YOU'RE NOT MISSING ANYTHING...I screwed up Chapters so it goes from 11 to 14. I don't have triskaidekaphobia. I'm just not superstitious except, as Perry says, where Della is concerned!
Wednesday, September 16th, 1993
As Perry and Della packed up after the preliminary hearing, Kayla McCahill's wealthy parents came over to shake the eminent attorney's hand. Neither Perry nor Della had much use for them. It was easy to see how Kayla had gotten herself mixed up with characters like her husband and his brother who ultimately turned out to be the murderer.
So badly executed, the murder and its methods took Perry and Paul, ably assisted by Jake Brice, all of 24 hours to expose. In the end it was as simple as a drug partnership gone wrong. Where Kayla fit in was almost prosaic —she had money, it was that simple.
Perry had taken a shine to the very bright young woman who, during the few days he had spent working on a defense for her, had participated eagerly and shown aptitude for the law. Additionally she was deferential, humble and listened intently—an underrated attribute in Perry Mason's opinion. Della had, of course, brought her out about her major and grades, her dreams and desires, any number of things, as only Della Street could.
Timid, plain, overweight and under her parents' warped, iron thumb when the attractive-in-a-sleazy-kind-of-way fellow turned his attention toward Kayla she leapt.
"There never was any baby," explained Della to Jake. "When the Cahills objected to the marriage, Kayla simply faked a pregnancy."
Perry, trying to mitigate their anger after the hearing, pointed out that they should be relieved but they were just too angry. They had been surprised to learn Kayla was the daughter of Tim and Doris McCahill; a nasty, snobbish pair they had seen for decades at philanthropic events. Doris Cahill's disdain for Della Street was as overt as her attraction to Perry Mason, whom she routinely propositioned every time her husband's back was turned.
"If we never see them again it will be too soon," declared Perry opening his eyes wide for a moment and offering a smile that wasn't; as had become his habit in later years.
"Oh, we'll see them next month, the Los Angeles County Breast Cancer Project symphony night."
Perry's scowl didn't last as he watched his stunning wife deftly pack them up. Everyone had noticed the change in her. Kelly Burger-Drake and Jr. both said it was the 1965 version of Della Street. Today she was in an arresting black suit; short jacket, no lapels, pencil skirt that hit her knee and a white shirt with exaggerated collar and large bow on her hip just below the jacket. Her silk stockings had a slight shimmer and she wore black and white spectators.
It's a good thing that this preliminary hearing was absurdly simple because his mind was on her.
"Sort of anti-climactic," Della sighed.
"Not entirely," Perry said scanning her from head-to-toe.
Della rolled her eyes and pursed her lips at him. "As always, you flatter me."
"As always, it's you who flatters me by doing me the honor of being on my arm," he said brushing her hand with his. "May I take my beautiful colleague to lunch? You look so magnificent, going straight back to the office would be a crime."
"Why, Counselor," Della chuckled, "That sounds lovely."
They had been going crazy for one another since the wedding as insatiable as they were when they were in their 30s. They would fall asleep after having made love, their bodies never separating during the night, arms and legs wrapped around one another, head buried in the other's shoulder. Waking up the next morning they would pick up exactly where they left off…literally.
Right now all that Mrs. Mason wanted to do was take Mr. Mason home to their enchanted cottage and play hooky. They went through periods like this, sometimes it was Della, sometimes Perry. The night they found Leander, who would be 31 now Della realized, she wanted to skip the brief they needed to finish and go home with him after they finished dinner. But it was Perry who reminded her that they only had a couple of hours-worth of work, "And then…"
The key to "surviving" these moments was that it was the other person's responsibility to bring them back around. In fact, it was part of the seduction, part of the delicate, well-choreographed waltz they did with one another. There was some delicious torture involved in the denial; and for such a good cause, work.
Della leaned in to Perry from the side, making him smile as he looked down at the papers in his hand, her hazel eyes warm and expectant. Perry started to chuckle. Abandoning his work he trained those eyes on her, taking her chin in his hand.
"Well, well, well…," a woman's voice interrupted them. "So it's true."
Tall, blonde and attractive, if overdone, Doris Cahill stood arms crossed, the picture of excess in a canary yellow Chanel suit with mink wrap.
"What else can we do for you?" Perry said unable to hide his condescension.
"I'd like to take you to lunch to thank you and to discuss another business matter. I need an attorney."
"Mrs. Cahill I'm not surprised; fortunately L.A. is filled with hungry attorneys."
"Decades of gossip about you bedding a secretary … I always defended you!" she said a thin, corrupt smile on her face.
"I don't appreciate that language in front of this young lady," Perry indicated Della.
Doris Cahill looked stunned, "Well, good for you for finally catching him, dear."
Della simply continued packing their briefcases.
"Not that it's anyone's business" said Perry, "But I caught her. Miss Street and I have been together for 44 years. Thankfully she finally agreed to be my wife last week, after decades of my begging."
"Perry," Della rolled her eyes.
"And now, if you'll excuse us, we are hungry and then we have a great deal of work back at the office."
Then Perry did something he had never done before, he turned his back on a lady, well, a woman anyway. As the angry clacking of her heels receded, so did Perry's anger, which was a relief since he didn't want to kiss Della Street with so much as a trace of anger.
Both Perry and Della had noticed people milling around the courtroom after the hearing; many more than usual. Some seemed to be trying to find things to keep them in the room and some were just openly…waiting. Perry started to chuckle so only she could hear and in return Della gave him a sexy, sidelong glance
"We shouldn't disappoint them, young lady."
"Well, it is a new tradition," Della offered agreeably. "Terrible to break it already…"
Perry turned to Della, "Where was I?"
Della pointed a graceful finger at her pursed lips, "You were about to plant one on me."
Cupping her chin in his hand, Perry brought Della's sweet face in close gently brushing her lips with his, increasing his fervor until her lips were parted just enough taste her, trying to improve on last time without being too intimate. Then he tapped her on the nose.
"Shall we?" Perry stood aside to let her out then took her elbow.
"Perry…" Della's tone was one he knew well.
"We have a great deal of work to do back at the office, young lady."
Della sighed, putting her arm around his waist, "I know, Boss."
Perry insisted on driving and as they got on the 405, Della suddenly realized that she was being kidnapped.
Della just shook head and laughed. "It's been the happiest week of my life, Mr. Mason. I love you, you know?"
"Happy One Week Anniversary, Mrs. Mason."
"I hate to complain but did you…pack for me?" Della winced slightly.
"I'm afraid so, dear," Perry smiled triumphantly.
"Well I'll have 6 bras and no panties but….
"Panties! I knew I forgot something!"
Della slapped him on the shoulder. "You!"
"Should I make some untoward remark about you probably not needing them anyway or just let it go?"
Snuggling up next to Perry, Della leaned into his shoulder his arm around her. "Drive."
Dinah Washington came on the radio…
What a difference a day made, twenty four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers where there use to be rain
My yesterday was blue dear
Today I'm a part of you dear
My lonely nights are through dear
Since you said you were mine
Oh, what a difference a day made
There's a rainbow before me
Skies above can't be stormy since that moment of bliss
That thrilling kiss
It's heaven when you find romance on your menu
What a difference a day made
And the difference is you, is you
Monday, September 8th, 2003, Los Angeles
The judge asked the Prosecutor if she agreed with Mr. Mason's request that all charges against his client be dropped. When Mrs. Burger-Drake agreed, smiling and shaking her head, the judge slammed down his gavel on Mr. Mason's 567th case in 57 years and his 550th case with his stalwart secretary, Della Street, at his side.
Della was keeping score; even had it on something called an Excel spreadsheet in her computer. When Perry asked what that meant a few years back, she patted his cheek as you would a small child and said, "You don't want to know, dear."
"No," he had said, "I probably don't."
Della and Perry had become a grand pair adored, or at least admired, by everyone in their arena. Always the object of attention for their looks and skill, they now had such a long history there was a certain reverence for them. When they walked through the hallways people stopped and stared.
At the ages of 81 and 86 respectively, they were a handsome duo. They walked as they always had, Perry on the outside, holding Della's arm briefcases in their outer hands. Perry still wore his Saville-Row-made three piece suits, custom shirts and an array of silk ties.
With the exception of a few years in the 80s, Della Street-Mason had always been a fashion-plate. Since their wedding, however—10 years ago to the very day—she had stepped it up. Her clothes were of impeccable design and always looked incredible on her long, lithe figure.
After surviving very serious health scares in their seventies, they were in good shape, better, in fact, than they had been in years. Della never lost her slender, thin-boned, girlish figure with the exception of a small tummy, which she was not allowed to lose because Perry loved it. Good thing, as she often told him, because she had been trying to lose it since she turned 60 and it turned out to be the most stubborn thing about her—and that was saying a lot.
Perry looked miraculous. No longer on a cane because of steroid shots first, then successful knee surgery later, he could exercise and had lost so much weight that he felt it was time to get rid of his now-white beard.
Perry thought that Della, who loved that beard, would be upset but she said in her usual, relaxed way, "Hell it will be back in a week if we miss it!"
But in fact, he was Perry again without it; his dimples, his smile, himself. Della ran her hands over his face every chance she got.
They went into the office three days a week but only took a few cases a year now, and Kelly teased him and said it was because he didn't want to ruin his perfect record and she was closing in on him.
Perry had put his arm around her and said, "Sweetheart, I ever have a guilty client I will be happy to see you put them in jail."
"He just can't stand the idea of an innocent person getting jailed for a murder they didn't commit," said Della. "That's what's driven him all of these years."
"Dear…we have too many anniversaries. You're a bit…anniversary-mad," Della said to her husband as he was relaxing in the hot tub.
Della never thought that Perry Mason would take to anything like a hot tub but it was now nearly impossible to make him leave it. For the eleven years they had the house in Malibu, the then state-of-the-art hot tub sat empty and remote. But at the end of 1993 Perry started to, well, work out really and she thought that she would have the hot tub cleaned and filled to see if it eased his aches and pains. Perry just looked disdainfully at what he called, "the overgrown bath tub" and stuck to their actual tub, a large, deep, sunken affair that was decidedly indoors.
Then one day in 2001, he thought he might give it another try. After it was cleaned and refilled he got in and, essentially, never got out again; well long enough to have an entirely new one—one that re-defined state-of the-art—installed.
"When you add on the holidays and birthdays, including the babies, well…" Even with the internet, as chief procurement officer in charge of buying all family gifts for five grandchildren, Paul, Kelly and now Ken Malansky and his family, Della was a bit overwhelmed.
"Della, we have already cut it back to three—nearly impossible to do. They're like my children. Which do I ignore—should we no longer celebrate our wedding, today, ten years, as promised."
"I said at least ten years. Our promise has not been fulfilled. You're only 86 and I am only….39, we both feel fine and have at least another decade in us."
"So that's a no on canceling our wedding anniversary?"
"I volunteer that we can stop celebrating my birthday with anything more than a card. Well," Della paused turning to look at him over her paper, "That and my ritual ravishment, of course."
Ahhh...thought Perry happily. The dance has begun!
Perry loved when Della was the one to begin the lovemaking. Since they were semi-retired Perry had to acknowledge how much younger she looked almost overnight. Wise man that he was Perry knew what she needed sometimes when she didn't even know—it wasn't work that tired her out but her worry about him working.
Perry's grin was mischievous and wide; how she loved seeing his dimples so clearly again and that little hitch on the left side of his smile. He looked better than he had since before San Francisco.
"As I still owe your parents a debt of gratitude I can never repay, this would be a travesty. And what about the first night we declared our love?"
Della thought for a minute then in the voice of a young girl admitted, "No that was an awfully special night. You carrying me down the ladder…"
"The law library ladder…" Perry interjected.
"Never-the-less," Della countered.
"God I was so painfully in love with you," Della said with longing in her voice as she collapsed the paper and set it on her lap for a moment to reflect.
"I actually resented the few hours I spent in my apartment each night because I was away from you. What could it have been—seven hours tops? Dinah Washington sang, "Until Sunrise" so often on my stereo that I wore out two copies." Della laughed at the memory. "I swear every time I'd get a paper cut I'd bleed love for you."
"You were in love?" Perry said exasperated as if it happened yesterday. "What I went through with my scared little kitten!"
"It's true," Della nodded. "But you ran so hot and cold, Perry. One minute you were following me around, taking me out, buying me gifts, the next you were snapping at me, leaving me back at the office on cases or, worse ignoring me. And you were like that after we got together, too, by the way."
"I did have an ethical dilemma worrying about the client always getting our best, keeping work and personal delineated. But more-to-the point, for almost three years you had me half-crazed, Miss Street. I used to complain to Paul…"
"You discussed this with Paul?" Della couldn't control her laughter.
"And don't think he didn't make me pay for it."
"Oh I have no doubt, dear; no doubt at all. He must have ribbed you mercilessly."
"I'm glad you're enjoying this," Perry said smirking.
"And then one night just before Christmas you brought me into your office, sat me on your lap and told me that you loved me. Almost makes me forget what a dirty trick you played on me earlier that evening!"
"Worked, didn't it?" Perry smiled triumphantly.
"I consider that her finest hour. I needed her help. You weren't budging. Poor girl…" Perry looked sympathetically at her.
"I wasn't wrong, Perry. I felt it all of the time, I just learned to deal with it because you were worth it; you were more than worth it. But I knew people thought I was a wonton woman for many years."
"Della Street Mason, anyone who knew you, anyone who knows you, thinks only one thing; that you are an angel here on Earth who has graced us with your presence for a time."
Della rolled her eyes and laughed at him. "Not Laura."
"No… not Laura."
"Well she always knew how to get to me; get to us," Della said bemused.
"Not me my darling," said Perry mindlessly.
Della rolled her eyes.
"Not you, huh? Must just be me," Every now and then, Della Street Mason ever the spitfire, decided to just toss one out there.
"How is she anyway?"
"Oh, she's fine she said…" Perry stopped short. When he glanced furtively over at Della she continued to silently read the business section of the newspaper, eyebrows raised, chin up and lips pursed.
Della had decided not to help him out of it.
"I'm sorry, Dear, what did Laura say when you spoke?"
Perry cleared his throat. "She said that she and her teenaged husband might stop by next week on their way to San Diego."
"My but that's certainly something to look forward to, isn't it?" Della's voice dripped with sarcasm.
At 81 years-old she still had to deal with a rival, she still had to deal with Laura Robertson DeShields Garroway?
"Interesting sense of direction and geography, by the way—after all she is coming from Tucson, not exactly on the way to San Diego."
Perry felt badly about enjoying her pain. Honestly she was right. Laura was still always "in there pitching," as Della would say. But, and he was ashamed to admit this, he loved that Della was still so jealous when it came to him. Her age didn't matter; when she was like this she was about five years old and he found her irresistible.
Sizing her up as she sat there reading her newspaper on the edge of the hot tub with her back to him, it would be simple. At first she would be angry but soon she would start to giggle because that's who she was. She hadn't taken to the hot tub quite the way he had and he decided it was time they change that. Standing up behind her, Perry wrapped one strong arm around Della's waist and slid the other under her legs and, before she knew it, he had pulled her in, backwards and fully clothed.
But it was too late. She was immersed up to her underarms, on his lap on the side bench.
"Let me go!" She said trying to hold her newspaper aloft.
"No you stay where you are, young lady."
"Let me up!"
"You just told me how romantic it was the way I carried you down the stairs that night but you weren't too happy about it at the time either. You'll feel the same way about this in ten years!
So returning to our anniversary conundrum….that means we'd have to do the unthinkable and ignore the first night we made love."
"I hope you have nice memories of the last night we made love because…it is going to be the last time we make love for a long, long time." Della, scowling at Perry, emphasized that second 'long' her voice coming from her toes.
"Well it was a couple of days ago, my short-term memory still works so, yes, I recall it and with great fondness." In his dotage, since their marriage especially, Perry had become much more relaxed and prone to teasing Della Street in a very demonstrative way.
"I recall that it started out something like this…"
Perry started kissing her gently by her ear and immediately her shoulder shot up, making him laugh. When he looked back up he gave her that smile, the smile that got him out of so, so much these last 54 years…that same wide grin that made him look like a little boy, especially now that he had lost so much weight and shaved off his beard that spring.
"Just because I had an involuntary physical response…" Della said pouting.
"But Miss Street, your involuntary responses are my favorite."
Perry unbuttoned her cardigan and rolled it back from her shoulders while he concentrated on her neck. As the sweater floated away Perry brought his lips to hers and began kissing her with increasing urgency. Reaching down he unbuttoned, then slowly unzipped her white linen trousers, which were a recent purchase, quite expensive and which he was probably going to have to replace. He made a mental note to call Neiman's tomorrow.
"You…" Now she was giggling.
"Now you know, holding back sex has never been a threat of yours that I take seriously," Perry laughed as he slid his hands inside her trousers, then her panties, forcing her clothes down.
"I know," Della moaned into his ear. "All you have to do is look at me with those rakish eyes and I have proved myself a paper tiger."
"I can't believe it took me this long to get you into a hot tub to make love to me."
"I would never have believed that you would have wanted to make love in a hot tub!"
Della pulled back to look at him. "I remember when I could see all of your features clearly defined with your face so close our noses were touching. Pretty soon I'm going to have to stand across the room to see you!"
Perry, who had started stroking her, first the outside of her hips, then the inside of her thighs, laughed at this. Della lifted one of those still beautiful legs and hooked it around his hip. Pleasantly surprised Perry let one of his hands return to her backside, supporting her.
"But this isn't the first time we've made love in a hot tub…"
"Are we going to make love?" asked Perry innocently.
Della reached down playfully checking to see if she recognized anything. Staying there for a while on a mission of exploration, she delighted in the look that started to cross his face, the way his arms tightened around her, the way his head dropped into her neck and fit so nicely.
"There's my old friend…" Della moaned, loving the feel of him.
"Easy on the 'old.' Come over here…"
She pulled her other leg up and let him carry her over to the corner of the hot tub.
"Whither thou goest…"
"Hey, easy with the 'whither,' too!'
Della couldn't stop laughing. "Whatever are you so insecure about? How many men can say that they have a perfect record of 54 years? A perfect record, both in court and in me, Perry Mason."
Perry laughed out loud as Della ran her hands on his shoulders while he held her looking in her eyes. When Perry started to unbutton her shirt Della jumped.
"Perry, no…" Della held the neck of her shirt, holding it closed; the look of discomfort on her face upset him deeply.
"Della…stop," Perry was holding her close, rocking her back and forth. "You're breaking my heart."
Della had always been bashful but was now painfully self-conscious about the war wounds she acquired over the years. The truth is, they were lucky to be alive as Perry pointed out more than once. They had worked hard, much harder than most traveling all over the world to do it. They had smoked for 50 years and slept little; drank late cocktails and ate later dinners, when they ate; loved harder than any two people should; and "sinned from one end of their office to the other," as Della would say.
And they both bore the scars of a grueling life, of which they would have changed only a few moments…and eight years. Perry's belly was slashed from his gall bladder, several serious intestinal surgeries and the stent in his chest. Della still bore scars from the three gunshot wounds in her chest that saved Perry but nearly took her. Then, thanks to the cigarettes she couldn't quit until it was almost too late, scars across her chest from the cancer that stunned them in '97, very nearly killing her.
"Della, we're here and you are, as ever, perfect. And you have endured me for 54 years," he said his gravelly voice sounding astonished. "That alone deserves a medal."
"You will say anything when you're like this," Della said shaking her head.
Slowly he managed to get the shirt free form her grip; her extreme vanity, responsible after all for keeping her as lovely as she had been all of these years, making it quite a struggle. But he got it free and then went after her bra, which he sent on its way in the bubbling water.
"Yes, but it has, as I like to say, the added benefit of being true."
"How are we going to explain the filter to the pool man?" asked Della eyebrows raised. "You have to go back to work at least two more days a week or you're going to wear me out."
"No, I'm going to wear you down." Perry said stroking her back his arms around her waist.
Perry reached over for the remote and a familiar samba came through the speakers.
"You always could, couldn't you?" Della moaned low in his ear.
"Sing it for me, baby."
Perry slid his arms around her, moving through the water with her in a samba.
"In the middle…" Della started giggling, "Of the hot tub, my love?"
"In the middle of the hot tub young lady."
"Sing for me, Della…"
"You are either so smitten you think I can still sing—or ever could—or you are a masochist; the latter, I think."
"Under one condition, we do one of your things then we do one of mine."
"What would you like to do on this fine afternoon my darling girl?"
"Make love just like we did ten years ago today at the Ritz."
"Those are stiff terms, Miss Street," Perry started grinning from ear-to-ear and restarted the song with his remote.
Della's arms and legs still held him tight; they always would.
"Thank you, my one and only love. Thank you for making this song come true. How I love you…"
Perry nuzzled into Della's neck, "Everything good in my life is because of you—you are my 'Sweet, Happy Life,' baby…now sing…then we'll do your thing…"
My wish for you, sweet happy life
May all the days of the year that you live be laughing days
With all my heart, sweet happy life
And may the night times that follow the days be dancing nights
Stars for your smile, Moons for your hair
And someone's wonderful love, For your loving heart to share
My wish for you, sweet happy life
May all your sorrows be gone and your heart begin to sing
And if a wish can make it be
I wish you spend every day of your happy life with me
Della wrapped her arms around Perry's neck, staring into his eyes.
Stars for your smile, Moons for your hair
And someone's wonderful love, For your loving heart to share
My wish for you, sweet happy life
May all your sorrows be gone and your heart begin to sing
And if a wish can make it be
I wish you spend every day of your happy life with me.
And they lived and lived and lived and lived and lived… happily ever after…
Suggested Musical notes (no pun intended): These are what I hear when I think of my D&P
Sweet Happy Life: Peggy Lee's version or Connie Evingson's.
Charlie Parker with Strings the Master Takes (on which you will find "Lover" the song that plays throughout "Rear Window," starring…
Dream Dancing: Ella Fitzgerald
Everything I Have is Yours: Billie Holliday (Of course)
Long Ago and Far Away: Chet Baker