Disclaimer: Characters by Erle Stanley Gardner. This is nonprofit fan fiction.
Background: In The Case of the Troubled Trustee (1965), Paul Drake is put on the witness stand, where Hamilton Burger extracts too-specific information from him, such as the fees and business volume collected from Mason's operation, and attempts to discredit him by implying that Drake plants evidence for his biggest customer. After, as Drake stews over Burger's words, Mason restrains him.
The George Belgrade business is in the book The Case of the Dangerous Dowager (1937), where one of Drake's investigators sells Mason out, and Drake spends a good part of the book fuming with rage, with Mason cooling him off.
Kerry Dutton was a free man; Lieutenant Tragg, the talk of the day; and Perry Mason, a lawyer who could kick back and enjoy the work well done. Everyone was happy, except maybe a certain lady, previously on the warpath, mad as a hornet, currently held in police custody and waiting to face criminal charges.
Everyone was happy except her and Paul Drake.
Paul was still stewing over Burger's cross-examination. Mason was actually somewhat impressed by Burger's performance, but Paul wasn't looking at it his way. If the facts hadn't been on his side, once uncovered in the fullest, the old fox would've had no trouble building a story for the jury and spoon-feeding it to them. As it was, the facts had been on his side, and Burger had owned up to his defeat with professional courtesy.
Even as Hamilton Burger had caught up with them at the precinct—a little awkwardly, like he wanted to say something, to start off with a clean slate and offer his congratulations—Paul Drake had given him a cold shoulder and looked past the outstretched hand. Mason had grabbed Burger's hand like he hadn't noticed anything and made the appropriate speeches. Then he had taken Paul's arm and led him away before Drake could make good of his threat and paste Burger one.
They were currently driving in Mason's car, and Mason glanced sideways at him. He hadn't seen Paul this livid since Belgrade had spilled his guts to the press. He opted for discretion and stepped on the throttle.
Drake was so upset he barely noticed that Perry Mason had taken them to his apartment, and that was certainly out of the ordinary; Mason didn't entertain at home. He had visited before, but usually they dealt through Mason's unlisted number and met up at the office for whatever wild goose chase Mason set his sights upon.
Drake sat nearly straight up in an easy chair without even digging up his cigarettes.
Mason glanced at him under his brow. "Cooled down yet, Paul?"
He took the dour silence for a no.
"You're taking this too seriously," Mason said with a sigh.
"The hell I am."
Mason sighed again, resigned. He stepped out for a moment, skipped down the hall for ice, and got back to find Drake still brewing. He produced a bottle of fine whiskey and poured two glasses.
"What are we doing, again?" Drake finally asked.
"We're having a drink at peace. You know how it gets after a case like this: even if Gertie manages to hold off the calls and Della bars the door, the minute you walk out of the office, someone's bound to have a story to tell. Give it a few hours, and the scoop's something new. Or at least you've managed to level your head."
Drake shot a nasty look, but he finally accepted the glass pushed into his hands. He took a chary swig and, scowling still, dug into his pockets for a pack of cigarettes and a match. Mason joined company.
Drake was down to nursing the last drops of his drink and a second cigarette when the change became evident. He took to slouching in the chair and slowly swiveled his long form sideways.
Mason grinned. "Better?"
"On the mend," Drake drawled. His usual impasse had almost returned. "I still don't approve of Burger's act. And I still think he deserves a good mobbing."
"Careful now," Mason chided, but his objection was half-hearted. He settled back in his seat and closed his eyes. "Burger was just playing the game. With the jury system, you have to influence minds. If we dealt with cold fact alone, without the emotional element, Burger would never have tried. He knows better than to think I'd plant something or ask you to do it. He wasn't right to dig into the business, either, but it's any dirt you think can dig up... You got to give him credit for being on the level as much as he is, but sometimes, the game stretches the limits."
Drake actually laughed. He flicked the cigarette off his hands with a chuckle. "I may have heard something like that, some distant time in the past," he remarked slyly.
Mason reached forward and patted his knee. "Come on, Paul. I'll buy you dinner. I think I owe you one for a heck of a sleuthing job on this one. Needle in the haystack and all."
Mason got to his feet and moved to tidy up. "Despite that rather eloquent speech, there's something Burger hasn't realized. You can always find another lawyer to work for, but I can't find another detective." Mason excused himself and left Paul mulling over the rare compliment.
Suddenly, Paul Drake found he was no longer as sour at District Attorney Hamilton Burger.
Paul Drake, his expression ominous, came over to stand by Mason while he glared across at the prosecution's table.
Hamilton Burger managed to avoid meeting the detective's eyes.
"Take it easy, Paul," Mason warned.
"Someday," Drake said, "I'm going to plant a punch right in the middle of his snout."
"If he'll only look up here," Drake said, "I'll wish him a very good evening in a tone of voice which will be as sarcastic as his voice was when he said, 'That's all.'"
Mason got up, took Drake's arm and gently turned him around. "You'll do nothing of the sort," he said. "That isn't the sort of publicity we want at this particular stage of the game."
—The Case of the Troubled Trustee, 1965
Paste and mob mean to beat up.
Cordial thanks to Gypsie (Gypsie Rose) for the proofreading!
Published August 25, 2012.