Chapter 21 Wednesday, 1230 hours (12:30 PM)
By now Rom and Derek had gotten rather good at knowing where they could and could not be seen from the aerial tramway. At the moment they certainly couldnít be observed since they had broken into the zoo's main zoo gift shop and snack bar. Rom had already filled a shopping bag with food, not particularly wholesome food, but definitely better than snack cakes. Now he was selecting a half dozen hooded sweatshirts with animal paintings on them.
"Iíll pay the zoo back for these when this is all over." Rom filled another shopping bag with the sweatshirts. "I wish they had pants though."
"No need," said Derek, "Your cubs are short. Those sweatshirts will go down to their ankles."
Rom continued to wander around the gift shop, looking for short term clothing for his cub scouts. He giggled. "Kit may never speak to me again for this." He scooped six pairs of bunny slippers into the bag, "but I donít want them all coming down with colds."
Derek apparently, had fewer shopping needs. He had filled a much smaller bag with food for Jeffrey, and had taken a flashlight for himself. He sat down, sighing as he sank into a real chair again, while Rom continued with his acquisitions.
"What kind of a zoo is this," said Derek lightly, "that doesnít sell hunting rifles?"
Rom laughed as he finished his shopping spree. "OK. Weíve probably been here too long already." He hefted his shopping bags. "Letís get back to Jungle World and hang out there until dark. Then we can go back and slip Jeffrey some food."
"No, you go back," said Derek. "Iím not much of a climber. Iíd never be able to get up to that ledge you used."
"What? Oh. Donít worry about that," said Rom. "Thereís a service entrance around the back of the Jungle World building. I found it on the inside when I was looking for my scouts. I left it unlocked."
Derek looked at him with puzzlement. "Then why didnít you use it when you went out of the building back there. Why did you climb back down?"
"Climbing out the back was safer". Rom thought about it. "But I donít know. I guess climbing was more fun."
"Well anyway," said Derek, "Iím going to hang out in the wild until dark. I might get an idea how to spring Jeffrey."
"Itís dangerous," said Rom.
"I know," said Derek. "I donít really relish being out there with the lions running around."
"I donít mean the cats," said Rom. "There were plenty of nyala to go around. Iím sure the cats have gorged themselves. Now theyíll be sluggish, dozing in the woods, digesting their food. No youíll be safe from them, unless you actually trip over one of them or something."
Rom turned uncharacteristically serious. "Itís those guys with the rifles Iím worried about. When you have a rifle, you are sometimes are tempted to use it."
Derek assured him heíd be careful, and said heíd join him later at Jungle World. It was agreed. Derek heaved himself out of the chair and then pointed to some small backpacks hung for display on the rear wall. They each borrowed one for their food bags. Rom still had to use a shopping bag for the sweatshirts and bunny slippers.
Rom started to climb back the window, but Derek stopped him.
"Look. Weíre on the inside. We can use the door." Said Derek.
"Spoils the fun," said Rom. Rom gave Derek a worried look. This New York City dweller could get himself in deep trouble in the woods.
Rom vaulted out the window, and headed back to Jungle World. He'd really wished Derek had come with him but he could understand the wish to be near his son.
At Jungle World, Rom used the back door. When he'd slipped through the entrance, from the bright sunlight to the dark of the basement, only then did he notice the armed Calfers.
"We've been waiting for you," said a Calfer.
Rom was upset with himself. He wasn't afraid exactly, but he was very embarrassed to have been caught. "That'll teach me to use doors," he said.
The Calfers led Rom upstairs and into the classroom. His scouts were there. Now he felt very embarrassed. He had taught them about being quiet and careful in the woods, and here he was, caught. For the sake of his scouts, Rom tried to act as if nothing unpleasant had happened. He opened one of the shopping bags and delivered food to his pack. Then he opened the other bag.
"You're probably not going to like this," he said as he took out the bunny slippers.
"I'm not going to wear those," said Kit.
"It's the best I could do. If you don't wear them, your feet'll freeze."
"I'd rather freeze."
None of the other kids would wear them either.
At that point, another Calfer came in. He carried a walkie-talkie. "We've been asked to take him back to the Education Building and throw him back in with the hostages," said the Calfer, pointing at Rom. "They're sending a larger vehicle over for the kids."
Rom exchanged a glance with Kit, and then was hustled outside.
Sam and Elliot saw Rom being driven off. A few minutes later, they saw the kids being driven away also. The building was quiet again.
"None of the kids was carrying a canteen," said Elliot, observing through binoculars.
"Good. Then it's still in the building," said Sam.
"Think it's safe to go in?" asked Elliot.
They left their hiding place and jogged to the basement door. It was unlocked.