Numb3rs – Mistaken Identity
Disclaimer – I don't own them, I just borrowed them. All programs and characters are the property of those that created them. No copyright infringement intended.
"Charlie?" Don asked, not without a little concern, as he opened the door to the garage. He had not long been at his office when he'd received a call from his younger brother asking him to come to the house. Charlie's house, he reminded himself.
Now he was at the garage after finding no one in the house. The door swung open easily and he stepped inside the garage. Charlie was standing at one of the many chalkboards suspended all around the garage, his favourite work space. The chalk dust sifted downwards as Charlie's hand moved rapidly from one side of the board to the other leaving undecipherable symbols behind. Undecipherable if you weren't a math genius.
"Charlie?" Don called a little louder. It was not always easy to get his younger brother's attention when he was concentrating on an equation. "Charlie!" Third time was the charm.
"Oh, hi Don." Charlie said turning briefly. He checked his watch. "Just let me finish this." A few more scribbled figures then he stopped and put the chalk down.
"What're you working on, buddy?" Don could see that it wasn't P v NP at least.
"Part of my Cognitive Emergency Theory." Charlie said, stepping back and looking over the equations spread across several blackboards.
"What did you want to see me about?" Don asked, curious. He was the one who normally called Charlie to see him.
"Um, I actually wanted your help on this." Charlie started, seeming a little unsure about where he was going.
"My help?" Don asked somewhat incredulous. He waved his arm at the boards. "Charlie, none of this makes any sense to me. How can I help you?"
"I'm working on an extension of my theory." His younger brother replied, rubbing at the back of his head. "A law enforcement extension."
"How's that?" Don looked a little closer at the boards. Nope, still didn't make any sense.
"Part of my theory is relating to how the trappings of law enforcement affect and modify the behaviour of the individual." Charlie explained. He saw his older brother frown. "You know, uniforms and stuff."
"You know we don't all wear uniforms. How does your theory cover that?"
"I said uniforms and stuff." Charlie repeated. "Badges, handcuffs." He swallowed and said in a slightly quieter voice, "Guns."
A glimmer was forming in Don's mind. "So why did you call me here from work?"
"Oh. Sorry. Are you busy, in the middle of something? It can wait. You can come back later if you want." Charlie started rambling as he reached for the chalk.
"No, Charlie, it's alright. I got time." Don soothed. "I'm just not sure what you want."
Charlie rubbed the back of his head again then looked up. "I want to borrow your FBI stuff. For my theory."
Don's fingers brushed the badge clipped to his belt. "You want to borrow 'my FBI stuff'?" He repeated. "Charlie, you know I can't give this to you."
"I don't want you to give it to me. I just want to wear it for a few minutes. I want to test my theory."
Don thought for a moment. His brother rarely asked for favours. He looked at Charlie waiting expectantly for his answer. What the heck, who cared if it broke about half a dozen FBI rules. It would only be for a few minutes anyway. "Sure thing, buddy. If you think it will help."
"I think it will." Charlie said, relived. He grinned as Don came closer already unclipping his badge. "You know, it would have been easier if you'd joined the LAPD." He joked.
Don handed over his FBI badge and then his handcuff pouch and watched as Charlie slipped them onto his own belt in the same positions that Don wore them in. He hesitated and Charlie looked at him, waiting. "Are you sure?"
"I have to, otherwise there's no point." Charlie answered after another slight hesitation.
Don sighed. Charlie must really want to try this, he thought, knowing how much he hated guns. Don pulled the holster off his belt, leaving the Glock 22 snugly in place and handed it all over. As the safeties were all internal to the weapon he normally carried it without a round in the chamber. It was still loaded but the slide had to be racked back to chamber a round before it could fire. Besides which, he had shown Charlie basic weapons safety after starting work back in LA, knowing he'd be bringing the weapon home.
Charlie held out his hand and after a brief moment, Don placed the holster into it. Charlie checked the weapon was snugly in place, ensuring the thumb-break release was secure before sliding the holster onto his belt on his right side.
Charlie stood still and closed his eyes. He touched each item on his belt, settling their respective weights. He paced up and back in front of the blackboard he had been working on, stopped then rested his right hand on the holster, in a way he had often seen Don standing. He was surprised to find it felt like a natural way to rest his hand. Something wasn't quite right though and he frowned.
"Charlie, take your shirt off." Don suggested, reading the expression correctly.
Charlie was wearing an unbuttoned shirt over the top of a t-shirt and the loose hem was flapping around his belt as he moved, partially covering the holster. Charlie pulled the shirt off, handing it to Don. He tried a few more steps and decided it felt better.
Don watched for a few minutes as Charlie moved around. He smiled, Charlie the FBI agent. He looked at the shirt in his hands and shrugged. Why not? If Charlie could be him then he could be Charlie. He put Charlie's shirt on over the top of his own, leaving it unbuttoned and untucked.
"Hey, Charlie!" He called to catch his brother's attention. "Do you want to try the vest as well?"
Charlie looked over and saw his brother wearing his shirt. The corner of his mouth twitched slightly in a smile. "I've worn one before, remember. But, yeah, I think it might help."
"Don't go anywhere." Don said as he left the garage, heading around the side of the house to the driveway and his SUV.
He didn't see the figure peer around the edge of the hedge near tree at the edge of the fence line. The hedge was thick and the area fully shaded in the bright sunlight.
Don opened the equipment drawer in the back of his SUV and pulled out one of the lightweight Kevlar body armour vests he carried. He relocked the SUV and went into the house to get a cold soda from the fridge. It was a fairly warm spring day and away from the air-conditioning in his office he was starting to sweat. He grabbed a can for Charlie; if he was going to wear the vest for long he was definitely going to get hot. Don took a few sips from his drink, giving his brother a few extra minutes alone for his research. He then grabbed the second can and walked out the back door and over to the garage.
He went through the door backwards, pushing it open with the back of his shoulder as his hands were full. In the moment that it took for his eyes to adjust to the dimmer light coming in through the windows he noticed two things. His brother was standing frozen in place looking at a spot just to Don's right. The second thing was the stranger standing there aiming a gun at Charlie.
Don was caught completely off guard and froze for a moment, long enough for the man to turn towards him. A step and the gun was resting against the side of his head. The man came half a step closer and pushed Don forwards, away from the door and further into the garage.
"Not very nice of your big brother," The man hissed into Don's ear as he moved in behind him. "Making you fetch and carry for him."
"I…" Don started.
"Shut up!" The man hissed, jabbing the gun into his temple hard enough to make Don wince. The stranger turned his attention to Charlie: "You. Fed! Toss over your gun."
Don opened his mouth again but closed it as a though occurred. His brain had finally started working again and he realised that the stranger thought that he was Charlie and that Charlie was Don. The stranger obviously knew that they were brothers and that one was FBI and the other a math professor, but didn't know enough to recognise who was who. It might help them if he allowed the mistaken identity to continue. He looked over at his brother and gave him a slight nod. "Do it 'Donny'." He said, allowing his voice to come out with a slight quaver. Not all that hard with a gun against his head. Take the hint! He thought, willing his brother to understand.
"Yeah, listen to your brother, Fed." The stranger said gruffly.
Charlie slowly moved his right hand and unsnapped the thumb-break, fumbling slightly at the unfamiliar movements. He gripped the butt and started to slowly draw the Glock from the holster.
"Two fingers!" The stranger barked.
Charlie started and dropped the Glock. Fortunately he had barely pulled it from the holster and it simply dropped back in. He re-adjusted his grip and using two fingers gingerly pulled the weapon out and held it in front of him.
"Toss it." The stranger ordered. He flicked his chin over to the corner of the garage to his right. "Over there."
Charlie tossed the weapon as directed. It landed near some boxes and slid into the shadows out of sight.
The stranger jerked Don's shoulder slightly. "Drop that stuff." He ordered.
Don dropped the cans of soda and automatically flipped the vest slightly as he dropped it so it landed flat on the ground. He was then pushed forwards again and took a few more steps into the centre of the garage. The grip on his left shoulder tightened and he stopped.
"Get your handcuffs out and cuff yourself." The stranger ordered Charlie.
Again Don gave an almost imperceptible nod at his brother's frightened glance. Charlie pulled the handcuffs out and placed them around his own wrists then locked them. It was impossible to spend time in a FBI office and not learn how handcuffs worked.
"Keys." The stranger demanded.
Charlie's eyes widened. He didn't have the keys, Don still had them in his pocket. He tried to keep his voice calm, tried to sound like Don. "I don't have them on me."
"Liar! Give me the keys, Fed." The stranger shouted. He again jabbed the gun painfully into Don's temple.
Charlie tried to keep his face calm but Don could see the panic building. Don spoke up, "I, I have the k-keys. I-in my p-pocket." He stammered out, trying to keep up the illusion of being his brother. He moved his right hand, patting at his trouser pocket.
"Why do you have the keys?" The stranger asked suspiciously, stepping out from behind Don but still holding the gun to his temple.
"C-car keys. T-they're on D-don's car keys. He asked me to get the v-vest for him." He dug into his pocket and pulled out the keys to his SUV, holding them up. There was a key on the key ring for his handcuffs. There was also a spare key in his left pocket but the stranger didn't need to know about that.
The stranger snatched the keys from Don's fingers and looked at them, flipping them over until he found the handcuff key. Satisfied, he placed the keys into his own pocket. "All right, Fed. Sit down, over there." The stranger waved his gun, pointing at a spot on the floor as he gave Don a slight shove towards the blackboards.
Charlie stepped sideways and then sank to the floor. "What do you want?" He asked.
"Your baby brother here is going to help me with a math problem." The stranger explained. "When I'm done, we're outta here."
"No!" Charlie exclaimed, his fear increasing and the panic returning.
The stranger answered what he thought Charlie meant. "I'll drop baby brother off up the road, safe and sound if he does what he's told."
Don knew that wasn't what Charlie had meant. Don didn't know math, he wouldn't be able to solve the problem. He saw Charlie open his mouth, knew that he was going to confess to being the math professor, not the agent. "It's alright, D-donny. I can do it. He's g-gonna let me go once he gets away."
"But," Charlie started.
The stranger was looking at Charlie, whom he perceived to be the threat and again missed the slight movement of Don's head, a shake this time.
"Don't hurt him." Charlie said instead, trying to think and act like Don. "Just take my car and leave us both here when you go."
Don couldn't help it, he winced slightly at his brother's offer, he didn't want to give his SUV to the stranger. He covered it up by picking up a piece of chalk from the edge of the blackboard. It wasn't much, but if he threw it right, it could be useful.
"Here, Professor." The stranger thrust a piece of paper at Don. "Solve this."
Don opened the page and looked at the meaningless equation. He started to ask what it was for then realised that the real Charlie would probably be able to tell. "W-what do you want it for?" He asked instead.
"None of your business." The stranger said, pushing Don's shoulder roughly towards a blackboard. "Just get it done. The sooner it's done the sooner we part company."
Don glanced at Charlie, fixing his position relative to his into his mind. He turned to the closest blackboard, an empty one and started writing. He copied out the equation as slowly as he dared, feigning nervousness, as he tried to sense exactly where the stranger was. His mind was working frantically trying to come up with a plan before the stranger could realise Don wasn't Charlie. He reached the end of the equation. He fumbled the chalk and allowed it to drop to the floor.
Don bent down to pick it up and saw that the stranger was pacing near Charlie, too far away. He stood back up and continued writing. He had filled a couple of lines on the black board before he again fumbled and dropped the chalk. He looked over as he bent and saw that the stranger was still too far away. He saw the amazed look on Charlie's face as he watched Don. Don gave him a quick wink, he hadn't grown up with a math genius without learning what an equation was supposed to look like even if it didn't make any sense to him. He got back to work, expanding the meaningless jumble of figures and mathematical symbols even further. He stopped, went back over part of it, underlined a section and drew a line to an unused section of the board and scribbled a few more symbols. All things he had seen Charlie do.
He glanced over towards Charlie again and saw that the stranger had moved away from Charlie and was almost within reach. Don reached for a duster and started to rub out a section of his scribbling. He glanced back again and the stranger hadn't moved and was watching the man he thought was the FBI agent. The gun hanging loosely at his side, no longer pointed at Charlie. Guns were heavy and hard to hold up for any long period of time. Something Don had been counting on. Don raised his hand and took aim, intending to throw the duster at the stranger.
Suddenly the door to the garage opened and a figure appeared, silhouetted against the sunlight.
"Don?" Alan called out. "What are you doing here? I thought you were at work…" He trailed off, looking from each of the three men in confusion.
The stranger had spun and was bringing the gun up when Don let loose the duster. It struck the man solidly on the side of the head. Don had never been happier that his brother liked the traditional approach of chalk, blackboards and heavy wooden erasers.
The stranger staggered slightly, automatically raising his right hand to the side of his head.
"Dad, get down!" Don yelled, leaping at the stranger.
Don let fly a solid right hook, smashing the stranger's gun hand into his own head onto the same spot the duster had hit. The stranger called out and dropped the gun. He started to turn but Charlie kicked out and hooked one of the stranger's ankles.
The stranger fell with Don on top of him. The struggle was brief, Don hitting the stranger several times to the jaw and side of the head before he subsided and stopped moving. Don looked around and found the stranger's gun. He reached over and grabbed it. He quickly ejected the clip, saw that it was in fact loaded then replaced it. He worked the action to ensure that a round was in the chamber before standing back up. He flipped the safety off and pointed the weapon at the unconscious stranger before looking around for Alan.
"Dad! Are you alright?" Don asked, seeing his father sprawled on the floor just inside the door.
"Yes son, I'm fine." Alan climbed slowly to his feet. "These old bones are not meant for diving to the floor."
Don dug into his left pocket and pulled out his handcuff key, tossing it at Charlie. "Take them off then put them on him while I have him covered." Don instructed.
It took Charlie a few seconds to get the key into the keyhole but less than a minute later the stranger was secured with his hands behind his back. Don searched the stranger's pockets recovering his SUV keys and a wallet. The stranger remained unconscious throughout the process.
"Steven Phelps." Don read off the driver's licence. "Charlie, do you know him?"
"No." Charlie stood up and picked up the piece of paper Don had dropped.
"What's that all about?" Don asked.
"It's an equation for…" Charlie started but was interrupted by Alan.
"I don't care what it's for! Will someone tell me what is going on here?" Alan demanded. "And why are you wearing Donny's badge?"
Charlie turned, "Dad, I…"
Alan again interrupted him, his voice rising. Charlie had turned far enough that Alan could see his side. "What are were you doing wearing Donny's gun!"
Charlie's mouth moved but nothing came out. He looked to Don for help. Don looked from his brother to his father, both of whom were looking at him. Oh great, Don thought reaching for his cell phone to call his team, this was going to take some explaining. At least Charlie got some new data for his equation, Don thought bizarrely as the call connected and he was saved from answering his father by having to talk to Megan.