The Big Witness

(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.

Author's Note: The characters of Ma Friday and Policewoman Dorothy River were featured in several radio Dragnet episodes during its first year on the air. Some scenes and dialogue from The Badge Bandit (5/4/50) and The Big Gent Part 2 (7/27/50 are referenced in this chapter.

Warning: This chapter contains some strong language, mild violence, and adult themes.

Chapter One

It was May 8, 1948. Three years had passed since the war ended in Europe. For widowed Ma Friday, May 8th was always a red-letter day. Every year she put a bold black ring around that date on the kitchen calendar that was tacked against the wall nearest the sink where her son, Sergeant Joe Friday, now stood washing dishes. To mark the importance of the date, Ma ceremoniously used an old fountain pen that had been given to Joe as a high school graduation present by his Aunt Mary.

Joe stopped briefly to smirk at the reminder. On the day Germany surrendered to the Allies, Ma Friday wept. She hoped that Joe would not be be sent to the Pacific and was overjoyed that her only son would soon return home. He finally did so just before Thanksgiving of that year.

Joe and Ma had so much to be thankful for. Like others who flocked to their homesteads after being away, Joe wanted to forget what he endured in the service yet his mother, albeit not deliberately, could never let him. It didn't matter that this particular Saturday was his first day off in weeks from working out of Homicide Bureau with the Los Angeles Police Department at City Hall.

At the kitchen sink, he stared out the window as his mother chattered on about the past. He'd occasionally respond, trying to be polite, but it was difficult.

"I know what day it is, Ma," he said, placing a pan in the dish rack next to the sink.

"I waited for you daily at Union Station ever since I received your telegram," she spoke as she bustled around the kitchen, dish towel in hand, putting away the dried dishes in cupboards.

"I know, Ma. You've told me that before."

Joe wanted to enjoy this entire Saturday but it hadn't started out well. Usually, his mother arose around five in the morning to bring in the milk bottles that sat outside the front door, but today Joe was up first. Things started going downhill when he nicked himself shaving; two buttons popped off his shirt while buttoning it up a second time due to the first being crooked; there wasn't a cigarette to be found in the house; and he couldn't locate the newspaper, which the paperboy always threw in the bushes. Joe searched the driveway, along the side of the house, and back to the front hedge - nothing. Shrugging his shoulders about the missing newspaper, he brought the milk crate inside and set it on the kitchen counter. Joe wasn't watching where he placed the four bottles in the refrigerator. Before he knew it, one slipped off the wire rack onto the floor. Glass shattered in every direction and milk spilled creating a new design in the linoleum pattern. Joe cursed out loud but hoped his mother hadn't heard. By then he heard his mother padding down the hallway, wanting to know what was going on.

"Don't worry about that, Joseph. I'll clean it up," she said just as he threw open the broom closet door, ready to yank the mop out. All he gave in response was a tart "thank you" as he breezed past her, crunching through the shards of glass and out the front door. He was so furious he didn't even remember to put on his fedora.

After stopping at the drugstore where he purchased a carton of Fatimas and finishing his first cigarette of the day, Joe drove around for about an hour trying to calm down. Before heading home, he went to a local bakery and bought his mother and himself a couple of bear claws. When he returned to 4656 Collis Avenue, it was then Joe saw the day's paper lying next to the flowerbed along the side of the house. I know I looked there! he thought as he went to retrieve it. When Joe opened the front door, he was taken aback to see old newspapers strewn all over the front hall and kitchen floor. He just shook his head. She still uses newspapers when mopping the floor!

"I decided to clean and wax the floor. It needed it anyway," Ma Friday told Joe as he came into the kitchen and put the items on the table. In silence, he helped her pick up and discard the newspapers. As a woman of her generation, she gave credence to the idea that this elongated method kept the floor's polished luster.

They sat down to a breakfast of coffee and bear claws. He thought the day was getting better as they washed dishes from the night before, but she had to bring up the war again.

His replies to her musings fell on deaf ears as she recounted the moment two and a half years ago when Joe disembarked the train with the other servicemen. Those in uniform had been returning home for months by that time.

The excitement seemed to have died down along with the brass bands and parades. A high school ensemble, over in the corner, struggled through the 'National Emblem March' as the men milled about the station seeking once familiar faces of family members, sweethearts, wives or trying to make their way through the hordes of people to the doors that led outside.

Joe could still remember Ma calling in the crowd, "Joseph! Joseph! I'm over here!" above all of the noise. She was the only one who called him that. To everyone else it was just Joe. She had hugged him and sobbed, "Oh, my son! You're home and safe now!" Joe couldn't even talk then, in fear of showing emotion in front of all despite the tears being shed around him.

"Remember I invited everyone over to see you that first weekend?" she continued, closing the door to the cabinet that held the dinner and smaller salad plates.

"Yes, Ma," he replied as he placed silverware among the tiny slots in the drying rack.

Of course he remembered! Seeing the relatives and neighbors for the first time in almost three years had been overwhelming to say the least. While he was glad to visit with them, the questions they asked were becoming monotonous and he speculated they were disappointed by his short and sometimes terse answers. He could never explain to his mother how he truly felt—how he didn't want to see everyone all at once and have them bombard him about his war experiences and his future—if he was going to return to work with the LAPD, attend college, or finally move out of his mother's house and into one of his own with the help of the G.I. Bill. After all, he had only been home a few days.

At first, according to him, they seemed to be grateful of his homecoming, but as the evening wore on the atmosphere became disheartening. Joe surmised it was because he hadn't arrived as some kind of war hero but just a regular guy. They did say he was lucky to survive a war unscathed. For that, he would agree. He didn't think his mother noticed the reactions of the others; he wouldn't have wanted her to. She was so happy to have her son back.

"I found your lunch pail," Ma Friday said, startling Joe out of his unwanted flashback.

"My what?!" he answered back, sounding more abrupt than he meant to.

"Your lunch pail!" she cheerfully retorted as if she found a buried treasure. "The one you used to take to school."

"Ma, that was years ago! Why did you keep that? Throw it out! It must be rusted by now." Joe turned on the hot water faucet and poured more Rinso into the sink.

"Oh no, I took good care of it," she continued as she dried a frying pan and placed it in the lower cupboard nearest to the oven. "I put it in the cabinet next to the icebox."

"They could've used that in the scrap drives during the war," retorted Joe, not looking at her when he spoke in almost a whisper, as he turned the faucet off. He then felt a grip on his arm as she turned him to face her. She now wrung the dish towel tightly in her hands. Too late….of all things, why did she have to suddenly hear what I said?!

"Joseph, don't you call me unpatriotic!"

"I didn't say—" His irritation was mounting again—all because she brought up the war and his homecoming. Why now? His thoughts continued.

"I don't think the government would've missed one lunch pail," she said flatly. "I did my part while you were away."

"I know. You wrote me all about it."

"I did my part when your father was away in France during the last war! It was his pail!"

She didn't talk about his father too often. His anger began to dissipate. So that was why she couldn't let go of it. Sentimentality rose above anything else—even during wartime.

"It belonged to my father?" he said, quietly, feeling guilty for even being remotely exasperated with her.

"Yes. I thought we'd go to the cemetery on Decoration Day. I'll pack us a lunch and we'll sit by the gravesite. We've visited every year, but never had a picnic."

She still referred to May 30th as Decoration Day and Joe wouldn't dream of correcting her now.

"That's sounds like a good idea," he said, giving her a hug and kiss on the cheek as a way of apologizing for his behavior a few minutes earlier.

"Why don't you mow the lawn. I'll finish up here," she said.

"Okay, Ma." He dried his hands on his slacks, much to his mother's glare, and went out the back door.

Mowing the lawn seemed to relax him. It was something else that brought everything back to normal like before he left. Even though a few of his neighbors had power lawn mowers now, he still did not mind using his trusty reel mower. It gave him time to think as he went back and forth in the front and back yards and down the patch of grass in between the cement runners of the driveway. He hoped the day would get better from here on out, but his mind kept going back to when he had returned home.

There was no loafing around the house for Joe Friday. That Sunday, after the gathering, he and some neighborhood high school boys took his Washington blue 1939 Ford Deluxe coupe off the blocks in the garage and the amateur mechanics of the group worked on it until it ran smooth enough. By then it was dusk. Ma Friday provided them with an appetizing pot roast dinner—something none of them had seen in months or for Joe—years. Although rationing was still in effect for certain things like coffee, other items began to slowly appear on store shelves and in meat markets again for the first time since early 1942.

A year later, the Ford ended up being bought by one of the boys who animatedly told Joe how he wanted it supped up into a hot rod, but his father wouldn't hear of that. Still, the boy was proud to finally own a set of wheels. With a few of Joe's allotment payments his mother insisted he take for himself and the cash he'd received from the old one, he went out and bought a new feather gray 1947 Ford sedan. He had a decent down-payment but didn't mind paying the remaining balance off each month. To him, it was another sign of normalcy and by doing so seemed to push the war further behind.

Joe continued with the LAPD as a detective with Homicide. His original partner, Sgt. Ben Romero, who broke him in back in 1938, remained at his side. Ben, a native Texan of Mexican descent, had been on the force for twenty-five years and married for twenty-three. He and his wife Amy had a six-year-old son who had been quite a surprise as well as a blessing.

Recently, Joe began dating again. This was the first time he'd seen anyone upon returning home. He had his share of dates, including brief encounters in high school and afterward. He was no virgin, far from it, but Joe felt he had matured in many ways from his past experiences.

Shortly before he left for overseas duty in the fall of 1942, he had broken off a relationship with a girl because he didn't want to be attached while away, wouldn't want her to worry, and he didn't to receive one of those dreaded "Dear John" letters. It was better this way he had told her. In retaliation, besides screaming at him over the phone one evening, calling him every name but his own, she mailed him pictures of the two of them together all cut up into tiny pieces. Better to deal with this now than at the front, he had thought then. Even at that time, Ma Friday wanted Joe to get married and she was not happy with her son when he arrived home one night, a week or so before he shipped out and announced it was over.

While in North Africa and Europe, when an opportunity with the opposite sex became available, Joe always declined the invitation. It was so easy to indulge into as the men around him boasted of their numerous encounters—uncensored. Some of them were married or engaged to a sweetheart back home but none of that seemed to matter to them during wartime. A few of them had received a "Dear John" letter.

Not everyone behaved this way, of course. Others were like Joe, remaining faithful or simply not wanting to go along with everyone else. They stayed at the bar, restaurant, or where they were billeted. Still, too many had to visit the Medic. Joe would recall the snickering during the induction process into the service when they had to watch those hideous films about V.D. and how to avoid such matters. He thought if someone ever did a study or a poll the numbers would be about even. In other words, a good amount of fighting and fucking went on while "over there."

Now, Joe had been seeing Policewoman Dorothy River for several months. They first met while working together on decoy duty on a case during the night watch. Joe and Ben had been in a car accident involving a suspect in a stolen vehicle. The perpetrator had been speeding down the street toward their unit 80-K—a Botsford blue-green 1946 Ford sedan—like a bat-out-of-Hell. Ben ended up at Georgia Street Receiving Hospital for two weeks with a possible concussion, two broken ribs, as well as various lacerations and contusions on his arms and face. Joe stayed in the P&F Ward for a couple of days, mainly due to a sprained left shoulder along with several cuts and bruises.

That was how he ended up on decoy duty with Dorothy, who worked out of Georgia Street Juvenile Bureau. A vicious man, whom the papers dubbed as the "Badge Bandit," masqueraded as a police officer by terrorizing and beating couples in parked cars. Their assignment was to go undercover as a "parked" couple to lure the suspect out into the open in the hopes that he'd choose the decoy car. When the Badge Bandit finally fell into their trap, both Joe and Dorothy let him have it. It was Dorothy who slugged him the hardest, knocking the perp out.

More recently though, Joe had begun to affectionately refer to her as "Dot"—when off-duty, of course. Early in their courtship he took her to the movies. He dropped her off at the boarding house where she lived and she discovered, the next morning, that she had lost her purse. Joe found it in his car on his way to work. When the purse was returned, he teased her endlessly about how most girls would leave a lipstick or compact in the fellow's car in order to see them again, but she had to go and leave her entire purse!

Not too long ago, Joe had Dorothy over to the house for Bar-B-Que spareribs and, more importantly, to meet his mother. Ma Friday always threw in a line about marriage, but their day off was cut short when the phone rang summoning Joe back to City Hall. Later that day when Ben asked him about how Dorothy and Ma Friday got along, Joe said she handled his mother's brash attempt at subtleness well and had a good sense of humor about it all. Ben said Dorothy was a sensible girl.

Joe smiled as he pushed the mower down the middle patch of grass in between the cement runners of the driveway. He wondered when he would see Dot again. He chuckled to himself as he remembered when she had come over for the Bar-B-Que. His mother embarrassed him by saying, to Dorothy, that she didn't resemble a policewoman for she had thought they were supposed to look rough. If only Ma could've seen Dot punch that bastard Badge Bandit!

When the lawn was mowed, Joe entered the house through the service porch off of the kitchen and heard his mother on the telephone in the hallway. In the refrigerator, he found a pitcher of lemonade, poured himself a glass and drank it slowly. Just then, his mother came into the kitchen.

"Joseph, you're missing two buttons on your shirt."

"That happened this morning. My whole day has been off."

"We all have days like that. It's why I told you to mow the lawn. Did it help?"

"It did."

"That's good."

"Who was on the phone?"

"Oh! Your Uncle George wanted me to go up north to Renton to visit for ten days. I'll have to reserve a berth on a Pullman."

"When do you plan on going up to Washington?"

"Not till next week. Uncle George wants me to stay for two weeks. The train ride there and back will be several days. But I'll be back in time for Decoration Day."

"That sounds nice, Ma. He stayed with us over the holidays last year."

"Before that I hadn't seen my brother in ages! He's been traveling a lot, visiting all the relatives. Now it's our turn to go visit him. He doesn't want to be alone. He sure misses Bessie. She's been gone for a couple of years, you know," Ma Friday said as she pulled open the drawer on the telephone table and rummaged through it until she found the train schedule.

"Here's the timetable! I'll call the railroad right away," she beamed as she picked up the receiver. "Joseph, you'll take me to Union Station, won't you? I mean, if you're not working."

"Sure, Ma."

After dinner that evening, Joe took a shower and shaved again, this time being extra careful not to cut himself. Suppose he saw Dorothy tomorrow; he didn't want her to see him with nicks on his face or buttons missing on his shirt. Around ten, Ma Friday went to bed and Joe stayed up another half hour and listened to the radio. A music hour was playing. Perfect for dancing, he thought.

His mind wandered to him and Dorothy's very first date. It all started during the stakeout when they caught the Badge Bandit. They had sat in the car together for nearly a week before that and nothing had happened. They talked about everything they could possibly think of. They chatted about the movies that played at the various theaters in Los Angeles, which ones they've seen, popular songs and programs on the radio, their favorite foods, past cases they'd worked on in each of their departments, and so on. Joe brought Dorothy up to date about himself beginning with when he graduated from Belmont High School in 1936, becoming a gas station attendant before joining the LAPD in the spring 1938 as a patrolman out of Central Division. He talked of how he first met Ben and worked with him over in what was known as "The Nickel" then, at 5th and Main—the skid-row district.

He was still a patrolman when Pearl Harbor was attacked on Sunday, December 7, 1941. The very next day, he ran down Collis Avenue, jumped onto the Yellow streetcar that took him to the Terminal Annex Post Office where he waited in line for hours with other eager boys to sign up. He chuckled at the memory of when they all filed out of the streetcar; it was completely empty. They tried to be as polite as young men in their late teens and early 20s could in a hurry. Joe glossed over his time spent in North Africa and Europe, his arrival home, finally reinstated on the force and promoted to detective in 1947 with Homicide.

Dorothy told him about her family, her two younger sisters still in high school, how she joined the WACs during the war, and that she had been engaged to someone who went overseas only to have them marry someone else a year later. She was devastated and did not want to date anyone until the war was over. When it ended, Dorothy aspired to be a policewoman. Her father didn't like the idea, saying that it wasn't the kind of job for a pretty girl like her and that the only thing she needed to think about now was finding a decent husband.

"That sounds familiar," Joe had told her. "Every day my mother says I need to be thinking about getting married. It drives me crazy! Even at work, the others rib me or try to set me up with one of their single relatives. I'm very leery when they suddenly ask me over for dinner, not mentioning their special guest. Even Ben says something from time to time. Why can't everyone just leave me alone and let me go at my own pace?"

Dorothy had saved up a substantial amount to move into a room at a boarding house. Her mother cried when she left home for good, but Dorothy knew it was the right time in her life to do so. She was hoping for an apartment, but with the housing shortage she was fortunate to find an empty room at all. She went on complaining to Joe about her landlady, how she watched her boarders like a hawk—especially when the female ones went on dates. No men, except the male boarders, were allowed past the front parlor. The landlady may be a pain, but she did provide two meals each day—at a higher rate, of course.

After those slow days of the stakeout, Dorothy asked Joe if he liked to dance. She went on to say that a club she was a part of always put on an annual formal with dinner and dancing. Joe hemmed and hawed saying although he'd been out dancing a few times, he didn't do so very well and didn't own or even look good in a tux. His third try to get out of it was to say he was working. She had an answer for everything. He could go if he wasn't working that day. About the tux, she told Joe he could rent one and that she had never met a man who thought they looked good in one. Dorothy thought it would be fun. He had smiled at her and asked if she was planning on going. When she replied she wanted to, he asked her if she had a date. "I hope," she answered, looking right at him. Finally, it was official and the two of them went out for an evening.

When the big night arrived, Joe complimented Dorothy in her forest green dress and how it brought out the striking red in her hair and hazel in her eyes. He liked how the garment presented her curvy figure but kept this thought to himself. On the dance floor while a live orchestra played, both attempted to follow the steps the others were doing, trying to keep up. With Joe being three inches taller to Dorothy's 5'8", they fit together perfectly for the slower numbers as she rested her head on his shoulder and stole a kiss on more than one occasion. At least they looked the part.

They had to look the part during the stakeout too. When they heard a car pull up behind them, each made a mental note of only one person inside. Glancing to see if they had exited the vehicle, sauntering toward them, Joe turned to Dorothy and said, "All right, come on over closer. We might as well look the part." Two weeks later, after the dance, as Joe and Dorothy sat in his car in the driveway of the boarding house, taking quite a while to say goodnight, they felt relieved in not having to "look the part" anymore.

Joe had completely forgotten that it was Mother's Day until Ben reminded him as he rushed into Room 42, Homicide at 8:03 the next morning.

"You're a little late," teased Ben, as Joe hurried past him, dropping his fedora on the table before nearing his locker. Droplets of rain peppered his gray tweed overcoat. Reaching inside his locker, Joe pulled out a comb and began to run it through his semi-soaked hair.

"I just about ran out of gas," Joe explained, tossing the comb onto the top shelf. "I ended up coasting to the filling station."

He slammed the locker door shut and wandered over to sign himself in for the day.

"You sure were lucky!" said Ben, puffing away on a cigarette.

"You're telling me," Joe answered back, scribbling his name into the blank space including the time he arrived.

"What did you get your mother for Mother's Day, Joe?" his partner asked.

"To be honest, Ben, I forgot it was Mother's Day today." Joe replied, now sitting at the table across from him. He took a taste of the piping hot coffee from the cup in front of him.

"How can you forget about your own mother on…."

"I've had a lot on my mind lately," he snapped and yanked a cigarette and the matchbook out of his shirt pocket.

For Joe, it had been a horrible night. He had nightmares about the war before, but not in several weeks. When he had one he'd wake up with a start, breathing heavily, his heart racing. He'd be astonished at the tears trailing down his face into the already saturated perspiration that covered his body. Joe never wanted his mother to see him like that, but she'd be standing in her nightgown, slippers, and robe in the doorway to his bedroom with a look of concern and sorrow on her face.

"Joseph? Are you all right now?" she'd ask quietly, and he'd reply in a hoarse voice, "Yeah, Ma. I'm okay." With that, he'd lie back down and roll over onto his side with his back to her and listen as she gingerly closed the door and went back to her room. Instant trepidation and rapid fury overwhelmed him as he realized each time this occurred, she had heard everything—be it a scream, cry, or calling out to no one in the darkness.

It was then he'd be up and in the shower. The most irksome thing was that Joe could never recall what he'd dreamt about. He knew it was something about the war because he never reacted that way during his slumber before he left.

But last night was a little different. Joe felt bad enough that his mother had to see him this way; only whatever he had dreamed about was so intense and real that he wound up on the floor after falling out of bed. When Joe awoke, he immediately noticed his mother coming toward him, asking if he was all right. Embarrassed, angry, and humiliated being sprawled out onto the floor, he lashed out and cursed at Ma Friday.

"Get the hell out of here!" he shouted.

"But, Joseph…I just—" she'd plead, trying to help him up. Instead, he'd push her hand away.

"Goddammit! Didn't you hear me! I said, get out! Get out, now!"

As Joe was sitting up, all the while attempting to settle his nerves, he finally saw his door close. Like the other times, he'd get up and head into the bathroom to take a shower. When he was finished and back in his room, dressed for the day—minus his tie, after all with it being three in the morning, he'd always find his bed sheets changed.

He wouldn't consider himself a heavy drinker, but after what transpired, Joe went over to his closet and on the top shelf, pushed away boxes of schoolwork and projects to find a bottle of whiskey hidden in the corner. There were bottles of beer in the icebox, which Ma Friday didn't mind, but she never knew of the hard liquor. At a time like this, he needed it. He didn't consider himself like some of the other veterans he heard about—the ones that couldn't stay out of the bars each night or drink themselves into a stupor at home and there were the ones that could never seem to hold down a job. He vehemently believed he wasn't Section 8 material—not like those in the hospitals who were so far gone. They wouldn't let him be on the police force if he was like that. He knew how to control things and never drank to excess. After taking a swig from the bottle, Joe would return it to its hiding place and lay back down on the now-made bed and eventually fall asleep.

By the time Ma Friday woke Joe up it was seven-thirty. Hastily running a comb through his hair, applying pomade, brushing his teeth, and tying his tie, he found his mother in the kitchen making breakfast. He gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek and apologized for his behavior the night before.

"You need to eat a good breakfast, Joseph," she said.

"I don't have time today, Ma." And he was out the door.

At the filling station, the attendant seemed to take his sweet time when Joe told him to put in fifty cents worth of gasoline. With gas being sixteen cents a gallon, that would be enough until he had more time to fill up later. Joe nearly threw the four bits at the attendant as he did his best to heed all traffic signals and stop signs to get to City Hall before eight.

"Looks like you got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning."

"Ben, don't—" Joe started to say as he shoved the cigarette between his lips and lit the match.

"Maybe this'll cheer you up. My son sang a song to his mother this morning before she took him to church."

"What? I didn't know there was even a Mother's Day song," said Joe, after he took a drag and then sipped his coffee.

"It's not really a Mother's Day song, at least I don't think it is, but he learned how to spell mother. The only thing is, I don't think Amy appreciated the line that went—"

"Ben," Joe interrupted. "If you're going to sing—"

"I'm not going to sing it, Joe. The line goes, 'O means only that she's growing old.' Amy didn't like that one. I saw the look on her face, but the boy didn't notice. He was too busy trying to remember all of the letters and what they stood for in the song."

"I wonder who taught him that," said Joe, feeling a little calmer now, trying to imagine Ben's six-year-old singing that old song.

"See? I got you to smile today, Joe!"

"You didn't answer my question. Who taught him that song?"

"I did."

"And what did you get your wife for Mother's Day, Ben?"

"I told her I'd get her something on the way home."

It was one in the afternoon when Joe and Ben returned to Room 42 after eating lunch at the nearby Federal Café. They logged back in the book as an attractive, petite girl came into the room.

"Is this where I…I need to… I mean, is this where someone reports a murder?" she asked.

"Yes, this is the right place," said Ben, as he pulled out a chair for the girl and asked her to sit down. Joe sat next to Ben and the two faced her across the table.

"Would you like some water, coffee or a cigarette?" Joe offered.

"No thank you," replied the girl.

The girl's beige skirt almost matched her dark blonde hair. Her white blouse accented with pink roses and bobby socks gave her a look of innocence.

"I'm Evie Flowers." She looked down at the floor with her blue eyes. "My father and I killed my mother five years ago," she blurted out and began to cry.

Joe and Ben looked at each other. She pulled a handkerchief from her purse and gradually, controlled her tears and calmed down.

"Why don't you tell us about it? Start at the beginning," Joe said reassuredly.

"Five years ago," Evie began haltingly as she fought tears and hiccups, "I worked at my father's drugstore. I delivered medicine. I don't know why, but Daddy didn't want any of the high school boys to deliver medicine to anyone. They would deliver other thing that people ordered or needed, but Daddy always wanted me to deliver medicine."

"Go on," prompted Ben.

"It was during the war. Many of the older boys lied about their age so they could enlist in the service. There were one or two younger boys who would deliver other things, but I was the only one to deliver medicine. I felt proud to work at Daddy's store. I was doing something, in some way, to help the war effort besides rolling bandages for the Red Cross.

"Mother always seemed to be sick. I did my best to take care of her, but nothing seemed to help. I asked Daddy if he knew what was wrong with Mother. He said that no one knew and that I was doing the right thing by giving her the medication the doctor prescribed."

"When would you give the medicine to your mother?" asked Joe.

"At dinnertime," Evie replied. "Daddy would have me ride home on my bicycle to give it to her. He told me to mix it up into her food because he said she liked it better that way."

"Did she ever notice anything different about her food?" asked Ben.

"No, she was always so tired and in pain, I don't think she noticed."

"How long did this go on?" asked Joe.

"Well…my mother was always sick, so depressed. She had been that way for as long as I can remember. But the medicine…me putting it in her food…that lasted for quite a while, a few months, I think. And…then she was gone." She was silent for a moment and finally continued.

"You won't tell my father I was here, will you?"

"No, Evie. We won't tell your father about your coming here," replied Joe.

Evie became more nervous and started to speak faster. "I'm so scared. I think he put something in that medicine I gave to her. I've thought about that for a long time. I just had to say something or else I'd go crazy." She relaxed a bit and started speaking more slowly. "When I graduated from high school I got out of that house as fast as I could. I stayed with a friend of mine. Over the summer I got a job on the college campus, helping the blind veterans get to class. I stayed in a boarding house. I'm still living there. I told my father I wanted to go to college, and he let me. I could never go back to the drugstore or live at Daddy's house again. I'll sometimes go over for dinner, but that's only to keep up appearances."

"How old are you now, Miss Flowers," asked Ben.

"I'll be twenty next month. You won't put me in jail, will you?"

"No, you're not going to jail," said Joe.

"I think he talked me into it. I was too frightened to question him. He'd always say, 'If you love me, you'll do this for me.' When you're a kid, you're supposed to believe what your parents say. I didn't know who to tell."

She was silent for a minute and then went on. "Are you sure what I did doesn't make me a murderess?"

"You didn't murder anyone. You didn't know what could've been in that medication. You did the right thing by telling us about it now," said Joe and Ben nodded in agreement.

Copyright © 2017 by Kristi N. Zanker