Chapter 29 Wednesday, 2030 hours (8:30 PM)
Brian and Evan stood at the polar bear den, honoring the memory of Adam Steiner, before going off to make sure Kit was safe. They would, at the point of a gun if necessary, wrest control of the zoo away from Joshua, and end this madness. They could think of nothing to say so they simply stood, heads bowed in silent prayer. Then Brian heard a cry from an animal and looked upward. He nudged Evan and they both observed a drama unfold on the high service walk on the cliff at the rear of the bear den.
"That looks like Joshua," said Brian, "and that's one of the cub scouts. Has to be Kit."
"It looks like he's handcuffed," said Evan.
In the cold still air, the sound traveled well.
Kit was there, outlined against the dark sky, leaning against the railing. The other side of the railing had a few feet of grassy knoll and then a sharp drop off, below which was the concrete floor and pond of the polar bear habitat. Kit was about ten yards away. Joshua approached slowly.
"Come on Cat," said Joshua softly, as if trying to calm a dog. "It will be better if you just come with me."
"Keep away from me. I dont want to go with you," cried Kit.
Joshua stopped and waited.
"What do you want? Why are you doing this to me?" shouted Kit.
"I want you to fly," answered Joshua starting slowly toward Kit once more.
"Youre crazy," shouted Kit as he darted under the railing. Now there were just a few treacherous feet between Kit and the drop off. Joshua stopped again. Kit moved parallel to the railing, until he was stopped by the wall, shaped by the habitat designers as a jutting iceberg. Kit backed against the iceberg.
"Why are you doing this," cried Kit in frustration. "I just want to go home."
Brian and Evan watched Joshua climb over the railing and move slowly toward Kit. Dressed as he was, entirely in white, Joshua looked like a ghost in the pale light. Joshua continued forward and stumbled. He lost his balance and almost fell over the edge. Joshua regained his footing and started toward Kit again, this time with a slight limp.
When he got to within a few feet from Kit, Joshua put out his arms to the boy.
"Ill take you home," said Joshua.
"Come on," whispered Brian, "We've got to go up there."
"No. Wait," whispered Evan back. "Look."
There was another figure running towards Joshua.
"That's the guy I was telling you about," said Brian. "It's the father of one of the kids. His name's Derek."
"That kid?" asked Evan.
"Keep your filthy hands off him," said Derek.
"Is that a spear he's holding?" said Evan.
"Yeah," said Brian, "He made it. He sharpened his car key on a rock and tied it on the end with a shoelace. It's pretty neat."
"My god," said Joshua, "I didnt even hear you come."
"Get away from him, Now!" said Derek menacing Joshua with his spear.
The three of them on the cliff seemed to freeze for a moment. Then smoothly and very fast, Joshua unsnapped and drew his side arm. He leveled the gun at Derek.
"Id say a nine millimeter Lugar trumps a spear, dont you think?" he said.
Brian held his breath. Then a shot rang out.
"Damn you, Joshua," said Brian. Then he noticed that it was Joshua who seemed to be shot. Brian watched Joshua lose his footing and try to regain it. Moving in what appeared to be slow motion, Brain watched as Joshua tried to shift his weight backwards, attempting to fall backwards onto the grass. He failed. Struggling for purchase all the while, he slipped off the edge, and pivoted over into the void, thirty feet above the floor of the bear den. He fell screaming but as luck would have it, hit not the concrete floor, but splashed into the polar bear pool. Joshua struggled to the waters edge. Then he pulled himself out of the pool and lay wheezing on the concrete. He had however, drawn the attention of the bears. Two of the beasts, ghostly in the moonlight, ambled noiselessly toward him. Joshua got to his feet. He looked around frantically, and saw Brian and Evan outside the exhibit. Brian and Joshua locked eyes for a moment, but Brian cast his eyes down. He knew that despite himself, he still had some feelings for the man, and the feelings were complex.
Even though they were moving slowly, the bears were getting close. Joshua started to run. He tried to keep the pool between himself and the bears. The bears started to run so Joshua had to run faster. Polar bears though, are skillful hunters. One of them held up while the other chased Joshua around the irregularly shaped pond. Brian watched as Joshua paused and then was silently seized in the powerful jaws of the running polar bear. Joshua screamed as the bear bit down. The other bear meanwhile, had also run over, and had used its teeth on a part of Joshua not protected by the vest. Joshuas agonized screaming continued until the first bears jaws collapsed Joshuas rib cage. It looked as if he was still alive as the bears started feeding. Joshuas spotless whites were becoming stained with growing blotches of dark, damp, red.
Evan motioned Brian to look back to the cliff. They saw Jack join the two on the overlook. He was holding a handgun. Kit joined him, and they both looked down.
"Bears two. Humans nil," said Kit looking at the ghostly carnage. The sound of his voice carried well against the rock walls of the bear enclosure.
Derek turned his attention to Kit.
"Come away Cat," said Derek gently, urging the boy away from the precipice. Kit crawled back under the railing, his handcuffs clanking on the metal as he slid under. Kit began to shiver, and he started to cry softly. Derek scooped him up, hugged him tightly and started back down the hill.
Jack detached the holster and flung it and the weapon it enveloped out into the darkness. Brian watched the weapon arc through the air and land in the bear pool. With bubbles of air leaving the leather pouch almost as a last breath, it sunk heavily to the bottom. Jack limped down the hill after Derek and Kit.
Brian and Evan waved them over and they all gathered at the side of the bear den.
It took a while for Brian to appreciate that they were dealing with a new and improved Jack. While Derek comforted Kit, Jack walked off with Brian and Evan to apologize and try to make amends. Jack at that point wasnt particularly coherent since he was himself in a delicate emotional condition. He had tried to turn around his life, and still was forced to fire a gun at a human being and, albeit indirectly, kill him. Jack as a result, needed comforting almost as much as Kit.