Chapter 6 WftE
Apologies for the delay. Hope this all finally makes some semblance of sense!
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Paul Drake's code knock announced the lanky detectives arrival to the private office of Perry Mason. Unlike times gone by, he no longer just entered but waited until the door was opened by the lawyer himself.
'Come on in Paul!' Perry called and the detective finally walked in and folded himself into the clients chair.
'Sorry it took me a while to get here, I was out on another job.'
'No matter, thanks for just getting here. How you fixed for lunch today?'
Paul's eyes lit up. 'On you?'
'Of course,' Perry chuckled. 'We're meeting Hamilton Burger.'
'Oh?' Paul's face soured. 'And why pray tell?'
Perry fiddled with the lit cigarette in his hand staring at the rising smoke from the end in contemplation.
'You asked me yesterday if you could help.'
'And you said not this time.'
'I know, but as the expression goes, the ducks are now lining up and we're close to action.' He stubbed the cigarette out.
'Pal, I know you're going to explain everything to me I'm guessing with Burger, but we need to discuss Della after that.'
'What about Della?' Perry's eyes narrowed in suspicion as to where the conversation was going.
'I have no idea what's been going on, but to an outsider looking in she's been hard done by in all this. Remember what I said yesterday?'
'And that was some pretty close quarter dancing you managed to pull off with her last night at the cocktail lounge without out her kneeing you in your delicate parts.'
Perry allowed himself a smile and nodded almost imperceptibly. 'She felt good,' he muttered to himself absently, a mutter that was not lost on or unheard by Paul, then more soundly he said, 'All that will have to wait Paul. There's some dangerous ,shady dealings going on in the up and coming Mayoral elections and we have to make sure justice is done there first before we sort out this mess in the office. Yes, before you tell me, a mess of my own making.'
'The position for the next Mayor is up for grabs next week.' Perry stabbed the fork into his salad.
'So I heard and with it control over policing, amenities, social justice, the works.' Burger bit down on his pasta. 'Sampson is sentenced Friday and then it will most likely go to appeal if you're preparing one?'
'Depends on the sentence, but Laura I understand isn't planning on one anytime soon.'
Burger looked perplexed. 'No appeal at all? Does that mean you think your Laura and my Mr Leopold will make their move soon?'
Perry grimaced. 'Laura isn't my Laura, Hamilton.'
Burger looked confused. 'Well you asked her to marry you, so if that doesn't make her yours I'm not sure what does.'
'The relationship started out with no little amount of hope on my part,' Perry admitted.
Paul snorted in derision 'More like lust! You couldn't keep your damned hands off her at first.'
Perry ignored him. 'Maybe at first but now my relationship with Laura's become a means to an end.' He continued. 'Don't fool yourself for one minute. She's ambitious and will be ruthless to get where she's going. She's also not a faithful, one man kind of woman if it doesn't suit her purpose. I won't be walking up the aisle with her after all this comes out.'
Burger offered Perry a folder. 'That's everything I've been able to put together about this case without Tom Leopold finding out what I'm investigating. Tragg has helped where he can but even he's had to be careful and isn't quite in on what's been going on.'
'Great!' Paul stopped eating for a moment and sat back with an exasperated look on his face. 'So Tragg gets in on your little plots and schemes and I'm left out of the loop until now. I should feel offended! What doesn't Della know as well? In fact, we've been here almost a half hour and I still haven't much of an idea what's going on.'
'Relax Sherlock.' Perry passed the folder to Paul. 'This is where you now come in. You can dig much more subversively than Tragg can. I….we need you to start turning Sampson's life inside out more than you did for the trial. Go deeper on everything but try not to get burned. This kid has been dragged into something he had no control over.'
'I thought even you said he did it?' Paul looked quizzically between his two lunch companions.
'He did, but Hamilton and I think it was a political assassination disguised as a bar room brawl that got out of hand.'
Paul gave a long, low whistle. 'Wow! That came from nowhere. If you'd have trusted me with that bombshell from the beginning, the trail would have been much warmer than it most likely is now.'
'We know Paul.' Hamilton leaned forward and dropped his voice almost to a whisper. 'I'm sorry you feel left out. This all started a couple of months ago. Perry brought me something Della had accidently discovered hidden in one of the files. To her it was a random financial statement from the County auditors office.'
'Yeah,' Perry continued. 'It was something and nothing and we passed it off as some client had shoved it away to hide it before coming into the office. Unbeknownst to me, Della started to investigate it initially to try and find out from who and where it had come from. When she shared her findings with me, I started to realise it might be more than innocent so I began my own investigation and told her to forget it. Misappropriation of public funds, fixed trial outcomes and political shenanigans, all from a couple of documents shoved away in my law library files. It led me straight to Laura's Country Club friends. My poking around didn't go unnoticed and suddenly Laura was issuing ultimatums, and comments were coming at me from some very influential people in local and state government. Normally you know it wouldn't move me, and at first I wasn't being intimidated by anyone. But then things started to get dirty, and Laura made them aware how much Della meant to me. She made her my weak spot with them.'
'Did they threaten her?' Paul became uncharacteristically annoyed.
'In a way.'
Hamilton took back over the explanation when he saw Perry falter a moment. 'Reputation Paul. They initially threatened Della's reputation.'
'Della? She's above reproach.' Paul was silently fuming now.
'But how can you fight untrue allegations when in their eyes, you're a nobody? They say she's a woman of loose morals. They produce several men and a host of false testimony that can't be repudiated and suddenly she's on a train back to Smallville, her character and confidence in shreds. They add in an undertone of threat of an 'accident' and….'
'And suddenly Hamilton and I are hatching our own plan of attack. I agreed to give the outward appearance of working with them. It was strongly suggested Laura and I would be an unbeatable team and it would do my career a world of good if we became engaged. Laura was all for it as you'd expect. Before all that, I asked Hamilton to help me look after Della.'
'By offering her a job?' Paul lit a cigarette. Perry and Burger declined his offer of one.
'Exactly. We knew as soon as I mentioned marriage to Laura, she would see it as her opportunity to get rid of Della, install her own people in the office and keep me in line. Or so she thought.'
'Working for the enemy so to speak.' Paul blew smoke rings.
Perry nodded. 'So to speak as you say. We know Tom Leopold is in on it somewhere. He's Laura's 'other' man, we know that much but the extent of both their involvement is a little hazy. There's much more powerful influences at work here. I just underestimated the impact on my professional life in the short term.'
'A bit drastic going so far as to ask Laura to actually marry you don't you think?' Paul didn't hold back. 'And the impact maybe more long term than you think.'
Perry shot Paul a hard glance. 'What you mean by that?' he demanded.
'What about Della?'
'She may never forgive you.'
'That's a chance I've had to take. I didn't like the way things went but I couldn't risk her being hurt. Laura would have gladly taken on the task of humiliating her. And to set the record straight, I haven't technically asked Laura to marry me. It was suggested and she took it as read. She even bought her own engagement ring and used my absence at the conference to make everything public and fire Della.'
Paul eventually broke into smile. 'Della still has no clue about anything does she?'
Perry scowled. 'No, she doesn't, and I want to keep it that way for as long as possible.'