Chapter 10 Tuesday, 1330 hours (1:30 PM)
After the tormentors left, Derek rushed to the dorm door and found it unlocked. Jeffrey was just starting to put on his pants when Derek entered. Jeffrey, minimally clothed as he was, looked very small and fragile. Derek realized that he had never seen his son so sparsely attired. It struck him that he had only interacted with his son in rather formal situations. Even when Jeffery padded around the apartment in pajamas, he was more like a visitor in his best nightwear, rather than a resident.
"Did you hear?" asked Jeffrey.
Derek nodded. Jeffrey concentrated on getting dressed and didnt say anything more.
Derek wandered over to the window, near Jeffrey, and looked out. "Is this the way your friends left," he asked.
The wall of the building was covered with light, ivy like vines. Derek shuddered at the thought of kids climbing down them. "They must be part squirrel." He turned back to look at Jeffrey, now fully clad and fiddling with his pocket TV.
"Do you want to come with me back into the other room?" asked Derek.
Derek understood that his son felt embarrassed and humiliated. He wasn't ready to face other people again. Derek felt humiliated too, not being able to protect his son from harm. He didnt particularly relish going back and suffering the solicitous warmth of the other hostages inquiring on Jeffreys condition.
"Do you want me to stay here with you?"
"Look Jeffrey," said Derek impulsively in a soft voice, "Were going to break out of here."
Its what Jeffrey wanted to hear. "Really? When?"
"Tonight, after dinner, unless you want to go tomorrow."
"Tonight," said Jeffrey vehemently, "Weve got to escape tonight."
"Im really scared of what Jackll do to me when he finds out I lied about where the scouts went."
"Oh?" said Derek, "and where did they go, then?"
"They went to hang out with the wolves."
Derek laughed, "Come on. With the wolves." He had a twinge of sadness to think his son was beaten for not telling Jack this unlikely story.
"Thats what they told me," said Jeffrey emphatically.
"Well, maybe," said his father, not wanting to push it.
"How are we going to get away?" Jeffrey asked.
Derek thought. "I dont know." he said.
"We could do what the scouts did, go out the window," said Jeffrey.
"Maybe those vines can support 60 pound kids or whatever guys your age weigh, but theyre not going to take my 185."
"I weigh 63 pounds."
Derek came over and sat beside Jeffrey on the bunk.
"Maybe we could tie bed sheets together and climb down."
"There arent any," said Jeffrey, "just the bare mattresses. Hey, maybe we could just throw the mattresses out the window and jump down on them."
"No. wed break our necks." Derek was beginning to get in to it - planning the escape with his son.
"Well, how about you get them mad at you," suggested Jeffrey, "Theyll tie you up. Ill come and untie you, and well use the rope to climb out the window." Jeffrey beamed at his nifty plan.
Derek fought back a smile. "Youre close, Jeffrey. We do need a rope, but Im not sure thats the best way to get it." They sat silently, thinking about rope. "Too bad I cant just ask them for one," Derek thought sadly. "Although, maybe I can." A plan was beginning to form.
"Jeffrey. I think I can get a rope," Derek whispered.
"Yeah. Ive got to go back in the other room. Are you sure you dont want to come"
"No. Ill stay here and watch TV."
Derek got up off the bunk and walked into the other room, leaving Jeffrey watching the morning 'soaps'.
Brian, in his office in Zoo Central, was annoyed when he heard of the escape. He was going to release the kids and now he couldnt. He had to find the kids so he could go on with his original idea for the shoot; happy hostages, and happy kids. The negotiator, George, would like that. Then Brian thought about the freed carnivores and shuddered. "They had to find the kids, fast." Brian radioed down to arrange for search parties to be sent out, but found that Joshua had already taken care of it.
A few minutes later, he heard about Jeffrey's beating. Brian was livid. There went his shoot. The hostages would definitely not be happy. He couldnt do the telecast and he didnt know how hed face George.
Brian phoned for Jack to come over. Hed chew him out good.
A few minutes later, Jack came to Brian's office. Joshua was with him.
"So now we beat up little kids," said Brian hotly. He was looking directly at Jack. Brian knew of Joshua's complicity in the beating, but he didn't feel strong enough to confront Joshua directly.
"Im sorry," said Jack. "I just lost my temper when I saw that the scouts werent there and the little brat wouldnt tell me where theyd gone."
Joshua didnt say anything.
Brian was disarmed and mollified by Jack's apology, very rare in itself. Brian expected a heated argument with he himself having the moral high ground, but apparently there would be no argument, not about Jeffrey's beating in any case. Tentatively, Brian brought up his next issue, one where there would most definitely be an argument. He had been thinking about his talk with the negotiator, George.
"Perhaps we should surrender. Weve made our point," said Brian nervously.
"What?" exploded Jack.
Joshua put a reassuring hand on Jack's arm.
"Dont be silly. We havent BEGUN to make our point," said Joshua.
"Im with Joshua," said Jack, "I'm not a quitter. You can leave if you want, but I'm going to see Operation Zoo through to the end."
"Through to the bitter end," thought Brian.
Joshua transferred his reassuring hand from Jack's arm over to Brian's.
"Brian, I understand your feelings," said Joshua. " You're frustrated. You shouldnt have to deal with George. You're a gifted film director and should be concentrating on the videography. If we're going to get our message across, we need your brilliant talents. You're being wasted now."
Brian, despite himself, was charmed by the complements. He sat, looking at Joshua, wondering what would come next.
Joshua went on. "Look. You do what you're great at, videography, and why dont you let me handle the broadcasts and the negotiations. Im good at that sort of thing."
Brian thought it over for a while.
"Yeah, OK. You can do the broadcasts," he said, "Anyway, I feel more comfortable filming the talent than being it. Sure. OK with me. You do the talking and Ill handle the film work."
In his heart, Brian was very satisfied with Joshua's solution. He was starting to think of the zoo as a closed little world, his world. Not that he was king or anything. The animals were, but he was beginning to find the communications with the outside world, even those with George, unsettling. They were pulling him outside his domain into the world at large. He was starting to feel violated by the process. "Yes, it was best if Joshua handled external communications."
Derek walked firmly past the listless hostages and pounded on the locked door to the hall. "Hey, Weve got trouble here."
"Whats the problem?" asked the Calfer guard from the other side of the door.
"Theres trouble," repeated Derek. "Weve got to talk to whoever's in charge here, and fast."
Derek, pleased he wasnt asked for details, was heartened to hear the Calfer using his walkie-talkie.
"OK, There'll be someone down here soon to talk to you," said the Calfer.
True to his word, ten minutes later, Brian and the guard came in to calm the captives. Brian didn't much like to be pulled away from his camera work, but he was the president of Calf, and he knew his duty.
"All right, Whats wrong?" asked Brian.
"Look," said Derek, "If we have to stay here another night, at least make it tolerable. Were living here like, ur.." Derek was about to say animals, but changed it to, "like in a Turkish prison."
"Go on," said Brian, relieved that they werent being unreasonable and demanding to be set free on the spot.
"Weve got to have a partition down the middle here; a mens side and womens side. We cant even take our clothes off here at night. Look just get us some black plastic sheeting. Theres got to be a maintenance facility in the zoo. Theyd have it."
Derek saw that Brian was receptive, so he went to the quick.
"We'll need something to string up the plastic, a rope or something." Derek went on without pause, "We could also use a few flashlights so that the entire damn place isnt woken up when someone wants to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night."
"OK," said Brian, accommodatingly, "anything else?"
"Yeah. Were going nuts in here. Get us something to read, and maybe a TV," Derek continued, trying to keep Brian ignorant of his true intentions.
"Ill see what I can do," said Brian turning to leave and thinking that if he stayed any longer theyd next be asking for a Jacuzzi.
They got what they asked for, except for the TV. The reading matter was clearly from the gift shop downstairs. It consisted of nothing but Zoo Life magazines and zoo guides. Derek thanked providence for the unexpected but useful zoo guides and mentally scored one for the deviousness of age over the directness of youth.
Derek suggested to the other hostages that they defer putting up the partition until after dinner, and asked to borrow the rope and a flashlight for a while. He was sure some of the more alert hostages had an idea what he was planning, but didnt want to become involved.
He took the rope, a flashlight, and guidebook back into the dorm room. The rope was thin but very sturdy. It would do the job.
Jeffrey was impressed. Perhaps his father wasnt such a complete dork after all.
"I guess well have to make loops in the rope for foot holds," said Derek.
"I can do that," said Jeffrey taking the rope.
For the next few minutes Derek watched in amazement as Jeffreys deft little fingers prepared the rope.
"These are Butterfly Knots," said Jeffrey, "Climbers use them in emergencies. Theyre not very good for the rope, and theyre hard to untie."
"Where did you learn to do that, Jeffrey?" asked his father, impressed out of his skull by the boy's skill.
"From Boys Life, Its a magazine Boy Scouts get."
"But youre not a scout."
"Tungy is. He lets me read them."
"Do you want to be a scout?"
"Yeah, but mom says there is no way she can get me to the meetings on school nights."
Derek realized how little he knew about his sons daily life. "Maybe you could go with Tungy."
"Yeah, well," said Jeffrey, letting the subject drop.
Derek let it drop also, for the moment. He'd take it up with Kate when they got back to civilization.
"What about the lions?" asked Jeffrey suddenly.
Derek was thinking about them too. He hadnt seen any of the carnivores from the window, and wasn't sure they were actually on the loose. CALF was probably lying about releasing them. But he wasnt sure.
"Have you seen any lions?"
"Well, no." answered Jeffrey.
"If there are any loose lions and Im not sure there are, they're probably pretty tame. They're zoo lions. They're pampered and fed. They probably don't even remember how to hunt," said Derek confidently. "In any case Jeffrey, were not going to take unnecessary risks. Study the guide book. When we get to the ground, well run like hell for the nearest exit."
Jeffrey laughed at his fathers saying hell. It was nice being talked to like a grown up. He finished tying the foot loops in the rope and brought his work over to Derek.
"Good Job," said Derek, "a really great job."
Jeffrey beamed with pride. "Ill study the guide book now," he said.
"Good," said Derek coiling up the rope. "Well stow this in the closet until tonight." Then we'll leave this nice warm room and go out and brave the elephants."
"There aren't any loose elephants out there."
The scouts in fact, were not hanging around with the wolves. They were in Jungle World. The building though closed, was not impenetrable, especially to thin kids who could climb. Jungle World was the most compelling facility in the zoo; a spectacular re-creation of jungles and warm, humid, tropical swamps. To maintain this illusion in the center of New York City, the building had to be very smart. Indeed it was a sealed, self-contained biosphere. Everything inside was artificial, except for the flora, fauna, and the mud. Sudden rainstorms erupted at various intervals, regulated by a digital god. The lighting varied during the day, but the temperature remained a constant 85 degrees with 97 percent humidity. The building was closed since there was nobody around to open it. The world inside went on with clockwork regularity. It would be a few days yet, before the animal inhabitants would notice a shortage of food. Empty of visitors as it was, the building was primordially silent, save for the slightly amplified calls of the birds, and the chattering of monkeys.
To the scouts, it was a virtual reality garden of Eden, even more so when they discovered a sizable cache of snack cakes and canned soft drinks in the Jungle World classroom.
"They certainly know how to make school fun," said Kit finishing off a snack cake.
"Yeah. Why doesn't Miss Winthrops have snack cakes for us?" laughed Paul.
"You think you'd learn more with snack cakes?" asked Janos.
"Yeah," said Paul, "much more."
The scouts were happy. Although because of the Cornell University break, there was no school today, tomorrow was a regular Ithaca school day and it looked as if theyd be lucky enough to miss it, along with their teacher, Miss Winthrop. Here, they had everything they needed; the outdoors (sort of), and food (sort of). They joked with each other, told naughty stories about their teacher, and generally had a good time.
"Last one in the waters a Denubian Slime Worm," shouted Kit vaulting the low barrier and landing with a loud splash in the pond. The water was unusually clear and good tasting, courtesy of the buildings recycling control, The usual denizens of the pond were startled but not frightened and wandered to higher ground while these new mammals enjoyed themselves. The other scouts followed Kit over the railing and into the water, thereby raising the level of the pond. The smart, compliant building promptly compensated by draining off some of the water. The cubs stayed splashing in the mud-bottomed pond and swinging around on the vines until the light started to dim. Then they retired to the classroom with its human controllable lighting and munched. Since the classroom air conditioner was switched off, the high temperature and humidity of the swamp extended to the classroom so the scouts were not uncomfortable. Their once stark white briefs were white no more. Now their underwear more matched their skin in color, and looked more like a part of their hides, in a Disney sort of way.
Although their diets were a kind of which their parents would definitely not approve, the Cub Scouts were for the moment, safe from terrorists and from large wandering carnivores.
While his cub scouts were splashing around in Jungle World, Cubmaster Romulus Haldane was in the passenger seat of a sports utility vehicle en route to The Bronx Botanical Gardens. The gardens were on the other side of Pelham Parkway, somewhat distant from The zoo but the gardens and zoo shared a common river.
The vehicle swung into the entrance and after admissions were paid, came to a halt in the parking lot. Here Rom and Alan, his fraternity brother got out.
Rom had spent the night at Alans apartment. Alan was a former member of Roms Cornell fraternity and, since the scout pack was sponsored by that fraternity, was indirectly connected to the scouts. Rom explained the crux of the matter, namely his forced dereliction of duty and his desire to return to his cub scouts. He asked Alan if he knew any way to sneak into the zoo. Alan thought it would be better if he obeyed the instructions from the pack parents committee and just stay put.
"You can stay with me as long as you want," said Alan, "Let the police deal with it."
Rom was adamant though, so Alan who knew the Bronx exceedingly well and was not always a person respectful of Do Not Enter signs, agreed to help.
With a borrowed backpack filled with, among other things, an inflatable one man boat, Rom and Alan strolled in to the Botanical Gardens. Rom, in scout uniform and carrying the pack, was stopped by the guard.
"Why are you bringing that into the park?" asked the guard pointing to the pack.
Rom was prepared. "Im going for my hiking merit badge. I have to take a 3 mile hike with full pack and there arent very many places you can hike in the Bronx."
The guard laughed. "Yeah, I dont suppose there are," he said passing them through the gate. The story after all was plausible. Rom had just turned 18 and until just a few months ago, he was a registered Boy Scout. Alan, his frat brother guided Rom through the gardens, showing him the Bronx River, and also a place where he could hide until nightfall.
Alan made the ritual request that Rom change his mind.
"You don't have to do this you know."
"Yes I do," said Rom, "I'll call you when I get out with the scouts."
"Ah. That's an idea," said Alan. He reached to an inside jacket pocket, pulled out a small cellular phone and handed it to Rom.
"Take this. It might be useful," he said.
Rom thanked him and stowed the little phone in his pack.
"and keep it turned off," continued Alan turning to walk back to his car, "Itll save the battery and you wont get a lot of calls intended for me."
When Alan had gone, Rom stowed his pack in the hiding place and wandered the gardens, trying to look as much like a tourist as he could. Although he was a scout leader, he actually was abysmally ignorant of species of flowers and trees, and saw no reason to change. Animals were interesting, but trees were dumb and just stood there. "We mammals have to stick together," said Rom, starting to talk to himself from sheer boredom, and it was still a long time until closing. The Botanical Gardens were very well manicured and civilized. They had about as much attraction for the wilderness loving Rom as did a golf course. After a while though, a long while, closing time came and Rom went to ground until it got dark.
At last, when it was dark enough that he could work unobserved, Rom tried to inflated the boat. He was used to canoes, not these rubber bath toys. After ten minutes or so of blowing into the inflation tube, when he was getting light-headed from hyperventilation, he stumbled on the embedded foot pump.
Rom finished inflating the boat, assembled the paddle and set out for the middle of the Bronx River. Although he had earned the canoeing merit badge, he had trouble maneuvering his flexible little craft and found he could only go around in circles. After a while, he got the hang of rubber boat paddling and feathering the paddle using a modified J stroke managed to maneuver his little craft to the middle of the river. There, the current carried the raft smoothly towards the Pelham Parkway Bridge. The illumination from streetlights and traffic increased steadily as he approached the span, darkened then brightened again while he passed under, and then just as steadily decreased as he silently floated off into the zoo waters on the other side. His boat floated around the bend in the river and the city illumination vanished completely. Now it was almost as if he were on a night canoe excursion in the Adirondacks. He floated deep into the zoo before using his paddle to maneuver the raft toward a bank. Once out of the river's swift, central current, the boat floated slowly and lazily toward the shore. Rom was looking for a place to go ashore when he saw an animal crouching at the bank. Upstate, he was used to seeing animals, deer usually, drinking at a river. Here in New York City though, he found the sight incongruous. With no reference objects for comparison, he couldnt tell how big the animal was, but it was big, and he was almost willing to swear it had stripes.