Chapter no 4

The Silent Patient

I ARRIVED AT THE GROVE pursued by an icy January wind. The bare trees stood like skeletons along the road. The sky was white, heavy with snow that had yet to fall.

I stood outside the entrance and reached for my cigarettes in my pocket. I hadn’t smoked in over a week—I’d promised myself that this time I meant it, I’d quit for good. Yet here I was, already giving in. I lit one, feeling annoyed with myself. Psychotherapists tend to view smoking as an unresolved addiction—one that any decent therapist should have worked through and overcome. I didn’t want to walk in reeking of cigarettes, so I popped a couple of mints into my mouth and chewed them while I smoked, hopping from foot to foot.

I was shivering—but if I’m honest, it was more with nerves than cold. I was having doubts. My consultant at Broadmoor had made no bones about saying I was making a mistake. He hinted a promising career was being cut short by my departure, and he was sniffy about the Grove, and Professor Diomedes in particular.

“An unorthodox man. Does a lot of work with group relations—worked with Foulkes for a while. Ran some kind of alternative therapeutic community in the eighties in Hertfordshire. Not economically viable, those models of therapy, especially today…” He hesitated a second, then went on in a lower voice, “I’m not trying to scare you, Theo. But I’ve heard rumblings about that place getting axed. You could find yourself out of a job in six months.… Are you sure you won’t reconsider?”

I hesitated, but only out of politeness. “Quite sure.”

He shook his head. “Seems like career suicide to me. But if you’ve made your decision…”

I didn’t tell him about Alicia Berenson, about my desire to treat her. I could have put it in terms he might understand: working with her might lead to a book or publication of some kind. But I knew there was little point; he’d still say I was making a mistake. Perhaps he was right. I was about to find out.

I stubbed out my cigarette, banished my nerves, and went inside.

The Grove was located in the oldest part of Edgware hospital. The original redbrick Victorian building had long since been surrounded and dwarfed by larger, and generally uglier, additions and extensions. The Grove lay in the heart of this complex. The only hint of its dangerous occupants was the line of security cameras perched on the fences like watching birds of prey. In reception, every effort had been made to make it appear friendly—large blue couches, crude, childish artwork by the patients taped to the walls. It looked to me more like a kindergarten than a secure psychiatric unit.

A tall man appeared at my side. He grinned at me and held out his hand. He introduced himself as Yuri, head psychiatric nurse. “Welcome to the Grove. Not much of a welcoming committee, I’m afraid. Just me.”

Yuri was good-looking, well built, and in his late thirties. He had dark hair and a tribal tattoo creeping up his neck, above his collar. He smelled of tobacco and too much sweet aftershave.

Although he spoke with an accent, his English was perfect. “I moved here from Latvia seven years ago, and I didn’t speak a word of English when I arrived. But in a year I was fluent.”

“That’s very impressive.”

“Not really. English is an easy language. You should try Latvian.”

He laughed and reached for the jangling chain of keys around his belt. He pulled off a set and handed it to me. “You’ll need these for the individual rooms. And there are codes you need to know for the wards.”

“That’s a lot. I had fewer keys at Broadmoor.”

“Yeah, well. We stepped up security quite a bit recently—since Stephanie joined us.”

“Who’s Stephanie?”

Yuri didn’t reply, but nodded at the woman emerging from the office behind the reception desk.

She was Caribbean, in her midforties, with a sharp, angular bob. “I’m Stephanie Clarke. Manager of the Grove.”

Stephanie gave me an unconvincing smile. As I shook her hand, I noticed her grip was firmer and tighter than Yuri’s, and rather less welcoming.

“As manager of this unit, safety is my top priority. Both the safety of the patients, and of the staff. If you aren’t safe, then neither are your patients.” She handed me a small device—a personal attack alarm. “Carry this with you at all times. Don’t just leave it in your office.”

I resisted the inclination to say, Yes, ma’am. Better keep on the right side of her if I wanted an easy life. That had been my tactic with previous bossy ward managers—avoid confrontation and keep under their radar.

“Good to meet you, Stephanie.” I smiled.

Stephanie nodded but didn’t smile back. “Yuri will show you to your office.” She turned and marched off without a second glance.

“Follow me,” Yuri said.

I went with him to the ward entrance—a large reinforced steel door.

Next to it, a metal detector was manned by a security guard.

“I’m sure you know the drill,” Yuri said. “No sharp objects—nothing that could be used as a weapon.”

“No lighters,” added the security guard as he frisked me, fishing my lighter from my pocket with an accusing look.

“Sorry. I forgot I had it.”

Yuri beckoned me to follow him. “I’ll show you to your office.

Everyone’s in the Community meeting, so it’s pretty quiet.” “Can I join them?”

“In Community?” Yuri looked surprised. “You don’t want to settle in first?”

“I can settle in later. If it’s all the same to you?” He shrugged. “Whatever you want. This way.”

He led me down interconnecting corridors punctuated by locked doors

—a rhythm of slams and bolts and keys turning in locks. We made slow


It was obvious not much had been spent on the upkeep of the building in several years: paint was crawling away from the walls, and a faint musty smell of mildew and decay permeated the corridors.

Yuri stopped outside a closed door and nodded. “They’re in there. Go ahead.”

“Okay, thanks.”

I hesitated, preparing myself. Then I opened the door and went inside.

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