Notes: Thanks to everyone who has read, reviewed, and/or offered plot help! I have thoroughly enjoyed this venture. I have another mystery in mind, a spooky one for Halloween that will feature Mignon Germaine from The Fatal Fetish (probably my most favorite episode). I hope you will follow me to that venture, as well as to continue dropping in at my blog, Parkavenuebeat, at Blogger.
The next hours were a whirlwind of activity. While the police and Hamilton worked through the confusing mess left by Bartlett's wickedness, Perry was taken to the hospital to have his wound examined and properly treated. He was discharged an hour later with the admonition to rest at home. Paul drove him back, with Della in tow.
"I've gotta say, Perry, you're lucky on a lot of counts," Paul said, shaking his head. "That wound could have gotten infected, with all the beating it took." As it was, it had torn a bit, requiring stitches. But that was preferable to the alternative.
"I know," Perry frowned. "I suppose I have to be grateful that it was bandaged at least, no matter how sloppy the job."
"I guess," Paul said.
"Oh no!" Della gasped without warning.
Both men blinked in surprise. "What is it, Della?" Perry asked.
"I forgot," Della berated. "Perry, I'm afraid your apartment's been left in a terrible mess."
Perry leaned back. "That's alright," he said. "I'll worry about it later."
"You won't worry about it at all," Della said firmly. "You'll go to bed, like the doctor ordered. I'll take care of everything."
"Now wait just a minute," Perry interjected. "You need to rest too. I can see how exhausted you are. Both of you," he added, glancing to Paul.
"I slept for a while in the hotel room," Della said. "I won't hear of any more arguments about it."
Knowing it was useless to protest, Perry finally just smiled his consent. "Alright. But at least promise you'll take a break when you do get tired."
Della smiled. "Check."
The apartment was in quite a mess, as Della had feared. Paul pulled down the yellow Crime Scene tape across the doorway, allowing Perry to reach and unlock the door.
Della cringed at the sight of the overturned furniture and the scattered glasses on the coffee table. Worst of all, there was still some blood on the floor.
Perry surveyed the room with a frown. "They did quite a number on my living room," he said.
Della shook her head, hanging her coat on the rack. "It was horrible when we came and found this," she said quietly. Seeing the blood especially reawakened her alarmed and sickened feelings.
Sensing that now would be a good time to give them some time alone, Paul headed for the bathroom. "I'll just . . . get some stuff to start cleaning this up," he volunteered.
Perry glanced his way. "Thank you, Paul," he said.
Once Paul slipped out of the room Perry turned his attention to Della. "I'm sorry you were put through this," he said. The genuine regret was clear in his eyes and voice.
Della looked up at him. "Lieutenant Tragg came to my apartment late last night," she said. "He . . . he told me about your neighbor finding your door open and the room in such a mess. Then he brought me out here and I saw . . ." She turned away, slowly walking past him. She stared at the blood for a moment, then spun back around to face him. "I saw this on the floor and I was so afraid of what had happened to you!"
She shook her head. "This is what I've been fearing for so long now." She lowered her voice. "It was bad enough when you were threatened on the phone those weeks back. I was so thankful that they hadn't actually wanted to hurt you that time. And now this . . . !"
Perry stepped closer to her. "Della . . ." He placed his hands on her shoulders. She looked up again, her eyes glistening. "I was afraid too. Bartlett kept telling me that he was sending his hitmen after everyone—you, Paul, Hamilton, Tragg. . . . Then his device blinked green and he told me in no uncertain terms that someone had been attacked. He hoped it had been you." He drew a deep breath. "I was holding a gun on him that I had taken from Barlow Travis. I came so close to pulling the trigger. . . ."
Della stiffened, stunned. That was not at all what she had thought she would hear. Perry had almost shot Bartlett in his anger and hatred? Bartlett had managed to drag him to that level? Very few people could have enraged Perry to that extent. Bartlett was a despicable man.
"I'm glad you didn't," she said.
"So am I," Perry admitted. "But at the time I thought there was nothing I could want more than to squeeze the trigger and stop his sadistic, unfeeling taunts. Even if I had, it wouldn't have stopped his men."
"And then you would have gone to prison." Della shuddered at the thought.
"Bartlett taunted me with that, too," Perry frowned. "He is a disturbed man. I wonder whether he's even competent to stand trial."
"I hope he is." A bit of anger crept into Della's voice now. "I hate to think of him getting off easy because he's declared insane. Even though I can't think that someone like that could have his right mind."
Perry sighed. "Well, we'll know soon enough." He glanced around. "Isn't Paul taking a long time?"
As if on cue, Paul came back into the room with an armload of cleaning supplies. "Right here, kids," he said. "It took me a while to find everything."
Della smiled. "Oh really."
"Yes, really." Paul set everything down on the floor. "You just go to bed now, Perry. We'll have this place fixed up by the time you're awake."
"Alright." Perry headed for the bedroom. "Thank you, Paul, Della."
Della watched him go, then looked back to Paul getting started on the floor. "I'm going to take care of these glasses," she said. "I don't know about you, but I don't relish drinking out of them after someone like Bartlett touched them."
"You're going to wash them all?" Paul blinked.
Della nodded. "It won't take long," she said as she gathered them up. "Anyway, they were all dusted for fingerprints, too."
"That's true," Paul mused. "I wouldn't want to drink that stuff."
True to their promise, Della and Paul had the apartment in order within a couple of hours. The only thing they had not taken care of was the wall where the stray bullet had entered. But Paul had determined to see about that once Perry was awake and would not be bothered by the noise.
After Paul had left to get some well-earned rest of his own, Della sank onto the couch. She gazed around the room, thoughtful and at peace.
The horror was over. Perry was safe here, where he belonged. Bartlett was in jail, where he belonged. Hamilton had called Della not long ago to tell her that everyone who had assisted in Bartlett's plot was now either in jail, in the hospital under police watch, or at the morgue. He had also asked about Perry's condition.
"He's doing just fine," Della had told him. "He's resting now, finally. I'm sure he'd like to see you later on."
Hamilton had said that he and Tragg might stop by in the evening to check on Perry and bring him up-to-date on the case. Della had hung up with a smile.
Now she slipped out of her shoes, easing herself down on the soft couch. At last she could rest.
It was some time later when Perry wandered out of his bedroom, having just awakened from a much-needed sleep. The living room looked great, he noted as he took it in. Della and Paul had been working hard.
At the sight of Della asleep on the couch he paused, watching her for a moment. She looked so tired.
He disappeared for a moment into the bedroom. When he returned, he was holding a spare blanket. He draped it over Della gently, quietly, taking care not to wake her. Then, silently, he returned to the bedroom.
"I have to say, this has been one of the most heart-stopping days I've had in all my years on the police force."
Hamilton glanced across the restaurant's table at Lieutenant Tragg. "You're not kidding," he said. "We've rarely had to deal with someone as out of touch with reality as Trevor Bartlett."
"Although Donald Rite was up there with the nutcases as well," Tragg mused.
"Don't remind me," Hamilton said dryly. He sighed. "Bartlett is going to be evaluated by at least three police psychiatrists in the next couple of weeks."
"You'd think they'd find him unfit to stand trial," Tragg remarked. "But I honestly can't say I believe that's what will happen. After all this time I've learned to expect anything and everything."
Hamilton nodded. "Same here."
He glanced at his watch. "I wonder if Perry's up yet," he said. "He'd want to know the latest."
"Well, you did mention dropping by tonight," Tragg said. "Why don't you call over there and find out if it's alright?"
Hamilton was already getting out his phone. "I'll do that," he said. "Excuse me a minute." He stood up, walking away from the table.
Perry answered after the first ring. "Hello?"
Hamilton blinked in surprise. He had not expected Perry to be the one to answer the telephone. "Hello, Perry," he greeted. "I didn't wake you, did I?"
"No, I've been awake for a while now," Perry returned. "How are you, Hamilton?"
"I'm fine. Look, Perry . . . Tragg and I were wondering if you'd feel up to having us come over—just for a few minutes—to talk about what happened with the case after you left."
"I'd like that very much," Perry said.
"Good," Hamilton said. "We'll be over soon, then." But he hesitated, not ending the conversation.
Perry waited patiently a moment. "Is there something else you wanted, Hamilton?" he queried at last.
Awkward, Hamilton started to attention. "Oh. Sorry, Perry. I was . . . well, I was just thinking that we didn't have much time to talk before. I wanted to tell you that I'm glad you're alright."
Surprised at first, Perry quickly recovered. "Why, thank you, Hamilton. I know you and the others were working hard to find me. I'm sure I wouldn't have been discovered if it hadn't been for your collective efforts."
"I'm just grateful things turned out as well as they did," Hamilton said. "Tragg was right; we were worried out of our minds."
"You were excellent at keeping hold of your minds, under the circumstances," Perry said.
"We did our best." Hamilton glanced over his shoulder at Tragg, who was idly looking at the menu again.
"I hope you're alright," Perry said now. "Della told me what happened to you. It could have been serious."
"It isn't," Hamilton was quick to interject. "It's just a small bump. The headaches are gone now." As soon as the words were out of his mouth he winced. He had not meant to say that!
"I should hope so," Perry said. His concerned frown was obvious, even over the phone.
"Well, we'll see you in a few minutes," Hamilton said.
"Fine. Della and Paul and I will be waiting," Perry smiled.
Hamilton hung up and went back to the table. Curious, Tragg looked to him. "Well?"
"It's a good time to go over," Hamilton reported.
Tragg nodded. "Then we'll go as soon as we finish," he said. "By the way, what were you and Perry discussing over there? It must have been more than just appointment times."
"Perry just wanted to know how I'm doing," Hamilton hurriedly put in.
"I see," Tragg said. "That's thoughtful." From his tone and smile, he knew there was more to it. But he would not pry.
Hamilton nodded, returning his attention to the remainder of his dinner.
"I still don't get it."
Perry, resting comfortably on his living room couch in a robe and slippers, looked up as Paul spoke. "What don't you get, Paul?" he asked, reaching for a glass on the end table. As promised, Hamilton and Tragg had stopped in for a while. There were still loose ends to tie up, so they had gathered in the living room to relax and talk.
"What was going on between Iola Van Pelt and Barlow Travis," Paul said. "Why would she trust him? In fact, why didn't he want to say why she trusted him?"
"It would've taken too long," Hamilton said.
Paul shot him an incredulous look. "Too long? Couldn't he just say if they were lovers or something?"
"But they weren't 'lovers or something'," Perry said. "It was much more complicated than that. You yourself helped put some of the pieces together, Paul."
Paul sighed. "I know. And even at that, I'm still confused."
"Marlene Travis was secretly married to Daniel Van Pelt shortly before her death," Tragg said. "They had a child, a girl. When Marlene was murdered, Daniel took the child with him. He kept her hidden until after he married Linda. Then they agreed to pass the girl off as theirs. Other than a few suspicious reporters, it worked."
"That child was the grandmother of Iola Van Pelt," Della said. "Iola looked like Marlene because Marlene was her great-grandmother."
"Meanwhile, Marlene's sister married a man and they settled down," Perry said. "They divorced, and she went back to using her maiden name. But by that time she had a child, a boy."
"And he carried on the Travis name," Hamilton put in. "He was the father of the Travis brothers Benjamin and Barlow."
Paul shook his head. "I don't know how genealogists do it," he said. "I can barely keep it all straight."
"It gets even more complicated," Perry said. "Barlow knew about the family secret and the connection with the Van Pelts. He always carried a locket that his grandmother had given him, a locket with a picture of his grandmother's sister."
"Marlene," Paul said. "But wait a minute! The only print they got off that locket was that hitman's, Martin Bradshaw's!"
"That puzzled us too," Tragg said. "But Barlow explained it. According to his statement, he lost the locket several months ago. It was returned to him by Bradshaw shortly before Bradshaw's death. They did know each other; they had been friends before Bradshaw became a career killer. Then, when Barlow and Bartlett kidnapped Perry, Barlow deliberately left the locket as a red herring, knowing that Bradshaw's fingerprints were on it."
"And that sent us on a wild-goose chase for several hours," Hamilton said in irritation. "He wanted us to think Bradshaw had some posthumous connection to the case."
"Yes," Perry nodded. "Anyway, one day Barlow ran into Iola Van Pelt and he couldn't believe it. She was the spitting image of the woman in his locket. He started talking to her and he realized they were related. When he was sure she would believe him, he told her of their families' history.
"There was never anything romantic between them. They were good friends who felt they had a connection to each other through their families."
"And then Trevor Bartlett went off the deep end and wanted Barlow to help him with his scheme," Hamilton put in. "He knew that Barlow's friendship with Iola Van Pelt would come in handy, provided he could trick Iola into helping them get hold of the technology and the money they needed."
"Unfortunately for Iola, she fell for it completely," Tragg said. "From what Barlow's told us, he told her that his friend needed a quiet place to perfect a new invention of his. He wanted complete solitude, but needed a way to contact people occasionally. The satellite transmitters would be ideal. So would the basement of the Brent building. Iola remembered that location because Altec had installed a security system there."
"Only she didn't know Bartlett wanted the security room," Hamilton said. "She thought he wanted some empty room in the back."
"Of course, he wanted all of it," Perry said. "And she arranged for everyone working in the basement levels to take a couple of days off. Barlow told her that was all his friend would need."
"What a set-up," Paul said in disgust.
"What about the room in that house?" Della wondered. "The one where we found Mr. Burger?"
"That was Daniel Van Pelt's doing," Perry said. "He was still alive, albeit an old man, when the Altec Corporation bought that house. He wanted a special room devoted to his wife. And so he set up the secret room to resemble the 1930s, when they were married. After his death, others in the family kept up the room. He had finally told his secret to them and only them. He didn't want it to get out elsewhere because he didn't want a lot of scandal and publicity in his old age."
"And Iola told Barlow about the room," Paul deduced.
"That's right," Hamilton said. "When I stumbled in there by accident, Barlow was there with one of Bartlett's lackeys. They'd been sent after us by Bartlett."
Perry nodded. "They were worried that the puzzle pieces would start adding up if you took that picture of Marlene. So the unknown man jumped out at you."
"And once I was distracted with the fight, Barlow hit me from behind," Hamilton said, annoyed.
"I still don't understand about the inscription on the picture," Della said. "'A true light never goes out.' Was it some kind of code?"
"No, Della. Not this time," Perry said. "Davidson Van Pelt explained it. As Daniel told it to him, Marlene was referring to the true light of their love. That photograph was one of the last things she gave him before her death."
"And that case is still unsolved," Paul said.
"Perhaps you should take a crack at it sometime, Perry," Tragg said.
Perry smiled. "Perhaps sometime I will," he said. "Strangely enough, that inscription on the picture still holds true today. It was their love that helped so many of these pieces come together."
"I guess that's true," Paul said. "And then there's also the unsolved murder of Benjamin Travis. That didn't have anything to do with this, did it?"
"Oh, it's not unsolved anymore," Tragg said. "Bartlett finally admitted that Gladys Thorn killed him and left that Fin message with the glasses. He said something about Benjamin having learned that she was a manipulative and dangerous person, and before he could warn the person she was currently using, she killed him."
"And just who was she currently using?" Perry asked.
"Barlow Travis," Tragg said.
Paul shook his head. "Talk about tangled webs and what goes around comes around."
Della walked over near the couch. "Well, I say what comes around now is that Perry needs to rest," she said. "He's had a long day."
"Oh, I'm alright now, Della," Perry said. "I'd say all of you need the rest. You barely had any sleep because you were looking for me."
"It has been a long day," Tragg mused. "And tomorrow we'll have to sort through more of the puzzle pieces."
"My office has already started proceedings against Trevor Bartlett and Barlow Travis," Hamilton said. He looked to Perry. "Are you going to feel up to testifying when their cases go to trial, Perry?"
"Yes," Perry nodded. "I wouldn't miss it. You know, it's strange."
"What is?" Paul wondered.
Perry's smile turned a bit mischievous. "I believe it will be the first time I've ever willingly testified for the prosecution!"