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.
It was the second night after his release and another tall bottle of Perrier done up with a bow was placed onto the table inside the door of the Craftsman. It joined all the others taking pride of place next to the green bowl.
"Hey, boss. Can't have you going thirsty now can we?" David said around a wide grin.
"I think I can just about open a Perrier shop, David." Don replied around his own grin. Every member of his team along with Robin and Amita had brought the same gift leading him, as the crack investigator he was, to suspect a certain level of collusion.
"Just following doctor's orders. Gotta keep those fluids up."
"Sure." Having just spent all of the previous day in hospital hearing the same thing Don's smile slipped a little. The hospital had pumped him full of fluids until his body had decided enough was enough and he'd been forced to spend several hours running to the rest room as the nurses kept forcing more fluids onto him. Finally they'd let him decide when or if he wanted another drink. He'd had more than enough fluids to last him the rest of the week. After spending that long day in the sun he'd never thought he'd look at water with any sort of reluctance but after having just had so much in such a short period of time he'd revised that.
David started to move off towards the happy voices he could hear but Don stopped him with a hand on his arm.
"He's gone back to Albuquerque. He said he wanted to start over and being somewhere familiar would make that easier for him. He wanted me to tell you that this was going to be his last apology to you, he will make his life over." David had more to the message but wasn't sure how Don would take it. He decided he had to pass it on. "He also said that he never wanted to see you again. When his son's trial comes up he said he'll stay away on the days that you give evidence and would like you to stay away for the rest of it. He said you would understand."
Don felt that he did understand. He'd been the cause of Nelson finding out his son's true character. After a moment's further thought he decided it also went towards explaining why the man had lost all reluctance to threaten him in the minutes that had followed that realisation. He could only barely begin to understand how Nelson would have felt, torn between love for his son and hatred of the cold hearted killer that Brad had become. His love had forced him to keep his son alive even as he forced his capture. That led the agent to a new realisation, now he had a second member of the Nelson family holding him to blame for something. It just needed the other son, Paul, to get with the flow and he would have a full set.
"Don?" David asked in concern. "You alright, man?"
Shaking his thoughts off he clapped his friend on the shoulder. "Yeah, David, I'm good. Come on, let's join the others."
David was the last of this team to arrive and Don led the way to the dinner table where everyone else was waiting. It had become somewhat of a tradition after a tough case for Alan to cook up a feast of some sort for the team. Tonight was Don's favourite, rib-eye to be followed by ice-cream. This was the first time they'd all been together since the capture of the AK-47s. A round of greetings followed and a beer was placed in front of the latest arrival.
Wiping his mouth with obvious pleasure David rested the bottle back on the table. "Ah, needed that." He looked up to see one face looking not quite so happy to see him, perhaps even a touch guilty. "Charlie?"
"I'm sorry, David."
Puzzled, David frowned. "For what?"
Charlie looked down. "For how I spoke to you on the phone just before you got Don out."
David glanced back at Don before leaning forward. "Charlie, there's nothing to be sorry for. We were all under a lot of pressure. Forget about it."
"I," Charlie started then also looked to his older brother. He changed his mind. "Thanks, David. For everything."
David smiled. "No problem."
"Thanks from me too, David." Alan put in as he brought out the first plates. Charlie jumped up and helped with the rest until a minute or so later all were digging in.
"So everything's done?" Alan asked, once the first edge of hunger had been satisfied.
"All the urgent stuff." David explained. "They've all been moved to the detention centre and will stay on remand until the trials. Only one made a bail application at court today and that was denied."
"Let me guess," Don started.
"Yep. Brad." David confirmed. "We've put a notification alert on him."
"What's that?" Alan asked as his son nodded and there were relieved looks from the other agents.
"It means that whenever Brad Nelson is moved, goes to court, or is basically in any situation where security could be compromised we get alerted."
Alan looked alarmed rather than relieved. "Security isn't going to be compromised, is it? I don't want that maniac coming after Don again."
"That's what the notice is for. It goes the other way as well, alerting the security staff that he is a high risk prisoner and to take all precautions. Brad Nelson isn't going anywhere we don't want him to."
"Have they talked?"
"We couldn't get Brad to shut up. But in between all the … Uh-" David suddenly thought better of what he was about to say and stopped himself, not needing the beginnings of the warning glare that Don was sending his way. Alan's eyes had started to narrow as he demonstrated just where Don had learnt to read between the lines. Brad had been only too vocal in his threats against the agent, promising to finish what he'd started. That was going to be the next step of their investigation, determining whether or not Brad had any sort of failsafe plan in place in case of his capture.
David brought himself back on track. "A couple of months ago Brad and Jack decided that they had to find a way to get Scott Nelson out of jail. Apparently he was finding it hard on the inside. The jail confirms that he wasn't coping, hence the move to La Tuna to ease the pressure on him. Anyway, they started asking around and eventually through friends of friends of friends they heard of a man known as Turner."
"You got any more idea on who he is?" Don asked. He'd been kept up to date on the investigation but hadn't heard any more on that angle.
"Not yet." Colby fielded this one. "I've put the word out amongst my contacts and I'm waiting to hear back."
"What about his two men, West and Buckley?"
"Not saying a word. But we know they're both ex-marines, we got their dossiers out of the Navy after we ran their prints. NCIS are running background checks on them and everyone they may have come into contact with. That's likely to take some time, it's not a high priority investigation from their end."
"But-" Alan protested.
"No, Dad. He's right. They have a lot on their plate and have to schedule the investigation amongst their other work."
"So they found this Turner?" Charlie prompted.
"They found Turner. At the time they were dealing with him he was based in San Francisco which is why the robberies started there."
"So why'd they move to LA?"
"That was Brad's idea. Seems he was hoping to have some time out to come looking for you, Don. He'd made some inquiries and confirmed that you were still at this office. He couldn't believe his luck when you walked in on that robbery."
"For you, maybe. But for Brad it was the best thing that could have happened."
"Why does he hate you so much?" Alan asked.
"Seems he blames me for his father going to jail after the plane crash."
"But he got a reduced sentence because of you. You told them how he looked after you, how he got you out of the plane wreck. You downplayed the threats he made to you."
"Yeah. He got a lot longer than I would have expected, but there was nothing I could do about that. The federal prosecutor wanted to set an example. Not so sure that it was the right example." Don shrugged. He remembered thinking after the sentence came down that the prosecutor's actions could make it less likely for someone to help an injured agent if a similar set of circumstances ever occurred again.
"I saw the file, he went hard but he was fair." Robin commented. "Considering the sentence he could have got Scott Nelson was lucky."
"Brad didn't think so."
"So why the robberies in the first place?" Alan asked. "I mean, if it was Don they were after why not come after him directly?"
"They weren't after Don, not as a primary target anyway. They were trying to find a way to get Scott Nelson out of jail. The only way they could see to pull that off was an attack on the jail itself. A good old-fashioned jail break." David explained. "But to do that, they needed money to pay Turner to hire his guys."
"So they started robbing banks to raise the cash." Nikki provided as David took a pull on his beer.
David nodded. "Turner was demanding a lot of money for his services, compounded by the fact that he was allowing the use of two of his men, West and Buckley to raise that money. It was a win-win situation for him, every robbery they committed required the payment of a fee from the takings, the break-out and escape from the US was also going to cost a fortune."
"Explains why Brad was complaining they wouldn't have any money left once they'd got Nelson released." Don added. "How's our San Francisco office coming along?"
"Not getting anywhere, just like us. They've found indications that Turner was in town but he's since vanished without a trace. There was an existent Bureau file on him, seems over the last ten years or so he has set up operations all over the States only to disappear when he gets noticed."
"What about other previous employees?"
"All silent. Only a few have been taken into custody and all refuse to talk about anything. All we know is that they were all from various branches of the armed services and all were working for the highest bidder."
"Can I look at the files?" Charlie asked. "I may be able to find something.
"Charlie, I don't think that's such a good idea." Alan said.
"I'll get you the files." Don promised. He saw his father's disapproving look. "We can't have such a group on the loose, not with their skills and backgrounds. Who knows who they may hire themselves out to? This falls within our mandate. I'll let you know when we've got everything together, Charlie."
Pleased at his brother's insistence that he help, Charlie smiled. He saw that their father's look had turned from disapproval to worry. "I'll just be working the files, Dad."
"That's what worries me, you'll find something, make some breakthrough and then your brother and his team will act on it going up against mercenaries."
"We've dealt with military types before." Don insisted. "Even have a few of our own."
Colby smiled at the reference although he knew that his boss had also referred to their SWAT teams, most of whom were also ex-military. "They are all professionals, Alan. The ones we took down surrendered once they saw we had them at a disadvantage. Unlike most of the crooks we deal with Turner's men know when to give up."
Colby had lead the attack on the 300C being driven by West and Buckley. His cars had cut the mercenaries off and had surrounded them. With several rifles and handguns pointed at them by agents all wearing ballistic armour the two men had thrown down their weapons and cooperated with commands. It had been a simple case of survival from their perspective, two handguns and no armour against the prepared FBI agents.
"You know, this is not the first time that I wish you'd stayed with baseball." Alan commented as he stood to clear away their plates.
"I know, Pop." Don allowed. "Probably not the last time either."
"Well, I'm glad you didn't." Robin leant over and slid her arm around Don's waist. She looked deeply into his face. "But I can understand why he'd wish that."
"Hey, it always works out in the end."
"Just remember I've seen the bruises."
Unable to prevent the blush Don saw the knowing glances from everyone around the table. Last night had been a touch painful, but he wasn't going to complain. He was saved from having to make any comment by the bowl of ice-cream placed in front of him by his father. Picking up his spoon he dug in.
"So, after they got Scott Nelson released and had taken Don with them, why'd they go to the motel? Why not leave town?" Alan asked as he took his seat.
"They had made arrangements with a charter boat operator to take them to Mexico by sea."
"Ramirez." Don remembered the name. "From what West and Buckley said, back in the room, he has some sort of connection with Turner."
"Yeah, but we can't prove it and he's not saying much. He's not ex-military, more like some private sub-contractor." David confirmed. He turned back to Alan to finish answering his question. "They had to hole up until they could go to the boat. The charter fishing fleet normally leaves port at about 4am, they were going to head out then amongst the other boats. The clothes they'd brought for Scott Nelson was a fishing outfit. There were even some rods in the bathroom at the motel room."
"And my son? They were going to take him to Mexico?"
"No." David said. That was all the answer he would give.
"No?" Again the eyes narrowed as the older man looked at each agent in turn before settling on his eldest. Don stared back, clearly not going to elaborate or allow any of his team to elaborate. That was more than answer enough. Alan looked down, digging into his own bowl. "I don't think I want to know."
There was an awkward silence broken only by the clink of spoons on china.
Don suddenly looked over at David. "So you did everything right and you did everything I could have wanted, except for one thing."
Movement stilled as everyone looked to see what the senior agent was on about.
"You couldn't stop a lousy fountain?" His tone, unlike that a moment ago, was light. Everyone started breathing again.
"C'mon Don, you know I had other things on my mind." David's reply was just as light hearted as Don's accusation but he had actually tried. Somehow he'd managed to squeeze in a moment to get through to the right person in the right department only to find out the stopcocks were in the square next to the fountain itself. The alternative was to shut down the main. David had told the man to go ahead and do it to be then informed that the same main serviced several other blocks and did he really want umpteen thousand people to go thirsty on the hottest spring day on record?
His boss grinned. He pointed at each in turn around the table. "Yeah, sure. Colby woulda done it. Or Nikki, or Liz, or Charlie. Hell, even Robin would have found a way." The others backed him up with mock glares.
David's hands came up at the looks being sent his way. Don's complaint had successfully lightened the mood, having already told his boss about his attempt to shut the fountain down he knew what his boss had been trying to do. "Hey, man. You just remember who arranged everything to get you back safe."
"Oh? So you arranged everything? Hmn?"
"Ah, maybe not quite everything." David back pedalled, Don's arched eyebrow carried all levels of meaning.
"That's what I thought." Don raised his beer. "Here's to a job well done. Good work everyone."
There was a chorus of 'boss' as beer bottles and glasses of wine were raised to support the toast.
"And here's for having my son back safe and well."
A more sober toast. David spoke for everyone. "You're welcome, Alan. Anytime."
"I hope not." Alan returned surprising lightly with a twinkle in his eye.
Realising that what David had said could be construed as an implication that this could happen again, laughter broke out at Alan's snappy reply.
Don eased back in his seat, careful of his still tender back. He listened contentedly as light hearted banter broke out around the table. All was truly as it should be. Robin's arm once again found its way around his waist and he looked down to see her smile.
"There won't be a next time." Robin said softly for his ears alone.
"No sweetie." He promised.
Her face tightened slightly at the slight undertone in his voice that meant he really couldn't guarantee keeping the promise. She saw that he knew what she was thinking and gave her a slight smile in reply, there really wasn't anything he could say. She pulled her smile back together to show that she understood. "Just do your best."
Her arm tightened slightly and her head settled against his shoulder as she made herself comfortable.
Don relaxed. They were good. Everything was good.
A/N: And there we end it, wrapping up what happened after 'Flight' by resolving the open issue of Brad and Jack being on the run. I think there are some new open ends, who knows where they may lead?
Once again, I very much appreciate all your reviews and comments. Before finding this site I never finished any of my early fics, you guys are the reason I'm now able to complete what I start. Thank-you.