Chapter 2 Friday
Jack felt it was almost sacrilegious bringing a packpack into church with him, especially since the pack held among other things, a nine-millimeter Lugar and a hundred rounds of ammunition. But he felt he had no choice.
With his pack beside him in the pew, he knelt and asked forgiveness for what he was about to do. He planned to seek forgiveness tomorrow and on Sunday as well. He felt silly doing it. God certainly didn't hand out rewards based on sheer number of prayers, but Jack felt he had to show God he really meant it. Especially since, starting Monday, he probably wouldn't be able to attend church for awhile. And if he were reading Joshua accurately, maybe not for a long while. Jack clasped his hands together so tightly that the joints hurt. Noticing the pain, Jack clasped them more tightly still. Yes, it was possible that soon he would be in the presence of his god
After a half hour, when the pain in his knees matched the pain in his hands, Jack broke his gaze away from the image of Christ suffering on the cross, grabbed his pack, and left the church.
He checked his watch and then ran for the subway station. Joshua wouldn't tolerate lateness. God was in his heaven, but Joshua was more immediate, and demanded godlike obedience. As he dashed down the subway stairs, Jack heard the rumble of an arriving train. Smiling at his good luck, he ran through the door of the last car just before it closed. He looked at his watch again and let out a breath. He'd make it to the zoo in good time.
By a quarter to ten, Jack had gotten to the edge of the zoo's Bronxdale parking area. Jack stopped running, caught his breath, tucked in his shirt, and then walked leisurely toward the large, windowless van that Joshua had rented for the occasion. From a distance, he saw that Joshua and Brian were already there.
Jack stowed his pack in the truck. He'd considered bringing his pack later, on the Sunday run-through, or maybe even on Monday, but then he'd have the constant worry that someone might search his apartment before zero-hour.
Stowing the pack gave him an excuse not to engage in small-talk. Simple chatting was hard for him, especially with people not his own age. Joshua was much older, and Brian a few years younger, but acted younger still.
Jack opened up a card table and kicked his pack under it. Then he opened up Joshua's organizational chart and taped it on the truck wall, just next to the table. Now he couldn't avoid small-talk as there was nothing to do until the Calf membership arrived.
From the rear of the van, Brian checked members' IDs, and gave out the official looking staff cards. Each card had a colored cord loop attached so that the card could be worn around the neck. That was one of Joshuas ideas, that colored cord. The color indicated, not rank, but function; Green for camera people, red for snipers, purple for people control, blue for the techies, and so forth. Joshua as part of the plan, had paid a substantial sum to the zoo for the privilege of filming a documentary and the zoo staff were prepared for the arrival of a film crew.
Jack stood by the organizational chart and as he handed out a walkie-talkie to each Calfer, he individually explained the Calfers function and duties. Brian meanwhile, handed out black umbrellas in lieu of weapons--another of Joshuas ideas. Monday, it would be the real thing, but today the umbrellas represented hand guns, grenades, assault rifles, and the like. Jack thought the umbrella idea idiotic.
The umbrella-armed Calfers strolled singly through to the zoo proper for a day of mock maneuvers. It was Friday, a preferred day for school trips, and the weather was unseasonably warm. The zoo was thronged and the Calfers melted inconspicuously into the crowd. It would be a day of maneuvers, fun actually, with their walkie-talkies, zoo maps, pretend weapons and individual missions. They were instructed to return to the van at 4:15, just after zero hour. Zero hour itself would not be rehearsed, at least not at the zoo.
When the last of them had passed through the Bronxdale entrance on route to the animals, Jack, Joshua, and Brian closed up the van and sauntered to their selected command post. They had chosen to monitor the day's events from the outside area of the zoo's Lakeside cafeteria. Monday, the command center would be the Conservation Education building which hosted school overnighters and had bunks.
Brian and Jack sat down, hooked their umbrellas on the backs of chairs, and set out the clip boards and walkie-talkies. Joshua went to the cafeteria proper to buy them all hot chocolates. At that point there was nothing left to do but sip their drinks and wait for reports to come in.
This was actually rather more than a simple rehearsal. The Calfers had to be confident that they had memorized their maps well. This was important since, on Monday they were going to twist all the zoo direction signs 90 degrees. This they hoped would confuse any police types who might manage to get by the snipers. Also, the communication officers, the blue corded techies, had to plant the listening devices. These were small, very advanced bugs; voice activated and turned on and off by radio. Unless they were on, and there was enough sound to activate them, they were undetectable. They were to be planted at all four zoo entrance. Another listening device had already been installed in a building across the street.
The techies were extremely important. It was they who would set up and manage the video transmitter, not a satellite video up-link, but a true rogue transmitter broadcasting over an unused UHF channel. All New York City could watch over channel 58. The techies also made up the Key Detail. They had to find out where all the important keys in the zoo were kept. For Operation Zoo to succeed, keys were needed for the zoo buildings and for the ignitions of the zoo's vehicles. Keys were also needed for the animal enclosures since at the end of Operation Zoo, the Calfers intended to free the animals.
For Jack and Joshua there was a hidden agenda item for the day. They had to observe well and attempt to find out whom they could trust. Things could get tough during the actual operation so the rehearsal would also be used to weed out any half hearted supporters. Jack expected the Columbia University students might be a problem. They were from an ivy league school, and presumably well off financially. Jack automatically distrusted such kids.
The units started reporting in. Somba Village was secure. So was Wild Asia, the Baboon Reserve, and the African Plain. A short time later, the reconnaissance units began to radio in their reports from the Zoo maintenance facility, the animal hospital, first aid station, and finally from Zoo Center, the main administration building.
The first glitch came from the Aerial Tramway, the SkySafari. The sniper assigned to scan the grounds from a gondola high over the zoo was, it turned out, susceptible to airsickness. After taking the tramway back and forth a few times, he was ready to throw up. He reported his situation to Jack who took it in stride. Jack scanned the operation sheets, made a few erasures, and exchanged the tramway sniper with an armed patroller of Wild Asia.
"One problem solved." Said Jack.
"I hope theyre all this simple," said Brian.
It was another hour until they encountered a more serious problem.
A Calfer radioed in, "Look guys. I dont think I can do this. Im quitting. Over."
Jack pursed his lips and then said, "Hell of a time to back out. Who are you? Over."
"Mickey Calder. Im sorry, really sorry, but now that I'm here, I think this is all wrong. Over."
Joshua and Brian exchanged glances while Jack hit the table with his fist.
"Hello. Did you hear me? Over," came Mickeys voice.
"Yeah," said Jack, "Come on over to Lakeside, and well talk about it. Over."
"Ill come, but theres nothing to talk about. I quit. Over and Out."
Jack put down the walkie-talkie. "I know this kid from school," he said. "Hes one of the NYU group."
"Do you think hell keep quiet?" Joshua asked.
"I dont know. He might. I think weve got to calibrate him though."
"Im sure he wont talk," said Brian.
Jack ignored him.
"Is he strong?" asked Joshua.
"Is he strong, physically? Could I manage him?"
"Hes a runt; a couch potato," answered Jack, "What do you mean manage?"
"I need a place, a private place to talk to him."
"How about the rest rooms at the Northern Ponds. Thats not used much," said Brian. "We could have it closed off for cleaning or something."
"Good. Do it," said Joshua handing a walkie-talkie to Brian, "We have a few snipers in that area."
Jack tapped the table for attention and then pointed to a smallish teen-ager with an umbrella and a hangdog posture coming towards them. Jack and Joshua went out to meet him.
Joshua greeted Mickey in a friendly manner, put an arm over his shoulder, and guided him towards the Northern Ponds
When they reached the restroom, Jack sent the snipers back to their posts, while Joshua shepherded Mickey inside. Jack closed the heavy maintenance door behind them and kept watch outside the virtually sound proof concrete structure.
Jack walked up and down, impatiently and almost succumbed to the desire to put his ear to the door.
About five minutes later they emerged, Mickey first. The kids hair, Jack noted, was soaking wet, and his eyes wetter still and filled with fear. As the young defector scuttled by, Jack made a move to stop him, but Joshua nodded No. Jack watched Mickey vanish out of view, and then turned to look at Joshua. It was an entirely different Joshua. His eyes and the way he carried himself were changed. There was an unexpected hardness and ruthlessness in Joshua now. Jack looked at him in awe.
"He wont betray us now," said Joshua.
Jack really wished he had been inside with Joshua and Mickey. Jack smiled grimly. He knew he had a sadistic streak, but that was God's will. He was hard-wired by God to inflict suffering, for without suffering, there could be no redemption.
When they got back to the command table at the restaurant, Jack gave a sanitized version of the Mickey meeting to Brian who then presented them with yet another problem.
"How are the animals going to be fed during the take over?"
"The animals can do without feeding for a couple of days," said Jack.
Jack himself was occupied with another concern. There just werent enough Calfers to protect the perimeter, manage the communications, and also watch the hostages. Unlike Brian, Jack was sure the hostages would not be overly happy about their captivity. Jack had the outline of an idea how to solve the problem, but thought it best to keep it to himself for the moment.