Synopsis – Don, Charlie and the team are held hostage by a radical anti-government group. Rated T for some violence and implied bad language.
Disclaimer – I do not own Numb3rs or any of the characters, although I do claim the story concept and any OC's . I do not expect to profit from this story. This disclaimer applies to all chapters in this story.
Many thanks to betas dHall, and especially, Alice I.
Don slammed the door of his car and plodded wearily up the walk to his brother's house. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon – the sunshine poured golden from the sky and a gentle breeze ruffled the shrubs near the house. "Too bad I missed it," Don muttered. "And the rest of the weekend, for that matter." He opened the front door, poking his head in long enough to yell "Is anybody home?" and followed it in when he heard a voice from the dining room, which was unintelligible over the din of the game on the television.
Don ambled into the dining room, where his brother Charlie was immersed in a virtual mountain of papers, pounding on his laptop. Charlie looked up with a smile when he saw Don, but the smile wavered a bit when he took a good look at his brother's face. "Hey, Don, you look beat." The grin returned with a hint of mischief. "Up a little too late last night?"
"Yeah, but not the way you think," Don growled, but with a hint of a smile of his own. His brother's house was always a haven, and it felt particularly welcoming today. Don was looking forward to a cold beer, maybe a little ballgame, and if he was really lucky, Dad was cooking tonight. He strolled into the kitchen, ignoring Charlie's questioning glance, and was rewarded with the sight of his father puttering with something that looked like steaks and vegetables.
"Hey, look what showed up!" His dad's face creased in a grin. "You can stay for dinner, I hope. I have enough for a small army."
"Yeah, I was kind of hoping you'd say that," Don said as he examined the contents of the refrigerator. He pulled out a beer. His father looked at him intently, picking up the lines of fatigue in his face.
"Rough night last night?" he asked, as Charlie drifted into the kitchen and leaned against the doorway.
"You could say that. We got called out on a couple of shootings last night. Gang stuff, maybe drug related. I just got off."
"Shootings?" Both his father and Charlie spoke at once, with identical slightly worried looks, and the stereo effect made Don smile.
"Relax; the shootings were over long before we got there. Two kids weren't so lucky, though. There's a possible turf war over drug territory – we pounded out leads all day today, and right now all I want is a sofa, a cold one and some mindlessness in front of the television."
Charlie grinned. "You're in the right place." He turned and headed back to his paperwork. Don started for the living room, but his father's quiet voice stopped him.
"Hey, uh, Don, this case – this isn't what Charlie is working on, is it?"
"Charlie's not working on anything for us right now, Dad. We finished up the case he was helping us with last week – it had to do with money laundering."
Alan raised an eyebrow. "You'd better tell him that – I think he's still working on it."
Don shrugged and sauntered out to the sofa. He didn't want to embarrass his dad by telling him he was mistaken. They had finished and closed out that case late last week – thankfully, he thought, because the new case was definitely going to eat up some manpower. He glanced sideways at Charlie as he passed. Charlie was oblivious to his surroundings, his dark head bent over his papers, scribbling. "Probably school stuff," thought Don, and plopped on the sofa, intent on drowning out any coherent memory of work in the ballgame.
Charlie frowned at the papers in front of him, playing with his pen. There was something there, just out of reach. "What am I missing?" he wondered. His father bustled into the room broke his train of thought, which, he had to admit, was stalled at the moment anyway. Alan started moving paperwork off of the table, causing a moment of mild consternation. Charlie hated for anyone to touch his work. "Whoa, wait, Dad! Don't touch that – I'll get it."
"Just chill out – these are bills, Charlie. I'm not touching your paperwork. You need to get that stuff off of the table though; I need to set it. And you need to start the grill."
Charlie sighed, got up from the table and stretched. Alan's last statement had gotten Don's attention and he called from the sofa. "What do you mean, Charlie's starting the grill? You cookin' now, Chuck?"
Charlie scowled at the nickname, not realizing he was being baited. "I've done steaks before. You remember – that night when Larry and everyone was over – I made corn and steaks, and –"
"And they sucked," finished Don, trying to hide a grin behind his beer. "They tasted like shoe leather."
Charlie looked outraged. "They did not. They -" He broke off and looked at his dad uncertainly. "They were okay, right?"
Alan suppressed a smile. "Charlie, I think your brother is having some fun at your expense."
Charlie looked at Don, who was no longer hiding his grin. "Oh, I get it." He crossed to sofa and picked up pillow and swatted the back of Don's head as he tried to duck. "See if I invite you for dinner again. Wait a minute – come to think of it, I didn't invite you."
"Watch it, Charlie, you're going to make me spill my beer," Don chuckled.
"Freeloader," muttered Charlie, but he was grinning too. In spite of the jab, he wouldn't give up his brother being here for the world. He threw the pillow back on the sofa, and paused as the televised game suddenly shifted to a special news update. The conversation stopped for a minute as all three Eppes men looked at the screen. A polished looking blonde newscaster with a serious expression appeared on the screen.
"This is a special news update regarding the ongoing standoff between law enforcement and a radical militia group near Yakima, in Washington State," she intoned. The picture segued to a shot of a cabin in the distance, and of armed and flak-jacketed law enforcement officials behind a barricade in the foreground. "As of two o'clock this afternoon, the stalemate has continued for four days. Roughly fifteen members of a group identifying themselves as the "American Defense Union" have barricaded themselves in this cabin, after resisting an attempted arrest for conducting unlawful military exercises on government land. All attempts at negotiations so far have failed, and the tone of the talks seems to our observers on the scene to be more heated, rather than less. The group has issued a statement just moments ago reiterating their refusal to surrender, and in a chilling new development have claimed that they will all die before they submit to "an anarchist government." Analysts are comparing the situation to Waco, and it has captured the attention of law enforcement at the top levels in Washington." The camera switched to the station's on site reporter who repeated the latest exchange between the negotiators. Alan eyed the FBI jackets on some of the law enforcement team positioned behind the reporter.
"I am profoundly grateful that you are not on that assignment," he said to Don.
"Yeah, that's one I could do without," agreed Don, his eyes on the screen. "Portland and Seattle are the nearest offices. They pulled agents from them."
Charlie eyed the screen worriedly. "This has gone on for a while. What if they need fresh agents? Will they pull from your office?"
Don looked at his brother, trying to reassure him. "Nah, Charlie, I don't think so. I've been reading the briefs that are coming through at the office. They've got a slew of agents from Washington, and they have plenty to rotate through shifts. Besides, with this new case, on top of some others we are trying to clean up, we are so swamped, we couldn't afford to give anyone up." He saw the worried looks on his father's and brother's faces dissipate a bit. "Those two are like little old ladies sometimes," he smiled to himself. The report over, the picture switched back to the ballgame in progress. "Now about that shoe leather –"
Alan snorted. "Don't push your brother, Donnie, or you'll be driving through McDonalds." He trotted back out to the kitchen.
Charlie lingered for a moment, his expression thoughtful. "You know Don, speaking of cases; I've been looking over that one from last week. I think there is something we missed. I can't quite put my finger on it –"
"And you don't need to," interrupted Don. "Charlie, we closed that one out, and the director considered it a complete success. We shut down a major money laundering operation."
"I know, but I think it may have been only a part of a bigger picture," said Charlie, a bit excitedly. "What if there's more to it?"
Don groaned inwardly. He didn't need anything extra on his plate at the moment. "You know, Charlie, even if there was, I don't have anyone to put on it right now. By the time we got around to it, if there were any other operations, they would have made adjustments or closed up shop after the arrests. You'd have to start over with new data."
Charlie frowned. "But if I found something quickly maybe we could hit it right away, before they started to cover their tracks."
"Unfortunately, Charlie, that's just not going to happen," Don said with a bit of irritation. "I don't have the resources right now. And my bosses will not back opening up a successfully solved case when I have unsolved ones on my plate. Just drop it, okay?" He ended the conversation by getting up from the sofa and heading out to the kitchen. "Shouldn't you be cooking, or something? I'm going to see if Dad needs any help."
Charlie reluctantly trudged out to the grill. He was so close, he could feel it. He would take one more look at it tonight. If he came up with something by tomorrow, he didn't see how Don could turn down a sure arrest.
End Chapter One