The ferry door clanged shut. Harry stood on the bow and let the wind dry his eyes as the vessel pushed away from the dock. Everything solid disappeared behind a wall of steel. Ahead he saw water fortified by saw-toothed mountains on the horizon.
“Lady, why did we have to come so far?”
“Harry, henceforth I’m Veronica or Vee, if you like, but Lady Smock is gone. That life is over and done with. We’ve come this far to forget and dammit, that’s what we shall do.”
Vee for victory, Harry thought. But what price this victory?
The solid thunk of the ferry door shutting closed the gates of Smock Manor forever. Vee gazed out at the Strait of Georgia grinning like a drunk on a Friday night. Stretched in front of her was a moat so wide, bloody Bertie, her lazy, scheming brother would never ford it.
The truth was they’d come to Vancouver Island because Vee had a distant cousin on her father’s side who had a cottage they could live in. They would look after him and, more importantly, his small hobby farm while living rent free. Finally, their luck was turning.
Harry thought the arrangement was too good to be true, although for a moment he was charmed by the old apple tree with it’s winding limb propped up as though it needed a cane for support. It certainly looked like Eden and smelled like paradise with air sweetened by the salty sea, ripening blackberries and a sharp undertone which Harry couldn’t quite place but which left him feeling intoxicated. For some reason it made him hungry.
On the other hand, the drive to the cottage horrified Harry. Everything was oversized. The trees formed tunnels along the roadside, and in places where sunlight managed to penetrate, blackberry brambles the size of igloos formed, making ditches and fences impenetrable. Deer wandered the streets like zombies (Harry was a fan of “The Walking Dead”), popping out of hedges into traffic or joining pedestrians walking down the sidewalks. They ate their way into gardens with impunity. Here, Bambi was a thug.
Vee’s cousin’s cottage garden was hidden from the street by a tall cedar fence with an elaborately latched gate, ostensibly to keep the aggressive deer population out. Behind they would have found a cornucopia of raspberry canes, grape vines, black currents and a tangle of perennials Harry couldn’t identify. Harry found the melange of berries nauseating, as though he’d guzzled a gallon of Chambord and Creme de Cassis and cider in one long gulp.
A crunching noise startled them both. Their new employer, Seytan Robb, stepped out from behind the shed, holding a home rolled cigarette. When he took a deep pull on it, the end lit up and crackled. He held his breath and coughed on the exhale, saying “Who the fuck are you?”
Harry suddenly recognized the underlying sent in the air – marijuana – just as an apple fell on his head. Vee picked it up and passed it to him.