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.
When they made their way around the last bend and came within full sight of the parking lot Don was surprised to see the Sheriff and four deputies still there. It must have been an advance party that had headed up the trail with just a couple of deputies. There was a shout and a sudden flurry of activity, they'd been spotted. Two deputies moved sideways to give themselves more room and drew their weapons. The third man sprinted for the marked car and Don saw him grab a rifle bag before ducking down behind it. The fourth on the far side of the Sheriff's 4WD stayed where he was. A map sitting on the bonnet of the vehicle around which they'd all just been clustered blew away in the light breeze.
Andy swore before grabbing Don firmly around his shoulders, pulling him up against him as a shield. The gun pressed against the side of his head. Tammy pulled free of Don's support and ducked in behind them. Andy pushed his hostage and they slowly moved forwards out onto the dirt parking lot.
Sheriff Towers walked calmly forward as they continued to advance. Finally they stopped a few yards apart.
"Sheriff." Don responded in kind.
"So, what're you doing?" The Sheriff's tone was light. He was also apparently ignoring Andy.
"Oh, nothing. The usual. What brings you up this way?" Don was a little surprised at the Sheriff's tactics but played along.
"Your friends there actually. But since you have it all under control…"
"I wouldn't dream of stepping on your toes, Sheriff." The agent replied. By the way the kid's grip tightened around his shoulders Don knew that their light hearted bantering was annoying him. If he was annoyed he wouldn't be thinking things through properly. That could work to their advantage, or it might not. He would have to rely on the Sheriff's judgement. "It's your jurisdiction."
"In that case, do you mind if we take it from here?"
"Not at all."
"Shut up!" Andy had finally had enough. He wasn't being taken seriously enough for his liking. "Everyone shut up."
"That's the problem with young folks today, too damn rude." Towers commented.
"Impatient too." Don added despite the pistol being pressed more firmly into his temple. His tone was light but his eyes were serious, staring at Towers. "He has places he wants to be."
"Where is that precisely?"
"Get your keys out." Andy growled into Don's ear, ignoring the question.
Don obediently reached into his pocket and pulled out the keys to his SUV holding them up. They were snatched from his hand by Tammy.
"Tammy's getting into the Fed's car. No one tries to stop her."
"Sure thing, son. Not a problem." Towers acknowledged. The girl wasn't armed, they could deal with her at their leisure.
Tammy stopped after a couple of yards and looked confused, staring at the vehicles arranged around the parking lot. Along with the vehicles Don had spotted earlier and his SUV there were a few other vehicles from other hikers. The same one's he had seen yesterday as he'd arrived. Those hikers would still be on the trail somewhere, not likely to have headed in so early.
"The black suburban." Don supplied helpfully. "The one with the government tags."
Tammy found the vehicle he was talking about and limped painfully over to it. The fourth deputy kept pace with her, his weapon up and aimed at her which clearly made her nervous. She managed to unlock the door and climbed in. A moment later the engine started and Don watched her slide across to the passenger seat. The deputy moved around to keep her in his sights. She may have appeared to be unarmed but they weren't going to take any chances.
"Planning on going for a drive?" Towers asked Don as the suburban idled in the background.
"So it seems. Not really on my list of things to do today. I was kinda looking forward to your roast dinner."
"I'm afraid that's off, Agent. Other pressing matters."
"Sorry to hear that." Don was carefully watching Towers' face for clues, a flick of the eyes one way and then the other. Don moved his own gaze and saw the two officers inching forwards into position. Andy was letting them get way too close, distracted by the way his hostage and the local police were ignoring him. Don glanced back at the Sheriff, the man's eyes narrowing as his body tensed ever so slightly. The agent looked behind Towers and saw the sharpshooter positioned over the bonnet of the marked car a short distance away. From that range he couldn't miss. "Anything I can do to help?"
"Shut up!" Andy repeated giving his hostage a slight shake. "We're leaving. Anyone tries anything and I shoot him."
"You've got a long drive ahead of you." Towers stated. It would be fairly obvious that LA was the most probable destination. "How was your night?"
Don got it immediately. Time started to slow as he prepared himself. They started to move forward towards his SUV. "Restless." He answered letting the Sheriff know that he understood.
It would have to be now, any longer and Andy would figure it out. As they took the next step they were off balance for just an instant. Don went limp, dropping all his body weight suddenly onto the restraining arm around his shoulders. Andy wasn't prepared and was unable to support the unexpected weight. Don dropped free leaving the kid totally exposed to the sharpshooter. Don rolled to put as much space between him and Andy as he could.
Instead of a shot he heard a scuffle. He sat up to see two deputies wrestling with Andy, the .22 semi-automatic lying on the ground nearby. It must have been jarred out of Andy's hand as Don had dropped. It was over in seconds, Andy was no match for the two burly deputies. Don climbed to his feet and dusted himself off.
"Are you okay Don?" Towers asked, concerned.
"I'm good." Don watched as the two deputies finished securing Andy. He looked over towards his SUV to see that the other deputy had pulled Tammy from the idling vehicle and was locking handcuffs around her wrists as well. "So what's the story with these two anyway? I got the impression that Andy shot Tammy's father."
"He did. The old man died this morning." Sheriff Towers answered all trace of the light hearted bantering gone.
"Oh." He'd hoped it wasn't as serious as all that. "When did all this go down?"
"Just after you left yesterday. If I'd known then that they were likely to head up this trail instead of hightailing it out of town…"
"You couldn't have known, otherwise you would have had your men on the trail just behind me." Don told the man, he had no reason to feel any guilt over Don's misadventure. "What led you to think they were here to start a search now?"
"We spoke to their friends. Turns out they always came up here, more so when they were having problems with their families. I figured this more than qualified. After we'd finally got that bit of information this morning I came up here to scout it out and found their car abandoned a short distance away. We got a preliminary search party together and you know the rest."
"Where'd the kid get a gun?"
"It belonged to Tammy's father. Seems the two got into a wrestle over the gun and her dad lost."
"Not premeditated then?"
"No. Seems that one thing led to the other."
"They didn't really tell me what happened but that's the feeling I got. Andy was trying to figure out everything on the fly."
"Andrew Archer and Tammy Moran. Young love and a disapproving father finally led to this." Towers said sadly. Deputies closed car doors after the pair. Where Andy and Tammy were going they were unlikely to be opening or closing their own doors for years. "What a waste."
"Been brewing for a while?"
"You could say that, but no one ever expected this."
"No one does." Don said in sympathy. He clapped the Sheriff on the shoulder to break him out of his reverie. "I'll follow you in."
As they headed out of the campground they stopped briefly as the Sheriff encountered some vehicles bringing more searchers to the area. The other vehicles let them pass before turning around and following them back to town. They then went their separate ways as Don followed the Sheriff to his office.
"You know, Agent Eppes, I think I will have to start putting more men on when you come to town."
"How's that?" Don was climbing into his suburban ready to head back down to LA and his apartment. It was late. He'd helped the Sheriff arrange for the two prisoners to be transported to a holding facility in Los Angeles before typing up his statement. It was now well and truly dark and actually not that far off midnight. If things had gone to plan he should have been home by now.
"Humph!" Clearly the FBI agent was missing the point. "You've been up here how many times now?"
"So now two of those times you've found an armed offender." Towers summarised, leaning in through his window.
"It wasn't my fault Megan and I stumbled on the crop sitter. You sent us there." His voice was mild, the accusation an in-joke now. "And anyway, this time they found me."
"What are the odds of that?"
Don laughed despite having those same thoughts earlier. "If you talked to Charlie I'm sure he would be happy to work that out for you. He thinks there is some special anomaly that surrounds me." Don had brought Charlie up once to visit and he'd got on famously with young Max.
"I think I have to agree with him on that." Towers looked at him appraisingly. "You're planning on driving down to LA now?"
"Sure. I've had my relaxing weekend away." He allowed a degree of sarcasm to creep in. "I've got to go to work in the morning."
"I'd say you were owed some time in lieu. Stay with me tonight, I guarantee you a breakfast to remember. You can drive in to your office after the rush hour traffic. I'll even write your boss a note if you want." The last was added with a twinkle in his eye.
'Time in lieu', now there was a concept that didn't get much use. Don briefly tried to work out just how much time was owed him but gave up. It definitely required higher level math and Charlie wasn't here. And that was just considering the last month. He stifled a yawn as he realised he really was tired. He mustered the energy for a grin; playing hookey definitely had its appeal. "Why not? If it's not too much trouble for Sandra?"
"Not at all, we always keep the spare room made up. Being a small town Sheriff I pick up all sorts of strays. I'll meet you there."
Don's head hit the pillow twenty minutes later. Two minutes after that he was asleep and dreaming about breakfast.
A/N: And we're done. A little off the wall but that is how Towers wanted to play it. Thanks for all the reviews.