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John Whitman

24 Declassified: Chaos Theory

After the 1993 World Trade Center attack, a division of the Central Intelligence Agency established a domestic unit tasked with protecting America from the threat of terrorism. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Counter Terrorist Unit established field offices in several American cities. From its inception, CTU faced hostility and skepticism from other Federal law enforcement agencies. Despite bureaucratic resistance, within a few years CTU had become a major force in the war against terror. After the events of 9/11, a number of early CTU missions were declassified. The following is one of them.


Three Weeks Ago

Bauer kicked in the door and let his SigSauer lead the way into the back room. The five men at the round wooden table gawked silently, and the only sound in the room was the battered door whining as it bumped the wall and swung back. Jack stopped it with his foot.

“Tintfass,” he said.

They’d been playing cards, and four of them were statues now, including the dealer, who held one arm out, a card waiting to be flicked to one of the others. But one of them, an older guy with wide-set eyes, a paunch, and probably a little more to lose, was less comfortable staring at the downrange end of the Sig. He turned his head toward one of his partners. The Sig slid smoothly over to cover the one he’d looked at.

Adrian Tintfass was short and round, but bulky rather than fat. His head was bald on top and stubbly around the sides. His cheeks were chubby and soft, but his eyes were quick and bright, like a rat’s. Behind the cherub face his mind was racing.

“Thought I’d stop just because CTU did?” Jack said. “You don’t know me very well.”

“I’ll work on it,” Tintfass said, more hopeful than anything.

“You don’t have the time.”

A quick flick of the gun sent the other four card- players scraping their chairs away from the table.

“We don’t know you at all, man,” one of the others, the dealer, said nervously. “I don’t think we want to.”

Bauer glanced at them. “You left the game early. Tintfass stayed behind to clean up, make a phone call, like that. None of you saw what happened after that.”

The dealer nodded in complete agreement. “I’m in bed an hour ago.”

The others nodded, too, though the man with the paunch hesitated a little. “I’m. I gotta be dreaming.”

“Don’t remember this one,” Jack said. He laid the sights over Tintfass’s thick chest and pulled the trigger.


8:00 P.M. PST Federal Holding Facility, Los Angeles

“Bauer, you’re up!” the corrections officer barked.

Jack sat in the gray plastic chair, shackled to the hard seat, which was bolted to the concrete floor. He was bent forward, his elbows resting on the orange pants legs of his prison jumpsuit.

“I’m not calling anyone,” he said.

“Someone’s calling you. Get the damned phone.”

Jack stood up and walked toward the phone cubicles on the far side of the community hall. He wasn’t expecting a call. He walked past a few rows of other inmates, all dressed in identical orange. Most kept to themselves, waiting for their turn to reach the outside world, to talk to the lawyer or the girlfriend that was supposed to care about them on the inside. A few glared at Jack as he passed. These were the ones who had nothing else to do, the ones who had no lawyer but what the county paid for, and whose girls had left them for guys who hadn’t been collared. Jack glared back at them as he passed.

He hadn’t met this corrections officer yet. He was a big man, with the broken nose and lumpy eyebrows of a former boxer now gone to fat. He pointed to an unoccupied cubicle.

Jack sat down in another molded plastic seat and picked up the phone. “Yeah,” he said.

“Jack, you okay?”

Peter Jiminez. Jack was surprised he hadn’t called days ago.

“Considering,” Jack said with a shrug. He had no interest in long conversations with Jiminez. No good would come of it. CTU didn’t recruit the naïve, but if anyone in the Counter Terrorist Unit could be called wet behind the ears, it was Peter. Somehow his three years in Diplomatic Security Services and five years in the CIA had failed to stamp out the young man’s quixotic notions.

“You’re going to beat this, Jack, I know it,” Peter said. “It’s bullshit what they’re doing, it’s bullshit that they didn’t back you about Tintfass in the first place, and I’m saying it to their faces right now.”

Right now. So Henderson was in the room, and probably Chappelle. That was fine with Jack. He was happy to have Henderson listen to the conversation, and as for Chappelle, well, he was what he was.

“It’s all going to be fine, Peter,” Jack said into the phone. “I did my job and I’d do it the same again.”

“Chappelle says they have a witness.”

Jack thought of the man with the paunch. His name was Arguello. “That doesn’t matter. No one’s arguing about me pulling the trigger. We’re talking about cause.”

“You had cause,” Jiminez said. “I know you did. Two months on the job and I already know that about how you work. They shouldn’t let bureaucrats judge field agents.”

Jack heard a squeak in the background and recognized the familiar note of Regional Director Ryan Chappelle’s disapproval. “Tell Chappelle I’m having a good time. I wish he was here.”

“Jack, is there anything—?”

Bauer cut him off. “I’ll be fine.” He heard a voice behind him calling time. “I have to go.” He hung up.

“Showers!” the broken-nosed guard said. “Let’s go.”

“Let’s do it tomorrow!” an inmate yelled.

“Screw that. You stink,” called another.

Jack knew they wouldn’t wait until tomorrow. The prison had a schedule to keep, even if overcrowding had pushed the schedule back. Showers, meals, everything was late due to the number of inmates packed into the jail.

He moved away from the phone and fell into line with the other prisoners.

8:11 P.M. PST CTU Headquarters, Los Angeles

Peter Jiminez put the phone down and glared at his superiors. Regional Director Ryan Chappelle was accustomed to receiving those looks from everyone, and his pinched face remained impassive. Christopher Henderson, Director of Field Operations and Peter’s direct boss, shifted uncomfortably.

“He okay?” Henderson asked.

“He’s in jail, sir,” Jiminez replied, biting down hard on the sir. Two months under Jack Bauer’s wing had taught him a lot, but the forced politeness of the Diplomatic Security Services remained.

“Where he belongs,” Chappelle sniffed.

No one, not even Jack, denied what he had done. Jack had barged in on a poker game in the back room of Winston’s, a dive bar in the Fairfax District, and shot Adrian Tintfass in the chest. There were witnesses; there was video. Those facts were not in dispute. But the why of it was everything. Tintfass was a connector, a middleman who made his cut by putting together people who could use one another. Three months earlier, the CIA’s listening stations had plucked his name out of the air in a conversation between a Ukrainian arms dealer and a known terrorist named Hassan, recently escaped from an Afghan prison. Tintfass, it seemed, had put the two men together, and since Hassan had publicly promised to “turn the streets of America into rivers of blood,” or something like that, Tintfass immediately graduated to the Counter Terrorist Unit’s A-list. Jack tracked him down and brought him in for questioning. Tintfass broke easily under interrogation, but most of CTU became quickly convinced that he had little or nothing to do with Hassan. He’d had some semi-legitimate business dealings with the Ukrainian, and everyone was convinced that he’d never met or spoken with Hassan.