The story is set in a family run animal park that opened less than a year ago. It is owned and operated by the Jameson family (dad, mum and 2 grown up sons) with about 5 additional employees.
Synopsis: Kate is sent to stay in WA with her sister Lisa for the holidays by her mum who is worried about her increasing Internet addiction. As she gets more involved in the zoo life she overhears 2 zoo guests plotting to steal some of the parks animals to take them illegally overseas. When no one is willing to help seriously check out her claim she takes matters into her own hands.
Kate sat at her computer in the back room of the house as she always did every afternoon after school. Her long dark hair fell back over her shoulders, free of the ponytail she had to wear for school. She hated school, found it boring, but always managed to get high marks. But at home she was more comfortable – the Internet and her trusty computer was her constant source of news, information and communication. Right now she had 6 windows open, 2 chat windows, her Itunes and 3 websites – including forums, online games and youtube.
“Kate!” she heard her mother call, “Dinner’s ready.” She continued surfing the web and typing furiously. “Kate!!”
“Coming, mum” Kate said resignedly. She typed a quick brb to her online friends and reluctantly got up off the computer.
Her mother Diane was waiting in the kitchen. “There you are!’ she said, kissing her daughter on the cheek and smiling, “Good to see you.” She put the meals on the table and they both sat down to eat. Tonight was spaghetti bolognaise.
Kate looked around the room to the pictures on the walls. There was herself at age 6 with her older sister Lisa, a family portrait of the girls with their mother from 3 years ago, and baby pictures of both of the girls. There were no pictures of their father who had left when Kate was just 3. She barely remembered him and was glad not to.
There on the fridge was the most recent photo of Lisa and a wombat. Six months previously Lisa had left home and gone to live in Western Australia. Lisa was six years older than Kate and loved animals. After high school she had studied conservation and zoology and recently graduated. She hadn’t found a position until she found out about this new park that had opened in WA. It was a small family owned animal park but they were hiring and it was too good an opportunity for Lisa to pass up.
Kate missed her sister. It was weird being at home just with her Mum. The two sisters were quite different, Lisa with blonde hair and Kate with dark, Lisa was also a lot more confident and outgoing and loved the outdoors. Kate was quiet and withdrawn, preferring to stay inside on the computer, but they had always been very close, with Lisa becoming quite protective of her sister after their Dad had left.
Kate and Diane ate their meals.
“How was your day darling.”
“Fine” Kate said.
“What did you learn?”
“Nothing”. Her mother smiled, this answer was typical from Kate.
“Good thing the holidays are coming up then.”
Kate privately agreed with her mother. More time on the computer! She finished eating and put down her knife and fork.
“Can I go now Mum? She asked, “I’ve got stuff to do...”
Her mum nodded, but Kate couldn’t help notice the disappointment that lingered in her eyes.
Diane watched her youngest daughter walk out of the room. Tall and slim with long dark hair. Kate’s dark colouring came from her father, who had left 12 years previously. Kate was now 15 years old and her skin was very pale from all the time spent indoors. Diane worried about her daughter. When she was her age she always wanted to be out with her friends and was starting to get interested in boys but Kate showed no interest in that sort of thing. She was always on the computer, she didn’t really help around the house and it was getting harder and harder to talk to her. Sometimes she thought she’d have more luck talking to Kate via online messaging than face to face. Holidays would be starting next week and Kate would be online for more time than ever. It wasn’t healthy, she thought. So different from her sister Lisa. Hmmm... Lisa... She often thought of her oldest daughter over in WA, she sounded so happy whenever she rang, loving her new job as an animal keeper / education officer at Jameson Animal Park and she always had stories to tell about her adventures with the reptiles, chimps, kangaroos and echidnas there. With the parks small staff there was always plenty to do.
With a smile she picked up the phone.
“Lisa, It’s Mum. How are you??”
“Yeah good thanks Mum, had a busy day, one of our kangaroos had a joey a few weeks ago and it’s finally got big enough for us to be able to handle!” Lisa said brightly.
“Wow. Listen. Would it be possible to have Kate come and stay with you for a few weeks over the holidays. I need to do something to get her off the computer and maybe you might be able to help get her out of her shell, and see another side of life.”
“Actually mum that could work out great!” Lisa said enthusiastically. “Kate could help out at the park, that will keep her busy and the people here are all very nice.”
“Great! I’ll send her over next week, once school has broken up.” Diane said “Hey this year I’ll even get a holiday with both of you away from home!” she smiled.
“Looking forward to it Mum.” Lisa said, “Let me know when and where to pick her up ok?”
“So there’s plenty of room for one more at that house of yours?” Lisa shared a small place with one of the other girls who worked at the park.
“Yes Mum it will be fine.” Lisa said, “Got to go now though, love you! Bye!”
As Diane hung up the phone, she smiled. This might just be good for Kate, though she was not likely to be over the moon about it, being such a homebody. She would have to spring it on her and make it seem like she had to go away too. Maybe she could say she was going to visit her brother and sister-in-law, who had a very small home. She grinned at her plan, then proceeded to clear the table and wash the dishes alone, wishing and hoping that one day Kate would stay and help her.
Kate stood at the airport departure lounge. School had finished yesterday and her mum had picked her up. She went inside and got into her jeans and a T-shirt, happily putting her uniform into the wash and then went to the computer. Taped to the screen was a note reading, “Kate come to the lounge room, I have something to tell you.”
She had felt mildly annoyed and a little apprehensive. Her mum had then told her she had to go and visit Uncle Colin and Aunty Maria who was sick and that she, Kate had to go to WA to spend a few weeks with Lisa. Kate had been shocked, all her holiday plans had gone out the window. Her mum had even packed her suitcase. She had spent the next few hours online, messaging her friends to let them know where she would be and hoping her virtual pets would not die in her absence. All too soon she was on the way to the airport until here she stood about to say goodbye. It brought back memories of being at this same airport just a few months back, saying goodbye to Lisa.
“I hope you have a good time, Kate, give Lissie a big hug and kiss from me ok? I’ll miss you.”
“Yeah I will, me too! Love you Mum!”
“Love you too Kate!” They hugged and Diane gave Kate a kiss on the cheek.
“Don’t give Lisa too much trouble!” she winked.
“OK, better go!” Kate said. She gave her mum one last hug and then walked down the departure tunnel.
Lisa waited impatiently at Perth Airport for her sister’s plane to arrive. She’d had to leave work early and was missing her favourite part of the day – playtime with the chimpanzees. Ben would have all the fun to himself today.
Ben. She smiled at the thought of him, his sparkling eyes, cheeky smile, smooth tanned skin and dark hair and the amazing way he is able to interact with animals. She had fallen hard for him early on in her time working at Jameson Animal Park but wasn’t sure if she would be jeopardising her position, dating the park owner’s son.
Ben was smart, caring and funny and before long they had become an item. Several weeks ago she had even moved into the Jameson family home, a piece of information she had not yet shared with her mum. Though not overly religious or strict she knew her mother was traditional enough to probably disapprove of her daughter moving in with her boyfriend interstate (even if his whole family lived there too). The Jameson’s had accepted her as part of the family and were looking forward to having one more pair of hands at the park.
The animal park staff consisted of Lisa and Ben, Ben’s parents and older brother Chris and 4 other staff members – Sara, Michael, Sam and Rachel (who was part-time). Nine staff members and over 35 animals including koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, wombats, emus and reptiles meant a lot of work! The park was largely Australian but also was lucky enough to be home to 3 gorgeous chimpanzees and 2 spider monkeys. Kate would love them she was sure!
Passengers started streaming out of the arrivals gate. There was Kate, a little taller and paler now than she had been when Lisa had last seen her, looking nervously around. Their eyes met and both girls broke into smiles. Kate was in jeans and a T-shirt with an MSN smiley emoticon on the front, Lisa was in her khakis work uniform. The girls hugged.
“How was the flight?” Lisa asked Kate.
“Yeah ok got to use the in-flight Internet service.”
Lisa laughed. “Come on, lets get your bags and get back to the park!”
An hour later they were driving into the zoo grounds. The Jamesons house was on the park property, a relatively large house. They had a 10ha property and had built the house and animal park around it.
“Wow Lisa you live here?” Kate asked, surprised. “I thought Mum said you had a small place with one of the girls from the park.”
“I did.” Lisa smiled, “But things have changed.” Ben appeared at the side of the car, nursing the young baby kangaroo in a blanket.
“Hey beautiful.” He said kissing Lisa on the lips. “And who is this? I hope it could be Jameson Animal Park’s tenth employee!” he said winking at Kate.
“I’d like you to meet my little sister Kate. And Kate I’d like to introduce you to my boyfriend Ben.”
“Nice to finally meet you!” Ben said to Kate, “I’ve heard a lot about you from Lisa. And now I’d like to introduce you to Kiara here. “ he said lifting up the baby kangaroo.
“Hi...” Said Kate awkwardly.
“Well I’m just going to help Kate unpack all her stuff then we’ll come out to the Kangaroo Korner – meet you there ok?” Lisa said.
“Sure babe, see you in a bit!” smiled Ben.
Kate stood inside the house. There were pictures of the family around and lots of photos, paintings and small statues and figurines of different animals.
“Here’s where you’re gonna sleep sis” said Lisa showing Kate inside a room painted pale green, with two single beds inside.
“Do you sleep here too?” Kate asked.
“Most of the time.” Winked Lisa mischeviously. She sat down on her bed, with some of the toy animals on it that she had always had on her bed in her room at home. On her bedside table were photos of their mum and of Kate, some of Lisa and Ben together and one of Lisa holding a chimpanzee.
“So how long have you and Ben been together?” Kate asked.
“Three months next week.” Lisa smiled. “His mum and dad are really nice and Lynne cooks as well as Mum does! Anyway unpack your stuff and we’ll go out to the park.”
“What exactly do you expect me to do around here?” Kate asked nervously, “and is there a computer around?”
“I think that exactly what Mum was hoping you wouldn’t be doing so much of. “Lisa grinned, “and it would be great if you could help feed, groom and play with the animals and help keep the enclosures clean. It’ll be great.”
Kate didn’t feel so sure.
Ten minutes later she was all unpacked and in more suitable clothes for interacting with the animals. They went through the front entrance with a handpainted sign reading ‘Jameson Animal Park.... living, loving and caring for animals here since 2007.” There was a small ticket office / souvenir shop inside. A lady was sitting there, ready to greet park guests. She was dressed in the same uniform as Lisa with honey coloured hair and kind eyes.
“Hi Lisa. This must be Kate!” the lady came over and gave Kate a hug. It made her feel awkward but she always felt weird having strangers hug her.
“Kate this is Mrs Jameson, she’s like my second Mum!”
“Hi, Mrs Jameson, thank you for letting me come and stay.”
“It’s our pleasure... and please, call me Lynne sweety! We’re glad of any extra help here. Go on through and have a look!”
The park grounds were well maintained, neat and tidy with lots of trees and plants. First they went to Kangaroo Korner. The park had 5 kangaroos, including Kiara, the brand new joey. There were three red male kangaroos and a grey female kangaroo. Matilda the kangaroo had little Kiara in her pouch. Ben was giving a talk on kangaroos to a small group of zoo guests.
“Joeys like Kiara here will stay in their mothers pouch most of the time for the first seven to ten months of their lives. They are born so tiny, not much bigger than a jellybean but they grow pretty fast.” Ben was saying. “Kiara is now 4 and a half weeks old. Kangaroos like to eat grass and leaves and don’t need to drink much at all to survive. Their strong tails can act as a third leg when they are fighting or injured. We’ve had this one here,” he said pointing at a red kangaroo, “since he was a joey. We found his mother on the side of the road, having been hit by a car. She was dead, but we checked inside her pouch and found him. We have hand-raised him and here he is today.”
Kate had been so engrossed in Ben’s talk that she was surprised to find something warm nudging her hand. She looked down and saw one of the kangaroos.
“Go on give him a cuddle!” Lisa said.
Kate patted the kangaroo’s soft fur gently.
Kate had a whirlwind tour of the park, meeting the four resident koalas and echidnas, the five wombats, three emus, three chimpanzees (so cheeky and cute!) two spider monkeys and the snakes, lizards and bearded dragons in the reptile house. She met Chris and Sam preparing food for the animals to eat tomorrow and Michael cleaning wombat poo from the enclosure.
“Today’s been quiet” Lisa told her, “but it will pick up over the next few days hopefully as its holidays here now too. Mr Jameson isn’t even on site today, he was called out by the local ranger to help get a snake out of someone’s garden. We might even end up with it here.” Mr Jameson was at dinner however and recounted his day. “It was an easy capture and relocation. It was a black-headed python, totally harmless but the lady whose garden it was in was hysterical!!” he said, as the family sat down together with Lisa and Kate. Dinner was creamy mushroom risotto.
That night their Mum called and Lisa and Kate told her about what they have done that day in the park.
“How’s Aunty Maria?” Kate asked at the end of the call. Lisa looked confused.
“Yeah feeling better darling,” Mum said after a brief pause. After hanging up, Lisa asked, “What’s up with Aunty Maria, I haven’t heard anything about her, mum hasn’t mentioned anything?”
“Weird.” Kate said, “She’s sick and Mum’s over there with her and Uncle Colin, that’s why I’m here!”
“Oh ok!” Lisa said knowingly, taking a mouthful of the tasty risotto.
Over the next few days Kate got more and more acquainted with the park and it’s animals. On her third day she even worked up enough courage to let Ben drape a snake around her neck. She especially loved the tiny spider monkeys with such long arms and legs, and also the wombats even though she had been surprised to discover their fur was not soft at all but actually quite coarse, to protect them while digging.
That night after dinner she was presented with her very own khaki animal park staff uniform to wear like the others.
“Thank you!!” Kate said proudly. “Now would it be okay if I used the Internet for a bit?”
Lisa and Ben exchanged looks – Kate had been sent there to get her away from the computer but it had been three days for her without going online and the two of them could use some time alone together as well so they agreed.
Mr Jameson said, “Lisa tells me you’re quite the computer whiz, Kate. We’re currently looking into putting a web page up about the park – maybe that’s something you could help us with too?”
“Yeah sure thing.” Kate said. She got onto the computer, eager to check her e-mails and forums. She was surprised to see that she hadn’t actually missed much, she just had a few junk messages and forwards (which she usually deleted anyway), and the new posts on the forums were not anything interesting. Well look at that, she thought to herself, life goes on, look at all I’ve done in the last three days and I actually haven’t missed anything online. She went back to her room and got ready for bed. Lisa wasn’t there (Kate had a fairly good idea as to where she might be), and didn’t return before Kate fell asleep that night.
The park did get busier over the next few days, with 56 guests in one day on the first Sunday of the holidays. Everyone was very busy caring for the animals as well as educating and helping out the park guests when needed. Kate’s pale skin had initially burned and gone all red from her long days in the sun even though she had lathered herself in sunscreen, but now was beginning to show the first signs of a tan. The first time she was asked to help pick up animal poo she was pretty grossed out, but she didn’t have to actually touch it, she got to use a pooper scooper and it was just another part of the job. It was better to get rid of it than to accidently step in it or have a park guest step in it and complain.
Kate was learning heaps about the animals from Lisa, Ben, Chris, Michael, Sam, Sara, Rachel, Lynne and Peter and she was starting to be able to pass on information on the different animals to the guests.
“Baby echidnas are called puggles and they start life being the size of a jellybean. They stay in their mother’s pouch, much like a kangaroo joey does. Now they look very prickly, but there’s a special way to hold them so you don’t get pricked.” She found herself demonstrating one day.
The park guests were mainly families with young children, tourists eager to see some Australian animals and nature photographers. Her days were filled with playing with animals, helping prepare food for animals and putting it out, answering questions and even sometimes working at the ticket office and shop. By nightfall she was often too tired to even bother to go online and when she did she found it didn’t capture her interest quite as much as it had before.
In her second week the park had to tend to a poor koala who had been hit by a car while crossing the road. They named her Kim and she even had to sleep in the house as she needed around the clock care, with medication every hour and the dressing on her injuries changed regularly. Peter and Lynne told them that though Kim looked bad now, within a month or so she’d be fine and another asset to the park.
Kate and Lisa were closer than ever and she enjoyed Ben’s company too, he made the girls laugh and had a great sense of humour. On their rare days off they went to the beach nearby or watched DVDs with Kim in the room so they could look after her if needed. But for the most part their time was spent at the animal park. Each member of the team loved the place and worked hard to make it the best it could be.
On the Thursday, Mr Jameson and Michael were off-site, sourcing some new food sources for the spider monkeys and chimpanzees. Lynne was back at the house with Kim. Rachel was manning the ticket office and gift shop. Sam was with the wombats, Sara with the echidnas, Ben with the kangaroos and Lisa was taking care of the spider monkeys and chimpanzees.
Kate was spreading her time between the reptile house and koala kingdom. The day had been a bit quieter than normal, possibly because of a fair opening for one week only in the neighbouring suburbs. Kate picked the bearded dragon off a little boys head. The boy’s mother had just taken a photo of them together and both were very happy!
“Thanks so much,” the mother said to Kate, “and can I say, this is one of the best small animal parks I’ve seen. It’s great to be able to be so hands-on with the animals here.”
“Thank you!” Kate said with a smile, “I’ll be sure to pass that one!” The mother and son walked out of the reptile house across to Wombat World. As it was quiet Kate slipped behind the wall where food supplies were kept out of the view of the public, to get some fresh cockroaches for the lizards and bearded dragons to have. She had to look for the tweezers to pick them up with and was crouching down checking the lower shelves when she heard some more people coming in. She was about to pop her head out and say hi when she heard them speak.
“Barely any staff, minimal security, easy access to all the animals. This is going to be a piece of cake.” Kate froze immediately.
“Yeah and we’ll get heaps for some of these Australian animals on the black market back home.”
“This one here will look great as a belt, or maybe a handbag, what do you think?” The two men laughed derisively. Kate was frozen to the spot – how could they talk about doing that to these beautiful animals?
“So what do you think? Come back tomorrow night? Park closes at 4.30 and my sources say staff leave around 6 and go back to the house on the property. There’s just the one security camera but that can be put out of action without too much trouble.”
“Shh someones coming!” one of the men said to the other.
“Look mummy at that snake... feel how smooth it is.” She heard a little girl say. Kate heard the sound of cameras clicking. Then she heard footsteps leaving the reptile house and breathed a sigh or relief. She had to go and tell one of the others about this right away!! She was about to step out from the wall when she heard the voice again.
“So yeah, tomorrows the night, we’ll come back with the van and bags for the animals and take as much as we can get. Boat will leave the next day.”
“What if we’re caught?”
“There’s just the one family that will be here and I can make sure the main threats are out of the way.”
“Ok good, that would make me feel a lot better.”
“These people are obviously very trusting – plus they don’t suspect a thing, it’ll be fine, don’t worry so much.”
“Now let’s go tell the boss. I reckon he’ll be right pleased.”
Once again Kate heard footsteps leaving the reptile house but she stayed rooted to the spot for several minutes. When she dared to take a look around the wall she was relieved to find the room empty apart from its regular inhabitants. Her heart was beating so fast, she had to tell someone!! She went through the side exit of the reptile house, hoping not to see the two men who she now realised she didn’t even have a clue as to what they looked like. She hadn’t dared to have a look at them, afraid of what might happen if they discovered they were being overheard. She went through the echidnas and had a look down the main park walkway. She could see the mother and son who had thanked her earlier, what must have been the girl and mother who had been in to see the snakes while the two men were in there, a group of four Japanese young people, two men with cameras around their necks, at that moment one was taking a photo of one of the chimpanzees as Kate watched. Could it be them?? Then she saw some more men. She had to find Lisa. She saw her sitting in a tree with a chimpanzee.
“Hey sis, whatcha doing here? I thought you had the reptiles and koalas under control. You need some help??” Lisa called down to her.
Kate shook her head but words wouldn’t come.
“Whats the matter?” Lisa swung down out of the tree, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”
Kate didn’t know where to begin. She made sure no park guests were anywhere near them before saying a thing.
“Lisa I was in the reptile house getting food behind the wall when these two men came in. They... they’re planning to come here tomorrow night and take some of the animals and take them overseas for trade. They were going on about lack of staff and security and they think it will be easy. They’ve been watching all of us and they know where the house is and when we go there etc.”
Lisa looked very serious, “Are you absolutely sure Kate?”
Kate nodded, her eyes wide.
“Can you show me which people it was?”
“No. I didn’t see what they looked like, I only heard their voices.”
“Hmm ok... we can’t exactly go creeping around the park listening to the voices of all the men who are here today.”
“We have to do something!!!” Kate said urgently.
“We will, we’ll tell Ben and the others and think about what to do. But for now I think we should just act normally, as if nothing has happened. They could still be here and we don’t want them to notice anything different, especially if, as you say, they have been watching us for awhile.”
Kate still felt panicky but she could see the logic in what Lisa was saying.
“Okay I’ll go back to the koalas. Should I mention anything to anyone else?”
“No not yet we should let the Jameson’s know first. Now go!”
Kate went back and entered the Koala habitat; she didn’t fancy going back into the reptile house so soon after her experience. Her mind was racing. The rest of the day seemed to drag and it was with impatience that she waited for 4.30 and the park to close. The last guests went out the front gates and Kate went immediately over to Lisa and Ben. Sam and Sara joined them.
“Ben, we’ve got something to tell you.” Lisa said. She recounted Kate’s story, with Kate adding bits here and there as she remembered. Sam looked sceptical. Sara looked worried.
“Hmm so these scumbags were potentially here all day and we don’t have a clue what they look like?” Ben ran his fingers through his hair. “Hmm Rachel was in the ticket office today, she might be able to tell us more about who was here today.” The five of them walked to the ticket office, where Rachel was counting the money.
“Hey Rach,” said Ben, “Kate here overheard two men plotting to come here and steal a number of our animals that could be going to happen tomorrow night. Trouble is she didn’t get to see what they looked like.”
“So our lead is basically useless,” said Sam.
Ben gave him a pointed look, “So I need you to think back over who was here today and tell me as much as you can about them, any men on their own? Credit card slips etc??”
“Hmm.” Rachel was thoughtful, “I don’t really remember. I think there were about three lots of men in today, two of them were nature photographers so I’m not sure if you want to rule them out? And another lot have been here a few times before. I think they all paid cash though so no names or signatures sorry. It was mainly kids and parents today. Nothing really stood out to me as odd or anything, sorry.” She handed over the days takings to Ben to take inside to Lynne and then she had to go home. The others locked up the park and went into the house.
Lynne was sleeping on the couch with Kim on her lap. Kate coughed to wake her up and the two girls again recounted all that Kate had heard earlier that day. Lynne listened thoughtfully but didn’t seem overly concerned. “I wouldn’t worry too much we do have a security camera after all and I’d like to see someone put a fully grown emu into a bag. Or try to pick up an echidna without the right sort of training. We’ll contact the police but I don’t think they’ll be too interested, I’m afraid.”
Kate looked at her incredulously. “But they said they can get the security camera out of action!”
“I think someone probably just has an over-active imagination and wants a bit more excitement around here. Me, I’ve had enough for the day, I’m going home.” Said Sam.
“Yeah don’t get so worked up about it Kate,” said Sara, “Nothing bad has ever happened, it will be fine.” Sam and Sara left and Lynne got started on dinner, while Ben and the girls took over caring for Kim.
Kate felt angry, “Why is no one else as worried? Why doesn’t Sam believe me, even your mum’s not taking it seriously!” she burst out to Ben.
“Well I guess to them it’s not as serious, there’s no proof, you don’t have any evidence, and you’re just a 15 year old girl.” Kate’s felt indignant, “You don’t need to get angry at me though, I believe you and we’re going to do all we can to stop this from happening, ok?” Ben said looking into her eyes. Kate felt suddenly calmer.
“Alright we need a plan!”
The trio continued to plan that night after dinner. Peter and Chris had come home and they had told them, Peter had rung the police, who, as Lynne had predicted were not overly interested given the lack of evidence and its source but they said they’d send an officer over the next night if they were not too busy and could spare one. Peter was okay about it, confident that the security measures he had in place would be enough. “I’ll keep watch tomorrow night too kids. Look I’m just as concerned about our animals as you but I’m sure everything will be fine. Relax, want to play Monopoly or something tonight?”
“Nah I think we’ll just watch DVDs in the bedroom.” Lisa said, “Thanks for dinner Lynne, it was lovely.” The three of them retreated into Ben’s room, not to watch DVDs at all but to get some serious planning done. Ben drew a quick sketch of the park showing all the enclosures, the security cameras, entrances, low fencing etc.
“We don’t know where they will try to come in, but we’ve got to man the front gates though I don’t think they’d be dumb enough to come in the main doors, but you never know. We should also be stationed near the Kangaroo Korner as the fences there are relatively low, same with the wombats.”
“Why don’t we be there instead of the entry as its so close to the entry anyway?” Lisa asked.
“Good point. They couldn’t get in from the Chimpanzee Jungle or spider monkeys as theres no entry, just the big back of the cage. Emu run is a bit open as well but I don’t see them voluntarily jumping into an enclosure with birds as big as them, especially if they are not familiar with Australian wildlife.” Kate and Lisa agreed, “And the reptile house has no outside entry. So that leaves the echidnas, because the koala’s area has that big fence and all those tall trees behind it.”
“Ok so we need to be at or watching the Kangaroos, Wombats and echidnas tomorrow night.” Lisa said.
“Yes and there’s three of us so that works out well.” Ben said.
“Not so fast, I’m not sure I want to be alone at night in the park when we’re actually expecting potentially dangerous criminals to be coming in. I don’t think we should split up.” Kate said, appealing to her sister.
“OK, Kate and I will stick together and watch the kangaroos and wombats as they are right next to each other anyway and you can watch at the wombats.” Lisa said. Kate breathed a sigh of relief.
“What should we bring? Weapons of any sort? I’m not sure I could attack anyone...” Kate said nervously.
“Definitely a video camera or camera so we can get evidence, especially if the security camera is put out of action, mobile phones to contact the police if we need to, possibly a snake or two.... we know which ones are harmless but they probably don’t and we can use that to our advantage.” Ben was thinking hard. “We should probably be out there from 6 but then again if they are watching the house we want them to see us going to the house. Maybe we can sneak back out individually, that wouldn’t be as obvious.”
They spent the rest of the night talking and planning and Kate woke the next morning to find herself still in Ben’s room, the three of them still in their work clothes with hand drawn maps and notebooks scattered all around them. Kate felt nervous and worried, what if something bad happened? Or what if nothing happened at all and then she would be made to feel foolish for making them go to all this trouble for nothing. Kate and Lisa went back to their own room and got changed into a fresh set of clothes, brushed their hair and went down for a quick bowl of WeetBix for breakfast. Ben joined them before long, with Chris, Lynne and Peter.
“You guys had a late one last night” Lynne said, “I went past after 12 and you were still all in there, must have been a good movie! I hope you’re all bright and bushy tailed for another big day at the park today”. They all nodded.
“So Dad,” said Ben casually, “Are you still gonna watch the park tonight in case..., cos we’d all like to help.”
“Yeah I will, and that’s fine, but it will be another late night for you lot, you don’t have to help.” Peter said.
“We’ll see how we feel.” Lisa said stretching. They washed their bowls and cups, put hats on and went out to start the day. It was an ordinary day, they started off cleaning out the enclosures and replacing the food and water and saying ‘Good morning’ to all the animals, then the others started arriving at work, Peter, Lynne, Michael, Sam and Sara. Rachel was not rostered on that day and Chris was on his off day which meant staying home with Kim the koala. Lynne was on tickets again. Kate purposely requested not to be in the reptile house again, she was still freaked out by yesterday to want to be in there alone again today. Michael took the job after hearing about her experience yesterday. He was a kind man, in his mid 30s, he had worked at Perth Zoo previously but wanted a more personal environment and had come to Jameson’s when he had heard about it. “I’ll even stay late tonight and help you watch the park in case” he told them. Kate felt better already, it would be the 5 of them, as well as possibly a policeman, and she felt better about that than the plan for just the three of them. Kate took the wombats today, Lisa the kangaroos, Ben the monkeys and chimpanzees, Peter the emus, Sara the echidnas and Sam the koalas. The day passed just like any other, apart from the fact that they all were now taking much more notice of every person who came into the zoo, trying to remember as much details as they could about each and every man who came in, as well as running through the plans for the night ahead in their minds. Lisa saw a group of two men walking past the Kangaroo Korner and took a mental note. Light brown hair, one with a beard and one without, could be brothers, about 5”10, brown pants and a blue shirt. Later she saw an Asian man and his wife over by the koalas, black hair, red shirt, jeans. A man alone entering the zoo, in black leather jacket and black jeans, brown spiky hair. This could drive her crazy, thinking everyone was a suspect.
Kate at the wombats saw one man who looked familiar, she was sure she had seen him before, just yesterday in fact, at the park. Could he be one of the men, or was he simply the regular Rachel had mentioned that comes in often to take photos? She wasn’t working that day and so Kate couldn’t ask her. It was frustrating. The day went annoyingly slowly but nothing out of the ordinary happened and she started to slightly relax and enjoy spending time with Burrow and Maxi and the other wombats.
Just before closing, Peter came through and said to Kate, “Listen sorry Kate but I’m not going to be able to hang around here tonight, I’ve got to head off now. I just got an urgent phone call from a mate up the coast, a whale up there has beached itself and Lynne and I need to go right away to help out to try to save it. You guys will have to make your own dinner, don’t worry I’ve called the police again today and they are definitely sending an officer down this evening, it’ll be fine!” he said with a wink, “Now I better go, catch up with you all tomorrow hopefully.” He said dashing off.
“That was sudden,” Lisa said coming over to the side of the fence, “but you can understand he needs to be there to save a whale, they are such amazing animals.”
“Yeah..” said Kate but she couldn’t help but feel uneasy. What if this was just a hoax phone call from the men, designed to get him and Lynne out of the way? But then again, Peter had said it was a friend of his that had called... 4.30 came and went and they began their typical closing up routines, locking the monkey and chimpanzee cages and the top of the snake pit, restocking food to get them through the night and counting the days takings. Sara had taken over from Lynne in the gift shop/ticket office when she and Peter had to suddenly leave to attend to the whale. Sam left as soon as he could, still acting as if Kate had made the whole thing up.
“Do you need me to stay and help keep watch tonight?” Sara asked, “You do still have a policeman coming, Peter said?”
“It should be fine.” Ben said.
“Oh good.” Sara said, her face brightening, ‘I actually had plans for tonight but would cancel if you needed me, feel free to call me if you do need help or anything ok guys?” Michael said he would stay and he came back up to the house with Ben, Lisa and Kate. Chris was inside with Kim, slightly grumpy from being stuck inside all by himself all day. They let him know of the plans for the night and made themselves a quick stir-fry dinner of noodles, vegetables, honey and soy sauce.
Re: Animal Park
At about 5.30pm the policeman arrived in an unmarked car and knocked on the door. He had a few questions for Kate about what she had overheard and then he was going to set off to watch the park.
“We’re coming with you.” said Ben.
“No you’re not.” said the policeman, “We don’t want to draw any more attention to the fact that someone’s watching than we need to and I don’t want to put minors in any danger.”
“I’m coming” Michael said, and after a little persuasion the policeman agreed. Michael was older and looked strong and dependable. For the next hour Chris, Ben, Lisa and Kate watched from inside the house with baited breath. After a little while Ben went into his room and came back with several sets of binoculars that he had used for birdwatching when he was younger. They each took a pair and sat watching but all they could see was Michael and the police officer, and from time to time the outline of an animal came into view. The park was empty and peaceful.
After nearly two hours, the police officer and Michael came back into the house. “I think this one was a false alarm” he said, looking stern, “That’s enough time wasting here, I need to get onto some real policing, the parks quiet as can be, no one is around for miles. Better be off”. He drove off in his car. Michael followed shortly afterwards.
“Thanks for staying.” Ben said to him.
“Better that than not staying and having something happen, I’m glad nothing did, see you at work on Monday.” Michael said and started his car too.
Ben, Lisa and Kate were a little disappointed but still on the alert. It was still relatively early and the men could just be biding their time.
“We’re still going to follow the plan aren’t we?” she asked the other two.
“Course we are.” Ben said to her. “Can’t leave the park unprotected now, it means too much to our family.”
The phone rang and Chris answered. They could hear him talking and then hang up. He came into the room.
“You guys are staying in for the rest of the night right?” he asked, “We just got a call from a member of the general public about a kangaroo that was hit out on Old Mandurah Road. I better go down there to see what I can do, especially with Mum and Dad out. The man didn’t give his name, he was probably the person who hit the kangaroo in the first place. You guys can take care of Kim right?”
Kate and Lisa glanced at each other, but Ben said, “Yeah sure.”
Chris gathered some supplies he might need for the injured kangaroo and left in his pick-up truck. Only Ben’s car remained at the house and it was in the garage. To any outsider it would seem as if no one was home.
Kate turned off the lights in the rooms facing outside and sat by the window still with the binoculars. The park was still calm as ever. She wondered if she was being paranoid. In the next room Lisa and Ben were discussing what to do.
“We can stay and watch from in here for a bit, we have to because of Kim.” Lisa said.
“Or maybe just one of us can stay with her, and the other two go on watch.” Ben said. “Kate?”
“I’m not staying here all by myself!!” Kate said quickly.
They continued to watch from the window. “I hate to suggest it but could we leave Kim here alone? She has been getting better lately.” Lisa asked tentatively.
“Hmm perhaps but I think she should be close to where we are. Maybe we could take her down with us and leave her in Koala Kingdom while we’re out there then bring her back when we go back in.” Ben suggested, his deep brown eyes thoughtful.
They decided to do just that. The three of them took turns manning the window and continually checking the grounds with binoculars while the others got dressed into dark coloured clothes to keep them hidden in the summer night darkness. Quietly they went over their positions and how they would get there. Lisa and Kate at the wombats and kangaroos and Ben at the echidnas. They planned to leave the house via the back door one by one, Ben left first, giving Lisa a quick kiss before going and squeezing Kate’s hand in a reassuring sort of way. He picked up Kim and her blanket to deposit her in Koala Kingdom as it was on the way to his watch spot. He disappeared immediately into the trees and bushes, camouflaged perfectly in the dark bush.
Kate was to go next, after a 3 minute interval, with Lisa last, going to lock the house as she left. But just as Kate touched the door handle, both girls froze. They heard the sound of an unfamiliar vehicle, not the friendly and normal sounds of Chris’s truck returning home or the Jameson car. The car was purring quietly and then the engine turned off. The lights were just visible to the left of the park entrance, under a tree. It was a panel van, grey in colour. There were three people the girls could see. One was opening the back of the van and removing boxes, bags and cages. The other two were getting out of the car muttering to themselves quietly.
“It’s really happening!!” Kate said in barely a whisper. Lisa nodded silently, her eyes wide but certain.
Lisa and Kate slipped out of the house as quietly as possible, making sure they had their mobile phones in their pocket, and a pair of the binoculars too. They went from tree to tree, army style, always keeping hidden, and also trying to spot the men again. They could barely make out the outline of the van anymore and neither Lisa or Kate wanted to risk using a torch and giving away their location. They reached their intended location between the wombats and the kangaroos, and their eyes had finally adjusted to the darkness.
“I think we should go up the tree.” Lisa said, “We’d have a better view of what’s going on than we will on the ground and they arrived on the other side of the park anyway.” Kate agreed and Lisa helped give her a leg up to get up into the branches, before scaling the tree next to it herself with ease. Immediately Lisa got out the binoculars to see what was going on. She could see Kim in with the koalas. Suddenly she heard a banging sound and trained her binoculars on the middle of the park, where she thought the sound was coming from. There laying on the ground was the security camera, well and truly disarmed. She trained the binoculars to the surroundings and saw a man with laughter on his face.
“Kate!” she whispered, “Photos! Now!”
Kate was already taking photos but not of that, she was taking photos of a man coming out of the reptile house with a bag full of writhing reptiles.
They can’t have got the snakes! She thought to herself, the snake pit was securely locked. Unless they have already smashed it open. She felt angry at these people’s blatant disregard and lack of caring for these animals and this park that she knew everyone had worked so hard for. They couldn’t see Ben, which they took as a good thing as it meant he was as well hidden as they were. The third man was nowhere to be seen either. The man who had just smashed the camera then went into the koala kingdom.
“Kim!” Kate said worriedly, sliding down the tree.
“What are you doing??” Lisa hissed down to her.
“We’re got to get closer, we can’t let them get away with this!!” Kate and Lisa jumped from one hiding spot to another, being extra careful as they entered the actual park grounds. Ringo, one of the red kangaroos came over and nuzzled Lisa’s hand as she went through. “Not now boy, but I’ll be back later I promise” she whispered. They went from behind a bush to behind a bin. The park had some lighting that was always on and they wanted to avoid being caught in the light.
Soon they were close enough to be able to see more clearly into the koalas. One was already missing, and two of the men stood in there, holding a variety of bags and cages.
“Don’t bother with that one.” One said, indicating Kim, “She looks in a right state.” He flicked her in the back and she reached out her claws to scratch him.
“Argh she got me, wrecked koala bear.” The man said, picking up a piece of bark from the floor and throwing it at her. Lisa had to bite her hand to keep from shouting at them. They moved on to one of the other koalas and got gloves on to take it out of the tree. Lisa and Kate were so engrossed with what was going on that they almost forgot their hiding position. Kate lifted her hand to take a photo and was able to get a few reasonably good shots, considering how much her hands were shaking. The men took another of the koalas and made their way towards the exit. Lisa pulled Kate into a better hiding position, out of sight.
“Just stow these in the van, then we’ll go get one of the chimpanzees, Cavalli’s getting a spider monkey I think..” one man said to the other.
Lisa and Kate breathed out deeply as the men got further away, neither had realised they had been holding their breath, but they had been.
“What should we do?” Kate asked her sister, her long hair swinging over her shoulder.
“Wait until the men are out the way in the back corner, then we can go to the van and try to get the animals out of there, they’ll be so distressed.” Lisa said.
The men passed again on their way to the far end of the park, where the monkeys and chimpanzees were housed and the girls took the opportunity to sneak out the front entrance to the van. Lisa opened the back of the van with trembling hands. Inside she could see the two koalas and a bag of reptiles. The koalas started at them with their deep black eyes.
Lisa opened the cage and pulled out Connie Koala. “Grab the other one Kate and let’s get them back where they belong!” she commanded her sister.
Kate didn’t need asking twice. She had not handled the koalas so closely before now and always had worn a bib and gloves to protect her from their sharp claws but there was none at hand and the situation was serious. She picked up the koala and held it to her chest like a baby.
She and Lisa half walked/half ran to Koala Kingdom, praying the men were still busy in the Monkey Jungle. The koalas were already scared from their ordeal with the men and their time in a small cage and Kate could feel its claws digging into the skin around her neck. The girls pulled the koalas off them with some difficulty. Lisa’s top had claw marks on it. The girls briefly comforted the koalas and got them settled into the trees, checked on Kim who seemed to be doing ok and then headed back to the van.
Lisa quickly grabbed the bag full of reptiles, writhing angrily, not liking their cramped quarters and started heading to the reptile house. Kate had her phone out, taking photos of the bag and the back of the van, making sure to include the number plate in the shot.
“Kate, come ON!” hissed Lisa, we gotta get them back where they belong before they start attacking each other, she said indicating the snakes.
“Ok ok, quick hide!” Kate said to her sister. One of the men had come into view, empty handed and was heading to the van. They followed him with their gaze, Kate taking photos of him as he went. When he was out of sight, the girls took off again. They reached the reptile house and started carefully taking the lizards, snakes and bearded dragon out of the bag one by one, muttering a few comforting words to them and placing them gently back into their home. They all immediately ran off and hid under rocks and branches in their enclosures. Lisa and Kate noticed the lock on the snake pit lid had been smashed and the top now was freestanding but there was no time to do anything about it now.
They heard a distant angry shout.
“I think they’ve found the animals have gone.” Kate smiled to Lisa. “Let’s get closer to listen.” They crept out of the side exit of the reptile house, through the koalas and crouched down by the gift shop, where they had a clear view of the van, but with the protection of bushes around them.
“Gone, all gone, I got back here with the spider monkey and everything has gone. Now how would that have happened?” said one man to the other.
“Maybe someone is double crossing us... or maybe someone is here we’re not aware of...”
Kate snapped photos of both the men together and barely stifled a giggle, she felt proud that she and Lisa had been able to free the koalas and reptiles.
Just then however, a new voice broke the silence behind them.
“Well well, what have we got here?” The two girls whirled around in shock, the new speaker had dark curly hair a moustache and beard, the same man who had thrown the bark at Kim earlier that night. He looked angry but amused. He held Charlie the chimpanzee in a small cage in his right hand.
“And I better have that!” he said snatching Kate’s phone from her outstretched hand, “Can’t have any pictures like that getting out.” He threw the phone to the ground and it smashed into thousands of pieces. Kate looked at it in shock.
“You can’t do this!!!” she yelled at them defiantly, “You will get caught!! How dare you take our animals and mistreat our koalas!”
Lisa looked at her, amazed. Her quiet introverted sister was having quite an outburst! Kate, normally so shy was so outraged at what was happening that she had had a sudden urge of reckless bravery. Lisa grabbed Kate’s arm and made a run for it. They didn’t get far.
“Not so fast, my pretty.” The man said, grabbing both girls by the back of their shirts. “You’re from the park aren’t you?? I thought we got rid of everyone. When we rang about the kangaroo we were hoping to get the owner and his wife out of the way but we were told they were already out so another member of the family went to attend to that.”
“What did you do to the kangaroo?” Lisa asked through clenched teeth.
“We did nothing, the calls just a false alarm to get people away from the house. But we didn’t count on you two, the house looked deserted.”
Suddenly the two other voices called out, “Ponkov! Is that you?? The koalas and reptiles are gone!”
“Really?” he said, half amused, “Well I think we may have discovered the cause of that little inconvenience..”
“What do you mean?” the other man asked. They joined Ponkov and soon understood.
“You!! Did you go into our van and remove the animals?” the tallest of the men growled.
“I went in there to put the spider monkey in and they were gone.” The other man said.
“Yes.” Said Lisa, sounding braver than she felt. “They don’t belong to you, they belong here, and you have no right to come here and remove them and mistreat them like that.
“Now we need to start over again, and we need to get you two out of the way and out of trouble so we can finish the job.”
“We’re not going without a fight.” Said Kate, clearly ready and willing to punch the man, and hard. She kicked the man in the shins.
“Oh really?” the man said coolly, producing a gun from his waist pocket. Both girls fell silent.
“And you with the long dark hair, just for that you’re going to come and help us round up all the animals you and your friend here took out of our van. “ Kate was roughly pushed towards the koalas.
“Get 2 of them down for me, I got an awful scratch off one last time, you might as well do it.” Kate reluctantly lifted her arms up to grab Connie. She hated having to help them steal from the zoo, but was going to try to do it as carefully as she could to cause as little discomfort to the animals as she could.
Just metres behind Kate, Lisa’s hands were tied behind her back and she was led to the panel van by another of the men who also produced a gun. She was then forced into the back of the panel van where she could see a cage with a spider monkey. The other man put the cage with the chimpanzee into the van next to her.
“And don’t even think about trying to get out or letting the animals out. Be back soon with more.” The man snarled.
“What are you going to do with us?” Lisa asked.
“That my dear, is for me to know and you to find out, and quite dependent on how you and your little friend behave.”
“She’s my little sister. Don’t hurt her!”
The last thing Lisa saw was the man’s hard face, curled into a twisted smile. The panel van’s doors were violently thrown shut and Lisa was plunged into darkness.
Ben lay on his stomach on the roof of the reptile house. He had gotten away from the house quickly after leaving Kate and Lisa, and had put Kim in with the other koalas when he had heard a vehicle approaching. He had moved as quickly as possible to just inside the echidna enclosure, with a clear view down the outer edge of the park. He could make out three men with a variety of objects for catching and storing animals. His heart quickened. This was actually happening... He watched as the men entered the park, bold as anything, through the echidna area, very near to where he was hiding.
“Won’t take any of these.” He heard one man grunt under his breath. He entered the reptile house, while his accomplices headed off in different directions, one towards the front of the park and the other towards the monkeys. Now was the time to act. He first dialled his father.
Ring ring, ring ring. The phone kept ringing, his Dad must be out of range or still working on the whale. Next he dialled the police.
“I need police here at Jameson Animal Park straightaway” he whispered urgently.
“We had a man down their earlier today and he already checked it out, what’s going on?” the cool voice of the police officer came through the phone.
“We’ve had a break in” Ben said. “Three men are in the park right now, trying to make off with several of our animals. Hurry!”
“I can barely hear you, can you speak up?” the policeman said.
“Not really no, the men are pretty near to me and I don’t want to be overheard. Just send someone and quickly.”
“We’ll send someone right away. What is your location?”
Ben told them the address and hung up. He tried to call Chris but there was no answer. He sent a quick sms to Michael and Sara. “Kate was right and there are 3 men in here now”. As he pressed the send button he saw something that made his heart jump into his mouth.
Kate and Lisa were creeping across the park towards the koalas, where two of the men were. A third man was a little further back. They watched silently and the men took their current load to the van and then headed towards the back section of the park, to the monkeys and chimpanzees. He watched in disbelief as Kate and Lisa headed towards the panel van and started to take animals out of it and back into the park. Good on them. He felt a small flame of pride in his heart. He wanted to go and join them but just then he felt the vibration of his mobile phone in his pocket and got it out. It was Michael.
“Mate whats going on?” he asked.
“There’s three men here taking animals left, right and centre.”
“Oh no, did you call the police?”
“Yes but I don’t know how quick they will be.”
“I’m on my way. Might bring some stuff to help us slow them down, be there as soon as I can ok. Stay safe, don’t do anything stupid. Where are the girls??”
“Well right now they are taking animals out of the van and putting them back into the park while the men are out the back. Might go help them.” Said Ben.
“Be careful. See you soon.” Said Michael.
Ben pressed end on the phone call and went to slide down the reptile house wall to join the girls. They were by the koala kingdom, supposedly on their way to the van again. He saw Kate taking photos and Lisa crouching and watching two of the men who were talking in raised voices. The third man suddenly walked very close past Ben and he was relieved not to have been spotted. He watched helplessly as the man got closer to the girls and then surprised them. He saw the man grab Kate’s phone and throw it to the ground. Kate was yelling and even kicked one of the men in the shins until the man brought out a gun... Ben’s heart jumped into his throat and he had to watch numbly as Kate was forced further into the koala enclosure and Lisa was tied up and taken forcefully outside the park towards the van. Lisa was made to get inside the van and the door was slammed shut.
Ben was seething, he had to do something, knowing the police they would take their time to get here, and who knew how much longer the men planned to be in the park. Now his beloved girlfriend and her sister were in terrible danger and he had to act, and fast!
Two of the three men gathered together in the central area of the park.
“Well that was an unexpected inconvenience. What are we going to do with them?”
“We could just take them on the boat with the animals, I’m sure people would be willing to buy them too, especially the blonde one as blondes are rare as hens teeth back home.”
“Anyway we better hurry and get out of here we’ve got 2 koalas back again, a spider monkey and chimpanzee, not as much as we wanted but..”
“No we still need to take a wombat, get the lizards and snakes again and some kangaroos. Might take a look at those emus too, though they are quite big and I’m not sure how much demand there will be..”
The third man joined them with Kate. “She’s co-operating so far. Should we get the reptiles again now?”
“Yes, let’s get on with it then.” The three men split up, heading in different directions. The man who had threatened Lisa with the gun headed towards the Emu run, Kate and another men headed towards the reptile house again (Ben was sure they’d be glad to have her to handle them rather than picking them up themselves) and the other man headed for the other side, presumably to get the wombat and kangaroos.
Ben slid quietly down from the tree he had been using to watch from and crept behind the koala area to the panel van. He tried to open the boot but it was locked. He knocked as loudly as he dared.
“Lisa, it’s Ben. Don’t worry I’m going to do everything I can to get you out of this mess. The police are on the way.” He said, not sure they could hear him. He placed his right hand on the back panel of the car, the closest he could get to actually touching Lisa.
“Ben” he heard Lisa say with a sob. “Have you seen Kate? Is she ok??”
“She’d doing alright they are making her get all the animals you two let out. I’m going to get us out of this mess, we’re going to fight back.”
“Stay safe. I love you” Lisa said softly.
Ben stayed by the van only a few seconds more, he had no time to lose and the knowledge that he was so close to Lisa but unable to do anything to help her or Kate strengthened his resolve to keep on fighting. He crept back away from the van towards the park again, heading for the emu run, keeping to the bushes and tree scrub as he passed. The floor was littered with leaves, bark and, closer to the back of the echidna area, a pile of thick tree branches that had fallen down during the storms last spring. They were keeping them there to use for firewood for the winter months. Seeing them gave Ben an idea and when he passed them he picked up a particularly thick branch, nearly twice the size of a baseball bat. It was fairly heavy but he could carry it and he knew what he had to do. He approached the outside of the emu run and peered in. The man was in there, trying to get 2 of the emus cornered but they kept evading his clutches. He turned and headed for the other one, which was close to the back edge of the fence. As the man ran towards it he was coming more into line where Ben was hiding in wait. When they were directly in line Ben struck, he stood up where he was and lifted the tree branch high, and brought it down on the man’s head with a sickening thud.
The man immediately crumpled to the ground and Ben could see a trickle of blood coming down from the side of his head. He was unconscious. Ben jumped the fence with ease and checked the man’s pockets for the keys to the van. Unfortunately he didn’t have the keys. In his search however Ben came across the gun. He paused for a moment and then pocketed it. He didn’t intend to use it at all but he thought it was definitely safer on their side than that of their enemy and he could use it to hold his own against the other two if he had to. He dragged the man’s unconscious body into the dark far corner of the emu run and went around the other side to see what the other two men were up to. Two of the wombats were missing. He saw the man with Kate heading towards the exit with arms full of wire cages. Burrow and Maxi were clawing wildly through the bars. His companion was having a harder time capturing a kangaroo, and still hadn’t got one by the time he returned from depositing the animals into the van. Kate wasn’t with him anymore.
“Put the girl in the van with the other one. I’m going to see if Ponkov is having better luck than you,” he said turning and heading for the emu run.
“Ponkov! Need any help with that great beast of a bird?” he asked cheerfully. There was no answer. He peered into the emu run but he could see no movement. The three birds stood together in the middle of the run. “Bet there’s a lot of meat, oil and leather products in you! Hmm now where is he?” He checked in the nearby enclosures but Ponkov was not there. He began to get worried. What if their mate had double crossed them and taken off with the truck and the animals they’d got already? He checked the van but there it stood as it had for the whole time. He went back to the kangaroos, where Campagno had finally bagged two of the kangaroos.
“Ponkov’s gone.” He said slowly. Campagno looked confused.
“He can’t be, there’s just us here and the two girls. Let’s go look for them.”
“I have” the other man protested but Campagno insisted on looking some more. Ben thought quickly. He felt in his pocket for the keys to the enclosures and smiled to himself. When Campagno went into the spider monkey house to check, Ben was right behind him and managed to swing shut the door to the closure and locked it tight. Two men down, one to go. He heard angry banging and shouting coming from behind the door and got out of the way as quickly as he could. He hoped the spider monkeys would be alright with him in there.
“Cavalli! Cavalli!” the muffled shouts seemed to be calling. The other man came over to find what was the matter.
“Where are you??”
“I’m locked in here!” Campagno called. To Ben’s surprise, Cavalli laughed nastily.
“This has worked out perfectly.. you’re locked up here, I found Ponkov unconscious in a corner of the emu area, will leave him too, now I’m going to get all the money myself.”
Ben heard Campagno bang harder on the door in a frustrated way. Cavalli laughed again and turned away, heading quickly to the van.
“Not so fast.” said Ben stepping into the light with the gun pointed directly at Cavalli. “Now give me the keys to the van. You’ve got things that are very precious to me in there and I need them back.”
Cavalli, who initially had looked surprised now laughed derisively. “And why would I do that? Do you have any idea how much I’m gonna get for all this stuff on the foreign black market?” He brought out his own gun.
Lisa and Kate sat in the back of the van, both struggling against the ropes binding their wrists and anxiously wondering what was going on out there? Where was Ben right now and had the police arrived? Lisa wished her hands were free so she could comfort some of the animals, clearly distressed from being taken from an environment which they loved into such cramped, uncomfortable conditions. They were now prisoners with 2 wombats, 2 chimpanzees, a spider monkey, 2 koalas, a kangaroo and the reptiles. They had heard a loud bang and some distant bangs and muffled voices but had no idea what was going on.
“Hey Lisa, I think I’ve loosened my ropes a bit!” Kate said, feeling her left wrist able to move a lot more freely than before. Before long she had one hand completely free, and she started on the other side.
“How on earth did you manage that?” Lisa asked her, amazed.
“Just something I was reading up on the Internet a few months back after watching this magic thing at school.” Kate said shrugging.
Before long, both girls were free of the ropes. They immediately tried to open the panel van’s back door but it was no use. So they got to work comforting the animals. They let some of them out of their cages for cuddles, which really comforted the girls as much as it did the animals.
Ben and Cavalli were at a stand-off, both sides had guns and neither was willing to budge. Ben kept debating in his heart if he would actually dare to shoot the gun, he’d never used one before, but he was sure the man would not even hesitate.
He and Ben stood facing each other, Ben remained rooted to the spot, trying to decide what to do. It was one against one which was much better than one against three. He still couldn’t believe that this man was so cold hearted he could leave his companions here so he could get all the money for himself. Ben was determined not to let that happen!
“So you work here?” Cavalli said to Ben.
“Yes, my family and I own the place.”
“You should tell your father that he needs to tighten up on security. What are you going to do now with half your ‘precious’ animals gone? What’s the appeal of animals to you anyway?”
“Well all they mean to you is money and goods, but to us they are like a family, we share the earth with these beautiful creatures and our job is to protect them, animals look much better alive than as skins, and they need a habitat that closely resembles theirs in the wild. What am I wasting my breath talking to you about it, you’re never going to get it.” Ben shook his head.
Cavalli made an indistinct grunting noise and bolted towards the exit, towards the van for his getaway. Ben immediately turned and ran after him, he could not let him get away with the animals and Kate and of course Lisa. A steely determination set over him, he was catching up to Cavalli as they ran past the trees lining the exit outside the ticket office. He reached the van slightly before Ben and was fumbling with the drivers key.
“Let the girls out!” Ben cried, as Cavalli jumped into the front passenger seat, pointing the gun squarely at the dark haired man. He couldn’t remember ever having hated someone so much.
“You’re forgetting I have a gun too... and unlike you I’m not afraid to use it. Now let me go peacefully or you’ll be sorry.” He said aiming his own weapon at Ben.
Ben impulsively ran towards the back of the van in the hope of opening the back and letting the girls out into what was certain to be a risky situation. As he ran he heard gunshots ring out in the still night, bullets heading towards him from Cavalli. He managed to just miss them all as he sheltered behind the van. Cavalli immediately began to reverse the van in the hope of running Ben over and he had to dash out of the way into the surrounding bushes. He heard Lisa and Kate’s muffled gasps and screams as they felt the van jerk so suddenly. Then the van took off.
Ben couldn’t help himself he pointed the gun at the side wheels of the van in the hope of blowing the tyres and stopping it, but his bullet merely put a small dent in the lower left hand side of the vehicle, he didn’t dare to shoot again at the back of it as he knew the girls were in there. As the van left at top speed he heard another vehicle approaching. It was Sara! Ben ran to her car.
“Sara, thank God you’re here!” Ben said breathlessly and full of panic!
Sara’s eyes were wide and worried at the sight of her friend looking so panicked frightened her. “I got the message and got here as soon as I could.”
“One of the men just left with Lisa and Kate and loads of the animals, I think they were heading north to the coast. It’s a panel van. The other two men are in the park still, one locked in the monkey cage, the other unconscious at the emus. Can you stay here? I need to take your car and go after them!!”
Sara looked apprehensive. “Hang on, you don’t know which way he is going.” She noticed the gun hanging loosely from Ben’s hand and froze.
“Where did you get that? This is more serious than I thought.”
“Sara there’s no time for this, give me your keys, I need to go NOW! There’s no time to waste. I’ll be fine!! Kim’s in with the koalas and has had a rough night, can you look after her? Michael and the police will be here soon you can pass them the information and show them where the two men are so they can arrest them!”
“I need more information.”
“Here’s my camera, it has pictures of all three men, the number plate and pictures of the van give that to the police, I need to get going!!”
Sara got out of her car and handed Ben the keys. “I’m going to ring the police again” she said, “get some guys here and some to look for the car. Good luck and stay safe!” she said softly, squeezing his hand. As she watched Ben drive away in her car, Sara dialled the police and gave details of the men, car and license plate and they sent officers straight away both to the park and the surrounding roads.
As Ben raced down the road he passed Michael. He felt more confident he and Sara would remain on top of things until the police came. His heart set on his goal of getting to Lisa and Kate before anything else happened to them made him put his foot on the accelerator to drive faster than he ever had in his life.
Lisa and Kate were being tossed around the back of the van, they could feel it driving chaotically at high speeds. They had had to pretend they were still tied up when the back of the van had been thrown open once more at the park and 2 of the kangaroos were thrown in next to them.
They had heard raised indistinguishable voices and then the van had taken off, then they had heard several bangs like gunshots, felt the van shake for a bit then it was off. They were also trying to hold and comfort the animals in turn, they were as frightened and giddy as the girls were. The monkeys were screeching. The man driving remotely opened up a panel separating the back of the van from the part with seats and growled, “Keep it down in there!” Lisa took the opportunity to thrust one of the snakes in through the small panelled opening, in the hope that its appearance would terrify him enough to stop the van and perhaps allow them to escape. For several minutes nothing happened. The snake simply stayed still where it had dropped through, carefully surveying its environment. Although relatively harmless, it did look like a dangerous snake to someone who didn’t know too much about reptiles. As it adjusted to its new location the snake uncoiled itself and slid underneath the back seats towards the front of the van. Kate and Lisa watched and waited with baited breath, but their vision was limited by the small size of the panel and the fact they were both so eager to see.
Cavalli continued driving madly, he had to get to the coast by 11 to make tonight’s ship and get the money. He grinned greedily at the thought of all the money going to him, alone and none to those 2 loser sidekicks Ponkov and Campagno, who could have even been arrested by now. He heard a strange hissing sound coming from what seemed to be under the car. Oh no, he thought to himself, better not be a flat tyre.
Suddenly the cause of the hissing became apparent as the enormous head of a snake raised itself up to above seat height, hissing dangerously by Cavalli’s legs.
“Arrrgggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” he screamed, swearing loudly.
He pulled over onto the side of the road, terrified the snake would strike and bite him. He had no idea if the snake was poisonous or not. Cavalli hopped out of the van and picked up a large stick from beside the road. He returned to the van and tried to wrangle the snake out of the van onto the ground. The snake hissed angrily, not enjoying being poked and prodded by the stick. “Just shoot it, shoot it, they only want it for the skin anyway!” Cavalli said to himself under his breath.
Kate and Lisa could no longer see what was going on and were both nervous. They once again tried to open the back of the van door now they had stopped but it would not open from the inside. They heard yet another gunshot and both froze, terrified about what may have happened and even more so about what could be to come.
Cavalli shot the snake at close range. It gave one last half hearted strike before falling down dead. He waited a few moments then picked it up, shuddering as he did so – he was not fond of snakes, but he knew the skin had value. He walked around the back of the van and opened it, throwing the lifeless body of the once great snake into the back with the terrified girls.
“Say goodbye to your little friend.” He said nastily. Kate gave a sob and he immediately slammed the door.
Ben was speeding down the road so fast he almost missed it, the plain white panel van pulled over on the side of the road. His heart was in his mouth and he pulled over as well, right in front of the van. There was no one in the driver’s seat. He saw Cavalli by the side of the van, coming back around and Ben stood blocking Cavalli’s entrace to the front van door, holding the gun.
“Not you again!” Cavalli snarled.
“Glad to see me?” asked Ben, stepping forwards, gun still held tightly in his hand. “Open the back of the van.”
“I don’t think I will.” Cavalli said, “And you’re not the only one with a gun remember?!”
“We’ll never stop fighting” Ben said to him, “for what is right, what is noble and for the continuance of animals to live in harmony with people. Animals shouldn’t be used for their skin or fur, they are living creatures just like you and me. And how dare you take my girlfriend and her sister. When you threaten that which is most important to me, who knows what I’m capable of!”
At that moment another car went past, one that made Ben look twice. It was a familiar vehicle, one he had himself been in many times. His father’s trusty ute on its way back from the whale saving mission on the coast. He must have spotted Ben or merely the dangerous situation and the ute slowed and doubled back. Cavalli had not yet noticed.
He tried to get Cavalli to keep talking. He didn’t want to risk making any sudden movements and still didn’t really want to shoot Cavalli himself.
“Well, well, well what have we got here?” the voice of Peter Jameson boomed out from behind them. Cavalli whirled around and Ben took the opportunity to grab his arm and wrestle him for the gun, leaving his own gun on the roof of the van before jumping for Cavalli. The two men struggled together for several moments, becoming off balance, trading blows and wrestling. Several gunshots were blasted into the distance and several birds from surrounding trees flew up into the air in surprise.
The next few seconds seemed to go by in slow motion, another shot was fired, Ben couldn’t see where it was going he was concentrating on getting Cavalli down onto the floor until suddenly he felt it. A hot, sharp piercing sensation in his right calf muscle. He had been shot. The pain was intense, a horrible burning tingling sensation that made him dizzy. He couldn’t stand, he could barely think of anything but the pain, and of Lisa and Kate in the van with the animals. Ben fell forwards onto Cavalli, pinning him to the ground. Cavalli’s face looked white and surprised that he had shot Ben. His grip upon the gun had slackened as saw what had happened and hit the ground and Ben was able to knock the gun out of his hands, grab it and fling it as far away from them as possible. This last action had cost Ben his last ounce of strength, and he blacked out, his last glance before his eyes closed towards the back of the van.
When Ben came to again, he opened his eyes to find he was no longer on top of Cavalli. He looked around. Now it was his father on Cavalli, pinning him to the ground. His leg gave another sharp burst of pain and he nearly cried out. His mother was stroking his hair and looking down on him worriedly. “Are you okay sweety?”
“How long have I been out for?” Ben asked wearily.
“Not long, less than a minute actually.” Lynne said. “So it happened then? Where are the police, where are Chris, Lisa and Kate? We just happened to see you on our way back to the park.”
“It’s a long story mum. Lisa and Kate are fine, they are in the back of the van, the men planned to kidnap them and take them overseas! But anyway how did it go with the whale?” Ben asked weakly, half serious and half jokingly.
His mother started to answer him and began wrapping the wound on his leg in bandages she had in the car first aid kit. They heard the sound of police sirens drawing closer. Cavalli started to struggle more than ever but he wasn’t going anywhere under the force of Peter Jameson.
Three policemen slowed to a stop right in front of them and jumped out of their car, armed with their own guns and handcuffs. They quickly took over from Peter, and had Cavalli handcuffed in a matter of seconds. One policeman was leading him towards the back of the car reading a list of charges “You are hereby charged with attempted kidnapping and the theft of a number of animals as well as breaking and entering and unlawful damage of private property. You have the right to remain silent...” while the other two policemen came over to the Jamesons.
“We’re going to need you to come in for questioning.” The senior of the two said.
“Can’t it wait until later. My son was shot in the leg by that man and he needs urgent medical attention.” Lynne said, helping Ben to stand with the help of her husband.
“Lisa.... Kate...” Ben said, pointing to the back of the van. He struggled free from his parents and limped over to the van doors.
Lynne watched her son go, with tears in her eyes, half wanting to race after him but knowing this was something he needed to do on his own. She was thinking to herself, I hope the girls are okay and that neither they nor the animals have suffered any injuries. And poor little Kate, her mum had sent her here for a quiet, safe time away with her sister and the animals and now she’s in the centre of a crime ring.
Ben reached the back of the van, the pain not bothering him as much now he was so close to the love of his life. He pulled the doors open with shaking hands and Kate and Lisa’s pale faces peered out at him in the moonlight, as well as several of the parks animals. Lisa’s face broke into a smile and she jumped into his arms. They kissed gently and soon he also took hold of Kate and held them both in a bear hug. For awhile none of them could speak.
Kate was first to break the silence. “He shot one of the snakes.” she said, sobbing quietly. She held up the limp body of Jasper the black snake.
Lynne, Peter and Ben were all shell shocked, none had been aware that this had happened.
“Kate, look.” Lisa said quietly, “He shot Ben. We wondered what was going on when we heard all those gunshots. We were so worried. Are you okay??”
“I’ll be fine. Probably just need to go into the hospital though to get the bullet out. I’m much better now I’ve seen you safe though.” Ben said, squeezing the girls again.
The policemen were examining the inside of the van, and asked Peter to identify the animals. “And you better have more guys down at our park. There’s two more criminals there who were involved in tonight’s events too.”
“There are men already there sir.” The policeman replied seriously. “Now we will need to question all of you in relation to tonights events.”
“I need to take my son to the emergency room.” Lynne said, coming over to his side. “You can interview him when he is on the mend. Lisa and Kate and Peter will be able to go along for questioning in the meantime.”
“What about the animals?” Kate asked.
“I’ll get one of my men to drive them back. I trust there are people there to receive them?” the policeman said. Ben nodded.
“Ok honey let’s go.” Lynne said. Ben gave Lisa one last quick kiss and cuddle and went to the car, with Lynne, hobbling along with increasing agony. He could hardly believe it was all over, now everyone was safe. Well except for poor old Jasper.
Back at the animal park, Michael and Sara were filling in the police. “There’s a man locked in the monkey enclosure, here’s the key..” Another policeman came out holding Ponkov tightly. Ponkov looked dazed and confused.
“That one probably has a bit of concussion, he was hit on the head earlier tonight.” Sara explained. Ponkov and Campagno were handcuffed and roughly pushed into the back of the police van lock-up. Michael and Sara told the police all they knew and gave them Ben's camera with the photos of the men and the van. Once the police had left, Sara and Michael started cleaning up and comforting the animals.
After nearly two hours of questioning, Peter, Kate and Lisa were free to go. They first rang Lynne to find out where Ben was, and found he was still in hospital so they went there.
They walked in quietly to find Ben sleeping, his right leg bandaged below the knee and slightly elevated. Lynne sat on the chair next to him, stroking his hair out of his eyes, but stood up to greet her husband and the girls.
“How is he?” Peter asked.
“He’s going to be fine. They got the bullet out fine, but theres just some ligament damage and the area around is of course very tender and swollen still.” Lynne said.
Lisa walked over and kissed Ben gently on the lips. His eyes opened sleepily. “Hey babe. How are you?” he asked.
“I should be asking you that!” she replied jokingly.
“I’ll be fine,” Ben said, “I’m just glad you’re okay. How was the police questioning?”
“Not too bad, just long.” Lisa said, “I think we’ve told them pretty much everything we know but they still want to talk to you in the morning.”
“A lot of people do.” The night nurse said, coming in. “The media will be very interested in hearing your story too. There’s already a pack of media outside the hospital, they must have followed your car from the station.”
“They will have to wait.” Lynne said. “We all need to get some rest.”
Lynne, Peter and Kate left shortly after that from a back entrance, and Lisa stayed by Ben’s bedside. It didn’t feel right to leave him alone, but he knew the others were keen to get back to the park and talk to the others. The couple fell into a deep sleep, relieved it was all over and that they were both now safe.
Later that night the others, including Chris, Sara and Michael sat in the kitchen at the Jameson home, hardly believing that just a few hours ago they had been working together at a normal day at the park. They were drinking cups of hot chocolate, made for them by Lynne.
“I’m so sorry I didn’t take you more seriously!” Chris said, particularly to Kate. “Turns out that phone call was a hoax but on my way back I decided to stop by the club and have a few drinks seeing as I had a pretty boring day. Found I had missed calls from Ben, so I came home and it was all over. Michael and Sara filled me in.”
Lynne offered them more biscuits. “We should all try to get some sleep, we’ll have a big day tomorrow, we’ll have to speak to the media about it, plus Ben has to go into the station to give his statements.”
“It will be great publicity for the park.” Peter smiled, in a weary sort of way, “I expect we’ll get more visitors than usual over the next few weeks because of it.”
Sara and Michael left soon after that to drive home, and the others went to bed. Kate found it weird going to bed without having Lisa in the house. But she, like the others, fell asleep quickly. It had been a very full on day!
Ben was allowed to leave hospital the next morning after breakfast, he was given crutches and he would have to have regular visits with the doctor and physiotherapists as his leg healed over the coming weeks. Chris came to pick him and Lisa up and drove him to the police station to answer the questions. His questioning session was not as long as the one the others had had last night, as they had given most of the information. He mainly had to talk about the parts where he was alone and about attacking Ponkov. After just 45 minutes he was free to go and told that the men’s court date would be held the next week and they would need to attend that to give evidence but that the men were looking at a long spell in jail.
On their arrival back at the animal park, they found alot more cars and vans there than usual. There were TV cameras and journalists at the house and in the park wanting to interview them about what had happened the night before, and photographers wanting that perfect picture to accompany the articles. Peter, Lynne and Kate were already outside obliging the waiting media, as well as Sara, Michael and Rachel, who had shown up for work as normal. They smiled warmly as they saw Chris, Ben and Lisa walking over and the media turned their attention to them.
“Is it true that you single handedly beat the three men, knocking one out, locking the other up and catching up the other in a car chase?”
“Were any animals hurt?”
“Has there been any damage sustained by the park?”
“How does this make you feel?”
The questions kept coming and the group tried to answer them as best as they could. They spoke about the only casualty of the nights events Jasper the snake and spoke of setting up a permanent memorial in the park. They posed for photos and gave guided tours of the park to the media. They were treated like celebrities and heroes.
Partway through the morning Lisa received a phone call on her mobile.
“Lisa, what is going ON over there?? I send Kate for a quiet holiday with you and now I’m seeing you guys on the TV morning news!! I tried to call Kate but her phone was unavailable.”
“Oh yeah, her phone got smashed last night by the men. Three men came into the park last night, to steal animals. Kate and I got caught and they tried to kidnap us and we were locked in the back of their van with the animals and the man tried to get us to the coast to get us on a boat overseas, but Ben and his dad saved the day. My... boyfriend, Ben.”
Diane gasped, “Oh my goodness are you two alright?”
“We’re fine now Mum. Ben was shot in the back of the leg but he’s going to be okay.”
“I’m flying over as soon as I can, hopefully I might be there later this afternoon/evening. Can you put Kate on?”
Kate spoke to her mother for a few minutes, repeatedly assuring her that she was fine, and had been having a great time.
The media gradually trickled out as they had got everything they needed, and the park team was able to get back to their day-to-day work. Some of the animals were still a bit skittish around them after their ordeal the night before.
Surprisingly Kim was doing so well in with the other koalas. She seemed much better. They would continue to keep a close eye on her but she would no longer have to live in the house with them.
After lunch Ben asked to go inside for a rest and to get off his leg for a bit. Lisa finished the job she was doing with the chimpanzees and then excused herself to go inside to check on Ben.
“How are you doing?” she whispered coming over to Ben’s bed where he was lying and kissing him lightly.
He smiled at her. “Alright. Thanks for staying with me today.”
“And thank YOU for coming through for us last night. If you hadn’t come at just the right minute who knows what could have happened.” Lisa said, closing her eyes.
“No worries. What happened last night really highlighted for me how important you are to me and what a big part of my life you’ve become. I hate being apart from you, I love you sooo much and always want to be with you. Lisa, will you marry me?”
Her eyes opened wide in surprise and her face broke into a huge smile. “Yes!” Lisa said, tears of joy running down her cheeks.
Ben and Lisa hugged and kissed, both the happiest they had ever been in their lives. The pain in Ben’s leg even seemed to have lessened with the euphoria of the occasion.
“We’ll go looking for a ring the next chance we get okay?” he asked her.
She nodded, her eyes still sparkling with joy, “Now let’s go tell the others!!” Ben and Lisa walked back into the park, hand in hand, Ben not even using his crutches. They called everyone together for the announcement.
“I just asked Lisa to marry me and she said yes. We’re engaged!!”
“What is mum going to say?” she asked cheekily. She ran over to her sister and gave her a huge hug. “I’ll be a bridesmaid right??” she said winking.
Lynne, Peter and Chris also came over to give them both hugs and their congratulations. “Looking forward to having you as part of the family.” Peter said.
“Feels like you already are!” Lynne said.
They wanted to tell Diane straight away too but of course she wasn’t at home as she was on the plane to see them. It would be good to be able to tell her in person, but slightly weird that she had only found out she had a boyfriend that morning!
At 7.30pm that night Peter, Lynne, Kate, Lisa and Ben all stood at the airport, waiting for Diane’s plane. The Jamesons were all nervous at meeting Diane Connolly for the first time, and Lisa was nervous about her mother’s reaction to her engagement.
The gates finally opened and people started streaming through. Kate spotted her mum first, looking around nervously, and ran over to her and gave her a huge hug.
“Hi Mum good to see you!”
“Kate!” she said pulling her daughter close to her. She took a step back after the hug and had a closer look at her. Her skin was no longer pale but a healthy tanned colour and she looked relaxed and happy, despite the events of the previous night.
“Let me introduce you to everyone.” Kate said. Diane was surprised at her daughters newfound confidence. “This is Mr and Mrs Jameson, Peter and Lynne, they run the animal park, this is Lisa, I think you know her.” She said smiling. Diane shook hands with the Jamesons then pulled Lisa into a bear hug. “I’ll let Lisa introduce Ben.”
“Mum, this is Ben, my boyfriend and since a few hours ago, my fiancé!”
“Oh my goodness!” Diane said, looking shocked. She pulled her face into a smile, “Pleased to meet you and I look forward to finding out a LOT more about you!”
Diane stayed with them for a week, making perfectly sure everyone was alright and helping to make plans for the wedding which was to happen in September. Ben’s leg was healing well and the Jameson’s had held an open memorial/remembrance service for Jasper and unveiled a new plaque and statue of a snake which was permanently fixed just outside the reptile house.
Kate flew home with Diane the next week, and Diane noticed rightaway that Kate was a changed girl. She was much more talkative and responsive with her mother and often asked to ring Lisa and Ben up on the phone. She was also more helpful around the house, a result of her getting used to working at the zoo and helping at the Jamesons. Another change was that Kate had begged her mum for a pet and was now the proud owner of a baby bearded dragon lizard. Her own little piece of animal park, she thought to herself.
She no longer spent so much time doing pointless things on the computer, she was working on building a great website for Jameson animal park and had gotten involved in lots of animal and wildlife conservation causes via the Internet too. The animal park website had a special section about the events of that night and a special page for Jasper.
Jameson Animal Park had become lots more popular thanks to the publicity generated by that night and lots of people who hadn’t even been aware that the park existed were now discovering it in droves. The Jamesons had to hire four extra staff members and were given a pair of numbats and a dingo as a gift from a larger zoo in the state, so they were expanding.
Plans for the wedding all went smoothly, with Lisa choosing leaf green dresses for her bridesmaids to wear. Her bridesmaids were Kate and Sara, but she also planned for the chimpanzees to walk down the aisle first, scattering flower petals. Her own dress was a simple strapless design with a lace up back. Ben’s groomsmen were Michael and Chris. The wedding was a beautiful day, Kate absolutely thrilled to be back at the park with her favourite people. Everything went perfectly at the wedding, the two chimpanzees walking straight down the aisle scattering petals to the oohing and ahhing of guests. Ben and Lisa were so happy.
They moved into their own house, just down the road from Jameson Animal Park and a few months later Kate and Diane moved to Western Australia to be closer to them. Kate worked at the animal park on weekends and on the holidays. She liked her new school better than her old one, and was taking extra subjects in Computing and also Animal care, keeping her options open.
They all lived happy and fulfilling lives, dedicating themselves to looking after the animals, always helping any wildlife in need and their families.
The End, thank you for reading! Feedback welcome!
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