Chapter 2

A familiar 'rat-a-tat-tat' on the door took Perry Mason's attention away from the document that he was desperately trying to finish.

Before he could answer, the door to his office flew open and Paul Drake entered, handsome, happy, and full of exuberance.

"What's the haps? You aren't even dressed?"

Perry leaned back and rubbed his hands over his tired, burned out eyes.

"Paul, I think I might have messed up big time?"

"What? What are you talking about?" The big man dropped into the only other chair in the room, draping his long legs across the arms.

"Look at you. Relaxed, outside all day, watching beautiful girls go through exercise routines, finished by," the lawyer checked his watch, "Well, long before I am, that's for sure."

"Hey, pal, law school thing was your big dream, make your mama proud and all that. Me, my mama is just glad I came home in one piece and have a place of my own."

Paul grinned, "Put it aside. You're too burned out right now to do any good. Look at you; you look like a hobo, and you can't concentrate on anything right now anyway."

The lawyer pushed himself up from his chair and walked to the tiny washroom off of his office. The mirror reflected back a man one would call Black Irish with intense blue eyes, but under those eyes were dark spots resembling bruises. His hair needed a trim, and he needed to change his suit.

Bending down, Perry washed his face and dried it on the dingy towel hanging on the bar beside the sink.

"Buddy, you have the pallor of a corpse. You have got to get a secretary, a receptionist, wife or something. And let me tell you, this location, ain't exactly the choicest piece of real estate in town. High paying clients aren't going to want to drive down here."

Falling back into his chair, Perry said wryly, "Thanks, Coach Drake, with pep talks like that I'm surprised you haven't taken a team to the Olympics yet."

"I just call 'em like I see 'em. I see you getting the heck out of here—tonight. You need a break, old son."

"Paul, I have—"

"Nope. Let's go." His friend had that 'Marine Corps' look on his face, and Perry knew it would be useless to argue.

Grabbing his coat, he followed Paul out, pausing to lock up.

"The first place we need to go is your apartment," Paul said, standing back.

"I know I need to change; I'm not going out like this."

"No, my friend, you need a bath. You smell like an old man who's been locked in a library for a week."

The two started outside, each to his own vehicle.

"Paul," Perry called over the top of his Ford, "I'll just meet you there. What's the name of the place again?"

"The Orange Orchid. It's a new place and from what I've heard, the music is great, the whiskey isn't watered down, and there are more than enough women to go around. 488 St. Barbara Ave."

"Got it. See you at 8:00."

******************************XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX********************

Della Street stood back from the mirror in the tiny apartment she shared with Ann Brown, a friend she had met at North Los Angeles Business College.

Neither of them were from California and the lights of Los Angeles, especially the night life and freedom was exhilarating.

"Della, you look great in that outfit." The outfit was an emerald green V-necked blouse paired with a trim black skirt. A wide dark gold and black belt wrapped around her waist, making it appear even smaller. On her feet were black peep-toe pumps. Tiny green emerald earrings completed her ensemble.

"I am giving this place two hours, max, Ann. I'm exhausted and my feet already hurt, and I am sick to death of men buying me drinks and then expecting me to be very grateful." Della made a disgusted look with her mouth, making Ann laugh.

"Deal. I hear this place is fabulous though. It just opened and it has the neatest name: The Orange Orchid. It sounds romantic and exotic, don't you think, Del?"

Della couldn't help but smile at her friend.

"I am sure it is, but if we don't hurry we're going to miss our bus."

Ann came bounding out of the bedroom, "Ready, and who knows Miss Street, you might meet Mr. Street tonight."

As Della locked the door behind them and throwing her black wrap around her shoulders, she said, "Don't you mean Mr. Right?"

"Nope. If he falls for you, he's is definitely on the right street, road, or whatever."

Giggling the two headed down the stairs and to the bus stop.