The agent has a liverish complexion, perplexing eyebrows and fag-breath; she drives an old, mustard-coloured Renault that almost matches her skin. I can tell that she hates her job.
“Mr and Mrs T— are quite frail, so be gentle.”
Her words indicate concern, her expression boredom. She knocks, and the door swings open immediately.
The old man’s hand is calloused, his grip still firm. He sizes me up and blurts out that his wife has Alzheimer’s and he can’t cope. I commiserate, sincerely; tell him I would be a cash buyer, insincerely. He shows me round as the agent clucks over Mrs T— while checking her phone.
The house is stifling, a testament to bad taste and sentiment. The boiler is obsolete; the photos faded and the bathroom mouldy-black.
The garden tells of skilful industry, abandoned; the shed is cobwebbed but full of treasures.
“Can’t do it no more. I’m going blind . . .” His words curdle and I do some sympathy. As he peers outside to hide tears, I pocket a pretty miniature spirit level and say, “Do you mind if I have another wander round? The layout’s not quite fixed in my head.”
“Take your time. But I’d better . . .” He gestures towards his wife’s room and shuffles off. A complicated folding ruler and a pair of ebony-and-brass dividers disappear inside my coat.
In the bedroom, I snap the heads from two ceramic spaniels, remove the light bulbs, flip back cheap duvets and slice down the centres of their mattresses with my scalpel (10A Swann Morton blade). I put the plug in the kitchen sink and turn on the tap. He’ll think he did it, initially.
Satisfied, I re-join them.
The agent looks relieved; dementia has its limitations. Promising an early response, we leave. She lights up and inhales suicidally.
“What did you think? Potential?”
I step towards her, baring my teeth. Clutching her bag to her stomach she shrinks back, and I walk.
She gives me the finger as her car speeds past, but doesn’t stop. Very wise.
I feed my trophies to the nearest drain and jog to the station, replenished.