Numb3rs – Disarmed
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. No financial reward gained. All real organisations are used in a fictional sense. Original characters and the storyline are mine however.
A/N: Finally. This one kinda got away on me, ending up much longer than I had planned. Looks like 16 chapters. Enjoy…
In the FBI's LA Field Office the insistent buzzing of the phone finally made its way into his thoughts. Without looking up from the report he was reading he reached out and snagged the handset off its cradle. "Eppes."
"Is this Special Agent Don Eppes?"
"Yes it is." He stopped reading the report and concentrated on the call. He glanced at his watch in case he had to start a report. 1355hrs, almost 2pm. "Who is this?"
"Sergeant Tony Markham of the LAPD Crisis Negotiators."
"What can I do for you, Sergeant?"
"We have a situation down here at CalSci." The sergeant explained. "A masked man has taken a number of people hostage in the math department…"
Don's fingers cramped painfully causing him to realise how tightly he was holding the handset. He forced his hand to relax as he tried to concentrate on the voice in his ear.
"…and he has asked specifically to speak to you." The sergeant continued. "Do you know anyone down here?"
Don had to swallow before he could get his mouth to work. "Yes. My brother, Doctor Charles Eppes, is one of the professors there. Do you have a list of hostages?"
"No, not as yet. We're questioning everyone we've evacuated trying to piece together a list. All we have is that there are five hostages and one HT armed with a handgun."
"Any ID on the offender?"
"Any other demands?"
"He refuses to speak with me. Just repeats his demand to speak to you."
"When did this happen? How did it happen?"
"A little over an hour ago a masked man came out of a restroom and headed directly to the math offices. There he produced his weapon taking five people hostage and barricading himself into an office. We got the call shortly after that and I've been on site for half an hour." Markham answered. "Are you in a position to attend?"
"Yeah, we're on our way." Don was already standing and grabbing his jacket and keys. He replaced the handset on the cradle and looked around to see his team waiting. They'd heard enough from Don's end of the conversation to have a fair idea what was happening.
"Is Charlie okay?" Megan asked.
"I don't know." Don said as he led the way to the lift. He gave a terse briefing as the lift descended to the garage.
The moment the black Chevy Suburban peeled out of the garage Don was dialling Charlie's cell phone number.
"Hi…" Charlie's cheerful voice came over the speaker.
"Charlie!" Don started then realised that the voice was continuing heedlessly.
"…this is Charlie Eppes and you have reached my voicemail. Please leave a message."
Don hung up then punched out the number to Charlie's home. The phone rang out. Already making a fast pace through the late lunch time traffic, Don pressed the accelerator of the powerful SUV closer to the floor. Every few minutes he would retry Charlie's cell number with the same recorded message greeting him.
It felt like an eternity had passed before the SUV finally pulled through the police outer cordon and into the parking lot outside the math building at CalSci. A black sedan screeched to a halt a second behind. David and Colby had been hard pushed to keep up with their boss on the wild ride through the streets. Their saving grace was the fact that Don had to push his way through the traffic; they just had to stick as close as possible to the SUV's rear bumper before the cars could fill back in. The sirens had barely started to fade as the FBI agents leapt from the vehicles to be intercepted by a LAPD patrolman.
"FBI." Don flashed his badge. "Where is Sergeant Markham?"
"This way, sir." The patrolman led them over to a large truck. He knocked on the door and waited. When the door opened a few inches he announced the new arrivals.
The door opened a little further and a head poked out. "He'll be out in a minute, he's just on the line to the HT at the moment."
Don held himself back from ripping open the door to the command truck and finding the sergeant as the minute stretched to five. Unconsciously he started pacing, six paces this way then spin and six paces back. Finally the door opened and an officer in plain clothes stepped down.
"Sergeant Markham?" Don stepped forward before both of the officer's feet were on the asphalt. "Don Eppes."
"Tony." The officer extended his hand and introductions all round quickly followed.
"Do you have any more information?" Don asked impatiently.
"We have a list of possible hostages, including your brother. We're working to try to narrow that down. Have you tried to reach him?"
"I just get his voicemail." Don said, fighting to keep a professional detachment, to keep the growing worry from his voice. "Who else is in there?"
"We have eight other names, all people known to have been in the offices that we can't currently locate." He handed over a list.
Don hurriedly perused the names but didn't recognise any, other than Charlie. He passed the list over to Megan. "The officer said you were just talking to the offender. Any new demands?"
"No. I've told him you're here. He just insisted on speaking to you."
Don stepped forward. "Let's do it."
Markham held out a restraining hand. "It's not that simple. That's why it took so long. He wants to speak to you in person. He point blank refuses to speak with you otherwise."
Don and his team exchanged glances.
"He wants you." Megan said. "This is personal, you could be the target."
"That's what we think as well." Markham agreed. He paused then continued, sounding reluctant. "He has offered us some hostages if you go up but has threatened to start killing them if you don't."
"Doesn't sound like I've got a choice." Don said after a few seconds thought. "He just wants to talk? No exchange?"
"He's just asked for face-to-face. No mention of exchange. You know the policy on that."
The agent nodded. The policy the LAPD officer was referring to was standard across the country, regardless of whether it was a small town Sheriff's Department or Federal Agency. No exchange of a LEO for hostages. It created too much of a problem for those trying to resolve the situation. It was next to impossible to be impartial when a fellow officer was the hostage.
Don knew that he wasn't being impartial himself at the moment. He had every intention of doing what the offender wanted, to go and negotiate in person. Charlie couldn't be reached and with an increasing sense of dread Don was sure that his brother was caught up in this. He had to be, with the one and only demand being that Don present himself to the offender it was no coincidence that Charlie couldn't be reached. By going up there he could eyeball the hostages, maybe even get some of them out. More importantly, he could confirm for himself if Charlie was one of them.
"Alright. Tell him I'm coming." Don announced his decision.
"Do you think that's wise?" Megan asked, following him to the back of his SUV as the LAPD officer went back into the command truck.
"You heard Markham." Don stated as he pulled out a Kevlar vest and with Megan's help strapped it on. "The offender's going to let some of them go if I do this. Or shoot them if I don't."
"I don't like it."
"Make that 'we' don't like it." David butted in. Colby nodded.
"This is the quickest way to find out if Charlie is up there."
"All the more reason not to do this." Megan insisted. "If he is in there then you'll loose your objectivity." If you haven't lost it already, was the unspoken rider.
The door to the command truck opened and Markham leaned out. "Agent Eppes? He's waiting for you."
"See the SWAT Commander at the building. He'll escort you in." Markham pointed at the entrance to the math wing.
Don tugged at the vest, settling it in place. He was wearing the lightweight black vest, he figured it was less threatening than the full tactical vest he normally wore festooned with guns. At the thought he touched the holster at his hip ensuring the weapon was snugly in place. There was no demand that he go up unarmed. He looked at Megan. "You're in charge. Start poking around, see what you can dig up. Help Markham's boys."
Megan looked like she still wanted to argue so Colby chimed in, "Sure thing, Don."
Don was already walking away.
The SWAT Commander met him at the main doors. The officer had a small microphone in his hand that he clipped to back of Don's vest, out of casual sight. It would allow them to listen in. A minute or two later they were standing at the fire exit on the second floor. The SWAT team were holding at that position, hidden from the hall by the door.
"Where is the closest team?" Don asked after the SWAT Commander finished briefing him on the layout beyond the door.
"Right here. There's no other cover." He tapped his earpiece. "We'll be listening and will come in hot if you call."
"Okay. Thanks." Don took a deep breath and stepped cautiously out into the deserted hallway.
Third room along, the Commander had said. It was the only room with a closed door, all the others were open. There were some papers strewn on the floor along with some bags that looked like they'd been tossed aside. All signs of a hasty evacuation. Don stopped a few feet shy of the door. He could see shadows but nothing more through the frosted glass. The name printed on the glass matched one of the names on the list Markham had shown him.
"This is Special Agent Eppes of the FBI." He finally called out raising his hands to shoulder height so he would not appear threatening.
There were sounds of movement then the door opened a crack. A frightened eye peered out. Don smiled in reassurance as the girl stared at him. She looked young, most probably a student. The door closed again for a minute. There were more sounds of movement before it opened again. This time it was swung wide by the same girl.
"He w-wants to see you." She said, voice quavering.
"What's your name?" Don asked gently as he moved carefully closer.
Another name from the list. "It's going to be okay, Tracey."
She chewed at her lower lip, glancing nervously back into the room. It didn't seem as though she believed him, but Don could understand that. As he stepped closer she retreated until she joined a small group standing in the middle of the room. Don stopped in the middle of the hall, in clear view of the room.
It was a moment before Don could see the offender, hidden as he was behind the group of hostages. He was of slight to medium build, dressed in clothing that wouldn't stand out on campus. He was Caucasian but that was about as far as Don could go, the man's face was obscured by a balaclava and the upper half of his body by his jacket. The rest of the offender was hidden.
The gun he was holding was as plain as day, however. But it was a little odd. Unlike most HTs that Don had dealt with this one did not have the silver semi-automatic pistol pressed firmly against the side of a hostage's head. The weapon was being held up and not pointed at anyone in particular, not even him. HT's seemed to fall into two categories, those that were afraid and those that were on a power trip. Both as a result aimed their weapons at the hostages, or at a police officer confronting them, never at the ceiling. The weapon was still a threat however and the HT had to be treated accordingly.
Frowning slightly Don searched the faces identifying Tracey, two other females and two males. Neither male was Charlie. Don felt his hopes soar, Charlie just had his phone turned off, or he'd forgotten to charge it again. His professional detachment returned. Seven pairs of eyes continued to stare at each other until finally Don decided it was up to him to break the silence. "You wanted to speak to me?"
The voice was hoarse but understandable, sounding disappointed. Or was that hopeful? Surely it couldn't be both. Don concentrated on what he was here to do. "You promised to release some hostages."
"Yes." The offender agreed. "You are alone?"
That was not a question that any cop wanted to answer, particularly if it was effectively true. Don suddenly had a bad feeling about the situation but was determined to play it out. If hostages were likely to be released then he would take the risk. "Yes."
There was a long moment of silence until the offender ordered: "Go."
The hostages made a concerted rush for the door, forcing Don to step further back out of the way as they exited the room. Don pointed to the fire exit and watched as they were greeted by the SWAT team. He counted then suddenly realised that all five hostages were out.
He turned back quickly and saw just the offender, alone in the room. It would be a few moments before the SWAT team were free of the hostages, two of whom were hysterical and were crowding the fire exit doorway. The offender no longer had any protection or leverage. Don drew his weapon and stepped forward into the room, following as the offender retreated. As he cleared the doorway the offender stopped, his gun held at his side. They were separated by only a couple of yards and a desk.
"Drop your weapon." Don ordered. His own weapon was raised and aimed steadily, centre mass, at the offender. He had the advantage, he was ready to fire but the offender wasn't.
A moment later the advantage was gone.
The offender slowly raised his spare hand and tugged at the balaclava, pulling it from his head. His face was still obscured for a moment until he shook the curls free. Dark brown curls. The face lifted and the offender looked at him with familiar puppy-dog eyes.