You all know the story of Little Red Riding Hood. A young lass goes traipsing unescorted through a dark forest carrying a basket full of freshly-baked goodies to her grandmother’s house where she’s set upon by a wolf until finally her screams of terror bring a nearby woodsman crashing through the door to slay the wolf thus rescuing Hood and her Granny, who was devoured by said wolf. Sound familiar? You know this story, right? Wrong. This is the story the government wants you to know. My name is Lupe and I am about to tell you the story, the real story of Little Red Riding Hood.
Hood first came to our attention a few months ago. In these parts the only ones who go into the forest alone are hunters and woodsmen. Even then it’s risky business what with the smugglers, fermenters, and bad guys in general – mostly made up of pets gone rogue.
The fermenters are a feisty bunch but mostly harmless unless you stumble across their barrels of fermenting fruit. Only approved fermenters are permitted to ferment and sell their fruit but occasionally a free spirit in the communities gets the idea to make their own. The worst of the lot around these parts is a brute named Ursa Blac. Don’t let the name fool you, she’s as mean-tempered as they come and, weighing in at 250 pounds and standing just less than six feet, she’s a bruin for a gal to be sure.
The real problem in the forests is the smugglers. Oh, they’ve been around for years but lately they’re dabbling in stuff they ought not to be dabbling in – the smuggling of naugas from the southern forests. Generally speaking, naugas have as much use as ants at a picnic but their hide is used in the making of furniture when leather just will not do. It is known for a fact that naugas from the north are far superior to those in the south. Their hide lasts years longer before it starts to fade and crack. However, the nefarious weasels have found a way to artificially reproduce southern naugas in such a way as they appear as though they are northern. This is costing the Naugahyde industry millions in cheap hides.
This is where I come in. For the past few months Hood goes into the forest at least twice a week carrying an over-sized basket from which emanates the most delicious aromas – freshly baked blueberry muffins. Now, anyone can tell you that a lot of critters just love muffins and blueberries but none more so than naugas.
To find out just what she was up to I needed to go deep under cover and keep her under surveillance. One day I got lucky. There she was meeting with the head weasel near a small clearing. She passed off her basket and received an identical one in return. It appeared to be empty even though there was a faint odor of muffins wafting from it.
The next day my partner and I set up shop along the trail. We put up a quaint little cottage that was so bright gold in color it almost glowed in the dark. A small corral and lean-to was added so Bessie, the best lookout in the Agency, had a spot to keep watch inconspicuously. My partner would remain within hearing distance without breaking his cover. I would maintain the surveillance but also develop a cover story for the cottage.
This is how Granny’s Place came to be – home of the coldest milk and warmest cookies in the forest. From here I would attempt to discover what exactly Hood carried and why she was meeting with known smugglers. Was she an active member of the ring or just a mule even though she was human? If she was mule then who was her source, her handler?
I chose the perfect disguise for this job – a little gray-haired widow living alone with her nephew, a woodsman, and always covered in flour and smelling of pastries and fresh-baked bread. At first Hood was suspicious of me but I wove a convincing enough tale she soon accepted me at face value. Before long she was stopping by to enjoy milk and cookies en route to her meeting. My acute hearing informed me the basket was filled with more than just muffins. The scratching of tiny toes on wicker is a most definitive sound.
As Hood accepted me more and more, and after a few subtle hints of needing a little excitement in my life, she said she would ask her contact if I could be cut in. After all, this was the ideal temporary storage location for her “product”. She never fully identified just what her product was, but by this time she didn’t need to as I already knew. It was decided that she would ask on her next visit as she had to hurry to get back to town before dark less a search party be send after her.
The day quickly arrived and I waited for her just inside the forest outside of her village. I planned on following her to hear for myself what sort of deal was negotiated. Keeping several trees deep from her I silently maintained a visual. As we neared the cottage I held my breath hoping she would not stop. Bessie was on duty as usual and lowed a signal to my partner. Not too far away I heard his reply in the breaking of a tree limb.
Apparently Hood was early for her meeting for she perched herself on a rock and fished out her lunch from the basket. I settled down in the shadows of the trees to wait. Unfortunately, the warmth of the sun broke through the forest canopy and I dozed off. Suddenly I jerked awake to find myself alone in the area.
I raced back to the cottage, taking the shortest route, my heart racing and blood thundering in my ears. I must have passed Hood for Bessie greeted me with only a nod. I dashed inside and struggled to don my disguise. Too late! Bessie lowed a warning indicating Hood was near. I pulled the wig on my head, put on a nightcap and gown, and jumped into bed pulling the covers to my chin. I struggled to keep as little of me visible as I could. I heard the front door open and close followed by footsteps.
“Granny?” Hood called out.
“In here,” I replied in my best wavering high-pitched voice.
“Why, Granny, it’s so dark in here I can barely see you. Why are you in bed?”
“Oh, my dear, I have a headache and thought if I laid down it would go away.”
“Granny? What big eyes you have. I never noticed them before behind your glasses.”
“The better to see you with, my dear.”
“I never realized just what big ears you have, too.”
I gulped. “The better to hear you with,” I said nervously. Just how would I explain this?
“And Granny, what big teeth you have!”
Oops, my canines must be showing. Then the solution came to me.
“The better to eat you with!”
I jumped out of bed. Hood took one look at me and screamed. I must admit I looked a sight. Here I was with a gray bunned wig sitting haphazard on my head with one of my pointed ears visible. The mask was now slipping, showing my long canines. The nightgown I had thrown on was not sitting well over my thick coat so that tufts of fur were now showing. Not to mention my paws and feet, which I did not have time to cover, were quite visible. I imagine seeing a wolf wearing a nightgown and wig would be quite shocking to most anyone.
Hood screamed again, this time hitting me repeatedly with her basket, pieces of naugahyde flying from within. The door to the cottage crashed open as my partner burst in, axe in hand ready to strike. Quickly he assessed the situation and put down the axe to grab hold of Hood’s arms so she could no longer whack me.
“Little Red Riding Hood you are under arrest for smuggling. There is no use denying it, we’ve caught you red-handed. Your confederates and their supply of naugas are already in custody. Whoever talks first will get the deal.” For a human my partner could really be intimidating and convincing.
While my partner spoke I removed that ridiculous attempt at disguise. Hood’s shoulders slumped in defeat and she sat down on the bed, head hanging low.
“Who are you people?”
My partner proceeded to answer her. “We are from the Governance of Reproduced Artificially Naugas Interforest Enforcement Agency. It is our job to prevent the infiltration of cheap naugahyde into the market.”
As my partner spoke I slipped out the back door. It is imperative I not have too many people identify me. For, you see, I am the Wolf from G.R.A.N.I.E. and must continue to protect naugas and naugahyde wherever they may be endangered.