THE PRACTICE – Why We Fight
The following is an original work of fiction based on the television
series "The Practice", created by David E. Kelley, and produced by
David E. Kelley Productions and Twentieth Television.]
Donnell hadn't been this outraged – or enraged – for as long as he
could remember. He clutched a brown paper sack in his right hand as he
marched through the front doors of Crane, Poole and Schmidt. His
knuckles had whitened around the item nestled inside.
noticed his entrance, and stepped into his path. "Mr. Donnell, may I
he said. "Nice to see you again." He looked past her. "Where's Alan
Shore?" he asked, in a voice that wasn't half as choked as she'd
"His office, I think," she replied.
"Where is that?" he asked, not paying any real attention to her.
"Why do you want to see him?" she asked, trying to divert his focus.
reason in particular," he said. His eyes noticed the nameplate on a far
door. "That's his office there, isn't it?"
Mr. Donnell, but – " was all she could get out as he side-stepped her
and dashed toward the door. Tara decided to follow, but at a safe
distance. No reason she needed to get Alan's blood on her new blouse.
stormed into Alan's office and slammed the door. "I cannot believe you
did this," he said, his jaw clenched.
Alan looked up, and offered a blank expression. "Which this?"
opened the sack and slapped the contents onto Alan's desk. "The porno
movie you shipped to me, the hospital board of trustees, and the
insurance carrier's general counsel, with a Post-It note on it
referring to a particular scene as, and I quote, 'an approximate
dramatization of actual events.'"
picked up the videocassette. "I thought visual aids would be helpful,"
"A visual aid? 'Nasty Nurses 5'?"
dismiss it. Not only does it feature fascinating couplings – and
triplings, if that's a word – but between the lines it's also a
scathing indictment of modern medical practice."
groaned. "Of all the low and rotten things I heard about you from
Eugene and Eleanor and Jimmy – "
"Most of which are true," Alan added, dropping the tape into a desk drawer.
"- I can not believe you did this."
Alan blinked. "Are we starting again? 'Cause I didn't hear the bell."
"You wanna hear echoes and bells? I can help you with that," Bobby growled.
sighed. "If you want to hit me, do it. Get it out of your system. But
be warned: I have a tendency to enjoy physical punishment. Usually only
in a heterosexual situation, of course, but hey, I'm always open to new
"Smug son of a bitch," Bobby said.
"That's a fair assessment," Alan said, nodding. "Plus I'm also right."
leaned back in his chair. "You've been here before, Mr. Donnell. Put
yourself in my place. You're asking for seven million dollars from a
doctor. Do you think the insurance carrier is just going to roll over
and write you a check made out to cash? Of course not. You use whatever
you have handy. And in this case, you, or rather, I have his sex life."
frowned a little more. "Jeff Hopkins is a respected doctor, plus
husband and father. Bringing an indiscretion like this into open court
could destroy that."
That's a pretty way of saying it." Alan's voice stayed cool. "But I
prefer saying that he was boinking a nurse-practitioner, as shown in
the movie, and that he was in mid-boink when Jenny Bailey was rolled
into the emergency room. Your client admitted it during depositions. He
also stated that he ignored his beeper. And that this ignorance
occurred not once, but twice. That's gross negligence. That's why a
woman is dead."
shook his head. "No, she's dead because she died in the ambulance. When
she arrived in the ER, her pupils were fixed and dilated, and she had
no pulse. Both EMTs verified that she had been gone nearly ten minutes
before my client had a chance to help."
cocked his head. "Before he zipped up, you mean? Because the timeline
is pretty clear about that."
leaned over the desk, his palms flat on the surface. "When I was a kid,
I had this tendency to go after the guys who were hurting my friends.
Sure, I got my share of black eyes and bloody noses, but you should
have seen them. The nuns would scold me, say I needed to be the bigger
person in such heated emotional matters. And I try to be, now as much
as then. It's not easy, but I do try. Now, you're attacking a client of
mine, one who also happens to be a close friend. And I want to be the
mature one. But I can't help seeing just another school yard bully that
needs a good ass-kicking. So forgive me for regressing, but when this
is over, Shore – and the sooner, the better – I intend to break every
bone in your body."
chilly silence permeated the air. "Then have your client settle," Alan
finally said with a shrug. "And start with the legs."
had waited outside Alan's office for what seemed like an eternity, then
watched Bobby Donnell storm out, his square-jaw features darker than
she could have imagined. She poked her head in the doorway. "Just
wanted to make sure you were still alive," she said, only half-joking.
voice was soft. "Do you really want to make sure? You could always
check my pulse. Listen to my heart. Take my temperature."
Tara's eyes met his. "I can just imagine how you'd want that done."
Alan let a small smile play on his lips. "You and your dirty little mind."
shook her head. "By the look on Mr. Donnell's face, I'm guessing he has
no interest in settling."
thinks he can win. And if the paramedics are right, the odds favor him.
Plus, the client is another one of his 'old friends'. You'd think that
he'd have run out of buddies by now."
"He's not you, Alan," she said.
"That much is clear," he replied.
nodded, with a small frown. Then she looked back into his eyes. "Why
did you take this case?" she asked.
been bothering me," she said. "This case doesn't seem to be up your
"You're not wrong."
took a deepish breath, then said, in that same soft tone, "Just to
steal a few extra minutes a day with you." His eyes drifted over her.
"Nice skirt. The newest Denny Crane directive?"
just like you having to take two contingency cases a month," she said,
striding slowly into the room. "And two more if you want to make him
"Well, we are put on earth to make him so, isn't that true?"
Alan." She stopped at the edge of his desk. "No words about the
Alan's eyes narrowed. "What buttons?"
know, on my blouse." She leaned across the desktop. "The way they seem
to strain against the thread, remember?"
stood up slowly. "I make one – or nine – off-hand comments, and you
never let me forget it." Alan let out something of a sigh, as he leaned
closer to her. "That's just mean."
am so sorry. I didn't realize that I was being insensitive to your
precociously lewd nature," she said, forming each word fully with her
seen the blouse," Alan said, his voice matching hers. "The legs, not so
She smiled a bit. "You'd think they'd pro-rate for using less fabric, but no."
considered her for a moment. "Flouncy, even playful, and in black, too.
Plus the pleats really work for me."
for the review. But I'm not twirling for you, you deviate, so don't
His eyes danced. "Aw, shucks."
leaned her face closer to his, and held her gaze. "The clock on the
wall says bantering time is over."
He grinned. "Give me a second to move some things."
"It's not time for that, either." Tara didn't budge.
Neither did Alan. "Double shucks."
"I need a drink, maybe a nice dinner. How about you?"
"Not tonight," he replied.
shot him a faux-puzzled look. "I'm sorry, I don't think you understood.
I was telling you my plans." With that, she spun on her heel and walked
frozen, partially because of her parting shot, but mostly because of
the sway of her skirt. "That's just mean," he said, when he could
Hopkins was sitting at his dining room table. He was looking at his
folded hands, like a little boy pulled into the principal's office. And
Bobby felt like he was playing the part of the principal. "Shore has a
case," Bobby said. "And he could win."
"Because of Maria and me, right?"
part of it. It doesn't help that the hospital isn't willing to vouch
for you. Or that the state medical board keeps delaying your
upheld Maria's suspension. Six months. Plus eighteen months probation.
And if she's not perfect – "
Bobby furrowed his brow. "When did you hear this?"
"Last night. She called."
"She can't do that."
know. It's against the rules. Like everything else we did." Jeff's eyes
welled. "And Jenny Bailey died because of it."
her death is not your fault," Bobby said. "The ambulance crew said
there was no way you – "
could have helped that woman. I know I could have," Jeff said, as he
wiped his eyes with his hands. "All I had to do was not cheat on my
think like that, Jeff. And you certainly can't keep saying it. Unless
you want to lose this case."
"I don't know if it matters anymore."
"What are you talking about?"
Jeff chuckled sadly. "Sheila left."
Took the kids, went to her parents' house in Philadelphia. Not like I
shook his head. "Look, Jeff, maybe you're right. Maybe you could have
helped that woman. Maybe you shouldn't have given in to an urge. But
that doesn't change the fact that Jenny Bailey had died in the
ambulance. She was unresponsive, she had no pulse, and her heart had
stopped twice before she was anywhere close to your hospital."
don't talk to me like you're the hospital counsel, trying to cover your
guess I'll have to talk to you like we've been friends for fifteen
years. Since that is the case." Bobby leaned forward. "Your insurance
company will not want to pay seven million dollars. They won't want to
pay a dime. You'll be lucky if they don't dump you outright, unless you
win. So you need to accept that you aren't God, that bad things happen,
and that you were not responsible for Jenny Bailey's death."
"No matter how guilty I feel about it," Jeff said.
sighed. "Then decide if you want to set a price to soothe your
conscience, or if you'd rather fight."
stood at the Bailey front door for six or seven minutes, deciding if he
should knock. He was thinking about leaving. There wasn't any news, or
settlement offer, or reason for him to be here. He could be at home,
staring at something pornographic, or calling up his favorite escort
service for an in-home delivery. He'd ask for Linda or Kristin or Jane,
any one of them, in a skirt like Tara had been wearing. And they'd play
word games, and she'd twirl for him. And then, Alan thought, come the
some reason, he knew that by the time it was over, he'd be somewhere
else, unable to truly indulge himself. That damn question Tara had
asked him would still be ringing in his ears. Most likely, he'd be
wishing that he had knocked on the door he was standing at right now.
So he rapped his knuckles on the varnished oak veneer.
nine-year old girl with suspicious eyes opened the door a crack. "Who
are you?" she asked.
"My name is Alan Shore," he said. "Could I speak to your father?"
door opened wider. Paul Bailey appeared on cue behind his daughter, a
smaller girl in his arms. "Mr. Shore? Do you have news?"
I just wanted see how you were. If you needed anything." Alan looked at
the girl who had answered the door. She was still eyeballing him, but
was clutching her father's pant leg.
"We're okay, Mr. Shore."
Alan caught a glimpse of cardboard boxes and bare walls. "I see you're
doing some packing," he said.
the moving truck is coming Friday," Paul said, forcing the enthusiasm
into his voice. "And then we're in our new place. It's smaller, but
that's gonna be better for us." He tried to smile.
Alan nodded. "Are you going to be ready by then?"
My brother and his wife, they'll be here to help tomorrow. I've gotta
go to Gwen's school and get her records and such in the morning, so she
can get started as soon as possible at her new school." He
squeezed the girl's shoulder a little.
"Wow, Gwen, a new school," Alan said to the girl. "How do you feel about that?"
hate it," she replied, with a trembling lower lip. "I don't want a new
school. I don't want a new house." And then she ran into the house, up
the stairs, and out of sight.
Alan shook his head. "I didn't mean to – "
not your fault, Mr. Shore," Paul said. "I wish I could say what she
said. But I can't." He rubbed his other daughter's back. "I have to put
this one to bed. Thanks for dropping by," he said, closing the door.
night, Mr. Bailey," Alan said, as the light from inside gave way to the
darkness of the night. He turned on his heel, and headed down the
stairs to his car. And just before he put his key into the ignition, he
looked back at the house, and not only knew why he took this case, but
why he had to win.