Chapter 22 Wednesday, 1330 hours (1:30 PM)
He tried to act natural, they way he did when he was president. Brian strolled up and down the halls of the various occupied buildings, talking to people, getting information, and acting as the visible manifestation of CALF. As he did so, Brian's self esteem grew and he felt less and less like a whipped dog. When he had been removed as president of CALF, he took it as a personal indictment, but now, as he wandered and talked to the membership, he realized he'd been wrong. Everyone apparently, took his removal at face value, as a way of protecting him from serious criminal consequences when the zoo was given up. Brian felt he didn't have to skulk around anymore.
Brian made his rounds, but he did not find Joshua. Brian went back for his binoculars and went out into the zoo to look for Joshua. He didn't take a zoo cart, but instead decided to search on foot. It gave him more time to think, and it got him closer to the animals. It was good to be out in the zoo alone and he almost forgot about his mission. All was quiet save for the birds and an occasional call from an animal. Without visitors, the zoo was idyllic.
There was a zoo cart parked in front of the Reptile House. Brian thought he'd investigate and bounded up the stone steps to the entrance. Just then, Joshua came out. He was obviously in a good humor.
"Ah Brian," said Joshua, "Beautiful day, isn't it?"
Brian silently kicked himself for using the word 'sir'. Joshua wouldn't like it. He wanted to be one of the guys, or at least the same age as the guys. Brian knew he'd have to watch it, and not give any indication that he was no longer the same loyal follower.
"I think it's time to sacrifice another hostage for the cause," said Joshua.
"What? Why now?" said Brian, "We just sacrificed one. Why another one so soon?"
"Because if we spread it out, people will get used to it, and not be shocked by it," Joshua explained, "People have a remarkable ability to adapt to horrors, and come to accept them as normal."
Joshua went on to explain that he'd select two hostages, as before. One would be released and the other would be offered to the cobra. If the cobra bit, well so be it.
"This time, we'll let the cobra decide," said Joshua as he bounded down the steps to his cart and drove away.
Brian had his information. Now he'd go back to Evan and they'd figure out what to do with it. First though, he'd go in and look over the Reptile House. Maybe he'd get an idea how to save the hostage. Maybe he could just release the cobra. If he did, Brian knew he'd have to go into hiding since Joshua would have no doubt who'd set the cobra free.
Brian came to the cobra den and was fascinated by the snake. It was the largest cobra he'd ever seen. He read the description of the creature and gasped. The cobra was a former circus snake. It had been de-fanged, and was no longer poisonous. It's bite was harmless.
Brian wondered if Joshua knew. "Of course. Joshua knows everything." Brian pondered and was impressed at Joshua's cunning. The guy didn't want to kill anyone but still wanted the spectacle and the shock value. Brian sighed. Now he didn't have to let the cobra loose nor did he have to figure a way to save the hostage. Brian left the Reptile House, and continued slowly to wander around the zoo, this time, just for the fun of it.