Numb3rs: Ex Libris
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: Written for Clue Challenge #3, September 2009, at hurt_don on LiveJournal. Prompts: Who? – Don. What? – Book. Where? – Charlie's office.
Not for the first time Special Agent Don Eppes, currently stationed at the Los Angeles FBI Field Office, regretted his brother being so famously attached to his work. It was all well and good for a math professor to be published and have an article written about him in a well known magazine. It was even fine, on the face of it, to have it mentioned that he helped his older, less famous FBI agent brother solve his cases. Where it became a problem was when someone used that information in a way that neither Don nor his brother Charlie perhaps would prefer.
Given that, during this latest case Don had let it get out that Charlie was unable to help with the investigation. The fact that the suspect was on the CalSci faculty made the deception necessary. It had seemed to be working but unfortunately the suspect had still sought to use the connection for his own purpose.
Leaving Don in the situation he now found himself in. Another shake of the head and a pass of his hand over his face and he got himself together enough to finally make a move. With a bit of effort and a whole lot of caution he got himself up to a semi-seated position relying on Charlie's desk to support him in the slightly less than horizontal posture. The heavy book that had knocked him for a six was lying nearby, discarded now that it was no longer needed. The reason for that was all too obvious as he finally looked up to see exactly what he expected. The muzzle of his Glock was far too close for his liking, as if he could ever like having it pointed at him. That was not the way it was meant to work, he was the one that was supposed to be pointing the weapon at someone, most usually accompanied by a shouted 'Freeze, FBI'. Something he was going to remedy just as soon as he figured out how to do that without getting himself or his brother shot.
Speaking of his brother, he now made out a voice calling for him in distress, the words finally penetrating the ringing in his ears. "Don! Don?"
"Don't move an inch!" A harsh voice interrupted, directed at Charlie still seated behind the desk.
"Yeah, yeah, Charlie." Don managed to answer his brother's question before he tried anything stupid. He continued to eye his gun as it remained aimed steadily in his direction. Clearly, and rightly so, his assailant considered him the greater threat of the brothers Eppes. He could accept that, better that the weapon was aimed at him, rather than the math professor. "I'm good." Understatement, but it would do for now even as his vision blurred before he blinked things back into focus.
"You know, don't you?" The man demanded. "He wouldn't tell me, but you know, right?"
Carefully feeling at the side of his head for the spot he'd been struck so effectively with the book Don remained silent as he thought his options over. He needed to figure out a way to resolve this quickly. His fingers found a swelling lump and resting his hand over it he continued to look up at the man in control. There was no time for recrimination but he couldn't help it, if only he'd been a little more silent on his approach to Charlie's office then this might never have happened. He would have recognised their suspect and it would have been him getting the drop, not the other way around.
They'd finally caught a break, some new information that seemed to firm Sean Morris as their most likely suspect in a round of thefts of classified material from CalSci. Thirty-four year old post-graduate Morris had been working in the biology, more specifically the micro-biology department for nearly six months, always receiving glowing reports and reviews. Then came the reported thefts of crucial data, data of the kind that could easily be used for terrorist activities. Hence, the local FBI was brought in to investigate. Don and his team were learning just how easily microbes could be modified to wreak havoc.
Everyone said Morris couldn't be the one responsible for the data thefts, despite the first theft occurring, rather coincidentally, a bare two months after his arrival. But they needed more than circumstantial evidence and it had been frustratingly difficult to track the thefts to specific dates and times before they could even attempt to determine who had the necessary access at those points. Today that had all changed, one of the computer techs at the Field Office had managed to find some code or other on one of the recovered pieces of data that not only showed when it was copied but from which terminal it had been downloaded. That led to some more checking and the suspects were narrowed to a very small field, Morris leading the running out of those three candidates.
The agent had immediately made his way to CalSci with the intention of giving his genius brother the critical information to plug into his expression, not equation, and confirm their suspicions. He'd still been visiting Charlie, making out that it was a different case the professor was helping them on. Unlike what the popular press and television would have everyone believe, they regularly worked on more than one file at a time.
Making his way along the hall towards his brother's new, very large and impressive office he'd been able to see the younger man seated at his desk long before he'd actually stepped from the hall. With the deserted halls during class time the agent had started talking as soon as he saw his brother.
"Charlie! Good, you're in." He'd started. "We got the data we need. Have you got a minute to-"
That had been as far as he'd made it, striding now a pace or two inside the office proper. He'd barely noted the slightly scared expression on his brother's face before the widening of his eyes gave insufficient warning. The wide brown eyes had flicked sideways as his mouth opened. Don never heard what Charlie had been about to say, he'd turned just in time to see something hurtling at his head, far too close for him to avoid. He hadn't even had the time to identify what it was before he was lying sprawled on his side on the carpeted floor. For the moment all he could see was bright lights and all he could hear was a roaring in his ears. Then he felt movement and all too late he felt the hand at his holster. Training kicked in and he shoved his right hand downwards, trying to reach the grip of his weapon and force it deeper into the holster to prevent it being taken. He managed to reach the holster but the Glock was already gone. Without conscious thought he tried to rise, but again, he was too slow. The backhanded blow to the side of his face had him breathing in carpet dust and prevented him from fighting back for the precious few moments it took for his attacker to move out of his reach and secure control. As he fought to recover his wits there was a slam then a click, the office door being closed and locked.
Again he started to rise as the man returned but he was unable to prevent the hand that twisted in his shirt collar, cutting off his air. Scrabbling at his throat in an automatic and unsuccessful effort to relieve the constriction he was dragged the last few yards across the room towards Charlie's desk before being dropped to the floor. Unable to break his fall in time he'd struck the front of the desk with the back of his head, adding to residual effects from the heavy book and the backhand. Now he was leaning back against the desk, unable for the moment to do more than simply face their suspect. Correct that, face the confirmed offender.
"I do now." He finally answered, his voice surprisingly steady considering the headache that was working on setting a new record. Trying to push the pain away he concentrated on what was happening outside of his head, pointedly flicking his gaze to the weapon held on him before looking past it to stare the other in the face. "I'll take this as an admission."
"Very funny." Morris snapped. He glanced up checking to be sure Charlie was doing as he'd been told. He addressed his next words over the desk. "If you'd just told me what I wanted to know I would have been long gone before your brother and his feds turned up. Now I have to figure something else out."
Normally Don would have been happy that Morris had tried to milk every last piece of information out of CalSci before cutting his losses and moving on once the heat was brought to bear. He was surprised that the man had stuck it out this long and had thought it would make his job easier, certainly easier to find him if he didn't even try to run. Now he was not so sure, if Morris had run they wouldn't be in this predicament.
"No you don't." Charlie argued back, stress causing his voice to rise. He cleared his throat before continuing. "You've got the gun, just leave. We can't stop you."
Morris looked back down at the agent he was keeping covered as he countered Charlie's argument. "You certainly not and maybe he can't, but the others he's got waiting will."
Without considering his actions Don shook his head. He winced before he could speak. "I'm alone."
"Really? And you expect me to fall for that, why?"
"It's the truth." The agent insisted. While he didn't want Morris to walk out of here with his gun it was far better to have the man on the loose, armed and dangerous, than it was for him take a shot at either him or far worse, his brother. "I didn't expect to find you here. I just came to give Charlie more data." To add weight to his words he shifted and started to reach for his pocket where the flashdrive was waiting, ready for Charlie's wizardry. He froze as the gun moved closer in warning.
"You try anything and I'll use this. Don't think I won't."
He had both hands up in the air in a clear sign he wasn't trying anything, the move automatic as Morris' grip on the weapon had firmed, along with his aim. The man may have been an academic but he was certainly not a stereotypical one, seemingly familiar with weapons and comfortable in their use. "I believe you."
Don gave things a few seconds, waiting as Morris eased back slightly at his submission. As the threat eased he slowly lowered his hands, using them to very carefully prop himself up further now that he found he had the strength to do so. Aside from his headache everything else seemed to now be fully functional. Then again, maybe not. He had looked back up a little quickly and his vision took a moment to catch up, the slight blurring somewhat disconcerting as the edges of his sight pulsed in time with the headache. Recognising the signs of mild concussion he leant back against the desk and figured he needed a little longer before he could put his plan into action. Once he'd figured out what that was of course. The silence lengthened until he decided it was up to him to break it.
"So what are you going to do now?"
"Shut up. I'm thinking."
"Well don't take too long about it." Don said somewhat testily. The longer this went on for the more dangerous it would become. He had to push, keep Morris off balance and thinking about him, not the math professor.
"You know, I really don't like your cocky attitude." Morris snapped back, gun again threateningly aimed squarely at the agent's forehead.
Don bit his lip to keep silent. He'd already interviewed, or rather, informally spoken to Morris a number of times over the last month or so since the thefts of the data were discovered. As far as he'd been concerned the man had been the only clear suspect and he'd let him know that in no uncertain terms, the idea being to pressure him into doing something stupid. Which, he added ruefully to himself, he had finally managed to do. Clearly Morris had been in Charlie's office to put the hard word on him demanding to know what they knew. Even if he'd bought the story that Charlie wasn't working on the case he would have been working on the premise that the professor would be keeping tabs on any case his brother was working.
Fortunately it seemed he'd been unarmed, relying on his superior size and physique to intimidate the professor, Morris liked working out when he wasn't at CalSci, a fact they'd determined when following him. Thus the man had resorted to using one of Charlie's many heavy textbooks as a weapon to good effect when Don had blundered in. Now he was armed and felt cornered. A dangerous combination.
"Charlie, don't do anything." Don responded to his brother's call, desperate to keep him out of it. They couldn't see each other through the bulk of the desk but Charlie would clearly be able to see Morris and the way he was holding the weapon. The last thing he wanted was for Charlie to feel he had to step in. "Just let him think."
"Both of you, shut-up!"
Don tensed, ready in case the weapon moved from him to point at Charlie. While he didn't want that to happen it would have given him an opportunity to strike before the weapon came on target. No such luck, despite his anger Morris kept the gun on its rightful owner.
"How many are there?" He finally demanded.
"There is no-one else."
"I'm not going to ask again. Tell me the truth or I'll pull trigger and see how many come running. I've still got your brother."
"That is the truth!" Taking the risk he pulled his cell phone off his belt, flipping it open in the process. His movements fast enough that he'd finished before the weapon shifted or his head fell off. "I can call my team and ask where they are if you want."
"You really think I'm stupid, don't you?" Morris bent quickly and lashed out with his spare hand, knocking the cell phone flying.
Watching its path through the air Don was relieved when he saw it land, still open only a couple of yards away. What Morris hadn't seen was the small movement of his thumb as he'd pressed the speed dial for Control. The line was now open and help would soon be on the way once the operator heard enough to know something was seriously wrong. To that end he raised his voice as he answered the man's rhetorical question. "No, I don't. But holding a federal agent at gunpoint is not a smart move. You need to work out what you are going to do and do it."
"What I'm going to do is stick this gun in your back and then we are going to walk out of here, no muss, no fuss. You'll get us past the feds waiting for us and then drive us out of here."
Good, there was no mention of Charlie in his plan. Morris was just intending on taking him. That he could work with. "Fine. I'll get you out of here. Just leave Charlie out of it and I'll do everything you want."
Don snapped his mouth closed as he saw the speculative look that Morris flashed at Charlie. He suddenly worried that he'd said too much. Shifting he pulled his feet under him and carefully rose, steadying himself on the edge of the desk. Not totally unexpectedly the room tilted and rotated a couple of degrees before settling somewhere near where it was meant to be. But it was worth it, the move achieving what he wanted, he was once again the centre of attention with the gun and Morris' gaze fixed firmly back on him. Raising his hands he tentatively stepped back and the room cooperated, remaining in position. Don kept his eyes on the man and resisted the urge to glance over at his brother. In his peripheral vision he could make out a fuzzy Charlie, still sitting in his chair where he'd been when he first entered the room. He also saw that his brother's hands were on the arms of the chair, frozen in the motion of pushing down as he made ready to stand. Shaping his left hand into a 'wait' gesture aimed at his brother he otherwise remained focused on the offender.
"Let's do this." Don announced, taking a half step towards the door as reinforcement. "My car is parked out the front. I'll take you wherever you want to go."
Morris' eyes narrowed at the ready acquiescence of the agent. He considered a moment before flicking the gun towards the door, giving his hostage permission to move. He was getting exactly what he wanted, something he couldn't argue about.
Don immediately complied, telegraphing his moves as he headed towards the door with just a slight wobble to his step, things were slowly improving. He'd just lowered his arms and was reaching out ready to unlock the door when the indistinct outline of a person appeared through the frosted and textured glass. Don froze as the new person was brought up short, rattling at the door handle in surprise at finding it locked.
"Charlie?" Amita called. "Charlie, it's me. Why's the door locked? Charlie?"