This is a follow-up to The Case of the Look Alike Detective. It is helpful if it is read before this one.
Disclaimer: I do not own either the Perry Mason characters or the Ironside characters. They are the creation of Erle Stanley Gardner and Collier Young.
The Case of the Failure to Look Beyond the Obvious
Perry Mason sat at his desk. He had just finished another trial, his third since arriving back from San Francisco. This one had been particularly long and grueling. In the end he was able to convince Hamilton Burger and Lt. Arthur Tragg his client was not guilty. He had provided enough evidence for Tragg to trap the real killer. Perry was tired from too many weeks with too little sleep.
Mason took a sip from the coffee his confidential secretary, Della Street, had put on his desk. In front of him was a stack of mail Della was expecting him to answer. Mason pressed and then spoke into the intercom. "Della, would you come in here, please."
A moment later Della came through his office door. With her hands behind her she leaned back on the door. "Are you ready to answer your mail, Perry?"
Perry loved that particular pose. Good thing he did as Della did it often. She walked to the center of the room with her note pad in hand.
Perry hated the mail and would inevitably put it off as long as Della would allow. He had already put it off twice. He doubted Della would allow it again but Perry could not resist giving it another try. "Della, let's do this later. We have more important things to do than this mail."
Della laughed. "Nice try, Chief but you have already put it off twice. It will not take that long. Let's just sit down and get it done. I also have all the remaining paperwork done for the trial. Once you have looked over that you can sign it and we can call it a day. We both could use a little rest. Between these three trials and the trial in San Francisco neither of us has had a minute to ourselves. Nor have we spent any time together outside this office that did not involve work. I miss that time together."
Perry smiled. He walked around the desk and approached Della. "Why don't we just call it a day right now and I'll take you to a nice quiet restaurant and we can go back to one of our apartments and spend the rest of the day and evening together."
As he reached for Della she slipped away from him and headed for the desk. "After the mail, Mr. Mason, and after 5:00." The intercom buzzed. Della pressed the button.
"Miss Street, there is a call for Mr. Mason from San Francisco," Gertie informed her.
Della picked up Mason's private line and answered, "Mr. Mason's office."
A familiar gruff voice barked out, "Hello, Della. Is my brother working today or did he decide he needed some time off after winning this latest case?"
"Hello, Robert. It is good to hear from you. Perry is right here. And for your information we have not had a day off since we arrived back here from San Francisco."
Perry took the phone from Della. "Hello, Bob. How's everything in San Francisco?"
It was not that long ago Perry had traveled to San Francisco to defend Scott Whitmore, the son of Jim Whitmore, now Senator Whitmore. Scott had been accused of killing Lt. David Martin. Perry Mason and Robert Ironside had joined forces to investigate the case. Working together with Ironside's staff, Paul Drake, Hamilton Burger and Lt. Tragg, they were able to prove Whitmore innocent with a dramatic courtroom confession by Lt. Martin's father, David Martin Sr. Lt. Martin was investigating a drug trafficking ring in which he discovered his father was part of. He threatened to turn him in. Martin had his son murdered to keep from being exposed.
The uncanny resemblance between Mason and Ironside caused quite a bit of excitement. After the trial Ironside made a startling revelation. He presented Mason with his birth certificate and a DNA test showing that Mason's father was also Ironside's father. The two men agreed to keep in touch.
"Everything here is fine. Dennis makes sure my caseload is extremely heavy. I think it is his revenge for all the trouble I cause him. Listen, Perry, there is a police convention in Los Angeles next week. Any chance of getting together?" Ironside asked his younger brother.
"Are you kidding? Of course there is. In fact would you like to stay at my place while you are here? I will see to it you have a vehicle to get around in," Mason said excitedly.
"Mark will be coming with me. It would probably be easier if we stayed at a hotel. I would appreciate if you would make arrangements. Some place close to your apartment, Perry," Ironside suggested.
"Of course. I will have Della take care of it right away," Perry assured him. "Do you need two rooms adjoining in order for Mark to assist you?"
"Yes, if possible. Otherwise put Mark in a room next door to me," Ironside told him.
"I thought you hated police conventions. I knew there was one in town but I did not think you would be coming after being told how you feel about them," said Perry.
"Police conventions are educational for police officers but I find them boring and usually avoid them. In this case they have asked me to address the convention. Seems they are interested in the Martin case. I am surprised they did not invite you to join us. Lt. Tragg called me when he found out I would be one of the keynote speakers. He is also addressing the convention. He wants to get together for dinner. Do you know any place where they serve really hot chili?" Ironside mused.
Perry laughed. "You really do like getting under Tragg's skin, don't you?"
"I can always spot an easy target," Ironside laughed. "Anyway call me back with the arrangements. I'll let you know my schedule as soon as I have it. Give Burger a call and have him join us for dinner," Ironside told him.
"Will do, Bob. Talk to you soon." Perry hung up the phone.
Ironside replaced the phone in the cradle as Ed and Eve came down the ramp. "Chief, Carl found Jermaine Weber. He was hiding out in a hotel in Chinatown. He resisted arrest and took a shot at Carl. Carl shot him but it's just a flesh wound. He'll recover. He is at the hospital. Reese put a police guard at his door. Wells wants to make a deal with you."
Mark walked over and put sandwiches on the table. Ironside lifted the bread and grumbled, "Ham again? Don't we have anything else in the refrigerator?"
Mark shook his head. The chief made that remark every time he made him ham sandwiches. "He wants to make a deal with Chief Robert T. Ironside? Doesn't he know the chief is known as 'No Deal Ironside'?"
"It's not up to me to make deals," Ironside groused. "If he wants to make a deal he will have to talk to the district attorney. I am not even in charge of this particular investigation. Carl Reese is. It's up to Reese to approach the DA with a possible deal."
Eve poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down. "John Richards will probably make a deal with him simply to spite you, Chief. He still has not forgiven you for working with Perry Mason on the Martin case."
Ironside wheeled over to the filing cabinet. "Eve, where is the file on the Martin case?"
"It's on your desk. You had it out the other day. I was not sure if you were finished with it so I left it there. It is under the Jackson file." Eve told him.
Ironside wheeled over to the desk. He brought the Martin file back with him to the table. As he opened it the phone rang. "Get that will you, Eve."
"Chief Ironside's office," Eve declared into the phone. She listened a minute and said, "It's the commissioner. He wants to speak with you."
Ironside punched the line that was lit and picked up the phone. "Yes, Dennis."
"Bob, you have probably heard by now they have picked up Jermaine Weber."
"Yes, Dennis. I found out just a few minutes ago," Ironside said.
"Are you aware of how much I want this animal behind bars, Bob?" Randall asked.
"Dennis, the police are doing everything they can to build a solid case on this guy. As a friend, I have to tell you I think you should stay out of it completely," Ironside warned the commissioner.
"This guy sold drugs to my niece. She died of an overdose of the heroin he sold her. I want him, Bob. I would like you to take over the investigation. I don't trust anyone else to handle this one," Randall's voice was almost pleading.
Ironside shook his head as he spoke into the phone. "Carl Reese is one of the best detectives in the department. He is as good as anyone in my office. I am not about to step on his toes. He has been there for me every time I have asked anything of him. Dennis, Carl can handle this. You are too close to this one. Stay out of it. I am telling you as a detective and a friend."
Randall sighed into the phone. "Reese is one of the best. I agree, but not THE best. You're the best, Bob. Please, under the circumstances I can't order you to take it but I am asking you to."
Ironside felt for his friend. He knew how much he loved his niece. He had never had any children of his own. She meant everything too him. "I will check with Carl and keep track of how the investigation is going. Carl can report to me. But Dennis, I will not take it out of his hands."
There was silence on the other end of the phone. "That's better than nothing. I would appreciate you doing that. Thanks, Bob," Randall said in resignation.
"Stop worrying, Dennis. We'll put this guy behind bars. Just let Carl do his job." Ironside hung up the phone. "Ed, call Carl and ask him to get up here. Tell him I want to talk to him."
"Right away, Chief," Sgt. Brown responded.
"Eve, get me a cup of that coffee, will you please," Ironside said as he reached for the Martin file.
Eve poured a cup of coffee, took it over and set it down in front of her boss. "Chief, why are you going over the Martin file? I thought we were done with that case."
Ironside frowned as he was reading the file. "Something Perry Mason said to me the night he asked me to help with the Martin investigation. He told me he had a great deal of respect for the police but felt the police quite often stopped at the obvious. He told me he is forced to dig past the obvious to find the truth. I have this nagging feeling we stopped at the obvious."
Mark sat down beside Chief Ironside. "I don't understand. We found solid evidence that Councilman Martin was the one who ordered his son killed along with Pierre DeValle. Why would the police have to dig further?"
Ironside looked up from the file. "I can't answer that…yet. But something is wrong."
Ed walked over and joined his co-workers at the table. Ironside had his full attention. "What are you basing this feeling on, Chief?"
"I can't answer that either. All I can say is I trust my instincts," Ironside said. "When is Carl coming up?" he asked Ed.
"He said he would as soon as he could get away. He is in the middle of the Wells case right now," Ed told his boss.
Ironside went back to reading the Martin file. Everyone else went back to their assignments.
Commissioner Dennis Randall sat in his office reading the arrest report of Jermaine Weber. When he completed the last line of the report he sat back. It looked like everything was in order. Reese had made a clean arrest. Randall knew Ironside was right about Carl. He was thorough and by the book. He was one of the best in the department. But Randall wanted his top man on the case. He had to find a way to convince Bob Ironside to take it over. Wells just could not be allowed to get off. Randall knew he would be on pins and needles until the man was convicted and sent to prison.
He would never forget that day when he had to tell his sister, Maureen, her daughter was dead. She was only seventeen years old. Stephanie Hillman was a pretty blond senior high school student who had made the honor role and had been planning on going to UCLA. To Randall's disappointment she had gotten involved with Jermaine Weber. The young man was nothing but trouble and Randall had tried to warn his niece several times but it always ended in a terrible argument between them. Randall felt a sense of responsibility to her after her father died in a car accident.
His sister had been through so much. He owed it to her to see to it the young man responsible for her daughter's death was punished. He would not rest until he was behind bars.
He and Robert Ironside had been friends for years. There was no better detective anywhere than Ironside. Randall had to have his friend in charge of this investigation. There was no way Weber would beat the rap with Ironside in charge. Maybe there was something Randall could do to get Ironside to change his mind. He would start checking further into Wells' involvement. Yes, he would prove to Ironside this case needed his attention.
"Chief, Hamilton Burger is on the phone," Della told Perry over the intercom.
Perry picked up the phone and punched the lighted line. "Hello, Hamilton, what can I do for you?"
"Della says you can take a four-day weekend next week for fishing. You interested?"
Perry laughed. "Sure am. I am wondering where your mystery fishing hole is. Della has cleared my calendar for next Thursday and Friday. Shall we invite Paul and Lt. Tragg to go with us?"
Hamilton hesitated and then said, "I was really looking forward to just you and I going. I thought it would be a good time for us to fish and spend some time together outside the courtroom."
Perry smiled. Hamilton Burger really had made a major effort toward Perry ever since returning from San Francisco where he helped Perry defend Scott Whitmore who was accused of killing a San Francisco police lieutenant. Perry had enjoyed the time they had spent together. It eased the tension that was caused when they opposed each other in the courtroom. "That's fine. We will just go together. By the way, Bob Ironside called me today. He is going to be in town here for the police convention. I am getting together with him for dinner. He asked that I invite you. I hope you will accept his invitation."
"I would love to. I did not get much of a chance to talk with him outside the case so a dinner outing would provide the time to ask him in depth about a couple cases he solved that I am particularly interested in. Tell the chief I would love to have dinner with him. I am not surprised Arthur has accepted. Despite complaining about the chief's chili, he finds Ironside fascinating. I think he admires the chief's abilities as a detective," Hamilton said.
"Well, don't tell Tragg but Bob has already inquired about where to find the hottest chili in Los Angeles." Perry laughed.
Hamilton laughed in return. "I don't think there is a place that serves chili hotter than the chief's!" Hamilton changed the subject. "Perry, I wanted to give you a heads up on a man that is going to be seeking your services. We are charging him with first-degree murder of his boss. His name is Thomas Rennihan. We have two witnesses and we have him on camera. He had been embezzling from the company when his boss caught him. He killed him rather than face charges. Now he has to face a murder rap. You can look at what we have."
"I have already seen the evidence and talked to him. He spent the entire interview lying to me. Della would not let me take the case if I wanted to. No, that is one I will gladly let you send to prison. He belongs there. I told him to find another lawyer. I'm not interested," Perry informed him.
"Good, I need a rest from you. Tangling with you over that last one was all I can handle for a while. You really screwed up my case against that drug dealer," Hamilton said.
"You should have indicted him on charges of dealing, not murder. He was not guilty of murder. I could not allow him to go to jail for something he did not do," Perry told him.
"Are you going to defend him on the charges we just brought against him on dealing drugs?" Hamilton inquired.
"No, I told him to find himself a different lawyer. Make sure you make that one stick Hamilton because he is guilty as hell," Perry said. "Got to go, I hear Della calling for me. I am looking forward to the fishing trip. Goodbye, Hamilton." Perry hung up the phone.
Della walked into Perry's office. "Chief, I have the briefs ready for your signature." She walked over and put them on his desk.
Perry signed them and handed them back to Della. "What do you say we get out of here and I'll take you to dinner. There is nothing really pressing that we need to work late and we could use a little down time." Perry walked around the desk and approached Della. He put his arm around her waist and pulled her to him. He bent down and kissed her.
When they separated Della smiled and said, "I'll get my coat."
It was six o'clock by the time the door to Ironside's office opened and Carl Reese walked in. "Hi, Chief, you wanted to see me?"
"Carl, update me on the Wells case," Ironside said.
Reese stopped. The concern was visible on his face. "Are you taking over the investigation?"
"No, I am not. I got a call from the commissioner. He is concerned about this one. You know his niece died of an overdose. The heroin was provided by Wells." Ironside pulled out a chair indicating Reese to sit down.
Reese sat down in the chair. "Yes, I am aware of that. Doesn't he trust me to handle this case?"
"It is not a matter of not trusting you, Carl. The commissioner just wants me to keep him up to date on your progress." Ironside looked at Carl and could see Reese was not convinced.
"We have a witness that saw Weber sell the heroin to Randall's niece. We have him under protective custody. We also have Wells on video making a buy from his supplier. We got a search warrant for his apartment and found 80 kilos of heroin. We know he has been selling it for some time but this is the first time we have been able to nail him," Reese said.
"Carl, I want you involved in every aspect of this case. There is no way I want this guy to get off. By the book, Carl," Ironside told him.
"Alright, Chief and I will give you regular updates. That is what you conceded to when the commissioner asked you to take over the case, isn't it?" Carl looked at Ironside for a reaction.
"I want you to update me, Lt. Reese, because I want this guy off the streets," Ironside barked at him with annoyance.
"Right, Chief. I will keep you informed." Reese got up and headed out the door.
Officers James Buckley and Kevin Kilmer pulled into the SFPD and parked their police cruiser in its normal spot. Kilmer got out of the car and walked to the back. He opened the trunk and took out the heroin and video that had been given to them by Carl Reese to bring to the station. As he pulled it out a man pushed the barrel of a gun into his back. "Do not turn around, just hand me that package and you will get out of this alive," the voice said.
Kilmer made no attempt to turn around. He handed the package and video to his assailant. That was the last thing he would remember as he was hit on the head with the butt of the gun.
Ironside was sound asleep when the phone beside him rang. He looked at the clock. It was 2:30am. "Ironside," he said. He listened for a few minutes. "Why was it not brought in immediately? Why did those officers drive around all day with heroin in their vehicle? Randall is going to have a fit." Ironside slammed down the phone. "Mark!" He knew he would get no more sleep tonight.