The Wolves of Mirr
by Paul Piper
While roaming his beloved mountains, wolf biologist Levi Brunner comes across three women disporting in a pool. They invite him for a swim . . . and he wakes up alone on a beach, below an ancient Greek temple. Real or dream?
There’s no time to figure it out, as bad news hits: a slaughter of a wolf pack on a mountain slope, leading to rising hysteria in town about wolf attacks on humans. Levi tries to face down the forces who want to shoot every wolf in sight. When a local man is found mangled, the clues to the murder somehow lead straight to Levi.
Love and hate, ancient myth and modern politics, mob mentality and justice are some of the conflicting forces Levi has to deal with as he strives to clear his name, save the wolves, and negotiate the delicate dance of love. This vivid, fast-paced mystery is set in the stunning Montana landscape, where ancient myth becomes real.
“A gripping eco-fiction that partakes equally of the mystery and fantasy genres, Paul S. Piper’s The Wolves of Mirr is an astonishing novel. Compulsively readable and richly imagined, it ranges from Montana’s rugged Bitterroot Mountains to the fabled Peloponnese of Greece, from the present-day wolf wars of the American West to the ancient myth of the wolf-man Lycaon of Arcadia. Piper populates his novel with ecologists and wildlife biologists, a band of naiads, right-wing crazies, immortal werewolves, and profligate real estate developers. Trained both as a biologist and a poet, Paul S. Piper brings a profound knowledge of natural history and an extraordinary lyricism to The Wolves of Mirr. He is the author of South Fork and Other Stories and several collections of poems.” -Rick Newby, author of Writing Montana and The Suburb of Long Suffering
“Paul Piper’s fierce love of wilderness ignites this suspenseful tale of wolves—human and wild, modern-day and mythical. Piper’s lyrical descriptions of the natural world create an immersive enchantment.” – Sara Stamey, author of The Ariadne Connection and Islands
“What a great read! Genre busting! Part mystery, part horror, with a twist of magical realism thrown in for good measure.” -Gary McKinney, author Slipknot and Darkness Bids the Dead Goodbye
“I have no way of expressing what a pleasure it was to read The Wolves of Mirr. I love the way the landscape is a character, and the relaxed, sure-handed narrative voice that resonated throughout. It’s not magical realism so much as geographical magic.” -Bill Borneman, owner, Bedrock Books, Helena, MT
Read a sample:
Callahan heard the sound of vacuuming inside and rang again. The vacuum cut, and a moment later he heard footsteps approach the front door. To his left, a lilac bulged with pale lavender clumps.
The man who stood on the other side of the screen door was stoop-backed; his thinning gray hair parted neatly to the side.
“Thanks for coming so fast. This way.” He swung the door open, and Mike Callahan entered.
As he followed the man into the house, Callahan could see that Dan Sunder’s limp had worsened.
An orange cat disappeared ahead of them into an unknown room. The country rambler was tidy, though plants and Hummels crowded the two windowsills. Dan’s wife stood in the living room holding a vacuum over the couch.
“Carla.” Callahan tipped his hat slightly.
The woman said nothing, staring at the rifle in Callahan’s hand.
Dan led Mike through the kitchen, which smelled faintly of bacon, and out the back door. They crossed a large parking area. A tractor and two Chevy pickups, one, its hood up, were angled next to the barn.
They passed through a closed gate and into a gently sloping pasture. A quarter mile up, forest slashed dark and oblique across it. Above that, sheer grayish-white mountains rose into the morning sky.
Dan said, “Over there,” pointing.
Callahan saw the wolf. It was lying on its side, but rose as he approached, backed to the end of the chain that held the claw trap, and growled softly. It was a large male, with black-tipped guard hairs down its spine that stood on end. Callahan walked closer.
The wolf tried to back farther but couldn’t. It opened its mouth, pink tongue hanging slack, saliva dripping. Callahan could hear the sound of its breathing – nervous, ragged. The wolf’s amber eyes appraised him as he raised the ought-six, sighted, and fired.
It took two shots to severe the leg, and even then the wolf surged and tore the remaining tendon. It limped sloppily away. Falling, righting itself, falling again, in a crooked line uphill toward the forest.
“Hasn’t got the hang of being three-legged yet,” Callahan yelled back at Dan. “He ain’t going to, either.”
Callahan spit, raised the rifle again, and put the beast out of its misery.
The female wolf stepped deftly onto the white granite crag and lifted her nose, catching the clean scent of resin, musty duff, a hint of smoke. Closer, somewhere up-canyon, carrion.
Hearing something, she cocked her ears forward and down. The sound came again, almost like the shriek of a hawk far below, from a small oval of limpid water. It was a wild laugh.
Gazing down, she caught motion. Two female human bodies playing and splashing two hundred yards below. The pool was shaped like a large eye, braced by a short cliff on one side, surrounded by forest on the two sides adjacent to the cliff. Directly across the pool from the cliff was a beach of coarse blond sand, shaped like a pale human hand stretching its fingers into the meadow grass behind it. Mica on the pool’s bottom amplified the water’s clarity and gave it an electrical charge. The center of the pool was dark and deep. On the beach lay a third woman on her back, sunning.
A feeling of deep kinship and recognition flickered in the wolf. Confused, she knew these creatures were to be feared. Still, there was wildness in these women that resonated across her genetic history, ancient and powerful.
The female wolf, beautiful by some standards, hideous by others, weighed ninety-six pounds. Her silver fur was tipped black, her eyes burned gold. She stood three feet at the shoulder, and just a hair less than five feet from the tip of her tail to the end of her snout. Four years old, she was in her prime.
The wolf had little knowledge of how humans conceived her and her kind. A form the devil chose as his earthly manifestation; a slaughterer of livestock; a symbol of wildness; one of the most intelligent and social mammals; an endangered species.
After leaving her perch she would return to her mate, the alpha male, and their small, loose pack where they lounged in a high meadow full of house-sized boulders. The pack currently consisted of the alpha pair, two sons, and an unrelated female that remained on the periphery. For the past three weeks they had traveled from Lemhi Pass, crisscrossing from Idaho to Montana and back, with no awareness of the geographical boundaries deemed so important by humans. They had traveled this far looking for a home.