Chapter Twenty-Nine

The alarm went off at 5:30am and Della Mason groaned discontented. Deprived of her husband's warm embrace within a swift couple of minutes, she turned onto his side of the small bed and buried her face in the pillow that was now soaked with his scent. Bending down, Perry took the blanket and tucked it around his wife's curves, allowing his hands to treat her to a loving caress. Smiling blissfully, Della drifted back to sleep, her mind too fogged to know if his lips kissed her for real or if she was already dreaming.

As always when she was drifting in and out of sleep, Della's dreams were frantic and confusing with a glimmer of sensual longing. When she woke again, her heart was racing, leaving her disoriented for a moment. Turning on her back in slow motion, the secretary blinked her eyes and listened to the soothing sound of running water. In the bathroom, the door ajar, her husband stood with a towel around his hips, humming a tune so familiar to her heart, her mind instantly followed it.

"Did I wake you?" Perry asked as he exited the steam-filled bathroom.

"I don't mind as long as you're humming that tune for me." Mrs. Mason purred like a kitten as she stretched her arms and legs.

"So come what may I want you to know, I'm yours alone and I'm in love to stay," the attorney whispered, leaning down for only her to hear his singing.

"I've always loved that song," Della wallowed in her husband's rendition.

"So have I," Perry Mason hummed quietly into her ear. "Day by day I'm falling more in love with you." Nuzzling his wife's neck, he slowly withdrew himself from her with apparent regret and grabbed the clothes Della had neatly folded the night before. "I better get dressed. I'm running late."

Looking after him, Della yawned and nestled back down in her comfortable pillow, dozing off to the smooth melody of her favorite song. Moments later, she was roused by the rattle of two nurses approaching her with a thermometer and needle to take more blood from her tired arms. Only half awake, the secretary listened to the soothing sound of her husband's baritone and flinched slightly upon intrusion, a cold needle pricking her aching veins. Perry's voice hummed in the background. "There isn't an end to my devotion, it's deeper dear by far than any ocean", Della's mind added the lyrics and reveled in the bewitching tune. What she would give to just hop out of bed and accompany him to court today.

"Did you sleep in these?" The head nurse asked brusquely, forcing Della to open her eyes and pointing at the bobby pins in her hair. Then she tore out the syringe without much compassion for her five star patient who winced in pain for an unseen second.

"Until a couple of minutes ago I did," Della answered sleepily and held her tender arm.

Smiling at her in sympathy was the young nurse from the day before. "Good morning, Mrs. Mason."

"Good morning," Della smiled back and fought her discomfort about the young nurse making her bed while she was still lying in it.

"I hear your husband is still with us," the head nurse grumbled, disapproving of the male noise in the background.

"He'll be out of your hair in a little bit," Della replied and politely covered a yawn with one of her hands.

"I sincerely hope his overnight stay was a rare exception. This is a hospital, not a bed and breakfast," the nurse complained.

"Duly noted," Perry Mason replied as he exited the plumbing unit the hospital was calling a bathroom, a smug grin crossing his scrubby face. "I won't ask for eggs and ham then."

"You haven't shaved." Ignoring the ache in her arm, Della sat up and began to fix her husband's tie as soon as he leaned down to treat her to her morning kiss.

"I will at the office," Perry assured her, pleased about his wife's affectionate mood.

"You can also change into a fresh suit and tie." Holding on to his freshly tied cravat, Della pulled her husband down to meet her for another buss. "I just put a new set in your backup closet the other day."

"If you're ever looking for a job, Mrs. Mason, do call my office," the attorney grinned.

"Oh, I'm quite satisfied with my current employment, sir," Della returned in a cheeky whisper. "It comes with all kinds of benefits."

"Do tell," Perry Mason started but was interrupted by the head nurse clearing her throat with severe depreciation. "I better go now," he whispered and kissed his wife again. "But tonight I'll fill you in on our case and treat you to a whole new set of benefits." He smirked.

Smiling back at him, Della dropped her hands to her husband's and only let him go with quiet reluctance. Looking after him to exchange another last glance before he closed the door from the outside, she sighed to herself, then held up her good arm to meet the hovering head nurse half way.

"Do take my blood pressure while it's still high," Mrs. Mason said and caused the younger nurse to giggle. "I'm not planning to trouble you another night."

When Perry arrived downtown, he saw the light before he had even unlocked the back door to his office.

"You are late," the attorney was greeted by his private detective, his body slouched on the office couch, a thermos jug of coffee already opened to keep him awake.

"I am." Perry Mason entered and closed the door behind him with a thud.

Propping himself up, Paul rubbed his face. "How's Della?"

"Impatient to get back to work."

"Naturally." Paul shook his head and looked at his old friend, concern written all over his face. Pulling himself up from the couch, he grabbed a paper bag from the round table by the window and threw it across the room like a football.

Catching it mid-air, Perry was skeptical about its content and barely dared to open the bag to take a sniff. "What's this?"

"Breakfast," Paul yawned and stretched his limbs. "Peanut butter and jelly. It was the only thing Gertie was able to put together without burning your place down at 5am. The doll was up all night nursing your cranky twins. I've not seen her so tired in her life. Poor kid."

"They usually turn up the volume after midnight." Perry took a bite, then walked around his desk to pour himself a cup of coffee. "Taking turns until they're exhausted."

"So we've noticed," the private eye couldn't hold back another yawn. "I really don't know how your wife is doing it."

"She has more aptitudes than she's aware of," the attorney raved quietly. "But she will have to learn to accept more help."

"It's going to take some effort to convince her no doubt."

"I have my ways," Perry said and gave his friend the kind of look that told him he was through discussing his wife. "Now, what gives, Paul? What does the police report say about Eleanore Sutton's death?"

At 8am, Doctor Hamilton approached Mrs. Mason in her room. As expected, his patient sat at the small table by the window, neatly clad in a navy shirtwaist dress, white cardigan and scarf. Her feet were curled underneath her on the chair, her table orderly: an empty breakfast plate, her notepad and a mug. No signs of crumbs.

"I hope that's not work," Richard startled her out of taking notes.

"Just some thoughts," Della replied gracefully and shoved her pencil behind her ear. "Nothing important."

Leaning over her shoulder to check her words, the doctor smiled. "You're lucky shorthand has never been my strong suit."

"I suppose I am," his patient replied and took a sip from her mug feigning innocence while returning his smile.

"I see you had your breakfast," Richard Hamilton sat on her bed, properly made and neat. "That's good."

"Good enough to get me out of here?"

"I asked the lab to rush your results but so far all I see are signs of recovery," the doctor replied seriously. "Your temperature is back to normal and your blood pressure is not dismal. So if you promise to stick to your diet for at least six weeks until we can run further tests, I will gladly release you into your husband's care today."

"Thank you," Della whispered.

"Don't thank me before you've seen the bill," Richard grinned. "We're charging you extra for the star treatment."

"In my defense, I didn't ask for it."

"Of course you didn't, but neither my wife nor your husband would have had it any other way." Taking her hand into his for a moment, Doctor Hamilton sat quiet for a moment, then addressed his patient with warm severity. "Yesterday, I agreed to let Perry stay with you because I knew you'd benefit from his care. Looking at you today, I don't regret my decision. But you can't just jump back into action and be Mrs. Perry Mason again, devoted wife, mother and secretary. I'm sending you home to your family to rest."

Registering her quiet nod, the doctor continued softly, "I'm serious. Don't take a detour to stop by the office or see how Perry's doing in court. I mean go home, Della. Take a nap with your lovely twins and let Mae cook something nice for you that's low on fat. You'll need time to find a new balance in life but I'm sure Perry will go out of his way to support you. If you let him. And if you possibly can, consider going away for a couple of days - with your husband if you can't be without him. But please, Della, don't brush this off as a scare and keep going like you always do. I'd hate to see you in my care here at the hospital for anything else but another pregnancy. Okay?"

Flickering her lashes to mask her emotions over her friend's concern, Della whispered a demure little "yes".

"All right then," Richard sighed relieved. "Laurie will be here in an hour to drive you home. Get your things ready and I'll see you down later."

Pursing her lips to protest, the secretary was stopped before she could even raise her voice. "Trust is good, control is better." He grinned. "No discussion about it. I know you're incurably devoted to your lawyer husband."

At Perry Mason's office, Paul Drake sat at the large table by the French window, pouring himself another cup of coffee while the attorney changed and shaved in his office bathroom.

"So all it boils down to Eva Belter." Paul shook his head. "You should listen to your wife more often. She's warned you about that dame all along."

"Della thinks she might be guilty."

"I'm sure she is." Paul helped himself to Perry's untouched sandwich. "Question is what she's guilty of."

"Jealousy, Della suggested. Blackmail perhaps."

"And you agree?" Paul mumbled through a large bite of peanut butter and jelly.

"Did Samson talk to her husband?"

"Whose husband? Eleanor's?!" Paul checked his notes. "Oh yes. Was shell-shocked to hear about his wife's demise. Seemed genuine. Must've loved her, Samson reported. His instincts are good, he's usually right."

"Did we subpoena him?" Perry Mason finally emerged from the bathroom, changed into the fresh suit his wife had promised him and wearing her favorite aftershave.

"Couldn't," the detective replied with a shrug and stuffed the rest of his friend's sandwich into his mouth. "He was taken in for questioning by the local police and sent down to L.A. to serve as a witness for the prosecution."

"It looks like we'll be having an interesting day in court today, Paul." Perry grinned and grabbed his coat and hat. "Let's go."