‘I’ve been suicidal,’ said Keith.
‘I’m sorry to hear that. Have you attempted to take your own life?’
‘Do you have the five bags here? If you can show them to us, we can tick you off our list.’
‘I threw them out.’
‘Why?’ asked Peterson.
‘And the bump key?’
Keith wiped his sweaty forehead. ‘I got it in case I get locked out.’
‘You just told us you never leave your flat?’ said Peterson.
‘I have a carer who comes over three times a week. I bought it for her.’
‘Why not give her a normal key?’ fired back Peterson. ‘Or get another key cut? Why go to the trouble of ordering a skeleton key online?’
Keith gulped and licked sweat from his upper lip. His eyes, large behind his glasses, slid between them both.
‘What is this country coming to? I’ve done nothing illegal,’ he said, suddenly regaining his composure. ‘I never leave this flat, and you can’t prove anything. Now you are being bullying and inappropriate and I’d like you both to leave before I call your superiors.’
Erika looked at Peterson and they both stood.
‘Very well,’ she said, collecting up the photos and bank statements and pushing them into her bag. Peterson folded up the two chairs and tucked them back beside the fridge. Keith started forward in his chair. As it whirred towards them, they were forced out of the room, past the frosted glass doorway and back out into the hall.
‘I can make a complaint. I’ll say you’ve been harassing me!’ said Keith.
‘As you can see, we’re just going,’ said Erika. She stopped at the large disabled bathroom and pushed open the door, stepping inside. Peterson followed.
‘What now?’ asked Keith, stopping outside the door. There was a large white bath with a motorised bath lift platform, a low sink and mirror, and a disabled toilet with a huge metal safety bar on one side which was on a hinge at the wall, enabling it to be swung up and out of the way.
‘Who answers if you pull this alarm?’ asked Erika, touching a red cord hanging down from the ceiling beside the toilet.
‘The police, and social services. It links to a control centre,’ said Keith. Erika came out of the bathroom and looked at the small junk room opposite.
‘What’s this?’ she asked.
‘That’s my storage room,’ replied Keith.
‘You mean, a second bedroom?’
‘It’s a store room,’ said Keith, gritting his teeth.
‘No, that’s a second bedroom, Keith,’ said Erika.
‘It’s a store room,’ insisted Keith.
‘No, I’d definitely call that a second bedroom,’ said Peterson, emerging from the bathroom to join them. Keith was now gripping the arms of his chair, looking agitated.
‘You could fit a big bed in there… definitely a second bedroom,’ said Erika.
‘Yup, second bedroom,’ agreed Peterson.
‘That’s NOT a bedroom! You know nothing!’ shouted Keith.
‘Oh, we know a lot!’ said Erika, moving close to Keith. ‘We didn’t just come all this way for you to piss us around! We know that the government has cut your disability benefits because you have a second bedroom… We also know you haven’t been able to rent it out, and you can’t afford to live here much longer. When they evict you, which they will, where are you going to go? I presume the only other place you can afford on your disability is out on one of the estates, miles from the shops, banks and doctors. You’ll be reliant on piss-stinking lifts and murky walkways filled with drug dealers.’
‘And life on one of those estates is tough for anyone, let alone someone like you,’ said Peterson.
‘Or you could go to jail for obstructing the course of justice, aiding and abetting a murderer. I doubt being banged up would be a picnic for you either,’ said Erika. She let it hang in the air for a moment. ‘Of course, if you help us with our investigation instead of lying, then, perhaps, we can help you.’
‘All right!’ Keith shouted. ‘All right!’ He was now in tears and anxiously pulling at his remaining wisps of hair.
‘All right, what?’ asked Erika.
‘I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you what I know… I think I’ve been talking to her online. The killer…’
‘What’s her name?’ asked Erika.
‘I don’t… I don’t know her real name, and she doesn’t know mine. She only knows me as Duke.’