"Miss Lumley, this is Lt. Tragg, Lt. Anderson, Sgt. Brice and the district attorney, Hamilton Burger."
"Mr. Burger and I have met."
"Oh?" Perry glanced at the D. A. with some surprise, as did the two younger policemen and Paul Drake, who was standing nearby. Hamilton and Tragg, on the other hand, had their eyes fixed on the woman in slowly dawning recognition. They were the only ones who saw her pull the gun.
Thirty seconds later Brice and Andy had her on the ground, Paul had her weapon and Tragg was heading outside to get on police radio. The gunwoman offered her captors no resistance; she only laughed, and kept laughing, her gaze fixed on Hamilton. He returned the look thoughtfully from where he sat against the wall. Perry knelt beside him, fumbling for a handkerchief.
"Miss Dale," he said finally as the policemen stood her up in handcuffs. "That's it, isn't it?" She gave him a final, triumphant look in reply and was led away.
"Miss Dale?" Paul looked after her with a mixture of shock and disgust. "Oh, I'm an idiot." He clenched his fists in frustration.
"Who is she, Hamilton?" Perry asked quietly, trying his best to staunch the flow of blood from his friend's side.
"I sent her father up for grand theft a few years ago. She had to testify. Wasn't happy about it." His breathing was becoming labored. "I guess she still isn't."
"No kidding." Paul kneeled down next to Hamilton on the other side. "I knew that something was up. Keeping her mouth shut all this time, then so eager to help... but I didn't think... oh, some detective I am," he spat out bitterly.
"You are. Some detective." It was warmly and honestly said, but that just made Paul feel worse. Hamilton smiled slightly and put a comforting hand on his arm. "Don't blame yourself because Perry's client has bad taste in alibis." The front door opened and Andy came back inside.
"The ambulance is on its way. Paul, you still have the gun?"
"Yeah. Here it is. I've unloaded it."
"Andy, listen," Hamilton put in. "Whatever her motives, her information could still clear her friend. Try to get a statement. And keep Hanley informed. He'll be handling the office for now." He coughed, wincing, and continued. "Call him as soon as you can. He's going to be busy. And... tell Tragg, 'Thanks for trying.'" The older man had gone straight for the gun when Miss Dale brought it out, but he was just a half-second too late. Andy nodded.
"I will. You know, we may be in for more trouble from her... but we can talk about that later." He glanced across the room at something, then back. "Excuse me." He moved off.
Hamilton started coughing again. Andy returned bearing a blanket and they draped it over the injured man. As they did so, Perry glanced down and paled a little; his pressure on the handkerchief hadn't done much to stop the bleeding. Hamilton noticed and smiled a little. "It's all right, Perry."
"Really, doctor?" Perry tried to return the smile but did a pretty poor job of it.
"Really. After all, worst case... it's just the bar again." He chuckled, but he was fading fast and his eyes were focused on something far away. "You know, Perry... sunset and evening bell and... one clear call... "
"Not for you, Hamilton. Not tonight." Perry's voice was urgent, but before he'd finished his friend had stopped listening. Paul and Andy looked at each other in concern and a little confusion. Perry fell silent, stone-faced. The wail of the ambulance siren soon intruded itself on their notice and within fifteen minutes the D. A. was on his way to Central Receiving.
An account of the shooting was in all the papers next day, Sunday. Hamilton's medical state was simply described as "serious." Della called Perry immediately upon seeing the story but found that he had very little information to add. It was from Paul, who dropped by her office on Monday, that she finally got a full account. As he finished she shook her head sadly.
"Poor Hamilton. I can't believe it all went so wrong."
"I can't believe he wasn't angry or... or something. I'd feel a lot better about the whole thing if he was." Paul stabbed gloomily at her desk with a pencil. "Did you get that bit about calls and sunsets? Perry seemed to understand, but he wouldn't answer my questions. He wouldn't say anything."
Della looked pensive."It's a poem – by Tennyson, I think. Someone made it into a hymn."
"You know it?"
"Yes." She paused, then recited in a low, sing-song voice:
"Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar."
It was very quiet in the office after that. Paul took a deep breath. "How's the boss doing?"
Della shook her head. "Very positive and cheerful. I don't believe it for a minute. He picked up all the papers on the way to work and didn't read more than a few words from each of them. Then he did the same thing this afternoon coming back from lunch."
Paul nodded. "Hoping for a leak. The police and the hospital are being pretty tight-lipped about it all; none of my contacts will even drop a hint." He sighed and stood up. "I gotta' get back. See you around, beautiful."
As the afternoon wore on Perry's upbeat demeanor became more pronounced and Della was increasingly concerned. He didn't ask her to send out for the evening papers but she did it anyway. When they arrived she glanced through the topmost one and her heart sank; a quick look at the others only served as confirmation. She picked up the first paper again and brought it in to Perry.
"What is it, Della?" He noticed her serious expression first, then what was in her hands. He froze. She handed it over slowly.
"Bad news. But not the worst," she added quickly. "Not... not yet." He looked at her for a moment, expressionless, then read the page she had opened to. There was only one piece of new information in the article and it was summed up in two words: "critical condition." Perry stared at the page long enough to have read those two words fifty times. Then he slumped forward and put his head in his hands.
"Perry... " She moved around the desk to put her hands on his shoulders. "I'm sure the doctors are doing everything they can."
He sat up and pushed the paper away. "Take care of things here, Della. I'm going to Central Receiving."
"Why? What do you think you'll learn?"
"I don't know." He looked at her in frustration. "But the police won't tell me anything. Hanley won't tell me anything. Even if the doctors won't tell me anything either, at least I'm doing something besides waiting around for someone to decide they'll talk to me!"
He had a few connections at the hospital but each one told him the same thing - security around the D. A. was very, very tight. No news, and especially no one, was getting through it without permission. After an hour of futility he found a seat in the waiting room and tried to think of a different approach. Then he saw a familiar face passing by. He jumped after it.
The lieutenant stopped and looked at him in surprise. "Perry! What are you doing here?"
"Trying to find out something. Anything." He looked at the policeman imploringly. "Andy, you know me. Can't you tell me what's going on in there?"
"You look tired, Perry. You should get some rest." It was a dodge and they both knew it.
"I am tired. Because I'm worried. One of my best friends may be dying and all I can do is read about it in the late edition." He stopped there to take a shaky breath, glancing away for a moment. "Please, Andy."
The detective was a kind man. He wavered. "Perry, I... I wish... " He looked at his friend, sighed, and was silent for a moment. "Tomorrow," he said at last. "I'll come by your office after work tomorrow and... tell you what I can. I promise. Try not to worry."
Perry looked somewhat relieved. "Thanks, Andy," he said, clapping his friend on the shoulder. "I'll try."
The next day Della found her boss much less falsely cheerful and more honestly apprehensive, but hopeful. He told her and Paul what Andy had said and they all looked forward to the promised visit, especially since the morning and afternoon papers were again void of new information. As evening approached lawyer and secretary sat talking quietly in his office. They were expecting Paul to come over once his own office was closed up; when his knock sounded on the door Perry called him in without looking. Della looked, though, and the welcome she had begun died on her lips. Perry frowned and turned in his chair.
Paul wasn't alone. Andy had come in with him. The lieutenant looked very serious and vaguely uneasy; Paul looked stricken. He was carrying a newspaper. Perry looked at them both for a long moment while the blood froze in his veins.
"Look, Perry, I said I'd tell you what I could... " Andy began, but the lawyer wasn't listening. He'd snatched the paper from Paul's hand. Its headline was large and black and cut into him like a knife. ASSAULT ON DISTRICT ATTORNEY NOW MURDER.
Della saw it in his face. "No," she said softly. "Oh, no."
Perry laid the paper down slowly. "It was a joke," he said, with an attempt at a smile. "We sit for the bar, we're admitted to it... and then we cross it. Very funny, Hamilton." But the name choked him and he hid his face in his arms. Della, crying quietly, put her own arms around his unsteady shoulders.
Paul felt a tug at his sleeve. The lieutenant was motioning him into Della's office. "I'm sorry, I tried to get here earlier," Andy said after they'd stepped out. "Please tell Perry that. And... that I wish I had something I could tell him, but I don't. I just have some advice."
"Advice?" Paul looked at him incredulously.
"Yes. Advice. Tell him..." He gave his companion a significant look. "Tell him to remember what they say about the papers." There was a pause, then Andy shrugged and glanced sympathetically at the inner connecting door. "Maybe it'll help, I don't know. Good night."
"Good night." Paul didn't move for a few minutes. He stood there alone in Della's office, turning things over in his mind. Then he walked slowly back inside.
"What they say about the papers... what did he mean?" Della wondered aloud after Andy's messages had been passed along.
"Somehow I don't think he meant 'Extra, extra!' or 'Read all about it!'" Paul replied. "More like 'Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever.' Or 'If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.' Or... " he hesitated.
"Or?" Perry's voice was strained.
The detective poked with one finger at the newspaper still lying on the desk. "Or maybe he just meant, 'Don't believe everything you read.'" There was silence for a time as they pondered this. "Anyway," Paul continued at last, "we know one thing for sure. Andy is keeping secrets when you'd think there were no more secrets to keep."
The next two days passed without incident. Paul, Perry and Della kept themselves busy, but every time there was a lull in their work – or they went home for the night - the uneasy feeling returned that another shoe was waiting to drop, for good or ill. They heard nothing more from Andy.
Perry spent most of Friday morning at a hearing. When he left the courtroom he found a crowd of reporters gathered in the hall, apparently waiting on something that was happening next door; they were bored and, spotting him, came over to ask some questions about current and upcoming cases. One inquired if he had any statement to make on the D. A.'s death. It was a question he'd been avoiding and while he hesitated over it a familiar voice suddenly spoke up.
"I don't know about him, but I do." Perry whipped around in astonishment. There, alive, well and with an impish smile on his face, stood Hamilton Burger. The smile only widened at his friend's dumbfounded expression. "Gentlemen," he continued, stepping forward, "I would like to state, for the record, that any reports you have received of my death were decidedly premature."
There was a moment of silence, then a roar of questions and flashbulbs. Hamilton raised a hand to quiet them. "My office has issued a press statement which should answer all of your questions. For the moment I'll just say that I have been in protective custody due to a price which was placed on my head. A very large price – it was quite an honor." There was scattered laughter from the group. "Excuse me, Mr. Mason, I didn't mean to interrupt. You were saying?"
Perry was regarding him with amused bewilderment. "Thank you. As a matter of fact, I don't have any statement to make on the subject. Or, rather, I didn't. I believe I do now." He extended his hand, along with a grin of relief and delight. "Welcome back, Hamilton." They shook on it, then Perry pulled his friend into a one-armed embrace which the other man laughingly returned.