The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides Read Online (FREE)
“I suppose so. Seemed normal to us. When we were teenagers, we’d come up and smoke and drink beers.”
I tried to picture a teenage Alicia, hiding from her father and her bullying aunt; Paul, her adoring younger cousin, following up the ladder, pestering her when she’d much rather be silent, alone with her thoughts.
“It’s a good hiding place,” I said.
Paul nodded. “Uncle Vernon couldn’t make it up the ladder. He had a big build, like Mum.”
“I could barely make it up myself. That ivy is a death trap.”
“It’s not ivy, it’s jasmine.” Paul looked at the green vines that curled over the top of the ladder. “No flowers yet—not until the spring. Smells like perfume then, when there’s a lot of it.” He seemed lost in a memory for a moment. “Funny that.”
“Nothing.” He shrugged. “The things you remember … I just was thinking about the jasmine—it was in full bloom that day, the day of the accident, when Eva was killed.”
I looked around. “You and Alicia came up here together, you said?”
He nodded. “Mum and Uncle Vernon were looking for us down there. We could hear them calling. But we didn’t say a word. We stayed hiding. And that’s when it happened.”
He stubbed out his cigarette and gave me an odd smile. “That’s why I brought you here. So you can see it—the scene of the crime.”
Paul didn’t answer, just kept grinning at me.
“What crime, Paul?”
“Vernon’s crime. Uncle Vernon wasn’t a good man, you see. No, not at all.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“Well, that’s when he did it.”
“That’s when he killed Alicia.”
I stared at Paul, unable to believe my ears. “Killed Alicia? What are you talking about?”
Paul pointed at the ground below. “Uncle Vernon was down there with Mum. He was drunk. Mum kept trying to get him to go back inside. But he stood down there, yelling for Alicia. He was so angry with her. He was so mad.”
“Because Alicia was hiding? But—she was a child—her mother had just died.”
“He was a mean bastard. The only person he ever cared about was Auntie Eva. I suppose that’s why he said it.”
“Did what?” I was losing patience. “I don’t understand what you’re saying to me. What exactly happened?”
“Vernon was going on about how much he loved Eva—how he couldn’t live without her. ‘My girl,’ he kept saying, ‘my poor girl, my Eva … Why did she have to die? Why did it have to be her? Why didn’t Alicia die instead?’”
I stared at Paul for a second, stunned. I wasn’t sure I understood. “‘Why didn’t Alicia die instead?’”
“That’s what he said.”
“Alicia heard this?”
“Yeah. And Alicia whispered something to me—I’ll never forget it. ‘He killed me,’ she said. ‘Dad just—killed me.’”
I stared at Paul, speechless. A chorus of bells started ringing in my head, clanging, chiming, reverberating. This was what I’d been looking for. I’d found it, the missing piece of the jigsaw, at last—here on a roof in Cambridge.