Chapter 27 Wednesday, 1720 hours, (5:20 PM)
When Brian was president of CALF, all information flowed through him. Then, when Joshua convinced the membership that there should be no officers, Brian became just a regular member, although still in the loosely defined inner circle. Now, that Joshua no longer smiled on him, Brian felt he was an outsider, almost a renegade. He knew he shouldn't feel this way since the petition showed that most Calfers wanted him to be president again. Brian was hurt and offended at Joshua's treatment of him, but mainly, he felt that it just wasn't fair.
Back in his room, Brian started repacking his knapsack while Evan watched.
"I don't think it's safe to stay here very long," said Brian.
"Why?" asked Evan.
"Well, I've got a sort of special relationship with Joshua, and I think he might come up with some idea to straighten me out."
Evan thought back to his night with the bats, and nodded.
"But what are we going to do?" he asked.
"It's clear from the petition that most of the Calfers are on my side. I think we'll have to get the members together and force Joshua out."
"Yeah," said Evan, "but there are still quite a few loyal to Joshua, and they have a lot of fire power in the weapons room. For all I know, he might have tactical nuclear weapons in there."
"I don't think anyone wants a shooting war," said Brian.
"You know, I think Joshua wants a war, a big one."
Brian thought about that. It seemed crazy to hold the zoo, and crazier still to kill hostages. There was no purpose - unless Evan was right; unless Joshua wanted a real hot shooting war. That was crazy too, but it fit the facts.
"OK," said Brian, "Let's limit the war. I think we should break into the weapons room, move all the weaponry to a zoo cart, and hide them somewhere."
Evan agreed, so the two of them commandeered one of the little electric vehicles, one of the few that had fully charged batteries. Then they made their way toward the large, windowless, storage room, where Joshua had stacked all the heavy artillery. They met Calfers on the way, but apparently no one yet knew that Brian was in disgrace. Brian wished he had the petitions with him. He would have liked to enlist the aid of the Calfers he ran into, but without the petitions, he had no idea who's side they'd be on.
The storage room door was locked of course, but the two of them heaved themselves against it, and the old, dry wood splintered. There was a dolly in the room, and they used it to shuttle boxes of armaments to the zoo cart. They had just stacked the dolly for the third load, when Joshua appeared at the door.
Brian and Evan froze, and then withered under Joshua's cold stare. Brian felt like he did when he was eight, and caught taking some change from his mother;s desk.
"I thought you'd learned your lesson," said Joshua.
Evan cast his head down, but Brian couldn't stop looking into Joshua's eyes.
"These weapons are mine," said Joshua, "and I won't tolerate anyone stealing from me. Corrective action will have to be taken."
Brian started to sweat. He was again falling under the spell of Joshua's commanding presence. He had to fight it.
"Consider yourselves on report," said Joshua, "I'm afraid I'll have to lock you in with the hostages. I'm too busy to deal adequately with you right now." Joshua got a distant look in his eye. "I've already chosen the next sacrifice, but perhaps I have not chosen as well as I might."
With that, Brian broke the spell. He drew his sidearm and tried to level it at Joshua, but his hand was shaking so the gun pointed in no definable direction, and there was a genuine danger that it would go off by accident. Joshua might have been able to draw his sidearm, but his attire was always sharp and correct, so his holster was snapped shut. Brian, more casual by nature, had never used his holster snap.
The flood gates opened. Brian told Joshua that he'd once admired him, but not any more. The admiration had turned to hatred. He hated Joshua for making him a murderer, and for making something pure - a love of animals - into something vile. Then Brian almost apologized. He was sorry he had to do this when there was a special relationship between them. Brian paused for breath.
"Special relationship? What are you talking about?" said Joshua.
Brian's eyes began to sting. "Evan, Let's get out of here," he shouted.
Evan and Brian bolted through the broken door, and continued running out into the dark zoo. They were far from the building when they stopped running.
"When Joshua chooses the next sacrifice, I'll give you two guesses who he'll chose," said Evan, breathing heavily.
"Whom he'll chose."
"Brian. This isn't funny. What are we going to do now?"
"I think we've got to find Jack."