Chapter 6 Monday, 1600 hours (4 PM)
The Bronx Zoo, or more properly, The Wildlife Conservation park, is an educational institution diffused over 265 acres. Now it was actually being invaded, although perhaps it was more like a rental than a conquest. Joshua had posted a large bond and had contributed a substantial amount of money for the privilege of shooting his documentary. Part of the film would show the zoo at dawn. To that end, Joshua had arranged that the film crew be allowed to sleep over. Some would bunk down in the large film trucks while others would use the dormitory in the education building, where school groups often slept over. Joshua had essentially rented an office in the Education Building to use during the shoot. It was from there that he oversaw Operation Zoo.
The park was remarkably easy to take over. During the day, Calfers were everywhere in their guises as enthusiastic video documentarians. At 16 hundred hours, still maintaining their guises, they began to take control of the zoo. They did it politely and by asking. Joshua and Brian walked into the communications office. They said the shoot would be running late, and they would be under the direction of zoo security people until they left in about an hour. The communications staff didnt have to wait. No questions were asked since Joshua had earlier phoned the communications chief and prepared the way. From the roster folders, Joshua knew the names of the communications personnel and more importantly, their direct supervisors. The chief was informed in the name of his bosss boss, that the filming might run late and the documentarians should be accommodated.
From the communications office, the Calfers contacted zoo security and convinced them that the film crew could operate under its own security. The zoo guards could go home. Zoo maintenance would manage the crew departure. Of course, zoo maintenance were contacted that they could leave also. Joshua had performed well with his task of phoning zoo people up by name and telling what their superiors expected of them. He had been successful in phoning each of the swing shift maintenance and security personnel by name. He told some that they should come in two hours late because of a massive water leak. There would be no loss of pay. He told others that they could take the whole day off with pay. All in all, it was a soft, velvet take over where, for a while, only the Calfers and their hostages even knew that an invasion had even occurred.
While this was all happening a zoo train was making a slow circuit of the zoo carrying people who did not yet know they were hostages. The only tricky point was when the soon to be hostages were ushered into the Education Building. At that time, the zoo was not yet under Calfer control. Had the hostages screamed or made a commotion, Operation Zoo might have ended right there. The problem would not have existed if Joshua had not gone off plan. When the hostages-to-be first filed into the Education Building, they should have been told that they were invited to be in the film. They were to be paid 200 dollars a person to be in a scene of the zoo at nightfall. This diversion would have taken about 45 minutes and given time for the zoo personnel to leave the park. Only then were the would-be film extras to be told of their hostage status.
By 1700 hours (5 PM), CALF had complete control, the animals, the vehicles, the hostages, first aid stations, zoo administration buildings, everything. The snipers were at their posts; some patrolling the zoo perimeter by foot while others were riding about in the little enclosed electric zoo maintenance carts. There was a sniper with infra-red night goggles and a rifle at the ready taking continuous back and forth rides in the aerial tramway that the zoo called the SkySafari. Other snipers were wandering the zoo paths, stopping at direction signs to rotate them to point in random directions. Brian had seen a British world war II movie where they had done that.
The techies had set up an antenna on the top of Zoo Central and the rogue transmitter was sending test patterns on UHF channel 58. The remote activated bugs had been tested, Joshua had lovingly unpacked his high-tech weaponry, and all was well. To top it off, they had loads of food in the rented film trucks, not to mention what was in the freezers of the various zoo cafeterias. All was going very well indeed.
Brian was very satisfied with himself, but Jack was in an unexpectedly foul mood.
"Joshua really screwed up back in the Education Building. Whats the use of having a plan if people dont follow it?"
"What? You mean the film extras plan?" asked Brian, "Im sure Joshua had his reasons. Everything came OK though, didnt it? No Problem." Brian was a little in awe of Joshua and reluctant to believe he could make a mistake.
"Yeah, maybe," answered Jack, "But weve got a problem now, Brian. We dont have enough people to keep control of the zoo, especially since we have to keep six or seven people watching the hostages. I have an idea, though."
"I dont think well have trouble with our guests," said Brian, "Well have to explain ourselves to them, of course, win their support."
Jack rolled his eyes. "We dont have time," he said steadily.
"OK. Whats your plan then?"
"I want to release the big cats, Lions, tigers, leopards, even hyenas." said Jack, "That will make the hostages think twice before trying to escape."
"Come on. Youre kidding. Right?" Brian asked.
"No. I think its a pretty neat idea. Besides, itll be fun."
"Fun for you maybe? People could be killed."
"I dont think so. Not if theyre careful."
"Careful!?" squeaked Brian. He paused, got himself under control, and tried not to be confrontational, especially not to jack. "Im not sure thats a particularly good idea," he said.
"Look," said Jack angrily, "Were the Captive Animal Liberation Front. Damn it. Lets liberate something."
"Good," said Jack, taking Brians tentativeness for acceptance, "Im going to go down and tell the hostages. Yeah, this'll be fun."
"What about our snipers? Theyre outside patrolling day and night." said Brian, finally coming up with a concrete argument.
"Itll keep them alert," laughed Jack, "Theyre in pairs and theyve got guns. Theyll be fine. Besides, I dont think zoo animals have any idea how to attack anything," he went on, "as long as we keep feeding them, that is."
Brian, who had difficulty believing that one of his beloved animals would actually attack a human being, allowed himself to be won over.
"OK, Fine. Release the cats. Yeah, it might be fun," he said trying to act as macho as Jack.
"All right, Lets go down and join Der Fuhrer," said Jack.
When Brian and Jack arrived, Joshua had already explained their situation to the hostages. They would be well treated, and well fed, but any attempts to escape or interfere with CALF would be dealt with harshly. He kept his pleasant smile throughout the explanation.
"Ah, Here are some other officers in CALF," said Joshua, promoting himself to an officer. He stood aside while Jack gleefully told them about the tigers and other large felines that would be patrolling outside the Education Building to discourage their escaping.
"Theyll be released in an hour," said Jack.
"Neat!" said Kit.
Kits high-pitched approval drew Brians attention. Until now, he wasnt aware there were kids among the hostages. It troubled him that children were here at risk and with roving carnivores there would be risk, especially for defenseless kids. Brian looked around the hall. There was a group uniformed kids, cub scouts probably, and another kid with them who wasn't in uniform, seven in all. He flagged Jack that hed like to speak.
Brian walked a few steps forward toward the guests.
"Look," he said. "I didnt know there were any kids here. Kids are OK. Theyre innocents, like the animals."
Brian was troubled. He looked directly to the little knot of blue. "Guys. Were not going to hurt you. Youre scouts arent you?" It was rhetorical. "Itll be like a camp out. Youll have your own room, with bunks. Well send in food. Youll be under our direct protection."
The scouts stared back at the speaker. Despite the reassurances, they were scared, and showed it. Brian tried again to put them at ease.
"Look guys. Were for the animals. You like animals, dont you?"
"Leave us alone," said Kit, the spokeskid for the pack. "We dont want our own room. We want to stay here."
"The dorm room will be better for you," said Brian who, from the earlier reconnaissance, knew that there was a sleep-over room with its own bath room right off where they were now. He turned to Jack.
"Jack, take them in to the dorm now please, while I talk some to the adults."
Jack tore away the kids, rushed them into the dorm room, and locked the door behind them.
Brian tried to explain the CALF philosophy to the hostages, and went on to say they were guests, even honored guests, in the fight for animal rights. They would be treated well, but theyd just have to make the best of it for a while. He looked around the room, searching for approval, found none, and left with Jack who was eager to free the cats.
Joshua meanwhile, with the confidence borne of Calfers with AK-47s on alert, wandered among the hostages, a captor among the captives. He was looking for someone to send out to the authorities with the list of demands. Finally he stopped in front of Rom.
"Whats your name soldier?" he asked.
"Rom Haldane sir," said Rom standing up, "but..."
"I dont recognize the uniform. What branch?"
"Great tradition," said Joshua interrupting, "Dropped behind enemy lines. Covert activity; The Scouts, like the Green Berets, are .."
"No sir, Cub Scouts. It's a new uniform. I havent had time to sew on the insignia, except for the flag of course." Rom, interrupted.
"What? " said Joshua feeling foolish, "Doesnt matter. Come with me," he went on, checking his watch to see how much time he had before the cats were released. He led Rom out the rear of the Education building and on to a maintenance area. Joshua unlocked the back of his rented walk-in van and switched on the cargo compartment light.
"Wow," said Rom observing that the whole truck was virtually filled with armaments.
"This is only a small part of our arsenal," said Joshua untruthfully, "but take special note of this," he continued.
Joshua extracted a hand held ground-to-air missile launcher. "Helicopters havent a chance against this baby, remember that." he said, fondling the mechanism.
"Boy, It looks really complicated," said Rom who was intrigued by mechanical gadgets. "How do you know itll work?"
"And why are you showing me all this?" Rom asked.
"So you can tell the authorities. We want them to know we can defend ourselves." Joshua took an envelope from his inside jacket pocket, and gave it to Rom. "This contains our demands, and information on how to communicate with us." Then he stood aside and said, "Youre free to go. You can get out at the exit-only door at the Asia Gateway to Bronx Park South. Im sure the police will be there for you."
Rom hesitated. "If you dont mind sir, Id like to stay with my cub pack. Im responsible for them."
Joshua exploded. "But I do mind. Get the hell out of here. Now! Unless you want to get mauled by one of the big cats. Now move!"
Rom saw nothing else to do but go. The police could best deal with this. He set off through the dark zoo, looking for the Asia Exit. He found it, and rushed through, eager to tell his story to the police, but there were no police. Apparently, no one bothered to tell anyone outside about Operation Zoo. Rom looked around and found a phone booth on the corner of the desolate street in a not particularly good neighborhood. He breathed a relieved sigh when he found he had a quarter, and another when he found that the phone actually worked. He dialed the police, gave them his name and the phone number of the pay phone, and convinced them to send out a car for him. Rom hung up the phone and, as directed, stayed in the booth. He was feeling rather uneasy in this neighborhood. His unease grew as he became aware of a few characters eyeing him from a doorway across the street. They looked distinctly predatory. Then the phone rang. It was the police checking that he was there, and that it wasnt a joke. Rom asked them to hurry.
After Rom had been in the phone booth for about five minutes, the characters, dirty and smelling of alcohol, came out of the doorway and approached the booth, one from the left side, and the other from the right. They looked him over carefully, and after convincing themselves that although uniformed, he was not armed, one of them drew a knife.
"Hi," said Rom, smiling nervously.
They didn't answer, but instead turned around and quickly melted back into the darkness. Rom was puzzled until he saw the police cruiser coming down the street towards him.
"Sheesh," he said realizing that he felt much safer in the zoo, even with the big cats and Joshua, then he did out here on the street.
The cruiser pulled up to the booth, and an officer rolled down the window.
"Soldier," said the officer, "Are you Romulus Haldane?"
Jack, Brian, and his friend Evan left the Education building together. It was completely dark by now and they made their way by flashlights. The only other light, dim and point-like, was from the distant windows of a single high rise apartment building a long way off on Southern Boulevard. Unnatural also was the silence. Here in the center of the zoo, the noise of the city could not penetrate. The occasional call of a nocturnal animal sound stood out stark and frightening. At the sea lion pool, they separated; Brian made for Zoo Central for his first TV broadcast while Evan and Jack, each carrying rifles, headed for the snow leopard habitat.
"Why do we have to let them out?" asked Evan as they stood at the keepers entrance to the habitat. "We could just SAY we let the leopards out."
"Were letting them out," barked Jack angrily.
"You dont have to bite my head off."
They unlocked the door, opened it wide and, with rifles at the ready, backed away from the entrance to a place of cover. From there, breathing heavily, they watched the door for the sight of leopards gaining their freedom. They observed in vain. The leopards, for the moment anyway, seemed quite content to remain were they were. Jack and Evan left the leopard habitat to pursue other acts of liberation. Their progress was slower this time. They were edgy and stopped often - thinking they'd heard sounds of near-by leopards. Eventually though, they had freed the tigers, lions and the hyenas. They returned to the Education Building more quickly than they had left it, almost at a run in fact. The liberated animals on the other hand, seemed in no hurry to roam their newly expanded habitat.
Brian, a film major, felt uncomfortable on the other side of the camera. He sat nervously behind a too-large desk waiting for the stroke of eight. The cameraman finally gave him the sign, and he was on the air for the first of his planned three-times-a-day broadcasts on UHF TV. It was also the first time he had been on the air in his entire life. He awkwardly rustled his prop, a sheath of papers made up of CALFs demands and assorted propaganda flyers. He had not thought to make himself a script. He looked directly into the camera since he knew from his NYU course work that he should. He told who he was and why he was there. His papers turned out to be more of a hindrance than help as he was constantly trying to find things in them, and stumbling over the reading. Still, he managed to get the main message out, namely, the take over would not end until the City of New York agreed to close all its zoos, and send the animals to the freedom of their home environments. It didn't matter that most of those animals were born in zoos, and were already in their home environments. Brian also talked about Rom. Mr. Haldane had seen their weaponry and knew their resolve. He also had a letter from CALF to the authorities with details, including how CALF could be contacted.
Brian signaled to his cameraman to end the transmission. He got up from the desk quite pleased with himself. He had survived the ordeal intact. It was his best performance to date, in fact his only performance.
In their locked dorm room, Jeffrey and the pack were getting to know each other. Nothing much had happened since they had been locked in the dorm so boredom was starting to set in. Jeffreys stock rose enormously when it was discovered that he had a pocket TV. Jeffrey and the pack kicked off their shoes and sprawled across a bunk, squeezed together, head touching head, watching the little 2 inch screen. Jeffrey clicked through the channels, stopping briefly at one or another Monday night sit-com until told to move on. He went on to try the UHF band, the channels above 13. There, sandwiched between various foreign language programs, they came across Brian talking about the take-over. The pack watched in silence until Romulus Haldanes name was mentioned.
"Rom wouldnt have left us alone here, Cat," said a pack member to their Denner.
"Not unless they made him," answered Kit.
They discussed the matter, and since they were packed cheek by jowl together on the bunk they discussed it by way of a noisy horse-play. Jeffrey joined in too. It was a release, a breaking of tension, but it was noisy. Suddenly, they heard a sharp bang on the door, delivered with a rifle butt as it turned out.
"Keep it down in there," came a loud voice on the other side of the door.
The kids froze for a moment, and then continued in conspiratorial whispers. Jeffrey was one of them now.
They continued watching TV together, silently this time, until they drifted off to sleep, still clustered together on Jeffreys bunk like a litter of kittens. Some of them might have been awake enough to make it to their own bunks, but down deep each knew that in a bunk alone by himself, he would go to sleep afraid. Jeffrey, the last one awake, sleepily turned off the TV.
Outside, in a Bronx police precinct house, Romulus and the police were also watching Brians broadcast. Only after watching it were the police certain, relatively certain, that Romulus was not an escaped mental patient. Then the slow, inexorable process began, the process honed by years of experience whereby the City undertook to deal with hostage situations. Not that anyone there knew what that process was (Rom asked), but they all agreed there was one. They told Rom to go home. He had no home to go to, but he had a friend in the city, a fraternity buddy whom he phoned. His friend offered a place to crash for the night and told Rom to wait where he was. He didnt want Rom, an out of town visitor, to travel the subway at night, and insisted on driving to the police station to pick him up. While he waited, Rom performed the unpleasant task of phoning the head of the pack parents committee back in Ithaca and telling him what had happened.
Although it was late at night, Joshua was not tired. It was his curse that he needed very little sleep. He wandered wandered around Zoo Central. Except for the few on night duty, almost everyone else was asleep, and the building was silent and dark. Joshua took the stairs to the top floor and began to explore the offices. After sizing up, and rejecting a few, Joshua selected an isolated, semi-private office as his own; a secret place where he could be alone when he needed to. He closed the door behind him and switched on the lights. There were three desks in the office, clearly for a supervisor and two subordinates.
This office would do very well. It would be his war room. Joshua sat at the bosss desk and looked over its surface. It was amazing how much of a persons life is reflected in his desk. He picked up a framed photograph, husband, wife, two kids, and a dog. The photograph looked as it had been taken during a camping trip. There was a happy informality that exuded life; life frozen in time. Joshua gazed at the smiling husband and father with the same intensity as he did with his fathers painting. "That would be a good life to take over." He gazed at the picture a little longer, then sat back, and started at the squeak from the swivel chair, a loud noise in the silent office. He pulled open the top desk drawer and rummaged through the collection of office paraphernalia; pens, pencils, tape, paper clips, until he found a scissors. He took the snapshot out of its frame and carefully cut out the mans picture. Joshua looked at the little cutout for a brief moment, then crumpled it up and dropped it in the wastebasket. He put the now narrower photograph back in its frame and set it on the cluttered desk.
Joshua hated clutter. He grabbed a wastebasket and save for the photograph, swept everything else on the desk into it. Then leaving a few pens and other assorted functional items, he emptied all the drawers of the desk. Then he emptied the file cabinets and stripped their sides of the crayon drawings captioned with things like for daddy. When the wastebasket was full, Joshua carried it over to the next office and unceremoniously emptied it onto the floor, then returned to clear out more of the personal items of his new office. He finished de-personalizing his own desk and went on to clear out the contents of the other two.
Joshua looked around his new office. It was a classic bureaucratic facility; oak desks, filing cabinets, a coat rack and even an umbrella stand, which even held an umbrella. Joshua picked up the umbrella and absentmindedly stroked it. He replaced the black umbrella in the stand with the thought that in the morning, hed put an assault rifle in with it. Joshua wandered his office until he found a supply closet. Opening it, he found a few packs of white 3 by 5 file cards. He brought them over to his desk. He sat down, took a copy of the CALF organizational sheet from his pocket, smoothed it out on the desk, and spent the next hour transferring names from the sheet to the file cards, one name per card. It was eerily still, like his house back in Westchester.
Joshua finished copying out the names, collected the cards in a pile and then almost as if he were playing a game of solitaire, arranged the cards in spread columns. One column contained only the cards for Brian, Jack, and himself. There were two other piles. With much deliberation, he selected into which pile to put each persons card. The smaller pile contained Rogers card as well as those of most of the other Columbia University CALF members.
After a while, apparently satisfied with a particular card arrangement, Joshua swept the cards back into one deck and put the deck in the top right hand drawer. Next he pulled a leather bound day organizer out of his jacket pocket. He smiled thinking how CALF would be offended at the calf leather binding. This day organizer served him also as a diary. In it he wrote with a small chiseled cursive, carefully and deliberately, not only as a reminder to himself, but more importantly so as to impart his thoughts to those who would come after. The work of this first day of Operation Zoo had left him no time to commune with his diary, so he spent the next half hour moving events to paper. Eventually he slipped the organizer back in his pocket, stood up slowly so that the swivel chair not break the silence, and left his war room. Outside, he turned back to look at the office door. Seized with a sudden idea, he went off to move his bedding and clothing from the CALF communal dorm up to his office. As much as he liked being with the young Calfers, at night he preferred to be alone. He needed solitude to work on his plan. Operation Zoo was just the beginning. He smiled as he ran through the plan in his head. Operation Zoo was mere preamble, an insignificant preamble.