We agreed to meet him in the bar of the Mayflower Hotel at 3 the following Monday, a time, we noted, when the spacious, somewhat dimly lit bar is usually quite empty.
There was quite a bit of snow on the ground after the weekend's blizzard that had shut down all of the area, including the three airports. The underground portion of the Metro was working, though quite sporadically. Still, we managed to start out early and only walked in from the hotel lobby entrance about 15 minutes late. Our Mr. Platte was sitting in an isolated corner booth; we told him he would recognize us as a mature couple and that I would be wearing a brown Borsalino. A man stood up and somewhat discretely signaled us over to his booth. It was clear from that single movement that this was a figure accustomed to going unnoticed. Skin pasty, hair partially gray, he wore a gray worsted suit, vaguely yellowed white shirt, nondescript tie and an unreadable demeanor. Strangely, as we approached him, we picked up the scent of a particularly old fashioned after-shave lotion. I could see my companion's nostrils flare slightly as she caught the first whiffs.
When Platte didn't offer his card, it was also clear that this was going to be an unusual business meeting. Particularly after we offered him ours and there was no reciprocity. Our host had already got a tall, colorless drink that fizzled slowly on the dark table in front of him. He took a seat first, then offered his hand. We sat down with our backs to the room and began with some very small weather talk. Then Platte managed to get the attention of the waiter and we ordered a couple of tap pints.
“Look,” I said, “ I don't know who you are or what you want so it's time you put your cards on the table, we've got a lot of things to do today and little interest in delaying our plans.”
“Well,” said Platte, “I'm not sure you'll welcome this but I am here representing people who believe you have no right whatsoever to the material you're planning to publish. The capsule was, as your research indicated, found by a young man who should have turned it over to his employer, the government. Had he, this hoax would never have seen the light of day. You my friend have been duped. There is nothing to the capsule except that it is US Government property found in a sensitive locale.”
“That's what this all about. And if you persist in going forward with this scheme you will no doubt face serious consequences.”
“Did you say you represented individuals or are you government agent of some kind?”
“All you will hear from me for now is that you have no right to publish this so-called translation that you are calling EggN. You've already indicated that the capsule was probably stolen or taken inappropriately out of a locker at ASU and that it was found by a US Park Service employee. Even if you have gone ahead and got the permission of that former employee –and let us all be clear that the name Thomas Doolittle is as much of a fiction as your recount of its discovery-- you would have no right to the contents.”
“Well, what would you say if we contended that the manuscript, itself is a work of fiction, and the introduction we published was part of that fiction?”
“I am not here to play games with you, sir.”
Throughout, Platte spoke his lines without showing the slightest emotion, as if he himself had preprogrammed our responses.
We paused the conversation long enough to allow the drinks to be delivered and as soon as we were again out of earshot of anyone in the bar (though clearly not that of the video tape being made of the meeting) we picked it up.
“Are you going to say who you are, who you represent and provide the property identity? Otherwise, my inclination is to end this conversation right here.”
Platte's response was slow and menacing: “You will be hearing more from us shortly, in the meantime you would be more than prudent in holding up on your plans to make public this ridiculous work.”
And so, readers, we apologize for failing to follow up with our promise to publish chapter by chapter the translation now in our hands.
We have decided that we have no choice for the moment other then to take the menaces of this man called Platte seriously. In the meantime we have taken precautions to protect the manuscript's multiple whereabouts from theft or intrusion. We will be talking to legal representation and other Article 1 advocacy groups. There is, of course, no way we can protect ourselves from denial of service attacks without a certain amount of aid from certain groups.
Truth in publishing: This is not the script for some modern day film noir, even if we have perhaps been seeing too many in recent weeks.