Not quite 24, is it?

"Last chance, Farouk. Where's the suitcase bomb?"

"Er, uh, Agent Bauer ..."

"Not now!" Jack Bauer growled, then turned his back to the lawyer from Washington, D.C., and put his hands on ibn Aba's shoulders so there was no way the detainee could escape his gaze. In a hoarse whisper that would curdle the blood of most men, Bauer hissed, "You know I'll do it. Tell me ... where'd you stash that flapping nuke?"

"I know notheeng about nukes, Meester," sobbed the dark man. "Notheeng!" The shackles that locked him to his chair rustled in the oppressive Caribbean heat.

Bauer's gray eyes locked on ibn Aba's for an electric moment—just an instant—but the prisoner was convinced he could see the imminent arrival of 70-some virgins in that steely stare. Then Bauer rose, snapped the Glock from the holster on his hip, and blew a 9-mil round through the manacled man's left knee cap. When the blast finished reverberating through the dimly lit cell block, Bauer offered, "You have one patella left, Slick. What's it going to be? The location of that bomb? ... or you walking around like Frankenstein for the rest of your florking life?" He jammed the muzzle of his firearm into Farouk's right thigh.

The lawyer stepped in.

"Hold on, Bauer. Listen to me. It's not a bomb we're after."

"What? No bomb?" Bauer brushed aside the civilian, turning his unwavering attention once more to the quivering suspect. "You inhuman sonofabitch! When will you bastards learn that taking hostages will never get you anything? When!? Where are they? You tell me where you're stashing those hostages, or ..." Bauer let the threat linger in the air like a smoke ring from a Turkish cigarette as he unsheathed his tin snips. Farouk ibn Aba wet himself at the sight of the Craftsman brand.

"Bauer, don't," interjected the lawyer. "This doesn't have anything to do with ..."

But it was too late. Farouk shrieked and went as white as a Bob Jones freshman while his right pinkie finger bounced once on the prison floor, then lay there in the detention center dust like a dead camel spider.

"Geeee-zuss, Bauer!" gasped the man from Georgetown.

"If you can't take the heat ..." barked Bauer, "... stay out of the enhanced interrogation techniques. Where are they, Farouk? That was just a flakking pinkie. Wait 'til I get to your thumbs!"

"No hostages! No hostages!" screamed the foreigner. "I know notheeng about hostages!"

"He's right, Bauer. They didn't take any hostages. Not this time, anyway."

"What? No hostages?" Jack Bauer's anger surged. "It's sleeper cells, isn't it? You muppet frumpers have sleeper cells, don't you? They're on the street, pretending to be taxi cab drivers and Kwiki-Mart clerks, just waiting for orders to blow up their shoes in a crowded air terminal, or turn a bottle of Listerine into a suicide bomb! Where are they, Farouk? And how many hours until they strike?"

Special Agent Bauer snatched the jumper cables from the hands of an attending doctor who just happened to wander into the room. Before anyone could stop him, each of Farouk's testicles was in the jaws of an over-sized alligator clip—right in red ... left in blue—and Bauer was clipping the far ends to the terminals of the 12-volt DieHard on the doctor's gurney. When the connection had been completed, Farouk's unshaven jaw gaped open in a silent scream.

"Sleeper cells, asp-holder! Where are they?"

"Bauer, what he's trying to tell you ... I think ... is that there are no sleeper cells. Or if there are, this low-level loser don't know anything about them."

"What? No sleeper cells?" Jack Bauer scanned frantically through his experience, searching for anything else that might have justified the last few minutes. "So ... uh ... what the frock am I doing here, anyway?"

The White House lawyer draped one leg over the stainless steel toilet and lit up a Montecristo Habana. "The Veep asked for you special, Bauer. He said you were just the man we needed for this assignment. The situation is, see ... this enemy combatant you're juicing up there is an Iraqi guy. Either that, or he's an al-Qaida guy. I can't remember exactly which. But that's not important anyway because what Cheney wants you to do is get him, whatever the hell he is, to admit his people are in cahoots with the Saddam people. Or the al-Qaida people ... depending on which people he happens to be one of. Get it?"

The doctor left the gurney and backed out of the cell sheepishly. "Sorry. I think I'm in the wrong place. When you're through with the jumper cables, just leave them at the front desk, okie-doke?"

"Let me get this straight," Jack Bauer said, his eyes squinting with true grit. "I have 24 hours to prove that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are palzy-walzy."

"You got it, Special Agent."

Farouk squeaked, "I know notheeng about al-Qaida/ Saddam link. Notheeng!" His testicles bumped one another and the resulting shower of sparks filled the cell with the odor of singed pubic hair.

"Better unwire the interrogee, Jack," said the vice president's man.

Bauer absently disconnected the jumper cables. "What's this really about, Shyster? What difference does it make if Hussein and bin Laden have been playing footsie?"

"The president wants a fight, Jack. And he's got everything he needs to start one but a decent reason. That's all I can tell you."

Bauer kicked the chair over backwards and covered the Arab's nostrils with the ShamWow he always carried in his back pocket. From under his jacket, he pulled a liter of water and began pouring it over the man's face. "What d'ya' think, Farouk? Does this feel like torture to you? Huh? Does it? I personally don't think it meets the definition. What do you think?"

"Don't bother, Jack. We've tried that. Yesterday, alone, we soaked the mudder flinker down 28 times, and he wouldn't talk."

Bauer emptied one bottle and reached for another. "Maybe so, but I have authorization to use the carbonated stuff." Farouk struggled to speak under Jack's iron hand, but the sopping ShamWow filled his mouth and gagged him. His eyes rolled back in his head ...

Join us next week when ibn Aba tells Jack anything he wants to hear.

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