A Time to Kill
(Hard Cover): 434
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"What can I do for you folks?" I ask, looking at the bundle of papers with wide rubber bands
wrapped tightly around it. I slide Miss Birdie's will under my legal pad. My first client is a
multimillionaire, and my next clients are pensioners. My fledging career has come crashing back
"We don't have much money," she says quietly as if this is a big secret and she's embarrassed to
reveal it. I smile compassionately. Regardless of what they own, they're much wealthier than I,
and I doubt it if they're about to be sued.
"And we need a lawyer," she adds as she takes the papers and snaps off the rubber bands.
"What's the problem?"
"Well, we're gettin' a royal screwin' by an insurance company."
"What type of policy?" I ask. She shoves the paperwork toward me, then wipes her hands as if
she's rid of it and the burden has now been passed to a miracle worker. A smudged, creased and
well-worn policy of some sort is on the top of the pile. Dot blows another cloud and for a
moment I can barely see Buddy.
"It's a medical policy," she says. "We bought it five years ago, Great Benefit Life, when our
boys were seventeen. Now Donny Ray is dying of leukemia, and the crooks won't pay for his
"Never heard of them," I say confidently as I scan the declaration page of the policy, as if I've
handled many of these lawsuits and personally know everything about every insurance company. Two
dependents are listed, Donny Ray and Ronny Ray Black. They have the same birth dates.
"Well, pardon my French, but they're a bunch of sumbitches."
"Most insurance are." I add thoughtfully, and Dot smiles at this. I have won her confidence.
"So you purchased this policy five years ago?"
"Something like that. Never missed a premium, and never used the damned thing until Donny Ray
I'm a student, an uninsured one. There are no policies covering me or my life, health or auto.
I can't even afford a new tire for the left rear of my ragged little Toyota.
"And, uh, you say he's dying?"
She nods with the cigarette between her lips. "Acute leukemia. Caught it eight months ago.
Doctors have him a year, but he won't make it because he couldn't get his bone marrow transplant.
Now it's probably too late."
She pronounces "marrow" in one syllable: "mare."
"A transplant?" I say, confused.
"Don't you know nothin' about leukemia?"
"Uh, not really."
She clicks her teeth and rolls her eyes around as if I'm a complete idiot, then inserts the
cigarette for a painful drag. When the smoke is sufficiently exhaled, she says, "My boys are
identical twins, you see. So Ron, we call him Ron because he don't like Ronny Ray, is a perfect
match for Donny Ray's bone mare transplant. Doctors said so. Problem is, the transplant costs
somewhere around a hundred-fifty thousand dollars. We ain't got it, you see. The insurance
company's supposed to pay it because it's covered in the policy right there. Sumbitches said no.
So Donny Ray's dying because of them."
1995 John Grisham