Chapter 1: Erin Driscoll

Erin Driscoll did not look at herself in the reflective doors that opened into the Counter Terrorist Unit's District Command Headquarters. Her eyes looked so dead recently that it scared her a little. Still, that was an improvement on how they'd looked for the last three weeks - guilty, haunted, soaking wet more often than not. If they now seemed blank, it was because Erin had finally gotten herself under control. She avoided her own gaze again as she waited for the elevator, concentrating instead on the digital display ticking down the floors.

On the fifth floor, Erin headed to the office of a Mr. Lynn McGill. She didn't recognize the name from her time at Division Command; he must be new. And he must be good at his job, if he was already heading up an official inquiry. Well, good at his job or good at kissing ass, she'd just have to see.

"Good morning, Ms. Driscoll," McGill's secretary greeted her.

"Hello, Joanne," Erin said, pleased to see a familiar face. "How have you been?"

"You know me-work, work, work."

Hoping to avoid the reciprocal question, Erin changed the subject. "How's the new boss?"

"Do you believe I'm the fourth secretary he's been through in six months?" Joanne smiled wryly.

Erin took a deep breath as she entered the office. She had already submitted a report, so she suspected this supposedly informal interview would be an evaluation of whether she was still fit to run a domestic unit.

McGill stood up to greet her and shake her hand. He was clean-cut, well-groomed without being fussy, wearing a dark suit that was sharp without being showy. He had a boyishly handsome face and a politely vacuous expression. No wedding ring.

"I appreciate your taking the time to meet with me, Ms. Driscoll. I know this has been a trying time for you."

A wild understatement. This McGill practically defined innocuous. Erin didn't say anything. He continued smoothly.

"As you know, I'm writing the official report on CTU Los Angeles' pursuit of Habib Marwan. I read your report, but I wanted to go over a few points and get your input on a couple things."

Erin nodded.

"Let's start with Jack Bauer. I see that he used to run the Los Angeles domestic unit. But he wasn't working with CTU on this particular day?"

"That's right. He was there as a representative of the Department of Defense. We were discussing budget allocations."

"Budget allocations. Why did you send him out into the field?"

"He was...useful during Tomas Sherak's capture. When Secretary Heller was abducted, he wanted to help." Erin flicked her eyes downward at the thick file lying under McGill's left hand. "If you've read Bauer's file, you know that his reputation as a field agent precedes him."

"Almost as legendary as his reputation as a maverick."

"I thought he could be of use. He did save the lives of Secretary Heller and Audrey Raines single-handedly."

"Did you authorize him to shoot Tomas Sherak?"

"I...yes."

McGill pressed his lips together. "As long as you're more sure on the point when you testify for the House special subcommittee than you were just now."

He paused, as if to gather his thoughts, although Erin thought it more likely he was looking for signs his warning had sunk in. She mimicked his bland expression and nodded a little bit. He seemed satisfied.

"Why did you authorize illegal torture?"

"It was necessary. Sherak had information. We needed it."

"Just that simple. The ends justify the means. Although the information wasn't timely enough to stop the attack on Secretary Heller, correct?"

"No. I made a mistake in not pushing him harder, sooner."

"Hence your later decision to put the thumbscrews on Richard Heller."

"Curtis Manning was unwilling to go further than sensory disorientation, but that's essentially correct. Apparently, a more invasive technique was in fact warranted."

"I've read the transcript of his interrogation, and I'm not sure that follows. But what really concerns me is the lack of respect for your authority throughout the day. Besides Manning and Bauer, I see Chloe O'Brian resigned following some serious insubordination, and Secretary Heller pulled rank on you several times. What can you tell me about that?"

"Evidently, I was unable to inspire the kind of loyalty that Jack Bauer did. Nonetheless, I was the person in charge, not him."

McGill made a note.

"All right, let's move on to Marianne Taylor."

Erin's breath caught in her chest.

He continued, "I've assigned an analyst to examine the computer system and find out exactly how she managed to frame Sarah Gavin. I suppose that's all I need to know. You hired them both, correct?"

"Marianne as an independent contractor for that day only."

"Right, that's what it says." He looked back down at his notes. Erin let out a silent sigh of relief.

"While I was examining the record of communication between CTU and the LAPD, I found that you called back a squad car under CTU authority. Why was that?"

Erin didn't answer. There was no good answer for that question.

"Ms. Driscoll, I have to make a note of it whether you provide me with an explanation or not."

She sighed, although she kept her expression carefully blank. "It was for Maya. My neighbor called the police. I sent them back and had her brought to CTU instead."

"I see. There's just one more thing." He paused, and his expression changed briefly. Erin could guess what topic he was about to bring up. She took the opportunity to steel herself.

"How do you feel about the level of care your daughter received in the medical clinic?"

"I hired Mark Kaylis. We were on good terms. I'm sure his mistakes were honest."

"You're referring to his giving her Haldol, to which she had an allergic reaction."

"Correct. They were able to reverse that error."

"Yes, but you brought her in for supervision and they failed to adequately supervise her."

"Maya could be...difficult. I'd honestly rather not assign blame."

McGill seemed slightly confused by that, but he didn't press it. "Well, that's all the questions I had. Was there anything you wanted to add?"

"Not at this time, no. When are you submitting your report?"

"Hopefully around this time next week. Although it will be classified."

"Of course."

By the end of the handshake, Erin's mind was already a thousand miles away.