Driven to Succeed
Bonnyville, Alberta, Canada
February 2, 2006
Andrew drove us to his home in Bonnyville and parked the Sonoma in the yard. After he let Diana and me into the house, he covered the truck with a tarp. Then he followed us inside.
I looked around; the house looked much like any other suburban house, but it was painted pale yellow in front and baby blue on the sides. The family's Christmas lights were still up. In Andrew's living room there was a fairly large TV with a PlayStation 2, surrounded by a small pile of empty soda cans and an open bag of chips. Diana walked over to the sofa and lay down on her back, staring at the ceiling. "God, I thought that was over," she said to no one in particular. "How did they find us up here?"
"They have their ways, I guess," I said. "Spy satellites know no boundaries."
"Do either of you want something to eat?" asked Andrew from the kitchen. "I have plenty of Pepsi and I just bought some Reese's."
This distracted Diana from her funk long enough to say, "Fox, can you even eat chocolate?"
I thought about this for a minute. I couldn't recall ever having had chocolate before at any point in my life. "I don't know," I said. "There's only one way to find out."
I took a peanut butter cup from the bag and ate it. It tasted really good, very sweet. I had heard in the past that dogs can't eat chocolate, but I can't say whether the same rule applies to foxes. Maybe my digestive tract and food tolerances had been altered as well, because I never felt any ill effects from the chocolate. I accepted another Reese's cup and a can of Pepsi from Andrew, then I went to the counter and selected some beef jerky from a bag. My sharp fox teeth made short work of the tough meat. Diana made herself a sandwich with some lunchmeat and cheese.
"So," Andrew began, "we just escaped from a close call with the ... FBI, I think they said they were?"
"Yeah," I said between chews, "they were chasing us."
"I'm sorry you got all mixed up in this with us," Diana said, putting the mayo back in the fridge. "Wrecking your truck and all."
"Eh, I get 'em cheap usually," Andrew said, shrugging. "But I've only had that blue Sonoma a little while."
"When I get the chance, I'll get your truck fixed for you," I promised. "Someday, when this is over and we're free."
"Don't worry about it," Andrew said. "You should see what I've done to some of my own cars."
"I don't think your employer's going to be happy about what we did to his cars," I said, referring to the car dealership in town.
"I'll just take my other truck to work for a while," Andrew said. "They'll forget all about it after about a week."
Andrew decided to change the subject. "Hey Fox, do you play GTA?"
"Gee Tee what?" I said, unsure of what he meant.
"Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I have it on PS2," Andrew explained. "Wanna play?"
I was largely unfamiliar with recreational video games. I remembered having used training simulators periodically while at BioCon, but I had never played a game purely for fun. "How do you do it?" I asked.
"You've never played a game?" Andrew said, sounding surprised. "It's easy. Here, I'll show you."
Half an hour later, I was finally getting the hang of the game. Certain aspects of the game were eerily similar to my life: car theft, shooting at enemies, high-speed car chases ... it was creepy. Pretty soon, though, I found I was getting quite good at it, just like I was in real life. Diana took a nap on the couch and Andrew sat next to her, watching me play and giving me tips. Around 6:00 pm, I got tired of playing the game and turned off the TV. Andrew got up and went over to the computer in his room to go online, as was his custom, he said.
I have always been intrigued by the Internet, ever since the first time Diana turned me loose on the computer at the SPCA. Andrew took it for granted, because it was always within easy reach day after day. I did not have that luxury, so I was unaware of the strong online following of the so-called "furry fandom". Andrew showed me several furry-themed websites, and some furry artists' galleries on a site called deviantART. I was shocked that so many humans were into my kind. I wondered to myself then, just as I had at FurCon in San Jose, how, if this many people supported furries like myself, then how could I be mistreated as I had been?
While we were at it, Andrew decided to introduce me to the marvel of instant messaging. He logged onto MSN Messenger under the username Driven_out. Then he let me watch a conversation between himself and a friend of his in California, who he said chatted with him all the time.
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: yo j
Jay "teh busy fur" says: sup driven
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: you're not gonna believe this
Jay "teh busy fur" says: oh?
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: there's a furry in my house
Jay "teh busy fur" says: who, you?
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: no
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: a fox
Jay "teh busy fur" says: what kind of fox?
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: an anthro fox
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: and his girlfriend
Jay "teh busy fur" says: is his GF a fox too?
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: no, she's human
Jay "teh busy fur" says: interesting.
Jay "teh busy fur" says: they got names?
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: yeah, Fox Tayle and Diana Foxworthy
Jay "teh busy fur" says: that's appropriate lol
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: yeah lol
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: we kinda got chased
Jay "teh busy fur" says: go on...
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: by teh FBI...in my truck
Jay "teh busy fur" says: o_O hmm
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: most exciting thing that's ever happened to me
Jay "teh busy fur" says: LOL i'm not surprised
The conversation continued for some time. I had no clue what most of the shorthand meant that they frequently used. LOL, ROFL, and the like were just more acronyms for me to remember, just like the military acronyms I had memorized so long ago. Andrew informed me that LOL means "laughing out loud", and that ROFL means "rolling on floor laughing", but I was quick to point out that he was never actually doing either of those actions at the moments when he typed them.
Finally I asked if I could say something. I had an idea. This "Jay" person didn't seem to believe that furries existed for real, though Andrew said he was a furry artist. Perhaps Jay would believe me if I sent him a message personally? Andrew agreed and turned the keyboard over to me.
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: Jay, this is Fox Tayle.
Jay "teh busy fur" says: hey
Jay "teh busy fur" says: what's up?
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: I wonder if I could ask you something.
Jay "teh busy fur" says: go for it
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: Andrew tells me you're a big fan of creatures like me.
Jay "teh busy fur" says: yeah
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: I would like to tell you my story.
Jay "teh busy fur" says: i don't have much time, is it long?
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: You have no idea.
Jay "teh busy fur" says: can you make it quick? i have to go
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: It's a long story, and it's not finished yet. When it's finished I'd like to tell it to you, so that you can publish it and make my story known.
Jay "teh busy fur" says: that's a tall order
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: Yes, it is. But Andrew believes that you're up to the task.
Jay "teh busy fur" says: driven said that, eh?
Driven_out (zOMG Not teh yiff!!!!11one) says: Yes.
I told him that I had not yet written down my life story, but once I was finished with my transcontinental adventure I would contact him so that we could meet in person and discuss it. I asked him to record and illustrate it, to give the public an idea of what it's like to be me. Jay gave me his email address so that I could contact him when I was ready to meet. Then he signed off.
I sighed and got up out of the chair, returning the keyboard to Andrew. He said he had to feed his addiction to the Second Life online community, in which, I soon found out, he was a furry. I felt like listening to some music, so I turned on his boom box. It started blasting a very loud death metal rendition of a classical song, which hurt my ears to no end. I quickly pushed stop and tried a different CD. I finally found an album by Nightwish that suited me well enough and listened to it for a while.
By this time, Diana was crashed on the living room sofa, sound asleep. It was getting late and I figured it was time to go to sleep. Andrew said that he usually stayed up until midnight on weeknights, and then went to work at 7:30 am. I decided to turn in before he did. I ended up sleeping on the carpet in the living room next to the sofa, covered by a thick cotton blanket with a spare pillow.
February 3, 2006
I awakened to the sounds of Andrew getting ready to leave for work. He was rummaging through the cupboards for something to eat. I started to get up. I was feeling a bit stiff from sleeping on the floor, so I did some stretching exercises while I waited for Diana to wake up. Andrew had told his parents that two of his friends were sleeping over, so they were not concerned with our presence. I had to wonder though, how he managed to explain my appearance to them. No matter, theyr weren't home at the moment. Andrew started out the door, then paused and said, "If you need anything, help yourselves. If you need to call me, my cell number is on a Post-It note on the kitchen wall."
Then he left for his job at the Chrysler dealer. I noticed that he was careful to take his red GMC S-15 pickup instead of the blue Sonoma. Smart kid. I grabbed a bite to eat from the fridge and sat down next to the sofa. Diana was beginning to stir. She opened her eyes, looked at me, and smiled. "Welcome back to the land of the semi-conscious," I said.
She chuckled. "Yes, and a wonderful place it is."
I wasn't entirely sure if she was being facetious. I didn't worry about it. Now that she was awake, I could make some noise. My time playing GTA the night before had been a learning experience. Now I was ready to try it again. I had a particularly painful flashback while playing and suddenly lost interest in the game. I turned off the PS2 and picked up the remote instead, flipping channels. There was nothing good on this early in the morning. Out of sheer boredom I suffered through a terrible episode of "Trailer Park Boys" that was being re-run.
Around noon Diana and I really got bored. Diana went to the computer to check her email. I picked up a magazine and sat reading it for a little while. Then I heard a squeak of brakes outside. I peeked through the blinds and saw an official-looking dark blue Ford Crown Victoria parked in the alley behind the house. I had only seen FBI agents using those black Tahoes before, but I had a hunch that this one belonged to them also.
I called Diana over. The dark-suited men who got out of the car didn't look like door-to-door salesmen. They entered the yard through the back gate and walked up the gravel driveway that bisected the block next to Andrew's house. I started to plan an escape strategy in case they decided to attack. I knew I was capable of sneaking around quietly, and if they were indeed agents I might be able to sabotage their car or something to allow our getaway.
The doorbell rang. I went to the front door and looked through the peephole. I recognized one of the men as the agent I had fought in the truck bed the day before. He had a large bandage on his forehead over the wound I gave him with the soda can. He also had stitches in his cheek from flying glass. He rang the doorbell again. I wasn't about to answer it. I had my plan of escape. "Let's go," I whispered to Diana.
We turned off all of the lights and exited the house through the back door. I brought with me two cans of Minute Maid frozen orange juice concentrate, a flat-blade screwdriver, and a tube of Krazy Glue. We tiptoed carefully around to the side of the backyard, where Andrew's project car, a brown 1982 Ford LTD, was parked. I hoped it would run. The car was unlocked. I removed the license plates, then opened the driver's-side door and crouched under the steering wheel. I didn't know where the keys were, but I was going to get it started one way or another. I popped open the plastic cover over the wiring harness and found the ignition wires. I carefully bit through the right ones, then connected them back together. The starter ground laboriously, the engine turning over several times but not starting. This was making too much noise. They would hear us soon and come running!
I put Diana in charge of getting the car started. I showed her what to do and then padded quietly through the snow to the gate. I hid behind a bush to avoid being seen by the agent standing watch in the front yard. I reached for the gate latch, but then shrank back into the bush when the agent looked in my direction. The other agent joined the first agent on the step. I heard him say, "Either they're hiding or no one's home."
"We tracked them here," the first agent said. "They have to be inside."
"All right then, on three we break the door down," the second agent said.
The agents could not have chosen a better time to break the front door open. They kicked the door in and ran into the house shouting, "FBI! Freeze!" at the same instant that Diana got the old brown LTD to start. I quickly opened the gate and ran over to the agents' blue Ford. I spread Krazy Glue on the surfaces of the two Minute Maid cans and pushed them into the car's twin tailpipes until they stuck fast. I met Diana at the bottom of the driveway and got into the LTD. Diana hit the gas and we started forward into the street, the LTD's iced-up tires spinning on the wet ground. The agents came out of the house and realized what had just happened. With a shout they scrambled to their car and tried to give chase.
The blue Crown Vic wouldn't start. The engine couldn't breathe with two juice cans blocking the exhaust flow, so the car went nowhere. They watched helplessly as we cruised off down the street and turned the corner. Diana and I headed straight for Bonnyville Chrysler Jeep. Andrew was the car wash technician, so he could probably find us a place to hide. We reached the dealer and Diana pulled the car over to the car wash bay. Andrew looked surprised to see us pull up in his old brown LTD (I think he was shocked that we got it to run). "What are you doing here?" he asked, shutting off a water sprayer he was using to clean road grime off of a silver Chrysler Pacifica.
"There were agents at your house," I said. "They broke in to search the house for us."
"Fox sabotaged their car so they couldn't chase us here," Diana said. "It was the classic banana-in-the-tailpipe move."
I was disappointed to learn that I wasn't the first to try that sort of thing; I had thought it was quite clever of me.
"If they know what your -- er -- my car looks like, then you should move it back behind the building," Andrew said.
Diana parked the car in the lot behind the building. We stayed with Andrew for the next half-hour. Then I noticed a very odd sight: a rusty old Subaru was making its way over to the car wash bay. This car was very out of place in the dealership's car wash department. What was most unusual was the driver and his passenger. They couldn't the same --? They were! The agents had commandeered Andrew's neighbor's car and somehow followed us to the dealer. "Quick!" Andrew said, opening the Pacifica's rear hatch. "Get in here!"
I saw his reasoning. The car had a fairly large storage space, which was covered by a roll-up tonneau. The cover was in place, so Diana and I just had to scrunch down inside the space and we would be completely hidden. Andrew closed the hatch and it immediately became very dark. There wasn't really enough room for the two of us in there, so I helped Diana fold the back seat forward and down. She crawled forward and onto the lowered seatback. In the dark wash bay, with the vehicle's tinted windows, she was difficult to see from the outside. I heard the agents ask Andrew if he'd seen a six-foot red fox and a brown-haired woman together recently. Andrew laughed and told them that was the craziest thing he'd ever heard. The agents didn't think that was funny. "Where are they hiding?" demanded the agent with the bandaged forehead.
"You expect me to know?" Andrew said defiantly, returning to spraying dirt off of the Pacifica.
"Don't lie to me, kid," the agent said sternly. "I know where you live."
Andrew was quiet for a moment, still spraying the car with water.
"They're hiding inside the car, aren't they?" said the second agent. "Open it up."
"This is a customer's car," Andrew said coolly. "I'm not allowed to go digging around in it just because you think someone's inside."
"Open it up or I'll have you arrested for obstruction of justice," the second agent said.
From inside the cargo bay I could hear the agent's hand grasping the hatch release handle. Andrew said, "I wouldn't do that if I were you..." and I took it as my cue.
The hatch began to open and I saw daylight. I also saw the agent's legs, standing right there. As soon as there was enough room, I shoved myself out through the hatch and rammed my footpaws into the agent's legs, knocking his feet out from under him. I landed on my feet and regained my balance just as the first agent realized what was going on and rushed at me. Andrew immediately stopped spraying the car and instead turned the hose full blast on the agent, hitting him with all the force of a pressure washer and holding him off temporarily.
The second agent got back to his feet and reached for his gun. Andrew turned the hose on him and blew the gun right out of his hands with the jet of water. The agent slipped on the wet ground and fell on his back. I kicked him upside the head and knocked him out. The thoroughly soaked first agent came at me again; I grabbed his shirt collar and headbutted him.
"Aaaaooowww you broke my nose!" he moaned, clutching his bleeding face.
I cuffed him in the side of the head too, and soon he was out cold. Andrew and I dragged the two unconscious agents to a Dumpster and heaved them inside while Diana continued washing the car so as not to arouse suspicion. She was careful to wash the blood from the pavement as she worked.
I hated having to fight people. They're all human; they have families; they have lives that can be destroyed so easily. When one is fighting for one's life, it's easy to say, "So-and-so just tried to kill me; I'm gonna take that bastard out." It's not that simple for me. If I killed someone, as I had on one occasion with the gang leader in San Francisco who tried to shoot me, the consequences would be severe if I were caught. Killing a federal agent or a cop would be even worse, because those people are held up as authorities, as law-enforcers. Having already been viewed as a monster simply for existing, a mutant like myself would most certainly be seen as a murderer regardless of whether I did it in self-defense. I would likely not even be granted a trial; I would be killed on the spot. I always did my best to incapacitate, rather than kill, my opponents. However, it wasn't always my choice to make, as was the case in Vegas when that crazy rogue agent was about to cut my throat with a switchblade. Had Diana not come to my rescue and shot him, I would be dead now.
Diana turned off the water sprayer and hugged me when Andrew and I returned from the Dumpster. "This is terrible, Fox," she said. "Why can't they just leave you alone?"
"They don't like me, obviously," I said. I looked around warily, scanning the lot for any people who might be watching. I turned to Andrew. "I don't think we should endanger you any more," I told him. "They've already been to your house. They recognize some of your vehicles. They might recognize you."
"But I want to help you," Andrew protested. "You don't know how much this means to me! You're the first real furry I've ever met, and probably the only one I'll ever meet."
"What difference does it make whether I'm a furry or not, if it gets you killed?" I cried. "They've been tracking me for nearly a year. I traveled to the randomest Podunk town in Canada and they still found me. They're going to chase me until I surrender or die."
"Andrew," said Diana, "you have your whole life ahead of you. You can make something of yourself without risking getting killed."
"I have no life," Andrew said. "I wake up, go to work, come home, go online, go to sleep, then start all over again. This is my big chance to actually do something."
"You've done enough already," I said. "You saved our lives yesterday. I'll never forget that."
"I just feel like I should do more," Andrew said, looking down at the ground.
"You can," I said. "Go home, fix your front door, fix your truck, and act as though this never happened. Wait until it all blows over before you tell anyone else about us."
"But --" Andrew started to say, but I cut him off.
"No buts," I said firmly. "Go home, Andrew."
"What are you guys going to do now?" he asked.
"Something," I said. "Going east, I guess. Canada isn't the answer. I'm afraid I'll have to take this all the way to Washington, D.C."
"You can't be serious," Andrew said. "You're not really going to try to get in to talk to the President or something, are you?"
"If that's what it takes, yes," I answered. "I'm tired of being a fugitive. I want my freedom."
I put my paws in my pockets and stared at the same patch of ground that Andrew had just been looking at. I had to think of something. "Andrew," I said, "do you mind if we borrow your car for a while?"
"The Brown Crown?" he said, referring to the '82 LTD Crown Vic we had driven to the dealer. "Sure. I've been meaning to fix it up, but I haven't had money for the parts. I'm amazed you even got it to start."
"I hotwired it," I said. "We didn't have the keys."
"If you come back by my house I'll get you the keys," he said. "The car's worth pretty much nothing, so you might as well just take it. It's going to a good cause."
I was impressed by Andrew's honesty and generosity. He was one of very few people I'd met who I actually felt I could trust. "Tell you what," he said, "my lunch break's coming up soon. How about we head over to my house and pick up the keys for you?"
I liked that idea. Diana and I agreed, hoping that we wouldn't stumble into a trap laid by the feds once we got there.