Short story cover by Leenna Naidoo

Walpole Were

Short story cover by Leenna Naidoo

Sighting: Possible Canid. Likely a werewolf
Location: Walpole, Western Australia
Status: Developing—tracking and research

When Stacy hires a cabin at in the quiet Walpole forest, the last creature she expects to meet is a wolf. Now he’s got evil designs on her, but he hasn’t counted on the locals’ personal interest in matters.
Shy forester, Ash, just wants to meet the beautiful new renter in the forest cabin and research that strange spoor he’s spotted. Events take a dangerous turn when the tracks turn out to be a werewolf’s, and the renter a cryptozoologist. Ash will have to think fast to keep the peace in his beloved forest, and win his lady love.

Excerpt

He stood by the tree, barely discernible in the dusk shadows. The family of kangaroos grazing on the lawn before the forest of Tinglewoodsignored him. He posed no threat,their instincts informed them, and rightly so. He was no hunter of kangaroos or other fauna. No, his entire focus was on his oblivious subject—the Lesser-Spotted-Single-Female-Holidaymaker; sitting on the deck of the cottagewith a glass of wine, a big packet of Grainwaves, and her camera.

The wind suddenly picked up, blowing over the scent of the backburning fifteen kilometres away. The kangaroos jerked up, noses twitching, scanning the area. He stood stock-still, not wanting to startle the animals. When they left she would go inside, he knew, watching as she quickly and expertly shot off some photos. The sun backlit the trees as it neared setting. Above him, leaves fluttered on the wind’s breath. Somewhere, high above and to the right, a kookaburra laughed. He sighed as he watched its ghostly shape glide up to the deck bannister. It ruffled its feathers, seemingly bringing itself into focus, then turned to look expectantly at her and her camera.

“I’m not going to feed you. I was told not to—you greedy little thing.” Her voice, a little subdued but affectionate, carried clearly in the sudden lull.

‘Good on yer,’ he thought.

***

He had noticed her Kia drive up to the cottage just as he was packing away the final samples for the day, eager to investigate the strange spoor which had distracted him earlier in the afternoon. Once his official tasks were done, he followed the trail. To his surprise, it had led back here. One lonely imprint lay faintly near the barbed-wire fence separating the forest from the lawn of the four holiday cottages. The mark next to him was deeper than any of the others. The animal, like him, had stood there under the tree.

The strange paw-like spoor was immediately forgotten once he looked up directly into her camera. He stiffened in outrage, then realised she probably couldn’t see him, with the lowering sun throwing the shade of the trees into inky blackness. Noticing the kangaroos, he relaxed. They were part of the reason Frank’s cottages were usually with a renter or two. There were always kangaroos on the spacious lawns, as advertised.

Frank had mentioned, the previous day, that a strange woman had booked the smallest cottage for a week. “….all by herself. That’s a lot of space for one, but there’s no families till the holidays, so…”

Frank and Ella would have given her a tour of the cottage and facilities, then left. The furthest cottage was also in use, with the two middle ones empty. Not bad for the off-peak. Most businesses were hurting with the rise of the dollar and the cutbacks in public transportation in this part of the South West—the whole of the West, to be honest.

He sighed again. At least the trees would always be here—as long as he took good care of them.

The wind was growing cooler. The Lesser-Spotted-Single-Female-Holidaymaker shivered, shut off her camera then carried her wine and chips inside. She carefully shut the screen-door before pulling the sliding door close. The curtains were drawn next. He stood there a few seconds longer, entranced.

The light had faded to twilight blue quite fast. His sharp eyes had only just been able to make out the strong features framed by the frizz of hair. Her expression had been hard to place. It took him a second to identify it: silent joy. He grinned, hefted his pack and headed off to his ute, all the while wondering how to approach such an elusive creature. Instinct told him that, while she was fine taking photos of roos and talking to kookaburras, she might be skittish of Homo Sapiens. He would go suss out things with Frank and Ella. They always appreciated knowing how the forest was doing.

I Find
Myself Charmed

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