Free Sideways Fiction

THE LOST LETTERS OF HENRY O’NEAL 

By Thomas J. Callahan

February 2017/northern Europe/Location Ragnar 

INTRODUCTION 

During Henry’s illness, he wrote several letters for his grandson, Rand, to open upon his death. However, only one letter was passed on and it appears in the book, “Alexandria Rising.” Why this is, we do not exactly know. Perhaps, in his state – physical and mental – Henry lost track of these letters, forgot them, discarded them. Perhaps, he wrote them and then decided to destroy them (in one of the recovered letters, part of the page itself shows signs of being singed as if he thrust it into a candle or in a fire). The answer is only known to Henry, who is no longer with us.

That said, I have worked diligently the past several months in recovering what I can and editing them. There are 5 letters here which begin in January. If you recall, in “Alexandria Rising” Henry’s letter to Rand was addressed March 5. Henry died in early June. I have done the best work I can in trying to assemble some type of narrative flow or chronology with them.

Some portions of the letters are disjointed, unreadable, appear to make little sense or the writing ceases altogether. I have put my notes throughout the letters in indentions to clarify.

I hope these letters provide some insight or clues into Henry’s journey and what the future may hold for Rand.  There are rumors that the author Mark Wallace Maguire might write a sequel, though it has not been confirmed. If so, I would expect for him to expound on these passages below.

NOTE 1: I still have not been able to obtain a copy of the map that was destroyed.  Apparently, it was the only copy and is lost forever.

NOTE 2: As of this writing, I have an update on Rand. The last dispatch I received was he that was in stable condition. I’ve received reports both from Berlin and eastern North America, but cannot confirm more than that. I am sure more will be revealed of his status in the sequel.

January 3

To my dear grandson Rand,

There is knowledge that must be known, passed on and protected. Perhaps you can consider this a last confession or a call to arms.  There is no real way to start this, except at the beginning, I suppose.

   [Illegible writing for three paragraphs, the only words decipherable are, “changes,” “at present,” “you to know.” Then the writing trails off. New paragraph begins. He appears to be writing about his father, Patrick]. 

Oh yes, then my father, Patrick, when he returned, as I said, he was lucid as ever, but distant. And there were other things. Letters arrived more frequently with air stamps from faraway places like Kiev, Rhodes, even cities I had not heard about in the Far East and the Pacific Rim.

There were also visitors who arrived at all hours. Strange men. They were kind enough. They always brought my mother yellow roses and gave me candy, but after the brief introductions of, “some of your father’s friends from the war,” they would be sequestered to my father’s study where a great quietness would descend for hours, their only presence in the house betrayed by the pipe and cigarette smoke that emanated from that great room.

Father also began keeping strange hours…I was only [Illegible] developing my own night-owl routine that would never leave me. (You, like me, enjoy the silent hours, the moon-washed nights, the times between dusk and dawn). Often I would creep throughout the house, sometimes hoping to steal to the backyard to climb our magnolia tree where I dreamed I could get a better glimpse of the stars, other times I would just meander about, sneaking into the library to sift through the mounds of books and curled up maps. Even though I was 14 or so, I still possessed quite a bit of the child in me and still wanted to find final frontiers to explore, maps to buried treasure and more.

   [The writing breaks off here and is unreadable for four sentences with the only decipherable words being, “cough” and “Anor.”]  
door to his study closed, but behind it I could hear evidence of his presence – the crackle of a fire in the Winter, the occasional sigh, his voice low and muted. We only saw each other once during those hours that was when he surprised me by leaving his office as I was on my way to the backdoor to sneak into the yard. I feigned sleepwalking and the good man he was (he really was a good man, I want to assure you, no matter what else I write, he was a good man Rand) he took me gently by the arm and led me back to my bed. Afterwards, he waited by the door smoking his pipe making sure I was tucked in and past any chance of getting back up. Finally, I heard him leave to [Illegible].

But it wasn’t just the house. He also began keeping odd hours with his job. Mother did not take to that at all. She understood [Illegible, word, “night” only decipherable]  but coming home at 2 or 3 a.m. and some nights not at all took a toll on her faith and she questioned his fidelity. Finally, I later discovered, she had him followed by a private eye for an entire week. She was greatly relieved when the report came back that he had no visitors during

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these hours at his office on campus and seemed only to study. Years later my father confided in me, “Of course, I knew I was being followed. Remember I was Counterintelligence in the Army – they just don’t teach you how to break codes, but necks as well. But I let it be. She needed that peace and I needed space to do my work.”

January 12

To my dear grandson Rand,

When I left for college, I didn’t think much about father’s strange work. I attended college at Harvard as you know and was spending a semester overseas during my sophomore year studying Medieval Literature at Oxford when World War II  broke out as the United States entered the war, “officially” (we had been aiding the Brits for years.) I wanted to contribute. Though I only had a few weeks left, I contacted the consulate and enlisted with the Army Air Corps and was preparing for further orders. Shortly after filing my paperwork, I was visited by a man named Eliot Waterstone. [The name Eliot Waterstone crops up regularly in regard to The Organization. The most I have been able to discover at this point was a message I received via post which only had the words ‘ultra vos sunt 3.3.7’ written on a white sheet of paper. The phrase translated from Latin means, ‘you are not authorized’ or ‘beyond you.’ The numbers could be translated as a holy pattern with the religious symbolism of 3s and 7s or it could be a warning as the addition of the three numbers equals 13, a number used as bad luck or a warning.]

Waterstone told me he was [Illegible for four sentences except for the word, ‘position’] even the survival of my species. Of course, I shrugged him off. How could one serve one’s country better than by fighting? And survival of the species? We all hated the threat of mustard gas, but thought that was a bit overdramatic and sounded borderline psychotic with a bit of Darwinistic tendencies to boot. And why would I want to run from it? But Waterstone pursued me again found me at the pub enjoying lunch, stalked me on my walks. On my final evening before returning to enlist, I returned from a goodbye party at the pub to find him sitting in my room waiting. He said he had incredible things to tell me, amazing things to show me, new, unimaginable ways I could contribute. He was good at persuading, but I began to find him tiresome and was at the point of shoving him out my door when he produced an envelope. Inside was a hand-written note from my father:

Henry, 

I have been in correspondence with Mr.Waterstoneand his Organization and I believe you are in a great place to help a great cause. I have secured you a deferment over here – completely dignified of course – so you can contribute to his operations as we fight a much Greater Enemy than you can imagine. Please follow his advice. I will contact you by phone in a week ortwo. Your loving father

I found the letter unnerving to say the least. But, it was my father’s handwriting and I trusted him more than anyone else, including my own instincts. At Waterstone’s urging, I tossed away my train and ship tickets, told no one of my plans and met him the next morning. I felt awful about leaving, but he promised me it was all being taken care of, that I would return after the war more of a hero than I could imagine and my final work at Harvard would be taken care of. I expected us to catch a train heading south to London, the de facto hq of the Allies at the time, but instead we were picked up by a car and began travelling north toward Scotland. The roads were nothing like they are now and it took us a day and half a night to reach our destination. We drove through dozens of tiny towns, through Glasgow, past Inverness, out into the wilds and the Highlands and toward what I called the end of the world.

[Here the text ends. The next letter starts without a date, but appears to be in the same vein.]

Date Unknown

To my dear grandson Rand,

   [first four sentences unreadable] ….. distant. Every venture into conversation, including Chamberlain’s failures to appease Hitler to the flappers dress to war rations and even Swing music ended with Waterstone barely uttering a word. Eventually, I quit trying to talk and between naps wondered what the devil I had got myself into. Finally, we came to a cluster of standing stones, just under the shadow of Ben Hope Mountain. The stones – half destroyed by weather [Illegible] car drew nearer, I noticed a clump of radio antennas a hundred or so yards away. The car stopped and Waterstone ushered me out. The car drove off with Waterstone and my suitcase inside. I started to run after the car, but stopped. Looked around. I was seemingly left alone. The space inside the stones appeared vacant as if no one had been there for centuries. Then on closer inspection, there was the shape of a man in the shadows of the largest stone. He was clad in a type of drab military fatigues and walked toward me. He introduced himself as “Matthew.”

And that is where my adventure really began.

February 5

I tire quickly and find myself taking more breaks than I intend to. This cancer with the mighty morphine drip cripples my mind. I have appreciated your constant visits and help. Your grandmother often talks very fondly of you. You have given me great comfort and your attention has not been in vain…. But sentimentality has its place and it is not here…

As I was writing before, [Illegible for six or seven sentence] from Mr. Waterstone and a letter from my father. “Good,” he said, apparently pleased with the situation.  I was growing irritated with the lack of information so I finally stopped walking and asked him what was happening, specifically where we were going and what this had to do with the war effort. He clasped me on the shoulder and looked deep into my eyes, staring for what seemed like minutes before finally telling me we were almost to our destination and this had everything to do with the war effort. That the work my father Patrick had started (I was surprised he knew my father’s name) needed to be carried on and I was a perfect candidate. He also assured me I was under no pretense of harm and all would be explained shortly, telling me, “I was in a greater war than I could imagine.” I remember those words precisely, not because of what they meant at the moment, but at what they would mean for the rest of my life…and how true they would become.

February 21

  [A large part of this letter is burnt. I have salvaged what I could] 

At the bottom of the stairs, I was met with the unnerving site of a warren of dozens of desks occupied by plain clothe personnel. There were people typing, listening on headphones, talking into microphones and conversing with each other. A pallor of cigarette smoke hung in the air. Maps, pricked with dozens of red thumbtacks covered the walls. No one took notice of our arrival and after giving me a minute to catch my senses, Matthew directed me to a hallway beyond the warren. We walked by the throng of workers. I tried to take it in, but was overcome by the flurry of action, the rat-a-tat-tat of typewriters, the various languages being spoken into the microphones. It was dizzying.

We came to a doorway and ventured down a hallway, doors on each side, people in those rooms too. Everyone busy. Everyone talking. But no uniforms. Even if this was clandestine counter-intelligence, I expected to see some type of rank and file or decorum, but everyone was dressed in the same olive and khaki. At the end of the hall, we entered. Matthew left me with a handshake and I sat in a waiting room, hopelessly trying to flirt with a pert secretary.

Eventually, I was led into a room where I met Dr. Jefferson Fleming, a man who was to change my life forever. In short, Fleming told me I was being inducted to a group called The Organization, or The Guardians, or to many then, a bastardized version, the Tutores – meaning tutors or protectors depending on which pretentious scholar was translating the name from which language.

         [It appears as if several paragraphs or even pages are missing here]  

But in all this, I was one of the dirty men, forgive me. [Indecipherable writing here for several sentences] 

In your studies, do you recall reading about Hitler’s unusual obsession with the occult? He was fastidious in his search for sacred objects, for tapping into the occult, into what he believed to be super powers to extend his empire.

March 1

I do not want to die with this undone

[Indecipherable writing here for several sentences] 

Once I was sharp, but this illness has dulled me. [Indecipherable] things we have kept secret are in danger of being exploited again.

I have hidden it here for years

Verum in Aeternum

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