Oliver leans back in his chair, closes his eyes and again goes over the things that will happen during the course of the next few hours. It’s likely that…his mobile interrupts again; the paramedic’s here. Oliver looks out of the office window and his spirits are lifted by the sight of the familiar face walking down the gently curving path towards the entrance. He grabs a set of the paperwork, hurries out of the office and flies down the stairs three at a time to arrive at the door first.
“Hello stranger,” he says, smiling from ear to ear, noticing just too late that the formidable, forty-something female facing him isn’t.
“Since when are you qualified to pronounce somebody dead?” She says, without breaking stride, heading for the lift; four flights of stairs would not be a practical proposition in her case. Oliver, knowing intimately this lift’s propensity to breakdown, hesitates.
“See you on the fourth, Angie, and I’ll beat you there, just like I always do,” says Oliver to the green, yellow and gold angel’s broad shoulders disappearing behind the closing doors. As he takes the stairs, two at a time in the ascendency, he silently prays to the great God Otis to deliver us, well Angie at least, from hydraulic evil.
As the doors open, Oliver is indeed there to greet his favourite paramedic. This time she’s almost smiling. They head for number 57, Angie knows the building almost as well as Oliver.
“I was serious Olly you really shouldn’t speak to our controllers like you did. You’re lucky I’m shift leader this morning, I managed to talk him out of making a complaint. I won’t do it a second time.”
“Message received, understood, and thank you Angie.”
They reach the apartment; Oliver’s relieved that the earlier smell is much reduced. Before he turns the key he turns slightly towards Angie.
“When I found her, her head and shoulder prevented me from opening the door enough to get in. I could reach her neck and couldn’t feel a pulse at all but as soon as I saw her I knew. I had to use force to be able to squeeze in. Then I moved her just enough to open it completely, but she’s still in almost exactly the same relative position as I found her.”
“Doesn’t sound like you could’ve done anything else but don’t forget even the lack of an obvious pulse doesn’t prove a thing.”
Once inside, Angie glances down. “Well Olly, I have to admit the poor dear has indeed joined the choir invisible.” She kneels and starts to set up her ECG machine.
“What are you doing?” asks Oliver, surprised.
“I’ve still got to go through the protocol to confirm death and this is one of the steps. It won’t be perfect because the body’s face down and I can’t attach all the leads but at least I can get some of the readings. The police prefer that bodies aren’t moved unless absolutely necessary. The ECG provides printed confirmation too.” It didn’t take her long to complete her grisly task and she joined Oliver in the lounge. “You weren’t too far out with your time of death, Olly. I’d say a bit earlier, around 10 o’clock last night. Beginners luck – don’t let it go to your head. Now, how about impressing me even more with your tea-making skills, I’m parched and I’ve still got forms to fill out before plod get here.”
“You’ve got to wait ’til the police arrive? Shouldn’t you be out and about? There’s not enough of you lot as it is.”
“Just another rule, Olly.” she sighs. “I can’t leave the scene until a designated person takes over and that usually means a police officer.”
“Well at least I can help you fill in your forms.” Oliver hands Angie her copy of his paperwork. “Here you go Angie, everything you need to know about the late Deborah Barron.”
“Olly, you’re an angel.”
Oliver had had tea with Deborah a few times so knows where everything is and soon they were facing each other across the small dining table with their tea.
“I’ve never really thanked you for sorting me out just before Christmas have I, Angie.”
“All in a day’s work Olly but I must admit I was a bit surprised when I found it was you, sitting on the loo, naked and in agony.”
“Well I thought I was going to die. I’ve never known pain like it. That gas and air was a godsend although I still don’t remember much about the ambulance ride.”
“No problems since?”
“No, fortunately, and I bloody hope it never happens again. After I was discharged I was wearing nappies for over a week!”
“Well there are lots of poor sods around who will be wearing them for the rest of their lives so you got off lightly.”
“I know, I’ve got a few here. Anyway, thank you for all you did.” A nod from the paramedic.
“Have you found her booze stash, Olly?”
“I haven’t looked yet; I know she’s got a problem. When she first arrived, just under a year ago, she went to the Saturday night get-together in the lounge – it’s only a dozen or so ladies, they take a couple of bottles of wine and take turns to provide the nibbles. Well, the first night Deborah took a bottle but she drank it all! A couple of the fitter ladies had to help her back here. And then it happened again the following week but this time one of my spies told me what happened. I spoke to Deborah about it and she never went again. It’s a shame, she doesn’t get out much at all, you probably noticed the walking frame.”
“I did. It’s a shame she didn’t use it last night.”
They sit in silence for a minute or so until Angie’s phone disturbs their thoughts. She looks at the screen. “It’s Gavin, my rescuer,” she says, before pressing a button. “Hi Gavin.” She listens for a long moment. “OK, come to the front door and the manager will meet you there.” Oliver is already on his feet and with a silent ‘thumbs-up’ to Angie, heads for the door.
Oliver’s half-way down the stairs when he spots, too late, spider woman coming up.
“There you are Olly! Have you been avoiding me?” she screeches. “Those bloody window cleaners have missed that corridor window I told you about again.” The stress on the final word, no pause for breath —“I pay my service charge and I expect clean windows — it’s not right — I’m writing to Deidre…”
“Maggie, Maggie, let me explain. They haven’t missed that window they just haven’t got to it yet. Paul’s got a trainee with him today and they’re doing the windows in a different sequence for some reason so they haven’t got to you yet. I’ll tell you what, if they miss it I’ll clean it myself and I’ll buy you a cake at the coffee-morning tomorrow. Deal?”
“Well, OK Olly.” A suspicious look from Maggie.
“Great! Now, can’t stop, I’ve got a policeman waiting for me downstairs.” Before Maggie could utter a word, Olly was off and as he reached the bottom of the staircase he could see his visitor through the faux Georgian glass entrance door.
© William 2023