The lowest level of the underground car park only has a couple of cars left, huddled up close to the barriers. The rest of the space leads off before us, a strip-lit catacomb, resonantly empty, tiny stalactites of gunge quivering from the joints in the concrete ceiling, dripping into puddles of oily water.
‘We need a ball of string and a sword,’ says Frank, playing his torch ahead. ‘Hello? Ambulance?’
A voice from the other side. ‘Over here mate.’
Vince has overdosed on heroin. He lies on his side, taking occasional, deep-brain gasps, the very minimum. His girlfriend Sonia stands over him, swaying from side to side with a beer can in her hand, her long hair hanging down partially obscuring her face. Her words are slurred but she’s still able to tell us what we need to know.
‘Where’s the needle, Sonia?’
‘Don’t worry, mate. I’m good about that shit. I dropped it in the can. Listen.’
She gives it a shake. It rattles.
‘How long’s he been like this?’
‘Twenty minutes or so. I tried pinching him out of it but it didn’t do no good. So then I called you. Sorry. Sorry, mate. It’s a fuss about nothing, I know.’
She kneels down by Vince and shakes him by the shoulder. ‘Vince! Vince, you muppet. You o-deed again. Vince!’
We set him up with an airway and oxygen mask. I support his breathing whilst Frank jabs him in the arm with a shot of Narcan.
‘What’s he like when he comes out of these?’ asks Frank.
She shrugs. ‘All right. He’s all right. I mean to be honest with you he won’t be all that happy about it, but he’s all right. Aren’t you? Hey? Vince?’
After a few minutes Vince starts to show signs of movement. He groans, and finally sits up. I take off the mask as he gags and pulls out the airway. Sonia kneels beside him and hugs his head.
‘Vince, mate. You were so out of it. These guys saved your life, man!’
He curses blindly and pushes her away.
‘I’ll feckin’ do yous’ he says. ‘The feck.’
‘Vince! They saved your life.’
He staggers to his feet, his legs planted more than shoulder width apart, swaying forwards and backwards so violently it’s a miracle he stays upright. ‘The feck are yous,’ he says, drool from his lower lip like one of the stalactites has taken root in his mouth.
‘Vince – ease off, mate. You need to go to hospital so they can keep an eye on you. I think you’ve had some of that strong gear that’s going around.’
Vince takes a swing, but all his movements are so thickened by heroin it’s like he’s fighting underwater. Frank could make a cup of tea in the time he has to side-step the punch; Vince topples forwards onto the concrete again.
‘Vince! What’re you doing, man? They’re here to help you. You were proper out of it.’
But Vince is muttering, grunting like an anaesthetised bull, struggling to get back on his feet to attack us again.
We step aside and try to calm him down from a little way off. He needs to understand that the Narcan will wear off, that he’ll be vulnerable again. Sonia does her best to make him understand but he’s too enraged to listen.
We become distracted by some of the grafitti on the walls this end of the car park. Amongst the tags and crude pictures and phone numbers – a love poem, written in green marker pen, whose closing lines are:
So do me a favour and remember what I said
That girl was everything to me – and she was quality in bed
Sonia comes over.
‘He’s not going,’ she says. ‘But I know what to do. I’ll keep an eye on him.’
‘Are you going to be all right down here?’ I ask her. It’s inconceivable that anyone could spend the night in this place, let alone a young woman on her own.
‘Oh yeah,’ she says. ‘It’s normally just me and the dog.’