" Jimmy said triumphantly. "Couldn't 'member it, m'self."
"So he had a scar running down the side of his face," Don repeated. "Anything else, Jimmy?" He scribbled the description on the paper.
"Nope, that's it," the snitch replied. "Hope it helps ya."
"Thanks, Jimmy," Don said, laying the pen down. "I won't forget this."
"Aw, nevermind, Agent. You done me a good turn once or twice, I think."
Don heard a click, then a dial tone. He reached over and placed the handset on its cradle. He looked at David.
"What was that all about?" David asked.
"I'm not sure," Don admitted, tearing off the piece of paper. "Let's see what we can find on anyone I might have put away that answers this description. See if any of them are out now." He stood and glanced wryly at his now severely crumpled sport coat. Dismissing the jacket as beyond hope, he walked over to the area where the tech analysts worked. Unclipping his cell phone from its customary spot at his waist, he handed it to the agent seated behind the desk. "Craig, get this hooked up to a trace and recorder. I'm expecting an unpleasant phone call." Don started to turn away, then stopped as he thought of something else. "Oh, and put it in the hands-free, so we can all hear what this guy says, if he calls." The tech nodded, and Don turned to David. "Jimmy said some guy approached him in a bar. He told Jimmy my name and ordered him to tell me he'd be calling."
"How would he have gotten your number?" David asked. Don snapped his fingers.
"Good idea! I need to make a list of everyone who might have my cell number." He strode back to his desk and picked up the pad and pen. "It won't be a big list. I haven't given it to many people, and it's blocked." He began writing as he spoke. "David, I know you were going to go home, but…" He shook his head. "I could really use you."
David slipped off his suit coat and slung it over the back of a nearby chair. "I'm not going anywhere. Give me that description." Without a pause, Don tipped up the pad he was writing on to give David access to the piece of paper in his left hand. Grabbing it, David glanced at the writing briefly before saying, "You know, Don – a list of the guys you've put away is going to be pretty long. Even with a description."
Don looked up at David for a moment before going back to his notes. "That may be, but right now it's the only option."
David nodded once before heading for his own desk.