Page 38 of Ford County

Stanley shrugged as if he wasn't sure. Stanley's neck and shoulders were aching now, and it hurt to even shrug. His face was burning, his ears were ringing, his crotch was still wet, and something told him that this was only round one and round one would be the easy part.

Jim looked at the four men and said, "You remember that, Steve?"

Steve said, "Yep."

"Steve's my brother, Michael's uncle. Heard every word of the trial, Lawyer Wade, and he learned to hate you as much as I did. Now, back to the lie. If juries return small verdicts, or no verdicts, then -we're supposed to enjoy low-cost health care and low-cost insurance, right, Lawyer Wade? That was your brilliant argument. Jury bought it. Can't let those greedy lawyers and their greedy clients abuse our system and get rich. No, sir. Gotta protect the insurance companies." Jim looked at his own jury. "Now, fellas. Since Lawyer Wade got a zero verdict for his doctor and his insurance company, how many of ya'll have seen the cost of health care go down?"

No volunteers from his jury.

"Oh, by the way, Lawyer Wade. Did you know that Dr. Trane owned four Mercedes at the time of the trial? One for him, another for his wife, a couple for his two teenagers. Did you know that?"


"Well, what kinda lawyer are you? We knew that. My lawyer did his homework, knew ever'thang about Trane. But he couldn't bring it up in court. Too many rules. Four Mercedes. Guess a rich doctor deserves that many."

Cranwell walked to the file cabinet, opened the top drawer, and removed a three'inch stack of papers tightly compressed in a blue plastic binder. Stanley recognized it immediately because the floor of his office was littered with the blue binders. Trial tran' scripts. At some point, Cranwell had paid the court reporter a few hundred dollars for his own copy of every word uttered during Dr. Trane's trial for medical malpractice.

"Do you recall juror number six, Lawyer Wade?"


Cranwell flipped some pages, many of them tabbed and high' lighted in yellow and green. "Just lookin' at the jury selection here, Lawyer Wade. At one point my lawyer asked the jury pool if any one of them worked for an insurance company. One lady said yes, and she was excused. One gentleman, a Mr. Rupert, said nothin' and got himself picked for the jury. Truth was, he didn't work for an insurance company because he'd just retired from an insurance company, after thirty years. Later, after the trial and after the appeal, we found out that Mr. Rupert was the biggest defender of Dr. Trane durin' deliberations. Said way too much. Raised hell if any of the other jurors as much as mentioned givin' Michael some money. Ring a bell, Lawyer Wade?"


"Are you sure?" Cranwell suddenly put down the transcript and took a step closer to Stanley. "Are you sure about that, Lawyer Wade?"

"I'm sure."

"How can that be? Mr. Rupert was an area claims man for Southern Delta Mutual for thirty years, worked all of north Mississippi. Your firm has represented a lot of insurance companies, including Southern Delta Mutual. Are you tellin' us you didn't know Mr. Rupert?" Another step closer. Another slap on the way.

"I did not."

Fingers thrust in the air. "Lie number five," Cranwell announced and waved his tally at his jury. "Or is it six? I've already lost count."

Stanley braced for a punch or a slap, but nothing came his way. Instead, Cranwell returned to the file cabinet and removed four other binders from the top drawer. "Almost two thousand pages of lies, Lawyer Wade," he said as he stacked the binders on top of each other. Stanley took a breath and exhaled in relief be' cause he had momentarily escaped the violence. He stared at the cheap linoleum between his shoes and admitted to himself that once again he had fallen into the trap that often snared so many of the educated and upper-class locals when they convinced them' selves that the rest of the population was stupid and ignorant. Cranwell was smarter than most lawyers in town, and infinitely more prepared.

Armed with a handful of lies, Cranwell was ready for more.

"And, of course, Lawyer Wade, we haven't even touched on the lies told by Dr. Trane. I suppose you're gonna say that's his problem, not yours."

"He testified. I did not," Stanley said, much too quickly.

Cranwell offered a fake laugh. "Nice try. He's your client. You called him to testify, right?"


"And before he testified, long before that, you helped him prepare for the jury, didn't you?"

"That's what lawyers are supposed to do."

"Thank you. So the lawyers are supposed to help prepare the lies." It was not a question, and Stanley was not about to argue. Cranwell flipped some pages and said, "Here's a sample of Dr. Trane's lies, at least according to our medical expert, a fine man who's still in the business and who didn't lose his license and who wasn't an alcoholic and drug addict and who didn't get run out of the state. Remember him, Lawyer Wade?"


"Dr. Parkin, a fine man. You attacked him like an animal, ripped him up in front of the jury, and when you sat down, you were one smug little bastard. Remember that, Becky?" "Of course I do," Becky chimed in on cue. "Here's what Dr. Parkin said about the good Dr. Trane. Said he failed to properly diagnose labor pains when Becky first arrived at the hospital, that he should not have sent her home, where she stayed for three hours before returnin' to the hospital while Dr. Trane went home and went to bed, that he sent her home because the fetal monitor strip was nonreactive when in fact he had misread the strip, that once Becky was in the hospital and once Dr. Trane finally got there he administered Pitocin over the course of several hours, that he failed to diagnose fetal distress, failed again to properly read the fetal monitorin' strips, which clearly showed Michael's condition was deterioratin' and that he was in acute distress, that he failed to diagnose that the Pitocin was creatin' hyperstimulation and excessive uterine activity, that he botched a vacuum delivery, that he finally performed a Cesarean some three hours after one should have been performed, that by performin' the Cesarean too late he allowed asphyxia and hypoxia to occur, and that the asphyxia and hypoxia could have been pre' vented with a timely and proper Cesarean. Any of this sound familiar, Lawyer Wade."

"Yes, I remember it."

"And do you remember telling the jury, as a fact because you as a brilliant lawyer are always accurate with your facts, that none of this was true, that Dr. Trane adhered to the highest standards of professional conduct, blah, blah, blah?"

"Is that a question, Mr. Cranwell?"

"No. But try this one. Did you tell the jury in your closin' arguments that Dr. Trane was one of the finest doctors you'd ever met, a real star in our community, a leader, a man you'd trust with your family, a great physician who must be protected by the fine folks of Ford County? Remember this, Lawyer Wade?"

"It's been eight years. I really can't remember."

"Well, let's look at page 1574, book five, shall we?" Cranwell was pulling on a binder, then flipping pages. "You wanna read your brilliant words, Lawyer Wade? They're right here. I read 'em all the time. Let's have a look and let the lies speak for them-selves." He thrust the binder at Stanley's face, but the lawyer shook his head and looked away.

It could have been the noise, the stifling tension in the room, or simply the broken circuits in his faulty wiring, but Michael suddenly came to life. The seizure gripped him from head to toe, and in an instant he was shaking rapidly and violently. Becky jumped to his side without a word and with a sense of purpose that came from experience. Jim forgot about Lawyer Wade for a moment and stepped to the bed, which was jerking and clicking, its metal joints and springs in need of lubrication. Doyle materialized from the back of the room, and all three of the Cranwells tended to Michael and his seizure. Becky cooed soothing words and gently clutched his wrists. Jim kept a soft rubber wedge in his mouth. Doyle wiped his brother's head with a wet towel and kept saying, "It's okay, bro, it's okay."