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.
In one ear, Joe could hear the faint static sounds of the afternoon Dodger game broadcast from someone’s transistor radio. That was two chairs from where he and Gracie were sitting by the pool at their apartment complex. In his other ear, he heard another transistor radio straining out the sounds of The Hollies, "Look Through Any Window." Not too far behind him, he heard snippets of Nancy and Frank Sinatra’s hit song, "Something Stupid." In the middle of these frequencies, other sunbathers and swimmers voices rang from one end of the kidney bean-shaped pool to the other.
“Watch me dive! Hey Mom, watch me drive!” cried a boy on the diving board.
Within seconds, Joe watched the aspiring young diver with his hands pressed together over his head, while he leaned slightly forward. The boy’s body seemed to freeze in that stance, but then descended off the diving board and into the deep end of the pool. The boy’s head resurfaced not long after that; still shouting to see if his mother had been paying attention to him. The boy half swam, half doggie-paddled to the nearby ladder. Joe observed all of this as he sat on the lounge chair. He glanced over at Gracie, still immersed in a novel entitled The Group by Mary McCarthy. She didn’t look up as another page was turned.
No matter what he tried to focus on, the thoughts of the policewomen at the college were always within reach. Distracting himself from incoming thoughts about work had been accomplished with little success. It was supposed to be a relaxing day for the both of them, but Joe’s mind wandered back to the decoys. It was all Gracie’s fault anyway.
About two hours had passed since they arrived at the semi-crowded pool and found two empty lounge chairs side-by-side. If only Gracie hadn’t brought that damned book with her! Joe thought. No, he knew better. It was his fault. Out of curiosity he had asked what The Group entailed. When she remarked about the women in the story graduating from Vassar in 1933, he immediately wondered if anything had emerged with policewoman Dorothy Miller and the others. He hadn’t heard anything else Gracie had said about the book after that. He just gave a nod of approval and then did his best to dodge any work-related thoughts. Otherwise, the weekend had gone smoothly. Joe kept reminding himself that it was Sunday and he would find out what he needed to know the next morning at the Student Union building.
The nagging thoughts about the decoys finally dissipated as Joe’s mind turned to Gracie. Their new arrangement was working out well. During the week, the excitement of the weekend and spending time together would slowly mount. Joe knew that even though the sex itself was brilliantly satisfying for each of them, with their age and maturity both also understood that the rising anticipation was sometimes more gratifying and pleasurable. The much needed rest during the week was surely welcomed by Sunday night and then everything would start all over again.
Joe fumbled through Gracie’s beach bag for a Chesterfield. When he grabbed one from the pack buried underneath the suntan lotion, shirts, towels, snacks and bottles of Coke, he rummaged around some more for the matchbook. Sighing as he pulled both contents out, he carefully lit the cigarette. His nerves began to ease as he took another drag.
After smoking in silence for a few minutes, Joe set the cigarette in the ashtray that sat on the table next to him, where a ribbon of smoke loomed upward. A shadow descended upon them suddenly, blocking their view of the sun.
“I thought I’d find you here,” a voice said.
The figure looked out of place to be at a pool with his pressed slacks, button-down white shirt, and tie. A sports jacket hung over his arm. It could have only been one person.
Joe sat up straight and said, “Bill?”
He saw Gracie from the corner of his eye, set her book down on her lap.
“Sorry to have to ruin your weekend, Joe. But they’ve been trying to get a hold of us at the office. Well, when you couldn’t be reached, they phoned me. We have a break, Joe,” he said.
That was all he needed to hear. Gracie told him to leave everything and to just go and she would talk with him later. He quickly kissed her goodbye and told Bill he’d meet him at the entrance of the apartment building in fifteen minutes.
In record time, Joe showered and dressed in his pressed slacks, white button-down shirt, and gray sports jacket. He found his pistol in the correct drawer and his badge and I.D. had been on the nightstand. He shoved badge 714 and his I.D. into his breast pocket and ran out the door, almost forgetting to lock it up behind him. He found Bill waiting near the mailboxes in the building and out they went.
Joe followed Bill in his car to Parker Center. There, they would pick up their unmarked vehicle and head over to the Student Union building for the urgent meeting.
About twenty minutes later, both Joe and Bill walked through the doors of the Student Union and found the four policewomen waiting for them.
“What’s going on?” asked Joe, as he and Bill approached the table.
“I didn’t think we’d have a break this quickly, but so far, so good,” said policewoman Dorothy Miller.
“What happened?” asked Joe, as he sat down in an empty chair across from them and Bill sat beside him.
“The floor we were on,” policewoman Dorothy Miller began, as she pointed to herself and her college “roommate” who sat next to her—policewoman Enid Brown.
“They had a record party in one of the girl’s rooms. Nothing unusual happened for about an hour, but then we all went upstairs to another girl’s room to see what records she had. We all sat around in the dorm room, just talking about other students, our classes, and then someone brought out a bottle of scotch.
“All four of us declined the invitation, saying we weren’t twenty-one yet. But some of the girls took to the offer and poured it into their Coke bottles. The girl, who this room belonged to, went to change the record on the phonograph when someone had asked her how she was feeling. In short, this girl had gotten herself pregnant by a boy on campus and thanked her friend for telling her what to do about it.”
Policewoman Enid Brown picked up the story from there, explaining that she timidly announced to the group that she was in “trouble.” The one who had changed the record informed her of a place where she can get things taken care of.
“I called them,” said policewoman Enid Brown. “A girl answered the phone, asking me how far along I was and how I got the number. She told me I could come in on Wednesday morning. I asked if she had an earlier time available. She put down the phone and I heard muffled voices. A man and that girl—the receptionist who had answered the phoneI—were talking. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but she came back to the phone and asked me if Monday was okay. I wondered if a weekend appointment was open and she dropped the phone again. When she came back, she informed me that they were all booked up on Saturday, and had one opening on Sunday at five in the evening.”
Policewoman Enid Brown pulled a slip of paper from the pocket of her skirt and handed it to Joe.
“This is the address,” she said. “What would you like us to do?”
“Only one of you will come with us,” said Joe. “Neither of them know what you look like, Enid, so we’ll have Dorothy come along since she went to the last apartment. She’ll pretend to be you who had called,” he said.
Joe went on to say that he and Bill, along with two other teams of detectives also working on abortion cases in other parts of the city, would be there to cover the front and rear entrances of the building. The slip of paper read that the operation was situated on the fifth floor of the building.
The men informed the four policewomen that they would spend one more night on campus and then head back to Parker Center Monday morning. Joe told them that he would call the necessary faculty involved once the offices on campus were open. After glancing at his watch, Joe noticed it was after four.
“We better hurry, or you’ll miss your appointment,” replied Joe, looking over at policewoman Dorothy Miller.
It didn’t take long for the three of them to find the apartment building. Ironically, it was in the same neighborhood as before, only down the street a little ways. Before leaving the Student Union building, Joe called Captain Brown from a nearby payphone and briefed him about everything. The superior said that the two other teams of detectives would be on their way as well.
At five minutes to five, everyone was in their proper place. Joe and Bill watched from the hallway as policewoman Dorothy Miller went into the correct apartment. The two of them went closer to the door and Joe pressed his ear against it. He heard a girl speaking, most likely the one who had answered the phone when policewoman Enid Brown called. He heard policewoman Dorothy Miller say that she was here for the appointment at five.
They waited a few more seconds and then walked in.
“I’ll be with you in a minute!” the girl called from down the hall.
Bill and Joe could see the girl leading policewoman Dorothy Miller to one of the rooms. He heard the girl knock on the door and say, “Doctor Belmont, your five o’clock appointment is here."
The apartment was very much like the other, only the layout was flip-flopped. The desk and metal chairs lined up against the wall were exactly how Donna Peary had described them. Joe went over to the desk and confiscated the appointment book. It had been lying open to the page where Sunday’s appointment was marked in red ink. He quietly rifled through a couple of drawers and came across documents indicating each patient had indeed been pregnant. In another drawer, he found the cash box. It was empty.
When Joe sat down, both he and Bill heard a muffled voice from inside one of the rooms. A door opened. They could see everything from their vantage point, whereas those down the hall could not see who was waiting for them.
“So, you’re my five o’clock appointment,” the man said standing in the doorway of the bedroom, in a white lab coat. “You’re our only patient today. We’re usually closed on Sundays, but you sounded urgent, so we made accommodations for your appointment.”
“I’m afraid you’re going to have to cancel that appointment,” said Joe, walking down the hall, holding his pistol in one hand and producing his badge with the other. Bill was close behind.
“You don’t want to miss this one…police officers…” Joe continued.
Bill, policewoman Dorothy Miller, the secretary, the man who called himself Dr. Belmont and his young assistant all filed into an empty interrogation room at Parker Center. After Joe changed the card to read “Interview in Progress” he shut the door behind him, placed the two bags of evidence on the table near the window, then went over to the only empty chair in the room and sat down.
“What’s your full name?” barked Joe.
“Doctor Robert Alvin Belmont,” the man in the white lab coat replied.
“How old are you?” continued Joe.
“Thirty-eight,” Dr. Belmont said.
Joe could see that this doctor was beginning to gray around the temples.
“Are you a real doctor?” asked Bill.
“What kind of an idiotic question is that?”
“Well, are you?” asked Joe.
“Is your real name Robert Alvin Belmont?” asked Bill.
“I just told poker-face over there, yes it was!”
“If you say you’re a doctor, you had to have known what you were doing was illegal,” said Joe.
“Illegal? What was illegal? We were helping these poor girls out,” Dr. Belmont answered. “Besides, your books about the law must be outdated.”
“How do you mean?” asked Joe.
“Come on, cop, you should know! They’ve recently changed the laws about abortion. It’s not illegal like it was.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, pal,” retorted Joe. “Those recent laws indicate that a doctor can perform an abortion legally only if the victim was raped or the fetus is harmful to the mother’s body. Looks like you didn’t study hard enough for your exam.”
“So, the girls we helped, they could’ve been raped,” Dr. Belmont said. “I don’t know, I don’t ask such personal questions.”
He was silent for a few seconds before continuing.
“They didn’t want it. They told me so. I did them a favor.”
“It wasn’t just you,” said Joe, looking at the girl and the young man.
“How did you come into this operation?” Joe asked the young man with the unruly brown hair. He absent-mindedly always pushed it out of his face.
“Well, I…I’m a med student and I needed a job. I met Doctor Belmont here and he gave me a job.”
“Which was?” asked Bill.
“Helping him with his patients.”
“What’s your full name?” asked Joe.
“Gary…Gary Alan Steele.”
"How old are you?" Joe asked.
“What did you mean by when you said, ‘”helping him with his patients?”’ asked Joe.
“Just like it sounds,” Gary said, staring at the table.
“Tell us what your job description was. How did you end up meeting Doctor Belmont?” said Bill.
“Well, I…was looking for a job, something to help me get through school, you know. I met Doctor Belmont at a coffee shop in town. We struck up a conversation; I told him I needed work. He informed me that he was a doctor and needed an assistant for his small practice he was about to set up. He told me that I would learn more with him than I would in any class, that I’d get first-hand experience.”
“Go on,” said Joe.
“I asked him what his practice was and he said it dealt with babies. I…I took the job, it sounded good.”
“When you realized what really went on in the apartments, how did you feel about your new job then?” asked Joe.
“Well,I—uh—I stuck with it. He told me what we were doing was okay…that the laws had just changed. So, it was okay.”
“Now you," Joe said as he pointed his pencil at the secretary. "How did you find employment with Doctor Belmont here?”
“It was the same with Gary. I’m in school too and Doctor Belmont needed a secretary,” she answered.
“What’s your full name?” asked Joe, who began a third page in his notepad dedicated to her.
“Debbie Louise Norton.”
“How old are you?” asked Bill.
“How did you feel when you found what Doctor Belmont did in his practice?” asked Joe.
“I knew what went on, but I just did my job as a secretary.”
“Would you excuse us for a second?” asked Joe, as he tapped Bill on the shoulder to follow him, and winked at policewoman Dorothy Miller to keep an eye on the three suspects.
They both went into the hallway. After shutting the door, Joe asked Bill to run the three names through R&I and get back to him. They parted ways and Joe went back into the Interrogation Room.
“I want to show you all a few things,” Joe said, as he wandered over to the table by the window and picked up both bags.
He set them loudly on the table and sat down. Reaching into the first bag, he pulled out a stack of papers.
“What are these?” asked Joe.
“It’s right on the page, cop, you look at it,” said Dr. Belmont.
“I want you to tell me what these papers are!”
“They’re documents from the campus doctor, indicating that each girl was pregnant.”
“How did you obtain them, since they came from the campus doctor?” asked Joe.
“When an appointment was made, I’d call the campus doctor and ask for a Photostat of the paperwork. I’d explain that I’m a new doctor in town and these patients came to me.”
“It looks like some were from other doctors, not associated with the campus,” remarked Joe.
“Yes, some of them brought in their own documentation from another doctor they’d seen.”
Joe tossed the stack on the table and then pulled out a gray metal box.
“What’s this?” he asked, looking directly at Debbie.
“It’s the cash box,” she replied.
“Where is the money you took from the girls?”
“I’d give it to Dr. Belmont at the end of each day. Each week, he’d divide it amongst the three of us.”
“When policewoman Dorothy Miller frisked you, she found the bills she’d handed you before we came in. They were in your pocket,” said Joe.
“I put the money there because I couldn’t just leave the cash box. Anyone could just walk in. You two did.”
“You weren’t planning on spending it yourself?” asked Joe.
“No, I was going to give it to Dr. Belmont after the appointment was over.”
Joe moved to the second bag. He brought out several medical utensils, forceps, and other tools any doctor would recognize. He held up each one and asked Doctor Belmont and then Gary Steele what they used them for. By the time they got to Gary, his face was pale and looked like he was going to be sick.
“You seem to be sick, Gary,” stated Joe.
“Yeah…it’s different when you’re, you know, actually doing it. You get used to it after awhile. But when you talk about it in that much detail….”
A knock sounded on the door. Joe got up and found his partner standing in the hall. Once both of them were in the hallway again, Bill told Joe the news he received at R&I.
“Doctor Belmont, that’s an alias. The man’s real name is Doctor Robert Alan Belford,” said Bill.
“So, he really is a doctor?” asked Joe.
“Yes, in Chicago. Once I found out his real name, I called the authorities in Chicago and they informed me that his license was revoked last year.”
“For what?” asked Joe.
“Performing illegal abortions,” replied Bill.
Dr. Belmont, who in turn was really Dr. Belford, wasn’t new at this practice at all. Both men wondered how many other girls he had done this to, who had died soon after. It was going to be a long interrogation.
Copyright 2011 by Kristi N. Zanker
Continue to Chapter Nine.
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