Even if we had no experience of the area we’d know this block was trouble; it takes Mr Jessop about a minute to let us in his front door, with a formidable scraping of bolts, catching of locks, rattling of chains, sliding of metal props. Finally he peeps round the opening, a frail, crinkle-cut old man in shiny trousers, button down shirt and a white wig so conspicuous it could be a nylon mop-head placed carefully on his head for a prank.
‘Come in,’ he smiles, and carefully shuts the door behind us.
We follow him into the flat; he plops himself back down in his command chair, a patchy, corduroy affair quietly steaming in front of a cylindrical fire so old it’s a surprise to see it runs on electricity.
‘I’ve got this pain,’ Mr Jessop says, leaning to one side. ‘Just here.’ He rubs the right side of his abdomen. ‘The last lot checked me over and said they couldn’t find anything wrong, but it’s really no better.’
‘When were they here?’ I ask him, looking at his clock. Five in the morning. The room is so hot I feel myself being drawn down into a stifling pit of unconsciousness. ‘The ambulance,’ I add, suddenly opening my eyes wide and wondering for a moment if I’d actually passed out.
‘Early,’ he says. ‘About two.’
‘Did they leave a sheet?’
He points to the table.
Everything is lined up. A comb wrapped in a single sheet of kitchen towel; a pen, a pencil and a shopping list; a cardboard sign saying water off; a glasses case; a list of phone numbers; three packets of medication, and a German phrase book.
‘Do you have any relatives nearby?’
‘My sister and her husband live up in Scotland,’ he says, then adds: ‘She’s not well,’ as if she’d be round every day if she was.
I find the ambulance sheet and read through it.
‘It says here you did some vigorous dancing last night?’
‘Yes,’ he says. ‘I was up at the community centre.’
‘What kind of vigorous dancing?’
‘Jive. It’s coming back, apparently.’
I try to imagine Mr Jessop jiving. His wig falling over his eyes.
‘Do you think you might have injured yourself – erm – jiving?’
‘It’s possible,’ he says, rubbing his side. ‘It was a bit sore after.’
‘Everything checks out,’ says Rae, taking off the BP cuff. ‘How old did you say you were, Mr Jessop?’
‘Well, your blood pressure’s better than mine.’
When he smiles his silvery teeth crackle audibly.
‘I look after myself,’ he says.