We swing open the heavy iron gate, walk down half a dozen worn stone steps, down to the binned and weed-strangled little flagstone forecourt of this basement flat. Rae rings the buzzer; almost immediately the door is opened by a policewoman.
‘Hi Guys. Keith’s in the bedroom. He’s had a row with his mum on the phone and told her he’s taken another overdose, prescribed medication. Mind your step as you come in.’
The flat is oppressively low and squashed in, dim and very dirty, a feverish thick red paint behind all the film posters, old bikes, clip frames, mosaic mirrors, collapsing bookcases and precarious towers of clutter. There are sentences in scratchy black ink on the walls. I can only make out the odd phrase in passing: Tell them everything, tell them it helps / Ring, ring, ring if you feel this / I wouldn’t if I were you because you never know.
I bark my shin against a bike pedal.
‘Careful,’ says the policewoman, who seems quite at home.
‘Can we get some more lights on?’
‘This is it, I’m afraid.’
We follow her along the passageway, the clogged artery that serves all the rooms off to the right. We come to the bedroom and see Keith, a man in his thirties, as thin and drawn-out as a spindly underground root. He lies on his front hugging a filthy pillow. Next to him is an ancient brindle and white English bull terrier, who raises up her long head to sniff the air as we stand in the doorway.
‘The ambulance are here, Keith.’
He opens his eyes, but only one is clear of the pillow. Both dog and man seem to sense rather than see us in the gloom.
‘This is what he’s taken.’ The policewoman hands me some empty packets of carbamazepine.
‘Are you epileptic, Keith? Or do you take these as an anti-psychotic?’
He shakes his head.
He shakes his head again. ‘I don’t want to go into hospital. I just want to get some sleep.’
‘Well, if you’ve taken all these – and had a bit to drink, by the looks of it – you will have to come to hospital.’
‘Come on Keith.’
Rae grabs some trousers off a chair, and puts a pair of trainers next to the bed.
‘Let’s get you ready for the off.’
‘I’m not going.’
‘We can sort out something for your dog.’
Keith suddenly sits up.
‘There’s a number on a piece of paper just outside the door. Call Chris. He’ll take Mandy for me.’
I turn round and the policewoman is holding out a scrappy piece of paper to me.
‘There,’ she says. ‘Some kind of support worker.’
I look back at Keith, who is sitting cross-legged in his pants, scratching Mandy between the ears. The room is as forlorn as the rest of the house, great hammocks of dusty black cobwebs in all the corners, a pair of heavy red curtains sagging across the French windows, some acrylic paintings nailed up – abstracts, self-portraits, smeared straight out of the tube - and on every available wall space, more handwritten paragraphs, urgent scrawls, reading like the other half of an ongoing conversation.
‘He did the same thing a couple of weeks ago,’ says the policewoman, silencing her radio. ‘Do you need me for anything else or can I stand down?’
‘No. I think we’re good.’
I look back to Keith. ‘Ready?’
He throws himself backwards on the bed, his arms straight out to the sides.
Mandy waits for the bed to stop bouncing, then settles back down to sleep.