Della Dream Job
Della Street sat taking notes in the office of the Los Angeles District Attorney, Mr. Hamilton Burger. She shifted in the chair, trying to find a more comfortable position. They had been at this for two hours now. Looking across at her new boss, she thought how lucky she was to have landed this job, even if it was only temporary. It was definitely more interesting than her previous employment.
The Law Office of Davidson & Younger had been immense and quite impressive...but more boring than she could have ever imagined. Despite the fact that Della had been one of the most requested secretaries in the large steno pool, she had never found anything exciting or even challenging in the mundane work of typing wills, business agreements and divorce papers just not enough of a challenge. And trying to avoid all the gossiping of the other girls was a loathsome chore. Of course, her refusal to contribute or even listen to their whispers and innuendos made her a frequent subject of the rumor mill.
The only activity that kept her on her toes most days was keeping a few steps ahead of the numerous young lawyers who considered the secretaries their own personal harem. In the year she had worked there, she had filed at least one grievance with the human resources department every month. Unfortunately, she realized too late that with each complaint she logged, she was unintentionally making herself more provocative and desirable to "the wolves" - a description that could be used for both the skirt-chasers and her fellow secretaries.
During her latest visit to the office of Mrs. Temple, the stern Human Resources Director, Della had been offered a chance to move up and out. The city's newly- elected District Attorney was in need of a temporary secretary while his current assistant was on maternity leave. Since the DA's office had considerable contact with the firm, they had called Mrs. Temple, hoping for a recommendation for a suitable fill-in. Knowing both how overqualified and how unhappy that Della was in her current role, Mrs. Temple had suggested that she interview for the position.
Della had jumped at the opportunity, hoping this would lead to something bigger and better than her current situation. There was always a possibility that the new mother wouldn't want to return after her child was born, and if so, perhaps the temp job would become permanent.
Her interview with Mr. Hamilton Burger had been fascinating. And he had been so impressed with her that he had hired her on the spot.
The ginger-haired attorney was not the young, movie star handsome that she had expected, but nice-looking just the same. In the office, he was soft-spoken, but also energetic and demanding. He treated Della respectfully, and there was nothing in his manner to suggest that he viewed her as anything more than an efficient secretary. In the month she had been there, the cases that he handled were so interesting that she usually found herself leaning forward in rapt attention as he discussed them in his raspy voice.
She often wished that he would allow her to accompany him to the courtroom, but that was a privilege reserved for the Assistant DA, Mark Simmons. Mark was slightly older than Mr. Burger and very happily married, so Della wasn't very worried about wandering eyes or hands coming from his direction either.
Della interacted with many important and influential city officials, and she was always careful to maintain a professional demeanor so as not to embarrass the DA. She had quickly developed a deep respect and admiration - and she had to admit, quite a fondness - for the head of the LAPD Homicide Division, Lt. Tragg, a frequent cohort of Mr. Burger's. He was a curmudgeonly old soul with an impish smile, and reminded Della of someone's grandfather. He always had a kind word and smile for her when he visited the office.
Mr. Burger (Della couldn't bring herself to call him Hamilton, even though he had asked her several times to do so) had brought her along on a few working lunches because, despite his strong work ethic and heavy caseload, he insisted on sending his staff home every day at 5pm sharp. Even when she was eating, she paid attention to details, learning which brand of Scotch that Burger favored, and that he was partial to Clay's roast beef sandwiches and homemade chips. Della also knew that although he was not humorless by any means, the DA took his job very seriously. His no-nonsense attitude and confidence was evident to everyone when he was sure he had an airtight case.
She was also sure that he was very pleased with her work. He had told her on several occasions that he appreciated how quickly and efficiently that she completed her tasks. She was beginning to truly hope that his regular secretary would choose not to return. She was certain that this was a job she wanted to do for years to come.
The only "fly in the ointment" (as Della's Aunt Mae would say) was an up-and-coming lawyer named Perry Mason. The two times Mr. Burger had faced him in court, Mason had completely destroyed the DA's well-planned case. Those two occasions were the only times that Della had seen Mr. Burger out-of-sorts.
As for the other lawyer, she had seen pictures of him in the paper after his wins in court. She couldn't help but notice the photos of him splashed all over the society pages, usually with a beautiful socialite on his arm. Della had absolutely no interest in men like Mason - glory hounds, as she thought of them.
It was another two months before she finally got the chance to enter the sanctum of the courtroom. Mr. Simmons had called and asked her to run over some paperwork that Mr. Burger had inadvertently left on his desk. Della was excited, because she would finally get her chance to see her boss in action. His current case had been sensationalized in all the papers. An heiress to a newspaper fortune was accused of killing her philandering husband. The deceased had also been a gambler, and had used his wife's inheritance like his own personal piggy bank.
Della was glad she had worn her navy blue suit that morning as she wanted to put on her best professional appearance so that Mr. Burger wouldn't regret calling her. She entered the courtroom as quietly and unobtrusively as possible, and took an empty seat in the front row of the gallery, directly behind the prosecutor's table. Mr. Burger was questioning a witness, so she gently tapped Lt. Tragg on the shoulder. He turned and smiled warmly when he saw her, taking the papers she handed over.
Sitting back, she took the opportunity to observe her boss. The woman on the witness stand was a family member of the victim, and gave her account of the argument she had overheard between the victim and defendant. Della was listening so intently that she was quite startled when a deep booming voice said "Objection!".
She turned in the direction the sound had come from and caught her breath. The voice belonged to the most attractive man she had ever seen. Perry Mason was at least 6-feet tall, with dark, wavy hair and shoulders so broad that she marveled that his suit jacket could contain them. When he turned, she could see that although his mouth dipped in a slight frown, his dimples still showed. And then she locked on his eyes. Even from across the room, she could see that they were a blue so deep it put the ocean to shame. As he met her gaze, his expression registered slight surprise, then curiosity at her unexpected appearance. Whatever interest she had sparked was fleeting, however, and after the judge spoke, Mason took his chair and paged through his notes, once again immersed in the trial.
Della forced her attention back to her boss. As the DA concluded his examination of the witness, the judge called for lunch recess. She waited until Mr. Burger stood to leave, then followed behind him out of the courtroom. He had barely acknowledged her; he focused on directing the Lieutenant to get him some information that was required for the next witness.
"And be sure Mason can't find her." Burger's voice was a low growl. The Lieutenant merely nodded, flashed Della a fleeting smile, and headed down the hallway.
Burger finally turned to Della, unfurrowing his eyebrows and lifting his pursed lips into a smile for her. "I'm so sorry to bring you down here, Miss Street. I know you're very busy. May I buy you lunch to make up for it?"
Della shook her head. "Oh, no. Thank you, Mr. Burger but I really should be getting back to the office."
Hamilton abruptly turned and started toward the elevator. "Nonsense. You need to eat and I could use the company."
As she caught up with him, she acquiesced. "Okay Mr. Burger, thank you, sir. I would like that." As they entered the elevator a deep voice called out for them to hold it.
The opposing lawyer with the blue eyes hurried and just managed to squeeze his large frame between the closing doors. "Thank you, Hamilton." He smiled and nodded to Della.
Della smiled back and stepped back as far as she could to give the large man room. She had to admit that she was a bit intimidated by the sudden proximity of the city's most famous lawyer.
"You're welcome, Mason. I wouldn't want it said I was unkind or accommodating to my opponent." The statement was met with a deep throaty chuckle.
"Oh come now, Hamilton. We aren't in court now. We can be civil. Allow me to buy you lunch." Even though he addressed Burger, his eyes were on Della. It wasn't the typical ogle she got from men and Mason's neutral expression made her wonder what his impression of her was,
"Sorry, Mason. I already have a lunch date, and she's much better looking than you. And, besides, I'm not about to let you sweet talk me into revealing anything about my next witness."
Della listened intently to the conversation, but also very aware of the man who shared the small space with them. So this was the great Perry Mason? After all she that she had read in the papers, he was most definitely not what she expected. The pictures in the paper didn't do him justice; his physical presence was unquestionably imposing, and, to use a cliché that fit, larger-than-life. The voice suited the man, deep and commanding.
As the elevator doors opened on the ground floor, Mason held the door and tilted his head toward Della, indicating that she should exit the car first. Burger followed her out into the hall. Mason then stepped out, and without a "goodbye" or a backward glance, strode down the hallway and down the steps of the courthouse.
Hamilton and Della continued slowly toward the restaurant. Hamilton frowned. "Just once, I'd like to get the best of him. But he always just manages to skirt or twist the law and find a way to get his client off."
Della's eyes widened at her boss in surprise. "You don't mean that he does things illegally to win?"
Hamilton gave Della one of his rare smiles and his response trailed off noncommittally. "No, not really…"
He didn't say anything else, and Della walked beside him to the restaurant, silently wondering what other mysteries this Perry Mason might be concealing.