TCOT Restless Redhead MM story by MarMar1
DISCLAIMER: The only rights I claim to "Perry Mason" are the rights of a fan who fell in love in the 1960s and is still in love today. I promise to return the characters unharmed.
SETTING: During and after "TCOT Restless Redhead" episode. It will help if you are familiar with the episode, but it is not critical.
AUTHOR'S NOTE 1: Since this was the first episode aired, for this story I am supposing that Della has worked for Perry for a few years. I also suppose that they have had a "personal relationship" for some of that time. Let's say she has worked for Perry for five years, the first 2 years they each struggled against their personal attraction, then came to their senses and have had a personal relationship for the past three years.
AUTHOR'S NOTE 2: Though the episode is, of course, in black & white, we learn from dialogue that Helene Chany and Evelyn Bagby each has red hair.
"The One That Got Away"
A Perry Mason MM story for "TCOT Restless Redhead"
"Della" Perry spoke into the pay station phone, "who was that fellow over at Magnum Studios, the one we helped out a few years ago? Do you remember?"
"You mean Randall Griffiths, the producer?" Della asked. Perry was always impressed with her ability to remember people, names, statements. She could often give him a run for his money in that area. Between the two of them there was little they could not recall, at least eventually.
"That's the one. Call him for me; see if you can get him to instruct the gate to let me onto the studio lot. I need a chance to talk with Helene Chany. I'm near there now."
"Helene Chany?" Della's voice dropped a bit and was a mixture of curiosity and levity. "Should I be jealous?"
Perry chuckled into the phone. "Hardly. She's recently made it onto my short list of suspects in the Merrill murder case." Perry spoke truthfully, but offered up a silent plea that Della really was just kidding him. The subtle things that made women jealous were still a mystery to him. "Time is of the essence. I'm counting on you to get Griffiths to agree." Perry knew how movie studios could be ultra protective of their stars.
"Okay, I'll make the call. Just don't come back here with strands of red hair on your jacket." Della teased. She loved to tease Perry, knowing that she had no reason to mistrust him.
Perry gazed around at the opulent home, the glitter of the small crowd in attendance. This was a far cry from the celebratory meal Perry had shared in the office with Della and Evelyn Bagby. Perry smiled to himself, remembering Della's teasing later that night as she pulled a strand or two of long red hair from his jacket. "Perhaps Mervyn Aldritch isn't the only one partial to redheads." She had challenged, her eyebrow lifting as she gave him a saucy look. Perry had proceeded to show her just what it was he was partial to in women.
"Well, Mr. Mason." Helene Chany glided up to greet them. She extended her hand, palm down, to Perry. She glanced at Della. "Miss Street." She smiled, then returned her attention to Perry, who dutifully set a light kiss to the back of her hand.
"Oh, please. Helene." Her smile was sincere. "I'm so glad Randall invited you. It gives me the opportunity to see you again and say 'thank you'."
Mervyn Aldritch approached and Helene leaned into him slightly as he offered his hand to Perry. "Mason." They shared a firm handshake. "Let me express again my appreciation for your efforts. I realize you did all you could to keep Helene in a low profile."
"Mr. Aldritch." Perry acknowledged him and smiled. "I saw no reason to sensationalize the story. I understand the glare of unwanted attention. I'm glad it worked out as it did."
Helene turned a seductive look toward Perry. "I know I, both of us, were on your list of suspects," her lips turned up in a smile, "but I don't blame you at all. In fact, should I ever again find myself in need of a criminal attorney, you will be my very first call." She warped her hands possessively around Aldritch's arm and added, "Do enjoy yourselves; Randall always hosts the most fabulous parties." Turning her attention to her fiancé, she said, "There's Stephan. We really must mingle." She continued to explain who Stephan was as they walked away.
Della kept her voice low and leaned in so Perry could hear. "You certainly made an impression, Counselor. You must hold some special charm for redheads." She turned innocent, twinkling eyes up to his.
Perry answered in a quiet tone, "It's brunettes I am interested in charming. One particular brunette, that is." He didn't look at her, but his hand caressed her back where the dress stopped and her skin started, the place where he would usually have expected the hooks of an undergarment. His eyes caught the approach of their host.
"Randall Griffiths," Perry greeted him with a smile and an extended hand.
At the sound of his name, the handsome, self-assured, tuxedoed man smoothly adjusted his attention from Della to Perry. He and the lawyer shook hands, exchanging greetings.
"Thanks for the invitation," Perry responded to Randall Griffiths' expression of appreciation for their arrival. "Don't often have a chance to hobnob with the members of your industry circle." Perry indicated the glittering, tuxedoes, bejeweled throng with a nod, noticing again more celebrities than he could quickly list.
Griffiths laughed. "Well, any party in this circle tends to grow beyond itself. I'm not totally sure who some of these people are. I definitely wanted to say my personal thanks to you, though. I know you could have been a lot rougher on Helene. We would have been rushing out the fire fighting publicity crews. I want you to know I respect what you did."
"Well, no sense doing harm where it can be avoided." Perry answered, noting that the other man's attention was shifting again.
Della lifted both her hands to Griffiths' as he reached toward her. Perry wondered if he had intended to hug her. Well, Hollywood types did that.
"Della, you are as lovely as ever." He said as he leaned in to kiss her. Perry noticed that she turned her head gently to accept the kiss on her cheek.
"Hello, Randy." She smiled and the twinkle in her eyes was warm. "It's good to see you."
"I can't tell you how thrilled I was to hear your voice on the line last week. I hoped you had finally reconsidered." He stood close to her, looking directly down into her eyes.
Pulling himself back to the larger group, Griffiths said, "Come with me, I want to introduce you around." He easily took possession of Della's arm, placed himself between Perry and Della, and led them into the foray.
Sometime later, Perry stood at the edge of the party, watching as the glitterati flowed like a moving stream. Always an observer of people, he found himself highly intrigued and entertained. The evening had been most enjoyable. He and Della had chatted with the few people they knew. Together and separately they had made numerous new acquaintances.
Perry was always proud to be with Della. She was not only beautiful, but one of the most charming people he had ever known. Though she had often told him he was her favorite party companion, she was never clingy. She moved easily between conversations, joining various groups, just as he did, and generally had a good time.
Tonight had been no exception. They had each ridden the flow of the party, sharing in the festive mood, enjoying the times when they found themselves again together. In spite of the numerous distractions, though, Perry was never unaware of Della's location. Never for long, anyway. Of all the people he enjoyed watching, none gave him more pleasure than Della.
Her throaty laughter caught his attention and he moved to stand in the shadows by the open French doors. The party lights outside, sparkling on the water of the waterfall and Koi pond, gave more than enough illumination. The lawn was dotted with people in couples and small groups and caterer staffed tables held unnumbered treats.
Perry's focus was on Della. He always delighted in being able to watch her when she was unaware, but it was a special treat this evening. She was exquisite. Her gown was a deep emerald shade. Over a fitted bodice was an alluringly draped neckline that dropped just past the line of modesty. The matching back draped dangerously low and the fit of the bodice melted into a very feminine floor length skirt that moved easily, hinting at the treasures it covered. Hanging from a delicate chain about her neck, the sparkle of a pendant drew the eye to the hint of womanly roundness just evident at the drape of the dress. Matching earrings dangled against her dark hair. The jewelry had been a gift from Perry two years ago.
Perry was very aware of the attention the other men at the gathering had paid to the dress and the woman wearing it. Even in this crowd of diamonds and movie stars, Della stood apart. Not in a loud or shocking way, but in a warm, subtle way. Perry smiled as the analogy came to mind. The other women were like fireworks you watched on New Year's Eve. They were spectacular; they could grab attention; but they were limited in their colors and once their sparkle was shown, they faded to nothing.
Della was no short lived fireworks. No, she was something altogether different. Della was the fire you sat beside while you watched the fireworks display on New Year's Eve. Those fireworks might dazzle for a moment, but the fire was warm and constant. It played out endless colors and patterns, the longer you looked, the more you would see. There was warmth and beauty, comfort and safety, power and danger contained and, with some skillful attention, the fire would continue to burn.
"She really is something." A voice broke into Perry's reverie.
Turning his head, Perry saw that Randall Griffiths had joined him in the shadows. At the questioning look on the lawyer's face, Griffiths continued.
"Della." He let his own gaze follow the same line that Perry's had. "I noticed you watching her." Both men allowed there attention to settle on the woman in question as she shared conversation with a small group.
"In fact, I have noticed several times this evening that you are always quite aware of her location, even when you are not watching her." Griffiths let his eyes slip sideways, checking for the other man's reaction. "I can't blame you, of course. She is remarkable."
Not for the first time, Perry wondered at Griffiths' comments. He seemed to know Della more than casually from his business dealings with Perry four years prior. He had certainly been familiar in attitude and action at their initial greeting. Perry remembered Della's greeting to Griffiths'; "Randy."
"I meant what I said earlier," Griffiths went on. "I was delighted to hear Della on the phone when she called. I was just as disappointed to learn she was calling to ask a favor for you." He finally pulled his attention from the distance and focused it on Perry.
"I needed to see Helene Chany." Perry explained unnecessarily. "It couldn't wait." He wondered what Griffiths had meant earlier: "I hoped you had finally reconsidered."
"Yes, well, I was happy to oblige, though I was disappointed." He paused, gauging the reaction of his audience. "Della is a rare woman, Perry." He turned, once more watching the scene on the lawn rather than the man to whom he spoke. "I suppose I don't need to tell you that." A wistful quality laced his voice.
"No," Perry said with certainty. "That is a fact of which I am keenly aware."
"How could you not be?" It was a statement more than a question. "Seeing her everyday, working with her, only a fool would miss it." They stood silently for a moment, Randall Griffiths remembering, Perry wondering.
"Did she ever tell you," Griffiths broke their silence, "about the screen test?"
Perry's eyebrow arched, but he kept his words to a minimum. He knew better than to interrupt a witness who was willing to talk. "No, she never did." For a long moment he felt his host's searching gaze. Then, having evidently reached a decision, his gaze once more joined Perry's in the direction of Della.
"I pursued her, you know." Griffiths' voice was warm and easy, not quite confessional. "I hadn't been in your office more that twice when I knew she was no ordinary woman. It wasn't just her beauty; there is just something..." He shook his head slightly, an indication he was still at a loss to explain in words what he meant.
Perry understood completely.
"I took her to dinner." He continued. "I wasn't sure she would accept my invitation. I wasn't sure...well, with the two of you in your office; it just seemed there was something more, something..." Again he cut himself off without completing his thought.
"When she did accept, I let myself believe that was the only hurdle. I did my best to sweep her off her feet. I wined and dined, did everything I could to impress her. I believe she enjoyed our time together."
Perry was beginning to wonder just how much he really wanted to hear. Of course, this had been four years ago; perhaps a year before he had cleared his head enough and gotten the nerve to kiss her for the first time. Still, he squirmed a little inside as Griffiths continued to speak.
"A man in my position, well, it isn't usually a problem holding the interest and attention of young ladies." He paused. "Della was different. She has something special. I asked her to read for me; to let me tape a screen test. It took some persuasion, but she eventually relented." He suddenly looked directly at Perry, waiting until their eyes met. "Don't misunderstand me, Mason. This was not an attempt at conquest on my part. I have never been more sincere in my life."
Perry simply nodded, unable to find words to fit the occasion, his mind burning with unanswered questions.
"I tried, more than I had ever tried before...or since." His eyes tightened, a look of loss coated his classic good looks. "It wasn't long, really, before Della let me know that she couldn't see me any more. I took some convincing before I accepted that she meant it." Griffiths released a long sigh. "I think she had realized how serious I was. She seemed to think it unfair to see me, to lead me on."
Perry absorbed the man's words. He knew the events Griffiths talked of were in the past by four years, a time when he and Della had no relationship beyond that of the office. That tempered the jealousy a little. Still, the questions mounted. Della had never said a thing.
"That screen test," Griffiths' voice pulled Perry's attention back to the conversation. "That screen test is the best thing I have ever seen." The sincerity of his words was evident in the way he spoke. "I offered her everything. Fame...fortune...marriage."
Perry's attention was instantly heightened. This man had asked Della to marry him? My God, how was it he knew nothing of this? How had he been so totally unaware?
"I still have the screen test. You ought to stop by sometime to see it." The offer was genuine, almost eager. They spoke face to face now. "I show that test to producers, directors. I explain to them this is what we should be looking for. This quality I can not explain, I have to show them. I tell them it is not a trick of the lighting or the camera."
Griffiths laughed easily. "Some have seen the test more than once. They have heard my plea. Now, when I mention the test, when I even begin to describe a woman or a character, they trade knowing looks and tease me about it." He offered Perry a slightly chagrinned look. Perry was struck by the genuineness of this man.
"They have a name for that tape. Randy's screen test, they say, they call it 'The One That Got Away'."
Perry noted the touch of sadness and longing in the man's expression as he gazed out at Della. Then Griffiths turned again to face Perry.
"I like you, Perry. I'm glad." He extended his hand, Perry offered his own and they shook.
With a tilt of his head toward the lawn, Griffiths said, "'The One That Got Away'. Somehow, I don't think you'll have that problem." He offered a warm smile, executed a slight bow. Turning away from the lawn, he returned to the light and sparkle of the quests indoors.
Perry watched as his host was welcomed into the group inside. His mind was carefully filing away questions; questions he knew would beg for answers until the answers were learned.
As he looked again out over the lawn and his eyes adjusted once more to the lower light, they met Della's. He was sure he could physically feel the connection. As he watched, she excused herself from the small group and moved toward him as he stood at the edge of the shadows.
Perry felt his heartbeat change; he felt his lips begin to form a smile. He felt the connection as he watched Della glide across the lawn, the skirt of her gown swirling about her legs, the drape of the bodice swaying in a tantalizing rhythm.
He knew that his smile was growing wider with every step she took. He knew that she would reach out her hand to him just before she was close enough for him to reach it. He knew that it would not be long before they bid their host good-night.
Mostly, he knew that he had no intention of ever letting her be 'the one that got away'.