I knocked and after a short wait opened the door slowly to peer into the gloom of the office. For a moment I thought it was empty but as my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness I could see Gill stretched out on the floor under the window.
‘Pull up a pew Mark. How’s everything? Good week?’
I smiled, sat down and eyed the case files on the desk.
Gill stood up, pulled up the blind, straightened her hair and brushed at her trousers. I was already getting used to her lack of conventional behaviour and enjoyed working for her.
‘Grab the file – surprised you haven’t already – Julia Booten – she’s been through the mill a bit.’
‘I want to take you down to meet her this morning so here’s a quick summary. Young single mother, numerous social services interventions, severe depression – catastrophic house fire – she was rescued but her two children died. Two years later convicted of arson. Broadmoor for the last 18 months. Several claims of abuse while there, all of which were not upheld. Clumsy but probably genuine suicide attempt prevented. Stopped talking a few months ago. Moved to us as part of the shut down of Broadmoor. The file is well worth studying, she has some interesting obsessions and delusions – she believes in angels.’
‘Is she talking now?’
‘Not to me Mark. I haven’t got enough time as you know but I wanted to try first. So at this stage I’m looking simply for a way in, a way to get her to open up. I don’t know if it’s possible in any reasonable timeframe, but can you make her your priority this week? I’m back here next Tuesday’
‘Yes of course Gill, whatever you need.’
‘Any concerns, immediate thoughts? I’d like to take you down now?’
My mind was full of questions, the first meeting is so important, I was confused why Gill with her all experience was skipping so many details.
‘Self harm? Danger to others? Is she likely to open up to a man?’
‘On the men side – maybe not, to be honest – that’s what I thought so I wanted to try first. But you’re patient and excellent. And all we have.’ She smiled at me. ‘Bring a book or something? It’s not likely to be that fascinating at first, based on my experience. Just be there, see if she will talk given enough time?’
‘On the risk side, yes you should be careful. I was going to go over this. She hurt some people at Broadmoor, claimed self defense and reading between the lines it might well have been. She has the occasional fit and lashes out. But like most she didn’t deserve the security level she got. Normal stuff, lack of resources, mixed wards.’
I flicked through the first few pages while Gill continued in her confident, business like way.
‘She is a self harm risk, though nothing recently. She did try to kill herself after all, and she has some interesting scars. But actually I don’t think that’s a huge concern – she seems to be quietly fighting her own battles, focused on something, just no idea what. We do have a cam on her of course.’
‘Shall we?’ she stood up, I picked up the file and we strolled down to the ground floor and round to one of the flexible space crisis centre rooms.
‘We put her in here just to try to keep her calm. She’s been short on privacy for a very long time.’
Gill held the door open an inch and reached out to touch me on the arm. She looked at me with that kind of mood breaking quiet intensity she could turn on at will.
‘Don’t expect too much Mark. I’m going to introduce you, just in case it makes a difference. It might, because I am a woman and because we have spent some time together. But actually she has never said anything coherent to me. Then I will leave, and maybe you could try to stay for a while, just to see if its possible without her lapsing. Small steps.’
Gill opened the door.
‘Hello Julia, there‘s someone I want you to meet. This is Mark.’
She was sitting on the edge of the bed, her pale skin gleaming with sweat. Her arms were crossed over her chest, her hands pulling at the short nightshirt near her shoulders as if hugging herself. She was slowly rocking.
‘Mark is going to be here with you whenever you want him to be. He’s just going to listen. He wants to help you.’
She didn’t respond, and stared down at her feet, watching them trace small circles on the floor. I could hear soft murmurs, almost whispers.
‘Hello Julia.’ I said, quietly. ’I am just going to sit over here, you don’t need to say anything, and I am not going to come any nearer.’
I sat on the small chair, looked at Gill, who nodded, shrugged and quietly left the room, closing the door behind her. I was alone with Julia for the very first time.