Chapter 32 Thursday, 0900 hours (9 AM)
Derek marveled at the efficiency and especially at the civility of the police. The local precinct wasn’t large enough to hold everyone, so police vans took them over to some kind of barracks. People were processed quickly, and the hostages were distinguished from the Calfers.
A police officer came by and told Derek that his cab had arrived. Derek said goodbye to Rom while Jeff bid farewell to Kit. Then they went out to their cab. Derek had opted for a taxi rather than a more conspicuous ride home in a police car. It was good though, that the police had made the arrangements since a cab might not have stopped for a man supporting an exhausted kid with one hand, while holding a spear in the other. It would have been more convenient to drive home in his own car, but of course he didn’t have the keys anymore.
They rode home in silence in the early morning light. Kit seemed too tired to speak, but Derek felt talk wasn't necessary. They were father and son now. They understood each other.
Derek listened to the rhythm of the tires as they rolled over the slabs of concrete highway. Click-Click, Click-Click: The kids are okay, The kids are okay.
As the cab turned off the F.D.R. Drive and onto east side city streets, Derek gazed over Jeff’s head, on out through the window. It had been only three days yet everything looked different, trivial, unimportant. The fancy cars, the billboard ads, high priced boutiques, all unimportant. He looked over at his spear. That had been important, the bronze age implement with the sharpened car key as a point. He visualized where in the apartment he would mount that prize, and he knew he would keep that car key far longer than he’d keep the car.
He looked down at Jeff who was also gazing out the window. Jeff had grown up over the last couple of days, but he felt that he himself had grown up even more. Maybe Kate and I can work things out. He hoped they could, but even if that proved to be impossible, he would ask for joint custody. His kid needed a father, almost as much as he needed his son.
"You know dad," said Jeff, sleepily, "That polar bear’s keeper is going to have to be pretty darn careful in the future, now that the bears know what he tastes like."
"Hmm," said Derek.
He continued gazing absently and let his mind wander back to the ending of the crisis. He mentally scanned the young faces of the CALF group. Yes, with good leadership, the kids will be okay.
The scenery grew comfortably familiar. Ahead, he saw The House of Perfect Celestial Cleanliness. Madam Wu as usual, was peering out the window.
As they got out of the cab, Derek wondered what Madam Wu would make of it all. He really must look a sight. Neither he nor Jeff had had a shower since Sunday, and they both needed one. Even with your eyes closed, you could tell that.
Derek paid off the cab, included a hefty tip, and hefted Jeff up and carried him over his shoulder. Very primitive they looked, man, exhausted boy, and spear. Derek smiled at Madam Wu as they went by, acutely aware that their cleanliness was by no means perfect nor celestial.
As he passed the newsstand in front of his apartment house, Derek glanced at the headlines. Already there in the early morning edition, was a story about the zoo take over. Under it was another story about genocide in a previously inconspicuous part of the world. Yes, with good adult leadership the kids will be all right--but where the hell are we going to find that leadership?