Chapter no 29

The Silent Patient

THERE WERE NO QUEUES OUTSIDE Alicia’s gallery this time, as there had been that day, six years ago, when I had gone to see the Alcestis. A different artist was hanging in the window now, and despite his possible talent, he lacked Alicia’s notoriety and subsequent ability to draw in the crowds.

As I entered the gallery, I shivered; it was even colder in here than on the street. There was something chilly about the atmosphere as well as the temperature; it smelled of exposed steel beams and bare concrete floors. It was soulless, I thought. Empty.

The gallerist was sitting behind his desk. He stood up as I approached.

Jean-Felix Martin was in his early forties, a handsome man with black eyes and hair, and a tight T-shirt with a red skull on it. I told him who I was and why I had come. To my surprise, he seemed perfectly happy to talk about Alicia. He spoke with an accent. I asked if he was French.

“Originally—from Paris. But I’ve been here since I was a student—oh, twenty years at least. I think of myself more as British these days.” He smiled and gestured to a back room. “Come in, we can have a coffee.”


Jean-Felix led me into an office that was essentially a storeroom, crowded with stacks of paintings.

“How is Alicia?” he asked, using a complicated-looking coffee machine. “Is she still not talking?”

I shook my head. “No.”

He nodded and sighed. “So sad. Won’t you sit down? What do you want to know? I’ll do my best to answer truthfully.” Jean-Felix gave me a wry smile, tinged with curiosity. “Although I’m not entirely sure why you’ve come to me.”

“You and Alicia were close, weren’t you? Apart from your professional relationship—”

“Who told you that?”

“Gabriel’s brother, Max Berenson. He suggested I talk to you.”

Jean-Felix rolled his eyes. “Oh, so you saw Max, did you? What a


He said it with such contempt I couldn’t help laughing. “You know Max Berenson?”

“Well enough. Better than I’d like.” He handed me a small cup of coffee. “Alicia and I were close. Very close. We knew each other for years

—long before she met Gabriel.” “I didn’t realize that.”

“Oh, yes. We were at art school together. And after we graduated, we painted together.”

“You mean you collaborated?”

“Well, not really.” Jean-Felix laughed. “I mean we painted walls together. As housepainters.”

I smiled. “Oh, I see.”

“It turned out I was better at painting walls than paintings. So I gave up, about the same time as Alicia’s art started to really take off. And when I started running this place, it made sense for me to show Alicia’s work. It was a very natural, organic process.”

“Yes, it sounds like it. And what about Gabriel?” “What about him?”

I sensed a prickliness here, a defensive reaction that told me this was an avenue worth exploring. “Well, I wonder how he fit into this dynamic. Presumably you knew him quite well?”

“Not really.” “No?”

“No.” Jean-Felix hesitated a second. “Gabriel didn’t take time to know me. He was very … caught up in himself.”

“Sounds like you didn’t like him.”

“I didn’t particularly. I don’t think he liked me. In fact, I know he didn’t.”

“Why was that?” “I have no idea.”

“Do you think perhaps he was jealous? Of your relationship with Alicia?”

Jean-Felix sipped his coffee and nodded. “Yeah, yes. Possibly.” “He saw you as a threat, perhaps?”

“You tell me. Sounds like you have all the answers.”

I took the hint. I didn’t push it any further. Instead I tried a different approach. “You saw Alicia a few days before the murder, I believe?”

“Yes. I went to the house to see her.” “Can you tell me a little about that?”

“Well, she had an exhibition coming up, and she was behind with her work. She was rightfully concerned.”

“You hadn’t seen any of the new work?”

“No. She’d been putting me off for ages. I thought I’d better check on her. I expected she’d be in the studio at the end of the garden. But she wasn’t.”


“No, I found her in the house.” “How did you get in?”

Jean-Felix looked surprised by the question. “What?” I could tell he was making some quick mental evaluation. Then he nodded. “Oh, I see what you mean. Well, there was a gate that led from the street to the back garden. It was usually unlocked. And from the garden I went into the kitchen through the back door. Which was also unlocked.” He smiled. “You know, you sound more like a detective than a psychiatrist.”

“I’m a psychotherapist.” “Is there a difference?”

“I’m just trying to understand Alicia’s mental state. How did you experience her mood?”

Jean-Felix shrugged. “She seemed fine. A little stressed about work.” “Is that all?”

“She didn’t look like she was going to shoot her husband in a few days, if that’s what you mean. She seemed—fine.” He drained his coffee and

hesitated as a thought struck him. “Would you like to see some of her paintings?” Without waiting for a reply, Jean-Felix got up and walked to the door, beckoning me to follow.

“Come on.”

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