Hey, you're brave if you're still willing to read this...
This is the very first (complete) story I've ever written, and although it's quite a while I still don't know what to think about it except of knowing that I'm not too happy about it... It's kitsch and melodrama and not really realistic, but I hope you still like it... at least a bit. Let me know what you think about it. If it's too bad I'm consequent enough to stop publishing it.
One last thing: I'm afraid the titles might sometimes not match perfectly because I had to change the story title in the translation so that also these 8 ()() signs that (should) show a break in the story might be out of context. But for those being curious: the ('lying') 8 is a symbol for eternity.
Disclaimer: No, the characters are still not mine (I should change something about that...), only the story is.
Timeline: mmh... let's say, in the middle of season 2
Thanks a lot to my beta Medraut!
Chapter 1: Before
Don Eppes turned off the television. The face of his brother, Charlie Eppes, disappeared. He just couldn't stand to watch this interview any longer. Although his brother had given only general and inexplicit information about their case, it had been information about a current case, and you didn't give such knowledge away to the media without permission. How often did he have to tell his brother not to spread his mathematical skills around like this after all? Even if it were only to avoid boring the spectators to death, because Don doubted that even one ordinary mortal had understood the explanations Charlie had just provided about their ongoing investigations. No doubt, Charlie was a genius – but when it came to explaining his mathematical achievements to the public, his brother sometimes had more similarity with a distracted professor. The next instant, Don inevitably wondered if there was a difference.
And why did Charlie always have to be in the foreground? Even in their childhood, in high school, he had been the high-flyer, with Don standing beside him like an idiot in spite of his average good marks. However, it was no – or at least no mere – jealousy that was making Don a little displeased, it was something different he couldn't define. Maybe just the resentment that Charlie was gloating over his fame while Don had to convince his AD again and again that they needed his mathematical skills for the solution of another case.
The ringing of his mobile pulled Don out of his thoughts. There were only two possibilities of who was calling – especially at this late hour. Either his colleagues because some progress had been made in their recent case, or Charlie, having solved yet another mystery in a miraculous way.
"Eppes," Don said.
The latter was the case. "Don?" Charlie's voice emerged the cell phone, lightly contorted. "I'm quite sure where they're going to strike the next time." It was about a series of robberies, already with multiple deaths, whose perpetrators were by no means easy to catch. "There are four businesses and banks that are more likely than others, indeed," he continued, "but they'll most likely choose the jeweler on Paxton Street."
"Okay. Thanks, Charlie," he briefly said, only to go on more harshly. "I've got to talk to you. Listen, I already said you a thousand times that you mustn't go to the public with your math stuff. You can't just give away information about current investigations! And today you were even on television! Can't you just shut up for once?"
Don had guessed Charlie would defend his behaviour; he had hoped that with a little provoked argument, his brother would realize that he had to pay attention, but he was wrong. On the other side there was silence. This time Charlie really did shut up.
No answer. "Charlie? Are you still there?"
Don was getting a little anxious. Maybe – no, certainly – he shouldn't have snarled at Charlie that harshly. He couldn't even remember now what had pushed him to his attacking choice of words. He just wanted to apologize to Charlie when he finally got an answer. "Yeah. Yeah. Sorry, what did you just say?"
Don stared at the black television in confusion and didn't know if he should react even angrier now or not. What the hell was going on with Charlie? However, the day had been too long to add thoughts about his kid brother's abstractedness. Yet, he was also too tired to argue with him. He hadn't been able to relax for quite a long time and today, there had been a work-load like hell once again. Charlie probably knows that, Don thought bitterly, although even he wasn't very convinced about it himself. He probably only pretended not to hear me, hoping that I'll forget the whole thing. "Doesn't matter," Don finally sighed. "Good night."
"…Wha-? Y – y – yeah… Yeah. Night, Don."
And with the fixed intention to talk to Charlie the very next day, Don went to bed.
8 ()() 8 ()() 8
The next morning, however, he initially did not do as he had planned. Around nine o'clock, Charlie entered the FBI headquarters. He looked a bit weary, but that was probably related to his current studies. Don had been able to figure that his brother had tackled something totally new and unexplored, but since he wouldn't understand it anyway he also hadn't bothered to ask further questions about it. For, if he did so – Don was certain – he wouldn't be able to escape Charlie's math lecture for at least two hours. And for such things Don currently neither had the time nor the nerve.
"I've prepared the group's possible targets here and the possibilities with which they're going to attack each establishment," Charlie started without wasting his time with a morning greeting to the team, who was now trying to muster up the intense concentration that they would need in order to understand Charlie's explanations. "The most probable one, however, is the jeweler on Paxton Street, although they could – if they're clever – hit the bank in Hollywood Square. At least that's what I would do. The algorithm I've composed, however, indicates that it would definitely be the jeweler."
"And why do you think these criminals should stick to an algo-whatever?" Colby asked tauntingly.
"They don't stick to mathematical laws intentionally," Charlie explained with a certain impatience in his tone that the others had seldom noticed before in his exemplifications. Indeed, Charlie didn't sound as energetic as usual and not as eager to help the team with his mathematical skills.
"They think of the best target possible. And if you – as I did – identify what their best targets would be, it's not too complicated to figure out when and where the next time will be, as long as you have the previous target as a starting point." He turned towards Don: "Was that all or do you still need me?"
"How are they going to strike?" Megan asked in-between.
"The same way as always," Charlie retorted, but Megan was confused.
"But they've acted in different ways each time," she argued.
"Yeah, from an external point of view," Charlie started his explanation, still trying not to show his impatience or whatever else it might be. "But the central theme is still always there. They always try to do something unpredictable and that's exactly the thing that makes them predictable."
Looking at the uncomprehending faces in front of him, Charlie let himself be carried away to a more elaborate explanation. "Since the alarm systems of the targets of this group are rather complex, there are only few loopholes that the criminals can get through. Therefore, having figured out the next target, you just have to look at the alarm system. The second simplest approach mostly defines their course of action. They want to be clever by avoiding the simplest one and so apparently the most dangerous method in order to hit their victims in their least protected and most sensitive point, though they aren't clever enough to change their approach."
"So how are they going to act this time?" Don wanted to know. This time he was rather sure that he had understood everything, at least.
Charlie sighed. "Since the jeweler has his main focus at the salesroom, they're going to come through the ventilation shaft. The alarm will still go off, of course, but then the jeweler will probably turn his attention towards the back door once he's locked the front door."
"But…," Megan started, apparently thinking. "Isn't the back door the second lowest risk, then?"
"No, only in the jeweler's point of view. The back door to the storage room holds the biggest risk because it has to be covered by the front door as well. Is that everything?"
Feeling like he didn't understand anything anymore, Don nodded. That he had still wanted to talk to Charlie was something he had forgotten during the past thirty seconds.
It wasn't until that evening, when they all were about to go home, that a new problem had come up and Don grabbed his mobile.
"Eppes," a voice at the other end answered.
"Hi, Dad. Is Charlie with you?"
"Don! Nice to hear from you again. Charlie? No, he's not here."
"Not there? Where is he?"
"Somewhere in the mountains. Larry and he wanted to make some kind of measurements or tests. The things they do – you know those two. You could try his mobile, though."
"I've already tried it; it's turned off. But I'll come over to your place soon anyway. See you."
He hung up. The idea to drive home had not crossed his mind until the very second he had vocalized it. Maybe he could solve the problem himself. Charlie had probably taken notes. At least Don was certain that the boards in the garage would be scribbled all over, as usual.
Upon his arrival at home, however, he found that Charlie's scribbling still left him completely clueless. There were no clear hints, only numbers and variables. And since Don didn't find a clue what the whole thing might mean, he tried the mobile again.
"Eppes," Charlie's voice answered this time.
"Hi, you ever bother to turn on your mobile, huh?" Don greeted him dryly. "Where are you? Why did you turn off your mobile?"
"I'm on my way home. Only a matter of hours on this damned mountain road."
Almost reluctantly, a small smile snuck across Don's face. Listening to his brother's words, Don would probably be home quite soon if he were the one driving Charlie's car down that mountain. However, he knew that Charlie was an uncertain driver.
"Larry and I have made some tests," Charlie explained, "and the electro magnetic waves of the cells would have compromised our results. Why are you calling?"
"There's something that isn't clear to us. Why don't the robbers just turn off the alarm system?"
There was silence on the other end of the line.
"So, nothing comes to mind about that, huh, you little math-geek?"
Don didn't know why he said something like that. And the stress wasn't an excuse. It had simply escaped his lips before he had even been able to think about it. As the silence stretched between them, he was prodded by pangs of remorse.
"Hey, Charlie, I didn't mean that. Really. I'm just a bit… well, it's not important. So, could you tell me why they don't simply turn off the alarm system?" he asked again, in a more reconciliatory tone.
After a hesitant few moments, Charlie's voice answered again, hastily, as if he had just awoke from a brief sleep with a start. "I'm sorry, Don, what did you say?"
"Charlie, what's up? What's wrong with you? I'm asking you for the third time now why they don't just destroy the alarm system."
"Oh that," Charlie said, sounding quite disturbed. "Then they wouldn't be able to enter through the shaft anymore. If the alarm system collapses, the ventilation shafts close automatically. Then they would have to go through the front or the back door, and both would be of a higher risk with the alarm turned off than the ventilation shaft with the alarm turned on."
"And if the alarm goes off, the shafts don't close?"
"No, the system is coupled with the fire alarm and the gas detector, and there has to be guaranteed an escape route. It's all in the report I gave you."
Charlie sounded far too hackled up for Don to take it calmly. "Then you have to write your reports more comprehensibly, so that people who aren't math professors can understand them!"
"I could write them even more abstractly, so take them the way they are. I can't talk now. I've got…"
Charlie fell silent. Don could hear a loud rumble, followed shortly by an appalled gasp for breath from Charlie, a second rumble and a cracking noise, as if the cell had fallen to the ground. Then brakes squealed so thrillingly that Don felt a shudder running down his spine.
The squeal had fallen silent. "Charlie? Charlie, you alright?"
No answer. Then an ear-threatening bang. A rustle. A long whistling noise. The connection was interrupted.