doolally

There’s no sign of a keysafe at the front of the building. Some of them have a ruling about these things. Even though the majority of the residents are elderly and vulnerable, they think the little black boxes on the walls are unsightly. In which case I figure it’ll be round the back. It’s the kind of detail that would be really helpful to have on the notes, but who knows? Maybe I missed it or something? I pick up all my bags and walk back out to the road, along the front of the block, down a service road, and up to the rear access doors. I can immediately see the keysafe, clamped to the wall above the recycling bins, like some kind of robotic mussel at low tide. Worryingly, alongside it I can also see a keypad. As if to illustrate what it’s for, a guy walks up, taps in a code, and then smiles at me as the automatic door swings open.
‘Wanna come up?’ he says, reassured I’m genuine by my uniform and bags.
‘That’s okay. I’d better use the keysafe to get the keys for the flat,’ I tell him. ‘Thanks anyway.’
The door closes after him.

Of course – the number doesn’t work on the keysafe and neither does it work on the keypad.
I take out my phone and ring the patient.
‘Hello? Mrs Craig? It’s Jim, from the hospital.’
‘Yes?’
‘Well – I don’t know – I’m outside the back door, and the keysafe number doesn’t seem to work. I wonder if I’m at the right door…?’
‘Is it the first one you came to from the road?’
‘Yes.’
‘Then it should work.’
‘There’s a keypad here, too.’
‘Yes.’
‘I don’t have the code.’
‘Why not?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘7439E.’
‘Okay. Great. Thanks.’
‘Come up to the third floor. I’ll open the door to you.’

I ring off. Punch the numbers into the keypad. The automatic door swings open. I go inside. Take the lift to the third floor, then stand in the lobby, looking round. Mrs Craig lives at fifty-two; the highest number here is twenty something. There must be another rear entrance to this place. So I take my bags, head back down in the lift, exit the block and walk further along.

There’s a guy in pristine white overalls slowly painting the first of a series of pristine white garage doors. I wonder if at the end of the line he stands up straight and paints himself. I nod as I pass; he stops to stare at me, then carries on when I’m far enough ahead not to worry about.

I was right. There is a second entrance, deeper set than the first and camouflaged by some planter shrubs. I try the number on the keypad. The door swings open. I take the lift to the third floor. Mrs Craig is standing waiting at the open door, clinging on to a kitchen trolley and trembling.
‘What took you so long?’ she says.
‘I’m really sorry. I went to the wrong door.’
‘Patently!’ she says, then tuts, turns, walks unsteadily back into her flat, her coffee cup rattling on its saucer, more with rage than infirmity it seems to me. I follow on behind.
The flat is immaculate. It’s like walking into a computer reconstruction.
‘I’d better take my shoes off,’ I say to her.
‘Yes,’ she says.
The living room is forensically clean, every item of furniture, book and photo, every picture, piece of wax fruit and ceramic chicken meticulously measured and set each to another like random items on a grid. I’m the dirtiest thing this place has ever seen, and it gives Mrs Craig obvious pain to watch me drop my bags and sit down on the Ercol sofa.
‘I didn’t get all the access details,’ I tell her.
‘Why not? Wasn’t it in the notes?’
‘Not that I saw.’
‘Vihaan came straight here.’
‘Did he?’
‘Yes. And Barbara did. And Anna.’
‘Oh.’
‘Do they have access to the same notes?’
‘They do.’
‘Oh.’
‘Maybe it was in some obscure place.’
‘Not so obscure that three other clinicians came straight here without any bother.’
‘No.’
‘Perhaps you’d better read the notes more carefully next time.’
‘Probably a good idea.’
I unpack the first of my bags.
‘I saw the numbers weren’t running in the right direction,’ I tell her, trying to strike a breezy conversational air, ‘…but I thought there might be a corridor connecting the floors.’
‘Well there isn’t.’
‘No.’
‘We don’t associate with the low numbers.’
‘The riff raff.’
‘I’m joking, you understand?’
‘Yes. Me, too, Mrs Craig.’
She smiles in a thin and approximate way.
‘Anyway,’ she says. ‘That’s all in the past now. The thing is – are you here for my fingers?’ She waggles a bandaged hand in my direction.
‘Yes,’ I say. ‘Fingers.’
‘Good,’ she says. ‘Because they’re sending me absolutely doolally.’

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