The Case of the Macabre Mansion
Notes: The characters from the series are not mine. The other characters and the story are mine. This is the Halloween piece I mentioned. Mignon Germaine, played by Fay Wray in season 8's The Fatal Fetish, will be a supporting character. Also of note is my own character Vivalene, whom I like to bring into every one of my major fandoms eventually. All of the main Perry cast will appear, of course, but just as the episodes that introduced us to Mr. Burger's oneshot friends, this story will open by first showing scenes with Mr. Burger before bringing in the others.Chapter One
Hamilton Burger sighed, leaning back at his desk as he pushed the gruesome photographs away from him. For both the district attorney and the police, spooks came out year-round, not just on October 31st. However, it did seem that a particular brand of nut enjoyed coming out during the Halloween season and committing the most outlandish and outrageous crimes. The unsolved murder he was looking at now was one for the history books. It would be all over the news tonight.
The intercom buzzed. "Mr. Burger? Someone is here to see you."
Hamilton frowned, coming to attention. "Who is it, Leon?" he asked. He was not expecting anyone right now.
"Mignon Germaine, sir. She says it's important."
Hamilton raised an eyebrow. "She wouldn't show up here if it wasn't," he mused. "Tell her to come in."
In a moment the door opened and Mignon entered, calm and collected as always. Hamilton stood, coming from around the desk to greet her. "Well, this is a surprise. What brings you here, Mignon?" Now that he was closer, he could see the concern flickering in her eyes.
"Hamilton." She kept her hands clasped in front of her. The light caught the glint from a dark ring on her finger. "I came to see you about a matter of grave importance. Do you remember Howie Peterson?"
Hamilton blinked. "Your godchild? Of course. Sit down, Mignon." He indicated the chair next to his desk. She took the seat and he perched on the edge of his desk.
"Something strange has been happening lately," Mignon told him. "Yesterday Howie came to me saying that there's a spirit in their house."
Hamilton was unable to keep from looking amused. "Is that what you came to see me about?" he asked. "I'm afraid I won't be much help there."
"I know you wouldn't," Mignon answered. "No, that isn't why I've come.
"I went with Howie back to his house, but I didn't feel the presence of a spirit. I did, however, witness some suspicious events that could be a mortal's attempt to make it look like a spirit is in the house."
That was still weird, but at least it was more believable. "Do you have any idea who would want to do something like that?" Hamilton asked.
"I have believed for some time that someone wants to remove Howie's family from that house," Mignon said. "It's one of the oldest homes in Los Angeles. Douglas, Howie's father, is convinced that there is something of wealth hidden somewhere on the property—perhaps a Spanish treasure. He claims he has part of a map that he is certain points to its location."
"So this someone believes it too, and wants to kick out Howie's family so they can look for it," Hamilton deduced. "Don't you have a name for this person?"
"Yes. Vivalene," Mignon replied. "She's been their next-door neighbor for the last few weeks. I've never liked her. She's cordial enough, but it feels fraudulent."
"Vivalene, huh?" Hamilton reached for several files on his desk. "That's a pretty uncommon name. I prosecuted a woman named Vivalene about three years ago for jewel theft. She got off easier than she should have." He still wondered why the judge had sanctioned such a decision. It had crossed his mind that perhaps the judge was crooked, but he had never been able to turn up any evidence against the man.
"It wouldn't surprise me if it's the same woman," Mignon said with disdain.
"I don't know how much time we can set aside right now," Hamilton said, looking apologetic. "There was a graphic murder today that we're devoting most of our time to. But I can have Vivalene investigated. If she is responsible for what's happening at Howie's house, my office will find out."
"Thank you." Mignon rose, looking more at peace. "I realize you have matters that seem more critical to tend to, Hamilton, but I would greatly appreciate this. My godson and his family could be in danger."
"I understand." Hamilton stood too. "Oh, what kinds of things were happening at the house?" he wondered. "That could help my men know what to look for."
"It was typical of some kinds of genuine spirit activity. There was a traveling orb of light, mysterious whispering, and several cold spots throughout the house."
"I see," Hamilton said. "So there wasn't one particular place in the house that anything focused on?"
"No," Mignon said. "The orb was downstairs in the foyer, up the stairs, and along the second-story corridor. The whispering was heard in several rooms on both floors. The cold spots likewise were scattered."
Hamilton nodded. "I'll have my men try to get to the bottom of that as well as whether Vivalene bought supplies that could have created those effects," he said. "Did you look for a tape recorder or some other audio device that could have played the whispering?"
"Yes," Mignon told him. "We found nothing."
"Maybe it's inside the wall," Hamilton said. "You said it's an old house. There could be several secret compartments."
"That's possible," Mignon agreed. She started to turn away. "Thank you, Hamilton. I knew I could count on you."
"I can't promise we'll find anything," Hamilton hastened to say. "I can only promise we'll do everything we can. Ghost-busting is a little out of our league."
A slight smile tugged at Mignon's lips. "If the spirits were real, I assure you the problem would be far greater than what you could handle. I'm confident you can solve this."
Hamilton watched her departure. Shaking his head, he walked around to the other side of the desk and sat back in the chair.
Mignon was a woman he had never quite been able to figure out. They had been friends for years, long before her son Larry ever became an assistant D.A. in the office. She had always been a very composed, aloof person, someone Hamilton considered as being intelligent and level-headed. And yet she was a full believer in such things as voodoo and spirit trances, things that Hamilton could not even begin to take seriously.
He frowned. Then there was the story she had brought him today. He did not like the thought of this Vivalene woman being involved in what was happening at Howie's house. Yet on the other hand, if he could prove that she was guilty she would surely get a proper sentence, unlike three years ago.
Of course, that was provided that the same judge would not preside over the case. The previous hearing against Vivalene was not the only time the man had behaved in a strange and suspicious manner. And yet in every case there was an alternate explanation for his decisions. There was never a way to make it conclusive that he was corrupt.
He stood, reaching for his hat off the coat tree. He would send a couple of men to go over Howie's house with a fine-toothed comb. But he was going to personally take a bit of time to pay a visit to Vivalene.
The old neighborhood was peaceful, at least upon initial glance. The streets were lined with deciduous trees, which, due to the shortening of the days, were turning a wide array of colors in the late October afternoon. Hamilton remembered the tall, strong maples that stood on either side of the Petersons' house.
He pulled up in front, glancing to the mansions on the right and on the left. Mignon had not mentioned which side Vivalene had moved into, but he had picked up that information before leaving the office. The house in question was to the right. A small hill sloped upward in the yard, adding to the mysterious feel of the place. Yes, it seemed like something Vivalene would like—if she was the one Hamilton remembered.
The next moment confirmed it. A woman with thick red hair ambled out of the house, walking down the hill to the mailbox. There was no mistaking the innocent yet suggestive steps. Hamilton moved to exit his car.
She looked up with an easy smile. She had known he was there when she first came out of the house. That was obvious, although she wanted to pretend otherwise.
"Well, Hamilton Burger," she purred, brushing a strand of hair out of her eye. Her deep, aristocratic tones had not changed. "It's been such a long time, hasn't it."
"Three years," he answered. "What are you doing back in Los Angeles?"
She shrugged, leaning on the steel mailbox with crossed arms. "It's a lovely city, really," she said. "Frankly, I missed it."
"You mean you missed what you could steal here." Hamilton's voice was flat and unbelieving.
"Now darling, I'm crushed," Vivalene pouted. She stood up straight, never taking her gaze from the district attorney as she pulled down the flap of the mailbox. "I can't believe you came all the way out here to see little old me. You certainly made it clear three years ago that you couldn't stand the sight of me. Unless . . ." She batted her eyes. "You've changed your mind."
Hamilton laughed in derision. "Don't flatter yourself. Actually, I came here to check on the Petersons next-door."
"Oh?" Vivalene raised an eyebrow as she dug through the mailbox for the day's haul. "Friends of yours?"
"I know the kid's godmother," Hamilton said. "She told me something strange has been happening at their house." He watched Vivalene carefully for her reaction.
She barely reacted at all. Instead she shuffled through the mail. "I have been hearing odd sounds from over there," she said.
Hamilton folded his arms. "What odd sounds?" He had no idea if she was even telling the truth. But for now he would play along.
She shrugged, closing the mailbox. "Moans, groans, the occasional scream." She looked up, blinking at him in faux innocence. "Do they need a permit to open a Halloween house?"
"Is that what they're doing?" Hamilton returned.
"Well, what else could it be?" Vivalene paused, mulling over the matter in her mind. Then she stepped closer to the sidewalk, dangerously near to her prey. "Surely you haven't decided to believe in ghosts."
Hamilton stood his ground, unaffected. "Not a chance. What I've been hearing is that someone might be trying to scare the Petersons out of their home."
"How dreadful." Vivalene gave him a sultry smile. "I do hope you catch them, darling."
"Can you think of anyone who might want them out?" Hamilton queried. Trying to get any real answers out of this vague woman was giving him a headache. That was something else that had not changed.
"No one at all." Vivalene took a step closer. "I don't associate with them much. You know, I don't like children."
"That doesn't surprise me," Hamilton returned. "They probably don't think much of you, either."
"Touché, Mr. Burger. Touché." Vivalene turned slightly as if to leave. "If that's all . . ."
"It's all. For now," Hamilton added.
"Then I'll just be going," Vivalene said. "I have some letters I need to answer."
She turned back, lightly tapping the brim of his white fedora with the edges of the envelopes. "I can't see your eyes with that hat's shadow falling over them," she complained. "You always did have very nice eyes." With that and a last smile she turned away, sashaying very deliberately up the hill.
Hamilton narrowed his eyes, tugging his hat back down as he turned to travel up the sidewalk. He had learned enough about Vivalene in the past to know that she was hiding something now. What it was, however, was anyone's guess. The next thing he needed to do was find out whether Vivalene was the only one to attest to moans, groans, and the occasional scream coming from the Petersons' house.
Riley and Hanley, his investigators, were talking with Howie Peterson on the porch when he climbed the steps to the old house. Howie, who was rocking back and forth and seemed shy, turned to look his way. Instantly he perked up.
"Hi, Mr. Burger!" he chirped with a wild wave.
Riley straightened, looking to Hamilton with a shake of his head. "Now if that isn't a one-hundred-eighty-degree turn," he said. "We could barely get two words out of him."
"It's just that I know him," Hamilton answered. "He doesn't handle strangers well."
He looked to Howie. "Hello, Howie. How are you doing? Your godmother told me something strange has been happening at your house."
Howie nodded sagely. "It's ghosts," he said. "Well, nobody thinks so but me. But I know." He crossed his arms, not leaving room for argument.
"I see. And how do you know, Howie?" Hamilton asked.
"Just 'cause." Howie glanced back at the house. "It's scary in there now. I don't like going in at night, even when Mom and Dad are there."
"Do your parents ever talk about moving, Howie?" Hanley joined in, hoping that Howie would open up more to him and Riley with Mr. Burger there.
"Nope. Well, I think Mom kind of wants to now. Dad wants to know what's going on. He thinks like Mignon, that someone's pretending."
"But you don't think so," Riley said.
Howie shook his head. "It's ghosts."
Hamilton gave an inward sigh at what he was about to ask. "Doesn't your godmother know all about ghosts?"
"Yep. And she says there's not any." Howie looked scared. "But people don't make sounds."
Now Hamilton tried not to be amused at the young boy's phrasing. "Sounds? What do you mean?"
"It sounds like they're really really scared," said Howie.
"Like screaming?" Hamilton suggested.
Howie nodded. "And then it makes me scared too."
"That's what we're here for—to try to help you not be scared," Hanley volunteered. "Can you let us in the house? We're going to look for the ghosts."
Howie looked at him in awe. "You guys catch ghosts?"
"Well, we haven't yet," said Riley, managing to keep a straight face. "But this might be our lucky day."
Howie considered it for all of a moment. "Okay!" he said, turning to open the door.
Hanley stepped closer to Hamilton. "What happened with the woman, Mr. Burger?" he asked, keeping his voice low.
"It was her," Hamilton returned. "She hasn't changed. She's up to something now; I know it."
Further conversation was preempted as Howie let the door swing open. It creaked, sliding back on its hinges. As the sound died down, others took its place. Everyone could catch the faintest trace of voices, without being able to pinpoint what they were saying.
Howie scurried back to Mr. Burger. "It's the whisper people," he whimpered.
It continued for a moment more while the group stepped into the entryway. Then, as quickly as it had come it stopped without any warning, leaving the parlor as dead as it had been before the door had opened.