Someone in a group I'm in requested a Hamilton Burger themed Christmas story. It took me a year to get it finished and it turned out longer than I thought it would be, but it's done. There is a word used that I hesitated to use, as it is rightly considered offensive, and I'm sorry if it bothers you, but it seemed appropriate for the time period of the story. I hope you like.
A Burger Christmas Carol
DA Hamilton Burger sighed as a hand reached out to stop the elevator door from closing. He had looked forward to the ride down in peace and quiet with no need of the Christmas themed chatter that seemed to spew from everyone's lips these days.
To make matters even worse, the hand was attached to none other than Perry Mason. He grinned, then turned to call over his shoulder.
"Hurry it up, Della. Mustn't keep our esteemed District Attorney from his important duties."
Della stepped into the elevator, her face flushed attractively, either from the dash down the hall or from Perry's admonition. Paul Drake was close behind her.
"Thanks for waiting, Hamilton. I'm hoping to get Perry out of here before he gets sidetracked by something else."
He grunted and nodded, trying to discourage further conversation. Unfortunately, the normally very perceptive young woman didn't get the hint.
"You have big plans for Christmas?" she probed.
She glanced at Perry, a concerned look on her face.
"You're more than welcome to join us," she told him, ignoring Paul's head shake. "We're helping serve Christmas breakfast to the less fortunate at St Mary's then getting together at Perry's for lunch."
Hamilton looked at her, a smile softening his features slightly. "My lack of plans is not due to a dearth of invitations, Della. It's a matter of not wanting to participate in anyone's festivities. The 'less fortunate' simply need to try harder to be contributing members of society and not a drain."
"Bah, humbug to you, too," Paul muttered.
"I consider myself a philosophical descendant of Ebenezer Scrooge," Burger informed him.
"'Every idiot who goes around with Merry Christmas on his lips should be boiled in his own pudding?'"
"And buried with a stake of holly through his heart," the other man agreed.
The elevator reached the ground floor and the doors opened. The lanky detective exited first, holding the door for the others. Perry reached for Della's arm to escort her out. She patted his arm once and turned to the DA before leaving.
"I'll take the risk," she told him, stretching up to kiss him lightly on the cheek. "Merry Christmas, Hamilton. Like it or not!"
His glare did nothing to dim her dazzling smile, but Paul gently took her arm and guided her out the door.
"Let's get you out of here before Scrooge here starts the pudding to boil and pulls out the holly stakes."
"Just remember what happened to Scrooge at the end," she reminded the men. "'It was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.'"
"I always found the ending a bit of a disappointment," Burger told them. "Don't worry. As you know, I don't change my mind easily."
"Then don't listen to your mind, Hamilton. Listen to your heart."
"Stop pestering the man, Della," Perry told her with a laugh, joining the other two in the foyer.
"Thank you, Perry."
"And God bless us everyone!," the attorney added with a laugh and a wink, leaving Burger shaking his head.
Hamilton Burger sighed and swallowed another gulp of his drink. He made another note on his legal pad, grumbling again at the forced break in his trial. He was a man of habit.
Those extra days off seriously annoyed him. Christmas tomorrow. New Year's Day next week.
And he doubted anything would get done in the days between. Honestly, most of the staff had been of little use since Thanksgiving, their minds on the holidays.
Were it up to him, everyone would find their paychecks docked for all the hours spent discussing Christmas parties and plans and presents and decorations. Perhaps that would get everyone back to the serious work of the DA's office.
He set the file folder he was reading on the side table, puzzled to notice a book already lying there. He would have to have a talk with his cleaning lady as he knew he had not left it there.
Picking it up, he started to rise to return it to its proper place on the shelf when he glanced at the title.
A Christmas Carol.
"You should have stuck to your convictions, Ebenezer," he commented, settling back and opening the cover.
He jerked awake to the sound of the clock striking midnight. Something felt...off.
He looked around, but nothing looked out of place. The feeling of a chilly breeze had him up, checking the windows. Perhaps the cleaning lady had left it open as well.
Finding everything properly closed and locked, he returned to his seat only to discover he now had company.
"Drake. How did you get in here? Why are you here?"
"How? I'm not actually here at all," he told the other man. "I'm simply a manifestation taking on a familiar form. As for the why: I'm here to prepare you for what's to come," He nodded towards the book on the Burgers lap.
"Let me guess. Three visitors. A final warning."
Paul shrugged. "You probably know the story better than I do."
"The first visitor was his dead partner, not an annoying and very much alive private detective."
Said detective shrugged again with a smile. "That's Dickens. This is a hurried fanfic from an amateur writer. You're going to have to expect some liberties to be taken."
Burger snorted. "That's why classics are classics and fanfic is...whatever it is."
"So. Three visitors. Past, present, and future. I suppose more of your crew will be filling in for the traditional ghosts?"
"Most likely. We seem to be on your mind at present."
"You mean because you annoyed me so much this afternoon?"
"Yes. And because Della looked quite fetching in that blue jacket she was wearing."
"It wasn't blue. It was green."
"Yeah, it was."
The sound of his laugh hung in the air as his image faded away.
The DA shook his head and picked up his book, once again immersing himself in the writings of Dickens.
His reading was interrupted by the sound of a throat being cleared. He looked up to find Arthur Tragg watching him from the other wingback chair.
"What are you doing here?"
"What do you think?" Tragg replied, nodding towards the book in the other man's hand.
Hamilton looked at it and sighed.
"Christmas Past," the policeman agreed.
With a nod, the DA pushed up from his chair…
And found himself standing on a familiar street.
"Nice little suburban neighborhood," Tragg commented. "Not much crime here, is there?"
"Not that I was aware of at the time," Burger replied, turning in a slow circle to take in the familiar environment.
"Aw. Isn't that cute?"
Hamilton followed the direction of the other man's gaze to focus on the two children slowly making their way down the sidewalk. The boy was about 12 years old and was smiling at the younger girl clinging to his arm.
"Your sister, Lexi, right?"
"Alexandra, but she preferred Lexi. She was so happy to have gotten roller skates for Christmas, but was terrified to actually get out and try them"
The fear on her face was evident as she cautiously pushed one foot forward a few inches, then the other.
"You're doing great," young Hamilton encouraged his sister.
She shook her head. "No, I'm not. I'm going to fall."
"Maybe. Probably, even. But when you do, you'll brush yourself off, get up, and try again."
"I'll cry," she told him.
"Fine. You'll cry. A little. Then, you'll get up and try again."
"I need to sit down," she told him.
He looked down proudly at his new watch. "We'll take a five minute break, then go a little further," he agreed.
"Is everything okay?" a voice asked as he settled her onto the grassy lawn.
The young Hamilton had noticed the bike rider earlier, but had ignored the figure as being of little importance. He turned to offer reassurance, but seemed unable to speak.
"Vanessa," his adult counterpart murmured.
"Pretty girl," Tragg commented.
"Yes. Yes, she was."
Unaware of their unseen audience, the blonde smiled hesitantly. "I can go get my parents if you want Or your parents, if you show me which house is yours."
The boy shook his head, finally finding his voice.
"Thank you, but she's fine. Just a little nervous. It's her first time on skates," he told her.
"I just got them for Christmas," Lexi volunteered.
"You look like you're doing pretty good for your first time," the other girl told her. "Can I rest with you?"
"Of course," Hamilton assured her, reaching to steady her bicycle as she climbed off. "I'm Hamilton Burger, by the way, and this is my sister, Lexi."
She smiled as she lowered the kickstand and moved to join Lexi on the grass. "I'm Vanessa Watkins. We just moved into the house on the corner," she told them.
"Welcome to the neighborhood."
There was a brief moment of vertigo and the two men were suddenly standing outside an office door.
'Able and Watkins, Attorneys at Law'
"Vanessa's father," Hamilton explained. "I interned in his office while I was in school."
The door opened, the sounds of music and laughter spilling out.
"Sounds like quite the party," Lt Tragg commented.
"They always threw big holiday parties for their staff. Especially at Christmastime."
The older man looked around. "I don't see our esteemed future district attorney," he stated. "Had your dislike of Christmas already set in?"
"No, just working," Burger told him, pointing to the light shining from under a door.
Suddenly, they were standing in a book-filled room, watching the young Hamilton jotting notes on a notepad as he skimmed the pages of a thick tome.
There was a quick tap at the door, then it swung open. A well groomed older man stepped in, turning to look over his shoulder.
"I found him, Nessa."
A pretty young blonde woman followed close behind.
"I've been looking for you. The party has already started, Hamilton," she told him with a smile.
"I know," he responded. "I just wanted to finish up this one thing."
Mr Watkins laughed. "I appreciate your drive, Hamilton, but there's nothing going on that can't wait until after the holiday. Put the pen down and escort my lovely daughter to the party."
After a moment, he nodded and rose, offering his arm to the young woman.
Again, the scene shifted slightly. The music and laughter were still audible through the closed door, but the Hamilton Burger at the desk looked older and sterner as he pulled one of the thick books closer.
The door pushed open and the attractive blonde woman entered.
The joy of her previous appearance, replaced by a tightness.
"Hamilton? You're missing the party."
He waved her off in annoyance.
"You promised," she reminded him.
"I said I would try," he corrected. "But I also told you that I need to get this finished."
"You can't take an hour or two off?"
"I can't," he told her. "People who succeed are the ones who commit to the work. Who get things done. Not the people who take breaks every time some excuse comes up to slack off."
"But it's Christmas…"
"Vanessa…" he barked in frustration.
When she didn't reply, he turned his attention back to his books.
The sound of a ring clattering on the table next to him gave him pause, but only for a moment. He continued writing as the door clicked shut behind her.
"Enough, Tragg," Burger whispered brokenly. "Enough."
Back in the comfort of his own apartment, he scowled at the book that had fallen from his sleep numbed fingers.
"Stupid dreams," he mumbled.
He picked it up and crossed to the shelf, firmly sliding it back in place with a nod of satisfaction.
Turning out the lights as he went, he passed into the master bath. After brushing his teeth, he went to turn down his bed, pausing when he heard noises coming from his kitchen.
"Ghost or intruder?" he pondered. "One way to find out. I'm rather hoping it's an intruder."
When he entered the kitchen, he discovered Della Street looking fetching in a green velvet robe as she sipped at a glass of wine.
"Christmas present?" he sighed.
"Perhaps. But not yours," she replied with a grin.
He shook his head, but found himself grinning slightly as well.
"Not what I meant."
Setting her glass down, her expression sobered. "I know."
She crossed over to him and laced her arm through his.
He took a deep breath, patted her hand, and nodded.
"As I'll ever be."
In an instant, they were standing on the sidewalk in another quiet suburban neighborhood. The house in front of them was older and small, but well kept, the yard neat and the bushes trimmed. The car in the driveway was a few years old, but clearly well maintained.
"Who lives here?" he asked.
"It doesn't look familiar?"
He studied it again. "Maybe. A little."
In the blink of an eye, they were in the living room where a teenage girl sat curled up on the sofa, her fingers gently stroking the cat next to her as her eyes devoured the book she held in her other hand. A man sat in a nearby chair, engrossed in the daily newspaper.
"How many potatoes do you think I should make?" a voice called from the kitchen.
"How many you usually make, Mom," the girl replied. "It's still just going to be the three of us."
"But what if your uncle Hamilton comes?"
Burger's gaze turned to the woman who appeared in the doorway. The apron around her waist and a kitchen towel over her shoulder indicated that she was hard at work on the Christmas day feast to come.
"Lexi," he commented.
The girl shared a glance with her father, then turned her attention to her mother.
"He won't, Mom."
"He might, Nicole."
"That's Nicole?" her uncle murmured.
"That's Nicole," Della confirmed.
"No, he won't, Mother. You need to accept that he won't."
"He said he might come," Lexi argued.
"Just like he said he might come last year. And the year before. And the year before that," Nicole reminded her. "He always says that, then calls on Christmas morning to say that something came up and he won't be able to make it but he's sending our gifts in the mail."
"He's a very busy man with lots of important things in his life," her mother reminded her.
"And we're not on the 'important things' list." As the woman started to protest, Nicole continued. "We live less than an hour away from him. When was the last time he came to see us?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe 3 or 4 years ago?"
"Five, actually. And he didn't come here. We went with dad when he had that convention in Los Angeles. We were there for a week and saw him twice."
"But he always sends gifts," Lexi commented.
Nicole snorted. "Further proof he doesn't even know us. I'm 15 years old and he still gets me baby dolls."
"It's something, though. It means he's thinking about you, at least. Right, Daniel?" she pleaded with her husband.
Daniel had put down his paper and rose to cross the floor to comfort his wife. He gave his daughter a pleading look.
"Of course he thinks about us. He loves us. We're all the family he has, sweetheart. And he just might surprise us by showing up for dinner this year."
"He will," Lexi said with certainty. "I just have this feeling that he'll be here tomorrow."
Nicole started to reply, only to pause when her father silently asked her to agree. With a sigh, she nodded.
"Maybe so, Mom. Maybe so."
As the scene around them faded, Burger turned a puzzled face to Della.
"How did so much time pass so quickly?"
She patted his arm sympathetically as the scene faded away to be replaced by the interior of a grocery store. The puzzled look remained as he looked around.
"What am I supposed to learn here?" he asked.
Della pointed towards a young woman standing in the aisle behind a shopping cart. She studied the price under a small can of powdered cocoa, then looked at the items in her cart.
Burger nodded. "My secretary. Mrs Humphreys."
"Eileen," Della added.
They watched as she looked at the items, then in her wallet. She chewed her lower lip thoughtfully.
"I don't understand."
"That's because you've never had to worry about having enough to pay at the checkout counter," she told him.
He looked confused now. "Surely she makes enough for her groceries."
"Do you know what she makes?"
He shook his head.
"Or what expenses she has?"
His head shook again as she nodded to herself, placing the cocoa in her cart and headed to checkout. On her way, she picked up a few pieces of penny candy from the bin and added them to her cart.
Outside the store, they watched as she stopped to drop a few coins in a charity collection bucket and exchange Christmas wishes with the woman manning it.
Burger snorted. "Why is she giving money away if she's so worried about having enough?"
"Because she knows there are others who definitely don't have enough and she knows how that feels."
He started to reply, but her stern look had him biting back his words.
They followed several blocks to an older apartment building. As she reached to open the door, a young boy ran up and pushed it open, holding it for her to enter.
"Thank you, Eddie," she told him with a smile. Stepping aside, she waited for her neighbor to enter as well, another small boy skipping in front of her and a baby balanced on her hip.
"Well mannered young men you have here, Jessica," she told the other woman, nodding at the pint sized doorman and the grocery bag he was carrying.
"Thank you, Eileen," she replied with a tired smile. "They're pretty good boys."
"Dad told us to take care of Mom and Angela while he's out driving his truck," Eddie told her, his chest puffing out proudly.
Eileen nodded at him, then turned to his younger brother.
"Todd, would you mind carrying my bag upstairs?" she asked.
"Happy to help," he told her, standing a little taller as he took the bag from her and headed towards the stairs. "It's not very heavy for someone strong like me."
The two boys started up, bouncing with young boy energy, the two tired women behind them and the two unseen observers bringing up the rear.
Unseen, except by the bright eyed little girl watching them over her mothers shoulder. Della smiled softly and waved her fingers at the little girl.
Angela rewarded her with a laugh and a wave. Her mother stopped and turned to see who her daughter was talking to.
"Can they see us?" Hamilton asked worriedly.
"Baby can. Adults can't," Della assured him.
"Who is she laughing at?"
Eileen laughed. "Must be her guardian angel. My mom always says God's messengers reveal themselves to those innocent enough to not doubt their existence."
"I suppose I'm long past that period in my life," Jessica sighed.
Eileen was silent for a moment before changing the subject.
"Is Dane going to make it home for Christmas?" she asked, keeping her voice pitched so the boys wouldn't hear.
The other woman shook her head. "The company offered him a bonus for this delivery. It means we can actually have Christmas, just not on Christmas day."
They had reached the third floor where the two boys waited outside Eileen's apartment door. She took the bag from the boy, thanking him for his help as she pulled out a couple for the small candy canes she had picked up at the store.
"Merry Christmas, boys."
They both smiled brightly, thanking her for the treat. As they started to proceed down the hall to their own apartment, Eddie turned back to her.
"Is Grace okay? She and her grandma were at the park earlier, but they didn't stay very long."
Panic sparked in her chest and she took a deep breath.
"I'm sure everything's fine," she told him. "It may have just been a little too cool out for them. I'm sure her grandmother would have called me at work if anything was wrong."
"You're probably right," the other woman reassured her. "I did mention to the boys that it was too chilly to stay for very long."
"Yeah, you did," Eddie remembered, picking up on Eileen's concern. "And girls aren't as tough about things like that as we boys are."
"Right. I'd better check on them. Merry Christmas," Eileen told them, digging in her purse for her keys as the other family continued down the hallway.
"Who's Grace?" Burger asked.
Della ignored his question as they followed Eileen into the apartment. She was quickly greeted by an older version of herself.
"You're a little late tonight, dear."
"I stopped at the store to pick up a few things. Is Grace all right?"
"She's fine," her mother told her, taking the bag of groceries from her hands and peeking in. "Does this mean that demanding boss of yours finally came through with a Christmas bonus?"
"No, mother. No bonus. Grace has really been wanting chocolate cake and I decided to splurge a little for Christmas. I'll just tighten up a little next month and put more into her surgery fund then."
She hung her coat up and turned back. "Eddie said he saw you at the park but you didn't stay long. What happened?"
"Over cautious grandma," the older woman tried to explain. When her daughter continued to stare at her, she sighed. "She was running and got a little short of breath. She was really pale and her lips were a little blue, so we walked home very slowly and she's been resting since."
"You should have called me, Mother," Eileen huffed, starting across the room.
Just then, a girl came out of the hallway into the main room. She was close in age to Eddie. Her hair was mussed from her nap and she pushed her glasses up her nose. Her frame was slightly stocky, her facial features broad and flat with almond shaped eyes slanted upwards.
Her face lit up.
"Mommy! You're finally home! I missed you!"
"I missed you, too, Gracie," her mother told her, crossing to wrap her in an embrace. She bent down to study her face, pleased to note the pink flush.
"Eileen's daughter, Grace," Della told him.
"She's retarded," Burger commented.
"Mongolism," she confirmed.
"I'll get dinner ready," the older woman told them, smiling fondly at her daughter and granddaughter.
"Guess what we're going to make tonight?" Eileen asked.
"What?" Grace asked.
They followed the family matriarch into the kitchen and she pulled the can of cocoa out of the grocery bag.
"I love chocolate cake!"
Burger and Della watched as they started pulling out the necessary ingredients.
"Aren't there schools or facilities for people like that?" he asked.
"There are," Della replied. "And the doctor strongly encouraged Eileen to send her away to one."
"But she didn't."
"No. She wanted to keep her close. And her mother, Sandra, had recently lost her husband and offered to help."
They smiled, watching as the trio tied on aprons and a step stool was pulled up to the counter for the little girl.
Hamilton's brow creased as he thought.
"That's not something that can be fixed, is it?"
Della shook her head.
"Eileen…I mean, Mrs Humphreys was talking about a surgery fund. What kind of surgery?:
"Unfortunately, many children born with mongolism have other health issues as well. One of the most common is a heart defect. Sometimes, it resolves itself and sometimes it requires surgery. In Grace's case, it seems to be getting worse and will need an operation."
The little girl laughed as she opened a canister of flour and a white cloud puffed out.
He found himself smiling in response.
"But she'll get the surgery and be okay, right?"
When Della didn't answer, he turned to look at her.
She continued watching the scene for a few more moments, a sad smile on her face. Finally, she turned to meet his gaze.
"Surgery is risky, Hamilton. Especially heart surgery. And expensive. A single woman supporting a family of three is going to have a hard time saving up the funds. And the longer it takes, the weaker Grace becomes and the riskier it is."
He frowned as she continued.
"And that's assuming she can find a surgeon who will do it. There are many in the medical community who don't think it worthwhile to treat children like this."
"Not worthwhile?" he yelled. "To save a life?"
She shrugged. "A life like that. She's not contributing to society. Probably never will," she reminded him. "She'll probably need some sort of care for the rest of her life."
She giggled again as she touched a flour-covered finger to her mother's nose, leaving a white mark behind.
"Look, Della. Just be honest with me. Dickens' ghost was honest with Scrooge about Tiny Tim. Will she survive?"
He turned Della to face him, his look pleading for good news.
She started to speak, but the words wouldn't come. She looked over at the cozy scene and shook her head as she wiped away a tear streaming down her cheek.
"Next Christmas is not going to be as bright," she told him.
He closed his eyes and dropped to his knees.
"It's not right. It's just not right."
The sound of a window rattling in the wind caused him to look up. He was back in his bedroom, kneeling on the floor next to his bed, blankets twisted around him. He carefully untangled himself and stood, throwing the blankets back on the bed.
He thought for a moment, then headed towards his home office. Surely there was something he could do. He sat down at his desk and pulled his rolodex towards him. Surely he knew someone who could help.
He studied name after name, trying to figure out some way this person could help. He soon became aware of another presence in the room and looked up at the chair across the desk.
The other attorney nodded. "Burger."
He looked at another card.
No help there.
He looked across the desk again. Perry was still sitting, hands folded as he watched the DA.
"Look, I know why you're here. Christmas future, right?"
"Can we skip this part? I've already learned my lesson. I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to help a little girl I didn't even know existed a few hours ago. Doesn't that prove I've learned about kindness and good will and all that stuff?"
Mason shrugged. "Honestly, I'd be fine with heading out and leaving you to what you're doing, but the writer has several more scenes planned out. Even though this is just a poor rip off of Dickens, she's fairly pleased with herself and wants to finish the story her way."
"Even though everyone knows how it's going to end?"
"I think that's been pretty obvious from the start, but…"
"We're merely characters at the mercy of the fanfic writers."
With a sigh, Hamilton stood up and tightened the belt on his robe. He rounded the desk to where Perry awaited.
"After you, Mason."
The two men found themselves standing in front of closed double wooden doors. A long carpeted hallway stretched several yards in either direction. The sign next to the doors announced that this was Brown's Funeral Home room 1, Services for Mr Hamilton Burger, Esq.
Hamilton raised an eyebrow and Perry motioned him through the door.
The room was empty.
Except for the casket at the front. And the picture next to it. And the priest strolling across the front, straightening things that didn't need straightening and occasionally looking at his watch
Finally, the door opened and the priest moved to stand near the casket, a somber look on his face.
Mason and Burger turned to look at the duo who had just entered and strolled up the aisle.
"My niece, Nicole," Hamilton commented. "And my lawyer."
The woman looked around. "I knew I should have saved the expense of a service," she grumbled to the man beside her.
"Ah, Mrs Andrews," the priest said, hurrying forward to take her hand and lead her to the front. "I'm sure the rest of the mourners will be here soon."
She looked at her own watch. "The service was supposed to start 30 minutes ago, Father. I really didn't expect much of a turnout. I guess since there's no food after no one bothered."
"What about his family? Your family?"
"My mother passed away years ago. My husband and kids already had plans and I'm not going to force them to miss out for a funeral for someone they never even met. It's bad enough that I had to cancel a hair appointment to be here," she told him.
"But your uncle was the DA here for years. Certainly he had many friends and colleagues."
"My uncle was a jerk who was too busy for friends and never let anyone close," she responded.
"Ouch," Perry commented.
"Ouch, indeed. But true, unfortunately," Burger sighed.
The priest seemed unsure how to respond.
"Oh. Umm…do you want to wait a little longer or do you want me to go ahead?"
She looked around again. "You know what? Screw it." Walking up to the casket, she laid her hand on it for a moment. "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Amen."
Her gaze shifted back to the funeral home director who had discreetly stepped in through a side door.
"Get him loaded up and to the cemetery. You can have the guys go ahead and shovel the dirt on. No need for a graveside service either."
The man nodded and left the room.
Nicole turned to the lawyer.
"Just the disposition of his personal belongings, I think."
"Sell it all and send me a check," she told him, heading for the door.
"Are you sure you don't want to look? He had some nice pieces of furniture."
"That are not going to be my style."
"Maybe something of sentimental value?:
She turned to stare at him. "What sentimental value could I find in the belongings of a complete stranger?" she asked.
Hamilton had turned and walked out, Perry close behind They found themselves standing in a cemetery. They watched as his casket was lowered into the ground, listening to the workers chatting and joking around as they shoveled dirt into the hole.
With the exception of the workers, the place was virtually deserted. A few of the gravesites sported wreaths or holiday flowers, but no visitors were in sight.
Perry led the way, past the family mausoleums and fancy tombs into an area of smaller, simpler plots and stones. A figure knelt between two graves, a hand resting on each.
"Oh, Gracie. I still miss you so much. I miss your hugs and your sweet smiles and the joy you found in everyday things."
Hamilton walked around to look at the woman.
Perry nodded as she continued.
"You were my light and my joy and my song and now I just feel so empty. So alone." She looked at the other gravestone. "And now your grandma is with you, I miss her, too. I miss the fun we had together. I was a mother and a daughter and now, I'm neither. It just hurts so much."
She leaned forward, her forehead touching the ground as the sobs came, her whole body shaking from the force.
Hamilton reached out as though to touch her, then rose and marched over to where Perry waited.
"But it doesn't have to happen this way, does it? The past is set, but the present isn't, nor is the future, right, Mason? It can be changed. It can be fixed."
"That, Mr Burger, is up to you."
The winds picked up, swirling leaves around them. His gaze was caught by a flash of red, a ribbon from one of the holiday wreaths, and he turned to follow its path…
Finding himself back in the middle of his living room floor. Light flooded in through the window and he glanced at the clock.
But what day? Dickens' ghosts had only needed one night. Has his been as speedy?
He strode to the door and pulled it open. As he leaned down to retrieve the newspaper from the doormat, a little boy came racing down the hallway on a pair of roller skates. When he saw Burger, his effort to come to a stop left him sprawled in the middle of the floor.
"I'm sorry, Mr Burger. I know I'm not supposed to be playing in the hallways and making noise."
Hamilton glanced at the date on the paper.
Smiling, he hurried over to help the boy to his feet.
"I suppose we can let it go this time…what's your name?"
"Jacob, sir," the boy gulped.
"Jacob. You're alright?"
"New skates for Christmas?"
"I can understand you being excited to try them out, so we'll let it go this time, but outside would be better, don't you think?"
"Yes, sir. Outside."
"Merry Christmas, Jacob!"
"Merry Christmas, Mr Burger," he called as he headed back the way he had come.
He rushed back inside, quickly shaved and dressed before heading downstairs. The doorman's eyes widened in surprise when Burger greeted him with a hearty 'Merry Christmas!"
"Your car, Mr Burger?"
"Yes, please, Rodney."
The man quickly retrieved the vehicle and handed over the key.
"Do you know where the church is that's serving breakfast this morning?" he asked, trying to remember what Della had told him. "St Mary's, I think?:
The man nodded and gave him directions. His eyes widened again when the attorney slipped him a folded bill before heading to his car.
After a short drive, he easily found the church and slipped inside, searching the crowd for a familiar face. A waving hand caught his attention and he headed towards it. Della greeted him with a sweet smile and a "Merry Christmas!"
He returned her greeting, squeezing her hand affectionately before turning to greet her companion.
"Surprised to see you here, Burger," Perry commented. "I thought you deliberately had no plans."
"Plans can change, So can no plans," Burger told him.
"Indeed they can."
"How can I help?" he asked.
Della flagged down one of the Sisters. She led him to the kitchen and set him up filling plates which Della and several others took and delivered to tables.
After the service was complete and everyone was well fed, the group turned their attention to cleaning up. Hamilton rolled up his sleeves, drying the dishes Della handed him and stacking them for Perry to stow away.
When they had finished, the Priest came over to thank them for their help and invite them to services before moving along to repeat the process with the next group of volunteers.
"I'm so glad you joined us, Hamilton," Della told him with a smile.
"I'm glad you invited me," he responded. "I actually enjoyed myself, getting to meet people and hear them talk about what's going on in their lives."
"The invitation for lunch still stands, too," she reminded him, gently elbowing Perry at her side.
"Of course," he agreed after a very slight hesitation. "We'd love to have you. The more, the merrier."
"You almost sound sincere, Mason," Burger told him with a smile. Before Della could cut in, he continued. "I do appreciate the invitation, but I'm finally going to not disappoint my sister and join her and her family for dinner."
"That's good," the other attorney told him. "I'm sure you will all enjoy that."
"I do want to ask you something, though," he admitted, looking from one to the other. "I know you both have a lot of contacts…a lot of friends…in the area and might be able to point me in the direction of a heart surgeon."
"A heart surgeon?" Della asked, concern evident in her voice. Even Perry's face took on a serious look. "Are you ill?"
"Not for me," he assured them. "It's for a little girl. My secretary's daughter."
"Grace?" Della queried.
Both men looked at her.
"You know about Grace?" Burger asked.
She nodded. "Eileen and I speak on the phone fairly often when the two of you have a case going…coordinating getting paperwork back and forth, evidence released and all that kind of stuff. We meet for lunch or for coffee from time to time to complain about our bosses," she explained, a smile softening her comment.
"Her mother, Sandra, has brought Grace and joined us a few times. She's a lovely little girl and so sweet." She frowned. "I know she has some health concerns, but I didn't realize it was to the point of needing surgery."
"I'm not entirely sure…"
Della put her hand on Perry's shoulder and stood on her tip-toes, searching the groups still chatting in the kitchen. Finally spotting her target, she raised a hand and waved.
The two blonde heads turned their direction and started over.
The two men exchanged handshakes.
Della turned to the woman.
"Hannah, this Hamilton Burger, our District Attorney and friend. Hamilton, this is Dr Hannah Russell. She's also a friend and an emergency surgeon at the hospital."
The two exchanged pleasantries, then Della continued.
"Hamilton is trying to find a good heart surgeon," she explained. "I wondered if you might know someone."
"What kind of symptoms are you having, Mr Burger," Hannah asked, immediately shifting into professional mode.
"Oh, it's not for me," he clarified again. "It's for my secretary's little girl."
"How old is she and what's going on?"
"She's…" Hamilton held out his hand, indicating how tall she was. After a pause, he looked at Della.
"She's 7 years old," she contributed. "And she was born with Mongolism and has heart problems that go along with that."
The look on Hannah's face softened. "I have a nephew who was born with the same condition."
"Is he okay now? Were they able to get his heart fixed?"
She grinned and nodded. "He's now a busy, active 4 year old who runs circles around the rest of the family.:
"So, you do know someone who could help?" Burger asked.
"Well, my brother lives in New York and the doctor was there…"
He shook his head in dismissal. "That's fine. If we have to get her to New York, then we'll get her to New York."
Hannah reached over and placed her hand on his arm. "Let me make some calls first. I'm sure we can find someone a whole lot closer who will see her. At the very least, check her over and see how urgent it is."
"I would appreciate it," he told her, patting the hand on his arm.
"Tell your secretary that I should have some information for her in the next few days. Do you have her number?"
"I do," Della told her. "I'll get her home and work numbers for you after I get home."
The group said their farewells and headed out.
Back at his apartment, Burger packed up a few things and returned to his waiting car. There was little traffic on the roads, so it was only a short while before he found himself parking in front of Eileen Humphreys apartment building. Balancing a box and a paper bag, he carefully made his way up the stairs and down the hallway to her apartment door.
After hesitating briefly, he knocked on the door. Moments later, it was opened by his secretary. The smile left her face, replaced with a look of confusion.
"Is something wrong, Mr Burger?" She stepped out into the hallway, pulling the door to behind her.
Yes…I mean…no…not really wrong…but kind of…" he found himself stuttering.
"Who's at the door? Is it Santa?" a young voice asked as the door opened again.
He found himself looking down into Grace's smiling face and couldn't help but smile back. Before he could reply, her grandmother came up behind her and gently pulled her back into the apartment.
"Back inside, little one."
She then turned her attention to her daughter and the man in front of her.
"Mom, this is my boss, Mr Burger. Mr Burger, this is my mother, Sandra Foster."
"Is there a problem?" she asked, giving him a look that chilled him in a way even hardened criminals had never done.
"No, ma'am," he assured her. "No problem."
She glanced at the box in his arms, eyebrow raised. He held it out to her while looking at Eileen.
"My housekeeper left a Christmas dinner for me. Probably enough for a couple of meals. But I'm having dinner with my sister and her family and since we worked a little late last night, I wasn't sure if you had time to get what you needed for your dinner so I thought maybe you could use this. Or might know someone who could. Just needs to be heated up."
He realized he was rambling and forced himself to stop.
Mrs Foster studied the ham and sides he had carefully boxed up, then looked at her daughter.
"I think with this and what we already have, we should be able to have Jessica and her kids join us."
The other woman nodded agreement. "I'll pass along the invitation," she said as her mother took the box and returned to the apartment.
"Thank you, Mr Burger."
She noticed the bag he had sat on the floor and he pulled a gift wrapped box from it and held it out to her.
"This is for Grace," he told her. When she started to shake her head, he continued. "I actually bought it for my niece."
He stopped with a grimace.
"It was bought for my niece. It's a baby doll and I realized last night that Nicole is 15 and well beyond the age of playing with dolls anymore."
"I should think so," she laughed.
"I thought your daughter might like it."
The mother knew her child would love it, but a part of her also felt it a bit inappropriate to accept a gift from her boss.
"You should return it to the store. Get a refund."
"Truthfully, I'm not even sure where it came from. And I hate returning things to the store. You'd be doing me a favor by taking it off my hands," he told her, holding the package out.
Suddenly, the door opened and the little girl popped out again.
"Mommy. Come back inside."
She noticed the gift in Burger's hand.
"Is that for me?" she asked.
He looked at his secretary and she looked at Grace's hopeful face, then nodded.
"Yes, it is."
She clapped her hands, then looked up at Burger and grabbed his hand.
"You have to come and put it under the tree," she told him, pulling him into the room in spite of her mother's protests.
"Gracie, this is my boss, Mr Burger, and he has things to do."
"But I want him to see our tree," she replied, leading him over to the small tree decorated with a plethora of handmade ornaments.
"Isn't it beautiful?" she asked him, eyes shining
He stared at the tree for a moment, taking in the paper snowflakes, painted pinecones, and paper chain that adorned the small pine.
"I think that this is one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen," he told her softly. "Thank you for showing me."
Silence descended as she stood watching him. After several moments, she pointed at the package he still held.
"You need to put that under the tree."
With a laugh, he leaned over and did so.
"I'm so sorry," Eileen told him, her cheeks flushed pink.
"It's fine," he told her, watching with delight as the child picked up the package and began tearing the paper off.
"It's a baby!" she shrieked. "My very own baby!"
She held it up to show her mother, then dashed off to the kitchen to show her grandmother.
While the older woman helped her pull it from the box, Hamilton reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope.
"I have something for you as well, Mrs Humphreys," he said, holding it out to her. "It's your Christmas bonus."
"That's not necessary, sir."
"Perhaps not, but I want you to know how much I appreciate the hard work and long hours you put in. You play an important role in the job we do and I think it's long past time that I acknowledge that," he told her.
He continued watching the little girl, unwilling to meet her gaze and possibly reveal the emotion he was feeling.
"Oh, and I spoke with a friend. Actually, a friend of a friend. She's going to be calling you in a few days about a doctor who will evaluate Grace's heart problems."
He heard a gasp.
"How do you know…"
He scrambled to come up with an answer. Obviously, he couldn't tell her about his visions from the night before.
"Della," he finally told her.
"Street. Perry Mason's secretary?"
"I know who she is. I'm just not sure where or why the two of you would be talking about my daughter."
There was a look of wariness on her face.
"Perry and I meet up from time to time at bar association functions," he explained. "Even though we're often on opposite sides of the courtroom, we both want to see justice served and honestly have a good deal of respect for each other."
She nodded. "Della speaks very highly of him, as an attorney and as a human being."
"Della often accompanies him, professionally and personally and we talk sometimes. She recently asked about you and Grace. I had to tell her that I wasn't familiar with her situation and she was kind enough to fill me in."
"I didn't feel it was appropriate to bring up personal matters at work," she told him.
"And I appreciate that," he responded, "But I also appreciate that you have a child with a serious health issue and you're going to be concerned about her."
Grace ran over and grabbed his hand again.
"Will you stay for lunch with us?" she pleaded.
He leaned to look her in the eye.
"Thank you, Grace. It's very kind of you to ask, but I already have other plans," he explained.
She poked her lip out.
"But I want you to stay."
"My little sister wants me to have lunch with her, too, and I said I would. It's important to do what you say you will, Isn't it?"
After a moment of thought, she nodded.
"Maybe another time."
"Maybe," he agreed.
She reached up to hug him, then held the doll up.
"Thank you for my baby, Mr Burger."
"You're very welcome. I know you'll take good care of her."
With a quick wave, she ran back into the kitchen to her grandmother.
He straightened and glared at his secretary.
"You're not laughing at me, are you, Mrs Humphreys?"
"Of course not, sir," she said though the sound that escaped her lips did, indeed, sound very much like a laugh.
He followed her to the door, called a farewell to her mother, and stepped back into the hallway. Eileen stood in the doorway, smiling up at him.
"Thank you so much, Mr Burger. For everything."
Clearing his throat, he nodded.
"You're welcome. She's a very special little girl."
"Let me know if there's anything I can do," he told her.
She slipped back inside and closed the door and he headed back to his car, a smile on his face and a spring in his step.
The smile stayed in place for the entirety of his drive to his sister's house. He even turned on the radio and sang along with some Christmas carols.
Once again, he found himself nervously standing outside a door, trying to get up the nerve to knock.
When he finally did, the door swung open and he found himself facing his brother in law. After several seconds of staring, his face broke into a wide grin.
"Lexi! Nicole! You'll never guess who's here!"
Lexi ran to the door and stopped, her eyes filling with tears, then she threw herself at him.
He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her close as he returned Daniel's grin.
She finally released him and looked up, resting her hand on his face.
"And you're staying?"
"For dinner, at least," he replied. "If that's okay."
"Absolutely," his sister told him, leading him inside.
"You actually showed up."
Nicole stood in the middle of the living room floor, her arms crossed over her chest, a skeptical look on her face.
"Nicole," her mother scolded.
"I deserve no less," he uncle commented. "I have been severely lacking in my duties as a brother and as an uncle and I should be called out on it."
He looked around, making eye contact with each person in the room.
"I did a considerable amount of thinking last night and had a few rather startling epiphanies. One of those being that you three are my family and I have given you too little time for far too long and I hope you will forgive me and give me a chance. I would really like to get to know you."
"Of course you're forgiven," Lexi declared. "Like you said, we're family."
"Think nothing of it," Daniel added.
Nicole studied him for a few more moments, finally offering her hand for a shake.
"Fair enough," he nodded. "Oh Before I forget." He turned around and handed a bottle of wine to his brother in law.
"I do need to confess, though. Other than that, I'm empty handed, at present. In fact," he looked at Nicole, "I actually gave your gift to someone else. Another of my realizations last night was that you are now 15 years old and probably don't appreciate dolls as you once did."
"Not so much," she agreed. "Who did you give it to?"
"My secretary has a 7 year old daughter who was very happy. I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all," she assured him. "I'm glad it went to someone who will enjoy it."
He motioned for her to the sofa and took a seat at the other end, turning to face her.
"I'm hoping to get to know you…all of you…well enough that in the future I can select gifts that would be appreciated."
"Gifts aren't necessary," Lexi protested. "You being here, spending time with us, is all I've hoped for."
Nicole leaned closer, a grin on her face. "I, on the other hand, love gifts. I'll slip you a list of suggestions before you go."
There was plenty of laughter as the four moved into the kitchen and dining area to complete dinner preparations before sitting down to enjoy the meal together.
And Hamilton talked and listened, discovering how much he truly liked his family and how impressed he was by the woman his niece was becoming.
He discovered that she enjoyed classic literature as much as he did, spent many an hour on the roof of the house looking at the stars, was fascinated by the idea of traveling in space, and had a fierce desire to stand up for the underdog and the oppressed.
There were more than a few comments around the office and among those in the legal community about the changes in the attitude and actions of the District Attorney, but he never told anyone about the events of that Christmas eve night.
As for Grace Humphreys…well, the fanfic writer was charmed by this little character she had created and thinks there may be more of her story told in tales to come.
And that's a wrap on that. I hope you enjoyed it and would appreciate any feedback. Again, apologies for any offense. Merry Christmas.