Dragnet Fan Fiction
Summary: In April of 1967, Sgt. Joe Friday's vacation is interrupted (again) due to a dead body found that leads him and Officer Bill Gannon to surprising and disturbing circumstances.
I chose to write fan fiction about the 60's version of Dragnet (1967-1970) because most seem to be more familiar with it than the original series that ran from 1951-1959 and the radio show which aired throughout 1949-1957. However, I have taken background information from all three shows and placed it into my story, hoping the reader well get a clear, well-rounded picture. For instance, there are flashbacks about Joe Friday's childhood and high school years. I also gave him a steady girlfriend. And of course, the Dragnet "quirks" are included. Below is Chapter One. Chapters Two, Three, Four, and Five follow.
The Big Telephone
(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, and sexual situations.
While driving home from LAX, Sergeant Joe Friday decided to drive down Collis Avenue. As he neared house number 4656—a small yellow early American ranch with white shutters—a thousand memories came flooding back. He had grown up in that house and helped his mother take care of it until 1952. He could visualize the inside, where the large console radio sat in the living room, the icebox and later refrigerator in the kitchen, the phone in the hall on the small table, or the wringer washing machine out on the back porch. For a second he wondered if the radio was still there. Of course it wouldn’t be! After all, this was Sunday, April 9, 1967 and who used console radios and wringer washing machines anymore? And some people today had more than three telephones in the house! He felt a lump in his throat. No, now was not the time to get emotional. Not on some stranger’s lawn—which also used to belong to my mother and me, he thought.
A week ago, his mother had passed away. She was almost 75, but it still hurt. Joe remembered that every time he came home, whether it was three in the afternoon or three in the morning, his mother would wake up and fix him something to eat. She always told him he never got enough to eat. He didn’t mind living with her for all those years, even though his detective partners would constantly tease him about settling down and getting married.
Ever since he joined the LAPD in 1940, his mother always worried about him. Joe’s father had passed away when he was young and didn’t remember much about him. So, he felt it was his responsibility to take care of his mother; after all she raised him during the poverty-stricken 1920s, and Great Depression. When Pearl Harbor was bombed eighteen months after Joe joined the force, Uncle Sam decided to give him a deferment because he was the sole provider in the family. Being the patriotic man that he was, along with thousands of others, Joe enlisted in one of the branches of military service—the United States Army.
From 1942 to 1945, Joe trained and then fought across Europe in large battles like the invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge and many smaller battles that he and his buddies would only remember. Everyone knew that Hitler and his regime had to be conquered and finally in early May, 1945, the Germans surrendered. All throughout this time, when he could, Joe sent the majority of his combat pay home to his mother. She needed it more than he did, he always thought.
When Joe returned home, he resumed his position with the LAPD, feeling lucky to have a job at all, where so many veterans around him had trouble finding work and even housing. Soon, things returned to as they were, or they seemed to as the post-war months went by. The war had been an interruption for young men like him, but that soon drifted into the past. Everyone wanted to move on with their lives. Sometimes, it was as if he had never left at all—almost.
With Joe’s pay, he and his mother were able to keep the house until 1952. He had been a sergeant for quite some time by then; however, the pay increases weren’t keeping up with the rising inflation. Paying the mortgage and bills became tough and it was in the spring of that year, when Ma Friday decided to move to Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband’s relatives. Now, it was her son who worried about her, but she told him time and again not to be concerned. Besides, he needed a place of his own, one he could afford, and find a nice girl to settle down with and raise a family.
He did find a reasonable apartment, but the girls came and went. Many of them couldn’t handle his work hours and were angry with him when he cancelled one too many dates. Most recently, he was seeing a woman named Gracie Adams. He had met her at the pool at the apartment complex where they both lived. She lived on the first floor of the building and he on the second. She was ten years younger than him, and still looked stunning in her red bathing suit. He even told her shyly, on that first meeting, that red was his favorite color and their conversation went from there.
Gracie stood 5’ 6” to his 5’ 11” frame. Her round face was very pretty when her dark blonde hair framed it. They found out that they had quite a bit in common. They both loved listening to the old music together, going bowling, lounging at the beach or pool. Sometimes, they’d go out to a nice Italian or Mexican restaurant and then take a leisurely stroll in MacArthur Park. Other times, they enjoyed dinner at the local hot dog or hamburger stand. But most of the time, Gracie made dinner for Joe when he arrived home at a decent hour. She didn’t mind him breaking the dates. She knew he had a serious job to do. This woman wasn’t like the whiny girls he used to know. Often, as a nice gesture, she would buy him several cartons of Chesterfield cigarettes, knowing that he probably didn’t have time to stop during the day and buy some himself. Right now, it seemed as if everything was falling into place, of what his mother had said to him fourteen years ago. However, his current partner, Bill Gannon, kept teasing him about not being married yet. He would retort back that he had been seeing Gracie for only four months.
Now, Joe was on his way home to the apartment. He thought about giving Gracie a call when he got in, but the sudden feeling of jet-lag overwhelmed him. It was three hours ahead out east, but still, he was exhausted from the flight and funeral process. He retrieved his mail as he took the elevator to the second floor. Too tired to walk up the stairs, he said to himself. As he unlocked the door, silence greeted him as it always had for over a decade.
After throwing his clothes in the hamper and placing the suitcase on the bedroom closet shelf, Joe went to the telephone and dialed Gracie’s number. He wanted to let her know that he was home safe and perhaps they could get together the next day. He heard her voice say “hello” after the third ring.
“Hi, honey. I just got in,” he said.
“Oh, Joe! How are you? You sound tired.”
“I’m okay…everything’s been taken care of.” He didn’t feel like talking about his mother then. So, he’d get right to the point. “Gracie, I still have a week of vacation. I was wondering if we could get together tomorrow.”
“That sounds wonderful.”
They made plans to have Joe pick Gracie up at the insurance office where she worked as a secretary, and go for lunch. He smiled to himself as he hung up the phone. Suddenly, the strong feeling of fatigue swept over him. The three hour time difference was really getting to him now. He knew he had to eat something first, so he went into the kitchen and boiled a can of soup. After eating and finishing his cigarette, he climbed into bed and fell into a deep sleep.
A constant piercing noise woke him up. Joe didn’t know what time it was. In his state of mind, he knew he had to get ready for work, but then stopped to remember that he was still on vacation. Why did I set the alarm? He asked himself, reaching over to turn it off. Only when he tried to turn it off, it continued to ring.
“What the—“ he mumbled, as he awoke. Of course, it was the phone! Not the alarm clock. He rolled over and snatched the receiver.
“Friday, here,” he said, as if on cue.
“Joe! I wasn’t sure if you’d be there. I didn’t know you were back from vacation yet.”
It was his partner Bill Gannon.
“I’m not,” Joe sighed.
“Well, we have a bad one here. I’m sorry to have to cut your vacation short, but a sanitation worker just phoned saying they found a dead body and they want us to take a look.”
After Joe showered and shaved, he called Gracie and told her he couldn’t meet for lunch. He wasn’t sure when he would be able to get together with her and she said it was okay. When he hung up the phone, he grabbed his keys and hurried out the door.
As soon as Joe made it to the station, he turned around and walked back out with his partner, Bill. They found I-K-80, their unmarked gold 1967 Ford Fairlane waiting in the parking lot with the other non-marked vehicles. The two made small talk as they weaved in and out of traffic. Otherwise most of the ride was silent. Joe was still tired from the exhaustive week, and saddened by the passing of his mother; he did not look forward to visiting the dump on this particular Monday morning. It could lead to anything—all night stakeouts, endless legwork, countess interviews. He hoped that after this case, whatever it may be, he could have his second week of vacation.
Minutes later, they arrived at their destination. Black-and-white units were nearby. A policeman stood guarding the corpse, who was covered completely in a white sheet, as Joe and Bill inched nearer. Introductions were made. Sanitation workers stood at a distance trying desperately to look uninterested in what lay before them.
Joe lifted the sheet. A yellow pillow case covered the woman’s head. He already knew the corpse was a woman because she wore a dress, showing off her feminine features. Blood engulfed the pillowcase, turning the once pastel yellow shade into a dark crimson. Streaks of red made their way down onto the dress, leaving only the bottom to show the original color of lime green. Just by staring at her, both men came to the conclusion that she must’ve been hit in the head repeatedly with a blunt object. He and Bill also took note that the body had been wrapped in a large Oriental rug.
“I was the one who found the…uh…it,” one of the sanitation worker’s said, stepping forward, as he pointed to the corpse. “I thought it was just an old rug, you know, but when it fell out of the truck and unraveled, well, that’s what was inside. I had no idea anything was in there when I picked up the garbage can it had been in.”
The man, who introduced himself as Mr. Stanley, was as tall as the detectives, in his late forties, sported a beard and had a beer belly on him.
“Do you remember where you picked up the Oriental rug?” asked Joe.
“No, I just see the full garbage cans in front of the houses and do my job,” he replied. “I can do those routes in my sleep. It’s like the milkman. You have your certain areas and you do them over and over. I don’t really pay attention to anything but what I’m supposed to be doing because we’re all on the clock, you know.”
“Yes, we realize that, Mr. Stanley. Was there anything suspicious or unusual about the Oriental rug?” asked Joe.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, did you see blood stains or did anything fall out when you emptied that can into your truck?” asked Bill.
“No, like I said, I thought it was just an old rug. A little bit on the heavy side, but you know when you roll up carpet how heavy it gets.”
Joe nodded as Bill scribbled incessantly on his notepad.
“I’m sorry I can’t be of any more help,” the man said. “But I hope you find the person who did this.”
“We hope so, too,” said Joe.
Before leaving, they got Mr. Stanley's address and phone number, in case they needed to ask more questions later on.
Back at the office, a DB Report was filled out, however, under the name, they wrote ‘Jane Doe.’ Hopefully, the coroner could give them more clues and perhaps some identification can be made.
For the rest of the morning, they caught up on paperwork. Even though Joe was supposed to be off this week, there was always something to do at the office. He spent the morning filing the past week’s reports that had piled up. Around noon they went out for lunch.
About an hour later, both returned to find the same sanitation worker they had interviewed that morning, waiting for them.
“Can we help you, Mr. Stanley?” asked Joe.
“I don’t know if this will help you, but I found these clothes,” said Mr. Stanley, as he held out a tattered, soiled paper grocery bag toward Joe and Bill.
“Clothes?” replied Joe.
“Well, after you left, I searched around the area where the body had been and I found this.”
Joe took the bag and reached inside. He pulled out its only contents--a girl’s dress. Blood stains covered it. Whether these stains matched the ones on the pillowcase and lime green dress, Joe was not sure, but it was something to look into.
They thanked Mr. Stanley for bringing this to their attention. After that, they made arrangements with the coroner to collect the dress and check the blood stains to see if there was a match. It was a long shot, but it might turn up something.
Joe and Bill laid the dress out on the table and examined it themselves before the coroner arrived. It was a cotton spring green dress patterned with blue, pink, and yellow flowers. Immediately they ruled out the stains were definitely not menstrual blood, for most of it was on the front of the dress where the buttons were, and hardly any blood could be seen on the back of the dress. They noticed that one of the buttons was missing and that they were a clear color. A white peter-pan collar outlined the top, but was slightly wrinkled. Tiny droplets of blood peppered the collar.
They peered over the grocery bag the dress was found in. A store name in bold, yet wrinkly lettering stared up at them. It was a common supermarket chain in the Los Angeles area. The dress was the kind a teenager would wear. They were still trying to piece the puzzle together and make sense of the crime from what little evidence they had when the coroner arrived to pick up the found evidence.
The rest of the afternoon seemed endless. If the blood matched, it would be a step further, but at the same time, they would be right where they started. If the blood matched, and they knew which type, it cancelled out several thousand people, but left more than a few with the same information. Some traces were like that, helpful, but hardly.
At four-thirty, Joe came up with an idea. Even though the sanitation worker said he didn’t remember where he had picked up the Oriental rug, perhaps if they took him for a ride on his route, something would click in his mind. He got on the phone and left a note with Mrs. Stanley. Joe hoped that he would receive the message and be at the station at 9:00 a.m. the next day.
It was almost time to go home. Joe hoped nothing would happen between now and five o’clock. There were many times that phone would ring at five minutes to five and they’d be at work several more hours for whatever reason. The phone did ring, much to Joe’s disappointment, but that feeling instantly lifted when the caller was transferred to another department in the building.
Joe glanced at his watch—three minutes to five. Usually, he wasn’t like this, he liked his job, but on some days, he just wanted to get home. And with his mother’s passing, and missing Gracie, he didn’t have any time to think straight. He was trying to think about what he was going to do when he got home. Meanwhile, Bill was rattling on what Eileen had made for dinner that night.
“Joe? Joe,” he heard Bill say. “What are you doing tonight?”
“I said, what are you doing tonight?”
“Oh, uh, I don’t know. Eating and sleeping, I guess.”
“Yeah, you do look tired.”
“Well, whose fault is that? You’re the one who woke me up this morning!”
Both men got up and signed themselves out for the day. They parted ways at the door of Parker Center, each locating their respective car in the parking lot. Joe found his skylight blue 1964 Ford Fairlane and unlocked the door.
The weather was warm, around 80 degrees. After rolling down the window, he fished in his pocket for a cigarette. When finding nothing, he sighed and started the engine. He knew he had some at home.
As he eased into traffic, his mind began to wander again, but was quickly interrupted by a bright green Volkswagon Beetle, who cut in front of Joe. Seeing that color made him think of the woman they found this morning. Don’t think about that now, he thought. But he couldn’t help it. Was she a mother too? Why was she killed? Who killed her? His mind went on. Maybe she had a family. Oh stop, stop! He really wished he had a cigarette.
Just then, the Volkswagen came to a screeching halt, causing Joe and the car behind him to slam on their brakes.
“Damn teenagers!” Joe muttered to himself. “Don’t they know how to drive a stick shift!?”
He stared at the three ahead of him in the car. From what he could see, a girl with brown hair was driving. Two other girls were with her, or so he thought, one could’ve been a boy. It was hard to tell these days with everyone, even the boys, wanting long hair.
As if the freeway was on his side, a spot opened up and Joe took it. Driving past the teenagers, he caught an earful of the music blaring from the radio. He shook his head. Like most people his age, he couldn’t understand today’s teenagers. No wonder that girl can’t drive! She has the radio turned up so loud and what’s coming out of it sounds like nails on a chalkboard! He thought to himself.
This music that the teenagers loved was getting weirder every day. Now, they’ve added Indian instruments, like sitars to rock ‘n’ roll songs. And the lyrics! So sexually explicit! It made Joe cringe half of the time. What happened to the real music that they used to listen to? If today’s teenagers heard that, they’d just roll their eyes in disgust.
Once, he and Bill ate lunch at a diner. It was a popular one where a lot of the teenagers hung out and word got around that drugs were being sold there. While they waited and scoped out the place, the jukebox played The Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” How could they allow a song like that to be put out?! Bill had told Joe, who only shook his head. Nothing made sense anymore.
The young boys’ hair was getting longer! Those darned Beatles started that one. Soon everybody wanted to look like them. Now, you could hardly tell who was a boy or a girl, unless you looked in one place or they spoke. It was so embarrassing!
And those mini-skirts! Young girls should be ashamed to walk out of the house in one of those! What kind of parents would allow their daughter to wear such a thing? If I had daughters….
He guessed it was like this for every generation. Parents couldn’t understand swing music when Joe and his friends were teenagers. But today’s noise was just obnoxious. Of course he kept all of these thoughts to himself, but once in awhile he’d share them with Gracie.
Like yesterday, when Joe opened the door to his apartment, the silence said, “Hello.” Part of him was glad for a moment. He found a pack of cigarettes in his nightstand drawer. While puffing away, his thoughts turned to Gracie. When he finished the cigarette, he dialed her number and was silently thrilled to hear her voice. Could he be over in twenty minutes for dinner? Why, sure he could! He still felt tired, but a nice dinner with Gracie wouldn’t hurt. She was always good company.
Copyright © 2010 by Kristi N. Zanker
Continue to The Big Telephone -- Chapter Two!
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Copyright © 2014 by Kristi N. Zanker
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