Happy Halloween – a story and a contest!

Here's the story:
Birkie Peterson’s 
Guide to the 
Village of Dunvegan

LOCATION – The Village of Dunvegan – a small northern Canadian town that’s literally Changeling Central in Dani Harper’s new shapeshifter series……

You step off the dusty bus into the late afternoon sun, sweaty, tired and your luggage is missing. Somebody takes your arm and steers you to a shiny red pickup truck – a small white-haired woman with bright eyes, flawlessly French-rolled hair and a tailored citrus green pantsuit.

“The Pack has run up to Elk Point for a special meeting, so I’ll be your tour guide today. Name’s Birkie Peterson and I’m the power behind the throne at the North Star Animal Hospital.” She barks a laugh and slaps the steering wheel. “Means I’m the receptionist and bookkeeper and Jill-of-all-trades there.  Believe me, you haven’t lived until you’ve hosed blood and manure off the ceiling, dear.”

You have a hard time imagining that. With such an impeccable appearance, Birkie looks like she would be more at home in the back of a limousine than hosing out a livestock pen. Yet she handles the big truck as if she’d been born behind the wheel.

“That wide water you crossed on the way here is the Peace River. Gonna tell you right off, it’s a misnomer. Smooth as silk on top, but there’s a powerful current underneath. Lots of folks drowned there over the years. People say there’s more than one ghost on that bridge too. Jumped, you know.”

You don’t want to hear about ghosts. You tell her about the book you’re writing, the one about Changelings.

She eyes you then. “Heard about that. The Pack leader, Jessie, says that since you know about Changelings, you’re to get the full tour. Connor didn’t agree, mind you and I don’t know if I do either, but here we are. Sure hope you know what you’re getting into.”

You say you’re glad to get a firsthand look at Dunvegan, and you’re excited as the truck turns away from Main Street.

“This is Hemstock Ave.” Birkie points to a stretch of curb. “And right there’s the spot where Zoey was attacked by a rogue Changeling. No screaming and fainting for that gal, she gave almost as good as she got. Still, it’s lucky Connor came along when he did because a human can’t hold out against a Changeling for long. They’re too strong, too powerful. Bigger than ordinary wolves you know. And the one that attacked Zoey was crazy as a bedbug to boot.”

Out of the corner of your eye, you spot something huge and black moving behind the shrubbery. But when you turn to look, there’s nothing there.

“Up ahead of us is Dunvegan’s town hall,” she continues. “Zoey almost changed into a wolf right there in the middle of a council meeting. So much for trying to keep Changelings a secret after an incident like that.” She shakes her head.

Again your eye catches furtive movement, this time between a house and a stand of lilac bushes. Again, nothing.

“Over there is a place you want to remember, the Finer Diner. Looks like just a gas station and burger joint, but let me tell you, it’s got the best food in town. Bill and Jessie Watson own that operation. I’ll take you to lunch there in a day or so when you’re settled. Jessie’s the Pack leader by the way – you have a problem, you see her about it. She’s not much bigger than me, but don’t be fooled. She’s leader for a reason, and what she says, goes.”

Was that a gleam of silver fur between the cars back there? You wonder why people keep such big dogs here. At least, you think it was a dog…

Birkie turns the truck onto Third Ave and a small house comes into view with a crooked sign on it that says MUSEUM. “There’s an old diary in there from 1904, with an eye-witness account of a man turning into a wolf. Kathleen Summers has kept it under lock and key for over thirty years. Still, the page got photographed somehow and put in the paper a few years back, so although Kathleen won’t show it to you, you can find it in the Dunvegan Herald Weekly morgue.”

She chuckles at the look on your face. “Oh, not a real morgue, hon – although we have one of those too – this is where the newspaper keeps all its old issues. You can read all the old werewolf stories there too. Goodness knows we’ve had more than a few of those in recent years. And the murders of course.”

You shiver at that. You’ve heard of those. And you’ve heard that the killer wasn’t human.

Birkie carries on as if violent death is an everyday occurrence. “Have to go to Macklin’s down the street here if you want any sporting goods. Do you fish? I like to go for trout on the weekends, sometimes get a few perch to fry up. Sergeant Fitzpatrick, now, he likes to fish for sturgeon. I see him on the river quite a bit. When he’s not fishing, he heads the RCMP Detachment in these parts, and if he asks you for a date, say yes. He’s a good man. Connor is too, but he’s taken. Mind you, his younger brothers are still available and all the Macleod men are easy on the eyes. Big, strong, sexy – just the type to get a gal’s blood going.

“And they’re all Changelings too, Fitz included. Best place to hide is in plain sight, you know.”

Even the police sergeant can turn into a wolf at will? Suddenly you’re very uncomfortable.

The sun has just slid below the horizon when the truck pulls into the parking lot of a sprawling modern building. “Welcome to the North Star Animal Hospital. It’s after hours now but I can show you around. You might want to walk around the loft where the big white wolf – that’s our James – slept for a while. Or the couch in Connor’s office with wolf hair all over it from Culley. See that area over by the dumpster? Well, all the blood’s gone now of course but that’s where the showdown happened not too long ago.”

Showdown? You ask Birkie to explain.

“I forgot that you probably hadn’t heard of that yet. Tell you what, let’s come back to this later. Right now, we’ll head out to a couple of the sites where the attacks took place. By then it’ll be moonrise and the Pack says to bring you up to Elk Point then.”

The hair on the back of your neck stands up. You don’t like the sound of that invitation, and say so.

“Just part of the tour, hon. Practically the whole Pack’ll be there – maybe 35, 40 wolves tonight. Full moon too. You’ll get to meet them all, get the whole experience.” Birkie smiles sweetly, “You know, for your book and all.”

Suddenly you don’t give a damn about the book you’re writing. As the truck slows down for a stop sign, you half leap, half stumble out and run for all you’re worth. There has to be a bus out of town tonight. A car you can rent. A taxi you can commandeer. Something. Anything.

A howl slices the cool dusk air.

* * * * *


Winners will be contacted by email, and announced on my web page at http://www.daniharper.com/CONTESTS.html (Don’t worry – last names and email addresses will NOT be disclosed).

PRIZES – Each winner will receive a 12” tall plush wolf, a Dani Harper tote bag and a set of signed cover flats of the first 3 titles.