The carer shows Josh and me down the basement steps to the front of Jane’s flat. The ragged yellow curtains drawn across the bay windows have just enough of a gap to let us peer inside. Jane is there, lying face down on the floor. She’s moving her head, at least.
‘I don’t know how you’re going to get in,’ says the carer. ‘I haven’t got a key.’
The door looks pretty substantial; when I foot it, there’s a suggestion of a bolt as well as the Yale. We turn our attention back to the windows. There’s a deep gulley between them and the steeply sloping bed that rises back up to road height. Jane has stuck a planter there, some kind of lush, tall grass and a giant yucca straining up to capture what light it can.
‘Nam, sixty-seven. I’m getting flashbacks,’ says Josh, struggling through the foliage. He climbs up onto the ledge and starts testing each sash window. Most of them are either locked or painted shut, but the furthest one top right is unsecured. He slides that one down, reaches in, unlocks another, slides open a lower pane, crawls inside. A few seconds more, and he lets us in the front door.
The flat is unkempt, dark, with childlike drawings ripped from a notepad and sellotaped to the wall. June is lying in the front room, face down, half-naked. Her left leg is lying abnormally flat; it’s apparent she’s fractured her hip even from here. It’s also apparent she’s been on the floor some time. There are faeces on her legs and a wide, dark stain around her on the carpet. But despite the dreadful injury, and despite the fact she’s lain three days on the floor like this, Jane’s remarkably chirpy.
‘I’m an artist,’ she says. ‘Retired, anyway. See that mural up there?’
She can’t point, but doesn’t need to. Above her on a wall that’s been unceremoniously stripped of its wallpaper, is an approximate view of mountains, dobbed out in a heavy brush from some peach and mauve tester pots.
A difficult extrication, but it goes smoothly. It’s like a three-dimensional puzzle – what furniture to move and where, the angles needed to negotiate the narrow hallway, the way to get over the little metal railings (I balance the feet-end on the railings / I walk round / Josh balances the head end on the railings / Josh walks round). Jane seems to appreciate it, too, periodically toking on the gas and air, blissing-out on the movement and the attention and the blue, blue sky.
The carer hurries off to her next appointment; we go to A&E.
Josh explains the situation to the triage nurse. She comes over and strokes Jane on the hand.
‘You poor love. They’re telling me you fell over, hurt your hip and couldn’t get up? In your flat? How long have you been there?’