Numb3rs – Aftermath

Disclaimer – I don't own them, I just borrowed them. Numb3rs and its characters are the property of those that created them. No copyright infringement intended. All real organisations are used in a fictional sense. Original characters and the storyline are mine however.

Sequel to Caffeine – Reactions the next day upon revisiting the scene.

The black SUV with government tags slowed at the barricade, coming to a stop next to the Secret Service agent. The driver rolled his window down and handed over a badge and identification. "Special Agent Don Eppes, FBI. This is Professor Eppes, FBI consultant."

The younger man in the passenger seat leant over and held out an FBI identification card, brushing back a shock of brown curly hair as it fell forwards over his eyes.

The Secret Service agent scrutinised both cards carefully, tilting them in the sunlight to ensure the holographic security features were present. He then meticulously compared the photographs on each to the men in front of him. Deciding that the IDs and thus the men were genuine he then checked a list on his folder. He made two notations before finally handing back the IDs. He pointed to a spot off to their right. "Go through and park over there. Take up with Agent Graf at the entrance."

"Thanks." Don replied, handing his brother back his ID before driving forward.

The SUV was parked as directed. Approaching the entrance to the mall Don abruptly slowed and changed direction slighty.

"What is it?" Charlie asked mystified.

"This is where the second detail was ambushed." Don explained, moving so as to avoid disturbing the scene.

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Charlie looked at the ground and saw the numbered markers used by crime scene photographers. They were still some distance from the entrance, still in the marked section of the parking lot. Next to each marker was a splash of yellow paint to indicate the exact spot a piece of evidence had been located. This far out Charlie assumed that the evidence had been bullet casings. He lifted his eyes to see Don a short distance away, near the footpath at the mall entrance.

Charlie hurried over to stand next to Don. He followed his brother's gaze seeing more markers, these ones beside outlines painted in yellow. Outlines the size and shape of human beings. He swallowed at the realisation that six men and women had died here. A Secret Service badge had been placed in the centre of each of the outlines to represent the agent that given his or her life.

"Agent Eppes?" A female voice inquired.

"Yes." Don said as they both looked up at the agent approaching them.

"Agent Amelia Graf." The older woman announced extending her right hand.

"Don." The FBI agent shook her hand then turned to introduce him. "This is Professor Charles Eppes."

"Professor."

"Call me Charlie, please."

She inclined her head. "Charlie. Thanks for coming. I have some preliminary data for you." The agent handed over a folder containing a sheaf of paper.

"Have you identified the offenders yet?"

The professor heard Don ask as he opened the folder, glancing over the contents. For preliminary data, he thought, it was quite comprehensive. At the back were some glossy 8 x 10 photographs. He briefly glimpsed bodies marked with darkening red stains before he stuffed them and the papers back into the folder.

"Several of them have been confirmed as members of the Sovereign Citizen movement." Graf was answering.

Charlie saw his brother's grimace and Graf's look of disgust in response. He'd heard about the movement. Sovereign Citizens believed in using the laws they liked such as gun ownership and lodging lawsuits and fought against laws they didn't such as taxation and the criminal code. They delighted in dragging government departments through a court system they claimed not to recognise as having any jurisdiction. Occasionally they took matters into their own hands; killing law enforcement officers who they claimed oppressed the people for an illegal government. To have had the opportunity to attack the President directly was something they would only have dreamed about. Obviously some had decided to take their dream a step further and give it a go with almost disastrous consequences.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" His brother asked.

"You know I have to see for myself." Charlie responded to Don's question. He knew Don hadn't wanted to bring him. His brother had told him he'd been invited by the Secret Service to lend his expertise to the investigation of the shooting. Don had tried to convince him to turn down the invitation insisting that the Secret Service had analysts that could do the job. Charlie had argued back that he wanted to do his bit.

He understood why his brother didn't want him to go to the mall. Charlie had initially reacted badly to the story of yesterday's events after Don had finally arrived home and explained his role. Until that moment both he and their father had been sitting glued to their couches in the lounge watching the media coverage of the attack on the President. They had both assumed that Don was involved in the investigation in some way, along with it seemed the entire law enforcement community from the LAPD through to the CIA. But when Don had finally walked in late and told them he had actually been doing they had both reacted. Alan was initially astonished before becoming inordinately proud. Charlie just sat still in shock. They'd known a law enforcement officer had saved the day, they'd just never suspected it was Don. Don told them he had refused to allow his name or service to be released to the media, wanting to remain anonymous.

"Alright. If you're sure." Don sighed, then turned and they followed Agent Graf inside.

Photographic markers littered the area becoming more concentrated as they approached the Starbucks. A short distance from the coffee shop a number of outlines were marked out on the floor. Some had a black marker in the middle with a number, indicating an attacker. Others however had Secret Service badges, fallen agents from the primary detail. They were clumped together and he knew that this was where the first standoff had occurred between the primary detail and the attackers.

Charlie mentally shook himself. He was here for a reason. He pulled out his pad and started to make his own notes and sketches. He slowly lost track of the world around him concentrating on his work, barely noticing as Don moved away with Agent Graf.

Charlie knew that Don had his own work, going over his part in the incident from the moment he had walked outside of the Starbucks upon hearing the initial shots. The professor glanced up at one point to see that another agent armed with a video camera had joined his brother as he conducted his walk-through with Graf. Don repeated his movements, pointing with his right hand indicating his shot placements as they progressed deeper into the mall towards the small eatery. Charlie trailed along making notes and checking angles, his brother's voice a drone in the background.

His pencil faltered, falling to the floor from his suddenly nerveless fingers. He was standing near some scattered tables and chairs, contained between two low block walls with decorative garden beds at their tops. He looked down automatically, following his pencil as it rolled to a stop next to a black marker. This was where the attackers had pinned his brother down before trying to ask him give up the President. Don had given him an expanded version of what had happened whilst they'd been driving over this morning. He had clearance, their father didn't. At the moment he didn't know if having the clearance to hear the full story and to actually be here where it all happened was a good thing or not.

Starting to bend to pick up the errant pencil he glanced back where he'd been looking a moment ago and suddenly forgot what he was reaching for. He could only stare. The block wall on the opposite side looked like nothing so much as a piece of Swiss cheese, deeply pockmarked with the scars from where countless bullets had struck it. No, not countless, he could work out exactly how many rounds had been fired at his brother, exactly how many times he had escaped death. As always Don had underplayed the risk he'd been exposed to.

Charlie watched silently, frozen in place as his brother calmly continued to demonstrate his actions to the Secret Service agents, pantomiming for the video camera. Don would point, his hand held pistol fashion, and Charlie would look and see a black marker. There was a sudden clatter and he came to his senses as he realised he had dropped his pad and the Secret Service folder. Spell broken he crouched and gathered everything together.

"Charlie?"

"I'm alright." He said as he rose to his feet, items in hand. He stared into his brother's concerned face. "I-I guess it just all hit me."

"It's okay, Charlie." Don rested his hands on Charlie's shoulders. "I'm okay."

The younger man nodded. He knew that Don was okay, he'd actually seen nearly every inch of his brother's body this morning. Don had got up early and had done a dash from his old room to the bathroom wearing nothing but boxers. His older brother was normally very private about his body, but this morning he'd obviously thought he could risk the short distance without a shirt. He'd seen the old scars and some newer ones he'd have to ask Don about someday. There were no new injuries, his brother was physically unscathed.

"I'm done. We can go if you've got what you need." Don told him.

"Just a minute." Charlie said.

He needed to have a look at the fire exit and then wanted to view the site of the second standoff from Don's angle. Resolutely he stepped away, determined to complete his task. By the time he was done he had recovered his composure. It didn't really matter what his math said about his brother's odds of survival. What actually mattered was that Don had survived. Charlie stopped just after stepping around the eatery. Don was kneeling beside a yellow outline with a hand outstretched to touch the badge laid in its centre. Don may have been physically unscathed, but Charlie wondered if perhaps his brother was not so lucky psychologically.

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Don watched as Charlie walked over to the fire exit. His brother was stronger than he looked, sure he got upset but he always managed to push through and carry on. He wondered whether or not he should wait there or make his way out so as not to pressure Charlie into finishing up before he was ready. Decision made he had only moved a few yards before he suddenly stopped next to a yellow outline.

This was where the lead Secret Service agent had fought his rearguard action and died after handing over the President. Don found himself kneeling beside the 'body'. He remained still for a minute, thinking back to the man's eyes boring into his for that moment that felt like half of eternity. The man had known his death was certain but had no hesitation in meeting it.

Don blinked, instead of the man's eyes he now saw the badge. His hand moved of it's own volition, reaching out until his fingers rested on the cool metal surface. The next moment he was sitting back on his heels, the badge held in his left hand with the fingers of his right hand tracing over the lines and patterns embossed on its surface.

"Agent Eppes? Don, are you alright?" Amelia Graf's soft voice interrupted his thoughts.

"What was his name?" His voice almost a whisper.

A hand rested lightly on his shoulder. "Bill Edelman."

"Family?"

"A wife, two little girls."

"I'm sorry."

"Don, you saved Shepherd." Graf used the President's Secret Service code name. Her voice was still soft and quiet but now had a hint of steel. "You did as Bill wanted. He bought you some time and you used it to get yourself and Shepherd to cover. You did all you could, as he did."

Don thought her words over. He'd had ample time since yesterday morning to go over and over the events, both whilst being debriefed by the Secret Service in the FBI building and in his own mind later. He knew there had been nothing more he could have done, no other options that he could have taken. The walk-through had reinforced that. But still this utterly selfless man had died here, along with the other five members of the detail and he had survived completely uninjured. Even the President had caught a graze from a bullet.

"Don?" This time it was Charlie that interrupted his thoughts. The tone in his younger brother's voice reminded him of the tone he'd used only a few minutes ago after Charlie's reaction to the block wall.

He carefully, reverently, laid the badge representing Agent Edelman back onto the tiles. He closed his eyes for a second, sending a silent prayer to Saint Michael, the patron saint of law enforcement officers. He rose, nodded to Agent Graf then walked out of the mall, Charlie beside him.

Outside, here in the sunlight, he felt rejuvenated. Closing his eyes he took a deep breath of the sun warmed air. He had done everything he could. He had won the day. Impulsively he reached out his left arm and draped it over Charlie's shoulders giving his brother a quick squeeze.

"I'm good, Charlie." He was rewarded with the flash of a smile and saw his brother's spirits lift.

"The office?" Charlie asked.

"The office." Don agreed.

END