The Case of the Substitute Secretary

If Love Is A Crime, I'm Guilty As Charged

Don’t blame me.  Blame cable TV.  I was minding my own business late one night when I stumbled upon a Perry Mason marathon.  Not the remakes, mind you, I’m talking about the original series, as in 1957.  So anyway, fool that I am, I started watching them.  Eleven back-to-back episodes, six cups of coffee, three bags of chips and ten hours later it had happened.  I had fallen hard for Perry Mason.

It was crazy, I know.  After all, we had absolutely nothing in common.  He was black and white – I’m in color.  He was courtroom drama – I’m website humor.  He was suave and sophisticated – I’m not very.  But at the time, none of that seemed to matter.  All I knew was that every time he put a witness on the stand and in that deep, rich baritone voice demanded, "Where were you on the night of the murder?” my heart skipped a beat. 

Oh sure, I know what you’re thinking.  Paul Drake was a thousand times cuter – why didn’t I go I ga-ga over him?  Well for one thing, Paul had a habit of ogling girls with "laaa-zy hips” and that kind of wolfish behavior isn’t my bag.  Besides, Paul drove a little two-seater convertible and at this point in life I simply had no desire to arrive at a party with my hair looking like the Bride of Frankenstein.  No, it was wonderful, respectable, dashingly handsome Perry who caught my fancy, and one way or another I was determined to have him for myself. 

There was only one thing standing between us – his loyal confidential secretary, the beautiful and brainy Della Street.  Of course it was no secret that Della was absolutely crazy about Perry, and he thought she hung the moon.  The thing is they were both far too professional to do anything about it.  But I knew good and well that it was only a matter of time.  Sooner or later her hand was going to brush against his, or he was going to linger just a second longer than usual when helping her with her coat, and suddenly sparks would fly and before you could shout, "objection overruled!” they’d be wrapped in each other’s arms forever. 

Yep, as long as Della Street was in the picture I knew I didn’t stand a chance.  Somehow I had to get rid of her.  So this is how I went about it.  I lured her into the elevator by pretending to hand out discount coupons to her beauty parlor, and then I clonked her on the head with a huge legal dictionary, dragged her to a broom closet and tied her up, but not before switching outfits with her. (Believe me, it wasn’t easy squeezing my big flabby stomach into her tiny little cashmere sweater with its loopy "D S” monogram, but after a bit of struggling I managed to do it.)  Smoothing my hair into a style similar to hers, I made my way casually back to her desk.  Just then the intercom buzzed.

"Della?”  It was his voice.  His wonderful baritone voice!

I answered nervously, "Yes, Chief?”  (I‘d heard Della call him that a million times.)

He said, "Could you come in and take some dictation?”

My fingers were shaking as I gathered up a pencil and notepad and headed for his door.  Peeking inside I saw that he was engrossed in a deposition.  For a moment I just stood there admiring him, completely mesmerized by his wavy black hair and those beautiful enormous limpid eyes.  I slipped into his office and made my way toward Della’s chair.  He hadn’t looked up.  Perfect. 

I flipped open the steno pad and was immediately filled with a sudden panic.  I didn’t know the first thing about taking dictation!  Before he could find me out, I took another couple of steps until I was standing just behind where he was seated.  I knew if I could plant just one gentle kiss on his cheek, he’d forget all about Della Street and I’d have him all to myself.

I leaned in so close I could smell his cologne.  He turned and looked at me.  It was a look of mild surprise – even pleasant amusement!  Could it be that he wanted me too?  I puckered my lips and closed my eyes…

Suddenly the door to his office flew open and there stood Della Street!  Oh why hadn’t I locked that broom closet door?  She burst into the room, red-faced with rage, wearing my "No Whar but Texas” t-shirt (well I couldn’t just leave her undressed, could I?) and she told Perry everything I had done.  For a brief moment I hoped he would sweep me into his arms and tell Della she was too late – that his heart belonged to me now.  But instead, to my horror, he calmly picked up the phone and called Hamilton Burger.

The next thing I knew I’d been arrested and put on trial.  The courtroom was packed.  It was a media circus.  One by one the witnesses took the stand as the evidence against me mounted.  Exhibit A: Della’s pretty monogrammed cashmere sweater, now stretched out in all the wrong places, which conveniently matched all the wrong places that I’m stretched out.  Next the elevator operator was called to testify, (I thought Della and I were alone in that elevator.  Apparently I was mistaken) followed by a client who happened to be seated across from Perry in his office at the time of the incident (I guess maybe I should have checked to make sure we were alone first) who also just happened to be a photographer and snapped this rather incriminating picture (Exhibit B).

The jury jumped to its feet and shouted, "We find the defendant guilty of premeditated infatuation!”

My mother fainted.  Chaos erupted.  "Order!” the Judge banged the gavel, "Order!”

As I was lead from the courtroom in shackles the press began hurling questions at me:  Why’d you do it?  Did you think you’d get away with it?  What’s all this mess?  Have you been up all night?  Hey!  Lee Ann!  Have you been sitting here watching TV all night?  Lee Ann!

I blinked.  It was my husband, standing over my chair, gently shaking me by the shoulders as he surveyed the rings from my coffee mug on the lamp table beside me, and the greasy chips scattered around me on the floor.  Soft morning light was just coming in the window.  The television screen flickered as that haunting but familiar theme song began to play.  Another episode was starting – ten hours and they weren’t even halfway through the first season.  The opening credits read, "The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink”.  I love that one!

"Don’t even think about it,” Marc said.  So reluctantly I got up and turned off the TV and followed him to the bedroom.  But I confess – when he wasn’t looking I went back and hit the Record button.  I just couldn’t help myself.  I mean, well, wouldn’t you, if you’d fallen hard for Perry Mason?

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