Numb3rs: Critical Identity
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: This was conceived and mostly written before Chinese Box. It is just a coincidence that David got himself into the same mess twice. And now, all will be revealed…
Megan watched in disbelief as Don dragged David behind some shelves. Don seemed convinced that he had killed an agent and was now desperate to escape. Desperate enough to take an agent hostage and threaten him. Don clearly had amnesia as David had stated, probably caused by the wound to his head. But there was no way she could accede to his demand and let him leave the mall. Aside from his wound, it was obvious that Don was just too dangerous. Megan had to find another way to resolve this. She backed off to where she could watch the front of the store but not be seen from Don's location. She holstered her gun and pulled out her phone pressing the speed dial.
"Colby, have you searched Lawson?" Her words were clipped and precise.
"Not yet." The other agent answered. "We're still waiting for the crime scene photographer to get here."
"Search him now. I think he might have taken Don's ID."
"Stand-by." Colby said. A few moments passed and he came back on the line. "Got it, Don's ID was in Lawson's pocket."
"Get it over to me urgently. I'm outside the Allsports store in E-Hall."
"It's on its way."
Good man, he could tell it was important by the tone of her voice and didn't waste time asking questions. "Are the EMTs there yet?"
"Waiting here with me."
"Tell them to be ready to move to my location when I give the word, we might need them fast."
Megan snapped her phone closed. She paced back and forth checking her watch as she waited. Time was passing. Almost three minutes since Don's demand and his five minute time limit. She had no doubt he would stick to it. David was in real danger.
"Here." Megan turned to see a uniform running towards her. The man handed over a slim leather wallet. Don's ID.
"What's going on?"
"Hostage situation. Agent Eppes has been wounded and is suffering amnesia. He thinks he's killed an agent and has taken Agent Sinclair hostage for free passage out." She explained tersely.
The officer, by the stripes on his sleeve an experienced man, nodded. "How do you want to play it?"
"I'm going to try talking to him again, see if I can convince him who and what he is." Megan held up Don's ID.
"Do you want me to call for SWAT?"
"No!" Megan wanted to avoid that if at all possible. She saw the officer's reaction and explained. "I want to try this first. If it doesn't work then we'll have to call them in." The officer nodded, knowing now that she was considering all the options and not just reacting. She went to the front of the store. "Don?"
"Is my car ready?" Don's voice floated back over the display shelves.
"Can I come in?"
"No!" Don sounded somewhat incredulous that she would even suggest such a thing.
Knowing that it was a serious risk Megan pulled the weapon from her holster and handed it to the LAPD officer. "Don, I'm unarmed. I have something to show you."
"Unless it fits into the ignition of a car I'm not interested."
She saw movement then a head peered around the aisle down which she'd last seen the two agents. Lifting her hands she stepped forward. If it would get her in then, "I have keys as well."
The head disappeared, there were some scuffing noises and David was pushed forwards slightly. Taking that as acceptance she turned to the officer. "Cover me. Remember he is one of ours, only shoot if absolutely necessary." It was hard but she had to acknowledge the possibility that the officer may have to fire on her boss.
The officer pulled out his service weapon, the safety clicking off. "I understand."
Megan stepped forward slowly but purposefully, she was going in. She saw David's gaze shift to the leather wallet in her left hand and recognise it for what it was.
"That's, that's far enough." Don instructed. He sounded a bit rocky.
She stopped. From this distance, a mere three metres away, she could see how unwell Don was. His face was pale with blood oozing from the wound above his left ear. From the way Don was holding David it looked like he was a support as much as a shield. Don's gun hand was trembling and it looked like he was having trouble keeping himself awake. Megan could see however that even though he didn't remember who he was he still had the stamina and determination that was all Don. She would have to tread carefully, it could easily go bad in a big way. She was acutely aware of the LAPD officer somewhere behind her and that he would be drawing a bead on Don's head.
"Don, I want you to look at this." Megan raised her left hand presenting Don's ID, open for his inspection. He looked at it but there was no reaction. "Don, this is you. This is your ID."
"Looks like me," Don started. He staggered a little, leaning more of his weight on David. Megan had to concentrate to understand his words, they were faint and starting to run together. "Looks a bit like the one I killed as well."
Opening her mouth to counter the argument she realised the fugitive Lawson that they'd been pursuing did in fact have a passing resemblance to Don, similar height and build and the same short dark hair.
"I want," Don started, his words slurred. He blinked and tried again. "I want the keyyyssss…"
The last word was drawn out as his eyes rolled up and he crumpled, sliding down David's back to the floor. His gun clattered beside him.
Megan and David moved at the same time, David securing the weapon and recovering his own as Megan checked Don's vitals.
"Officer, get those EMTs here!" Megan yelled out.
They rolled Don onto his side and made sure he was breathing easily as they waited. Less than a minute later two paramedics ran into the store following the police officer. The two agents backed off to give them room to work. A few minutes later the unconscious senior agent was loaded onto a stretcher and wheeled out to the waiting ambulance. The LAPD officer was sent along as a guard.
"Donny?" A soothing male voice queried.
It took him a moment but he got his mind working well enough to identify that it was his father. "Dad?"
"Yes, Don." Alan said. "Can you open your eyes for me son?"
It was a struggle but he finally managed. He frowned, from the ceiling he could tell this wasn't his room at the craftsman house. It wasn't the lounge room or even his own unit. Where else would he be lying in bed with his father in attendance? The headache didn't help him make sense of what was happening. "Where-?"
"You're in the hospital. Do you remember what happened?"
He thought about it. He remembered being at the office then getting the tip about Simon Lawson. They'd been hunting the bank robber and his crew for most of the week, Lawson was the last one they had yet to round up. They'd geared up and headed to the mall where Lawson had just been spotted. After that it was a blank. He got some flashes of running down empty mall corridors but that was it. He told his father as much. The next question surprised him.
"Do you remember who you are?"
He turned his head a little too sharply triggering some painful throbbing. Don tried to lift his left hand only to find it brought up short with a metallic clatter. He looked back at his wrist. What he saw cleared away some of the cobwebs. "What the hell is this?"
Alan looked at the handcuffs. He gently placed his hand over his son's wrist pushing downwards as he repeated his question.
Don stared at him for a moment before deciding that he would have a very good reason for asking, just as there had better be a damned good reason why he was handcuffed to the hospital bed. "My name is Donald Alan Eppes."
"And I'm about to be a very pissed off FBI agent if I don't get these cuffs off!" He jerked his hand out from under his father's, causing the cuffs to clang on the metal rail.
"Easy, son. We had to be sure you remembered." Alan stood and headed for the door.
Alan stuck his head outside and spoke softly. He stepped aside as Megan came in, followed by David, Colby and Charlie. The room was getting crowded. They all looked relieved to see him even if he was working his way up to being angry. Charlie pushed his way forwards to the side of the bed, dropping his laptop onto the little table on his way.
"Hey Bro'." Charlie greeted him.
"Are you okay?"
"I will be." Don rattled the handcuffs again pointedly even as Megan was already approaching with her keys in her hand.
As soon as his wrist was free he snatched it away, rubbing it with his right hand. "What gives?"
"Do you remember anything after we got to the mall yesterday?"
"Yesterday? It's tomorrow already?" He'd been out that long? What had happened to him?
"Son, you've been unconscious since yesterday afternoon." Alan explained. The doctor had warned him that Don would be disoriented. "It's now Saturday, just before lunch time."
"You gave us quite a scare." Charlie added.
"I gave you a scare?" Don said with not a little surprise. "I have no idea how I came to be here."
"So you don't remember anything after getting to the mall?"
"Just flashes, running mostly. The mall was empty."
"Nothing else?" Megan pressed.
"No. What happened?" He warily eyed the handcuffs that she still held. "Did I do something?"
Megan glanced at David before answering. "You could say that."
Charlie meanwhile had opened up the laptop computer that was on the table at the end of his bed and tapped a few keys. When he was ready he slid the table closer to Don and turned the computer around so he could see the screen. Don started to sit up with Alan dashing in to press the remote to raise the end of the bed.
"What have you got?" Don demanded impatiently. He needed to know what happened that could have resulted in him being handcuffed to the hospital bed. More to the point he needed to know how he came to be in the hospital in the first place.
"This is from the mall surveillance footage." Charlie explained.
"Before we get to that," Megan interrupted. "We have to get this clear. Your father says you remember leaving the office to go to the mall after Lawson, right?"
"Yeah." Don finally remembered that he had been about to raise his left hand earlier before discovering the handcuffs. He lifted his hand now to feel the bandage that wrapped around his head. The left side was especially tender. "But nothing much after that."
"You don't remember catching up to Lawson?"
He gave it some consideration. They were obviously about to show him footage which hopefully explained what happened. His recollection however had to be clear and from personal knowledge, not influence by the footage. Megan needed to know exactly what he recalled before he watched the images. "No."
"Alright, Charlie." Megan nodded at the math professor after making a notation in her notebook. "Show him."
The laptop screen opened to an overhead view down one of the halls inside the mall. The high resolution was a nice change from some of the grainy surveillance footage he'd been watching lately, making it easy for him to recognise Lawson running towards the camera. Shoppers could be seen scattering. A second figure appeared obviously in pursuit and Don recognised himself. He saw himself stop and figured that he must have been calling upon Lawson to surrender. The fugitive ignored him and continued out of camera shot.
Charlie tapped the mouse pad and another screen opened over the top of the first showing a different camera angle. Lawson was now standing still, tucked into an alcove looking back towards the corner where another hall intersected the one he was in. Don got a bad feeling; this had all the signs of an ambush. He'd been caught out like this before back at the assisted living facility when he'd had a gun smashed into the back of his head by another fugitive, Garrity. Sure enough there he was running around the corner only to have Lawson step out in front of him. He saw himself skid to a halt, Lawson's gun only a foot or so from his nose. His own weapon was useless down at his side.
He watched his mouth moving, obviously he had tried to talk his way out of it, before seeing Lawson take his gun. He handed over his vest, the badge off his belt and the contents of his pockets. He then was made to turn away, Lawson's gun jerking downwards. He went down onto one knee. Don's heart sank somewhere into his stomach as he watched the images. He could only imagine too well the thoughts that must have passed through his mind at this point. His father must have seen his reaction as Alan's hand reached for his and squeezed gently.
"It's alright Don. You're safe."
He could only nod and squeeze the hand back as his eyes were glued to the screen. Lawson was putting on the vest and slid the badge onto his own belt before pocketing Don's ID and wallet. He tucked away his own silver pistol in favour of Don's Glock.
"It looked like he was going to try to get out pretending to be an agent and using your ID." Megan summed up as the images progressed. "His appearance was close enough to yours that it might have worked."
Don noted his right arm moving, saw that he was reaching for his ankle, for his backup weapon whilst Lawson was distracted. He hadn't looked behind so he figured he must have been using the reflection from a shop window in front of him. Lawson apparently didn't notice the furtive movements. Once Lawson had finished setting himself up he turned his attention back to the agent. Don saw the fugitive's arm moving and himself looking back in response to something that Lawson must have said.
Then there was a sudden flurry of movement, almost too fast to track. Don rose swiftly to his feet, spinning and bringing up his right arm and his backup gun. There was a flash of flame from the muzzle. Both figures then dropped simultaneously to the floor, blood pouring from Lawson's head.
A few seconds later Don saw himself regain consciousness and sit up. He checked the body before reacting to something off screen and running into a nearby shop. Charlie then switched from camera to camera following Don as he hid in the store, ran away and finally to the standoff in the sports store.
Don looked over at David as the last image was frozen, that of himself unconscious on the floor. He couldn't believe what he had done but there it was in full living colour. "David, I'm sorry."
"It's cool, Don."
"Why did I do that?"
"You didn't remember who you were. You thought that Lawson was an agent and that you'd killed one of us. You were desperate to get away." David explained.
That explained the handcuffs restraining him to the hospital bed. If he woke up and was still in that frame of mind they had to ensure that he wouldn't try to escape. He went back over the images in his mind. None of it had jogged any real memories and it seemed unreal to have to rely on surveillance footage to fill in the gaps. "Wow." He said softly to himself.
"Yeah." David agreed. "Just do me one favour will you Don?"
"Don't go rogue. You are one scary bad guy."
"No chance of that." He managed to sound confident but inside he was worried. He had a fair idea what he was capable of, normally keeping that part of himself well and truly hidden and under control. He channelled those skills and that mindset to catching criminals, driving his team to achieve their spectacular clear-up rate as a result. But there were times where he had walked the knife edge, times he could have given in to temptation and taken matters into his own hands but hadn't. His team had seen some of it when Megan had been taken. Now they knew for sure and he could see the knowledge of that in their expressions. They still trusted him but it was tempered with a little wariness.
"Glad to hear it."
A/N: This was always meant to be a short tale, just a quick opposite story to Charlie's amnesia.
Real life has now intruded. I am being transferred at work, which means that I am currently selling my house and will be moving in about 4 weeks. After that there is the fun of house hunting for a new place to live. The new job will also incur a huge learning curve. Hence my time will be somewhat limited and regrettably there will likely be fewer postings over the next few months. I will be writing as much as I can so hopefully I will pop up now and then so stay tuned.
Thanks for reading and reviewing.