WWJBD?

Makabe returned several times over the next few days to oversee my recovery. Not only had I lost my right thumb, but I’d suffered a concussion, three broken ribs, and loads of internal bruising. He plied me with Ibuprofen and vegetable soup, and even managed to bring in a bucket of hot water, soap, and a fresh towel so I could have a somewhat proper bath. Makabe was taller than the average Japanese, but still an inch or two shorter than me. He was in his early thirties and had choppy, black hair, light skin, and unusually prominent cheekbones that made him look both distinguished and somehow alien all at once. He asked few questions, but spoke constantly—and in fluent English.

He wasn’t technically a physician, he told me, but he’d attended medical school at Kyoto University for nearly three years. He’d chosen to drop out to take care of his ailing mother, working odd jobs as an electrician and carpenter to pay the bills. He’d studied Aikido in his youth, enjoyed American rock ‘n’ roll, and dreamed of playing baseball for the Hanshin Tigers.

He talked a lot.

Today he was talking about the American TV show “24” as he took my vitals, checked my stitches, and flashed pen lights in my eyes. He’d seen season one, two, three, and just finished the first episode of season 4.

“I can’t believe Jack Bauer got fired from CTU,” he said, pressing a stethoscope against my chest. “But Chloe O’Brian is still there. I think she can help him get back in. He has to get back in!”

I opened mouth.

“No, no! Don’t tell me what happens,” he said.

“I’ve never seen it,” I said, shaking my head. “I wouldn’t know.”

“What?!” he said, his mouth agape. “You’ve never seen 24?”

“Not… no.”

“You don’t know who Jack Bauer is?”

“I know he’s Kiefer Sutherland.”

Makabe cocked his head and sniffed. “Wow. You are missing out. Seriously.” He leaned forward. “Cough, please.”

I coughed.

He pursed his lips. “Well, you’re not out of the woods yet. But you’re healing quickly.”

I relaxed into a slump. “Any luck finding my thumb?”

Makabe shook his head. “I think Mr. Telders is keeping it as a souvenir.”

“Lovely,” I growled. “Know if he’s planning on harvesting any other momentos?”

“I wouldn’t know.” He cocked an eyebrow. “I hope not.”

“Any idea what he’s planning? Why he’s keeping me in here? What’s the word on the street?”

“I don’t know. He’s been pretty busy.”

“Busy how?”

“Oh, meetings, you know. Planning. That kind… of thing….” He trailed off, stuffing the stethoscope into his black bag. “Rallies,” he mumbled.

I straightened up. “What’d you say? Rallies?”

Makabe took a breath and nodded. “Every night on the carrier deck, right at sunset. Attendance is mandatory.”

“What… he forces everyone to show up?”

“Well, Mr. Telders doesn’t. His security teams handle that. But I wouldn’t call it ‘force’, per se. They just knock on the door and say it’s time to go.”

“And if you don’t?”

“I haven’t resisted.”

“Hmm.” I sat back in my bunk and propped my back against the wall. My right hand started throbbing. I poked at the bandage. “So, what does he talk about at these rallies?” I asked.

“Not much. This and that. Rebuilding society. That kind of thing.”

“What else?”

“I dunno.”

I leaned forward and stared Makabe in the eye. “Mak, you’re being evasive. Tell me what Telders talks about.”

He looked down. Dark shadows underscored his big cheekbones.

“You. He talks about you.”