The Good Doctors tells the story of Robert Madigan, a financially struggling Penn University medical school intern, who becomes a paid-for-hire killer with the aid of two fellow students and friends: Samuel Moore, studying to be a mortician, and Clark Magnusson, an aspiring psychologist. Together they create meticulous plans for killing their victims. Robert adds a unique and creative flair all his own, offering each victim a choice on how they will be put to death – by bullet or by the needle.
The air was cold but deathly still at the lake on Saturday morning, where an impenetrable fog hung, obscuring anyone and anything beyond a few feet away. Robert understood the reason why Clark had chosen this location—it offered the ultimate security.
With Samuel at his side, Robert approached the edge of the lake, pulling up the collar of his overcoat and adjusting his toboggan cap further over his ears to protect them from the cold. Samuel did the same.
Clark was already in the little, weather-beaten boat, peacefully reading a book at if they weren’t about to discuss murder.
“Good morning, Clark!”
Clark looked up and smiled, “My fellow conspirators! Please, come aboard my yacht!”
“A fifteen-foot yacht,” Samuel laughed, “is hardly a yacht.”
Robert climbed aboard first, noting that Clark was wearing a finely knit wool sweater and light pants that would have been more appropriate for a real yacht. While Clark normally wore a navy blue “Penn U” sweater, this one was more indicative of his true, private life. Unlike his friends, he didn’t wear a cap against the cold. Instead, he seemed to revel in it.
As Samuel climbed aboard (nearly stumbling, as boats were simply not in his realm), Clark removed his rimless classes and stowed his book inside his small leather satchel.
“Good morning mates!” he called out with an exaggerated pirate’s dialect.
“Ahoy, Cap’n!” Samuel responded, immediately catching on. He and Robert sat side-by-side on the slat-seat as Clark pushed them off and rowed from the stern.
They were in a different world now, far from the lectures and campus rigmarole. Here, engulfed in a fog bank, Robert felt as if they were floating in limbo, utterly separate and apart from anyone and anything. He thought he would remember this moment as the time when he could finally take direct action that could ensure—just as Clark’s life was assured—the future he desired.
How Clark knew to stop rowing before hitting the far bank was a mystery to Robert, as everything was all but invisible in the fog, but he stopped regardless, securing the oars horizontally and letting the boat drift.
Clark reached under his seat and removed a small wooden chest inlaid with gold. Robert thought the thing was impressively gaudy, but kept his opinion to himself.
Clark opened the chest, revealing a bottle of brandy and three tulip glasses resting on a red velvet bed. Robert wondered if he had other chests as perfectly arranged for two or four people.
“Gentlemen.” Clark handed them both glasses, “This is one of the finest brandies I’ve ever enjoyed. I’m sure you’ll agree.”
He poured quarter glasses for his friends and then himself, and put the bottle back in its bed, “Shall we begin?”
Robert hesitated. He didn’t often conduct meetings, and even though he was the catalyst to this one, the circumstances were challenging.
How do we plan a murder?
Clark, more comfortable with opportunities for leadership, got things going without a moment’s hesitation. Running things, after all, was already in his blood.
Individually, Robert had already explained to both men the tale of Professor Howell and Gavin Noel, so the preliminaries weren’t necessary.
“It seems to me,” Clark began, “that we are simply accommodating the wealthy in fulfilling their need for retaliation against those who offend them, is that correct?”
Samuel rolled his eyes. It seemed both of his friends were given to overblown prose.
Robert clarified, “Against those who commit serious wrongs against them.”
“Wrongs?” Samuel asked.
“As I said, unsavory individuals.”
Clark smiled as he sipped his brandy, “Sounds subjective.”
“I trust Professor Howell,” Robert assured him, “It’s not our place to ask questions.”
“Only to follow orders?” Clark responded.
“To provide a service,” Robert clarified.
“And get paid.” Samuel added.
Robert took a sip of his own brandy, “I’ll receive the name and location of the target from the professor. It’s your job to accomplish the preliminaries. Clark will use his considerable interpersonal skills to befriend the patient.”
Samuel chuckled at the term.
Robert continued, “He’ll determine the patient’s routine, to assist us in planning the operation.”
“You mean the hit?” Clark asked.
Robert nodded, “You and Samuel will work together to develop a plan for detaining said patient so that I can complete the assignment.”
Samuel smiled, “‘Detaining said patient.’ You are a word master, Robert!”
Clark nodded in agreement, holding up his brandy, “To the word master!”
The three clinked their glasses together.
Robert took another sip, savoring it a bit longer this time, “This is good stuff!”
Clark nodded, “I’m here to teach you the finer things in life.”
Robert considered that, adding, “And I’m here to teach you the unsavory things in life.”
Clark raised up his brandy again, “To the unsavory!”
They clinked their glasses again and shared a good laugh.
After a short interlude to enjoy their brandies, the three men got to work.
“I have to say,” Clark began, “Death by injection is quite a creative choice.”
“It seems right,” Robert agreed, “though they will have a choice.”
“A choice?” Samuel laughed, helped along by the brandy’s effect.
“The professor has already sent along a package with an alternative option.”
“Another option?” Samuel shook his head at Robert’s endlessly indirect explanations.
Clark shrugged, “That would seem much more efficient.”
“Is it? There’s the sound, the damage, the mess…”
Samuel, always the mortician, nodded at that, “I would prefer we leave a clean presentation.”
“You would,” Clark laughed, “would you like to leave a signed death certificate as well? Perhaps including your address should they have any questions? A calling card, should others require your services?”
Robert continued, “Good doctors should always present their patients with a choice, I think.”
“To die or not to die?”
“No Clark. How to die. They’ll know their sentence before it’s carried out. I’ll simply give them the dignity of choosing the methodology.”
“Dignity?” Clark was incredulous, “That might be an overstatement.”
“Some dignity,” Robert conceded, holding his thumb and forefinger an inch apart, “A little dignity.”
Clark and Samuel both nodded, and Clark remarked, “Much more fitting.”
Clark refilled their glasses and Robert concluded their meeting.
“Gentleman, what we’re doing is far beyond the typical demands and requirements of the medical profession, but we still should remain true to our calling. We shall, at all times, be Good Doctors.
Clark held up his class, “To The Good Doctors!”
Samuel and Robert returned the toast, “The Good Doctors!”
They clinked their glasses together once again.