It was a good one; really it was. At first glance, I’d thought it was genuine, but there was something wrong with the language in the paragraph Brendan had supposedly written in the center. It wasn’t the content; that all matched the time period, his education and mission, all that. But the phrasing and some of the syntax was really sixth, maybe even seventh century.
Well, according to me. I knew some who would dispute that, but I felt strongly from my own research that the Roman influence on Celtic languages was less in Brendan’s time than some of my colleagues believed. They based their reasoning on geographic, historical, semantic issues. I did, too, but I included something my esteemed colleagues from outside Ireland seemed to dismiss: the Celtic spirit. I was convinced that it would have taken longer, perhaps centuries longer, for certain clearly Roman words to have made their way into the writing of a Celtic cleric.
I hoped Dubin would correctly interpret my inaction as stunned silence. I hoped he wouldn’t know its source unless I wanted him to know.
“Amazing; just amazing.”
“But is it genuine, in your highly trained and very expensive opinion, Dr. Martin?”
“It certainly looks genuine.”
“Don’t fence with me. Don’t tell me what it looks like, tell me what it is.”
I had to assume he knew, and I had to assume that saying so would enhance my position rather than endangering it. Yeah, I know what happens when you assume; I was hoping two assumptions would be like a double-negative or something.
“Nope. I mean, it’s a spectacular forgery, but it’s not even old. The paper is, the ink is, which astonishes me since ink that old is a museum piece in itself. But the text is wrong, and wrong in a way no one would have thought of even five hundred years ago. In fact, I suspect that Dr. Simon Thursgood was involved in producing it, except he’s been dead for two—”
Dead for two years. Dead. As in, well, deceased. A condition I was trying to avoid.
“Yes; sadly, Dr. Thursgood left us tragically some time ago. I suspect it may have been diet which caused his ailment, but I can’t help feeling that a certain injudicious attitude, more specifically, a certain injudicious attitude adjustment, exacerbated his condition.”
Cripes. I didn’t wanna be poisoned any more than I wanted to be shot. Simon was a prig; he dismissed amateurs who hadn’t studied under him as ‘playing at history’ while his students were accorded silver status, just beneath his golden halo. Arrogant jerk who knew so much about Celtic history it really annoyed me, because more than once he’d caught me in a mistake, early in my writing. I’d acknowledged and adjusted, but Simon wasn’t interested in either ‘live and let live’ or ‘forgive and forget’—he thrived more on thinly veiled references to ‘well-intentioned storytellers’ and such.
Still, he didn’t deserve to die. He really was one of the best, and probably took more to his grave than most Celtic historians will ever know.
Knowing that his death wasn’t food poisoning—I mean, not the kind that had been diagnosed—made me glad I’d been genuinely sorry at his passing. I would have felt like a jerk anyway, but to have been pleased at the death of a cantankerous rival and then discover that he’d been murdered, well, that would have been worse.
Of course, he most certainly had been involved in this particular forgery. I wondered if he was supposed to be involved in its ‘discovery’ and ‘authentication’ as well. It would have fit; the syntactic errors (okay, in my opinion) were unique to his perception of written Celtic history. Even some of his closest colleagues disputed that ending right there, and that entire word. No, only Thursgood would have claimed it was genuine, and with the right presentation, his place in history would have been set. I doubt any of us could have effectively disputed the genuineness of the document in the eyes of the news-of-the-day press, and Dubin probably had a program of success in place which would have rendered opposing opinions moot.
“So, what’s our plan? I assume you want me to authenticate this. If I can come up with a good enough argument, my agreeing with Thursgood even posthumously would give my pronouncement incredible weight.”
“Indeed. It was a primary force in my decision to employ your services. Of course, O’Quinn committed some egregious errors in judgment, leading to his own demise, but he did perform the important service of providing you with appropriate incentive to visit our emerald isle.”
“You mean he kidnapped me, so you didn’t have to.”
“To put it baldly, if you must.”
“Well, I’m here, and I can tell I’m dealing with a man of the world now, not a religio-political nut like O’Quinn. So, outline the plan and let’s see how much you’ve got right.”
Great merciful heavens, Web. D’ya have to talk to him like that?
Dubin smiled. “You have, as my friend Leon would say, chutzpah. Yes, let’s review and see how much I’ve got right, and whether you’ll end this little adventure alive and wealthy, or missing, presumed dead.”
And he smiled again. I went for a ‘serious getting down to work’ face since any attempt to smile would have caused some kind of brain damage.
“I suspect more comfortable environs would be conducive to, shall we say, plain speaking and good understanding. Feany, lead the way.”
Feany plucked at my sleeve and pointed between the piles. I headed for the door, catching glimpses of a stunning admixture of forgeries and genuines; a manuscript that was pre-Columbian, if my eyes worked at all, and another looking to be from 1917 which was just another spectacular fake. Dubin had big plans, and it made me wonder how much he’d already polluted the waters with his well-made counterfeits.
I didn’t even bother wondering where we were going. Unless Siobhan and friends could tail a private jet, I was on my own.