WOLF STED (copyright J Mead)
Dagrún surveyed what was before her and knew it was good. This was her favourite place, her little piece of calm in a world that had almost forgotten Vikings, the Gods and their way of life.
The wooden cabin was a picturesque sight until you turned round and noticed the wire. Damn Health and Safety! A wolf was only an undomesticated dog. Well, now there were only two and they were brothers. In fact they were sitting at her feet now, just like two well behaved dogs. Both grey wolves and she acknowledged they were wild. Tyr growled which made Dagrún and Loki look in the direction of the twitching nose. A deer on the safe side of the wire, looked up, thought twice about hanging around and went bounding back into the trees. The quietness was beautiful, restful and calming: just right for poetry and tales.
She entered the house and revelled in the calming dimness and the candle light. It’d cost the earth in candles and of course, they had to be bees wax. But it was worth it and she would have honey next year, this year if she was lucky. And the bees would adore the meadow flowers already there and the flowers from the seed she had sown.
There were a few pieces to place still, but the arrangements had been specifically adhered to. Once entering the house you were transported into the year 795AD. The bed with eider down mattress with the felt blankets,
linen sheets and reindeer skins lay against the wall; the fire and cooking pots were by the open fire ready for use; her Chair, the special chair with the huge comfy cushion, no television only a radio that she would put on air every Sunday morning just to keep up with whatever was going on, bliss. Settling into the soft cushion, the following day was contemplated. Tomorrow she would go and plant some vegetables and if the weather was that bad she would sharpen her sax and the sword given to her as a parting gift from the one man she had ever loved and had given up because he had to return to his family and run their farm. The family did not want her and to be honest they couldn’t have afforded her! Dagrún smiled at that thought, no money to buy a decent wife! Would she have enjoyed living in a time-warp village and always having to pander to someone else’s rules: probably not. She yawned. The wolves were asleep by the door. As if anyone would try to get past them! They were better than a radar system. Time for bed!
The howling made her look up and out of the window. Across the snow came Hettli, carrying parcels. Who had sent her two parcels? She opened the door and let the hot air out. It was a temporary fog that obliterated Hettli, by which time he had reached the door.
“God Dag, Dagrún. Two parcels from England.”
“Oh!” who would send her parcels and why England?
“You had better sign for them. We might live in the past but the postal system doesn’t!”
“How are you?” she asked, signing with a very basic pen.
“Oh another babyen on the way and my eldest has just told her teacher there is no God only Odin: really got her-self into hot water!”
“That teacher should know better! Thank you!” She took the parcels, not big but heavy.
“Those two wolves greeted me nicely!” he sounded just a touch relieved.
“They recognise you! I heard the howl for Hettli!” she laughed. “You should howl back.”
“I will next time! See you soon!” and he made off in his own wolf lope manner.
The parcels sat on the table for some time before she opened them.
“Thought you might like these!” said the all too familiar writing. “Useful!”
Amongst the padding paper was a whetstone, some German smoked bacon and a small roll of linen. The second parcel contained bone needles and some cotton thread. It also contained a hand sized loom, perfect for the belt or head bands. Yes he had been thoughtful. He always was thoughtful but that was all behind her now. Men were just not compatible. Placing all the goodies in their right place Dagrún wondered whether to write and thank him. No, that would keep the contact live. That had all ended; he had suggested the split so he should stay with it! And he certainly wouldn’t enjoy living in this environment.
Pounding at the bread dough, in the bread trough, Dagrún soon lost her anger and the smell of fresh bread erased most of the other smells from the hut, such as that all purveying FISH!
A scratching at the door told her the wolves were interested in the delicious smell. Well they could wait outside; their meat was already out by the trees. Carefully arranging the bed she lay and stared up into the dimness of the roof. It was a hard life with the snow coming down, but she had prepared, thank Freja. It was still a hard task collecting the wood. The wolves thought this a great game and no sooner had she caught hold of a piece of wood, Loki or Tyr would grab at it instigating a tug of war. They thought it was fun, but it was not fun for her, she was not as strong as the boys, and they always wanted to know what she was doing with the well bucket. They were happy to drink from it if she wasn’t careful. Tinkers! And it was cold. The one blessing of always having the fire going was that it was always warm and comfortable. That made going outside a unpleasant event. But life was good it was true for her.
When the snow receded she would fence of the garden area where she would grow her vegetables, which need some thought as the wolves were good jumpers. They could easily clear a five bar gate this meant some serious thinking in the chicken wire area. Then she could wait for the spring and things would take off.
But, until then, it was house work and mending oh, and trying to get the wolves away from the idea that the chickens were not to be wound up! They were more toys at the moment. Tyr and Loki were still hanging on to a few dog traits and one appeared to be of collie nature. They’d round up the chickens, try to decide whether they should eat them and end up skulking away as though embarrassed.
In her head she made a mental list of work to do tomorrow. There would be the usual collection of milk from the goat. Then there would be the choice of porridge or bread and cheese. Um, must get some more cheese before the path to the village was too deep to travel through. The usual house work and forage for fallen wood, or, a case of cutting some down. A man’s job, but she had no man. Mind you, it kept you fit. Dagrún slept content with her lot.
From the comments and notes in Dagrún Rafnbro’s diary:
There was nothing much to do but walk with the wolves and discover the plants shaking their flower heads into the new light of a fresh year.
What did the government man mean, the wolves were not secure? Two mesh fences and an electronic inner fence. Who was protecting who here? The wildlife officer, besides being rather cute, had visited and, never having been so close to two idiot wolves before promptly fell in love and left a convert, after handing me a glowing report on the security and health of my boys.
But there was something missing and the boys know it. There were tracks round the fences, I could see them in the mud path and it was a female. The boys had been howling as if demented. And if it was a female should I let her in? Would she adapt to the enclosure? Would I be safe? I swished at an old weed bush and caused the boys to sneeze as old seed pods fell away. “You want a girl, don’t you?” I asked. Talking to them was my medication, my placebo for when things went wrong. They did not judge or criticise, they just sat there and pretended to listen. That was enough for me.
Tyr I knew to be the boss although it was hard to tell on occasions. If I did bring in a female, the chances of having the boys to myself was gone, they’d revert to their own independence and was I right to deny them that?
The sun shone on the small lake at the rear of the enclosure. I could just see the roof of my long hut from here. I delved in my rucksack before Loki got his grey muzzle into it first. Inside was some reindeer from the Jul Fest that had hung in the roof spar until the almost constant scrabbling at the door had made me take it down. I threw it aside and they fell on it. They were well fed anyway but they still ate when ever they could. They were licking their lips and watching me eat a dried piece of reindeer. Tough but tasty! “What?” I asked with my mouth full, as Loki fawned, trying to lick my face. I spat it out onto the ground and watched as Tyr growled and Loki backed off. Tyr trotted off the meat in his jaws and I could just see it being buried behind a tree. I considered the enclosure large enough for three for I had ensured it had been. I walked back to the hut and the boys followed a little behind.
I telephoned from the shop after I had brought my usual shopping. The shop keeper, Thordis Stromse, or Disa, knew almost what I wanted as soon as I walked through the door. “How are your babyer?” She asked that every time.
She tried to visit me as often as she could, but not for me no, it for “my babyer”, my babies, my boys. Disa had longed for a wolf as a child and had been painfully scorned by her constantly drunken father; she had told me whilst sharing pictures of my boys. Disa had not wanted a dog, she wanted a wolf. And Disa was useful, she would do anything to be around the boys and sometimes I used her, like helping me lift the large sacks of meal and removing the dog turds. Even this didn’t put her off. She packaged up my shopping and openly listened as I rang Leif Bergen naturalist from whom I had received my boys. He has a vast love of and protection for Wolves.
“My dear heart, bringing a female in will change the boys. Besides they haven’t come across a female before other than their mother, that’s you by the way, you’d have to bring in a fully grown or half grown female at that. She will not be used to you. What about a cub? Don’t tell me you don’t have any orphans? There have been reports of gun shots in the Mountains!”
I told him about the visiting female. “Not surprised, dear heart, you will find people may not look kindly at this, but if you are prepared to take Disa on, she’s yours.”
“Oh, I don’t think so!” I laughed. “Can you fix the Wildlife service for me?”
“Do I not always?”
“You sounded like my father then!”
“Your father was a good man. He shouldn’t have died like that -.” He stopped. “Sorry dear heart, I miss him terribly!”
“So do I Leif, so do I!” My father had been a WWF ranger and had spent time in YosemiteNational Park, and in the summer holidays I would go out there to be with him, my mother had long given up fighting his absences and had made the most of them. They both got on very well – considering. “At least the bastard with the gun also died. Devine retribution, I think you called it!”
“Indeed! I’ll be over on Saturday.”
I rang off after assuring him the boys were well. I turned back to Disa. “Her name is Disa and she’s an orphan!”
If Disa could have exploded with pleasure she would have done! “I am sponsoring little Disa!”
“Disa, it’s a lot of money!”
“She’s the wolf I always wanted! I can advertise the wolves for you. Make people more aware.”
I wasn’t sure this would be a good move for her but didn’t like to stop the pleasure this was giving my friend.
Spring had sprung.
“Didn’t know you were a wolf racist!” grinned Leif, a bear of a man with disposition of a wet lettuce leaf until you mentioned wolves. Then he changed into a steel back boned knight in armour.
“But, but, she’s SO beautiful!” I took the little cub from him and cradled her in my arms. She yowled and licked me. From the snuffling at the door the boys had smelt Leif and wondering why he hadn’t come to say hello. They knew Disa was there too.
“She was the smallest. The hunters,” he snorted “killed the rest but didn’t see her in the dark corner. It saved her life. Shall I let them in?”
“You can only if their paws are clean!”
Leif laughed and opened the doors. He had two furry wolves launch themselves on him in delight. I could still hear him laughing as he got covered in saliva and loose fur. “Idiots as usual!” he said finally raising himself up and returning to his chair.
Tyr nosed up to the little bundle in my arms and sniffed. This caused a little yowl. He squatted back on his haunches and whined. Loki edged closer growling gently, nuzzling her with, what must have seemed to her, a huge head. He gave a deep growl. Startled, I growled back and Loki backed off.
“They’ll need some time to get used to her. Seeing you as their alpha female should help in getting her accepted. It’s when she gets to breeding age you’ll need to back off a little.”
“I know!” I buried my face in her fur and smelt the smell of flea powder!
“She’s wormed; flea powdered and has all the vets’ paperwork. Puppy food and milk is in the car, along with the papers. I’ll bring them in before I get a cup of tea! Your Wildlife man should be along in a few days to check her out. If he finds anything amiss, send him to me!”
I reluctantly handed her back to Leif and made the tea. As it brewed, stewed, in his case, he went off to bring in all the necessary bits and pieces. The boys looked continually from Disa to me as if wondering how I, a human, managed to have a pup without a male. “It’s a miracle of life, boys!” I told them. This sent Loki to sleep and Tyr on guard. He had decided, clearly, that as top dog he was going to have to protect us. But even he fell asleep beside the fire. “Typical wolves you are! Find somewhere warm and you go straight to sleep!”
“Here, dear heart.” Leif gave me a thick file containing all Disa’s history. “Do not read page nine without taking a deep breath. It does not make for bedtime reading.”
I slipped a piece of cloth around me like a sling and set Disa in it. She couldn’t have been happier in her hammock and besides, I didn’t trust leaving her with the boys just yet.
I waved Leif off and shut and locked the gates. I would check them again before throwing the boys out for the night.
I read page nine by candlelight. Disa, feeling the tears licked them up and tried to find some milk. I obliged with a small bottle. She must have used a suction pump, it was gone in minutes and her little tummy was contentedly full. I knew puppies, and, after wiping her down with a wet face flannel, as near as licking her as I could get, I held her over the bucket. On cue she urinated. It made her even cuter.
Findings: Notified of gun fire in the reserve from a concerned member of the public. The cave up the Jellingtopp was within the bounds of the Jellingtopp Reserve a ‘protected Wolf area’.
Five bullet cases were found ten yards away from the cave.
There were five bodies of grey wolves.
The adults had been shot in the head from what appeared close range or with a sighted rifle.
The pup’s heads were bludgeoned, possibly with the rifle buts. There was not much left.
Only after removing the bodies did we hear a faint yowl finding a small black female in a crevice. She appeared to be unharmed, hungry and very scared. She was removed and taken to Jelling Vetinary Surgery. Possible runt of litter: undersized: otherwise healthy enough. Wormed and given rabies and vitamin injections. She was released into my care.
Den owners were not known to be part of a pack. A new year teaming up is likely.
Other wolves have been seen in the area before and after shootings.
Bodies of wolves cremated away from den. Wardens advised to constantly patrol area.
Then I turned the page and saw the pictures. I was very nearly sick. Headless pups; both parents lying as if asleep, with blood trickling down their noses.
This was wrong! This was wrong!
I did go to sleep, only because I cried myself to sleep! Such a fate WOULD NOT happen to Disa.
Disa is growing. Only a week or so and she is already trying to trail the boys when they come near the house. Other than that she rests in her box near the fire or sits on my lap or even, when she is feeling devious, hangs around my legs and tries to trip me up! Little Tinker! There’s a look in her eyes that tells me she is constantly worried but seems to trust me. Perhaps it is because I am not a man. Men would be forever in her brain as dangerous.
Big Disa loves little Disa to pieces. Bringing tit-bits for her (and the boys, else there’s usually trouble) and playing with her. When I had to visit the doctors, Disa had her in the shop and as a group of hunters came in for their supplies, she promptly moved Disa’s box down under the counter. Big Disa is becoming a member of the pack that comes and goes, just as there would be in a large pack.
I’ve had a letter from Leif. They want me to let the WWF in for a TV interview. Leif thinks it’s good for me and the boys!
“The wildlife guy saw no problems!” Big Disa shuffled Little Disa in her lap.
“Disa, please don’t feed her biscuits!” I complained, knowing full well that Disa got fed biscuits at every opportunity and, seemingly liked them with cream!
And so, we got to be on TV and things took another turn in how I continued to live my life whether I wanted to or not.
I can’t believe she is growing so fast. She has currently taken a liking to any piece of clothing left out in the hut, little monster. She has that look in her eye which says, I know this annoys you, but isn’t it fun? Then she shakes seven hells out of it and goes off looking for other mischief. She likes the outdoors, too. The boys back off but are watchful. When I sit on the fallen tree to read or merely watch her play, they watch too. It’s during these moments that I wonder who will get the better of the other. They are both young and fit and, really, where do I fit into this?
I’d like her to trust me enough to let me help her with babies. Would she accept babies or would the horrors of her old life make her reject them as something dangerous, something that kills? I try and put these out of my mind as a wet tongue licks my neck. Disa has snuck up behind me, quiet as today’s breeze, and rested her front legs on my neck. Her paws dangle enough for me to grab them and she rubs her head on mine. We play head rubbing until she gets bored and goes to try it on Tyr. That was a little bit of wolf greeting that I hadn’t expected so early. Things were looking good.
Leif called by and said he was looking for someone to run a small Wolf rescue service. He needn’t have been so vague about it! He was angling for me to jump up and down going, “Me! Me!” but that wasn’t what I had planned.
I planned to live my life as a Viking woman who just happened to live near some wolves. He knew that full well. Besides, I did not have the warrant to hold more than three wolves at present and my own land wasn’t that big. A small pack and that was enough! I had no intention of having a holding pen and another lot of unknown wolves running around. He had left a little downcast and then, some days later, had come the Wildlife guy, Arn. He said, it was to see how little Disa was doing. He did not make house calls and I asked him why he was here.
“Well, Flicka, I was going to ask you a favour.”
“Yes, The Wolf Trust has brought a large area of land up at Nordal and they need someone to run it and keep an eye on the wolves they will put in!”
“Really, and has Leif already told you that I am not interested?”
“Shame, it’s a prime spot and your wolves will fit in nicely. No wolves as yet until we get a warden.”
“Arn, I -.”
“At least come and see it with me and then give me your thoughts when you’ve seen it.”
“You know what my answer is!”
“There is one super long house built there!”
“Who built it?”
“It was the same guys that built yours!”
“It will not change my mind!”
“Disa will love it. There are three huge paddocks with water in each and triple fencing all-round. Your lads and lass in one and the other wolves in the others and, of course they may be youngsters!”
I laughed at his eagerness. “One person can not run such a large site.”
“No,” He said slowly, “I’ll be in the hut on the East side. I’m going to be the Vet and keeper!”
“No need to sound so disappointed. It’s purely business!”
“I’ll see it. But it won’t change my mind!”
The bastards! They knew I would fall in love with it! The lake (with mosquitoes as a matter of course) and the forest behind and there were the out houses and stores; even the mountain was wired. Gods know how much all this had cost Leif. Maybe that was why he wanted someone he could trust. I was flattered yes, but would my boys like it? I mean, could I re-house the boys again, so soon, when they had just got the huts land to their liking?
Arn and I walked through the paths that led under and through the trees into the woods. I was trying to envisage the boys and Disa trotting between the trees. How would we see them fed? Arn broke into my thoughts.
“The wires are all set with electric inner fence and we have a patrol with guys I know checking them, even if we do it ourselves. There are two entries per wolf pound and an escape route should we ever need it.”
He obviously had not, or maybe he had, heard me. “The mountain is mine, I brought it last year” He blushed with delight as I tried to look less astounded than I really was. Where did these people get their money from? “Of course” he continued “that does not affect the site but it does increase our pen size if we want to! And we have room to keep ruminants so the food should not be too much of a bind! There’s also the fishing!” and so I knew his hobby!
“I haven’t said YES yet!” but I would, they both knew that, Arn and Leif!
“The wires are underground and connected to your hut and mine. All the usual health and safety crap applies.”
If I wasn’t in love with this place then he certainly was. It was glorious, out of the way, yes, but then people loved Wolves, but they didn’t want them on their doorstep.
“Can I ask a question?”
“Sorry, I know I’m gushing but it is just brilliant!”
“I want to know two things. One, where did Leif and you, get the money for this? It must have cost millions! And secondly: why me?”
He paused but not for long, “I won the lottery three years ago and it sat in the bank whilst I carried on with my life. When Leif mentioned the project, I knew where my money would go!”
“Congratulations,” You couldn’t win THAT much, could you? “and the second reason?”
“Leif asked me who I would consider a good Manager for the site and as I had heard of you from National Geographic magazine and seeing the work you have done with the boys – “They were MY boys, not HIS boys -” I suggested you. Leif smiled when I did that!”
“I bet he did!” I sat on a log and let the sounds of the forest cover our silence.
“Are you insulted?” He asked sitting beside me.
I just thought that National Geographical fiasco had been long forgotten!” I admitted, flicking away a persistent fly. “Leif said this would be, well, small!”
“Leif works in mysterious ways!”
“He is certainly performing wonders here! An island: good cover: no neighbours for miles and miles; perfect habitat. Why does something seem wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong,” He paused, “Why would you think that?”
“I … Have you ever met an animal everyone adores… claims it is a sweetie and you take one look and know it’s a killing little bugger?”
“Yes!” He laughed, “I have and saved more than my hand!”
“Well, that’s the feeling I have!”
“I’ve been in on this since the start. My lawyer has scrutinised all the paper work, and I have known Leif since I was nine. I don’t think he is up to anything, if that’s what you mean!”
“I …don’t…know what I mean! It’s complicated!” I said, sighing.
“Of course, it would be a big change for you and the boys!”
“Not just for me. What about you?”
“I’ve been desperate to get away from city life since I took my first breath!”
“I’ll let Leif know in a week’s time! I have a life! I just can’t give it all up on a minutes notice. I have to arrange the sale of the hut, the land, transfer of MY boys and Disa and…”
“Leif can take care of that!”
“NO!” I startled some birds. I could feel my face tingling red. “I’ve spent a long time getting my own life back together, Arn. I’m not letting someone take over just like that!”
“Then a week it is!” He grinned.
Leif looked at me like I was mad! “What do you mean, how much did Arn win?” What has that to do with the price of feet?”
He was reading too much Pratchett, I knew that! “I need to know if it is true!”
“As far as I know he had the money! We need all the money we can get, dear heart! What does it matter? If he did win, good luck to him! I never have won anything!”
“I can’t do it! Sorry!”
“Sorry: You are sorry? I want the best. I want the girl who turned the known wolf expert’s world upside down!”
“I can’t just up sticks and expect someone to do it all for me!”
“Have another three days. We are still waiting for the WWF to have a nose round.”
“It’s too easy!”
“What? Because something has already been done? You amaze me! Your father would spin in his wolf skin if he was still able!”
“That wasn’t funny!” My father had been eaten by wolves when left for dead in the middle of nowhere. His remains were found by walkers. It could not have been nice for them.
“It wasn’t meant to be! I presumed you had too much sense to turn it down!”
“You presumed wrong!” I stood to leave.
“Sit down, dear heart! Let me level with you. You have known me a long time. Why should you not believe what I tell you? I am your Godfather!”
I had sat automatically, I was doomed. He’d work his way round me, even though he knew I had been upset about my father’s unfortunate end in the stomach of a wolf. Leif had been there when no one else was there. He had not even laughed when I told him about wanting to live like a Viking.
“I have saved up for fifty years, dear heart! Fifty years! My own money! And then there was that left to me by your Daddy, he was kind, mad and generous to a fault! I loved him like a brother! Much more should be said but this is not the place!
I brought the island. Yes, outright! No mortgage and the WWF were kissing my feet in delight. Then they went a bit odd when I said I intended it for Wolves. You’d think it’d be ideal, wouldn’t you? The wolves can’t get off: no one can get onto the island except by the landing stage, the rest being cliffs, and no hunters. There’s even room for a herd of ruminants so we can feed the wolves or let them feed normally! Then there is our Arn, the WWF vet who had been denied a Professorship three times because no one would take him seriously, then there was you, daughter of Lars Rafnbro! When you wrote that piece in the Nat Geographic, the world didn’t know what hit it: calling Dr Elisher Blake a ‘complete boring arsehole in print was a… master-piece! I’ve wanted to call him that since we were in College together!” His voice lowered, “Never got round to it, but called him a lot of other things!” He sat up and leant forward. “There is NOTHING, I repeat, dear heart, NOTHING untoward in any of this! It’s a haven for rescued wolves and I want you and a good Vet - young Arn in fact, to run it. How you live, Viking or not, you are there to look after the wolves. Your boys and little Disa will love it!”
“That’s all as well…!”
“Your father would have leapt at the chance!”
“My father didn’t make a laughing stock of himself writing that article! He didn’t get caught up in a relationship which…”
“Has the brain-dead moron been in touch again?”
“Not for months!” I lied.
“Good! How much of ‘keep away’ did he not understand? How were you to know he was married? Little bastard: keeping secrets!”
“Leif let me be honest!”
“You’re keeping a secret. I know you! I’ve known you nearly twenty nine years! You are keeping a secret!” I raised a hand. “Let me finish. Ten years ago you tried to buy Harltopp. It failed because you had money from that crook in the U.S.”
“I gave the money back!”
“You kept the interest!” I paused. This was nothing but tit for tat. “Leif, something smells and it smells bad. Arn can’t smell it; he’s too in love with the island!”
Lief’s voice appeared distant “…the island?”
“No, I can’t do it! I won’t be part of something…unsavoury!”
“There’s NOTHING. Get me a bible, I’ll swear on it! Any religion, I’ll swear! There is NOTHING…unsavoury in this! Dear heart, I need you! I want the girl who told the dear Dr Blake he was a turd of remarkable size!” He swivled on the chair, a sign he was agitated. In twenty nine years of life, he had never shouted, told me off or been at all annoyed at me! “You know the wolves, you know what they do! How re-homed wolves behave: how they re-act to humans after a terrible beginning: how you can belong to the pack yet be a human being, the good that wolves can do in the wild. The person I know who can be reliable when it comes to being trusted! Dear heart, I want YOU!”
“And I live on what, Leif?”
“You’ll get a reasonable payment and we’ll supply your first year’s basic food then you can grow your own!” He grinned. I tried to say something but had no time.
“And may I remind you that you are not exactly what the English word is, strapped, that’s it, you are not exactly strapped for cash!”
“And what would you want from me?” I heard myself saying THAT? I just couldn’t argue properly anymore.
“I want you to make records of what goes on; every little detail!”
“What about my social life?”
“Non-existent unless you make it yourself!” he laughed “And I know you will!”
“Leif, Daddy was right!”
“Was he? In what respect?” he seemed hopefully puzzled.
“You are a right sod when it comes to getting them round to your way of thinking and -” I paused “If there IS anything amiss in this, you will die!” If I had been a wolf that comment would have come out as a long spine tingling growl.
He paled then recovered himself. “That bastard really turned you against men, didn’t he?”
“He helped. Leif, he helped! You had better make certain all is right or I’m going to make that magazine article look like a bedtime book for the under fives!”
“Dear heart, threats do not become you! When have I ever made a lash up?”
“Twice: but you recovered so magnificently that more than Daddy and I was concerned!” I snapped. I could still feel the undercurrent running a lot quicker than the placid lakeLeif was creating. I sat and looked at him for some time. Then, once I’d given him time to be unnerved by the silence, I stood up and he was split second behind me!
“You have a year to prove me wrong! There’s to be a strict contract which I shall write up and you shall approve! I work there for as long as I want.” I watched the smile broaden “Don’t think you have won, Leif, Alexander was a mistake and I learnt a lot from it! And don’t think that putting me on an island with a solitary man will mean I’ll end up falling in love. I have one love and that is Wolf!”
“As if that thought ever crossed my mind!” and he was lying. Of course he had put me there to fall in love with Arn. Everyone tried to get me paired of with someone. What part of I’m happy as I am thank you, did they not understand? “Dear heart, I understand it is a big idea and you are not happy about some aspects of it. It will be new and exciting and I expect you’ll have a lot to do once the wolves arrive! Three days, dear heart, and I will be more than happy to hear you say you are going to go there!”
I walked out of the office and building with my head buzzing. I had hardly put up a good fight, had I? I hadn’t asked half of what I had wanted to know. I was still none the wiser about Arn…and then I realised I could check up on his details at the VeterinaryCollege. The school secretary and I were old friends; I had worked there when trying to get money together for a wolf project in my early days. She owed me a host of favours, time to call one in! Why hadn’t I thought of this before?
I caught the tram and made for the outskirts of the city. I had long ago given up on the stares I got, dressed as a Viking woman. I paid for my ticket and duly got off a hundred yards from the College. This brought back memories. Mainly the ones of them asking me to either bow down to the information they used or leave. I had left. Dated! Dated! Dated! They were using nothing new and were stuck in a long rut. I couldn’t cope with that and my darling Daddy agreed. He was not surprised when I told him I was leaving. He had backed me to the hilt. Gods bless Daddy. I miss him so much!
I smiled when I saw Freya typing swiftly on her computer console. I swear she never typed anything more than the password, and then it was games, games, games! She looked up, took one swift look up and down me and grinned. “Good morning, pudding, how can I help?”
Pudding! I grinned back, that had been a long time ago and I had lost a lot of weight since then. “Good morning, Miss. Ms or Madam!” It was my turn to grin, “I need to look up the information on a vet who trained here!”
“Ah, we can’t do that!”
“I’ll try the city library then!”
“Um…” She knew I was going to call in a favour because she looked behind her at the now conveniently empty office. “Here’s a pass. The library is still third on the left. Bridda is working there this week. Tell her you are ok to do it and the badge should reference you nicely.”
“How’s life?” I asked, the badges lanyard looking odd against the timeless outfit.
“You saved my life more than once, pudding. I’ve a lot to thank you for. Lars-Erik is eight now!”
“He’s a little sod!”
“Perhaps Aunty Dagrún could take him off your hands for a summer if you like. He’ll love it, trust me!”
“He’d like that. He finds most of his class are morons and he just can’t cope with the banality. His teachers are despairing of him!”
“Sounds like his teachers are morons and it appears I got here just in time! I’ll be in touch!” I waved and made my way to the library. It was all coming back to me as if I had never been away. I had almost lived in this library. Bridda greeted me as though I was the prodigal friend. “Oh I have missed you!” She had bitten back the part regarding the Nat Geo. She knew it embarrassed me. “What can I do for my second best friend?” This was not an insult. She only trusted two people in the whole world. Her husband Per and myself. And we both adored her. I told her what I wanted and said Freya had cleared me. If she was puzzled she did not show it and reached for a year book behind her. “This is up to date edition, darling. Your old table is free. Enjoy!”
It read along these lines:
Name: Arn Saknusson (he must have had trouble living that down!)
Trained: Stockholm, Edinburgh, Oslo
Masters: 2nd: Biology, 1st: Zoology (oxford)
Masters: 1st: in Veterinarian Studies (Edinburgh) (dear god! And he wasn’t thirty yet!)
And there was that bit we all had hated. The précis of your life and expectancies!
Arn was born in Trondheim. His hobbies (he had time for Hobbies?!) consist of Fishing, Wolves and looks forward to his impending trip to Ethiopia to study Ethiopian Wolves.
Published works: Me and my wolf!
Well, it was interesting but told me nothing outstanding. Bridda stopped whatever it was she did “Finished?”
“Have you, ‘Me and my wolf’?”
She fiddled with the index on her computer. “Yes, it’s on the curriculum for the, er- , less astute student!” She pointed me in the right direction.
I sat and read the book which had a grinning Arn on the cover along with a juvenile Ethiopian wolf trying to beg food from his mouth. Hey ho! Time must have past because a shadow moved across the table enough for me to notice. I looked up!
“Dr Dagrún Rafnbro!” said the flat, broken Norwegian accent.
“Dr Elisher Blake!”
I could see Bridda lean across to the alarm button and hover over it. Oh dear!
“A nice day.” He stated casually.
I looked out at the cloudy sky, it clearly wasn’t. “It might be.”
“You are studying?”
“In a manner of reading, yes, I am.”
“Oh, by Saknusson,” He sniffed. “for the more insipid student, how nice to see you learning!”
“You still haven’t learnt Norwegian well have you? I’m surprised any of your students, if indeed you still have any, can understand you!” I closed the book. “Interesting read. You should try it sometime!” I stood and, rather coldly passed the obnoxious and irritating Professor. I made it to Bridda on shaking legs. “Thanks. I’ve read enough for now!”
“Come back sometime for a coffee.”
“Should SHE have been in here?” I heard, as the lift door closed.
The book was cheap enough on a second hand stall in the market. I continued to read it on my way home. Nothing outstanding but some interesting theory on why the Ethiopian wolf is the shape it is.
Dr Elisher Blake, 60, running to fat, balding and with what his students, unknown to him, called ‘child molesting glasses’, went to the reference section and pulling out a ledger not far from the one Dagrún had recently searched through, and taking out a Norwegian dictionary, read the following information:
Name: Dagrún Frigga Rafnbro
Trained: Edinburgh and Oslo
Masters: 1st: zoology Edinburgh
Doctorate: Ancient Viking History
Doctorate: Wildlife studies (Blake harrumphed to himself. that was no Doctorate worth having).
Dagrún was born in Malmo. Her hobbies are: Viking history and a passion for wolves: currently working in Soumi-Sweden on the effects of wolf predation on reindeer herds: prefers to live a Viking life and rescue Wolves from predation. (Blake laughed out loud at that and received a hiss from Bridda).
Published works: Wolf versus the Human population
Werewolves in History: Myth or truth? The Wolf view.
Repercussions of Wolf slaughter from 1400 to date.
Wolf: modern life (Wildlife Time)
Canadian Timber Wolves (BBC ‘wild creatures’)
National Geographic Magazine
He slammed the book shut gaining another freezing glare from Bridda. National Graphic had the Nerve, the NERVE, to print what she had said. How the hell had they got away with it? He had cancelled that law suit and promptly sacked the useless lawyer. Next time it’d be a local blood sucker, not some pimply moron from the U.S.
The contract was “…so water tight”, explained my Lawyer Jussi Geltmir, once Daddy’s lawyer and now mine, “it will float like a boat! It just needs your signature now, Dagrún.”
I still read it twice. Yes, I was covered for every eventuality except “acts of God!”
“I can’t cover you for That, Dagrún. No one knows What God plans!”
I signed and had three copies made. One for me: one for Leif: one for Jussi to hold.
Leif starred at the contract and then at me. “You DO NOT trust me, do you?”
“Don’t be disappointed, Leif, I just do not want to be caught out in anything. I suppose it’s living with the wolves. When something puts fear into you, you get out!”
“I’m going to kill that bastard if I ever meet him!”
“And you want me to start when?” I asked ignoring that comment. Leif had introduced me to Alexander and blamed himself for his misjudgement. I had been told by Leif’ secretary that Leif and Alexander were no longer on speaking terms. It would be more than that!
“Start; by the time we get you over there and settled in it’ll be at least a month’s time. I have a current problem with a hunting group who want to kill the adults and let me have the pups! Bloody good of them isn’t it?” He saw my face! “I have the WWF and the YosemitePark behind me on this one, dear heart!”
“I’ll get things moving then. One question, these patrol guys, who do they answer to?”
“Why, you and Arn of course!”
“If they don’t they will be off the island damned quick! Don’t forget I have arranged for the radio contact to be set up and waiting.”
“So it would be my own little Jurassic park!” I stated with sarcasm.
“But without the danger!”
“Leif, have you ever seen an angry wolf?”
“In all my time I’ve only ever seen mainly dead ones!” he commented quietly.
“Then a bloody big dinosaur is a kitten in comparison!” I kissed his brow. “Will you be there for the opening?”
“You bet! I’ve arranged for a modest TV and radio coverage!”
It wasn’t until I was on the train home that I realised he had been trying not to tell me something! TV and Radio coverage… but no written word! There would be reporters… he had included the Nat Geo! The complete… but I found myself laughing. I might have covered myself securely with the contract, but Leif was no fool either. Criminals or hunters, TV or the media, Leif knew them all! And he probably wanted a little dig at Blake too!
Disa handed over my change. “Do you have to move?” she complained. “I will miss you and the wolves so much!”
“It’ll be a challenge and perhaps I am off my head!”
“You’re going with that rather nice vet man, yes?”
“Yes,” I laughed, tucking the money into the waist pouch. ” in separate huts!”
She giggled. “You’ll want staff if it’s THAT big.”
“Probably; in time, but it would be a badly paid real experience!”
“Good luck to them and to you. Don’t forget me!”
“As if I would, you have been a good friend to me, Disa. You’ll get a holiday invite! Oh, that reminds me, a pad of letter paper and two stamps!”
Your Mama tells me you are not looking forward to the holidays. This is not good! You should ALWAYS enjoy holidays.
How would you like to come and stay with Aunty Dagrún in her new home in the North for eight weeks of wolves, wolves and more wolves? Mucking out, feeding, noting information, running with them (if they let you), putting on radio collars etc. Beats every one else’s essay on “What I did in the summer holidays!”
Mama knows about this but best to ask her first though. It’s polite! I’ve put some paper and a stamped address envelope in for your reply.
0h, and don’t forget to pack your rubber boots and waterproofs …you know the score! LoL! With lots of hugs, your favourite Aunty, Aunty Dagrún!”
The time went by like lightening. Suddenly it was the last ones out and that meant Disa and the boys. Of course, expecting Loki to play up proved me wrong as he went into the crate gingerly, the lure of meat was enough. Arn raised his eyebrow as he watched. Tyr on the other hand, Tyr the thoughtful, took an instant dislike to the crate. We didn’t want to dart them as they were not travelling that far, we were getting ever more fraught as he preferred to back away rather than lure himself in with the lovely steak I had provided. However, Disa thought this was a great game and trotted in, licking the steak. This was the last straw for Tyr who stalked inside, snarling, whilst Disa exited swiftly backwards, yelping and running to me. Arn slotted home the gate and they were loaded onto the van. Disa looked at her little travelling crate, threw up and sat down heavily, wagging her tail. I hesitated, horrified, hoping this would not hold up moving them, but Arn merely laughed.
“First lick of steak and she throws up! Good start, little one!” He swept her up and put her into the crate. She wriggled, fought and tried to bite, for men were not her favourite animal, but Arn had gained the upper hand and he shut the door swiftly. “Well, that was easier than I thought! I expected to be here until midnight – minus some fingers or at least a hand!” He bolted shut the van doors, securing the bolt with a heavy lock. You didn’t need to guess what was in the van. The huge wolf’s head painted on the sides and “Wolf Welfare’, the website and the phone number was written beneath it in huge grey letters.
“We are going to look terrible tomorrow morning letting them out!” Sighed Arn, as he pulled off the country road and took the main road leading up North. “I hope they put a mesh over the lens!”
I drew a dark grey work suit out of the bag! “Hah! The boys will freak out seeing us in these! They are used to me dressed like this. And they know you, with a light grey sweat shirt!”
“I’ll change into them for the camera only and you can stay as you are. It’ll look good.”
“Thank you!” then we fell silent and let the road noise take over with the occasional growl or whine that told me the boys were not happy.
The spring breeze cut us as we loaded the boys and a sleeping and content Disa onto the boat to the island. The beefiest looking man I had ever encountered helped us load up. He looked more like a bear and his name was Bjorn!
He grimaced realising we were trying to keep our faces neutral. “Oh, I’ve heard it all, feel free to make as many jokes as you like!” He looked into the cages. “They are beautiful! You know, I’m going to love this job!”
“Then let’s get them out there. Are the ‘Scum of the press’ there already?” I asked, as a distant glint gave someone’s camera away.
Bjorn sniffed. “Most of them are going to be happier on the outside of the fence! One fella, tall with retro glasses, he says to me, ‘hey, big Bear-man! These are real Wolves, yeah?’”
“And what did you say back?”
“I told him that pains in the arse were the wolves first meal! It got a laugh! Morons! Hey Arn! It’s good fishing here!”
“Good, as soon as they clear off I’ll get my herring rods out!”
The press gathered round as if they were waiting for a terrifying scoop. I had to ask them to step back. Did they expect the Boys to be loose in the van? A good story for the front pages! The van had been backed up to the entry gate of the paddock. Arn made quite a thing of opening the locks then opened Tyr’s crate, Nothing happened for a moment then Tyr was out like a streak of silver grey! He took off and disappeared into the copse on the far side of the compound. Clearly some shutter speeds were not prepared for how fast a wolf can exit somewhere it dislikes passionately. However, they were ready for Loki; he jumped out and turned to the press, gave a snarl, a sneeze and joined Tyr in the copse. That was it. They were home – again!
I lifted Disa out of her crate. She was sleepy, cosy and objected bitterly, and then she opened an eye, saw the press and turned into the cutest bundle of black fur that had ever existed. She did not object to the female press reporter fussing her, but she did to the man with her! She tried to bury herself into my apron. I gave a quick history of her past to ‘oohs’ and ‘aahhs’ and one ‘bastards!’ amidst frantic writing, sticking out of recording devices and one guy who wore more recording gear than I had ever seen on one human being.
Bjorn finally shipped them out and now it was strangely quiet. As if the sound had been turned down and all we could hear was bird-song and the rustle of the trees.
Arn gave me a long look. “It’s going to be odd for a while, I expect. We are all going to need to settle in. Welcome to Nord Fjorden!”
“Let’s get the boys some food. They are not going to like me for a bit!” I barely managed to keep my voice level, I felt as wretched as though I had been thrown onto a desert island.
“Their loss!” and Arn headed off to a store hut to get some meat.
I glanced back as Bjorn tied up the boat and with a wave went off to his own hut on the far side of the compound.
What was wrong? Where was it? It was here, I could feel it! I just couldn’t see it.
The boys are currently refusing to have ANYTHING to do with me. They have taken offence at their new home even though it was better than their old place. Disa is spending more time with them now. They have taken the addition well.
Bjorn said he had heard prowling last night; He went out to investigate and found wolf tracks. This caused us a few moments of panic. But everyone who should have been was behind the fences. Was there a wild wolf on this island? Leaving Arn with the boys, Bjorn and I set off just before dawn. Over my shoulder I had a dart gun. We finally agreed to stop for lunch.
Bjorn had brought his favourite food; he told me “Cold reindeer”. It was delicious and he had brought a jar of cloudberry jam and we munched our way through it, as they say, with relish. Any wolf would smell this from a long way off. I could hear the boys back in the compound howling restlessly. We sat for a while on a rocky outcrop in the spring sunshine. The outcrop commanded a wonderful view of the valley lying below. Bjorn had tracked the paw prints to here. They were fresh, oh yes.
“There!” My eye-line followed Bjorn’s pointing finger.
There, in the wood, something moved. I got out my camera and focused down the lens. I gasped but clicked away. Looking into the photo you could see two blue eyes looking back amongst the gloom. “Oh, poop! We have a wild wolf here! How the hell did that happen, wolves won’t cross a large stretch of water unless they REALLY have to!”
Bjorn was still watching the trees, he watched like a bear. “Is he desperate? Swam here if the water was calm? And there is that shorter lake route here.”
“That has too much of a current. What’s it been living on then?”
“Small: furry things?” He gave a short laugh then fell serious. “It’s coming closer, oh, Odin!”
The state of the wolf was poor, to say the least about the most. Its right back leg was held a little off the ground. I could see it was thin and it looked a year or two old. Grey with black swathes through its fur. “Can you shoot it from here?”
“No, I’ll have to get a little closer!”
Bjorn threw the remains of the bones heftily into the valley. It cleared the rocks below and we waited. If the wolf was hungry it would come, danger or not.
It appeared to inch its way, unhappy with being in the open. We let it eat until it rose to move and I pulled the trigger.
We ran, scrambling over the rocks. There was only so long that we could keep it under anaesthetic.
“You are a good shot, Frøken!”
“Dagrún,” I corrected. “Thank you. Father taught me! Can you carry this poor thing home?”
“Yeah, come on, we’ll get home before the sun goes down. He gently lifted it around his shoulders and we made for home. Arn’s face was picture!
He gave it the once over as it started to stir. Let’s get it into the sick pen. This poor bitch needs all the help she can get!”
We put food and water down as Arn made the weak wolf comfortable on the straw. He backed out quickly as she snapped as he moved away. “They must have known she was here when they put the compounds up! I’ve tested for rabies; it’ll take a day or two to come back. I’ve given her an antibiotic and that paw needed a good clean. I found this in the wound!” He handed me an antiseptic smelling bullet nub in the small plastic bag. All three of us looked at the wolf.
Bjorn swore. “She swam here to escape? Or the bastards got here first?” His voice echoed like steel in the small room. “If they come back…”
We didn’t need to end the sentence for him. He’d kill them. We sat outside my hut and drank tea in silence. The night was falling and my boys were starting to announce the fact to the island.
“I am not happy with you living in this hut, Frøken Dagrún!”
“If those with guns come here, they will have to arrive at this site. You are a girl alone!”
“Thank you, but I always take precautions at night!”
“They will be better prepared before you are!”
“Bjorn, you can’t scare me. I’ve faced charging tigers, elephants and three over enthusiastic, half grown, wolf cubs!”
“They did not have a gun!”
“No, but they had teeth! And some had tusks!”
“You should move into my hut!”
“Ok, ok! But I’ll do patrols round the huts, at night time too, from now on!”
“There’s no – ” I looked at his face and decided not to argue. I was meeting him half way as it was.
“I’ll set up a long distance telescope by your barn.” He continued. “It has a clear view across to the landing stage on the mainland. Even a small boat being loaded at night would need lighting. Creeping in at night would take time and be noisy.”
Arn put down his mug” How do you know that?” Clearly he had never travelled in the dark often.
“I used to shoot wolves; for the fur and the sheer hell of it!” It was said simply.
The silence was deafening. You could hear the breathing of the half awake female in the next room. A gaping gulf of silence opened up.
“How did Leif find YOU?”
“Arn,” I warned sharply. “Bjorn, do you want to explain?”
“How can you be so calm about this? How do you know he’s still not in league with his shooting buddies?”
“We’ll let Bjorn explain!”
“I know how you feel Arn; I’ve met that expression on your face, time and time again. I am not an ignorant shooting bastard!
I was fifth generation Wolf hunter. As a sport: not for the need of pelts or meat. Well, I liked it, I was seventeen and stupid. But what I didn’t like was killing the cubs. Why kill the future of shooting wolves? But I was seventeen and what does a seventeen year old know against men who had shot their whole life? I just knew how to care for, load and fire a gun!” He took a swift sip of tea.
I refilled his mug accompanied by a dark look from Arn which I ignored. “Go on, we all have histories, Bjorn!”
“Well, I was on this shooting party trip to…, anyway it is history now! I had charge of the ammunition box, a big box. Full of every possible bullet you could fit into their range of guns. Big guys, Yanks – or Canadians- can’t remember now. Let’s just say they had American-ish accents. But LOT’S of money.
They were intending to cut down a large pack, they said, that had been ‘allegedly’ butchering the farmers sheep. Papa, Uncle and I, were tracking as per usual and though we saw tracks, we saw no wolves. We heard them though, and tried to track them but it was getting dark within the forest and there was not enough good light. Then it started to snow and those paying a lot for the privilege began to whine on about the cold and how they wanted somewhere warm and a hot Aqua-Vit, so we returned to the farmhouse.
All that night the wolves howled, but they were far off, even I knew that. No one bothered with me, I was seventeen and going along for the tips. It all made for a useful bit of pocket money.
So, I went out and sat on the steps of the barn, trying to pinpoint the howling. There was a noise like – no noise. A whisper, a sigh, and there, stock still, jet black even by torch light and his eyes shining in my torch beam, was the biggest wolf I had ever seen. If I had I my gun he would have been the deadest largest wolf I had ever seen and got myself some kudos from my father for the attempt! The wolf just stood there and looked at me. I looked at him! He made a beautiful deep “Harrumph” noise in his throat and just vanished into the under-darkness of the trees! I followed the footprints up to the tree line only to find they had gone, vanished into the damp undergrowth of pine needles and leaves.
I was so filled with head cold the next day that I didn’t go out with them. Perhaps my not going increased their luck for they came back with three females and some young, very young, cubs. They hung the live cubs from the tree and started taking pot shots in strange poses. I looked out of the window and I was not happy. So I went out, in pyjamas and bare foot in the snow, entered the line of fire and took down the cubs. They were still alive, I couldn’t believe it, so I tucked them in my jacket top and went back to the house!
A geek with a strange American accent but with those glasses you call child molesting glasses, grabbed me by the arm and threatened me with a thump from his gun stock. My uncle got to me before my papa otherwise the man would be dead. “
“Shame he didn’t!” I muttered.
Bjorn continued not hearing me, “- Uncle Aggi, he told the geek to leave me alone and how I understood the need to keep wolves going if worms like him wanted to shoot in the future! The man spat and went to the group who were watching like snakes! Something appeared to have changed in the group – oh, I don’t know!” Bjorn sighed. “I took the cubs inside and put them by the fire. Uncle Aggi, Father and I, eye-dropped into the cubs mouths thick, fatty, milk. The hunters moaned about food and Father told them in no uncertain terms to get their own. “Tell me, son!” and I did, quietly, Papa and Uncle nodded. “When He is seen lad, there is a terrible fate in store! He is the harbinger of doom! Loki, we call him. Master of Mischief! He won’t like this!”
“We are trying to save the cubs. It may go in our favour!” My uncle said.
“Papa, that is a fairy tale Wolf, you have told me!”
“Yes, but now you have seen him! Now you are a man. Only Men see Loki!”
“He must be an old wolf!”
Papa gave me a look that said so much in such a short time that I apologised and snuggled the sleepy and shivering cubs in my lap.
When I got up, next morning, the cubs were not in the box by the fire. They hung by the throat from the washing line, stiff and lifeless. I did not cry, I did not yell, but I was busy before I woke Uncle and Papa quietly and we went outside. I went back in and came out a few minutes later. “We should go back to the trees. This is not going to be nice!” My father said nothing but I knew he wanted to what I had done.
The explosion blew out the windows and bits of things we didn’t want to know about. Out of the smoke and a few flames came the one with the nasty glasses. He was in a bad way.
Papa looked down to get the phone from his pocket and there beside him, like a well-trained dog, stood Loki. The look he gave Papa was almost human. He sniffed and then melted into the trees. Papa cried as he dialled the emergency services. Uncle started praying, it was not to God, no. It was to Odin, something I had never heard him do before!
The police were called. They finally made the usual guess that the hunters were drunk and had rigged up an explosive device for catching wolf or bigger prey. The glasses geek was taken to hospital and we never saw him again. The others were carted off by hearse.
A few years ago Leif came to our house. There was only Uncle and me by this time. Leif explained who he was and what he stood for and how he found out about us and how fine it was that we were taking in abandoned pups. He asked for the story and I told him – everything.
Leif did not condemn, did not judge, and did not ask me why. All he asked was did I still hunt? I told him I hunted only to protect! I now made my money by taking photographers and tourists out tracking. It’s a good living. Even if the group saw nothing, they had the prints and if lucky, the howls. If he thought that was corny, Leif said nothing but shook our hands and said he had a job for me. Uncle heard him out and told me to take it! Like that! On the spot! He had become very religious – an ancient kind – and he kept saying he could see Loki every day at nightfall and dawn, just like his brother! Uncle died not long after that!
I have not seen the wolf since. This is a shame, it was one magnificent wolf. He did not put fear into me, but a new breath of air. I could live and so would any wolf I could help. Leif got me into classes so I could learn more about wolves. I got several qualifications but nothing grand, like you two!” He grinned. “I met various people and they told me things and helped me with information. Information is worth more than a piece of crappy paper!” He took a sip of tea. “Loki changed my life!”
“And the one in the child molesting glasses?” asked Arn. His eyes had widened like mine.
“God alone knows! So long as he suffers, I am a happy man!”
“Bjorn, I owe you an apology!” Arn offered his hand and they shook.
“Do you still want me, Miss Dagrún?”
“Of course I do! More so, after that! If Loki is imagination or a true wolf, he changed you for the better! You set up whatever you think right and we will go along with it! Arn, it sounds like she’s up!” Arn went off to see the wolf.
“Miss Dagrún, you give orders like a wolf!” he laughed.
“I’m not surprised, Bjorn, I grew up with them!”
“Yes, Leif was right. You are perfect for this job!”
“Thank you!” I knew I was blushing.
“He didn’t want a namby-pamby scientist. He wanted another wolf! He’s got you!”
“Well yes,” he grudgingly admitted.
I watched as Disa made clumsy but valiant attempts to tear up a piece of meat, watched with piqued interest by the boys. In deference to their keeping away from me, I kept a distance from them and observed by watching through binoculars as I sat on a fallen tree trunk on the far side of the compound. I was so interested in Disa that I had missed Loki creeping up behind me and putting his head over mine! Leif did not like this intimacy with the boys, but it was a wolf welcome and finding things out about you. It was what you did! “You idiot, what are you up to?” I grabbed his head, feeling the soft fur, thick and warm, and we shared a friendly head rubbing session, a kind of greeting. I pushed my head against his throat and felt the gentle rumble. I revelled in that sound. It always gave me an energizing buzz. Finally satisfied, he went and sat back by Tyr, to whom he appeared to give some sort of communication although no sound was made. It was interesting to watch the head movements and the sniffing of the air. Every little sign meant something. I only wished I knew what he was telling his brother.
With a silky grace, Tyr stood and stretched, flexing his spine. He grunted a little as he straightened but that was his way. He made his way as though he was passing me by complete accident. He suddenly grabbed the binoculars from my hand and tossed them away into a bush. Tyr obviously did not think much of binoculars. Well, if that wasn’t a statement, I didn’t know what was. “Am I forgiven?” I asked. He spent a long time rubbing his head against mine then rubbing my knees, sniffing my boots. Finally he sat at my feet like a good dog, yawned and fell asleep, his head resting on my feet. Now I could not rise until he decided I could. He was the boss and this was his patch! At least we were talking again!
I heard my name being called. “Yes Arn? “ I twisted in my seat, “Can’t get up, I’m being sat on! What’s the hurry?”
”ok for me to come in?”
“Yes, they are fine!” He sat beside me, shifting slightly away when a growl from Tyr proved him to be too close.
“It’s the results for our new girl!”
“Well go on! What? What? Can she come out of Quarantine?” That was an amusing question, because she had clearly been on the island a long time. Quarantine shouldn’t have figured but, to keep the Wildlife Service happy we kept her separate.
“She is a little underfed, but that’s not unusual is it? Those deer on the mountainside must have sent her insane with hunger! Her blood came back free of rabies.” He paused as I punched the air! “Yes, well we are going to have to look after her. She’s landed a broken leg bone caused by that bullet. It’s repaired itself badly.”
“You sent the x-rays too?”
“Yes. Why not? If I had to put her down, I wanted to know every reason why! I think I can mend it!” It’ll be pricey but we could do it!”
I looked at the x-rays, holding them high and gaining the interest of Disa who thought she could eat it! Loki rose like a drift of smoke, sauntered over to the meat and swallowed it! Tinker!
“You think you can re-set this? It’ll be dodgy, Arn. If it goes wrong, she’ll be crippled, maybe not tolerated by the boys…she might even get picked on…”
“Hold on! Hold on! Look, see the line there? See, new bone!” He exclaimed excitedly.
“I can break it there and re-set the new bone. She’ll be walking around on it in no time!”
“What about the bullet?” I asked quietly.
“Leif’s anger went… well… ballistic! He has lodged the complaint with about every-one he can think of. He has even had the bullet identified! According to this -,” He waved an A4 paper at me, “- he wants updates and records, urine samples, fur samples – whether we spot the lesser red eared worm – that sort of information!”
“He is clearly not going to let this one rest!” I sighed.
“What’s up?” He asked putting the x-rays back in their envelopes.
“He just causes a lot of ripples. We are still settling in here. You are digging the paddock pond, ready for the new girl as well as taking current care of her 24/7! Bjorn is hardly sleeping, doing extra patrols, because he THINKS something is up! I am up to my ears recording these three and patrolling to let him rest and I KNOW something is up! The last thing we want is media attention. Hack’s planes buzzing over- head, hacks e-mailing us, and letters of dissent from the anti-wolf league! And that’s for starters!”
“The sooner you can tell me what’s wrong, the better!”
“Don’t make light of it, Arn! It’s what would have stopped me but for Leif and his persuading charms getting me into it!” I tried to slip my left foot from under Tyr’s neck. He growled, so I stopped. “Oh! Don’t mind me!” I heaved another sigh, “I was just settling into my idea of perfection and then I was pulled out of it!”
“That reminds me, here’s a letter. I picked it up from the post office in Oslo!”
“Oh, it’s Disa handwriting!” I read down the letter! “Oh!”
“What? Not bad news?”
“You remember my hut? It has been torched!”
“As in set fire to and razed to the ground. Muspelhiem! The new owners are not at all happy. I wouldn’t be either! Disa has written a blow-by-blow account! The ground has been dug up – Gods know what they were looking for – and part of the fence has been cut and ripped out!”
“I’m glad you left when you did!” He stood and Tyr shifted his head so he could see him clearly. “I’m off to look closer at the x-rays and see what I can plan! How about a meal together tonight? I’ll invite the Bear man!” He grinned at my look of reprimand, “I like Bjorn!” and he went off whistling.
Disa bounced after him, checking he was going. And whilst Loki didn’t move a lazy muscle, Tyr raised his head regally and gave the departing Arn a long look. I took the opportunity to move, checked the second gate for sealed locks and returned to my hut. The burning down of the hut back in the village had sent a chill down my back. Someone had cold-bloodedly murdered my Daddy in the middle of Yosemite and the killer was never found. Therefore, should the burning down of my old home so scare me? Well, yes, it did. There was nothing in there or out of it, to make it burn! I had personally emptied out the fire and the wood stack was gone to another villager who needed it, dislodging spider and mice alike. Who had torched my old home? And why wait until I had gone? They had plenty of time to do it whilst I was there.
I expected a police visit and I got one. The officer clearly expected the wolves to be free because he sat in his car until I sauntered up and asked if he was ok. “The wolves are in the compound, Officer! You can get out!” I tried not to smile, well, laugh actually.
“I am Detective Inspector Brownside. You are Dr Dagrún Rafnbro?” He announced flashing his badge pass and getting out of the car.
I took the pass. “I am and you are English.”
“Yes, they thought this would be a nice country job for me!” We shook hands and it was stronger than Bjorn’s. “I’m on a Police National European Job Swap. Can’t wait to go home!” he admitted with feeling. “Get back to the inner city!”
“Have we treated you so badly?” I asked with a smile.
“No, I’ve been bored witless. You lot don’t do ANYTHING up here!” he laughed dryly.
“Until we burn places down and rip out fences. Sit outside, Inspector, I’ll get some coffee!”
“Thanks!” I saw through the window that he was looking around him. “How was the trip across?” I called.
“Quick. Your friend…, er, Arn, isn’t it?”
“He was waiting for me.”
“Yes,” I stated as I emerged with the laden tray. “He said he would. He is going to Oslo on a mission of mercy to get some plaster of Paris.” The policeman looked puzzled. “We have a wolf with a broken leg. We might well have funding, but a bit of banter with old friends can often get you a lot for free!”
“How did it break its leg?”
“It was shot, the bullet broke the bone. The poor thing got here, we think, by swimming. It’s a long way even for a full-grown wolf! She must have been desperate. Before the authorities hint at wanting to destroy her, Arn wants a chance to let her live!”
“Yes, I’d heard about here.” He looked around him. “It is a beautiful place!”
“I’ll take you on a tour later if you like. Arn won’t be back until mid afternoon! Now, what can I do for you?”
“Some help would be nice!”
“Is this about my old hut burning down? I know it was brought by someone else, but, well, it was special to me!” I told him about the clearing of the fire-place and the clearing of the wood stack. And it had been empty for the better part of a fortnight. “There were those around, Inspector who did not like me having two wolves securely housed so close to the village!”
“I spoke to Ms, Thordis Stromse. She runs the store.”
“Yes, Disa used to help out now and again, an extra spade when removing poo can be a godsend!” I laughed and topped up the coffee. “Disa helped raise money and awareness and, if she could have, I think she would have worked for me for nothing!”
“I got that feeling too! Ms Stromse gave a hunter a piece of her mind when he innocently asked for some cigarettes! I wouldn’t like to upset her!”
“Oh, she’s a softie! Just don’t get her on her favourite dream, Wolves!”
“I need to ask this, your father died -.”
“You are following the thought that someone killed my Daddy, years ago, and is now after me? Yes, I have thought that too!”
“Why would that be?”
“Inspector, this may be the 21st Century but fools still think shooting a fellow carnivore dead is fun! Those who rescue wolves are not regarded by the Hunters with any respect and we have a whole pack of wolves just sitting here waiting to be shot from a rifle with a telescopic lens!” I snapped, blushed and apologised, “But, but, why should they wait for me to move then torch the place?”
“What wasn’t there?”
“I kept nothing of value in the hut. It was all in the bank. “
“What did you keep in the bank?”
“Silver cups, books, ledgers -?”
“And I keep my money there, naturally.”
“Look, I do not mean to offend you, but I need to ask. They were looking for something.”
“I haven’t -.” But somehow I hadn’t been swift enough, he mentioned my father, “- My Daddy’s diary. There were names and places, but nothing the American police were interested in!”
“I’m not an American!”
“Ouch!” and I laughed. “I could get it out if you want to see it, tomorrow. Do you think it’s got something in it?”
“Let’s just say a colleague of mine, in Oslo who is mind numbingly dull, said there were some infamous hunting groups around in the mountains. So saying, somewhere there is a man who protects Wolves and the infamous hunters know this. This man may have names, maybe pictures -.”
“The American police never hinted at THAT!”
“Some are paid by these hunters. They are not poor these hunters!”
“You should talk to Bjorn! He could tell you about rich hunters!”
“When did you start looking after Wolves?”
“About ten years ago. Here in Norway and in Suomi lands. Then, my Daddy died -. So I came up here and the two boys came with me to be released but they couldn’t cope. Oh, they had the wolf instincts but, they had no intention of using them. They knew where their meat came from. I can’t blame them. Have you spoken to Leif, Dr Leif Bergen of OsloUniversity?”
“I did, yesterday. An interesting man: even checked me out even whilst I sat there! He trusts no one, I’d say! When can we meet at the bank?”
“How about ten o’clock tomorrow morning? But I do not have a phone and I will not use the radio or the web for various security reasons!”
The Inspector handed over his phone. “I’ll put it down to expenses!”
I made the reservation with the bank and the Inspector wrote the time and date in his notebook.
“I can’t tell you much more, Inspector, so how about the tour?”
I think he was pretty much bamboozled as we reached the open areas. “The compounds are four in total.” I explained as we made our way down the beaten track. “The first has my boys and little Disa in it when she isn’t chasing me around like a puppy! Do you object to a wolf with us? “I didn’t give him time to answer, but was pleased that he paled! “Disa!” there she was jumping though the grass and looked at the policeman and backed off! ”No worries, Disa! Nice man!” I looked up at the policeman, “You are a nice man, I hope?” I didn’t give him time to answer, but he blushed. “Disa is the sole remnant a shooting party’s ‘fun’. She had hidden in the wall cracks and being black, it saved her life. She was found when Leif and the Wolf guys made a noise and she whimpered. Otherwise she would have been missed. She dislikes men as a rule! Looks like she doesn’t want to come! In a way, I am glad. The less she attaches herself to me, the better! Hard to believe she was a Runt in the litter, isn’t it? We hope to breed from her eventually! The other compounds will hold the injured female and other wolves when and if they turn up. That large compound, up there on the mountain, is the Wolves larder!”
“It is spectacular!” He said, gazing around him in awe.
I led the way past Arn’s hut. “The Veterinary Surgery, its Arn’s territory. I stay well out, unless invited!” and we travelled the short way through one of the compounds and across towards Bjorn’s hut.
“These compounds,” He said looking about him nervously, “are huge. Are you sure they are empty?”
I laughed, “Yes! Of course! Why do you ask that?”
“I’ve got the feeling wolves have been here before!”
“They probably were once, long, long ago when the fjord was smaller or not there at all. These fences were only recently put up. This is our current Patrolman’s hut. We are looking to get another patrol man as soon as the in-take gets greater – .”
Bjorn was sitting in the sun, tying a knot in a fishing line. He looked up as he heard a woman’s laugh. He put down the fishing line and stood. “Miss Dagrún!”
“Bjorn, this is Detective Inspector Brownside, from England!”
“It’s nice to meet you too!” The ‘You’ had a rather heavy ironic ring to it! “I don’t have much time for the law. It’s rare you ever get a good policeman!” He offered his hand to shake.
“Don’t I know it!? More crooks in a nick, than there are on the street!” He shook the hand. It appeared to be a major greeting in these parts, even if you said nothing as you did it.
“Why are you here? The wolf bitch?”
“No. It’s about the burning down of your employers old home!”
“Those bastards responsible need to hang!”
“We’ll do our best to bring them to justice!” The comment was like dust, so dry it seemed to hang in the air. “I am working more with the new owners and have spoken to Miss Ravnsbro about events prior to the accident!”
“Sure it’s an accident?”
“Sorry Miss Dagrún, accident is a big word. It covers many sins!”
The policeman looked at him with a certain respect. For a big man he was no fool and had wits.
Bjorn looked up as the klaxon from the other side of the lake announced Arn’s return. “We’d better get you back to civilisation – sir!” We were soon waving the Englishman off and awaiting Arn’s return.
“What did you think of him?” I asked as we watched the diminishing car drive away.
“He seemed personable enough.” Admitted Arn as he swept up an armful of plaster of Paris sacks and I helped with the medical webbing. “I’m going to take these to the surgery. I will need at least one of you later.” He laughed “You’ll be there! I know!” and he went off singing to himself.
“There goes a man on a happy mission!” I turned to Bjorn “You are quiet!”
“I was thinking!”
“Do you want an øre for them?” I asked.
“We are going to see him again!”
“I am to meet him at the bank, tomorrow!”
“You trust me, don’t you, Miss Dagrún?”
“Of course I do Bjorn!”
“Then don’t go and meet him tomorrow.”
“He’s a policeman!”
“Did you check his credentials?”
“Yes. Scrutinised it, took it off him and looked!”
“Sure? You met many policemen?”
“Bjorn, what is it? Do you recognise him?”
“I know the name Brownside. I’m sure he was there when they arrested the geek with the glasses! When you expect the law, you don’t expect the English to turn up in rural Norway!” At my silence, he looked concerned, “Hey, I don’t mean to scare you!”
“Oh, you didn’t! I was just thinking too. You are right, if he is on transfer then he has been here some time, no?” I raised an eyebrow. “I’ll be on the computer for a while!”
“I’ll do some fishing from the jetty.” He patted his back pocket automatically.
“Bjorn! You are not supposed to carry your own guns!” I reprimanded as we walked back to the hut.
“Miss Dagrún, I respect you and you have said you respect me. If that is true, you’ll let me be prepared. I know what these hunters are capable of! I was one, remember?”
“Favours always favours!” had been my Daddy’s favourite cry of despair. “My sweet, people always want something twice as useful in return. It is human nature!”
I e-mailed and phoned like a soul possessed. Messages left were chased and chased until the recipient returned the message out of desperation for me to go away! Most of the people I knew were Daddy’s friends, colleagues or just plain friends. They could all help in many ways, including a policeman friend of mine in Scotland who, though he lambasted me for the misuse of the privacy act, went gooey over the news of Disa and asked if I wanted a hired help for some weeks in August! So, by the time the darkness had got as dark as it would for this time of year and the lights were on in the treatment room, I was ready to help Arn. Bjorn gave a wave from where he was fishing. He nodded as I pointed to Arn’s surgery and returned his concentration to the fishing.
Arn had already darted her. She had put up very little objection, he said. He was worried that she had given in and was prepared to die. We lifted her limp body onto the table. She was mainly pelt and bones. Arn carefully slipped the breathing tube into her throat. “Press this air ball like this! Don’t stop until I tell you!”
He paid me no attention: was checking her heart rate with his stethoscope. “Right, lady, you and me, we are going to sort this!” He was talking to the wolf. I gently tapped the corner of her eye. It gave a good response. Arn started to hum, to himself as he carefully sheared away the fur. “Aha!” He muttered to himself. Then there was a slight paused as he cut into the skin and then the saw started up and I flinched. Arn broke and re-set the leg. Bit by bit he removed the loose bone fragments from the original wound. She would no longer have bone slivers slicing into her leg whenever she put it down. After what seemed ages and my hand almost going numb, he stood back a step, considered what he had done, grinned at me and then stitched up the skin. Within thirty minutes he had plastered her leg and we had her back in the pen. She twitched as she slowly came out of the sleep. “Good!” Arn squatted not far from her and injected some anti-biotic serum. ”Weak but you’ll come through! Won’t you, sødme? She’ll have some hay stuck to her leg but I don’t think she’ll mind too much! I want to see if she’ll take that minced meat. If she does, I am a happy bunny!”
“They will take rabbits! You’ll be a dead bunny!”
He grinned. As far as he was concerned, no one existed except his patient. He shut the gate door behind him, sliding the bolt as the wolf opened her eyes fully and growled. She did not have far to move her head to get to the food and water bowls and she lapped once at the water and, despite how she must have felt, grabbed a piece of beef and swallowed it down! “Good! I’ll stay with her tonight. I have cautious hopes!” He looked as if he had just realised I was there. “Thanks for the help, Daggers!”
Daggers! Only Very close friends called me Daggers, less than five people in fact. “I’m no nurse. I have a numb hand too!” I laughed. Daggers! Perhaps He thought we were close enough to be good friends. I let him think this. He was far too happy to be upset. Already the wolf was up and limping. Not eating as much as we’d like but was doing well enough.
Bjorn was stood by the boat as I arrived to fill up the watering can to sluice down the sick-pen. “Half past nine! You’ll miss the connect train to Oslo!” He said blandly, apparently to the air.
“I’ve been busy, Bjorn!” I eased the now heavy watering can back onto the jetty. “Leif will be meeting him.”
“That should surprise him!” he replied, with a non-committal nod.
“Yes!” Especially as Leif knows what is in Daddy’s diaries. He had insisted I lock them away in a secure bank box. “What do you see, Bjorn?”
“A car is coming along the road, from Falsen.”
“I wish my eyes was that good?”
“Mine are trained to track.” He continued to stare as the car got nearer.
“Fishing gear: Go and do your chores, Miss Dagrún! I’d rather you were not seen!” and he settled onto a comfy part of his anatomy, draping the rod over the water. I struggled back with the water and peered through the thin window. The car driver saw Bjorn and stopped. Sign language ensued, which could only be guessed at as:
“The fish are not biting here!”
“Where should I go then?”
“Try further down the lake by those big trees!”
The car backed up, and the driver slowly followed the rutted lane that ran along the lakeside. If he met anything coming the other way, backing up would give him a surprisingly bad, twisted neck! The only other cottage around here was Lars’s place. It was allegedly as run down as the man and no one ever saw him but once a month when he did his shopping in Falsen. I had seen him once, leading out his cow and goat to a nice spot under the trees at the far end of the lake, where the road bent to the right and led on to his cabin. And I had seen that only because I had my binoculars!
I cleaned the floor thoughtfully. So! Things were moving, slowly, carefully. Like a tricky move in chess where the other side could have two move options if you got your one move wrong. Nothing had been proven yet, but Bjorn and his recognising the policeman had a rather odd ring to it.
The only thing I haven’t really cleared up is my own life! That could wait. Alexander did not know my forwarding address and Disa had instructions to shred any letter to me from New York. It was a start.
I slapped the mop onto the concrete floor! The wolf backed away from across the other pen. All…This! Stupid, Stupid! Stupid! I am imagining all this. It is me just being uncertain, yet I had not been this uncertain when moving my boys and I to the village and -. I needed sanity. I needed to talk to someone.
I glanced at my watch which I only wore when I went into the city. Would Leif be home now? I tidied away and let the wolf back into the pen, cautiously on her part. She snapped at me and I thought how unfair she was when I had just spent an hour cleaning this up so she could be in comfort. Then I thought like the wolf. I wanted green spaces, I wanted trees. I did not want a sanitised square of ground and the constant scrutiny of a human being. I left her in peace.
Leif answered after the habitual three irritating ringtones. “Dear heart! What a surprise I gave a friend of yours today!”
“How did he take it?”
“Surprisingly well, I think he was quite looking forward to meeting you again! I arrived as a very poor second! I caught the look on his face!”
“I have been checking up on him.”
“So have I. You know he moved to Norway some years ago?”
“About eleven years ago?”
“Yes, dear heart.”
“Bjorn recognised him. He said Brownside was there when the child molesting glasses guy was taken to hospital. Bjorn reckons not all the policemen there that day were ‘honest’”
“That cannot be proved. Blake may not have been there!”
“May not!” I sneered. “Thank you for confirming it! Daddy knew about Blake didn’t he?”
“All of that, ‘I know wolves inside out’, crap! Blake used to boast in lessons! Yes, he knew Wolves inside out! Skinned that is – after shooting them to an early grave!”
He sighed, “Dear Heart!” His tone sharpened. “Nothing has been proven!”
“What about medical records?” I whispered, breathed deeply to control myself, and paused, “Is it true? Was Bennie right? Did Blake arrange for Daddy to be killed? A yes or no will do!”
“There is no proof, dear heart!”
“Like Bennie falling off the top of a big mountain whilst tracking wolves in a group of Vets containing a certain Dr Blake?”
“She walked in her sleep. We all knew that!”
“Only after claiming Blake had something to keep hidden? I don’t think so!”
“Blake is too sharp!”
“The diaries do say that Blake was falling behind in Wolf studies. He wasn’t following a modern line, sticking to his usual yahdah, yahdah!”
“Don’t we all if we don’t keep up?”
“You sound like my lecturer!”
“I was your lecturer!”
“For four terms and then we got the temporary South African guy who had as much Charisma as a wilting lettuce!”
“I remember! The surfer! I had to go to England for an important wolf convention!”
“Ooh, weak! You went to get married and you know it! We couldn’t wait to get you back! So! What did our policeman say?”
“Some things you might be interested in! He is clean, to use a dirty phrase. He moved here from England about eleven years ago, after divorcing his wife. No children. Started a new life in Norway but, a policeman is a policeman everywhere he goes! He got involved in the wildlife side of things when he found himself accidently placed in a hit squad breaking up illegal hunting! ”
“How did you get that information out of him?”
“We had a coffee! Do you want to know more, or will you ask ridiculous questions?”
“He thought Blake, the man who looked and sounded like Blake, was guilty and the rest thought he was unlucky being in a room over the explosives. Must have been like being shot by a huge elephant gun at close range! Anyway, He said the young lad there, none other than our Bjorn, was a bit reticent over how the Ammunition all ended up in a big pile under the floor of the sleeping hunters.”
“Do you think he recognised Bjorn?”
“With all that face fungus, I doubt it!” He laughed. “I think there was an awful lot the copper didn’t tell me, as you would expect as a law abiding citizen! I told him what he asked for but didn’t show him the diaries. He said he might speak to you again. Depends on what they can dig up over the burnt out hut. Mind you, if he thinks there might be a connection to the Blake lookalike and the illegal hunting fraternity hunting ring I won’t stop him!”
“Do you trust him?”
“He thinks I do not!
”But do you? You promised you would never lie to me, Leif!”
“Yes, in an oddly twisted, warped and screwed way, yes. I trust him!”
“He’s back, just like I said!” Bjorn spat heartily into the lake.
“So? He’s a policeman. Probably got some news or,” I grinned, “He is fascinated!”
“Yes, by you!”
“That I very much doubt! He’s into conservation apparently!”
“Yes, of you!”
“Why does everyone think I need a man?” I nearly screamed.
“I don’t! Yet, all the time he was here, he was looking at you!”
“So?” I paused, “I am not totally unromantic!” Just who was I trying to convince? I had a job of work to do and I intended to do it. A man in tow would inhibit me. A man would not like playing second fiddle to wolves; or have me arriving home smelling of the pack; or me having to get up through the night feeding pups. No, men only complicated matters. I was better off without one. And I heard my brain add, ‘at the moment!’ My brain needed to behave or I wouldn’t bring it along again! I smiled. Leif would appreciate that thought. Wasn’t that in a Pratchett book? Yes. “Go get him over here, Bjorn. Let’s see what he has to say for himself!”
“Detective Inspector Brownside,” I stated as he stepped onto the jetty, “How are you?”
“Very well, thank you! Just a few questions and then I will leave you in peace!”
“Likely!” snorted Bjorn as he busied himself with the boat.
“Ignore Bjorn! What are the few questions?”
He followed me like a puppy. “Your father’s diaries…”
“- have been perused, until policemen’s eye’s boiled! They found nothing that could help them!”
“May I see them?”
“I might see something they did not!”
“See such as what?” I asked puzzled.
He flicked through his notebook. “Did your father know Dr Elisher Blake?” He paused at my sarcastic laughter. “So he did know Dr Blake?”
“I will tell you because no other idiot asked me! You don’t mind if I feed the boys whilst we talk?”
“Not at all, please, carry on!”
It would have been a shame if he had objected! I lifted the wheelbarrow and we made for the boys compound. They were looking out of the trees! Disa was in the bushes, growling. “Do you want to come in? They won’t come up until I off load this!”
“Er, what is it?”
“It is half of a deer!” I tipped the wheelbarrow and the carcass thudded onto the ground. “Disa should be a good study. She is on mainly meat now!” We returned to the gate and I locked it securely behind me. I made a note of time and food in the book. “Did my Daddy know Elisher Blake? Of course he did! Elisher Blake was Daddy’s bane of existence! Blake is an old-fashioned zoologist of the meanest division. He refuses to give in! It was only because he handed the university a huge amount of money that he still has a Chair! He’s next to bloody useless and only the unfortunate slackers get him as lecturer! The point being, you knew what you were learning but NOT how to do it!”
“I read your comments in the National -.”
“I’m sure you did! Who hasn’t?” I put the wheelbarrow down with a hard slam. “Sorry, it’s taking a long time to live down!”
“The article was a breath of fresh air, if you ask me!”
I had heard that before and believed him just as much as I did the others. “Blake had it coming and as Daddy didn’t get to do it, I did!” I sighed. “I was innocent of reporters then! I was angry and hadn’t realise they would quote me ad infinitum! Perhaps they had a lot of space. The only reason it didn’t go to court was that Blake said I was just hysterical over my father’s recent death! That was ever So kind of him, eh?”
“Maybe he knew what was in the diaries!”
“LOOK, there is NOTHING in the diaries! No names. No likenesses, just where and how the wolves had been found!”
“That could unsettle a worried man!” He said calmly. “Why did your father have it coming to Dr Blake?”
“Let’s sit outside, shall we?” I tidied my apron. A small dot of deer blood had begun to irritate me. “Leif trusts you…in a round-about way.” I looked him straight in the eye and he held the gaze; the first man I had ever known to do that. “You need to know that! Also you need to know that if you cross him, you’ll make an enemy you just don’t need!”
“That could be thought of as a threat!”
“No, that is just me telling you how it is! He is a good man and intent on his life’s work. He’s introduced Wolves back to their old homes at great expense and pain on his part. …and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly.”
“And what is the reason for your father hating Blake?” He asked.
“Why? You be honest with me and I’ll be honest with you!”
“Miss Ravnsbro,” His tone sharpened, “We have reason to understand that Dr Blake may be behind Wolf hunting parties, if not actually taking part! He may also have instigated the burning of your hut, although his timing was not good there! Is that honest enough for you?”
“That makes sense! So he was at Bjorn’s place when the bullets flew!”
“Bjorn, the lad who …”
“Yes. Poacher turned Game-keeper! He is a good man who learnt his lesson young and got out while he could.”
“He’s a bear of a man, I know that!”
“Yes, well, you leave bears alone and they are wonderful creatures!”
“You promised to be honest with me.”
I sighed, “Daddy started to realise that the carcasses they found had always been a day or two ahead of when the rangers and conservation parties visited, tracking the collars. The only people who would know they were there were the local rangers and the Conservation group. Blake was in charge of the Collar Study unit. Daddy said Blake never looked shocked when they found the bodies or what were left of the bodies or just sarcastically arranged collars! Bennie – Bennina Blake was his niece. He was a fellow conservationist, very fond of Daddy and Leif. She married Leif; you should know that by now! Hard to believe she was related to that bastard! Anyway, two years after marrying Leif she was found hanging from a tall redwood next to a magnificent male wolf in YosemiteNational Park. She had walked over a cliff first mind you. Blake didn’t show an iota of grief, even though she was his last remaining relative. Anyway, it was not long after that Daddy got shot at close range and left to die in the middle of Yosemite! Walkers found him. It wasn’t pretty, so the Rangers told me and the walkers had to have therapy. The nearby wolf pack had been completely wiped out. All footprints were scuffed, no tyre marks, just blood … everywhere!” I fumbled for my handkerchief. “The study was called off after Daddy got shot. Everyone said that Blake suddenly appeared nervous, high tailing back to the university and staying there! But it was odd that whenever there was a hunting party, it was always a pack on protected land!
If by burning down my old hut they were going to level my Boys, they were really out of touch! We had been gone a good month before it was sold! I’m sorry for the poor people who had brought it! They were nice and it was an ideal spot! Perhaps they will rebuild.” I blew my nose. I could talk about Daddy now but it still hurt. He shouldn’t have been shot. He should have been left to get on with his job which was to conserve and protect the wolf in its natural habitat! He would still be with us now and I would have more than just Leif to rely on.
“The diary is just dates and remains!” the policeman was almost talking to himself. “That would scare me, if I was Dr Blake!” He looked up at me. “I intend to speak to Dr Blake.”
“Watch your back then. He might be an old fossil but he knows some rather dubious people! Yes, Bjorn?”
“We’ve a message from Leif, three pups on their way!”
“Survivors?” asked the policeman.
“Survivors!” Bjorn said flatly and turned away.
“What is it to you?”
“He is policeman as you well know!” I softened a little. “Tell him, Bjorn, you have nothing to be guilty about!” I lied.
“You were that young lad everyone ignored?”
Bjorn laughed. For a big man it was little high. I had never heard him laugh like that before. It was almost a little mad in its tone. “Yes, that was me!”
“That must have been a nasty event for a lad to watch!”
“When you track and kill wolves for a living, a few dead men is nothing shocking!”
“So you’ve turned over a new leaf?”
“You could put it like that! I have seen wolves close up and they are more magnificent alive than dead. Mr Bergen and Miss Dagrún do wonderful work!”
“That’s very loyal of you. What can you remember of that night? Think back!”
“I can remember it, it’s not hard!” he snapped. “They were drunk, cold and pissed off that they hadn’t shot anything. They got absolutely slaughtered on Aqua Vit, I remember that! No man who wields a gun should get that drunk!”
“Why would the ammunition be piled up like that?”
“How do I know? They just paid us to track and find wolves.”
“Did you sleep in the house?”
“No. We had an outhouse with no fire!”
“In that weather; I remember it was freezing!”
“I was born in snow! I grew up in snow! It was just cold. We managed!”
“And did you have any reason to go in the house before the explosion?”
“No. We did not wish to stay with Scum. And they were scum. We just made a living. They played games.”
“Do you know a Dr Elisher Blake?”
“I have heard of his reputation!”
“Can you describe the man who may be Elisher Blake to me?”
“He was running to fat that lazy unfit office men get.”
“So you did know him!”
“I guessed who he was! He had those horrible glasses, like the ones perverts wear.”
“Like child molesting glasses.” I said.
“Please, Miss Ravnsbro! No hints!”
“Yes. He was balding a little, about 1.67 tall. His eyes looked everywhere but nowhere! He had the last word, I know that! Threatened My Father, a great tracker, with the law if he didn’t produce some wolves! Hah!” he spat. It went a long way. “He was educated after a fashion. He had a strange, strangled, American accent. Spoke Norwegian Very badly!”
“Thank you!” It was said flatly, with a hint of black humour. “I think I’ll recognise him when I see him! No one could be that unlucky!”
Elisher Blake reluctantly left his office already hating the policeman! They nosed everywhere except where it was needed or, indeed, wanted. He opened the ‘visitor’s room’ door and gave a start. He had met this man before; years ago, northern Norway. That bloody awful explosion. The man had brown hair then, now it was turning grey round the temples. Blake went on the defensive.
“I have very little time, er…”
“DI Brownside! We have quite a lot of time, Sir; your diary for today is quite empty, your P.A told me! But I am sure I will not be that long. I have just a few loose ends, to tie up!” He smiled “Please sit down, you are making the room untidy!” He laughed and indicated the chair to his left.
“Do you mind if we speak English, my Norwegian is not good?”
“Of course, but haven’t you lived here a while? I would have thought you would be fluent by now!”
“How would you know I have lived here a while? Besides that, living in another country does not necessarily mean you have to speak the language!”
“Interesting thought! I made sure I could at least swear when I moved here!”
“I would be most obliged if you kindly stop beating about the bush!”
“Then what do you want to know?”
“How are the scars?”
“Scars from your accident in Nordal; some years ago now! We met then, though I expected you not to remember me!”
“I…they are healed, thank you!”
“Please tell me again what you were doing with the Wolf Hunters?”
“I was a guide. I am a significant authority on wolf behaviour” His chest appeared to swell with sick pride.
“And you were prepared to let them go to slaughter?”
“They told me that they would be taking photographs!”
“The fact that they were carrying some very powerful rifles did not bother you at all?”
“I realised too late!”
“Why didn’t you cancel the trip? Why didn’t you say something?”
“I have been through all this with the police!”
“No Sir, as police records show, you were whisked off to hospital. By the time you were well enough to leave, all the investigations had been wound up. The drunken hunters had piled the ammunition up and somehow it had gone off!” He looked carefully at the eyes of the American.
“Well, if you have the answer, why are you talking to me?”
“You knew Dr Lars Rafnbro, I understand!”
He could see something run and hide in Blake’s eyes. “I take it you didn’t like him?”
“He was a fool. He was always looking at new ideas. Never understanding that the facts need to be known about wolves IS known!”
”How can you be so sure? The fact that they have an equal right to walk the earth and should not be hunted down? Just a thought option, Dr!” he said cheerily as Blake went to interrupt. “Where was I? Oh yes, you were in Yosemite with Dr Rafnbro?”
“Yes, and I was not the only one!”
“We know that Sir, we have spoken to all of them, excepting you, who it seems, disappeared rather abruptly to Norway claiming, a ticket that had you back a full 24 hours before Dr Rafnbro was killed!”
“Are you saying-?”
“What I am saying…sir, is that every time you are required, you are not there. Eventually that behaviour catches up with you. So, tell me, why did you go home early?”
“Eleven years ago? God knows!”
“Bennina, your niece…”
“She was no relative of mine!”
“Oh, she was…Sir! Legal documents can confirm it!”
“She married Bergen!” He was almost spitting acid.
“Yes, I have spoken to the gentleman!”
“Gentleman!” snorted Blake bitterly. “I have been cursed by weak relatives, wolf-crazed in-laws and incompetents who think they know more than I!”
“Well, you can rest assured that both of you are of the same opinion!” He rifled through the notebook. “How well do you know the Wolf’s Head?”
“A public house?” he snapped.
“That’s an oddly English expression, coming from an American sir, a hunting Ring, Been up and running what, ten or eleven years? It dates back to just before you took your lethal drunks up to Nordal!”
“They were not my lethal drunks, as you so in-elegantly put it!”
“Maybe, maybe not, yet they were lethal, they were drunk and you did come off very badly. Do you know your attitude did you no favours with your trackers?”
“So? They were well paid! Where are you trying to lead me, Brownside?”
“Lead you, sir? You are merely helping me with my enquiries in sorting out a hunting ring and a rather botched attempt to raze Miss, sorry, Dr, Dagrún Rafnbro’s old home to the ground!”
“Only, it had been sold and was owned by new people a month before it was torched. That’s a criminal act and somewhere, according to our information, your name arrives just outside the criminal fraternity. Isn’t that odd?”
“I will say nothing further until I have my lawyer here!”
“Why?” He asked simply. “Are you guilty of something?”
“No!” He was disconcerted to see the policeman write that down.
“Thank you, Dr Blake. I think we can stop there! I do not see the need for a lawyer? Do you?”
Brownside walked out feeling he needed a good wash. Yes, the man was obnoxious and irritating and could see why he was considered, what was it? Ah yes, a fossil. He sat in his car and watched as a few yards away Blake hurried to his car and took off in a spray of gravel. Was that man worried! He made a note and took off after Blake’s car. Yes, he had seen those glasses before, on pictures of perverts and sex offenders. Yes, they were child molester’s glasses! He saw Blake’s car disappear into a car park of a local lawyers offices. Well, I’ve got him seriously worried now, he thought. And none of them, not even he, had held a hunting license. Boy is he going to need a lawyer!
They were in better shape than I had thought although two were small. One looked almost like Disa, black but with a white dot on his chest.
In the sick bay, the female howled. She knew there were new arrivals. We were going to let her into the paddock today, plaster cast or not. It would be interesting to see how she took to it. The crate had suckered her in like a welcome cave and we soon had her into the enclosure where, limping inelegantly, she announced her arrival by urinating. This had the boys suddenly very interested. They sniffed through the adjoining fence and growled, saying something I did not understand but soon dawned on me! She was ready for mating. She attempted a teasing roll in front of them and the plaster cast fell off.
Arn, ever vigilant, shook his head, “Not time to come off yet!” he muttered.
“But she seems ok with it!”
“Yes, can tell that by the way it is torn to pieces!”
“If I had to put up with that, I’d tear it to bits!” I said placing two sleepy cubs into the bag on my shoulder and grabbing the two more lively cubs and giving them a hug.
Tyr and Loki are already getting irritated with each other.
They were in better shape than I had thought although two were small. One looked almost like Disa, black with a white dot on his chest. What are we going to call her?”
“Shadow, just look at the way the fur moves, like shadow across a grass field!”
“Ooh, that is so romantic!”
I laughed and stood. Shadow stopped and suddenly started to run, limping towards me. I instantly went down on my knees. This brought her to a halt and as I looked anywhere but where she was, she considered me with contempt and went back to the boys. I got out of the compound fast.
“Whoa!” uttered Arn, as he locked and double checked the locks. “She made sure you got the message!”
“What did you expect?!” but I was shaking. She may have a weak leg but she moved like lightening! “Do you think -?”
“We could try. It’d be an experience for both of them!”
“I’ll get these a feed while we let her to herself for a bit!”
“Fine, I’ll hang around by the jetty. I can watch her from there without troubling her!”
Nagging men can seriously get a girl down! They said I looked done in, knackered, stressed, oh, and I needed rest. Eventually I took the brick-like hints, reluctantly handed over the cubs to Bjorn, let them wear Him out, and he cooed over them like a mother hen. I took a knapsack, camera and binoculars and attempted the mountain path. I would not go far, just find a nice place to sit and watch nothing in particular, eat a nice packed lunch and saunter back, a wonderful idea on such a glorious spring day.
The vast field containing the deer was at the bottom of some sheer cliffs. It was large enough for another compound. I made a mental note to remind Arn about that.
The slope, wound its way zigzag fashion, up to a stone out crop that overlooked the compounds. The air was still slightly crisp but the sun shone weakly, clear and tasted sweet. I sat and let my back press against the rock and fumbled for a sweet. It was too early for lunch. I took a few photographs from the vantage point. People would love to stand here. Perhaps if we did open to the public we could… no, that was Leif’s long-term plan and I wasn’t as happy about it as he was. I sat up. It was as if the air around this spot had subtly changed. I could feel the hairs on my neck tingle. I was being watched. It had happened to me before and this was the same sensation.
I could see there was no one below me for the path was open and bush free. I could see the path wending all the way back to Arn’s Surgery. Therefore, whatever was watching me had to be above.
Casually packing the camera away and slipping back on my rucksack, I made my way further along the path as innocently as I could fake. There were the usual ‘jump out of your skin’ natural noises; sudden bird-call, rustles in the grass, and a clumsy man-made clang came from the huts way below; I wondered what they had dropped.
I stopped for a while, standing to eat a salmon sandwich, drink some water and put my woollen wrap round my shoulders. The knapsack must have looked like I had a hunched back!
Tall or young Firs saplings were around me now and a little way into the dimness was a pile of rubble that looked once like it had been a hut. It stood out like an unfinished jig-saw puzzle. Old, moss ridden and had clearly not been troubled with much, except time. The other three sides were about waist high. There had been a door once, a rotting piece of wood lay amongst the grass as proof. Some snow patches were still reluctant to give up their prime spot close by. My breath came out like mist. It was past noon and soon I would have to think about returning.
A hut up at this height: Leif has said the island was uninhabited and there were no buildings until the ones for us had been put up.
This old hut had comprised of one room and I could make out where a window had once been set. The fireplace was traditionally sited in the middle. But it looked like it had been used not so long ago. I could do with Bjorn, I heard myself think. There was no detritus of any human kind. I took many photographs from all around the ruins. I spun round, to see a small fist sized rock slow to a stop in the nearby rubble. Don’t panic, I told myself, weakly. Bits would fall off naturally, wouldn’t they, caused by mice, rats or lemmings? I left the hut gratefully. Glad to get back into the sunshine of the afternoon, I made my way down. I wasn’t going to hang around. That was me telling my brain that; just for a change.
Bjorn and I fed the pups and they snuggled off to sleep. “Come see some of the pictures I took today!” I suggested. My computer screen pulled up the pictures.
“Very nice,” He commented, and then saw the hut remains. “Where was that?” his voice had some urgency to it.
“It’s just back amongst the trees. Look, you can just see the edge of the path where I -.”
“That fire looks fresh!” Bjorn did not miss much. I envied his trackers eyes.
“It was cold.”
“Good observance!” He grinned. “I’ll go take a look tomorrow. A haunted house eh?” he went off, laughing, to collect the pups. By his stance as he left, I guessed the smile had not lasted long.
Watching the new pups gambol with Disa is a wonderful sight to see. The boys are more interested in Shadow though. She is still limping but using the leg much better. Arn has left a part of the adjoining fence up. She has been seen entering the boy’s space once or twice. Other than that, we have seen very little action on either side. The boys now uneasily tolerate each other and, Tyr as I expected, has begun to pressure his dominancy over his brother.
Shadow went missing from her compound for three days. Arn finally discovered her hiding in the large copse of the boy’s compound. She looked rather happy there, he told me.
Tyr had snarled at him as a warning to leave. So he had, quickly. When he had fed them with the usual deer, a live one this time to see how they behaved, the three wolves in their element. When he returned from checking the wire the deer was dead, Tyr’s body behaviour showed he was pleased with himself. They were all tucking in as if they hadn’t been fed for weeks. Arn said it felt quite an insult. He also noted they were burying bits of the carcass. Perhaps this was good news?
Bjorn came back from his trip up the mountain. “! I saw your footprints. It was very creepy up there, eh?” He gave a gruff laugh of derision and slung his rucksack onto the bench by the door. It sounded like he had loose hammers in there. “Fire up the computer, I need to contact Leif!” He hammered a the keyboard.
Look at these pictures and pay attention, old man!
You told us no one had lived here and you said no buildings. You are wrong. There has been someone here and within the last few weeks, maybe even less. They have had a tent up there too!
The old hut is up in the tree line. I picked off three small animal traps. They had been there some time. Three used bullets found on the ground near a small copse.
I am going to be armed from now on and if the authorities don’t like it they can come here and answer to me! Get your soft city arse over here now!
“Arn and I have walked every inch of this island!” Leif stated breathlessly.
“Sure it was THIS Island?” His question held a certain amount of sarcasm.
“Larsson -, Bjorn, I brought this island! I had an agenda!”
“You missed this one off then! There is a hut and someone has come here, with a gun. A Rifle, a smart Rifle.”
“There is only one place you can get onto this island that -!”
“Are your wits going, Leif? Boat yes, helicopter yes!”
“It was before the sale then!”
“Why? You could land at Worm Head and then trek across. Who would know you were here?”
“How long have the fire remains been there do you think?”
“They have been there maybe two days maybe three days.”
“I’m getting in serious guards!”
“Hei, Hei! You are getting too far ahead of yourself!” Post this place with guards and you’ll alert every hunter this side of the Russian steppes! Thanks to you we have been broadcast already when it should have been drip fed out!”
“We had better tell -.”
“You’ll tell no one, nothing. Miss Dagrún will freak out and leave and never speak to you again; Arn will demand his money back – how-ever much it really was – and I will never forgive you! I’m a Hunter, Bergen, I’d find you!”
Leif laughed, “Some joke!”
Bjorn was not laughing, “for now, perhaps!”
“I already have had more threats than you can imagine!”
“Oh I have a good imagination! I have met some of these hunter guys! I know what they do and they would be delighted with a compound set up with ready targets! Shut up and listen. You hired me as a tracker, a guard. Then listen to what I have to say!” He sat on one of the remaining walls.
“There is someone else on this island. They are good at what they do and they are keeping quiet for now! Miss Dagrún had a rock fall by her when she found the place! “, he continued as Leif went to interrupt, “Yes, it could have been an animal dislodging a rock but this rock was the same as this hut! Perhaps someone had taken it for protection. Perhaps they wanted Miss Dagrún to believe it was a loosened rock, who knows? Perhaps he was trying to keep her in view though a telescopic lens. Perhaps they were making sure it was her! Whatever! It has been done. I have followed tracks that are not animal, but human. I’ve been to Worm Head. There was a rock shelter but it’s buggered now, I’ve seen to that. And, I found this!” He drew from his pocket a small card. “Planted or dropped, who cares but read the name, Leif, then tell me something hasn’t become personal!”
THE WOLF’S HEAD!
Hunting by arrangement!
Contact: Oslo *****
It had gone quiet. So quiet that began to almost forget the excitement. We were ticking along with only Bjorn getting more uptight on security rules. The cubs were growing, almost too big to be called cubs. Shadow had stayed with the boys and was slowly accepting us being around, although she kept hidden more than the boys.
Leif rang me just after I had let the deer into the boy’s paddock.
“Dear heart, I’m sending you a helping hand. I need you to concentrate more on rescue for a while.”
“That was not in my agreement!”
“No, maybe not!” he admitted reluctantly. “However, Arn will run the medical side; you can run the care and removal to the island.”
“Hang on. It WAS NOT in my agreement!”
“It’s was your father’s work!”
“Please don’t try and attack my sentimental side.”
“They are half dead as it is. Do you want them to die?”
“That is bribery.”
“You are wasting time!” he snapped.
I almost screamed down the phone, if for nothing else than deafening him. If I broke the agreement of my coming to the island, then Leif would see little point in staying with it. “Once, I’ll do it once!” I finally admitted after Leif had asked twice if I was still there.
“Right! So, good! The tickets to Laesdorben are at the check-in at Oslo airport. The guns and rescue equipment are packed and already on the plane. The WWF are aware and will be there to clear you back to the island. I personally know the pilot and he’s good. You’ll meet Hansi Penner at the site. Ring me when you get there.”
Having left Bjorn to check on the wolves in our absence, Arn and I finally boarded the light plane as the dawn was coming up. It was a fairly quick flight. The weather was fine and the sights were splendid. I took many photos remembering suddenly that this wasn’t a holiday. We touched down in a private landing strip and watched as the cases and gear were transferred onto a land rover. Three hours later we were greeting Hansi Penner, a tall lanky German who looked rather wolfish and walked with a lope.
“They are dead except for a runt” was our greeting from Penner as he led away towards the waiting plane.
“Who has cleared the guns, the equipment and our luggage?” I asked just as sharply.
“They have already been seen to. WWF did most!”
“Did they?” muttered Arn as he followed me up the steps into the plane. “Then I am a wolf’s brother!”
We looked at each other. What now?
Today I was reunited with my father’s old diary. A rather cold, but insistent guide silently pressed it on me as we were walking alongside a steep escarpment. I tucked it into my shirt.
10 miles we had to trek before we got to the site proper and there was so much to set up before we could even think of turning in for the night. I only found time to read it as I lay in my tent that evening.
It was as if I was reading his thoughts. OK, I was, but they were of some interest to me. It might shine a light on why was found dead…
Arrival: Well, here we are again! Usual team, thank god, except for some new guy called Penner.
Day 1: Cub? This so called runt is almost full grown with a cancerous lump on its left shoulder! Dear God!
Day 2: Penner can not cook. Where did the WWF get him from? Two cubs in today, from a hunter who swore he hadn’t meant to kill a bitch! Likely!
Day 3: Leif is being cagey about something, probably the money. That would be like him! Whatever, it’s starting to bother the guides we have with us, I can see that!
Day4: I swear the locals are bringing cubs in just to get some money. They are too coy.
Day 5: A wolf is said to have killed a man. No proof (as usual). Poor sod may have been hungry! Anyone ask the poor Wolf? They want us to kill it. Nothing to show for today: the tents are letting in a rather cool hint of autumn.
Day 10: Well, if it’s here there are no tracks. Looks like the sheep’s blood will have to be spread further around.
Day 12: Tracks and some sign of messing with the pool of blood. It’s a big bugger from the tracks!
Day 18: It’s a female. My God, she’s huge! I caught sight of her today as she hung around the edge of the ring of trees to our left. I suppose a cage trap will have to be set up. Let’s hope Penner can erect it better than he can cook.
I have those ruddy stomach pains again. Must see Mick the First Aid guy and get some tummy settler. Must write to Dagrún and let her know what’s going on.
But what happened between day 18 and 23 is a mystery as the pages looked to have been torn out and by a dirty hand at that…
Day24: Leif is troubled and I agree Penner should be reprimanded. But, as usual Leif is intent on keeping all sides happy. It’ll never work, at least, not for long.
Day25: I argued again with Penner and Leif regarding the skinning of the bitch. She should never have been shot in the first place, the unkindest culling of all. She had recently whelped, hadn’t they seen that? Very surprised at Leif! Now bloody Penner wants the skin. What does he think it’ll do; prove him a man or something? …
There is more paper torn out and, on the last page I found Daddy’s hand-writing but as if his hand hurt as he was writing it…
My Dagrún, Daddy loves you! Always will love and look after you. A good Viking always looks for revenge for an unfair family death. Be a good Viking for your Daddy!
Daddy was no fool but he had made enemies in the Wolf hunting fraternity but would any of them have got onto a WWF trip? Doubtful, I know for a fact you get screened, especially on trips like this one.
I would be a good Viking, I promised my Daddy and myself, as I cried myself to sleep.
The cubs were too young to be taken from their mother. But the pleasure of bottle feeding and cuddling soon raised my spirits. Arn kept glancing at me but saying nothing. Fortunately this annoyance was deflated by the cubs.
We had just finished arranging for their transportation to the island when a bloodied man staggered in to the camp and began rattling off about a wolf attacking a group of hunters.
“There was just the one wolf then?” I asked.
“God knows, the one I saw was enormous! Help us!”
“Where are you based?”
“Follow me. Come on, there was three of us left when I got out!”
“Clint Eastwood never held a rifle so threateningly!” grinned Arn. “This, punk, is making my day - by firing darts!”
The forest was patchy but where it was dark the trees were close and claustrophobic, ideal hiding places. No birds sang. I lifted the rifle a little higher on my arm. The cottage was, to put none too fine a point on it, in a complete mess. The two windows were glass free and the door was hanging by a hinge. “A wolf did all THAT?” I asked looking down at the tracks. “Then why have the men followed it?”
“What?” The man looked honestly puzzled.
“They followed it slowly. No running or striding. Look, could have been done over an hour ago!”
“Must be, what,” said Arn looking at his watch, “just after you left?”
“You say I did this before I came for you?”
“Why would you ask that?” asked Arn so innocently I had to look away.
Whatever he felt like saying, he kept gripped between tight clenched teeth.
“You stay here, Penner, and earn your keep. Watch the hut. Arn and Mr Hunter man, you are coming with me!”
“I don’t think so, Penner. You stick close by here and watch. Something is not right here and I will need someone to watch and observe this place. Observe everything, from volcanic eruption to jolly woodland creatures frolicking in the under growth.”
The going was slow as the tracks crossed pine strewn floor and grassy areas.
“How long have you hated him?” Arn asked.
“Oh,” I replied, kneeling to check the spoor leading away to our left, “about two seconds after shaking his hand.” I stood. “The men are falling behind. We should catch them soon.”
“Your Father taught you well!”
“He did! Got them! Look!”
Just a few hundred yards away two men were supporting the other, struggling along the path that was turning slowly changing into scree. The hunter went to call out but Arn had his hand over his mouth.
“Note,” he hissed into the hunter’s ear, “no wolf. If they are running away where is the wolf? Those two are not exactly making a picnic of it are they? Crying out would attract said wolf and none of us, wolf included, would enjoy that!” The man went limp. “Good! We should catch them up shortly enough!”
The two men spun round on hearing us crossing the scree. “We – we – thought!” and one fell to his knees in shock.
The story went as follows. As day got a hold the men were arranging the three packs ready for the trek into deeper country. The weak kneed hunter had heard a whisper of sound in the silent woodland and had turned. All three men had rapidly made for the hut and their guns, barring the door after them. From then all hell broke loose and guns were let off, breaking the windows and the door took a beating from something trying very hard to get in. They had drawn lots as to who was going to get help as they knew of our presence further back down the wood. The one who got the short straw would be lucky to see another day if the wolf was after him, thereby drawing it way from the hut. But it hadn’t, it had ignored the fleeing man and had appeared to concentrate on breaking trough the door.
I frowned, puzzled. “Hang on! You said it concentrated on the door – when the windows were broken in entirety and any wolf could have easily got in had it crossed its insane mind? What was wrong with the door?”
“There was nothing wrong with the door.”
“None that I know of!”
“Had one of you badly hurt yourself? Blood I mean?”
“Only cuts and grazes!”
“So why did you decide to leave and follow the tracks?”
“We were going to shoot it. Two of us in the open, up a tree!”
“But you two look like you’ve been out all night, slowly bleeding!”
“We fell. Not far thank God, about half a mile back at that small ledge. We thought the thinner the ledge the less a large wolf could manage.”
“Right, we go back!” I started to put on my back pack.
“Back?” they asked as one.
“Yes, the wolf parted company with you over two hours ago. It’s off somewhere else with easier prey!”
“That is one hard bitch!” I heard commented as I walked away.
“She’ll keep you alive, my friend, as if Hell itself was after you!” replied Arn.
“It was big enough to come from Hell!”
“Are there large wolves in these parts?” Arn asked.
“Big! And I am not exaggerating!”
“Was it a Were-wolf?” Laughed Arn and we made an uneventful return to our camp.
Bjorn was livid when he contacted me by lap top. He says the old hut on the mountain side has been lived in for at least a week. Well, I guessed, it won’t be a hunter, more likely a walker.
Shadow is off her food. Bjorn reckons she’s carrying pups. And he was swearing even more that Leif has started to withdraw money from the Island fund. He discovered this when paying a bill and checking the credit limit, yet another mystery. And what with Daddy’s note book saying about money and Leif; it got me thinking. I promised to tackle Leif about it as soon as I got back.
We had one of the crew take the men down to the nearest town for a doctor and I sat up late trying to feed one small pup who was off his milk. I watched Penner go off into the trees and guessed he was one who couldn’t bring himself to use the toilet system. He was gone a while. The pup finally sucked at the teat and with many a gasp of air the milk ended up in his tummy. I got him settled with his brothers and made for my tent. A scream, a male scream, broke the darks silence. I grabbed my gun and with Arn and Chris the first-aid guy we set off for the trees.
“The lazy tit probably found a thistle!” said Chris; we had only discovered the name of that afternoon. He appeared to know more about first aid than I thought was pleasant. Other than that he seemed ok. He certainly had Penner’s number when it came to working.
“Signs of dragging: nothing else. Where the Hell is Penner?” I asked generally then shut up. I could hear it, a tearing, gasping noise. “Over here!” I carefully parted the bush and there was Penner, or rather had been Penner, and making a decent meal of him was the biggest wolf I had ever seen. It cast me a look and continued to eat from what had been Penner’s liver. I backed off, letting the bush settle back. “Let’s just go back and then I’ll tell you!” I did tell them but I was retching at the time.
“Why didn’t you dart it?” asked Arn, reloading his gun, and sending me a look that could shrivel rock.
“I don’t know!” I had looked into that one blue, one amber eye and something unspoken and binding had been agreed.
“Where is she?” demanded Bjorn shaking Arn like a rag doll.
Arn sat up trying to forget the dream; he had just spent what seemed forever running from something that looked vaguely like a wolf yet bore a striking resemblance to Leif. “I don’t know!”
“I was checking her hut. She is gone, backpack, gun and enough ammo and darts to see a small mutiny started!”
“Oh Gods, No!” and he was up and struggling into a t-shirt. “And who are we going to get to run this place?”
“I’ve spoken to weird old Lars; he’s going to keep an eye on the place as long as the wolves don’t eat his cow or goat!” He threw the jeans at the Arn in disgust. “Hurry up for the Gods sake!”
From the Diary of Dagrún Rafnbro:
And now the story is mine again. Mine, and Tyr and Thor, they will not let me out of their sight. They know what is in my backpack and they know what it can do to a Wolf, yet they tolerate it. The boys are warm, warm as duck down and they are happy to let me use them as a duvet; but warmth is what you need on a long cold night.
Those at the Centre will know I have gone by now and the boys going missing will also alert them, but that is too bad. Sometimes a girl has to continue what her father started and this is my job, my mission, my revenge.
The boys sense I have a plan and are cautious of winding me up. Gone is the teasing and frolicking. I mean business and they intend to be with me. I’ve tried to get them back twice but they won’t go, even with the temptation of Shadow back in the paddock. They are following me back into their heritage, back into the land of the Wolf.
Three texts so far and I still have not answered them, it’s too distracting. Arn and Bjorn should know better.
It has begun to rain and the mosquitoes are out in force. The boys are constantly nibbling at their coats where the little blighters have burrowed through to the skin. I must tell Disa that the repellent cream she sold me does not work.
Getting hungry now, I just did not want to carry food when I know I can get it as I go. The boys can get their own small furry meals, but these are swallowed before I can even collect one for me.
Today I found a rabbit speared through the ear by a branch out of Wolf reach. I spent one whole hour thinking who put it there or were the rabbits around here merely suicidal? I must be getting lightheaded. The rabbit went down well with herbs. The remains of the rabbit are now tucked away in my back pack and hanging in the tree branches.
Today I have walked some miles. The boys started howling at nightfall and they had two replies, one of which I recognised as hearing from the Nordal sanctuary when the nights were quiet and wind free. As each call is unique I wondered who the new guy was.
Today I discovered the remains of a fire, a small one, maybe one man two at the most and neither appeared to have used a tent, maybe just sleeping bags. Not much disturbance on the ground. This or these guys were good, they knew their stuff. About half an hour later I found what looked like a sweet wrapper lying on the mud. I tucked it into my pocket and considered the boot print. Smallish foot marks if this was a man. I gazed up into the distance. Someone had left me a rabbit, someone was ahead of me but not far enough that they could not see or know what I was doing. Well, if they are hunting me they were dealing with Lars Rafnbro’s daughter. Father had taught daughter well!
I do not remember the noise as much as the feeling of heat in my shoulder as I fell. The boys were off and hiding in the trees. I remember seeing them as I began to lose consciousness.
“You can open your eyes now, Dagrún Day magic.”
“The bastard’s shot me!” I stated slowly and stupidly. “Like a wolf!” I found I was looking into the deep brown eyes of, not to put too fine a point on it, a shaggy man. “Who are you? Did you provide the rabbit?” I really tried to get a grip on myself.
“I am magic. I am a wolf. I am a man. I am a God. Choose as you will. Matters move on and we need to talk.”
“You are Loki. You are the wolf.” I could think straight, why couldn’t I talk straight?
“I told you I am a wolf! It suits me at the moment. Listen to me. The wolves suffer and have pleaded with Odin. They were here first, man is a nothing. Odin sends me when things get out of control. Wolves are suffering at the hands of a man who offends Odin. This man is now staying in a hut by the fjord north of here, he cannot be missed. You can right what your father could not. An interesting man was your father. He tasted good!”
“YOU ate him?” I struggled to sit up. Why wasn’t I terrified? It just felt so – comfortable.
“Others need to find you, I need to be gone and you to be found alive or it is a punishment for me, I have had enough of those of late.
Listen carefully Day Magic, I shall tell you his name and the fools he uses.” My head echoed with a growl and harrumphs. It could not have been clearer had he spoken in Norwegian. Like swirling water he melted back into a wolf. He turned back as the sound of a gun shot echoed in my head. “Your father was a fine man and like many fine men was poorly used by devious ones. Do not blame me for eating his flesh, he was dead and I was a hungry wolf. He had long gone to his reward which was a good one, be proud.”
“Wait, Bjorn saw – .”
“For now trust no one until they are proved to be trustworthy and trust no one even if they claim you can trust them. “He turned a magnificent black head and scented the air. “Three come and one is a traitor to you and what he claims to believe. You and I shall not speak again.” And he was gone as if he had simply vanished.
Somewhere I felt movement on my shoulder. I may well have screamed for my hearing was muffled. I presume I fainted.
“What are you doing?” Arn pulled at Bjorn’s arm and winced as the gun moved to point at him.
“Never, ever, do that again!
There is a body standing in that tree line and I missed him thanks to you!” he spat,”There, there, look! Odin, save me! It’s the black wolf!”
“Fuck the wolf! I see Daggers! Come on!” he started a mantra as they ran down the incline, “Please don’t let it have eaten her, please! This will be so bad!”
“For whom?” asked Bjorn, piqued?
“For everyone, come on!”
Tyr and Loki were stalking and it was their favourite game only, this male seemed not to be enjoying it and was nervous. That was not a fair game.
Seeing the two men running, Brownside joined them. “I’ve two wolves stalking me!”
“They would, “retorted Bjorn, “It’s what they do!” and he tripped on an uneven patch of tussock grass “Shit!” and he picked himself off, shrugging of the policeman’s helping hand. “Never mind me!” and he ran on.
As Arn gently padded at Dagrún’s wound Bjorn considered the policeman as they all got their breath back. “Tell me, what brings an English policeman all the way out here?”
Arn stopped padding at the blood, “Damn it!”
“Here! Let me take that bullet out!” he spat onto the blade and wiped it on his sleeve. “Clean enough!”
“Daggers, Bjorn is going to take out the bullet!”
“She can’t hear you!”
“Hearing is the last sense to leave you. She will know she is rescued!”
“You have done that before!”
Bjorn ignored the policeman. “There!” and he spat on the bullet. “Now that is strange!” he cast a black look at the Brownside. “It matches that pathetic little pea-shooter that you’ve got!”
“You are accusing me?” he asked amazed.
“If the bullet fits the gun, -.”
“Well take a good look! I am not missing any bullets.” Bjorn handed it back roughly and without comment. “I received a tip off, a GPS signal. It said be there!”
“And you are!”
“And I am!”
“Hei, Daggers!” Arn’s voice broke the cool silence. “Welcome back!”
“Bjorn, I saw him!” I tried to grab his arm.
“We saw him too but not close up.!”
“He is Loki!”
“That is what my father always said. But, as nice as this moment is, we are in the open and if it was not one of us then some one wants Frøken Dagrún dead. Let’s get into the tree-line now!”
Tyr and Loki moved restlessly around as soon as the humans were under cover.
“These wolves will attack with this smell of blood.” Brownside stated uneasily.
“Not just yet.” Arn replied, from where he was neatly bandaging Dagrún’s shoulder. “They are tied very closely to Dagrún and it all depends on how hungry they get. They rely a lot on Mama here!”
Brownside seemed to draw himself up, “Right, let’s get Miss Rafnbro home!”
“No yourself!” stated Arn, “You need to be where I can see to that wound in a clean environment.”
“I said, NO!” and I could see the Boys flinch. Finding that everything around me was emphasised in sharpness was an odd sensation. “I have to go to the fjord.
“There’s a fjord three kilometres north!” said the policeman adjusting his GPS phone.
“Who told you that?” asked Arn.
Bjorn looked me in the eye, “Loki told her!”
“It’s a bloody wolf!” stated Brownside with disdain.
“Bjorn,” I cautioned. He nodded and offered to carry me. “I can walk!”
“Please do! We could all do with a laugh!” Arn said as he packed away the medic kit.
“We’ll do things faster if one of us carries you” Bjorn tightened the belt of his back pack. “I can do the hard ground. Arn can do the soft bit!”
“What about the policeman?” Arn’s question sounded clearly irritated.
“Stop it!” I struggled up and found two arms steadying me.
Brownside laughed, “If nothing else Miss Rafnbro, you have two men ready to fight for your attention!”
Bjorn announced “The lake.” setting me down on a stone outcrop.
Tyr and Loki snuggled up to me, smelling of undergrowth and blood. “Missed your deer, hmm?” I tickled their ears something they loved.
“How does she dare do that?” asked Brownside in wonderment.
“Trust, trust is an amazing thing. Any moment she could hurt them and vice versa. But they won’t because they trust each other. But should you hurt Frøken Dagrún I wouldn’t like to rate your chances!” He gazed out over the water. “We have to get down, now!”
“Why?” asked Arn.
“Because she said her father was killed in a similar situation as this and there is a boat coming. Frøken Dagrún!” and he made to grab for the rifle.
It hurt holding the rifle yet it would be worth it. The tussle between Bjorn and I had sent a bullet harmlessly into the thick grass. “No!” I demanded. “I want him. He made my father walk over the cliff edge, just like Bennina. My father knew and told me in his diary. No names no pack drill, the English saying says. Stand back, Bjorn, or you will be next!” I felt Bjorn move away.
The rifle sight showed me Alexander edging the boat gently onto the small pebbles that made a beach. I could see him swatting at the midges.
I shot him right through the heart. “He had never used his heart, so would never miss it. He will never ruin another woman’s life not will he ever stand up a woman in a church alter again!”
Bjorn, ever our strong man, carried me down whilst Arn and Brownside saw to the boat, when we were in deep enough water he threw Alexander’s body over the side. “This fjord is salty and tidal if those rocks are anything to go by. With luck he will drift out and the fishes can have him!”
“Then it is about time he did someone a good turn!”
“He was heading down from the north end Frøken Dagrún.” And he waited for me to make a decision.
“Go on!” This needs doing, Bjorn. I know now how you felt about the cubs.”
Brownside had been watching me since we were underway.” You killed a man in cold blood because he stood you up?”
“He stood me up amongst other things, Mr Brownside.”
“Bugger me! If we weren’t at the backend of beyond, I’d arrest you for wilful murder!”
“Try it. The water is cold and deep!” said Arn which made Bjorn laugh and have Brownside look disgruntled.
The boys were on the fjord edge and watching us. I signalled for them to follow me and they began to lope, keeping up with us.
“They’ll keep that up forever!” said Bjorn watching in awe.
“Sound travels! We will have been heard surely?”
“Yes!” admitted Arn flatly. “How are you?” he asked as I fidgeted in the aft.
“I want him! He arranged it so Daddy would not over take him in his studies or find out about his nasty brutal hobbies. He ensured it so well that he managed to get Alexander to bed-talk Bennina into walking over the cliff! And I want the bastards who carried out his dirty work, those who physically agreed, followed orders and who arranged and took part in the hunting rings.”
“Not much then!” laughed Bern, “I’ll toss you for the hunting ring lackey!”
“Daggers, what has happened to you? You are like a different woman!” complained Arn.
“Maybe I am. I read Daddy’s code and I have spoken to Loki. He told me who it was who ran the hunting ring and who were the lackeys.” Three pairs of eyes tried to pin me to the boat seat.
“You can tell me when you are ready!” said Bjorn, checking his gun for the umpteenth time.
His binoculars followed the boat as it slowly and erratically made its way to the jetty. It had to be empty surely. Where the Hell was Alexander? The boat
run head on into the wooden jetty, dislodging enough wood to render it useless. After a sound like wood splitting the boat exploded in such a fireball that the flames put themselves out. He blinked at the sight.
“Nice trick!” acknowledged Arn and Bjorn almost blushed.
“I thought Leif would be here!”
“He promised and knowing him he will come by helicopter.”
“Then where and why was upstart Alexander taking the boat?”
“Word is that young Alex is getting ready to run!”
“He has been jittery since that black wolf was seen around.”
“Why does a single wolf send everyone twitchy lately?” Was everyone going soft or what?
“Because Blake, there is damn good cause! Have you ever been at the wrong end of Dagrún Rafnbro’s temper?”
“More than you think!”
“Then shut up and look out for Leif. Watch your back! She does not need fire arms. She comes armed with wolves!”
I winced as the boys joyous greetings after a feed of carrion forced me to use my arm. Even Tyr felt replete enough to let Bjorn give him one or two pats.
“What now, Frøken?” he asked, binoculars scanning the area before us. “Two. Can’t see the blond one too well but the other bastard,” he spat, onto a tree, “he was with the hunters. He must be getting on a bit now!” he passed over the binoculars.
I saw Rasmussen, a one time colleague of Daddy’s “He must be all of seventy of he is a day! I can’t see the other one!” I felt angry tears course down my cheeks. “Loki was right, decent men are always targeted by devious ones! Well, now is the time for good old revenge. Wait! The blond one, Bjorn! It’s Elsiher Blake. He used to be grey-haired!” The binoculars were torn from my hand “I could see those glasses!”
Bjorn let out a swear word that I refuse to put in this diary. “He is mine!”
“I smiled grimly. “He is an old man!”
“You want him too! Besides, he is an old man and will die one day, I’ll just be bringing that day forward that’s all!”
“Bjorn, these are dangerous men remember!”
“And you have just shot dead the man who jilted you!” he laughed.
“He did more than that!”
His laughter stopped abruptly then amazingly he took my hand and kissed it “Your servant Frøken!” He did not mean it as a joke and he did not smile either.
We left our rest stop as a pale sky heralded a summer night. I write this because it made our journey down more than difficult: you try hiding three men, a wounded woman and two wolves who are dashing ahead and then running back like excited puppies!
Then just as suddenly the Boys stopped and stiffened. They scented the air and Tyr looked back at me looking for confirmation.
“What now?” asked the police-man who seemed happier with some kind of order.
“If we choose to, this pack moves on. Tyr smells something he recognises.” We moved off as one. When Brownside moved ahead at one point Tyr growled a warning.
The policeman’s expression had Bjorn laugh. “you are not the boss here, policeman!”
We all looked up as we heard the rhythmic thumping of rotor blades.
“Where are the boys?”
Bjorn snapped awake. “They were lying beside you last night, Frøken. When did they leave policeman? You were on watch”
“I did not see them go.”
“You mean you were asleep! When this is over policeman, you and I are going to have a little talk! Frøken, what do you think?”
“They would only leave me to go with someone they know.”
“Leif?” he asked rummaging in his backpack, “He wouldn’t!” and he slipped a hand gun into his waistband.
“There is one way to find out!” and I howled. I did not have to wait long for a reply. “That is a locked up and do not like it howl. If they hurt them I’ll-.”
“You policeman, this is your fault! You go in front so I can watch you. Arn, come on!”
“I have found this!” he showed the watch. “This is Leif’s isn’t it? He is always looking at it!”
“That means nothing. Hand it over.”
“No! If Leif was here I’m using it as proof!”
“How do you know it was there?” asked Brownside.
“I saw it flash as I passed.”
“If he has hurt my boys there will not be enough blood -. And that watch has not always been Leif’s.”
“Not enough blood for you and me both! Come on, I’d say we were expected, no?” and he set his back pack comfortably onto his shoulders.
“I tell you now; hurt them and you will die. They are her children!” his warning was ignored.
“Shut up, Blake! Why you had to stir this all up I’ll never know!”
“She has found the diaries contents, it was not stirred up by me!” he sulked.
“So? They are hers. I trust you took out the offending pages?”
“Naturally, Anyway what did you mean by setting her up on that god’s forsaken island?”
“She is out of our way, busy enough. I supply the cubs and she is kept busy and out of our hair. No one needs to be any the wiser.” He smiled happily.
“She is not that stupid. One day she would have caught on.”
“Then that day is the day she goes the same way as her father, your best friend, your best man.”
“You gave me no choice!” He glanced down at his wrist. “Damn it! I wish I knew where it was. It belonged to Lars, the only thing that didn’t break when he fell.”
“And his daughter said nothing?”
“I received it in his will.”
Blake mooched around the hut, “You shouldn’t have messed about with those wolves! You wasted time”
“They were saying hello, I couldn’t ignore them.”
“Well, you won’t need to bother soon!”
“Look Rasmussen, I Am not happy about this!”
“You are not top man no matter what you think or how you behave. Whether you are happy or not has nothing to do with it. Put on some coffee we are going to have visitors.”
Bjorn screwed the silencer onto his hand gun. “Surprise,” He stated simply as Brownside raised and eyebrow of question. “And you, policeman, shall be surprised first if you turn out to be suspicious.”
“Why do you hate me?”
“When those hunters died you did absolutely nothing to prosecute Blake. You did nothing to follow up the ring and disband it. I have followed your career. I may be a country boy but I can use a computer. You did fuck all! In fact you transferred very quickly to Tromsø. You were off like a wolf was after you. Why?”
“I hate Norway, I hate the Norwegian police, I hate the countryside, I hate everything about Norway and the worst thing was that I had to stay here!”
“Why was that?”
“What do you want to know for?”
“”You puzzle me, “he waved the gun towards Brownside, “A puzzle needs an answer and I like puzzles!
You did nothing to help catch the ring. I am seriously pissed off with you! It would be so easy to let my finger twitch -.”
“Bjorn, please, that is enough.”
“Mr Policeman hates us and we hate him.” Arn passed Dagrún two pain killers.
“Bjorn was determined, “So, why did you stay here?”
“If it shuts you up I was sent here because I shot a paedophile accidentally on purpose. I was sent off, out of sight out of mind. Eleven bloody years so far!”
“Then you are a mason?” Dagrún asked, “Daddy’s friend asked him to join once and he refused: the best thing he ever did!” She gingerly flexed her shoulder looked up to the sky and howled. In the lock up Tyr and Loki scraped at the door like two wolves possessed.
The men in the hut paused. “There are the wolves, spreading the news.” Rasmussen commented.
“That was Dagrún.”
“And how do you know that?” he sneered.
“Each call is individual, “replied Blake. “They can tell who what and where.”
Surprised at the backing, Leif passed Blake a look which was returned as a swift glance at Rasmussen standing by the window.
“Don’t wither of you get any ideas. You both had input into Lars Rafnbro’s death. Let me not beat about the bush. His daughter has learnt too much and far too quickly.
We can not afford to lose the finance from the Hunters ring or we shall be penniless academics with no øre at all!”
“You are no academic!” Blake sneered.
“And by general reputation neither are you! You want money and Leif wants a quiet life. Do as you are told and this does not need to change.
Try anything stupid and you shall both go the way of Lars Rafnbro.” And he turned back to the window. “You do not think I have left us here alone do you, just sitting targets for trigger happy Bjorn country boy? There are seven men set around this place. They cannot take down seven men. They are laden down with a wounded woman!”
“That’s one down, “Bjorn muttered “Must think we are stupid, thinking they have no protection but themselves. Hah!” He vanished for the rest of the day and returned bloody but happy. “Got six in short order, all sitting around drinking coffee. There may be another but he appears to have run off. What a shower!” but he grinned. “There is a distinct laxness! They do not care about those fools they are ‘protecting’. They were probably over paid. I would be ashamed!” and he took a long swig from the bottle at his belt.
“How far are they?” I asked.
“Less than half a kilometre away I would say.”
“We will get there tonight. I feel well enough to walk unaided guys!”
The evening was painfully quiet. I can clearly hear my boys who trigger off the lone wolf. Bjorn says it should be recorded as it is the best music he has ever heard.
Brownside is demanding we have a strict order of action though I think he is trying to find out my plans. I tell them enough to keep them happy but I am getting puzzled enquiring looks from Bjorn.
Our journey to the hut is in silence. At the edge of the clearing Bjorn holds up his hand and points. A man is holding shut the door to the lock up that appears to have missiles throwing themselves at it from inside.
At the count of “three” we howl. The man runs and Bjorn brings him down using the silencer. The hut door falls calm.
Blake appears at the hut doorway. Bjorn taps my arm and shoots.
Blake stands upright, for a few seconds he totters, holds the door jamb and slides to the ground. For good measure Bjorn sends four bullets into the two windows.
The tinkle of glass deafens to fjord’s silence. No birds are calling at this noise. No crows fly up in protest and no animals scurry away. It is as if all animal life has long since left this part of the fjord to its own devices.
The men fell to the floor “Seven or eight men, you said You do not even know! They will stand no chance, you said!” Leif flicked away a piece of glass from his wrist. It had drawn blood. He made a grab for the gun lying innocuously on the floor.
“Oh, no,” Rasmussen pointed the gun at Leif. “She trusts you. Go and tell her it’s safe!”
“What about Blake?”
“If he is not dead, finish him off, we cannot afford sick men! Do it now!”
Leif paused at Blake’s body and tested for a pulse. “Listen to me. If you are not dead then pretend to be!” he whispered. He stood and tried to see into the dimness of the trees. “Dear heart, Rasmussen is here and wants to talk to you. It is safe for you to come in!”
“Do as he says!” demanded Brownside.
There followed the noise of wood hitting something slightly less dense and Brownside fell to the ground making us look behind us. Arn smiled, “Instant anaesthetics!”
“I am impressed!” admitted Bjorn with a grin. “I didn’t think you had it in you!”
“Well he let me get behind him!”
When they turned back to Dagrún she was gone.
“I’ll tie him up, you go after her. I’ll be with you very soon!”
Arn scanned the glade to see a small shadow on the lock up. Using the trees to shield him he worked his way round only to be facing a wolf smelling the huts wood with interest. “Sorry!” he mumbled and was up the nearest tree. “I thought you were someone else!”
“Dear heart, we know you are there! Just talk to us, this all getting very silly.” A howl answered him, “I know that is you dear heart”
A trio started up and soon joined by another and Arn found him-self able to recognise Bjorn.
The call was almost obliterated by the howls that rose up from below him. It was a hunting cry.
Leif backed into the hut. “We are dead men!”
“They can do nothing we have fire power.” Rasmussen looked out of the door and into the glade. “Close it!”
“We are the hunted now, Rasmussen!”`
Arn looked down. The ground below him was empty of wolf but full of a brooding Bjorn. “Has it gone?”
“Off to Frøken Dagrún. Come down!”
“Where is the policeman?”
“Oh, just hanging about. Now, Frøken Dagrún is on the huts blindside – .”
“You have hung him?”
“I carried out what he did the cubs! It took a while, but I recognised him. He was a bad policeman but now he is a dead one, much better. My cubs are avenged. Now I can concentrate on helping Frøken Dagrún.”
“Why do you call her Frøken Dagrún, why not just Dagrún? “ He asked brushing himself down.
“Because I have respect for her; are we going to stand here chatting all day or are we going to help?”
“Come on then. The back of the hut is broken. The boys are out, our new friend is around somewhere and Leif is trying to get Daggers in there. Remember?”
“Daggers!” mocked Bjorn. “That’ll get you nowhere. This way!” and they slipped into the darkness of the trees.
“If you think I am coming in you are mistaken. Rasmussen really should have looked closer at Daddy’s diaries. He wrote in code, Leif. You knew that, you and he made it up. I have read all that Daddy knew. It was just the fake diary pages that were torn out. Daddy said what wanted to say in the other pages.”
A yell of rage came from the hut and Rasmussen ran out into the clearing firing indiscriminately.
From behind my tree I fired and he went down like a sack of potatoes.
“Nice shot!” came Bjorn’s voice “You really are good: and Leif?” he asked and I faltered. “Do not weaken now, Frøken, he will think he has escaped.”
“I have an idea” said Arn as he viewed the hut. “It’s not nice though!”
“When has what we have done here been nice?” I asked.
“Let him run ahead of that wolf. The boys will stay with you, he won’t. And there’s a cliff up ahead!” Bjorn and I looked at him in silence, “Sorry, but it is poetic justice to my mind!”
“At this point may I remind you both that Blake feigns death very badly?” Bjorn’s face held a look of distaste.
“Leif!” I called.
“I am not your dear heart; I never was; was I?”
“Oh you were and still are! Rasmussen ensured I did as I was told. I was coerced into doing what he wanted: he remembered what I did in India.”
“And you let him hand that over you? You really are not the man I grew up knowing!”
“Kill me than; everything I have will be yours including your father’s watch. Just make it quick dear heart!”
“No,” cautioned Arn, “then the responsibility rests with you!”
“Do what Arn suggests. Wound Leif and let the wolf chase him. We can follow and make sure it’s done properly.”
“And what about Blake?”
“Blake shall die!”
“No Bjorn! Blake shall live as long as he gives us names.” He grinned but it was not happy. Arn began unpacking the medic kit I called Leif to the door. “You are going to find out how Daddy felt when he died.” But Bjorn was firing even as I raised my gun.
Leif fell back against the door post as a howl came from amongst the trees.
“Run North Leif! It’ll be over all the faster!” Bjorn called and turned to me, “I’ll follow him. You and Arn get the boys ready. We can be out on the helicopter!” and he gave us no time to argue as he set of after a stumbling Leif.
“He breathes!” Arn snorted with sarcasm.
“What do you know, vet?” hissed Blake, weakly.
“Enough to keep you alive long enough to give us names. The hunting ring names and do not waste much needed breath on prevarication. Hei that sounded good!
You know something Blake? I am tired with being a nice unassuming guy. I will have those names and if you lie I shall ensure your end will be very long and very, very painful!” Arn could barely keep up as the names poured out like water and the names covered several countries. “Wonderful. Now we just need a decent policeman!”
Bjorn said nothing, just handed me daddy’s watch. “I’d clean it! “He advised. “Our wolf friend was grateful. Poor bastard was half starved!” walked off towards the helicopter without another word.
I followed him. “If the police find the bodies: the bullets -.”
“I used Brownside’s gun and he is swinging in a tree.
I touched his arm. “Are you ok?”
“I am a big boy, of course I am ok. No, I am NOT!” he kicked a tree. “Blake is alive!”
“Bjorn, we have got our revenge and it is dodgy at best. Let that be enough. We are not on a killing spree.”
“But Blake killed the cubs and he still lives!”
“No! We have done enough. You have shot him, let that be enough!”
“Ok!” he admitted reluctantly, but he did not look at me!
Bjorn all but threw Blake onto the seat.
“Ever flown one of these?” asked Arn.
“Have you?” he snarled.
“Back off! Just because he is still alive do not have a go at me!”
“I have flown on of these – once.”
“Just get in,” I sighed, “I just hope Lars has not killed Shadow and Disa whilst we have been away!”
“He has had his orders!” growled Bjorn.
The boys were lying senseless across our laps, like massive fur rugs: an irony not lost on Blake’s face. Arn had drugged some instant mince and they had, literally, wolfed it down. Carrying them like this was a dangerous chance we had to take as there was no way I was going to leave them behind.
We landed bumpily in the spare paddock and unloading the boys was quick as they were showing an indication of waking up if Tyr’s snoring was anything to go by. Disa and Shadow were watching with interest from the trees.
Old Lars moved crab-like from the hut. “Coffee is on!” he announced as if our arrival was normal. “Police are called.” which was clearly not.
It was good to know we all agreed on our story.
The police took Blake away along with the long list of hunting names. Bjorn was not happy at all.
The WWF spent the longest time with me, promising to support us in bringing the hunting ring to an end. They also agreed to send us any cubs they needed homing, possibility with releasing back into the wild.
The media had gone home happy, especially the Oslo News who had the whole story which agreed with police version which was more than convenient.
We even had a visit by the King who toured the whole island and offered to help in whatever way he could. I had to kick Bjorn as he muttered “Unlikely!” rather louder than he should have.
The boys appeared a little puzzled at first but Shadow now has their full attention. Disa watches in puzzlement.
Most of the hunting ring has vanished but the word had got out. Blake has managed to evade a prison sentence through his many contacts whilst Bjorn is irritated that he could not get anything proved against Blake. Blake has become a wanted man and it has just been reported on the radio that he has been gunned down as he left the University for Home.
His will actually named hunters to whom he was bound by money or favours.
Bjorn was actually seen to smile.
Bit by bit the hunting fraternity are backing away or proving they were legitimate with sometimes indecent haste.
I saw him swimming towards us from the jetty. How in the Gods names had he found us, or had our scent lasted for days? He looked so thin I left out some meat on the shore. He took one sniff and it vanished down his throat. He then took a look around him like a new arrival considering a holiday resort.
“Not bad for an old man!” said a voice behind me.
“Middle aged, I’d have said, Bjorn. Ask Arn to put some vitamins in the next ration.”
“Where do we put him?”
“In the paddock next to the boys, it should make for an interesting study for your doctorate.”
“Winter is harder than normal this year. Thordis has joined us for three months. It is now six months later and she has admitted to having sold the shop and is intending to apply for the job of maid of all works on the island.
“I may not have the letters after my name but I came laden with determination and money.”
“Hire her!” stated Arn. “I’d rather have someone who cares than someone who just wants to while away all day and put ‘Wolf Conservancy’ on their CV.”
So we hired her there and then.
We have settled down into a good working team. Thordis loves every minute. Bjorn is moaning over his doctorate but when we tell him to stop he complains about that too! Secretly he is enjoying it. I over-heard him telling Thordis.
I am currently Mother to two tiny cubs that are currently in a sling across my shoulders. Their den and mother were flattened by a snow plough. I refuse to comment at all as the words will be extremely unpleasant. They are both keeping me up all hours of the night.
My boys have finally decided who is top wolf and Tyr and Shadow are now an item. Loki is now the investigator, the one whose job is to check out any one and any thing. Disa just ambles about enjoying herself as is usual.
Our new wolf, Albrecht, as Bjorn insisted on calling him paces his paddock like a lord contemplating all he surveys. Except for food he ignores us. He appears to be content and has put on condition. He has the most stunning grey coloured fur that I have ever seen.
Lars Helling, he of the lone hut cow and goat, has the last entry in my diary for this year.
He has created a job for himself, accepting a minimal wage. A man of all jobs, a watchman, patrolling the jetty and the far bank, greeting visitors, he is surprisingly good and generally getting in on all the action.
He said to me: “I once had nothing, now I have much more thanks to this Wolf Sted!”