The Case of the Velvet Claws

Тема

Аннотация: A spoiled woman is keen to keep news of her affairs from her powerful husband, even if it costs Perry his freedom when she swears he was on the murder scene.

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Erle Stanley Gardner

Perry Mason — 1

Cast of Characters

in the order of their appearance

Perry Mason — fighting attorney, who preferred being paid off as a sheep to being doublecrossed like a lamb.

Della Street — who was a faithful Girl Friday (also Sunday and Monday, if not quite always).

Eva Griffin — well groomed and well heeled, who was a phony.

Harrison Burke — Congressman, whose Duty to the People was to keep them from knowing he was mixed up in murder.

Frank Locke — editor of Spicy Bits, who was Southern, but not gentleman.

Paul Drake — who turned up some interesting information on Georgia peaches and sons of same.

Sidney Drumm — who put himself out on a limb of the tree Perry Mason was up.

George C. Belter — who got his money by blackmail, and who — naturally — got his.

Mrs. Belter — a woman who had a will of her own and put a velvet clause in it.

Carl Griffin — nephew of George Belter, and a gentleman around and around and around the town.

Bill Hoffman — head of Homicide, who wanted the sleuth, the whole sleuth, and little else.

Mrs. Veitch — the housekeeper, who was silent as the tomb and looked like a mummy.

Norma Veitch — a girl with matrimonies on her mind.

Esther Linten — who made up for losing her beauty sleep by deciding to pass out the night before.

Sol Steinburg — who excelled at histrionics.

Arthur Atwood — who found himself vulnerable on Mrs. Belter’s tricks.

Harry Loring — who wasn’t sure whether he had too many wives or none.

Chapter 1

Autumn sun beat against the window.

Perry Mason sat at the big desk. There was about him the attitude of one who is waiting. His face in repose was like the face of a chess player who is studying the board. That face seldom changed expression. Only the eyes changed expression. He gave the impression of being a thinker and a fighter, a man who could work with infinite patience to jockey an adversary into just the right position, and then finish him with one terrific punch.

Book cases, filled with leatherbacked books, lined the walls of the room. A big safe was in one corner. There were two chairs, in addition to the swivel chair which Perry Mason occupied. The office held an atmosphere of plain, rugged efficiency, as though it had absorbed something of the personality of the man who occupied it.

The door to the outer office opened, and Della Street, his secretary, eased her way into the room and closed the door behind her.

“A woman,” she said, “who claims to be a Mrs. Eva Griffin.” Perry Mason looked at the girl with level eyes.

“And you don’t think she is?” he asked.

She shook her head.

“She looks phony to me,” she said. “I’ve looked up the Griffins in the telephone book. And there isn’t any Griffin who has an address like the one she gave. I looked in the City Directory, and got the same result. There are a lot of Griffins, but I don’t find any Eva Griffin. And I don’t find any at her address.”

“What was the address?” asked Mason.

“2271 Grove Street,” she said.

Perry Mason made a notation on a slip of paper.

“I’ll see her,” he said.

“Okay,” said Della Street. “I just wanted you to know that she looks phony to me.”

Della Street was slim of figure, steady of eye; a young woman of approximately twentyseven, who gave the impression of watching life with keenly appreciative eyes and seeing far below the surface.

She remained standing in the doorway eyeing Perry Mason with quiet insistence. “I wish,” she said, “that you’d find out who she really is before we do anything for her.”

“A hunch?” asked Perry Mason.

“You might call it that,” she said, smiling.

Perry Mason nodded. His face had not changed expression. Only his eyes had become warily watchful.

“All right, send her in, and I’ll take a look at her myself.”

Della Street closed the door as she went out, keeping a hand on the knob, however. Within a few seconds, the knob turned the door opened, and a woman walked into the room with an air of easy assurance.

She was in her early thirties, or perhaps, her late twenties—well groomed, and giving an appearance of being exceedingly well cared for. She flashed a swiftly appraising glance about the office before she looked at the man seated behind the desk.

“Come in and sit down,” said Perry Mason.

She looked at him then, and there was a faint expression of annoyance upon her face. It was as though she expected men to get up when she came into the room, and to treat her with a deferential recognition of her sex and her position.

For just a moment she seemed inclined to ignore his invitation. Then she walked to the chair across from the desk sat down in it, and looked at Perry Mason.

“Well?” he asked.

“You’re Mr. Mason, the attorney?”

“Yes.”

The blue eyes which had been looking at him in cautious appraisal, suddenly widened as though by an effort. They gave to her face an expression of utter innocence.

“I am in trouble,” she said.

Perry Mason nodded as though the news meant nothing to him, other than a matter of daily routine.

When she didn’t go on, he said: “Most people who come in here are—”

The woman said, abruptly: “You don’t make it easy for me to tell you about it. Most of the attorneys I have consulted…”

She was suddenly silent.

Perry Mason smiled at her. Slowly he got to his feet, put his hands on the edge of the desk and leaned his weight on them so that his body was leaning toward her across the desk. “Yes,” he said, “I know. Most of the attorneys that you’ve consulted have had expensive suites of offices and a lot of clerks running in and out. You’ve paid them big money and haven’t had anything much to show for it. They’ve bowed and scraped when you came in the room, and charged you big retainers. But when you get in a real jam you don’t dare to go to them.”

Her wide eyes narrowed somewhat. For two or three seconds they stared at each other, and then the woman lowered her eyes.

Perry Mason continued to speak, slowly and forcefully, yet without raising his voice.

“All right,” he said, “I’m different. I get my business because I fight for it, and because I fight for my clients.

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