Chapter no 52

The Silent Patient

AS THE TRAIN APPROACHED CAMBRIDGE, the landscape flattened and the temperature dropped. I did up my coat as I left the station. The wind cut into my face like a volley of icy razor blades. I made my way to the pub to meet Paul.

The White Bear was a ramshackle old place—it looked as if several extensions had been added onto the original structure over the years. A couple of students were braving the wind, sitting outside with their pints in the beer garden, wrapped up in scarves, smoking. Inside, the temperature was much warmer, thanks to several roaring fires, which provided a welcome relief from the cold.

I got a drink and looked around for Paul. Several small rooms led off from the main bar and the lighting was low. I peered at the figures in the shadows, unsuccessfully trying to spot him. A good place for an illicit rendezvous, I thought. Which, I suppose, is what this was.

I found Paul alone in a small room. He was facing away from the door, sitting by the fire. I recognized him at once, on account of his sheer size. His huge back nearly blocked the fire from sight.


He jumped up and turned around. He looked like a giant in the tiny room. He had to stoop slightly to avoid hitting the ceiling.

“All right?” he said. He looked like he was bracing himself for bad news from a doctor. He made some room for me, and I sat down in front of the fire, relieved to feel its warmth on my face and hands.

“It’s colder than London here. That wind doesn’t help.”

“Comes straight from Siberia, that’s what they say.” Paul continued without pausing, clearly in no mood for small talk, “What’s this about a

diary? I never knew Alicia kept a diary.” “Well, she did.”

“And she gave it to you?” I nodded.

“And? What does it say?”

“It specifically details the last couple of months before the murder. And there are couple of discrepancies I wanted to ask you about.”

“What discrepancies?”

“Between your account of events and hers.”

“What are you talking about?” He put down his pint and gave me a long stare. “What do you mean?”

“Well, for one thing, you told me you hadn’t seen Alicia for several years before the murder.”

Paul hesitated. “Did I?”

“And the diary, Alicia says she saw you a few weeks before Gabriel was killed. She says you came to the house in Hampstead.”

I stared at him, sensing him deflate inside. He looked like a boy suddenly, in a body that was much too big for him. Paul was afraid, it was obvious. He didn’t reply for moment. He shot me a furtive glance.

“Can I have a look? At the diary?”

I shook my head. “I don’t think that would be appropriate. Anyway, I didn’t bring it with me.”

“Then how do I even know it exists? You could be lying.” “I’m not lying. But you were—you lied to me, Paul. Why?” “It’s none of your business, that’s why.”

“I’m afraid it is my business. Alicia’s well-being is my concern.” “Her well-being has got nothing to do with it. I didn’t hurt her.” “I never said you did.”

“Well, then.”

“Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

Paul shrugged. “It’s a long story.” He hesitated, then gave in. He spoke quickly, breathlessly. I sensed his relief at finally telling someone. “I was in a bad way. I had a problem, you know—I was gambling and borrowing

money, and not able to pay it back. I needed some cash to … to put everyone straight.”

“And so you asked Alicia? Did she give you the money?” “What does the diary say?”

“It doesn’t.”

Paul hesitated, then shook his head. “No, she didn’t give me anything.

She said she couldn’t afford to.” Again he was lying. Why?

“How did you get the money, then?”

“I—I took it out of my savings. I’d appreciate it if you kept this between us—I don’t want my mother to find out.”

“I don’t think there’s any reason to involve Lydia in this.”

“Really?” Some color came back into Paul’s expression. He looked more hopeful. “Thanks. I appreciate that.”

“Did Alicia ever tell you she suspected she was being watched?”

Paul lowered his glass and gave me a puzzled look. I could see she hadn’t. “Watched? What do you mean?”

I told him the story I had read in the diary—about Alicia’s suspicions she was being watched by a stranger, and finally her fears that she was under attack in her own home.

Paul shook his head. “She wasn’t right in the head.” “You think she imagined it?”

“Well, it stands to reason, doesn’t it?” Paul shrugged. “You don’t think someone was stalking her? I mean, I suppose it’s possible—”

“Yes, it is possible. So I presume she said nothing to you about it?” “Not a word. But Alicia and I never talked much, you know. She was

always pretty silent. We all were, as a family. I remember Alicia saying how weird it was—she’d go to friends’ houses and see other families laugh and joke and have conversations about things, and our house was so silent. We never talked. Apart from my mum, giving orders.”

“And what about Alicia’s father? Vernon? What was he like?”

“Vernon didn’t really talk much. He wasn’t right in the head—not after Eva died. He was never the same after that. Neither was Alicia, come to that.”

“That reminds me. There was something I wanted to ask you— something Tanya mentioned to me.”

“Tanya Berenson? You spoke to her?” “Only briefly. She suggested I talk to you.”

“Tanya did?” Paul’s cheeks colored. “I—I don’t know her well, but she’s always been very kind to me. She’s a good, very good person. She visited me and Mum a couple of times.” A smile appeared on Paul’s lips and he looked far away for a moment.

He has a crush on her, I thought. I wondered how Max felt about that. “What did Tanya say?” he asked.

“She suggested I ask you about something—that happened the night after the car accident. She didn’t go into detail.”

“Yes, I know what she means—I told her during the trial. I asked her not tell to anyone.”

“She didn’t tell me. It’s up to you to tell me. If you wish to. Of course, if you don’t want to…”

Paul drained his pint and shrugged. “It’s probably nothing, but—it might help you understand Alicia. She…” He hesitated and fell silent.

“Go on.”

“Alicia … the first thing Alicia did, when she got home from the hospital—they kept her in for a night after the crash—was she climbed up onto the roof of the house. I did too. We sat up there all night, pretty much. We used to go there all the time, Alicia and me. It was our secret place.”

“On the roof?”

Paul hesitated. He looked at me for a second, deliberating. He made a decision.

“Come on.” He stood up. “I’ll show you.”

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