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11 December 2007 @ 08:57 am
Vignettes - Part 33: A Direct Threat  
Title: Vignettes - Part 33: A Direct Threat

Author: [info]ladygray99
Chapter: 33/36

Pairing: Charlie/Colby, Megan/Larry, Don/MFC

Rating: FRT

Disclaimer: Belongs to many other people, not me

Warnings/Squicks: Guns and a little bad language.

Summary: What moments mark a friendship, a love, a marriage, a lifetime?

Previous chapters: Thanksgiving

Notes: Realized I hadn’t done a case related chapter yet.  This I think is the longest and pushing to definition of vignette but oh well. We’re closing in on the end so lots of feedback please

Beta(s): The great goddess of the beta who probably pulled her hair out on this bit [info]irena_adler



A Direct Threat 


Megan hurried down the school hall looking over her shoulder every few steps. She peered through the thin window of the classroom door before opening it. Megan walked straight to the teacher

 “Agent Fleinhardt, FBI.” She flashed her ID. “I need Miss Eppes to come with me.”

 Esther jumped up for her desk. “Aunt Megan what’s wrong?”

 “Archimedes,” Megan replied.

 Esther’s face went hard and she quickly gathered her books.

 “This is very irregular,” the teacher protested.

 “Give this note to your principal immediately. If anyone suspicious approaches the area, contact the police immediately and keep the students inside.”

 Esther was at Megan’s side as they hurried back down the hall.

 “Turn on your phone.”

 Esther clicked on her phone and it rang almost instantly. “Dad?”

 “Esther, honey, are you ok?”  Colby asked.

 “I’m fine. I’m with Aunt Megan.”

 “Good.  Stay with her.”

 “What’s going on? Where are you?”

 “Not on an unsecured line. Megan will explain. I love you.”

 “I love you too, dad.” The line cut off. “What’s going on?”

 They had reached the front of the school and Megan motioned her down. Esther dropped into a crouch her heart racing. An unmarked van sat in the school’s loading zone. The side door opened and a hand reached out and made a complicated gesture.

 “Move.” Esther and Megan ran to the van, keeping low. Esther jumped in the back to find her Uncle Larry in a bullet proof vest, nervously holding a gun.

 “Put on a vest.” Megan ordered. “And take the gun off Larry.” Esther tossed a vest over her head and took the gun with far more ease than Larry had handled it. Dad had insisted on FBI daughter right-of-passage on the gun range, and while Esther was about as comfortable with guns as her other dad, she knew she was head and shoulders above Uncle Larry.

 “Ok. What’s going on?” The van was headed east.

 “There’s been a direct and specific threat.”

 “Against me?!” Esther squeaked.

 “Against everyone. We found surveillance photos of the entire family. You, Don, Alan, Becca, Aaron, me, Larry.”

 “Are we going to a safe house?”

 “Yes, but we have evidence of an internal mole.”

 “Oh, god.”

 “So this is just family, understand?”

 “Yes.” Esther said coldly. She’d gone from fear to anger very quickly.

 How dare they!’ She thought not even knowing who they were. ‘How dare they threaten my family!’ Esther felt the gun still heavy in her hands. For the first time in her life, she wanted to use it. Instead, she made Uncle Larry drill her on stars in various constellations as they drove into the hills out of town.

 The safe house was little more than a shack with a couple of old-style solar panels. Inside they found Agent Philip Matheson setting up secure surveillance and communications equipment. Esther gripped the gun a little tighter. No one had thought to take it off her. “I thought you said no FBI?”

 “I was also on the threat list.” Matheson said. “They’re going for anyone close to Agent Granger and your uncle.”

 “Well, welcome to the family.” Esther said sarcastically. There was a complicated knock at the door. Megan approached it gun drawn, Matheson covering. Don rushed in dragging Becca with Aaron in her arms. The little boy was squirming, not understanding what was happening, only knowing that he was too old to be dragged around like that.

 Esther gave her Uncle Don a hug and he took the gun out of her hand.

 “Have you seen dad or dad?” she asked.

 “They should be right behind us, but we came using separate routes.” On cue there was the sound of wheels on gravel out front. Don peeked through the small front window. There was a knock and Charlie, Colby and Alan were let in. Charlie and Colby ran to their daughter.

 “Are you alright?” They asked touching her face as if to make sure she was really there.

 “I’m fine. I’m fine.” She reassured them. Colby had instantly imagined the worst when he saw the surveillance photos of his daughter’s classrooms across three different schools.

 Charlie was holding Esther in a tight hug when he looked up at Larry. “I’m so sorry Larry.” he said.

 “It’s hardly your fault Charles, or yours Colby.” He said preempting Colby. “Life is always a calculated risk and I am wearing my lucky shirt today so I have no fear.”

 “Is that what that smell is?” Alan said.

 “Very funny. This shirt has survived publishing, poker and six months in space. It will survive this with me in it.”

 Esther knew Uncle Larry was terrified. He was rubbing his fingertips along the palms of his hand which he normally only did if he had a complete stinker of a hand in poker.

 “Ok everyone,” Don said. “Family meeting. You too, Matheson.” Everyone gathered round the rough plank table. “Ok here are our two top priority problems. One, a leak in the office. Now Colby, Megan, and I will have to go back to the office so the leak doesn’t get suspicious but we need to be watching everyone. Matheson, you have the stomach flu, you’re staying here.” When Matheson saw the surveillance photos of himself earlier that day he had run to the men’s room to be sick so that wasn’t a stretch.

 “What’s problem number two?” Alan asked.

 “This.” Don dropped a half ream of paper on the table. “This is their way of passing messages.” Everyone looked at the pages of gibberish symbols.

 “Can you decode it?” Alan asked Charlie.

 “That is decoded.” Charlie whined. “It took me over a week to break their encryption and this is what we got. Scans of some hand written code which has managed to choke every cryptographer and algorithm we’ve shown it to.”

 Charlie’s frustration was evident. Matheson felt his stomach sink again. Like the rest of Don’s team, he had been converted to the First Church of Charlie, taking perverse joy in watching his numbers dazzle visiting agents. He looked across to Esther Eppes who looked more angry than anything else. Her look was almost identical to the look on her uncle’s face when he realized the bad guys were targeting his family.

 It was decided civilians, children, and Matheson would stay at the safe house while Charlie kept going with the decoding. Charlie objected when Don gave Esther back the gun.

 “She qualified with a .38, man,” Don said. “She’s a better shot than you.”

 “Aaron’s a better shot than me that’s not the point.” Charlie growled.

 “It’s ok, dad. I don’t mind.” Esther said.

 “Esther, honey…”

 “No dad,” Esther cut off her father. “Really, I don’t mind.”  Charlie sighed and decided he would cry and scream and rage about the look he saw in his daughter’s eyes later, when they were out of danger and there was time for such things.

 Becca, with the calm sensibility inherent in primary school teachers, set about arranging sleeping assignments as well as mentally rationing the food stores for a several day siege.

 Esther was quickly bored. A quick search of the building turned up two second rate novels both of which she’d read.

 Charlie was mentally pounding his head against a wall as his new algorithm spit back gibberish when he became aware of odd noises. He turned around. Esther was holding one of the sheets of code and making random noises.

 “Um, Esther honey, what are you doing?” Esther looked up.

 “Oh, um, some of these symbols are international phonetic alphabet. I was just practicing.” Esther put the page down and turned to leave.

 “No wait, show me. These symbols have been kicking my ass. I don’t even recognize half of them.”

 “Here.” Esther pointed to a Greek letter Charlie was used to using in math. “That’s a bilabial fricative.”

 “I’d tell you not to cuss if I knew what you said.” Charlie wondered if this was how people felt around him.

 “It’s an ‘f’ sound like friend or phone. If you were writing using a full IPA chart you’d use this symbol to start either word.”

 “What about the rest of these?” Charlie asked. He felt like something was about to happen for the first time in weeks.

 “Alveoar lateral fricative.” She said pointing to another symbol “Velan nasal, retroflex plosive.”

 “What about these?” Charlie pointed to a few that had looked slightly familiar but he hadn’t been able to work out. Esther laughed.

 “Your bad guys are nerds or at least whoever’s sending messages for them are. That’s Klingon and Elvish, Quenya and Sindarin.” Esther looked more closely at the sheet in her hand, the symbols beginning to jump out at her. “These are Hebrew, Sanskrit.”

 Agent Matheson had wandered in to check on Charlie’s progress. He easily recognized the look on Esther’s face as ‘Eppes about to be fucking brilliant.’ He’d seen it on Don, Charlie, Alan and even a slight version on Colby that he must have picked up over the years.

 “Oh, oh.” Esther breathed “I’ve got it. This word I’ve got it!” Esther’s hands were shaking.

 “What is it?” Charlie asked.

 “It’s money. It’s money. It’s money said in French, spelled out phonetically in four different alphabets. Your guy, or guys it’s got to be two of them one on each side. They’re getting messages, translating each word into different languages, saying them out loud and picking a different alphabet it represent each sound.” Esther pointed to another set of characters. “That’s shipment, in mandarin. This is why your algorithms weren’t working. It has nothing to do with how anything is spelled. If one of these guys has a thick Boston accent then your computer is going to go looking for the letter usage rate for ‘r’ and not find anything. These guys are really, really smart and I’m sure they know more languages than me ‘cause I only started Sanskrit last week.”

 “Do you think you can break these?” Esther gave Matheson a look. “Never mind, dumb question.”

 “What do you need?” Charlie asked with mixed feeling of pride and a little shame for not working out the code himself.

 “Pencil, paper, and I need Agent Matheson to get me online. These guys feel like showoffs. They’ve probably got words in Hopi or Welsh or some shit like that and I’ll need to look them up.”

 “We’ll get you set up.” Charlie gave his daughter a hug. She hugged back with only one arm, still focused on the paper in front of her.

 The wall clock said 3:57am, not that Esther had looked at a clock in hours. There were over 200 pages that needed translation, so far most of them had been about arms and drugs without much clue as to who or why. She heard a small clunk and looked up. There was a cup of coffee in front of her and standing slightly beyond that was Philip Matheson.

 “I’m not allowed to drink coffee.”

 “It’s 4am and there’s lots of cream and sugar.”

 Esther took a sip. There was also a spoonful of hot chocolate stirred in from the taste of it.

 “How’s it going?” he asked.

 Esther sighed. “Slowly. Codes inside of codes. They don’t always write right to left, sometimes it’s left to right, sometimes up and down. It’s like those word searches in the news paper. Plus I think these guys have to be related, they talk in a shorthand sometimes, or make reference to random things, plus there are these weird made up squiggles which I’m sure represent whole words but the only people who know what they are, are these assholes.”

 Matheson tried to put on a sympathetic face. He was never sure what to do around agitated girls. “Is the coffee ok?” He finally asked, feeling helpless.

 “It’s fine, thank you.” Esther looked down at her translation. “I mean, what the hell does this mean? ‘Crow’s first nod’ and they’re making reference to a person doing something.”

 Matheson stared at the ceiling. “Russell Crow, first Oscar nod, 2000 for the Insider.” He looked back down and found Esther staring at him like he had a second head.

 “Ok. You need a life.”

 Matheson shrugged. “Best I could come up with.”

 “Actually it fits, ‘cause I think they’re talking about their guy in the office.”

 “Now if they’d just tell us his name.”

 “These guys are arrogant shits but they’re not that stupid.” Esther took another sip of her coffee. “Ok Mr. Random Knowledge. James’ 17th book?”

 Agent Matheson stared at the ceiling again as if he could read the answers right off it .“King James bible, book 17, Esther.” He looked at Esther, her face falling. “I mean that’s just a guess...I.”

 “No. It fits,” she said softly. “Especially if this little made up squiggle means Eppes.” She pointed to an odd symbol that looked like a tic tac toe board with a chunk missing. “Numbers Eppes, that’s dad.” she said as she wrote out the new translation on a clean page. “Number’s bitch, Dad.”

 “What am I?” Matheson asked.  “Number’s bitch’s bitch”

Esther gave a little giggle. “Pretty close, Orwell’s nightmare?”

 “Big brother,” Matheson said.

 “Uncle Don.” The rest came fairly simple but Esther pondered one of the final on the list. “The Dude? Who the hell is the dude.”

 “Jeff Bridges.” Matheson said without hesitation, quickly finding a deeper answer on the ceiling, “Who in the mid 80’s did a B sci-fi movie with John Carpenter called Starman.”

 Esther nodded slowly. “Ok. When we get out of here you and Niki need to stop beating around the bush 'cause you need a date.” Philip blushed a little, his non-relationship with the young physicist had been the butt of jokes for years now. “Starman, that’s Larry, and that’s everyone.” Esther neatly wrote out the rest of the translation and walked to the kitchen.

 The next thing Matheson heard was the sound of someone being sick in the sink. Matheson grabbed the translation and ran to the kitchen.

 The carefully-made cup of coffee was now in the sink and Esther was sobbing uncontrollably. Matheson quickly looked at the translation. It was a kill order for the entire family and the hit was to be that coming evening. The human in Matheson wanted to wrap his arms around the poor girl and tell her everything would be ok. The survival instinct told him that under no circumstances, for any reason should he ever be found with his arms around a hysterically crying, barely-teenaged girl, especially at five in the morning with her father in the house. He reached out with one hand and tried to rub what he hoped were comforting circles on her back.

 The kitchen door opened and Charlie came in. “What’s going on?” he asked. Esther threw herself into her father’s arms, crying even harder. Matheson held up the translation where Charlie could see. “Oh honey, that won’t happen, I promise you it will not go down like that. No one is touching a hair on your head or anyone else’s. No shots fired. Everyone will be safe.”

 “I’ll get this to Don.” Matheson said. Charlie just nodded and Matheson slinked out feeling like a voyeur in the room.

 In the end, there was some shooting. Actually there was a lot of shooting. Esther managed to bang out a few more translations that morning that resulted in one shot being fired in the halls of the FBI Los Angeles field office and lots of other shots being fired at warehouses around the state.

 Esther ran down the hall of the Field Office to her dad, putting only the slightest thought into sidestepping a large blood stain on the carpet. Colby picked her up even though she was nearly as tall as Charlie already.

 “You’re ok?” she asked.

 “Not a scratch on me.”

 The rest of the family had caught up. Don had his arms around his little boy and wife and was silently thanking anyone who was listening that they were safe. They had arrested one suspect outside of Becca’s school and another outside of Aaron’s.

 Colby put his daughter down and put his arms around his husband. The two usually kept public displays of affection non-existent in the office but Colby really didn’t care. The guy they grabbed in the CalSci parking lot had a very good sniper rifle and now a very broken arm. He kissed Charlie much to Charlie’s surprise.

 “Just needed to know you were really here.” Charlie nodded in understanding.

 Esther pulled on her dad’s sleeve. “Dad, dad, dad, did you get the code guys?”

 “Yes, we did.” Don answered.

 “Can I meet them?” Esther asked.

 “You want to meet them?”

 “I was awake for 24 hours breaking their code, of course I want to meet the fuckers.”

 “Esther! Language!” Charlie and Colby scolded but were ignored.

 “Sure.” Don said. “Why not, you deserve to gloat at them. Arrogant shits the both of them.”

 “Don! This is where she gets it from.”

 “Mark and Matt Cromwell,” Don said.

 Charlie looked thoughtful for a second. “Those names sound really familiar.”

 “They should.” Alan said. “One of them bit you.”


 “Remember we sent you to that special school for a week? They were there. Meant to be music and language prodigies or something. Just seemed like angry, screwed up, little kids to me. Your fourth day you got into a fight with them, one of them bit you. Your mother had to come get you. You had to get all these shots.”

 Esther looked at her father. “You got in a fight?”

 “In my defense, I have no recollection of that incident.”

 “Yeah, right. Can we go home now?”

 Charlie gave his little girl a hug. “Yeah, let’s go home.”

Jestana: #s: Larry/Meganjestana on December 10th, 2007 08:42 pm (UTC)
YAY! Esther helped solve the case! *claps* And Matheson helped, too. *grin* I love how they were still able to do something even though they were in hiding. Esther is turning out to be a really cool character. Love it!
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 10th, 2007 08:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :) I had to get the whole family of the crime solving kick.
mercilynn: fave boysmercilynn on December 10th, 2007 09:03 pm (UTC)
Here, I was innocently reading along, extremely thankful that it snowed and I didn't have to go into work today and working on sororcula's birthday picspam and then I read this sentence:

“They should.” Alan said. “One of them bit you.”

Made of WIN!!! Wonderful wonderful chapter!
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 10th, 2007 09:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Thank you.
*arms in the air*
(Deleted comment)
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 10th, 2007 09:10 pm (UTC)
Matheson was meant to be a quick temp partner of Colby but ended up hanging around the edges of this 'verse a lot more. Gets himself semi adopted by CalSci as he's a bit of a closet nerd.
fredbassettfredbassett on December 10th, 2007 09:12 pm (UTC)
Brilliant fic. Really clever premise, well executed and I love your original characters and how you've blended them in with the others. Esther is great and the language stuff was really, really impressive.

I really hope that when this series is finished that you'll then write more fic fleshing out all the time periods in between the vignettes. I'll be very, very happy to carry on reading these.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 10th, 2007 09:16 pm (UTC)
:) That's good to hear.
I've got a couple little stories I'm working on now. Eppes get a kitten. Colby's first christmas with the family, A couple of sad/sweet stories about Alan and Donald the Mad Scottish Poet, a long piece of Esther brining her first collage love home to meet the family, plus other little drips and drabbles. I'm not sure how fast they'll come but they'll come.
(Anonymous) on December 11th, 2007 12:00 am (UTC)
This was great. I loved Charlie needing Esther's help in cracking the code. And Matheson helping with the random knowledge. Why did the Cromwell brothers target everyone? I couldn't figure out the reason. I'm glad that you're going to continue writing this verse because your writing has fast become one of my favorites (along with the amazing Irena).

Twin's Mom
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 11th, 2007 12:47 am (UTC)
Wow!!!!! In the same sentence as Irena (I feel so cool. Is this what sitting at the cool kids table is like?)

The Cromwell brother are just part of a huge case involving gun running, drug running, murder. It's a 50 page case related epic in, and, an of it self. When their guy on the inside told them about Charlie and how close Don and Colby was getting to them they decided to take them out still holding a grudge about the fight all those years ago and how great Charlie's life turned out ant theirs didn't. And no that story's not getting written up. It's just too damn complicated.
shara50 on December 11th, 2007 12:24 am (UTC)
Excellent and I adore Esther!!
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 11th, 2007 12:47 am (UTC)
Thank you. I think she's my favorite OC
Devo79devo79 on December 11th, 2007 01:51 am (UTC)
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 11th, 2007 02:49 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
tobbles_plinktobbles_plink on December 11th, 2007 02:53 am (UTC)
Ok this, "he easily recognized the look on Esther’s face as ‘Eppes about to be fucking brilliant.’" Just about put me in the floor I was laughing so hard! By the way I feel like I should know this and I apologize but through the Haze of way too much Overtime I just can't think of it. About how old is Esther here? Thank you for sharing this great story!
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 11th, 2007 03:28 am (UTC)
No Worries.

I've always been a little ambiguas about Esther's age, since I want to send her to university early but want to keep her around the house for story reason. I figure he's about 13/14 here. Young enough to still be a kid really. One of these days I need to write out a proper time line for the overall story. Don's kid who doesn't get a lot of screen time in this is about 5 so there's been a fairly big time jump.

Glad you're reading.

Don't work to hard. :)
(no subject) - tobbles_plink on December 11th, 2007 09:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ladygray99 on December 11th, 2007 09:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
del_writes: coffee sleep when deaddel_writes on December 11th, 2007 05:13 am (UTC)
A freakish ice storm meant it took me about eight hours to get about 1 hours worth of grocery shopping done today, and then I got home to find that my internet was down. I almost just went to bed without checking again, but I'm really glad I didn't. This was fabulous.

I adore Esther. I love that she's just as much of a genius as her father, but in completely different ways, and that she figured out their code really quite quickly. The code itself was amazing, by the way. And if I hadn't loved the story enough already, Matheson with all this typically useless knowledge in his head, helping Esther crack the code within the code was just priceless. I'm going to be so sad when this is over. Here's hoping for lots and lots more in this universe.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 11th, 2007 05:20 am (UTC)
Epp! I've been reading about those ice storms on the news. Please, please be careful. I only have so many fans, I can't aford to loose a one.

I always pictured Mathison as one of the movie geeks that had no life in highschool or collage and just spent way too much time at the movies. I think he requested a job at the LA office so he could be close to Hollywood.

The first extra story should be up a day or two after the series ends so have no fear there is much yet to be discovered.
iz_factor: #sDoniz_factor on December 11th, 2007 11:41 am (UTC)
I loved this chapter and the code. I was worried that Matheson was the leak but it was cool how he helped solve the case. The only problem was that I was confused about Esther's age in this chapter.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 11th, 2007 06:23 pm (UTC)
I wasn't exactly specific even in my own head. She's 13/14 somewhere in there.

Glad you liked it.

I toyed with going to a very dark place of having Matheson be the leek and in the early hours of the morning Esther being the one who kills him. Then I remembered that this is my happy N3 world.

I've seem to have a lot of new people giving feed back on this one. :-) Thanks for the love.
thady: DIV: I need coffeethady on December 11th, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC)
I love this chapter! :)
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 11th, 2007 08:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you. This one took a lot of work.
athenedeinonychus_1 on December 15th, 2007 02:06 pm (UTC)
Cool, what a fantastic chapter. I think my favourite line may have been:
“I’d tell you not to cuss if I knew what you said.” Charlie wondered if this was how people felt around him.

Although I'm also a fan of:
He easily recognized the look on Esther’s face as ‘Eppes about to be fucking brilliant.’

And I loved the interaction between Esther and Matheson figuring out the code by a combination of her language genius and his random trivia knowledge. To say they're both original characters you're doing a great job of writing them so they're just as important and interesting as the regulars.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 15th, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I want to keep my OCs interesting without going into merry sue territory. I think I kiss the line with Esther a bit but Matheson is enough of a dork it's not a worry.
boymommytotwoboymommytotwo on March 9th, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
your esther is a TOTAL rock star...

from auntie megan coming to fetch her at school with the secret word, to her ready to bitch-slap whomever wants to her family, to her concern for bordom when hiding at the safe house, to stumbling onto something her father didn't know...

she's just freakin-awesome...

and, so i suppose, are you for having created her! so there you go!!! freakin-awesome is the utmost highest of complimnets... ;) <3
ladygray99ladygray99 on March 9th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I wanted to give them a cool kid without a MarrySue coming out. it was hard to find the balance. I think I kiss the line on occasion.
laura_trekkielaura_trekkie on January 20th, 2009 09:58 am (UTC)
Go Esther!

Looks like it's a case of 'like father, like daughter' :). Glad everyone was unharmed. I wonder what made the Cromwell brothers do it?

ladygray99ladygray99 on January 20th, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC)
Mainly just an over stressed bitter upbringing that drove them to a life of crime.
Floss: every british person's front gardenflosspyromaniac on September 24th, 2009 11:34 pm (UTC)
A quick note from a terrible, terrible reviewer who has read pretty much all your Numb3rs fic and somehow never quite gets round to saying how good it is. Eagerly awaiting part five of Whitman, and considering BDSM is just not one of my kinks, you know it has to be good.

Anyway, this particular note is to say thank you for some techno-babble in a Numb3rs fic that I can actually understand. From a linguist whose Latin, Greek and Sanskrit is undoubtedly a lot worse than Esther's, my sincere thanks. I don't feel quite so much like my brain is melting out of my ears anymore :)
ladygray99ladygray99 on September 25th, 2009 03:23 am (UTC)
\o/ Lurker comment!

Whitman 5 is being written but I'm about 6 months behind. It just hit 49,000 words but I have a feeling it could hit 250,000 to 300,000 by the end.

I'm glad you liked this. I wanted Esther to be a genius mainly just to stress out Charlie and Colby but I can't wrap my head around math my self so I picked languages. (I can't speak any language but English but I figured I could fake it better.)

Anyways glad you enjoyed this and please keep reading and keep commenting.