Disclaimer; Numb3rs belongs to those who created it – not me.

Warnings; mild language and mild implications of violence

No spoilers

All of the above remain in effect for the duration of this story.

A/N; Just a small adventure with a little bit of fun and a lot of angst. This is my first intentional multi-chaptered story. (six in all) Hope you enjoy.

Summary; No one is laughing when a practical joke takes a serious turn

For A Good Cause

chapter one

Don Eppes signed his name on the bottom of the check and returned his pen to his jacket pocket. He tore the check carefully from the rest of the checkbook and handed it to his friend and fellow law enforcement officer, Lt. Gary Walker, of the LAPD gang division.

"Are you sure this is how you want to do this, Eppes?" Walker asked, taking the check from the agent's hand. "This isn't exactly normal procedure in this situation."

Don nodded. "Yeah, Gary. I'm sure. In fact, I added a little more than I originally planned on." He changed the timbre of his voice slightly, punctuating each word carefully, so there would be no mistaking what he was about to say. "I want the Full Monty. I want him arrested, searched, cuffed, and read his rights. Make it as real as you can. And I want it done this morning, in front of everybody."

Walker looked at the amount of the check and whistled. He shook his head and remarked. "I guess you are serious." Then, to be sure the FBI agent was fully aware of what was about to happen, he explained. "You understand we'll only hold him for a couple of hours or so, and bail will be set when he is booked. It can be paid anytime after the first hour that he is in custody."

Don nodded in agreement. He turned his wrist and looked at his watch. "Do you need anything else from me? If not, I'd better get back to work." The unspoken word "alibi" hung between them and they both grinned.

Walker shook his head. "No, I'll take it from here. I'll have the warrant filled out for his arrest and a unit will roll on it immediately. We should have him locked up in less than two hours."

Don nodded again, then extended his hand. "Thanks, Gary. I owe you one."

"No problem, Eppes. We appreciate your support and generous donation."

As Don turned to leave, Gary asked him one more question. "Do you want me to call you when he is in custody?"

A thin, playful smile crept across Don's face and he shook his head slowly. "No, I plan to be very busy today. I think it's best that I keep my distance from this one. I'm going to call Mildred Finch, though, the head of the mathematics department at CalSci, and let her know what's going on."

Gary nodded in silent approval and Don headed for the door.

Walker sat down at his computer and began to fill in the information requesting an arrest warrant. In a short time, it was on it's way to dispatch and a minute later the call went out to the nearest unit to CalSci University for the arrest and apprehension of Professor Charles Eppes.

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Nelson Clark, a second year math student at CalSci, sat in the back of the lecture hall, and watched the doorway with anxious anticipation. He glanced one more time at his watch and grinned. This could be his day. He felt lucky.

The students that attended Professor Eppes' weekly 9 AM lecture on Fluid Dynamics had recently started a small betting pool, for lunch money, based on the time of his arrival. The professor usually rushed in, disheveled and disorganized, a few minutes late, and began the lecture slightly out of breath. He was never more than 5 minutes late, so the times available for the pool had been broken into increments of minutes and seconds. Today, Nelson had drawn 4 minutes 22 seconds. When 4 minutes passed, and the seconds continued to tick away, he sat back in his chair, accepting the probability that he would have to dip into his own meager supply of money for lunch.

When the door to the lecture hall opened at 4 minutes, 20 seconds past 9, Nelson sat up with interest, but it was Dr. Mildred Finch who came in, not Professor Eppes. She walked in with purpose, her stride strong and determined, and stopped abruptly when she saw the lecture podium empty. She looked at the students and gave them a small, awkward smile, but didn't offer any other explanation. The door opened again, at 4 minutes, 36 seconds, and this time, instead of Professor Eppes, it was two LAPD officers. Dr. Finch turned to the students, then, and uttered a cautionary and mysterious, "All is not what it seems."

Every student in the hall watched with peaked curiosity as one of the policemen spoke to Dr. Finch. "We are looking for Professor Charles Eppes."

With a conspiratorial smile, she answered. "It would appear Dr. Eppes is running a little late this morning, gentlemen. I'm sure . . ."

The door opened a third time and Charlie Eppes breezed into the room, his head bent with the effort of carrying two back packs, one actually on his back, and the other hanging off his arm, which also held nearly a ream of loose, jumbled papers against his chest.

"Good morning." He spoke to his students, no hint of apology for his tardiness evident in his smile, then stopped when he noticed the trio of unexpected guests.

"Professor Eppes?"

The sight of two policemen and his department head standing in his lecture hall gave Charlie a start. The implications took his breath away and he dropped everything to the floor, staggering backwards.

" N...No." he stuttered.

Millie was already moving forward, expecting this reaction, her hands in front of her in a placating gesture. "No, Charlie. Everything is alright. Alan and Don are fine. It's alright. It's not what you think."

Taking a deep breath and allowing the oxygen to his brain again, Charlie looked expectantly to her, hoping for a more detailed explanation. It was one of the policemen who gave it. "Charles Eppes. You're under arrest."

"I'm what!?"

The two officers moved toward him. "You're under arrest, sir. Please turn around and put your hands on the wall."

Shocked, Charlie offered no resistance as they turned him towards the wall and began a systematic search, beginning with his arms and chest. When they reached his hips, though, he reacted and tried to turn around again. Strong arms prevented him from doing that, and they continued the search, patting their way down his legs.

"Wait a minute!" he cried, indignantly. He turned towards them again as they finished. "There's been some kind of a mistake."

"No mistake sir. We have a warrant for your arrest. I suggest you come with us quietly."

"On what charge?" he demanded.

Neither officer answered. They reached for him again and turned him around once more. With movements that had been honed through training and experience, they had his hands behind his back and the handcuffs snapped in place before he could react.

"Is that really necessary?" Millie frowned, uncertain, as she watched one of the officers take Charlie by the arm.

"Yes, Ma'am. We were told specifically to make sure he was restrained."

"Millie. Call Don." He looked at the two officers again and in his best my big brother can beat up your big brother voice, he said; "My brother is an FBI agent. He'll straighten all of this out."

"I don't think Don's going to be much help, Charlie." Millie answered, weakly.

"Of course, he can help. Just tell him I've been arrested for. . . wait a minute." He turned back to the two policemen, anger emanating from every pore." You still haven't told me what the charge is."

"That would be ' destruction of personal property', sir."

"Destruction of . . . what the hell?"

"I believe the warrant reads "Suspect willfully and maliciously removed Miss December from the center of a 1986 issue of Playboy belonging to the plaintiff, said suspects 16 year old brother, causing mental anguish and preventing the physical and emotional release necessary to a normal teenage male."

Charlie stared, silently, wide eyed and open mouthed, at the two men.

There were a few snickers from the students and Charlie turned to them. Audrey Bennett, a pretty 19 year old in the second row spoke up. "I know what this is." she said, smiling. "This is the fund raising thing, isn't it?"

"Fund raising?" Charlie asked in an irritable tone.

"Yeah. We used to do this back in Ohio." another student said. "Police fund raiser, right?

"Enlighten me." Charlie all but growled.

"You make a donation to the police department or a special charity and you select someone you want to have arrested. I think they even make up a fake arrest warrant and everything. They take them down to the police station and they hold them there for a few hours, then they can be bailed out. It made our police department lots of money when they did it. People love to have other people arrested."

Charlie turned first to the two silent officers, then Millie, fire all but shooting out of his eyes. "Is that what this is? Somebody paid to have me..." A rush of realization hit him and he blurted out, " DON paid to have me arrested, didn't he?''

Millie winced at the fury she saw in her colleague's manor. "Now Charlie, it's . . ."

Beyond angry now, he turned to the policemen. "What if I refuse to go? What if I refuse to be a part of this . . . insanity?"

Millie chuckled. With her voice full of soothing humor, she entreated, "Charlie, come on, it's for a good cause."

He looked at her, his expression one of disbelief but decidedly calmer than it had been.

"All of the proceeds this year," one of the officers finally said, "are going to the WSF Fund, for widows, spouses and families of officers killed or injured in the line of duty."

Charlie sobered. He remembered just last month an officer Don knew well had been injured in a high speed chase with a drug dealer. The officer survived the horrible crash but would have to spend months in therapy with the possibility of never being able to return to police work. He had three young children.

Charlie hung his head, slightly embarrassed by his earlier actions, but still harboring a feeling of righteousness. If he had known that this was planned he would have gone along with it, and not made such a commotion. It wasn't the joke or the laughs that his brother had been after, he knew, it was the embarrassment and humiliation of having him arrested in his classroom, where he worked, where he was the "math god". The same feeling Don would experience if this had been done to him in his FBI cubicle, in front of his fellow agents.

Charlie raised his head, a small self conscious smile forming across his face and he addressed the two policemen. "Alright, gentlemen." he acceded. " Do your duty." He turned once again to students, his usual good humor restored. "Under the circumstances I would say class is dismissed." At the resounding cheer, he said loudly, "Go. Spread the word around campus. I want to see all of you at the police station bailing me out." With a final lopsided smile, he teased, " Your final grade could depend on it."

As the students gathered their belongings and hurried toward the door, Nelson Clark suddenly realized in all the commotion, no one noticed the exact time the professor had walked in. He watched the policemen usher Professor Eppes out of the room and wondered about the practicality of practical jokes. Nelson was an only child and he had no experience in the workings of a sibling relationship. He did, however, have four cousins on his mother's side, that took practical jokes to extreme levels. He had seen many of those backfire, affecting both the joker and the intended victim. He hoped this little practical joke didn't backfire on the professor and his brother. He liked the unconventional and energetic teacher, so even though he didn't win this week's betting pool, he decided he would scrape enough money together to help bail him out.

tbc

A/N; the fun is over; the angst begins