A boy, a shepherd boy, ran into the village, crying: “A wolf! A wolf is coming!”
The villagers said, “This boy is nuts. This is the eleventh time this week, and each time before there has been no wolf.”
“Seriously, honestly, it’s worse this time!” the boy cried, “A wolf is coming! It ate all my sheep, swallowed all of them whole, and it’s coming to eat all of you!”
“Now this is serious”, the mayor of the village said. “You say all your sheep are gone without a trace?”
“Yes! The wolf picked them up one by one, dropped them into its great cauldron-like maw and swallowed them without any chewing at all!”
“I think”, the mayor said, “And having thought, and conferred with the good men of this village, I believe you took the sheep to the next village over, sold them there, and made up this whole wolf story to cover up your theft of this common animal property.”
“Honestly I did not!” the boy cried — but the constable, who was a big burly man and much quicker than seemed right, caught him by the neck and threw him in a cellar to wait for the law-meet the next Thursday.
That night, then, there rose a great racket from the house next to the mayor’s, which was next to the woods; and the mayor came out in his glorious purple satin nightcap and his white nightrobe and his rabbitskin slippers, and banged on the neighbor’s door, screaming: “For fuck’s sake, keep quiet you howlin’ lunatics, honest people are tryin’ to sleep in here!”
As the racket had already ceased at this point, the mayor felt good about himself and went back to sleep.
When morning came, however, the house was found empty, and none of the people who lived there, or their animals, were ever seen again.
“It must have been robbers, robbers that I scared away”, the mayor said, standing in the empty kitchen.
“But they’ve taken none of the forks and the icons, or any other objects of value”, the much too quick constable said.
“Then they must have been worse”, the mayor said. “Slavers, I reckon; slavers, kidnapping good hardworking people because indolent and bothersome people do not make good slaves.”
The next night, the house on the other side of the mayor’s house erupted in clamor — since this was a small village, on the other side of that house was again the forest.
“Oh dear”, said the mayor, and ran to the constable’s house — but the constable was already out and the noise was waking up the whole village, so the mayor ran back to the house of the noise and banged on the door.
All at once, the noise ceased, except for a quiet thumping, as if of a hand palpitating against the inside of a rough wall-hanging of wolfskin.
“Come out, whoever you are!” the mayor cried, and then, out of courtesy and fear, added, “Or whatever you are!”
Behind him, a mob was forming, with pitchforkses and torches and big staring scared eyes.
“Go in!” the ditch-digger cried.
“Who, me?” the mayor asked.
“Yes, you! You can speak to the taxmen and the knights and the knaves alike; if there is any in this village that can talk to slavers or whatever, it must be you!”
“Oh for fuck’s sake”, the mayor muttered, and slowly pushed the front door open a bit, and slipped inside.
At once something slammed the door shut, and pressed him against it. It breathed heavily and with great smell; it was taller than a man, and bigger than a horse; it was all over covered with wolfskin, and it was giant wolf!
“Hello”, the wolf growled.
“I have come here to speak to the slavers!” the mayor gasped.
“You fool”, the wolf leered, pressing its face against that of the mayor, “There are no slavers. I made that up.”
And, in a movement much too quick for a beast of its size, it contorted its back and rolled its eyes and drew in its hair; and in its place stood the constable, grinning and licking his lips.
Of the family that had lived in the house, or of their animals, there was no sign — save for a weak shaking of the constable’s belt buckle over a big, swollen belly.
“You are a wolf!” the mayor cried.
“You’re nuts”, the wolf-constable leered: “There is no wolf, and I think you’re in league with the slavers who just ran out the back door.”
And the thieving boy and the slaving mayor were both put to death, and the constable found them a grave nobody else could ever find.