Disclaimer: Anything you recognize most likely belongs to Erle Stanley Gardner. Most likely? What am I saying? It definitely belongs to him and not me!
A/N: This is not my usual type of story. I'm not really sure what I'm doing, but I had a sudden urge to write this. I do have an idea for my usual type of story floating around and we'll see if it develops enough for me to publish it any time in the near future. For now, you'll just have to be satisfied with this…if it's any good. Mistakes area mine (hopefully there aren't many). I hope you enjoy!
He saw Perry Mason and Della Street sitting at a booth as he walked in. He smiled to himself. He was sure they had just came from court, as had he, but he also knew there was a deeper meaning there. He wondered if they had realized it yet. From the set of their faces and their seating choices if they had realized anything they weren't being too obvious about it. He decided to walk over and talk to them for a few minutes. After all, he had only come in for a beer and he wouldn't be bothering them for too long anyway.
He got his beer than began to walk over to Perry and Della's table. He knew the moment Della spotted him. Her expression changed just slightly and her mouth stopped moving. Getting closer he nodded to her as his greeting.
Della smiled. "Good evening, Lieutenant."
He stepped into Perry's line of sight as well and greeted him. "Evening, Perry."
"Why, hello, Arthur," Perry said. "What brings you here, especially to this table tonight?"
Tragg sighed. "I just came in to get a beer. I have to be prepared; tomorrow Hamilton Burger is going to try to drink me under the table."
Perry and Della both raised their eyebrows. "Oh really?" Della asked.
Tragg nodded. "Every time Burger wins a case we come into a bar for a beer or a beer and a half. That's all he ever drinks when he wins. But when he loses—to you—he drinks the hard stuff and lots of it. Vodka, tequila, Jack Daniels, any type of whiskey, and four or five glasses. I swear Perry, if Burger didn't know how to hold his alcohol, you'd have made him an alcoholic by now."
"Well, I'm glad I've caused him no harm," Perry admitted, a bit in shock about this new development. "I hope I haven't done anything to your health either."
"No, no," Tragg assured him. "I never drink as much as him, or in the amount he does. I'm continually amazed though. He can get quite tipsy, but he's never drunk after our visits to the bar."
"He doesn't take to acquiring justice well?" Della inquired, suspecting that wasn't the case, but deciding to be sure.
"I assume he doesn't take losing to me very well," Perry inferred.
Tragg chuckled. "Yep, that's what it is."
"You don't care about losing?" Della asked.
Tragg shook his head. "As long as justice as served. I do have to admit though, when you first came on the map, Perry, I wasn't your biggest fan. It irked me that you always got to crime scenes before me and were always managing to telephone me about them. Not only that, but even if I got there first, you always knew about them. Now, I play a game with myself to see how long it takes before you get there. What really irked me back then is that I always knew you were toeing the line of doing something illegal, but you always knew how to keep it just behind the line. I could never get enough evidence to convict you of anything! I've come to enjoy our little sparring matches now though."
"As have I," Perry agreed.
Tragg smiled. "In the courtroom, I just sit back and watch the fun."
"Fun?" Perry questioned, a bit amused that Tragg would call it that. "Being questioned by Burger and me is fun?"
"Yep," Tragg confirmed. "Being questioned by Burger is easy because I know what he's going to ask. Being questioned by you, on the other hand, is a challenge. I love trying to anticipate what you're going to ask and try to answer without giving too much away."
"Then what fun do you watch?" Della asked.
"The expressions, for one," Tragg explained. "Luckily, I get questioned pretty early. After that, I just sit back and watch everyone's expressions. I think my favorite is Hamilton's when you serve him with information he wasn't ready for or didn't know, Perry. But there are many, many good ones. There's the subtle little changes in your everpresent poker face, Perry, when you get excited or surprised. Hamilton has some good ones of his own, when he thinks he has you and then when he realizes he doesn't. Della, you have a nervous expression that you don't get too often, but when you do, it makes me a bit nervous. You get excited ones when you know what's going to happen next and you know it's going to be good. Then, you have a mixture of pride, excitement and happiness when Perry wins. On occasion, the judge even gets some original expressions. I think sometimes the judge enjoys the yelling you and Burger do and gets a twinkle in his eye and a twitch of a smile before he calls for order and puts his serious face back on. I've even seen him smile at an expression Hamilton has when he's not expecting something and give a slight nod of approval when you prove your client innocent, especially when he's familiar with your cases or reputation, Perry.
"It's also very fun to see how Hamilton phrases different things now. He phrases his objections quite different with you than he does with any other defense attorney. He also waits a bit longer to object when he's against you, because he thinks you can usually justify your questioning better if he objects too early. He's also learned how to rephrase questions, so he can ask them without your objections. Hamilton is so much better at defending his questions to the judge now. He was good before, he had to be, but he really is stellar now. The best thing of all though, he used to say, 'This will be easy, it's an open and shut case.' After the first year of him going against you, he dropped the easy part. Now though, he's dropped it all. He never says it's open and shut anymore, because you usually prove it isn't."
Perry's eyebrows rose. "Wow, I never really knew he changed so much."
"Me either," Della agreed. "I never even noticed."
"Della, you are always taking notes though," Perry pointed out.
Della considered that for a few seconds. "Very true. But really Lieutenant, if the District Attorney gets that upset over losing he should learn from his mistakes. He should either look for another guilty party or just not go up against Perry anymore."
Tragg laughed. "Hamilton doesn't think like that though. He just keeps hoping that Perry will come across one client and enter a plea bargain for them."
"That won't happen," Perry said with conviction.
"Hamilton also keeps going up against Perry because he thinks that one day your luck is just going to have to run out," Tragg continued.
"It's not luck," Perry and Della said in unison.
"Oh, I know," Tragg assured them. "I'm waiting for Hamilton to figure it out. I realize that it's a mixture of different things. It's the belief you have in your client and the fantastic people you have working for you. Paul has got to be, disregarding Sherlock Holmes, the world's greatest detective when it comes to sniffing out things. And Della, I'm sure you're one of the best secretaries in the business. You've got to be, to work for this guy."
Della smiled as she felt Perry's hand discreetly squeeze her knee underneath the table. "It's a tough job, I'll admit, but it's just an amount of patience and swiftness. You have to be swift to dodge the cops."
Tragg laughed at that statement, knowing they did plenty of that, but knowing they didn't do anything illegal and Tragg himself was coming to love the chase.
"I know it's not just that though," Tragg continued. "I know its skill. Perry, you know exactly how to ask the questions in a way that give you the answers you need. You know when to object and when to let Hamilton go ahead with his questions, thinking that he might bring up something you can use on cross-examine, or incriminate himself. You also know what words to use to get the judge to see your side of things on an objection or when you want him to overrule one. I also think you could rephrase a question about ten different ways so that Hamilton can't object to it because of how you phrased it.
"Besides skill though, which is very important, you have justice. When you have that and are able to use the evidence and people to show it, you don't need much else. If your client is innocent, the evidence will always show it. Sometimes you have to manipulate it just a bit, which you are always fantastic at, but the evidence tells the story. I think that, for the most part, is what Hamilton doesn't realize. As long as you keep defending innocent clients, he doesn't stand a chance. He'll keep going up against you though, because he keeps thinking that you'll lose just one time and he'll get to tell the papers that he beat the great Perry Mason."
Tragg held up his almost finished beer. "That's why I'm here drinking this. I'm positive your client is innocent and I'm sure you know who the real criminal is and are going to use some planned theatrics—that aren't as awful as Hamilton makes them out to be, they're actually rather enjoyable—to show everyone in the courtroom tomorrow. I have to be prepared to help Hamilton try to drown his sorrows tomorrow."
Perry and Della chuckled as Tragg downed the last bit of his beer.
"You never know, someday he might beat me," Perry speculated.
Della couldn't help but chuckle. "I don't think so, Perry. Not as long as you keep defending innocent clients and continue to be great at manipulating evidence."
Tragg nodded. "Well, I'll see you all in court tomorrow. And I agree with Della. She's one smart girl, Perry. Hold on to her."
As soon as Tragg had safely exited the building, Perry put his hand over Della's. "I don't plan to ever let you go."
Della smiled. "I'm okay with that."
As soon as she finished speaking, the waitress came to take their orders and they put the conversation with Tragg out of their consideration for the evening. The rest of the night was spent with only thoughts of the other running through each of their minds.
Well, that's my story. I didn't plan to put Della in it, but I couldn't help it. Then, I thought, as long as I put her in it, she and Perry might as well have a little fun, so there was a tiny bit of Perry/Della in there. Also, the open and shut case line…in PM Returns, I'm not sure if any of you remember the line where the D.A. tells the guy it's an open and shut case and he says, "Do you know how many times Hamilton Burger said that?" I just had to make reference to that, because the line just tickled me to no end! As for where this idea came from, I'm not really sure. I do know though, that I have been thinking about something like this for a while. I feel like Tragg would most likely like going up against Perry more than Burger ever would. Not to mention, Tragg seems like a better sport about it than Burger does. I decided to write something that showed that and get people thinking about it and maybe discussing it in a review? Thanks for reading and please review!