Roberta Dempsey who first saw the black wolf. It came out of
nowhere and stopped in the middle of the road, fifty metres or so
in front of the rattly old station wagon. The wolf seemed,
transfixed by the glare of the car's headlights; its eyes shining
almost supernaturally as the car rattled toward it.
Garrick!" Roberta called to her husband.
it dad!" pleaded young Stanlee from the back seat, leaning
forward to peer out at the enormous black shape through the car's
Dempsey strained to see what his eleven-year-old son was pointing
at. However, the black wolf blended into the dark of the
moonless night, so that it was almost invisible against the black
bitumen road. The car was nearly on top of the wolf before
Garrick finally spotted the animal and began frantically tugging
upon the steering wheel, using all of his strength to force the
car to veer to the left.
spellbound by the glare of the headlights, the wolf began to move
in the same direction, as though intent upon diving straight
under the wheels of the car. At the last second, however, the
black wolf put on an extra burst of speed, zoomed past the grill
of the car, and began loping toward the thick forest a hundred
metres away from the verge of the road.
By the time
that Garrick had brought the sliding car back under control, the
large wolf had disappeared from sight.
his close encounter with death the black wolf ran through the
forest, weaving his way between the trees, seemingly miraculously
avoiding high-speed collisions with the wattles, pines, and
grey-white ghost gums, until his heart pounded from the exertion
and the pads of his feet ached. Spurred on by his fear of the
car, fear of the boom-boom-boom that rang out from his own chest,
fear of the crunching of the pine needles beneath his feet, which
made him imagine that the Dempseys were running along behind him,
the wolf tore through the forest for more than an
have kept running until collapsing from fatigue, if he hadn't
suddenly found himself at the edge of a clearing, looking out at
a small weatherboard farmhouse. Although the small, white house
offered little real protection against attack, the building
seemed like a fortress to the wolf, offering shelter from the
terrors of the forest by night. Although his memory of the time
before he had come to this country was vague, he could dimly
recallliving in a small house not unlike this one with a man
named Jim, his master and friend. He could recall being
smuggled into Australia
by Jim, who
had a year later been killed in a hunting accident, leaving the
black wolf to fend for himself in this strange, new land. But
most of all he remembered the comfort and safety that he had
shared with Jim in their small, log house.
the mad rush through the forest, the wolf stood near the
perimeter of the clearing for a few minutes, to allow his
breathing to return to normal. Then, dropping to his belly, he
began to crawl out into the open, inching his way toward the
metre-high, chain-link fence which ringed the farmhouse yard, and
extended all the way down to the dog-yard, a hundred metres away
from the house, where thirty or so Kelpies, Barb-Kelpies, Border
Collies, and other farm dogs were chained up for the
the wolf crept along the short grass, until he lay against the
base of the fence. He felt confident that he had gone
unnoticed, until a low, rumbling growl made him look round to his
left, and he found himself looking straight into the black face
of a Barb-Kelpie. Although they were separated by a hundred
metres of open yard, the wolf seemed to be looking
eyeball-to-eyeball at the Australian Sheep Dog through the links
of the fence.
For almost a
minute the black wolf lay beside the wire-mesh fence looking
across at the Barb-Kelpie. Then, not wanting to be trapped
outside the farmyard when the dog-yard erupted into a chorus of
barking, the wolf rose up to his full height, stretched out his
front paws to pull himself up onto the top of the fence, then
kicked off with his front feet.
into space, the wolf rocketed across the small yard toward the
farmhouse; expecting to be greeted any second by an angry
ululation from the dog-yard. However, one look at the huge,
black shape leaping the metal fence had been enough to silence
the growling in the throat of the Barb-Kelpie, and send it
whimpering backwards into the upended 200-litre drum that acted
as its kennel.
halted against the nearest side of the house and waited for a
moment, still half expecting to hear furious barking from the
dog-yard. However, after a moment he summoned up enough courage
to start across the back of the farmhouse, looking for a way into
the building that he still associated with safety. All the
doors were locked, however, on the opposite side of the house he
discovered two windows wide open.
were high off the ground, so the wolf was forced to stand up upon
his back feet. Tottering slightly, he managed to just reach the
sill with his front paws, then by a combination of kicking with
his back feet and pulling with the front, he ungainly dragged
himself up along the wall to fall through the open
Landing in a
heap at the bottom of a small single bed, the black wolf scurried
to his feet and found himself looking down at a small face,
seemingly swimming in a sea of honey-blonde hair. As the little
girl rolled over and began to mutter in her sleep, the wolf
inched forward till his gaping jaws were only centimetres from
the small face.
wolf?" asked Andrew Braidwood, staring up at the trio who stood
before his desk in the small police station.
right, constable," assured Roberta Dempsey, throwing out her
voluminous chest, like an opera singer about to burst out into
song. "It ran straight out in front of the car and just sat
there ... Right in the middle of the road."
looked slowly from the towering, corpulent figure of Roberta
Dempsey, to the diminutive figure of her husband Garrick (who
seemed dwarf-like beside the obesity of his wife), to the short,
slender figure of young Stanlee. Finally he asked, "Are you
positive that it was a wolf?"
we're positive," insisted Roberta, sounding offended by the
was a kangaroo, or an emu?" suggested the policeman. "After
all, in the dark...?"
"No sir, it
was definitely a large, black wolf," insisted Stanlee. "It sat
on the road till we were almost on top of it, then took off into
the bush just like it was jet-propelled."
jet-propelled wolf yet?' thought Andrew Braidwood, writing up a
report of the sighting on his notebook.
wolf stood on thebed for a moment, gazing down at the young girl,
watching the subtle rise and fall of her chest as she breathed.
Then slowly he lowered his large face to gently nuzzle the soft
flesh of her cheeks, enjoying the feel of her silky blonde hair
against his face, vaguely remembering another little blonde girl
named Lisa who he had played with in another country a year or
two ago. Lisa had been the daughter of Jim and his wife Joanne.
Then Jim and Joanne had separated and Jim and the black wolf
had moved to Australia.
furry face rubbing against her, the little girl cooed with.
pleasure and stretched out one hand to stroke the wolf's muzzle.
Responding in her sleep as though she were being nuzzled by
Blacky or Marg (the only two of the farm's dogs ever allowed
inside the farmhouse).
moment the wolf pulled away from the girl and dropped to the
floor. He padded across to the bedroom door and stepped out
into the hallway. He walked down the corridor to the second
bedroom, where a beautiful honey blonde woman lay sleeping in the
king-size bed. Seeing the big bed the wolf dimly recalled
sneaking in to sleep on the bed between Jim and Joanne years ago,
and after a moment's hesitation he climbed up next to the woman
and lay down to sleep beside her. After a moment the woman
rolled over in her sleep and draped one arm lightly across the
wolf's black flank.
black wolf yet?" said Andrew Braidwood a few hours later as he
and his sergeant, Melvin Forbes, stood by the side of the road,
examining the skid marks made by the Dempseys' car the night
do you think it was?" asked Mel. Twenty-odd years older than
Andrew, Mel had lived long enough not to be automatically
sceptical of unusual reports.
don't believe them?" asked Andrew, following the older man as he
started toward the forest.
not, but on the other hand there have been reports of a large,
black wolf around the LePage-to-Merridale area for a couple of
years now." He stooped to examine a large paw print on the forest
floor and asked, "What do you make of that?"
to examine the print, then looked ahead to where a trail of large
prints continued into the forest. "Dog tracks," he suggested
for dog tracks," insisted Mel.
"One of Old
Man Frazer's Great Danes perhaps?"
"Even a Dane
doesn't make tracks this large."
dingo?" Although rare outside northern Australia,
a few dingoes had been sighted in the Victorian countryside in
recent years. A small pack was known to live somewhere outside
Glen Hartwell, and on occasions its members had been sighted as
far afield as LePage.
even for dingo prints," insisted Mel, following the tracks a
short distance into the forest.
can't be wolf tracks!" protested Andrew Braidwood, refusing to be
convinced. "Wolves aren't indigenous to the Australian
were rabbits," pointed out Mel. "But just over a century back,
some stupid bastard brought six pairs over here from
now the whole continent is overrun by rabbits." When Andrew
failed to comment, Mel continued, "Who knows, maybe someone
brought a wolf or two over at some stage and didn't bother to
tell anyone about it." After following the tracks for a moment
longer, he said, "They're certainly heading the way the Dempseys
said: Toward the sheep stations outside Merridale."
"So what are
we going to do about it?" asked Andrew, hoping his sergeant would
say to file their report then forget it.
bastard down, I suppose," said Mel. "These tracks are deep
enough after all the rain we've had lately, so they ought to
still be here when we've got a hunting party
cocks' crow, Rowena Singleton sat up, blinking against the
blinding light which streamed in through the open bedroom window.
Yawning, she stretched wide, then looked down and Was shocked
to see a large black wolf lying on the bed beside her.
scream, she backed away and tried to climb out of bed, only to
find her feet tangled in the blankets. Fighting back hysteria,
she managed to untangle one foot before falling out of bed in a
heap on the floor, taking the blankets off the bed with her. As
she fell she heard a faint patter of footsteps
climbing to her feet, she looked down at the bed in trepidation,
to find it was empty.
almost convinced herself that it was just a hallucination
triggered by the blinding morning sun, when she noticed a deep
indentation on the opposite side of the bed. 'Ernie,' she
thought before remembering that her husband had gone to Melbourne
for a few days to purchase some large farm equipment, leaving his
best friend, Brian Horne, to tend to the sheep station's most
hurriedly dressing she headed for the kitchen, to talk to Brian
then start breakfast for herself and young Kirsty.
that she hated it, Rowena reached down with one hand to lightly
stroke he daughter's long yellow tresses as the little girl
climbed up into a kitchen chair.
protested Kirsty, reaching up to slap away the offending hand,
before leaning down to stroke the head of Blacky, as he and Marg
scooted about under the kitchen table.
you two dogs doing inside the house?" demanded Rowena, as she put
bread in the toaster for her daughter's breakfast.
their breakfast too," explained Kirsty.
a boot up the backside if your dad ever catches them begging at
the table," said Rowena, walking across to the screen door to let
the dogs outside.
mistress opening the back door, the two dogs raced outside,
expecting her to dish out their food. Instead she slammed the
screen door shut. Realizing that they had been tricked, the two
dogs raced back toward her.
the red Kelpie bitch, Marg, to the larger Barb-Kelpie, Blacky,
Rowena remembered her hallucination in the bedroom earlier and
said, "Blacky?" drawing furious tail-wagging from the large dog
at the mention of his name. "Yes it could have been you,
couldn't it?" she said, wondering whether it had been the
Barb-Kelpie that she had seen on the bed. Although the dogs
spent the night chained up in the dog-yard, both Marg and Blacky
managed to slip their collars on occasions to sneak into the
house through any conveniently open window. Usually they would
creep in to spend the night on the end of Kirsty's bed, to her
delight. However, Rowena remembered the open window in their
bedroom that morning and decided that Blacky could have entered
that way, taking advantage of Ernie's absence to sleep beside
her, then could have raced out again while she was on the floor
tangled in the blankets, blinded the morning sun.
leaping out through the bedroom window while Rowena lay tangled
in the bedclothes on the floor, the black wolf started along the
side of the farmhouse till reaching the back yard where he saw
the tall, lean figure of Brian Horne tending to the needs of the
station dogs, while his brother Warren watched on, having been
duly warned against patting the dogs while they were being fed.
Looking around he saw the open paddock to his right, leading to
the forest a quarter of a kilometre away. Although wary of
crossing such a large, open plain in broad daylight, he started
to head toward the chain-link fence, then stopped, noticing a
small wooden building halfway between the farmhouse and the
dog-yard. After a moment's hesitation he scooted across to the
small building while Brian's back was turned. Smelling the
aroma of chaff and wheat through the part-open doorway, the wolf
realized that it was a grain store. After a quick look round to
see that no one had seen him, the wolf eased in through the
wooden door, doing his best not to push the door any wider
listened for a moment to make certain that no one had started to
run toward the shed, then started to look around. The four
walls were stacked high with large, hessian bags, confirming the
wolf's thought that it was a grain store. Although his nose
told him that the bags contained wheat and other grain, the wolf
took the time to examine a few sacks on the off chance that he
would find something to take the edge off his ravenous
After a few
minutes his vigilance was rewarded, as he located a few sacks of
long, grey-brown, hexagonal dog pellets. Although the pellets
were less satisfying than meat to a carnivore, at least they were
something to fill his starving belly, and so after his initial
reluctance, the wolf lowered his muzzle into a sack and started
to crunch away, devouring more than a quarter of the sack before
the edge taken off his famine, the wolf sought out a dark spot
behind a large pile of sacks and settled down to sleep until
Black wolf!" chanted Warren Horne as the station wagon pulled
up near the spot where the Dempseys had almost been forced off
the road the night before.
shut that bloody freak up!" snapped Sam Hart, a local sheep
farmer who had had to listen to Warren's
childish chants and games for the last thirty minutes.
heart, Sam," said Danny Ross, making Hart scowl and the others
keep him away from me!"
with me," offered Danny. A barrel-chested giant, nicknamed
"Bear" by his close friends, Danny Ross (sergeant of the Glen
Hartwell Police Force) was a compassionate man who had only
agreed to take part in the wolf-hunt to see that no one got hurt
and to help Brian look after his brother.
In his early
twenties and a giant of a man like Bear, mentally Warren Horne
was at the level of a seven year old. He would have been
confined to the Queen's Grove sanatorium in Westmoreland five
years earlier when their parents had both died, if Brian hadn't
pledged to take on the task of looking after "Weird"
local school kids had nicknamed him) and keeping him out of
Black wolf!" chanted Warren
waving his double-barrel shotgun in the air, not caring that
Brian had not given him any cartridges.
waiting long?" asked Mel Forbes, climbing from the cabin of the
Holden Rodeo ute before it had quite come to a stop.
here," said Hart as Andrew and the others climbed out of the
get to it!" said Des Hutchinson impatiently, checking to see that
he had loaded his pump-action shotgun.
Black wolf! Black wolf!" chanted Warren Horne as they set off
to follow the wolf spoors into the forest.
turned round to tell him to shut up, then seeing Des Hutchinson
changed his mind. Hutchinson had a soft spot for Weird Warren,
and unlike Warren, Hutchinson
was far from
harmless. So Hart decided to ignore Warren
and try to
walk as far from Hutchinson
as the ten men set out on the wolf hunt shortly after
posse was close to exhaustion long before sighting the black
wolf. They followed the wolf tracks deep into the forest, using
high-powered flashlights to guide their way along. Like the
wolf the night before they were forced on a short marathon,
following the spoors for nearly thirty kilometres from the road
outside LePage to the countryside around Merridale.
hunters who had set out shortly after sunset, the black wolf had
stayed hidden in the grain store on the Singleton sheep station
until well after dark. He had awakened ravenous from hunger and
had headed across toward the sacks of crunchy dog pellets, but
after a few mouthfuls he had stopped, dissatisfied with the
pellets. Seeing, through the part-opened doorway that it was
dark outside, he decided that it was finally safe enough to
venture out in search of real food.
Australian countryside is full of all sorts of large game --
emus, kangaroos, wallabies, and so on -- however, after one or
two painful run-ins, when he had almost been gutted by the
steel-like talons of an Old Man emu, and had been sent flying by
the large cricket-bat sized feet of a great red roo, he had
learnt to settle for smaller game: koalas, wombats, numbats, and
By the time
that the wolf finally set out, he had given the hunters enough
time to grow tired and irritable. Two of the men had already
given up and had returned to the Rodeo ute, however, there were
still eight men left, when suddenly, around
Warren Horne again chanted, "Black wolf! Black
shut that...!" began Sam Hart, before realizing that
toward a grove of grey-brown ghost gums a hundred metres ahead of
where they stood.
between two of the gum trees, facing directly away from them,
stood a black wolf, feeding of the half-devoured carcase of a
believe it!' thought Sam, starting to swing his
toward the large wolf.
there was a strong headwind blowing past the wolf, toward the
hunters, the wolf had not heard Weird Warren's
chant, or Sam's curse. However, he heard readily enough
shotgun toward the wolf, pressed both triggers, letting the
hammers click-click onto the empty chambers, then shouted, "Bang!
Bang!" at the top of his lungs.
wolf jumped a metre straight into the air from fright, allowing
Sam's Winchester to fire harmlessly into the ground beneath the
animal, sending up a spray of dead gum leaves. Before Hart
could fire again, the wolf returned to earth and took off like a
rocket into the dark forest.
men in the posse were quick enough to fire off shots before the
wolf had disappeared from sight. However, he was long out of
range, so they only managed to take bark off gum trees a few
metres behind the fleeing animal.
retard!" shouted Sam Hart, rounding on Weird
In his anger forgetting his fear of Des Hutchinson.
alone!" warned Hutchinson,
although he was also annoyed by the missed opportunity to bag the
warning, Sam continued to storm toward the cringing figure of
Warren Horne, until Des fired a warning shot from his pump-action
shotgun. The shot missed Sam by mere centimetres, blasting away
a great chunk of bark from a ghost gum nearby.
in shock, Sam swung his Winchester
Des, and the dispute might have ended in bloodshed, if Mel Forbes
and Bear Ross hadn't stepped between the two men to give them a
chance to cool down.
wasting valuable time here!" pointed out Bear. "The longer we
stand here feuding, the less chance we have of catching up with
get him now!" insisted Sam. "Thanks to that bloody
too sure," said Andrew Braidwood, walking across to where the
black wolf had been standing beside the ghost gums only moments
before. The forest floor was covered in a thick carpet of dried
gum leaves and pine needles, and in his haste to escape, the
black wolf had thrown up the leaves and needles in his wake,
leaving a clear trail behind him. "All we have to do is follow
along behind at an easy pace until he tires himself out, then we
nail the bugger."
than a touch of deja vu, once again the black wolf found
himself running full pelt through the woodland. Once more his
heart pounded from fear at the thought of being chased through
the forest. Except that this time he knew that his fear was
based on reality, not mere cowardice. Vividly he remembered the
reports of the rifles behind him, remembered the thud-thud
of great chunks of bark and wood being ripped away from trees
only centimetres behind him. Recalling the sight of a brutal
kangaroo-hunt that he had once witnessed from a distance, he
realized that the bullets or buckshot would rip away far greater
chunks from his own trunk, than they had from the trunks of the
pines and ghost gums.
the wolf only had a couple of kilometres to run to reach the
outskirts of the Singleton sheep station. He didn't waste time
lying in the long grass outside the chain-link fence tonight, but
leapt straight over the fence and raced across to the side of the
white, weatherboard farmhouse, to conceal himself from the
Kelpies, Barb-Kelpies, and Border Collies in the dog-yard out
back. Although he knew now that the dogs wouldn't dare to stand
up to him, he was afraid that one or two might at least risk a
stray bark, giving the hunters a clue to the direction he had
wolf waited for a minute or two to allow himself to calm down,
and to let his pounding heart return to something like normal,
then set off around the back of the house in search of an open
around the front of the farmhouse without any problems.
However, when he reached the opposite side, he found both windows
firmly shut. Leaping up onto his back feet, he pulled himself
up along the outside wall until he was able to peer in through
the first window. Directly beneath the window he could see a
small bed, in which lay a large Garfield-the-cat doll, swathed in
long, golden tendrils, as though Garfield
to let his hair grow down. Using his front paws on the sill to
pull himself up the wall a fraction, the wolf was just able to
make out the small figure of Kirsty Singleton lying on the edge
of the bed, beneath the window, and realized that the golden hair
belonged to the little girl.
against the weatherboards, gazing down at the sleeping child for
a moment, then remembering his fear of the hunters, dropped to
all fours and scampered across to the second window.
This time he
could see Rowena Singleton sprawled out in the middle of the
double bed. Trying his best not to waken her, he began scraping
at the window, desperately trying to force it to slide upwards as
he had seen Jim and Joanne open windows many times in the past.
Although the window was not latched, the wolf's clawed feet
weren't designed for gripping onto shiny surfaces, so try as he
might he couldn't get the window to budge a single
excited barking coming from the dog-yard out back of the house,
he pricked up his ears in the hope of hearing whatever had set
off the dogs. However, after a few moments he gave up and
turned back toward the bedroom window, where he saw the face of
Rowena Singleton staring out at him.
by the end of the bed, staring out in terror at the large black
shape which stood peering in at her through the bedroom window.
As she watched the wolf began frantically leaping up off the
ground, scratching and pressing at the window with its front
Ernie!" cried Rowena, backing deeper into the bedroom, not daring
to look away from the leaping wolf, not wanting to be caught
alone in the room with the creature. "Ernie, where are you?"
she pleaded, forgetting that her husband was away in
to frighten the woman more than she was already, the wolf turned
and started toward the chain-link fence a dozen metres from the
farmhouse. But then, hearing Warren's
chant of, "Black wolf! Black wolf!" emanating from the front of
the farmhouse, the wolf stopped in his tracks. He looked toward
the empty paddock beyond the fence, wondering whether he could
make it to the start of the forest, over a quarter of a kilometre
away, before the hunters gunned him down.
from fear, the black wolf hesitated for a moment, then turned
back toward the farmhouse. After a second's indecision, he
sprinted forward and, using his powerful hind legs like springs,
leapt straight through the window pane.
shattered with a report like a shotgun blast, showering the
double bed with shards of glass and causing Rowena Singleton to
shriek and back away hurriedly. Her first instinct was to run
for the gun-cabinet across the hall in the lounge-room.
However, seeing the tired, pleading look in the black wolf's
eyes, she sensed that this was no killer. As a child her
American grandfather, Dwight Frankland, had often regaled her
with tales of his adventures in the American wilderness. She
remembered him once sitting her on his knee and telling her,
"Wolves are the most cruelly maligned creatures on God's good
Earth. Treated kindly, they're nothing but very big
fear threatened to overwhelm her, Rowena sensed that the black
wolf was more afraid than she. Tentatively she stretched out
one hand toward the beast, which licked her hand with his
rasp-like tongue, thump-thump-thumping his large, bushy
tail dog-like on the bedroom carpet.
the wolf's lush black coat, appalled by the sight of his bony
ribs sticking up through his undernourished hide.
feeding up!" she said and the wolf thump-thump-thumped its tail
as though it could understand her.
boy!" she said, hearing the sound of the hunters outside.
Quickly she led the wolf across the hallway to shut him into the
lounge-room, then returned to the bedroom to face the approaching
"Get out of
the way, you bloody freak!" shouted Sam Hart, racing past Warren
Horne, at the sound of breaking glass around the side of the
Hutchinson followed suite and the two men arrived at the bedroom
window together ... To see Rowena Singleton in her nightgown,
kneeling on the bedroom floor, picking up pieces of broken window
happened here?" asked Des.
best to sound suitably relieved to see the men, Rowena said, "A
large black wolf burst in through the window..."
bastard go?" demanded Sam.
heard you approach and fled back out the window and across the
side paddock," she replied, pointing back behind the
The two men
looked round in surprise. They had expected to corner the wolf
inside the house, however, the few moments it had taken to force
their way past Weird Warren
have given the wolf enough time to reverse direction and race
across the empty paddock without them seeing him.
"Here we go
again!" said Sam Hart as the tired hunters straggled off
the chain-link fence and were almost at the start of the forest
before realizing that they had lost all trace of the wolf's paw
hunting party slowly disappeared from sight, with
chanting, "Black wolf! Black wolf!" Rowena Singleton stood by
the window wondering whether they would give up the hunt after
tonight, or whether they would be back tomorrow night and every
till the men were well and truly out of sight, then returned to
the lounge-room where she found the black wolf patiently waiting
for her. He wagged his tail at the sight of her and willingly
followed along as she called him down the corridor toward the
Rowena's first thought was to give him a large bowl of crunchy
dog pellets, but then seeing his emaciated state again, she took
pity on the large wolf and served him up a large helping of
mutton, thinking, 'Thank God he produce our own!'
As the wolf
devoured the meat ravenously, she thought, 'How will I ever
explain you to Ernie when he returns?' Her husband had been a
confirmed dog-lover all his life, which explained why the sheep
station usually contained at least thirty or forty Kelpies,
Barb-Kelpies, Border Collies, Alsatians and other breeds.
Although Ernie supplemented their farm income by selling dogs to
the neighbouring sheep and cattle stations, the truth was that
they were mainly a beloved hobby to him. Even so, she thought,
'Will he be able to love you, big fellow?'
still pondering the black wolf's future, when she heard the
patter of little feet racing across the linoleum
Big doggie!" cried young Kirsty with delight, throwing her little
arms around the black wolf, giggling with pleasure as he stopped
eating long enough to lick her face with his rasp-like
guess that settles it!" said Rowena out loud, knowing that Kirsty
was Ernie's greatest weakness; he could never refuse his daughter
anything. "Well I guess you're here to stay big