We follow the two police officers down the concrete steps to the front door of Basement flat 20A.
‘Have you seen this big moon then?’ says the male officer.
‘Big moon?’ says his colleague, a female officer who frowns at him as if he’s just used some inappropriate code word. ‘What big moon?’
‘The big moon. Apparently it’s going to be e-normous.’
‘Well – shame it’s so overcast, then.’
‘It’ll clear up,’ he says. ‘It has to.’
She sighs and rings the bell again.
A light goes on in the hall.
‘Doesn’t sound like there’s a crazy woman smashing the place up, does it?’ says the male officer. ‘Unless she’s very, very tiny and discreet.’
A figure approaches.
The chain goes back on the door; it opens.
A young guy, in a dressing gown, with a mug of cocoa.
‘Ye-es? What’s this about?’ he says, looking from the police to us and back again.
‘Did you call for help, sir? Something about a drunk lady smashing the place up?’
‘Er – no. I didn’t.’
The man frowns and nods. ‘Ye-es. As sure as anyone can be about these things. What did you say this was about?’
‘Not to worry, sir. Apologies for the interruption. Duff information.’
The man takes a sip of cocoa and watches us walk back up the steps.
‘I hope everything’s all right’ he calls after us, then quietly closes the door.
I radio Control to check.
After a minute or two:
Apologies – the address was misheard. It’s actually twenty-eight. Two eight. Received?
We walk a few houses further up.
‘So anyway, this moon, right, apparently it’s going to be so big it’ll knock your hat off.’
Another flight of concrete steps, not quite so well kept, with a container of dead plants by the door.
There’s already a light on in the hall this time.
The male officer knocks.
‘Why are you so interested in astronomy all of a sudden?’ the female officer says, pulling on some rubber gloves.
‘Me? I just like to know what’s going on. It’s all part of the bigger picture, Mary.’
The door opens. Another young guy, fresh out of the shower, bare to the waist, vigorously towelling his hair. He’s about the same height and build as the first – in fact, so much so that for a moment I could be persuaded he’s run round the back, thrown off his dressing gown and dumped a glass of water on his head for effect.
‘Yeah?’ he says. ‘Wha?’
‘Sorry to disturb you, sir. We had a call from this address regarding a violent incident. Do you know anything about that?’
‘Oh – just a minute.’ He leans back and shouts: ‘Sam! Someone to see you.’ Then to us: ‘You want Sam, mate.’
Then he turns and walks back down the hall.
‘Watch it when you come in,’ he says. ‘There’s broken glass everywhere.’
The fact that he’s barefoot and we’re in huge black boots doesn’t seem to strike him as significant.
Sam passes him in the hall, and he disappears off into a side room.
Sam is more subdued than his flatmate.
‘It’s my mum,’ he says. ‘She came home drunk, said she was going to kill herself, smashed the place up a bit, then ran off.’
‘Do you mind if we have a chat?’
‘No. Come on in.’
We follow him down the hall to the front room.
The plasma screen has a tear in the middle of it; there’s an ash tray shattered into pieces across the laminate flooring, and in the middle of it all, a white plastic phone, stamped into fragments.
Whilst the female officer talks to Sam, the male officer innocently looks around, shining his torch through the window out into the back yard, then drifting just as blank faced into the kitchen. The only thing he doesn’t do is whistle.
‘She’s not there,’ says Sam. ‘She says she was going to take all these pills but she left the packets. She just went mad, then ran out.’
‘Has she done this before?’
He looks down.
‘We’ll need a description.’
He gives it.
The male officer wanders back in.
‘You guys might as well stand down, seeing as there’s no patient,’ he says. ‘No-one to treat.’
‘Thanks for coming, though.’
We say goodbye to Sam and say we hope his mum’s all right.
‘Yeah,’ he says.
Outside, the cloud has cleared sufficiently to let the moon through at last.
I stand and look at it for a moment.
I can’t make up my mind if it is actually bigger, or only seems that way because the officer said it was.
It’s certainly full, though.You can almost hear it.