We walked across the gravel of the carport, then across an unkempt grassy area and down concrete steps to a rocky beach. There, over the sound of the waves, Dubin explained his plan.
He had arranged for a professor of Celtic history to ‘find’ the Brendan map and announce it to the world. I was to allow others to comment on its authenticity to see who else might support it. He hinted that some of the supporters might be ‘associates’ of his, but that they would only speak up if no other linguists or historians accepted the map as genuine.
Once the general discussion was in full force, I would authenticate the map myself. My only real job would be to play on the well-known disparity of thought between myself and poor Thursgood; I had to make my change of heart appear convincing.
Of course, that was my job according to Dubin. My real job was to bring the farce to an end before I had to make any public statement which would damage my credibility in the Celtic academic world; a step it’d be hard to undo. I was surprised that Dubin intimated he had an entire payroll of my colleagues, but that might have been bluster to impress or intimidate me. I had a hard time believing there were that many intellectuals motivated by greed or fear; most of them, whether I agreed with them or not, put the truth above all else, which was why they were so passionate when they believed something they couldn’t prove conclusively—the elusiveness of hard evidence was maddening to them all.
Dubin made it clear that it wasn’t necessary to know who would announce the find, or who might be his paid supporters.
“But what if things don’t go exactly as planned? How do I follow up with you for changes?”
“There are no changes to my plans, Dr. Martin. Occasionally there are delays, but these are nearly always human in nature, and humans, I’ve discovered, can always be readjusted or replaced.” His continued casual attitude about using people as tools was surreal; it was like playing chess, and he was simply announcing that he’d be willing to sacrifice a knight to take a queen. I did my best to slip into the same mentality, make it a chess game, so I could keep my personal feelings out of it.
I realized he was watching the expression on my face, and decided a little truth was the best lie. “Just considering the relative benefits of being a pawn in your game, versus having a game of my own elsewhere.”
He blinked slowly, never taking his eyes off me. If he was waiting for me to say more, he could wait.
He gave up first. “Should your contributions go as planned, Dr. Martin, you’ll be much more than a pawn. I do, though, appreciate your realistic appraisal of your current position on the board.”
“Just remember: kings and pawns do not fraternize. If you attempt to contact me personally I will replace you, swiftly. I have met with you personally to observe for myself certain personality traits and characteristics which will be necessary to the success of my venture. I am not convinced of your, for lack of a more accurate word, loyalty; I have merely convinced myself of your ability. Should your loyalty be insufficient . . . but perhaps it’s best not to belabor the point.”
“Feany will be taking me to my jet, and thence to other climes. You may take his unsatisfactory rattly tin box, as you call them, and go wherever you like. The keys are in it, and it should have plenty of petrol. Since you brought nothing with you, feel free to take the car and leave immediately.” He wasn’t suggesting, he was instructing.
“Right. I’m wearing what I brought; good enough. Any chance I could take that little book I was looking at? I’m considering working with the author on a children’s series and—”
“Please, feel free to purchase a copy of Mr. Stampton’s book; Galway has many fine booksellers.” His glare was almost physical. I decided not to push it, what with being a pawn and all. “Fine; just saving myself a little time. I’ll be off, then.”
The little red Fiat Punto wasn’t quite the rattly tin box Dubin thought. He’d gotten the other bits right: keys were in, and the tank was full.
He’d followed me to the top of the concrete steps. He didn’t move from that spot until I was heading out the drive. I saw Feany come out the door, glance my direction, and cross to Dubin’s shiny black behemoth; then they were lost to sight behind the bushes.
It was only a minute back to the Barna Road, and half an hour into Galway. It gave me time to review a few things, but not time to reach much of a conclusion.
Dubin certainly didn’t trust me, which meant he was positive he had me on a leash. It was possible his own greed and selfishness made him blind to another man’s altruism, but I had to act as if he really was in control. I didn’t think it was the best possible move to drive from Dubin straight to Siobhan or Rob; that seemed like a recipe for mayhem.
I still wasn’t sure about the coincidence of Dubin renting a house in the tiny village where there was a publishing house I’d had contact with. I’d almost gone by to see how they reacted to my being there unexpectedly, but the argument against driving straight to Siobhan seemed to apply equally to anyone else until I knew for certain who was on which side, and what Dubin’s control program was. Besides, I felt, just as I’d known I wasn’t married, that Cló Iar-Chonnachta was simply a publisher of Gaelige books and music (music? yup; they produced CDs of Celtic music as well; nice memory) who’d wanted to work with me, and not another front for Dubin’s wickedness.
I probably wasn’t the only one with sense enough to know Dubin would watch me; in fact, Rob and Siobhan were professionals: they probably knew what to do better than I. Siobhan had assumed they’d be able to follow me, and was hoping to catch Dubin in the midst of offering me an illicit proposal. In the past, apparently, they’d never been able to put him in physical proximity of the forged artifacts, which made convicting him difficult. Her outline during the drive down from Galway to south Kerry hadn’t included much in the way of a Plan B, but she had one; she and Rob and Mossie weren’t just sitting around hoping I’d sort it out.
I decided to go be somewhere they’d know to look for me, and let the professionals call the shots.
I parked in what was becoming a familiar car park, and walked to Tigh Coili.