Chapter 25 Wednesday, 1600 hours (4 PM)
Back at Zoo Central, Jack began his acts of personal redemption. He took a garbage bag from the kitchen and went up to the second floor dorm. That was where the hostages had been housed before they'd been moved down to the ground floor dorm with the barred windows. Jack went in to the connecting room, and saw that nothing had been disturbed. He saw the bunk with the bed clothes all crumpled where Jeffrey had clawed at them while he was being beaten. He saw the scout uniforms scattered on the floor along with socks and sneakers. Jack gathered them up into the garbage bag, and made his way back to the electric zoo cart. He was worried that he might run into Joshua. Joshua was the only one who could stop him. Jack knew that all the Calfers were afraid of him and would stay out of his way. For the first time, the thought that people feared him made Jack feel miserable.
Jack drove the cart to the snow leopard habitat and as he approached, saw the cub scouts playing. They were wearing only flimsy sweatshirts. They had to be freezing. As the cart approached, the scouts noticed him and moved back to the rear of the enclosure. Jack got out and took the garbage bag over to the bars. The scouts watched wordlessly, and Jack felt the silence heavy on him.
"Look guys, Come on over," he said. "I want to talk to you."
The kids stood silently looking at him from as far from the front bars as they could get. They stood motionless, except, now that they were not moving around, some were shivering from the cold.
"Come on. Im not going to hurt you. I promise," continued Jack. He opened the bag and pulled out a handful of blue cloth.
"Look. Ive brought your uniforms. Come on. You guys are going to freeze out there."
The scouts looked from Jack to Kit. Kit walked slowly forward with as much dignity as was possible considering his attire. Jeffrey and the rest of the pack followed a few steps behind. The ground directly behind the bars was wet so Jack could not simply empty the bag on the ground. And the bars were too close together to pass the whole bag through, so Jack took out each item, piece by piece, and passed it through. As each item was recognized by a patch or stain, a scout took it and put it on. The process gradually transformed the group of near naked kids back into a sharp looking Cub Scout pack. Kit straightened his neckerchief and then obviously the leader both by his cords of rank and his demeanor examined his pack, straightening the occasional neckerchief as appropriate.
"Thank you very much, sir," said Kit. Back in uniform, Kit talked to Jack, an adult, the way he was trained to. Jack, although a college student, seemed very much an adult to the young Kit. That Jack was not a very nice adult, and might even be dangerous, added to Kits stiff formality.
Jack was not used to such formality and was a little unnerved by being called 'sir'.
"Um. Youre welcome," he said. "Look, could you guys go away please while I have a little talk with him," said Jack pointing to Jeffrey, the only boy not in blue uniform. Jeffrey backed up a few steps, and Kit extending the protection of his leadership even to Jeffrey went over to stand between him and Jack. Jack craned his neck, trying to look around Kit.
"Please, Im sorry. I just want to talk to you," he said. "Whats your name?"
Jeffrey moved tentatively forward and stood next to Kit.
"Jeffrey," he said cautiously.
"Look Jeff," said Jack. "Im really sorry I hit you. Ive really been a megadork."
Jeffrey giggled at the word.
Jack sat down on a bench in front of the bars and he and Jeffrey had a talk. After a glance from Jeffrey, Kit moved his pack away. Jack apologized again, and almost because of the previous brutality, there seemed to be a bond between them. Jacks beating had really hurt, but Jeffrey had reserved his hate for Joshua who as an older adult, should have been his protector.
Jack talked to Jeffrey almost as if to a kid brother. Jeffrey who, as a lonely only child, would have killed to have an older brother, for the moment was happy to regard Jack as one.
"I guess that was the worst licking youve ever had," said Jack conversationally.
"Yes sir," said Jeffrey. "the only one."
"Your parents never hit you?" asked Jack with some envy, "and just call me Jack, not sir."
"No, they never hit me," said Jeffrey, and then almost to himself said, "I sometimes wish they would though."
"What? Hit you? Why do you say that?"
"Well, its almost like they arent really my parents. They dont seem to care. They never hit me, never, you know, hug me," said Jeffrey. "They dont touch me at all," Jeffrey continued.
"Thats really tough, Jeff."
As they talked human to human Jack felt some of the heaviness lift from his spirit. They continued talking as the sun went down and the bright blue uniforms of the distant pack turned gray.
"Why cant you let us out?" asked Jeffrey.
"I dont have the key. Besides, where would you go? Youre probably safer in here."
"Cant you get us out of the zoo?"
"Mr. Cave wont let you?" asked Jeffrey.
"Joshua? No he wont. You really are safer in here."
"Yeah, I guess," Jeffrey agreed. It was better to have Joshua on the other side of the bars.
"Do you need anything.. you know food?" asked Jack.
Jeffrey thought. "Yes," he said, "food and specially cans of soda, enough for the pack."
"Sure. Ill bring the stuff later tonight. Ive got to go now though."
"Thanks Jack," said Jeffrey as Jack stood up to go.
"Oh," said Jeffrey suddenly remembering something. "I need some batteries."
"Batteries? OK. What kind?"
"AA, alkaline. I need four of them," said Jeffrey.
"OK, Bye Jeff."
Jack waved to the Kit and the pack, and returned to his electric zoo cart. He felt a little better after this small step, but there was a lot more for him to do. First he'd have to have a talk with Joshua, to convince him to end this madness.