Go to beginning of book Novel View Brian ignores Joshua's call, but observes another murder.Derek watches as a hostage is tormented, and another is murdered.Rom looks to escape, while Sam seeks him out to bite him or to die.Jack helps torture one, and kill another, but it brings no satisfaction.Joshua uses a cobra to terrorizes a woman, and he also feeds an alligator.Quotation: From beavers, bees should learn to mend their ways; A bee just works; A beaver works and plays. - Arthur GuttermanAn aligatorGo to chapter 22 of Brian's ViewGo to chapter 24 of Brian's view

Chapter 23 Wednesday, 1415 hours (2:15 PM)

Far ahead of him, Brian saw two people moving erratically;darting in and out of the undergrowth. They were moving away from him. "Strange behavior for Calfers," thought Brian, "A game perhaps." Brian observed them through binoculars and didn't recognize them. Maybe some of the hostages had escaped. They were too far away to see their faces clearly, but one was Brian's age, and the other much older. Brian wondered if it were the same two that Evan had seen earlier, Except Evan had said they were both old guys.

Brian decided to follow them. He had the advantage of binoculars and following them should be easy. Brian stayed far behind as he tracked them. Then Brian's walkie-talkie squawked to life. It was for him. Joshua wanted him to bring video gear to the Reptile House.

Brian heard the call but chose to ignore it. The effects of the polar bear filming were still with him. He would not be involved in filming another murder, even an imitation murder. If it got to the point where he would be compelled to film, he would run away and hide out. For now though, he could just say his walkie-talkie batteries were dead and he didn’t get the message. Brian raised his binoculars again, but he he couldn't locate the guys he was tracking.

Brian decided to seek out Evan and discuss this new information. He turned back the way he'd come, taking a less traveled route to avoid Calfers who Joshua might have sent to look for him. He cut across the Snow Leopard enclosure, glanced in, and saw not a leopard, but a kid. Someone had locked the boy in a cage. Brian went up to the enclosure but the boy, whom Brian recognized as the non-cub scout kid, backed as far away as he could get. The kid was terrified. Who could blame him. Brian spent some time talking to him, but the kid just stared at him from the far end of the enclosure. Brian rummaged in his coat pocket for a candy bar.

"I'm sorry," said Brian as he tossed the candy bar through the bars, and turned to leave.

It made Brian feel terrible knowing a little kid was terrified by him. "Damn it, Joshua," he said.

Brian decided then, he wouldn't go back and find Evan just yet. Instead, he'd sneak into the Reptile House and observe. He made his way carefully by a rear entrance and watched from a vantage point on the second floor.

Brian watched as Joshua talked to a woman, obviously the hostage they were going to torment.

"Again, we’ll let the animals decide your fate," Joshua said. He turned to Jack. "Jack. Take this lady around to the back of the cobra den. Hold her arm down into the enclosure for say, five minutes. Let’s see if the cobra ignores her or not," he said.

Brian watched the woman's hand appear in the cobra den. It was flopping hand about, trying to find something in the enclosure to hold on to. This flurry of light and motion aroused the normally tranquil cobra. It moved around the enclosure, stopping to display its hood in front of the unseeing hand. Then it struck.

"Cobra venom is deadly. It’s a matter of twenty or thirty minutes before death is certain. Before that, cobra antivenin is effective," Joshua explained, as the woman was brought around front to face Joshua. "Go," he continued, "try to make it to the outside. No one will stop you."

Brian watched as the woman, screaming, ran out of the Reptile house. He wanted to run out and tell the woman that the cobra wasn't venomous, but that would be too dangerous, both for him and the woman. Then someone else spoke up, presumably the other hostage. He wanted to know when he was going to be released.

"You misunderstand, Mr. Foreman," said Joshua. "The snake was not venomous. Its fangs were removed, so you see it is she, not you that will sleep in a bed at home tonight."

Brian gasped. There was going to be another murder after all. He watched as the hostage backed up against a wall. Then he noticed Jack. He was shaking.

"Why the hell didn’t you tell me the snake wasn’t poisonous," Jack shouted.

"It was there on the sign," answered Joshua. "If you had bothered to read it."

From his hiding place, Brian watched as the hostage was bound and his mouth taped closed.

"OK, throw him in," Joshua said to the guards.

The guards paused.

"I said throw him in," Joshua growled, "Now."

The Calfers did as they were told and flipped Mr. Forman’s legs over the railing.

The reptile seized the man in its jaws and in the usual killing style of crocodiles pulled its victim under water and rolled over sideways spinning the victim's head in and out of the water. Finally as the man weakened, the crocodile was able to hold its prey completely under the surface. Brian turned away as the water began to turn red. He had tried to prevent another murder, but had failed.

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