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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides Read Online (FREE)

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Diomedes called me into his office after lunch. He looked up when I walked in but didn’t smile. “What is the matter with you?”

“With me?”

“Don’t play the idiot. You know who I had a call from this morning? Max Berenson. He says you contacted him twice and asked a lot of personal questions.”

“I asked him for some information about Alicia. He seemed fine with it.”

“Well, he’s not fine now. He’s calling it harassment.”

“Oh, come on—”

“The last thing we need is a lawyer making a fuss. Everything you do must be within the confines of the unit, and under my supervision. Understood?”

I was angry, but I nodded. I stared at the floor like a sullen teenager.

Diomedes responded appropriately, giving me a paternal pat on the shoulder. “Theo. Let me give you some advice. You’re going about this the wrong way. You’re asking questions, searching for clues, like it’s a detective story.” He laughed and shook his head. “You won’t get to it like that.”

“Get to what?”

“The truth. Remember Bion: ‘No memory—no desire.’ No agenda—as a therapist, your only goal is to be present and receptive to your feelings as you sit with her. That’s all you need to do. The rest will take care of itself.”

“I know. You’re right.”

“Yes, I am. And don’t let me hear you’ve been making any more visits to Alicia’s relations, understood?”

“You have my word.”



THAT AFTERNOON I WENT TO CAMBRIDGE, to visit Alicia’s cousin, Paul Rose.

As the train approached the station, the landscape flattened out and the fields let in an expanse of cold blue light. I felt glad to be out of London—the sky was less oppressive, and I could breathe more easily.

I left the train along with a trickle of students and tourists, using the map on my phone to guide me. The streets were quiet; I could hear my footsteps on the pavement echoing. Abruptly the road stopped. A wasteland lay ahead, muddy earth and grass leading to the river.

Only one house stood alone by the river. Obstinate and imposing, like a large red brick thrust into the mud. It was ugly, a Victorian monster. The walls were overgrown with ivy, and the garden had been overtaken by plants, weeds mostly. I got the sense of nature encroaching, reclaiming territory that had once been hers. This was the house where Alicia had been born. It was where she spent the first eighteen years of her life. Within these walls her personality had been formed: the roots of her adult life, all causes and subsequent choices, were buried here. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp why the answers to the present lie in the past. A simple analogy might be helpful: a leading psychiatrist in the field of sexual abuse once told me she had, in thirty years of extensive work with pedophiles, never met one who hadn’t himself been abused as a child. This doesn’t mean that all abused children go on to become abusers, but it is impossible for someone who was not abused to become an abuser. No one is born evil. As Winnicott put it, “A baby cannot hate the mother, without the mother first hating the baby.” As babies, we are innocent sponges, blank slates, with only the most basic needs present: to eat, shit, love, and be loved. But something goes wrong, depending on the circumstances into which we are born, and the house in which we grow up. A tormented, abused child can never take revenge in reality, as she is powerless and defenseless, but she can—and must—harbor vengeful fantasies in her imagination. Rage, like fear, is reactive. Something bad happened to Alicia, probably early in her childhood, to provoke the murderous impulses that emerged all those years later. Whatever the provocation, not everyone in this world would have picked up the gun and fired it point-blank into Gabriel’s face—most people could not. That Alicia did so points to something disordered in her internal world. That’s why it was crucial for me to understand what life had been like for her in this house, to find out what happened to shape her, make her into the person she became—a person capable of murder.