Chapter 10 Tuesday, 1330 hours (1:30 PM)
After the tormentors left, Derek rushed to the dorm door and found it unlocked. Jeffrey was just starting to put on his pants when Derek entered. Minimally clothed as he was, Jeffrey looked very small and fragile. Derek realized that he had rarely seen his son so sparsely attired. It struck him that he had only interacted with his son in rather formal situations. Even when Jeffery padded around the apartment in pajamas, he was more like a visitor in his best nightwear, than a resident.
"Did you hear?" asked Jeffrey.
Jeffrey concentrated on getting dressed and didn’t say anything more.
Derek wandered over to the window, near Jeffrey, and looked out. "Is this the way your friends left?"
The wall of the building was covered with thin, ivy like vines. Derek shuddered at the thought of kids climbing down them. They must be part squirrel. He turned back to look at Jeffrey, now fully clad and fiddling with his pocket TV.
"Do you want to come with me back into the other room?" asked Derek.
Derek could see the embarrassment in his son's eyes; the boy wasn't ready to face other people again. Derek felt humiliated too, not being able to protect his son from harm. He didn’t particularly relish going back and suffering the solicitous warmth of the other hostages inquiring on Jeffrey’s condition.
"Do you want me to stay here with you?"
"Look Jeffrey," said Derek on impulse in a soft voice, "We’re going to break out of here."
Jeffrey brightened. "Really? When?"
"Tonight, after dinner, unless you want to go tomorrow."
"Tonight," said Jeffrey vehemently, "We’ve got to escape tonight."
"I’m really scared of what Jack’ll do to me when he finds out I lied about where the scouts went."
"Oh? And where did they go, then?"
"They went to hang out with the wolves."
Derek laughed, "Come on. With the wolves." He had a twinge of sadness to think his son was beaten for not telling Jack this unlikely story.
"That’s what they told me," said Jeffrey, emphatically.
"Okay, okay," said his father, not wanting to make an issue of itt.
"How are we going to get away?" Jeffrey whispered.
Derek thought. "I don’t know."
"We could do what the scouts did, go out the window."
"Maybe those vines can support 60 pound kids or whatever guys your age weigh, but they’re not going to take my 185."
"I weigh 63 pounds."
Derek sat beside Jeffrey on the bunk.
"Maybe we could tie bed sheets together and climb down."
"There aren’t any," said Jeffrey, "just the bare mattresses. Hey, maybe we could just throw the mattresses out the window and jump down on them."
"No. we’d break our necks." Derek found he enjoyed this planning. It might have been the first real conversation he'd ever had with the boy.
"Well, how about you get them mad at you. They’ll tie you up. I’ll come and untie you, and we’ll use the rope to climb out the window." Jeffrey beamed at his nifty plan.
Derek fought back a smile. "It's the right idea. We do need a rope, but I’m not sure that’s the best way to get it." Derek sat thinking about rope. By his silence, it was clear that Jeffrey was thinking about it also.
Too bad I can’t just ask them for one. Derek shook his head. Although, maybe I can. A plan was beginning to form.
"Jeffrey. I think I can get a rope."
"Yeah. I’ve got to go back in the other room. Are you sure you don’t want to come"
"No. I’ll stay here and watch TV."
Derek got up off the bunk and walked into the other room, leaving Jeffrey watching the morning 'soaps'.
Derek walked briskly past the listless hostages and pounded on the locked door to the hall. "Hey, We’ve got trouble here."
"What’s the problem?" asked the Calfer guard from the other side of the door.
"There’s trouble," repeated Derek. "We’ve got to talk to whoever's in charge here, and fast."
Derek, pleased he wasn’t asked for details, smiled as he heard the Calfer using his walkie-talkie.
"Okay, There'll be someone here soon to talk to you."
Derek let out a silent sigh of relief. Maybe the plan would work.
Ten minutes later, Brian and the guard came into the room. Brian looked flustered and annoyed.
"All right, What’s wrong?" asked Brian. He turned to the guard. "Couldn't you have handled it?"
"Don't look at me," said the guard. "You're the President. I don't make decisions."
Brian rolled his eyes.
"Look," said Derek, "If we have to stay here another night, at least make it tolerable. We’re living here like, ur.." Derek was about to say ‘animals’, but changed it to, "like in a Turkish prison."
"Go on," said Brian.
Derek sensed Brian's relief. I bet the guy thought we were going to demand to be set on the spot. This kid seems an unlikely terrorist.
"We’ve got to have a partition down the middle here." Derek indicated the line of division, "a men’s side and women’s side. We can’t even take our clothes off here at night. Look. Just get us some black plastic sheeting. There’s got to be a maintenance facility in the zoo. They’d have it."
Derek went for the kill. "We'll need something to string up the plastic, a rope or something." Derek went on without pause, trying to draw attention away from the idea of the rope. "We could also use a few flashlights so that the entire damn place isn’t woken up when someone wants to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night."
"Okay, fine." Brian looked exasperated. "anything else?"
"Yeah. We’re going nuts in here. Get us something to read, and maybe a TV," Derek continued, trying to divert Brian further.
"I’ll see what I can do," said Brian turning to leave.
"Thank you," said Derek. Maybe I should have asked him for a Jacuzzi.
An hour later, a Calfer arrived with what they asked for, except for the TV. The reading matter was clearly from the gift shop one flight down. It consisted of ‘Zoo Life’ magazines, zoo maps and guides.
Derek thanked providence for the unexpected but useful zoo guides and mentally scored one for the deviousness of age over the directness of youth.
When the Calfer left, Derek suggested to the other hostages that they defer putting up the partition until after dinner, and asked to borrow the rope and a flashlight for a while. He was sure some of the more alert hostages had an idea what he was planning, but didn’t want to become involved.
He took the rope, a flashlight, and guidebook back into the dorm room. The rope was thin but very sturdy. It would do the job.
"Wow," said Jeffrey. "How did you manage that?"
Derek tapped his head a few times. "Smart like a fox." He juggled the rope. "I guess we’ll have to make loops for foot holds."
"I can do that." Jeffrey grabbed for the rope.
For the next few minutes Derek watched in amazement as Jeffrey’s deft little fingers prepared the rope.
"These are Butterfly Knots." Jeffrey held the rope out for inspection. "Climbers use them in emergencies. They’re not very good for the rope, and they’re hard to untie."
"Where did you learn to do that, Jeffrey?" asked his father, fingering the knots.
"From ‘Boy’s Life’, It’s a magazine Boy Scouts get."
"But you’re not a scout."
"Tungy is. He lets me read them."
"You want to be a scout, don't you?"
"Yeah, but mom says there is no way she can get me to the meetings on school nights."
Derek realized how little he knew about his son’s daily life. "Maybe you could go with Tungy."
"Yeah, well," said Jeffrey, letting the subject drop.
Derek let it drop also, for the moment. He'd take it up with Kate when they got back to civilization.
"What about the lions?" asked Jeffrey suddenly.
Derek had thought hard about them too. He hadn’t seen any of the carnivores from the window. CALF had to be lying about releasing them. Setting them free would have been a really dumb idea. The Calfers would be endangering their own people. Calfers on night patrol would be nuts to go out into the zoo with lions on the loose. No. The Calfers had to be lying.
"Have you seen any lions?"
"Me neither. The Calfers lied about setting them loose. Just to scare us."
"Lied? Are you sure?"
"Yeah." Derek looked at his son, and replayed his logic to himself. There was no way he was going to put Jeffrey in danger. "I'm sure. But just in case, we’re not going to take unnecessary risks. Study the guide book. When we get to the ground, we’ll run like hell for the nearest exit."
"What?" said Derek.
"You said 'hell'. Mom wouldn't like that."
"Mom's not here, so give me that damned rope."
Jeffrey smiled broadly and handed over the coil.
"Good Job." Derek examined the ropework again, "a really great job."
Jeffrey beamed with pride. "I’ll study the guide book now."
"Good." Derek coiled up the rope. "We’ll stow this in the closet until tonight. Then we'll leave this nice warm room and go out and brave the elephants."
"They didn't say they were going to let any elephants loose."