There’s a sign outside Regency Mansions: Tradesmen - use rear entrance.
‘Shall we?’ says Rae.
I wouldn’t mind. Anything to postpone this meeting with Mr Landsman, a regular caller with so many warning notes on his address we may as well be space marines about to call on an alien stronghold.
‘I can’t believe they can’t triage this some other way.’
‘He’s probably used the magic words. You know what he’s like.’
She rings the buzzer again. It’s noticeable that all the silvering has come off his button from overuse.
The door clicks open.
To the first floor, up a marble staircase serenely illuminated by multi-coloured panels of red and green and yellow from the stained glass windows. We’re both steeling ourselves to be as calm and professional as possible, but there’s an inevitability about the whole interview that strangely robs it of any tension.
Mr Landsman is waiting in his wheelchair by the front door.
‘Hello!’ says Rae. ‘How can we …?’
But he’s let go of the door and started to wheel himself into the front room before she can finish talking. We follow him into the lounge. We have to tread carefully; there are smears of faeces on the carpet, a jug of maturing urine, empty bottles of Vodka.
‘What seems to be the problem today?’ says Rae, breathing shallow through her mouth.
Mr Landsman regards her with a waxy and baleful expression.
He’s had countless referrals to social services and so on, a comprehensive package of care, but his uncooperative, non-compliant, and frankly unpleasant behaviour has effectively stymied any further help. So long as he passes competency tests, he’s free to live like this. And call us repeatedly.
‘Now, listen,’ he says, lacing his cadaverous fingers together in front of him. ‘As you may be aware – at least, I hope you are aware – some five years ago I suffered a minor stroke at the general hospital. As you are also no doubt aware, there were several issues pertaining to that episode that were never satisfactorily resolved, all of which are currently in the hands of my solicitor. The month following my discharge in the spring of two thousand and five, I spent some time in a rehabilitation facility on the outskirts of town, where further mistakes were made….’
‘Sorry to interrupt,’ says Rae.
He blinks, and stops talking.
‘We can come to all that later. What I need to know first is why you called the ambulance this morning.’
He stares at her.
‘I mean – I can see you have mobility problems, and that’s significant. Obviously. But we just need to know what it was that led you to call us today.’
He carries on staring.
‘Our notes said something about a fall…?’
‘Why did you call the ambulance, Mr Landsman?’
He unlaces his fingers and grips the armrests.
‘It was a mistake.’
‘A mistake? What do you mean, a mistake?’
‘I should’ve called the AA. Or the RAC’
‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand.’
‘Because if I had called the AA or the RAC, at least they’d have sent a mechanic or something. You’re not a mechanic, are you, by any chance?’
‘Oh get out! Get out!’
He bobs up and down in the seat like he’s about to spring at us.
‘And you will sign this paper to say to say you’ve refused to help me when I’m in trouble.’
‘No, I’m afraid we won’t be doing that, Mr Landsman. You’ve asked us to leave and that’s exactly what we’re doing.’
We pick our way back through the flat and strip our gloves off on the landing.
Back out on the ambulance Rae calls Control to let them know what’s happened.
‘Well, funnily enough, he’s on the phone right now.’
‘Is he? Well – call me a saint, but I would be prepared to go back in there and talk to him. Only ‘cos I don’t want another crew to suffer.’
‘That’s not what he wants,’ says the Dispatcher. ‘He says he wants your ambulance off his property.’
‘Really? Well – funnily enough, we haven’t actually parked the ambulance in his front room. We’re out on the public highway. So with respect, could you tell Mr Landsman that we decline to accord with his wishes in this respect.’
The Dispatcher laughs.
‘I’ll pass on the message,’ he says.