In a world, different from our own, but similar in its own makeup, two men meet. By some twist of fate, one man and his parallel from another world meet in a rift of the threads of existence, an almost middle-ground if you will, that neither of them dreamed existed. And like most people who have strange experiences, they just have to talk about it.
Los Angeles, California 1958
Perry Mason was used to strange things happening to him. As a criminal lawyer, bizarre and fantastic were in his everyday vocabulary. But even he would have some trouble believing in what was about to happen to him. Perry had just finished a murder case involving an old, glass mug, a new-wave radio, and a young lady who couldn't keep her mouth shut to save her life. That was where he had come in. Everything had wrapped up nicely in court, and with a little help from District Attorney Hamilton Burger and his assistant, the real murderer was safely behind bars. Perry had left the court house after the trial, intending to head back to the office before joining Hamilton, Lt. Tragg, Paul, and Della for supper later. That was the plan at least, until the light surrounded him.
Los Angeles, California 1935 (Somewhere in a parallel world)
Perry Mason walked out of the courtroom, ears still ringing from the loud sounds that had come out of the D.A.'s mouth a few minutes ago followed by the eruption of noise from the reporters who couldn't contain themselves after the famous lawyer had once again blown the State's case right out of the water. Perry smiled and gave the standard 'no comment' as he escorted Della Street out of the building, followed closely by Paul Drake. "Oh boy, did you do it this time!" the detective exclaimed once they were clear of the large crowd of people. Perry grinned. "Did what?" he asked in faux-innocence. "Oh, nothing much," chimed in Della. "You only made Burger and Tragg look like the biggest fools this town has ever seen in the span of about three minutes," Paul interjected for her. "Brother, I almost thought we'd have to pull one of them off of you. I don't think I've ever seen Burger that fired up!" "That last witness sure got him. My ears are still ringing," mused Perry. "Well, you definitely stuck it to them Chief," Della told him. "Leaha seemed relieved." "Maybe now that girl will have sense enough to choose the right fellas to hang around," Perry responded, holding the door for her to get in the car. Paul hopped in the back and spread his long arms out across the seat. Perry watched him, amused. "Comfortable?" "Oh hush. You're not the one who's been up for almost two and a half days straight." "Touché. I guess I am the one that had better drive though." "Now you're catching my drift," the detective said, swallowing a yawn.
The three of them had just settled down at a table when Paul spotted trouble. "Uh-oh, this ought to be fun," he said. Perry and Della followed his gaze to the entrance of the restaurant where Lt. Tragg and Hamilton Burger were just walking in. Burger spoke to someone at the door before he and Tragg headed right for the table where the three comrades were already seated. Perry glanced down at the menu in front of him, not really concerned by the advancing lawmen. He was concerned when the light blinded him.
Midway In Between
Perry stood, confused by his surroundings. A minute ago he was walking back to the office; now he was standing in front of a small coffee shop he had never seen in a small town he had never been to before. "Excuse me," he called to a man passing by. The other fellow strolled up to him. "Yes 'ir, what canna' do for ya'?" The man had a thick accent that was heavily southern. "I seem to have gotten myself turned around. Could you please tell me where I am?" The accented man gave him a big smile. "You're in Midway, son." Then he scuttled off before Perry could ask where or what exactly 'Midway' was. Perry sighed. Maybe the coffee shop would offer more help. No sooner had he reached the door when he was confronted by one of the strangest things Perry knew he would ever see. Himself. The other Perry was looking around in much the same confused manner as Perry had been. Well friend, Perry thought, your day is about to get all the more confusing. He stepped toward his mirror image counterpart and cleared his throat. The other Perry looked up at him, and he gave a violent jolt. "What the devil…" was all he could say. Perry nodded slowly. "I was thinking the same thing." Other Perry stepped toward him forcefully. "Alright, what kind of joke is this? Who are you?" he boomed. Unfazed, Perry said, "I think… that I'm… you."
The two men glared at each other for some time until the silence was broken by a waitress. "Well, are you boys gonna just stand there having a staring contest for all eternity, or are ya gonna come sit down and have some coffee?" Slowly, Perry tore his eyes away from his counterpart. "I think we'd like some coffee." Other Perry nodded. "Might as well. And we would like some answers if you have them, ma'am." The red-headed, curly-haired woman smiled. "I've got the coffee; you've got the answers, honey." "Could you at least tell us where we are?" Perry asked. "Why, you're in Midway, honey." "But where or what is Midway?" The woman just smiled and shook her head rather than answer, then went back inside. "Well, that was not helpful at all!" Other Perry declared. Perry shrugged and sat down at the rustic table outside the coffee shop. Other Perry followed suit. "Well, I guess we don't need to introduce ourselves," Perry supposed. "I'm not so sure," Other Perry muttered. Perry sighed. "Alright then, my name is Perry Mason. I'm a criminal lawyer. I live in the city of Los Angeles, California and work in the Brent Building. My secretary's name is Della Street and my private detective is Paul Drake. Your turn." Other Perry nodded slowly in agreement with the facts. "What year is it?" he asked. "1958," Perry answered. Other Perry shook his head. "I knew this must be some kind of dream or you're just crazy. Maybe Burger did hit me over the head and this is just a result of me being out of it. It's not 1958 pal, it's only 1935." Perry shook his head this time. "Then how did I get those other things correct." "Anybody can read a newspaper and remember easy things like my name, secretary, and detective, and certainly where I work. Now," he got up and leaned over the table menacingly, "who put you up to this. Did Burger or Tragg? Are they so desperate to get rid of me that they have to try this weak attempt at an insanity case?" "What?" Not afraid to stand up against someone, in fact himself, his own size, Perry stood to where he was eye-to-eye with the other Perry. "I don't know where you'd get the idea that Hamilton or Tragg would try to pull something like an insanity case from, but I am Perry Mason and it is 1958. Maybe I'm not the one who's off his head." The clang of glass on iron brought the confrontation to an abrupt halt. The red-headed woman sighed. "Why can't men just sit down and talk without gettin' each other all riled up?" She had set the tray with the coffee mugs down, and now she gently stepped between the two large lawyers and calmly pushed first one and then the other back into his seat. She then set a steaming mug in front of each man and put her hands on her hips. "Now, I'm going to go back inside. Can I trust you two to not try to beat each other senseless? Neither of you is crazy and neither of you is wrong. Does that help smooth things out?" She didn't give them time to answer because she flounced back inside without looking at either man again. The two Perries stared first after her then at each other. "I suppose we were getting a little worked up," Perry admitted. Other Perry didn't answer right away. "She said we were both right," he finally said. "How then can it be both 1958 and 1935 and how can there be two of us?" Perry digested the questions for a while, rolling it around in his head trying to come up with a reasonable explanation. "Well," he surmised, "as ludicrous as it sounds, we could be from two different worlds." Other Perry snorted. "Right." "Okay, then you give me a reasonable explanation." Other Perry shrugged. "I don't know, but I bet I can come up with something better than different worlds. Not only would that idea make us laughing stocks, it would land us two seats in the funny farm." "No one here seems to think it's strange that there is two of the same man wandering around," Perry informed him. "I still can't figure out where 'Midway' is. That waitress told me the same thing that an old man did earlier." "It couldn't be Midway Island in the Pacific?" Other Perry wondered. "No," Perry said confidently. "I've been there and it's nothing like this. And anyway, as strange as all this is, I don't think we'd be transported to Midway Island to meet. If we were, which Midway, yours or mine, and why? Why would we be transported to someplace to meet each other. What would be the point? The last thing I remember was leaving court to go back to the office when this light surrounded me and suddenly I was here." Other Perry moved his head in agreement. "The same thing happened to me. Della, Paul and I were at a restaurant and Burger and Tragg were walking toward us. I looked down at my menu for just a second and there was this blinding light all around me. Then I was here and saw you, or me I guess."
Both men sat thinking for a few minutes. Perry chuckled. "What's so funny?" "Oh nothing, I was just thinking how Hamilton would react if this happened to him. He hates things he can't explain and I can safely say this would be high up on the list. It would be an interesting spectacle to say the least." Though he wasn't quite sure what had brought on that line of thinking in his other self, Other Perry half-smiled, glad to think about something else and, he admitted to himself, curious about the habits of his rival in another world. "How do you know that about him?" "Oh, we've had a few cases where strange things happened, and he scoffed at it most of the time. He always was willing to help though, as long as I gave him good reason for it." Other Perry sneered at the last statement. "'Willing to help'? We are talking about Hamilton Burger, right?" Perry nodded. "I don't believe it." "Why?" Perry questioned. "Because the Hamilton Burger I know can't stand me. He wouldn't lift a finger to help; all he ever tries to do is get Paul or me in enough trouble that would result in one or both of our licenses being revoked. To him, I'm just a shyster and a law bender." He didn't mean to say all that and so bitterly. What happened in court today still had him a little agitated. "He can't be that bad," Perry figured. "I can't imagine any world where Hamilton would be so against anyone that he wouldn't uphold justice all the way just to get at them." Other Perry slowly agreed. "I guess. He is always saying that I should have been a detective instead of a lawyer. And he does agree to at least listen sometimes." Perry smiled. "I thought so. It sounds like you just haven't warmed to each other yet. Trust me, I didn't think it would happen either, but I'm glad it did." Other Perry made a face as he thought about it. "I guess that wouldn't be so bad," he remarked. "At the very least, it would save my eardrums some wear-and-tear." Both men laughed at that, knowing the volumes the district attorney could reach. A comfortable silence settled over them as they pondered their strange situation. Both wondered how they would get back home from wherever this was and what their loved ones would think of the strange disappearance.
For Perry, who had been brought here out of the blue right in front of his friends at dinner, the subject of loved ones stirred a question in his mind that had bothered him for a long time. "What's Della like in your world?" he asked abruptly. Perry gave him a confused look. "In what way do you mean?" "Well, are you two… you know…?" "Together?" Other Perry nodded, slightly embarrassed. Perry thought for a minute. "No, not really." He paused, thinking how to elaborate. "I don't think there's someone I'd rather be with, but we aren't an official couple or anything. I'm not sure, but I think she feels the same way. For now, I guess we're just content to be working together. Why, what is she like in your world?" Other Perry stared at his hands for a minute. Then, without looking up, he answered. "I've proposed to her several times. She always says 'no'." Perry gaped at him but said nothing. "I suppose she's right in her reasoning," Other Perry assured him quickly. "I sometimes feel like I'm already married to my work and if she was my wife she would probably stay home, especially if we had children, instead of working as my secretary. I guess neither of us is really ready for that yet." Perry didn't say anything. He felt the same way about his work and would probably feel the same way if Della was his wife. Part of him wanted to argue that things wouldn't change that drastically if that were to happen, but he knew, and Della doubtless knew as well that the truth was exactly as his counterpart had just described. No mistake about it, Perry would love it if Della was his wife, he admitted. She and Paul were closer than family to him, especially Della. But, he wouldn't want to ruin what they had right now by pushing. Della was too important to him to risk that or her contentment. Other Perry seemed to have resigned himself to that same fact as well. "Someday," Perry assured him. "For both of us. We just can't give up." Other Perry grinned at him. "'Give up' is not in my vocabulary." "I didn't figure it would be, particularly if Hamilton still calls you a shyster. I haven't heard him use that word in a long time, at least not when he's referring to me." Other Perry snorted. "I hear that word on a regular basis. I'll probably hear it a few more times very soon if I ever get home. I blew the State's case wide open this afternoon and managed to stick a few angry bees in his and Tragg's bonnet in the process." Perry regarded his other self with a slightly amused chastisement. "It took me a little time, but I figured out that's not the best way to make reliable friends, and the courtroom isn't the place to put on a big show unless necessary. It's easier to get the judge and the prosecutor to listen to you if they're confident that you won't just throw them a curve ball at any time and make them look like total fools." Other Perry looked away sheepishly, as that was exactly what he had done today. "Mixing up evidence and confusing the issues aren't always necessary either. Sometimes when someone is not being cooperative or you just need the effects to get at the murderer, then it's more understandable; otherwise you usually look a bit like an arrogant jerk as much as a brilliant lawyer." "Everybody has their own methods," Other Perry said briskly. "I use any means required to protect my clients as long as it's legal." Perry agreed. "Legality and the client's best interests are the main concerns, but sometimes there is a way to do it that doesn't make you look like too much of a show off." "Maybe," Other Perry said dismissively, not wanting to make an issue out of it. Perry shrugged. To each his own.
The red-headed waitress chose that moment to come back out and check on them. "How's everything going now?" she asked, unabashed. "Better than when we started," Other Perry promised. She smiled. "Good. Are you boys ready to go home?" The question was short and surprising. Were they ready to go home? Yes. Did they want to leave without some answers to the reasons for this extraordinary experience? No. "Since we're leaving... wherever this is, can't you at least tell us why we were here in the first place?" Perry asked. She smiled a big, enigmatic smile at him. "Some things are better left a mystery, honey. And I already told you, you're in Midway." "But where is that?" Other Perry insisted. "Where is anywhere, honey?
Instead of being mad, both men just smiled back at her. That was as straightforward an answer as they would get. "Will you at least if nothing else tell us your name?" Perry asked her. "Why are men always so curious about everything?" she mused. Perry rolled his eyes. Other Perry laughed. "Oh well, you tried." Perry nodded. "Take care of yourself, and don't give up on Della. Keep asking but don't push. She'll come around." "I know," Other Perry said. "Thanks. It was good meeting another version of myself." "Likewise. And remember, just give Hamilton a chance. He'll come around too." Other Perry smiled as they shook hands. "I'll try to keep that in mind."
A strong breeze blew through the town, smelling of warm sun and salty air. Perry closed his eyes and savored it. When he opened his eyes, he was back on the street in Los Angeles. Bewildered but only slightly this time, he hurried back to the Brent Building. Della looked up when he came in. "Sorry I'm late," he said. Della gave him a confused look. "I'd hardly call half an hour 'late'." "What? I've been gone for hours, Della!" "By my watch and all the others, it's only been thirty minutes," Della informed him. "Are you feeling okay, Chief?" Perry opened his mouth to say something, but then changed his mind. He smiled. "Yes Della, I'm fine. I got caught up thinking about something and I guess I thought more time had passed, that's all. Why don't we finish up here and go grab Paul?" Della gave her boss a quizzical look but let it pass. It was just another day at the office really. As they headed for the door, Perry paused. "Della?" "Yes Perry?" He thought back to the conversation with his counterpart. "Thank you." She laughed. "For what? Are you sure you're okay Perry?" He smiled. "I'm fine; I was just reminded on my walk back here how much I value you." Della shook her head but smiled back. "I think you've been working too hard," she said.
"Better get ready for the fireworks... Perry? Hey Perry!" Paul's voice snapped him back. Perry looked up at the detective. "Huh?" "You'd better get your earplugs or some boxing gloves on. Here they come." Perry looked around him. He was no longer outside at the little coffee shop. He was back in the restaurant, apparently only a few seconds had passed here while he felt like he'd been gone for hours. Hamilton Burger and Lt. Tragg had reached the table. "Counselor," Burger said stiffly. Tragg said nothing. Thinking fast but remembering what he learned, Perry spoke. "Good evening Mr. Burger, Lieutenant Tragg. To what do we owe this visit?" "How long do you think you're going to last if you keep skating the line like you did today, Mason?" Burger asked curtly. "You know what…," Perry started to say. Immediately, he thought of a smart remark back, but this time he held his tongue. Learning required change. Perry took a deep breath to calm himself. "I do what I can to protect my clients Mr. Burger, but I always do it legally." "Right," Burger snorted. "I guess you don't see it the way I do," Perry said carefully. "I'm always open to suggestion, if you have any better ideas. Would you gentlemen care to join us? I wouldn't mind your input." The stunned silence that followed went all the way around the group until Hamilton seemed to regain part of himself. He didn't know what Mason was up to; still though, the younger man seemed genuinely honest at this moment. Hamilton glanced at Tragg. The police officer was just as confused as he was. Finally, he shrugged. "Why not? It's a rare open opportunity to give the great Perry Mason advice when he might actually listen to it." Perry smiled at the law officer. "I just might Lieutenant." He slid over into the next seat, giving the two newcomers room. Della and Paul stared at him as if he had just lost his mind. He smiled and shrugged. Who knew, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.