Chapter 31 Thursday, 0430 hours (4:30 AM)
At a little after four in the morning, a techie ran out to find Brian. He woke Brian up, and Brian ran to wake up Evan and then Jack. It was the commotion that woke up Derek. The techie, a nocturnal type, had been monitoring the bug in the police command post on the roof of the high rise apartment building overlooking the zoo. His receiver was battery powered, and he was listening to it sleepily in the dark while thinking about perhaps going to bed. What he heard however jolted him awake.
"The police are going to invade the zoo at seven this morning," said the techie.
The three of them, four including the techie, had gathered in the hall so as not to wake anyone else.
"I cant say Im overly surprised, Frank," answered Evan, "Its about time."
"You dont understand," continued Frank. "Theyre coming armed to the teeth. Ive been listening to their preparations. Theyre scary. Theyre coming first through the Wild Asia entrance. If theres any resistance whatever, theyll come through all the entrances shooting anything that moves, man or beast, they said. Theyve got the national guard. My god. Think what would happen if they hit one of the bomb barrels," he continued, stopping now to catch his breath.
"What bomb barrels?" asked Brian.
"Joshua had high-explosive bombs made and set around the zoo."
"I wonder what other little details Joshua neglected to tell me."
"Brian. This is serious. I know what those bombs can do," said Frank.
Brian tried to calm him down.
"Its OK. Were giving back the zoo. Id planned to do it at about nine this morning, but sevens OK," said Brian. "No problem. Weve about two hours."
"How do you give back a zoo?" asked Evan.
"Well ride out to the main entrance, Bronxdale I think, and open the gates," said Brian.
"Lets do it right now," said Jack. "I dont like the idea of them planning to invade big time. Ill come with you."
Derek and Evan decided that theyd wake everyone up, tell them about the surrender, and make sure they didnt decide to do something stupid, like trying to defend the zoo.
"Good Idea," said Brian. "Might be good to round up the weaponry also."
Derek looked troubled.
"Dont worry," said Jack, "You dont have to give up your spear."
"No," said Derek. "Im worried about the people in the other buildings, and the snipers. Well have to tell them to give up too. Without the walkie-talkies, I dont know how to do that."
"Well have one last Pony Express run then," said Brian.
"If we have batteries," said Jack.
It turned out they didnt have the batteries. They couldnt find any carts with power, not for the Pony Express nor for a ride to the front gate."
"Well walk then," said Jack, exasperated by the lack of power.
"Not me," said Evan. "Its before dawn. The lions, hyenas and leopards are out hunting now. Theyre zoo predators. Theyre used to people. They like us. Munch, Munch."
"OK, OK. We need more time," said Brian. "Well use the negotiation phone. Ill tell George well surrender when it gets light. Hes a good guy. Hell understand."
Evan laughed. "You expect him to be at the phone at five in the morning. Doesnt he have a life?"
Derek was beginning to get jumpy and agreed with Jack that whatever they did, they should do now. He asked Brian to lead them to the phone, and get it over with. Someone would answer the phone.
They went round to the Broadcast room which was in the same building. Brian didnt sit at the desk, but just picked up the phone and waited. He tried saying hello into it, clicking the receiver hook a few times, and even shaking it. Jack took it from him, clicked the hook a couple of times and listened.
"The phone is dead. I dont know why, but they closed down this line too," said Jack. "Next plan anyone?" he asked.
"I dont have a plan," said Derek. "But you know, Its getting serious. If they invade and the snipers try to defend the place, a lot of people might die," he continued.
They looked at each other in troubled silence for a few moments.
"Look. Well just have to get everyone up. Well all go out together. Well make a lot of noise to keep away the lions, and well just walk to the Bronxdale gate," said Derek.
"A mob of noisy people converging on the gate in the dark? Thatll really look great to our police friends out there," said Jack.
"Unless youve got a better plan, I think thats what weve got to do," said Derek. "and I think Id better start waking everybody up."
"Wait," said Jack. "I want to try it a different way," he said.
They looked at him expectantly.
"Im going myself, Now. Ill take the gate key, and let them in," said Jack
He would walk in the lion infested zoo to the exit and the authorities.
"Are you trying to get yourself killed?" asked Brian. "What are you trying to prove? There are a lot of hungry animals out there."
"I dont really care," answered Jack, "Im going."
There was a lot of argument but Jack was adamant. Short of trying to tie him down, there was no way to stop him. Maybe he did have something to prove. More likely, it was trying to make a deal with fate, like a powerless child trying to keep something bad from happening by not walking on any sidewalk cracks.
"OK, OK," said Brian, "I'll get you a weapon. A hand gun might be better, don't you think?"
"I'm not going armed," said Jack firmly. He didn't wait for any more discussion, but headed down toward the front door.
"At least take my spear," said Derek as Jack descended the stairs.
Jack looked back.
"No. Keep your spear," he laughed, "but dont wait more than a half hour. Then, wake up everybody and fall back to your plan."
"Try not to limp," shouted Evan. "If you limp, the cats will know youre vulnerable."
The door closed behind him and Jack walked alone into the darkness.
A minute or so after Jack had set off, Brian said, "I'm following him, and I'm taking a gun."
"I'm coming too," said Evan.
It was still dark on the ground. There was no illumination from the sky except for stars. Even the moon had set. The sky was not black anymore, but exhibited the barest tint of pre-dawn iridescent blue. They could not see Jack, but they could follow the path. Brian could almost make out the trees as dark shadows on a not quite as dark sky. They followed the path by feel and memory. Then at the top of a rise, they saw lights in the distance. It was the zoo entrance. Now with the light, Brian and Evan saw Jack. He was walking steadily towards the lights, no longer following the path, but going directly in a straight line.
Brian and Evan saw a flurry of people outside the gate, and they heard Jack announce in a loud voice as he unchained the gate,
"Gentleman, The zoo is now open."
They watched him throw open the massive gate and add,
"But be careful of the lions."
Jack was safe, so Brian and Evan went back to re-join the others.
Brian switched on his walkie-talkie, just in case. It was good he did, for a few minutes later Jack's voice came on. He announced that everyone in the zoo should stay put until about ten when the zoo would be liberated with safety for all. Brian then chimed in and said that he and Evan would sprint back to Zoo Center. In the morning, that's where he would greet the authorities.
A few minutes later, Brian and Evan were back. A rider of the Pony Express was rounded up and given the task of giving the news on the walkie-talkie over and over, non-stop news, so that any sniper in the field who might just try his walkie-talkie would know what was going on. In particular, snipers were to lay down their guns and wait. Most did not just wait. The action was clearly at Zoo Center. As soon as it became light and the big cats were presumed inactive, a steady trickle of snipers started to arrive at headquarters. There they were decommissioned, and their paraphernalia collected; guns, binoculars, night goggles, most of the walkie-talkies, corded ID badges, and other remembrances of Joshua.
"Well, it's over," said Brian.
"The easy part anyway," said Evan, "Now we have to contend with the consequences."