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.
The pounding continued as did the call of, "FBI."
"No! I know you're Guard." Haden yelled back. "I won't let you take him back. I'll kill him if you try to come in!"
The pounding suddenly stopped to be replaced a moment later by the ringing of Don's cell phone.
"Hurry, the Guard are here!" The soldier said desperately into the phone. "What? FBI? … They said they were, but the Guard-" He broke off as he was interrupted.
"Corporal Haden, this is Special Agent McNeal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."
If the situation hadn't been so dangerous the expression on Haden's face as he looked at the phone and then the door and back again in quick succession would have been almost funny. McNeal had raised his voice so Haden could be in no doubt that the agent was in fact outside the door.
"You made it." Haden's voice was full of relief.
"We're here." McNeal's voice, still raised, came clearly through the door even as the soldier's comment had been made back into the phone.
"Gone. We don't have much time, the extraction team are waiting."
Don worried at this turn of events, McNeal was entering into the soldier's delusion. A dangerous move, one warned against in all their training back at Quantico. But then, a glance at Haden had him thinking the move was the correct one.
"We have to move." McNeal's voice took on the firmness of command. "Corporal, open the door."
Haden responded. "Sir, yes sir."
The soldier pulled Don to his feet by the simple expedient of grabbing him on the upper arm, his gasp of pain ignored. Getting his feet under him he staggered over to the door, stopping when the man tugged him back.
"I have a prisoner. What should I do with him?"
"Bring him." McNeal immediately answered.
"They're going to make you talk." Haden hissed into his captive's ear.
The sharp jerk on his arm caused Don's breath to catch, a reaction Haden took to be in response to his words if the feral grin was anything to go by.
The bar was lifted away from the back of the door before an arm tightened around his chest and he was dragged back towards the middle of the room. The soldier's gun came up to press against the side of his neck. Despite his apparent belief it was the FBI outside the door come to save him the man was taking no chances.
The handle turned and the door moved an inch before stopping. The arm around his chest tightened but that reaction was not visible to those outside. The door was given a push and swung fully open. The hall beyond was empty.
"Corporal, this is the FBI." McNeal's voice came from the right. "Send your prisoner out."
"I can't see you. I need to see you." Haden demanded.
A few seconds passed before there was any movement then a man stepped into view. McNeal was wearing a navy blue windbreaker with yellow letters 'FBI' bright upon the sleeves. The same letters in white were stencilled across the black ballistic vest he wore underneath. His Glock was held down at his side, no threat to the soldier. The white knuckled grip on the weapon betrayed his nervousness at exposing himself. His eyes flickered over the solder before he sought out Don's, trying to assess his condition without appearing too sympathetic.
"They just sent you? One man?"
"I have a team here." The agent's eyes shifted the left then the right, giving a single nod each time. At the order five more agents cautiously appeared, all dressed similarly to their leader. The exception was that each had their weapons raised and aimed into the room strictly according to procedure. McNeal saw the soldier tense at the threat and swing his gun up to aim at the team. McNeal made an urgent lowering motion with his left hand. The weapons dropped slightly. "Corporal, we don't have any time. Send your prisoner out and we'll secure him."
The arm around his chest suddenly loosened, dropping away. The gun moved to a point between his shoulder blades and pushed. Don moved, walking towards the door and the rescue team. He kept his pace slow, acutely aware of the gun that he knew was still aimed at his back. It wouldn't do to appear too eager, he was after all a prisoner being handed over to new captors. He reached the threshold and continued out into the hall as McNeal and his team backed up giving him room. He glanced at McNeal in time to see the agent give the slightest of winks.
"Take him." McNeal ordered.
Two agents moved in, taking Don firmly by the arms and moving him a short distance down the hall.
"Play along, sir." The man on his right murmured.
They stopped and turned to face back towards the room. No attempt was made to free him from his bonds, instead the two agents continued to hold him putting on a show. Understanding McNeal's play Don waited, he was safe but the other agent was remaining in character, trying to resolve the rest of the situation without bloodshed.
McNeal was now standing slightly to the side of the door, not as exposed as before. Don's view of Haden was blocked by the angle but he suspected that the soldier hadn't moved.
"Quickly, Corporal." McNeal snapped. "We only have a small window to act. The vehicles are waiting."
"I'm going home?" Haden's voice queried, the softest Don had heard the man speak.
"Yes, Soldier. Home."
McNeal backed up a pace as Haden stepped from the room and into Don's view. The soldier's defences were down in relief at his impending rescue from Baghdad and repatriation to the US. He shoved the .45 into his belt and held out his hand to shake those of his saviours.
Don's conscience twinged as he knew what was about to happen.
McNeal holstered his own weapon before taking the soldier's offered hand. His left came across, as if to add emphasis to the social convention. The moment the agent's two hands held Haden's master hand in a firm grip he set himself and yanked hard, pulling the unsuspecting man off balance.
Haden was unbelievably quick, reacting instantly to the attack striking at the agent with his unencumbered left hand. McNeal was knocked back but maintained his grip, his bodyweight now putting Haden even further off balance. The other two agents moved in, adding their own weight in a combined tackle to drag Haden to the floor. The soldier continued to fight, trying to get a hand free to reach his belt. The struggle was intense, the three agents working hard to subdue a near berserker strength Haden.
"Go, go, go!" Don ordered the two agents with him.
Without argument the final two agents joined the fray. One reached in and was able to pull first the KA-BAR knife and then the .45 out of the soldier's reach tossing them safely away. The cries of 'traitor!' were replaced with those of pain as the agents were forced to resort to nerve holds to gain enough control to place Haden into handcuffs without causing him serious injury.
Finally it was over, Haden lying facedown and still yelling 'traitor!' along with other less than savoury epithets. The agents held him securely as he continued to struggle whilst they regained their breath. Two agents disengaged themselves a few moments later, one entering Haden's apartment, the other heading towards the former hostage. It was McNeal. He stooped to pick up the KA-BAR knife along the way.
"Let me get your hands for you, sir."
Don turned, giving the man access to his wrists. "Careful, my left is broken."
The knife sliced gently through the cord and he was finally free. He carefully brought his hands back around in front of him to inspect the damage. The left was badly swollen around the wrist and palm, the fingers appearing ridiculously small as a result. His right wrist was also swollen and showed clear signs of bruising but at least he was still able to flex the fingers. Both hands had red welts from the cord that had tightened as his hands swelled. He cradled both to his chest and leant back against the wall. There was nothing he could do for the continual pounding in his head.
"Are you going to be able to make it downstairs? We have EMT's waiting."
"I'm good." He answered, he was steady on his feet and that was plenty good enough. "What about Colby? How's my partner?"
"He was pretty groggy when we reached him. The EMTs said he had concussion, but they think he should be alright. He's been taken to hospital." McNeal reported. He lifted the knife briefly. "What happened? We found a dead man in one of the apartments with one of these in his chest."
The agent that had entered the apartment reappeared with the two Glocks as Don started to relate the events of the last hour. Haden was wrestled to his feet then manhandled past and forced to the steps, McNeal moving protectively in front of him when they went by. The agents made slow progress with their prisoner as they fought to maintain their balance on the way down. After waiting a moment before following, Don continued the tale with McNeal hovering close to help him if needed.
The exited the building, EMTs immediately making a bee-line towards the injured agent. Led off towards the ambulance Don couldn't help but keep Haden under observation.
The man had stopped his yelling but was breathing deeply and even if he was no longer resisting he was moving stiffly as he held every muscle tense, waiting for his chance to escape. Not giving him one the agents moved him towards a waiting LAPD black & white, the caged vehicle the best available means for transporting him. After he was placed into the rear without incident the officers were given instructions to take him immediately to a secure psychiatric facility for assessment. It was made more than clear to the escorting officers that their charge was extremely violent. A second car left to shadow the first.
He could finally relax, allowing the EMTs to settle him onto a stretcher as they started work. McNeal returned just as he was being loaded into the back of the vehicle to head off to hospital.
"I've called the psych ward. They're expecting him."
Don pulled the green pethidine inhaler away from his lips. "Good, he needs help."
"I don't feel good tricking him like that." McNeal admitted.
"I know." They could hardly have helped the man with the betrayal. "But you made the right decision, getting both of us out alive. The book wasn't working."
"Thanks, sir." He stared off in the direction the black & whites had long ago disappeared. "I don't think he'll be facing any charges out of this."
Don knew that the brief would still be compiled but instead of being presented to the DA it would go instead to a psychiatric board who would determine whether Benjamin Haden was well enough to stand trial for his actions. Don agreed with McNeal, Haden wouldn't stand trial. It was an outcome that he could be happy with despite the fact that a Russian hitman had been killed and two agents injured by the man. The soldier needed treatment, not incarceration.
The doors closed and the ambulance started on its way. Taking a long drag on the inhaler Don relaxed further and allowed himself to drift as the pain relief took hold.
The next afternoon Don was settled back on his favourite couch at the Craftsman. Alan and Charlie had brought him home only a few hours before after having to spend the evening at the hospital under observation for possible side effects of the concussion. His left hand was encased in plaster, two bones in his hand and one in his wrist were broken. It had also been dislocated explaining why the pain had been so bad. His right was not so bad, bruising and soft tissue damage.
Colby unfortunately was going to have to remain in hospital for another day, his condition more serious after being blindsided and dropped with a single blow. The doctors had initially expected a fractured skull but the X-rays were clear much to everyone's relief.
"So what did Agent McNeal have to say?" Alan was asking.
He accepted the offered glass of water. His throat was still extremely sore, the multicolour bruising just now starting to reach full visibility. They were readying him to answer questions, Charlie was just now closing the door behind McNeal after a brief visit to bring him up to date. He waited while Charlie settled himself across from him before answering. "Haden's being looked after. It's too soon yet for any treatment to have started."
"Why wasn't he in care in the first place, a man like that, a hero, surely he didn't just slip through the cracks?" While Alan may have issues with warfare he understood bravery and respected the men who fought.
"No, pop." That had been one of his first questions too. "He was getting treatment in San Francisco, his home town and they'd thought him well enough to try and ease him back into society. They don't know what happened, at first all was well but then he vanished. They never expected to find him here, away from all his family."
"So was all that true then, what he told you about his unit being killed?" Charlie leant forward.
"Yeah. The military wouldn't tell McNeal where or when it happened but confirmed that Haden's unit had been taken out just as he'd said. He was rescued by an extraction team sent in after them. He recovered from his injuries but couldn't cope with being the only survivor and was sent home for care."
"Given that he thought you were working for them you were lucky."
Very, very lucky. Don was under no illusions about that. With the benefit of more time to think on it he knew now it was not so much the announcement of being FBI that had saved him in the corridor but that he was clearly American, not Iraqi. As time with Haden passed that became of less significance, the soldier thinking he was a double agent of some kind and his value became that of a source of intelligence.
"So what was he doing in that abandoned building?"
"From what he told me I gather he thought he was hiding out, waiting for someone to rescue him. McNeal was saying that he'd gained a reputation in the area, the homeless and street kids keeping their distance thinking he was dangerous." That explained what he'd noted on entering the building, the lack of graffiti, the unbroken windows and no signs of other habitation. It all made sense now.
"They were right on that." Alan commented. "But how was he feeding himself?"
"He was seen outside, getting food from the soup kitchens around the area. He always kept to himself but would react if anyone came too close, McNeal was told he even spoke Arabic at times. We think he must have been trying to blend in, given that he thought he was in Baghdad."
"That must have been tough." Charlie said, shaking his head in sympathy. "He'll get the help he needs now though. Someday I hope I might be able to help with cases like his."
"Your Cognitive Emergence work?"
"Sure. By understanding how the brain works we'll be able to determine the reason behind why some people can't cope with certain experiences." Charlie was off and running.
Don listened, it was very interesting but he eased back as his brother explained his hope for his work. It may not be in time to help Haden, he had to rely on conventional treatments, but someday Charlie's work would be invaluable to men in situations like his. He resolved to encourage Charlie to continue his efforts.
A/N: There you have it, the end of another wild ride for our favourite FBI agent. As always I thank those of you who have read and alerted this fic. I add special mention for those who have reviewed, THANK-YOU!