There are two police cars outside the house. As we head in with our bags, we pass an officer talking to a man sitting on a wall. He has an ID card on a lanyard, and I recognise him as one of the CPNs based at the hospital, but he doesn’t notice me.
Inside the house, the only light is from the open front door, and from a couple of flashlights in the hands of two officers on the stairs. One of them comes back down to give us room to go up.
It gets darker as we climb, our own torches illuminating snatches of detail – the floral wallpaper, the family photos, one of them knocked on a slant. The other police officer stands at the top of the stairs on the landing like a grim usher at the cinema; he points left with his torch.
The patient has hanged himself from a beam in the attic. A coarse, thick rope leads straight down to his neck, supporting him now in a strange kind of seated position, both heels resting forward on the carpet, arms straight down by his sides. Even though I would guess that when he kicked the chair away he was clear of the ground, gravity and decomposition have changed the relative positions of everything.
I breathe shallowly through my mouth, but there’s really no need to spend longer than a few seconds. The patient is obviously dead. Our presence is a formality.
We turn and head back down.
Outside, everything is overwhelmingly fresh and bright. We stow our bags. Rae gets the paperwork started.
‘My brother used to live round here,’ she says, writing out the incident number. ‘Years ago. When he moved in with Gianara or Gianina or whatever. She was a handful. We thought she was probably undiagnosed ... erm ...’
‘Bi-polar. She’d be an angel one minute, throwing plates the next. I’m amazed he stuck it as long as he did. It’s funny how these things work out. What’s the date today?’
She starts ticking boxes.
‘I wonder why all the lights were out’
‘Maybe they cut him off. Maybe that was the last straw.’
‘Do they do that these days? Cut people off?’
Another police car pulls up and one of the officers strolls out of the house to meet it.
‘Do you think we’ll get our break now?’
Just as I say that, we hear an all-call on the radio for two outstanding emergency calls.
Rae sighs, and smoothes the ROLE form flat on her board.
‘You can’t rush the paperwork, can you?’
‘No,’ I say, leaning back against the truck, taking a deep breath, resting my eyes on the brilliantly coloured flowers in the opposite garden, the hydrangeas and geranium, roses and lavender. ‘No. You certainly can’t.’