Chapter 8 Tuesday, 1000 hours (10 AM)
The sky was clear and the winds calm - perfect conditions for the deployment of the drone. It was little more than a radio controlled toy really. Its eight foot wingspan dwarfed the tiny fuselage that was just large enough to hold the small downward-pointing TV camera.
It floated lazily, high over the zoo, its tiny engine buzzing, invisibly guided by a police unit from the roof of the high-rise across from the park. There, four officers squinted at the video screen displaying the drones aerial reconnaissance images. They had to squint close since the video monitor was outside on the roof, in the bright light of day. From its height, the zoo looked at peace. Now they would send it lower.
In the zoo, the Calfer on the tramway saw it first. He radioed a report in to Zoo Central. Joshua was sought out and told. Joshua headed immediately to a particular zoo maintenance cart which was provisioned for such a contingency. En route, Jack caught up and asked to go along. With Jack in the bed of the cart, Joshua drove to a sparse area near the Bronx River, the wide, slow moving tributary which flows through the zoo.
The police on the roof had no time to react to the missile. They instinctively pulled back from the screen at the moment the dark gray form of the rocket filled the field of view of the drones camera. Then the video monitor went dead. An instant later they heard the detonation and turned to look at the fireball spreading out and downward into the zoo.
On the ground, the Calfers. The missile, made for far bigger game than a little drone, had entirely immolated the aircraft as well as itself. A few flaming fragments fell into the river bringing forth miniature hissing puffs of steam.
Brian missed the excitement as he was in doing his morning broadcast. When he left the TV room there was no one around as everyone free was either either in with the techies, or out looking for fragments of the drone. But there was a large dog wandering alone in the building. Brian eyed the beast, trying to decide if it were friendly. Brian was still a little shaken from his earlier encounter with the cheetah. The dog was huge, but had the disposition of a puppy. Brian befriended the beast that would come to be called 'Wolf'.
"Good dog. Are you hungry?"
On his own, the dog led the way down to the Education Building kitchen. Brian followed.
Wherever it came from and whether it was a large wolf cub or, as some suggested, a husky or malamute, its timing couldnt be better.
As the news of the police blockade of the zoo became general knowledge, the Calfers started to get testy and developed other manifestations of a siege mentality. Then from out of nowhere, this wolfish dog came pawing at the rear kitchen entrance of the Education Building. Though exceptionally tame and probably a dog, they named him Wolf. Some indeed thought he had escaped from the Mexican Wolf compound or perhaps the zoo hospital, while others, those of the dog school, thought him an opportunistic canine who had come to the occupied zoo to live a free life. He was universally liked, except for Jack. As for Joshua, who could tell?
"What do you have against Wolf," Brian asked.
Jack laughed sarcastically. "Now the damned bunny-huggers have something to hug," he said, but even he secretly liked the beast.
Wolf was given the run of the building. The door to the kitchen was left slightly ajar so Wolf could come and go freely and, it was hoped, use trees instead of furniture as fire hydrants. This state of grace was cut short when Evan jogged down to the kitchen for an early start on lunch. He was making for the fridge when he saw the leopard and froze. There, lounging on the food preparation table, was a snow leopard.
Evan was as if riveted to the spot. After a while though, the leopard leapt lightly to the floor, and padded out the open door. Evan, the spell broken, flew to the door, slammed and locked it. He put his back to the door and slid down to a sitting position and stayed, chin resting on his knees, until his breathing returned to normal. He no longer wanted lunch. He thought he had almost been lunch.
From that time on, Wolf could come in and out only when invited.