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 places and organisations are used in a fictional sense. Original characters and the storyline are mine however.
A/N: If you haven't read 'Flight' don't worry, there should be enough background information where needed to get you through. Let the games commence -
With a sudden flare of frustrated anger he snatched his card back. Damned ATM was on the fritz. Special Agent Don Eppes of the Los Angeles FBI eyed the glass doors off to his right with distaste. He'd been in enough banks over the last couple of weeks investigating the series of robberies that one more was one too many. He sighed and headed for the doors anyway. His informant would only take cash, not credit. The incongruous thought made him smile, in all probability if technology continued the way it was the day would soon come when informants did in fact take credit.
The smile quickly faded however, the robberies had been getting more violent and were spaced closer and closer together as time went on. They'd started just five weeks ago, the first a bank in San Francisco. A week later a second bank in the same city then a few days later the first of six in Los Angeles. Subsequently the investigation had landed on his desk just after the second LA robbery three weeks ago with a further four robberies since. His team were becoming increasingly frustrated, despite the mountains of evidence, statements and bullet casings they were no closer to identifying or apprehending the offenders.
What they did know for certain was that all the robberies were committed by the same group. Other similar robberies had occurred within the same time frame but this set was linked together by the specific style of the robberies and more strongly, the weapons used by the offenders. Kalashnikovs. A little unusual these days, most robbers used sawn-off shotguns or handguns as they were easier to conceal and the automatic rifles were significantly harder to come by.
The media of course had pounced on the distinction and had dubbed the gang 'The AK-47s'. The FBI and LAPD media sections were working furiously to prevent the AK-47s from becoming some sort of folk heroes due to the publicity. Don figured that for an uphill battle, any group waving around heavy weaponry and getting away with significant sums of money were sure to be celebrated by the less law abiding parts of the community.
The tinted glass doors swung open under his hand. Not for the first time Don wished that banks would do away with the heavy tint that many of them employed on their predominantly glass frontages. It was next to impossible for someone outside to see in, particularly as now when the morning sunlight was reflecting directly off the gold tint. Although it was probably very effective from an air-conditioning point of view, as a LEO he had to rate that as less important than basic security.
He stepped inside, automatically scanning the interior for trouble. Normal for him when entering a bank, but now it was a conscious thing since running this investigation. Unfortunately he looked left first, they were on the right.
"Take him, he's FBI!"
"Wha-?" Don barely had a chance to process the words before all thought and movement on his part stopped suddenly. He had automatically turned towards the voice and instantly froze. The barrels of two Kalashnikovs tend to do that, especially if you are the one on the business end. One was far too close, mere feet from his chest, the other rapidly approaching in the hands of a second man.
In the deep silence that followed he heard the door swing gently shut behind him. A phrase from a half remembered movie entered his mind – 'the AK-47… when you absolutely, positively got to kill every #&$! in the room'. In any situation out of a war zone the AK-47, also known as the Kalashnikov was just plain excessive. There was no arguing with such a weapon, let alone two, without some serious armour and firepower of your own. A business shirt and a Glock 22 still in the holster was no match. Not even close.
The second man stepped up and now there were two barrels hovering at arm's length from his chest. Disturbingly he noted that both men had a second magazine taped inverted and slightly offset to the one already mounted into their weapons. It seemed they were of the opinion that the thirty rounds held per individual magazine were insufficient to their needs, preferring instead to have sixty immediately available.
Without prompting Don slowly raised his arms and clasped his hands behind his head. The three men regarded each other silently for a moment before the first one stepped past and behind the agent. He heard the door latch. From the looks of things the robbery had only just started, the front door only now being secured. The AK-47s usual MO had them entering from the rear or side, working rapidly towards the front to lock down the banks. Given the weapons pointed at him and the clothing the men were wearing he was safe in his identification of whom he was facing.
The remaining man gestured sharply with the rifle and Don slowly moved deeper into the bank towards the few customers amongst the bank staff lying on the floor, covered by a third man. It was still early and the bank had only been open for a few minutes, another factor in the offenders' usual MO. The fourth man who had been climbing over the counter stopped to watch the newcomer. As Don was instructed to halt the fourth man reversed his course to approach the agent.
As with the other robbers the fourth man was wearing black jeans and jacket along with black leather gloves and a black ski-mask. The only skin showing was a little around the edges of the eyes. Even that glimpse was partially hidden behind close fitting, pale yellow shooting glasses. All were too familiar to the agent after watching and re-watching bank surveillance footage of the previous robberies. Now he was getting the privilege of watching the action from up close, an excellent opportunity to observe how the gang operated. He could think of places he would rather be.
"Down on your knees, Fed." Robber Four ordered.
With no advantage to be had by hesitating the agent silently did as instructed, keeping his hands firmly and non-threateningly clasped behind his head. Robber Two's rifle barrel settled on a spot to the right of his spine just below his shoulder. Working at keeping his breathing steady and even Don held still as Four carefully bent and removed his useless Glock.
Four moved back, tucking the weapon into his belt. "You got any other guns?"
"No." He felt a foot moving over his lower legs, Two was checking for ankle holsters.
"Clean." Two reported. The man's younger voice then took on an excited note. "You know what this means?"
"It means we need to talk." Four answered.
Don frowned. The turn of phrase in combination with the voice was suddenly familiar.
"Fed, if you so much as twitch you're dead." Two growled, punctuating his point with a painfully hard shove of the rifle barrel. "Understand?"
As the two men moved a short distance away, Don tried to place Four's voice. He'd heard the man say exactly those same words 'we need to talk' somewhere else. The problem was it was some time ago and enlightenment refused to come. He needed more information to make the connection. For the moment though there was no way to get more than whatever he could overhear or see. Both the timing and his position, Two's rifle was still pointed firmly his way, were hardly conducive to any form of interrogation by him.
Two and Four were standing just far enough away that their low tones were almost indistinguishable as words with only the odd phrase getting through. Don could just glean enough to confirm that his arrival had suddenly changed things. There was also the fact that the two robbers had seemed to know exactly who he was the moment he'd walked in the door, long before they could possibly have seen the badge on his belt partially hidden under his suit jacket. It was recognition of him personally, not just that he was a federal agent. This meant that he had to know them, definitely Four and he figured, probably Two. He concentrated, replaying the phrase over and over in his head but still no identification came to mind.
He looked around, skipping briefly over the other hostages to assure himself that there were no injuries. The other two robbers were frozen in place, apparently waiting for new instructions after this turn of events. Robber One was still near the entrance doors, the other, Robber Three was maintaining his guard position standing over the hostages.
"…perfect." Two was saying in a snatch that reached his ears. Don turned back to the two men. "We can-"
"No. We stick with the plan." Four interrupted hotly, his voice raised enough to carry clearly. He glanced over at the agent and saw that they were being watched closely. He lowered his voice and the rest of what he said was lost.
"…don't need the money this way." Two insisted a moment later.
Four hesitated and seemed to consider the point. Again he considered the agent before keeping his voice low in a mostly inaudible reply. "…do both."
By the change in his stance Two seemed happy with that idea. It was very hard to read emotions with the robbers so well concealed by their clothing but that much Don could see. He came to the unwelcome conclusion that today's heist was going to become something more.
"Right. Back to work." Four suddenly said firmly. He pointed at first at Three, then at Two. "You help me. He'll watch them and the fed."
"Fine." Three muttered, clearly unhappy at the delay as he immediately headed towards the counter. "Let's just get this done before the cops get here."
Don could only watch helplessly as Three stopped suddenly and hauled a suited woman to her feet. The woman was in her forties and immaculately presented. She had to be the branch manager, Don surmised. She was dragged over to the door fitted at the side of the counter and forced to punch in the code that unlocked it. Four simply repeated his earlier manoeuvre, climbing over the counter to meet them on the other side. The robbers had either taken control quickly enough that the tellers hadn't activated their anti-robbery screens, or had been prevented from doing so by threats against the customers. He wondered if they'd been able at least to activate the alarm, the robbers apparent haste now suggested that was a distinct possibility. The two men ignored the cashier's tills propelling the manager ahead of them towards the large steel door that stood open at the side of the bank.
He was relieved to see that the woman kept her cool and followed the robbers' orders. She would have recognised her assailants as easily as he had. During the last robbery the manager had been killed for daring to resist. The Kalashnikov had been set on full auto, at six hundred rounds per minute that meant just over half of the thirty round clip got sprayed into the hostages during that second or so, leaving two others dead and more injured. The FBI had put out an urgent advice to all staff to comply with the offenders in the event of a robbery. They money was insured and could be replaced, lives couldn't. Clearly this manager was taking the advice.
A few minutes later they returned carrying backpacks that would be filled with large denomination bills. For some reason the robbers seemed to be intent on stealing as much money as possible. They seemed not to be worried about consecutive numbering, taking some bundles of new bills along with used, nor the greater difficulty in disposing of larger denominations. That was one of the things that had struck both he and his team as being off about this crew. They were smart enough to completely disguise themselves, stick to a set format, ruthlessly deal with resistance and make a clean escape each time. Why weren't they smart enough to take only used bills in smaller denominations? Surely they would know that those bills would be next to impossible to trace when spent later.
On their side however, their unusual preference had led to an impressive haul, 1.8 million dollars and change so far. Clearly they needed an impressive sum of money and needed it quickly. Their increasing frequency of hits indicated that. Don could only wonder at what they needed the money for. In this current climate his thoughts couldn't help but wander towards some form of terrorist enterprise. A lot of weapons could be bought for that kind of money, or a few weapons of a very specialised sort. The last was what worried him the most.
"Time?" Four demanded as they moved back out to the public area. Three shoved the bank manager down to the floor and headed out towards the back preparing for their escape. Don knew there would be a yet-to-be-reported stolen van or SUV parked waiting.
Robber One glanced at his watch in obvious disgust, shaking his head as his arm dropped. "Far too long."
"Let's go." Four ordered.
"On your feet, Fed. You're coming with us." Two instructed, his rifle muzzle jerking upwards before sweeping across a short arc encompassing the people lying on the floor. "You try anything and they die. Got it?"
The agent stood, carefully keeping his hands clasped. He was not going to risk innocent lives. "Got it."
"Move." Two shoved at the agent's back with his rifle and was pleased to see that unlike last time the agent didn't try to argue his way out of it. That was only because they had no time for it, otherwise he would have welcomed using some greater degree of force to ensure compliance.
Don carefully stepped around the customers and bank staff and followed Four as he made for the exit. He briefly glanced back past Two and the continually prodding rifle and was relieved to see One closing up to leave with them. He'd worried that One might hang back a moment to ensure the agent's continued cooperation once outside the bank. Not that he was sure that he wasn't going to be cooperative every step of the way, he thought to himself wryly. Hard to argue with such weaponry arrayed against him. But at least if an opportunity did present he could attempt to take advantage without worrying about the collateral damage as Two had threatened.
He stepped outside into the brilliant sunshine of a warm spring day. The bright weather seemed in contrast to the dark situation he had found himself in. Another shove and he continued moving towards the silver Dodge SUV. A small surprise, there was no fifth member of the gang as the FBI had thought, no wheelman. Robber Three was behind the wheel, the engine running as he waited for the others. That was an unexpected risk, that the vehicle could be found or that the engine could fail to start when needed. Not that that hardly mattered, today the vehicle was right where they'd left it and obviously the engine had started. There was nothing to prevent their getaway.
Nothing that was, except the sirens that could be heard rapidly approaching.
"Go, go, go!" One yelled.
The robbers hustled; time was well and truly against them now. They needed to be out and well clear of this alley before the black and whites arrived otherwise they would immediately be considered suspect and pursued.
Whilst not exactly what he'd been hoping for Don saw the possibility that this lent him, delay the offenders and increase the chance that they would be surrounded. A standoff here would be better than letting them take him God-only-knew-where away from the possibility of help. He deliberately stumbled and fell, using his unrestrained hands to break his fall. He immediately rolled to one side desperately trying to put some distance, any distance, between himself and the offenders. He was banking on the apparent desire for them to take him with them alive to make them refrain from shooting at him straight away. It was slim, but all he had.
"Stop him!" Two yelled angrily.
Unfortunately One had already started to move after seeing Don drop and was now closest to him, the rifle already swinging to bear. The agent moved quickly, lashing out with a foot, just catching the offender on the back of his right knee. The blow was less than he would have liked but effective all the same, One crashing to the ground as he was suddenly unbalanced. The man remained still, out cold after striking his head.
Scrambling for the weapon Don lost track of Two until an instant or so later. A heavy blow to his shoulder sent him sprawling. He managed to roll partway over to his side in time to see a dark shape rapidly descending towards his head.
A/N: For those that wonder, the 'half remembered movie' was Jackie Brown 1997.