Chapter 20 Wednesday, 1130 hours (11:30 AM)
The hostage to be released and Jack, carrying a shoulder bag, walked slowly toward the pedestrian zoo entrance on the Southern Boulevard side of the park. It was not the closest entrance to Zoo Central, but it was the one that Joshua felt he could most easily manage. There was good cover for the snipers on the hill overlooking the entrance. They were hidden among the gray rock bluffs and evergreen trees. And since it was only a pedestrian entrance, it would be difficult for the authorities to hide an invasion team in vehicles. Jack was wearing his sidearm, but had left his rifle. He felt exposed without his rifle.
The negotiator was waiting for them at the entrance but so as not to make the approaching terrorist nervous, he stood a good 12 feet from the gate. There was a rolling cart next to him which presumably contained the TV sets and Croissants. About another 20 feet back, were a group of civilians, and in back of them was the police line. The street was cordoned off for the event. Police cars, their lights flashing, blocked traffic in both directions. Further back still, were television satellite up-link trucks, and there were reporters everywhere. Operation Zoo was becoming a major news story. This was helped of course by the fact that people could tune in themselves to the rogue TV transmissions to get Joshuas broadcasts at the same time the police did, and follow the state of the negotiations directly. The viewership was off the scale. The network officials knew it, and wished they could have sold advertising for CALF TV.
Jack, edgy and suspicious, eyed the rolling cart and decided it wasnt large enough to hide a police gunman.
"Hi. Im George. Are you Joshua?" asked the negotiator, shouting over the street noise.
"No, Im, ur, someone else," said Jack. Even though he knew the police had doubtlessly by now a photo dossier on anyone even remotely connected with Operation Zoo, he instinctively avoided giving his name to anyone in authority. Jack unlocked the padlock and removed the chain. He paused, irrationally worried that George might rush the gate.
"You know that we have you covered by snipers with high power rifles," said Jack
"Of course, Id do the same myself," said George pleasantly.
Jack opened the gate, and stood aside while the hostage, with as much dignity as he could muster, walked out of his captivity. He walked ever faster until, when he reached the police line, his walk was indistinguishable from a run.
"OK, Lets get this over with," said Jack. "Push the cart towards me."
George walked behind the cart and slowly pushed it toward the entrance. Jack wished he had brought someone else with him since now he had to divert his attention to the task of bringing in the cart. When George had maneuvered it so that its front wheels were at the entrance, he let go and waited while Jack pulled it through. George was now closer to the entrance than he was before, trying to establish some kind of personal connection with Jack.
"Those croissants smell good," said George.
Jack laughed at the sheer banality of the remark.
"Yes they do," said Jack noticing that the fresh bread smell in the morning air was compelling, and he had not yet eaten.
Smell is a primitive and powerful stimulus, and the aroma brought back memories of a more pleasant time. Jack caught himself before the full onset of nostalgia, and willed himself back to his usual brittleness.
"I have videocassettes for the Network news guys. Where are they?" he asked.
George nodded to three of the civilians inside the police lines and they came forward. From his shoulder bag, Jack extracted two tapes for each of them, copies of both Brians footage and his assistants. Brian would have liked to edit them together for best effect and was professionally irked at having to hand over unfinished work, but there had been no time.
The network executives, who actually were newsmen, tried to pump Jack for information. They were firm jawed and intent, conscious of their TV images that were being captured by the cameras on their respective network trucks.
"No questions, Just look at the tapes," growled Jack
George waited until the news people had gone their way and then slowly, so as not to worry the snipers who doubtless had him in their sights, took a sealed letter out of an outside pocket.
"I have a personal letter for Joshua," he said. "Could you get it to him?"
Jack shrugged and took the letter. Now with the transactions at an end, Jack re-closed and padlocked the gate. He turned his back on George and the others and wheeled the cart back into the quiet zoo, toward Zoo Center. He breathed a sigh of relief. It was over and the snipers who were there mainly to protect Jack from any marauding cats, didnt have to shoot anything. Thats all he needed, a shot to have been fired. It could have set off a full scale, bloody massacre, especially if a stray bullet happened to hit one of Joshuas Operation Wildfire barrel bombs.
Jack increased his pace. The rattling of the dishes on the cart grew louder. The croissants really did smell good. He rolled the cart back to the communications center feeling more like a caterer than a militant. He pushed the cart up the ramp in the back of the building, and then helped himself to a croissant. He was munching it when Joshua came by on the way to the noon broadcast.
"Your friend George gave me this letter for you," said Jack , handing over the envelope.
Joshua took it and Jack followed him toward the broadcast room. Joshua walked right by the room, and went in to some random office.
Jack leaned casually against a wall, keeping an eye on the room. Soon, Joshua came out and walked next door to the broadcast room.
Jack sprinted into the office and looked around. Then he caught sight of the crumpled envelope. He looked in the trash basket and there it was, the letter. Jack fished it out and read..
We have been negotiating a serious situation together, and I feel I know you enough to send you this private letter. No one needs to know that this letter was ever written.
Things are getting serious but no one has been hurt yet. This is a situation where people could be injured or even killed. I dont want that and Im sure you dont either. Lets end this together. Since nobody has been hurt and property damage has not been heavy, Im sure the police will go easy on you, especially if you are the one bringing the crisis to a close.
I understand that you may not be able to help me in this without losing support of the others in your group, so let me suggest something. If during your noon or 6 PM telecast, you use the phrase, "We have sacrificed much" Ill understand that to mean you will manage not to guard the Fordham Road side of the Zoo around 7 AM. Well then send in some of our people to bring this crisis to an end. Please help me with this as we dont want to see this turn into a blood bath.
"Joshua wouldn't dare," muttered Jack under his breath. Jack crumpled and tossed the letter, and then hurried to join Joshua for the broadcast.
At the start of the show, Joshua stated matter of factly that they had to sacrifice their first hostage. It had to be done since the authorities were not negotiating in good faith. Joshua was sitting comfortably at his desk, empty save for the phone. Again he was flanked by Jack and a few other Calfers carrying AK-47s for effect. Wolf was sleeping in front of the desk. Except for the words themselves, all seemed calm. Joshua went on to say softly and without threat in his voice, that should the police try to storm the zoo, all the hostages, men women and children, would be gunned down. The effect of these words, spoken calmly as they were, had a spine chilling effect even on the most militant Calfers. Joshua then asked that the Steiner tape be run.
Brian did a fade to black while another techie switched to the videotape. Brian, analytically watching the tape on a technicians monitor wished again that he had had time to edit the footage. When the tape ended, Brian signaled Joshua to be ready, faded in to a cameo shot of Joshua, the desk, Jack and Wolf, and slowly zoomed in for a head and shoulder shot. Awkwardly then, since it was apparent that Joshua wasnt about to say anything, Brian pulled the view back out again, then on inspiration, he zoomed in on the phone, and held there. After the drama of the Steiner footage, their really wasnt anything that could be said.
Then the phone rang. Joshuas hand came into the cameras field of view to punch the speaker button and Brian pulled the zoom back to a medium shot showing Joshua and the desk.
"You didnt have to do it," said George after Joshua answered the phone. "Why did you do it?"
"It was necessary," answered Joshua. "Our demands had not been met."
George paused, trying to decide on his best approach, and continued.
"Hasnt this gone on long enough. Look youve proved your point. Give it up."
"Not yet," said Joshua. "Are our demands going to be met or not?"
"Were working on it, but lets stop it now, before it gets completely out of control. Im sure neither of us want to see a blood bath," said George.
"CALF has shown what were willing to do for our beliefs. We have sacrificed much," said Joshua. "We have sacrificed much," he repeated.
"Damn," said Jack softly.
There was another pause as George digested this new and unexpected information.
"I understand," he said. "Try to keep things cool. Ill see where we are with your demands, and Ill talk to you again during your 6 oclock broadcast."
Joshua ended the conversation cordially, hung up the line, and faced the camera.
"We are doing this for the other creatures with whom we share this planet. Remember us," he said. Brian dollied in quickly to a shot of Joshuas face. He zoomed in slowly to those deep determined eyes, and held the shot until Joshua gave him a hand signal to indicate that the broadcast was at an end.
About fifteen minutes later, while Joshua was still in the broadcast room talking with Jack, he got another visit from his information officers. At first he thought that there had been another flair up in their philosophical disagreement, but it wasnt. Their phones had gone dead. They could not do their work of disseminating the CALF ideals to the world. Joshua picked up his phone from the desk. There was no dial tone. Instead he got a receptionist.
"47th precinct," she said.
Joshua hung up. So there were no phones, except this one apparently, and it was connected directly to the police station; a little harassment to show official displeasure. If that was the worse they could do, CALF had gotten off easy.
Joshua sent the information officers back to their posts to continue with what had been developing into their principal function anyway, namely keeping the membership informed and happy, a cheerful clearing house for news and gossip. He returned to his office to plan, on his way muttering under his breath, "We have sacrificed much. We have sacrificed much."