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“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence."
Matthew  11:12

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Sample 2: Simon meets Shannon

Chapter 3

Meet Simon Magister

Bethlehem College,
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

February 14. 2005

Professor Simon Magister sat in a pint-sized office lined with bookshelves stuffed with the classics of Romantic literature — Coleridge, Goethe, Yeats, and, most notably, the late, great C. S. Lewis. A clunky computer monitor dominated his desktop, and an overstuffed chair was crammed between the cabinets where a visiting guest could sit. Visiting hours were until noon, and, just now, a hesitant knock came at his door.

"Hello, come right in," he said and swiveled his office chair around as the door opened.

Marcie Macy, one of his brightest students, stood at the threshold. She wore a Scottish plaid skirt and looked like a clerk for a federal judge, with reddish tinted hair cut short and parted on the side. High cheekbones gave her face a classic look. Marcie was the epitome of a literature major at Bethlehem College.

"Professor Magister, do you have time? I need to talk to you." The usually buoyant Marcie seemed downcast.

"Is everything all right, Marcie?" Simon pulled out a board with rounded corners from a bookshelf that served as a mini table. "I just boiled some water. Do you want a cup of tea?"

Growing up in the hinterlands of northern Minnesota, he was a folksy-looking man, contrasted with a suave sports jacket with leather patched elbows.

"No, thank you, sir, I can't stay long." Then Marcie plopped down on the cushy armchair. She looked as if she were about to cry.

Simon interrupted with a brighter note, "Marcie, I just finished reading your latest essay. Very interesting. I liked it." From his files, he pulled out her essay. On a scratch pad, Simon drew two circles, slightly overlapping. “One circle represents Romanticism and the other esoteric teachings.”

“You mean the Occult, Professor?” asked Marcie.

“Well, the two words mean hidden.” He then shaded the intersection with a colored pencil. "Do you see the convergence here? It's like the Twilight Zone, where the visible and invisible meet."

Marcie nodded nervously and tried to change the subject. She hid her fidgeting fingers behind a cushion.

Simon gently persisted, "As Christians, you and I stand firmly in the Romantic tradition and reject the Occult. But how does one deal with the overlap? Let me read the introductory paragraph to your fine essay:

If Romanticism and Occultism are two separate entities, who was William Blake: a Christian poet or an Occultist? Is there an intersection? This paper will focus on what the two have in common. Both see the universe saturated with impulses of intuitive feeling and subjectivity. Both scorn notions of a cold, well-ordered world, mechanically ruled by impersonal, objective reason. I contend that conservative Christian scholarship finds this crossover embarrassing, too close to the 'devil's playing field.' While there for all to see, they sweep this complexity under the rug and pretend it doesn't exist.

"I'm glad you like my essay, but..." Marcie's eyes flushed with tears, "On page five, the part where it tells how Romanticism and Occultism are two sides of the same coin..."

Simon handed a box of Kleenex to Marcie, who was now whimpering. "Take it easy and tell me what's wrong."

Marcie blew her nose and dried her tears. "Thank you. The truth is someone else wrote that part.” Marcie again started to cry. "I've copied and pasted that in there. I know it was wrong, and I feel so ashamed. I'm a plagiarist.”

Simon leafed through the essay and found the transgression. Because he had been so taken in by her themes, he had overlooked what was apparent. She was one of his best students, and he chastised himself for letting this discrepancy slip by. This was not Marcie's writing, and her paste-in was sloppy. It was his job to spot these things, and he had failed.

Simon looked at her with a stern eye. "Marcie, I need not tell you that Bethlehem College has a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism. Some who have been caught have been expelled from our school. I can't deny that you disappoint me. With all your literary gifts, this is so unlike you. Why?"

"I-I was under so much pressure... It was 3 AM..." She paused. "Forget the excuses; I did wrong and can do no other than confess and hope you show me mercy."

"Look at me," said Simon, as she lifted her weary head. He peered directly into her eyes with concern.

Marcie sniffled. "My pastor and parents, my entire home church, look up to me. They all think I'm going to Oxford, and I want that too. I've let everybody down and am so ashamed."

As a teacher, Simon had dealt with all forms of cheating, and Marcie was wise by turning herself in. Those who get caught are more severely punished. By confessing preemptively, she had placed herself on a path to redemption.

Simon said in a stern voice. "Even if I overlooked this deviation, others will also be reading this paper. Someone could easily spot the plagiarism, issue a complaint, and turn you over to a disciplinary board where I have no say. They would pass judgment, and anything could happen."

"If Professor Humphrey sees this, he'll spot my plagiarism immediately. He always reads my papers, looking for mistakes, and could abort my entrance to Oxford with one stroke of his pen."

Marcie had been outspoken about her Oxford dreams, and department head Niles Humphrey, a former Oxford don, was watching her closely. He had been critical of her work in the past, and his quibbling eye was known to lack charity.

Marcie hung her head in disgrace. "So what's going to happen to me, Professor Magister?"

Simon reached over with her paper in his hand. "Here, take it, Marcie. Make the necessary corrections and deliver it back to me by ten tomorrow morning sharp. I have yet to pass it around, so no one else needs to know."

Marcie's anguish transformed into beams of joy. "Oh, thank you, Professor Magister. You are so generous. Thank you."

He reached across the desk and poured her tea as Marcie sighed with relief.

“Well, glad to hear that's all cleared up, and you are on your way to Oxford,” he said with a wink. “I'm sure you have learned your lesson. Would you like to hear a story from my own studies at Oxford? ”

“Oh, yes, Professor Magister, please. You are always entertaining.”

“As a grad student, I spent a few months at Oxford researching C. S. Lewis's romantic writings. Back then, a younger Niles Humphrey was still there as a tutor. You well know who Owen Barfield is?"

"Of course. He's mentioned in Surprised by Joy."

"Mentioned? Why he was one of Lewis' closest friends and a frequent Inkling—but somewhat of an embarrassment in evangelical scholarship because of his esoteric connections."

“An Inkling? Of course, I know about that. But why is it that nobody at this school ever talks about him? Professor Humphrey says Barfield wasn't all that important, and he should know. As a young student, he was one of Lewis's personal assistants and often sat in on the Inklings when Barfield was attending. He said the two were arguing all the time."

“Barfield not all that important? In that autobiography you just mentioned, Lewis called Barfield his second friend and The wisest and best of my unofficial teachers."

"I must have missed that part."

"According to Lewis, a second friend is one who passionately shares your interests but has vastly different views. Thus, for example, Barfield was also an ardent disciple of Rudolf Steiner, who was deeply involved in the Occult. Did you know that?"

"I've only heard that mentioned. Last semester, a student asked Professor Humphrey about Steiner. He got flustered and changed the subject. I guess that’s kind of touchy around here."

Simon smiled. "Yes, and it fits right into the main theme of your paper, and some find Occult themes threatening, so keep that in mind as you clean up your moral lapse." "Yes, sir." Marcie paused.

Simon then whispered. “Young Niles Humphrey and Barfield didn’t like each other much.”

"Ahem. You were telling me about your research at Oxford when we got sidetracked. What happened next?"

"Oh yes, at the time, I was obsessed with Barfield and wanted to penetrate his thoughts, hoping to uncover some hidden key to Lewis's mind. So one weekend, without permission, I journeyed to Belfast, where I searched for forgotten literary documents by tearing up an older man’s attic, hoping to find a treasure that could unlock the door. Ethan Dillon was kind enough to let me scavenge all his dust-covered boxes. For two days, his grandchildren helped me scour the attic and the bookshelves in the parlor."

"Did you find anything?"

"Unfortunately not. It was a wasted effort. The school found out and gave me ten demerits. Barfield opened no windows to Lewis's soul. But every year, more and more students are wont to try. I was young and foolish, and only a few knew about my embarrassing effort. Kindly keep this to yourself."

"My lips are sealed," she said with a smile. "It's the least I can do after showing me mercy. Again, thank you so much." She paused to sip on her tea. "But if I had been you, an old man's attic in Belfast would be the last place I would look."

"You see, back in 1975, someone discovered a never-before-seen correspondence between Lewis and Barfield in this same attic. It caused quite a stir at the time. But there was nothing more than the usual banter between Lewis and Barfield, revealing nothing new. The discovery was soon forgotten, but I fantasized about finding some new revelation." Simon paused to think. "Ethan and his grandchildren, whose names I forget, were very kind and helped me search."

"How and why do you suppose those letters got there in the first place?"

"Ethan said that his father was once the gardener at the Lewis estate. He must have put them there, but all who know the answer are now dead. I hoped a new discovery might shed light on this case.”

Simon was about to continue his story when there came a gentle knocking. Through the door's frosted glass, one could see the colored silhouette of someone wishing to enter.

"More visitors?" quipped Marcie.

"Probably another student," said Simon and added with a whisper. "Let's hope this one only wants an extension on an essay." He looked at his watch. "My visitation period ended a half-hour ago. When will students learn to respect my time? This had better be important."

The knocking continued, only louder, more desperate. The blurry face of a woman was now visible.

Marcie winced, "Perhaps I should go. I've got lots of rewriting to do."

"No, wait. Perhaps someone only wants to deliver a paper."

Simon walked over to the door without opening it, saying, "I'm having a conference with another student right now. Please come back tomorrow? And please come before noon.”

A shrill female voice cried out with a heavy Irish accent. "I'm here to talk to Professor Simon Magister."

“Uff, who may that be?” Simon gingerly opened the door. At the entrance stood a petite young woman in Gothic clothes. Her raven jeans were with threaded holes, revealing dark tights, while, under a jet-black studded jacket, she wore an ebony polo shirt stenciled with a yellow Celtic cross dripping with blood. A silver piercing hung from her brow, and a row of studs outlined the ridge of her left ear. Simon hadn't seen a spectacle like this since his days back on the London Tube.

Marcie flinched, “Professor, do you know this girl?"

"No." Simon turned to the new visitor, "Can I help you?"

“Don't you remember me?" she asked.

Marcie stood up and faced the uninvited guest. "Why should he? You're obviously not a student here."

The Gothic girl snapped back, “Who cares what you think?"

“Hey, hey.” Simon positioned himself in between the two young women. “Let's keep it civil." Then, he turned to the Irish girl. "Look, and whoever you are, these office hours are reserved for my students."

He pulled a calling card from his pocket. "If you are an aspiring writer, I’ve stopped endorsing novels long ago. Here, take this and write me an email. I promise to read it and reply. But I'm sorry, you'll have to go now."

But the young woman stood her ground and cried out with her defiant Irish accent: "I am Shannon Dillon, granddaughter of the late Ethan Dillon from Belfast, Northern Ireland."

Chapter 4
Simon Meets Shannon

Simon trembled. He gasped and pulled the young woman into his office, scanning the hallways to make sure no one was watching.

"Professor," said a startled Marcie. "Weren't we just talking about..."

"No, that was something else. Marcie, perhaps you should come back tomorrow. Let me deal with this."

In his Belfast story to Marcie, Simon had skipped over how Tutor Humphrey tried to get him expelled. Niles Humphrey was now his department head, and the arrival of this Irish girl could rekindle Humphrey’s ire. Why had he told Marcie about this foolish caper—and at the worst time possible? Like a distant ghost, his forgotten past had suddenly reappeared.

"Weren't there some grandchildren..."

"Marcie," interrupted Simon, pointing to the papers in her hand. "You've got work to do, and I need not say more. You should be in your dorm right now?" What if Marcie tells others and Humphrey gets wind? He tapped his forefinger on his lips without saying sh-sh, asking for her silence. "Tomorrow, I'll talk with Professor Humphrey about that recommendation letter to Oxford ."

"But-but..." Marcie paused and then whispered, "Okay, I get it." She zipped her lips shut with her fingers and winked. “Just be careful, Professor."

Shannon stuck her head out the door until Marcie was out of sight. "I guess we won't see that lass again today," she smiled. "What's all the secrecy about?"

"Never mind." Simon pulled his mysterious visitor back into his office and closed the door with the occupied sign displayed. "In case you don't know, this is a Christian college, and your language is inappropriate." He turned on the radio so no one nearby could hear them.

Shannon grinned mischievously and plopped down in Simon's armchair with her leather bookbag at her feet. "I think that Marcie-girl likes you."

Simon blushed, "So you are someone I once met in Belfast long ago. Were you the one with all the pesky questions?"

“No, that was my little brother.”

“So it was. What was his name again?"


"It was long ago," said Simon, "and my memory is foggy. I remember you being a child yourself."

"As you wish," said Shannon, "Robert was nine, but I was a teenager, thirteen years old. So, that's how you remember me, a scrawny little brat?"

"That's not fair. I'm sorry, but you weren't a lasting memory. Recollections are only now beginning to stir..."

"And I was too young to understand why you were there. Robert thought you were a Unionist spy."


"Back in the Troubles, my father taught me that all Protestants were the enemy. But not Grandpa Ethan; he liked you in that his father had been a gardener at Little Lea when C. S. Lewis was a little boy." Shannon's face grimaced in grief. "My grandfather and brother Robert are dead now, both murdered. Did you know that?"

"Yes, I did but only in passing. The Oxford Scholar's Review issued a short notice last November about Ethan Dillon's tragic death. That's all I know. I'm so sorry for your loss."

Sadness filled the room. Memories of Ethan and his grandchildren were coming back as he had forgotten Shannon's help in the attic and joking around with little Robert. Simon placed a comforting hand on Shannon's shoulder.

She squirmed and pushed his hand away. The grief in her eyes was overwhelming. "It was an American that killed them!"

A sharpened scissors lay on a shelf near where Shannon sat. Simon took hold of a large, nearby book and held it in a ready position, just in case.

"I knew your grandfather only from my short visit, and that's hardly anything," he said, trying to be calm. "You all were very kind, but to be honest, until you stood here before me just now, I had forgotten about you completely. I'm sorry, but what else can I say?"

"Nothing. What I want is your help."

"That’s very unlikely."

"At least let me tell you my story. Please."

Simon looked at his watch. "I'm due for a lunch appointment, so you've got less than an hour." Perhaps this little lie would give her time to speak and be gone.

"Thanks." Shannon picked up her backpack from the floor, loosened the leather straps, and set it on her lap. "All my life, as a Catholic," she said slowly, "I've detested my family's association with the protestant figure of C. S. Lewis. Why? Because I support the Republican struggle for freedom. That may be unfair, but that was reality. For the freedom-loving Catholics like my father, the Lewis legacy was another symbol of the Royalist occupation of my homeland. All this babble about a few musty pieces of paper in my grandfather's attic was just more loyalist posturing."

"So why then are you here?"

"You were unlike other Protestants, filled with awe and wonder as to what you might find. Grandfather saw you in the true spirit of C. S. Lewis and gave you full access to his treasured library. You were meek and unassuming. Your enchantment spilled over on me, and I was mesmerized." She blushed. "And with you…." Shannon paused to wince as one about to cry. "All this sounds unconnected, and you must think I'm unhinged."

Simon leaned toward Shannon. "Nobody knows how those letters got there. I tried once to uncover more, but, as you know, there was nothing to be found. You are my witness. You haven't answered my question; why are you here?"

"I must find out how and why those C. S. Lewis letters ended up in Grandfather's attic."

"I said, no one knows, and those who knew have passed away. It was a long time ago, Shannon; it's a mystery. Leave it at that."

"You're not listening. I don't mean those letters found years ago. That all happened before I was born."

"Then what are you talking about?"

"There is a new document, which Robert and I discovered under the attic floorboards last September, the night my grandfather and brother were murdered. Burglars came to steal them, and things got out of hand. And now I need your help.”

Simon leaned in closer to Shannon. “New documents found in your grandfather's attic? Are you kidding? After we tore the place apart? This is news, indeed. Tell me more.”

"Simon, e-er Professor, you're not listening. The man who pulled the trigger is an American who might be in this area. I need your scholarly expertise to help track him down and bring him to justice."

“Me, an expert?”

“My hunch is that your literary skills can lead me to the stolen documents, which leads me to the killer.”

"This is a matter for the authorities. Contact the police as I can't assist you."

"I don't need the police. I am a trained militia fighter and intend to kill the slayer myself." Shannon pointed her forefinger at Simon's forehead, lifted her thumb, and made it come down hard. “Pow.”

Chapter 5
Blood Revenge

Simon's jaw dropped. "What in heaven's name are you talking about? That's delusional."

Shannon sat back in the overstuffed chair. “Alright, perhaps I was a bit brash.”


“Please, let me start from the beginning.”

Shannon reached in her book bag and pulled out a newspaper. The headline read: ELDERLY BELFAST MAN AND GRANDSON SHOT DEAD. "The media suspected sectarian violence. But because of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, it didn't make sense. Also, Granddad was a non-partisan; though he was Catholic, Protestants respected him. So the police concluded that their deaths were from a robbery that got out of hand, which is partially true."

"Mistaken identity, perhaps?"

"Hardly. When Grandfather foolishly pulled out a hidden gun, the robbers panicked and shot first with a bullet to his head. He died instantly. No doubt, they were there for the documents and, at first, meant us no harm. But this was no mistaken identity."

"How could you possibly have known that an American shot them?

“His accent was a giveaway.”

Who told you that?”

“I was there and saw them killed with my own eyes. I am the sole witness."


Shannon told Simon how she and her brother accidentally uncovered the documents, how her grandfather called the Oxford Scholar Group and the mysterious men who came to steal them.

"Under the attic floorboards," said Simon wistfully. "That's about the only place we didn't look." He then backtracked, "I'm sorry, you lost family members. How unkind of me. The documents are nothing. I'm sorry."

Shannon sniffled and rubbed her tear-less eyes. "It's okay. Thanks for your concern."

"As you must remember, finding new documents was my dream," said Simon. "Beyond your personal tragedy, there's been a new literary discovery. So what are you telling me? How come only you seem to know?"

"Only a few know, my family, the robbers, and a few at Queens College. But nobody's talking; everything has gone underground. The perpetrators must have mafia connections. The leader of this band, however, was an American. It was he who pulled the trigger. I saw it myself and lie not. They tried to kill me, too, but I escaped." Shannon sat up and looked straight into Simon's eyes, telling him how she fled to the basement and escaped. "I'm the lone witness, and for that, my life is in danger. Besides the killers, no one knows who did this but me, my father, and Uncle Conner. That is until today. Now you know too."

"Why didn't you go to the police with this?"

"Are you kidding me? The Belfast Constabulary is mostly Unionist! They used to search our car at night with guns and flashlights while Robert and I huddled terrorized in the back seat. We were just kids, Professor. "

"That must have been horrific. But still, you can live in the past — I'm serious. Don't let enmity stand in the way of justice. Dear girl, it's still not too late."

"Don't call me girl!" Shannon snapped.

"Sorry." There was a pause and then an opportunity.

"Can I..." Simon began, "can I ask you about the folder you found?"


"Were any of these hidden letters written by C. S. Lewis?"

"I only got a glance, but Grandfather got a closer look, and he said, distinctly, that they were from C. S. Lewis."

"Maybe, but he could have been wrong. In such matters, a full-fledged Lewis scholar would only say that after much scrutiny and with consensus by his peers."

"That's all I know. I wasn't present when Grandfather called the Oxford Scholars at Queens College. He must have said something to convince them of something important. The big question is, who could have so quickly arranged for intruders to come and steal the documents?"

"Certainly, not the Oxford scholars."

"Maybe, maybe not." added Shannon, "But, for sure, one of them was a kind of double agent with contact with Ulster renegades?"

"Really? Hardly."

"Grandfather said he called Queen’s College, so they knew about the discovery for sure. No one else knew. Everything happened in one day. Who else could it be? "

Simon sighed. "I know them to be good people and have worked with them in the past. It's hard to believe."

“There only needs to be one traitor among them."

Simon rubbed his chin. "But why?"

Shannon stuttered as if wanting to speak.

"Do you have any more secrets?" asked Simon.

"Yes, one more," she replied. "I didn't see the papers, but I caught a glimpse of the outside cover, on which was a mystic-looking emblem…."

"Really? How did it look?"

Shannon again reached into her bag and pulled out an old book, The Rosicrucian Wizards. "This was Grandfather Ethan's copy." She gave it to Simon while telling how she had stumbled on this text as a child.

"Open the cover, and you'll find a tinted picture beneath a sheet of wax paper." Simon gasped as he stared at a dull green cross, laced with stalks of pale red roses and, in the cross-section, a watchful yellow eye beaming with ashen rays. Two coiled snakes at the base, breathing a dull orange-like fire.

"My God," Simon gasped. He took the book and leafed through its pages. "This is a rare book, indeed."

"Are you familiar with this symbol?"

"Yes, I am."


"It's the so-called symbol of the Ipsissimus, the secret highest level within the now-defunct Occultic Order of the Silver Dawn. Many believe these legends go back to King Solomon himself, literally. The symbol you showed me in the Silver Dawn was very influential, and many believed it to have supernatural powers. I, for one, am looking forward to reading this book. May I borrow it?"

"It's yours to keep if you want it. But what does it all mean? I've never heard of the Silver Dawn."

"The Silver Dawn was an obscure Rosicrucian order founded in 1892 by Colin Baxter after getting kicked out of the better-known order called The Golden Dawn." Simon paused and sighed. "It's too complicated to explain now. Shannon, for me, a symbol like this shows how Romanticism intersects with many Christian esoteric movements like the Silver Dawn. Some of these guys were in and out of the Inklings, and Lewis knew them well. Rumors say that Charles Williams was a secret member of the Silver Dawn. Personally, I don't believe such gossip, but don't get me started about all the crazy talk about this stuff. Why are you showing me this book and this picture?"

"I've already told you, but you weren't listening. It was stenciled on the folder we found in the attic.” Shannon took the book and held the picture close to Simon's face. “This is the same emblem we found under the floorboards. I saw it myself."

Simon's hands began to quiver as he took the book back into his hands. "Are you sure?"


"So you knew about this book when I visited you in Belfast? Why didn't you say something?"

"You didn't ask, so how could I know? You're the expert."

Shannon watched Simon wistfully page through the book.

She tried to move her chair closer to Simon and then whispered, "Do you know who Georgie Warner is, I mean, was?

Simon looked up, aghast, "What? Why do you ask?" He rolled his office chair away from her as far as he could.

She reached into her bag and pulled out some computer printouts from the Milwaukee Journal. The headline and emboldened text spoke of the car accident that killed the Bethlehem student near Holy Hill.

“What and where is Holy Hill?” asked Shannon.

“Holy Hill is an area north of Milwaukee. It surrounds a religious shrine by the same name. It's a beautiful wooded area and a popular tourist site. ”

"Anyway, back in Belfast, we were combing the internet, looking for clues. By chance, my father stumbled on the bizarre C. S. Lewis-was-a-witch websites run by fundamentalist Christians. Perhaps they were the robbers, though we have no proof. One hyper-link led to another and seemed to connect all this Narnia-witch-talk to the death of Georgie Warner. He was a student here at Bethlehem College, wasn't he, Professor Magister?"

"E-eh, yes, he was." Simon could see a conspiracy mind at work and did not like how Shannon was leading the questions.

"We believe his death is somehow linked to the robbery at my grandfather's place, which ended tragically. Like I said, your scholarly expertise could lead me to my goal."

"That's outrageous. According to the police report, it was an accident."

"A hit-and-run car accident," she added. "And after much media speculation, the police suddenly dropped the investigation without explanation."

"So it was. Indeed, though the police never found the driver, the police still see it as an accident.” He pointed to the papers in her hand. “It says so right there.”

"We think otherwise," she replied. "One thing I learned in life is that zealotry has no boundaries. And you know more than you dare tell."

"No comment."

"And who's 'we.'"

“My father, my Uncle Conner,” she paused, “and Patrick.”


“He's my father's contact here in America. You'll be meeting him soon.”

“That's what you think. Not me.”

Shannon continued, "By the way, want to know how I found out about you?”

“Yes, please.”

"While browsing through the different pages on your school's website, my eyes fell upon a certain name and picture of a teacher who once ransacked my grandfather's attic. It was you. Everything’s connected, and that's why I'm sitting in your office now."

"Listen, I knew who Georgie Warner was, but so did everyone else on campus. He was sort of an anti-celebrity, but I had never met him. I swear."

"Do you know anything about how he died?"

"No!” Simon lied. “The police's investigation turned up nothing. It was an event that shocked the entire school, but now everyone wants to move on. It's all in the public record, and you can read it yourself." Simon again pointed to the papers in her hand, hoping his body language was in sync.

"Simon, I know what it says, but from the look on your face, you must know more. So what are you hiding from me?"

"Are you calling me a liar? Listen, how does one empathize with the traumatic events you’ve gone through? But all that you say sounds like a conspiracy. I agree; there are people out there, extreme fundamentalist zealots, who would stop at nothing to prove that C.S. Lewis was an Occultist and a witch. They think he was demonically inspired when writing his Narnia tales." Simon heaved a great sigh, "But they are a tiny fringe, lunatics, idiots without distinction with their tiny, delusional sects belching out conspiracies, right and left. No one at this school pays them any mind, nor should they. Nor should you. My God, why are we wasting time talking about them?"

"Wrong. Georgie believed them; it only takes one to set off a bomb. Are there Christians who would kill for such a document, Simon?" she asked. "That is if such a one existed."

"I get it, drum-beaters can provoke people to do dreadful things, and I know a little about your conflicts back home. I’ve read about the blood-vengeance-killings between rival gangs."

“And the mass shooting here in America?"

Simon turned aside, "Point taken, but we’re talking about you and your hostility."

"As I said, I suspect that Georgie Warner was murdered last year after calling C. S. Lewis a witch. Perhaps someone killed him because he knew too much..."

"I know where your fantastical ideas are coming from," he said. "There's a whole subculture of fringe fundamentalist Christians that believe that stuff, and you've been reading their websites. I've read them too. A falsely perceived conspiracy has as much power as one that is true. I have studied C. S. Lewis all my adult life and will never buy those lies. If these documents ever become public, Lewis will be completely exonerated. Mark my words."

"More mansplaining from the professor," said Shannon. "And if you are wrong, and Lewis was a secret Occultist? Try to imagine the possibility."

"Lewis was not an Occultist, but if so..." Simon paused to choose his words carefully, "then his entire image would be shattered for thousands of Christians who feel his iconic eminence. For the secular culture, C. S. Lewis would still be a great Romantic thinker, but for Christians, his legacy would join the likes of Madame Blavatsky. My career at this evangelical school will be in tatters."

"Then you can agree that you have an investment preserving the status quo. Well, I don't."

“But that's not going to happen. I assure you 100%.” Simon paused and reviewed Shannon's outfit. “Shannon, not to change the subject, but can I ask you a personal question.”

“You can try.”

“What's with the Gothic garb?”

“I'm in mourning,” she said. “Haven’t you ever worn black?”

"Mourning your grandfather and brother or something else?"

"If you must know, I have yet to cry since my grandfather and brother’s murder," she said. "Dressing like this is the only way I can deal with it."

First, there was silence between them, and then Simon looked at his watch. “Listen, I have already missed my lunch appointment. Let me call you a cab.” He picked up the phone. “You do have a place to stay?”

"Yes, friends are putting me up at some lady's place near Mitchell Park. Did you think I wanted to sleep at your place? And I know you were lying about that lunch appointment. But that's okay."

A flustered Simon fumbled with the phone while calling a taxi. He then walked the young woman to the campus edge, fearing that Marcie might be spying on him.

Shannon climbed into the waiting cab and waved her cell phone at Simon. "Thank you, I will call soon.”

Simon looked closely at the screen. “Hey, that's my private telephone number.”

“Do you have a cell phone?”

"No, and I don't intend to buy one. All my students have one. They're just for teenagers."

“You’re not so old. We meet again in a couple of days, then?”

"Oh, no, we won't," Simon said. But the window between them had been rolled shut, and Shannon pretended not to hear.

Then she rolled it open a little again. "Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day. I bet you forgot."

The cab drove off and disappeared into the city traffic. Shannon was gone, and Simon sighed with relief.

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