Chapter no 59

The Silent Patient

I TURNED ON THE LIGHT in the therapy room and shut the door. When I turned around, Alicia had already sat down—but not in her chair. She was sitting in my chair.

Normally I would have explored the meaning of this telling gesture with her. Now, however, I said nothing. If sitting in my chair signified she had the upper hand—well, she did. I was impatient to get to the end of her story, now that we were so close to it. So I just sat down and waited for her to speak. She half shut her eyes and was perfectly still.

Eventually she said, “I was tied to the chair, and every time I squirmed, the wire cut deeper into my legs, and they were bleeding. It was a relief to focus on the cutting instead of my thoughts. My thoughts were too scary.… I thought I would never see Gabriel again. I thought I was going to die.”

“What happened next?”

“We sat there for what seemed like forever. It’s funny. I’ve always thought of fear as a cold sensation, but it’s not—it burns like fire. It was so hot in that room, with the windows closed and the blinds drawn. Still, stifling, heavy air. Beads of sweat were dripping down my forehead and into my eyes, stinging them. I could smell the alcohol on him and the stink of his sweat while he drank and talked—he kept talking. I didn’t listen to a lot of it. I could hear a big fat fly, buzzing between the blind and the window—it was trapped and thudding against the glass, thud, thud, thud. He asked questions about me and Gabriel—how we met, how long we’d been together, if we were happy. I thought if I could keep him talking, I had a better chance of staying alive. So I answered his questions—about me, Gabriel, my work. I talked about whatever he wanted. Just to buy time. I

kept focusing on the clock. Listening to it tick. And then suddenly it was ten o’clock.… And then … ten-thirty. And still Gabriel hadn’t come home.

“‘He’s late,’ he said. ‘Maybe he’s not coming.’ “‘He’s coming,’ I said.

“‘Well, it’s a good thing I’m here to keep you company.’

“And then the clock struck eleven, and I heard a car outside. The man went to the window and looked out. ‘Perfect timing,’ he said.”

* * *

What happened next—Alicia said—happened fast.

The man grabbed Alicia and swung her chair around, so she faced away from the door. He said he would shoot Gabriel in the head if she spoke one word or made a single sound. Then he disappeared. A moment later the lights fused and everything went dark. In the hallway, the front door opened and closed.

“Alicia?” Gabriel called out.

There was no reply, and he called her name again. He walked into the living room—and saw her by the fireplace, sitting with her back to him.

“Why are you sitting in the dark?” Gabriel asked. No reply. “Alicia?”

Alicia fought to remain silent—she wanted to cry out, but her eyes had become accustomed to the dark and she could see in front of her, in the corner of the room, the man’s gun glinting in the shadows. He was pointing it at Gabriel. Alicia kept silent for his sake.

“Alicia?” Gabriel walked toward her. “What’s wrong?”

Just as Gabriel reached out his hand to touch her, the man leaped from the darkness. Alicia screamed, but it was too late—and Gabriel was knocked to the floor; the man on top of him. The gun was raised like a hammer and brought down onto Gabriel’s head with a sickening thud— once, twice, three times—and he lay there, unconscious, bleeding. The man pulled him up and sat Gabriel on a chair. He tied him to it, using the wire. Gabriel stirred as he regained consciousness.

“What the fuck? What—”

The man raised the gun and aimed it at Gabriel. There was a gunshot. And another. And another. Alicia started screaming. The man kept firing.

He shot Gabriel in the head six times. Then he tossed the gun to the floor.

He left without saying a word.

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