‘The old credit card trick,’ says the police officer. ‘Worked a treat. Don’t ask me where I learned it.’
‘I thought that was just in films.’
‘Depends on the lock.’
Leila is sitting on the sofa, the focus of our attention. Outwardly calm, her ancient hands folded neatly in her lap, still there’s something worryingly vague about her, like she’s not really on the sofa at all, but asleep in bed, witnessing a strangely lifelike dream.
‘She was standing outside in her nightie,’ says the other officer. ‘Someone passing saw her, thank God, and called us. She was quite cold and confused, but once we got her inside with a cup of tea she warmed up nicely. We don’t have any notes on this address, so we’re still in the dark.’
‘What were you doing outside, Leila?’ asks Rae. ‘It’s a wonder you didn’t freeze to death.’
‘Is it? I ... we were ... erm ... the cat ... I was expecting, you know ... it’s not as if ...’
She drifts on in this way until her words peter out into a passive smile that she distributes amongst us. Then she sighs, looks down at her hands, and begins idly turning her wedding ring round and round.
We check her over.
She can’t have been outside for long, because her temperature has normalised. In fact, none of her physical observations are out of the ordinary.
I look around the flat for clues.
Beautifully decorated, warm and well-furnished, shelves of books and ceramics, an annotated manuscript open on a table beneath a large reading glass, it looks like the home of an elderly academic. I can’t find any of the usual signs of someone suffering from dementia, the simple notes taped to things, the care folder, the locked container of medication, the keysafe.
‘We’ve not had any other calls to this address,’ says the first officer. ‘It’s all a bit of a mystery.’
The other officer presses the speed dial button on the phone with JOHN written next to it.
‘He wasn’t surprised,’ says the officer, hanging up after a short conversation. ‘He says she’s being assessed, but things are moving quicker. She’s had a couple of episodes like this; last time it was the neighbours who brought her back. So far the family have managed to keep things ticking over, but he doesn’t know for how long. Anyway, he says he’s coming over. He only lives local.’
‘Who?’ says Leila, looking up.
‘John. He says he’ll be here in a minute.’