The boy with the body of a man lies inert. Lips that habitually crack a smile, now still. Chest barely moving. Long legs bare, thin, immobile.
The police officer gestures to the door. Two women meekly follow her to a room with three chairs and a window that lets in rays of weak dawn light. They cannot answer any of her questions except to confirm the boy/man’s address and that they are his next of kin.
They return to the room where the boy/man lies on his slab. The detective lifts a floppy hand, turns it over, and points questioningly to the palm. A detailed map of a dozen streets – named, with turnings and arrows – is etched in blue ink.
“A clue to the crime?” asks the detective.
“We’re all wondering,” says the doctor.
A wave of relief bathes the shorter woman’s face, the shadow of a grin hovers. “That’s my son,” she says. “He draws things. He’s drawn directions – probably to a party.”
Students. says the detective’s face.
“Drunk?” says the doctor, yawning. “Drugs?” he asks warily.
“Maybe.” The women shrug helplessly.
“There’s internal bleeding,” says the bleary-eyed surgeon. “We need to take him to theatre.”
The shorter woman kisses the warm, familiar forehead. The taller one squeezes the boy/man’s hand and utters his name. The police officer leads them back to the room with three chairs, and they wait.
“There’s blue tape. Scene of crime officers are there right now,” says the crop-haired policewoman. She mentions her other half – female – to put the women at their ease.
“Where was it?” they ask.
“Ginnel, behind some garages,” she says. “Steep drop, long way to fall. You know Leeds – everywhere’s on a hill.”
“Yes,” they say.
They all sit, motionless, waiting for the boy who thinks he’s a man to be sliced and stitched. They stare at the brown carpet, at the bin for non-clinical waste, at the closed door with its discreet glass panel, designed for peeking at, but not disturbing, the relatives inside.
“When did it happen?” asks one of the women, pleading for information, anything to break the silence.
“Dunno,” says the police officer. “He was found at 3.25.”
“Who?” they ask.
“A man who lives on the estate.”
“I’d like to thank him,” says the mother. “Do you know where he lives?”
“Yeah, we know him,” says the police officer.
The door opens. “All finished,” says the surgeon with a smile. “He’s on his way to intensive care.”
They troop out and head towards the green ICU arrows in the distance.
“There’s no sign he was attacked,” says the detective in the corridor. “His housemate says they were at a party. Maybe he got lost on the way home. Is that likely?”
“Yes,” say the women.