“You don’t like lawyers, do you? No surgeon likes lawyers.”

“Don’t start,” Elizabeth said.

“I’m not starting,” Lucy said. “I stated a fact with which the doctor cannot disagree. Isn’t that right, doctor?”

Luke said nothing.

Lucy, her neck veins pulsing, looked at Elizabeth for many seconds now.

“Do you do malpractice?” Luke finally asked Lucy.

“She’s a defense lawyer,” Elizabeth said.

“I’m not an ambulance chaser, if that’s what you’re implying,” Lucy said, glaring at Elizabeth but talking to Luke.

“I don’t think that’s what he meant,” said Elizabeth.

“That’s what he thinks,” Lucy said.

“You can’t know what he thinks,” Elizabeth said.

“I worry about malpractice,” Luke said. “There are a lot of unnecessary suits.”

“A lot of unnecessary harm done,” Lucy said.

Lucy turned to see the singer again, who had started another song. “It’s not just the mistakes that piss me off, it’s the cover-ups.”

Luke did not agree to oversimplification and partial truth, but he kept quiet.

Elizabeth touched Luke’s arm, her face faintly flushed, and side-glanced at her sister. “Enjoyed seeing you,” she said.

He expressed pleasure at seeing her, unable to suppress his sarcasm.

She leaned toward his ear. “Sorry,” she whispered so Lucy wouldn’t hear.

Elizabeth disappeared into the crowd. Lucy gave him a sardonic smile.

“We’ve been having a spat,” she said. “She thinks I’m rude to the rich folk.” She paused, smiling ruefully. “We fight all the time. Since we were kids.” Her voice had softened a bit.

“May I bring you a drink from the bar?” Luke asked.

Lucy held up her full martini glass. “I get my own drinks,” she said, without a smile now. She turned and walked away with a little wobble in her gait. “Enjoy yourself,” she said over her shoulder.

He was relieved she was gone but he missed looking at her. Her beauty was the only pleasant memory about her. One glance could up the heartbeat of a dead man.

The crowd got louder. With drinks flowing, the intense chatter was punctuated with cries of mostly false delight, and occasionally angry outbursts, so that comfortable conversation became almost impossible. Luke wanted to leave. He walked up to A.J.

“Congratulations. A great party,” Luke said.

A.J. laughed and leaned over to whisper, “It’s all bullshit, Luke. You know it. I know it. They’ve given a fraction of what they should.”

That seemed a little ungrateful; these people were big donors, some had given more than a million dollars. Luke thought power had warped A.J.’s judgment over the years.

“I’ve got to get back. Surgery in the morning,” Luke said.

A.J. slapped him on the back. “I’ll walk with you to the car. I can’t hear in here,” he said loudly. “Did you valet?”