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.
Spoilers: Fifth Man (vaguely), mention of my fic Crosshairs (again, blink and you'll miss it so no need to read it first).
A/N: Written for Clue Challenge #2, August 2009, at hurt_don on LiveJournal. Prompts: Who? – Don. What? – car. Where? - road.
Don discovers that the consequences of helping a car crash victim can be as painful and dangerous as they are unexpected.
FBI Special Agent Don Eppes had stopped for fuel and was a couple of hours past the northern outskirts of LA before Sinclair managed to spare the time to call him with an update.
Having heard all the new details he forgave his agent for the delay, it was a bad one as he'd feared. Three dead, a young family, tortured before being executed, the second such set of murders in two weeks. Don just knew that the moment this hit the media they would be screaming 'serial killer' over the airwaves, just what they could do without no matter how appropriate it was starting to look. For the moment they had a brief respite, the new site too far off the beaten track for the media to have noted the increased LEO activity. Well acquainted with the uncanny noses of the Los Angeles media he expected that wouldn't last long despite the freezing night air and the late hour.
"Alright, David. I got it." Don would wait until he'd seen the scene for himself before kicking this upstairs and notifying the ADIC and the rest of the circus. He checked the screen on his GPS navigator. "I'm about fifteen minutes out."
The glance at the navigator also showed him that he needed to take the next intersecting road that ran off to the right. Slowing he prepared to take the turn as he heard the reply.
"See you soon, Boss."
A slight wry grin crossed his face at the tone of relief he heard in David Sinclair's voice at calling him 'boss'. David wasn't running point on this one, much as he had aspirations to be a SAC one day there were times when it was better to be told what to do rather than having to make all the decisions. This was one of those cases, it was going to be big and the heat that was going to come down all too quickly was something none of them needed. Unfortunately Don was well accustomed to heat and didn't think any less of David for his relief at escaping it this time.
Taking the right turn he saw headlights approaching from a short distance ahead. It was the first car he'd seen in quite a while. Suddenly the lights swerved to his left and off the road. There was a flash and one of the lights died abruptly. He was on the scene almost before he'd understood what he'd just witnessed. His own headlights which he'd flicked back up onto high beam illuminated the already settling dust that always seemed to accompany a crash allowing him to see what he already expected. The other car had slammed head-on into a tree just off the side of the road.
"David!" Don called quickly, hoping that Sinclair hadn't yet hung up.
"Get EMTs to my location," He started, concentrating on the GPS screen for a moment to get the name of the road as he braked heavily. "Single vehicle TA, unknown injuries. Looks bad."
"Got it. I'll get onto the sheriff here." David acknowledged before breaking the connection.
The SUV finally came to a stop, slewed partly sideways on the roadway allowing the high beams to fully light up the wreck. It had been a white sedan, the make and model he couldn't recognise instantly from the mangled remains. The passenger side door was already open and the seat was vacant. A quick glance around failed to find a trace of any other victims, it had probably sprung open during the impact; the driver was still behind the wheel, his door also open.
Don grabbed his phone, automatically sliding it into the holder on his belt as he got out and zipped up his jacket against the cold. Heading over to the wreckage he was in time to see the driver fall out and start to climb shakily to his knees.
"Hey, man. Take it easy." Don started soothingly, moving in to take the man's shoulders in an effort to keep him down. Lying down on the ground was the safest spot for the man until his injuries could be assessed. "You've just been in a crash. I've called for help."
The man struggled against his hold for a moment before giving a groan and going suddenly limp. Don tightened his grip and tried to ease the driver back to prevent any further injuries.
The sudden blinding pain to the back of his head was the last thing he expected. Pitching forwards he retained just enough of his faculties to note that the driver was shoving him to the side to prevent him landing on the man. He didn't have enough control over his body to do anything to save himself, ending up facedown on the grassy verge. Half stunned he lay there inhaling the smell of dry grass and dust as voices sounded behind him.
"Took you long enough." The first voice complained around a grunt.
"You're welcome." The second voice replied sarcastically.
"But you didn't have to hit him so hard."
"Too bad. We're taking his truck. He might not be too agreeable on the idea."
During the pause that followed Don's full senses finally returned and he was able to move. In a quick movement he lurched to his feet, stumbling a little as he realised he wasn't quite as recovered as he'd thought. Reaching for the zipper of his jacket he turned to keep the men in sight but it was too late, they were already moving and would be on him before he could get anywhere near his gun. Abandoning the attempt he brought his fists up and landed a good hit on the closest man.
The first reeled back but before he could set himself to swing again the second man was already throwing his own fist. The blow caught him on the cheekbone upsetting his already delicate balance causing him to stagger back. He took another pace back in an effort to increase the space between them recognising that his reactions were slowed. The second man wasn't so keen on that idea, stepping forward and swinging again as he closed in. Blocking the blow with his left forearm Don got another strike in, reaching the point of the man's chin. Adjusting his shaky balance he raised his left leg and struck out, more a push than a kick, determined to open up a gap. That worked but he'd lost track of the first man. A movement in his peripheral vision had him turning in time to see the fist an instant before it hit the side of his left eye, snapping his head back. Blindly he struck out and felt it connect before his world closed in, the other man had recovered and joined in the assault and Don was unable to block many of the flying fists. The next few seconds stretched for what felt like minutes as blows too numerous to count landed on his head, his shoulders and his stomach. Gasping for lost breath he lashed out a few times but had more misses than hits. Now it was Don that reeled backwards, going down before somehow making it back up as the first man reached him. Swinging blindly once again he could have cheered as his fist connected and he sensed the other go down.
The need for space drove him, the voices of his lecturers from Quantico along with his own reminding him that space was safety. It was enough to make his feet move as he fought to create that distance. The withdrawal wasn't running away but would give him a desperately needed moment's respite to regroup and try again for his gun. The weapon his only hope as he was in serious trouble from the two men's concerted attack. A few steps later he knew he'd been too slow as he was slammed into from behind in a full tackle. Hitting the ground with the bodyweight of the man on him the air was driven from his lungs. Struggling to draw a breath he barely got his hands under his shoulders and started to push before the first of a flurry of blows to his side and kidneys had him arching his back in pain. Trying to buck the man off his back he saw darkness at the edges of his oxygen starved vision. His efforts became more desperate when suddenly the punches stopped. Before he could feel relief hands grabbed at his head and slammed his face into the hard ground.
He survived the first impact but there was nothing he could do to prevent the second which drove him away.
"Damn." Troy climbed off the unconscious man's back, shoving the head one last time into the ground as he stepped away. Breathing heavily he turned to his partner and started to help him up but was waved off.
"Just give me a minute." Mitch shook his head in an effort to clear it from the man's last punch and glanced over at the still form. He owed the man some respect. "He's good."
"Yeah." Troy agreed as he delivered a quick kick to the man's hip, he was a far better fighter than he would have expected given the expensive jacket and dress jeans. He should have cracked him over the head much harder the first time. Shaking out his right hand he turned away, they had places they needed to be, namely away from here real quick. The cops would have recovered by now and be hunting them. "Come on."
"Yeah, yeah." Managing to sit up Mitch stared up at his friend. "Give me a minute."
"We don't have a minute."
"Alright, alright. Just give me a sec will ya?"
Troy let out a sound of frustration as he turned away. "I'm gonna check out his ride and see if he left the keys in it."
Mitch waved a hand in acknowledgement but Troy was already gone. It was all well and good for Troy to be in a hurry but Mitch had been the one driving the stolen car and even with the airbag he'd taken a decent hit to the chest and face when they'd hit the tree. Nothing was broken but he'd really not been up for the brawl they'd just been in. He groaned but Troy was right, they had to move. He made it up and turned at the other man's call, squinting against the headlights over at the truck that was now idling. Obviously Troy had found the keys in the ignition as he'd hoped.
"Dump him in the trees. It should give us a head start if they think we're on foot." Troy shouted his order. He was still standing beside the opened driver's door but turned and started to climb in as Mitch moved towards the unconscious figure.
Somewhat painfully grabbing at the man's ankles Mitch pulled and started dragging him away from the edge of the road towards the clump of small trees just past the much larger tree they'd hit. His grip slipped causing him to fall back, landing hard. Cursing at his luck he made it up and started to get a new hold on the man when something caught his eye. Stepping closer he felt a rising excitement as he recognised what he was seeing. In dragging the man the tightly zipped jacket had ridden up a little exposing the unmistakeable muzzle of a gun on the man's hip. Pulling at the jacket he realised now why the man had gone for his zipper earlier, the jacket too tight over the weapon. Jerking the zipper down and brushing one half of the jacket aside he fully exposed the weapon, a semi-automatic pistol in a basic holster.
He pulled the gun free and laid a quick kiss on the side of the slide. He would never have dreamed of getting a new gun this quickly after the cops back up the road had taken theirs.
A sudden swearing diverted Mitch's attention away from his new toy before he could begin to wonder just why the man was carrying a piece. Looking back up at the SUV he called out, "What?"
The swearing continued for a few more seconds culminating in Troy jumping back out and running over. "He's a cop or something."
"What?" Mitch repeated automatically, before looking from the gun in his hand to the still unconscious form at his feet. He glanced back up in time to see Troy staring at the gun. "I found this on him."
Troy swore again before dropping to his knees and roughly going through the man's pockets. The jacket slid aside in the process exposing a small metal shield clipped to the man's belt but he didn't recognise the design. It didn't look like a police badge so he started to figure the man was security. The wallet he flipped open to find a California driver's licence with a serious face peering out at him. It didn't explain the badge or gun. Looking further he saw a few notes so he slipped the wallet into his own pocket to raid for cash later. He continued searching the man until he found a slim leather folder. Flipping it open the swearing resumed in increased in volume. A closer look at the metal badge confirmed it. The trouble they were in just got a whole lot deeper.
For the third time Mitch asked the same question, "What?"
"He's not just a cop, he's a fed." Troy stood, turning the ID in his hand so his partner could see for himself. "FBI."
"What are we gonna do?"
Troy went still as he gave that some thought, staring at the helpless man at their feet. This was not a situation he'd expected to find himself in. He had a long general dislike for law enforcement and now for the first time in his life he had a cop at his mercy. More importantly, he had time to do something about it unlike the situation they'd been in with the two sheriff's deputies earlier. Then they'd been in a hurry to get away, not even taking the time to get their weapons, just a set of car keys. His thoughts skittered off sideways as an adolescent fantasy suddenly took over causing a slow smile to cross his face. Raising his head he looked his partner in the eye. "We get rid of him."
Misunderstanding the point Mitch started to shove the gun into his belt so he could have both hands free to continue dragging the man over to the trees when Troy stopped him.
"We shoot him." Troy clarified, indicating the fed's own gun.