If you want to catch up on who these guys are, the most important posts arecodes, coffees, crayonsa favor for Dr Ballwhile I looked around...
Dr Doyle leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. How was it possible
to receive so much email in five days? He sat back up and forced his eyes to focus on the screen again. He'd been slogging
through his inbox, triaging the messages, deleting as many as he could, replying to none, flagging only the most important.
And yet still he was facing a long string of little red flag icons. One more and I'll have all eighteen holes, he thought.
knock sounded at the door frame. Doyle looked up, both dreading and welcoming the interruption. His dread fell away when he
saw his visitor. "Hey! Come on in."
Dr Ball stepped in. "Good morning, Al. Welcome back." He looked around the
office at the piles of paper and files. "Is now a bad time?"
"No, now is a very good time." Doyle pulled a chair over.
"Oh, God, do you have a folder for me too? Tell me there's nothing in there that requires a decision."
Dr Ball sat
down and regarded his manila folder. "This? Nothing at all. It's not even urgent. How was the conference?"
was fine. Some good papers; I'll hit the highlights at the department meeting."
"You had excellent weather. Did you
get to look around at all?"
"A little. Saw the 'Rocky' stairs," he teased. "No, we didn't get to see much, not even
the Liberty Bell. I brought you a present, though." He reached into his briefcase and brought out a thin, heavy book. He handed
it to Dr Ball.
Dr Ball looked at the book and back at Doyle in amazement. Doyle shrugged. "Everyone else was carrying
on about cheesesteaks, but there you were talking about the art museum and what a great opportunity this retrospective was
and how if you
were going to Philadelphia you would make sure
to see it....
The exhibition actually closed in July, but I thought you might like this."
"Thank you, very much." Dr Ball opened
the catalog and flipped through a few of the heavy, glossy pages before he gently closed the book again. "How very kind. I'm
afraid I don't have anything nearly as splendid for you."
Dr Ball shook his head. "It's been very
quiet. I did see one of your patients, Miss Martin. She was still symptomatic so I switched her to esomeprazole and instructed
her to come back to see us in a couple of weeks."
"And what else did you tell her?"
you hadn't already. I did strongly urge her to heed your advice about reducing stress, and I did suggest that she start by
just being honest with her parents and telling them now she wants to switch majors, instead of spending the whole semester
worrying about the LSATs."
Doyle chuckled. "I won't even ask."
"Some people were born to be lawyers. Perhaps
Miss Martin just isn't one of them."
"I'll be curious to see what she says at her follow up."
"So will I. I
also told her to spend ten minutes every day in the greenhouse at Coursen Hall, with no books, no laptop and, above all, no
iPod. I'll be interested to see if she took the cure."
"Did you also suggest a new major for her?" Dr Ball smiled,
and Doyle shook his head. "Well, I'll let you know what Miss Martin says. Speaking of lawyers, what happened with Stan? That
was on Thursday, wasn't it?"
Dr Ball's jovial expression vanished. "It was. His entire sentence was reinstated: seven
years, with no credit for time served."
"Good riddance," grunted Doyle. Dr Ball looked down at his hands.
what else? What did
I delegate to you, anyway?"
"The journal club." Dr Ball held up his folder again. "Notes
here, when you're ready for them. You have a very good group of residents this month, I must say. Some of their presentations
looked as if they were prepared as early as last night, instead of scribbled during stoplights on their drive in this morning.
Your R-1, Gettachew, did particularly well.
"There was one article of particular interest that I wanted to tell you
about. Dr Reade decided to go for the exotic this week and presented a case study: acute liver failure brought on by hemolytic
anemia. Teenaged boy, post-MVA, gravely ill. No drugs, no cancer; the patient ruled out for all the usual suspects, and all
the unusual ones as well. However, it turned out that his cat had died at around the same time as the onset of illness. So
the team did a necropsy on the cat."
"On the cat
. You have got to be kidding
"Bizarre, isn't it? And yet it paid off. They discovered that the cat also had died of liver failure, which indicated
some kind of toxin in the home. And it turned out -- " Dr Ball leaned forward -- "to be napthalene poisoning! Did you know
that termites can generate napthalene gas to protect their nests? They discovered an enormous termites' nest behind the wallboard
of the boy's room. So the boy was chronically exposed to this napthalene gas, and to make it worse, the chemical was also
building up in his body fat. So when he lost weight after his MVA, that dumped even more of the poison into his system. They
started parenteral nutrition and he turned right around."
"I'm still stuck on this cat business. What, did they dig
Puff up out of the backyard?"
"They did indeed, they exhumed the cat. It was winter, so it was well preserved."
Like CSI: Animal Planet
. So who wrote this?"
"Well, that's yet another remarkable
thing: it's by someone we know
or did know, an alumnus of our residency program. Do you remember Gregory House?"
"Tall guy, arrogant? Our Mayo reject?"
very same." Dr Ball considered for a moment. "Tell me... I'm not trying to disparage your powers of recall, for they are very
good. But it's been twenty years already since Gregory House was here, and therefore probably twenty years since the last
time his name crossed your lips. Yet you brought him to mind with a speed astonishing even for you."
"If I untangle that sentence, is there a compliment in there somewhere for me? I know you never forget a face, but I could
still ask you the same question."
"That would hardly be fair. I've had all weekend to sift my memory and play where-have-I-heard-that-name-before.
And... I didn't have to think that far back; I have followed Dr House's career on and off over the years, in a casual way."
"As I said, only in a casual way. I did actually hear
from him once;
he was... seeking my help with a referral. Now that
was a bolt from the blue. We never
actually spoke to each other; it was all voice mail, all very to the point. That must have been ten years ago.
I just kept an eye out for his name in the journals. He was publishing very consistently for a while, but then... his name
just disappeared. This is the first article from him I've seen in some time."
"It was very nearly the last," said Doyle.
He reached in his briefcase again and pulled out a folded newspaper. "I came across House's name when I was in Philly." He
turned the newspaper around and handed it to Dr Ball. "The second one down, left-hand column."
The curiosity on Dr
Ball's face turned to concern as he started to read. " 'Princeton Doctor Expected To Make Full Recovery,'" he murmured. "
'Gunman's Motive, Identity Still Mystery'.... "
The concern became shock. "Jesus have mercy," he whispered. He finished
the article and handed it back to Doyle.
Doyle folded the paper and put it back in his briefcase. "So you see," he
said, "why his name was on my mind this weekend."
"This shooting... nobody knows why? That makes no sense! Just this
weekend, a doctor down in Washington was murdered -- beaten to death. But tragic as it was, it made sense. He was a psychiatrist,
he specialized in treating difficult cases. He was seeing a patient who was having an acute episode and they were alone in
an office on a Sunday afternoon. His patient became violent and....
"But this man, this... mysterious assailant went
to the trouble of obtaining a gun and, presumably, concealing it, and just walked into a hospital in broad daylight and shot
Gregory House. And nobody knows why."
"Right in front of his fellows," said Doyle. "No, I don't get it either. I'm
surprised that the hospital doesn't have metal detectors. No knife 'n' gun club in that area, I suppose; must be nice.
sad thing is that I asked one of the local guys about it, and do you know what he said? He said he was only surprised it hadn't
happened before. "
"But a gun? Why didn't he just sue?"
"Maybe he just didn't feel like waiting till his
turn came up on the docket. Apparently Dr House is no stranger to the settlement table. Or to the courtroom, or the review
board, for that matter." Doyle watched Dr Ball's face closely, surprised at how pained it looked. "I'm sorry to bring you
this bad news, but I thought it would be better if you found out from me instead of from Google--"
"I don't Google.
Too much temptation." Dr Ball's voice was flat.
"-- Or from the ether, or however you find out about things."
Ball lifted the folder. "And yet still he pulled this off."
"Yes, apparently he also has quite a reputation for spectacular
Dr Ball leaned back in his chair. He seemed to be absorbed in the painting reproduced on the cover of his book.
It was of a man walking across a lawn or a field. It was a detail, so only the hem of the man's coat and his tall, old-fashioned
boots were visible. The grass was a mixture of yellow and green; whether it was supposed to be spring or fall Doyle couldn't
tell. There was a twig in the grass near the man's feet.
"You were right about him, you know," Doyle finally said.
"Even before he came here, when it came out about the Mayo. I remember. You said with a start like that he would have a career
of nothing but trouble."
Dr Ball did not look up. "That was hardly a feat of prophecy."
"You also correctly
predicted that he wouldn't take the fellowship offer --"
"-- again, that wasn't hard to predict; he'd never shown
the slightest interest in our specialty -- "
"--and that he'd ruin his life, and with it, his career."
quite. I was a bit more portentous that that, wasn't I? Some gas about destroying his own happiness even as he reached for
it?" He looked to the window. "I would be so happy to be proved wrong.
"It may happen yet. Maybe something good will
come out of this, some kind of... opportunity. A chance to correct the course. It would be such a waste to see him...." His
voice trailed off.
"To see him end up like Stan?" Doyle finally asked.
"Yes. It's not the literal prison I'm
worried about, of course. It's the prison that's locked from the inside. Stanley imprisoned himself years ago."
frowned. His informant in Philadelphia had also mentioned rumors that House was addicted to painkillers. He opened his mouth,
thought better of it, and closed his mouth again.
Dr Ball turned back from the window. "Thank you for showing this
to me. I wouldn't have heard it from Google, but I probably would have heard it from someone else, and you're right. I'd much
prefer to hear it from you." He looked down at his folder and held it up again as if he'd just noticed it was there. "Do you
want this now or shall I bring it back later?"
"I can take it now." Doyle reached out, took the folder, and stowed
it in a file sorter. "I know it's early, but are you up for lunch?" Early was an understatement; it was barely ten-thirty.
"Even if I were, I doubt that the cafeteria would be," Dr Ball said mildly. "And then, semi-retirement does afford
me the luxury of having a leisurely breakfast as late as seven or even eight...."
"Yes, thank you for rubbing that
"...But if you really want to try your luck at the steam table, I'd be happy to tag along for a cup of tea."
right then. Let me just shut this off...." Doyle turned to the computer and started closing windows. Lunch at ten-thirty was
pathetically transparent, but he was relieved that Dr Ball was playing along. He was beginning to regret having brought
out the article just then; he was even beginning to think he shouldn't have said anything at all... but that would have been
stupid. The news would have reached him somehow.
Doyle was still surprised at how hard he'd seemed to take the news
-- so hard that that he'd seemed to hesitate before accepting the invitation to the caf. That was so unlike him. But then,
he'd seemed surprisingly upset by all the business with Stan.
The monitor went black. Doyle stood up and reached for
Maybe it was a generational thing. Stan was around his own age, and House was even younger, while Dr Ball
would be seventy soon. Doyle knew Dr Ball was fully aware of the fallibility of doctors, and was hardly a fossil despite his
persona, but perhaps he was still used to more "commonplace vices", as he would probably put it. Arrogance, greed,
inflexibility, general grumpiness, even malpractice, but still, nothing like the public spectacle that Stan had made of himself
(and of the hospital, too, Doyle reflected bitterly.) And what had House done to provoke someone into hunting him down and
He locked his desk and turned around. Dr Ball had crossed the office and was gazing out the window --
at a bird, probably. He looked old.
Doyle pocketed his key. "Now I'm ready," he said. He waited
for Dr Ball, turned out the lights, and locked the door behind them.