The Wallet—-Chapter 3
Della Street's apartment
Mason clamped on his hat and pulled his jacket collar up before opening the door to Harry's alcove and making a mad dash through the storm. The rain hurled down in torrents as he ran up the street and around the corner, jerked open the car door and hopped inside. The water dripped from the edges of his hat. His shoes were totally soaked and he didn't care. Staring out the foggy windshield, he realized he felt a strange mix of anger, empathy and euphoria. The last hour had been one wild ride with Tom Robertson.
First, he was angry at the man's supposition that he could be bought. Tom certainly had nerve in thinking he could be a legal headhunter and lure Della away. But was he really trying to 'acquire' Della? No. Robertson had driven home his salient point with precision, as precise as Mason's own talents in eliciting a confession from a guilty witness. Robertson wanted Mason to know how lucky he was to be in love with someone like Della ….and to have her return it. Perry felt euphoric. The check was a symbol of how there would never be enough zeroes to compensate what he had with her.
However, Perry had needed to play the game, to deliver the final blow when the other lawyer had revealed his soft underbelly. The result had been bittersweet. Tom was in love with a woman they both knew he could never have and there was nothing he could do about it. Perry empathized with him and understood his torment.
Robertson had proven his case. Mason knew he was to be envied. He was a lucky man. He'd found a treasure in Della and was free to pursue her and build a future with her. She had filled all the voids in his life, made him a better lawyer, a better man and at the same time, found her own mutual satisfaction as she both thrived and blossomed in the practice's challenging schedule and difficult workload. Together, through their shared goals and efforts, they had created a flourishing and respected legal practice. Their office efficiency and after-hours' smoothness on the dance floor, was reflected in the courtroom, where they easily moved with a succinct and unified purpose.
Mason, you're one hell of a lucky guy! His lips pulled into loop-sided little grin as he slipped the key into the ignition, spurred on by Tom's admonition. "He should hurry. Della would be finishing Casablanca about now."
The lawyer put the big engine through its paces, propelling the car along the rainy streets, arriving in record time at Della's apartment building. When he got there, however, he fought the desire to jump out and run to be with her. Something was niggling at the edge of his brain and he could no longer ignore it.
Years of examining every piece of evidence from every angle to gain insight to every possible chance of victory for a client fighting for their freedom or the right not to sit on death row was winning over the desire to ignore Tom Robertson's words. Perry gave up the fight and recalled all of Tom's key words.
"I can see why Laura loves you…... …It was a victory she relished ...….. all the rest of us...… are mere mortals."
Was Tom referring not only about himself but also his own son as mere mortals? He had said 'loves' not 'loved'. Did she marry a man she didn't love and was Glen as aware of it as his father? Had she wanted him in Denver to win some personal victory? Sure, they had their differences but had he been totally blind to certain parts of her character or had he simply ignored them because of their physical attraction?
He went back over Laura's overtures. There was no denying her desire to rekindle what they once had, give them another chance. And yet, the elaborate wedding had occurred in less than a year. Which if the reports from some of his colleagues were right, those events took close to a year to organize since so many of the reception halls were booked many months in advance.
Had she married on the rebound or already been engaged? 'No', he didn't even want to consider the other possibility. But if it was true, then Della was a gift beyond comprehension.
Carefully he retrieved the check from his pocket, took out a pen, placed the check on the dash and signed the check with an elegant flourish, Tom Robertson and in the memo section printed, Della Street. Placing the check in his jacket pocket, he jerked open the car door and made a mad dash to the entrance.
Skipping the elevator, he took two steps at a time to reach her floor and stood for a moment at her door. Catching his breath, he noticed the water dripping from the brim of his hat and felt it soaking through his shoes and didn't care. He was outside Della's door and that was all that mattered.
Her apartment was her sanctuary; it was solely hers, orderly and feminine. He had lovingly explored every physical part of her and still she remained a mystery to him and her apartment a symbol of her feminine mystique.
He started to bring up his hands to quietly knock when he heard the faint sound of a television and music. For a moment he held his breath and listened, recognizing the tune .….. 'As Time Goes By'.
Perry shook his head. Robertson was to be admired; he had observed and inferred observed so much in a very short period of time. He was a worthy opponent.
Mason knocked, and seconds turned into centuries before he heard the sound of the television disappear and footsteps approaching the door. Slowly the door opened a crack, revealing a pair of hazel eyes.
"Perry?" Della whispered as her eyes swept by him. "Is Tom with you?"
His eyes moved over the damp wavy hair trailing across her forehead and realized she would be beautiful in any condition.
"No, I'm afraid it's just me. Am I too late?" he answered softly, noting the bathrobe she wore.
Her eyes moved over his wet and dripping form and opened the door. "Too late?" she chuckled. "It's never too late when you're involved and besides you're not going back out in this weather." She stood to the side for him to enter, scanning the hallway before closing the door.
Mason stood gingerly inside her apartment, taking great pains in removing his hat without spreading water everywhere. Della helped him shed his coat, took his hat, and hung both of them up to drip in her bathroom. Carefully the lawyer took off his wet shoes and set them on the tile in her kitchen. He removed the check, and placed it in his shirt pocket before hanging his jacket and tie over a nearby chair.
He scanned the orderly interior of her apartment, the stylish placement of the furniture, lamps, mirrors, photographs, and mementos. The soft pinks and subtle greens were everywhere. Returning to the living room, he found her nest on the small couch: a box of tissues, a TV guide, an open box of Lindt chocolates and a foamy footbath at the base of the couch.
Della entered the room and stopped, taking note of his scrutiny of her space and gave a throaty laugh. "It's not very glamorous is it? I imagine most of the secretaries in LA are home soaking their feet and watching Casablanca tonight."
Perry's brow arced. "So Tom was right."
The secretary gracefully moved around him, scooted the footbath off to the corner, placed the box of tissues on the end table and curled up on the small couch, her back resting against the arm, her feet curled on the middle cushion.
"I don't know why I always watch it. I guess I'm a romantic at heart. I enjoy a good romance." She invited him to join her by patting the adjoining cushion of the couch. Mason sat down and flexed his socked feet. His arm draped over the back of the couch as he turned to face her.
"I suppose I should have called, but I needed to see you."
Della pulled the fleecy robe together, before looking up at him, a smile toying at her lips, "I thought you and Tom were going to make a night of it. This must be very important."
He sighed, his eyes moved over the soft curves of the robe and her bare feet, each slender toe painted a soft pink, the same color as the robe she wore. "Even her feet are beautiful." At the office he admired the pink nails peeking through her open toed heels and fantasized about running his fingers along her shapely calves and thighs. He forced his eyes and mind to refocus.
"It's very important." He replied reaching in to his shirt pocket, removing the check. "Tom Robertson made me a generous offer tonight."
He paused, wanting to build the suspense before he continued. "He is very impressed with you."
Again he paused and watched her satisfied smile and wondered if she were recalling their time alone before his arrival at the restaurant. The man was certainly plying the charm with Della playing the coquette when he approached their table.
In his courtroom manner, he held the crucial piece of evidence in his hand, turning the check around without letting her eyes process the details on the paper. "Yes, you've impressed him so much that he wants you as his personal secretary, to travel with him on his private jet."
Mason rolled his eyes slightly, a smile tugging at his lips. "I explained I'd miss you."
Della's eyes widened, her eyebrow cocked upward. "Really!" she exclaimed.
"Yes, really, Miss Street. And he feels I should be generously compensated for the loss of your services."
The secretary's brows cocked even further. "Really!" she repeated a second time. "Let me see that check!" Her fingers motioned for him to hand it over.
Perry handed the piece of paper to her and watched her face as she digested its details.
"I think there's enough there for new office space and furnishings, several confidential secretaries and a new forty foot sail boat for my trips to Catalina." He stated matter-of-factly, his eyes twinkling while his face fought to remain passive.
Della used the check like a fan. "Forty foot sail boat?"
Mason became thoughtful. "I think a forty footer should be big enough, don't you?"
"Oh, it's big enough," she replied, her eyes rolling to the ceiling, her voice deep and sultry. "Let me ask you this, Mr. Mason. Will that forty foot sail boat massage your shoulders, anticipate and satisfy your every want and need plus keep you warm at night?"
The lawyer's eyes narrowed as he gently stroked his chin in thought. "Probably not."
Della pursed her lips together. "On the other hand, you have kept me waiting so many times I've lost count. Tom promised he'd never keep me waiting and flying in that private jet could be lots of fun."
"You mean flying by the seat of your pants isn't satisfying?" Mason asked incredulously.
"Compared to a jet, Counselor, you have got to be kidding."
Perry turned toward her, reached out and touched her foot with his fingertips, gently massaging the ball of her left one. Della's face became dreamy, her feet extending toward him, allowing them to slip between his legs where his fingers continued their gentle kneading.
"That's very good," she whispered, her lips parted, eyes heavy. She peeked at him before continuing. "Tom says I'm very good."
His fingers gently massaged the ball of her left foot, enjoying her look of contentment. Noting his silence, she continued, "He says I should be told each day how good I am. And the man who doesn't do so should be flogged within an inch of his life." Her eyes opened and watched his reaction, the toes on her errant right foot gently moving across the fly of his trousers.
"Oh, you are so very bad, Della Street."
"Flogged, huh?" Mason felt his body respond to her touch as he replied. "Tom Robertson seems to be a very wise man." A contented moan escaped her lips; her eyes watched his fingers work their magic.
"So how good am I?" Della asked placing the check on the end table while the toes on the errant foot continued their gentle caress.
His massaging fingers slowed, along with his breathing, her eyes capturing his in a knowing embrace, her eyebrow cocking upward.
"Tell me Mr. Mason, how good am I," her voice soft and seductive. "Did you see enough zeroes on that check?"
He stifled a moan, his fingers gently taking the right foot in his hands, controlling its wanderings. His eyes closed momentarily, forcing his mind to ignore the tightness in his groin, and with a fluid motion he slipped to his knees on the floor in front of her.
Della reached out, her fingers gently smoothed back a lock of moist hair that had fallen across his forehead, her fingertips lingering, trailing along his cheek.
"No, Della, there will never be enough zeroes, not ever. I had to come tonight; I had to tell you how much I love you and how much I value and appreciate what you've brought to my life."
Della started to respond but paused at the intense sincerity that radiated from the man. Something besides the check had happened tonight. She reached over and outlined his lips with her finger. Whatever it was it didn't matter.
"My dear, wet Perry, you are such a romantic," she murmured, caressing his cheek. "How I do love you." Gently she took his hand and slipped it between the folds of her robe, against warm, bare skin, allowing his fingers to lovingly explore the soft curve of her breast, waist, and hip.
"Now let me show you how much I love you," she invited, her arms circling his neck. "You remember the way don't you?"
The robe parted as his hand moved beneath her thighs, his other arm slipping around her shoulders lifting her from the couch.
"I think I remember the way," he whispered.
Della giggled in his arms as he kissed her neck.
"So how good am I, Counselor?" she laughed as he carried her down the hall to her bedroom.
"Very good, Miss Street, very, very good."