Title: "The Interview-Perry" The interview that changed his life forever.
Author: bibliophile tropicale
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters of Perry Mason and Della Street. My reward is not monetary. The only reward is the pleasure of bringing these characters to life in story form.
Summary: What were Perry and Della thinking when they meet for the first time? What events brought them to this fateful encounter?
Acknowledgments: I would like to thank my beta reader for her time, patience, critiquing, correcting and encouragement. She has been a most gracious teacher!
Feedback is welcome!
The character "Bull Johnson" is dedicated to the Honorable Thomas Johnson, Juvenile Court Judge. Judge Johnson was a life-long Perry Mason admirer and would have been pleased to be written as his mentor.
The name "Bull" started as a nickname for the character attorney, Thomas Johnson. The nickname developed in his football years as a "bullish" player, a large, well-built player who easily charged through the line and intimidated players on the other team. As a lawyer, he was a fierce and dynamic competitor, charging through any case in pursuit of justice.
Perry Mason-Della Street
Mason moved smoothly down the courthouse steps. To his right, a noisy throng of reporters and photographers pursued an attorney and his client as they made their way to a waiting limousine, then surrounded them as they reached the bottom. Mason's steps slowed as he watched them from his peripheral vision. The client pulled his coat up to shield his face, as his attorney barked "No comment" over and over again. The hiss and crack of flashbulbs and a cacophony of voices continued until the door of the limo opened and the client and attorney disappeared inside. The limo tires squealed as the car sped away leaving a dozen or more reporters and photographers milling about until one tired reporter turned and sprinted across the pavement toward Perry Mason.
"Mr. Mason!" he called. The mass of reporters and photographers followed his lead. Other reporters called, "Mr. Mason."
Perry Mason walked briskly to the curb, turned toward traffic, raised his hand to hail a taxi. Within seconds, he was surrounded. Several cameras flashed as reporters with pads pressed closer to the attorney.
"Mr. Mason is it true you will be defending movie mogul, Colt Richardson, in his divorce from actress Summer Lane?"
Perry Mason turned, holding his briefcase near his chest; he smiled slightly as he gazed into their tense, anxious faces, waiting for some small tidbit of printable news.
"Gentlemen, isn't it rather late for a fishing expedition?"
The young reporter, who seemed to lead the pack, relaxed and the feeling seemed to spread through the group.
Perry Mason looked down kindly at the young cub reporter. "Joe, it's late; let's all go home." Mason turned and flagged a taxi. The yellow cab slid to the curb.
"Next time, Mr. Mason?"
The lawyer smiled slightly as he opened the door to the cab. "Next time, Joe." He turned to face the group. "Good day, gentlemen."
The cab moved out into traffic as he settled back into the seat, his briefcase still pressed against his chest. The young reporter had no idea how Perry detested litigating divorces and would never considered taking one. However, it was always useful to have friends and connections in the press.
The cars, buildings and pedestrians become a blur as the driver skillfully maneuvered through the crowded L.A. streets. Mason still had several more hours of work before he could call it a day.
The letter, he had forgotten the letter. During the first few months, they had exchanged phones calls, both playing phone tag; the time between calls grew longer and now a year had passed. They had seen each other twice, each managing to get away from their hectic schedule one time. His slender fingers slipped inside his jacket pocket and retrieved the legal size envelope, his name handwritten in stylish script. He brought the envelope to his nose and smelled the subtle fragrance before his finger gently ran along the seam opening it. The parchment was crisp, the script stylish, and the letterhead professional.
My Dearest Perry,
The view of the mountains from my office window is spectacular, my days filled with incredible challenges. My life would be perfect if only you were here with me. I miss you terribly.
For a moment he paused, the letter lowered, his eyes and mind drifting to another place and time.
Laura Donaldson and the California Trial Lawyers Convention.
Casually he chatted with a small group of attorneys from the last session of the day when he heard a booming voice.
"Well if it's not Perry Mason!"
A large, barreled-chested gentlemen with salt and pepper hair moved purposefully across the lobby toward him. Mason turned, grinning broadly he meet the gentleman, shaking hands, exchanging bear hugs with vigorous backslapping.
"Perry, it's great seeing you again!"
"The feeling is mutual, Bull!
Perry Mason turned to the group. "Gentlemen, this is the finest trial lawyer in the state of California, Bull Johnson."
Johnson's dark eyes sparked, winked. "I'm afraid Perry here is prone to exaggerations, gentlemen."
One of the younger men smiled. "With all due respect sir, we have heard of you. Your reputation as a tenacious adversary is well known."
Perry Mason marveled at the youthful appearance of his mentor, the smooth skin of his face, the vital spark in his eyes, and the youthful swagger in his step. He remembered fondly the weekends they'd spent hunting and fishing in the wild. The fresh air of the great outdoors seemed to be the secret tonic of Bull Johnson's longevity and youthful vigor.
Bull bowed with humility. "Gentlemen, I am honored. But if you will excuse us, I have some matters to discuss with Mr. Mason."
The young men nodded as they watched Johnson lead away their new acquaintance.
"Let me buy you a drink, Perry. It will be like old times."
Easily they fell in stride heading for the convention center's restaurant and lounge. The lounge was crowded with attorneys who were continuing their session discussions from earlier in the day. The room was like an old boys club, the male banter, cigar and cigarette smoke spreading like a fog.
Johnson found an empty table and hailed a server, one of the few women in the room. "Two dry martinis."
Perry Mason stretched his longs legs beneath the table relaxing. Out of habit, his eyes began moving around the room performing character studies.
"Still a student of human nature?" Bull asked, watching his young protégé.
The younger attorney smiled. "You know me well."
The server returned with their drinks and disappeared.
The older man raised his glass for a toast, then paused. "What will it be, Perry?"
Perry Mason smiled as he raised his glass. "Truth and justice."
Bull chuckled as he touched his glass. "That's my boy!"
Both men brought their drinks to their lips, while each studied the other one over the rim of their glasses.
Johnson marveled at the handsome face that could be poker hard and those eyes, large doe eye; that could be both mesmerizing and penetrating. "I've been hearing some good things about you, Perry."
Mason smiled slightly.
"I've been hearing you're quite a fighter. Like my old football coach use to say, 'Johnson make those boys afraid to guard you, intimidate them, make them fear you.'" He paused and looked at the younger attorney with appreciation. "You're making a name for yourself."
Perry Mason shifted in his seat, feeling the affects of the martini. "I'm doing alright, Bull. My clients deserve their day in court; they deserve the best defense I can give them."
Suddenly the corner of the bar in front of them grew loud with voices and like a wave, a few men stepped to the side to reveal the center of attention. A young woman in an elegant cobalt blue dress sat perched on the stool; a shapely leg dangled loosely, one hand nursed a drink, the other boldly gesturing. The discussion was heated, the young woman smiling, enjoying the verbal sparring with the cluster of admiring males.
Bull Johnson grinned as he watched the drama unfold.
"Do you know who she is?"
Perry's eyes swept over the young woman, realizing she was one of the few women in the room who was not a server or an escort. He shook his head in response to Bull's question.
"I attended one of her sessions today. She's like a bolt of lightning. That, Perry, is a firecracker!"
Mason turned to look into his mentor's face.
"You heard me," Johnson continued, "a firecracker, a stick of dynamite. She's a litigator who oozes sex appeal."
Both men turned to watch the shapely brunette toss her head, finish her drink in one gulp, and then turned to meet their gaze.
"Hey, where are you going?" One of the men from the bar asked as she slid from the stool and walked to the table where Johnson and Mason were sitting.
"Mr. Johnson!" she greeted as both men stood. Bull pulled out a chair for her to sit with them.
Bull Johnson beamed and extended his hand. "I'm glad we meet again. I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine who did not have the good fortune to be in your session today. Laura Donaldson, I would like to introduce you to Perry Mason. Perry, this is Laura Donaldson."
Before the introduction was complete, Laura Donaldson had extended her hand, their eyes eagerly studying the other.
The taxi jerked slightly, the cabbie cursing at the driver who abruptly changed lanes. Perry Mason resumed reading the letter.
The firm would be interested in having you as an associate, Perry. Our client list reads like a who's who of Denver's most prominent citizens. You would be perfect for our firm. If only you were here, you should be here. Please reconsider; I want us to be together again.
Mason leaned back in the cushions of the seat and closed his eyes.
Laura Donaldson was a firecracker and he the match. Together, they exploded. Dinner, dancing, heated debates, and passionate lovemaking. Their schedules were difficult. Stealing time at every opportunity, they would meet, their time together short and intense.
Then one evening as they lay breathless, their limbs intertwined, Laura shared her news. The opportunity of a lifetime had presented itself. She would join Denver's prestigious law firm of Robertson, Stein, Moore and Whittier, the firm representing Denver's elite. "With your credentials, Perry, you could be a part of the firm; you could be an associate and then move up to full partner."
Later that night as she slept in his arms, he stared at the ceiling, his mind racing as he pondered the possibility. The possibility of moving to Denver, becoming a part of a legal firm and becoming part of the social and political Denver machine.
At the end of the month, they waited in a secluded area of the airport away from media attention. Laura stood stoically, her fingers nervously holding her ticket and boarding pass.
"Perry." She began softly, her eyes growing moist.
Gently he placed his fingers to her lips. "Please," he whispered, "let's not make this even more difficult."
For a moment, he looked out on the tarmac. The baggage was loaded into the belly of a 747. The words came so easily in front of a jury, but this was different. The words now would come from the heart.
"Please come with me." she whispered.
He sighed deeply, looked away as he felt his own eyes growing moist. "I'm sorry," he said softly. "I can't, not now."
The voice over the loud speaker announced, "American Flight 278 leaving for Denver, departing at gate 4."
Laura stepped closer, her hands resting on his chest, unable to meet his eyes. "Will you call?"
He took her face between his hands bringing her eyes to meet his.
"I'll call. I'll visit." He whispered. He watched as her lips quivered and tears flowed down her cheeks.
"Passengers on American Flight 278 to Denver should be boarding at this time."
Laura's arms circled his neck bringing his face down to hers, their lips lightly touching at first. His arms circled her, pulling her closer. Feeling the warmth of her body against his, their embrace grew more passionate.
"Mr. Mason." The taxi driver asked. "Are you alright?"
Perry Mason opened his eyes. "Um yeah, it's been a long day."
The driver glanced up again in the mirror as he brought the cab to the curb in front of the Brent Building. The attorney opened his wallet and paid the fare plus a generous tip.
"Thank you, Mr. Mason. Anytime!"
The attorney slid from the back of the taxi and sprinted across to the lobby and elevator. The operator glanced up at the tall man with the imposing presence.
"Working late again?"
He smiled slightly. "No rest for the wicked, Nancy."
The elderly woman guffawed. "That makes two of us." She stopped the elevator at his floor.
Mason stepped out and headed to the door to his private office when Paul Drake slipped around the corner and easily fell in step with the lawyer.
"Hey, Perry, I got the goods on Michael Metcalf. I had some of my men do some digging around at records, turns out our Mr. Metcalf is still married to wife number one. I put a tail on him and he's taken up with some blonde dish down in Bel Air."
"The devil!" Perry Mason stopped, his eyes moving in thought. "The preliminary hearing starts next week. Any word from homicide?"
"My sources there haven't turned up anything new. But you can bet Lt. Tragg has left no stone unturned."
The lawyer smiled at Drake. "Of that we can be certain, Tragg, if nothing else, is thorough. But, as always, we want him to think we're verifying everything."
Mason slipped the key into the lock.
"By the way," Paul Drake continued, "the guys want to know when you'll sit in on our poker games again?"
Perry opened the door, turned to face his long time friend, with a dimpled smile of mischief. "I didn't think your guys ever wanted to play poker with me again. What do they want, a chance to win their money back?"
Drake shrugged. "Hey, I had to ask. And yeah, they want to take a crack at winning back their money."
"Keep me posted," Mason called back as he stepped into his office.
"Later." The PI turned and moved down the hallway.
Perry Mason slipped into his law library, opened his briefcase and began laying out papers in distinct piles. The door opened and Katherine Graham stepped in from her office.
"Tired?" she asked with some concern.
"Beyond tired," He responded. "The preliminary hearing for Eileen Davis starts next Tuesday. Mark that on our calendar. Paul Drake will be dropping by with information he's digging up on Michael Metcalfe."
"I have some letters for you to sign." Katherine laid the papers out on the table and presented the lawyer with the pen. Quickly he scanned over the letters and with a flourish signed each of them and handed them back to her.
"The brief was delivered to the courthouse, and the district attorney sent over the witness list and discovery items concerning the Eileen Davis case."
Mason nodded as he began the search of the titles of the books on the shelf behind them.
"Perry." Katherine Graham spoke firmly. Hearing the change in her tone, he looked up from the journal he was perusing.
"It's time." She replied flatly. "I have another interviewee. She's waiting in my office."
"Katherine," he grumbled, shaking his head. "Can't you stay a little longer?"
Katherine smiled. "Perry, when Bull Johnson called me I was scanning brochures on cruises. I can hear his voice. 'Come on, Kate, just one more adventure.'"
Perry Mason smiled slightly. "One more adventure huh?" His face turned serious again. "Can't you make the decision; you know what qualifications are needed. Interviewing candidates, well, it's worse than answering mail!"
She gave a husky laugh. "I'm sorry, Perry, you're going to have to bite the bullet on this one. I have five more candidates lined up. You'll need to make the final decision."
"Slave driver!" he protested.
His secretary chuckled. "That's what Bull use to say. Her name is Della Street. I'll send her in and be nice!"
Mason nodded as she disappeared out the door.
Slowly he placed Laura's letter in the book and closed it, his fingers rubbing the leather cover.
Should he take the opportunity in Denver and become part of a prestigious and powerful law firm? Should he become part of the social and political Denver machine? It wasn't nearly as bloated or cumbersome as LA's, leaving room for talented newcomers to influence the system. Did he love Laura enough to make the transition from a solo fighter to a team player? Could he go from defending the underdog to defending the top dog? After the Eileen Davis case, would he take down his shingle and move to Denver? Was a new secretary really necessary?
The young woman was waiting in his office; he would politely meet with her and then send her on her way. Picking up the book, he walked out of his library. He stepped into the center of the room and stopped; she stood with her back to him, her hands adjusting the fedora hat on Justice Blackstone. His eyes swept over the tailored suit, noting how it accentuated the sensuous curve of her hips and the slender long legs. 'Della Street' he mused. His eyes moved in thought. His finger gently rubbed the leather bound book in his hand. Street. Before the crash, a successful businessman, Street, was it the same Street? His eyes moved over her, pondering the possible connection.
"Miss Street, I presume."
She turned to face him, at first nervous and embarrassed, then squared her shoulders regaining her composure, meeting his eyes with a steady gaze.
"Yes, Mr. Mason, I'm Della Street." She responded coolly. With an easy elegance, she crossed the floor and gave him her hand. He found her fascinating to watch, a walking contradiction, a cross between a debutante and working girl. Even her clothes were elegant yet businesslike, the way she carried herself, her poise, her manner a contradiction. Her dark wavy hair was short and stylish, her face flawless, and her eyes dark with mystery. Her fingers were soft and strong. How long had he held her hand? Too long. He quickly released it and gestured for her to take the chair by his desk.
He placed the book by the blotter as she slipped her resume' across his desk. Briefly, he glanced at the resume' before sliding it off to the side. At this point, the information he wanted was not on her resume'; the biggest mystery sat before him.
"My secretary feels your credentials are excellent Miss Street." He tilted his head to the side watching her every nuance. "But I have some questions of my own."
Suddenly he was in the courtroom, circling the witness stand, studying the witness, watching every move, the rate of breathing, the blink rate, facial ticks, his mere presence meant to penetrate their very soul. She met his intense gaze without flinching; he found his own heartbeat increasing, his body growing stimulated.
"The legal department of Sterling & Price handles mainly contract disputes and civil litigation. Miss Street, I'm a trial lawyer specializing in criminal cases. Why would you want to work for a criminal law attorney, especially me?"
Her eyes studied him intently. "I have followed your cases, and I think we would make a good team."
His face remained impassive, his eyelashes fluttered slightly, but he could feel his heart pounding. 'We would make a good team!' My God, what was she saying?
"Yes, Mr. Mason, a good team. When someone is charged with murder, their life is on the line. You need someone who can help keep your ideas and insights organized in a way that enables you to see the whole picture. I'm very organized and enjoy a challenge. How you defend your clients interests me. Your cases are not the usual cut and dried litigation. I like that."
He sought a crack in her composure. "Do you understand that criminal cases are messy and raw? The details can be horrifying and brutal. Criminal law involves the most base of human nature."
Her gaze was unrelenting; her body leaned slightly closer to him. He found her even more exciting. He fought to control his breathing, his voice slowing. "Criminal cases involved the lowest of human instincts lying…cheating…stealing…infidelity,,, and …."
"Murder." She continued his thought. He tried desperately to hold back a smile. My God, how she amused and fascinated him.
"I need a secretary who can take the tumbles of a rough business. Murder is not pretty or a convenient 9 to 5 job."
"It's 24/7." She finished his sentence again.
Leaning back in his chair, he tried to control his growing emotions, his eyes moving back and forth between Della Street and the bust of Justice Blackstone. What a delightful package!
"When I came in you were adjusting the hat over there." He nodded in the direction of the bust. "Tell me what else did you notice about your surroundings?"
Her eyebrows rose provocatively. "Well the office is neat, organized, dignified and efficient. The furnishings are modern, functional, showing signs of a strong, forceful personality. The bust of Justice Blackstone is a tribute of respect for the legal system and the hat…" She paused dramatically. "The hat on the bust is a sign of rebellion. A sign of a nonconformist, an unconventional personality who respects the letter of the law but is more interested in justice….the spirit of the law."
She leaned forward and flashed the most beautiful smile he'd ever seen, "And the scent of the cologne on the hat is 'Old Spice'."
For a moment he felt light-headed. She intoxicated him like some heady liquor with an aura of mystery mixed with an easy sensuality, coupled with astute observational skills. Was it possible; could she be his kindred spirit? Carefully he pulled himself to his full height and before he could give it a second thought he asked.
"When can you start, Miss Street?"
"As soon as I give Sterling & Price my notice." Della smiled, slowly rising.
"My secretary will be in touch."
He eased around his desk to stand beside her, his hand eagerly taking her hand in his. All too quickly, her hand slipped from his and she moved toward the door.
Her smile tasted sweet like candy. He wanted another taste. Would she flash that radiant smile again? Holding the door he waited for her to pass before adding. "By the way, your observations are correct. I am unconventional." She turned to face him as he added. "And the cologne is 'Old Spice'."
Pleased, her eyes sparkled as she once again flashed the smile that he would never forget.