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The Case of the Haunted Husband
A Perry Mason Mystery
by Earl Stanley
Mrs. Greeley, garbed in black and carrying a light suitcase, stood in the corridor.
"Come in," Mason invited, reaching out and taking the suitcase; and when she had entered the office and he had closed the door, he went on, "Sit down, Mrs. Greely. I'm sorry we had to intrude on your dinner."
"Oh, it's all right. To be perfectly frank, Mr. Mason, I don't suppose I should go out so soon, but I feel a lot better doing that than I would sitting home and doing nothing. It's a frightfully all-gone feeling."
"I guess people never realize how much they take for granted in life," she said with a little laugh. "Here it was only last week I was fussing because my husband had to work so much at night, and now ... and now ... Oh, well, I'll get to feeling sorry for myself if I keep on. Wish I could get something to work on -- something to sink my teeth into.
"Death is so horribly final, Mr. Mason. I -- I've never been touched closely by death before. Somehow, it shakes my faith in ... things ... . And no one's been able to say anything that helps. Death is ... it's cruel, it's terrible."
"It's no more terrible than birth," Mason said. "We can't understand it any more than we can understand life -- or the sky at night. If we only had the vision to see the whole pattern of life, we'd see death as something benign."
She stared up at him. "Please go on. If you can only say something practical and sensible. I've heard so much hypocritical 'all-for-the-best' business that I'm sick and tired of it. How can it be for the best? Bosh!"
Mason said, "Suppose you couldn't remember anything from one day to the next. You'd get up in the morning without any recollection of yesterday. You'd feel full of energy. Dew would be on the grass. The sun would be shining bright and warm. Birds would be singing, and you'd feel that nature was a wonderful thing. Then the sun would rise higher in the heavens. You'd begin to get a little fatigued.
"Along about you'd be tired, then clouds would blot out the sun. There'd be a thunder squall, and the heavens which had once been so friendly would be menacing. You'd see water falling out of the sky, and would wonder if you were going to be totally submerged. You'd see spurts of lightning tearing the sky apart. You'd hear roaring thunder. You'd be in terror.
"Then the clouds would drift away. The sun woud come out again. The air would be pure and sparkling. You'd regain your confidence. Then you'd notice that the shadows were lenghthening. The sun would disappear. There'd be darkness. You'd huddle around a light waiting to see what would happen next. You'd feel weary, more than a little frightened. You'd think that nature, which had started out to be so beautiful, had betrayed you. You'd fight hard to keep your faith, and it would be a losing battle.
"The love ones who were sitting around the fire with you would show signs of fatigue. Their heads would nod forward. They'd lie down. Their eyes would close, and suddenly their personalities would be gone. Then you yourself would want to lie down, and yet you'd feel that as soon as you did, this awful unconsciousness would come over you...."
Mason broke off, smiled and said, "My words don't carry conviction because you do know all of these symptoms as a part of life. You know that this unconsciousness is only sleep. You know that in the course of a few short hours, you'll wake up completely refreshed, that the dawn will be breaking, that the sun will be coming up,the birds singing. You know that the awful visitation of noise and flashes was only a thunder shower, part of nature's scheme to bring water from the ocean up into the mountains, to feed the streams and the rivers, to make the crops green. You'd realize that sleep is nature's means of strengthening you for a new day, that it's profitless to try to prolong the waking activities too far into the night, that nature is co-operating with you. But suppose you didn't understand these things? Suppose you could see only from day to day?"
She nodded slowly. After a moment, she heaved a deep sigh.
Mason said, "Life is like that. We can only see from birth to death. The rest of it is cut off from our vision."
Drake stared up at Mason. "I'll be doggoned," he said.
"What's the matter, Paul?"
"I never knew you were a mystic."
"I'm not a mystic," Mason said, smiling. "It's simply the applications of what you might call legal logic to the scheme of existence, and I don't ordinarily talk that way. I'm doing it now because I think Mrs. Greeley needs it."
Mrs. Greeley said with feeling, "Mr. Mason, I can't begin to tell you how much better you have made me feel. Your words carry conviction. I ... I guess I'm getting my faith back."
Mason said, "I don't think you'd ever lost it, Mrs. Greeley. Now this is going to be disagreeable. Do you want to get it over with as quickly as possible?"
"I don't care," she said. "I ... Oh, Mr. Mason, I can't tell you how much you've comforted me. After all, death is only a sleep. It has to be. I'm ashamed of myself, Mr. Mason. I was doubting the whole scheme of things. I was ... Is this someone coming?"
"Should be Lieutenant Tragg," Mason said. "You know him."
Photo: Earl Stanley
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