The silent patient by alex michaelides

I wasn’t sure why this incident drew my attention. But it didn’t feel right to me. I decided to approach Elif and ask her about it. 

I tore off a sheet of paper from a pad and reached for my pen. An old habit, formed at university—something about putting pen to paper helps me organize my mind. I’ve always had difficulty formulating an opinion until I’ve written it down. 

I began scribbling ideas, notes, goals—devising a plan of attack. To help Alicia, I needed to understand her, and her relationship with Gabriel. Did she love him? Hate him? What happened to make her kill him? Why had she refused to speak about the murder—or anything else? No answers, not yet— just questions. 

I wrote down a word and underlined it: ALCESTIS

The self-portrait—it was important, somehow, I knew that, and understanding why would be central to unlocking this mystery. This painting was Alicia’s sole communication, her

only testimony. It was saying something I had yet to comprehend. I made a note to revisit the gallery to look at the painting again. 

I wrote down another word: CHILDHOOD. If I was to make sense of Gabriel’s murder, I needed to understand not only the events of the night Alicia killed him, but also the events of the distant past. The seeds of what happened in those few minutes when she shot her husband were probably sown years earlier. Murderous rage, homicidal rage, is not born in the present. It originates in the land before memory, in the world of early childhood, with abuse and mistreatment, which builds up a charge over the years, until it explodes—often at the wrong target. I needed to find out how her childhood had shaped her, and if Alicia couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me, I had to find someone who would. Someone who knew Alicia before the murder, who could help me understand her history, who she was, and how she ended up this way. 

In the file, Alicia’s next of kin was listed as her aunt— Lydia Rose—who brought her up, following the death of Alicia’s mother in a car accident. Alicia had also been in the car crash, but survived. That trauma must have affected the little girl profoundly. I hoped Lydia would be able to tell me about it. 

The only other contact was Alicia’s lawyer: Max Berenson. Max was Gabriel Berenson’s brother. He was perfectly placed to observe their marriage intimately. Whether Max Berenson would confide in me was another matter. An unsolicited approach to Alicia’s family by her psychotherapist was unorthodox to say the least. I had a dim feeling Diomedes would not approve. Better not ask his permission, I decided, in case he refused. 

As I look back, this was my first professional transgression in dealing with Alicia—setting an unfortunate precedent for what followed. I should have stopped there. But even then it

was too late to stop. In many ways my fate was already decided—like in a Greek tragedy. 

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