The Big Hush
(A Dragnet Fan Fiction Story)
By: Kristi N. Zanker
Disclaimer: All publicly recognized characters, settings, etc. are the property of Mark VII Limited and Universal. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. I, in no way am associated with the owners, creators, or producers of Dragnet. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning: This story contains strong language, adult themes, sexual situations, and a disturbing subject matter.
Joe felt somewhat rested as he ambled into the office on Monday morning. It appeared as if Bill had not arrived yet, however, as Joe gazed at the mail in his box, in waltzed his partner with two steaming cups of coffee. He slid the mail back into his slot, turned and sat down at the table.
“How was your weekend?” asked Bill, after taking a swallow of coffee.
“It was fine,” Joe replied, carefully drinking from his cup. He then reached into his pocket and found the matchbook and a new pack of cigarettes.
“Did Gracie get her car fixed?”
“Yeah, we picked it up on Saturday,” said Joe, striking a match to light a cigarette.
“What else did you do?”
“Bill, what’s with all the questions?” Joe was getting irritated now. “You do this almost everyday. ‘How was your evening?’ ‘How was your weekend?’ ‘What else did you do?’”
“Well, there’s no reason to get all upset, besides I’ve always asked you about your weekends.”
“And evenings,” chimed Joe.
“And evenings,” Bill replied. “But it's different now, Joe. Don’t you see?”
“How is it different?” Joe took a drag of his cigarette.
“You’re dating now,” Bill replied.
“Yeah, so?” said Joe.
“You have to admit that your weekends and evenings are more exciting with a woman in your life.”
Joe gave an exasperated sigh. “Bill, if you’re going to mention the word marriage in the next few seconds, I’m not listening. I don’t want to hear anything about that right now.”
“Okay, okay,” said Bill. “All I wanted to know is how your weekend went.”
“All right! You want to know what we did?” he said, smashing his cup of coffee on the table, only to have some slosh out and spill. Ignoring what had just occurred, before Bill could utter another word, Joe said, “On Saturday, we picked up Gracie’s car at the repair shop. Then, she drove it back home. After that, I showed her where I used to live on Collis Avenue and then we spent the rest of the day at the beach. Are you satisfied or do you want a play-by-play of Sunday as well.”
Joe got up from the table and briskly walked out of the office. He didn’t mean to sound so cross with Bill. It was just that ever since he began dating Gracie almost six months ago, it was question after question. Maybe Bill was more excited about him dating than Joe was. Still, the constant interrogation about his personal life was getting to be overwhelming. Deep down, though, Joe knew the real reason for his outburst.
It was 8:15 when Joe glimpsed at his watch, still puffing away on the Chesterfield as he took the elevator to the floor that housed the cafeteria. Since he had missed breakfast this morning, he bought himself a cinnamon roll and another cup of coffee. Only a small number of tables were filled with personnel and uniformed cops. The empty round tables dotted the place. Joe found a table furthest away from anyone and sat down. He pulled the ashtray that had sat in the middle of the table toward him and stubbed out the remains of his cigarette. He then took a sip of coffee and a bit into his cinnamon roll.
It had all begun on Saturday when Joe showed Gracie the house on Collis Avenue. While explaining about what the interior looked like when he lived there, a flood of memories about his mother came back to him which caused a lump to develop in his throat. Gracie had put her arm around him and gave him a squeeze, but the mournful hurt inside continued. A feeling of guilt had crept up for the not thinking of his mother recently, who had only been gone a month.
As Joe and Gracie went around the neighborhood, he shared memories of his mother with her, even though the despondent feeling did not go away, and pointed out that the neighborhood hadn’t really changed all that much—with the exception of a modern car in the driveway and a few parked on the street. And of course, every household had a TV antenna on the roof. Joe told Gracie that he used to walk the neighborhood alone and think, especially before he left for the service. Back then, as he told her, he would count how many cars had an “A,” “B,” or “C” ration sticker to indicate how many gallons they were allowed each week.
Children’s bikes littered the driveways of many houses. They saw a woman in a cotton housedress planting flowers in her garden. A tri-colored beagle, hooked to a chain that was tied around a tree, lay lazily on the grass. When Joe and Gracie neared the dog’s territory, it automatically sat up and gave them a bark of intrusion. While passing other houses, they came across a man sitting in his driveway sharpening up the blades on his reel push mower, as the smell of freshly manicured grass filled the air. He looked up from what he had been doing and waved to Joe and Gracie. Once, a woman sitting in the swing on the front porch said “hello” to them as they walked by. If you close your eyes, Joe thought to himself, you could feel yourself go back thirty-five years.
Later that afternoon, while sunbathing on the beach, he still felt wistful about his mother. But that horrid guilt didn’t want to leave either. When Gracie suggested that they take a stroll, Joe obliged and took her hand. To him, the beach was such a fun, romantic place to be. They walked near the water and passed by kids building sand castles with buckets, other sunbathers, and saw a young girl collecting seashells.
“I used to do that,” said Gracie. “Collect seashells like she’s doing. I once found these two shells that were so beautiful. I set them on the windowsill in my bedroom and when it was too cold to go to the beach that day, I’d pick one up, put it to my ear and hear the ocean.”
Joe turned and smiled at her, picturing her as a child, like the one they walked by, holding a seashell up to her ear.
“So many bikinis,” Gracie remarked, as they passed by a few couples sunbathing and dozing in the sand. “They’re so risqué. I had a bikini once, but didn’t care for it. To me, it was very uncomfortable and I felt so exposed when I went to the beach with it on.”
“I love you in your one-piece red bathing suit,” he said, then lowered his voice, “I love you out of it, too.”
“Joe!” Gracie laughed, giving him playful punch in the arm. “I bought that suit shortly before I met you. Soon, after I met you, I found out your favorite color was red.”
She suddenly stopped talking and inconspicuously pointed out the "May-December" romance as a couple went passed them.
“Would you look at that? He’s old enough to be her father!” Gracie said, as Joe nodded in agreement.
“I’m too old for that shit,” he said, then apologized for his use of stronger language. “Sorry, there’s a lot on my mind lately.” He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “I can’t understand what someone around my age would see in a young thing like that—other than the obvious,” Joe smirked. “You know he’s getting a thrill out of it. The girl probably wants his money and succumbs to him anyway.” All he really wants and cares about is getting a good lay with the girl that’s young enough to be his daughter. Joe said to himself.
“Joe! Stop! That’s disgusting, thinking of that man and that young girl that way.”
“It happens,” he replied. “Some people can’t help themselves I guess. One day, hopefully, they’ll realize that they absolutely have nothing in common besides the one thing and the girl can live a decent life.”
When Saturday came to an end, the melancholic mood and guilt followed Joe into Sunday. Early that morning, around four, Joe found himself sitting in the kitchen with a Crown Royal in his hand, trying to justify or understand his current feelings. Gracie had appeared in the kitchen and sat with him. He finally explained what had been on his mind and apologized for his foul mood.
It was Gracie who let him realize that his mother would be so happy for him, that he found someone to share his life with and it wasn’t just a fling. For he always told her how his mother would want him to settle down one day. Joe knew all of this of course, but couldn’t shake that guilty feeling.
While talking, as daylight peeked through the thin curtains in the living room, Joe poured out his heart to Gracie, sharing more memories about his mother, and finally got around to what else had been bothering him.
He explained that he was having a wonderful time with her and had never been this happy with anyone else in his life. Joe went on to say that he enjoyed their common interests and conservatism. How they agreed a lot of the same old-fashioned morals and values. After half an hour, he finally confessed what he was leading up to.
“I need my sleep,” Joe said. “This is very hard for me to say because as you know, talking about it in any kind of detail is so difficult. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is…we both need to get proper sleep during the week. We can have our...fun on the weekends. These past weeks have been so awful for me. I want you, but I need my sleep. Do you understand?”
“Oh Joe,” she replied, taking his hand into his. “Sure I understand. While I enjoyed our times together during the week, I’ve been so exhausted too. We probably should just be together on the weekends. I know how important it is for you to remain alert at all times in your job. And I wouldn’t want to be the cause of anything drastic happening to you.”
“Oh, thank you so much, you’re a darling,” he said, breathing a sigh of relief. “I will admit this…I’ll miss you dreadfully during the week.”
“Don’t worry, we can still see one another in the evenings, watch television or—“
“You know damn well what I mean,” he said, grinning.
“I know. I’ll miss you too,” she replied, giving him a kiss on the cheek.
Joe brought himself back to the present and took the last bite of his cinnamon roll. It was so difficult to get to sleep last night that he kept wondering if Gracie felt the same way. His body gave other signals that he tried to ignore, but that was next to impossible. He had thought about calling her, but decided against it because he didn’t want to go back on his word. And he really needed his slumber.
Downing his cooled coffee, Joe made his way back to the office.
“Joe! Are you all right? Where did you go?” asked Bill.
“I’ll be okay, Bill. Sorry for the outburst earlier. A lot’s been on my mind.”
“Oh, I know it has.”
“Bill, that’s enough!”
“I’m keeping quiet.”
The two of them sat down at the table and the phone rang.
“Homicide, Friday talking,” he said and then paused for a few seconds to retrieve a piece of paper and pencil. He scribbled down a phone number. “We’ll be right there!”
Joe explained that Dorothy Richmond, the girl they had seen on Friday in the dorm was alive, but couldn’t see too many visitors. Joe and Bill were an exception of course. The doctor who had called relayed him the phone number and number of Dorothy’s room. Hopefully, she’ll be able to remember the events that landed her in the hospital and not the morgue like the cases before her. This could be a break of some kind.
Even though the code of conduct and procedure required Joe and Bill to arrive at work a little before eight in the morning, after that phone call, it appeared as if their day would officially begin once they entered the hospital.
Copyright © 2011 by Kristi N. Zanker
Continue to Chapter Six
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