Chapter 1 Late Thursday Afternoon
Even though it was not a university dormitory, the apartment building was inhabited mainly by students. It was no surprise therefore, that Jack Marin could hear the stereos from several other residents through the thin walls. To these sounds, Jack added that of his own audio system. He set the volume high enough that it would drown out his screams.
Jack took off his sweatshirt and tossed it on the bed. Bare above the waist, he went to the tiny kitchenette, and took down a bottle of salad oil from the cupboard. It was about the only item on the shelf as Jack did not cook. He soaked a paper towel with oil and applied it to the underside of his arm from the wrist to the elbow. There was no need for the skin to char and become infected--not again. Jack left the kitchen, sat at his desk and picked up his cigarette lighter.
An hour later, when Jack could touch his arm without recoiling in agony, he showered, dressed in jeans, sweatshirt, and sneakers, and picked up his leather jacket. He looked at it for a moment, laughed, and then took up a sweater instead.
He felt a lot better. He hurt of course, but now it was mostly physical pain. Jack put on his watch - on his right wrist, and checked the time. He'd have time for a quick bite before the CALF meeting. CALF, Captive Animal Liberation front. I wonder if I'm one of those captive animals.
As he entered the meeting room, Jack looked around at those already there. The majority were NYU students, but there was a small cluster from Columbia University. Jack looked scornfully at these pampered Ivy Leaguers, with their studied unkempt appearance, and their top of the line running shoes. They had no idea what life was really about, and they had always had it easy.
Even here, where he was second in command, Jack felt the outsider. He was only a year or two older than his classmates, but that seemed enough to give him almost nothing in common with them. Jack went to CALF meetings principally for the social interaction, but the age difference kept him from making fast friends. Not that he'd really want to be friends with these wimps. Brian, the president of CALF waved at him, and he scowled back. Brian was totally clueless and would probably never grow up. He was a film major, and treated everything as a movie.
Jack wondered why he was here, not only why he was here at the meeting, but why he was even at college. Jack hoped he'd eventually find his calling, but supposed until he did, he'd have to suffer through college. He was generally uninterested in his courses, but as long as he got 'C's, his parents would keep on footing the bills.
Jack sat up front with the rest of the leadership.
Brian got up to bring the meeting to order. He had barely started speaking when Joshua came in. Brian waved at him and everyone else turned to watch him walk up to a seat in the front row. Jack didn't know what to make of the old guy. He spoke passionately about the rights of animals, but Jack didn't believe him. He was a phony like the rest of them.
Well no. Not exactly like the rest of them. Like himself, the old guy seems to be here for his own agenda. But what that agenda was, Jack couldn't tell. Jack turned back to Brian who had started speaking again.
"Operation Zoo has lots of support. The Columbia contingent is here with us tonight. Princeton is coming, Brooklyn College, City College, even a few from Harvard."
The group gave the mandatory laugh at the mention of Harvard.
"No really," Brian went on, "There'll be a few from Harvard, at least one anyway. All together though, we can expect about 60 or 70. But listen. We all know were taking over the zoo as a protest against all zoos, but it's very important that we film everything. With good editing, the video will live forever as a lasting testament for our cause."
This was too much for Jack. It was disgusting. In his history courses he had read about the sixties, where students actually took risks, and suffered injuries for their beliefs. Brian was treating this as a walk in the park.
Jack stood and took over the podium. He told it the way it was; Operation Zoo would be a disciplined military campaign. Jack organized Mondays logistics, telling them who would be carrying camcorders, and who would be carrying AK-47s. As for himself, he was definitely not going to be carrying a camcorder.
"Now," he said, leaning forward, eyes blazing, "theres the matter of the hostages."
"Hostages?" shouted one of the members from the back, a Columbia student. "Who said anything about hostages?"
"We have to take hostages." Jack pointed a finger at the Columbia student. "Otherwise the police will just rush the zoo and well be toast."
There was a moment of silence as the Calfers looked quizzically at each other. Jack did not let the silence run on too long, as it would not be good to let the membership have too much time to think about things.
"Well only take a small number of hostages. Well treat them OK, you know, free food and all that. In fact, lets call them guests not hostages."
"Yeah, Right! The Zoo Resort. Ignore the assault rifles please." said someone from the rear.
"Shut up," Jack barked, and then softened. "Look. Some of them will probably be on our side, most of them probably."
"Yeah, Sure," said a Columbia student under his breath, but still audibly.
Jack stared the dissenters down, then abruptly handed the meeting back to Brian.
Brian got up and announced the scheduling for the dress rehearsal in the morning, and the Sunday zero hour rehearsal. The take over would be on the following Monday. Zero hour at 16 hundred hours, 4 PM.
"OK guys," said Brian, "see you tomorrow morning at 10:30 at the Bronxdale gate. Oh Wait!" Brian turned to Joshua. "Mr. Cave," he said, "You've made this all possible. Would you like to say something to the group?"
From his seat, Joshua laughed. "You know better than that Brian." He said, "Call me Joshua. Not Mr. Cave. Makes me sound like an old codger."
Jack thought it was enough to make you throw up, but he paid attention. He was wondering if he liked Joshua or not. No, not 'like'. 'Respect' might be a better word.
"We will make history on Monday, " said Joshua, " Well go in early. Our hired 'Big Apple On Location' trucks will get there at noon sharp with the cameras and provisions, enough food for a week. Ill drive in with the military equipment. Everybody at the zoo thinks well be filming a TV special, and film it we will. Its our film. Its about us, CALF, our cause. Monday we seize the zoo in the cause of animal rights."
Joshua stepped from the lectern, patted Brian on the shoulder and sat down. There was scattered applause.
Sheep, thought Jack, They're all sheep. Still, we're actually going to do it.
Following the meeting, there were the usual soft drinks, chips and cookies. This time they had pizza as well; Joshua had ordered out for them, and paid with his own money.
Jack picked up a slice. The guy really likes to throw his money around.
Looking around at the other Calfers, Jack wondered if these wispy undergraduates actually had any strong beliefs. He himself certainly didn't have any--except for belief in God, Almighty, of course.