Непредвиденная вакансия - Часть первая - Вторник IV
Nobody was answering their telephone. Back in the Child Protection team’s room, Kay had been punching in numbers on and off for nearly two hours, leaving messages, asking everyone to call her back: the Weedons’ health visitor, their family doctor, the Cantermill Nursery and the Bellchapel Addiction Clinic. Terri Weedon’s file lay open on the desk in front of her, bulging and battered.
‘Using again, is she?’ said Alex, one of the women with whom Kay shared an office. ‘Bellchapel’ll kick her out for good this time. She claims she’s terrified Robbie’ll be taken off her, but she can’t keep off the smack.’
‘It’s the third time she’s been through Bellchapel,’ said Una.
On the basis of what she had seen that afternoon, Kay thought the time was right for a case review, to pull together those professionals who shared responsibility for individual fragments of Terri Weedon’s life. She continued to press redial between dealing with other work, while in the corner of the office their own telephone rang repeatedly and clicked immediately onto the answering machine. The Child Protection team’s room was cramped and cluttered, and it smelt of spoilt milk, because Alex and Una had a habit of emptying the dregs of their coffee cups into the pot of a depressed-looking yucca plant in the corner.
Mattie’s most recent notes were untidy and chaotic, peppered with crossings out, misdated and partial. Several key documents were missing from the file, including a letter sent by the addiction clinic a fortnight previously. It was quicker to ask Alex and Una for information.
‘Last case review woulda been …’ said Alex, frowning at the yucca plant, ‘over a year ago, I reckon.’
‘And they thought Robbie was OK to stay with her then, obviously,’ said Kay, the receiver pressed between ear and shoulder as she tried and failed to find the notes of the review in the bulging folder.
‘It wasn’t a case of him staying with her; it was whether he was going to go back to her or not. He was put out to a foster mother, because Terri was beaten up by a client and ended up in hospital. She got clean, got out, and was mad to get Robbie back. She went back on the Bellchapel programme, she was off the game and makin’ a proper effort. Her mother was saying she’d help. So she got him home and a few months later she’d started shooting up again.’
‘It’s not Terri’s mother who helps, though, is it?’ said Kay, whose head was starting to ache, as she tried to decipher Mattie’s big, untidy writing. ‘It’s her grandmother, the kids’ great-grandmother. So she must be knocking on, and Terri said something about her being ill, this morning. If Terri’s the only carer now …’
‘The daughter’s sixteen,’ said Una. ‘She mostly takes care of Robbie.’
‘Well, she’s not doing a great job,’ said Kay. ‘He was in a pretty bad state when I got there this morning.’
But she had seen far worse: welts and sores, gashes and burns, tar-black bruises; scabies and nits; babies lying on carpets covered in dog shit; kids crawling on broken bones; and once (she dreamed of it, still), a child who had been locked in a cupboard for five days by his psychotic stepfather. That one had made the national news. The most immediate danger to Robbie Weedon’s safety had been the pile of heavy boxes in his mother’s sitting room, which he had attempted to climb when he realized that it attracted Kay’s full attention. Kay had carefully restacked them into two lower piles before leaving. Terri had not liked her touching the boxes; nor had she liked Kay telling her that she ought to take off Robbie’s sodden nappy. Terri had been roused, in fact, to foul-mouthed, though still slightly hazy, fury, and had told Kay to fuck off and stay away.
Kay’s mobile rang and she picked it up. It was Terri’s key drug worker.
‘I’ve been trying to get you for days,’ said the woman crossly. It took several minutes for Kay to explain that she was not Mattie, but this did not much reduce the woman’s antagonism.
‘Yeah, we’re still seeing her, but she tested positive last week. If she uses again, she’s out. We’ve got twenty people right now who could take her place on the programme and maybe get some benefit from it. This is the third time she’s been through.’
Kay did not say she knew that Terri had used that morning.
‘Have either of you got any paracetamol?’ Kay asked Alex and Una, once the drug worker had given her full details of Terri’s attendance and lack of progress at the clinic, and rung off.
Kay took her painkillers with tepid tea, lacking the energy to get up and go to the water cooler in the corridor. The office was stuffy, the radiator cranked up high. As the daylight faded from the sky outside, the strip-lighting over her desk intensified: it turned her multitude of papers a bright yellow-white; buzzing black words marched in endless lines.
‘They’re going to close down Bellchapel Clinic, you watch,’ said Una, who was working at her PC with her back to Kay. ‘Got to make cuts. Council funds one of the drug workers. Pagford Parish owns the building. I heard they’re planning to tart it up and try and rent to a better-paying client. They’ve had it in for that clinic for years.’
Kay’s temple throbbed. The name of her new hometown made her feel sad. Without pausing to think, she did the thing that she had vowed not to do after he had failed to call the previous evening: she picked up her mobile and keyed in Gavin’s office number.
‘Edward Collins and Co,’ said a woman’s voice, after the third ring. They answered your calls immediately out in the private sector, when money might depend on it.
‘Could I speak to Gavin Hughes, please?’ said Kay, staring down at Terri’s file.
‘Who’s speaking, please?’
‘Kay Bawden,’ said Kay.
She did not look up; she did not want to catch either Alex’s or Una’s eyes. The pause seemed interminable.
(They had met in London at Gavin’s brother’s birthday party. Kay had not known anyone there, except for the friend who had dragged her along for support. Gavin had just split up with Lisa; he had been a little drunk, but had seemed decent, reliable and conventional, not at all the kind of man that Kay usually went for. He had poured out the story of his broken relationship, and then gone home with her to the flat in Hackney. He had been keen while the affair remained long-distance, visiting at weekends and telephoning her regularly; but when, by a miracle, she had got the job in Yarvil, for less money, and put her flat in Hackney on the market, he had seemed to take fright … )
‘His line’s still busy, would you like to hold?’
‘Yes, please,’ said Kay miserably.
(If she and Gavin did not work out … but they had to work out. She had moved for him, changed jobs for him, uprooted her daughter for him. He would never have let that happen, surely, unless his intentions were serious? He must have thought through the consequences if they split up: how awful and awkward it would be, running across each other constantly in a tiny town like Pagford?)
‘Putting you through,’ said the secretary, and Kay’s hopes soared.
‘Hi,’ said Gavin. ‘How are you?’
‘Fine,’ lied Kay, because Alex and Una were listening. ‘Are you having a good day?’
‘Busy,’ said Gavin. ‘You?’
She waited, the phoned pressed tightly against her ear, pretending that he was speaking to her, listening to the silence.
‘I wondered whether you wanted to meet up tonight,’ she asked finally, feeling sick.
‘Er … I don’t think I can,’ he said.
How can you not know? What have you got on?
‘I might have to do something … it’s Mary. Barry’s wife. She wants me to be a pall-bearer. So I might have to … I think I’ve got to find out what that involves and everything.’
Sometimes, if she simply remained quiet, and let the inadequacy of his excuses reverberate on the air, he became ashamed and backtracked.
‘I don’t suppose that’ll take all evening, though,’ he said. ‘We could meet up later, if you wanted.’
‘All right, then. Do you want to come over to mine, as it’s a school night?’
‘Er … yeah, OK.’
‘What time?’ she asked, wanting him to make one decision.
‘I dunno … nine-ish?’
After he had rung off, Kay kept the phone pressed tightly to her ear for a few moments, then said, for the benefit of Alex and Una, ‘I do, too. See you later, babe.’
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