An elderly man meets us at the entrance to the block.
‘I’ll show you up,’ he says. ‘Second floor.’
He has a greyhound with him. Even though the dog is immaculately dressed for the weather in a smart brown gabardine coat snugly fastened round the neck and tummy, it looks utterly woebegone, staring up at us with a disappointed sag to its face, like all this was just bloody typical. He turns in sync with the old man, and they both trudge ahead of us to the lift.
We’re carrying lots of heavy bags; this is a possible resus, after all.
When the lift fails to arrive, Rae says:
‘Maybe we should use the stairs.’
‘The stairs?’ says the man. ‘It’s three floors up! Anyway, it’ll be here in a minute.’
The dog stares up at me.
The numbers are lighting up as the lift descends, maddeningly slow.
‘I think we’d better take the stairs,’ says Rae, re-shouldering the bags.
‘Are you mad?’ says the man. ‘Her flat’s just opposite the lift. One step out and you’re there.’
But just as we’re about to head off up the staircase, the lift arrives.
‘Here we are,’ says the man. ‘Come on.’
We all pile in. It’s a struggle, what with all the bags and the dog, too, who makes room only reluctantly, and then stares up at me with a novel hybrid of clinical depression and chronic disappointment.
Just as the man reaches for button number three, an elderly woman sprints in from nowhere and hits button number one.
‘Gladys!’ he says. ‘This is an emergency!’
‘Oh! Sorry love. Is it?’
‘Yes, it is!’
As the lift door slowly closes she cranes forward and peers at me and Rae.
‘What kind of emergency?’
‘An emergency kind of emergency, Gladys. These are paramedics.’
‘Ooh. Who’ve you come to see?’
‘I’m afraid that’s confidential’ says Rae.
‘Winifred,’ says the man. ‘The carers found her collapsed on the floor. She could be dead.’
‘Poor Winnie,’ says Gladys. ‘Well I hope she’s all right. Give her my best.’
The man sighs.
We ride the rest of the way in silence, with the dog still staring at me, so intently that eventually I crack. I put a bag down to free up a hand and reach down to gently scruffle the dog between the ears.
‘Good boy! Who’s a good boy?’He closes his eyes in a resigned kind of way, and then when I stop, carries on staring at me again, as if to say: Seriously. Is that it?