A Touch of Honey
Notes: The characters aren't mine and the story is! This takes place during season 6, precisely during the episode The Surplus Suitor. It was entirely inspired by the snippet of dialogue from the episode that I've included at the beginning. I believe that Della is platonically fond of Hamilton, due to certain things she says as well as the looks she sometimes shoots him, but judging from the following dialogue, that is either incorrect or Hamilton thinks it is. Curious, I wanted to explore it more. I drop a reminder that none of the events of my mystery stories have happened yet, in this timeline.
"Well, Miss Street, having you here just as a witness for the prosecution is a rare experience for both of us."
"I'll try not to be hostile, Mr. Burger."
"Well. . . . That would be a rare experience too."
Their exchange was still ringing in Della's mind as she stepped down from the witness stand. Mr. Burger was not watching her now; he was looking over his folder and making a few notes. As she walked over near the gate, Lieutenant Anderson reached over from his customary position in the first row behind it and swung it open for her. She smiled her thanks and walked through.
Although she continued to stay at the hearing as a spectator (and in case she would be recalled for some reason), her thoughts were wandering.
When Hamilton had commented on her "hostile" remark it had been a quiet aside. Clearly he had not wanted anyone else in the courtroom to hear. But from his tone of voice she had picked up on several things.
He had not been talking solely about their meetings in the courtroom, but about any time they had any contact. And perhaps Della was being too observant, or imagining up things that were not there, but she had detected awkwardness or even hurt in his voice.
Was that possible? And more to the point, was it possible that Della actually had been giving off such a vibe through the years?
There had definitely been a barrier between her and Mr. Burger at first, she because of her default loyalty to Perry and he because of his frustration over Perry's law-bending. But as all of them had grown to know each other better through the years, she had thought that barrier had largely relaxed. Maybe, however, it had only relaxed in her mind and she had never sufficiently shown it.
She had developed a fondness for Hamilton over time. There was something endearing about his occasional awkwardness. And she held a great respect for his desire to make amends when he knew he had been wrong about something. He was not out to get them, as she suspected Paul sometimes still thought. He was just trying to do his job.
Of course there was still always a certain coolness when she took the witness stand for the state. She was concerned over what she would be forced to say, not wanting it to be anything that would get Perry in trouble. But Perry had swerved away from his near-illegal methods and that was rarely a problem anymore. Still, though, that did not mean that Della liked testifying for the prosecution.
Or nearly being charged as an accessory to murder. Hamilton had threatened it that one time, and it would have happened if Della's friend Janet Brent had been found guilty of killing the blackmailing Edward Franklin. Della knew that all too well.
He had been friendly when he had come to see them when it was all over, however, and although Paul had not been swayed Della had been touched. Hamilton had not wanted to have to charge her; he had only been doing his job. Perry himself had been upset by Della's actions during that case, knowing the position she was putting herself in. Even though he had put his own career at stake many times for clients, he did not want Della to do the same with hers—or with her life.
She watched Hamilton now as he paced the courtroom, interrogating his latest witness. She had only intended to make a quip on the idea of a hostile witness, but Hamilton's response had alerted her to things she had not quite realized. And somehow, she did not like the idea that he felt she was hostile towards him.
She leaned back, pondering to herself. She wanted to rectify this. But how, exactly? And while still making it clear that her allegiance was to Perry?
. . . Or maybe that attitude was the problem. Perry himself had always asserted that both he and Hamilton wanted justice and truth above anything else. They were on the same side. And perhaps sometimes, it wasn't always easy to remember that.
And perhaps, Della mused, the solution was very simple. If she did not ever think of Hamilton as the enemy, and instead saw him as a fellow truth seeker, maybe those feelings would reflect themselves. Especially if she made an extra effort to show him that she held nothing against him.
When court let out for the noon recess and everyone was getting up to leave, Della slipped out of her row and walked to the nearby gate. "Goodbye, Mr. Burger," she said.
Hamilton, who was going through his folder, jumped a mile. "What?" He looked over in disbelieving surprise that only increased when he saw he was not hallucinating or mishearing. "Did you just say . . ."
Della smiled in gentle amusement. "I said goodbye. Will you need me in court this afternoon?"
Hamilton came over to the gate, gazing in amazement at the woman on the opposite side. "I don't know, Miss Street," he said. "It's always possible that you'll need to be recalled. Anyway, though, I assumed you would want to be here since the defendant is one of Mr. Mason's former clients."
"Yes," Della nodded. "I'll be here." She turned and walked to the doors, leaving Hamilton gaping after her.
It was easy to greet Mr. Burger when she came into the courtroom shortly before two. Again he looked up with a start, but at her pleasant "Good afternoon" he nodded and returned the sentiment. He looked, however, as though he was not sure what to make of it.
Della rarely ever spoke to him unless he instigated it; generally he saw her with Perry and Perry did most of the talking. But his presence was not the only reason for her silence. When Della had first arrived alone at court in the morning she had not sought Hamilton out. And now she had, twice. He shot her several confused looks throughout the afternoon.
The hearing wrapped up shortly before evening, with the true murderer exposed by attorney Sherman Hatfield. As everyone stood to depart, Hamilton turned in time to catch Della getting out of her seat and stepping towards the gate once again.
"Well, Miss Street, here to gloat?" he asked.
"Gloat, Mr. Burger?" Della's answer was mild.
"The defendant was proven not guilty," Hamilton said. "I'm sure Mr. Mason will be delighted to know."
"He will," Della said. "I'm delighted too. But actually, Mr. Burger, I just came over to say goodnight."
"Oh, I see." Hamilton smiled and spoke in a way that Della knew meant he did not believe what he was being told. "And to what do I owe this sudden outpouring of polite conversation?"
Della just returned the smile, albeit hers was completely genuine. "Well, Mr. Burger, I just don't see the point in being hostile when I'm not on the witness stand. Goodnight."
For the second time that day she left him staring after her.
Perhaps not everything could so much as begin to be repaired in so short a time, but Della had certainly made an impression. And she intended to continue her attempt to reach out to him. She would show him that she felt that just because she was Perry Mason's confidante and secretary, it did not mean she could not number the district attorney among her friends.
She had the feeling that Perry would be glad as well.