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.
Joe couldn’t get Gracie and the last night out of his mind. We had nice dinners like that in the past, but those didn’t end so…so… he couldn't finish that thought. At least, not in the last decade or so, his mind went on. He knew if he continued to think about the night before, there would be trouble. So, next he wondered if she was thinking the same thing he was this morning on her way to work.
As he neared Parker Center, his mind switched to work mode. He and Bill were supposed to meet with Mr. Stanley at 9 a.m. this morning and drive him on his route to see if he could remember anything about the 'Jane Doe' case.
It appeared as though Mr. Stanley did receive Joe’s message yesterday, because he wandered into the office promptly at nine. Minutes later, all three of them were in the car and Mr. Stanley told the men his route. They followed it as if it were a regular day. They drove up and down streets, through the neighborhoods, but nothing in his mind seemed to click with yesterday. To him, all of the houses looked like the same ranch model or bungalow and every metal garbage can looked similar. Of course, since garbage pick up was yesterday morning, no one had their cans out by the curb today. They did see a few houses who had forgotten to bring their cans back to the garage. Joe asked if any of these houses looked familiar and Mr. Stanley shook his head.
When they arrived back at Parker Center, Mr. Stanley apologized, but Bill and Joe said it was okay and that these things happened. In their minds, they were thinking the same thing—it had been a wasted morning, but it was better than doing hours of paperwork. When they walked into their office, a woman was seated at the table, apparently waiting for them.
“Can we help you, Ma’am?” asked Joe.
“Yes." The woman in the blue and white gingham dress said, standing up to shake both of their hands. “I’m Mrs. Barton. I’m here to report a missing person. I haven’t seen my neighbor, Virginia Wilcox, since Saturday. My daughter is friends with Ginny’s daughter, Nadine. Everybody calls her Ginny.”
“When did your daughter see her last?” asked Joe.
“Well, Ginny and I always play bridge on Saturday night over at her house. I let my daughter, Gail, stay the night on Saturday.”
“Did she see Mrs. Wilcox on Sunday?” asked Bill.
“Well, she didn’t say. But I assume so. Why shouldn’t she? On Monday, I gave Ginny a call because I had a recipe to share with her and there was no answer. This was around three in the afternoon. I went outside and puttered in the garden for awhile until I saw Nadine and Gail walk up our street from school. You see, we live next door to one another.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Joe said, nodding.
“I went over to them and asked Nadine if I could speak to her mother. But she said no, she wasn’t feeling well today.”
“What did your daughter say?” Joe asked.
“She didn’t say anything; she just went into the house. I asked Nadine if she needed anything for her mother and she said no. And I told her, I’d check on them later.”
“Did you?” asked Bill.
“Yes….I went over to the house and knocked on the door. When no one answered, I opened the door and called Ginny’s name. Still no answer. I then called Nadine’s name. I could hear a radio or phonograph playing rock ‘n’ roll music upstairs. No wonder no one heard me. I thought this was odd, because if Ginny didn’t feel well, I thought Nadine should be more considerate and quiet, so her mother could rest. I went in to see if everything was fine.”
“What did the inside of the house look like?” asked Joe.
“Well, the first thing I noticed was that it was so dark…all the shades were drawn. I then noticed their large Oriental rug in the living room was missing and the furniture in the living room had been moved. I thought this was strange. Maybe they were robbed. I don't know. I went to the phone table in the front hallway to call my daughter. Maybe she knew something about all of this, since she was there over the weekend. Only when I picked up the receiver, there was no dial tone. The phone was dead.”
“Have they had trouble paying bills in the past?” asked Bill.
“Not that I know of,” Mrs. Barton replied.
“Ginny’s husband died last year of cancer. But she hasn’t mentioned anything about financial troubles. When I went to use the extension in the kitchen, that phone worked fine. I didn’t call anyone though. I finally decided to come and tell you.”
“We thank you for your information, Ma’am,” said Joe.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Mrs. Barton continued. “Ginny did tell me that someone was interested in the house. They were supposed to come by and look at it. I wonder if they did. You see, Ginny and her daughter were going to move to Portland, Oregon. There’s a For Sale sign on their front lawn. Do you think maybe that might help you?”
“It could, but we have some information for you,” replied Joe. “Mrs. Barton, yesterday a body was found in an Oriental rug,” said Joe.
“Oh my….” She whispered.
“We don’t have any identification. Would you be willing to see if you can identify the woman for us?”
Mrs. Barton covered her mouth with her hand. Slowly, she moved her hand away from her mouth and quietly said, “yes.”
Joe called the coroner to see if he was available. The coroner had some news for them. The blood on the dress was human blood and it was the same blood type. Joe explained about Mrs. Barton coming in this afternoon and within minutes they were out the door.
Mrs. Barton let out an alarming gasp as the sheet was lifted. All she could do was nod as the tears streamed down her face. After she settled down, they showed her the dress and she identified it as one of Nadine’s dresses. Mrs. Barton began to cry again.
“Why? Why? She was such a nice woman. Why would anyone do this to her?” she said.
“That’s what we’re trying to find out,” said Joe.
Back in the car, Joe explained that they had to interview Gail about this past weekend. Mrs. Barton agreed and they drove over to her house. Once inside, Mrs. Barton called for her daughter to come downstairs.
They sat in the living room and waited for her.
“I don’t know what’s taking her so long,” she said. “But you know how teenagers can be.”
“Yes,” said Bill. “I have four boys, all in their teens. They think they know everything.”
“Oh, tell me about it,” she replied. “Do you have any children, Sergeant Friday?”
“No, Ma’am. I’m not married.”
“At least us older folks still have some morals. I don’t know what’s gotten into people these days. It’s so hard to raise children nowadays with all the chaos, and drugs floating around. Everyone thinks so highly of the Pill, people have no sense of value anymore. The wrong messages are being sent out.”
The two men just nodded. After a few moments of awkward silence, Mrs. Barton got up and left the room. They heard her as she traipsed up the steps. Joe sighed.
“Say Joe, how are you and Gracie doing these days?” asked Bill.
“Just fine, Bill, just fine,” he replied.
“Have you seen her lately?”
“Last night, last night,” said Joe, getting irritated.
“What did you do?”
“I said, what did you—“
“I heard what you said!”
“But then why—“
“We had dinner.”
“Is that all?”
“Bill! I don’t go asking what you and Eileen do each night!”
“I mean, did you see a movie or go bowling or something. What were you thinking?”
Another few seconds of an uncomfortable silence passed, and then Bill spoke with a chuckle in his voice, “Your face is red.”
“It is not! It’s just too warm in here, that’s all.”
“I’m sure last night was nice too,” said Bill, snickering.
“Oh, shut up!” Joe hissed.
Joe could not look him in the eye. He knew he was blushing. Shaking his head, he hoped to dissipate any thoughts about Gracie for the rest of the day. It wasn’t his fault, after all Bill started it.
The room fell silent as they strained to listen for anything upstairs. Just then, footsteps began to trample down the stairs. A second pair followed.
Gail Barton loomed behind her mother. Mrs. Barton gently nudged her, so that she stood in front instead. The tall, yet lanky girl wore a pink and white baby doll dress. In her hands, she clutched a white diary. Her shoulder-length blonde hair was parted down the middle and placed into two low pigtails. The thick, horn-rimmed glasses framed her face.
“My daughter was writing in her diary. She’s always doing that these days. Gail, these men want to ask you some questions about this past weekend.”
The girl didn’t say a word as she went over and sat in the arm chair across from Joe and Bill.
“Gail, when did you go over to Nadine’s house?” asked Joe.
“On Saturday,” she responded with her voice low and almost a whisper.
“Did you see Mrs. Wilcox on Saturday?”
“What was she doing?”
“She made us dinner after my mother and her played bridge. My mother didn’t stay. She went home.”
Mrs. Barton nodded in agreement. “I told my daughter she could spend the night that night with Nadine. Ginny said it was fine, too.”
“Did you see Mrs. Wilcox after dinner, Gail?” asked Bill.
“Yes, but she went out.”
“Where did she go?” Joe asked.
“On a date.”
“When did she get home?” asked Bill.
“I don’t know.”
“Did you see her on Sunday?” asked Joe.
“Yes, but only briefly. She went out again.”
“Do you have any idea who she went out with?”
“No. She goes out with a lot of men.”
“That’s not true!” cried Mrs. Barton.
“Oh, Mother it is! Everyone in the neighborhood knows, except you.”
“What do you write about in your diary?” asked Joe, as he pointed to Gail’s diary, laying in her lap.
“I don’t think that’s any of your business.”
“You did bring it down here with you, did you not?” he replied.
“Yes, but my mother said I had to.”
“Gail, please! What they want to know is did you write anything about this past weekend?”
“Well, sure. I write in it everyday.”
“Do you mind if we see it?” asked Joe.
“I’ll read it to you,” she sighed as she opened to a page and began reading.
"Saturday, April eighth, nineteen sixty-seven.
I went over to Nadine’s today. I’m going to spend the night. Her mother is going out on another date and Nadine didn’t want to be alone. Sometimes her mother doesn’t come home at all and she hates waking up to an empty house."
"Is that all you want to me to read?” Nadine asked when she finished.
“Read Sunday’s entry,” said Joe.
“Okay,” she said, as she turned the page and began to read once again.
"Sunday, April nineth, nineteen sixty-seven.
We both woke up this morning to see if Nadine’s mother was home. She wasn’t. We peeked in her room and her bed had not been slept in. This is nothing odd. She does this often. We don’t know when she’ll return. After breakfast, Nadine and I did our homework and I helped her study for a test she has on Monday. Then, we listened to some records and watched TV. I had dinner at Nadine’s and then came home. It’s late now; I think I’ll go to bed."
Joe watched carefully as Gail shut her diary. He noticed that as she was reading, her face looked flushed. He and Bill both knew she had been lying.
“So, you didn’t see Mrs. Wilcox on Sunday, like you just told us a few minutes ago,” said Joe.
“Well I…thought I had…but I just remembered after I read that entry,” said Gail.
“I see,” replied Joe.
“Gail, tell these men the truth,” Mrs. Barton said.
“I did. Okay, so I didn’t see Mrs. Wilcox on Sunday. She was out on her date still.”
“Gail, a body was found yesterday, along with a young girl’s dress. The body was identified as Mrs. Wilcox,” Joe said, staring at her while speaking, hoping for a reaction of some sort.
“I told you she went out,” Gail said more softly this time.
“I identified that dress as Nadine’s,” said Mrs. Barton.
Gail’s eyes grew wide. Her mother went on, “You have some explaining to do, right now.”
“I can’t tell you,” she said, as a lonely tear began to trickle down her face.
“You have to. You and Nadine are in serious trouble, do you understand that?” said Joe.
“I can’t tell you,” she repeated. “But let me get something that will.”
She started to get up and leave the room. Everyone began to follow her. She did not like this as she suddenly whipped around to face them.
“You don’t have to follow me, I know what I’m supposed to get,” said Gail.
“You’re a suspect for murder—“ retorted Joe.
“But I didn’t do anything!”
“We’ll see about that,” said Joe. “Go on now, get what you need. We’ll be right behind you.”
The five of them trudged up the stairs, went single-file down the hall, and crowded into Gail’s room, as she went to her bureau drawer and produced an identical white diary. She handed it to Joe.
“This’ll tell you everything,” she said.
For the rest of the afternoon at Parker Center, they poured over both of Gail’s diaries. At first, Gail didn’t want to give them the one diary, the one she read in the living room, but she reluctantly obeyed and handed it over.
As they read on, they soon realized that one diary was a “fake,” a total lie to cover up what really happened to Mrs. Wilcox. Bill had read this one. The one Joe went through told the truth, in graphic detail. Joe learned that these two friends were inseparable and as time went on Mrs. Wilcox began to worry about them spending so much time together.
As the pages flew by, Joe noticed the writing became more eerie and violent. When something didn’t go the way they wanted it to, they would plot about what they would do to a particular person who got in their way.
For instance, in one entry, it looked like Nadine had gotten bad grades on a few tests. Her schoolwork continued to suffer and Gail wrote how every teacher seemed to dislike Nadine. Teachers continued to tell the girl how important it was to raise her grades and do well in school. This annoyed Nadine to no end and she would tell Gail who would write later on about what she would do to them. It appeared as though when Nadine wasn’t around, Gail wrote down every true word, yet she’d agree with her friend. It always involved killing someone in such a gruesome way and then disposing of the body, so no one would find out. The same went for friends at school. If one betrayed them or any in their group, an entire plan was drawn out. Gail even mentioned that Nadine recently had a boyfriend named Bobby Rhodes. The ways these girls would write about harming others were so atrocious and very disturbing.
Of course, none of these actions were acted out, that is until Joe began to read about Mrs. Wilcox and how she suddenly became an interfering obstacle in the girls’ lives. She didn’t care for Nadine’s boyfriend or Gail. Why didn’t Nadine go to the school dances and meet others? All she wanted to do was be with Gail or Bobby.
They shared notes about various entries from both diaries. Both wondered how long they thought they could get away with murder—as the saying goes. What Joe did know was that these two girls needed serious help before they had an urge to strike again on some poor innocent soul like Mrs. Wilcox, Mrs. Barton or perhaps Bobby Rhodes. From what Joe had read, Bobby had been seen with another girl at school and Nadine did not like that.
Copyright © 2010 by Kristi N. Zanker
Continue to The Big Telephone -- Chapter Four!
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Copyright © 2013 by Kristi N. Zanker
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