This standalone mystery includes speculation on how P&D first admitted their feelings. It takes place in 1950, when, by my own imagined timeline, Mason and Street have known one another three years.
Thank you, for the encouraging reviews of my first vignette. Standard legal disclaimer applies. All characters belong to ESG, CBS, etc.
How she loved it when he stood behind her, absently resting his hands on her shoulders while he talked. His hands. Beautiful hands. Powerful, musical hands. He could conduct Beethoven's Ninth Symphony or rival Horowitz at the piano. Artistic hands. What treasures he could sculpt. He knows hishands are beautiful. He does not like his face. He draws attention away from his face by using his hands when he speaks and wringing them when he thinks. His face. His eyes, a beautiful blue. A blue most people only imagine their lovers' eyes to be. Large and sad. Irish sad. Perhaps, that's what he does not like. For whatever reason, she was certain he did not like his face. She wanted to know why. She liked his face quite a lot.
She was falling in love with him. She knew it was true because the infatuation was wearing off. He could exasperate her like no one else; even anger her. She could go for days avoiding all but the most necessary contact with him. His habits could annoy. He was no longer perfect in her mind. Still, she thought about him all the time, and about how she was happiest during the hours they spent together. She relished the meals they shared, whether in a chi-chi restaurant or just enjoying good conversation over cheap take out in the office. Listening to him, talking with him, laughing with him, working next to him, being exasperated and annoyed by him. His hands. His face. His eyes. All of it was delicious. Yes, she accepted his imperfection, and she still longed to be close to him, to know all there was to know, and to be known by him. She was in love.
"You have the address, Della. Della?"
His voice. She loved his clear baritone, too. "Um-yes. Yes, I have the address," Della Street said, returning her attention to the room.
"Will you please give the address to Paul?" Perry Mason asked in an irritated tone of voice.
"Of course, I'm sorry. Mr. Henderson's address, right? Here you go, Paul." Della handed Paul Drake a piece of paper she extracted from the front of her steno pad. Paul looked at her questioningly, causing her to blush and causing him to intensify his stare.
"You okay, beautiful?" Paul asked.
"Fine. I'm just fine, thank you." She said. "Is it warm in here?" She asked it, as she felt Perry's hands fall away from her shoulders. She stood to return to her office.
"You do look a bit flushed," Perry said with the same concern he had for all of humanity it seemed. "If you're ill, go home, Della. I can manage."
"Yeah," said Paul. "The rest of us don't need whatever has you so scattered today."
"Especially you," she said looking at Paul. She couldn't resist the dig. After all, he had started this with that look, as if he were reading her thoughts from her forehead. "Really, I'm all right. I'll just go and get...," her voice trailed off as she walked through the door to her own office, unable to think of what to say.
Paul followed Della. "Seriously, are you sure everything is okay? You've been out of sorts for a few days now."
"I tell you, I'm fine. I'm just preoccupied. It's um…my cousin, Eddie. I'm a bit worried about him," she said. "You know, he's in law school at Stanford, and he phoned me saying that he's thinking of leaving school." She shuffled papers on her desk, so as not to have to look Paul in the eye. She was only half lying. Eddie had phoned sounding unhappy at school, and she worried he might not finish the semester. "He's so bright. It would be a shame for him to give up right in the middle. And it will crush Aunt Mae." She was surprised at how well and easily she lied to this man she called a friend. She didn't know whether it spoke to her talent as a liar or a weak character or her resolve that no one should know her feelings for her boss. She would have to consider that later.
"That's rough," said Paul. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Thanks, Paul. No. I suppose I just need to talk with him again."
"Sure. It could be that he's already changed his mind. Maybe, he's just having a bad week, or a professor or his girl is giving him a hard time."
"You're probably right. I'll call him this evening."
"Well, let me know, if you need anything," Paul said. "I better get on this stuff for Perry."
"Thanks, again," Della said, feeling guilty. The warm smile he gave her almost brought tears to her eyes.
Over the next few days, Della tried to curb her reveries. The office was busy, and Perry spent a good deal of time in court. She chided herself for allowing anything personal, even if he was touching her, ever to interfere with her work. Above all, Della Street prided herself on her professionalism. Still, the day he came into the office without a tie, her breath caught in her throat. Something about seeing his exposed neck and a hint of his chest excited her. She pushed the image to the back of her mind, and concentrated on work.
That afternoon, Perry appeared in her office and sat down on the corner of her desk. "How is Eddie?" he asked. "Paul said that he was having some trouble at school."
"Oh. No. That turned out to be nothing. He's fine." Della could not meet Perry's eyes, and she felt the heat climbing her throat and spreading across her face. "I guess I overreacted."
"Well, it can happen, especially when we're away from the people important to us."
"Yes, I suppose."
"Della, are you sure you aren't ill? Your face is flushed again." Perry's concern seemed genuine.
"I'm not sick. It's just warm in here."
"You know yourself best, but I don't want you to get run down. You're too important to this place. If you need a day or two to rest, just say so. And for that matter, if you need time to take care of family business. Take it."
"Thank you, Perry. You're kind, but everything is all right."
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'Important to this place.' Not to him, but to this place. Della sank into a hot bath with a glass of white wine. On the other hand, Perry had asked about her cousin. Did that mean he had been concerned about her, and asked Paul, if he knew why she was preoccupied? Or, did it just mean Paul was a gossip? Did any of it matter? She loved Perry, and she wasn't the type of girl to say so, unless she was certain he had the same sort of feelings for her. Della closed her eyes, and imagined Perry walking into her office, perching on her desk just as he had earlier, and saying, "Della? I want you to make a reservation for two this evening at Musso and Frank. There's something I need to talk about with you." Touching her hand and smiling that half smile, he disappeared back into his office.
Just as Della was in danger of dozing off and sliding under the water, the telephone rang. She jumped, spilling the remnants of the wine glass into the bath water. Climbing out of the tub, she managed to grab her bathrobe and get to the phone on the fifth ring.
"Della? I'm gonna kill him, Della. I just want you to know. When they put me in the gas chamber, I did it. I was the one."
"Eddie? What are you talking about? Where are you?"
"I can't take any more of this. I've had enough. Who do these people think they are, Della? I'll kill him. I'll find him and I'll kill him for what he's done." Eddie, Della realized, was quite drunk.
"Please, Eddie, try to calm down, and tell me what's wrong. I want to help you, but I can't understand you."
"It doesn't matter, Della. You can't help. No one can. Secrets. I'm tired of secrets." Della heard the phone drop.
She dialed his number, but the line was busy. At least, she knew he was at his apartment. Della phoned her Aunt Mae, but Eddie had not called in weeks. She managed not to let her aunt know she was worried for Eddie, and hung up as quickly as possible. This ability to lie was really beginning to scare her. She got dressed, but didn't know what she was going to do next, other than continue to phone him. The line was still busy. Finally, she got herself calm enough to think of calling the police in Stanford. She spoke with an officer who said that he would make a welfare check on her cousin. Knowing that she was going to Stanford, regardless of the officer's finding, Della called Perry to let him know she needed to leave town.
"Of course, Della. Do whatever you need to do. We'll manage," he said. "Can I ask what the problem is? Is there anything I can do to help you?" Della was inappropriately aroused by Perry's words of concern.
"I wish you could. I have no idea what's going on, Perry. Frankly, I'm scared for Eddie." She explained Eddie's phone call.
Suddenly, Della felt guilty for not having phoned her cousin, like she told Paul she would. She thought that somehow she had caused this by lying about the extent of her concern for Eddie's well being. She had been a lousy surrogate big sister. She ended her conversation with Perry by telling him that she would leave as soon as the officer called back, and she would call Perry from Stanford.
Officer Hillard reported to Della that Eddie's apartment was empty, and none of his neighbors had seen him leave. He had a description of Eddie, and he would relay it to the officers on duty. They would keep an eye out for him, and try to persuade him to contact his family.
Della packed a bag, called Gertie to say she would be out of the office, and left the apartment. In the parking lot, she was putting her suitcase in the trunk, when she heard a familiar voice behind her.
"I'm glad I caught you. I was afraid I would have you chase you down on the freeway." Della turned to find Perry leaning against his black Cadillac.
"What on earth are you doing here, Perry?" Della was truly shocked to see him.
"Della, you can't drive from Los Angeles to Stanford by yourself, late at night. It's just not wise."
"Don't be silly. I can take care of myself."
"Of that, I have no doubt. But, I would very much like to help, if you'll let me. I chartered a plane that will take us to San Jose." Perry took the suitcase from the trunk; Della didn't stop him.
"Perry, you didn't have to do that."
"I know. That's where the wanting to help you comes into play. Let me go with you. I could come in handy." He placed Della's suitcase in the trunk with his own, and opened the passenger door for her.
"I don't know how to thank you, Perry. I do appreciate this." Tears were forming.
"Well, you've taken such good care of me these last few years. I thought it was time I returned the favor. Is that okay?" He took her hand.
"Indeed," she said.