Chapter no 48

The Silent Patient

CHRISTIAN STARED AT ME, playing with his chopsticks. He deliberated for a few seconds before he spoke.

“There’s not much to tell. I don’t know what you want to hear—or where you want me to start.”

“Start at the beginning. You saw her over a number of years?”

“No—I mean, yes—but I told you, not as frequently as you make it sound. I saw her two or three times after her father died.”

“When was the last time?”

“About a week before the murder.”

“And how would you describe her mental state?”

“Oh…” Christian leaned back in his chair, relaxing now that he was on safer ground. “She was highly paranoid, delusional—psychotic, even. But she’d been like this before. She had a long-standing pattern of mood swings. She was always up and down—typical borderline.”

“Spare me the fucking diagnosis. Just give me the facts.”

Christian gave me a wounded look but decided not to argue. “What do you want to know?”

“Alicia confided in you she was being watched, correct?” Christian gave me a blank look. “Watched?”

“Someone was spying on her. I thought she told you about it?” Christian looked at me strangely. Then, to my surprise, he laughed. “What’s so funny?”

“You don’t really believe that, do you? The Peeping Tom spying through the windows?”

“You don’t think it’s true?”

“Pure fantasy. I should have thought that was obvious.”

I nodded at the diary. “She writes about it pretty convincingly. I believed her.”

“Well, of course she sounded convincing. I’d have believed her too if I hadn’t known better. She was having a psychotic episode.”

“So you keep saying. She doesn’t sound psychotic in the diary. Just scared.”

“She had a history—the same thing happened at the place they lived before Hampstead. That’s why they had to move. She accused an elderly man across the street of spying on her. Made a huge fuss. Turned out the old guy was blind—couldn’t even see her, let alone spy on her. She was always highly unstable, but it was her father’s suicide that did it. She never recovered.”

“Did she talk about him with you at all? Her father?”

Christian shrugged. “Not really. She would always insist that she loved him and they had a very normal relationship—as normal as it could be, considering her mother killed herself. To be honest, I was lucky to get anything out of Alicia at all. She was pretty uncooperative. She was—well, you know what she’s like.”

“Not as well as you, apparently.” I went on before he could interrupt, “She attempted suicide after her father’s death?”

Christian shrugged. “If you like. That’s not what I would call it.” “What would you call it?”

“It was suicidal behavior, but I don’t believe she intended to die. She was too narcissistic to ever really want to hurt herself. She took an overdose, more for show than anything else. She was ‘communicating’ her distress to Gabriel—she was always trying to get his attention, poor bastard. If I hadn’t had to respect her confidentiality, I’d have warned him to get the hell out.”

“How unfortunate for him that you’re such an ethical man.”

Christian winced. “Theo, I know you’re a very empathetic man—that’s what makes you such a good therapist—but you’re wasting your time with Alicia Berenson. Even before the murder, she had precious little capacity for introspection or mentalizing or whatever you want to call it. She was entirely consumed with herself and her art. All the empathy you have for

her, all the kindness—she isn’t capable of giving it back. She’s a lost cause. A total bitch.”

Christian said this scornfully—and with absolutely no detectable empathy for such a damaged woman. For a second, I wondered if perhaps Christian was borderline, not Alicia. That would make a lot more sense.

I stood up. “I’m going to see Alicia. I need some answers.”

“From Alicia?” Christian looked startled. “And how do you intend to get them?”

“By asking her.” I walked out.

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