Jane is coming out of the window. We all stand down in the garden watching her climb out. It’s not a long fall – probably ten feet, down onto one of those scrubby, corner plot gardens that’s accumulated the casual trash of five years or so – but there’s a water butt and a small pile of broken paving slabs that might cause some damage.
She’s turned to go out backwards, her right boot emerging first, cautiously tapping for the end of the sill.
‘Don’t jump!’ says the police sergeant, her hands shoved right and left into the webbing of her stab vest.
There’s a pause whilst she thinks of a reason.
Finally she says: ‘We don’t want you to.’
‘I’m doing it,’ says Jane. ‘I’m jumping!’
It’s a cold, black night. Deep space holds dominion – that, and the moon. A strange, portentous moon I haven’t seen before, a faint but perfect halo around it like the flare through a lens.
What does it mean?
Meanwhile the other police officers have been ringing the front door bell. Another resident shuffles into focus through the glass, opens the door and stands there scratching himself, peering out. The officers hurry through.
Half a minute more and Jane is pulled back into the room, the window slid shut.
We all go in.
There’s no room in Jane’s room for everyone, so the rest of us wait on the landing whilst Rae and the sergeant talk it through. It’s odd, just hearing the voices, wondering how they’re standing, what they’re doing. I want to peer round the door but I think it might freak them out.
The sergeant touches on the window issue. Jane is still emphatic. She’s going out, she’s had enough, that’s it.
‘I can’t let you do that,’ says the sergeant. ‘Duty of care and all that.’
‘I’m doing it.’
‘No, Jane. You’ll have to go through me first.’
‘You can’t stop me.’
‘I’m hardly going to stand here and watch you jump out of a window, now, am I?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Well I’m not. You’re not going out the window and that’s that.’
The sound of a struck match.
‘Sorry love,’ says Jane. ‘I need a smoke. It helps calm me down.’
‘That’s okay. But we have to figure out what we’re going to do with you tonight?’
‘What d’you mean, what we going to do with me tonight? I’ve told you what I’m doing. I’m going out the window.’
‘No, you’re not, Jane. Think about it. How do you think that would make us feel, seeing you jump? Not nice, is it? And what about outside? What if there was a young mum with a child going past? What if they saw you drop down right in front of them? How do you think that would make them feel?’
‘I dunno. I’d let them go past first.’
‘Seriously. It’s not going to happen.’
One of the officers on the landing has been busy on the radio finding out the state of play with the 136 room at the psychiatric hospital. Apparently it’s been a night for it and nothing’s free. The only alternatives are the custody suite or A&E.
Sudden, boozy laughter from the room next door to Jane’s. The floor creaks behind the closed door. Someone listening?
Meanwhile, Rae has tried to move the conversation onto other, more mundane subjects.
‘So you like Barbra Streisand, then?’
‘Yeah. I love her.’
‘Ever see her in concert?’
‘Twice. Once in New York, once in Las Vegas.’
‘Yeah. She was amazing. Straight on. Starts singing. Two and a half hours later, she’s still going. I’ve seen Cher, too.’
‘Yeah. Forty minutes late and gone in half an hour. Not a patch on Barbra. Barbra’s my favourite. Don’t get me started. I’ll be Barbra this, Barbra that.’
‘I don’t mind.’
‘Come on, then,’ says the sergeant. ‘Let’s get you down to the ambulance and carry on talking there.’
‘The paramedics want to check you over and make sure you’re all right. You know – all those health things. Then we can think how we can help you tonight.’
‘I don’t want help.’
The door opens and Jane appears first. A small, round, middle-aged woman with watery eyes and patchy hair, she walks slowly out onto the landing like a neglected pet being coaxed out of a box.
‘I’m going out the window,’ she says, straightening, looking round for it.‘No,’ says the sergeant. ‘That’s not what Barbra wants.’