Chapter 16 Wednesday, 0600 hours (6 AM)
Brian, now a private citizen, got up early to seek out Joshua. He knocked politely on Joshuas third floor war room, and was admitted. Though still before dawn, Joshua looked fresh and alert, as if he had already been working for a couple of hours.
"I think Id like to go over and let Evan out," said Brian.
Joshua looked at him for a few moments, until their eyes made contact.
"I think the lessons been learned. Dont you?" he said.
Brian cast his eyes down. "Yes," he said.
Joshua reached in his desk and tossed Brian a ring of keys, which he caught with both hands. Joshua walked over to consult a chart pinned to the wall.
"Tyrone and Kevin will just be getting off their shift. Ill have them meet you out front at say, 6:15. They'll run you out to Evan and bring you both back," he said cheerfully, "We wouldn't want you eaten by anything. You can go now."
Joshua dismissed Brian and called in a Calfer. The assault attempts earlier that day had given him an idea. During the initial phase of Operation Zoo, they had found the private gas pump in the maintenance area. There the non-electric trucks were fueled. In the same maintenance area, Joshua remembered seeing barrels. He had no idea what they were for. Theyd use them though, both the barrels and the gas pump.
The Calfer knocked and was admitted. Joshua had a special mission for him. He was to organize Operation Wildfire.
Joshua told him he was worried about other attempts to break into the zoo. That couldnt be allow to happen. What theyd do then, is collect the barrels, fill them with gasoline, and transport them to strategic points in the zoo. Then the members of Operation Wildfire were to run wicks to Zoo Central. If anyone tried to invade, theyd light the wick.
"But that would take miles of wicks," objected the Calfer.
"No. Not miles, but a lot," Joshua allowed, "I have a large roll of fuse wire in the munitions truck. After your team has set out the gas barrels, Ill get the roll and show you how to string the fuses."
"You know," said the Calfer, "if you mix cow manure in with the gasoline, you get a really good bomb."
"What? Really?" Joshua asked. He had never heard of this.
"Yeah, I grew up on a farm. Me and my friends would do this all the time," said the Calfer.
Joshua was intrigued. "You did this all the time?" he asked.
"Yeah. Well until we made one a little too large and we almost blew down the milk shed," said the Calfer, "My dad just about flayed me alive."
"Were in a zoo," said Joshua, "theres got to be manure everywhere. I guess elephant manure would work, dont you?"
"I guess," answered the Calfer, but the barrels are pretty big. The bombs would do some real heavy damage."
"Fine," said Joshua, "Do it."
On the drive to the World of Darkness Brian passed the bloody, ravaged carcass of a nyala. The sight fit so well with his mood that he didnt even notice.
Tyrone and Kevin decided to wait in the cart while Brian went in to free Evan. The World of Darkness Building felt a little strange to Brian since at the moment, it was not dark. Night and day were reversed so that now, while the zoo had no visitors, the nocturnal animals could sleep. Brian, hearing only the sound of his own footfalls in the empty building, went through the door to the bat habitat. Here in contrast, since the room's main power switch was off, it was totally dark. He fumbled around the wall and snapped on the switch, filling the habitat with its usual dark red light.
Brian looked through the glass wall and saw Evan, looking very tired and in something like a trance. It was strange that Evan made no move to get up and greet his friend and liberator. Evan said nothing, and did not even stir, as Brian sorted through the keys and unlocked the small door to the habitat.
"Come on out Evan. Its morning."
Evan came stiffly out of his captivity. During the long night he was tortured by the darkness and the fluttering of the squeaking bats, and his need for sleep. As the night wore on however, Evan, shirtless, increasingly was afflicted by the cold.
"Here. Put on your shirt," said Brian, handing him the checkered flannel.
Brian stooped to pick up the dead flashlight he had left the night before, and shepherded Evan, who had still not said a word, out into the lighted part of the building.
The light more than anything, restored life to Evan. He went into the restroom at the World of Darkness entrance, filled a sink with hot water, and plunged his hands and arms into it, letting the wet warmth slowly diffuse throughout his body. Ten minutes later, he came out with both his color and humor restored.
"That was not exactly the best night I ever spent," he said to his old friend.
Before going out the door, Evan turned to Brian. "Look, Lets get out of here," he said. "I mean out of the zoo. Ive had enough of this."
"Im not sure we can. Roger and his group left last night. I don't think anyone else will be allowed to leave. Im not president any more either, and I think Tyrone and Kevin are probably loyal to Joshua. Anyway, now there are snipers posted at each entrance and exit, and I think their job is more than just to keep people from breaking in," said Brian
"Loyal to Joshua? Are there factions in CALF now? Brian, what the hell happened last night."
"I wish I knew."
In so far as he was able, Brian filled Evan in as they drove back in the cart.
"Stop!" shouted Evan. "What's going on here?" he said pointing to the nyala carcass.
Rom and Derek were hiding low in the brush as the cart carrying Brian, Evan and their escorts went by.
"That was close," said Derek.
"You have to learn to move quietly," said Rom, not for the first time.
They had gotten up before dawn, had some more hot cocoa and repacked everything back into Roms pack. Rom hefted up the pack and tied it to a tree to avoid the predation of the wolves. Then they set off to find Jeffrey and the scout pack. Derek still carried Jeffreys jacket. He was also carrying his spear. Rom had reasoned that the scouts, not having even been seen for a while, had to have found an indoor habitat to hide out in. So that would be the plan for the morning, checking out the indoor environments. They explored first, the Monkey House, then The World of Reptiles, and were just on their way to The World of Darkness when they encountered first the mauled nyala carcass and then the maintenance vehicle holding Brian and Evan. When they reached the World of Darkness, they circled it a couple of times, but couldnt find a way in, so they continued on to the far end of the zoo and Jungle World. They circled this building too and again found no obvious way in.
"What now," asked Derek, disappointed.
Rom didnt answer. He was looking at an open window, or duct at the second floor level.
"That window. They could have gotten in there," said Rom finally.
"Theyd have had to climb like monkeys to get in there."
"Maybe. Anyway, Im going to give it a try. Stay here. Ill be back soon."
Rom indirectly approached the building and Derek was amazed how animal like Rom looked. He jumped up for a handhold, climbed up and vanished out of sight through the duct.
"New York has lost a very good second story man in him," said Derek softly, wishing he had that agility.
It was still early and the smart JungleWorld building had not yet awakened. The habitats were still in darkness as Rom prowled through the structure. He sensed he might be on to something when he found the classroom and found it littered with soft drink cans and snack cake wrappers. The humid room virtually wreaked with the sugary smell of junk food. Rom snagged a snack cake and munched it as he left the room. He had to hurry since he had Derek waiting outside. Rom worried. Derek wasnt all that good at being quiet and stealthy. Rom noticed he was sweating. "This place must be 90 degrees."
Rom checked out the few other rooms and was starting to get discouraged. There were not all that many enclosed habitat buildings left in the zoo to check. He started back upstairs to the second floor so as to leave the building the way he came in. At the staircase, he happened to glance down into the still dark jungle habitat. There were his cub scouts. They were curled up together, asleep like cats on a rug.
Rom vaulted the railing, avoided the pond and walked up to them. They were dirty, dressed only in underpants, but looked uninjured, and they were all there.
"Hey, guys. Wake up," he said.
The nearest scout, Paul, opened his eyes.
"ROM," he shouted. "Wake up everybody. Roms here."
They mobbed him, his scouts, talking all at once and not waiting for answers. Rom affectionately tousled each lively head. "Gosh, Im glad to see you guys," said Rom. "OK, get dressed and lets get out of here."
The scouts fell silent.
"Whats wrong?" Rom asked. "Get back into uniform."
Rom looked at his denner, Kit and waited, but Kit didnt speak. Finally Paul spoke up.
"That presents certain difficulties," said Paul.
Rom looked over at the kid, small for his age, but bright. Pauls father was a professor of English literature and did not talk down to his son.
"Why?" asked Rom.
"Because we dont have them. We left them back at the main zoo building," explained Kit.
Rom looked back to Kit. "You mean you went traipsing through the zoo in your underwear? Why?"
Again, there was no immediate answer.
"It seemed to be a good idea at the time," said Paul.
Suddenly, Jungle Worlds lights came on full. The building had woken up. Rom scarcely took notice.
"All right," he said. "Come as you are. There are a lot of people outside the zoo who will be very glad to see you."
The scouts looked at each other in the artificial morning light, but didnt move. "Were not going out there without our uniforms," said Kit, the spokesman.
"Come on guys, Let get going. Forget the uniforms," Rom pleaded.
"No," said Kit representing the pack, "There might be girls out there."
Rom rolled his eyes. He tried convincing them to leave, but his pack was adamant and Rom knew enough not to try to force them after they, or more likely Kit, had made up their minds.
"OK all of you," said Rom, "Stay put. Jeffreys dad is waiting for me downstairs. Were going to try to find Jeffrey now. You dont know where he is, do you?"
"Jeffreys gone? You mean he escaped too?"
"Yes, but they recaptured him."
"Wow," said Kit.
Rom gave them instructions, which Kit as usual would interpret as suggestions, and told them hed be back soon. If he had time, hed try to retrieve their uniforms, at least their pants, and maybe if they were lucky, some food other than snack cakes.
Rom wasnt particularly happy about leaving his scouts, but he saw no real alternative.
"You were in there a long time," said Derek when Rom got back.
Rom explained the situation, and expressed sympathy at not hearing anything about Jeffreys whereabouts. Theyd just have to go and find him. Derek smiled, hiding his worry. Jeffrey was sort of a hot house flower. Despite reading Boys Life, he didnt have Kits feel for the outdoors. Besides, he was alone.
"OK. Lets get going," said Derek.
They tried the Gorilla Pavilion and the Mouse House, all with the same negative results. Then, thinking Jeffrey might have been hungry, they started checking out the various zoo cafeterias and snack bars. Each one they tried turned out to be closed for the season.
This search was starting to wear on Derek, not only because of the disappointments, one after another, but also because the searching was hard. They had to move carefully, especially now in the daylight, an avoid not only the Calfers on the ground, but also the spotter in the tramway, not to mention the tigers and the like. The cats would probably have run to ground by now, and they were probably all well fed on nyalla. But aside from not having to worry about being eaten, the daylight was certainly not going to make things easier for Rom and Derek.
Perhaps it was just that it was hard to feel stealthy in sunlight, or maybe just because they were getting tired, but they got careless. They had just climbed out a window of the Lakeside cafeteria, the only one not closed for the season. They turned around and found themselves looking into the faces of two Calfers. Although each of them was carrying an assault rifle, they appeared friendly and they were not pointing their guns.
"Nice spear," said one of them.
"Thanks," said Derek nervously.
"Youre the cub scout leader," said the other, noticing Roms uniform, "I thought you were out of the zoo." This Calfer although friendly, seemed nervous.
"I was," said Rom. "Im looking for my cub pack. You havent seen them, have you?"
"No, and weve been looking."
Here Derek broke in, "Im looking for another kid. Im his father. Im worried about him."
The Calfers looked embarrassed.
"Theres a kid in the snow leopard cage," said the first Calfer sheepishly.
"In a leopard cage," said Derek excitedly.
"Dont worry. There are no leopards in with him," said the other. "Hey, were sorry. We came here because we are for animal rights, not to hurt kids and kill hostages," he went on.
"What do you mean, kill hostages?" Derek asked.
"Forget it. God I wish we were out of here."
"Why dont you just leave?" asked Rom.
The two Calfers exchanged looks with each other.
"It's not that easy anymore," answered the nervous Calfer.
Apparently they had thought about leaving, but something was stopping them. They didnt like it in the zoo, but it was pretty clear to Derek that they were even more frightened at the thought of escaping.
"Come with us. We'll get you out," said Rom good naturedly.
"No. Its OK. We have to do this for the animals. Besides, there are snipers now at all the exits."
The nervous Calfer was eager to end the conversation.
"Look," he said, "We've got to figure out what to do with you. Excuse us for a moment."
Rom and Derek waited while the Calfers moved off to talk. They, after all, had the guns. The Calfers were clearly uncomfortable with the situation and would now and then look around, not to see if Rom and Derek had run off, indeed they almost seemed to hope they would. They were looking instead for other Calfers. Even though they were out of view of the tramway, they still looked up occasionally, as if worried that they were being observed by cameras hidden in trees. In a few moments they reached a decision.
"All right. We havent been ordered to find and bring you in, so go away. Theres bad stuff happening here. Get out if you can. If you cant, just hide out. Now get out of here. Look man, Were really sorry."
Rom and Derek needed no further urging. They set off fast and low to the ground.
"Those guys were scared. Do you know anything about killing hostages?" asked Rom.
"No. Just a figure of speech, hyperbole. I hope."
They were resting in the protection of a grove of trees.
"By the way," said Derek. "So you dont know where your cub scouts are. Doesnt the scout law say something about being truthful?"
Rom thought a little, running the scout law through his head. "No. Thats funny, it doesnt," he said. "Besides, I didnt lie. I just asked if theyd seen them."
"Splitting hairs, I think," said Derek. "Come on. Weve got to find the snow leopard cage."
"Its back near the World of Darkness. Let's go. I don't want to leave my scouts alone too long," said Rom, "Gosh. I wonder where there uniforms are."
They had traveled that terrain before and the return trip had no surprises. It was disconcerting doing it in bright sunlight, but they didnt encounter anyone. That was actually not as a result of their stealth but the result of everyone being wanted at Zoo Center for a show of solidarity at the 9:00 AM broadcast.
"Careful," warned Rom as they were about to emerge from the undergrowth at the front of the snow leopard cage. They got down and crawled forward. Derek looked and got a dizzy feeling of surrealism. There, in front of the cage was a snow leopard looking in. Apparently, he had enough of freedom, and wanted to go home to his cage. The cage was occupied however. Jeffrey was safe inside, looking admiringly back at the leopard.
Rom crawled out next, and amused by the sight, he laughed. The leopard looked up at the sound, gave them an annoyed look, and ran off.
"Its safe to go in close," said Rom. "The tramway cant see us here. Go on. Im going to nose around and see if there is a way to get him out."
Derek went to his son, while Rom melted back into the bush.
The snow leopard habitat was a mix of old style and new style zoo architecture. The leopards lived on natural ground and there was an artificial cave that the leopard could use as a den. On the other hand, the habitat was surrounded by old fashioned, prison style, bars. Rom circumnavigated the enclosure and found that the keeper access door was locked, and the only way in or out was by going over the 10 foot barred fence. Rom joined Derek and nodded his head, No.
"Hello Mr. Haldane. Did you find Kit and the others yet?" asked Jeffrey.
"I'm not precisely sure where they are now," said Rom, skirting the truth, figuring that the less the kid knew, the less trouble hed be in.
"Well, I hope you find them."
"What are you doing in there?" asked Rom lightly,
"They said I was bad and Im being punished," explained Jeffrey.
Rom nodded in sympathy.
"Get me out of here."
"We will," said Derek.
"Get me out of here now," said Jeffrey raising his voice.
"Hey. Keep it down," whispered Derek.
"We cant get you out now," explained Rom softly, "Unless we have an elephant stampede to knock down the fence, well have to wait until after dark before we can pull you out over the top,"
"Whats wrong with the idea of an elephant stampede?" Jeffrey asked.
"The elephants are locked in too. We cant get them out either," answered Rom conspiratorially.
"Oh.," said Jeffrey sadly.
"Did they feed you?" asked Derek.
"Yeah, hard rolls and water. and someone threw me a candy bar from a zoo cart. I dont think they plan to feed me again until they let me out tomorrow morning. One of the Calfers, a really nice guy, is going to smuggle some food to me later, though."
"Good, but weve got to go now so that they dont catch us," said Rom. "Well be back later."
As they turned to go, Derek remembering the jacket turned back to the cage.
"Here. Take your jacket. The TVs in the pocket. Im afraid the batteries are starting to run down. You should be able to use it for a few more hours." Derek passed the jacket through the bars. "It might be good to keep your jacket in that den. Its best if nobody knows we were here."
"I really hate Mr. Cave," said Jeffrey.
"Is that why you have the spear? to kill him?"
Derek laughed softly. "No. I dont think so."
Behind the laughter, Derek considered Jeffreys question more thoroughly. He actually didnt hate Joshua. That was hard to without knowing him better. Jack though was another matter. It was Jack that lost his temper with Jeffrey. It was Jack that wielded the strap. Did he want to kill Jack? He played with the idea and was disturbed that here among the animals, and the nyala carcasses and with the absence of newspapers, the idea of killing did not seem quite so morally abhorrent anymore. He didnt want to want to kill. He played with other images and decided it would be better not to kill Jack, but instead to spear him through the hand and transfix him to a tree.
"We've got to go. I'll see you later, today later," said Derek, "Bye, Jeffrey."
"See you, Derek," said Jeffrey putting on a brave face as Rom and his father ran back into the bush.
"Whats the matter?" Rom asked observing Derek in thought.
"Nothing. Its just that I think Jeffrey is handling this situation better than I am. Hes in there and I cant rescue him."
"Hes a good kid," said Rom. "Hell wait. Well spring him tonight. Meanwhile, let's go steal some food. Jeffrey could use some, and so could my scouts."
"Your kids must be pretty hungry by now."
"No," said Rom. "They stumbled on a load of snack cakes and have eaten themselves sick."
"Man does not live by snack cakes alone, eh?"
"Yeah, and they need clothing too."
Back at Zoo Center, Brian invited Evan in to his room to unwind and for some conversation after his bat ordeal. Since Evan had not been a CALF officer, he didnt have a room of his own and had to bunk in a communal dormitory. This was a strain on Evan, an only child and solitary by nature, who had to expend emotional energy to maintain his zone of privacy in the rough and tumble of the dorm.
"Hes crazy you know," said Evan
"No, hes rich. That makes him eccentric, not crazy," said Brian, but he saw that Evan was not in any mood for jokes.
"Im sorry about this," Brian said. "There was nothing I could do."
"I know, but how could this happen? Were animal rights activists, not animals."
"Its gone wrong, hasnt it?" said Brian.
"I guess," said Evan. "You know, when I was a kid, about the same age as those cub scouts or maybe even a little younger, I lived near a zoo. Every day, going and coming from school, I cut through the zoo as a short cut. Zoos were free then."
Brian didnt know where this was going, but he paid attention and let his old friend talk on.
"Id stop in the lion house and go to the Golden Cats cage."
"Whats a Golden Cat?" asked Brian.
"The Golden Cat, Felis Temekki. Its one of the lesser cats. You know, like a serval or carracal, but a little smaller. It has beautiful golden fur, something like a mountain lions. Anyway, I thought this was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. I started to worship it."
Evan saw Brian crack a smile.
"Really," said Evan. "I worshipped it as a god. I made up prayers for it. I asked it to intercede for me with the universe, and I offered it sympathy for its captivity. My family wasnt religious, so this was the only god I had. It still is. Not that I believe its a god anymore, but I pretend it is. Brian, Ive never told anyone about this before and Im not sure why Im telling you now. You think Im nuts, dont you?"
Brian nodded No, while Evan talked on.
"You see, my animal activism is sort of a religious activity for me, a way of keeping faith with myself, who I am. And now its gone bad." Evan who was really sort of talking to himself looked at Brian.
"Do you understand what Im saying?" asked Evan.
"Yeah," said Brian.
"Brian," Evan said pleadingly, "Ive got to get out of here."
"I dont know how. Evan, were trapped here, all of us. Anyway, a lot of this is my fault and I feel Ive got to stay around to the end, to see how it all plays out. Im not the president anymore but I cant run out on the others, or the cause, if there still even is a cause."
Evan pondered this in silence for a while and then stood up to release some nervous energy.
"Brian. Weve been friends for a long time. If you cant go, then I wont go. Ill stay here with you," said Evan, "But Ive got to do something, even if its only a gesture."
They spent the next hour trying to figure out some kind of a protest gesture. The first idea was to tear down the zoo perimeter fence on the Pelham Parkway side. That was too ambitious. The next idea was less ambitious but still difficult. They continued planning and scaling down their schemes until they came up with the idea of removing the cartridges from all the assault rifles in the zoo. That scheme too was discarded as too hard and too dangerous. Finally, Evan decided his gesture would be small and private. He would remove the shells from Jacks rifle. It was a very small gesture indeed since Jack never fired his rifle, but it was something.