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 #5, November 2009, at hurt_don on LiveJournal. Prompts: Who? – Don. What? – Earthquake. Where? – California.
The last of the rubble was finally shoved aside clearing path to reach the trapped men. Given the special circumstances the rescuers made sure to locate the two men with their powerful flashlights before moving too close. One man was lying on his back amongst the rubble and didn't move. The other turned to face them and shielding his eyes with one arm, he held up an ID folder with the other.
"That's me." The dark haired agent confirmed, putting away the ID and lowering the protective arm as the beam from the flashlight slid aside.
"Ed Shields." The team leader identified himself as he alone moved closer. Aiming his flashlight at the still form lying at the agent's feet he saw that the man seemed to be deeply unconscious. "Your prisoner?"
"Murphy. He was pinned for a while but I got him out."
The comment brought Shields up short as he flicked the flashlight back towards the agent, considerately not shining it in the man's eyes as he did so, noting the holstered gun and the badge on the belt in the process. Something wasn't right. He'd received a quick briefing from the other agent, Sinclair, before coming down into the Red Line tunnel to rescue the two men. Shields was sure that Sinclair had said that his boss was the one trapped, not the prisoner hence their caution. "I thought you were the one trapped."
"Damn cell phone." The agent cursed. "Kept dropping out on me. I was trying to get it through that Murphy was trapped. Sinclair must have got it mixed up. I only got every third or fourth word from his end."
Shields relaxed. Sinclair had said that the line was bad and that his boss had been hard to understand. Even their radios, normally patchy this far underground, were even worse now after the quake with all the dust and debris to absorb the signal. Cell phones were even more susceptible to signal interference. "How bad is he?"
"He hasn't moved since I found him. Looks like a broken arm and maybe two broken legs. I did what I could for him."
"We'll take it from here." Shields assured the agent. He considered the unconscious man. "Is he dangerous?"
"Not according to our records." Eppes answered. "He's only wanted for fraud but I guess you can never know for certain, he did run from us. I took the handcuffs off because of his injuries but when you're ready I'll cuff his good arm to the stretcher."
"Thanks." It was standard procedure after all, anyone that was in police custody had to be restrained for their safety. Deciding it was safe, the prisoner was hardly a threat with what he could see of the injuries and the agent was standing by ready, he motioned for the rest of his team to move in. Eppes moved aside but remained watchful as the Fire & Rescue team went to work. Shields raised his radio and did his best to report back to base through the static.
It took about five minutes to assess and manage the injuries as best they could in the conditions, confirming along the way a broken right arm, broken right leg and possible broken left ankle. A lump and a still oozing gash on the side of the prisoner's head explained his unconsciousness.
"How long has he had this?" Ben, their lead paramedic suddenly asked as he treated the gash.
"Since the ceiling fell in I guess. He's been unconscious the whole time." Agent Eppes answered, moving closer to inspect the injury. "Why?"
"Looks fresher than that." Ben explained. He lightly bandaged a pad in place over the wound.
The agent moved back, rubbing a hand over his face before it dropped to rest over his holstered weapon in a move Shields recognised as habitual for LEOs. Eppes shrugged, "Maybe I knocked it when I moved him."
"Maybe," Ben started doubtfully. There had been no dust in the wound as he would have expected, even the wound on the arm that had been roughly patched up had dust in it. As he packed up his gear he spared a speculative look at the agent.
Shields interrupted, the patient was ready to be lifted onto the stretcher, whatever Ben's problem was it could all be sorted out above ground. There was always the chance of an aftershock; each minute that passed without one increased the chances of one occurring. So far there had been none making him very nervous considering the present state of the Red Line tunnel. "Let's get him topside, we'll sort everything out up there."
Sharing their team leader's anxiousness the team hastened to get their patient onto the stretcher and ready to travel. Air splints already protected the broken limbs and straps now secured the man in place. Eppes moved in and secured the prisoner's uninjured left wrist to the metal framework of the stretcher with his cuffs, careful to avoid the IV line Ben had inserted into the back of the hand.
"All right people, let's get this show on the road." Shields ordered. The stretcher party headed out, picking their way over the debris. Starting to bring up the rear he frowned as the agent held back and seemed to be looking for something, edging away in the opposite direction. "You too, Agent."
The agent started but quickly recovered. "Can I borrow your flashlight a moment?"
"There's no time for this, we got to go." Shields insisted even as he handed over the powerful light.
"You got your procedures, I've got mine." Eppes explained, taking the light and once again starting to head the other way. "I have to make sure he didn't dump anything when he was running."
Shields reached out and snagged an arm. "No way, Agent. That way's completely blocked by a train that jumped the tracks and will take days to clear. We have to get above ground. You can come back down later once the tunnel's declared safe if you need to."
After an almost wistful look down the tunnel the agent relented, turning to follow the Fire & Rescue team back to the Vermont/Beverly station and the stairs out.
They made it back to the platform without incident, their patient remained unconscious and more importantly there were still no signs of any aftershocks. Wasting no time however the rescue team hustled past their already packing support crew and quickly reached the surface and the waiting ambulance.
No one noticed that the agent had slipped away, disappearing into the darkness behind them.
They both saw the wanted man at the same time. Ryan Murphy currently featured on want posters pinned up on the bulletin boards back at the Los Angeles FBI Field Office. Murphy was wanted for a high volume of frauds that had netted him a large sum of money over the last few years. Nothing too unusual in that but there was a twist that helped to imprint his face and details into the minds of most who had read the posters, Murphy kept none of the money for himself, donating the lot to various charities around the country. The charities were deserved but the method by which the money was obtained was unlawful and thus Murphy was now a hunted man, the sheer volume of his frauds steadily pushing him up the list. The latest intel had him in LA after moving from city to city in order to commit his crimes.
"That's Ryan Murphy." David Sinclair announced even as the suburban was already pulling over to the side of the street into a no-standing zone. They were on their way to an appointment but his boss' reaction made his next comment fairly much redundant. "We calling it in or going after him ourselves?"
"He's here, we're here." Special Agent Don Eppes explained succinctly.
Wasting no time the agents made it safely across the street to the usual accompaniment of horns and waved fingers as they cut directly through the traffic. Reaching the stairs down to the subway Don tried to quickly read the illuminated timetable to get an idea of how long they had to search the platform. They didn't have long, the next train was due in two minutes. Flashing their badges at the attendant got them admitted through the bypass and they were in luck, Murphy was standing not far away, seemingly engrossed in the financial pages of a newspaper he was holding. Nodding at each other the two agents separated slightly, David angling around behind as Don approached more directly from the side. A basic distract and grab manoeuvre they'd used before.
"Ryan Murphy." Don called when he was within range and David was in place. He held up his badge and ID. "FBI."
As planned Murphy turned to stare at the man who'd called his name, completely unsuspecting that he was already caught. Murphy's body weight shifted as if he were about to try to run but that was as far as he got. David was ready and had Murphy's hands secured behind his back and locked into cuffs before he'd moved more than half a step.
"Ryan Andrew Murphy, you are under arrest for fraud."
The man's shoulders slumped slightly as he accepted his fate. He faced the lead agent. "I suppose it had to end eventually, but I was hoping to do so much more."
"You were just going about it the wrong way." David commented as Don had turned to soothe a startled commuter.
"How else was I to raise that much money?"
An admission like that required an immediate reading of his Miranda rights, something David took care of. Just as he finished the train pulled into the platform. The waiting crowd surged forward making Don and David both struggle to move against the tide and pull their prisoner out of the way.
A commuter running late was jostled and forced back a few steps as he virtually ran into the tight group of three men. At the same moment the doors of the train hissed shut and it started to pull out. The commuter immediately reacted angrily, shoving at the man closest to him causing David to stumble. Murphy, seeing his chance twisted suddenly and broke David's already weakened grip on his arm. David immediately made to go after him but the commuter blocked his path, the man taller than the agent and using the advantage to get into the agent's face and start a tirade of abuse.
"Don!" David called, alerting his boss as he shoved the man away.
"I got it!" Don responded, already in motion as he started after the fleeing prisoner.
Murphy reached the edge of the platform and jumped straight off down onto the tracks. Somehow he kept his balance, a difficult task with his hands cuffed behind him but he managed. Hesitating barely a moment he looked first after the departing train and then off to the right towards the Wilshire/Vermont station. Decision made he ran to the right, disappearing swiftly from sight into the darkness.
"David, stop the trains!" Don yelled over his shoulder, confident that his partner had by now shown the angry commuter the error of his ways.
"On it, Don!" Came the welcome reply. The angry commuter had indeed pulled his head in upon being shown not only David's badge but his gun as well.
Then Don was also on the tracks heading after the fleeing prisoner. For half a minute or so he could see very little beyond the gleam from the polished tops of the rails after the brightness of the platform forcing him to move slowly. Finally his eyes adjusted to the illumination provided by the comparatively dim emergency lights. Now he could see that the tunnel was curving and the fugitive was nowhere in sight. He pressed on, running faster now that he could actually see where he was putting his feet, keeping between the rails to avoid tripping over the rail ties.
The tunnel started to straighten as he reached the end of the curve and he could now see Murphy up ahead. The man was running slower now, he was young, barely in his 30's but was obviously not very fit. A lifetime spent in front of stockmarket computers could do that Don supposed as he closed up the distance. Unexpectedly he stumbled over something he hadn't seen under his feet. Regaining his footing he continued, surprised to see that Murphy had also stumbled and was only just now recovering. The fugitive glanced back and seeing pursuit so close was spurred to greater speed only to stumble and go down.
Don also stumbled again forcing him to stagger to a stop as he fought to remain upright. Suddenly it all became clear as the floor lurched beneath his feet. It was an earthquake. It had been some time since the last quake and the usual doomsayers had suggested one was due. The ground shifted again then settled. Somehow Don knew it wasn't over yet.
"Murphy, get back here. We need to get out of this tunnel." Don called.
The fugitive had just climbed back to his feet, not an easy task with his hands cuffed behind him. He stared back at the agent before glancing over his shoulder in the direction he'd been running. A final glance upwards at the tunnel ceiling where a signal was still swaying seemed to make up his mind. "You think this could be…?" He trailed off.
Don knew the question even if he wasn't one to dwell on the whole scenario of California disappearing into the Pacific. "There's no time for this. We've got to get above ground before the next tremor."
"I think you're right." Murphy agreed, starting back towards the agent. "We need to get out of here."
"Come on." Don urged, every second that passed brought the next shock that much closer. The managers of the subway system might claim that being in their tunnels was the safest place to be during a quake but instinctively he found that hard to believe.
Murphy picked up the pace as keen now to get back to the surface as he'd been to escape. Don took a hold of the man's upper arm as he reached him, partially to ensure he didn't try to run again the moment they reached the platform but mainly to keep him moving as quickly as possible.
They hadn't gone far, just barely reaching the start of the curve that lead back to the station when the ground shifted again. This shift was not as gentle as the ones that had heralded it, this was a series of sudden sharp jolts that threw both men to the ground. It was followed by another brief respite.
"Get up!" Don yelled, dragging at Murphy. The thought flashed through his mind that the cuffs were hampering the man's movement but there was no time to stop and take them off.
Barely had they staggered upright before the ground shifted again, this time a rolling surge that made it impossible to stay on their feet. Prone on the tunnel floor Don looked around him and saw the unsettling sight of the concrete tube walls rippling and moving as the quake intensified. He also spotted an alcove in the wall, a space designed as an emergency bolt hole for any worker caught on the tracks when a train approached.
As his prisoner, Murphy's safety was his responsibility. He got the man up onto his knees and half dragged him over to the alcove. A couple of yards away he gave him a shove. "Get in there."
He watched for a bare moment until satisfied that the man could make it the rest of the way under his own steam. Don had seen the next alcove further along the tunnel wall and had his own safety to consider now that he'd taken care of the other. Moving as quickly as he could on all fours he made for the next alcove.
A crack and a dull sound much like an explosion sounded loud in the enclosed space, even over the rumbling of the quake itself. Don forced himself to greater speed but he'd barely gained another few yards when another stomach clenching lurch was followed by a sharp report from directly overhead. Glancing upwards automatically he saw a large crack run across the concrete ceiling. A moment later pieces started to fall, the liner was coming away from the solid rock through which the tunnel had been bored. He flung himself back the other way but knew he couldn't reach any shelter in time. With no option he flattened himself to the ground, rolling onto his stomach against a rail in the hope it would prevent him being crushed. Covering his head protectively with his arms he had time for one more breath before there was pain and darkness.