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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Гарднер Эрл
 

«The Case of the Curious Bride», Эрл Гарднер

Cast of Characters

Perry Mason — the most famous criminal lawyer in fiction, whose mental agility once again baffles the District Attorney's office…

Helen Crocker — a seemingly diffident soul who is most anxious to secure information for "a friend"…

Della Street — the perfect secretary, whose insight into human nature is a valuable asset to her boss…

Paul Drake — the quickwitted private detective who gets himself a job by working a hunch…

Nell Brinley — a secretive trained nurse and "a receiver of other people's telegrams"…

Gregory Moxley — a man with a way with the women…

Rhoda Montaine — a bride with pride—and ideals…

Carl W. Montaine — Rhoda's husband, who doesn't make the best use of his fortune or his family…

Doctor Claude Millsap — a lovesick physician…

C. Phillip Montaine — a pedigreed multimillionaire, Carl's father and his worst enemy…

Danny Spear — a wideeyed, yokelish private eye…

John Lucas — belligerent and wily deputy district attorney…

Benjamin Crandall — something in his memory rang a bell…

Chapter 1

The woman was nervous. Her eyes held the eyes of the lawyer for a moment, then slithered away to the booklined walls, as the eyes of an animal survey the bars of a cage. "Sit down," said Perry Mason. He studied her with a frank scrutiny which had been developed by years of exploring the dark recesses of human minds—not only of witnesses, but of clients.

"I'm calling," she said, "on behalf of a friend."

"Yes?" asked Perry Mason tonelessly.

"My friend's husband has disappeared," she said. "I understand there's an expression known as 'legal death' that covers such matters, isn't there?"

Perry Mason didn't answer her directly. "Your name," he asked, "is Helen Crocker?"

"Yes."

"Your age?" he inquired abruptly.

She hesitated a moment. "Twentyseven," she said.

"My secretary thought you were a bride," the lawyer went on.

She squirmed uncomfortably in the big leather chair. "Please," she said, "let's not discuss me. After all, my name or my age doesn't make any difference. I told you that I was calling on behalf of a friend. You don't need to know who I am. I'm simply a messenger. Your fee will be paid—in cash."

"My secretary," Perry Mason went on, "doesn't usually make mistakes. She felt quite positive you had been recently married."

"What ever gave her that impression?"

"Something about the way you fingered your wedding ring, as though it were new to you."

She spoke with quick desperation, after the manner of one who is reciting a speech which has been learned by rote. "My friend's husband was in an airplane. It's been a good many years ago. I don't remember the exact location, but it was somewhere over a lake. It was foggy. Apparently the pilot was trying to come close to the water, and he hit the water before he knew what was happening. A fisherman heard the plane but couldn't see it. He said it sounded as though it was just a few feet above the surface."

"Are you a bride?" Perry Mason asked.

"No!" she said with swift indignation.

"Are you," asked Perry Mason, "certain the plane was wrecked?"

"Yes, they found some wreckage. I think it was what they call a pontoon—I don't know much about airplanes. They found the body of one of the passengers. They never found the body of the pilot, nor the other three passengers."

"How long have you been married?" the lawyer inquired.

"Please," she said, "leave me out of it. I have already explained to you, Mr. Mason, that I am trying to get information for a friend."

"I take it," Mason said, "there was some life insurance, and the insurance company refuses to pay until the body has been recovered?"

"Yes."

"And you want me to collect the insurance?"

"Partially that."

"What's the rest of it?"

"She is wondering about her right to remarry."

"How long since her husband disappeared?"

"About seven years I think, perhaps a little longer."

"No one," asked Perry Mason, "has heard from the husband in the meantime?"

"No, certainly not. He died… But, about the divorce."

"What divorce?" the lawyer inquired.


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