Chapter no 62

The Silent Patient

I PLANNED TO HAVE IT out with Alicia first thing in the morning. I intended to make her admit she had lied to me about the man killing Gabriel and force her to confront the truth.

Unfortunately, I never got the chance.

Yuri was waiting for me in reception. “Theo, I need to talk to you—” “What is it?”

I took a closer look at him. His face seemed to have aged overnight; he looked shrunken, pale, bloodless. Something bad had happened.

“There’s been an accident. Alicia—she took an overdose.” “What? Is she—?”

Yuri shook his head. “She’s still alive, but—” “Thank God—”

“But she’s in a coma. It doesn’t look good.” “Where is she?”

Yuri took me through a series of locked corridors into the intensive care ward. Alicia was in a private room. She was hooked up to an ECG machine and a ventilator. Her eyes were closed.

Christian was there with another doctor. He looked ashen in contrast to the emergency-room doctor, who had a deep suntan—she’d obviously just gotten back from holiday. But she didn’t look refreshed. She looked exhausted.

“How is Alicia?” I said.

The doctor shook her head. “Not good. We had to induce coma. Her respiratory system failed.”

“What did she take?”

“An opioid of some kind. Hydrocodone, probably.”

Yuri nodded. “There was an empty bottle of pills on the desk in her room.”

“Who found her?”

“I did,” Yuri said. “She was on the floor, by the bed. She didn’t seem to be breathing. I thought she was dead at first.”

“Any idea how she got hold of the pills?”

Yuri glanced at Christian, who shrugged. “We all know there’s a lot of dealing going on in the wards.”

“Elif is dealing,” I said.

Christian nodded. “Yes, I think so too.”

Indira came in. She looked close to tears. She stood by Alicia’s side and watched her for a moment. “This is going to have a terrible effect on the others. It always sets the patients back months when this sort of thing happens.” She sat down and reached for Alicia’s hand and stroked it. I watched the ventilator rise and fall. There was silence for a moment.

“I blame myself,” I said.

Indira shook her head. “It’s not your fault, Theo.” “I should have taken better care of her.”

“You did your best. You helped her. Which is more than anyone else did.”

“Has anybody told Diomedes?”

Christian shook his head. “We’ve not been able to get hold of him yet.” “Did you try his mobile?”

“And his home phone. I’ve tried a few times.”

Yuri frowned. “But—I saw Professor Diomedes earlier. He was here.” “He was?”

“Yes, I saw him early this morning. He was at the other end of the corridor, and he seemed in a rush—at least, I think it was him.”

“That’s odd. Well, he must have gone home. Try him again, will you?”

Yuri nodded. He looked far away somehow; dazed, lost. He seemed to have taken it badly. I felt sorry for him.

Christian’s pager went off, startling him—he quickly left the room, followed by Yuri and the doctor.

Indira hesitated and spoke in a low voice. “Would you like a moment alone with Alicia?”

I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. Indira stood up and squeezed my shoulder for a second. Then she walked out.

Alicia and I were alone.

I sat down by the bed. I reached out and took Alicia’s arm. A catheter was attached to the back of her hand. I gently held her hand, stroking her palm and the inside of her wrist. I stroked her wrist with my finger, feeling the veins under her skin, and the raised, thickened scars from her suicide attempts.

So this was it. This was how it was going to end. Alicia was silent again, and this time her silence would last forever.

I wondered what Diomedes would say. I could imagine what Christian would tell him—Christian would find a way to blame me somehow: the emotions I stirred up in therapy were too much for Alicia to contain—she got hold of the hydrocodone as an attempt to self-soothe and self-medicate. The overdose might have been accidental, I could hear Diomedes saying, but the behavior was suicidal. And that would be that.

But that was not that.

Something had been overlooked. Something significant, something no one had noticed—not even Yuri, when he found Alicia unconscious by the bed. An empty pill bottle was on her desk, yes, and a couple of pills were on the floor, so of course it was assumed she had taken an overdose.

But here, under my fingertip, on the inside of Alicia’s wrist, was some bruising and a little mark that told a very different story.

A pinprick along the vein—a tiny hole left by a hypodermic needle— revealing the truth: Alicia didn’t swallow a bottle of pills in a suicidal gesture. She was injected with a massive dose of morphine. This wasn’t an overdose.

It was attempted murder.

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