Chapter 29 Wednesday, 2000 hours (8 PM)
Mr. Cave picked up his briefcase and the rope, and led me to the door. The briefcase rattled when he picked it up. Not rattled like a rattlesnake, but like there were some metal things inside it.
"Come along, Cat." Mr. Cave sounded funny, and not ha-ha funny. That made me nervous.
"We're going on a ride in a zoo cart. You're going to get to ride the SkySafari again."
"Neat," I said. "How many times?"
"As many times as you want."
"Great. I love the SkySafari. But at night? It's sort of spooky."
"Are you afraid?"
We went out the rear of Zoo Central to a zoo cart. The sky had cleared some and the dark was broken by moonlight. The clouds were moving fast though, and it looked like soon the sky would be completely cloudy and dark again. Mr. Cave got in on the driver's side and I got in on the other. We got in quickly because we heard the growl of an animal and it seemed close. Mr. Cave started the cart. There was no vroom-vroom sound from the engine. It was electric and didn't make any noise. But I could hear all sorts of stuff in the zoo. I heard animals, but I also heard running--human running. I thought it must be Jack following us. Somehow that made me feel less nervous. It was eerie driving through the zoo in the dark and where there were no sounds except growls out in the darkness. I stared out the window, looking for lions in the pale moonlight.
I think Mr. Cave enjoyed the night since he drove very slowly, and seemed to be deep in thought. That was okay. It gave me more time to watch for lions.
Looking up I saw the SkySafari gondolas moving slowly back and forth over the zoo. Sometimes I'd see light reflected from the little windows and at other times the gondolas looked like a black emptiness against the cloudy sky.
I was watching a gondola when suddenly, it stopped moving. Then I noticed that now the zoo seemed even darker than before. There used to be little purple or red warning lights on telephone poles, or green glowing lamps near the pay phones. There'd also been light coming from cracks and little windows in the habitat buildings, and stronger light coming from the Education Building and Zoo Center which were Calfer occupied buildings. Now, except for the glow from the cart's dashboard, there were no lights at all.
"What happened?" I asked.
"The power's been cut."
"Oh Rats," I said. "This means the SkySafari won't be working either."
Mr. Cave stepped hard on the brakes. He seemed mad. We weren't moving, and I could imagine tigers creeping up on us. I looked out into what seemed the darkest of jungles, but I couldn't see any tigers. I have good night vision but I can't see when it's totally black.
Then Mr. Cave laughed.
"What's funny?" I asked.
"I'd forgotten, but the tramway has its own emergency generator. You can go on your ride after all."
I thought about riding the SkySafari in the dark. "What if we got stuck up there? That would be really scary."
"It would be really scary," said Mr. Cave.
He started up the cart again and drove on. Then, as the cart was passing through the dark rocky part of the zoo near the polar bear exhibit, he turned off the engine.
"What did we stop here for?"
Mr. Cave didn't answer me. I waited a little while and then I looked at him. In the dim green light from the dashboard, I could see him glaring at me.
"Why are you looking at me that way?"
He didn't say anything. I listened hard for the sound of running that I'd heard before, but it was gone. Gosh, I wished Jack were out there. "Please, can't we go to the SkiSafari?" I said. "Or we could just drive to a zoo exit if you'd like." Mr. Cave still didn't answer. Instead he opened his briefcase and took something out. Then, quicker than I could imagine him ever moving, he pulled me over his knee and pinned my arms behind my back.
I screamed as I felt cold metal snapping around my wrists. Handcuffs. He let go of me then and I sat straight up. I opened my mouth to say something, but no words came out. I was really, really scared. Mr. Cave started the engine again and set the cart moving toward the SkySafari. He still drove slowly.
"What are you going to do to me?" I asked when I got my voice back.
"Take you on a tramway ride."
"Please don't hurt me." I think I started to cry then.
He didn't answer.
Mr. Cave still didn't say anything.
I was scared out of my mind. I put my head out the window and started screaming at the top of my voice.
The cart jerked to a stop as Mr. Cave jammed on the brakes. I kept screaming. I heard him open his briefcase, and then he pulled my head back in by my hair. He was holding some tape. He tried to force my head around so he could tape my mouth shut, but the tape got tangled up. He cursed and pulled off some more tape. As he moved the tape toward my mouth, I twisted my head back as far as it would go. Then I jerked my head forward and bit him on the hand as hard as I could. I bit him right between the thumb and forefinger. Mr. Cave yelled, but I held on. He pulled his hand away and yelled louder as my teeth tore open his flesh. Then I pushed down on the door latch with my knee, kicked open the door, and ran for my life.
I ran but lost my balance because my hands were cuffed behind me. I'd just run off the path when I fell. My shoulder hit the ground hard and it hurt a lot. Then I rolled over and managed by twisting and squirming, to bring my arms under my butt and out in front of me. I could run a lot better with my arms in front of me, even if they were handcuffed. I jumped to my feet and looked over my shoulder. Mr. Cave was running after me. He had a handkerchief or something around his hand. I could smell the blood. I ran like crazy, but I could hear he was getting close. I was so frightened, I couldn't think. Then just when he was about to catch me, I lit out sideways, into a little culvert behind the polar bear enclosure.
I dropped down flat in the bushes and tried to keep my breathing Quiet; I hoped Mr. Cave couldn't hear the pounding of my heart in the silent zoo.
Mr. Cave stopped running and walked very slowly into the culvert. Then he stopped.
It was dark now as a cloud covered the moon. I could see Mr. Cave but I didn't think he could see me. He just stood there and waited. I couldn't get away without running right by him. The only other way was up the hill up to the cliff overlooking the polar bears. I hoped Mr. Cave would get tired of waiting and just go away, but he didn't.
The cloud drifted away from the moon and it was light again. In the bright moonlight I saw Mr. Cave start walking. He looked like a ghost, an evil ghost, and he was walking right toward where I was hiding in the grass. When he got real close, I panicked. I scrambled to my feet and ran up the hill. I could hear Mr. Cave coming after me. Then there was nowhere else to run.
I had to stop at the service walk overlook. There was nothing ahead except the fall off into the bear enclosure. I leaned up against a railing. On the other side was a few feet of grass and then the edge of the cliff. At the bottom of the cliff was the concrete floor and pond of the polar bear habitat. I looked back and saw Mr. Cave. He walked like a zombie.
"Come on Cat." He spoke very softly. "It will be better if you come with me."
"Keep away from me. I don't want to go with you."
Mr. Cave kept walking toward me.
"What do you want? Why are you doing this to me?"
"I want you to fly."
"You're crazy," I shouted, and then I darted under the railing. Now there were only a few feet of sloping grass between me and the drop-off.
Mr. Cave stopped again. I followed along the railing until I came to a wall. I pushed my back hard against the wall. I wished a hole would open up and I could fall in. But there wasn't any hole. There wasn't anything.
"Why are you doing this," I cried. "I just want to go home."
Mr. Cave climbed over the railing and walked quietly toward me. He was all in white and looked like a horrible nightmare.
"The sun will be up in a few hours, an eternity of hours." It didn't sound like it was me he was talking to. "And when it rises and the first rays shine on your body hanging from the gondola, then will the terror begin." He laughed. "The police will storm the zoo and everyone will die. That's the way I want to die--not alone, but with hundred's of people dying with me--young people."
I couldn't move, but when he reached out to grab me, I growled like a wolf. I don't know if I changed at all, or if it was just the growl that surprised Mr. Cave.
He jumped back a few feet and then stumbled and twisted his foot on a rock. He lost his balance and I thought he was going to fall over the edge. He didn't though. I should have run out and pushed him. I couldn't. I was too scared to move. Mr. Cave got his balance and started toward me again. When he was a couple of feet away, he put out his arms to me.
"I'll take you home."
I was looking him straight in the face and I couldn't move. It was like I was hypnotized. Then I heard a shout.
"Keep your filthy hands off him."
That shout un-hypnotized me. I looked around and saw Jeffrey's father. He was jabbing his spear at Mr. Cave.
"My god," said Mr. Cave, "I didn't even hear you come."
"Get away from him, Now!" said Jeffrey's dad. Boy, was I ever glad to see him.
Mr. Cave smiled, an ugly, nasty smile. He unsnapped and drew His gun. He aimed it at Jeffrey's dad. "I'd say a nine millimeter Lugar trumps a spear, don't you think?"
I gasped. I was sure Mr. Cave would kill Jeffrey's dad. Then I heard the shot and tried to close my eyes, but I couldn't. They were locked open. I expected Jeffrey's dad to fall down dead, like on TV, but he didn't. Instead Mr. Cave's smile turned to a look of surprise or something. I thought maybe his gun exploded. But there was no blood. I didn't smell any blood. Later, I found out that Mr. Cave was wearing a bullet-proof vest. Anyway, Mr. Cave staggered and almost fell. He tried to get his footing, but he couldn't. It was like watching slow motion. Mr. Cave slipped off the edge, and swung over into the darkness. He fell screaming but didn't hit the concrete floor. Instead he splashed into the polar bear pool. From where I was, I could see it all. The moon was bright, and anyone could have seen it.
I saw him come up to the surface and swim for the edge of the pool. He pulled himself out of the water and lay there. It looked like he was trying to catch his breath. The water must have been freezing. Then I saw the polar bears, two of them. Mr. Cave saw them too. He got up and started to run, but polar bears are fast. He ran around the edge of the pool, but the bears split up. One stayed where he was and the other bear chased Mr. Cave around the pool. Polar bears are smart, too.
Even now, I shiver when I think of what happened next. A bear caught and bit him. But the teeth didn't go in. It must have been the vest. I finally managed to close my eyes, but couldn't shut out his screams. Even way up on the cliff, I could smell the blood. The vest hadn't stopped the bears for long.
Finally I opened my eyes and glanced down. "Bears two. Humans nil."
I looked away, and I saw Jack and Jeffrey's dad at the bottom of the hill. Jack was holding a rifle. It turned out he was following us and he'd heard my screaming. He shot Mr. Cave. I wasn't sorry Mr. Cave got killed, but it was scary and I think I was starting to cry a little because it was so horrible.
Jeffrey's dad came up to me. "Come away Cat," he said.
I climbed back through the railing and ran up to him. I buried my face in his shirt. I was shivering and crying. He picked me up and hugged me and carried me back down the hill. I couldn't help it. I cried like a baby.
As we were going down, I heard Jack say, "Enough." I saw him throw the gun over the cliff into the bear pool. Then he walked down after us.