The Best Part of Me:

Chapter 19

Della Street took the Winchester and ran around to the window where Perry had unfolded the fire ladder. It lay in a pool of chain and metal. Dammit! She should have anticipated what he would do to protect her.

In the far distance she thought she could hear the sounds of sirens. Once Selkirk heard the police coming, God knew what he might do.

Making her way around the house, she stopped outside the kitchen window and saw—nothing. Her view was blocked by the wall where their grandfather clock rested.

Careful to stay down, she moved to the small octagon shaped window beside the fireplace. Perry and David Selkirk were standing facing each other, and they both held drinks! What in the world!

Was Perry trying to hold Selkirk's attention until help could arrive?

Della crept around the front of the house, careful with the shotgun. By leaning back against the wall, she could peep around into the living room. Selkirk was quite agitated, and he appeared to be venting about how awful his life had been. She'd like to hope that's all he wanted if he hadn't held a huge knife in Perry's direction. Probably the same knife he'd used on poor Yvette.

She was scared witless, but, she didn't have time for that now. Her attention was focused on the dangerous stranger in her home, their home, and Perry's vulnerability. He couldn't move quickly on a good day with his bum leg. Della knew very well that her love could talk the birds down from the trees, but not even he spoke 'crazy.'

She tried to figure out an angle at which to get a clean shot at Selkirk, but there was no guarantee that he would be injured enough to stop him if she fired through the window. And, the shotgun had a wide shot pattern, so Perry might be hit.

Unexpectedly, Perry swung his cane and struck the younger man's arm. Instinctively grabbing his arm, Selkirk dropped the knife.

Perry swiveled and was hurrying, for him, across the room, while Selkirk was on the floor struggling to find his weapon. The hand in which his attacker held the knife originally, the left, was open and dangling, the arm probably broken.

Della knew there was no way that Perry, with that bad leg and his weight, was going to get away.

Heading to the front door, she knew from experience that if she braced the gun against her shoulder she might hit the ground before Selkirk did; she'd been a lot younger when she'd last used a shotgun. Instead of holding it, she held the barrel at hip level, and braced it against the iron railing. She fired the first shell right into the door handle and lock. The front door flew open, but the recoil pulled the weapon out of her hands anyway, and it clattered onto the bricks of the porch stoop.

By now, Selkirk had recovered his knife and was within inches of striking Perry. Desperately, she knelt and grabbed frantically for the shotgun, and that's when the revolver she'd taken from the officer gouged into her stomach.

Snatching it free, she screamed, "No!" as she ran into the house. Della aimed the service revolver at Selkirk and fired. Once. Twice. She lost count, but she could see Perry was down and bleeding. Oh, God!

Selkirk stumbled and jumped through the air, tackling her. The gun went flying from her hand across the room. Both of them slammed to the floor, tangled together, but Della saw that she'd managed to wound him because his shoulder was covered in blood.

Della struggled to get up and get to the gun, but the madman was not giving up. He got to his feet, too, and scrambled for the weapon. He was closer to it, and she knew it was all over if he managed to get there first.

She heard a loud shriek followed by inhuman hissing. Festus was entwined between Selkirk's feet, and he was none too happy about it. The cat bit him and mauled the man's legs with his claws. The cat had been hidden beneath the sofa, but, with all the shooting and screaming, he'd had all he could take and decided to make a break for it. The tussle with the tom cat and gave Della the precious extra seconds she needed, and she got to the gun first.

Her fingers closed around the grip of the revolver, yet so did David Selkirk's. He wrapped his hand over hers, and they wrestled furiously over the gun. Unsurprisingly, he overpowered Della, and he shoved her savagely. She landed on her rear, breathless from exertion. Looking up, she saw Selkirk was standing over her, gun pointed at her head.

Blood was oozing heavily now from his shoulder and sweat ran down his face. She'd put up more fight than he expected.

"Lovely Della, it is simply too bad that your Mr. Mason isn't able to witness this."

Della didn't have time to close her eyes or even flinch, before she heard several voices yelling, "Drop it! LAPD! Now!"

All at once the house appeared to be surrounded with flashing lights and patrol cars. One of their own was dead and another may not make it. They were out for blood and if Selkirk so much as twitched, he was not going to walk out-and he knew it. He looked at the police and back at the woman on the floor, pistol pointed at her. Suddenly, he swung wildly at the wall of blue when multiple shots rang out, dropping him instantly.

Della was stunned, and it took her a little bit to realize that she wasn't the one shot. David Selkirk, instead, was lying beside her, and he was still alive, looking at her. He gave Della a strange smile, and, in a childlike voice, said, "I remember wiggling my ears for you. Why did you betray me, too?"

Police and EMT personnel seemed everywhere all at once. Perry was up and gone on the first stretcher.

A nice police sergeant helped Della to her feet and out to the ambulance where the paramedics were working on staunching Perry's bleeding until they could transport him to the hospital. One of the EMT's placed a blanket around her shoulders as she pressed as close as she could get to the lawyer.

The EMT asked her if she was injured, but she ignored his question. "Is he alive? Oh, God, please, tell me he's alive," she cried.

"Yes, ma'am, he's got a good pulse and strong heartbeat. Respirations are a bit irregular because he's shocky, so we need to get moving. His, uh, well, extra padding may have helped to keep the knife from going too far in."

She'd worried about his weight affecting his health for so long. Ah, the irony. Della didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so she did both.

******************P & D************************************************

One month later:

"Della! Are you ready yet?"

She used her faux exasperated voice to respond, "You don't have to bellow. I can hear you perfectly well. So can the neighbors. I'm coming! After all this time, wouldn't you at least like me to have on shoes?"

Perry laughed, and said, "Della, I would marry you barefoot and-"

"Hold that impossible thought, Counselor! I'm ready." She had on a light pink skirt and jacket, of course, with pearls, her white ones. She also had on a beautiful, very large (too large for her, she thought) pear shaped diamond ring. Her lover had always gone all out when he picked out gifts or jewelry for her.

Perry wrapped his arms around her, kissing her lips, then the top of her curly hair. God, how he loved this woman!

"Kenneth, Paul, we're ready to go," Della called when she came up for air.

Ken stole Della from his mentor and escorted her to the white limo, at the curb. Paul hung back with Perry.

"Can I ask you something, Pops?"

"If it's about the birds and the bees, it's a little late now. And this is a wonderfully happy day, which is why I am letting you by with 'Pops.'. What do you want to know, sonny?"

They walked out of the house together, Perry first.

"How in the world did you finally get Della to agree to marry you?"

Perry smiled broadly. "I explained to her the concept of 'common law' marriage. When she realized we had already been 'technically' married for a long time, and she didn't care for the term 'common law,' she finally saw the light."

Paul was still laughing when they got into the car. He'd never seen Perry and Della show so much public affection; they had always been so private. And he didn't, for a minute, buy the line about 'common law' ignorance; he knew Della was a great legal mind in her own right.

There was a short ceremony, a very select few attending, and the four of them headed to one of their favorite restaurants downtown for a small reception.

After the toasts, and dancing, Ken and Paul finally found some quiet time with the happy couple.

Paul said, "Della, dear, with medical emergencies and legal paperwork, etc., I still haven't asked you where you learned serious first aid and to handle weapons like that. I had no idea that you were so battlefield ready." The young man smiled but he was seriously impressed; they all were.

"I had the opportunity when I worked for…. someone else once….to take EMT classes, so I did. Now…. as for my shooting, I grew up around guns used for hunting, and, as a matter of fact, Perry, your father, and I used to skeet shoot together."

"She put us to shame, more times than one," Perry added, proud of his wife.

"Well, I am much impressed," Ken said, smiling.

Perry held up his glass, and said, "If I may, I would like to toast my partner, best friend, and, finally, my wife: Della Street Mason. I've waited a long time for this moment. Here's to you, my blushing bride. May the next forty years be as wonderful as the first."

Della's cheeks were flushed pink, as she touched her glass to her husband's.

"I know they will be, Chief. I know we are going to be just fine, in fact, it's going to be wonderful."

Much later that evening:

Perry rolled over in bed and pulled his wife's back to his front. He noticed that Della was still staring at the ring on her hand, as if still surprised.

"It is real, you know. We're married." He chuckled and buried his face in her hair, inhaling her unique scent.

"I know, but…."

"Good night, Mrs. Mason. I love you," Perry said drowsily, in her ear.

"Good night, Mr. Mason."

Della curled into her warm bear of a husband, but before falling asleep, she murmured, "Oh, Perry, before I forget, I don't mind you sneaking a smoke occasionally, but would you not drop the butts near the front steps. It doesn't look nice."

Mrs. Mason couldn't see her husband's stunned expression or his ensuing smile, as he whispered very quietly, "Thanks, old friend."