Numb3rs: Hunted

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 from prompts provided by

When a protected son of a witness takes flight Don finds that he is not the only one after him.


CHAPTER ONE

"All right people, listen up." Special Agent Don Eppes began as his team gathered in the bullpen at the Los Angeles FBI Field Office. "I've just got off the phone with the Albuquerque office. That job we got the heads up about an hour ago, hence the call out, is on. They have confirmed the threat against the witness and against his family hiding out here in LA. It seems the gang know that they are in Los Angeles and have put a price on their heads."

"We know where the family are staying?" Nikki asked.

"We've been provided the address of their motel. This time of day they should be there. The witness said he'd told them to lay low." It was early, the sun just barely now peeking over the horizon. Normally they would all have been lying in bed enjoying a sleep-in on what was meant to be a well deserved day off, except maybe for Granger who would probably have been out running. The early morning wakeup call they'd received had put paid to any plans they each may have had.

"Those photographs come through?" David queried. Don's call to bring them in had outlined the situation, mentioning in the process that the file was yet to be lodged on their intranet where they could access the full details, including photographs of the family. They'd been promised that the file would be waiting for them when they came in, as expected it hadn't quite worked out that way.

"Fresh off the printer." Don handed them out, five in total.

One had the entire family together, smiling at the camera. It was a posed shot taken by a photo studio just a few months before according to the attached note. Each of the five was dressed in what could only be described as Sunday best and had the perfect smile for the camera. The other photographs were more useful, natural poses with a better idea of the type of clothing each member favoured, individual shots of the woman and each of the three children. The youngest was five, the next eight and the last, a boy of fifteen.

When he'd first seen the photo of the eldest boy Don had been unable to resist the shake of his head. The kid was wearing clothes more suited to an up and coming gang-banger rather than a son from a stable, law abiding household. The boy was careful not to show any gang affiliation but it was clear what he thought of himself. The witness had told the agents in Albuquerque that his son may be difficult to handle, enamoured with an unrealistic idea of gang ethos. So far the kid had been kept out of trouble but his father was concerned that may not last for much longer. Upon seeing the photograph Don had understood the warning.

"What about the marshals? They don't want to get up so early?" Colby managed around a wide yawn. He was trying hard to look put upon without looking put upon.

"This is an FBI case. WitSec are yet to sign off on it. Until then, this is ours." Don explained. SAC Taylor at Albuquerque had sounded like that was only a formality, the paperwork to be completed and the family taken under WitSec's wing by the end of the day. All the Los Angeles FBI had to do was round up the family and stash them somewhere secure and wait for a call. Unfortunately Don and his team's planned day off had meant that they were available when the request came through to the Field Office from New Mexico, calling them in would not interfere with any other ongoing operations.

For once everything went smoothly. They arrived at the cheap motel in two vehicles, David and Colby taking their 300C around to the rear as Don and Nikki drove up and parked in the parking space reserved for the room the family was sheltering in. After a quick check to confirm that David and Colby were in place they were good to announce themselves. Given the situation it was possible that the family may attempt to flee out the rear door, thus the reason for the approach as they had to cover that eventuality. It turned out to be an unnecessary precaution. Sleepy and confused the family was woken, packed and loaded into the Suburban and the 300C in less than ten minutes. Twenty minutes later they were settling into a new room at an upmarket hotel in the centre of the city as Nikki ordered breakfast all round from the room service menu.

"You said I could speak to Joe," Marissa demanded. Her demand had been almost constant since they'd been collected.

Keeping to his word Don dialled the number provided by Albuquerque and got through to the agents on Joe Santos. The witness had also made a demand that he speak to his family or he would suddenly come down with incurable amnesia. Handing the cell over, Don moved away to give the woman some semblance of privacy as her husband explained the sudden change in their circumstances.

SAC Taylor's people had received word that the gang leader Santos was providing evidence against had learnt that the family had gone to LA and had been trying to make a deal with a local gang to get to the family. When that had fallen through the offer had been opened to all comers. It wasn't clear whether the family was to be killed outright or to be used as leverage against Santos to prevent his testifying until they could get to him directly. The gang was probably not too fussy as both would achieve their goal. Santos wasn't simply providing evidence against gang related activity; he had witnessed the gang leader himself killing an innocent old man, a murder that was going to ensure he never saw the light of day again. For that reason the investigators suspected that with the failure of negotiations the gang itself might take more direct action but that had not been confirmed. Even though the tails the New Mexico agents had placed on various gang members had only shown them going about their normal business it had been decided to place the family under full protection.

Santo himself had understood that he was about to put himself and his family in some danger by coming forward and had sent his family to LA almost two weeks ago just before he offered to give evidence. Thinking that they were safe Santos had approached the FBI who had immediately put him before an AUSA to swear out a deposition. The gang leader had been rounded up and charged, threats were made and the request went out to locate the family.

It was difficult not to overhear Marissa's end of the conversation as she tried to talk her husband out of giving his evidence. According to the file she had been all for her husband testifying but the threat against their children had suddenly become all too real and it was their safety she was thinking of now. As the call wound up it was clear that her husband had stood his ground and would go ahead with the trial, set for several months down the track, clearly trusting that the FBI and soon the marshals would keep his family safe until everything was over. Marissa tried to explain things to her children, the youngest not fully understanding, the oldest unfortunately understood completely. Jason stalked off, slamming the door to one of the rooms in his anger.

Colby made to go after him but Don held up his hand, he would take this. Tapping on the door he ignored the kid's demand to be left alone and let himself in. "Jason?"

The kid spun and fronted the agent. "You gonna talk to me, Fed, you could at least use my name."

"I get why you're upset, J." Don continued smoothly, acceding to the boy's demand to use his preferred gang-style name. That had also been one of the things mentioned by the boy's father, along with the attitude towards LEOs. Using the assumed name was a small thing and it could go towards building rapport. "Things were already shaken up before we dragged your mother and brothers out of bed this morning. Believe me, if there'd been some other way we would have taken it."

"This is all Dad's fault, going to the cops in the first place. It wasn't his business."

"He was doing what was right. A man was murdered."

"So?" J demanded, his voice less than sympathetic. "He shouldn't have crossed them."

"You're kidding me." Don was unable to keep the disgust from his voice. The boy's lack of compassion was not something he would have expected given what he knew of his upbringing, despite the father's warnings. "A sixty-seven year old shop keeper somehow 'crossed' a street gang?"

The agent knew the basic circumstances around the murder. The shopkeeper, running a small convenience store, had attempted to make the gang leader pay for a chocolate bar he'd helped himself to. The shopkeeper's simple demand for the payment of a few dollars had lead to a fully automatic machine pistol being produced, a trademark for the gang. The entire clip had been emptied into the helpless man as he'd tried to seek cover. There had been nothing paramedics could do for him with so many close range bullet wounds and he'd died on his own freshly polished floor. Joe Santos had been approaching the counter to pay for his own goods and had been a witness to the entire thing. With the corroboration provided by the surprisingly high quality CCTV footage, Nicholas Ramirez was facing the death penalty. The two lieutenants with him were facing significant jail time for failing to intercede.

"He should have shown some respect."

"Respect? Is that what you call it?" Don was astonished. Enamoured with an unrealistic gang ethos was one thing but he hadn't expected the kid to be this naive. "You really have no idea do you?"

"I know plenty more than you do, Fed."

The agent's answering smile was far from tolerant. "You need to wake up and smell the coffee, kid." Don gave the boy a slow once over look, pointedly taking in the clothing and what it represented. "This was not some scripted scene but the death of a real person. You've been watching the wrong TV shows."

"I've been on the street." The boy stepped closer, tapping at his own chest in emphasis as he played tough. They were almost the same height giving the kid the confidence to attempt the intimidating move. "I know."

Don treated the invasion of his personal space with the contempt it deserved. He also knew that the kid hadn't been on the street, at least not in the way he was meaning. "I think you're missing a few key points. They murdered a helpless old man just trying to make a living. They are threatening the lives of a woman and her children to scare another man into not testifying so that their leader can avoid jail. These are the people you respect?" Don threw the word back into the boy's face.

"So what, I'm supposed to respect you?" J scoffed.

"No, not me." The kid's obvious disregard for law enforcement didn't bother him, given the circumstances that was par for the course. "But you should respect people who stand up for what's right, people like your father."

"He's gonna get us killed." J walked away, showing the agent his back.

Don sighed. At least the boy understood this really was a life and death situation even if his blame for the cause of it fell in the wrong place. "That's what we're here to prevent."

"Yeah? Well that's just until I've talked to Dad. If he doesn't testify they'll leave us alone."

"It doesn't work like that in the real world, J." Don started but didn't bother explaining further as it was clear the boy wasn't prepared to listen.

The fact that the father had witnessed the attack and had come forward made him a marked man even if he suddenly refused to testify. CCTV footage could be discounted, no matter how good the quality, or even prevented from being taken into evidence in the first place if the defence lawyer found the right angle. A live witness was the only real solid evidence. Joe Santos was a liability, one that could change his mind at any time and sink a gang leader. Refusing to testify just gave the gang some breathing space, able to take care of the witness at their leisure along with the family if they were determined to send a strong message. From what he'd been told about this particular gang, new to Albuquerque since he left, they most probably would take the more extreme approach.

"Whatever." The boy insolently lounged back on the bed. He picked up the remote and started flicking through channels on the wall mounted TV. "You can pay to get us home but you're getting nothing after I've talked to Dad. You're not gonna be able to stop me."

About to answer Don tensed at the knock at the door to the suite. Guns were quickly drawn from holsters as Nikki herded the other family members into a second bedroom. She remained at that door just as Don remained where he was, pulling the door partially closed behind him. Colby and David faced the main door.

"Yeah?" David called.

"Room service."

After checking everyone was ready David went to the door and peered through the peep hole. He nodded to indicate things appeared to be as announced before he unlocked the door and backed away so that he would be partially obscured by the door itself as he pulled it open. The agents all moved their gun hands, tucking the weapons out of sight behind their bodies and attempted to look casual. It was a fine line, providing protection and being able to instantly react with lethal force to a threat. At the same time they needed to conceal who and what they were from the hotel staff who could see an opportunity to make a quick buck by reporting that police were guarding some important people in room 312. Apparently unaware the woman wheeled the trolley in, leaving it just inside the door as David held his hand out. She handed David a chit to sign then left, the tip automatically included.

The threat over the agents relaxed, allowing the family back out. J ignored the offer, clearly intending to remain in the bedroom so Don left him to it. Deliberately pushing the door fully open Don joined his team. The smell of the fresh coffee was welcome as they poured their own but he had work to do, shaking his head at Nikki's offer.

"You got it?"

"Under control, Don." David answered. The three of them would remain at the hotel while Don returned to the field office to ensure the paperwork went through. Two agents were to remain in the room at all times, the third could leave to conduct roving patrols from time to time. Unfortunately Nikki was stuck in the room for the duration given that one of the people under protection was female.

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A/N: Okay, a slow start but things will pick up quickly…