"Did you hear me, David? I'm coming out. I want to talk."
Perry shoved the furniture away from the bedroom door. He didn't bother to take time to wonder if this was a good idea. It was necessary, something he had to do. It would give Della the critical time to get away, plus distract the man downstairs. The elderly lawyer willingly meeting him face to face probably wasn't something that David Selkirk had actually expected him to do, but the lunatic surely wanted.
Perry opened the bedroom door cautiously, peering down the hallway. Making his way to the stairs, he carefully carried his cane in one hand and held onto the rail, all the while watching and waiting to see if the man would ambush him. It didn't seem his style; Selkirk seemed like the kind who liked to tear the wings off the butterfly just to watch it suffer.
The stairway ended in the living room where Perry found David Selkirk standing across the room, in front of the fireplace. There was a shining blade in hand, and a smile on his face that didn't look at home.
"David. I didn't anticipate meeting you like this again. Please have a seat. Would you like a drink?" Perry's voice and manner was bold, yet smooth as ice.
Selkirk was unexpectedly startled that the older man appeared to be unafraid. He watched Mason as he crossed the room, to the old fashioned bar table near the large front window, and poured two drinks from a bottle of Scotch. He placed one on a table, in front of an armchair, and the lawyer calmly took a sip from his own glass, while standing.
"What are you up to, old man," the killer, asked suspiciously.
"I am extending hospitality to a guest, unwanted, uninvited, but nevertheless, you are here. You have the knife. I am unarmed, and you did say that you needed a lawyer." Perry's voice was convincing but his eyes flared like blue flames.
Selkirk moved to the chair and took the drink, while rotating the knife around by the hilt. He leaned back in the chair and took a test sip. He held the glass up as in salute, and said, "Trust you, Mason, to have only the best." His attitude changed abruptly, and he brusquely asked, "So where is the woman?"
"She isn't here."
"You're a liar," Selkirk spat back at him.
"Search the house. You'll find out for yourself. There is no woman here." The self-assurance in Mason's voice was convincing.
"Where is she?"
"Let me ask you a question, David? Why are you here?"
"You took something from me. My stepfather was the best thing that ever happened to me. My father was a cruel and hateful man. Ralph Jennings was a great father—he didn't deserve what happened to him!" Selkirk was yelling, almost out of control.
"So you intend to take my life in return? Is that it? Like you killed Yvette Burger, an innocent woman who had nothing to do with your stepfather being convicted for murder."
"She had something to do with it. She loved that bastard, Burger. He's the one who was responsible for Ralph's conviction, but," Selkirk's eyes were a trifle unfocused, "Burger is dead, unavailable. Mrs. Burger was around, so someone paid. Someone had to pay that debt."
Where the hell were those officers, Perry thought. It shouldn't be taking this long.
"So, you're here, and I'm the one responsible for ferreting out the murderer of your biological father. I am the only one left." Perry Mason's eyes were hard and his face set like granite.
David Selkirk passed his thumb along the blade of the impressive hunting knife. "Mr. Mason, I'm sure you've noticed that life never quite turns out like we expect. I wish I had been the one who accidentally killed my father. That I could live with, but losing Ralph and my mother. I wish I had been the one to die. From the moment Ralph Jennings left, I was an orphan. My mother hated me and sent me away." His erratic movements with the knife were becoming faster and more frantic.
"I'm not here for you, Mr. Mason. Killing you is too easy. I want you to suffer the most. Because you took what I loved the most, I'm here for what you love the most—or who-in this case. The best part of you. The part that makes your life worth living, your wife."
Perry's insides seemed to freeze, and he knew that one of them wouldn't leave the house alive. He would die before he allowed this screwed-up, overaged adolescent to touch her.
Selkirk kept talking without noticing how still the old lawyer had become. "After her, I will find young Mr. Drake, and he will pay for the sins of his father. It's very all Biblical, really, don't you think? You took someone who could have changed the course of my life, and now, I am going to change the course of yours." A sly smile crept out and a reptilian look appeared in his eyes, as he tried to judge Perry's reaction.
"I hate to tell you, David, but you've miscalculated. I don't have a wife." Perry calmly took a drink from his tumbler and waited for Selkirk's reaction.
Selkirk laughed. He almost sounded sane, as if Perry had told an old well-known joke.
"Mr. Attorney-at-Law, best criminal defense in the country, even I know better than that. She may not be your wife in name, but she is your friend. Your lover. Your Della."
The way Selkirk said it made Perry's skin crawl. He knew what this madman had done to Yvette Burger. Raped and mutilated her while still alive, until blessedly she finally bled out. Never would he allow this animal to hurt Della.
"Della, like the woman in the O. Henry story who was willing to sacrifice everything for the man she loved, her husband. What was the name of the story? Oh, come, counselor, I'm sure an educated man like yourself knows the story." His tone was mocking and sing-song now.
Selkirk moved slowly, deliberately, and Perry knew he could never outrun him. So he stood like a statue, unwilling to show fear. The crazed man pressed the tip of the blade to the corner of his captive's eye.
"What's the story, Mason?"
"The Gift of the Magi."
"The BEST that the wise men had to offer. The best Della had to offer. Beautiful story. Ironic ending though, wouldn't you say?
"I guess Della would be your common-law wife. Is that the term, counselor? Once a couple are together for so many years, you are considered common-law husband and wife. I read a little law when I was away; I read a lot of everything." He laughed roughly, and said, "I had a bit of time on my hands."
Selkirk removed the knife from Perry's eye and moved back a few feet, calmly taking a drink from his glass; all the while, his eyes never left the older man.
"Such a shame, really, Mason," he continued his torment, leaning down on the table to look at a photograph on a side table. "Your Della is still quite beautiful, but you didn't marry her. Why?" He pretended to contemplate the issue, then said, "Well, no matter. Killing her will not physically hurt you, but it will cut out your soul, and that hurts a lot worse. Trust me."
Perry Mason struck Selkirk's arm holding the knife with every ounce of strength he possessed and was rewarded with the crack of bone. Not waiting a second, Perry moved toward the drawer where he kept the gun.
Selkirk crashed behind him. He had to hurry!
His hand was on the drawer handle when he felt a sharp burning pain and intense pressure in his left side, once, twice—then—BOOM! A terrible blast was followed by screams, male and female, and the breaking of glass.
Perry couldn't stop himself and he collapsed, the world red and black with pain. He tried to move his arm to find from where the pain emanated. He felt weak, nauseous, and in pain, but he still had one thought. Where was the sorry son-of-a-bitch?!
He thought he could hear Della's voice! He tried to tell her to get out. To run, but Perry couldn't talk. His lips moved, didn't they? Why couldn't he talk? Somewhere in the distance, sirens sounded. His last thought was of his beloved 'wife.'