The story continues from yesterday:
It didn’t take long for Luke to work out where he might find what he was looking for.
“Somebody what works here will have keys!”
It never occurred to him that he would need a particular key for the particular lock he wanted to open but, as it happened, that wasn’t going to be a problem. When the zoo was built over thirty years earlier, it boasted the largest number of animal enclosures in the country. It was deemed impractical to have hundreds of different keys so the same three locks were fitted to everything: one for animal enclosures; one for outer gates; and one for buildings. Each key-holder carried the same three keys. That was all anyone needed. It was all Luke needed.
Back in the hubbub of the zoo, Luke kept a low profile. It felt good to be outlawing again. He saw plenty of zoo workers but there was no way of knowing whether they had keys without asking them. Then he heard a familiar jangle.
“I know what that means,” he thought, triumphant, “that man’s got keys on his belt!”
The man was alone. At a grassy, low-fenced enclosure inhabited by small, furry animals Luke didn’t know the name of, he caught up with him. The man seemed engrossed in what he was doing, or perhaps lost in his own thoughts. Luke could see the keys dangling against his hip and crept up so close behind him he could almost reach them through the wire fence. Just as he was about to touch them a loud voice, crackling from the man’s walkie talkie, startled his hand back. The voice sounded impatient.
“Brinley! Can you hear me? I need you to open the Goods Entrance – the delivery’s just arrived.”
“I heard you! I’m on my way.”
The man, and the keys, hurried out of the enclosure. Luke followed him at a discreet distance. He went past a sign which said ‘STAFF ONLY’ and up to a big gate. No one else was around. The walkie talkie shouted at the man again.
“HURRY UP BRINLEY! It’s that bad tempered lorry driver!”
“I’m coming! I’m coming!” said Brinley.
In his rush he left the keys in the gate after unlocking it and rushed up the track. He would probably only be gone for a moment or two. But that was enough.
Luke ran as fast as he could to get back to the elephant. It was easier to go unnoticed than it had been on the way out because there was some kind of commotion on the other side of the zebra enclosure. He overheard something as he passed through which assured him it was nothing to concern him. The elephant was waiting right where he’d left her.
“I got it! I got the key! Sorry it took so long.”
He unlocked the gate and led her out.
“That’s it, out you come,” he encouraged her, “I don’t know your name so if you don’t mind I think I’ll call you ……… Emma.”
Emma seemed as happy as he was about her outing and she trumpeted with joy.
“Shhh shhh,” Luke looked up into her big, dark eyes, “we’ve got to be sneaky, remember?”
He pointed to a gate behind Emma’s enclosure beyond which he could see a wide open space – a meadow bordered with woodlands.
“Let’s go this way,” he suggested, “don’t worry, no one’ll see. They’re too busy lookin’ for a lost little boy. Hope they find ‘im.”