Title: Federal Offense
Summary: Charlie has never met snoopy_rose, but he's heard of her - and then, one day, she started sending him new algorithms that perfectly fit the murder pattern in the latest case...
: Charlie has never met snoopy_rose, but he's heard of her - and then, one day, she started sending him new algorithms that perfectly fit the murder pattern in the latest case...
Warnings: I think it's just the occasional naughty word.
Disclaimer: Numb3rs is CBS and Falacci and Heuton. BtVS is Whedon.
Notes: no spoilers but vague mentions to some of Colby's past.
“Don,” Charlie says in a worried voice as he pops up behind the divider around Don’s desk, “I think we have a problem.”
Don sighs, just when he needed another problem with this case; first, six murders in six days; second there’s something more than a little weird about them that even the ME can’t figure out what killed them it’s like they just stopped; third, Charlie hadn’t been able to even come up with anything.
“What is it?” Don says, muffled slightly by the coffee stirrer between his teeth.
Charlie waves a computer print out in his face, “this.”
Don grabs it from his brother’s hands and reads; it’s an email to Charlie’s Cal Sci account from a snoopy_rose @ nsc.org and apart from the first line, ‘this should help’, it looks like math. He looks up at his brother with raised eyebrows, “and?”
“It helps,” Charlie says, dragging his brother towards the war room where David and Megan are going through piles of information on the victims trying to find links between them; nothing so far beyond all drinking the same type of milk – which they’ve already had tested.
Charlie is busy copying the math from the email to the nearest board in yellow markers, with the odd dash of orange for some reason.
“Don?” Megan says, obviously expecting Charlie to have had some big break through that will help them out.
Don shrugs and they wait for Charlie to stop.
“See,” Charlie says, as he puts the markers down, “the parts in orange are what I’d been coming up with, but it wasn’t enough for anything. But with these bits in yellow, it all makes sense.”
“So what’s the problem?” David asks, grinning.
“I didn’t come up with them,” he holds up a hand at Megan’s groaned, ‘Charlie’, “no, I don’t mean it like that. This email was sent to me with the proofs.”
As he’s speaking Charlie is hooking his laptop up to their system so that the email is up on the big screen.
“Oh,” Megan says, standing up in front of the screen, “well, clearly this ‘snoopy_rose’ wants to help, and they know their math...”
“Do you know anything about ‘snoopy_rose’, Charlie?” David asks.
“We’ve never had contact before, but I’ve heard of her,” Charlie answers.
“Her?” Megan asks, “I suppose that could be inferred from the feminine email handle.”
“Yes, she’s well known in some circles,” Charlie grins slightly, “uh, computer related ones.”
“Is she a hacker, Chuck?” Dons asks.
“Yes,” Charlie answers, “but she’s never, to my knowledge, done anything malicious with her hacking. She’s like a ghost, goes in and out – the only way you know you’ve been got is when you get an email telling you how to bulk up your security.”
“Could she have done this?” Don asks, “It’s unusual to go from hacker to murderer.”
“But this could be a cry for help, for us to stop her,” Megan adds.
“Can we get the techs to look into the email and her account?” David asks.
“I already sent it to them,” Charlie says, “and Amita took a look before she had class.”
“And?” Don asks.
“Everything Amita tried got shut down, she couldn’t find anything, not even on the domain name,” Charlie tells them, clearly frustrated.
Colby walks into the room on his cell, “right, thanks, Matt.”
Closing his cell he turns to them, “it turns out this email you got has been added to a pile of about fifty more that various agencies have had over the past ten years. The only thing that changes is the domain it comes from; it started out as a basic hotmail account, then gmail and now this nsc.org.”
“Did Matt find anything on nsc.org?” Charlie asks.
“Yeah,” Colby sighs, “it has encryptions on encryptions and is like nothing he’s ever seen. He and the others working on this over the years believe that this is snoopy_rose’s own domain created by her from the ground up, it has her coding all over it. They’re hoping to piece together a, uh, patch? I think, from all the hints she’s sent to see if that can get them in.”
“Ok, guys, we’ll leave the techs to that. Charlie, do you think this math works well enough? Megan, should we trust it?” Don brings them all back to the point.
“Yes, it’s unbelievable, I wasn’t aware that she was this competent in math, it does make me wonder if someone is working with her, but then there are stretches, like this here,” he points to the third patch of yellow, “that resembles some of her coding work far too closely for it not to be her.”
Megan paces in front of the email again, “I think at this point we have to trust it, it fits the previous murders, but go in knowing that this could be the killer and be prepared for that.”
The seventh victim is lying on the morgue table in front of him, the math had worked they’d just got there too late.
“What can you tell me, Doc?” Don asks the ME.
“Not much more than before, Eppes,” the ME pulls down the sheet covering the victim, “no marks on the body, and again I checked everywhere, twice.”
“I know you did, Doc,” Don says, the ME is as frustrated as the rest of them.
“Again, nothing in the tox reports and I’ve extended all the panels again for anything I can think of,” he continues.
“You said not much more than before,” Don says, “so you have something?”
“Just this,” the doc says, holding up a specimen jar, with a black plastic cap, “strands of cloth on the victim, rough like packing material of some kind, like sack cloth. I’m sending it to the lab; I’ll let you know if they can tell you anything more.”
As Don walks back into the war room after leaving the ME’s office he sees a flurry of motion and what looks like a new email on screen.
“Don,” Charlie calls from his perch on a table in front of the screen, “I got another one.”
“Tell me,” he says.
“It’s more math, a tightening up of the algorithms,” Charlie says.
“Anything beyond the math this time?” Don asks, hoping there’s something more of a clue about this snoopy_rose.
“Yes,” Megan answers from her spot in front of the screen, “here at the start she says she’s sorry she missed this part the first time.”
“Which means?” Don asks.
“If she’s the killer, she’s showing remorse over her victims, and if not, she feels bad that she couldn’t help us stop another murder,” Megan says.
“So nothing telling us which one she is?”
“See there at the end, she actually says, I’m kind of disappointed you guys think it’s me, Charlie, but I guess that makes sense. I’ll sort that out.
” Megan points out the phrase on screen.
“What the hell does that mean?” Don shouts, “Charlie, I’m staying at the house tonight and you’re not leaving here without me.”
“Oh, oops,” says a quiet voice from the doorway.
They all turn to face the door and see a redheaded woman leaning against the doorway looking embarrassed.
She holds out a shield and credentials to them, “Willow Rosenberg, NSC.”
“How did you get in here?” Don asks, hand heading for his gun, “and what the hell is NSC?”
“Oh, man, you’ve not had the briefing, they said you’d had the briefing, that’s why I used that email address,” the woman rambles.
“Again, I ask, how-?” Don stops mid flow as the woman, Ms Rosenberg, tries to answer.
“The nice man at the front security bit let me in once I showed him these,” she waves around her badge and credentials again and then grumbles, “at least he knew what they meant.”
“And, uh, sorry, but if you’ve not actually had the briefing I can’t tell you what the NSC is, except to say that we’re kind of like the UN and Interpol rolled into one, only for different things, sort of,” Ms Rosenberg looks exceptionally nervous.
“The security downstairs knows who you are, but we don’t?” David asks from where he and Colby stand behind her.
“Uh, yeah, building security in places like this always know who we are in case we need to be in, and, uh, hey, Granger, long time no see,” she says.
“Colby!” Don shouts, feeling his blood pressure rising again, he thought he was done with this secrecy bullshit from Granger.
“I was stationed in Ms Rosenberg’s home town for a while, Don, it’s beyond classified,” Colby answers looking sheepish.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Rosenberg says, looking embarrassed, “I thought maybe Riley had sent you, I didn’t realise you were FBI now, sorry.”
“Can we maybe get to why you’re here, Ms Rosenberg?” Don asks, trying to get back on track.
“Sure, we hoped that if I sent that bit of math that we would be able to stay out of this,” as she says it Don watches Colby go white, “but, unfortunately not.”
“You knew what was going on? We have seven people dead and all you did was send a few emails that had us running around chasing after you.” Don keeps thinking one day he won’t shout so much.
“We’re a bit short staffed in this part of the US currently, hence why it’s just me and I totally managed to screw it up because somebody gave me the wrong information and I was lead to believe that you knew the score, and I said I was sorry, and anyway,” Rosenberg rounds on Colby, “how come you didn’t realise?”
“Hey, it’s not like I ever knew you were snoopy_rose, though I suppose thinking about it I should have done, it’s not exactly stealthy is it?” Colby looks irritated as the woman turns red, “And it’s not like I knew you guys had a fancy title these days, I’ve been out of that a long time.”
“Right, right, nobody had the right information, everyone is sorry,” Don hid a wince as she talked to them like they were teenagers, “can we maybe stop the bad guy now?”
Finally she moved into the room and started taking laptops and pads of paper from her satchel and spreading them on the nearest table.
It turned out that Rosenberg, or maybe the NSC, had the authority to take the case away from the FBI. She didn’t quite do that.
She let Granger stay with her as she went after the guy with little more than a, “don’t worry, I can take care of myself.”
Don didn’t believe her, even after Colby shivered and added, “She’s not kidding.”
They returned after two hours, the suspect in chains and being packed off in a van with NSC on the side.
“It was nice working with you all,” Rosenberg said as she rubbed at a red mark on her forehead, “I’ll make sure you get the briefing so that someone can actually tell you what went on here, but for now, all I can say is, did anyone know a PI known as Angel who used to operate out of LA?”
David sat down heavily.
“Right, so you’ve maybe got a picture,” Rosenberg said, “like I said, I’ll make sure you get a briefing. Maybe we’ll work together again someday; we’ll see how you feel about that after the briefing.”
She gave a small, resigned, smile to Colby, waved at them all and left.