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[personal profile] aleo_70
Title: Choices
Author: [info]aleo_70
Rating: PG 13+
Genre: Gen
Characters: Don Eppes, David Sinclair, Colby Granger, Charlie Eppes, Alan Eppes, OMCs - Scott Nelson and Paul Nelson
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.  Anything you don't recognise is a product of my imagination.
Spoilers: Arrow of Time, Fifth Man, Pilot.
Warnings: violence
Word count this chapter: ~3180
Word count total: ~44,000

Summary: Making a choice is one thing, surviving the consequences that follow is something else altogether.  Third instalment of Nelson series following Flight and Crosshairs - Brad escapes but danger for Don comes from an unexpected quarter.


CHAPTER FOUR

This time as they moved the SIG was pressed firmly against his side with his arm held in a firm grip.  Nelson was clearly not as prepared to take his word he’d cooperate as they had further to move in the open.  The new car, a dark blue sedan, was parked at the curb a short distance down the side street and they made it to the vehicle without incident, passing only a single man along the way.  Paul tossed the empty bag and the EMT’s kit onto the front passenger seat, Don’s clothes, swipe card and discarded keys had been left in the room.  Nelson helped him into the back seat and buckled him in before moving quickly around the vehicle to take his spot beside him in the back, Paul keeping a close eye on him the whole time.  As Paul settled into the driver’s seat Nelson turned to their captive, stripping off his gloves and wiping his hands on his jeans.

“Thank-you, Agent.”

“You didn’t exactly give me any choice.”

“True, but I think I know you fairly well.”

Not sure how to answer that Don turned away, watching as they headed back towards the San Bernardino freeway.  “How long before we get down to business?”

“We’ll be there in a bit,” Nelson said sounding a little surprised at the agent’s eagerness.  “You really will help us?”

“I want to be away from you,” Don answered.  His hands twisted as the gesture he’d been about to make with one hand jerked the cuffs against his wrists.  His hands balled into fists showing his frustration and anger.  “And I want these off.”

“Like I said, I think I know you well enough.  They stay on.”

“Then let’s get this started.  Where was Brad when you spoke to him?”

“He didn’t say.  Just that he was out.”

“And coming after me.”

“That too.”

“Why not just sit back and wait until he came after me and then step in?”  Don wanted to know.

“I thought of that,” Nelson admitted.  “But I figured you would probably end up in protective custody so that wasn’t feasible.  Looks like I was right on that point.”

It was his own stupid fault that he wasn’t.  If he’d accepted Brown’s offer to escort him he would probably have been comfortably in a hotel room by now.  A sudden thought occurred to him, even thought he’d not actually being expecting an escort Nelson may have been prepared to one on.  Perhaps it really had been better he’d gone to his SUV alone.  Don got back on track, “When did he call you?”

“About nine.”

“That would put it around two hours after his escape,” Don calculated.  That could put the fugitive anywhere within a hundred mile radius of his start point giving them a lot of territory to cover.  It also meant Nelson and his son had made it to LA in very short time.  “How did you get here so quick?”

“Charter plane.”

“And organised all this in a few hours?  How did you know where I live?”

“Like I said, I’ve done my research,” Nelson explained.  “I had always thought this possible, even if I hoped he would never try this.  I had to be prepared.”

Once again Don put the irrelevant line of questioning aside however personally alarming he found the concept that Nelson had planned this contingency long in advance.  “How did Brad call you, cell or payphone?”

“Cell, I think.”

“To your cell?”

“Yes.”

“I’m going to need your number.”

“That will identify my cell and get us tracked,” Nelson objected.

Don didn’t bother pointing out that the FBI would be able to find his number and track him anyway.  But then, considering the amount of planning that had obviously gone into this, he figured Nelson had probably already swapped to a burner or a pre-paid which made that point moot.  “Then dump it.  You want me to help you I need to backtrace that call.  We get his cell number we can track him.”

“I’ll think about it.  What else?”

“Who helped his escape?”  There had been no update on the attack from the details already on the BOLO in the morning.  The injured guard had not yet recovered from surgery to be questioned.  Their best guess was at least two men had staged the attack but there could easily have been more.

“He didn’t say.”

“What exactly did he say?”

Nelson sat back as he considered.  “He called, said he was out.  He was going to head straight to LA to find you.  I told him to leave you alone and come to us.”

“You were going to shelter him,” Don accused.

“I was going to find a way to turn him in before he got himself killed.  Or killed anyone else,” Nelson added after a pause.

Don wasn’t so sure he believed that.  “Sure.  So, what else did he say?”

“He already had a car and that he had a gun.  His plan was to take care of you before anything else.  They were heading out as soon as he finished talking to me.”

“They?”

“What?”  Nelson seemed startled.

“You said ‘they’.  He’s with someone.  Who?”  Don figured it had to be at least one of the men involved in the escape.

“I don’t know.  I hadn’t realised he’d said that.”

“You’re sure he did though, he did say ‘they’?”

“Positive.  You’re right, he’s with someone.”

“But you’ve got no idea who that might be?”

“Not a clue,” Nelson admitted then stopped as a thought occurred.  “Jack’s still-?”  He trailed off.

Don nodded.  Jack, along with the other two AK-47s had been confirmed to be still securely in custody.  All three had been moved to solitary confinement in their respective prisons and locked down.  “He’s still in jail, so it isn’t him.  Or the other two.  What other friends do you have that would get mixed up in something like this?”

Nelson seemed to take offence at that suggestion.  “Not everyone I know is like Jack, Agent.”

Don wasn’t feeling very charitable towards the man at the moment and didn’t care that he’d ruffled his feathers.  He pressed the point, “So who is it?  It has to be someone he knows so you’ll probably know him too.”

“It could be someone from jail.  Have you thought of that?”  Nelson snapped back.

“Sure, I’ve thought of that. I want to look into his cellmates, check their release status and outside contacts,” he responded readily. 
They’d been travelling along the freeway now for a while.  Nelson regarded his captive for a long moment.  “Don’t think I’m missing why you’re suddenly so eager to help us.”

“I’d be surprised if you didn’t.”

“They won’t be able to trace your calls to where we’re going to be,” Nelson warned.

That certainly was part of what he’d hoped for but there was more.  “You claim you want me to help you find your son and making those calls is the only way I can do that like this,” he said, lifting his cuffed hands in emphasis.  “The quicker I help the quicker I’ll be out of these and away from you.”

Nelson looked to the agent’s restrained hands.  “I am sorry about those, about this, but I have to try to save my son.”

“So you keep saying,” Don snapped back, in no mood for Nelson’s apologising.  “From where I’m sitting I have no reason to believe you.  This whole time you could easily have been blowing smoke in which case Brad will be at the end of this road and you’ve killed me.  I’d appreciate it if you could have the decency to tell me the truth if that’s the case.”

“I’ve never lied to you.”

Which was true but Don pressed on.  “Whatever.  You say you want me to help find Brad and you’ve kept my phone so I can make the calls.  You either let me or you don’t.  Up to you.”

“I really have lost your trust,” Nelson said, repeating his words from their last meeting.

“And you think this helps with that?”  Don demanded.  “No free pass this time, you’ve really stepped up to the plate.  That goes for Paul as well.”

Nelson sat back silently for a while.  “You aren’t going to help us, are you?”

“I’ll help, but I want something in return.”

“You want us to let you go.”

“Damn straight.  I’ll be better able to find Brad than like this with my hands tied,” he said, twisting so he faced Nelson.  “But I know that’s not on the cards so I want the next best thing.  I’ll run these checks through my team.  I want them to know that you have me, not your son.”

Even in the dark Don could see the eyebrow that rose at his demand.  Nelson regarded the agent for a long moment.

“They’ll go after Brad.  You’ll have to run them another way.”

“So what if they go after Brad?  You want him brought in.”  Even as he said it he thought the odds that his team would instead come after him were greater.

“I don’t want him killed.  He’s still my son.”

“You’ve met my team.  You’ve met David Sinclair and you’ve put him in charge by taking me.  You know how he works.”

“I know he sent SWAT in to kill my son,” Nelson said stiffly.  He was clearly still angry at the desperate standoff David had initiated.

“They weren’t there to kill him, they were there to get me out,” Don countered.  “Brad pushed him to it, as you know.  Before it got to that David tried every non-violent avenue he could.  It shouldn’t have gone anywhere near as far as it did before he gave SWAT the go ahead.”

Nelson held his silence for almost a full minute.  “No.  Run your inquiries through someone else.  You used to work in Albuquerque, go through there.”

“It will get back to my team eventually.”

“Eventually,” Nelson seized on the word.  “You will order your checks to only come back to you.  You will be very careful what you say.”

“They’ll work it out soon enough, no matter where I run the checks, Albuquerque or Los Angeles,” Don warned.  In all probability by the time he got to make the call his access would have already been disabled but if he raised that point he was sure there would be no phone call.

“Then you can do it my way.”

Don knew he had lost, “Fine.  You’re the man with the gun.”

Now Nelson sounded disappointed, “Does it really have to be like that?”

“Seriously?  Half an hour ago you had your gun in my ribs.  You’re quite likely going to get me killed.  Or maybe even kill me yourself.  Yes, it’s like that.”

“I’m trying to protect you.”

How they’d gotten onto this line of conversation Don wasn’t sure but he pushed on.  “You?  What makes you think you can do that better than the FBI?”

“We’re here aren’t we?”

It was a fair response and only served to make the agent even angrier at himself.  “My own stupid fault.  I should have shot you both.”

“If you’d hurt Paul I would have killed you on the spot.  Keep that in mind,” Nelson turned his automatic response into a threat.  “We are only here now because I started this whole chain of events.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that means I put you before my sons, either of them.”

“Oh, I’m sure of that,” Don replied just as heatedly.  “But you better not make the mistake of pushing me into a corner.  You have no idea how far I will go.”

After another long, tense silence Nelson finally spoke, his tone back to his more usual friendly manner as he tried to calm things down.  “I owe you a phone call.  I’ll let you call Agent Sinclair to let him know you’re safe.”  He stopped as he seemed to consider something, “Or your family.  One or the other.”

Don hadn’t expected that given Nelson’s insistence that he couldn’t contact his team but would take whatever he was given, “When?”

“When the time is right.”

Don interpreted that to mean once his kidnapping was confirmed which made it not much of an offer in the end.  Nelson would have to make contact when it came time to make his demands.  On that note he gave it a rest, he had all he needed to make a start on the checks Nelson wanted so now all he could do was sit back and wait. 

He was surprised when barely five minutes later they took the Rialto exit off the freeway.  Paul drove for about a mile or so before pulling up in an unlit spot at the side of the road. 

“What are we doing?”  Don asked.  As best he could tell their location was totally random.

“Time to make those calls before we get to where we’re going,” Nelson said.  He pulled out Don’s cell.  “Albuquerque, right?”

Now he understood Nelson’s comment about not finding them by tracing the calls.  Assuming he was allowed to stay on the line long enough for a trace it would come up as Rialto, not their final destination.  “Fine.”

“Speakerphone and brief,” Nelson instructed.

“Fine,” Don repeated as he powered up the phone.  He remembered something, “What about your cell number?”

“No.”

Don wasn’t surprised by the refusal.  Nelson would want to keep the phone in case his son called him again.  The phone beeped indicating new messages waiting on his voicemail.  Nelson pulled at his arm to better see the screen.

“Leave it.  Make the call.”

Clearing the voicemail alert Don switched to speakerphone as ordered and dialled.

“Federal Bureau of Investigation, Albuquerque Field Office,” a male voice answered.

“Duty Agent, please,” Don requested.

A few seconds passed then a familiar voice introduced himself, “Agent Shelton.”

“Tony?  Don Eppes.”

“Hey, Boss!  Calling us for old time’s sake?”

The response told him the alarm hadn’t yet been raised about his disappearance.  An agent going missing under suspicious circumstances warranted a country-wide alert, even in Albuquerque Shelton would have seen it if it had been issued.  He was a little surprised, but a glance at his watch showed it had only been about an hour and a half since he went missing.  He was confident Stone and Brown had long since raised the alarm, but perhaps Wright was being cautious about rushing the formal alert.  Nelson gestured in annoyance at his slight hesitation so he got on with it, having the duty agent recognise him made this so much easier.  “Not this time Tony, business and we’re on the clock.”

The duty agent took the hint and got down to it, “What do you need?”

Don listed the inquiries he wanted conducted as well as instructing that he was to be called back direct to his cell only with the results.  At the other agent’s request he rattled off his authorisation code once he’d finished with his instructions.

“I thought you were in LA, not Fugitives,” Tony commented.

“Special circumstances with this one,” Don said.

“I see.  You suspect he’s heading this way?”

“Possibly,” Don risked.  Nelson didn’t react.

“Okay, I’ll get this started and call you back.”

“Thanks.  Oh, I’m not sure where I’ll be, if you get my voicemail, leave the details.”

“Will do,” the other agent acknowledged.  “Huh.  Be careful with this one, Boss.  I’m just checking his sheet on the BOLO-“

“I know,” Don interrupted.  “Gotta go.”

Nelson took the phone back and shut it down. “Thank-you Agent.”

***

David Sinclair looked at the position of the fresh handprints revealed by the white fingerprint dust and understood what they meant.  Even so he stepped up and held his own hands above the marks on the side of the once shiny black suburban to be sure.  The prints had already been confirmed as Don’s.  The single round of law enforcement ammunition sealed in an evidence bag in his hand, also bearing Don’s partial thumb print removed any doubt.  He made the call.

“Wright.”

“Sir, it’s confirmed, Agent Eppes has been taken.”

“What do we have?”

“Very little,” David admitted.  “The only prints are his but it looks like he was disarmed and searched.  We’ve recovered one unfired round from his service weapon indicating it was unloaded but there is no sign of the weapon itself.  There are also no signs of a struggle or any weapons fire. The two agents sent to escort him to the hotel reported hearing nothing.  His vehicle is unlocked and abandoned.  Calls to his cell are all going to voicemail and we can’t ping the GPS chip.  We’re checking with the building manager for any footage from the lot but it seems the only camera is at the entry.”

“Keep me apprised.”

“Yes, sir.  I’ll get Control to issue the alert.” He wanted to get the Missing Agent Alert out as soon as possible.  Sent via text message to every agent’s personal and work cell as well as via email it would take some time to be delivered.  It would also be forwarded on to other agencies, which would take even longer.  There was no time to waste.

“No, hold on that.”

“Sir?”

“Not yet.  I’ll make the arrangements.  Keep it as quiet as you can for now,” Wright ordered but didn’t explain further.  “Have his family collected and secured.  Follow up on the CCTV.  Report directly to me with anything you get.”

“Sir,” David acknowledged.

“David, only one car left the lot,” Colby reported as he ran up.  “A red sedan, here’s the tags.”

Thumbing the redial David tried to call the ADIC straight back with the details but got voicemail.  Expecting that would be the case knowing that Wright would be briefing up he left a brief message.  With the surprise order not to activate the alert for Don he didn’t go ahead with a BOLO while awaiting the call back unsure whether it would interfere with whatever the ADIC was planning.  Instead he set Colby to organising a forensic tow of Don’s SUV.  Their technicians may have better luck examining the vehicle in their purpose built facility.

Wright called him back a few minutes later and issued his orders after receiving the new information.  “Have a BOLO put out on it, no details but top priority.  Tell LAPD to make no attempt to intercept if sighted, they are to follow and contact you or Control only.”

David made the call to activate the BOLO then he had Stone and Brown follow him around to the Craftsman, leaving Colby to supervise the collection of the SUV.


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