They Walk Among Us, Chapter Seventeen: FOFF

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Not too surprisingly, news coverage of the raid on WSI quickly flatlined. It made sense. After all, we hadn’t killed anybody, and the Presidential race between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama was pretty much dominating the airwaves. Wisconsin’s status as a battleground state got a lot more attention than a couple of guys rolling logs and blowing up a propane tank in the unmarked cove known as Wolf Bay.

Our enemies knew who’d done it, of course. We’d made sure of that. But the public didn’t have a clue…until three kids with serious smarts and a wicked sense of humor made the connection.

Joey Wotriz, Sam Smith, and Teddy Probitz were high school dropouts living in the Cincinnatti, Ohio, suburbs until sometime in mid-2011. At that point, with disgusted parents telling all three of them to get jobs or get out, they got out. Moved to Columbus. Started a business.

No one, least of all the boys’ parents, could have predicted their success. The youngsters, all of whom turned 18 years of age in the first half of 2012, were gloomily predicted Most Likely To Come To Bad Ends. They weren’t into drugs, but they were smarta**es of the most serious sort.

Their nonprofit organization was called FOFF aka Friends of Furry Folks. FOFF solicited donations. It paid salaries to the three cofounders. A storefront was soon opened in Columbus, with the FOFF mission statement posted prominently for all to see.

The mission of FOFF is four-fold:

1. To befriend any and all fur bearing folks, previously known as “animals”.

2. To see all bearers of fur legally recognized as persons.

3. To obtain for all such persons the full rights and protections under the law as detailed in the United States Constitution.

4. To gain for fur bearing folks the recognition that Life begins at Conception.

That’s right. The FOFF trio intended to someday make abortion of any animal illegal–but only if it was a fur bearing animal. The word “animal” would, of course, be relegated to the dustbins of history alongside the n-word and other politically incorrect epithets.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “This has got to be B.S.!”….you’re right. Joey, Sam, and Teddy were not cast in the mold of Ralph Nader style crusaders. Instead, they were three guys with an average I.Q. of 179 and a keen desire to stick it to pretty much everybody while laughing all the way to the bank.

Getting thrown out of their parents’ homes was the best thing that ever happened to them.

Not that our Rodeo Iron bunch knew any of this in the beginning; we had to put it together after the fact.

As it happened, the boys were in dire need of a cause. Their mission statement, which they’d made up out of whole cloth and with their tongues stuck firmly in their cheeks, had allowed them to scam a surprising amount of startup capital from gullible animal lovers throughout Columbus and, through the FOFF website, from around the world. By October of 2012, they had cash in the bank, so they weren’t broke…but a few donors here and there were beginning to get suspicious. What was FOFF really doing?

Amazingly sensitive to the political winds for such young fellows, they buckled down to finding the perfect “critter in need”. It didn’t matter to them what specific animal that might be, except that it did have to wear fur. Thus, snakes and fish and birds and naked mole rats were all disqualified.

At first, they didn’t think going to bat for wolves would be a good idea at all. The field was too crowded; too many old school environmentalists were already pushing the wolf reintroduction thing and screaming at wolf hunters from Montana to Alaska.

It was Teddy Probitz who made the first breakthrough. He came across our YouTube video one day, the gone-viral production that showed the enemy trying to kill Jack and me with a telephone pole across the highway in Phillips County. That vid had not flatlined, recording more than 9 million views on the day Probitz found it.

He showed it to his partners. They found it interesting, especially the part about us being accused of killing wolves out of season, but it wasn’t enough by itself.

Late one night–Sam was a born night owl–Sam Smith happened to be surfing the Net for bondage porn and stumbled onto a Milwaukee Sun article about the WSI raid. He’d been chuckling over a fetish group whose members enjoyed dressing up as Big Bad Wolves, then ravishing gagged and bound Little Red Riding Hoods. That didn’t exactly trip his trigger but did trigger his sense of humor, so what the hey. Curious and amused, Sam trundled on over to Bing, typed in “wolf bdsm”.

Or so he thought. His mind wandering, his fingers stuttered a bit and actually searched for “wolf wsm”…and the die was cast.

The Sun article included a photo of the logs I’d rolled down at the facility’s gate. On one of them (the logs), the spray painted words,

WOLF MUTATORS

That was the one with the John Deere green paint, which was kind of cool. A second log showed a bit of red.

“Now, that’s interesting,” the kid muttered under his breath, and before you could say Paul Bunyan, he’d scanned the article, instantly making the connection between logs cut from an old telephone pole in Wisconsin and a wreck deliberately caused by an old telephone pole in Montana.

“It’s a good thing it happened when it did,” he later told a reporter from the National Enquirer. “After all the stuff on Benghazi started coming out, you know, that President Obama had sat there in the White House and watched our people get killed on live video without sending them any help, it was hard to focus on anything else. I most likely never would have found out about the mutated wolves.”

When he called up the YouTube vid in which we’d documented the accusation of us being wolf killers out of hunting season, he knew he was onto something.

“That’s it!” Sam went to roust out his partners. Neither Joey nor Teddy was all that thrilled about being awakened at 3:37 a.m., but Sam figured they were both wusses anyway, so screw ’em.

“Quitcher dreaming about hot chicks you can’t have and get dressed. I’ll make breakfast. We got stuff to talk about.”

By 4:30, he had them stuffed full of his red hot chili cheese omelettes and on their second cups of coffee, meaning they were finally alive enough to hear what he had to say.

By 10:03, they had a plan.

Two days later, they claimed responsibility for the attack on Wolf Support Inc. in Wolf Bay, Wisconsin.

What? Oh, Hell no. Not under their own banner. None of them favored the idea of performing as new fish in the prison system, playtoys for the Bubbas of the Gray Rock Hotel. No, they did have street smarts enough to think that one through.

What they did was launch a two pronged media assault. First, they concocted an entirely imaginary organization called VET, short for Vigilante Eco Terrorists. VET sent an anonymous email out to a dozen newspapers and twice that many TV stations in Wisconsin. Any good hacker could have traced those emails right back to Columbus, except that Teddy was himself a born computerite and knew how to hide their digital trail.

The email was crafted with a certain tone and style.

To whomever thinks it’s any of their concern: We, the soldiers of VET, are the heroes who hammered WSI, the evil Wolf Support Inc. near Wolf Bay. Our missiles exploded the mad scientists’ propane tank and rolled logs ino their fence. Those logs busted their gate not by accident; we was LOGGING ON.

Course you won’t believe us, cause no eco terrorists you know about ever had a sense of humor.

Ha! We do!

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If you ain’t laughing yet, don’t start. It ain’t that funny, what these bastids R doing. They’re test tubing innocent wolves. Making them do and be bad things. It ain’t right, people! HSUS don’t get it. GreenPeach don’t get it.

We get it. Keep it up, you wolf mutating bastids. Next time, you’re dead!

Have a nice day.

Joey crafted most of the text. The others weren’t too sure about it, but what the hey. It didn’t have to be perfect.

When VET’s claim exploded the WSI operation back onto the front page of no less than three Milwaukee newspapers and eight–or was it nine?–TV stations, they knew they were on their way.

Which is when FOFF spoke up. Sent out a press release that reached donors and media outlets alike, announcing their stand against both those who would mutate the innocent wolf and the terrorists who would violently attack the evil genetic scientists who simply needed to be put out of business, not fire bombed to death.

Their donors bought it, hook, line, and sinker. The media was a bit more skeptical…but only a bit. They could work with that. The money started rolling in, some of it diverted from other worthy causes such as Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross and such.

The young smart alecky geniuses monitored their rapidly increasing net worth and celebrated by buying new iPads all around.

They had no thought whatsoever for the firestorm they had just unleashed.

When Tania and I accepted Sissy’s invite to join Jack Hill’s household for supper that night, we’d never heard of VET or FOFF, either one. For that matter, few had until recently. We sat down at the table. Beef stew again, which was fine with us. Nobody makes a better beef stew than Sissy Harms.

She lifted a gray and white cat from one of the chairs, depositing the feline on a window sill. Kitty didn’t mind. There was a walkingstick bug out there, hanging on the screen. They could stare at each other for a while.

“Wayne,” Jack waved a hand toward the TV set, “turn that off, would you?”

“Sure thing,” the flamer replied cheerfully. He started to get up from his chair, since the remote was over on the sideboard…and froze in place. It was an MSNBC program, a channel Carolyn liked to watch sometimes just to–I think–tweak her lover’s nose a bit.

Chris Matthews was on the tube, and for once he wasn’t talking about Obama giving him a tingle up his leg (2008) or a stroke (first debate).

No, he was talking about us. That is, MSNBC had scooped a story–meaning nobody else at the national level took it seriously enough to run it–about mutated wolves, WSI, eco-terrorists, exploding propane tanks, spray painted logs, telephone poles across the highway, Jack Hill and Treemin Jackson by name, and some do-gooder nonprofit out of Columbus, Ohio, called FOFF, Friends of Furry Folks.

We watched the entire segment–eight minutes and change–without any one of us saying a word. I’m not sure we even breathed.

Once Chris Leg-tingle Matthews had moved on to saying how Mitt Romney’s momentum in the race for the White House was suspect, Wayne snapped out of his paralysis and turned off the set.

For a time after that, we still didn’t speak. There was kind of an understanding around the table that the head of the household, i.e. old Jack Hill, had to be the one to break the silence.

Well. Not silence exactly, what with the clink of silverware and a whole lot of eating going on. You know what I mean.

Finally, while Carolyn and Wayne were clearing away the dishes and Sissy was serving homemade peach ice cream for dessert–along with gallons of coffee, of course–the Protector spoke.

“What do you think, Tree?”

Oh great. Ball in my court. Big whoop. I didn’t know what to think. But…had to give it a try.

“I think…men make plans and God laughs.”

He waited. Corraling my skittering thoughts, I–yeah. There was one. “First thing, we might want to find out who the heck these people are.”

This time he nodded. “I agree. FOFF and VET both.”

“They–VET at least is lying, right?” This from Tania, seated to my left. We had a deal, my wife and me. Always leave my sword hand free for action. Serious habit.

“Well, duh.” I grinned down at her concerned face. “The question is, why are they lying, taking claim for a criminal act? Publicity of the notorious kind? They got that all right, but why do they want it? Who are they? And the same goes for FOFF. I mean, that’s even a dumber name than the usual acronym out there, just sounds stupid. Are they for real, wolf huggers? Or camera hogs like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, Jr.? Or–”

“Or something more sinister,” Wayne jumped in, finishing my thought. “They could be the enemy in disguise, coming out against their own operation for some reason unknown, which reason would almost certainly involve causing you Wolf Warriors a whole lotta grief.”

I stared at the flamer, startled. For the first time, I realized nobody lived with Jack unless he or she had something going on between the ears besides perverted lust and an awesome fashion sense.

“Yeah,” I smiled at him–also a first, come to think of it. “Like that.”

It would be a few days before I could get away from the welding shop, but ASAP, Jack and I needed to get down to Missoula, put his computer whiz contacts onto this project. He could go alone, of course, but we’d become more than a bit wary about that sort of thing. It had been necessary for the run east to tackle WSI, but I felt a whole lot safer when I knew he had my back, and vice versa.

For his part, the old man took a final swallow, draining his coffee mug, and read my mind. “Reckon we should talk to your boss in the morning, Tree. If Sam Trace sees this the way we do, he might figure catching up on the Rodeo Iron back orders can go on the back burner a bit longer.”

“Well…yeah. Why not. Too bad we didn’t record that. It would help if he could actually watch the segment. Not to mention, we might be able to study on it some more.”

Wayne the flamer snorted. “Treemin,” he shook his head in that overly gay way–the guy really did remind me of Jack on Will and Grace–“haven’t you ever heard of TiVo?”

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