The night was cloudy, the sky inky black until the whipping wind parted the sandwiched gray clouds and let silver beams from the bright moon above touch the earth periodically and only for a few brief seconds. When this happened Perry could see the white caped waves rushing headlong into the sandy beach… his destination.
Making the few final turns, he pulled the car to the curb and killed the engine, taking a moment to utter a brief prayer that he was in the right place… that she was here… that he'd been right when he finally decided she would have run to someplace she felt safe… to someone she felt safe with… someone like Mae… and that he could figure out how to make things.. Right.
As anxious as he'd been to get her, pushing well past the posted speed limits by twenty miles or more for the majority of the ride, his feet dragged as he made his way up the walk toward the front porch. The fact that the outer light shone brightly even though it was well past midnight made him hope that he was expected… or was that scared? Screwing up his courage he stepped onto the porch and knocked.
The door swung open a few seconds later, the slender brunette standing behind it staring at him with hard eyes. Uncomfortable silence loomed between them until Perry Mason, famed lawyer, was actually squirming in his shoes.
"Well," the older woman finally spoke, "You've got guts. I'll give you that." She dropped her protective stance, turned and disappeared back into the house, trusting Mason to follow.
And Mason did, but with head held down, hands clasped repentantly behind his back. He wished he was sure of what he was going to do now…
"You're lucky that I don't bash you over that thick skull with my rolling pin." Mae Kirby stopped in front of her kitchen table and picked up that same device, returning to the dough that she was working. "But all that thick wavy hair would probably cushion the blow."
"She told you?"
"Della? She barely said a word to me at all. Just asked if she could stay a few days and headed out to the beach." Mae's chin jerked toward the large window overlooking the ocean. "But I'm not stupid, Mr. Perry Mason and I'm not naive. I've listened to her talk about you and I've seen how the two of you look at each other. I may not know all the details but I've been stewing over this for hours and I suspect I have a pretty fair idea… Your presence here now doesn't do anything to dissuade that." The rolling pin slammed onto the wooden surface, causing Perry to jump. "Am I right?"
"I... She hasn't told me anything, she just disappeared. But based on everything I found out this afternoon... the doctor... her running away..."
Mae let out a loud harrumph. "Well I guess I was at least right about the possibility... Maybe I should forget the rolling pin and move on to the carving knife." She glared at Perry Mason as she pointed her rolling pin at his hips. "But I guess it's too late for that now..."
The big man moved to the window and stared at the slight female figure sitting on the sand, her knees pulled in with her arms wrapped around them and her chin resting there. "I guess I should go out there…"
"I guess you should…" Mae responded with a touch of sarcasm. "Take that blanket from the back of the sofa with you. I've been trying for hours to get her back inside but she won't budge. She's bound to be freezing by now."
Perry moved dutifully but slowly, his reluctance obvious. Now that he was here he still wasn't quite sure what he was going to say. He had finally reached the porch exit, hand on the knob, when he heard Mae's voice once more.
"Despite this I do think at heart you are a good man, Perry Mason. I expect you to do right by my girl."
Her words ringing in his ears, Perry moved out into the night toward his secretary. "Right…" he whispered. "What is right?"
The ocean air was damp, chilly without the light of the sun to warm it, but the moon provided an illuminated path straight to his target destination. The sand sucked at his shoes, pulling them deeper and deeper and he didn't fight the drag, not knowing what he would say when he reached her. How he wished he had a stiff drink!
"Come on, Della! We're cebela… celaba… wait… celebrashing our triumsh!" The champagne cork exited the bottle with a loud pop and flew across the room.
"Your triumph, Chief." Della's speech wasn't as impaired as her employers but the brightness shining in her eyes hinted at the amount of champagne she had already consumed at the small post speech gathering downstairs. Her employer's speech had indeed been a triumph, bringing him thunderous applause from the audience of fellow lawyers, and no little amount of recognition from many very well placed in their field. She was proud that she had helped, in no small part, with the research and the formulation of the riveting words that Mason had delivered. How could she refuse just one more glass?
Perry knew from past experience that champagne was his secretary's weakness and really good champagne such as he had snagged from the reception downstairs was a treat that she wouldn't refuse. Besides, it wasn't fair that he should have to drink alone, was it? His mind drifted briefly to Laura, his girlfriend… his former girlfriend. He had accepted the request to speak months ago at her urging, only to discover that she wouldn't be attending the conference with him. She'd had 'a better offer'… and he had finally begun to see her for the self-absorbed woman she really was. As Perry handed the water tumbler filled with sparkling wine to his lovely companion he had to admit that he wasn't really missing Laura all that much… in fact, not at all.
"I owe it all to you, Mish Street. Cheers!"
Perry watched with appreciative eyes as Della wandered through the sitting area of the suite they occupied, ending up outside on the spacious terrace overlooking San Francisco Bay. Elegant hands occasionally lifted the champagne glass, plump pink lips sipping the bubbling liquid in a manner that Perry could only think of as sensuous. The emerald green cocktail dress had long lace sleeves but exposed her shoulders and hugged her figure like a lover, accentuating every perfect curve. He'd admired her form before but somehow in that dress, in the moonlight, he felt as if he was seeing her for the first time. He felt…
'Uh oh,' Perry gulped. His mind definitely needed to be distracted from the direction it was going. 'Music,' he thought as he grabbed the bottle and headed toward the terrace. After flipping the radio on he walked out into the evening air with the bottle extended.
Della offered her glass with a rueful smile. "I really shouldn't…" but she sipped anyway, her lips delicately brushing the glass in that way that sent Perry's senses reeling.
"Dance with me?" He offered as an upbeat jazz number filled the air. Perhaps the exercise would help clear his head.
He was wrong.
'No,' his subconscious corrected, 'a drink is the last thing you need!'
Finally he was just inches away from her, never moving even though she must have heard him approaching. He could see the goose bumps on her bare arms and quickly flicked out the blanket and draped it around her shoulders before dropping to the sand beside her.
Once again silence filled the air as they both continued to stare out into the white capped waves. When Perry could stand it no longer he opened his mouth to speak but, without ever looking at him, Della held up her hand to stop him. His mouth snapped shut as he quickly determined to respect her wishes and wait for her signal.
Finally she spoke, eyes still glued straight ahead. "Why are you here, Chief?"
Startled, Perry turned to stare at her. He hadn't really known what he expected her to say… but it certainly wasn't that. "Where else would I be? You need me."
Now Della was startled enough to look at him. "I need… you?" Her eyes widened, touched with a spark of fear… or was it dread? "How did you find me?"
"When I realized that you were gone I looked all over town, had Paul and most of his operatives looking, too. If Paul couldn't find you then I guessed either you had left town or you didn't want to be found. After some thought I decided that you would head to where you felt safest… to Mae… not to me… Why didn't you come to me, Della?"
She turned back to the ocean but not before he caught the glimmer of a tear threatening to escape. "Oh God… You know." The words were flat, a statement more than a question. She had already seen the answer in his eyes and in his demeanor. "How did you find out?"
"Well, I'm a bit of a detective too, you see." His forced attempt at humor fell flat. "Umm… Gertie… she said you had gotten a call from the doctor's office… I'd just seen Dr. Harris at lunch so I knew it couldn't be him. I was worried. Gertie remembered the name so I looked up this Dr. Cooper, saw his specialty and… well… with the circumstances… and the time frame… one and one made… three."
The tear bubbled over and escaped, a single quiet sob breaking his heart as he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her head to his shoulder.
"We'll figure this out together, Della. You and me…"