Numb3rs: Child's Play
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.
Spoilers – Black Swan 4.13, Backscatter 2.22, One Hour 3.17. Also mention of a character from my fic "Wildfire", although it is not necessary to read that first.
There was a sudden slam of car doors followed immediately by a loud squeal of tyres from the street. The unexpected noises intruded into his thoughts. He frowned, automatically glancing up at the clock on the wall in the kitchen as he prepared their dinner. It was just after seven o'clock. He next realised that too much time had passed. Something wasn't right, it shouldn't take this long.
Standing he made his way to the door and pulled it open. Peering out into the darkness he didn't see the form of his brother as he expected. He saw the trash bin standing at the curb and that was where his brother was supposed to be. He flipped on the porch light and stepped forward, the light spilling out and illuminating the front of the house and the sidewalk most of the way to the road.
There on the edge of the concrete path was a sign that all was not well. The plastic bag from the kitchen was lying on the ground, some of the contents spilled out over the grass and path. Cautiously he glanced up and then down the sidewalk before moving forwards to make a closer inspection. The path was clear, as was the road, no traffic aside from a set of taillights just now disappearing around a corner some distance away. The road was marked with a black streak disappearing after a few yards, clear sign that a vehicle had taken off in a hurry just as he'd heard.
He refocused his attention back to the ground around the plastic bag and the scattered rubbish that had spilled out. Nothing much to go on there. He moved towards the bin and the road scanning the ground carefully before he finally saw it. There was a dark spot on the path next to a dark smear, a spot that glistened in the light.
Denying what he was seeing he nonetheless crouched and reached out with a shaking hand to dip one finger tentatively into the spot. He slowly raised the finger and took a sniff. The coppery tang of blood was all too strong. He rubbed his finger with his thumb and the resultant red smear set his conclusion in stone. It was blood, his brother's blood. He quickly looked around at the front of the house at the vehicles parked there. All was as it should be. His brother had been taken, there was no other explanation.
There was no time to waste, with speed that had moments before seemed impossible he leapt to his feet and raced back to the house. It took a moment to locate his cell. Pressing the speed dial he paced as he waited for the agent to answer.
His head was killing him.
That was the first thing he noticed. Then, that it was pitch black and he was lying on his back on something cold and hard, probably concrete. The unforgiving surface was also making him uncomfortable as his position caused his hands to be crushed beneath him. He tried to adjust that, tried to pull his hands out from under him but couldn't. That revealed the next small piece of information, although as information went it was the most serious of all so far. He was bound.
He was also not alone.
All around him were whispers, comments and sounds of movement that indicated that there were quite a few others here with him. Wherever the hell here was. He shook his head trying to clear out some of the cobwebs, risking the resultant stabs of pain. As the sharp throbbing subsided he realised there had been a change. The whispers and movement around him had stopped. He was not surprised that they knew he was awake after all, his movements showing his change in consciousness would have been hard to miss.
Regretting that this wasn't some action story where the hero knew he was unconscious and was able to continue to feign that state upon waking he laid still now, waiting to see what was going to happen next. As he stopped moving something soft drifted onto his face and after his involuntary flinch he realised he had the answer to another question. The reason it was dark was because dark cloth, a bag or something like it, had been placed over his head. Concentrating he could see faint points of light through the tight weave of the fabric. But that was all.
After a few more seconds there was finally movement, someone was approaching him. A moment later there were several more footsteps as others also moved in. Unable to tell exactly who was approaching or what they were intending to do he waited, outwardly calm and relaxed. He felt anything but passive, he knew only a little of what was happening but it was more than enough to have his heart racing and his breathing harsh and a touch ragged as a result. He couldn't control the adrenalin reaction. He was bound, he was hooded and he was captive. More than enough to scare anyone, even him.
A hand suddenly grabbed the front of his shirt. Other hands reached for his shoulders and a few seconds later he was pulled up until he was sitting and held in position. Unable to see and without knowing anything useful about his immediate environment he didn't offer any resistance. A moment later he realised just how wise that decision had been. He felt someone crouch behind him and then an arm settled over his right shoulder. The next sensation raised the stakes higher. Cold and sharp, a knife blade was laid against his throat.
"Hello, old man." A voice taunted as a hand pulled at the hood over his head.
The cloth swept up and off, the sudden relatively bright light causing fingers of pain to stab deeply into his skull. He blinked after not seeing more than a silhouette of someone crouching in front of him. Screwing his eyes shut he rode out the pain before forcing them open again, willing them to adjust quickly to the light. Some more blinks and he could see again.
"This isn't him!"
The one in front of him backed off suddenly before standing and staring accusingly at the others.
For the first time the captive could see his assailants. He couldn't believe it. The one who'd spoken was perhaps all of seventeen years old and that was being generous, sixteen was probably more accurate. The boy was skinny and dressed in baggy jeans and a sweatshirt under an old jacket. In his right hand was an open switchblade. That made the tally now two knives.
Moving his gaze the captive looked at each of the boy's accomplices in turn. In the process he observed that aside from one boy in a baseball outfit, the others were all dressed similarly to the first. The closest the boys came to having 'colours' as best he could tell. A modicum of relief, they were not one of the hard-core gangs that he would have recognised instantly. That meant however that they were a complete unknown. Well, not completely, he corrected himself as he barely managed to keep his jaw from dropping. Every single one of the ten other boys was younger than the first. He'd been taken down by kids?
He remembered now a little of what had happened. He'd been in the house and then decided to do his bit taking out the trash from the full bin in the kitchen. It was already dark outside and he'd not seen anything untoward as he approached the trashcan already out on the sidewalk waiting the next days collection. The faint scuff behind him was all he'd heard before a heavy blow to the back of his head sent him sprawling. All he'd seen then were bright lights behind his eyes before another blow and then nothing.
There was an explanation for what had struck him, several of the boys were holding baseball bats and a third had another knife. They may all have been children ranging in age from about thirteen up to the eldest at sixteen or seventeen but there were eleven of them in total. They were also armed. Against those odds, especially in his restrained condition, he was in serious trouble. He was also at a total loss as to what possible motivation the kids could have had to attack him.
"What do you mean it isn't him?" A voice demanded from amongst the circle. "You said grab the old dude. This is the old dude."
"No it isn't." The first boy insisted. "There are two dudes that live there, father and son. This isn't the old one."
The next voice came from the as yet unseen boy holding the knife to his throat. "There were two guys there. This one was the oldest."
Listening in continued silence the captive came to the conclusion that the intended target had to have been his father. Someone had obviously staked out the house for long enough to have a general idea who lived there. Then it seemed that the order had been given for the boys to attack the eldest man. He'd unwittingly stepped outside at just the right moment. His father was away, it was just him and his brother at the house tonight, making him the eldest at the house when the boys made their move.
"Aargh!" The first boy threw his hands up in the air and paced away a few steps in obvious frustration. He turned back. "We needed the really old man. He's like a hundred. Not just old like this dude."
The hand with the switchblade flicked out at the captive, emphasising his last phrase. The boy stepped closer before coming to a halt a few steps away, staring down at the seated man. For his part the captive simply stared back, awaiting developments.
"So what do we do now?" Another voice from the circle questioned. This one cracked, both from the stress and his tender age. There was general silence in response.
"Now you let me go." The captive had decided that enough was enough as the silence lengthened; clearly the boys were at a loss. The knife against his throat pressed harder and he resisted the urge to swallow in response. The blade's pressure was firm enough that it could cut him if he moved. A moment later he realised it was too late, the boy behind him shifted and there was a sting followed by a slow, warm trickle moving down his neck. Another piece of information for his collection, the knife at his throat was very sharp.
"Ease up." The older boy said suddenly. "You've cut him."
"So?" The tone didn't quite match the uncaring word.
"He's not the right dude."
The unseen boy hesitated but eventually moved the knife away slightly. The captive could still see it hovering below his jaw but it was no longer pressing against his skin. A minor but definite improvement, he could breathe a little easier. Seeing movement in his peripheral vision he looked up as the eldest boy squatted back in front of him.
"So who are you?"
Now the captive hesitated. He'd left the house without his ID, he hardly needed to have it on him while putting the trash in the bin. He hadn't had anything else on him either, rare for him but from time to time it happened. After the long day he'd had he'd just gone inside the house and divested himself of everything, deciding to be a citizen for the few hours he'd be at the house. At this point he wasn't sure if revealing who, or rather what, he was would be wise. Not until he had more information. Perhaps just his name would suffice for now.
"My name is Don." He kept his tone bland. "Who are you?"