The silent patient by alex michaelides

I stubbed out my cigarette, banished my nerves, and went inside. 

The Grove was located in the oldest part of Edgware hospital. The original redbrick Victorian building had long since been surrounded and dwarfed by larger, and generally uglier, additions and extensions. The Grove lay in the heart of this complex. The only hint of its dangerous occupants was the line of security cameras perched on the fences like watching birds of prey. In reception, every effort had been made to make it appear friendly—large blue couches, crude, childish artwork by the patients taped to the walls. It looked to me more like a kindergarten than a secure psychiatric unit. 

A tall man appeared at my side. He grinned at me and held out his hand. He introduced himself as Yuri, head psychiatric nurse. “Welcome to the Grove. Not much of a welcoming committee, I’m afraid. Just me.” 

Yuri was good-looking, well built, and in his late thirties. He had dark hair and a tribal tattoo creeping up his neck, above his collar. He smelled of tobacco and too much sweet aftershave. 

Although he spoke with an accent, his English was perfect. “I moved here from Latvia seven years ago, and I didn’t speak a word of English when I arrived. But in a year I was fluent.” 

“That’s very impressive.” 

“Not really. English is an easy language. You should try Latvian.” 

He laughed and reached for the jangling chain of keys around his belt. He pulled off a set and handed it to me.

“You’ll need these for the individual rooms. And there are codes you need to know for the wards.” 

“That’s a lot. I had fewer keys at Broadmoor.” 

“Yeah, well. We stepped up security quite a bit recently— since Stephanie joined us.” 

“Who’s Stephanie?” 

Yuri didn’t reply, but nodded at the woman emerging from the office behind the reception desk. 

She was Caribbean, in her midforties, with a sharp, angular bob. “I’m Stephanie Clarke. Manager of the Grove.” 

Stephanie gave me an unconvincing smile. As I shook her hand, I noticed her grip was firmer and tighter than Yuri’s, and rather less welcoming. 

“As manager of this unit, safety is my top priority. Both the safety of the patients, and of the staff. If you aren’t safe, then neither are your patients.” She handed me a small device—a personal attack alarm. “Carry this with you at all times. Don’t just leave it in your office.” 

I resisted the inclination to say, Yes, ma’am. Better keep on the right side of her if I wanted an easy life. That had been my tactic with previous bossy ward managers—avoid confrontation and keep under their radar. 

“Good to meet you, Stephanie.” I smiled. 

Stephanie nodded but didn’t smile back. “Yuri will show you to your office.” She turned and marched off without a second glance. 

“Follow me,” Yuri said. 

I went with him to the ward entrance—a large reinforced steel door. Next to it, a metal detector was manned by a security guard. 

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