The child who has been beaten, but whose call is suddenly interrupted by a furious adult.The daughter of a drug dealer who tells us that her father pulled a gun out, so she ran away, but is too frightened to say where she is.
Nearly every desk in the call centre is empty, the lights in the ceiling hard and glaring. When there are child protection issues, we make sure volunteers are not left on their own to make crucial decisions.
Each desk has a computer screen on which we log the calls, so that we have a record of the problems, and the advice we give. 'Kate,' I say, 'Can I just go over what you've told me, to make sure I've understand what happened?
Bullying and abuse are the two most common problems children bring. About eight are from children who want to commit suicide. Your parents were away, so you went to stay with your dad's brother. When I got home yesterday I couldn't stop washing, I felt so dirty.' And suddenly, the memory overwhelms her and she starts to weep. If she had been beside me I would have been able to reach for her hand. 'Kate, you know it's not your fault.' 'Mmm.' She was clearly unsure.
Alone in the dark, with nothing to distract or console them, bad memories flood in and overwhelm them. Children run away, unable to endure a life of physical or mental pain, and find themselves alone in dark streets.
They lie awake, dreading the footfall which signals a night of abuse.
If such desperate children ring tonight, will I be able to help them?
After 23 years listening to children over Child Line's phone lines, I am doing my first night shift, the time when I know from our records that some of the most serious calls are made. At 11 I set off through the rain-soaked streets to the Child Line counselling centre in Spitalfields, in the heart of London. I park my car behind the Child Line building and the security officer lets me in.
A dozen volunteer counsellors are reaching the end of their shift.
They have been answering calls all evening, but as midnight approaches, one by one they finish and go to de-brief. In Child Line's earliest days our counsellors found they took home the memory of the most difficult calls, and they burned out under the strain.