Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Numb3rs, no matter how much I may wish otherwise. The characters are on their way back from whence they came. Thank you for the loan.
That was the first thing that registered as he made the slow climb to consciousness. There was an almost funereal hush around him. No voices, no footsteps, no traffic.
Okay, so I'm not outside, he thought. He strained his hearing to determine where he was. As if someone turned up the volume, different noises began to surface. Soft conversation, something mechanical making a rhythmic whirring…
The second thing was pain.
David Sinclair slammed his hands onto the tabletop, making the small man jump. He noted, with some satisfaction, small droplets of sweat had trickled down McShea's temple and soaked his perfectly pressed shirt collar.
"Where do we find this guy!" he all but yelled.
McShea swallowed visibly, but remained silent. David glanced at Colby, seated across the table, before standing and moving away.
Colby said, "You have any idea how much trouble you're in here? This guy you brought in to play your little game just shot at a federal agent! That's going to guarantee you the death sentence!" He paused to let this sink in, then continued: "A judge might actually go a bit easier on you if you just tell us where to find him!"
McShea mumbled something neither man caught. David turned on him again.
"Speak up! We're done playing games with you, man!"
"I… I don't know where to find him…" McShea's voice trailed off weakly.
David stormed out of the room in frustration.
Megan met him just outside the door. "Anything?" she asked.
Shaking his head, he answered. "The guy's a wimp. He brought in a wild animal and let it loose. It's going to be up to us to find him." David sighed. "He didn't even get the guy's name – just a phone number, and that's disconnected."
"We may have something," Megan said, gesturing for him to follow. They walked over to the command center. Picking up a folder, she handed it to him. "McShea's got several import and export businesses, all serviced by the same courier company. We did a little checking with them," she paused as David began to scan the file. Pointing to a particular column, she said, "Over the past two to three years, McShea's businesses have been receiving fairly regular deliveries – picked up from Customs at the docks and taken to each location."
"Yeah," David replied. "I can see that."
"Right," Megan agreed. "But here," she pointed, "McShea's shop on San Vicente received an unusually large shipment. The bill of lading says 'five- by four- by eight-foot crate' with an Indian elephant statue inside." David looked up at her. "Want to go see if they actually have a five foot Indian elephant statue?" she asked.
David snapped the folder shut and threw it on the table. Heading for his desk to grab his jacket, he answered, "I'll bet they don't."
After several wasted minutes with an innocent salesman at the San Vicente location, David rejoined Megan at the front of the shop.
"Okay," he said. "We get to go check out the store room."
Megan glanced over David's shoulder at the nervous looking clerk. "I'm surprised you didn't get the song and dance about asking his boss for permission."
"I don't think it occurred to him," David replied in a tone low enough not to carry. The two agents made their way through an unmarked door to a large storage area. Threading amongst numerous crates and cartons of varying dimensions, they searched for the oversized box. Suddenly Megan called, "Over here, David! I've got it."
Agent Sinclair joined her in a darkened corner of the storeroom. In front of them stood a wooden crate large enough to house a walk-in freezer. At first glance, it appeared unopened. Upon closer inspection, however, one could see that the end of the crate nearest the wall had been breached and resealed. David and Megan exchanged glances.
"What do you think?" David asked.
Megan shrugged. "Let's find out."
Together they found pry bars and opened the crate. It was empty.
"Mr. Eppes," the doctor tried for the third time. "You must lie still!"
Don gritted his teeth against the curses that threatened to make themselves heard. He had been trying for the last ten minutes to get out of his bed, to the consternation of the attending physician.
"Don!" Alan said as he entered the room. "What are you doing?" The resident heaved a sigh of relief.
Don laid his head on the pillow, a fine sheen of perspiration on his face. "I am trying to get out of here!" he growled.
The doctor motioned to a loaded tray nearby. "And if you don't stop, I'll be forced to sedate you and put you in restraints!"
"Let me speak to him, Doctor," Alan said soothingly. "I'll see to it he stays in bed." The physician nodded and left the room. Turning to his oldest son, Alan demanded, "Just what the heck do you think you're doing?" Don glared at the ceiling in silence. Stepping closer to the bed, Alan tried another approach. "Don… Donnie," he began. Don's gaze flashed on him for a second before returning to the ceiling, but some of the anger was gone. "You've been hurt, Don. Your back is severely bruised. You need to relax and let it heal up." He risked putting his hand on Don's arm. When he didn't pull away, Alan rubbed softly. "You know what they said, Donnie – there's a lot of swelling. If you don't rest, you could wind up with even more damage." He pulled his hand back. "I realize you probably don't want to hear this, Don, but when I think of what could've happened if you hadn't been wearing that body armor…"
Don turned his head to look at his father. Alan had moved away from the bed and was pulling up a chair, deliberately looking away from Don. Sensing that Alan wouldn't want him staring just now, Don resumed staring upwards. "Dad…" he protested.
"I know, I know," Alan admitted. "You and I have picked at this subject before. It still doesn't change the way I feel."
Don swallowed. He didn't want to talk about this. Especially not now. "How's Charlie doing?" he asked.
Alan sighed. "He's getting better. He asked about you."
"He did?" Don turned too quickly. A sharp twinge warned him against doing it again. "What did you tell him?"
"He didn't tell me you'd gone and gotten yourself shot at – again," Charlie said from the doorway. Both Don and Alan looked over. Charlie entered the room in a wheelchair, pushed by Larry.
"Hey, Charlie!" Don called, a broad grin on his face. "How're you doing?"
Alan added, "A better question might be 'what are you doing?' I thought you were supposed to be in bed?"
Larry declared defensively, "I attempted to persuade my esteemed colleague to remain in his room, in his bed, to better facilitate the healing process. Unfortunately," he continued as he rolled Charlie to a stop next to his father. "I'm afraid my negotiations fell upon deaf ears."
Charlie glanced up at his friend. "Oh stop it, Larry. You wanted to see Don as much as I did." He turned to his brother. "Never mind me," he said. "How are you doing?"
Don had been attempting to sit up in bed, but at a stern glance from Alan resigned himself to putting one hand behind his head instead. "I'm good," he replied.
Alan snorted. "You two regularly lie to one another?" he asked.
Both Charlie and Don had the grace to look sheepish at that. Larry asked, "I hope that your recent adventures won't leave any permanent damage, Don?"
"Just bruised is all, Larry. Thanks for asking."
A knock was heard at the door. Everyone turned to see Megan and David standing in the doorway. "Hey," Megan said. "Can we join in?"
Alan waved them in. "Looks like we're having a party in here."
"We'll try to keep it down so we don't get kicked out," David smiled. "How are you doing, Don?"
"You might as well stop asking him that," Alan cut in before Don could reply. "He's been asked several times already and he hasn't told the truth yet!"
Don glanced at his father briefly before asking, "Did you find him?" Megan and David exchanged looks. "It looks like he's gone," Megan confessed.
David added, "He got out as slick as he came in. We can't find a trace of him other than records of a large crate being shipped to Columbia this morning."
Alan asked, "A large crate?"
Megan nodded. "That's how he got in, we figure." Turning to Don, she said, "It's probably how he got out. There's no record of a crate that size going through Customs, but it's on the shipping bill."
Don was silent for a moment. He cleared his throat once, then asked, "And McShea?"
"We've got him for conspiracy, attempted murder, terrorism…" David answered. "He's in for the long haul, if not worse."
Don nodded but didn't reply. He laid quietly, one arm behind his head, staring out of the window.
After an uncomfortable pause, Alan stood and said, "Charlie, you need to get back to your room." He motioned to Larry to turn the chair, and Charlie said, "I'll see you later, Don." Don remained silent. Megan looked at David and said, "You know, David, we should get back to the paperwork."
"See you later Don," David said. Megan echoed him, and they left.
Don remained in the same position for a long time after the room emptied out. He knew he should have acknowledged everyone's departures, but he didn't care. The idea that some cold, methodical monster could just waltz in and out of the country at whim shook him up. He had thought that possibility had been almost eliminated by the NSA.
A nurse walked in, envelope in hand. "Mr. Eppes?" she ventured. Don finally moved. She handed him the envelope and said, "It was left on the duty desk. I'm sorry, but no one noticed who brought it."
Don took it carefully, unsure if it concealed a hidden threat. After the nurse departed, he examined the envelope. It didn't seem dangerous, and the name on the outside was written in what appeared to be a woman's handwriting. Don shrugged mentally and opened it.
Don, it read.
I'm glad you're okay.
I'm grateful to you.
If Will gets what's coming to him,
I'll buy you dinner.
In person – no more hiding.S