In the car on the way to a cardiac arrest. I’ve never heard of this address before, a new block of flats, no doubt. I pass up and down the road, making u-turns in the street, a crazy vortex of blue in the high street. The satnav keeps changing its mind. It wouldn’t surprise me if it suggesting rolling the car onto its roof and burying underground. Instead I pull to the side and radio Control. I hear sirens, and in the rear view mirror I can see my back-up ambulance bullying its way towards me up the street. At the last moment it indicates right, into a narrow courtyard. I throw the radio back on the passenger seat and follow them in. Almost immediately I hear the attendant go open mode on the radio. This isn’t the right address. They need help with the location. Control answers: You should be able to see the car. Can you see the car? I pick up the radio again and tell them that I’m right behind the ambulance, but I’m not on scene.
Stand by, they say.
Meanwhile I reverse back out of the courtyard, blocking the road so the ambulance can come out, too. The attendant calls open mode again: I can see the block from here. Then I do, too. Right next door, set back from the road and hidden in the way that only huge and obvious things can remain hidden. I follow the ambulance into the car park.
The attendant – a new paramedic I haven’t seen before – jumps out and hauls on a couple of bags. I nod to the driver, a guy I have worked with before. I take one of the bags off her and we hurry up the concrete stairwell to the second floor.
There is a woman standing on the landing holding the door open for us, a quivering pocket-sized Terrier tucked under her other arm.
‘She’s in the bath. I don’t think there’s anything you can do,’ she says. The dog growls as we go by.
The door to the bathroom is partially closed. The wall to the right of it, the handle of the door and the door itself are all smeared with blood. The paramedic gently toes the door aside. Puddles of blood on the lino, splashes of blood over the side of the bath, and in the bath, lying on her back fully clothed, a young woman of about thirty. The sleeves of her lumberjack shirt have been rolled up, and her arms have been laid open with a knife. The paramedic checks for signs of life, but it’s a technicality.
‘This is a crime scene. Let’s not disturb anything,’ she says. We reverse out.
Whilst the paramedic and her partner sort out police attendance and clear the bags back out of the flat, I take the mother into the living room to start on the paperwork. She sits straight-backed on the edge of the sofa, and sets the dog on her lap. She begins stroking it with heavy handed passes from head to tail, and at the beginning of each of these passes, the dog seems to compress to half its size, then spring back into shape. It studies me with raisin black eyes.
‘She’s done it before, of course. Many times. But I never thought it would come to this.’
The paramedic comes into the room to take over the paperwork. She thanks me for my help as I stand and give her the clipboard. I tell the woman how sorry I am for her loss, then turn to leave.
As I reach the living room door I notice more blood over by the table in the corner, a splash on the carpet beneath the chair, a spattering around the laptop that stands on and open there.
The screen is dark.
I wonder who will nudge the mouse to see what the girl was reading before she died.