The Case of the Casting Couch
Heidi Moore looked out the window of her jumbo jetliner. She had been dreaming of this day since she was five-years-old. The desire to be a movie star was strong even then. Most of her family members thought it was cute when she would put on her mother's fanciest shoes, her tutu, and sight lines from movies on the television.
As Heidi got older, the family began to worry her love of movies and insistence that she would someday be a movie star was becoming a unhealthy obsession. They began to discourage her, and attempt to steer her into a real job. Nothing they could say could put a damper on her ambitions. Heidi was going to be a movie star, and there wasn't anything her family could do to stop her.
At her twenty-fifth birthday celebration, to the horror of everyone there, the beautiful young woman announced she was moving to Los Angeles and leaving her hometown of Port Huron, Michigan behind. Heidi had gone through the Port Huron Schools system. Living in the south-end of the city, she attended Roosevelt Elementary, Central Middle School, and Port Huron High School. Heidi took part in every school play from the time she started her education. She also played major roles in church plays. She graduated from the University of Michigan's Department of Theatre and Drama.
The beautiful blonde with the bright blue eyes and voluptuous figure was notice by every male in the school as well as the faculty, but it wasn't just her good looks that got her noticed. Heidi had practiced every line in every movie she saw from the time she was a little girl; acting out the part of the lead female role in front of the television. One could say she was trained by the very best in Hollywood: stars such as Marlena Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Maureen O'Hara Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Sofia Loren, Janet Leigh, Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Julia Roberts, Charlize Theron, and Kate Winslet. Heidi knew them all. She could quote every line in every one of their movies, since she had been practicing her entire life.
Heidi knew she had what it took in the looks department, there wasn't any question about that. She also knew it wasn't going to be easy since she had no real professional training, and there wasn't any doubt the degree from U of M wasn't going to mean much to directors and producers in Hollywood. It wasn't a matter of her lack of training; it would be overcome by her determination to make it in the acting business. Finding someone to give her the chance was going to be her ticket to success.
She would have to find an agent. No one got anywhere in Hollywood without one. Heidi was determined to knock on every door and several times, if necessary, to force Hollywood to notice her. Having thought about this for years, and saving every dime she could, she would be all right while she pursued her goal, but the money wouldn't last forever, despite having a lot of it. It could take years, and the money could run out. She might need a job waiting tables, or something as meaningless until her discovery.
The first thing she was going to do when she arrived was to retain an attorney, the very best she could find. Heidi spent hours researching the attorneys in Los Angeles. Many of her friends laughed at her for her intensive research since the famous Perry Mason practiced law in the City of Angels. "What better attorney do you think you will find?" they would ask her.
As it turned out, they were right. She could find no one with the record of success or the reputation of Perry Mason. The problem she saw was Mason was primarily a criminal attorney. He was famous the world over for his defense of those accused of murder. Heidi wasn't going to kill anyone, so she wasn't going to be accused of murder! Nevertheless, Perry Mason was the attorney she decided on. She wanted him as her attorney. The beautiful blonde worried he wouldn't be interested in taking her on as a client. Heidi read there was a huge demand for his services. Would she have to murder someone to get his attention? Shaking her head, she laughed at the silly notion.
The jet liner was descending into Los Angeles International Airport. Her excitement grew as it landed and raced down the runway. She was here! She was finally going to become an actress. It wouldn't be long and she would be known as the next Meryl Streep, winning one Oscar after another! Heidi reached up and removed her luggage from the overhead compartment, then waited for her turn to deplane. As she entered the terminal, she looked for the pre-arranged limo driver. She spotted him immediately, holding a card with her name on it. She approached him with a smile. "I'm Heidi Moore."
The limo driver returned the smile and lowered the card. "If you will follow me, Miss Moore, I will show you to the limo."
Heidi followed him through the airport to the exit. At the curb, was a huge black limo. The driver took the one small piece of luggage she had with her, and opened the back door as she slid into the seat. Carrying the case, he went around to the driver's door, opened it, and placed her case on the passenger seat beside him. He started up the limo and pulled away from the curb.
"Did the limo company give you the address where I will be living?" she asked the driver.
"Yes, Miss, they did. Are you staying with a relative while visiting Los Angeles?"
"No, I have moved here to Los Angeles. The address you were given will be my new home."
"I see," was all the driver said. He could see them from a mile away. Another young woman coming to Los Angeles in hope of becoming an actress. He wondered if she had any idea that most of them ended up waiting tables or becoming prostitutes in order to make a living. Unfortunately, their starry eyed dreams were just that. He simply hated to see these young girls come to the city and be taken advantage of. And there were plenty of people willing to do so. Yet, he knew he would not lecture her about it. Hopefully, she would find out quickly and return to wherever she came from. This was no place for a young girl.
They drove in silence until they reached her apartment complex. She was so excited that she got out of the limo without waiting for the driver to open the door. All she wanted to do was to get started with her new life. The limo driver reached into the passenger seat and removed her luggage case, handing it to her.
She reached into her purse and gave the driver a healthy tip. The cost of the limo had been paid in advance. He tipped his hat to her, got back into the limo and drove away.
Heidi walked up the sidewalk to the apartment building. She had already received her key card for the front door. Placing it in the slot, the door buzzed and opened. The hopeful actress entered the building and noticed immediately the mailboxes to her left. Already, there was one with her name on it. Reaching into her purse again, she removed her keys and found the one that had been sent to her for the mailbox. She opened it, but not surprisingly, it was empty. Soon the offers would come pouring in. She was sure of it.
Heidi had lucked out that one of the apartments on the bottom floor was empty. The rent for the apartment was extremely high. She would be paying $2,500 a month. Fortunately, she found out that she had a great aunt who had left her a sizeable amount of money. She hadn't even known the aunt had existed. her parents had been strict about which part of the family she could associate with. Heidi had never been told about her great aunt, Sylvia Bailey. Apparently, she was the black sheep of the family and no one had anything to do with her. Heidi had no idea why the woman had left her considerable fortune to her.
When she questioned her parents about Aunt Sylvia, they refuse to talk about it. They wouldn't even allow her to mention her name in their home. After doing some checking, Heidi hit a brick wall. No one seemed to know who the woman was or what she had done to an alienate the family. Heidi didn't even know which side of the family she was from. The only thing she did know was that she had become an instant millionaire. The woman had left her $5 million. She was so shocked at the time that she thought she had to be dreaming. However, it was a dream come true when the money was placed in a trust for her. She would have a monthly allowance until she was 30 years old, at which time the rest of the money would be hers to do what she wanted with. The letter from her great aunt had stated her aunt didn't believe young people matured until they were at least 30. That was the reason for the trust fund. Her great aunt wanted to make sure she didn't squander the entire amount of money.
Heidi wished she had known the woman. Somehow, she hoped that wherever she was now, that she realized she made Heidi's dream come true, well at least partially. The rest would be up to her. She promised her dearly departed aunt that she would become a success, and she would be partly responsible for it.
Heidi found apartment number five, placed the key card in the door and opened the door to her new home. The excitement on her face turned to disappointment. The apartment was costing her $2,500 a month and what she was looking at was not worth that much money. It was nothing more than a one-room studio apartment. On the left side of the room was a twin bed. A dresser was placed to the right of it. On the left hand side, there was a nightstand and a closet next to that. Heidi walked over and opened it. The clothes that she had sent were already on hangers and in the closet. The word closet was an exaggeration. It wasn't much more than a cubby hole. She closed the door and checked the dresser. It also contained clothes in each drawer. They had been neatly folded in placed inside. She walked over to the other side of the room where there was a kitchenette. On the counter was a small microwave, and a hot plate with two burners. The refrigerator beside the counter was about four feet high. She opened it. The top portion contained an extremely small freezer. She realized it was so small, it wouldn't hold much. The refrigerator portion had two shelves. The inside of the door contained a place for eggs and one shelf at the bottom for milk or beverages. The kitchen table was so small, she would have sworn that it was made for a child to play house. The cupboard storage was nearly non-existent.
Heidi sat down on the couch in the middle of the room. Across from the couch was a 22-inch smart TV. There was a coffee table, and two end tables. That consisted of all that was in the living room portion of the apartment. One remaining door next to the kitchen had to be the bathroom. She got up, walked across the room, open the door and couldn't believe it. The bathroom was tiny. There wasn't any bathtub, which was a big disappointment to her. Heidi loved to soak in the bathtub and read novels. She wouldn't be doing that while living in this apartment. There was a small shower. There was barely enough room to turn around in it. The apartment owner had placed her favorite soap and shampoos on the shelf. There wasn't any room on the sink to place anything. At this point, she was just thankful there was a toilet. She almost had to walk into the bathroom and back out, it was that small.
All this luxury for $2,500 a month! Unfortunately, with the trust fund, she couldn't afford anything more than this. If this is what a one-room apartment cost, Heidi wondered what it would cost to own a home in this area.
About the only thing she could say for the apartment was it was definitely very clean and the owner had made sure that her belongings were neatly put away. Heidi sighed. She would have to make do. Besides, she wouldn't be living here that long. As soon as she was discovered and a successful actress, she would purchase something more worthy of her.
Right now, she had to head downtown to the Brent building. She left her tiny apartment, and flagged down a cab.
"Where to, lady?" The cab driver asked.
"Perry Mason's office. Do you know where that is?"
The cab driver pulled the vehicle away from the curb. "Lady, everybody knows where Mason's office is." He turned the cab around and headed downtown.
Perry Mason signed the last of the briefs that his secretary, Della Street had set on his desk. He looked at the stack of mail she put there earlier. The attorney cringed at the site of it. He knew that Della was going to be in his office very shortly demanding that they sit down and take care of the mail. If there was one portion of Perry's job that he hated more than anything else, it was doing the mail. Della took care of most of it. What remained on his desk was mail she couldn't answer without him. He should just send her to law school so that she could answer it herself. He chuckled at the thought. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea. After all, with the way Della did things, she might give him a run for his money as a lawyer.
The door to his office opened and Della Street walked in. Perry looked up and smiled. To him, there wasn't any more beautiful woman anywhere in the world. Since the day she came into his life, she had organized his office and his personal life as well. The two of them spent nearly every waking hour together, and then went home to his apartment. Every now and then, he just sat there and thought about what his life would have been like without her. Certainly, his personal life would not have been anywhere near as satisfying and happy. His professional life, well he figured he would not be the successful attorney he was today without Della Street. She was his entire life, and he knew the influence she had on him.
"Perry, you don't have a client for the rest of the morning. Your next client comes in at 1:30 p.m. So, we are going to sit down and get through the mail."
Mason handed her the briefs. "Why don't we just take an early and long lunch? It's been a long time since we've been able to do that."
Della smiled. She was used to Perry trying to get out of the mail. "What do you say we just get the mail done, and take a normal lunch. If we do the mail now, we won't have to do it after your afternoon clients. We just might get out of the office before midnight." She pulled up a chair and sat down. With her pen and paper in hand, she grabbed the first piece of mail and set it in front of the lawyer. Mason groaned. He wasn't even going to get away with putting it off once. "You're pouting, Mr Mason. it's not going to do you any good. We are going to do the mail."
The phone on the desk rang. Since Perry was closer to it, he grabbed it quickly, hoping it would be something that would put the mail off.
"I tried buzzing Miss Street, Mr Mason but she didn't answer her phone. There is a woman in the office who would like to see you. She doesn't have an appointment, but she was wondering if you would see her anyway," Gertie said.
Without hesitation, Mason responded, "Send her in, Gertie."
Della raised her eyebrows as she watched Mason grin at her. He grabbed the mail, opened his desk drawer, and stuffed it inside. "Well, we can't just ignore somebody who needs help, now can we?"
Della Street got up and walked over to the door. She opened it and a beautiful blonde walked in. "Hello, I'm Della Street, Mr Mason's private secretary. This is Mr Mason."
Heidi Moore looked at Perry Mason as he stood up behind his desk and smiled. He was about 6'2, a big man, extremely handsome with the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen. When he smiled, dimples were prominent on both sides of his face. She walked over to him and put out her hand. "Hello Mr Mason. I appreciate you seeing me without an appointment. You see, I just arrived in Los Angeles and I wanted to retain an attorney immediately. I have heard so much about you, I decided you were the attorney I absolutely must have."
"Won't you sit down," Mason said.
She smiled at him and sat down in one of the chairs in front of his desk. "There is so much I have to tell you, I don't know where to begin."
Mason sat down behind his desk, raised his eyebrow at Della, who returned to his side and sat in the chair she had just vacated. She picked up her pen and paper ready to record the conversation.
"Why don't you start with your name?" Mason said with a smile.
"Oh, heavens! I guess that would help. My name is Heidi Moore. I just arrived here from Michigan. In fact, I came right here after I settled in my new apartment."
"What did you want to see me about?" Mason asked her.
"Well, I have a trust fund. Right now, it is in the hands of an attorney in Michigan. I have no intention of ever returning to Michigan to live again. I would like the trust fund switched here and put under your direction. Is that possible?"
Mason nodded. "Yes, it is most definitely possible. There will be some paperwork I will need you to sign, and I will need the name of the attorney in Michigan that is handling it to start with."
"I know you attorneys require a retainer, and I would like to keep you on as my attorney for anything that could come up." She reached into her pocket book and pulled out a wad of $100 bills. "Would $5,000 as a retainer be enough to hold you as my attorney?"
Della's eyes widened at the money she had just set in front of Mason. I'll get a receipt book," she said as she got up and left the room.
"Just exactly how much money is in this trust fund?" Mason asked.
"Somewhere around $5 million. It was left to me by a great aunt that I never met." She reached back into her purse and pulled out the copy of the woman's will. She handed it to Mason.
Perry Mason begin to look it over. "Well, it appears that you are a very wealthy young lady."
"Not anywhere near as wealthy as I plan to be."
Della walked back into the room with a receipt book in her hand. She sat down and counted the money. "There is exactly $5,000 here." She wrote up the receipt and gave it to Heidi.
"You came here to be an actress," Mason said.
Surprised, since she hadn't told him yet, she sat forward in her chair. "How did you know? I haven't told you that."
"Well, first of all you are a very beautiful young lady. A lot of very beautiful young ladies come into Los Angeles hoping to become movie stars."
"Now, Mr Mason, before you give me that lecture, I have already heard it from every member of my family. None of them wanted me to come out here. I made the decision entirely on my own. It is something I have wanted to do my entire life. I majored in drama at the University of Michigan. I was in every school play from the time I was in kindergarten. I really am a very good actress."
Mason had seen this so many times before. Women came to Los Angeles to become actresses, only to find out that the business was brutal on young women. If he was to be her lawyer, he would have to protect her. There were many wolves in the business who would take advantage of her. "It is a very difficult business to break into. Do you plan to live entirely on your trust fund, or are you going to go to work?"
"Well, for now I just want to get settled in and see if I can find an agent. You wouldn't happen to know any agents, would you?"
"In fact, I do. I'll tell you what. Della and I are scheduled to go to a Hollywood party this Saturday. If you are interested, I'll see if I can get you an invitation to go with us."
Her eyes lit up and a grin spread across her face. "Wow! I was not expecting this. Oh, Mr Mason, if you could do that for me, I would be so appreciative! And, when I become a star, I promise I will see to it that you are invited to all the greatest parties!"
Mason smiled. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves. It is possible that I can introduce you to people who can assess your talent and decide if you are good enough to be an actress."
"Oh, I assure you, I am good enough," she told him.
"All right, let me get started on the trust fund. What is the name of the lawyer who is handling it in Michigan?"
"His name is David Duncan. He is a lawyer out of Detroit Michigan. I have his address right here." She handed him another piece of paper with the lawyer's address on it.
"Do you have a copy of the trust fund" Mason asked.
Once again she reached into her purse. "I anticipated you might need it." She pulled out the trust fund and handed it to Mason.
After looking it over, he didn't like what he saw. It was literally a license for the lawyer to obtain a good portion of the money. By the time she was 30, there wouldn't be any money left. This would be harder than he thought. The lawyer would not be willing to give up management of the trust fund. Mason could very well have to file in court to do it. He wondered why her family would allow her to sign such a document.
"Make sure Miss Street has your address and phone number. I will be in contact with you shortly."
"Oh thank you, Mr Mason. I just knew you were the right attorney to come to." She reached into her person pulled out a business card. She handed it to Della.
"Miss Street will show you out. I will be in touch with you regarding the Saturday night party."
Della stood up and led Heidi out of the office. A few minutes later she came back in. She raised an eyebrow and held up the card she had just been given.
Mason took it out of her hand. It read,
Hollywood's Next Sensation.
On the back of the card was her Los Angeles address and phone number. Mason laughed.
"What do you find so amusing, Counselor. Perry, she is so naive."
"That's no different than any other young woman who comes to Hollywood hoping to become a big movie star. One of the reasons I decided to take her on is a client is because she is so naive. She is going to need protecting."
Della Street crossed her arms across her chest. "And, of course, you are the one who is going to become her big protector."
"Can you think of anyone else better for the job?" Mason grinned.
Della couldn't help but chuckle. "What about the trust?"
"With the way this is set up, the lawyer gets 2/3 of the $5 million. I am probably going to have to file this in court in Michigan. I have no doubt that Mr Duncan is going to fight me on this." He sat back in his executive chair and thought for a moment. "Della, see if Paul can come down here. I think there's some things we need to check out."
She went immediately to the telephone and dialed the Drake Detective Agency. "Hello, this is Della Street. Mr Mason would like to see Mr Drake if he is available. Would you ask him to come down to his office please?" Della listened for a moment and then hung up. "He is on his way right now."
A couple minutes later Drake's code knocks sounded on Mason's private entrance door. Della walked over and opened it. On the other side was a smiling Paul Drake.
"Hello, Beautiful! I wondered when Perry was going to get around to calling me again."
"Come in, Paul and sit down. I have some work for you."
"I hadn't heard that you had taken on another murder case,"Drake said.
"No murder case. I have a young woman who has arrived here from Michigan with stars in her eyes."
"Oh brother! Not another one. I just hope she doesn't end up a prostitute." Drake lit up a cigarette, breathed in the nicotine and blew out smoke.
"That's not going to happen if I can help it. She just retained me as her attorney. Paul, she has a sizable trust fund. However, with the way the trust is written up, the lawyer takes a good portion of the money. I don't think she realizes it. She wants to move the trust fund from control of the Michigan attorney to my control."
"And he is not going to like his little nest egg being taken away from him."
"Exactly. It is in her best interest that it be removed from his custodial care. I may have to file this in Michigan. What I would like you to do is find out everything you can about a lawyer named David Duncan. He apparently practices out of Detroit Michigan."
Drake pulled out a small notebook and a pen. He began scratching notes into it as Mason spoke. "Anything else?"
"Yes, she received this trust fund from a great aunt she never knew or met. It's got to be the strangest inheritance I've seen yet. I want to know more about the great aunt; how she got her money, why she was estranged from the rest of the family, and why she would choose Heidi Moore as her heir. If you have to hire private investigators in Michigan, go ahead. I want the lowdown just as fast as I can get it. I may need the ammunition to go to court in Michigan."
"Can you practice in that state?" Drake asked.
"Yes, that's not going to be a problem. Get on it, Paul, and get me the information as quickly as you can."
"You got it, pal. I suppose money is not an object in this case. Can I hire whatever I need?"
"Go ahead," Mason answered. "And Paul, see if there is any video of Miss Moore's performances as an actress. she was in both high school and college plays. If I'm going to introduce her to Hollywood agents and directors, I would like to make sure she can act."
"Sounds to me like you have become a Hollywood agent,"Drake said as he got up and left Mason's office.
"You have that look in your eye, Mr Mason," Della Street said.
"The look that says there is a mystery behind this whole thing and you are going to solve it."
Mason chuckled. "You should know by now that I see mysteries everywhere, and when I see them, I have to solve them."
"Do you really think there is something sinister behind that trust fund?"
"I don't know, Della, but I intend to find out. I'm not going to let that girl fall prey to unscrupulous lawyers or unscrupulous directors. Unfortunately, there are plenty to go around in both professions."
"So, you really are going to introduce her to Hollywood types? I would have thought you would try to discourage her."
"I'll cross that bridge when we get to it. If she actually has talent, then I can steer her in the right direction. If she doesn't, then hopefully I can find a way to let her down easily."
Della walked over to the desk, opened the desk drawer and pulled out the mail. "In the meantime, Mr Hollywood, what do you say you work on your real job? Let's get the mail done and then go to lunch. I'm hungry."
Mason walked over to Della and put his arms around her. "What do you say we just go to lunch. We're both hungry."
"I was talking about food, Mr Mason. And you aren't getting out of the mail."
"You usually let me get away with it once or twice," Mason said.
"Not this time. Let's get it done so you can go and play Hollywood agent at the party."
Perry chuckled. He walked around his desk and sat down. He really hated doing the mail. He picked up the first piece, removed it from the open envelope, and began reading its contents.
"Della, send a letter to this gentleman and tell him that I cannot take his case at the present time. Recommend a couple good lawyers to him."
And so it began. Within an hour, they had completed the mail. Mason stood up, took Della by the hand, and said, "Let's get some lunch."