In the Beginning: Chapter 3

Cigarette smoke hung over the room like a thick grey fog. The music was loud and the room was packed.

Della had never seen so many people crammed into one space. She and Ann finally wrestled their way through the crowd and to the bar.

Ann ordered them two martinis, and, glasses in hand, the two scanned the writhing mass of people, on and off the small dance floor.

"Holy moly, Del, have you ever seen the like?"

"No. I'm not sure I want to again, either," the tall, slender brunette said loudly over the noise.

Ann smiled and said, "I told you it was popular."

"Popular is one thing, a fire hazard or being crushed to death is another," Della said, just as a large man knocked the drink out of her hand and all over her friend.

There was a large wet stain across the front of Ann's dress and part of the drink had splashed into her face.

Horrified, Della reached for bar napkins to help her, but her hand was roughly snatched by the same drunk who had bungled into her.

"Let's dance, sweetheart," he growled, attempting to pull her into the crowd.

"Stop! Take your hands off me!" Della swung her purse to Ann and began to drag her heels to pull away from the man.

"I said to turn me loose," she yelled, as he ignored her protests.

"Come on doll, one dance won't hurt ya," he slurred his words, and Della smelled just how loaded the stranger was.

"I've had enough of this," she said, and slapped him with all the power she could muster.

The brute stopped in his tracks.

"No dame hits me and gets away with it," he growled and drew back his hand to hit her.

"Not today, pal."

A tall, fair skinned man held the man's arm in mid-swing, seemingly without effort.

"Turn the lady loose. Now."

Across the room, Perry Mason saw Paul Drake step into what looked from a distance like a dispute between drunk and his date. Though the date looked way out of the drunk's league, which was probably the problem.

"Can't you ever mind your own business, Paul? Damn."

With a heartfelt and heavy sigh, Perry turned loose of his busty companion, with his apologies, and headed across the room.

The burly drunk turned to face Paul angrily.

"Do you see this little lady? We're gonna dance, and you," he punctuated his words by stabbing his finger into Paul's broad chest, "Are going to get the hell outta my way."

"I think the lady might disagree. Tell ya what, let's go back to the bar and forget about dancing for a while. I'm buying. What'da say, friend?"

Paul freed the man's arm and clasped his hand on the guy's shoulder.

Releasing Della's hand, the drunk exclaimed, "I ain't your damn friend, friend," as he threw a roundhouse punch.

Della stepped back out of the way, quickly. Ann pulled her back to the bar.

Her good-Samaritan rescuer, however, had anticipated the punch and bobbed out of the way just in time.

Unfortunately, the handsome dark haired man who had come up behind him didn't see it coming. The blow landed solidly. There was an ugly, cracking sound and blood spurted from his nose.

"Sonofabitch!" was all the bleeding man managed to mumble out before the drunk was laid out cold, on the floor.

The first man having put his lights out rather efficiently.