‘Are you the man who stole my chairs, my carpets and my pictures?’
‘No. My name’s Spence and this is Rae. We’re from the ambulance.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yep. Your neighbour, Sheila, has called us because she’s worried about you.’
‘Every last stick of furniture gone, the carpets, everything. It’s an absolute scandal. Are you sure it wasn’t you?’
Margaret leans forward and scans me with eyes so ancient they carry only a memory of blue. She is sitting in her coat, buttoned up, ready for the off, her battered old brown handbag clasped on her lap. Sheila is standing next to her with one hand on her shoulder, as if she is posing for a plate photograph.
‘She’s not herself,’ she says.
Out on the ambulance, Margaret settles into the seat and brightens.
‘Are you taking me home?’
‘Where is your home, Margaret?’
She gives the address we have just led her out of.
‘Do you know why we’re here today, Margaret?’
‘I haven’t the faintest idea,’ she says, drawing her handbag closer to her. ‘All I know is that some man came and took my furniture and he had no right to it. I think it was you. I think this is all part of your stupid game.’
‘The reason Sheila called us out was that you don’t seem yourself. She says you’ve been very confused these past few days.’
‘Confused? My dear, I was fifty years in the government. I think you’ll find I know precisely what day of the week it is.’
Her eyes bore into me, two topaz stones set in a weathered mask.
‘And I want my furniture back.’
Later in the journey she asks me again where we are taking her.
‘To the hospital,’ I say. ‘You need to see a doctor.’
She pauses. A confusion settles on her, then lifts, then settles again.
‘Will my parents be there?’ she says. ‘My elder brother Jeremy?’
‘How old is Jeremy?’ I ask her, as gently as I can.
‘Forty,’ she says.
Then she looks at me, and smiles, as the ambulance floods with time.