Chapter 14 Tuesday, 2300 hours (11 PM)
Joshua was in his hide-away office, playing with his file cards. He was preparing for the midnight executive committee meeting that he had gotten Brian to call. He went through the cards one by one, stopping to read the comments he had written, or occasionally to add a note. Each card was placed in one of three piles, which he mentally labeled as loyal, disloyal, and unknown. He was gratified that in the last 24 hours, the unknown pile had become smaller, and the loyal pile was now over 50 percent. He paused at Evans card, thought a bit, and put the card off by itself. He finished his sorting and looked at the small disloyal stack. His smile vanished and he regarded the stack with a look of pure hate. "Traitors! If only this were a real military unit..." He stood up briskly, thinking of firing squads, and strode to the door. "A few more object lessons," he said.
On his way to the meeting, Joshua knew his principal task would be to get CALF used to the idea of hurting one of the hostages. Once that was accomplished, hed introduce the idea of killing one of them. Hed use the word sacrificing of course. This was going to be a long meeting. He counted on it. He needed less sleep than the others and that gave him the advantage. He'd wear them down. It would be a long and hard night, but Joshua smiled knowing that by dawn, hed be in control.
Brian gaveled the midnight meeting to order with his fist. He was sitting between Jack and Joshua in the front of the Zoo Center conference room. It was a pretty good turnout considering how late it was. "OK guys, Lets get started," Brian said. He gave them a few moments to quiet down. There was nervousness in the air since most of them had heard rumors of what had happened to Evan.
"Were here in uh, open session to decide what to do next," Brian started. "In particular, What do we do about the hostages. The floor is open for comments."
At first, no one spoke. They were there to listen and then discuss, but first they wanted to be talked to.
"What do you think, Brian," asked someone from the floor.
"I think," Brian glanced sideways at Joshua. "I think.. I dont know what I think."
Joshua raised his hand politely, and then stood up without being recognized.
"Id like to say a few words," Joshua said, "First, let me congratulate you..."
Joshua spent the first minute or so telling them how great they were.
"We have come so far, accomplished so much. The whole world is watching us, and there is one thing I know, and that is, We cannot surrender. We will not surrender. We are close to winning. The authorities will have to agree to our demands. Close All the Zoos." Joshua knew that if this were said in the clear light of day, and they were not listening in a group, they would recognize the rhetoric for the nonsense it is was. But here, mob psychology ruled. Any argument, no matter how specious, if delivered well, could be embraced, especially if one used high-minded language.
"I know you also feel this sense of history and you are willing to do what has to be done for the greater good. Weve got to be tough. We've taken hostages. It sounds wrong to take hostages, but its not. Hostage taking is the only thing small countries can do in the face of aggression from large ones. In order to get the zoos closed and the animals freed, we might have to hurt a hostage. We might even have to see one of them sacrificed." There, hed said it. Joshua was pleased with his circumlocution. Might have to see one sacrificed was so much better than the direct, will have to kill one.
"But theyre just innocent civilians," a Calfer piped up.
Joshua liked that. Civilians, they were starting to think in military terms.
"Theres no such thing as a civilian. Have they been protesting with us? No. Look, If you close your eyes to others doing evil, are you not evil too?" said Joshua.
"Nobody wants to talk about people being sacrificed, but were in a war," Joshua continued, "and Bombs kill civilians, thousands of them. Here, were talking about the possibility, only the remote possibility of one hostage dying. Not all that much to ask in view of the endless torture of countless animals."
"But, well all go to jail," said another Calfer.
Joshua knew he had won. They had accepted the action, and now were only worried about the consequences. Once he had deflected this worry, it would be all over.
"Maybe," said Joshua pausing for effect. "Maybe for a month or two, but can you really imaging the police sending 50 college kids to prison. No. Itll be a slap on the wrist at most."
Joshua looked first at Brian, then Jack, then again at the assembled Calfers.
"No, Youre pretty safe, but Brian and Jack, they are the leaders. Theyre going to be in deep trouble. The authorities will blame them. I dont want to see that, and Im sure you dont either. Im afraid the only thing to do is dissolve the CALF offices. If CALF were run by a committee made up of all of us here, then thered be no officers to blame. Brian and Jack would be as safe as you are."
Joshua sat down. The Calfers would discuss it of course, but it would be done. CALF would be run by everyone, which effectively meant no one. That was the leadership vacuum that Joshua intended to quietly fill, with himself of course.
Jack stood to propose a motion of dissolution, which was seconded, discussed and duly passed. Then he proposed the motion to have CALF run by committee. It was also passed.
Joshua smiled pleasantly and looked at Brian, who was sitting there looking sort of bewildered. "I wonder when he's going to figure out what happened," thought Joshua.
Jack stood again, aware but uncaring that technically, there was no one officially empowered to even chair the meeting.
"Look, Ive got to get back to my post," he said. "but before I do, let me be clear. If at the 9 AM broadcast, the negotiator has not met our demands, we are prepared to sacrifice a hostage. Well chose one of them, and put him in with an animal, a bear. If the bear decides to maul the hostage, well so be it. If the bear leaves him alone, then well let him go. The bear will decide."
Before Jack left the meeting, he explained, "Of course, the killings will be on camera."
The debate went on for a couple more hours, but it was just debate. At the end, worn out and thinking that they could continue discussions in the morning, they started to trickle out of the meeting. Eventually by default, the plan to sacrifice a hostage to a bear was sustained since there were not enough people remaining to object to it.
Among the Calfers who did not trickle out, was a tight group sitting far in the back. This was the Columbia University contingent. Roger, their leader, got up to speak.
"When I walked in here, I knew this was a done deal, and no amount of discussion or argument would change it."
Joshua looked him straight in the eye and waited for the kid to finish.
"We wont be a part of this. In the morning, we are leaving the zoo," said Roger.
Roger motioned for his group to leave the hall with him. As they got to their feet, Joshua also stood up.
"Just a moment," said Joshua evenly, "No need to wait. Leave now!"
"No thank you," said Roger, "It's almost four in the morning and I have no desire to go out now and become cat food."
"You don't understand," answered Joshua, "That was not a suggestion. You will leave now."
Joshua turned to one of the armed Calfers at the back of the room. They were the Marshals at Arms who functioned in the nature of Joshua's personal bodyguard.
"Gentlemen, escort these pampered Ivy Leaguers to the front door, please."
Roger and the rest of the Columbia Calfers were herded out the front door of the Education Building and the heavy door closed shut behind them.
Joshua looked around the room for further dissenters. There were none.
"Fine," he said, "Only those committed to the cause should be here with us to share the glory."
Joshua noticed that some of the Calfers looked diffident, and he knew he'd have to improvise an impressive speech to get them back on board. He was about to launch the speech when he heard singing from beyond the door.
One of the Calfers laughed. "That's 'Roar Lion Roar', the Columbia University fight song," he said.
Many of the Calfers laughed, and made the obligatory insults of Columbia.
Joshua shelved his speech. In the face of this inter-university rivalry, it was no longer needed.
The singing faded slowly. The Columbia contingent were singing their way to the exit.
Someone in the room starting singing a New York University song and many joined in.
"Good," thought Joshua, "A good way to end a meeting."