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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: ~3900
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.


Looking at the scene in the harsh glare of the crime scene spotlights David could only feel a deep sense of dread.  Brad Nelson was very much dead.


He looked up to see Colby waving at him from a few yards away.  He carefully followed the flagged path over and stared down at the second body, dubbed Deceased One.  Whilst it was far from clear what had happened here, the extreme violence was all too evident.  The man was completely unrecognisable with the medical examiner’s preliminary examination suggesting he’d taken at least two, if not more bullets directly to the face. 


“Prints are a match for Darius Kieran Gray, 26.  Priors for numerous robberies, assaults and one count of attempted vehicular homicide of a police officer.  He was also a suspect on a couple of homicides but nothing proven.  He spent time in the same jail as Brad but was released three months ago.”

“Probably one of the two that busted him out,” David mused.  He looked over at the other man then back.  Not for the first time he measured the distances and angles between the two.  “There’s no way they killed each other.”

Colby stood and shook his head.  The experts were only just setting up their measuring equipment but they’d already determined that. 

Which lead them to the third discovery at the scene.  David turned and again followed the marked path to the patch of disturbed ground.  A technician was gathering a number of blood samples from across the patch, there was plenty for the woman to choose from.

“Have we got a volume?”

“The ME said it was not enough to be immediately fatal, assuming it is from an adult,” Colby reported.  “But she did say that this much in such a short time would indicate life threatening injuries.  Whoever it is will need urgent treatment or they could well be dead by morning.”

“They made it from over there to here,” David said thoughtfully.  There was a clear trail of blood and scuff marks from the now identified Gray to here.  Whoever it was had been able to make it this far.  Where the victim was now though was the mystery.  He looked up as one of the forensic agents approached, a number of small evidence bags in hand.  “What have you got?”

“Shell casings,” the man said holding the bags up where Agent Sinclair could see.  “Three from near Deceased one and one from here.  Orange flags.”

David checked the coloured flags marking the locations and reached out a hand for the evidence bags.  The shell casings all looked the same to him.  He looked closer at the firing pin marks through the clear plastic and the position was also the same on each.  “They all match.”

The man looked a little uncomfortable but answered the question, “We think so.  We will need to check under a microscope to be sure.”

“I know,” David acknowledged.  The forensic agents were very thorough and prided themselves on accuracy and were generally loathe to jump to conclusions or assumption.  The use of the same coloured flags however suggested they were fairly certain they were a match.  They were certainly a different calibre from the other casings he’d already seen, collected in an arc marked by blue flags.  It seemed as if the other shooter was on the move as he fired.  At this stage that shooter appeared to be Brad based on the .44 semi-automatic weapon located near the body which was a match as far as calibre.  The second gun, a .357 revolver, had been found a short distance from the bloodied patch of ground.  “So, what does it look like?”

Knowing the importance of Deceased Two to the current Missing Agent Alert the forensic agent put aside his ingrained reluctance to speculate and laid out their early rough idea of what had happened.  “Our unknown player had an altercation with Deceased One where he was wounded, probably by the knife we found near the body.  Our unknown has shot Deceased One a number of times killing him.  It appears the unknown was then under fire and pursued by Deceased Two.  It will take us a while to confirm whether any of the rounds found a target.  Our unknown has then collapsed here before firing on Deceased Two, killing him instantly with a round to the heart.”

“Any idea on what has happened to him?” David asked, waving at the blood.

“Scuff marks indicate he was still alive when he was taken away with the assistance of one or more likely two other unknowns,” the agent reported.  He pointed at the trail in the dirt that led to a set of tyre tracks.  “Looks like a sedan.  We’ll get tyre print analysis done soon to determine likely models.”

“Anything else?”

“We also have two rounds from Deceased Two’s firearm located over near the side of the shed over there that we haven’t worked into the scenario as yet.  We’re about to start laser mapping which should give us a better picture.”

David nodded.  He waved at Colby and they picked their way back out of the scene followed by the technician and the other agent.  With the scene cleared they would be able to get to work on their mapping.  He looked back over the scene, at the various coloured markers and the two bodies.  He could only hope that the initial responders, as well as their own movements about the scene had not destroyed crucial evidence. 

Then his gaze settled again on the body of Brad Nelson and he realised evidence was the least of their concerns for the moment.  ADIC Wright was already aware that the fugitive was deceased.  What they had to work on now was how they were going to break the news to the man’s father.  They were doing their damndest to keep the media at bay but that wouldn’t last long. They had to tell Nelson before he heard it on the news.

Foremost in all their minds was the fact that an agent’s life was hanging in the balance.


Expecting a long, painful trip back to the cabin Don was surprised when Paul pulled right and stopped after only a few minutes.  Nelson also seemed surprised.


“I’ll be right back,” the younger man said urgently.  He left the car running but got out.


There was no answer, Paul was gone.  Don tried to get himself up enough to see but it was beyond him.  Not willing to ask Nelson he could only wait.  Nelson looked back over the seat at him and he stared steadily back.  Finally the older man looked away, opening his car door.   Fear spiked through Don but Nelson simply moved around the car to the driver’s seat.

It was a long few minutes before Paul came running back.  He opened the front passenger door and shoved in a box and a few bags.  He dug into one of them, retrieving some items before closing the door only to reopen the back door next to Don’s head.  Don managed to twist somehow, half falling off the seat and made space as Paul squeezed in.

“Paul, what?”

“He could die, Dad,” Paul said as he pulled some latex gloves from his pocket and slipped them on in a well practiced motion.  “If I don’t do something now he might not make it back to the cabin.”

Nelson once again caught the agent’s eye in a hard stare.  He turned away without another word and started driving.

Don closed his eyes for a moment, the look had spoken volumes.  Nelson didn’t care if he died.

He gasped as Paul started pulling at him so he opened his eyes to see what the man was trying to do.  Paul had shifted himself off the seat and was kneeling in the narrow foot well.  He pulled again and this time Don tried to help using his right leg but he had no strength.  The young man managed without his help and got Don around so he was lying across the full width of the seat again.  Paul reached down and came back up with something that flashed silver in a passing streetlight.  Don flinched but there was nowhere to go as the object descended.  In the light of another streetlight he was able to see it was a pair of scissors just as Paul started cutting away at his shirt to expose his chest, side and shoulder.  Paul moved lower and cut away at the jeans, the cheap scissors finding the heavier material hard going but Paul persevered.  Next Paul tore open a box of tissues and pulled out a thick folded wad placing it against the bullet wound on his chest, another wad went against the unseen wound at the back of his shoulder.  The knife wounds were treated the same way.  Some rough work with sticky tape got the improvised dressings to stay in place.  The dressings on his shoulder, chest and leg were then covered with what Don figured to be tea towels, the cloth bound in place with more tape, this time wrapped as tightly as Paul could manage to apply pressure.  He cursorily checked the wound on Don’s side before putting a thin pad of tissues over it and left it at that, clearly that wound was not serious.  Paul twisted around and pulled a bag from the front seat, getting it into the back.  He drew out a couple of bath towels that he shook out and laid over Don as a blanket.  Another was rolled and placed under his head.  Despite the pain caused by the necessary jostling Don was impressed with Paul’s efforts.  Not done yet he twisted around again, coming back with a large bottle.

“Here, you need to drink,” Paul offered as he opened the bottle and held it up.

Desperately thirsty Don didn’t need any further encouragement, drinking deeply as Paul supported his head.  The water was room temperature and he’d guzzled half the bottle before coming up for air, gasping.

Paul moved the bottle away and waited as the agent caught his breath.  “More?”

Don nodded and finished the rest the same way.  He felt bloated but still thirsty.  He well understood what that meant; he’d lost a dangerous amount of blood.

“Rest a bit,” Paul instructed.  “I have more.”

“Thanks,” Don managed.

The younger man nodded then frowned as he pulled the blanketing towels aside and peeked under the edges of the crude dressings.  He put the towels back to keep the agent warm.  “I’m sorry but this is going to hurt, I have to put some more pressure on those wounds for a bit.  Okay?”

“I understand,” Don said as Paul shifted position.  He braced himself for the pain but he couldn’t bite back his cry as Paul pressed down on his chest and leg.

His chest, shoulder and leg throbbed but he realised Paul was no longer pressing down on him.  Don blinked and got his eyes open, understanding now that he must have passed out.  He saw that they were still in the car so he figured he wasn’t out for too long.  Paul was leaning over him and he felt a hand on the pulse point on his neck but it lifted away.

“Hey, you’re back,” Paul greeted.

“Can I have more water?”

“Here,” Paul said, holding up a bottle, cap already off.  He waited until the agent was done, recapping the almost empty bottle.  “How do you feel?”

“Bad,” Don said honestly.

“I think I’ve got the worst of the bleeding stopped for now.  It’s hard to tell how serious it is in the dark but I think you might be okay,” Paul explained.  “Rest now, we’ll be back at the cabin soon and I’ll be able to get a better look.”

Don closed his eyes again only to open them as they jerked to a stop.  He realised he must have passed out again as Nelson got out and figured they had to be back at the cabin. That was confirmed as Nelson pulled the door open at his feet and reached in.

“No, Dad!”  Paul said quickly, forced to climb into the front to get out due to the child locks.  He raced around the front of the car.  “Wait!  Easy, let me help!”

Don had regained some of his strength and helped as best he could as Nelson didn’t wait, pulling at him and dragging him out.  Paul made it in time to prevent Don from hitting the ground, getting him upright.  Between them they half dragged, half carried him across to and up the stairs and into the cabin. 

They kept moving and Don found himself half flung, half lowered to the bed.  He knew he’d lost consciousness for a moment as he next saw Nelson leaning over him as Paul came up behind him with the battery lamp.  He felt the older man working at his hands and the cuff came free from his right wrist.  Nelson moved away slightly and suddenly jerked at Don’s left arm via the cuff that he still held, dragging Don across the bed towards the edge.  Trying unsuccessfully to bite back another cry of pain at the unexpected move he understood a moment later as his left wrist was cuffed once again to the frame.

“Dad, take them off!  He can’t go anywhere,” Paul protested.

Nelson ignored him.  He backed off and looked down at the injured agent for a long moment before moving away.

“I’ll be back,” Paul advised before hurrying off out the door. 

Don barely saw him go instead watching as Nelson slowly lowered himself into the easy chair across the room.  The older man said nothing, just continued to stare at him.  Don swallowed at the dark expression. 

The stare was only broken as Paul returned, lugging a box and some bags.  They were dumped on the floor near the bed before the younger man went to the kitchen area, lighting the stove and setting the kettle to heat.  He dug a bowl out of a cupboard then collected his medical kit and the gas lamp.  Bringing everything over he got the lamp lit and put on a fresh pair of gloves before glancing back at his silently watching father.  “Dad, give me a hand.”

The older man didn’t move.


“Leave him be,” Nelson ordered, his voice rough.

“No!  Dad he needs help, help me.”

“He gets nothing from me.”

“You brought him here,” Paul stated.  He started digging into his kit.  “If you’d left him behind he would already be at hospital.”

“He should get nothing from you,” Nelson said.

Paul stilled for a moment, looking at the injured agent to see him staring back at his father.  He expected the agent to speak in his own defence but he stayed silent.  He also turned, “I’m helping him.”

Turning the gas up to brighten the lamp he spread out his supplies and equipment.  “Agent, I’m helping you, okay?”

Don broke his stare and looked up at the younger man to find him waiting.  He frowned slightly before remembering EMTs sought their potential patient’s permission before working on them where the patient was able to give it.  Back in the car he hadn’t asked but he’d believed the injuries to be life threatening and needed to act to save his patient’s life.  Now it was not so urgent.  Don considered his answer, he wanted help, and he wanted to live but realistically thought there was no point to Paul’s aid.  He glanced back at Nelson until a touch on his left arm had him looking up.

“Agent, please,” Paul started, his voice soft.  “Let me help you.”

“I don’t understand.  I killed your brother.”

Paul’s head dropped and he remained quiet for a minute.  When he spoke again his voice was still low, this conversation was between the two of them only.  “You did.  He was my brother and seeing that, knowing that you did that is difficult.  But I know you had to.  I don’t know if you believe me but even though he was my brother he was everything I hated in a person.  I hadn’t liked him for a long time and there had always been something off about him.  After the plane crash, after the way he enjoyed twisting your broken arm I knew I had to have nothing more to do with him.  I went to school and became an EMT to try to pay back what he did.  When I heard about the robberies, what he did to get Dad out of jail I knew I’d been right about him.  But he was my brother so when Dad asked for help I had to come back.  I would rather he had lived, had been put back in jail but I knew it was more likely this would happen.”

Don couldn’t hide his surprise as the words spilled out, the admission the last thing he expected to hear.  He remembered Paul not seeming to like his brother all that much even before Brad had twisted his broken arm.  Over the years investigating violent crimes he’d seen cases of brother against brother so he could believe Paul.  It even made sense that he would have tried to help his father keep his brother alive.  As much as he may have hated Brad, the family connection was stronger.

“But Dad didn’t see Brad the same way,” Paul continued.  “He knew something was wrong but he refused to fully believe it, even after all that.  He will now, he just needs time.  I became an EMT for a reason, I need to fix what Brad did, let me help you.”

Even after hearing that Don still found it hard to believe that Paul was so bent on helping him but he wanted to live.  Finally Don gave a single nod. 

Paul left him briefly, returning with the kettle of now warm water which he poured into the bowl.  Working slowly and carefully Paul checked the dressing over Don’s leg then chest.  He started working at the leg wound first, Don saw why as the soaked tissue and covering cloth was removed, it was still bleeding.  Paul apologised as the tape tore away hair with it, the small pain magnified by the proximity to the wounds.  Don waved off the apology with a small movement of his right hand.  Paul worked quickly, cleaning the two wounds and dousing them with a tube of antiseptic before applying large absorbent dressings and firmly wrapping compression bandages around the leg.  He turned his attention to the chest wound next, removing the dressing and cleaning away the blood before feeling gently around the wound.  He broke open another vial of antiseptic and washed a pair of long forceps.

“I’m not supposed to do this but given the circumstances I think I should try,” Paul explained. 

Don realised he intended to probe the wound and perhaps remove the bullet if he could reach it.  It would start the wound bleeding again but leaving the slug in could be more harmful than digging it out.  “Okay.”

“You need to hold still,” Paul warned as he clicked on a small flashlight.

Don could only nod again and brace himself.  He managed for a few seconds but twitched as the forceps probed deeply.  Paul shoved his flashlight into his mouth and used his other hand to press Don’s shoulder down in an effort to immobilise him.

Don groaned and shifted.  His entire upper right side felt like it was on fire, his thigh not as bad but painful for all that.  He tensed against the pain but that only made it worse and he forced himself to relax, breathing shallowly to lessen the movement of his chest.

“Easy Agent, you’ve been out for a while.”

Don blinked and got his eyes to work.  Paul was sitting next to him on one of the chairs from the table.  He looked down at himself and saw fresh clean dressings on his chest, side and leg.  Alarmingly his right arm had been put into a sling and looked like it had then been bound in place across his chest.  He tried to move it and failed.  Automatically he went to move his left arm but was brought up short by the cuffs.

“Easy,” Paul said again, his hand pushing the agent’s left down.  “He won’t let me take them off.  I’m sorry.”

“Then undo this,” Don demanded with a jerk of his head to his right arm.  He tried to move it again, ignoring the pain in his shoulder and chest feeling trapped and totally helpless.

“No, you need to keep that arm still.”

His distress at his situation forced the word out, “Please.”

Paul could see how upset the agent was, the effort he was making to hold back tears but he had to hold firm.  “I can’t.  If you have the arm free you will aggravate the injuries.  You are in enough danger from them as it is.”

“Paul,” Don started.

“Agent, please,” Paul interrupted.  “I’ll look after you.”

Don squeezed his eyes shut and tried to calm himself down.  Paul was right, he knew that but couldn’t help how he felt.  He recognised that his usual control over himself was greatly weakened by his physical injuries and the stress he was under but he worked at it and finally got himself back together.  Embarrassed he opened his eyes, no longer pricking with frustrated tears.  He expected pity but Paul simply held up a plastic tumbler.

“Here, you need to drink some more.  Think you could try some juice?”

Don managed two cups before he’d had enough.  “The bullet?”

“I got it, and the one in your shoulder.  I had to clean the wounds aggressively, I’m sure they hurt a lot at the moment but they were full of dirt,” he added. 

“How bad?”

“You might have died if I didn’t get most of the bleeding stopped earlier.  You lost a lot of blood.”


“It’s our fault you were hurt,” Paul said.  “Anyway, you’re no longer bleeding but I can’t do much about the risk of infection other than drown everything in antiseptic which I’ve done.”

He knew that was a serious danger.  Hopefully if the wounds were cleaned as harshly as they felt Paul may have caught the worst of it.  He wondered how much antiseptic was in the EMT kit, in lieu of antibiotics, and a hospital, liberal applications of the stuff were needed.  He sniffed suddenly as he thought he could smell, “Mint?”

Paul poured some more juice into the tumbler.  “I bought some mouthwash at the store when we stopped along with the rest of the stuff.  It’s mostly alcohol.  I don’t have enough chlorhexidine.”

Again, despite everything else, Don found himself impressed, the younger man was able to think on his feet and improvise.  That thought had him thinking on the father who had raised him and he looked over to the easy chair to find it empty.

“He’s sleeping,” Paul supplied.  “Drink.”

He managed some more juice then followed Paul’s recommendation to rest.  Closing his eyes he felt himself dropping off to sleep almost immediately.

Next chapter - here
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