We’re met at the door by William, a portly, middle-aged man in a Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts and espadrilles.
‘Simon’s on the floor but don’t blame us,’ he says, beaming. ‘It wasn’t our cooking – at least, I don’t think it was. He didn’t even have the salmon. Anyway, what happened was – we’d just finished the main course. Malcolm, my partner, was clearing the plates. Stephanie, Simon’s wife, asked him if he was feeling okay – which he clearly wasn’t, as he’d gone whiter than his napkin. He mumbled something or other – I don’t know what – got up, took a few steps in the direction of the sofa, then just sort of collapsed in a heap. Didn’t hurt himself, luckily. Lay there a minute, eyes rolling...’
William mimes the faint, turning his eyes up towards his forehead and describing a circle with his head. ‘...then Malcolm put him in the recovery position and Stephanie phoned for the ambulance.’
William stares at us for a moment, his eyes diluted by his glasses. ‘Well. There you are. That’s it. I suppose you’d like to meet the poor unfortunate? This way.’
He leads us through the hallway into the dining room, a tastefully-furnished room of palms, blond wood, botanical prints, white bookshelves of art, cinema, architecture, with the only thing to disrupt the Sunday supplement air being Simon, buffered into position on the Turkish rug by an array of plump velvet cushions.
‘I was just feeling a bit hot,’ he says. ‘And then I came over all faint.’
His wife Stephanie, dressed in a flapping black caftan decorated with a pattern of gold and silver orchids, moves between us all like a large but harmless variety of moth.
‘It’s so kind of you to come, so quickly,’ she says, hurrying around her supine husband to come and lay a hand on my arm. ‘We’re not always such flakes.’
‘Speak for yourself,’ groans Simon. And then, weakly: ‘I’m feeling better, you know.’
But when he goes to sit up, what little colour that had returned to his face visibly drains. We lay him back down again.
‘Let’s get you out to the ambulance and do an ECG there,’ I say. ‘We can decide what to do after that.’
Rae goes outside to get the chair.
‘But you can’t leave before dessert,’ says Malcolm, standing in the kitchen doorway with his arms folded and a flowery tea towel over one shoulder. ‘It’s Eton Mess.’
‘Well you’ll simply have to make it a mess to go,’ says Stephanie. She sighs, knocks her head against mine and whispers: ‘But oh! If there’s one thing I love, it’s meringue.’
Outside on the truck, Simon has picked up considerably. He sits comfortably, his arms folded, blinking around at all the equipment in the cabin like he’s admiring someone’s shed.
‘You’ve got some gear, haven’t you?’ he says.
‘It pays to be prepared,’ I say.
‘Well I’m glad someone is,’ says Stephanie.
We do a twelve-lead ECG, and it comes out clear. All his other obs seem to have normalised, too.
‘Great,’ I say. ‘Right. A few more details. How old are you, Simon?’
Stephanie cuts in.
‘You’ll never guess what year we were married.’
I make an attempt to be flattering.
‘Well I’m guessing you were a teenage bride.’
‘A teenage bride! We like this one, don’t we, Simon? Can we keep him?’
He nods, goes to button up his shirt, and seems startled to find the chest leads won’t let him.
‘Let me get those for you,’ I say. ‘So – anyway. I reckon this was probably just a faint, Simon. It’s quite common after a big meal, especially if the room’s hot.’
‘They always have the room hot,’ says Stephanie. ‘Don’t they, Simon? Very hot. And there’s a good reason for it.’
She leans in. ‘Naturists. They normally wander round the flat completely starkers. We’re used to it, but when they heard you were coming they threw something on. Lovely couple. Great cooks. But my word they like it hot.’