Quid Pro Quo
The new life of spring evaporated as the grip of the summer heat continued to descend upon St. Louis. It was now 6 weeks since James' deposition. At times, the case seemed to disappear. But between the endless slides and commuting to ULS, James was reminded of the lawsuit by an unfamiliar look on Nomura's face. At first, he dismissed it as his fatigue. But others noticed it as well. It was a twitch, barely visible unless you were familiar with his visage or were looking directly at him. At the slightest mention of the lawsuit, it emerged around his right eye. Nomura continued to keep James current but the information flow slowed as the attorneys worked toward an agreement.
The settlement had reached an impasse. The defendants wanted a limit of $30,000, the maximum settlement that did not have to reported to the medical board. The plaintiffs demanded $150,000. Moynihan offered $20,000 on behalf of Nomura and expected ULS to offer the remainder of the $130,000. The ULS lawyers now changed their tone and charged that Nomura were negligent in his handling of the case. To give bite to their accusation, the lawyers stated the were only willing to offer $65,000, well shy of the plaintiff's total demand. Moynihan gave Nomura the latest update as James sat in his office.
"They're claiming that you deliberately destroyed the original requisition sheet to cover your error." The speaker phone blared.
"ULS is dividing the defense. We're playing right into the plaintiff's hands."
Nomura stood and turned to face the bookshelf behind the desk. His arms akimbo, his head held down, a voice lower than usual whispered, "Why? Why are they doing this?"
"I don't know. I spoke to Carlisle. He's giving me his reassurance. You spoke to him too, right?"
"Something's not right. This should have been a slam dunk."
The twitch over Nomura's eye returned. "Anything else?"
"I'll keep you informed. Call you in a few days. Later."
Nomura returned to his chair and turned to face James. "We're scheduled to go to trial in two weeks. We need to settle by next Friday. Doesn't look promising at this point."
"This whole thing is a farce! It was their mistake and they're making you the scapegoat."
"Shh!" Nomura placed a finger to his mouth. "Getting angry is not going to change what has happened. Unfortunately, it's not in our hands anymore. We have to trust the attorneys to work this out."
"ULS won't even support you!" James refused to lower his voice. "What kind of a partnership is this?"
James' anger spoke for both of them. He didn't want to be proper. He didn't need to play politics. He was just a resident and he was going to speak his mind. But Nomura anticipated James' disgust.
"James, listen. What goes around comes around, you're old enough to know this is true. You treat others with respect and you be honest with them. You may not always succeed but if you stick to it, things will work out in the end."
"And if it doesn't?"
"If it doesn't, you accept it. You take what life gives you and go forward. There will always be others who will put you down to lift themselves up. That's how life is. You can't change that." Nomura lowered his voice. "I know there are some unpleasant things that are being said about us, things that are untrue."
"You know what the lab is saying, don't you?"
"Oh yes. It's always been like this since I started here. I could conjure up reasons; the previous medical director was a great guy, the workload was less, the air freshner in the bathrooms was lilac, " Nomura smiled. "It doesn't really matter. You need to focus on what is important, to be the best pathologist you can be and to take care of your patients." The twitch disappeared.
"I'm trying. It's so frustrating."
"Keep your focus. When you push glass all day long, it's easy to lose your perspective. Remember why you are doing it, and for whom."
James allowed the words to sink in. His deteriorating attitude had sullied his perception. Pushing glass was a trial, not a privilege.
"I'll do my best, sir."
Nomura smiled. "I know you will."
James returned to Memorial at 1:30PM. Carlos and Deanna were waiting for him in his office.
"We need to talk."
James sat down and closed the door. Deanna moved closer and looked over to Carlos. "Maybe you better start."
Carlos was more serious than James could ever recall. "I've been dating this nurse who works in the blood bank donor center at Riverside Hospital."
"Correct. I was there last night picking her up. I got there a little early so I dropped by the laboratory. Guess who was there talking with Hartman, the medical director?"
"Carlisle? Eugene Carlisle? ULS Carlisle?"
Deanna and Carlos both nodded.
"Did you hear what they were saying?"
"No. But I asked my girlfriend who spoke to a couple of the med techs. Carlisle has been over to visit three times in the past month."
"Doesn't sound good, James." Deanna's voice quavered.
"I told you, James. They're going to sacrifice Nomura. Quid pro quo. They take a hit so they hit back."
James shook his head. "But you don't know what they were talking about?"
"No, but isn't it obvious? Why else would he be there?"
James had no answer. It was a compelling presentation but there were too many unknowns, too many variables.
"Do you think we should tell Nomura?"
James looked at Carlos. His immediate reaction was to agree but he hesitated as his mind replayed Nomura's words. "I don't know. Somehow...I think Nomura may even know."
"What?" Deanna and Carlos replied in unison.
"Let's wait and see what happens. We are hoping to settle by next week Friday. Otherwise, it goes to trial the following Monday." Carlos exited but Deanna remained and sat next to James.
"What do you think?"
"I hope we settle." Nomura's words reverberated as the images of Carlisle, the attorneys, and ULS flashed by. Deanna leaned against James and placed her head on his shoulder. "I hope we settle."
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