The Transformation Story Archive The Visionary Saga

Do No Harm

by Brian Eirik Coe

Appearances can deceive and facades fail when examined.

Anyone looking into the study that evening wouldn't have noticed anything amiss. The music, a soft Mozart concerto, played softly in the air. A small fire, the only source of illumination in the room, danced silently in the fireplace. The long occupant of the room studied that fire intently and calmly from the easy chair, holding a brandy snifter in one hand.

But appearances can deceive and facades fail when examined.

An envelope lay on the table, the top carefully slit open with sharp letter opener. The contents lay next to it, carefully held in place from a non-existent breeze by a paperweight.

The lone occupant of the room didn't look at the paper anymore. He didn't need to. He knew what it said. He knew what it meant. Years of hard work were over. Just when he had finally made it, finally attained his goal and achieved his dream, someone wanted to take it all away.

And there was nothing he could do to stop them.

"Phil? Someone is here to see you."

Dr. Sloan never looked away from the fire. "Send them away, honey. I'm...I'm not in the mood."

A firm male voice came from the hallway. "That's all right, Mrs. Sloan. I think that Phil will see me."

The man walked in and closed the door. Phil turned slightly to see him. In the lightly dancing firelight, he was hard to make out. His dark overcoat blended him into the shadows of the room. "What can I do for you?", asked Phil a little meekly.

The man removed his overcoat and sat down, pushing his fedora back a little. Phil casually noticed the feathers, one white as snow, the other mottled brown. "I want to ask you about the summons."

Dr. Sloan looked over to the table, to the opened envelope, and looked back. "Are you the lawyer that sent it?"

The man shook his head. "No. I just want to ask you about it."

Phil looked again at the old man. There was something about him that asked for trust, but he couldn't decide what. He hadn't felt like talking about it, not even with Helen, but somehow...

"What do you want to know?"

"Do you know what it's about? Specifically, I mean."

Phil grunted slightly in a tired laugh. "Money. Pure and simple, cold and hard."

"There are no merits to the case at all?"

Phil slumped a little. "No. Well, yes. I did misdiagnose her. But she was such a rare case. Do you realize that there has never been a case with one so young? Never. I looked it up."

"Should you be excused a mistake?"

Sloan paused, "I'm human, not God."

"Where is that young woman now?"

"Alive. That's what gets me the most. She's alive, she's well. She lost, maybe, 5% of her mobility in her right arm."

"Her lawyer claims that she was going to go pro, until this."

"In tennis? Get real. We've been in the same club for years. My wife beats her regularly. My wife is a fine executive, but no tennis pro."

"He's got a doctor to say you made a careless mistake."

"In hindsight? I did. Anyone can Monday morning quarterback, though. Give 100 other doctors the same case, the same situation, without telling them the results. I'll be you get one, maybe two, who guess right. And that's all it would be, a guess."

"Her lawyer claims that she suffered."

"She would have felt the same pain had I caught it the first time. The treatment is long and painful."

"Why are you so afraid? You have insurance?"

Phil slumped more heavily in the chair. "You don't understand. I'm at a delicate stage in my career. I'm new at this hospital. I'm still on probation. Something like this...this can ruin me. Ruin everything I've worked so hard for."

"You think that you'll lose."

"I know I will. Doctors never win these suits."

"So you believe she is lying?"

Dr. Sloan sat for a long moment and studied the face of the old man. He had been trying to sort that out all night. Finally, he came to a decision. "No. I think that she's been bought by this lawyer. Without him..." His voice trailed off.

The old man smiled. "I had hoped that you would realize that."

"I don't understand."

The old man stood and walked across the room. He paused at the large, single picture window overlooking the town. A few large trees, bare from the approaching winter, lined the backyard. The scene was lit be the silvery light of a full moon.

"Dr. Sloan. Have you ever been a bird watcher?"

Phil felt a slight smile on the sides of his mouth, mostly from the absurdity of the question, "No. Never had the time."

The man turned and tossed a small package his way. Phil caught it and looked at it. It was a small pair of binoculars. "What's this for?"

He smiled again. "Bird watching. I've found over the years that it can be very calming. Sometimes even educational."

He walked over and picked up his coat again, taking a moment to straighten the fedora. "I wouldn't worry about the summons. I think that you will find that the matter will soon be quietly dropped."

Phil just looked at the man in confusion.

"I'll show myself out.", the man opened the door and left the study.

Phil looked at the door for a long time, then his eyes fell to the small binoculars in his hands. He stood, stretched and walked over to the large picture window and took a look.

The first living thing that he saw was a vulture sitting in a tree in his backyard.

A vulture? Here?

How odd.

Do No Harm copyright 1996 by Brian Eirik Coe.

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