Chapter 6 Monday, 1600 hours (4 PM)
The guests were invited upstairs at gunpoint. On the second floor of the Education Building they saw two adjacent guest rooms for visiting school groups. One of the rooms had beds but the larger room obviously hadn't been used as a dormitory for a long time, and the beds had been removed in favor of chairs and tables. The guests of the Captive Animal Liberation Front were led into that room. There was space for them there, although not enough chairs for them all to sit. At the moment though, nobody seemed inclined to sit. The room in addition to a door to the hall, had a door to the adjoining room with the bunks and a door to a bathroom.
The man who'd announced their captivity followed them in. He looked more the avucular politician than terrorist, and he introduced himself as Joshua Cave. In a very friendly manner, he explained the situation. CALF had taken over the zoo for the cause of animal rights and the abolition of all zoos. The guests would be permitted to leave when the authorities had accepted CALF's demands. In the meanwhile they would be well treated and well fed, but any attempts to escape or interfere with CALF would endanger their status as honored guests.
Two more Calfers came in then. Joshua introduced them as Jack and Brian. Jack stepped forward with an announcement.
"We are against keeping animals in captivity." He looked from face to face, apparently savoring the moment. "and we've decided to let some of them loose. We're going to release the large cats - lions, leopards, and tigers. I wouldn't try to escape, if I were you."
The hostages gasped.
Jack smiled. "Theyíll be released in an hour."
"Neat!" said Kit, all but hidden among the crowded group of adults.
Kitís high-pitched approval drew Brianís attention. He walked a few steps forward toward the Ďguestsí. They moved away, exposing the boys in their blue uniforms. The boys clustered together with Kit in front.
"Look," said Brian. "I didnít know there were any kids here. Kids are OK. Theyíre innocents, like the animals." He looked directly to the little knot of blue. "Guys. Weíre not going to hurt you. Youíre scouts arenít you?" It was rhetorical, and he didn't pause for an answer. "Itíll be like a camp out. Youíll have your own room, with bunks. There's a bathroom in their too. Weíll send in food. Youíll be under our direct protection."
The scouts stared back at the speaker.
"Look guys," said Brian. "Weíre for the animals. You like animals, donít you?"
"Leave us alone," said Kit, spokeskid for the pack. "We donít want our own room. We want to stay here."
"The next door dorm room will be better for you," said Brian. He turned to Jack. "Take them in to the dorm now please, while I talk some to the adults."
Jack motioned for the kids to go through the adjoining door. Rom tried to go with them.
"Not you," Jack barked.
Jack tore away the kids, rushed them into the dorm room, and locked the door behind them.
Rom hadn't a clue what to do; for the moment it might be best to be cooperative and not upset these guys with their assault rifles.
With a lot of hand waving, Brian explained the CALF philosophy to the hostages, and went on to say they were participants, in the fight for animal rights. They'd be treated well, and theyíd just have to make the best of it for a while. He'd have towels and blankets sent up soon.
Jack and Brian left while Joshua with the confidence borne of Calfers with AK-47s on alert, wandered among the hostages.
He stopped in front of Rom.
"Whatís your name soldier?"
"Rom Haldane sir," said Rom standing at attention, "but--"
"I donít recognize the uniform. What branch?"
"Great tradition. Dropped behind enemy lines. Covert activity; The Scouts, like the Green Berets, are--"
"No sir, Cub Scouts. It's the new uniform. I havenít had time to sew on the insignia, except for the flag of course."
"What? " said Joshua, "Doesnít matter. Come with me."
He led Rom out the rear of the Education building and on to a maintenance area. Joshua unlocked the back of a walk-in van and switched on the cargo-compartment light.
"Wow," said Rom. The truck overflowed with advanced weaponry.
"This is only a small part of our arsenal," said Joshua, "but take special note of this."
Joshua extracted a hand held ground-to-air missile launcher. "Helicopters havenít 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 itíll work?"
"And why are you showing me all this?"
"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, "Youíre free to go. You can get out at the exit-only door at the Asia Gateway to Bronx Park South. Iím sure the police will be there for you."
Rom hesitated. "If you donít mind sir, Iíd like to stay with my Cub Pack. Iím responsible for them."
"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 comply. 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 had bothered to tell anyone outside about Operation Zoo. Rom looked around and found a phone booth on the corner of the desolate street. It didn't look like a particularly good neighborhood, and Rom breathed a relieved sigh when he found he had a quarter, and sighed again 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 cruiser for him. Rom hung up and, as directed, stayed in the booth. He felt uneasy in this unfamiliar 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 wasnít a joke. Rom asked them to hurry.
When 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. They looked him over carefully, and one of them drew a knife.
"Hi," said Rom, smiling nervously.
They didn't answer, but instead turned around and hastened 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.
The cruiser pulled up to the booth, and an officer rolled down the window.
"Soldier," said the officer, "Are you Romulus Haldane?"
The note that Rom gave the police explained the demands, and also suggested they tune in to TV channel 58. CALF had set up a pirate transmitter and would be broadcasting on a regular schedule. As it was about the right time, the police switched on a TV. Brian was on the air.
At that point, the police accepted that Rom was not an escaped mental patent. They told him go home, but he had no home to go to. Then Rom remembered he did have a friend in the city, a fraternity buddy.
The police offered Rom the use of a phone and a phonebook, and Rom rang up his friend, Alan.
Alan, offered a place to crash for the night and told Rom to wait where he was. He didnít 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 Chaba and telling him what happened.
Chaba muttered something in Hungarian and said to hold tight. He would drive to the city and they'd meet at Alan's apartment in the morning.
In the zoo, the FBI agents had not gone into the Education Building with the other visitors. They'd been observing Rom from afar and had no idea what was going on inside. Only when they saw people coming out carrying assault rifles, did they realize something was not quite right.
"I think," said Elliot, softly, "that it might not be a bad idea to go back to the car."
"Yeah," said Sam.
They hurried back to their spacious government vehicle.
"I'm glad for the tinted windows," said Elliot.
"Yeah. I think we'll be safe and unobserved here. But what the hell is going on?"
From behind the car's dark windows, Sam and Elliot watched as zoo carts carrying heavily armed college aged kids, moved in the distance.
"Looks like an armed insurrection," said Sam.
"In a zoo?"
"New York's a strange place. Turn on the radio. Maybe there's some news."
Elliot scanned the car radio dial, but whatever trouble there was at the zoo hadn't yet made it to the radio. They decided to just sit tight and see what developed.
A few hours later, after dark, Sam scanned the surroundings with his night-vision binoculars. He happened to focus on a SkySafari gondola traversing the zoo. There inside, he saw a Calfer with his own night-vision binoculars scanning the zoo.
Later still, when it was very dark, Elliot pointed to a shadow coming toward their car. It was a leopard. It had apparently played with old car tires in it's cage and had developed a taste for them.