A pale, skeletally thin woman shows us round the back of the flats.
‘He’s the one in the corner,’ she says, a dull glint from somewhere down in the shadows of her sockets.
She drifts away, smoking.
It’s such a bright day everything’s been cast into black and hard white. The courtyard is baked, absolutely still, no sign of the violent disturbance – stand off for police. Nothing, except for a dog barking in the distance.
As we approach the door that’s open in the corner, a police officer strolls out.
‘Oh!’ he says, so relaxed he may as well be in shorts and flip flops. ‘He’s in there. Mad as a box of frogs.’
Graham is sitting on the edge of his armchair watching The Hairy Bikers make a pie on TV. He’s joining in with their conversation, in a grunting, hyper-manic way, bellowing delightedly, swearing, shouting out, or bouncing up and down. There’s something crude and cartoon-like about Graham, his crayon teeth, his lumpish movements, but most of all his laugh – a mwa-ha-haaa that only needs a cloak, mask and Parisian sewer to complete the effect.
‘Mwa-ha-haaaa! Through the telly to tell you, hah? To tell you...’
The police sergeant nods at us and takes a discreet step in our direction.
‘This is Graham,’ he says. ‘Graham has been acting pretty strangely this afternoon. The neighbours were worried because – well, you can see for yourself. He’s calmed down a lot, I have to say. A bit grabby, but nothing too serious. Over to you for the assessment!’
He smiles, and takes a step back again.
‘The paramedics are going to ask you a few questions,’ he says to Graham, who suddenly shuts up and frowns. ‘Just answer their questions and then we can figure out what we need to do next.’ Graham suddenly jumps out of his chair and scuttles up to the officer, who takes his hands out of his stab vest just in case. Graham pauses a moment, then reaches out and tries to grab the officer’s radio, babbling something about signals and light.
‘No, no,’ says the officer, batting Graham’s hand aside. ‘What have I told you about touching my radio?’
Graham holds his hand in mid-air, then gives another Phantom laugh.
‘Mwa-ha-haaa! Graham!’ Then sits back down again.
Our line of questioning gets us nowhere. We need to check him over, and figure it’ll be best to do it on the ambulance. Amazingly, Graham gets his keys and coat and follows us out quite meekly.
The sunlight in the courtyard hurts my eyes.
Even though all his physical obs are normal, his behaviour is still a cause for concern. There’s a possibility it has an organic basis, so we persuade him to come to hospital with us. The police officers seem relieved.
‘Good luck!’ They slam the door, and we move off.
A&E is as busy as ever. I dread to think how disruptive Graham might be, but for the moment he’s calm and pliable, so we take a risk and lead him in with us, sitting him on a chair as far away from the other patients waiting to be assessed in the triage area.
After ten minutes or so, Graham suddenly announces that he’s having a fit. He starts to slide off the chair to the floor.
‘Come on, Graham. You’re not having a fit. Stay in the chair, mate.’
‘I’m having a fit!’ he shouts, taking off his glasses and flinging them across the lobby.
‘Graham! Stay in the chair!’
‘I’m having a fit! I’m – having – a – fit...’
He lands on his bottom on the floor, pulls off his watch, throws that in the other direction, then starts a peculiar round-and-round scuttling motion, paddling with his hands and feet, shouting out for help. I stand in front of him to stop him doing anything else, and to screen him from the nearer patients. But that puts me within reach. He lunges forward and wraps his arms around my left leg. It’s like being attacked by a giant koala bear. I try to unlock his fingers. The A&E lead consultant has hurried over and is with me now. He grabs one of Graham’s arms, and using some kind of Aikido lock, turns Graham away from me. Once he has his attention, the Consultant addresses Graham directly.
‘No! You do not do this! You are not having a fit, and you are not to behave like this in my department! Understand? Do you?’
Security have arrived, two guys so massive they would punch out the supporting columns if they missed your head. Graham gives one, last, very much less convincing mwa-ha-haa, and gets back into his chair.
A nurse gives him a sedative.
‘I know Graham,’ she says, as he swallows the pill. ‘He was in a little while ago. How’s your leg?’
‘Fine, fine. Maybe I should take the rest of the shift off with stress.’
‘Yeah?’ She laughs. ‘Maybe you should. Last time Graham was in he said he used to be a paramedic.’