Chapter 21 Wednesday, 1230 hours (12:30 PM)
Rummaging through the main zoo gift shop and cafeteria, Derek collected what foods and snacks he thought Jeffrey would enjoy. Rom, in the meanwhile, had already filled a shopping bag with food, not particularly wholesome food, but definitely better than snack cakes. Now he was selecting a half dozen hooded sweatshirts with animal paintings on them.
"Iíll pay the zoo back for these when this is all over." Rom filled another shopping bag with the sweatshirts. "I wish they had pants though."
"No need," said Derek, "Your cubs are short. Those sweatshirts will go down to their ankles." He looked up when Rom giggled.
"Kit may never speak to me again for this," said Rom, scooping six pairs of bunny slippers into the bag, "but I donít want them all coming down with colds."
Derek finished his Jeffrey shopping and for himself had appropriated a flashlight from the gift shop. Then, he sat down; he enjoyed sitting in a real chair again. Rom meanwhile, continued with his acquisitions.
"What kind of a zoo is this," he asked Rom, lightly, "that doesnít sell hunting rifles?"
Rom chuckled quietly, then looked up at the clock over the cash register. "Look, Weíve probably been here too long already. Letís get back to Jungle World. After dark, we can go back and slip Jeffrey some food."
Derek considered it, but it didnít feel right to him. He knew that with Romís cub pack around, heíd feel even worse about Jeffrey being locked up alone.
"No, you go back," he said. "Iím not much of a climber. Iíd never be able to get up to that ledge you used."
"What? Oh. Donít worry about that. Thereís a service entrance around the back of the Jungle World building. I found it on the inside when I was looking for my scouts. I left it unlocked."
Derek looked at him with puzzlement. "Then why didnít you use it when you left the building back there. Why did you climb back down?"
"I donít know. Didnít think of it. I guess climbing was more fun."
"Well anyway," said Derek, heaving himself out of the chair. "Iím going to hang out in the wild until dark."
"Itís dangerous," said Rom.
"I know," said Derek. "I donít really relish being out there with lions running around."
"I donít mean the cats," said Rom. "There were plenty of nyala to go around. Iím sure the cats have gorged themselves. Now theyíll be sluggish, dozing in the woods, digesting their food. No youíll be safe from them, unless you actually trip over one of them or something."
Rom turned uncharacteristically serious. "Itís those guys with the rifles Iím worried about. When you have a rifle, you are sometimes are tempted to use it."
"I'll be careful. Go. I'll join you later at Jungle World." He noticed a row of small backpacks hung for display on the rear wall. "Hey. Those look useful."
They each borrowed one for their food bags. Rom, having more to carry, still had to use a shopping bag for the sweatshirts and bunny slippers.
Rom started to climb back the window, but Derek stopped him.
"Look. Weíre on the inside. We can use the door."
"Spoils the fun.."
Derek watched him flow out the window and then, even though burdened with backpack and shopping bag, disappear quietly into the undergrowth. Derek, took a final scan around the gift shop, and noticed the pay phone, a link to the outside world. He rummaged in his pocket for quarters and found three. He could make three calls. He decided on the office, Kate who would be frantic about where Jeffrey was, and Madam Wu. On the way to the phone he reproached himself for being really stupid since he could certainly find as many quarters as he needed in the cash register.
He picked up the phone, put a quarter in, and discovered that there was no dial tone.
"Damn," he said slamming down the receiver. "Why canít anyone ever find a working pay phone in New York."
Derek moved stealthily and a little sheepishly to the window fearing that his outburst might have been overheard. He looked around and saw no one. He started for the door, then hesitated. On impulse, he turned back and went through the window.
He wandered around the zoo, checking out payphones. None of them were working. He decided that the dead phone statistics were considerably greater than normal for New York, and deduced that the police had probably cut all phone lines to the zoo.
Although he knew he should wait for nightfall, Derek decided to try to get back to Jeffrey and drop off some food. He worked his way slowly away from the gift shop taking a circuitous path, one that would keep him out of sight of the tramway. By now he knew he could use The Reptile House as a sort of a way station. The reptiles were very near the snow leopards and from the cover of the sprawling Reptile House, he could scout out whether the coast was clear for the rest of the way. He had learned quite a bit from Rom in the practice of stealthy moving.
Derek, moving low, spear in hand, easily avoided the occasional zoo cart patrol, and found his way back first to the Reptile House and then to the snow leopard habitat, now the Jeffrey habitat.
"Derek, Theyíve killed one of the hostages," whispered Jeffrey.
"What? How do you know?"
"I saw it on TV. They made someone go into a bear cage."
"I canít believe that."
"I saw it. The polar bears ripped him to shreds. They ate him. Derek, I'm scared."
"It's all right. You're safe in there. Tell me what you saw."
Jeffrey described the Calfer news program including the victimís apparent eagerness to go to his death. Derek didnít fully believe the description but it was clear that Jeffrey believed it. Derek tried to stay calm but more importantly keep a calm voice. He told Jeffrey to stay out of sight in his den until dark when there would be a plan to get him out. Derek passed the food from his backpack through the bars, and started back to Jungle World to tell Rom, and to try to come up with such a plan.