It was rare for Perry to spend a Saturday evening in the office, but when he did it was important. On Friday he had suddenly found himself a deputy district attorney charged with prosecuting a case of hospital graft. The man previously responsible for the case, a client of Perry's, was in jail on murder charges. Perry had been confident that a solid weekend's work would get him up to speed. Had been. The case turned out to be a complicated one and now he was far from sure.
He began to run down a mental list of friends he could call for assistance. Most were even less familiar with graft than he was; on top of that, he was unsure of the legalities involved in consulting private attorneys on a public prosecution. He frowned at the mess of papers on the table before him, wondering what Hamilton would do. Then he stood up and headed for the phone on his desk. Why wonder? They were good enough friends now that calling up for advice on a Saturday night shouldn't be a problem – as long as the D. A. was home.
He was indeed home and seemed a little surprised when he found out who was on the line. "Perry? What's the occasion?"
"You may not believe this, but as of last night, I am a deputy district attorney."
There was a pause and then a burst of laughter. "Well, for the love of Mike! Welcome to the firm!"
"Thanks." Perry smiled at his friend's amusement. "But now I've got a problem."
"I have to present the Northport graft case to the grand jury on Monday. I've been working on it all day, but I can't seem to get anywhere. And Brander Harris isn't exactly available for consultation."
"No, he isn't. I take it you need help?"
"I do. Someone who's familiar with graft cases and whom I'm allowed to consult in an official capacity." He hesitated – they were friends, yes, but he still didn't know Hamilton very well and wasn't sure how far he could presume on their friendship. "I'd like that someone to be you, but if you've got other plans... "
There was a dry chuckle. "No, no other plans. I'll be glad to help - anything for a fellow D. A., not to mention a voter and a taxpayer. But fair warning, Perry, I've got a cold and I might end up passing that on to you along with all my invaluable advice."
Perry grinned. "I'll risk it. Thanks for coming over on a weekend, Hamilton."
Another laugh. "Don't worry about it. I've been a public servant long enough to know that I should expect uninterrupted weekends about as often as overtime pay. Are you at your office?"
"All right. I'll be there soon."
The D. A. was true to his word, arriving within half an hour. One glance at the organized chaos sprawled over Perry's round table had him shaking his head. "I was going to suggest we start at the beginning, but do you even know where that is?"
"I think so. I warn you we may end up having to start there more than once before we're done."
"Well, I'm used to that too. Comes up every four years." They laughed and got to work in earnest.
Hamilton had become more than familiar with the deviousnesses of graft while working his way up through the ranks in what was now his office. That experience proved invaluable. Gradually the chaos before them began to resolve itself into a case. It took all night, with occasional breaks to stretch and talk about who would win the pennant, but when morning came things were nearly ready for Della to type up neatly and properly after church services.
It had been a marathon session for Perry, but his attention was too absorbed in other things to feel it – first the case, but then, increasingly as the night wore on, his companion. When Hamilton arrived he'd shown no other signs of illness than a dry cough and a headache. However, the cough got steadily worse and by 2am he was so cold that he got up and put his overcoat on. At that point Perry started watching his friend more closely. The man was obviously tired, even more than the late hour seemed to warrant. Perry also noticed that some of his movements were slow, as if they hurt him slightly, and that his face was flushed.
At 6am, with the end at last in sight, Perry decided that they needed breakfast and invited Hamilton to stretch out on the couch while he was gone. When he returned he found his friend fast asleep. Putting the food down quietly, Perry gave the sick man a quick once-over, careful not to wake him. He definitely had a fever and his breathing was rapid; his pulse seemed normal for a sleeping man, however, even slow, and that worried Perry more than anything. For awhile he knelt by the couch, frowning. Then he woke the sleeper gently.
"Hamilton, I think I'd better take you home."
"Home?" The D. A. blinked at him. "Are we done?"
"Close enough. Della and I can handle it from here. You need rest. And I don't think you should be driving." Hamilton was sitting up slowly and opened his mouth to object, but Perry cut him off. "No arguments. We'll take your car and I'll take a cab back. Come on."
Once on the road Hamilton was soon drifting in and out of sleep. Perry had to ask for directions occasionally and the replies were slow in coming; his passenger seemed a little disoriented. There was no way to tell if this was due to illness or just plain fatigue, or both, but it was the last straw. Once they'd arrived at their destination Perry issued strict orders that his friend go to bed while he phoned for a doctor. Hamilton's regular physician was a kindly, accommodating man who agreed to come over immediately. Perry thanked him, hung up and went to check on the patient.
Hamilton was in bed, dozing quietly enough. His guest looked around the room with budding curiosity. There was so little he really knew about the D. A. - outside of an occasional get-together over lunch or drinks, most of their conversations in the past year or so had been about business. His natural inclination toward snooping soon overcame any moral reservations; he began to wander quietly around the room, looking at the pictures on the walls. One frame didn't have a picture: instead it held a group of army medals from WWII. Included among them was the Legion of Merit. That rocked him back on his heels a little.
Drifting onward, he passed more miscellaneous items: old, well-worn pairs of baseball and boxing gloves, a bit too small for their owner now; a few Pine Hills golf trophies (participation awards, but apparently treasured nonetheless); a grainy, black-and-white photograph of a modest house with a man and woman smiling proudly on its steps – someone had written "Farmington, 1911" in one corner. Perry couldn't help tracing the family resemblance – her eyes, his smile – before moving on. Passing the dressing table he saw yet another picture frame, though this one appeared to hold an illuminated manuscript of some kind. He had stopped to look at it when Hamilton spoke up.
"It's something I recited at school in the fifth grade," he explained, half-asleep. "Kipling. My father gave that to me afterward." He woke up a little more. "Shouldn't you be back at the office, Perry?"
"After I let Dr. Ingersoll in. He'll be here soon." Perry picked up the poem and read its familiar lines:
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
"Quite a thing for a fifth grader to live up to," he remarked, setting it back down.
Hamilton chuckled. "Yeah, it is. But dad thought of that. He said..." He thought carefully for a moment. "He said, 'I do not, now or ever, expect you to be the man here described. I just expect you to try.'" A wistful smile. "Thirty years later, I'm still trying."
Perry looked at him for a long moment, thinking about all he'd just seen and everything that had happened since he picked up the phone last night. "Keep it up, Hamilton," he said at last. "I think you're almost there." His friend laughed skeptically, but that was followed by a glowing smile which showed how much those few words really meant to him. A moment later, still smiling, he drifted peacefully back to sleep.