Chad’s like, ‘It’s a small thank you gift.’ I’m there, ‘You didn’t need to get me a gift.’ I immediately hope it’s a speed boat
The old man offers me a brandy. I tell him no thanks, on account of it being three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. I’ll stick with the beer, if it’s all the same to you. He pours himself one.
I’m there, “Is there a reason you asked me here?”
He looks out the window of his study, onto Ailesbury Road. He goes, “Have you any idea how Denis O’Brien manages to keep his hair in the condition it’s in? So lustrous? So buoyant?”
I’m genuinely like, “What?” because he said it was, like, urgent?
“Of course you don’t. Because the chap’s only told four people. Dermot’s known for years. So has Magnier. And obviously JP. The Musketeers, as I call them! And then there’s me. Oh, it’s a weight, Ross, I’m not going to deny it.”
I’m there, “Are you telling me you dragged me out of bed on a Saturday afternoon to listen to this? How much have you had to drink?”
“I’ve written it down,” he goes. “The secret. I promised that I wouldn’t, but there you have it. It’s simple really once you know it. Only Denis could have come up with it. I’ve put it in the safe. In case anything ever happens to me.”
“Something is about to happen to you. I’m about to beat you to death with this Heineken can.”
A cor pulls up outside. Two doors slam and the old man suddenly comes alive. “It’s them,” he goes, taking another look out the window, and I suddenly realise that he’s been stalling me.
I’m like, “Who? Who are we waiting for?”
I hear the front door open, then close. Then the door of the study opens and in walks Hennessy, followed by a much younger man who I straight away recognise, despite the dyed black hair, despite the goatee, despite the sunnies.
I’m like, “The Chad!” and I say it like that as well – like this is an actual movie we’re in?
Hennessy goes, “Five minutes is all you got,” then he and the old man leave us alone.
“Where have you been?” is the only thing I can think to say.
He’s like, “I can’t tell you that.”
I’m there, “Where are you going?”
He goes, “I can’t tell you that either. Hennessy arranged it. A new safehouse. A new name.”
I’m there, “Even if you told me your new name, I’d refuse to recognise it,” and I hear my voice break. “I’d still go on calling you The Chad.”
There’s no doubt it’s a moment.
“Look,” he goes, “I couldn’t have left without saying goodbye. Without saying goodbye and thank you. You and Sorcha, you were incredible to me. Your hospitality. Your kindness. You’re a pretty amazing couple, you know that?”
I’m there, “Dude, I’m sorry about the Gords. I’d no idea they were going to suddenly burst in the door like that.”
He shrugs. “That’s going to be my life now,” he goes. “Slipping out of back doors. Always looking over my shoulder. Like Richard Kimble, huh?”
“I still don’t see why it has to be like that.”
“I leaked classified information, Ross.”
“But this agency you said you worked for . . . ”
“The Central Intelligence Agency.”
“Could we not – I don’t know – talk to them? Tell them you’re sorry. Has Hennessy even thought of that? I’ve never had an actual proper job, but aren’t these employers supposed to give you, like, three warnings – verbal, then written, then just one other one?”
He just smiles at me, patiently, like there’s so much about the world that I don’t understand and explaining it to me would only spoil my innocence.
He goes, “Remember what I told you about your swing. Hinge your wrists and rotate your lower body.”
I’m there, “I will.”
“And say goodbye to Sorcha for me.”
“She already misses you. Even just to have someone to run her outfits by. ‘Does this go with this?’ I tend to slip into a trance and just nod, whereas you actually listen. That’s a genuine gift you have.”
“And don’t take shit off that daughter of yours. Okay? She’s a bully.”
“Tell me about it. She storted on me again the second you were out the door. She was like, ‘Let’s see how big you are now that you don’t have your friend for back-up anymore.’”
“Stand up to her.”
I tell him I will, even though I probably won’t.
He goes, “Gimme a hug.”
I pull him close to me and I hold him tight, like I never want to let him go. And I don’t mean it in that way, in case that’s what you’re thinking, even though his trapezius muscles have to be felt to be believed. I’d love to know his secret.
“There’s one more thing,” he goes. “It’s a small thank you gift.”
I’m there, “You didn’t need to get me a gift.”
I immediately hope it’s a speed boat. There’s a little bit of me that’s never actually grown up.
He’s like, “That Leinster Schools final you played in.”
The Chad was a massive, massive fan of my rugby. It was one of the things we bonded over.
I’m there, “What about it?”
He goes, “I uploaded it onto YouTube. The entire match.”
That floors me. I’m too in shock to even speak.
He’s there, “People need to see it, Ross. The entire world needs to realise how good you were.”
He gives me a manly slap on the upper orm, then he goes, “However short our time, it’s been one of the greatest privileges of my life to be your friend,” and then he turns and he leaves – gone to bring happiness to someone else’s life, maybe even yours.
I wipe away a genuine tear, then under my breath, I go, “Same.”