How it all began
From a dark and dingy attic came a
cry in a strong Irish accent, "Granddad, look what we found
under the floorboards, a package tied up in brown
paper. Someone has hidden..."
"What?" The elder dropped
his insulation roll and hurried over to the young woman kneeling on
An excited Shannon Dillon reached down and held up the
bound parcel. "Maybe another secret
"Give that to me!" said the old man, snatching
the parcel. Ethan Dillon hastened to undo the
twine. Inside a manila envelope were handwritten
pages, parched and brittle. Robert, Shannon's younger brother, stood
by with a large flashlight. Ethan Dillon tried to read the contents.
"The ink script is faded and
hard to read," he said.
“Maybe I can make it out,” said Shannon. “Look,
there's C. S. Lewis' name right in the headline!”
“Enough," he said and quickly
closed the folder. "I need my glasses. Let's go downstairs where
the light is better."
At 25 years, Shannon had a slender boyish frame,
and though she bore piercings above her left
eyebrow, she looked very Irish with her reddish-brown
hair that flowed to her shoulders in no particular fashion.
Several tattoos graced both her arms.
Shannon was a working girl. Upon
finishing a trade school, she worked in customer service at
IKEA in Belfast. Robert was a tall and burly lad who pried up
the floorboards with a crowbar.
"What is it, Grandfather?" asked Robert with a
loud whisper. Ethan had startled them both by frantically
ripping the parcel out of Shannon's hands.
“You’ve heard about the first C. S. Lewis letters
that I found years ago in this very attic before
you were born,” he replied. “ It created quite a
commotion at the time.”
Shannon smiled. “Yes, we've heard that story many
times. Now we’ve found a new discovery.
take a closer look.”
As Ethan brushed off the soot on the packet, Shannon
noticed an embossed emblem of a large rose surrounded by a wreath and
pointed arrows. At the bottom was a scroll with words she could not
“What's that?” cried Shannon. “I've seen this
before, in a book, but where?”
“Never mind!” the old man
snapped and turned the parcel away so she could not see. “Let’s
take a break and go down to the kitchen.” His face
looked spooked. Beads of cold sweat appeared on his brow as if he had
seen a ghost. He grabbed the stair rail and almost stumbled.
Robert grabbed his grandfather by the arm. “Be
careful, granddad. You almost fell.”
“I'm okay, my boy. Just help me down the ladder. Right
“What's the matter, Grandfather?” added Shannon.
“You're shaking all over. Should I get your heart pills?”
Ethan gasped and pressed the folder against
his chest. “No, I'll be alright. Someone
take my arm.”
Robert led his grandfather down the stairs to the
"Children, we shouldn't be reading this," he
said to Shannon and Robert, who were not kids
anymore. "This is forbidden material."
Ethan Dillon was a simple man, a widower for
ten years. Wrinkles had donned his aged face with scars covering his
hands after many years at the
Belfast shipyard. At 83 years, he lived in the same simple house
built by his father before he was born. Ethan was
not an educated man. His only connection to the literary world of C.
S. Lewis was through his father, Kyle Dillon, who long ago had worked
as a gardener at the Little Lea, Lewis’s childhood
Kyle often mentioned his many cordial contacts with
Lewis as a child. But Kyle was just one of several domestic workers
at the Lewis estate over the years, so the relationship wasn’t
personal. One Lewis biographer suggested that Kyle was
the "crusty gardener" mentioned by Lewis in his book
The Four Loves.
In 1975, twelve years after Lewis' death, Ethan Dillon
had discovered a shoebox hidden in his attic.
Inside were twenty personal letters, exchanges between C. S. Lewis
and his old friend, Owen Barfield, adding content to their literary
debate, the so-called Great War. It was anyone's
guess as to how they got there. Kyle Dillon must
have stashed them away. Why? No one knew. Kyle
lost all contact with C. S. Lewis when his father sent
him to a boarding school in 1908. He died before
the 1975 discovery, so the answer lay buried with Kyle in his grave.
Ethan did not want to distress his grandchildren with
his gloomy mood. "Let's break for something to eat. You two can
set the table while I make an important phone call."
Ethan went straight to his study with the document and
closed the door. Shannon and Robert shrugged their shoulders
and prepared lunch in the kitchen.
Robert decked the kitchen table with cheese, bread, and hot coffee,
but Shannon waited by the door, hoping to overhear.
"What's going on, Grandfather?" asked Shannon
when Ethan sat down at the table. "Why all
the secrecy? You look scared." Shannon, older
than Robert, was reflective, always asking questions.
Robert was excited. “Wow, did you call the BBC,
Grandfather? Maybe we’ll be on TV!”
Ethan waved off the barrage of questions with his hand.
The grandchildren had to wait for the old man to sip his coffee and
munch on his meal. "You two weren't born when I found that box
of C. S. Lewis's letters. But you've heard of them."
"Grandfather, you've told us that story at least a
hundred times," laughed Robert. "Did you telephone The
Belfast Telegraph? We could be celebrities!"
“No, I called Queens College here in Belfast. A group
called the Oxford Scholars have an office there. It was they
who took the first batch of letters years back.
I wanted them to come again tonight, but no one
was available until early tomorrow morning. So that's it."
"Aw, how boring," replied Robert, slouching
his burly shoulders. Unlike his sister, he was not the serious type.
For him, this was potential fame and adventure.
"And…," added Ethan, sheepishly, "we've
got strict orders not to tell anyone else."
“What? Why all the secrecy? What’s there to
conceal?” asked Shannon.
“I’m not sure, but this Queens College fellow
got very anxious on hearing about the folder's emblem.”
"What emblem?" asked Robert, still upset about
not getting on the nightly news. "I didn't see anything."
"Well, I did," said Shannon, turning to
her grandfather with a shrill voice. "And I saw
that you were trying to hide it from me. I'm sure I've seen it
Ethan stuttered, "Nonsense,
Shannon. Don’t worry. Why
don't we finish insulating the attic? With
extra effort, we can finish before bedtime. What do you
Shannon saw her grandfather's discomfort and did not
want to press him. The two were complete opposites. Though the Dillon
family were sincere Catholics, they had divided
sympathies regarding the partisan conflicts in the land.
Like his father before him, Ethan was more cordial to the Protestant
majority in light of his father's employment at the Lewis estate, a
Protestant family of note. Ethan's ties to the Lewis name became
closer after the 1975 attic discovery.
On the other hand, Shannon and her father,
Ryan, were more radical. They sympathized with the Catholic
separatists and had ties with the Irish Republican Army. Ryan had
even fought in the Belfast Riots of 1969 up to
the Good Friday Peace Accord in 1998, when he
renounced all violence. Thus, Shannon was too young to be directly
involved in the Troubles. Still,
she was among the few
girls ever to have received IRA militia training in Derry and
was a true partisan. Robert was more neutral, if not
apathetic, to the whole conflict. His passion was
They all agreed to drop the subject and finish
insulating the attic. Once again,
the three climbed
the steep stairway up to the loft.
Ethan tried to be upbeat by chatting with Robert about rugby league
statistics. Shannon, however, kept to her thoughts. She recalled
an old, tattered book she found in her grandfather's library when
she was little. Its title was Rosicrucian
Wizards, and inside, an eerie drawing
had startled her. It was the same emblem she saw
on the newly discovered documents. Shannon would have
long forgotten the picture had it not been for
the harsh reaction after showing it to her grandfather.
“Give me that,” Ethan had snarled and ripped the
book from the girl’s hands. “Have you been snooping in my
wardrobe and through my private things? Shame on you!”
“No, Grandfather,” cried Shannon. “I found the
book in your library. You always let me look there.”
"Shannon, my dear, forgive me. But this book
should not be there for a young child to see. I'm sorry. It is
dangerous, from the Occult and the devil. Now promise me to forget
what you have just seen."
Shannon loved her grandfather, who was the kindest man
she ever knew. Yet, he never seemed so frightened
and with eyes so filled with horror. Just what it
was, she did not know, but the entire affair was
“Thank God, we’re finished,” exclaimed Ethan a few
hours later as they installed the last piece of
insulation and refastened the floorboards in their proper place.
“Let’s clean up, and I’ll rustle up another bite to eat before
you leave for home.”
It was night, and the fried sausages that
Ethan had prepared, were delicious. Shannon was
about to ask him more about the emblem when a pair of headlights
flashed through the window across the kitchen wall. Soon came a knock
at the door.
"Who could it be at this late hour?"
asked Ethan and walked over to the door. He loosened the latch, and
two men in dark suits stood on the back porch.
"Is there anything I can do for you, gentlemen?
Perhaps you are lost?"
"No, sir, Mr. Dillon. We're from Queens College and
have come to pick up the folder with the files.
May we please come in?"
Ethan looked suspicious. “Are you
sure? The Oxford Group said that we….”
"Don't let them in, Grandfather," interrupted
"Please, Mr. Dillon, we apologize for the plans
change, and we understand your concern."
Ethan invited them in, but something was wrong. Shannon
knew the likes of literary types. In 1993 she
met a real scholar, Simon Magister,
who hoped in vain to find more hidden
manuscripts. As a twelve-year-old, she had helped him ransack
Grandfather’s attic. These men, however, were not like
Simon or even her school teachers. They had
common Belfast accents and looked like Mormon
“We weren’t expecting you before tomorrow morning,”
They laughed nervously, “Yes, but the truth is we are
researchers from the Scholar’s Group at Oxford, attending
a C. S. Lewis symposium at Queen's University. We were resting at our
hotel when the folks at Queens asked us to pick up your amazing
discovery. We are so excited."
“How do we know you’re not lying?” snapped
"I suggest you stay out of this, girl,"
scowled one. “What's with all the punkish clothes? Are you a
disgusting, ” said another, turning
to Ethan. "Mr. Dillon, I promise the
documents will be safe and secure at Queens College. Call them
tomorrow; you'll see.” He looked at his watch.
“We must catch a plane back to London tonight,
Mr. Dillon, and we don't want to miss our flight.
So now, please, without further ado, get the documents and hand them
"That's no way to talk to my grandfather,"
cried Shannon. "Don't do it. They're not from Queens College
but are working-class factory trash. I can tell by their
accents." Shannon then pointed to the studs on her leather
jacket. “If you don't like how
I look, screw you.”
Ethan rubbed his hands across his face in deliberation.
"Settle down, Shannon. Don't make things worse." He turned
to the intruders, "Do you have any identification?"
"Please, sir, C. S. Lewis’s legacy
is in danger. We are the ones
who can protect his memory, and there’s no time to lose.
Do it for your father, Kyle Dillon."
Something was amiss. “Gentlemen, before I give you
anything, let me try calling the college.”
The visitors hemmed and hawed, to which Ethan replied,
"I'm sorry. If you have nothing more to say or show, please go."
"You tell 'em, Granddad," gloated Shannon as
Ethan went to the kitchen sink and began washing dishes as if the
intruders weren't there.
The one nodded to the other. "Let's go." The
two men left and slammed the door. Again light beams flashed
across the wall as the vehicle drove away.
"Thank God, they're gone," said a worried
Ethan as he locked the door. "My dears, this document is in
danger and can't stay here. Robert, get your car keys. We'll drive
the parcel somewhere else for safekeeping and deliver them to Queens
College ourselves in the morning. Shannon, turn off all the lights
and lock the front door. Come, children, make haste."
Shannon was about to leave the kitchen when she heard a
rumbling outside on the porch. Suddenly, a heavy boot bashed open the
locked door as three hooded men rushed in, armed with automatic
pistols. Two men tackled Robert and wrestled his hefty body to the
floor. One grabbed the young man's hair and jerked up his head with a
pistol barrel pressed against his temple.
Then a fourth masked man dressed in a seedy-looking suit
came through the door. He shouted at the old man with an
American accent. "Ethan, this is your last chance."
He pointed the barrel of his
pistol at the old man. "Get
the document right now, or your grandson is dead, and we can kill the
skinny girl with the tattoos, too, if
The American wasn't there the first
time, and he was, no doubt,
the leader. Shannon raised her hands high and stepped back against
the wall without notice.
"Do what they say, Grandfather," said Shannon.
"They mean it. Don't let them kill Robert. Get the folder right
now." Her petite frame made her seem less threatening and
allowed her to inch her way sideways toward the hallway door.
"You had better listen to your little emo-queen,"
said one as he pointed his gun at Shannon.
Ethan was shaking. “It’s stashed under a pile of
papers in the top desk drawer… in my study.”
"You guys stay here while I go with the old
man," said the American as he jammed the
pistol barrel against the back of Ethan's head. "And
no foolishness or I'll shoot." His eyes
glistened with hate through the narrow openings
of his ski mask.
Ethan and the American left the
kitchen. Shannon stared at poor Robert in agony of having a gunpoint
pressed against his head while the third guarded
"Just lie still, and you won't die," said the
gunman to Robert in a soft, frightened voice. "As
soon as we get the documents, we're out of here." Shannon
recognized his Belfast accent as one who had been there the first
time. His shirt was drenched with sweat, and his hand was shaking.
With her paramilitary training, she could see
that he had never killed a man before and did not want Robert to be
his first. Any mistakes he made could be her chance to act.
Oh no, Grandfather keeps a loaded
pistol in the desk drawer, where the documents lay. Please God, she
prayed, don't let him do anything foolish.
During her time with the IRA, she had gone through
paramilitary training and was up-to-date on the
latest weaponry. She was a trained killer but had never seen action
because the Peace Agreement was in effect by the
time she came of age. She imagined herself ably mowing down these
thugs with an AK-47 assault rifle. But this was fantasy. In reality,
she was powerless and soon might die.
Ethan and the masked American reentered the kitchen.
"We've got what we came for, boys," he said while
waving the documents. He gave them to the gunman by the door. "Take
this out to the car and guard them with your
life!" Then, to the others, he said, "Tie up the old man
and the girl with tape just like we planned. And then we're out of
here. Don’t hurt them."
Shannon sighed. Thank God we’re not going to die. Her
back was now against the hallway door.
The document bearer had to pass by Grandfather
on his way out the door and carelessly turned his back to Ethan,
who, like a fool, drew his pistol and shot the carrier
in his back shoulder. He cried out in pain and fell to the floor.
"Oh no!" shouted Shannon as the American
quickly reacted and sprayed the room with rapid fire.
A bullet pierced Ethan's head, splattering blood against the wall.
"Damn!" cried the American. "This has
gone to hell. Now we'll have to kill the two kids. Go ahead and shoot
The Belfast man standing over Robert pointed his assault
pistol at Robert's temple. He was not much older
than Robert and might have even known him. His hand was shaking so
much that he could not pull the trigger.
"Shoot him, you coward,” ordered the American,
“in the head. Now!"
But the young man remained frozen.
"You idiot! Must I do everything?" The
American walked over to the boy, pointed his pistol at the back of
Robert's head, and fired. With a single bullet,
Robert was dead.
Shannon shrieked in terror and leaned against
the hallway door. Her elbow pressed the latch down just as the
American was about to shoot. The
door swung open as Shannon fell backward
and fled down the hallway to the cellar door. She
scrambled down the stairs without turning on the light.
“Find that little emo-bitch and kill her!” cried the
The cowardly gunman followed through
the open door leading to the cellar. Below it was pitch dark as he
crept down the rickety stairs, desperately looking for a light
Shannon and Robert used to play
hide-and-seek as youngsters here, so she knew her
way around in the dark. By the time the gunman turned on a dim light,
Shannon had climbed into an empty potato bin, a dusty hideout with a
hatch leading outside to the garden.
The footsteps of another were coming down the stairs.
"Where is she?" the American shouted. "That
scrawny runt got away! She's hiding down here somewhere."
Through the slots of the potato bin, Shannon watched as
gunmen crouched around, looking behind grandmother's old washing
machine. Indeed, the man from Belfast must have known
about empty potato bins, yet he walked by without inspection.
The smell of musty potatoes evoked childhood memories as
Shannon prepared her next move. The American approached the bin.
"Hey, bring your flashlight. The Gothic girl
must be in here." He peered deep into the potato
bin. Their eyes met.
The American grinned, "You're about to die,
Quick, the trapdoor. Shannon reached up and pressed
against its rusty hinges as her shoulder crashed through the swinging
hatch. Her nimble body leaped through and rolled onto the grass
Pang! Pang! Pang! The American had climbed into the bin
and shot wildly into the night, but Shannon had safely made it to the
orchard. She had escaped – unlike her dear brother and grandfather,
who lay dead on the kitchen floor.
It was quiet for a while, and then, from her hiding
place in the dark, Shannon watched as two silhouettes carried an
inert body of a man out of the kitchen. He
appeared alive as they helped him climb into
their van and drive off. Standing alone was the
shadow of a man she knew to be the American. In one hand, he held a
package, indeed the document discovered in her grandfather's attic.
If only she had a rifle, a quick pull of the trigger would have shot
So why was he still here? She heard loud noises as a black
helicopter swooped down and landed. It was quite unlike those used by
the British military. Someone jumped out and helped the American get
on board. Then, very quickly, it took off again and disappeared into
Though trained in the military arts, Shannon had never killed before.
With peace in Northern Ireland, she had no mortal enemy -- until this
night, as if something seemed to snap as vengeance entered her being.
Those green eyes peering through the slots in the potato bin had been
etched in her mind. Shannon crossed herself and said a prayer for the
dead. She then made a pack with herself, before God -- to avenge the
deaths of her kin. Wherever that American would find himself next,
Shannon would track him down and kill him.
What you have just
read functions as a kind of necessary setting the stage. The real
story, the adventuters of Simon and Shannon, begin the these next
Go on to read Sample 2: Simon Meets Shannon