Chapter no 51

The Silent Patient


No one was at the reception desk, and no one came when I called. I hesitated for a moment, then went into the gallery.

I walked along the corridor to where the Alcestis was hanging. Once again, I looked at the painting. Once again, I tried to read it, and again I failed. Something about the picture defied interpretation—or else it had some kind of meaning that I had yet to comprehend. But what?

Then—a sharp intake of breath as I noticed something. Behind Alicia, in the darkness, if you squinted and looked hard at the painting, the darkest parts of the shadows came together—like a hologram that goes from two dimensions to three when you look at it from a certain angle—and a shape burst forth from the shadows … the figure of a man. A man—hiding in the dark. Watching. Spying on Alicia.

“What do you want?”

The voice made me jump. I turned around.

Jean-Felix didn’t look particularly pleased to see me. “What are you doing here?”

I was about to point out the figure of the man in the painting and ask Jean-Felix about it, but I something told me it might be a bad idea.

Instead I smiled. “I just had a couple more questions. Is now a good time?”

“Not really. I’ve told you everything I know. Surely there can’t be anything else?”

“Actually, some new information has come up.” “And what is that?”

“Well, for one thing, I didn’t know Alicia was planning on leaving your gallery.”

There was a second’s pause before Jean-Felix answered. His voice sounded tight, like a rubber band about to snap.

“What are you talking about?” “Is it true?”

“What business is it of yours?”

“Alicia is my patient. It’s my intention to get her talking again—but I see now it might be in your interest if she remains silent.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“Well, as long as no one knows of her wish to leave, you can hold on to her artwork indefinitely.”

“What exactly are you accusing me of?”

“I’m not accusing you at all. Merely stating a fact.”

Jean-Felix laughed. “We’ll see about that. I’ll be contacting my lawyer

—and making a formal complaint to the hospital.” “I don’t think you will.”

“And why is that?”

“Well, you see, I haven’t told you how I heard Alicia was planning to leave.”

“Whoever told you was lying.” “It was Alicia.”

“What?” Jean-Felix looked stunned. “You mean … she spoke?” “In a way. She gave me her diary to read.”

“Her—diary?” He blinked a few times, as if he was having trouble processing the information. “I didn’t know Alicia kept a diary.”

“Well, she did. She describes your last few meetings in some detail.”

I didn’t say anything else. I didn’t need to. There was a heavy pause.

Jean-Felix was silent.

“I’ll be in touch,” I said. I smiled and walked out.

As I emerged onto the Soho street, I felt a little guilty for ruffling Jean-Felix’s feathers like that. But it had been intentional—I wanted to see what effect the provocation would have, how he’d react, what he would do.

Now I had to wait and see.

* * *

As I walked through Soho, I phoned Alicia’s cousin, Paul Rose, to let him know I was coming. I didn’t want to turn up at the house unannounced and risk a similar reception to last time. The bruise on my head still hadn’t fully healed.

I cradled the phone between my ear and my shoulder as I lit a cigarette. I barely had time to inhale before the phone was answered, on the first ring. I hoped it would be Paul, not Lydia. I was in luck.


“Paul. It’s Theo Faber.”

“Oh. Hello, mate. Sorry I’m whispering. Mum’s having her nap, and I don’t want to disturb her. How’s your head?”

“Much better, thanks.”

“Good, good. How can I help?”

“Well, I’ve received some new information about Alicia. I wanted to talk to you about it.”

“What kind of information?”

I told him that Alicia had given me her diary to read.

“Her diary? I didn’t know she kept one. What does it say?”

“It might be easier to talk in person. Are you free today at all?”

Paul hesitated. “It might be better if you don’t come to the house.

Mother isn’t … well, she wasn’t too happy about your last visit.” “Yes, I gathered that.”

“There’s a pub at the end of the road, by the roundabout. The White Bear—”

“Yes, I remember it. That sounds fine. What time?” “Around five? I should be able to get away then for a bit.”

I heard Lydia shouting in the background. Evidently she had woken up. “I have to go. I’ll see you later.” Paul hung up.

* * *

A few hours later, I was on my way back to Cambridge. On the train, I made another phone call—to Max Berenson. I hesitated before calling.

He’d already complained to Diomedes once, so he wouldn’t be pleased to hear from me again. But I knew I had no choice.

Tanya answered. Her cold sounded better, but I could hear the tension in her voice when she realized who I was. “I don’t think—I mean, Max is busy. He’s in meetings all day.”

“I’ll call back.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea. I—”

I could hear Max in the background saying something, and Tanya’s reply: “I’m not saying that, Max.”

Max grabbed the phone and spoke to me directly: “I just told Tanya to tell you to fuck off.”


“You’ve got a nerve calling here again. I already complained once to Professor Diomedes.”

“Yes, I’m aware of that. Nonetheless some new information has come to light, and it concerns you directly—so I felt I had no choice but to get in touch.”

“What information?”

“It’s a journal Alicia kept in the weeks leading up to the murder.” There was silence at the other end of the line. I hesitated.

“Alicia writes about you in some detail, Max. She said you had romantic feelings for her. I was wondering if—”

There was a click as he hung up. So far so good. Max had taken the bait

—and now I had to wait to see how he’d react.

I realized I was a little afraid of Max Berenson, just as Tanya was afraid of him. I remembered her whispered advice to me, to talk to Paul, to ask him something—what? Something about the night after the accident that killed Alicia’s mother. I remembered the look on Tanya’s face when Max had appeared, how she fell silent and presented him with a smile. No, I thought, Max Berenson was not to be underestimated.

That would be a dangerous mistake.

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