Peter stepped over a box but the footing on the other side was precarious at best. He put out a hand to steady himself and dislodged the handle of a carpet sweeper, though Heaven knows how many years it had been since the carpet was last visible. The handle fell, falling with a clatter onto a tea tray pile high with old jewellery. Glass beads spilled onto what passed for the floor in a cascade of rainbow light, clattering and rolling over the old take-away cartons and vanishing among the shopping bags of rags and old clothes.
“Careful, Sergeant.” White flashed him a scowl as he worked a path through the piles into the living room.
“Sorry.” Peters looked at his hand and sniffed it cautiously. With a grimace he wiped it on a dangling cloth. “I don't understand how someone can live like this.”
“He doesn't realise he's doing it. How does he manage to hold down a job, that's what I want to know. I mean, he was clean, wasn't he? He didn't smell like you'd expect.”
“Perhaps he uses the college facilities? Dry-cleans his uniform at the weekend, that sort of thing.”
“You may be right. High functioning but with a hoarding obsession.” White reached a door under the stairs and debated opening it. He cracked it open a couple of inches and shone his torch inside. “Oh good god.”
“What is it, sir?”
“Let's just say I'm glad I'm not a plumber who has to clean out this toilet.” He closed the door again, thankful nothing had fallen to stop it clicking shut.