‘Rachel’s dying. You come, please.’
Jake hurries ahead of us into the block and has disappeared by the time we’ve struggled into the lobby with all our bags. He’s a striking figure. With his long black hair, oiled beard and dark eyes, he wouldn’t look out of place on the set of The Three Musketeers. I half expect to hear his sword clattering on the concrete steps above us as he leaps them, three at a time.
A door stands open on the fourth floor.
‘Here! She here!’ Jake says, standing over a thirty-year-old woman collapsed on the sofa, her head pitched back and her breaths coming slow and noisy.
I lay her lengthways and tilt her head to open the airway. There’s a blue tinge to her lips and nose, and when I open her eyelids, her pupils are pinpoint.
‘Tell us what happened, Jake,’ I say to him, as I insert an airway and Rae gets some oxygen running.
‘Rachel was okay, okay? She smoke one cigarette, then have more ‘nother cigarette, then cough and cough like this – argh! – like she could not get air, you know? – then she roll back like this – urgh! I did the chest pushings and the mouth to mouth. Was this right thing to do?’
‘She’s got a pulse at the moment, so that’s good. The thing is, Jake, it all looks very much as if Rachel’s been taking heroin today. Obviously we don’t care. We’re not the police. We just need to know so we can treat her effectively. Has she smoked or injected any heroin, do you think?’
Rae has already drawn up some Narcan and hands it to me to inject into Rachel’s shoulder.
Suddenly Jake looks much less co-operative. He straightens up and glances behind him, like he’s gauging time, or listening for the lobby door.
‘I don’t know what this mean’ he says, his eyes super-wide in an effort of concentration.
‘Is Rachel a relation of yours?’
‘No. She jes’ friend.’
‘Does she have any medical conditions?’
‘I don’t know these things. I don’t know anything ‘bout her.’
‘How long have you known Rachel?’
‘Three, four year. That’s all.’
‘So you’ve known her three or four years and you don’t know anything about her?’
‘Not name, not where she live, not what she do. Nothing.’
‘But her name is Rachel?’
‘Is Rachel, sure, I tell you. But I don’t know last name. Okay?’
Rae has cannulated her by this time. She draws up another dose of Narcan ready to give IV.
‘Did she have any belongings when she came to see you?’
‘Sure. Is bag there.’
He points to a tatty carrier bag. Inside is a purse, empty except for a debit card, and a bundle of lingerie. At leas the debit card gives us a name.
Rachel is pinking up nicely. She gags on the airway so we take it out. She starts to open her eyes, and cough repeatedly.
I set the chair up and we make ready to go.
‘Will you be coming with us, Jake?’
He shakes his head.
‘Me? No. Why fore I go? I don’t know this person. I don’t know Rachel and what she do. I told you everything.’
He watches as we load her onto the chair and wrap her in blankets.
‘She not die then?’
‘No. I think she’ll be okay.’
‘And I did good thing?’
‘Yes. You did fine, Jake. You called us at just the right time.’
He steps aside as we make to leave.
‘Drugs, eh?’ he says, softening a little. Then, hastily: ‘If that what she do.’