Chapter 28 Wednesday, 1820 hours (6:20 PM)
Joshua went to the Broadcast room with a single aim in mind. He latched the door of the now empty room behind him and went over to the phone on the desk. With his finger, he traced the path of the phone line from the phone itself, back down to the plug, then back along the wall until it entered a little hole in the wall. The line along the wall was laid against the molding and had been painted over many times. Joshua took out a little fine bladed penknife and working where it entered the hole, made a tiny cut in the wire. He went back to the phone and as expected found the line dead. There would be no more negotiations, not by Joshua, not by anyone.
Joshua returned to his office in Zoo Center and looked around the room, making sure that everything was in readiness for his expected young visitor. A food platter with luncheon meats, canned soft drinks, and cookies covered his desk. Inconspicuously off to the side was a thirty foot coil of rope. The room lighting was bright and cheerful. Joshua nodded in approval and then remembered a forgotten item. He called down the hall and gave one of his two bodyguards a request to fetch it, and told them that afterwards the both of them could go off duty until morning.
Joshua was edgy with anticipation so, as to have something to occupy his mind, he took out his diary. This would be a good time to describe the ultimate plan, especially as the key element in that plan would soon be delivered to him in this very room. He had to write very small since in a fit of efficiency, he had ripped out the calendar pages for every page past Thursday. He sat at a side table and wrote steadily, describing the plan in full and then continued with a further exposition of his personal beliefs. He was completely engrossed with his work when the knock came at the door.
It was six thirty precisely which meant that it was Jack and the boy. Jack was very punctual, a trait very much approved of by Joshua.
"Come in. Come in," said Joshua as he clipped his pen to the current diary page. He didnt wait for the unlocked door to open but got up to usher in Jack and Kit.
As the door was swung wide, Kit looked up to see Joshua, clad in his usual pure white slacks and white shirt. Joshua was also wearing his most comforting smile. Kit did not know why, but the white attire made him feel a little edgy. Kit looked back at Jack and saw that he appeared edgy also.
Joshua gestured them in, clapped Jack collegially on the shoulder and looked down to his other visitor.
"and you must be Kit," said Joshua.
"Yes sir, but everybody calls me Cat,"
"Cat it is then. Come on in and lets get to know each other," said Joshua.
Although not explicitly invited to stay, Jack sat down. Joshua took that with apparent good grace and the three of them sat down to talk.
"Why dont you get something to eat first young man," said Joshua.
Kit did not need much urging since his meals had been rather irregular of late. Eschewing the cakes and cookies, he made a huge sandwich of cheese and luncheon meats, grabbed a soda can, and, eager to play his part in the surrender of the zoo, took a seat on the couch between Jack and Joshua.
To put the boy at ease Joshua began by chatting about Kits school, his hobbies, his life back home in upstate New York, and then his zoo trip. Jack sat in silence.
"Well. How do you like our zoo?" asked Joshua.
"I like it a lot, sir. Its really great."
"You can call me Joshua."
"What did you like best here at the zoo?" asked Joshua
"The SkySafari tramway. That was neat."
"You liked that did you?"
"Yeah. It was like flying. I wanted to go around, but they made me get off at the other end."
"You like flying then?" said Joshua pursuing a topic that was also one of his passions.
"Yeah. My dads a private pilot. Gee. I wish I could go on the tramway again," said Kit.
"I think we can arrange that," said Joshua, "before we, ah, release you."
Kit liked that, but Jack was perplexed knowing as he did, that the tramway at the moment was only used by CALF snipers. He didnt like the idea of a diversion. Why couldnt just get on with it, tell his story and let the kid go. While Jack wrestled with this, Joshua turned to him.
"Thank you for bringing Cat," he said. "Now Jack, I think you can return to your duties."
"I thought Id stay until you finish and then I could drive Kit to the exit," said Jack.
"Thats not necessary. Ill take Kit out of the zoo. I appreciate your offer, but Im sure you have other things to do."
"Thanks Joshua, but I think Id rather stay here with you guys," said Jack lightly.
"No. I think its best you return to your duties," said Joshua in a tone that admitted no argument, further accentuated by Joshua standing up.
"OK," said Jack trying to keep his misgivings from showing in his voice. "Ill see you guys later," he said walking to the door.
Joshua had barely returned to his seat after letting Jack out when there was a knock at the door.
"Damn, What now," said Joshua angrily as he went to the door.
Kit giggled at the outburst.
"Heres the gray duct tape you asked for," said the Calfer at the door.
Joshua took the small roll, thanked and dismissed his bodyguard, and smiling benignly, came back to Kit.
"I think I understand everything youve told me," said Kit.
"Good," said Joshua looking down at the boy.
"When are you going to let me go?"
"Soon," said Joshua settling back in on the couch.
"Now Cat," he continued, "Tell me about your cub scout troop."
"Its called a pack. What do you want to know?" Kit asked.
"Do you go on camp outs?"
"No. Not real ones. We have to wait until we go in to Boy Scouts before were allowed to do that. We camp out with our parents of course, but thats different," explained Kit.
"Well then," said Joshua slowly, "Do you learn to tie knots?"
"Sure, I know lots of knots, I could show you," said Kit cheerfully.
"Id like that," said Joshua getting up to fetch the coil of rope. He handed the rope to Kit.
"Show me a, lets see, a square knot," said Joshua.
Kit took the two ends of the rope, pursed his lips in concentration, and produced the knot which he held up for Joshuas inspection.
"That looked pretty easy," said Joshua.
"It might look easy," said Kit put out a bit, "but if you tie this loop the other way, you get a granny knot. Thats not a good knot. Its hard to untie. Give me another,"
Joshuas father was a naval officer so Joshua had grown up being shown how to tie knots. Joshua had long forgotten how to tie them, but he remembered their names.
"OK, How about a bowline?"
"Sure. Simple. The king of knots," quoted Kit as he deftly made the knot.
"Here it is, the simple bowline. Theres also the Portuguese bowline, the bowline on a bight, and lots of others. I can tie them too. Do you want to see?" asked Kit proudly.
"No. But lets see. Can you tie a hangmans knot?" asked Joshua.
"Thats not a scout knot," said Kit.
"Then you dont know how to tie it?" said Joshua.
"I can tie it," said Kit. "Ill show you, but its complicated. Its not fast to tie."
"Go ahead," said Joshua. "We have time."
He did indeed have time. There was no one to disturb them and for Joshuas plan to have the best impact he needed it to be dark outside. Kit struggled with the knot that, for some reason, almost every ten year old boy learns to tie and finally held up the heavy loop for Joshuas inspection.
"Very good," said Joshua taking the rope into his hands and looking over the sinister looking noose. "You did that very well indeed, much better than I could possible have tied it."
Kit beamed with pride.
Joshua stood up, still admiring the knot. He recoiled the rope, leaving the hangmans noose intact and put it carefully by the door. He looked at his watch and returned to Kit.
"Lets talk more about CALF," said Joshua, "over some more food, shall we?"
"Weve already done that."
"Youre the important one, the one whos going to tell everybody about us. Im sure you want to know everything," said Joshua.
For the next hour, an interminably long time for a ten year old, Joshua talked. He talked about animal rights, but only briefly. Most of the time he spent in rambling about his life, his beliefs, planes crashing into the water, and immortality. Kit of course, understood none of this, and was getting fidgety. Joshua realized he was doing more than just killing time until it got dark. He was also breathing in Kits vitality, feeding off his youth. Vampire like, he was listening to Kits guileless speech, drinking it in and enjoying the encounter. He almost didnt want the conversation to end, but the boy was getting bored and the sparkling essence of childhood was receding back within him. Finally Joshua looked at his watch and stopped his philosophizing.
"Its time to go now," he said.
Back in the hostage room, Rom was saying the exact same words. He had, at the cost of dulling his Swiss Army Knife, managed to worry loose the windows pull out rod. He turned back to the other hostages to announce his success.
"Hey guys, Ive gotten the window opened," said Rom. "We can all get out now."
Rom was perplexed that his announcement was not met with praise and enthusiasm but instead with diffidence.
"Where would we go?" asked a hostage.
"I dont know about you, but Ive got to find my cub scout pack," answered Rom.
"Didnt you just see lions running around out there?" asked another hostage.
"Just one," said Rom.
"I dont know. I think were safe here, at least until morning," said a hostage.
"I agree. I dont want to do anything that might make them mad. Who knows what they would do," said another.
"I think you should make a run for it," said Rom, "Its better than hanging around and being turned into bear chow or something."
"Its too dangerous," said the first.
"What? More dangerous than being thrown in with polar bears?" asked Rom.
Nobody answered him. Rom was really getting annoyed with their general lack of appreciation.
"Look. You guys could stay together and make a run for the exit," said Rom with a tinge of exasperation in his voice.
"They told us there would be people out there whod shoot us dead if we tried to escape."
"Well, Yeah," said Rom, "Your point?"
That was how it happened that Rom escaped his confinement in the Education Building, alone.