The mystery of the first.., p.4
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       The Mystery of the First to Find Society, p.4

          
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rules of this stuff is that you aren’t supposed to be seen going after these caches. You have to do it subtly. There are a dozen, at least a dozen, apps you can get on your smartphone that will give you the map to a cache. These apps will get you within ten or fewer feet to the cache then you have to look around it based on the clues that are given.”

  “What are they looking for, exactly? What kind of cache?”

  “Some of these caches are an old ammunition box or a plastic container smaller than a shoe box. Some of them are the size of that canister we got off that bull. When you find the cache, there is usually a slip of paper for you to sign and some folks leave a little trinket or something in every one they find. Sort of like treasure hunting.”

  “And sort of like trespassing” I said. “I am pretty sure the property owners aren’t the ones putting these things out there”.

  “True but most of these will say they have permission”.

  “Ok, right there is says ‘congratulations to medic44 for FTF. Received a $10 Sonic gift card.’. What is FTF and how many gift cards are in it?” I asked.

  “All right. FTF is an acronym for First to Find, meaning what it sounds like, the first person to find the cache. Sometimes the creator of the cache will put a little prize in it for the FTF. In these geocaching circles, the FTF is a big deal; you have to be very aware of when caches are published to be able to beat others to it to be the first to find it.”

  “So then what”, I asked.

  “What do you mean?”

  “I mean if I am the FTF for ‘come and find me cache’, then what?”

  “Well nothing, really. You are just recorded as being the FTF for that cache. Other people into this will recognize that you have so many FTF’s or whatever. How many big fish have you caught?”

  “Do what?”

  “How many big fish, bass, have you caught?”

  “I don’t know, you mean over eight pounds? A few I guess.”

  “Who has caught more than you?”

  “Johnny Thompson back home, no doubt about it.”

  “Ok, how many has Johnny caught?” he asked.

  “Aw, Mr. Johnny? Several” I answered.

  “How many, though?”

  “I don’t know, but a lot”

  Chris grinned, “That’s my point. You don’t know how many but he has a reputation for the number of big bass he has caught. Same thing with this FTF. Everybody is after the big bass and when they catch it, word gets out and they get some acclaim. Enough big bass and they develop a reputation”.

  “I completely get it now. Achieving a First to Find is cool and some are more difficult than others, based on that rating right there. The tougher the cache, the more prestigious the FTF.”

  “Absolutely. On the other side of this is the person hiding the cache. They also have a reputation for the caches they place. Where is the best pond for catching big bass?”

  “The Jeter pond, no doubt about it”, I answered, “So cache hiders are as well-known as the finders. So everyone knows to be on the lookout when so-and-so posts a cache. I am guessing the higher difficulty and higher terrain labels are the most prestigious.”

  “Exactly. But here is where we run into trouble. There are dozens of websites that post locations of caches and none of them are going to post a cache that is hung around a bull’s neck or somehow in the middle of the High Falls river when the water is high. They just won’t do it.”

  He continued, “So we need to find what site is being used for posting caches or how else the information for the cache was being shared. I believe it must be through a website because of the code we found on the bull. The FTF would take the paper and enter it on a website or something. And at first look here on these records, I don’t see any site like that.”

  “We need to talk to Landon” I said. “But not tonight”.

  First thing the next morning, I called Cory to get an update on Landon and the good news was that he was waking up enough to talk. We drove over to the hospital in Hawkinsville to check on him but also to find some answers if we could get them.

  When we got there, Cory was already there and we spoke to him in the hallway. We told him we might have an idea of the direction of this thing and asked whether he thought Landon was up for talking.

  “He should be, I think, but some of what he says might not make sense. He is a little drugged up.” Cory answered.

  We walked into the room and I shook hands with his mom and dad, and got their permission to ask a few questions. Landon was sitting up in his bed.

  “I got trucked, Mr. Mark” he said.

  “You got trucked for sure” I answered.

  “You gonna arrest me?” he asked.

  “I thought about it but it ain’t illegal to be a knucklehead”.

  “You are going to apologize to Mr. William”, his dad said.

  “Yes, sir” Landon replied.

  Chris asked “Landon, were you trying to FTF that cache?”

  He looked around at his parents then back at Chris. ”Yes, sir”, he replied.

  “What is ‘FTF that cache’?” his mom asked.

  Landon sighed and said, “I was trying to join the society.”

  SIX

  “The what?” I asked.

  “I was trying to join the FTF Society. It is a big deal and like impossible to get into. The caches are ridiculous. The one with Mr. William’s bull would have got me in.”

  “Tell me about this FTF Society, Landon. Who runs it?” Cory asked.

  “I don’t know” he answered, “there’s a website and they post D6T6K6 caches. The first one there posts the code they find to the site and they get in the Society.”

  “I thought it was D5T5 for a difficulty level 5 and a terrain level 5 and that was as high as they went?” I asked and looked at Chris, “Wasn’t that what you told me?”

  “Yes, sir” Landon replied, “these are so bad they have to go to level 6!”

  “What’s the K6 part?” Chris asked.

  “That’s the chance you might get killed” Landon answered.

  “Son…..” his dad muttered.

  “Who is behind it? Who runs it?” Cory asked again.

  “I don’t know, Uncle Cory. You wouldn’t ever see them, they just post your profile name on their site and you become a legend.”

  “You become an idiot” Cory said.

  “And if we can point this FTF Society back to that High Falls business from a couple months ago, there is someone out there guilty of killing John Schlottman.” Chris added.

  “And Matt Peavey” Landon added.

  We all turned to look at Landon.

  “Who?” Cory asked.

  “Matt Peavey was a guy from Dublin trying to get in the society, they say. He got hit by car up in Macon where I-75 and I-16 split. The cache was on the ground at the split and it went hot at 4:30 on a Friday. Mocache-momoney was the FTF for that one.”

  “I remember that”, I said, “I don’t think they ever knew why he was out there. Have you ever met any of the other people looking for caches?”

  “Yes, sir, a few times. But never anybody who said they were the ones hiding caches for the FTF Society.”

  “Did anyone ever FTF the one at High Falls?”

  “I don’t think so, not yet. There were a few DNF’s.”

  “DNF?”

  “Did Not Find. You post that if you go out there and can’t find it or get to it”.

  “What’s the site?” Chris asked.

  Landon gave us the web address which didn’t make any sense like a normal website would. The www was followed by a series of letters that didn’t make any sense, at least to us: sgsfbpvrgl.com. Landon said the site was spread by word of mouth and not something that Google or a casual web surfer might stumble across.

  “ROT13”, Chris said, “it is code called ROT13 which means the letters of the alphabet are rotated at the 13th letter. The letter A equals N, B equals O and vice-versa. Replace the letters and you get www.ftfsociety.com. It is a common code used for giving hints for cache locations.”

  “How did you know that?” Cory asked then added, “Nevermind. I don’t want to know.”

  “I wrote a test in ROT13 one time” Chris grinned. I am not sure if he knew he had revealed something about his past; that was going to be something we would have to talk about later. But it did somewhat confirm one of my suspicions about his past life. He had once said to me that the best way to learn something was to teach it, and that got me thinking.

  We thanked Landon for answering our questions and drove back to my office in Warner Robins. I called into our cyber crime division and got them to tracking down the location of the origin of the site. Cory met us at the office not long after we settled in at my laptop again. We pulled up the FTF Society website and saw more of the same ROT13 code – everything posted there was in ROT13 which made it aggravating. After translating the code, we saw a list of several caches and the profile names of those who were the first to find that cache. There was a much longer list of usernames with DNF. The site was a no-frills site, black letters on a white background and that was it. If someone had come across this site, they might have passed it off as a different language or a failing CIS student site. On the right of the screen, there was a box below what we recognized as latitude and longitude. I plugged the coordinates into my map app on my smartphone.

  “That’s the back end of the pasture at Mr. William’s” I said. “That is what would have led geo-caching people to the bull.”

  Chris deciphered the code above and below the two boxes. “The title for this cache is ‘Bovine Bully’. It gives D6T6K6 and the hint that
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