There was a typical October drizzle drifting across the car park as I pulled in for the morning, a mist which steadily increased as I pulled my bag from the boot and hurried across to the gate lodge, hunting for my security pass as I did so. Inside, there was the usual Monday morning queue, the process of clearing staff and issuing their keys always taking longer at the start of the week. I'd often wondered if this was due to the guys behind the glass having accrued monumental hangovers in the course of the weekend but finally concluded that it was just yet another example of their bloody mindedness. Believe it or not this is a hospital- albeit a highly secure one- but you'd never guess it from dealing with the security staff.
Still. No keys, no access. No access, no job. So grin and bear it.
I'd just reached this zen-like conclusion- as I did, perforce, most days- when I noticed my boss a few places ahead of me in the queue and managed to attract her attention with a well timed wave. I was obviously among the blessed this morning, though, because she promptly dropped back for a chat. Albeit not a friendly social one- Linda was just as focused as you might expect a consultant forensic psychiatrist to be. Especially one who'd been on call all weekend and now, I belatedly realised, had a convenient minion on whom to offload any inconvenient issues that had emerged the while.
Which suspicion appeared to be all too accurate, given that her opening gambit was to enquire about my caseload.
"Well, you know how it is- you could always do with more time, fewer problems, but generally, I'm coping. I assume that I'm about to get a little extra something, though?"
She had the good grace to laugh, slightly.
"Nothing too onerous, I hope," she explained. "In fact, I think this one might interest you. A prison transfer we took as an emergency on Saturday afternoon. Good nursing observations from the prison 'hospital', for a change, and I saw him briefly yesterday, but ... I don't know. There's something odd about this one. Not your normal paedophile, I mean- or at least in his opinion. Come over to my office, though ... I'll show you the notes."
She paused as we finally got to the head of the queue, turning to me as she started for the exit.
"You're a bloody good senior reg, Dave. But if you want to make it to consultant ... well, it'll be interesting to see what you make of Dr M..."
Once through the lodge, keys clipped firmly onto strap, placed securely in belt pouch- all as per regulations- Linda set a rapid pace across the 'campus'. Unlike most clinicians of her status, L's office was within the secure area- behind the four metre concrete wall, in other words- which, as she put it, saved time and got her a higher quality of administrative staff ... many, if not most, of the hospital's clerical types being far too scared of our- umm- challenging patient group to come so close to them on a daily basis.
It was one of the reasons I liked her- that and the fact that she kept a stock of excellent coffee and was even prepared to share it with underlings. This morning she gave me a cup as we got into her room, as well as a voluminous file- or, strictly, several files, loosely tied together with prison service tape. Which, taking the hint, I began to read as she turned away to make some phone calls, check through messages and generally prepare for her day.
So. Dr Pieter M. I knew the name, of course, his trial and conviction having filled a fair few column inches in my morning newspaper. But I'd never expected to see him here...
Not that the case notes were all that informative- most of the bulk consisted of legal documents, most interestingly witness statements from his trial and copies of the material that had led to his conviction in the first place. I scanned that, of course- its a necessary if distinctly unpleasant part of the job- but I put most of my initial effort into reading the clinical entries. Such as they were- a couple of reports prepared for the Court, the nursing notes Linda had mentioned from the prison hospital wing and, finally, the written referral to us. All of which gave me more questions than answers- not least quite how he'd been thought worthy of a bed here- and as an emergency, to boot- on such scanty evidence.
I was still pondering it all when Linda finished her calls and turned to me expectantly.
"So- what do you think?", she asked.
"I think I probably ought to go and see him. There's not a huge amount to go on, here."
I pointedly didn't mention the fact that she didn't seem to have written up any notes from her meeting with him, nor was she sharing her own thoughts and observations. Far be it from me to question, though...
In any case, I seemed to have given her the answer she wanted, as she replied brightly,
"Good, Darwin ward have got him on 1:1 obs as you might expect"- Darwin had nurses individually assigned to "observe" virtually all of their patients- "but I'm sure they'll find you a room to talk to him. Oh, and I've checked- they've got nothing in the way of transfers or admissions scheduled for this morning, so why don't you toodle off over there now?"
I can take a hint, me. So sod my schedule for the morning- I picked up my stuff and headed over to Darwin.
This place is laid out like a giant clockface, single storey wards arranged in pairs around a slightly squashed circle. For some reason they're all named after scientists- in alphabetical order from Angstrom to Wilkins, since you ask- but in any case Linda's office was round the back of the Perutz/Rutherford block, which made it about as far from Darwin as it was possible to get. And the rain was now coming down with a vengeance.
So I was a bit wet when I got to my destination, my mood not further improved when I let myself through the outer door of the 'airlock' and discovered the vestibule to be full of clinical supplies- for which, read 'drugs'- which it shouldn't have been. But it was, and that meant that I couldn't proceed through the inner door- and onto the ward itself- until all the patients had been safely corralled out of the way. Absurd, I know- the chances of a patient actually wanting to steal the sort of medication we used was minimal, the chances of them getting through the innumerable layers of packaging the pharmaceutical industry went in for before the riot squad- sorry, Special Intervention Team- arrived non-existent. But then, on another level, it was sensible. Darwin was a dedicated special care unit, after all, dealing with newly admitted patients considered unsuitable for Angstrom and Bohr, - the formal admission wards- and for others who'd experienced problems on their 'home' areas. So: Better safe than sorry and all that.
Only, just at the moment, I was dripping wet and they'd switched off the heating in the vestibule- must be something temperature sensitive in one of those boxes, I guessed- so I was also freezing and it took bloody ages to clear the area and let me in. As a result, I wasn't brilliantly happy when Joe, the ward manager, finally waved me through- and, perversely, my temper didn't improve when he immediately showed me into an interview room, presumable having been warned in advance of the purpose of my visit. In any case, I had no chance to express any sort of vexation- however pathetic- and instead found myself face to face with my patient.
Who was, on first impressions, a slightly shabby looking, fifty-something male. Medium height, rimless glasses, still dressed in prison issue clothing. Definite incipient bald spot, slight paunch. Body language constrained but seemingly confident, hesitating to make eye contact but maintaining appropriately thereafter. Did not offer any sort of greeting, remained sitting in the plastic chair he'd been given as I formally took responsibility from the nurse who'd been with him on my arrival, set my bag down on the table and found a note pad to begin the interview proper. Overall- nondescript sort of bloke, someone you'd have walked past in the street without a second glance. Didn't look like a PhD, for sure. And, yes, that really is how clinical observations are made- whatever the text books might say.
I introduced myself, explained that I was here to do the formal admission- which includes taking blood pressures and a family history and all that stuff, though I have no idea why the nursing staff can't bloody do it- and also to have an initial chat, given that I was part of the team that would be caring for him.
He let me get through pretty much the entire spiel without interrupting- which was novel- and thereafter the interview, I thought, went pretty well. I mean, working as a forensic psychiatrist means that most of my first 'chats' with my punters- sorry, patients- tend to involve either long, complicated explanations of quite why they had to chop a sibling or whoever's head off with mum's best carving knife ... or a simple refusal to talk to me, me obviously being- from their perspective, at least- the living incarnation of Beelzebub ... or their particular demon of choice.
Dr M wasn't like that. Once he'd got used to being in a room with just me- realised that he was no longer being 'shadowed' by one of the ward's typically rather physically impressive nurses- he opened up completely. Admitted it all. Agreed that all the legal documents were correct, that all the files recovered from his computer were his, that he'd known about them, had deliberately obtained them, that...
.... There is more of this story ...