Monday, February 16, 2015

the cat

‘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.’
He shrugs.
‘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.’


Beautiful Things - Cathy said...

Poor old lady. Thank god someone spotted her.

Spence Kennedy said...

Definitely. It was a really cold night... :/

Sabine said...

Frightful and I shiver when I read the statistics, two thirds of dementia cases are female.

Daniel Rutter said...

Continuing my policy of commenting at length upon a minor detail of your post:

"The credit-card trick" almost never works on any kind of real exterior lock, unless you're inside and trying to get out (which you could presumably do just by turning the knob...). You have to wiggle the card in from the sloped side of the "latch bolt" - the horizontal-moving thing that engages the hole in the "strike plate" - but the sloped side should be on the inside, partly to prevent this very vulnerability and partly because otherwise you can't have an external door, that opens outward, and can be closed just by slamming it.

If there's enough of a gap at the side of the door that you can see a few millimetres of the latch bolt, though, two pointy things - a couple of pocketknives, say - will allow you to get in very quickly. You stick one point onto the frame edge of the bolt, and push it back into the door as many millimetres as the gap will let you. Now that the door is, say, 15% of the way to being unlatched, you hold the partially-retracted latch-bar in place with one pointy thing while you put the second point on the frame edge of the latch again, and then lever it in again, retracting it a little further. With this "ratchet" procedure, which I independently invented when I locked myself out a couple of years ago, you can have at least the crappy latch on the side of my house open in literally seconds. (I had the option of being impressed with my ingenuity or alarmed about the insecurity of my house, and of course chose the former.)

This won't work with almost any kind of good lock that, for instance, has a plate shielding the latch bolt from view, or of course with a deadbolt that positively locks the "lock bolt" in place. Still a handy thing to know, though, both for jobbing criminals and for someone like you who has an employment requirement to occasionally break and enter.

These days when I leave the house and make sure I've got my house-keys with me, I always wonder why I bothered to look.

Spence Kennedy said...

Sabine - Is that because women tend to live longer?
I heard a consultant talking about dementia on the radio yesterday. He said that although they know what happens in many of the different types - Alzheimer's, Vasc Dementia and so on - summed up by a dying of neurones, they still don't really know why. A cure still looks a long way off, but I think they're getting better at coming up with effective preventative strategies. It's such a horrible illness, with an incalculable emotional & financial cost to families & the country.

Daniel - Interestingly, I think her door did open outwards (why, I don't know). Maybe that's how it worked this time - because actually I thought it was one of those myths you see in films that didn't work in real life. I have tried it before and all I did was ruin the card.
From now on I'm going to try the Patent Rutter Ratchet - although in an emergency I'll probably still opt for the hard right boot, or failing that, an ungainly squeeze through a tiny window....

Cheers for the comments!

Daniel Rutter said...

Duh, my mistake, of course you're quite right that most front doors open INWARDS, meaning that the latch-bolt WILL have its sloped side facing outward, which is the right side for it to be "credit-carded" from the outside.

Most front doors still aren't that easy, because of something straightforward like having the door inset into the frame, so the latch-bolt isn't exposed at all. My front door is like that,. It has a crappy lock, but not THAT crappy a lock. The side door is another matter. :-)

The advantage of the two-points jimmying technique, when it's possible, is that it's both fast to do - even the first time I tried it - and it doesn't damage anything. Not the lock, or the window, or the person trying to get in. :-)

Spence Kennedy said...

I'll definitely try that two-point thing next time we're stuck outside. Kicking a door in is very satisfying, but it does cause a bit of a mess. (Once, impressively, part of the wall came down, too - but that was more because it was a shoddy build rather than my Hulk-style kick) :/

jacksofbuxton said...

Sorry Daniel,not quite grasped it.

Could you run that by me again?