‘I stare at my wife and I think, please, Sorcha, for once in your life, do the wrong thing’
It’s ten-past-six on Tuesday and I’m doing the usual weekday thing for me, which is having one or two cans while watching Xposé. It’s nice for my American friend The Chad to pick up one or two south Dublin customs while he’s here. Of course when Glenda appears – talking about Cheryl’s new tattoo – his eyes are out on literally stalks. I’m like: “Nice, huh?” He goes: “Who is she?”
I just laugh. I’m there: “She’s actually a really good friend of mine.”
He’s like: “Are you serious?”
“She very nearly could have been more. But unfortunately . . .”
“What? What happened?”
“I’m going to surprise you now by quoting Romeo and Juliet.”
“Okay, go on.”
“When are you gonna realise it was just that the time was wrong?”
He nods. I can sometimes be deep.
“I’m going to get you another Heineken,” I go, “to wash that last one down.”
He laughs then? “Jesus,” he goes, “it’s six o’clock on a weekday evening and I’m absolutely wasted.”
I’m like, “When in Rome, my friend! When in Rome!”
He laughs. We just click.
I’m on the way out to the kitchen when all of a sudden the doorbell rings. I open the door to discover two of Templemore’s finest standing there, their badges already stuck out in front of them.
“If it’s about that wing mirror I clipped on Blackrock Main Street,” I straight away go, “let me just mention in my defence that it was a stupid focking place for you to pork.”
It ends up not being about that, though?
The one on the left goes, “We’re looking for someone,” and he hands me a photograph of The Chad. And that’s when my hort suddenly quickens.
I’m there: “I’ve never seen him before in my life.”
He goes: “You barely even looked at it. Look again.”
I do. Then I just, like, shake my head. “No, I haven’t seen him around.”
“Funny,” the other dude goes, “you’re one of the few people on this road who hasn’t. He’s something of a local celebrity, it seems. He’s in and out of O’Brien’s every day.”
I end up silently kicking myself. The dude was supposed to be keeping a low profile and there I was sending him out for focking cans every night.
The same dude goes, “He was also seen driving a Lamborghini – the same colour as the one outside.”
“Come on,” I go, “this is Blackrock. Do you know how many red Lamborghinis there are in this port of the world?”
“Yes, I do, as a matter of fact – there are three.”
“Three? I would have said it was more than that.”
“No, it’s three.”
“Well, it’s like my old dear says – we’re going focking backwards as a country. Anyway, I’d love to be able to help you, but I’ve never seen that dude before in my life. Now, if you’ll excuse me . . .”
I go to shut the door in their faces, except at that exact moment, I see Sorcha pulling up in her cor outside. She cops the squad cor and she automatically assumes the worst.
“Is this about the wing mirror?” she goes, then she ends up basically turning me in. “I told him to stop, Gorda.”
“It’s not about a traffic offence,” the more talkative of the two goes. “We’re looking for someone,” and he hands Sorcha the photograph he showed me.
Sorcha doesn’t know that our houseguest is a fugitive from the American justice system, so I make sure to go, “I was just telling them that we’d never clapped eyes on him before”, and Sorcha – even though she hates lying as much as she hates, I don’t know, war crimes and people who don’t recycle – has the presence of mind to go: “Yes, my husband’s right. I’ve never seen him before. What has he supposedly done?”
The main dude takes the photograph back from her and smiles. “Rather curious,” he goes, “that your husband didn’t see fit to ask that question. He’s wanted for questioning in the United States. He stole some property from an agency that he worked for.”
“An agency? What kind of agency?”
“The Central Intelligence Agency.”
Sorcha’s jaw hits the pretty-much floor. I don’t know much about world events, but it’s fairly obvious from her reaction that we’re in deep S, H, one, T here.
“Are you saying he, like, leaked secrets?” Sorcha goes.
“I don’t know what he did or didn’t do. Our job is just to find him. There’s an extradition warrant. And you need to understand that harbouring him is a very, very serious offence indeed. Is he here?”
I stare at my wife and I think, please, Sorcha, for once in your life, do the wrong thing. The Chad has changed our lives. He’s improved my golf swing. He’s strengthened our marriage. He’s done all the little jobs around the gaff that Sorcha’s been asking me to do for years.
“No,” Sorcha goes, barefaced, just like that.
And I stort to breathe easily again, until I spot Honor coming up the path, a Brown Thomas bag swinging from either hand. She has a look on her face, the same look I remember from the day she was born into this world. A look that says: ‘Oh my God, I am so focking bored with everyone and everything!’
She snatches the photograph out of the Gorda dude’s hand, takes one look at it and goes: “He’s in the sitting room.”
The two dudes look at each other. I stand firm. I give them the same hord shoulder that Denis Leamy got when we played against each other back in the day, but they still get around me – unlike Denis Leamy – and they pile into the living room.
Except The Chad isn’t there. He’s gone. And the only evidence that he was ever here is eight empty beer cans on the coffee table – I had five – and a kitchen door flapping open in the late August breeze.
ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE