Go to beginning of the book Brian and Evan watch Joshua die.Derek rushes out to try to save Kit.Rom finds his cub pack with Jeffrey in the Snow Leopard enclosure. Kit has a final encounter with Joshua.To save Derek and Kit, Jack shoots Joshua.Joshua takes Kit to a place of death, and there is death.Quotation: It is a foolish sheep that makes the wolf his confessor. - John RayGo to chapter 28 in the Novel ViewGo to chapter 30 in the Novel View

Chapter 29 Wednesday, 2000 hours (8 PM)

Joshua picked up his briefcase and the rope, and led Kit to the door. His briefcase was empty save for the roll of duct tape, and a set of handcuffs.

"Come along, Cat," said Joshua. " We’re going on a ride in a zoo cart to the tramway. You’re going to get to ride the SkySafari again."

"Neat," said Kit. "How many times?" he asked.

"As many times as you want, until you tell me you’ve had enough." answered Joshua.

"I’ll never get enough. I love that tramway. But at night? It’s sort of spooky," said Kit.

"Are you afraid?"

"Naa," said Kit with a touch of nervousness.

They went out the rear of Zoo Center to a zoo cart. Kit was excited, and so was Joshua. He was excited about his plan and thought of another aspect of it that he should document before he forgot it. Out of habit, he reached for his scheduler and then suddenly remembered he’d left it on his desk. Although he felt naked without his little diary, he did not want to go back for it. His excitement was growing in anticipation of what he was about to do, and he didn’t want to break his mood. He’d just have to remember his thoughts and write them down for posterity later.

The sky had cleared some and the dark was broken by moonlight. Joshua would rather there had been no moon that night, but from the look of the sky it would only be an hour or less before clouds came in and made the night truly dark. Joshua got in on the driver’s side and Kit on the other. They moved more rapidly than they might since they heard the growl of an animal and it seemed dangerously close. Joshua switched on the quiet battery powered vehicle and they glided down the path. Kit stared silently out the window, looking for lions in the pale white moonlight.

Joshua was silent also as he was running his plan over and over in his mind. It was the ultimate gesture, the ultimate irreversible act, the ultimate act of desolation. It was logistically difficult but the imagery was compelling. In the early light of morning, while the zoo would still be in darkness, the first oblique rays of the sun would illuminate the tramway. There, swinging slowly on a rope tied to a gondola, a stationary gondola in the middle of its course, would be the boy’s body, a cub scout in his full blue uniform with the yellow piping. He would be swinging there, executed, hung by the neck, hideously dead. That sight would signal the apocalypse; The police attacking with full fury, CALF futilely resisting. Everything would be in flames. Everyone would die. Well not everyone. Joshua had decided to use the raft fate had provided him. He would be the immortal. He was beginning to feel immortal already.

Time was slowing down. He had run through his plan two or three times and yet they had not quite left the pathway circling Zoo Center. He realized he was driving the little cart very slowly, to give him more time to savor the impending hanging. Kit was busy looking out the window. Joshua ran through the plan again, this time thinking on the difficulties. How, carrying a rope, could he get a kicking boy and himself onto the moving gondola. How would he avoid having the hanging rope get entangled in the tramway mechanism as the gondola went around the terminus. He could kill the boy first of course. It would be easier boarding the gondola carrying an inert burden, but the symbolism would be lost.

While he was driving, Joshua kept part of his attention on the tramway’s single gondola, moving slowly back and forth over the zoo. Even at night the gondola sometimes was visible by reflected light from the ground while at other times in its course it appeared as a black void against the sky. Joshua could see it now. Then, quite suddenly, the gondola stopped in its course, and the zoo became yet darker than before. Even though it was at night and the zoo was closed, there were small dim lights everywhere. These were little purple or deep red warning lights on utility poles, or green glowing lamps indicating the location of public phones. There was also the diffuse light coming from cracks and little windows in the habitat buildings. There was stronger light also, emanating from the windows of CALF occupied buildings. These lights were suddenly no more and the zoo was black. Kit noticed it too.

"What happened?" asked Kit.

"The power’s been cut," answered Joshua.

"Oh Rats," said Kit. "This means the tramway won’t be working either."

Joshua stopped the cart and fumed. The police had cut the power of course. As a final harassment before their morning invasion, they had done yet one more thing to make the occupiers nervous. They probably figured that the climate controlled habitats could do without power over night. Natural outages had certainly occurred from time to time and the animals probably survived. But now they had interfered with his plan. He needed that tramway. While Kit peered out into the darkness, Joshua despaired. Then he laughed, drawing Kit’s attention.

"What’s funny?" Kit asked.

"The SkySafari has its own emergency generator," said Joshua. "You can go on your ride after all."

"Oh, Neat," said Kit excitedly. The prospect of taking his tram rides in pitch blackness was firing his imagination. "What if we got stuck up there. That would be really scary," he said.

"It would be really scary," echoed Joshua trancelike.

Joshua started up the cart again and proceeded on the long voyage, while Kit kept a running commentary.

Leaning against a tree, Jack watched the cart drive off. After he’d been dismissed from Joshua’s room he decided, just to be safe, to keep an eye on things. When Joshua went out with Kit to the cart, Jack followed. He had his rifle with him. Driving as slowly as Joshua was, Jack had no problem following the cart on foot. He assumed they were driving toward the SkySafari. Jack followed the cart but from time-to-time looked up at the tramway's single gondola, moving slowly back and forth over the zoo. Jack was glancing at it when, quite suddenly, the gondola stopped in its course, and the zoo became yet darker than before.

Jack was acutely aware of the electricity being cut off. Now except for the headlights of the cart, he had no points of light as a reference. He had only the path under his feet. And now, Jack didn't know where the cart was going. With the power out, there'd be no reason for Joshua and Kit to go to the SkySafari.

When Joshua's cart stopped, Jack dodged off the path taking advantage of a small copse of trees for cover. When the cart started off again, Jack pushed himself off from the tree. A low growl however, froze him in his tracks. He turned around slowly and came almost eye to eye with a snow leopard lounging on a limb of the same tree. The leopard looked not so much angry, as annoyed that his rest had been disturbed. The leopard growled again while Jack considered his side arm. His rifle was leaning against a tree but he might be able to use his Lugar. He was afraid to move and reach for it though. While the diffuse light from the cart’s headlights faded to darkness as the cart moved away, Jack and the leopard silently eyed each other. At last, with the darkness becoming near total, at least to Jack, the leopard leapt down from the limb and padded off into the undergrowth.

Jack turned toward where the cart had been and set out in pursuit. No sooner had he started when his foot caught in a root and he fell awkwardly to the ground, badly spraining his ankle. He stifled his cry of pain and sat up. He tried to stand but found he couldn’t put any weight on the ankle. He stayed leaning against the tree, all weight on one leg, until the pain subsided enough that he could hobble off after the cart, using his rifle as a crutch.

The crutch was dangerous. With each step, he thumped the stock to the ground and leaned heavily on the end of the barrel. It would have been less dangerous to have the barrel pushed to the ground, but that would have filled it with dirt. Jack had a hazy feeling that he might need the rifle for something other that a crutch. Still, it was unnerving to think that with every thump, the rifle might fire and blow his head off.

It was dark and Jack had only a vague idea which way the cart had gone. He was lost, but he struggled on, hoping he would somehow pick up the trail again.

Oblivious to Jack’s problems, Joshua drove on. At last, as the cart was passing through the dark traverse of the polar bear area, Joshua turned off the engine.

"What did we stop here for?" asked Kit looking up innocently.

Joshua didn’t answer him.

"Why are you looking at me that way?" asked Kit.

"Please start the cart and let’s go to the tramway," said Kit in a shaky voice.

Joshua still didn’t answer. Instead he opened his briefcase and took out the handcuffs. Then, quicker than Kit could imagine Joshua moving, he swept Kit over his knee and pinned his arms behind his back. Kit screamed as Joshua fastened on the handcuffs. Joshua let go and Kit sat bolt upright with his hands cuffed behind his back. Kit’s mouth was opened but no words came out. His eyes were wide with fear and surprise. Joshua started the engine again and set the cart moving toward the tramway. He was still driving slowly, this time to absorb Kit’s fear, to feel it and enjoy it.

"What are you going to do to me?" asked Kit when he was finally able to speak.

"Take you on a tramway ride," answered Joshua.

"Please don’t hurt me," cried Kit with tears starting to roll down his face.

Joshua didn’t answer.

"Please," Kit implored.

Joshua still made no sound. Kit, eyes still wide with fear, looked hard at Joshua, then turned his head out the cart window and started screaming at the top of his voice.

Joshua was rattled and at first didn’t know what to do. Then remembering, he reached into his briefcase and pulled out the gray duct tape. He unwrapped the roll and ripped off an eight inch strip. He tried to force Kit’s head around so he could put the strip over his mouth but in the struggle the tape twisted, got tangled and was useless. Joshua cursed and tore off another strip, this time tacking it to the windshield so he could use both hands to pull Kit’s head into the car and hold him while affixing the tape. Kit stretched his head backwards as Joshua came at him with the tape. Then suddenly he leaned his head forward and bit Joshua’s hand at the fleshy region between thumb and forefinger. He bit down hard and held on even as Joshua cried out in pain and reflexively pulled back his hand. Joshua cried out even louder as Kit’s clenched teeth raked and tore open the flesh. Before Joshua could do anything else, Kit pushed down on the door latch with his knee, kicked open the door, and ran for his life.

Kit hit the ground a little off balance and tried to regain it by running. He could not, not with his hands cuffed behind his back. He had no sooner run off the path and into the undergrowth when he fell forward twisting as he did so in order that he not hit his head in the fall. He let out a cry of pain as his shoulder got the full brunt of the impact. He rolled and, being thin and having the flexibility only kids have, managed to bring his arms under his seat and wiggle his legs through. He was still handcuffed, but now his arms were in front of his body, not behind, and he could use them for balance and scrambling. The fall had cost him time though, five or ten seconds at least. This gave Joshua the opportunity to staunch the blood from Kit’s bite with his handkerchief and take off after the boy. The handcuffs were still slowing Kit down since with his hands bound together, he could not take long strides. With only a second or two from being caught, Kit lit off sideways into a little culvert behind the polar bear enclosure. He spread himself prone in the dense, unkempt growth that was out of normal public view. He tried to keep his breathing shallow and he hoped the pounding of his heart couldn’t be heard in the silent zoo.

Joshua entered the dark culvert. It was dark indeed as a cloud now covered the moon, and Joshua could see no sign of Kit. He knew he was in there though, and there was no exit. The only way out was exactly where Joshua was standing. Kit could also get out by running directly up the back of the culvert, but that would take him to a service walk overlooking the polar bear enclosure and the only way out from there would be by jumping the thirty feet or so down into the enclosure proper. Kit was trapped. All Joshua had to do was be careful.

Joshua waited for the cloud to drift off. Then in the bright moonlight, he walked slowly into the culvert, making sure that he kept an eye on the way he came. Joshua, though not much of an athlete, was still confident that he could outrun a little, scared, handcuffed ten year old. He walked silently, listening for any sound. He knew Kit would be breathing heavily and he tried to listen for it. He stopped to listen but heard nothing except the occasional cry of a distant animal. Joshua walked again, calmly and quietly, as an apparition in the moonlight. Then almost in front of him there was a flurry of motion as Kit panicked at Joshua’s approach. With nowhere else to go, Kit, wheezing from effort and fear, ran clumsily up the rear hill, up to the service walk overlook. He was instinctively running for high ground, but he was as high up as he could go. He saw nothing ahead except the fall off into the bear enclosure.

"Now I’ve got him," thought Joshua as he walked steadily up the hill. He could afford to walk now, since Kit had no avenue of escape. He reached the summit and the service walk. Kit was there, outlined against the dark sky, leaning against the railing. The other side of the railing had a few feet of grassy knoll and then a sharp drop off, below which was the concrete floor and pond of the polar bear habitat. Kit was about ten yards away. Joshua approached slowly, not wanting to spook the boy into going under the railing and falling in with the bears. That would spoil all his work and cheat him of his grand gesture.

"Come on Cat," said Joshua softly, as if trying to calm a dog. "It will be better if you just come with me."

"Keep away from me. I don’t want to go with you," cried Kit.

Kit looked about to panic again, so Joshua stopped and waited. Waiting was his advantage since patience is not a virtue of young boys. They stared at each other through the darkness.

"What do you want? Why are you doing this to me?" shouted Kit.

"I want you to fly," answered Joshua starting slowly toward Kit once more.

"You’re crazy," shouted Kit as he darted under the railing. Now there were just a few treacherous feet between Kit and the drop off. Joshua stopped again. Kit moved parallel to the railing, until he was stopped by the wall, shaped by the habitat designers as a jutting iceberg. Kit backed against the iceberg, trying to wedge himself in.

"Why are you doing this," cried Kit in frustration. "I just want to go home."

Joshua climbed over the railing and moved slowly toward Kit. Dressed as he was, entirely in white, Joshua looked like a ghost in the pale light. Joshua continued forward and twisted his foot on a rock. He lost his balance and almost fell over the edge. Kit from his rock saw this and thought he should run out and butt Joshua in the head. Kit visualized Joshua falling, and for a brief moment, the wish felt like the execution. Kit returned to reality when Joshua regained his footing and started toward him again, this time with a slight limp.

When he got to within a few feet from Kit, Joshua put out his arms to the boy.

"I’ll take you home," said Joshua.

Neither Kit nor Joshua were aware of another figure coming up from the culvert.

"Keep your filthy hands off him," shouted Derek thrusting his spear through the railing at Joshua.

Joshua turned in surprise at the voice.

"My god," said Joshua, "I didn’t even hear you come."

As angry as Derek was, a small part of his mind registered Joshua’s comment as a compliment. Over the past day or two, Derek had learned stealth. Rom would be proud.

Derek, it turned out, had heard Kit’s scream from the leopard cage, not very far from where they were now, and had come spear in hand to investigate.

"Get away from him, Now!" said Derek menacing Joshua with his key pointed spear.

Joshua’s look of startled surprise turned slowly to a smile as he dropped his arms to his side. The three of them each stopped, even froze for a moment, and took in the situation. Then smoothly and very fast, Joshua unsnapped and drew his side arm. He leveled the gun at Derek.

"I’d say a nine millimeter Lugar trumps a spear, don’t you think?" he said.

Jack, limping from his injured ankle, was desperately trying to find Joshua in his cart when he heard a scream. It had to be Kit. Though his eyes were almost useless in the dark, his ears were not. Kit’s scream provided the navigation beacon he needed. He ignored the searing pain in his ankle and ran through the undergrowth toward the sound. He broke into the open and saw a tableau on a cliff overlooking the polar bear den. Joshua, a ghostly figure in white, was pointing a gun at someone, someone he couldn’t make out. Then he saw the other little figure. That would be Kit. Even at that distance, Jack could see that Kit was traumatized with fear.

A cloud drifted from in front of the moon, and Jack looked back at the other two. There could be no doubt. It was Derek, Jeffrey's father, in the sights of Joshua's gun.

Jack shifted his weight back to both feet, ignoring the searing pain in his ankle. Joshua, in white, provided an easy target in the moonlight. Jack raised his rifle, aimed and fired. The rifle did not fire.

"God damn," muttered Jack.

On the cliff, Joshua leveled his gun at Derek’s chest, and then the shot rang out. Joshua jolted as if from the recoil from firing his weapon. Joshua’s smile though, turned to a look of puzzlement as he did not in fact fire his weapon. He himself had been shot. The shell did not penetrate since Joshua was wearing his bulletproof vest. However, the force of the shell knocked him off balance. He tried to regain his footing but could not. Moving in what appeared to be slow motion, Joshua tried to shift his weight backwards, attempting to fall backwards onto the grass. He failed. Struggling for purchase all the while, he slipped off the edge, and pivoted over into the void, thirty feet above the floor of the bear den. He fell screaming but as luck would have it, hit not the concrete floor, but splashed like a plane in the sea, into the deepest part of the polar bear pool.

Joshua was the son of a naval officer, and it was his filial duty to be a powerful swimmer. He surfaced from the fall, and struck out with strong strokes for the concrete shore. His breathing was labored and he made gasping sounds whenever his mouth came above the surface. He was taking in a lot of water, and coughed as he swam. It was only panic that kept him going. He had to get out of the water, or he’d freeze. He struggled to the water’s edge. Then, shivering from the cold and gasping for breath, he pulled himself out of the pool and lay wheezing on the concrete. He had however, drawn the attention of the bears. Two of the beasts, ghostly in the moonlight, ambled toward him. Joshua, prone on the concrete, looked up and saw the huge beasts coming noiselessly towards him. He remembered what the bears had done to Andrew Steiner and forced himself to his feet. Even though they were moving slowly, the bears were getting close. Joshua started to run. He tried to keep the pool between himself and the bears. The bears started to run so Joshua had to run faster. Polar bears though, are skillful hunters. One of them held up while the other chased Joshua around the irregularly shaped pond. Joshua paused for a moment, trying to think what to do, and was seized in the powerful jaws of the running polar bear. The bear’s teeth could not penetrate the Kevlar of course, but the mouth could crush. Joshua screamed as the bear bit down. The other bear meanwhile, had also run over, and had used its teeth on a part of Joshua not protected by the vest. Joshua’s agonized screaming continued until the first bear’s jaws collapsed Joshua’s rib cage. He lived a few seconds more, and was even alive as the bears started feeding. Joshua’s spotless whites were becoming stained with growing blotches of dark, damp, red.

This was witnessed from the cliff above, by Kit, Derek, and Jack who as it turned out had fired the shot that brought Joshua down. He fired it with his side arm, not his empty rifle. It was a lucky shot. His hand gun at that distance, was neither accurate nor powerful. The shell had hit well however, and with just enough kick to throw Joshua’s balance off a little.

"Bears two. Humans nil," said Kit looking down at the ghostly carnage.

Derek noticed Jack’s pained limping and lent him his spear as a crutch. Jack had thrown away his rifle in disgust after it had failed to fire.

Derek turned his attention to Kit.

"Come away Cat," said Derek gently, urging the boy away from the precipice. Kit crawled back under the railing, his handcuffs clanking on the metal as he slid under. As the shock of the situation started to subside, Kit began to shiver, and he started to cry softly. Derek scooped him up, hugged him tightly and started back down the hill. He was struck by how light the boy was.

Jack stayed for a moment looking down at the ghastly scene below. Joshua, his personal demon, was dead and Jack felt that the nasty side of his own nature had died with him.

"Enough," said Jack. He felt the weight of the side arm on his belt. He detached the holster and flung it and the weapon it enveloped out into the darkness. It also landed in the bear pool, and with bubbles of air leaving the leather pouch almost as a last breath, it sunk heavily to the bottom.

Using the spear as a walking stick, Jack limped down the hill after Derek and Kit.

At the bottom of the hill they found Brian and Evan waiting for them. They had decided that they should honor Adam Steiner’s memory with a ceremony at his graveside, the bear den in this case. They went by foot, aware of the danger of carnivores, but that very danger seemed to make the activity more meaningful for them. They arrived at the enclosure to celebrate the man Adam Steiner. Brian thought of him now as his role model and a very close and dear colleague. Intent on their purpose, they didn’t notice that the bears were still toying with the bones of the deceased. They could think of nothing to say so they simply stood, heads bowed. Isolated as they were in the low hollow of the enclosure, and shielded from sound by the rock of the enclosure they heard Kit’s screams only as the distant call of some animal. Brian happened to look upward however. He nudged Evan and they both observed the drama unfold on the high service walk. As they were honoring Steiner’s memory, they saw his tormentor plummet into the pond, and after he crawled out, witnessed the judgment of the bears.

It took a while for Brian to appreciate that they were dealing with a new and improved Jack. While Derek comforted Kit, Jack walked off with Brian and Evan to apologize and try to make amends. Jack at that point wasn’t particularly coherent since he was himself in delicate emotional condition after having fired a gun at a human being and, albeit indirectly, killed him. Jack as a result, needed comforting almost as much as Kit.

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