Chapter 13 Tuesday 2015 hours (8:15 PM)
Derek watched the tail lights of the zoo maintenance vehicle disappear down the path. He slowly let out the long breath that he hadnt even realized he was holding. He felt he had failed another test. What kind of a parent was he to let his son be taken away alone. He should have let himself be captured too. At least Jeffrey wouldnt be facing his captivity by himself, and without his jacket and the little TV. Derek started jogging to the Wild Asia exit. Hed escape, get to the police, and then... And then what? He stopped jogging. No. Hed have to rescue Jeffrey himself. Whats the worst that could happen. Hed be captured and returned to take care of his son. It would be embarrassing being returned to the hostages, but so be it.
His first priority, was to remain alive. He must avoid CALF, with their night goggled sniper surveying the zoo from the tramway, and the little zoo maintenance vehicles, with the pictures of happy animals painted on them, and their CALF occupants with AK-47s. Most of all, hed have to figure out how to handle the big cats roaming the zoo. By now, theyd be hungry, and perhaps ready to seek revenge for their captivity. He understood he couldnt simply stand around deciding what to do, especially since the hyena was probably still prowling around. First he had to find a place of safety, comparative safety anyway, where he would have time to make a plan.
But where would he be safe from the cats now free of their cages. The answer came to him. Hed be safe IN a cage. He congratulated himself for his brilliance and tried to think back to when he and Jeffrey were just visitors to the zoo, back before they were taken hostage. What harmless creatures had they encountered, and more importantly, what cages were they in.
"Nyala," said Derek aloud.
He thought of the nyalas. They were around here somewhere, the cute, small, and harmless looking deer. Thats what hed do then, break into the nyala enclosure.
Derek, crouching animal-like to convince any night-goggler that he was one of the roaming cats, found the nyala enclosure and saw that the gate was held closed by only a flimsy padlock. He rooted around for a rock, found one, and smashed the lock. Eyeing the nervous nyalas which had retreated to the rear of the enclosure, he went inside, and closed the gate behind him. Here, hed be safe from the cats, and have time to think. He couldnt stay too long however. In the morning light, hed be a sitting target. Hed have to make his move at night.
The night was damp, with a misty drizzle, and he couldnt help wishing for a hot cup of coffee. He put Jeffreys jacket over his head to keep off the rain. The night, the privation, and thoughts of Jeffrey had a curious effect on this man of the 20th century. He felt the need for a weapon, not that any armament hed be able to come up with would be effective against an AK-47, but it would feel good having. His key chain knife would not do. He let his eyes wander around the nyala habitat and found a tree with a limb that would make a good spear. Hacking away with his knife, he managed to tear the limb free. Pausing now and then to wipe the rain from his eyes, he worked at the wet wood with his knife to make it smooth and functional. He tried to cut a point to the spear but the wood, was green and too soft to make a usable point. He put his hands in his pocket for warmth while he thought of what to do next. He fiddled with the keys in his pocket and came up with an idea. He pulled out the keys and examined the largest of them, his car key. It was the right shape for an Indian arrow head and it would do as a spear point, if he could only sharpen it. Conscious that he was regressing back to the Bronze Age, he looked around for a grinding stone. There, surrounded by nyala deer, he sat down and honed his car key to a sharp point. He tested the edge with his finger and admired its sharpness. Now he had to affix it to his spear which at the moment was nothing more than a long staff.
He cut a channel in the tip of his spear, and fitted in the key. Then he unlaced one shoe and tied the key to the channel with the lace. "Chinguchgook couldnt have done better," he said to himself, "Of course, Chinguchgook didnt have any car keys for spear points."
He brandished the spear at one of the distant nyala and experienced a surge of confidence. Derek felt strong and primitive with his spear and could almost imagine the beat of African drums. He cocked his head. He wasnt imagining. He DID hear drums. He smiled as he realized that the sound being wafted in on the breeze, was from the South Bronx, outside the zoo. Although it was the sound of Bongo Drums, it took not much effort to imagine oneself in the Africa of old. "Bongos in the Bronx."
He hefted the spear again and it felt good. Now he had to figure out what to do with it. He looked at the gate, and thought hed rather not have to test it out on one of the wandering cats. He really did want to go into action though. What action, he didn't know. Any action would be OK.
He thought of the hungry cats, and got another idea. He looked about for lions, and not seeing any, threw open the gate wide. Then he went to the rear of the habitat to intimidate the nyala. It was hard to be too intimidating when one of his shoes, the one without the lace, was always falling off. He bent to remove the lace from the other shoe. He cut it in half, and laced each shoe from the middle to the top. "One more step back to the primitive." Waving his spear, and thumping the ground with his feet, he herded the reluctant nyala out of their habitat. "That should keep the cats occupied, and well fed." He watched the last of the nyala wander into the darkness, closed the gate behind them, and considered what to do next. It had stopped drizzling. He took Jeffreys jacket back in hand and sighed. Now he had time to plan, but no plan came to mind. Finally, he decided hed just have to go and try to find his son. Maybe they just let him go back to the dorm room, doubtful but possible. Maybe theyd found the Cub Scouts by now and Jeffrey might be in with them. That would be good, as Jeffrey would have Kit and the others for company and it might be easier to find a group of kids than just one. Derek opened the enclosure gate, looked around and left the nyala habitat. With a crouching run, he started back to Zoo Center.
"Hello." came a cheerful voice from behind him.
Derek shot bolt upright and had there been a ceiling above him, he would have had to peel himself off it.
"What the hell," he said turning around.
It was the cubmaster, Rom. He was carrying a knapsack and looked every bit the boy scout leader he was.
"Hi!" said Rom.
"Hi?" answered Derek, recognizing Rom from the scout uniform. "I could have been a CALF sniper. I might have shot you."
"No," said Rom, "You werent carrying a weapon.
Derek, even in the darkness, looked a little hurt.
"I mean other than that neat spear."
Derek asked for news of the outside, but found that because of Jeffreys pocket TV, he knew more of the external news than did Rom. Rom in turn explained how he came to be back in the zoo and asked Derek if he knew where his scouts were.
"I havent a clue," answered Derek. "My son gave me the unlikely story that they were hanging out with the wolves."
"Impossible. Theyre not there," said Rom. "Ive just come from the wolf habitat. Thats where Ive set up my camp."
"With the wolves?"
"Yeah," Rom answered.
"WOLVES?" asked Derek again.
"Sure. Theres a low area at the rear of their habitat that cant be seen from the path, or even from the tramway. Come on. Lets go back there and plan. I can offer you food and hot cocoa. You can stay in my tent tonight. Dont worry. The wolves wont bother us."
Rom set off with Derek following.
"and I can offer you an evening of quality television," said Derek thinking of the little TV set in Jeffreys jacket pocket.
"Try to move more quietly," whispered Rom.
Rom floated through the underbrush, silently like a ghost.
"Actually," he said waiting for Derek to catch up. "Actually, I havent set up my tent yet. If I had, the wolves would have ripped it to shreds by now."
"Wouldnt they also rip us to shreds if we were inside it," said Derek stopping to catch his breath.
"No. Wolves have good noses. Theyd just sniff around to satisfy their curiosity. Then theyd go away and leave us alone," Rom explained.
They started to walk again.
"Did you say HOT cocoa?"
"Sure," answered Rom. "Not to worry. The flame of my little alcohol stove is almost invisible."
"Boy, I could use some hot cocoa," said Derek juggling his spear.
While Derek was contemplating the hot cocoa to come, the hostages were being moved from the second floor to a virtually identical suite of rooms one flight down. The dorm room bunks were also moved downstairs making double the number of bunks as there were before. It was close to the time when the hostages would be bedding down so there was much negotiation between them on who would not get a bunk. There were bunks now for most, but not all, of them.
It was dark out and the hostages did not think to look out the windows. They did not notice therefore, that since they were now on the ground floor of a readily accessible building, the windows were barred.