The disclaimer continues…along with the story.
"FBI 3695 to LAPD pursuit controller."
Charlie's head jerked up as he realised that was Don's voice on the police radio. He stared at the SUV as if he could see his brother calmly talking on the radio. Don sounded like he was having a casual chat, not currently leading a wild pursuit.
"Go ahead FBI." The dispatcher Charlie had been hearing give out orders replied.
"Subject requests LAPD back off. Wants to be allowed to escape."
"Understood, FBI. LAPD units to drop back. Tac 2."
"Subject requires safe passage." Don said after a few moments, clarifying the fugitive's demand.
Charlie couldn't help it. He pictured the kid as he last saw him, gun shaking and waving around but now pointed at his older brother's head. Statistically Don was already dead so many times now Charlie knew that the anomaly that was Don's luck couldn't hold. The numbers just didn't allow it. Even if a bullet didn't kill him then a crash at eighty miles an hour would. He watched the black SUV dwindle into the distance as the LAPD units slowed briefly before resuming a matching speed to maintain a distance further behind.
"Subject's safety is assured if he stops." The dispatcher replied.
Charlie felt that the message was clear, there would be no safe passage. Only promises of safety if the carjacker surrendered. With the threat to a fellow LEO, there would be no guarantees of safety if the situation went tactical.
Gilden suddenly made to change the radio channel. Charlie objected.
"We're moving to Tac 2." Gilden explained. "So he can't hear our comms."
"But Don's on that channel. How can we hear him if he calls again?"
"Dispatch can listen to all the channels at once." Gilden changed the channel back, seeing Charlie needed the line left open. The officer turned on the portable radio clipped to his belt instead, flicking the switch on top to move to the other channel. He'd be able to hear dispatch through the shoulder handset.
Gilden's cell phone rang in Charlie's hand. The number showed as restricted so he figured it was from the FBI field office for him. "Charlie here."
"Charlie, the LAPD are in contact with Don on the radio." David said, keeping his promise to let Charlie know of any developments.
"He's doing fine." David said trying to reassure the mathematician. "We're listening in to Megan's cell. Don's trying to talk the kid down. He's calming and starting to think rationally. We're onto the LAPD by phone, giving them what we got. We don't want it to go over the air that we're listening in. If that TV helicopter jockey gets a hold of the information who knows what will happen."
"Are you watching it?" Charlie wanted to know.
"Live on the internet." David said. His tone indicating that he wasn't so sure it was such a good use of technology. "I take it you were listening to the radio feed."
"I was. They stopped it for news." His own tone indicating his thoughts on the relevance of the 'news'. He hadn't checked to see if the running commentary was back on yet. Now that things had settled a little however, with steady travel along the freeway instead of exciting changes of direction on surface streets Charlie knew that the radio would more than likely move on to normal programming, ready to switch over if something did happen.
"It will be okay, Charlie."
Charlie wanted to believe that. But there was a problem. "Statistically the longer these go for the more violent the ending." He said.
"How many of those chases had Don at the wheel?" David countered. "How many of those offenders had a skilled negotiator in the car with them?"
"None." Charlie answered.
"There you go. The statistics don't count. Don knows what he's doing. He'll work something out."
"I guess so." He wasn't entirely convinced but he did believe in Don's skill to make things work out. His luck seemed to hold in spite of Charlie's numbers. He hoped it would continue to do so. He didn't like to be wrong but in this situation he would be happy if he was.
"He's also told us his plans. The highway patrol will be able to shut down the freeway making it safer for everyone and giving them an opportunity to take action if necessary." David continued.
Charlie found this less reassuring. He didn't want the LAPD or CHP to 'take action'. That invariably led to the violent endings shown by his statistics. No, the only safe way out of this for Don was for him to be successful in talking the fugitive into surrendering.
They suddenly took a tight turn and Charlie concentrated his attention outside the squad car. They were now on the Golden State freeway still heading away from LA and would soon be out in the desert. Charlie was not so sure that Don was making the right move. With the CHP shutting down the freeway they would soon end up in a position where they would felt they had to intervene. He felt that Don may have been better off heading the other way, into the city. There the kid would have a chance to escape if they were stopped.
But he knew his brother didn't think like that. Don wanted to keep everyone else safe and also wanted to catch the bad guy. Simple as that. So he headed to the desert, into a situation more dangerous to himself but safer for everyone else.
"Charlie?" David was still on the phone.
Charlie had forgotten the phone in his ponderings. "Yeah, still here. They need to hang back a bit longer. They need to let Don have a chance."
"That's what they're going to do, for a while at least. They're not going to rush into anything unless they have to."
"I hope so. For Don's sake." Charlie said and hung up.
He watched as they blew past an on-ramp, blocked by a CHP cruiser at the top. Then past an off-ramp, also blocked by a cruiser. There were going to force Don to stay on the freeway now. There weren't too many ramps now and so Don's options were greatly limited. He hoped that Don really knew what he was doing.
Don hoped he knew what he was doing. He had no real plan as yet. Getting out of LA seemed to work and now he had to just figure out how to safely stop and let the LAPD take Jinx into custody. The major stumbling block of course, was that Jinx didn't look like agreeing to that plan and he had the gun to back him up. So some more negotiation was called for. They passed an off ramp blocked by a CHP cruiser. With options being blocked he no longer needed to go quite so fast. With a degree of relief he cautiously eased off the accelerator and engaged the kid in conversation again.
"They've backed off Jinx." Don started. The kid didn't seem to notice that they were slowing. Good.
"Hey, you told them man."
"They'll be back soon enough." The agent said, deliberately trying to burst the kid's bubble.
"Then you make them back off again."
"Jinx, listen up. How long do you think this can go on for?"
"As long as it takes. I seen the movies. Hollywood, man. They won't do nothing now I got a Fed hostage."
Back to that again. Don felt as though he was going in circles. "Movies aren't real. This is real, no scriptwriter making up stuff that sounds exciting. People get hurt in these situations, sometimes permanently."
"Not gonna happen."
Don sighed. The kid was still young enough and cocky enough to feel bullet proof. Their speed dropped below sixty-five. "It will happen, kid. It will happen today, very soon. If we keep this up you're going to get hurt and probably drag me into it as well. I know what I'm talking about."
"You ever chased anyone?"
"Yeah, a few times."
"If they didn't stop they got hurt."
"You ever killed anyone?" The kid's voice was a little quieter.
"Yeah." Don admitted. A dose of reality was what the kid needed. Now they were doing fifty-five. "That could happen to you. Today."
It seemed to sink in this time. Jinx watched as they went past another off-ramp blocked by the highway patrol. He turned and watched as the cruiser pulled out on the freeway behind them. He also saw the LAPD squad cars in a line across the width of the freeway, following them relentlessly. He wound his window down and briefly stuck his head out the window. There were three helicopters overhead. He recognised the LAPD and highway patrol, the third one was much higher and he realised it was the news chopper.
Don watched as the kid seemed to be thinking about things, and hopefully coming to the correct conclusions. He checked the speedometer as the needle dipped towards forty.
Jinx finally noticed they were slowing. "Hey, watcha doing? Go faster man."
"No need for that any more." Don told him. "I don't want to kill us in a wreck. You want to kill yourself, that's fine. You got the gun. Go ahead, the blood will wash out." He was deliberately callous.
"You won't be washing it man, I'll take you out first." The kid said, but it sounded more like bluster than a serious threat.
"You take me out, you die for sure." Don snapped. "I don't think you want to die, you care too much for that."
"How would you know man?"
"If you didn't care you wouldn't have run. You got family?"
Jinx was silent for a minute. "Yeah, a baby brother. You?"
"That was my younger brother you pointed your gun at." Don worked hard to keep the anger out of his voice. It would be counter productive here, he felt the kid was starting to open up, anger would only shut him down again.
"Then you understand."
"The things you have to do for family."
"You steal cars for him?"
"We need the money man."
Don frowned, that didn't sit right with the observations he had made before. The kid seemed reasonably well kempt and certainly wasn't starving. Don didn't think he was wrong, he was sure the kid was trying to act like a badass but wasn't really. "There's more to it than that, isn't there?"
"My brother, he got into something. He owes these dudes some green. If I boosted a few more cars they would clean the slate." Jinx finally said after a long silence and several more miles of freeway. By reverting back to street language he was still trying to act tough.
"How much does he owe?"
"There was no other way to get it?"
"It's not like we can ask the old man."
"Sure." Jinx said sarcastically. "So what do you reckon my brother's supposed to do? 'Hey dad, guess what? I owe some gang-bangers five grand. Do you mind if I borrow some cash?' Like that would work."
"You tried, right?"
"Yeah." Jinx admitted. "No dice. Get this; he said if 'Tod got himself into it he could get himself out'. What a dad."
"So now, you're here in this mess." Don summed up. "Where is Tod?"
"Probably getting into more trouble."
"Sounds like it's about time he took some responsibility for his actions." Don risked insulting the kid's brother. "Does he care what it's costing you?"
"He's my brother, man. I can't just abandon him." The argument sounded forced.
That would be a 'no', Don thought. "It hardly sounds like he's bothering to return the favour. Sounds like he just expects big brother Jinx to save the day."
"Michael." Jinx said suddenly. "I'm Michael Collins."
Don allowed himself a slight smile. Stockholme Syndrome could work both ways. He'd finally got the kid to identify with him by talking about what they shared in common, brothers. That allowed Jinx, no it was Michael, to feel safe enough to talk about himself. It should also serve to give Don a measure of protection as well. He was now a real person who also had a brother, not just a 'Fed'. He returned the favour. "Don Eppes."
A silence descended inside the SUV. Don felt that Jinx needed more time to think so left it alone. They were now travelling at just under thirty and still gradually slowing. A couple of highway patrol cruisers were now ahead of them leading the way, forcing the minimal remaining traffic off to the shoulders giving them a free run.
"I'd shake, but," Michael trailed off then shrugged, lifting the gun slightly before allowing it to rest in his hand on his lap.
"Nothing's stopping you, Michael." Don said gently, carefully watching the rearview mirror. Close, very close now.
Michael let go of the revolver. He looked at his right hand, raising it as if to offer to shake. It was the done thing after formal introductions after all.
Don took that as a sign and actively applied the brakes. It was still gentle but slowed them much more obviously than the gradual easing he'd been doing up to this point. The kid didn't object. Don braked harder and pulled to the right stopping in the right lane. Finally, an hour or so after it had all started, they came to rest. Don pulled the keys from the ignition and, before the kid had a chance to stop him, tossed them out and behind them onto the freeway, disabling his SUV.
Still no objection from the kid. Don turned in his seat and exchanged a meaningful look with Michael. The kid raised his right hand and pushed it forward. Don responded and shook the offered hand.
"What do I do?" Michael asked.
"Give me the gun."
"FBI 3695 to LAPD pursuit controller."
Charlie had been waiting, hoping to hear from Don. They had been stopped for a few minutes now but nothing had appeared to happen. The trailing LAPD squad cars and highway patrol cruisers had stopped a short distance behind. The other highway patrol cruisers had stopped up ahead. LAPD and highway patrol officers were standing beside their vehicles, guns drawn, sheltering behind their doors. Charlie was standing beside Gilden's squad car, at the rear of the pack. But he was close enough to hear the radio transmission from Don.
The freeway was completely shut down, the SUV alone in an oasis of concrete.
"Go ahead FBI."
"Michael Collins would like to surrender."
"291 is the lead LAPD unit, FBI. He will co-ordinate."
Gilden had stopped too far back for Charlie to see what was happening up ahead. All he could see were officers pointing guns towards the rear of Don's SUV. Towards Don. Charlie scrolled through the phone's menu again and was rewarded with the sound of the helicopter news pilot.
"…here on the side of the freeway. The black SUV has been stopped for a few minutes now with no sign of movement. We can see the FBI agent in the driver's seat and the hijacker behind him. Police officers have taken shelter at their black and whites, guns drawn. We know this man is armed and has a hostage. This is a felony stop. It is an intensely dangerous situation at the moment."
"Dan, any idea how many weapons the man has?" The same woman Charlie had heard earlier asked.
"We know that a gun was tossed out of the vehicle shortly after it was hijacked. We heard on the scanner that it was the agent's gun. We don't know though how many weapons the FBI agent has in that vehicle." Dan answered in his breathless, excited voice. "We've just heard on the scanner that the man intends to surrender. We're waiting now to see what will happen. The lead vehicle there, with 291 on the roof will be calling on the man to throw his gun out of the SUV. If we zoom in a little, we can see the LAPD officer appears to be yelling out instructions to the SUV."
Michael looked at the gun, the symbol of what had gone wrong with his life. It was done now and he had to live with it. He also had to suffer the consequences of his actions. He picked it up by the barrel and handed it over.
Don accepted the weapon, made the radio call and now waited to hear from the LAPD officer from unit 291. Any sudden moves at this juncture would result in even him being shot.
"Throw the gun out of the car." A female voice instructed.
Michael looked at Don. "You'll help me won't you? I didn't hurt you." He sounded depressed now that his actions were catching up with him. He was going to jail and nothing could change that.
Don didn't answer. He now held the now unloaded gun and didn't need to play nice anymore. The kid had pointed a loaded weapon at his Charlie's head. That was unforgivable. "They won't shoot you if you do exactly what they tell you to do. Understand?"
Don threw the revolver out the window, making sure it landed at least two lanes over, well out of range for a sudden dash-and-snatch by the kid. He waited for the next instruction.
"Hands out the windows."
Don immediately placed his hands out the window and watched as Michael followed suit.
"Driver, open your door and get out of the vehicle."
Don had expected that. The LAPD wanted to get him out of the line of fire as quickly as possible. He reached down and lifted the door handle on the outside of the door. He slowly pushed the door open and just as slowly climbed out. He took a couple of sideways steps and stopped, his back to the LAPD. Everything had to be done one manoeuvre at a time.
"Driver, hands on the back of your head and walk backwards towards the sound of my voice."
Don carefully stepped backwards, hands on his head. The LAPD would be taking no chances. He glanced over at Michael as he passed and saw the resignation in the kid's eyes. The kid kept his hands out the window as Don moved past him. It seemed to take ages but Don felt a presence behind him just as he felt someone put their hand over his linked hands at his head. He stopped moving. He heard the handcuffs before he felt them and made no resistance or complaint as he was restrained. He was taken to the back of a police car several units back.
"You FBI?" The officer asked.
"Special agent Don Eppes." He answered. "My badge and ID are in my pocket."
The officer conducted a quick search and pulled the slim leather wallet out, flipping it open. He compared the photo to Don. The wallet was put down and the handcuffs removed. "Sorry agent. Procedure."
"I understand officer." Don said retrieving his ID. He did understand, until IDs were confirmed everyone was a suspect, especially in situations involving firearms.
Don turned to watch as the kid followed more shouted instructions, climbing out of the SUV. He repeated Don's movements until he was finally arrested and handcuffed. As the kid was placed into the back of a black and white Don finally allowed himself to feel the anger that had been pushing at his control for the whole time. The kid had threatened Charlie.
Don turned away in surprise, looking towards the voice. "Charlie?" No, it couldn't be. He should be safe at one of the LAPD buildings. To be here now meant that he'd been part of the pursuit and exposed to the dangerous driving that he'd been forced to do.
"Don!" Charlie ran up to him. "Are you alright?"
"What are you doing here?" Don demanded angrily. "Who brought you here?"
Charlie pointed at Andrew Gilden. "He did. Don…"
Don didn't wait to hear the rest, his blood boiled as he stalked over to the offending officer. He'd managed to get Charlie out of his car and away from the kid with the gun and out of danger. This officer had put Charlie right back into danger.
Charlie wasn't sure just when he had ever seen Don as furious as he was now. He stood in shock as his brother stood toe to toe with Officer Gilden chewing him out for taking Charlie along for the ride, for allowing a civilian to be involved in the pursuit.
"You're going to need to look for a job somewhere flipping burgers!" Don finally spat. "I'll have your badge for this!"
"Go ahead and try, mister big shot FBI." Gilden spat back. His temper flaring brightly at such a threat. "He's no civilian, he showed me his badge. You want to take that away as well?"
"What badge? He's a math professor, he doesn't have a badge."
Charlie had had enough. Gilden was in this position because of him and Don had no right to yell at him this way. Right then Charlie didn't care if Don was blowing off steam after the end of the pursuit. Charlie dug once again into his wallet then shoved his way between Don and the officer. "I showed him my badge."
"You don't have a badge." Don said somewhat taken aback. Charlie was not normally this assertive.
"Yes, I do." He held up the piece of plastic, practically at the end of Don's nose forcing him to look at it. In other circumstances Don's crossed eyes as he focussed on the card would have been funny. "And I outrank you Don."
The ID card was hardly a badge, and Charlie was not an agent. There wasn't even any valid comparison as to whether a NSA consultant outranked an FBI special agent. But his little brother certainly had far more clearance than he did, he didn't even know how high Charlie was cleared. He needed clearance just to find that out. A hint of how ridiculous this all was started to run through his mind. Don sputtered, running out of steam.
Charlie continued. "So no more talk of taking anyone's badge. I told him I had to be here. That's that."
"Charlie, I," Don started. He stopped abruptly, looking down at his feet. "This whole time I thought you were safe. But you were right there, following us through all that traffic at those ridiculous speeds. Charlie, you could have been killed."
"Oh yeah? Well who was leading us at those ridiculous speeds? You're not the only one who can drive a car properly." Charlie answered back as Don looked up at him. "You were the one in the front pushing traffic out of the way! I was at the very back behind all the other black and whites. If anyone was going to be killed it was you!"
Don stopped cold. Charlie had been so worried about him that he had pulled NSA rank he didn't even have on a LAPD officer to force him to take him along with the pursuit. This was the same Charlie who had been unable to get a driver's licence for years because he hated traffic; Charlie who always hung on for dear life if anyone even slightly exceeded the speed limit.
Don suddenly realised just how much of an ass he'd been. He had no excuse. The stress of the last hour or so shouldn't have made him react like this. Taking it out on an LAPD officer who was just trying to do his job was even more stupid. As an FBI agent he was a professional, professionals didn't fly off the handle and threaten people's livelihoods like that. If he'd been Gilden he would have knocked him flat by now. Helicopter news cameras or no helicopter news cameras. That Gilden hadn't, showed that he was better able to control himself than Don was at the moment.
"Officer Gilden." Don finally said, deeply ashamed. He held out his right hand. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. You were only trying to help Charlie. I don't know what came over me."
Gilden looked at the agent for a few moments. He could see the strong bond between the FBI agent and his NSA brother. Gilden didn't have that emotional baggage to deal with in the aftermath of what had been a very tense and difficult situation for the brothers. He had a clear idea why the FBI agent had reacted the way he had, the love between him and his brother was that strong. Strong enough for the agent to have lashed out in an instinctive protective reaction. Gilden bore no grudge, his temper was quick to flare but just as quick to subside. He shouldn't have said what he had either. He had less of an excuse.
"I understand, agent." Gilden told him, accepting and shaking the agent's hand. "No harm, no foul."
"So, anything interesting happen to you boys today?" Alan Eppes asked casually as he watched his two sons come through the front door. It was night, well after six and dinner was waiting.
His two sons looked at each other. Don, always the more observant of the two, glanced over and saw the television was on, recognising the news show. Alan waited with his arms crossed. He'd not enjoyed finding out about this from the television. He'd not really believed it was his sons involved despite recognising Charlie getting out of the SUV at the traffic lights. He couldn't deny it however when he saw the camera zoom in on Don and Charlie standing on the freeway with a LAPD officer after it was all over. And whilst listening to the helicopter reporter excitedly calling a description of what had happened as if it was high entertainment he'd found himself disgusted. It had been a dangerous situation involving his sons, not some television show.
'Yeah, dad." Don finally said. "I guess you could say that."
"We just finished at the LAPD." Charlie said. "We didn't want anyone else to tell you."
"Well someone should have told me something." Alan said. "Long before now."
Don put his keys on the table and pulled off his holster and handcuff pouch, placing them all side by side. "Yeah. I guess so. Sorry dad. We didn't want to worry you and I thought they'd be finished with us long before you'd see the news."
Alan looked at them both for a long moment as they stood there looking back at him. They were two headstrong boys, each in their own way; Don in his independence and Charlie in his numbers. He knew they also didn't tell him some things, not wanting to worry him. He'd found out about some but knew there'd been others he hadn't. But they were both here now, together and none the worse for wear. He would forgive them for not calling, they were safe and that was all that mattered.
"Well, dinner's waiting. Sit. You can tell me all about it as we eat." He went into the kitchen as his sons sat at the table. He came back with some beers, then went to get the food.
They were together, they were a family. All was as it should be.
A/N: I was trying for a more rounded story with this one, Don is still the main character, but Charlie is a major part as well.