Title: Blaze of Glory
Disclaimer: shocked gasp . You mean they don't belong to me?
Summary: A drug case brings an old friend for Don and bad memories for Charlie.
Author's Notes: This was originally for the Numb3rs Virtual Season, but I decided to go ahead and post this to instead. Also, my knowledge of Los Angeles is incredibly limited, so some of the places in this story are purely fictitious.
PS: The reference in the epilogue to 'the wheelchair guy' actually came from a moment in my astronomy lab in college. One of my lab partners referred to Stephen Hawking as 'the wheelchair guy', and since then it's been kind of a small joke among a small group of us. No disrespect meant.
Blaze of Glory
The sound of the elevator's arrival shook Don out of his thoughts, and he joined his coworkers as they filed inside. Not a word was spoken as one of the agents pushed the button that would send them to the floor they needed, each person completely worn out.
Don and his team had been working the last three weeks on a particularly difficult case involving a dangerous drug lord that had been found to be operating out of Los Angeles. The drug ring had slipped under their radar, peddling only small amounts of their wares until their distribution had grown. It wasn't until the son of a friend of the D.A. had been found, dead from an overdose, that the authorities had begun to take a closer look. Investigations by LAPD had revealed that the drug that the victim had died from had never been seen before.
The family of the victim had pulled some strings, and the FBI had taken over the case. Their own investigations into the case had revealed that the drug had been recently created and was flowing steadily onto the streets of LA, slowly claiming more victims.
The drug, termed by its users as Blaze, was one of the deadliest drugs to ever hit the streets. A derivative of Ecstasy, it was far more potent and deadly. Whereas Ecstasy's effects caused the user to experience the emotions that gave it its name, Blaze caused what felt like a blazing inferno through the user's brain. Through the intense feeling, the user would be subjected to terrifying hallucinations of the user's worst nightmares. Eventually the effects would fade, leaving the user a trembling, horrified mess. In Don's opinion, the only thing worse than being subject to such an awful experience was the overwhelming craving for Blaze that developed after the user came out of his hallucination. Living your worst fear was one thing; living it over and over was quite another.
The FBI's investigation had not been going very well. Their case was right in the public eye, and they had very little to show for all their work other than the increasing number of corpses. The brass was breathing heavily down Don's neck, and it seemed only a matter of time before they stepped in.
The elevator slowed, letting out a soft chime as the doors slid open. The agents filed wearily out of the car and toward the bullpen, knowing that what awaited them was more work. Don felt his exhaustion burn his eyes. He and his team had been working nonstop for the last few days, and he knew that it was merely a matter of time before they finally gave in to the pressure. Until then, though, he would push them forward.
"Okay guys, take ten minutes to freshen up and grab something to eat, then meet in the conference room," he called to his team.
Of all of the team members, only David acknowledged Don's words. He turned back, an inquisitive look fighting through the exhaustion. "I'll go pick us up something from the break room."
Don smiled faintly. "Thanks, David. See you in ten."
David nodded and headed for the break room. Don walked away from the direction his team had taken, going to his desk for his notes.
Sinking wearily into his chair, Don paused his file collection and leaned forward. He rested his elbows on his desk and covered his face, rubbing away any traces of his own exhaustion. He knew he needed to appear refreshed and energetic to his team, but it was getting more and more difficult the longer he went without a break.
The soft, tentative voice of his little brother jolted Don out of his thoughts. Dropping his hands, he turned to look up at Charlie, who was hovering nearby. Charlie's face was filled with concern, his intense brown eyes studying his brother's features.
"Charlie," Don stated, confusion coloring his tone. "What are you doing here? Is everything okay?"
Charlie's frown of concern deepened slightly. "We had plans. When you didn't show, I thought I'd stop by and see what was keeping you."
The barest flicker of a memory appeared before Don's eyes. He had not been around the house much since the case began, and he had promised Charlie he would eat lunch with him. A quick glance at his calendar on his desk told him that the lunch had been scheduled nearly two hours ago. He winced.
"Sorry, Buddy, I forgot," he said, looking back up at Charlie. "We've been pretty busy."
Charlie nodded. "I figured. That's why I thought I'd bring lunch to you."
"I wish I had time to sit with you and eat it, Buddy, but I have a meeting-," Don began.
"I figured that, too, so I went ahead and ordered pizza for everyone," Charlie cut in. "It's waiting in the conference room."
A rush of warmth flooded Don's chest as he stared at his brother in surprise. The words to express the gratitude he felt failed him, and all he could do was gape openly at Charlie.
Charlie smiled slightly. "You're catching flies, Don."
Don abruptly shut his mouth, but the shock was still there. "I . . . don't know what to say, Charlie. This is . . ."
Charlie looked down at his feet, a slight flush rising in his cheeks. "Don't worry about it. Least I could do. I waited here so I could tell you, but I have to get back to the university."
"Wait!" Don said as Charlie moved to leave. "You don't have to go now, do you? Sit and eat with us."
Charlie's smile grew slightly. "Thanks, Don, but I already ate. Go ahead. I'll talk to you later."
Don nodded dumbly as Charlie left, smiling and calling farewells to a couple agents. Physically shaking himself into action, he stood and gathered his notes, then moved into the conference room.
Don heaved a deep sigh and leaned back in his chair as the last of his team filed out of the conference room. They had made some headway, he had to admit, thought not much. After several hours of going over their information and making some phone calls, Don had finally dismissed everyone for the night, telling them not to return until nine the next morning. He hoped a good night's sleep would bring fresh perspectives the next day.
The pizza that Charlie had ordered had done wonders for his team. Though no one mentioned it, Don knew that they were touched at the gesture from his younger brother. The food had helped them to focus back on the case and attack it with more energy than anyone had any right to possess.
David poked his head back into the conference room as Don stood. "Hey, Don? You heading over to your brother's?"
Don raised an eyebrow. "I was thinking about it. Why?"
David moved further into the room. "Have you thought about bringing him in on this with us? He's helped us out on some other cases in the past, and he might be able to shed some light on this one."
Don nodded, stacking his folders and files into one large pile. "I thought about it. I'm just not sure how much help math can be in this case."
David shrugged. "He's surprised us before. But, if you do go, tell him thanks from all of us."
Don grinned. "I'll do that."
The bullpen was quiet and nearly deserted as Don made his way past the desk, his arms laden with all of his notes. He called goodbye to the few agents still left and climbed into the elevator, pushing the button that would take him to his car.
Don's head was swirling with all of the information he and his team had gathered since first taking on the case. He was frustrated that they hadn't been able to get more after three weeks of investigating. He feared that, if they didn't get a break soon, the person responsible would get away clean.
As Don drove down the streets of LA, his hands had taken over steering from his preoccupied mind. When he surfaced from the depths of his brain, he realized that he had steered himself onto the street where his brother and father lived.
It was half past eight in the evening. Not too late for a visit. Don knew that both Charlie and their father would still be awake. He guided his car down the familiar street and pulled into the driveway, operating more out of memory than anything else. Shutting off the engine, he gathered his notes and headed for the door.
"Hello?" he called, pushing the door shut behind him with his foot. "Dad? Charlie?"
"Donnie?" Alan rounded a corner, coming from the kitchen with a confused look on his face. The confusion quickly melted away into a smile. "Hey, haven't seen you in awhile. How's it going?"
Don set his notes down on a nearby table and accepted the hug that his father offered. "Not so good. We can't seem to get a break in this thing."
Alan pulled back and gestured for Don to have a seat in the living room. "You look exhausted. When was the last time you got a good night's sleep?"
"I'm planning on fixing that tonight," Don replied, ducking the question. "I wanted to stop by and visit for a little bit, though. Where's Charlie?"
"Right here." Charlie descended the steps, carrying a book. "I thought I heard your voice, Don. What's up?"
"Not much," Don replied. "Hey, thanks again for the pizza. The guys all appreciated it. It helped."
Charlie smiled. "I'm glad. Where were you guys today, anyway?"
Don leaned his head back against his chair. "We got a tip that a big sale was going down this afternoon between a couple guys we've been keeping our eyes on. I was hoping that one of them would lead us to whoever they work for, but we were made."
"What happened?" Charlie asked, sitting in a nearby chair.
Don rubbed his forehead wearily. "I'm not sure. One minute, the deal's going down, the next they're running. We managed to grab one of them, and we recovered a couple kilos of Blaze, but that's it."
"Blaze?" Alan echoed. "Isn't that that new drug that's on the streets?"
Don nodded. "It's some pretty bad stuff, and someone's making a ton of money off of it. My team and I have been trying to figure out whoever's behind this, but we haven't come up with so much as a name."
Charlie nodded solemnly. "I've heard a couple students talk about that stuff. The way they talk about it tells me that they're pretty scared by it, and from what I hear, they should be."
Don's eyes narrowed slightly at his brother. "Has any of it surfaced at CalSci?"
Charlie shook his head. "Not that I'm aware of. CalSci's a pretty small community. Everyone pretty much knows everyone else's business. I can ask around if you want."
Don nodded. "Yeah, thanks. While you're at it, could you take a look at what we've got? I know it isn't much, but if you can come up with any patterns or something to help us nail this guy . . ."
Charlie stood and moved over to the pile of papers near the door. "Sure, Don, I can get started right now."
Alan hid a smile at his youngest son's eagerness to help and instead focused on his eldest. "You want to crash here tonight, Donnie? You look halfway there already."
Don smiled wearily. "Yeah, I think I will. Thanks, Dad."
He stood and moved for the stairs, intending to take a shower. Halfway up the steps, he turned back and saw Charlie, head already bent over several of the files. "Hey, Charlie."
Charlie's head snapped up, eyes locking with Don's in confusion. "Yeah?"
Don smiled. "Thanks, Buddy. I really appreciate what you're doing for us."
Charlie flushed with pleasure, a lopsided smile appearing on his face.