Disclaimer: Characters by Erle Stanley Gardner. This is nonprofit fan fiction.
Warnings: Slash, m/m relationship.
Off the Mark
"This is the police. Open up, Mason! Lieutenant Tragg here."
Rigorous hammering accompanied the threats at the door. The caller wasn't timid or about to give any more time for answering than absolute necessity required. The time was a quarter past two in the morning.
"I'm warning you—"
The door opened, and Tragg pushed past Perry Mason, who had opened the door in his smoking jacket and was rubbing his face. Mason looked in the corridor to spot a uniformed policeman waiting on guard. With a raised brow and a questioning glance at Tragg, who nodded, Mason closed the door with a bland smile, which was not returned.
Mason followed Tragg's lead into his own lounge after closing the door to his bedroom. "Lieutenant. I wasn't aware that your many skills included waking the dead."
Tragg brushed his remark aside. "All right, Counselor. Where is she?"
"Oooh-no, Counselor. Don't think you can pull a fast one on me, no-oh. Not this time. I know you are protecting her, so give it up, Perry."
Mason harbored a bored expression and seated himself on the armrest of his sofa. He viewed Tragg under heavy-lidded eyes. "You have established that you are missing a woman, Lieutenant. Does this woman have a name, or shall we contend ourselves with the notion that your description has ruled out half the population of Los Angeles?"
"Wynona Striker-Williams," Tragg spilled. "That's Wynona, with a 'y.' Though you should know that, Counselor. She is your client, after all."
Mason sat more comfortably. "Is she?"
"Isn't she?" Tragg countered.
"—privileged information, I know. I have heard that tune before," Tragg said dryly.
"Yet you came all the way up here to hear it again," Mason said pleasantly. "I am always happy to accommodate, Lieutenant, but it is a little late for a social call."
Tragg was taking steps toward the door when he suddenly turned around and stopped. "Say... what were you doing just as I came in, Counselor?"
"Not that it should be any great concern of yours, but I was just going to bed. I am rather tired."
"But of course you are," Tragg said cordially. "Say, that is some mighty curious nightwear, Counselor."
Mason was wearing a smoking jacket and slippers. Underneath the smoking jacket, the sleeve of suit pants had slipped into view. Mason wrapped the jacket tighter around himself, but it was too late.
"You know what I think? I think you have someone in there."
Tragg's eyes were fixed on the bedroom door. Mason moved between the lieutenant and the door. "I can assure you that that has nothing to do with the woman you're seeking."
"I'll be the judge of that."
Tragg moved forward, but Mason blocked his way, smiling solicitously. "This is my private apartment."
"Obviously, Counselor," Tragg said, equally amenable. He was about to continue when a scratching noise came from the bedroom. "Good grief, Counselor," Tragg said, feigning shock, "That couldn't be burglars at your private apartment, could it? You better let me go first." Without further pretense, Tragg pushed past Mason and opened the bedroom door.
Inside, he found Paul Drake in full dress, sprawled in a chair, smoking a cigarette. A freshly-drawn match still streaked a fine smoke from the ashtray. At seeing Tragg, he called out a greeting over his shoulder.
"Well, if this isn't convenient," Tragg said. The acerbic tone was audible now. "Not at all to help you hide a potential suspect, Mason. I suppose Mr. Drake just came here to discuss the weather?"
"In Los Angeles?" Mason said.
Tragg gave a growl of frustration. "That's it. I've had enough of your evasive tactics and your continued efforts to obstruct justice. Where is she, Drake?"
Drake watched the outburst with detached interest. "She?"
"Don't look at him! Answer me."
"I wish I could help you, Lieutenant, but I don't know who you are looking for."
Tragg's thundering temper found a better target; Mason responded with a congenial smile. "If I find out that you have been hiding a suspect, you can be sure that the District Attorney will instigate the necessary actions to have you disbarred. That goes for you, too, Drake. Licenses can be revoked."
Tragg didn't wait for a response. He looked over the apartment, sparing a particularly gloomy expression at the open window in Mason's bedroom and pulling it down with a bang. This time, Mason didn't stop him. Tragg went on, even glancing in the bathroom.
The search revealed nothing. Upset, Tragg strode to the door and let himself out without even responding to Mason's, "Goodnight, Lieutenant."
Once Tragg was gone and Mason was assured that he wouldn't be coming back, he returned to the bedroom. "The lieutenant is working under assumptions, as usual."
Drake grinned and stubbed his cigarette out. He stretched his long form, removing his jacket.
"That was a stroke of genius," Mason said with appreciation as he removed the smoking jacket. Underneath, he was dressed in a pajama top and dress pants. He stripped off his pants and was left with full pajamas.
Drake sat on the edge of the bed and started loosening his tie. He stopped. "You want me to find out about Wynona Striker-Williams?"
"Everything you can."
"I'll make the call." Drake pulled the telephone to his hands and dialed his office. He gave a set of instructions, finishing with, "I'll call myself before coming in and ask for a report. Goodnight."
All through the call, Drake had been tugging at the buttons of his shirt. He was halfway through by the time he finished talking, and took care of the rest with two hands. The shirt had been tucked in hurriedly; the unbuttoned hem was already developing crinkles. He was equally relieved to release the tie from around his neck. Just as he was about to remove his pants, hands landed on his fly.
"I'll help with that."
Hearty thanks to Gypsie (Gypsie Rose) for the proofreading!
Published September 17, 2011.