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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: ~3160
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 SEVEN

The night was long but Don was determined to get some rest.  At least that was the plan, each noise in the unfamiliar cabin had him initially jerking awake to alertness after he eventually did fall asleep.  He was eventually able to relax and finally woke as Nelson walked into the room just on dawn to relieve Paul.

Don moved as he woke fully and not for the first time jerked his wrist against the restraint of the cuffs.  He’d lost count on the number of times during the night he’d done that.  Nelson had been right on that point, it had not been a comfortable way to sleep. 

“Morning, Paul,” Nelson greeted his son first.  He approached the bed, “Agent.”

Don sat up slowly, swinging his feet over the edge of the bed.  At the sight of the handcuff key being held up he remembered the instruction from the night before and crossed his ankles.  The key was dropped into his hand and he unlocked the cuff from the frame.  Taking a risk he fitted the key into the band around his left wrist but Nelson wasn’t having that.

“Uh uh, Agent.  They stay on.”

Pulling the key free Don reluctantly closed the free cuff around his right wrist and held his hands up at the new demand to allow Nelson to inspect them to ensure they were secured properly.

He was again allowed privacy in the washroom and he made the most of it washing his face and neck in an effort to feel somewhat clean.  He was guided to the table where Paul already had a coffee waiting for him.  After a less than companionable breakfast he was taken out to the car.

“Where are we going?”

“Time to check in with your people,” Nelson explained.  “I want to see if they’ve found my son and I’m sure they want to hear from you.”

They took the same route as the night before but continued through Lucerne Valley before finally stopping at the outskirts of Barstow at a lay-by beside the road.

“Agent Sinclair.”

“David, it’s me,” Don started.  “I’m fine.”

“How are they treating you?” David asked.

“Good, David,” Don responded honestly.  He’d been shown more courtesy than anyone in his position could have expected.  He explained further knowing this part of the conversation would be relayed to his family, “I’ve been given meals and have been treated fairly.”

“Is Nelson there?”

“I’m here.  Have you found my son?”

“No.”

Nelson looked to the phone clearly expecting more than that. “And?”

“And what?” David demanded.

“You’ve been working on this since yesterday.  What have you found so far?  Where has he been?  Is he okay?”

“I’m not discussing that,” David said firmly.  “When we get him back into custody I’ll let you know and you can let Agent Eppes go.”

“I have a right to know.”

“No, you don’t.  We will do our best to keep him alive when we find him, that’s the deal.”

“He’s my son!”  Nelson insisted.  He shoved the phone at the agent, “Tell them.”

“No,” Don said with an emphatic shake of his head, determined to shut this down before Nelson descended into threats.  “David won’t discuss operational matters with you, or me.  Our policies don’t allow him to give either of us that sort of information.”

Nelson stared at him for a moment before backing down.  “Agent Sinclair, I’m checking Agent Eppes’ messages, leave one when you have something for me.”

“We will,” David promised.  “When will you contact us next if I haven’t left you a message?”

“Later.  You don’t need to know when,” Nelson threw the words back at David.

David took it with grace, “Okay.  Don?”

Don was thankful for the opening, “My family?  Robin?”

“Secure,” David said to the first.  He answered the second question equally tersely, “Notified.”

He sat back in relief.  He’d not been able to ask last night, “Thank-you.”

Nelson disconnected the call.  He turned to the agent as Paul completed a U-turn and they started the hour plus drive back.  “Brad isn’t interested in your family, Agent.  Or your girlfriend.”

“If he’s desperate enough to come after me after breaking out of jail he would be desperate enough to target them if he thought it would get him anywhere,” Don responded.  He didn’t separate out Robin even though he agreed with Nelson on that point.

“He’s not like that.”

“You know exactly what he is like.  That’s why you’re doing this.”

Nelson started to say something but changed his mind, turning away and shutting the agent out.

Sitting back Don looked out his own window at the scenery such as it was.  It was going to be a long run back and he found himself wondering why he was so determined to antagonise the man who had the power to make his life very uncomfortable.  He was angry and frustrated at his situation but as he’d told David he’d been treated far better than he could have expected.  If he kept pushing the man that could easily change.

He was thinking on whether he should say something to make amends or simply leave it be when Paul suddenly tensed.

“Cops.”

Nelson stiffened before carefully turning his head so he could see behind them. 

Don also started to turn but Nelson was already facing forwards again and stopped him.  Unable to look he had to ask, “Who is it?”

“Highway Patrol,” Nelson supplied.

“Is the car clean?”  Don asked.

“Yes.”

“The registered owner?”

“Clean too,” Nelson answered.  He wasn’t surprised that the agent knew the car wasn’t theirs.

Don leant forward and directed his next words at their driver, “Paul, how fast are we going?”

The young man glanced back at the agent, “About two under posted.”

“Stay there, don’t slow down, don’t speed up,” Don ordered.

Nelson looked puzzled, “Agent?”

“If the car and the owner are clean and Paul doesn’t give him cause to pull us over he’ll pass on by soon,” Don explained.  It was a standard tactic, pull in behind a car, run the registration and owner, monitor the way the vehicle handled looking for defects and watch the driver for any signs of intoxication or nervousness at police presence.  Another tactic was for the patrolman to use them as a blind while he focused his mobile radar on approaching traffic, in which case he could stay behind them for a while.

“I understand that, why are you doing this?  I’d have thought you would want us stopped,” Nelson said.  “I know you could get him to try.”

It would be simple enough Don knew.  He could make a move that Nelson would immediately counter but it would easily be enough to pique the watching patrolman’s interest and give him sufficient cause to attempt to pull them over.  He lifted his hands at the gun that Nelson had drawn on identifying the car.  He stepped it out, “He’s alone, yes?  If this car is clean and there is no want out on it in connection to this then he won’t know what he’s getting into if he pulls us over. There are two of you against one of him.  Plus you have me.  I don’t know how far you’d take it but against those odds he doesn’t have a chance.”

“I don’t want to kill anyone.”

“Maybe not,” Don said.  “But you’ve made it clear you will if you feel you have to.”

Reminded of their conversation from the night before, Nelson didn’t dispute the agent. 

The patrol car seemed content to sit behind them for a few more miles before Paul announced it was accelerating.  A moment later it was overtaking them.  Don didn’t see it pass having been ordered to turn away, effectively hiding his face in case the officer looked over.  A minute after that the patrol car was gone and Nelson finally relaxed, holstering his gun.

“Thank-you,” Nelson said.

Don ignored him, letting out a long breath in relief.  He’d meant what he’d said; a confrontation would not have ended well for the patrolman.  One life at risk was more than enough and he didn’t want to be responsible for a fellow LEO not going home today either through injury or worse.

They made it back to the cabin with no other incidents and he found himself once again shackled to the bed frame as Nelson went to see if he could start a small generator to power the tiny refrigerator and a double power socket.  He was successful and put both his own and Don’s phones on to charge.

“Is there anything you want, Agent Eppes?”  Paul asked.

The younger man had been checking through their supplies, making a list in the process.  He was going to make a run into Big Bear to refuel the car and get some perishables.  Regretting he had no weird medical or food need that would send up a flag if purchased he shook his head.  Paul had started for the door after receiving some final instructions from his father when Don thought of something.  He’d been asked after all, so why not?

“Coffee,” Don said.  “I’d like a real coffee.”

“How do you have it?”

It was surreal but Don gave his order.  It would be cold after the long drive back from Big Bear but even cold was an improvement over instant. 

The rest of the day dragged interminably with the cold coffee, a grande which Don made last, and a fresh salad roll for lunch the highlights.  Nelson also checked Don’s messages but there was none he found of interest other than an updated Missing Agent Alert which he showed the agent in question.  Other than that Paul and Nelson each took turns guarding him whilst the other had a brief nap to catch up on lost sleep.

Don found himself drifting off in pure boredom and welcomed the sleep, anything to make the day pass.

Movement woke him.  Awkwardly checking his watch he saw it was getting on to four o’clock.  He was given a cup of instant coffee and allowed another trip to the washroom before they drove away from the cabin to check in with the FBI.  This time they turned back towards Big Bear before taking another road to the south just on the outskirts of the town.  The road then swung west taking them through some winding bends before they descended towards the outskirts of greater Los Angeles.  They took a left at the first intersection and continued on a couple of miles before stopping at a park area.  A sign they’d passed identified the area as Yucaipa.

The start of the call was an almost word for word repeat of the call in the morning from Barstow.  Once again David refused to brief Nelson on the details of their search to date, only that they’d failed so far.

“We are doing everything we can to locate him and bring him in safe,” David said when Nelson pressed again.

“He should have made it to LA by now,” Nelson stated.  “Has something happened that you’re not telling me?”

“No.  Mr Nelson, Los Angeles is a big place,” David pointed out.  “Have you had any contact with your son?  Do you have information that could help us find him?”

“He hasn’t called.  He should have by now.  If I find out you’re lying to me-“

“I’m not!” David said quickly at the warning.  “We’re using every resource we have to try to track him.”

“David?” Don blurted in alarm.

“No, Don.  They’re safe, we’re keeping them away.”

“Agent, what?”  Nelson demanded.

“You said you’d done your research so you know my brother is a consultant.  I want him kept well away from this,” Don explained. 

“If he can help find my son then I want you to use him,” Nelson ordered.

“No,” Don said flatly.  “Not going to happen.”

“Agent Sinclair, do it,” Nelson countermanded before hanging up.  He turned to face his hostage.  “I thought you wanted away from us, Agent.”

“I do, but I’m not putting my brother at risk to do it.  Shoot me if you want, I’m not telling David any different,” he challenged.

“Your agent knows what he has to do,” Nelson answered confidently.

Don was also confident.  David would not cross him on this, no matter the threat from Nelson.  He sat back only to jerk upright as Nelson’s own cell rang.

“Are you okay?”  Nelson asked.  He squeezed a few more words in to the conversation, “Yes.  Okay.  Where?  Wait for us.”

Nelson snapped the phone closed after the mostly one sided conversation.  “He’s here.”

“Where?” Paul asked, sounding a little less than enthused.

“Some business at 1705 East Colton Avenue in Mentone.  Plug it in,” Nelson said waving his hand at the GPS unit in the dash.

Paul entered the details and a pleasant female voice announced their first turn in 50 yards.  “That’s only six miles away.”

At the surprised note in his son’s voice Nelson explained, “He said he’d be coming in from this side of town.”

“And we’re going straight there,” Don said, his voice flat.

Nelson turned, a slight frown on his face until he realised what the agent was getting at.

“You’re taking me to him,” Don stated.

“Yes.  No!”  Nelson contradicted himself.  “Not like that.  He’s close, we can get there, and get-”

“And get me killed,” Don interrupted.  His tone became increasingly bitter, “You said this was about keeping me safe, using me to find him and when that didn’t work, about keeping him safe from us until he could be taken back into back in custody where he can’t hurt anyone.  You said you wouldn’t hand me over to him.  You lied.”

Nelson flinched.  “No!  I’ve never broken my word with you.”

Don lifted his cuffed wrists.  “Then you’re letting me go now.”

“No.”

“Alright, then you’re calling David back and telling him where Brad is.”

“No.”

“How are you expecting to get him back into custody?  You think he’ll hand himself in because you tell him to?”

“I’m not calling the feds on him,” Nelson said indignantly.

“Dad,” Paul attempted to intervene.

Don ignored the younger man, focusing on his father.  Even though Nelson had earlier told him he wanted to find his son first this turnabout made no sense after ordering David, and thus the FBI, to find the escapee.  “Why not?  You’ve used us against him in the past.”

“And that very nearly got him, and you, killed.”

The feel of the gun under his jaw in Nelson’s rock steady hand after the failed SWAT raid was something he was hardly ever going to forget.  “So shoot me, or order Paul to do it.  I’d rather that than what Brad has planned for me.”

“No one’s shooting anyone.” 

“Dad!”  Paul finally got a word in edgewise.  “He’s right.  Let me take us back to the cabin, I’ll watch him while you go to Brad.”

“That will take too long, he won’t wait.”  Nelson turned and ordered Paul to start the engine.  “You’ll be fine, Agent.”

Don thought Nelson’s definition of ‘fine’ was orders of magnitude away from his.  He released his seatbelt before quickly turning and pulling at the door handle beside him, getting himself out of the car and away was his last option.  The door stayed shut, it had been a forlorn hope but he had to try.  In frustration he jerked at it again as Nelson grabbed at his left arm but the locks held firm. 

“Drive, Paul,” Nelson ordered. 

Despite his clear reservations the younger man did as his father instructed. 

Don pulled his arm free from the older man’s grip and sat tensely as Paul took the first turn.

The drive was far too short, it was barely fifteen minutes later when they pulled into a driveway in an industrial area.  The driveway took them between some mismatched sheds before swinging around behind a larger building to the left.  Nelson directed Paul to stop out of sight of the road and near a battered pickup.  At the rear of the lot a short distance away stood half a dozen shipping containers, clearly visible in the single spotlight aimed at them from the building they were now parked behind.  It looked as though they were only occasionally used with barely discernible paths in the long grass leading to the doors of each. 

Don thought it was an ideal place to lie low, during the night anyway.  It was after dark and they’d only passed a couple of vehicles on the way in.  Before much longer the area would be pretty much abandoned with the only movement likely to be a security patrol. 

“Stay here with him,” Nelson ordered as Paul released the central locking.  Paul got out and pulled open his father’s door.

“But, Dad,” Paul again protested as his father stood beside him.

“Get in the back and wait here,” Nelson repeated before turning and walking towards the containers.  He’d only gone a short distance before he called out, “Brad?”

“You know this is wrong,” Don said, keeping his voice low when Paul climbed in beside him.  “You know what Brad will do when he finds out I’m here.”

“Dad won’t let him do anything.”

“He won’t be able to stop him.  Let me go.  Now.”

“I can’t, Dad said-” Paul broke off suddenly as he glanced over in the direction his father had taken.  “Brad.”

Don snapped his head around and saw the figure emerge from between two containers.  It was too late.  There was nothing more he could do.  If he tried to force his way past Paul the commotion would be sure to draw the fugitive’s attention.

Nelson approached his son before pulling him into a tight hug.  After a long moment they separated and started talking.  Trapped in the car Don couldn’t hear what was said but Brad’s body language changed as he clearly didn’t like what his father was saying.

The door next to Don suddenly opened and a hand took a hold of his shirt collar hauling him out.

“Well, lookit what we got here!”  A gravelly voice exclaimed loudly.

Don barely had a chance to glance at the oversize man dragging at him before he was given a shake and then a hard shove towards the containers.  He barely managed to catch his balance before he was driven forwards again by a blow between his shoulder blades.

“This who you were hoping for?”  The man asked, allowing the agent to stop after a few more steps.

Brad broke away from his father’s suddenly reaching arms and took a step, “Hello, Fed.”

“Brad, no!”  Nelson ordered as he tried again to stop his son.

Brad shook him off and kept coming, a distinctly feral grin plastered on his face.  “Thanks for the present, Dad.  I’ve been waiting for this.”
.


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