Chapter 27 Wednesday, 1720 hours, (5:20 PM)
I was glad when Jack came back. I was bored, and I wasn't in the mood to be the pack leader anymore.
Jack came up to the front bars and handed us stuff. We were really happy to get the sodas, but when he handed us snack cakes, we made faces and some of us pretended to throw up. Jack made a face too, like the look my parents give each other when I act like a kid.
Then he took out some batteries and handed them to Jeffrey. "What are the batteries for?"
"My pocket TV," said Jeffrey inserting the batteries and by feel getting the polarity right.
"Wait. This is ridiculous," said Jack. "Why am I talking to you guys through the bars?"
He had the keys now. He took them out and walked around to unlock the gate. We didn't come out, but he came in. He said it was safer inside. Then he gathered us all around and told us about his meeting with Mr. Cave.
"He's going to give up the zoo."
"Then we can all go home now." said Wolfred.
"Yeah," said Jack. "Well, not right now. Mr. Cave has to surrender the zoo first."
"When's he going to do that?" asked Paul.
"Real soon, but he wants the police to know why he did all these bad things."
"Why doesn't he just tell them?" I said.
"Mr. Cave doesn't think they'd listen. He thinks it would be better if a kid told them. He wants to explain everything to you, Cat, and then you can explain it all to the police."
"He wants a kid to explain things for him?" I said.
"Yeah," said Jack. "I know it sounds crazy, but he thinks the police won't give him any chance to explain."
"He's probably right," said Paul. "I'd shoot him if I were the police."
"That's what he's worried about."
Jack looked me straight in the eye and talked to me like I was an adult. "How about it, Cat? Will you do it?"
I thought about it. I'd be the spokesman, and would tell Everyone outside about CALF. I'd march out of the zoo in my spiffy Cub Scout uniform, go up to the adults and tell them everything. That would be neat.
"Don't do it Cat," said Jeffrey, "Mr. Cave's crazy. I'm scared of him."
"I'm not," I said, even though it wasn't entirely true.
"It's okay Jeff," said Jack, "Mr. Cave just wants his side of the story told."
"All right," I said.
"Fine," said Jack. He turned to the other kids. "I've got to get Cat to Mr. Cave now. The cage is unlocked, but I think you'd better stay put. The leopards are starting to hunt again. Best to stay here until your Cubmaster comes, and keep the gate closed."
"When's Rom coming back?" asked Paul.
"Your Cubmaster? I'm not sure. He's in with the other hostages. I'll try to bring him back with me after I drop off Kit."
Jack patted me on the shoulder, and we left the cage.
"Be careful Cat," Jeffrey shouted.
We had just left the enclosure when a wild man holding a spear ran up to us. He jabbed at Jack in the stomach, but Jack jumped back, tripped, and fell against the bars.
"I'll teach you to beat children, you filthy sadist," shouted the man.
He'd just about gotten his spear ready for another jab when Jeffrey shouted out, "No Dad. Stop. He's my friend. He brought me food. He brought me batteries."
The man looked surprised and stopped jabbing at Jack.
Jack got up. "Please. I'm sorry and really ashamed."
"Jack's okay," said Jeffrey. "Mr. Cave's the bad guy,"
Jeffrey's dad put down his spear and looked at Jack for a long time. Then he said, "Well. If Jeffrey can forgive you, I guess I can too."
"Jeff's a great kid," said Jack. They shook hands.
"Yeah. thanks." Jeffrey's dad seemed to be thinking. "Jeff."
"Are you all right," said Jeffrey.
"Call me that again."
"'Dad'. I like the sound of it. No more Derek."
"Sure. Dad," said Jeffrey, laughing.
"And from now on, I'm calling you Jeff. That's a boy's name, not a little kid name."
While Jack and Jeffrey's dad talked, I admired the spear. It had a sharpened car key as it's point and it was tied on to the wood with a shoe lace. Jeffrey's dad is cool.
Jeffrey's dad said he'd stay at the enclosure to watch the kids and wait for Rom, while I went with Jack to hear Mr. Cave's explanation. Jeffrey's dad walked with us over to the cart.
"If a patrol comes by," said Jack, "tell them it's all right. Tell them it's been cleared by Jack and Joshua. Not that anyone will bother checking now that everything's falling apart."
Just as Jack was about to drive us off, Jeffrey's dad leaned his head in the window and asked, softly, "Mr. Cave didn't really force someone into the polar bear cage, did he?"
"Yes." Jack put the cart in gear.
During the drive to the Education Building, I noticed that Jack was very quiet. I don't like it when adults are quiet, so I asked a question.
"Why did you whip Jeffrey and make the guy go into the polar bear den?"
"Mr. Cave made me."
I didn't say anything. Jack was big and I couldn't imagine anyone making him do anything. He seemed to know what I was thinking.
"It's funny," he said. "Mr. Cave can talk to you and suddenly you're doing what he wants you to."
"Like a hypnotist?"
Jack got very quiet again. Then he said, "Don't be afraid, Cat."
"I'm not," I said, and I wasn't, at least not until he told me not to be.