Shamus O’Reilly had lived what seemed like a million lifetimes over the past seventy years. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the sixth child of a devout Roman Catholic family. It was tough growing up in an area of the city that was predominantly Protestant. Struggling, with no genuine prospects for the future, the disillusioned eighteen-year-old joined the Provisional Irish Republican Army. O’Reilly was assigned to a three-man active service unit whose duties included constructing explosive devices and planting roadside bombs throughout the Northern Ireland countryside for the purpose of ambushing British troops and Royal Ulster Constabulary units.
In 1981, in retaliation for the death of famed IRA member and republican politician Bobby Sands, who had starved himself to death in prison as a protest against injustices perpetrated by the British government, O’Reilly travelled covertly to Manchester, England. His assignment: set off a car bomb in the middle of a busy city square. It was around this time that the IRA veteran began to question why he was even involved in this fight. Like most Catholics in the North, he longed for a united Ireland, but at the same time, he could not bring himself to murder innocent people.
While in the U.K., O’Reilly devised a plan to change his identity and get out of the terrorist organization for good. At the time, many Irish citizens were establishing good lives for themselves and their families in the United States, Australia and Canada. O’Reilly arrived at Pearson Airport in Toronto in 1982 under an assumed name.
The aging Irishman believed that he’d left a war-torn past behind him. But now, as a once-free and prosperous continent descended rapidly into tyranny, images from his childhood and early adulthood came reeling back to haunt him. He recalled with horror the events of January 30, 1972, the Bogside Massacre, forever etched into the memory of the world as ‘Bloody Sunday.’ On that fateful day, members of the British Parachute Regiment gunned down thirteen Irish Catholics who were marching for civil rights.
For the past ten years, O’Reilly had been living in seclusion in a log home in the midst of the spectacular countryside northwest of Kamloops. Almost completely self-sufficient, O’Reilly rarely ventured out. So far, the authorities had not bothered him. He prayed it stayed that way.
It had been years since Jake had ridden on a four-wheeler. He held on tightly to Neil as the off-road vehicle bumped over the uneven terrain. Jake was hoping that this former IRA operative was truly who Calvin and Neil claimed he was. They drove into the small yard in front of the cabin. The entire property was surrounded by thick forest.
O’Reilly jumped at hearing the faint buzz of engines in the vicinity. It was the distinctive sound of ATV’s. O’Reilly was aware of small groups of individuals who lived off the grid in the mountains hunting, fishing, gathering berries and growing whatever food they could. He reached for the loaded .223 standing upright behind the kitchen door. As the two all-terrain vehicles approached, O’Reilly stepped out onto his deck. He aimed the rifle at them.
Calvin and Neil turned off the engines. Jake felt a surge of adrenaline coursing through his veins. He was eye-to-eye with the bushy bearded maniac waving a high-powered rifle in his direction. He certainly wasn’t keen about the prospect of being killed out here.
“Turn around and get the hell away from here now!” O’Reilly ordered.
“Shamus, it’s us,” Calvin said.
“Who are you?” O’Reilly pointed his rifle intimidatingly.
“Calvin Sorenson and Neil Owlchild.”
“Remove your helmets…very slowly.”
O’Reilly kept the rifle trained on them as they all took off their helmets. He was relieved.
“Oh, yes. How are you boys? Doing much big game hunting these days?” he peered at Jake with suspicious eyes. “Who is this?”
“Shamus, I’d like you to meet Jake Scribner,” Neil said. “He’s a combat veteran. Been helping us out.”
O’Reilly set the .223 down.
“Nice to meet you Jake. You lads might as well come inside.”
Jake, Calvin and Neil followed their host inside. Stuffed trophy heads of elk, deer, bear and wild boar were displayed high on the walls of the home’s interior.
“Take a seat there, lads,” O’Reilly said as he pointed to a couch and two chairs.
Jake noticed that O’Reilly was exceptionally fit for a man of his age.
“I take it you’re making a go of it out here in the bush,” O’Reilly said. “It’s quite obvious you ain’t in the city or else you wouldn’t be allowed to roam freely.”
“Our hideout is a few hours east of here,” Calvin explained. “Shamus, the reason why we’re here today is…well…we need weapons. We’re going to launch a guerrilla war against the system.”
O’Reilly’s eyes lit up like diamonds.
“Good to hear boys. You know, I’d probably ruffle a lot of feathers by saying this, but I’ve noticed since immigrating to Canada that many folks in this country are complacent. Hell, the U.S. isn’t a whole lot better. Perhaps it’s because North Americans haven’t known hard times in living memory. Heck, there hasn’t been a genuine war fought on continent in over two hundred years. And no, I don’t consider the U.S. Civil War to be in that category. It’s going to take good people such as yourselves to win our freedoms back. I’m getting a little old for that game but I’ll help you any way that I can.”
Jake, Calvin and Neil were happy to hear this.
“Follow me downstairs,” Shamus said as he opened the door to the basement.
They followed Shamus down a flight of stairs. In contrast to the burning temperatures outside, it was remarkably cool down here. O’Reilly turned on a light. He then removed a false wall. Inside were two AR-15 rifles hanging on a shelf, half a dozen or so boxes of ammunition as well as four brick-sized chunks of C4 plastic explosive, blasting caps and detonators.
“I don’t have much. You’re welcome to take one of the Armelites, if you wish,” O’Reilly stated. “Jake, do you have much experience with plastic explosives?”
“Some. I’ve used it behind enemy lines before. Calvin’s uncle used to be in the Canadian Army engineering core.”
“What branch of the service were you in?” O’Reilly asked him.
“United States Air Force. I was a combat controller.”
O’Reilly took down one of the AR-15s and presented it to Jake.
“Calvin probably told you that I was in the IRA. We used to have a nickname for these little instruments of death and misery. The ‘Widow Maker.’ Many of those Royalist bastards met their Waterloo at the end of one of these.”