Chapter 1 (also Novel ch 1) Thursday Afternoon
"Eco-terrorist." Joshua Cave played with the word as he adjusted his tie at the mirror in the oak lined study of his oak lined mansion. Do I look younger with or without? He studied his reflection for a few moments and whipped off the red tie. Without. Definitely without. He bent forward to his reflection to see if the gray at his temples was still in remission, or would he have to do some retouch. No. Still okay. He stood back and flashed his boyish smile and was satisfied. Well he might be as that ingenuous smile, outside of money of course, had been his most important asset, indeed his only asset, in his recent, albeit unsuccessful, run for the State Assembly.
"Joshua Cave, Movie producer." He played with another title, but didnt like it. Eco-terrorist was more exciting. His smile turned to a scowl as he checked his watch; 7:15 and his cab wasnt here. He had specifically ordered that it arrive at 7:15. He might be late for the CALF meeting, and that set a bad example. Precision! What the world needs is more precision.
He went into the hall to wait and encountered the heavy oil painting of his father. He had died a year ago of boredom complicated by a heart attack and thereby left to his son, the task of spending the fortune he'd assembled over his 78 years. The painting showed the elder Cave in a naval uniform. 30 years earlier, he would indeed have been entitled to wear it. He looked impressive, especially since the artist was thoughtful enough to use his brush to promote his subject to a vice-admiral.
In college Joshua had, under pressure from his father, enrolled in the Air Force ROTC, but didn't complete the program. In his youth he didn't have the force of will to complete much of anything. Even though it was very disappointing to his father, Joshua would not be an Air Force officer. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, Joshua became a military armament enthusiast and had assembled a store of weaponry that he referred to as his art collection. At their summer home on Long Island, he played with it using live ordinance. His father knew of this hobby, considered it aberrant, but made no attempt to discourage his son. It was more than a hobby though. It was a passion, a compulsion and a theme of Joshua's frequent bad dreams.
Where was that damn cab.
Joshua contemplated the portrait. His father still ran the house. Occasionally Joshua thought he might just drop the facade and run around the house in his underwear. He couldn't of course--not with his father there and looking down on him. He wished he could summon the courage to take down the picture. He'd wished that a thousand times.
Joshua stared into the senior Caves canvas eyes and began to tell him about the nightmares. But after a few words, Joshua stopped. It felt awkward talking to that portrait--but no more awkward than when his father had been alive. When his father was alive Joshua couldn't talk to him about anything, not about anything important. Joshua stared blankly at the painting while reviewing the recurrent dream in his mind's eye.
It was as if he were drunk. It could indeed only have been in a dream since Joshua didn't drink. He couldn't, since drinking might make him lose control and the thought of losing control was terrifying. He was afraid of what he might do if not totally under direction of his will. Here in the dream it was different. His inhibitions were freed and as a result, Joshua deliberately killed some random individual, just for the thrill of it. Then reason took over and he tried to undo the killing, to effect a resurrection, but he couldn't. Only his father could raise the dead, but his father had disappeared.
Doing something irreversible in a fit of passion, later regretting it and not being able to reverse it--that was the really frightening aspect of that particular nightmare.
Joshua gazed at his father's oversized portrait and felt by comparison, like a small boy. His thoughts wandered to his childhood. Even though his father didn't have much time for him, still they'd occasionally go together on vacation to their summer house on Long Island. There Joshua got a chance to play with live weapons, including hand held ground to air missiles. Even as a boy, he sometimes had an impulse to aim a missile at the random private plane. Those planes made it into another of his bad dreams, where he killed an airborne family going on vacation, sending the aircraft splashing down into the bay. Sometimes the family would surface just to be attacked and eaten by sharks. He dreamt about the FAA investigation, and his inexorable exposure as a murderer.
Joshua shook himself out of his terrible reverie and turned from the painting. His father had done everything, but he, nothing except live off the senior Cave's money--that is until now.
Joshua glanced around the stolid walls of his home and got a shivery thrill thinking that this might be the last weekend he would ever spend in it. He held on to the thrill, caressing it in his mind. This was a real feeling, a genuine emotion.
Joshua jerked to attention at the sound of the doorbell. The cab had finally arrived to take him away to the CALF meeting where he wouldn't be alone with his thoughts.
Joshuas mood brightened as the cab drove him from his Westchester suburb gracefully softened by its trees, just changing color in the October chill, and on to the anarchistic frenzy of New York University in the heart of Greenwich village. On the ride, he thought about CALF, "Captive Animal Liberation Front, a militant name, a name promising action. And action is what theyre going to get. He laughed inwardly, noticing that as he was now in the ghetto of the young, he was thinking like them. It was good. If only he could stop thinking about thinking like them he might be able to feel genuine, and not be just an observer.
He looked forward to the meeting, where he would be treated as a General among enlisted men, young vital enlisted men, and women too. He enjoyed being with those committed kids, with their genuineness and passion.
He remembered back to the day when he had first met Brian in a village coffee-house and they'd struck up a conversation. They talked about animals and Brian invited him to a meeting. Joshua had nothing else to do that day to assuage his boredom or keep him from returning to the loneliness of his house, so he went along. In truth Joshua was neutral about animals, except snakes. He liked snakes and as a boy had one as a pet: a languid Burmese python that had the free run of his room. Much of the way Joshua comported himself through life was due to that python. When a python has free use of your room, a big snake with poor eyesight that eats fast moving mice, you tend to move with deliberation.
Joshua found the classroom building and took the stairs two at a time, trying to ignore the shortness of breath that was trying to remind him of his age. As long as he was able to take steps two at a time, hed not have to think of himself as middle aged. "Old" on the other hand, was too fearful a word to even be in his lexicon.
Joshua, breathing heavily, concentrated his thoughts on the zoo operation to come. Soon he'd be a movie producer, and even more excitingly, an eco-terrorist. He played again with the word in his mind. Yes, he liked the sound of it very much indeed. He let his mind wander to the amount of money it had already cost him to be a film producer, and considered it money well spent.
It was after class hours and the stairwell echoed only the hollow sound of his passage. He reached the third floor meeting room, opened the door at the back, and was greeted by the rush of sound typical of militant student life. Joshua took in the sight and silently cursed his cab driver for making him late. The meeting had already started and the group of 30 or 40 was being addressed by Brian, the CALF president. Brian paused momentarily to give Joshua a cheery wave of welcome while Jack, the Vice-president, graced him with a surly scowl. Joshua didnt take it personally since Jack greeted everyone with a scowl.
Joshua glanced over the group, all college students save for himself. Even from the back though, he could detect two distinct populations. The majority were NYU students, but there was a small cluster from Columbia University. They were marginally better dressed and less scruffy, and he knew from experience they were somewhat less committed to the cause.
Joshua walked along the blackboard paneled room, running his forefinger along the board, and took his seat near the front. He gave his attention to Brian who was going over the plan yet again. Brian, a NYU film major, described the impending take-over like a film shoot, and emphasized the opportunities for creative cinematography. Joshua was taken with Brians innocence and it was clear that Brian really didnt understand the implications of what they were going to do. All he cared about was that it was in support of his beloved animals.
"Operation Zoo has lots of support." Brian explained, "The Columbia contingent is here with us tonight. Princeton is coming, Brooklyn College, City College, even a few from Harvard."
The group laughed at the mention of Harvard.
"No really," Brian Continued, "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 who virtually seized the podium and re-iterated the plan, this time unfolding it as a military campaign.
Joshua put on a mask of rapt attention and let his mind wander back to the genesis of the zoo operation. It actually had been Brians idea, but it wasnt initially to be a take-over. Brian just wanted to smuggle a few CALF banners into the zoo, have members hand out pamphlets, and video the whole thing including, if they were lucky, some police brutality. They would have been taken in to a Bronx police station of course, but it was unlikely they'd have been booked. Their parents would have been called, and they'd certainly have gotten lectured, but that would be the end of it. If Joshua had been a young student that would have been just fine, but given his station in life, he would have just looked ridiculous. Joshua wanted more than a simple student protest, just how much more, even Brian didn't know.
The perpetually angry Jack, Brian's lieutenant, was another matter. He too, it seemed, wanted more than just pamphleteering. It was he who suggested a take-over, but Joshua could tell it was just talk, a ploy to look tough.
Joshua allowed himself to smile remembering when he announced he had lots of money and would fully fund the take-over, Operation Zoo. Jacks looked stunned--but only briefly. Jack couldnt pull back without losing face, and in truth Joshua realized, he probably didnt want to. In fact, it wasnt long before Jack embraced Operation Zoo as his own. It became Jacks single preoccupation.
Joshua snapped back to the present at the sound of Jack banging his fist on the lectern. He had finished organizing Mondays logistics, telling them who would be carrying camcorders, and who would be carrying AK-47s. Jack was definitely not going to be carrying a camcorder.
"Now," said Jack, "theres the matter of the hostages."
"Hostages?" shouted one of the members from the back, a Columbia student, Joshua noted, "Who said anything about hostages?"
"We have to take hostages," answered Jack, "Otherwise the police will just rush the zoo and well be toast."
There was a moment of silence, Joshua could tell that the Calfers were beginning to appreciate what they were going to do. Jack did not let the silence run on too long.
Good thinking. Joshua knew 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," Jack explained, "Well treat them okay - 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 his voice. "Look. Some of them will probably be on our side, most of them probably."
"Yeah, Sure," said a Columbia student under his breath.
Jack stared the dissenters down and handed the meeting back to Brian who, in his scattered way, took care of some of the logistical details. He suggested that the membership bring their sleeping bags to the Sunday meeting and bring other personal items with them during the actual Operation Zoo take over on Monday. If they really wanted, they could roll some school books in with the sleeping bags.
Brian went on to make arrangements for the dress rehearsal in the morning, and the Sunday zero hour rehearsal. Everyone knew that they should also have a Saturday run through, but there was an important rock concert in Washington Square Park and many CALFers wanted to go to it. The take-over would be on the following Monday. Zero- hour at 16 hundred hours, 4 PM.
"Okay guys," said Brian, "see you tomorrow morning at 10:30 at the Bronxdale gate. Oh Wait!"
"Mr. Cave," said Brian, "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."
The membership laughed politely while Joshua moved to the podium. Joshua, conscious of the moment and thinking of his father in his uniform, spoke.
"We will make history on Monday. 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. He had not said anything new. CALF had been over the plan countless times, but it made him feel good saying it again, like a commander rallying his troops before battle. Joshua looked around to see the effect of his words. There was applause, but he didnt know if it were for him, or just for his money. Joshua inwardly chastised himself for his introspection. Why couldn't he just take the applause and enjoy the moment as a participant, not as an observer. He would try. Brian was smiling at him, and Jack was still scowling. No surprise. Joshua looked around at the membership. It was hard sizing up their reaction to Operation Zoo. Doubtless, some of them really were for it, but a lot of them were just going with the flow. They were followers: sheep.
Jack was a real enigma. Joshua had once tried to strike up a conversation with him, but it was strained. It was easy to see that Jack was mad at everybody and had no idea why he was in college, other than that his parents insisted on it. He wasnt even particularly interested in animal rights. It was just that in CALF, he could boss people around. Jack seemed to have no beliefs other than the belief of the moment, in this case Operation Zoo, so he was very dangerous. Joshua knew he would have to keep a sharp eye on him. At the same time, Joshua felt a sort of kinship with the fiery anarchist.
Following the meeting, there was the usual soft drinks, chips and cookies; Normal college students at the end of a normal meeting. Joshua enjoyed himself thoroughly. He even ordered out for a few pizzas, and paid for them.