Chapter 6 Monday, 1600 hours (4 PM)
The take-over of the zoo went largely as planned. The only problem happened when the soon to be hostages were ushered into the Education Building where they would be locked up. At that time, the zoo was not yet under Calfer control. Had the hostages screamed or made a commotion, Operation Zoo might have ended right there. The problem would not have existed if Joshua hadn't gone off plan. When the hostages first filed into the Education Building, they should have been told that they were invited to be in the film. They were to be paid 200 dollars a person to be in a scene of the zoo at nightfall. This diversion would have taken about 45 minutes and given time for the zoo personnel to leave the park. The would-be film extras would then be told of their hostage status, quietly and one on one.
Despite the glitch, by 1700 hours (5 PM), CALF had complete control of the zoo, the animals, the vehicles, the hostages, first aid stations, zoo administration buildings, everything. The snipers were at their posts; some patrolling the zoo perimeter by foot while others were riding about in the little enclosed electric zoo maintenance carts. There was a sniper with infra-red night goggles and a rifle at the ready taking continuous back and forth rides in the aerial tramway, the so-called SkySafari.. Other snipers were wandering the zoo paths, stopping at direction signs to rotate them to point in random directions. Brian had seen a British world war II movie where they had done that. The techies had set up an antenna on the top of Zoo Center and the rogue transmitter was sending test patterns on UHF channel 58. The remote activated bugs had been tested by having the patrolling snipers talk near the zoo entrances. Joshua had lovingly unpacked his high-tech weaponry, and all was well. To top it off, they had loads of food in the rented film trucks, not to mention what was in the freezers of the various zoo cafeterias. All was going very well indeed.
Brian seemed very satisfied with himself, but Jack was in a foul mood.
"Joshua really screwed up back in the Education Building. Whats the use of having a plan if people dont follow it?"
"What? You mean the film extras plan?" asked Brian, "Im sure Joshua had his reasons. Everything came OK though, didnt it? No Problem."
"Yeah, maybe," answered Jack, "But weve got a problem now, Brian. We dont have enough people to keep control of the zoo, especially since we have to keep six or seven people watching the hostages. I have an idea, though."
"I dont think well have trouble with our guests," said Brian, "Well have to explain ourselves to them, of course, win their support."
Jack rolled his eyes. "We dont have time," he said steadily.
"OK. Whats your plan then?"
"I want to release the big cats, Lions, tigers, leopards, even hyenas." said Jack, "That will make the hostages think twice before trying to escape."
"Come on. Youre kidding. Right?" Brian asked.
"No. I think its a pretty neat idea. Besides, itll be fun."
"Fun for you maybe? People could be killed."
"I dont think so. Not if theyre careful."
"Careful!?" squeaked Brian. "Im not sure thats a particularly good idea."
"Look," said Jack angrily, "Were the Captive Animal Liberation Front. Damn it. Lets liberate something."
"Good," said Jack, taking Brians tentativeness for acceptance, "Im going to go down and tell the hostages. Yeah, this'll be fun."
"What about our snipers? Theyre outside patrolling day and night." said Brian, coming up with a concrete argument.
"Itll keep them alert," laughed Jack, "Theyre in pairs and theyve got guns. Theyll be fine. Besides, I dont think zoo animals have any idea how to attack anything," he went on, "as long as we keep feeding them, that is."
"OK, Fine. Release the cats. Yeah, it might be fun," he said.
"All right, Lets go down and join Der Fuhrer," said Jack.
When Jack and Brian arrived, Joshua had already explained the situation to the hostages. They would be well treated, and well fed, but any attempts to escape or interfere with CALF would be dealt with harshly. He kept his pleasant smile throughout the explanation.
"Ah, Here are some other officers in CALF," said Joshua. He stood aside while Jack gleefully told them about the tigers and other large felines that would be patrolling outside the Education Building to discourage their escaping.
"Theyll be released in an hour," said Jack.
There were a couple of dozen hostages in all, including a father and young son, and a small Cub Scout pack and their leader. The kids were separated from the adults and locked in the small adjoining dormitory room so that Brian could have a discussion with the adult hostages.
Brian tried to explain the CALF philosophy to the hostages, and went on to say they were guests, even honored guests, in the fight for animal rights. They would be treated well, but theyd just have to make the best of it for a while. He looked around the room, searching for approval, found none, and left with Jack who was eager to free the cats.
Jack, Brian, and Brian's friend Evan left the Education building together. It was completely dark by now and they made their way by flashlights. The only other lights, dim and point-like, was from the distant windows of a single high rise apartment building a long way off on Southern Boulevard. Unnatural also was the silence. Here in the center of the zoo, the noise of the city could not penetrate. The occasional call of a nocturnal animal sound stood out stark and frightening. At the sea lion pool, they separated; Brian made for Zoo Center for his first TV broadcast while Evan and Jack, each carrying rifles, headed for the snow leopard habitat.
"Why do we have to let them out?" asked Evan as they stood at the keepers entrance to the habitat. "We could just SAY we let the leopards out."
"Were letting them out," barked Jack angrily.
"You dont have to bite my head off."
They unlocked the door, opened it wide and, with rifles at the ready, backed away from the entrance to a place of cover. From there, breathing heavily, they watched the door for the sight of leopards gaining their freedom. They observed in vain. The leopards, for the moment anyway, seemed quite content to remain were they were. Jack and Evan left the leopard habitat to pursue other acts of liberation. Their progress was slower this time. They were edgy and stopped often - thinking they'd heard sounds of near-by leopards. Eventually though, they had freed the tigers, lions and the hyenas. They returned to the Education Building more quickly than they had left it, almost at a run in fact. The liberated animals on the other hand, seemed in no hurry to roam their newly expanded habitat.
Now that the take-over had happened and things were quiet, Jack found he was edgy. He wandered the halls of the Education Building with nothing particular in mind, nosing about in the various offices. In one, he found John, a NYU Calfer. John was sprawled on the floor with an empty bottle of Scotch beside him. Jack slammed the door behind him. He was furious. Jack seized the kid by the collar and shook him violently until he came to.
"Damn it, John," Jack shouted. "How could you pollute your god-given body with this poison?"
Jack slapped the kid around the face, not to return the boy to sensibility, but to cause pain. Then Jack closed his open hands to fists and began punching the Calfer in the stomach. John tried to roll into a ball to protect himself.
"I can't stand drunks," shouted Jack. "If we weren't short handed, I'd kill you."
Jack was not so much punching John as his father. It was from his alcoholic father that Jack received beatings, a hatred of alcohol, and his belief in God.