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.
Don heard the words all too clearly even as the next round of fireworks started up. He dove to one side just as Rodan pulled the trigger. The round missed. Don scrambled to get behind the next tree for some cover, his movements slowed by his injured leg and protesting ribs. Rodan was moving in quickly as the agent finally got his own gun drawn. Rodan still got the next shot off, firing quickly as he saw that his intended victim was armed after all. Another miss and now it was Rodan who was seeking cover as Don fired.
The bright flashes of light from the fireworks overhead did nothing for his night vision, the light from the stalls no longer providing sufficient illumination. He had to move, Rodan should be just as affected but staying in the same position would be foolhardy. Blinking hard to try and see he moved over to the next tree, away from the criminal's last known position. But it was no longer a simple matter of keeping himself alive, he had to keep track of Rodan to ensure he didn't go after Robin and the others as he'd threatened. The criminal would be mad to try it but he'd already come after the agent, it was not too much of a stretch to believe the threat. Don started to reach for his phone to call Charlie and warn them of the possible danger but had to discard that idea in favour of firing back as Rodan again shot at him. Chips of wood flew into his face as he ducked back, bringing up his hand to wipe away the splinters.
Don moved on again but was caught out in the open by a particularly large and bright red explosion of light from overhead. He saw Rodan catch sight of him and desperately he again dove to the ground and rolled as two shots whistled his way. Prone, Don fired back and saw his round hit the criminal in the side. Rodan staggered but made it to the protection of another tree.
"Give this up, Rodan." Don called, shouting over the noise of the fireworks. "The cops will be all over us soon."
"Maybe they'll do my job for me." Rodan shouted back.
Realising the man was probably right Don took the risk and moved to another tree, this time closer. When the LAPD responded they would only see two men shooting at each other and were likely to try to take them both down. If he were to attempt to identify himself and surrender to them he would just open himself up to being shot by Rodan. He had to take the criminal out himself. Another explosion overhead, green this time, illuminated the area once again. Rodan was sheltering behind the next tree over, barely three yards away. Fortune had the criminal scanning in a different direction as he sought his victim. Don held still, taking careful aim at the unprotected part of Rodan's body as he waited for him to move just a little more to his left. Another couple of colourful explosions passed then the man moved. Automatically the agent's finger tightened on his trigger and the bullet went exactly as aimed, straight into the criminal's left hip, right at the head of the femur.
Rodan let out a scream of agony as he fell to the ground, there was no way that his damaged leg could support his weight. Not finished yet he swung his weapon wildly around towards the agent's general direction and started firing blindly. Don knew that not all the bullets would be stopped by the trees and that he had no choice, there were too many people around. He fired quickly, and he hoped accurately, at the dark shape. Three shots later Rodan slumped back and stopped moving.
Advancing cautiously in case the man was playing possum Don closed in and tried to see in the sudden darkness. He realised at that point that the fireworks had stopped again and that their last exchange of shots had been without that cover. Continuing on his task as screams started up nearby he picked up Rodan's weapon, tucking it into his belt before backing away. The criminal appeared to be dead but he kept his own weapon on target as he fumbled for the cell phone at his waist. He just got the call through to Control when the first LAPD officers arrived.
"LAPD, drop your weapon!" A bright flashlight was aimed his way, completely destroying what night vision he had remaining, precisely as intended.
"FBI!" Don responded as he immediately complied with the order. He dropped his phone as well, needing to show two empty hands to the officers.
"Hands behind your head." The same officer ordered. "Do not move."
Carefully shifting his weight to his right leg as his left started complaining Don repeated his identification adding, "My ID is in my pocket."
"Then you know the drill. Turn around."
Now that the action was over he was finding his left leg was very painful and it was getting difficult to place any weight on it. He managed well enough however to obey the officer's orders and turned away so that the officer could approach him safely from behind. Cold metal snapped around his left wrist and he cooperated as the officer cuffed him. He turned his head carefully and saw that the second officer was checking on the downed man, running his own flashlight over the body before looking up and shaking his head.
Hands patted him down, finding and removing Rodan's weapon from his belt. The same hands found the leather wallet in his pocket and pulled it out. A bright flare of light reflected back off the badge and card as the credentials were inspected. The officer moved around and carefully compared the image on the card with the bloodied face in his flashlight.
"My name is Special Agent Don Eppes, badge number 3695, Los Angeles Field Office of the FBI." Don identified as he squinted against the light. He shifted again as his left leg threatened to collapse out from under him. It seemed that the ducking and weaving he'd done had exacerbated the sprain to his ankle. The bullet wound wasn't helping matters either. He had to put most of his weight onto his right, his cuffed hands making it difficult to balance. The flashlight abruptly tracked down his body before clicking off.
"You're injured, Agent."
"Yeah." He refrained from adding 'nice of you to notice'.
"Let me get those cuffs off." The officer offered finally, moving back in. "Mike, call for some EMTs."
"On it." The other officer responded.
The cuffs came off and he was helped down to sit leaning against a tree. "Can I have my cell phone?" Don asked, pointing at the device a yard or so away.
"Anyone else hurt?" He asked as the officer handed the phone over.
"We have a female with a graze to her shoulder. Looks like we were lucky, there's just the one that we know of so far." The officer reported, his voice a touch reproachful as if he was thinking that the agent had forced the confrontation.
"Wasn't my choice, Officer. He got the drop on me." Don explained at the tone. Instigating an armed standoff around crowds was not generally allowed by either of their playbooks.
"Oh, sorry." He meant it.
The officer moved away to help his partner check the body as Don lifted the phone. As expected Control were waiting on the line, informing him that they'd started a trace for his location as per procedure and were about to send some agents. He gave a quick briefing and hung up. There was another call that he needed to make but before he finished dialling two EMTs appeared through the trees. He wasn't surprised at their quick appearance, he'd earlier noted that there had been several EMTs hanging around next to the ambulances back at the parking lot which was only about fifty yards away. They would have been only seconds behind the police to the scene but would have been forced to wait for clearance.
His call had to wait until they'd finished their initial assessment and had helped him onto the stretcher. The tally came to some superficial cuts and bruising to his face, bruised ribs, a badly sprained ankle which was already swelling and a messy gunshot wound. No surprises there, it could have been so much worse.
Pressing 'send' on his phone he waited. "Oh, hey, Don." Charlie's welcome voice sounded in his ear. "Where were you? I thought you were just getting hotdogs."
"Yeah, well something came up." Don said a little wryly. Taking a careful breath he couldn't quite bring himself to get to the point of his call just yet. "Was it good from where you were?"
"Spectacular as always, Larry's still speechless. There was something odd though."
"There were some anomalous explosions. I mean we heard the fireworks going off but there were no visuals to go with them. I've never heard so many misfires before."
Charlie had brought him around to the point of his call. "It wasn't an anomaly, Charlie. They weren't fireworks."
"What are you saying Don?" Charlie asked carefully, concern creeping into his voice. "Where are you?"
"I'm on the northwest side of the park, near where Robin and I came in." He hesitated but it had to be said. "Rodan was here."
"What! How? But he-" Charlie stopped himself. "What happened?"
"He ambushed me. We got into a firefight. He's dead."
"Are you alright? You don't sound alright. We're heading over now."
"I'll be fine, Charlie. I-"
Charlie cut him off, continuing to talk quickly. "You'll be fine? That means you were hurt."
"Yeah, they're about to take me to hospital." Don sighed, he hated this part. It was almost better when they didn't know when he got hurt. "I got shot, but I'm going to be fine. It's a through and through, no biggie." He added quickly at the gasp.
"We'll be there in a minute."
"Head over to my car, that's where the ambulance is. Robin will show you where." Don instructed as the EMTs started to carry him towards the sidewalk where they'd be able to use the stretcher's wheels on the path.
"Wait for us." Charlie ordered.
Waiting turned out not to be a problem. By the time the EMTs had manoeuvred the stretcher through the crowded sidewalk and out to the ambulance Charlie and the others were already there, having made better time cutting directly across the park.
"Donny!" Alan moved in first, every inch the protective father.
With the group of people moving in to surround their patient the EMTs locked the stretcher's wheels and moved to pack away the rest of their gear, the patient was not so badly wounded that a few minutes wouldn't hurt.
"Dad, I'm fine."
"Fine? You're not fine. I wish you'd stop saying that every time you get hurt."
"Alright, I'm sorry. But it's nothing serious, okay?"
"Charlie said you were shot. That's hardly not serious."
"It went straight through, Dad." Don protested. He caught the eye of one of the paramedics, waving the woman over. "Tell him."
Alan grumbled as he listened to the woman explain his son's injuries. Coming from an independent source he would have to accept that his son would be alright. Meanwhile Don was quickly explaining to Robin and Charlie what had happened. With his father still distracted the agent added the threats that Rodan had made against all of them.
"What were WitSec doing?" Robin demanded, pulling out her own cell to start making calls. She stalked off as she waited for her first to connect. "Heads are going to roll for this. Taking him out of secure custody- … Hello?"
"Boy, she's mad." Charlie commented as Robin reported what had happened into her phone.
Don would have been angry too, but the after affects of the adrenalin and the knowledge that he'd just taken another life had him feeling rather flat. He'd had no choice but that didn't make it any easier. He also knew there would be hard questions asked of him as a result of his passionate arguing against WitSec taking Rodan in the first place. He knew he had nothing to worry about, the ballistic evidence would show that but the investigation into the shooting would be extra thorough and take some time as a consequence.
"Agent, we need to go." The female EMT said, wedging her way through to his side.
Don looked over to see Alan already climbing up into the ambulance to ride with him. Charlie started to join him but Don called him back, reaching under the blanket for the keys in his pocket. "You can follow in my truck or give the keys to Robin, she'll need a ride."
As Charlie, Amita and Larry started making arrangements amongst themselves the EMTs loaded the stretcher into the ambulance, locking it into place. An oxygen mask was produced and the usual monitors attached. Don saw the odd look on his father's face as he pre-empted the EMTs by raising his hand before they'd even reached for the monitors. Alan was clearly realising that Don must have gone through this procedure a few more times than he knew of to be so familiar with it.
A few hours later Don was signing the release papers to more of his father's grumbles and was ready to head home. The doctor had suggested that he should stay for the rest of the night at least but upon being pressed had agreed it was not essential. Don had seized on that and was signing himself out. The wound had not required full surgery, just some local anaesthetic and quite a few stitches. With bandages for his ankle and the cuts on his face cleaned with antiseptic solution he was done, there was nothing more they could really do.
Arriving back at Charlie's house they found David, Colby and Nikki already waiting, along with Robin. It was getting late and he was exhausted but Don managed to give another account of what had happened to his team before receiving the expected news that agents from the shooting team would be visiting in the morning. David had already spoken to their union and they would have a rep and a lawyer around first thing to provide support.
Don finally got a chance to ask the question. "So what happened with WitSec? How did they loose Rodan?"
"They didn't know he was gone until we called them." Robin said angrily. She'd left shortly after they'd arrived at the hospital to follow up on how Rodan had gotten loose. "They'd stashed him at the hotel and left him unattended in the master bedroom. He turned the TV on and told the WitSec agents he wanted to rest after his harrowing arrest. He simply climbed out the window and stole a car from the parking lot."
David continued. "Our security cameras show him pulling up across the street from our building. He simply waited there until you drove out with Robin then tailed you."
"I never noticed him." Don admitted. "I never even checked for a tail."
"Why would you?" David countered.
"I should have, David. If I had, none of this would have happened."
"Come on, Donny." Alan interrupted. "Stop being so hard on yourself. You couldn't have known he would come after you. From what you were saying he was getting away scot-free so he had no reason to."
"That's true." Charlie agreed. "I had a some time while we were at the hospital and I went over it. The decision trees and projected path analysis showed this course of action was very unlikely given his position at the time and the probable negative outcomes from such risk."
Not surprised that his younger brother would have analysed the situation during his wait Don had to point out one crucial factor that Charlie would not have been able to work into his expressions. "You didn't have the whole picture to work with, Charlie. You had just six months worth of data, we don't know where he was before then or exactly what he was doing prior to going into protection. You can't say what he was or wasn't capable of."
David immediately seized on the point, turning it back on his boss. "Exactly, Don. So you couldn't have known he would try this or that he would follow you."
"But WitSec should have known the full story." Robin said. "They could have warned us."
"And we'll be checking with them tomorrow to find out exactly what they did know. The ADIC's following this very closely."
No surprise there either, the ADIC had also been very unhappy with the way WitSec had stepped in and interfered with his office.
Unable to help it a yawn escaped Don's lips. Conversation abruptly stopped as he immediately became the centre of attention once again. Sheepishly he started to apologise but another yawn threatened to crack his jaw apart and he shrugged as he rubbed a tired hand carefully over the uninjured portion of his face.
"Alright, that's enough. Everyone out." Alan ordered, standing and making shooing motions.
The house rapidly emptied until it was just the three Eppes remaining. With some help Don made it up to his old bedroom and got settled. With the next dose of painkillers in his system sleep wasn't long coming.
Once his son's breathing had deepened Alan quietly closed the door and went back downstairs, taking a seat in his favourite armchair as his youngest went to his own room. He picked up the day's paper but the words blurred, not that he was interested in reading it anyway. It had been a close call for his son, another one too many. There was no way he was getting to sleep so easily.