Chapter 9 Tuesday, 1200 hours (Noon)
Joshua was in his office, entering events into his diary, when the police finally called the zoo. Joshua had the little office television set on and set to channel 58, the Operation Zoo rogue transmitter channel. He was not paying particular attention to the broadcast. He doubted if anybody were listening, and in any case, TV was Brian's specialty. Joshua was surprised to see Brian handle the noon show as a live call-in program. He was more surprised still when he understood that the person on the other side of the line was a police negotiator. Joshua realized that by the next broadcast, he'd somehow have to take over from Brian. For the moment though, Joshua turned up the volume and listened.
The police negotiator was very mellow. Brian gave a heartfelt justification for their take over. After a while, the negotiator quietly interrupted.
"Brian, Im worried about the hostages."
"Theyre fine. Theyre our guests."
"Good, good. Do you think I could talk to one of them. My boss here thinks they might not be well treated. It would make him happy if he knew Id talked to one of them. Could you help me out?"
"Sure," said Brian. "In fact during tonights broadcast, you can talk to them live."
"Good. Thanks," said the negotiator, "I appreciate it. By the way, my name is George."
Joshua muttered under his breath. "Brian's no match for him. I've got to get control."
Brian and George chatted a little longer. They thanked each other and hung up. Joshua, listening in his office felt it was enough to make you throw up.
He ran over to have a talk with Brian, but Brian was very proud of how he handled things and explained to Joshua what he was going to do next. Joshua let him talk. This wasn't the best time for Joshua to wrest control of the broadcasts.
"We're going to do a live broadcast with the hostages," said Brian, "But it'll be tricky lighting it, since we don't want the camera to give away their location."
Joshua nodded, and Brian continued.
"Well have to keep the room lights down, or even off. Key lights on the cameras, and wide lenses. Head shots only of course. I might not be all that experienced as the head of Operation Zoo, but I've studied film direction for years, Yes, good production values. Well have to have a few kids on for contrast. No. Wait. I forgot. We're going to release the kids after lunch. That should make George happy, but it's going to mess up my shoot."
Joshua nodded again.
"Look," said Brian, "I'm going over to my office to ring up Jack. I want him to get the kids out of the zoo without them being eaten. Would you help."
Joshua nodded 'yes' and went to find Jack. Brian's babbling was amusing but Joshua was wearying of it.
Joshua found Jack, and the two of them with an armed Calfer escort went to the hostage dormitory, then into the separate room where the kids were held.
Joshua took in the scene. Jeffrey was naked, save for his briefs, and standing in a clutter of discarded blue scout uniforms. Joshua smiled at the situation but Jack was furious. It was his task to conduct the kids safely out, and now, except for one, there were no kids to so conduct.
"I want to go back to my father," said Jeffrey petulantly.
Joshua shrugged. "Its OK with me," he said. In his scheme of things, the kids had no importance. He didnt care what happened to them.
"Where are they?" said Jack roughly.
"Leave me alone," Jeffrey answered.
"Where the hell are they?" Jack shouted.
Jeffrey shouted back, "Go pick on someone your own size."
"I said, Where are they," said Jack punctuating his statement by slamming the door shut in a fit of temper.
Jeffreys eyes widened in fear. He didnt answer, but backed off into a corner as far as possible.
Jack leaned his rifle against the wall. He took off his belt and folded it double. "Bend him over the bunk," he said to Joshua.
Joshua nodded and gathered up the boy. He used one hand to pin Jeffrey's arms over his head while with his other hand, he pushed down between the boy's shoulder blades, positioning him efficiently over a bed so that his face was pressed against the mattress. Joshua nodded OK and watched as Jack brought the strap down on Jeffreys white briefs. Jeffrey trembled and then screamed. Five more times did Joshua watch the strap descend, like a plane falling out of the sky. He heard the splash of contact, the scream and he could feel the boys shudder.
Joshua said nothing, but his face showed a trace of a smile.
All through the beating Jack shouted abuse at the kid.
"Stop. Please stop," screamed Jeffrey, "Ill tell you where they went."
Jack put down his belt and nodded to Joshua who let the boy up.
"OK, Where?" said Jack.
"Theyre hiding out at the zoo cafeteria," said Jeffrey through his tears.
"All right then," said Jack threading his belt back through the loops.
"Get your clothes on, kid." he said, not unkindly.
Joshua, who was very experienced with people, was sure the boy was lying, but he didn't care.
Jack opened the door and he and Joshua went through the gauntlet of hostile eyes, from the hostages as well as the other Calfers, many of whom were not all that much older than Jeffrey. Joshua had his usual smile and was unaware that the boy's father was planning to kill him.