She tossed and turned, fighting the bedclothes that had become tangled around her because of her thrashing. Her silk nightgown was soaked with sweat.
And still she could not free herself, from either the nightmare or the bedclothes.
Everything in her nightmare was red - blood red. The floor of the hallway she was walking through was wet with blood, coating her bare feet. The walls were covered with it. Even the dim lights hanging from the ceiling dripped blood, turning her white gown red and sticky. And although she knew what she would find when she reached the end of the hallway, she kept trudging along the wet floor.
When at last she reached the door at the end, she struggled to turn the handle, which was coated in blood. Finally, using the hem of her gown, she managed to turn the knob, pushing the door open.
The room was stark, blinding white. White, except for the body in the middle of the floor, lying in a pool of red. The body was dressed in impeccable white, marred only by the dark red hole where the heart lay.
She knew without crossing the room whose body it was. She had this nightmare so often that the details never changed.
But still, she could not stop as she took leaden steps across the white floor, leaving bloody footprints, to kneel beside the body. She reached out to brush the lock of dark hair from his forehead.
Leaning forward, she brushed lips across his. "I'm sorry."
Then the eyes, so deep a blue they were almost black, suddenly popped open and his hand grasped hers. "It's your fault. It's all your fault. You killed me."
In the nightmare she screamed as she tried to pull away, but he just laughed and kept laughing.
She was still screaming as she finally managed to sit up, struggling to untangle the sheets. She wiped angrily at the tears flowing down her cheeks. She fought to calm her breathing, feeling as if her heart were going to burst.
She slid from her bed, walking to the bathroom on shaking legs. Stripping off her soaked gown and stepping into the shower, let the cool water flow over her, until she started to shiver.
Stepping out and wrapping a large towel around herself, she walked back into her bedroom, sinking onto the bed, looking at the clock. 1:30. Picking up the bedside phone she dialed his number.
She had to pause to clear her throat. "It's me."
Recognizing the frightened tone, he was already moving, pulling on clothes. "I'm on my way."
"Just hang on."
She dropped the receiver back onto the cradle. Going to her dresser, she pulled out a clean gown, then went to sit on her couch, curling up in one corner, to wait.
It was only a short time later she heard his key in the lock. When he entered, she saw that he hadn't bothered with a jacket, just slacks and a shirt.
Seeing her curled into an almost fetal position on her couch, he quickly crossed to her, wrapping his arms around her. "I'm here, it's going to be fine." Gently picking her up, he carried her to the bedroom. When he saw the state of her bed, he knew this had been a bad one. Setting her down, he began straightening the sheets and quilt. After he had things in order, he picked her up again and laid her on the bed.
He removed his shirt and lay down next to her, gathering her into his arms. "Go back to sleep now. I'm here, everything is fine."
She moved as close to him as she could, placing her hand on his chest, feeling the strong beat of his heart. But when she moved her fingers up to trace the long scar, he put his hand over hers.
"No, don't. It's all over, I'm fine, no damage, well except to my ego. You need to let this go."
"Perry...". He leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.
"Della, it's been a year. It was not your fault. I got careless. I wasn't going to let Eva shoot you. She's behind bars, she can't hurt either of us any longer."
Della again rubbed her fingers over the scar. "I know, I know."
Perry took her hand and kissed the palm. "Della, please just relax and go to sleep. I'm not going anywhere. Sleep now."
Della kissed him and then lay her head back on his chest. "Thank you Perry."
Perry's fingers trailed softly up and down her back until he felt Della relax and he knew she had finally fallen asleep. He also knew that first thing in the morning he was going to call Dr. Curtis, her psychiatrist.
Della woke to the sun shining through the curtains, feeling herself spooned against Perry, her back to his front, his arm draped protectively over her.
When he felt her move, he pulled her even closer. "Good morning."
Della turned in his arms to run her fingers down his jaw before moving in for a deep kiss. "Morning."
"Are you feeling better?" She kissed him again.
"Yes. Much. I'm so sorry for dragging you out in the middle of the night. I just..."
He rubbed her back. "Del, I'm going to call Dr. Curtis this morning."
"Perry, no." He felt her start to shake.
"Sweetheart, listen to me. This makes the fifth time in two weeks. We have to figure this out. You're hurting and it hurts me too. We need to talk to her. Please, for me?"
Della buried her head against his chest. "Okay. For you."
'That's my girl. Now how about if I fix you breakfast."
Dr. Amanda Curtis was a woman in her mid-sixties, silver hair perfectly coiffed and a gentle manner that put the most nervous patient at ease.
Della sat on the comfortable couch in her office, as close to Perry as possible, his arm wrapped around her shoulders.
Taking a sip from her cup of herbal tea, she smiled at Della. "So my dear, I understand the nightmare is back?"
Della only nodded, her hand holding Perry's in a death grip.
Amanda noticed Perry's frown. "Della, why do you think you're still having this dream?"
Perry rubbed his thumb across the back of Della's hand. "Talk to her Del."
"I don't know, really."
Amanda looked from Della to Perry. "Mr. Mason has something changed in your life?"
Perry looked at Della, then back to the doctor. He respected this lady and had faith that she could help Della.
"We had a very difficult case last month. A wife shot her husband, although it was in self defense. Unfortunately the Assistant District Attorney decided showing the crime scene photos in court would help his case." He felt Della's shiver.
'Okay. Della would you allow me to try something? I truly think it would help."
When Della looked into Perry's deep blue eyes, he smiled and nodded.
"Alright, Doctor. But please let Perry stay."
"Of course. I was going to request that he be here to help."
Della was taken into another room and seated in a comfy reclining chair. The room was decorated in soft pastel colors, with soothing seascape paintings and several vases of flowers. Soft music played in the background.
Perry was seated in a chair next to hers. The doctor entered, carrying a hypodermic needle.
"Della, this is a mild sedative with a very small amount of sodium pentathol."
Della immediately started to panic. "No doctor! Please."
Perry kept her hand in his. "Del..."
Amanda came to Della's side. "Della, listen. I need to have you in a twilight sleep. The truth drug will only help me to get to the root of your fears. Perry will stay right here to help me with my questions. Please Della. I swear on my oath I would never put you in any harm."
Della looked at Perry. "You won't leave me."
He smiled and leaned over to kiss her lips. "Sweetheart, I give you my promise, nothing will make me leave your side."
Della again looked to the doctor. "Alright. Go ahead."
Amanda gently swabbed a spot on Della's arm. "When the drug is in, I want you to concentrate only on my voice. I'm going to be asking you some questions. Remember, only my voice. Are you ready?"
With one last look at Perry, who smiled his reassurance, she nodded to the doctor.
"Very well." She gently put the needle in Della's arm, injecting the fluid.
"Now Della. Concentrate on my voice. Just relax. Let yourself go to sleep. But keep listening to my voice. Listen to only my voice."
Perry saw Della's eyes drift closed and her grip on his hand relax, he looked at the doctor for assurance.
"Is she okay?"
"She's fine Mr. Mason. Della can you hear me?"
Amanda drew a chair up to sit beside Della. "I'm going to ask you some questions and I'd like you to answer truthfully."
Amanda turned on a small tape recorder. "Okay. Now..."
For the next 45 minutes, Amanda posed questions about Della's past, the present, the shooting, her fears, and her feelings. When she was finished, she stood and motioned Perry to follow her back into her office.
"Are you sure you want to hear this?"
Although Perry had the feeling he already knew, he wanted to hear her opinion. "Yes."
Amanda leaned back in her chair. "The tragic death of her younger brother affected her deeply. She kept the feelings buried because of her tyrannical father. She kept people at arms length, even those close to her. Until..."
Perry finished the sentence. "She met me."
"Yes. When she fell in love with you, she let all of those buried feelings out. Seeing you shot and thinking you were going to die brought everything to bear. She equates your accident with her brother's accidental shooting."
"So now what?"
Amanda leaned forward. "Perry, I know how much you love Della. And I know her love for you is just as strong. And there lies the crux of the problem. Every time you put yourself in danger, no matter the circumstances, she sees you dying. The nightmare is all of her pent up feelings coming out."
"Again I ask, what now?"
"I'd like to try a new procedure. I will put her in a deep hypnotic state and take her back. It's called regression therapy. I will try to help her deal with her brothers death. Hopefully then we can begin to heal her."
Perry stood and paced the office. "Do you really think it will work?"
"Perry, there are documented instances of complete success. However, much of this depends on Della's willingness to be helped."
"Doctor Curtis, I love this lady with my entire heart, my soul. I will do anything and everything I can to help her. So when do we start?"
It took four months of weekly sessions, but at last Dr. Curtis felt Della was free of the nightmare. During the last session, the doctor had put Della under the deepest hypnosis possible. With Perry holding Della in his arms, the doctor had tried to bring the nightmare out. Della had tensed in Perry's arms, but she couldn't seem to see anything of the dream.
When Della had been brought out of the hypnotic trance to find herself wrapped in Perry's arms, she was afraid it had happened again.
But when he only kissed her deeply and smiled at her, she knew everything was alright.
They had both offered the doctor many thanks for her help. Amanda said she had been more than happy to be of service. She asked both of them to keep in touch. And when Perry had paid the bill, he had added a generous extra amount for Amanda to keep or donate, however she saw fit.
Things had returned to normal, well as normal as could be considered for Perry and Della. A murder case, Paul's newest female problem, Gertie coming down with a cold.
And of course late night dinners, some dancing, some quiet intimate time together.
It had been a month since Della's last session with Dr. Curtis. After a long day and night, Perry had dropped Della at her apartment with a kiss and an admonition to get some sleep.
Perry was very soundly asleep when he suddenly became aware that someone was crawling into bed with him. Her delicate scent wafted around him, then her body came close, molding herself to fit his large frame. She tangled her arms and legs around him, nuzzling his neck.
"Excuse me Miss, but who are you and why are you in my bed?"
Her teeth sinking into his shoulder caused him to yelp. "Oh it's you."
He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her even closer. "What's wrong Sweetheart?"
She pressed her lips to his neck, placing kisses trailing up his jaw, to finally land on his lips. "I had a bad dream."
He raised up on his arms to look down at her. "Della!"
She pulled him back down and continued placing kisses on his face. "Yes. You weren't in bed with me."
Perry again raised up to look down at her. "So you get up, throw a coat on over your nightgown...". He looked at her seriously. "You did put a coat on, didn't you?" She giggled. "Okay. Then at 2:30 in the morning you catch a cab and sneak into my bedroom because you had a bad dream that I wasn't in bed with you."
Della pulled his head down and gently nibbled on his ear lobe, then ran her tongue around the inside of his ear, eliciting a deep groan.
"Pretty much." Now she moved her lips down his neck, placing gentle nips along the way. "Are you complaining...really?"
He brought his mouth down to capture hers, moving his body over hers.
"No. Now let's see what I can do to make that bad dream go away."