Fifteen years ago they bought the bishopric near Lime Kiln Point on San Juan Island and have lived there ever since. Before retirement, Denise commuted every week to Seattle Medical Centre, where she worked as a psychiatric nurse. Monday to Friday she stayed at her mother’s home on Capitol Hill while Piers stayed on the island, working as a “mediation consultant.” (About his actual occupation there was an insistence of whispered innuendo — gigolo, grifter, con man — but here on the Coast with few real jobs, such talk is common enough.)
A tall man with close-set eyes who marched along in an exaggerated show of vigour, Piers was born in Argentina and came to the U.S. as a teenager. As an ice-breaker, he describes himself as “more Brit than the British.” He has the plummy accent down, using it to great effect when the local theatre stages My Fair Lady and Major Barbara. He was also elected councillor for the Islands Trust, coming alive in public Q & A sessions.
Over the years, the two built a working garden with fresh vegetables to get them through the year. A handsome border of flowers — each coming into bloom in sequence — completes the picture, alongside a maze of deer netting, de rigeur on all the Gulf Islands.
They also built a pond and, over time, stocked it with exotics such as Green Spotted Puffer fish, Sting Rays — all brightly-coloured, shimmering. Late in the afternoon, sipping gin and wine, they sat beside the pool, luxuriating in the pride of their accomplishment.
But the fish proved easy picking for raccoons and herons. A series of nets and traps were deployed to thwart the marauders but were less than successful: the Blue heron with its dagger-like beak.
One day, as Denise came up the long driveway to the bishopric, she heard the blast of a shotgun. Pulling into the driveway, walking round back, she saw Piers standing by the pool, a dead heron in one hand, a smoking shotgun in the other, his face beet red and wreathed in triumph. As if in supplication, he held it up to her — that bleeding and broken thing.
For the first time, Piers had killed for her. And they were both very happy indeed.