TCOT Holiday Miracle Chapter 1
The rain from the December storm pounded against the slider door of Perry Mason's office. The attorney was ensconced behind his desk reading a brief, studiously ignoring three separate piles of paper that lay atop the large mahogany table. One stack held letters and contracts needing his signature, one contained client files for the current and previous day—and his least favorite pile, the one with the mail, had been pushed to the far edge of the desk top. Mason finished reading the brief, then began to tackle what seemed to be a mountain of paperwork. Halfway through he stopped and stretched, reaching for the cup of coffee left there by his secretary two hours before. Taking a sip, he grimaced, realizing it was cold. Returning the cup to the saucer, he hit the intercom button to his right and buzzed her.
"Is it possible to get another cup of your delicious coffee and could you also bring in the Phillips file?"
"Absolutely…I'm on my way."
Perry smiled at the sound of her voice, the voice that smiled and caressed as she spoke. The voice that always sounded like warm brandy, honey, and a soft purr all rolled into one. The voice that laughed at his silly jokes, cheered his victories, calmed him when he was agitated, and soothed him when he was tired. The voice was like the woman herself, sultry and seductive one minute, demure and innocent the next…but always with an undercurrent of love. Yes, Della Street was in a class all her own, an alluring, charming, intriguing, beautiful, passionate woman who had bewitched him with her clever humor, fierce stubbornness, and infuriating independence. All these attributes and a hundred more described Perry's girl and he knew how lucky he was that she had come into his life. He would never forget that day six years before…
It was July and the city of Los Angles was embroiled in a heat wave that rivaled the Mohave Desert. The temperature soared into the high nineties with triple digits yet to come. All over town, fans were blowing full force and those lucky enough to have air conditioners in their windows were hoping that they wouldn't break down.
Perry Mason pulled into the garage of the Brent Building and smoothly parked his car in the space reserved for him. Happy to be in the cool of the large edifice, the attorney took his time getting out of his car and taking the elevator to the ninth floor. Lost in thought, he was almost at the private door of his office when he suddenly remembered his secretary was quitting and moving clear across the country to New York. Perry had been upset when Karen tendered her resignation but she managed to keep him calm by assuring him she had someone in mind for her replacement. She was very persuasive so Perry agreed to meet the paragon of secretarial skills she described but he wouldn't make a snap decision. He would have to think it over and, if the interview didn't go well, Karen would have to find someone else. So the meeting had been arranged and today was the day. An hour later Karen buzzed her employer to announce that his ten a.m. appointment had arrived. Perry put on his suit jacket, straightened his tie, and within a minute Karen opened the door. After that, everything was a blur. Perry Mason had come face to face with the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, a vision in an aqua two piece linen suit with silver buttons and minimal jewelry-small silver hoop earrings, a watch, and a silver and turquoise bracelet. When she extended her small, delicate hand in greeting, Perry noticed the soft pink polish on her fingernails. On further inspection, he saw the same soft pink polish on toenails peeking from white patent leather peep toe sandals. Her voice was soft, yet confident and firm, her eyes somewhere between soft brown and hazel, and a smile so dazzling there was no need for artificial lighting. The lawyer felt himself perspire and it clearly had nothing to do with the heat wave.
"Perry…Perry." Della's hand softly touched her employer's arm. "Are you alright? You looked like you were a million miles away."
Perry looked up at Della. Taking her hand, he brought it to his lips, kissing the inside of her palm. "I'm sorry darling," he replied, his voice warm and loving. "I was just remembering a very important day…a very special day."
"I'm glad you're having nice memories, especially on a day like today. I for one am ready for this rain to stop. An entire week of this is more than enough for me. Here is your coffee and the file you need. Can I do anything else for you?"
"Thank you for the coffee and the file, and yes, you can do something for me. You can have dinner with me tonight, Miss Street. I thought we'd go to my place, I'll cook for you, and we can sit by the fire and listen to some music. Does that sound good to you?"
"It sounds wonderful. A girl would have to be crazy to turn down an offer like that." She treated him to one of her most dazzling smiles. "Oh, before I forget, Max called. He'd like you to call him back when you have time."
"Did he say what he wanted?"
"No, but I don't think it was important. He didn't sound upset or in a rush or anything. Just sounded like himself, friendly and calm."
"All right, I'll call him back in a while. I have to finish this or my secretary will be very upset with me."
"Well, we wouldn't want that to happen now would we?" Della's voice lowered seductively and she bent over to very lightly run her finger down Perry's jaw line. The she turned and walked out of Perry's office leaving the lawyer literally paralyzed and breathless.
Maxwell Stein picked up the phone and greeted his friend with a good-natured tone to his voice.
"All right Mason, where have you been hiding yourself? Wait! I know the answer. I saw the papers…you've been in court. You did it again. How do you do it? This one was really something. Even Ma was worried…just a little, but you know her. She has faith in you and she loves you. She knew you'd win. Mazel Tov, buddy."
Perry laughed. "Thanks Max and thank Mama, too…and the feeling is mutual."
"So, how will you celebrate? Are you going to take the lovely Miss Street away for the holidays?"
"I'm not sure."
Max heard hesitation in Perry's voice. "What do you mean you're not sure? It's the holidays, man! I'm thinking an island somewhere, you know, far from the madding crowd, no reporters, no gossip mongers…sunny days, star-filled nights, soft breezes, and just the two of you. Sounds like the perfect vacation to me."
"It does sound perfect but I think Della wants something else. Trouble is, I don't know what. I asked her if she wanted to go away and she didn't answer me. Well, she did, but it was one of those 'whatever you want is fine with me' kind of answers. Then twice I asked her if she wanted something else and she changed the subject and said she had things to do and would think about it. So now I'm in a bit of a quandary and the holidays are only three weeks away. Speaking of them, what are you doing?"
"Well, since Hanukkah and Christmas come so close together this year, I'm taking the family to New York. We're flying out on the 18th, which is the last day of school for the kids. I even talked my sister and her husband into going. Their kids were so excited I thought Amy and Marv were going to go deaf from all the cheering. I heard them over the phone like they were standing next to me, so you can imagine how loud they were in person. Judy's brother Steve wanted us to stay with them but the kids wanted to stay in a hotel so that settled it, we're staying at the Waldorf Astoria. I figured it's the holidays so why not go all the way. Besides, it's right near everything so all the better. My parents are going to stay with Judy's parents. Steve and his wife Lynn invited us for dinner one night and a morning brunch. Wait until you see their house. It's gorgeous! They have a huge brownstone right smack in the middle of Manhattan. We'll take in the sights—Statue of Liberty, the U.N., the Empire State Building, Radio Music Hall, go to a show, do some shopping. We'll celebrate the first five nights of Hanukkah with the family, then the day after Christmas we're all driving up to the mountains. They have these family resorts that are open year-round that are great for kids...they'll have their own activities and there's plenty of activities for the older generation. And let me tell you, Judy and I intend to enjoy our own activities…if you get my drift."
Max began to laugh and Perry joined in. His friend had a contagious laugh and a disarming personality and anyone who met him was immediately taken with the erudite Mr. Stein. He and Perry had met in college, pledged the same fraternity, and attended the same law school. Max was as tall, dark, and handsome as his friend and carried himself in the same confident manner. Both men were brilliant, decent, and had the highest set of morals and integrity.
Maxwell Stein was born in California but his parents Sara and Ben emigrated from Russia with their families in 1905. They arrived in New York with the clothing on their backs, a few personal items, and a dream of having a better life. They settled on the East Side and found work in the garment industry sweatshops. A few years later, the doctor suggested a warmer climate would be better for Ben Stein's health so the family moved to California and chose L.A. as their new home. They worked hard and a few years later Ben had the good fortune to meet Morris Gold. The older man was selling his haberdashery and Ben and Sara were able to buy the business from him. Eventually, one store became two, two became three and more and Steins department stores sprung up all over Los Angles and the surrounding suburbs.
Unbeknownst to them, Max Stein and Judy Cohen grew up five blocks apart on the Lower East Side but only met one spring night in college hundreds of miles away at a dance sponsored by her sorority. For them it was like being struck by lightning—the proverbial love at first sight. They dated all through college and were married a month after graduation. While Max was in law school, Judy found a position as a Kindergarten teacher in an elementary school close to their small apartment. Every Friday night they had dinner at the elder Stein's cozy home, and since Perry Mason and Max Stein were such close friends the future attorney was always included.
When both men stopped their chuckles, Max addressed the reason for his call. "By the way, Perry, Ma would like you and Della to come for Friday night dinner. Actually she instructed me to TELL you to come…and I quote "Oye…it's been too long. He and Della need a good meal. They run around like mashuganah's. They don't eat right, they don't get enough rest…Della's got a face like an angel but trust me, she could stand a few extra pounds. It wouldn't hurt. And my Perry, he worries too much. You should tell him to give up all the cops and robbers and murder nonsense and go and be your partner. So call already and tell them Papa and I will see them Friday night. Sundown is early. They have to be here at five o' clock…and no excuses."
"I'll talk to Della but I'm sure it will be fine with her. You know she loves your parents and I know she and Judy have been meaning to get together. Tell Mama we'll be there by five. We wouldn't miss it for anything." Perry's voice held a genuine warmth as he spoke about the woman he considered to be a surrogate Mother.
"Famous last words my friend, but I'll tell her. And if you know what's good for you, you'd BETTER show up. Otherwise I know a little old lady who is a killer with the soup ladle."
As they hung up, Perry Mason, famed attorney, seeker of truth and justice, able to break down the strongest of witnesses with his commanding presence and tone of voice—the unstoppable man who wins every case he tries knew without a doubt that Mrs. Sara Stein had a power all her own.