Chapter 17 Wednesday, 0730 hours (7:30 AM)
Jungle World looked as quiet as The World of Darkness had been. Rom and Derek circled the building, and found no obvious way in.
"What now," asked Derek.
Rom stared up at an open window at the second floor level. "That window. They could have gotten in there."
"They’d have had to climb like monkeys to get up there."
"Just the thing Paul would try." Rom examined the building for hand and foot holds. "Not too hard. I’m going to give it a try. Stay here. I’ll be back soon."
Rom approached the building obliquely, looking out for Calfers, and then jumped for a handhold. Using crevices in the brickwork as well as the vines clinging to the wall, he clambered up, and scrambled through the duct.
Rom prowled through the darkened jungle habitats. He sensed he might be on to something when he found the classroom and discovered it littered with soft drink cans and snack cake wrappers. The humid room virtually reeked with the sugary smell of junk food. Rom snagged a snack cake and munched it as he left the room. He felt the press of time, as Derek waited outside, and Derek wasn’t all that good at being stealthy.
Rom noticed he was sweating. This place must be ninety degrees.
He checked out the few other rooms and his hope slowly turned to discouragement. There were not all that many enclosed habitat buildings left in the zoo to check. He started back upstairs to the second floor so he could leave the building the way he came in. At the staircase, he happened to glance down into an especially dark jungle habitat.
There, curled up together, asleep like cats on a rug, were his Scouts. Rom wrinkled his nose. He should have been able to find them with his nose, but the snack cake had masked their scents.
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."
Rom watched as the sleeping scouts began to stir. Paul, the scout nearest to him, rubbed his eyes and his mouth dropped open.
"Rom," Paul shouted. "Wake up everybody. Rom’s here."
Rom backed up to the railing as his scouts mobbed him, talking all at once and not waiting for answers. Rom affectionately tousled each lively head. "Gosh, I’m glad to see you guys. OK, get dressed and let’s get out of here."
The scouts fell silent.
"What’s wrong?" said Rom. "Get back into uniform."
Rom looked at his Denner, Kit and waited, but Kit didn’t speak. Finally Paul spoke up.
"That presents certain difficulties."
Rom looked over at the kid, small for his age, but bright. Paul’s father was a professor of English literature and didn't talk down to his son.
"Why?" asked Rom.
Paul looked down, and Kit blurted out, "Because we don’t have them. We left them back at the main zoo building."
Rom looked to Kit. "You mean you went traipsing through the zoo in your underwear? Why?"
Now Kit cast his eyes down.
"It seemed to be a good idea at the time," said Paul.
Suddenly, Jungle World’s lights came on full. The building had woken up. Rom started in surprise and then, in the new light of day, examined his scouts. "All right. 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 didn’t move. "We’re not going out there without our uniforms," said Kit.
Rom laughed and then pleaded. "Come on guys, Let get going. Forget the uniforms."
"No," said Kit, and Rom could see he was speaking as Denner--representing the pack, "There might be girls out there."
Rom rolled his eyes. He argued and came close to threatening, 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. Jeffrey’s dad is waiting for me downstairs. We’re going to try to find Jeffrey now. You don’t know where he is, do you?"
"Jeffrey’s gone? You mean he escaped too?" said Kit.
"Yes, but they recaptured him."
"All right then," said Rom, "Stay calm and stay put. Don't go out, and don't go near any windows or the glass doors in front. Jeffrey's dad and I are going to find Jeffrey and then we'll come back here. Questions?"
The scouts shook their heads.
"Okay. I'll be back soon. And I'll try to retrieve your uniforms." Rom gazed around at his near-naked Cub Pack. "Or at least your pants. I'll try to hunt up some real food too." He went up to Kit. "You're in charge."
Kit didn't seem to understand the seriousness of the situation but Rom didn't want to scare the boy. Rom smiled, waved nonchalantly, and started back upstairs. He wasn’t particularly happy about leaving his scouts, but he saw no alternative.
"Why are you going up?" asked Wolfred, "You can get out the front door."
"Climbing's more fun."
Rom didn't want to tell him that going out the front way, right onto the main pathway, might draw some armed attention.
From their hiding place, Sam watched Jungle World with binoculars, while Elliot rested.
"Hey, Elliot. Look at this," said Sam, passing over the glasses.
"That's the guy we followed down from Ithaca. Haven't seen him for a while. Who's that other one?"
"Don't know. Another werewolf, probably."
They watched as Derek found cover, and Rom climbed for the second floor duct window. They were still watching later, as Rom climbed down again, and left with Derek.
"What now?" asked Elliot.
"Same as before," said Sam, "Wait for the kids to come out and go for the canteen."
Sam stood and stretched, and then dropped quickly back down to the cover of his hiding place. He had seen a SkySafari gondola passing near, and thought he saw movement in it. That was close. A few seconds more and he might have seen me.