It starts off as a simple plan. A frame-up, one lock to pick, low security. And, somehow, it all goes to hell in a matter of minutes.
“Let’s go steal a bear.”
Nate thinks he’s never regretted saying anything more than those words.
Maybe the first problem is that he picked a job at a zoo. Sure, the owner and half of the employees have been mistreating the animals, but he could have found a better solution. At the time, though, he had a severely bored Parker on his hands, bouncing around his apartment, and he had been focused on getting some time alone with Sophie.
So, here they are. It’s after hours, so it could be worse. The thing is, Parker is distracted very easily when it comes to animals. Or locks. And, with both in the equation, she manages to open several cages before anyone figures out what’s happening.
Which means there are three giraffes, monkeys of all kinds, zebras, some snakes, and one particularly bored panda wandering around the zoo at the moment.
The snakes are problematic (as Hardison keeps constantly and loudly reminding him), but Nate feels those are a lot better than the lions being on the prowl.
As it is, Nate has one of the giraffes following him around. It’s taken a liking to him and licking the top of his head with its long blue tongue. Parker is currently swinging around the monkey enclosure with some noisy little monkeys. Eliot is out of position because he’s been ushering the zebras back into their pen, and he has an enthusiastic chimp clinging to his back.
And, that is how Sophie ends up cornered by three of the security guards. In a turn of events he will never get the details of, two of the guards end up knocked out cold, and the third is following her around like a lovesick puppy when she catches up with Nate.
“Made a new friend?” she asks with a laugh and a nod at the giraffe behind him.
Nate just glares at her. “You were the one who told me that this job couldn’t be all that bad.”
“Nate, I just got the giraffes back into their enclosure,” Eliot says over the earbuds. “I thought there were three in here earlier.”
“Yeah, I have one with me,” Nate replies. “How about the snakes?”
“Haven’t seen them.”
“Well, somebody better be finding them,” Hardison interjects quickly.
“I have to get this chimp back to his home,” Eliot growls. “You can go snake hunting.”
“Not in my job description.”
“Boys, calm down,” Sophie says in an exasperated tone. She turns to the security guard who has been sidling closer to her the entire time. “Darling, I need you to do me a very big favor and call the police.”
The guard runs off immediately, and she gives Nate a satisfied smile while she pets the side of the giraffe.
“I’ve got Parker, and we’ve moved the panda,” Eliot says in a rush.
“Can we keep him?” Parker asks, and they all hear Eliot grunt in the background.
“Get off,” Eliot grumbles.
Sophie shakes her head. “I know he’s cute, Parker, but he’ll be happier here once the zoo gets a new owner. Now, come on. We need to get out of here.” She turns to Nate. “Are you planning on keeping your new friend?”
He shrugs. “I don’t think I have anywhere to put him.”
The giraffe licks his head again, and Sophie hides her giggle behind her hands. Then, they all hear a loud, girlish shriek over the comms.
“Sophie, what’s going on?” Eliot asks immediately.
“No idea. That wasn’t either of you?”
Parker cackles. “Oh, it was Hardison. I think he met Bob. I put him in the van earlier.”
“And just who is Bob?” Eliot says very slowly.
“Oh, he’s a python.”