January 30, 2006
Diana and I spent the rest of the day at her parents' house. I helped load their luggage into the trunk of the green Lexus, then I realized something. If we were going to Canada via Bill's plane, there was no way to take my El Camino, too. I would have to find a safe place to store it until this whole mess was over. I looked up self-storage facilities in the phone book and prepared to rent a space to park my truck, when Bill saw what I was doing. He came over and said, "Hey, you can follow us to the airport in your truck. We keep the plane in a small hangar. When we take the plane, Jean and I leave the car parked in there. It should be big enough for both vehicles."
I liked his idea. I put the phone book away. Night fell and I busied myself looking at maps of the Alberta area in Bill's study. Bill had told me that we would be landing at a small airport in southeastern Alberta, called Bonnyville Municipal Airport. The Foxworthys' vacation home was located off of Highway 28 just west of the small town of Bonnyville, near the airport. It was on Bonnyville Beach, close to Moose Lake. Bill said I was welcome to stay with them there if I liked, but I felt bad about forcing myself on them any more than I already was. I went to bed that night in a guest room out of respect for Diana's parents, and Diana slept in her old room.
February 1, 2006
I awoke feeling refreshed and ready to go. As was typical, I was the first one up. I got dressed and went out into the living room to wait for everyone else. I would have started making breakfast, but I wasn't sure if Jean would approve. Eventually the others woke up and walked out into the room to start their day.
We had breakfast with little fanfare and made a final check for supplies to make sure that we had everything we needed. Around 9:00 am we left the house. Bill and Jean took their Lexus and I rode with Diana in the El Camino. We followed them through late morning traffic to the Denver airport, where Bill's Cessna was stored. Diana drove because I knew there would be a security gate at the airport entrance. I kept myself hidden in the truck bed under a large crate, covered by a blanket. We parked outside of the hangar and Bill opened the hangar door.
Bill's Cessna 172 was a fairly old airplane, built in the early 1980s. It was mostly white with medium and dark blue striping and trim. Bill and I pushed it out of the hangar while Diana and Jean removed luggage from the Lexus's trunk. We went through the preflight checklist and when everything was ready, we moved the two cars into the hangar. With everything loaded inside the Cessna's small baggage compartment and the tank full of fuel, we were all set to go. It was about 800 miles to our destination.
We departed from Denver around 10:30. The flight was rather uneventful, other than that it was the first flight I'd ever taken in which I was conscious of my being in an aircraft. We crossed over the U.S.-Canadian border just before 7 o'clock in the evening and touched down at Bonnyville Municipal around eight. Bill taxied the plane over to its hangar space and we got out. By this time it was cold and dark outside, and I immediately began to freeze. I had no ability to wear shoes, and my white T-shirt and khaki shorts were obviously not enough for the weather. My fur was somewhat effective insulation against the wind chill, but I was still pretty cold. I saw snow on the ground up close for the first time.
Bill had a white Chevy conversion van stored inside the hangar, which we all piled into to escape the cold. We left the airport and drove to the Foxworthys' house on Moose Lake. The house was an A-frame cabin, quaint in appearance but spacious inside. Bill built a fire in the rock fireplace and soon the house was warm and comfortable. It was getting late and I was ready to turn in for the night. The house had only two bedrooms, so I slept under a quilt on the couch in the den near the fireplace.
February 2, 2006
Groundhog Day. I woke up with the sun and immediately realized that the house was cold again. Bill had not turned on the furnace the night before. I went to a closet and found one of Bill's spare jackets. I tried it on and found that it was just my size. I thought of the leather jacket that Diana had given me for Christmas and felt bad. It had disappeared after I was taken to BioCon. When I recovered my stuff from the lab just before escaping, the jacket was one of the few things I couldn't grab. I had made do without it ever since. I sat back down on the couch and stared out of the window. I couldn't believe I was in Canada. That's when I realized that I was in another country. Bill, Jean, and Diana must have dealt with their passports while I was hidden in the truck, because I never saw them do anything with them. I had no passport, so if I crossed back into the U.S., I'd have to do it on the sly.
There was no reason for me to be worried at the moment, so I watched the sun rise. When I tired of that I thumbed through a book on cooking. Diana was the first of my human companions to get up. She gave me a hug and I wished her a good morning. "It feels so good to be here," I said, "with no one around to attack us or chase us. I finally feel safe."
I couldn't have been more wrong in my life.
The day went fairly quietly, until early in the afternoon. I heard a knock on the cabin's front door and became apprehensive. Jean answered the door and I saw that it was just the neighbor saying hello. I was relieved. It was what happened half an hour later that threatened to ruin our vacation in a very big way.
There was another knock on the door. This time Bill answered it. I was peeking around the corner at the end of the hall and was able to see the visitor without him seeing me, or so I thought. The man at the door was wearing a black suit and a red tie. That was ominous. I had a sudden flashback to the day almost exactly a month before, when a visit from an FBI agent in that same outfit resulted in my being chased through Berkeley, California. I wasn't sure if this guy was an agent or not, though. I couldn't see his earpiece, so he could have just been another neighbor dressed for work. Suddenly it dawned on me: this was a rural area. How many people were going to have office jobs requiring formal dress?
I missed the first part where the man introduced himself, but I listened to the rest of the conversation between the man and Bill. "Have you seen anything unusual recently, Sir?" the man asked.
"I saw a duck bite a squirrel's tail just this morning," Bill replied. "Why do you ask?"
The man shook his head. "That's not what I mean," he said. "Have you seen anyone unusual?"
"No, not really," Bill said. "I haven't left the house yet today."
This wasn't the sort of innocent conversation I would have expected between neighbors. The man wasn't asking to borrow an egg or chatting about the weather; he was dead serious. Bill wasn't giving him the answers he wanted, and I could tell he was becoming upset.
The man continued. "You see, the reason I'm asking you these questions is because there is an escaped fugitive believed to be hiding in this area."
That removed all doubt of the man's identity. He was an agent for sure. Wonderful.
"Really?" said Bill. "What's he look like?"
"You won't believe this," the agent said. "He's a six-foot-tall, red-haired male, with an obvious genetic defect."
"Say what?" Bill said, confused. "Genetic defect?"
"He looks like an animal," the agent said. "A fox."
That was all I needed to hear. I turned around and started for the den. The agent looked past Bill and just glimpsed me as I left my post. "In fact, he looks just like that!" he shouted.
The agent called to his partner outside, "Let's get him!"
I made my way to the den as quickly as possible. Diana was sitting on the couch, and she looked up at me with a puzzled expression. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"There's an agent at the door," I said. "He's coming in. We have to get out of here."
Jean stared at us in shocked disbelief. "Like an insurance agent?" she asked.
There was no time to answer Jean. Diana got up quickly and I ran to her room to retrieve my gun, then we left through the back door just as the agents rushed into the den. I heard a muffled call of "They went out the back!" and told Diana to run.
We ran through the ankle-deep snow around to the front of the house, where Bill's van was parked. We didn't have the keys and I didn't have time to hotwire it. We crouched down behind it as the agents ran past. "Where'd they go?" called one to the other.
"We'll find 'em," the other said. "Just get in the truck."
The agents had come in the customary black Chevy Tahoe, which had more than enough power to outrun any vehicle I might find around there to use as a getaway car. And since there were no conveniently unlocked or running vehicles nearby, we were especially vulnerable, being on foot as we were. I told Diana to make a break for the woods and I would follow her. The agents started up the Tahoe and began cruising around the property. They were smarter than to search for us on foot in 32-degree weather when they could do it in a climate-controlled SUV. Diana and I didn't have that luxury. We trudged through the snow toward the forest at an agonizingly slow pace. The Tahoe was pulling around the house and we would soon be within their sights. I was starting to fall behind Diana, so I tossed my gun to her and then dropped to all fours. It felt very odd, but with digitigrade legs it was far easier for me to run that way than it could ever be for a human.
I caught up with Diana just as we reached the edge of the woods. About the same time, we were spotted by the agents, who accelerated up the driveway to cut us off at the road. Diana and I ducked down under a fallen log and hid as the truck sped past. Neither of us blended in well with the scenery; my orange fur and Diana's light blue shirt stood out plainly against the glaring white snow. We cut across the driveway and into the woods on the other side, then we climbed the hill up to the road.
The Tahoe was nowhere to be seen. I figured it was probably patrolling back and forth along this stretch of road. I hailed the first car that came past. The driver swerved, then sped off as fast as possible with a squeal of tires on the wet pavement. The next vehicle that approached was a faded blue GMC Sonoma extended-cab pickup. I waved my arms wildly and the driver stopped. He rolled down his window and I could see that he was a young man, about 20, who looked to be of Native American descent. He looked at me with an odd expression, and before I could say anything, said, "Where's the con?"
"Con...what con?" I said, clueless.
"Furry convention," the young man said, pointing to me. "You're all dressed up for it, aren't you?"
"Oh ... no," I said. "Sir, I -- we need your help." I motioned to Diana and she came over.
"Need a ride?" the young man asked.
"Yes, please," Diana said.
"Well then, get in," he said. "Sorry there's not much room." He cleared some junk off of the center console and pushed it into the back of the cab, then reached back and pulled down the small rear jump seat on the left side. Diana sat back there, because she was the only one who would even remotely fit. I sat in the front passenger seat and closed the door. The driver put the truck in gear and off we went.
"I forgot to introduce myself," the driver said, looking over at me. "My name's Andrew Young Chief."
"Fox. Fox Tayle," I said.
"I'm Diana Foxworthy," Diana said.
"So..." Andrew said, "if you're not going to a con..." He paused. "We don't get many fursuiters around these parts."
"I'm not a fursuiter," I said. "I'm the real thing."
"You're an actual ... furry?" Andrew said.
"Yes," I answered.
"That's so cool!" Andrew said. "I've always wanted to meet a real fur. I'm a furry myself."
"What?" I said. "You look human to me."
"I mean, I'm a furry fan," Andrew said. "I like furry-themed art and stuff."
"I see," I said. "Where were you going when you picked us up?"
"Heading back to town; I took a day off from work today." Andrew inserted a disc into the CD player. "I'm a car wash tech at Bonnyville Chrysler Jeep."
Not long after he said that, Andrew looked in his rearview mirror and said, "Dang, that Tahoe's close." He started to speed up.
I looked in the passenger-side mirror and recognized the Tahoe as the same one driven by the agents. "No, don't do that," I said. "Act normal."
"He's tailgating," Andrew said. "He's gonna hit me if I have to stop fast."
At that point, the agents must have gotten a good look inside the truck and seen me. The truck moved over to the opposite lane and then pulled alongside Andrew's truck. The Tahoe's passenger rolled down his window and commanded Andrew to pull over. "Why should I?" Andrew called back. "You're not a cop."
"I'm an FBI agent," the passenger said, flashing his badge. "Pull that wreck over now!"
"Forget what I said before. Go," I urged Andrew. "Go, GO!"
Andrew floored the gas. The old Sonoma chugged forward, coughing up a puff of blue smoke as it went. The Tahoe accelerated also. A big rig was coming toward us up ahead on the curve. It blew its horn and the Tahoe dropped in behind Andrew's truck. Once the semi was past, the Tahoe sped up and bumped the Sonoma's rear end. The jolt knocked us into the opposing lane and I could see a dent in the Tahoe's chrome front bumper, likely from the Sonoma's trailer hitch.
"What the hell?" Andrew shouted. "What did he do that for?"
"They're out to kill me," I said. "Don't let them stop us."
I took my gun back from Diana and leaned out the passenger-side window. "Be careful," Diana warned.
We were coming up on a small red Honda Civic and were about to pass it when the Tahoe hit us from behind again. I fired at the Tahoe but only hit the middle of the windshield. The Tahoe fishtailed and bumped the Sonoma again, this time pushing it off the road onto the snow-covered shoulder. Andrew steered into the skid and let up on the throttle, drifting the pickup's rear end through the snow bank and back onto the road. The Tahoe's driver saw an opportunity to ram us and accelerated, pushing the Sonoma into the side of the red Civic. The Civic driver panicked and slammed on his brakes, locking up the rears and skidding his car around. Andrew threw the wheel over to the left and steered around the spun Civic. Both the Sonoma and the Tahoe hit a patch of black ice and briefly slid out of control.
We wove in and out of the light traffic on the curvy two-lane road. We were coming into the town limits and traffic was going to get thicker in the next mile or so. Then, on a straight stretch oddly free of cars, the Tahoe pulled alongside again and the passenger opened his door. In an aggressive move of his own, Andrew swerved over and smashed the Tahoe’s door closed again. Instead of endangering his life again trying to open the door, this time the agent climbed out through the window and leapt into the Sonoma's pickup bed. He had a gun. This meant trouble.
"Keep the speed up," I told Andrew. "I'm going back there."
He nodded in compliance and I climbed out through my window. Diana reached over and opened the side vent window so that I would have another hand hold. I scrambled back to the bed and found the agent waiting for me. He was crouched down in the corner of the bed next to the tailgate, pointing his gun at me. "Surrender now or die," the agent said to me. "I'm under orders to bring you in."
"How about this," I said, "if we're going to fight, let's fight like men."
"What would you know of fighting like a man?" the agent said incredulously. "You're an animal."
"I have more military training than anyone you know," I retorted.
"My cousin's an Army Ranger and my brother's a Navy SEAL," the agent said proudly.
"I stand corrected," I said. "But I'm not fighting them now, am I?"
"Close enough!" the agent shouted, jumping at me.
Andrew jerked the wheel and I slid sideways across the metal bed floor. The agent flew past me and slammed into the back of the cab. I grabbed him and he kicked at me, knocking me over. He reached for his gun. Andrew hit a pothole and the gun slid away. I looked around and saw that we were in town. The agent gave up on the gun and lunged at me again. He caught me off guard and smashed me through the truck's back window. Glass shards went everywhere inside the cab. The shock nearly caused Andrew to lose control. He turned around and angrily shouted, "Jesus! Do you BOTH want to die?"
The agent had me pinned to the window sill. I reached inside the cab and grabbed an empty Pepsi can. I smashed it against the agent's forehead and he fell backward. He had a nasty cut from the can's pull tab. The agent and I fought literally tooth and nail until Diana got an idea. "Andrew!" she said, "Head for the car dealer!"
Andrew drifted the truck around the corner at an intersection and drove toward Bonnyville Chrysler Jeep. The Tahoe followed behind us. Andrew bounced the truck up the entrance ramp to the customer parking area and then sped toward the front line. A salesman showing a blue Dodge Durango to a couple had to jump out of the way to avoid being run over. I managed to distract the agent I was fighting just long enough for him to stand up near the bed side. We reached the end of the row, right at a special display in which was parked a brand-new metallic orange Dodge Charger Daytona. Andrew slammed his foot down on the emergency brake and threw the wheel over again. The Sonoma skidded sideways and came to a stop up against the front end of the orange Charger. The agent flew out of the truck bed, rolled up on the Charger's hood, and smashed through the car's windshield. I had braced myself beforehand and was unharmed. One agent down, one to go.
The Tahoe was still behind. Andrew accelerated away from the damaged Charger and pulled back out onto the street. We drove back to the front line where the large pickups were parked and stopped at the curb. The Tahoe driver was livid. He revved up the Chevy's V-8 and sped toward us in a crazed kamikaze maneuver. "Back up!" I shouted through the broken rear window just before impact.
Andrew threw the Sonoma into reverse and the battered truck shuddered backward. The Tahoe missed us, and instead hit the curb head-on, destroying the SUV’s front suspension. A fraction of a second later it slammed headlong into a light pole. The Tahoe's inertia carried it beyond the pole and into the front end of a black Dodge Ram 2500 Heavy Duty. The pole fell on top of two new pickups and set off the alarm on one. I wasn't concerned whatsoever with the agent's condition; I was just glad that we were safe. "Let's go home," Andrew said quickly. "We'd better get out of here."
"Good idea," I said, jumping over the bed side and getting back into the truck on the passenger side. "Where's home?"
"My house," Andrew said. "I hope my parents won't mind."
(c) 2006 wannabemustangjockey