An Early Late Night: a Perry Mason story
RATING: mild Teen
DISCLAIMER: We all know the drill: I don't own it (other than my story idea) and I will make no profit. My thanks to those who do own it (and even more to those who embodied the characters) for allowing me to borrow.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: 1)This story is set early in the association of Perry and Della, earlier than the books or show. My presumption is that the first book (and episode) introduces them to us a few years after they met. This story is set less than a year after, hence the 'early' in the title.
2)I have two additional stories in progress, set in this same time frame. They will loosely follow this story. However, I tend to be very slow, so don't hold your breath.
"An Early Late Night"
a "Perry Mason" story by MarMar1
Perry scrubbed his hands over his face and blinked several times in an effort to clear his vision. He was too close to the finish to stop now. Three a.m. – they'd have to leave for court in five hours. If he could get this done, he might still be able to grab two or three hours of sleep, shave, and change his clothes, before once more entering the fray.
He would need those 2 or 3 hours; the benefits of his earlier 40 minute nap in the evening had long since worn off and his mind had slowed with his body's demand for rest. Adjusting the office thermostat several degrees cooler had been an attempt to revive himself long enough to complete the task. Timing was always critical, but Perry knew with this case especially that there was a much better chance of success with quick action. He knew their client was innocent; it was proving it that would be tricky.
Running a hand back through his already disheveled hair, the quiet and stillness of the office sank into his consciousness. From his spot at the law library table he had been able to hear Della in her office, her shuffling of files and papers, her typing at speeds he considered truly amazing, the occasional squeak of her chair. He would have to remember to get her a new chair, a better chair. He realized now that those sounds had died. When? Ten minutes earlier? More than ten? He must be numb if he was only now noticing. It wouldn't do for him to be this slow in court. If they could play it right, lay it out right, their client would be spending his last hours in jail.
Perry contemplated the quiet; he expected that Della would have checked in with him once her tasks had been completed. Slowly, his face creased in a rueful look. After his bear-like attack at her earlier interruption, maybe she had decided to wait for him to emerge from his lair. He would have to make that up to her.
Curious now and in need of escape from his chair, Perry rose, shook out his limbs to spark circulation, and went in search of answers.
Silence persisted as Perry entered his office via the law library doorway and he opened his mouth to call out to Della to determine her location as she was not at his desk. Just as quickly he stopped and remained quiet. All the office lights were on, the door to Della's office open, yet she was not at her own desk either. Rather, his visual inspection revealed that Della was on the sofa, fast asleep.
Perry relaxed into a gentle smile. True to her custom, Della's arrival at the office this morning, well, yesterday morning Perry reminded himself, had preceded his own. She had worked through lunch and been right there with him, side by side, through both the day in court and their evening review. She had been part of the research leading to the revelation of the hidden truth. She enjoyed as much as he that mad-dash plan for exposing that truth in court. He knew that while he had napped she had worked straight through, preparing the timeline he would need in court.
He marveled once more at his good fortune. There had been a time he had given up hope of finding someone whose stamina would match his own. Yet, from almost the first day, barely eight months ago, it had become clear that he had met his match; her physical, mental, and emotional endurance would give him a run for his money. The practice had sped off into a new realm and showed no sign of slowing. Together they accomplished more than he ever could have alone.
Perry watched her, glad that she was getting some much needed sleep. It wouldn't do for either of them to be less than alert in court. He thought of the times he relied on Della's perceptions, her notes taken during a court session; of times when some side notation written in the margin had led him to a crack in the prosecution's case. He smiled again, thinking of the soft blush that brightened her cheeks whenever he mentioned her crucial insights.
Those thoughts led his gaze to settle on her face. He acknowledged again his good fortune: she was the perfect professional associate wrapped in a near perfect exterior. She was always lovely, always beautiful, in a very real way. Della Street embodied the truest of all beauties, Perry thought, beauty that emanated from deep within and flowed outward. Hers was a beauty that went far beyond the surface, although, of course, the surface always looked good. Perry had noticed early on that she exhibited an innate sense of style that was a mixture of elegance, practicality, charm, and a hint of something more.
Although he had not yet had the opportunity to see her dressed for a more formal evening occasion, he had no doubt that it would be a most pleasant treat. In fact, more than once he had caught himself conjuring an image of just that. The images had pleased him a great deal; the fact that they had been inspired by the knowledge that she was engaged for an evening with some unknown fellow had not been so pleasing.
Seeing her now, asleep, unguarded, Perry was struck by the mixture of earthiness and elegance that was Della. He had yet to experience her shying away from any situation, no matter how risky or questionable, in pursuit of evidence in a case, and this humbled him, knowing that her dauntlessness was based on her total trust in him. He had never seen her unable to hold her own in any social or work environment, even if later she confessed to him that she had been a complete wreck inside. What amazed him was her ability to weather each twist and turn they encountered while retaining an undeniable feminine charm. He frequently observed that he was not the only man to notice that charm.
A soft rustling led his gaze to travel away from her face. Her arms were wrapped close to her body, up against the soft, deep dusty peach sweater she wore with the midnight blue suit. He knew the sweater was soft, for he remembered his hand on her back; its softness had made him think of a cabin in the snow, of snuggling up warm in front of a fire. Perry quickly redirected his thoughts.
He spied the papers resting next to her on the cushions... the competed work, no doubt. She must have finished but been unwilling to interrupt him again. He imagined she must have sat on the sofa, waiting for some indication that it was safe to approach. As tired as she must have been, the temptation of the sofa would have been too much; she would have thought to rest, just until he was ready.
As his eyes completed the inventory, Perry nearly missed a breath. A shoe dangled from one slender foot, over the sofa edge; the matching shoe had lost that claim and lay discarded on the carpet. She had bent her left knee and the bare foot was tucked behind her right knee, as if in an attempt to warp one leg around the other. Perry had admired Della's legs on a regular basis, what man wouldn't?
However, raising the knee had caused her dark skirt to slide up far above that knee, exposing a delicious expanse of creamy thigh. Perry was certain he could nearly see the top of her stocking. Before he could censor himself, he speculated what it would be like to have those shapely legs warped around his own. Unconsciously, his strong fingers gripped and kneaded his own thighs.
Enjoying the freedom of his thoughts, Perry was startled by a soft moan, almost a whimper. Widened with fear, his eyes flew to her face. Asleep. Thank goodness she was still asleep. He couldn't begin to guess how he would have explained his staring had she caught him. The direction of his gaze and, yes, other evidence would have instantly convicted him. Had the moan been Della's? Or had it been his own release of rising tension? Perry shook his head; he had to get a grip! This was Della! His Secretary! Good grief, man, how cliché it all was, not to mention completely inappropriate!
As these thoughts flew through his mind, tumbling over one another in their haste, he heard again the soft moan. Definitely Della. She drew her arms in closer, tucked her hands under her chin, and tightened her legs around one another; her gentle expression tensed slightly around her eyes. Understanding broke through the haze of Perry's mind: she was cold. His attempts to revive himself had created an atmosphere not conducive to restful sleep. It must be below sixty degrees, he thought.
Stepping quickly to the main office door, Perry lowered the lights and retrieved his coat, tossed earlier over the bust of Blackstone. With stealthy, almost cat-like movement, he approached. Silently, he removed the papers from the sofa, then carefully, tenderly settled his long coat down over her slender form. With a reassuring look at her face, he reclaimed the papers and began to turn back toward the library.
Movement caught his eye and he froze. As if in slow motion, he saw Della move, his coat melting softly onto her as she began to relax. Her elegant hands took possession of the collar and pulled it up close around her shoulder; her face turned into the fabric. As she caressed the coat to her cheek, Perry heard her inhale, then release an easy sigh. His throat and chest tightened as, at the end of that sigh, he heard her soft, low whisper, "Perry." She burrowed into the coat and breathed his name. It sounded just the way he had long imagined.
He gripped the papers much tighter than was necessary. With shear will, he forced himself to turn and move to the library door, where he stopped briefly and turned for a last look. The starlight coming in through the glass doors bathed Della in a hazy light of dreams. Perry smiled and breathed a sigh of his own. Closing the door with care, he reached up and adjusted the thermostat a few degrees. He no longer needed the cold to keep him alert. He needed only to refocus himself on the case. Perry was wide awake.