Chapter 11 Tuesday, 1900 hours (7 PM)
A one camera shoot is difficult. You cant just dolly the camera into position, pull focus and wait for the little light in your viewfinder to go on telling you that your camera's live. No. With a one camera shoot, everything has to be planned. For Brian, the shoot was paramount. He'd have liked another cameraman working next to him, but since he didnt, hed just have to rely on his skill and training. He fixed his sight on the little video image on his rolling camera, and marveled at the quality of the equipment they had rented from Big Apple On Location. He had never worked with anything nearly this good. Acting now as both cameraman and director, he looked up at the wall clock, waiting for its second hand to sweep past 12. He gave the talent the live sign and returned his attention to the viewfinder.
The talent, Joshua Cave was sitting where Brian sat until now. Wolf was at at his side. Joshua thought that it made for a good tableau and Brian agreed. Brian zoomed slowly in from the tableau to just Joshua and the desk, empty save for a telephone. Then very slowly he dollied in on the talent for a tight head shot. Joshua looked dreamily into the camera and started to speak. He explained he was the Joshua Cave, the new CALF Chairman of Communications. He would be doing all the broadcasts and would be fully in charge of the negotiations with the authorities.
Brian, were he not concentrating fully on his job and hearing the words merely as sound, might well have been a little put out by Joshuas titular escalation. Joshua had taken a casual agreement that he do tonights broadcast, and turned it into a chairmanship, presumably in perpetuity.
Joshua described the reasons for Operation Zoo, but drew rather sharper lines than had Brian. He was interrupted by the arrival of the expected phone call from the negotiator. George calmly asked if Brian were well and turned his attention to this new Chairman of Communications. Joshua understood the game.
"It seems that none of our demands have been met," said Joshua softly. "If they havent been met by tomorrow mornings broadcast, we may have to hurt a hostage."
At that point, Joshuas video image jumped as a startled Brian, captivated by Joshuas power of persuasive speaking, registered the meaning of the words. Brian, almost ignoring his camera, looked on wide eyed and disbelieving as Joshua and George calmly talked about actually hurting one of the hostages that Brian still sort of considered guests.
The session drew to a close. Joshua thanked George for his attention, and told how much he looked forward to talking with him again in the morning. He hung up the phone, moved his chair back, got up, and walked out leaving the camera with a view of his back. Brian followed the action the best he could and executed a quick fade to black.
"Hurt a hostage? What the hell are you talking about?" asked Brian, chairing the meeting.
After the broadcast, he had hastily called a special meeting of the CALF directorate. Joshua was invited also, although over the past few months, the term directorate seemed to include Joshua anyway. There should have been a lot of people at this meeting but there were only eight - nine if you included Lori who was not in the directorate but who came in with Roger. Others who should have been there were either on duty or were reluctant to give up any of their sleep time. Joshua on the other hand, didnt seem to need sleep. Brian marveled at how Joshua could be found hanging around with the troops, most any time of day or night. Brian knew that people as they aged needed less sleep, but until now had not appreciated how useful that could be. Joshua now had quite a large personal following.
"Why are we here, and why are we doing this?" asked Joshua. "Is it just to stage a protest, a gesture, get some publicity and then meekly surrender to let the police do what they will with us?"
Brian in fact, thought that was precisely why they were there, but he held his tongue.
Joshua went on. "No. We are doing this to effectuate change. We want the zoo closed. We want all zoos closed. What does it matter if we hurt a hostage or two for this end?"
"Like you hurt that little kid?" asked Evan sarcastically.
Joshua ignored him.
"This can be an historic point in our cause," Joshua went on, "Well be remembered as martyrs for animal rights."
Joshua was very persuasive. Even Brian who convened this meeting was being pulled around to Joshuas point of view. Not so Evan.
"But dont you have to die or something to be a martyr?" he said, looking not at Joshua but at his friend, Brian.
"No, not at all," said Brian, "not necessarily."
Evan found that answer not particularly comforting. He stood up. "Well, you guys can be martyrs if you want, but not me." He started for the door.
"You coward," said Jack with contempt.
"Its not cowardice Jack, its just that I dont like the idea of committing suicide."
"Youre just scared," said Jack.
"Sit down Evan," commanded Joshua. Startled at the tone, Evan halted, looked around, found Brians eyes, and sat down.
"I think most of us are in agreement," said Joshua. "Lets end this meeting and get on with our work."
"You still havent answered Brians question, namely what do you mean hurt a hostage," said Evan calmly.
Brian who at that moment was toying with the romantic sound of the word martyr, came to Joshuas aid.
"Im don't think well have to hurt any of the hostages," said Brian. "Lets leave it until the morning. Im sure the police negotiator, will be reasonable."
Evan bit his lip.
Joshua stood slowly, effectively bringing the meeting to an end. "Perhaps Evan and I should just have a little talk, with Jack too," he said walking over and putting his arm collegially around Evans shoulder.
"I think Id better come along too," said Brian remembering the results of the little talk with Mickey, and being a little concerned for his friend.
"Of course," said Joshua. "You certainly should be with us.
Evan looked bewildered. He felt there was a sub-text to this conversation, but he had no idea what it was.
Chatting in a friendly way, Joshua under the pretext of needing a change of scene, and a private place to talk, casually maneuvered Evan out to a zoo cart. The four of them drove to the World of Darkness building and went inside.
They wandered around the habitats, stopping occasionally to watch and comment on the activities of the little nocturnal creatures. Most of the habitats in the World of Darkness were illuminated by red light. This color light was invisible to the animals, convincing them that it really was night. Around midnight, bright incandescent lights would come on. The animals, thinking it was dawn, would go to their dens and sleep. Now though, it was night, both outside the building, and within.
They continued their meandering, apparently without anything particular in mind, passing through a light blocking curtain into a new habitat. They faced a glass wall, behind which was a colony of cave bats. Here, the incandescent lights would never come on. Save for the dim red illumination, the simulated cave would always be dark.
Evan liked bats, theoretically at any rate. They were mammals and he was predisposed towards mammals. Looking at them however, he was aware that he was beginning to like them less. Watching those agile flying creatures with their out of this world faces, and their abrupt and unpredictable changes of motion, made him truly nervous. His nervousness was compounded by the fact that he had not yet had that little talk with Joshua. He had tried to engage Joshua in dialogue during their drive, but all attempts were deflected aside by inconsequential chatter. Even Brian had been uncharacteristically dour. As for Jack, you could never tell with Jack.
"These are Central American vampire bats," said Joshua gazing intently into the glass. It was almost as he were talking to the bats themselves. "Look at them. No aircraft could ever compete with these aerobatic marvels."
Joshua pointed to a small tray on a shelf at the back of the enclosure. "That's feeding tray. The liquid is blood." Joshua seemed enthralled. He broke his gaze away and looked directly at Evan. "Vampire bats truly drink blood. Usually from a cow or chicken. Sometimes, they find a farmer sleeping in the open. Then they drink from the big toe. You know, their teeth are so sharp that the farmer never wakes."
"I know about vampire bats," said Evan impatiently, wondering what Joshuas point was or even if he had a point.
Joshua took no notice. "They dont die, the victims of the bites, except occasionally the chickens. They dont have all that much blood to give. Rabies is a problem though. A lot of these bats are rabid. You know they can carry rabies all their lives and not die of it."
Evan was beginning to think that the guy had really lost it, when Joshua spun around and looked him directly in the face."
"Take off your shirt," said Joshua.
"What?" answered Evan.
"I said, Take off your shirt," said Joshua again. "Now," he added.
Evan looked at him, uncomprehendingly.
"You have not been a team player, Mister Williams. I think we have to work on your behavior a little. As a punishment for that behavior, you will spend the night in the company of the bats. Id advise you to not let yourself fall asleep."
"Youre crazy," shouted Evan. "Do you stay up all night thinking this stuff up." He looked to his Brian for help, but his friend averted his eyes.
Brian knew that he could not stand against Joshua, especially with Jack there to provide the muscle.
"Take off your shirt. Im not going to ask you again," said Joshua.
Evan looked fleeting from face to face, then considered the possibilities for escape. Finding no sympathy and no escape, he took off his shirt.
"Now your shoes and socks please," said Joshua. "Dont worry, well let you keep your pants. I hope you learn something from this little object lesson."
Brian, hearing this began to comprehend that this little object lesson wasnt really for Evan, but for himself.
Evan complied and dumbly allowed himself to be led to the habitat keepers entrance. Somehow Joshua produced a key and unlocked the small access panel, proving that this punishment was premeditated. Evan stooped through the low door and heard the lock close behind him.
Brian watched all of this but didn't make any move to stop it. He was wondering what he should do when Joshua came up, put his arm around his shoulder, and guided him out of the building and back to the cart. Joshua didn't say anything. He didn't have to.
Evan stared at the swarm of bats. They were squeaking excitedly, the way they did when their keeper came with more blood for them. Evan turned to look out the glass and saw that Brian, Jack and Joshua had gone.
Evan let himself slide down to a sitting position, head resting on his knees. He watched as a bat went to drink at the feeding tray. It looked eerie in the dim red light. Suddenly, the light went out leaving Evan in total darkness.
"Damn you," Evan shouted.
He waited for his eyes to dark adapt, but they didnt. There was nothing to adapt to. The darkness was absolute. His hearing though, seemed now to be more acute. He was aware of flapping wings and high pitched squeaking. As much as would have liked, he could not stay rolled up in a ball al night. He had to uncramp his legs. He was scared and imagined, or hoped he was imagining, the touch of wings against the soles of his feet. He had to do something to keep his feet covered as they were the most distant part of his body. He decided he could cover them with his underwear, which would not cover them completely, but at least it would keep his toes covered. Unbuckling his belt, he shivered thinking how hed be totally exposed for a minute or so.
After rearranging his clothing to shield his toes, Evan started to analyze the situation. Even if he fell asleep and was bitten, it still wouldnt be that bad. After Operation Zoo was over, theyd just have to kill the bats to see if they were rabid. An hour ago, the thought of killing the bats would have repulsed him. Now he was starting to hate the ugly things. Yes, they were ugly, and wings should have feathers, not fur or naked skin. Evan thought of his own naked skin punctured by scores of razor sharp incisors, drawing tiny droplets of his blood. This thought coupled with his blindness was enough to shut down the rational parts of his mind. Maybe he had really become blind. He fought the urge to scream or perhaps whimper, and rubbed his hands up and down his bare arms until he touched his watch. "Im an idiot," he said aloud. His watch, a digital watch had a little light for showing the time in the dark. He didnt use it much since it drained the battery, and the battery was long overdo for changing. "God, I wish Id replaced the battery." He pushed the button and the illumination brought relief to his light starved eyes, and also provided him with a measure of the passage of time. Now maybe, hed just have to concentrate on staying awake.
He tried to ration the light, but whenever he thought he felt a wing beat or heard a squeak too close, he pushed the button. After a while the light seemed to grow dimmer. At first he thought it was just his eyes accustoming themselves to light, but it rapidly became clear that the battery was giving out. Soon, there would be no light. Evan was just about to weep in frustration when he saw a faint illumination through the glass. Someone was coming his way with a flashlight. It turned out to be Brian.
"Brian, let me out. Please let me out. I cant stand it, and Im getting sleepy," Evan pleaded.
"I cant Evan. I dont have the key. Anyway, Joshua wouldnt allow it."
"But youre the president. You can tell people what to do. Order them to let me out. Theyll obey you"
Brian paused before answering. "But what if they dont," he said.
Brian felt he had to go back before he was missed, but he agreed to leave the flashlight. Hed leave it turned on, sitting on the floor and pointing at the glass.
"In the morning, Ill just say I forgot it," said Brian. They both knew that in the morning, the batteries would have been long dead.
When Brians departing footsteps could no longer be heard, Evan began to cry.
If only he had known that the bats were born in the zoo. They were not rabid and since they had always had ample fresh blood for them in their metal feeding tray, they knew no other way to feed. They did not bite.
Brian left the World of Darkness feeling terrible. "For a friend of animals, Joshua is sure big on punishment."
When Brian got back to his TV studio, he found Roger alone, waiting for him.
"Brian, Im not exactly nuts about your idea of hurting the hostages," said Roger.
"My idea? Rog, this is Joshuas idea."
"and a pretty bloody rotten idea it is," said Roger, "but you are the president of CALF so its your idea whether you want it or not."
"I think Joshua just said it for effect," said Brian shaking his head, "I dont think hes going to hurt anyone. He couldnt."
"I hope not," said Roger with some anger, "but anyway, If it looks like any of the hostages are going to be harmed, then were out of here. Im speaking for all the Columbia Calfers."
"Fine," said Brian.
Roger, speaking as a friend, went on. "I know youre not crazy about all this, but Brian, you tend to go with the flow. Im afraid if bad things start to happen, youll ignore it and just keep your head down, carry on with your filming, and hope for the best. You could get really hurt that way, you know."
"I keep on top of it all," said Brian defensively, "Im not entirely clueless, Roger."
Roger shook his head, muttered some unintelligible Australian expletive, and stormed off.
"Maybe I am clueless," thought Brian. It was not an auspicious moment for the new and improved Brian.