Harold left them to their bickering and went into the flat. It was cold, as ground-floor flats tended to be when there were no south-facing windows. He could tell by the furnishings the family were low-income, probably single-parent benefit or working tax credit. Despite the shabby furnishings, the house was clean and tidy, the woodwork washed down and the walls recently painted.
He followed the sound of the television into the living room, where a child sat watching Australian soaps while wrapped in a blanket. It was, as far as he could tell, a little boy of around four years old, his face smeared with chocolate and sugar from the scattered cake and sweet wrappers that littered the sofa. He squatted in front of the sofa, surprised that the lad seemed completely unafraid of a strange man in the house. “Hello. What's your name, then?”
The boy looked at him with wide, brown eyes. He was wearing Batman pyjamas and, other than the mass of chocolate and sugar, looked recently bathed. “Darren.”
“Darren? That's a shame.” Harold held out his hand and the boy shook it formally. “I'm--” He was about to say 'Harold' until he realised that the child was old enough to relate the information to a social worker. “Peter.”
“Do you want a sweetie?”
Harold looked at the packet. Sugared almonds. Normally he'd have said yes, but he suspected Darren had already licked the sugar off most of them. “No thank you. Where are mummy and daddy?”