I have a plan for this, but I have no idea, if it'll work out... so be patient with me ;-) This my first Perry Mason fanfiction and I don't have to mention that I do not own the characters. They belong to Erle Stanley Gardner and the CBS.
TCOT Returning Relative
Della emptied her cup of coffee and put it into the sink under the window. One last look out of the window told her it was one of the somehow 'cold' days in fall. It was a bit cloudy and she decided to take a light coat with her. Where she came from the first snow was falling these days. Her brother had told about the sudden onset of winter with freezing temperatures and a very cold wind from the mountains that was the first sign of snow. Maybe she should try and make it home for Christmas or at least Thanksgiving this year. She missed her home. Sometimes deeply, but if Perry would have another case… it wouldn't be the first Christmas they would be locked in the office using the Holiday to get someone out of prison. It was always nice and even cosy, but on the other hand she missed her family on those days.
Her phone rang, disturbing her in her thoughts. A smile appeared on her face when no one else than her beloved Aunt Mae was the one at the other end of the line.
"Thinking of the devil," Della said with a laugh. "I was just thinking of you."
"Devil is maybe the right word," her Aunt retorted without paying attention to Della's good mood.
"Is anything wrong?" Della asked, alarmed by the seriousness in Mae's voice.
"Della, you have to come home. Something has happened."
When Della entered the office about one hour later she was still absent-minded and a bit shaken. A part of her was still hoping Aunt Mae had gone mad and had told her an incredible lie. But she had learned while working for a man who used to defend people who were accused of lies that one always had to exclude what was impossible to get to know what was possible and as much as it hurt: what Mae had told her wasn't impossible. All she could do now was going back into the little town she came from and pick up the pieces.
"Hi Gertie," she greeted her colleague less enthusiastic than usual.
"Perfect. Mr. Mason is out…"
"Out?" Della raised her eyebrow. "I thought he has no appointment this morning."
"It's not that kind of appointment," Gertie said sheepishly. "A woman was here. Tall and elegant… she said she wanted to see him and didn't even wait for me to announce her… said she wanted to surprise him."
"And who was it?" Della asked and her curiosity almost made her forgot that she had come to ask for some days off.
"She didn't say her name, but when they left Mr. Mason called her Laura."
"Laura…" Della repeated. Could her day get any worse? Apparently. "Okay. Has he told you when he intends to be back?"
"No, but he told me to make a reservation for lunch at the "Claridge". For two of course."
Disappointed with everything Della strode into her office and closed the door. What could she do now? Leaving just like this wasn't her style. He would surely understand her motivation, but disappearing without any personal explanation seemed low. Was low. But she had to go. She had to go immediately… She could talk to Paul. Paul could tell Perry. That way she wouldn't have to disturb his day with Laura. Laura… she couldn't help herself, but thinking of her made her physical sick. She had only met her once and had disliked her from the very first second. The feeling was absolutely mutual, which was a relief. They had learned to avoid one another on the very few occasions Laura decided to pay Perry a visit. Deep down inside Della was sure Laura's visits were motivated by the wish not to be forgotten rather instead of keeping in friendly touch with the man who had wanted to marry her once.
Laura belonged to the kind of woman that needed to be admired and cherished by men. Women who usually didn't fall for a pair of great legs and beautiful eyes didn't belong to the audience she liked to entertain and therefore they got mostly ignored. And Laura loved ignoring her.
Della sighed disgusted and picked up the receiver of her phone. Time to call Paul Drake.
When Perry Mason returned with Laura at his arm to his office after lunch he had expected to find his secretary where she used to be. Behind her desk. Unfortunately everything he found was an empty chair.
"Excuse me for a moment," he said to Laura and turned to the door. "Gertie," he called. "Where's Della?"
"She left several hours…" Gertie said with a hint of uncertainty in her voice.
"She left… when will she be back?"
"I don't know, Sir. She hasn't told me a thing."
Perry wrinkled his forehead. It wasn't like Della not to work. She always worked. She even worked when he told her to give it a rest.
"Anything wrong?" Laura asked.
"It's not like her," Perry said and shook his head.
"Maybe she has an appointment… a date. Something like that." Laura shrugged.
"She never has dates." Was the first sentence that came to his mind, but he wisely kept it for himself.
"Yes, maybe," he said instead and opened the door to his office for her. He checked his desk, but there was no message left for him. Should he be worried? He decided not to become worried since Della was a big girl. She would call him later. He offered Laura a seat.
"I like your office," Laura remarked, hoping to regain his attention.
"Yes, me too."
"Are you sure you don't want a new partner sooner or later?"
"I like working alone… I bother no one and no one bothers me."
"You're still the same old solitaire."
"An immovable object you wanted to say." They chuckled and he leaned back. "But seriously. No, I'm happy the way I am."
"I can see that," Laura mused. "Who would have guessed?"
"Not me." Perry said and opened a new box with cigarettes. A knock at the back door kept him from offering one to Laura. It was Paul and he looked a bit exasperated.
"Perry? Finally!" But Perry cut him off, introducing Laura to Paul.
"Paul, that's Laura Worthington. Paul Drake, my private investigator."
"I feel more like a postman today," Paul exclaimed in his usual manner and ignored Laura more or less completely. "Can you tell me what's going on with your secretary?"
"Why?" Perry asked with growing curiosity.
"Because she paid me a visit today. She gave me this," he pulled out an envelope and gave it to Perry. "And told me to tell you she would take some days off. A family problem as she called it, but she looked as if her best friend had just died."
Perry looked at the envelope in his hand. His name was written on it. It was her handwriting, though a bit stiffer than it used to be or was he imagining things?
"I told you she had something better to do," Laura said to make herself known again.
"Maybe… all I know she didn't look well and she was trembling. Look, I know you have had your problems since the famous Janet Brent disaster, but…"
"We don't have problems," Perry said sternly. "She was fine when I left yesterday."
"Alright. Alright. I'll be quiet. Have a nice day." He nodded at Laura and left the office. Perry, now oblivious to Laura's presence in his office just stared at the envelope.
"Maybe I should go now." Laura rose from chair, tired of being ignored.
"Yes, my plane takes off at five."
He rose as well and put the envelope in the pocket of his jacket. "I'll drive you."