Everyone, that is, except Jack Bauer. He’d continued to push the investigation, insisting that Tintfass was not only complicit, but pivotal to Hassan’s next plot. When no one at CTU would listen, Jack did what Jack was known for: he solved the problem on his own.
The problem was, no one at CTU could back him up. As far as Ryan Chappelle was concerned, Jack had murdered an innocent man in cold blood. He’d been handed over to Federal agents immediately, and he’d been stuck in a Federal jail for the past two weeks. No judge in his right mind would give bail to a suspect with Jack Bauer’s skills and resources, so there he sat, waiting for his trial.
“Did he say anything?” Henderson asked.
Peter looked at the Ops Director. Henderson had a hard face, but blue eyes that softened when he was truly concerned. They were soft now. Peter knew that Henderson had helped recruit Jack into CTU, and that the two men had been friends.
“No, he wanted off the phone.”
“That’s Jack.” Henderson nodded. “He’ll shut it all off. Undercover inside his own skin.”
Chappelle smirked. “You sound sorry for him. He’s a murderer.”
Peter stiffened. “From everything I’ve heard he’s saved our asses more than once.” He walked out.
Chappelle’s little eyes watched Jiminez’s tense shoulders as he left the room. “Hero worship,” he said as if the words tasted bad in his mouth.
Henderson considered Chappelle. He didn’t share Jack’s visceral dislike of the Regional Director, but there was no love lost between them. Chappelle was a cog in the machinery, no more or less than he or Jack. “You’re just as committed the other way. You’ve already tried and convicted him.”
Chappelle shrugged. “I know exactly what Jack Bauer did.”
Henderson checked his watch, looking for a way out of the conversation. “Threat assessment meeting at eight-thirty, I need to prep. I’m going to need coffee for this. You want coffee?”
“Sure,” Chappelle said.
The shower room was like showers Jack remembered from high school — a long room with tiled floors and walls tiled six feet up. The tiles were dirty beige and the grout was gray. There were shower heads along the walls, and in the middle of the room a long pipe ran the length of the room about seven feet off the ground, with more shower heads sprouting from either side. The room could shower thirty or forty men at once, and often did.
There were only twenty in Jack’s group. Following a routine, they all entered the adjoining room carrying another orange jumpsuit, underwear, T-shirt, and socks, put this folded pile on a shelf. Then they undressed and dropped their dirty clothes in a wheeled laundry cart with canvas sides and marched into the shower room. They were an ugly assortment of bodies, as far from the human ideal as was possible: mostly slouch-shouldered, hairy, spotty, with folds of belly drooping over their hips.
Jack found an open shower nozzle, turned it on, and stepped under the jet of water. There was pressure and heat, which was something to be grateful for. Warm water pounded his head, massaging it, then poured down his face and neck. This was the only pleasurable experience allowed in the Federal jail. There was a small plastic bottle of liquid soap on the wall. Jack squeezed some out and scrubbed it into his hair.
As much as he allowed himself to enjoy the moment, Jack had not let his guard down from the minute he’d stepped inside the jail. His instincts told him something was wrong even before his brain had assessed the details. The shower room was filled with a low roar of twenty or thirty shower nozzles, and steam clouded the air. But the room was empty. The other inmates had turned on their showers, then all of them had left.
Three inmates, all Latino, stepped into the shower fully clothed. There was no way for them to hide so they strode toward Jack. The one on the left was stocky, with a barrel chest and huge arms. The middle one was the tallest, thin and wiry. Jack noticed the shiv, a sharpened toothbrush, in his right hand. The one on the right carried the most bulk, but it was mostly fat, and he looked least confident. They didn’t say anything. If they had any message to deliver, it was carried in the point of the shiv.
Jack grabbed the soap dispenser off the wall and smashed it against the tiles. The plastic didn’t shatter, but it split diagonally across the side of the bottle, and soap poured out onto his hand. Jack threw the bottle down, the motion flicking a thick stream of soap off his hand and onto the floor now running with water from the showers. The thin man with the shiv stepped over the bottle, grinning at Jack as he held up his weapon. The sharpened toothbrush was crude, but Jack knew it could kill him as easily as a bayonet if he let the man stab him. He reached up, caught the shower nozzle for balance, and kicked the thin man in the chest. The kick was awkward, but it made enough impact to make the attacker step back. He snarled and tried to come forward again, but slipped in the soapy water at his feet and hit the deck with a curse.
The stocky one lunged forward. Jack kicked his feet back, feeling his bare feet jam painfully against the tiled corner behind him, jamming his forearms against the man’s shoulders to hold him off. Jack just glimpsed the ornate tattoo on the side of the man’s neck that read “Emese” in gothic lettering. Jack pivoted sideways and used his arms to slam the man into the tiled wall. Jack was counting on a slow reaction from the fat man, and he was rewarded. He spun to find the third attacker only now bracing himself to punch. Jack stunned him with a left to the nose, then cracked his jaw with an overhand right that snapped his head back. He went down heavily and did not get up again.
The thin man was already on his feet, though, moving tentatively on the slippery surface. “You getting fucked up, ese,” he promised. He jabbed with the shiv and Jack slid back.
The muscled gang-banger came up faster than Jack expected, slamming into him with a bear hug that caught one of his arms and nearly took Jack off his feet. With his free hand, Jack grabbed one of the shower nozzles across the middle of the room. If he went down it was over. Bracing himself against the overhead pipe, Jack didn’t bother to regain his footing on the slippery tiles. Instead he wiggled his trapped hand down, grabbed the gang-banger’s groin, and twisted. The tattooed man let out a scream and a curse all in one and forgot about the bear hug. Jack kneed him in the stomach, then the face, then released the overhead pipe, and brought an elbow down on the back of the other man’s neck.
The thin man hesitated. He glanced at his shiv, which suddenly seemed smaller and less dangerous now that he was alone. Jack took a step toward him.
At the same time, whistles blew. The thin man threw the shiv into a watery corner as a squad of prison guards flooded into the shower room, grabbing them both, slamming them against the walls. Jack watched, and as they handcuffed the thin man, he saw an MS— 13 tattoo crawling up his forearm.
Beverly Hills Fight Camp was nothing like its name implied. Far from being the “Beverly Hills” of martial arts schools, it was a cramped, one-room training gym with a weedy asphalt parking lot, patched-up mats that smelled of stale sweat, and a boxing ring with frayed ropes and a sagging floor.
It was, however, home to some of the greatest full-contact fighters in the world, champions of the growing sport of mixed martial arts that combined boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and other martial arts. The sport had migrated up ten years ago from Brazil, where it was known as vale tudo, or “anything goes.” During its first few years in the United States it had been called no-holds-barred fighting, but before long savvy businessmen got hold of it, realized that no-holds-barred was both untrue and unpalatable to an American audience, and started touting “mixed martial arts” fighting. The hard core of the fights remained, but some of the rough edges were smoothed over, and suddenly MMA was a multimillion-dollar business.