Notes: Thanks so much to everyone who has been interested in this story! It has been a very fun venture for me and I believe I've come out of it with a greater understanding of the characters. I've gone back in several chapters and added additional scenes now that I feel I can write them better and it's possible to finally expand on some elements of the story I wanted to bring out more. These scenes are in chapters 2, 3, 4, and 8, but I have tweaked little things in several other chapters as well.
I may write more for our beloved Perry characters in the future. Meanwhile, please follow me at Parkavenuebeat dot Blogspot dot com, for my thoughts on the characters, actors, episodes, and occasionally, writing Perry fanfiction. Thank you all again!
It was late that night when the quintet gathered in Perry's office to ponder over the case.
"What Donald Rite told us was mostly all there was to it," Perry said. "He couldn't stand living with the fact that he had had a hand in sending his son to an institution. So he spent all the time since plotting his revenge on everyone involved."
"And he thought he would bring in the number three somehow, since it was Charlie's favorite number," Della guessed.
"That's right," Perry nodded. "When it neared the three-year mark Rite began to blackmail the people he wanted to have help him. It was just sheer coincidence that Marcus Waden made his empty threat around the same time, but Rite used it to his advantage, hoping that everyone would believe Waden was responsible at first."
"And he asked through letters if any of the people he was blackmailing knew a professional hitman," Burger put in. "Marnie Wagner told him, again in a letter, about her friend Derrick Manning."
"I wouldn't expect an assassin to have any conscience, but I'd have thought Donald Rite would," Della said, the disgust and anger obvious in her tone. "I can't feel sorry for him. It's his wife and brother and Terry I feel sorry for."
Perry nodded, solemn. They had gone with Lieutenant Tragg when he had traveled to the house to tell the Rites about what Donald had done. It had been a draining and heart-wrenching experience for everyone involved.
"And then there's the innocent people who were being killed in my and Anne Harding's and Rite's places," Burger said in further distaste.
Tragg nodded. "We should have the proper identification on the other bodies soon," he said. "As for the medical examiner, I'm afraid he may have been slated to be next. He disappeared, according to Miss Wagner, because he felt sick over killing Colin Worth. Derrick Manning was tracking him down to get rid of him before he could tell the police. As far as we know, Manning never caught up. But we aren't sure."
He glanced to Perry. "What made you suspect that Rite was behind everything, Perry?"
"It was mostly guesswork at first," Perry admitted. "There were certain odd coincidences, such as the Vaughens vacationing at Rite's cabin, and strange things said by both Celia Vaughen and Donald Rite during the trial. And then I kept wondering what connection Harold Arthur could have with the case. I knew there had to be something, when so many people involved had worked for him in some capacity. Finally it came to me. Harold Arthur was a fake name. And it contained a clue." He held up the piece of paper he had started writing on when the idea had first struck him.
Arthur = Author = Write = Rite
"By then I was sure.
"Not to mention there was also that strange piece of torn paper we had a copy of," he added. "The mysterious third line, where it said 'te to know,' could have said 'Rite to know', meaning that he was aware of the planned murders of Mr. Burger and others."
"That was quite clever," Tragg remarked, "using wordplay to get at the truth of the matter."
Perry smiled. "That's one thing I'm good at, Tragg."
"It's so ironic," Della said. "Terry said that his father had never made it big at anything and here he was, secretly a successful tycoon."
Perry nodded. "He never made public appearances because he didn't want anyone to know his real identity, not even his family," he said. "He lived a double life for a long time."
"Then, after Charlie Vaughen was sentenced, he added a third life to that list," Burger spoke up. "That of a cold-hearted murderer. He'll probably end up in an institution himself."
"Oh, by the way, remember how Anne Harding acted strange about that threatening phone call she got?" Paul said suddenly.
"Yes," Perry said, blinking in surprise. "Did you find out something about that?"
"Did I! Apparently she was being blackmailed too. She didn't know who was calling, but they told her about some unflattering skeletons in her closet." Paul crossed his arms. "But what do you know, she couldn't be bought. She told them she wouldn't help out with anything criminal, no matter what happened to her. Then they hung up on her and she ended up kidnapped."
"She should have come to the police," Tragg frowned.
"Well, she probably would have, only they threatened her sister's life if she did," Paul said. "She figured if they knew all about her past, they had the power to back up their threats. She was willing to let herself get hurt, but not her sister."
"Which was probably exactly what Donald Rite wanted," Perry remarked.
"It was," Paul said. "She was pretty high on his list of people he hated, since she was the state's star witness."
"It would have hurt her more for him to have taken Trisha," Della said.
Paul nodded. "He just wanted to personally torture Anne and all of them," he said. "So he wanted her, not Trisha."
"And after he killed her and everyone else, he was going to kill himself," Hamilton said.
Paul cringed. "That guy's got problems."
"That's an understatement, I'm afraid," Tragg said. "Oh, while we're on the subject, Rite confessed to how he got the body that would substitute for him past the police guard and into his house."
"Do tell, Lieutenant," Perry said.
"Well, apparently Rite had already had the poor man killed by a blow to the head before Manning made that fake threatening telephone call to him," Tragg said. "So they hid it in a locked cabinet before the police arrived. During a time when Rite was alone with only the police guard on the premises, he dragged the body out into the living room and used a gun with a silencer to disfigure the face. Then he snuck out the back door."
"Leaving Terry Rite to find the body and think it was him," Della concluded in repulsion.
Tragg nodded. "Exactly."
"There's still one other thing I don't get," Paul said, looking to Perry. "We never did find out who called to warn you that someone was out to get you."
"That's right," Della gasped. "And he was being shot at! We don't even know if he's alive."
Perry glanced over, unaffected. "Why, certainly he's alive," he said. "That was Mr. Burger." He looked to the prosecutor. "Am I right, Hamilton?"
"You're right, Perry," Burger returned. "That's how Manning managed to shoot me in the arm, when I was calling you on the phone."
"How did you figure that one out?" Paul marveled.
"Simple," Perry said. "For the longest time we thought that I must have some connection to the case. But more and more it looked like I couldn't have. And if that wasn't it, and if I wasn't getting too close to the truth, then there had to be another reason why I would be threatened. I started to wonder if I was being used. And I was right."
"Used?" Paul echoed in confusion.
"Why?" Della asked.
"Manning never wanted me at all," Perry said. "Neither did Rite. They wanted Mr. Burger. To that end, Manning decided to draw Mr. Burger out by threatening to kill me. He knew that if he did, Hamilton would come out of hiding either to use a payphone or to try to get a signal on his cellphone, in order to warn me. When Donald Rite realized what had happened and that Hamilton was still alive, he decided to hire the second assassin to actually go after both of us to try to throw us off his trail. He hoped we would end up chasing some dead-end thinking I must have been involved or they wouldn't go after me."
"But how would the first assassin know that Burger was even in hearing range when he told his plan?" Paul wondered.
"He didn't," Burger said. "He was taking a risk."
Della perked up. "So the reason the call didn't register and the connection was so bad was that you were using your cellphone on that mountain?" she guessed.
"Yes." Burger looked to her. "By the time I got to where there was a signal, the battery was almost dead. While I was talking to you, Manning caught up and shot at me twice. I had to take off running again."
Paul shook his head. "Boy, I guess you're glad that's all over with."
"I am," Burger answered. "But what I'll have to do tomorrow won't be easy either."
Tragg gave a sage nod. "You'll have to call a press conference to let the good people of Los Angeles County know you're still among the living," he said.
"That'll be the strangest speech you've ever made," Paul remarked.
"Well, I'm just relieved you'll be around to make it," Della said.
Everyone fully concurred.
"Say, did you ever remember what else happened when you were run off the road?" Paul asked out of curiosity.
"No, I haven't," Burger told him. "As best as I can put it together, I must have somehow caught Manning off-guard enough to end up struggling with him. The gun likely discharged harmlessly into the air at that point. I can't figure out how I knocked him out; maybe I hit him with it. Then I probably ran up to the road and hailed a cab. The driver's testimony about what happened next is probably true. Manning must have came to and chased after us until we ended up at the mountain."
"Where you jumped out and ran off to try to save the driver's life," Paul put in.
Mr. Burger looked a bit awkward at the reminder. ". . . I have no memory of going up to the cabin," he went on. "Marnie Wagner said she opened the door for me and then went into the bedroom when someone called her, wanting her out of the cabin for a while. Maybe that was Donald Rite. And maybe that's when I witnessed the showdown between Leroy Fielding and Colin Worth. It was probably going on when I entered, but I just don't remember. And I'd rather forget what happened next."
"I don't blame you," Perry said. "But your testimony will be key during the trial."
"Yes, I know," Burger returned. "And I'm looking forward to putting Rite away for a long time."
"I believe all of us will enjoy that," Tragg surmised.
"No kidding," Paul said, shaking his head. Della, still furious over what Donald Rite had done to Perry and Mr. Burger, as well as to his own family, fully agreed.
Burger turned to Perry. "Great work, Perry," he congratulated. "And thanks for saving my life back there."
"You intended to do the same for me, even though Manning wasn't really after me," Perry smiled. "I'd say we're even."
"Fair enough," Burger said.
He turned to Lieutenant Tragg. "Manning or Rite would have still shot me, and probably everyone else, if you hadn't come in right then," he said.
Perry nodded. "That was excellent timing, Tragg."
"We could have used you a bit sooner," Paul remarked.
"Unfortunately, we had to wait long enough for Rite to reveal everything over the miniature microphone Mr. Burger was carrying," Tragg said. "In Rite's unhinged condition, if we had gone in too soon he would have been liable to have started shooting then and there."
Burger nodded. "I wouldn't put anything past him." He looked back to Perry. "Oh, and Perry . . . while it was good to work with you on this case, let's see to it that the next time it's not under such dangerous circumstances."
Perry smiled. "I'm quite agreeable to that, Hamilton."
The two lawyers shook hands.