The Case of the Malevolent Mugging
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! I've long been fond of Amory Fallon, Wesley Lau's first Perry character, in the episode The Impatient Partner. It was Amory, and not Andy, who made me realize how attached I'd become to both Wesley and Andy. Hence, this story idea began to form. It does follow my mystery timeline, but aside from brief references to past adventures, it should be able to be seen as a stand-alone. The time period is the present day, as always.Chapter One
Lieutenant Andrew Anderson was exhausted.
Some days were so slow that he was counting the minutes and feeling tempted to throw pencils at the little holes in the ceiling tiles.
Other days were so active that he barely remembered getting home and into bed; he was half-asleep before he ever collapsed on the pillow.
His active days were often filled with a variety of excursions, from examining murder scenes to questioning witnesses to dropping everything to appear in court on separate cases.
That had been the story of today. Now, as he slumped forward at his desk, his arms crossed upon it, he was having the first moment of quiet since he had come in for work sometime that morning. It was getting dark now. Working as a detective meant that overtime just came with the job. A lot of overtime.
"Oh, why did I take this job?" he mumbled to himself.
He didn't really mean it, of course. As a veteran of the force for over fifteen years, he was devoted to his career in the Homicide division. But on bad days, all he wanted was to go home and sleep.
When the phone began to ring, he had half a mind to just let it keep on going. After two rings, however, he pushed himself up with a sigh and lifted the receiver. "Lieutenant Anderson," he mumbled, brushing his falling blond hair out of his eyes.
"Lieutenant, I have to talk to you."
The voice was unfamiliar and low, but Andy could easily hear the fear in it. "What about?" he asked. "Who are you?"
"I'm not giving my name. But you're working on the Graveyard Murder, aren't you?"
"Yes," Andy frowned.
"I know something about what happened that night. But I can't come in there to see you. You have to meet me by the Griffith Observatory in thirty minutes."
It was not the first time Andy had been forced to meet an informant in an unusual location. He started to get up, grabbing his hat at the same time. "How will I know you?" he asked.
"I'll be wearing a red baseball cap with pins all over it. Be there on time or I'll have to leave." With that the mysterious man hung up.
Andy replaced the receiver and hastened to the door. He would be there on time. Any information on the Graveyard Murder would be welcome. It was a gruesome case wherein a dead body had been found sprawled over a headstone in the Los Angeles City Cemetery. So far there were no leads and no suspects.
He stopped by the squad room and peered inside. "Sergeant Brice?" he called, seeing the man at his desk.
Brice looked up. "Yes, Lieutenant?"
"We have a possible lead on the Graveyard Murder. I was just contacted by an anonymous informant."
Brice weaved his way around the desks and hurried to the higher-ranked man. "What did he say?"
"He wants me to meet him at the Griffith Observatory in thirty minutes," Andy said. "He didn't specify whether I was supposed to come alone, so I'd rather not. There's no telling what might happen if someone is aware that he knows. He sounded afraid."
Brice nodded. "Then let's go, Lieutenant."
They headed for the door.
Businessman Amory Fallon was overworked.
He had founded and run the Fallon Paint Company on his own for years. For a time he had brought in a partner, Ned Thompson, but that had been a drastic mistake. Ned had betrayed and cheated him. After his unfortunate murder—for which Amory had been falsely accused—he had determined to go back to the old way of controlling the company all on his own. There would be no more partners.
In general it had been better that way. But every now and then there came a time when business was booming so seriously that Amory wished he had an honest partner to share in the work.
Today he had been on the phone for hours. And just when he had hung up at last, believing that he could stop and go home to Edith, the memory of something else he needed to do hopped into his mind.
"Oh no," he groaned to the empty room. He was supposed to meet a client at the Griffith Observatory at eight, and judging from the last time he had seen a clock, he probably had only moments to spare if he wanted to be punctual. It was all written on the pad in front of him, left by his secretary before she had hurriedly departed to the airport to greet arriving relatives.
For a moment he continued to lean back in the chair, resting against it but being too concerned about the meeting to doze. Finally he sat up straight, running his fingers through his blond hair. Usually he managed to keep it combed and neat. After today it had gotten into wild disarray.
He stood, shuffling to the nearest men's room and the mirror. It would not do to arrive for an appointment looking as bowled over as he felt.
Once his hair was combed and his tie straightened and he had his laptop and his briefcase, he felt a bit better. He would go directly home after the meeting. Edith already knew about it, so she was aware he would not be back for a while yet. He would not need to call her beforehand.
Turning off the lights, he hastened out the door.
The Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park was a historic and visually appealing locale. And tonight, as the skies grew dark, it was also crowded.
The blond man sighed to himself as he exited his car. He glanced back at the sound of a voice from the radio, but then turned and started up the road. Soon he crossed onto the grass.
He had been forced to park some distance away, as the small parking lot was full. What the blazes was going on there tonight? Were all the colleges bringing astronomy clubs to see through the telescopes?
He sighed. Hopefully it would not be hard to find the person he was there to meet.
With a cruel and cold click, a gun was shoved into his back in the next moment.
"Get your hands in the air, Cop."
He froze. "What?"
"You heard me. Reach!"
There wasn't any choice. But even as he raised his hands to the sky, his unknown assailant lashed out.
Pain exploded in the back of his head. He collapsed to the ground as everything went black.
"Lieutenant Anderson is missing?"
Hamilton Burger could scarcely believe what he was hearing. He leaned forward at his desk, his free hand upon it.
"That's what Sergeant Brice said when he called, Mr. Burger," Tragg told him. "It seems that they went to meet an informant at the Griffith Observatory. Brice stayed in the car at first, as he had to take a call that suddenly came in. Andy only had the chance to get a few yards away in that time, but when Brice got out and looked for him, he was gone."
Hamilton shook his head, still in disbelief. "And now it's been almost two hours. Tragg, did Brice ever find the informant they were supposed to meet?"
"No, he didn't. I've been up here combing the grounds for over an hour. Brice has been at it for the full two. And we haven't found a single trace!"
Hamilton started to rise. "I'm coming out too," he declared. "I'll have my phone with me. Let me know if you find him before I get there."
"Alright." Tragg heaved a sigh. "There's no telling where he could've got himself."
Hamilton knew that all too well. Griffith Park was Los Angeles's answer to Manhattan's Central Park. And Griffith was even larger.
He hung up, snatching his hat and coat as he headed for the door. It was late summer now; the nights were growing chilly. The recent cold front only added to the drop in temperature.
He stopped in the corridor, surprised at the sound of the familiar voice. "Sampson? What are you still doing here? I thought you went home hours ago."
Deputy District Attorney Gregory Sampson sighed, shifting the folders he was carrying under his left arm. "I've been sorting through the Thompkins case ever since court let out," he complained. "It's still a muddled mess!"
"I know it is," Hamilton frowned. "But you haven't made any headway on it at all?"
"I'm beginning to piece together a theory," Sampson told him. "I'd like to review it with you, Sir, if you have a moment."
Hamilton debated for less than that moment. "Lieutenant Anderson has disappeared in Griffith Park," he said. "I'm going up there to join in the search. If you want to come with me, I'd be happy to hear your theory on the way."
Sampson nodded, his eyes registering his amazement at the announcement. "Of course I'll come," he said. "But how does a noted police lieutenant simply disappear?"
They began to walk up the hall to the elevators. Hamilton massaged the bridge of his nose. "I wish I knew," he said. "He was going to meet an informant. Sergeant Brice looked away for one minute while he took a call. When he looked back, Lieutenant Anderson was gone. He hasn't been seen since."
"Are the police considering that perhaps the meeting was a trap?"
"Yes, they are." Hamilton pressed the elevator button as they arrived. "Lieutenant Drumm is going over all of Lieutenant Anderson's recent cases, looking for anyone who might have had a motive to set this up."
"It's outrageous," Sampson fumed. "We do our best to protect the people, but there is never an end to the number of madmen emerging in our district. And then they turn their attention on us!"
Hamilton stepped into the elevator and pressed the ground floor button. "I learned a long time ago that it unfortunately comes with the job," he said as Sampson followed him in. "Some people will never be happy with what we do. Why would they? We help put them away, or their family or their friends. It doesn't matter to them that we're doing our jobs and getting criminals off the streets. We'll probably always be the bad guys to their kind."
"It still isn't right."
"No, it isn't. But anyway, right now we don't even know if that's what happened to Lieutenant Anderson. It's just a possibility."
"I understand. But it wouldn't surprise me if it is the truth."
"It wouldn't surprise me, either," Hamilton returned.
It was always eerie, talking with Sampson about these matters. He was young and impulsive and determined to single-handedly fight all the evil in Los Angeles County. Hamilton had heard people in the office joking that Sampson probably kept a tattered copy of Don Quixote under his pillow. And that might not be so far afield.
He reminded Hamilton so much of himself when he had first joined the District Attorney's office.
Hamilton had the sense that Sampson was always trying to prove something to him, that perhaps he even felt Hamilton did not like him. Of course, neither was true. Hamilton knew that Sampson had great potential or he would never be kept on at the office. Sometimes Hamilton had to scold him for his conduct in court, but it was only necessary. Hamilton wished now and then that someone had been around to rein him in more during those first years as the district attorney. If he could provide a guiding hand for one of his rising-star assistants, now that he was older and wiser, he would do it.
And as far as liking Sampson went, well, yes, it was surreal to see himself reflected in this younger man, but Sampson was his own person. And Hamilton liked that person.
"Mr. Burger, are you going to call Mr. Mason about this?"
Hamilton started. "Huh? Oh. Yes, yes I should." He took out his phone as the elevator reached the ground floor. Perry would be deeply concerned about Andy's disappearance. He and Della and Paul would likely all want to join the search.
Lieutenant Tragg stopped near a tree, leaning against it in frustration as he pushed up his hat. The search was starting to sweep over a widening circle around the Griffith Observatory, with a continuing lack of success. And the longer this went on, the more worried he and Sergeant Brice grew.
"I just don't understand it, Lieutenant," Brice exclaimed. "He was right there. How did he disappear just in the time it took me to take that call?"
"It happens in kidnappings all the time," Tragg muttered. He was starting to believe that Andy was not here at all. And what did that leave, other than kidnapping?
The informant was nowhere in sight, either. He could have run away, figuring Andy was not coming fast enough. Or he might have been captured or killed. And there was always the chance that he had been part of all this madness.
"Lieutenant, I just feel terrible about this. If anything's happened to him . . ."
Tragg waved a tired hand at his old friend. "Settle down, Sergeant. It isn't your fault."
Brice sighed. "It's hard not to feel like it is."
"Blame the radio for suddenly coming to life," Tragg said with a crooked smile. "You would've been right there with him if it hadn't."
"That's true," Brice conceded. "That was the plan. Lieutenant Anderson hadn't wanted to come here alone. When the call came in, he thought he should hurry ahead anyway while I took it. With the evening traffic, we were already late."
"I understand, Sergeant."
Tragg's attention was suddenly captured by several familiar figures walking over the grass. "Lieutenant?" came Perry Mason's voice.
Tragg sighed but ambled over to them. "I sort of figured you'd end up involved in this, Perry," he greeted. "And Della and Paul too, by default."
"Oh, Lieutenant, hasn't there been any sign of Andy?" Della exclaimed. "We've all been so worried since Mr. Burger called and told us."
"No," Tragg said. "No sign."
"Where are your men looking now?" Perry asked.
"Oh . . ." Tragg turned, gesturing around the hill. "We've about covered all of this thing by now."
Paul cringed. "So if he's not on the hill, he could be pretty much anywhere in the park."
"Uh huh. And with over four thousand acres, you, uh, see the problem."
"Yes," Perry frowned and nodded. "We certainly do."
Tragg walked past him, starting to head down the steep hill. He nearly crashed into a worried Officer Reed coming from the other direction.
"Whoa there," he said, reaching to steady them both. "What gives, Reed?"
"Lieutenant, Pete just got a call from Mac," Reed told him. "Mac found a man lying in the bushes farther down the hill. He's been beaten and mugged—no identification. But Mac wanted me to come get you right away."
Tragg rushed past him without another word. Brice, Perry, and the others were all right at his heels.
Sergeant MacDonald looked up as the group arrived on the scene. "Lieutenant, I think you need to have a look at this," he said.
Tragg did not like the other man's grim expression or his tone of voice. From this angle, he could not clearly see the man MacDonald was kneeling beside. He was on his side, facing away from Tragg.
"What's going on, Sergeant?" he demanded, walking over. "How badly is he hurt?"
"Well, he's alive," MacDonald said slowly. "He was hit over the head pretty bad; I can't get any response from him at all."
Tragg knelt down, resting a hand on the victim's shoulder. As he turned the limp form just enough to clearly see his face, he had to sharply draw in his breath. Behind him, Della let out a horrified gasp.
MacDonald gave Tragg a sad look. "I wasn't sure."
"It's him," Tragg nodded. He stared at the blond hair slipping away from the closed, pained eyes. "Oh Andy. . . ."
"I've called for an ambulance," MacDonald said. "I'll see if I've got a blanket in the car, to treat him for shock."
Tragg nodded, only half-hearing. He was already shrugging out of his coat and draping it over his surrogate son. Andy was a good police officer, one of the best. But that did not mean he was immune to assault. Obviously he wasn't.
"Who did this to you?" Tragg uttered in both anger and fear. "Who?"