Dec 29, 2012
This is the first in a series of "vows". It's the only one I've written so far, but more will follow. Someday.
The vows are the ones usually pronounced at a wedding, I'm merely applying them to the 24 universe.
Enjoy the read.
He woke with a start, the sting of smelling salts hurtling him back into the waking world.
He couldn’t move. Restraints held his arms, pinned his legs and locked his head down. Despite being awake, he couldn’t see. A blindfold covered his eyes. Another rag, tied between his lips, silenced him. The only two things he could do, were to clench his fists and listen.
The events rushed back to him.
He had been driving home after spending the afternoon with Tony. He was on vacation, Tony on sick leave with a severe case of the flu. With Michelle out of town, he had offered to go over to help out. He hated sitting around doing nothing, but he had to take up his vacation, so he spent it ‘on’ Tony.
Poor old Tony, sneezing and wheezing, unable to get anything done for himself.
He had rarely seen him in such bad shape, but he was slowly getting over it. Slowly beating the microbes. A few more days of rest, medication and chicken soup would get him back on his feet.
He was the only one who would miss him.
In a day or two when he didn’t show up.
Until then …
“Nod if you can hear me.” a cold voice instructed.
They had left him enough space to do so.
“Good.” the voice sounded, a praising tone to it now.
“What we want from you is very simple.” the voice continued, “Information. The quicker you give it to us, the sooner you’ll get out of here. The longer you refuse to cooperate, the more you’ll get hurt. Do you understand?”
He did understand.
He understood perfectly well he would get tortured.
“If you give us trouble, we’ll give you trouble. If you don’t give us any, we won’t give you any.” the man continued, “Do you understand?”
He nodded his understanding a second time.
His left hand was untied.
“We commence in the morning.”
He heard a door open and close.
A lock turned.
Two seconds later, his fingers found the buckle on the strap that held his chest down. That came off first. The blindfold was next.
Only when he could see what was happening around him, did he turn his attention to the rest of the straps.
It didn’t take him long to free himself, he was alone so nothing stopped him from doing so.
His cell – because that’s what it was – was most probably located in a basement, the rough concrete floor felt cold under his bare feet and the air had that dank, stuffy smell about it one usually smelled in caves and old basements.
His boots had been removed, probably for at least two different reasons, the first being he could do a lot more damage kicking with them than without. A second reason was security. He wouldn’t use the laces to either hang himself – as if – or strangle one of them first chance he got.
His pockets had been emptied, his jacket simply taken.
His watch was gone and so was his chain.
Once he had checked himself and his immediate surroundings, it was time to venture a little further.
Not that he could go very far.
He did have a good view beyond the steel barrier that locked him in, but when he touched it, meaning to take support on it, an electric shock drove him back. He hissed at the sting and gave the barrier a dirty look while staying at a safe distance.
For as far as he could – safely – determine, the basement was empty but for him.
He went back to the bunk and sat down.
That was when the questions flooded his mind.
Where was he?
Who were they?
What did they want?
What were they willing to do in order to get what they wanted?
He already knew it would probably be days before anyone would even start to worry about him so, until the, he was on his own.
CTU wouldn’t miss him until he was due to return from his holidays, ten days from now.
Tony wouldn’t worry either. He hadn’t been there all day, every day. He might worry in a day or two and give him a call. It probably wouldn’t be until a few days worth of calls were left unanswered, that Tony would notify anyone.
He was looking at a week.
He would have to help himself.
They said they would start in the morning, however far that was off.
Stripped of everything he might’ve used and facing an electric barrier, there wasn’t much he could do, so he stretched out on the hard bunk, slipped an arm under his head and closed his eyes.
He didn’t sleep though.
He merely rested.
“Rise and shine, Bauer!” a voice called.
He opened his eyes to see two men standing near the door to his cell.
“On your feet.” the bulkiest one said.
Their tone was commanding, the orders obvious, but they weren’t throwing him around yet.
He wasn’t giving them trouble yet, so he wasn’t getting any.
He sat up slowly but without hesitation and one of the men signalled for him to approach.
When he did, the man produced a pair of handcuffs and tossed them to him.
He caught them in mid-air.
“Cuff yourself,” the same man ordered, “behind your back.”
He stood impassive, not intent on locking himself down like that.
“If I have to come in and do it for you,” the tallest of both warned, “I’ll give you a wake-up call you won’t forget.”
The stand-off only lasted a few seconds.
Jack moved before they did.
Locking the cuff around his left wrist made them halt. When he moved his arms behind his back and locked the other cuff in place, they knew a ‘correction’ wouldn’t be needed.
He was complying.
“Turn it off.”
Jack could hear the difference clearly now, after listening to the constant hum all night.
They motioned for him to come closer.
They weren’t taking any chances and double checked the cuffs.
They tightened them a little, but felt no need to make them too tight.
Not just yet.
He hadn’t pissed them off yet.
“This way.” one of them said after the lock clicked.
He followed the guiding hands as they steered him towards a set of concrete steps, leading up.
One of them stayed by his side, the other went up first.
He would’ve preferred him to come up behind. He would’ve been able to kick both of them back down. It would’ve given him a head start.
They were smarter than that.
They left the stairs after one floor, but the stairs continued up.
No daylight filtered through and he instinctively knew he was still below grounds.
Taking a chance, he kicked at the closest goon’s knee, taking him by surprise and driving him down. He followed through with a kick to the gut which hardly had any effect, but before he could land anything else, the other one was coming at him. He twisted his body, hoping to stay out of reach, but something grazed his arm and he heard the crackle. With a painful grunt, he twisted further yet, now getting beyond the reach of the stun gun.
That was when the downed goon pressed his into the fold of Jack’s knee and activated it.
It brought him down faster and more effectively than his kick had brought the goon down and in the next heartbeat, the first stun gun came to a rest against the side of his throat. The goon’s other hand gripped a fistful of hair, pulling his head back and sideways.
“Put it down.” the goon ordered coldly.
If he discharged the stun gun, the ride would be more than painful.
It left him with no other choice but to comply and he lowered his other knee to the ground as well, feeling the throbbing in the leg that had just gotten hit.
He would be limping for a while.
The goon he had kicked down was on the radio, informing whoever of what had happened.
“Bauer just tried to make a run for it.”
The tone of voice conveyed the rest of the message. The attempt had failed and the situation was under control, their prisoner contained.
He had gambled and he had lost, now he would suffer the consequences of his escape attempt.
“Bring him.” a voice crackled over the radio.
He couldn’t be sure it was the same one as before.
The grip on his hair loosed and the stun gun fell away from his throat, but both men gripped him by the arms, leaving him no room at all. They pulled him to his feet and marched him on to their initial destination, deliberately oblivious of his limp. It caused him to lean more into one of them with every other step he took, which quickly resulted in an angry warning.
The guy stopped and turned. Getting in his face, he made it obvious Jack would pay dearly if he bumped into him again.
It was psychological warfare and it slid off his back, leaving him very much unimpressed.
They all knew he couldn’t help the limp, couldn’t undo the effect of the stun gun and couldn’t stop from bumping into the man.
It was merely a means to put pressure on him.
Pressure he could handle.
They marched him into a room where three others waited. One of them pointed to a bunk set in the middle of the room, so they took him over to it and forced him down on it. In a few quick moves, they strapped him down, paying particular attention to his legs.
Then they gagged him.
The one who had instructed the goons where to put him, came up to him, a disappointed look on his face.
“I warned you about giving us trouble, didn’t I?” he scolded.
He looked to the side and nodded, which caused Jack to brace, but no impact followed.
Instead, something much more frightening happened.
A wooden block was quickly placed between his ankles, after what the goon lifted a heavy hammer.
With one blow, they made sure he wouldn’t try to make a run for it again.
He felt and heard the bone snap and a sharp cry tore from the pit of his stomach, ripping every last ounce of breath from his lungs.
The rag smothered it, but only partly. Nothing would stop a cry that raw. That powerful.
Every muscle in his body tensed and he felt an instant cold sweat break out across every inch of his skin.
He held on to consciousness by sheer willpower.
Cold sweat covering his face and intense pain stitched across his features, he took controlled breaths, slowly filling his lungs and calming his body down after the vicious attack on his nervous system. His mind was on fire too, but he let it burn. That fire was in his eyes as well and conveyed his message.
If this hadn’t put him out of action, they were in for a long and hard ride.
The leader shook off his surprise at seeing Jack hold on to consciousness and snapped a dry order. The straps came off and the goons dragged him off the bunk and to a chair, shackling him to it, right leg included, broken ankle or not.
They knew a trapped animal was dangerous.
Now, the animal wasn’t only trapped, it was wounded too.
It made it even more dangerous.
The gag remained in place.
He wouldn’t be doing any talking just yet.
Once secured, the leader proceeded to explain what was expected of him.
He answered the words with an unwavering and intense glare.
They weren’t impressed.
Nor was he.
The rest of his day was filled with questions.
All but a few remained unanswered.
Those that didn’t, weren’t the ones they wanted answered.
There was no additional pain though.
No punishment for his stubbornness.
No encouragement to loosen his lips.
His ankle was painful enough without them stomping on him, but not nearly enough to make him talk.
It wasn’t meant to make him talk either.
It was meant to keep him from running off on them.
When they were done for the day, the same goons took him back to his cell, ignoring the broken ankle, forcing him to use it despite the fact he couldn’t. By the time they got to his cell, he was covered in cold sweat again, teetering on the brink of oblivion. If he had to take another step, he’d pass out.
They stopped him beside the bunk and finally removed the cuffs.
They hadn’t come off all day.
Moving his sore shoulders was almost as painful as using his right foot, but he did anyhow, supporting himself on the bunk.
The goons turned and left, not wasting another word on him.
He turned too, but only sideways, and lowered his upper body to the bunk. His left leg came up without a problem. His right was something different altogether. He left it dangling off the bunk for a moment. Long enough to regain control over his breathing. It took a moment to lock out the pain, but once he managed, control was only a short ways behind.
Slowly, focusing on the muscle group he needed, he pulled his right leg up. Anticipating the pain he knew would follow, he braced and locked his body down, then lowered his leg to the bunk. He rolled to his side, bringing his leg and foot in the most relaxed and natural position possible.
It was all the could do.
Moments later, he closed his eyes.
An occasional twitch betrayed the fact he did not sleep.
Not with that much pain.
Not in hostile captivity.
He merely rested.
He would continue to do so until they spent their days pounding on him physically instead of verbally.
Until too much energy was required during the ‘day’.
Until his body demanded a deeper, more repairing rest.
It was why his eyes opened instantly when he heard the lock.
There was only one guy and he stayed at the door, a tray in hand.
He put it on the floor and pushed it a little further.
“There’s a painkiller, too.” he said, making eye contact with Jack.
It was obvious in his eyes why he didn’t bring it over.
He was still dealing with a trapped and wounded animal.
If Jack wanted the food, water or painkiller, he would have to get up and get it.
The door closed and the lock turned.
Around him anyways.
There was no peace within.
Moving slowly, calculating every move before he made it, calculating the impact it would have on his body, he worked himself into a sitting position. From there, he could get up. Once on his foot - left foot only - he made a quick assessment of the distance and crossed it with minor impact.
He took the painkiller, emptied the water, but left the food.
He didn’t want it.
He made his way back to the bunk and worked his body up on it again.
He could only hope nobody would come to disturb him until morning.
His light slumber remained undisturbed, allowing him to get some rest for another long day.
When the lock turned, he opened his eyes. The same two goons were there, handcuffs and stun guns at the ready.
“Roll to your stomach and lace your fingers behind your head.”
He gave them a vicious ‘you have got to be kidding me’ glare, even though he knew they weren’t.
Gritting his teeth, he rolled, feeling his right foot move out of its neutral position.
The pain flared up instantly.
That was probably the idea.
Breathing through his nose, he kept a lock on the pain and obeyed the order he had been given.
They entered the cell as soon as he was in position, one going to the side of the bunk, the other to the head.
The stun gun came to a rest against the top of his spine, its threat looming over him.
It was something else altogether that kept him from making a move against them. They didn’t need the stun gun. They didn’t need the handcuffs either. Nor the manpower.
Until he received something resembling proper treatment for his broken ankle, it wouldn’t take much to keep him subdued.
He was incapacitated.
He was subdued.
By the restrictions of his own body.
They brought his right arm down in a swift move, causing a shift in his weight.
Causing a flash of pain.
They repeated the same exercise with his left arm.
He didn’t acknowledge the ‘fresh’ pain.
They knew they were causing it, that sufficed.
Once secured, the stun gun disappeared and they rolled him off the bunk.
This time however, they held him in such a way he didn’t need his right leg. Even the stairs weren’t a problem for these men who handled his weight with ease.
He was once more shackled to the chair, secured in a way he could cause no trouble.
“You know what I want,” the leader said, approaching from the side, “are you going to give it to me?”
“I know what I want,” Jack replied evenly, “I wouldn’t mind giving you that.”
“I see.” the man nodded.
“Loosen him up a little, will you.” he added, speaking to no one in particular.
The two goons kicked into action at once, knowing they had been the ones the leader had spoken to.
Taking turns, they pounded on him until they were called off.
His lips were split and blood trickled down to his chin, dripping on his shirt.
His left eyebrow was torn and more blood dripped down the side of his face.
His chest throbbed painfully from the blows he’d taken.
He wasn’t any closer to giving up the information they wanted though.
A few unanswered questions later, the goons stepped in again.
“Chest only.” the leader instructed.
It didn’t make much of a difference.
More of the same followed.
The only thing that changed, was the indication of which body part to pound on.
Chest, face, shoulders, gut, legs.
It changed every time a pounding was in order.
When they were instructed to hit his legs only, he feared for the worst, but they didn’t go after his broken ankle.
It was as much a surprise as it was a relief.
He didn’t thank them in any way though.
Not a useful word rolled across his lips.
By the end of the day, he was left aching all over, but perfectly conscious.
He hadn’t said a word, nor had their actions torn any cries from him.
He was taken back to his cell, quickly and without incident.
Sometime later, the lock turned, forcing him back to full alertness even though he knew it was probably just the guy with the food.
He didn’t intend to get up for it tonight. Painkiller or not.
Either the guy gave it to him, or he would do without.
“You didn’t eat.” the man said flatly.
Jack didn’t react.
“You need food.”
He came into the cell, holding the tray.
“I can help you.”
He took two more steps.
He stopped barely out of reach, but Jack didn’t move.
“Do you want me to help you?”
Jack munched on the question, but quickly decided he could do with a little help.
Even more so if that help came bearing painkillers.
He gave a slow nod, then whispered a single word.
“Do you want the painkillers first?”
“Save it for last?”
“Okay, let’s get you up.”
The man finally bridged the last of the distance and set the tray down.
Jack still refrained from making a move on him. He wouldn’t go anywhere on his own, so taking this guy out would serve no purpose.
He let the man help him into a sitting position and took the water, drinking thirstily. He was parched.
“It’s okay,” the guy said, “there’s more.”
Still, he left half to take the painkillers with.
“What’d they do to you?”
“What does it look like?” Jack asked quietly.
“They beat you up.”
Jack confirmed with a nod.
“Did they break anything?”
“Your ankle? Why?”
“I’m locked in a cell, why do you think they broke my ankle?”
“To keep you from trying to run away.”
“Who are they anyway?” Jack asked ‘innocently’.
“I don’t know.”
“And who are you?”
“Just the guy who brings you food.”
With that, he offered more.
Humoring him, Jack took it.
He wouldn’t humor him for long though.
He needed to rest.
He finished about half of the food, then signalled he’d had enough.
“Are you sure?”
A nod was his only response.
The guy handed him the pills and the water.
“Do you want more?” he asked after Jack was done.
He shook his head.
“Call if you need anything.”
“The key and a pair of crutches would do.” Jack replied flatly.
“Get some rest, I’ll come back in a few hours with-”
“Don’t.” Jack interrupted.
“- more painkillers.” the guy continued.
“Don’t.” Jack repeated.
The man left, taking the tray with him and Jack curled up on the bunk again, finding the right position for his injured ankle. He couldn’t find a position that would suit him perfectly, because his body ached all over, but he could avoid the most intense pain. The pain caused by the broken bones in his ankle.
Closing his eyes, he focused on his breathing until the painkiller kicked in, taking some of the edge off.
When they came for him - in an exact copy of the previous day - his throat itched.
It was a dry tickle, usually the result of very dry air and/or lots of talking.
He couldn’t guarantee anything concerning the quality of the air around him, but he did know he hadn’t done any talking.
Not any, let alone lots.
Let alone enough to justify a sore throat.
And he hadn’t been doing any screaming.
Somehow, he didn’t think the air was all that dry either.
It was back to the chair for a few long hours.
Their questions stayed the same, their pounding became more intense. Yet, not a fibre in his body even considered answering them.
By noon - the interrogator had taken a break for lunch the previous day, leaving it up to the goons to keep him ‘busy’ - the tickle had grown to an irritation, bothering him with every breath he took and a headache pounded the inside of his skull.
The lead man gave a meaningful nod, which resulted in a more severe bashing.
One with a clear purpose.
They knocked him out cold.
When he woke - naturally - he wasn’t in the chair any longer.
That was why they had knocked him out. They wouldn’t have to worry about anything he might do when they untied him.
He was now shackled to the wall in an upright position, arms held high and wide, legs spread.
Instantly, pain information from his ankle assaulted his brain.
Things were about to get a little harder.
A little more vicious.
Their viciousness only managed to give him a more severe headache and set his lungs on fire.
It was getting harder to breathe smoothly.
Another - more severe - beating left him hanging in his bonds, barely conscious.
Barely aware they were untying him.
They dragged him back to his cell and left, leaving him aching and sore all over.
The guy with the food hardly had any success that night.
The water - of which two large glasses were provided - and the painkillers were all Jack wanted. He made it clear he wasn’t interested and the guy didn’t insist.
Again, he declined the ‘offer’ for more painkillers.
He didn’t want to owe anything to any of them.
When the lock turned again, his mind screamed in rebellion.
It was too soon.
Too soon to get up.
He hadn’t rested enough.
There would be no respite though.
They slapped the cuffs on him, dragged him off the bunk and out of the cell.
Halfway up the stairs, Jack had reached a conclusion after giving himself a quick check.
He was coming down with something similar as Tony.
The headache was still there, a dull drumming for now, but soon to grow in intensity.
The irritation had grown overnight and his throat was now swollen and painful.
It hurt to swallow and every breath he took, rasped its way in.
He was breathing through his mouth as well, his nose was clogged up, and his eyes stung.
This was going to be a very long day.
Very quickly, the headache became splitting instead of dull and the raspy breaths caused coughs.
He felt like shit and knew he probably looked like it too.
It didn’t stop them.
They still needed answers.
He still had them.
His fits of coughing and wheezing didn’t stop them from pounding on him with stronger conviction.
On the contrary.
They figured he would be more easily broken.
They obviously didn’t know him very well.
Didn’t know what he was able to endure at the service of his country.
Didn’t know what a ‘tough guy’ he really was.
‘Sick or not!’
When innocent lives were at stake, his physical discomfort didn’t matter.
He wasn’t in this line of work for the 9-5 desk job or the fat money.
He was in this line of work because he cared.
He cared for his country and every soul in it.
He wanted to protect them.
If taking a beating could do that, then a beating he would take.
It didn’t matter.
When their smelling salts proved to be ineffective on him, they had to resort to an old fashioned way of waking him up.
They used a bucket of icy water.
They kept using it … as a means to convince him to talk.
Given the fact he could only breathe through his mouth, they applied a poor version of waterboarding.
With the extensive SEAL training Jack had gone through while in Special Forces, their attempt was as pathetic as it was vain. It didn’t get anything out of him.
It did solve the issue of the bathroom break he had been feeling a need for.
With all the water they were pouring over him, it remained unnoticed but to him.
When their patience ran out, they dragged him back to his cell, locking him up for the night.
He figured they weren’t only running out of patience.
Maybe they were running out of ideas too.
Maybe they had some homework to do, trying to find other ways of putting pressure on him.
There were no painkillers tonight and his meal consisted of a small sandwich with no spread and a glass of water.
It didn’t matter.
He didn’t care.
He was tired, in pain and freezing, he could add ‘hungry’ to the list of discomforts without too much trouble.
It only made him grumpier and grumpy was not good … for them.
The only problem now, was that he was ill on top of everything else.
Soaked to the bone and locked up in an underground cell, he didn’t have any hopes of getting warm - or even comfortable - any time soon.
His symptoms could only get worse.
He covered himself to his best ability, but couldn’t stop shivering all night.
By morning, he was in a much worse condition than he had been twenty-four hours prior.
His throat was swollen and irritated, causing coughs which only made the irritation worse and set his lungs on fire.
His nose was completely clogged up, yet runny.
His eyes were swollen and they stung.
His head throbbed with a passion and just about every muscle in his body ached.
He was freezing and his teeth clattered uncontrollably.
The goons took no notice of it and dragged him back upstairs, shackling him to the wall.
He hadn’t done anything, yet the whole thing left him panting, wheezing and coughing.
He had to get out of this situation and get to a doctor as soon as possible.
He sure as hell wasn’t going to give them what they wanted and he didn’t think they’d give him a medical time-out either.
They came at him with even more conviction than the previous day, their attacks vicious and demanding, but the fits of sneezing, wheezing and coughing became more frequent, countering the effect they were trying hard to achieve.
The whole thing only managed to make him grumpy as hell.
He hated feeling like that.
Incapacitated by something as stupid as a bad cold.
He voiced his anger in short, well-balanced phrases, but they only got him more pain, which only made him madder.
It was an endless downward spiral which stopped being vocalized when one too many screams broke his voice.
From that point on, it hurt too much to speak and his voice had dwindled down to a whisper, so he stopped using it.
They called it quits by late afternoon and cut him loose.
By then, he could barely keep his eyes open and every inch of him ached one way or another.
They didn’t throw him back in his cell though.
They took him upstairs.
There, he was taken into a room and lowered to a bed.
A real one.
Soft, warm and comfortable.
“What’s going on?”
He heard the voice from a distance.
“He’s no use to us like this.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s sneezing and coughing all over the place.”
He felt a hand against his forehead.
It was cold.
“He’s got a fever.”
“Turn the heat up in here.”
No one acknowledged but he knew it would be done.
“Get some more blankets, I’ll take care of everything else.”
It wasn’t long until more blankets were added and the warmth finally inched into his limbs.
If left unmeddled with, he might actually get warm again.
Sometime later, someone made him drink a thick, sticky liquid and he felt a short sting in his arm.
The liquid stuck to his throat, soothing it and some of the pain subsided, so he figured he had been given a painkiller directly into his bloodstream.
He lost track of time after that, fading in and out of consciousness.
Sometimes someone was there, helping him to drink, either water or that sticky liquid, or helping him take pills.
Some he had to swallow, which hurt, others he had to chew.
He was sweating like a horse, yet he shivered in cold, a clear sign his fever hadn’t broken.
At times, he was given warm liquids to drink.
He had no idea what they were, his taste buds were out of action and his nose still blocked.
They could be giving him anything.
His eyes hurt too much to try identifying anything or anyone visually and his hearing was impeded by his condition, making everything sound like he had his head in a bucket of water.
Time was abstract to him and he had no idea how long he’d been floating in his feverish haze, when something new happened.
The light stung his eyes and he tried to turn away from it, but by the time he reacted, it was gone.
A hand felt his forehead, then gripped his wrist in a familiar way.
It was cold to the touch.
“How long has he been like this?”
Again, the voice sounded far-off, but this one had a different ring to it.
He couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was, but it was different.
“A few days.”
“Have you given him anything?”
“Yeah, we gave him some cough medicine and lots of water. We tried to keep him warm but the fever won’t break and we tried giving him some Advil-”
“Your friend needs to get to a hospital.” the new voice cut in.
“He has a high fever, is dehydrated and needs immediate medical attention if he wants to survive this.”
“Isn’t there anything you can give him?”
“The only thing I should be giving this man, is a ride to the nearest hospital.”
“But what? Does he have a problem with hospitals?”
“Then that’s where I’m taking him. Help me get him in my car.”
The blankets moved away and he shivered instantly.
“It’s okay, Jack,” the new voice hushed, “you’ll feel better in a while.”
He felt them lift him, increasing the dull pain.
It had been at constant level for a long time, but now it flared up, making him moan.
There wasn’t anything anyone could do for him.
The only thing anyone could do, was get him to a doctor.
He hadn’t gotten any better.
He had even gotten worse over the course of those two days.
That was when they decided to call a doctor.
The idea had been to get stronger or better medicine, but the situation was worse than they figured.
They couldn’t justify a veto to the hospital.
They had claimed Jack was a friend. Now, their ‘friend’ was at risk of dying if he wasn’t given proper medical attention. Not letting him go to a hospital would blow their cover and probably bring more people to them. They didn’t want anyone else to show up on their doorstep.
They couldn’t afford to let him die, but they couldn’t afford to grab the doctor either.
People would come looking for him.
There were records of their call.
Records of the visit.
They didn’t have the time to erase them before someone started asking questions.
If the police came, they might recognize Bauer.
If they didn’t recognize him off the bat, they would ask more questions about his injuries.
The doctor’s reactions had been pre-emptively countered by feeding him a story about their boxing friend who had become ill shortly after a recent fight.
It explained the cuts and bruises on his face and the bruising on his chest.
They knew the story wouldn’t hold if a couple of cops showed up.
They did the only thing they could do.
They let him go.
He was of no use to them in this condition.
They could always snatch him up again later, when he was in better shape.
They wouldn’t get any information out of him in this condition.
He didn’t even talk in delirium from the fever.
While they moved him from the bed to the car, the new voice kept talking, asking questions about him.
Social security number?
Next of kin?’
He couldn’t answer any of them.
Nor could the man on his right.
The one that carried most of his weight.
The one that kept most of his weight off his right foot.
He tried to focus.
Listen more intently.
The drumming in his ears made it hard to hear, but he struggled for control.
“Backseat,” the new voice said, “that way he can lie down.”
They got him in and lowered him to the seat.
“There you go, the doc will take good care of you.”
That was when it hit him.
‘Just the guy who brings the food.’
Also the guy who had given the orders when he was first moved to the bed.
And the guy who had coaxed him into drinking and taking pills while he was more dead than alive.
The sonofabitch had tried to play him.
But now, his playing time had come to an end.
He had to let Jack go.
No more playing.
No more trying to tease him into trusting him.
Into accepting or asking ‘favors’ which would be paid in hard cash afterwards.
The pressure fell off him when the engine turned over.
He felt the forward motion and moved his leg, trying to keep his right foot as stable as possible.
“Are you okay back there?” the doctor asked, reaching back to give him a gentle squeeze, “I’ll take care of you, don’t worry.”
He didn’t respond.
He didn’t have to.
“Yes, this is doctor Shear, I’m coming in with a patient … I’m suspecting bronchitis … in a severe state, dehydration, high fever … yes, and call the police too, this guy took a serious beating … five minutes … thank you.”
Their boxing story hadn’t impressed or dazzled him in any way.
The injuries he had seen, didn’t come from a boxing glove and the man didn’t really look like the type of guy involved in the underground boxing circuit.
The fact his ‘friends’ hadn’t been able to give him any kind of information had also raised questions.
They didn’t even give him the man’s last name.
He had no idea if ‘Jack’ really was his first.
He drove quickly and pulled to a stop outside the emergency entrance about six minutes after his call.
He tapped the horn lightly, bringing out the group of paramedics who had been waiting for him just inside the double glass doors.
He got the passenger door and let the men work. They were more used to it than he was.
They lifted the passenger out of the car and onto the waiting gurney, then wheeled him inside, taking him straight into an exam room which had been kept vacant for him.
Doctor Shear parked his car and hurried in, finding two cops standing outside exam room four.
He went over to them to fill them in.
Inside exam 4, the medics and doctors were struggling with their unwilling patient.
He had caught a glimpse of the uniforms as they wheeled him in and he wanted their attention.
Too many hands held him back though, pulling on his clothes, dabbing at his wounds.
“Take it easy,” someone said, “we’ll take care of you.”
“Don’t worry,” someone else hushed, “you’re in hospital. Everything’s gonna be okay.”
Still he struggled.
Still he tried.
They didn’t understand.
“He’s quite agitated.” one of the cops noted, looking in through the small window.
“He wasn’t like that in the car.” Shear replied, “I told him I was bringing him here, so I don’t think the hospital is the problem.”
“Maybe,” the other cop said, “we don’t know who he is or what happened to him.”
“We’ll have to wait till we can talk to him.”
Just then, a raw cry of pain sounded from inside exam 4.
“Hold him down.” one of the doctors said angrily.
A flailing arm had missed his face by a few inches only and even though it hadn’t been a punch, taking a finger in the eye was all but enjoyable.
“I can’t work like this.”
“I’ve got his legs.” one of the orderlies stated, gripping and leaning his weight on their patient’s ankles.
The raw cry of pain startled everyone, the orderly in the first place and he jumped back in shock.
The sudden scorching pain incapacitated him though, giving the medical staff around him a few heartbeats to reassess the situation.
That was when they noticed the bruises and swelling on his foot and ankle.
“Mobile imagery, right foot.” one of the doctors ordered after the momentary shock.
He leaned over Jack again, placing his hand flat on Jack’s chest without applying any kind of pressure.
“Can you hear me, sir?” he asked slowly and clearly.
Jack blinked and nodded, feeling adrift in his own body.
The only thing he knew at this time, was the furious pain streaming through his body, originating in his ruined ankle.
“You’re in hospital, we’re trying to help you. Do you understand?”
Jack nodded again.
“Can you tell us if you have other injuries?”
This time he rolled his head.
There weren’t any other injuries they couldn’t see.
“K … hall … s … see …”
“k-hall … see … see tee … you …”
“See tee you?”
He nodded, gasping, angered at his breathlessness.
He tried to suck more air into his lungs, but it only cause a fit of coughs, leaving him even more breathless.
They continued to work on him, the importance of what he was trying to say passing by them.
He tried to sit up again, wanting - needing - the cops to come over and listen to him.
Two pairs of hands and another fit of coughs gave them the upper hand and this time, one of the doctors took advantage. He slipped a needle into Jack’s arm as it was pinned down and quickly injected a sedative.
For a moment longer, Jack struggled, but then the fight went out of him as the drug kicked in.
“Yes. Those cuts and bruises weren’t caused by a gloved hand. Besides, from the looks of it, that ankle is broken. I would strongly doubt he walked home on it after that supposed fight.”
“So you don’t trust it?”
“Not in the least. That’s why I called you.”
“We could always get his prints and run them.”
Without waiting for a reply, the cop pushed through the door just as the body on the gurney relaxed.
“I sedated him,” one of the doctors said, “we can’t work like that.”
“Ok. I’m just gonna take his prints. See if we can find out who we’re dealing with here.”
“He was saying something about a Federal something, but I couldn’t make out what.”
“What did he say exactly?”
“Something about calling someone. I couldn’t make sense of it though. He kept saying ‘see tee you’ or something.”
“That’s what he said.” the doctor confirmed.
“I’ll be right back.”
The cop turned on his heels and ran out, going straight for the reception desk.
“I need your phone.” he stated, leaning over the desk.
He punched in a number and drummed his fingers on the desk, waiting for an answer.
“Cap, Harold here,” he said quickly, “can you connect me with CTU?”
“What’s this about?”
“Their missing agent.”
The line clicked, then clicked again.
“Miss O’Brian, this is detective Harold, I’m with the LAPD.”
“I think I may have found your missing agent.”
“What? You found Jack?”
“I’m not sure, I only saw his picture for a moment-”
“Do you have a PDA?”
“Ummm … no.”
“Anything I can send an image to?”
“My cell phone?”
“What’s your number?”
He gave it and heard her tap the keys as he did.
“I just sent you agent Bauer’s picture. Can you confirm it’s him?”
He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and checked the message.
“That’s him alright.” the cop confirmed.
“Thank god.” Chloe breathed in relief, “I’m sending a team out to meet you.”
“We’re at the-”
“Alhambra Medical Center,” Chloe cut in, “Emergency Desk.”
“That’s right.” the cop confirmed, slightly baffled.
“Yes, officer?” Chloe asked, getting impatient.
“What exactly is CTU, ma’am?”
“Counter Terrorist Unit.”
“Jack Bauer runs it.”
He thanked the nurse and hurried back to exam 4 where the medics were working on the now limp body.
“That’s a big fish you caught there, doc.” he said, pointing towards the room.
“Remember that alert a few days ago?” he continued, turning to his colleague, “about that federal agent gone missing?”
“He’s at the head of a federal agency.” he continued, explaining it to the doctor, “You were right calling us.”
“I knew their story was bull. I could smell it a mile away. But this? Who would’ve thought.”
He woke slowly, an instant feeling of déjà-vu washing over him.
He couldn’t move.
His arms and legs were restrained and he struggled to wake up more quickly.
The light stung in his eyes when he opened them.
They were still sore.
The voice sounded from afar, but familiar at the same time.
He turned towards the movement and breathed more easily again.
“How’re you feeling?”
He tried to speak, but his mouth was dry, his tongue stuck to his pallet.
His throat was still sore as well.
There was pressure on his chest too.
“Here, have some water.”
He took two small sips, then dropped his head back.
“Why am I in restraints?”
His voice was a hoarse whisper.
“You caused a little trouble.”
The words were met by a questioning look.
“You wouldn’t lie still when they were checking you up. Nearly poked a doctor’s eye out, too.”
The words came with a big grin.
“So they sedated you and slapped you in restraints.”
“And you didn’t bother-”
“To vouch for you?”
Those last words came with an even bigger grin.
“Thanks, Tony, you’re a real friend.” Jack croaked.
“It sure looks like I’ll be the one to make the chicken soup now, doesn’t it?”
It made him smile.
“Same as always.”
“We’ll let the others worry about that for now. You have to get back on your feet first.”
“A couple of hours.”
“Are you debriefing me?”
“No, I’m babysitting you.”
“I have to-”
“Lie back and relax.” Tony cut in.
“The doctor knows-”
“We know too.” Tony cut in again, “He’s the one who called the cops. The cops called us. We debriefed the man and cleaned house.”
“Like I said, Jack. All you have to do, is lie back and stop worrying, a’right.”
“CTU has them in custody.”
“The guy …”
It was getting harder to speak and he stopped to breathe.
“… the doc saw …” he continued with even more difficulty.
“… he’s in charge …”
“Okay, I’ll let them know. For now, I’ll go get the nurse. Stay calm.”
He was getting agitated again.
“I’ll be right back, a’right.” Tony said, his hand on Jack’s shoulder for a comforting squeeze.
Not so long ago - a few days actually - it had been the opposite.
Now it was Tony’s turn to take care of his friend.
They would both keep doing so until …