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.
Not much time passed before the movements of the truck once again became erratic. The truck accelerated before braking heavily and turning. Again Don found himself being flung across the back of the truck, the violent movement serving to bring him back out of the stupor he'd allowed himself to sink into. Thoughts even more sluggish than before it took another turn before he was able to organise himself enough to brace himself. There was more than one siren this time, the discordant wails making it hard to determine exactly how many units were in pursuit but more than two was a safe bet. A sudden bright sliver of light flashed along the bottom of the roller door and he realised that a helicopter must also be tracking them, the light whiter than the average cruiser's headlights.
Some more turns and then he was flung forward as the truck braked heavily and came to a stop. As before, Don got himself back up and managed to eventually make it to the roller where he could take his place leaning an ear against the metal to better hear what was happening outside. It was a case of leaning until he stopped, he no longer had any feeling in his extremities or skin, everything was numb. Currently in a break between bouts of violent shivering he pulled himself back up into a ball and concentrated what was left of his mind power on listening.
This time there was gunfire, coming to him as sharp pops. The exchange stopped only to resume again. There was some shouting as well but he couldn't make out the words over the sounds of more sirens closing in. His hopes rose, it seemed that the truck was surrounded and becoming more so by the minute, the ride was over. As if hearing his thoughts the gunplay stopped and he could now hear instructions being shouted.
"Throw out your weapons!"
"Driver, toss out the keys." A pause. "Driver, open the door using the handle on the outside and step out. Walk backwards to the sound of my voice."
A longish pause and then quicker instructions were issued twice more.
It finally dawned on Don that he needed to draw attention to himself, there should be enough officers outside that someone could be spared to attend to him while the others secured the offenders. Summoning what was left of his strength he got an arm moving and made contact with the roller causing a satisfying bang. He struck again and then a third time before hearing the response.
"Agent Eppes!" A voice called as he heard the latch rattle. "Damn, they got it padlocked. Get the key off them."
There was a pause and then a different voice commented. "They must have been on the truck keys that they tossed. I'll find them."
The first voice countermanded that. "No time. Does anyone have a master key?"
It took Don about as long as it took the officer to arrive with the master key to remember the term was police jargon for bolt-cutters. A rattle and then a metallic pop as the lock was cut. The roller slid up to stop at the top of its track with a bang. Pressed against the door Don almost fell out as the support vanished. It was only the quick reaction of a man in a suit that held him in place.
"He's frozen. Get him out." A sheriff's deputy called.
The man in the suit that Don figured for an agent shook his head as he adjusted his grip slightly to keep him in the truck. "No. We move him we could kill him."
Not happy with staying in the truck Don tried to add his own argument. "Out." But the word was more of a gargle than anything else.
The man looked up at him. "It's alright, Agent Eppes. I know what I'm doing." He turned away for a moment. "Anyone got a blanket?"
More than one voice responded. A blanket was pretty much standard equipment carried in most law enforcement vehicles.
"Bring them all. How long for the EMTs?"
"Not long, Agent." A deputy responded.
A deputy quickly approached with a stack of folded blankets. "These do?"
"Yeah. Toss them up then give me a hand with him."
The blankets landed in a heap beside him. The deputy then took the other agent's place supporting Don as the other man climbed up. With a little bit of manoeuvring Don was pulled back away from the edge, deeper into the truck where he was no longer in danger of falling out. He protested but his mumbles and gargles were ignored. The blankets were shaken out and he found himself cocooned. A violent shiver ran through him, it had been some time since the last one and he figured it must have been a reaction to the pending warmth. A moment after that he realised that he wasn't feeling any warmth from the blankets, they were doing nothing. He didn't consider that they were actually there to insulate him from the comparative blast furnace that was the warm California night. Final adjustments made the agent finally introduced himself.
"I'm Agent Jack Donaldson. My partner over there is Agent Cheryl Taylor."
Don looked over and saw a female agent moving amongst the uniformed deputies.
Donaldson continued, "We've got three in custody and one didn't make it. Your report said four men, we have all of them?"
Remembering that the ability to speak had abandoned him he managed a jerky nod that seemed to satisfy Donaldson. He then realised that it wasn't just Donaldson in the truck with him as he heard a bag of ice shift and fall. Turning as best he could he caught a glimpse of a deputy shifting the load in a search for the cargo that was valuable enough for the men to have kidnapped a federal agent. This time he tried to speak but all he managed was an unintelligible sound with a vague 'D' sound at the beginning. Donaldson leaned in so Don tried again only to see the man pull back and shake his head. His growl of frustration came through clearly enough.
"It's alright. We'll find it." Donaldson reassured. "Don't try to talk."
That only frustrated him more. Envisioning the ice being allowed to melt he knew that the diamonds would be practically invisible amongst the sodden plastic bags that would remain. He could then see apparently empty bags being thrown away, as he doubted that the men would confess to what they were trying to smuggle. Another growl escaped him as he wondered how he was going to get the message across when he couldn't talk and there was no way he was able to write a note. That would involve using hands he couldn't even feel let alone expect to hold a pen.
Don was saved from having to think of something when a woman's voice called out to Agent Donaldson. Don looked up to see the Sheriff striding up to the back of the truck.
"Agent, we found this on one of them." The woman announced, holding up a small clipseal bag.
The other agent took the bag and held it up to the light of a cruiser's headlights. Don saw the rainbow flash and understood that they had found the diamond that One had appropriated.
Donaldson held the bag a little closer. "This what you were trying to tell me?" He continued at the other agent's nod. "Frozen in the ice, right?"
"Alright, when the EMTs get here we'll shut it back up to stop it all melting. Looks to be quite a haul." Donaldson continued. He handed the bag back to the Sheriff to be inventoried with everything else. Turning back to Don with a smile he added, "I'd say good work but somehow I don't think you're feeling that just at the moment."
He didn't feel his face move but Donaldson's broke into a grin so he figured he must have managed some sort of reaction to the amused comment.
The newest siren approaching the scene suddenly cut out and he looked up to see the bulk of an ambulance making its way through the haphazardly parked cruisers. A deputy buttonholed one of the EMTs the moment they pulled up and he saw the woman glance up at the truck and understand the situation. Less than a minute later the two paramedics were wheeling over a gurney.
"FBI." Donaldson said by way of greeting. "Agent Eppes here was trapped in this freezer for over an hour."
"Got it." The woman reached beneath the blanket to touch the side of his face with the back of her hand. "Agent, can you say your name for me?"
Don tried but it came out as a jumble just as he expected.
The woman nodded. She moved a bit closer and managed to get a stethoscope against his upper chest. Normally the equipment was cold but today he didn't feel the contact. After listening a moment she pulled back, announcing a number to her partner. "Shivering?"
"Off and on." Donaldson supplied. "Actually, more off than on."
"Moderate to severe hypothermia." The EMT diagnosed. She nodded at her partner who moved up having readied the gurney. "We'll need a few hands to help move him."
Donaldson responded by calling over a couple of deputies. One of them jumped up into the back of the truck while the other got into place below.
"You'll be okay Agent, but you're going to have to let us do all the work here, okay?"
That was fine by him, balled up and wrapped in the blankets he wasn't really able to move much anyway. Between the five of them he was soon lifted down from the truck and found himself sitting in the same pose on the gurney. They rolled him back and the blankets were pulled away as they slowly straightened his limbs until he was lying flat. Working quickly now he was in position a couple of sensors were attached to his chest and he was then covered by a silver blanket that was tucked in around him. The other blankets went back over the top. A violent shiver struck just as they finished and he crinkled. For some reason he found that funny and he half snorted.
The woman looked back at him, an answering smile on her face as they started to wheel him over to their vehicle. "First time done up as a roast, Agent?"
His nod wasn't missed even as they loaded him up. The idea appealed to him about then and he found himself remembering fondly the waves of warmth that would come out of the oven whenever his father made a roast.
There was a minute or so of fussing as she set up the various pieces of equipment and ensured he was securely strapped in. The other EMT had climbed up into the cab and Don could hear him talking on their comms giving details of their patient and his case.
"Town, Sandra." The man announced.
"Okay, Agent. We've got a bit of a drive ahead of us now, we're going to take you back down to LA rather than the local hospital." The woman now identified as Sandra explained. She picked up a headset. "I'm going to be on the phone a bit so just relax, okay?"
Don gave another nod, relaxing was something he could do.
By the time they reached the hospital he was struggling to stay awake and still felt frozen to the core. But he seemed to have reached some sort of equilibrium, he wasn't getting any colder even if he wasn't getting any warmer. His head had been wrapped with enough bandages that he was sure it amounted to a turban. The same had been done to his hands and feet. He'd never realised just how many bandages an ambulance carried.
The hustle and bustle that followed his being wheeled into the hospital soon put paid to any drowsiness that he was feeling. A doctor saw him almost immediately and then he was surrounded by nurses who stripped off his clothes before shoving warm packs under his arms and at his groin, swapping packs out every few minutes. He tried hard not to think too much about the thermometer they were using to check his body temperature. The doctor and other nurses worked at his hands, feet and head. Finally, many hours later, he started to feel warmer, which was to say cold rather than frozen. After a final check by the doctor, his extremities were re-wrapped and he was taken up to a room. More comfortable now that the thermometer had been removed and the nurses had returned to the more commonly used device to check his body temperature.
"Alright, Agent." The final nurse said once he was settled. "No moving around, call us if you want anything, anything at all."
He gave the nurse a look, wondering just how he was supposed to press a call button with his thumb when he couldn't even find the digit in the balls of gauze around his hands. He shouldn't have worried, the nurse dug into a cupboard mounted in the wall and pulled out a large pad sized device. She held it up showing a large button mounted in its face before swapping it for the much smaller call button. It was placed beside his right arm.
"Just press on this. We'll be in every ten, but don't wait if you want something." She explained. A final once over to be sure everything was in order she added, "Do you feel up to visitors?"
Expecting just his family he was a little surprised to find his team trailing them into the room. The agents hung back allowing him a reunion with his family first. He thought he heard a whispered comment along the lines of 'Princess Leia' followed by a quickly hushed snicker but wasn't quick enough to see who'd been so bold. He was quickly distracted.
"Hey, Donny," Alan started, his voice soft in worry. "How are you doing?"
"Better." He still sounded like he was a touch drunk as his mouth and tongue still found it hard to work properly but he was at least understandable. Shot full of painkillers the pain from his extremities was reduced to a dull ache to go with the rest of him. Sleep was something he needed now, almost as much as seeing his family. "Tired."
"They told us you needed rest. I'll stay for a while, but Charlie and Amita have classes to teach and I'm sure your agents have work they should be doing." Alan said with a glance behind him. His father then looked him up and down before meeting his eyes again, his tone a little lighter now he'd been able to satisfy himself that his son was okay. "Hypothermia?"
Don could feel his face now and felt his lips quirk up in a smile. "Crazy, huh?"
"So, I guess I was right." Charlie finally said, his voice a little dull. This was not the first time that his brother had been injured following up on data he had provided.
"Yeah." He bit back the addendum that they would have totally missed the shipment if they'd followed up in the morning, now, as planned. By now the diamonds could have been anywhere in or even out of the States. They would also have been trying to track drugs not precious stones unless their source had come through with more specific information. Instead he added, "Closed the case in record time."
David, followed by his team moved up now the conversation had moved to work matters. "We're on our way back to the office to finish the paperwork you left us, Don."
"Sounds fair, I did the work." Talking was coming a little easier now with practice and he managed another smile even as he suddenly shivered again. He still felt cold even though he knew he wasn't technically cold any more.
Nikki grinned, there was something she needed to point out. "And got frostbite in California in the middle of summer."
"Almost got frostbite." Don corrected. It wasn't all that 'almost', the rewarming of his extremities had been very slow and careful to reduce the damage that the exposure to the extreme chill of the truck had caused.
"I distinctly remember the doctor telling Alan something about frostbite." Colby chipped in.
Don looked from one to the other of his visitors, suddenly feeling ganged up on. Even Alan seemed to appreciate the lightening of the mood.
"So, Charlie," David started. "What are the odds on Don getting frostbite in LA?"
Charlie backed up a pace, hands raised in surrender as he shook his head from side to side. "Not even going to touch that one."
"That bad?" Don demanded. He couldn't remember the last time Charlie didn't have some numbers ready. "Really?"
"Yep." Charlie admitted.
"Damn." This time it was a yawn that prompted a reaction.
Alan turned and started making 'shooing' motions. "Alright, the lot of you, out. The doctor said rest."
After a few more good natured jibes everyone except Alan left. He took up a spot in a chair and opened a book making it clear he was staying for a while. Appreciating the company Don let himself rest, his team could handle the wrap up of the case. He just wanted to feel warm again; something the doctor had advised would take a while.
A/N: A short fic, done and dusted, but once he is warmed up again I'll see what else I can do to him. Cheers!