Chapter 20 Wednesday, 1130 hours (11:30 AM)
The hostage to be released and Jack, carrying a shoulder bag, walked slowly toward the pedestrian zoo entrance on the Southern Boulevard side of the park. It was not the closest entrance to Zoo Central, but it was the one that Joshua felt he could most easily manage. There was good cover for the snipers on the hill overlooking the entrance. They were hidden among the gray rock bluffs and evergreen trees. And since it was only a pedestrian entrance, it would be difficult for the authorities to hide an invasion team in vehicles. Jack was wearing his sidearm, but had left his rifle. He felt exposed without his rifle.
The negotiator, was waiting for them at the entrance but so as not to make the approaching terrorist nervous, he stood a good 12 feet from the gate. There was a rolling cart next to him which presumably contained the TV sets and Croissants. About another 20 feet back, were a group of civilians, and in back of them was the police line. The street was cordoned off for the event. Police cars, their lights flashing, blocked traffic in both directions. Further back still, were television satellite up-link trucks, and there were reporters everywhere. Operation Zoo was becoming a major news story. This was helped of course by the fact that people could tune in themselves to the rogue TV transmissions to get Joshuas broadcasts at the same time the police did, and follow the state of the negotiations directly. The viewership was off the scale. The network officials knew it, and wished they could have sold advertising for CALF TV.
Jack, edgy and suspicious, eyed the rolling cart and decided it wasnt large enough to hide a police gunman.
"Hi. Im George. Are you Joshua?" asked the negotiator, shouting over the street noise.
"No, Im, ur, someone else," said Jack. Even though he knew the police had doubtlessly by now a photo dossier on anyone even remotely connected with Operation Zoo, he instinctively avoided giving his name to anyone in authority. Jack unlocked the padlock and removed the chain. He paused, irrationally worried that George might rush the gate.
"You know that we have you covered by snipers with high power rifles," said Jack
"Of course, Id do the same myself," said George pleasantly.
Jack opened the gate, and stood aside while the hostage, with as much dignity as he could muster, walked out of his captivity. His gait increased in speed until, when he reached the police line, his walk was indistinguishable from a run.
"OK, Lets get this over with," said Jack. "Push the cart towards me."
George moved behind the cart and slowly pushed it toward the entrance. Jack wished he had brought someone else with him since now he had to divert his attention to the task of bringing in the cart. When George had maneuvered it so that its front wheels were at the entrance, he let go and waited while Jack pulled it through. George was now closer to the entrance than he was before, trying to establish some kind of personal connection with Jack.
"Those croissants smell good," said George.
Jack laughed at the sheer banality of the remark.
"Yes they do," said Jack noticing that the fresh bread smell in the morning air was compelling, and he had not yet eaten.
Smell is a primitive and powerful stimulus, and the aroma brought back memories of a more pleasant time. Jack caught himself before the full onset of nostalgia, and willed himself back to his usual brittleness.
"I have videocassettes for the Network news guys. Where are they?" he asked.
George nodded to three of the civilians inside the police lines and they came forward. From his shoulder bag, Jack extracted two tapes for each of them, copies of both Brians footage and his assistants. Brian would have liked to edit them together for best effect and was professionally irked at having to hand over unfinished work, but there had been no time.
The network executives, who actually were newsmen, tried to pump Jack for information. They were firm jawed and intent, conscious of their TV images that were being captured by the cameras on their respective network trucks.
"No questions, Just look at the tapes," growled Jack
George waited until the news people had gone their way and then slowly, so as not to worry the snipers who doubtless had him in their sights, took a sealed letter out of an outside pocket.
"I have a personal letter for Joshua," he said. "Could you get it to him?"
Jack shrugged and took the letter. Now with the transactions at an end, Jack re-closed and padlocked the gate. He turned his back on George and the others and wheeled the cart back into the quiet zoo, toward Zoo Central. He breathed a sigh of relief. It was over and the snipers who were there mainly to protect Jack from any marauding cats, didnt have to shoot anything. Thats all he needed, a shot to have been fired. It could have set off a full scale, bloody massacre, especially if a stray bullet happened to hit one of Joshuas Operation Wildfire elephant shit bombs.
Jack increased his pace. The rattling of the dishes on the cart grew louder. The croissants really did smell good.
There was trouble in the Ministry of Information, the little office of propaganda. The two Calfers who staffed it were growing increasingly important. Since during waking hours they were always at their desks and phones, and since there were no newspapers and very few radios in the zoo, they were the most dependable source of information. They were also constantly cheerful and fun to talk to.
But now that Jack had given out the tapes of Steiner being mangled, it would be difficult to portray Operation Zoo as a simple student protest. The two of them in the Ministry would now have to slant the take over as an unpleasant but necessary act, committed by heroic students who were willing to give up their lives, if necessary, for the cause. This task, difficult as it was, was made even harder by divisions between the two information officers. One, a militant hard liner, thought the Steiner killing was a watershed event for animal rights, and was proud of his part in it. The other, an animal rights activist because it fit in with his general pacific philosophy, was deeply ashamed. They had been friends, the two of them, but now they looked on each other as strangers, worse than strangers. There was nothing they could do about the situation except call in Joshua.
Joshua next door, preparing for his noon broadcast, didnt really want to deal with this now, but the Information Officers, propaganda purveyors, performed a crucial function. Joshua stormed over to the next office, but before going in, stopped to give his smile time to develop. He would get those sincere students to do their duty. They would most sincerely explain things to the world whether they believed what they were saying or not.
It wasn't to be that simple. Each of the Calfers had talked to his like minded friends, a lot of friends, and Joshua realized that a schism might well be developing among the membership. He could not heal the schism but he was sure he could delay it until the conclusion of Operation Zoo, the Armageddon. He needed the appearance of unity. Otherwise there would be no history. History demanded a simple and unified theme. If a schism brought down Operation Zoo there would be nothing. Joshua would age whereas with history he would stay as he was now, strong and vital. Kennedy was still regarded as a young man, Hitler also, even though they would be in their eighties or over a hundred years old in Hitlers case. It was a kind of immortality that Joshua wanted. Now that he had committed the irreversible act, the murder, all that was left for him was a fiery apocalypse, and history.
Joshua listened to both sides and appeared to be seriously considering their points of view. He asked them questions, and nodded sympathetically to their responses. It was like being back on the campaign trail.
Joshua gave them time and at the end, promised hed work hard on a solution and further promised them that by the next morning, he would have a solution that both of them would like. Such was Joshuas skill, that he had them fully believing in him. In any case, Joshuas information officers would keep working hard for the cause. Each though, would slant his phone discussions based on his individual convictions, but it wouldnt matter. Unity would be preserved. Joshua patted each on the shoulder, expressed his great confidence in each, and left the room.
In the hall, on the way back to work on his noon broadcast now only fifteen minutes away, he ran into Jack who was chewing on a fresh croissant.
"Smells good," said Joshua.
Jack grunted. He was never much for conversation.
"Your friend George gave me this letter for you," he said, handing over the envelope.
Joshua stuffed it in his jacket pocket since he didnt want to read it in front of Jack and have to take time to explain it. Besides, he was pretty sure he knew its contents. He thanked Jack, and continued walking down the hall. Joshua didn't stop at the broadcast room. Curiosity got the best of him so he continued to the next door down, and on into an empty office. He pulled out the envelope, ripped it open, and read.
We have been negotiating a serious situation together, and I feel I know you enough to send you this private letter. No one needs to know that this letter was ever written.
Things are getting serious but no one has been hurt yet. This is a situation where people could be injured or even killed. I dont want that and Im sure you dont either. Lets end this together. Since nobody has been hurt and property damage has not been heavy, Im sure the police will go easy on you, especially if you are the one bringing the crisis to a close.
I understand that you may not be able to help me in this without losing support of the others in your group, so let me suggest something. If during your noon or 6 PM telecast, you use the phrase, "We have sacrificed much" Ill understand that to mean you will manage not to guard the Fordham Road side of the Zoo around 7 AM. Well then send in some of our people to bring this crisis to an end. Please help me with this as we dont want to see this turn into a blood bath.
"A blood bath?" laughed Joshua silently. He crumpled up the letter and tossed it in a wastebasket. He turned toward the door, paused, and returned to fish the letter back out of the trash. "We have sacrificed much," he said reading the letter. Again he crumpled and tossed the letter. Now he had to hurry since the broadcast was in under five minutes. No time to prepare. Hed have to wing it.
At the start of the show, Joshua stated matter of factly that they had to sacrifice their first hostage. It had to be done since the authorities were not negotiating in good faith. Joshua was sitting comfortably at his desk, empty save for the phone. Again he was flanked by Jack and a few other Calfers carrying AK-47s for effect. Wolf was sleeping in front of the desk. Except for the words themselves, all seemed controlled and calm. Joshua went on to say softly that should the police try to storm the zoo, all the hostages, men women and children, would be gunned down. Joshua then asked that the Steiner tape be run.
Brian did a fade to black while another techie switched to the videotape. Brian, analytically watching the tape on a technicians monitor wished again that he had had time to edit the footage. When the tape ended, Brian faded in to a cameo shot of Joshua, the desk, Jack and Wolf, and slowly zoomed in for a head and shoulder shot. Awkwardly then, since it was apparent that Joshua wasnt about to say anything, Brian pulled the view back out again, zoomed in on the phone, and held there. After the drama of the Steiner footage, their really wasnt anything that could be said, nor shown. They each in their way were preoccupied with the polar bear footage, Joshua replaying it in his mind for pleasure while Brian was trying to figure out how to cope with it.
The ringing of the phone brought them both to attention. Joshuas hand came into the cameras field of view to punch the speaker button and Brian pulled the zoom back to a medium shot showing Joshua and the desk.
"You didnt have to do it," said George. "Why did you do it?"
"It was necessary," answered Joshua. "Our demands had not been met."
"Hasnt this gone on long enough. Look youve proved your point. Give it up."
"Not yet," said Joshua. "Are our demands going to be met or not?"
"Were working on it, but lets stop it now, before it gets completely out of control. Im sure neither of us want to see a blood bath," said George.
"CALF has shown what were willing to do for our beliefs. We have sacrificed much," said Joshua. "We have sacrificed much," he repeated.
There was another pause as George digested this unexpected information.
"I understand," he said. "Try to keep things cool. Ill see where we are with your demands, and Ill talk to you again during your 6 oclock broadcast."
Joshua ended the conversation cordially, hung up the line, and faced the camera.
"We are doing this for the other creatures with whom we share this planet. Remember us," he said. Brian dollied in quickly to a shot of Joshuas face. He zoomed in slowly to those deep determined eyes, and held the shot until Joshua gave him a hand signal to indicate that the broadcast was at an end.
About fifteen minutes later, while Joshua was still in the broadcast room talking with Jack, he got another visit from his information officers. At first he thought that there had been another flair up in their disagreement, but it wasnt. Their phones had gone dead. They could not do their work of disseminating the CALF ideals to the world. Joshua picked up his phone from the desk. There was no dial tone. Instead he got a receptionist.
"47th precinct," she said.
Joshua hung up. So there were no phones, except this one apparently, and it was connected directly to the police station; a little harassment to show official displeasure. If that was the worse they could do, CALF had gotten off easy. If hed been in charge, hed have turned off the water and electricity as well. The hell with the animals in their electrically controlled habitats.
Joshua sent the information officers back to their posts to continue with what had been developing into their principal function anyway, namely keeping the membership informed and happy. The membership wouldnt be happy about the loss of free long distance phones, though. It was one of their two Operation Zoo percs, phones and good food.
Joshua followed his information officers out of the broadcast room. He returned to his office to plan, on his way muttering under his breath, "We have sacrificed much. We have sacrificed much."