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The Case of the Phantom Fortune
Horace Warren pays five hundred dollars to have Perry Mason attend a buffet dinner to observe his guests. He also wants Mason to investigate a fingerprint and suspects his wife is being blackmailed. Mrs Warren's mysterious past may hold the clues.
Erle Stanley Gardner The Case of the Phantom Fortune
Della Street, Perry Mason's confidential secretary said,"Mr Horace Warren, an executive type who seems accustomed to getting whathe wants, is anxiously and impatiently waiting in the outer office."
"And what," Perry Masonasked, "does Horace Warren wish to consult me about?"
"That," Della said,"is a mystery"
"Well?" Mason asked."What's the mystery"?"
"All he'll tell me is that he'swilling to pay five hundred dollars to have you attend a buffet dinnertonight."
Mason said, "Tell him I'm not apaid entertainer, that I have a busy schedule today, and that I see clientsonly by appointment."
"I don't think that he wantsyou as a social lion," Della said. "He said he would like to have youget a feminine partner of your own choosing, and that he would like to have youobserve a certain person and give him your impression of that person."
Mason regarded Della Street thoughtfully. "Were you by any chancethinking of a buffet dinner?"
She nodded. "Withchampagne," she said.
Mason grinned. "Show Mr HoraceWarren in, Della."
Della Street flashed him a grateful smile, returned tothe outer office and a moment later was back with a man somewhere in his lateforties a man with steady grey eyes that flashed out from under bushy eyebrows.
"Mr Mason," he said,"I'm Horace Warren. I'm a businessman."
Mason smiled slightly "Astudent of character would so classify you."
"And you are a student ofcharacter?"
"Any trial lawyer likes tothink that he is. If he's at all successful he has to be. Won't you beseated?"
Warren sat down across the desk from Mason,regarded him thoughtfully, then leaned forward and put his elbows on the desk.His heavy shoulders and neck gave him an air of belligerency.
"That," he said, "isone of the reasons I came to you."
"That you're a judge ofcharacter. I want you to do some judging."
Mason said, "I take it thatwhat you want is a little unusual?"
"Do you," Warren asked abruptly, veering away from thesubject under discussion, "have some good detective agency that does yourwork?"
"Yes," Mason said,"the Drake Detective Agency, with offices on the same floor of thisbuilding. Paul Drake has done my work for years. He is highly competent andcompletely ethical."
"Does he know fingerprints?"Warren asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Can he classify fingerprintsand match them, things of that sort?"
"He has had some experience incourtroom cases," Mason said warily "He's never qualified as aspecialist in fingerprinting, but he is an expert and in touch with highlycompetent experts."
Warren hesitated a moment, then reached into hiscoat pocket and pulled out a slip of white cardboard. Attached to thiscardboard was a strip of transparent tape, and underneath the transparent tapewere the black whorls of a fingerprint.
"I want you to hire Paul Drakeand have him get busy right away," Warren said. "I want a report by five o'clock this afternoon. It is imperative that Ihave it by that time."
"Why don't you step down thehall and talk with Mr Drake yourself?" Mason asked.
"Because I don't want PaulDrake to know who your client is. I want Paul Drake to follow your instructionsand yours alone."
"Perhaps," Mason said,"you'd better tell me a little more."
"Tonight," Warren said, "my wife and I are giving abuffet dinner for a small, intimate group. There will be not more than sixteenor eighteen people. I want you to attend that dinner and bring with you somefeminine partner, and I want it to appear that your presence is very casual infact, if possible, unexpected.
"The manager of my enterprises,Judson Olney, will ostensibly be the one responsible for bringing you there.Olney will apparently have invited the woman who is with you to come and bringa male escort. You will be the escort she has selected.
"I don't want anyone to suspectyou are there in your professional capacity. You will be prepared for a blacktie, champagne buffet dinner. You will arrive at seven for cocktails, dinnerwill be at eight, and you can leave at ten. That will take three hours. I amprepared to pay five hundred dollars for those three hours, in addition towhatever the charge may be for this consultation, and, of course, whatever yourcosts for the detective agency"
Mason regarded the enigmatic greyeyes thoughtfully. "I don't like to go at things blind," he said.
"This is not the usual type ofcase," Warren hastened to assure him.
"So it would seem," Masontold him. "Now, what's all this about a fingerprint and why do you want adetective agency?"
Warren tapped the cardboard on which appeared thelifted fingerprint. "I want your man to find out to whom that fingerprintbelongs that is, who made it."
Mason shook his head.
"What do you mean, no?" Warren demanded.
"What you are asking is apractical impossibility," Mason said. "While the FBI and the policehave done wonderful work in matching single fingerprints in the cases ofwell-known and much-wanted outlaws, nevertheless single fingerprint identificationis an exceedingly difficult and tedious job, far beyond the range of anydetective agency
"What is not generally realizedis that complete classifications are made through ten fingerprints. Then thosefingerprints are broken down into a code so that the searcher using that codeis limited to a relatively few number of fingerprints from which to make amatch."
"If you had ten fingerprintsyou could tell who the person was?" Warren asked.
"There again, another factorenters into the picture," Mason said. "If the fingerprints of theperson in question are on file in the criminal side of the FBI, we could getsome police officer to make an inquiry for us by wire and get a match. If,however, the fingerprints are not on file in the criminal department, it wouldprobably be impossible because fingerprints which are filed for civilianidentification are considered confidential."
Warren nodded, his eyes half closed as thoughcontemplating some matter entirely disassociated from what Mason was saying.
Then abruptly he got to his feet,took a billfold from his pocket, extracted a cheque and handed it to Mason.
"Here," he said, "isa cheque for a thousand dollars. Five hundred dollars will cover yourattendance at dinner tonight. I have given the address to your secretary. Theother five hundred dollars will act as retainer.
"Now, in strictest confidence Iam going to give you some additional data on that fingerprint."
"It is always advisable to givean attorney all the facts," Mason said dryly
Warren said, "This fingerprint may have beenmade by one of the servants in my house, it may have been made by one of theguests who will be at the dinner tonight, or it may be that it was made by atotal stranger. Would it be possible for your man, Drake, to go through thehouse and get the fingerprints of the servants without their knowing? I believeyou refer to it as developing latent prints."
Mason shook his head. "I don'tthink that would be possible, and if you don't want Drake to know the identityof my client it wouldn't be at all feasible.
"Developing a latent print, MrWarren, is a matter which calls for the use of various coloured powders whichare dusted over the fingerprint Then the developed fingerprint has to bephotographed or, as was done in the case of the fingerprint here, lifted."
"Lifted?" Warren asked. "How is that done?"
"The fingerprint is dusted.Then transparent adhesive tape is placed over the dusted latent fingerprint.The adhesive tape is smoothed carefully so that it covers the entire surface,then it is peeled back off and placed upon a card having an appropriate colourso that the fingerprint will show in contrast.
"For instance, on this cardwhich you have handed me, the fingerprint was dusted with a graphite powdertherefore the print, after it was lifted, was placed upon a card with anoff-white background, which makes it readily visible.
"Now, if Drake were to go toyour house and start lifting fingerprints, he would have to dust varioussurfaces and it would be virtually impossible to remove evidence that he haddusted those surfaces, and complete his search within the allotted time."
"Have you anysuggestions?" Warren asked.
"I have one," Mason said."It might or might not prove effective. It would, however, necessitateDrake knowing the identity of my client and it would be expensive."
"Money is no object," Warren declared. "That is, I don't want to bea pigeon, I don't want to be charged more than the going rate, but when I wantsomething, I want it."
Mason nodded thoughtfully.
"What was your scheme?"
Mason said, "Have a caterer forthis party. Ostensibly, Drake will be the head of the catering service.
"In that way the service willfurnish its own china, its own crystal, its own silverware. Employees of thecatering firm will park a truck in your driveway. That truck will be theheadquarters of the catering service. Apparently dishes, glassware, silverware,etc., will be taken from your house to the truck to be washed. Actually therewill be no washing facilities available but there will be an unlimited supplyof glassware and silverware, which will be replaced from time to time asoccasion demands.
"This catering truck willactually be a portable fingerprint laboratory in which Drake will haveassistants who will develop latent fingerprints on glasses, silverware, etc.,as last as the materials is brought out."
"How much would something ofthis sort cost?" Warren asked.
"It is expensive," Masonsaid. "How many guests do you intend to have at your party?"
"Fifteen," Warren said,"if they all come. My wile and I will make seventeen, and you and yourfriend will make nineteen."
"And what did you intend toserve?"
Warren said, "Champagne, filet mignon, hors d'oeuvres, theworks."
"Catering alone," Masonsaid, "would probably cost you twenty-five to thirty-five dollars aperson. This dummy caterer's truck, which is really a fingerprint laboratorywith several trained assistants, costs live hundred dollars for an evening, inaddition to the catering charge."
"It's available?" Warren asked.
"It's available unless someother detective agency has it tied up for this evening. It is, of course, avery hush-hush service. The public generally knows nothing about it. It is heldin readiness for private detective agencies who are confronted with a problemsomewhat similar to the one we are discussing."
"Get it," Warren said.
"Just a minute," Masonsaid.
He nodded to Della Street, who picked up the telephone and dialedPaul Drakes number.
When he had the detective on theline Mason said, "Paul, I have a very confidential fingerprint job I wantdone tonight. The suspect may or may not be a guest at a champagne buffetdinner. Can you arrange to get the fingerprint truck for tonight?"
"I don't know," Drake toldhim, "but I can find out pretty fast."
"Find out and call meback," Mason said.
"I'll run it down and let youknow," Drake said.
"That's fine," Mason toldhim, and then putting a little more emphasis on the words, said, "find outand call me back just as soon as you get the information, Paul."
"I got you," Drake said."I gotcha the second time anyway. I was a little dense the first lime. I'mto keep away from the office and report by telephone. Right?"
"Right," Mason said,and hung up.
Mason turned to his client."We'll find out in a few minutes whether it's available."
"Now, let me emphasize onething," Warren said. "This is a business party and I want the catering to be veryhigh class. I don't want some detective agency bungling the- "
"The detective service isentirely beside the point," Mason said. "The catering is in the handsof a professional. The detective end is a sideline carried on in one end of thetruck. You will, of course, have to have your driveway kept open so that thetruck can park there. Trained servants who are taught to put everything ontrays will take the things to the house and see that they are not touchedexcept by guests and by your own servants. Then those articles will be removedand sent to the truck, ostensibly to be washed. Actually they will be given theclosest fingerprint examination by well-trained assistants.
"There may be inquiries aboutthe catering service. You will have to say that you hired them because of a recommendationby a friend, and of course under no circumstances can any guest go to the truckto look around."
"Now then," Mason said,"specifically what do you want me to do? Suppose we locate thisfingerprint. What then? Do you simply want me to advise you of the identity ofthe person and withdraw, or – "
"No," Warren said, "I've been thinking things over.You'll have to be on your own for a while. There are certain reasons why it'sgoing to be rather difficult for me to be in professional communication withyou, Mason."
"There's always thetelephone," Mason said.
"Unfortunately I have very fewmoments when people are not with me," Warren said. "I have a secretary in charge ofappointments. I have a rather elaborate staff."
"Perhaps I can telephoneyou," Mason said, "and we could handle a conversation in such a waythat the comments made at your end of the line would seem to relate to somebusiness matter. In that way I could give you the information -"
"No, no. My calls have to passthrough a switchboard in the office and … I'm going to turn you loose on yourown, Mason."
"Just what do you want?"Mason asked.
"That fingerprint that youhave," Warren said. "I want you to find out who madethat fingerprint. When you find out who made it, I want you to protect my wifeagainst that person. You understand, Mason? No matter who that person may be,no matter how much it may cost in the way of a legitimate fee, I want you toprotect my wife from that person."
"In other words," Masonsaid, "you're reasonably certain that after tonight I'll know who madethat fingerprint. You think the person will be at the buffet dinner."
"I think the person will be atthe buffet dinner."
"And you want me to protectyour wife against that person."
"What measures do I take?"
"Any measures that may benecessary."
"How much expense do Iincur?"
"Any expense within reason. Anyexpense that you can justify as a reasonable expense will be unhesitatinglypaid by me."
"Up to what limit?" Masonasked curiously.
"There is no limit."
"Suppose it should run intoseveral thousands of dollars?"
"I said there is nolimit."
"You have a feeling that yourwife is in danger?"
"I think," Warren said, "that my wife is either in theclutches of a blackmailer or is about to fall into the clutches of ablackmailer."
Mason raised his eyebrows."Legitimate law-abiding citizens are seldom subject to blackmail unless,of course, there is something in the past of such a person that would leave himvulnerable, and I take it that in the case of your wife …"
"Take what?" Warren asked irascibly, as Mason's voice trailedinto silence.
"That there would hardly besuch a past."
"Why not?" Warren rasped.
"Surely," Mason said,"with your social and business position, any woman whom you have marriedwould hardly "
"Stop it!" Warren snapped.
"Stop what?" Mason asked.
"Stop fishing for informationunder the guise of paying me a lot of compliments and putting me in a positionwhere I'll have to make a statement.
"I'm going to make onestatement, Mason. It's the only statement you'll get out of me. The fact thatLorna is my wife doesn't mean a damned thing."
"How long have you beenmarried?" Mason asked.
"We've been married for tenyears. It's been a happy marriage, but she is ten years younger than I am. WhenI married her I was a successful businessman – not a wealthy businessman, but areasonably successful businessman. I didn't inquire into her past. I marriedher because I loved her."
"And because she lovedyou?" Mason asked.
"I don't know," Warren said. "A man never does. I havesometimes thought she married me because she found in me a refuge. I don't knowAnd because I have never asked her, I don't intend to ask you. I don't want youto tell me anything you might find out about her past or her frame of mind,present or past.
"I am retaining you for justone thing. Protect my wile from the person who made that fingerprint. Don'ttell me a damned ' thing about what you find out. Just go ahead and protect herand from time to time send me the bill for what you feel your services areworth."
"That's a rather difficultassignment," Mason said.
"I think you specialize indifficult assignments. I've looked you up one side and down the other."
The unlisted telephone rang. Della Street answered, said, – "Thank you,Paul," and hung up.
She caught Mason's eye and nodded.
Mason said, "The catering truckis available for tonight."
"Good!" Warren exclaimed.
Mason regarded the man thoughtfully.
"What makes you think your wifeis in danger?" he asked.
"My wife," Warren said, "is being blackmailed."
"How do you know?"
"First the tip-off came from mybanker. She has been making withdrawals for a period of more than ninety days.Those withdrawals are large and are in the form of cash."
"And you think she has beenpaying those over to some blackmailer?"
"No, I know she hasn't."
Mason raised his eyebrows.
"To date she has drawn outsomething like forty-seven thousand dollars," Warren said, "and as late as last night shehad that forty-seven thousand dollars intact in a locked suitcase in herbedroom."
"The entire sum?" Masonasked.
"The entire sum."
"How do you know?"
"I made it my business to findout."
"Then," Mason said,"there is another possibility, which is – "
"I know, I know," Warren interrupted. "Which is that my wife isin love with someone else and is intending to run away and leave me.
"Lorna wouldn't do that. Lornaconsented to be my wife ten years ago. At the time there was somethingbothering her. I know that much. She came from New York, she has never talked about her past, shehas never introduced me to a single friend who knew her before she was married.Every friend she has in the world, apparently, is someone with whom she becameacquainted after our marriage."
"In other words, her past issomething of a mystery?"
"Her past is a closedbook," Warren said. "She'd probably tell me if Iasked her. I wouldn't ask her. What you were talking about is whether she wasplanning to run away and leave me. I'm simply telling you Lorna wouldn't dothat. She made her bargain. She'd stay with it if it killed her.
"If something happened and shebecame utterly miserable in our marriage, she might take an overdose ofsleeping pills. I don't know. I want to see that that doesn't happen."
"If what you suspect istrue," Mason said, "I may have to invent some excuse to see a gooddeal of your wife."
"Then go ahead and invent theexcuse."
"And what you want me to do isto -"
Warren interrupted. "Protect my wife from theperson who made that fingerprint."
"At all costs?" Masonasked.
"At all costs, at any cost.There is no limit, but I want her protected from the person who made thatfingerprint. I will expect your detective's catering service to be prepared toserve an excellent champagne buffet dinner tonight, and I will expect you to bethere with some eminently suitable woman who can -"
Mason nodded toward Della Street. "I would have Miss Street with me," he said.
"That's fine," Warren said. "Now, the only person who mighteven faintly suspect there may be a business relationship will be Judson OlneyHe will assume the responsibility for your secretary being there, and she willinvite you to accompany her. Since you are rather well known, it might occur tohim that there is some logical reason for you to be there.
"Olney will adopt the positionof having been a friend of long standing of your secretary, here and since heis a bachelor this will cause no complications.
"He is, I may add," Warren said, "a very eligible bachelor."
"And Olney will know what hehas to do?"
"Olney will only know that hehas to invite your secretary, Miss …"
"Della Street," Mason said.
Warren took a notebook from his pocket, made anote of the name.
"All that Judson will know isthat he is to invite Miss Della Street to the dinner as an old friend, andintroduce her as such. You will be there simply as Miss Street's escort."
"Do you think that will foolanyone?" Mason asked.
"I don't give a damn whether itdoes or not," Warren said. "I can't think of anything else on short notice that willwork any better. In my business I try to plan my activities in the best wayavailable at the moment and then quit worrying about what may happen. After Ihave decided on a course of action I go ahead -full speed. I don't waste timelooking back over my shoulder.
"Now, since this is the lasttime I will see you before you arrive at my home, we have to be sure that wedon't get our wires crossed. Do you have any questions?"
"No," Mason said.
Warren looked at his watch. "I have already usedmuch more than my allotted time. I am going to have to make excuses to accountfor the delay in my appointment schedule."
He pushed back his chair, got to hisfeet, started for the door, turned, faced Mason, and said, "No matter whothat person may be, you are to protect my wife from the person who made thefingerprint on that card."
After the door had clicked shut, Della Street looked at Perry Mason."Intrigue," she said. "I love it."
Mason was frowningly studying thefingerprint on the card.
"Think Drake can matchit?" she asked.
"If the person who made it isthere tonight," Mason said thoughtfully, "Drake should be able tomake a match. Unless, of course, the person becomes suspicious and manages toavoid leaving prints."
"Suspicious?" she asked.
"Because I am there,"Mason said.
Della said, "Well, if I am tobe escorted to a champagne dinner with the four hundred tonight, I should spendwhat time I can get during the noon hour at the beauty shop."
"Take what time you need,"Mason said. "This is business, you know."
Della Street picked up the phone, asked for anappointment at the hairdressers, said, "Just a moment, please," andturned to Perry Mason. "They can take me now if I can come rightaway."
"Go ahead," Mason said."And charge the bill as part of the expense on the case. This is anofficial assignment, you know."
She said into the phone, "Okay,I'll be right down," hung up and turned to Mason. "Somehow I feelrather… well…"
Mason laughed. "You never feelself-conscious when you work until midnight, Della, or when you are called on to workover a weekend. Go ahead and get the works."
It was nearly two o'clock when a radiant Della Street returned from the beauty shop.
"How do I look?" sheasked, standing in front of Perry Mason, and turning slowly.
"Like a million," Masonsaid.
"I don't want you to be ashamedof me at that buffet dinner."
"Ashamed!" Masonexclaimed. "You'll be the queen of the-"
The telephone bell rang three short,sharp rings which was the switchboard operator's signal that in the outeroffice there was something urgent and demanding immediate attention. A momentlater Gertie, the switchboard operator and receptionist, appeared in the doorof the private office.
She carefully closed the door behindher and said, "There's a Mr Judson Olney out there who wants to see Miss Della Street on a personal matter of some urgency. Hewants to see her alone"
"My boyfriend," Dellasaid.
"Your what?" Gertie asked,her eyes growing large and round.
"Only temporarily," Della Street said, smiling. "I'll go out and greethim."
Gertie backed out of the office.
"I want to look him over,"Mason said to Della Street, "provided you can arrange it."
"I'll arrange it," shetold him.
Della vanished through the door tothe outer office.
A few moments later Mason's phonerang and when the lawyer picked up the receiver he heard Della on the other endof the line.
"Where are you, Della?" heasked.
"In the outer office," shesaid. "I'm talking where he can't hear me."
"There's something ratherstrange here. He didn't want to see anyone except me, but after we'd talk alittle while he asked who my escort was going to be and I told him it would beyou. That seemed to bother him for a minute and then he said, well, perhaps hewas getting a little out of line. I can see that now he knows I'm going withyou he wants to meet you, but he's all worked up about something, under somesort of terrific tension."
"See if he wants to come in andmeet me," Mason said. "If he does, bring him in."
"I'm satisfied he does. You mayexpect us in about two minutes," Della said.
However, it was less than a minuteafter Mason had terminated the telephone conversation that the door opened andDella said, "Mr Mason, this is Judson Olney. He's manager of the WarrenEnterprises."
Olney, a strapping young man with aready smile and an air of breezy informality about him, came forward toacknowledge the introduction and take Mason's hand.
"Hello, Mr Mason," hesaid. "I'm sorry I bothered you but Della here told me you were going tobe her escort tonight and I wanted to drop in and say hello.
"Della and I are old friendsfrom high school days. I was a senior when she was a freshman but I had my eyeon her even then … We drifted apart and I lost track of her."
"How did you happen to findher?" Mason asked, his face without expression.
"Simplest way on earth,"Olney said. "I was walking down the street yesterday and she drove by. Irecognized her. I saw her turn into a parking place nearby, so as I walked pastI spoke to the attendant, told him that I'd like to know whether a Miss DellaStreet was a regular customer of his, and he told me she kept a parking spaceby the month, that he understood she worked in the office of Perry Mason, the attorney
"So," Olney said, smiling,"that's the story. I could have made quite a mystery out of it and builtmyself up as a super detective, but somehow I always like to tell thetruth."
His steady blue eyes met Mason'swith every semblance of frankness.
"And that's the truth?"Mason asked.
Della Street caught Judson Olney's eye and shook herhead.
Olney grinned sheepishly. "Allright," he said, "that's a story I made up. Actually I was instructedby my employer, Horace Warren, to concoct a story which would account for along friendship with Miss Street, and to invite her as my friend to a buffet dinner tonight. On theother hand, I wasn't to have it appear that there had been anything more thanan old friendship which had been dormant for some time and was now beingresurrected. So I was therefore instructed to ask Miss Street to bring an escort. She tells me that youare going to take her."
"All right," Olney said,"I'm going to be telling that story about Della Street, the old school days and the parking lotand I wanted to rehearse it a little bit."
"Couldn't you do a little better?"Mason asked.
"No," Olney said. "Ihad a better story but it would have been vulnerable to checking."
"You think someone will checkit?" Mason asked.
Olney said cautiously, "I don'tknow I want to be safe. I'm being purposely kept in the dark. I don't know whatit's all about. I'm told what to do and I'm simply following instructions. Iwas told to concoct a story that would stand checking."
"That's all you know?"Mason asked.
"That's all I know," Olneysaid. "But I do want to say one thing on my own."
"Whatever is in the wind,"Olney said, his face suddenly serious, his eyes hard, "had better be onthe up-and-up as far as Loma Warren is concerned."
Mason raised his eyebrows. "Youhave some particular interest in seeing that her rights are protected?"
"Nothing like that," Olneysaid. "Well, wait a minute, I have, too. Lorna Warren is one of thesweetest, nicest individuals I've ever met calm, quiet, patient, considerate,and she treats us folks in the office just fine.
"Now then, it suddenly occursto me that there's a reason for all this rigmarole I'm supposed to go through,and it may be that Horace Warren isn't interested in having Miss Street there but is interested in having youthere. I hope you don't mind if I put the cards right on the table, sir."
"Go right ahead," Masoninvited.
"Horace Warren is my employer.I am loyal to him in a business way. His wife, Lorna, is something very, veryspecial. Don't get me wrong, Mr Mason. My feelings toward her are simply thefeelings of every man and woman in the office. We like Horace Warren. Weabsolutely idolize Lorna. I would certainly resent being called upon to assistin making it possible for an attorney to be present at that buffet dinnertonight ii the ultimate objective of the attorney was to do something whichwould inconvenience Loma Warren in any way."
"You are now waiting for astatement from me?" Mason asked.
"I am waiting for a statementfrom you."
Mason said, "I have no officialconnection with either Horace Warren or Loma Warren which would cause me to doanything against the best interests of Loma Warren."
Olney's face lit up. "Well, nowthat's something," he said. "That makes me feel a lot better… Well,there's no use keeping up the pretense with you folks. You'll be there, Iunderstand, at seven. Do I rate the privilege of giving you a platonic kiss onthe cheek, Miss Street? After all, you were the proud, unattainable beauty when we were bothin high school."
"When you were a senior and shewas a freshman?" Mason asked.
Olney made a little grimace."That part of the story," he said, "doesn't hang together sowell when you pick it up with that lawyer's tone of polite sarcasm."
"Why use it then?"
"It's the only story that willstand investigation."
"And you were told there mightbe an investigation?"
"I was told to get a storywhich couldn't be shown false on its face. I obey orders."
Della Street said mischievously. "In view of ourold school-day association and your fervent, undeclared passion, which youmanaged to conceal so successfully, you rate a kiss on the cheek and we will doa little babbling about the old days and some of the teachers."
"That's fine," Olney said."I just wanted to drop in to talk over the ground rules with you and planit so things would go smoothly tonight."
He bowed, smiled, started for thedoor, paused in the doorway to turn and size up Perry Mason. The smile left hisface.
"I wish I knew what this wasall about," he said.
Mason said. "Just a moment,Olney. That story of yours, I don't like it… Can't you think up a betterone?"
Olney came back into the room,stared thoughtfully at the floor for a moment. Suddenly he snapped his fingers."I've got it!" he exclaimed. "A boat trip! Four years ago I wentthrough the Caribbean, then down to South America … moonlight dances on deck,warm spice-scented air – Wonderful! That's where I met you, Miss Street."
Della flashed Olney a smile.
Mason looked dubious but refrainedfrom commenting until Olney had bowed himself out of the office, then heregarded Della Street thoughtfully "Your old friend," he said, "is either agood actor or a rotten liar."
Della Street, eyes sparkling, said, "I presume thatmeans you'll ask Paul Drake to be sure to get the fingerprints of Judson Olneytonight?"
"Exactly," Mason said.
Warren's house at 2420 Bridamoore Street was ablaze with lights. The house was setwell back from the road, and the semicircular driveway leading to the frontdoor was wide enough to furnish ample room for parking cars.
On the west side of the house andopening from the driveway was a wide lane leading to a three-car garage.
Perry Mason, slowing his car,glanced at Della Street and said, "Notice the driveway is fairly well filled with parkedcars, Della, yet we're right on time. Usually guests come straggling in atabout any time which suits their convenience."
"What significance is attachedto that?" she asked.
"It was planned that way,"Mason said. "He wanted all the other guests to be here when wearrived."
Della Street said, "Oh-oh! Look in the driveway tothe garage by the side door."
"I noticed it," Masonsaid, "The big catering van."
"But notice the sign," shesaid. "Drake's Catering Service"
Mason nodded. "The name ispainted on heavy paper which fits into a frame. The rest of the sign ispermanently painted. In that way they can change the name to suit the occasion.We'll have to kid Paul Drake about the service."
"Something new for Paul,"she said, "being a caterer."
"Well," Mason said,turning the car into the driveway, "it seems that we enter from the eastand find ourselves a parking place on the left-hand side of the driveway. Thishouse was evidently built with the idea of entertainment in mind."
"A house of headaches," Della Street said. "It takes lots of servants torun a place of this sort and getting domestic help these days is a realheadache."
Mason parked the car, got out andheld the door open for Della Street. "Well," he said, "in we go and try to play the part ofinnocent bystanders in a script which has been written by a rank amateur."
"You think anyone will suspectanything?" Della asked.
Mason said, "It depends onwho's present, Della, but if this is an intimate group that has been togetherfrom time to time, and I rather fancy it is, the presence of an attorney andhis attractive secretary will cause considerable comment, a great deal ofspeculation, and if a guilty person is present he won't be deceived for morethan ten seconds."
"Yes," Della Street said, as they walked up to the front door."I can imagine a blackmailer putting the bite on Mrs Warren and thenattending a party at which a noted attorney is introduced as one of the guests.It might be a good thing at that, Chief. It might frighten him out of any planshe might have for a shakedown."
"It might," Mason saiddubiously pressing the button which caused chimes to sound in the interior.
The door was flung open by JudsonOlney.
"There you are!" heexclaimed, taking both of Della Street's hands. "I've been waiting foryou."
He turned to Perry Mason. "Andthis is …?"
"Mr Mason," Della saidthen turning her face to Perry Mason, "My old friend, Judson Olney, Chief.I told you about him this afternoon."
"Oh, yes," Mason said,shaking hands. "How are you, Mr Olney?"
Olney expressed his pleasure, thenhalf turned toward the couple who were standing in the reception hall."Loma," he said, "this is the girl I was telling you about. MrsWarren, Della. And may I present Mr Mason – Mrs Warren, Mr Mason. And this isHorace Warren, our host. Della Street and Mr Mason."
Mrs Warren said, "Welcome. It'scertainly a pleasure! Judson told me all about meeting his cruising companionand said you were more beautiful than ever, and now I can well believe it.Judson, you aren't very smart to lose track of a young woman like this."
Olney knocked his head with hisknuckles. "Pure ivory," he said.
Warren regarded Mason thoughtfully. "Haven'tI seen you some place before?" he asked.
Mason looked him in the eyes, said,"Have you?"
Warren's brow puckered thoughtfully "I'veseen you or-Wait a minute, I've seen a picture of you … Mason, Mason, whyyou're Perry Mason, the lawyer."
"That's right," Masonacknowledged gravely.
"Well, what do you know," Warren exclaimed, awe and respect in his voice.
"Perry Mason!" his wifeejaculated. "Oh-oh! Perry Mason in person! Wait until my guests hear aboutthis! Well, this is something."
"Let me take your things,"Lorna Warren said to Della, "and come in and meet these people. It's arather small intimate group."
Horace Warren moved over to takeMason's arm. "Well, well," he said, "the great Perry Mason. Thisis indeed an honour, Mr Mason."
"Thank you," the lawyersaid dryly.
In the big living-room area half adozen people were chatting together, casually holding cocktail glasses. Throughhuge picture windows there could be seen a swimming pool illuminated bycoloured globes beneath the surface and by an indirect illumination above thesurface which gave the effect of soft moonlight to the wide cement apron andthe grass which bordered it.
Another eight or ten persons werestanding in groups or spread out in reclining chairs around the pool.
The sound of a dozen voices talkingat once, interspersed with occasional feminine laughter, greeted the ears ofMason and Della Street as they entered the room.
Horace Warren stepped to themicrophone of a hi-fi player and tape recorder and threw a switch which turnedit into a public address system.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I havean announcement to make," Warcen said.
From the manner in which the peoplelooked up with smiles of amusement, Mason gathered that Warren liked to hear his voice over the publicaddress system and quite frequently made announcements.
"This," Warren said, "is a romantic story, a storyinvolving my right-hand assistant, Judson Olney, who met a beautiful girl whilehe was on that South American cruise a few years ago, and then lost track ofher. Then, quite by accident, he found her again and with Mrs Warren's permission has invited her here tonight.
"He was gratified to find thatthis very pretty girl whom he had always visualized as one of the Hollywood stars and who had been a woman of mysteryon the cruise, was working in a law office as a confidential secretary. BecauseJudson is going to be occupied with business matters during a part of theevening, he asked this young woman to bring an escort of her own choosing. She choseher employer, and her employer, ladies and gentlemen – hold everything now -her employer is none other than the famous attorney, the one and only – thegreat Perry Mason! The young woman is the beautiful Miss Della Street. And here they are! Step forward,please."
Warren held out his hand, and Della Street and Mason stepped forward just as someonepressed a switch on a spotlight.
Warren still held the microphone. "Let's givethe newcomers a big hand," he said.
People dutifully looked around for aplace to put their cocktail glasses, then broke into spattering applause. Thespotlight went off.
Warren turned to Mason and said, "I hateformal introductions where you go around from person to person and group togroup. I make many introductions over a loudspeaker. Now, if you will justmingle around, people will give you their names and you can get themcatalogued. But first you must have a cocktail."
Mason said, "You have a veryremarkable voice, Mr Warren. That was a smooth, almost professional job you didin the announcement."
Warren's face flushed with genuine pleasure."Do you think so?" he said. "Thank you, very much."
"I'm quite certain," Masonsaid, "you must have had professional coaching."
Warren failed to take the bait. "Come thisway and have a cocktail. We have a catering service that is doing a realjob."
Warren led the way over to a portable bar where animpassive waiter took their orders, then lifted the lid from an insulatedcontainer.
"Look at this," Warren said. "The cocktail glasses are cooledalmost to the freezing point. What is your pleasure?"
"Both Miss Street and I would like Scotch-on-the-rocks,"Mason said.
The attendant took metal tongs,extracted glasses, put the glasses on a tray, put in ice cubes, poured inScotch and gravely extended the tray.
Della Street took a glass gingerly, apparently consciousof the fact that in touching the glass she left fingerprints.
Mason took the other glass.
"Now, if you'll excuseme," Warren said, "I have a telephone call I haveto make. Just make yourselves right at home. People are friendly here and it'sall an informal group."
Mason said, "Could you give mea guest list?"
"I have had one alreadyprepared for you," Warren said. "I thought you'd want one. One for you and one for yourcharming secretary."
Warren, somewhat surreptitiously, pressed a foldedslip of paper into Mason's hand, turned and slipped one to Della Street.
"How's the cateringservice?" Mason asked.
"Wonderful," Warren enthused. "Really, it's out of thisworld I hadn't realized it would be possible to have anything of this sort …And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a couple of telephone calls to make."
Warren started away, turned, caught Mason's eye,gave him a quick wink and jerked his head in a signal that Mason was to follow.
Mason said in a low voice to Della Street, "I'll leave you to your own resourcesfor a little while."
Still carrying his glass, Masonmoved over to join Warren.
Warren said, "There's a shower out by theswimming pool. To the right of the shower there's a door leading to a bathroom.That door will be unlocked. Meet me there alone in about five minutes, orwhenever you can make it. Pretend that you're just exploring around. Go out andlook the house over. Move around the pool. Leave your secretary free tocirculate around."
"People will be talking tome," Mason said, glancing at his watch. "It's going to be a littledifficult to -"
"That's all right. I'll be waiting.I want to show you something."
Judson Olney came up to take Della Street's arm. "My gosh," he said,"it's good to see you again! You shouldn't have stepped out of my life theway you did."
"It was you who stepped out ofmy life," Della reminded him.
Mrs Warren, moving up, said,"Shame on you, Judson, letting a good-looking girl like that getaway."
Olney put his arm around Della Street's shoulders, drew her momentarily close tohim, said, "She hasn't got away – yet. Come on, we've got to meet people."
Perry Mason moved out to theswimming pool, pausing every few seconds to shake hands with people who came upto introduce themselves, trying to avoid getting involved in conversation.
After several minutes the lawyermoved around the swimming pool, looking admiringly at the house.
Nearly ten minutes elapsed before hehad a chance to open the door to the right of the shower without making theaction seem conspicuous.
The door opened into a sumptuousbathroom with a sunken tile tub, huge mirrors. Horace Warren was waiting.
"I want you to see somethingwith your own eyes," he said. Warren opened the left-hand door of the bathroom'stwo doors and beckoned Mason to follow him.
"Now this," Warren said, "is my wife's bedroom. We haveseparate bedrooms. I'm a restless sleeper and sometimes I'll place a dozenphone calls in the course of an evening. My room is soundproof and this room ispretty well insulated."
"Now, just a moment,"Mason said, "I feel rather – well, I'm a little embarrassed about this.Your wife doesn't know you're here, that you're showing me anything?"
"Heavens, no! I just want youto see this with your own eyes. Just take a look."
Warren led the way to a huge closet, slid back theend door, reached in, took out a locked suitcase.
"Of course," he said,"almost any key will open one of these."
Warren inserted a key, snapped back the lock andthe two hasps on the side which held it shut.
"Now just take a look inhere," he said, "and …"
Warren recoiled in surprise. "Goodheavens!" he exclaimed.
The interior of the suitcase wasfilled with old newspapers.
"Now, what the hell!" Warren said.
"That's what you wanted me tosee?" Mason said.
"Definitely not! Up to a shorttime ago this suitcase had forty-seven thousand dollars in twenties, fifties,and one hundred dollar bills."
"You counted it?" Masonasked.
"I counted it."
"Do you think there's anypossibility someone could have stolen it?"
"I don't know what did happento it."
"All right," Mason saidtersely, "here's a way to have a showdown. Take that receptacle out to thevan. Get the experts out there to dust it for fingerprints. Find whosefingerprints are on it."
"Mine are on it now," Warren said.
"Yours and probably someoneelse's," Mason said.
"But my wife's fingerprintswill also be on it."
"Hers and someone else's."
Warren shook his head. "I don't want to doit."
"She'd be apt to come here andmiss the suitcase and even after I brought it back she might find that it hadbeen fingerprinted. You said yourself that lifting fingerprints left atrace."
"They can oil that leatherafter they get done so it won't leave a trace," Mason said. "Theprints will be on the metal fittings."
"No," Warren said, "I don't want to take a chanceof her catching me at it. I'd have trouble getting it out of the house."
"There's a back way out, isn'tthere?"
"You could use that."
"But suppose she should comeinto the bedroom, looking for the suitcase and find it's gone? Then what?"
"Then," Mason said,"you could have a showdown with your wife. You could tell her what you'redoing and tell her you're trying to protect her."
"Never," Warren said emphatically, abruptly closing andlocking the suitcase. He put it back in the closet and slid the door intoplace.
"Unless my wife chooses toconfide in me," he said, "I don't want to force the issue. I did wantyou to see the money for yourself. I guess now the blackmailer has got in hisdirty work."
"Your wife has enough money ofher own so she could make a payment of that sort?" Mason asked.
"She's been convertingsecurities during the last ninety days that I know of and perhaps even beforethat. Yes, she's got enough to make that payment and if she converted all ofher securities she could make several such payments. I believe in financialindependence for both parties to a marriage, Mr Mason. For your information,I've been generous with my wife and I've been rather successful in a businessway" He waved his hand in an inclusive gesture. "As you can see fromthe sort of place we live in … I wouldn't have Lorna dream that I'd beensnooping around in here or that I had confided in you … or that you – Comeon, let's get out of here."
Mason said, "Very well,"and started following Warren toward the door of the bathroom.
Abruptly a door opened and LornaWarren stood on the threshold, a look of startled, incredulous surprise on herface.
Her husband came to an abrupt haltfor a moment, then said casually, almost too suavely, "I'm showing PerryMason through the house, dear. I took the liberty of just looking in on yourbedroom."
Warren turned to Mason and went on easily, "Now,my bedroom is on the other side here. We can reach it either through thebathroom or through the corridor. I have another bath opening off my room …Right this way, please." Lorna stood to one side.
"When you're finished,dear," she said, "the caterer wants to know about serving the meal.There's a charcoal broiler in the catering van and he wants to have abouttwenty minutes notice."
"That's fine," Warren said easily. "Tell him to go ahead andget things ready to serve. We should be about ready to start the buffet intwenty minutes."
"They've already brought in thecanapes," she said. "Fine, fine," Warren said. "It's a nice job of catering.Now, right this way, Mr Mason, and I'll show you the rest of this wing. Theguest bedrooms are in the other wing."
Out in the corridor Warren turned to Mason. "Gosh," he saidunder his breath, "that was close! Think what would have happened if we'dbeen carrying that suitcase."
"What would havehappened?" Mason asked.
"I shudder to think ofit," Warren told him. "It would put me in theposition of having to make explanations."
"It would also have put yourwife in the position of having to make explanations," Mason said. "Ifyou're going to protect a person it helps a lot to know the source of dangerand -"
"No, no, Mason," Warren interrupted, "that would have defeatedthe entire object of calling you in. I want this handled in such a way thatLorna doesn't have any idea on earth that you're here other than as a casualguest, and I don't want her to know that I suspect a thing about her financialproblem."
"All right," Mason said,"you're calling the shots, but quite obviously if she's being blackmailedshe's made one payment of approximately forty-seven thousand dollars. It's toolate to protect her from that."
"I know, I know, but the moneyis a minor matter," Warren said. "I want you to protect her from the blackmailer or whateverit is she's facing, and this is probably the last time we'll have anopportunity to chat together. As I told you, my business structure is verycomplex and calls go through a switchboard."
"How much does Judson Olneyknow?" Mason asked.
"Not a thing, not a thing, andI don't want him to know anything."
"But he knows that this wholeplant with Della Street is a fake."
"Certainly He thinks I wantedto introduce Della Street to a certain individual who is here tonight."
"Who?" Mason asked.
"Barrington," Warren said. "You'll find his name on theguest list. Now, this is my bedroom and-"
Mason stepped inside and closed thedoor. "All right, Warren," he said, "tell me about Barrington."
"Actually there's nothing totell," Warren said. "George P Barrington is the sonof Wendell Barrington, the great oil tycoon. George is playing around with someoil properties and I have some properties which can be leased. He's interestedin a lease on those properties.
"Confidentially, Mason, I don'tgive a hang whether he closes the lease or not but I invited him here tonightbecause he's been going with a trashy young woman who is no good at all.They've split up now. I told Judson Olney that I wanted him to meet Della Street."
"And how does Olney figure thatyou knew Della Street?"
"A couple of weeks ago," Warren said, "I addressed a meeting of theLegal Secretaries Association. I told Olney that Della Street was there, that Ihadn't met her but that I had been impressed by her beauty, had found out whoshe was, and that I would like to have him invite her to come this evening and,of course, bring an escort. I said that I wanted him to be particularly certainshe met George Barrington. Now, that's all Olney knows. "Now I've simplygot to get back to my guests, Mason. A casual tour of the place is one thingbut being away long enough to have a conference with you would be quiteanother. That would defeat the very purpose of all my planning."
Horace Warren firmly opened the doorand stood waiting for Mason to go through.
"What are you afraid of?"Mason asked.
"Me? Nothing. Why?"
"You're afraid to call yoursoul your own. You're frightened to death of having anyone think you'veconsulted me. Instead of running your office staff, you're letting the staffrun you. Now, what's the answer?"
"Just what I've told you,"Warren said hastily. "We have no time fordetailed explanations now, Mason."
"When will we have?"
"I don't know. Moreover, it'snot important. You know what you have to do. You have a free hand – a blankcheque. Just protect Lama."
Mason said, "You're a veryremarkable actor, Warren. Tell me about your training."
Warren seemed to relax and expand. "At onetime in my life I was stage-struck. I even acted as angel for a couple of shows-but don't let anyone know about that, particularly Lorna. She would think that- Well, you know the general type of thinking that is associated with … withthings of that sort."
"No, I don't," Mason said."Shows have to be financed and it's a business proposition."
"I know, I know, but – You're abachelor, aren't you, Mason?"
"That tells the wholestory," Warren said, marching firmly down the corridor and into the big living areawhere the cocktail party had now been in progress long enough so that themasculine voices were a little louder, the feminine laughter a little moreshrill.
"Now, if you don't mind," Warren went on firmly, "I'm going to keepaway from you for the rest of the evening."
"Where's Barrington?" Mason asked.
"The man over there who is sobusily engaged in talking to your secretary," Warren said.
Mason sized up the tall, slenderindividual in his early thirties who looked very much like a model of a shirtand collar advertisement broad-shouldered, slim-waisted, bronzed, highcheekbones, and an air of complete poise.
"I knew he'd fall for Della Street," Warren said. "Look at him, he's fallenhard."
Mason turned to Warren. "Now look here, Warren, I'm not certain I like this. I don't knowjust what sort of a game you're playing but quite apparently you're trying touse Della Street as bait of some sort for a deal with Barrington."
"No, no," Warren said hastily, "that's just the gambitI used with Judson Olney But I knew Barrington would fall for her hard. Now if you'llexcuse me, Mason …"
Warren turned and walked away
Mason stood for a moment looking at Barrington, studying the man's quite obvious attemptto impress Della Street.
Then a woman holding a cocktailglass in her left hand swooped down on Perry Mason and demanded to know themagic recipe which he used for winning all his cases. Within a moment she wasjoined by two more people and Mason found himself a centre of attraction.
Promptly at ten o'clock Masonrescued Della Street from a group of men who were at no pains to conceal theiradmiration, said good night to his host and hostess and watched while JudsonOlney made quite a production of saying good night, including a kiss on DellaStreet's right cheek.
"Now that I've found you,"he said, "I don't intend to lose you again." And then he added withsubtle emphasis, "And I mean every word of this, Della."
Mrs Warren said, "Having stakedout your claim you'd better stay in possession of it, Judson, or someone'sgoing to jump it."
Olney said, "You just watchme."
Mason, turning his head, caught aglance of malevolent hatred directed at Della Street. He knew that the young woman with theblazing eyes was named Chester, and he had heard someone call her Adelle. The lawyer made a mentalnote to interrogate Della about her when they reached the office.
Horace Warren shook hands with Masonwarmly "We're very much indebted to Judson Olney," he said, "andto Miss Street. Believe me, it was a real treat meeting you, Mr Mason, and I certainlyhope we see more of you."
Mason bowed, thanked him, and with Della Street on his arm left the house. When they cameto the place where they had parked the car, he helped Della in and started themotor.
She laughed merrily. "You looklike a man who is just getting out of the dentist's chair."
Mason guided the car out of thedriveway, said, "I'm bored by small talk, I'm tired of standing up andwalking around from group to group, I detest women who deliberately getthemselves boiled and then try to simulate owlish sobriety"
"There was only one," Della Street said. "The others weredelightful"
"That one was enough,"Mason said. "She'd follow me around with a cocktail glass in her lefthand, her right forefinger hooking at the lapel of my coat as though she wasafraid I was going to get away… Who is the bottled blonde who regarded you asan insect of some sort?"
"That," Della Street said, "was Adelle Chester. GeorgeBarrington brought her up and introduced us. She managed to take an instantdislike to me. She wasn't the only one. There was one other woman there,Rosalie Harvey I don't know whether you noticed her. She was dark-haired withgreen eyes. She was wearing a -"
"I noticed her," Masoninterrupted. "Isn't she connected with the business in some way?"
"Judson Olney's secretary,"Della said. "She's been with him for five years. I think she smelled a ratand I also think she was bursting with curiosity, but she didn't quite dare askdirect questions."
"Well," Mason said,"it's easy to account for the enmity of these two girls. Barrington was making a great play for you andneglected the girl he was with, so that explains Adelle Chester's attitude.Then after the buildup Olney gave you and told how he had lost his heart to youin the moonlight, it's not difficult to understand the attitude of his devotedsecretary who has secretly been idolizing him for years but who never gets atumble.
"There wasn't any evidence ofhostility on the part of anyone else -Just how does Judson Olney fit into thepicture?"
"As manager of most of theenterprises, he's Horace Warren's right hand."
"Rather young for such aresponsible position, isn't he?"
"It depends on how you look atit. He's smart believe me, he's smart, and he was doing a lot ofthinking."
"About you being there."
"Yes," Mason said, "Isuppose it would take a lot of doing to palm that off as simply being anaccidental circumstance, particularly in view of the fact that I keep my sociallife sharply limited. What was supposed to be the occasion for the gathering,Della?"
"That," Della said,"I don't know. I assume they do a lot of entertaining, with that house andthe set-up they have. But this was a conglomerate party Barrington was invited because of business reasons.Some of the people were from the organization. A couple of them wereneighbours. Others, it seems, were members of a bridge club Mrs Warren belongsto, and that was about it… I gather you didn't have a good time?"
"I earned my five hundreddollars," Mason said. "Don't think I'm an old grouch, Della, but aprofessional man can seldom enjoy himself at a gathering of that kind. I musthave had five different people come to me and start talking in general termsabout the law and about my career and then finally get around to bringing upsome little legal problem of their own on which they wanted my advice.
"A doctor can seldom attend asocial gathering without having people start reciting symptoms and asking himfor his opinion."
"Where did you and HoraceWarren go after you went out to the swimming pool?" Della asked. "Itried to keep my eye on you but you disappeared somewhere out by theshower."
"We went through a door into abathroom," Mason said. "Then through the bathroom into Lorna Warren'sbedroom."
Della raised her eyebrows.
"Warren wanted to show me a suitcase which he saidhad forty-seven thousand dollars in it, which his wife was keeping in hercloset."
"You saw that suitcase?"she asked.
"I saw the suitcase,"Mason said, "but all that was in it at the time we looked were somenewspapers."
"Then she'd already paid theblackmail?"
"That's what Warren thinks."
Mason said, "When a person paysblackmail he turns over the money. If Mrs Warren had been blackmailed she'dhave put the suitcase on the bed, opened the suitcase, taken out theforty-seven thousand dollars, given it to the blackmailer and put the empty suitcaseback in the closet.
"When a person takes money outof a suitcase and then stuffs old newspapers into the suitcase to give itapproximately the same weight, that looks more like the work of aburglar."
"Good heavens, if someone hadstolen forty-seven thousand dollars …!" Della Street said, and then let her voice trail off,into silence.
"Exactly," Mason said,"but it goes deeper than that. If someone is putting a bite on Mrs Warrenfor that amount of money, it's something rather important, and when Mrs Warrengoes to pay him off and opens the suitcase and finds that in place of the moneyshe had left in there, there's nothing but a stack of old newspapers, the fatis apt to be in the fire. You can't pay a blackmailer with a stack of oldnewspapers."
"I should say not," Dellasaid, and then became silent as she contemplated the picture of what mighthappen if Mrs Warren, not knowing the money had disappeared, should open thesuitcase. After a moment she asked, "But who could have taken the money?"
Mason said, "The blackmailer,knowing she had the money in cash waiting to pay him, could have sneaked in,stolen the money, and then, denying he knew anything of the theft, demandedpayment."
"That's a thought!" sheexclaimed.
"Or," Mason went on,"someone who didn't want her to pay the blackmail could have taken themoney out of the suitcase and substituted old newspapers."
"Someone who didn't want her topay blackmail?" she echoed.
"Exactly," Mason said.
"But that could have been thehusband!" she exclaimed.
Mason's silence was eloquent.
Della Street, thinking over thevarious possibilities brought up by this idea, said, "And then, when shewent to pay the blackmailer and told him she'd had the money there but had beenrobbed, he'd call her a liar and … and then there would be complications …and you'd have been retained to protect her, and – Chief, that's what didhappen! Warren must have removed the money himself."
"We can't prove it," Masonsaid.
After that they were silent untilthey reached Mason's office.
"I take it that you had a goodtime," Mason said, as he switched on the office lights.
"I had a wonderful time,"she told him.
Mason said, "Probably we shouldhave a more active social life. We keep running from one murder case to anotherlike a hummingbird flitting from one -"
"Now, don't compare murderswith honeysuckle," she interrupted, "and don't be so grim. This caseis just an ordinary blackmail case."
Mason shook his head. "It isn'tordinary, Della, and I'm not even certain it's blackmail."
Mason said, "I have never had acase where the client was at such pains to avoid me."
"What do you mean? Mr Warrentook you around the house, he was talking with you a dozen times during theevening, and – "
"Oh, that," Masoninterposed. "That's the preliminary buildup. That's all right, but younotice that Warren has been at great pains to impress upon methat he isn't going to be available, that there's no way I can reach him when Iwant to without jeopardizing the things he wants to accomplish."
Della Street brought out the coffee percolator, filledit, connected it to the electric socket.
"The Drake Catering Service didquite a job," she said.
"A fine job. That was goodchampagne, too."
"Do you suppose we'll beinvited again to another one?" Della said.
"I doubt it. Warren wanted to get us familiar with thesituation and then keep us at arm's length."
She smiled. "You forget I havemy old cruising crush, Judson Olney."
"Yes," Mason said,"you have him. He started out acting under orders from Warren, but I had the feeling that he was puttinga lot of enthusiasm into his acting along toward the last."
"A lot of enthusiasm isright," she said. "He wants to find out what it's all about. Andspeaking of acting, did you know that Horace Warren had always wanted to be anactor, that he still practices in front of a mirror, using a tape recorder?"
Mason settled himself comfortably ina chair, pulled up another chair for his feet, and lit a cigarette. "Thetrouble with a man of that sort is that he overdoes it," he said. "Hebecomes too much of a ham. He gets to thinking how good he is and adds just alittle too much emotion, a little too much expression, a little too much in theway of gestures."
Drake's knuckles tapped his codeknock on the door of Mason's private office.
Della Street let him in.
"Hello, caterer," Masonsaid. "We didn't expect you so soon."
"I got away early. My share ofthe work was done," Drake said, then went on with a grin, "When youbecome an executive you can leave the dirty dishes for others."
"They aren't washing thosedishes are they?" Mason asked.
"Not in that outfit, no. Theytake them to the main plant to be processed. Every one of those dishes is driedby hand and then they are polished with a towel so that there isn't thefaintest sign of a fingerprint on them and every bit of the glass is smooth andclean."
"The fingerprint crew workedefficiently?"
"All right, what did you findout, Paul?"
"We found out who made thefingerprint you wanted to know about but we didn't find out until right at thelast."
"The fingerprint was made bysomeone we weren't particularly interested in. We were lifting fingerprintsfrom the other glasses and dishes and only took this one as a lastresort."
"Whose fingerprint wasit?" Mason asked.
Drake said, "The fingerprint ofMrs Warren."
"Lorna Warren, eh?" Masonsaid thoughtfully. "I might have known."
"How could you possibly haveknown that?" Della asked.
"Remember Warren's peculiar attitude and his somewhatpeculiar instructions? He said I was to protect his wife from the person whomade that fingerprint no matter who the person was and no matter how much itcost. Then he took elaborate precautions to see that we weren't in a positionto advise him what we had discovered concerning the fingerprint."
"You mean," Della Street said, "that he's paying a price inorder to have you protect his wife from herself?"
Mason nodded, turned to Paul Drake."Paul, did you get enough fingerprints so you can get aclassification?"
"On nearly everyonethere," Drake said. "Some of them were smudged but for the most partwe managed to get ten reasonably clear fingerprints of everyone there."
"Including Mrs Warren?"
"I know we got hers."
"All right," Mason said."Have some police friend get in touch with the FBI. See if she's got acriminal record."
"A criminal record!" Drakesaid. "Are you nuts?"
"I don't think so, Paul. Youdon't blackmail a person unless you have a club."
"But she's big-timestuff," Drake objected.
"The bigger the quarry, thebigger the club," Mason told him.
"How much time have Igot?" Drake asked.
"If you get along with livehours' sleep tonight," Mason said, "you'll have until nine o'clock tomorrow morning our time. That will be noon Washington time."
"That's going to take someawfully fast action on the part of the police and FBI," Drake pointed out,"and I'm going to have to go without a lot of shut-eye tonight in order toget those ten fingerprints collected and classified."
Mason indicated the coffeepercolator. "Della Street will see that you have enough coffee to keep you awake, Paul – before Iescort her home."
Drake passed over his coffee cup,sighed, and said, "With plenty of cream and sugar, Della, please."
Paul Drake was in Perry Mason'soffice at eleven-thirty the following morning.
"Hi, Paul," Mason said."Any sleep?"
"A surprising amount,"Drake said. "I had the fingerprints collected and classified by one-thirtyin the morning, a friendly police chief wired the FBI and we have a reply"
"Criminal?" Mason asked.
"Yes and no," Drake said.
"Mrs Warren's maiden name wasMargaret Lorna Neely. She worked as a secretary for a man named Collister DamonGideon."
"Where was all this?"Mason asked.
"Gideon was a promoter aquick-thinking, fast-talking spellbinder. He had been in trouble with thepostal authorities on two previous occasions but they couldn't make any chargestick. The third time they nailed him."
"What charge?" Masonasked.
"Using the mails to defraud.Now, here's the strange thing. They indicted both Gideon and his secretary,Margaret Lorna Neely, and they went to trial in Federal Court.
"I haven't had time to find outtoo much about that trial but I know the highlights. Gideon was convicted onseveral counts. The jury acquitted Margaret Neely."
"You know why?" Masonasked.
"Why they convicted Gideon orwhy they acquitted Margaret Neely?"
"They convicted Gideon becausehe didn't make a good impression. He was too suave and fast-talking, and he'dmade the mistake of getting mixed up in a deal where his suckers were farmers.The prosecuting witnesses were the good old homy-handed sons of soil, and thejurors contrasted those honest people with Gideon's smooth line of gab.
"As far as the acquittal isconcerned, it's the old story A fresh face, an innocent manner, a young girland nylon. Margaret Neely was just twenty-six at the time."
"It seems strange the prosecutorwould try them both together," Mason said.
"He did it because he wanted toconvict Margaret Neely the worst way."
"Why? Did he think she wascriminally responsible?"
"I don't think the evidencethat they could introduce was too clear against her. The main thing that theywanted was forty-seven thousand bucks."
Mason raised an inquiring eyebrow.
"When the postal inspectorscame down like a thousand bricks and the authorities moved in, they foundGideon with virtually empty pockets, an empty safe and an empty bank account.He had, however, in some mysterious manner arranged to pay attorney's fees inadvance and there had been a checking account with a balance of someforty-seven thousand dollars which mysteriously vanished."
"Doesn't the bank haverecords?" Mason asked.
"Oh, sure. Gideon drew themoney out. He said he put it in the office safe because he knew somedisgruntled customers were going to call on him the next day and he hadintended to make restitution in hard cash because he didn't want to have anypaper records of the transaction."
"And the safe, I take it, wasconveniently burglarized during the night."
"The safe was convenientlyburglarized during the night."
"And I also take it theauthorities never found the forty-seven thousand dollars."
"That's right. And there wasjust a whisper of suspicion that Margaret Neely knew where the money was andmay have been saving it for Collister Gideon, as salvage from the wreckingoperation the government did on the business.
"Incidentally, the police wouldlike very, very much indeed -and the FBI would like very, very much indeed – toknow where Margaret Neely is now and where I picked up her fingerprints. Agreat deal of pressure is being brought to bear on me."
"All right," Mason said."You can't say anything."
"Well, it's quite a bit ofpressure," Drake protested. "They're even intimating that I might beaiding and abetting a criminal."
"Criminal nothing," Masonsaid. "Margaret Neely was acquitted of any crime in connection with thefraud."
"Well, she did a good job ofvanishing," Drake said. "Police thought they were going to be able tokeep in touch with her through social security numbers or something of thatsort, but Margaret Neely just simply vanished. From what we know, we can puttwo and two together. She must have met Horace Warren soon after that. She wasthen going under the name of Lorna Neely and evidently had gone to Mexico City.
"In those days Warren was a struggling young businessman withlots of ambition and a reasonable amount of property. He hadn't hit the jackpotas yet. That came two years later when he struck oil on some of his propertyand from then on he made shrewd investments."
Mason grinned. "You've beengossiping, Paul."
"I've been listening."
"No one has any idea where yougot these fingerprints?"
"I won't say that," Drakesaid. "No one knows anything from me, but it's possible I may have left aback trail."
"Getting that fingerprintcatering service last night."
Mason was thoughtful. "I see,Paul… Even so, I should think the authorities would be willing to live andlet live. They put Margaret Neely on trial and she was acquitted. What more dothey want?"
"They're after CollisterGideon."
"They got him."
"They got the emptyshell," Drake said. "They intimated that if Gideon wanted to cough upthe forty-seven thousand bucks he could get parole and a chance to bereleased."
"Gideon insisted he hasabsolutely no knowledge of the money. He insisted the safe was burglarizedduring the night."
"He claimed it was an insidejob?"
"No, he claimed very vehementlyit was an outside job. The combination to the safe was pasted on the bottomside of the drawer in his desk. The authorities found that the drawer had beenpulled out of the desk, the contents dumped on the floor, and burglars hadevidently secured the combination to the safe, opened it and taken out themoney"
"Any other evidence that theoffice had been burglarized?"
"Quite a bit, as I understandit. The lock on the door had been tampered with. About twenty dollars that MargaretNeely kept in her desk was missing, and the money from the petty cash drawer,amounting to about ninety-seven dollars, was gone and even the money from thestamp drawer, all of the dimes and pennies that had been put in by personstaking out stamps for personal correspondence."
"So Gideon wouldn't make a dealand take parole?"
"He said he couldn't. He saidhe didn't know anything about the money."
"How long's he in for?"Mason asked.
"He was released lastFriday" Drake said.
Mason was thoughtful. "And Isuppose the authorities have had shadows sticking to him like glue."
"That I wouldn't knowabout," Drake said, "but I can tell you this. It's one hell of a jobto keep a man under surveillance when he knows what the score is and doesn'twant to be shadowed. He can break away sooner or later.
"The best technique is to lethim make a first try and encourage him to believe that he's thrown off theshadows and then see what he does. For that reason authorities quite frequentlyhave a rough shadow who keeps the guy under surveillance in such a way that theshadow stands out like a sore thumb. Then the subject ditches the shadow bygoing into a crowded building which has several exits, or getting a car,driving through a traffic light or two just as it's changing, and all thefamiliar dodges. The rough shadow gets left behind and the smooth shadows takeover.
"Usually the subject will goand hole up somewhere in a little hotel under an assumed name and keepcompletely quiet for a couple of days. Then if he sees nothing suspicious, hethinks he has it made and goes out and walks right into the trap."
"Did this happen withGideon?"
"I don't know anything aboutGideon," Drake said. "The authorities aren't taking me into theirconfidence except to tell me that I'd better cooperate or else." Drakedrew an extended forefinger across his throat.
"You sit tight," Masonsaid. "If it comes to an absolute showdown where they threaten you withyour license, you can tell them that I gave you the fingerprints and that youreported to me. Let them talk with me and I'll tell them."
"Well," Drake said,"they'd still like the forty-seven thousand bucks."
"So they could make restitution?"Mason asked.
"Well, they would like to nailGideon again because of giving false information to officers."
"That's all been outlawed bythe statute of limitations a long time ago," Mason said.
"No, it hasn't," Drakesaid. "They played it smarter than that. They pulled out Gideon'sstatements about the office safe having been burglarized and so forth and toldhim they were investigating that crime. Gideon told them it had all beenoutlawed by the statute of limitations but they told him they wereinvestigating it anyway and asked him again to tell them about the burglary ofthe office and the loss of the forty-seven thousand dollars.
"They have some sort of statuteabout giving false information to officers who are investigating a crime and -"
Mason made an exclamation ofannoyance. "Gideon has served his time. He's paid his debt tosociety."
"But they don't like to have acrook get away with forty-seven thousand dollars and only serve a fewyears."
"I see," Mason saidthoughtfully. "Well, the police know that you know something aboutMargaret Neely You're going to have to handle the connection so all they haveis a blind alley."
"I'm terminating theconnection," Drake said. "I don't want any part of it. I'm washing myhands of the whole business."
Mason shook his head. "No youaren't."
"What do you mean by that,Perry? I have my licence at stake. I can't hold out information the police wantin the investigation of a crime."
Mason said, "The police aren'tgoing to prosecute anyone for anything. They'd like to impound forty-seventhousand dollars. That's all. I'd let you off the hook and get anotherdetective agency if I could, but I don't dare contact anyone else.
"Think what a mess would bestirred up if it became known Lorna Warren had been arrested! We can't let thathappen. We can't let that information get out."
"No one's letting it out,"Drake said. Mason was openly doubtful. "When the police get mad, Paul,their methods are sometimes pretty rough." Drake said nothing.
Mason said, "I want shadows,Paul. I want Mrs Warren kept under discreet surveillance. Don't let her get onto the fact she's being shadowed. Tell your men to let her get away rather thanarouse her suspicions.
"I also want Judson Olneytagged for a few days at least, and I want you to get a mug shot of CollisterGideon and see that all your operatives study the picture. If either of thepeople I've mentioned sees him, or if he gets in touch with them, I want toknow about it."
Drake groaned. "I was afraidyou'd have some idea like this. It's dangerous, Perry."
"Taking a bath is dangerous,Paul. Get started."
When Drake had left the office Della Street said, "Good heavens! You'd think she'dhave had more sense."
Mason said, "Look at it thisway. An impressionable young woman, she was completely hypnotized by an olderman's glib talk. She thought there was nothing wrong in what they were doing.She was fascinated by him, probably in love. It would have been relatively easyfor Gideon to have got her to take custody of the forty-seven thousandbucks."
"I know," Della Street said. "That part is all right, but shecertainly shouldn't let a misguided sense of loyalty to a clever crook trap herinto the present situation."
"Just what is the presentsituation?" Mason asked.
"Well," she said,"for one thing, her husband knows."
"About the forty-seven thousanddollars."
Mason said, "The chain ofcircumstantial evidence has some very significant missing links, Della. In thefirst place, the authorities don't know that Mrs Horace Warren is MargaretLorna Neely In the second place, the husband doesn't know anything about herpast, and in the third place, even if the authorities should question herhusband, he couldn't be interrogated as a witness because a husband can'ttestify against a wife, and she can't be forced to testify againstherself."
"All right," she said,"how about you? An attorney has to hold the communications of his clientprivileged, but that doesn't mean he can be inveigled into becoming anaccessory to a crime."
"A crime?" Mason asked.
"A crime," she said."Gideon was convicted. You can't conceal knowledge of a crime."
"And what do I reallyknow?" Mason asked. "What knowledge do I have?"
"You know about…about…"
Mason grinned. "Exactly, Della.I perhaps have some hearsay evidence but all I ever actually saw was a suitcasefilled with old newspapers. It's no crime to collect newspapers in asuitcase."
"And just where do we go fromhere?" she asked.
Mason said, "We have beenretained to protect Mrs Horace Warren against the person whose fingerprint wasgiven to us. That print was made by Margaret Lorna Neely We are, therefore,retained to protect Mrs Warren from herself."
"You're going to take theassignment literally?"
"There isn't any other way totake it," Mason said. "We're going to protect Mrs Horace Warren fromherself."
"Her past, her present,everything."
"How can you do that?" sheasked. "Mrs Warren has already turned over the money."
"That doesn't mean that Gideonhas received the money," Mason said. "Let us assume that it is in transit.
"Horace Warren says the moneywas still in the suitcase up to a short time before he tried to show it to me.When we opened the suitcase newspapers had been substituted for the currency.
"Police would have beenfollowing Collister Gideon. He would have anticipated that. Therefore he wouldhardly have been so foolish as to go directly to the Warren residence and pick up the money. Thereforehe must have sent some intermediary."
"Some person who was present atthe party?" Della Street asked.
"We can't tell," Masonsaid. "It may have been one of the servants. Gideon is smart. He knew inadvance the date of his release. It is well within the limits of probabilitythat he could have planted an accomplice as a servant."
"Then Mrs Warren paid over themoney?"
"Or the servant stole it,"Mason said. "Or the husband stole it so his wife wouldn't be payingblackmail, and then retained me to protect her from the blackmailer."
"What a mess!" Della Street exclaimed.
"But," Mason pointed out,"we have one advantage. We have the fingerprints of everyone who was atthat party By the time the people in that fingerprint van get done classifyingthem, we can find if anyone there has a criminal record. We'll check on theservant's first."
"And suppose we find thethief?" Della Street asked. "Then what? Who makes the complaint?"
Mason grinned. "No one."
"You mean you let the thief getaway with forty-seven thousand dollars?"
"I didn't say that," Masonsaid. "We do a little cloak-and-dagger stuff of our own. Once we've foundthe thief, we steal the money back again."
"Couldn't you make a complaintand -"
Mason interrupted with a firm shakeof his head. "You can't make a complaint in a situation of that sort – notwith the income tax being what it is. Everyone would jump to the conclusionthat the forty-seven thousand dollars represented money the Warrens were trying to conceal from their bankaccount, and therefore were keeping it stored in a suitcase in Mrs Warren'scloset.
"The Bureau of Internal Revenuewould move in and want to examine everyone in connection with the case. They'dhave to know that the money was being saved to pay some sort of a blackmaildemand. They'd look Mrs Warren up, inquire into her past, and in no time at allwould find out about the skeleton in her closet.
"No, Della, the thing has to behandled very circumspectly, and completely under cover."
"And that's why Mrs Warren hassaid nothing about the loss of the money?"
"What could she say?"Mason asked.
Della Street was thoughtfully silent for a moment, thensaid, "Nothing, I guess, but it must be horribly frustrating to haveforty-seven thousand dollars which has been carefully saved in cash disappearand not be able to utter even a word of protest."
"I think," Mason said,"that describes it very accurately – a horribly frustratingexperience."
Later that afternoon the telephoneon Della Street's desk rang a routine summons. Della picked up the receiver, said,"Yes, Gertie," then suddenly her jaw sagged, her eyes grew large, andshe said, "Why – Wait – Hold the phone a minute, Gertie."
Della Street turned to Perry Mason. "A man in theoffice says he is Collister D Gideon."
"Well, what do you know,"Mason said. "I guess we're going to have to give Mr Gideon credit forbeing a pretty clever individual. By all means, Della, tell him to comein."
"But Chief, he – Good heavens,that means he must know…"
Mason said. "If he gave LornaWarren forty-seven thousand dollars to keep for him, he certainly knows abouther present whereabouts. If he didn't give her the money to keep for him, butregarded her as a loyal employee, he has probably kept up with what has beenhappening in her life and that complicates the problem."
"But what can you do?"Della asked. "If he shows up here …"
"He has shown up here,"Mason said, "and that means he thinks he holds the high hand and is goingto call for a showdown. I'm becoming very much interested in Collister DamonGideon. Show the gentleman in, Della. Then tip Gertie to call Paul Drake andhave a shadow put on Gideon as soon as he leaves the office."
Della Street said, "I'll be right out,Gertie," hung up the phone, vanished to the outer office and a few momentslater returned leading a slim-waisted, well-dressed smiling individual in hislate forties into the office.
"This is Mr Mason," shesaid.
Gideon didn't offer to shake hands.
"How do you do, Mr Mason,"he said. "I don't know how much you know about me, but I am assuming youknow a great deal. May I be seated?"
"By all means," Masonsaid. "What makes you think I know anything about you?"
"Putting two and twotogether."
"Would you mind telling mewhich two and two you put together?"
"Not at all," Gideon said,settling back in the chair, looking around the office with the swift survey ofa man who has been forced by environment to make instantaneous and accurateappraisal of his surroundings.
"You see, Mr Mason," hesaid calmly, "I'm a crook."
"Indeed," Mason said.
"That is," Gideon amended,"the government says I'm a crook, and a jury of my peers agreed with thegovernment."
"And the aftermath?" Masonasked.
"A term in a federal prisonwith very little time off."
Mason shook his head with what mighthave been a gesture of sympathy.
"Now then," Gideon said,"at the time I was in business and ran head on into the governmentalforces of so-called righteousness, I had working for me a very beautiful youngwoman, a Margaret Lorna Neely."
"I take it she wasn'tinvolved," Mason said.
Gideon smiled. "The governmenttried to involve her but the charges didn't stick. The jury acquitted her andconvicted me. The government tried us together, possibly with maliceaforethought, feeling that a jury acting on rather weak evidence would salveits conscience by acquitting one defendant and convicting the other."
"You don't seem to be bitterabout it," Mason said.
"I don't seem to be bitterabout it," Gideon said. "It would do very little good to be bitterabout it, and the last few years of my life have taught me a great deal, MrMason. One of the things I have learned is not to do things which can't resultin any ultimate benefit to me."
"Indeed," Mason said.
"Among other things, thoseyears have taught me that the world, beneath its veneer of civilization, is gearedto the ancient principle of survival of the fittest, and in the battle forsurvival the person who is utterly ruthless has a very decided advantage overthe person who practices the so-called Golden Rule."
"I see," Mason said."You still haven't told me why you came here."
"It pays to read thenewspapers," Gideon said, "particularly the society column, and Inotice in the afternoon paper that at an informal gathering given by HoraceWarren, the noted financier and progressive businessman, the guests werethrilled by the presence of Mr Perry Mason and his beautiful secretary, Miss Della Street."
Gideon made a slight bow in thedirection of Della Street. "The newspaper account," Gideon went on, "which you mayhave missed, Mr Mason, mentioned that the noted attorney was so busy with hislaw practice that he seldom had time for any social life and the guestslionized him."
"Indeed," Mason said."I hadn't read the account."
"It was a very interestingaccount," Gideon said. "Now, in view of the fact that Margaret LornaNeely is the present Mrs Horace Warren, and in view of the fact that you seldomattend social gatherings, and in further view of the fact that both you andyour secretary were there, I gathered that there was some official reason for yourattendance.
"Furthermore, being somethingof an egotist, I assumed that it was barely possible my release from prison hadsomething to do with the reason you were there.
"Now, if Mrs Warren had wantedto consult you, she would have gone to your office. If Mr Warren had wanted toconsult you, he might not have cared to call on you at the office. The factthat you were there at his house as a guest would indicate that you had beenretained to size up the situation more or less surreptitiously, so tospeak."
"In my profession," Masonsaid, "I have always found that reasoning from a premise may be fallaciousand is almost certain to lead to erroneous conclusions."
"Isn't that the truth!"Gideon exclaimed. "You know, I've been betrayed by mistakes of that sortso that I've learned not to make them. However, let's get back to the matter inhand, Mr Mason."
"In what way?" Masonasked.
"The authorities have been veryanxious to locate Margaret Lorna Neely. They seemed to think that I knew whereshe was.
"Of course, all mycorrespondence for the last few years has been rigorously censored and I havehad to keep in the background. I didn't dare write anyone, nor did I care tohave anyone write me. However, I have managed to keep certain bits ofinformation locked up in my head where they couldn't be pried out byinquisitive government officials.
"Would you believe it, MrMason, the government has actually intimated that shortly before my arrest Imanaged to get some forty-seven thousand dollars in cash and conceal itsomewhere so it would be available on my release. They felt perhaps that myco-defendant, Margaret Lorna Neely, might have been selected as the person tokeep this money for me, or perhaps half this sum of money. I don't suppose youwould realize it, living in a position of social and financial security, MrMason, but at times government investigators can become very arbitrary, veryinsulting, and very arrogant."
"I hadn't noticed it,"Mason said.
"I didn't think you would have,because, after all, Mr Mason, the tactics which a government investigator woulduse with you are somewhat different from the tactics which a governmentinvestigator would use with a person convicted of conspiracy to use the mailsto defraud."
"The charge wasconspiracy?" Mason asked.
"That was one of the charges.They had five counts. The jury acquitted me on three, just in order to make itappear they were impartial and fair, and convicted me on two.
"The principal charge wasconspiracy because in that way they were able to drag my secretary into courtand smear her reputation with all that publicity Thank heavens she was able todisappear in such a manner that they lost track of her entirely"
"She must have been very cleverto have engineered such a disappearance," Mason said.
"She is very clever."
"And perhaps she had cleverfriends," Mason ventured.
"That is always apossibility," Gideon admitted. "Do you mind if I smoke?"
"Not at all."
Gideon waved back the cigaretteswhich Mason extended toward him, took a long slender cigar from his pocket, litit, got it burning to suit him, then settled back in the chair and smiledaffably at Mason. The aroma suggested the cigar was expensive.
"With your legal mind,"Gideon said, "you doubtless know why I am here."
"I would prefer to have youtell me," Mason said.
"That's going to be rathercrude."
"Miss Street and I have encountered crude approachesbefore," Mason said.
"I know, but a crude approachis so dreadfully inartistic."
"The approach so far seems tohave been rather artistic," Mason said. "So it all may averageup."
Gideon sighed. "Well, if I haveto get down to brass tacks, I will. You see, the government finally released meafter they had held me in prison for every minute of every day that they couldlegally hold me."
Mason, watching the man, saidnothing.
"Immediately after my conviction,"Gideon said, "I was told that if I produced the forty-seven thousanddollars the sentence would be much lighter. Then after I was sentenced I wastold that if i produced the forty-seven thousand dollars I would stand a verygood chance of getting parole."
"You accepted none of theseoffers?" Mason asked.
"None of them."
"Because," Gideon said,"I had no idea where the forty-seven thousand dollars was. I couldn't haveproduced it if I had wanted to."
"Now that you have beenreleased," Mason said, "I take it that the interest of the governmenthas ceased."
"Are you kidding?" Gideonasked. "Now that I have been released, the government bloodhounds arebaying on my trail hoping that I'll lead them to the money, whereupon they'llpounce upon it and have the last laugh. They'll say, in effect, 'You can't beatthe law, Gideon. You served a lot of extra time in prison so you could enjoythat forty-seven thousand dollars when you got out. Now then, we've got themoney and you've served the time. Ha-ha-ha!"
"And of course they'll see thatevery prison inmate knows all about it and gloat over the fact that you can'tbeat the law and that they made a sucker out of me."
"So they are followingyou," Mason asked.
"They followed you here?"Mason asked.
"I see," Mason said,frowning.
"I can see that you do,"Gideon said, smiling. "I'm trying to make an artistic approach on this, MrMason, even if the main gambit will have to be rather crude.
"You see, the government feelsthat in dealing with a crook it is dealing with a person of very inferiorintelligence. When the government does a shadow job on a crook, it is at timesvery naive.
"In my case, for instance, theyhave a rough shadow on my trail."
"A rough shadow?" Masonasked.
"Surely, with your experiencein criminal law, you understand the function of a rough shadow," Gideonsaid. "A rough shadow is just what the name implies. It's a shadow who isso obvious a person simply can't miss him.
"If you'd have your secretarystep to the corridor door and open it, I dare say you'd find the rough shadowstanding at the comer of the corridor. When the door opened he would veryostentatiously show his embarrassment. Then he would turn and walk along thecorridor, peering at the names and numbers on the doors as though looking forsome office he was having difficulty finding."
"That's the rough shadow?"Mason asked.
"That's the rough shadow."
"I would assume that thegovernment expected to accomplish very little by such crude tactics."
"The government expects toaccomplish a lot," Gideon said. "The rough shadow is always veryostentatious but rather inept. It is no job at all for a clever man to eludehis surveillance. Even a simple thing like driving through a traffic signaljust as it is changing would shake the rough shadow."
Gideon stopped talking, watchedMason's face through a blue haze of cigar smoke. His half-closed eyes studiedthe lawyer thoughtfully.
After a moment he went on."That, of course, is when the smooth shadow takes over. The smooth shadowsare in the background. I don't see them. At least, I'm not supposed to. Havingditched the rough shadow, I will be flushed with confidence and go to a littlemotel somewhere, register under an assumed name then get up in the dead ofnight, move to some other motel then perhaps into a rooming house, and then,convinced that the government is no longer in touch with me, I'll go and dig upthe forty-seven thousand dollars. At least, that's what the governmentthinks."
"And then they'll pounce onyou?"
"Then they'll pounce on me. Thesmooth shadows will have been keeping up with me all the time."
"Can't you ditch them?"Mason asked.
"Oh, it can be done,"Gideon said. "It's not a simple matter but there are ways. It takes time,however, and a certain amount of capital.
"Now, very frankly, Mr Mason, Ihave time but I don't have much capital."
"I see," Mason said."I thought you could remedy that."
"In what way?"
"I felt that Mr Horace Warrenwould be glad to make some contribution toward my rehabilitation."
"You assume Mr Warren is myclient?"
"I assume he is a friend,otherwise you would not have been at his house last night. I also assume yourpresence at that little gathering was not without some significance. I feelthat you have some official contact with someone who is interested. But I seeno reason to cudgel my brains over a point which, as far as I'm concerned, isimmaterial. The point is that Mr Warren would follow any suggestion you mightmake which had for its purpose seeing that his wife's past was not brought intothe pitiless glare of publicity."
"And you are threatening to -"
Gideon held up his hand. "No,no, please, Mr Mason. Please!"
"I must have misunderstood youthen," Mason said.
"You certainly did. The pointis this, Mr Mason. Every move that I make is being reported to the governmentalagencies. The fact that I am here this afternoon is causing a lot ofspeculation. Why did I come here? What possible connection can I have with youor you with me? My correspondence has been censored for years. I've had nocontact with you. You haven't written me and I haven't written you.
"Therefore the authorities willassume that you must be representing the person who has the forty-seventhousand dollars and that I am calling on you to try and make a deal."
"I see," Mason said.
"So the government will startchecking on your clients, particularly those who have been in touch with you orwith whom you have been in touch during the past few days, or with whom youwill be in touch alter I leave this office.
"You'll be surprised howefficient some of these government operatives are. They can put two and twotogether just as I have. They doubtless have read or will read the societycolumn in the evening paper."
"And so?" Mason asked.
"And so they'll wonder why ithappens you broke your usual rule to attend what was seemingly a purely socialgathering. They'll start probing into the background of the guests, andeventually, of the host and hostess.
"That would be unfortunate, MrMason."
The lawyer remained silent.
"Now then," Gideon said,"if Mr Warren would make a contribution toward my financial welfare, itwould give me the margin I need to ditch the government's smooth shadows,vanish completely and be on my way."
"Otherwise?" Mason asked.
"Otherwise," Gideon said,"I am trapped in an economic net. They stripped me clean when they sent meto prison. They released me with only what is referred to as 'gatemoney'."
Mason regarded the man's clothes andthe cigar. "You seem to have done very well for yourself in a short periodof time."
Gideon smiled. "Let ussay," he said, "that I am resourceful and not entirelyunintelligent."
"And so you come to me?"Mason asked.
"And so I come to you,"Gideon said.
"And if your requests are notcomplied with?"
"Then I keep coming toyou," Gideon said. "Every time I come to you it causes more and morespeculation on the part of the government. And if, after my visits, you get intouch with Horace Warren or his wife, that triggers an investigation which wouldbe disastrous to the welfare of your clients."
"This is a very interestingform of blackmail," Mason said.
"Please, please, Mr Mason!Don't use that word! This is not blackmail. I have the greatest respect forHorace Warren and I am very, very fond of his wife. I wish them everyhappiness. I am trying to give them an opportunity to achieve that happiness.
"If I remain financiallyembarrassed, it is almost certain that sooner or later I will have to betraymyself. Some clue will crop up which will enable the authorities to know thereal identity of Loma Warren. Of course, they don't have anything against herat the moment, but they would bring her in and question her and it would soonbecome known that she was none other than Margaret Loma Neely who was tried andacquitted for conspiracy to defraud by use of the mails.
"Now surely, Mr Mason, youwouldn't want that to happen, and Mr Warren, with his present social andbusiness contacts, wouldn't want it to happen.
"I don't want any financialconsideration given me to keep quiet. That would be blackmail. I simply want tovanish. I want to elude the smooth shadows of the government. In order to dothat I need money. I have to be able to buy an automobile."
"Why an automobile?" Masonasked.
"Because I would need that inorder to ditch the smooth shadows and disappear."
"Surely," Mason said,"the government operatives could follow an automobile."
"Oh, of course. That's thesimplest thing in the world, particularly in these days when they haveelectronic shadowing devices. They simply put a little installation on myautomobile and the thing gives off little 'beeps' which would enable governmentdetectives in an automobile to follow me without the slightest bit of trouble.They wouldn't even have need to get close to me. They could get three or fourblocks behind me and still have no difficulty following me."
"Then perhaps you'd betterexplain why you want the automobile," Mason said.
"I would want to play the sametrick on the government detectives that they are trying to play on me. In otherwords, they want me to become overconfident and I want them to becomeoverconfident.
"You see, Mr Mason, I wouldn'tget a new car, and I would buy it on a contract. Then I would assume theinitiative. It has been my experience that one can do very much better when hehas the initiative.
"Of course, the money withwhich I paid for the automobile would be pounced on by government agents whowould look it over for some clue. I would, therefore, like to have this moneyin older bills of five-and ten-dollar denominations and some ones. It wouldappear that I had put the bite on someone who had had to dig deep into hissavings in order to get that money."
"Go on," Mason said.
"Then," Gideon went on, "Iwould take that automobile and let the government think that I had no ideathere were any smooth shadows on the job. I'd ditch the rough shadow, which, asI said, wouldn't be very much of a job."
"Go on," Mason said.
"So then the smooth shadowswould handle things in such a way that they would flatter themselves that Iwould have no idea I was being shadowed. They might perhaps have as many asfive cars on the job. They might even work with a helicopter andbinoculars."
"And they'd keep you in sight?"Mason asked.
Gideon grinned and said, "Ofcourse."
"They could do that?"Mason asked.
"They're clever," Gideonsaid, "and they hold all the face cards. I would, of course, go throughall the expected motions. I'd take a lot of evasive tactics so the governmentdetectives would know that I felt certain I had ditched the rough shadow. Iwould then go into a restaurant to eat, and leave the car parked outside.
"While I was gating, thegovernment agents would, of course, put an electronic bug on the car so that Iwould be shadowed by cars that were two or three blocks away."
"Just how would you handle thatsituation?" Mason asked.
Gideon smiled. "You have toleave me with some cards I don't turn face up, Mr Mason. I'd handle it. Thegovernment agents would never see me again. Just when they were flushed withtriumph, I'd trump their aces and be on my way."
"You're certain you could dothat?" Mason asked.
"The government has some goodmen who are highly trained," Mason said.
Gideon's silence was eloquent.
"In other words," Masonsaid, "if you get this money I'll never see you again?"
"And if you don't get it?"
"I'll be in daily touch withyou."
"You realize that after thisinitial experience I wouldn't ever see you again," Mason said. "I'dlet you cool your heels in the outer office until you got tired."
"No," Gideon said, puffingat the cigar, then removing it from his mouth and turning it so he couldinspect the burning tobacco, "I rather think you'd see me, Mr Mason. Ithink you'd be instructed to see me."
"And do what?"
"Give me money."
"How much money?"
Gideon moved his hands in anexpansive gesture. "You would, of course, want me to make a good job ofit. You wouldn't want me to play right into their hands. You'd want to be surethat I didn't come back, because of course once I ditched the smooth shadowsthey'd put a stake-out on your office."
"And would probably assume thatI had given you the money with which to purchase an automobile."
"And might even questionme."
"Oh, I think you can count onthat," Gideon said. "I think they'd be certain to question you. Afterthey once woke up to the fact that they had been outwitted, they'd be ratherannoyed. They'd question you. They'd think perhaps you had thought up thescheme for outwitting them. They'd talk about compounding felonies, about beingan accessory after the fact they'd be rather rough. But I'm assuming that youwould simply sit back in your chair, with an enigmatic smile, and tell themthat if they thought they had any case against you, to go right ahead andprosecute you otherwise, to just keep the hell out of your office and leave youalone."
"All of this has been mostentertaining," Mason said, "but it just happens, Gideon, that I don'tknow anyone who would be likely to give you any sum of money."
"You know the Warrens."
"I don't know them well enoughto go to them and suggest that they should pay blackm-"
Once more Gideon held up his hand."Please, Mr Mason, please don't use that word. It has unsavoryconnotations and it bothers me. It's crude."
"What do you think this is thatyou're doing?" Mason asked.
"I'm simply putting my cards onthe table."
"You're asking for money inreturn for silence."
"No, I'm not. I'm suggestingthat perhaps you might care to communicate with people who would like to seethat I had money for my rehabilitation."
"And in the event you don't getthe money, you're making threats."
"No, no! No threats,"Gideon said. "After all, Mr Mason, I haven't threatened you."
"You've said that you wouldkeep coming back here."
"I'm rather persistent,"Gideon said. "After all, there's no law which says I can't come to youroffice as often as I like. It's a public place. I am acting on the assumptionthat you will either advise some of your clients or, let us say, some of yourfriends, to pay me some money to see that I don't keep hanging around or thatyou will be instructed by those people to see that I get enough money so I canget out.
"Well, I mustn't detain you, MrMason. You're a busy man, a very busy man."
Gideon got to his feet.
Mason said, "Don't ever try toput pressure on me, Gideon. We deal with lots of blackmailers in this business.If I thought you were resorting to blackmail, I'd deal with youaccordingly."
"And how is that?" Gideonasked, smiling ominously as he stood in the exit doorway
"We have various methods ofdealing with blackmailers," Mason said.
"I dare say you do,"Gideon said. "And I certainly wouldn't want you to put me in thatcategory. However, I would like to know, just as a matter of curiosity, how youdo deal with blackmailers."
"There are three methods,"Mason said.
"One," Mason said, holdingup his right index finger, "you pay off."
"Very sensible," Gideonsaid.
"Two," Mason went onholding up a second finger, "you confide in the police. They protect yoursecret. You catch the blackmailer red-handed and he goes to prison."
"Very nice if it works,"Gideon said. "Now, what's the third method?"
Mason met his eyes, held up a thirdfinger. "The third method," he said, "is that you kill the sonof a bitch."
For a moment Gideon recoiled."You can't go to the police, and I can hardly fancy you as a murderer, MrMason."
"Guess again," Mason said."You, yourself, said that the utterly ruthless person had all theadvantage in this world."
"Well," Gideon said,"since I am not a blackmailer, the discussion is simply academic. I will,however, be in touch with you from time to time, Mr Mason, and I feel certainthat you will become interested in, shall we say, my rehabilitation?"
He bowed from the waist.
"Thank you for seeing me, MrMason." He turned, again bowed from the waist. "Miss Street," he said, his eyes and voiceappreciative. Then he opened the exit door and walked out into the corridorwithout once looking back.
Della Street looked at Perry Mason in dismay. "Whydid you say that about killing him?"
"I'll give him something tothink about," Mason said.
"Shall I try to get hold of MrWarren?" she asked.
"Heavens, no," Mason said."Remember that Warren told me calls had to go through his switchboard, that it would be verydifficult to get hold of him, and that our conversations would berestricted."
"You mean you aren't going tolet him know anything about this conversation?"
"Exactly," Mason said."He paid me to handle the situation and I'll handle it."
It was shortly before five o'clock that the telephone rang and Della Street, picking up the instrument, said,"Yes, Gertie," then suddenly puckered her face in a frown. "Youknow I don't take personal calls here, Gertie -Just a minute."
Della Street put her palm over the transmitter, turnedto Mason and said, "Some woman who refuses to give her name states thatshe wants to talk with me about Judson Olney What do I do?"
Mason picked up his own telephone,said, "Gertie, put me in on Della Street's call but don't say anything about mybeing on the line."
"Okay, Gertie," Della Street said, "I'll take the call."
Mason, listening in, heard afeminine voice, harsh with emotion. "Look here, Miss Della Street, I want to know what you think you'retrying to get away with. For your information, I looked up the passenger liston the Queen of Jamaica at the time Judson Olney made the trip, and you weren'tlisted as a passenger. I thought the whole thing was phoney when I first heardthe story.
"Now, I want to know just whatyou you're trying to pull.
"Don't think you can get awaywith any fast one as far as my man is concerned. I'm the kind to light, andwhen I fight I fight dirty. Now, will you kindly tell me just what this is allabout?"
Mason motioned to Della Street to hang up the phone, and then hung upsimultaneously with her.
"Well," Della Street said, "that's another complication.Good heavens, Chief, she was certainly boiling mad."
Mason said, "That's the troublewith letting an amateur write a script and then trying to act it out. Who doyou suppose that was, Della?"
"I would say it was eitherRosalie Harvey or Adelle Chester. I couldn't recognize the voice."
Mason said, "Well, the fat's inthe fire. Someone went to the trouble to check on the passenger list when Olneymade that cruise. Amateur liars are always amateurish, Della. We let them writethe script. We shouldn't have done it."
"Now we're in a spot where…"
Gertie, the receptionist, appearedin the doorway to the inner office. "A Mr George P Barrington is waitingto see you, Mr Mason. He says he has to see you on a matter of the greatestimportance and I think he's all worked up about something.
"He said to tell you that hemet you at Mr Warren's."
Mason exchanged glances with Della Street.
"I came in personally,"she said, "because he's trying to pump me."
"In what way?" Masonasked.
"He's asking me about Della Street, about where she goes on her vacations, andif I remember the time she went to the Caribbean."
Mason said to Della Street, "Go in the law library, Della. Go outthrough the door from the law library and go home. I'll talk with Barrington alone. I think perhaps he said he wascalling to see me but he actually wants to talk with you. If he wants to talkwith you it'll be about that confounded Caribbean cruise … Why in hell can't clients bebetter liars?"
"He's nice," Della Street said.
"He may be nice," Masonpointed out, "but he fell for you like a ton of bricks and he had a youngwoman with him who seemed to be bored with it all but who was seething inside.She's probably told him you never were on that cruise with Judson Olney."
Mason said to Gertie, "Keep himwaiting about thirty seconds, Gertie. Don't let him inveigle you intoconversation about anything or anybody. As soon as Della gets out through thelaw library, I'll give the phone a jiggle and you can send him in."
"Yes, Mr Mason," Gertiesaid, her eyes big and round, looking from one to the other. Then, ratherreluctantly, she left for the outer office.
"Now you've done it," Della Street said. "Gertie loves mysteries. Shelikes to take a button and sew a vest on it. She'll work out some deep, darkintrigue that – "
Mason motioned toward the lawlibrary. "On your way," he said. "I'm going to tell MrBarrington you've gone home for the evening, and when I tell a lie i like tohave it the truth."
"On my way," Della Street said, grabbing her purse, pausing for aswift look in the mirror, then vanishing through the door to the law library.
Mason waited a few seconds, thenpicked up the telephone and said, "Okay, Gertie."
A moment later George P Barringtoncame hurrying into the office.
"Hello, Mr Mason," hesaid. "Nice of you to see me without an appointment. I am a littleconcerned about something that happened this afternoon."
"Yes?" Mason asked.
"Your secretary, is shehere?"
"She's left for the day,"Mason said.
"I received an anonymoustelephone call that bothered me a lot."
"Who called?" Mason asked.
"I don't know."
"Man or woman?"
"I can't even tell you that forsure, but I think it was a woman trying to make her voice deep … well,disguised."
"Recognize who was talking fromthe spacing of the words, or any little trick of expression?" Mason asked.
"I was just wondering,"Mason said. "What was the purpose of the call?"
"The purpose of the call was totell me that your presence at the gathering last night was in a purelyprofessional capacity, that Horace Warren had arranged for you to be there tokeep an eye on me, that Judson Olney hadn't been on any boat trip with DellaStreet and hadn't known her until a short time prior to that party."
"Well," Mason said,"that's very considerate of the young woman, isn't it? And just why wouldI be retained to keep an eye on you?"
"That was what I hoped youwould tell me," Barrington said.
"I can't tell you something Idon't know, and I can't waste my time answering anonymous telephoneaccusations."
"I hoped that you would saythat my informant was entirely in error, that you were there purely in a socialcapacity, and that Miss Street did know Judson Olney and had known him for some time."
"And that would have relievedyour mind?" Mason said.
"Frankly, it would."
"May I ask why?"
"Well," Barrington said, "I haven't related all of theconversation."
"Perhaps you'd better relate itall then."
"The person at the other end ofthe telephone rather intimated that Warren felt I had been on terms of intimacy withhis wife and that he was contemplating filing a divorce action."
"Under thosecircumstances," Mason said, "it would seem there was only one thingfor you to do."
"Contact Horace Warren and askhim frankly."
"The devil of it is," Barrington said, "I – Well, my skirts aren'tentirely clean in the matter. I got mixed up in something that bothers me and Iwanted to put the cards on the table with you, Mr Mason.
"If there's anything to thispreposterous story and if Horace Warren has any idea I've been involved withhis wife in any way, I would – Well, it would be disastrous."
"But there is something youwant to tell me?" Mason asked.
"Well, yes, although I camehere to question you. You've managed to turn the tables on me."
"You wanted to tell mesomething," Mason reminded him.
"No, I didn't want to, I didn'tintend to."
"But," Mason said,smiling, "you're going to, now. You've gone too far to stop now."
Barrington cleared his throat, shifted his position,said, "I've known Horace Warren for some time. I've been at his house twoor three times, but we've never contemplated doing any business – that is,until recently."
"I got to know his wife, Lorna,and of course I got to know Judson Olney.
"About two months ago Olneycame to me and asked me if I would ascertain what certain unlisted securitieswere worth. He thought I was in a better position to find out than he was, andI'm quite certain I was. It was a company that was operating in territory withwhich I was familiar and near which I had some holdings. So I made a quietinvestigation and found that while the securities had no presently listedmarket value, there was a very high speculative value, and that a good fairaverage price would be around seventeen thousand dollars."
"And you so reported toOlney?"
"Then what happened?"
"Olney thanked me and I heardnothing more of it for a while. Then about two weeks ago Olney came to me andasked me if I could arrange to turn those securities into cash for him.
"I was instantly a littlesuspicious and asked him if they were his securities and if so, how he hadsecured them. He laughed and told me they were actually the securities of MrsWarren, that they represented some wildcat investment she had made, that her husbanddidn't like to have her making wildcat investments, but that she was always apushover for oil developments where there was a chance to make a big killing,even if the chance was only one in a hundred thousand.
"He said that Mrs Warren nowfound herself in a position where she wanted some money and didn't want herhusband to know it. Therefore she wanted to sell some of her securities, onesthat he didn't know she had."
"So what did you do?"
"I told Olney that I'd see whatI could do. I told him I'd be willing to write my cheque for seventeen thousanddollars but if I had the securities transferred to my name I might do evenbetter than that."
"So what did you do?"
"I had the securitiestransferred to my name and of course that started speculation on the part ofother stockholders in the company who knew about the transfer. The fact that Iwas buying in the company made them think that they had an even better chanceat success than they had realized."
"You sold the securities?"Mason asked.
"I sold them and got thewonderful price of twenty-eight thousand dollars."
"And what did you do with themoney?"
"Now, there is the thing thatbothers me," Barrington said. "At Olney's request I got this money in the form of cash -twenty, fifty, and one-hundred dollar bills – and turned over the cash tohim."
"Did you take any steps to findout that the cash went to Mrs Warren eventually?"
"Oh, yes. I was not thatstupid, Mason. At a luncheon when I met her I asked her about it."
"Now, did you ask herspecifically, 'Did you get the specific sum that I turned over?' or -"
"No, no, I didn't go intodetails. I simply told her that I felt I had secured a good price for hersecurities, and she told me that it was wonderful, that it was more than shehad expected and that she had made a very handsome profit on the transaction,and thanked me very sweetly."
"Did she ask you not to sayanything about it?"
"Actually she did. Not exactlyin those words, but she told me that she couldn't ask her husband to handle thetransaction because this was a speculation she had made on the side and shedidn't think her husband would approve of it. She told me he didn't like hergoing into those highly speculative investments, or something of thatsort."
"And now something has happenedto make you suspicious?" Mason asked.
"Well, that phone call andOlney pulling that business about being such an old friend of your secretaryand, through Miss Street, having you present at – Well, I just want to knowstraight out, Mason, is your connection with Warren a business connection, andif so, is there any possibility of… well, a divorce, and could I becomeinvolved in any way?"
Mason said, "You're abusinessman, Barrington. A moment's reflection would convince you that you are coming to thewrong place to ask those questions."
"What do you mean?"
"An attorney couldn't tell youanything about his clients or about his clients' business. If you feel thatHorace Warren is contemplating any legal action involving his wife, and thatyou might be dragged into it, the thing to do is to go to Horace Warren and askhim in so many words if he is contemplating any such action."
"And the minute I do that I letthe cat out of the bag."
"Exactly," Mason said.
"I – Well, frankly, I'mworried, Mason. I can't go to Warren, you know that."
"And you know that I can't tellyou what you want to know."
"Well, I was hoping youcould."
"If I had been employed by Warren in a business relationship and Warren wanted to conceal the fact that it was abusiness relationship, I would hardly be in a position to blab the informationto the first friend of Warren's who came to me and asked me."
"I'm not asking you to do that.I'm asking you to tell me whether… well, whether I'm in any sort of troubleover what I've done."
"I wouldn't think so,"Mason said. "What you have done seems to me to have been open and aboveboard, and if the circumstances are exactly as you related them to me, I can'tsee where anyone could take offense."
Barrington's face lit up. "Thank you very much,Mason," he said. "Thank you very much indeed. I realize that you'rein a position where you can't tip your hand."
"I can't even tell you whethermy presence at that party was purely social or business," Mason said."I can only assure you that Judson Olney came to this office to see Della Street, and told me the same story about thevacation trip, et cetera, that he subsequently told the others."
"Then there was no businessconnection, no significance connected with -"
"Now, just a minute,"Mason said. "I don't want you to put words in my mouth. I told you thatOlney came to this office to see Miss Street. That subsequently he told me this samestory."
"All right, all right. I guesssomebody has been trying to make trouble."
"Any idea who it couldbe?" Mason asked.
"Well," Barrington said, "I think it was a woman. I thinkthe attempt at disguising the voice was rather crude."
"Any idea what woman?"
"Oh, a person always hasideas," Barrington said, making a gesture with his hand, "but those ideas don'tnecessarily mean anything. As you attorneys say, it takes evidence, and Iwouldn't want to make any accusation, not even an intimation, withoutevidence."
"In other words," Masonsaid, "it's now your turn to be cagey"
Barrington got to his feet. "Thank you very muchfor seeing me, Mr Mason. I am sorry that I got all worked up about this."
"Not at all," Mason said.
"And you will regard my visitas confidential?"
Mason said, "From a socialstandpoint, what you have told me is confidential. From a business standpoint,I am representing clients. I have to represent those clients, and from time totime i have to give them whatever information I have uncovered."
"Now, wait a minute," Barrington said. "I didn't tell you this with theidea that you'd pass it on to any of your clients."
"Then you shouldn't have toldme," Mason said. "An attorney is the representative of his clients.He is their agent. He has to play fair with them."
"Well – Oh, all right," Barrington said. "I've come to you and put mycards on the table and I'm going to leave it that way I trust your discretionand … well, somehow I have an idea that you won't betray my confidence unlessit's necessary. Good afternoon, Mr Mason."
"Good afternoon," Masontold him gravely. Mason looked in the outer reception room, found that Gertiehad gone home. He closed up the office and stopped by Paul Drake's office onthe way to the elevator.
"Paul Drake in?" Masonasked the receptionist, who was busy at the telephone.
She nodded, gestured toward thewooden gate which led to a corridor and kept talking on the telephone.
Mason worked the concealed latch onthe wooden gate, walked down the long corridor with the rows of littlecubbyhole offices on each side where operatives could interview clients orwitnesses, and came to Paul Drake's office at the end of the corridor.
The office was barely large enoughfor Drake's desk and chair, two clients' chairs and a wastebasket. There werefour telephones on Drake's desk and he was talking on one of them.
He nodded to Mason, motioned for himto sit down, and said into the telephone, "All right, see what you canfind out but don't tip your hand any more than you have to. Handle it in relaysand see if you can find who else is on the job … I know it's difficult but dothe best you can."
Drake hung up and said to Mason,"I presume you want to know if we learned anything about the man who wasin your office."
"That's right," Masonsaid.
Drake grinned. "That guy iswearing tails like Halley's Comet."
"What do you mean?" Masonasked.
"Well," Drake said,"in the first place he was wearing a rough shadow. And on a job of anyreal importance that means at least two smooth shadows and sometimes as many asfive."
"Did your man spot the smoothshadows?"
"My men" Drake said."I put two on, with instructions to relay and telephone in information soI could be advised … I can tell you this, Perry. He knows he's beingshadowed, and I think he knows that my men joined in the procession, although Ican't be sure because we just have to guess at those things. But he sure ashell knows there's a rough shadow on the job."
"Yes, I know he does,"Mason said. "He's staying at a little hotel here, the Exman Hotel. That'sa little building they haven't got around to tearing down yet. It's sandwichedin between a couple of old-timers and the whole place is just waiting forsomeone to come along with a modem office building and tear the whole blockdown. In the meantime this Exman Hotel makes a specialty of cheap rooms."
"How's he registered?"Mason asked.
"Under the name of Newton, which I doubt very much is his realname."
"He went directly there from myoffice?"
"Led the whole procession ofshadows directly there," Drake said. "He knows of at least one shadowbut he isn't trying to ditch anybody."
Mason said, "Paul, when itcomes to dealing with a blackmailer, I'm ruthless."
"Who isn't?" Drake asked.
Mason said, "I would do thingsthat might be considered unethical if one looked at them in the cold light ofbusiness ethics."
"In dealing with a blackmailerone has to be unethical," Drake said.
Mason said, "For yourinformation, this man's name is Collister Damon Gideon, he's a blackmailer andhe's clever. Since he's just out of federal prison, he's in a vulnerableposition. If it weren't for that, he'd have me crucified. I've got to run abluff on him, but I have to play my cards as if I were holding four aces."
"Who's he blackmailing?"
"You!" Drake said insurprise.
"What in the world does he haveon you, Perry?"
"He doesn't have anything onme," Mason said, "but he could make an embarrassing situation bycontinuing to come to my office."
"Oh-oh," Drake said."That accounts for it. The government detectives will think some client ofyours will lead them to the hidden money."
"Exactly," Mason said."They are naturally quite interested in all the people on whom Gideoncalls."
"So he has called on you, andnow you're a focal point of government interest."
"Perhaps not yet," Masonsaid, "but if he makes repeated calls I certainly will be. It's quitepossible the government will feel that I am acting as the go-between."
Drake frowned. "He's in aposition to put you in one hell of a spot, Perry."
"And," Drake went on,"there's not one damned thing you can do about it. If he just wants tokeep calling at your office, you can't very well stop him unless you want tomake a complaint that he's attempting blackmail, and you're not in a positionto do that – not if you want to protect your clients."
"That's why I said, Paul, thatin dealing with a blackmailer one uses any weapon one can."
"You have some weapon inmind?" Drake asked. Mason nodded. "You can get the original mug shotson Gideon?"
"Sure. They're in the policefiles."
"And you can get anartist," Mason said.
"An artist?" Drake asked.
"A police artist," Masonsaid. "Then get some of these police forms that they use in makingcomposite sketches of criminals. I want a couple of real good sketches ofGideon which look pretty much like him, but I want them made in the relativelycrude manner that characterizes the sketches made from the descriptions ofeyewitnesses. You know how these police composite pictures are put together.Get a police artist to sketch a picture of Gideon from his mug shot so it willunmistakably be Gideon, or that is, have an unmistakable resemblance toGideon."
"And then what?" Drakeasked.
"Then," Mason said,"I'm going to give him an opportunity to get away from his shadows – boththe rough shadows and the smooth shadows, so he'll be on his own."
"How are you going to dothat?"
"It'll take money," Masonsaid. "I'm going to give him money."
"Once you start giving himmoney it's a one-way street," Drake said. "It's like pouring it downa rat hole."
Mason shook his head and smiled."Then when Gideon has shaken the shadows he's automatically removed anypossible alibi he may have."
"Then," Mason said,"I'm going to flash this sketch on him and tell him that's a sketch madeby a police artist from the description of an eyewitness to a hold-up or murderor some crime that he will have read about in the papers."
"He'll know you're framinghim," Drake said.
"He may know it but there's nota damned thing he can do about it," Mason said. "The weak point inthe armour of a crook who has been convicted is the fact that his priorconviction can be brought out to impeach his testimony in the event he tries todeny committing the crime."
"But," Drake protested,"if he checks with police he'll find out that the sketch is purely asynthetic bit of evidence, that the police don't have that sketch in theirfiles and -"
"A blackmailer, an ex-crook whohas been to a lot of trouble to ditch the shadows, going to the police andasking to please inspect their files?" Mason asked.
Drake thought for a minute, thenbroke out laughing. "All right," he said, "you win."
"I haven't won yet," Masonsaid, "but I'm going to take that smooth, suave Gideon and jar him back onhis heels. I told him that when it came to dealing with blackmailers I wascompletely ruthless."
"Even so, you wouldn't frame aman for a crime he didn't commit," Drake said.
"I'm not talking aboutthat," Mason said. "I'm talking about making him think I'm framinghim for a crime that will either put him in the gas chamber or send him back toprison for life. When you start dealing with a blackmailer, Paul, there's onlyone thing to do and that's take the offensive."
"Okay," Drake said."How strong do you want me to go with these shadows?"
"Keep the shadows on him,"Mason said. "Get that mug shot, get the artist, and make me somepolice-type sketches of Gideon."
"Okay," Drake said,"will do."
When Mason entered his officeshortly before nine o'clockthe next morning Della Street said, "How did you get along with Mr Barrington last night? Did hecross-examine you about me?"
"No," Mason said,grinning. "I beat him to the punch and cross-examined him about him, andby the time he got done telling his story he was in such a predicament that hedidn't feel like asking questions."
"Paul Drake phoned in a momentago and said he had the sketch you wanted. What was that?"
"We'll take a look," Masonsaid, "and see if you recognize it. Give Paul a ring and tell him to comein."
A few moments later when PaulDrake's code knock sounded on the door, Della Street opened it.
"You've got it?" Masonasked.
"I've got it," Drake said,and handed Mason a sketch together with several photostatic copies.
Mason looked at it, smiled, andpassed the sketch over to Della Street. "Who is it, Della?"
"Why good heavens, it's thatman, Gideon!"
"A darned good likeness, Paul,and the nice thing is it's handled in such a way that it looks as though it hadbeen done by a police artist."
"It was," Drake said."I have this friend who does this work for the police and I gave himGideon's rap sheet. He knocked off a sketch for me from the old flier they usedsome time ago.
"You're dealing with a prettyhard man to bluff," Drake warned. "This fellow is above the averagein intelligence, and by the time a man does time in a federal prison he soaksup enough criminal knowledge to be a match for anyone."
"Meaning me?" Mason asked.
"Well, I didn't say that,"Drake said. "But don't think the guy's going to be easy, Perry."
The telephone rang, and Della,picking up the extension, said, "Yes, Gertie … Who's calling?"
Della Street's face registered extreme annoyance."Well, you just tell him – Wait a minute."
She placed her hand over thetransmitter, said to Mason, "This man, Gideon, is on the telephone. ShallI tell Gertie to cut him off, and that we don't ever want to talk with him or -"
"Not at all," Mason said,"tell Gertie to put him on the line, and you listen in, Della."
Mason picked up the phone on hisdesk, said, "Hello, Mason speaking."
"Gideon," the voice at theother end of the line said. "How are you this morning, Mr Mason?"
"Very fine, thank you."
"Well, I thought I'd drop inand see you for a little while."
"I have nothing to say toyou."
"So I gathered and I presumeyou won't see me personally. In fact, I'm somewhat surprised that you took thistelephone call. But I'll just drop in and sit in the outer office a half anhour or so and then go out again. You see, my rough shadow is still on the joband I want him to earn his money."
"By all means," Masonsaid.
"And," Gideon went on,"I intend to call at your office at least once a day until I find some wayof shaking my shadows."
"And just how will thatbe?" Mason asked.
"Well," Gideon said,"as I explained to you, Mr Mason, all effective tactics are founded ontaking the initiative and doing the unexpected. If I had, say, five hundreddollars, I'd ditch all my shadows and fade out of the picture, but don't expectme to discuss my affairs on the phone. The fact that you're talking with meshows there's a recording of the conversation being made, and the fact I'mkeeping on talking shows I have nothing to conceal. I want you to act for me ina certain matter and I'm coming to your office in the hope you'll see me."
Mason said, "Where are younow?"
"You know," Gideon said."You had your private detectives pick me up at the office and follow melast night. I came to my hotel, the Exman Hotel. I have a room here. Not muchof a room but, after all, I'm not in a position at the moment to ask for theluxuries of life. I expect to be better off within the next few months. Give mean opportunity to exercise my ingenuity on the outside and I'll find somethingthat will put me out on top, Mr Mason. I have confidence in my ownability."
"So I see," Mason said."And you noticed more shadows last night?"
"Oh, Mr Mason!" Gideonsaid, reproachfully, "I was loaded with them. Of course, the shadows thatyou had were pretty clever. They weren't like the rough shadow, but, alter all,I rather expected them and that enabled me to spot them. And I even spotted acouple of the government smooth shadows. That made five people tailing me lastnight that I know of."
"They're waiting around outsideyour hotel now?" Mason asked.
"I don't find your twomen," Gideon said, "and the smooth shadows are out of sight, but, ofcourse, the rough shadow is on the job."
Mason said, "I've been thinkingthings over during the night."
"I was hoping you would."
"And," Mason said, "Ibelieve you should have a chance to rehabilitate yourself. I'm sending fivehundred dollars over to your hotel by messenger."
"And," Mason told him,"I don't expect you to come near the office again. I don't want to hearfrom you again."
"That's right, Mr Mason, youhave my word – my word of honour."
"Thank you," Mason said."Wait there for an hour and I'll have the money delivered."
Mason hung up the phone. "Go tothe safe where we keep the emergency currency, Della. Get five hundred dollarsput it in an envelope, call a messenger and send it to Mr Gideon at the ExmanHotel."
Drake sighed. "I hope you knowwhat you're doing."
"What do you mean?"
"Once you give in to this guy,once he knows he can tap you for dough once he knows that he's got somethingthat makes you afraid of him, you'll have him on your back for the rest of yourlife. A blackmailer never gives up until he has bled a sucker completelywhite."
Mason grinned and said, "Iknow, but you see this five hundred dollars doesn't come out of my pocket. I amcharging it to expenses and this is what I call bait. You don't catch fish byputting out a bare hook. You have to put on bait, and when you put on bait ithas to be something that the fish likes. Even then you have to put in onartistically so the hook is completely covered … When you come right down toit, Paul, there's really quite a science to baiting a hook."
"Go on," Drake said.
"And then, after you have thehook baited, you wait until the fish takes the bait and starts off with it, andthen you give a sudden jerk and your fish is hooked. If you jerk too soon, youpull the hook out of his mouth, and if you don't jerk at the right time, thefish steals the bait and leaves you with a bare hook. One has to have a senseof timing in such matters, and there is a certain amount of skill in connectionwith putting on the bait and hooking the fish."
"Well, you've certainly put onthe bait," Drake said. "But I'll warn you, five hundred dollars willjust be an entering wedge in Gideon's mind."
"He's promised me that he won'tcome back, or call me or get in touch with me in any way if I send over thefive hundred dollars," Mason said.
Drake snorted his skepticaldisbelief.
"He has," Mason said,"given me his word of honour."
Drake groaned, got to his feet,said, "Kid yourself all you want to, Perry, but don't try kiddingme."
"Incidentally" Mason said,"your friend Gideon seems to be rather expert at picking up shadows. Hehad no difficulty whatever in picking up the two shadows you put on his tailwhen he left the office."
Drake made an exclamation ofannoyance. "Those were pretty smooth guys," he said. "In view ofthe fact that a rough shadow is on the job, I didn't think Gideon would spotthem."
"He spotted them," Masonsaid.
After a moment, Drake said, "Itold you that these fellows get pretty smart while they are in stir,Perry"
"I know," Mason said,"and Gideon, I think, was rather smart to start with. Let's hope hedoesn't outwit himself."
"You're really going to sendthat money?" Drake asked.
"I'm going to send it,"Mason said. "I believe Della is putting the money in an envelope rightnow."
Drake said something about a fooland his money being soon parted, and left the office.
Mason looked reassuringly at Della Street as she returned with a fat envelope in herhand.
"Everything okay, Della?"
"Everything okay. The messengeris on his way up here."
"Tell him to take this envelopeto Gideon at the Exman Hotel and not to bother about a receipt," Masonsaid.
"No receipt?" she asked."Not even for the envelope?"
"Nothing," Mason said,grinning. "We're gentlemen, dealing with each other as such. After all, Ihave Mr Gideon's word of honour."
Thursday morning Mason entered theoffice and asked hopefully, "What do we hear from Gideon, Della?"
"No letter, no telephone?"
"Perhaps an anonymousletter?"
"No, not this morning."
Mason left his desk, walked over tothe window, looked down at traffic on the street below with frowningconcentration.
"Should we have heard?"Della asked.
"We should have heard,"Mason said. "I'm a little afraid that our friend Gideon has transferredhis attention to Mrs Horace Warren."
The lawyer started pacing the floor,said at length, "Its inconceivable that he would have the consummate nerveto go there, yet – Ring up Paul Drake and tell him to put two more men on thehouse," Mason said. "I want the license numbers of every automobilethat calls there and I want a description of every person who calls. Theoperatives will have to use binoculars and keep in the distance."
"Anything else?" Dellaasked.
"That's all," Mason said.And then added grimly, "At the moment."
By mid afternoon Mason was restive,pacing the office floor, frowning, reacting nervously every time the phonerang.
At three o'clock Mason's phone rang. Della said, "Yes?Hello?" then nodded to Perry Mason.
"Gideon?" Mason asked.
"Paul Drake," she said.
Mason picked up his telephone."Yes, Paul, what's new?"
"My face is red," Drakesaid.
Mason tilted back in his swivelchair, crossed his ankles on the desk, and seemed suddenly to lose all histension.
"Why, what's the matter,Paul?" he asked solicitously.
"That damned Gideon!" PaulDrake said. "I told you that these fellows get smart in stir. This guy hasbecome too smart for his britches."
"Meaning he was too smart foryou?" Mason asked.
"He was too smart for mymen," Drake said, "and then – Well, damn it, yes, Perry. He was toosmart for me."
"What happened?" Masonasked.
"The guy went down to aused-car lot. He looked over some used cars, then he purchased one and paidthree hundred dollars down."
"In cash?" Mason asked.
"Of course, in cash. Hell'sbells, it was out of the money you'd given him."
"Well, I'm glad to see he usedit to buy something useful," Mason said. "After all, a man needs anautomobile to run around in these days."
"Now, wait a minute,Perry," Paul Drake said. "This is pretty damned serious. It's abrand-new stunt as far as I'm concerned."
"Go on," Mason said."Or why don't you come down to the office and tell me about it? Della willmake you a cup of coffee and -"
"Because I don't want to faceyou," Drake said. "Also I'm sitting here in my office with fourtelephones working, trying my damnedest to get on his trail again."
"Well, what happened to thegovernment men?" Mason asked. "Weren't they on the job?"
"My God," Drake said,"there were three government smooth shadows on the job, one rough shadowand my two shadows. That made six shadows that were tailing that bird."
"And he walked away from all ofthem?"
"I'll say he did."
"What did he do?"
"Well, he got this automobile,made a down payment on it, signed the contract, and started out.
"Of course we felt that sincehe had that automobile it was going to be the old run-around, that he'd gothrough signals just as they were changing and all that stuff. My men felt thatway about it and apparently the government men did, too."
"How do you handle a situationof that sort?" Mason asked.
"With enough shadows, it's acinch," Drake said. "We had one shadow get ahead of him and one staybehind him. We had him bracketed. Then whenever we'd come to an intersectionwith a signal one of my men would go ahead and the other would stay behind. Andof course the rough shadow stayed behind. In that way if Gideon went through asignal just as it was changing, or took a chance on running a red light, theshadows could wait patiently behind because there were shadows ahead to pickhim up."
"What about the governmentmen?"
"They were playing it the sameway," Drake said. "My men spotted at least one of the government men,and that government man had spotted him, because he gave him the high sign."
"And Gideon got away from adeal of that sort?" Mason asked.
"I'll say he got away fromit."
"He ditched the rough shadowand one of the smooth shadows," Drake said. "He seemed to feel he hadit made. He drove to th airport, parked the car with the motor running andtipped the attendant to let it stay there for five minutes."
"Go on," Mason said.
"Well, that was a cinch,"Drake said. "The remaining government men came up and made a kick aboutthe car being there in a place where there was supposed to be no parking. Theysquawked a little bit and insisted the attendant drive it away.
"While they were doing allthis, of course, they were putting an electric bug on the car so they couldfollow him without crowding him. With one of those electric bugs you can beseveral blocks away and still follow a guy."
"Go on," Mason said,"what happened? Did they follow him into the air terminal?"
"No, they didn't," Drakesaid, "because when a man has just paid three hundred dollars down on anautomobile you don't think he's going to walk away and leave it with the motorrunning."
Mason started to laugh.
"Go ahead and laugh, damnit!" Drake said irritably
"So you don't know where hewent?" Mason asked.
"Of course we know where hewent," Drake said. "We're not that dumb. We didn't follow him intothe air terminal but we went in and started milling around and we watched everyoutgoing plane that was scheduled to depart within the next thirtyminutes."
"Well," Mason said,"if he went in, he had to come out."
"He went out all right,"Drake said. "He walked right out the door, met another guy, identifiedhimself, and they walked twenty yards to a helicopter that was sitting therewith the motor running. They both got in and the helicopter took off and wewere left on the ground gawking."
"Couldn't follow him?"Mason asked.
"How the hell you going tofollow a helicopter out of a busy airport," Drake asked, "unless youhave another helicopter on the job?
"We did everything we could. Wegot the tower and told them to order the helicopter to come back. We gotanother helicopter warmed up, but of course Gideon expected all that. He hadthe helicopter go for about three minutes, then told the pilot to land him in avacant field by a boulevard where there was a good line of buses.
"The pilot did that and wasjust getting in the air coming back when he heard the tower calling him toreturn at once. Of course the tower felt that the helicopter pilot might havethe radio on the loudspeaker so that his passenger could hear everything thatwas being said, so the tower was very mysterious. They told him that because ofan emergency, and apparently because part of his gear was not in order, he wasto return at once and make a cautious landing.
"So the guy returned and -Well, that's all there is to it. The shadows are sitting on an empty car.Gideon's gone."
"What about the car?"Mason asked. "Don't they sign a contract that they have to keep uppayments and if they make false representations, don't they – "
"Oh, shucks," Drake said,"Gideon's too damned smart for that. Within twenty minutes after he'dgiven us the slip at the airport he called the used-car dealer, told him wherehe'd left the car, told him to get it and repossess it. He said that alterthinking things over he'd realized that he had no business buying the car inthe first place, that he wasn't going to have enough use for it, that somethingelse had come up and a friend had a car he could borrow. He told the startledused-car dealer that they'd just call the whole transaction off, that hewouldn't try to collect back any of his down payment because he realized it washis mistake, and all that stuff."
"And the car dealer fell forit?"
"Sure, he fell for it. Told himthat was very generous of him, said that if he sold the car within the nextcouple of days he'd be able to make some kind of refund on Gideon's downpayment, thanked him a lot and went out and got the car."
Mason's laugh died down to achuckle.
"I'm glad it amuses you,"Drake said stiffly.
"I remember," Mason said,"you told me not to let Gideon outsmart me, that those fellows got prettyslick after they'd been in prison and that I'd have to watch my step.Apparently you should have been taking some of your own advice."
"Oh, go to hell," Drakesaid irritably.
"Well," Mason said,"he's played right into our hands now."
"What do you mean?" Drakeasked.
Mason said, "As long as he hadshadows on his tail he had a perfect alibi."
"Alibi for what?" Drakeasked.
"For anything," Masonsaid. "He couldn't be accused of committing a crime because he'd simplycall the shadows to the stand, ask them where he was when the crime wascommitted and that would be that. I told you, once he'd lost his shadows he'dhave no alibi."
There was silence on the telephonewhile Drake was thinking that over. "So the five hundred dollars was goodbait."
Mason said, "I'm making nocomments, Paul, but from now on start keeping track of every unsolved crimecommitted in the city, that is, every major crime, particularly the murders andthe murder stick-ups where there are witnesses.
"Whenever you find one of thosecrimes, have one of your men take that police sketch, go to the eyewitnessesand ask them if that doesn't look like the man they saw at the scene of thecrime."
"And try to convince them thatit's the man they saw?"
"Oh, nothing like that,"Mason said. "Nothing crude, but just plant the idea in their minds thatsomeone, at least, thinks this man is suspect. Then if anything should happenwe could of course claim that we were acting in good faith, trying to solvecrimes of violence.
"You see, as far as I'mconcerned, Paul, here is a man with a criminal record who is at least short ofmoney. He might well turn to crime."
"Short of money, my eye,"Drake said. "The guy's smoking fifty-cent cigars and wearing atwo-hundred-and-fifty-dollar suit of clothes. That's what made the governmentmen so mad. The guy walked right into the best clothing store, big as life, andgot the best suit they had in the place."
"And the government men have noidea where he got the money?"
"Not the slightest. He musthave picked it out of thin air because they've been shadowing him from the timehe left prison."
Mason thought that over for a moment,then again chuckled. "Things are looking better every minute, Paul. Keepin touch with me."
Late Friday morning Mason's phonerang and Paul Drake said, "Perry, I'm getting frightened."
"How come?" Mason asked.
"That confounded identificationbusiness. I'm afraid we're in a jam."
"Now look," Mason toldhim, "all we have to do is to act in good faith so that we're not lying toGideon. We simply tell him that this picture of him has been submitted to theeyewitnesses in a murder case. He, of course, has no idea that we ordered thepicture made. He thinks it's a composite picture made from the description ofeyewitnesses – not a picture that we had made and then submitted toeyewitnesses.
"The guy is smart. Knowing whatwould happen to him when he gets on the witness stand and his past record comesout, he's going to take it on the lam. We won't hear any more from him."
"You don't know the half ofit," Drake said.
"All right, what's the half ofit?"
"You know Parley Fulton, myoperative?"
"I've met him, yes. Seems likea pretty level-headed sort of a chap."
"All right," Drake said."The Pacific Northern Supermarket was robbed last night. They got awaywith about seven thousand dollars. There was a night watchman on duty, andevidently he surprised the burglar."
"More than one?" Masonasked.
"Apparently a lone wolf."
"All right, whathappened?"
"He gunned the watchman andthen escaped through the front door."
"How bad is it?" Masonasked. "The watchman, I mean."
"The watchman is going to live.Fellow by the name of Steven Hooks. The bullet was aimed right for the heart,but it was deflected by his shield. Gave him a nasty shoulder wound and knockedhim off his feet, but he's okay"
"All right," Mason said,"what are you getting at?"
"Well, I followed yourinstructions. Had Fulton take this sketch of Gideon to the watchman and the other eyewitness, afellow by the name of Drew Kearny
"Now, Kearny was a fellow who had been at a late motionpicture show and happened to be walking down the street just as this hold-upman burst out the front door. He drew a gun on Kearny, told him to stick up his hands. Kearny thought it was a holdup but the fellow justused the gun to terrorize Keamy, then sprinted across the street and into analley.
"Kearny started trying to find a phone where hecould call police, but as it happened someone had already heard the gunshot andtelephoned the police. A police cruiser came along so Kearny flagged them down and gave them his storyand a description of the guy It was a pretty good description. He claims he gota good look at him."
"Look anything likeGideon?" Mason asked.
"Two eyes, a nose and a mouth,and that's all the resemblance."
"But that doesn't keep us fromshowing him the sketch," Mason said, "and we can plant a story in thepaper that the police artist has made a composite sketch – "
"Wait a minute, you haven'theard anything," Drake said. "We showed Keamy the sketch and he justlaughed at us, said it had no resemblance whatever to the fellow, that thestick-up was an older man, more heavy-set, that the eyes were different, and soforth. So then Parley Fulton got into the hospital and showed the sketch toSteven Hooks.
"Now, Fulton claims that hedidn't use any suggestion, that he just told Hooks he'd like to have him lookover this sketch and see if there was any resemblance and all that."
"All right," Mason said,"what are you getting at?"
"Hooks says it looks like theguy."
"What!" Mason exclaimed.
"Well, he can't exactlyidentify him, but he said the sketch looked very much like the man, although hehad only the one fleeting glimpse of him before the shooting started. There wasa night light on. Hooks first saw the fellow's back. He made the mistake ofyelling before he had his gun out. He was drawing his gun and yelling at thesame time. The hold-up man had his gun out. He whirled and fired and the shothit Hooks a glancing blow on the shield and down he went. He wasn't in aposition to get a very good look at the man.
"On the other hand, this fellowKearny, who was walking along the street when the fellow burst out of the door,was within eight or ten feet of the guy and had a good chance to see his face.
"So now we're in the devil of afix. The police have learned from Hooks that a private detective agency had asketch that looked something like the hold-up man and they want the sketch andwant to know what it's all about. I'm keeping Fulton under cover. I told the police he's out ona job. They want to see him as soon as he comes in. I'm afraid there's hell topay."
"That," Mason said,"is an unexpected complication. What about this fellow, Drew Kearny?"
"That's why I've calledyou," Drake said. "He's in the office. He wants to take another lookat the sketch. He says he doesn't think it's the same guy, but the watchmantold him he thought the sketch looked like the guy, so Kearny wants to take another look."
"He's in your office now?"
"Where's the sketch?"
"I have a photostaticcopy"
"Bring it down," Masonsaid, "and bring Kearny along with it. Let me talk with him."
"I was hoping you'd dothat," Drake said. "I was hoping you'd take over on this, but we'vegot to turn that sketch over to the police sooner or later, Perry."
Mason said, "We'll cross thatbridge when we come to it. My own inclination is to turn it over to them. Let'stalk with Kearny and see if we can't make something out ofthat."
"Be right down," Drakesaid.
Mason hung up the telephone andturned to Della, who had been monitoring the conversation.
"Now we're in a jam," hesaid. "That damned watchman … Of course, that's one of the things thathappens with eyewitness identification. That's why it's the most unreliabletype of evidence we have. Suggestion, self hypnosis, tricky recollection, poorobservation everything enters into it and a good percentage of the timesomeone, acting in the highest good faith, comes along with a cockeyedidentification."
Drake's code knock sounded on thedoor. Mason let him in.
Drake turned to the man with him andsaid, "This is Drew Kearny, Mr Mason."
"How are you, Mr Kearny?" Mason said, shaking hands.
Kearny, a man in his early forties,with steady grey eyes, a strong, determined mouth, broad shoulders, andsomething of a paunch, said, "How do you do, sir? I've heard a great dealabout you and it's a real pleasure to meet you."
"Sit down, sit down,"Mason said. "Make yourselves comfortable. Now, what is all this about,Paul?"
Drake said, "Drew Kearny hadbeen at a late movie and was coming past the Pacific Northern Supermarket onhis way home a little after midnight. The door burst open and a man ran out. Kearny found himself looking into the business endof a gun. He automatically stuck his hands up, and because he was carrying afairly large sum of money, figured he was going to be held up. But the fellowsimply kept the gun pointed at him and said, 'Keep your hands up,' then backedaway until he was halfway across the street, turned and ran through an alley.
"Kearny felt, of course, something was wrong andtried the door of the supermarket but it had a spring lock on it and it hadswung shut and latched. So Kearny started running down the street, looking for the nearest telephone hecould use. He's -Well, you tell it, Kearny."
Kearny patted his stomach. "I'm not as muchof a sprinter as I used to be. I slowed down after about a couple of blocks andwas walking along, trying to remember where the nearest phone was."
"You're familiar with theneighbourhood?" Mason asked.
"Fairly familiar. My place ofbusiness is not too far away"
"What's your business?"
"All right," Mason said,"what happened?"
"Well, as luck would have it, Isaw a flashing red light and a police car came along fast. I ran out in themiddle of the street and flagged them down. I told them what had happened andthey put out a general alarm and threw a cordon around the district, but Iguess they didn't get the guy. And of course they went on into the supermarketand found the watchman, who was pretty badly knocked out but in a short timethey had him out and hospitalized.
"Now, what's bothering me isthis sketch that this detective showed me. Of course it's awfully hard toremember people when you get just a quick glance at them, particularly during atime of excitement, but I'm pretty good that way. I seldom forget a face, and Ihad a good look at this guy."
"And you saw the sketch?"Mason asked.
"I saw the sketch."
"Any chance it's the sameman?""
Kearny said, "I didn't think so, but I don'twant to give any crook the breaks. I talked with the watchman, and I decidedI'd better study that sketch."
"Oh, well," Mason said,"these things happen every once in a while. Something goes wrong with anidentification and -"
"That's not the point," Kearny said. "I'm a law-abiding citizen and Ihate crooks and I hate stick-ups. I've been held up once, lost more money thanI could afford to lose."
"Now, when this detective firstidentified himself and asked me to take a look at that sketch, I took a quicklook at him and told him hell no, that wasn't the man at all, and I didn'tthink much more of it, but I did take the precaution of getting the guy's cardso I could get in touch with him later if anything happened."
"The police had been asking youfor a detailed description?" Mason asked.
"Sure they had. I was with thepolice for more than two hours and they had an artist working on thedescription I gave them."
"Well then, that's all there isto it," Mason said.
"No, it isn't," Kearnysaid, "because I understand now the watchman said that sketch looked a lotlike the fellow, so I want to take another look at it and check. I'd sure hateto let a crook get away."
Mason said, "You have thatsketch, Paul?"
Drake hesitated perceptibly, thensaid, "Yes, I have a copy"
"Let's take a look," Masonsaid.
Mason spread a copy of the sketch ofCollister Gideon out on the desk. "Take a look," he said.
Kearny studied it carefully, then said,"Well, it's, hard to say. What the watchman says has given me a jolt. Igot sort of uncertain, but now I know this isn't the guy. The fellow I saw wasolder, he was heavier, he was … well, sort of menacing. This fellow looksmore the intellectual type. This guy that came busting out of there was athug."
"Of course," Mason said,"experience shows that in times of emotional disturbance of that sort,particularly where a man has a gun, the witnesses are inclined to think the manis bigger than he actually is, heavier than he actually is, and quitefrequently, older than he actually is."
"Well, I couldn't make thatmuch of a mistake," Kearny said. "It's all right. I just wanted to satisfy myself and I don'tknow what all the blinking fuss is about. Hell's bells, I just came up to thisdetective's office to check to see if I'd made a mistake, after I heard thewatchman say the sketch was one that looked to him like the fellow"
"No chance you could bemistaken?" Mason asked.
"I saw the fellow real close.Had a good look at him. This sketch – No, this isn't the guy"
"Is there perhaps some slightresemblance here which confused the watchman?" Mason asked.
Kearny said, "Of course there is. Otherwisehe wouldn't have thought it was the guy." He looked at the sketch againand covered up the lower part.
"The mouth is the thing thatdoesn't click," he said. "The eyes aren't so bad, but this fellow hada mouth that was – I don't know what was wrong with it. Maybe he was holdingsomething in his mouth, but the upper part of this sketch could be – Well, it'ssomething like the guy … That's what keeps bothering me. I have a feelingI've seen this bird somewhere before but…" He broke off and shook hishead. "Anyhow, I can't identify this sketch as being that of theman."
"All right," Mason toldhim. "That's as far as we can go. Thanks a lot for coming in."
"Who is this fellow? Where didyou get the picture?" Kearny asked.
Mason said, "We're interestedin certain aspects of crime. That is, of course, the Drake Detective Agency is.And in the course of its investigations it – Well, of course, they run intolots of peculiar things."
Mason smiled and extended his hand."Nice to have met you, Mr Kearny."
Kearny grinned and said, "Okay, don't tell meif you don't want to. That's the best piece of double-talk I've heard in a longwhile. Thanks a lot, Mr Drake. You have my address. Goodbye, everyone."
Kearny went out.
Drake mopped his forehead."What a hell of a mess we're in. The watchman told the police we had asketch of the burglar."
"Can't you get to that watchmanand throw cold water on his identification?"
"It wasn't anidentification," Drake said. "He said there was a strong resemblanceand let it go at that."
"Well, can't you get him toback up a little bit in view of what Kearny says?"
"I probably could," Drakesaid, "but it's too hot right now. The police are wondering what in hellwe're trying to do."
"Well, let the police worryabout their end of the business," Mason said, "and we'll worry aboutours."
"Suppose they call on me andwant to see the sketch?"
"Show it to them."
"Then they'll ask where I gotit."
"Tell them an artist drewit."
"They'll want to know theartist."
"Refer them to me."
"That darned watchman,"Drake said moodily. "He's really got us in a spot."
Mason said, "Don't overlook thefact that this plays right into our hands. It gives us a beautiful club. We'lllet the police take this sketch, and if the Watchman does keep insisting itlooks like the man, the police will publish it, Gideon will take one agonizedlook at the newspaper and be on his way out of the country just as fast as hecan go."
"What'll he use forfunds?" Drake asked.
"Whatever he can scrapeup," Mason said thoughtfully. "And that raises a point I'd betterthink about."
It had started to cloud up thatmorning and by noon a cold,sullen rain was falling. At one o'clock Drake called to report Mrs Warren had goneout in her car, and his men had lost her.
"Was she trying to shake loosefrom them?" Mason asked.
"I don't think so, Perry. Mymen don't think she even knew she was wearing a tail. She just made a suddenleft turn from a right-hand lane, and my men were boxed in where they couldn'tget over in time to follow They tried the next intersection, but they didn'tpick her up again.
"Those things sometimes happento even the best shadows in the business. She'll be back and the men at thehouse will pick her up again."
"I know," Mason said,"but what mischief will she get into in the meantime?"
"Oh, she's just goneshopping," Drake said.
"Let's hope so," Masontold him. "Keep me posted, Paul."
The lawyer hung up.
At two o'clock Mason's phone rang again.
Della Street answered the phone, frowned, put her handover the transmitter and said to Perry Mason, "This is Gideon."
Mason's face broke into a grin."The shoe is beginning to pinch," he said. "Put him on."
Mason picked up the telephone."Yes, what is it, Gideon?"
Gideon's voice was as smooth as thepurring of a contented cat. "Mr Mason," he said, "I hadn'tintended to bother you again, but a matter has come up which leaves me noalternative."
"Go ahead," Mason said.
"I am taking the precaution ofusing a telephone booth," Gideon said, "although I hardly think thatis necessary. I'm quite certain that I have ditched not only the rough shadowsand the smooth shadows of the government, but the two men that your detectiveagency had on me."
"Go ahead," Mason said."What do you want?"
"To be perfectly crude, andcome to the point rather quickly, which I am forced to do because I don't wantyou to try to trace this call, I want ten thousand dollars."
"I thought perhaps it wouldcome to this," Mason said.
"I'm sorry," Gideon said,"but I have an opportunity to leave the country and engage in business onforeign soil. I need some operating capital to get there. Now, of course, MrMason, I don't expect you to furnish this capital, but you have a client I amquite certain would be only too glad to have me completely out of the United States."
"All right," Mason said,"where are you?"
"Not where I am," Gideonsaid, "but where I am going to be. What time do you have?"
"A little after two o'clock," Mason said, "I -"
"Never mind that 'little after'business. I want the exact time. What time do you have?"
"Six minutes past two."
"Congratulations on your watch.You are within thirty seconds df complete accuracy.
"Here is what you do,"Gideon said. "You get ten thousand dollars in bills, none of which aremore than fifty dollars in denomination. Mostly I want twenties."
"You can save yourbreath," Mason said. "I don't do business with blackmailers and I'mnot going to any bank."
Gideon kept on as though there hadbeen no interruption. "Put these bills in a bag, preferably a rather smallbag – one that will just hold them. You had better take a pencil to jot downthis address because I'm going to make this phone call very short and I'm notgoing to repeat. At the corner of Clovina and Hendersell there's a vacant storebuilding with a warehouse in back. It has signs For Lease in the front. Thefront door is closed. The alley turns off of Hendersell and the back doorleading to the alley is open. The building has been vacant for some time. It'sinvolved in litigation. It's rather a disreputable neighbourhood and you'llprobably hesitate about turning into the alley. You had better come armed,since you are carrying a large sum of money, and you may be traced from thebank."
"I'm not going to come and I'mnot going to carry any large sum of money," Mason said.
"If," Gideon went on,heedless of the interruption, "you would like to have someone with you asa bodyguard, that's all right provided he does not get out of the car. You andyou alone are to enter the back door of that storeroom at precisely twentyminutes past three. That will give you time to look up the location on the map,go to the bank, and get the money You'll probably need an authorization fromyour client in order to get it, although I think you have blanket instructionsto do anything that's necessary."
Mason said, "Look, Gideon, as Itold you, there are three ways of dealing with a blackmailer. One, you pay off.Two, you go to the police. Three, you see that the blackmailer is no longeraround."
"I'm not going to be around. Itold you that."
"That wasn't what Imeant," Mason said. "I meant exactly what I said. You see theblackmailer is no longer around."
"Thinking of killing me?"Gideon asked in a bantering tone of voice.
"Exactly," Mason said.
"What form of weapon would youuse?"
"The law? Are youkidding?"
"I'm deadly serious,"Mason said. "A supermarket was entered last night. A watchman surprisedthe thief and was shot. He may die. The burglar, still brandishing a gun, ranfrom the store and was seen by a reputable witness. I happen to have in mypossession a composite sketch which was made by a police artist, and you'd besurprised at the resemblance to your face. I don't think there's any questionbut that the witnesses will identify you."
"Why you … you – !"
"Once you are arrested formurder," Mason went on, "you have to take the stand to proclaim yourinnocence. Then the district attorney asks you if, as a matter of fact, youhaven't been convicted of a felony and you have to admit that you have been soconvicted. The jury takes one good long look at you and that's all that isneeded."
"Now, you look here,"Gideon said, "you can't do this. I'll tell everything I know. I'll get onthe stand, relate this telephone conversation and -"
"And it will be sofantastic," Mason interrupted, "that no one will believe you. But theeffect of it will be that you'll have to claim that I tried to frame a murderon you because you were blackmailing a client of mine. Think that over."
"And on second thought,"Mason said, "since you have given me a place to meet you, I'll be there atexactly twenty minutes past three. I won't be bringing any money and I willhave a gun."
Mason hung up the telephone.
Della Street, who had been monitoring the conversation,looked at Perry Mason with wide eyes. "Do you, by any chance, want to goto the bank and get some money, just in case -"
"No, thanks," Mason said.
"Are you going alone?" sheasked apprehensively.
Mason said, "A blackmailerdoesn't want a witness and when I'm dealing with a blackmailer I don't wantone. I'm rather good at making threats myself… Where's the reproduction ofthat composite sketch Paul Drake had the police artist make? Here's where I jara blackmailer right back on his heels and start him running so far and so fasthe won't ever come back."
Mason pushed back his chair, stoodat the desk, his clenched fists pressing down on the blotter, his chin juttingforward with grim determination.
"Della," he said,"ring Horace Warren's office, tell his secretary you're a reporter withone of the wire services, that you'd like a brief interview in connection withsome matter that originated in the east and your editor has instructed you toget an immediate interview."
Della Street put through the call, listened, said,"Thank you," hung up, turned to Mason and said, "Out on animportant appointment. Won't be back until after four this afternoon."
Mason said, "Now call for yourfriend, Judson Olney. Tell whoever answers that you're his friend, Della Street, and that he left word for you tocall."
Again Della put through the call.Again she said, "Thank you," and turned to Mason. "He's outuntil three-thirty I think that was the secretary. Her tone was acid."Mason stood in frowning contemplation.
"Damn Paul Drake's men forlosing Mrs Warren," he said at length, "but it doesn't make anydifference. We know now where she's going – and there isn't time to head heroff."
Della Street's face showed dismay. "Do you thinkshe's heading for a rendezvous with Gideon?"
"Where else?" Mason asked."If Gideon tried putting the bite on me, it's almost certain he's tryingMrs Warren. He's worked out a schedule. Probably Mrs Warren at two-thirty,Horace Warren at two-forty-five, Olney at three, me at three-twenty – a planeat four-thirty. And I can't stop him. There isn't time. That place is at theother end of town."
"Couldn't Paul Drake get somemen there and -"
"There isn't time," Masonsaid. "We're dealing with a super-intelligent crook and so far he's hadall the breaks."
"Don't you think you jolted himwith what you said about the witnesses in that murder case?"
"Of course I jolted him,"Mason said, "but I could tell from his manner that it doesn't make as muchdifference as I'd hoped. He's cleaning up. He's putting the bite on everybody.He's going to get the most he can and then clear out."
"And you can't stop him?"
"I can't stop him," Masonsaid, "because I don't dare to let him be picked up by the police and heknows it. Nevertheless, I don't want to sit idly by and have him put hisblackmail scheme into operation."
"Will you wait untilthree-twenty to -"
"No," Mason interrupted."That's where I have him. His split-second timing shows that he's workingout a very carefully engineered schedule for getting his victims on the spotone at a time and – Della, ring up the fire department. Put in a fire alarm forthe store at the corner of Clovina and Hendersell. Tell them there's a big firein the back room."
Della Street's eyes were wide. "That's a crime.That – "
"Sure, it's a crime,"Mason said. "It's also a crime to exceed the speed limit and that's whatI'm going to do getting there. I defy any blackmailer to carry on a successfulblackmail approach in the midst of a fire alarm."
"Then get Paul Drake to sendtwo operatives down to Clovina and Hendersell just as fast as he can!"
"I'm on my way"
Mason grabbed his hat and shot outof the door.
Mason parked his car on Clovina Avenue.
On the other side of the street weretwo police cars and the red car of a deputy fire chief. Further down the blockthere were several cars parked at the kerb.
The store at the corner of Clovinaand Hendersell had evidently been a large space, low rental property Thebuilding was run-down, the neighbourhood was drab and dejected. At one time thebuilding had been used for surplus goods, and a weather-beaten sign of SURPLUSSALE still adorned the front of the building.
As Mason left the car a man came upto him. "Perry Mason?"
"I'm Lou Pitman, one of Drake'soperatives. Drake caught me on the car radio phone and sent me here on a rushcall. As it happened I was working on another job not too far away and I gothere about the same time the fire department did."
Mason eyed the man steadily."Let's see your credentials," he said.
Pitman produced his identificationcard.
"Okay," Mason said."Now tell me what happened."
"It was a false alarm,"Pitman said. "The fire company came charging up, parked their fire trucks,looked the place over, started to leave, then one of them looked in a window,said something to the others. They knocked a window out, went in, thenevidently put in a call over their short-wave radio for the police. The policecame rushing out here and apparently there was a man trapped inside thebuilding."
"Trapped inside thebuilding?" Mason asked.
"He didn't get away?"
"He didn't get away."
"He should have," Masonsaid thoughtfully. "He shouldn't have been there by the time the firewagons got there. Go on, what happened?"
"I don't know what happened,but more police cars have been coming. There's something on the inside therethat bothers them and they're evidently questioning this man – Here they comenow."
The front door of the store opened.Lt Tragg, flanked by a plain-clothes detective and two uniformed officers,escorted Horace Warren out of the building.
"Good Lord!" Mason said.
"You know him?" Pitmanasked.
Abruptly Mason turned from Pitman,barged across the street and moved toward the group. One of the officers saidsomething to Lt Tragg, who looked up and was unable to keep the expression ofsurprise from his face as he saw Mason bearing down on them.
"Well, well," Tragg said."This is quick work! How did you get here? Did your client telephone youand -"
Mason fastened his eyes on Warren. "Not one word, Warren," he said. "Not one word. Don'topen your lips!"
One of the uniformed officers bargedforward, shoved Mason back. "On your way," he said, "this is ahomicide."
"Not one word," Masoncalled over his shoulder. Then said to the officer, "I'm this man'sattorney."
"I don't give a damn who youare," the officer told him. "After he's booked he has the right toask for a lawyer and then you can come and see him, but you're not going tobutt in on things here. On your way!"
Mason side-stepped enough to catch Warren's eye and received a slight nod of thehead.
Mason walked back across the street.
The other group entered two policecars and roared away.
"Wasn't that Tragg, ofHomicide?" Pitman asked.
"That's right," Masonsaid. "He wouldn't be here unless there was a dead body inside and unlessit was murder.
"They're leaving a police carthere with officers in charge of the place. That looks like a big storeroomwith a warehouse in back. There may be an entrance on the other street. As soonas you get reinforcements here, cover the building. Try and find out whathappened and telephone me at my office."
Mason walked dejectedly across tohis car, got in, twisted the ignition key, started the motor and drove backtoward his office.
Della Street looked up in surprise as Mason entered theoffice.
"What's the matter, didn't youget down there?" she asked.
"I got down there," Masonsaid, "and I got back. Now I'm waiting for a telephone call."
Della raised inquiring eyebrows.
"I think," Mason said,"we'll have a call from Horace Warren within a short time. He'll want meto represent him on a charge of murder."
"Murder!" Della echoed.
"That's right," Masonsaid. "Apparently he got down to Gideon before I did. He had the same ideaI did, that in dealing with a blackmailer there were only three possiblechannels of approach – and one of them is to kill him."
"And you mean Warren decided to kill him?"
"Apparently Warren thought he could get away with it,"Mason said, "and he might have if it hadn't been for that damned firealarm we turned in."
"Oh-oh," Della Street said.
"He and Gideon were probablyalone," Mason said. "They had a showdown. Warren killed him, and I can't blame him very muchfor that. But then he heard the sirens of the fire department and was trappedin the building. They caught him red-handed."
"What about Mrs Warren?"
"She had either been therebefore we sewed the building up with the fire alarm, or else she didn't getthere until afterwards. And of course at that time the building was underpolice guard.
"She's smart enough to havespotted the uniformed police there and gone on home. Now, Della, that's whereyou come in. Get in your car, go out to the house. See if Mrs Warren is home.If she is, deliver your message. If she isn't, wait until she gets home andtell her not to say a word to anyone about anything. Simply state that she ismaking no comment about anything until she has had a chance to talk with anattorney."
"With you?" Della asked.
"You don't have to say withme," Mason said. "I'd prefer you didn't. She can simply tell thepolice that she wants to talk with an attorney. I think I'm going to berepresenting her husband."
"But if they caught himred-handed," Della Street ventured, "what can you -"
"I don't know," Masonsaid. "But Gideon was certainly asking for it."
The telephone rang.
Della picked up the telephone, said,"Yes, Gertie … Yes, Mr Mason will talk."
She turned. "Horace Warrennow," she said.
Mason picked up the telephone."Yes, Warren."
"I'm being held on a charge ofmurder. They say I have a right to telephone an attorney and -"
"I'll be there within fifteenminutes," Mason said. "Don't tell them anything. You understand? Notone single damned thing."
"I'll be there," Masonsaid.
Mason sat in the counsel room andsaid to Horace Warren, "Keep your voice down. Put your mouth close to myear and mumble the words. I've always had a feeling this room was bugged. Nowfirst, answer some of my questions Did you take the money out of the suitcase inyour wife's bedroom?"
"Because I knew it wasblackmail and I didn't want her to pay blackmail. I felt that if I stole themoney and left nothing but newspapers in the suitcase, when she tried to paythe blackmailer she would find she had been robbed and would then come to meand confide in me."
"What did she do?"
"Apparently she went aboutgetting another batch of money together."
"Did you know who was puttingthe bite on her?"
"How long had you known?"
"I knew before I married her,Mr Mason. But she didn't know I knew it and if she wanted it a secret I decidedto help her keep that secret."
"How did you know aboutit?"
"Through Judson Olney."
"What did he know?"
"He knew who she was."
"How did he know?"
"When I met Lorna in Mexico City and became interested in her, I could tellthat there was something in her past that was bothering her. She just nevertalked about her past, and I could see she was in a panic.
"At that time, Judson Olney wasmy legman. He was my secretary and did all my legwork. I told him to find outabout Lorna Neely put him on a plane and told him to get the information.
"It wasn't hard to get. On theother hand, she hadn't been implicated in anything. She had been the innocenttool of a smooth crook who had wormed his way into her confidence and hadprofited by her loyalty."
"Do you think she took thatforty-seven thousand to keep for him?"
"I never thought so until …well, until I knew that he was getting out of prison and – Well, she hadforty-seven thousand dollars in the suitcase."
"So now you think she acted ascustodian of that money for him?"
"I don't know."
"Does it make any difference inthe way you feel toward her?"
"All right. Now tell me whathappened," Mason said, "and remember to keep your voice low, put yourmouth close to my ear and mumble."
"Gideon was making aclean-up," Warren said. "I suppose he telephoned Lorna. He telephoned Judson Olney.He telephoned me. He put the bite on everyone. He said he was leaving and heneeded cash money."
"Why Olney?" Mason asked.
"Olney is very loyal to myinterests. He didn't know all that was going on but he was terribly afraid thatGideon was going to blackmail Lorna and the story might come out. Gideon put avery gentle touch on him, just twenty-five hundred dollars."
"How much on you?"
"He wanted me to get tenthousand in cash and bring it to him."
"He told you who he was?"
"Did he tell you of hisconnection with your wife?"
"He told me the whole thingover the telephone. The man was fiendish, Mason."
"Then it's logical to assume hetelephoned your wife."
"I presume so."
"And she went out there withmoney?"
"I don't know."
"Did Olney go out there withmoney?"
"Olney was raising themoney"
"Did Olney say anything toyou?"
"Not at first. He was trying toraise the money The cashier told me that Olney wanted an advance. I called himin and asked him what was the matter and finally I became convinced it wasblackmail, and knowing what Gideon had been up to I faced Olney He thenadmitted that it was true, that he was trying to protect Lorna and protect me.The man has that much loyalty."
"You trust him?" Masonasked. "You think it's simply loyalty?"
"I think it's simplyloyalty." "What did you tell him?"
"I told him to forget it, thatI'd take care of it, and I went down there."
"Did you have the money?"Mason asked.
"No, I didn't have the money. Iknew that if I once started paying him there'd be no end to it."
"In dealing with ablackmailer," Mason said, "you either submit to his demands, you callin the police, or you kill him. Now then, you weren't going to pay his demands.Did you make up your mind you were going to kill him?"
"No, Mr Mason, I didn't. Idecided to take the second choice. I decided to tell him that if he made anyother demand I was going to go to the police, tell them the whole story, accusehim of blackmailing and put him back in prison."
"And what did he say when you putthat up to him?" Mason asked.
"He never had a chance. He wasdead when I got there."
Mason raised his eyebrows.
"I know it soundsstrange," Warren said, "but he was dead. Someone had killed him."
"Do you know how?"
"I assume with a revolver. Therewas a revolver there on the table."
"The police found it?"Mason asked.
Warren lowered his eyes.
"Well?" Mason asked.
"I lost my head, Mason."
"What the devil!" Masonsaid. "Come clean. What happened?"
"The man was lying there dead.He had evidently been living there for some time. It was a secret hideout.There were cases of canned goods and a little alcohol stove, a table, a boxfilled with empty tin cans, and, as I say, there was this gun on the table."
"Don't tell me you touched thatgun," Mason said.
"I did worse than that," Warren said. "When I arrived at the warehouseI found a door open. I walked in. At first I didn't see anyone. I saw this gunon the table and I picked it up. I hadn't armed myself before going there, butI felt that it would be a good plan to disarm my adversary So I put the gun inmy pocket." "Then what?"
"Then I walked around behind abox of canned goods and saw Gideon lying there on the floor and at that momentsirens seemed to explode all over the place. Naturally I thought it was thepolice. Actually it was the fire department. I lost my head, turned and ran,and tried to conceal myself in the warehouse. They found me."
Mason said, "Damn it, Warren, quit lying to me! You're not thatsimple."
"I'm telling you thefacts."
"No, you're not," Masonsaid. "You're telling me the story. You thought Loma had killed him,didn't you?"
"I… I've told you whathappened."
"No, you haven't. There wassomething there that made you think Loma had killed him. What was it?"
Warren hesitated, then said, "I saw Lorna'scar as I turned down Clovina Avenue."
"Did she see you?"
"How far was that from thescene of the crime?"
"Five or six blocks."
"Anything else?" Masonasked.
"One of Lorna's gloves was onthe floor, right by the table."
"Which one, left orright?"
"I don't know."
"How do you know it wasLorna's?"
"It was a very unusual shadefor suede."
"And what did you do with it?"Mason asked.
"I picked it up, picked up thegun, shoved the gun in my pocket and flushed the glove down the toilet. It wasthen I heard the sirens. I was cut off. There was no escape. My car was parkedin the alley. He had told me to come to the side door of the alley and go inthe back part of the storeroom."
"You going to tell your storyand disclose Gideon's connection with your wife?" Mason asked.
"I am not. I am going to keeptight-lipped."
"What did you do with thegun?"
"I'm a big clumsy boob, MrMason. I had it in my pocket."
"You mean you kept it toprotect your wife. You wanted to take the rap for her. Is it your gun?"
"Yes. I bought it. It'sregistered in my name."
Mason said, "All right. Don'ttell anybody anything. Tell them that you are innocent of the murder, that youwill tell the whole story when you are on the witness stand and not before.Don't give anyone so much as the time of day."
"What about Lorna? What willshe say?"
"You leave Lorna to me,"Mason said. "This is one hell of a murder case. They've got you boxed in.If they can find out anything about Lorna, they'll use that for motivation.What about Judson Olney, can you count on him to keep quiet?"
"I don't know, I hope so."
"I sure as hell hope so,"Mason said. "But if the police start sweating him he'll crack and the fatwill be in the fire."
Mason didn't spare the time to gethis car out of the parking lot. He hailed a taxicab, jumped in and said,"Get me to 2420 Bridamoore just as fast as you can make it."
"Hang on," the driversaid. "I'll get you there fast."
"All right," Mason toldhim. "It's an emergency. There's a twenty-dollar tip for scaring me halfto death."
The driver grinned, concentrated ontraffic, whipping his car through every opening, racing for the signals.
As they turned into Bridamoore,Mason heaved a sigh of relief as he saw Della Street's car parked in front of the building butno police cars.
The lawyer tossed the taxi driver atwenty and a ten, said, "Keep the change. It was worth it. Thanks,"and dashed for the house.
"Want me to wait?" thedriver asked.
Mason waved his hand in a gesture ofdismissal, tried the front door. It was open. The lawyer walked in."Hello, Della!" he called. "This way Chief," he heardDella's voice saying. Mason ran through the reception hall, across theliving-room into a den.
Della Street was seated, with a tearful Lorna Warrenregarding her hopelessly.
"Look," Mason said."Look and listen. We haven't much time. Now, get this straight. Yourhusband has been arrested for the murder of Collister Gideon. They may not beable to make a case if he doesn't say anything and you don't say anything.They're going to have to prove motivation. Now, you're going to have to tell afib. You're going to have to tell the officers that your husband asked you notto talk about anything, that it was absurd to think that he would be chargedwith murder, and that your best course was that of dignified silence.
"If the officers can ever provethat you knew Gideon, or ever worked with him, they'll have a motivation and -"
"Don't I have to answerquestions?"
"You can't testify against yourhusband," Mason said. "Tell them, that after they turn your husbandloose you'll talk, but that while your husband is in custody you're not goingto tell them one word."
"To think," she saidtearfully "that I thought this Gideon was such a gentleman … Mr Mason,the man turned out to be a monster … At one time he had me completelyhypnotized. I thought he was one of the most wonderful men in the world, one ofthe most wonderful thinkers, a shrewd businessman, a gentleman, an idealist, a- "
"Save it," Mason said, asthe doorbell rang. "That'll be Lieutenant Tragg. Remember now, if theyever get any suspicion of the truth, they'll prove motivation. I don't wantthat to happen. If they ask to take your fingerprints, tell them you'll do itwith my consent. Now, tell me, was he dead when you were there, or alive?"
"He was alive and terriblyobnoxious."
"Did you take him forty-seventhousand dollars?"
"I took him five thousanddollars, which was all I could raise at the time."
"Did you take custody of theforty-seven thousand or – Hold it, hold it!" Mason said. "Here'sTragg now."
Tragg said, "The front door wasunlocked so I came on in. Well hello, everybody How are you, Mason? I ratherexpected to find you here. Rather fast work. I take it this is MrsWarren?"
"That's right," Masonsaid. "This is Mrs Horace Warren. And for your information, Lieutenant, aslong as her husband is in custody she doesn't have a word to say toofficers."
"Because," Mason said,"you wouldn't be interested in anything that was in favour of thedefendant and under the law she can't testify to anything against him."
"Tut-tut-tut," Tragg said."That's quite a technicality. You know as well as I do, Mason, that we'rejust investigating the crime at this stage of the proceedings. If she can tellus anything in her husband's favour, we'll not only believe it but we'll act onit."
"She doesn't know athing," Mason said
"Well," Tragg said,"we could question her here and excuse you and Della Street, or we can take her to the districtattorney's office."
"You can't take her anywherewithout a warrant," Mason said, "and you can't force me toleave."
Tragg's eyes narrowed. "Onewould almost think that she knows something," he said.
"She knows how foolish you areto be trying to work up a case against her husband," Mason said. "Ihave just told her that her husband was arrested and charged with murder."
"Oh, leave it to you,"Tragg said. "You'd tell her all right. You must have broken all speed lawsgetting here. We moved right along. I just had to have a few words with HoraceWarren alter you left him, to see if he was going to make any statements, and Ihad some chores to do at the scene of the crime.
"It would be a lot better forboth Mr and Mrs Warren if they'd make a frank statement. I'm free to tell you,Mason, that as a veteran homicide investigator, they don't impress me as beingthe type that would be mixed up with murder… Tell me, Mrs Warren, have youbeen in the vicinity of Clovina and Hendersell Streets today?"
"She's making no comment,"Mason said. "Mrs Warren, I instruct you to say 'no comment' to anyquestion that Lieutenant Tragg may ask you."
"Well now," Tragg said,"that looks very much as though she had been down there. That complicatesthe situation somewhat."
"No comment," Mrs Warrensaid.
Tragg looked at her. "You're anapt pupil."
"Aren't you interested insaving your husband the publicity and the humiliation of being a defendant in amurder case?"
Tragg frowned and got to his feet."All right, Mason," he said. "You win this round. This is onlythe opening part of the fight. We're feeling each other out. Later on I thinkyou'll be on the ropes, fighting to keep on your feet. I think you're mixed inthis pretty much yourself."
"No comment," Mason said.
Paul Drake was waiting in Mason'soffice when the lawyer and Della returned.
Mason said, "For yourinformation, Paul, Collister Gideon was murdered. Horace Warren has beencharged with the crime. Neither Warren nor his wife is making anystatement."
"I know, I know," Drakesaid. "That's your news. Wait until you hear mine."
"What's yours?" Masonasked.
"The artist that I had make thephoney composite picture of Collister Gideon was up at headquarters. He showedthe picture we had him make to someone on the homicide squad to see if itchecked with anything they had.
"They were just fresh frominvestigating the Gideon murder and recognized the picture right away as asketch of Gideon, so they wanted to know what had happened and who the artisthad made it for, and why, and he referred them to me and I mean the police camedown on me hard."
"You didn't do anythingillegal," Mason said.
"The hell I didn't," Drakesaid. "There's a law about tampering with witnesses."
"What witnesses did you tamperwith?" Mason asked.
"You know damned well how Itampered with them," Drake said. "I took the sketch along and triedto get the witnesses to describe the man in the sketch as having the samegeneral appearance as that of the man they had seen running out of the place.The artist said he was under instructions to duplicate a picture of Gideon.
"This is too big for me to takeby myself, Perry. They suspected what had happened anyway, so I finally toldthem I was acting under orders and that you had given the orders."
"So what do they intend todo?" Mason asked.
"They intend to raise hell withyou for lousing up a robbery case.
"They think that you weretrying to protect a client, that you're representing the man who held up thesupermarket and shot the watchman and that he hasn't been apprehended as yet,but that you're getting in and trying to confuse the witnesses. HamiltonBurger, the district attorney, is going to send for you and put you on thecarpet. And he's going to release to the press exactly what happened."
"Let him release," Masonsaid. "I acted within my rights as a citizen. I wanted to know who held upthat supermarket."
"Why?" Drake asked.
"That's none of their damnedbusiness," Mason said. "I don't have to account to them for myactions. I'm a licensed attorney at law I can investigate any crime I damnedplease and do anything I want to, to protect the interests of my clients, justso I keep within the law … And I sure as hell am going to protect my clientsas long as I have any breath and pulse."
"You tried to influence thosepeople in making an identification."
"The police do that a dozentimes every twenty-four hours," Mason said. "They get a favouritesuspect in a particular case, or they work with a mug shot and they force anidentification. They said, 'Look at this picture, look at it good. Look at thismug shot. Now remember the man who held you up. Now look at this sketch by theartist. Doesn't that resemble the man? Think carefully now, because if youdon't answer this question right a guilty man may go free to commit othercrimes.'
"Don't tell me that it's acrime to ask a witness to identify a picture, because if it is every policeofficer in the country will be in jail."
"Well, I'm just letting youknow," Drake said, "because – "
The telephone rang several short,sharp rings, Gertie's signal that there was some emergency in the outer office.
The office door opened and a youngman entered, saying, "I'm Tarlton Ladd. I'm an investigator for thedistrict attorney's office. Here are my credentials if you care to checkthem."
"Okay," Mason said,"you're an investigator for the DA. What do you want?"
"The district attorney wants tointerrogate you on a matter which may lead to the institution of criminalproceedings."
"When does he want tointerrogate me?"
"And if I don't choose togo?"
"Then I have a subpoenaordering you to appear before the grand jury tomorrow at ten o'clock."
Mason thought things over for amoment, then said, "Okay, I'll go." Mason turned to Della Street. "You mind the store until I get back,Della."
Mason's last view of his officebefore the door clicked shut showed Della Street and Paul Drake standing silent withapprehensive faces.
Hamilton Burger, the districtattorney, said, "This is in the nature of a formal hearing for the purposeof making a criminal complaint if the evidence indicates a crime has beencommitted, or preferring charges before the disciplinary division of the Bar Association,or both.
"Mr Mason, you are acquaintedwith Sergeant Holcomb of the police department and this is Drummond Dixon, anartist, and Drew Kearny. The other gentleman is Parley Fulton, a privatedetective employed on occasion by the Drake Detective Agency and we have here acourt reporter who is taking down the proceedings."
"Will I have a right to askquestions?" Mason asked.
"This is not a court hearing.We are trying to determine whether there is ground for taking action."
"Are you afraid to have thesewitnesses interrogated except by one side?"
"I'm not afraid of anything oranyone in connection with an investigation of this sort."
"Very well, then I want to havethe right to ask questions."
"I see no reason for you to begiven an opportunity to cross-examine these witnesses."
"Then I'll get up and walkout," Mason said. "If you're going to conduct a star-chamber sessionand try to influence witnesses to testify your way, I'm not going to haveanything to do with it."
"I'm not trying to influencewitnesses and you know it," Hamilton Burger said angrily "You've beenguilty of some rather sharp practices at times."
"Sharp but legal," Masonsaid. "When I represent a client I try to represent him."
"Well, there's no use havingall this bickering," Hamilton Burger said. "We'll proceed with thehearing and if you want to ask questions, you may ask them, but if thequestions are not within the bounds of propriety I will advise the witness notto answer them."
"At which stage I'll get up andwalk out," Mason said.
"Whereupon you'll be broughtbefore the grand jury," Hamilton Burger warned.
"At which time I'll tell myside of the story, that you were having a star-chamber session, that I waswilling to be present and answer questions but I wanted to have the matterfairly presented and to that end insisted on my right to ask questions."
"We'll start with ParleyFulton," Burger said. "What's your occupation, Mr Fulton?"
"I'm a private detective."
"Early this month were youemployed by anyone in such capacity?"
"That's the head of DrakeDetective Agency?"
"And what were you ordered todo by Mr Drake?"
"I was given a photograph andtold to have Mr Dixon, whom I knew, practice making sketches from thatphotograph so that he could make a likeness in crayon."
"And what else were you told todo?"
"I was told to hunt up theeyewitnesses of the hold-up at the Pacific and Northern Supermarket, thewounded watchman and Mr Kearny here, and tell them I was investigating thecrime which had taken place there, involving the attempted murder of thewatchman. I was to ask them to give me a general description of what thehold-up man had looked like. That was on the morning of the fourth.
"I was instructed to take thesketch made by my friend, Drummond Dixon, submit it to the witnesses and askthem if that didn't look like the man they had seen."
"What was the name of the manwhose photograph you were given?"
"Do you know what has happenedto Collister Gideon?"
"Yes, I do now. He was killedearlier today."
"Did you know anything aboutthe background of Gideon?"
"I knew that he had beenconvicted of a crime. I knew that the photograph from which we made up ourspurious, synthetic 'composite' sketch was a police photograph."
"All right, what did youdo?"
"I carried out myinstructions."
"Were you present when Mr Dixonmade the sketch?"
"Is this a copy of thesketch?"
"And you showed this to thewitnesses?"
"And, in accordance with yourinstructions, did everything you could to get the witnesses to state that thatwas a reasonable likeness of the man they had seen who held up the Pacific andNorthern Supermarket shortly after midnight on the night Steven Hooks waswounded?"
"Are you familiar with theprovisions of the Penal Code that any person who attempts fraudulently toinduce any person to give false testimony is guilty of a felony?"
"And that every person whoknowingly makes or exhibits any false writing or document to any witness withintent to affect the testimony of such witness is guilty of a crime?"
"Yet your instructions were toget these two witnesses to identify the sketch of Collister Gideon as that ofthe man the watchman had seen, and the one Kearny had seen running from thesupermarket?"
"If they would, yes, sir."
"I think that covers it,"Hamilton Burger said.
"Just a moment," Masonsaid. "I'd like to ask some questions of this witness."
"Proper questions will bepermitted," Hamilton Burger said.
Mason turned to Fulton. "Fulton," he asked, "were you instructedto bribe these witnesses?"
"To intimidate them?"
"To make any false statementsto them?"
"You were simply to show thatsketch to the witnesses and ask them if that was the man?"
"Well, it was a little morethan that. I was told to do what I could to convince the witnesses that was theman they had seen."
"But not to bribe them?"
"Not to make false statementsto them?"
"Not to intimidate them."
"That's all," Mason said.
Hamilton Burger said, "Allright, Mr Kearny, I'm going to ask you about what happened. You had aninterview with Mr Fulton, the detective who has just made a statement?"
"Yes, sir. I also had aninterview with Paul Drake and with Mr Mason, here."
"And you were asked to describethe man you had seen running from the supermarket?"
"Did you describe him?"
"Did you identify thesketch?"
"Tell me what happened?"
"Well, right away Fulton started saying to me, 'Now, that's the man,isn't it? That picture answers your description.'"
"He kept suggesting to you thatwas the man?"
"And what did you do?"
"I said it wasn't theman."
"And you went to Paul Drake'soffice?"
"He took me to Mason's office.Mason wasn't quite as bad as the others, but he tried to get me to say thisfellow in the sketch was the one I had seen running out of the building."
"Did you do it?"
"No, after a while they got mesort of confused and I said there was something familiar about the eyes, butthe mouth was all wrong.
"To tell the truth, they got meso confused I can't remember where the face I saw leaves off and this face inthe sketch begins."
"You feel your ability to be atruthful witness has been impaired?"
"That's all," HamiltonBurger said.
"Just a minute," Masonsaid. "I have some questions."
"I don't think I will permityou to examine this witness, Mr Mason," Burger said.
Kearny said, "Don't get me wrong. I don'twant to accuse anyone of any crime. I just can't be certain to what extent mymemory has been impaired by the suggestions that have been made to me, that'sall."
Hamilton Burger said, "Thereyou are. That covers the situation. The testimony of this eyewitness has beenruined as far as any successful prosecution is concerned.
"When we get the real culpritand this witness is confronted with the man who really committed the crime, hewill have to admit on cross-examination that he has previously made statementsthat would detract from his identification due to improper inducements made byPerry Mason and by persons in the employ of Mr Perry Mason."
Mason said, "In just aboutevery prosecution that you have, the witnesses first give contradictorydescriptions to the police. Then they have to back up and when they finallymake an identification it's very likely to have been the second identificationthey have made. That's why the police refer to identifications from line-ups somany times as 'tentative' identifications."
"That's neither here northere," Hamilton Burger said. "The gist of the offense, as I see it,is that the testimony of this witness has been tampered with."
"The testimony hasn't beentampered with," Mason said. "What you're trying to state is that themind of the witness has been tampered with."
"It's the same thing,"Hamilton Burger said.
"Take it into court and see ifit's the same thing," Mason said.
Hamilton Burger said, "I don'tcare to prolong this examination or add to the record."
Mason said, "The police usuallyshow a witness composite sketches and mug shots, and after they've given him anopportunity to look at a photograph of a suspect under all kinds ofcircumstances they then let him look at a line-up containing the suspect."
"That will do," HamiltonBurger said. "We're not here to discuss police methods."
"I am," Mason said.
"I am not," HamiltonBurger said, "and the hearing is terminated. As far as this office isconcerned, I think I will lodge a complaint with the authorities concerning theimproper activities of a private detective and lodge a complaint with thedisciplinary section of the Bar Association about your activities."
Mason said, "You've beenbrandishing a couple of sections of the Penal Code around, Mr DistrictAttorney. Now, if you think you've got any violation of the Penal Code you justgo ahead and issue a warrant for my arrest and bring me to trial before a jury.Then I'll cross-examine these witnesses, and you can't ask them all theseleading questions. Then we'll see how much of a case you've got."
Hamilton Burger said, "I amgoing to do that very thing."
"Go right ahead," Masoninvited.
Mason got up and stalked out of theroom.
Perry Mason sat in the living-roomat the residence at 2420 Bridamoore Avenue.
Mrs Horace Warren sat facing him.She was dry-eyed but crushed.
Mason said, "We may not havemuch time. I want you to tell me exactly what happened. I want you to tell meyour connection with Collister Gideon and tell me what happened when you wentto that abandoned storeroom. Don't leave out anything, don't spareyourself."
"This is going to killme," she said. "I can't face Horace after this comes out."
"Don't be silly," Masonsaid. "Horace has faith in you."
"He won't after this."
"He has," Mason said."He knew all about it before he married you."
Her eyes widened. "Knew aboutwhat?"
"About your trial andacquittal, about your connection with Collister Gideon."
"He knew about that?"
"For heaven's sake, how?"
"Judson Olney backtracked youand found out all about your past. When Horace knew that he was falling in lovewith you, he knew that you were concealing something in your past and he wantedto find out what it was."
"And he never told me?"
"He thought you would feelbetter if you felt the whole thing was a secret."
"You're not trying to makethings easier for me, Mr Mason?"
"I'm telling you thetruth," Mason said.
"Oh, that wonderful, wonderfulman," she said, and tears came to her eyes.
"Hold it," Mason said."You haven't time to cry, you haven't time to sympathize withyourself."
"I'm not sympathizing withmyself, I'm thinking of Horace, how wonderful he has been."
"All right," Mason said,"he's been wonderful. Now tell me the facts. That's the best way you cancooperate with him at present."
She said, "I always feltmorally obligated to Collister Gideon for forty-seven thousand dollars."
"Did you keep the money forhim?"
"What did happen?"
"He had an inkling that theauthorities might be coming down on him in a surprise raid. There wasforty-seven thousand dollars in the bank. He drew it out and put it in thesafe. He wanted me to keep it for him. I was afraid to do so. I knew that therewere certain irregularities but I looked up to Mr Gideon. I thought he was themost wonderful, wide-awake businessman, with a dynamic personality and …well, it just never occurred to me he could be crooked.
"He put the forty-seventhousand dollars in the safe and told me to take it out and hide it. I didn'tdo it. That night the office was broken into, the thieves found the combinationof the safe, and took the forty-seven thousand dollars."
"If he'd had it," Masonsaid, "the authorities would have confiscated it as being obtained byfraudulent use of the mails."
"They might have had somedifficulty proving it, but anyway I didn't follow the instructions he gave me.I was afraid to, and as a result he lost all chance of holding onto any part ofthe forty-seven thousand dollars."
"So when you knew he wasgetting out," Mason said, "you thought you would makerestitution?"
She said, "My husband has beenvery, very successful in business, and I have been saving money here and therein securities and looking forward to the day when Collister Gideon would bereleased. I wanted to go to him and say, 'I violated your instructions andbecause of that you lost any opportunity to have operating capital when you gotout. I'm going to stake you to forty-seven thousand dollars. I know that withyour talents for making money you will run this up into quite a fortune withina short time. Then you can pay me back the forty-seven thousand dollars and myhusband will never know anything about it.'"
"Go on," Mason said,"what happened?"
"I put the money in a suitcasein my closet and the money was stolen. One of the servants, probably. But Iwasn't in a position to make a complaint because that would have brought outthe whole scandal and that would have – Well, I felt Horace simply couldn'tstand to be connected with a scandal of that sort. He likes his social positionand his social life."
"All right," Mason said,"the money you had in the suitcase was stolen. Then what did you do?"
"I got together what I couldraise hastily, which amounted to only five thousand dollars."
"You heard from Gideon?"
"Yes. He telephoned me and gaveme the address of the store and told me to drive down there.
"I told him that I had somemoney for him and he said the neighbourhood was pretty rough. He asked me if Ihad a revolver and I told him I did that is, I told him my husband kept one inthe house and he said if I was bringing any large sum of money I had betterbring the gun to protect myself."
"Go on," Mason said.
"I went down there and foundthe place without any trouble. I had the gun in my handbag. I went into theabandoned store and saw Collister Gideon, f was startled at the change in him.
"I took off my right glove,opened my purse to give him the money, put the gun on the table, and – Well, Idon't know, Mr Mason, whether he had changed or whether had begun to grow up.
"While I was working for him Isaw him as a dynamic, magnetic businessman with a chain-lighting mind. But as Italked with him there in the store I saw him as brazen, glib-tongued confidenceman. There wasn't an ounce of sincerity in him, and – well, he sought tocapitalize on the relationship."
"What do you mean?"
"He knew that I had looked upto him and idolized him when I was working for him and … well, he thoughtthat he could twist me around his finger and – Well, it was just one of thosethings."
"What did you do?"
She said, "Suddenly I saw thewhole thing in its real perspective. It was a disgusting situation. I simplygrabbed my handbag and dashed out of the place."
"What about the gun?"
"I left it on the table. Myright glove was on the floor, I guess. I didn't see it. To tell the truth, Iwasn't thinking. I was simply reacting. I was getting out of there as fast as Icould."
"He was alive when youleft?"
"Of course. He was very muchalive."
"Do you know what time itwas?"
"I know that he told me to bethere at quarter past two and I was there right on the dot. We talked for only a minute or two.The situation became unbearable with considerable rapidity -unbearable as faras I was concerned.
"It's difficult to keep trackof time in a situation of that sort, Mr Mason … They say he was killed withmy gun."
"Apparently so," Masonsaid, "but they haven't introduced proof of it yet, and when they do I'mgoing to have the right of cross-examination."
"But that was the only gun inthe place."
"If your husband shothim," Mason said, "he might well have been shot with your gun, butyour husband tells me he didn't shoot him."
"My husband wouldn't lie aboutsuch things."
"In a murder case many timesthings are entirely different from what they are in other cases," Masonsaid. "When a man's life is at stake he will do almost anything."
Mrs Warren blinked back the tears."Do you really mean his life is at stake?"
"Yes," Mason said.
"And its … it's myfault," she said, "I -"
Mason said, "Make up your mindto one thing, Mrs Warren. After water has run downstream and over the dam youcan't find any way on earth of getting it back upstream and over the dam thesecond time. Take things as they come. Concentrate on the present, forget thepast… You didn't give Gideon any money?"
"Not a cent."
"Did you tell him you had somemoney for him?"
"Yes. That was over the phone.I told him I had some money for him, not as much as I'd hoped to have, but allI could raise without attracting attention. I started talking and telling himhow sorry I was that I hadn't followed his instructions to get that money outof the safe and conceal it, but I pointed out that if they had found the moneyin my possession that would have been bad and – And then when I met him, MrMason I suddenly saw a look in his eye that made me think that perhaps he hadhoped he could get me so completely involved in the case with him that the jurywould have become sympathetic and acquitted both of us.
"As it was, the cases againstus were so sharply different that the jury was able to acquit me and stillconvict him, but if the cases had been mixed up a little closer – I don't know.I just suddenly lost my feeling of awed admiration for the man and saw him as atawdry performer."
Mason said, "You don't know howlong you talked."
"Just a minute or two."
"And he didn't tell youanything about what he had been doing since he got out?"
"You had only the one telephonecall from Gideon?" Mason asked.
"That's right. I hadn't heardfrom him directly from the time he was convicted and went to prison until afterhe got out and made that one phone call to me. I'll say that, he wasconsiderate of me. He didn't want any publicity to involve me."
"Sure he didn't," Masonsaid, "because he wanted to blackmail your husband."
"He wanted … what?"
"He wanted to blackmail yourhusband," Mason said. "That was one of the things he had in mind. He -"
"Oh, but he wouldn't have doneanything like that. He wouldn't have been that low."
"Don't kid yourself,"Mason said. "He came to my office and tried to get me to finance him bygetting your husband to put in money to avoid the publicity."
Her mouth sagged open. "Why …why – Well, of all things!"
"You had no idea of that?"
"All right," Mason said."You've told me about your background and about what happened when you gotinto that storeroom. Now, don't tell anyone else. Make absolutely no comment toanybody about anything."
"But it will all have to comeout now," she said. "My association with Gideon and -"
"No, it won't," Masonsaid. "Not necessarily. I'm going to put up a fight. I'm forcing the stateto an immediate preliminary examination and we'll see just how much of a casethey've got against your husband."
"I'm afraid it's a perfectlydevastating case," she said, "even if they don't know everythingabout the background."
"They won't necessarily try toprove motivation at a preliminary hearing," Mason said. "Where didyou get the gun?"
"My husband got it."
"He bought it several yearsago."
"From a friend or from afirearms dealer?"
"I believe from a firearmsdealer. He wanted a gun to keep in the house."
"All right," Mason said,"we'll do the best we can. You sit tight and make absolutely no commentabout anything. As far as possible adopt the position that you are tooprostrated to submit to interviews. Don't let any newspapermen in the house,don't answer the telephone yourself, and if you should be cornered by anyperson who wants an interview, don't let that person trap you into making anystatement of any sort other than the two words 'no comment'. Use those wordswhenever you open your mouth. Think you can do that?"
"Yes, of course."
"It's not going to be as easyas you think," Mason said. "They'll suddenly throw questions at youor make definite assertions of things that aren't true and try to catch you bysurprise. Simply remember and say 'no comment' and keep saying 'no comment'. Inthat way you can help your husband. Otherwise you may inadvertently hurthim."
"I'll try," she said.
Judge Romney Saxton took hisposition on the bench and said, "The case of the People of the State of California versus Horace Warren. This is a preliminaryexamination for murder. Is the case ready to be heard?"
"Ready for the defence,"Perry Mason said.
Hamilton Burger got to his feet."If the Court please, in announcing that we are ready for the prosecutionI wish to state . that my trial deputy, Alpheus Randolph, will assist me inpresenting the case.
"I am aware that an openingstatement is not usually made in connection with a preliminary hearing. I amalso aware my personal appearance in a preliminary examination is highlyunusual, but this is an unusual case. Because of the peculiar circumstancessurrounding this hearing, I desire to make a statement to the Court so that theCourt will understand the purpose of the evidence we are introducing and how itfits into an overall pattern.
"We have, for instance, beenunable to find a motivation for murder in the evidence in this case except byimplication and by circumstantial evidence.
"We propose to introduce thatcircumstantial evidence and let the Court draw its own conclusions.
"We shall be able to show thaton the night of the third of this month an attempted murder was committed inconnection with the hold-up of the main branch of the Pacific NorthernSupermarket in this city There were two witnesses who saw the murderer.
"Mr Perry Mason, who is theattorney for the defendant in this case, employed an artist to make a sketch ofthe decedent this was done in advance of any interview with those witnesses andbefore hearing any description given by those witnesses.
"The circumstantial evidenceindicated conclusively that Mr Mason intended to use this to exert pressure tobear on the decedent, Collister Gideon.
"Gideon had been convicted of afelony previously and had but recently been released from the federal prison.Knowing that a person of Mr Mason's influence was intending to frame anattempted murder charge on him, he could conceivably have been expected topanic."
"Now, just a minute,"Judge Saxton interrupted. "This is a serious charge. Are you intimatingthat Mr Mason was framing an attempted murder case on the decedent?"
"That is what I said, YourHonour."
"And that he tampered with thetestimony of witnesses?"
"That is my charge and I expectto prove it by way of motivation."
"That is a most seriouscharge," Judge Saxton said.
"The proof will substantiatethe charge," Hamilton Burger asserted.
Judge Saxton's mouth set in a grimline. "Very well," he said. "Proceed with your statement."
"We will prove," HamiltonBurger went on, "that the decedent, Collister Gideon, was killed by athirty-eight calibre revolver which was found in the possession of thedefendant, that the defendant was found hiding at the scene of the murder. Onthe strength of that evidence we will ask for an order binding the defendantover to the Superior Court for trial."
"Very well," Judge Saxtonsaid. "Does the defence wish to make an opening statement?"
Perry Mason gpt to his feet."The defence wishes to make this statement The defendant is presumedinnocent until he is proven guilty. I am presumed innocent until I have beenproven guilty.
"The defence would like to havethe Court keep in mind that any suggestion made to a witness is not necessarilyan unlawful attempt to get a witness to falsify his testimony."
"I don't think you need toworry abut this Court understanding the fundamentals of criminal law, Mr.Mason. The People will proceed."
Hamilton Burger said, "If theCourt please, under the unusual circumstances of this case, I am going to callMr Drew Kearny as my first witness because I want to lay the foundation forshowing the motivation in this case."
"Do I understand Mr Kearny's testimonygoes to motivation?"
"Yes, Your Honour."
"In what way?"
"We propose to show that thedefendant, through his attorney, Perry Mason, was trying to frame an attemptedmurder charge on Collister Gideon, the decedent in this case."
"The Court is very muchinterested in that evidence," Judge Saxton said. "Mr Drew Kearny willcome forward and be sworn."
Kearny came forward, held up his right hand, wassworn, gave his name, address, his occupation.
"You have a store in thiscity?"
"A small store, yes sir. I havea store and shop combined. I do electrical repair work and sell some electricalgoods."
"Now, do you have occasion toremember the third of this month?"
"I do, yes, sir."
"Where were you on thatdate?"
"Well, actually it was just afew minutes past midnight so I suppose technically it was on the morning of thefourth," Kearny said. "I had been to a late movie and was walkinghome."
"Are you familiar with thelocation of the Pacific Northern Supermarket at 1026 Haliston Avenue?"
"I am, yes, sir."
"Did your route take you pastthat supermarket?"
"It did. Yes, sir."
"While you were there didanything unusual happen?"
"The front door of the marketopened, a man came running out and almost collided with me."
"Then what happened?"
"This man held a revolver inhis hand. He put the revolver in front of me and told me to put up myhands."
"What did you do?"
"I put up my hands."
"Did the man make any otherstatements?"
"I had assumed it was a hold-upand -"
"Never mind what you hadassumed. The question is Did the man make any other statements?"
"What did he say?"
"He said, 'Keep them up.'"
"Then what did he do?"
"He started backing away fromme, moving rather rapidly backwards until he was nearly two-thirds of the wayacross the street. Then he suddenly turned and ran as fast as he could down thealley."
"What did you do?"
"I tried the door of the store.It was locked. There was a spring lock on the inside, but I sensed somethingwas wrong and I started for a telephone. I wanted to get there as fast as Icould and notify the police."
"You were familiar with theneighbourhood?"
"Did you know where the nearesttelephone was located?"
"Well now, I'm not certain thatit was the nearest telephone but I knew there was a telephone booth at aservice station about three blocks down the street, so I started running."
"How fast were yourunning?"
The witness grinned. "As fastas I could at the start, but I slowed down pretty quick. I used to do somesprinting but I found out I was pretty badly out of shape. I slowed down to ajog-trot after a couple of blocks and then I heard the siren and saw the redlight of this police car coming, so I ran out in the middle of the street,waved my hands and flagged it down."
"All right, we'll pass up whathappened after that for the moment," Burger said, "and go on to whathappened later on."
"Well, you mean about thesketch?"
"Well, a man whose name wasParley Fulton came to call on me. He had a sketch, a pencil sketch, and heshowed it to me and asked me if that was the man I had seen … Well now, waita minute. There was some conversation before that. First he asked me generallyto describe the man I'd seen. He told me he was a private detective and showedme his credentials, and then he showed me this sketch and asked me if thatwasn't a picture of the man I had seen and if the physical description wasn't amatch."
"What did you tell him?"
"I looked at the sketch andtold him no, that wasn't the man."
"Then what happened?"
"Well, he became ratherinsistent. He told me that there was no question about it, that was the manthat the night watchman had said it was a perfect likeness."
"Then what happened?"
"Well, I told him I didn'tthink so, but I got worrying about it, thinking about it. Frankly it botheredme a lot. I'd been held up before and I didn't want -"
"Now, never mind that. Nevermind your thoughts or your background," Hamilton Burger interrupted."Just what did you do?"
"Well, I went to the office ofPaul Drake, the detective who employed Parley Fulton, and I asked him if Icould see that sketch again. Well, he put .through a telephone call to Mr Masonand asked him -"
"Now, just a minute,"Hamilton Burger interrupted, "when you say Mr Mason, you mean Mr PerryMason, the attorney representing the defence in this case?"
"That's the one. Yes,sir."
"And what happened?"
"Well, he called Mr Mason, andMason had us come down to his office and when we got down there Mason talkedwith me himself."
"And what was the tenor ofMason's conversation?"
"Objected to as calling for aconclusion of the witness," Mason said.
"Sustained," Judge Saxtonsnapped.
"Well, what did Mason say toyou?"
"Well, I can't remember allthat he said, but I remember he showed me the picture and I told him that theman I had seen was older and heavier and taller, and he told me that experienceshowed that under such circumstances witnesses almost invariably described theman as being older and heavier and taller and more powerfully built than theactual criminal."
"In other words, he was tryingto get you to identify this sketch?"
"Just a moment, YourHonour," Mason said. "I object to the question as leading andsuggestive, and calling for a conclusion of the witness."
"Sustained," Judge Saxtonsaid. "Mr District Attorney, in a matter of this importance kindly refrainfrom asking leading questions."
"Well, I think it was obviouswhat was happening," Hamilton Burger said. "I was simply trying tosummarize the situation."
"Just let the evidence come inby question and answer," Judge Saxton said, "and there will be noneed to summarize the situation."
"At any time did Mr Mason askyou to identify this sketch?"
"Well, I can't remember exactlythat he said those exact words. I know what he was trying to get me to do, but -"
"Move to strike out the answeras not being responsive to the question," Mason interposed.
"Did Mi Mason at any time askyou to identify this sketch?"
"I thought he did. I wascertain that's what he was trying to get me to do."
"Move to strike out the answeras not being responsive and being a conclusion of the witness," Masonsaid.
"Well," Hamilton Burgersaid, "getting back to your own mind now. Did your conversation with Masonraise any doubt in your mind as to the identity of the man you had seen?"
"In what way?"
"Well, I thought I knew whatthe man looked like pretty well, but after I'd seen that sketch half a dozentimes and after they'd talked with me about it, I began to get a littledubious."
"Did you say anything to MrMason which indicated such was the case?"
"I told him that there wassomething wrong with the picture of the fellow's mouth but the eyes werebeginning to look a little familiar. They looked like somebody I had seensomewhere."
"And what did Mr Mason say withreference, to that statement?"
"He seemed quitegratified."
"Never mind what heseemed" Hamilton Burger said. "I'm asking you what he said."
"Well, he told me that it wasvery important to get the right man and that I was to search my recollectionand do the best I could."
Hamilton Burger looked at PerryMason. "We can stipulate that that sketch was one of Collister Gideon, MrMason?"
"We can stipulate nothing ofthe sort," Mason said. "If you want to prove your case, go ahead andprove it."
"If I have to, I can put theartist on the stand and show that he made the sketch from a picture ofCollister Gideon and that in doing so he was acting under instructions."
"And how are you going to showthat was the same sketch that was exhibited to his witness?"
"Oh," Hamilton Burger saidirritably, "if you want to drag this thing out in a last-ditch fight, goahead. Actually I have a photographic copy of the original sketch made by theartist in my office."
"That's not the one that wasshown to the witness here," Mason said.
Judge Saxton said, "Well, I canappreciate, in a matter of this importance, counsel wants to protect hisrights. Why don't you excuse this witness, get the artist to produce a copy ofthe sketch and bring it here this afternoon?"
"I'll do that," HamiltonBurger said, "but I'd like to tie up the testimony of the witness."
He turned to Kearny "Did yousubsequently see a photograph of Collister Gideon?"
"And was this sketch that MrMason's detective, Parley Fulton, showed you a likeness of CollisterGideon?"
"Just a moment," Masonsaid. "Let's get this thing in its proper sequence. That question callsfor a conclusion of the witness, and furthermore you can't ask that questionunless you can first show how he knows the picture he saw was that of CollisterGideon. If his knowledge was based on hearsay statements, you cannot connectthe picture up in that way"
Hamilton Burger made a gesture ofsurrender. "All right," he said, "all right, all right. If theCourt please, I ask to withdraw this witness until this afternoon andsubstitute Lieutenant Tragg."
"Just a moment," JudgeSaxton said. "The Court would like to ask this witness a fewquestions."
Kearny looked up at Judge Saxton.
"You were interrogated by thepolice about what you had seen on the night of the third and the early morningof the fourth?"
"And I suppose that by the timethe morning papers came out you knew the nature of the crime that had beencommitted?"
"Yes, Your Honour."
"And you read thosepapers?"
"In other words," JudgeSaxton said, "you didn't get very much sleep that night."
"I didn't get to bed untilabout three-thirty"
"And then this detective showedyou this picture?"
"Did he say anything about thepicture when he showed it to you?"
"I think he said that it was acomposite sketch made by a police artist."
Judge Saxton's face was grim."I think," he said, "we'll let this witness go until thisafternoon and you may call your next witness."
"We call LieutenantTragg," Hamilton Burger said.
Tragg came forward and was sworn,testified as to his name, address, occupation, and the fact that he had been apolice lieutenant in the department of homicide for some years.
"On the fourth of this monthdid you have occasion to go to a deserted storeroom at the corner of ClovinaAvenue and Hendersell in this city?"
"What was the occasion of yourmaking such a trip?"
"Someone had turned in a firealarm. There had been no fire, but the fire department had found a body in thebuilding and had reported accordingly, and as a result I made a trip."
"What did you find?"
"I found the body of a man whomwe subsequently identified as Collister D Gideon, dead apparently from agunshot wound, in a section of the storeroom which had evidently been fitted upas surreptitious living quarters. There were cases of canned goods, cookingutensils, a small solid-fuel stove, pans, and eating utensils. There weretowels, soap, and other housekeeping facilities."
"Was water on in thebuilding?"
"Yes, sir. Water was on in thebuilding. It was connected to a large sink and also to a toilet."
"What else can you tell usabout this building?"
"In back of the storeroom andas a part of the property, was a fairly large warehouse building."
"Was this filled withmerchandise?"
"No, sir. Not with merchandise,but there was a large number of empty cardboard cartons, some of them quite large.These had not been hauled away but were stacked in several piles in thewarehouse."
"And did you search thiswarehouse?"
"What did you find?"
"We found the defendant hidingbehind one of the piles of cartons. He was carrying a revolver in his hippocket."
"Did he state what he was doingthere?"
"He stated that he had beentrapped by the fire apparatus, that he had heard the sirens and mistaken themfor the police and had secreted himself and been unable to get out of thebuilding before we found him."
"Did he make any furtherstatement as to what he was doing there?"
"No, sir. At about that time MrPerry Mason, his attorney, advised him to answer all statements with the words,'No comment.'"
"Did he make any furtherstatements after that?"
"Only the words, Wocomment.'"
"Did you establish theownership of the revolver?"
"Yes, sir. The revolver waspurchased by the defendant himself. I have here a certified copy of thepurchase sheet from the firearms register."
"May I have it, please?"
Lt Tragg handed the sheet toHamilton Burger.
"We ask that this be introducedin evidence," Hamilton Burger said.
"No objection," Masonsaid, "provided it is established that this is the weapon which fired thefatal bullet."
"We expect to establishthat," Hamilton Burger said.
"I want it established beforeany evidence about the weapon is received," Mason said. "We areentitled to have the case presented in proper order. If this weapon did notfire the fatal shot, then any evidence concerning it is incompetent, irrelevantand immaterial."
"If that is the position takenby defence counsel," Hamilton Burger said, "I would like to withdrawthis witness temporarily from the stand and ask Alexander Redfield, the countyfirearms expert, to take the stand."
"No objection," Masonsaid. "In fact that is, I believe, the proper procedure."
Alexander Redfield took the stand,listed his professional qualifications, and then turned to Hamilton Burgerexpectantly.
"I show you a Smith and Wessonrevolver which has previously been marked for identification," HamiltonBurger said, "and ask you if you have fired test bullets from thatrevolver."
"I ask you whether you werepresent at an autopsy when the fatal bullet was recovered from the body ofCollister Gideon."
"What happened to thatbullet?"
"I took charge of it."
"Where is it now?"
"I have it."
"Will you give it to me,please?"
Redfield handed over the bullet.
"You are prepared to state thisis the bullet which was removed from the body of Collister Gideon in yourpresence?"
"I ask that it be introduced inevidence," Hamilton Burger said.
Mason said, "May I see it,please?"
He walked over, and stood for sometime studying the bullet, then he said, "No objection, Your Honour. It maybe received in evidence."
"Now, then," HamiltonBurger said, "I will ask you, Mr Redfield, if in your opinion as an experton firearms, this fatal bullet was fired from this weapon which I now hold inmy hand, this Smith and Wesson revolver."
Redfield shifted his positionslightly. "I have carefully examined the fatal bullet and compared it withthe test bullets fired from this weapon. I have found many points ofsimilarity"
"Predicating your answer uponyour experience in the field and your knowledge of the science of ballistics,would you say that this fatal bullet was fired from this gun marked foridentification, People's Exhibit B?"
"I would say that in all humanprobability, considering all the factors, the fatal bullet had been fired fromthat gun."
"Have you been able to find anyindications in your microscopic examination of the fatal bullet which indicateit had not been fired from the gun, People's Exhibit B?"
"Cross-examine," Burgersaid, triumphantly.
Mason walked up to face Redfield,who again shifted his position slightly
"Mr Redfield," Mason said,"I have the highest regard for your qualifications and your integrity."
"Thank you, sir."
"I have had you as a witness inmany cases, and I have had the opportunity to cross-examine you onoccasion."
"But I have never heard youmake quite those answers," Mason said. "You state that you have notbeen able to find any indication that the fatal bullet was not fired from thegun, People's Exhibit B. You state that you found several marks of similarityand you state that in all human probability in your opinion considering all thefactors, the bullet was fired from that gun."
"Now, those are very peculiaranswers. Somewhat different from the answers you ordinarily make. Have you-carefully rehearsed those answers?"
"Well…" Redfield said,and hesitated.
"Go ahead," Mason said,"you're under oath."
"In all my cases,"Redfield said, "since I am in the employ of the police department, I findit necessary to discuss what my testimony is going to be. That is, I make areport and then I'm usually questioned on that report."
"I understand," Masonsaid. "My question in this case was whether or not your answers had beenvery carefully rehearsed."
"Well, I discussed the matterwith the district attorney and told him what I could swear to and what Icouldn't swear to."
"I'm asking you," Masonsaid, "if those answers were very carefully rehearsed."
"Well, I told the districtattorney what my answers would be."
"And he suggested certain changeswhich you could, in good faith, make?"
"Changes in the wording?"
"In the wording, yes."
"And wasn't the finalsuggestion made by the district attorney that he would ask you if, consideringall the circumstances, you consider that in all human probability, the fatalbullet had been fired from that gun?"
"Well, yes, he did suggestthat, I believe."
"This fatal bullet," Masonsaid, "is pretty badly flattened?"
"You can see the marks of whatare known as the class characteristics on it?"
"Those class characteristicsrelate to calibre, pitch of the lands and number of the lands?"
"In other words, any bulletfired from a Smith and Wesson revolver made during the year when this gun wasmade would have those same class characteristics?"
"Now the individualcharacteristics, the striations are much more difficult to trace on this fatalbullet than is ordinarily the case?"
"That is right."
"Now, when you state that whenyou consider all the circumstances you consider that in all human probabilitythe fatal bullet was fired from that revolver, Peoples Exhibit B, you aretaking into consideration certain circumstances which are not entirely withinthe province of a ballistics expert."
"Well, that depends on what youmean."
"You are taking intoconsideration certain non-technical factors?"
"Well, I suppose so, yes."
"You are taking intoconsideration the fact that the gun was found in the possession of a man whowas hiding near the scene of the murder?"
"Yes, sir, I am."
"In other words, if this gun,People's Exhibit B, had come to you cold – that is, if it had been picked up ina pawn shop somewhere and the district attorney had said to you, 'Can youpositively swear as a matter of ballistics evidence that this fatal bullet wasfired from this gun?' – what would your answer be?"
Redfield hesitated, fidgeted, lookedat the district attorney, said, "Well, under those circumstances, I wouldhave to state that while it was apparent the bullet had been fired from a gunof the same make, I couldn't swear positively, basing my testimony solely onthe science of ballistics, that the fatal bullet had been fired from thisgun."
"And," Mason said,"now if you leave out certain circumstances which influence your opinionsimply as a layman and predicate your testimony entirely on what you have foundas an expert, you are again forced to admit that you can't tell positively thatthis fatal bullet was fired from this gun."
"That is right, yes, sir."
"That's all," Mason said.
"Now, as I understand it, ifthe Court please, Lieutenant Tragg was on the stand and I am to have anopportunity to cross-examine him."
"If the district attorney isfinished."
"I have no furtherquestions," Burger said.
"I have, however, about concludedmy case. I am now going to ask the Court for an order directed to Mr PerryMason ordering him to appear in person this afternoon to show cause why heshouldn't be found guilty of contempt in tampering with the evidence ofwitnesses."
Judge Saxton said, "It isapproaching the hour of the noon adjournment. If Mr Mason's examination isbrief, I think he can probably finish his cross-examination before noon. Ibelieve that I will at that time make an order ordering Mr Mason to appear incourt at two-thirty this afternoon and show cause, if any he has, why heshouldn't be cited for contempt.
"The Court takes a very graveview of this attempt to influence the witnesses, but, on the other hand, theCourt points out to the district attorney that the action may not be incontempt but may be a criminal action, and, of course, a disciplinary actionbefore the Bar Association."
"Yes, Your Honour, I am awareof that," Hamilton Burger said. "But I think, since this witness wasone who was actually called before this Court, and since it now appears that hehas been influenced, his testimony tampered with, and the witness deceived, theCourt has power to issue a citation for contempt."
"Well argue the matter attwo-thirty" Judge Saxton said.
"The witness wasn'tdeceived," Mason said. "He was interrogated."
"Interrogated in such a mannerthat his mind was made up for him," Hamilton Burger snapped.
"Well go into that attwo-thirty," Judge Saxton said.
"Lieutenant Tragg, will youreturn to the stand, please, for cross-examination by Mr Mason?"
Lt Tragg returned to the witnessstand, seating himself comfortably in the manner of a veteran witness who hasfaced cross-examination many times in his life, is telling the truth and hasnothing to fear.
Mason said, "Lieutenant Tragg,when your men arrived at this storeroom at the corner of Clovina andHendersell, you found a body?"
"That is right."
"And you went through yourusual procedure in connection with that body. You took photographs of theposition of the body. You marked the outline in chalk on the floor. Yousearched the place?"
"And you found the defendant?"
"Yes, sir. Hiding behind a pileof boxes."
"You say he was hiding. Youmean that he was concealed?"
"Well, he was hiding. He wasshrinking into the shadows."
"Into the shadows,Lieutenant?"
"That's what I said."
"Then the place was not welllighted?"
"The place was definitely notwell lit. The utilities were only partially in service. The water in thestoreroom was still on, but the electricity had been disconnected."
"That is rather a long,rambling building?"
"That is an old brickbuilding."
"What about theillumination?"
"When the electricity is on,the front room, the storeroom where the body was found, can be wellilluminated. The warehouse part was not so well illuminated. However, with theelectricity off the whole place was gloomy and poorly lit. One had to waituntil one's eyes accustomed themselves to semi-darkness before being able tosee things at all clearly in the warehouse."
"And that's where the defendantwas found?"
"That's where he was hiding,yes, sir."
"Now, where was the gun?"
"The gun was in the defendant'spocket."
"It had been fired?"
"It had been recentlyfired."
"Your test determinedthat?"
"The gun was fullyloaded?"
"Except for the one dischargedcartridge."
"Did you go to the trouble ofhaving the electricity turned on?" Mason asked.
Tragg smiled, "No, sir, wedidn't have the electricity turned on. That would have required a deposit and acertain amount of delay."
"Yet you say that you searchedthe place?"
"We searched it."
"How well did you searchit?"
"We found what we wanted."
"Which was what?"
"The murderer and the murderweapon."
"You assumed that the defendantwas the murderer because he was hiding?"
"And because he had the murderweapon in his possession."
"Yet you have just heard thetestimony of the ballistics expert in which he assumes that the weapon was themurder weapon in part because it was in the possession of the man you havebranded as the murderer."
"That is a logicaldeduction," Lt Tragg said. "However, there were other identifyingmarks indicating the revolver, People's Exhibit B, was the murder weapon."
"Did you take any lights intothe warehouse?"
"You just looked through it,found the defendant and took him into custody?"
"For all you know someone elsecould have been hiding in that warehouse?"
"No, sir, we searched it wellenough to know no one else was hiding."
"There were numerous largecardboard cartons in there, I believe you said?"
"Some of them were big enoughto hold a man?"
"Oh, I presume so, yes."
"You didn't move them. Youdidn't look inside them?"
"No, we didn't. We made asearch for the purpose of finding anyone who might be in there. We found themurderer. That terminated our search."
"Then," Mason said,"you haven't really searched the place. I am going to put up the money forconnecting the electric light service and I suggest that this case be continueduntil a search can be made."
"What do you expect to findnow?" Judge Saxton asked.
"I don't know," Masonsaid. "I think the place should be searched."
"Well, if you want to do it andare willing to put up the money as a deposit for electric current, the Court iscertainly going to give you that privilege. It is approaching the hour of noonadjournment. The Court will adjourn until two-thirty this afternoon, at whichtime, Mr Mason, you will be asked to appear in order to show cause why youshould not be found guilty of contempt of court."
"Very well, Your Honour,"Mason said. "I will ask the cooperation of the police department ingetting immediate service in hooking up the meter on that establishment."
"But this is allfoolishness," Hamilton Burger protested. "There is nothing there now.There never was anything there that – "
"How do you know?" JudgeSaxton interrupted.
"I know because I know what thehuman probabilities are."
"This Court is not dealing withhuman probabilities," Judge Saxton said. "This Court is dealing withthe constitutional rights of a defendant charged with crime.
"There is, of course, atendency when one is searching for something which he expects to find, todiscontinue the search when he finds what he has expected. Apparently, that wasdone in this case. I am not censuring the police. I am simply stating that ifthe defendant wants the place searched at this time, the Court is not onlywilling to cooperate in that, but the Court would like to have such a searchmade.
"The Court instructs the prosecutionto cooperate in every way with the defence attorney in getting electricityturned on there. As I understand it, there will be ample illumination if theelectricity is turned on."
Hamilton Burger glanced at Tragg.
"Oh, yes, Your Honour,"Tragg said. "There were long fluorescent light tubes in the warehouse andalso in the storeroom."
"Very well," Judge Saxtonsaid, "Court will recess until two-thirty this afternoon, and if thatisn't sufficient time for the light to have been turned on and a search to bemade, the Court will take a further adjournment until tomorrow morning. Thepresent order is that Court is recessed until two-thirty"
Mason moved over to Paul Drake.
"Paul, you're going withoutlunch."
"I guess everybody's goingwithout lunch," Drake said. "Our next meal may be in jail."
"Forget it," Mason toldhim. "I want you, during the noon recess, to cover every main bank intown, not the branch banks, but the main banks, and see if ten years ago adeposit of forty-seven thousand dollars in cash was made by mail."
"They aren't going to give thatinformation," Drake said, "even if they know. They -"
"They'll know," Masonsaid. "You don't get a forty-seven-thousand-dollar cash deposit by mailevery day in the week. They may not want to give out the information as todetails. Tell them simply we want to know whether such a deposit was received.Put enough men on it to cover the city in the shortest time possible. Get onthe telephone, tell them who you are, tell them it's in the interest ofjustice."
Drake said moodily, "I waswatching Judge Saxton's face when that stuff came out about tampering with thewitnesses. That old boy is dead against you, Perry. He's going to throw thebook at you."
Mason grinned and said, "Thatdoesn't mean I can't dodge."
"Well, you'd better do somepretty fast dodging because I think that old boy is a pretty goodpitcher."
"We aren't licked yet,"Mason said.
"Well, I don't know what you'retrying to prove. My own idea is we're so far behind the eight ball that wearen't ever going to get out."
Mason said, "Look, Paul, a mangets out of federal prison, he has government agents shadowing him, he hasrough shadows and smooth shadows. The guy buys good clothes, he buys goodcigars. Where does he get the money?"
"Where indeed?" Drakeasked. "He bought an automobile and he got that money from you."
"That's right," Masonsaid. "He did that for the moral effect, but when he got the automobile hewas all prepared to disappear. He didn't charter a taxi, he didn't have anotherautomobile staked out. The next time we find him he's in a storeroom which hasbeen vacant for some time, which is tied up in litigation, and the storeroom isprovisioned with food, a sleeping bag, a suitcase with clothes. Now, where didCollister Gideon get all those things?"
"In stores, probably, he hadmoney."
"He was keeping out ofsight," Mason said. "There's more to the Gideon case than werealized."
"Okay, okay," Drake said,"I'll get busy with the banks. Do you want me to try and join you at thestoreroom?"
"No," Mason said,"I'm going to goad the police into making the right kind of asearch."
The man from the power company said,"Okay, the power's on."
Tragg threw a switch which turned ona battery of lights in the storeroom and office part of the building.
Mason looked around, then moved overto the far side of the room and started a minute search.
Tragg, Hamilton Burger and twoplain-clothes men, obviously bored by the entire procedure, looked at theirwatches, casually looked around and waited for Mason to finish.
"All right, Tragg," Masonsaid, "here's the first thing I want to look at."
Mason pointed to a traverse beamover the doorway. "There's something in there. A hole, there's a freshsplinter by the side of the hole."
Tragg started to say something, thenchanged his mind and said to one of the men, "See if there's a stepladderaround here."
Hamilton Burger said, "This isanother good old-fashioned razzle-dazzle. This building hasn't been sealed up.Anyone could have gone in here and planted all sorts of evidence."
Tragg said nothing.
Mason started up on the stepladder.Tragg gently pulled him back and said, "I'll do this, if you don't mind,Perry."
Tragg got up, looked at the hole inthe beam, pursed his lips, looked down at Hamilton Burger and said, "Ithink it's a bullet."
Burger's face flushed. "Allright," he said, "we're having Mason up for contempt of court attwo-thirty this afternoon on one charge. We may as well have him on twocharges. Let's get the bullet out. The same old gag of planting evidence."
"If you folks had made thecareful search you should have, it would have been impossible for anyone tohave planted evidence," Mason said. "Now we can't tell when thatbullet was fired in there."
"Well, I can tell,"Hamilton Burger said, "and I can tell who held the gun."
"Want to make a statement inthe presence of witnesses so I can hold you liable?" Mason asked.
Hamilton Burger turned his back andwalked off.
"In getting that bulletout," Mason said, "please be very careful not to disturb thestriations or mark the lead -"
"You don't need to tell me howto take out a bullet," Tragg said.
Tragg enlarged the hole slightlywith a pocket knife and said to one of the plain-clothes men, "That's asdeep as I can go with a knife. Go out to the car and get that kit that has thedrill in it for taking out a section of wood."
The plain-clothes officer returnedfrom the car with an auger designed to cut a circular core from a section ofwood.
Tragg said, "Get up there andbe very, very careful to be sure you're on the course of that bullet. Cut out asection of the wood that has the bullet in it."
The man climbed the stepladder and,after a few minutes, brought down a section of the wooden beam.
Tragg carefully split the sectionand shook out the .38 calibre bullet into his hand.
"All right," he said,"we've found the bullet, what do we do next?"
"We have it appraised byRedfield," Mason said.
"All right," Tragg said,"let's get going. I presume you want to have the report beforetwo-thirty?"
"Send a man with thebullet," Mason said. "Let's not make the same mistake twice. Let'snot quit searching just because we find something. Let's look this thing overcarefully."
"All right," Tragg said,"we'll go into the warehouse now."
They went back in the warehouse.Tragg threw a switch, and the gloomy, dank interior of the place instantlybecame flooded with light.
"Now, let's take a look aroundhere," Mason said. "Have your men turn over every one of those bigcartons and let's see what we can find."
"There are fifty of themhere," Tragg said.
"All right," Mason said,"if you can't turn over fifty cartons by two-thirty, we'll telephone thejudge and get an order."
"Oh, go ahead," Traggsaid.
Tragg and one of the officers shookthe corrugated board packing cases one at a time, moved them, looked inside.
Suddenly one of the men started tosay something to Tragg, caught himself, looked significantly at the policelieutenant and turned his back.
"What is it?" Mason askedsharply. "We're making this search under an order of court. We're entitledto know."
"Somebody stood in here,"the officer said. "You can see the imprint of his rubber heels. They'dbeen in oil somewhere and they left a print here."
"That doesn't mean athing," Hamilton Burger said. "You can't tell when the heel printswere made. They could have been made a month ago, or," he addedsignificantly, "they could have been made last night."
"Nevertheless," Mason,said, "they were made. It's evidence. Let's take the packing case intocustody"
"All right," Tragg saidwearily, "take it along."
"And I want it dusted forfingerprints."
"You can't get fingerprintsfrom paper – Oh, well, let him have his way. Leave it here long enough for atechnical man to come down and dust for fingerprints. What else do you want,Mason?"
"I don't know," Masonsaid, moving slowly around, prowling into the various nooks and comers of theplace. Suddenly Mason said, "Hey, wait a minute, this window has beenforced."
"I should have guessed that along while ago," Hamilton Burger said. "That's how the man got in tofire the bullet into that beam."
"This window has been openedfrom the inside," Mason said. "You see, the cobwebs have been brushedaway and the window was opened, then lowered. It's unlocked."
"An inside-outside job,"Hamilton Burger said. "Same old razzle-dazzle."
Tragg studied the pane thoughtfully
"Now, wait a minute,"Mason said. "What's this?"
"What?" Tragg asked.
Mason pointed over to a comer."I got a glint of reflected light from blued steel."
Tragg moved over, said, "Oh,oh, it's a gun!"
Hamilton Burger started to saysomething, then checked himself and said, "All right, it's a gun. Take itinto custody, Lieutenant, and we'll have it examined carefully in court. We'llsee whose fingerprints we find on it – although the person who planted it therewas probably shrewd enough to wear gloves."
Mason said. "Be careful withit, Lieutenant, and I want some test bullets fired from it. You will note thatthat also is a thirty-eight-calibre Smith and Wesson."
"It would be," HamiltonBurger said.
"Meaning," Mason saidcasually, "that in your opinion it was planted."
"It was planted," HamiltonBurger said angrily. "And at two-thirty this afternoon I hope to be ableto show who did the planting."
"You wouldn't want to make anyaccusations before then, would you?" Mason asked.
"I have my opinion,"Burger said, turning away.
"You have everything youwant?" Tragg asked.
"I don't know," Masonsaid. "I want this place sealed up put an officer in charge and leave himhere until we can evaluate this evidence we have at the present time."
"Okay, okay," Tragg said."I want to see if there are any fingerprints on that gun but ordinarily wedon't get fingerprints on guns. Sometimes you get a thumbprint at the base of acartridge clip, but it's not once in a hundred that you get a fingerprint off agun."
"All right, we've got thegun," Mason said. "I want Redfield to fire test bullets through it.I'd like to have him bring his comparison microscope into court so we can maketests right there in court."
"The good old drama,"Hamilton Burger said. "Never forget the dramatic approach. That'sshowmanship. I'm getting damned sick and tired of all this. Every case we have,it's the same old razzle-dazzle, the same old seven and six."
Mason looked at his watch and said,"If you'd hurry, Hamilton, you might be able to get some lunch at least acup of coffee, and I think it's possible that would change your outlook."
At two-thirty, Judge Saxton, who hadconceivably heard some rumours of what had happened, took the bench with aglance of puzzled respect at Perry Mason.
"Search of the premises hasbeen completed in the case of People versus Warren?" he asked.
"No, Your Honour," Masonsaid, "but a search has been made and that search has uncovered certainthings. I believe Lieutenant Tragg was on the stand and he can probably testifyas to what was discovered."
"Very well, Lieutenant Tragg tothe stand," Judge Saxton said.
Mason said, "I believe I wascross-examining Lieutenant Tragg, but I don't know that it makes muchdifference who brings this out… Lieutenant, you found certain things in thestoreroom at Clovina and Hendersell?"
"We did," Tragg said, dryly.
"What did you find?"
"When the lights were turnedon, we found that a beam over the door between the storeroom and the warehousehad a bullet which had lodged in it. We took that bullet out without destroyingany of the striations or leaving any tool marks on it. I have that bullethere."
"Will you mark it foridentification, please, as Defendant's Exhibit Number la?"
"It will be so marked foridentification," Judge Saxton said. "What else did you find?"
"We found a Smith and Wessonthirty-eight-calibre revolver containing five live shells and one explodedcartridge."
"Have you tested thatgun?"
"I understand that AlexanderRedfield has fired a test bullet through it. To that extent the gun has beentested."
"And," Mason asked,"didn't Alexander Redfield compare the test bullet from that gun with thefatal bullet in this case?"
"I believe he did, yes,sir."
"That test was in yourpresence?"
"And did Alexander Redfieldstate to you what he had found?"
"Objected to as hearsay,"Hamilton Burger said.
"Sustained," Judge Saxtonsaid. "You can put Mr Redfield on the stand. In fact you can put him onfor further cross-examination if you wish."
"Now, then," Mason said,"during all of the time that you were at the scene of the murder and whileyou were finding these things, was Hamilton Burger, the district attorney,present?"
"Why, yes, he was."
"And did he keep up a runningfire of remarks indicating that I had planted this evidence?"
Til stipulate that I did,"Hamilton Burger said angrily.
"There you are," Masonsaid, turning to Judge Saxton. "Lieutenant Tragg is a witness in thiscase, and during the entire course of our search, the district attorney wasbelittling the objects we found, was implanting in the mind of this witness theidea that I had been responsible for having those objects at the scene of thecrime, that the evidence was without proper evidentiary value and had beenplanted.
"If the Court please, if I amto be cited to show cause for contempt of court for seeking to influence thetestimony of a witness, I insist that the district attorney also be cited atthe same time for seeking to influence the testimony of this witness."
Judge Saxton looked at the angrydistrict attorney, at Lt Tragg and then tried to fight back a smile!
"Very well, Mr Mason," hesaid, "the Court will note your motion. However, that doesn't mean theCourt will act on it. Let's proceed with the evidence in this case."
"I want my motion to show thatthe district attorney was there in his official capacity, that his remarkscarried all the weight of an elected official of this county who conceivablyhad influence over the police department, that they represented a continualrunning fire of accusation."
"Very well, we will take thatup at the proper time," Judge Saxton said. "I presume now you wouldlike to call Mr Redfield to the stand."
"I would, Your Honour."
"I note Mr Redfield is incourt," Judge Saxton said. "You may take the stand, MrRedfield."
Mason said, "If the Courtplease, this comes under the heading of further cross-examination.
"Mr Redfield, you stated that,taking all the facts into consideration and in all human probability, the gun,People's Exhibit B, was the weapon from which the fatal bullet had been fired.I'm now going to ask you if, since the time you gave your testimony, subsequentfacts have been disclosed which change your opinion?"
"Now, then, taking intoconsideration all the facts, are you still willing to swear that in all humanprobability, the fatal bullet was fired from the gun, People's Exhibit B?"
"No, I am not," Redfieldsaid. "In fact, I am now prepared to swear positively that the gun whichwas discovered this noon at the scene of the murder and which is now labeledfor identification as Defendant's Exhibit Number la was the gun from which thefatal bullet was fired."
"What!" Judge Saxton said,unable to conceal his surprise.
"Yes, Your Honour. I am sorry,but enough striations are visible on the base of the fatal bullet so that it ispossible to make a match. It isn't easy, but there is enough of a match so thatI am now satisfied that the fatal bullet was fired from this gun, Defendant'sExhibit la."
"Now, then," Mason said,"are you also prepared to make a statement in regard to the bullet whichwas found in the beam over the door?"
"What gun was that firedfrom?"
"That was fired from the gun,People's Exhibit B."
"So," Mason said,"with only one shot fired from that gun, People's Exhibit Number B, we nowhave that bullet accounted for as having been fired into a beam. Therefore thatgun couldn't possibly have been used in the commission of the crime, is thatright?"
"Scientifically, and in myopinion as an expert, that is correct," Redfield said.
Judge Saxton threw his hands apartin a gesture which a man makes when he is tossing something away.
"Now, then," Mason said,"I have one more request to make. Your office keeps a record of fatalbullets and unsolved crimes?"
"Yes, it does."
"I am referring now to theattempted murder of the watchman at the Pacific Northern Supermarket,"Mason said. "You have the bullet that was recovered from his body?"
"I asked you to bring it withyou. Will you make a comparison test on the microscope and tell me whether youcan match that bullet with the test bullet which was fired from Defendant'sExhibit Number la?"
"Since you asked me to bringthat bullet into court, I knew what you had in mind," Redfield said,somewhat wearily, "and I have made such a test."
"With what result?"
"The bullet that wounded thewatchman was also fired from this gun which has been marked for identificationas Defendant's Exhibit Number la."
Mason turned to Judge Saxton."There you are, Your Honour. I had deduced from the evidence that thedefendant had committed a hold-up at the Pacific Northern Supermarket. I had a sketchmade of the decedent and approached the eyewitnesses with such a sketch. Thenthe district attorney of this county, using the weight of his high office, ledthe witnesses to believe that I had unduly influenced them, thereby ruiningtheir testimony so that it can't be used in an attempted murder case. Isuggest, if the Court please, that in addition to asking that the districtattorney be cited for contempt in influencing the testimony of LieutenantTragg, he also be cited for contempt in influencing the testimony of twowitnesses who saw the holdup man at the scene of the crime at the PacificNorthern Supermarket, and by the use of his influence, his skepticism and thepower of suggestion so changed their identification that it would now beuseless to attempt to prove the crime committed by the decedent."
Judge Saxton looked at HamiltonBurger's utterly astounded countenance, at Redfield, at Lt Tragg and said,suddenly, "It appears that as far as the case against this defendant isconcerned, there is none. All that can be brought to bear against him is thathe was hiding at the scene of the crime. That certainly is not enough towarrant this Court in binding the defendant over. The Court, therefore, isgoing to dismiss the case against the defendant, and as far as all these otherincidental matters of contempt are concerned, the Court is going to strike themoff the calendar and give the matter consideration and announce whether therewill be a hearing at some later date. "Court's adjourned."
As Hamilton Burger stalked angrilyfrom the courtroom, Lt Tragg came over and gave Mason the benefit of hiswhimsical smile.
"Well, Perry," he said,"we all of us make mistakes. Every once in a while I deviate from goodold-fashioned police procedure because I think I have everything I need andevery once in a while I find I'm on the wrong side of the fence.
"I certainly should have hadthe lights turned on and searched that place. Now then, how did you deduce whathappened?"
Mason said, "I began to feelthat Gideon had an accomplice. I think that accomplice was someone whom he metin prison. There wasn't an opportunity for him to have an accomplice otherwise.It must have been someone who was in prison and who was released withinprobably the first year after Gideon was incarcerated."
"But why would they have anassociation which would endure all that time, and -"
Mason said, "Here's Paul Drakecoming now. I think he has the answer."
Paul Drake, hurrying into thecourtroom, looked at the sprinkling of startled spectators talking in knots, atthe empty bench where Judge Saxton should have been sitting, then hurried over toMason and Lt Tragg. "What happened?" he asked. "Whathappened?"
Della Street said, "The judgedismissed the case."
"Dismissed it?" Drakeechoed.
"That's right," Masonsaid. "Quite a few things happened this noon. What did you find out aboutthe money, Paul?"
"You were dead right. A depositof forty-seven thousand dollars was made by mail. Just plain mail. The moneywas in an envelope with postage on it and nothing else. Naturally it aroused alot of curiosity.
"There have been nowithdrawals, but at regular intervals since, small sums of money have beendeposited to the account, so that it kept the account listed on the bank'srecords as a live account."
"And the name of the man whodeposited the account?" Mason asked.
"Collister Damon," Drakesaid. "And, of course, I only need remind you that Gideon's full name wasCollister Damon Gideon.
"He undoubtedly had anaccomplice who was released from prison shortly after he was incarcerated. Thatperson couldn't draw out the money, because he couldn't establish his identityas Collister Damon, but anyone can make deposits to an account and oncedeposits are made the account continues to be a live account."
A plain-clothes man hurried into thecourtroom and motioned to Tragg.
Tragg said, "Excuse me,"went to talk with him, came back and said, "Well, Perry, I guess we've gotthe clues we need. Somebody had been touching an object that was greasy andwhen he jumped into that corrugated packing box he left fingerprints, enough sothat they can be identified. Now then, we'll go over the records of prisonerswho were released from the federal penitentiary where Gideon was confined andsee what we can find there."
"Good enough," Mason said.
"Perhaps you can tell me whathappened between Gideon and the accomplice?" Tragg said.
"Sure," Mason said,"it's only surmise but I think you'll find it'll work out once you get theaccomplice.
"They had a nice hideout herein this deserted store. I think you'll find the fingerprints of this accompliceon some of the cooking utensils and empty tin cans."
Tragg winced and said, "Let'snot rub it in, Perry."
"And," Mason went on,"they were getting by all right until things went wrong and Gideon shotthis night watchman. He lost his head completely. That put the accomplice inthe position of having a possible one-way ticket to the gas chamber. Whenevertwo or more persons commit a felony, and a murder is committed in connectionwith the felony, all of them are equally guilty of first-degree murder. For allthey knew, the watchman was going to die.
"All of a sudden Gideon becamehotter than a stove lid. He wanted out of town. He didn't dare, under thecircumstances, to try and draw that money out of the bank. He needed money andhe needed it bad. He put the bite on me. He put the bite on Warren."
"Can you tell me what he had onyou and what he had on Warren?" Tragg asked.
"No, I can't," Mason said,"and it would help a lot if you'd not try to find out. You don't need to,you know."
"Probably not," Traggsaid.
"Anyway, Warren let the gun outof his possession. Gideon had a fight with his accomplice and Gideon tried tokill him. Gideon missed. The accomplice didn't."
Tragg said, "Why should Warrenhave conveniently left the gun for Gideon to pick up? He – Now wait a minute,Gideon was putting the bite on everybody he could."
Tragg's eyes narrowed. "Iwonder if by any chance Mrs Warren was included in his list of victims. Iwonder if she went down there with a gun and then Warren came in later. Hefound Gideon dead with the gun nearby and Warren picked up the gun, so as toprotect his wife, pocketed it and was trying to make his escape when he heardsirens tearing down the street and assumed it was the police."
Mason met Tragg's eyes."Those," he said, "are the things I wish you wouldn't try tospeculate about, Tragg. The accomplice will state that he killed Gideon inself-defense and I think perhaps he's right. Gideon shot at him with the Warrengun. The accomplice retaliated with the gun they had been using in theirholdups – the gun Gideon had had on the night the supermarket was heldup."
Tragg was thoughtfully silent.
"That's all you need,"Mason said. "The federal boys can recover the forty-seven thousand dollarsand there's nothing left for you to worry about."
"But you want to keep yourclients out of this?"
Mason met his eyes, "I want tokeep my clients out of it."
Silently, Tragg extended his handand shook hands. "You've been a big help, Perry," he said. "Idon't suppose you could go a step farther and give us some clue as to theidentity of the accomplice, could you?"
"Why not?" Mason asked.
Tragg raised his eyebrows.
"Think it over," Masonsaid. "I had a sketch made of Collister Gideon. We know now that he wasconnected with that hold-up and shooting at the supermarket.
"The night watchman who waswounded unhesitatingly identified the Gideon sketch as having a resemblance tothe man who had done the shooting.
"The other witness was positivethat the sketch didn't look like the man who had run out of the door. Yet itwas the man who ran out of the door who had the gun."
Tragg said thoughtfully, "Therecould have been two men connected with the hold-up."
Mason grinned. "And the policefound a man running down the street. If the man had tried to hide, they'd havegrabbed him and charged him with being the accomplice, but because the man hadenough presence of mind to run out in the middle of the street and start wavinghis arms at the police car trying to flag it down, the police fell for thestrategy and -"
"Good God!" Tragginterpolated. "Do you mean Drew Kearny was the accomplice?"
"Of course he was theaccomplice," Mason said. "That's why he wouldn't identify Gideon. Hedidn't dare to. He didn't want Gideon to have any connection with thatsupermarket. He was hoping that the police would never find the gun he had leftin the old warehouse after the shooting.
"Kearny is clever as hell and aconsummate actor. Take his fingerprints. Shake him down and you'll find he hasa criminal record, that he was in federal prison for a while when CollisterGideon was there, that Gideon confided in him, that Kearny came to this town,established a small business which gave him a legitimate front. From time totime he made deposits on the forty-seven-thousand-dollar account Gideon hadestablished. He was waiting for the time when Gideon would be released andcould draw cheques on the account without having the authorities censoring hismail.
"Kearny is probably responsiblefor a whole chain of burglaries that the police would like to clear up. He wassmart enough, however, to know that he had to keep his criminal activities entirelydivorced from his legitimate activities therefore he had a hideout he hadestablished in this old deserted building which was tied up in litigation. Hewould stay there when he wanted to pull a job. Probably his jobs were pulled,for the most part, on weekends. Of course I'm going on guesswork andprobabilities, Lieutenant, but there's no other explanation for that hold-upgun being the fatal gun which killed Gideon, and Kearny just had to be theaccomplice on that supermarket job. That's why he was running down the street,not toward the telephone, but away from the scene of the crime."
Tragg heaved a deep sigh."Where would you have been if Kearny had got back to that warehouse andremoved that gun before we found it?" Tragg asked.
Mason looked at his watch."Probably being sentenced for contempt of court right now," he said.
"Then you weren't influencingthe witness at all," Tragg said. "The witness was drawing redherrings across the trail just as fast as he could."
"And because the watchman saidthe sketch of Gideon did look like the man he had surprised in the supermarket,the district attorney and the police were blaming me for having influenced theother guy's testimony," Mason said.
Abruptly Tragg threw back his head,laughed, and said, "Well, I guess we'll get busy on a round-up,Perry."
"Going to take Hamilton Burgerin on it?" Mason asked.
Tragg said, "I think I'll keepout of Burger's office for a few hours, if you don't mind, Perry"
"I don't mind in theleast," Mason told him.