El Caso del Cupido Descuidado / The Case of the Careless Cupid
Selma Anson, a well-to-do widow rushes to see Perry Mason because she is being followed. Perry gets Paul Drake to investigate. Paul explains a "rough shadow" and a "roper". The first follows a subject in such a way as to be noticed (a "smooth shadow" keeps far away from the subject). A "roper" tries to befriend the subject in a casual way to gain their confidence. The "roper" will admit to illegal or unethical acts in order to draw out a similar confidence from the subject. [You may encounter this in your workplace.] Selma is friendly with a wealthy man; some of his nephews and nieces regard Selma as a fortune hunter! The shadow is the boyfrined of the niece who dislikes Selma. The complication is that Selma's husband Bill died a year ago of food poisoning, and some gossip that his wife took advantage of this to poison him!
Selma's deceased husband is exhumed; test show arsenic. Selma also had been buying arsenic until her husband died. A bottle of this arsenic was found hidden by the barbecue grill where Selma's husband got sick. "The prosecution's evidence always seems convincing," Mason said. Who else could have a motive to murder except the spouse?
Perry's client listens to bad advice, and acts foolishly by flying to El Paso. Perry arrives, and is able to salvage her mistake, and turn it around (Chapters 9 & 10). Chapter 13 tells how Perry uses a polygraph expert to prove Selma's innocence. One example of this was in the Sam Sheppard case; family members proved they had never heard Dr. Sam Sheppard say anything indicative of guilt. [Erle Stanley Gardner kept up with current events.] But courts won't allow a polygraph test to determin guilt. "It's very, very possible to frame a person for murder," Mason said.
On the last day of the trial we learn that Selma Anson has just married Delane Arlington, who found the bottle of poison. A spouse cannot testify against another spouse. But Perry says Delane will testify voluntarily! Lt. Tragg testifies that the police found no bottle of poison (clearly marked) when they previously searched the whole area of the barbecue grill. The manufacturer of this poison (used in taxidermy) testified it was freshly manufactured within three months. The owner of the taxidermy supply store identifies the customer who bought this poison. Once all the facts are learned, Perry's client is found not guilty by the Judge. The customers who bought this poison are arrested for evidence tampering; and you know what's next.