Erle Stanley Gardner
The Case of the Rolling Bones
Cast of Characters
PERRY MASON — His methods raised objections in court, but they got results
DELLA STREET — Not only Mason’s Girl Friday but all the other days of the week
PHYLLIS LEEDS — Niece and confidential secretary of wealthy old Alden Leeds
ALDEN LEEDS — He left the Klondike with gold in his pockets and something on his conscience
EMILY MILICANT — Alden Leeds’s December heartbeat
NED BARKLER — Salty old prospecting pal of Alden Leeds, with an eye for the girls
PAUL DRAKE — Head of the Drake Detective Agency, he always looked disinterested and so succeeded in fooling the public
L. C. CONWAY — When Alden Leeds made out a $20,000 check to him, the whole case began
GUY T. SERLE — He bought Conway’s crooked-dice business only to have the police raid his joint
MARCIA WHITTAKER — A beautiful blonde, hard as nails but soft about Conway, she cashed the controversial $20,000 check
JOHN MILICANT — To some he was known as Emily Milicant’s brother, but others knew him under a different name
JASON CARREL — He took Uncle Alden for a ride and committed him to a sanitarium
FREEMAN LEEDS — He hadn’t seen his brother Alden in fifty-three years but was quick to recognize him when he found out that Alden had come home rich
HAROLD LEEDS — Freeman’s son, he had a few vices his father didn’t know about
HAZEL STICKLAND — These two girls didn’t know each other,
INEZ COLTON — but both took a run-out powder on the night of the murder
Perry Mason stared at the morning mail with evident distaste. He raised his eyes to where his secretary was standing at his elbow, and said, “Gosh, Della, can’t you scare me up a good mystery?”
Della Street said, “I’ve handled all the routine mail. This is the important stuff which needs your personal attention.”
Mason pushed the mail to one side. “Shucks, Della, I hate letters. Letters are inanimate. I like people. People are animate. I like to puzzle with human problems.”
Della Street regarded the discarded mail with solicitous eyes, and steeled herself against the magnetism of Mason’s boyish grin. “After all,” she said, “you can’t eat dessert all the time, Chief. You have to have some bread and butter.”
“Not dessert, Della,” Mason said. “I want meat, red meat, and lots of it. Come on, be a good girl, and tell me about the clients.”
Della Street sighed. “A Miss Leeds, a Miss Milicant, and a Mr. Barkler are waiting in the outer office. They’re together, but Miss Leeds wants to talk with you for a few moments before you see the others.”
“What’s it about, Della?”
“A rich man whose relatives want his money.”
“I don’t like rich people,” Mason said, pushing his hands down in his pockets. “I like poor people.”
“Why?” she asked, her voice showing her interest.
“Darned if I know,” Mason said. “Rich people worry too much, and their problems are too damn petty. They stew up a high blood pressure over a one-point drop in the interest rate. Poor people get right down to brass tacks: love, hunger, murder, forgery, embezzlement — things a man can sink his teeth into, things he can sympathize with.”
“I told them I thought you wouldn’t be interested,” Della Street said, “that you specialized in trial work.”
Mason sunk his chin on his chest and frowned thoughtfully. At length, he said, “I’ll see Miss Leeds anyway. She has my curiosity aroused. Three people come together. One person wants to see me before the other two... Send her in, Della”
Della Street looked pointedly at the pile of mail.
“I’ll answer it this afternoon,” he promised. “Let’s see Miss Leeds.”
She slipped through the door to the outer office to return in a few moments with a young woman whose quick, nervous step was indicative of an impatient temperament.
“Phyllis Leeds,” Della Street said.
Miss Leeds crossed rapidly over to Mason’s desk, giving the lawyer an impression of vivid blue eyes which studied him in swift appraisal.
“Thank you so much for seeing me, Mr. Mason,” she said as Della Street withdrew.
Mason bowed. “Sit down,” he said. “Tell me what it’s about.”
She sat down on the extreme edge of the big leather chair across from Mason’s desk, and said, “I can only keep the others waiting a minute or two. I want to give you the sketch.”
Mason opened his office humidor, extended a tray containing four of the better-known brands of cigarettes.
“Smoke?” he asked.
“Thanks,” she said.
As Mason held his match, she took a deep drag, exhaled streaming smoke from her nostrils, then, with a quick, nervous gesture, whipped the cigarette from her lips, and said, “I want to see you about my Uncle Alden — Alden E. Leeds.”
“What about him?” Mason asked.
“I have two cousins and two uncles living. Uncle Alden was the black sheep of the family. He ran away and went to sea when he was only fourteen. No one knows where he went or what he did. He doesn’t like to talk about his adventures, but he’s been all over the world. When I was fifteen, he came back here to settle down. I think the family were inclined to look down their noses at him until they found out that Uncle Alden was exceedingly wealthy.”
“How old is your Uncle Alden?” Mason asked.
“Seventy-two, I believe. He was the oldest of the boys. I’m living in his house, manage most of his financial affairs, and his correspondence.”
“Go on,” Mason said.
Phyllis Leeds said, “I’ll have to hit the high spots. Uncle Alden has never married. Recently he met Emily Milicant... She’s waiting in the outer office. He fell for her hard.
“The relatives are furious. They’re afraid they’ll lose out on the money. They want to have Uncle Alden declared incompetent.”
“And how do you feel about it?”
“I feel that it’s Uncle Alden’s money and he can do with it just as he pleases.”
“You’re friendly with Emily Milicant?”
“But you’d be glad to see them married?”
“No,” she said, “I don’t think I would, but I do want Uncle Alden to be free to do what he wants.”
“And what,” Mason asked, “did you want me to do?”
“Isn’t it the law that a person can manage his own property unless his mind becomes so affected that other people can take advantage of him?”
“Something to that effect,” Mason said.
Phyllis Leeds said, “They’re trying to show that he can be imposed upon, and there are certain things they must never find out.”
“What for instance?”
She said, “That’s what I want Emily Milicant to tell you. But before she told you, I wanted you to — well, get the sketch. I think she wants to marry Uncle Alden. You’ll have to make allowances for that. Ned Barkler is one of Uncle Alden’s closest friends. He knew Uncle up in the Klondike years ago. I asked him to come along.”
“Shall I ask them to come in?” Mason inquired.
“If you will, please.”
Mason picked up the telephone, and said, “Ask Miss Milicant and Mr. Barkler to come in, please.” He dropped the receiver into place and glanced expectantly at the door to the outer office.
Emily Milicant had quite evidently tried to preserve the contours of youth although she was somewhere between forty-five and fifty-five. She had starved her face into submission, but her body was more obstinate. Despite the hollows under her cheekbones and the wide intensity of her staring, black eyes, she retained little rolls of fat just above the hipbones. Dieting had made her face gaunt, her neck almost scrawny, but the fit of her dress across the hips lacked the smooth symmetry which she had so evidently tried to achieve.