All In Jest – Chapter 3

All In Jest

Chapter Three

As soon as Sybil put down the receiver after her conversation with the aide at the medical examiner’s office, she turned to Angie Church and asked, “Get that?”

“Yes, Doctor. I guess we have the path lab arrange for Brendan to be transferred to the MEs, right?”

“Um-hmm. Will you take care of it?

I am feeling so terrible that I think I’ll cancel my schedule and go home, assume the fetal position, and turn the electric blanket up to nine.”

“We all feel the same way, Doc.

Hang in there.

It’s not your fault.

You did everything you could.

There’ll be better days,” Angie comforted.

On an ordinary day, Sybil would have responded brusquely to Angie for patronizing her, and on an ordinary day, she would have shrugged off the death with a philosophical small raise of her shoulders and toss of her head and would have gone back to work like the Snow Queen she was supposed to be.

But this was not an ordinary day.

Sybil Norcroft felt wounded to the quick and unable to face any more that day.

Sybil quickly wiped away the tear that had formed disobediently in the corner of her eye.

She used the sleeve of her lab coat and made it seem like an unconscious gesture. Heather Larkin, the head nurse, saw the gesture and sneered.

Sybil could not escape seeing Heather’s disdainful expression.

“I hope our professional disagreement won’t tarnish our working relationship, Heather.”

“It’s Mrs. Larkin, Sybil.”

There was an unmistakable undercurrent of challenge in the use of the doctor’s first name.

It was rare for nurses or ancillary personnel to address doctors without the title of respect.

Around JNMH, Sybil Norcroft, was known by most as ‘we don’t call her Sybil, the Snow Queen’.

Sybil ignored the discourtesy with difficulty.

“Sorry, Mrs. Larkin. Still, I would hope that this unfortunate case can be put behind us.

I did do the best I could for Brendan.

If you think about it for a minute away from the emotional charge of the moment, I think you’ll come to that conclusion as well.”

Sybil extended her hand to shake Heather’s.

The head nurse acted as if she had not seen Dr. Norcroft’s gesture of conciliation.

Sybil persisted for a moment or two longer while Mrs. Larkin acted as if Sybil had spit on her hand before tendering it for shaking then let her hand drop.

She flushed with embarrassment.

“Now, if it’s all right, Dr. Norcroft, I have work to do.”

Mrs. Larkin turned rudely away.

“I’d like for us to get together and talk about this another day, Mrs. Larkin: I really would, for all our good,” Sybil said, making a final effort at appeasement.

It was as if she had not spoken.

Angie Church looked darkly at her head nurse as Heather hurried by on her way to take care of the urgent need to suction the Tucker boy’s trach, a task handled by nurse’s aides, customarily.

Just as she turned to enter the Tucker boy’s room, Heather looked back and said, loud enough for Sybil to hear, “I don’t know about any personal meeting with you, but you can rest assured that you have not heard the last of this from me, not on your sweet patootie.”


“Call your next witness, Mr. Tarkington,” Judge Hendricks ordered.

The plaintiff had rested and now the defense case was underway.

Hendricks was under pressure to get this trial over with as soon as possible.

The court dockets were swollen to overflowing with civil cases that had been in the mill for eight or nine years, many were approaching the time statute of limitations.

“The defense calls Angie Church, RN.”

Angie swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

She gave her name and professional qualifications–head nurse in the emergency room at Joseph Noble Memorial Hospital.

“I know that you are very busy, Ms. Church.

Thank you for coming, today,” began Mr. Tarkington. “I have very few questions for you in the matter before this court. First, how is it that you became acquainted with the deceased, Brendan McNeely?”

“He was a co-worker, a nurse on the NICU, while I was working on the unit.”

“And Dr. Sybil Norcroft?”

“She was one of the neurosurgeons at the hospital.

She spent a lot of time on the unit. I got to know her there.”

“Would you describe your relationship with either of these people as friends as opposed to a friendly professional relationship?”

“Our relationships were mutually friendly, but only on a professional basis.

We didn’t party together or anything.”

“Do you feel any special fondness for Dr. Norcroft, a fondness that might lead you to give biased evidence in her favor?”

“No. Dr. Norcroft was not the friendship generating type.

I respected her, thought she was okay personally, but I can’t say that I really like her.”

“So you consider yourself neutral, objective in regards to Dr. Norcroft’s actions, particularly on the day of Brendan McNeely’s death?”


Angie came across as a professional, a completely self-assured and comfortable young woman.

Sybil was grateful for that. It was too much to expect that the former NICU nurse liked her, Sybil did not really even want that from those who worked beneath her in the pecking order.


“Describe, please, in as objective terms as you can, and to the best of your recollection, the telephone conversation Dr. Norcroft had with the ME’s office on that day.”

“There is very little to say.

I heard both ends of the conversation.

Dr. Norcroft informed the ME’s aide, a Mr. Stringham, about Mr. McNeely’s death.

She asked him to see to it that an autopsy was done, it was very important, she said.

She was a little put out that the aide would not commit to getting an autopsy done, but by the end of the conversation, both Dr. Norcroft and I were of the same mind that an autopsy was going to be performed.”

“What occurred then?”

“First, Dr. Norcroft asked me to arrange transfer to the Medical Examiner’s lab down town, then she and Heather Larkin, the head nurse at the time, had a little run-in.

I thought she was being unreasonable to the doctor.”

“Describe the run-in.”

“It was nothing much.

Heather was mad at Dr. Norcroft.

She hinted that the doctor hadn’t done everything right in the surgery, that she had turned off the machines too early the day Brendan was declared brain dead for some evil reason.

Dr. Norcroft looked hurt but didn’t say anything more than that she wanted to get together with Heather when things cooled down.”

“What did Heather say to that?”

“Something to the effect that she, Dr. Norcroft, had not heard the last of this.

She implied that she, I mean, Heather, was going to do something more, I guess make trouble for the doctor.”

“Thank you. I have no further questions.”

Paul Bel Geddes approached Angie.

“Good morning, Ms. Church.”

“Good morning, Sir.”

“Not much fun being a witness, is it?”

“Makes me nervous, but it’s a duty.

I don’t mind.”


I don’t have many questions.

How can you be sure of the telephone conversation between the defendant and the ME’s office?

After all it was five years ago, and you must have had hundreds, probably even thousands of telephone conversations in the meantime.”

“First of all, I have had no more than a handful of calls to the ME’s office about deaths, and Brendan McNeely’s was the only death of a fresh surgical patient I have handled personally, thank God.

Also I remember the day as being terribly tense.

We all cared for Brendan.

He was the only co-worker I have had who died.

Most of us are healthy and don’t have much trouble.

Finally, I remember the tension between Heather and the doctor.

It was uncalled for. Heather was wrong to do that, entirely unprofessional.

It stuck in my mind.”

The plaintiff’s attorney hesitated for a moment, obviously trying to decide on whether to ask an additional question.

Evidently he thought better of the idea and decided to cut his losses.

“Thank you, Ms. Church. No further questions.”

“The defense now calls Dr. Myron Short.”

Dr. Short was the defense’s neuroradiology expert called to counteract the testimony given in the plaintiff’s case in chief that there should have been an angiogram done.

Not to have done so was a breach of the standards of care, the plaintiff’s witness had asserted emphatically.Dr. Papanickolas, the plaintiff’s neuroradiologist, had been unbending on that point but had conceded on another telling point that he saw no evidence of an aneurysm on the CT, the eminent neurosurgeon from Canada’s opinion notwithstanding.

Papanickolas had been less helpful to the defense under cross-examination on the subject of whether there was a tumor present. He had left it at, ‘I cannot be certain’.

Dr. Short was sworn, his impressive list of qualifications were delineated.

He and Dr. Papanickolas matched degree for degree and honor for honor.

“Doctor,” asked Tarkington. “Let’s get right to the heart of the matter and examine the CT scan.

If you would, Sir.”

The computerized scan was put up on the view box again.

“This is the pituitary, this is the optic chiasm.

Here we see the basilar artery and one posterior cerebral.”

He pointed out the structures with an opened up paper clip.

“This irregular little area inside the pituitary, the light area, is a microadenoma.”

Dr. Short was not one to equivocate.

“No doubt about the presence of the tumor?”


“Dr. de Montesquiou from Canada pointed to this structure,” Tarkington took his time and led the witness’s and the jury’s eyes to the nubbin of gray that de Montesquiou had singled out.

“And said it was an aneurysm. He used the statistical observation that there was only one chance in a million that it was anything else.

Is that an aneurysm, Dr. Short?”


“Thank you. I am finished with the witness, your honor.”

“Mr. Bel Geddes?”

“How can you be so sure that is not an aneurysm, Dr. Short?”

“Wrong location, wrong shape.

That is a portion of the basilar artery.”

“But you can’t be certain without an angiogram, isn’t that true, Doctor?”

“That would be the capper.

But I’m sure.”

Dr. Short was not shakable. Bel Geddes knew better than to press his luck much further.

“Is it not the standard of medical care to do an angiogram on every case of suspected pituitary tumor?”

“Certainly not, Sir.

There are risks to angiography that rival those of transsphenoidal surgery.

You should have a good reason to do an invasive arterial study.

In my professional opinion, there was no indication here.

It would have been meddlesome and carried risk.”


“Dr. Papanickolas thought it was necessary, Sir”

“Reasonable men differ.

I think he is mistaken,” Dr. Short said without arrogance or rancor.

“What about an MRI or MRA?

Would those studies not have given more convincing evidence, especially of the status of the blood vessels?”

Expensive Magnetic Resonance Arteriograms had almost replaced old-style even more expensive catheter angiography by 2009.

“I doubt it, but I would not argue the value of that test.

I would have liked to have seen a Gadolinium enhanced MRI scan.

But we have to realize the practical world conditions under which these physicians were working and under which most physicians are forced to work nowadays.

HMOs control 90% of the medical population, and hard nosed insurance companies control the rest of the paying market.

I still find it hard to call patients a market.

They simply will not allow or pay for expensive tests such as MRI scans or PET scans. The choices of the doctors are very limited.

The purse string holders call the shots.

I am as sure as I sit here that Dr. Norcroft was only able to obtain a CT.

The CT was enough to make the diagnosis even if it did not give the full measure of comfort Dr. Norcroft or I would have liked.”

Feeling that he was not really getting anywhere, Mr. Bel Geddes wrinkled his brow, gave his head a little shake to signal disbelief, and said, “That’s all I have.”

“It’s getting late in the day, ladies and gentlemen. We’ll adjourn until tomorrow,” said the judge and rapped the wood cylinder on her desk with her gavel.

She repeated her admonitions to the jury, and the tired and hot jurors and the rest of the participants wearily headed out of the court room.


A frigid but polite and correct relationship settled between Heather Larkin, RN, CNRN and Sybil Norcroft, M.D., PhD, F.A.C.S. after that initial confrontation in Brendan’s room and later at the telephone.

Sybil was aware that her every action, spoken and written word, was under the microscopic scrutiny of Heather’s uncompromising fault-finding eye.

Sybil was called to task for her failures to write full progress notes, to come promptly for NICU calls, for bloody seepage on her patients’ dressings, for ordering nonstandard doses of drugs.

The criticisms were all exactly correct to the letter of the law and were all written in the nurse’s incident reports and in memos to the chart review nurse in charge of surgery committee charts.

It was onerous for Sybil, but she elected to remain silent and not to complain.

She also elected, with difficulty, not to respond in kind.

Every human being makes mistakes, and no one could withstand the scrutiny Sybil underwent.

She could have found similar fault with Heather’s work, but intuitively, she recognized that it would not benefit her or her work; so,  she kept quiet.

Angie Church, on the other hand, grew angry and resentful upon receiving a similar carping treatment and shortly after Brendan McNeely’s death, transferred to the ER where she blossomed.

Three years later she was the head nurse of the emergency room section, one of the three most important positions among the nonadministrative nurses in the hospital.

Sybil was noticed, that is, she received notification of the intent to sue, the infamous ninety day letter, by Brendan’s parents eleven months after his death.

That notice was couched in the chilly language of an official courtroom subpoena.

Sybil informed her malpractice insurance company, DIPC–Doctor’s Indemnity Protection Cooperative–of the intent letter, and she was assigned to the law firm of Schmid, Principle, Tarkington, and Henley.

The named partner, Carter Tarkington, took the case himself owing to the prominence of both the defendant and the deceased young man’s family.

The letter from Paul Bel Geddes to Mr. Tarkington was substantially less formal and correct.

Bel Geddes had a reputation for flamboyance, both in his courtroom and deposition comportment, and in his written communications.

His letter read:


Dear Carter,

It is our fate to joust once more. I represent the bereaved parents of one Brendan McNeely, Carl and Priscilla. Your client, one Sybil Norcroft, did, with malice aforethought, set out to butcher and maim unto death this young man for the purpose of extracting money. Dr. Norcroft, and I shudder to grant her that title, wantonly, and with total disregard for McNeely’s life or limb, made a spurious and woefully improper diagnosis, performed an unnecessary operation, botched the technical procedure with near criminal incompetence, and committed fraud by subterfuge–she obtained consent from the unfortunate young man based on a tapestry of lies.

I am inclined to press for criminal charges, but will grant you the opportunity to communicate with me before I take that serious step. This is a res ipsa loquitur case, Carter. Perhaps the best thing for you to do is to assent to a reasonable settlement, say, ten million dollars ($10,000,000). I believe there is a possibility that the parents would see their way clear to avoid the criminal prosecution if a reasonable disposition of the case were to be made with dispatch. They are upstanding members of the community who do not wish to injure the errant doctor, only to see justice done for their fine boy. After all, Dr. Norcroft comes from the same set of notables, I am sure even she would wish to set things right.

I look upon this case, not as a routine piece of my everyday work, nor do I find incentive in any fee that might eventuate to me. This is a case that cries out for recompense, the doctor, and indeed, the medical profession at large, needs to be brought up short and to learn their duty. They will not police their own, therefore, I, and the other members of the American Trial Lawyers Association, must stand up for the unfortunates who cannot defend themselves against the monolithic structure of American Medicine. This is a crusade, a jihad. I trust that you will do the right thing and convince your client to settle. It is the right thing, the just thing and “let justice be done, though the heavens fall”.

I remain,

Respectfully your colleague in the opposition,

Paul Devon Bel Geddes, Esq.


When Carter showed the turgid letter to Sybil at their first attorney-client meeting, the two of them had had one of the few laughs they would share during the course of the arduous pretrial preparation and on into the trial itself.

Sybil felt threatened by the suit, her first.

“I receive all these big bucks; so, you can take it easy, Dr. Norcroft.


This is a long drawn-out process.

I would not be the least bit surprised if this business lasted five or even six or seven years.

You can’t keep yourself tense all the time.

I’ll let you know when to tense up.

Otherwise just go about your work as always.

Don’t let this injustice shake your confidence.

You are a fine surgeon, a credit to your profession, and perform essential services for your patients.

Now, let’s get down to work.

“When was the first time you met Mr. McNeely?

Don’t leave out a thing,” Tarkington said.

Sybil was sure that the suave, tanned, and relaxed, attorney schmoozed all of his clients the same way, but it was comforting; and he was right, she had to take it easy or she would wind up her spring so tight it would snap, if she did not work on stress control.


It was four years later when Carter told Sybil, in effect, that it was now time to tense-up. He announced that, at long last, Paul Bel Geddes had subpoenaed her for a deposition. Tarkington, the trial attorney, and two of his firm’s associate litigators drilled and prepared Dr. Norcroft for her deposition over a two-day period.

They went over her understanding of the facts of the case, of the literature, of the patient himself, and of the law.

They fired hard questions, harangued her, toughened her.

Sybil Norcroft was a novice when they started, and a confident professional witness when they finished.

She thought she was ready to face Paul Bel Geddes.

With careful forethought, Sybil was wearing her best power outfit, a dark grey silk suit with a strong pink blouse and a string of pearls.

She complimented her outfit with black spike heal Gucci shoes.

Sybil met Carter and his chief associate, Hyrum Willis, in the lobby of Bel Geddes’s office building ten minutes before the scheduled deposition.

“Ready, Dr. Norcroft?” Hyrum asked.

“As much as I’ll ever be, I suppose,” she replied, nervousness showing in her face and voice.

“You’ll do fine, Doctor,” soothed Carter Tarkington, patting her arm reassuringly. “Just remember to think of Bel Geddes with no clothes on.”

Sybil smiled at his effort to calm her.

“And remember the most important dictum in the law,” Hyrum Willis added, “Illegitimi non carborundum.”

“Give me credit. I don’t wear down all that easily,” Sybil told the two men.

“I am sure of that.

Shall we?” asked Mr. Tarkington, pressing the elevator button.

The offices of Stewart, Bel Geddes, and Loughlin occupied the entirety of the eighth floor of the new City Panorama building.

The building itself was ostentatious, all art deco and marble, color, and flourish.

The firm’s suite of offices was a veritable study in grandeur–overcrowded with original objects d’art and oversized solid imported hardwood furniture.

The rugs were deep, a flamboyant peach color, that did not match the pastel avocado green silk papered walls.

The deposition-conference room was gaudy with Picassoesque modern paintings of disembodied women, melting suns, and a motif of eyes and ears that Sybil supposed had to have some sort of meaning.

The tackiness of the room brought the second smile of the day to her furrowed face. The members of the defense team sat at the twenty-foot long Philippine mahogany table on uncomfortable unpadded chairs.

The secretary departed leaving them alone.

“I, actually, we, have had considerable experience with Paul Bel Geddes, Dr. Norcroft,” said Carter Tarkington once the three of them were more or less comfortably seated.

“My bet is that he will be thirty minutes late.”

“I’ll take you up on that,” said Hyrum Willis. “I’ll bet it’ll be more like forty-five or an hour.

How much do you want to go?”

Carter laughed.

“I hate losing, so I won’t bet.

You are too close to the truth for comfort.

I was just trying to keep Dr. Norcroft’s hopes up.”

Sybil smiled again, a more worried smile than before.

In ten minutes the court reporter arrived, and the four of them settled in for a long, quiet wait.

There was very little conversation, and all of that was meaningless, careful, urbane chitchat.

It was two minutes short of an hour beyond the scheduled time for the deposition when the large conference room doors swung open.

A strikingly beautiful secretary, one whose typing ability was no doubt secondary, held the door so the firm’s partner could effect a grand entrance.

The two attorneys rose, almost reflexively to shake their opponent’s hand.

Sybil started to rise, but some streak of anger made her resume her seat.

Bel Geddes beamed his copyrighted good-natured hail-fellow-well-met smile displaying expensively capped, overlarge, and overly white teeth.

Everything about the man was overdone.

His suit was impeccable white linen, and his shirt of Sea Island cotton, white on white, all but glowed.

He wore a tie that was not so much bright or loud as it was luminescent, so much so that Sybil thought it would probably glow in the dark.

It looked like one of the paintings in his office but one done in florid colors with fluorescent paint.

The tie demanded that attention be focused on it and its wearer.

He was preceded by an aromatic cloud of blue smoke from his Hoyo de Monterrey cigar.

“Hello, Carter, how nice to see you!

I haven’t forgotten our last encounter, you old rascal.

Gained a little weight since then, haven’t you?”

Bel Geddes scrutinized Tarkington as if it really mattered.

“Gotten over the worry of the Sonel v. Saint Mary’s Hospital, I take it,” he laughed.

It was evidently a private joke appreciated solely by himself.

Seeing that none of the others were laughing, made Bel Geddes guffaw.

“I have not had the pleasure,” Bel Geddes said, now focusing the sunny beam of his smile on Hyrum Willis, having participated in a contest of hand strength with Carter Tarkington that the plaintiff’s attorney won with ease.

“Hyrum Willis,” the associate said. “We met during the Sonel v. Saint Mary’s case–Dr. Blanchard’s and Theresa Ogilbie’s depositions.”

Bel Geddes towered over the diminutive Hyrum.

He extended his large, hirsute hand and crushed the smaller man’s, laughing with pleasure when Hyrum grimaced slightly.

Hyrum hurriedly decided to say no more, hoping that Bel Geddes would lavish his attentions on someone else.

“And who might this lovely young thing be?” Mr. Bel Geddes said, approaching the court reporter who was as plain as a Kansas prairie and all business.

She did not exchange smiles.

“Barbara Lithgow, Mr. Bel Geddes, I’m the court reporter.

Before we start, I wish you would speak to your receptionist about the check.

She said that I would have to bring it up to you.

You agreed with our office to have one ready upon my arrival.”

Paul Bel Geddes did not look at all crestfallen.

Sybil thought she was reading too much between the lines when she presumed that the attorney was a deadbeat when it came to honoring his bills and commitments.

“Let’s get started, then we can take care of the check, all right, dear?” Bel Geddes said and started to turn away from Ms. Lithgow.

“I am afraid that I have my instructions, Mr. Bel Geddes.

I will need to have the check before I can turn out any work.

The office insists.”

She smiled sweetly, but Sybil was sure that she was not about to back down, and that she probably had good reasons for her insistence on being paid upfront.

“And my name is Lithgow, not dear.

I like professional decorum…old fashioned, I guess.”

She was no longer making a pretense of smiling.

Bel Geddes maintained his sparkling toothy smile, but his faded hazel eyes became icy.

“Well, dear, if you insist.

I could choose to be insulted, but it is too nice a day.”

He pressed a button, and shortly the starlet temporarily working as a law secretary hurried in manifesting the excessive mobility of her parts in her rush.

The attorney spoke briefly to his secretary who rushed out promptly.

In the interim, Mr. Bel Geddes discovered the deponent, who had remained sitting.

“Ah, the eminent Dr. Norcroft.

I’m Paul, okay if I call you Sybil?”

He extended his hand, and Sybil ignored it.

She did not rise, and she did not extend her hand.

“No,” she said. “I am Dr. Norcroft, Mr. Bel Geddes.

Good morning.”

“Happy to have you here, little lady.”

Sybil’s face involuntarily squeezed in an abbreviated wince.

She chastised herself silently and quickly for having allowed the boor to elicit a rise out of her.

“It’s a lovely day,” he said.

“I think we can have some fun here.

Might’s well enjoy our work.

Life’s too short to take it all too seriously.”

He was effusive in his pleasure at the day and with Sybil’s company as if they were old and bosom friends.

Sybil began to feel a small rise of bile in her throat.

They were looking eye to eye, neither willing to be the first one to blink, when the vividly underdressed secretary burst through the conference door again.

She handed Bel Geddes a pale green check, and he turned it over to Barbara Lithgow without comment.

Bel Geddes sat down, and without preamble went through the formalities of the deposition for the record.

He asked Sybil for her name and occupation, where she went to medical school, and where she had done her residency, but ignored all else about her celebrated career to date.

“I trust you brought a curriculum vitae with you, Doctor.

We can dispense with a recitation of all the honors and degrees you doctors insist on padding your depositions and CVs with if you did.”

Sybil produced a copy of her CV and passed it across the table to the plaintiff’s attorney. He marked it as “Plaintiff’s No. l.”

Bel Geddes rambled through a series of questions, many of them repetitive, many of them seeming well away from the subject of the case of Brendan McNeely.

He often paused to ask altogether irrelevant questions.

“I love your perfume, Doctor. What is that?”

When Sybil appeared reluctant to answer, he smiled disarmingly, and repeated, “Really, I’d like to know.

I think my significant other should smell as good as you.”

“Charley,” responded Sybil.

“Ah, yes, love Charley.

Expensive stuff, no?”

“I suppose it is.”

Later, after a particularly nasty but astute set of questions on the performance of the surgery, Bel Geddes suddenly stopped, almost mid-sentence, and asked, “Are those earrings real silver?

They look like Mexican silver, Taxco, right?”

It was slightly disorienting to Sybil.

She supposed that that was Bel Geddes’s intention.

“Right,” she said noncommittally.

In fact, they were cheap costume jewelry given to her by her ten-year-old nephew.

She had worn them purposely as a small insult to Bel Geddes and towards the entire proceedings as if they were not worth getting fixed up for.

Bel Geddes then rattled off a rapid-fire series of questions about the diagnosis; what did Sybil think was the minimal prolactin level to warrant pituitary surgery; why had she not done an arteriogram; why was there no MRI; and why had she so blatantly lied to her innocent patient.

Sybil fielded all the questions with aplomb since she was well within her area of expertise.

The very staccato character of the question and answer series was becoming a contest of wits and wills between the incisive attorney and the keen witness.

Tarkington appeared ready to object several times but thought better of challenging the flow.

He thought it would be good for Bel Geddes to see what he was up against.

Most doctors, as medical witnesses, came across as hostile, weak, ill-informed in their own specialties, emotional, and slow witted–no match for the prepared biting hostility of the interaction of the deposition.

Sybil Norcroft was acquitting herself very well, and Paul Bel Geddes could not help but recognize that he had come up against a superior intellect and a worthy opponent.

Suddenly, Bel Geddes halted his stream of questions. He leaned back on the hind legs of his conference chair and locked his fingers behind his neck.

He gave an exaggerated stretch.

As he put his chair back down on its four legs, he glanced at his watch, and reached over in an apparently absent-minded gesture, and pushed the unseen button.

“I’m famished, how about you, little lady?” he asked, giving a look at Sybil.

She interpreted the look as an examination of her face as to whether she was reacting to his stupid MCP characterizations.

Usually, she was prompt to set Male Chauvinist Pigs right; but it was clear that he was looking for her to react; and she strove to make her face inexpressive.

It was unnecessary for Sybil or anyone else to answer. As if on cue, the conference doors swung open, and two starlets–secretaries in their day jobs–marched in bearing platters of steaming bagels, crockery tubs of specialty butters, assorted jams, and cream cheese.

The two young women bustled to the center of the room and leaned over to set their platters down, one in front of the plaintiff’s attorney, and one in front of Sybil.

The two defense attorneys made a conspicuous effort not to look as far down the secretaries’ dress fronts as the young women’s attire permitted.

Sybil avoided reacting to the generous display.

Bel Geddes could not resist a smile, and he allowed himself a surreptitious little bottom pat as the woman on his side of the table turned to leave.

“Have some, they’re great,” he enthused.

“No, thanks,” said Tarkington and Willis.

The court stenographer simply shook her head.

“Just for the sake of politeness, Dr. Norcroft.

This is just professional, nothing personal going on here.

No need for us to be unfriendly, eh?” Bel Geddes said to Sybil as he smeared a generous dollop of cream cheese on a savory multi-grain bagel half and passed it over to Sybil.

“Here you go, that’s a good girl.”

He piled Kiwi jam on a wheat raisin bagel of his own and began munching on it.

Sybil was hungry, and growing tired. She thought she could use a little jump-start from the aromatic bagel.

It was coming out of Bel Geddes’s pocket, why not?

She took a generous bite and nodded in minor acknowledgment to the attorney.

As soon as her mouth was thoroughly full and salivating, Bel Geddes set his own bagel aside and launched into another sequence of difficult and unfriendly questions, this time about the informed consent discussion she had had, or as he suggested, had not had, with Brendan McNeely.

He caught her with her mouth full, and in her haste to respond to his insulting questions, she choked a little.

She put her hand to her mouth and coughed up a sodden chunk.

To her embarrassment it fell onto the front of her immaculate dress making an obvious mark.

When she looked up at her questioner, she realized that he was wearing a self-satisfied ‘gotcha’ expression.

Sybil gave herself a swift mental kick and vowed never to let the man do anything like that again.

The questions shot at her like a machine gun.

Bel Geddes was brilliant; he never looked at a note; and he always seemed to be able to put a negative spin on the direction of his questions that Sybil felt compelled to respond to in her own defense.

She was now on the defensive, getting a little rattled.

Some of her answers were not as crisp or as demonstrative of her confidence or knowledgeability as before.

“Objection,” Carter Tarkington finally said. “Counsel is not letting the witness answer, she is two questions behind.

Dr. Norcroft, would you like to have the last two questions and answers read back to you?”

Sybil recognized the reprieve and respite her advocate was offering.

“Yes,” she said. “Please.”

The court reporter worked back on her paper tape then repeated the questions and answers while Sybil regained her breath and her composure. She now responded carefully and thoughtfully.

Bel Geddes had a habit of interrupting or of suggesting his own ending to a slowly developing sentence on the part of the witness.

Tarkington now objected frequently, giving Sybil a chance to complete her answers her own way.

During the break for lunch, he cornered with Sybil and worked to get her back on the winning end of the contest between her and Bel Geddes.

“Look,” Tarkington said, “he’s famous for these silly diversionary tactics.

Don’t let him get to you.

We have all the time in the world. As long as he sees that he can rattle you, he will keep it up.

He wants to get you to make some sort of self-incriminating admission inadvertently or as a Freudian slip.

Don’t think for a second that he is just crazy.

There is a method to every bit of his madness.

Hang in there.

You are smarter than he is, and you know a whale of a lot more about medicine.

He is just more cunning than you, and he uses that attribute as a substitute for intelligence or knowledge of the law.

Keep your cool, and he won’t be able to get at you.

You have to keep very well in mind and all of the time that you did not commit malpractice.

There is an explanation, a good medical reason for every criticism he levels.

Keep thinking, don’t let him divert you or surprise you, and you will come out of this looking great.

I have complete confidence in you.”

The afternoon session was serious, all business, from Mr. Bel Geddes.

The change in his demeanor and delivery was perceptible to every person in the room. Now, he consulted notes, phrased his questions very exactly, appearing to repeat questions, but with minor nuances of difference each time.

He was clearly concentrating on avoiding any omission of any area of the case.

The questions were detailed, calling for Sybil to search the chart, or to pause to remember, or to think.

She had never considered some of the subjects the attorney introduced, had not read the nurses notes, she had to admit, to her chagrin.

It was a thorough see-saw, sometimes he was up, sometimes she was.

It was tiring, and the grilling was beginning to take its toll.

At four o’clock, Bel Geddes made another of his acute and abrupt diversions.

He listened to the answer Sybil tendered to his question about why she had not responded to Heather Larkin’s demand that she do more testing because Heather, in her official nurse’s note, and in a formal incident report, insisted that the patient was not dead when the life support machinery was discontinued.

As Sybil’s answer entered the last few measures, Bel Geddes disappeared under the table.

The attorneys, Barbara Lithgow, the stenographer, and Sybil all looked at each other in mild consternation.

They were aware that Paul Bel Geddes was crawling around beneath the long conference table.

After a long, awkward silence, and some teeth gritting by Sybil and her attorneys, Paul Bel Geddes’s disembodied voice came up through the table top.

“Dr. Norcroft?”

Sybil felt a little silly in responding to the table top. She waited.

“Dr. Norcroft?”

His voice was now more insistent.

Sybil looked at Hyrum Willis and Carter Tarkington who both shrugged, smiles beginning to curl at the corners of their mouths indicating that they were used to Paul Bel Geddes’s shenanigans.

Sybil did not respond.

She determined not to be goaded into this latest bizarre silliness.

She felt a tapping on her shoe and moved her foot self-consciously.

“Dr. Norcroft, are these Guccis?” Bel Geddes asked.

Before Sybil could answer, he had gently placed his warm, pudgy hand around her ankle. She could feel his pinky ring.

She jumped involuntarily.

He laughed with glee, obviously tickled at the success of his prank.

Sybil primly moved her legs back out of his way and fought back a wave of frustrated anger.

She knew she would sound adolescent if she made a fuss about the unwonted contact. The portly attorney backpedaled out from under the table, holding his pen in his right hand.

“There you are you little rascal,” he said, as if that fooled anyone.

“A final question, Dr. Norcroft,” he said with disarming affability.

Despite her every effort, Sybil was pale, and felt shaken.

That made her angry with herself.

“Didn’t you just drop the ball with this patient?

You were so busy with all your committees, your speeches to feminist groups, your lucrative and overwhelming surgery schedule, your responsibilities to the social register of Westminister County.

Weren’t you just the least bit distracted, presuming that this was a ho-hum case, one you could just notch up on your gun butt, and you didn’t think about him or his findings all that much?

Didn’t you just drop the ball, as rattled as you were by all that outside responsibility? Maybe you get rattled sometimes, what do you say?”


Sybil would have given almost anything to let the cup of gall that was giving testimony in open court pass from her lips.

The day had come.

She had waited more than five years to tell her side of the case, to defend herself, and to retrieve the self-respect she felt that she had lost in the deposition with the devilishly unorthodox, Paul Bel Geddes three years previously.

She had never been able to forget entirely the last set of questions the plaintiff’s attorney had fired at her nor to shake the self-doubt that he had engendered in her by them. She knew that that had been the man’s intention, but it was as if the ideas had been implanted in her psyche under hypnosis, and they could not easily be dislodged.

She was pondering her own reactions when she was surprised to hear her name called.

“Next witness.”

The judge was speaking, but she seemed far away, as if she were in a distant room.

Sybil worked to get herself back into the courtroom present and to the deadly serious drama that threatened her career.

“The defense calls Dr. Sybil Norcroft.”

Sybil forced herself to stand, made sure that she did not get light headed or to sway, and strode resolutely to the witness chair on its raised dais next to the judge’s bench.

She remembered and obeyed her attorney’s instructions and looked at the jury, determined to direct her answers to them.

She concentrated on her face, made the muscles give an expression of concern, but of confidence.

She hoped that she looked professional and objective, and above all, innocent.

Unlike her little calculated snit in the deposition, Sybil had taken the utmost care with her dress, her jewelry, and her face that day.

She wore an attractive business suit, professional but feminine.

She combed her hair out so she could take advantage of its length and luster.

She did not want to come across in the least way as a tough, uncaring, ballbreaker, nor did she want to appear weak or uninformed–anything less than her long struggle to be a successful neurosurgeon entitled her to be.

Neither arrogant nor fearful, just competent, believably competent, that was the demeanor Sybil worked to project.

It took real concentration.

“State and spell your full name,” the bailiff requested.

Sybil did so.

She began to calm her nerves.

It was better now that it had begun.

She was grateful that she would be questioned by her own attorney first.

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” the bailiff asked, checking to see that her hand was on the Bible and the other was at the square.

Sybil responded in the affirmative.

It was her every intention to do so and her fervent hope that the jury would believe her over Pierre de Montesquiou, Heather Larkin, Douglas Stringham, or Darryl Hankin, who had preceded her.

Her defense attorney, Carter Tarkington, put Sybil completely at her ease with a litany of questions designed to bring out her many accomplishments.

She allowed herself to talk to the jury, not just to answer the questions, when she told of being her college valedictorian, first in her medical school class, of having to work and to compete in the unfairly patriarchal world of organized medicine.

She did not dwell on the subject of the bias she had experienced, knowing that many of the spectators and the jurors were sick of hearing about anything to do with political correctness and did not really believe that sexist discrimination still went on.

It was the twenty-first century, after all.

She could tell, however, that she had struck a responsive chord by the small changes of expression in the faces of a couple of the women jurors.

Tarkington took his time, better than an hour to get to the heart of the matter before the jury.

He asked her to, “tell us, in your own words, what transpired between you and Brendan McNeely during the conversation wherein you sought to obtain fully informed consent for surgery, Dr. Norcroft.”

Sybil responded at length in a conversational tone and in minute detail, giving both her explanations and his questions.

The jury was fully awake and interested.

“Did you cheat this young man?

Tell him lies?

Trick him into having an operation just so you could make some money or add to your impressive list of patients to increase your standing with your colleagues?

The jury would like to know your motives.”

Sybil responded almost angrily, defending against any impugning of her motives.

In conclusion, she said, “I do not need any money from surgery.

My husband is wealthy enough that I would not have to work a day to enjoy a life of comfort and plenty.

I operate because I am well trained and competent.

It seems old fashioned even to admit to an idealism, but I work because I truly think I can help people.

To come to the point of your question, I thought I could help Brendan McNeely by removing his pituitary tumor.”

To defuse the sting of the cross examination they both knew was coming, Tarkington led Dr. Norcroft laboriously through all the tough questions about the preoperative workup, the decision to operate, and the decision not to use an M.D. or and ENT specialist as an assistant.

He came to the seminal event.

“Dr. Norcroft, I believe we can best learn about the problem in surgery by looking at it, by reviewing the video tape you caused to be taken and made sure was saved, fortunately for this jury.

We can all see what happened.

I will ask you to narrate and to tell us what happened.”

The video was of high quality.

Tarkington made a show of fast forwarding to the moment of the dural incision, and then put the picture on pause just as the knife blade was poised to make the, now infamous, lateral cut.

“Before you describe what we are about to see, Dr. Norcroft, could you help us with some of the technicalities of the tape?”

“I’ll do my best.”

“I was wondering…exactly how long was it, I mean, the whole tape?”

“72 minutes, to be exact.”

“Pardon me, Doctor.

Did I hear you correctly?

Did you mean to say, 72 minutes?

Or did you misspeak?”

“I am correct, I checked on that; 72 minutes is the length of the video tape.”

“That seems odd.

I recall testimony given in this courtroom that the tape was much shorter.”

He made a short display of riffling through his notes.

“Yes,” he said, “here it is.

I thought so.

Could we have the court recorder read back the testimony of Pierre de Montesquiou, the man from Canada, who came down here to accuse you of such terrible things, who told us how carefully he studied this case before coming all the way down here to testify for Mr. Bel Geddes.”

Tarkington read off the exact day and time of the testimony.

The court recorder was able to find it with only the slightest of delays owing to Mr. Tarkington’s assiduous accuracy.

She read in a monotone voice, “Question: ‘My question, just for the record, as I said, just a technicality, how long was the tape, the tape you looked at.

That was a copy of the original, right?

Sent to you by Mr. Bel Geddes?’

“Answer: ‘I reviewed the tape of this operation.

It was provided to me by Mr. Bel Geddes, or someone in his office, I can’t say that exactly.

It was precisely 39 minutes long.

I thought you might ask such a detail; so, I made a note of it.’

I believe that is all there is in the record about the length of the tape, Mr. Tarkington,” the stenographer said in her completely nonjudgmental voice.

“How would you explain that discrepancy, Dr. Norcroft?”

“Either the Canadian witness,” Tarkington had instructed her to hammer home the foreignness of Dr. de Montesquiou, “made a gross error of, let’s see…31 minutes, or he looked at a shortened version.”

“You mean a doctored copy?”

“Objection! Relates to facts not in evidence. I object!” called out Paul Bel Geddes from his chair beside Brendan McNeely’s parents at the plaintiff’s table.

“I’ll allow it,” decided the judge after a moment’s pause.

“I would have to say so.

Yes, a doctored copy, one with parts left out.”

“Would that shortened version have shown all of the pertinent data, the entirety of the case, even the hemorrhage, the excitement, your unguarded moments during that drama?”

“Obviously not.”

“Can we be sure that Dr. de Montesquiou, the expert from Canada, had a chance to see the incision you made?

It is right there on the tape for all in this courtroom to see today, is it not, Dr. Norcroft? Could he have been able to render a proper judgment without that?”


It was half-hearted. Bel Geddes knew he did not have a chance.

He also knew that his star witness, the eminent Canadian transsphenoidal surgery specialist had already returned to Montreal and would not be back to refute this testimony.

He groaned inwardly and waited for the judge’s ruling.

“Overruled. You may answer the question, Doctor.”

“The tape is crucial.

Whatever any of us may say in this courtroom, those pictures stand on their own.

They demonstrate what went on.

It appears that the Canadian witness did not get to see a full half an hour of the tapes, and I can only conclude that he based his judgment on an altered tape.

Perhaps he cannot be faulted in his objectivity, but rather, he just did not have the true evidence before him,” Sybil said to the jury.

She spoke to each one of them earnestly, conveying her objectivity, her minor dismay that the former witness had been less so.

She thought that she did it rather well, too.

“Well, let’s go on and look at this tape.

Feel free to stop whenever you wish, Doctor.

You have a clicker, I think.”

“I do.”

The picture began to move again, and every eye in the courtroom was riveted on the sharp pointed knife as it descended into the dural covering beneath it.

The knife made an unwavering, shallow vertical cut.

The edges parted cleanly exposing the gray-tan glandular tissue below.

The video tape was moving in slow motion, just as the incision had seemed to Sybil when it was being done.

She recalled every excruciating nanosecond of that incision.

“Now, the vertical incision is done. Note that the dura is opened, and the gland can be seen peeking through.


She stopped the tape and identified the areas with her laser pointer.

She was surprised at the steadiness of her hand.

The tape started again, moving inexorably towards the fateful lateral cut.

“Now, watch,” Sybil was no longer the defendant in a courtroom, she was a lecturer, helping her students to understand.

“The point of the blade is scratching the dura, slowly passing through the first leaf.

The dura has several layers, incidentally.

Now, look, the incision is beginning to open up, there by the vertical limb,” Sybil pointed as the action continued.

“Notice how close we are to the midline, barely a couple of millimeters lateral.

The carotid artery should be nearly a centimeter out of our way.

Still no bleeding, no problem.”

There was not a sound in the courtroom.

The expectation of the long anticipation of the erupting hemorrhage was electric.

Sybil knew that the moment of truth was very close.

She stopped the tape, let the jurors see how small the incision was.

“That’s magnified six times, so figure how really small that incision is, how close to the midline.”

She started the tape again.

The point of the knife moved again.

Now there was a short, brisk emission of blood from the corner of the incision.

Several of the jurors moved back, almost as if they had were about to get splashed, the video’s quality was near perfect.

“Now, here I put a pledget of cotton to staunch that little bleeding.”

The tape was speeded up, but for five minutes there was nothing but the boring view of white cotton over the incision.

“Here, I’m removing the pressure,” Sybil said.

She could feel her heart quicken, her breath come in shorter and shallower gasps, just as it had on that awful day.

She felt a tinge of the faintness and nausea she had felt back then.

She fought to keep her voice steady.

“There it’s dry,” she said.

Strictly speaking there was a small trickle still oozing out, but everyone was reassured. The doctor had said that it was nothing.

“Now, we’re ready to go a bit further.”

It was as if the incision involved everyone, the use of the group pronoun ‘we’ seemed timely and appropriate.

Scissors tips moved into the opening.

The hand holding the instrument was steady and sure.

The extremely keen steel edges bit into the dura opening what seemed like one cell at a time.

The jurors, judge, and attorneys breathed a small sigh of relief, or at least of release of tension.

The scissors advanced a hair’s distance further.

“Now,” Sybil said, like the voice of some prophetess of imminent doom.

Her comment was timed perfectly.

The blades of the scissors moved ever so slightly, and a brilliant red geyser of blood exploded into the picture obscuring everything else.

There was an audible gasp from one of the jurors.

Sybil and her lawyers did not dare look in the direction of the jury box at that moment.

“Let’s go back a little, Dr. Norcroft, if you would?” Carter Tarkington asked.

Sybil backed up to the point just preceding the massive hemorrhage.

“How far lateral is that, Doctor?”

“From the midline, I’d estimate no more than three millimeters.”

“And from your studies in medical school anatomy and pathology classes, and from your extensive surgical experience in this area, how far out would you expect the carotid artery to be if it were located in its normal position?”

“A good centimeter, sometimes a centimeter and a half—more than triple the length of the incision we’re seeing in the video.”

“That doesn’t seem that far to me?”

“In neurosurgery, that is interplanetary.

Under the microscope, it is well out of the field.

By neurosurgical standards, I never came close to it.”

“Then you did not cut into the carotid artery in its normal position?”

“Definitely not. I’ll show you.”

Sybil ran the tape again and pointed out again how close she was to the midline and, parenthetically, how far she was from the expected position of the carotid.

The jurors had now seen that portion of the tape enough times to imprint the slow motion images indelibly in their memories.

“You did not cut into the carotid artery over in its rightful position.

Then we are left with the conclusion that the Canadian doctor, the one who came down here for $35,000 to accuse you and to testify against you was right.

We have to conclude that you cut into an aneurysm.

Is that about it, Doctor?”

“Not at all, counselor. Let’s run the film one more time.

I hope the ladies and gentlemen of the jury are not getting tired of this.”

They did not look tired, or bored, or that their attentions were flagging.

The now familiar scene was played back again.

“Look under the dura, here,” Sybil said.

She pointed out the grey-tan of the gland showing beneath the opening.

“Aneurysms are blood red tense sacs.

Nothing like that here.”

She advanced the tape.

“Now, right up to the time of the hemorrhage, no aneurysm.”

She used her laser pointer.

A wider expanse of glandular tissue revealed itself under the dura.

Then the hemorrhage started, and Sybil backed the tape a fraction.

“Notice where the incision is being made…right now.”

The point of the blade was nibbling in the dura, above the level of the gland, not inside the dura at all.

The hemorrhage erupted again, and Sybil backed up, paused the tape with the points of the scissors in the middle of the dura.

The jurors had that picture to ponder as Sybil concluded.

“No, the cut that caused the bleeding was in the folds of the dura, not beneath it where an aneurysm might have been.

There was no aneurysm, none at all. You have seen that for yourselves, ladies and gentlemen.”

For another hour, Tarkington took Sybil through the video tape, pausing at intervals to have her show the heroics of her attempts to staunch the overwhelming bleeding.

At times her voice broke with frustration, then with grief, an emotion that was not lost on the jury.

When the defense attorney was sure that he had made his point with the tape, and before he lost the jurors’ attention, he switched subjects.

“Doctor, I saw on that tape that you used a pointed knife to start the incision, is that right?”

“Yes, an eleven blade.

That is pretty standard.”

“That’s not what the man from Canada said.

He told us that it was unthinkable, or words to that effect, to use an eleven blade knife for this incision. Do you recall that?”


“He has even written a book on the subject of transsphenoidal surgery, has he not?

I seem to recall some testimony that indicated that that book was so authoritative that it is respectfully known as ‘the Bible’ of transsphenoidal surgery.”

He mused for a moment, then riffled through his notes.

“I remember, now. Dr. de Montesquiou, the man from Canada, in all modesty, suggested that his book could best be described as a ‘Galenic Opera’, referring to the great physician born in 129 A.D., whose words were literally sung as gospel for more than 1200 years. Who are you, a private practitioner here in the States, to refute such an authority.”

“I don’t need to.”

“I beg your pardon, Doctor?”

There was shuffling of feet, a few throats were cleared.

The jurors, indeed everyone in the courtroom, was once again in full attention on the conversation at the witness stand.

“He impeaches himself, the doctor from up there in Canada.

He did write a textbook.

It is considered the Bible on the subject by many.

I used it to learn about the surgery, and I used it to prepare for my defense in this case.”

“I have a copy of Dr. de Montesquiou’s book. Would you identify it for us?”

Sybil read the title and the fly leaf.

It was Dr. de Montesquiou’s book.

“Please mark this as Defense exhibit number 4.” Tarkington said, addressing the bailiff.

“I believe it’s number 3, Sir,” the bailiff corrected humbly.

“I’m sure you’re right,” Tarkington responded gracefully.

The exhibit was marked into evidence, and Tarkington showed the opposing attorneys and the judge the copy of the book.

“Would you explain the discrepancy you alluded to a moment ago, Doctor. I’m sure the jury would be interested.”

“I can show you two important ones.”

She flipped the pages.

It was not difficult since they were plainly marked by yellow sticky labels.

It looked more impressive for her to search a little.

“Here. First of all, on page 403, let me call your attention to the diagram.

It shows a cruciate incision being made in the dura.”

“Would you read the caption under the diagram, Doctor?” Tarkington asked helpfully as if wild horses could drag Sybil away from doing so.

“I will. ‘Standard dural incision being made with an 11 Bard-Parker blade’.”

“So in Dr. de Montesquiou’s own book, he describes the use of an 11 blade as being ‘standard’, isn’t that right, Dr. Norcroft?”

“That’s right.”

“That is not what he said in this courtroom when he came down from Canada for $35,000 to accuse you is it, Doctor?”

“No, Sir. It most definitely is not.”

“You mentioned a second significant discrepancy.

Would you point that out for us?”

“It’s on page 56, in the section on anatomy and pathology.”

She took a moment to find the exact page and paragraph.

“I’ll quote the Canadian author, de Montesquiou: ‘I have seen four and am aware of six more instances in which one or the other or both carotid arteries were in the dangerous position of curving towards the midline.

In some instances, the two carotids actually met in the middle–exactly at the point where the incision and principle activity of surgery takes place in transsphenoidal pituitary operations.

This represents a profound danger to the patient and to the doctor of major hemorrhage.

Fortunately, the majority of the carotids lie beneath the dura and will be seen and protected after the dural incision is made.

The truly troublesome cases are those in which the major vessels lie completely within the leaves of the dura.’

A little further on Dr. de Montesquiou says, ‘The danger of encountering the anomalously placed carotid would be obviated by doing routine preoperative arteriography. However, that is impractical and not recommended since the risks of arteriography, although low, would nearly equal that of the surgery, and would exceed that of encountering the anomalous artery, given the rarity of such anatomical variations.’

Many of the chapters in the book were written by other authors, with de Montesquiou acting as editor, but this particular one was written by de Montesquiou himself, the man who testified in this courtroom.”

It was quiet for a few moments.

There was no underestimating the seriousness of this revelation.

Tarkington capitalized on it with a laconic question, “Dr. Norcroft, what do you conclude from the discrepancy between the Canadian witness’s $35,000 testimony here and the statements in his own book?”

“He lied.

To have made a mistake or to have forgotten one thing such as the anomalous arteries could perhaps be considered within ordinary human memory frailty, but to have missed both such significant factors coincidentally demands a suspension of healthy suspiciousness that is beyond the generosity of any but the most naive,” Sybil responded.

“Objection, your honor. This is grossly improper and counsel knows it. Dr. de Montesquiou has left the country.

He cannot be here to defend himself and to answer to these scurrilous charges,” Bel Geddes argued.

“Of course he can, counselor,” said Judge Hendricks in her most reasonable voice.

“We will be happy to hear his rebuttal testimony any time during the course of this trial. Let us know, please.”

Bel Geddes knew.

His star witness would not be coming back.

He had bigger fish to fry and was already in Jakarta to be the featured speaker in the Pan-Asian Medical Association meetings.

Besides he already had his money, and any inducement to return would be weak.

Bel Geddes sat down trying not to look as forlorn as he felt.

“No further questions, your honor. Your witness, Mr. Bel Geddes,” said Carter Tarkington, no hint of gloating in his expression.


I chose to use a pseudonym for personal reasons. I’m a retired neurosurgeon living in a rural paradise and am at rest from the turbulent life of my profession. I lived in an era when resident trainees worked 120 hours a week–a form of bondage no longer permitted by law. I served as a Navy Seabee general surgeon during the unpleasantness in Viet Nam, and spent the remainder of my ten-year service as a neurosurgeon in a major naval regional medical center. I’ve lived in every section of the country, saw all the inhumanity of man to man, practiced in private settings large and small, the military, academia, and as a medical humanitarian in the Third World.