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Last call of the day

An on-duty GP finishes his rounds on a neglected housing estate, in the latest tale from Through the K Hole.

It was an ordinary looking terraced house. The doctor was on-duty and he pulled up outside, relieved that it was his last call of the day.

He was there because of a hurriedly scrawled letter which had been tightly folded up and placed into his in-tray. It had been written by one of the health visitors who had raised concerns about a family that was new to the practice. She hadn't elaborated and of course it being a Friday afternoon she was now frustratingly un-contactable.

The house itself was pebble dashed with a slate grey porridge and peeling wooden window frames. It was in an undesirable part of town and the whole housing estate had become a rusting vessel, its sail slack in the economic doldrums. Several problem families had been moved there in a vain attempt to socially engineer solutions. They now lived crowded together behind metal buzzers and yellowing nets, in cramped unemployed mould.

As he stepped out of his car he crunched across an aggressive frosting of broken glass and made his way to the front door. The small garden, once neatly tended, was now an over-grown beard of tousled greenery. Weaved into the grass was an up-ended shopping trolley, its meshed belly pointing skyward.

He pressed the buzzer which set off a pitchy raven's cry somewhere inside the building. There was no response. According to the notes they didn't have a land line and he was cheerily told by an automated voice message that the person's mobile phone was switched off.

He knocked on the windows and stooped down to open up the letter box , a lozenge of fetid air wafted out. He could just make out the chaotic outline of blankets and heaped boxes in the hallway and at the entrance to what he presumed to be the kitchen was the muscled, feral body of a dealer's dog. Urban protection, all head, triangular eyes and powerful jaws. He called inside but quickly dropped the letter box as the dog flashed its underbelly and strained against the growling guy rope of its leash.

He had no idea what the situation was and out of frustration he decided to leave the surgery's number, hoping that they would be able to make contact next week. He drove away to join the indifferent rhythms of the commuter traffic which wheeled around the town centre like a hub of bright stars. His copy of Hidden Harms and an invitation to attend a Child Protection Workshop slid off the passenger seat and disappeared into the foot well.

As he sped off there was movement from upstairs. A shadow streaked into the room, an outline of parental promise and intimacy. But instead of affection it forced open the wardrobe door and roughly pulled out the child by its arm. It was late evening and the cooling shadows were tinged with purple.

Sadly, as the GP made his way home, sky and skin were already beginning to bruise.

Written in response to: GP consortia to be handed key child protection role Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen.

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